“Stop,” I hear whispered hoarsely, and my head flies up. “Pl—ase.” Ashlyn’s voice cracks and I reach over, grabbing her cup of water then holding the straw up to her mouth. Watching her take a few sips, I pull the cup away when she’s done and set it down.

“You’re not supposed to be talking,” I remind her gently, running my hand over the top of her head, pressing my lips to hers softly.

“Some—one h-as to stop yo-u from be—ating yourself up,” she croaks, patting my cheek. Turning my head, I kiss her palm then link our fingers together.

“She’s right you know,” Lilly says quietly, walking around to Ashlyn’s other side, taking her opposite hand. “It’s absolutely horrible what happened, but there is nothing you could have done.” Even knowing she’s right, my mind won’t allow me to accept the fact that she is. I should have left town with Ashlyn the moment the FBI approached us. I should have taken her away where she would have been safe. “You heard Agent Torres yesterday, Trent Denton knew what he was doing. He knew the alarm codes for both your houses, he knew the lay outs and your schedules. I hate to say it because he took my baby and hurt her, but it was just a matter of time before he did what he did,” Lilly says, and I watch her eyes fill with tears then watch as she struggles to breathe. “If Kim’s sister…”

“Don’t.” Ashlyn shakes her head at her mom. “Pl—ease don’t.” Tears fill her eyes, and I carefully gather her against me. The moment she got away and was finally able to find help, she told the police about who she thought was Kim still being there. When the police finally found the abandoned building where Trent had taken her, the body was missing. She didn’t know at the time, none of us knew at the time, that it was actually Kim’s identical twin sister, Kelly, who was there with her. “S…she sav…ed me,” her voice cracks as her tears wet my neck.

“I know baby,” I say, gently stroking my hand down her back, then hear her inhale sharply as she moves to hold me tighter. “You need to lay down. This isn’t good for your ribs,” I whisper, placing a kiss to her ear and she nods. Adjusting her back onto the bed I take a seat in the chair and watch as Cash comes back into the room, followed this time by Sage and Jax. I swear, every time he leaves he comes back with someone who wants to check on her for themselves, since the hospital won’t allow more than a few visitors at a time.

“H… how’s Kim?” she asks, looking at Sage as Cash comes over to kiss her cheek, and Jax waits to do the same.

“She’s okay, she wanted to come see you but…”

“It… It’s okay.” Ashlyn tears up once more and his face softens. “Tell her I lo… love her.”

“I will.” He comes around the side of the bed and bends to kiss her forehead. “I can’t stay, I need to get back to her,” he says softly, and her eyes close as she whispers,

“Take care of her.”

“Always.” He states with determination as he stands, then reaches over to pat my shoulder before saying a quiet goodbye to everyone and leaving the room.

“Did they find Kelly’s body yet?” Lilly asks Jax as he takes a seat next to me, and he shakes his head.

“They’re still searching, hopefully the police can convince him to tell them where he dumped her,” he says quietly while Ashlyn’s hand around mine tightens almost painfully. “Sorry.” He looks away, and I watch his eyes get wet. I know he’s thinking exactly what I’m thinking. I know he realizes that we could be out searching for Ashlyn’s body right now instead of sitting in a hospital room waiting for her to recover enough to go home.

“I love you all,” Ashlyn whispers, and I run my fingers down her cheek then look at her mom and dad and Jax. We may have had a rough start, but like family does, we worked through our shit and we will be stronger because of it.

Ashlyn

Looking into the fire in front of me, I watch the flames dance in the fireplace, feeling the warmth seep into the skin on my face. It feels like it takes forever for me to get warm. No matter what I do, it feels like a constant chill has burrowed its way through my skin, muscle, and bone, straight to the marrow inside. Making me wonder If I will ever be warm again.

Studying the flames, I think about my phone call with Agent Torres this morning. He said they finally got the confession they had been hoping for from Trent.

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