Blake… His name was a whisper, or maybe just a whisper in my own mind. I repeated the word like a mantra until he was gone. I couldn’t hear him or feel him anymore. His voice, his face, even the dream of us had vanished into nothing.
The persistent beep was like a fly that wouldn’t go away. I frowned, searching for the strength to make it stop. I was cold. I didn’t know this place. Everything was blurry, but the room was brightly lit, lights buzzing a quiet hum above me.
Slowly and with great effort, I brought more things into focus. The rough texture of the white blanket covering me. The hard tubing invading my nostrils. A soft rustling sound beside me.
Then Blake’s face filled the widening frame of my vision. I wanted to reach for him, but a needling pain shot through my hand as I went to move it. I winced. He caught it between his palms, stroking softly and warming it at the same time.
“Blake.” My voice cracked when I spoke. My throat was dry, but suddenly grew moist with the tears and emotion. Seeing Blake overwhelmed me. We’d been apart for too long, yet I couldn’t explain why. “What happened?”
“You were shot.”
I closed my eyes and reached for the memories. Everything was so blurry, but slowly, like the room, the last memories of my conscious mind came into focus.
The restaurant. The shots and the screaming. Blood. God, there’d been so much blood. Richard’s too.
Richard was hurt…or worse.
“Is Richard okay?”
Hesitation swam in Blake’s eyes. He shook his head. “He didn’t make it.”
Oh, no. I couldn’t believe it. We’d spoken. Contentious as it was, I couldn’t believe he was dead. Blake tucked a hair behind my ear, moving a tube that blew cold unwelcome oxygen into my nostrils. I wrinkled my nose and went to pull them out.
Blake stopped me, replacing its position. “No, keep that.”
“I don’t want them.”
“Christ, Erica. You’ve been shot three times. Can you please leave it? At least until the doctor comes.”
I relaxed back into the pillow, giving up the fight and feeling the small surge of energy that had woken me vanish. I was exhausted, but I didn’t want to leave Blake yet.
“Sorry,” I muttered.
He sighed softly. “Are you in pain? I can call the nurse.”
I did a mental scan of my body. The pain in my abdomen was more localized than I remembered, but I still had no idea where I’d been hurt. Heaven help me, that man. He was the one who’d taken the shots. I closed my eyes and tried to remember his face. Dark hair and dark eyes. Shadowed as he was, I couldn’t make much of him out. But his presence, his build, and the way he dressed had set him apart in my mind. He wasn’t another suit, a young professional on the streets.
“The man who shot me. He…”
“He’s dead, baby,” Blake said.
My eyes flew open. “The police shot him?”
“No.” He rubbed the stubble that covered his jaw. “It was Daniel.”
My heart stopped. “Daniel?”
“After you and I hung up, he called me in a panic. He said you were in danger and needed to know where you were. I didn’t want to tell him obviously. I wanted to get you myself but he insisted. He was…frantic. Somehow he knew whatever was about to go down. He showed up a few minutes before me. He pulled his bodyguard’s firearm and shot the man dead a few seconds after he opened fire on you.”
Then suddenly I remembered. The tweed cap. The muscled man who reminded me of Connor when I’d first seen him. I touched my trembling fingertips to my mouth. “I remember him.”
I looked to Blake’s concerned expression.
“I saw him when I was with Daniel, a long time ago. This seedy bar in Southie called O’Neill’s. He was manning the door. He seemed to know Daniel. That was him. I remember.”
He shook his head. “Why would he want to hurt you?”
“I have no idea. But Richard…” I frowned, trying to remember our conversation. He’d had something on Daniel. Something that spooked me enough to want to leave suddenly.
“Richard wanted me to talk about Daniel, to reveal what I knew about him. He suspected him of being involved in Mark’s death. Richard said it was my last chance to tell the truth. He was going to meet with someone from that neighborhood who was going to tell him everything he didn’t know about Mark’s death.”
“Do you think he knew you were going to be there?”
“Maybe. Richard might have told him.”
Blake stood up and began pacing a small path beside the bed. He pinched his lower lip between his fingers. “The press has been quiet other than saying that Daniel shot him. I wonder how much they really know.”
A nurse entered the room, and a tall man with short brown hair dressed in a white doctor’s coat followed behind.
“Look who’s awake.” The nurse patted one of my feet through the blanket and checked my chart.
The doctor followed, an optimistic smile on his face despite the fact that I’d clearly had better days.
“I’m Dr. Angus.”
He sat in a stool and rolled up beside me. Blake stood back while the nurse bustled around the other side, taking my vitals. She jotted them down while the doctor inspected the bandages under my gown. I focused on the bare white ceiling. I wasn’t entirely ready to see what had happened to my body. I was still grateful to be alive, to have Blake with me. I wasn’t sure how much more I could handle.
“Everything looks good. The surgery went well, and I think these will heal just fine.”
I met his eyes once I was covered again.
“One of the bullets passed through, but we had to remove two of them and try to repair some of the damage.”
Damage. The word reverberated in my already foggy brain.
The optimism in his eyes dimmed a bit and he shifted his gaze to Blake. “You should rest a little more. You’ve been through the wringer. I’ll be doing rounds again tomorrow morning, and we can discuss it more then.”
“No, I want to know now.” I tried to shift upwards in bed, but a sharp jolt of pain stopped me from going any farther. “Ouch.”
The nurse found a beige cord beside me and pressed it a couple times. “Press this for pain, honey.”
“Thank you,” I mumbled, hating how restricted I was in this bed.
A moment later, the nurse had disappeared, leaving a growing air of tension in her absence.