Releasing at the end of the month....
“Detective, are you okay?”
The soft, but urgent voice caressed Brian Barnes as it echoed through his brain. It called to him, soothing his soul like wisps of cool touches across his fevered skin. He needed to see who it belonged to. He had to open his eyes.
His muscles tensed and fire tore through his side, burning and stealing his breath, as Brian pushed back to consciousness. Automatically he reached his hand toward the pain, but he couldn’t move his arm. His groan rumbled as the agony in his gut seemingly radiated out over his entire body.
“Oh, come on, don’t do that.” The voice again, but this time it wobbled like she was about to cry. “When you try to move, you bleed more. Come on, Brian, listen to my voice. Hold still. I don’t want you to bleed to death, just open your eyes so I know you aren’t going to die and I’m not alone here.”
He had to follow the compulsion of her voice. Disappointing her wasn’t an option, not with that voice pulling at him. Slowly his eyes fluttered open.
A vision of the beautiful Toni swam in front of him. Why was she crying? What happened? A blistering pain shuddered across his torso and reality came flooding back. He’d come over to Pete’s house because he thought something was wrong. His instincts had been right, but the reality of the situation was so much worse than he’d ever imagined. He refocused on Toni and the bruises marring her face and arms.
She was dating Pete and right now she looked so freaking scared. But who could blame her since her boyfriend, his friend, had gone bat-shit insane. He missed all the signs that the cop and the man who’d been his friend had lost all touch with sanity. So now he sat here on the floor with a gunshot to his gut and two women in terrible danger. If Toni was here, somewhere Julie, her friend, and the focus of Pete’s obsession, had to be here too. Somehow, he had to get them both out before Pete hurt them, too.
“Toni…are you okay?” Goddamn, even breathing hurt. Black spots danced before his eyes as another wave of pain crashed over him. He moaned.
“Shh, I’m fine. He didn’t want to hurt me.” She looked down at him from her perch on the bed and her face paled even more. “Oh God, you’re bleeding so much. We’ve got to get you out of here.”
He didn’t even have to look down to know how bad it truly was. He couldn’t feel anything below the radiating pain in his gut anymore. Blood soaked everything. The cold seeping over him was definitely not a good sign, but he sure wasn’t going to freak her out even more by telling her that. She needed to get to safety.
He took a shallow breath and focused to take stock of the room.
Pete shot him and then dragged him to this bedroom and cuffed him to the leg of a heavy armoire. The gunshot to his gut was why everything hurt so fucking bad.
It was hard to tell from where he was at on the floor, but it looked like Toni was handcuffed to the bedframe. As he watched her, she wiggled.
“What,” he gasped, “are you doing?”
Her torso twisted. “I’m trying to get my charm bracelet off.”
Okay, Brian knew his brain wasn’t functioning at full capacity, but why was she worried about her jewelry right now?
His question must have showed on his face because she gave him a wink. “I have a handcuff key on it. Think about what that means for a moment instead of what’s happening here.”
Her mischievous look and the reality of their situation were at complete odds, but the reason why she had a key like that hit him and he couldn’t help but find the humor. He gave a bark of laughter which morphed into a moan when his gut clenched. It took a moment to get his breath back. “You wear a…” he breathed through the black spots and nausea, “handcuff key on your bracelet?”
Her chagrined smile took his breath away and this time it had nothing to do with the gunshot wound in his gut. She was so beautiful, even roughed up and messy like she was now. Her auburn curly hair fell over her eyes. She kept blowing it to move it. The urge to touch it, to run his fingers across those curls, pulled at him. He instantly regretted that this would be the last time he’d see her.
The numbness spread along with the pool of blood below him. He had a feeling that he wouldn’t wake up again when the unconsciousness, creeping at the edge of his brain, overtook him this time.
“Got it!” Toni raised her freed hand in victory and rushed over to his side clutching the key. At the same time a muffled scream echoed throughout the house.
Her frantic eyes met his as she fumbled with his cuffs. “That’s Julie,” she whispered.
He wasn’t going to be any help to her now. He was too far-gone. At this point, he’d just endanger and slow her down. She had to get out of the house.
“Toni, you can’t help me.”
She stilled for a moment, squeezing her eyes shut. When she re-opened them, resolve shone through their turquoise depths. He had to use that to get her to safety.
“Get out. Go get help.”
“I can’t leave you here.”
Another scream sounded out.
“Do you know how to shoot?” He winced as another arc of pain shot through him.
She gave a frantic nod.
“There’s a gun inside my right pant leg. Get it out and help her. Do whatever you have do, Toni, to get both of you out of here safely.”
She fumbled for a moment with his pant leg and rose up on her knees with the gun firmly in her grasp.
“That a girl.”
Their eyes met for a moment before she leaned down, gently brushed the hair off his forehead, and gave him a soft, light kiss on the cheek. “I’ll be right back. Don’t die.” The fierceness in her voice was a powerful thing, but he had a feeling he didn’t have much say about it anymore.
As she crept out of the room, the cold of his body swamped him.
A gunshot rang out over the house and then eerie silence ensued.
Black dots encroached over his vision.
His job was to protect.
Copyright: Christi Snow. Do not copy or reproduce in any way.