“HOW HARD WOULD IT HAVE been to carry this shit down when Cohen got here and could help us?” I ask Nate after dusting my hands off on my jeans.
We’ve just spent the better part of thirty minutes trying to get Cohen’s big-ass seventy-inch television down three flights of stairs and attempted to get the damn thing loaded into the back of my truck without breaking it.
“It seemed easier than it was when I planned it out in my head. It’s not my fault it’s heavier than it looks. Damn thing looked like it would be easy.”
Yeah. Famous last words of Nate Reid.
“Plus, if Chance wouldn’t have been so fucking lazy, he could have helped out too.”
“Chance”—I reach over and shove Nate as we start to walk back up the stairs—“is up there keeping an eye on Dani. Something that, I’ll remind you, we should be doing as well.”
“Seriously, Lee? She’s right up there! What the hell is going to happen in the two seconds we took to take care of that shit?” He pulls his UGA ball cap off and scratches his thick, black hair before jamming it back down. “Fuck, it’s hot out here.”
Right when my booted foot touches the bottom step, I hear a sound that stops my heart. I look over at Nate to see if he heard it and see all the color drain from his face.
“Fuck!” I yell and start to bound up the steps in threes. “Call Cohen, Nate. Call Cohen and then call your dad.” I keep running, letting my training take over and my instincts kick in.
For the last two months, I’ve been in training with the local police department, and for the first time, I’m thankful for every second of that training. I don’t look behind me to see if Nate’s coming. I grab my cell and dial 911 as I continue up the stairs. As I reach their landing, the operator picks up and I give her the short version of what I know. Which is nothing. After rattling off Cohen’s address and telling her to send an ambulance as well as the police, I stop talking and ease up on the cracked door.
“Sir, is the intruder still on the scene?” the female voice says through the line.
I feel Nate coming up behind me and hand him the phone. I hardly register his response to the operator. When I don’t hear anything from inside the apartment, I slowly toe open the door and ease inside.
What I see is a scene I will never forget. If I should live to be one hundred, this image will still be branded in my mind. The walls, floor, and tan couches are all stained red.
I can’t see over the loveseat that blocks the view from the doorway into the living room, but I see Chance’s crumpled form behind it, and I slowly move towards him and check for a pulse.
Strong and steady, thank Christ.
He has one hell of a bump forming on his forehead, and I check the knife wound he has to his left shoulder, but it’s a clean cut that isn’t bleeding heavily anymore.
I stand, move around the chair, and feel a sob bubble up my throat.
“Dani!” I yell and rush towards her. I step over the unrecognizable man that is lying—unmoving—in front of her.
“He has the knife,” I hear Nate say weakly behind me. He rushes forward and kicks it away before checking the douchebag for a pulse. “Fuck! She fought, Lee. She fought while we were down there dicking around with a goddamn TV!” He stands and kicks the body behind me. “She fought hard enough that she killed a man threatening her with a knife with a damn lamp.”
I don’t move my eyes from Dani as I check for her pulse and find it weakly beating against my fingertips. “Help me stop the bleeding until the ambulance gets here, Nate!”
We both rush, careful of her pregnant stomach, and hold down the wounds we can, and I look into Nate’s eyes and see the same panic I feel.
That panic never leaves. Not while we soak through the towels we have held against her body and not when I notice that the pulse I keep checking is slowing down.
Not once—even when the paramedics rush through the door and take over care.
It doesn’t stop as we rush behind them as they carry an unmoving Dani on a stretcher.
And not when we’re speeding down the highway behind them on the way to the hospital.
That panic never leaves, and I know that, if Dani doesn’t make it, it’s a feeling I’ll never get over.
“Did you get Cohen?” I whisper towards Nate.
He’s rubbing his bloodstained hands together and doesn’t move his eyes from the back of the ambulance holding his sister.
I look away from the road, shocked. “No?”