The car slowed and I looked up at the bright red emergency sign, looming over my head like an omen.
Maybe it had always been there; a warning that Jamie and I were forever doomed to tragedy. We’d been staring down the barrel of a gun for years yet had convinced ourselves that it was unloaded. The sirens had been nothing more than background noise, easily ignored as we’d fought our way back to each other and rebuilt a life together from ashes.
I heard them now, though.
The sliding doors opened silently, blasting our bodies with air before filling our nostrils with the stench of antiseptic. Every chair was filled with people in various states of distress. A disheveled man in a track suit pushed an empty shopping cart in a slow circle around the room, mumbling about the cartel being after him. While one woman vomited down the front of her sequined dress and onto the linoleum in front of her, the man next to her, clearly still under the effects of his party drug of choice, batted the air around his head with an impaired grin, oblivious to the state of his shoes.
I hugged my shoulders, letting my chin rest against my chest as Molly guided me toward the front desk. My mouth moved, but I couldn’t recall a single thing I said before they led us to a private family room.
Instead of sinking down onto the loveseat beside me, Molly slipped into her more familiar role as caregiver and sprang into action, requesting warm blankets and a pair of socks. I frowned until I glanced down and realized my feet were still bare, my shoes lying abandoned in a parking lot fifteen miles away. My toes were almost blue from the cold, but I felt nothing.
Crossbones waited until the nurse left before taking up his post near the door, one hand resting on the handle of his gun.
“They’re sure he’s here?” I finally asked.
Molly nodded. “He’s in surgery now. It could be a while, though. I’m gonna find you some coffee, okay? Crossbones, you need anything?”
He shook his head, never once taking his eyes off of the small rectangular window in the middle of the door as she stepped out.
Someone paged a doctor over the intercom, but otherwise, the room stayed quiet. Molly returned a few minutes later with a cup of coffee and two nurses carrying supplies.
“Alright, let’s just get this on you.” She handed me the coffee and wrapped a blanket around my shoulders before directing me to lift my feet. I obeyed and let her slip plum-colored socks onto my feet as if I were a child. They were covered in white rubber flowers, and I didn’t know whether they were meant to be a fashion statement or simply there to keep me from falling.
If it was the latter, it was too late.
I’d been falling since I heard the gunshot.
Once Molly was convinced that I was bundled from head to toe, she sat down beside me and urged me to drink my coffee. I took a small sip and instantly recoiled at the overly sweet taste. At her stern expression, I took another drink, wondering if she’d added every sugar packet in the hospital to the cup.
Crossbones opened the door when he saw Wolverine leading Kate and Dakota down the hall. Zane and Angel brought up the rear like a team of bodyguards.
“Mama?” Dakota asked, the train on her wedding gown swishing softly as she approached me. “Have they said anything?”
“Here, Kota-Bear. Sit,” Molly interjected, jumping out of her seat. “Do you want some coffee? I think we all need coffee.”
I made eye contact with Dakota and discreetly shook my head.
“No, thank you,” she quickly said. “Kate, do you want coffee?”
Kate’s head jerked up and she gave Molly a strained smile. “No, I’m good. Thank you.”
Wolverine pulled me into a rough hug. “He’s gonna be fine, doll. Ain’t a goddamn thing that can take him down.”
I nodded and mashed my lips together, knowing if I said anything I’d likely fall apart. Kate’s legs bounced up and down, and she stood up, only to drop back into the chair with a heavy sigh.
“Did you call Nate?” Zane leaned over to ask her, keeping Dakota tucked under his arm. She stared right through me with her bloodshot eyes, seemingly lost in her own thoughts.
I had to stay strong for both of them.
“Yeah. He didn’t answer. I’m sure he’s in—” Her voice broke off in a sob and she held a shaking hand up over her face, gasping for air.
I got up and moved into the empty seat next to hers, pulling her under the blanket with me. “I’ve got you, Katydid. Deep breaths, baby. In and out.”
Somehow, I kept my voice calm while reciting words I hadn’t used since she was a child grieving the loss of her father.
The irony wasn’t lost on me now.
“Mikey,” I said suddenly, looking to Angel. “Someone needs to call him. He should be here.”
In case he doesn’t pull through.
Wolverine shook his head. “Sons showed up at his house, Celia. Place looks like a goddamned bomb went off inside.”
The breath hitched in my chest and I brought my hand up, running my knuckles roughly over my sternum before wheezing, “Is he? Oh my god, and Lauren?”
“They’re both alive… thank Christ, but it don’t sit right with me. Why tonight? Why’d they choose to go after the badge we got in our pocket same time as Grey?”
The meaning behind his question hung heavy in the air.
How had the Sons known what Jamie had fought to keep hidden?
The same way they’d known where to find him. Someone he trusted had betrayed him.
“Maybe they planned on cleaning house… anyone associated with the club was fair game? I don’t know.” Zane ran a hand over his face, clearly fighting a yawn. He’d probably imagined his wedding night going very differently. I almost felt bad for him, until I remembered that one of his cop buddies had been working with the Sons too. My husband might as well have had a flashing neon sign above his head.
Minutes blended into hours with no updates. Wolverine paced while Molly pushed her sugar-laden coffee on every single person in the room. Kate would doze against my shoulder, only to jerk awake seconds later, frantically checking her phone for messages that weren’t there.
Finally, just as the first rays of sunlight streamed in through the cracks in the blinds, someone entered, and the world as I’d known it for twenty-seven years ceased to exist. The ringing in my ears intensified to the point that I wanted to clap my hands against the side of my head, drowning out the words of the chaplain.
I’d been in a perpetual freefall for what seemed like forever, but saw the ground rapidly rising up to meet me with five simple words.
“Your husband didn’t make it.”