My heart was pounding and my arm hurt where Mark was digging his fingers into me.
“Mark, what are you doing?” I tried to pull my arm free once more but he gripped tighter which caused me to cry out in pain. Then I watched him reach behind him as he pulled a small hand-gun from his belt before pressing the cold metal against my cheek. I cried out in fear as hot tears filled my eyes.
“You wouldn’t listen to me about Creed or warnings from your best friend about her own brother. You keep crawling back to the two-timing piece of shit. So, I need you to see it from our point of view, that’s what I’m doing, Layla.” His voice was laced with a venomous sound and I had never heard it from Mark before. He was always such a gentle soul, not at all the person who was standing in front of me now.
But his words confused me like none other. “What are you talking about, Mark? You never said anything to me about Asher other than he better treat me right or you were going to kick his ass.” Or something like that, I couldn’t really remember what he said when I was facing the monster who had made me scared for my own life for the last several weeks.
“You obviously haven’t listened to a single word I’ve said to you then, or Harper’s words for that matter. Asher isn’t good for you, Layla. The sooner you realize that, the better.”
I was so beyond confused I actually had to shake my head.
“You’re not making any sense! Why would you go to these extremes just to keep me from Asher? Why would you stalk me, scare me, hurt me, and try to kill me?” I was whimpering now, my emotions taking over.
He just laughed and shook his head. “I didn’t do any of those things. I’m not the only person you’ve screwed over for Asher Creed.”
Realization slammed into me like a brick wall.
“You’re not my stalker?” I whispered.
He snickered and shook his head again. “I was the brains behind everything and helped your stalker know your whereabouts, but no... I am not your stalker.” Then he went towards the door and grabbed the handle with his gun-wielding hand, and Tristan took this opportunity to step forward to grab me.
But Mark spun, knocking me to my ass as a sharp pain seared up my spine, and pointed his gun in Tristan’s direction and fired.
I screamed and covered my eyes. He fucking shot Tristan! I was a shaking mess as I cried out all my fear and anxiety.
“Oh shut up!” Mark barked as he grabbed my arm and hauled me to my feet in a painful grip.
I opened my eyes but kept them from traveling to Tristan. I couldn’t see that right now. I was already afraid for my own life and didn’t need to see a dead body to confirm my chances of getting out of here alive.
“W-where are you taking me?” I sobbed out.
“To meet your stalker, of course.” He pulled me harder, making me nearly trip over my own feet. “And to see if your boyfriend is following rules.”
I felt the blood drain from my face as I thought about Asher and what he must be going through.
“You son-of-a-bitch,” I growled, tugging my arm again before I began to viciously shake and twist in his embrace to free myself.
But then I felt a hard, cold blunt object smack me right across my face and cried out when I tasted copper. The bastard pistol whipped me across the face! Stars began to fill my vision as I became light-headed and began to sway.
“Be a good girl and maybe we’ll let your boyfriend live.” He began dragging me along again and I stayed silent, still trying to gather my dizzy thoughts.
I noticed we were heading back towards the room we had just ran from and Mark kicked the door open. The sight in front of me when he opened the door almost made me throw up.
Asher was on his knees on the floor with a battered and bloody face and his hands tied behind his back.
I cried out and went to go to him but Mark wrapped an arm around my neck and held me tightly to him as I choked for air.
Asher looked up at me and sobbed out before bowing his head again and coughing blood out onto the floor.
“What have you done to him?!” I screeched out because Mark’s arm was still pressed tightly to my throat.
“Nothing he doesn’t deserve.” It was at this time I realized we weren’t alone in the room. A guy dressed all in black with a ski mask over his face spun around to look at me, wielding a large gun in his hand. I knew from his stature and size that this was indeed my stalker. The guy who has tormented me for weeks.
“W-who are you?” I whispered, fear filling every ounce of my being.
He grinned as I watched him reach up and grab the bottom of the mask before he pulled it up. And I felt the air leave my lungs when I saw his face.
“Hey beautiful.” He grinned. “I wish we were meeting under different circumstances but it’s clear that wouldn’t ever happen.”
“W-why are you doing this?” It was then that I felt tears stream down my cheeks. “What have we ever done to you?”
He lightly chuckled as he set his gun down and stepped up to me, running the back of his knuckles along my cheek as I instinctively tried to pull away from him. “You’re still so beautiful.”
His hot breath slid across my neck as Mark released me and stepped back. I wanted to run, scream, attack, but I was frozen to my spot.
Jake grabbed my chin roughly before slamming his lips onto mine. I kept my lips tightly closed as I tried to wiggle free from his grasp and heard Asher cry out next to us. Then I felt him try to stick his tongue between my lips so I slightly opened my mouth as his tongue invaded my space before I bit down hard on him.
He cursed out as he released my jaw and back handed me across the face. I went flying, landing hard on my knees next to Asher.
I looked up into his bloody face through teary eyes and saw that he was trying to say something but he just started coughing again.
“You stupid bitch!” Jake barked as he grabbed my arm and hauled me back up to my feet before smacking me again.
The pain was searing hot across my already tender skin as I cried out again, this time flying in the opposite direction of Asher and landing with a thud.
“You... mother-fucker!” Asher barked out, his voice filled with a gritty emotion. “I will f-fucking... kill you!” He was out of breath and clearly in pain.
I turned to look up at Jake, who was now smiling and walking towards Asher before bending down in his face. “I’d be careful what you say, Creed, I’m not the one tied up on my knees right now.” Then he laughed an awful laugh that sent chills over my skin as he got even closer to Asher’s face. “I was going to kill you fast and get it over with, but now I think we’ll keep you alive long enough so you can watch us fuck your girlfriend in all her holes.”
I felt my blood run cold again and then watched Asher struggle against his holds with pure rage, but Jake quickly quieted him up when he punched him in the jaw. I winced at the cracking sound it made as I watched Asher fall onto his side and cry out in pain.
I wanted to kill these assholes and make them suffer worse than they could ever imagine. Rage was filling my insides more than fear now and I was feeling like a pressurized bottle of soda about to burst at the seams.
Jake let out a laugh as he sauntered over towards me. “From what Mark has told me, you’re still a tight little tart and I’m anxious to feel you. You left me hanging all those years ago and I plan on taking what was always supposed to be mine. Did you know that I wanted you well before Asher did? We always had a pact that girls were untouchable if one of us liked them, and Asher clearly didn’t think that rule applied to him when it came to you. He took what was always supposed to be mine.”
He sounded like a crazy person and I wanted to gouge his eyes out. He is crazy if he thinks he’s going to touch me and he’s really crazy if he thinks he’s going to walk out of this without a scratch. My rage was boiling higher and higher.
“That was high school, Jake, you can’t seriously be this upset over our date that clearly went wrong. We never clicked,” I growled out, holding my rage at peace for a moment longer.
He laughed, throwing his head back. “What’s fucked up, Layla, is that you always thought Asher loved you. I went on tour with this spoiled prick. He got EVERYTHING!” His voice raised several octaves as he screamed in my face. “He got the companies I wanted to skate for, he got the tours that were supposed to be mine, he got the money, the fame, and the women.” He laughed, shaking his head. “I bet you don’t know about all the women, do you?”
I internally winced at his words. I knew Asher had lived a dark life since high school, but I didn’t care about any of that anymore. I knew that Asher loved me and there was nothing Jake was going to say to make me think otherwise.
“This prick slept with hundreds of women across the globe. Everywhere we went, he had a groupie on his arm and in his bed.” I winced again, knowing his words hurt, but knowing our love out-weighed the bad. “And not once did he think about you, do you know that? I’m the one you should be with, Layla. I would never cheat on you, I would never hurt you like he has. He doesn’t care about anyone or anything but himself. Oh, and the best part... are you ready for this?”
I looked around the room, my eyes connecting with Asher’s as he stared at me with sorrowful eyes.
“He’s the reason I lost all my skating contracts. I lost everything. My career, my fame, my money, everything is gone because he screwed the wrong bitch.” I could feel the anger rolling off of Jake’s body as he continued to speak, “and it was just recently that he decided that he was done living the rock-star life. Did you know he broke off his engagement with Abby to come find you? He knew I was planning on going to the wedding to reconnect with everyone and to see you.” Jake ran his knuckles over my cheek again as he glared into my eyes. “I guess he couldn’t let me finally be happy. So he swooped in and took you from me all over again.”
“I know about everything... and it still doesn’t change the fact that I’m in love with Asher...not with you...” I glared back into Jake’s eyes. Clearly I was lying about knowing everything but he didn’t need to know that.
He looked a little shocked by my words as he studied my face. “You know everything?”
“Jake...” Asher warned from his spot on the floor, “don’t...”
This shocked me. The state that Asher was in was critical, yet he was listening to everything and when Jake tried to offer up more information, Asher didn’t want him to tell me. What could he possibly have to say that was that bad? I know Asher isn’t perfect, but damn-it, I loved him.
Jake grinned an evil grin. “Your boy Asher here has a son. A son that he has absolutely nothing to do with because he was conceived by a woman that was supposed to be a one-night stand. So, don’t stand here and tell me you know everything, pretty little girl.” He went to touch me again but I ducked, spun on my heel around his body, and launched myself at the gun that rested on the table behind him.
I had never touched a gun before this in my life, so I prayed that I was going to do everything right as I gripped the handle, landed on my back on the floor, pointed it right at Jake, and pulled the trigger.
The gunshots were so loud and the gun was so heavy that I nearly dropped it when I fired it.
I watched Jake’s face go from surprised, angry, and finally to realization.
“Layla!” Asher’s gravely voice filled the room as I looked up to find Mark scrambling towards me, his own gun in his hand as he pulled the trigger. I cried out as a sharp pain radiated in my thigh as I instinctively pointed the gun at Mark and pulled the trigger again.
His body shook as the bullets hit him and his gun dropped loudly to the floor just before his body fell limply beside it.
My eyes sought out Jake but I found him lifelessly laying on the ground as well and it was then that I realized what had just happened. I killed two men and had a bullet in my thigh. My heart was racing and I began to sob hysterically as I dropped the gun with shaky hands.
“B-baby,” Asher muttered from his spot as I began to crawl towards him. We both looked like a mess and were definitely going to feel this in the morning.
My leg was immobile so I had to drag myself across the floor to Asher who was trying to crawl towards me too.
Once I reached him I tore at the rope holding his wrists together as he groaned out in pain once they were loose. It was clear that he was in worse shape than I was, but it didn’t stop either of us from wrapping our arms around each other and crying into one another’s necks.
“I’m so proud of you, baby,” Asher whispered into my neck. “You’re so brave.” He coughed again and cried out in pain as he rolled away from me and onto his side.
“Asher!” I cried, crawling back up to him. “We need an ambulance. You sit tight. I’m going for help.”
Asher didn’t say anything and fear gripped my heart as I saw him go unconscious. He can’t die on me! I won’t let him! I just have to find help and we can get out of here.
So with all the energy I could muster, I dragged myself to the hallway and grunted in pain as I drug myself along. I just need to get outside and call for help. It was a busy highway just out the front doors and I knew someone would stop for me. They had to.
I kept going even though the pain was almost too much to bear. I was sweating profusely and nearly blacking out but I had to get help. Asher’s life depended on it. My life depended on it. And I wasn’t done with mine yet.
I could see the sunlight shining into the lobby and knew I was almost there but before I could make it there I stopped and saw my vision go dark. The pain was sharp in my thigh and I was out of breath. I laid my face on the cold floor and took a few deep breaths as I pushed on, grunting and screaming the whole way.
When I got to the front doors, I almost cried with excitement when I saw all the police squads and SWAT team hovering out front. I pushed open the first set of doors and saw several of the officers hold up their guns in my direction and knew that I had to play it smart or they might shoot me. I made it too far for them to take me out now.
“Freeze!” An officer’s voice echoed through the glass lobby through an intercom system and I stopped, holding my hands up as high as I could get them while lying flat on the floor.
“I’m not the shooter! They’re dead! Please! We need help in here!” I screamed out with the little energy that I had left in me.
I watched several armed officers come towards me, guns still pointed right at me, as they neared me. One opened the other doors as the other officers piled in, coming up to me and grabbing my arms to cuff me behind my back.
“Please. My boyfriend...he’s hurt. Down the hallway to the left, last door on the right. Please.” I was sobbing out, “the shooters are in there, but they’re dead. I shot them.”
The officers looked surprised but said nothing as two of them hauled me carefully to my feet while the other officers went into the building, following my directions but sweeping the area clean before continuing on. But they needed to hurry! I don’t know how much longer Asher can hold on and I’ll be pissed if they let him die.
“Ma’am, where are you hurt?” I spun back to find an EMT worker staring at me, a flashlight looking thing being pointed into my eyes.
“My thigh. I was shot.” I was out of breath when the EMT workers finally grabbed me and laid me down on a stretcher and began tearing my jeans open at the wound site. It was burning and I couldn’t feel my toes anymore, but I was just glad to be out of there breathing.
I couldn’t focus on myself as I kept my eyes trained on the front doors of the building and that’s when I saw several officers run back out yelling for more EMT workers. I watched as they ran back into the building, a stretcher behind them, and knew they had found Asher. I let out a breath of relief and laid my head back down but whipped it back up when I felt a burning and shooting pain in my thigh as I screamed out in pain. I looked down and saw the EMT worker pouring a clear liquid over the bullet hole and almost passed out from the sight of my wounded thigh, but I had to hold onto the strength that I had. I needed to know that Asher was alright. I needed to see him come out of those doors before I could let my own pain overtake my body.
“We need to get her to the hospital right now. We need to get this bullet out of her leg.”
Then I felt myself being rolled farther into the ambulance and I began to panic knowing that they were taking me away and I still hadn’t seen Asher come out of the building yet. Is he alright?! He has to be! But they weren’t coming out yet! What was taking them so long? Then I felt the blood drain from my face and cold chills cover my body at the thought of Asher being dead. Maybe they were taking forever because they had pronounced him dead and they were in no rush to get him out.
Tears began to well up in my eyes and panic filled my senses. We’ve just gone through so much! He can’t be gone! I won’t accept it!
“We’re taking you to East side, do you have any family we should contact?” The EMT worker was trying to get my attention but I was frozen, my eyes glued to the roof of the ambulance.
“Harper Creed. She’ll be in my contact info.” I gave them Harper’s name because I knew she would contact the right people for me and because she also needed to know about Asher, so I was trying to hit two birds with one stone. “I mean... Harper Keller. She just got married.”
I felt a single tear slide down my cheek as I looked towards the building once more before they closed the ambulance doors and right when I was about to give up hope, I saw two EMT workers pushing through the front doors, Asher on the stretcher, and they were running towards the other ambulance. I let out a breath knowing he was still alive. They aren’t going to be running like that over a dead person, right?
Then they slammed the ambulance doors shut and I closed my eyes and let the pain overtake my body as the darkness surrounded me.