I can tell that someone is poking at me. I feel a pulling sensation, I hear the snipping of scissors, as well as an obnoxious beeping noise. I open my eyes to tell Emma to cut it out, whatever she’s doing is giving me a headache.
It’s a mistake.
As soon as my eyes are open, I’m pulled back into the world of the living. My ears are ringing and I am in pain. So much pain. I cry out, realizing the snipping is from someone sowing a gash in my leg back together. There are arms on me in an instant. Nurses hold me down and one puts something in my IV. I start calming down, a pleasant tingling feeling starting in the tips of my fingers and making it’s way throughout my body until I barely notice the pain.
“Holly,” a nurse prompts me, pulling her mask down from her face and looking at me. I recognize her immediately and start screaming. Everything goes black.
The next time I open my eyes I’m in a different room.
Hands are on me in an instant. I jerk away from them, looking up to find Emma and Grace, wearing matching expressions of concern, staring down at me.
“Are you okay?” Emma asks me tentatively.
“Where is she?” I demand, looking around nervously.
“Who? Lacey?” Grace asks.
“Her mom,” I whisper. They both look at me, confused. “She’s a nurse here.”
“Oh, shit. Is that why you were screaming?” Grace sits on the edge of my bed and Emma follows suit sitting on the other side.
“You could hear me?”
“Yeah, you were still in triage in the ER. August heard you screaming and fought his way back there to make sure you were okay.”
I smile a little, thinking of him, but then snap out of it. August is with Grace.
“Where was Gabe?” I ask, noticing Grace’s noticeable flinch.
“Gabe was there...” she answers slowly. “August was just a little faster.”
“Where is Gabe now?”
“Only family is allowed back right now... so he’s pacing the waiting room and August is probably sitting in his car going crazy.”
“Going crazy for what?”
She blanches. “He’s still worried about you, Hol.”
I instantly feel terrible. As much as I like Auggie, I’ve got to let this crush go completely so that they can be happy together... and so that Gabe and I can be happy, too.
I don’t respond, I just nod and look down at the damage. My whole body appears to be one big bruise. I’ve got bandages on my legs and arms, and I can feel one on my stomach and one on my head that are pretty painful.
“Are you okay?” Emma asks.
I try to move my arms and legs and wince at the pain. “I’m alive,” I say sullenly.
“Good. Well, now that that’s out of the way, how could y’all not tell me what’s been going on?” She thunders, and a nurse passing by gives her a dirty look. She rolls her eyes I’m response, as if to say this is my family and I’ll do what I want. That is the mindset of most seventeen year olds anyway. “I mean, I’ve been in that house and you haven’t even bothered to clue me in on the biggest thing that’s ever happened to us?”
“We’ve been missing each other the last couple of days,” I admit. “When I’m home, you’re out. When I’m out... we’ll, I don’t know where you are then. Honestly, it’s been a really big adjustment. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it myself.”
“We weren’t trying to leave you out,” Grace adds.
“Oh, so you’re saying if I was home more?” She quips. “I have a life, you know.” She looks at me then, sadness and disappointment in her eyes. “But you, Holly... I thought we were closer than that. Since when are you and Grace even hanging out anyway?”
“Things have changed since Brian died,” I tell her, shrugging. “I swear to you we would’ve told you as soon as we saw you. You probably would’ve thought we were crazy, but we wouldn’t keep something this important from you.”
She looks at her hands, suddenly appearing tired. “I guess I believe you. Can we talk about these brothers now? You and Gabe? And his hunky older brother and Grace?! How did this happen? What about Elliot?!”
“So I guess she doesn’t know that part yet,” I say to Grace.
“What part? What else are y’all keeping from me?”
“You don’t even want to know,” Grace mutters, on edge.
I blink, surprised by her tone. “I thought you and August were happy?”
She looks at me, something in her eyes that I can’t decipher, and then says, “Of course I am, aren’t you?”
I gulp, wanting to tell her the truth, but not knowing how she’ll take it now that her and August have found their connection.
“What is going on?” Emma demands.
Grace sighs. “Each of the three of us are apparently meant for one of the three brothers. Yours is obviously Max.”
Emma laughs. “You’re kidding, right?” She keeps laughing... until she realizes we aren’t laughing with her. “You have got to be kidding me. First my mom disappears, and then I come home and my house is on fire and my sister is half dead, you tell me I’m a witch, and now you’re trying to tell me that I’m supposed to be with Maximus Rikkards?! No. No way. I need some air, I’m going for a walk.”
Neither me or Grace try and stop her. She needs time to think, and process everything. We both did. I know how she’s feeling right now, and I wish we could go back to before any of this ever happened and just be normal.
“So...” I start slowly. “What’s the story?”
“What do you mean?” Grace asks.
“What happened with the house? What have the doctors said?”
“Oh.” She says simply, seeming to think through everything she wants to tell me. “The neighbors called 911 when they saw the smoke. Apparently you can’t put out magical fires with magic, but the guys were able to minimize damage before the firefighters showed up. We’ll need to find somewhere to stay for a few days and they can fix most of it magically but we will need to hire someone to do some of the work so no one gets suspicious. The guys are going to take care of that for us, too.”
I take all of that in. The way the flames were climbing the walls, I’m surprised there was anything left for August and Gabe to minimize.
“And what about the doctors? What have they said?” I ask.
“Well, you have more stitches than I can even fathom. They said you have two broken ribs, your left arm is fractured and you have a minor fracture in your skull. You have a concussion, a black eye, a busted lip, your whole body is basically bruised. I think that’s it... oh, and your ankle is sprained.”
Damn. How am I alive? Lacey just about killed me.
“What happened, Holly?” Grace demands now.
“Lacey,” I manage to croak out, her name like acid on my tongue. “She was a witch or something. She wanted me to kill people for her. When I said no, she attacked me. The last thing that I remember is her bursting into flames and then what felt like being thrown through the sliding glass door.”
Grace’s face darkens. “We’re going to have to leave,” she says suddenly. “She almost killed you! We have to run!”
“What are you talking about?!” I demand. We can’t leave!
“Mom is gone, people are coming to kill you! We’ve got to do something. We can’t just sit around and let this happen again. We’ve got to go!”
“Grace, get a grip! What about dad? Emma has school and friends, I have friends. We can’t just leave everything behind!”
“Is dad even a witch? He might not know anything about this!”
“We don’t have money,” I argue. “We don’t have anywhere to go! What about Gabe and August?”
“I know mom’s bank account information. We can go anywhere we want! And the boys were literally made for us, I think they’ll go with us. Gabe and August both will be on board with getting you somewhere safe!”
“No!” I scream, panicking.
By now the heart monitor is off the charts, and a nurse rushes in.
“Miss, I’m going to have to ask you to leave!” She says to Grace.
“No!” I scream again. “She has to stay! Please!”
“I’m sorry,” she tells me, pushing buttons on the monitor. “But we’ve really got to keep you calm right now.” She looks at Grace. “Maybe we’ll try this again tomorrow.”
“But—” Grace sputters, but the nurse cuts her off.
“No buts! You can see her tomorrow,” she says in a clipped tone, and then leads Grace from the room.
She can’t leave me!
And more importantly, where is nurse Ratchet??