“Hey, Kitten…” Sawyer said in a low voice, his eyes glowing with spiraling emotions that caught in his throat and pierced right through her heart.
“Hey…” Her voice was so raspy she barely recognized it herself.
“Lizzy!” Sophia squealed, jumping from her dad’s lap and running to stand beside her. Adam just stared at her, gaping like a fish, but no words came out of his mouth.
“Hi,” she said as she tried to move, smiling at them. “Ugh,” she protested when she reclined over her elbows.
“What are you trying to do?” Sawyer asked as he approached her.
“To sit up?” she quipped.
“Yeah, I mean, what are you doing?” Sawyer repeated with a sarcastic tone of voice. “You were shot and then went into surgery for more than five hours. I think your body has had enough movement for a year,” he joked and then leaned down to softly kiss on her dry lips. “I’m glad you’re back.”
“What day is it?” she asked, confused.
“Sunday,” he said as he brushed her hair from her forehead.
“What?” It had been five days since the accident. “I…”
“Daddy!!” Sophia grumbled, holding her arms up, impatiently.
“Sorry, Baby girl,” he chuckled as he picked her up and gently sat her beside Lizbeth. “You need to be careful, okay? She’s still in pain,” he warned her, his voice warm and sweet.
“Does it hurt?” Sophia asked as she turned to her.
“A little, but I’ll be fine in a few days, don’t worry,” Lizbeth reassured her as she caressed her cheek.
“Teddy’s help you,” she noted, pointing to the stuffed animal resting on the pillow beside her head. Then, her little fingers ran through Lizbeth’s hair, making her heart flutter. It was the exact same gesture she had with her when she was about to sleep.
“Really?” She sweetly smiled at her as she grabbed her hand.
“Yeah…” She nodded, grinning like the sweet little girl she was when she kissed her knuckles.
“Thank you, Princess.”
Sophia laid down beside her and began to draw circles in her chest as Lizbeth rubbed her back lovingly. “You won’t leave, right?” she asked, nuzzling against her.
“Of course not, Baby… I’m so sorry that I scared you...”
“It’s fine.” She shrugged.
“This is the place where I want to be, so I’m not going anywhere, okay?”
“Okay,” the girl breathed.
Lizbeth looked at Sawyer with apologetic eyes and he just gave her a small smile. His expression somewhat stoic. What’s wrong?
A bit overwhelmed by the indescribable emotions reflected in his eyes, her gaze moved to Adam. He was staring at the floor, probably stepping one foot on another —it was something he always did when he had something in his mind that was afraid or embarrassed to let others know.
“What is it, Buddy?” she asked him. He was so adorable she had to bite on her bottom lip to hold the grin from spreading across her face.
“Adam… We’re friends, remember? And friends don’t keep secrets from each other.”
“Did you hear me?”
“When I was reading my essay…” He slightly blushed.
Lizbeth nodded and smiled at him. “It’s beautiful…” She motioned him to walk to the other side of the bed.
He obeyed and slowly walked around the bed. When he was standing beside her, she held her hand out to him. “I’m so proud of you, Adam. You’re my favorite boy in the world… I love you both so much.” She pressed Sophia’s body against hers and squeezed Adam’s hand.
She was still a bit dizzy and didn’t want to talk much about what they made her feel because she knew that her feelings would easily take over her and she needed to be strong. She wanted to show them that everything was going to be alright from that moment on.
Adam stared at her without saying anything and a few seconds later a tear rolled down his rosy cheek. “I love you too…” he mumbled. Her heart skipped a beat. That kid opening up like that was like watching the cherry blossom blooming on a winter day, beautiful, breathtaking and so rare one had to cherish it.
“Come here.” She patted the bed.
“But I don’t want to hurt you…”
“You won’t. I promise,” she told him as she made more space for him.
His brows slightly creased as he thought. “Okay,” he finally accepted.
“Let me help you,” Sawyer said as he moved beside him.
“Thanks, Dad,” Adam smiled at him.
Lizbeth’s breath caught in her throat when she heard that word coming out of his mouth. Sawyer had fought for them with all his might, worrying every day so they had everything they needed to grow up as happy kids in spite of losing their parents. They were his whole life and all he wanted to know was if he was doing it right. He must be feeling over the moon. Lizbeth smiled when he leaned to kiss his forehead.
“I’m gonna get Liam and April, and call your parents, okay?” he told her, blankly staring at her. His jaw tense.
“Sure.” Lizbeth nodded, avoiding to look him in the eye. She didn’t understand why he had put that armor around him. Why is he being so cold all of a sudden?
As Sawyer left the room, Lizbeth tightened her arms around the kids. For her, it all had happened just a few hours before. She had never been so terrified in her life. She remembered that the only thing she could think about when they were in the car was them.
As soon as they landed on the water, hysteria took over them. She couldn’t blame them, but in a situation like that you can’t let your emotions drag you.
She unbuckled herself and turned to them. She tried to keep her voice as calm as possible as she told them that the police officers would rescue them pretty soon.
The pain in her abdomen was consuming, but the adrenaline running through her veins helped her to deal with it because the idea of losing them was as painful as that bullet breaking through her flesh. When she had unfastened their seatbelts, she asked them to roll their windows down and a few seconds later the policemen finally got them.
Her heart ached just thinking about it as a strangled sob let her throat. She knew that memory would haunt her dreams for a while.
“Why are you crying?” Adam asked her, as he glanced up at her with concern written all over his face. “Does it hurt?”
She nodded her head no. It hurt but not as much as that horrible memory. “I’m just so happy that you’re safe… I don’t know what I’d have done if something happened to you,” she confessed as she brushed the hair away from his beautiful blue eyes.
“I was scared…” Adam admitted. “But I knew Dad would never let anything bad happen to us.” He gave her a reassuring smile.
“Yeah…” Sophia nodded. “Dad’s a superhero.” She giggled.
“That he is.” She smiled.
While they waited for April, Liam, and Sawyer to come back, they told her about the last few days. How they slept in that motel the first night and then how they moved back to their grandparents. Her mother had told them to call her grannie and they were thrilled with the idea of having not two, but three grandmothers.
Lizbeth laughed whole-heartedly, feeling at ease as she watched them as lively as any other day. Her stomach hurt, but she didn’t care, she felt alive.
Ten minutes later, her brother walked into the room and, without thinking, he ran to her.
“God, Liz!” he cried. “You’ve scared the shit out of us!” he told her as he kissed her forehead.
“Liam! You can’t talk like that in front of the kids!” she protested.
“I’m sorry! Kids, you can’t ever use those words, okay?” he sternly said as he looked at them, a finger in the air. “You’ve really given us a fright, Baby girl…” he repeated when he turned to her again. “Don’t dare to do this again… I can’t lose my best friend...” He caressed the top of her head.
“I’m sorry…” she breathed, tears threatening to fall down as she got caught by the sadness in her brother’s eyes.
“I love you, sis.”
“I love you too.”
“Hey, gorgeous...” April gave her a weak smile. “How are you feeling?”
“Drugged?” She chuckled.
“Good,” April laughed as she walked beside her.
“How’s my nephew doing?” Lizbeth asked as she rubbed her belly. She was so beautiful, sparkling like the sun over the snow.
“He’s doing great,” she said as she touched her hand. “I’m so happy that you’re back… You’ve had us on our toes for days…” She sniffled.
“Sadness doesn’t suit you, hon,” Lizbeth joked.
“Liz, I’m serious!” Her brows furrowed. “You have no idea how it felt like watching you attached to all those machines for days,” she stated, letting her tears finally flow.
“I know, April…” She would feel the same if it was the other way around. She didn’t have many people she cared about, but she would give her life for any of the ones around her at that moment. “But I’m fine, ain’t I?” She smiled at her.
“You better…” April said between sobs as she helped Sophia to get up from the bed.
“Why are you crying aunt April?” Sophia grabbed her face between both of her little hands as she stood on the bed.
“I’m just happy.”
“But when you happy you smile, don’t cry,” she noted.
“You’re right,” she sniffled and then smiled. “Thank you, sweetheart.” April kissed her nose.
“Let me help you down,” Sawyer said when he saw April trying to get Sophia off the bed.
“Thanks, S. I can barely move like a normal person anymore,” she whined.
“It’s fine,” he chuckled.
“Why don’t you get down too, Buddy?” Liam asked Adam.
“Okay…” he said as he reluctantly moved.
“It’s fine, Liam,” Lizbeth told him.
“I know, but we’re going to get some ice-cream in the cafeteria.” He winked an eye to the kids.
“Really?” Sophia exclaimed excitedly.
“Yeah!” Liam laughed. “What flavor do you like?” he asked her.
“Oh, I like that one too. What about you, Adam?”
“I like chocolate.”
“That’s my favorite too,” April admitted. “And in this state, I sure could use some.” She softly laughed.
“So… Do you want to come with me and April for some?”
“Can we?” Adam asked Sawyer.
“Sure,” he said with a small smile.
As they walked out of the room and closed the door behind them, Lizbeth couldn’t hold it in anymore. “What’s wrong?” she asked as he walked towards her without opening his mouth. He had been oddly cold and serious, and she was starting to get really worried. “Sawyer…” she insisted as he pressed the button on the remote control of her bed to recline her. “Thanks.”
“It’s alright,” he simply said.
“What’s going on?” she asked him, intertwining her fingers with his. He sighed. “Sawyer, talk to me…”
“Because—” He didn’t finish his sentence and pressed his mouth to hers, grabbing her face as if he was afraid she would go away. He massaged her lips, tenderly and passionately at the same time. It was a soft yet strong kiss. Then he gently bit on her bottom lip, sucking on it.
She could feel the hole in his heart through the kiss, ripping hers in the process. He wasn’t angry or upset as he looked, he was dead worried.
She didn’t remember much after getting the kids out of the car, but the sensations were lingering in her skin. He had watched her die. His feelings pierced her soul like an arrow. Fast, sharp, intense.
He kept savoring her for a few minutes and she took everything in. His warm touch, his musky scent, the raw need, and the suffering.
“I thought I’d lost you…” His voice broke when he said those words. His beautiful eyes threatening with a storm.
“I… I’m here, Babe… I promised you I wasn’t going anywhere and nothing would make me break my promise.”
“Liz… The kids, you… You’re my whole world.” He took a deep breath as he rested his forehead against hers, his hands still wrapping her face and neck. His gaze lingering in hers. “If anything happened to any of you, I…”
“That won’t happen.”
“It already did,” he stated. “You said goodbye to me… You weren’t breathing and your heart stopped for a few seconds… It was the most terrifying moment of my life.” He sniffled as a tear slipped down his cheek to crash on her arm.
Her heart broke in a million pieces. She had known that man for years. She had watched him dealing with lots of different situations. She had seen him angry, happy, drunk, proud, joking, serious, disappointed, sad, and laughing. She thought she knew all his expressions, but she had never seen so much hurt and sorrow in his eyes.
“I’m so sorry, Sawyer…” She sobbed.
He bitterly chuckled. “I’m the one that should apologize for not protecting you.”
“It’s not like you knew what she was up to.”
“I know, but still… I should have been there for you... I…” He was lost for words.
“You don’t need to say anything.” She slightly shook her head as she gripped his wrists. “I’d feel the same… But you know what? If I had to die to save them, I’d do it a thousand times because I know what they mean to you… And I wouldn’t mind, you know why?”
“Why?” He asked, his brows furrowed.
“Because I’d leave this world knowing you loved me till my last day.”
He stared deep into her eyes, dragging her to the beautiful universe inside of his. “Always,” he breathed before pressing his lips to hers.