I open my eyes to darkness.
I know they’re open but I can’t see anything.
I rub them with my fists, bumping my face with something hard and scratchy, then open them again.
My heart rate increases as my chest expands and contracts at a rapid rate, until I finally hear him rustle beside me.
“Baby, it’s me, I’m right here. Everything’s fine.” I hear Toren’s deep, soothing voice, with a tinge of breathlessness.
“I can’t see!” I cry out, trying to catch my breath, sitting into an upright position, feeling softness around and under me.
He flips a light switch on bringing me back into my surroundings.
I’m not on that floor, blood covering my eyes, disrupting my vision.
“You’re safe.” he whispers.
I’m not staring into the open, empty eyes of a man that was once my best friend.
“I’ve got you.”
I’m not standing above Tommy, emptying the rest of the loaded gun into his limp body while the screams pour from my mouth and the tears from my eyes.
“I’m right here.” he continues.
I’m not back in that hospital, having to see Annie’s face as she collapses onto the tile of the hallway when they tell her her only brother died in the line of duty, saving my life.
“Everything is going to be alright.”
And I’m not in danger anymore.
I’m in Toren’s arms, with that damn cast on my hand, crying out in the middle of the night for the millionth time this week.
“I know. I know it’s hard.” he comforts me, pulling me into his embrace until I’m curled up into him under the covers again.
He trails his hand up and down my arm softly, holding me together as I fall apart.
It happened so slowly, and yet so fast at the same time.
That day will forever be ingrained in my head. A stained memory that will never be removed.
I’m back in that room.
The gun cocked and Ryder turned back towards a fallen Tommy, pulling his gun from his holster at the same time. Two shots fired as Ryder flew in front of me.
He dove before me, taking a bullet to the head, spraying my face with his blood as he fell back, covering my vision, while the other shot hit Tommy dead in the middle of his forehead. He was killed instantly.
Adrien grabbed me as I passed out onto the floor beneath me. Coming to, in his arms, I thought I’d died. I knew I must’ve been shot because there was blood everywhere. But it wasn’t my blood. He checked me over with panicked eyes as I pulled away to get to Ryder’s body.
He laid there, his eyes open, deprived of life in a fleeting second.
He saved me.
I collapsed on him, fisting the wet shirt on his blood covered chest, crying the silent cry. The kind of cry that you never quite get out, not without a pained scream.
I screamed over and over again.
It wasn’t possible.
The anger overwhelmed me before the sadness could reach me. I grabbed Ryder’s loose gun, the one laying on the floor beside him, and walked over to Tommy.
I stood above him, unloading every bullet into his dead, lifeless form, screaming in agony until there were no bullets left and the trigger was left clicking.
Adrien watched me with tears, shaken by the events that had transpired, yet knowing the pain I was releasing. He came over, softly taking the gun away from me and throwing it away, holding me as we both collapsed into the floor.
Everything from there was a blur. Toren and his bodyguard burst into the building, crashing through the shop windows downstairs upon hearing the gunshots.
He was a ghost of a person when he got to me. White and looking on the verge of death himself. He’d thought it had been me. I vaguely remember seeing Tyler there, only tons of faces I’d never seen before.
Things didn’t end the way they should’ve. Shortly after Toren, Tyler, and Chris arrived, a boat load of FBI agents came to the location. They’d all been camped out at wherever we were supposed to go to meet Tommy.
There were holes in all of the plans.
Tommy’s organization had infiltrated them. Snakes were everywhere, covering for him, and losing track of his whereabouts when needed. Ryder was smart though. He wore a wire, wherever he went. He had collected endless hours of conversations that were set to be used in court, finally pinning down the rest of the men associated with his gang. He’d thrown himself into the wolves’ den, living in danger, just to bring down the big bad wolf himself, knowing how hard it was going to be, how protected Tommy was.
It was no easy task, but he’d put in years of work, years of hiding, years of pretending to be someone he wasn’t, to finally kill the man he was after. And he did it for me.
Tommy would never truly pay for the crimes he committed, not the way Ryder sought, not the way I wished to see him suffer, but either way, he put an end to him, once and for all.
The things I’d learned about the investigation afterwards was an even heavier blow. Not only had Ryder done everything in his power to keep me close to him, but he’d truly fallen for me in the process. That wasn’t part of his plan. He’d grown feelings that were undeniable to him.
But he lied to me. Over and over again. He was so heavily infiltrated into my life, that I couldn’t see the truth in front of me. I never saw it coming. He was a professional after all.
Toren’s lawyers went after Camilia, and she ended up getting charged with extortion, getting actual prison time for being party to the crime. It was Tommy’s idea all along to pin the pregnancy on Toren. He couldn’t care less about a baby. It was a write off to him. Ryder went along with it because he thought it’d help win me back, get me under his wing to keep up with the plans, but also give him some sort of security. His heart helped drive him.
The lies ran deep, and the deceptions were everywhere.
Even Toren’s private investigator he’d hired was actually working with Ryder and the FBI to help get me to the location in order to entice Tommy out of the woodwork. It was all a twisted setup.
It was a sickening discovery, knowing I was being used in this way for so long by someone I thought I could trust. I was an idiot. My life and the lives of the people around me were in danger because of it. I could’ve died.
The more I sat in the pain, the more I thought about it. Maybe I should’ve been the one to get hit. Maybe I deserved that after everything I’d put everyone through. Ryder didn’t deserve that ending, even if he was guilty in his own ways, and Toren didn’t deserve to be involved in such drama. Even Adrien could’ve been seriously hurt in that situation.
Maybe I could’ve done something to stop it. I was struggling with survivor’s guilt according to my therapist, and from what he told me, it was totally normal in my circumstances, but it still didn’t feel right. I still felt the weight of it all.
Lucky for me, I still had Toren. He never once left my side. I think there was a part of me that felt guilt in our relationship too. I didn’t deserve him after everything I’d put him through.
I was a broken mess before I met him and a shattered one now.
“It’ll take time baby, it will.” Toren whispers, his lips against my ear.
“I don’t deserve you. I never have.” I cry into the pillow.
He shushes me, rubbing up and down my back with his hand. “I love you, Scarlett, and that’s never going to change. As bad as you feel right now, it will get better. There’s a reason for all of this, and in time you’ll see that. I still need you.”
I turned over onto my back facing him, grabbing his hand that was rubbing my back and bringing it to my chest.
“I need you, too.” I cry, bringing his hand to my lips and kissing it softly.
He wipes my tears from my cheeks, and leans forward, capturing my lips.
The kiss turns from soft to passionate. My need for his healing touch to drown out the nightmares is overwhelming.
His tongue parts my lips, finding my tongue and massaging it with a commanding force. He trails kisses all along my neck. I rip open my button up night top as his hands follow suit, cupping my exposed breast, kneading them with passionate vigor.
“Oh, Toren.” I moan in a pained pleasure. “Yes.”
“I thought I lost you again.” he whispers, his warm breath against my neck.
My hands dive between us, feeling for him, running my hand the length of him until he’s groaning with his head held in the crook of my neck.
“Please.” I beg, aching for him inside me. “I need to feel you.”
He rolls on top of me, separating my thighs with one knee, running his hands up my thighs, finding my awaiting entrance. His eyes never disconnect with mine as he lines himself and pushes slowly into me.
I finally relax, opening up to him as he enters me fully, both of us heavily breathing as he stalls in me, filled to the root. He gently kisses my face, my eyelashes, my nose, the cheeks and my lips. He kisses me like it isn’t possible I’m still here. Like his lips demand to memorize the feeling of my warm skin beneath him. He slowly begins gliding in and out of me.
“Scar.” he groans, closing his beautiful l blue eyes tightly, then opening them to look into mine again.
“I love you, Toren.” I whisper, capturing his moistened lips, kissing him again.
My tongue, lovingly caressing his, proving we are worth this. Showing him how sorry I am with all that I am.
He grabs my hips, fingers clawing into the skin at my hips as his hips thrusts into mine. I moan with an aching need as he hits the deepest part of me, filling me with all he has. His deep groans and breathlessness tell me he’s putting his all into this, his heart more than anything else. He almost lost me forever and by the way his hands are grabbing me, the way his mouth is on me, the way his cock is driving into me, it shows.
We find our bliss as our motions continue and I come around him, the tears flowing as the overwhelming feeling of complete and utter love stems from the base of my spine and travels throughout our connected bodies.
Our pants fill the room as our eyes stay intimately connected. Promises of our future together held between our beating hearts.
This is real.
This is love, in its purest form.
But, I don’t deserve it.