“I hate that this has happened to her,” Lilly said.
Yes, interesting. I’d like to know what had happened to me, too.
Lilly continued, “From what I understand, the guy hasn’t been caught.”
“Do the police know who’s responsible for hurting her?”
“It’s a man from Shay’s past. He goes by the street name Shooter.”
Shooter. Shooter? My mind exploded and I must have cried out, because Lilly grabbed hold of my forearm. “Shay? Are you all right? Do you need me to get someone?”
I managed to shake my head. Shooter was the one who’d hurt me? How was that possible when he was supposed to be in prison? And why couldn’t I remember what had happened? None of this made sense.
After a few minutes I must have fallen asleep again.
When I next woke, the lights weren’t as bright or debilitating, and I was able to open my eyes for more than a few seconds. Right away I saw Drew sitting at my bedside. He had his Bible in his lap and appeared to be reading.
“Hi,” I whispered.
He looked up and a big smile came over him. Setting down the Bible he stood and looked down on me. “You’re awake.”
I attempted a smile.
“Would you like more water?”
“Please.” As he had before, he positioned the straw at my lips, and I took a long sip.
When he set the container aside, I raised my hand to my head and felt the bandages. As soon as I did, a bit of my memory returned. I remembered that Richard and Chuck had been with me and was immediately concerned they might be hurt.
“He’s worried sick about you. He’s been at the hospital every day. He stands in the doorway and won’t come into the room. Haven’t quite figured that out yet. It’s very kind of him, though. He looks at you from the hallway, sniffles, and walks away, and then comes back, looks some more, sniffles, and leaves.”
“Richard tried to save me. Is Chuck okay?”
“Both are fine. I heard what Richard did. The man has a lot of courage.” Drew looked at me and a slow grin came over him. “I’ve been waiting a long time for you to wake up and talk. Now that you have, I don’t think you’ve ever looked more beautiful.”
I couldn’t help it, I snickered. “Yeah, I’ll bet. How long have I been out of it?”
“Awhile. Four days. Three of the longest days of my life.”
He touched my cheek with a look of such tenderness that I bit down on my lip, afraid I was going to start crying. Everything that had happened threatened to overwhelm me.
“The police haven’t found Shooter?”
Drew shook his head and his face darkened. “Not yet. It’s only a matter of time until he’s caught.”
I swallowed hard. “He’s looking for my brother.” Seeing that I’d managed to survive this attack didn’t mean Shooter wouldn’t try again. He knew where I worked and it was highly probable that he had my home address. Fear immediately gripped hold of me in a vise so strong and tight that I found it difficult to breathe.
“How do you think he found you?” Drew asked.
That was the same question that had played in the back of my mind ever since I learned Shooter was responsible for my injuries. “Richard. He’s kept his eye out for Caden. I don’t want anything to do with my brother, but I wanted to know if he was in the area. Richard had asked around about him. I think he hoped to find him, help him if he could without involving me. I tried to warn him. As much as I love my brother, he’s on a path I can’t follow. I thought I was helping him before, but I was the one who ended up paying the price.”
Drew’s frown thickened.
“Shooter believes he can get to Caden through me and he won’t stop until he gets what he wants.” I knew Shooter and he wouldn’t take no for an answer. He refused to believe me before, which was why he’d attacked me. There was nothing to keep him from trying again, and when I didn’t give him the information he needed, I’d pay the price. Shooter would think nothing of killing me. He had nothing to lose.
“I’m not going to let that happen,” Drew insisted.
With everything in me, I wanted to believe I was safe, but experience told me otherwise. “He probably knows where I live.”
His answer hung in the air. I blinked, uncertain at the implication. “What do you mean?”
“You’re not living in the tiny house any longer.”
Drew’s shoulders relaxed as he reached for my hand and held it in both of his. “I don’t know if you remember this or not. Awhile ago I mentioned that there was a small apartment in the basement of the church. At one time the youth pastor lived there. It’s a tiny space, but it has all the essentials.”
“I don’t remember anything about any apartment.” Well, maybe vaguely I recalled Drew mentioning something about it, but that had been weeks ago.
“It’s been used for storage for the most part. The elders thought it would be a good idea to rent it out. The extra income would help the church meet its budget. In the beginning I was against it because it would require a lot of work to ready for a tenant. I’ve since changed my mind.”
“You want me to move to that apartment?”
“Yes. Actually, I made that decision for you as soon as I heard what had happened and that Shooter hadn’t been apprehended.”
He gripped hold of my hand, squeezing my fingers. “I refuse for you to be in danger. Linda Kincaid and Lilly Palmer and a couple other volunteers have been working tirelessly to get the apartment ready for you to move in. If Lilly has anything to say about it, you’ll be completely moved by the time you’re released. You won’t even go back to your old place.”
“Will be waiting for you when you’re ready to go back, only I’ll be driving you there in the mornings and picking you up when you’re finished with your shift.”
“If you plan on arguing with me, then save your breath,” he said, cutting me off. “It’s all been decided. Not one of us is willing to give Shooter another chance to get close to you. The church basement is secure, with an alarm system. I had new lighting installed as well. Plus I’m practically living next door.”
The idea of being close to Drew and the children appealed to me on a number of different levels. “Thank you,” I whispered, overwhelmed by the love and care shown to me by my friends.
“You’re welcome,” Drew said. “Oh, and before I forget, Sarah drew you a picture.” He turned away and reached for it.
I laughed out loud when I saw it. The nine-year-old had drawn me as a stick figure, lying in a bed with my head twice the size of my body. She had an IV pole next to the bed with a night stand with a Bible on it. Then in large letters below the drawing she’d printed HURRY AND GET WELL.
This was the longest since the attack I’d been awake, and it tired me out. Although I struggled to keep my eyes open, they kept drifting shut. “I think I need to sleep a bit.”
“You do that.”
“I don’t want to.” If I fell asleep I’d be wasting the precious minutes Drew was with me, and I most definitely didn’t want to do that. “I’ll miss seeing you.”
“I’ll be here when you wake.”
“Promise.” He leaned forward and kissed my cheek.
It felt wonderful to have him close. The battle was already lost, though, and I could feel the pull of sleep and was unable to resist.
Time was of little consequence, and I woke to the sound of whispered voices. Drew’s I recognized right away. The second voice was vaguely familiar. I tugged at my memory for a name.
“How is she?”
Drew answered. “Better. She was awake earlier, and we spoke. She seems to stay awake longer each time. That’s a good sign.”
“I’m glad to hear it.”
It took a moment, but I recognized the woman’s voice as belonging to Linda Kincaid.