Blood was pouring from his wound, pushing out thick crimson with every beat of his heart.

“Fuck,” Thomas said through his teeth.

I slid my gun into the back of my jeans while Thomas removed his T-shirt. He wadded it up and pressed it against his wound.

“You should lie down. It’ll slow the bleeding,” I said, dialing 911 on my cell phone.

The same two men from before peeked around the corner, and once they saw it was safe, they came out. “Are you okay, man?” one of them asked. “We called the cops. They’re on their way.”

I hung up the phone. “They got the call. They’re coming.”

As if on cue, sirens wailed from just a few short blocks away.

I smiled at Thomas. “You’re going to be all right, okay?”

“Hell yes,” he said, his voice strained. “I finally got you back. One bullet isn’t going to fuck that up.”

“Here,” the other guy said, taking off his shirt. “You might go into shock, dude.”

Thomas took a step, reaching for the shirt, and from the corner of my eye, I saw Grove raise his gun, pointing it directly at me.

“Shit!” one of the guys yelled.

Before I had time to react, Thomas leaped in front of me, shielding me with his body. We were facing each other when the pop went off, and Thomas jerked again.

“He’s down again! I think he’s dead!” one of the men said, pointing to Grove.

I looked around Thomas to see the two guys cautiously approach Grove, and then one kicked his gun away.

“He’s not breathing!”

Thomas fell to his knees, a shocked look on his face, and then he dropped to his side. His head hit the sidewalk with a loud knock.

“Thomas?” I shrieked. “Thomas!” Tears blurred my vision as they welled up in my eyes.

My hands checked him over. He had a bullet wound on his lower back, three inches from his spine. Blood oozed up through the hole and spilled out onto the sidewalk.

Thomas whispered something, and I bent down to hear him.


“Exit wound,” he whispered.

I pulled him back to look at his front. He had matching gunshot wounds, one on each side of his lower abdomen. One was on his right side from the first time Grove had shot him, and another was on the opposite side.

“This one’s clean,” I said. “Went straight through.”

I paused. An exit wound.

Pain blazed from my midsection, and I looked down. A red stain had spread on my shirt. The bullet had gone straight through Thomas and into me. Yanking at my shirt, I pulled it up to reveal blood oozing steadily from a small hole on my right lower chest, just beneath my ribs.

My blurry vision hadn’t been from tears but from blood loss. I slumped next to Thomas, still keeping pressure on his wound with one hand and on mine with the other.

The sirens seemed farther away instead of closer. The neighborhood began to spin, and I collapsed onto my stomach.

“Liis,” he said, turning onto his back to face me. His skin was pale and sweaty. “Stay with me, baby. They’re coming.”

The cold sidewalk felt good against my cheek. A heaviness came over me, an exhaustion unlike anything I’d ever felt before.

“I love you,” I whispered with my last remaining strength.

A tear fell from the corner of my eye, crossed the bridge of my nose, and then dripped to our concrete bed, mixing with the red mess beneath us.

Thomas let go of the T-shirt, and with a weak hand, he reached for me, his eyes glossing over. “I love you.”

I couldn’t move, but I could feel his fingers touching mine, and they intertwined.

“Hang on,” he said. He frowned. “Liis?”

I wanted to talk, to blink, to do anything to calm his fears, but nothing moved. I could see the panic in his eyes as life slipped away from me, but I was helpless.

“Liis!” he cried, a weak yell.

The corners of my vision darkened, and then it swallowed me whole. I sank into nothingness, a quiet loneliness where I could rest and be still.

Then, the world exploded—bright lights, commands, beeping in my ears, and pinches on my hands and arms.

Strange voices called my name.

I blinked. “Thomas?” My voice was muffled by the oxygen mask over my nose and mouth.

“She’s back!” a woman said, standing over me.

The concrete bed beneath me was now a firm mattress. The room was white, making the spotlight overhead seem that much brighter.

I heard answers about my blood pressure, pulse, and oxygenation but none about my neighbor, my partner, the man I loved.

“Liis?” A woman stood over me, shielding the light from my eyes. She smiled. “Welcome back.”

My lips struggled to form around the words I wanted to say.

The woman brushed my hair from my face, still squeezing the bag attached to my oxygen mask, the hissing noise next to my ear.

As if she could read my mind, she gestured with a nod behind her. “He’s in surgery. He’s doing great. The surgeon says he’ll be just fine.”

I closed my eyes, letting the tears fall down my temples into my ears.

“You have friends in the waiting room—Val, Charlie, and Joel.”

I looked up at her and frowned. Finally, I realized Charlie and Joel were Sawyer and Marks.

“Susan just left to let them know you’re stable. They can come back in a bit. Try to rest.”

My muffled voice garbled my words.

“What?” she asked, lifting the mask.

“You don’t call family, do you?” I said, surprised at how weak my own voice sounded.

“Not unless you request it.”

I shook my head, and she reached across the bed before putting a lighter mask over my nose and mouth. A hissing came from inside.

“Deep breaths, please,” she said, leaving my line of sight, as she adjusted the equipment surrounding me. “You’re going to have to go upstairs later, but the doctor wants to get your stats up first.”

I looked around, feeling groggy. My eyes blinked a few times, almost in slow motion. My body felt heavy again, and I drifted off for a moment before jerking awake.

“Whoa!” Val said, jumping up from her chair.

I was in a different room. This one had paintings of floral bouquets hanging on the walls.

“Where’s Thomas?” I asked, my throat feeling like I’d swallowed gravel.