“Is that why you named me specifically in the last one?”
“Yeah. But then you had to spread your legs for that fucking cop and he took you away.” He glares at me. “God, you’re such a whore. What was the purpose of moving into your building, knowing your schedule better than my own, if that dick was just going to suddenly decide to protect you and take you away?”
He’s been living in my building?
“I thought you lived with Stacy.”
“I rented this place under my mom’s name.” He smiles, proud of himself again. “I come and go as I please, and watch you. Well, I watched you until that fucker of a cop moved you in with him. You must be an amazing fuck.” He grins. “I’ll find out for myself soon enough.”
“He’s going to come looking for me, Colin.” Bile has risen in the back of my throat.
“True. So we better get started.” He claps his hands gleefully and reaches for a syringe. “I planned this all perfectly. I didn’t leave even one clue for the cops. Why do you think I shave my head? I shave my whole fucking body so I never leave any hair behind. No DNA. No prints.”
“So you’re just going to murder me in your apartment?” I ask calmly. “You’ll get caught.”
“I’ll claim I found you.” He shrugs carelessly. “Everyone thinks I’m weak and sweet. They’ll overlook me.”
He comes at me with the syringe.
“What is that?”
“Oh, don’t worry. It won’t kill you. It’ll just make you really groggy so I can have fun with you without you fighting me.”
“Colin, please.” I try to scramble away, but he sticks the needle in my arm and shoots it into my body.
“See? Otherwise you’ll fight me.” He smiles and walks away. “Don’t worry, it’ll make you sleepy, but I’ll keep you awake.” He grabs hedge trimmers and inspects them. “I think that after I fuck you, I’ll take your fingers off first.”
Jesus, I’m going to be sick. I’m sweaty now, panting, and already starting to feel fuzzy.
“Please don’t do this,” I whisper and feel myself start to slip into sleep, but suddenly Colin slaps me across the face.
“No sleeping,” he says harshly. “You’re gonna want to feel me inside you, Lila. I’m fucking amazing.”
He lifts my dress, knocking my phone out of my pocket and onto the floor, face down, thank God.
“You won’t need that anyway.”
He reaches for my panties. My arms are heavy. Everything is heavy. I can’t fight him off. Suddenly, the door is knocked open with a crash and Matt rushes in, yelling, “In here!” as he attacks Colin, pulling him off of me and punching him in the jaw.
“You can’t hit him,” Jordan says from the doorway.
God, I’m sleepy. My eyes close, but I try to stay awake to hear what’s happening.
They saved me!
“I’m not on the job,” Matt says calmly and I hear him hit Colin again.
“Baby, wake up.” His hands are on my face and I fight to open my eyes. He looks scared. “Lila, stay with me.”
“Can’t stay awake.”
“What did you give her?” Matt asks, but I don’t hear Colin respond.
“I need an ambulance—” I hear Jordan’s voice call for the ambulance, and I can feel Asher’s amazing hands slip under me and lift me against him. God, I love his arms. There is nothing better than being in his arms.
“Love you,” I whisper into his neck.
“God, I love you too, baby. You’re going to be okay.”
I smile, relieved, and I can’t fight it anymore. I’m so heavy.
* * * *
“Open those gorgeous eyes, baby.”
My head hurts. I can’t move. It feels like I’m moving through water. What happened? Was I in an accident?
And then it all comes crashing back. Colin, knocking me out, evil, telling me about the girls.
He’s going to kill me!
I lash out, struggling to move, but when I open my eyes, it’s Asher holding me, his mouth grim and eyes hard.
“You’re safe, Lila. You’re okay. Shhh.”
The tears come fast and hard and I collapse against him as he joins me on the hospital bed, holding me tight, crooning to me as I cry out the fear.
“I was so scared,” I whisper.
“About ten years have been taken off my life today,” he agrees and plants his lips on my head. “You’re so fucking smart, Lila. Calling Kate was genius.”
“Perfectly. She called me and we traced your phone. That’s how we found you.”
“Thank God.” I hold onto him tightly. “Colin?”
“In custody, bragging about his victims. He’s going away for a very long time.”
I nod, suddenly sad for him too. “He’s just a kid.”
“He’s a fucking murderer, Lila.”
“I know.” I frown and pull back so I can see Asher’s face. “Thank you, for finding me. For rescuing me.”
“I will always find you,” he replies and wipes my tears away with his thumbs. “God, Lila, I was so afraid that I wouldn’t find you in time. It was the most helpless, worthless feeling in the world. You’ve become one of the two most important people in my life. I can’t lose you.”
“I’m right here.” I grip on to his wrists. “Asher, I love you. I was so sad that I might not get to tell you that. I know it happened fast, and it seems crazy, but I am so in love with you and Casey both, and the thought of not having you in my life is…devastating.”
“Ah sweetheart.” He kisses my forehead, then my lips. “I love you.”
“Can I come in?” Casey asks from the doorway.
“Of course.” I grin at the sweet girl as she walks to the bed and climbs right up with me, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.
“Are you okay?” she asks with wide, worried eyes.
“I’m still a little groggy, but I’m doing much better.”
“Daddy was scared,” she whispers to me and I feel Asher grin beside me.
“I was scared too,” I reply and brush her pretty red hair over her shoulder. “But I’m fine.”
“Okay.” She suddenly frowns. “When can you come home?”
I blink rapidly at the question. Home. But the townhouse that Asher and Casey share isn’t my home.
“In a few hours,” Asher replies. “As soon as the stuff making her tired is out of her body.”
“You can take me to my apartment,” I say softly, secretly scared to death of staying even one minute in that place alone.
“Why?” he asks, sincerely puzzled.
“It’s my home.”
“No it isn’t,” Casey interrupts.
I simply look between both of these people that I’ve come to love so much. Asher takes my hand and kisses my knuckles.
“Home is where we are, Lila.”
I feel tears fill my eyes and try to blink them away.
“Don’t you want to stay with us?” Casey asks.
“Of course,” I reply and kiss her cheek. “Of course I do.”
“But you’re not staying in the spare bedroom anymore,” Asher informs me.
“Of course.” I grin and am suddenly swept up in Asher’s strong arms, held close to his chest, and I hold my arms out for Casey, who happily joins us.
Home is where they are.
One Year Later
She’s in my arms, which is exactly where she belongs, and where I intend to keep her for about the next sixty years. The music is soft and slow. Twinkling lights are in the trees overhead, the ancient oak trees are heavy with Spanish moss, and about fifty of our nearest and dearest are looking on as I dance with my wife for the first time.
“I’m so glad we had the wedding here,” Lila murmurs happily. “It was so nice of Kate to hook up with a family that has a gorgeous bed and breakfast in the bayou.”
“So nice of her,” I agree with a smirk. “You make me laugh.”
“I’ll make you laugh for a long time,” she says sweetly. Her long hair is swept back from her face, and the dress she’s in is amazing.
I know that ten years from now I won’t remember exactly what it looked like, but I’ll remember that she’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.
“You’re a good dancer,” she says.
“Those lessons paid off,” I reply and roll my eyes. “Why did we do the lessons again?”
“Because it was fun, and so we could dance here like this.”
“I don’t need lessons to dance with my wife.”
Her smile is bright and wide, and makes the breath catch in my lungs.
“You say the sweetest things. Is that going to stop now that I’m the ball and chain?”
I chuckle and kiss her forehead, breathing her in. “You’re not the ball and chain.”