“No. He suggested I leave first so that we weren’t seen together, which worked for me. I wanted him to be the last in the office—not realizing, of course, that Miss Perfect over here was going to fuck that all up. Twice.”
Ali blinked. “You think I’m perfect?”
Luke hadn’t taken his eyes off of Bree. “You’re losing it, Bree.”
“You think?” She jabbed the gun in his direction. “And for the last time, I said hands up. I mean it.” The gun shifted back to Ali. “I’ll shoot her, Luke. And I really don’t want to do that.”
Luke pressed his knee into Ali’s. For comfort, she thought, and glanced down. His phone in his pocket was glowing.
He’d gotten it on somehow. He’d been a busy guy, because he’d also tugged up his pant leg, revealing an ankle holster and the gun he had there.
Oh, God. Did he really expect her to grab it? She glanced at him and found his eyes on hers, steady and sure.
Yes. He did. Because he believed in her.
I’ve got you.
His words, he’d said them to her several times now. She hadn’t been in a place to fully believe him before, but by now, she absolutely believed him.
He nudged her again.
Right. The gun. She didn’t have to fake the next sneeze, but she added a dramatic head toss to go with it, bending forward with the momentum. She was wrapping her fingers around Luke’s gun when Bree yelled “Hey!”
Luke, apparently tiring of waiting for Ali to get the gun, made his move without her. Lunging forward, he reached over the back of the seat to grab Bree’s wrists and shoved upward.
Bree’s gun went off, blowing a hole in the car’s roof.
“Ali,” Luke said, “get out of the car, take cover. Can you do that?”
Ears ringing from the close-range gunshot, Ali stared at him still strong-arming Bree’s hands above their heads with the back of the seat between them. “Y-yes.”
“Excellent,” he said calmly. “Do it now, Ali.”
Oh, God, she couldn’t leave him. Wouldn’t leave him. He was in an awkward position trying to control Bree from the backseat. And then she realized he was holding back, waiting for her to get to safety so that a stray bullet couldn’t hit her.
Reaching behind her, she opened the car door and stumbled out, still holding Luke’s gun. She couldn’t use it. She had no idea how, plus she couldn’t see in the dark to aim. She crouched behind the back rear tire, her fingers shaking so badly it took three tries to pull out her phone.
She knew Leah would have called the police by now, and surely the cops in Teddy’s backyard would be coming any second, but she still hit 9-1-1.
From the inside of the Lexus, the gun went off.
“9-1-1 emergency dispatch,” a disembodied voice said in her ear. “What is your emergency?
“Sh-shots fired,” Ali said through chattering teeth. “Off-duty officer and a crazy woman with a gun.”
Ali gave the street name and the Lexus’s license plate. “Hurry,” she said, and peeked around the back of the car.
No one had emerged.
She crawled to the open back door, using the light from her phone to see with one hand, pointing the gun with the other.
Luke was still sitting in the backseat, sprawled out now with Bree’s gun in his right hand pointed at her.
The streetlight shined into the interior of the car, highlighting Bree in bold relief. She was still in the front seat on her knees facing Luke, hands raised. Her hair was crazy, her makeup smeared, her eyes shiny with unshed tears.
No gunshot holes.
The streetlight didn’t light up the backseat, so Ali couldn’t see Luke’s face at all, but there was a stillness to him that terrified her. “Luke?”
“It’s okay,” he said evenly, holding Bree’s gun. “Bree’s done now. Right, Bree?”
Bree bobbed her head. A sob escaped her, and she covered her mouth with one hand, leaving the other in the air.
Ali didn’t want to blind Luke, so she very carefully lifted her phone just high enough to see his body. And her heart stopped, just stopped dead in her chest. “You were hit.”
“I didn’t mean to,” Bree whispered. “I just wanted to put the money in here. I just wanted Teddy to get what he has coming to him. That’s all.”
Ali shoved the gun into the back of her waistband to free up her hands. She had no idea why, but she’d seen it done in the movies. Then she crawled into the backseat, leaned over Luke, and tore open his shirt.
“I love it when you get rough,” he said.
“Shut up a minute.” The bullet had gone into the meaty part of his shoulder but it looked terrifyingly close to his chest. She could hear the sirens now and sagged in relief. She peeled Luke’s shirt down his arm and pulled him forward just enough to see that the bullet had also exited his body. She pulled off her own shirt and pressed it to his front to try to staunch the bleeding.
He grimaced in pain. “Ali.”
She leaned over him. “Right here.”
“Take the gun.”
She took Bree’s gun from his fingers. This put her in the possession of two guns. I Love Lucy does Criminal Minds.
“Keep an eye on her,” Luke said.
Since Bree had collapsed on the front seat and was quietly crying into her hands, this wasn’t difficult. Ali twisted to keep her in sight. “Done.”
“Good,” Luke said. “I’m going to pass out now. Nice bra though…isn’t this how we met, with you in your underwear?”
And then his eyes closed.
Raw fear nearly choked her. Still holding the gun on Bree, she sank to his side. “Go ahead,” she told him, her tears falling onto his face. “I’ve got you.”
The street had come alive with police. The first ones to the car were two cops, both with guns pointed right at her.
That’s when she realized she was still holding a gun on Bree. “No,” she said, shaking her head as it occurred to her that they probably thought she was the one she’d called 9-1-1 about, the crazy woman with a gun. “Oh, no. It’s not what you think—”
“Ma’am, put the gun down.”
“Okay, dropping the gun now.” She dropped it at her feet and then was unceremoniously yanked out of the car and away from Luke.
That’s when the other gun fell out of her pants and hit the ground. “Okay,” she said. “I know this looks bad, but—”
But nothing. She was quickly and perfunctorily searched for more weapons and pulled clear of the scene. She craned her neck trying to see Luke around the officer dragging her away, but all she could see was a sea of uniforms. There were voices yelling out medical jargon with a sense of urgency that shriveled her soul. She couldn’t hear over the rush of the blood roaring in her ears. She couldn’t see. “I need to—”
“You need to relax, ma’am.”
“Those weren’t my guns.”
“They were in your possession.”
“Yes, because I was holding them for Luke. That’s Bree Medina in there, the mayor’s wife. She stole the money from town. The fifty thousand? We caught her trying to put it in Teddy’s car to frame him. You’ll see it in the glove box.” He wasn’t listening to her rant, she could tell. “Please,” she said, “I just want to make sure Luke gets to the hospital.”
“He’s on his way.”
And indeed, just then the ambulance pulled out, heading down the street, lights and siren going.
And then Ali was once again taken to the police station.
The slow, annoying beeping broke into Luke’s consciousness first. And then an antiseptic smell. Ah, shit.
He drew in a breath, and pain shot straight through his shoulder and chest, clogging the air in his lungs. Getting shot hurt like a bitch, but oddly enough, he felt a heavy pressure on his good side. He opened his eyes and blinked the room into focus.
The pressure was Ali, asleep in the chair at his bedside, her head pillowed on his good arm, wearing…a firefighter shirt.
On the other side of his bed sat Jack. He was leaning back, booted feet up on the bed, hands casually linked on his belly, all relaxed, as if he were watching a ball game. He wore his firefighter uniform—minus the shirt.
“Morning, Sleeping Beauty,” Jack said.
“What the fuck?”
Jack smiled grimly. “You caught Bree with the stolen dough, got her confession recorded on your phone, got shot, had surgery—you’re one lucky son of a bitch, by the way—and you’re about to get the girl.”
Luke looked at Ali. Her hair was wild and crazy and in her face. Her mouth was open a little, and she was drooling on his forearm. He’d never seen her look more beautiful.
“Don’t wake her,” Jack said. “She had a rough night.”
Luke’s heart kicked, and one of his monitors beeped a warning.
Jack leaned forward. “Relax, man, she’s fine. It’s just that when the cavalry showed up, she was holding a gun. The call had gone out about a crazy lady with a gun so…”
“Jesus.” Luke wished she wasn’t on his good arm so that he could touch her. “Did they—”
“Drag her off you kicking and screaming? Yes. And took Ali downtown.” Jack lifted a hand. “She’s okay. Your phone made a great witness, and Bree herself confessed everything. I came here first, saw you into surgery, then went down to the station to see what I could do, but Ali was already being released. I brought her here, where we’ve been ever since.”
“So it’s over?”
“The hard way, but yeah. You saved the day, man.”
“Ali did,” Luke said.
Jack shook his head. “I’m pretty sure it was you—”
“No, she saved me,” Luke said. “She…” He couldn’t tear his gaze off her. “I’ve been pushing her away since the beginning.”