“We should get your X-rays back soon, but I think they’re just going to confirm what we already know. You have a contusion along the left side of your ribcage, but I don’t think any of the ribs are broken. You’re going to be sore, probably for a week or two, but you’re a very lucky young woman.”

She was lucky.

Nikki knew that all the way down to her aching bones. Parker was . . . God, he was going to kill her. Not only that, he was—

She sucked in a sharp breath.

The doctor smiled faintly. “We want to keep you for a few hours, probably through the rest of the night just in case you have a concussion. You took some pretty significant hits to the head.”

Her gaze flickered over the doctor’s shoulder, to the doorway. Her stomach dropped. A uniformed cop stood there. Troy had been in here earlier, but she hadn’t seen him since she’d been wheeled off for X-rays.

He better not have called her parents.

“We’re going to give you something for the pain in a bit,” the doctor was saying. She wished she could remember his name. “It’s going to make you a little sleepy, so I don’t want you to worry if you feel like dozing off, okay?”

“Okay.” Her voice sounded hoarse and each time she talked, it hurt. A scary reminder of how closely she’d come to having her life choked out of her.

And she didn’t even want to think about why, but there was no stopping it. It was all she could think about.

Parker had threatened her—threatened her parents’ jobs—and he’d warned her about Sabrina, but he was Parker. He’d scared her the day Gabe had punched him, but she never, ever in a million years thought that something like this would happen.

But as she’d sat in the apartment, waiting for the cops to show up, her brain slowly clicked things together, and maybe she was wrong, but she doubted it.

Her gaze drifted back to the cop. With her rapidly swelling left eye, she couldn’t make out the cop’s features. They were blurry. As she stared at his back, she thought of . . . Sabrina.

Parker had come after her because of his sister.

She never thought they were capable of something like this, but Parker was Sabrina’s brother. Was. Parker . . . wasn’t anything anymore.

Oh, God.

Her lower lip trembled, and that felt like crap, because it was split and it freaking hurt. She was surprised he hadn’t knocked any of her teeth out.

“Are you sure there’s no one you want us to call for you?” the doctor asked, drawing her attention.

“I’ve called my friend.” That wasn’t exactly true, but she planned on calling Rosie whenever it got close enough to the time they were going to release her.

The doctor stared at her a moment and then nodded. “All righty then. A nurse will be in shortly to get some pain meds in you.”

“Thank you,” she said, and then watched him walk out of the curtained room.

And then she was alone with the exception of the cop. Why was he here? Probably because Troy didn’t believe for one second that she had no idea whatsoever why Parker wanted to hurt her.

But if she said why, then she’d have to explain what she saw and that, well, that dragged the de Vincents into it. Part of her wasn’t even sure why she sought to protect them. Perhaps it was something ingrained in her because of her parents. Either way, she wasn’t saying anything to any cop.

Closing her one good eye, she tried to get comfortable on the bed, but every time she moved, her body protested. The blanket was thin, and she was . . . so damn cold.

She drew in a stuttered breath as tears crawled up the back of her throat.

She killed a man.

And she . . . she didn’t know how to feel about that, because even though she was glad to be alive, killing someone was . . .

She felt detached from all of this. Like she was above her own body, tethered by thin, fragile strings that could snap at any given moment. She had no idea what would happen when they did break.

The nurse came in, asking Nikki how she felt as she administrated whatever pain meds. She felt it when it hit her system, washing over the back of her skull and pooling in her mouth.

Nikki closed her eyes and waited for whatever they gave her to take the pain away, along with the memory of Parker’s eyes, wide with shock.

Chapter 33

Gabe was aware of Lucian following him as he stalked down the hallway of the hospital, heading for where he’d been told Nic was being kept. His heart lodged somewhere in the vicinity of his throat, he rounded the corner and came face-to-face with Troy.

“There you are,” Troy said. “We need to talk.”

“It can wait.” He sidestepped Troy.

“No.” Troy grabbed his arm, halting him. “It can’t.”

Gabe looked down at Troy’s arm. “You know I respect the fuck out of you and think of you as a brother, but if you don’t let me go, things are going to turn ugly as fuck.”

Troy didn’t let go. “Look, I know you want to go see her, and you will. She’s right down that hall, living and breathing, but you’ve got to give me a couple of minutes.”

“Gabe.” Lucian was there, placing a hand on his shoulder.

His eyes met Lucian’s. “She called me and I didn’t answer.”

“But you’re here now and you’ll see her.” Lucian squeezed Gabe’s shoulder. “Give Troy a couple of minutes.”

Cursing, he turned to the detective. “Make it fucking quick.”

“It was Parker Harrington,” he said, keeping his voice low. “He broke into her apartment—”

“I know this,” seethed Gabe.

“But what we don’t know is why he would do that. You know I’m no fan of Parker’s, but beating the shit out of a girl and trying to kill her? That seems out of character for him.”

Gabe couldn’t feel the floor again as Troy’s words coursed off him. If it wasn’t for Lucian’s hand on his shoulder, he would’ve done something crazy. He knew it.

“Where is Parker?” Gabe asked, thinking they better have him locked up real damn good to keep him away from the piece of shit.

Troy glanced between the brothers and when he spoke, his voice was low. “Parker’s dead.”

“What?” Lucian exclaimed.

Everything in Gabe stilled.

“Nikki took him out. With a chisel,” Troy said, and Gabe’s mind went absolutely blank—blank with fucking rage. “The damn patrolman had to pry the chisel out of her hands when he got there.” Troy looked down the hall. “She got the son of a bitch right in the chest.”

“Jesus.” Gabe turned, shrugging off Lucian’s hand as he thrust his fingers through his hair.

“It was self-defense,” Lucian said.

Troy cocked his head to the side. “We know. That shit is obvious, but we don’t know why, and Nikki ain’t talking.”

“What do you mean she isn’t talking?” Gabe demanded.

“She’s saying she has no idea why Parker would want to hurt her, and I’m thinking that’s bullshit.” Troy met his stare head-on. “I’m willing to bet she isn’t telling the whole story, and the only reason I can fathom she’d be doing that is because it has something to do with one of you. And since Parker’s sister is Dev’s goddamn fiancée, it’s not a big leap of logic.”

Gabe stiffened. Fucking Sabrina. He turned to his brother. Their eyes met, and he knew right then Lucian was on the same wavelength.

Lucian stepped to the side. “I need to call Dev.”

“Oh, no you don’t.” Troy turned to Lucian.

Done with this conversation, he ignored Troy calling out his name as he stalked down the hall. Her room was easy to find, because of the police officer standing guard. The man’s gaze moved over his shoulder, and Troy must’ve signaled him, because the officer stepped aside.

Walking into the hospital room was like moving through quicksand. The sensation of having been right here before nearly took his knees out from under him. It didn’t matter that Troy had said she was breathing and alive.

Breathing and alive didn’t mean shit.

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