“Was she bit?” Walkie-talkie asked.
“No,” said Nick. “I swear. We’re both clean. She was shot. A couple of hours ago now. Please help her.”
The man spoke again into his walkie-talkie. “Tell Lila she’s got a patient. Is Tom on the way?”
“I’m here.” A bull of a man slipped through the gap and strode forward. Late twenties, maybe. “What is this?”
“The woman’s injured, Tom. He says it’s not a bite.”
Tom squinted at him against the glare of the sun, lip curled back in distaste. “That’s not a risk we can take. Kill them.”
“Hold it.” Another two men pushed through, and these two Nick recognized. The taller, older, blond bastard was Captain Sean Manning. He’d been behind the coup against Emmet. The younger blond man was the town sheriff, Finn. Last time they’d met, both had threatened to kill him. Fine, as long as they helped Roslyn. He didn’t give a shit what happened to him anymore.
“You said yourself, Finn, that you’d shoot him if he showed his face here again,” said Tom. “Going back on your word now?”
“Why don’t we wait till we know what’s going on before we start killing people?” suggested the sheriff.
“Let me through!” a woman shouted from inside Blackstone.
“Keep her back there,” Tom ordered.
Apparently Tom didn’t have quite as much authority as he thought, because a woman stalked out with a hefty first-aid kit in hand. Thank fuck. Nick couldn’t care less who was in charge. The idiots could stand around all day comparing dick sizes, so long as Roslyn got help.
He could feel his former captain’s eyes boring into him. The man’s hand lingered near the gun at his side. Funny, they’d been friends once. Sort of.
“Damn it, Lila,” said Tom. “You’re our only medic. You can’t expose yourself like this. What if there were snipers?”
The woman ignored him, pushing Walkie-Talkie Man aside to get to Roslyn. “She was shot?”
“About three hours ago,” Nick said.
“She’s lost a lot of blood,” Lila said with a frown.
“I’m O-negative, compatible with everything,” said Nick. “You can give her mine.”
Lila nodded. “Right, let’s get you both inside.”
“There is no way ...” Tom began. No one seemed to be listening.
“I warned you about coming here,” said the sheriff in a low voice, stepping closer. The guy with his rifle trained on Nick moved aside to make room.
“So kill me,” said Nick. “Just let me help her first.”
“She needs his blood, Finn,” said Lila. The woman summoned Sean with a wave of her hand. “Carry her. Be careful.”
Sean leant down and emerged with Roslyn in his arms. Her head fell back, limp. He could barely breathe; it felt as if his ribs grew tighter by the minute. She had to be okay.
“I don’t trust you,” said the sheriff. “And I did promise to kill you the next time you showed your face here.”
Nick said nothing. He knew, but he’d come anyway. He’d had no choice. Blackstone was the only place where he knew for certain civilization still existed. The only place that could keep her alive.
“She might need your blood. But she doesn’t need you conscious. And I don’t trust you awake.” The sheriff nodded. The man beside him raised his rifle and slammed the stock into Nick’s face.
Nick came to as they were carrying him through town, Finn supporting his left arm and one of the other men his right. His feet dragged on the ground. Fuck, he’d thought the bottle of wine had hurt, but Roslyn was a pussy cat in comparison to their hitting power. His head felt like it was caught in a vice, slowly getting the shit squeezed out of it. Even sunlight hurt. Plus, Pete had managed to land some decent blows on him earlier, giving him a full-body ache.
Sean carried Roslyn in front of them. He could only see her arm hanging down, her boots swinging with each step. She had to be okay.
Up ahead, Lila, the woman with the big-ass first aid kit, hurried into a small wooden house, directing the rest to follow. Nick staggered, trying to get his feet beneath him. Fuck, his head hurt.
“Stop,” Finn said. “Hold him up.”
The other man did as asked while Nick tried to make his knees work. It took a few goes.
“Hands in front of you.” Finn didn’t wait for him. He grabbed his wrists and slapped on the cuffs with professional ease. “Right. Inside.”
Someone yelled out from behind them. An angry torrent of words he couldn’t make out. Something hit his back, stinging like shit. A stone. They’d thrown a fucking stone at him. A crowd of people were gathering back down the street, watching with open hatred.
“Back off.” Finn’s eyes were furious, his mouth tight. “Right now.”
“Get that bastard out of our town!” someone yelled.
A chorus of idiots joined in, with “yeah” and “fuck yeah” and other genius statements. Another stone flew past his head. One hit Finn in the arm and he swore a blue streak. Things were definitely screwed in paradise if they were taking potshots at the sheriff. Nick had expected to be met with extreme dislike, maybe even a bullet, but people gathering to stone him came as a bit of a surprise.
“Take him inside, now,” Finn directed the other man.
They hustled him into the house. A good thing—his head didn’t hurt so bad out of the sun. Roslyn was stretched out on a double bed in what had probably once been a bedroom, though most of the contents were gone now in favor of medical equipment. Her beautiful face was too pale. Her red hair looked shockingly stark in contrast. Sean was helping Lila strip her out of her bloody shirt, carefully cutting through the bulk of the bandaging. The medic cut through the strap of Ros’s bra and peeled the bloodstained material down a little, away from the wound, exposing the top curve of her breast.
“Don’t look,” he growled and Finn and Sean kept their eyes averted. Just as fucking well. He was losing what little remained of his mind seeing her lying there so still. “How is she?”
Lila, the medic, pointed to chair beside the bed. “Sit here.”
Sean pulled a pair of shattered reading glasses from the pocket of Ros’s bloody shirt.
Nick could only stare. “She’s going to be mad. She’s always losing her glasses.”
“What do you need, Lila?” Sean asked, hovering by the woman’s elbow. He couldn’t remember the captain ever hanging onto a woman’s skirts before, but there was a first time for everything.
“I just need to clean the wound first so I can see what’s going on,” she said, her hands constantly moving.
Nick fell into the chair beside Roslyn and Finn fiddled with the cuffs, producing another pair so that he was connected to the sturdy iron bed frame. Then Finn stood at the end of the mattress, pistol in hand. The sheriff’s eyes never left him. Fuck them. Whatever. So long as they helped her. He slumped tiredly in his chair. The place smelled of cleaning fluids, antibacterial stuff. Roslyn obviously wasn’t the first patient they’d ever seen.
“Finn?” Lila sighed at the cuffs on Nick’s wrists. “Isn’t this overkill?”
“They stay on,” said the sheriff. “Work around them.”
The medic grumbled but didn’t raise the subject again. Nick leaned over, resting his elbow on the frame to make it easier on the medic. Lila wrapped a band around his upper arm, preparing to take his blood. Next she swabbed Roslyn’s forearm then got busy filling a syringe with something.
“What are you giving her?” he asked.
“Morphine for the pain,” said Lila, a little frown of concentration on her face. Her teeth were sunk into her bottom lip. “Something to make sure she doesn’t wake up while I’m digging the bullet out of her.”
The way the woman said it gave him pause. “You’ve got experience in this sort of thing, right?”
Lila didn’t meet his eyes. “A little.”
“What? What do you mean?” Fear flashed through him and he jolted upright in his seat.
“Easy,” Sean warned.
“What’s going on here?” Nick edged forward and Finn raised his gun, pointing it at his chest.
Lila took a deep breath. “I’m a dental nurse. But I’m the best chance you have for her.”
A wave of dizziness came over him. He almost had to hang his head between his knees. “A dental nurse? Y-you’re a fucking dental nurse?”
“I will do the best I can for her.”
Nick hissed out a breath. “Shit. She doesn’t need her teeth cleaned.”
“Lila’s the only chance you’ve got, Nick.” Sean gave him a look not entirely without compassion. “Just sit back and let her work. This isn’t the first bullet wound she’s seen.”
“Oh fuck.” Seriously, he thought he might hyperventilate. Lila stuck the needle into Ros’s arm and he nearly decorated the floor with his puke. He couldn’t stand it. “Please don’t kill her. Please.”
Lila glanced at him but didn’t answer.
“Who is she?” asked Sean.
“Her name is Roslyn Stewart. She used to be a librarian.” Nick breathed deep, did his best to get his shit together. Ros needed him.
His former captain watched him through narrowed eyes. “I’ve never seen you get intense about a woman before.”
Nick ignored him. What the fuck could he say?
“How did you meet her?” Finn asked, lowering his weapon.
The medic picked up some ages-old–looking instrument of torture. A small pump in the middle, with tubing topped with a needle either side. Nick couldn’t watch. He’d never been scared of needles or blood, but this whole scene terrified the shit out of him. The sight of her blood wrecked him. His hands shook, rattling the cuffs. Best to stare at the pale green walls, the butt-ugly dog picture.