He held me for a few minutes longer before we heard a tapping on my bedroom window. When we turned to look, there was a Post-It note sitting against it.

So many books in this shed. I wonder what Emma would want to read? –TC

“Oh my God,” I muttered.

“We have to call the cops,” Tristan said, reaching for his phone. I looked out of the window and saw Bubba sitting on the ground.

“No, Tristan. We can’t.” I opened the window and climbed out. “He said just us.”

He followed after me and picked up the stuffed animal that had another Post-It note.

Libraries and sheds are a weird mix. Sheds seem better for cars if you ask me. –TC

“He’s by your shed,” I said to Tristan, who placed his hand in front of me, refusing to let me go first.

“Stay behind me,” he ordered as we walked toward his backyard.

“What a hero you are, Tristan.” Tanner laughed, looking our way. His body looked like a shadow until he stepped closer to the light from the shed. “Taking care of Elizabeth.”

“Tanner, what’s going on?” I asked, confused and terrified.

“Do you hear that?” Tristan whispered to me. I stopped to listen, hearing the sound of a running car inside the shed.

“Emma’s in there, isn’t she?” I asked Tanner.

“You always were smart. That’s why I loved you. Aloof as fuck, but still, smart.”

“You have to let her out, Tanner. The chemicals from the car will hurt her. They could kill her.”

“Why did you choose him?” he asked, leaning against Tristan’s table saw. “I just don’t understand.”

“I didn’t choose Tristan, Tanner. It just happened.”

Tristan edged closer to the shed and Tanner hissed. “No, no, no. Stop right there, Casanova. Or I’ll shoot.” He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a gun. Oh my God.

“What do you want from us?” I cried. My eyes moved to the shed where the car was still running. My baby… “Tanner, please let her out.”

“I just wanted you,” he said, waving the gun around. “From day one, I wanted you. And then Steven took you. I saw you first, and he didn’t care. I won the coin toss, and he still took you away from me. And then he died, and I gave you time to mourn him. To miss him. I was here waiting for you, and out of nowhere, this guy shows up and steals you!” Tanner wiped his hands over his emotion filled eyes. “Why didn’t you pick me, Liz? Why didn’t you come back for me? Why haven’t you ever seen me?”

“Tanner,” I said, walking cautiously toward him. “I do see you.”

He shook his head. “No. You’re just scared. I’m not stupid, Liz. I’m not stupid.”

I stared into his panicked eyes and kept walking. It took everything in me to hold my fear inside my body. It took everything in me to seem somewhat calm. “I’m not scared of you, Tanner Michael Chase. I’m not.” I stepped closer to him and lay my hand against his cheek. His eyes dilated, and his breaths became heavy. “I see you.”

He closed his eyes, running his face against my hand. “Jesus, Liz. You’re all I wanted.”

My mouth hovered over his and I felt his hot breath against me. “I’m yours. I’m yours. We can run away with each other,” I said, my hands falling to his chest. “We can start all over.”

“Just us?” he whispered.

My forehead fell to his. “Just us.”

His free hand wrapped around my lower back, and I shivered at his touch. His fingers pulled up my shirt, and he felt my bare skin. “God. I’ve always wanted this.” He sighed against my neck, kissing it lightly, sending chills throughout me. His tongue slipped from his mouth and landed against my skin, licking me slowly.

We heard the sound of the shed doors opening behind us, and Tanner’s eyes shot open. “You bitch!” he hissed, looking betrayed by my closeness. He shoved me to the ground and held his gun up, seconds away from shooting toward Tristan, who had just disappeared into the shed. As Tanner went to chase Tristan, I grabbed his leg, making him fall to the ground with me.

The gun slipped from his grip, landing between us. We both leaped up to grab it, and we started wrestling with one another. The gun was clasped in both of our hands, and Tanner shoved me with his elbow, slamming it against my eye. “Let it go, Liz!” he shouted, but I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. Tristan had to get Emma out safely. He had to save my daughter. “I swear to God, I’ll shoot you, Liz. I love you so fucking much, but I’ll do it. Just let go. Please!” he cried.

“Tanner, don’t do this!” I begged him, feeling my hold on the gun slipping. “Please,” I pleaded, wanting this terrible nightmare to come to an end.

“I loved you,” he whispered, tears falling from his eyes. “I loved you.”

The sound of the gun firing one time was what I heard first. We wrestled one another. The second fire, I heard next. Then a burning sensation crept into my gut, making vomit rise up my throat. My eyes were wide, terrified by all of the blood. Was I bleeding? Was I dying?

“Lizzie!” Tristan yelled, hurrying out of the shed with Emma in his arms.

I turned to him, my body in a state of shock, completely covered in blood that wasn’t mine. Tanner lay under me, his body motionless as blood spilled from beneath him. Oh my God. “I killed him. I killed him. I killed him,” I cried, shaking uncontrollably.

By that point everyone who’d been inside my house was standing in the backyard. I thought I heard yelling, shouting. Someone said to call 911. A hand landed against my shoulder, begging me to stand up. Emma wasn’t breathing, someone said. Another voice told Tristan to keep doing CPR. My world was spinning. Everyone was moving in slow motion around me. The red, white, and blue lights in front of our house were burning into my soul. Professionals took over caring for Emma. Mama cried. Faye sobbed. Someone shouted my name.