There was so much blood.

I killed him.

“Lizzie!” Tristan said, knocking me back into reality. “Lizzie, baby.” He bent down and placed his hands around my face. My tears fell against his hands, and he gave me a broken smile. “Baby, you’re in shock. Were you shot? Are you hurt?”

“No, I killed him,” I whispered, turning my head to look at Tanner, but Tristan refused to let me.

“Baby, no. No. It wasn’t you. I just need you to come back to me, okay? Lizzie. I need you to put down the gun.”

I stared down at my blood-covered hands, which were still clenching the gun. “Oh my God,” I murmured, dropping the gun to the side. Tristan was quick to lift me up into his arms, away from Tanner’s motionless body. My head fell into his shoulder as I watched cops and paramedics rush over.

“Where’s Emma?” I asked, turning my head back and forth, searching the area. “Where’s Emma?!”

“She’s on her way to the hospital,” Tristan explained.

“I have to go,” I said, getting out of his grip. My legs were trembling, and I almost fell to the ground. “I have to go make sure she’s okay.”

“Lizzie,” he said, shaking my shoulders. “I need you to focus for one second. Your eyes are bugging out, your heart rate is through the roof, and your breathing is chaotic. I need you to let this paramedic check you out.”

His lips kept moving, and I narrowed my eyes trying to hear his words, but they just turned to mumbles.

My body went limp, my eyes crossed.

Everything faded to black.

“EMMA!” I shouted, opening my eyes and sitting up. A sharp pain shot through me and I lowered myself back down. My eyes glanced around the room, and I took in all the machines, cabinets, and hospital supplies.

“Welcome back, darling,” Mama said, sitting beside my bed. I narrowed my eyes, confusion pulsing through my head. She bent forward and ran her fingers through my hair. “It’s okay, Liz. Everything’s going to be fine.”

“What happened? Where’s Emma?”

“Tristan’s with Emma.”

“Is she okay?” I asked, trying to sit up, but the pain shot across my side. “Jesus!”

“Relax,” Mama ordered. “One of the bullets hit you in the side. Emma’s okay, we are just waiting for her to wake up. She has a breathing tube in to help her a bit, but she’s okay.”

“Tristan’s with her?” I asked. Mama nodded. My mind started to play catch up as I stared down at my body. My left side was wrapped in bandages, and my body was covered in blood, some that was mine, some that was… “Tanner… What happened to Tanner?”

Mama frowned. She shook her head. “He didn’t make it.”

I turned my head away and stared out the window. I wasn’t certain if I was filled with relief or complete confusion.

“Can you go check on Emma?” I asked. She kissed my forehead and told me she would be right back. I hoped she wouldn’t rush, though. Loneliness seemed right to me.

Chapter Forty-Three


I sat beside Emma’s bed, staring down at a little girl who had been through more than any five-year-old should ever experience. Her small lungs were working hard as she inhaled and exhaled, her chest rising and falling. The small breathing tubes going through her nose brought back so many terrible memories. The beeping machines around her reminded me of the day I last held Charlie’s hand.

“She’s not Charlie,” I murmured to myself, trying my best not to compare the two situations. The doctors said Emma would be okay, that it might just take her some time to open her eyes, but I couldn’t stop worrying and remembering the past hurts of my soul. I wrapped her small hand in mine and scooted closer to her bedside. I whispered, “Hey, Tock. You’re going to be okay. I just want you to know that you’re going to be fine, because I know who your mother is, and I know that so much of her strength lives within you. So you keep fighting, okay? You keep fighting and fighting, and then I want you to open your eyes. I need you to come back to us, Tock. I need you to open your eyes,” I begged, lightly kissing her hand.

The machines around us started beeping quicker and quicker. My chest tightened as I looked around. “Someone help!” I called, and two nurses rushed in to see what was happening. I stood up and stepped back. This can’t be happening again. This can’t happen…

I looked away, covering my mouth with my hand, and I said a prayer. I was far from the praying type, but I had to try, just in case God was listening that day.

“Tick,” a small voice whispered.

Turning on my heels, I hurried back over to Emma’s side. Her blue eyes were open and she looked so confused, so lost. I took her hand in mine and turned toward the nurses.

They smiled and one spoke. “She’s okay.”

“She’s okay?” I echoed.

They nodded.

She’s okay.

“Jesus, Tock. You scared me,” I said, kissing her forehead.

Her eyes narrowed, and she slightly tilted her head to the left. “You came back?”

I held on to her hand tighter. “Yeah, I came back.” She opened her mouth to speak, but her breaths were rough and she began to cough. “Take your time. Take deep breaths.”

She did as I said and lay back down against her pillow, her eyelids heavy. “I thought you and Zeus were gone forever like Daddy.” She was falling back asleep and her words were breaking my heart.

“I’m right here, buddy.”