Shock filled him. Is she crazy?
He checked his phone. He had missed texts and calls from Ava. His sound was off because he’d worried someone inside would hear. He replied to her texts, telling her he was at the back of the house and could hear Reuben talking and to not come get Jayne.
He waited. She didn’t respond.
No. No. No.
Inside, Reuben told Jayne that Ava was in for a surprise if she tried to trick him. Jayne didn’t reply. She’d been quiet for several minutes, making Mason wonder if she had lost too much blood.
“Get up,” Reuben ordered.
Jayne’s answering moan made the hair on Mason’s neck stand up. She’s in bad shape.
Some grunts and scuffles told him that Reuben was helping her to her feet.
How will she walk?
Mason crept to the sliding glass door and risked a look inside. Reuben’s back was to him as he supported Jayne against his front with an arm around her chest. He had a pistol tucked in the back of his jeans. Mason could do nothing until Jayne was out of the way.
Maybe once he lets her go?
If he truly plans to let her go.
Ava knew a half dozen officers’ rifles were trained on the house as she approached. If Reuben stepped out, there was a good chance the cop killer would be shot.
He must know this.
She walked up the drive toward the carport, holding her arms away from her body, so Reuben could see she wasn’t armed. An odd calm had taken over her senses. She was highly aware of every movement before her, but her heartbeat had slowed, and her tension was gone.
Her head was clear, focused on her goal of getting Jayne safely away.
Reuben might shoot me. The alarming thought tumbled into her brain, and she smoothly pushed it away.
Something moved at the door inside the carport. The door had cracked open, but she couldn’t tell if it was Reuben or Jayne standing at the gap.
The door fully opened.
Blood covered her twin’s leg, and it pasted her short sundress to her skin, highlighting the small bump of her abdomen. Reuben’s arm clasped her to the front of his body, and he watched Ava over Jayne’s shoulder as they awkwardly stepped from the home.
No one has a shot with Jayne in front of him.
The cinder-block back wall of the carport obstructed any view of Reuben from behind.
Ava halted twenty feet from the couple, her ballistic vest hot and heavy in the sun. The vest gave her no confidence. At this distance Reuben could easily shoot her in the head.
“No, Ava.” Jayne shook her head at her. “Go back. Don’t do this.”
Does she know his plan?
“Can you walk?” she asked Jayne.
“Sort of. Not far.”
Ava took another step closer, concentrating on Reuben’s eyes and hands, hoping he’d project any sudden moves before he took them.
“Let her go,” she told him.
His gaze bored into hers. “I was nice to you, but you just used me at our meetings,” he spit out.
Isn’t that what a confidential informant signs on for? “I’m sorry you feel that way.”
“We had a connection.”
Speak carefully. “I was trying to help you—help your friend with the domestic abuse situation. Anyone would have been concerned.”
Resentment shone in his eyes. “Now you’re like everyone else. Especially them.” He jerked his head toward the show of police down the street. “They have no intention of letting me pass, do they?”
“I don’t know the exact plan. But turning yourself—”
“Don’t even say it!”
“Can you let Jayne go now? She needs medical help.”
“Don’t tell me what to do!”
Ava stayed silent.
Jayne was pale, nervously licking her lips over and over, and her injured leg quivered from her weight. Ava sent a silent message of support through her eyes.
I’ll get you out of this.
Reuben dropped his arm from Jayne’s chest and shoved her at Ava. Jayne stumbled forward several steps, whimpering, her legs shaking. Ava rushed to grab her, and she clutched her twin chest to chest, planting her feet as Jayne’s weight threatened to knock her over.
Ava glanced over Jayne’s shoulder. Reuben stood in the doorway, his expression vacillating between yearning and anger and indecision.
She shifted to Jayne’s side and tucked her shoulder under Jayne’s, drawing her sister’s arm over her shoulders and keeping her upright. “It’s not far,” she promised as Jayne struggled to balance.
They took a few steps, Ava bearing most of Jayne’s weight. Panting, Jayne stopped and looked back at Reuben. Her entire body tensed.
“Ava, get down!” she shrieked.
Jayne lurched into Ava and shoved her aside as a shot cracked.
Her twin’s body jerked, and a warm spray covered Ava’s face. She’s shot. Jayne collapsed, pulling Ava to the concrete with her weight.
He’d barely stepped inside the house when Mason saw Reuben lift his arm toward Ava and Jayne. Time slowed, and Reuben seemed to move frame by frame, the pistol in his hand coming into clear view. Mason stilled as he aimed in Reuben’s direction.
The women are in my line of fire.
Reuben fired, and the women went down.
Mason smoothly pulled his trigger three times. The blows knocked Reuben onto his stomach. Beyond him, Jayne and Ava thrashed on the carport floor, blood covering both of them.
I’m too late.
He ran through the kitchen but stepped cautiously around Reuben’s prone figure, kicking the unmoving man’s weapon across the carport.
Ava had flung herself over Jayne and was frantically running her hands over her sister’s body, trying to find the source of the blood.
Jayne shuddered. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” Tears flowed from her eyes.
“Shut up,” Ava ordered. “I need a medic!” she shouted at the roadblock.
Mason knelt beside Ava and removed his shirt, wadding it into a ball. “Use this.” Blood oozed from an exit wound near Jayne’s collarbone.
Ava pressed the shirt against the blood. “She pushed me out of the way,” Ava told him, panic garbling her words. “Reuben aimed at me, and she stepped in front of it.”
“I saw,” said Mason. “The two of you fell and gave me a clear shot. I wouldn’t have been able to shoot until that moment without possibly hitting one of you.”
“You’re going to be okay,” Ava said fiercely to her sister. “I swear it.”
Jayne smiled faintly. “You always take care of me.”
“You did it this time.”
Jayne closed her eyes. “It hurts,” she whispered.
Ava’s face went white. “You’re going to be okay,” she repeated.
Mason prayed she was right.
Three days later
The luxury home was familiar to Ava. Brady Shurr’s parents’ home was on Pete’s Mountain, south of Portland. It sat on a five-acre lot that overlooked a vineyard and had a perfect view of the Cascades. She leaned closer to Mason. “This house was in the Street of Dreams a few years ago,” Ava said, remembering the big local event that featured a tour of new luxury homes.
“Hard to forget that infinity pool,” Mason replied.
They sat in a high-ceilinged family room, waiting for Jayne and Brady to return from the kitchen. Jayne had spent two nights in the hospital, and now she and Brady were staying in his parents’ home while his mom and dad were in Germany for a month.
Reuben Braswell was dead. Mason was on leave, waiting to have his shooting reviewed. Ava had no doubts about the outcome. Reuben had shot Jayne and would have shot more if Mason hadn’t sneaked into the home behind him.
Ava had picked up bits and pieces of the days leading up to the shooting as she talked with Jayne in the hospital. Jayne had tearfully confessed that Reuben made her call and cancel the winery wedding venue. The more Jayne had talked, the more Ava had realized that she had been correct that Reuben had harbored a fixation on her. And it had extended to her twin as well.
Jayne and Brady entered. Jayne on crutches and Brady carrying a tray with coffee. He set the tray on an end table near Ava and immediately helped Jayne get settled, sliding an ottoman under her injured leg. Jayne’s baby bump seemed to have grown in the last few days. She had told Ava she was five months along.
The tender look on Brady’s face made Ava’s heart melt. He really does love her. Jayne’s smile and eyes returned the affection.
Ava wondered how long it would last. Reuben Braswell had turned Jayne’s head in Costa Rica, persuading her to take a trip with him.
How Brady had forgiven Jayne was beyond Ava’s understanding.
But how many times have I forgiven her?
She’s my twin. He can walk away. Something won’t let me.
Ava handed a cup of coffee to Mason, who cleared his throat before speaking. “I don’t know if you want to be around for this conversation, Brady.” He, too, had been baffled by the young man’s acceptance of Jayne’s behavior.
“I’ve already heard it all,” Brady said. “Jayne’s told me everything. There is no chance that she would leave again.”
Ava wanted to shake him.
Mason sighed. “If you say so.” He turned to Jayne. “When did you first meet Reuben?”