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“Kid running away. He our guy?” Jake asked flatly as he came jogging up the beach with Bear by his side.

“Fuck!” Bear shouted when his eyes landed on Pup. “I told you we shouldn’t have waited ten minutes. It was ten fucking minutes too long.”

I looked to Jake and tipped my chin. “Get the fucking kid,” I growled.

Jake’s eyes gleamed with something so dark and so brutal that I wouldn’t want to ever find myself on the wrong end of that stare. He turned and disappeared through the trees.

I lifted Pup into my arms, trying to be as careful as I could not to touch the wound on her shoulder. She was breathing but still unconscious. “I’ll pull the van around,” Bear said. “And I know you’re busy saving the girl and all, but do you know you’ve been hit?”

“I don’t give a fuck,” I said, fully registering that I’d been shot.

And more than once.

Bear ran off and by the time I made it to the front of the house with Doe, Bear was already there with the van. He opened the back door and jumped in as I reluctantly handed Pup over to him and climbed inside, shutting the doors behind me. Bear set Pup across the back seat and I climbed over, wedging myself between the front and back seats so that I was eye level with Pup.

“The boy!” I shouted, remembering Pup’s son just as Bear hopped back in the driver’s seat. “We need to find him. He’s two or three and he’s…” I started to describe him when Bear cut me off.

“You mean this guy?” Bear pointed a tattooed finger to the passenger seat where Pup’s kid had gotten up onto his knees and peeked his head over the seat. “I don’t think anyone’s had the stranger danger talk with him. Because rule number one is that you don’t jump into strange unmarked vans with the bad guys,” he said, throwing the truck in drive.

“Hi Mommy,” the boy said. “You sick?” Sammy asked.

“Mommy just had a fall. She just needs some sleep,” I said softly, trying to quell the panic rising in me with each second that my girl was unconscious.

Sammy smiled, revealing his tiny little teeth. “K,” he said, before turning around and plopping back down on the seat.

“Seatbelt kid,” Bear ordered. Sammy stretched the belt over his lap but was lifted off the seat when it sprang back. Bear leaned over and inserted the belt into the buckle for him and took off down the road.

Pup stirred, just a small moan, and her one eye fluttered before opening slightly. “Preppy?” she asked in a whisper, glancing up at the rearview mirror.

“No Pup, Preppy’s gone,” I said.

“Am I dying?” Pup asked.

“You’re very much alive,” I whispered, pressing my lips to her forehead.

“No, I’m dying,” she argued.

“Why do you say that?” I asked.

“’Cause,” she pointed out. “I see Preppy…” she trailed off.

“Stay with me, babe. Stay with me,” I told her as we pulled up to the hospital. But it was too late. Her eyes rolled back in her head and she slipped back into unconsciousness.

When Bear pulled in under the emergency overpass, he rushed out to open the door for us. He stayed back with Sammy as I ran through the glass doors. A nurse saw us coming and motioned for us to follow her to a room where they placed Pup on a gurney. “Sir, sir are you family?” another nurse came up to ask me as I watched a guy in a white coat cut off Pup’s clothes and push an IV needle into her vein. I didn’t know how to respond. Of course, she was my family, but how the fuck could I make the nurse understand that?

“She’s pregnant. I’m the father,” I said.

She pointed a gloved finger to a chair in the corner. “Sit,” she ordered. She shouted over to the people in scrubs and informed them of Pup’s pregnancy, which erupted into a chorus of voices, all shouting special instructions over one another.

When the nurse noticed that I was still standing she placed a hand on my stomach and pushed me toward the chair. I took a few sidesteps toward it, but still wouldn’t’ sit. When the nurse noticed that her white glove was coated in red she lifted her other hand and pointed to the bloody palms. “Where is this coming from?” She asked, looking more annoyed than concerned.

“Don’t matter,” I spat. “Just take care of her.” I craned my neck around the nurse who then stood up on the tips of her sneakered toes, waving the bloody glove in my face.

I grunted. I didn’t care if I died.

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