His lip curled, just like it had right before he’d shot that man. “Stupid bitch. Lift your hands.”

Swallowing hard, I raised my shaking hands as my thoughts raced. I had no idea how to get out of this. Could I reason with him?

His dark eyes held a certain glassy sheen to them and his pupils were way too dilated as he jerked the gun at me. “Stand up.” When I didn’t move, he screamed, “Stand the fuck up!”

Okay. I was standing.

Slowly, I pushed to my feet, losing the other flip-flop in the process. “We can work this—”

“Shut. Up.” He stepped forward. “What part of that do you not understand? There’s nothing—”

The muted sound of sirens silenced him. Hope exploded in my stomach. Had someone—one of my neighbors—heard my scream and his yelling?

I really needed to thank my neighbors. Bake them a cake or something. If I actually lived through this.

He heard the sirens, and in seconds, the whirling noise grew closer and louder. “Shit. Fuck. Damn.”

My wide gaze darted across the room, searching for some kind of weapon. Unless I could grab a lamp before he shot me, I was screwed, but I had to try something. Through the front window, I could see flashing red and blue lights beyond the curtains. The cops were here and I seriously doubted this guy planned on walking out of here alive or letting me go.

Sudden shouts from the front of the house erupted, and horror settled in as I recognized one of the voices. No. No. No.


A loud knock on the door caused me to jump, sending a wave of dizziness through me. “Abby? You in there?” a voice boomed through the closed door. “It’s Colton. Open the door.”

Before I could open my mouth, the guy lurched forward, slamming into me. The back of my head knocked off the wall. His hand clamped down on my mouth as he got right up in my face.

“Abby!” Colton shouted, and the front door rattled as he or something slammed into it.

The man’s breath stunk of stale cigarettes and booze as he pressed against me. “Fucking cops, motherfucking cops,” he grunted, pressing the muzzle of the gun against the side of my head. “You say one word, I will blow your fucking brains out right now.”

Right now, I thought dumbly. Versus later? A hysterical giggle climbed up my throat. The banging at the front door didn’t stop, but I no longer heard Colton. How was he here? If the police were called there was no way he would’ve found out that quickly. It didn’t make sense, but at this moment, it didn’t matter.

If Colton somehow got through that door, I knew this man would shoot him. My stomach hollowed in fear.

“We’re going to go out your back door, okay?” he said. “And you’re going to make sure I get the hell out of here. You get me?”

Squeezing my eyes shut, I nodded. He was going to use me as some kind of shield, and I knew the moment he got outside, he was going to shoot me. It was either in here or out there, where he’d have a chance to shoot someone else—a neighbor, one of the cops, or Colton.

I couldn’t let that happen.

No way.

I might have the self-esteem of a sloth, but I wasn’t a coward. No. I survived my parents’ death. I survived New York City. I survived my husband’s death. I survived.

I was not a coward.

He grabbed ahold of my shoulder and pulled me away from the wall. With one well-place shove in the center of my back, he guided me through the living room. Someone was yelling at the front door again, but it wasn’t Colton.

“Keep quiet,” he urged, and when I didn’t move quickly, he shoved me again.

I stumbled into the small dining room table. The impact knocked over the heavy ceramic vase, spilling plastic flowers across the surface. The vase rolled toward me.

“Get moving,” he ordered.

My gaze zeroed in on the vase. It was within grasp. Right there. My heart rate seemed to slow. Everything slowed down actually.

“Goddammit.” He balled his fist in my hair and yanked my head back sharply. Pain tore down my neck, shooting into my back. “Get your fat ass fu—”

My brain clicked off as I grabbed the vase and spun around. The man cursed and he leveled the gun again, but I was fast when it counted. The gun went off just as I slammed the bottom of the vase into the side of his head. There was a sickening crunch and something warm and wet sprayed into the air and across my face. The gun went off again, just as wood splintered on the back door. It flew open just as the shooter crumbled to the floor.

Colton barreled in, dressed as he was at the bar, in jeans and a worn shirt. He had a gun aimed and his bright blue gaze took in the situation. Behind him, uniformed cops streamed in.

He took a step forward, keeping his gun on the shooter. “Abby?”

I was still holding the bloodied vase as I croaked out, “I’m not a coward.”

Chapter 13

“You’re becoming a repeat customer,” Lenny, the repairman who’d previously replaced my broken window, said with a wry grin. He’d just finished fixing the broken back door, which ended up being an entirely new back door. Placing the bill on the TV, he started past me with his toolbox in hand. “I’m glad to see you’re okay, though. I heard about it on the late evening news last night. This town is getting crazy. All the violence coming in from the city.”

I smiled faintly as I followed him to the front door. “Thank you for coming out on such short notice. I really appreciate it.”

“No problem,” he replied, stepping outside. “If you need anything else, you know to call me.”

“Thanks.” I closed the door, sighing.

Turning around, I eyed the freshly plastered wall behind the dining room table. Lenny had also covered the two bullet holes. All I needed to do was match up the paint and then it would be like nothing had ever happened.

Last night felt like forever ago.

I’d spent the bulk of the night sitting in the ER, getting checked out and then answering a thousand and one police questions. Come to find out, the shooter had a name—Charles Bakerton. Didn’t sound like a homicidal maniac’s name, but Charles was still alive. I hadn’t killed him with the well-placed vase of death swing. I was relieved to hear that. I didn’t want to know what it felt like to kill someone.

Through the endless hours that had crept into early morning, Colton had remained beside me, mostly silent and very pissed-off looking. Those blue eyes were practically on fire. We didn’t get a chance to talk, nothing other than the basics before he was called out. Surprisingly, Roxy and Reece had showed up at the hospital and had driven me home. That was…weird.

I was so lucky. Everyone kept telling me that. I had looked a lot worse than I was. Not even a concussion, and the crack upside the head hadn’t even required stitches. A fistful of ibuprofen had taken care of that ache and the rest of the minor pains.

I could’ve died last night, so yeah, I was really lucky.

Moving to the couch, I started to pick up the remote when there was a knock on my front door. My stomach dropped. Placing the remote down, I went to the front window first. Totally learned my lesson last night. I peered out the front window.

It was Colton.

“Oh my, wow,” I murmured, settling back on my bare feet. I didn’t let me head race into fantasy land. Him showing up after what went down last night wasn’t a surprise. In a daze, I slowly walked to the door and opened it.