A scream built in my throat.
Jensen grabbed the back of the chair to catch himself, but the thing swung his arm out. Something was in his hand—a wrought iron pan, heavy, and capable of a lot of damage. He swung hard, and the crack as it connected with the side of Jensen’s head caused a scream to erupt from me. Horror seized me as Jensen crumpled like a paper sack.
He went down.
And didn’t move.
No. No, no, no.
I wasn’t thinking as I raced toward where Jensen lay, sprawled out on the kitchen floor. I dropped to my knees, clutching the candlestick as I cried out. My gaze darted up to where the attacker had been standing. He was gone. The backdoor was open.
The candlestick slipped from my fingers as I grasped Jensen’s shoulder. “Jensen? Oh God, please open your eyes. Please!”
His eyes were sealed shut. A trickle of blood ran from his temple, over his ear. I carefully touched his head, and my hand came back wet and red.
“Oh my God, no.” Tears blurred my eyes. I shuddered. “No, no, no.”
Footsteps echoed down the hall behind me. I grabbed the candlestick and spun at the waist, ready to knock out anyone who was coming near Jensen.
Gavin stood in the hall, his eyes wide. His chest was rising and falling hard. “What’s going on?”
My thoughts raced. How did he get in here? Why was he here? Where was the killer? I stood, breathing heavily.
He stepped into the kitchen. “What—?”
“Don’t come any closer.” I held up the candlestick.
His gaze darted back to me, and he turned at the sound of high pitched sirens arriving out front. My gaze quickly moved over his face. Along the left corner of his mouth, the skin was an angry shade of pink like he’d been in a recent fight. Too recent.
Horror exploded in my stomach as I stared at Gavin. Too many coincidences. My brain clicked off, and instinct roared to life—to protect Jensen, to protect myself. He started to take another step toward us and I swung. The base of the candlestick caught him in the side of the head. A look of surprise flashed across his face as he stumbled into the side of the fridge. Down for the count.
Something in my chest broke. The candlestick slipped from my fingers, clanging off the floor. I dropped next to Jensen. Through the tears, I could see that the river of blood along the side of his head had increased.
I didn’t know what to do, how to help him.
I smoothed my hand along his cheek, whispering his name, telling him that I loved him over and over again.
The front door burst open, and officers piled into the kitchen within seconds. I looked up, my hands shaking. “Help him. Please.”
“Christ.” A younger officer knelt down on the other side of Jensen as he glanced to where Gavin lay. He hit a button on his shoulder radio as he checked for a pulse. I couldn’t bring myself to do that. “What’s the status on the ambulance?” he asked.
The static reply made no sense to me. “Is he alive?”
“I’ve got a pulse.” He looked over my shoulder. “What about the other one?”
“I got a pulse over here,” answered another officer.
I clutched at Jensen’s shirt. He was alive, but a hit to the head could be serious—could end up being fatal.
“What happened?” the officer demanded.
A tremor rocked my body. “We went outside. He was taking me to my dad’s, but we saw . . . we saw Brock’s body, so we called the police. They told us to wait inside and we did. But he . . .” I didn’t look at Gavin. I couldn’t let myself think about that right now. “But he was in here. Jensen tried to fight him off.”
“Okay. Do you know what he was hit with?”
I nodded at where the pan rested a few feet from the door. “I didn’t even see him grab it. It all happened so fast.”
It all had happened too fast.
The EMTs showed up after that. One of them grabbed my shoulders, physically moving me out of the way and putting me down in a chair. I couldn’t stay seated, so I stood, but I kept out of the way as they checked Jensen over. Another set worked on Gavin.
A stretcher was brought in. Words were spoken at a rapid pace. Jensen was loaded up and strapped in. An oxygen mask was placed over his pale face.
“Is he going to be okay?” I asked.
No one answered.
They started to wheel him out of the room, and I followed after them. When I reached the front door, Shaw blocked it. “Is he going to be okay?” I demanded.
“They’re going to take good care of him.”
That wasn’t good enough for me. “I need to be with him.”
“We need you here, just for a little while.”
“No.” I started to brush the hair back from my face, but saw that my fingers were covered in blood—Jensen’s blood. “Oh God.” I wiped my hands across my jeans, dragging in deep breaths. “I need to go with him.”
Shaw took my arm, pulling me outside as the EMTs came through with Gavin. The deputy’s gaze followed their progress, his face paling.
“It was him,” I whispered, feeling sick even saying it. This whole time I never, ever thought it was him, couldn’t even wrap my head around it being Gavin. It didn’t make sense to me, but God, it hurt—it cut so deep. “He showed up right after I thought the attacker had disappeared. He pretended like he didn’t know anything, but I saw . . . it looked like he’d just been in a fight and Jensen had been fighting . . .” I trailed off, seeing Brock’s body in the tree. They hadn’t cut him down yet. I turned, squeezing my eyes shut.
He looked down at me, and I could tell he was struggling with keeping his face blank. Gavin had been my best friend for what seemed like forever, but he was also Shaw’s family. They weren’t close, but this had to be hard for him. “Is it possible Gavin ran into the attacker?” Shaw asked. “And fought him?”
“What?” I opened my eyes.
“That’s a possibility,” he clipped out. “Gavin could’ve been trying to protect you. God.” He scrubbed his hand through his hair. “This is going to kill his father—the whole family if it was Gavin.”
“If?” I shuddered, shaking my head. “But . . .”
But it could be possible that it wasn’t him. Gavin did live right down the street, just like Brock lived next door to Linds. He could’ve randomly shown up. It wasn’t impossible and I . . . I had hit him pretty hard.
And that also would mean the killer could still be out there.
I didn’t know how much time passed as I went through another round of questions. Jensen’s parents were notified, so they never showed up at the house. They’d gone where I wanted to be.
Finally, after Shaw spoke with a couple other officers, he ushered me toward his cruiser. I drew in a deep breath. “I want to go to the hospital.”
Shaw shook his head. “We need to get you someplace safe.”
“The hospital will be safe!” I dug in my heels. “I want to be with Jensen.”
He opened the door, pinning me with a look. A moment passed. “Fine. Just get in the car.”
“Thank you.” I could’ve hugged him. Kissed him.
I climbed into the backseat, wiping my hands against my jeans. It felt like I couldn’t get the blood off.
Shaw didn’t say anything as he eased away from the curb and started toward King Street. When he made a left, I frowned.
“I thought we were going to the hospital.”
He didn’t answer.
I sat forward. Breathing heavily, I grasped the cage as I stared out the window. My thoughts whirled as I focused on Shaw in the front seat. Stopped at a red light, he sat there, grasping the steering wheel until his knuckles bleached white, and then he slowly, finger by finger, let go.
My fingers curled around the steel. “I want to go to the hospital. That’s where we’re going, right?”
“I’m not taking you to the hospital.”
“What?” I whispered.
“I’m surprised you lived on that street after everything. Wasn’t it hard?” he asked, his voice sounding off.
I frowned at the strangeness of his tone, the absolute flatness.