Unconscious Hearts, Page 26Harper Sloan
He goes back to London and grabs a fistful of her hair, dragging her to the middle of my living room. She doesn't even try to fight him. Her dead eyes full of grief, sorrow, and regret as they hold mine. She limply lets him drag her by her roots, falling with a crack of her head against the floor when he releases her.
"You would be surprised how good an actress sister dear is, Paris. Did you know all it takes is a knife against a bitch's cunt to make her turn willing in the arms of someone forcing her to take him? You walked in right after I warned her what would happen if she told you what I would do to you when you were my property. The tip of my knife ready to slide inside her if she didn't take me and make me believe she wanted it. I had no clue that your perfect timing would give me the wild cunt I hungered for. She was too afraid for herself and you that she gave one hell of a show. She fucked up, though. She saved you, but not herself when she showed me that. I knew the second you found us, her going wild so I wouldn't hurt you, that I had what I needed. There isn't an inch of her I haven't ruined. But you," he bellows, pointing the gun back at me. "You were supposed to wait until I had finished breaking your sister's spirit. Until after I made her disappear. Then I wouldn't need her to keep calling. You would have been alone and weak when I brought you back to me and started all over!"
"Thomas, please! You don't want to do this. Put the gun down and let's talk."
I don't even recognize the look on his face now. It's too terrifying. He's a monster. My heart keeps pounding. Terrified of what he'll do, broken for what she endured, and frantic for a way out--for both London and me.
"No! You ruined it all! Talk? Fucking talk?" He brings the gun up, and I know, I know it's too late. I squeeze my eyes shut and pray that Thorn won't be broken by this. Pray that he'll find a way to move on and keep his beauty.
The gun blasts. A loud crash makes me open my eyes. I look down at myself, trying to find a bullet wound on my body but come up empty. My head whips around to see London on top of Thomas, my broken coffee table under him while she beats him with her tiny fists. He's fighting back, but his punches go unnoticed by her. I have no idea how she isn't feeling them, but she just keeps wailing her hands on his face.
"Get the fuck off me, you cunt!"
"I won't let you take her! I won't let you take the life she deserves! You ruined mine, you motherfucking asshole. You took everything from me, but it was worth it in the end to make sure she never felt the horror you had planned for her! I would do it every day for the rest of my life, all over again, to SAVE MY SISTER!"
My eyes go wide with her words, but when I see the red stain growing at her side, they take on a whole different meaning. She just ... took a bullet for me! Now it's my turn to save her--save the sister I wrongly accused of so much over the years.
I move, crawling, and search for the gun that had to have fallen close if it's not in his hand anymore. I see it tucked just under the edge of my couch and grab it.
"London, move!" I scream. She turns and sees me with the gun, then throws herself to the side.
Thomas's insane eyes look at the gun in my hands, his blood-stained teeth appearing when his lips curl in an evil grin. "You don't have the guts, bitch. You don't have what it takes to kill someone."
"Wrong, Thomas! I have everything it takes. There is nothing that a mother wouldn't do to protect her child, but there's also nothing a woman wouldn't do to ensure the rest of her beautiful life is spent with a man worth fighting for. And there's nothing a sister wouldn't do to save her family. Something you should know!"
When I pull the trigger, my aim true and straight through his heart. The recoil of the gun makes me stagger back, tripping on the back of the couch and falling over it. Landing with the soft cushions at my back and my legs in the air. I rush to my feet, take one look at Thomas, and know it's over. Really over. I'm safe, London's safe, and Thomas isn't a threat anymore. That's all it takes for my whole body to shut down.
Right before the darkness pulls me under, I could have sworn I heard Thorn screaming for me.
If only it was real. My heart cries, reaching out for the man I wish was here to save me again.
There is no end for us
Never, for the rest of my days, will I forget the scene that greeted me when I rushed into Ari's house. The terror I felt for her from the second her sister had called, stopping my world right there in the middle of a fucking meeting an hour away, crippled me.
I saw the text from her ten minutes into my race to get to her.
She had to have sent it before what London assured me was happening soon, reached her. She had to have because there's no way London was lying. No one could fake that raw fear. All I could think, while I replayed and replayed the rapid swooshing heartbeat of the baby our love created, was how I would never forgive myself if I was too late. Hearing that sound and reading her simple accompanying text had affirmed what I had already started to realize since she left.
I didn't just want that baby. I loved it. Anything she helped make would never be unlucky. I would show her and our child a beautiful life.
If I lost her and our baby today, there was nothing left for me.
I would never come back from that. Not ever.
I made the hour drive to get to her house in thirty-nine minutes. I jerked the wheel, the car slamming over the curb and crashing into the car parked in the driveway that I'd never seen before. I had the door open and was running at full speed into the unknown that waited for me, bellowing her name a second later.
"Fuck!" I yelled, seeing a man I didn't recognize with his very dead gaze fixed open to the ceiling. Blood in a heavy pool surrounding him. London said that motherfucker Thomas Vale was about to break into Ari's house. She said she would do what she could to save her sister from him. But seeing the man I assume is Thomas, very fucking dead, wasn't what I expected.
I should have had someone on them. Watching them. Fuck.
"She," I hear gasped through labored breaths. "She passed out, but she's not hurt. Ju-just a little banged up. S-shock, I think." I turn to the voice. London. Her breathing not coming easy, blood covering her chest and side. The striking resemblance to Ari gives me pause for a second. Even with the signs of a hard life, she's still beautiful; she just isn't Ari. Even if she was healthy, I would know the difference.
"Can you stand?"
She shakes her head. "I don't ... I don't think so. Worry about my sister. I'll be fine and ... Thorn, if I'm not, that's okay too. As long as she's okay, I will be."
I glance over the side of the couch, seeing Ari's on her back, just shy of the couch and rush over to check her pulse.
I could fucking cry. My hand moves, down to her stomach, and I rest my hand there. I have no way of knowing, but I have to believe it's not too late. That our baby is okay. That it's not too late for me to tell her how much I want this life we've made. I want to fall to my knees and thank God for not taking her--them--from me. But first, I need to make sure the sister who saved her life is around to tell Ari why she did what she did.
I move Ari, bringing her with me and resting her on the ground next to me while I keep a towel pressed tightly against the wound on her sister's chest. I keep my eyes on Ari, pressure on her sister, and pray the ambulance I called is here soon.
I was lucky I had all the connections in Vegas that I did because I wouldn't have to stick around and deal with bullshit questioning. The chief of police arrived at the same time the ambulance did.
"I'll take care of everything, Evans."
That was all I needed. I jumped into the ambulance--the second one, the first had already rushed off with her sister--and took Ari's hand in mine. I didn't think of anything but Ari and our child. Even if I didn't have the chief in my back pocket cleaning that shit up, it was self-defense plain as day. It was just part of the life I led that ens
ured too many people owed me large debts. Ari wouldn't have to relive this day ever again. No questions asked. No investigation would be launched. By the time that motherfucker's body was gone, the only memory of this day would be the blood on her floor. That, too, would be cleaned before she ever left the hospital.
All traces of what transpired in her living room--gone forever.
The medic works around me, and I keep her hand in mine. I allow myself one fucking tear. One motherfucking tear. Then I silently promise whoever is listening that I will never stop being the man Ari needs from this moment forward. To be the man she deserves.
There is no end for us.
There's never an end for the two hearts that finally found each other.
The best stuff
I slowly come awake.
The fogginess in my head jumbles everything together, making it impossible for me to decipher what is reality. Fighting exhaustion when it threatens to pull me back under because I'm so tired. So unbelievably tired.
I jump, so out of it that I hadn't even realized I wasn't alone.
It takes work, but I manage to open my eyes a sliver and see Piper standing over me. She's crying but still smiling, so I guess that's a good thing.
"Don't move. I'm going to get him."
Him? Don't move? I can't even open my eyes completely, and she thinks I'm going to get up and move? I turn my head and look in the direction she just left. At least I was right when I thought I was in a hospital. The bustle of the nurses' station is visible through the open doorway.
I lose my view of the nurses when a giant body slams against the open door's frame in its haste to get in the room. I follow the body up, my eyes stopping when I see the bloodshot eyes and tired face of the man who carries my heart in his pocket. He takes three quick steps into the room before dropping to his knees at the side of my bed, his hands enveloping my hand closest to him, and with a heavy breath, he drops his forehead against our hands.
"Fuck, Ari," he breathes. "Scariest moment of my fucking life."
The memories rush me, and somehow, I manage to get a hold of myself.
"The baby?" I wheeze, my throat burning.
He looks up, and what was on his face when he rushed in and what I worried I would see the next time I saw him and brought up the baby, is gone. Instead, in its place is unadulterated joy.
"Nothing's wrong? Not even from when I fell?"
He shakes his head, face soft and eyes full of love. "Not one thing is wrong. Our baby is made of some strong stuff, I've been told."
Tears fall from my eyes when he gives me my own words back. They continue to fall, getting lost in my hair. He called it our baby.
"The best stuff," I whisper, my voice trembling.
"Yeah, baby, the best."
The corners of his eyes crinkle, his smile is small but mighty, and he leans in to kiss my temple.
"You're okay. Nothing will ever hurt you again. The baby we made is perfect. There's not a fucking thing I could find not to be happy about right now. I'll make sure you don't doubt that, Ari. I promise you. I'll never let you and our baby down, not ever again. Only thing that would make me happier that you're both okay is getting you home."
"Our baby," I breathe.
"Going to love our baby, Ari. How can I not when it's part of you?"
"It's part of you, too."
"I'm told that's a good thing," he jokes. "But, yeah, baby. We made that baby, and no way what we have would be less than fucking perfect. I let you down when I couldn't see that. I let you down because I let my shit cloud what I never should have doubted. I should have been beating that door down and taking you home. I'll never forget that I was almost too late. Fuck, I'm so sorry, baby."
"None of that. We're okay--all three of us." I hiccup a sob. "I love you."
"Fuck," he breathes, dropping his lips to mine and lifting enough to speak. "And I you, Ari. And I you."
Thorn steers the wheelchair away from the bed; something the hospital insisted on even though they had already discharged me. They tried to tell him a nurse had to wheel me out, but he refused. I'm pretty sure he terrified everyone when he did that, which is why they relented. We made a left out of my room, and instead of heading down from the floor we were on, he took me up.
I'm not sure how he did it, but I know it was against hospital policy for him to take me into the room we entered. I might be family of the patient, but he isn't, and he definitely isn't a hospital employee. I didn't ask. I didn't care. I needed to be here.
My sister's eyes close, and a tear falls from her cheek when she sees me.
"You're okay?" I ask when he stops my chair next to her bed.
She nods. "Yeah. It hurts something fierce, but I'm going to be fine. They said it was a clean wound."
I reach out and take her hand. The warm tingle that goes up my arm from being near my twin after so long isn't missed. We're a part of each other. I hold her eyes and pray that our parents can see us finally making our way back together after so many years of pain.
"You saved me."
"I'd do it again and again, baby sister," she whispers, her voice low but firm.
"Why? Why did you do it, London? Why didn't you tell me?"
"I couldn't," she says brokenheartedly. "You don't understand."
"So tell me. I won't ever ask you again what made you do it, but I need to know ... I have to know."
She cries silently but nods. "I never wanted to leave your side. He ... he forced himself on me before that time you caught us. Not all the time, and the first time was well before the time that you witnessed it, but it had happened for a while. He kept saying things like I was the one ready to take first. I didn't understand it at first. He told me the first time that I had been asking for his firm hand by just wearing short shorts. I didn't realize what was happening until it was too late. H-he told me he would kill you if I told anyone, so I kept my mouth shut. He kept coming back, and I knew--could see it in his eyes--what he would do if I didn't give him myself. He wouldn't just take my life--he would take yours too. That day you found us, you couldn't see the knife he put against my body when you opened that door. I knew I had one choice--make you think I had betrayed you. I was already gone. It was too late for me. I had to save you."
"London." I sob. She lived through hell, and all this time, I hated her for something she didn't do.
"I made sure you believed it too. Year after year, it felt good knowing I kept you safe, even if I was hurting you more each time I had to do it."
"At what cost!" I yell.
"Worth every penny and every day."
"How can you ever forgive me for not seeing the truth?" I gasp, my whole body shaking with grief.
"I already have. You're alive and ... now so am I." She glances over my head to where I know Thorn is standing, his steady and strong hand tensing on my shoulder. "You look at her like she's your whole world. Like she's more important than the air you need to breathe. Everything I always hoped she would find. Thank you. Thank you for making it worth it."
"Fuck," he hisses, and I hear the emotion in that one word, heavy and thick.
"I mean it, Ari. You, healthy and happy. The man who clearly loves you at your side, protecting you, that's all I ever wanted for you. I'm free. I'm finally free from my lies and my prison. You gave me that when you fought that monster. You set me free. You saved me. Only thing that would make it better is if we could find a way to fix us."
I stand, careful of her wound, and wrap my arms around her the best I can.
"I love you, London. I'll never be able to give you back what you saved me from, but I'll never stop trying. We'll find our way. I promise."
"I love you, too. I've got you again. That's all I've ever wanted, Ari."
Two weeks later, things were finally settling back to normal. Thorn still fret
ted, but I knew that was not something I could stop. He had taken the past two weeks off, not leaving my side once. I didn't mind the fussing when it meant I had him with me, loving me, loving us. He worried, yes, but he also used every second he had to make sure I knew just how happy he was about our baby.
The first day, Wilder had come over and closed that night. Then Harris came up from Florida. It's easy to see just how those two became such incredible men after meeting Harris. He walked in, smiled an easy grin that I bet still got the ladies, and told me he had always wanted a daughter. Just like that, he claimed me as his. Besides running The Alibi in Thorn's absence, he was settling in, and I secretly hoped he wouldn't rush back to Florida. Especially when I saw just how happy he made Thorn.
Thomas's death, just like Thorn promised, was swept away like it never happened. I don't ask for details because I don't want to know them, but also because I don't need Thomas touching any other part of my life. The police never came, and after Thorn took a call from the chief of police, he assured me they never would. It was done. Forever. London said that they came to her in the official capacity and said there had been an accident, but nothing else. Just like me, she never asked another question. Thomas was finally out of both of our lives.
The only thing that had changed since that day was the house. My old house, that is. Thorn took care of everything. He moved everything of mine that I wanted here--in our house--and placed the rest in storage for me to deal with later. Two days after that, my old house was on the market. After the listing agent left his house, I asked him about Piper. To my absolute shock, he told me that Wilder had packed her stuff up before the police had even left and basically kidnapped my best friend. When I called Piper about it, all she said was that she was staying with Wilder until she found her own place, and if he didn't let her leave then, she would beat him with the shelves that didn't have a case. Hearing her joke about those dang shelves was all the assurance I needed that she wasn't exactly there unwillingly.
I had asked for details about what was going on between them when they came for dinner a few days later.