By: Amy Murray

Before I could think through what I was about to do, I reached forward and closed my hands over the gun that had fallen from James’s hand. Turning to Roselli, I shot twice. The sound was deafening.

He fell, and I scrambled to my knees. Roselli wasn’t moving, but I kept the gun trained on him for several seconds until I realized he was dead. Outside, tires squealed as his accomplice fled.

I dropped the weapon and looked around in sudden and complete silence. I hadn’t aimed with any intent other than to stop him, but I managed to hit him once in the head and once in the heart.

I knelt next to Mack and lifted his shoulders enough that James could pull his injured leg out from underneath. Carefully, I rolled Mack back down and wasted no time pressing my hands against his wound. When the blood began to seep between my fingers, I swallowed back the rise of vomit. I’d done this before. I’d watched death stain my hands, and it was happening again.

“Colin?” I whispered.His eyes fluttered open, but his lids remained heavy. “Hang on, okay? Hang on.” I kept one hand on his chest and reached for the telephone sitting on the end table. I dialed 911 and spoke with the operator. I don’t know how I made any kind of sense—my voice was shaking, and my words stumbled over one another.

“Ma’am,” the operator said. “The ambulance is on its way. Stay on the line, okay?”

Mack’s eyes fluttered, and I dropped the phone. “Colin?” I asked.

“You’re alive,” he breathed, and his eyes drifted closed.

I shook his shoulder. “Please, you can’t die. Not now. Colin, please.”

His eyes opened a quarter of an inch. “I love hearing you say my name.” He attempted a smile, but it faded with a grimace. “I’m so sorry, for everything.”

“Don’t be sorry. It wasn’t you. You didn’t kill James that night, it was Roselli.”

“I know,” he breathed.

“Then why did you let me believe it had been you?”

“Because it doesn’t change the fact that I would’ve. I would’ve done it without thinking twice. You’ve deserved better from me, but you have to know that everything I did after that moment—it’s always been for you.” Colin stared at me, his brow furrowed, his lips tight with pain. “I love you. I always have.” His eyes closed. “I always will.”

My breath seemed too loud in the ensuing silence.

“Colin?” I asked giving him a little shake. I didn’t want to admit that his blood had stopped pulsing between my fingers. “Colin,” I said more loudly. When he didn’t answer I grabbed his hand and pressed my face into his chest and screamed.

“Abby,” James’s words were whispered, pained.

I pulled away from Mack and turned to James. “He’s gone.”

James nodded once, and the fire that had always lit his eyes was dim, like it was seconds from blowing out.

“I’m sorry.” James words trailed into nothing, and he closed his eyes.

My entire body shook in a way that rattled my bones. I was cold, I was hot. I was devastated and relieved. There were too many emotions fighting to be heard. I fell against James’s side where he pulled me weakly in to his chest and held me while I cried.

“Don’t cry,” he said. “This isn’t the end. You know it isn’t.” He gave me one last squeeze and his hand fell from my back. The muscles at his neck and shoulder loosened, and his head lolled away from me.

My knees curled protectively into my chest, and I wrapped my arms around his waist, breathing him in. The pain that sliced my heart probed deeper with every passing second until my insides were eviscerated, and I was hollow.

Sirens blared, and lights flashed blue and red through the windows. When they cut off, there was no sound aside from my gasping tears.

Someone was talking from beyond the front door, and the 911 operator told me to open it, but I couldn’t answer. Instead, I rolled to my back, and with my head still nestled on James’s shoulder, I reached to my right and took Colin’s limp hand in my own.

Chapter Twenty-Three

Spring was usually my favorite time of year. So many new beginnings, and possibilities seemed not only endless, but guaranteed. I leaned back and basked in sunlight that blinded me even while my eyes were closed. Sand worked its way under my shirt and between my toes, and as the water lapped against the beach. It carried the echo of a distant time and place. The nightmares from that day still haunted me, but my drift—a nightmare of its own—had vanished.