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Home > Last Mile (Vicious Cycle #3)(31)

Last Mile (Vicious Cycle #3)(31)
Author: Katie Ashley

“Gavin!” I screamed over the roar of the crowd. From the instant the shots rang out, pandemonium had ensued. I pushed and shoved strangers out of the way, not giving a damn about their well-being. I was no longer in hero mode like in the beginning when all I could think of was shielding those kids. Now all I cared about was getting to Gavin, and I didn’t give a fuck about anyone else. The longer I couldn’t find him, the more the rising panic in my chest grew. It became so intense that I began to wheeze from being unable to breathe.

Normally, in a crisis like this, we would be wired, and I would know within seconds his location and status. But I was stripped of all the devices that I’d come to rely on when I was in the field.

And then through all the chaos I saw him. I would have known his form anywhere. At the sight of him lying in the grass at the edge of the clearing, tears stung my eyes. I began shoving people harder and harder in order to get to Gavin.

When I finally reached his side, I dropped down beside him. “Gavin? Can you hear me?” Quickly, I scanned his body to assess his wounds. My eyes clamped shut in pain when I saw he had been hit in both the chest and the abdomen. Any other day, those wounds wouldn’t have been an issue, because he would have been wearing his bullet-proof vest.

Tears streaked down my cheeks, dripping onto Gavin’s blood-stained face. I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and dialed Peterson’s emergency number. Before he picked up, I shook Gavin’s shoulders. “Don’t you dare die on me, Gavin!” I shrieked. Not caring about who was around me or might overhear me, I shouted, “That’s an order, dammit!”

His eyelids fluttered, and my heart jumped in my chest. “Gavin? Gavin, please look at me!”

Slowly his eyes opened, and he gazed up at me.

“There you are. Stay with me. Okay?”

“Hello? Vargas, is that you?” Peterson’s voice echoed from the phone.

Quickly, I related to him what had happened. Then I hung up before he could say anything else. I didn’t have time to talk to him. I needed to devote all my attention to Gavin.

“Peterson knows what happened, so once the ambulance gets here, they’ll radio in to take us to the best hospital around here. They might even airlift you, if you need it.”

Gavin wheezed out an agonized breath. “Love you. Always have . . . always will.”

My body shook as violent sobs racked me. “I love you, too. So fucking much. That’s why I want you to stay with me. Please, please stay with me.”

A beautiful smile lit up Gavin’s face. Without another word to me, he closed his eyes. When he went limp in my arms, a scream tore through me. “No! Sweet Jesus, no!” I buried my head in his chest, sobbing as hard as I had done the day my dad was taken from me. And once again it was at the hands of a biker.

In my warped sense of reality, it seemed that one moment I had cradled Gavin’s lifeless body in my arms, and then the next I found myself in a room off the ER at a hospital somewhere in Virginia. A scratchy blanket provided by an EMT was draped around my shoulders to fend off the rising chill spreading through my body. I blinked a few times to try to clear my eyes of the gritty feel from crying.

Someone had set a cup of black coffee on the table in front of me. Steam rose off the liquid. I reached out and took the cup in my trembling hands. As I brought the cup to my lips, I saw the rust-colored blood staining my hands.

Gavin’s blood.

My throat clenched, and I found I couldn’t take a sip. Instead, I felt like throwing up. With shaky fingers, I put the cup back down on the table. Once again, I found myself staring at my hands.

Twenty-two years ago I had done the same thing as I sat in a private holding room at the police station. No matter how many officers came inside that room with kind offers of sodas or candies, I ignored them and continued staring down at my hands covered in my father’s blood. The only person I finally acknowledged was my mother after she burst into the room. She took one look at me and my bloodied hands and clothes and collapsed into hysterics at my feet. I had had to offer her comfort in those first minutes before she got ahold of herself. It had been a hell of a lot for an eight-year-old kid to endure.

Just like then, time seemed to stand agonizingly still. I didn’t know how long I sat lost in my own world. I drifted in and out of a weird consciousness that was almost like sleeping, but I was fully awake. I paid no attention to the clicking hands on the wall clock. Time really had no meaning for me anymore. As with my father, it would be measured in the time before Gavin’s death and then the time after.

When the door opened, I glanced up to see Peterson, his face ashen. He stepped inside and closed the door behind him. He didn’t bother taking one of the chairs across from me. Instead, he sat down beside me. Eyeing the coffee cup in front of me, he reached into his jacket pocket and took out a silver-plated flask. He poured a dark amber-colored liquid into the foam cup.

Staring at me, he brought the flask to his lips. After he took a long swig, I snaked one of my arms out of the blanket to take my cup. Although I should have sipped slowly, I sucked it down in one long, fiery, bitter gulp. The alcohol hit my stomach with a searing jolt, and I shuddered.

“I don’t know what the fuck to say to you right now,” Peterson said, his voice hoarse. After I gave a brief nod, he eased back in his chair. “I’d ask how you’re holding up, but it seems pretty evident. I’m sure you don’t need any of my psychobabble bullshit that you’re in shock or what a good agent and man Gavin was or that time heals all wounds, blah, blah.”

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