“He’s still not allowed back here. You need to wait in the waiting area.”
I try to look back in the room, but this time, the nurse blocks the door. “I need to be with her.” My voice is gruff to my own ears. As a man who hasn’t cried since he was young, I’m shocked to feel wetness on my cheeks.
“I’m sorry, hun, but you still can’t be here,” she repeats compassionately this time. “Come with me and I’ll show you where to wait, and as soon as we know anything, a doctor will be out to speak with you and her family.”
I’m her family.
She’s my family.
I’m her goddamn family!
I look at the ground, shaking my head, my hand going to the back of my neck. I can still hear loud voices from the other side of the door, but I can’t make out what they are saying.
“I need to be with her,” I repeat, but this time, I don’t know if I’m saying it for me or for the nurse.
“Those doctors in there will do everything within their power to help her, honey. Right now, you just need to be strong for her.”
I don’t know if I will ever be strong again if she doesn’t make it. I shake my head at my own thoughts. If she doesn’t make it, I’m not sure what I’ll do. My whole life with her flashes before my eyes—the way she smiles, the look she gets when she looks at me, her kindness and generosity to everyone she meets. All the things we would miss out on, like her wearing my ring, our wedding, her having my child, and the little moments you take for granted every f**king day because you always think there will be a tomorrow.
I knew my own piece of heaven was too much to ask for. I f**king knew it was too good to be true.
“Come with me, hun.”
I don’t even know that I’m following her until I hear Justin tell her that Autumn’s his sister when she asks if there’s anyone she should contact. He tells her that he’ll call everyone. I don’t even know if I’m breathing when my parents show up. It isn’t until my mom wraps her arms around me that I feel something.
“She’s strong, baby,” Mom whispers to me.
“I won’t make it without her.”
“You won’t have to,” she replies softly, and I feel her tears seeping into my skin.
I pull away and put my head between my legs, praying for the first time in years. I pray to every god out there or anyone who will listen.
“Are you all the family of Autumn Freeman?”
I stand up immediately, taking in the room for the first time since I got here. My family, some of Autumn’s friends, and my men are all sprawled throughout the room.
“I’m her fiancé,” I tell the doctor, walking towards him.
His eyes take me in, and then Justin is at my side. “I’m her brother.”
“Do you want to talk in private, or can I speak openly in front of everyone present?”
I looked around again at all the people in the room. “We can talk here,” I tell him.
“Let me start out by saying she is stable but still in critical condition.”
I feel my legs get weak and I let out a long breath.
“She suffered two gunshot wounds: one to the shoulder that hit a major artery and one to the face. The one to the shoulder caused her to lose massive amounts of blood, and the one to the face went in her cheek through her lower jaw, shattering it.” He takes a breath. “She’s a very lucky woman. Though the injuries are significant, we do expect her to make a full recovery.”
I lean my head back, saying a silent thank-you to whoever answered my prayers before looking at the doctor again. “When can I see her?”
“Right now, she’s being moved to the ICU. After we get her settled into her room, we will let you know when you can see her.”
“Thank you,” I mumble.
“She will only be allowed visitors for fifteen minutes at a time, and no more than two people in the room with her.” I nod and he keeps going. “Her recovery is going to be a long one. The amount of damage to her jaw alone will take months to heal. I have to tell you…if it weren’t for the man who attacked her assailant, this conversation would probably be a lot different.”
“What?” I ask, wondering what the f**k I missed over the last few hours while I sat here feeling like my world was ending.
“A man named Sidney Sharp was there when the attack occurred. He was shot in the chest but was able to make it to your fiancée and somehow stop her assault.”
What the f**k was Sid doing here? “The gunman?” I ask aloud.
“He got away. The police are looking for him.”
I take a breath, letting it out slowly. I need to keep it together long enough to see that Autumn gets better, but then I’m going to track down the stupid f**k and kill him.
“Did Sid make it?” I ask.
“He’s in the ICU now but is expected to recover as well.”
“Thanks, Doc.” I shake his hand then go back to my seat. I lean my head back and close my eyes. Whoever did this is going to f**king die, and I don’t give a f**k who or how many people I have to kill to make that happen.
“They agreed she was off-limits,” I remind Justin, sitting back in my chair.
We were going over what happened at the hospital after watching the tapes from the night of the shooting. I hated seeing the video of Autumn getting shot, but it was the only way to know exactly what happened. The video footage was grainy and the images distorted, but I could still make out what happened. Autumn is adamant that the shooter from the club is the guy who shot her, and I will always trust her over anyone else.
It’s been two weeks since everything went down. I’ve been working leads as they come in, but most of my time has been spent with her since she woke up from the medically induced coma they’d been keeping her in. She can’t talk because they have her jaw wired closed, but she does recognize everyone and has been able to write things down, and that’s the most important thing in all of this.
The first time I saw her after I was let into the ICU, it took everything in me to stay upright. Her head was wrapped in gauze, only her lips and eyes visible. She looked like a science experiment gone wrong. There were tubes and wires attached all over her body, leading to the machines that were surrounding her bed.
I used every muscle in my body to get my legs to move me to her. When I reached the bed, I fell to my knees at her side and dropped my forehead to the top of her hand. I stayed like that for a long time, just thankful to feel the warmth in her hand and hear the sound of her breath.