Then I fell asleep.

My body jolted awake when I heard the loud creak of the garage door going up. Sleep shot from me and I jumped from the couch, rounding it to see Suarez facing the door looking like he was standing at modified ease, feet planted wide, hands on h*ps which brought one closer to the gun on his gun belt.


The garage door creaked again, the inner door opened and Hawk walked in, my heart shifted, my stomach clutched and his eyes went to Suarez.

“Relieved,” he muttered and Suarez took off, not glancing back.

Hawk walked to me. I ran to him.

I stopped and put my hands on his chest. “How is she?” I asked.

He’d stopped and he put his hands to my upper arms. Then he lifted me right up off my feet and then planted them down so I was outside touching distance. That not being enough, he let me go and took a step back himself.

I stared at him as my insides paralyzed.

There it was. My answer. He didn’t call back because he didn’t forgive me. He so didn’t forgive me, he didn’t want me touching him or even close to his space.

At that, it was my heart that clutched to protect itself from the searing pain burning through my insides.

“She’s in the hospital under guard,” Hawk replied. “She has facial fractures, a concussion and seven broken ribs. No internal damage but the injuries to her face will require plastic surgery.”

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I swallowed as new pain seared through me. Then I nodded.

“Is she…” I swallowed again, “is she safe?”

“Had a deal with Lawson,” Hawk answered, crossing his arms on his chest. “I get Ginger, I give her to him only if he brokers a deal with the Feds. She testifies and goes into protective custody. We took her to my safe house, Lawson met us there and we had a chat with her while Doc looked at her. Took awhile for Lawson and me to talk her into testifying. Then it took longer because the Feds wanted to know what she knew because she isn’t a good enough witness to merit the resources they’d need to expend to put her into protective custody and then get her into the witness protection program. She’s got a rap sheet, just misdemeanors but she’s a known drug user, hasn’t kept good company, actively participated in some not very good shit and the longest time she’s held down a job was four months workin’ at a convenience store. Not exactly an ace in the hole witness, the defense attorneys would chew her up and spit her out.”

Unfortunately, this was true.

I sucked in my lips.

“The surprise was Ginger isn’t as stupid as we thought. Ginger doesn’t only know a lot, Ginger’s been playin’ it safe and gathering insurance. She told us she’s been keepin’ diaries, she stole documents, she took pictures and even sometimes wore a wire. She might not be a good witness if she only had her word against theirs but she also has physical evidence to back up her shit. Roarke and the others knew this and this was why they were rabid for her. She was trying to use it as leverage to buy her way out but they didn’t feel like payin’ when she’d f**ked them over and even if she turned over the shit, she couldn’t wipe her memory and Ginger, bein’ Ginger, would always be a threat. She gave up the location of some of it but says she has more and kept that back as incentive for the deal. Lawson and the Feds went to her location, found the shit and spent about half an hour sorting through it before they offered her the deal. I handed her over and they took her to the hospital. That means, until the trials, you won’t see your sister and she’s in the wind after.”

I pulled in an audible breath and Hawk kept talking.

“She’s got shit on three big players, two into drugs, one runs guns. Tonight, Ginger Kidd and Mitch Lawson significantly cleaned up the streets of Denver. But these men, they got armies and they got reach. Before they go down, they’ll do everything they can to take her out. And even if they go down, they’ll want retribution. She’s gotta disappear.”

I took that hit and nodded.

Hawk went on. “I know you promised not to call Bax and Meredith but I advise that you let them have a good night’s sleep then you phone them and share. They should know.”

I nodded again then whispered, “Thank you, Hawk.”

He lifted his chin then ordered, “Go to bed, get some sleep. I’ll take you home after I get some rest. You take the bed, I’ll take the couch.”

It took everything but I didn’t even twitch when he said that but that didn’t mean my body didn’t bear the brunt of this powerful blow.

“I’ll call a taxi,” I offered quietly, “get out of your hair.”

“Take the bed,” he replied.

“It’s okay, I’ll –”

“Gwen, I’m wiped. Take the f**kin’ bed.”

I nodded again and I wanted to search his eyes, see if something was there, anything, but I was too much of a wimp. I didn’t want to witness it if there wasn’t anything to be found. All I knew was, his manner, his voice and the fact he didn’t call me “babe” or “Sweet Pea” meant there wasn’t.

So I looked away, muttered, “Sleep well,” and walked quickly to the steps.

I heard the beeps of his phone as I went up them but my mind was in a foggy, painful haze and I tried to force my body to go numb. I took off his flannel and missed it the instant its warmth left my body. I dropped it to the foot, slid into his big bed, my lips quivering, my sinuses tingling, fighting back the tears as I heard his voice talking on the phone. I pulled the covers up and curled into a ball, yanking a pillow to my chest to anchor it against me with my legs and I bent my neck and shoved my face into it, my body refusing to go numb because I had to force all my energies not to burst into loud, uncontrollable tears Hawk would definitely hear.

My sister was still a marked woman, but at least under protection. Nevertheless, she wasn’t safe until the trial and she’d never really be safe, not for the rest of her life.

That really sucked.

And I’d f**ked things up with Hawk. Broken it beyond repair. When he was done, he was done but he wasn’t done, not with me. I’d somehow got him tied to me, in deep, but it was me who cut him away and yanked him out of me and now he was definitely done.

I closed my eyes and heard he’d stopped talking. Then I pulled in a deep breath, wondering, hysterically, if ferrets were friendly.

Then I heard his feet on the stairs. It was impossible even for Hawk to walk up those stairs silently.

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