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“Your brother? Why? How?” Andrews was pulling me to my feet and shoving the bed out of the way. “Why did he go after you?”

“No clue. I honestly don’t know why he would do it,” I shook my head. “Maybe killing that bastard gave him a taste for it.”

“Fuck. Come on, down the hatch,” he waved me over as he lifted a seemingly seamless section of the hardwood floor. “The ladder only goes for fifteen feet. The other thirty-five are covered by the equivalent of an elevator.”

Nodding, I descended into the darkness; the rungs on the metal ladder cold to my bare feet and hands. Touching down, I let go as the dim light overhead went out. Andrews was silent as he came down; the only indication he was there the heat radiating from his body. His arm found my waist in the inky blackness as the platform plummeted. I felt weightless as we dropped; my stomach still up at the ladder from the sudden movement.

The brakes didn’t make a sound as they abruptly brought us to a halt. Andrews didn’t let go of my waist as he stepped forward and a red light blinked in front of us. It turned green with a beep and a sliver of light appeared to the left. Widening, it stopped when there was a full door in view.

“There’s a locker through the far door. Left side has handguns, the fully loaded magazines for them are directly across from the compatible stocks,” he gave me a little shove and sat in a very comfy looking chair in front of a state-of-the-art computer. “Don’t touch the case in the bottom. A phosphorus grenade down here would kill us and render the point of this little excursion null and void.”

“Understood,” I snapped a mock salute before stalking to the door and down the dark corridor behind it. The locker took up the entire wall; however, it stood empty.

“Scream and I will slice your throat, do you understand?” my brother’s slightly distorted voice followed the knife nearing my thin neck.

“Go to hell, Damian. I don’t know how you could smile and hug me at all those family gatherings after what you did to me,” I spat on his matte-black shoes.

“And I don’t know how you could let Mr. Steroid fuck you on the kitchen floor,” he snapped back, backhanding me when he was within reach.

Hitting the locker door on my way to the floor, the metal clanged loudly just before I let out a fake cry of pain. A thin trickle of blood ran down my cheek as I scooted to the wall and used it to sit up. Tucking up into a ball, I hid my head as Andrews slid silently around the corner and broke Damian’s wrists. The sickening sound of breaking bones reached my ears as the knife hit the ground.

“You can look up now,” Andrews gently pulled my right hand from my face and ran his index finger over the cut. “We need to get that cleaned up, in case he coated the blade in anything. I take it that he told you to not scream?”

“Yeah. Classic cliché with that one. I don’t think he expected me to hit the locker after he smacked me though,” I massaged my ribs. The only problem with hitting the locker was that I had lost any chance of softening my fall. The left half of my ribcage took the most damage, and would undoubtedly be bruised by morning. “I don’t think he’s been working alone. Either someone trained him, or he’s been training someone else.”

“I came to the same conclusion when you were walking down here. Staging his own death would definitely have taken another person, and then getting out of the morgue after — that is definitely not a one man job,” he slid an arm around my waist and eased me to my feet. “We’ll get you cleaned up, your brother properly secured, and then casino siteleri find somewhere else to hide you until his partner is caught. This time we’ll let them think we’re still here, and not send in a report of location change.”

“Good idea. The fewer people who know I’m still alive, the better,” I nodded, grimacing as I attempted to walk.

“How hard did you fall?” he raised an eyebrow at me.

“That, I don’t know. I smacked the locker door instead of cushioning my fall, so it was probably fairly hard,” I managed half a dozen steps before crumpling.

“Too hard. I’ll check them thoroughly later, but I wouldn’t doubt it if you broke at least one,” he slid an arm beneath my knees and lifted me easily. Striding down the hall, he toed open the door and set me on the soft cot I had failed to notice on my way by. Pulling the thick blanket over all but my head, he placed a small gun in my right hand and showed me the safety before grabbing a set of handcuffs from a desk drawer and returning to my evil brother.

“Fuck!” The shouted expletive bounced down the hall. Andrews was back mere seconds later with a murderous expression on his normally handsome face. “He’s gone. The weapons are all there, but the fucking bastard is gone.”

Blood drained from my face and I set the gun on the floor. “That proves the theory of an accomplice.”

“Yes, it does. I’m just going to update the profile before getting you the hell out of here. Until we know who’s helping him, the only way you’ll be safe is if we’re the only two people who know where you are.”

“Is it day or night?” I murmured, bringing my now-free right hand to my still-bleeding face.

“Night, why?” he grabbed a bottle of isopropyl alcohol and some cotton balls from the cabinet. Squatting by my head, he applied the drying, disinfecting liquid to the cut.

I flinched with every careful stroke; the sting and roughness of the cotton on my sensitive skin more than my over-active sensation receptors could handle.

“Daylight would make it harder for him and his accomplice to sneak up on us, unless you have a garage down here that will lead us to a car far away,” I held back a curse as he lifted a can of spray-on bandage and shielded my eye. The aqueous material felt odd, to say the least, as it adhered to my flesh and sealed the cut.

“Very true, however it also makes it easier for them to track us, and potentially cut us of from escape,” he tugged his shirt off and flipped a switch set in to the wall above my head. The doors slammed shut, steel covers sliding in to place, as a red warning flashed on the computer screen. “The warning is just a notification that the people outside of this room are about to get knocked out for an unknown amount of time.”

“Delectable,” I smiled, trying to sit up only to have him push me back down.

“Yes you are,” he pushed the blanket off and carefully removed my shirt. I held back a wince as his hands brushed over my ribs. “I’m going to miss you when we have to go our separate ways.”

“Do we really have to?” I pouted, holding in a gasp of pain.

“I wish there were another way. You’ll be put in the witness protection program, and I’ll be reassigned to somewhere in the Middle East,” he supported his weight with his forearms just above my shoulders. “I’ll always remember you. I promise.”

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep,” I turned my head away as he shifted and pulled the blanket back over me.

“I never make promises I can’t keep,” he sighed.

“And I learned that not even family is to be trusted. Promises are like rules — canlı casino made to be broken in the most painful way possible,” I clutched my ribs as breathing became difficult. “Trust is for fools and people who don’t know better.”

“Who made you so fucking jaded?” Andrews demanded, getting up and grabbing a tensor bandage from the same cabinet as the alcohol. “Answer me that one question Melaney.”

“Go to hell,” I wheezed, the angle I had accidentally twisted into putting pressure on my ribs.

“Been there, done that, got the souvenir t-shirt,” he shrugged, forcing me back into a comfortable position.

Shutting my eyes, I vanished to my happy place as he set about taping my ribs. Ignoring the pain, I concentrated on what I would do to Damian once I got my fingers around his throat. A particularly painful pull on the bandage jerked me away from the fantasy as my ribs crunched and a cry of anguish was torn from my throat.

“You’re no better than he was,” I spat, holding my ribs as something warm began to coat my fingers. He was up and moving as I pulled my hand away to inspect my fingers. The blood was slightly sticky as I put my hand back and felt the bone sticking through my flesh. Andrews had the tensor off and a gauze pad over the hole before I could blink.

“This is going to hurt, and I’m sorry for that,” he gritted his teeth and shoved the shard of bone back into place. I screamed and convulsed as blood poured out and pooled on the cot. “Sh, sh, it’s okay Melaney. It’s okay, we’ll get you taped up again and taken care of.”

I blacked out from blood loss and pain as he pressed a fresh gauze pad to my side. The pain vanished somewhere between limbo and anguished unconsciousness.

“Melaney? Can you hear me?” a female voice penetrated the darkness. “What the hell did you do to her? It’s been over a week and she hasn’t moved.”

“Me? I didn’t do a damned thing to her! I got her here as soon as I could for fuck sake!” male this time.

“Bullshit Andrews. Bull fucking shit. She’s strong, but that can only take her so far. The only viable reason for her not being awake right now is if you did something.” The woman, whoever she was, was pissed. Three shades of it by the sound.

“Sharlene, back off. The doctors said that with the head trauma she might not make it. It’s a miracle she’s survived this long,” a new male chimed in. “If she wants to, she’ll wake up.”

“Fuck off,” I grumbled, regrettably opening my eyes. The bright lights started a migraine and opened a can of grumpy.

“Mel? You okay doll?” the female was holding two fingers in front of my face. “How many fingers am I holding up?”

“Two, now who the hell are you?” I batted the hand away.

“Sharlene? Your best friend and roommate? Known each other for I don’t know how many years? Come on, Mel, you know me,” the brunette dropped her hand. She turned and attempted to whisper. “Whatever happened, this is bad.”

“No shit, Sherlock. I want to go home,” I pulled the needle out of my left arm. “Now if someone will get me some clothes, I need to call my family and check in.”

“Um, Mel? I’m sorry I have to tell you this, but your brother killed them all almost two weeks ago. He’s the one who tried to kill you a few years ago.”

“No one tried to kill me, except a stupid cheerleader in high school. Now where am I, and when do I get to go home?”

“Mel, our high school didn’t have a cheer squad. The funding for it had been cut long before we started school,” the woman kept talking as though I knew her, as though she were my friend. “And you’re in a hospital, kaçak casino we can’t tell you where. You can’t go home. Not until your brother and his accomplice are caught.”

“I don’t have a brother, and my name isn’t Mel or Melaney. It’s Candice. I was born July 17, 1978 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. My parents immigrated to Edmonton when I was six, and had my sister not long after that. They died in a car accident four years ago, and my sister is at the University of Edmonton. Why do you keep referring to me as this Melaney person?”

“You three need to leave,” a new male voice ordered. “It appears that she has constructed a new reality during her coma. It could take a while to bring her proper memory into the forefront. If anything changes, I’ll notify you as soon as I can. And, Detectives, I would suggest keeping the guards on high alert if she really is the target of the Harbour Ripper. I would rather murder not happen on hospital property, if possible.”

“Yes sir,” the two original men answered in unison, taking the chatterbox of a woman with them.

“I’m sorry for this, but if you ever get your memory back then we’re screwed,” the doctor leaned over me as the door shut. His near-black hair had streaks of grey running through it as it fell around his face. Thick, horn-rimmed glasses slid down a slightly squat nose as he raised a pillow and pressed it into my face. Unable to fight back, I passed out long before I should have. Screams pierced the darkness and somewhere above me light was directed towards my eyes. Failure to acknowledge it led to a burning sensation in my side and chest as electricity hit my heart.

Everything was crystal clear as they tried to revive me. It was a fluke that I had survived the first time, a miracle that shouldn’t have happened. Andrews had been sent for me, to make my life bearable, to help me relearn how to live. It wasn’t kismet, as some would call it, it was just two paths converging at the right place and time. It wasn’t coincidence either — and never believe anyone who believes in it, it’s pure bullshit.

An electric jolt nearly twice as strong as the first brought me back, no fake memories, and I managed to turn with my broken ribs to vomit on a nurse’s shoes. A ringing in my ears kept me from hearing what people were saying, but strong hands turned me back to a relatively flat position as random fingers felt for a pulse in various extensions of my anatomy. When they were satisfied that I was still alive, the random people I couldn’t recognize vanished from view.

“We need to get her changed, and this place cleaned up,” Sharlene mouthed, probably actually speaking, above me.

“As soon as she can hear again. The gunshot was close enough to her ear that it could take a while,” Andrews ‘mouthed’ back.

“Can we at least get her out of here? I don’t want her to see the body,” Sharlene waved at something I couldn’t see.

“That, we can do. Jimmy, go tell an orderly that we’re moving her down the hall.”

No one spoke for a while after that, so I took it upon myself to break the silence. “Why didn’t you let him kill me? You would have had him down for murder if you couldn’t tie him into my brother’s crimes.”

“You remember?” Shar arched an eyebrow as her voice came through, almost as though bouncing down a long tunnel.

“Yes. And I want to talk to Josh alone for a minute, please Shar.”

“Anything you need, doll.”

“Thanks.”

She was quick with her exit, thankfully.

“What do you need, Mel?” Andrews frowned down at me.

“What would it take to get you to stay?”

He looked down at me in confusion and paused to think. “Tell me you love me.”

“I love you.”

“I don’t believe you, say it again.”

“I love you.”

“Liar.”

“I love you.”

“I love you too.”

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