The first thing Maria heard was voices. She tried to open her eyes, but a bright light made her head hurt.

I'm alive?

She turned her head to the side and slowly opened her eyes, blocking the light with her hand.

How am I alive?

The last thing she remembered was Jeff choking the life out of her.

She slowly realized that she was in a hospital room. A nurse saw her awake and smiled at her. "How are you feeling?"

Maria tried to sit up. Her head and neck hurt, but other than that she felt okay.

"I'm - I'm alright," she said. "What happened?"

"You'll have to talk to the officer about that." She motioned for someone to come over. A cop appeared at the nurse's side and sat in a chair by Maria's bed.

"Where's Greg?" Maria asked, panic rising in her chest. "Is he alright?" Tears began to well in her eyes. She didn't know if he was okay or not. She didn't know anything.

The cop gave her a slight smile. "Mr. Landon is in another room, and he's doing fine. He was awake earlier when I questioned him."

Maria breathed a sigh of relief, but she wanted to see Greg.

"How am I alive?" she asked.

"When we got there, you were lying on the floor unconscious. Jeff Carlsson was knocked out on the floor next to you, and Mr. Landon was sitting next to him, barely conscious. He wouldn't take his eyes off him until we had Mr. Carlsson in handcuffs. From the looks of it, Mr. Landon saved your life. When I questioned him about an hour ago, he told me that Mr. Carlsson was strangling you."

Maria nodded her head.

"Greg Landon told me that he managed to get up just in time to get your husband off of you. He saw the gun go under the couch, and he retrieved it and hit Mr. Carlsson with the gun. Right now your husband has a pretty nasty bump on the back of his head."

Maria shook her head. "That's not my husband. We haven't got the divorce yet, but I didn't marry such a monster." She started to cry.

The officer patted her on the arm. "Mrs. Carlsson, I assure you that the court will grant your divorce as soon as possible after this incident." He stood up. "I'll have more questions for you later, but right now I imagine that you want to see the man who saved your life."

The nurse came over to Maria. "Do you need any help getting over there?"

"No, I'll be fine." She put her feet on the floor and followed the officer to Greg's room. When Maria looked in and saw him lying on a hospital bed, his head bandaged and his eyes closed, she burst into tears. This is all my fault, she thought. He would never have been in this situation if it weren't for me. She walked cautiously over to his bed, trying not to wake him. She took his hand, but the sound of her crying made him open his eyes.

Greg managed a smile when he saw her. "You're alright," he whispered.

"I'm sorry," Maria replied, tears streaming down her face. "I'm so sorry."

Ever as sweet, Greg reached up and wiped the tears from her cheeks. "It's not your fault."

Maria took his hand and kissed it, holding it tightly in her own. "Are you in a lot of pain?" she asked.

Greg shrugged. "They've got me on painkillers right now, so I'm okay."

Maria looked at the bandage on his head and noticed another one wrapped around his chest. "He kicked you," she whispered. "I couldn't -" she faltered, covering her face with her hands.

Greg gently reached up and touched her hair. "It's okay. It's over now."

"But you're hurt."

"Just a few stitches and some broken ribs," Greg told her. "It could be worse."

"I'm sorry," Maria said. "You never should have gotten hurt. You saved my life. I don't know how I'll ever be able to thank you."

"Don't worry about it. I'm not hurt that bad. Besides, if none of this had happened, I never would have met you." As he said this, he placed his hand on her cheek.

Maria broke down again, and she leaned over him and kissed him. As she did, her tears fell onto his face. When she wiped them away, she noticed some of the tears were his.

"I'm so glad you're okay," Greg whispered. "When I saw you lying there, not moving, I almost lost it. I didn't know if I had gotten to you soon enough, and I couldn't stand the thought of losing someone I love for a second time."

Maria froze at his words. "You -"

"Yes, Maria. I love you."

As Greg said those words, everything in Maria's world seemed to stop.

"I love you too," she sniffled. "I was so scared that I wouldn't get to tell you." She stared down at him, barely able to make out his face through the tears filling her eyes. "Greg, you saved my life. I'll never be able to measure up."

"Yes you will. If you hadn't of come in when you did and fought Jeff for the gun, we would probably both be dead. You were very brave Maria."

"But you put your life on the line to protect me. I can't even imagine how you were able to do that."

"Maria, that's what love is," he said softly. "Throughout all of this, I protected you, but you protected my heart. You showed me what it was to love again, and that was something I was willing to fight for to the death."

Maria took his hand, but she was at a loss for any words.

"You're the one that saved me," Greg continued. "You're everything to me, Maria. If you go now, I don't know what I'll do."

She shook her head. "I'm not going anywhere."

Greg smiled. "Good." Then he patted his bed. "Come here."

Maria hesitated. "Are you sure?"

He nodded.

Maria carefully climbed up next to Greg on the bed and put her head on his shoulder. He winced, and Maria remembered his broken ribs. "Not that side," Greg said, grimacing.

"Sorry." Maria moved to the other side of him, trying to be as gentle as possible. He winced again, and Maria stopped. "Maybe this isn't such a good idea."

"No, I want you here," Greg insisted. "I'll be fine."

Maria lay next to him, just barely touching him. "I don't want to hurt you." She lightly ran her fingers over the bandage on his head. "Does this feel any better?"

"A little. But enough about how I am," Greg said. "What about you?"

Maria looked downward. "I'm not sure," she said quietly. "It's going to take a long time for me to forget this; for me to stop looking over my shoulder in fear. It'll probably be a long way to happy, but I'll get through it."

Greg reached over and held her hand. "And I'll be with you through it all, Maria; through the good and bad days both."

"Is that a promise?" Maria asked, staring into his eyes.

"Yes," he replied. "I'll be with you to the end."

For the first time that night, Maria smiled. She leaned over and tenderly kissed Greg, and then she moved herself close to him. Lying there in his arms, she knew she'd be safe always.


Okay...so I decided to go with the sappy, predictable ending. Ha ha...
Thanks so much to everyone who took the time to read and review this story! And thanks to the following people for reviewing chapter 9: tash'd, bright indian stars, lalaLAMA, EvangelineGoth, EatxMyxFaeriexDust, and .SIMPLE.