Chapter 28


Edging around the bushes, I darted across the road and behind the car. Remaining low, I crept around to the right side of the car. I pulled on the handle to the backseat. It lifted upwards in my hand. The idiot didn't lock his doors. I guess he didn't think I'd be coming after him; he figured it would be the opposite way around.

First glancing around to make sure there were no witnesses, I quickly opened the door, slid into the backseat, and slammed the door shut. The Firestar was pointed at the driver before he had even registered what had just happened. He turned to look at me.

"Eyes forward and hands on the wheel," I ordered. I slouched in my seat and kept the gun low but pointed at the man's head. I wasn't going to hurt him, but he didn't need to know that.

His head snapped forward and his jaw set angrily. "What is this?" he growled.

"Take your left hand off the wheel and give me your cell phone," I instructed.

He didn't move. "Are you robbing me?" he asked bitterly. He obviously hadn't seen my face. He didn't know who I was.

"Do it," I said.

Pursing his lips, he reached for his pants' pocket. I prepared myself for him to draw a weapon, hand gripping the Firestar tightly. Thankfully, he withdrew a Blackberry and handed it to me. I tossed it on the seat beside me. "Weapon," I said.

"I don't have one," he replied.

"Weapon," I said again.

His eyes darted to the rearview mirror. It took a moment, but he recognized me. His eyes widened, and he muttered, "Shit."

"Yeah, shit," I agreed, smiling at him in the mirror. "Hand over the gun." I knew he had one because there was no way a merc didn't have a weapon on him. This guy had a buzzcut and a Marine tattoo poking out from his tee-shirt.

He held up his hands slowly. "Okay," he said. "I'm going to open the glove box."

"Don't bother," I said, leaning forward through the seats. Without taking my eyes off him, I opened the glove box and felt around for a gun. My hand wrapped around the barrel of a large handgun. I also felt a pair of handcuffs. "Anything else?"

He glared at me, giving away the fact that he did have another weapon. He reached down and pulled a blade from his sock. I took it from him, sat back in my seat, and put the gun – a Glock – and the knife on the ground. I put the handcuffs next to the phone.

The light was green and probably had been for some time. "Drive straight," I told him.

He readjusted himself in his seat and accelerated slowly. "Where to?" he asked with a sarcastic lilt to his voice.

"You're going to take me to Lilynn Blaise," I said.

"Who?" he replied evenly. His eyes found mine in the rearview mirror and must have correctly interpreted my deadpan look. "Yeah, fine."

He merged onto the highway and headed in the same direction as Callum's mansion. I thought about Callum and how pissed he was going to be that I was doing this. I never wanted to intentionally make him angry or worried, but some things couldn't wait for nightfall. His party was almost certainly a target for an attack if I didn't take care of Lilynn tonight.

"How much security does Lilynn have with her?" I asked, watching the man's hands on the wheel. It couldn't hurt to see how much he was willing to give up.

"Like I'm gonna tell you," he muttered.

"Fair enough," I said.

"What are you going to do? Kill her?" he asked so calmly it made me frown.

"Like I'm going to tell you," I answered.

He let out a loud laugh, and said, "Fair enough. It's not like I get paid enough to care what's going on between you two anyway."

That was charming. I didn't answer and paid attention to where he was driving. We had passed the turnoff for Callum's. We were driving quite far from the city. It was going to take a while for Bell and the rest of the cops to get to Lilynn's. I didn't have a real fleshed-out plan, which was probably stupid of me, but I didn't have the luxury of time.

I wondered if the Letalis Flora power within me – whatever it was – would work against humans. If I was in a true life-or-death situation, would it show itself? I hadn't felt it when I had gotten stabbed, but I hadn't fought the assailant. I was reluctant to believe that it would. Well, I wasn't going to rely on it, anyway.

We turned at Exit 31 and turned again at a gas station. The road became small, trees encroaching on both sides. It was good that it was daylight because visibility would have been terrible in the dark. I had the feeling that we were getting close.

"Where's the house?" I asked.

"There's a right turn coming up. First house after that," he grunted.

"Stop the car before the turn," I told him.

He slowed the car about two minutes later and pulled it to the edge of the road. I saw the right turn up ahead. There was a sign that read "Wale Drive". There was a ball of nerves in the pit of my stomach but I ignored it. "Give me the keys," I ordered.

Making a sound, he turned off the car and flung the keys at me. I caught them before they whacked me in the face. I tossed the handcuffs into his lap. "Cuff yourself to the steering wheel," I said.

He took a long time to do it and I could tell he was thinking of ways to take me. Once I heard the click, I opened the door, gun still trained on him. I made sure no one was coming down the road before picking up the knife and tucking it into my sock. The Glock was too burdensome to carry, so I tossed it over the car and into the thick trees. I opened the driver's side door and double-checked that his cuffs were secure. Satisfied, I said, "Thanks," and shut the door and locked it. I didn't want any unwitting passersby trying to "save" him.

Looking around, I didn't see anything but thick trees. It was a remote location and I could see why Lilynn chose it. I headed for the "Wale Drive" sign, glancing behind me to make sure there was no one. The man was tugging at the cuffs in the car. As I turned down the dirt road, I pulled my gun out and kept it at my side. My heart was beating so fast that it was all I could hear. There was a driveway peeking out from the trees on the right about a hundred yards away.

I dialed Bell. He picked up on the first ring. "Simon?" he barked into the phone.

"Exit 31, turn at the gas station and then on Wale Drive," I said. "It's the first house after that."

"Simon, what the hell are you doing?"

"Did you get that?" I asked.

"Yes, but—"

"Look, I don't have any concrete proof yet, but I'll get it," I told him, walking towards the driveway. "Trust me."

"If you screw me over, I swear to God –"

"I won't," I reassured him. "Come on, it's me, Bell."

He paused before saying, "Yeah, I know. Do you want us to come now or give you time to get proof? It's going to take fifteen minutes to get there."

I closed my eyes for a brief moment in relief. "Come in ten minutes," I said.

"All right," he said disbelievingly. "There better be probable cause for this. We're going to have to break in without a warrant."

"If you need probable cause for anything, it can be that someone is breaking into the house," I said.

"What?" he spat into the phone. "What are you – are you saying you're about to break into this woman's house?"

"Yeah." I didn't bother lying. "Listen, I've got to go." I was approaching the driveway and I could see the glint of windows through the trees.

"You said this woman was guilty of attempted murder and acts of terrorism," he said frantically.

I slowed down and flattened myself against the trees next to the driveway. I peered around the corner and saw the house. "And blackmail," I added facetiously, lowering my voice. "Don't forget blackmail."

"Simon!"

"I'll be careful, Bell," I promised. "I really have to go. See you in twenty-five or so."

I hung up on his protests, put my phone on silent, and peeked at the house again. There were two cars parked in front of it. It was a decent-sized house with quite a homely look about it. It was two stories with a gray brick exterior and a good number of windows. There were thin white columns to the left where the porch and front door was.

A man was sitting on the steps of the porch, flipping through a magazine and chewing on a toothpick. I didn't see anyone else around. I was hoping Lilynn kept less security around during the day since there was no threat of vampires attacking. I was sure as hell that she didn't expect me to be a risk. She seemed to underestimate me and that was just fine.

Squinting at the windows, I could see into the first floor. I made out the living room and the kitchen, which were both empty. She better be home. If she wasn't home, then I was screwed in terms of the SFPD finding out I mislead them.

Suddenly, I saw movement in the farthest window on the second story. There was no way to tell if it was Lilynn or not, but it was enough for me to go through with this.

I bit down on my lip and bent over to put my hands on my knees, taking a deep breath and a moment to prepare myself. This was crazy and reckless and stupid, but I was going to do it anyway.

The guard didn't even see me coming until I was five feet in front of him. I was running at a full sprint, gun in my right hand with the butt out. He stood up, dropped the magazine, and reached for the gun at his side. He didn't even manage to get it out before I hit him in the head with the end of the Firestar. The blow didn't knock him out, but he bent over and I took the opportunity to grab the back of his neck and knee him in the face. Stumbling off the steps, he landed in a heap on the driveway. I was actually quite pleased with myself as I pulled the guy in front of the porch and tried to push him underneath it as much as I could. I was not a good fighter by any means, but I had taken quite a few self-defense courses at my local gym. Plus, I had learned a few things on the job out of pure necessity. The knee-to-head move was my specialty, I liked to think.

I looked around for backup or Lilynn, but saw no one. If someone were to look out of the window, they wouldn't be able to see the unconscious guard.

I knew it was risky, but I tried the front door. I grasped the gold knob in my hand and with bated breath, twisted it open as quietly as I could. It was open. I stepped into the house, quickly shutting the door behind me. The living room and kitchen was to my right, still empty. There was a hallway to my left that probably held a bedroom and a bathroom. The base of the staircase seemed to be around the corner in the living room.

I darted to put my back against the wall of the small foyer, almost tripping over a pair of sneakers. With a frantically beating heart, I held the gun close to my chest, ready to shoot if I had to. I stayed still for a moment, listening for any indication of Lilynn or guards. The house was quiet. There was a ticking of a clock on the mantle of the living room, the faint whistle of wind, and the vibrations of the fridge, but nothing else.

I was prepared to go up the staircase when I heard a door near the kitchen click open. Boots clunked on the floor and the door shut loudly. Someone must have come in from the back door. I wanted to look but knew whoever it was would be able to see me if I did. I glanced behind me and thought I could make it into one of the rooms in the hallway. Not that I knew what was behind the doors of those rooms, but I was completely exposed otherwise. Shit.

There was shuffling around in the kitchen. By the sound of it, someone was putting on a pot of coffee. Then the door of the refrigerator opened and closed and the telltale crinkling of plastic told me that they were making food as well. This was taking a long time. I wondered if it was Lilynn, but it was most likely a second bodyguard.

The smell of food cooking in the microwave wafted over to me. I shifted my feet, growing restless. The microwave beeped, a drawer opened, there was a clanging of utensils, and then there was a scraping of a chair. Whoever it was ate for a while, clearing their throat every once in a while. It was definitely a man.

"Ms. Blaise?" a gruff voice called. My breath caught in my throat. I looked at the time, cursing to myself for the fact that a good eight minutes had passed. The cops were going to be here in fifteen minutes or so.

A faint voice answered from upstairs.

"It's one o'clock," he yelled. "You want me and Jack to do a perimeter check?"

My eyes widened. Jack was probably the guy I had just knocked out. This guy was going to find him and then this would all be over. Lilynn must have answered positively because the guard's shoes clunked in my direction. I padded to the hallway, hid along the wall, and prayed that he wouldn't turn around. He came into view – a tall, beefy sort of man wearing a motorcycle jacket. We were definitely mismatched strength-wise. I had to take him by surprise if I wanted a chance.

He opened the front door and as he let it shut behind him, I slid back onto the porch. I quickly shut the door behind me. He was two feet away from me, calling Jack's name and looking frustrated. As he walked towards the steps, he saw the forgotten magazine and tensed. Deciding that this was my moment, I kicked him behind the knees. He fell onto his knees with a "What the fu—" and saw me. I went to elbow him in the head, but he was faster than I anticipated and clocked me on my left cheekbone. Reflexively, my hand flew to touch the spot and he took the opportunity to grab at me, causing me to fall. My ass hit the porch hard but I managed to keep hold of the Firestar. He took his own gun he had holstered to his hip.

He made a sound before swinging it up to aim at me. Leaning back on my hands, I kicked the gun from his hand. It landed on the wooden slats of the porch with a loud clunk. He lunged for it but I sent a kick to his head as well and he fell on his elbows. The blow hadn't knocked him out. Slightly disoriented and reaching for my leg, he didn't see the butt of the Firestar headed for the back of his neck. He slumped forward with a pained sound and remained motionless.

Gasping for a breath, I scrambled to my feet and touched my cheek. It already felt hot and swollen. Glancing at his gun, I knew it could have been a lot worse. I kicked it off the porch so that it was out of view.

I would have moved him out of the way, but I knew he was too heavy. There didn't seem to be any other security around. Lilynn was upstairs. I adjusted my ponytail and huffed as I turned to look at the front door. I had about thirteen minutes until the police came, or so I hoped. If Bell didn't manage to make it, I guess I was on my own.


I sneaked into the house, closing the door gently after me. Pausing to listen for anyone else, I proceed to round the corner into the living room. It was quiet and empty. The open kitchen was empty, too. The guard's used dish sat on the small round table near the back door. I looked up the staircase, which led straight up to the second floor. I slowly climbed the stairs, gun raised and ready.

Before I reached the top, I reached in my jeans pocket, pressed "record" on the small recorder, and slipped it into the pocket of my sweater. It would get better audio from there.

All five doors were open. I couldn't see into the rooms from where I stood at the top of the steps. I regretted not having a plan. A real plan. I shook myself. I had gotten this far. A little backup would have been useful, but I was kind of proud of myself for escaping Mike, high-jacking the merc's car, and taking out Lilynn's two guards. Now, all I had to worry about was Lilynn.

I cleared the two rooms to my right. They were empty bedrooms. Putting one foot in front of the other, I slowly walked to the third room. It was one of those messy offices with clutter everywhere. There was a desk with a computer and papers scattered all over. Quietly and compulsively looking at the door, I entered and rifled through the papers. Most of them were bills and old junk mail for Thanksgiving sales.

The stack to the right of the computer, which was more neatly organized, had far more interesting things: lists of names, dates, bank statements, cash withdrawals for hundreds of thousands of dollars, wire transfers, addresses, car rental receipts…

I was looking at a wire transfer statement for $100,000 when I heard a noise outside of the door. I froze, looking for a place to hide, but it was too late. Lilynn stepped into view and saw me standing at the desk, paper in one hand, gun in the other. With her copper-red hair in a bun and flushed cheeks, she wore a black tee-shirt and a pair of black pants. She didn't look nearly as crazy as she did the last time I had seen her, clutching a crucifix and screaming at me for killing Damien.

We stared at each other for a long moment. Just as I was thinking I couldn't wait to use my trusty knee-to-head move on her, she yelled, "Guards!"

I don't know if she was trying to scare me or buy time, because even if I hadn't knocked the guards out, they would be out doing a perimeter check. Unless there were more…but I was almost certain that there weren't. There had only been two cars in the driveway.

The silence was deafening as we waited a beat. She looked genuinely scared for a second before she forced a blank mask on her face. I was scared of her, too, which was silly considering she was smaller than me with no fighting experience. She had thrown a punch at me once outside of Callum's house and I remember it being uncoordinated and easy to dodge. I was scared of her more because of how absolutely bat-shit crazy she was.

"Hello, Ms. Simon," she said in a steady voice. She looked like she was fighting the instinct to run. "Or should I call you Dahlia? You told me I could call you Dahlia."

I stuffed the paper in my hand into my pocket. I didn't want her to start destroying evidence of hiring mercenaries and plotting to kill me. "Lilynn," I said evenly.

"How did you find me?" she asked, eyes boring holes into me.

I took a step away from the desk. "I get to ask the questions," I told her.

Her nostrils flared, and she replied, "What are you doing in my house?"

I raised my eyebrows in a clear what-did-I-just-say way. She pursed her lips and didn't look like she wanted to run anymore. She was getting angry.

"First, I want to know why you tried to have me killed that night on the boardwalk," I said.

She blinked at me with those colourless eyes. "Didn't you get my message?" she asked.

"The one you left on my kitchen counter?" I answered, jaw clenching. "The one threatening to kill my family and friends?"

"That one," she replied coldly.

"Yeah, I got it," I said. I hoped the recorder picked that up. I could at least pin her down with blackmail.

"And you decide to come here?" She moved into the room and I made sure to watch her movements carefully. "Ms. Simon, I might not be your biggest fan, but I thought you were an intelligent woman."

"I'm not here to debate my level of intelligence, Lilynn," I said brusquely. "I want to know why you have been consistently trying to kill me."

"You know the answer to that," she said with an almost suspicious lilt to her voice.

I was glad she had admitted to it. That statement could help put her away her attempted murder. I decided to respond with, "Damien," just to goad her further.

I hadn't expected the amount of fury, hurt, and insanity to fill her eyes. They glinted with it in the light coming in from the small window behind me. "Yes," she hissed.

"This was all because he dumped you," I stated.

"Not because he dumped me," she snapped. "Because of you."

"Because of me?" I said quite indignantly.

"Yes."

"What did I have to do with your relationship? I didn't even know either of you before –"

"It was all because of you," she interrupted. Her eyes were so focused on me in a way that made me completely aware of how off-kilter she was. I don't know what she had been through in the past or if Damien broke her in some way, but she was mad. Absolutely mad.

I wanted her to go further. "How so?" I asked.

"At first, he was curious about you and even then I was jealous." She shook her head. "All this Letalis Flora talk and deciding whether to kill you or turn you. He said I was being irrational because he had decided to kill you," she said. Her words didn't flow right and I became uneasy. "He decided to kill you!" she burst out suddenly, eyes distant as she stared at the window behind me. She turned her eyes towards me. "But he lied to me. He wanted to turn you."

"Yes," I said cautiously, "he did."

"He told me he liked the way you smelled," she spat. "He liked the way you smelled," she repeated, rolling the phrase on her tongue as if it was the most ridiculous thing she had ever heard. "And then he told me he wanted you to be his mate."

"Well, I never wanted to be his mate, for the record," I interjected.

She gave me a nasty look. "He wanted to turn you—"

"Yeah, against my will. Do you really think I wanted to be with a guy who tried to kill me?" I frowned at her.

"He said you could replace Masata." She seemed to be trying to gauge my expression. Masata had been Damien's "mate" who had been killed. Before trying to turn me, he had said the he wanted a new "mate" to replace her.

"Look, I—"

"He was obsessed," she continued, ignoring what I said. "All he did was stalk around the house, talking about you, planning on how to turn you—"

"Against my will," I reminded her.

"Masata, Masata, Masata, all day and then you come along and it's Flora, Flora, Flora," she muttered. "What about me? What about me?" She stabbed her chest with a finger.

"Lilynn," I said warily.

Her eyes snapped to mine. "I tried to solve this all very civilly," she said.

"You mean when you came into my office and threaten me?" I asked disbelievingly.

"I told you to stay away from him," she snapped.

"Yeah, and I tried," I said angrily. "But he nearly beat my friend to death and I didn't have a choice, Lilynn." Will's crumpled body flashed in my mind and my hand tightened on the Firestar.

"You had a choice!" she shouted. Her hands were shaking and she lowered her voice to say, "You had a choice, so I—"

"I didn't," I said. "You should have been trying to kill Damien, not me. I never wanted anything to do with you."

Her eyes narrowed, and she lowered her voice to say, "He told me I should stay with him after he turned you so that I could be a blood source."

I hadn't known that fact. It sounded like Damien, though. "I—"

"A blood source," she repeated vehemently. "For you. I only gave him blood, he knew that." My eyes darted to her exposed neck. White scar tissue caused the skin to be slightly raised. Damien's bite mark on my own neck suddenly itched. "I wasn't going to be passed on like some sort of toy to anyone, especially not to you. I wasn't going to be handed off like that. Used like that."

"I can't say I blame you," I said, almost sympathetic. It was true. I wouldn't have let myself be used like that, either. But I wouldn't have taken it out on the other woman. I would have broken up with the guy.

She didn't like that I had agreed with her. "Yes, well," she started heatedly, but I cut her off.

"And what about the bombs?" My cheek was pounded where the guy had clocked me. "You didn't even know I was going to be in that house."

Something glinted in her eyes. "Killing you or Callum Knightley would have been extremely satisfying, but that wasn't the goal."

"You wanted to buy time," I said matter-of-factly to judge her reaction. By the way she darted her eyes to the floor for a second, I knew I was right. That was a relief. That meant she had needed more time to plan something. That something wasn't imminent. "For what?"

She changed the subject. "Callum Knightley," she stated, licking her lips. "I have always wondered how you managed to get his attention, too."

"That's something you'll have to ask him yourself," I said. "I honestly don't know."

"I don't believe you."

"I don't know," I repeated. "Callum has his own reasons—"

"Callum," she spat out the name and laughed. "I can't believe he lets you call him something so informal. It's Mr. Knightley. Don't you have some respect for the hierarchy of vampires?"

I felt my brow furrow. "We're not part of the hierarchy of vampires, Lilynn," I said slowly. I couldn't talk about vampires in any serious way because of the recording, so I didn't say anything further.

"Of course we are," she hissed. She touched the bun at the base for her neck. "How can Mr. Knightley choose to protect someone who can't even respect him?"

Something twinged in my chest. I had a brief moment of wondering if Callum thought I was disrespectful to him. "Maybe it's because I smell so good." I smiled sardonically at her.

Royally ticked off, she snarled, "I'm going to kill him like you ki—"

I interrupted before she could say I killed Damien on the recording. That would certainly backfire on me. "No, you're not, Lilynn," I said loudly in order to talk over her. "It's over."

"No, it's not." She stepped into the room. "Even if you kill me right now, it's not."

Something like a smile spread across her face. It was grotesque and sadistic as hell. I didn't like it one bit. It sent a nervous shock through my system. She obviously had something in place. "What is it?" I demanded.

"What?" she said, that smile still in place.

"What do you have planned?"

She let out a laugh. "Ever heard of a Randall?" she asked, clearly expecting me not to. "Well, it's spectacular." She touched her scars absently for a moment. "Running behind, but spectacular."

My eyes darted to the stack of papers on the desk. I had seen the word "Randall" somewhere. I leaned over and shifted through a couple of papers before finding it. "Randall as in Brian Randall?" I asked, squinting at the page.

I looked up to see her horrified expression.

With pleasure, I looked back down, and said, "$250,000 payment to a Brian Randall from Las Vegas, Nevada. Interesting."

It was a mistake to look away from her because she suddenly rushed towards me in a flurry of black. She hit me at full force. I lost my balance and was flung backwards with Lilynn's hands going for my throat. We fell into a pile of clutter that consisted mostly of cardboard boxes and papers, but I fell on my tailbone with a force that knocked my breath out. The gun had fallen somewhere and I didn't have time to find it because Lilynn was on me, hands scratching for my throat. She's wasn't a heavy person, but with her sitting on top of my stomach, I found it hard to breathe. Her hands closed around my neck, choking off my air supply.

"You know," she said, breathless, "even if I don't manage to kill you, Thanatos is assembling a campaign to kill you."

Seeing stars, I tried to roll over, but she held firm.

Her fingers dug into my skin. "Vampires haven't taken you seriously as a threat," she spat. "But he's going to make sure they do. He's going to – he's going to make sure you and your little prophetic vampire powers are destroyed."

I wanted to think about what she had just said, but I was losing oxygen. I sent my hands searching for something to use but only felt sheets of papers. I looked to my right and saw a hardcover book. Lilynn was too busy trying to strangle me to notice when my hand found it. With all the force I could muster, I tried to hit her in the face with it. It distracted her enough for me to rip her hands off my neck and shove her off. I coughed and dragged in as much air as I could before she stood up and tried to come after me again.

I kicked at her legs and she stumbled, finding balance on a stack of boxes. She looked delighted that I was still on the floor. As she moved towards me, I rolled in the opposite direction and ended up a few feet away from her. I stood up before she could reach me. Glancing around, I saw the Firestar under some papers. It would not be good if she saw it, too, so I looked away and tried to find another weapon.

The desk chair was promising. I lunged forward, grasped it by the seat, and swung it to my right. It connected with Lilynn, the wheels hitting her in the chest and face. She yelled out and I went to swing it at her again, but she managed to dodge it. Taking me by surprise, she yanked it out of my hands and threw it down to the side. She sent her leg out to kick me, but I was able to grab it and push her backwards.

Falling on her ass, she didn't look happy that the roles were reversed. She glared up at me as I decided what to do next. I didn't have time to check what time it was. Were the cops close? Were they even coming? I thought my best bet was to subdue her and wait.

Just as I was thinking it couldn't be any harder than knocking out the two guards, two gunshots sounded out and I instinctively flattened to the floor. I glanced up and saw that Lilynn had found the Firestar. Her face was magnificently overjoyed and I wanted to kick myself for not seeing her reach for it. I had been too distracted thinking about subduing her when I should have been actually subduing her.

I watched her finger move on the trigger and I rolled to left before she fired. I couldn't tell if she had any firing experience. I quickly crouched, saw her try to scramble to her feet, and took the risk of standing up. I sprinted out of the room and made a sharp right turn before the shot came and the bullet whizzed through the doorway and right by my left ear. I ran past to the next room and slammed the door behind me.

Chest heaving, I realized it was a bathroom. I locked the door and immediately stood to the side so that I wouldn't get hit by any bullets she sent through the door. I ducked into the shower and covered my head as the sound of glass shattering and wood cracking deafened me.

After about seven shots, she stopped for a moment to yell, "What now?"

I raised my head, looking at the destroyed bathroom. The window to the outside was broken, the sink had come off in chunks of porcelain, and the shower curtain had singed bullet holes. My breath was coming and going so fast I thought I might hyperventilate.

The door rattled as Lilynn tried to open it. I stepped out of the shower, but stayed out of the line of fire. I swallowed, thinking of what to do and trying to regulate my breathing. I had only been shot at once before and that had been from a distance. This was so much more in-your-face.

The doorknob twisted violently and I decided to needed to get out of this bathroom. The window wasn't an option; it was too small to fit through. I looked at the doorknob and patted my pockets to make sure everything was there. I shook my head, and muttered, "Jesus Christ."

Taking a deep breath, I unlocked the door with one swift click, turned the knob and kicked it open as hard as I could. It hit something hard on the other side – Lilynn – and splintered where there were bullet holes. A half-scream, half-grunt came from her and I threw the remnants of the door out of the way. I needed to get that gun back.

She had been thrown backwards and was leaning on the railing that surrounded the staircase. There were several cuts on her face. The one on her eyebrow was dripping down like tears down her face. The effect was startling on her pale skin. Her eyes rose to meet mine and her arm came up to aim the gun at me again.

"Shit!" I yelled out, ducking to my right as she fired at me again. The bullet ricocheted on the floor. I heard her laugh and I kept running into the next room. She fired twice more, the sound reverberating in the house. I leaned against the wall and slammed the door shut with my foot. This room didn't have a lock, I noticed with a smack of dread.

How many bullets had she gone through? Three in the office, probably seven or eight in the bathroom, three just now. There were fifteen rounds in the clip. So she only had two or three left. I needed her to use them up. That would make this a lot more fair.

"Is that all you got?" I shouted.

From down the hall, I heard her make an angry sound. The floorboards creaked and I knew she was headed this way. I crouched to pick up a large pillow on the bed I was standing near. Throwing it out the door, there was a surprised cry and another shot. My mouth twitched. Only one or two to go.

She was close, so I leaped over the queen-sized bed, hitting the floor with a thunk on the other side, hidden from view. My back to the bed, I saw the knife sticking out of my sock. I grasped it and closed my eyes for a moment, thankful for that merc being well-prepared. I'd never really used a knife as self-defense before, but I had a feeling it wouldn't be too difficult.

"Dahlia," Lilynn called. Her voice was close; she was in the room. For good measure, I bent my head down further, staring at my boots. I wish I had counted how many shots she had taken in the bathroom. Did she have one or two rounds left?

I needed to get her to shoot at me without aiming. I had a better chance of getting out of this unscathed. Well, that was if she didn't hit me.

To my left, there was an attached bathroom. The door was open and I could see the open window's curtain blowing in the breeze. I swallowed hard, got on all fours, and crawled to the edge of the bed. I hopped up into a crouch.

"Dahlia," she called again.

In a slight crouch, I took two giants steps towards the bathroom and dove down once I heard two pops. Rolling on the floor, I used my legs to shut the door. She had taken two shots. Thank God. Now, I had a fighting chance.

The skin on my left arm felt hot. I looked down and hissed. One of the bullets had grazed me. Blood was dripping onto the bathroom's fuzzy white carpet. A white carpet? That was the worst idea I'd ever heard.

It wasn't bleeding too badly, so I left it alone. I slowly got to my feet, trying to clear my mind. I took a deep breath and stared at the door. I knew Lilynn was on the other side.

"What are you waiting for?" I asked loudly.

The knob turned and the door swung open. Standing with my hands at my sides and the knife clutched tightly in my right hand, I watched Lilynn raise the Firestar and pull that distorted smile back onto her face. Her face was bloody and her hair had come loose.

"Any last words?" she asked with mirth.

I pretended to look defeated, and said, "Take your best shot."

She let out a laugh and pulled the trigger. She had a moment to look confused with her face frozen in shock and eyes wide, before I collided with her. I sent my right shoulder into her in a tackle and we flew into the bedroom. She hit the corner of the bed and cried out. I knocked the gun out of her hand just for good measure. Grabbing my ponytail, she tried to rip it out of my head. I went for her hands, trying to pin her down.

There was a loud sound that echoed up the staircase. I prayed that it was the police and not Lilynn's guards. There were no bullets left in the Firestar and I didn't have the skills to take on two big, burly men with guns.

I still had the knife in my right hand. I had managed to pin both of her hands down with one of mine. I held the knife to her throat. If it was the guards, maybe I could use her as a hostage.

"Do it," she hissed, eyes flashing. "It would be fitting, wouldn't it?"

Pounding came up the stairs and I heard shouts.

"Simon?" a familiar voice yelled. "Simon?"

My heart warmed. "In here!" I answered, not taking my eyes of Lilynn.

"Do it!" she screamed, writhing against my grip on her wrists. "Do it! Kill me!"

"Don't tempt me," I told her coldly before letting go of the knife and sending my elbow straight into her head.

Her head lolled to the side and the tension in her body dissolved. She looked like she was sleeping.

"Simon!" a breathless voice came.

I turned to see Bell come to a halt when he saw me, rifle in hand. Three other police officers were quick behind him. All four of them were wearing tactical gear. Bell had taken me seriously.

He looked at me with those hard brown eyes, and said, "You okay?"

I nodded. He gestured to the other officers and they pushed into the room. Taking a final glance at Lilynn, I stood up to let them cuff her. They rolled her over, forced her hands together, and clicked the cuffs shut. They picked her up easily and carried her out of the room.

Finally able to take a proper breath, I turned to Bell. He lowered the gun and stepped into the room. He looked older than the last time I had seen him a couple months ago. He was only in his mid-30s but his beard was turning gray on the sides and the lines on his forehead seemed deeper.

"Well, you did a number on her," he commented, looking around the room. "Were you the one to shoot up the house?"

I breathed a laugh and shook my head. "No, she managed to get a hold of my gun," I said. I saw it on the floor by the bathroom. I decided to leave it there because I knew they would need it for the investigation.

Bell touched my arm with his black glove. "She got you," he said, taking a closer look.

I looked down at my arm. The sleeve of my sweatshirt was torn and I saw the raw skin underneath. "Yeah," I said, "but I managed to dodge the other fourteen just fine." I managed a cheeky smile.

He rolled his eyes and released my arm. "You're lucky she just grazed you," he told me.

"I know," I said. I reached into my sweater pocket and took out the recorder. I turned it off and held it out to Bell on the palm of my hand. "Here's your proof."

He took it from me gingerly and tucked it into his Kevlar vest. "Thanks," he said gruffly. "My Lieutenant is definitely going to want to hear this."

I winced. "Is he pissed?"

He shrugged. "Yeah, but what's new?" he said. He looked at me for a long moment before saying, "You sure you're okay?"

I took a deep breath and nodded. "Yeah, I'm fine."

He gave me his signature tight-lipped smile and jerked his head towards the door. "Come on, there's a medic downstairs."

Before we left the room, I touched his elbow and he stopped, turning around. "Thanks for coming," I said.

"We're even now," he said lightly, taking off his gloves.

"Well, not quite," I said apologetically.

Giving me a heavy look, he asked apprehensively, "What?"

"Ever heard of a Randall?"


A/N: There's only one chapter left! I know I said there would be more, but the overall opinion definitely stated long chapters were preferred. It's written, just needs some editing, so I'll post it soon! I'm moving to a different country (again) tomorrow but I hope to have a good/reliable internet connection.

Thank you so much for your feedback and continued interest, and thank you to the anonymous reviewers out there who I can't reply to!

I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter. Don't worry, both Callum and Liam will be in the next. See you soon!

P.S. - if you could take a moment to sign the petition to stop copying/pasting on FP, that would be great. The link's on my profile. This could really, really help curb the plagiarism that's been happening for years.