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I love her.

I loved Quincey.

If I hadn’t known before, I knew now. It rose in me, taking me over, and it was pounding through every cell in my body.

I loved her, and now I knew I couldn’t lose her.

I wouldn’t lose her.

Please, God.

“She is alive, yes.” From the nurse.

That was some relief. Some. Not enough.

“What happened?”

“I’m not at liberty to update you on Miss Royas, but she was very adamant that I call you. Please come, and by the time you get here, we’ll have the appropriate paperwork filed so you can be looped in.”

Looped in.

I’d be looped in, you bet your ass.

I growled but hit the signal because the exit for the hospital was clear fucking the other way. “I’ll be there. Get that paperwork done.”

“Wait.” Aspen touched my arm. “Who’s her emergency contact? Would she have gotten that updated?”



I was praying as I asked the nurse, “Did you call her father?”

She hesitated before saying, “Just get here.”

Get there.


That was all I was doing.

I was going to get there, now.

Aspen was on my phone, but her one hand came out to squeeze my arm. “She said she’s alive. She’s asking for you. Those are two good signs. Let’s go from there. Now.” She held my phone up. “Who do I need to call?”


I wanted a fucking army there for her.

My parents. Stephanie and Guy.

Her siblings.

My family.

My friends.

Her friends. I wanted the goddamn cavalry to arrive because they called Duke. I knew they did the instant Aspen asked.

So he was there or had been there.

She was there, helpless to him.

She’d be lying in a hospital bed, needing me, and he would’ve walked in.

Torment slashed through me.

I just needed to be there.

I had to protect her, shield her…

I had to love her.

I had to tell her that I loved her.

I wasn’t aware that Aspen was holding my hand until she squeezed it, using her other hand to go through my phone. “She’ll be okay.” A pause, her voice dipping low. “It’s not like with Owen.”


It couldn’t be like with him.

My voice broke, and I blinked, needing to see and clear my vision. “I love her, Aspen.”

She squeezed my hand hard. “I know you do.”





They were removing my tube when I heard holy hell being raised in the hallway.

“I will be going in there. Now move.”

The door was opening—a hand appeared, stopping it. A nurse shoved her way between that voice and my room. “You can’t— Sir! You need to wait.”

Two hands went under her arms, and she was lifted clear from the doorway. A second later, one of those hands came to the door, and it was shoved open.

Nate walked inside, a glower set firm on his face.

He stopped just inside, seeing me, and seeing what they’re in the middle of doing. He closed his eyes.

Alarm rose as I saw him waver on his feet, but then a smaller hand grabbed his arm from behind. Recognizing his sister as Aspen came around him, holding him up, I relaxed.

He’d be okay. He had family with him.

Then I gagged as they pulled the tube out.


My throat was burning.

Holy crap.

I coughed, feeling it spasming down to my lungs.

I wouldn’t recommend getting intubated, ever.

“You okay?” Nate came over, taking my hand. His other hand went to my shoulder. He began rubbing it in a slow, comforting motion. “Is she okay? Why was she intubated?”

The doctor glanced at me.

I nodded, saving my throat for better things, like breathing.

Nate’s hand kept going, and I leaned into him. It felt nice.

It felt loving, and that sent a whole different burning through me, but I pushed past that. It wasn’t the time or place.

“Miss Royas was hit by a car. The paramedics worried about a head injury, so she was intubated, but her CT came back fine. She will need to stay for a few days to follow protocol, make sure everything is fine.”

“Is it?” He was scanning over me, deep bags under his eyes. “Is she okay?”

He also looked like he’d aged five years.

He cared.

That realization warmed me, but I was Nova’s other constant.

Of course he would care.

“She should be fine. She took a hard hit, but no ribs were fractured. She has a broken wrist and a badly sprained ankle, but those seem to be the extent.”

A whoosh of air left Nate, and he sank down into the chair beside my bed, still holding my hand, and his other hand resting on my shoulder. “She’ll have to stay for a few days for that?”

“It’s the protocol following a suspected head injury. Her CT was fine, but we want to make sure it stays that way.”

Nate nodded, heaving another sigh before finding my gaze. “Hi.”

I tried to smile, but that hurt, too. “Hi.”

“You were hit by a car?”

I took a breath. My lungs hurt, but they were working. It felt better to have that tube out. “Yes. I forgot where I was on the sidewalk. I guess I needed a car to remind me.” It was a weak joke, but this was where we were.

It was hitting me that I wouldn’t be dancing tomorrow. Or, glancing at my casted wrist, for a long while.

“I’ll check in with you later on. We’ll get your file updated as well.” The doctor gave me a smile before leaving the room.

Aspen moved to stand where he vacated, and she glanced at a bag of my items that a nurse left on the bed stand. “Do you need me to make any calls for you?” Her eyes flicked to her brother, who was still holding my good hand so tightly.

I nodded. “Yeah. Is Nova…?” I turned to Nate.

“She’s fine. Aspen called Emily on the way here. She’s going to stay and watch her as long as we need her.”

“And I’ll head back to relieve her later as well.”

“You need to sleep. You had a long flight.”

She glanced at her brother. “Kinda got some adrenaline now. I won’t be sleeping for a bit.”

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