twelve. Oh, Brother

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I was in shock.

It was the only way to explain my current state.

I stood frozen, unable to utter even the smallest sound or to move a single muscle. My eyes were fixed on the gun currently casually pointed at a spot between my two eyes and I felt a wave of warmth spreading from my toes to my scalp of as though my blood had all vacated my lower body to gather in my head.

My fingers were tingling and my mouth felt awfully dry; time seemed to slow down as I tried to recall if my self-defence class had covered the course of action to follow when held at gunpoint. Unfortunately, I came up empty-handed.

I don't know how much time passed before my survival mode kicked in but when it did I raised both shaking hands and tried to look innocent. "Wait! Don't shoot!"

I really hoped he wasn't of the "shoot first, ask questions last" persuasion as that would considerably hinder my chances of getting out of this ordeal alive.

His eyes narrowed further and his gun didn't waver. I was slowly starting to feel nauseous as I imagined his finger squeezing the trigger –somehow, I didn't think he'd miss –and as the prospect of a very near and very sudden death became less and less improbable.

"What the fuck, man?! Lower the gun!" Gabe's footsteps clanged on the spiral staircase, but I couldn't tear my gaze away from the barrel.

When Gabe's silhouette entered my field of vision, I was seconds away from fainting. He walked in front of the bald gunman, blocking him from view and I didn't know whether I wanted to thank him or scream at the top of my lungs because he'd just walked in front of a gun which was now pointed directly at his neck.

I opted for neither one of these options because right then, my legs gave out from under me.

Gabe was saying something to the bald guy while I was busy hyperventilating as dark spots danced across my vision.

"I think I'm about to faint," I said to nobody in particular. And then, as another wave of nausea hit me head-on, "I think I'm gonna be sick." Cold sweat made my clothes stick to my skin and I shuddered –it was only then that I noticed that I was freezing cold.

"Not on my carpet." Gabe's firm tone sounded far away, and the floor felt as though it was undulating underneath me which made me even more nauseous.

A hand rested on my shoulder. "You'll be fine. Just take deep breaths." I'd never heard Gabe use this soothing tone and it startled me enough to make me forget about my upset stomach. I looked up at him, teeth chattering and he was eyeing me with something akin to worry.

I focused on his face and followed his advice, sucking in a long, shuddering breath. "Good. Keep going." The hand on my shoulder traveled upwards and he pulled away the hair that was stuck to my neck with sweat. Another shudder shook me from head to toe as cool air brushed against my skin, but at least my teeth had stopped chattering and my vision was no longer obscured by dark spots. I looked up at the guy who'd been pointing a gun at me just mere moments ago and found him glaring at me. I averted my gaze quickly and looked at Gabe, who was now glaring back at his hair-challenged friend.

He turned his attention back to me and a worried frown creased his brow. "Feeling any better?"

I nodded, staring at him with wide-eyed wonder. I knew he was Alessandra's big brother, but his usually blunt and harsh manners didn't exactly hint at a softer, brotherly side.

Not that I was complaining. It was kinda nice to have Gabe be halfway nice for once, without the sarcasm or the unexpected mood swings.

His hand left my neck and I felt strangely disappointed. I couldn't pinpoint why exactly, but his touch had felt nice –it'd been so gently comforting that it almost managed to make me forget the predicament I'd found myself in minutes ago. He helped me up onto the couch and pulled the blanket that lay crumpled at one end of it over me, before he left to fix me something warm to drink.

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