NINE

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I sped through Los Angeles as the streets started to bustle with morning traffic. The sun was already blistering the city with its presence, and my eyes were too sensitive to deal with it. Last night I had gotten maybe an hour of sleep total, because if it wasn't the constant anxiety it was the image of Melissa bleeding that made appearances in my dreams.

I had done that. My stupidity had almost killed her. And the fact that she had basically saved my life only made it worse.

Pulling up to the hospital I parked and exited the car. What on earth was I going to say to her? Last night she had gone into surgery immediately, and now she was in recovery. The front lobby was slow in giving me directions to her room, but I eventually found myself staring at her door.

Willi would be in there with her. I would offer to relieve him but he probably wouldn't want to leave her side. It took me a minute to gain the courage to knock.

I did, three times, and then let myself in. Willi appeared, elbows resting on his knees as he peered up at me. Melissa was still asleep. And in my opinion Willi looked worse than she did.

I whispered, "How is she?"

He just nodded, "Lucky. The bullet didn't go through the shoulder. No broken bones, no major arteries..."

I looked at her from the door, the steady sound of the heart monitor keeping me in reality. "Go get some breakfast. I'll stay with her."

My willingness to stay with Melissa might've shocked him, but he was too tired to show it. He probably just figured I felt guilty. That wasn't a lie.

He agreed. "I'll be back in a few hours."

I caught something in his expression before he disappeared out the door. I knew it was about how things had spiraled out of control last night. Derik had excluded me for a reason, and Willi knew why. Thinking too much about it wouldn't do me any good anyway. Besides, did it really matter when the outcome had been Melissa ending up in the hospital?

And of course the fact that I had stormed off like a pissed child made everything worse. The guard had been waiting for me, but what if I wouldn't have left? What if I hadn't gone down by myself? I didn't doubt that the guard would've shot us all dead in a heartbeat. Maybe in a twisted way my stupidity had saved us all.

But Melissa was the real reason we were alive. If she hadn't been following me I would've been dead. And after that no telling what would've happened to the rest of them.

I raked my hands through my hair as I tried to see the positive side in all of this. All I could hope was that Derik had gotten the footage on that camera. If he hadn't then all of this would've been for nothing.

"God I'm starving..." Melissa groaned.

Nearly jumping out of the chair I realized she was coming too. "Melissa you scared the shit out of me!"

"Sorry," she mumbled.

I settled back into my chair and scooted closer to her. "How do you feel?"

"Tingly," she nodded, and I figured it was her painkillers. They must be wearing off.

Up until now I hadn't realized how worried I had been over her. It was unfamiliar. Usually I only cared about a handful of people. That being Anna, Derik, and Willi, but Melissa had somehow joined that group. Prioritizing her health hadn't been planned on my behalf.

She moved to sit up but I protested, "You should lay back down."

She ignored me, hitting the button to call the nurse. "It's the red one, right?"

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