Chapter 13 - "I can't ever lose him."

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The world crashed in on Carter. Her chest constricted, as her heart banged against her rib cage. The men noticed her and walked towards her, their faces serious. They descended the stairs, their movements perfectly in sync.

Carter stumbled back, shaking her head vigorously. Panic and fear swept over her, killing the world around her except for the sight of the two men. Her throat tightened and her mouth filled with bile. Her mind flashed to an empty apartment, an empty bed, a dark suit folded away. A new wave of terror crashed into her as the images darted around her head.

One of the men moved forward and Carter recognized Curtis. He stretched a hand out to her.

"No, no, no, no, no, no!" she yelled, her fist flying at his face.

Her blow never made its target, her movements lacking any true focus. Curtis snatched her wrist in his large, muscular hand. She pulled against him, all the while screaming 'no'. Every inch of her wanted to run, move away from him and the words he would say. The truth that she never wanted to hear and had dreaded hearing everyday of her life. She fought harder, her body cried out to be released so she could flee. Curtis kept a hold on her, his hands grasping her wrists in a vise like grip. 

"Carter! He's alive!" he yelled, trying to be heard over her panicked voice. "Do you hear me? Your father is alive."

Through the storm of her thoughts and yells, the words came to her. She froze and stared at Curtis. He nodded. Relief like she had never known swept over her, making every muscle weak.

Her legs buckled under the weight of it and Curtis caught her before she fell to the ground. For a moment all she could do was lean against him, trying to find her breath once more.

"He's alive." The words rang through her head, chasing away the images that her fear had conjured up.

When the weak sensation passed and her breathing was normal, she looked up at Curtis.

"He's alive." she said.

Curtis nodded. The simple gesture gave her strength and she pushed herself, shakily, from him. Her legs felt weak, but she didn't crumble. Curtis kept one hand on her arm, watching with concerned brown eyes.

"What happened? Where is he?" she asked, her voice uncharacteristically small.

Curtis kept his hold on her arm, worried his next words might make her fall again.

"He was shot in the right shoulder," he said. Carter took in a ragged breath, but remained upright. "The bullet went through. He's at the hospital. It was a minor surgery. We tried to call but you didn't answer."

As the panic subsided, the words slowly filtered into her mind. She digested the information, her strength returning to her legs. When her mind had processed it all, she looked at Curtis, a hopeless need appearing in her eyes.

"Take me to him," she said.

Curtis nodded. He walked to the car and pulled the back door open for her, still watching her with concern. She slid inside, not even noticing the clean interior or the soft leather seats. Curtis stepped into the driver's seat, while his partner took the passenger side. The car gave a low purr as it started and they pulled away from the empty apartment.

The world blurred around Carter as the car rushed by; houses, apartment buildings and stores. Yellow light poured from windows onto the sidewalk. Streetlamp flashed by, their light illuminating the darkness.

Curtis's words ran through Carter's head on an endless loop. The car was buried in silence. As the miles raced past, Carter's mind began to return to the world around her. On the tail end of the realization that her father was going to be okay, came a single thought. The last traces of her panic and fear were burned away by an intense anger. She turned away from the darkened window and looked at the rear view mirror.

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