CHAPTER 23

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"Shut up, you asshole. She was out saving your sorry ass!" Tom yelled, his voice so loud it made my eardrums ache. Where the heck am I?

"You should have taken better care of her. She's your girlfriend. I wouldn't have let her get hurt," Sean said.

"You know what? Both of you need to shut up or get out of here right now." Now that voice, I didn't recognize. A female's voice. Gentle, but forceful.

Squeaks that sounded like sneakers dragging across a gym floor filled the air. "Push me again, Sean," Tom said. "Please."

"Enough." Mr. Smith's voice boomed.

That earned a flinch on my part. I smacked my lips, searching for moisture. Instead, they stung and a subtle, metallic taste seeped into my mouth. My eyes felt crusty as I tried to open my lids.

Oh God, I'd passed out at the bar. My heart slammed against my ribs.

"Tom? Where's Tom? Tom," I said.

A warm hand grabbed mine, and the bed sagged on my right side. "Right here, Red."

The other side of the bed indented as well. "Are you okay, Dakota?" Sean asked.

Finally, my eyelids broke through the crusties fusing them shut. Tom's face came into focus. The side of his forehead looked like the mad scientist who created Frankenstein got a hold of him. Purple and red welts littered his face.

"Some Patronus I turned out to be."

"Shhh, it's okay. We're okay." He brushed his thumb over my forehead. "How you feeling?"

"Like I ran into a brick wall. What happened?"

"Your boyfriend over there let some demon kick the snot out of you, Kota," Sean said.

I turned my head to the other side. Sean's bright eyes flickered. His forehead creased. He reached out toward my face.

"Don't," I said.

He retracted his hand. His face had no welts. No signs he lifted a finger to help. Was he even at the bar?

"Kota? You okay?" Briana's voice trickled through the anger clouding my mind. Her rust-colored eyes came into view beside Sean's left shoulder.

"I'm fine. Sean, you better start talking."

"Me? What'd I do?"

"We got the call to come save your ass and ran into whatever we ran into." I released my grip on Tom's hand and pushed myself up. Searing pain zinged up my leg.

"Oh, hey. Don't move too much," Tom said. "What do you need?"

"Water'd be great." Then I turned my focus to Sean. "Talk."

"I was just out with Charles. We were having some drinks."

"Where's Charles?" I grabbed the cup of water from Tom and gulped the icy liquid down in two swallows.

"Oh-um-." Sean stammered. "He-um-"

"Just spit it out, Sean. I'm so pissed at you right now."

"Me? Why are you mad at me? I'm not the one who let you get all beat up. I would have taken care of you better."

"Oh, shut up." I looked at Tom. "What's going on?"

"Charles didn't make it, Red."

It felt like someone kicked me in the gut. "Didn't make it? As in...didn't make it."

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