23. Time For That Last Resort

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Nicky's POV

It was on the news the next morning. Police and FBI looking for a suspect in the murder of a Jane Doe. Burned and tortured beyond recognition.

Ryder had sent FBI teams out looking for Volkov and Sarah immediately after hanging up the phone. No one had found her. Until early this morning. She was found in an abandoned building. No identification.

That wasn't surprising. The world never knew who Sarah Smith was. She was invisible and she had liked it that way.

The only thing that told me that the body was in fact, hers, was the tattoo still clearly visible on her neck. The only part recognizable.

My gaze is locked on the TV screen, watching as the news reporters and pictures continue to flash across the screen.

Ryder comes over and takes the seat beside me. He takes the remote from my hands and switches the TV off. "We're done with that," He says.

I stare at the blank screen. "I thought you were leaving," I say quietly.

I can feel his eyes burning a hole into the side of my head. "Yeah, so did I," He says. "Plans change." He places a glass of water on the coffee table in front of me.

I just continue to stare at the blank TV screen.

"Nicky," Ryder starts softly. "you've been up all night, you haven't even changed out of the clothes you were wearing yesterday. You need to rest. You need to take your mind away from all this. If even for only a moment."

I shake my head. "I don't deserve not to think about it. It's my fault."

"No," Ryder says fiercely. "No, it's not."

Yes, it is. If I hadn't done what I did, if Sarah hadn't helped me she'd still be alive.

It didn't make it any better that my thoughts and feelings were torn between Sarah's death and the fact that Volkov would continue to go after anyone even remotely connected to me just to get to me. And Ryder was likely now at the top of his list since he'd no doubt pissed Volkov off.

This could not possibly get any worse.

I can feel Ryder staring at me, but I don't say anything else. I don't make any moves. My thoughts fly in a million different directions. All going back to Sarah. To the fact that this never would have happened if it wasn't for me.

I can feel Ryder shift on the couch next to me and before I can make any move, he wraps his arms around me and pulls me into him.

I tense up and go to push away from him but his grip only tightens. "You're tearing me apart," I hear him whisper so quietly, I think I imagined it.

"I thought you were done caring," I mutter into his chest. His chin rests on the top of my head.

"I never said that." Ryder's hand strokes the hair back from my face.

"It is not your fault," He states firmly. "This is all Volkov's fault. No one pushed him to do it. You didn't have a hand in this. It is not your fault."

I ignore him because he's wrong.

"Why are you trying to make me feel better?" I ask instead. "You were angry with me."

"I was and still am, furious with you," He corrects me. "but yelling at you isn't going to do any good for either one of us. And as you pointed out, I didn't condemn Sarah, and as far as I know, you haven't done anything horribly bad," Oh how wrong you are. "so, I'm not going to forget it. I'm not going to forgive it, but I am going to set my feelings on this matter aside. If only for a little while."

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