PART 3, SECTION 12

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“Ashley?” Another soft knock. “It’s me. Are you there?”

I recognized the smooth voice of a professional singer. I knew right away who it was. Bryce Tripp was in my parents’ house.

I practically collapsed in relief.

“I have your phone,” he said through the door. “I hope I’m not bothering you. Sorry for showing up so early.” He was playing it cool, but I could tell he was shaken by everything that was going on in town. He must have been stuck in Muldoon since the roadblocks went up. “I hope it’s okay,” he said. “Your dad said I should just come up.”

I set Morgan’s legs back onto the floor, moved the chair from the door, and opened it.

Right away Bryce saw Morgan on the floor. “What the hell?” He knelt beside her. “What happened? Is she okay?” He gave her swollen eye a closer look. “Oh my God. She’s not okay.”

“I can’t explain,” I said. “Not now. But I need help. Will you help me? Please.”

“Yes,” he said. “Sure. What? Anything.”

“Just don’t ask any questions. I’ll try to explain later. I have to get her someplace safe. She’s not safe here. I can’t carry her on my own.”

“Whatever you say.”

Bryce gathered Morgan’s limp body into his arms and lifted her. He was taller even than Ian, and he picked her up like she weighed no more than a pillow. He was wearing only a t-shirt and jeans, and when he stood cradling Morgan, the muscles in his arms tightened. He probably had to keep in such good shape for his stage presence and his album covers, but now all of his working out was paying off in a much more practical way.

When he looked at me with his icy blue eyes, casually waiting to do whatever I told him to do, the same wave of physical attraction I’d felt when I first spoke to him at the concert passed over me again.

I felt so guilty. Morgan was on the verge of death, and yet I was undeniably, if very strangely, turned on.

“Follow me,” I said. “We have to get her out of the house.”

I made sure no one was coming up the stairs or standing on the landing.

“Hurry,” I said.

I led Bryce quickly down the stairs and outside. . .

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