Colters woman, p.27
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       Colters Woman, p.27

         Part #1 of Colters Legacy series by Maya Banks
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Page 27


  “I’m so sorry,” he choked out.

  She stirred in her sleep.

  “Ryan,” she murmured. Then tears slid from beneath her lids once more.

  Ryan finally lost the battle to stay upright. He sagged and Adam and Ethan scrambled to catch him. They hauled him over to the bed and with the help of the nurse settled him in. She then proceeded to lug in the IV poles and reattach the lines.

  She fussed over him for a good hour before finally leaving them alone.

  “Promise me, you’ll wake me when she does,” Ryan said as he stared at Adam in exhaustion.

  “I will,” Adam replied. “Now get some rest. You aren’t any good to her in your present condition. ”

  Ryan nodded and closed his eyes. He was asleep before his head fully reclined against the pillow.

  Adam turned and sank down onto the sofa while Ethan took the chair next to it.

  “We came close to losing them,” he said quietly.

  Ethan nodded. “Too close. ”

  “Something has to be done about the bastard. ”

  Again Ethan nodded.

  Adam curled his fingers into fists then flexed them outward again. He repeated the action over and over. “I’ll kill the son of a bitch myself before I let him close to my family again. ”

  Chapter Twenty-Six

  Holly slowly opened her eyes and blinked a few times to clear the cobwebs. For a moment, she had no recollection of where she was or why she was in such an unfamiliar place. And when she did remember, pain the like she’d never felt crawled through her system.


  She closed her eyes and tried to remember all that had transpired, but all she could conjure was the memory of Ryan falling, of her hand coming away from his chest covered in blood.

  Hot tears filled her eyes and escaped from her lids. She felt the slow trickle as they trekked down her cheeks. A warm hand cupped her face and gently wiped at the moisture.

  She opened her eyes to see Adam standing over her, a concerned look on his face. She blinked again to bring him into focus. She slowly became aware of the rest of her surroundings. She was in a hospital room. Her gaze darted to her other side where she saw Ethan slumped in a chair asleep.

  Just the fact that Ryan was so conspicuously absent sent another slow crawl of agony through her heart. A sob welled in her throat—one that she tried to call back—it threatened to choke her with its intensity. She was finally forced to let it out.

  It sounded harsh and ugly, even to her own ears. And once released, more surged forth until every breath brought another cry.

  “Holly, listen to me, baby. You have to listen to me. Ryan is okay. He’s not dead. He’s here. ”

  Adam cupped her chin, forcing her to look at him, piercing her with his green eyes.

  “Do you understand what I’m saying?” he demanded.

  Then she heard someone in the background.

  “Let me up, damn it!”

  “Ryan?” she whispered. It couldn’t be. She’d seen him fall. She’d heard the shot. Felt his blood.

  She struggled to sit up and nearly blacked out as pain lanced through her chest. Adam swore above her and held her down with his hand.

  “Easy, baby. Don’t hurt yourself. ”

  Behind Adam, Ryan came into view, his face haggard, eyes bloodshot, his upper half wrapped in bandages. He blurred before her as her eyes swam with tears. She’d never seen such a beautiful sight in her life.

  “Christ, Ryan, you shouldn’t be up,” Adam protested.

  Ryan pushed Adam aside, and in the next moment, Holly felt herself enveloped by Ryan’s body. She pressed her cheek into his chest, the bulk of bandages shoving into her face. She didn’t care. Didn’t care how much it hurt for her to be in such an awkward position.

  He pressed his lips to her forehead. “Thank God you’re all right,” he whispered.

  He pulled away and Holly grabbed at his hand with hers. “Don’t go. ”

  “I hate to break this up,” Adam began. “But both of you are in a lot of pain and neither of you should be doing anything but resting. Which means get your ass back in bed, Ryan. I want you both well so we can go home. ”

  Holly heard the worry in his voice. She also saw the pain in Ryan’s eyes. Her own pain was fast taking over all else. But she had to say it first.

  She reached out her hand to touch Ryan’s face. “I love you. I should have told you before. ”

  Ryan caught her hand and pressed his lips into her palm. “I love you, too. ”

  Adam wrapped an arm around Ryan and pulled him away. Ryan slumped against his brother. Holly looked up to where Ethan now stood beside her.

  “Is he okay?” she asked in a low voice.

  “He’s doing better than you are,” Ethan said dryly. He paused for a moment before touching her hair with his hand. “You scared us, doll. ”

  She didn’t respond. How could she say that they couldn’t have been any more scared than she was? She’d never been so terrified in her entire life. She hadn’t wanted to die with so much regret. Things had become so clear in those horrible minutes in the snow when she was sure she would never see Adam, Ethan or Ryan again.

  “I love you,” she said, allowing all the emotion to escape her in those three little words.

  Ethan bent to press his forehead to hers. “I love you, too, doll. So much. I never want to come that close to losing you again. ”

  She closed her eyes as he kissed her softly on the lips.

  “I hurt,” she said in a low voice.

  Ethan immediately stood upright. “I’ll call the nurse. ”

  She smiled, wincing at the effort it took. She felt Adam’s hand smooth up her arm and over her shoulder. He tenderly pushed back the tendrils of her hair over her ear.

  “Get some rest, baby. We’re all right here. We aren’t going anywhere. ”

  Holly heard the nurse come in, felt her fiddle with the IV, and seconds later, Holly felt welcome oblivion seep into her system.

  “L-love you,” she slurred, as Adam’s face weaved back and forth in her shaky vision.

  “I love you, too, baby. Rest now. ”

  * * *

  Over the next several days, Holly slept the majority of the time. Ryan became crankier and crankier until finally the nurses gave up trying to keep him in his bed. On the fourth day, they officially discharged him.

  The same day, Holly was moved from the step down unit to a regular room. Adam finally relaxed. Both Ryan and Holly were out of the woods. Soon he’d have his family back home where they belonged.

  He sat in a chair next to Holly’s bed while she slept and flexed his neck. He rubbed tired eyes and wondered if he’d ever sleep another night until he knew for certain the threat of Holly’s husband was removed.

  Across the room, Ryan sat propped on the couch, several cushions around him. His younger brother hadn’t rested nearly enough after his injury, Adam knew, but short of tying him to a bed, Adam didn’t know how to make Ryan settle down.

  Ethan sat in a chair next to Ryan, fatigue ringing his eyes. They were all so damned tired. They all wanted the same thing. To go home.

  Adam’s cell phone rang, and he hastily scooped it up so it wouldn’t wake Holly.

  He stood and walked toward the door, away from Holly’s bed. “Adam here. ”

  “Adam, it’s Lacey. Is this a bad time?”

  “No, what’s up?”

  Lacey hesitated for a moment. “How are Ryan and Holly?”

  “Better. They discharged Ryan today and moved Holly to the floor. Both need a lot of rest, but they’ll be okay. ”

  “Hey, that’s great, Adam. Look, I called because I thought you ought to know we found the guy who shot Ryan and tried to kill Holly. He’s dead. ”

  “Fuck. ”

  “Yeah, tell me about it. I wanted the bastard alive. Adam, you know this makes it hard to pin anything on Mason Bardwell. ”

  “Yeah, I know,” Adam growled.

  “What do you want me to do?”

  Adam sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “Don’t do anything yet. I need to talk to Cal as well as Ryan and Ethan. We can’t take Holly back there if it isn’t safe. ”

  “I’ll let you know if my investigation uncovers anything else,” Lacey promised.

  “Thanks,” Adam said as he closed the phone.

  He turned around to see Holly studying him.

  “Hey,” he said as he walked toward the bed. He bent and kissed her forehead then smoothed her hair from her cheek with his hand. “How are you feeling?”

  Her cinnamon eyes stared apprehensively at him. “Who was that on the phone?”

  He didn’t want to upset her, but he wasn’t going to lie to her either. “That was Lacey. The man who hurt you…he’s dead. ”

  Something savage flashed across her face.

  “Good. He nearly killed Ryan,” she bit out.

  “He nearly killed you, baby. ”

  “How is Ryan?” she asked.

  Adam blinked at the abrupt change in topic. But then Holly’s sole concentration when she was awake was Ryan’s well-being. He knew she was still dealing with the fright of nearly losing him. It was a feeling he was intimately familiar with.

  He glanced over to where both Ethan and Ryan were slumped over asleep.

  “He’s resting. ”

  Holly closed her eyes for a moment then opened them and nodded her approval. “He shouldn’t be out of bed. ”

  Adam leaned in to kiss her again. He couldn’t touch her enough. He kissed her, held her every chance he had.

  “I want to go home,” she whispered.

  “I know you do, baby. Soon. I promise. ”

  He stroked her hair and settled on the edge of her bed, careful not to jar her too much.

  She seemed to withdraw within herself. Something he’d witnessed with more frequency as she spent more time awake. It worried him. He had no idea what she was thinking.

  He started to ask her, but her eyes fluttered, and she slowly closed them. He sat with her until he heard her soft, even breathing then he eased from the bed and sank down into his chair. He could use a few winks himself.

  Chapter Twenty-Seven

  Holly stared at the ceiling, her thoughts in chaos. Adam, Ethan and Ryan were all asleep. They looked uncomfortable as hell, but she didn’t want to do anything to wake them.

  Guilt weighed a ton in her chest. Every time she closed her eyes, she saw Ryan falling again. Her worst fear had been the danger she was bringing to the brothers’ doorstep. A fear that had now been realized.

  It was time for her to make sure nothing more happened to Adam, Ethan or Ryan. Especially Ryan. She loved them all so much. The idea of losing any of them created an unbearable ache in her heart.

  She glanced over at Adam just a few feet away. His cell phone lay on the small table next to her bed. She stared at it for a long moment then slowly reached for it.

  She knew Lacey had been the last to call so her number should be stored. Holly quietly flipped the phone open and punched the series of buttons to pull up the last received call. Then she hit send.

  A few seconds later, Lacey’s voice filtered over the line.

  “Lacey? This is…this is Holly Bardwell,” she said in a stronger voice.

  There was a long pause. “What can I do for you, Mrs. Bardwell?”

  Holly took a deep breath and checked to make sure she hadn’t already wakened the men.

  “I need you to contact the district attorney for San Francisco County,” she said in a voice just above a whisper.

  Another long pause. “Does Adam know you’re calling me?” Lacey asked.

  “No, and I want to keep it that way,” Holly said firmly. “Look, Lacey. I know you don’t like me, but I do know you like Adam. Do you want what happened to Ryan to happen to him? I have to do what I can to keep him safe. Keep them all safe. ”

  “What do you want me to say to the D. A. ?”

  “Tell him I have some information on Mason Bardwell he would be very interested in. Tell him where to find me. I won’t talk over the phone. It has to be in person. ”

  “Are you sure that’s wise?” Lacey asked.

  If Holly didn’t know better, she’d swear there was actual concern in the other woman’s voice.

  “It’s my only option. I can’t let them be killed because of me. ”

  Silence descended between the two women. Finally Lacey spoke.

  “All right, I’ll make the call. ”

  “Thank you,” Holly said softly.

  She closed the phone and carefully replaced it. Then she sank into her pillows, exhausted from the energy she’d expended.

  * * *

  Two days later, the D. A. arrived, two Colorado state patrol officers flanking him. They walked into Holly’s room, eliciting immediate reactions from the brothers.

  Dread tightened Holly’s chest, squeezing her until she struggled for breath. She knew who he was and why he was here.

  “What the fuck is going on?” Adam demanded as he stood to his full height.

  Ethan and Ryan also stood. Heavy tension clouded the room, so thick you could stir it with a spoon.

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