Mateo sounds ragged when he says, “You didn’t have to come.”

I recognize Adrian’s voice immediately when he says, “Yeah, I did.”

There’s a long pause. I feel like maybe I should open my eyes and let them know I’m awake, but this also feels like awkward timing.

Adrian pushes out a sigh, his voice low. “Did you talk to the cops yet?”

“Yeah.”

“Great.”

“I had to bring her,” Mateo defends, though without much heat.

“I know,” Adrian says, not even arguing. “It wasn’t one of your guys?”

“Of course not. Boggs.”

Adrian clears his throat. “Okay. I’ll take care of it.”

“That’s not your job anymore, remember?”

“Someone tried to kill you, Mateo,” Adrian states.

“Someone’s always trying to kill me. You did, once.”

“I didn’t try. We’ve been over this. If I tried, I would’ve.”

“Maybe you should’ve,” Mateo remarks, without humor. “Meg could’ve died, and all she did was show up with me.”

“Meg’s going to be fine,” Adrian says firmly. “Mia already caught me up before I came in. She’s going to make it. You’ve gotta stay focused.”

“Oh, I’m focused,” Mateo says, his voice rough, full of loathing. “The streets of this city are going to run red with the blood of everyone who heard so much as a whisper of this goddamn plan and didn’t lift a finger to stop it.”

“It’s gonna mean war,” Adrian says, not disagreeing, just pointing it out.

“They wanted a war. Now they’re going to get one.”

Adrian sniffles, and there’s a light impact, like he put a hand on Mateo’s shoulder. “I’m back until this is all resolved.”

There’s a brief pause, then Mateo says simply, “Thank you.”

Both men stand, I think. Even though I shouldn’t intrude, I crack my eyes open just enough to see what’s going on, and I’m surprised and a little shaken to see Adrian is actually giving Mateo a hug. A man-hug, with the unnecessary back-patting, but a hug, nonetheless.

Not friends, my ass.

I let my eyes open all the way, but it takes a few seconds for Mateo to look back my way.

When he does, I offer a little smile.

“Hey, handsome.”

Rushing to my side, he takes my hand, his eyes traveling over my body, like I might break, just speaking.

“How do you feel?” he asks.

“I feel fine,” I assure him, glancing at the IV stand beside my bed. “I probably have drugs to thank for that.”

Adrian hasn’t left yet. I think he was about to, but now he’s not sure what to do, so he just stands there awkwardly. Now that I’m looking at him, I realize he shaved off his shaggy hair, and it’s trimmed short.

“I like the new look,” I tell him.

He goes to run a hand through his much shorter hair, but realizing it, he drops his hand, still looking a bit bashful. “Thanks.”

“I’m glad you’re back,” I add.

“I’m sorry it’s under these circumstances,” he replies.

I nod, glancing uncertainly to Mateo. I don’t even know the extent of it, and I kind of need a few minutes with him to find out.

Seeming to understand that, Adrian nods toward the door. “I’m gonna get out of here. I’ll tell Vince and Mia you’re up, they’ve been waiting.”

“Just give us a minute first,” Mateo says. “Have them wait outside the door; I’ll come get them when she’s ready.”

Adrian nods, then with one last glance at me, he steps out into the hall.

“It was nice of Adrian to come,” I remark, unsure where to begin.

Mateo nods, his face still solemn. “He hates hospitals.”

He’s still holding my hand, so I give it a light squeeze. I don’t know how to ask. I don’t want to hear the answer, but I need to know. “So, I’m going to be okay?”

“They were able to remove the bullet and repair the damage. There was no exit wound and you lost a lot of blood.”

I swallow, glancing down toward my abdomen. I’m covered in bed sheets and blankets, but it’s not like I’d be able to see through my hospital gown anyway. It’s not like seeing would be able to tell me anything.

My voice is tentative when I ask, “And the baby?”

“The baby’s okay.”

My hand flies to my chest. I release a breath of relief with too much force, and I feel a pang of discomfort. Worth it. “Oh, thank God.” Realizing my necklace isn’t dangling down where it usually is, I frown.

I look to Mateo, realizing he doesn’t look as relieved as I feel. His eyes are still somewhat distant, his whole being weighted down.

“Where’s my necklace?” I ask.

“I had to take it,” he explains.

I nod, feeling the spot where it usually hangs again. “Am I allowed to have it back?” I ask lightly.

He shakes his head, his continued solemnity giving me a sinking feeling in my stomach.

I frown in confusion. “Why not?”

His eyes travel down to where I was shot and his gaze sticks on the blanket covering my wound. “You almost died, Meg. Because you were with me.”


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