"SHIT! OH SHIT!"
The ringing lessened and Brian's voice filled the air. I had survived through my prayers. My eyes flew open and I spun around. Tibby!
There was a lot to take in as the scene unfolded in front of me. I felt Cole's hands on my shoulders before he sank down and hugged me. Gregg was lying still, his mouth open and a trickle of blood oozing out from the corners. His eyes were open, but unseeing. Tibby was lying in a heap nearby. Cole let me go long enough for me to scoop her up. I sobbed, but it was a relieved torrent of tears. She was still breathing.
Brian sat inside the shed, his face wracked with pain. His hands were clamped around his foot. It was then that I noticed the blood.
He was hurt.
"You were awesome!" Cole yelled. He got up, ran past Gregg's body, and threw his arms around Brian's neck. Stunned, Brian gave him a tight one-armed hug.
"Back here! Back here!"
Baylee came tearing into the backyard, two cops hot on his heels. Brian tipped his head back, sucking air between his clenched teeth. Cole stepped back, finally realizing there was even more amiss.
"What happened?" I asked dumbly.
"I shot myself in the foot," he groaned.
"There's our hero."
Brian was sitting up in the hospital bed, his foot heavily bandaged and propped up on a pillow. He grimaced. "More like Barney Fife."
"Don't say that," I said. I tugged at the string I held. "I brought you a balloon."
I felt ridiculous. Here I was bringing a balloon to thank the man who had killed the guy who had almost killed my family. Yet, Brian broke into a ridiculously big smile.
"I love it."
I tied the large happy face balloon to the end of his bed and sat down in the rather uncomfortable padded chair at his bedside. I stared at my hands, lost for words.
My lips twitched. "She's telling the nurses all about what happened. Her order of events is a little bit skewed."
"Something about a giant tennis shoe hitting the big bad guy and sending him back up his beanstalk."
"Quite an imagination. Of course, she should be proud. She thwarted my entire security crew. They weren't trained to follow a little girl pretending to be a bear."
A knot the size of the Grand Canyon welled up in my throat. It pained me to swallow. "I'm so sorry," I whispered.
The bed squeaked. "Sorry about what?"
I looked up. He was staring at me and still smiling. I rationalized that they must have given him some damn good drugs.
"I'm sorry for bringing this mess on you."
"Are you serious? Jilly, I wouldn't have wanted you to turn anywhere else. I wanted to be the one that took that bastard down. Sure, I shot my foot getting the gun out, but it could have been worse."
I shook my head. "I don't understand."
"Well see, I had already pulled back the safety and--"
"Not that," I said. He smiled.
"It's simple," he said. "I love you. I love Tibby. I love Cole. Heck, I think he even likes me a little bit now."
I laughed, a crazy strangled sort of laugh. "He more then likes you."
"Jilly, take pity on me. I'm a reckless, love crazy, irrational shooter. Tell me you love me too. Even a little."
My eyes didn't leave his. I stood up and walked over to the bed. I didn't say anything for the longest time. His blue eyes flickered with sadness.
"Damn you," I whispered. I pressed my hands against his face and leaned over.
Then I kissed him until my lungs felt like they might explode.
Baylee hopped out of the ugly dark blue upholstered chair and ran towards a beautiful, blonde woman. She wore a one-piece jumpsuit, accessorized with a matching scarf draped elegantly around her neck. She opened her arms, bent over, and caught him in a hug.
"You poor thing!" she cried. "I've been worried sick!"
"It was fine, mama. Dad told me to wait for the police and I got to bring them into the backyard. And you know what else? There was a dead guy back there."
Her eyes widened and it was then that she looked past Baylee and honed in on me. She stood up to her full height and marched towards me.
"Are you the one that caused all this?" she said briskly.
Cole glared up at her. Tibby was asleep in a room down the hall; I was just awaiting discharge papers. Bristling at her tone, I stood up and held my head high.
"I'm Jillian. I'm sorry we had to meet under these circumstances."
She didn't take my hand. "You put my son in danger."
I felt my nostrils flare. "Brian made sure Baylee was safe. My children were the ones in danger. He's a hero."
"He's a fool. He'll be lucky if he doesn't go to jail for this. Baylee come."
Baylee stared at her and for a second he looked conflicted.
His shoulders slumped, but he did what he was told. I watched them head down the hall, my anger building.
"What a bitch," Cole muttered coming to stand by me.
The last time he had said the 'b' word, I had washed his mouth out with soap. But this time, I had to agree.
My eyes were still locked on the hallway, now empty. "Yeah?"
"If we're gonna stay down here, we need Hoover."
I looked down in surprise. "You want to stay?"
"Well," he stuffed his hands in his pockets. "I feel safe. Besides..."
"He does wear some pretty cool shoes."