What's eleven times like fucking infinity?
“Lola,” I say, feeling a few tears leak down my cheeks. She looks up at me from that beautiful round face of hers while crimson heat oozes out around my fingers, soaking through the shirt and dripping onto my jeans, pooling on the floor. Her lips are gently parted and her face is pale, so pale, ghostly white. No, no, no, no. I swallow hard, trying to get control of myself.
“LOS ANGELES!” It's a scream twice as epic as my own. Turner Campbell. “CALM THE FUCK DOWN!” The sound echoes around us all, smashing into my brain, paralyzing me even though I'm not fucking moving. Thank God. “Nobody's going to shoot you!” Turner sobs. Yes, sobs. You heard me. Freaking sobs. Oh my God, Naomi Knox, NO. “But if you don't calm down, you'll kill each other. You'll kill Naomi Knox. We need a doctor up here. Get on your phones, call 911. Somebody please. There has to be a fucking doctor out there.”
My heart breaks for my friend and the crowd responds in turn, the raucous roar quieting to an equally intense murmur. A split second later, Brayden Ryker is bursting back through the curtains with blood on his boots and an angry scowl stuck to his lips.
“Don't tell the cops a feckin' thing,” he snaps at me, sweeping by, acting as if the sight of Lola's broken body means friggin' nothing to him. “Not a Goddamn feckin' thing.”
“Ronnie.” It's Sydney, moving back around me and kneeling by my side. When she reaches out a hand and brushes it across my cheek, I know things are bad. I hug Lola tighter, and she grunts, forcing me to relax my grip. Our eyes meet again as Sydney speaks. “Help's on the way. I called 911.” She glances back and cringes at something, presumably Brayden or one of his men, dropping her voice to a whisper. “I have no idea what just happened here, but if I were you, I'd keep my mouth shut. Don't say a word about what happened, not even about who shot Lola.” Sydney stands up at the same moment I hear pounding footsteps. “He's dead,” she calls out, and I hope she's referring to that bald guy Lola shot. If it's Jesse, I … or even Milo. Fuck. “We need help over here.”
“You're going to be okay,” I promise Lola as they drag her from my arms and try to inspect me for injuries. I bat away gloved hands and ignore mechanically asked questions as I try my best to keep my eyes on the love of my life. They load her up on a stretcher and carry her away, asking me if I'm family, taking my silence to mean no. At the last second, I tell them yes, but they're holding me back, and I think I'm screaming. I'm screaming and reaching for Lola, and she's disappearing into the back of an ambulance that's driving away before I can reach it.
I run after it for a long time, too long, until I hear cops screaming at me to stop.
When I do, I collapse to my knees and wonder how everything in my life has gotten so fucked up.
Dunno, dunno, dunno.
That's what I told the cops.
Dunno, dunno, DO NOT FUCKING KNOW.
I rock back and forth, head clutched in my hands as I try to force myself to breathe. Two feet away from me, Turner Campbell wails. No joke. Kid you not. Think he's a pussy for crying? Then you've never lost a loved one. Go fuck yourself.
“Turner!” Milo's trying desperately to get his attention, shaking his shoulder, grabbing his arm, even slapping the side of his face. It's a gentle Milo sort of a slap, but a slap nonetheless. Under normal circumstances, Turner would be slapping – or probably punching – him right back. “Turner Campbell.” No response. Turner is sobbing right now, and I don't blame him. Naomi got shot, too. Apparently while trying to save the kid, Tyler Rutledge, from Poppet. This, supposedly, happened about thirty seconds before Brayden Ryker stormed back there and shot the woman right in the face, splattered her blood all over Naomi as she passed out, collapsing on top of a dead woman. This calls for a royal bout of cursing.
“Fuck,” I growl under my breath, jerking my hands away from my face. We're sitting in a hotel room, but only because Brayden's men won't let us sit at the hospital. That's right. At gunpoint, we were escorted back here. To be fair, they tried asking nice first, but Turner exploded on their asses and now, here we are. Sitting on the edge of one of two queen beds and freaking the fuck out. The cops questioned us before we even got to the hospital and then, Brayden's people took over. Whatever the hell is going on, it goes deep because apparently, their rules trump the law. That's fucking scary. “Leave him alone, Milo,” I snap because shit, Turner has no idea if Naomi's even still alive. She was – just barely – when they threw her in an ambulance after Lola left, but life can change in the blink of an eye. Turner and I both know that oh so well.