leave and don't bother to come back, at a volume that brought nurses running and with language
colorful enough to even impress Perry, who had to step between the two of us and finally
escorted Sebastian out.
The run-in shook me up as well as exhausted me and I slept into the early afternoon, waking to
find two police detectives being ushered into my room. One was in his late twenties, tall and
well-built with dark hair cut in a military style buzz and sharp brown eyes and the other was
older, in his mid forties; short and fit, with thinning brown hair and a reddish mustache that he
pulled at often.
"I'm Detective Fischer," the shorter one introduced himself, "and this is my partner Detective
Linden. We're with the Monroe County Sheriff's office…" His voice held a hint of the south and
reminded me of Liz, which in turn made me wonder how she was taking this whole thing, or if
she even knew. Perry had mentioned media coverage…
I realized the two men were watching me expectantly, and brought my mind back into focus.
"Sorry…" I told them with a wry grin. "I was just sleeping…I'm still a little out of it."
They both nodded, and this time the tall one, Detective Linden, spoke. "Not a problem, ma'am.
We're sorry to bother you. How are you feeling?"
"Like some crazy man beat the crap out of me with a stick," I said dryly, drawing a slight grin
from Linden and the barest flicker of what might have been sympathy from Fischer.
"Can you tell us what happened?" he asked and pulled a small notebook from his pocket. "We
have a good idea, but we'd like to hear it in your words."
I carefully reached out for the cup of water on the table by my side and took a few sips, gathering
my still slightly jumbled thoughts. As my mind had gotten clearer over the last several hours, I'd
remembered the attack, and the wild-eyed man who did it, but this would be the first time I'd put
it in words.
"I was down on the beach…I'd just gone for a run, and was cooling down. I started back to the
house, I saw this man - I'd seen him before, on my run, he was on the beach, one house over…he
had a walking stick, and was limping, looked like he was having trouble getting over the rise,
there, between the houses…I thought I could help him, and wondered what he was doing, what
he wanted..." I paused for another sip of water and to clear my throat as the memory of his face
came vividly to mind. I took a breath. "I said hi, and asked him if I could help him…he said yes,
and started swinging with that damn stick." I shook my head and fought down a wave of nausea,
closing my eyes until it passed. I blinked them open again. "Took me completely by surprise,
knocked me down, kicked me a few times…I tried to get up and he grabbed me and punched
me…then I got hit in the head, and that's all I remember until I woke up here."
"Did he give you any indication why he attacked you?" Detective Fischer asked.
I nodded slowly, choosing my words carefully. "I was staying with a friend for the weekend -
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Robyn Ward. Just before I was knocked out, he said, 'I saw you with her'….how he said it, his
face…he meant her, I think. He was angry with me for spending time with Robyn."
Both men nodded, as though I'd confirmed something, and Linden pulled a small envelope from
his jacket. "We'd like for you to look at some pictures for us, and tell us if you see the man who
I nodded, and he opened the envelope and pulled out four mug shots, laying them carefully on
the table beside me. Familiar, pale, wild-looking eyes looked back at me from the third picture,
and I sucked in a sharp breath. Seeing him made everything much more real. I pointed at it with
a shaky finger. "Him. That's the guy. Who is he?"
Linden hesitated, shooting a look at Fischer who nodded at him. "His name is Todd Massey." He
glanced at me, his expression asking if the name meant anything. I shook my head slightly, and
he picked up the pictures and slid them back in the envelope. "We picked him up in a public
restroom on Long Key after we had a call about suspicious behavior…thought he was just some
tourist off his meds but as soon as he started talking, we knew he was the guy."
"Yes ma'am, and then some. Guy won't shut up now, he's being pretty vocal, ranting about what
he did to you, seems proud of it even. Turns out he's got a history of stalking…nothing violent in
those, but sounds like it was just a matter of time. Three restraining orders against him in the last
five years for harassing his subjects…he's a photographer for World Weekly, based out of New
York. Paper says he was sent down here to get shots of Lonnie Colchev, but if the stacks of
photos found in his hotel room are anything to go by, our guy seems to have developed a fixation
with your friend, Miss Ward. Looks like he's been following her for a few weeks, developing
some kind of fantasy that they're together…keeps saying he was protecting Miss Ward from you,
which matches with what you told us he said during the attack."
From the carefully neutral looks I was getting from both detectives, I was betting Todd Massey
had been saying quite a few other things about me and Miss Ward. And he was a photographer.
I closed my eyes wearily. I really wanted to talk to Robyn about this, but I wasn't going to lie if
they asked me…I waited for the expected questions, but they didn't come. Instead I heard a rustle
of clothing and opened my eyes to see both men had put away their notebooks.
"Sorry to have kept you so long, Miss Harris, we'll let you get back to your rest. Thank you for
your time. If you need to get in touch with us for any reason, here's my card." Detective Fisher
laid a card on the table, and stepped back. "We'll let you know if we have more questions." He
hesitated a moment, and tugged at his mustache. "Miss Harris…I want to assure you that we're
aware of the…delicacy of this situation, and all the information gathered in the course of the
investigation will be handled with discretion."
I blinked slowly. So they definitely know. And they're going to try and be discrete about it. I
wasn't very optimistic about this kind of thing staying discrete, but I appreciated the gesture.
"Thank you," I said faintly, unable to think of anything else to say.
He nodded and the two moved towards the door, where the shorter man paused and looked back
at me. "Hope you start feeling better soon."
He struggled slowly over the rise between the houses, struggling in the deep sand, leaning on his
walking stick, limping painfully…suddenly his intense, pale eyes were just inches away, and I
could feel hot breath on my face. "She's mine…"
I jerked awake, my eyes wide. The apparition from my dream faded in the dim light of the room,
and I took a shaky breath, noting the sky outside the room's single window was dark. My back
was knotted in pain and my face and head throbbed. I took even, steady breaths, and the pain
slowly subsided as my body relaxed again. My mouth felt like cotton and reached for my water
glass, pausing when I heard movement from across the room and realized I wasn't alone.
I glanced over at the noise, expecting to see Perry, but instead found Robyn staring at me, her
dark eyes filled with more naked emotion than I'd ever seen, taking my breath away. She looked
pale and exhausted, and her eyes were dark and haunted.
Seeing her brought an ache to my chest and for a minute, I just stared.
"Hi baby," I said softly, smiling as much as I could. "You look like hell."
She let out a strangled sound that was part laugh, part sob, and closed her eyes, sending a trickle
of tears sliding down her face. When she opened her eyes again, they were full of love and I
knew, even if she hadn't said it, how much she cared.
We stared at each other for a long time, until finally she whispered, "I thought you were dead.
You weren't moving, and there was so much blood…"
She shook her head and looked down at her hands.
"I'm sorry." I said after a moment of quiet. "I'm sorry you were the one to find me, to see me like
She shook her head vehemently. "I'm not. The police think it was the sound of my car pulling up
that scared him off…if I hadn't have realized what a shit I had been and come back to
apologize…he could have killed you. He would have." She stood and paced the room. "Fuck. If I
hadn't have been such a shit in the first place, maybe this would have never happened."
She stopped pacing, her back to me, and said softly, "God, Caid, I'm so sorry. This is my fault…I
should have been there…it should have been me."
"Robyn." She slowly turned to look at me. "Come here." She didn't move. "Please," I added
softly. Slowly she crossed the room to stand next to the bed. I held out a non-splinted hand for
her and she took it hesitantly. The feel of her hand in mine was better than any drug, and I sighed
and rubbed the back of her hand lightly with my thumb. She was looking at me as though she
didn't quite believe I was real, and I tugged on her hand, pulling her forward a little more. I
caught her gaze and carefully laid her hand on my chest in a spot that wasn't bruised. "I'm okay,
baby." I told her, and covered her hand with mine. "See? Alive and well, just a little bruised."
She didn't move for several moments, and just stood looking at our hands together. Finally, some
of the tension went out of her body and she sniffed and wiped at her face with her free hand. Her
eyes ran over my face and down to my splinted arm. "Just a little bruised?" she said skeptically,
the corners of her mouth turning up into a slight smile.
Relieved that she could joke and that the haunted look was gone from her eyes, I did my best to
smile back. "Yep, just a little. Doc says I'll be good as new in no time."
She opened her mouth to say something, and then closed it.
"What?" I asked curiously.
She shook her head and gently extracted her hand from beneath mine and raised it to trail her
fingers lightly along my left cheek, the tenderness in her gaze nearly making me cry.
"I was going to say I'm glad, which I am." She found my hand with her free hand and squeezed,
looking at me intently. "But that seems so…trivial, compared to what I really feel." She took a
deep breath and leaned forward to brush her lips across mine ever so softly. "I love you, Caid. So
The words ran like electricity through my body, and I took a shuddering breath, blowing it out
slowly. I stared at her, knowing my eyes were filling with tears. My first reaction was to pull her
down and kiss her until neither of us could breathe, but in deference to my somewhat
incapacitated state, I slowly reached up and ran my fingertips across her cheek. "I love you too,
sweetheart," I whispered, and threaded my fingers into her hair, pulling her down into another
gentle brush of lips.
For a minute I forgot my injuries and tightened my grip on her hair, increasing the pressure of
the kiss, and lifting my other hand to cup her cheek…a stab of agony from my wrist brought my
movements to a halt with a hiss.
"Ow. Damn…" I froze, and so did Robyn, which is how the nurse found us when she walked in a
"Oh, hello Miss Ward. I didn't realize you were in here." She breezed in with nothing more than
a curious glance in our direction.
I expected Robyn to pull away quickly, to make excuses, to explain away what the nurse had
seen, but instead she barely flinched and stayed where she was, hovering above me with our lips
"Are you okay?" she asked softly, her eyes full of concern. "Did I hurt you?"
I swallowed convulsively at the intimate feel of her breath across my lips, and shook my head
wordlessly. She nodded and slowly straightened, flicking a glance at the nurse. "Hi Gail."
Gail smiled at her and picked up my chart, transferring her attention to me. "Just coming to
check in…how are you doing?"
"Um…good, I think."
"And how's the head? Any nausea, dizziness, light-headedness?"
"Head hurts, but none of that, no."
"Great, great. Anything I can get you?" I shook my head. "No? Okay then, just let me know if
you need anything." She glanced at her watch, and then looked pointedly at Robyn. "You really
should be resting now. Miss Ward…"
Robyn held up a hand and flashed a winning smile at the woman. "I'll let her rest, I promise."
Gail hesitated, looking between Robyn and me briefly. "Okay then," she said with a nod. She
flashed a smile at Robyn and told her, "Nice to see you back, Miss Ward," before pushing out of
I smiled slightly when she'd left. "You've made yourself quite a fan club. Of course, that doesn't
surprise me - I'm rather fond of you myself."
Robyn toyed absently with the thin blanket on my bed, staring down at it. "The staff here -
especially the nurses - they've been great to me…letting me sit with you when it was against the
rules, keeping me in the loop about what was happening…Gail even let me stay after your
brother laid down the family only policy, but when he saw me in your room…"
"Sorry about Sebastian," I said with a wince. "He can be…trying."
She chuckled and stroked my hand. "That's very diplomatic of you." Her face turned concerned
and she looked up at me. "I heard you two went at it this morning…are you okay? Sounds like it
was quite the argument."
I shifted on the bed. "Let's just say no one can push my buttons quite like Sebastian…he's my
brother, so on some level, I love him, but mostly I just want to kick his teeth in."
She raised a surprised eyebrow at that, and then looked down at our hands, picking mine up and
bringing it to her lips before placing it carefully back on the bed and meeting my gaze. "I also
hear that he was blaming me for this…" she stepped back from the bed and wandered over to the
window. "And really, he's right. If you hadn't known me, if I hadn't left…" She paused, looking
out the window, and shook her head. "I'm sorry, Caid. I'm so, so sorry."
"Sorry for what?" I asked with a frown. "For inviting me to spend the weekend with you? For
She turned quickly and her eyes flew to mine. "No! God no! Loving you…I'll never be sorry for
that. It's the only thing I've done right in this whole mess."
I smiled slightly, trying to lighten her sudden melancholic mood. "I hardly consider it a mess,
and I can think of a few other things you've done right…"
I was rewarded with a tiny smile before her face saddened. "I just feel like this is my fault
Well, that line of thinking definitely had to go. We had enough problems without her dragging a
truckload of unnecessary guilt around for god knows how long.
"Damnit, Robyn, that's bullshit and you know it. Did you attack me? Club me with a walking
stick? Kick me? Punch me?"
She visibly flinched.
"Did you?" I pushed.
She shook her head. "No," she said in a voice that was barely a whisper, "but…"
"No!" She blinked at the vehemence of my voice. "No buts. This is no one's fault but the man
who did it. He did this. Not you. Do you understand me?"
After several long moments, she finally nodded.
I released a slow breath, suddenly very tired. "Good. Now get over here and kiss me."
A small smile played on her lips as she moved to the bed and looked down at me. "So
demanding," she murmured, and leaned in to brush feather-light kisses across my forehead,
cheek and finally my lips.
I closed my eyes and sighed. "God I love you."
When I opened my eyes, she was smiling that smile; the one that made it hard for me to breathe.
"I love you too, baby. I'm sorry it took me so long to say."
"And now you've told me twice in ten minutes…" I reached for her hand. "I feel like I've won the
lottery or something."
She laughed quietly and raised my hand to her lips. "I love you, Caidence Harris."
I closed my eyes and relaxed back into the pillow with a smile. "Oh my," I murmured. "Three
times in ten minutes. Look Ma, I'm a millionaire."
She chuckled. "I don't know about that…" she paused, and I felt her lips touch my forehead
again. "But I know of one who's available if you want her," she whispered.
I opened one eye. "A millionaire, huh?"
She shrugged nonchalantly. "Not as big a deal as it used to be, but yeah."
I opened the other eye and regarded her thoughtfully. "She hot?"
She blinked and let out a surprised bark of laughter. "Depends on who you ask."
"Uh-huh." I pulled her forward against the bed and released her hand so I could rest mine on her
hip and brush my thumb lightly against the warm skin just above the waistband of her jeans.
"Depends on who you ask?" I repeated skeptically. "Just who are you asking? Dead people and
She laughed again and I closed my eyes with a happy sigh, loving the sound of her laughter and
the contented warmth it caused. She brushed a hand through my hair soothingly and I relaxed
under the caress.
I jerked awake a little later, not knowing if it was seconds that had passed or minutes, but the
warmth of Robyn's skin was still under my fingers and I stroked absently, opening my eyes to
find her looking down at me pensively.
"So," she asked hesitantly. "Do you want her?"
It took me a second to realize what she was talking about. When I did, I smiled slightly. "The hot
She smiled, but her eyes were worried, and I could tell she was unsure of my answer. She
actually thought I would say no? Crazy woman.
I squeezed her waist. "Yes, I definitely want her. More than I've ever wanted anything in my
"She'll be very happy to hear that," she told me with a wide smile, and leaned down to kiss me
lightly on the lips. "Now close your eyes and go to sleep."
"M'kay." I let my eyes flutter shut. "Love you."
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