Home > Silver Lining (Diamond #3)(2)

Silver Lining (Diamond #3)(2)
Author: Skye Warren

Holly turns her head, her lips forming words that make no sound.

Dax is the one with the medical knowledge, but I’ve seen enough as a soldier. Enough to know that her odds are unknown right now. Incalculable. The bullet might as well have been a roulette ball around a wheel. It’s a goddamn gamble. People get shot through the heart and live. They got shot through the liver and die. There’s no logic to be found.

I have both palms splayed across the gauze, across Holly’s side. My hands feel inadequate for the job set in front of me. Other jobs in my life have seemed bigger. Killing my father. Burying his body. But now those things are painfully, uselessly small.

They were nothing in comparison to this.

“I can’t fix a bullet wound blind, Eli. Gonna have to move your hands.” A sharp look in my direction. “Move your goddamn hands.”

It’s urgent. I know it is. It’s a goddamn emergency. But how am I supposed to stay sane without my hands on her? Without being able to feel that she’s warm and alive?

I give myself to the count of three, then gently lift my hands away.

Dax shoulders me out of the way, taking up all the space on the side of the cot. My bloodied hands hang uselessly at my sides. I should go wash them, but I can’t. I’m stuck here, staring, past the event horizon of a black hole. Couldn’t look away if I wanted to, and I don’t want to. She doesn’t react to the pinch of the needle. The goosebump sensation of superstition tiptoes up my back and grips me around the back of my neck. If I keep looking, she’ll stay alive.

“I don’t see a wedding band,” he says, and it takes me a second to catch. The fight or flight response taking my body only allows for things like violence and fear.

“We aren’t married.”

“She say no?”

“I didn’t ask her.”

“What the fuck’s taking you so long?”

What the fuck is taking me so long? Was I waiting for her to be shot? Was I waiting for her to bleed out in my arms? The reality is that I didn’t have a life, didn’t have freedom when I was beholden to the colonel. She knew that. That’s why she shot him, to free me, but that’s the thing. He owns me even in death. Lieutenant Colonel Mark Jefferson owns me for eternity. He’ll take her away from me without drawing a single breath.

“Come here and clean this up.”

Something hard untwists in the vicinity of my spine. Soldiers are men of action. They’re not meant for standing around during battle. And this, for all it looks like a back alley operation, is a battle. Holly’s fighting for her life. A fresh acid guilt burns through me. If it weren’t for me, the colonel never would have come after her. She never would have fired that gun. She wouldn’t be bleeding out on a safehouse cot in front of me.

My heart keeps beating while Dax stitches her up.

Holly's does too.

Dax has efficient hands. He’s seen worse than this. So have I. I’ve caused things worse than this, but never to a civilian. Holly isn’t a soldier and she shouldn't have been shot.

And none of this would have happened if I hadn’t slipped a diamond into her bag years ago. There’s no going back. Even if I could, I wouldn’t.

That’s the truth. The truth that digs in and hurts, even now. I wouldn’t change a goddamn thing. I would still put that diamond in her bag, even if I knew she’d end up shot, even if I knew she’d end up kidnapped and hurt and dying in a church basement. I would still do every terrible thing if it meant knowing what she tastes like and what she feels like and what she sounds like.

Dax gives her a syringe of hardcore antibiotics.

There is no God in this church but there’s a man with no qualms about operating outside a license. Close enough. A short eternity later he straightens over the cot, and it’s only then that I notice the color returning to her cheeks.

Color.

Relief is a freight train. A tsunami wave. If I wasn’t so used to standing up I’d fall to my knees, me, Elijah North, a trained killer and an aching, open wound.

Dax puts his fingers on Holly’s neck, his brow furrowed, and takes stock of her pulse. Then he steps back from the table. For a horrifying instant I think he might pronounce the time of death, but instead he takes me by the arm and turns us away from the cots as if we’re stepping outside of a real hospital room. My heart stays behind on that goddamn cot while Dax finds the bathroom and soaps up his hands.

He gives me instructions for the medicines he’s leaving, as efficient and professional as any actual doctor. The information is so commonplace, like Holly’s going to live and there’ll be a future after all. “I’ll handle it,” I tell him, like I’m any other guy at a hospital bedside, waiting for the nurse to step out so he can take over.

Dax shakes his hands out over the sink and glances around. The bathroom is nothing fancy, nothing nice. It’s half-abandoned, like the rest of the church. “New place?”

I glare at him.

“Watch your back,” he says, because this is what he always says. The words unknot something at the pit of my gut. Holly deserves better than Dax, and better than me, but at least we have someone.

Back in the room, he slings his backpack onto his shoulder and steps out like he’s just gotten word on his pager that it’s time for rounds.

And I go to Holly’s bedside. It’s the only conceivable place for me to be in the world. My hand curls over hers before I know what I’m doing, before I can think about it.

A moment weighs itself down with silence broken only by her breathing. The rhythm is steadier now, but that doesn’t mean she’s healed. It doesn’t mean she’ll walk out of here okay. Nightmare scenarios line up and hurl themselves into my skull one by one, crowding in close, filling the room.

I must stay like that for hours. Maybe days. Time is meaningless without her.

She squeezes my hand. It startles me from my dark stupor.

I hold my breath, frozen, waiting. Her eyelids flutter, almost like she’s dreaming, and then she opens them, blinking into the light.

Holly swallows once, twice, and licks her lips. The sight of the pink tip of her tongue on her bottom lip is more of a miracle than anything this church has ever seen. And when her eyes meet mine, I could almost believe there was something holy here once.

“Where am I?” Her thumb traces a lazy circle on the back of my hand.

“You’re in hell, sweetheart. Welcome back.”

 

 

2

 

 

Holly

 

 

Some people wish they were mermaids. Some wish they weren’t. But it’s not the being that’s the problem. It’s the becoming that kills you. The transition, when flesh tears apart and reforms, when electricity runs through the invisible seams in your body. White-hot pain scorches me, and I twist my body in the fire. It might only last seconds or it might be an eternity in the roiling, beating, panting ache. The ache is relentless.

The pain becomes a constellation. Small pinpricks of hurt in the black sky of my body. Hanging there with sharp metal pins that dig in and hold tight.

They’re too far out of my reach to touch.

The stars turn to embers, sizzling at the dark fabric behind them. It’s too late to put them out, and then all of them light up at once in a roar of fire and flame. A dragon—it must be a dragon. It’s as reasonable as becoming a mermaid, and I can feel him there, his hulking presence taking up all the space in my mind.

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