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Safe Harbor: Chapter 8

‘IS she alive?’ Jonas demanded as he approached the Russians in the waiting room.

Beside him, Sarah leaned heavily on Damon.

Ilya Prakenskii nodded, staggered and reached out to steady himself by holding the wall.

‘She’s been in surgery for hours, but they just brought her into recovery. She’s in critical condition and very weak.’ He glanced at Sarah. ‘Your sisters had better get here soon.’

‘They’re all on their way. Mom and Dad and my aunts as well.’

‘I don’t like the feel here, Harrington. Hannah’s agent is over there.’ Ilya indicated a slender man in a gray suit talking with the police. ‘He’s pretty shaken up.’

Sarah grabbed Jonas when he took an aggressive step toward the agent, and clung tightly as she felt the tremor run through his body. ‘Don’t, Jonas. You’re really upset and you might hurt him. I don’t want to get thrown out of here.’

She studied Prakenskii up close. He was a good-looking man in a tough sort of way.

Right now lines etched deep in his face from the strain of holding Hannah to life. ‘Are you going to crash?’ She’d seen her sister Libby, with that same gray tinge, her body trembling with exhaustion and her eyes sunken in. Prakenskii was showing classic signs of psychic overload. He’d spent far too much energy on keeping Hannah alive.

‘If we’re going to save her, you’ll have to help,’ Prakenskii admitted, sinking back into the chair he’d risen from when they had approached. ‘She’s so close to death I’m not certain we can give her enough time until your family gets here. I did what I could on scene, but there were so many wounds, too much blood loss, and she was already drifting away. I barely had the chance to link with her.’ He glanced up at Jonas. ‘She said your name, Harrington. Even with her throat sliced in two, she wanted you.’

Jonas’s heart clenched in response, a painful constriction that robbed the breath from his lungs. She’d called for him. Reached out. Needed him—and he hadn’t been there. All this time he thought he could keep her out of danger, but it had found her anyway. Ironically, the danger had nothing to do with him. All those years wasted, all that time. He’d been such a martyr, staying away for her own good, and Hannah had gone to work, done her job and some nut had attacked her. He should have been with her. His name was the last thing—the only thing she’d said.

He swallowed hard and pushed away grief. ‘Have they given you any indication how long this could take?’

‘She’s been in there for hours. They’ve come out twice to say she’s still alive.’ It was obviously a strain for Prakenskii to talk. ‘Just a few minutes ago they told us she was in recovery but…’ He trailed off.

‘But what?’ Jonas demanded.

‘They don’t know what’s keeping her alive. She lost so much blood they’re worried about brain damage. None of them believe she’ll make it beyond the next couple of hours.’

‘You’re keeping her alive,’ Sarah said. ‘That’s why she’s not dead.’ She sank into the chair opposite him. ‘As the others arrive, it will lighten the load on you. Thank you for saving her for us. Let me help you. I can connect with you.’ She made the offer without hesitation. It gave Prakenskii a decided advantage if he chose to use it because, once connected with Sarah, he would have another path to follow to the Drakes’ energy source, but that didn’t matter now. The only thing that mattered was keeping Hannah alive.

He nodded and she was surprised—because if she opened herself and her magic to him—he had to do the same to her. Sarah settled back in the chair, facing him, and took a deep breath, allowing her mind to open, to reach and stretch and merge.

Prakenskii looked directly at her, his eyes flickering a deep blue-green. For a moment she was stunned by the vibrant color, as if the sea had come to stormy life, but then the color swirled and darkened and she was looking into empty, fathomless mirrors. There was no way to ‘read’ him. Ilya Prakenskii remained a closed book and that was nearly impossible when they had linked together. She should have been able to read him the way she was certain he was reading her.

She could feel his exhaustion and strain. The fight to keep Hannah alive was taking a toll on his tremendous strength, although his physical appearance didn’t reflect the dire situation. He was fighting with everything in him to keep her alive and his strength was definitely waning. She reached inside his mind looking for the path to her sister. Pain hit her, tearing through her mind and ripping through her body so that she was thrown back, away from Prakenskii.

Sarah gasped and doubled over. ‘She shouldn’t be feeling anything at all. She’s unconscious, isn’t she?’ She looked at Ilya. ‘Isn’t she?’

‘She appears unconscious, but she is closer to the surface than she should be because she’s waiting for him.’ Ilya indicated Jonas.

Jonas’s breath hitched in his lungs. That would be like Hannah. She ‘wouldn’t just go down easy, not if she had something to say.

‘You’ve got to get in to her,’ Sarah said. ‘Make them let you, Jonas. She can’t be in this kind of pain and survive. Go sit with her, and Mr. Prakenskii and I will hold her until the family gets here.’

Jonas nodded and went to find the head nurse. It took a lot of persuasion as well as flashing his badge and mentioning danger several times, but he had always been a persuasive man and he found himself walking into the room where Hannah lay so still, surrounded by machines.

Jonas sank down onto the seat beside the bed. Hannah was swathed in bandages over most of her body. Her face was swollen and bluish from bruising. A single sheet covered her body. Beneath it she looked so thin and small, not at all the tall, imposing woman who was Hannah Drake. Her impossibly long lashes lay in twin crescents above her classic cheekbones, looking incongruous beside the bloodstained gauze.

His heart clenched so hard it felt like it was in a vise—an actual physical pain—and he pressed his hand hard against his chest as he lifted the sheet to inspect her body. She was wrapped like a mummy, from her neck down. He swallowed the bile rising as he noted she’d been slashed in the throat as well as her face, chest and abdomen. Her attacker had been every bit as vicious as he’d appeared on television. Jonas had hoped it had been the camera angle, but it was obvious the man had been determined to kill her.

His gut knotted into tight lumps and his throat burned raw. He sank into the chair that had been placed beside the bed and looked her over, looked for a place he could touch her skin—not the hideous thick gauze that seemed to be everywhere. Her hands and arms were bandaged right along with everything else. He knew she would have defensive wounds, he’d seen them enough times on victims, but for some reason he was unprepared for seeing them on Hannah.

Jonas swallowed several times as he carefully slid his hand under her bandaged one. Only the tips of her fingers protruded. He lifted her hand with great care and brought her fingers to his mouth. He had to kiss her, touch her, find a way to caress her. He needed skin-to-skin contact because he had to have tangible proof she was alive and would stay that way. Her breath seemed too shallow, her chest barely rising and falling beneath the thin sheet even with the ventilator.

‘Hannah, baby, you’re breaking my heart.’ Just looking at her hurt. He couldn’t imagine anyone hurting her this way. What had she done that was such a crime? She was too beautiful with her flawless skin and her unusual hair and tall, elegant, so very classy figure, and her looks had drawn attention to her. Would someone really want to kill her because she was too beautiful? ‘Nothing makes sense,’ he murmured, listening to the machines doing her breathing for her.

He put his head down on the bed as the smells and sounds assailed his senses. His stomach lurched, protested. Hannah was hooked up to machines. His beloved Hannah with her laughter and her temper and her silly trick of knocking his hats off his head with the wind. He had a closet full of hats, and he provoked her on purpose sometimes, just to feel the touch of the wind. Her touch. Feminine and soft with her particular fragrance attached. Sometimes he imagined he felt her fingers caressing his face, tracing his jaw, and then the slap of the wind would remove his hat—but it was well worth that single heart-stopping moment.

‘You know you have to live for me, Hannah,’ he said aloud, sitting back up. He kissed her fingertips, drew them one by one into the warmth of his mouth. He ached for her—for him. ‘I can’t imagine my life without you in it,’ he whispered. ‘There’d be no purpose for me.’ He wasn’t a poetic man, but he had to find a way to make her understand. It seemed so important to him that she understand what she meant to him. Everything good in his world was lying in that bed with a machine breathing for her.

He leaned closer. ‘Hannah? Can you hear me?’ Her face was partially covered by the bandages and the sight of her lashes lying so thick against her pale skin made his eyes burn. ‘I should have told you a long time ago.’ He raked a hand through his hair and pressed several kisses into the mass of hair at the top of her head.

There were so many things he should have said—should have done. Time wasted. He couldn’t think why now, only that he hadn’t told her how much she meant to him. If he’d been so worried about her because of the things he’d done—and did—in his life, he should have quit. She was more important. He didn’t have answers or questions. He could only pray because, in the end, she was all that really mattered.

Jonas. I knew you’d come. Too hard to talk out loud.

Her voice in his head shook him. He leaned closer to her, touching her hair, kissing her fingers, trying to let her know he was there and wouldn’t leave. ‘I’m here, sweetheart.

Right here with you. Can you hear me? I’m not going anywhere.’ She had a tube down her throat, a good reason why she couldn’t talk out loud. Did she even know? ‘Do you remember what happened? You’re in the hospital. You need to rest and just hang on until your family gets here.’

Are you all right?

His heart turned over. That was just like Hannah, asking if he was all right when she was fighting for her life. ‘Scared. I’m scared, Hannah. You’ve got to hold on until your family comes. Libby is on her way and so are the rest of them. Everyone’s coming, Hannah, because you’re important to us and we can’t lose you. I can’t lose you.’

I needed to tell you I’m sorry.

His heart nearly stopped. ‘Sorry? You have nothing to be sorry about.’ He kissed her fingers again, pressed them to his mouth. ‘I’m the one who should have been here with you. Do you remember what happened?’

I remember being afraid and then there was pain, so much pain.

Her voice cracked and he felt the pain sweeping inside him as if there was so much she couldn’t contain it in her fragile body.

‘Rest, Hannah, go to sleep and let Prakenskii and Sarah hold you until your mother and sisters come. Just go to sleep. I’ll be right here.’ He didn’t want her to sleep, he wanted her to keep talking. It was terrifying that she hadn’t opened her eyes and that he might be imagining the conversation because he needed to hear her voice.

Jonas nibbled at her fingertips. ‘I love you, Hannah. You hang on.’

The sound of the machines answered him. If she’d been there, close enough to the surface of consciousness to talk to him, to be aware of his presence, she no longer was. He glanced anxiously toward the monitors. Her heart was still beating. They didn’t expect her to live. The doctor had told him, his face sober, his eyes meeting, then sliding away from Jonas, as he had given the news. Jonas shook away the memory and the feeling of utter despair. The doctor didn’t know the Drakes. He didn’t know about magic and wonder and family unity. Hannah was a part of something extraordinary, and through her, so was he.

She would live because the Drakes would save her.

He glanced out the glass partition to the room where Sarah and Damon waited with Prakenskii and Jackson. His gaze was caught on Sarah. The eldest of the Drake sisters, she was the one who ultimately had the last word. She was very athletic—he’d always admired her in school. Fast and sleek, she could run faster than most of the boys, and she had an uncanny knack for disappearing in plain sight. She was beautiful, with the Drake skin and huge eyes and a glossy mane of hair, yet she could just fade into the background when she wanted. She had worked security for a big company, breaking into buildings for clients and showing them all their weaknesses and then finding ways to improve the security. At times she acted as a bodyguard, and with her special talents, she was a darn good one.

Jonas both admired and loved her, and often sought her counsel when it came to cases of burglary. She had a good eye and a quick mind. She was engaged to Damon Wilder, a brilliant man whom Jonas respected. Right now, Sarah looked tired and drained with sorrow weighing her down. It seemed shocking, when she was such a strong, optimistic person, and it made him even more afraid for Hannah.

Throughout the long morning the older Drakes kept arriving, one by one, women crowding into the waiting room, murmuring softly, their faces stained with tears, hugging one another as they tried to give each other courage. Hannah’s aunts and her mother, sitting, facing one another with Prakenskii and Sarah.

Hannah’s parents came in to touch their daughter, shaking their heads when Jonas would have risen and reluctantly relinquished his place by her side. They hugged him, but neither spoke, and that left an empty, hollow feeling in the pit of his stomach. He had always counted on the Drakes’ strength of family, their ability to pull anyone through.

He’d been wounded, yet he’d survived. Surely they could bring Hannah back from wherever she was.

Elle was the next of Hannah’s sisters to arrive. The youngest of the Drake siblings. Her long bright red hair was pulled back in a ponytail. Her face was devoid of makeup and ravaged by tears. She looked so young, a woman with as much or more power than all of her sisters combined, as she was the one destined to pass on the gifts to her daughters.

Jonas had always loved her as a baby sister. She was beautiful with her flashing green eyes, and her so-quick temper. She was quiet and kept to herself for the most part, although, like her sisters, she was protective and closed ranks—sometimes against him.

He had no idea what Elle did for a living. Like most of her sisters, she had above-average intelligence and a good education. Elle was good at everything from criminalistics to chemistry. She could easily pass for a twelve-year-old or a sultry siren depending on how she dressed and did her makeup. Jonas worried about her more than he did any of the other Drake sisters. She seemed lost and alone, and perhaps she was. There was no getting close to Elle. You could love her, but she only let you in so far.

He knew his best friend Jackson had some connection to her. Whatever lay between them, Jackson never discussed, but it was there, and sometimes Jonas wanted to warn Elle not to provoke Jackson so much. It was dangerous territory, but he remained silent because Elle just didn’t invite confidences. Jonas only knew that whatever lay between them was dark and strong and bound to blow up in their faces someday.

Elle touched Ilya Prakenskii’s shoulder in silent thanks and flicked a glance around the room until her gaze settled on Hannah through the glass partition. For a moment, grief was a terrible mask and she reached up her hand to touch the tears on her face. Her gaze collided with Jonas’s, and briefly, they were locked together, their sorrow and fear holding them prisoners, then she blew him a kiss, breaking the spell. She sank gracefully on the floor in front of Sarah and lowered her head so it was impossible to see her face.

Jonas felt relief sweep through him. The aunts, he knew, held the same gifts as the Drake sisters, but he didn’t know them as well. The sisters he believed in—the sisters he knew loved Hannah with everything in them.

Kate came next. Kate, a sweet-natured woman who laughed and loved and wrote bestselling murder mysteries. She was the quietest of the Drakes, preferring to stand on the sidelines and watch. Books were her best friends next to her sisters. He remembered her as a child, haunting the bookstores and libraries, always with a book in her hand and one in her backpack. She often entertained the family with stories. On holidays, when they were growing up, she would write plays for the sisters—and Jonas—to act out.

Kate rode horses and yet always looked immaculate, not a hair out of place, her makeup so perfect he wasn’t always certain she wore it. Her fiancé, Matt Granite, was an ex-Army Ranger, right along with Jonas and Jackson. They’d formed a tight bond together and their friendship went way back. Jonas felt protective toward Kate and had been extremely happy Matt was her choice. Kate kissed Elle, hugged Sarah, cried with her mother and father before coming to stand with Matt in front of the glass. Kate waved at him through the glass and stared at Hannah with sad, red eyes and lines of strain around her mouth.

A chill went down Jonas’s spine. Did they all feel that Hannah was so close to death that there was no hope? The idea of failure crept in unbidden but, once in his mind, refused to go away. The Drakes were gathering, but instead of appearing confident they were tense and subdued.

‘Listen to me, baby,’ he whispered against the gauze covering Hannah’s ear. ‘Do this for me. Hang on for me. You’re everything to me, baby. They’re all coming. I know you can feel them with you. Your mother and aunts are already here. So are Sarah, Elle and Kate.

The men are here as well. Your father, Damon, Jackson and Matt. They’re holding you close to them and I’m right here with you. Live for me, Hannah, live because our lives are better with you in them.’

Abbey rushed in with her fiancé, Aleksandr Volstov, her dark wine-red hair wild, tears on her face as she flung herself into her mother’s arms and then turned to look at Hannah.

She pressed a hand to her mouth, nodded to Jonas, looking tired and worn. She took a seat on the floor very close to Kate, who reached for her hand.

Abbey had an affinity for the sea and all its creatures. She often reminded Jonas of a mermaid, with her dark red hair spread out on the water and her lithe body swimming strongly. She was a marine biologist, renowned for her work with dolphins, as well as having a talent for knowing the truth and a vast love of the sea. Abbey was the most serious of the Drakes, aside from Elle. She was careful with her speech, for good reason, but since Aleksandr had come back into her life, she laughed more. Jonas thought it was a good match and hoped to utilize Aleksandr’s police skills eventually.

‘Abbey’s here, Hannah,’ he encouraged, pushing back her hair and wincing at the way her skin felt cool and clammy.

He wanted to yell at the Drakes to hurry. Get the planes moving faster, get everyone here.

He could tell Hannah’s sisters were joining with Sarah and Prakenskii as they became part of the circle in the waiting room, because with each sibling’s arrival, Hannah’s presence seemed closer, as if they were slowly bringing her back from a great distance.

Jonas felt Hannah’s body jerk, and he swung his head first toward her in alarm, and then at the Drakes in their tight circle. Ilya Prakenskii played a huge part in the Drakes’ mental connection to Hannah. Jonas knew that Hannah’s reaction had come from Ilya. Jonas looked toward the door and Joley swept into the room. Joley, the most famous of all the Drakes. Wild, uninhibited Joley. She had a voice that could soothe or incite thousands.

She never just walked. When she moved, she flowed, every curve exuding pure, unadulterated sex. Jonas sometimes felt sorry for her. She was born with an allure few could resist, but he felt sorrier for the man who would want to love her.

Joley was fiercely independent and very, very powerful in her magic. She was a joy and a presence. All of the sisters looked out for one another, but Joley had made real sacrifices to her reputation to protect Libby. If there was a favorite sister for him, Jonas knew it was Joley with her free spirit and outrageous looks. Like a brother, he often worried about her. She could stop traffic just walking down the street in a pair of jeans. Few were aware of how smart she was. Fewer still knew she held a third-degree black belt and had trained in Krav Maga or that she was a dead shot with a gun.

Jonas watched with curiosity as she moved into the room, her presence ratcheting up the tension visibly. She let out her breath and her gaze was immediately riveted to Prakenskii’s. Energy crackled and the walls rippled. The women in the room froze. The men stiffened and came to attention, Jackson positioning his body protectively in front of Elle. She said something to him and Jackson’s gaze slid over her, as cold as ice, and he merely shook his head.

Through it all, Ilya Prakenskii never blinked. Never looked away from Joley. There seemed to be a weird battle taking place and then Joley averted her gaze, color creeping up her neck and flooding her face. Tears shimmered in her eyes and not even the Russian could resist Joley with sorrow lining her face and tears on her lashes. He spoke, his voice a low murmur Jonas barely caught, something in Russian, but whatever he said, Joley nodded and sank down beside Elle, who took her hand.

‘Libby should be coming any time,’ Jonas whispered to Hannah. ‘She was back investigating little lethal worms, or whatever they are, on the tree leaves on a farm in the Amazon.’ He brought her fingers back to his mouth. ‘She’s so smart, Hannah, and there’s not a mean bone in that girl’s body. She’ll pull you through. She won’t let anything happen to you.’

It was a prayer more than anything else and he recognized it as such. Libby Drake was a healer—a miracle worker. She’d saved her fiancé, Tyson Derrick, and she’d saved Jonas.

Libby looked fragile, with her pale skin, slender body and blue-black hair, but she could lay her hands on someone and fix whatever was broken. The family—the town—and especially Tyson watched over her, because it was too difficult for her to turn away people who needed help and the toll on her was tremendous.

Jonas knew she needed a man like Tyson in her life. He was capable of putting the brakes on Libby and guarding her. Ordinarily Jonas would have been standing shoulder to shoulder with him, but not this time. This time Jonas was prepared to get on his knees and beg her to save Hannah. It was selfish and wrong. He loved Libby and he knew healing Hannah would be a risk, but she had to keep Hannah alive—there simply was no other choice. He couldn’t exist without Hannah.

He felt the change in everyone the moment Libby stepped through the waiting room door.

Fear turned to cautious hope. It was a terrible burden they were all putting on her and Jonas knew Hannah wouldn’t want that life-or-death responsibility on her sister—but it didn’t matter to him. God help him—as much as he loved them all—none of them mattered to him the way Hannah did. He hated himself for that streak of selfishness, but he was honest enough to admit that he would risk all of them and himself to save Hannah.

He watched Libby through the glass. She looked small and fragile, not at all the woman capable of gathering the strength of the others and using it to heal her sister. If she had been walking down a crowded street, no one would ever suspect the power she wielded.

She greeted her parents and sisters, all the while holding tightly to Tyson’s hand. Jonas suspected her fiancé was unhappy with what she was about to do, and he didn’t blame him. If it was Hannah risking her life, he would have felt the same.

Ashamed, he put his head down on the mattress beside her. ‘I love you, Hannah. More than my life, more than any other. I know I won’t be able to look in the mirror for a long time after this, but you have to live, baby. For all of us. Do you hear me? Take what Libby gives you and come back to us.’

Jonas felt the gathering of power begin to ricochet off the walls. The waiting room took on a glow of many colors, a bright burst of yellows and oranges that filled the spaces around the older Drake women. He lifted his head to watch the power and energy in the form of various colors bounce off the walls. The women swayed slightly, their bodies graceful.

And then Hannah’s sisters stood together, their voices rising in a melodic chant. Joley threw off the colors of fire, red, orange and gold; Sarah had the colors of air, yellows and greens; Abbey’s colors came from water, blue and sea green; Kate was earth, her colors browns and greens; Elle was surrounded by all the colors of the elements in various shades, representing them all. Lastly, Libby brought them all together in spirit, a white light with violet edges surrounding her, moving outward to encompass the others.

Jonas could feel the current of electricity and knew they were pulling energy from every source around them. Hannah’s six sisters, her mother and her six aunts. Thirteen extraordinary women gathered in one place for one purpose—to heal Hannah.

Ilya Prakenskii stood, his body still swaying with the effort of holding Hannah. To Jonas’s astonishment, vibrant colors glowed eerily around him as well. Vividly bright, they were more like Elle’s with all the various colors, yet different, the shades off from the women’s. Only the reds and golds and oranges matched Joley’s exactly, so much so that the colors seemed to bleed into one another. Tiny sparks hissed and glowed in the air between them, adding to the gathering power.

Hospital personnel were uneasy, watching the scene with a caution born of the rising tension in the waiting room. The air was charged with it. Sitting beside Hannah’s bed, Jonas refused to relinquish his place. If they were going to come in—and they were; nothing, not even security, would stop them—he was going to witness the healing. He had to believe Hannah would live. He had to walk out of the room believing she was going to live or he wasn’t going to survive the night.

The hairs on his arms stood up as the women filed into the room, one at a time. The nurse protested, but no one paid attention and Hannah’s mother imperiously waved her to silence. The Drake women surrounded the bed; Libby and one of the aunts Jonas recognized as Nanci rested their palms on Hannah while the others linked hands.

The effect was a dazzling light show, although the room wasn’t bursting with light—

Hannah’s body was. It slid over her, around her, through her. Light played over her skin and pressed inward through her pores—or maybe it burst from inside her out. Jonas couldn’t tell which came first. A dance of colors sparkled around her and Hannah’s skin went from pasty white to luminous.

Jonas retained possession of her fingers and became aware of heat slowly driving out the clammy cold of her skin. Warmth pulsed through her in waves. He felt the stirring of her in his mind. A soft inquiry. Alarm. Hannah surfacing. Her long lashes fluttered and his heart nearly stopped. The chanting never wavered, but continued low and melodious.

He glanced at the heart monitor. The weak, erratic beat had strengthened to something much steadier and relief made him collapse back into his seat. He waited, but she didn’t open her eyes.

‘Enough, Libby,’ Tyson said. ‘You can come back tomorrow, but that’s enough today. I mean it.’

Libby’s hands remained on Hannah, but the chanters stopped, their colors fading as they withdrew support. Mrs. Drake put her arm around Libby and physically pulled her away from her sister. ‘Tyson’s right, Libby, we can’t take any chances. She’s better—stronger.

That’s all we can do today.’

‘She’s going to live, Jonas,’ Sarah assured him when he would have protested.

Jonas wanted to snarl at Tyson, throw something at the machines as Libby was helped from the room. Her color was gone and she stumbled, obviously weak. The older Drakes helped Nanci as well, although she didn’t look as quite as bad as Libby. Hannah didn’t move. Other than that one flutter of her lashes, she hadn’t improved.

Elle touched his hand. Kate kissed him. Abbey brushed her fingers over Hannah’s and his joined hands. Joley stood beside the bed weeping.

‘How could this happen, Jonas?’

‘I don’t know, honey. I honestly don’t know.’

‘But you’ll find out. You’ll make certain whoever is responsible will never get near her again, right?’

‘Prakenskii took the knife away from him, and in the struggle, her attacker was killed.’

Joley lifted her tear-streaked face to look at the Russian.

His face was gray, tired, carved with deep lines. ‘Thank you again. Did you know him?

Recognize him? When you touched him, did you get a sense of why he would attack my sister?’

‘I felt his fear. That only. It poured off of him.’

Jonas frowned. ‘He fought you. I was watching the broadcast. He fought you and kept trying to go for her.’

Joley made a small sound of distress—of protest.

‘I’m sorry, honey,’ Jonas said. ‘This isn’t something you need to hear. I’ll talk with Prakenskii later. You’re both exhausted. I’m going to stay with Hannah. Why don’t you regroup?’

‘I’ll see you to your hotel,’ Ilya said, making it a statement. ‘Do you have your security people with you?’

She nodded. ‘You can’t wade through the reporters.’

‘We’ll get you out,’ he said firmly. ‘Come, Joley. You need to rest.’

Jonas kissed and hugged her before turning her over with a small bit of reluctance to Ilya Prakenskii. The man had undoubtedly saved Hannah’s life, yet Jonas feared his motives.

He was the bodyguard of one of the most powerful Russian mobsters and was feared from Europe to the United States.

‘Her signs look better,’ the nurse said when they were alone, distracting him from his speculative thoughts. It was quiet and there were no flashing colors or feel of power.

After the impressive display he felt let down.

He glanced at the nurse in her blue scrubs and name tag, her hair pulled back. She looked neat and efficient. He hoped she was competent, too.

‘What exactly did they do? There’s a definite change in her. It doesn’t make sense, but she looks as if she could breathe on her own.’

Jonas remained silent as the nurse consulted with the doctor, and over the next few hours, Hannah was allowed to breathe more and more on her own. It was a huge relief when they finally took her off the ventilator, the first sign that she might live.

Jonas brought Hannah’s fingertips to his lips and bent forward until his head lay on the mattress beside her body. He had never been able to stand hospitals, not after his mother had been taken from her room, never to return. The sounds and smells were the same.

The machines seemed alive when he closed his eyes and listened, as he had so many years ago. Praying. Praying for a miracle, just as he was doing now.

He had no feel for the passage of time. Sometimes he whispered to her, other times he slept. The nurse hovered close, watching over Hannah. He kept his head down and allowed himself to doze, drifting off until he was somewhere between sleeping and awake, somewhere his mother stared at him with pain-filled eyes and a man stabbed Hannah viciously with a knife while he stood behind a wall, pounding with his fists, trying to beat it down and get to them.

Jonas jerked awake, as a different nurse entered the room. He looked around for Hannah’s regular nurse. He liked and trusted her.

The woman glanced at him and then averted her eyes, maybe, he thought, because he looked so damned distraught. He wanted Hannah to show dramatic signs of responding to the healing by the Drakes. Shouldn’t she have sat up and demanded dinner or something?

Ripped off the bandages and smiled at him? Instead she lay sleeping as if in a coma, her heart and lungs still being monitored.

He tried to breathe away the tightness in his chest, sending the nurse a false smile. ‘I thought Katherine was Hannah’s night nurse.’ Was Katherine the right name? The nurse had introduced herself but he couldn’t remember. He was so out of it—so upset.

‘Katherine asked me to give her meds to her.’ The nurse didn’t look at him as she walked around the bed, a syringe in her hand.

Jonas’s radar suddenly went ballistic. He stood up, stretching in a deceptively lazy manner, sharp eyes drifting over the nurse, taking in the fact that her hands were unsteady. Her voice was a flat monotone, and at no time did she look directly at him.

Doubt trickled down his spine—doubt and alarm.

‘That’s nice that you all help each other out. Katherine was supposed to be right back.

Hannah isn’t supposed to be left alone like this. What’s the holdup?’ He put censure into his voice. The name hadn’t been Katherine. Kelley maybe, but definitely not Katherine. It had been on her badge. A ‘K’ name.

The nurse didn’t pause. Didn’t look at him. ‘She had to use the bathroom, she’ll be right back.’ She fussed with Hannah’s line, giving him a quick, nervous smile as he began to walk around the bed toward her.

‘What’s that?’ He indicated the syringe in her hand as he slowly stalked her.

‘A painkiller,’ the woman answered. Her hands trembled as she fumbled with the line.

The room was cool, but she was sweating.

‘Wait a minute,’ Jonas rushed her, instincts guiding rather than his brain. ‘Stop what you’re doing.’ He leapt the distance between them, inserting his body between the nurse and Hannah’s arm. He grabbed her arm, missed, and as she turned, he caught her hair.

He heard her sob, a hiss of breath and a low cry of terror as she whipped around, kicking at him to get him off her. Before he could stop her, she shoved the needle into her own vein, squeezing the plunger, her eyes holding terror as she went to the floor. Jonas knelt beside her, but it was too late. Her breath came in ragged gasps, her eyes went opaque and then there was a horrifying silence.


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