September 12, 2003
Glass shattered everywhere. Colt and Ruger barreled inside and over to me, whimpering, licking the blood off my face. They were so preoccupied with tending to my wounds, the masked man got a shot off before he fell. The bullet struck Niko in the shoulder, and he flew backward and landed in the garden I’d created around the apple tree. It had taken me days to edge the garden in slanted bricks. When Niko fell, those bricks drove into his spine and incapacitated him long enough for the masked assailant to scramble to his feet and flee.
But not before he hovered over me and offered one last warning. “I’ll see you soon, Sage Quintano.” His demon-like chortle stopped my breath. I squeezed my eyes shut, my head woozy, slipping into and out of a semi-conscious state.
Niko framed my face in his palms. “Stay with me, babe. The ambulance is on its way.” He pulled me into his lap, rocking me, crying, praying for my survival.
Warm blood sheathed my skin. Pain riddled my body, multiple injuries searing bone deep.
An unfamiliar female voice said, “You need to let go of her, sir. What’s her first name?”
“Sage. But the neck wound— If I let go, she’ll bleed out.”
“On three, ready? One…two…three.” Scratchy gauze replaced Niko’s hand. “Sage? I’m Lenore. Can you tell me who did this to you?”
“I don’t know.” Through thin slits, two different colored eyes stared back at me, one brilliant turquoise, one cognac. I struggled to raise my lids, but I did not have the strength. I’d lost too much blood.
Latex and gauze touched all my wounds. So many hands working in unison.
“There are too many injuries,” a different female voice said. “I can’t stop the bleeding.”
“Let’s get her on the gurney.”
With slurred speech, I asked, “Is my baby all right?”
“And lift,” said Lenore.
Seconds later, they rolled me into the cool night air. Steel clanged against thin metal, the wheels grinding across the bed of the ambulance. Antiseptic filled my sinuses, and I gagged.
Metal doors slammed shut.
“I’m right here, babe.” Niko wove his fingers with mine. “You’re gonna be okay.”
“The baby.” I cried. “Check the baby.”
Sirens wailed overhead.
I cracked open one eye, but everything was foggy, hazy. “Lenore?”
“You’re doin’ fine, Sage.” Bi-colored eyes hovered over me. I hadn’t imagined it earlier. “ETA,” she hollered to the driver.
“Hang on, Sage. We’re almost there.”
And my whole world went black.