Prime Target (Target #1)

By: Marquita Valentine



What seems like seconds later, I wake up, gasping for air. I blame my comfortable life here for my passing out. In the past, two gunshot wounds wouldn’t have stopped me, and Petrov would never have left my store on his own two legs.

The bells ring again. “Come to finish me off, you bastard?”

“Roman? Is that you?” a familiar voice asks. “I left my coat.”

“Everly,” I croak.

Suddenly, she’s by my side, her fingers on my face. At least I won’t die before knowing how soft her skin is, or how tenderly she strokes me.

“Oh my God. Who shot you?” she cries, shifting to cradle my head in her lap. I hear a thunk. “Let me call 9-1-1.”

“Your dress,” I manage to say.

“Don’t worry about the blood—you’re more important.”

I smile against the pain. “No. Tear it into strips. I might need a tourniquet. He shot me in the leg…and shoulder.” I cough, and air rattles in my chest.

I hear fabric tearing even as she gives information to Emergency Services. The phone drops to the floor, narrowly missing my head.

“Where should I tie it?” she asks. As she leans over me like this, her breasts are directly above me. God, I’m dying, yet the thought of kissing her there is driving me mad. Or maybe it’s a sign I won’t die. She presses down on my wound and I groan, forgetting all about her delectable breasts.

Immediately, the pain lessens. “Sorry, sorry. In the movies and books, they always try to stop the bleeding like this,” she cries.

“Cut my trousers open and help elevate my leg.”

“At the same time?” she asks, voice trembling as she sits back. Once again, her hands go to my face, stroking my cheek. She leans over me. This close, I can see the fullness of her lips, the smoothness of her skin, and the concern in her gaze.

“No, love. Check the wounds to see if the bullet went all the way through or not.”

“O-okay.” Gingerly, she moves away from me, careful to place my head on the hardwood floor. I watch as she grabs a pair of scissors from her purse. “I knew these would come in handy one day.”

Quickly, she cuts my pant leg. In the background, I’m dimly aware the emergency operator is still on the line. “Well?”

“I can’t… Oh God, Roman, I have to pick up your leg to see.”

“Don’t move him!” the operator shouts.

Everly’s gaze flies to mine. She licks her lips, clearly torn between following the directions of a professional or me, the reserved shopkeeper. “What do you want me to do?” she asks softly.

“Check, please. I’ll help you.” Gritting my teeth, I lift my leg and break into a cold sweat. “Hurry, darling.”

“There’s a hole in the back, but it’s small,” she says, and I prop my foot on the shelf in front of me.

Sirens blare.

Everly looks over her shoulder. “They’re here. Thank God. They’re here, Roman.”

“Thank you,” I breathe, letting the darkness take me once more. Even if I never wake up again, this heaven I’m experiencing right now is worth it.

*

The world is a great, white light as I open my eyes. Too bright.

I screw my eyes shut once more, listening. It seems safe, just the hum and beep of machines. The slight echo of footsteps and voices in the hallway.

Shifting my head left, then right, I take stock of my body. Though I’m sore as hell, I can still move everything. I open my eyes and take in my surroundings, startled to find Everly curled up in a chair beside my hospital bed.

She’s sleeping, still wearing the same green dress. Only the hem is about a foot shorter and there are purple shadows under her eyes. How long has she been here? How long have I been here?

Someone walks into the room, and I turn my head to find a nurse approaching the side of my bed. “Welcome back, Mr. Smith.”

I find my voice. My throat is scratchy, and it burns. “How long was I out?”

“Two days.” She places a couple of fingers on my wrist and keeps an eye on her watch. “It was touch and go for a while, but that angel sleeping beside you wouldn’t give up. I’ve never seen someone pray so fiercely for another human being. She even donated blood—you’re a lucky man to have a fiancée like her. And she must be a lucky woman to have you, because ain’t no man worth getting that worked up over, unless he’s a good one.”

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