Home > The Rehearsal Dinner (The Wedding From Hell #1)(7)

The Rehearsal Dinner (The Wedding From Hell #1)(7)
Author: J.R. Ward

The woman by the victim started weeping. “Is he going to die?”

As she looked back and forth between the men, it wasn’t immediately clear which one she was talking about.

* * *

Every move.

Anne had been aware of every move Danny had made as he jumped the guy with the knife. That deadly weapon, already dripping with blood, had slashed and stabbed as the two had fought for control of it. Terror had threatened to freeze her, but she couldn’t give into the emotion. She had a victim to triage.

Crouching down, she’d identified herself as a medic and asked the woman to ease back. The instant Anne had opened the parka and yanked up the shirt from the jeans, she’d known that they were in trouble.

The puncture wound was in the lower gut, where a lot of messy stuff was located. There were also some big blood vessels down there, as well as an artery that, depending on how deep the knife had gone, could lead to a mortal event.

She had the man’s blood on her hand as she dialed 9-1-1. Putting the phone to her ear, she’d looked over at Danny.

That was when their eyes had met.

The look on his face was one she would never forget. They had been through a lot together on the job, had walked into burning staircases, rooms where the wall paint was bubbling up, and attics that were hotter than stoves. But they were trained for all that.

This situation was doubly dangerous because there was human blood on that blade and there was no telling what the victim could transmit. And then there was the very real possibility that Danny could be killed outright.

I don’t want to lose you, Anne thought. Not tonight.

Not ever.

As the realization hit her, there was a loud snapping sound—and she had heard enough bones dislocate on the job to know what it was.

And then the knife got thrown away.

Danny cranked a submission hold on the attacker, but the guy was out of gas, lying limply on the pavement and moaning in pain.

“I called for help,” she said in a voice that cracked. “They’re on the way.”

Danny was breathing hard. “Good.”

“Is he going to die?”

Anne looked at the woman who couldn’t seem to decide which man to worry about. “Can I have your scarf?”

The woman pulled the wool length free. “Here.” Then she focused on the unconscious man. Looked back at the attacker. Refocused on the other guy. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

Anne wrapped the length around itself and placed it onto the wound. Pressing down, she said to the woman, “What’s your name? I’m Anne.”

“C-c-candy. This is Rob. That’s Antonio.”

Leaning upward, Anne said, “Rob? Can you talk to me?”

Sirens sounded far away and grew in intensity, doubling up. Meanwhile, the victim was non-responsive, his breathing shallow, his eyes closed.

Please let that ambulance be for us, Anne thought.

“Does he have any medical issues you’re aware of?”

Candy shook her head. “None. He’s my boyfriend. And that’s . . . my brother.”

Rob started to shake his head and mumble just as a police unit came around the corner. As the bright headlights shone down the alley, Anne got her first clear look at Candy. The woman looked forty under her heavy makeup, and her hair was dyed badly. Her skirt was so short her pink panties were showing, and even though it was thirty-two degrees out, she had nothing but a blouse on under a light windbreaker.

There were ligature marks around her throat, the bruises not fresh but a day or so old, showing purple against her skin.

And she was bone thin.

‘Rob,’ if that was indeed his name, popped his eyes open. “Pimp. Not brother, pimp.”

Candy sagged. “No, he’s my brother, and I’m not pressing charges.”

Chapter 5

It was one a.m. by the time Danny pulled Moose’s truck up to Anne’s house, and as he hit the brakes, there was so much he wanted to say. Putting things in park, he looked across the messy cab.

Anne was staring out the windshield. After a moment, she shook herself and looked around at the empty cans of Mountain Dew, the crumpled bags of Doritos, the wrappers of Snickers bars and Starbursts and . . .

“You okay?” he asked.

“Of course.” She bent down to the mess in the footwell. “You know, I can’t stand this debris field. I’ve got to do something.”

“Here, I think there’s an empty Star Market bag—wait, I got two.”

Danny flapped one of the things open and held it for her as she put seven empties in it. Then she gathered the rest of the stuff and crammed it into the bag, the fluffy trash taking up room without weighing anything.

Then they were both quiet again. She glanced at him. “Are you hungry?”

“Starved.”

The truth was, food was the last thing on his mind, but if there was a chance they could go inside and talk? He’d put his own shoes on a plate and eat them with ketchup.

“I don’t have much to offer.”

“It doesn’t matter.” He killed the engine. “Do you have any beer?”

“No, but I think I have some Jack Daniel’s. Remember how Duff gave those bottles to everyone for Christmas last year? I never touched mine.”

“Perfect.”

They got out together and walked up to her front door. Her house was only about a thousand square feet, but the Cape Cod had good windows and doors—the kind that locked solidly and had alarm contacts on them. He knew this because she’d hosted a Pats game in early September, and he’d surreptitiously checked the security of the place.

As well as looked for any evidence that she had a boyfriend or was seeing anyone.

She’d been clear that she lived alone and she’d never talked about dating anybody. There were also no pictures of some idiot standing next to her with a stupid smile on his face like he’d won first prize in a competition.

“Things are kind of messy,” she said as she opened her front door.

“Moose-messy or . . . ?”

Stepping inside, he saw a blanket unfolded on her couch, and through the archway into the kitchen, there was a mug next to the sink on the counter. The tux Mike had rented her was laid out across the table in its plastic sheath, and a duffel bag with her workout clothes was on the floor next to it.

“If this is your version of sloppy?” He shut the door. “You haven’t lived with four guys. I mean, this is straight-up parents-weekend, panic-stricken, don’t-kill-my-lease clean.”

She took off her jacket. “You’re still living the college life even though you’re almost thirty.”

Danny frowned. “It’s not forever.”

“When do you plan on changing?”

It was a throwaway comment, something she said as she went to wash her hands at her sink. But it hit home.

Because he wanted to be more for her. He wanted to be . . . everything . . . for Anne.

And that was some fucked-up shit. When had attraction and sizzle turned into something bigger for him?

Then again, what did timing matter when a destination had been reached? And he knew there was no going back from this.

“Mind if I borrow some of your soap, too?” he said gruffly.

“Please. And you should have let the EMTs check you out.”

“Nah, he didn’t get me.” Danny followed her example at the sink, making fast but thorough work of his hands. “It’s all good.”

“I’m going to take this out to recycle.” She held up the Star Market bag. “Check my fridge and see what you like? The Jack is in the cupboard over by the coffee pot.”

As he dried things off, he watched her go out her rear door and just stood there as she went off around the side of the house. When she came back in, she stopped and looked at him.

“What?”

“I’m sorry,” he heard himself say.

“For what?”

“Anne . . .”

Details of that drama they’d fallen into flickered through his mind: him fighting for control of that knife, then holding the attacker down as the police arrived; her rendering aid and transferring care to the EMTs when they came with the ambulance; the sad state of affairs between that woman and those two men.

   
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