I DIDN’T know where I was when I woke. Hell, I didn’t know who I was for an instant. The overwhelming agony when I took a deep breath reminded me, and the bitter antiseptic smell confirmed it—I was in the hospital.
The light in my room was off, but a few glimmers of sunlight peeked through the window curtains. Not that there was much to see. A television high on the wall. An IV running into my arm. Nothing worth looking at. Damn, I wasn’t sure I had anything worth living for.
Violet was dead. Casey was dead. The only people I’d been in love with were gone. I’d been dealing with Casey’s death for over a month, but Vi’sâ¦. Her murder was still fresh in my mind. Well, the grief was fresh but not the actual event. Even though I’d been there when it happened and was injured myself, I couldn’t recall a thing. Not one motherfucking second of it. No matter how I tried, the memories weren’t there.
My best friend, Cristian Flesh, had told me what happened, but it hadn’t helped. According to Cristian, a detective with the Reno Police Department, our neighbor had called the police after hearing screams coming from our apartment. Violet, the mother of my son, was dead by the time the authorities arrived, and I wasn’t much better off.
I shifted, trying to find a more comfortable position. I lay on my side because my back and ass were bandaged and throbbed with pain. The soreness made me suck in a breath. I closed my eyes and allowed my thoughts to drift. The reality of being a single parent slowly took hold. What if I couldn’t be everything Victor needed? A boy needed his mother, right? Tears filled my eyes.
Someone clearing their throat alerted me to the fact I wasn’t alone. I wiped away the signs of my emotions and looked toward the door. The shadows obscured the identity of whoever it was. “Who’s there?”
Recognition seized me as the man stepped into the light, and a wave of emotions crashed over me. Fear, anger, grief, and for a moment, unadulterated hate.
“What the fuck are you doing here, Bradley?”
“We need to talk, Vargas.” FBI Agent Drew Bradley strode to the middle of the room and stood there with his hands shoved into his coat pockets.
“I got nothing to say to you, Special Agent,” I snarled. Seeing this man was the last thing I needed. A fresh sense of loss swept over me. How much grief could one man endure?
“You don’t have a choice,” Drew replied sternly. “I’ve been assigned to this case. To your case.”
His back was ramrod straight. I could feel him staring at me, but I didn’t meet his gaze.
“Case?” I made eye contact. “What case?”
“It’s very likely the attack on you and Violet is linked to an active FBI case.” Drew approached my bed.
“I don’t give a shit.” The only thing I wanted was to see the back of Agent Bradley’s head leaving my room.
“You don’t want to help find the person who tried to kill you? The person who did kill Violet and almost orphaned your son?” He gestured as he spoke. “You want to just slink away and hide? That’s not what you did when Casey was killed.”
Hearing Casey’s name spoken aloud wrenched at my heart. I tried to sit up in bed, but the pain held me back. “Don’t you fucking say his name, Bradley. It’s your fault he’s dead.”
“I take full responsibility.”
His shoulders drooped, and his eyes were red. Yeah, the man was sad, but I didn’t give a shit.
“I didn’t ask to be put on this case. Trust me. I know how much you hate me. I asked—I begged—my boss to assign someone else. He refused. He wants me here because I know you.”
“He’s a goddamn idiot.”
Drew chuckled. “That may be true, but it doesn’t change anything. So I’ll ask you again—are you going to help, or are you going to run with your tail tucked between your legs?”
I didn’t respond right away. I didn’t want to have to deal with Agent Bradley again, but I couldn’t let the killer get away with it. I’d gone after justice when Casey died, and I had to do the same for Violet. It was really my only choice.
“You know the answer, Bradley. I’ll do whatever it takes to find the fucker who killed Violet. Even if it means putting up with your sorry ass.”
“You’re a good man, Gabriel.” A smug smile crossed his face.
Ignoring the self-satisfaction in his voice, I said, “This isn’t about me. It’s about Violet. So what do you need me to do?”
He crossed his arms and cocked his head.
“I need you to die.”