Unbreakable Hearts, page 22part #2 of CEP Series
Hearing a groan, she turned to look back at the house and saw Hightower stumbling out the door, his own face covered in blood from the blow she’d given him with the drawer. She took off like a shot down the drive, her bare feet digging into the snow as she went. She heard a shot and felt what she assumed was a bullet whiz past her head. He was shooting at her! She turned and saw him, arm raised and pointing a gun in her direction. And she ran for her life.
“There!” Oz said, pointing to a driveway with a brick mailbox to the side of it, just like the one Doug had described, the same numbers in the address. Gunner turned in then floored it. Thank God, they were finally there. And could this fucking driveway be any longer? There were so many twists and turns that Gunner had to slow down several times especially with the snow, but when it straightened out, he NASCAR’d it to make up for lost time.
They flew around one particularly sharp curve almost sliding off the road when Oz heard Gunner mutter, “Fuck.”
Oz bent down in the back seat to see more clearly out the windshield and saw Tilly running toward them. Oh, Jesus. He threw his door open and flung himself out before Gunner could stop the Escalade. After rolling a few times, Oz came up on his feet and sprinted toward her. Then he heard the gunshot. Holy fuck. Hightower was in a staggering run behind her and firing at her. Oz was about twenty yards away from her when he slowed to pull his gun out of the holster yelling, “Tilly, drop down!”
“John!” she screamed as she kept running toward him.
“Tilly! Drop down! Stop! Get down!” But she kept running to him not doing what he was telling her to do. Why wouldn’t she listen to him? “Tilly!”
There was another shot and he finally saw her drop but not of her own volition. Oh, Christ, she’d been hit!
Oz didn’t know who was yelling, but his ears were blasted with the sound of it, as he ran forward firing his Ruger, shooting off nine rounds right into Hightower’s chest. When the guy collapsed and Oz finally made it to him, standing over him, he realized he’d been the one yelling because he was still screaming as he emptied his magazine, his last bullet, right between Hightower’s eyes.
He then turned and ran back to Tilly who lay like a delicate flower in the snow, her blood staining it crimson. Dropping to his knees beside her, his eyes filled with tears and he wanted to scream again. “Oh, God, no. Please, God, please don’t take her,” he cried, letting his head drop back as he stared up at the sky begging, the fresh snow that’d begun falling dropping its tiny flakes on his face as he pleaded for the life of the woman he loved.
Hank and Gunner ran up kneeling down next to them as they began to assess how bad Tilly’s injuries were.
Oz felt something brush his knee and he looked down to see teal eyes gazing back at him. “Hey,” Tilly said. “Guess I should learn to listen, huh?” She smiled sweetly up at him as she raised her left hand toward him.
“Right shoulder. It’s a through and through,” Hank said, the relief clear in his voice. “Ambulance is on its way.” He and Gunner got up and went to check on Hightower then walked back to the Escalade waiting outside of it for the paramedics to come.
Oz took Tilly’s hand, kissing her palm then held it against his cheek. “Thank God. Oh, thank God,” he mumbled as he closed his eyes for a few seconds trying to get himself together. When he opened them, he saw that tears trailed down the sides of her face, her teal eyes glimmering brightly back at him. “I thought I’d lost you,” he whispered, running his thumbs over the sides of her cheeks and wiping her tears away.
“I’m not going anywhere,” she said. “I love you.”
He leaned down and brushed her lips with his. “God, I love you too.”
“I heard he’s the worst patient ever,” Tilly said with a giggle. She’d had surgery to close up her wounds and was doing great now. It was her second day in the hospital and she was due to check out in the morning.
Oz, Quinn, Jeff and Brock were in her hospital room laughing with her about Doug who was two rooms down from her. He’d been shot in the side of his neck, the bullet barely missing his jugular. He’d lost a lot of blood, but his surgery had gone well and he was now heading for a full recovery. They couldn’t help but laugh about his antics especially since Tilly’s nurses kept coming into her room shaking their heads and proceeding to let her in on all he’d been saying to them.
“I heard he asked one of the nurses out by using the line, ‘Wanna play doctor, nurse?’” Jeff said and everyone groaned.
“That’s nothing,” Quinn said cracking up. “Tell them what he said to that last nurse, Till.”
“Oh, lord,” Tilly said with a blush. Oz sat in a chair next to her bed and squeezed her hand. She looked over at him knowing she was going all dreamy-eyed on him but she couldn’t help it. She was one-hundred percent in love with him and it felt great. She gave his hand a squeeze back then looked at everyone. “She came in dying laughing earlier and told me that Doug had asked if she was a doctor because she’d just cured his erectile dysfunction.”
Everyone made derogatory sounds then laughed.
“What’s so funny?” Gunner asked from where he stood in the doorway.
“Hey, man, come on in,” Oz said. “We were just talking about all the bad pickup lines Doug’s been using on the nurses.”
Gunner walked in and went to Tilly handing her a wrapped box. “From Dad and me,” he said with a smile.
“Aw, thanks so much, Gunner,” Tilly replied as she took the box from him. She reached back and took his hand, squeezing it as she looked up at him. “Thank you,” she whispered. He smiled and nodded giving her hand a return squeeze before releasing and watching as she tore at the paper on the gift getting help from Oz since her right arm was in a sling.
“Bad pickup lines, huh?” Gunner asked them. “I hope he hasn’t asked any of them if he could be their organ boner.” Everyone groaned even louder at that one. “Was it really that bad?” he asked with a chuckle.
“Pretty bad,” Quinn said with an exaggerated, even sarcastic, flutter of her eyelashes as she looked up at him with a sneer. Gunner’s startling blue eyes flashed to her for a second before he looked away.
Wait. What was this? Tilly looked at Oz who shrugged at her. Hm. She’d have to make sure to ask her best friend what was going on there. “Oh, my gosh, Gunner! I love it!” She held up the Christmas ornament that was shaped like a camera. “It’s so cute! Thank you!”
Gunner glanced at her and nodded but then his eyes moved back to Quinn who pushed her hair over her shoulder acting as if she didn’t know he existed.
“All right, Till. I’ve gotta head back to the precinct to finish some paperwork,” Jeff said. He leaned in and kissed her cheek. “Jen’ll be by tomorrow at the house to bring you dinner.”
“That’s so sweet but she doesn’t have to do that. John’s gonna cook his world-famous crab Cannelloni for me.” She smiled at Oz.
“Oh, well, then we’ll be over to eat then. Forget bringing anything,” Jeff amended his previous statement with a chuckle. “Nah, just kidding. I’ll have her call you then, okay? See you guys later,” he said to everyone then left.
“I’m out too. Tilly, glad you’re doing okay.” Brock smiled at her then looked at Oz. “Enjoy your vacation, asswipe.”
“Oh, I will. I’ll be relaxing while you’re doing my job, chasing PITA skips all over the country, dickhead,” Oz fired back.
Brock sniggered and with a wave left the room.
“Vacation? What’d you do to deserve vacation time?” Gunner asked with a grin.
“Worked my ass off the past three years. Unlike some freeloaders I know of.” Oz grinned right back at him.
“Yeah, well, being the boss’s kid does come with certain benes,” Gunner said with a chuckle. “Well, I guess I’m outta here too. Just wanted to check in and make sure you’re doing better,” he said to Tilly. “Take care of her,” he told Oz. When he turned t
After she was sure he was out of earshot, Tilly asked, “And just what’s going on between you two?”
Quinn frowned, feigning ignorance. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She tucked a lock of her curly red hair behind her ear, a sign that made Tilly raise an eyebrow. Usually, when Quinn messed with her hair as she had earlier and then just now, she was either uncomfortable or lying. Tilly could tell that right now, she seemed to be both. She decided to give her bestie a break until she was checked out of the hospital and back home again when she could really bug her. “Guess I’ll be going as well. Like Jeff, I’ve got some paperwork to catch up on too.” She leaned down and kissed Tilly’s cheek. “Love you, Till. Please don’t ever scare the shit out of me like that again,” she scolded.
“You say that every time you leave.” Tilly chuckled.
“And I mean it. John, take good care of our girl. See you guys later.” Quinn threw them a kiss before she left the room.
“What?” Oz asked.
“Quinn and Gunner, that’s what.”
“Yeah, I noticed something going on between them when you were, uh, when we were waiting for, um…”
“John,” Tilly said as she cupped his face with her left hand. “It’s okay.”
“Don’t know if it’ll ever be okay, baby.” He put his forearm on the bed and took her hand, kissing her palm before putting it against his cheek then looked into her eyes. “Don’t know what I would’ve done if I hadn’t gotten you back.”
“You won’t ever have to know,” Tilly said, leaning forward to meet him for a kiss. She then sat back and let out a “humph.”
“What?” he asked.
“Still thinking about Quinn and Gunner. Wonder what’s up with them.”
“Who knows. I’ll bet he’s waiting for her in the hallway. Then when she walks by he’s probably gonna say, ‘How ‘bout we ditch this joint and go study some anatomy?’”
Tilly scrunched up her nose and then she started giggling. “That was even worse than Doug’s pickup lines.”
“Nothing’s worse than Doug’s pickup lines,” he said with a snicker. “Except maybe Gunner’s. Scoot over.” He helped her slide a little to her right taking care with her shoulder then got in bed with her, turning on his side to face her. “Want you to know I’ll always take care of you.” He smoothed a curl off her forehead, chuckling because he knew she was mad that she couldn’t straighten her hair, but he loved it wild like this.
She eyed him suspiciously. “What’s so funny?”
“Nothing. Just think you’re perfect.”
“You’re pretty perfect yourself,” she said with a smile.
“Then how ‘bout we live the rest of our lives in perfection being perfect together and having perfect children?”
Tilly’s eyes got big as she looked at him. “Is that,” she cleared her throat, “is that what I think it was?”
“Take it however you want it,” he repeated the words he’d said to her at the beginning of their journey together and grinned. Then he gave her a perfect kiss, which garnered a perfect sigh from her.
And all she could think at the moment was, How perfect.
Thirteen months later.
“The lighting is horrible. I think they all need to be scrapped.”
“What? Are you kidding me right now? These are perfect! Absolutely perfect! God! I cannot believe you can’t see how good they are!” Tilly was pissed now. “Pfffttt. The lighting is horrible. Are you out of your ever-loving mind?”
Oz sat beside her on the bed with the biggest grin on his face as she pored over the photos she’d taken of him at their wedding reception, frowning and shaking her head. Take that back. She’d passed pissed and was now flirting with furious. She looked from picture to picture carefully trying to see what he was talking about.
“You know, this is just about grounds for divorce,” she mumbled as she tossed the portfolio onto the nightstand and made to get off the bed.
Oz barked out a laugh then quickly wrapped his arm around his new bride’s waist pulling her naked body back to the bed as she let out an Oomph! He moved to lay on top of her and looked down into her stunning teal eyes, loving that she was so vocal in her defense of her always-perfect pictures.
She scowled up at him. “Don’t you baby me, John Osby. You know those pictures are great!”
He chuckled. “Yeah, I do, Tilly Osby. I just like to see you get all riled up over them. And I can’t believe that after all these years you still haven’t figured out that I’m teasing.” He bent down and touched his lips to hers.
He and Tilly had gotten married exactly one month before on December 27th, and their wedding had been beautiful, if he did say so himself, although he’d never let the guys at CEP hear him say it. They’d never shut up about it and would proceed to tell him he was pussy-whipped, which he honestly wasn’t ashamed to admit to in the least.
He’d gotten down on one knee the year before on the day Tilly had left the hospital and they’d both been thrilled to death about their engagement. Next, there’d been the back and forth on the living situation. Eventually, they ended up moving into her house because of her studio. He just couldn’t see selling it as she’d established her business there already, but they’d compromised on the part that when they were ready to start a family, they’d move to a bigger house and she’d agreed.
Oh, they’d had their ups and downs, like the decision of who would cook on which night, how she needed to be careful when she went out on shoots or how many times he needed to check in with her when he was out on a job, but overall, things had never been better. Oz did remember one shaky situation they’d encountered early on, though. It’d been two months into their engagement and the first time he’d had to go after a skip since they’d officially been together, and Tilly had thrown a fit. It probably had something to do with the fact that the guy he was to go after was an alleged murderer and that Oz had to go to a particularly rough part of Jersey to find him.
“You can’t be serious!” Tilly had shrieked at him the night before he’d left.
He’d sat at the kitchen table as she paced the floor looking at him every now and then as if he were insane.
“I am. It’s my job.”
She’d huffed out a laugh. “Oh, yeah, I know all about your job, all right. What if something happens to you?”
“Nothing’s gonna happen to me, baby. It’ll be okay. Trust me,” he’d told her.
She’d stopped her pacing and looked at him, her face gone white. “Famous last words.”
“This is what I’ve been talking about, John. This, right here! I don’t know if I can handle it.” She’d started crying then.
He’d gotten up and gone to her, wrapping his arms around her. Kissing the top of her head, he’d said into her hair, “Everything’s gonna be fine. Promise.”
Afterward, they’d gone to bed and made love and he’d thought all was well. But then she’d left in the middle of the night.
He’d awakened around five the next morning to find her gone and he’d panicked. He knew Hightower was dead, but Jesus Christ, her being gone had fucked with his head. Who knew who else was out there? He’d called her phone but had gotten no answer. Next, he’d called Quinn.
“Whoever the fuck this is, it better be fucking good for you to wake me up before the fucking sun is up,” she’d mumbled into her phone.
“Is she there?”
“Huh? Oh, hey, John.” He heard her sit up and yawn. “Of course she’s here. She showed up about thirty minutes ago, and if I didn’t know any better, I’d think the two of you were trying to sabotage my beauty sleep.”
“Let me talk to her.”
He heard her shuffling out of her room then listened while she and Tilly whispered.
“I can’t do this, Quinn. What if he gets hurt? I can’t…”
Quinn sighed. “Look, Till. You love him, right?”
“You know I do…”
“Well, then, baby girl, it’s time to grow the fuck up. At this point, you’re either with him or you’re not. Your decision.”
He’d heard Quinn set the phone down, loving her at that moment for what she’d said, then he waited several seconds as he heard Tilly sigh then finally answer. “John?”
And that’s when he’d gotten pissed. He’d hated that she’d run again. He’d thought she’d gotten over it but he guessed he’d been wrong.
“John?” she asked again.
He ran a hand over his face trying to keep his cool. “Can’t keep doing this, Tilly.”
There was a stretch of silence before she answered. “I know. But this is terrifying.”
“This is life, Tilly.”
“But for most people life isn’t this dangerous. Not everybody does what you do for a living!” He could hear the anger in her voice as she got louder with each word.
He breathed in deeply through his nose then out. “You knew what I did from the start.”
“I know! And I must’ve been crazy for thinking I could handle it!”
“What’re you saying, Tilly?”
“I—I’m saying I don’t know if I can do this.”
Major gut shot. Damn. And now he was really pissed. “Tell you what. I’ve got a goddamned job to do. And let me refresh your memory, Tilly. It’s one that you fucking knew I did before agreeing to be with me, and now here you are backing out of everything. Do I have that right?”
He heard her start crying and he looked up at the ceiling with a sigh. He knew she was scared. Knew what’d happened with her dad and her uncle. He should’ve been easier on her, but hell, he didn’t know how else to go about things.
“I’ve got to go. I’ll call you tonight, okay?” he said.
She sniffed before answering. “Okay.”
He stood listening to her softly crying. “I don’t know how to fix this, Tilly.”
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