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It didn’t matter if I could handle this. The Jag could. I shifted into fourth gear and the car topped a hundred and fifteen. Never before had I pushed it so hard to go so fast. I didn’t know where I was going or why. All I knew was that I needed to go faster.

Over the sound of my heart pounding in my ears and my brain screaming warning after warning, I heard a tiny voice say my name. It was so quiet, but like a gentle whisper, it sounded like it was part of me.


It repeated my name, adding, “Don’t let us get hurt.” I took my focus from the road for a mere second and looked to my right to see Nina sitting in the passenger seat. Her belly swelled from pregnancy, she looked up at me with those soft blue eyes, and even though I expected to see fear, I saw trust in them. She trusted me not to hurt her or the babies.

I opened my mouth to tell her she couldn’t be there now, that I was driving too fast and one slip up could kill us, but before I could, I felt the car begin to lose control. What had been the smoothest ride I’d ever experienced quickly ended as the tires rode over rocks and gravel on the side of the road. We were out of control.

I was out of control.

Nina sat quietly as I fought to correct the car, but it was too late. The front bumper hit the guardrail, sending us into the air. She never screamed or cried. All she repeated again and again were the same three words. “Don’t hurt us.”

I didn’t know how long I got to sit there staring into her eyes so full of trust and belief in me. Everything that had been so fast now seemed to move in slow motion. I reached out to touch her, knowing it would be the last good thing either of us would feel in this lifetime, and as I took her hand in mine, she whispered, “Tristan, save us.”

The black Jag lay in a mangled heap in front of me. I had no idea how I could be standing there in one piece after the accident. Was I dead? My eyes quickly scanned every inch of the remnants of the car for Nina. She didn’t seem to be anywhere in the car, but I couldn’t move from where I was standing. My feet were like two blocks of cement.

“Nina! Where are you?”

She didn’t answer. Was she out of the car somewhere like I was? Were we both dead? I lifted my right foot to take a step, and to my surprise, I could move it. Tearing around the tangled mess that was the Jag, I searched for her. Blood covered everything where she’d sat in the passenger side, and I stumbled back in terror.

“Nina! Don’t leave me like this. Where are you?” I screamed but got no response.

I stood staring at the wreckage knowing what I’d done. Nina was dead, and I’d killed her. I’d denied her the one thing she’d asked.

People suddenly appeared surrounding me and the car. A man in a police uniform began to ask me questions about the accident. Was there anyone else in the car with me? What was my name? Was I hurt?

His words jumbled in my mind, and over and over I tried to respond but nothing came out. I cried out in pain, pointing at the blood on the car, but he simply walked away as he casually muttered words that chilled my heart. “Whoever it is, you killed them. You and your need for speed killed them. Happy now?”

And then I heard that same tiny voice call my name. “Tristan, help me…”

Pushing past the people still walking around the car and giving their opinions on the accident, I saw a hand in the brush a few yards away. Afraid at what I’d find but needing to know if Nina was okay, I slowly walked toward where the hand lay, seeing for the first time what I’d done. Her body lay mangled like the car, twisted into a form I barely recognized. Gashes carved into her face from when she crashed through the windshield seeped blood, but her eyes still stared up at me with that gentle look of trust in them.

“Tristan, help me,” she whispered.

Her words hit me with a force that knocked me back onto the ground, and I put my hands out to break my fall, feeling wetness beneath them. She repeated her plea as I lifted my hands to dry them only to see them covered in red. I was sitting in a pool of Nina’s blood.

Horrified, I scrambled to my feet, but it was no use. The blood continued to flow from her, rising inch by inch up my legs until it covered her and I couldn’t see her anymore.

“Nina! Nina!”

I woke up covered in sweat, my heart pounding in terror as I struggled to escape my dream. Quickly, I turned to see if Nina was okay. She lay silently asleep with her hands curled under her chin like always, a tiny snore coming from her to tell me she was all right.

Pulling her toward me, I held her in my arms, afraid if I let go my dream would return. She mumbled something sweetly as she melded to my body, and then she was back asleep, never knowing the nightmare that had terrorized me.

I lay there for a long time staring up at the ceiling, my mind awash in confusion and fear. I knew what this was. I’d had nightmares for years since the plane crash. Doctor after doctor claimed they were the result of my unconscious mind’s need to express the anxiety I kept hidden inside. They always added that if I’d just let out some of what I feared in my sessions with them that I’d surely see some improvement.

Let out some of what I feared. What I wanted to say to them was, “You live through a fucking plane crash and be impaled on a goddamned steel pole so you have no choice but to watch your family die around you, and then you tell me how much you want to relive any of that, assholes.”

Needless to say, therapy was never successful and I stopped going after a while, preferring to fight my demons my own way. Then I’d had Rogers to watch over me. Now I was the one who had to do the watching over Nina and the babies, and somewhere deep inside me a tiny voice whispered that I couldn’t do it. That I would fail them as I’d failed everyone who’d ever depended on me.

* * *

“Tristan, are you planning to come to bed?”

Nina looked over at me as I sat at the desk staring out the window instead of doing the work I’d claimed I needed to do. I hadn’t looked at my laptop for nearly twenty minutes. After my dream the night before, I wanted nothing more than to avoid sleep.

Padding up behind me, Nina wrapped her arms around my neck and whispered, “You look exhausted. Didn’t you get any sleep last night?”

I turned to kiss her, loving the feel of her body next to mine. “I slept.”

“Don’t lie to me,” she said sweetly. “I know you were tossing and turning for hours, and you weren’t there when I woke up. Something wrong?”

“Not a thing,” I said in my best lying voice.

She looked directly into my eyes. “You sure?”

“What could be wrong? I’ve got everything a man could want. Gorgeous wife, happy marriage, a couple kids on the way.”

Nina studied my expression and after a moment gave me one of her gentle smiles. “I just thought maybe something at work was bothering you. You know if there was you could talk to me, right?”

“I know, but work is fine. Nothing going on there but the usual.”

Moving around me, she nestled into my lap. “I know you, Tristan Stone. You’re worried about something, so just spill the beans.”

She stared into my eyes with a look so intent I knew I wasn’t going to be able to brush her off. There was no way I wanted to tell her about my nightmare. Whatever madness my mind was cultivating had nothing to do with her and everything to do with me. Saddling her with it wouldn’t do any good.

With as genuine a smile as I could muster, I took her face in my hands and pressed my forehead to hers. “There’s nothing to worry about, Mrs. Stone. Your husband is fine. I have a lot of work to finish, so you better get yourself to bed. You’re sleeping for three now, you know.”

My attempt at being cute garnered a giggle from her, the kind that never failed to make me truly happy. “I don’t think that’s how it works. If that were the case, I’d never get out of bed.”

Leaning back, I tapped the tip of her nose with my forefinger. “Well, then you better get yourself to sleep. I’ll be there in a little while. Don’t worry. I’ll just be over here working hard.”

She kissed me softly and nodded. “Okay. If you need anything, I’ll be right over there. Don’t stay up too late.”

“I promise. I’ll be there in just a few.”

Whether Nina believed my lie or not, she headed back to bed and fell asleep in minutes. I wanted to be there next to her, holding her in my arms as I drifted off to sleep, but my terror at what thoughts my mind would create kept me fast in my chair. The numbers and details in the Ryder Pharmaceutical report on my laptop’s screen swam in front of my eyes after a while as I fought against the need to sleep, but it was no use and I felt my eyelids begin to slowly lower.

The sound of Nina’s muffled cries made my blood run cold, and I ran through the house yelling her name, praying I wasn’t too late. My heart slammed against my chest at the fear I wouldn’t find her before they hurt her.

“Nina! Where are you?” I shouted over and over, but all I heard in response were her quiet pleas to find her.

I stopped at every doorway, my eyes frantically searching for any sign of her, but she was nowhere. No matter which way I ran, her voice remained the same soft cry so full of fear.

“Tristan, help me!”