“Why don’t you sit down? Do you want me to call someone?” His words faded into the background and blurred with a single thought. She had to fight. Brodie and her friends were right. She’d spent so long convincing herself that her ending was inevitable and been so determined to maintain some control over it, she’d convinced herself this was what she wanted.
But she was wrong.
She wanted to live.
“Soph? What do I do? What the fuck can I do? Help!” He cried out.
She could hear him, but his voice echoed as though they were underwater. The pressure in her back felt like a damn just burst open behind her and she was drowning.
“Brodie,” she tried her best to call for him, but nothing much escaped her lips.
“Shit, Sophia. I’m not good with this type of thing. Hold on. I’ll get help.”
He ran to the door and called out for help, but there was no one around. That was the beauty of Lani Bay. The houses were far enough apart that each home felt like a little safe haven of its own.
Fumbling with his phone, he called an ambulance and placed the phone on the ground next to Sophia.
She could hear the emergency worker conversing with Austin about her, but she didn’t bother to try to talk or open her eyes. Her body felt heavy and cumbersome around her bones, and she decided her fate was sealed. It was her own fault for giving up so easily on a life that she never knew how much she needed to live until the opportunity was taken away.
“Brodie,” she whispered, but no one seemed to hear her.
Brodie’s head felt thick and full, yet empty all at the same time. The nausea had passed and now he was able to see where he was; he wondered when he became such a jerk. Did it gradually creep up on him, or was it an overnight thing?
“How’re you feeling now you’ve got some water inside you?” The guy in the boater hat asked. Brodie recognized the cafe from this morning and took in the man’s wedding ring again, wondering if his wife would wonder why he was home so late.
“Thanks so much for looking out for me. I really appreciate that. I think I was mugged.” Brodie fumbled at his pockets and came up with nothing. Coming to his senses, he realised that his watch was missing, too.
“I gotta get out of here. My wife will be worrying about me and believe me, I’m the last thing she should be worrying about.”
“How about you drink some more of that water? Your business partner should be here soon.”
“My business partner?”
“Yes. Emmet, isn’t it? Sounds like a good guy if he’s willing to drive all the way here from Lani Bay this late at night.”
“You spoke to Emmet?” Brodie had no clue what was going on. The last few hours were like a jigsaw puzzle and he was frantically trying to connect the pieces. Emmet had only started helping out in the last few weeks. It made sense for the two of them to team up, but they had only had the idea when Brodie was cracking under the pressure of working as well as taking care of Sophia. It seemed strange hearing him referred to as his business partner as they’d never put a title on it or had any formal conversations around the ins and outs of their new arrangement.
“I just called the number on your card. You looked as though you needed to head home.”
“I forgot I gave you that. That’s my brother-in-law. Believe it or not, sometimes I do sensible shit like putting my phone on divert when I’m out of town.”
“Don’t beat yourself up. I’m sure you’re going to be just fine and whatever’s meant to be will be.”
“Thanks. Sorry, again. Do you need me to get out of here so you can get home to your other half?”
“You’re fine,” the man winked at him, but then looked away quickly enough to let Brodie know he wasn’t comfortable talking about his wife. Brodie nodded. He knew that feeling all too well.
“No, I’ve taken up enough of your time. I can wait outside.”
“Your brother could be ages, yet. I only called him a couple of hours ago.”
“Then let me help you. There must be something that needs doing before you open in the morning?”
“Finish that drink first, then you need something to eat to soak up the alcohol. I’ll fix you up a bacon toastie. That’ll do the trick.”
“Is everyone this decent around here?” Brodie decided he already knew the answer to that, given he’d just been robbed. But, like all small towns, one had to take the rough with the smooth. He got lucky when he stumbled into this dude’s cafe doorway. He dreaded thinking about what might have happened to him if he had winded up elsewhere.