Lily saw hope and excitement in the other couples faces just moments before she felt someone grab her ankle in a vice grip, dragging her backwards rapidly across the floor. She bit her tongue to keep from yelping aloud. She was pulled silently back and watched John move forward in a crouched position along the edge of the register, his gun in his hand. Radar was beside him, alert, and looked beyond deadly. How had she ever thought the dog to be a simple, sweet pup?
The two were at work, focused intently on each other.
Eyes glued on each other and the men holding the guns, John gave a silent signal. At a sharp short whistle, Radar leaped around the register as John flew into action. Lily squeezed her eyes shut and covered her ears mercifully as the dog made terrifying growls accompanied with screams, shouts and the sound of gunfire. Within seconds, there was silence.
Cracking open an eye, she saw John sitting on top of one of the men, placing handcuffs on him. The other man lay there as another officer read him his rights and took him into possession. Radar stood beside the men, hackles raised, and teeth bared, fury barely contained. John’s blessed voice broke through the chaos.
“Radar! Go see Lily! Make sure our girl is okay.”
Lily felt tears of relief tracking down her cheeks as the massive dog’s stance relaxed and she trotted over, plopping down and putting her head and legs across Lily’s lap where she sat on the floor. Radar whined, and Lily petted her ever so gently, trying not to move her hand any more than she had to. She saw boots come into view just seconds before John squatted down.
“Sweetheart are you okay?” his voice shook as he looked her over and patted her down. “Are you hurt anywhere?”
“My hand,” she admitted. John wrapped his arms around her and picked her up off the floor bodily.
“Let me see it.” Lily watched as he tenderly inspected her fingers and she jerked her hand away protectively as he got close to her pinky finger. “This one hurts? What happened?” he asked, concerned, and yelled for medical over his shoulder.
“I texted you and the guy kicked my phone out of my hand,” she told him and saw the enraged fury in his eyes on her behalf. Someone had dared hurt her and she saw the barely restrained violence within him. John and Radar were just alike. Both loveable and gentle, until called to duty.
“I’ll break his…” he began, and she interrupted him.
“No, stay with me. It hurts and I’m a little shaken,” she admitted and saw his expression soften noticeably. “Thank you for coming.”
“I will always come to you,” he vowed, kissing her tenderly. “But I might be in a bit of trouble.”
“I couldn’t see straight thinking you might be in here and was ordered to stand down. My boss and I didn’t see eye to eye, but he finally gave in.”
“You went without permission,” she said flatly, knowing John’s personality. John didn’t get in trouble, instead he was being hailed as a hero. Just outside of the exit to the mall, the media and news trucks were lined up awaiting word. They passed up several reporters and he politely offered to speak to them tomorrow once he’d taken care of his girl.
“I wasn’t alone either. Too many people in here to wait, you know? I couldn’t take a chance on your safety. I love you too much.”
“I knew you’d save me.”
“Always,” he said firmly and escorted her to the car. Lily had insisted they gather her shopping bags and left money to pay for the ornament at the register. She was certainly not leaving without it now! John dutifully carried the bags as she held her hand tightly against her.
Lily’s finger was broken, and several hours later it was splinted and set. John was fussing over her like a mother hen, making her a hot cocoa and getting her some ibuprofen when they’d returned to her home. Radar just whined until she was able to get seated on the couch with Lily. The sweet dog was beside herself with wanting to comfort her.
They stayed with her throughout the night, John holding her against his chest as they slept on the couch, her hand laid flat against his chest as to keep from moving it. Innocent, yet necessary. She didn’t want to be alone and he’d been beside himself all evening, afraid to let her out of his sight. It ached terribly, but nothing more than she could handle. She’d not trade these precious moments with him for anything in the world right now.
Her Christmas tree was illuminated softly in the corner, the stockings she’d bought were hung by John and the love of her life had her cradled against him. Life was good, and she felt like everything was clicking together perfectly between them. They were growing to become a family: her, John and Radar. She finally fell asleep listening to John’s heartbeat and the soft sounds of his breathing as he held her.
Thank you, she prayed, gratefully.Thank you so very much for John.
Lily awoke late the next morning. Tonight, was Christmas Eve and she felt extremely shy that John had stayed the night. It had been completely innocent, simply more of a comfort. Neither had wanted to see the other leave for the night, and John flat out refused to leave her side in case she needed help or was in pain. It was the words he didn’t say aloud that spoke volumes.
He’d been terrified.
When he’d grabbed her ankle, she’d been shocked at the amount of strength John demonstrated. It had to have been adrenaline pumping through his system. She’d heard of people lifting cars during moments of abject fear, and while she was nowhere near the size of a car – she wasn’t a tiny woman either. He’d moved her like it was pulling a piece of yarn dangled across the floor for a cat to play with. It was done in such a hurry, in complete abandon, neither had time to process what was happening-it was simply guttural and raw. He felt that he had to remove her from danger, putting himself bodily in front of her in order to protect.
Neither Radar nor John had left her side. Lily had gone to the restroom after getting home and the large dog followed her, growling when she tried to shut the door in her face. She refused to allow the dog in such during a private moment; it would have been so awkward. Instead, Radar had whined desperately at the door and pawed it for the two minutes she’d taken for herself.
Lily felt like she needed to talk about it with him, so they could move past the ordeal, but instead he shut down, his face tight and eyes tortured.
“Not right now, please.”