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“What? And show him my cards?” Lee bites back.

“I think Shelby would want me to stay with Dylan,” Aiden says, walking forward and caressing the side of the tank as he looks at it in awe.

“Max, tell me if you need me…” My words are cut off with the wave of his hand.

“Man, I’m not even sure how you’re still on your feet. You’re as white as the snow,” he cuts me off. “We’ll get the Humvee pulled in front of the gate. Lee can lead with the tank, and I’ll be behind him in this armored toy of his.”

Chapter 19


Just when I think I’m as tired as I’ve ever been in my life, something else happens.

I can’t decide if I was more terrified when the shooting started or when it ended.

My son was supposed to be guarding the barn. And yes, while that position was created to make him feel important, I froze when I suddenly saw him on the road. From what little I could see through a square cut out of the shutters, it looked like Dylan and Dad were alright, but with all of our radios being used out there, there was no immediate way of knowing if any of our people were wounded or dead.

At least until Max drove up with Russ in tow, Julia hot on their trail. My brother only paused long enough to let us know the bare facts, but there would be time for more later.


Trisha and Elsbeth have been operating on Russ for nearly an hour now, and I should be comforting Julia, but half of my family is still on the road beyond the gate.

It’s the moment I see a tank come into view, that I know what’s going to happen.

They’re going to town. And there’s not a force in this world that will stop Dylan from riding in that tank.

The snowmobile that Max had used, now carries my father and Eddie back to us. It’s the sight of Dylan throwing a wave at me, or really, just in the direction of the house, before he slides down into the tank—that brings me to my knees.

“Mom!” Julia cries out, quickly crossing to me and trying to get me back to my feet; sinking beside me to take my pulse when I don’t try to move.

I open my mouth, thinking to let her know that I’m alright, except I’m not.

“Shelby?” The question in Elsbeth’s soft voice gets my attention, and I simply point to the door, seconds before my dad opens it.

I’ll let him explain what I just saw played out. For now, I’m just going to stay here, wrapped in my daughter’s arms.

“Just need a minute, huh, Mom?” Julia quietly murmurs after Dad explains that Max wanted to take a group down to Dayton to see if the townspeople were trying to rise up against their unwanted guests. When Eddie’s shadow is cast over us, she looks up at him. “You look awful. Go sit down.”

As I take deep breaths to settle my nerves, it occurs to me that it was only yesterday that Jace died and here she is today, waiting to see if Russ will be alright while taking care of me.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper, looking up at her beautiful face and wiping her own tears of worry away.

“A wise woman once told me, ‘We all need a good meltdown, now and then’,” she whispers back. “He’ll be alright, Momma. He handled himself well out there today.”

“I don’t know if that makes me feel better or worse,” I respond, accepting her help to stand up again.

When Sara starts to fuss, Eddie holds up his hand in my direction. “I’ve got her.”

He trudges toward the bassinet we left right outside the entrance to the basement and he quickly checks on her before continuing forward to wash his hands and grab a fresh cloth diaper.

“Come on, Mom,” Julia nudges me from my side. “Let’s get you to bed.”

Although I want to stay out here on the couch, my protests fall on deaf ears as she guides me toward Dad’s room and tucks me into his large bed.

“When did you get so bossy?” I ask, smiling up at her.

“Around second grade,” she sasses back, placing a kiss on my forehead before heading to the door. “I’ll wake you as soon as we hear anything.”

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