“You can’t promise that. I was there at the house with Don. I saw how that went down. What if next time those bodies that are left behind to be disposed of are yours?”
“They won’t be,” I insist.
She gives a small half laugh. “Stop saying that. You can’t predict the future. Stop acting like you can.”
“Maybe not, but I trust myself, and I trust the others, too. We've been waiting too long for this to let anything happen.”
She thinks for a moment and then asks, “How long will you be gone?”
“I'm not sure yet. Maybe a couple of days?”
Her eyes widen again. “A couple of days? I can't be without you all for that long. It will kill me.”
“We’ll still have phones. We can FaceTime.”
She shakes her head. “It won't be the same, and you know it. If you're going to be gone that long, surely you will be staying in a hotel or something. Can’t I come along with you and stay there, instead?”
I blow out a steady breath. “You'll be safer on the island.”
“I'll be lonely on the island,” she says.
“Better lonely than dead.”
I close my eyes and press my nose and lips to the top of her head. I can’t stand to see the pain in her eyes and know that I’m the cause of it. What more can I do, though? We can’t take her with us, not when there’s the possibility of her getting hurt. We’ve already come too close to losing her, and none of us can go through that again.
She’s not going to let me get away with it that easily, though, and she shifts away from me, putting unwanted space between our bodies. She reaches out and runs her fingers through my hair, the feel of her fingers on my scalp sending pleasurable goosebumps across my skin. God, I love this girl.
The knowledge solidifies the determination inside me that I’ll do anything to keep her safe.
“Rafferty,” she says softly. “Look at me.”
I obey her command—I’ll do anything for her.
“I’m not going to let this go,” she continues. “I understand exactly how you’re feeling about me not getting hurt because I feel the exact same way about the four of you. Wilder was shot last time. What if we’d lost him? What if next time, it’s Asher who’s shot, or Brody, and they’re not as lucky as Wilder? I won’t cope if that happens. I’ll break.”
“It’ll break me, too,” I admit.
She places her fingers against my cheek. “I can’t stand the thought of more violence. I know you think it’ll make you all feel better, but will it? Killing Don didn’t feel good. It still makes me sick every time I think of it. Do you really want more blood on your hands? I can’t help but feel there’s a better way.”
My body tenses at the thought of Wren. “I want him to know who has taken him down. I want to look into his eyes when he realizes this is all over for him and witness his downfall.”
“I agree,” she says. “You deserve that much.”
I relax a fraction.
“But I don’t want a repeat of what happened with Don. All those people dead. No matter what they’d done or who they were, that kind of bloodshed isn’t good for anyone involved. That kind of ugliness affects the soul. It can penetrate you like something rotten and turn your insides black.”
She stares into my eyes.
“So why not do something different? You have all that information from Don, so use it, and not just to find Wren. You have enough to bring him down for real.”
I stare back at her, understanding what she’s suggesting. Then I touch her chin and kiss her mouth, hard.
“Clever girl. Let’s talk to the others in the morning.”