Secrets Never Die (Page 50)

Kneeling in the wet weeds, she fished in Lance’s bag for a utility tool. She used it to cut the harness off Evan and to cut the rope attaching the men to the Jeep. She tossed the rope aside. Then she found a Mylar emergency blanket and wrapped it around Evan.

The boy was white and limp, his eyes closed.

Tina placed two shaking fingers against her son’s neck. Her body sagged with relief. “He’s just unconscious.”

Lance staggered to his feet. “How long did the dispatcher tell you it would take for the emergency response?”

Tina didn’t answer. Instead she opened the back of the Jeep and dug through her duffel bag for a fleece blanket. She checked on Rylee’s bandage and gave the girl a pat on the arm. Rylee shivered. Morgan had left the Jeep running and the heat on, but the girl’s teeth were chattering.

“I’ll close this door in a minute, and it’ll get warmer in here,” Tina said to Rylee.

“Yes, ma’am.” Rylee nodded. Her wound was nasty, but she was awake and alert.

Tina removed her bag from the Jeep, closed the rear hatch, and brought the medical supplies to Evan. “Are there any more blankets?”

Morgan looked through Lance’s kit. “No.”

“Would you bring my car down here?” Tina brushed raindrops from her forehead. “We can put him in the back seat and run the heater. I have blankets and some additional medical supplies in the trunk.”

Morgan ran up to the parking lot and drove Tina’s car down. She parked it next to the Jeep. When she climbed out of the car, Tina was preparing to start an IV.

Morgan took in the volume of supplies: gauze, antiseptic and other wound-cleaning and dressing materials, bags of saline, vials of drugs. Tina’s bag was no normal first aid kit. She’d stocked it with her son’s injury in mind.

“Where did you get all this?” Morgan asked.

“Rylee described Evan’s wounds when she called, so I stopped at the urgent care on the way here.” Tina leaned over Evan. She straightened one arm and tied a rubber tourniquet above his elbow. She tapped on the skin, clearly looking for a suitable vein. “He’s dehydrated. I need some light.”

Lance retrieved an umbrella and flashlight from the Jeep’s glove compartment. He held the umbrella over Evan and shone the flashlight on his arm.

Tina cleaned her bloody hands with sanitizer, donned a pair of gloves, then began opening packages. She used an alcohol prep pad on Evan’s arm, then inserted a needle. Swearing, she tried again. On her third attempt, she had successfully placed the IV. She taped it down, attached a bag of saline, and held it high. “Let’s get him in the back seat of my car. I can hang the saline drip from the headrest.”

Lance hesitated. His clothes and hair were plastered down. He was bleeding from several shallow lacerations and abrasions, and he looked not quite steady on his feet. His muscles were likely weak from the massive exertion of getting Evan to shore. Yet the eye contact with Morgan made his face go even grimmer, which shouldn’t have been possible. His gaze locked on Tina’s medical bag, then met Morgan’s eyes. She followed his line of sight and knew exactly what he was thinking.

That was no first aid kit that Tina had brought in her trunk. Her bag was stuffed with a week’s worth of medical supplies. She’d planned to do more than save Evan.

She’d planned to run.

“Tina, you didn’t call 911, did you.” The words came out of Morgan’s mouth as a statement, not a question.

“No.” Tina looked up at Morgan. “I can’t trust the police. They have a warrant out for Evan’s arrest. I’m taking my son and leaving here. You can’t stop me.”

“Evan needs to go to the hospital.” Morgan glanced at the boy. His pallor was alarming. If Tina took him away, Morgan feared Evan might not survive.

But Tina was riding on her own wave of fear.

“All Evan needs is me. We’re better off on our own.” Without any more explanation, Tina reached into her waistband at her back and produced Lance’s gun. She pointed it at Lance and spoke, her voice cool. “Please put Evan into the back seat of my car.”

Chapter Thirty-Seven

“No.” Lance met Tina’s gaze without flinching. He could not believe that she would shoot him.

“Do it!” Tina gestured with the gun.

At the increase in danger, Lance looked instinctively for Morgan. She had her phone out and was inching behind the tree. Calling 911, no doubt.

He had to stall for time.

Every inch of Lance’s body ached. He’d almost drowned and had been beaten, kicked, and slammed into rocks. He’d risked his life to save Evan multiple times. From the looks of the boy, the job wasn’t done yet. Lance would be damned if he’d let Tina’s refusal to trust anyone kill her son.

“I’m taking both kids to the hospital,” he said simply. “We both know Evan needs more than a few bags of saline.”

“I have antibiotic injections,” Tina said.

Lance’s gaze cut pointedly to the teen, lying far too still on the ground, his face a mask of sickness. “That wound has been festering for days. It’s been submerged in bacteria-laden floodwater. He needs an ICU and probably surgery.”

Frustrated, Tina raised her voice. “I know what he needs.”

“Do you?” Lance accused. “What about Rylee? Are you going to shoot her too?”

“Of course not!” Tina shot back. “I can’t hurt a child, and Rylee is no threat to Evan.”

“And you think I’m a threat to you or Evan?” Anger gave Lance’s freezing body a shot of heat. “I almost died at least six times today for your son.”

“And I thank you for that.” Tina’s expression softened for a few seconds. Her eyes pleaded with him.

“You can’t get him into the car without me.” Lance crossed his arms over his chest. “He’s not even conscious now.”

Panic lit Tina’s eyes.

“I don’t want to hurt you or Morgan,” she said. “All you have to do is cooperate. Put Evan in my car, and we’ll be on our way. You can take Rylee to the hospital. She needs surgery or she is going to bleed out. The tourniquet on her leg should only be used temporarily.”

“No.” Lance shook his head. “I will not be a party to you killing your kid.”

Tina stared back at him in disbelief.

Morgan slid out from behind the tree. A small nod confirmed that she’d called for help.

Tina swung her arm around so that the weapon pointed at Morgan. “I said, put Evan in my car.”

Morgan shook her head. “That’s not going to happen.”

S**t!

Lance was OK with risking his own neck, but he didn’t like Morgan doing the same. But he didn’t interfere. She was damned good at reading people, and she didn’t think Tina was going to shoot either. But his heart still skipped a few beats as Tina’s gun hand trembled.

“I’ll handle the sheriff and the prosecutor,” Morgan said. “We know who killed Paul. It might take some time to prove it, but once Aaron’s body is dragged from the river, the case against Evan will be dropped. You don’t have to fear the police now.”

“You can trust Morgan to handle Evan’s legal needs, and while those legal issues are sorted out, Evan will be getting the medical assistance he desperately needs.” Lance scanned the teen. “You can’t run from the law, and there’s no reason for you to try. Especially when you know he needs major medical intervention.”

“It’s not the law I’m afraid of,” Tina said. “It’s Joe. You cannot keep us safe from him. He found us once. He will do so again.”

“You might be right, but you need to prioritize the threats.” Lance was done with the conversation. “You need to put the gun down and let us finish saving your son’s life. Then you can worry about Joe.”

Tina’s brows lowered. She was trying to think of a way to force him to comply without shooting him. She should have been crying. She should have been emotional. Instead, she was thinking. But behind the mental exercise, he saw fear.

Pure fear.

She’d been planning to run for some time, as soon as she’d realized that Joe might have found her. She was desperate. She’d do anything to save her son, no matter how crazy. Lance’s experience in the ER with Sophie had given him fresh insight into the parent-child bond and the primal instinct to protect one’s young. She was fixated on her father and the terrible things he’d done in the past, the ways she and others had suffered at his hands. She saw him now as he’d been in her childhood. And the vision terrified her.

Lance couldn’t threaten or bully her. He needed to appeal to the one thing that would break through the fear.

Her son.

“We can’t wait. Have you checked his vitals? He looks worse.” Lance moved toward Evan.

“Don’t touch him!” Tina turned her body so the gun aimed squarely at Lance’s chest. “I will shoot you.”

Unfortunately, he’d given Evan his body armor. “You’re going to have to.”

He moved smoothly and slowly, faking confidence. Despite the cold, despite being soaking wet, despite being almost sure that Tina wouldn’t shoot him, Lance poured sweat and held his breath.

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