Authors: Allison Hobbs
Daaimah S. Poole, fellow author and good friend. Thanks for helping me out. You always come through and I’m so grateful.
Yona Deshommes, thank you for always looking out, and helping me take it to the next level.
Karen Dempsey Hammond, it would take at least one more lifetime for me to repay the many kindnesses that you have extended over the course of our friendship. Thank you, my friend.
To all my readers and the fans of the
series…this one is for you!
rom an unfathomable distance, he could hear his wife calling him. Too choked up to speak, Brick lay in silent agony with his arms wrapped around Misty’s still warm body. For most of his life, Brick and Misty had been friends. And lovers. Despite all the dirt she’d done…despite his determination to keep Misty out of his life, their bond had not been severed…not even when he married her mother.
Thomasina entered her daughter’s bedroom and gasped. She blindly grasped the doorjamb to maintain her balance. “Baron! Why are you lying in bed with Misty?” Though she spoke in a hushed tone, there was unmistakable panic in her voice.
With his back to his wife, Brick could only respond with an anguished groan.
Thomasina stumbled across the small bedroom. She shook Brick’s massive shoulder roughly. “Misty’s too weak and frail for you to be all over her like that. Let go of my child before you squeeze the life out of her.”
“She’s gone, Thomasina. Misty’s gone!” He croaked out the words. He reluctantly released Misty, gently resting her head upon the pillow.
One look at Misty’s vacant gaze and Thomasina shrieked. “Oh, Lord Jesus no! Call 9-1-1, Brick! Why the hell are you just laying there? Hurry! Do something!”
“Baby, she’s dead. We can’t help her.”
“Misty is not dead! Move out the way, Baron. I have to try to do some CPR on my baby.”
“She slipped away peacefully.”
“Nooo! This can’t be. She was fine when I checked her last. And she…” Thomasina froze mid-sentence. Suddenly the meaning of Brick’s words washed over her like an icy tsunami. “My God, Baron! What have you done?” Thomasina covered her mouth, her eyes huge with fear and disbelief.
“Her life was pure hell, Thomasina,” Brick said. He stood up and reached for his wife, offering her comfort.
She shoved Brick away, and fell on the bed, trying desperately to shake Misty into awareness. “Misty, wake up. Wake up for Mommy!”
Brick tugged his wife’s arm. “She’s at peace.”
Frantically, Thomasina placed two fingers against the side of Misty’s neck. “She’s not dead!” she exclaimed. “She still has a pulse!” Brick dodged from Thomasina’s path as she raced from the bedroom to call 9-1-1.
Brick understood that it was a mother’s nature to go to extraordinary lengths to save her child, but he knew without a doubt that Misty was dead. And he was responsible for taking her life. Brushing a shaky hand over his first love’s face, Brick closed Misty’s unseeing eyes.
Breathlessly, Thomasina returned to Misty’s bedroom with the phone pressed against her ear. “Ma’am, I don’t know what happened. I came in my daughter’s bedroom and found my husband holding her, telling me she’s dead. But he ain’t a doctor and my daughter still has a pulse, goddamnit. Now tell me exactly what I need to do until the ambulance gets here.”
Thomasina listened to the voice on the other end of the phone, and then spoke in a trembling voice, “I know a little CPR, but I’ll
need you to walk me through it.” Her panicked eyes darted from Misty’s unmoving body to Brick’s tear-stained face.
Trying to calm down, Thomasina inhaled deeply. “The paramedics are on their way, but right now it’s up to me and you to try to get Misty breathing again.”
Brick had felt the life leave Misty’s body; there was no hope in reviving her. Still, he had to appease his distraught wife. With the back of his hand, Brick wiped tears away. “Whatchu need me to do?”
“The woman on the phone said we have to get Misty off the bed. Lay her on the floor.”
Brick lifted Misty’s frail body and tenderly lowered her onto the floor.
“Here, talk to the 9-1-1 lady. She’s gonna guide me through it.” Thomasina handed Brick the phone, and knelt beside her lifeless daughter.
Brick took the phone but didn’t say anything to the emergency medical dispatcher. Thomasina seemed to know what she was doing. He watched as Thomasina pushed down on Misty’s tiny chest with both hands, counting loud and desperately with each compression. When she reached number fifteen, she began breathing into Misty’s mouth.
A sudden and urgent pounding on the front door brought a frightened yell from Little Baron’s bedroom.
“Let the paramedics in!” Thomasina shouted. She urgently began the compressions again, paying no attention to her toddler son’s cries.
Having no more use for the EMD, Brick ended the call and rushed out of the room. Out in the hallway, he hesitated briefly when his son let out another distressful wail. Little Baron began throwing a fit when he caught sight of his father. He screamed at the top of his lungs and shook the railing of his crib. But Brick kept moving. There was no time to pick up and console his frantic child.
“It’s all right, lil man! Daddy’s gon’ be right back to get you!” Brick yelled as he bounded down the stairs.
Thomasina rode in the ambulance with Misty. Brick stayed behind, getting himself and Little Baron dressed. The ride to the hospital was solemn. His young son seemed to sense that this was a somber occasion, and accepted being strapped in his child seat without squirming or uttering a word of complaint.
Brick shook his head, imagining Thomasina getting hysterical and becoming inconsolable when the doctor pronounced Misty dead on arrival.
But once she regained her composure, Thomasina was going to demand some answers. From Brick. He was the last person to see Misty alive, and he imagined that the cops would probably want to have a word with him, too.
He swiped his hand across his sweaty forehead. The deafening sound of his rapidly beating heart filled the car.
It had been a mercy killing. Wait…no…he didn’t actually kill Misty. He’d only assisted. Misty begged for that lethal cocktail. She was of a sound mind when she’d swallowed each and every one of those pills. It was straight-up suicide. Misty wanted out of that useless body. She wanted to be with Shane.
But Thomasina wouldn’t understand. Shit, at this point, Brick didn’t understand. Like old times, he’d allowed Misty to have her way.
Damn, Misty. Fuck was I thinking? It wasn’t your time yet. I can’t believe I let you talk me into that crazy shit!
Grim-faced, Brick drove slowly, taking the long route to the hospital.
rick parked in the visitor’s garage at the hospital. Carrying his sleeping son in his arms, he made slow strides toward the elevator.
Inside the visitor’s lounge, he found Thomasina wringing her hands and pacing. Her face was a mask of grief and anxiety; her eyes red and puffy from crying. Having dressed hurriedly, she was wearing pajama bottoms, a T-shirt, and flip-flops.
Guilt-ridden, Brick used his free arm to hug his wife.
“They had to pump Misty’s stomach. The doctor said she overdosed on pills. She’s barely clinging to life, but they’re not giving up.” Thomasina eased out of Brick’s embrace and glanced toward a set of double doors that were marked: No Admittance. “There’s a whole team of doctors working on her back there. Oh, God, please let my baby pull through.”
Brick frowned in confusion.
Misty’s still alive?
How can that be possible?
“The doctors can only do but so much. We need the Lord’s help.” Thomasina had a desperate look in her eyes—like she’d wished she could trade places with Misty.
Brick felt torn between the two women he loved. Thomasina wanted her daughter back, but from Misty’s perspective, life wasn’t worth living. Misty would be devastated if she woke up and found herself, once again, trapped inside that broken body and confined to a bed.
Thomasina gazed at Brick with an eyebrow arched. “I can’t figure out how Misty could have overdosed. I’m the one who administered her medication, and I followed the doctor’s orders to a tee.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong, baby,” Brick mumbled guiltily.
“But no one else had access to her meds, Baron. Only her nurse and me. The nurse had the past few days off, so that leaves me. And there’s no way I would have overdosed my own child!”
“I know,” Brick muttered.
“It’s going to take a few weeks for the toxicology report to reveal exactly what drugs were in her system.”
“We’ll get through this.” Hoping his words were true, he gave Thomasina’s shoulder a quick squeeze.
“I’ll never forgive myself if I was so absent-minded that I overdosed my poor, sickly daughter.” Thomasina had a tortured look in her eyes and Brick couldn’t allow his wife to blame herself for another moment.
“I gave Misty the pills,” he confessed softly. Unable to look Thomasina in the eye, he kept his gaze downcast. Needing to do something with his nervous hands, he readjusted his son’s body weight, shifting the toddler’s sleeping body from his right side to his left.
After resting Little Baron’s head upon his left shoulder, Brick stole a glance at Thomasina. Thomasina’s eyes had turned to slits. Her lips were tight. “You did what?” she asked incredulously.
“I can explain.”
She uttered a sound of shock. “I can’t believe what I’m hearing. You’re responsible for this?” She bent at the waist and moaned. “You were supposed to be helping Misty. How could you do something so cruel?”
Brick hung his head. After a long uncomfortable silence, he
looked up. “Thomasina, please listen to me. You know Misty was suffering. She was in so much misery…she didn’t want to be here any longer.”
Too shocked to speak, Thomasina stared at him with horror all over her face.
“It was what she wanted,” Brick explained. “Misty had been planning her suicide for a long time.”
“Misty was paralyzed. She was completely helpless, so how the hell could she get a hold of enough pills to almost kill herself?”
“Hear me out, baby,” Brick pleaded. “She wasn’t swallowing the pills that you gave her. She was spitting them out, using her good hand to toss her meds under the bed.”
Thomasina glared at Brick; her lips were bunched together in fury.
“Baby, I know you’re mad at me, but it wasn’t my idea. After Misty had stashed what she thought was a lethal dosage, she begged me to gather ’em up from under the bed and put ’em in her mouth.”
“What you did was attempted murder,” Thomasina hissed.
“You gotta look at it from Misty’s perspective. She was in a lot of pain. Mentally and physically. For her, every day was torture… a slow death. She cried like a baby, telling me how miserable her life was. When she begged me to help her, it was a hard decision, but I love Misty…like a sister,” he added. “It seemed like the right thing to do.”
“You had no right to go behind my back and try to execute my daughter.”