Chapter Twenty-Four, continued
The air rushed back in on a gasp and she rushed to the still form spilling blood onto the buttery yellow carpet.
Rose had never looked so pale. Her loose hair was strewn carelessly around her face, her dusky lashes were closed but starting to flutter at the sudden noise, her cheeks pale as white marble. Her arms were limp, her fingers barely twitching. One leg was bent, the other laid out straight and beating blood out of her body.
“Rose,” Elaina whispered, dropping to her knees. With trembling fingers, she brushed a finger against Rose’s cheek. “What happened?”
“Sorry,” Rose murmured, her voice so low Elaina was afraid she hadn’t actually heard her.
“Sorry? There’s nothing to be sorry about.” Elaina pressed her trembling lips together. “I just learned Brad has a gun this morning.” She leaned over and, swallowing, took a good look at Rose’s injury. She wasn’t an expert, but it didn’t look like it would be fatal. She hoped. Then again, what did she know? “Lie still, Rose, I’m going to see what I can do.”
She knew the basics of first aid, knew she had to staunch the blood flow. Rapidly, her head swung one way and then the other, looking for anything to wrap around Rose’s leg. Then she remembered the scarf she’d grabbed before leaving her parents’ house. It wasn’t one of the gauzy ones she’d worn once in a while during her stay in the Hall. It was one of her mother’s tightly knitted wool scarves, thick and wide. Perfect for covering Elaina’s hair and part of her face. And perfect for wrapping around Rose’s leg.
She tied it as tightly as she could, wrapping it around her wound while Rose tried to bite back her cries of pain to avoid alerting Brad. It was slow going as they stopped now and then to listen, but Elaina finally got the bleeding as under control as her inexperienced hands could and Rose sitting up against a chair.
Rose was still pale, her eyelids still fluttering now and then, her head tilting this way and that, but she was lucid enough to talk. Brad had used the early chaos to slip in, had found Rose and grinned while he shot at her. She was lucky she’d thought quickly enough to try to move. He would have killed her had Nigel not come running and drawn him off. Why he hadn’t come back, she didn’t know.
Elaina set her mouth in a grim line. “He’s really after Robert.” She shook her head as she grabbed for the phone she saw lying on the table beside the window. “Can’t stand the idea that I dumped him for Robert. Ridiculous, of course, but he hates losing.”
A smile fluttered across Rose’s face, a thing as ephemeral as gossamer wings. “Just like his mother.”
Elaina dialed a few numbers and raised the phone to her face. “Marie, Rose has been shot. Bradley Hunter is inside the Hall. Nigel is unconscious, but breathing and appears otherwise uninjured. No sign of any other staff.” She hesitated the barest fraction of a moment. “No sign of Bradley or Robert.”
She didn’t wait for a response before she hung up. Marie would know what to do. Elaina dropped a tender kiss on Rose’s cheek, murmured Marie would be there soon, and rushed out of the room.
Now she really needed to find Robert. Brad would not hesitate to use his gun.
She hesitated outside of Rose’s sitting room. When the women had approached, she was sure security would have gotten him inside if he’d been out in his wretched garden, or anywhere else on the grounds. He wasn’t in the library, definitely hadn’t been in the kitchen, and was seemingly nowhere near his mother.
“For goodness sake’s,” she snapped at herself, pressing her fingers to her temples.
On a normal day, she and Robert would be out on the grounds, soaking up the last of the warm days, or in the library. Where else would he be? With Rose back, he wouldn’t be attempting to open up any other doors.
But Rose had said something about painting.
Elaina took off down the hall. A few months ago, she would have been hopelessly lost. Now, after half a year of exploring the house she’d been stuck in, she knew it fairly well. Now, she was sprinting for Robert’s study.
The door was closed, but she could hear a murmur of voices through the thick door. Ice ran through her veins and her fingers clenched painfully around the phone she still had in her hand. With her eyes on the door, she quietly crept backwards and dialed for Marie again. Like before, a heavy breath was the only thing letting her know Marie was on the other end. In a hushed voice, her eyes still on the door, she whispered she’d found Robert and Brad in Robert’s study.
The voices were growing on the other side of the door. She felt like she was shaking like a leaf, but she couldn’t wait for Marie or another member of the security team to get to her. Brad was no-nonsense. The fact that she could hear two voices was encouraging. It meant Robert had to still be alive.
Her heart pounding in her throat, she flung the door open, only to have the barrel of a gun flung in front of her face, stopping her short.
“Brad, stop!” she screamed.
Robert was standing in the middle of his maroon study, his palms even with his shoulders and facing Brad. His eyes were wide with panic as he took in Elaina framed by the open door. Brad was between them, and her heart momentarily stuttered as she realized this must have been what it had looked like when he’d found his father, Colette, and Colette’s gun.
Irrationally, she thought it would be a good idea to see to the destruction of all guns.
Brad’s eyes gleamed at the sight of her, but his gun never wavered. “Welcome back, Elaina. You’re just in time to watch me free you from your captor.”
“Captor? What? Brad, you’re crazy!”
With a smile and wink, Brad turned back to Robert. “Certainly not, my love. This man has brainwashed you, but I’m here now. I’ll just remove him from the picture and then we can live happily ever after.”
“You’re nuts! Don’t you remember? I broke up with you!”
Brad glanced over his shoulder at her and tutted, shaking his head slightly. “My dear, I finally figured out what was going on. My apologies it took me six months to piece it together and to come and get you.”
“Get me? What on Earth are you talking about?”
He raised a brow. “Surely you know. It was all your idea.”
Elaina’s hand was clutching so hard around the phone, it was a wonder it hadn’t cracked. She had no idea what Brad was talking about, but she couldn’t figure out how else to keep him from shooting Robert except talk to him. Her feet were frozen, Robert was frozen, security still hadn’t made it to them yet.
“My only idea was to break up with you. I couldn’t take it any longer. You and your mother were destroying me.”
“Now, Elaina, what do you take me for? An idiot? No, I figured it out.” Brad frowned. “But maybe too late. The man you intended on having me rescue you from to prove how much I love you is the very man you’ve grown soft for.” Brad drew himself up and renewed his steady aim on Robert. “But I’m here to fix that. I know you’ll only love me.”
Elaina’s heart froze as fear lit up Robert’s face.
“No, Brad! You can’t! It’s too dangerous. You cannot kill the end of the Roderick line!”
“Why not?” Brad snarled.
“No, Elaina!” Robert cried out. “You can’t!”
“You’ll destroy two worlds,” Elaina said, casting an apology with her eyes at Robert.
But Brad laughed. He threw his head back and laughed. “I’m not destroying anything! I’m fixing us, Elaina. You and me. We’re meant to be together. Once I get this scum out of the way, it’ll finally all be right.”
Her fingers clutched at the phone as Brad turned his attention back to Robert. Her father had enrolled her in softball when she was a child. She hadn’t really wanted to, but Lily was there, and she and Lily did everything together. Lily had been amazing. Elaina had spent the entire time sitting on the bench, dodging balls, and flinging the bat every which way. But she’d been good at throwing. Well, sort of. One time out of every ten she managed to throw it right. Her father had helped her practice, and she’d managed to improve to three times out of ten.
That had been years ago now. So, maybe, it was two times out of ten by now. Or maybe it was back to one time out of ten. Or maybe she couldn’t do it at all. Maybe she’d completely forgotten how to throw.
But it was her only shot. Literally.
She caught Robert’s terrified eye as her arm swing back to fling the phone in Brad’s general direction.
All at once, Robert dropped, a gunshot resounded, and a phone struck true. Well, mostly true. She’d hit him on the shoulder, the one not holding the gun, but the surprise made him drop the gun all the same.
Brad whirled on her as Robert lunged forward to grab the gun. At the same time, they could hear racing footsteps.
“Elaina,” Brad said, his face pale.
She wrapped her arms around herself as security finally made it to them and poured in around her.
“We’re done, Brad,” she whispered, not even sure if he could hear her, but, from his expression as security quickly secured his hands behind him, he didn’t need to hear it.
She watched two of the security guards march Brad from the study from the corner of her eye. He didn’t look at her, either. Once he was gone, she rushed to Robert, where he was handing over the gun to Marie.
Elaina clutched at Marie’s arm. “Rose?”
A small smile flickered over Marie’s face before it was replaced by her usual stone. “She’s fine, insisted on having a doctor make a house call, but didn’t get her way. Nigel is fine, too. Just needs an ice pack. The rest of the staff locked themselves in the staff quarters once they heard the commotion.”
Elaina nodded and then flung herself into Robert’s arms.
“My mother?” he murmured into her hair.
“She’s fine,” Elaina said breathlessly, turning into a noodle against him now that the adrenaline had flooded out of her body. “Brad shot her in the leg, but she’ll be fine.”
Robert’s arms tightened around her and he pulled her as close as he could get her.