Exhaustion was luring Owen into its warm, soothing embrace. Sabrina's warm body was pressed up close to him, providing a level of comfort Owen had never known before. His eyelids felt weighted down and where he had wondered if he would ever sleep again, suddenly all he wanted was to close his eyes and lose consciousness for awhile.
He didn't fight the pull of slumber as a welcomed relaxation began to seep through his body. He hugged Sabrina closer and rested one hand over her heart. It beat in that calm rhythm of sleep. There was nothing to indicate she was having bad dreams. Still, a part of him longed to stay awake, just in case she awoke and needed his assurance that the nightmare was really over. But the need for sleep was more than his weary body and mind could resist. God, he felt he could like he could sleep for years.
He pressed his lips against her hair, breathed in her scent and allowed the tension to finally start to ebb away. "I love you, baby." He murmured sleepily as a low sigh escaped him.
The phone rang, shattering the quiet of the bedroom, snapping Owen fully awake.
He grabbed up the cordless phone off the nightstand before it could ring again and possibly wake up Sabrina."Hello?" He hissed, a bit too sharply.
There wasn't an immediate answer from the other end, but Owen could feel someone there.
"Hello." Owen spoke tightly, feeling his gut tighten for reasons he couldn't pinpoint.
The caller cleared his throat, clearly male. He spoke with a tone of authority, though his voice was low, quiet. "Put Sabrina on the phone."
Owen's jaw clenched a bit as tension gripped his face. Who knew Sabrina was here? Hadn't she come here under the guise of her sister?
"Who is this?" Owen spoke so low it was a near whisper, hard and laced with warning.
"That is of no consequence to you, Mr. Briggs." The caller's voice remained at a quiet level, but radiated a hard edge. "Let me speak to Sabrina."
Owen swallowed tightly. His brow pinched as he looked down at Sabrina, somehow sleeping peacefully after having just endured a traumatizing experience. He would protect her at all costs. And his gut was warning him that the caller was a threat to her new found peace.
"You must have the wrong number." Owen said slowly, cautiously. "This is the home of her sister, Celine."
A brief silence screamed in Owen's ear. Then - "Don't fuck with me, Owen." The caller hissed tightly. "Put Sabrina on the fucking phone."
A knot twisted up tight in Owen's guts, creating a sudden nausea. It struck him suddenly that the voice was familiar. Vaguely so, but nonetheless...familiar.
"Who is this?" Owen left the bed and moved away towards the bedroom door. He slipped out into the hall and closed the door behind him.
"I'm tired of this game." The caller said as irritation steadily infected his voice. "Let me speak to my fucking wife!"
Tony drew his weapon and held it ready. He nodded at Sammy. Gripping the baseball bat in one hand, Sammy popped the trunk with his free and threw it open.
Their passenger came out of the trunk like a viper striking at its prey, tire iron clenched in one fist, swinging wildly. The makeshift weapon grazed Sammy's face, leaving a minor scratch in its wake as Sammy lunged back, avoiding a full on crack to the jaw.
"Motherfucker!" Sammy clamped both hands onto the baseball bat, choked up a bit on the handle, and brought it around like a pro hitter and caught Jackson in the gut, knocking him back against the trunk with a loud grunt of pain. Somehow the bastard managed to hold onto his weapon and lunged forward again, a bit more awkwardly but still dangerous.
A strangled growl erupted from Jackson. He sprang for Sammy.
Tony stood back, his weapon lowered but ready. Sammy might seem just a sexy pretty boy to some, but Tony had seen him take down guys twice his size. Jackson didn't have a prayer.
The fat tip of the wooden bat caught Jackson in the face, spinning him around. Blood sprayed from his mouth as he dropped heavily like a sack of potatoes. Sammy stepped forward quick, the bat already cocked back over his right shoulder again, the muscles in his arms bulging.
"Enough!" The deep voice boomed from the shadows, halting Sammy instantly.
Tony turned slowly and watched the looming figure steadily appear through the lightly falling rain, forming out of the darkness and mist like some Frankenstein monster from an old horror movie.
Sammy squeezed the bat fiercely, lowering it only a bit as he moved back away from the man on the ground and the one coming towards him.
"Jericho." Tony put away his weapon but wouldn't hesitate to draw it again in a moment's notice.
Jericho moved past Tony as if he weren't even there. The man was truly of monster stock, a good six foot seven or eight and build like a rock mountain. Tony suspected the man would have been locked away long ago if there had been a cage strong enough to hold him.
"If you damage him, Sammy." Jericho's steel gray eyes bore into Sammy from beneath a thick, strong brow. "You'll have to take his place."
Even from where he stood, Tony saw the shudder run through Sammy. The younger man took a few more steps back, clinging to the bat like a shield. Yes, Sammy had taken down guys as big as Jericho. But Jericho was a breed all his own and had Sammy swung on him, Tony was fairly certain the bat would've shattered into splinters against Jericho's granite frame.
Jericho stopped when he came to the man on the ground but his eyes remained on Sammy. Even Tony couldn't prevent a shudder from running through himself as he watched the formidable man study Sammy like a starving predator surveying its next feast.
Sammy was clearly afraid to take his eyes off Jericho, as if the man might pounce once he looked away.
"Don't be frightened, Sammy." Jericho said as his eyes raked over Sammy's solid, muscular body. "I could never mar such perfection." His eyes narrowed suddenly and he cocked his head just a bit as he stared at the minor cut on Sammy's face. He stepped over Jackson's groaning form and approached Sammy in a flurry of long, quick strides. Sammy tried to move away but Jericho was right there before he could flee.
Sammy's chest heaved, short, fast breaths gusting from his throat as Jericho reached out and traced his fingertips over the small gash on Sammy's cheek. A real rage flared up in Jericho.
"Did he do this?" Jericho spoke low, barely audible, but Tony knew his words were ricocheting like bullets in Sammy's head.
Sammy's eyes were wide. His throat worked fast as his pulse shot through the roof.
Jericho stood just inches from Sammy, his fingers lingering on the younger man's face. Tony's attention was drawn to Jericho's free hand, hanging at his side. His hand twitched, then flexed loosely. Tony slowly reached inside his jacket and gripped the butt of his weapon. He fucked with Sammy about Jericho, but the man was unpredictable and extremely dangerous - and had a strange, disturbing fixation with Sammy. Tony wouldn't hesitate to blow the man's brains out if he suddenly became a real threat to the younger man. Tony viewed Sammy like a younger brother, and in every situation they found themselves in, his safety was Tony's first and foremost priority.
"Easy there, Tony." Jericho said without looking around. "I mean your boy no harm." He let his fingertips fall away from Sammy's face, stroking down the younger man's jaw line as they went. He gave Sammy one last lingering, longing look before turning back towards his gift. His body instantly tightened as he walked to the man on the ground. Jericho turned and cast another glance at Sammy's slightly scuffed face then drew his foot back like a sledge hammer and nailed Jackson in the side with enough force to flip the man over onto his back.
Tony's brow raised as he shot a quick look at Sammy, who was watching the scene with a kind of sick horror on his nearly perfect face. He had to stifle the chuckle that rose in his throat. He could only imagine the thoughts spinning through Sammy's head right about now as Jericho - in his own twisted, perverted way - defended Sammy's honor.
A tightness squeezed Owen's chest, cutting off his air. His hand clenched the phone fiercely as he pressed it hard against his ear. Charles Braxton was the caller on the other end.
Electric shocks of pain stabbed up through Owen's face as he clenched his jaw so tight his teeth threatened to break. His chest heaved and his breath plumed through his nose like a bull about to charge.
"Stay away from Sabrina." Owen growled low, dangerous.
"Stay away from my wife?" Charles murmured coldly. "You're telling me to stay away from my wife? Who the fuck do you think you are?"
"You have my wife, and you can keep her." Owen said tightly. "If either of you set foot on my property or come anywhere near Sabrina...I'll put you in the ground."
"You are threatening me?" Charles laughed humorlessly. "You're a funny fucker, Mr. Briggs. You clearly have no idea who you're dealing with."
Owen was shaking. The full impact of all that had happened in such a short period of time was coming on him all at once. "I know exactly who you are. And if you think for one second that I'm afraid of you...you come on out here and pay me a visit."
Charles chuckled. "Oh, it isn't that I think you're afraid of me. It's that you should be. I have connections, Mr. Briggs. Deadly connections. Right there in the very town we reside in. So don't fuck with me."
Owen's grip on the phone loosened just a bit. "Connections?" Owen spoke low, and with a sudden intrigue. "You do mean connections at The Crimson Shamrock? An Irish/Italian fellow by the name of Tony? The same man your own wife hired to kill you? Is that the connection you're speaking of, Mr. Braxton?"
The tiny hairs at the nape of Charles' neck prickled and stood on end as Owen Briggs' words penetrated his thoughts and infected his mind like a deadly virus. It was on the tip of his tongue to call the man's bluff...but there was no bluff. Owen had mentioned Tony specifically, as well as The Crimson Shamrock. Briggs knew something.
The same man your own wife hired to kill you.
Charles was shaking. That wasn't possible. Sabrina wasn't capable of taking such steps. She had a healthy fear of crossing him. A fear he'd made certain he instilled early on. She was an obedient, loyal wife...whether she liked it or not. She had never talked back to him, never defied him. She just wasn't capable of something this...bold and dangerous.
"I'm coming for my wife." Charles was careful to hold his voice in check and not allow his uncertainty to ring through.
Briggs' next words turned his blood to ice and caused him to react out of character as he snapped his phone shut so suddenly it slipped from his hand and hit the floor with a dull thunk.
His heart raced and thundered through his head.
You won't make it out of New York alive.
The sudden, severe pain coiled in her lower abdomen and began to squeeze. Sabrina came out of her sleep, crying out sharply, hugging her stomach and curling into a fetal position. Through the fog of agony, she heard the bedroom door burst open and then Owen was there, his arms around her.
"Sabrina?" Alarm weighed down his voice. "Sabrina, baby, what's wrong?"
"It...hurts." Sabrina gasped, her words weak and barely audible.
"What hurts?" Owen asked tightly, fearfully.
Sabrina shuddered and gasped, the excruciating pain in her stomach making it difficult to breathe. "My...stomach." Another severe stab of pain and then she felt wetness on her inner thighs. Her hand shook badly as she reached low and touched the inside of her leg. When she brought her hand back, it was stained with blood.
"Oh my god." The fear in Owen's voice intensified when he saw the blood. He wrapped a blanket around her and scooped her up into his strong arms.
Everything seemed to spin around her as Owen rushed her outside to the truck. She felt raindrops hit her face, a cool breeze skip across her fevered skin. Then she was laying on the seat of the truck, her head on Owen's thigh as he backed the truck around and sped down the long gravel drive.
Owen's hand rested tensely on her head, his fingertips subconsciously stroking her hair. The pain was getting worse and a heavy blackness reached for her mind, pulling at her.
"Just hang on, baby." Owen whispered. His voice was tight, strained.
She could hear the tears in his voice, tightening his throat, as the blackness swarmed around her. Her own eyes burned and she wanted to tell him she was sorry, so sorry for all the tears and grief she had caused him. But her throat wouldn't work and the blackness was carrying her away. The last thing she heard before she faded out was Owen's thick, terrified voice assuring her - "I'll make everything all right, baby. I promise...I promise."