Chapter 1

Ryan Wolfe growled out, "What the hell Pug?! What the hell?! I thought we agreed …"

The young woman on the receiving end of the growl shook her head. "I wasn't at the party. I mean I was at the party but I wasn't AT the party. Felicia …" She suddenly paled and leaned over where she sat on the bench near the hotel's poolside bar and mumbled, "I will not be sick, I will not be sick, I will NOT be sick …"

Ryan was as angry as he ever got in public. He'd also had a bad scare and the woman in front of him was, unfortunately for her, reaping the consequences of being the author of said scare. But Ryan was also worried; Vee had already been through a lot and had started showing signs she suffered PTSD. He sighed and bent down in front of her where she sat.

In a calmer and more gentle tone he told her, "Put your head between your knees …"

"And kiss my butt goodbye? No thanks Cuz. I'm a mess but I'm not … not quite that big a mess. I've seen … seen bodies blown into pieces before. I've seen my buddies in that condition. So many pieces we didn't even have the chance to put them all in the body bags to send them home. But Felicia … that's … that's just not … not right … what was done to her …"

Ryan knew he was compromising his position on the case but his cousin was in pain. She'd been back a year, and a difficult year it had been. Not only was she living with the nightmares she saw on a regular basis while she'd been stationed overseas, she came home to face finding out the guy she'd been going to marry no longer loved her and then being dumped in a very public and humiliating way. She'd dealt with the death of her only remaining sibling … being the one to have to choose to end life support … and the nastiness in the family because of it. She'd faced losing a job in a company that she'd worked at since she was old enough to be hired legally … and a few years before that. She'd left Tampa and come to Miami to try and start over but it seemed whatever dark cloud had been hovering over her since she got off the plane at TPA had followed her south.

Felicia was a girl she'd befriended at her apartment complex when she had first moved to Miami. Vee protected her from a nasty ex-boyfriend that didn't want to be an "ex." They'd somehow become friends immediately, a case of opposites attracting. Felicia was everything that Vee was not. Petite, blonde, drop dead gorgeous, extremely feminine, lots of friends … and in many respects helpless. Only now what was left of the young woman was spread in several different directions.

"Yo Wolfe, you take her statement yet?"

"I can't."

"She giving you a hard time?"

"No, not that. She's my cousin."

Vee glanced up … then had to lean back to look up all the way. "Yeezus, you're a long tall drink aren't ya."

Ryan went back to looking concerned, especially after Frank asked, "She on something?"

It was Vee however that answered before standing up causing both men to back up from her healthy sized six-foot frame. "Naw … I mean no Sir. It just looks like I found a treasure trove of stupid pills. But I'm not drunk or high. My head is scrambled but that is only on occasion and mostly because I got blown up once on take off and then again on landing for good measure." Turning to Ryan she asked, "Any way we can step away from these lights? My stomach is rolling. Any place, just … just not so …"

Vee had tried to take a step and when her knees buckled it took both men to keep her from face planting on the cool deck that surrounded the pool. "Nuts," the woman said with a growl of her own. "I look like a damn idiot."

It was only then that Ryan spotted the blood on the back of the jersey she was wearing. "Pug?!"

"Turn it down Cuz, you're right in my ear."

"Excuse the hell out of me! You didn't say anything about getting hit!"

"I didn't? I thought I told you I came around the corner looking for Felicia 'cause she'd called all panicked and crap because some guy she knew that was a friend of Super Jerk wouldn't take no for an answer. Our apartment is just across the street so I come hoofing over … whoa, I suggest for the sakes of your backs you just let me sit on the ground or I'm gonna squash you and take you down then I really will feel like an ass."

Ryan was getting frustrated and was about to put her in a fireman's carry and take her to the ambulances that were still around front of the hotel when Frank simply swept Vee up in his arms and started carrying her himself.

"Alrighty then," Vee muttered. "Either I'm dreaming – and I've sworn off these kinds of dreams for the next couple of lifetimes – or this guy is no one to freaking mess with."

"What?" he asked startling Vee into realizing she'd actually said what she had been thinking aloud. "Don't like the Prince Charming routine?"

"Well, listen to you all … whatever the hell you call it and stuff. And for your info, Prince Charming is nothing but a fantasy created by the lonely. So, put me down before I break your back. For some reason you haven't exactly noticed I'm no lightweight."

Frank snorted. "Anyone ever told you that you talk too much?"

"Usually the opposite problem. Ryan brings out the … the …"

Frank, as irascible as he was normally, detested seeing women in distress and that is obviously what this young woman was in. "Uh uh … open those eyes Sunshine. C'mon … stay with me."

"Why?" she asked sounding even more out of it than she had up to that point. "Nobody stays with me," she added right before going completely limp in his arms.

Ryan had run ahead to get the paramedics who were following him back. Seeing his cousin completely unconscious made him stumble giving the guys with the stretcher time to get ahead of him. Frank laid her gently on the stretcher then held Ryan back when he started calling, "Pug?! C'mon, don't do this!"

"Mr. Wolfe?"

Frank and Ryan turned at the sound of Horatio Caine's voice. Ryan was pulled in two directions but concern for his cousin won. "Sorry H. I'll explain as soon as I can," he said before running to catch up with the paramedics who were loading the woman into the back of the ambulance.

"Frank?" Horatio asked concerned but still calm.

"Says the girl is his cousin. Apparently she is friends with the vic. Possibly injured in the explosion. Acting goofier than a drunk squirrel before collapsing."