After the third explosion, Lane took off running. Gresh couldn't be dead; he couldn't be gone. They'd been through too much—too much pain and too much pleasure. He raced toward the rise, huffing and puffing, his thoughts wild, touching on images from their past. The moment when they'd first met to the last time they’d made love. An image of Gresh, Riley, and him wrapped together in bed flashed through his mind. He cringed. Fuck, he'd been so selfish. His heart ached at how he'd hurt Gresh.
Why had he fucked Riley?
A strange kind of numbness settled in as he ran, his thoughts going dark, his mind twisting with the fear of what would happen if Gresh didn't survive. Three explosions, maybe it wasn't that bad. Maybe Gresh had jumped out. Maybe they'd landed first, then run for cover. Hope filled his chest, squishing out the panic overwhelming him.
A truck approached from behind but he didn't stop running. The road cut away from the rise, winding around the hill, taking him away from the direct path to Gresh.
He needed to see Gresh.
After what seemed like forever, he crested the rise, spying the devastation below. Fire burned slowly up the hill then hit a patch of dried grass, igniting quickly. A few trees were burning and some had been charred, but it was the wreckage that drew his eye. He searched for Gresh, panic causing his heart to pound. He saw no one. Then he spied a body and ran for it. As he neared, he saw it was Hamilton. Lane turned his head, panic racing through him. He found the pilot but not Gresh.
Hope skittered across his consciousness. "Oh God, let him live." Lane cried out, his head pounding as he searched frantically for his husband. The debris field was huge and burning metal littered the area. Lane cried out, his voice going hoarse. "Gresh...Gresh."
There was no sign of his lover. He raced around a giant chunk of metal, his mind frantic with worry. Then he saw him. Gresh was on the ground and there was blood. Lane stumbled, his feet catching in the dirt, bringing him to his knees. He cried out as he took in the damage to his lover. With a shaky hand, he reached for Gresh, his fingers searching for a pulse at Gresh's neck. The first touch of his fingers to Gresh's bloodied skin sent a shock through Lane. He pulled back, his fear out of control. But he had to know. Unsteady with fright, he reached forward, his fingers came in contact with Gresh's neck, hunting for an artery, searching for a pulse indicating if his man still had life in him. Lane held his breath, pushing in with his fingers, searching for the sign his life wasn't totally over.
He found nothing. No beat of Gresh's heart, no signs of life. The strangled cry split the air and he realized the noise was coming from him. He screamed as his whole world crashed in around him. Then there was someone beside him, pushing him out of the way. He fell to the ground, his hands seeking out Gresh, anything to stay in contact with his husband.
Riley was there, his fingers on Gresh's neck. Riley's mouth moved and he must have said something, but the blood roaring through Lane's ears prevented him from hearing anything. Riley screamed something at him, but the words were as lost to him as his lover's life. Wracking sobs hit him as he realized he would never hold Gresh again.
Strong arms pulled at him, but he tried to fight, losing as they wrenched him away from Gresh. Everything seemed surreal, like he was drowning in an ocean of pain, unable to breathe.
Connor was there, pinning Lane to his chest, keeping him away from the one man he would never get over. He struggled to free himself, but Connor was too strong. Finally, Lane stopped fighting the hold and fell against Connor. His heart hurt, his brain felt numb. Air flowed into his lungs and somehow he was conscious, but his awareness was fading fast, his vision growing dim. The firm pressure of Connor's hand on his shoulder was an anchor in the storm, the only thing keeping him grounded.
He watched Riley, noticing that the man was doing something. He wasn't acting as if Gresh was dead. Lane squeezed his eyes closed, then opened them, trying like hell to focus on what Riley was doing.
Sirens sounded in the distance. Time moved at a fractured pace, smooth then fast, halting one moment, then racing forward, leaving him unable to comprehend what was going on.
Suddenly he could make out words; no longer was the world tilted at an odd angle. Riley applied pressure to a cut on Gresh's torso as he directed Sterling and Erick to help him.
Gresh is alive! This time Lane struggled to get out of Connor's arms, not to grieve, but to give help. Connor wasn't budging. He held tight, cinching Lane to him.
"No, baby. Let Riley work. You stay with me."
"He's alive. I have to—"
"No, you need to stay out of his way. Hold on to me. That's all you have to do right now, just hold on."
Tears raced down his cheeks as he watched Riley fight to save Gresh's life. He heard the thwack-thwack of another helicopter. The red Life Flight chopper landed across the field. The pilot and another man hopped out, grabbing a basket and racing over.
"It's okay. They'll take care of him. Shhh, it's okay." Connor's deep voice soothed over his fractured thoughts.
Lane's fingers twisted around Connor's shirt, clutching the material tightly. Gresh is alive. The words pulsed through him, giving him a touch of hope. Riley followed after the medics but didn't board with them. The red helicopter lifted off the ground and headed in the direction of Houston. Lane sucked in a breath, the world stopped moving as he watched Gresh fly away again. Numb didn't begin to describe how he felt. Could he live without Gresh?
Riley turned and strode over, his hands and shirt covered in blood—Gresh's blood. Guilt ate at his insides and the food he'd eaten earlier in the day threatened to come back. He pushed away from Connor and wretched, expelling everything. Hands were on him and he knew that touch. Riley. Lane pushed away and stood on his own, unbending, his expression stern. He loved Gresh and this thing he’d had with Riley was over. He'd never hurt his husband again.
"Lane," Riley whispered.
Riley took a step closer, his hands out. It would be so easy to fall into Riley's arms, so easy to take comfort, letting Riley take care of everything, but Riley wasn't his husband, and no matter how many times he made love to Riley, it would never match the way he felt about Gresh. He'd made a huge mistake allowing things to go this far. There was a line he never should have crossed with Riley and yet he’d skipped over it happily, hurting his husband in the process.
"I can't Riley. Not with Gresh—" His throat closed over the words. He couldn’t even think of Gresh lying in the hospital, close to death. His knees went weak and he started to sway. Riley stepped forward but he backed away. Connor caught him, placing a strong arm around him.
"Come on. We need to head to the hospital," Connor whispered against the side of his head.
Lane looked around. The volunteer fire department was extinguishing the rest of the flames, the cowboys were milling around, shaking their heads. "Hamilton and the pilot?" Lane asked.
"They didn't make it," Connor said.
"Oh." Lane searched for Jump, but he didn't see him. He allowed Connor to put him in the back seat of the truck and strap him in. They drove to the main house, Lane so shocked he didn't know what to do.
"Stay here, I'm just going to grab some clothes for you and Riley." Connor lifted his brows, his gaze drilling into Lane.
The truck door shut and he and Riley were alone. Riley climbed into the backseat with Lane and pulled him into a hug. Anger boiled through him and he clenched his fists.
"We're over," Lane hissed.
Riley sighed and nodded. "I understand."
Riley pulled away, his gaze searching Lane's. Lane had been such a fool to fall for this man. Any punishment he received was deserved. Gresh had never done anything wrong and yet Lane had fallen for Riley. It had been more than just simple sex. The things he'd felt for Riley had been complicated, mired in layers of want and need, twisted into love that caused more pain than the good it brought.
"It's over between us. I'll never forgive myself if Gresh doesn't make it." The sob that escaped his lips was like a concussive force, causing his whole body to shake.Riley was there, his arms around Lane, his lips on Lane's forehead. He wanted to push Riley away, but the ability to act was gone. Connor came back and started the vehicle. They pulled away from the house, Lane ignoring everyone as they sped along the gravel road. He had no idea what he'd find once he got to the hospital, but one thing he knew for sure, he loved Gresh too much to ever mess around on him again.
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