Melvin left me while I sat there, stunned. His mocking laughter echoed in my ears even though his actual departure was silent. I wasn’t sure how long I spent sitting there, trying to wrap my head around all the complications that had descended on my life with the onset of the new year. I would have preferred to be doing something, but that didn’t matter: it wasn’t like I could go anywhere. Melvin hadn’t closed the door when he left, let alone put up the fallen curtain. Sunbeams still slashed through the room, effectively penning me in.
Melvin was a dick. I really didn’t like the idea of being indebted to him.
Worse, I had no idea what to do with the insight into his emotions I’d gotten with his blood: My sadistic stalker elf thought he was in love with me. Oh, sure, he’d denied it — but I’d felt what he’d felt, and he was full of bullshit. Either that, or Megan’s love was really just a twisted infatuation, because the emotions they’d each felt toward me had been frighteningly similar: differing only in intensity and… I guess a sort of ‘flavor’ that was unique to each of them. I didn’t have the vocabulary for all this vampire crap. I was going to have to start reading more horror fiction or making up words.
I was interrupted from my reverie by the sound of a large vehicle pulling into the driveway. That was a huge relief. I could tell from the sound that it was Hans’ hummer, and as soon as the car door opened I could hear Hans’ feet running for the house. I squinted into the sunlight pouring through the front door. If it were any later in the day, the porch roof probably would have blocked most of it. Damn bad luck, there.
When I saw Hans’ muscular frame looming in the entrance I called his name happily. “Hans! Can you close the door, please?” I’d had all that time staring at the ceiling to figure out what to tell him about what had happened — but I’d blown it by being overwhelmed. Fortunately, as far as ‘first things first’ went, my agenda was pretty obvious. “And maybe hang the curtains back up?” Hopefully that would give me some time to put an explanation together.
Hans hastily stepped into the house, pulling the front door shut behind him. I belatedly noticed that he was carrying his shotgun — he must have seen the open door, possibly the uncovered window, and assumed the worst. His gaze took in the mess of charred floorboards where I’d been trapped in the sunlight and the state of my clothes. Almost instantly after that he was kneeling at my side, his shotgun on the ground beside him. “Abigail,” he asked in alarm, “What happened?”
I smiled in sickly defeat. So much for having time to figure things out. I closed my eyes and just tried to shove details out my mouth. “The fae,” I said. “We were ambushed while Megan was here. Once of them siphoned off the life force I’d gotten from you this morning. I ended up vamping out, and Megan and Katherine ran. But Katherine scuffed the line of salt Emma put across the threshold last night, and that let the fae in. I got a little messed up in the process of dealing with that, but I’m okay and the fae are gone now.” I opened my eyes with a grimace. I was holding the truth pretty close to my vest — not lying, exactly, but leaving out some very relevant details.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell Hans everything that had happened until I’d had a chance to sound him out on the fae in general, and changelings in particular. The local fae King, Archarel, had gotten Hans’ pack mates killed — and he’d used a changeling to do it. Which meant I wasn’t quite willing to tell Hans that my best friend, Megan, was a changeling until I knew he wouldn’t freak out and vow to hunt her down in retribution or something. Especially since Melvin had been pretty confident that Archarel meant to use Megan to jump start his next war.
Fortunately, Hans was much more controlled and level headed than I’d ever expected a werewolf to be. I had pretty high hopes that I wouldn’t be keeping Megan’s circumstances a secret for long. “Fumiko is on her way over, I think,” I said, “So if I can explain all at once I’d like to do it when she’s here, too.” That might buy me some time.
Hans’ face went pale. “Are you alright?” He asked. His raised his wrist to me, offering before I could even answer. My gaze locked on the blue veins that ran under his skin, and I had to close my eyes again to make myself ignore them. I needed to keep a level head.
Too little blood, and I was a sociopathic murderer. Too much, and I was the hyper-anxious paranoiac I’d been before my death. I really needed to sign myself up for therapy or pharmaceuticals or something while I was in one of these in-between states. My feeding wasn’t exactly a science — and while I preferred to err on the side of neurotic over murderous, either extreme was pretty blatantly certifiable.
When I opened my eyes I was looking at Hans’ face again. “Yeah,” I said. “I’m okay,” I reassured him. “It was a little rough for a while, but one of the fae ended up in pieces and I got enough blood out of the other for my healing power to kick in. He didn’t stick around for long after that — I don’t think anyone got what they were expecting out of that mess.”
Hans dropped his gaze, like he was having trouble meeting mine. “I’m sorry,” he said softly. “I should have been there.”
Oh… oh, shit. Hans had shown up too late to save me when Mr. Salvatore had killed me. He hadn’t been there when his pack mates had been killed, either. I didn’t know what other events might have gone into the guilt that filled his tone, but given what little I knew about his history it shouldn’t have surprised me, either.
“No,” I said without thinking. I reached out and cupped his jaw; forced him to face me. I looked him in the eye and refused to let him look away. “I sent you away,” I said. “Neither of us saw this coming and if anyone’s to blame for me not being ready for what happened, it’s me. I really should’ve learned that crazy shit can happen without warning or provocation by now. So don’t you dare beat yourself up with could’ve, would’ve or should’ve. They’re the most worthless words in the English language. Besides: I’m fine, and you being miserable won’t do either of us any good. Got it?”
I continued to hold Hans’ gaze until he nodded — albeit unhappily. It was probably the best I was going to get.
I dropped my hands to his shirt, grabbed onto the fabric, and pulled him closer. That jolted him out of whatever self-recriminations he was dwelling on. Hans didn’t lose his balance exactly, but he did wrap his arms around me as I pulled him forward. My heart sped up a little. I wanted to blame it on coming out of shock, but my inner nutcase wouldn’t let me deny the truth.
Too close, it jabbered. Big man; too close, what were you thinking?! My fight-or-flight responses started to rev up at the same time as I started to feel like I was suffocating. Get away, need space, get away! Hans tightened his embrace slightly, and I forced myself to bear it as long as possible. Although… Maybe I was just coming out of shock, and my panic mode was only now catching up to what had happened and was freaking out about Hans because he was what was available. I didn’t know: I’m a vampire, not a psychiatrist.
Finally I couldn’t take it any more. As nice as it felt — and being safe in Hans’ embrace was very nice — being trapped in that same embrace was just too much for me to handle. When I felt my panic start to make my fangs lengthen, I pushed Hans back. He let me go. I let out a the breath I’d been holding to keep from hyperventilating and did my damnedest not to let him see how close to freaking out I’d been. Somehow I thought that might ruin my attempt at comforting him by letting him comfort me… if that wasn’t a self-defeating circle already.
I blew out a long breath, momentarily grateful that most of the life force Melvin had offered me had apparently gone into healing me. Once Hans let go and straightened, my anxiety rapidly dropped away.
“Okay then,” I said. “Curtain? Or can you just bring me my phone?” I’d been holding it when Megan had accidentally drained my store of life force. I’d dropped it when I’d shoved her away — and that meant it had been sitting on the wrong side of the window for me to get to it after Melvin had left. With all that sunlight between me and it, the phone may as well have been chucked into Mount Doom for all the good it did me.
Hans fetched it immediately. I took it from him gratefully. “I need to call Megan,” I told him. “And Fumiko. And… fuck, my parents are in town.”
Hans blinked, and I shook my head.
“They think I should go home where it’s ‘safe’,” I explained to him. “Mom was insisting I meet them for lunch so they can stuff me in the trunk and drive off if I insist on saying no.”
“I… see,” Hans said.
My lips quirked in a grin despite myself. One thing at a time. Megan. Fumiko. My parents. Melvin.
Oh, and my clothes. They were pretty much ruined from the encounter with Mr. Eyelids and Melvin, and now that Hans had let me go most of my emotional potential was turning its attention to squick.
“Hans, can you please get that curtain back up, and then maybe put something together for me to wash with?” I asked. “I feel disgusting, but I can stomach it long enough to call Megan and Fumiko while you’re doing that. Then, after I’m clean… and maybe have had a bite to drink… we can figure out what to do next.”
Hans nodded. “Of course,” he said.
“Thank you,” I replied — and it was heartfelt despite my currently somewhat reduced emotional capacity. Hans might want to beat himself up over not being there for the fight with Mr. Eyelids, but if he backed me up against Mom he’d be taking on the more difficult task.
Hans scooped up the curtain rod from where Mr. Eyelids had dropped it and set about running it through the curtain’s loops and wedging it back into its brackets. I watched him work. For a moment I just let myself be lost in wonder that I’d found someone who was so good to me despite all my crazy shit. Well, that and the play of his muscles under his shirt, his jeans stretching over his tight ass, his… A vicious, wretched part of me wondered how much of his taking care of me was because he cared about me, and how much was just because he felt guilty over getting me involved in the supernatural by accidentally informing me it was real in the first place.
I took a deep breath and looked away, determined not to dwell on that. I flipped open my phone and started scrolling through my contacts. The list was a short one, and it didn’t take me long to find Megan.
I took one more deep breath, and then I hit ‘dial.’