John pauses in the doorway. Anna looks so small and frail lying in the hospital bed with all those tubes in her arms. Her beautiful hair is limp and dirty and bandages swathe her right forearm and the right side of her neck. He feels a flash of anger again as he remembers coming into the chamber and finding that beast on top of her, his teeth buried in her precious throat. He’s actually shaking with fury at the memory and has to take deep breaths to calm himself. She doesn’t need to see him like this.
He moves quietly into the room and resumes his post in the chair by her bed. He’s barely slept over the past few days and then only in this very chair. The doctor finally threatened to sedate him if he didn’t at least go eat so Dean offered to sit with her while he was gone. The only time he’s left the hospital was that first morning when he and Dean went to destroy the bodies then returned to the motel briefly to change out of their bloody clothes and settle things with the manager. The destruction in Dean and Ladona’s room was impossible to hide, what with the missing window, but a little bribe money took care of the problem. He smiles humorlessly. That and the tale he spun of how the women were actually attacked in the room even though the police had been told it happened a mile down the road. To save the motel’s reputation and prevent panic, of course. The manager had been more than willing to accept the money and keep his mouth shut then.
He studies his wife. She’s still incredibly pale despite the pints of blood they’ve pumped into her. God, how could he have been stupid enough to put her in that kind of danger! It’s exactly the thing he feared most…that his enemies would strike at him through her. And this isn’t even the first time, is it, he asks himself bitterly. It already happened with the Yellow-Eyed Demon. This is exactly why he left her to begin with, to protect her. Bang up job there,
He closes his eyes, reliving that horrific trip down the mountain. He couldn’t stop Anna’s bleeding but he couldn’t move too fast either for fear of losing his footing on the steep trail. It seemed to take forever and he feared every moment would be her last. He wondered over and over again how one person could lose that much blood and still survive. Dean struggled behind him with Ladona and he knew she was in bad shape too but they didn’t speak, each man enduring his own private Hell. Once they finally hit the parking lot Dean deposited Ladona in the front seat of the Impala, John slid into the back still cradling Anna, and they set a speed record getting to the hospital. Things happened quickly as doctors swarmed around the women then it was time to wait and see.
During his long vigil he wondered what would happen if Anna didn’t recover. Would he just drop dead like when he traded his soul for Dean’s life? Would COD be listed as a heart attack? He didn’t know and found he didn’t really care. Ironically, watching her fight for her (their) life erased all his doubts about Anna tying her life to his and insisting on hunting by his side. Whatever the outcome he’d rather die with her than live apart and it was as simple as that.
She woke a few hours ago for the first time since the attack. His relief at seeing her cat green eyes flutter open brought tears to his own eyes and he had to remind himself not to squeeze her hand too hard for fear of hurting her even more. She wasn’t lucid and he’s not even sure she knew he was there but the doctors said it was a good sign and told him to keep talking to her, that it was helping.
A soft sound at the door draws his attention. It’s the candy striper with the roses. Mindy, he reminds himself. Her name’s Mindy and she just turned 15. She told him that right before explaining she’d get in trouble for going down to the gift shop to buy flowers during her shift. He nodded tiredly and started to put the money back in his wallet but something in his sad face made her take the money with a whispered, “If you can wait another hour, I’ll be off. I can do it then, sir.” He smiled gratefully and said that would be fine.
A quick glance at the clock tells him it’s been less than an hour though. “You didn’t get in trouble, did you?” he asks softly as he accepts the flowers.
“No, sir,” she lies. She did kind of get in trouble but when she explained to her supervisor who she was doing it for the woman’s expression softened and she told her to go ahead. Everyone feels somehow responsible that these two visitors to their town got hurt and it was good to be able to help in even this small way.
John tries to wave away his change but Mindy looks affronted so he quickly pockets it with a quiet, “Thank you.” She flashes a bright smile, dips her head as if to say you’re welcome, then disappears in her noiseless shoes. John goes into the bathroom to add water to the almost empty vase. A dozen red roses are pretty heavy; if he’d realized that he wouldn’t have asked the girl to go. He just wanted some flowers for Anna when she wakes. To remind her of home and make her smile.
Anna watches him quietly. She’s been awake for almost 10 minutes. Her throat burns and her body aches all over but it’s the sadness in her heart that really hurts. Because she made a decision that night in their motel room when she finally realized he was serious about letting others die just to keep her safe. What happened after that only reinforced it. She’s actually been floating just under the surface of consciousness for the past day, not really wanting to wake up and face the harsh truth that she’s not the wife her husband needs her to be. And not wanting to risk losing him by admitting it.
She squeezes her eyes shut to keep the tears at bay. No crying, she orders herself. When she opens them again her breath catches in her throat. John’s standing over her holding the roses. She didn’t even hear him approach.
“Hi, beautiful,” he says softly, setting the vase on the bedside table but never taking his eyes off Anna.
That’s all it takes to shred her self control and the tears begin to flow. He quickly moves around to her left side so he can sit on the edge of the bed and gently draw her into his arms. It’s awkward with all the tubes and wires surrounding her and he has to hunch over uncomfortably to do it but none of that matters. She sobs into his shoulder and he rubs small circles on her back, whispering soothing words against her hair.
After a while she calms down and pulls away to look up at him. Tears shine on his cheeks and she wipes them away with her left hand. He catches her hand and presses his lips against it, his eyes never leaving her face. “I love you,” he murmurs.
“I love you too.” They drink each other in for a moment then she gasps, “Ladona? Dean?”
He smiles. “They’re in the next room. Sleeping. They’re gonna be fine.” He leans down to kiss her softly on the mouth. “And so are you, my love.”
Sadness fills her eyes and she gently pulls her hand away from him. “We need to talk,” she says.
His smile doesn’t falter but his heart sinks. He was hoping to put the blame and apologies off for a bit but she’s right. “I know. I’m so sorry I got you into this-”
“No, John, I meant I need to talk and you need to listen.” Her voice is strong and firm even as her heart breaks but she has to get this out before she loses her courage.
“All right,” he answers mildly but fear tightens his chest at the seriousness of her tone. Is she going to say she doesn’t want to be his wife anymore? He knew she’d be angry he endangered her yet again but he’s appalled to think he might actually lose her.
“I can’t do this anymore.” Anna forces the words out. Like lancing a boil, she tells herself. Quick and clean and then it’ll be over.
“Do what?” he asks cautiously. No matter what she says he knows he has to accept her decision. But he can’t keep his heart from pounding harder than it did coming down that mountain.
Anna closes her eyes briefly. “I can’t…I was wrong…” She takes a breath and coughs. “Could I have some water please?”
He quickly fills a glass from the pitcher sitting beside the forgotten roses and raises the bed a little so she can sip it. The liquid soothes her dry throat, making it easier to speak. She just wishes it could make the words easier to say.
“I love you, John, and I don’t regret a minute with you,” she begins, not allowing herself to look away from his serious face. “But it’s clear to me now that I was being stupid. You were right all along. I don’t belong here. I’m not a hunter. I almost...” She pauses as her throat constricts with emotion. “I almost got everyone killed and I am so sorry for that.” She’s crying now but keeps going. “I really wanted this to work but…” She finally drops her eyes. “I just want you to know that…I’ll always be there waiting when you get home…if you still want me.” Her voice is a whisper by the time she finishes and she closes her eyes, feeling completely miserable.
As she speaks the tension eases out of him and relief takes its place. This he understands. His mind flashes back to his first debrief with Dean. The kid was trying so hard to be brave and not cry but he was shaking like a leaf. And he kept apologizing for screwing up because things didn’t go as planned. Feeling like he’s back on solid ground John says softly, “Anna, please look at me.”
After a moment she does and he sees the same fear and guilt in her eyes that he saw in Dean’s decades ago. He cups her cheek in his palm. “Is that what you want? To be a…” He can’t help but grin. “Housewife?”
His eyes are so warm and understanding they make her cry harder. “It’s not about what I want,” she whispers. “It’s about what’s best for everyone.”
“Everyone, huh? Like Ladona?” He keeps his tone even and conversational. If she’s anywhere near as stubborn as Dean (and she is, he thinks wryly) this could take a while.
Anna closes her eyes. “Did she tell you what happened?” Her voice breaks as she thinks back to how Ladona soothed her when she was so frightened in the dark. But it should have been me taking care of her, she berates herself.
He hasn’t spoken to Ladona, wanting to give her and Dean time alone first, but he and Dean already discussed the most likely scenarios during the long hours of waiting so he’s pretty sure he knows what happened. Now he just has to make Anna see it. “You tell me,” he prompts his wife.
She watches him carefully. He knows, she thinks. Part of her is hurt that Ladona told him how she came unglued but she has to admit it’s for the best. Keeping her voice flat she finally says, “I freaked. I was worse than useless. Ladona wouldn’t even have been there if not for me.” She remembers the burning hatred in Celeste’s eyes and the realization that it was her they came for at the motel, not Ladona.
One thing at a time, John thinks. Let’s start at the beginning. He takes Anna’s left hand in both of his, rubbing his thumb over her wedding ring. “Neither of you would’ve been there if not for me,” he responds. “And we all know it. I should’ve known they’d set a trap for me after last time.”
“You couldn’t have known!” Anna protests. His skin is so warm against her cold hand it makes her want to cry again. “None of us knew we were dealing with magic until Ladona felt it at the diner!”
He keeps the smile off his face but not out of his voice. “So you admit either nobody’s at fault or we all are?”
She looks confused for a moment. “I…I guess.” Her brow furrows. “But I could have at least helped when they attacked! Did Ladona tell you how useless I was then?” she demands.
This is a trickier area because he and Dean could only guess at what happened. Watching Anna’s face he says shrewdly, “I was wonderin’ about that…”
He’s pleased to see the flash of anger in her eyes. “It’s not like I didn’t try!” she snaps, feeling the need to defend herself a little. “Everything happened so fast…” But Ladona fought them, she thinks miserably. So why didn’t I?
He wants to pull her into his arms again and make all this go away but that won’t help her in the long run. Instead he asks, “Were they usin’ magic?”
Her brow furrows again. “Yes,” she finally admits.
“How many of them were there?”
She thinks for a moment. “I saw two struggling with Ladona. And there was one behind me. She…” She looks away again. “She knocked me out without a fight.”
“So three at least,” he says blandly. “Three people usin’ magic so strong they overpowered Ladona.” He lets that sink in a moment before adding slyly, “I guess she should feel really bad then, lettin’ herself get taken by surprise like that. After all that magic she felt on the mountain she didn’t even put up a protective barrier or some kind of alarm?” He shakes his head at such incompetence.
This time the anger seeps into Anna’s voice as well as her eyes. “Hey, she did her best! She fought like a tiger! Maybe if I’d helped her instead of just standing there-” A sob interrupts her words.
“So why didn’t you?” he asks softly.
“I…I wanted to,” she whispers heartbrokenly. “I just…I hit the dresser and by the time I got up…it was over.”
He squeezes her hand. “Then you did your best under the circumstances, sweetie. Hey, they got the drop on me too the first time I was lured into the caves.” He grins ruefully. “And I was lured. If not for my extra knife I would’ve been feedin’ that thing myself 20 years ago.”
She shudders at the memory of the creature’s hot breath on her skin as he drained her life away. “It was horrible,” she whispers. “I felt…emptied.” That’s not an adequate description but there really aren’t words to describe the feeling of being sucked dry.
He holds her for a bit, stroking her hair, remembering how he promised to wash it for her. That seems like a lifetime ago but it was really just a couple of days. Some of the longest of his life though. He closes his eyes briefly then releases her to sit up. Twining his fingers through hers he continues, “All right, we all suck at not gettin’ caught. What then?”
She’s so tired. Why can’t he just accept her inadequacies? She knows what he’s doing, trying to make excuses for her, but she’s not going to let him. He has to understand why she deserves to be a “housewife.” Meeting his eyes defiantly she delivers the coup de grace. “Did Ladona tell you how terrified I was in the caves? How I was crying so hard I couldn’t even think straight?”
He studies her face. Part of him wants to believe she’s lying or exaggerating but he knows she’s not. He tries to picture what it must have been like for them. Dean described the small holding cell as completely bare with small lights ringing the perimeter…ah, now he understands. “It was pitch black, wasn’t it?” he asks gently.
She can’t even speak through her tears so nods instead.
He watches her for a minute. She’s been terrified of the dark since returning from Hell. He can still remember how loud she screamed when she woke up next to him that first night…she woke everyone in the house in fact, putting an entire building of hunters on high alert. That was a sight to see. He caresses her face. “I know that was scary,” he says softly. “Anyone woulda been scared wakin’ up like that.”
“I wasn’t just scared, John, I was petrified,” she moans. “Ladona was hurt and I wasn’t there for her.” She looks at him, pleading with her eyes for him to stop this.
But he only smiles. “I don’t think that’s true, love.”
She closes her eyes and shakes her head. He watches her struggle with herself before she finally blurts, “I thought I was back in Hell, okay? I wasn’t even connected to reality anymore! And when Ladona spoke to me I thought she was…”
God, it hurts to see her in pain like this. But it’ll be over soon, he tells himself. Just a little longer. When it looks like she’s not going to finish her sentence he says quietly, “The demon. You thought she was the demon.”
“Yeah.” She looks away but he cups her cheek and forces her to meet his eyes.
“Anna, that was a normal reaction. And you’re talkin’ to the one person who knows that for a fact. I had nightmares too for months. But I never had to wake up in a pitch black cave. Now tell me what happened after Ladona spoke to you.”
She closes her eyes but this time she allows herself to concentrate on that moment in the dark when Ladona pulled her back from the brink. Her voice is low as she speaks. “Ladona told me who I was and where we were. But I couldn’t do anything for her. I knew her arm was broken-”
“How could you know that?” he interrupts quickly.
She looks surprised at the question. “Because I checked her over.”
He nods solemnly. “This was while you were bein’ terrified and not thinkin’ straight, right?”
“Oh, stop!” she says disgustedly. “Don’t you think I know what you’re trying to do?”
“What am I tryin’ to do?”
“You’re making excuses for me! Be honest, John. If anyone else acted the way I did you’d…well, you certainly wouldn’t be looking for reasons to make them think they didn’t screw up!”
He smiles. “That’s not what I’m doin’, babe. Now tell me the rest.” When she continues to look mutinous he adds blandly, “You think I’m gonna sit here and listen to someone badmouth my wife without proof?”
She smiles for the first time since waking. “You’re crazy,” she whispers.
“You married me,” he whispers back, cocking an eyebrow.
She laughs in spite of herself. It’s a small sound and weak but it fills his heart with joy to hear it. He leans down to kiss her, brushing his lips across hers softly. She opens to him and their tongues caress ever so lightly. When he draws back her cheeks are flushed and he grins, his eyes twinkling.
“Now no more of that until I’ve heard it all, woman.”
Her own eyes are alight now but she answers, “It doesn’t matter, you know. My mind’s made up.”
He shrugs. “Then you have nothin’ to hide.”
She sighs heavily. “Fine. I checked Ladona. She said it was just a broken arm. I was fine.” She pauses then amends, “I was unhurt at least. But when she asked I said I had a slight concussion.”
His gaze sharpens. “Why?” he breathes.
She looks embarrassed. “I was thinking they might be listening. It was stupid I know since I was helpless against their magic anyway but…” She shrugs.
He’s proud of her for thinking to do that but all he says is, “Misinformation is always good.”
She sighs again. “Well, it’s not like it mattered anyway. After a bit the lights came on and two of them showed up. Celeste…the woman who led you to the caves originally…and that thing.” She shudders again. “She called him her god if you can believe that.”
“Actually he was a demigod.”
She looks at him in surprise. “He really was a god?”
“No, a demigod.”
“What’s the difference?”
He sees her curiosity is genuine and not an attempt to distract him so explains, “Accordin’ to lore a demigod is one who used to be an actual god but fell in love with a mortal and was…” He shrugs. “I guess demoted for bringin’ shame on the others.”
She looks thoughtful. “That’s why he could be killed.” Her eyes suddenly widen with alarm. “You did kill him, right?”
“Yes, babe, they’re all dead.”
The coldness in his voice and eyes makes her shiver. This is the part of him he tried so hard to hide when they first met but she caught glimpses of it and they scared the hell out of her at the time. After she entered his world she understood the reason for the ruthlessness and embraced it, even helping him accept that it was an asset rather than a character flaw. Some things just have to be destroyed and she’s grateful there are people like her husband who can do it without blinking an eye. People who serve justice, she thinks wryly, remembering Nemesis’ lecture.
John’s voice pulls her out of her thoughts. “Back to the narrative,” he prompts her and she smiles sourly.
“Yes, master.” She rolls her eyes as he laughs, the deep rumble of sound washing over her in a warm wave of love. She could spend the rest of her life just listening to that laugh. But back to the narrative as he calls it, she thinks dryly. All the humor disappears from her face. “He wanted to take Ladona first. He said something about having her join them. I think he meant the coven.”
John’s gut tightens. That’s something he and Dean hadn’t thought of.
Anna wets her lips, tasting John on them. It gives her strength. “We were both so helpless, pinned to the wall by their magic. Then the…” No, she can’t bring herself to refer to him as any kind of god. “The creature started running his finger through the blood on Ladona’s arm.” Her face twists into a look of disgust. “He was licking it clean. Then he…” She closes her eyes and shakes her head at the memory. “He opened the wound further to make it bleed more. And I couldn’t let him hurt her anymore. I know it was stupid and reckless but…” She looks at him pleadingly, willing him to understand. “When I realized he was going to drink her blood I just…I couldn’t let him. So I offered myself instead.”
He’s not surprised. “It’s okay, love. Don’t you see how brave that was?”
“It wasn’t brave. It was desperate,” she sobs. “I couldn’t see any other way to help her though.”
He caresses her cheek softly. “It was all you could do, sweetie. You don’t think I would’ve done the same? Or Dean? Would you judge us as harshly as you’re judgin’ yourself?”
She stops crying. She hadn’t really thought of it like that. “No,” she finally admits. “I’d think you were brave.”
He smiles. “See? It was a brave thing to do. Oh, honey, bravery isn’t the lack of fear. It’s bein’ scared outta your wits but doin’ it anyway. Bravery and love…they’re not so different.”
She thinks about it for a while but she’s still so confused. She was certain she’d finally figured everything out and now she feels totally adrift again…
“Hey.” He draws her attention back to him. “Finish tellin’ it. You’ll feel better. I promise.”
She takes a deep breath and lets it out. “Okay. I…he accepted my offer.” She looks disgusted again. “He seemed to think I was honoring him or something. Sick.” Suddenly she grins. “But that really pissed Celeste off so that was a bonus.”
He smiles faintly.
She sighs. “He was gonna do it right there…drink from me, I mean. But I asked for privacy so Ladona wouldn’t see.”
“And to give her a chance to act,” he adds softly.
She looks surprised. “How did you know?”
“Diversionary tactic, darlin’. It only works if it causes a diversion.” Another surge of pride fills him.
“I know. You taught me that.” She touches his face softly. “I thought about you a lot, you know. I knew you and Dean would come for us and we just had to hold on until you arrived.” She smiles sadly. “I really miscalculated though.”
“How so?” His eyes search her face.
“Well, never having been drained of blood before, I didn’t think I would weaken so quickly,” she answers dryly. With a sigh she adds, “And I made the mistake of pissing the guy off. That’s when he got really serious and went for my throat. I passed out almost immediately after that.”
“What did you do to piss him off?” John can’t keep the amusement out of his voice.
Anna grins. “I might have implied his ability to dish out pain was…inadequate.”
John throws his head back and laughs. Only Anna would say something like that! “You are somethin’ else, darlin’.”
She frowns. “I’m reckless and stupid. It was an unnecessary risk.” She shrugs. “I just let my temper get the better of me.”
He says with mock solemnity, “Yes, I have noticed a marked increase in the appearance of that redheaded temper of yours. Maybe you should go back to bein’ meek.”
She snorts in a most unladylike fashion. “I have never been meek!”
“You were once,” he croons and she shivers deliciously at the memory. Unable to resist he cradles her head with one large hand and kisses her, running the fingers of his other hand lightly down her cheek. He’s not gentle this time and she responds eagerly to his demanding exploration. They’re both gasping when they come up for air and she feels a little lightheaded.
“I thought there was a kiss embargo until you heard the entire sordid tale,” she finally manages.
“I’m sorry. Was there more?” His dark eyes caress her face, making her ache for him.
“Well, no. But I couldn’t resist teasing you.” She can’t help but smile. It’s good to feel mostly normal again.
He continues to caress her face, sending little electric shocks through her body. And he knows damn well what effect he’s having on me, she thinks. But she doesn’t want him to stop.
“So let’s recap, shall we?” He grins at the way she’s responding to his touch and vows then and there never to let anyone make him hesitant to touch his wife whenever and wherever he damn well pleases. And she’ll allow, he adds. “You claim you were useless and endangered us all. Your evidence consists of bein’ responsible for your own and Ladona’s kidnappings. Which we’ve established was not somethin’ you could have anticipated or prevented. You think you should have done more to fight off the kidnappers but acknowledge you were both outnumbered and outmagicked. Which is the same thing that happened to me 20 years ago.” He pauses and looks at the ceiling as if thinking but doesn’t stop caressing her cheek. “Okay, so you’ve failed to prove your case thus far. Failed miserably I might add.”
She doesn’t respond but that could have something to do with the fact that he’s started rubbing his thumb lightly over her lips. Everything in her body clenches and her breathing becomes ragged. If it weren’t for all the tubes and wires tying her to the bed… He smiles as if reading her thoughts. His jeans are becoming uncomfortably tight but he’s enjoying himself too much to stop.
“Hmmmmmm,” he continues, his voice only slightly betraying his own reaction. “After a brief but perfectly understandable moment of panic wakin’ up in the dark you pretty much took control of the situation and did everything you could to both protect an injured Ladona and delay the bad guys. Despite the fact that you and Ladona were completely helpless against their strong magic. And you were dealin’ with a demigod and a coven of ancient witches and wizards.”
He and Dean had pieced together the probable ages of the coven members because it was clear they couldn’t be as old as they looked. The witch John followed hadn’t aged in 20 years so it seemed reasonable to suspect the others hadn’t either. Their best guess on ages was that most if not all of them dated back to the group of odd settlers mentioned in the old accounts. They had no way of knowing how the coven accomplished such longevity but it didn’t really matter now that they were all dead.
“I didn’t take control of anything,” Anna protests despite the excessive distraction her husband’s touch is providing. She begins to contemplate how much it would actually hurt to just rip all the shit out of her arms. Probably much less than being burned alive from the inside out, she guesses. The only thing stopping her is knowing that disconnecting everything would bring the medical staff running. She groans in frustration.
John just smiles. “You did the best you could in a bad situation. And you didn’t fall apart. Your mind was clear enough to think of diversionary tactics and snappy comebacks. Come on,” he says softly. “You really think the rest of us could’ve done better?”
She takes his hand away from her mouth but doesn’t let go of it. “John…” She swallows hard. “This isn’t just about what happened in the caves. When we were hiking up the mountain earlier that day I realized I had nothing to offer the group. Ladona has magic and all three of you are experienced fighters. And what am I? Just a plain old woman who couldn’t hold her own in a serious fight.”
He squeezes her hand. “A) You’re not plain. B) You’re not old. C) Everyone has to start from scratch. Ladona wasn’t a hunter until after the war started. The only difference between you and her is time. She’s had more time to gain experience. Ask her yourself and I’ll bet she’ll tell you she was terrified and uncertain at first even with her magic.” He smiles. “And she had to learn to use her magic as well. She always had the raw talent but she worked with other witches to learn how to channel her power, how to use spells, things like that.” He leans forward so their faces are just inches apart. “The only way to be a hunter is to hunt. Trainin’ can only take you so far then you just have to do it.”
Pain fills her eyes. “I know you’re right,” she whispers. “And I was willing to try. I have been trying. But I can’t live with the fact that you were willing to let people die to keep me safe.” He draws back. “You know it’s true.”
He bows his head for a moment. When he raises his face to her she sees a matching pain in his eyes. “You’re right. I made a mistake the other night. A mistake I’ve been makin’ for months now. I didn’t…” He blows out his breath. “I didn’t have faith in you. I mean, I didn’t have faith that you wouldn’t get hurt.” He shakes his head. “And it was all for nothin’. You got hurt anyway. In fact, if I hadn’t been such an ass, you and Ladona wouldn’t have been sittin’ ducks in the first place. Every time I try to protect you it backfires,” he finishes sadly.
She cups his cheek in her palm. “I wish you could have faith in me. But until you do I won’t endanger anyone else. Even if that means becoming a housewife.” She smiles sadly. “My mind is made up.”
“I can’t be apart from you,” he whispers. “If you stay home I will too.”
Unspoken between them is the question of what would happen if he stopped hunting. That would violate the deal with Nemesis…and most likely reinstate Anna’s original life span of exactly eleven months and two days. Over half of which is gone already. She remembers thinking it was no real sacrifice to agree to Nemesis’ conditions even though the god warned them to consider unintended consequences. Now she understands what that means. She still doesn’t regret her decision though.
John’s always worried, given Nemesis’ fickle nature, that the deal was a trick to cheat Anna out of the few months she was guaranteed. The god obviously knew when John was supposed to die and it could very easily be within the next few months. But he realizes now that it doesn’t matter. They both made their decision that night on the hill and for the same selfish reason. Time to let go of the fear, John, he thinks.
He licks his lips. “I…there’s somethin’ I never told you.” He pauses to take a breath. “When Nemesis asked for my answer…” He closes his eyes. “The reason I agreed was so I would never lose you again. I…couldn’t bear even the thought of it. I’ve been sittin’ here watchin’ you…not knowin’ if you were gonna die…if we were gonna die.” He meets her eyes and tears spill down his face. “And I was…relieved…to know I wouldn’t have to keep goin’ if you died,” he whispers.
She wipes away his tears. “Don’t you think I know that?” He looks at her in surprise. “But it changes nothing, John. I’m going home and you’re going to keep hunting. Without me,” she finishes so softly he can barely hear her.
He smiles. “Oh, sweetie, it changes everything. You agreed to share my life, every minute of it. And this is my life.”
There’s a long silence between them. Finally he breaks it. “You leave me no choice then. I’ll kidnap you.” His eyes gleam. “Hold you hostage in motel rooms. Have my way with you.”
Her lips part slightly as his dark eyes caress her skin. “Would I have to be meek?”
He laughs, the rumble of sound filling the room. “God, I hope not,” he murmurs.
She licks her lips. “Are you saying you have faith in me, John?”
He nods slowly and deliberately, his eyes never leaving her face. “I have faith in you, Anna.”
She searches his eyes and sees nothing but certainty. “I’ll agree on one condition,” she whispers. He raises his eyebrows questioningly. “Make love to me right now before I explode.”
He laughs again. “You think it’s safe?” he teases.
“Only if you lock the door.”
They laugh together then he gets up to do just that. He closes the door and immediately mutters, “Crap.” When she asks what’s wrong he says, “It doesn’t lock.”
“Oh.” Disappointment fills her and she starts considering the pull everything out of her arms option again. After half the hospital descends to see why her heart has stopped beating maybe they can have some privacy…
She watches him study the door handle. It’s a thin vertical piece of metal that you pull down. After about a minute he takes something out of his pocket, does something she can’t see, then turns with a triumphant grin. He crosses to the bed, his smoldering gaze sparking her own passion.
“What did you do?” she gasps.
“Jammed a quarter under the bottom edge so it can’t be pushed down,” he whispers as he slowly unbuttons his shirt. “Hope I can get it back out later.”
She laughs. “Well, if you can’t, I’m sure we can keep ourselves amused.”
“Mmmmm hmmmmm.” His eyes move over the medical equipment, studying the setup and considering viable options. He lowers the bed so she’s lying flat but there are still IVs in both her arms. “Tricky,” he murmurs.
She bites her lip, letting him figure it out. She’s sure he will. Her husband is an amazingly resourceful man.
He slowly peels back the covers. She’s wearing one of those horrible hospital gowns. Grinning he runs his hands up her legs, pushing the hem of the gown up to reveal her body. She wiggles a little bit to help and they manage to get it all the way up past her breasts. She’s cold but he’ll soon warm her well enough.
He disappears into the bathroom and comes back with a washcloth. Tossing it to her he says, “Bite this, woman, instead of your damn arm.”
“You’re so bossy,” she retorts but can’t help laughing. “And overdressed.”
He quickly remedies the last problem then sits on the edge of the bed again. She runs her left hand over his chest, toying with the hair there. He begins touching with his hands what he’s already been caressing with his eyes and the passion between them roars to life. After a few minutes he settles himself between her legs, kissing and licking his way up her inner thighs. She shudders even before his tongue finds her. Soft moans and gasps fill the room as he slowly pushes her toward orgasm. She remembers to bite down on the washcloth as her body trembles with wave after wave of pure pleasure.
John chuckles as he moves up her body, stopping to tease and taste her as he goes. “What’s so funny?” she manages to gasp.
He finally reaches her face, holding himself off of her with his arms. She loves the way the muscles in his chest and arms bunch with the effort. “We took care of the screamin’ issue but your heart monitor’s goin’ a mile a minute.”
She laughs. “That is not my fault!” she protests.
“Guilty as charged,” he says wickedly then kisses her, slowly and deeply. “Don’t let me hurt you,” he whispers and she nods.As he slides tenderly into her she murmurs in his ear, “Thank you for the roses.” Then she forgets how to talk for a while