Cody hadn’t had guests in his home and it had been decades since he’d had to play host and even then he’d never been good at it. His mate, Michelle had always entertained. He hoped what he could remember from that time in his life would be enough to get him through this, despite the pain it caused him. Rebecca, so far, had not been bad. She was quiet, which was nice. But she didn’t go unnoticed. His house smelled… clean. His laundry was done without him having to do it. There were windchimes out back that hadn’t been there, before – made of fishing line and little shells and reeds from the stream further down the hill. He was worried that she was bored.
“I got a few books to read and maybe a magazine or two. Not sure they’re your type, though.” Cody stayed behind her as she moved into the living room to sit next to the fire. It was odd seeing a vampire not afraid of a blaze. But then, she wasn’t just a vampire.
“I can’t read much. So, books aren’t appealing. Maybe the magazines. Or talk, unless that isn’t an option.” Becca didn’t want to overstep and Cody had been pretty rules-oriented. He’d kept himself gone or asleep most of the time she was actually awake. But he was happy to feed her, and she had gotten better for that. Becca found that three times maybe more a day but not large takings? That had her feeling so much better and her spirit felt like it was coming back to where it needed to be. She was just a little lonely, was all. So when he started the conversation, she was pleased.
“I can teach ya some on the reading side,” He kind of mumbled it, because he had thought it and hadn’t actually meant to offer, and yet there it was. It bothered him that she didn’t know how to read. “We can go to town tomorrow and get a few things to tide you over the next few. Maybe more clothes, since you been wearing mine and old used ones. I need to pick supplies myself anyway so it’s no bother.” he sat down in his big chair.
“You don’t mind spending the money on me? Because I have none. I think my wallet was left with my street clothes.” she snorted softly. “The nurses might not’ve been joking about burning them.
The girl was a talker once she got started. Okay he could handle that. He hadn’t had to have a true conversation with another in years but he could still carry one. Grabbing his pouch of loose tobacco Cody set about rolling himself a smoke
“I don’t mind spendin’ the money on you. I don’t use much so might as well go to a good cause.” Pulling the box of matches out of the drawer on the table next to him, he lit it up. He thought to himself that she looked a lot nicer now that she’d had some feedings in her.
“Thank you.” Becca watched him for a minute or two. Then she sighed and got up to go to the bathroom. “Speaking of… do you have another t-shirt? I need a new nightshirt and your t-shirts are perfect for that.”
Putting the smoke between his lips Cody went to his room and pulled a t shirt from his dresser. He stopped to look at the old picture of his mate and cubs for a moment where it still stood on the top of the dresser. Turning away he left the room to carry the well worn grey shirt to his guest. Holding it out to Rebecca he grumbled, “Ain’t much.” He shrugged.
“Thank you,” she said before closing the door and beginning the water to run and heat up. The bathroom was small and utilitarian. She’d never been in something so simple, but it was kind of refreshing.
When she looked in the mirror, she finally recognized herself in the reflection. She turned her face this way and that, trying to understand who she saw. Tentatively, she put her hand on the mirror. Memories in her mind made her suck in her bottom lip to keep it from quivering. Turning to the side, she studied her long dark hair and then the image in the mirror. The locks were something her masters enjoyed. Since she’d been on the streets and since comin here, she’d not had the proper products to treat it. It was just a frizzy mess. Maybe, with the rest of her changes, it was time for a change there, too? Her eyes swept over the straight razor and she took it in her hand before another thought came to her. She chopped through the two foot long mass that had faded and dropped it into the trash can. Washing the razor, she placed it back where he had found it and then turned the shower on.
Becca stepped into the shower and moaned at the feel of the hot water on her body. That was one thing she would never take for granted again. The little wolf even adjusted it hotter, standing with her head directly beneath the fall.
After a while she began washing herself, her hair and then her body and as she did, she sang. Singing to the pups or to herself, it always quieted her nerves. The piece was lycan, and something she sang to the little ones when they were trying to get to sleep. For all her lacking in everything else, Rebecca had a remarkable singing voice. And she wasn’t really even aware of it.
Cody left his door open so he could listen for Rebecca. He wasn’t snooping, so much as making sure she didn’t get dizzy or anything and need his help. She was still walking that line between sick and well. If she took too much blood or not enough, it could throw her system off very easily. He had just finished unbuttoning his plaid shirt when he heard the most lovely sound coming from the bathroom. His head tilted slightly and he listened more closely. Stepping out into the hall, Cody closed his eyes and just listened for several minutes. When it stopped and the water turned off, he moved back into his room still leaving his door open. Cody finished taking his shirt off and stripped off the t-shirt he always wore under for the hot days when the plaid was too much. Kicking off his boots and placing them at the edge near the end of the bed, Cody stretched until he heard several pops and then clicking on the small bedside light he laid himself out in just his jeans, crossed his feet at the ankles and picked up his book to read a few pages from. He figured Becca would head to her own bed – now that she’d had a shower. He’d grab his later when he was done reading.
Becca had dried her hair as best she could and put the t-shirt on over her head. It came to her knees so she had no need for covering anywhere else. She put toothpaste on her fingertip and scrubbed as good as she could and then rinsed her mouth out. After that, she looked down at her long cut hair in the wastebasket and just shook her head. Gathering up her clothing, she stepped to the big lycan’s door and cleared her throat.
“After we get back tomorrow I’ll wash the clothes. If you have any to add, you know…I can do those too,” she offered. If he were going to do so much for her, she could at least help out around the house.
Lifting his head to look at the fresh scrubbed female Cody was shocked to see her cut hair. Setting his book aside he climbed from the bed to walk to the door and placing his hands on her thin shoulders he bodily turned her to inspect the job.
When he turned her she sucked in a breath. He’d not actually touched her beyond the feedings. Was he going to be mad? She held that breath.
Letting her go he just shook his head at the loss of the lovely wild hair. He didn’t say anything about the hair because it wasn’t his place to but it was a shame she’d cut it.
“I have a set or two of clothes you could toss in, too … I guess if you want to. Don’t have to though.”
If she’d been with the Coven, she would have been grievously punished for removing the hair – for it was an attraction for the vampires. They were very vain creatures and long beautiful hair like hers had once been – it was envied. But he did nothing. She exhaled.
“It’s no trouble. You shouldn’t waste the water on so few clothes.” she held the towel wrapped clothing in front of her. She was trying to decide what to say. She figured if she said “thanks” too much he’d probably get sick of hearing it.
Cody stepped back a few paces to give the girl her space and didn’t bother covering himself up. She knew what slave bands were and so his tattoos and scars would be no great shock to her. The silence was awkward and Cody decided to fill it. If she was gonna stand in his doorway he might as well say something.
“Pretty voice ya got there.” Now what genius? Turning he moved to sit on the side of his bed. “Who taught ya the lycan song?”
Becca had started to turn when he spoke about her singing. She paused and looked at him.
“Uh, she was…” Becca moved her fingers through her dark hair and tried to remember. “She was like a grandmother. She helped raise us. Or at least my generation of Guardians. I never knew her name. She taught me several languages that way, you know – by talking and singing. I don’t see letters properly. Reading makes me lose my temper. So she taught me to speak and understand the vampire language and the english language and lycan.” Becca smiled. “Some memories, they’re nice.”
He nodded and actually started to turn back to his bed, when she took the moment to ask him something.
“Were you with the main Coven or stuck in a cell?” she asked, taking a step into his room, drawn by the markings. “Both…” she answered her own question just by studying him and the tattoos he had earned. Not all of them covered biting scars. Some of them were for earning his place in fights. She had seen those kind before on her brothers and on her mate. The males were especially prized for such things. Females were like her, trained for defense.
Dropping her clothes, she placed her fingers on the one on his right chest specifically. She was counting. He had so many designated wins within this tattoo that she was truly surprised he had ended up as a feeder.
“You must’ve really pissed someone off that had some pull to be taken from the ring after that many wins.” Becca stopped counting, and looked up at his face.
Deep down Cody knew that he should end this right now. Things were just fine in his life. He didn’t need the headaches this one would bring into it. Reaching to grasp her wrist Cody eased the hand away from his chest and he was talking while doing it.
“Wanted me to be more than her prize fighter. But I had a reason for fightin’ those first hundred and twenty years. They had my mate and our cubs. I fought to see her and them live on. Every time I won a match I got to visit them.”
“Until there was no one to visit?” With the way Cody held Becca’s wrist she was forced her to stay close enough that she’d feel his every breath against her collar bone. She was scared, but she also felt his pain. She knew the end of stories like Cody’s. She’d seen it happen.
“It wasn’t enough that I made her extremely popular amongst that damn nest of vipers. A hundred and twenty years given and never once did I lash out at anyone other than the unlucky ones I fought and beat for their amusement. And because I wouldn’t breed the bitch she murdered my family…” There was a dangerous rumble to the last words.
She felt his sadness. She knew that pain. But for that many years? No. Her pain was nothing compared to his and yet he lived on? And with every word, he held her wrist tighter. He was so close, but she didn’t back away or struggle. If this was how it would end for her, so be it. She had asked a personal question and she was getting a personal answer.
He could hear the pounding of her heart and that made Cody realize what he was doing. Letting Rebecca’s hand go, he took back control – forcing all that emotion back behind that solid wall of his.
“Don’t touch me like that again. You don’t want any part of what such brings girl. It’s best you go to bed now.”
Becca didn’t bother with the clothes or anything. She turned and left the room as quickly as her feet could carry her. The sound of the door closing was clue enough that the girl was doing just what he had told her she needed to do. Or at least, that she would try.
It was late in the night when the first nightmare happened. They were there in the meeting chamber when the vampires known for dealing in death began appearing in the balconies above them. The words would always be there in the dream, though, she couldn’t see the speaker anymore.
“We are ordered to destroy all who have broken the laws of the Council and the experiments they have participated in. May the gods have mercy on your souls.”
She growled and clawed and screamed as she felt the bullets enter her. She fought the covers.
“NO!” she was up, her lungs felt like they were on fire. This was why they had to force her to sleep at the clinic. This would be the first night without the medications. Becca didn’t want to have to go through life with toxins in her system. She had to face this and get through it. If Cody could go through what he had – she could do this. She could do this.
Cody had come awake with the first small sounds from her room. He opened his own door and listened. He wanted to be sure she wouldn’t hurt herself. The girl had demons of her own and he knew well that they weren’t always easy to face. All he could do was make sure she was safe. Especially if these demons were the kinds she had to face alone. He wasn’t sure what else he could do.
Rebecca pulled the covers tighter over her body and began counting. Unfortunately, the counting led her to a dream that she thought was going to be a happy memory kind of thing but turned out to be another nightmare. She was playing with the pups in the nursery. Both the baby vampires and the lycan were kept together. It was convenient and helped them bond and trust one another. At least that’s what they were told. Becca had come to realize, what they were told and the truth were often two different things.
Her imagination took her back to that day and the wards. She could hear the killing happening. She could hear the cries of toddlers and the guardians that had been on duty defending them to the death, watching as innocent children were killed simply for being – unacceptable abominations – living experiments. This time she woke up sweating and crying and had to get out of the room. She had to get out. She needed air, she couldn’t breathe and she needed water or… something… her mouth felt like it was stuffed with cotton.
When Rebecca came barreling out of the room, wild-eyed – Cody caught her in his arms before she could get far. He pulled her tight to his chest and held her while leaning there against the wall. It wasn’t a matter of could he hold her. It was a matter of holding her without hurting her.
“Easy Rebecca.. Let it go girl.. Don’t hold on to it or it won’t ever go away. Ya gotta let ’em go.”
“You let go!” She growled and snarled and scratched. “They’re crying! Don’t hurt them! They don’t under…stand….” she was sobbing. “They’re pups….don’t…” She pushed her feet against the other wall to try and force Cody to abandon his attempt at keeping her. She was strong and she knew how to fight, but he had captured her arms and pinned them down. He easily lifted her feet off the ground and with the way she was held, she couldn’t catch him with a kick or knee. “They were just babies…” she finally began slowing down and stopped really fighting. His scent was all around her and it helped remind her of where she was.
Sebastian Evansworth wanted to help this girl, but Cody knew that involving her in the world of others wasn’t what she needed. Rebecca needed time to herself to deal with her pain, grief, and nightmares. Time away from the world instead of being tossed right into it.
“Come on. You’ve used a lot of energy. Let’s get you fed and settled back in again.” Cody was still just in his jeans and so feeding her would be easy. He led her to his room with the intent to feed.
“Cody, I couldn’t stop them. They killed the babies. Why couldn’t I stop them?” She shook her head and almost started crying, even as he turned her to him.
“Sometimes things don’t happen the way we want. But we got ta move on. Now, you’re shakin’ and hungry. I can see it. I don’t want you to let your body drift backwards again. What you dreamt was in the past. This is now. You need to feed, now.”
“I don’t want to. I have more nightmares when…”
“I know you don’t want to, but you need to.” Cody sat down on the side of his bed and pulled her closer. He recalled the long nights and the terrible nightmares. The kind you wake up from and wish another was close by just to ground you to reality. He hadn’t had anybody, but he was willing to be here for her. He turned her away from him and scooted back a little onto the mattress so she had room. His wrist was there for her. She was already shaky and exhausted by those dreams. He could tell.
Becca just laid there in his arms and calmed her breathing down. The knot in her stomach and the need in her body was hurting her. He wouldn’t have to convince her much more. Once a vampire who had been deprived finally did begin to feed, their body craved more and more. And it went on until there was a balance found. Right now, she was like a little addict and needed.
With one arm still holding her securely to him, Cody smoothed her hair back and just waited another moment or two for her to settle the rest of the way down. He didn’t want to hurt her; that wasn’t the point to this.
“Take from me Becca and ease the cramps you are feeling.” Cody moved his tattooed wrist to her mouth and pressed it against her lips.
When Cody offered, this time Rebecca’s response was to sink her teeth gently into his wrist and begin drawing. When he released her arms and hands, she grasped his forearm as if she were a starving animal making sure her food was not going anywhere until she had her fill. Her eyes closed and she sounded like she was humming… or rumbling…with her drawing if his blood.
Re-adjusting her so that her back was against his broad chest, Cody held the waif on his lap as she continued to feed from him. Things would eventually get better. Her mind was waking up from getting well and that was why her memories were popping back up after feedings. Becca had to get past her nightmares, With that in mind Cody spoke against her ear while she fed.
“You did what you could to help them Rebecca, but there is nothing more you can do for them now. What ya can do is rebuild yaself and carry on. To do otherwise is a shame considering if they had lived they’d be doin’ just that. None would want ya to suffer like this.” His chest rumbled low against her back letting her know that he was there for her to lean on.
Cody could probably feel her relax in his arms. Her grip on his arm relaxed and soon after, she drew her last drop and licked his wrist very gently, and thoroughly. She turned quickly and laid her head against his chest and curled into a ball on his lap. He might have thought her taken by sleep until she spoke in lycan, “Do as you say, not as you do?”
How could he ask her to just stop seeing them, hearing them, grieving them, and tell her she could move on when he hadn’t? How unfair was that?
Cody couldn’t help the growl.
Though she’d love to just relax and remain here, Becca knew her words had probably angered him again. So, she did her best not to touch him and got up. She had laundry to do, and there would definitely be no more sleep had this night.
~ Rachel Diane Adams and Dawn McClellan © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 2019