Heku : Book 1 of the Heku Series by T.M. Nielsen - HTML preview
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“You've done it now, Slut, now he'll know how dirty you are.” Keith smiled at her, his eyes empty and rotting. He took a step toward her, and she turned and ran naked through the trees.
“Run all you want, you can't run from your whoring life. You can't run from him knowing the truth about you,” Keith called as he ran after her.
“Did he say he loved you? I think not, do you know why? Because he feels pity for you! Who else would take you if he won't? I'll tell you... no one, Emily. No one wants you because you are ugly and worthless.” His voice echoed through the trees.
She screamed as his cold dead hands clamped against her arm.
“Shhhhh, Em, it's ok.” Chevalier was pressed against her side with one arm draped over her. She could feel his body against hers and she remembered.
Emily tensed under his arm and began to pull away when she realized she wasn't dressed, and the pounding in her head was growing worse after the dream.
“No you don't… you aren't leaving,” Chevalier told her, and his arm held her to the bed.
“I need to go,” she said, again trying to get up.
Chevalier kissed her shoulder lightly, “Go where?”
“Please… let me up.” She pried at his hand.
“Tell me where, and if I think it's a good enough reason, then I'll let you go.” He moved his hand to wrap it around her.
Emily pulled the blanket up higher to cover herself, but Chevalier grabbed it and lowered it again
“Stop it,” he said lightly.
“I'm cold.” She tried again, but he held the covers tightly.
“No you aren't, you are hiding.” He kissed a line from her shoulder up her neck, “Now go back to sleep and this time… ignore what Keith was telling you.”
“You talk in your sleep.” He could feel the warmth from her blush and smiled.
She rolled onto her side away from him and glanced at the clock Kyle put in for her, it was almost 3am. She decided to stay awake and watch for 7am, but soon her eyes began to feel heavy and she was comfortable with him pressed against her back with his arms around her.
“Good Morning,” he whispered, kissing the tip of her nose.
She glanced at him. He was on top of the covers and fully dressed, smiling down at her. She could feel the blush rising to her cheeks, and she pulled the covers tighter around her.
Chevalier chuckled, “Gordon is almost here with your breakfast.”
Her eyes widened, “No! He can't come in here.”
“Chevalier, stop him, please, don't let him in here!” The panic in her voice stopped his laugh and he got up to talk to Gordon in the ante-chamber. Emily took the opportunity to run for the bathroom, taking the bed sheets with her as a cover.
Chevalier entered the bathroom just as Emily was pulling on a robe and cinching it tightly around her waist.
“What was that about?” he asked, watching her.
“What was what?” She turned to look at him.
Chevalier just looked at her, waiting for an answer.
She sighed, “How many of your coven have you slept with, Chev?”
The question shocked him, but he held his face steady, “I don't see how that is relevant.”
“Oh… it's quite relevant.”
“Is it safe to assume the answer is a large number?” She walked past him out into the bedroom.
Chevalier followed her, not sure where this was going, “I wouldn't say large, per se.”
“That's it then… I don't want to be added to that number based on one lapse in judgment.” She sat down and picked at the eggs on her plate.
He grinned, “Is that what it was… a lapse in judgment?”
“Yes.” She pulled the robe down over her legs.
“I see, so… so you fear that Gordon will count you in with my many… shall we say… exploits?” He was enjoying this and it infuriated her.
“Then do you care if I am counted along with your exploits?” He sat in the chair across from her casually.
She didn't answer, the blush rising quickly to her cheeks.
His eyes narrowed, then he started to laugh, “My God, Emily, how many men have you been with?”
She pushed the plate away, no longer hungry, “It's none of your business.”
“Oh do tell, you were quite good at it, so I can only guess at the high number.” He laughed harder as her blush grew darker.
The humiliation was too much and Emily briefly considered jumping off the balcony. He noticed her gaze and stopped laughing, studying the look on her face and the darkening blush. She walked over and began going through the closest wardrobe.
Chevalier wondered at her sudden silence and the body language showing she was extremely uncomfortable. His mind shifted to the conversation they had about Keith. She met Keith when she was 14, and then it struck him.
“Oh.” Was all he could manage.
After a long, awkward silence, he moved to her side as she rifled through the wardrobe, “I'm sorry, Em, I wasn't thinking… I guess I didn't realize it'd only been…”
“Don't… just don't say it… we shouldn't be talking about this.” She grabbed what she had her hand on and disappeared into the bathroom.
Chevalier decided to leave her alone. She seemed to need some time to adjust to what happened, and he was all too eager to make use of his private office. It was only a few seconds before he unlocked his office door and went to step in, but saw Storm running at him.
“Wait!” She called to him.
“Yes, Storm?” He hated how his voice sounded irritated with her.
She paused for a moment and then continued, “You promised a follow up with the Wilson case, Sir. He's no longer waiting patiently.”
“Not today, Storm.” She looked hurt but walked away from him.
He walked into the solitude his office provided and heard the door lock shut behind him. Ignoring the piles of papers and stacks of books, he sat in the large mahogany chair and buried his face in his hands.
“What was he doing?” he wondered.
How had he come so far as to seduce a child? He let his feelings take over and that was never safe, not when he'd spent his entire life gaining control of his most intrinsic emotions. He delved deeper into his mind and body, trying to figure out what it was with Emily that he couldn't live without, why she brought out such strong desires. He shuddered to think it could be love. He, the Chief Enforcer, didn't love, he commanded, he punished, he took, but he didn't love.
The image of Kyle sitting on her bed during the night brought the sudden rage back and he fought the urge to break something. She brought out his protective tendencies, which always led to violent ideations. There was so much to protect her from, not the least of which, herself, her dead husband, and now the disobedient in his own coven. Ulrich was also on his mind, his warning for Chevalier to stay away from her and his promise to make her disappear. Chevalier's promise to Ulrich that he wasn't interested in Emily, another broken promise surrounding her, she seemed to be collecting them from him.
He sighed and shut his eyes, deep in meditation.
Emily waited to see if Chevalier would come back soon, but after a few hours, she knew that Keith was right. She let it get too far and now he wanted nothing to do with her. What she needed was something to occupy her mind, something that would let her think. She needed to decide where to go now that Chevalier would want her to leave. She didn't want to go to Ulrich, she didn't know him, and Chevalier didn't trust him.
She walked out of the bedroom, pausing to tell Anna that she wasn't needed again today, and then set about going through the castle. She didn't find anything interesting, more bedrooms, some servant's quarters, and a large ballroom with wooden floors and long green drapes covering the walls. One door she went to open was heavy. She could budge it just a little, no more than an inch. It was dark inside, and sounded like a large room.
Emily set her feet firmly and put both hands on the door, pushing as hard as she could. She groaned with the strain, but again, all she could manage was about an inch. She stopped when she heard a chuckle behind her and spun around.
She smiled, “Kyle!”
“Having problems?” He walked past her and easily opened the door.
She shrugged and walked into the room, then her mouth fell open. The room was uncommonly large and housed an empty pool. She began to walk around it and could hear Kyle walking behind her.
“Why is it empty?” She stopped to look at him.
Kyle laughed, “We're heku, we don't swim for fun.”
“Then why do you even have a pool?” She narrowed her eyes at him.
“Well, that's tough. Ok so…” he was hesitating.
“Sooooo… what?” She prompted.
He sighed, “This used to be a ceremonial room. A donor stepped into it by accident and… well… he can't be in the ceremonial room. So we moved the ceremonial room, but we had to do something with this one and to keep up human appearances, we put in a pool.”
Emily laughed, “That's pretty pathetic, but ok… no one swims?”
“Never,” he said, looking around the large empty room.
“Hmm, that's too bad.” She stepped down into an empty hot tub and sat down on one of the benches that lined the outside.
Kyle followed her down and sat across from her, his eyes amused.
Emily glanced around the massive room to make sure no one was around and turned back to Kyle, “May I ask you something?”
“Depends…” he said, watching her. He was drawn to her green eyes.
She smiled slightly, “If I wanted to… can I leave?”
He raised his eyebrows, “Yes, I'll open the door for you.”
She sighed, “Not here, here… the island.”
“You are leaving us?” He tried to hide the shock in his voice, but failed.
Emily shrugged, “If I do, will anyone try to stop me? I mean those armed guards with the dogs on the pier?”
“Well,” Kyle began. “I'm sure that Chevalier would try to stop you, and I would try to talk you out of leaving, but you aren't a prisoner here. The guards on the pier keep people out, not people in.”
She fought back the tears, “I don't think Chev would care much if I left.”
Kyle moved closer to her, “Did you two get into a fight?”
Emily couldn't help but smile weakly, “You could say that.”
“I've seen the way he looks at you. I don't think he would like it if you left.”
“Don't be so sure, Kyle.” She shrugged.
Kyle tried to read her face, tried to figure out what the problem was so he could help, “If you are right, then I would still ask you to stay.”
“That's sweet, but I don't think he would even want me on this island. It's only a matter of time before he gets back and asks me to leave. I just need to figure out where to go, now that my ranch is gone.” One stray tear betrayed her and escaped her eye.
Kyle reached up and gently wiped the tear way, “No family or friends?”
She shook her head, “Dad and... well Keith, were the only family I had and I didn't have time for friends.”
“I won't let you go homeless, Emily. I have a few places you could stay. I even have one in Europe if you want to get far away.” He sounded sad.
Emily looked up at him, “You do? You would let me stay there until I got a job and got back on my feet?”
Kyle nodded silently.
She relaxed a bit, “Thank you, that's… that's so nice of you.”
Kyle stood up and offered his hand to help her do the same, “Let's go riding, it's nice out and I won't let you leave today.”
Emily nodded and followed him out of the pool room and into the barn where their horses waited, already saddled. Emily grabbed Patra's large head in her hands and kissed her nose, “It's ok, Patra, I'll take you with me when I go.”
Kyle watched as Emily slid easily onto the painted mare and they set out along the tree line, walking the horses slowly.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Kyle asked after some time in silence.
Emily shook her head and looked away from him.
“If you decide you need someone to talk to…”
She nodded and shut her eyes, feeling the warmth of the sun on her face.
“Hey, I thought heku couldn't be out in the sun,” she said finally, looking over at Kyle.
“Not can't… we just don't prefer it… it's obnoxiously bright.” He grinned, adjusting his sunglasses.
“Garlic?” she asked.
“We don't eat.”
“What if I threw it at you?”
Kyle laughed, “Then I'd probably throw it back.”
He raised an eyebrow, clearly having fun, “Are you trying to kill me off?”
Emily smiled despite herself and shrugged, “Doesn't matter I guess, I'm not catholic.”
The rest of the afternoon they spent riding the mesa, for a while running along the beach. When the sun started to set, and the weather cooled off, Kyle insisted they return to the barn.
Emily slid off of Patra and unhooked the straps, then turned around to lay her gloves on a nearby stand and when she turned back around, the saddle and saddle blanket were already gone. She noticed Kyle's horse was also bareback now.
“I can do that,” she said, picking up the brush.
“Do what?” Kyle was leaning against a stall watching her.
“I can take off a saddle you know, I'm not a wimp.” She began to brush Patra down.
“Never said you were… we have people for that though, and they are quite efficient.” Kyle mimicked her and grabbed a brush, “Course… I don't see how you can lift a saddle when you can't open a door.”
Kyle laughed when the brush flew out of Emily's hand and hit him softly in the back. Emily grabbed a bucket of water and started washing down Patra, who clearly enjoyed the attention. The barn was warm, and washing down the horse was making it warmer, so Emily slipped off her polo, leaving on only a light camisole. Kyle quickly glanced at her, but turned away when he again realized how beautiful she was.
“So… now that it's too late for you to leave tonight, what do you want to do?” he asked, still brushing the buckskin mare.
“Hmmm... I don't suppose there's a TV in this place?” She led Patra into a nearby stall and went over to the large barrel of oats and struggled to lift the lid.
“I'm sure I could find one, yes.” He watched her out of the corner of his eye, trying not to be too obvious.
She finally managed to get the lid off, and dumped a large bucket into Patra's stall, “Any DVDs?”
Kyle laughed, “Some.”
Kissing Patra again, Emily left her in the stable and shut the door, “What's so funny?”
“You are, Dear… you know you can be quite amusing?” He turned to lead his horse into a stall.
Kyle gasped when the cold water from the wash bucket was suddenly thrown at his back, drenching him. He shut the stall door and turned slowly, a grin on his face. Emily caught one look at his face and turned away, running toward the house. It wasn't a fair chase, she hadn't made it to the door of the barn before he was standing in her way, facing her and laughing.
“You shouldn't have done that,” he said, taking a step towards her.
Emily planted her feet and set her jaw, “I'm not afraid of you.”
Before she even realized what was happening, Kyle had her across his shoulder and was running in a blur across the yard toward a freshwater stream that led into the ocean.
“You wouldn't!” she yelled when she figured out his plan.
“Oh?” he said, gently sitting her down in the deep cold water.
Emily gasped and stood up, now entirely soaked. Kyle's heart fluttered, the thin white camisole was now sheer and he could clearly see the shapely contours of her breasts as she climbed out of the water, unaware he was watching.
“That is freezing!” she yelled, shivering. She slapped him on the arm as she walked past, headed for the house.
Kyle appeared at her side with the shirt she'd left in the barn. She slipped it on, now cold, and he was able to breathe again. He chastised himself. It's things like this that could get him in trouble with the Chief Enforcer.
“She is mine.” Kyle could hear Chevalier's voice in his head.
“Come on, let's see if we can find a TV,” he said, opening the door for her and checking quickly to see if anyone had seen them. His clothes were dry now, the cold wind coming off of the ocean dried them quickly.
Kyle led her up the long staircase and past a few hallways, stopping at a set of white double doors. He used his key to unlock the doors and open them for her. Emily stepped into the room and smiled. The room was all white and one end held a massive, flat-screen TV that was mounted to the wall. The floors were lined with giant beanbags, overstuffed pillows, rows of carefully folded blankets, and soft rugs. One entire wall was dedicated to shelves full of DVDs.
“You've been holding out on me!” she said, and walked over to look at the movies.
Kyle sat down on a beanbag and watched her. It was fairly safe here, he would hear if anyone approached. She started thumbing through the movies as he watched her. He marveled at the way her back moved, the curve of her waist, and how her hair hung down softly, barely brushing her outstretched arms.
He blinked and turned to the TV, then glanced back at her when she began to laugh, “Find something?”
Emily turned around and held out a movie, still laughing, “You have Interview with a Vampire!”
Her laughing was exquisite and Kyle grinned, “I hadn't noticed.”
“Let's watch it,” she said, walking over to the DVD player.
Kyle was startled when she joined him on the beanbag and pulled up a blanket, laying it across their legs. Emily leaned forward as the movie started.
Part of the way through the first hour of the movie, Kyle began to get irritated. The heku were portrayed completely wrong and their vulnerabilities were insulting. He was sure that Emily would see the problem and choose another movie, but when he glanced at her, she was thoroughly engrossed.
He watched her face, it was more entertaining than the movie. She was feeling the emotions of the characters and didn't noticed him watching her. He was shocked when she even cried when one of the simulated vampires died. He was amazed at the intense emotion she could put out for a façade.
Kyle grinned, at times he forgot how utterly human she was. She glanced at him and then back to the movie, blushing.
The next three days were spent the same as Kyle tried to keep Emily entertained so she wouldn't leave the island. They rode the horses in the morning, spent afternoons doing various things, and then each evening was spent in the white movie room, watching whatever it was that Emily picked.
The fourth day was different, though. Emily wasn't as playful or talkative as before. She opted to walk with Patra, as opposed to riding, and Kyle began to get worried. They hadn't mentioned Chevalier, though Kyle knew exactly where he was. Emily assumed he'd left the castle and Kyle didn't have the heart to tell her he was there, just in meditation in his office. He didn't know the kind of fight they had, but was sure that Chevalier wouldn't want her to leave in his absence.
The movie that night was a romance, but Emily was asleep before the relationship even began to evolve. Kyle carried her back to her room and put her to bed, taking his place at the foot of her bed as normal.
The hard knocking on his door broke his concentration and irritated him, “Enter!” Chevalier bellowed at them.
Anna came in quickly, her head low and bowed, “Sir?”
“Sir, please, I am worried about Lady Emily.” Anna continued to stare at the floor, feeling awkward being in Chevalier's study.
He stood up and took a step toward her, “What's wrong?”
“A fever, Sir. Kyle summoned me a few hours ago.”
Chevalier glared as he realized Kyle was spending time with Emily again, and then swept out of the room, followed quickly by Anna. The door shut and locked behind them on its own. It only took him a few seconds to appear in Emily's ante-chamber, and he knocked lightly.
“I said go away!” Emily called from the other side of the doors.
Chevalier looked at Anna and smiled, “It's ok, Anna. I'll take a look.”
Ignoring her call to go away, Chevalier stepped inside the room and shut the heavy door behind him. He looked around the room and saw Emily sitting in a chair by the fire. She didn't look over at him. He walked over and sat down in the other chair.
“Sooo.” He paused, hoping she would begin, but continued when she didn't, “How are you feeling?”
Emily's insides reeled. She hadn't expected Chevalier to come back and she figured he was just feeling guilty about abandoning her. It wouldn't be long before he left again, returning only when she'd gone.
“Fine,” she snapped at him.
“Anna seems to think you are sick.”
“Anna is delusional.”
Chevalier grinned, “That she is, however, she is still worried.”
Emily coughed into her arm and turned back to the fire.
“Hmm,” he said, watching her more intently now. He frowned at the flush in her face. It wasn't like the blush that lingered on her cheeks when she was embarrassed.
Chevalier stood up and put his hand on her forehead, which she promptly slapped away. He got enough of a chance though to ascertain that she was feverish.
“Ok, Emily, no more playing,” he said, picking her up.
“Put me down, Chev. I'm not in the mood.” She kicked, trying to get away, but was soon on the bed, “Gah, you're as bad as Kyle.”
Emily scrambled to get out of bed, but Chevalier held her down, “I'm not kidding, Emily, you stay put.” His voice was stern.
“You aren't my father, Chev.” She glared at him, but he refused to release his hold.
He reached out and felt her forehead again. She felt hot and sweaty and her color was off, “You are getting sick.”
“Anna,” Chevalier called.
“Yes, Sir?” Instantly she appeared at his side, her eyes on Emily.
“Find a doctor. Talk to Storm, make sure it is a discreet one.”
“Yes, Sir,” she said, running off.
Emily looked up at Chevalier and her snide remark was forgotten when she saw the worry in his eyes.
Chevalier sat at her side for the few hours it took to locate a doctor to come within the island walls. Chevalier watched as Emily fell asleep, her breathing labored and raspy. He started to become angry with Storm, it was taking too long to locate someone to come and help.
Just as Chevalier was about to whisk Emily away to the mainland, the doctor arrived with apologies about the time, the ferry had some engine trouble. The doctor was about to introduce himself when his eyes fell on Emily and his brow furrowed.
He dug around in his bag and pulled out a stethoscope and placed it against her chest, inhaling sharply.
“It's pneumonia,” he mumbled, pulling out a thermometer and scanning it across her forehead. “104.2, we should get her to a hospital, but as the ferry is no longer running, I'll do what I can.”
Chevalier didn't like the sounds of that, “Do more than you can,” he demanded.
The doctor rifled through his bag and pulled out a syringe, which he filled from a small vial. He pulled the blankets down and hiked her nightgown up, then turned as he heard Chevalier hiss.
“This has to go into her thigh… that's all,” he said, watching to make sure he wasn't about to get attacked. He'd been oddly curious about this island since he was a child, and though he knew the risks of coming out here, he jumped at the chance to see inside the gray walls.
“What is it?” Chevalier's voice held authority and anger.
“Antibiotics, she can't take a pill, so it has to be an injection,” he explained, and then paused to wait for more questions. When none came, he gave her the shot and covered the small puncture wound with a bandage.
The doctor stood back and watched Emily strain to breathe, the muscles in her throat standing out. Her chest heaved heavily as her body struggled to get oxygen. It hadn't escaped Chevalier that Emily didn't open her eyes when the doctor gave her the medicine.
Chevalier didn't move for hours. He sat, watching her, willing her to continue to breathe. Her fragile body stayed incredibly warm and she stopped responding at all to commands. Kyle joined them, but kept a safe distance, choosing to watch from the corner of the room. Anna sat beside her also, holding her hand.
The doctor came in every few hours to check on Emily. He wasn't pleased with the outcome. The antibiotics hadn't started to work yet, but he promised them that they would soon. He left the room when he wasn't needed because Chevalier's accusing stares made him uncomfortably aware of his volatile surroundings.
Emily's fever broke the following night, but her body fought to continue to breathe. The strain began to show on the faces of all in the room. Anna changed the wet cloth on Emily's forehead often, but there was nothing else to do but watch her. The doctor was concerned about the lack of fluids in her body, but the pneumonia had progressed and he was afraid to move her. Storm gathered a crew and they went back to the mainland, returning with I.V. supplies and oxygen. Emily seemed to breathe easier with the extra oxygen and the doctor felt better once the I.V. began to replenish the fluid in her body.
The time watching over Emily gave Chevalier the opportunity to think about what was happening with him, and as much as he hated to consider it, he conceded that he might actually love her. His heart ached watching her suffer and if there were someone to kill for it, he would. He realized that no one could know his true feelings for Emily. They could be construed as a weakness and then all he fought for would be lost. He had control on his side, control of himself and his coven.
The next morning, the doctor came back into the room to check on Emily. He was always amazed at the three heku that sat vigil over her bed, and at how much they cared about this young woman. None of them moved as he placed the stethoscope on her chest and then grinned when she moved slightly with the cold. It was the first he had seen her respond in over two days.
“She sounds better today,” he told them, and noticed the look of adoration on the heku's faces. He scanned her forehead again and showed the results to Chevalier, 101.1. No one spoke, so he gave her another dose of antibiotics and left the room again.
That evening, Chevalier called for the doctor. Emily's body was no longer straining to breathe, her back was no longer arching, and the muscles in her neck had relaxed. She seemed peaceful and had it not been for the rasping, he wouldn't have even believed she was still breathing.
The doctor rushed in and immediately placed a stethoscope against her chest, but he smiled. “She's ok, it's ok. Her body just doesn't have to fight quite so hard to breathe.”
Chevalier smiled softly at Emily and again the doctor was taken aback by the care the immortals were giving this one mortal. It was comforting knowing that the mythological evil beasts could care, “As soon as she wakes up, I'll need to go back.”
The doctor waited. He'd been slightly suspicious whether he would make it back or if he would become a permanent resident of this city of the immortal.
Chevalier nodded, “That should be fine, just leave us what we need to care for her.”
In her sleep, Emily reached up and tore off the oxygen cannula. Chevalier quickly replaced it just to have it torn off again.
“Leave it alone,” he said softly.
“No,” she answered, her voice was so quiet it was hard to hear.
He couldn't help but grin. The soft sound of her voice was encouraging. He'd spent the last few days thinking he may actually lose her, and not sure if his heart could beat without her.
He replaced the cannula, yet again, and this time she didn't move. A few hours later, the harsh cough began and her labored breathing returned, though not as fiercely as before. Again they called for the doctor.
He couldn't help but smile at the panicked look on their faces as he heard the rough cough, “It's fine, that's what we want… coughing is good. Coughing irritates the airway, though, so it's going to make it hard to breathe.”
“This is good?” Anna questioned, watching Emily cough violently.
“Yes, it is,” the doctor tried to reassure them.
Storm made the arrangements to send the doctor home the following day and to pay him immensely for his help. Chevalier was surprised to learn that the doctor offered to come back if the need arose. It was always good to have resources on the outside.
Once Emily fell back to sleep and there was a break in the coughing, Chevalier appeared in the corner with Kyle.
“You have some explaining to do, and it better be good.” Kyle could feel the intense rage emanating from Chevalier.
“Sir?” he asked, not sure how much Chevalier knew.
“It seems in my absence you spent a lot of time… too much time, with Emily, explain yourself,” Chevalier hissed, and took a step closer to Kyle as his hands clenched into tight fists.
Kyle's mind pulled out the excuse he had formulated, “She was going to leave, Sir. I simply tried to keep her here.”
It worked, and Chevalier's anger ebbed slightly, “This required you to spend the entire four days with her?”
“I was afraid that the second she was alone, she would leave.” Kyle crouched defensively, “She was convinced you wanted her to.”
Chevalier's anger immediately left him as Kyle's words sank in, “She though I wanted her to leave?”
Chevalier studied Kyle's face and he hissed, “How close did you get to her?”
Kyle didn't ease up from his defensive posture, “Chevalier, I wouldn't…”
Chevalier stopped him with a growl, “Are you falling for her?”
“No!” Self-preservation kept Kyle from confessing the truth.
“She is mine,” he said through gritted teeth.
“I know, Sir.” Kyle tried to relax to show his respect for the Chief Enforcer. He had to hide his true feelings, feelings that would get him killed.
“Then leave.” The command was whispered, but the expectation to obey was strong. Kyle instantly disappeared from the room.
Chevalier walked back to the bed just as Anna was replacing the cool cloth on Emily's forehead. She pretended that she didn't see what just transpired, and didn't comment. She liked Kyle, and what she had seen of him lately could be detrimental to him.
Emily's hand shot out and wrapped around the tubing coming from her arm. Chevalier was quick enough that she didn't have time to remove her I.V. He brought her hand to his lips and kissed it lightly, “No, Em, leave it alone.”
He could be himself around Anna. Her life depended on her ability to keep what she saw to herself. Anna re-taped the I.V. down, not watching Chevalier.
“Take it out, please,” Emily whispered, her eyes still shut.
Chevalier bent down and brushed his lips softly against hers, then whispered into her ear, “Leave it, Love.”
He heard Anna gasp slightly and he sat up. Emily's eyes were open and she was looking at him.
“Emily?” he whispered, touching her cheek lightly.
Her eyes moved from him, over to Anna, and then returned, but she didn't speak. She reached her hand up and pulled the oxygen off of her face. Chevalier grinned and returned it, “Leave that alone.”
Chevalier and Anna watched as her eyes suddenly slid shut again.
Emily slept most of the night, with interruptions from coughing fits. Only once did her breathing turn raspy for a while, but it was quiet again within a few hours. The light of dawn came through the cracks in the heavy curtains, and she opened her eyes again.
“Chev?” Her voice was cracked and soft.
He looked down at her and kissed her forehead softly, “Yes?”
She tried to clear her throat, but ended up starting a coughing fit again. Chevalier pulled her gently into a sitting position to help it pass, and then laid her back down.
“Shhh, don't talk,” he encouraged her as Anna left to get a fresh cool rag.
Emily's pale complexion brought out the vibrancy in her green eyes, but her lips were dry and cracked.
“You came back…” she said softly, watching his reaction.
“Of course I did. I know what you're thinking, and you're wrong. We'll discuss this later though.” He adjusted her pillows.
Her eyes scanned the room, “Where is Kyle?”
He pulled her up to sitting again as she began to cough uncontrollably. By the time it stopped, she was exhausted and fell back to sleep when he laid her down again.
Chevalier watched her sleep. He gently ran his fingers across her collar bone. It protruded from her tight skin and he worried about how thin and pale she'd become. Her arms were finally cool, so he pulled the blanket up around her and waited.
The next morning, he was finally alone with her. The cool rags were no longer necessary without the fever, so he told Anna to take the day off to go feed, she was looking haggard. Chevalier pulled the heavy curtains back and let the morning sun into the room. When he turned back to the bed, she was watching him.
He smiled, “How are you feeling?”
“Perfect,” she whispered, watching him closely.
Chevalier sat down on the bed beside her and took her hand, but she pulled it away weakly.
“You don't have to do that,” she whispered, unable to draw up the strength for more.
He took her hand again, and this time didn't let her pull it away, “No one is forcing me.”
She reached up with her other hand and pulled off the oxygen.
Chevalier sighed and tried to put it back on, but her hand was in the way.
“No,” she said softly.
“Em, you need it, put it back on.” He tried again, but she blocked him with her hand.
She glared at him, “You put it on.”
He gently moved her hand and put it back to her face, “I don't need it, you do.”
She coughed forcefully and then settled back down on the pillow, “You don't have to stay here. I don't need a pity friend.”
Chevalier waited while he got his anger under control, “No one's making me and I don't pity you.”
“It's ok, Chev, as soon as I'm better, I'll leave.” She turned her face away from him and shut her eyes.
He growled softly, “I don't want you to leave…” He glanced around the room once then bent down and whispered into her ear, “I love you too much to for you to leave.”
Her mouth fell open and she turned back to him, her eyes searching for signs of humor or sarcasm, but she found none.
“Don't look at me like that, you knew it all along.” His face was stern, but then he grinned.
She turned away from him again as the tears welled up in her eyes. She shut them to hide the evidence, but soon fell asleep.
A soft voice woke her up and she watched as Gordon delivered a shiny, silver tray to the bedside table. He smiled when he saw her look at him, bowed, and then disappeared. Chevalier pulled the dome off the top and set it down, then turned to look at her.
Chevalier smiled, “Dr. Edwards said you need to start eating again. I had Gordon bring some soup. I hope you like chicken noodle or is that too… prosaic?”
Emily shook her head, “I'm not really hungry.”
She sat up coughing.
“Well, he also mentioned if you'll eat, we can remove the I.V.” Chevalier grinned, playing off her weaknesses.
She reached over and quickly yanked out the I.V, wincing at the sting. Chevalier hadn't been watching her at the time, so he was a fraction of second too slow to stop it, “Damnit, Em, you're a horrible patient.”
She yanked off her nasal cannula to toss it onto the floor, but Chevalier caught it before it hit, “Nope, put that back on.”
Emily slung her legs over the side of the bed and scooted to stand up, but his hands on her shoulders forced her back onto the bed.
“Stop it, Chev.” She coughed and then tried again.
“Will you please stay down?” His voice was a cross between amusement and frustration.
“No, I'm well enough to leave now.” Her body betrayed her with a violent coughing fit.
Chevalier wrapped his arms around her waist, frowning as he felt her ribs sticking out against her skin, “Lay down.”
Emily didn't lie down, but she did stay seated. When she'd tried to stand, she discovered that her legs weren't strong enough to carry her yet.
“Fine, we'll sit,” Chevalier said, releasing his hold on her. He grabbed the bowl of soup and offered it to her.
Emily stared at it.
“Eat… for me,” he said.
She sighed and took the bowl. The soup felt wonderful against her parched lips and throat and the warmth of it spread through her body. She hadn't realized she was getting cold.
Once she finished, she returned the bowl to the intricately decorated silver tray and turned to face Chevalier on the bed, sitting cross-legged.
“So now…” he began, facing her in a similar fashion. “Let's talk about you leaving, shall we?”
“Might I ask why?” he asked, looking closely at her. He noticed again how thin she'd become and how she was almost as pale as he was.
She stared down at her hands, “I know what you must think about me now, it's only fair to give you an easy out.” Coughing stopped her from saying more.
Chevalier's eyes narrowed, “So you know what I think about you, do you?”
“I'm guessing it's along the lines of… hmmm… let's use the immortal words of Keith 'You're just a little dirty slut aren't you? Whoring around in the city?” He paused, “Is that close?”
Emily winced and nodded, still staring at the pattern on the quilt.
“Let me see if I can continue then… useless?” He watched her.
“Insignificant and repulsive?”
She didn't react. She was concentrating on the flowered pattern of the quilt to keep from crying.
“So does that mean that you count Keith and I in the same category?” he growled.
The words shocked her and she looked up at him with wide eyes, “No.”
He moved closer to her and touched her cheek lightly, “Then stop comparing us and stop letting his words cloud the way I feel about you, it's insulting.”
Her eyes met his and he saw the hesitation there, the brief glimpse that she for once doubted what her ex- husband said. Chevalier took the opportunity of weakness and concentrated on her eyes, willing her to submit to his trance. Her body relaxed and her breathing matched his own.
“Emily… I love you, and you need to trust me. I love everything about you.” His words flowed toward her like music. She was unable to pull away from their mesmerizing qualities, “You are worth it.”
Chevalier pulled back away from her, broke the gaze, and waited while his words sunk in. As the trance broke, she couldn't remember what had transpired, but suddenly felt relaxed and comfortable.
She glanced over at the tray and picked up a piece of a quartered sandwich. A blush rose to her cheeks as she realized Chevalier was watching her with a smile.
“Come in, Anna,” he called, though she'd heard no knock.
Anna hurried in and set a glass of orange juice down on the table, then suddenly disappeared again.
Emily frowned toward the door.
“You don't like Anna, do you?” he guessed.
“She treats me like a 2-year-old,” she said, and then continued to eat.
“Dear, to her you are very young.”
“It doesn't matter, I'm still an adult.”
“That's fine, I'll replace her for you.”
“Let Kyle do it.” Emily didn't notice the way Chevalier's body tensed. She reached for the ice cold orange juice.
“Kyle?” he asked, calming his voice.
“Yes, he doesn't treat me like a toddler, and we have a lot in common.” Chevalier was glad her attention was elsewhere as he fought to regain control of his anger.
“Kyle isn't right for the job.”
Finally, she looked over at him, “Yes he is… he's my friend.”
Chevalier grinned as she used the term friend, “I still don't like it, you need a woman around.”
“I do not!” She looked at him with an icy glare, “You act like I miss my Mommy! You're about as bad as she is. Kyle does what you told me Anna should, he shows me around, helps me find things, and keeps me safe.”
“Still…” Her coughing cut him off and he continued once she'd calmed down, “Still, Kyle has things to do elsewhere.”
“Fine, I don't need anyone then. Let Anna go, but don't replace her.” She looked at him, proud she'd solved the problem.
“I can't leave you alone, Em.” He wasn't getting through to her.
“That's odd, you already did,” she said, and then saw him wince. She decided to try to reason with him, “Listen, Chev, Kyle is a good friend. I'm comfortable around him, and I don't have to pretend. He knows how to lighten up around me. Everyone here is so wound up tight because they are afraid of you. It gets a little nerve wracking. You know he can protect me, he already has.”
He knew he couldn't fight her, “Ok, if that's what you really want.”
“It is.” She coughed hard and then turned back to him.
“But… he stays out in the ante-chamber while you sleep.”
“I don't like to be alone at night.” She lowered her eyes again, a little embarrassed.
Chevalier moved closer and kissed her forehead, “Who says you will be alone?”
He laughed when the blush returned to her cheeks.
He grinned, “Enough already, finish eating and lay down.”
With not quite half of the food gone, she laid back onto the bed and cuddled down. Sitting up for so long had really made her tired and it was only a few minutes before she fell asleep.
A dream jerked her awake and she looked around the dark room, suddenly feeling cold and alone.
“Chev?” she called into the darkness, but it was Kyle's voice that responded.
“He stepped out, Em, are you ok?” He stayed a few feet back from her bed.
“I'm ok, just a nightmare.” She patted edge of the bed beside her.
Kyle didn't move at all toward her. He used to sit beside her while she slept, but she understood how Chevalier had probably put an immediate stop to that.
Kyle smiled at her, “You got me demoted.”
She gasped, “I did? How?”
“From the head of my own guard unit… to babysitter.” His voice was light and amused.
“Ugh, babysitter…” She lay back on the bed and rolled away from him. He chuckled and returned to the chair by the fire.