Dark Gold Chapter Twelve

"Aidan, may I have a puppy?" Joshua, sandwiched between Aidan and Alexandria in the car, carefully avoided looking up at his sister.

Alexandria stiffened resentfully, her chin up. Aidan's hand slid along the back of the seat and rested lightly on the nape of her neck. His fingers curled around the slim column and began a slow massage. "Joshua, it is fun to tease Alexandria that I am the big boss and can overrule her, but we both know the truth. Alexandria is your sister and your guardian. Why would you ask me such a question?"

"Ah, Aidan." Joshua stared down at his hands. "She always says no. Don't you, Alex? She says it's too hard to find an apartment that will allow a puppy. But now we live with you. A puppy could live there, don't you think?" He looked up hopefully. "Your house is really big, and I'd take care of it, except when I'm at school."

"Well, Joshua, I do not know," Aidan answered seriously, giving the matter consideration. "Puppies can be a significant amount of trouble. Marie and Stefan have many duties, keeping the household running. To be fair, they would have to be consulted also. This is not a decision to be made lightly. In any case, before you take the issue further, I think discussing it with your sister should be your primary starting point."

Joshua shrugged and grinned engagingly up at Alexandria. "She already said we could have one if we ever found a place that would let us."

Alexandria tried to focus, but her eyes were burning even behind the extremely dark glasses Aidan had insisted she wear. The car windows, too, were darkly tinted to help block out the sun, but it still felt as if a thousand needles were stabbing at her when the light touched her face. It was terrifying. And it meant that once again Aidan had been telling her the truth.

"We haven't been in Aidan's home long enough to know if we're even going to stay, Joshua."

She ignored the fingers tightening around her neck. "And it isn't fair to saddle Marie with such a job so early. Let's wait and see what happens. I'll be starting work soon, and we're all just settling in. I'm not saying no. I'm just saying we should wait a little bit longer, okay?"

"But, Alex..." There was a whining note in Joshua's voice.

"I think Alexandria is being very fair, Joshua." Aidan's tone brooked no argument, and Joshua subsided immediately.

She was oddly grateful to Aidan. Ordinarily Joshua would have tried to wear her down. And right now she was so tired it seemed difficult to think or function properly. Her eyes were streaming, and the muted sunlight was searing her arms and face. She wanted to cry, to scream against the fate that had done this to her. All along she had hoped Aidan wasn't really telling her the truth. That he merely had some devious reason for trying to convince her to believe him.

We will be home soon, cara. The words moved through her mind, wrapping her in velvet and warmth like the comfort of his arms.

"I can't accept this." She said it aloud, oblivious to the fact that Joshua sat between them, all ears. "I just can't, Aidan." It was a measure of her state of mind that she had said anything that might upset Joshua. She was always so careful around him.

Aidan's hand slid lower down her back, tangling in her silky hair, linking them together. "Do not worry so. All will be well," he said, easily smoothing over the moment.

The car pulled to a stop, and Stefan opened the door on Aidan's side. Instantly unfiltered sunlight poured in, a streak of heat and light, and Alexandria knew immediately that Stefan had been instructed to open Aidan's door rather than her own. Aidan, as always, was protecting her from her own folly. Even with his large frame blocking out most of the light, throwing a protective shadow over her, she clenched her teeth against the burning sensation. With her eyes closed behind the dark glasses, she kissed the top of Joshua's head. "Have a good day, Josh. See you tonight." She was astonished that she could sound so normal.

"Will you be there when I get home?" he asked anxiously. He still hated letting her out of his sight, still feared he would lose her. Lately, the feeling had crept into his dreams - nightmares, really - that Alexandria was gone far from him forever. He wrapped his arms around her tightly and buried his face on her shoulder.

"What is it, Josh?" At once, her own fears and physical pain were swept aside so that she could comfort him.

"Nothing bad is going to happen to you, is it?" His anxiety was in his voice, in the tautness of his small body.

Alexandria wanted to answer him, to reassure him, but the words caught in her throat and refused to come out. Only a tiny sound escaped, of something between terror and pain.

"I will be with Alexandria while you are at school, Joshua," Aidan said softly, the smooth, easy pitch of his voice so pure, it was impossible not to believe him. "I will never allow anything or anyone to harm her. You have my word on that. And even if she is resting when you get home, she will be up in the evening to be with you."

In his sister's arms, Joshua visibly relaxed, and Aidan patted the boy's head, a rush of affection unexpectedly washing over him. Joshua was wrapping himself around his heart.

But behind the dark glasses, Aidan's eyes were restless, searching, an uneasiness growing in him. He was able to tolerate the light of morning, but the price of being Carpathian, a creature of the darkness, would eventually steal up on him and claim his great strength.

"I'll be home at two-thirty," Joshua announced like a little adult, and he kissed Alexandria one last time.

"Your lunch," Stefan reminded him, handing the boy the backpack Marie had purchased for him a few days earlier.

"Thanks, Stefan," Joshua called as he ran after a boy who had already become his friend. "Jeff! Hey! Wait up."

Alexandria tried to watch him run, but the light nearly blinded her, like needles piercing her pupils, making them water continually. She had no option but to close her eyes tightly. She drew her knees up and huddled miserably against the back seat. Aidan shifted, a mere rustling on the rich leather, but she could feel the warmth and comfort of his solid frame beside her. Still, she didn't want his comfort. She didn't want anything to do with him. He had promised Joshua that he would look after her, that she would always be there for the boy, but she couldn't face living the life of a creature existing off the blood of others. No sun. No day. No real sharing of Joshua's life. She groaned softly and covered her face with her hands.

Stefan shut the door, blocking out the terrible light, and Aidan's arm circled her slender shoulders. "It will not be like this for all time, cara."

"It's not even nine o'clock in the morning. The sun is barely up yet." Sobs were trying to push past the lump in her throat.

"Your skin must become accustomed to daylight slowly." She felt the brush of his mouth on the top of her head.

Stefan started the car.

"Wait," Aidan commanded, and Stefan obeyed instantly, turning in his seat in inquiry. Aidan remained silent, scanning the surrounding area, a slight frown touching his mouth. "Perhaps we could use the services of Vinnie del Marco and Rusty. Please get them here immediately, and instruct them to remain with Joshua until he is safe within the walls of our home. Arrange for one of their associates to remain with Marie as she goes about her business, and please ensure that she postpones as many errands as possible." His voice was even and calm, without alarm, yet it frightened Alexandria.

"What is it?" she demanded. Stefan was asking no questions. Obviously he was well aware of the significance of Aidan's orders. "Tell me. Joshua's my brother. Is he in some kind of danger?"

Aidan's arm tightened around her as the car pulled away from the school, preventing her from leaping from the moving vehicle in an attempt to get back to Joshua. Alexandria struggled, but he was enormously strong. "It will be taken care of."

"You said vampires can't take the dawn! Who else would hurt him? He's just a little boy, Aidan. Bring him back to the house!" Her voice was veering out of control, bordering on hysteria.

"Joshua needs to live a normal life. Nothing will harm him. Vinnie and Rusty, very reliable bodyguards, will protect him. Joshua is not like us, Alexandria. He remains in the world of humans. We must return to the house and the sleeping chamber until the sun begins to sink."

She hated his voice. So gentle, so compelling, mesmerizing her into doing anything he wanted.

So reasonable, while she was out of control. He appeared not to notice her struggles, her hysteria. He made her feel her protests were childish, her behavior unreasonable. She took a deep breath and fought to regain control. "Let go, Aidan. I'm all right now."

"I think I will hold you just a bit longer, piccola. I am in your mind, and I know that you seek to deceive both of us with your false composure. Relax, now, just breathe with me, and you will see that I have taken care of everything. Joshua will be safe with the arrangements I have made."

"I don't think you quite understand," she enunciated distinctly. "I am Joshua's sister. I am the one to decide what is safe for him or not. I want him with me."

"He cannot be with you, Alexandria. It is impossible," Aidan said patiently. His thumb found the frantic pulse at her throat and gently stroked it. "Joshua will remain in school."

"It isn't your affair. I want him home."

"Do you think arguing with me is going to change what is? You are what you are, cara mia. There is nothing that can be done." When she tried to move away from him, his arm prevented her escape.

"This arrangement is not going to work, Aidan. I refuse to allow you to dictate what I can or can't do with Joshua. It isn't your business." Furious, she strained harder to get away from him, but she was beginning to feel so very tired.

Aidan cradled her head against his chest, his hand wrapped around her throat, her life's pulse beating into his palm. "There is no way for you to live apart from me, Alexandria, and in your heart you know it is true. Perhaps that is why you struggle so desperately. You are not yet ready to surrender your freedom into my keeping."

"I hate you." He didn't understand at all. From a very early age, she had been forced to take control of situations. She was used to it now. Liked it. She was good at it. Having someone else dictate her actions, tell her what she could or couldn't do, was terrifying. And she feared that Joshua was slowly but surely being taken from her.

She made herself go limp, and she did what Aidan said. Breathed in. Breathed out. She felt the familiar push at her mind and tried to resist it. But even that was not something she could control any longer. He was too familiar with her blocks, her defenses. She blanked her mind, picturing a chalkboard and erasing everything that came across it.

Cara, trust me a little longer. I know what is best for Joshua. He will have to learn to face some things on his own, just as Marie and Stefan and their children have had to do. Bodyguards will ensure that he is safe.

She did not respond. Where had her life gone? How had things gotten so crazy? So out of control? Perhaps Aidan had simply hypnotized her, and all the things that were happening were merely tricks her mind was playing on her. Or the truth could be even worse. If he was a vampire, if vampires existed, and the legends and tales were true, he could make her his slave. Make her do anything. She had to find out if Aidan spoke the truth or if she was under some spell.

She feared now that she had stayed because every time his golden eyes rested on her with possession and need, she had melted inside, had wanted him, wanted someone to feel that intensity for her. Sex. Had she allowed him to try to separate Joshua from her for sex? God, she hated herself. Hated what she had become. She needed to find a doctor. A psychiatrist. None of this could possibly be real. She belonged in a padded cell. She needed help. Desperately.

The car pulled into the garage, but it was still not dark enough for her vulnerable eyes. Stefan opened her door, holding out a hand to help her. She took it meekly, determined to hide her intended defiance. She could feel Aidan's golden gaze, his all-seeing eyes probing her face beneath her dark glasses, but he didn't say anything.

She hurried into the house, and the relief from the sunlight was instantaneous. The heat searing her skin was gone, and the needles stabbing at her eyes disappeared. She realized that the heavy drapes were pulled, darkening the interior. Biting down on her lower lip, she made her way through the house, uncertain where to go, which way to turn. She finally reached the huge front entryway, yet she could not go out. Exhausted and in despair, she collapsed by the door and wrapped her arms defensively around her upraised knees. She was terrified for her own sanity.

In the kitchen Aidan hesitated, wanting to follow her yet oddly uncertain, suddenly afraid for her.

Marie and Stefan exchanged a look of anxiety. Aidan never showed signs of indecision, of uncertainty. Alexandria had shaken his self-possession. And they, better than anyone, knew just how dangerous he could be without his vigilant self-discipline, his taut self-control. "Aidan, perhaps if I talked to her," Marie ventured.

"She is so frightened of me, she cannot even trust her own mind, her senses. She knows in her heart that we are one, that I would never harm her, but still she refuses, in her mind, to acknowledge it. She thinks perhaps she is deranged."

"Most people could never accept what you are demanding of her, Aidan," Marie counseled softly. "She is young and innocent, not a worldly woman. Her life has been very narrow. Joshua is her reason for living. She fears him slipping away from her. She needs to feel in control of something."

His golden eyes slashed at her. "What are you saying?"

"You are very dominating. You command people. You make all the decisions. Alexandria is still struggling just to accept what has happened to her. You, better than any of us, know this, yet you still demand she do exactly as you wish at all times."

He shoved a hand through his tawny mane. "I have given her more leeway than I have ever given anyone. You do not understand the demands of a lifemate. I can barely manage to think straight.

I need relief, Marie, as crass as that sounds. The beast in me grows stronger each day. I do not know how long I can successfully wrestle him down."

"You are that beast, Aidan," Marie said severely. "Alex is a child. A terrified child. And she has good reason to be. Give her the time she needs to adjust."

"What of the others seeking her? And there are others. At least two more. You read the papers. A serial killer on the loose, they say. But it is the vampires. I feel their presence. They seek her. They can feel her, that she is one of us and unattached as yet."

"That is not so. You are her lifemate. Your blood is in her as hers is in you. There is no way one of them could lure her from you. In all our years together, I have learned that much. It is your Carpathian nature blinding you, Aidan, your urge to keep your lifemate always under your wing, to claim and protect her. Despite outward appearances, that part of you is still wild and uncivilized. But Alexandria is just as essentially human. She was not born Carpathian. She has no idea what is expected of her, what is even happening to her. She doesn't understand yet."

Aidan sighed, rubbing his temples. "She suffers needlessly. If she would but merge her mind fully with mine..."

"She wouldn't yet trust what she learned anyway," Marie insisted.

Aidan sighed and turned to Stefan. "We have to retire to the chamber soon. But you know I felt the presence of something unclean watching Joshua's school. I believe the others will strike against us soon. Please be alert to any danger to any of you."

Stefan nodded. "I have made the necessary calls, and the security system is in place. Do not worry about us. We have been through this before."

"Too many times," Aidan replied sorrowfully. "Why you stayed and chose to live this life so far from our homeland, so dangerous for you and your sons, I do not know."

"You know," Marie said softly.

Aidan bent and brushed her cheek lightly with an affectionate kiss. "I guess I do," he admitted. "Please see if Alexandria is ready to go to the chamber. I do not wish her to think I am 'dominating' her."

Marie nodded, and Stefan followed his wife through the house, uneasy with the way things seemed to be going. Aidan was dangerous, powerful, more beast than man when push came to shove. And he would allow no one or nothing to take Alexandria Houton from him. Stefan could easily read that in Aidan's protective, possessive posture when he was close to her. And Aidan's thin veneer of civility was wearing thinner by the day.

Marie and Stefan's search for Alexandria came to an abrupt stop when they saw her huddled beside the front door. She looked small and lost, a forlorn little girl tormented beyond endurance. Her knees were drawn up to her chin, her face down, hair spilling around her, hiding her expression. She was shaking, pale, the terrible daytime lethargy of the Carpathian people slowly creeping over her, taking control. Clearly it was frightening for her to feel her body turning to lead, as if all control was lost forever.

"Alexandria," Marie said anxiously, approaching the huddled figure, "are you all right?"

Her concern seemed genuine, but Alexandria was under no illusions. Marie's first and only loyalty was to Aidan Savage. Anything she said would be reported to him immediately. Alexandria did not lift her head. Inside her was a growing dread that she was utterly helpless, caught in a snare, a maze so tangled, she would never get out. Aidan was far too powerful to fight, and for some reason, he wanted her with him.

"Alexandria?" Marie gently touched her bowed head. "Tell me, should I get Aidan?"

Alexandria squeezed her eyes shut. Aidan. It always seemed to come back to Aidan. "No, I... I'm just finding everything... overwhelming. I... I need time to adjust." Her voice was so tight, she felt so close to a breakdown, she was afraid to speak. She struggled to stop the inner trembling threatening to shake her apart. Was she crazy? Did she belong in a mental institution?

She had to find a way to get Joshua away from these people. She should have asked Thomas Ivan for help. But the truth was, he could never hope to win against Aidan. Aidan would never let her go. She didn't know why, she didn't understand how, but she had an absolute conviction that he would follow her to the ends of the earth. She bit down on a knuckle to keep from screaming. How could she hope to fight Aidan? Could she even survive without his help? If she checked herself into a hospital, admitted to hallucinations, what would happen to Joshua?

Without warning she could feel the need to touch Aidan creeping up on her, entering her mind. No matter how hard she tried to wipe the idea away, it persisted. She wanted to know he was there, somewhere close. Insanity! Her own mind had turned against her! The more she fought herself, the worse it became. She needed him. Needed his reassuring touch.

Marie gave a soft exclamation as droplets of blood dotted Alexandria's forehead. She turned toward Stefan, afraid for the girl. They needed Aidan immediately. Clearly the struggle taking place in Alexandria's mind was causing her agony. Tears welling up in her own eyes, Marie knelt beside Alexandria and put a comforting arm around her shoulders. She felt so small, so fragile, her body trembling so hard, Marie was afraid she might shake apart, break into a million pieces.

"Please let me help you, Alexandria," the housekeeper begged softly.

"What can you do?" Alexandria asked hopelessly. "What can anyone do? He'll never let me go." She looked up at the older woman plaintively. "Will he?"

Marie's silence was her answer. She felt the girl's shudder of fear. "Aidan is a good man and means only to protect you. Trust him."

"Do you?"

"With my life. With the lives of my children," Marie said solemnly, truthfully.

"But then, he doesn't want the same thing from you that he does from me, does he?" Alexandria asked bitterly. "He would do anything to keep me here, even deceive me about what is real and what isn't."

Without warning she leapt to her feet, nearly knocking Marie over. Then she was struggling to open the front door. Stefan yelled a warning. Marie shouted for Aidan. And Alexandria jerked open the heavy door and ran out into the relentless, murderous sun.

At once a thousand needles pierced her eyes, and her skin blistered, smoke swirling around her as she burned. She didn't know if she screamed because of the pain or because Aidan had told the truth. This agonizing reaction was not the result of a hypnotic suggestion.

Stefan tore off his shirt, flung it over her head, and lifted her collapsing body into his arms, rushing her back into the safety of the house. Marie was sobbing, reaching anxiously for her, but Aidan got there first, dragging her out of Stefan's arms, cradling her against his chest. For a moment there was absolute silence as he laid his head on top of hers, his eyes closed, his heart pounding, his soul scarred.

"Never again." He hissed the words aloud.

Never again, cara, will I allow this kind of defiance. He repeated the warning in her mind, meaning it, swearing it. He was frightened for her. Furious with her. Furious with himself. The emotions swirled and flared within him until the conflagration was nearly out of control.

She could feel his rage beating at her, in her. His arms were like steel bars as he held her.

"I am in your debt, Stefan," he said simply, his voice, as always, calm and peaceful, at terrible odds with the rage like a living entity inside him.

He swung around and was gone, his supernatural speed blurring their movement to human eyes. Alexandria heard the bang of the basement door as they moved into the narrow stone hall leading to the sleeping chamber, but Aidan himself made no sound. None. Not even the sound of breathing.

Alexandria remained quite still. Her pain was tremendous, her blisters large and ugly. Aidan was careful not to jar her burns, careful not to hurt her. She was beyond caring. She knew something terrible was about to happen. Aidan, always so cool and calm, was a seething cauldron of black emotion.

The walls of the tunnel rushed by, a blur of granite, then Aidan was placing her on the bed and turning away from her. She sat up carefully. "You're very angry with me," she said softly.

He didn't reply, instead busying himself crushing herbs in a bowl made of agate. She could smell their fragrance rising. Then he lit candles, and a smoky aroma mixed with the scents of the herbs.

Alexandria swallowed hard and lifted her chin in defiance. "I'm not afraid of you, Aidan. What can you do? Kill me? I believe I'm already dead. Or at least living some kind of life I don't want. Will you take Joshua away? Threaten him? Harm him? I've been in your mind, and I don't think you are like that," she said bravely.

He turned his head slowly, his golden eyes resting on her face. A chill went down her spine. Those eyes were soulless, ice-cold.

"You do not know the first thing about me, Alexandria. Nor have you taken the trouble to learn. Do not presume to fight me. You are a mere fledgling, I one of the ancients of our people. You have no conception of the power I wield. I can make the earth move beneath your feet and the lightning crack above your head. I can call the fog and become invisible." There was no boasting in his tone, just fact. Just black velvet. "I can do things you cannot imagine."

Alexandria felt the permanent link he had forged between them, and she could feel his rage, black and terrible, seething below the surface. "What I did today, I did to myself," she whispered.

He moved toward her, looming large, towering over her, an invincible figure, powerful beyond imagining. "You betrayed me. You betrayed Joshua. I told you what would happen if you went out into the sun. You pretended to yourself that you would see if I was telling the truth. But you already knew it was the truth. You took a chance on destroying yourself, leaving Joshua to strangers, to an uncertain future without protection."

"You would protect him."

"Without you, my existence is no more. We are linked, in life and death. If you choose death, you are choosing death for both of us."

Her hands were trembling as she swept back her hair. "That can't be."

"You do not wish it to be," he corrected her, and he took possession of her right arm. "But it is so. I do not lie to you, Alexandria. I have allowed you a certain amount of resistance, but only because this is all new to you."

The gel he began smearing over her arm was cool and soothing. "You're saying I don't have a choice. That I've never had a choice," she ventured.

"Your body and mine made the choice for us. Your soul is the other half of mine. My heart is your heart. Our minds reach for the reassurance and intimacy of the other. We are not complete when we are alone. We are two halves of the same whole. That is the truth, Alexandria, whether you like it or not."

She swallowed hard, wanting to press her fingertips to her pounding forehead. "It isn't true. It can't be." She denied it out loud because she didn't want it to be true, because she would not believe in him and his nightmare world.

"Why do you think I can touch your burns as I do without causing you agony? I am blocking the pain for you. This treatment would be torture for you without me."

"It isn't true," she repeated in a small whisper.

"I am angry enough with your stupidity to prove my words, cara. Do not argue with me. My body cries out for yours. Not with a mere human need, but with the need of the Carpathian male for its mate. I burn for you, night and day. My only relief is when I sleep the sleep of my people, unaware. Do not tempt me to prove my words, because there will be no going back."

She hunched her shoulders, averted her face from him. Aidan could feel hot, seething rage swirling in him, mixing with the urgent demands of his body and the Carpathian male's need to control. He bent closer to her, reckless now, not choosing his words or actions carefully as he so often tried to do. "You are unable to allow a human male to touch you. You feel revulsion, not pleasure, and you know it. I have been in your mind; I have seen your thoughts. You hunger only for me."

The images he reflected back to her were her own. Hot, erotic things she had no real knowledge of. Things she found humiliating to have even thought of. Her kneeling at his feet, touching him, her mouth moving over him; his body atop hers, commanding hers, taking hers, hot and furiously. He knew, and he was taunting her with her own private fantasies of the two of them together.

"You really are a brutal animal with no thought for anyone but yourself," she whispered, pressing her hands to her burning face. "And I care nothing for you. I feel nothing for you."

His hand caught and spanned her throat, his thumb forcing her chin up so that she met his blazing golden eyes: "I could make you my slave, Alexandria, teach you to please me in far more ways than you envisioned." Deliberately his thumb feathered across her trembling mouth.

Alexandria could feel tears burning in her eyes even as her body burst into flame, into need. Aidan was right. She had no thoughts, no resistance, when he touched her; she was only a body drowning in desire, going up on flames. There was nothing left of her, of who she was or what she stood for. Never had a man been able to control her before. Whatever Aidan Savage had made her, she was no longer Alexandria Houton.

Aidan's mind sought hers, and instantly the anger in him melted away. She was sliding toward shock. Too much had happened too quickly in the last few days for her human mind to assimilate. He cursed his own body, raging for release, causing him to say and do things he would never ordinarily consider. He wanted her with every cell in his body, and just now he had pushed aside her needs for his own. No self-respecting Carpathian male would ever do such a thing. In that moment he realized just how close to turning vampire he really had been. He felt contempt for himself, for his own selfishness and weakness, when she was having such a difficult transition. "

Cara, I am sorry. Please do not be afraid of me, of us." The words were spoken in his most beguiling voice, but they seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Her mind shut down, protected her, spared her from any further ordeal. She turned her face away and slumped onto the bed, curled up in the fetal position. Aidan stood over her, angry with himself, unsure what to do to repair the damage he had caused with his stupidity. He had been so afraid he had lost her in that moment, etched for all time onto his soul, when she had flung open the door and gone willingly into the killing sun.

He could withstand the light, the burning, because he had conditioned himself to do so over time. Now, after centuries of study, he had nearly unlimited powers. One of them was healing. So he closed his eyes and sent himself out of his own body and into hers, finding the terrible burns so deeply seared into her skin, repairing them from the inside out. He was careful and precise, and when he was finished, he moved through her to once more enter her mind.

There he found confusion and terror. A deep fear of not being fully human and a desire to prove that she was. He could find no intent to kill herself. She had simply wanted to prove him a liar, deceiving her into believing she could not reenter her own world. She had wanted it to be so.

He stretched out beside her, gathering her weary body into the protection of his arms. She had reason to be afraid of him. He was demanding things of her she had no conception of, making her feel things she wasn't ready for. The intensity of her sexual feelings alone was disturbing to her, so much so that she wanted to run from him.

He rested his chin on her head and stroked her silky hair. It disturbed him that she had some crazy idea of going to a human doctor to be cured. Anything but stay with him. On some level he was hurt, but mostly he was amused that she would think she could defeat him, outsmart him. She was so determined. He admired her for that.

"You just need time, piccola. I am sorry for the clumsy way I have handled this situation. My only excuse is my fear for your safety." He knew she could hear him, but she didn't respond. He hadn't really expected her to do so, but he tightened his hold a bit.

Sleep now, Alexandria, the healing sleep of our people. Sleep deep. He took no chances, gave her no choice. He wanted her under, away from her own mind, away from the terrible drain of her thoughts and fears.
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