When the McGovern sisters were a bunch of rowdy teenage girls they rescued Gavin from his bitch-slut supposed partner. Here is that story. It is also the introduction of Andre.
Blue Ridge Mountains just west of Charlottesville, Virginia
“I’m freezing my buns off. I swear, when we get Gavin out of this, I just might kill him myself. I can’t believe he was this stupid.”
“He’s a man. She’s hot. He was at a disadvantage from the get go.” My sister, Lena shrugs one shoulder at me.
“Like I said…stupid.” I hunch further down in my jacket in a useless attempt to hoard body heat.
Sitting next to my sister in our aunt’s land rover that we sort of borrowed, halfway up a mountain and numb with cold, I’m thinking this is not the way normal eighteen year old girls spend their Saturday nights. But then, no one in the entire history of my family, up until, and including me and my three sisters, has ever laid any claims to being normal. We understood that right about the time we sat up and said mamma, but I had to admit, this was extreme – even for for us.
“Gavin and his damn hero crap.” I sputter through my chattering teeth, “This is all his fault.”
“Oh yeah, saving people, putting bad guys away, laying himself on the line every day to make the world a better, safer place…” Len’s dry voice is a veritable downpour of sarcasm, “What. A. Loser.”
“Okay fine. He’s a damn hero.” I sound grumpy, but my heart knows it’s the truth. My cousin is a hero, not only for what he does for his country, but for what he’s been to me and my sisters
“So what do you think this is really about?” Lena calls out from the floorboard where she’s rummaging through the backpack at her feet.
I close my eyes, and sift through the information in my head. My brain is…different…really different. Experts say it’s a disorder. Some say it’s a gift. My family understands it just is. I’m a McGovern. We’re all different. I just got an unusually large dose. The pieces of information spin, stubbornly refusing to fall into place, “I’m honestly not sure.” I open my eyes to see her punching a small packet. She squeezes it a few times and hands it to me, heat warms my hands, “Damn, you had heat packs? What were you waiting on?” I shove the pack in my coat, and tuck my hands under it.
“Don’t want to waste them.” “We don’t know what shape we’ll find Gavin in.” Lena flops back in the seat, propping one foot up on the dash, and though I can’t see it in the gloom, I feel the weight of her ice blue stare, “And why don’t you give it your best guess?”
“Seriously Lena, there are still too many pieces missing. What I know for sure is the same as you. Gavin’s partner is dirty. She’s selling stuff. What – I’m not sure, to somebody – again I’m not sure, but she’s setting him up to take the fall, which means she’s got to kill him The rest…I just don’t know.”
“Best guess sis?”
She’s a tenacious thing.
Rubbing my temples, where a dull throb has started behind my eyes, I shift the pieces around in my head, “Well according to what Allie deciphered, it’s a product. Drugs maybe, weapons…” I drift off as dull, screeching seeps into my consciousness. Knowing what will happen if I try to force it, I let it go. “I’m sorry sis. They’re still spinning, but I’m leaning towards guns or weapons of some kind.”
“Okay it’s about weapons.” She’s absolute.
“It’s just a feeling. I’m not…”
“Mac, when has one of your so called feelings, ever been wrong?”
I blink at her.
“Exactly.” Lena said, handing me a rubber band. I just look at it, “For your hair. If things get rough, you don’t want to worry about it getting in the way.”
“Oh, makes sense,” I pull my long auburn hair up in a high ponytail, “Is that why you cut yours?” Lena got rough a lot.
“It’s just easier.” She flicks a hand through the short midnight strands, then leans down to pull something else out of her black bag of tricks, “So just how much trouble you think we’re going to be in tomorrow?”
That question makes me wince. Spiking my aunt’s tea with a little something to help her sleep, taking her car…yeah, a lot of trouble,”I don’t want to think about it.” I watch her rummage, “Just what have you got in there, anyway?”
“Eh, you know, this and that.”
This and that, uh-huh. She probably had an arsenal in there, not to mention all kinds of techie spy crap. At sixteen, my sister was a character study of all things shady. She could break into anywhere, hack into anything, and sneak up on anybody. Oh, and she was a genius, all three of my sisters were, with I.Q.’s in the high 190’s.
I jump at the sound of my pocket ringing. Christy, finally. She’s at the local Honkey-Tonk, less than half mile down the mountain where Gavin’s bimbo slut partner’s men are known to hang out. I whip my phone out, “Hey, what have you got?”
“Look you’ll have to speak up.” My youngest sister yells into the phone, “This joint is jumpin’. Between all the drunk rednecks and the bad music, I can’t hear for poop. Give me a second, I’m trying to get outside.”
I smile at my sister’s word choice. Our Granny Rose had an issue with cursing. That issue being if she heard it, she’d crack your knuckles with her trusty wooden spoon before you had time to eventhink about apologizing for “such overt rudeness”. Dear Goddess, I missed her. My knuckles were sore half the time, but she was the kind of crazy you couldn’t help but love.
“Okay, much better.” Christy’s voice back at her normal perky volume, “No sweaty, stinky Bubbas and no awful music. So it looks like there’s six of them.”
Six men working with the bimbo trying to frame our cousin, all members of some white supremacist group. Another reason I’m leaning toward weapons, “We need to make sure they stay where they are until I can get Gavin out.”
“Oh, they’re not going anywhere,” Christy said, “Allie came up with a heck of a plan.”
“Allie! What the hell, you brought Allie?” Lena’s twin, and my middle sister was sweet as anything and brilliant, but she could be a bit naive and this was way too dangerous.
“ALLIE?” Lena grabs the phone and stabs the speaker function, “What the hell Christy? We told you to leave her at home.”
“Well, since I don’t have a driver’s license, she was kind of upset when she saw me trying to sneak out of the driveway with the Barbie-Mobile”
Yep, Allie was very protective of her little red mustang convertible, “So I guess she knew better than to drink the tea.”
“Yeah, no dice on that one,” Christy turned musing, “You know, I think she’s getting suspicious in her old age.”
Frankly, I could see Allie’s point. My youngest sister was a prodigy at brewing what we used to call potions. I found myself sniffing any liquid she handed me with suspicion. Great Aunt Talulah, our family’s official brew-master, kept an eye on her, but Christy could be a very enthusiastic pupil. She loved to experiment.
“Anyway,” Christy went on, “Like I said, she’s come up with a solid plan, and is executing it flawlessly. You should see her out on that dance floor. Every guy in here is panting. She’s working them all against each other and coming off sweet as honey. They haven’t got a clue. It’s only a matter of time before the first punch is thrown. Actually, she’s a little scary.
I had no doubt. Allie was gorgeous. At sixteen she had the face of an angel and the body of a sex goddess along with an innocent sensuality that drew men like bees to honey.
“Fuck, Hell, Damn!” Lena spat out. Her knuckles were sore all the time, “You keep her safe.” She’s is very protective of her twin.
“I’ve got this.” Christy said with an assurance way beyond her fourteen years. “Just get Gavin.”
“Right,” I look down at my watch, not that I can see in the gloom, “Give me fifteen minutes, if you don’t hear from me call in the cavalry.”
“Do you really think they’re close?” Christy’s voice drops to a whisper.
“Oh yeah, I can feel it.” Gavin’s team was right on top of us. Whatever we were in the middle of was about to break open.
“I’m still not sure why we just didn’t do that in the first place.”
“She’s one of them. It will tip her off, and she’ll kill him before they can get within a hundred yards.”
“Oh yeah right. Mac, listen that toxin is serious,” Christy said, still whispering.
“All you have to do is push on the end, pop the needle through, and prick her skin. You’ve had the antidote so you should be fine, but as it’s still in the experimental stages, best to avoid exposure and destroy it asap. Use the lighter. The fire will destroy it instantly, and uh…I’m not sure exactly how long it will take, probably five minutes, so you’ll have to stall.”
“Okay right,” I fiddle with the little device in my hand, a needle thin as a human hair, sealed inside a thin plastic shell, “If all goes according to plan A, I won’t need it,” Plan A being I get Gavin out before Bimbo girl catches on and shows her true colors, “but if A doesn’t work out…”
“You fucking stick the bitch and wait for her to die,” Lena said, somehow making the words cold as stone and bursting with enthusiasm, “Just so you know, I’m on board with plan B.”
“Aren’t we all,” Christy mutters.
“Well, since plan B is gonna entail I don’t even know what the hell, pardon me, if I hope it’s as easy as dropping in and getting Gavin out before slut-girl knows what’s going on.”
“Good luck with that one.” Lena said and I have a feeling she’s spot on.
“Alright, so B is prick, destroy, stall, and retrieve. Got it. Good luck Christy, stay safe.”
“You too.” Christy said, disconnecting.
“Here.” Lena leans over and shoves a small device in my ear “This will keep us in contact. You can hear me. I can hear you, and probably everything in the room, but still we should have a code word so if things go bad, I can come to the rescue.”
“How do you propose to do that?”
Another left shoulder shrug, “I’ll get creative.”
“Okay, how about we keep it simple. If I’m up shit’s creek, I’ll need a…”
“Paddle.” she finishes for me.
“Paddle, good,” I fiddle with the piece in my ear.
Lena opens the door and steps out into the night, “Blood on the moon.” Her strangely reverent whisper mists the frigid night air. Of the four of us, she’s the only one who still practices the religion of our heritage, “The Goddess demands a sacrifice.”
“She’s not going to be disapointed,” I murmur, my eyes drawn up to the cold white orb. Unlike my ancestors, I don’t believe it holds mystic powers, and yet I feel its influence over our lives, as if by controlling our past it commands our future. Shivering, I shake off my musings and shove my foot down on the gas, and as the SUV roars up the mountain, I find myself muttering a prayer to the very goddess I have no faith in.
“Gavin! Dammit, you open this door!” I wail at the top of my lungs while banging on his cabin door with both hands. It hurts like hell. I’m not wearing gloves and my fingers have long since gone numb. I figure go in strong like I’m some pissed off girl with a crush or… something…get in and get to Gavin and get him out, before double crossing psycho-slut gets suspicious. Yep, hoping for Plan A. And damn, it pisses me off to think of that woman in our cabin. Yes, technically it’s Gavin’s, but we’ve been coming here since I was ten years old. If that bitch has been in my bedroom…I pound harder and add a couple kicks, “I know you’re in there with that stupid slut! Open the fucking…whoa…”
The door jerks open and I surge forward, stumbling into the cabin, my eyes skating across the great-room and noting everything. Empty – no Gavin. There’s a fire crackling in the hearth, the kitchen is spotless, but on the coffee table sits two glasses, and an open bottle of red wine. One of the glasses is smudged with lipstick. I’m pretty sure that particular shade is “cheap whore red”.
“Well, well, well, who do we have here?”
I spin around to see stupid slut leaning against the door. She’s gorgeous. I can see the appeal. Tall and fit, a perfect body, sheets of silvery blond hair, plump pouty lips and clear green eyes. Eyes that are calculating as a snake as they roam over me. Something in that look is telling me plan A’s not going to work out.
Plan B it is. Lena will be thrilled.
I ignore the shiver of unease that comes with being on the receiving end of such a look from such a psychopath and plow ahead, “Where is he?”
“Oh, he’s around.” she answers breezily, pushing herself up off the door and walking across the room with the grace of a predator, a really creepy predator, “and did I hear you right, you called me a slut?”
“Did I?” I give her my wide eyed innocent look.
“Yes, yes I believe you did.”
“Well, you know what they say,” I cross my arms over my chest and shrug one shoulder, “If the stripper pole fits, you just have to bump and grind…”
The slight narrowing of her eyes is my only warning…and...CRACK! Pain explodes in my face and jaw, her open palm slamming across it with enough force to knock me sideways.
Okay, so yeah, that hurt. I make a big deal of rubbing my jaw while fingering the tiny needle in my other hand. Making a fist, I hold the capsule between my knuckles and push the needle through with my thumb. Then, knowing I’ll only get one chance to be underestimated I spring up with my legs, haul back and put the entire weight of my body into the blow. My fist hammers her jaw with the force of a two hundred pound man, snapping her head back, and knocking her back. She falls right on her perfect, pert, little ass. With tremendous satisfaction, I see that not only is her face red from the impact, but she’s also bleeding just a bit from the scratch of the needle.
“First blood, bitch.” I snarl down at her while, behind my back, I toss the needle into the fire-place and rub my sore knuckles with my good hand. Damn, Lena was right, hurts like a bitch.
A little ironic that said sister is howling with laughter in my ear, “Way to go sis.” She whoops, then, “Oh sorry, distracting I’m sure, I’ll shut up.”
Then I hear male laughter, full, rich, dark, beautiful male laughter, “Oh, very good. What a punch.”
I spin at the beautifully accented voice to see an impossibly good looking and impeccably well dressed man, grinning at me, and immediately I hear that tell-tale discordant note in my head. Oh, this can’t be good.
I need information. My brain jumps ahead and I open my mouth, “Who are you?”
“Yeah, who the fuck is he?” Lena demands in my ear.
“Who am I… ” Mr, Tall, Dark, and Indecently Handsome, murmurs musingly as he prowls over to me, his eyes still alight with laughter, “Now that is quite the question, but you can call me Andre'”
“Andre.'” I repeat slowly.
“Andre’? Who the fucking fuck is Andre’? What the hell is going on in there? ” Lena’s barking in my ear. I bring my hands up like I’m rubbing my eyes, “Hell if I know,” I hiss behind my hands, “And stop yelling.”
“Right. Yeah, shutting up again.”
I take my hands from my eyes to see Andre’ now standing very close, his dark, almost black eyes, studying me, like I’m some sort of new species. Reaching over, he takes my sore hand in his much larger one, lightly brushing his thumb over my throbbing knuckles, it tingles all the way up my arm and down to my toes, “And I have to know who you are Miss… ” Sheesh, his voice is like smooth whiskey and rough velvet or …..something. He may be an evil villain, but Holy Moly, is he a sexy one. This thought no sooner runs through my brain than that off key note pierces my head.
“Mckenna McGovern.” I answer. My mind racing, puzzle pieces flying.
“Mckenna,” he repeats my name softly. The discordant note gets louder. I have to bite the inside of my cheek to keep from wincing, at this rate, I’ll have a hell of migraine in no time.
“Who taught you how to land a punch like that Mckenna?” He asks in that ‘drop your panties’ voice of his, his thumb still moving gently over my knuckles. I can’t think, I pull at my hand, reluctantly, it seems, he lets go. I take a couple steps back.
“My kid sister.” I answer truthfully.
“Well, when I’m done with you. I’ll go hunt her down.”
Oh right, bimbo girl. I’d sort of forgotten about her, but she’s definitely still here and looking especially vicious, pulling out a long knife.
Well this keeps getting better.
“Oh Mia, you and that knife of yours,” Andre’ shakes his head and strolls gracefully over to psycho-slut. I can’t help but notice he looks just as good from the back. “Now is not the time for such childishness. You hit her. She hit you back. You’re even. Besides, I’m on a schedule. We don’t have time for your games.” Andre’ admonishes like he’s speaking to a five year old, “Hand it over.”
“No.” Comes bimbo’s petulant response.
“Mia, Mia, Mia,” Andre’ shakes his head and does a tsk-tsking thing, that, quite frankly, is sexy as all get out. Briefly I wonder what it says about me that I find this evil Lothario type so freakin’ hot, but damn, he is hot, and not just like a balmy day in Florida. This guy’s blastin’ heat like from the seventh circle of hell. If he gets anywhere near the polar ice-caps we’ll all drown.
“My darling girl,” He goes on, “You don’t want to force me to have to take it. Do you?” And that voice, while still smooth as silk, has changed subtly, something underneath that suave smoothness, something that made me glad he wasn’t directing those words at me. Bimbo Blondie must have heard it to, cause she goes a little green, and hands over the knife. If she hadn’t been such an evil psycho, I could have felt some sympathy. I feel naked without my dagger. I finger it lightly where it’s strapped to my forearm under my wrist. It’s comforting.
“Good Girl.” Andre’ pockets the weapon, then turns back to me.
“As delightful as your visit has been so far Mckenna, this really is not the best time.” My eyes shoot to his, again his voice is smooth as silk, and again there’s an underlying current, but it’s different, reproachful, worried? Ah… Goddess something’s not right. The note in my head gets louder.
I turn away from him and focus all my attention on Gavin until the note fades slightly. “I’m here for Gavin.”
“Yes, I heard you earlier,” His lips twist in amusement, then “What is he to you?”
I give him the truth, “It’s complicated.”
“Aah, complicated,” he nods as if he understands perfectly, coming over to stand in front of me, “perhaps, if you speak to him, it will clarify things, no?” He looks behind me where the bitch slut is standing, still a little green. “Mia, where is our host?” He then looks back down at me, “I got here just before you did. I haven’t had the opportunity to meet him.”
“Oh you guys should really hit it off.” I give wide eyed innocent another try.
A “Hmm.” and that sensual mouth turning up is his only response, his hand takes mine and tucks it into his arm and escorts me down the hall behind Bimbo Barbie.
“Oh, I’ve been keeping him entertained.” Psycho slut’s words freeze me in my tracks, and for the first time I feel a real tremor of fear. There’s something in her voice, barely contained glee, as if she’s really looking forward to what’s coming next. Andre’ must have recognized it as well, I feel him stiffen slightly beside me.
“And here we are,” with a flourish, Super Slut opens the door and leads us into the back bedroom. My bedroom, hell the slut’s been in my room. When Gavin had the cabin built he put in two bedrooms especially for me and my sisters, two huge rooms one on either side of the hallway connected by a very large Jack and Jill bath. I share the room with Christy, the sage green walls and dark rustic wooden furniture always soothe me, and even in this circumstance I feel a little more calm in it’s familiar surroundings, that is until I look around to see Gavin, tied up in my reading chair. Naked, and bleeding.
“By the Goddess,” I breathe out, pulling away from Mr. Suave’, and running over to my cousin’s seemingly lifeless form. “What the fuck did you do to him?” the words tear from my throat as tears fill my eyes. Frantically I feel around for a pulse. It’s there, strong and steady.
All the while Lena’s screaming in my ear, “What what the hell?! What’s going on, is he okay? Dammit Mac, talk to me!”
Shit, I’ve got to shut her up!
“You tortured him, you crazy bitch!”
“Torture?” Lena’s bellowing now, “Fuck! Dammit to hell! I’m coming in there, and don’t you dare let that bitch die before I get to kick her skinny, slutty, sorry ass!”
Shit, that’s the last thing I need, “No no no, his pulse is good.” I whisper.
“Goddammit, fuck!…Fine. Okay, I’ll stay put for now,” Lena’s grudging agreement assaults my constantly pounding head, “but Christy’s going ahead and calling the cavalry in. This thing has gone too far.”
I don’t bother answering. I feel Andre’s presence behind me. I turn to see him holding the quilt from my bed, “To cover him with.” he whispers. He seems genuinely upset by my distress, “It’s not as bad as it looks, caro,” he reassures me gently.
“Really?” I spit out,”Well, I can’t tell you what a relief that is.”
I turn back to Gavin, my eyes filling with angry tears at the sight of him. Both his eyes are swollen and purple, his nose looks like it’s been broken, and he’s covered in blood from the multitude of fine shallow cuts all over his body. Trembling, I cover him gently with my old quilt.
“Protecting his modesty, how sweet.” Blond Bimbo Bitch looking oh so pleased with herself, and I can feel rage burning me like acid. McGoverns are infamous for their tempers, but losing control now could screw up everything. Shaking with the effort, I breathe in and out and bite down on my cheek – hard. Hoping to still the hot rush of my ancestors’ blood.
“He has nothing to be ashamed of,” Bimbo rattles on, clueless as to the danger she’s in, “I can personally attest to how impressive his equipment is.” She saunters over to whisper in my ear, “I just couldn’t bring myself to cut it off. I had to settle for a few shallow slices, it’s unbelievably painful, but don’t worry, he’ll still be able to fuck you.”
That did it. My dagger leaped into my hand. I grab that bitch’s hair, yank her head back, bring the blade up, and slash. Bimbo Slut lets loose a screech and leaps away, holding her two bottom lips that are gushing blood. I split that thing corner to corner. Giddy with the soon to be satisfaction of slicing what’s left of that lip clean off, I charge and nd out of nowhere, I’m grabbed and pulled up against a rock hard chest, the wrist of my dagger hand held fast at my side.
“Drop the knife, Mckenna.” The words are whispered against my ear.
I pull back and look up to see Andre’ smiling down at me. He’s amused. Oh that really pisses me off. I’m a McGovern. We are fucking lethal, and the temper I inherited is literally the stuff of legend. I am not amusing when enraged. In one movement I drop my weight and pull up with my knee, it’s a useful maneuver, but he blocks it easily, “Calm down, you little hellion.” Now he’s actually laughing… laughing
“Don’t you dare tell me to calm down,” I do my own screeching. fury a fire in my veins, struggling against him with everything in me, desperately trying to break his hold, “look at what she did to him,” then something occurs to me, and I look up at him with pure venom as pain slices through me, “You gave her the order.”
“No.” his denial is swift
“You did.” Why this realization hurts me so badly, I don’t know but, the rage and pain coalesce into something I can hardly bear, I feel like I’m splintering into a million little pieces. I struggle fiercely, railing, pushing against him, frantic in my efforts to get away.
“No.” he denies again, “Mckenna, look at me.” his voice stern, he gives me a little shake. Panting from my effort to break free, I stare into his serious face, “I did not.” he states simply, enunciating every word, as his arms continue to hold me in their implacable grip. “Do you hear me, Mckenna? I did not.” I study him for a full minute. I’m so confused. My brain can’t function, and that note in my head is causing it to pound, and though I have no reason to believe him, I do.
“Yes, okay, I believe you.”
“Good,” He smiles down at me, loosening his grip, one of his hands moving in soothing little circles on my lower back, “Now drop the knife caro.”
“No.” I respond simply. Pleased to hear my voice doesn’t sound like a petulant child’s.
One perfect, dark brow arches, “No?”
“No.” I look past him to where bimbo slut is holding one of the pillow cases off my bed on her mouth. Yeah, I’ll be burning that. “I still need it.”
“Do you now?” I look back at him. His lips are twitching. He’s amused again.
“Yes, you see, I’m going to carve Bimbo Barbie over there, up into nice little bite size pieces, and serve her to hell on a fucking platter!”
Andre’ throws his head back as laughter erupts from him. I probably could have used that moment to break away, but I was mesmerized by the sight of him laughing. He looked like a fallen angel.
Finally sobering, he smiles down at me, his black eyes sparkling, “I’ve no doubt you could, but now is not the time.” He releases my arm and holds out his hand, “Give me the knife Mckenna.”
“It’s actually a dagger, and it’s a family heirloom.” I protest weakly.
“Really? Well then, I’ll see to it that you get your dagger back .” he takes the weapon from my hand, “little hellcat.” He whispers brushing his lips against my cheek, before pulling back. Then, looking down at me, his eyes warm, he reaches out, his long, elegant fingers brushing a lock of hair off my face, “Did little sister teach you to use a knife as well?”
I can’t help my smile “Don’t be ridiculous. My Granny Rose taught me.”
“Of course, what was I thinking?” still smiling, he shakes his head as he turns away, and I hear him mutter under his breath, “You girls and your knives.”
Then his entire demeanor changes as he turns to Bimbo Barbie, the dagger still in his hand. “Miss McGovern raises an excellent point, Don’t you agree Mia?”
Now that his attention is off me, I realize Lena’s been mighty quiet, “Lena?”
“Yeah still here, just talked to Christy, damn honkey tonk blew, twenty people got arrested, She said the Sheriff is seriously pissed at all of them. Our guys are in jail for the night. Gotta go, kind of busy.” then under her breath, “Can’t believe you brought the dagger.”
This from a girl who travels with her own personal arsenal.
I look back to where Andre’ is now standing in front of Bimbo Slut Girl.
“I do not, in fact, remember giving you permission to torture our host.” His tone is conversational, as he lightly slaps my dagger against the palm of his hand, then holding it up.”This is beautiful.” He glances back at me, “Are these gems real?”
“Yes,” It was beautiful. The blade was steel, but the handle was carved ivory with gold inlay, and three large gemstone set in the hilt, a ruby, an emerald and a sapphire, representing the Divine Trinity. , “What is the inscription, is it in Latin?”
“Yes, it translates, ‘Thou shall not suffer a witch to live.'”
He looks over at me, both eyebrows raised,”Really?”
“Yes, it’s a ceremonial dagger, used by the Catholic Church to torture witches in the fourteenth century. My ancestor, in fact.”
“Fascinating.” he murmurs. Then, while still looking at me, his other hand moves lightning quick and grabs Bimbo by the hair, “May I?”
Oh hell yes. “Be my guest.”
I hear a feminine whimper, and then he strikes. Wielding the knife with quick fluid movements, he makes three shallow slashes across each cheek, then shoves little barbie away, like so much garbage. She falls to the floor and has sense enough to stay down.
Wow,…so… yeah, don’t cross Andre’.
“Good help can be hard to find.”
“Hmm, yes, that is true, perhaps I should hire you.” His eyes bore into me as he crosses the room to stand in front of me.
“Oh you couldn’t afford me.” I assure him, in what I hope is a confident voice. There’s a difference in him. He seems determined. The note in my head screeches again.
“Who is he to you ?” He nods his head toward Gavin
“He’s a distant cousin, but his mom raised us.”
“Yes it’s a fascinating story, but you probably don’t have time to hear it.”
“Yes, I have a feeling I should be leaving very soon.” his voice is still thoughtful. “I was thinking we should wake Mr McIntyre up so that we might have a little talk, but now I am not so sure that will be necessary.”
“Whad duh yuh min?” bitch slut speaks up from her spot on the floor, “Weh nehd tuh knuh whuh bro the co.”
“She developed that code?” I asked.
“Yes, yes she did.” Andre’ replies ruefully.
“And she’s your insider?”
“More of a middle man, really.”
“Huh,” I rub my temples as the pieces start to shift again, the dull screeching sounding louder, “Well, I don’t know how much you’re paying her, but you got ripped off.”
“Whad ah yuh tahkin abou?” Big Blond Bimbo gets up off the floor, moving to the bed, I notice she’s breathing heavy, and she has a fine sheen of sweat over her skin, her arms wrapped around herself like she’s chilled. Excellent. It’s time to pull out the big guns.
“I’m talking about your stupid code, you seem to be so damn proud of. You want to know who broke it? Your code was broken by a sixteen year old mall rat.” That the mall rat is an off the chart genius, I feel no need to divulge.
“Yuhr lyun.” Bimbo snarls through the pillow case, she rises from the bed and stalks over to me, stumbling just a bit, her arm tensing, and I know it’s coming this time, wince, and decide to go with it, but the blow never comes, With a grace that seems incongruous to his speed Andre’ moves, before I can blink his arm comes up to block the blow, moving between myself and bimbo bitch his face hard as iron, as he pushes her arm back down,
“Mia, that temper of yours is going to get you killed one day.”Andre’s tone is mild, but there’s no mistaking the threat this time, Blondie goes from pale to a dull gray-green color, and retreats once more, plopping down on the bed.
So I’ll have to burn that comforter too, well damn, I really liked it, but sleeping on it now is out of the question. I mean, there’s only so much bleach and detergent can do.
“A mall rat, little one? I am unfamiliar with this term.” Andre’s rough velvet voice interrupts my thoughts of fire and flame,
“It means a teenage girl, one who likes to shop, and my sixteen year old sister, loves it. She lives and breathes designer labels.”
“And she broke her code.”
“Yep, in ten minutes,” I wave over at slut girl, “She’s not nearly as smart as she thinks she is.”
“Alas, yes I know.” He’s shaking his head.
“These kinds of mistakes shouldn’t go unpunished.” I go on conversationally, “Makes you look weak.”
I see Andre’s lips twitch, “Does it now?” I can hear the amusement in his voice, as he moves close to me once more, “So not a lover then?”
I blink up at him stupidly, “Huh?”
“Mr McIntyre over there, not your lover.”
My eyes go wide with real, honest to goodness shock, “What? Gavin? No! God no!”
“Hmm, and yet here you are, all bent out of shape because he’s here with the uh… what was the term you used.. stupid slut?” He’s so close now I can feel, his warm breath on my cheek, his hand comes up and I feel the feather soft brush as he sweeps that lock of hair off my face again, an unfathomable look in his eyes. All of a sudden I can’t breathe.
“Uh…um..” I stammer, my brain’s going all fuzzy. “I was worried…she” I waved my hand in the direction of bimbo barbie, “she…seemed wrong.”
Andre’s watching me intently, to the point of fascination, the puzzle pieces shift wildly, I close my eyes.
“Well yeah,” opening my eyes and rubbing my temples, a little defensive, “And obviously I was right, she’s all kinds of wrong.”
“Yes, it does appear so.”
“Oh, plus yuh don buhleeb hur?” And I’ve had as much of Bimbo Barbie as I’m gonna take.
“That’s right, Bimbo Girl.” I step around Andre’ and face stupid slut bitch, “First an eighteen year old psych major made you. Then, my sixteen year old sister broke into your apartment and hacked into your computer. Her twin, the mall rat, broke your fucking code, and oh, my fourteen year old sister made sure all those rednecks you brought in to do – I don’t know the fuck, and it doesn’t really matter anymore, got arrested. They are sitting in jail as we speak. You got your perfect ass kicked by a bunch of teenage girls. So suck on that, You. Stupid. Slut!“
Blondie’s, “umpossabul”, came the same time as Andre’s “What rednecks”
And over all this, I hear a deep gravelly voice from behind me, “Annwyn Mckenna, when we get home, I am going to turn you over my knee and give you the spanking of your life.”
Andre’ and I both whirl around. Oh good, Gavin’s awake and he is well and truly pissed. Wow, my sisters and I are going to be grounded for the rest of our natural lives.
“Hey Gavin.” I smile weakly and try for casual, “I…um… was in the neighborhood and remembered… I left my…boots…in the closet…”
“Annwyn Mckenna, do not start with me.” Gavin roars,“You will shut the hell up until I tell you to speak. Is that clear?”
At the same time Andre’ grabs me by both arms and pulls me to him, “Mckenna, I need to know about the men, these red necks.”
“Get your hands off her!” More, Gavin roaring. Yeah, so no damage to his vocal chords.
“Mac, listen,” Oh great, Lena picked a fantastic time to plug back in, she rambles on something about red-necks and jail, but I can’t make it out over Gavin’s angry bellowing
“I said get your filthy hands off her!”
Sheesh, the man has a set of lungs on him.
Andre’ ignores him, shaking me slightly, “Mckenna, tell me about the red necks.”
Meanwhile Lena’s shouting, “Mac did you hear me, three of them got away, they are on the way, they’ll be there any minute”
Goddess, they’re all talking at once. The puzzle pieces are flying around in my head. I look up at Andre, his face is like granite, and I see real fear in his eyes; and suddenly, the note in my head screeches to the point of agony. Pain, so much pain explodes violently in my head. Screaming, I yank away from him, grabbing my skull, to keep it from splitting open, yelling over all of them, “SHUT UP! FOR FUCK’S SAKE ! PLEASE, EVERYBODY, JUST SHUT THE HELL UP1!”
Thank the Goddess they do just that. Turning, I go over to the window and rest my splitting head on the cold glass, once again focusing my attention on the moon, beautiful and still. I let the clean brightness fill me. Finally, I feel the puzzle pieces shift and drift gently into place, like a whisper. The soothing balm of understanding wraps around my mind, and with it a sweet, clear, single chime and then… silence.
The relief is so overwhelming, I’m weak with it. My whole body begins to tremble, my legs limp noodles. I stumble and would have fallen, if not for Andre’ scooping me up in his arms. Effortlessly, he carries me over to Christy’s matching reading chair, and sets me gently down. Exhausted, I lay my head back against the soft cushions, close my eyes, and let the quiet wrap around me like a warm blanket.
“Mckenna?” Andre’ questions softly.
“I’m fine.” my lips move, the whisper falls.
He doesn’t take my word for it. I feel him turn around.
“What’s happening to her?
“Nothing you need to worry about.” Gavin answers, but I can hear the question in his voice, the same question my brain had been working on since I first heard Andre’s warm, rich laughter.
“Mckenna baby, look at me?” Gavin’s voice is gentle
I open my eyes, I feel tears sting my eyes, “Guns, it was about guns. She’s selling guns. You suspected, but she knew Gavin, she knew you were onto her. She had to kill you.”
His face lights with understanding, “So you decided to come to the rescue, damn baby…”
Andre’ leans down to brush the hair off my face, “Brave, but foolish, little one.”
“I said keep your hands off her.” Gavin growls, but he’s careful to keep his voice low, he knows I won’t be able to tolerate any loud noise for at least the next few hours. I can’t help my little smile, Gavin protecting me, even from himself,
Andre ignores him, his hand sliding to the back of my neck, massaging the tight muscles.
I look straight at Gavin, and give him the reassurance he needs,”It’s okay, he won’t hurt me.”
Gavin’s eyes go wide for a split second, as understanding dawns, before his face returns to its thunderous expression, “Yeah, well I don’t care if he’s the fucking Pope, I don’t want him touching you.”
“Yeah, well right now, I don’t care if he’s demon possessed, and eats cute little puppies for breakfast, I’ve had a headache from hell all night,” I growl right back, then to Andre’, “Don’t you dare stop.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it caro.” he whispers by my ear, before, brushing a gentle kiss on my forehead. “So you figured me out.”
“Yes, Inter-pole, right?” I whisper.
“Yes, very good,” his soft laughter rumbles, his hands working on my neck.
My eyes drift shut, my head drops forward, “I should have seen it sooner, but I was worried about Gavin, and I’m so tired.”
“Well isn’t this sweet.”
Well shit, Bimbo Barbie’s not dead yet. I’m going to have a serious talk with Christy about her few minute formula. Watching her stumble over to Gavin, I realize it won’t be long, she looks two thirds dead now. Her skin is gray and ashy and she’s shaking like a leaf, I don’t think she has much time left. Of course, she won’t need a lot of time. Just where the hell did she get that gun she’s waving in Gavin’s direction. I feel Andre’ stiffen, sense him reaching for his own weapon.
“Gotcha sis, Step away from the window.”
My sister’s words are followed by a strange high pitched whine. In unison, the three of us turn to the window, just in time to see it vibrate violently, then with an almighty crash, it shatters, and…Holy Crap! my little sister comes sailing through the window, swinging from some rope thing. She drops to the ground with a bad-ass, “jump and roll” ninja move, and is on her feet tazer in hand. Before Bimbo Girl has time to blink, she’s shot full of electrical current, and, wow, she’s down. Wailing, seizing and shaking like mad, flopping all over the place like a giant fish. Lena standing over her, all five foot two inches clad in skin tight black leather and looking downright gleeful.
“Uh…hey there, sis.” is all I can manage. My eyes going from her to a now unconscious bimbo-girl and back again. Shit! My sister’s fucking Cat Woman
“Hey, yourself. ” she glances up at me briefly, before strolling around to retrieve the gun super-slut dropped, doing that check the gun thing she walks up to Andre’. “Don’t suppose you have a knife I could borrow?” she asks casual as you please, like she’s borrowing a cup of sugar.
“Yes, as a matter of fact…” Andre’ reaches into his coat pocket, “I happen to have a couple extra.” he replies smoothly, as if leather clad, bad ass bitches crashing through windows, were an everyday occurrence. He pulls out my dagger as well as the bimbo’s knife, “Take your pick.”
“Oh I wouldn’t dream of touching Mac’s dagger,” Lena reaches for the knife, “she’s unusually attached to it.” Then turning to Gavin, “So cuz, not one of your better days.”
“Lyanna Raven Ward,” I wince as Gavin uses all three names. Oh, we are never gonna see the light of day again, “You are grounded for so long, you will forget what it’s like to walk in the sunlight.”
Yep, like he pulled it right out of my brain.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Lena saunters over, making sure to kick slut girl right around the kidney area. I hear Andre’ wince, then, his voice right next to my ear, “Suddenly I am very glad you “teenage girls” are on my side.
I turn to look at him fully, “Me too.”
Once again, his hand comes out to brush that lock of hair off my face, “Mckenna McGovern,” he whispers, his hand lowering to cup my jaw, as his thumb lightly brushes my bottom lip, “what shall I do about you?” and then I hear a growl from across the room. Gavin. Geez, you’d think being tortured would have worn him out or something. Andre’ smiles ruefully and pulls back to stand behind me. His hands once more going to work on my neck.
“So is this the sister who taught you to throw a punch.”
“Damn straight.” Lena replies from across the room where she makes short work of cutting Gavin loose, “Taught her well too, from what I could hear,” then handing Gavin the gun, “Yours, I believe.” she smirks, before looking back to me, “You know, we really need to talk to Christy about that toxin, I thought for sure the bitch would be dead by now.”
I was about to agree, but am cut off by both men in the room. Andre’s silky “What is this Mckenna?” is drowned out by Gavin’s, “Annwyn Mckenna Alexandra” Oh shit, all three names, “What the hell have you done?”
“Nothing that bitch didn’t deserve.” I answer mutinously. I hear Lena’s snort of agreement, as with shocking steadiness, Gavin rises, and wrapping the quilt around his waist, stomps over to me.
“You see caro,” Andre’s voice comes from over my head, “not as bad as it looked.”
And then the mountain that is Gavin McIntyre is standing in front of me, and even black and blue wrapped in nothing but my childhood quilt, he still exudes nothing but strength and power. He’s every inch the Scottish Warrior.
“Where’s the antidote?”
“I don’t have it.”
“Mckenna Alexandra do not lie to me. I need her alive.” Gavin’s face and voice are implacable.
“Give me the antidote.”
I look into his face, his hard, beautiful, masculine face, and I know he means it, but I can’t
“She should die, she harmed us, spilled our blood.” I hear my voice thickening with the tears I won’t shed, but Gavin hears it, his face softens.
“I need her alive Mckenna, other lives depend on it.”
Then from behind me, Andre’s voice, soft with compassion,”He’s right little one. She has information we need.”
“I can’t,” I whisper, my voice hollow, and I feel the tears falling now. Rising from the chair, I reach out with one finger, and lightly trace one of the slices on Gavin’s massive chest, then looking up, “She hurt you. She was going to kill you… I..I .can’t…”
My words end on a harsh sob as Gavin reaches out and pulls me into his arms and I let the tears fall, crying all over his chest. It’s got to hurt like hell, but all he does is rub my hair. I throw my arms around him and hold on tight, “Sshh, Mckenna, it’s alright, it doesn’t even hurt that bad.”
“Now you’re lying.” I snuffle, my voice muffled, since I refuse to lift my head.
I feel the laughter rumble in his chest. I love that feeling and squeeze him tighter. I just couldn’t stand a world without Gavin in it.
“It barely even tickled.” Then his hand reaches under my chin, lifting my face to his, looking in my eyes, his voice gentle, “Mckenna baby, I need her alive.”
“Can I kick her a couple more times?” I blink away the tears.
“No.” His voice is stern, but he’s smiling as he pulls away and holds out his hand.
“Lena got to kick her,” I grouse, pulling the syringe out of my pocket, and handing it over to him. He wastes no time in going over and administering it.
“It may not work,” comes Lena’s hopeful voice from across the room, “Christy said it was still experimental.”
I feel Andre’ come up beside me, his hand at the small of my back making those soothing circles. “When did you manage to poison her?”
I look up at him, “Oh, right away, when I punched her.”
“Ahh yes, the scratch.” His dark eyes study my face intently, one hand reaching up to brush away the remnant of a tear, “Your cousin, you would kill for him. You love him very much.” The words are soft and rueful, almost sad.
“Yes, yes, family…” And his face changes the rueful sadness gone, replaced by the same look he had earlier, like I was something he’d never seen before. Oh, how right he was, “So, is this something you girls do often?”
Now isn’t that a question. I hear Lena’s single shout of laughter form the other side of the room, and I try to think of a way to answer that won’t make my entire family sound like a bunch of half-crazed killers, which is sort of true, but… “Well, um, not really.” I get the raised eyebrow, “Well, what I mean to say is…”
“Brewing is kind of a hobby for several members of our family.” Lena interrupts from across the room. Oh, good one, Lena.
“Fascinating.” Andre responds his eyes never leaving mine.
“Well it is part of our family history, and you know, some people knit…”
“While others brew poison.”
“What an interesting family you have.”
“Oh, you have no idea.”
“Mckenna,” Gavin’s voice is stern again. He rises from the floor, where he’s trussed up bimbo girl like a Christmas goose, Oh crap, I soooo don’t like the look on his face, “Where are Christy and Allie?”
“Uh…ask Lena?” That’s right, I threw the very sister who saved my ass, under the veritable bus.
I saw Gavin take a deep breath, Oh shit he’s gonna bellow again.
But before he could open his mouth to yell some more, and possibly ground us until the next millennium, men appear all around us. Men in black with really big guns flooding silently into the room, from…everywhere, the window, the hall, the bathroom, and all of sudden we’re surrounded.
“Stand down. Stand down.” Gavin’s bellows, then seeing me wince, he lowers his voice, “lower your fucking guns, Goddammit, these are my cousins, lower your fucking weapons.”
“Yes sir, we know.” One of the silent, black clad men steps forward, lowering his weapon, “We’ve got two more of them with us.” Then, rubbing the back of his neck, “There aren’t any more overly protective, teenage girl cousins of yours out there are there? Cause, uh… I got to tell you, I don’t know if my men and I can handle the stress.”
“Don’t be a smart-ass.” Gavin growls, but I see his shoulders drop with relief at hearing my sisters are safe.
“Yes sir, but we were kind of wondering about this character here,” the guy throws his thumb over his shoulder to indicate Andre’, “We can’t seem to find out anything about him.”
I see Gavin’s eyes light up. I know that look, his wheels are turning, “Gavin don’t you dare.” I warn him.
“Sirocco.” I turn at the word softly uttered by Andre.
“It’s a code word, caro’.” he explains, looking over at Gavin, his eyes full of equal measures challenge and mirth, “And much to your cousin’s, displeasure, it is a good one.”
“Like paddle.” I murmur as the men lower their guns. There’s a lot more head shaking, and cursing, as the men relax their stance, and that’s when the little can came flying through the window, it looks like a soda can, it’s all I have time to think before Andre’ throws me to the ground, his entire body covering mine.
Light bursts into the room like a mini sun, the world goes dark, and chaos erupts over my head. There’s smoke everywhere, my ears are filled with the harsh sounds of gunfire, and what sounds like explosions going off, beneath me I feel the floor tremble and shake, and over all this I hear Gavin yell, “GO! GO! GO! GET HER THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!” then I’m lifted off the floor and tossed into the air, and my world is upended, Andre throwing me over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes, carrying me out into the night, and still I hear Gavin, still yelling, “Lena, goddammit, get the fuck out of here!”
“Like hell, I’m a better shot than you are.”
I knew she had a gun in that bag.
Out in the cold darkness, the normally peaceful mountain, is exploding all around us, acrid smoke fills my lungs, and burns my eyes. I blink away the tears and try to ground my senses against the chaos, not easy,as my entire existence is now upside down and bouncing. All I can see is Andre’s perfect butt, and the dark ground beneath us. He moves with unbelievable speed. Zigzagging across the clearing, aiming for the tree line, and though he’s making good time, we would move a lot faster, if he would just put me down.
“Andre'” I yell over the gunfire, trying to push off him to get a better idea where we are “put me down, I can run, for crying out loud. ”
“Mckenna,” his normally smooth voice is tight, “as charming I find your fighting spirit, now is not the time.”
“No buts,” he interrupts sharply, and to my shock, he delivers a sharp slap to my behind,
“Ow! What the hell?”
His only response is another slap. “Stay still, and be quiet!” then I hear him mutter a curse, see him reach into his jacket, and I know he’s pulling out his weapon. There’s the crack of gunfire, I feel the slight recoil run through his body, and as we pass the tree line, I see a man lying on the ground, the moonlight, reflected in his open and unseeing eyes, a nice neat little hole centered in his forehead. Right okay, still and quiet, you got it. Andre continues moving silently through the trees, and though I’m upside down and backwards, I feel like he’s moving to the small access road Gavin had put in when building the cabin. Then I’m on my feet, Andre’s hands coming out to steady me. As I get my bearings, I see we are no longer alone, I look around to see several of the black clad men and a large black SUV, not my Aunts.
Andre leads me over to it, speaking softly to the men around us, but before I can tune in to what he’s saying, the door flies open, and I’m accosted by waves of blond hair. Allie reaches out and pulls me into a ferocious hug, questions rolling out of her at the speed of light. “Mac, oh my God, are you alright? Where’s Lena? How is Gavin? Lena said that horrible woman tortured him. Please tell me she’s dead.” and then her voice lowers, “Is Gavin really mad? Are we in trouble?”
I sputter, spitting her hair out of my mouth and look past her to Christy, who’s sitting on the other side of the vehicle, her large blue eyes watching me owlishly behind her glasses, “So how’d I do?”
“Took more than a few minutes.”
“I thought that might happen, wasn’t real sure about the strength to mass ratio.”
I hear Andre from behind me his voice still tense, pushing me the rest of the way into the vehicle, “Ladies, I’m afraid you will have to catch up at a later time. We need to move you out of danger.” Then his hand comes up to cup my chin turning my face up to his, “This is where I leave you Mckenna,” his voice is soft, and I hear the mellow, deep undertones of regret, as his head lowers, and then, his lips are on mine, soft, warm and fleeting, in a kiss of pure tenderness. I can’t help the sigh that escapes as he pulls away, “Until next time, caro.” he whispers, his fingers brushing that same lock of hair off my forehead, and with his own sigh, he turns. I try to watch him as he walks away, but my eyes go all blurry.
“Holy Baloney and Macaroni, what an exit! Who was that?” Allie’s voice is in my ear, I smile at her word choice, and turn to her, pulling her back to me in a fierce hug, burying my face in her clouds of blond hair, closing my eyes, letting the tears fall. I’m not sure why I’m crying..exhaustion maybe, but then inside my head I hear the mournful sound of taps, see the fiery swirls of the sunset, and smell damp fresh turned earth of the tiny, goldfish sized grave we dug for Christy’s little fish, Milo. Christy named them all Milo.
I’m jerked roughly back to the present by Lena’s pissed off screaming, “Gavin Dammit, put me down. I can fucking run!”
“Do not push me Lyanna, you’re already on thin ice.” Gavin bellows, running at us full tilt. Lena slung over his shoulder. “Now, shut it and stay still.”
“Oh, he sounds really mad.” Allie whispers, her voice full of dread.
I see no need to sugar-coat it. “Oh, he’s way past mad.”
As they get closer Christy sits forward, squinting behind her glasses, “What’s he wearing? Is that a kilt?”
“Uh, no, that would be the quilt from my bed.”
And then they are right in front of us. Gavin opens the door and shoves Lena inside, jumps in behind her and shouts, “GO!” and with that one word the SUV leaps forward and roars down the mountain.
My sisters and I are really, really quiet. Gavin’s eyes roam over us. He takes a deep breath, here it comes I close my eyes and brace for the worst.
“I can not believe you let that horrible woman stay in our cabin.”
Okay, that wasn’t Gavin. I open my eyes, to see Allie, pretty, sweet, little Allie, all puffed up, spitting and hissing like an enraged kitten; and glaring daggers at Commander Gavin McIntyre. I look over at Lena and Christy. They’re both staring at her with their mouths hanging open.
“Please don’t tell me she went into my room,” Allie continues, wailing dramatically, “I’ll have to burn everything!” then, she actually reaches out, and pokes Gavin in the chest with her perfectly manicured nail, ” And you, Gavin McIntyre, can just replace all of it.”
What the hell? I risk a quick glance at Gavin, his mouth is hanging open. Wow, our little mall-rat, is sharper than the rest of us.
“She was definitely in our room. Sat on my bed and bled all over my pillow case.” I decide to get on the train of the best defense is a good offense, before it leaves the station.
“EW!” Allie wrinkles up her perfect little nose.
“GROSS!” Lena stuck her finger in her throat, and made some really spectacular barfing sounds.
“Maybe we should fumigate.” Christy suggested seriously.
Ant then the four of us started griping at once.
“..we’ll have to burn everything…”
“…build a bonfire…”
“…we can make smore’s…”
“…Nordstrom’s is having a white sale…”
“..Can’t believe you slept with that slut…”
“…that’s just tacky…”
“…when did you get such bad taste…”
“…did she go in our bathroom…”
“…No way, am I taking a shower in there…”
“…nasty funk that slut left behind…”
“… we’ll have to gut it…”
“…rip everything out…”
We”d been after a remodel of the bathroom for a couple years anyway.
The vehicle was filled with so much teenage girl angst you could choke on it. I saw the exact moment when Gavin caught on. Throwing his hand up, he takes a deep breath, and bellows loud enough to rattle the windows. “ENOUGH!” We stop mid-angst, and as one, sit back, cross our arms, and glare at him in sullen, mutinous, silence. “We’ll discuss this later.” he says quietly, giving us a look that said he knew exactly what we were up to.
The new bathroom was, possibly, an oversell.
Then Allie leaned into me and whispered, “Is she dead?”
“No,” both Lena and I grouse at once, then rolling my eyes, I wave one hand in Gavin’s direction, “He gave her the antidote.”
Allie’s disgusted ‘Humph’ is drowned out by Christy’s, “So the antidote did work. Well, that’s a darn shame.” and for a split second, I see Gavin’s lips twist up and his eyes light with honest to goodness humor, before resettling into his usual thundercloud.
Maybe we’ll see daylight before the end of the decade after all. Mckenna
Not quite an hour later, we pull up to the emergency room entrance of University Hospital, looking through the window, I see two men in suits, standing under the emergency sign, grim and impatient, with them is a petite woman, engulfed in an overcoat that looks ten sizes too big, her delicate features creased with fatigue and worry, Gavin’s mother, our Aunt Heather. As soon as Gavin opens the door to the SUV, she’s there, grabbing his face in her hands, looking at him with that assessing look only a mother can give, and firing questions as only a mother can. “Are you alright? How are the girls? I woke up and they were gone. I was so worried. I’m so sorry. I should have kept a closer eye on them. Auntie told me they were up to something, but…” Gavin cut off her words, pulling her into his arms, whispering words I couldn’t make out; and guilt, roughly the size and weight of a cannonball, landed my stomach and just stayed there. I glanced at my sisters, yep, they had it too.
“I think we messed up.” I whispered.
“Definitely.” Christy agreed, as Allie cried silently; her eyes riveted on the woman who meant so much to all of us.
“We suck.” Lena spat out, her voice loaded with self-disgust.
Looking through the window of the vehicle, we were all too chicken to get out of; my gaze homes in on Heather’s face pale in the harsh white lights coming from the hospital entrance, her cheeks shimmering with tears…
Oh yeah, we suck.
“You will start at the beginning. You will tell me everything down to the most minute detail, and do not insult my intelligence by attempting to lie to me.” It was a nod to Gavin’s fierce ancestry, that he still looked plenty intimidating, lying in a hospital bed, half naked, bruised and bandaged, with an iv in his arm.
He’d been taken off by those grim men in suits as soon as we arrived, leaving the four of us with our guilt and our Aunt, who looked at us without recrimination of any kind. Saying that, “Gavin is surely mad enough for both of us.” She did however, insist we be examined by a doctor, who unfortunately found that we had no deadly contagious diseases, so no quarantine, so no delaying the inevitable…
So here we are, the four of us sitting in a row at the foot of Gavin’s bed, like naughty children.
The doctor wanted to keep him overnight due to a slight concussion and dehydration. After quite a bit of arguing, that didn’t end until Heather, in that implacable, but gentle way of hers, quietly informed him that it would ease her mind if he did, indeed, do as the doctor instructed, Gavin grudgingly allowed himself to be admitted. So he was in a foul mood times two. This was going to be awfully unpleasant, not that we didn’t deserve it. As the oldest I decide to just jump into the deep end of the shit storm feet first.
I take a deep breath and just throw the words out there,”We’ve been, sort of, spying on you for the last two years.”
I heard Aunt Heather gasp, but it was the only sound in the room. Gavin was completely silent, he didn’t move, he didn’t blink, hell, I don’t think he was breathing, he might have been made of stone, then finally…
One word, in a dead flat whisper. No bellow, no extended rant about responsibility, reckless behavior, childish selfishness… nothin’. This was not the usual Gavin reaction. Nervously, I flicked my gaze to Lena, sitting next to me, she was pasty white, her eyes wide. Oh, hell if he was freaking Lena out, who we liked to call Mini Gav, we were in huge trouble.
“Yeah, uh, we used an old fashioned tape recorder, hid it in your vent system. Lena said most bug sweepers wouldn’t pick up on it, cause you know it wasn’t wireless, and since we have a key, well it wasn’t very hard.
More silence. He’s looking at us like he’s never seen us before, then quietly,”Is that right?”
“We were worried about you?” Allie whispers tremulously.
One eyebrow shot up, “You were… worried… about me.” he repeated hollowly.
“Yes, you have a very dangerous job you know.” Christy pointed out, helpfully.
Both eyebrows shoot up, “I have a dangerous job?” still in that flat quiet voice.
“Well…yes.” Allie reinforced breathlessly.
“I have a dangerous job?” a little louder now, “I have a dangerous job? Then still louder, his face going red, his eyes wide “I..have a dangerous job?.”more volume, his face deep crimson. Silence for one heartbeat, another, then, the volcano that is Gavin McIntyre in a full temper finally blows, “ I have a DANGEROUS JOB? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?” he roars, jumping out of bed, grabbing his short hair with both hands, probably in an effort to keep them off of us, pacing like a caged lion, he roars, “HAVE YOU GIRLS LOST YOUR DAMN MINDS? WHAT THE HELL? TWO YEARS? CRHIST, DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA THE TROUBLE YOU COULD HAVE BEEN IN… THE DANGER…HOLY SHIT! I DON’T FUCKING BELIEVE THIS.”
Finally out of breath, or just too dumbstruck for words, he just stands there, in his, gym shorts and nothing else, his lungs working like giant bellows, his hands clenching and unclenching at his sides. Wow, I think he’s so mad he’s beyond speech. At this point I have serious doubts about giving him any more details, he’s liable to pop a blood vessel. I risk a glance at Lena, raise my eyebrows in question, she just left shoulder shrugs me. Okay, so no help there.
“FUCK!… YOU GIRLS!… SHIT!‘” He finally manages to sputter, resuming his pacing, his face now an alarming shade of puce. I glance anxiously at Aunt Heather, she seems to agree, that this level of angst can not be helping his recovery, she steps forward, “Gavin, sweetheart…”
She doesn’t get any further, at that moment two beefy guys in security uniforms burst into the room, a woman, who I recognize as one of the floor nurses standing behind them. Not surprising, Gavin’s bellow could probably be heard well into the next state, much less up and down the quiet halls of the hospital. Crap and double crap, could this night get any worse?
One of the security guys steps forward, cautiously. He may be beefy, but Gavin, the giant, has a half a foot and at least 75 pounds on him. “Sir,” he addresses him, his voice low and steady, like he’s trying to calm a mad dog, “you need to calm down, and get back into bed.” Gavin just stands there, his head tilted slightly to the side, like the guy was speaking in tongues or something.
“Gavin dear, you’re frightening the nurse.” Aunt Helen steps forward and places one delicate hand lightly on his arm. Gavin looks down at that tiny hand for a full ten seconds, breathing deeply, visibly working to get his temper under control, “I’m sorry,” he whispered down at her, his large hand moving to cover hers, then shaking his head, “They just, I mean… I wasn’t expecting…”
And a second guilt sized cannonball joined the first one in my stomach.
“I’m so sorry ma’am,” Gavin looked past the security guards, to the nurse. “I have no excuse. Please accept my apology.”
The nurse, a stout African American woman with a kind face, smiles and walks over to him, taking hold of his arm and escorting him back to bed. “Don’t think on it for one minute.” She assures him, “Didn’t scare me a bit, got three teenage boys myself. Mercy, do those kids make me crazy. I just don’t want you to hurt yourself is all.” She explains, while deftly helping him back to bed. Then pouring him some ice water, and handing it to him. “Now sounds like to me, you could maybe use something stronger, but we don’t have anything like that here, and you need to hydrate. So you drink all the water in this pitcher for me, and maybe I can call the doc and get him to prescribe a nice Valium, or somethin’ to help you relax.”
Lena speaks up for the first time, “That would be awesome.”
By silent, mutual consent, we all took a break. Gavin drinking the water, while his eyes roamed over the four of us. It was Aunt Heather who spoke up next.
“Girls, I understand you being worried, I am too, but what I don’t understand why you resorted to this? You put all of us at risk, including Gavin. What in the world? Did you just wake up one morning and lose your minds?”
None of us said one word, maybe if we just ignored the question…
“Now that’s a real good question, Mom.” Gavin, smelling blood in the water, was suddenly watching us like a hawk, and was it my imagination or did his gaze land and stay on me. “Well?”
“Well…uh…what was the question?” I ask innocently, stalling for time.
“The question, Mckenna, is what prompted this particular form of insanity. What possessed you four to do something so abominably stupid!?”
Oh crap, he was revving up again.
“What the hell prompted you all to behave in such a completely irresponsible, insane… Christ…when I think what could have happened….JESUS, DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA…?”
All of a sudden, Christy, calm quiet little Christy, jumps to her feet, shouting, “SHE WASN’T SLEEPING! OKAY?”
For a second her words don’t register. I’m too shocked by her unusual flare of temper, but as the shock fades the words sink in. No, no she wouldn’t, “Christy,” I hiss over Allie and Lena who are looking back and forth between us with identical Holy Fuck expressions. “Shut. Up.”
“No.” Christy looks at me, calm once more, except for the stubborn set to her chin, “No Mac, he needs to be told,” her face softens, “I’m sorry, but he deserves to know.”
She’s right I know she’s right, but fuck…I nod, and wait for the ax to fall.
“After the accident, you know the explosion, the one you said was no big deal, but nearly killed you. When you left the Navy and went to work for Homeland Security, Mac started having nightmares again, a lot. They got bad, really bad. She didn’t sleep, wouldn’t eat. Aunt Heather didn’t know what to do. It went on for months. She wouldn’t talk about it, not with us. I don’t know about her therapist, but we heard Aunt Heather on the phone, they were talking about committing her…”
“What?” Gavin’s go eyes wide, and I see horror and shock and anger, “What the fuck Mom?” his voice rising, he turns to Heather “Is this true? What the hell? Why didn’t I know about this?”
Oh God, I don’t want to be here for this. It’s just like before. Poor Mackenna…Poor disturbed Mackenna… traumatized.. not right in her mind…I put my hands over my face and try to block it all out.
“She…got better” I could hear the tears in my Aunt’s voice, “She didn’t want you to know. She was adamant, would fly into a rage if we even broached the subject of telling you. She was afraid you’d worry, get distracted, and then, she got better…”
“When we started spying on you.” Lena finished. Her voice quiet, “It was Christy’s idea, but I agreed, we all did, and it worked. She got better. Heather just thought it was a temporary episode, brought on by your accident, but well…”
Heavy silence filled the room, but there was no silence for me. I hear the barren voices speaking words in my head, traumatized… unstable… psychotic… dangerous. I rub my arms, suddenly chilled to the bone. I feel myself shake. The voices turn to screams, smoke fills my vision, and with it, the smell of burning flesh. My stomach rolls, I can’t get any air, the smoke’s too thick. My heart racing, I open my eyes, but still everything is gray, and the screaming, someone’s screaming. It’s all spinning, flying through my mind fast, too fast, and then…pain. I grab my head against the agony shooting through it, an arrow dipped in acid, “STOP! PLEASE STOP!” the words scream in my head, but they come out barely a whisper.
I can’t breathe. I have to get away from the smoke, and …. Ah Goddess…the smell. I jump up, blindly trying to run through the gray, away from the screams, the smell, the pain. I hear voices but they’ re far away. I feel something grab me, but with the strength born of panic I throw it off. Stumbling through the haze, and then I’m caught and held. No! I can’t be trapped here, not again. Struggling furiously, I push, pull, kick, and finally scream in the face of whatever holds me, but I’m stuck, held fast.
Then, over all the screaming and chaos I hear a whisper, “Mckenna,”
That’s me, I’m Mckenna.
“Mckenna baby, come back. You’re safe.”
Safe. The word flows through my mind, a balm to the searing pain.
“Do you hear me baby, come back now.” The whisper is clearer now, the screams fading, “Come on baby, I’m right here.”
I follow the voice, my mind latching onto it’s husky warmth, “It’s just me Mckenna, It’s Gavin. I need you to come back, now.” Gavin, yes, Gavin needed me.
“Gavin?” I hear my own broken whisper, barley there.
“That’s right babe. It’s me. You’re doing great, just keep coming, I’m right here.” the burning smell fades, and my head fills with a familiar smell of warmth and spice.I take a deep breath. Oh, I love that smell. I feel a steady heartbeat under my cheek, my breath returns to my body, and finally… the smoke clears.
I’m back in the hospital room, in Gavin’s arms, held tight against him. I blink up at him, my gaze latching onto his hazel eyes, gentle and calm,”Gavin?”
“Hey there,” he whispers back, brushing his lips across my forehead.
“What…where is everybody?” tears sting my eyes, “I didn’t hurt anybody. I wouldn’t hurt them. Did I…?”
“Shh. No baby, they’re fine, just wanted to give you some privacy is all.” Then, picking me up, he carries me over to the hospital bed and lays me down. Quick as anything, he strips off my shirt, and is working on getting my jeans off before I can protest. I make a weak attempt to push his hands away, but my arms feel like noodles.
“Mckenna, I’ve got to get you warm, your skin is like ice.” he murmurs gently, working to remove my shoes, so he can pull my jeans off.
Even as the words leave his mouth, I feel myself begin to shiver and shake. By the time I’m down to my bra and panties, I’m feel like I’ve been dipped in ice-water, and welcome the warmth of Gavin’s body, as he crawls in beside me and pulls me to his chest, wrapping himself around me and tucking the blankets around us like a cocoon.
“Sshh, babe, just give it a minute,” Gavin brushes his lips across my forehead, the light touch burns my frigid skin, “You’ll be alright, it’s the adrenaline.” He reminds me gently. “When it wears off, your body temperature drops. This is the best way to warm you up.”
I’m shivering and my teeth are rattling like mad. I just want to snuggle into Gavin and close my eyes, but knowing where we are, I pull back and try to put voice to the single demand I’ve made over and over again, since the first few months after my mother’s death. “Nnnno ddocc..ttt,” I can’t get my mouth to cooperate, my teethe are chattering hard enough to shatter.
“Ssshh,” Gavin whispers, his large hand moving to the back of my head and tucking me under his chin, his strong fingers kneading to the tight muscles at the base of my skull, gently working out the knots, “I know, babe. No doctors.” his other hand running in soothing lines up and down my spine, “You need to rest. Close your eyes Mckenna, I’m here. I won’t let anyone take you baby, ever. ”
His voice is both gentle and fierce, and I know nothing can hurt me when I’m wrapped up in his arms. It seems the only time I feel safe is when this man is holding me, before my tired brain can latch on to this new thought, I sink into peaceful darkness.