Fall of the Year
Lindsey looked through her mail, which she had thought to have stopped. "At least I applied for unemployment before I went to Nashville, and the electric company drafted the bill from my account," she said.
"Human problems," Damon teased from his spot on the worn out, but too comfortable sofa.
She barely spared him a glance. "Even rich vampires have to pay the light bill. I doubt Alabama Power is very understanding about the issues of the supernatural."
Damon laughed at that. "As dark as you keep this house, you shouldn't be paying any bills."
"It's not dark on purpose. It's just the way they built houses then. You know that."
Damon couldn't put his finger on it, but something about the peace and quiet of where Lindsey lived was soothing to his soul. She lived outside of town, on a large space, with no neighbors too near. He thought she said the house was on two acres of land. As was the fashion in the mid-1930s, when this house was built, it had a large, covered front porch. A swing was on one side, along with a wicker furniture set. The porch was screened, but not glassed-in. There were three bedrooms upstairs, and Lindsey's parents had converted part of the large master bedroom into a bathroom. The upstairs hallway led to Damon's favorite part of the house: a balcony. There were two rocking chairs and a metal glider and he loved to sit there late and listen to the night sounds. It was really an upstairs porch, since it was at the rear of the house.
It had been so long since Damon had been in a rural area, he had forgotten how much he liked it. He normally kept to larger cities, since the blood supply was constant. But they were only 40 miles from Birmingham if he needed to stock up.
His nose twitched. "Is that pie ready yet?" he asked.
"I'll check it." Lindsey grinned at him. "I had no idea a vampire could have such a sweet tooth. First, it's chess pie and now apple."
"What else were you gonna do with those apples?"
"I know," she laughed as she went into the kitchen. Her apple tree at the back of the house was loaded, and she had gone out that morning to try to shake the tree and dislodge the ones that were out of reach.
Damon had watched from the back porch until he couldn't stand it. He walked over to the tree. "Back up," he said. He shook the tree and apples rained down, and then he looked up. "Still a bunch up in the top."
"Ladder's in the shed," Lindsey said.
He grinned at her. "Don't need one." He jumped up to grasp a lower branch, then pulled himself up on to it with the ease of a gymnast. Lindsey watched him, open-mouthed, as he climbed the tree.
Some of his surety was due, of course, to his vampire abilities, but a lot of it was just natural, athletic grace. She had a sheet pinned to a branch and said, "Make sure you get them on the sheet," as she held it out. More apples hit the sheet and shortly, she had enough for pies, canning, jelly, cider and whatever else she wanted.
"Looks like that's about it," he called down, and then, with a wicked grin, said, "Watch this, mom!" and jumped out of the tree.
"No!" Lindsey yelled and then saw him touch the ground with hardly a jar. "You stinker!"
He laughed at her and pulled her into his arms. "What's the point of having the skills if you can't use them once in a while?" His eyes were twinkling.
"Show off," she grumbled.
"So much," he answered and kissed her soundly.
She returned the kiss and said, "Help me get these sorted. I can take the bruised ones to the orchard and get them pressed for cider."
"Been years since I've had any fresh cider," he mused, as they sat on the grass, sorting the apples into market baskets.
"I love it. It's one of my favorite things about the fall of the year." She put the last of the apples into the basket. "Guess I can start on that pie, now."
Now, she took it out of the oven. It did smell heavenly. Damon sped into the kitchen and was right at the counter, his eyes gleaming. "It looks amazing," he said.
"I think it'll be good." She looked to see he was gazing at her intently. "What is it?"
He took her hand and kissed the knuckles, then drew her to his body. "Thank you. For cooking for me, and making me welcome. There aren't many places where I am welcome."
Lindsey smiled and threaded her hands through his hair. "You're always welcome, here, Damon. Always. That will never change. When I'm 70 and wrinkled, and you're still this hot stud, you can still come here."
He kissed her. "Seventy's a long way off."
"Not as far as it seems. Not for me, anyway. That pie needs to cool a little before you tear in to it. Well, you could eat it now, but all you'd taste is heat."
He smiled. "Wonder what we could do in the meantime?" he said as he ran his hands up and down her back.
She grinned. "Oh, I don't know. Got any suggestions?"
"Yeah. But I really need you upstairs, on your bed and naked to show you."
"Sounds like a plan to me," she joked.
"Hang on then," he said, sweeping her into his arms and up the stairs. She found herself on her bed, laughing wildly, and Damon nearly undressed before she could blink. "You'd better catch up with me if you want your clothes intact," he said.
Lindsey knew he wasn't necessarily kidding, and she had her top and bra off quickly. Her pants followed that and she held her arms to him. "Come here, you gorgeous man," she said.
"Is he bothering you again?" Damon teased as he crawled up her body, kissing her skin the whole way. He took her mouth passionately and she threaded her hands into his hair, pressing herself to him, allowing him to enter her body almost immediately and start the process of making tortuously slow love to her, drawing out the passion as long as he could.
When they were both sated and twined in each other's arms, Damon whispered to Lindsey, "Reckon that pie is cool yet?"
She smacked him on the arm. "Probably. Hand me my T-shirt, at least." He did so and she slipped it on, and then her underwear.
Downstairs, Lindsey cut into the pie and Damon's eyes widened as she placed a slice in front of him, accompanied with a scoop of ice cream. He tasted the pie and grinned at her. "You are incredible. This tastes just like the ones our cook made when I was a kid."
"Glad you like it." She smiled at him. She always loved doing something for Damon that made him feel wanted and cherished. He hadn't had nearly enough of that in his life.
He finished his pie and said, "That was wonderful. Thank you again."
"You're welcome." She saw an intense look in his eyes and said, "What is it, Damon?"
"Well, I've been thinking. You want to stay around here and probably get a job at the local paper, right?"
"I was hoping so, yes."
He nodded. "I know the pay isn't great."
"Not really, but I don't want to leave this area for a while. I can make it."
"Let me help you. Please. You've done more for me than anyone ever has. Let me help you." He reached to take her hand.
"Damon, you don't have to. I hope I'd have helped anyone."
He smiled. "You would have, I know. But Lindsey, I told you a long time ago that I've got more money than I need. I want you to be all right, financially. You know I can't stay here forever, and I want you to be able to stay here without worrying about your finances. I can afford it and I want to. Please. I don't get the chance to do this very often. I'll set it up like my account in the Caymans. Any time you need money, you make a phone call. I'll make sure it's replenished on a regular basis, but if there's something you need, just let me know. The money will be there, I promise. I can do so little to say thank you. I want to do this. Please let me do this for you."
Lindsey's natural pride rebelled at the thought, but her pragmatic side immediately saw the advantages. She could save some money, make repairs on the house, get another car. She knew Damon could afford it, just because she knew how recklessly he spent money anyway. Since she didn't foresee a husband and children in her future, the money would enable her to live independently, hopefully for the rest of her life. "O.K., Damon. Thank you for your generosity. I appreciate it more than you know."
His smile was beautiful. "Thank you, Lindsey. I'll set everything up tomorrow."
"All right. So does this mean that when you need to hit the road again, that you'll stay in touch?" She knew better than to ask for forever. He couldn't give it.
"Always. I'll be here as often as I can, and I'll make sure you can get in touch with me any time you want to. I wouldn't leave you in the wind, Lindsey. Even if it's not that often, I promise I'll be here if you need me. You have my word on that."
couple of weeks later, Damon was coming back from a blood run. He
didn't tell Lindsey where he got the blood and she didn't ask. It was
easier that way. As he got to the road where her house was, he heard
something that sounded like a gunshot. Although his first instinct was
to floor the car and get there as quickly as he could, he had to know
what was going on. He parked the car in the wooded area right before one got to her mailbox. He got out and moved like a ghost through
the woods until he could see Lindsey's house. His blood ran cold when
he saw two navy sedans in the drive. Dammit! Were the Augustines NEVER
going to give up?
He heard another round of shots. It was the shotgun that had belonged to Lindsey's grandfather. He knew she had plenty of ammunition that she had just never gotten rid of. Another shot blasted the windshield of one of the cars. She was plastering them and he chuckled. Like walking into a hornet's nest. One showed his head above the hood of the car, and got a shot from her Glock for his troubles.
"We just want Salvatore!" one yelled.
"Not on your sorry life!" he heard her reply, followed by another volley from the shotgun. She was shooting to kill. Then, what looked a lot like a molotov cocktail flew out the window and exploded near one of the cars. Glass went everywhere. Damon remembered she had plenty of lighter fluid. She must have spotted them before they were able to get into the house. But she was going to need help. He eased around the perimeter of the woods, remaining unseen. He was going to have to time his run across the open field and up to the upstairs porch exactly right, preferably just after she took a shot and they were distracted. He got in position and waited until he heard the dull boom of the shotgun. More glass shattered and Damon grinned. This wasn't the easy target they were expecting. He sprinted at top speed to the porch and jumped just as they saw the movement. He was on the porch and in the front bedroom before Lindsey could turn around.
"Need some help?" he said.
"Nah. I've got it handled," she cracked. "Am I ever glad to see you."
"You all right?"
"I'm fine. I heard them coming up the drive. It wasn't the Infiniti, and there was more than one car. First thing I did was lock all the doors. I tried calling you, but you must have been in a dead spot. So, I grabbed Grandaddy's shotgun, my pistol and headed upstairs where I could see them. They really want you. I found the lighter fluid and some old coke bottles and rags in the attic. Love a good molotov cocktail."
Damon laughed grimly. "You're a bloodthirsty bitch when you get riled up."
"Damn right I am. Bastards messing with my house and my man. Damn right, I'm bloodthirsty. I told them in Gulf Shores I'd shoot to kill next time. I wasn't joking. Look out!"
The cry had hardly left her lips when a vervain dart hit the wall where Damon had been. He rolled away from it, and the man tried lifting the crossbow again, but Damon already had him against the wall. "I'd tear your throat out here, but I don't want Lindsey to have a mess to clean up," he growled. He dragged the man to the porch and Lindsey could hear the screams as Damon killed the man. She couldn't dredge up any pity for him, only regret that Damon had to kill. The man had come after her, her home and her man. He deserved what he got. She heard a dull thud as the body hit the ground in the backyard. The man must have climbed the post supporting the porch to get inside.
Damon came back into the room, wiping his mouth. He looked for revulsion, fear in Lindsey's face, but all she said was, "One down. Six to go." She aimed again and squeezed off one barrel. A scream told them she had at least burned one. He grinned as he lit three cocktails and threw them with extreme accuracy from the window and into one of the cars. It caught fire inside, sending the men out of the car, with Lindsey hitting them with the shotgun and Damon firing the Glock. His shots were naturally much more accurate, and two more went down.
"Might as well pick up your dead and get the hell off my land!" Lindsey yelled. "Don't forget the one in the back!" Damon ran to the back porch to cover them with the pistol. Two ran to pick up that body. One saw the dead man, his throat ripped out, and he vomited in the grass. Damon laughed at that. It was all well and good to dissect a living vampire, but they couldn't handle actual violence and death.
"I told you people to leave me alone! Maybe you'll believe me now!" she screamed as they scrambled for the second car, slinging dust and gravel in the air as they peeled out. She followed them with two more blasts from the shotgun for good measure.
"How the hell did they find us?" Damon said, shaking his head. Looked like he was going to have to track down the whole network and have a dinner party.
"I don't know. I know we got that tracking chip, and I don't have one. We checked. Lucky guess, I reckon," she answered. "They had this address."
"Sick, psycho bastards." He looked at Lindsey. The shock was telling on her now, and she was shaking. He went to her immediately. "It's all right. I'm here." He folded her into his arms.
"What will we do with the car they left?"
"Don't worry. I'll take care of it." There were enough woods, that the car could be towed into them and left safely to rot. But Damon had already faced the hard, cold fact that his presence here was a danger to Lindsey. He couldn't stay and be a hazard to her, no matter how well she defended herself. They might catch her in the garden or backyard another day. He was going to have to leave, at least for a while. He kissed her sweetly. "I'll get the car out of here. You stay up here. They won't be back, but I'm not taking any chances."
"O.K. Don't be too long."
"I won't, I promise." He was gone again and in a couple of minutes, Lindsey heard the Inifniti's big engine rumble to life and she looked out the window. Damon tied the sedan to the rear bumper of his car and then drove both cars out of the yard. A while later, he was back and came into the house. "It's in a ravine about five miles from here. Nobody's gonna find it."
"Good." She went to him and put her arms around him. "Damon, I'm so glad you're all right. I was so scared."
"I know you were and I'm so sorry you had to do that. But I am so proud of you! The warrior angel strikes again."
"You give me a lot of credit I don't deserve."
"The hell you don't deserve it! Have I not told you that you are one more badass steel magnolia? You should be in an action movie," he said, kissing her.
"I'm sorry you had to kill that man. I'm not sorry he's dead, just that you had to kill."
"I'm not. Not one of those people. They signed up for this gig. They deserve it."
She nodded. "Yes, they do. But I hate it for you." She touched his face, and once more, Damon's heart yearned toward her. But he was no good for her. She wasn't safe as long as he was around. Not long-term, anyway.
At Damon's urging, Lindsey managed to cook some supper, and they ate a quiet meal. They went to bed, and Damon spent hours making love to her. Both knew it felt like good-bye.
Lindsey got up the next morning, and Damon was gone. She knew he probably would leave, but she was still heartbroken. She loved him, and she knew he loved her. She went into the kitchen. His leather jacket was on the back of a chair, just as if he were coming back for it. There was an envelope on the table. Inside was $500 and a letter, in Damon's beautiful, antique copperplate handwriting. The keys to the Infiniti were on the table. Lindsey buried her face in Damon's jacket and cried until no more tears would come. Then she read the letter.
I couldn't just leave you without some words. All of the practical information is at the bottom of the letter, along with the cash I had in my pocket.
You know, as long as I was here, those people would keep coming back. I couldn't risk that. You never asked for any of this, and you don't deserve it. Maybe I do for all the horrible things I've done. But I'm not bringing it all down on your head.
There's no way I can thank you adequately for the love and grace you've shown me. You opened your home and your heart to me. You cannot imagine how rare that has been in my life. What you have given me far surpasses anything you think I've given you.
I'll come back when and if I can, but like I told you – you can always contact me. I love you, Lindsey, and God, I am going to miss everything about you. But I know how lucky I was to come to know you, how lucky I was to have you in my life, even for a short while. People like me don't usually get that kind of luck.
Stay safe, my warrior angel. Thank you for being my home.
All my love,
A fresh wave of grief overwhelmed Lindsey as she finished the letter. Even though her heart was breaking, she wouldn't have traded it for a second with her time with Damon. He had changed her, and changed her life. She picked up the keys. He even left the car for her. He thought he was so horrible, but he wasn't. He was the only man who had ever seen past the outside, and who had taken the trouble to find out what was under the imperfect body. She knew she would see him again. He had promised her that, and he never went back on his word. But now, she was very much alone. It was going to be a long winter.