Ordinary Loneliness


April, 2008

Lindsey woke up in the night. She could have sworn she heard something. She went to her window, but didn't see anything. She checked her phone – nothing. It sounded like an engine, but there was nothing to see. Maybe it was just a Medflight chopper. She was in the flyway. Had to have been a medical chopper. She went back to sleep, thankful the next day was Saturday, and she didn't have to work.

She went outside the next morning to get the paper from the box at the end of the drive, and nearly screamed when she saw Damon lying sprawled on the wicker sofa on the porch. He was asleep, or seemed to be. You never could quite tell with him. She looked and saw his blue Camaro with Virginia plates parked next to her car. She had heard an engine. That was about 3:30, so he had been here six hours, give or take.

Newspaper forgotten, Lindsey went to Damon. He looked awful and smelled worse. His color was grayish, which was very unusual. He was also filthy and unshaven, and she couldn't believe that. Damon hated being dirty. He looked like he hadn't showered in days. His T-shirt was torn, his jeans frayed. Even his boots were scuffed and muddy. She reached a tentative hand to him and his eyes fluttered open. He gave her a weary half-smile. "Lindsey," he rasped. "Help me."

She knelt beside him and stroked a lock of greasy hair back from his face. "I will. What happened to you?"

"I'm really fucked up this time," he said, and apparently, passed out. She sniffed his hair and skin. There was a strong alcohol smell, in his hair and on his clothes, along with pot. And something else she couldn't quite identify, but she knew it wasn't good. It was a kind of – vinegar smell. She knew vampires could get drunk, and had seen Damon fairly inebriated a couple of times, but this wasn't usual. He wasn't recovering, and she could see half-healed marks on him, as if he had bumped into something. She looked at his right arm. It was ... bruised? Vampires didn't bruise for any appreciable length of time.

Then, she saw something peeking out of his pocket and she pulled it out. It was a ripstop nylon strap with a locking buckle. What the...? Still deeply puzzled, she went to his car and started looking through it. The inside of the car was filthy, too, which again, was completely out of character for Damon. This Camaro was his baby and she knew it. The floorboards were filled with empty liquor bottles. She looked in the glove compartment and found pipes, rolling papers, a small bag of pot and there – there it was. Wrapped in a square of foil. She smelled the brown powder and the vinegar odor was strong. Then, in the back of the compartment, in a ziptop bag, a handful of what she would say were insulin syringes, but they had dark residue inside. Heroin. It had to be. That explained the strap. It was a tourniquet. Lindsey had never seen heroin, or smelled it, but when she found the cooking spoon, she knew. Dear God. She wondered if he had been living out of his car.

Could vampires be addicted to anything? she wondered. But addict or not, Damon had almost certainly been shooting heroin. She grabbed the cooler of blood from the back seat, went back to him on the porch and inspected his arms. There – on his left arm, which made sense since he was right-handed, a line of small marks. Needle tracks. Lindsey felt her blood chill right in her veins. There was only one person she knew who might know what to do: Jakob. She went to her phone and hastily dialed his number.

He answered on the third ring. "Hey, chiquita, what's up?"

"I found Damon on my porch this morning. He's not in good shape."

"What do you mean?" Jakob was immediately concerned.

"Well, he's filthy dirty, the Camaro is trashed inside, and he smells like a liquor store and a head shop, all in one. His clothes are torn and dirty and I found what I'm almost sure is heroin in his car. He has actual needle tracks on his arm and I found what he probably uses as a tourniquet."

"Holy Jesus," Jakob breathed. "Check the tips of his fingers. How do they look?"

She did. "Blue and a little shriveled."

"I was afraid of that. He hasn't had any blood in a while. He's starting to desiccate."

"What? But – I thought vampires couldn't get addicted to anything! And why hasn't he fed? There's plenty of blood in his cooler."

"Heroin is the exception, but it's mostly psychological. It numbs the psychic pain. And, there's something in it that kills the desire for blood, inhibits rapid healing, and causes basically the same psychological symptoms as it does in humans. They don't care about anything except the next hit. And because they're not feeding, nothing else is working right, either."

"How can I help him?" she asked.

"If you can get some blood into him, that will help. You might have to force feed him, but I doubt he's much stronger than a normal human right now. The only thing that will take care of him is time – and a lot of blood."

"Jakob, you're a true friend. Thank you so much," Lindsey said.

"I'm glad I was here. Let me know how he's doing, all right?"


She had a friend who was a nurse practitioner, and when Lindsey had bronchitis the previous winter, Maura had come to her house to draw blood for a white count, and she had left a couple of drawing kits, in case she had to come back. Lindsey's mother had been a nurse, and she had a working knowledge of how blood was drawn. If she could get the needle in her vein, and put the tubing in Damon's mouth, he could have her fresh blood, but if he got too aggressive, she could pull the needle out quickly so she wouldn't lose too much.

Not for the first time, Lindsey was thrilled she lived in the country, where there was no one to see what she was doing. Now was not the time to have nosy neighbors. She got the needle kit and with a wry grin, grabbed the tourniquet. She drank a full glass of water to plump her veins a little, and squeezed her left hand into a tight fist. She tightened the tourniquet on her upper arm and looked for the vein she wanted. When she found it, she slid the needle in. Success. Her blood started flowing into the vacutainer and tubing. She rubbed a little of her blood under Damon's nose. The smell made him start awake and his mouth opened. She pushed the tube in under his tongue.

"Drink, sweetheart. You need blood. I'll get more for you, but get started with this." He had told her a long time ago that her blood made him high. Time to test that theory. She watched as the liquid trickled down his throat and he coughed and then he started sucking on the tubing. She could feel the blood flowing faster, and then pulled the needle from her arm. She allowed him to drain the tubing and the vacutainer, loosened the tourniquet and bent her arm to stop the bleeding.

He gave her a sleepy, lazy smile. "That was so good, baby. Makes me feel so good."

"I'm glad," she said. "You stay right there while I get you some more warmed up." She grabbed the cooler and warmed three bags in the microwave, stowing the rest in the fridge. By the time she got back to the porch, Damon was able to sit up and look around.

She broke the seal on the first bag and handed it to him. He drank it eagerly and stared at her. "How long have I been here?" he asked.

"About six hours." She handed him the second bag and he drained it, too.

"I feel like hell," he said.

"You look it and smell like it, too. Where did you come from?"

He thought that over. "Last I remember, I was in North Carolina. I'm kinda fuzzy on the details."

"I am not surprised," she replied, handing him the third bag and he drained that one.

He looked down at himself. "I'm disgusting." He smelled his shirt. "Pot, booze and I don't know what all." He looked at her in confusion. "How can you want me here?"

She shook her head. "Because, you big pathetic lump, you came to me for help. I can't turn you away. Besides, I love you. Come on. Let's get you upstairs, washed and into some fresh clothes, how about it?"

"Sounds like a plan," he said. "Thank you. When I'm clean, I'll thank you like you should be thanked."

Lindsey smiled at him. "I'm just glad you're here. I've been missing you. Let's get you cleaned up." She could tell he was still tired and shaky. It hurt her to see Damon like that. How in God's name did he get hooked on heroin?

She had clothes for him in her room, since he had been known to show up unannounced. She tossed his old clothes and put his boots on the upper porch so they could air out. Even his socks were beyond nasty. They went in the garbage, too. As Damon got out of what had to be the longest shower ever, she handed him a pair of sleep pants and a T-shirt. "Lie down, get comfortable and rest," she commanded.

"Lie down with me?" he asked as he lay back on the bed.

"Of course," she answered. She fluffed his pillows and slipped under the sheet with him. He immediately turned on his side and fitted his body to hers. He had made good use of the toothbrush and mouthwash she gave him and he smelled like her Damon again.

"Thank you, baby. Thank you," he mumbled, and drifted into true sleep.

Lindsey only napped for a little while. She watched Damon sleep for several minutes, and satisfied he was really resting, she eased out of the bed and went downstairs. Maybe, once he was back on his feet, he would stay a while with her. She knew she shouldn't expect it, but goodness, she had missed him! It had been two years since she had seen him, and that was only for a couple of weeks.

Her cell rang and she answered it. It was Jakob. "Hey. Damon's better. Three bags of blood and some fresh from the vein, and he showered, shaved and he's zonked out in the bed. I figure rest is the best thing for him, now."

"You're probably right," Jakob said. "But I talked to one of our doctors. She was a doctor before she was turned. Anyway, she said the main problem with vamps and heroin is that it kind of acts like the humanity switch, but without taking away the good parts, like being able to care. It just numbs the bad feelings for a while. That's the part that's so hard to kick. It's tough to have to feel all that crap and then deal with it. She said some vamps she knows stay on a low dose all the time, but only if they have someone to make sure they feed like they need to, and to monitor their dosages."

"So on a low dose, they don't build up a tolerance and start needing more for the same effect?" Lindsey asked.

"Apparently not. It's sort of like Prozac. It kind of evens out the mood."

"Hmm. Did she have any suggestions?"

"Well, she said the worst of the withdrawal will be over in about 24 hours. At least that's shorter than it is for humans. She said just reassure him and keep an eye on him to make sure he doesn't take any more."

"Tough to get this far out in the middle of nowhere," Lindsey said. "Did you ask her about the pot?"

"Yeah. She said don't let him have any of that, either. It gives vamps the same effect as humans – gives them the munchies. And not for food, either. Which is probably why he was using it, since the heroin diminishes the appetite."

"I see. Well, I've already trashed all the drugs I found in his car, so that's gone. And I've got the keys squirrelled away so he can't find them, unless he knows how to hot-wire a car, which wouldn't surprise me."

Jakob laughed. "Me either. But I think he's going to stay a while with you. Call it a funny feeling I've got. He came to you for a reason, and I think he's going to stay for a few weeks, anyway."

"You know I'll keep him as long as he wants to stay. He always has a home here, if he wants one, and if you're ever in the vicinity, you're welcome, too."

"That's sweet of you, Lindsey. I'm just glad Damon has someone who cares about him. Take care and keep me posted."

"I'll do it. Thanks for calling." She clicked off the call and went to the Camaro, trash bags in hand, to clean out the garbage.

Two hours later, she was satisfied with her work. She had cleaned the car out, and then took it to the car wash to get it washed and vacuumed. It looked like a different vehicle inside and out.

As she pulled into the drive, Lindsey saw Damon standing on the porch. When he spotted the car, he sped to her. His eyes were wild. "Where the hell have you been and what were you doing to my car?" He was frantic.

"I just cleaned it out and took it to get it washed. It was completely trashed inside." Her voice was soft. "It needed vacuuming. So I did that for you. Doesn't it look better?"

He backed up a couple of steps. "Yeah, I guess it does. Thanks."

"You're welcome." She slowly got out of the car and dropped the keys in her purse. Damon was looking into the car.

"Did you throw everything away?"

"I did."

"Everything? How could you? I needed that stuff!" The wildness was back in his eyes.

"It was killing you. I couldn't leave it."

He sped around the car and grabbed Lindsey by the shoulders. She was terrified, but wasn't going to show it. She hadn't been this frightened of Damon since those early days in Nashville. "It's none of your damn business what I take! I needed that! What am I gonna do without it?"

Lindsey looked into his eyes as calmly as she could manage. "You asked for my help. That's part of it. I'm helping you because I love you, Damon. I love you." Carefully, she reached to his hair and scratched his scalp.

His face crumpled. "I love you too, Lindsey." She almost exhaled in relief until rage crossed his features again and he growled, "I didn't tell you that you could get rid of my stuff." He shook her sharply, and her neck felt close to snapping.

"Damon, I love you, but you're hurting me. Please let me go." How she managed to keep her voice soft and calm, she would never know.

Anguish replaced rage and he dropped his hands. "I'd never hurt you, Lindsey. You know that. You know I'd never, ever hurt you."

"I know. I know you wouldn't. You're coming down from that stuff, and your emotions are all over the place. I talked to Jake. He said it would be about 24 hours. He talked to a doctor."

"You called him?" Damon advanced on her again.

Lindsey held up her hands. "Damon, you were passed out on my porch, filthy as a pig and stinking like a crack house. I needed some help from someone who knew more about this than I did."

"And he said it took 24 hours."

"Roughly, yes. So let's go inside and you sit down and let your body heal. You were covered in bruises and scabs when you got here. Heroin inhibits your body's ability to heal."

"What are you, a doctor?"

"No, but you were starting to desiccate. Your fingertips were bluish and shriveled. They're still not quite right, but they're better."

Damon looked at his hands, then at Lindsey. "I don't feel so hot."

"I'm not surprised. You expended all your energy. Let's go inside, sweetheart. I'll bring you some blood and you'll feel better, OK?" She knew that telling addicts to calm down or get themselves together was the worst thing you could do, and as temperamental as Damon was anyway, well... She wasn't in the mood to have her neck snapped.

She walked him inside, sat him down on the sofa and brought him a warm bag of blood. "Here you go, sweetheart," she said.

Damon took the bag and drained it fairly quickly. Fortunately, the cooler was full. "I'm sorry," he said. "I don't know what happened to me out there."

"I understand. Do you remember how you got into this situation?"

He shrugged. "Bad decision-making, as usual. I got in with some people who told me the heroin would help my cravings, and it did. Until I started craving heroin more than the blood. It blunted the guilt. I wanted anything that would do that."

"What were you feeling so guilty about?"

He looked at her, shame all over his face. "You don't want to know."

She nodded. She probably didn't. "I wish it were under better circumstances, but I'm still glad you're here."

He gave her a sad smile. "I didn't know what else to do. I didn't want to go to Virginia. I couldn't stand the thought of seeing Stefan, smirking at me, all self-righteous. And you tell me every time I talk to you that I'm always welcome, that you're always glad to see me, no matter what. This was the only place I could come where I knew I wouldn't be kicked out."

"Never. I'll never kick you out. Well, unless you start dragging bodies here. Then we might have to have a discussion." She was sitting next to him and stroked his hair.

"You hate what I'm capable of, but you love me. How do you do that?" he said, leaning his head to hers.

"I know what's underneath. That's what I love."

He sighed. "Seen anything of our crazy friends?"

"It's been quiet. You?"

"Occasionally, but I saw them before they saw me. So they lived and I left."

"Good man. You need something to occupy your time and keep you out of trouble," she said.

He snorted. "Yeah, right. Got any suggestions?"

"I'll think about it. But half your problems come about because you're bored and you just naturally find trouble."

"How often do you talk to Jake?"

"Three or four times a year. He's doing well."

Damon shook his head. "Jake always does well. How much blood do I have with me?"

"A fair bit. Need some more?" He nodded and Lindsey went to heat up a bag.

She brought it to him and he drained it and looked much more like himself. His color was coming back and his fingertips were no longer blue. He took Lindsey's hand and pulled her to his lap and held her close. She sighed into his chest and buried her nose in his scent. He stroked her hair and then tipped her chin up to kiss her. He nuzzled her face and her neck. "You smell so good. Can I, please?"

She knew what he was asking and she moved her hair back from her neck. "Yeah, just be careful."

"I will. That's why I wanted that bag just now – so I could taste you without worrying. You're so delicious," he murmured, and Lindsey felt the pinch of his fangs, then the bliss of his mouth on her skin. The best part was always when he licked the wounds clean. He had recovered enough that his blood was healing again so he closed the wounds and started kissing and licking more of the skin on her neck. He was kissing her ears and murmuring sweet words. "Your blood heals me. Your touch heals me, you heal me, Lindsey," he whispered. "I need you."

"I need you, Damon," she whispered back. She wanted him right then, but knew he was still weak, in spite of five bags of blood and feeding from her. She didn't want him to pass out again. So, she had him lie on the sofa with her, spooning until actual hunger roused her. "Honey, I have to go find some food. I haven't eaten a bite since I've been up. I've been occupied."

"I'm sorry, babe," he said, as he opened his arms so she could get up.

"It's all right. But it is lunch time and then some. I have leftover spaghetti and meatballs, with homemade red sauce. Want some?"

"That sounds delicious." He followed her to the kitchen. "Why can I walk into your kitchen and I'm hungry for food, when I'm not any other time?"

"Because you know what kinds of good stuff comes out of my kitchen," Lindsey said with a smirk.

"You got that right. Good thing I don't gain weight. You'd put 20 pounds on me just in a weekend."

"I hope you're planning on staying longer than a weekend this time," she said as she put the food in a large pot to heat.

He chuckled. "Well, the reception was warm and the hospitality has been excellent, so I'll consider it."

Lindsey smiled at him. "Good to know."

"How's the newspaper business?"

"Could be better, but we're holding our own. We have an older demographic, so digital isn't as big a deal. The old folks like a paper they can hold in their hands. As long as that's the case, we can keep publishing a newspaper."

"I don't think you ever told me why you were looking for a job in Nashville to start with."

"Did I not?" She set a plate in front of Damon. "The paper I worked for folded."

"So you were looking for bigger fish to fry?"

"Something like that." She grinned at him. "Went looking for a job. Ended up with a nutcase vampire. How's that for a cosmic joke?" She winked at him.

He smirked at her and ate the spaghetti. "Mmmmm. That red sauce is delicious. How do you do it? It's better than the restaurants, even."

"I hope so. You really want to know?" He nodded, his mouth full. "I sautee the onions in a whole stick of butter."

He shook his head. "Glad I can't get heart disease, either."

"I usually freeze this so I have it around when I don't feel like cooking, but fortunately, with you here, I feel like cooking."

Damon mopped up the rest of the sauce with a piece of garlic bread. Seeing Lindsey's amused expression, he said, "Hey, I'm being mannerly. If you weren't here, I'd just lick the plate."

"Easy clean-up," she answered and he laughed. She cleared the table and brought out what were obviously baking ingredients.

"What'cha making?" he asked.

"Fellowship dinner after church tomorrow, so I'm making brownies. I think I'll have a few extra, though," she said with a grin.

"Do I have to sit through church to get to the food?"

"Well, it wouldn't hurt you, that's for sure, and that's the generally accepted way of doing things, but if you insist on being a heathen, I'll bring you a plate," she answered.

He grinned at her. "You know you can't tell me no."

"I can. It just depends on what we're talking about. I try to pick my battles carefully."

"So dealing with me is a battle?" He looked a little pouty.

She kissed the top of his head. "Dealing with you is a delightful challenge, and one that I enjoy."

"It's the sex, right?"

"Doesn't hurt," she teased.

"So now I'm just a piece of meat."

Lindsey turned to face him, her eyes twinkling. "Well, other men are just average ground beef. You, my sweet, are top grade T-bone. Makes a difference."

He chuckled. "I ought to be insulted, but somehow, I'm not."

"Quality does count. Make yourself useful, as well as extremely ornamental, and load the dishwasher, please?"

"Sure." He did as she asked. "You know, you've hardly even touched the account I set up for you. I don't track your purchases or anything, but I do check on it to see if you need it topped off."

"No one to spend it on but me, and I can only buy so much make-up. I have made some repairs to the house, though, so it has come in handy. And I really appreciate knowing it's there if I do need it."

He smiled, and watched, fascinated as Lindsey measured ingredients, apparently from memory, and stirred the brownies together. She added the vanilla and Damon sniffed the air appreciatively. "That's the good stuff, not artificial," he said.

"Of course. I'm not wasting my money on the artificial kind. This is homemade. I make it every year. I get two vanilla beans and put them in a bottle of vodka. Makes a great flavoring."

Damon moved to the counter and poured a drop of the flavoring on his finger and tasted it. "Mmm. That is good."

"Tahitian vanilla. I ordered the beans online."

"Good stuff. And what's this? Gourmet cocoa?"

She glanced at it. "Yeah. Also ordered online. Makes awesome brownies and chocolate cake."

"I had no idea you were such a foodie," he picked at her.

She snorted. "I'm not. I'm just willing to pay a little more for some ingredients, cocoa being one of them."

He hovered over her as she finished stirring the batter, but never could quite get an angle to taste it. She glared at him as she poured it into the pan. She handed him the wooden spoon. "Here. I know you're having a fit to taste the batter."

Damon grinned as he dragged his finger through the batter on the spoon and licked it. "I think the gourmet cocoa is a good choice," he said.

"Glad you like it. So tell me something."

She had that tone in her voice. "So, what about vampire life do you urgently need to know, now?"

"I'm assuming you've read at least some of Anne Rice's books."

"Oh yeah. She was so on it."

"Well, 'Interview' was on cable the other week and I watched it again. Tom Cruise is such a creep. Anyway, you remember Lestat turned the little girl, Claudia. How often does that really happen? That children are turned?"

Damon wrinkled his nose in distaste. "I never did like that part. Not often, thankfully. For obvious reasons. I think I've met one vampire who was a child when they were turned. I hear they're more common in Europe. They were turned during outbreaks of the Black Death, mostly accidentally, I'm betting."

"As if the epidemics weren't bad enough."

"Different times," Damon said.

"I know. Glad I didn't live in them."

"Me too. There was enough quack medicine going around in 1864."

"Any time before antibiotics," Lindsey said. She turned to him and put her hand on his cheek. "How you feeling?"

"Better. Rational."

"Rational is always good," she replied with a smile.

"I'm sorry I scared you out there. I wasn't in my right mind." He felt he had to apologize again.

"I know you weren't."

"How can you still love me?"

She kissed his cheek. "How can you explain love to start with? Now, when the notion takes you, you can be a first class jackass. But I love the man underneath all that who's sweet and tender, and who makes me feel like I'm worth loving."

"There's no way I can be all that to you," he said.

"You already are." She checked the brownies. "Give them another 15 minutes or so."

They sat at the table, talking of inconsequential things, about her week at the paper, the people she talked to and worked with, and life in a small town. When the timer went off, she pulled the brownies out of the oven and set them to cool on the counter.

"Is my being here messing up any plans you had?"

"I didn't have any plans, except to plant some zinnias I got at the garden center a couple of days ago. Otherwise, I was going to read and take it easy. So no, you're not interrupting a thing."

He smiled. "That's good. I'll help you plant your flowers, if you want me to."

"That is an offer I cannot refuse," she said. They went outside and shortly, Damon was lugging a 50-pound bag of garden soil around the yard and not even complaining about it.

"I'm not ruining my shirt. I don't have many shirts here," he muttered and took it off, leaving it on the railing on the back porch. Lindsey glanced at him as he returned to the hummingbird feeder where she was planting some of the flowers. Her grin was wicked.

"Getting into the spirit of this whole landscaping thing?" she said innocently, but her eyes were twinkling at him.

"Just don't want to mess up my shirt," he said.

"That's what washing machines are for," she replied.

"No kidding," he said dryly.

"No, really! They're great!" She laughed when Damon gave her one of his patented eye rolls.

"Someone's coming up the drive," he said.

"Oh?" Lindsey looked to see a familiar vehicle pull up. "It's just Melanie, one of my coworkers," she said.

Damon straightened up from his crouch by the flowers to see Lindsey walk over to the woman's car.

"Hey," she said. "Mark and I are going on vacation next week, so I wanted to return your book before I forgot it." She handed the book to Lindsey.

"Oh, thanks. I wasn't worried about it."

Melanie saw Damon standing by the house, hands on his hips, jeans riding low on his waist. Her eyes nearly popped. "Lindsey, is there something you've been keeping from me?" she said with a grin.

Lindsey wiggled her eyebrows and mouthed, "That's Damon."

Melanie took another look at him. "Holy cow. And I'm 55 and too old for him."

Lindsey grinned. "And happily married. And a good, church-going woman."

"That too. Darn it. Good Lord, woman. I should have known him from your descriptions, but..."

"They don't do him justice. I know." Melanie only knew Lindsey had an occasional visit from a hot guy named Damon. She didn't know all the particulars. "He's helping me plant some flowers."

Melanie chuckled. "Send him my way. He can help me next. When did he get here?"

"This morning. I didn't know he was in the area. He just rolled in." Well, that was the literal truth. Melanie left the engine running, and Lindsey hoped it would mask their voices. No guarantees.

"Think you can hang on to him this time?" She knew Damon wasn't exactly the commitment type.

"I'll try, but I can't tie him down. He wouldn't stand for it."

Damon could hear every word, but obviously, Lindsey's friend didn't know anything she ought not to know. Still, her words gave him an odd feeling; he was still coming down from the heroin, and his emotions were still scattered. Lindsey's statement that he wouldn't stand to be tied down, while true, still made him want to go to her, hold her and cry that she, of all people, could tie him and he would stay. But he couldn't do that, and he knew it. He had other business – business that finally included Mystic Falls. He knew Lindsey would always be in his life as long as hers lasted, but he had a chance to open that tomb at last, to release Katherine. He had to try.

"O.K. Mel. Glad you enjoyed the book," he heard Lindsey say. "You and Mark have a good trip."

"Thanks, Lindsey. See you next week," she answered and pulled away. Lindsey put the book on the front porch and walked back around to where Damon was.

"What did you tell her about us?" he asked.

"You sneaky little eavesdropper," she said. "Not a whole lot. But she's my best friend at the paper, and I had to tell somebody! You're a tough secret to keep. I live in the country, but not in a bubble. Someone was bound to see you at some point. This way, no one asks any awkward questions."

"That makes sense, I guess," he said. "So you wouldn't try to tie me down?"

"Not hardly. I know better than that. You either stay because that's what you want to do, or you leave because that's what you want to do. You know what's here and what I'm willing to give you. That hasn't changed, and it won't."

Damon, ever mercurial, took her shoulders and looked her in the eyes. "So, what, exactly, is it you're willing to give me?"

Lindsey returned his gaze and ran her hands along his arms. "What you've always had, Damon: my heart."

"Why can't you find some nice guy around here who actually deserves your heart?"

"Because you already have it. No other guys are you."

He dipped his mouth to hers and his kiss was so, so sweet. When he raised his head, his eyes were dark with passion. "If I didn't think some redneck in a truck might come by wanting to sell you something, I'd take you right here in the front yard," he growled.

"You horndog," she said.

"You know it." He wanted her urgently, and his jeans were definitely starting to get uncomfortable.

"I'm sweaty and dirty. I know I stink to high heaven," she answered.

He kissed her hard and then ran his nose up her neck. "I think you smell great. But if you insist on showering first, I'll be happy to help." He was telling the truth. Her natural fragrance was stronger in her sweat. All humans could smell was the bad odor, but he could pick up her sweetness under it, and as the sweat evaporated from her skin, it left the fragrance behind. And the way she smelled naturally was driving him crazy. He wished the furniture on the porch had enough room for comfortable sex, but it really didn't. He tugged her hand in the direction of the house.

"Damon, I really think you probably need a little more rest before we start anything. You were pretty wiped out this morning. Not that I don't want to, but maybe a little more recovery time might be good."

He pulled her head back by her ponytail and devoured her mouth. "We can do this in your bed, or in the backseat of the Camaro. Your choice. But we're about to be naked with me on top of you and inside your. Car or bed? Two seconds."

"Bed, then."

"All right." He started to speed them there, but she dug her heels in. "You're definitely going to pass out before you get started if we do that. It's fifty feet. Let's walk."

It took them entirely too long to get to the bedroom, in Damon's opinion, but he shortened the time by starting the undressing process on the way up. Lindsey's T-shirt was on the stairs and his jeans were on the landing. He pushed her back on the still unmade bed and was on top of her before she could do anything but giggle helplessly. She pulled the sheet over them. Her shorts had disappeared at some point, and he just pushed her underwear to one side and entered her in one smooth motion. Lindsey nearly climaxed right then. No man had touched her since Damon, and probably, no man ever would. She was arching her body to meet his, and he was thrusting and chanting her name. "I need you, woman," he growled. He turned her so he was behind her, and kept moving, only now he could reach her folds, and he stroked her.

"Come for me, Lindsey. I need you to come all over me," he rasped in her ear.

"I'm close," she managed.

"I know." He took her hand and slipped his under it. "Show me how to touch you."

"You know how to touch me, Damon."

"No. Show me. Show me or I'm tying you spread-eagled to the bed and I'm screwing your brains out until you pass out. Show me." He didn't know how he had neglected to do this with her, as many times as they been together. He pulled out of her body. "Show me," he said again.

Lindsey guided his hands to her center, and placed his middle finger against her opening and guided it up to her button, where she showed him the exact amount of pressure she liked, and then repeated the movement.

Damon growled in earnest as he brought his finger through her wetness and to her sweet spot, over and over, holding Lindsey against his chest as he touched her. She had gone rigid with need, and he had no idea where her mind was. The back of her head rested on his shoulder, and her eyes were closed. He kept touching her, and he could feel her start to spasm around his fingers. He turned her on her back and entered her again, feeling her close around him, knowing she was climaxing, but she wasn't making a sound, other than her rapid breathing. He found his release and she went limp in his arms.

He gathered her to his chest and whispered softly in her ear, "Anybody home?" He got a tiny whimper in response. Well, she was conscious. He started rubbing her back and she murmured in pleasure. She mumbled something he didn't quite catch. He licked her ear. "What was that again?" he whispered to her.

She raised her head a fraction of an inch from the pillow. "Hedonist man slut," she said.

Damon grinned widely. He loved this woman. "Is that a good thing?"

"Unfortunately, yes," she answered before she fell asleep.

"I'll take the compliment then," he said, chuckling.

The afternoon light was dim when Lindsey finally managed to wake up enough to get to the bathroom. She was going to be sore, but she didn't care. Damon was back in her house and her bed, and that's all that mattered to her.

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