The man who killed a woman in another county was no longer a man. She stood before a body length mirror and examined her body. The mark was there, but there was also a scar over her chest on the left. She had to admit the ability to shift was incredibly wonderful. Lynch had never known her. Soon, they would meet. Soon, she would have her revenge.
Five days had passed since Lynch learned of the murder in Calember County. An equal amount of time passed since he had had a dream more unusual than the norm. This led him to believe his sense of the murder must have been a fluke. Although he was more than angry with Andy and Jenna for setting up the dinner, he still remained as close to them as ever. He discussed it with Andy one morning.
His words were with Lynch today as he completed his usual routine after work. It was Wednesday, which meant it was another day to run. Lynch’s feet pounded the pavement in a rhythmic pattern that was dizzying. Andy told Lynch that he was sensitive to things; he knew things that others couldn’t possibly understand. It didn’t matter what the victim had suffered, even if she had bite marks on her body. Lynch simply picked up on it because he had the talent. There were many disadvantages of immortality, but there were more advantages than he could have imagined. His hearing, sight, and understanding of the way the world worked were clearly good things. His dream was nothing more than a premonition. It had to be. After all, Lynch hadn’t harmed a human in over a century. That fact, by itself, should give him the comfort he needed to work through his dream. See it for what it is, Lynch, Andy had said. Pay attention. When you have another dream like it, know that something has happened, not that you have done anything. Andy’s knowledge was golden.
Shaking it off for the time being, Lynch continued on his run, forcing out the bad, bringing in the good. The day he heard of the murder was one of the worst he had lived in a very long time. Today was much better, even if it meant Hugh and Callie would be having dinner with him in a few days. Something about the whole affair smelled badly to Lynch. As Andy pointed out, he had the ability to pick out certain energies. That surrounding his two closest confidants was one of utter bullshit. Neither Andy nor Jenna had the slightest interest in welcoming Callie to the neighborhood. LeVale was small; they had few people moving in. When they did, Jenna never mentioned the urge to have anyone over. He didn’t understand how she expected him to believe it. He asked about it plenty, of course. What did he hear from Jenna? Absolutely nothing, that’s what. It was enough to drive him crazy.
He didn’t want to admit it, but both Jenna and Callie were getting under his skin enough to make him feel incredibly uncomfortable. Both were alike while being rather different. Jenna was older, wiser, more experienced. She had been living with him and Andy for a better part of twenty years. Despite this, she was hard to figure out at times. Like now. When she wanted to talk, she didn’t care if Lynch was too tired for it. She would drive him nuts until he finally broke down. However, if he wanted to know something, she would be tight lipped for days, years. Their relationship was like a marriage, exhaustive sometimes, yet appealing at others. Callie was younger, completely unknown territory. Her words the last time they saw each other stunned him, giving her a piece of his brain, one that would need to be mulled over before anything could make sense. He saw her as a kid, much like her brother did. Callie thought he was probably in his thirties. She had no idea of his age, of his true footprint on the globe. She had no idea. None. Some time ago, Lynch swore off women, even prostitutes that he used every so often. There were no attachments with whores; there were plenty at home.
As he ran today, he wondered what his true motives were with Jenna. When he had begun to have feelings for her, he absolutely knew what the problem was: her mortality. The day would come when she died. Since learning what it meant to live forever, he had watched more than his share of loved ones dying. Each death left him emptier than the one before it. If he took a life partner, she would not stay with him for eternity. He couldn’t watch it in that sense ever again. Now, it was more complicated. Lynch remembered how it was possible to change halfway during lovemaking. It was true. Before he loved Jenna, he loved someone else.
Lynch promised himself to never utter her name again as long as he stayed alive. He never thought of her mother, his father, or the man responsible for killing them all. He would never forget her or how much she meant to him. He had passed on the curse to her the first time they made love. His change was halfway, the transformation incomplete. The instant his canine teeth pricked her dark skin, he knew it was too late. When he confessed to what he had done, she didn’t care. She loved him deeply and openly, she was prepared to stay with him forever. Naïve, he believed it would be so. It wasn’t. Nothing Lynch ever loved stayed. Her own stepfather murdered her, her mother, and his father, burning them alive in a warehouse with a silver laced bolt on the door. Silver could kill a lycan in massive quantities; fire was quicker, much so. It was the only other way to efficiently end the life of a lycan, by burning him or her to mere ashes. When she died, Lynch was tempted to set himself on fire. The pain of her death was almost too much to bear. Bore it, though, he did.
Bent on revenge, Lynch hunted the murderer down. It would be the first human’s life he took without the need to feed. He wouldn’t admit the sheer joy he felt as he watched the life’s blood draining out of his body. Like some cheesy image from a horror movie, he threw back his head and literally howled. Only the most sensitive of ears heard it. Those that did shuddered uncontrollably. It wasn’t a sound that was supposed to offer comfort. It provided the antithesis of it. He walked away from the body, swearing never to allow this to happen again. From that moment on, when the desires of the flesh overtook him, he chose booze, then the nearest whore.
His sharp ears heard the quick ‘rap rap’ of a familiar step. He prayed that it would not be so. He was sorely disappointed. Within minutes, the other runner caught up to him easily enough. Lynch pretended to ignore her. It was simply no use.
“Hello again,” Callie said breathlessly. “We need to stop meeting like this.”
Lynch hated a bad cliché more than anything. It didn’t stop the stupid grin from forming on his lips. He slowed his stride to be more in tune with hers. “You caught up pretty quickly, didn’t you? I must be losing my pepper.”
He expected her to laugh, mention his age. Instead, she shook her head. “Nonsense. I really had to push myself to catch up.”
Oh dear God. Don’t tell me she was trying to catch me. He managed to look at her, noticing immediately that the bruise she had been sporting since moving here was gone. It had marred her face horribly and he was glad to see it gone. Small talk wasn’t a part of his forte. “How are you?”
“Better,” she said with a smile. “I think I’m finally getting used to living down here.”
“Good. Any word from the university?”
Apparently, Hugh had told Lynch that she was waiting on baited breath to find out if she had been accepted. “As of today, no.” She ran for a while next to him without speaking. Sooner or later, she had to say something. “Lynch, do you mind if I talk to you?”
Completely caught off guard by her question, he slowed even more. She noticed and slowed down as well. He had a few ideas running through his mind about what was on hers. How could he get out of this odd situation without hurting her feelings? “About?” He finally asked.
“I’d rather not mention it out here…in the open,” she began, “my brother and I are having dinner at your place in a few days. Do you think you could give me a tour of the grounds then? We could talk during it.”
His time worn heart began to bang inside his chest. He wanted to deny her request, but he was intrigued at the same time. “I think I could arrange that.”
“Thank you, Lynch,” she said, her voice giving away how relieved she was. “I think I can help you. I think you can help me, too.”
He was about to ask what the hell she meant. Before the words could form, she had turned so she could run in the opposite direction. The last time he saw her, she left him much in the same fashion. What was it with her and running away? Women were always a mystery to him. Callie Norwood was no exception.
Hugh told Callie what she should expect when they arrived at Lynch’s broken down house. She thought she might see a home on the bitter side of putrid, smelly, with rats slinking along the sideboards. The house was in ill repair, but besides that, it was beautiful to her tired eyes. There appeared to be three floors, each with its own porch railing. What she assumed were the bedrooms had their own balconies, French doors, and antique light fixtures. It reminded her of old plantation houses she had seen in the movies. If the paint job had been newer, if this in fact was a movie, perhaps a southern belle would waltz out onto her private balcony and wait for her beau to come along.
Smiling as she got out of the car, she saw that Lynch’s home was surrounded by woods as far as her eyes could see. Trees littered the entire property. She identified firs, oaks, and magnolias. That wasn’t all. Here and there amongst the others were various fruit baring trees that certainly didn’t belong in this climate. Some were apple, others peach, and what seemed like hundreds of pecan. Pecan trees were native to the state, so she could imagine thousands of nuts lying on the ground waiting to be picked. Although her conversation with Lynch tonight would be serious, she couldn’t wait to explore the property thoroughly. She hoped dinner was a swift affair.
At the door, they were met by a tall, thin man who introduced himself as Andy Hoff. Callie noticed the way he eyed her. It wasn’t in a particularly rude manner. Instead, it was more along the lines of curiosity. She smiled politely when she passed him to enter the living room. The house might have been in need of a carpenter, but she surely couldn’t say the same about the furnishings. They were modern, beginning with the huge overstuffed sectional sofa, recliners, and the flat screen TV hanging on the wall. Callie could sense Lynch all over this room. They followed Andy down the long, expansive hallway into a den area that almost matched the living room. The furniture here was simply another color. The moment Callie and Hugh entered the dining room, she was certain she was in another time. The table was made of heavy oak, polished to a bright sheen. The chairs were of the same wood with thick cushioned seats. The only thing Callie could think was incredible.
Lynch entered the dining room from the kitchen. He was carrying a bowl overflowing with a green salad. He was dressed simply in blue jeans and a light blue button down shirt. His appearance took Callie’s breath away. She was again struck by his good looks, the way he carried himself with authority. Her brother was a cop as well, but tonight, Lynch was the one with the most confidence. She could clearly see that now.
Lynch noticed Callie the instant she entered the room with Hugh. She had on another maxi dress. This one was a solid shade of purple. It wasn’t an easy color for any woman to wear, especially one with red hair. Yet, she wore it better than any other person he had met thus far. She had pulled her hair away from her face again, revealing her youthful beauty. He wanted to speak to her first. Instead, he found himself saying something juvenile and stupid to her brother.
Andy dove into the kitchen as Jenna came out to greet the guests. She saw the way Lynch was looking at the younger woman. A pang of jealousy struck her. It went away almost instantly. Any ideas Lynch had about her would be pushed aside tonight. She was certain that Callie had secrets, the kind that could harm Lynch in the long run. She bumped around Lynch to set a platter of rolls on the table.
As soon as Jenna entered the room, Callie’s eyes fell on the other woman. She had on a weird shirt dress belted at the waist. It seemed like clothing that a woman might have worn in another decade. On her, however, it immediately became a current sensation. The lavender shade of it complimented her blonde hair enormously. Callie didn’t believe herself to be a super model. Even so, she wasn’t bad looking. Jenna’s beauty made Callie feel inadequate. Did she feel as if Lynch’s roommate had somehow become her adversary? She didn’t know. What she did know was that Jenna Vos was gorgeous, and she suddenly understood why Lynch would have feelings for her.
They began dinner not fifteen minutes later. It seemed the meal was specially made for Hugh. They served all his favorites: fried chicken, green salad, baked potatoes, rolls, and Jenna announced they would have peach pie with ice cream for dessert. Callie picked at her food. She wasn’t crazy about any type of meat these days. Not only that, but she was ready for her tour around the property as well. There was a glass of wine beside her, which she hadn’t touched. It turned out that she wasn’t much of a drinker, either. It did quell her nerves, though. She picked up the glass, felt it oddly slick, and it glided wondrously out of her fingers. It hit the dinner table and shattered. The delicate noise it made drew everyone’s attention away from their food. Slightly embarrassed, Callie mumbled an apology, immediately setting out to pick up the pieces. When she grabbed the first one, it snagged her finger.
“Damn,” she hissed under her breath. Her blood was easy to flow, so it didn’t take long for it to drop onto the shattered glass in large plops. “I’m so sorry.”
Jenna jumped to her feet before Lynch could oblige. “Nonsense,” she said gently. “I’m clumsy as an ox myself.”
Callie watched as she carefully collected the broken shards. Her actions were a bit too careful for her taste. Normally, people made quick work of such disasters. It seemed as if Jenna were collecting the glass rather than clearing it. Why did this bother her? The surface of it felt wrong, different. “Can I help?”
Jenna shook her head. “No, that’s quite all right. I’ll get you something for your finger and you can finish your dinner.”
Callie was not the only person to believe something was out of place here. Lynch noticed immediately. He was listening to Hugh as he told one of his battle ground stories to Andy. His eyes were focused on Jenna. The moment Hugh finished the story, leaving Andy in hysterics, Lynch excused himself and said he wanted to help Jenna in the kitchen.
He saw Jenna as she carefully set the bloodied glass on a napkin. The moment she noticed Lynch, she tried to pretend she was busy checking on the pie. “What are you up to, Jenna?”
She smiled his way. “Nothing. I’m cleaning up, giving our guest a helping hand.”
“Bullshit,” he said calmly. “When everyone leaves tonight, we’re having a heart to heart. Got it?”
Jenna saw that Lynch was half amused, half serious. He had drunk wine the first time in many years. It had likely gone straight to his head. “Got it.”
Callie begged off dessert later, surprising Hugh. He knew she loved peach pie. She told her brother that Lynch had promised her a tour around the property. He shrugged his shoulders, muttering it was ‘her loss,’ and then wolfed down two huge bites of pie. Jenna and Andy stayed behind with Hugh. As they left the dinner table, Callie couldn’t help but notice that Jenna’s eyes followed Lynch out of the room.
Lynch took Callie outside via the door in the kitchen. She noticed it had a beautiful southern style awning over it. She thought it made the house even classier. Before they moved into the yard, he flicked on a switch by the door. It bathed the property beyond in light that should have been brassy, antiseptic. There was just enough brightness to see well without attracting every bug east of the Mississippi.
She walked at Lynch’s side for a very long time without speaking. He did a lot of talking, telling her about the trees, the land, and how he absolutely loved living here. She enjoyed listening to him speak. He never bored her, like most men his age. He didn’t hit on her. He shared history with her, stories that made her forget why she wanted to be alone with him in the first place. It was shattered before long.
“What did you mean by that comment you made, Callie?”
She didn’t realize at first that he had stopped walking. She was a few paces ahead of him. Callie stopped, approached where he stood by a tall oak tree. “I think I know your secret,” she began.
Lynch saw that she looked vulnerable, very far away. She actually spoke as if she were miles ahead in the distance. It was surreal. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
He played it well, like any good cop would, she supposed. Her brother played the game quite well himself. It was what they did. “I never took you for a man who likes to play games, Lynch.”
Lynch smiled a trifle bitterly and scratched his head. “Funny, Callie, since you really don’t know me,” he said with an amused lilt to his voice. “Since we’re airing a few pieces of dirty laundry, you don’t seem like a typical victim of domestic violence.”
“Very intuitive, Detective Tackett,” she said with an ironic smile. “That’s because I’m not.”
In the house, Jenna left Andy and Hugh in the dining room. She served Hugh a second piece of pie before excusing herself. She told the men she wanted to get a jump on the mess. It wasn’t what she wanted to do at all. While Andy continued to be assaulted by Hugh’s colorful stories, Jenna took the broken glass downstairs to the basement. She wasted no time scraping a sample off the glass and gently placing it onto a slide. Within moments, she had the answers she needed. She returned to the kitchen and found herself staring out the window at Lynch with Callie.
“I didn’t think so,” Lynch said. “Women who come out of a violent relationship usually don’t start flirting with the first man they meet.”
“What made you such an expert on human behavior, Detective?” She crossed her arms before her. “Not everyone behaves the same. Basic psychology teaches you that.”
“What is it, Callie? What do you think we can do to help each other?”
It was obvious he had grown impatient. She couldn’t blame him, she had teased him enough. She needed to get to the point. “I know you’re immortal. I also know that you believe you killed a woman out in Calember County.”
Her words sent shock waves down his spine. There was no other way to define what he felt other than total, unexpected disbelief. He had hidden his secret for many, many years. No one outside their circle or ancestors knew. He was not about to give himself away to a woman he just met. “You need some help.”
Callie laughed saucily at his words. “Oh, that’s rich. I out your secret and the best you can do is suggest I’m insane.” She approached even closer to where he stood. To her surprise, he didn’t retreat. “I know by the mark on your hand, that was the first give away. My ex-boyfriend has a similar mark. He is a hybrid of sorts, he can shift into anything he wants. Once, I saw him shift into a woman with long dark hair. I also know because I was once immortal myself.”
“Ridiculous,” Lynch growled. He had never heard of any such immortal breed. The only species that could shift were lycans. He also understood that there was no such thing as being ‘once immortal.’ It didn’t work that way. It never had.
He tried to walk away from her, stopping only when he felt Callie’s hand clamping down on his forearm. “Clark never beat me, I lied about that. There is something impure inside him. He bit me on purpose because he knew the type of life I’d face. I played around until I created a protein strain that offers a cure. Before I moved here, I injected myself. I checked my blood, Lynch. It doesn’t exist inside me any longer. I’m cured. I want to cure you. Who is helping you? Jenna? Andy?”
“I don’t believe you,” he insisted. “I don’t believe any of this shit.”
Callie saw that his eyes were glowing. Only an immortal could do that when angered. “Lynch,” she whispered. “Let me help you. You’re a good man, one who needs to break free.”
“Collect your brother and leave my property. I don’t want to see you again.”
“That’s not true,” she told him. “I can feel how much you want this to be true. I will forever keep your secret, Lynch. I want to help you more than you’ll ever know.”
She leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss on his lips. She began to pull away to honor his wishes. What stopped her was how he responded to her kiss. Within moments, their kiss intensified. Before long, she felt her back hitting the oak tree. Lynch’s hands were all over her. If this was what it took to convince him, she was absolutely positively not about to stop him. What she didn’t realize was that it didn’t seem to be her face Lynch saw behind closed eyelids.
From the house, Jenna knew something was going on between Lynch and Callie. She wanted to move away from the window. She couldn’t. If she had eyes like Lynch’s, senses like his, she would know exactly what was happening. Lynch had these senses, of course. He knew Jenna was watching.
Lynch ended the kiss as abruptly as he initiated it. His hand was still on Callie’s face and she was smiling up at him gently. He sensed Jenna’s hurt, could taste it in his mouth. “You should go,” he told her as he slowly lowered his hand, moving away from her as if she physically hurt him.
“Are you going to let me help?” She asked, sorely disappointed that their kiss didn’t lead to further developments.
“I’ll call you later this week,” he promised. “I want to hear everything with no bullshit.”
It was the best offer she would receive. He wasn’t quite ready to admit his immortality. “You won’t.”
They walked back to the house together. Once inside, Lynch didn’t see Jenna anywhere. He automatically assumed she was in her room. For another half hour or so, Hugh told his stories, and then Callie suggested they should go. She feigned a headache, Hugh bought it, and they left, promising to return the favor by hosting a dinner at their place.
Andy was dying to find out what happened. Lynch wasn’t about to go into right now. He was more concerned about Jenna. He promised Andy they would discuss it later, and then he took off upstairs. As expected, Jenna was in her room, pretending to read a book. She had already put on one of her billowing nightgowns with the obvious intent of going to sleep, apparently not caring to discuss the night’s events.
“I know you saw that. Will you give a minute to explain?”
Jenna looked up from her book briefly to acknowledge his words. He stood in her doorway, leaning heavily on the frame. She sighed and asked, “What is there to explain? You’re not my husband.” She wanted to give him a full piece of her mind. She didn’t. Not yet. Instead, she said, “I set up Callie tonight, Lynch. I thought that she was responsible for the death in Calember County. I almost knew she was immortal, so I needed a sample of her blood. I was wrong, she isn’t.”
“She knows I am, Jenna,” he announced. “She claims she once was, that her boyfriend is, and she has a cure.”
Jenna threw her book aside and laughed sarcastically. “So you believed her? Always a sucker for a pretty girl, aren’t you? Is that why you kissed her?”
“I haven’t told her anything, Jenna. I don’t believe her, but I’m not letting her get away, either.” He slowly approached her bed and sat down at the foot. “I can’t explain it.”
She was quite tempted to kick him off her bed. “You’re confused,” she said with another heavy sigh. “I want to speak to her when you do. I’ll know if she is sprinkling her explanation with bullshit.”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea.” He saw that she was about to begin protesting, so he held up his hands. “Let me explain before you bulldoze into me. I don’t think it makes sense. I need to know more, and I’m sure she will not open up to me if you’re there.”
“You like her, don’t you?”
He lowered his head in disbelief before meeting her gaze. “Jenna, what does it matter?”
His tone of voice was pleading. She wanted to give in, to let him do what he wanted to do. “It matters because I love you,” she said stubbornly. “You kissed her tonight, Lynch. If you hadn’t sensed I was watching, you would have taken her up against that tree. You refuse to give your heart to me, but it’s obvious you want her. Why is she so different than I? She’s a mortal woman. I am a mortal woman.”
They had been having this discussion for several years. She asked the same questions as she did when he began to mess around with whores. He didn’t think of Callie as a whore. There was another thought process gnawing at his brain. Before he could help himself, he bluntly stated, “The difference, Jenna, is I don’t love her. I wasn‘t kissing her, I was kissing you.”
Was he finally admitting it? Was tonight the night? “What are you saying, Lynch?”
“What do you think I’m saying?” He was completely exasperated right now. All he wanted was a good night’s sleep. “I love you, Jenna. You know I do.”
Lynch was too tired for this, too tired for everything. Like a defeated soldier, he finally confessed, and he didn’t know how he felt about it. With that said, he was ready to get up and run for his bedroom, possibly locking the door behind him for good measure. He didn’t quite make it. Jenna came to him, leaning up on her knees, and kissed him. He was giving in, he was about to make love to her. The consequences were not what was on his mind. He was certain that no transformations were in store for him tonight, even a partial one. He was too exhausted for it.
Jenna broke their kiss after several long moments. She was ready, yet again, for him to withdraw. He surprised her by staying with her on her bed. Lynch kissed her again, his body slowly pushing her down. His hand heatedly moved from her face to the side of her body until it found the bottom of her nightgown. He left enough space between their bodies so he could slide up the garment. She wore nothing underneath. She sat up slightly to assist him in removing it.
His eyes roamed her body as restlessly as his hands. How many times had he imagined this moment? His imagination wasn’t as keen as he thought. Her skin was creamy, smooth, and as delicate as porcelain. Her body reminded him so much of another woman he had seen so many years ago, but hadn’t pierced his heart. Had Lydia Coyfield imprinted on his soul simply because she was the mother of the woman whose name he had tried to forget? Was this all a coincidence? Was this what he expected? He forced the thoughts out of his head, as his mouth placed gentle kisses along her neck, between her breasts, and just below her navel. She was trembling beneath him.
Lynch wanted to stop, to end this madness before it began. He had begun to psyche himself out to actually avoid this one more time, then he felt Jenna’s fingers at his shirt, unbuttoning it. Once unbuttoned, he struggled out of it, slinging it onto the floor. She worked at this belt next, then the snap and zipper of his jeans. He drew away from her long enough to discard the jeans and rid himself of his socks and shoes. The only barrier left was his underwear. Just as he was about to hook his thumbs under the elastic waistband, Jenna came up to her knees and lowered them for him. He closed his eyes tightly as her mouth planted gentle nipping bites at his lower chest and stomach. His shorts slid lower, lower still before finally resting at his feet. He kicked them aside and came back to her on the bed.
As they shared another kiss, their bodies molded together. Both of them were on fire, ready to make love to each other. Jenna broke the kiss first, her eyes searching Lynch’s. She was giving him the chance to walk away. It would hurt incredibly. Despite that, she would let him leave if he wanted. He had a choice. He would always have it.
“I won’t leave you this time,” he whispered down to her. “I love you, Jenna. I’m sorry I never told you until tonight.”
She didn’t know if it was the wine, their disagreement, or if he half way believed Callie Norwood. Whatever it was, he had given in. He decided he wanted to be hers now. Would tomorrow bring the same? Day after day? Year after year? She didn’t care. She wasn’t thinking of that right now.
“I love you, too.”
He entered her then, bringing her into his world more intimately than he ever had before. When it happened, she certainly didn’t see it coming. If her eyes hadn’t been closed so tightly, she surely would have noticed. Perhaps she didn’t want to notice. Jenna sank her teeth into his shoulder as she had one release after another. Lynch’s body arched upward as he felt his own imminent release beginning to build. As it happened, his eyes opened suddenly, widely. The color changed from dark brown to glinting silver. His canine teeth began to lengthen, the tip almost giving off a sparkle in the lighted room. Feeling it inside her, Jenna arched her body upward to meet his. He kept one arm around her, the other reached down to balance their bodies. He lowered his head and gently sank his teeth into her shoulder.
Jenna felt the sharp prick of his canines as they broke the skin of her left shoulder. She opened her mouth, cried out, mindful of Andy somewhere in the house. She knew exactly what he was doing to her, but in no way could stop him. Almost immediately, she was aware what this meant. Was he? Was he consciously aware of what he was doing? The answer came within moments.
The blood began to flow slowly out of the puncture wounds. He didn’t have time to taste it. The instant his teeth touched her shoulder, his release fully worked within him, and he collapsed on top of her. Jenna somehow realized he had passed out. His breath was heavy, almost at a steady pant. She slowly slid from beneath him until her feet were on the floor. She grabbed her nightgown and hastily threw it over her head. She gazed down at him. He was totally out. She didn’t understand. He hadn’t had that much to drink at dinner. It meant only one thing. He must have transformed partially. When it hit him fully, he normally suffered massive exhaustion afterward, sometimes passed out for hours at a time. If partially, he would probably be out until tomorrow morning.
Jenna ran into the bathroom, shutting and locking the door behind her. She drew her nightgown off her shoulder. Carefully, she wiped the blood away with a damp wash cloth. Once the blood was cleaned off, she clearly saw two puncture wounds on her shoulder; they left a bit of a scrape as they dragged downward slightly. At the same time, she felt instantly ill. Did this mean her mortal body had begun to die, to give way to her immortal one? She covered the wound with a bandage and put her nightgown back in place. She took the cloth along with her.
She went back into the bedroom to check on Lynch. He was still out. Barefoot, she padded into the hallway. From the noise downstairs, Andy was watching something on TV. Good, she thought. She raced down to the basement and approached her microscope. As she had done with the glass earlier, she took a sample of the blood from the wash cloth. She took the tiny bloodied fiber and placed it onto a slide. After a moment, she had her evidence.
Later, she went back into her bedroom. Her shoulder ached miserably and felt feverish at the touch. Her physical condition was deteriorating before her very eyes. Lynch was still out. Sighing heavily, Jenna slid into bed and stared up at the ceiling. Unbeknownst to either of them, Lynch had realized his greatest fear twice in the same eternity.
It was around four in the morning when Lynch came out of his deep sleep. For a long moment, he was completely disoriented. The room looked different and the French doors were on the wrong side. The comforter covering him from the waist down was soft, like satin. It hit him full force the instant his hand touched the material. He was in Jenna’s room, in her bed. He had finally broken a personal rule. The two of them had made love. He hated himself for giving in; the feeling drifted away quickly. He was happy to realize that it felt good, the tension was gone. The bed was empty beside him, and the bathroom door was open, the light out inside. His eyes then made out a small crack between the doors. Jenna was outside.
For now, the ache in her shoulder was dulled with the aspirin she had taken. She knew it was only going to come back, get worse, and spiral down until her first transformation was complete. Lynch told her once that after a bite from a lycan, the human body went through a process of natural death. It wasn’t complete, just a move toward different functioning. The heartbeat, the brain worked, and all the organs would continue to support the body as they always did. There was one exception. As soon as adrenaline began to flood through the body, it would feed a human like never before. She came to the realization that she had to leave until she had the first episode, and then she would begin the same course of injections as Lynch. Jenna had no intention of telling Lynch he had bitten her until the mystery of Callie Norwood was solved. If the things she said to Lynch were true, he would receive the cure first, her after.
The door suddenly creaked open behind her. Jenna visibly jumped in her seat before she tightened her robe about her body. Her vision already adjusting to the dark, she could make out all of Lynch’s features. Naked from the waist up, he was achingly handsome. She said nothing, didn’t smile, or ask him to join her. She wanted to gauge his reaction. She needed nothing more than to awaken in Lynch’s arms. Yet, it had been so very long since their crazy relationship developed into exactly what she desired. Heart ache was normal now.
Lynch saw that Jenna was looking at him. Her hands were tightly clutching her garments around her body. It wasn’t that chilly, so he didn’t quite understand why she seemed so overdressed. His sharp eyes picked up on the way she appeared somewhat ill. A pang hit him as hard as a steel fist. Had he bitten her? He couldn’t remember for the life of him. If he had, both would have known, right? It didn’t seem like an incident anyone could forget. When she looked away, he stepped over to the aging vacant lawn chair beside her.
They didn’t speak at first. Both were focusing their eyes in the distance, each lost in the same thought. Their quiet reflection might have been seen as strained by the untrained eye. However, it was comfortable, more so than Lynch had ever expected. He was ready to deal with whatever implications awaited them, but he would definitely rethink that once he learned Jenna and he had more in common now.
Lynch reached across and laid his hand on top of hers. She responded by gently manipulating their hands until their fingers were entwined. Hers were warm, as if she had a raised body temperature. “I expected to awaken and see you beside me. The bed was cold, Jenna. Lonely.”
Jenna smiled and turned to meet his gaze. “I’m sorry, Lynch. I honestly didn’t know what to do when I woke up. Believe me, I wanted to lie with you all night, relish what we shared.”
Sadly, he shook his head. “I know. You thought I’d push you away as I always have. Didn’t you?”
“I did,” she said, affirming what was on his mind. Like the sound of a faraway train rushing down the tracks, she picked up on what he was thinking, the words he longed to say to her. She heard them. She felt the sting of tears as they slid down her cheeks. Would he ever fully open up to her? “I’ve been with other men,” she began, knowing instantly that this wasn’t news to him. “None made me feel like I did when we were making love.”
He only partially understood her tears. There was something else behind them. She had a wall built up, one he didn’t have the mental strength to scale. He could have easily delved into her mind and dug up her buried secrets. He refrained. With Jenna, it was like spying, and very wrong. “It was the same with me.”
She knew it was true, knew it with her heart and mind. A name suddenly filled her head. It meant nothing to her. To Lynch, it had been everything for years. Although Jenna’s name was stronger in his heart now, this one kept cycling in her brain. Storm. She wanted to ask, but dared not to. Something else came into focus. It was a question near and dear to his heart as well. He was worried that he had bitten her. He didn’t remember, and she wasn’t about to tell him. The time was not right.
“No bad dreams?” She asked softly.
“Not any.” He had passed out after their lovemaking. It was a normal occurrence any time he transformed. He was afraid, terrified. “Jenna, did I…”
Lynch could not finish his thought. It didn’t take a tiny heightened sense to know what he was about to ask. “No, Lynch. Nothing out of the ordinary.” The lie tasted bitter on her tongue.
“I don’t know what I can promise.” The words felt like silver shards piercing his heart. “I wish I had the ability to do what a human could.”
“Baby, it’s okay,” she said. Her tears threatened to resurface. “I want you to love me the best way you can.”
“I want that, Jenna. More than anything.”
She squeezed his hand and brought it up to her lips. She traced her tongue along his fingertips. “I’m glad you finally came to your senses,” she said lightly.
He reluctantly pulled his hand out of hers. Standing, he approached her and took her hand again. Tugging on it, he said, “Make love with me again. When the sun rises, I want to feel what it’s like to wake up with your body next to mine.”
Jenna bit her lip, careful to keep the wall constructed against her thoughts. Lynch could not see her bandaged shoulder. He would instantly know. “There is something I need to tell you.”
He released her hand again and went for his chair. He dragged it closer to hers, so he could sit facing her. When he sat down again, he took both of her hands in his. “Tell me,” he commanded gently.
She swallowed a huge lump that had formed in her throat. He was not a man who took kindly to lying. Someday, he would thank her. “What happened between us tonight was a lot to process. After our fight a few days ago, I considered taking a small trip, just a short one to visit old college friends.”
“I don’t see anything wrong with that, but it was before…this.”
Lynch was studying her with fervor. She kept one word in her head, thinking it in a mantra like state. Wall wall wall. “I know it was, and our lovemaking made all the difference in the world. I need to go away and get my head straight.”
His frown was tremendous. “Jenna, your timing is completely shitty. We need to focus on what happened, we need to be together to keep it straight.”
“I know we do. I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to transition from being your roommate to becoming your lover. Look how long it took us to get to this point. Please understand, Lynch. I need you to understand.”
He lowered his head for a moment before focusing his eyes on her again. “Both of us wanted to take this step. We finally leap for it, make an incredible connection, and you want to leave,” he said incredulously, hurt dripping from every syllable.
Jenna pulled her hands out of his, moved her chair, and stood up. She walked over to the balcony railing. It was still dark, the sun not quite ready to make its appearance. “Goddamn it, Lynch, not forever. I need a week or two at best. I’m confused.”
Lynch stood up, grasped the door knob, and turned to look at her a final time before going back inside. “You’re certainly not alone.”
She listened as he slammed the door hard enough for it to rattle in its frame. His footsteps were heavy as he left her bedroom, likely going to his. Hopefully, Andy was still asleep, safe from the sudden drama. An ache began in her shoulder, one that intensified, causing a sharp cramp in her abdomen. A violent blurt of vomit flew out of her mouth, thankfully over the balcony. Jenna had but a few days to get out of town before Lynch truly understood why she pushed him away instead of the other way around. More sickness was on the horizon, more than any of them bargained for.