Nightshine, p.22
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       Nightshine, p.22

         Part #4 of Kyndred series by Lynn Viehl
Page 22


  She glanced back at him, her expression unreadable. “You are now, Andrew. ”

  Knowing Charlotte would not suffer through days of pain as an ordinary human would provided little consolation for Samuel. By the time he carried her up to the treatment room, her bruises had appeared, and many of the dark, angry splotches shaped themselves into blurry copies of the guard’s fingers, palms, and knuckles. Both of her eyes had been blackened, and her eyelids had swelled together, effectively blinding her.

  He didn’t waste time fumbling about with the medical supplies. Once he set her down gently on the table, he said, “Tell me what to do. ”

  “You can start by getting out the scissors I have in the side pocket of my bag and cutting off this shirt. ” She held out her arms. “Start at the shoulder seams, then go straight down the middle. ”

  Samuel found the scissors and carefully snipped through the fabric as she had instructed. It fell away from her in pieces, revealing so much bruising on both sides of her abdomen Samuel caught his breath.

  “I know how bad it looks,” she said, wincing as she felt along both sides. “Nothing’s broken, though. Are there any tears in my skin or bulges under it?”

  He circled around her. “None. ”

  “Good. ” She extended her arms, turning her wrists and then flexing her elbows. “He got me a few times with his fingernails. Do you see the scratches?”

  He was already counting them. “Yes. ”

  “Get some gauze pads and the big brown bottle on the second shelf in the corner cabinet. ” When he brought them over, she felt the shape of the bottle and nodded. “Wet the pads with this and use them to scrub out the scratches. ”

  He wanted to throw the bottle across the room, and had to force back his anger as he opened it. “How do you do this every day?”

  “This? This is nothing, mío. Imagine finding a fifteen-year-old girl sitting in a puddle of her own blood after her boyfriend slices her open. While you’re working on her, you have to listen to her beg you not to call the police. Her intestines are spilling into her lap, and forget the ER; you know she’s going to bleed out before you can get her into the rig. You listen to her cry, not for herself, but for him. Because, of course, he loves her, and he didn’t mean to do it. ” Her head drooped. “After your shift is over, you go to the gym and punch a bag until you can’t feel your hands anymore. Or you find a bar and get drunk, or you pick up a stranger. Or you go to church and get on your knees and pray to the Holy Mother to give you the strength to go back to work the next day. ”

  He tucked some loose hair back behind her ear. “Somehow I can’t see you going to a bar or a gym. ”

  “I like church. ” She sounded defensive. “It’s quiet. Peaceful. People don’t go there to hurt each other. ”

  “That’s probably why they call it a sanctuary, honey. ” He kissed her forehead. “Now let me finish these scratches. ”

  Once he cleaned the last of the scrapes on her arms, Charlotte was able to open her eyes enough to view his handiwork. “Very good. That leaves my face, which must look like a Halloween mask. ” Gingerly she began palpating her chin, cheeks, and eyelids. “Feels like two black eyes, a swollen nose, a fat lip, and ear-to-ear bruises. ”

  “That sums it up. ” He pulled her hand away from her face. “You’re sure nothing is broken?”

  She opened her mouth and closed it, and then felt the sides of her face. “He came close with that last punch, but no, everything still works. You just need to wash off the blood and make up a cold compress for my eyes and nose. ”

  There was still sand mixed with the blood in her hair, he realized, from when she had fallen on the beach. “I have an idea. ” He picked her up in his arms. “Let’s take a bath first. ”

  “You just want to see the rest of me naked,” she chided.

  “Consider it fair play. After all, you’ve seen me in all my glory, such as it is. ” He walked down the hall to the master suite and took her into the adjoining bathroom. Once he set her on her feet, he turned on the shower and adjusted the temperature to lukewarm before removing her shorts and stripping out of his own clothes.

  After he guided her into the stall, which was just big enough for both of them, he turned her back toward the spray. “I’ll wash out your hair first, and then your face. ”

  Samuel shifted to one side to draw her hair back, and saw how rigidly she was holding herself. “Is the water too cold?” He glanced down at the dark pink–tinted streams emptying into the drain. “Or too warm?”

  “It isn’t the water. ” She reached out and groped for his chest, bracing her hand against it. “How did they know what we planned to do?”

  He had hoped to hold off this conversation until Charlotte had rested and healed a little more. “We’ll talk about it later. ”

  “They knew everything. They found us as if they already knew exactly where we would be,” she countered. “They even knew in which pocket I had put the scissors. Sam, the cameras aren’t the only things watching us. ”

  He had his own suspicions, but he didn’t want to alarm her. “Perhaps it was the man by the deck. ”

  “What if he’s like us? Like me?” She tapped her temple. “That’s the only way they could know what we didn’t do in the hot tub. ”

  He heard the fear and anger in her voice. “You don’t have to be concerned about this now. ”

  “Don’t I?” She turned her face into the spray, rinsing off the blood to reveal her battered features. “Take a good look at me, Sam. Just one of them did this. Tomorrow it will be three. Do you know how much damage can be done to the human body in thirty minutes? I do. ”

  “Sweetheart, listen to me. ” He put his hands on her waist. “We’re not spending the rest of our lives on this island. We are going to escape, and we are going home. But for now, the simplest solution—the safest one—is to take the path of least resistance. ”

  Her shoulders slumped. “You mean we follow the rules. ”

  “For now, Charlotte. ”

  She pressed her forehead against his shoulder. “It’s funny, isn’t it? How hard this is. ”

  “It’s been some time since I’ve had the pleasure,” he admitted, “but it’s not something one forgets how to do. ”

  “You’re handsome, and any woman would want you, but that isn’t making it easier for me. ” She looked down at the tiles. “I feel like doing this will break my heart. ”

  “We’re not zoo animals. ” He bent down and touched his mouth to the corner of hers. “We’re not just going to have sex, Charlotte. We’re going to be lovers, and that is no small thing for either of us. ”

  “I know. ” She sounded bitter. “Men like you don’t take women like me as lovers. ”

  “Men like me . . . ” He trailed off as the bruise beside her mouth lightened from reddish purple to a yellowish brown and then faded away altogether. “My God. ”

  “What is it?”

  “One of the bruises on your face just disappeared. ” He brought her fingers up to the spot. “Right here, where I kissed you. Just how quickly do you heal?”

  She tested the skin. “Not this fast. Do it again. ” When he put his mouth to the same spot, she turned her face so that his lips trailed across her swollen cheek. “Tell me what you see. ”

  Samuel watched the swelling sink down and the bruising fade everywhere his mouth had touched. This time he felt the surge in his blood: a kind of effervescent thrill that bewildered him. “You’re healing in seconds. How are you doing that?”

  “It’s not me. ” Her hand moved across the surface of her cheek. “It’s coming from you. You kissed me and made it better. How?”

  “I don’t know. ” He touched her face again. “I’ve never been able to do anything like this. ”

  “You said your ability was fading. Maybe something else is happening to it. ” She lifted her face. “Try again. ”

  He presse
d his lips to one swollen eye and then the other, drawing back to watch as the purplish skin around them cleared and her eyelids returned to normal size. As her eyelashes parted and she gave him an astonished look, he saw splotches of blood that had hemorrhaged beneath her corneas seep away and vanish.

  “Are you feeling any pain when I do that?” He still couldn’t accept what he was seeing with his own eyes.

  “It doesn’t hurt. It feels only . . . warm. ” Her gaze shifted as she looked up. “Sam, the cut on your head is gone. ”

  “Come here. ” He seized her hand and almost dragged her out into the bedroom, where he brought her to the bed. “Lie down on your back. ” When she did he knelt beside her, and felt her immediately tense. “I’m not trying to rush you into sex. There may be limits to this new ability, and I want to heal you everywhere you’re hurt while I’m still able to use it. All right?”

  “I trust you, mío,” she said. “Just stop if you feel strange or weak. ”

  Samuel brought her bruised knuckles to his lips, kissing each one before turning her hands over and brushing his mouth over the cuts her fingernails had made in her palms. Her hands went from battered to unmarked in less than a minute.

  The first scratch he kissed, a thin but ugly gouge across the inside of her wrist, seemed to pull in on itself and submerge into her flesh. Hairline pink scars took their place, flattening and turning white before they, too, slowly erased themselves.

  Charlotte held still as he worked his way up one arm and across her shoulder, but when he reached the bruises on her throat, she took a sharp breath.

  Instantly he lifted his head. “Did that hurt you?”

  “It doesn’t hurt. ” She caught her bottom lip between her teeth for a moment. “Keep going. ”

  He didn’t touch her. “You are feeling something that you’re not telling me. ” He glanced down and saw the tight pucker of her nipples, surrounded by a distinctive flush. “Charlotte. ”
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