Four Months Earlier...
When we arrived at Jack’s immense family home in Connecticut we were led through the large kitchen into what appeared to be a private dining room. The walls were plaster, the paint long yellowed from decades of cigar and cigarette smoke.
Mister Gerald Walker sat at the head of the heavy old wood table with his breakfast. He was about what I expected. Mid-thirties and well dressed.
Prematurely grey, his long hair was bound in a tidy pony tail low on the back of his head. Piercing dark eyes studied us closely from behind wire frame glasses. He was in good shape and had the bearing I’d come to associate with command; straighter in stature and more relaxed yet subtly wound somewhere inside like an explosive spring. He stood and embraced Soros then Jack. He shook Harvey’s hand then took mine and kissed it.
“Welcome, Precious,” he said as he ran my knuckles under his nose.
“Thank you, Mister Walker,” I replied. Jack’s hand tensed slightly on my back as I tried to stay calm. As long as Walker’s attention was on me he wasn’t hurting Jack.
“You have no idea how my brother RJ has tantalized me with hints about you,” he said. He leaned so close I could make out still dark hair in his eyebrows then he put the skin above his top lip almost right on top of mine and inhaled; his hands stroking my cheeks. “She is so full of your scent, Jack.”
I held still and waited until he turned aside and sneezed, curious what he’d read which made him clear it from under his nose.
“Mm,” he said. “RJ says I wasn’t imagining it when you disappeared from my sight a few weeks ago. Where did you go?”
“Richards’ compound, Mister Walker,” I answered immediately. Jack said co-operate so I was.
“And what else did my brother learn?”
“I can only travel where there is a road. I’ll react instinctively if me or my mate is in trouble.”
The back of Walker’s hand stung my cheek.
“My mate and I, Precious,” he corrected.
“I will react instinctively if I am in trouble or my mate is in trouble, Mister Walker,” I said, correcting my self without giving in by copying him. I was tired after two days of bouncing in Soros’ truck and would have to be careful. Jack’s hand reached a little further around my side so he could get a grip on me but otherwise he didn’t move. I knew what Jack meant by hurt me and compared to that a slap was not hurt.
“And what did you not tell my brother?” He asked.
“I can control the time of arrival within an hour or two before or after departure, Mister Walker.”
“Did you see her react, RJ?”
“Yes, dear Gerald,” Soros replied as Walker took a couple of steps back and pulled out his knife. “But we must not my sweet brother. I know how much you want to see it. Father’s grandsons have damaged her line. The travel would tear it from her, killing them.”
Walker’s broad face showed rage for a few seconds as he contemplated the consequences of trying anyway. His fingers shook on the handle of his blade before he put it away.
“Unimportant. You will tell me what it was like RJ.”
Sig hadn’t warned me against travel. I guessed it was something he’d told Soros during their chat at Jack’s the day we fled. The day Paul died. As my breathing returned to normal I felt Jack loosen his grip on me.
“Precious? My brother says you can read family lines.”
“Yes, Mister Walker.”
“You will show me another time,” Walker said.
“Yes, Mister Walker.”
He moved to the head of the table and picked up his coffee, looking me over as he sipped. Harvey remained silent behind me at Jack’s side and I could almost feel Soros’ eyes imagining me wearing less.
“I will read you, Precious. Then you will tell me all about the amazing thing you can do which RJ says is my surprise.” He licked his lips as he approached standing much too close. “I love surprises, Precious. You will not love disappointing me.”
I didn’t know what to say so I kept my mouth shut.
Walker leaned in closer as his nose slowly moved over my right cheek. “Yes, Mister Walker,” he whispered.
“Yes, Mister Walker.”
“Mm, good,” he said then his nose paused over my right ear, where the man who raped me had hit me with his gun. “Attention from Mister Stanton I believe.” His tongue felt its way through my hair. “Yes, Mister Stanton. I found him with his pants down, chest full of holes like a peg board,” he gestured to his head. “Something wrong here. Did you do that Precious?”
“Yes, Mister Walker,” I answered. Jack’s hand moved up grabbing hold of my bra. Walker didn’t scare me but the thought of what he would do to Jack if he interrupted him did.
“And what did you give Mister Stanton in return?”
“Everything he wanted, Mister Walker,” I whispered. Those had been Jack’s words when he’d forced me to tell Paul about it.
“I see,” Walker said. I flinched when he bit my ear.
His nose moved along my throat to my shoulder as if it were following a trail. It stopped where I’d been cut by one of Damian’s men in February. “One of Father’s dumb grunts,” he muttered as he kept going, working down my back as he slowly turned me in place. Jack’s hand brushed across my skin as I turned to face him.
“Ah, RJ... your man you lost in Calgary,” he said. My shirt came up in the back. “Where did you find him Precious?”
“Last December in Edmonton, Mister Walker.”
He lowered my shirt and worked his way to my thigh, dropping to his knees before he paused at the other scar from the fight in my home with Damian’s men just five months earlier. He didn’t comment then he turned me to face him and paused at my crotch.
“Mister Stanton hurt you here,” he whispered then started his way up my stomach.
“Yes, Mister Walker,” I whispered in reply, blinking away tears. Grateful my back was to Jack. I didn’t want to see his face now.
“Mm, Father,” Walker said when he got to the scar above my belly button. I expected more questions but he straightened up instead.
“And now, Precious. What did you show my brother that is so glorious?”
“I can read the line of any man loyal to Mister Howard like a home movie, Mister Walker. Forward, rewind... past, future,” I told him, hoping it was okay to call Damian Mister Howard. I had always called him Damian and suspected another backhand if I tried.
“Really? What did you not tell my brother, Precious?”
I took a deep breath. “I can show you what I see, Mister Walker. He only has to be within my range. I don’t have to touch him.”
Soros growled beside me. I’d made him think I had to have my hands on him to do it.
“Show me,” Walker said. “Show me RJ.”
“Yes, Mister Walker,” I answered then I pointed under my nose. “Read me here please. Follow.”
I pulled my top lip between my teeth as his smell tried to overwhelm me then I sent my sense to Soros’ line and locked on. Walker stood close, watching my eyes as I looked into his. After a few seconds we watched ourselves through Soros’ eyes.
We went backwards first.
Soros follows Jack and me into the room then we come in the door from the parking lot. He watches my butt as Jack pulls me from the truck and gets a glimpse of my bare back as Jack’s hand reaches under my shirt. He greets the man at the gate then his hand on my thigh.
“Forward,” I whispered as I skipped ahead emphasizing Soros’ hands on me though I didn’t think Walker would care.
Walker at the table. He picks up his mug then on his knees in front of me. Holds my elbows as he watches my face intently. He says something and Soros turns around and walks to the door before he faces us. I fly out of Jack’s reach, blood already pouring from my mouth. Soros takes a step in my direction as my hands start digging into my chest. Jack grabs me and gets his hand on my skin. He freezes and holds me still as Walker looks in my mouth. I skip ahead. I sit in Jack’s lap, facing him trying to get something around his arm. My face hidden behind his head. Blood on the floor.
“Stop, Precious,” Walker said.
I let Soros line go and was nose to nose with Walker.
“Not a word,” he told me. “You’ll spoil the ending.”
I swallowed hard, feeling sick to my stomach. “Yes, Mister Walker.”
“She sent Father to the other side?”
“Yes, Gerald,” Soros said as he walked to the door. Bastard knew something was coming and didn’t want his clothes messed.
“How? Gun? Knife?”
He slapped me again when I didn’t answer. I thought he was asking Soros.
“Both, Mister Walker,” I said, refusing to put my hands up.
“How many, Precious,” he asked, coming closer. I realized there was whiskey on his breath along with the coffee.
“Five rounds,” I whispered as my lungs started to fail. “The knife twice, Mister Walker.”
Jack got his other hand on my waist and tried to pull me toward him but I didn’t budge. I put my hand on his and took it off as I raised my chin to try and stare down at Walker.
“Do you like numbers, Precious?”
“I like numbers, Mister Walker.”
“Mm,” he said. His top lip went between his teeth and he moaned. I didn’t think anyone else heard.
“How many is that... five and two?”
“Seven, Mister Walker.”
He took two steps back, his hand swinging loosely at the end of his right arm. Before I saw him move his fist was on my mouth. I was aware of a crunch as Soros seemed to fly past in front of me. My hands jumped to my chest to try and free the lancing pain instead of to my crushed face. My line tearing as Jack’s children tried to get away hurt more. My fingers slipped on my skin as the warm wetness on my chin started to spread.
Jack got his hands back on me, steadying me on my feet and the pain in my chest lifted as quickly as it had come. My tongue found a hard piece of tooth underneath it then the jagged other half still in place.
“Hold her, Jack,” Soros said. “Gently.”
Jack kept one hand on my side and the other went gently around me. Soros had control of him. I could smell him in Jack. The broken tooth felt like a nail jammed up in my gums and my lips were both split inside and bleeding. I tried not to swallow any of it and let it run freely down my chin.
Walker had a cloth napkin in his hand and used it to push my lips out of the way. I held still, again refusing to let my courage fail. It would slip away quickly once it started to go.
“Just one?” Walker asked. “Bad luck.”
Since we were playing numbers I expected to be hit again. He would be going for seven.
“How many is that Precious... seven less one?”
“Thix, Nither Balker,” I said.
“Thix? Bad luck, Jack,” Walker said. “I can’t think what Jack has thix of and we’ve already done teeth.”
He opened a drawer in the table and pulled out a pair of clippers. Heavier ones for small branches. My mother used the same ones in her garden. “We’ll have to be creative.”
“Bleath, Nither Balker... hith me again,” I begged.
“I can Precious,” he replied. “But it won’t count. Have a seat Jack.”
“You’ll need both hands.”
Jack pulled me down on his lap, facing him. Then he pushed up my shirt so his arms were on my skin and his hands were free.
“No, Baby,” I whispered in his ear as I wrapped my arms around his head. I pictured the clippers in his hand, four fingers and a thumb. That was only five. Walker wanted six. “Not your thingers.”
“Not fingers, Precious,” Walker said patiently like he was speaking to a child. He put the clippers in Jack’s right hand. “I want knuckles... that should take care of the two smallest fingers on your left hand.”
I quickly reached between us to undo Jack’s belt, his body already tensing. I heard him grunt and felt him shudder as something small and soft landed on the floor. Any other time it would be erotic: Jack grunting and shaking underneath me, but it was horrible. The blood from my mouth was on his shirt and his head felt cold next to mine. I finally got the belt off after the last two pieces of his smallest finger hit the floor and I quickly wrapped it around his upper arm and pulled it tight as he moaned and shook with the fourth.
“Ith okay Jack,” I forced out past my fat lips. I felt stupid for saying something so useless but couldn’t think of anything else. He trembled constantly. I held his belt as tight as I could with one hand and held his head up with the other. Now that I had nothing to do I heard the joint tear apart. Jack’s stomach heaved and sour coffee from the night before mixed with the blood on our shirts as the final piece came off.
The clippers fell. Jack’s colour was gone and his glassy eyes looked past me. I heard Walker’s chair slide out and his cutlery on his plate.
“Good to see you again, Jack,” he said cheerfully. “Nice to meet you, Precious.”
“Nithe to meet you, Nither Balker,” I said automatically. Jack kept hold of me so I tightened the belt even more as Soros put a cloth on Jack’s hand. I could feel the fragile new skin under my bandage shift with the pressure as I pulled. The burn Soros gave me at Jack’s kitchen stove was barely a week old.
“Hold it tight,” Soros told me and I pressed it on Jack’s brutalized hand. “Get up kids.”
I stood, leaning over staying as close to Jack as I could. Then I pulled on the belt.
“Stand up, Baby,” I told him. Walker chewed with his mouth open and Harvey already had the door. Soros waited in the hall for us. Jack made it to his feet, leaning heavily on me, his chin on my shoulder as we made our awkward waltz across the floor. I could feel his hand slipping. “Thick ith in my bra Jack,” I told him and he did.
We followed Soros out and down a long hall then struggled up several flights of stairs to what I assumed was the top floor. Jack’s stomach started to go again.
“Breathe, Baby,” I told him. “Keep ith down.”
He didn’t say anything but I could hear his lungs filling more than they had been before. We passed several doors on each side before we turned to find Travis waiting outside one. He opened it for us and let us in, clicking it shut behind. There was a big first aid bag on the floor in front of a wooden chair. Soros pointed. “Sit.”
I pushed Jack down as Soros pulled up the other chair and sat next to him.
“Let’s look,” he said as he started to pull the cloth off. Jack’s hand oozed where his two fingers had been. I took a deep breath to keep my stomach under control and now that I had two hands I was able to pull the belt even tighter. I wrapped it around his upper arm a couple of times and managed to secure the end under itself. The first aid bag had a pair of scissors on top so I cut Jack’s shirt off as Soros dug around in the bag.
Soros took a syringe and injected it into Jack’s hand. I put my burned hand on Jack’s shoulder to keep him up and reached into the bag. I’d recognized the morphine so I took it and a syringe. Soros glanced at what I was doing and didn’t comment. I quickly read the vial and remembered how much then I cleaned the top and drew out what I thought was the right amount.
“How much are you giving him?” Soros finally spoke. I moved my hand out of the way so he could see. “Double it.”
“Jack had a problem with morphine. That much won’t do a thing for him.”
I nodded and pulled out more, glad the syringe was big. When it was full I cleaned a spot on his arm and emptied it into the muscle. Then Soros grabbed another vial and told me how much to give him so I did that too. He started sewing as Jack’s breathing eased and his head tipped back on the tall chair. I breathed easier too. His colour seemed to be improving. May have been my imagination.
Cautiously I took my hand off him and he stayed upright so I undid his bloody pants so they would be easy to get off when I got him up. My bloody clothes went on top of Jack’s shirt. No point in getting blood and vomit all over the entire bedroom.
I knelt next to Jack as Soros worked. He was quick with the stitches. I took a few vials of morphine and more syringes and stuffed them in my bra. When he was done I took Jack’s belt off his arm and Soros watched Jack’s hand for a minute until he was satisfied nothing was leaking out. Then I held it up as Soros put a thick dressing on it.
“Get him to the bed.”
I pulled Jack up and got the blankets out of the way before getting him in. The morphine and needles went on the table.
“Let’s look at you.”
Jack was on his side so I sat on the edge of the bed as Soros moved the chair closer. He pulled my lips back with his latex gloves, still covered in Jack’s blood. Then he took the syringe he used to freeze Jack’s hand and froze my mouth including my gums where the tooth broke. He put in a couple of stitches top and bottom and got out the pliers.
“Can’t fix that.”
I nodded and tipped my head back. The pliers lost their grip the first try and slipped off the raw nerve but he got it out the second try. He shoved a piece of gauze in the hole.
I bit then Soros cleaned my burned hand and wrapped it back up. He picked up the garbage and left without a word. I turned off the lamp and climbed over Jack. The sun was up outside, blue sky and bright light. I reached over Jack and put his hand on his chest so it was up as high as I could get it then I pressed my chest into his side and carefully took his hand out of my bra. There was no pain so I stayed close and listened to his breathing. It worried me he’d gotten too much morphine and whatever the other thing was and eventually I decided if he was going to stop breathing he would have. We slept in the big bed inhaling the air that smelled of vomit and blood.
For the next few days I took care of Jack. He didn’t speak though he took instructions barely coming out of his stupor. I thought it might be the morphine or depression. Embarrassment perhaps: humiliation for having to cut his own fingers off in front of me. I wondered if he might even be angry about being punished for something I’d done. I kept him clean on the toilet and tried to feed him. Between the two of us we had one useful hand since he wouldn’t do anymore than keep his right hand on me. We showered once and I got clean clothes on us but it took forever and I was nervous about having him on his feet for so long.
Soros was in and out and a Mister Someone brought us food three times a day. Jack wouldn’t open his mouth to eat no matter what I tried. Someone had taken our bloody clothes and returned everything but Jack’s cut up shirt. It was all surprisingly clean.
On the fourth day Jack was staring at the ceiling when I woke. I put my hand on his chest and to my relief felt it rise and fall. He was so still. I was on the side of the bed by the table to save me climbing over him and I sat up, tucking his injured arm under mine against my bare side then I started to get his morphine ready. I’d decided after the shower that dressing was too much of a hassle so I kept us both in underwear. Before I’d even gotten the cap off to stick it in the rubber stopper he rolled over and held my hands still.
“No more,” he said.
I turned to face him and nodded.
“Smile for me?” he asked.
That would hurt so I shook my head.
Jack sighed. “I’m so sorry, Baby.”
“I’m sorry I have strong teeth,” I told him lisping as air snuck out where my tooth was missing.
Jack put his fingers on my top lip and pushed it up.
“It broke right off... Mister Soros had to pull it. It felt better.”
He pulled me closer and kissed my half swollen mouth. “You sound adorable when you talk,” he whispered.
“I didn’t sound adorable before?”
“I didn’t think you could sound more adorable but you do.” He was smooth.
“You’re good, Jack,” I told him and he got the smile he’d asked for. “I’m glad you came back to me. It’s been lonely.”
My breath got hot in my throat as I tried not to cry. Jack still needed looking after.
“Sshhh,” he whispered. “Do you need to fall apart now?”
“No,” I said as I did anyway. Jack moved over giving me a little more room and I curled up with him as I started to bawl.
“I’m sorry for everything,” Jack said. “I’m sorry about what RJ did to you, and Stanton and the rape. I’m sorry you had to bury all that to protect your baby. I’m so sorry you’ve lost Paul. And for Gerald. Thank you for looking after me. If I didn’t have you to come back to I wouldn’t have come back.”
After a while breakfast came in and I held it together while it was put on the little table then I wound it up again for a bit. We ate and showered. Jack had paled and seemed shaky even though he said he felt fine. He didn’t argue about getting back in bed. There wasn’t much else to do when we had to be connected together.
“I think they’re done,” I told him. His sons’ soft lines in my chest were anxious. Every week they could go a little longer without contact from him but anxious was only a minute away from agony for me when they started trying to tear free of my line to get to him.
“In bed then, Baby,” he said, lifting the blanket and patting the pillow.
I nodded and got in. My line was still healing from the damage they’d done in the first few days after fertilization before we knew why it hurt so much and they still wouldn’t go without Jack for very long. If we tried again now with his hand off me the pain would be instant. It would be a few days before we could spend another half hour detached. The sun had already fallen behind the hill to the west and the sky was long dark. It was late November and fall was well under way.
Jack told me before we arrived that his father’s house was like a castle. I’d never been in a castle so to me it felt more like a big old hotel. No elevators or phone-in room service but it was fully equipped with security cameras and armed guards. It was a big three storey square surrounding a private courtyard. Meals had been served there in the summer when the weather permitted and the tables and chairs were currently stacked out of the way.
Jack’s room was on the top floor at the end of the house furthest from the main doors and overlooked the parking lot and the back door we’d used to enter the morning we arrived. His room had its own bathroom, a privilege since he was Damian Howard’s son and was big enough for a small sofa, chair and a desk in addition to the king sized bed. We had to be so close all the time we only ever used half of it. No fridge or anywhere to cook so three times a day he took me downstairs to the dining room. I wasn’t allowed there when the men took their meals for a number of reasons I could guess at from offending them with a glimpse of my full sleeve tattoos which sometimes peeked out from under my cuff, getting unwanted attention for still being thought of as Richards’ woman, or the possibility I might start counting faces to get a handle on their numbers. That would have been too easy if I hadn’t been forbidden to read them.
Truth was I was Roberts’ woman. The traitor’s woman. And I didn’t care how offensive they found my body art or how many smelly followers of Damian were still around. I was carrying Jack’s sons to make sure my daughter wasn’t harmed and Jack was only alive because if his sons’ lines tore themselves free they would die, taking me with them.
Jack’s room had become my stable. There were only three women in the house. All ‘bred’ to men in Jack’s side of the family. Their men with them off and on. They ate with Jack and me and when their men were around they joined us. At first I couldn’t understand why they would so blindly stay in a place so strange. Their reasons seemed so different. As I got to know them I found they weren’t. Trust, loyalty and obedience. My trust and loyalty were placed differently than theirs and I was in no way obedient. My dead husband Paul at one time explained to Jack that if I couldn’t back up my decisions with trust and loyalty he needed to stay out of my way.
Jack spent the majority of his half hour running now that he could get away instead of nervously waiting for me to start hurting. I had a bath like I did every evening except Jack didn’t have to sit on the floor with his hand on me. I’d gotten out just in time for him to get a quick shower. Neither of us had dressed. After more than four months of near constant contact nudity wasn’t a big deal.
“You usually spend your break crying,” he said softly as he brushed my puffy eyes with his fingers.
“Because I miss you,” I told him.
“Your line is blushing,” he said. He could tell when I lied.
“I missed you too,” I amended. “And my baby.”
“My brother says they’re doing okay.”
Jack’s brother RJ Soros had been tracking them. Our bargain was to give Jack and Soros’ father’s line a strong reader like Jack and I were. They were getting two and in exchange Soros would make sure my daughter and the children with her were left alone.
“And Paul?” Jack asked.
“I still love him, as much as I love you. I do miss him.”
“You know I still love my first. Desiring you doesn’t give me any guilt at all.”
Jack had never told me about her but he called her name at night and never with passion. Fear and anguish soaked him like his sweat sticking us together. He would tremble and I’d hold him tighter until he calmed down. I’d wake sometimes with him holding me the same way and knew my memories had woken him.
I leaned on him and he put his hands behind his head. We’d learned that as long as my torso was touching him somewhere he could have his hands free.
“You’re lucky my will power is strong or I’d be begging for you every night.”
“Not just hinting like you are now?”
“Yes,” he laughed.
“What if it cures me? They won’t want you around.”
“What if it doesn’t? Then you’re denying yourself of Jack for no reason at all.”
He knew all my objections and gave me all the same answers. We both knew what wouldn’t happen before we fell asleep. Between the rape being months in the past and getting into the second third of the pregnancy I was interested again and too stubborn to let him know how ready I was to give in. Jack pulled himself out from under me and rested his head on my stomach; his damaged hand on his sons. I was as big now at four months as I’d been with Camille at six. The two remaining fingers on his left hand felt around for them.
“It’s still too soon to feel them move,” I said. “Give it a couple of weeks.”
“You said that a couple of weeks ago...”
As his hand kept moving I pushed my tongue through the gap in my front teeth. I would have rather spent an entire evening getting to know Soros than the mere twenty minutes we’d spent with Walker.
“Jack?” I said remembering getting through that night and the weeks that followed.
“Mm?” he answered. His mouth was on my stomach.
“I love you, Jack.”
“I love you, Baby,” he mumbled. His touch was distracting and made it hard to keep telling him no.
“You want to read?” I asked. Jack’s room had shelves of ancient books. Many of them he couldn’t stand and would tell me about the man he was when he brought them here as if to apologize for their presence.
I sighed and my feet rubbed together as his hand ran up my side then down my leg.
“You know you want to say it,” Jack whispered.
“Mm, yes,” I answered as I started to lose myself. Jack pushed himself up so his head was by mine. His blue eyes sparkled as his nose teased my lower lip.
“Just say so if you want to stop. I promise I will. You just have to tell me it’s okay now.”
We got closer as he started stroking my cheek and I turned to face him, putting my leg up over his.
“No,” he said pushing it back down. “That’s not fair. You have to tell me you want to.”
I rolled away in frustration, refusing to say the words. Then I turned around and he laughed. Jack reached over to turn off the light and lay on his back keeping a hand on my side.
“Night, Baby,” he said.
His breathing quieted quickly while I stayed awake. As my eyes adjusted to the dark room I could make out the cold stars through the uncovered window. The house was never silent but at least down the end on the third floor where we were it was quiet.
I fingered my wedding ring. The burn had healed and even with the bit of weight gain it moved around. Maybe it was time. My connection to Paul was long gone since he turned up at Jack’s just before we left for the long drive to where we were now. Left behind dead in Jack’s yard; a round from his own gun in his head.
I decided if it came off I’d ask Jack to sleep with me. If it didn’t he’d have to wait another night. I gently started working it off my finger, pressing it up into the underside to get it over my knuckle. It resisted and eventually it came. Smooth skin circled my finger where it had been for the past year and made out the rough edge of the scar which followed it then put the ring to my lips and kissed it. I love you Paul, I thought, but it’s time to say good-bye.
The ring went on the little table beside the bed.
I turned to Jack and put his arm under me before I slid closer keeping in contact with it until I had my elbow in the pillow beside his head and my face right above his. He slept like a stone. I let my nose touch his and still nothing so I put my hand on his cheek and waited. If he didn’t wake up he’d never believe I’d even tried. The smallest unusual sound at the other end of the house would have him sitting even though I figured I could jump on the bed without getting a reaction. I ran my thumb along his bottom lip. He pressed it up into his top one and let it relax.
My tongue came out and moistened my lips then I put them next to my thumb before I sealed them on his and pulled away making a tiny popping sound. Then again. I was convinced I could make love to him and he’d have no idea why he was smiling in the morning.
“Jack,” I whispered.
“Anna,” he answered.
He’d been awake the whole time. That was fair. I’d done the same thing to him more than once to eavesdrop. I didn’t say anything for a few seconds and kissed him again instead.
“Is something wrong?”
I sighed. The longer I took to say it the more likely I was to say no and roll over to go to sleep.
“Jack,” I whispered again.
“I want you to be my lover now.”
“Okay, Baby,” he whispered as his arms came up around me.
Jack’s stomach rumbled, waking me. I giggled and turned to him realizing there shouldn’t be sufficient daylight to see his face. He hadn’t cut his hair or shaved since we’d arrived and it had grown quickly for four and a half months. His bone straight bangs came down to brush his eyebrows. At least he trimmed the moustache; it would have driven me buggy if he hadn’t. The beard came in red, gold and curly with the exception of where the scar ran down the left side of his face.
The sun was up which meant we’d missed breakfast. It wasn’t up far enough to mean we’d miss lunch. He threw a leg over my thigh and slid his hand down from my side to the lump of boys between us.
“Hi, Jack,” I whispered.
“Did I make up for last time?”
“Nothing to make up for. Neither one of us wanted it like that,” Jack replied.
“Mm,” I told him. “I know that’s not how you wanted your sons to get their start.”
It was what it was. Jack ignoring my tears to give me something just a week after the rape. Awful for both of us. Not like hours ago. Looking into each others eyes, in love, getting something we both wanted.
“It wasn’t. Last night was.”
“You always call them my sons.”
“Yes,” I said again. He turned me to him, wanting to know why without saying the words. “I feel their connection to you, but not to me like I did with Camille. I feel them a bit, more today. Maybe that’s why we get our breaks now.”
Jack looked sad.
“They’ll feel like mine. I’m their mother,” I told him. “I do love them Jack like any mother loves the lives inside her. I just don’t feel connected to them yet. Their strong connection is to you. It’s what gave their lines life.”
“Okay, I understand.”
“I love you, Jack...”
“Mm you too, Baby,” he whispered wrapping his arms around me and holding me tight. After a few minutes my eyes had closed.
“I’ve never seen you sleep so well,” he said.
I startled. I’d started to drift off.
“My hand was off you for two hours,” he mouthed in my ear nearly silently. “When I got a few feet from you I saw you get anxious but when I got close again you relaxed. They’ll know if we’re too far apart. You know they can read where we are.”
I nodded, understanding. We had to keep pretending he was close enough to touch me. Seconds later there was a knock. I pulled the blanket over my head.
“Come in,” Jack called. There was no point in telling them not to, they would come in anyway. The door opened and I heard the footsteps of several men.
“Jack! Good morning and good morning Sweet Thing.”
“Good morning, Mister Soros,” I said cheerfully, my voice muffled by Jack’s chest. I’d learned the best way to keep Soros and Walker in a good mood with me was to act as suffocatingly cheerful as they did. I nuzzled my nose in the small hairs and gently kissed him as Soros went on.
“I hear you’ve redeemed yourself with your mate, Top Gun.”
Jack didn’t say anything. I wasn’t surprised;