Authors: Pamela Palmer
“Forty-eight hours. That's all they're giving him.”
Larsen gasped. “What do they say is wrong with him?”
“His organs are turning to stone. Just like Tarrys predicted.” Something broke in his eyes. “How can this be happening?”
Larsen slid her arms around his neck and he met her halfway, pulling her tight against him and burying his face in her hair. She could feel him shaking beneath the torrent of grief and outrage, and she held him, stroking her fingers through his thick, dark hair as he clung to her.
Finally his grip loosened and he pulled back, his eyes so full of despair it made her ache. Without thinking, she slid her palms over his cheeks and kissed him, driven by a need to offer what comfort she could. He responded with a strength that startled her, wrapping her in a tight embrace as he kissed her hard, communicating his need for comfort, for forgetfulness, for
Passion flared between them in a torrent of need and desperation. All day she'd tried to deny this attraction, tried to pretend there was nothing between them. But after a single fiery kiss, she was lost.
Their teeth clicked as Jack's tongue swept inside her mouth, filling her with the taste of pleasure and heat, filling her with emotions she couldn't name.
“I need you,” he murmured against her lips as his warm hand slipped beneath her shirt, trailing a hot path over her heated skin until it reached the barrier of her bra. “I need to touch you, Larsen.” His voice shook, but this time with desire.
“Yes, Jack.” She spread a path of kisses from his lips to his cheek, to his ear. “Yes.” She nipped at the lobe, drawing a violent tremor from him.
His hands grabbed for the hem of her shirt, his elbow bumping the sofa back, but they got it off her, followed quickly by her bra.
Jack hesitated, his gaze probing hers, his eyes filled with grief and fire and question. Slowly his hands lifted to frame her face. “I want to make love to you.”
Years of defenses shook and crumbled beneath the desire his touch stoked inside her and the raw need she felt to share herself with this one man. She covered his hands with her own, then pulled them away from her face and lowered them to her breasts.
The feel of his large hands covering her, her nipples cradled in his palms, sent shafts of pleasure spearing through her. She arched into the touch, pressing his hands harder against her as her head fell back.
“Larsenâ¦” His lips touched her neck, his tongue sliding along the sensitive line as his fingers encircled the hard tips, twirling them between the pads of his fingers and thumbs, sending a hot current of electricity shooting downward to the juncture of her thighs.
She groaned with exquisite pleasure as his lips slid down over her collarbone to cover her breast, taking the pulsing, tingling flesh into his mouth. His tongue stroked where his fingers had moments before, the sensation delicious but maddening as it did everything to increase the urgency filling her loins and nothing to quell it. Small, helpless noises were coming from her throat.
Larsen dug her fingers in his hair, at once pressing him closer and pulling him away. “Jackâ¦
He pulled back, yanked his shirt over his head, then pulled her beneath him on the sofa, his jeans-clad hips pressing hard against hers, the soft furring of hair on his chest tickling her sensitive nipples.
He lifted his head to stare into her eyes, his own shining like jewels. “I need you, Larsen.” Holding her gaze, his hand slid between them, between her thighs, and pressed against the very center of the flame.
She gasped, pressing against his hand, mindless with the need to quell the ache. She wasn't a virgin, though her sexual experience had been limited. Never had she felt like this. Never had she longed to take another so deep inside of her.
“Do you want me?” he asked, his breath ragged, blue eyes gleaming with desire.
Triumph flashed in his eyes and he pulled his hand from between her legs, gripping her hands as he pressed the hard ridge of his erection against her through their clothes, mimicking the act of mating, starting her on a slow, upward climb. Her pulse raced, her head began to spinâ¦
Larsen froze. Her heart lurched in her chest as she realized the spinning had nothing to do with what Jack was doing to her. She was fading into another vision as she had this morning, under the trees. Through the blur of Jack's head, a bedroom appeared, very different from the modern room that surrounded her for real.
The one in the vision was, like before, a different time, if not quite as far back as before. The walls were papered, the window had glass, but it was thick and opaque, reflecting the flames from the hearth. Clearly nighttime; the hearth flame was the only light in the room.
On the small bed in the center of the room sat a boy of maybe twelve or thirteen. He was moaning, his head in his hands, his brown hair hanging loose to his shoulders. He was dressed in a plain off-white linen shirt with pants that ended at his calves, revealing bare feet.
An old woman bustled into the room followed close behind by a man in an old-fashioned black coat with a white ruffled collar. They spoke to the boy in something that might have been French, or maybe Flemish.
As with the girl in the previous vision, while the man held him down, the old woman put her thumbs on the boy's temples and chanted.
As before, the woman chanted the same odd words, over and over.
Eslius turatus a quari er siedi. Eslius turatus a quari er siedi.
And as before, the boy began to smile, as if cured from whatever was causing his pain.
The vision dissolved and Larsen blinked to find Jack no longer on top of her, but beside her, one palm on her face. He was looking down at her with tight concern.
“What's the matter, angel?”
“Nothing. I'm fine.” Clearly the biggest lie ever told.
Why did she keep seeing these? They weren't death visions. For once she was seeing things that seemed to end well. But why? What
they? What did they
She pulled away from him and scrambled off the sofa, but he grabbed her arm and held it in a gentle vise.
“Larsen, don't.” His gaze, when she met it, was sad, not angry. He sat and pulled her down beside him. “I'm not going to hurt you, you know that, don't you?”
“Yes, of course.” He thought she was afraid of him? “I justâ¦changed my mind.”
His gaze bore into hers. “I think somewhere along the line someone hurt you.”
It wasn't true. And yetâ¦Tears pricked the backs of her eyes. She did hurt. She hated being like this, hated the visions and the fear that she was touched by evil. Hated that she was afraid to let anyone get too close.
“No one's hurt me.”
Jack sighed. “Maybe not physically. But someone destroyed your trust in men.”
She dropped her gaze to her lap, unable to meet his probing eyes. He was wrong. It wasn't someone but some
And it hadn't just destroyed her trust in men, but in everyone.
She felt his hand brush over her hair.
“I would never do anything to hurt you, Larsen. Believe that if you believe nothing else.”
The tears burned harsher now and she felt one escape to slide down her cheek.
The pad of his thumb brushed it away. “I won't pressure you. I'd never push you to do something you didn't want.”
She didn't respond. Couldn't lift her gaze for fear of dumping more tears. But she didn't pull away when he gathered her gently against him and pressed her head to his bare shoulder.
He held her like that, stroking her bare arm, giving her only comfort and the assurance he thought she needed, asking for nothing in return.
Something warm grew inside her, bursting on a rush of tenderness. Within his arms, she felt as though she'd finally come home. But the feeling was just an illusion. She had no home. Nowhere she could reveal herself. Nowhere she was truly safe.
She eased out of his embrace and went to retrieve her bra and shirt. When she was dressed, she turned to find him lying on his back on the sofa, his arm flung over his eyes, his mouth a tight line of despair.
David. Their love-making had been a way to forgetâat least for a momentâthat the boy was dying, but she'd stolen even that from him.
She sank onto the nearest chair. “I'm sorry, Jack.”
“I can't let him die,” he said, confirming her suspicions. He sat up again, meeting her gaze with hard, tormented eyes. “I've got to do something.”
“The bald girl, Tarrys, said we need to find an ancient healer. Maybe a Chinese doctor or someone with holistic training could help him.”
He shook his head, denial in his expression. Then suddenly he stilled, his eyes widening. “Aunt Myrtle.”
“The one your mom sent packing after she did some woo-woo number on you?”
“Yeah.” He shoved to his feet and reached for his phone, then stopped. “Nah. Can't call her. Too risky considering our current status as D.C.'s Most Wanted. We need to get David to her.”
“Jack, they're never going to release a dying kid from the hospital.”
“Then we'll have to break him out.”
“Maybe his momâ¦”
He made an impatient swipe with his hand. “His mom can't be involved. I can't be sure she hasn't come into contact with that devil's power.”
“Are you sure about this? We don't know he's been elfshot. You don't even believe in elves.”
He met her gaze. “Weren't you the one who said it doesn't matter what we call him as long as we accept what he can do? Well, I've accepted he's done something to David. The doctors can't help him. Maybe Myrtle can.”
Larsen let out a deep, worried breath. “Okay. But how are we supposed to kidnap him from a hospital?”
A tight, determined smile formed on his mouth. “I've got an inside connection. The woman I saved at Jingles is a doctor at Children's.”
“I thought you told her to leave the area.”
“I did. But I've still got her cell phone number.”
He made the call while Larsen watched him pace the bedroom. When he hung up, he looked like a man reborn, his eyes shining with the light of battle.
“She's still in town, just staying with a friend. She's going to meet us at the east service entrance at 2:00 a.m.”
“I can't believe she agreed to this. It's kidnapping.”
“She knows what we're up against. She knows I'm rescuing him.” He closed the distance between them and took her shoulders in his hands as grief tightened his mouth. “She knows we're his only chance.”
“Hello, Jack,” Brenda Kettering said, bending to talk to him through the car window. It was 2:00 a.m., the hospital service entrance all but deserted. She handed Jack a small bundle.
“David's clothes,” she said by way of explanation. “We have a small problem.”
Now, why didn't that surprise him? If anything went right at this point, it would be a cause for major celebration.
“His mom's sleeping with him,” Brenda continued. “I'm going to ask her to come down to the nurses' station to sign some forms for me. When I get her out of the room, you need to be waiting in the shadows, ready to whisk him away.”
Jack turned off the ignition. “Can do.”
“Do you want me to wait here?” Larsen asked.
“No.” He lifted his hand to reach for her, but stopped himself. He needed to back off and to let her come to him even if it killed him. Though he longed for a moment's peace from the noise in his head, her touch was so much more. Light, strength, warmth. She was becoming far too important to him to risk scaring her off.
“Come with me,” he said. “As you pointed out earlier, we're safer together.”
He stepped out of the car and into the humid night air. The area around the hospital was well-lit, illuminating them like a trio of bull's-eyes. God knew whoâor whatâwatched from the darkness, but they entered the hospital without incident and followed Brenda into the elevator. The three stood facing each other as the elevator engine sounded noisily against the quiet of the hospital.
“I've already disconnected him from the wires and tubes, so he'll be easily moved.”
“Are you endangering your job doing this?” Larsen asked the woman.
Brenda eyed her squarely. “Sure.” A look of compassionate determination warmed her round face. “But I can't let a child die if there might be a way to save him. I nearly died a few days ago.” She glanced at Jack. “If not for Detective Hallihan's timely intervention, I would have.”
“I'm just glad I was there,” he told her.
Brenda cleared her throat and continued. “I'm willing to do whatever it takes to stop this villain. And I mean
whatever it takes.