May you have a joyous and blessed Christmas.  God bless.

Christmas

From the end of Night Blade

There were things in my life that had haunted me, but there would never be anything like that day.  I deserved every awful, miserable second and I’d taken a thousand more days like this—if I could take it from her.

She was thin, like it had been months instead of weeks since she’d disappeared.  Kit was so mouthy and arrogant, half the time she made a person think she was bigger than she was, but under all that attitude, she was slender, almost delicate and now, she looked it.  Her skin looked paper thin and her cheekbones were too sharp, jutting up against the hollows of her face.

And she was bruised.

Even though she was clothes on now, I could remember the area of every fucking bruise. Every mark put on her.

The worst of all of it, though, was her eyes.  There was no life in them—almost as if Greaves hadn’t acted in time and she had gone over that edge.

I wanted her to look at me, wanted to find some way to strip that loss of…everything…from her, but she wouldn’t look at me.

Standing there, lost in the trees, I looked at her and waited, watched for some sign that she even knew I existed, knew I was here.  If she gave me any sign, I would have crawled over the frozen ground, broken glass and through the fires of hell.  If she said, kill…I’d storm that fucking fortress and everybody inside it would be dead in a moment.

 

But all she did was sit there, huddling behind Doyle and clutching a borrowed coat around her narrow shoulders.  Doyle had saved her, so I throttled down the need to grab the kid and beat him bloody for daring to be at her side when everything inside me said it should be me with her.

I’d lost that right.   Nobody knew that as well as I did.

But nothing could drag me from that spot there.

If somebody breathed too loud, she flinched and I couldn’t stand it.

This was the mean, ball-busting little bitch who’d once pulled a blade on me.  When she was afraid, she kicked people in the teeth.  When she was nervous, she mouthed off.  And if she was pissed, you better check her hands for sharp objects.

And now…

Red flooded my vision.  A furious roar flooded my head—the one I couldn’t voice.  No matter how many times, I tried to block it out, I kept seeing her as she came tearing out of the big pile of stone behind us.  I’d thought…

No, man.  Don’t go thinking.

 

If I started thinking, I was going to remember what she’d almost done.  She kept darting looks out through the trees and my gut told me if she thought she could, she might still try to just…end it.

And if I kept looking at her, I thought maybe I was going to be the one to lose my mind.  I couldn’t do this. But I couldn’t walk away from this place, either.  Shifting my attention to the fortress in the mountains, I stared at it.  The monster in me stretched his muscles, claws outstretched, teeth bared.  He wanted to come and play–destroy.  He was a mean bastard even under the best circumstances.  And when another broken gasp came to me on the wind, I had to admit…these weren’t the best circumstances.

 

She wouldn’t look at me.  Wouldn’t let me get near her and any time I tried, she backed away like she thought I might hurt her.  The bitch of it all…I even understood that.  If I didn’t do something, I was going to explode.  The monster raging inside me saw to that.

I didn’t bother stripping out of my clothes as I slid off into the night.  The shift took care of them.  They fell in shreds around me and I paid about as much attention to them as I did to the snow blasting again my skin.  I knew it was there, but I didn’t fucking care.

There were only two things that mattered—one of them was behind me…and she didn’t want to see me.

The other was in that huge mausoleum of a house and as soon as he came out, I didn’t care if he was under guard or not, I was going to rip him apart.  I’d bury my claws in his gut and then rip him apart.  I could already smell the acrid, rotting stink of his blood and the burn of anticipation was the only thing that had made me feel good since this nightmare had started.

Hiding myself in the shadows, I looked back at her.  She huddled against the tiger and I whispered, “I’m so damn sorry.”

But it didn’t matter.  I hadn’t protected her.  The one thing I’d promised her and I’d failed.

No wonder she didn’t want to look at me.

I didn’t think I’d ever be able to face myself again, not after this.