"Lie down, my dear."
The woman's voice was soft and maternally soothing. "Yes. Good. There we are."
The scene in the hallway had taken its toll on Sara and she allowed herself to be directed back against the pillow. The man was gone now. He'd deposited her in bed and disappeared, leaving her to wonder where he was and if he was coming back.
She sighed when she felt the woman's cool hand on her forehead. The gesture reminded her so much of her mother and those days she'd been allowed to stay home from school, eat Chef Boyardee, and have as many Pudding Pops as she wanted. Those normal, coveted days before the fire . . .
It hurt to move her head, but Sara managed to nod.
"Are you hungry? Thirsty?" the woman asked. She was somewhere in her fifties, and had eyes the color of olives and short, gray hair.
"If you change your mind, I have some fruit and juice here on the side table." The woman smiled as she placed a hand around Sara's wrist.
"What are you doing?" Sara asked weakly.
"Checking your pulse." The woman pressed two fingers into the groove along the inside of Sara's wrist.
"Who are you?"
"Yes," the woman said, giving Sara a tight-lipped smile.
"I'm a . . . private physician."
Sara shifted uncomfortably. This was wrong. Something was wrong--she could feel it in her gut. Where was the man?
She stole a glance at the window, then the door. If she could just get up, if she could just get to a phone . . .
"You have a concussion, my dear," the doctor said gently. "But it's a mild one, and with a few days' rest, you should be up and--"
"I should be in a hospital," Sara interrupted, her tone as forceful as she could manage. "Why am I not in a hospital?"
The doctor hesitated for a moment, then looked over her shoulder. "Do you want me to . . . ?"
"No. I'll explain it to her."
Sara's pulse jumped at the sound of the man's voice. He was here. The whole time. But how? She'd seen him leave . . . hadn't she?
She lifted her chin. Where was he? She wanted to sit up, see him, demand he tell her what was happening--but her body wouldn't respond.
"Very good, sir," said the doctor. "I'll return in an hour."
"Thank you, Leza."
The low, almost growling timbre of his voice seemed to take up residence in Sara's chest, the vibration warming her blood.
The doctor walked to the door, and, suddenly panicked, Sara called out, "Wait!"
Before the door clicked shut, Leza glanced back and smiled empathetically. "Not to worry, Dr. Donohue. You're safe here."
Safe? Who is she kidding? Pressing the heels of her palms into the mattress, Sara pushed herself into a semisitting position, then gripped the sheets when a rush of dizziness came over her.
"I can feel your fear, Sara."
Sara blinked to recover her vision. "Where are you?" she demanded.
"Right in front of you."
"No, you're not. I can't see--"
Fire roared to life in the hearth across the room. "I swear to you there is nothing to fear here."
He sat in a massive black wingback chair in the shadowed alcove directly across from the bed--a chair Sara didn't remember being there before her unsuccessful escape moments ago. He was dressed for cold weather in a thick gray sweater and black pants.
He watched her intently, his arms crossed over his broad chest.
In the amber light of the fire, he looked to be somewhere in his thirties, and was far from good-looking. In fact, with the buzz cut, narrowed burgundy eyes, and those two small, black key-shaped markings carved into the hollowed flesh beneath his high cheekbones, he had a face to fear, a face that might make some recoil. But strangely, Sara felt nothing but relief under his watchful gaze. Yes, he looked relentless, ready to spring, but even so, every fear within her eased, warmed even, and the hum his voice had created within her returned.
Clearly, the knock on the head had screwed with her brain.
"Who are you?" she demanded, trying to keep her voice calm.
"I don't know you."
"Where am I?"
"My home. In SoHo."
The way he stared at her mouth when she talked made a muscle quiver in her thigh. "Are you going to tell me why I'm here?"
"You were attacked."
"I know that, but why am I here and not in a hospital?"
He leaned forward, his eyes glowing. "Unfortunately, that little bastard who attacked you got away, and I'm fairly certain he still wishes you harm." Alexander growled softly. "He will be found and dealt with, but until then I want to make sure you're safe."
The news that Tom was still walking around Manhattan and not locked up in a jail cell devastated Sara, but she didn't show it. She had another problem to contend with, an immediate problem. "I'm not safe here."
"You are," he assured her.
"No. I want to go to a hospital."
His expression was sympathetic, but there was an immovable flicker in his gaze.
"I can't allow that. I'm sorry."
"You can't or you won't?"
He sighed. "I'm bound to protect you, Sara."
With those words, the vibration and the calming heat from a moment ago moved from her chest to her belly, then threatened to dip lower. She ignored it. "I don't know what you're talking about, or who you think you are--but I don't need your protection. If Tom's still out there, and he goes after me again, I'll call the police. Have them deal with it." She watched his eyes flash in the firelight at the suggestion. "Where's my phone?"
"Back in your apartment, I'd imagine."
"Then I'll use yours."
The man stood and walked to her. His size, like a cross between a linebacker and military badass, was unnerving.
He gestured to the end of the bed. "May I?"
She swallowed hard, but refused to show her unease. "Do I have a choice?"
The mattress dipped low with his weight. "Listen, Sara."
"How do you know my name? And how does the doctor know my name?"
"I know this is an unusual situation--"
"You think?" she said darkly.
"But I need you to trust me for just a little while longer."
"You've got to be kidding." She gritted her teeth and said slowly, "I want a phone, and I want it now. I have a hospital full of patients and a crime to report to the police."
His face grew serious. "I'm afraid I can't bring the police into this."
"What?" Sara sat up, struggled against the dizziness in her head. "Why the hell not?"
He paused a moment, his eyebrows lowering to meet a dangerous gaze. "I think perhaps you know why not."
"I'm not a game player, Mr. Roman."
"I cannot allow myself and my brothers to be exposed."
"Exposed," Sara repeated, surprised at the sudden jump in her heart rate. "What are you talking about? Who the hell are ..."
Sara's words petered out as an image flickered in her mind. It was fuzzy and there was confusion and shock attached to it, but as the seconds ticked off, the hazy memory came slowly into focus. Startled, she looked up. "You!"
The man before her suddenly opened his mouth and revealed two white, blade-sharp fangs.
Pure, white-hot terror assaulted Sara and she shook her head, drew back against the pillows as far as she could manage. "No ..."
The man's jaw relaxed and his gaze remained even with Sara's. "It was unfortunate that you had to witness--"
"No." She kept shaking her head like an idiot. It was the bump on her head. She was delusional. "No. It's not possible." Yet there it was. He had fangs.
I AM WHAT YOU THINK I AM.
"Don't do that!" Her temples throbbing, she stared at him. "This is impossible.
You don't exist ..."
Alexander's eyes clouded over and he uttered softly, "There are many who would agree with you on that."
Cold fear rippled through Sara like a dozen icy waves--the heat and comfort of his presence completely dead to her now. Her skin bristled and her heart thundered in her chest, keeping pace with the pain that pounded in her head. This wasn't happening.
Everything in her education and experience screamed at her that this couldn't be happening, yet her gut whispered otherwise.
What did she do now? Her head was throbbing so badly she felt like she might throw up. She hated how weak she felt. She dropped back against the pillow.
"You need to rest," he said, his voice as gentle as a kiss. "Have something to eat and drink."
I need to get the fuck out of here! "I need a hospital . . . I need my phone." Her words slurred and she forced her eyes to stay open.
"Your former patient is not going to give up, and until he's caught, I ask that you stay here."
"Fuck you!" she shouted, but the sound that left her throat was little more than a squeak. She wanted so badly to remain tough and resolute, but she was so tired. "I have patients. My--"
"That asshole wants to kill you, Sara. He won't stop until he does. I felt it. I felt his need for your blood."
"You . . . what?" She shook her head, refusing to listen to any more of that. "If you think you're going to keep me here against my will, a prisoner--"
"Not a prisoner, a guest."
"A guest?" she repeated. "You're insane."
"A very welcome, very honored guest." Alexander put his hand over hers, and the heat that traveled up her arm found its way into her belly, curling deliciously inside of her. She looked up at him, hating herself for wishing this feeling would never go away.
"You saved my life," he continued. "And all I ask is that you allow me to do the same for you."
The confusing warmth of his touch was too much for Sara. She should be thinking about escaping, not wishing she could crawl up into his powerful arms and fall asleep.
She yanked her hand from his grasp. "I don't know who you are, what you are--
the only thing I want is to know where the front door is."
Before Alexander could answer, there was a knock on the door, and an older man's heavily accented voice rang out, "I'm sorry for the interruption, sir, but Lucian and Nicholas are in the library. They ask that you meet them there as soon as possible."
"Who's that?" Sara demanded. "And who the hell are Lucian and Nicholas?"
"My brothers." Alexander stood, inclined his head. "I have to go. Please try to sleep, and if you need anything just press the call button on the bedside table."
As soon as he was out the door, Sara pushed herself into a sitting position.
Instantly, she gripped her head, her brain pounding mercilessly inside her skull. She was so exhausted, nearly sick with it, but there was no way she was lying down and resting.
She had to stay awake, alert--she had to find a way out of this insanity--this nightmare her mind, and the bump on her head, had created.
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