Bruce hugs me closer. “Penny don’t even think it!” he says gruffly into my ear. He always smelled so nice, I think how sad it is that I can’t smell him anymore.
“You know I have to Bruce. You know me.” I push myself up to stand on my own. I begin to limp towards Chief Aaron.
“No! Pennelope, stop right where you are. I’m to blame for this whole mess.” He holds out his hands in an effort to halt the scene.
I hear Bruce say, “Damn straight!” under his breath. I smile sadly at his comment and look at Aaron once more. He’s pale and sickly in this brighter light, I almost feel sorry for him. If only he wasn’t holding my friend hostage. I hold up both hands in surrender. I couldn’t see the logic in letting a women die so that I could go free. I just wasn’t that important. Nadine needed Sarah.
Gerard roared a “No!” and his body begins vibrating faster than my eyes can track. His figure becomes larger, more bent and hulking. His eyes watch with a sharp gleam and his sharper, fanged teeth snap at Aaron. I am legitimately frightened of him at this point. A creature that wears Gerard’s clothes flashes past and grips Aaron by the neck. He squeezes until there’s a series of wet crunches. Blackness oozes from his ears, nose, and mouth. I hear Bruce gagging at what should be a horrendous smell, or maybe it’s the disgusting sight of it. I am enthralled by the Gerard beast, treating the strongest being I’ve ever known like a rag doll.
Then I see Sarah’s face and my face drains of blood. Her main artery is slashed open and her life is pouring out onto the persian rug. Nadine attempts to stop the flow with her slim fingers, having little effect. She will never make it to a hospital. I pull on Gregory’s arm, unafraid of the consequences. “Gregory stop!” I yell. “We need him. We need Aaron.”
Gerard pauses in his assault and turns to me with a questioning look. I speak to Aaron who is somehow still coherent and alive, “If you heal her, Gerard here will let you live.” Gerard looks to me and shakes his head ‘no’.
“Yes, he will.” He shakes his deformed head ‘no’ once more.
“I will personally see to it that he doesn’t kill you.” The Gerard beast snorts and grunts his disapproval, but does as I ask.
Aaron stretches his neck back into place once he is released from Gerard’s huge clawed hand. He wipes the clots from his face and coughs a few times, “It’s a deal, my little lamb.”
At hearing Aaron’s pet name for me, Gerard reaches out and thumps him in the back of the head. Warning given.
Aaron walks nonchalantly to Sarah, puts his mouth to her neck and licks her wound. It seals instantly. Magic spit apparently. Sarah stays unconscious from blood loss but her color is improving already. I breathe a sigh of relief. Bruce who has stayed pretty quiet through the whole strange ordeal, helps Nadine carry Sarah to the door.
I face Aaron, “I know that you, in some twisted way have feelings for me. If you had gone about things differently, I might have liked you back. But as it is, with this crazy cult that thinks it’s alright to kidnap women and cut out their tongues, It’s just never going to happen for you. Think about moving into the twentieth century. Also, I’m under Gerard’s protection, so don’t try this again.” Aaron looks into my eyes and then away, like it hurt to hold my gaze. I can only hope that he will take my words to heart. I limp towards the door and he calls out, “Penny wait?”
He comes close and Gerard growls his warning to be nice. Aaron drops to his knees in front of me and asks, “Let me fix it? Your leg, let me heal you?” I look into his sad eyes and give my approval. He gently lifts my skirt on one side to bare my hip and gives me a small bite. It is only a small bit of pain, then I feel his tongue slide over my wound. The warmth of his magic flows into my swollen joint and it hurts no more. Gerard throws him across the room when he takes the liberty of kissing my thigh. I am pulled from the room by Gerard, who has become himself once more. I glance back to see Aaron kneeling on the blood soaked carpet, dejected. Alone.
I am sad for him but I don’t feel bad enough to stay with him. I would make a horrible Blood Soul Queen. We rush to the car and take Sarah to the hospital as fast as we can. Nadine mouths, “Thank you.” to me. I cry.
I don’t feel like I did them any favors. I can’t stop staring at the sun that is rising on the horizon. I thought I had seen my last.
We arrive at the hospital and Nadine waves us away, signing for me to go sleep. I hand her one of Gerard’s cards, “I’m going to come visit tomorrow, call if you need anything. I know you can’t talk but maybe you can find a nurse to speak for you. Either way, you guys aren’t alone.” With tears in her eyes she hugs me and makes a heart with her hands.
We are all solemn and silent until we reach Gerard’s and my home. I rush upstairs to shower and change into my own clothes. I want to wash the damp earth from my skin and burn the ugly blue dress. I stay in the hot shower until it goes cold. Sweats and slippers are the days apparel. I don’t care what anyone thinks of it.
As I shut my bedroom door and descend the stairs, I hear Bruce’s voice wavering between a shout and a whisper. “Someone almost died, how can you think that I will leave this all to you. You haven’t handle this well at all. They have a whole cult of people down there as food and slaves. There are laws against this!”
Gerard keeps his voice calm and quiet, “I’ve explained how they are. It has been this way for thousands of years. They draw humans of certain personality types to them naturally. It’s part of their survival skills. Humans are integral to their breeding process. If you bring a swat team in, they will disappear unharmed. Only to set up a tribe somewhere else, but first they will kill every last cult member. All those people will die for nothing. It’s best just to monitor them.” Bruce is still shaking his head in denial when I enter the room and sit next to him on the couch.
“I agree.” I say. “Except for Nadine, Sarah and myself, all the women wanted to be there. They believe they’re serving gods. I don’t think you could convince them otherwise, to be honest.”
“I still don’t trust that creep Aaron to stay away from you. He was..desperate for you.” Bruce says and rubs my back. Gerard wrinkles his brow for a second, then offers to get me coffee. I tell him yes and he goes to the kitchen to retrieve it.
Bruce takes the opportunity to give me a big squeeze. I squeal and smile at him, “So how did you get wrangled into all this mess?”
“Well when you weren’t here for our appointment and old Gerard was pretty squirrely with his answers, I got the truth outta him. We hatched that plan to get in the compound. That search warrant was fake, by the way. Don’t say nothing to anyone about it.” I laughed, like I was going to go around blabbing crazy tales of underground creatures that kidnapped me and drank blood. “Your secret’s safe with me.” Bruce releases me when Gerard comes back with the coffee. I sip mine, trying to remember the lovely flavor of fresh coffee.
I decide to talk about the elephant in the room, “So, Gerard. What the heck was that thing you turned into?”
He looks bashful, “It’s my true Slayer form. I only turn into that when I’m very upset or threatened. It doesn’t happen often, fortunately. It’s hell on my wardrobe.” I laugh at his corny joke. He asks me seriously, “Are you still alright with living here with me?”
I walk over and hug him, “Of coarse, and thank you for being such a good friend.”
I hear Bruce laugh a little through his nose at Gerard. “That goes for both of you, great friends.” I laugh when Bruce’s smile drops at the implication that he’s been placed in the friend zone.
“I think it’s going to be nice and quiet around here for a while.” I say and knock on the mahogany side table. Can’t be too careful.