“Jacob put you straight, huh?” she asked. We stopped at the lights on the street corner. Across the street, the tall Phoenix palms rustled in the ocean breeze and lifted the hair around her face. I tucked the strands behind her ears.
“He put me straight. He made me realize that I can’t run away from this, from you…from the idea of losing you. Dawn,” I bit my lip, my fingers disappearing into her hair, “I won’t lose you.”
“I hope that’s true.” God, she looked so scared and so fucking cute. I was serious putty in her hands.
“I’ll do whatever I can to make it true. Whatever I can.”
But you can’t tell her you love her, said the voice in my head. Because that will make it true.
I swallowed hard and kept my focus on her. Damn that voice. But tonight I wouldn’t silence it the way it wanted me to.
She looked past me, and I caught a subtle rolling of the eyes.
“What?” I asked, looking behind me at the crowd that was still outside the theater. A tall figure was sauntering toward us.
“Max,” she muttered. “I think he aims to follow us.”
“For your own good?”
“I hope so.”
I didn’t like the idea of Max following us around, but if he could protect Dawn in a situation that I couldn’t, I couldn’t afford to be an immature prick about it. Well, not really.
“That’s fine,” I said, leading her across the street as the lights turned. “If he wants to watch you at every turn, then that’s his problem. Not ours.”
We made our way across the seawall and down the cement stairs to the beach. Now, at night, there were a few torchlights lit in the areas that the hotels and lounges controlled, but the public areas of the beach were completely deserted. I took her across the thick pebbles, our feet sliding over them, until we came to a spot a few feet away from where the surf was breaking. I settled down on the beach then pulled her down into my lap.
She giggled shyly and immediately straddled me.
I rested my hands on her bare thighs. “It sure is lucky you’re wearing a skirt.” I slid my fingers up toward her ass and then couldn’t help but grin like a cocky fucking bastard when I realized she wasn’t wearing any underwear. “Now you’re just being extra lucky.”
“Lucky for whom?” she asked coyly, placing her hands on my shoulders and squeezing the rounded muscle there.
“For both of us,” I said. I grabbed her face and kissed her, our mouths in perfect synchronicity, that slow burn that was stoking us white-hot. I could have kissed her all night long, just loving the feel of her in my hands, at my mouth, the sweetness and the passion in her softly exploring tongue. She went for my pants, unbuttoning my waistband and zipping down the fly. I groaned at her touch, wanting it all now and still wishing it could take forever. Just us on the beach in France, with the waves breaking at our back and the stars in the sky above. In this moment there were no demons, no deals, no deaths. Just her and just me. Just us. Always us. This song.
I’d spent the day numb and now I was feeling everything, open to the world.
“Do you think he’s watching?” she whispered, her voice throaty as she guided my cock to her, teasing herself with the tip.
I moaned slightly, not giving a fuck who was watching. “Let him watch. Let him think he’s lucky, too.”
I quickly pulled out a condom from my pocket and slipped it on before we got too carried away. We made love on that beach for a long time and then slept in each other’s arms, the pebbles our bed. We made our way home just as the sun was rising. We managed to keep our demons at bay.
Sleeping on a rocky beach may not have been the most comfortable thing in the world, but I was just so grateful that I’d gotten any sleep at all. You’d think that being out in the open like that, with the world watching if it looked through the darkness, would make you more vulnerable. But we were only vulnerable with each other, not to the supernatural.
At least that’s what I told myself.
Once back at the hotel in the safety of the morning, we had another romp in the hay. I don’t know if it was the constant adrenaline surging through us, the fact that our lives, or at least mine, were threatened, or that we were finally coming together as one, but we just couldn’t get enough of each other. When he was pushed deep inside me, this man of muscle and heart and oh God, the stamina, I felt fearless. Hopeful. Free.
It was only when we were dressed again that I felt reality coming to bite me, to remind me of the very unreal yet real situation I was placed in. And again, I could only blame myself. It was a terrible thing to know something was your fault, even though it was beyond your control or intention. It gave me just a little appreciation for what Sage must have been going through all throughout Hybrid and afterward. No wonder the man was such a mess.
Me, I was barely keeping it together. But somehow I was putting one foot in front of the other. I had Max, I had Jacob, and I had Sage. I knew all of them would do what they could for me, one more out of necessity than anything else. But it was more than enough. It had to be. I had no choice. The only thing I could control was how I dealt with it.
We had a train to board to Italy in the afternoon, an overnighter, which put me at ease slightly because I couldn’t imagine anything spooky happening on a train surrounded by all those people. For the last couple of days, though, I’d been so wrapped up with what was happening to me, too wrapped up in Sage and the tour, that I’d forgotten to call Mel or my family.
When I was all packed, and Sage had given me some privacy, I called Mel and was able to talk to her for a few minutes before she had to go out. I nearly cried when I heard her voice and realized I missed her like crazy. She was the only person back at home who knew what I had really gone through with Hybrid, the only one who would listen to the truth. But I couldn’t unleash on her my problem. It wasn’t fair when she couldn’t do anything to help.
With a heavy heart and a knocking on the door from Jacob, telling me I had to go, I hung up the phone. It was only when we got to the Nice train station that I realized we had another hour to kill—Jacob liked us all to be early, just in case. I stole a few moments away, promising to stay in sight of them and the band, and found the nearest payphone on the platform.
I dialed Eric, and he answered on the second ring.
“Eric?” I cried out through the crackly connection.
“Dawn!” he exclaimed.
“Hey, monkey, how are you?”
“I’m great. Where are you?”
“I’m in France. Nice. We’re heading to Rome in a bit. What time is it there?”
“I dunno,” he said, and I realized how groggy he sounded. “Early. I’m getting ready for school.”
“Okay,” I said, “I won’t keep you. I just wanted to say hello. And that I love you.”
“Aw, geez, Dawn.”
“Well, I do.” My heart felt weighted. “And I just want you to take care of yourself and Dad.”
There was a pause. “Dawn. Are you okay?”
“Yeah…” I wasn’t sure how to phrase this without worrying him. “Listen, Eric, before I left, you said something to me. About…someone. You asked if I could feel her.”
The line crackled.
“Eric?” I prodded.
“I’m here,” came his small voice.
“Well, what was that about? Who was ‘her’?”
He sighed. I knew the minutes were ticking on my calling card, but I couldn’t rush him.
Finally he said, “I was talking about…about Mom. I know it sounds crazy. But…lately…well, until before you left, actually, I’d been having nightmares about her.”
I could barely find my voice. “What kind of nightmares?” I squeaked out.
“Just…weird stuff. Like, when we used to watch The Twilight Zone. Mom out in the field or in the bathroom or…on the ceiling. But it wasn’t Mom. I just thought it was…I…I thought maybe this was her way of communicating.” He paused. “Jeez, it sounds stupid, Dawn.”
“But you said it stopped?” I asked, my heart pounding.
“Yeah, it did. So far, anyway. And I don’t feel weird around the house anymore. It was like…I could feel her. That’s why I asked you that. I think…I think I just miss her. Don’t you?”
I breathed out slowly before responding. “Yeah, Eric. I miss her, too.”
“Well, I better go, Dawn.” I could hear stuff clanking in the background, like he was finishing up breakfast. Suddenly I longed to be in that sunny kitchen with him. I wished I could have gone back in time and never wished for anything to change, to just try and make the most of it and keep going on with my life.
But then Eric would have never found happiness in his cure, and my father wouldn’t have gotten his spirit and health back. My wish, no matter how damaging it was now, had never been a selfish one.
“Bye, Eric. I’ll speak soon. Tell Dad I love him, too.”
“I will.” And after a few beats, “Love you, big sis.”
I hung up the phone and wiped away the tear that had found its way to my chin.
“Play it again, Sam,” I said to Sage as he was about to set his guitar down. We were sitting on a lower bunk in a train car as it trundled its way through the night. Jacob had arranged for him, Sage, Max, and I to all be in the same four-person sleeping car for the journey to Rome, which was fine by me. I actually felt safe knowing we were all sleeping together, though I remembered from the bus tour with Hybrid that Jacob snored something fierce.
Sage smiled—those gorgeous dimples—and jerked his head back and forth. “Woody Allen totally butchered that line, you know. In Casablanca, Ingrid Bergman says ‘Play it, play “As Time Goes By.”’”
I hugged my knees to my chin and stroked the bottom of his guitar with my bare foot. “I didn’t know you were such a classic movie buff, Mr. Knightly. Sorry, Monsieur Knightly.”
His eyes flicked to my toes. “Don’t make me suck on them, you tease. And it’s Signor Knightly now that we’ve crossed into Italy. We’ll probably get shot for trying to speak French.” The passport control officials as we crossed the border hadn’t been the most welcoming.
“Then play it. Play…whatever thing you were just playing.”
“It doesn’t have a name,” he said, adjusting the guitar in his lap. “You can name it if you want.”
“Can we call it “Dawn”? I’ve always wanted a song about me.”
His face grew very serious for a moment. Then he smiled softly. “I don’t have any songs about you. But I hope to one day. This song is about finding yourself drunk in a Chicago bar and having no one to go home to as the snow starts to fall.”
He shrugged. “I’ve never been one to write happy songs; you know this more than most people. This is my therapy.”
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