Chapter Thirteen

Hanging by a Thread

That fucking bitch! Romulus Thread threw his binoculars into the passenger seat of his 'borrowed' mini van. His meaty fist beat against the steering wheel; rage bubbling through is veins like acid.

That fucking cunt was in there with fucking Mellark. Didn't she know she belonged with him? Too him? He hadn't spent the last five years showing her that. She was always pushing him away. He'd come to help her, after every accident, letting her know that he was there for her. No one else did. They let her sit on that piece of shit farm and rot with that old drunk and the kid.

Why couldn't she see that everything he did was for her? The bugs he'd put in her house were for him to help her. So he knew when she was in trouble. Lately though, the things he'd heard… That fucking Mellark.

Hadn't he taken care of that asshole she was married to? They were always fighting. He'd seen it the first time Snow had him take him to the farm to make an offer for that shack they called a farm. Hawthorne couldn't take care of her and that pretty little baby.

A little slit in the break line done just right will be undetected by even the best CSI.

She didn't need a man like that. One that didn't understand how to handle a woman as strong as her. She needed to be broken easy, with a steady hand, not by whining and yelling. Like his father had always said about his mother. You break them with kindness.

Until it was time not to be kind.

Well, it was about that time with Katniss. His mistake had been not realizing just how dangerous Peeta fucking Mellark was. Maybe, he'd pay a visit to the bakery. Maybe leave a little message with that brother or his. Or better. That pretty sister in law of his. Make Mellark realize just how unsafe he and his family are.

He'd have to think about that.

Thread glare up at the windows of the room they were staying in at Ripper's. If he didn't think that old bat would call the cops as soon as she saw him he'd try to go inside and get a room. The place was too small for him to comfortably sneak in. He couldn't see in the windows, but he was sure that the one with the lights still on was theirs.

They hadn't gotten separate rooms. He really should have expected it, given what he'd seen at her house. He'd watched them kissing, groping, undressing each other. He'd watched Mellark lick her pussy until she cried out. It had made him so fucking hard. He hadn't stuck around to watch the rest.

It had been time for another lesson. He was just pissed he'd done such a shit job taking care of that old fucking drunk. Now the law was on him. Snow had turned him away to replace him with that fucking nephew of his, Cato. He would have loved to punch that smug look off the younger man's face. He was just a bully with no finesse. Thread had style.

They'll all get theirs, Thread thought, as images of Katniss' naked skin rose up in his brain. She was even more beautiful than he'd thought she'd be. He could imagine all that olive skin, licking and biting it. He could see the pain and fear and lust in her eyes. He'd make her scream all right.

He pulled his erection out of his pants and stroked the length, his fevered brain imposing the fantasy of fucking her with the burn of the fire he'd started to show her that Mellark and Abernathy couldn't protect her.

It didn't take long. A few strokes later he was coming in his hand, the fact that the threat he wanted to protect her from was himself lost in the craze of his obsession.

"We'll meet you at the bakery then. Thanks, Sheriff."

"Peeta?" Katniss woke up as Peeta was finished talking. He put the phone on the dresser and slid back into bed with her, pressing his lips against her shoulder.

"Good morning." He murmured against her skin, his hand resting against her sheet covered back.

"Morning," she stretched like a cat, her body sore and tired, but she felt strangely refreshed. "What did Cray want?"

"He wants to talk to us. I told him we'd meet him at the bakery around ten."

"Mmm. Ok. Did he say anything else?"

"No, just that he'd talk to us then." Peeta pulled her closer, situating her back against his chest. His hands slid under the sheet and ghosted along the skin of her stomach.

"Kay." She said again, snuggling closer to him relishing the steady warmth he provided. His lips nuzzled her neck, sending delicious shivers through her. When his hand slid from her hip to the heavy weight of her breast, she arched against him, pressing her butt against his boxer-clad erection.

She felt him shift, his hand leaving her long enough to push his boxers down. Then she'd felt the silken skin of his cock thrusting gently against her ass. Katniss lifted her leg and hooked it over his hip. His strong hand slid to her inner thigh, spreading her further. His cock slid along her slick heat, the tip hooking on her clit and sending sparks of pleasure through her.

"Condom?" He whispered. Katniss really wanted to feel him inside her. She thanked her gynecologist for suggesting she keep in her IUD even though her chances of sex at the time were slim.

"Go ahead. I want to feel you." She whispered, turned her head to brush her lips against his jaw. She felt him shudder against her as he positioned himself at her opening. Katniss felt her eyes roll back when he pushed inside of her, the feel of his uncovered cock filling her almost too much.

Peeta groaned long and low as he slid all the way in. He rested his forehead against the back of her head, his breath hot bursts against her neck. She reached behind her and buried her fingers in his hair, holding him close as the both struggled for control. Katniss was the first to grow impatient and she pushed her hips back to urge him on. Peeta didn't need any more encouragement.

It didn't take long for their movements to become erratic, the pleasure of really feeling each other sending them both to the edge of bliss.

"Touch yourself," his voice was a harsh whisper in her ear. His words made her shiver and she happily did his bidding. Her slender fingers barely pressed against her clit before she was coming, her walls contracting around his hard length with each thrust.

"Shiiiit," Peeta groaned, his hips snapping hard against her a few more times before he buried himself fully into her wet heat, his cocked pulsing deep inside her.

"Oh my god." Katniss gasped, collapsing onto the bed in a boneless mass of limbs. Peeta wasn't much better behind her but he did manage the breath to chuckle.

"My name is Peeta. But God works." He said with a smirk.

"Oh get out of this damn bed." Katniss managed a half assed swipe in his direction. His laugh was a hot breeze against her sweaty neck.

"Come on. Let's shower. If I know Rye, he'll have food for us."

"Well, it is a bakery." Katniss said dryly. She yelped when he smacked her ass.

"Smart ass." Peeta slid out of bed, dragging her with him. "No more cheese buns for you." He declared, turning to the bathroom.

"Now there's no need to be hasty." Katniss countered, rushing after him. She yelped again when he swept her up into his arms.

"I could never deny you anything." He told her, his blue eyes revealing the truth behind his words. She felt humbled and suddenly shy despite all that they'd been doing throughout the night.

"Oh," was all she could come up with. She leaned up and gently rubbed her lips against his, ignoring the sting that was developing in her eyes. His smile was soft in return, his eyes sparkling.

"Oh," he said back, pressing a kiss to her nose. "Come on. Let's go." He pulled her into the shower so they could enjoy that last bit of peace they'd receive that day.

An hour later after a shower that resulted in Peeta taking Katniss against the shower wall while his soapy hands slid sensuously over her breasts, they walked into the bakery.

"Katniss, Peeta!" Delly came around the counter before the door had even swung closed, her face tight with concern. She threw her arms around Peeta's neck, holding him close as if he might disappear if she let him go. Peeta rubbed his hand against her back to soothe her. Katniss watched in a detached way, her brain already jumping ahead to the meeting with Cray. She was jolted back to the present when she found herself wrapped in Delly's arms, the scent of yeast, chocolate and perfume enveloping her in a way that was strangely soothing.

Her shock was such that Delly was already pulling away before Katniss could think to reciprocate the embrace.

"We were so worried. I can't believe someone set fire to your barn. And poor Haymitch. We would have kept Posy for you as long as you needed but I completely understand you wanting her to go to Hazelle's. But whatever you need, just let us know." All of this was said before Katniss had even had a chance to say 'hello'.

"Delly, let them breathe." Rye walked from the back carrying two heavy mugs with steam coming from the top. Delly gave Katniss a sheepish smile and rubbed her hands over Katniss' arms.

"Sorry. I don't know when to stop sometimes." Delly stepped back and crossed her arms over her chest.

"No. That's fine. Thank you." Katniss managed, gratefully taking the mug from Rye. He gave her a smile, his large hand gently squeezing her shoulder. The show of comfort, or support was almost too much for Katniss. She took a sip of coffee before she did something stupid like cry. Then she realized the coffee was black and she grimaced.

"There's sugar and cream on the tables." Rye chuckled at her grimace. "Tell us what we can do to help."

Katniss looked into the kind eyes that were only a shade darker than Peeta's, with odd brown flecks around the pupils. They were every bit as open and kind as Peeta's and Katniss felt a lump form in her throat. She nodded, not trusting herself to speak and let Peeta lead her over to a table. As they settled, Delly brought over a tray of cinnamon rolls and some plates. She and Rye sat down with them.

"How's Haymitch?" Rye asked.

"He's doing ok. The doctor's think he'll be released later today. I think Effie's going to drag him home with her to 'recover'." Peeta said with a smirk.

"Did he say anything about what happened? Did he see anything?" Delly asked, dishing out cinnamon rolls to each person then settling back with her own coffee.

Peeta looked at Katniss, his gaze questioning. She nodded, allowing him to give them the details. Delly and Rye just sat and listened, concern narrowing Rye's eyes and widening Delly's.

"Oh my God." Delly said when Peeta was done. "I can't believe Thread is so crazy."

"Yeah. Over me." Katniss said, completely stupefied. She was nothing special. Small, skinny, mostly unpleasant. She couldn't figure out what there was to be obsessed with.

"Oh please, Katniss. You have no idea, do you?" Delly said, looking almost frustrated at Katniss.


"You're gorgeous. And all that scowling just makes you seem unattainable. The ultimate guy fantasy."

"Pfht. Whatever." Katniss flushed, embarrassed. She looked over at Peeta to see him looking completely too agreeable with Delly's summation. Rye just looked amused. "Still, that doesn't explain why Thread would try to kill Haymitch."

"Crazy doesn't have need an explanation." Rye told her, his words sufficiently sobering the table.

"No, I guess it doesn't." Katniss agreed. She flicked her finger through the frosting on the roll then sucking it off. She could barely appreciate how good it tasted.

The bell over the door had all four of their heads turning to see Sheriff Cray walk in, his hat already in his hands. Katniss had the inane thought that he should just stop with the comb over already and just shave his head.

"Katniss," he nodded in her direction then gazed at the others at the table to acknowledge them.

"Sheriff. Have a seat." Rye stood, motioning for Delly. She didn't look like she wanted to go and Katniss realized she didn't really want them too.

"You can stay." She said quickly. Delly dropped back in her chair. Rye moved to the door to flip the closed sign then indicated that Cray should take the seat he vacated.

Cray moved his big frame to the chair and smiling gratefully at Rye when he set a cup of coffee in front of him. They waited as he dumped in a generous amount of sugar and cream, the clink of the spoon he stirred with grating Katniss' frayed nerves.

"We spoke to snow. He hasn't seen Thread for the last couple of days. As far as he's concerned, Thread quit. Already got himself a new watchdog. His nephew Cato." Cray started.

"So what am I supposed to do? I need to go back home. I have the animals to take care of. Customers." Katniss asked, frustration quickly leaking into her voice. Peeta rested a hand over hers, the act comforting even though it didn't calm her as she was sure it was supposed to. Still, she turned her hand to lace their fingers together, thankful for the support.

"We're going to put a car at your place, if you decide to stay there. But I would suggest…"

"That's our home." Katniss said in a tone that told Cray not to try to argue. He did anyway.

"I don't think it's safe for you."

"We'll be fine." Katniss said, her chin in a stubborn tilt.

"Think of Posy."

"Don't you." Peeta squeezed Katniss' fingers, cutting her words short.

"Look, your man will be on the property. Can you have patrols around the outlying border?"

"We can on the east side. But the problem is the woods."

Her home, Gales's haven. The place that had sustained them during the lean years could now be the shelter to her tormentor. The irony almost made her choke. Delly and Rye stayed silent during the exchange. Though Delly looked like she had plenty to say.

"I'm not going to let him run me out of my home." Katniss said firmly. Cray studied her for along minute, his hangdog expression seeming to hang even more.

"All right. We'll do what we can. We've got an APB out for him. The man is ex military and he knows how to disappear."

"We understand." Peeta answered. He didn't like it. He wanted to take Katniss and Posy and put them somewhere they wouldn't get hurt. But he knew Katniss. She'd rather stay and fight then run and hide. And he'd stay with her.

Cray star at them some more, trying to decide which one crazier. He took in the united front and sighed. A quick glance at the other couple told him he would have had at least had them as allies, but it probably wouldn't have done any good.

"Fine. The arson inspector will be out there later today. If you see anything at all, call us. I'll be by to check on you myself." Cray finished his coffee, put his hat on his head and rose to leave.

"Thank you," Peeta rose and walked with the Sheriff to the door.

"Be careful. Don't try to play hero. He's dangerous and probably pissed as all hell that he's been forced to hide."

"We won't." Peeta assured him. Cray lingered a moment more, then nodded to the two couples and left.

"Are you two sure about this?" Delly asked before the door had even closed behind them. Peeta watched Katniss tense.

"I'm not, no. But dammit, what else am I supposed to do?" Katniss shot back, her grey eyes snapping. Rye and Peeta shared a look.

"Stay here. Bring Posy. Go and check on the animals during the day with Peeta and Rye and keep your butt safe." Delly said as if it were obvious.

"I can't impose on you all like that." Katniss shot back.

"It's not an imposition when you're invited." Delly said as if Katniss was stupid. Peeta could practically see Katniss' hackles rise.

"All right. That's enough. Delly, it's Katniss' decision." Rye told his wife, holding up a hand when she started to protest. "But Katniss, you and Posy are both welcome. All of you," he shot a look at Peeta who nodded. "You're family."

Peeta watched Katniss press her lips together, the sudden emotion she was feeling stark across her face. It was unusual for her to be so open, but these were unusual circumstances.

"Uhm. Thank you. Really," she reached over and grasped Delly's hand, who immediately put her other hand over top of Katniss'. "I just think it's best for us to stay at the farm. I have too many responsibilities there to just pick up and leave."

"What about Posy?" Delly asked, her worry for the little girl pulling her brows together. Katniss sighed and met Peeta's eyes. He can tell that her next decision wasn't making her happy at all.

"I'm going to ask Hazelle to keep her until Thread is caught." Her voice was thick but her resolve was solid.

"Oh Katniss," Delly understood what it meant to Katniss to decide that. She squeezed the other woman's' hand once more in a show of support.

"All right, well, if you need anything at all, you do not hesitate to call us. Do you understand?" Rye said, meeting eyes with both Katniss and Peeta. Peeta felt a rush of warmth towards his brother and his wife in that moment and he could only nod in response.

"Thank you. We will." Katniss answered. When she stood up, Delly hugged her again. This time Katniss had the wherewithal to hug her back. Then, to Katniss surprise, Rye wrapped her in his strong arms. When he stepped back to embrace Peeta, the younger Mellark saw Katniss struggle to compose herself.

"Be safe, brother. I love you." Rye said when he pulled back. Peeta nodded and smiled.

"We will. I love you too." They hugged again and Delly wrapped her arms around his middle in a tight squeeze. It takes several more minutes, but finally Peeta and Katniss make it out of the bakery. As they walk down the street to Peeta's truck, they don't feel the eyes watching them with madness in their depths.

Pokes head out of shadows sheepishly… I am a thousand times sorry with how long this took to get out. Firstly, to those that don't read my other stories or follow my tumblr, I changed shifts at work. I went from day shift to overnight and it's been a struggle to get my schedule adjusted. So my writing has gone a bit to the wayside. I hope you all are still out there. Just be patient. And I am sorry for any glaring mistakes. I am so tired right now.

Secondly, I completely rewrote this chapter. I decided I needed more Rye and Delly. And here they are. Anyway, I'm sorry. I hope you enjoy this chapter and I'll see you soon with updates to the other stories. And this one. I promise, they will all be finished. Lisa/Jypz