Author's Note:

Here is the next chapter! Enjoy! I tried to put more action and suspence in this one to grab more attention so i hope it works and you like it.

Happy Groundhog Day. 6 more weeks of winter he said, although it has not seemed like much of a winter this year?

Thank you for all of the reviews and favorites! You guys are the reason this story is still coninuing and i love all of the support.

I did not get any comments from people about if they could help me with the French. If anyone could just message me or review on this story, it would help make this story so much better!

Thanks again. I hope you all enjoy. This is for you!


"OH NO! IT'S SILVER DOLLAR SAM!" I heard a group of ladies scream. I gulped and my vision became crossed as I stared at the pistol directly between my eyes.

"Well hello, Shadow man." I heard the owner of the gun say as I heard the soft click of him cocking the weapon.

***Same Time***

Lottie's POV

I didn't know that I had made a sound until I noticed my throat feel raspy. I consciously closed my mouth and realized that my voice had joined the chorus of feminine screams all around me. His hand on my back I felt tense, but I just couldn't drag my eyes away from the deadly weapon in front of me. At this moment of shock, I couldn't form a complete thought in my head. Everything seemed to slow down for me, my heart rate was beating painfully thunderous in my ears, my breaths seemed to stop flowing because of my suddenly tight throat. I had never ever in my whole life seen such a gory weapon this close, let alone shoved in my face…Well technically his, but close enough.

"Hello to you too, Sam." I heard the Shadow man's voice speak up amidst my own panic. I was too far off to notice if he was ok or frightened, and to be honest I didn't care. I needed to get myself out of this situation. I tried to blink, yeah, maybe, just maybe, this is all some silly dream and I will wake up from this. Who was I kidding? When I opened my eyes I suddenly realized that the hideous gun was pointed at me.

***Same Time***

Shadow man's POV

"Whoa, whoa, now come on, man!" I tried to settle with this lunatic. "We can work this out, no need to get others involved." As soon as I saw that mischievous glint in his eye I knew we were all in trouble. He shifted the revolver from between my eyes to the girls. His eyes never looked at her, they were only trained on mine. I felt the hairs on my back prickle up. We are in trouble, such deep trouble. Keep calm; show that he isn't affecting me.

"Now, now, ya know that ain't true." He smirked at me. "Ya know why I am here, don't cha? Don't cha? Now why don't cha tell me why I have arrived at ya little gathern'."

"My gathering? What you think with what I make off pathetic palm reading I can throw something like this?" I waved my hands around, gesturing all around us. I hoped from this I could get his eyes off me, or her, for a second so I can try to remove the gun from his person.

BANG!

I reflexively reached out for the girl's arm and tugged sharply towards myself as I heard the gun fire off. My heart skipped several beats as I tried so hard from showing my inner panic. I did not expect him to actually fire! I didn't think twice to let her throw her arms around my midsection as she buried her head against my chest.

"WHAT THE HELL-!"

"I TOLD YA TO ANSWER MY QUESTION! YA DIDN'T DO IT! I AIN'T MESSIN' AROUND THIS TIME!" I felt the girl's shaking grow worse as his voice increased in volume with every word. The rest of the crowd was either ducking behind a table or inside the mansion, cowards. It became deadly quiet outside as I saw Sam take a quick breath. So silently and deadly he stepped too close to me and whispered, "Maybe if ya try this game again, Shadow man, I won't be likely to miss." I knew it was foolish to think he accidentally missed. This is Silver Dollar Sam, head of the biggest New Orleans crime family. He doesn't miss, ever!

"What do you want?" I gritted out. My teeth were clutched shut to prevent them from chattering, still coming down from the fresh adrenalin in my veins from someone shooting at you.

"I told ya, ya tell me." I he snarled at me, he was losing his patience. "Out loud, fer da world to hear." I quickly gulped in some fresh air. I had to get this over with, fast. I knew she wouldn't be able to handle much more of this. I won't lie either; I didn't want to be in this situation either.

"You're here for the money I owe you."

"Hehe," He sickly chuckled, "Yea, the money. Oops, forgot ya owed me, huh, girlie?" He taunted me. I would not let my manhood be stomped on by some organized crime boss, but I also knew that any funny business and he shoots. First instinct is to always save yourself. I scowled at him and he simply allowed some more deep chuckles. "Ya've been hard to reach, ya know that Shadow man?" He waved his hands quickly in the air mocking my name.

"That's more or less the point." I coolly retorted. He eyed me up again and snickered. He looked just like a lion stalking his prey. It felt so wrong to be the prey and not the hunter.

"So, on with business. The only thing for ya to do now is ta hand me over da money. Remember what ya said, 'I scratch yer back, ya scratch mine'?" He quoted me. I could not have regretted trusting this idiot more than now. Yes, I recall that day as if it was yesterday. It was one of my many ploys to gain what I want. That doesn't indicate I actually mean what I say. I glared at him; he was the most despicable man alive, but those are the only people who trust me enough to give me what I want.

I opened my mouth to retaliate when I heard loud shouts appear from behind us. Before I could react and look at what the commotion was, I felt the girl being ripped out of my arms. I stumbled forward as she still held on, but one quick jerk from his hand embedded in her hair and she let go with a high pitched yelp. I stared wide eyed at Sam as he held the girl by the hair and pointed the gun to her right temple in front of me.

"Sam! What are you-?"

"Hold it right there and don't move!" I heard an Englishman behind me. Finally turning around, I saw Ed had finally decided to join us in all of this fun along with about ten of his bodyguards. Sadly not the police I was hoping would show up. By this time the courtyard was barren, apart from us, the prince, and his men. The men each had hand guns of their own trained on Sam. Jerking my head back to face Sam, I noticed he now had her shoved in front of him and was peeking out at them from over her shoulder. I tried not to look at the poor girl now, I saw tears leaking from her eyes as she uncontrollably shuttered.

"Edward!" I shouted behind me. "Have your men put their guns down and go inside. We have this taken care of." I knew the more people that were witnessing this event, the more likely he would hurt someone to prove his masculinity. Criminals do have a reputation to uphold.

"Ah, now now, Shadow man. How dare ya kick his highness outta his own party." He sarcastically corrected me. "Although, it ain't look like much of a party anymore." He snickered, surveying the emptiness around us.

"What do you want?" Edward yelled at Sam.

"Ask him." He nodded to me, smiling as if it was Christmas day. This is extremely counterproductive to my plan! I am supposed to be building up my reputation as a good guy, not letting some sleazy slime ball destroy it all in one setting. I have two choices. One, I can say it out loud; which could possibly help to get this over sooner, but jeopardize the whole plan. Two, not say anything and find a way out; which could help avoid this whole ordeal, but could get someone hurt. Would I rather be a crook, or a coward? The Shadow man I know for a fact is no coward.

I gulped to gain some confidence in my choice and spoke loud enough for Ed to hear me, but I kept my eyes glued to Sam the whole time.

"I am behind on a couple payments to him."

"Payments? You have got to be kidding me! You come here, destroy my party, put a gun to this young lady's head, all just for something as common as money?" Edward shouted in disgust at Sam. This only caused Sam to smirk larger as he quirked an eyebrow towards me.

"Well, if I got the money none of this would have ta happen. So, it's up to ya now. Pay me da money, or I keep da girl." He spoke slyly into her ear, causing her to shiver more. Her eyes were shut tight and face distorted in fear. I looked from him to her and back again.

"Like I would carry that much money around with me for the heck of it!" I was beginning to become upset and irritated with him. I don't carry around more than a couple cents with me; I don't have the money! Why him? Why now? This evening was going so well! His brown eyes grew dark as his face began to tilt down and form into a deathly stare. I saw his jaw grind down hard as something inside of him seemed to snap. He removed the gun from her blonde hair slowly and jabbed it into her back. She tripped forward, but not too far when he caught her and pushed her back so they in unison they were talking toward me. I did not realize that I was also stepping backwards until I felt the back of my knees hit the bench that she and Edward were on not too long ago.

"CHAROLLETTE!" I heard Ed scream as Sam wove his greasy fingers back into her hair and yanked it back. She screamed from the quickness of it and I could see her breathing start a faster pace.

"I'm growing tired of this, Shadow man. If ya ain't got the money here, then we will march all over God's creation until you find it. I want it, and I want it now." He whispered dangerously slow and deep. I nodded my head. Perhaps if I got out of this environment I could find a way to distract him. I began to walk towards the exit when something caught my attention. Of course! I hid my smile and turned to the right. "Hey! Hey! Don't you move! I'll kill her!" I tossed my hands in the air to show surrender.

"If we are going to leave I need to gather my things. We may not be coming back." I began to bend down to pick up my precious wooden cane that I had set down in order to dance. I paused as I heard him yelling at me again.

"Stop! Now ya stop! I want ya to do it slowly. No funny business." He removed his gun from her back and replaced it on her temple. "I will blow her head off if ya try anything!" I nodded in agreement and continued to pick up my cane, pausing when I heard him get on edge and command me to slow down. Finally, I was able to stand up straight, cane in hand, and I mocked a grin back at him.

"Shall we?" I waved my hand toward the large door that we had used to enter the courtyard. My new boost of confidence seemed to show itself to him because he gave me a long and suspicious look. I tried not to smirk back because I now had a plan. Eventually, he released her hair only to clutch her throat in one large greedy hand and move his gun to point at me. He still was cowering behind her as he twitched his gun towards the door several times.

"You lead the way. I'll be behind ya the whole time, keepn' a close eye on you. Don't try anything." I nodded my head and faced the door. Walking at a snail pace, we eventually made it up to Edward and his men; who, with a confirmatory nod from myself, stepped out of the way.

"Y'all go inside too, in front of 'im." He commanded and they had no choice but to comply. As soon as the doors leading into the mansion opened, the audience inside hushed in an instant. This is where some of the guests had been hiding to avoid any confrontation. It looked like only a quarter were still present, the rest I am guessing left when they heard of trouble. Sam made the armed men and Edward line up against the wall to our right and toss their guns over to the other side for good measure. "Well…" He spoke which gave me the signal to keep moving. We reached the grand staircase and began our ascent up to the double doors that lead outside.

This seemed to take forever as we had to take one stair at a time in a slow motion fashion in order not to freak out Sam. The rest of the crowd was still at the bottom of the stairs, keeping so quiet that our footsteps could echo throughout the house. Finally we reached the top and I suddenly halted.

"Hey! Why'd ya stop?" He shouted from behind me. I felt free to let my knowing grin show as he couldn't see it because he was facing my back. I clasped my cane in my left hand and slowly used my right to untwist the round handle at the top. He didn't actually think I, the feared Shadow man, would show up anywhere without a weapon. I have more enemies out there than just him. Behind me he yelled his question once more when I didn't give him a response. Quietly, however, I pulled the handle to revel a knife about four inches in length. I used the cane to subtly hide this one weapon for circumstances just like this; I am not an idiot. I know how to protect myself without showing it. Sam, however, had still didn't see the knife I had just pulled out of my cane. I felt him shove the gun up to hit the back of my neck and I took an involuntary step forward from the surprise force.

"Keep walking, don't make me shoot ya!" I felt him push the barrel of the gun into the back of my head to prove his point. This was a move he should not have done.

Quicker than lightning, I turned to face him and whipped my knife skyward. My knife came into contact with the outreached hand and caused a good sized slice in his arm. He shouted in pain and reflexively dropped the gun, pulling his injured arm closer to his body.

"What the hell-?" He started but I began to pull the girl back toward me before he could finish vocalizing his shock. He looked away from his arm to spot both my hands in hers, pulling her away from his death grip. With an irritated growl, he gripped her hair again with his good hand and yanked down which caused her to crumple to the ground. I took this opportunity to try a swipe at him again with my knife and I managed to cut his shirt across his chest before he punched me square in the face. I groaned and stumbled backward, feeling the bruising pain in my cheek. As I jerked my eyes opened, I could see him reached for the girl again so I ran toward him and tackled him to the ground.

We became a pile of tangled limbs and muffled grunts of pain as we tried everything we could to mortally injure the other. I pulled my knife, still in hand, down and managed to catch him in the shoulder. He moaned rather loudly at that one and I saw the blood begin to stain his white button down shirt to a deep crimson. He jerked his eyes opened and stared me down with a fury I may never have seen before. The heel of his hand made contact with my nose and caused me to fling backwards off of him. He took the knife that was stuck in his shoulder not even a half an inch and pulled it out with a yelp and rolled over. I was beginning to grow tired and used my hands to clutch my nose which thankfully did not seem to be broken or bleeding.

BANG!

I stared wide eyed as I saw Sam, on his abdomen on the ground, pointing his gun down the staircase at the men I am sure were trying to climb up to stop this mess. He must have picked up the earlier discarded weapon as he rolled over and was now mercilessly firing down the stairs. I let go of my nose, which was pulsing with pain, and crawled on hands and knees over to his vertical form. When he saw me out of the corner of his eye he pointed the gun at me. The wild gleam in his eye shook my very soul and I turned to roll out of his range. It seemed that his pointer finger pull the trigger anyway.

It took a second for my brain to process that the bullet had made contact with my back. I couldn't help but stare in disbelief at him when I felt the searing pain spreading across my lower shoulder. He shot me; he shot me; he shot me. I repeated over and over again. I sat back on my rear and forgot about crawling away as I grasped my shoulder and bit my lip to stop from screaming out. My eyes were shut, so I couldn't see the cocky grin on his face, but I could picture it in my head as I heard him darkly chuckle. The unmistakable sound of him cocking the weapon echoed in the silent lobby.

I knew that I couldn't admit defeat, not in front of him, but I couldn't find it in me to look up at him and watch as he would pull the trigger again. I knew that I was heartless and cruel, but I still couldn't imagine my life ending. All of a sudden the money seemed pointless; I couldn't understand how all of this arose from me refusing to pay him back. It's a matter of pride for him now. If he doesn't do something to me then how can he hold up his name as the most feared mobster in all of New Orleans? I sucked in a sharp breath and waited for the fate to come.

SMASH! BANG!

I heard two loud noises occur almost simultaneously. Before I could process the defining sounds around me, I felt a sharp stinging on my cheek. Carefully raising a shaky hand up to my face, I touched my cheek and looked at my hand. The deep red liquid was shining on my three finger tips to confirm the bullet only grazed my cheek. I felt myself smile and breathe a sigh of relief at the thought that he had miss. Why had he missed? Sam doesn't miss.

The solution was out in front of me. Snapping my gaze up to where I thought Sam was suppose to be, I found a confusing sight indeed. The girl made eye contact with me, not the psychotic mad man with a gun. Her blue eyes were popped wide open in a fearful gaze as if she didn't even know what was going on. Surveying her closer I saw her hands were down by her side; in her left was a tight fist, and in her right was an ornate red flower vase. My eyes wandered down to the floor, and sure enough Sam was face down on the lush red carpet, unmoving. My eyebrows raised to my hairline as my eyes darted from his unconscious form to the vase she held in her hand. She seemed to notice this because her cheeks grew pink in color and she immediately dropped it.

"Oh my god, Lottie?" was all I could make out from my pure shock at what had just happened. I stood up, being careful not to move my arm, and started to hobble over to her. I could see all of the emotions flashing through her through her eyes. She was scared, frightened, confused, and worried all at once. Women, I swear. As I took another step, doing the best I could to cover my pain, I saw her eyes jerk to the floor. She screamed and pointed towards Sam's body on the ground, which started to move. Without thinking I dove for my cane on the ground, wincing as the impact caused my back to stretch the injury even more.

"He's going for his gun!" She screamed as she backed up against the opposite wall.

All hell broke loose.

The guards downstairs were all yelling commands at each other. They started all sprinting up the stairs sounding like a herd of elephants. The guests that were left downstairs with no way out were screaming as well; the girl backed herself against a wall with eyes open like she would go into shock at any minute. Finally with my cane in hand, I turned it upside down to allow for a small vial of white liquid to come out. The top, which was also the knife, was lying a couple feet to the side of me closer to Sam. I made a mental note to pick it up later. Before I released the magic contained in the small glass, I called out to her to prevent her from going into any more shock.

"Lottie!" When she looked at me and I knew I had her attention, I finished my instructions. "Stay calm, ok?" A nod from her and I proceeded, with all of my force, to throw the vial onto the ground. As soon as the glass containing the potion hit the carpet, it shattered into a thousand pieces. Out from it grew a heavy cloud of dense smoke. The pure white cloud grew quickly and soon covered the whole level; including Lottie, Sam, and I. Various shouts of different pitches grew out of confusion. It was impossible to see out of a few feet in front of you. I, however, carefully calculated my way to where Lottie had been pinning herself against the wall. I swung my hand out in front of me and sighed with relief as I felt her soft skin under my hand. As soon as I touched her I felt her jerk away. My head jolted to the left as I felt her hand collide with my face; not painfully, but enough that I was quickly losing my temper with her.

"Lottie, it's me! Cut it out!"

"Oh my, it's you. Sorry." I heard the southern bell ring out and she let me grab her hand, this time without the slap. I gently pulled her along behind me and tried to peer out through the giant smoke cloud that the potion had created as a diversion for us to escape. I had to find the top of my cane, it is my only form of concealed defense I have.

"Shadow man, what are we doing?" She whispered sharply as let her go and got on my hands and knees. A lucky patch of thinner fog allowed for me to see a little farther ahead of me and I saw the glimmer of my knife on the ground not two feet away. I swiftly grabbed it, smiling to myself as I realized I had escaped meeting the Grim Reaper one more time. When I looked up, however, I made eye contact with Sam. Like me, he was also on his hands and knees. He looked like he was ducking a swift punch from one of Edward's men who was standing above him. I looked at him; he looked at me. Our eyes met and we both shared a mutual nod. He understood that I had escaped him this time; but I understood he would be back again to find me until he can get his money and dignity back.

I leapt up off of the floor and found her blurred form in the same place that I had left it. I rapidly, trying to save all the time that I could, inserted the blade of the knife into the hole I carved out of my cane and screwed it on in place so that it looked as good as new. I found her hand in mine once more and have dragged her out of the double doors onto the main road.

We burst out of the doors together and coughed loudly to get the smoke out of our lungs. I looked as her, trying to regain my breath, to see if she was alright. There were no cuts or bruises from what I could see; although, she didn't look to be taking any of this well psychologically.

I heard new shouting arising from our left. One quick glance and I recognized them to be some of Sam's men. I should have seen it coming that he would have this place crawling with his mob members. He'd never go into a place that dangerous without help. I saw the two men that were running towards us loading their own deadly revolvers. Come on! Still feeling like I could not breathe, I quickly shoved the both of us behind a big stone pillar holding up a balcony above us. The shots bounced off of the solid stone repeatedly. Waiting until they had to reload, I grabbed her again and pulled her behind me as I jumped down the front stairs, two at a time, and darted the opposite way down the boulevard.

"Get them!"

"Catch up!"

"Shoot 'em down!"

I kept running down the street for my life. I heard the mobsters behind me catching up, so I jerked her hand forward to get her to speed up. I felt her tugging her hand back.

"We don't have time for this!" I yelled at her, completely frustrated. Did she not understand we were running for our life?

"I…can't…keep…up." I heard her huff as she spoke between gasping breaths. Knowing that she couldn't keep running like this forever, I turned swiftly down an alley that I knew would lead straight to the main avenue. We could lose the guys behind us in the late night drunken crowd.

Suddenly I felt her hand escape mine. Worried that the men caught her, I skidded to a stop and prepared to fight them. I froze as I saw her plastered to the slimy stone wall similar to the way she was back at the mansion. Her eyes were screwed shut, her arms nailed to her side, her body stiff as a board. I couldn't believe my eyes. This was Charlotte LaBouf. This is the daughter of the millionaire who made New Orleans what it is today. The man who took so many risks to build up most of the businesses in this town. This is the girl so proudly posted on the front of newspapers everywhere.

But, this was also the girl who was raised with no pain, no worries, no fears. This was the girl who never knew what 'no', 'you can't', and 'wait' meant. This was the girl who lived a dream most women would kill for, and here she is cowering against the grimy bricks and closing her eyes like all of this would go away? I crept up to her, waiting for her to jump out and scare me like this was all some silly plan. She did jump; however, when I lightly touched her shoulder to shake her out of it, she gasped in a sharp breath and looked all around herself in fear.

"Lottie, Lottie." I told her softly, hoping somehow it would calm her down. I didn't know what to do. Here was some girl going into shock at one of the worst times possible. I heard the heavy footsteps of the gangsters reaching the alleyway, so I grabbed her shoulders and ducked her and myself behind a large close by dumpster. I sandwiched her between the dumpster and me while I wrapped my arms around her bare shoulders to keep her steady and from doing anything stupid. I made sure to not make a noise as I felt the stinging sensation of the germ-infested bricks touching my raw and open back, even though it hurt like hell.

Luckily, the two men pounded into the shady walkway and ran directly through to the other side and turned out of sight. I stayed still, focusing on making my breathing inaudible, until I was sure that no one else was coming down this way. With a sigh of relief, I let go of her and stood up straight to return back home.

"Come on." I spoke to her when I saw her remain on the ground. "We aren't safe here, girl." Why isn't she getting up? I don't have time for this! For all we know those men could be running back this way and then what? We are royally done, cooked, finished. It's not like she's even hurt at all. She didn't get shot twice. "Lottie." I spoke a little harsher.

"I get it! I hear you!" She retaliated louder than she should have while we were trying to stay stealthy. "I just…I keep…" she seemed to be searching for something, a word, a thought, how about a way to escape, make herself useful.

"What?" I asked and she glanced up at me for a moment. Those blue eyes were filled with unshed tears and she tucked her head in her arms resting on her knees. Oh, great. Nothing worse than a crying female. Come on, we have bigger problems. What is so big about this? I mean, of course she has probably never been in a life or death situation before but….of course she has, because I had to save her from it! That one time she was up against those two men trying to have their way with her in…in a dark alley. The thoughts in my head all clicked into place like a big jigsaw puzzle. She was having reminders of that event by being in this alley way. My eyes let themselves settle on her crouched form again. I could certainly relate with her, but at the same time this was neither the time nor the place for this.

"Look, I'm sorry." She said as she picked up her head and quickly wiped away the drops on her face, which were surprisingly only a few. "I didn't mean…forget it, we should get going." She braced one hand on the edge of the dumpster and the other on the wall to help herself to stand up. "You're bleeding." She noted when I saw her eyes observing my cheek. I simply shrugged my shoulder. I will take care of myself at the appropriate time, and now is not the time to worry about flesh wounds.

"Yes, good oberservation." I said in an obvious manner causing her to glare at me in a way that made me want to laugh at her maturity. "Now let's go before they return." She nodded her head and ducked out of the alley as quick as possible with me following her from behind.

***Twenty Minutes Later***

Lottie's POV

I did agree with him on the fact that we should return to his house, even if it did give me the creeps. He said that it would be the first place Prince Edward would go when he cleared things up at the mansion. I knew the prince cared deeply for my safety so I knew staying with the Shadow man was my best option, if only the prince knew where I lived.

"Ladies first." He gestured into the empty dark space that his front door leaded to. My eyes scanned the area for just a second before my head automatically shook my head in a negative response. No way I am going to just walk into his occult hideout first. I heard him chucked softly behind me and he forced me to the left so that he could walk inside. After turning on several makeshift lamps that I could bet my life were from others trash, I walked into his place stopping a few feet inside. "Make yourself comfortable, I don't bite." He sarcastically stated when he saw how uncomfortable I was. Holding back a glare was too much for me, so I let it out anyways. How dare he! He is so insensitive! I have just encountered the most painful day of my life. I can't believe what just happened! I can't believe what I had seen! I can't believe what he did to me! Air suddenly felt like it was coming in short supply and I tried gasping for it again. My lungs simply wouldn't take in as much as I needed and I felt a strange panic rising from my chest.

"Whoa, whoa, Lottie, calm down. You're going to put yourself in shock if you keep this up." He was suddenly standing in front of me, looking at me again impassively. What would he care if I lived or died? "I'm getting you a drink." I watched him as he turned and left to do as he said. A certain spot on his clothing left me gaping in confusion. A giant red stain was proudly pronounced on the upper left part of his back. I felt myself walking quickly behind him wanting to know where he acquired the stain. I followed him into the tiny room he disappeared from and almost ran into him as he was walking out. "Oh, I didn't know you were following me now."

Ignoring his comment and glass of murky water in his hand, I grabbed his shoulder and shoved him around so that I could look at his back. A tiny hole in the cloth of his cheap suit jacket shirt along with the heinous amounts of blood told me everything.

"You've…you've been shot!"

"Again, good observation."

"I mean it; stop messing around. This is serious if it gets infected, and judging by the bits of black scum mixed in, I would assume it already is." I tried to slowly widen the hole in the cloth with my fingers so that I could get a better look but as soon as I put pressure on it he hissed and jumped away. He faced me, head held high and jaw screw shut.

"Tell me the next time you decide to poke at rather sensitive areas."

"Well, the infection you are probably obtaining is one of the reasons why it hurts. It's the least I can do, let me help."

"One, I am not in any pain what so ever…"

"There is a bullet in your back!" I interrupted him before he could finish. I felt exasperated by the way he was behaving. Such a child! Of course he can't fool me; I know he must be in pain right now. So why is he trying to sugar coat it? What is up with this stupid male pride thing? He freaking was shot for Pete's sake and he's worried about seeming macho? I don't care! This, I really really hate to admit, is the second time he has saved me from a life threatening situation. Now, come to think of it, wouldn't have happened if it weren't for him. But I guess he helped nonetheless.

"Yes, aren't you the observant one! But if you haven't realized by now we have bigger problems then a stupid infection." He shouted at me, furiously talking with his hands before he finally seemed to give up explaining to me and walked out of the small bathroom. I slowly followed him out and stopped to lean on the bathroom door frame. He walked out to a large wooden table with various objects, that I am assuming are of a mystical nature, on it. Placing his hands on it, he leaned into the table with his head bent and turned away from me.

"What other problems?" I asked simply. I saw him take in a deep breath before he shook his head and seemed to give up his anger towards me. I am only trying to help, wow isn't that a twist! Me trying to help the evil Shadow man!

"Well for starters, Sam knows where I live." He spoke rather calmly, but still refused to face me. "Don't worry; he most likely doesn't even know your name. So you don't have to be concerned." He leisurely, almost as if he was stuck in slow motion, bent down and reached to open a small wooden cabinet under the table. His slender form covered what he pulled out and set on the table, but he returned to his previous stance of leaning on the table. "We will just have to wait for Ed to get here. He will be able to provide protection for the time being. I don't know how long he is in America." It was barely detectable, but his voice, his stance, all seemed to give an aura of hopelessness. I almost wanted to scoff out loud at that idea; the Shadow man, hopeless? That is about as likely as a crocodile playing the trumpet! But as much as I talked myself into not believing that the Shadow man could feel human emotion, I still felt that nag in my head that I should try to help him. Call it my new Lottie trying to break out.

"Ok, then we wait." I said in agreement. He nodded his head and moved to sit in one of the three chairs gathered around the table. I finally saw what he had been hiding, whiskey. He uncorked the round bottle and placed it to his lips which allowed for a generous portion of the liquid to enter his body. "Yeah, perfect way to handle this dire situation. Drink yourself to sleep, wake up in the morning, and, guess what, the problem is still there."

"Look, girl, how about you don't tell me what to do and I won't tell you what to do. We got a deal?" He went to take a drink again.

"Just…just stop. No matter how much of that poison you drink your problems will not magically solve themselves. Right now you need to be as sober as you can!"

"What would you know? All your life you've been kept in a perfect bubble while the rest of us…"

"What?" I challenged him when he didn't finish. He jerked his head and looked at me confused. "While the rest of us…what?" He sighed and looked like he was debating whether or not he should move on.

"While the rest of us suffer. While the rest of us deal with the harsh realities of this world, people like you and your little gang of rich folk sit on your high thrones and live out perfect little lives. This is how the real world deals with everything." He smiled an annoyed and cocky grin at me, making sure to take a swig just to prove his point.

"Perfect little lives." I jeered darkly, more to myself than anything. "So perfect that every little mistake or slip up you do instantly becomes the talk of the town. So perfect that it is so hard to stand firm to yourself while so many people pressure you to change, become a performing monkey so the editors can sell their papers. Look, I'm done talking about my past, least of all to the likes of you. I'm not going to sit here and bicker with you until we both turn blue. My daddy…my daddy died because of three stupid things. One, all of his life's work fell though and we lost everything. Two, he became so delusional with depression which lead to three; he drank himself to death behind closed doors. Think about that next time you think life's 'too difficult to handle.'" When I was finished fuming at the Shadow man's childish behavior I looked over at him only to see him staring almost dumbfounded at me. He made no face, but his eyes lingered on me for a long time. He shook his head in mutual agreement to drop this.

We are both just still shocked and confused by what happened that we are fighting with each other. This is so not going to help anything. Least I can do is help his back, that's what Miss Eudora would want me to do.

"Umm, Shadow man?" I said, getting his attention. It felt so off to call him that, but I was no way going to call him Doctor Facilier like his sign above the front door. "I am going to get a doctor for your back while we wait for Prince Edward to return." I began to walk over to the front door to leave his place for however long it took to find a doctor.

"No! Wait." He called over from the table and stood to stand up. He must have done it too quickly because I heard him hiss quietly behind me. When I turned, however, his face again was a mask of indifference again. It really was starting to get under my skin. "I'm not exactly a person out obeying the law and helping people out. The doctors won't help me; they will turn me in."

"Oh, please, I am sure they will look past that to help you. You did nothing wrong tonight."

"That doesn't matter."

"It is their job to help everyone."

"That won't stop them from turning me in and making themselves look like little heroes." He was right. Deep down I knew they would turn him away as soon as they saw him, but I just didn't want to admit that to myself.

"We got to get that bullet out somehow." I stated matter-of-factly.

"And how do you suppose we do that?" He joked. I shrugged my shoulders and shook my head.

"Do you have a pair of tweezers?" His eyes suddenly opened wide and he snickered like I was joking.

"You have got to be kidding me. You're going to take it out?" I knew it was crazy but I felt as if I owed him something. "Why do you want to help me?"

"Well…" I thought out loud, "It's the least I can do for you saving me…twice." I kept it simple and hoped he wasn't developing a big head form this. He thought it over for a few seconds in his mind before he nodded his head.

"Everything I have is in the wooden cabinet in the bathroom." I turned and left to go into the room I knew was the bathroom. In the claustrophobic space, the cabinet he mentioned was straight ahead of me. I walked slowly into the dim space. It was bright enough from the light in the main room to light the space up enough to see, but still dark enough to leave shadows that would haunt me forever. I silently jumped and gasped as I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. My mind automatically put Sam's face in front of mine and I went black for a second. I blinked and looked again…only to realize I was looking at a mirror and my refection. I sighed in relief and made quick work to grab the limited materials he had. I did find a pair of tweezers that would have to work, some folded cloths, a book of matches, and a flimsy cotton shirt that I spotted lying on the floor. I really didn't know what I was looking for I have never done anything like this before. Let's hope I learned enough from Miss Eudora and Tiana patching up the neighborhood boys.

With all of the items collected in my hands clumsily, I returned to where the Shadow man was. I felt myself stop suddenly as I was looking at his naked back. He was sitting the wrong way on his chair, straddling it so that the back rest was under his arms and head. He was facing away from me, but turned when he heard me walk in.

"Where is your shirt?" I felt a blush begin to creep up my face at the awkwardness of this situation now. As if it couldn't get any worse with us getting shot at, arguing, and then having to clean his wounds, now he decides to take his shirt off? Why me? I tried hard to keep my face as uninterested has his but I could still feel that betraying blush hot on my cheeks. He caught that all too well and slyly grinned at my discomfort. He seemed to bask in the distress of others.

"Would you have been able to take the bullet out with it on?"

"Well, no-"

"Then there's nothing to discuss." He confidently cut me off and faced forward again. That ridiculous, loathsome, vile, disgusting, with every step I took closer to him a new word for him seemed to pop up with ease, greedy, conceited, arrogant fool! When I reached the table, I dumped off all of my makeshift 'supplies'. I really hope I do this right, I don't even know what to do.

***Same Time***

Shadow man's POV

I let my cocky smile show in full force when I turned away from her. She and I both knew that it was better this way, but the look she gave me coming out was priceless. It would have been a lot more awkward if I had took it off with her in the room, so I just did it by myself. I folded my arms above the back of the wooden chair and let my head relax on them. The dulling pain was bad; I knew the worst was yet to come. The bullet had to come out; I just didn't want her doing it.

"Impressive work with Sam." I joked trying to lighten the mood as I waited for her to begin. I really did want to know how she took him out like that, very impressive for a woman to do.

"Oh, um, thanks I guess." She answered back as modestly as I think a LaBouf could respond.

"What did you do to him?"

"What, oh no, nothing bad. I mean I didn't mean to hurt him. It was an accident-" She began a hurried rant.

"Hey, stop, stop. It's ok, I'm not reprimanding you. I was just trying to say…that…it was quick thinking." Don't want to get her mind too crowded with bigheadedness. That was my excuse for my pride. I knew I had a big pride, but that is because I have to keep my reputation intact.

"Thanks." She said quietly. She paused and I heard her take a deep breath in. "I dampened this cloth with water; I am just going to wipe out the dried blood first. It may sting." Hell yeah it may sting. I'm not an idiot.

"Ok." Was all I did to respond as I felt her place the cloth on my back. It did sting; it stung a lot. But I'm the Shadow man! I can take a bullet as well as take getting one out. Nothing to it. I'm the Shadow man. I kept repeating in my head as she wiped my wound clean. I had to admit, she did do it as gently as possible. She never held the cloth in one place for too long. In no time I assumed it was clean enough for her liking and she pulled the cloth away.

"Looks better than before."

"Which wasn't very good." I smirked as I could feel her eyes bore into the back of my head at my sarcasm. She was so easy to play with. She was so easy to let words affect her; not saying I am not enjoying it.

"Well, there's only so much I can do. You have nothing in your cabinet. You know, the bullet is not that far in your back which means not much blood is coming out. There is this new invention, oh what's it called, it's a sticky bandage. Oh! That's is, Band-Aid! Or there is this new cream that is supposed to kill germs…"

"I don't think that in my situation health care is the most important thing on my mind." I huffed in what little guilt I am physically able to feel. She quieted instantly. I didn't mean to snap at her; I just didn't need to be reminded of the horrible situation I am in all the time. It's her fault for taking it the way she is. Can she stop talking and patch me up or leave already?

"Alright, I am going to…to take…it out…" She drawled. Her nervousness was palpable in the air which spiked up my concern.

"You do know what you are doing right?" I turned my head slightly to see with my peripheral vision.

"Well…no! What do I look like, a trained nurse? Of course as you said yourself, this is the best you're going to get." She indicated at herself in a disgusted way. "The closest I have ever got to anything like this is when Miss Eudora had to pull out splinters from Tia's legs when we were kids 'cause she always tripped when we played. I don't do this kind of stuff and when-"

"Whoa, hold on," I stopped her; "You're comparing a bullet in my back to a splinter on a knee?" Crap! What was I thinking letting her get back there? She's useless! I made to get up, but I felt her pulling back on my shoulder.

"Just what do you think you are doing?" She said, trying to assert her dominance, which we both knew she didn't posses.

"I am sure not going to let you mess around back there and just take whatever misfortune you happen to give me. I know a man who can help me under the table, ok? I will just go to him tomorrow and get it all fixed."

"Tomorrow?" She yelled at me as I turned to face her. Her hand on my shoulder attempted weakly to pull me back down to the chair. "That can't wait until tomorrow! Are you crazy?" It made sense what she was saying, reasonable. After taking a breath to calm myself, I knew that the wise thing would be to get it out today and then get it properly dressed tomorrow. I was not an idiot, and she certainly is not right. I glanced up at her only to realize how close we had been standing to each other. My gaze flickered up from her smooth chin up to the depths of her blue eyes. She seemed to notice this too because she immediately let go of my bare shoulder and took a step back.

"Look," She sighed in a tired manner and placed her hands supportively on her hips, "Let's just get this over with and wait for the prince to come in peace." She sounded defeated. Why was this girl so trusting? How is it that she just dumps her emotion everywhere and does not think about what other perceive? I looked at the way she ran her fingers through her, by now, messed up bun and with the other hand started organizing the tools on the table again. I shook my head in agreement. This truly is a different girl. Good luck to Edward in having to deal with this. I slowly returned to my position in the chair. The mood suddenly changed from the light joking of earlier to the past arguing to a now seemingly mutual exhaustion. I could tell the events of tonight were really starting to impact her. This wasn't a situation that ever heiress found herself in. She has probably never experienced anything like this in her entire life! Regrettably, I have to give it to her though; she did do a great job of kicking Sam's ass.

"Ok, I have put the tweezers in the fire to sanitize them."

"Fire!"

"Do you have to interrupt everything I say?" She said in her attempt to light the mood. "And yes, I lit a candle to clean the tweezers."

"Oh." I said staggered because I didn't realize she was doing all of that, "I didn't even know you lit one."

"Well, I am going to pull it out…umm why don't you tell me about Sam?"

"Why would I do that now?"

"I was trying to help you take your mind off this."

"Well, thanks, but no thanks. I can handle this. I handled it going in; I can handle it coming out." I said proudly. "But you should probably know who Sam is; he did attack you after all." I cleared my throat to begin telling her. "Silver Dollar Sam, as he is called, is the head of a famous organized crime family."

"You mean like a gang?" She said worriedly.

"Yes. A couple of years ago he was arrested for shooting a federal officer, which of course he didn't serve all of his time for."

"Why not?"

"As you said, he's a gangster. It's kind of obvious that he would pay the guards off or something like that. Anyway, now it is rumored that he is the one who changed lovely Senator Long's mind about not allowing gambling in New Orleans because he runs an intricate underground slot machine ring. Organized crime is this man's pride and joy and it is also rumored that- Oooooh." I tried hard to huff quietly, but may have failed slightly. I tucked my head into the crook of my arm when it dawned on me she must have wrenched into my raw, opened skin and took the bullet out. It didn't hurt, just took me by surprise that she wouldn't announce she was taking it out before she did.

"I'm sorry! I didn't mean for it to hurt. Are you ok?" I heard her voice from above me. My tender skin ached from the raw wound, but I had to remind myself not to let it show.

"It didn't, only took me by surprise." I said honestly and took me head out from being buried in my arm. "And why are you sorry? It had to come out." My voice became grumpy. I don't know if it was because or exhaustion or the wound, but I was beginning to get a tad irritable. I could even feel it.

"Right. Umm…you really don't have much to patch it up so I just picked up this shirt. It looks relatively clean. Maybe we can tie is around your torso to keep it secure and put some extra padding where the hole is. As you said, you are seeing someone to professionally clean it up…there are professional, right?"

"If by professional you mean had training and experience with other famous doctors and is up to date on all latest scientific findings, then no. If you mean can do the job well and cheap, then yes." I joked. I threw her the arrogant grin that I knew she loves and faced forward again. "How about we finish this up so that I don't have to deal with you staring at my naked back?"

"Ahh, you are ridiculous!" She snorted in a revolted manner. "I just did all of this for you and the only thing you say is 'hurry up, woman, so I can put on a shirt.'" She mocked my deep tone of voice.

"That's not even what I said." I tried to defend myself, but it was becoming hard to control the laughs that threatened to erupt. This is so stupid!

"Oh, shut up! I don't get a 'thank you' or even a break from your sarcasm. Nothing." She gave a frustrated huff and paused. I found out why when I suddenly felt the presence of the cold, wet cloth on my back. I bit my lip and jerked forward at the sting from my fresh wound.

"What the-"

"I'm trying to finish my job. Isn't that what you wanted?" She said mockingly. I could have cursed her out right then and there, although I had to say nicely done on her part. I could just picture her now holding that cloth with her version of a smirk, which needless to say is nothing too impressive. Maybe I deserved it, I don't know. All I knew now was to try and suppress the grunts that scratched at my throat because of that cloth on my stinging bullet hole. Eventually, she let up on the tortured cleaning, which I noticed did take longer than the first cleaning… curious. I then heard the ripping of more cloth and I turned to see what she was doing. My only good blue button down shirt was lying in her hands in two pieces.

"Oh, seriously, Lottie? That's a good shirt!" I couldn't believe she had the nerve to rip my clothes without asking. This may be her still trying to get back at me for not thanking her. She takes stuff too personally.

"This rag?" She said, displaying fake concern and waving the two halves to prove a point.

"Well, it is now." I groaned and decided to leave her alone. I face straight ahead again and placed my head in my hand. She can really get under my skin. I felt her press some of the fabric on my wound and hold it there as she brought a hand around my abdomen to thread it around. I took the makeshift sling from her hand roughly and passed it over to my right side on my own so that she could tie it to hold the wadded cloth underneath.

"Alright," She said abruptly "you're done." And I heard her footsteps exit into the bathroom again. I let myself groan loudly in both frustration and pain as I went to stand up. The wound was on my lower shoulder, so turning my upper body at all only amplified the stinging sensation. Women! Why do they always have to be so emotional? It's not my fault that she takes everything the way she does! I'm sitting here bleeding and she's concerned with me saying 'thank you'? What does she want me to do, kiss the very ground she walks on and thank God for her presence here on Earth? She did me a favor, and not one I asked for either! I glanced up when I heard the bathroom door open and a solemn blond walk out. We both made eye contact for a couple of seconds. I was guessing we were both confused on what to do until Edward can find his was over here.

"I forgot about your cheek."

"I did too." I remembered about the cut on my cheek. I can't believe I forgot about that. I lifted my hand to feel if it was still there; surely enough, a line of dried blood met my fingers. I stepped in the direction of the bathroom when I saw her move instead.

"Here, this cloth wasn't used." She sounded indifferent as she passed the still damp cloth to me. She was a very confusing person indeed. I was having such trouble switching from her different mood swings. "Did tonight really happen?" I looked up to her with a quirked eyebrow. She wasn't looking at me this time, but rather at the door so that I could see her profile. She didn't appear to have said this out loud to me. Maybe she was thinking out loud? Maybe she was trying to comfort herself? Either way, I did not know. Her arms were now wrapped around herself and her perfectly straight-backed posture was slightly bent. Her usually young face was contorted into a small frown and defocused eyes that seemed to make her age from a dysfunctional teen to a worried adult. Strands of her blonde hair fell from her bushy bun and placed themselves in every direction around her face. She no longer appeared to be the bubbly happy-go-lucky girl, but rather replaced by a now bewildered and mature adult.

Has the heiress Charlotte LaBouf began to grow up? I couldn't tell, but she wouldn't be considered a girl in my book. Not after all she has been through.


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