All characters are the property of Karen M. Moning. This work is written solely for the enjoyment of exploring that world in new ways.
Summary: DREAMFEVER, end of Part 1 - Missing Scene: Barrons returns to the basement where he has been nursing Mac back from being Pri-ya and finds her gone.
Author's blog: gkkstitch-gkkmouse(dot)blogspot(dot)com
The sniggering of the others burned in his ears as he headed back to the basement, back to Mac.
The car took the brunt of Barrons' anger. Grinding his teeth , he ignored the clutch and expertly slam shifted through the gears like a professional driver. His neck and shoulders were tense as he slowly wrung the steering wheel in his hands, imagining it to be Ryodan's thick neck. He didn't like the implications in Ryodan's offer to watch over Mac for a while.
None of them had any doubt what he was doing with Mac and he had intentionally not removed her scent from his body. It had been a dig at his men since they were open in their disdain for what he was doing. They all agreed he was wasting his time. Nobody came back from being Pri-ya. They all accepted that. The fact that Barrons did not had set their teeth on edge.
Ryodan's snide observations about him being distracted and unfocused had raised Barrons' hackles, and he wouldn't let it drop, suggesting Barrons needed a break from the constant job of being nursemaid to a sick sidhe-seer. The final straw was Ryodan's taunting offer to lend a helping hand in her care. The special emphasis to the word hand was as subtle as a cannon ball to the gut. Even the thought of Ryodan's hands on Mac—either around her neck or inside her— brought a bitter taste to his mouth and made his lips curl into a snarl.
Ryodan and Mac; like he was ever going to let that happen.
He knew they were all having a derisive laugh at his expense over his urgency to return to Mac. He had to be there before she woke. She had been sleeping longer and longer as her recovery progressed, needing his touch less than constantly.
He hated that, too.
As the engine growled for him, speeding him closer and closer to her, Barrons anger began to melt. He turned his mind to what waited for him at his destination and felt a smile tug at his lips. He freely admitted he was a despicable, low, contemptible creature for finding personal enjoyment in the particular type of therapy she needed to recover, but he was honest enough to acknowledge he reveled in it. She needed him, not V'Lane, not Christian MacKeltar, not anyone. Him.
Just the memory of how she looked at him was making him hard again, it almost made the rest of it worthwhile. He knew it wasn't real. He knew that she hadn't chosen him. She wasn't even Mac. Mac was gone, buried behind a wall of pain. This woman was broken; shattered and abused by the Unseelie Princes. He was just putting her back together in the only way that would work: slowly, gently... sometimes not so gently, sometimes they were downright barbaric. He gave her whatever she needed, became whatever she needed to find her way back.
He loved it. He hated it. He hoped it would work.
Part of him hoped it wouldn't—a small part. Fuck, the way she looked at him! He raised his hand to his face again, unable to resist the smell of her on his fingers.
He ran through the argument he knew he would eventually have with her to justify himself. He knew she'd hate him for it. He could see her now, naked and furious, the blank vacant lust in her eyes from the past several months gone, replaced with indignant southern fury.
I had to do it, Miss Lane, he'd say sounding bored just to provoke her, unable to stop the lecherous smile he knew he'd have on his face. He loved hearing her accent when she was angry. Apparently the only thing that could bring you back from the mindset of a sex slave was my dick and patience.
Patience? So the longer it took, the better for you? Did you even try anything else? You wanted me to need it, she'd shoot back. You took advantage of the situation, you opportunistic ass!
Barrons shook his head sharply and snarled out loud. How could she drag him down into childish arguments even in his own imagination?
She was no child. Not even close. An image of her from last night surfaced in his memory. She writhed on the bed like she was in pain, moaning. Her legs were still wet from him coming inside her over and over again. Mine. You're mine. I need your cock in me. It's mine. Give it to me. Complete me. Make me real.
His cock twitched and he pressed on the gas pedal shifting in the driver's seat. Make me real. He had never felt more real than he had when moving inside her, living inside her, being alive inside her.
Fuck! This wasn't even real and she was driving him insane. He licked his lips in anticipation.
That turned out to be a mistake. He could still taste her there, high on his lip, just under his nose. His eyes lost focus. A low groan turned into a growl of need as his fingers rose to his nose again.
He turned sharply, speeding north to the outskirts of the city. A sea of gray roofs sloped up a hill swaddled in a blanket of gray barren dirt, left raw and exposed first by the Shades and then by the winter. With another sharp turn, he took the road leading to the top of the hill and the house he'd commandeered. He slammed hard on the brakes. Gravel and frost scattered when the car came to a quick stop and he opened the door with equal amounts of eagerness and dread. Her mind was healing. She was remembering more every day.
What if she could want him that way without the blank look of the Pri-ya?
He couldn't let himself think like that. He had more pressing issues. He needed her. He needed to get the Sinsar Dubh. There was an ocean full of women to fuck. He forced himself to keep his head in the game. There was more at stake here than just having sex.
As the driver's door swung open, a scent on the wind scorched him into a jealous rage. V'Lane! All thoughts of fucking other women vanished and a snarl tore from Barrons' lips as he bolted into the house.
The solid wood exterior door splintered when he threw himself against it. White dust-cloths draping the furniture fluttered like a mob of ghosts. A table up-ended as he barreled past. Plaster from the hallway wall came away with violent force exposing the oak lath bones of the house. The growl of the generator was whisper-soft compared to the roar from Barrons' throat.
It wasn't the first time the Fae had come sniffing around the edges of his defenses, but V'Lane's scent was not in the house, nor in the basement. Barrons came to a skidding stop when he found that the door to the bedroom in the basement had been kicked open... from the inside. A cold fist closed around his heart.
Mac was back.
He wasn't surprised. Her recovery was slow, but between the spells he'd cast, the healing runes, and making sure she ate and slept, she'd slowly begun to resurface. What did surprise him was the dead sensation that suddenly weighed in his stomach. She was gone.
For a moment—just a fraction of a moment—he didn't think about why he needed the book. It was quickly replaced by anger: at her for not being there, for not even having the decency to thank him for putting his entire existence on hold for her, at himself for the weak indulgence of imagining his life could be any different, at the fucking Fae for putting them both on this collision course to begin with, at her again for not even trying to use IYD that night—oh, he would have loved showing up to her rescue in his true form and ripping their throats out!
He should be glad she was recovered, relieved even. She could finally get back to helping him find the book.
Though he knew she wouldn't be there, he searched the room anyway. She showered before she left. He couldn't help but think about the fact that he couldn't get her to shower unless he was fucking her, but she had obviously showered alone this time.
She was gone for so long, existing only as instinct, only as sex: not water, not food, not shelter. His time in that basement with her was nothing short of the fives senses boiled down and scalded into their purest form: sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. It was desire turned inside out, pleasure turned on its head and lust so primitive that it existed as a corporeal creature, bereft of language.
Damn, he loved it. It was pure. It was simple. It was what it was.
She was like lightning, cracking and snapping, desperate—dying—for something to ground her. He gave that to her, in whatever form she needed: as his dick inside her, his words threading through her mind, his protective runes on her body, or merely as a sentinel guarding the senseless void the Unseelie Princes had created in her until she could be her own person again. Thinking about the condition they had left her in drove him to a murderous rage, but there was time for revenge later. She needed him.
And now she doesn't.
He avoided looking at the pictures he had brought in for her, leaving bits of her life scattered over every surface, waiting for her to recognize them. She left everything behind, all her memories. Pieces of the pictures of her mother and father were still scattered on the floor. She had torn them up when the memories of her old life became too painful. He imagined her storming out of the basement bedroom, fresh and damp from her shower, and consumed with such a black hatred of him that she left behind everything he did to bring her back to reality.
Well, excuse the bloody hell out of me for not finding a self-help book on Pri-ya recovery. His thoughts were sour, arguing with her in his mind. I tried everything I could think of: runes, chants, and yes, fucking you senseless just to get you to eat and sleep. So what if I had to wing it? It worked, didn't it?
Ass! He heard her call him again. Monumental Druid-chanting ass!
She was gone, there was no doubt, but he kept looking around anyway. He couldn't find it in himself to leave as hastily as she obviously had. Crates outside the bedroom had been opened, items were missing. He'd check to see what was gone later. He really didn't care. It was all for her anyway, to protect her until she was strong again.
He knew exactly how strong she'd become during her... convalescence. Fucking her had been like wrestling with a bag of steel snakes.
He only gave her his body so she could heal, but she would never see it that way and she would be right; it wasn't the only reason. He couldn't deny how much he enjoyed being the center of her attention, her only desire. He also knew her reaction to him was more than the Pri-ya psychosis. He knew how she felt about him from the moment he'd rescued her from Mallucé. He saw it in her eyes when he touched her face.
He also knew how stubborn she was.
He hated her for being so damn eager, though; kissing and licking him into frenzy, making him stop thinking about his responsibilities and his reality while he moved inside her. He let himself disappear into her eyes when she looked at him. She made him feel things he had no right to feel.
He mentally took stock of the items that were missing. He knew what she was wearing now by the clothes she had taken; the same clothes she had laughed at him for bringing to her, the same clothes she whined about when he forced her to dress and then tore from her body stomping on them in a tantrum.
For two months, he waited for signs of the Mac he once knew to reappear. The emotions were all there: grief, rage, fear. She remembered without knowing, reacted without understanding. He thought memories of home and family and Christmas would help her resurface so he surrounded her with them.
He was wrong. It had been him—memories of him—that broke through her damaged mind.
"I have no business looking forward to pink cakes, isn't that what you said?"
The first crack. Her first real memory. The first signs his efforts working.
"You. Books. Lots of them. You … I … know you. You are ..."
She was remembering.
He lunged for her, wanting her to remember him and be kissing him like this: raw and naked, wanting him with light in her eyes, knowing him.
Just one time.
With his mouth and body, he had acted on instinct. He took what he wanted, to hell with the consequences. He derailed his own intentions, forgot his responsibilities, and ignored reality. That was how he'd gotten them cursed to begin with and they were still paying for it, even his own son. Mac was starting to remember, and he had let himself forget. He had to stop himself. He had to focus on needs other than his own no matter how much it would cost him.
"What did you wear to your senior prom, Mac?"
He had to save the woman in order to save the boy. They were both depending on him.
Speakers blaring the song. Playing, laughing, acting young and alive. Dancing, fueled by her laughter. It sounded so good to hear her laugh. She called him Barrons. Not man, not beast. Another crack.
He rejoiced it in even as he regretted it. The old Mac was light and color. She had a people who needed her, depended on her. This Mac—born in the worst violation and using stanchions of lust to keep her pain away—was for him and him alone. She needed him. It was in her eyes every moment of every day for more than two months. He shared this Mac with no one. He was her entire world.
He always knew she'd hate him when she got her wits back, when she could finally remember.
I want it to always be like this, she had said. I will never feel differently.
He half expected to find a note telling him to fuck off and never come near her again. That was never going to happen. He needed her to find the book. She'd just have to get over herself. He wasn't going to just disappear to spare her the sense of propriety, not after what she'd put him through.
I wasn't ready for this to end! I wanted her to choose me!
The sudden nature of his realization sent his fist into the wall. The wards rippled from the impact. How had she gotten past them? He ran up the stairs four at a time, quickly searching the rest of the house. She was well and truly gone.
He walked around the perimeter of the house and toed gently at the faint silver runes on the sidewalk. The first brightened with energy and passed that energy to its neighbor. They each brightened in turn, like a wave rolling away from him.
His Mac was gone.
He closed his eyes, murmured the words, and felt the pull of her to the south and east. She was moving.
A/N: Thanks to Vic, Elaine, Lo and Biz for poking, prodding, teasing, tormenting, helping and encouraging me to read/write the Fever Series, and for reminding me that Barrons might be alluring, but he's also an ass that sees things in black and white. And thanks to the tweethearts on Twitter for being so eager to read this.