sorry it has taken so long to get this posted!
Thanks to SheWolf13, donkeyface and ZRSFizzBongs for reviewing the last chapter. :)
Also thank you to my wonderful beta SheWolf13 for helping me again.
The first thing my brain registers is the pain. The burn on my side is throbbing and my head hurts like hell. I shift my right hand slightly and feel a gentle pull against it. I open my eyes and look around me. I'm in a large creamy white painted room with pictures hanging on the walls and flowers covering nearly every available table space. The combined scent of so many different plants is overwhelming and makes my head spin. I switch to breathing through my mouth. They even taste horrible. I never have understood the point of sending flowers to people in hospital; they don't do anything but sit there and die when you forget to water them. Remembering what had made me open my eyes, I look down at my hand. An IV has been stuck to it with a considerable amount of surgical tape keeping it in place. I blink stupidly at it as I try to figure out where I am.
Then it dawns on me. The flowers. The boringly painted room. The surgical tape. I resist the urge to bang my head on a wall and scream 'why me?' After everything that has happened in the past 24 hours – at least I think it has only been 24 hours – don't I deserve a break? Obviously the fates don't think so as I am currently lying in a hospital bed with freaky supernatural DNA that will cause panic if it's been tested on which will lead to awkward questions that I can't get out off. Then the supernatural community may or may not be discovered, if it is then I will be killed by the Pack, the Cables and possibly even the Council and every supernatural will become a guinea pig to humans!
Maybe I'm over-reacting. I take a deep breath and calm myself. All I have to do is tell them that for religious reasons I do not wish for blood samples to be taken. And if they've already taken some blood… I don't consider the possibility of that, mainly because I haven't got a clue what I would do if I had to deal with that situation.
I take another look around me, trying to take in the room. Well, figure out all my escape roots actually. Living in the supernatural world makes you cautious at the best of times and downright paranoid at the worst. I've learnt the hard way that having all my escape roots already mapped out in advance will definitely be of use later if I overstay my welcome.
To my right is a big window letting in a considerable amount of light despite how dark it seems in here. On the wall farthest from my bed is a door also painted white. It seems that this hospital, like every other hospital in the world, has never heard of colours – no wait, there's a blue sky in the picture hanging on the wall opposite the window.
I yawn and close my eyes. Maybe if I just go back to sleep then I'll wake up and all this will be a bad dream. I'll wake up in my bedroom at Stonehaven, with the smell of bacon and pancakes luring me downstairs for breakfast (unless Jeremy was the one cooking then it would be scaring me away from the kitchen) and…
What happened to leaving the Pack behind you?
I don't want to. I think angrily before I can stop myself. It's not the first time that I've regretted my decision to leave the Pack. They were there for me when I needed them to be and didn't leave me even when I fucked things up.
They tried to kill you.
I clench my jaw, I desperately want to think 'so what, it was just a misunderstanding,' but I can't. By even thinking that I would be lying to myself. Do I want to go back to the Pack? Yes. Do I forgive them? No, not really.
I realise another thing when the door opens a few minutes later and in walks the Pack Alpha himself, I don't particularly want to talk to or see any of them either. I turn my head away from him and set my jaw, determined not to even acknowledge him. I listen as he crosses the room and sits down in the leather armchair by the bed.
'How are you feeling? You lost a lot of blood,' Jeremy says after another few minutes of tense silence.
I don't show any signs of even hearing him. I don't want him to know just how happy part of me is that he cares. That part of me that hopes maybe he will come in and make everything right again, sort out any problems if my blood has been taken and tell me that the mutt's been dealt with and everything can go back to how it was. Maybe it's the witch, or the human, or the wolf. Who knows? All I know is that my stronger instincts are still mad at Jeremy for what the Pack has done. He's in charge, meaning that they never would have attacked unless he ordered it. A sense of betrayal creeps up on me, but I quickly push it away before I can continue to dwell on the reasons behind it.
He sighs when I don't answer, 'Lia…'
'Don't,' I growl, knowing exactly what he was going to say, that it was all a big misunderstanding and that I belonged with the Pack, was safer with the Pack. 'Why are you even here? You set half the Pack on me and now you think that I'll come along back to you like a good little puppy?' My voice rises in my anger. 'And you know what I find really insulting? The fact that you actually believed I would do that. You believed that I would actually kill some humans, kill my best friends. You're a cold hearted bastard, Jeremy, that couldn't give a shit about anyone outside of your control.' I said a few more choice words at him (yelled really) before going silent, trying to rein in my temper. A small part of me is terrified at what I had just said to him. You don't yell at or insult those that are above you, the only lesson the Coven managed to force into my brain. And living with the Pack had only drilled the lesson in further.
'Are you done?' he asks, his voice level and calm.
I turn my head to face him and feel anger bubble up inside me again at his expressionless face. I hate that, his complete indifference to everything, barely reacting to anything; it's almost as if he doesn't even care. 'Fuck you,' I mutter under my breath.
He raises an eyebrow slightly at my retaliation. 'The doctor says you will be fine to leave in a couple of hours, Clay and Elena are just finishing the clean up and then we shall be leaving. You can return to University and finish your course next year.'
My mouth falls open. 'I'm not going back to New York with you.'
Jeremy looks me in the eye and I break contact immediately. 'You are coming back with us to Bear Valley even if I have to sedate you, and if you continue to be difficult then there's the cage.'
A cloud of dread tries to force itself into my brain. I push it back. I hate small spaces, as in really, really, completely terrified of them. It's the feeling of being trapped with no way out that scares me; scares the wolf, more likely.
'Benicio wanted to speak to you as well,' says Jeremy, getting up and heading for the door. It's then that I realise that I have no clue where the hell I am.
'Where are we?'
'Cortez Cable hospital, it was safer than going anywhere else and Benicio insisted.'
'Making us be in his debt.'
'Actually, it was him repaying a debt for us helping out with the mutt that was framing you.'
'Oh,' is all I say. So why would the CEO of the most powerful cable want to speak to me? A twenty year old whatever who has caused nothing but trouble since she moved to Florida. The door clicks shut and I'm left on my own again.
I look at the drip still attached to my hand. I'm sure I'll be fine without it. I pull it out and sit up. My vision blurs as the blood rushes to my head making the world around me spin. I almost lie back down again when my vision clears and everything around me stops moving and spinning wildly. Ignoring my pounding headache and stinging side, I push myself up off the bed and walk over to the double window. Outside is a busy road, jam packed with a mixture of expensive and old cars, business people rushing through their daily lives, their normal, boring, nothing-like-getting-nearly-killed-by-your-family-and-being-blamed-for-your-best-friend's-murder lives.
I lean my forehead on the cold glass and close my eyes, marvelling at the exceptional sound-proofing this place has. The sound from outside has been reduced to nothing more than a soft buzz that is only audible to someone with super hearing and concentrating on the noises. I listen harder trying to pick out different voices, when that fails I try to separate the sounds of cars from the sounds of people, anything to keep my mind from wandering. I don't want to think about what has happened, even though I know I'll have to eventually. I have to figure out what I'm going to do, whether I'm going to let myself be controlled by the Pack again or whether I would just be better off going off on my own again.
I'm sure, if I were thinking straight, I could come up with some other solutions, better ones. But my still slightly drugged brain isn't in a co-operative mood and seems determined to keep going off course. I glance at the clock hung on the wall, 5:27, meaning that I had only been out for a few hours, if it was still the same day of course. It doesn't feel like a few hours. I squeeze my eyes shut again, in less than two hours I had lost two of the most important people in the normal life I had managed to build for myself here in Florida, my best friend and the guy I was finally starting to like. Yet, here I am standing in a hospital room, alive and well. It's not fair. I'm the one that has committed the crimes; I disobeyed the Coven, I used dark magic, I disobeyed the Pack, I've killed people before without a second thought about their families or the fact that they were people with lives just like me. It isn't just mutts I've killed either…
Again, I push the thoughts back. What's done is done. You can't change the past no matter how hard and long you scream that it's not fair. There's no point in regretting something you can't undo, so why do I still feel so guilty about everything?
'What are you doing out of bed?' snaps an angry voice behind me. I spin round to face a stern looking woman in her mid-thirties with her hair pulled back into a tight bun showing her eyes that were enough to make any kid run crying to its mom. 'Well?'
'Umm…' Normally I would reply with some smart ass excuse, but remember that kid running crying to its mom? Yeah, that would be me if mine was still alive. Before I can think of something (or run away) a stocky man with deeply etched lines around his dark brown eyes and lips and shortly cut dark hair appears behind her.
'Miss Valo, it's good to see you up at last,' Benicio Cortez, CEO of the most powerful cable, greets me with a warm smile.
I don't miss the 'at last' part of what he had just said. Again, I wonder how long I've been lying in hospital for. 'It's good to know that I've been in good hands for the past…?'
'Two weeks,' he supplies. A look of horror passes over my face and disappears, hopefully, before he can figure out what it is. 'Well, since you're up and about I would like a word with you if that's alright.'
He may have phrased it as a question, but it was obvious that I really had no choice in the matter. So I keep a smile plastered on my face and say that I'll be ready in a few minutes once I've had time to freshen up.
He leaves the room with the nurse, who was still scowling at anything that moves, a few steps behind him. I bounce on the balls of my feet for a few seconds, as if it would tell me why Benicio wanted to speak to me. No such luck, surprisingly. Annoyed at myself for not figuring anything out apart from how long I've been here, I get ready for my meeting with Benicio. I glance at the bed. Or maybe I should just hide.
Ten minutes later and I'm sitting in Benicio's office, hands gripping a mug of coffee as if it's going to grow legs and run away if I let go. Benicio himself isn't here, he'd been called away to talk to someone after delivering his 'generous offer'. Generous wouldn't be what I would call it, not by a long shot. Okay, yes maybe some would jump at the opportunity, but me? I keep on saying I want to leave the Pack, I've already done so once. So why am I so reluctant to agree to something that will give me a good enough reason to stay away from New York? Simple answer I don't want to leave the Pack, deep down I don't. But at the same time I want an excuse to have a bit more time with out them and to try and brave the world alone.
I had hardly stepped through the doorway before Benicio was talking. It took my fog filled brain a couple of seconds to comprehend that it was supposed to be paying attention. I shook my head slightly and looked up from the spot on my shirt I had been so determinedly staring at. He looked at me expectantly, waiting for an answer to a question I didn't hear.
'Sorry could you repeat that please,' I said politely.
A flicker of annoyance flared behind his eyes, but he repeated himself nonetheless, 'I would like to offer you a job, Lia. I know of your reluctance to return to New York and have had an opening. Should you accept this generous offer then you will receive the same security and perks of any other cable employee.'
'But… I'm a werewolf,' I said stupidly. 'Cables don't hire werewolves.'
'Yes, but I won't be hiring you as a werewolf, I will hiring you as a witch,' he explained coolly, waving to a seat in front of the huge desk he was sitting behind. 'Coffee?'
'Yes, thank you.' I accepted the mug he gave me and noticed that it was bordering on getting too cold. 'So you want to hire me as a witch?' I repeat slowly. I then realised something. 'How do know I'm a witch?' I blurt out. We'd been careful not to let any of the Cables figure out that I'm not quite what I appear to be, meaning no eye contact and getting called 'that shy girl with the werewolves' all the time. We had feared that if the Cables found out I would share the same fate as those before me that are… different. My mind flittered back to Jasper Haig, a living chameleon, who was kept alive purely for the reason that he was different, a lab rat with nowhere to go. If the Cables knew what I was then I would be lucky to not get locked in a cell complete with a double bed and anything else I could want.
He smiled at me, 'I've known ever since Paige and Lucas' wedding. Don't worry, I haven't told anyone and I am not going to ask you to allow my scientist to experiment on you, as I am sure that is the reason this was kept from me?'
I nodded mutely.
'All I want is a skilled witch to teach my grandsons spell work.'
'Why not a sorcerer?' I asked.
'Because from experience witches seem to be best at witch magic and that is what I wish for them to have the chance to learn.' He paused and studied my face. I look down at the now cold mug in my hands. 'After what happened with the Liberation Movement last year, I'm not willing to take any chances. I want my grandsons to have the widest knowledge possible of spell casting. I will not force you to agree, but I need to know before the end of the day.'
I opened my mouth to say that teaching isn't really my thing when a knock at the door cut me off. The door opened slightly and the blonde secretary poked her head through the doorway.
'I hate to interrupt you, sir, but Mr. Desford is in the meeting room and wishes to see you.' She said. 'Or I could tell him you're busy?' she offered as if she had only just noticed me sat in the room.
'No, I had best talk to him,' Benicio replied, pushing himself up.
The secretary nodded then backed out of the room again. He glanced at me then said, 'Sorry about this, Miss Valo, how about you think about my offer and tell me your decision when I get back.' Again, it sounded more like a command than a suggestion.
I nodded my head again without saying a word. He turned away from me and disappeared through the door, closing it behind him.
My stomach growls, reminding me that I haven't eaten anything since waking up. I mentally go through the layout of the building and map out the fastest route to the exit. There's a small coffee shop across the road that does all day breakfast. Deciding that's what I'll do while I'm waiting for Benicio I get up, leaving the stone cold coffee on the table, and slip out the door to walk straight into one of Benicio's two guards. I look up at the towering figure in front of me, a slight smirk on his face.
'Going somewhere, Lia?' Troy Morgan, head of Cortez security, asks me, his tone light.
'I'm going to get something to eat. I haven't eaten in forever,' I inform him matter of factly, while trying to sneak past him.
'Mr. Cortez wants you to wait for him before you try and sneak off,' he says, blocking my path again. The wolf's hackles rise at the 'threat'.
'I'm not sneaking anywhere, just get an all day breakfast from across the road.'
He still looks slightly sceptical.
I sigh, 'Look, I'll get take out so I'm only going to be a few minutes and if Benicio gets annoyed about me not being here then I will take full responsibility. Please Troy.' I give him my best innocent little girl look.
'Fine, as long as you're quick, straight there and straight back got it?'
'Yes, sir,' I mock salute. 'By the way, who made the coffee?' I ask as an after thought.
His eyebrows knot together in confusion at my sudden change of subject. 'Me, why?'
'No reason,' I shrug, and then walk by him and down the stairs. I could take the elevator, but that would mean standing in a small space surrounded by strangers, too far from comfort for me.
By the third step down I realise I'm being followed. I sneak a glance behind me and mentally sigh at the six foot guard behind me, watching my every move. Trust Troy to send someone to stalk me as I brave the dangerous adventure of filling my stomach, I mean, you never know, I might get attacked by bacon, or worse… salt!
When I get to the third floor I have to go to the back of the building to get to the stairs. I'm halfway there when I hear a familiar voice down the corridor. I shake my head. I'm imagining things, it's not them, it can't be. Still, I pause slightly before turning the corner and take a deep breath, sampling the air. No scents I recognise, but that could just be because of the air con. I shiver slightly in a sudden icy breeze and turn the corner, my eyes down. A couple are talking down the corridor; I don't recognise their voices, not a surprise really seeing as I've only ever been here once before. As I pass by the couple, a familiar scent stirs a memory that I can't place.
'Lia?' says a voice suddenly from behind. I turn round slowly, not daring to believe what I think, who I just think I've heard. I look up into their faces and stare. Their scent washes over me for the second time, enveloping my senses. That's impossible…