I didn't make it a habit to frequent hospitals.

I hated them as much as I hated country music.

To me, they smelled of death and disinfectant.

They reminded me of Dad, and the time that had clocked away while the cancer hollowed his eyes and chemo bloated his body.

This hospital was no different, but the visit was a little more complex.

It involved the police, a frantic mother, and my surly, dark-haired savior, who still hovered near the little room they'd shoved me in. As rude and ungrateful as it was, I was doing my best to ignore him.

My mom, who'd been on shift at the hospital when the ambulance brought me in with a police escort, kept randomly reaching over and stroking my arm or face - the good side at least.

As if that motion reminded her that I was alive and breathing and only bruised. I hated myself for it, but it was starting to annoy me.

I was feeling the height of bitchiness.

My head and back were aching something fierce, but the pain in my wrist and arm were the worst. After tons of poking, prodding, and half a dozen X-rays, nothing was broken. I had a sprained wrist and a torn tendon in my arm, in addition to numerous deep bruises and scratches.

A brace already encased my left hand and forearm.


There was this elusive promise of pain medication that had yet to arrive.

The police officers were kind, if a little too brusque. They asked every question imaginable.

I knew it was important I tell them everything I could remember, but the shock was beginning to wear off and the adrenaline had long since faded. All I wanted was to go home.

They thought it was an attempted robbery gone wrong until I told them he hadn't asked for any money. After I'd told them what the attacker had said, they believed he may have been ill or possibly a drug addict coming down from a high.

When the police were done asking me questions, they moved on to Daemon. They seemed to be on familiar terms with him. One even clapped him on the shoulder and smiled.

They were buddies. How sweet. I didn't get a chance to listen to what he was telling them because my mom had taken over the interrogation.

I wanted them all to stop and go away.

"Miss Swartz?"

Surprised to hear my last name, I was pulled out of my own thoughts. One of the younger deputies was at my bed again. I couldn't remember his name, and I was too tired to even look for a name tag. "Yes?"

"I think we are pretty much done for tonight.

If you remember anything else, please call us immediately."

I nodded and wished I hadn't. I grimaced as pain shot through my head.

"Honey, are you okay?" Mom asked, her tone pitched in worry.

"My head, it hurts."

She stood. "I'll go find the doctor so we can get those meds in you." She smiled gently.

"Then you won't feel a thing." That is what I needed, wanted - would love.

The deputy turned to leave but stopped. "I don't think you have anything to worry about.

I - "

The crackle of his radio interrupted anything else he was about say. The dispatcher's voice broke through the static. "All available units, we have code 18 on Well Springs Road. Victim is a female, approximately sixteen to seventeen years of age. Possible DOA. EMT on the scene." Whoa. What were the odds that I'd be attacked on the same night another teenage girl died in such a small town? It had to be a coincidence. I glanced at Daemon. His eyes were narrowed.

He'd heard it, too.

"Jesus," the deputy said, then clicked on his radio. "Unit 414 leaving hospital and en route." He turned from the bed, still talking into the radio, and left.

With the exception of Daemon lounging against the wall by the curtain, the room was empty. He raised a curious brow at me. I chewed on my lower lip and turned my head away, causing another ripple of pain to go from one temple to the other. I stayed like that until my mother came rushing back to my bed with the doctor in tow.

"Honey, Dr. Michaels has good news."

"As you already know, you have no broken bones and it also looks like you don't have a concussion. Once we can release you, you can go home and rest," he said, rubbing the area where speckles of gray peppered the hair near his temples. He glanced at Daemon before focusing on me again. "Now, if you start experiencing dizziness or nausea, vision issues or loss of memory, we need you back here immediately."

"Okay," I said, eyeing the pills. I'd agree to anything at this point.

After the doctor left, Mom hovered as I took the small plastic cup and pills from her, swallowing them quickly. I didn't even care what they were.

On the verge of tears again, I reached for my mom's hand, but was interrupted by an excited voice in the hallway.

Dee rushed into the room, her face pale and worried. "Oh no, Katy, are you okay?"

"Yes. Just a little banged up." I lifted my arm and gave a weak smile.

"I can't believe this has happened." She turned to her brother. "How could this have happened? I thought you - "

"Dee," Daemon warned.

She darted away from her brother, lingering on the other side of my bed. "I'm so sorry about this."

"It's not your fault."

She nodded, but I could tell she was harboring guilt.

My mom's name was called over the loudspeaker. Her face strained, she excused herself and promised to be back in a few seconds.

"Can you leave soon?" Dee asked.

I dragged my attention back to her. "I guess so." I paused. "As long as my mom comes back."

She nodded. "Did...you see the guy who attacked you?"

"Yeah, he said some crazy stuff." I closed my eyes, and it seemed to take longer than normal to reopen them. "Something about finding 'them'. I don't know." I shifted on the hard bed. The bruises didn't hurt as much.

"Weird." Dee paled. "I hope you can leave soon.

I hate hospitals."

"I do, too."

Her nose wrinkled. "They have...such a strange smell to them."

"That's what I've always told Mom, but she thinks I make it up."

Dee shook her head. "No, it's not you. They have this...musty smell."

My eyelids flickered open again and focused on Daemon. He had his eyes closed as he leaned his head against the wall but I knew he was listening to everything. Dee talked about taking me home if my mom couldn't leave. I was struck again by the twins. Daemon and Dee didn't belong here, but I did. I could blend easily with the whitewashed walls and pale green curtains. I was as plain as the linoleum, but these two seemed to light the room with their flawless beauty and demanding presence.

Ah, the medication was kicking in. I was poetic. And high. Bliss.

Dee shifted, and my view of Daemon was blocked. I immediately felt panic rising and struggled to move until I could see him again.

My pulse quieted the moment my gaze settled on his still form. He didn't fool me. He was trying to pretend he was relaxed, leaning against the wall like that with his eyes closed and all, but his jaw was clenched and I knew he was like a coiled spring, filled with vigilant energy.

"You're handling this well. I'd be totally freaked out, rocking in the corner somewhere." Dee smiled.

"I'll freak out," I murmured. "Give me time."

I wasn't sure how much time passed before my mother returned with a bothered expression on her pretty face. "Honey, I'm sorry to disappear on you," she said in a rush. "There was a bad accident, and they're bringing in multiple victims. You may have to stay here awhile. I have to stay, at least until we determine if we need to move them to a larger hospital. A bunch of nurses are off, and the hospital isn't staffed to handle this type of crisis." I stared at her dumbfounded. I felt my bitchiness gaining ground. Screw everyone else. I'd nearly died tonight, and I wanted my mom.

"Ms. Swartz, we can take her home," Dee said. "I'm sure she wants to go home. I know I would and it would be no problem for us to do it."

I begged Mom with my eyes to take me home herself. "I would feel better if she was here or with me, in case she does have a concussion and, well, I don't want anything else to happen."

"We would never let anything happen." Dee's gaze was steady. "We'll take her right home and stay with her. I promise." I could tell Mom was wrestling with the need to keep me close and her responsibility to those injured in the accident. I felt contrite for making her choose. Plus I knew seeing me in the hospital had to be a painful reminder of Dad. My eyes darted to Daemon, and the bitchiness eased from my shoulders. I gave my mom a weak smile. "It's okay, Mom. I'm feeling a lot better, and I'm sure nothing else is wrong. I don't want to stay here." Mom sighed, wringing her hands.

"I can't believe this would happen on tonight of all nights."

Her name was called over the loudspeaker once more. She did something very uncharacteristic and cussed. "Dammit!" Dee immediately jumped up. "We can do it, Mrs. Swartz."

Mom glanced at me and then the door.

"Okay, but if she seems in any way out of character," she turned to me, "or if your head starts hurting more, call me immediately. No!

Call 9-1-1."

"I will," I reassured her.

She leaned down and kissed me swiftly on the cheek. "Get some rest, honey. I love you." Then she was off, rushing down the hallway.

Dee grinned impishly as I looked at her.

"Thank you," I said. "But you don't have to stay with me."

She frowned. "Yes, I will. No arguments." She dashed from my side. "I'll go see what I can do to spring you from this place." I blinked and she was gone, but Daemon had inched closer. His expression was stoic as he stood at the foot of my bed. I closed my eyes.

"Are you going to insult me again? Because I'm not up to...pear for that."

"I think you meant par."

"Pear. Par. Whatever." I opened my eyes and found him staring.

"Are you really okay?"

"I'm great." I yawned loudly. "Your sister acts as if this is her fault."

"She doesn't like it when people get hurt," he said softly. "And people tend to get hurt around us."

A chill snaked around my insides. Even though his expression was blank, his words were heavy with pain. "What does that mean?" He didn't answer.

Dee came back then, a grin on her face.

"We're good to go, with doctor's orders and all."

"Come on, let's get you home." Daemon moved to the side of my bed and, surprisingly, he helped me sit up and then stand.

I stumbled a few steps, having to stop.

"Whoa, I feel buzzed."

Dee's face was sympathetic. "I think the pills are starting to work."

"Am I...slurring yet?" I asked.

"Not at all," Dee laughed.

I sighed, exhausted to the point of almost falling over. My body was whisked up into the air and against Daemon's hard chest before being deposited gently into a wheelchair.

"Hospital rules," Daemon explained, and wheeled me out, stopping only long enough for me to sign a couple of forms before steering me toward the parking lot.

He helped me into Dee's backseat, mindful of the arm brace, by carrying me again and placing me into the rear. "I can walk, you know."

"I know." He walked around and slid in next to me.

I tried to keep on my side of the car and my head up, because I doubted he'd appreciate me lying on him, but once Daemon settled next to me, my head sort of fell to his chest. He stiffened for a moment and then placed an arm around my shoulder. The warmth of him quickly seeped into my bones. It felt right, at that moment, to be nestled against him. I felt safe, and it reminded me of the heat that had come off his hand earlier.

I snuggled the good side of my face against the soft fabric of his T-shirt and thought his arm tightened around me, but that could've been the pills. By the time the car started, I was already drifting away, one thought colliding into the next without any coherence.

I wasn't sure if I was dreaming or not when I heard Dee speak, her voice sounding muted and far away. "I told her not go. I could still see it."

"I know." There was a pause. "Don't worry.

I'm not going to let anything happen this time. I swear."

Silence followed by more hushed whispers.

"You did something, didn't you?" she asked.

"It's stronger now."

"I didn't...mean to." Daemon shifted slightly, smoothing the hair off my face. "It just happened. Shit."

Several long moments passed, and I struggled to stay awake. But the events of the night were weighing too heavily on me, and finally I succumbed to the warmth of Daemon and the blissful silence.

When I opened my eyes again, daylight peeked through the heavily curtained living room, catching small particles of dust that hung in a lazy pattern over the peaceful head of Dee.

She was a few feet away, curled up on the recliner in a deep sleep. Her small hands were folded neatly under her cheek and lips slightly parted. She looked more like a china doll than a real person.

I smiled and immediately winced.

The spark of pain cleared the haze from my head and the fear from last night doused my veins in ice water. I lay there for several moments, taking deep, calming breaths as I tried to gain control of my spiraling emotions. I was alive - thanks to Daemon, who apparently was also my pillow.

My head was in his lap. One of his hands was resting on the curve of my hip. My heart sped up. He couldn't have been comfortable, sitting up all night.

Daemon stirred. "You okay, Kitten?"

"Daemon?" I whispered, trying to gain control of my spiraling emotions. "I...sorry. I didn't mean to sleep on you."

"It's okay." He helped me sit up. The room spun a little. "Are you okay?" he asked again.

"Yeah. You stayed here all night?"

"Yeah," was all he said.

I remembered Dee volunteering but not him.

Waking up with my head in his lap was the last thing I'd expected.

"Do you remember anything?" he asked quietly.

My chest squeezed tight. I nodded, expecting it to hurt more than it did. "I was attacked last night."

"Someone tried to mug you," he said.

No, that wasn't right. I remembered a man grabbing my purse, then falling down, but he hadn't wanted my money. "He wasn't trying to mug me."

"Kat - "

"No." I tried standing up, but his arm returned, forming a band of steel around me that I couldn't break. "He didn't want my money, Daemon. He wanted them." Daemon stiffened. "That doesn't make any sense."

"No shit." I frowned as I moved my arm and found that the splint was heavy. "But he kept asking about where they were and about a trace."

"The guy was insane," he said, voice low.

"You realize that, right? That he wasn't right in the head. That nothing he said means anything."

"I don't know. He didn't seem crazy."

"Trying to beat the crap out of a girl isn't crazy enough for you?" His brows rose. "I'm curious what you think is crazy."

"That's not what I meant."

"Then what did you mean?" He shifted, careful not to jar me, which kind of surprised me. "He was a random lunatic, but you're going to make it bigger than it is, aren't you?"

"I'm not making this anything." I took a steadying breath. "Daemon, that wasn't a normal lunatic."

"Oh, you're an expert in crazy people now?"

"A month with you and I feel I have a master's degree in the subject," I snapped.

Glaring at him, I scooted away. My head swam.

"You okay?" He reached out, placing a hand on my good arm. "Kat?"

I shook his hand off. "Yeah, I'm okay." Shoulders stiff, he stared straight ahead. "I know you're probably messed up after what happened last night, but don't make this into something it's not."

"Daemon - "

"I don't want Dee worried that there is an idiot out there attacking girls." His eyes were hard. Cold. "Do you understand me?" My lip trembled. Part of me wanted to cry.

Another part wanted to whale on him. So all his caring was about his sister? How silly of me.

Our eyes locked. There was such intensity in his, as if he were willing me to understand.

Dee yawned loudly.

I jerked away, breaking contact first. Of course, score one for Daemon.

"Good morning!" Dee chirped as one or both of her legs dropped to the ground, sounding surprisingly heavy for someone as slender as she was. "Have you guys been awake long?" Another sigh, much louder and more annoyed than the first pushed through Daemon's hard lips. "No, Dee, we just woke up and were talking. You were snoring so loudly we couldn't stay asleep any longer." Dee snorted. "I doubt that. Katy, are you feeling...okay this morning?"

"Yeah, I'm a little sore and stiff, but overall okay."

She smiled but her eyes were still hooded with guilt. Which made no sense. She tried to smooth down her curls, but they sprung back into disarray as soon as she removed her hands.

"I think I'm going to make you breakfast." Before I could respond, she dashed off to the kitchen and I heard numerous doors open and close, pots and pans clanging against each other.


Daemon stood and stretched. The muscles of his back were taut under his shirt. I looked away.

"I care more about my sister than I do anything in this universe," he said quietly. Each word punctuated by truth. "I'd do anything for her, to make sure she's happy and she's safe.

Please don't worry her with crazy stories." I felt infinitely small. "You're a dick, but I won't say anything to her." When I looked up, I found it hard to concentrate when his eyes were as bright as they were. "Okay? Happy?"

Something flickered over his face. Anger?

Regret? "Not really. Not at all." Neither of us looked away again. There was a heavy quality to the air, tangible.

"Daemon!" Dee called from the kitchen. "I need your help!"

"We should go see what she's doing before she destroys your kitchen." He rubbed his hands down his face. "It's possible."

Keeping quiet, I followed him out into the hallway, where the light spilled in from the open door. I winced at the abrupt brightness and suddenly remembered I hadn't brushed my hair or my teeth yet. I cringed away from Daemon. "I think I need to...go." He raised an eyebrow at me. "Go...where?"

I felt my cheeks turn hot. "Upstairs. I need a shower."

Surprisingly, he didn't fire back with the door I'd left open. He nodded and disappeared into the kitchen. At the top of the stairs, my fingers mindlessly went to my lips and then another shiver rolled through me. How close to dying did I come last night?

"Is she really going to be okay?" I heard Dee ask.

"Yeah, she'll be fine," Daemon responded patiently. "You have nothing to worry about.

Nothing is happening. Everything was taken care of when I came back here." I crept closer to the landing.

"Don't look like that. Nothing will happen to you." Daemon sighed with real frustration this time. "Or her, okay?" Another gap of silence followed. "We should've expected something like this."

"Did you?" Dee asked, her voice rising sharply. "Because I was trying not to, I was trying to hope that we could have a friend - a real one - without them getting..." Their voices lowered, becoming unintelligible. Were they talking about me?

They had to be, but that didn't make sense. I stood in absolute confusion, trying to figure out what they could be talking about.

Daemon's voice rose, "Who knows, Dee?

We will see how it plays out." He paused and then laughed. "I think you are beating those eggs to death. Here, let me have them." I listened a few more moments as they bantered back and forth like normal before I peeled myself away from my spot. Without warning, another stolen conversation quickly resurfaced. The night before, as I coasted in and out of consciousness in the car, I'd overheard both of them whispering worries that I couldn't comprehend.

I wanted to shrug off the nagging feeling that they were hiding something. I hadn't forgotten Dee's weird aversion to me going to the library. Or the strange light I'd seen outside the library that reminded me so much of the light in the woods, when I'd seen the bear and passed out, something that I'd never done before in my life. And then there was the day at the lake, when Daemon had turned into Aquaman.

I walked numbly to my bathroom and flipped on the light, expecting to see my face busted up. I tilted my head to the side, a startled gasp escaping my throat. I knew my cheek had been scraped raw last night. The pain I remembered. And my eye swollen shut. But my eye was only slightly bruised, my cheek pink, as if new skin had already grown. My gaze drifted along my neck. The bruises there were faint, as if the attack had happened days ago and not last night.

"What the heck?" I whispered.

My wounds were almost healed, with the exception of my encased arm...but that too barely ached. Another loose memory poked through, of Daemon leaning over me in the road, his hands warm. Had his hands...? No way. I shook my head.

But as I stared at myself, I couldn't shake the nagging feeling that something was going on here. The twins knew it. Things didn't add up.

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