Haunted Prey Ch. 14bypurefire©
It was the beautiful melody pouring out of the music room that prompted Charisma to enter. Just as the first time she'd entered the room, she was mesmerized by the music Alauria played. Though she wasn't familiar with the particular piece, she was hypnotized by the beautifully haunting music. Alauria wasn't aware that she was in the room as she played with her eyes closed, and the small fact allowed Charisma the opportunity to observe the artist. Alauria's skin was flushed, and there was a pinch of fatigue that had taken over her face. The fatigue, Charisma understood; it had taken her months before she was able to sleep more than a few hours at a time after her ordeal with Zaide. From what she'd heard from Jameson, Alauria had been through an episode that would have broken even the strongest of people. But she didn't understand the flushed skin; it wasn't hot in the room and the last she'd heard, Alauria was in good health.
"You know, I could hurt you right now for trying to sneak up on me."
Shock forced Charisma to blink. "What?"
Alauria opened her eyes and frowned in confusion. "What?" She was extremely tired, despite the fact that she'd slept through the night. She figured that a few hours in the music room would have eased the oncoming headache lingering at her temples, and it did; she simply couldn't remember all that she did. There were flashes of her at different phrases of the pieces she played, but there was nothing but darkness between each flash. Either she'd been that into the music or she was just that tired. She hadn't even known that Charisma had walked into the room until she'd spoken. "Sorry, I didn't hear you come in."
"Are you all right?" Charisma took a step into the room, keeping her focus on a very confused looking Alauria.
"Yes, I'm fine." Her side ached, which she found odd considering Liam had healed it for her. Was it supposed to sting after his help? The fatigue seemed to be working a number on her. "Just tired."
Charisma nodded in understanding as she moved to stand next to the piano. "I can sympathize with how you must be feeling. It's a lot to adjust to."
"I'm dealing," Alauria replied as she continued to play.
"It's all we can do when it comes to these men and the lives they lead."
Alauria said nothing for a moment, as there was a nagging pain in the back of her head. It felt as if she'd been hit, and she was tempted to check for blood or maybe even a lump of some kind. "I think it's a matter of being able to trust them when they tell us that they'll keep us safe." Lord knew that she wouldn't have had such stress on her shoulders if she believed Lindsay when he first told her that he would take care of Raife. Hindsight always did have perfect vision.
"Maybe. I'm not so sure." Charisma looked around the room as she tried to vocalize her erratic thoughts. "Sometimes I feel as if I have to take care of myself, even when I'm not capable of it." That was most likely because she'd taught herself to rely on no one but herself. The second she was able to provide for herself, she stopped hoping that others would help her if she was in need.
"Then you are dumber than I thought to be a part of this world." Alauria shook her head slowly, as her thoughts suddenly became blurred and confusing. A wave of nausea made her groan inwardly and when she glanced over and saw the shock in Charisma's eyes, she knew that something was wrong. "What? What is it?"
"I never pegged you for one to be so brutally honest. Emphasis on the brutal."
"What do you mean?"
Charisma tilted her head in thought as she said, "Do you not remember what you just said?"
"I..." Alauria shook her head slowly as she realized that she did not. "What did I say?"
"It's not important anymore."
"Then why do you insist on wasting my time with your pathetic thoughts?" Alauria placed a hand on her stomach as the nausea increased, but maintained a neutral expression to keep Charisma from getting worried. She must have been more exhausted than she thought.
"I'm sorry I wasted your time; I thought you would have wanted someone to talk to, is all."
"Wait, stop." Alauria turned in her seat to face a quickly retreating Charisma. "You're not wasting my time."
"Then why did you just yell at me for it?" Charisma felt her eyes widen at the quick look of annoyance that crossed Alauria's face. A second later, she frowned as a part of her felt something unfamiliar. It was similar to the sensation of blood circulating after a limb had fallen asleep. There was also a heaviness in the pit of her stomach she couldn't explain. As much as the new feelings worried her, it was nothing compared to the worry she felt as she watched Alauria try to internally solve a problem. "Has this happened to you before?"
"Has what happened to me before?"
"Not remembering what you've just said."
Alauria shook her head slowly. It was strange; the nausea had faded, but her thoughts hadn't become any clearer. Her side still stung as well, prompting her to make a mental note to speak to Lindsay as she still wasn't brave enough to face Liam on her own. "It's really strange."
"I'd say its stress and exhaustion, but I'm no expert at this. My only advice would be to take a break."
"Would taking a break include not having to hear your annoying voice for more than five minutes?" Alauria's eyes widened as she partially remembered the words that escaped her mouth. "Oh, my God, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean that." She brought her fingers up to her temples to massage the tension that had built. What the hell was wrong with her?
Charisma took a cautious step back. She didn't know Alauria very well, but instinct told her that her current behavior was far from normal. "Maybe you should go take a nap or something. It takes a lot of energy, becoming part of this family."
"What would you know about it?"
"A lot more than you, considering I'm six months in." The confused look on Alauria's face prompted Charisma to ask, "You don't remember the fast fifteen seconds, do you?"
Alauria shook her head slowly. An intense feeling of dread crept up on her. Something was very wrong, and she had no idea what. "I can't remember..." She dropped her head into her hands and sighed heavily. Maybe she did need sleep. She needed something, that was sure.
"Why don't you talk to one of the brothers about it? I'm sure Lindsay would-" Charisma stopped and took a surprised step back when Alauria abruptly stood. The anger that blazed in the pianist's brown eyes scared her more than it surprised her, and she found herself retreating as Alauria advanced.
"You know nothing about him, you weak, insipid human!" Alauria was barely able to control herself as her anger had consumed her. How dare she even try to assume that she knew anything about Lindsay? "Lindsay belongs to me! He's mine!"
In her growing unease, Charisma took another step back. The pure rage rolling off Alauria had her shaking, and it wasn't long before her hands began to ache. As she looked down at hem, she noticed their redness and knew that if Alauria attacked, she'd have no choice but to burn her. "I'm not trying to take him away from you, Alauria. Calm down."
"Don't tell me what to do!"
Charisma held her hands out in defense when Alauria raged forward, and even prepared to lay her hands on the suddenly crazed woman's skin as she raised her hands to strike. Both women stopped, however, when the thin blue stream of electrical current burst forth from Alauria's hands. They both stared at each other for a moment before looking at Alauria's ferociously shaking hands. The confusion of the moment awarded Charisma an opportunity to take another step toward the door. "How did you do that?"
"I don't..." Alauria continued to stare down at her hands. They tingled, but there was no pain. That didn't mean that everything else that was going on with her had miraculously been resolved; the nausea returned with a vengeance and her head felt as if it would explode at any moment. "I don't know."
"Is everything all right in here?"
Both women turned to find Alexis and Lindsay entering the music room. As usual, Alexis wore a blank expression while Lindsay uncharacteristically displayed worry.
"I think I need to go lie down." Alauria grimaced as Lindsay placed his hands on her shoulders. It suddenly felt as if a two ton anvil had been placed on them, forcing her to stoop to accommodate the weight.
Lindsay frowned at Alauria's pinched and pale face. She looked ready to fall over, a sight he did not like. "Are you all right?"
She nodded slowly, but stopped when Charisma refuted her words. "Charisma, please."
"Something is wrong with you, Alauria. You wouldn't have almost attacked me otherwise."
"She attacked you?" Lindsay asked incredulously.
"Almost," Charisma replied.
"Why?" asked Alexis.
"Because I'm tired!" Alauria snapped. A moment later, she groaned as her stomach lurched in protest. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to yell."
"Do you need me to call Liam?" Lindsay was on the brink of panic; Alauria looked extremely sick and ready to fall over. She didn't need this on top of everything she'd been through.
"No, I just need to lie down." Alauria pulled away from Lindsay's hold and rushed out of the room before anyone could stop her. Alexis gave her a look she couldn't decipher as she passed him, but that was nothing unusual. She'd be fine as soon as she got some rest, she told herself, and once she was well, she could make sense of everything that had happened.
As she watched Alauria leave the room, Charisma shook her head. "Something isn't right."
"What happened?" asked Alexis.
"I came in her to talk to her when I heard her playing and everything was fine until she started snapping at me." She flexed her hands a few time as the heat within them faded.
"Snapping at you how?" Lindsay asked.
"Pretty much the same way she snapped a minute ago. But she didn't remember snapping. At least, she says she didn't."
"Like she blacked out?"
Charisma nodded in answer to Alexis' question.
"She's just tired," Lindsay defended. Though Alauria's behavior was abnormal, it was easily explained by exhaustion.
"Yes, but that doesn't explain why she almost attacked me." Charisma crossed her arms over her chest, a clear sign that she was prepared to defend her opinions.
It didn't explain why the sweetest woman he'd ever met would act so aggressively, but Lindsay was sure there was a reasonable explanation for the action. "I'm sure she's very sorry about that."
"I don't care about apologies. Is she going to be all right?"
Lindsay felt his attitude soften at Charisma's obvious concern for Alauria. From this, he understood Alexis' earlier description of her. "I'll go check on her." He glanced at his brother, who seemed to be eerily quiet, which was amazing considering his penchant for silence. "What?"
Alexis only shook his head slowly before saying, "Tell her that I hope she feels better soon."
Lindsay frowned at the message. As he glanced at Charisma, he was certain that his brother either wanted him out of the room or didn't want Charisma to hear some vital piece of information. "Fine."
"If you see Euan anywhere, tell him that I need to see him."
Lindsay nodded at the second message he was given as he walked from the room.
Alexis turned to Charisma and hid his shock at her intense stare. "You are concerned."
"How much of a threat is she?" She let out a frustrated breath when he only stared at her blankly. "Alexis, I get that she's with Lindsay and you're loyal to him, but I need to know if that's going to happen again. You know how Jameson is. I don't want any more tension in this family because of me."
"Nothing that has happened in this family has been your fault."
Charisma said nothing to the comment as she thought on the next logical step to take. There was no doubt that she would tell Jameson about what happened, but she knew what he would say and wasn't in any mood to relocate; not with her new abilities manifesting at random. "I just don't want any more trouble."
Alexis nodded in agreement and remained silent for a long moment. Though he understood Charisma's frame of mind, her thought process wasn't exactly helpful to anyone. "Sometimes things happen certain ways for very specific reasons."
She had been quick to learn that Alexis liked to speak as if he knew exactly what was to happen. While she was used to the unique trait, it never did anything to ease her fears. "So I'm supposed to just sit back and let the drama unfold?" She sighed again when he only stared at her as if she asked a stupid question. She would have loved to yell at him, but it was impossible when he stared at her like that. "Can you at least tell me why?"
"Choices will have to be made."
When he said nothing more, Charisma pursed her lips. "What is that supposed to mean, Alexis?"
"We'll know when the time comes."
* * * * *
Lindsay decided to wait an hour before he checked on Alauria. To pass the time, he found Euan and relayed Alexis' message, fixed Alauria a bowl of soup and said thanks for whoever kept the kitchen stocked with canned foods. He also thought over the events that led to Alauria's uncharacteristic behavior. It was one thing to be tired enough to snap at people, but to go as far as to nearly attack someone... A part of him didn't believe that his sweet Alauria was capable of such behavior, but Lindsay knew that Charisma had absolutely no reason to lie. There were many questions cycling through his head, and he needed Alauria well enough to answer them.
He was completely surprised to find her sitting up in bed reading an English translation of Dangerous Liaisons. "Where did you get that?"
"You usually leave your books in a chest in the back of the closet."
He did, but that chest was also hidden behind a secret panel, one that he'd never told her about. "How did you find it?"
Alauria narrowed her eyes in slight annoyance before she said, "I was rifling through to see if you had a shirt I could borrow and I found it."
Her explanation made sense. Lindsay used a foot to close the door as he carried a tray of the meal he'd prepared for her. He set the tray down on the night table before making a place for himself on the edge of the bed. "How are you feeling?" he asked as he placed a hand against her forehead. The sides of his mouth quirked up in a smile at the sting that came from one of his shocks. The quirk became a full smile as she rubbed her fingers against her forehead. "I thought you'd be asleep a while longer."
"So did I, but I felt better the second I walked into the room." Alauria set the book down and reached for Lindsay's hand. She looked at the contours of his palm, at the calluses that developed from his years of demon slaying, and smiled at the self-conscious way he balled his hand into a fist. "I like your hands."
Lindsay shifted so that he had her small her hand cradled in his and gently ran his fingertips over the length of her delicate fingers. "I like yours too." Especially when they caressed him while he plunged into her heated core.
He dropped her hands as he forced himself to focus on the matter at hand. Then he smiled at the unintentional pun.
"What has you smiling?"
"You." Lindsay noticed a small flash in her eyes, but ignored it as he prepared for his line of questioning. "Alauria, what happened in the music room?" He felt his brows furrow when she let out a frustrated breath, but then decided that she felt guilty for what happened.
"I don't remember much of it." Alauria sat back and closed her eyes before she continued. "I was playing the piano. That's a beautiful instrument, by the way."
"I'll tell Giles the next time I see him." He frowned again at the odd look that crossed her face but again decided to focus on getting information. "So you were playing piano."
"And then she came in."
The hard edge to the tone of her voice made Lindsay straighten his posture. "Do you dislike Charisma?"
"She's perfectly fine." Alauria opened her eyes and frowned at the pensive look on Lindsay's face. "What were you asking me?"
"You were telling me that Charisma walked into the music room."
"Yes, and we started talking about... About..." She let her gaze wander about the room before her memory of the conversation returned. "Adjusting to your life."
"Is that all?"
"Um, I remember asking her what I said a lot."
"You didn't remember?" Lindsay said nothing when she shook her head. "Do you remember trying to attack her?"
"Not really. Wait, I remember looking at my hands." Alauria brought her hands up to look at her palms then groaned as a wave of nausea washed over her. "Here we go again." She closed her eyes to concentrate on calming the uneasiness and sighed when Lindsay placed a hand on the side of her face. Just as soon as the wave started, it faded away. "It's ok, I'm fine."
"Are you sure?" He didn't like the way her face had gone pale or the way her hands shook as she reached for her stomach. "I'll go get Liam."
"No!" Alauria reached out and grasped Lindsay's hand so that she could pull him toward her. He remained still, which prompted her to say, "No. Just lay down with me for a minute." She tugged again when he tried to pull away and smiled when he settled himself beside her. She rolled into his arms and slowly ran her fingertips over his cheek. "Lindsay?"
"I want you to tell me more about Rachel."
"What's there to know?" This wasn't his idea of a good time. Rachel should have been put behind them, not in the middle of a tender moment.
"I'm just trying to understand why she would spend so much time loving you so intensely. Well, I mean, I do understand, but I guess I'm asking about how you were when you were with her to have her so devoted."
Lindsay thought for a moment. "She was the first woman I ever loved. So naturally I worshipped the ground she walked on. I gave her everything in me."
"What do you mean?"
He sighed at the gentle way she ran her fingers through the hairs on the back of his head. "She had me whipped and I didn't care that she rarely let me live my own life."
"You mean she wanted you with her all the time."
"Yes. Looking back at it now, I realize how unhealthy and stressful a relationship like that is. Ow." He winced when her fingers fisted in his hair none too gently.
"Sorry." Alauria soothed the tender area as she said, "You didn't care that it was unhealthy because you loved her so much." When Lindsay nodded, she waited a few moments before asking her next question. "I know that you've implied on several occasions that you still love her."
She pulled him down when he tried to sit up. "I mean, if she wasn't a demon anymore... If she was like me..."
"No one could ever be like you."
You know what I mean."
Lindsay let out a tired breath. He wanted to drop the subject, but he also wanted to avoid another fight centered around Rachel. "Where is this coming from?"
"I just want to know how much you love her."
"Loved," he corrected. Lindsay tried to pull back to look at her face, but was again stopped by the way she held onto his hair. "Yes, a part of me will always love her. Like I said, she was the first woman I loved."
"But you love me more."
"Of course I do, Alauria."
"So if she was like me and you had to choose..."
"You keep trying to make me choose. There is no choice to make."
"But what if there was? What if you could choose?"
He was officially fed up. "Alauria, I know what I want and where I am going in this life. And I only see my life with you. I loved her, yes, but only like a close friend who died. I'm in love with you." Lindsay held his breath for the next barrage of questions and sighed in relief when she only leaned up onto an elbow to look down at him. There was an odd look in her eyes; a mix of arrogance and warning that he didn't understand. "What?"