The Artist's Wolf Ch. 13bybrightlyiburn©
Chapter Thirteen: Going Back
Aislinn stood in the middle of Gabriel’s apartment, looking around. It had changed some in the last few days, that was for certain. Her parents had donated a couch and a cozy chair, plus a coffee table for the living room. She has used her own money from contest winnings and commissions to buy all sorts of things; kitchenware, new fluffy towels for the bathroom, nightstands for both sides of Gabriel’s bed, a small but serviceable kitchen table with a couple of chairs, and a throw blanket with matching pillows for the couch. It looked much more homey, now.
Aislinn walked into the bedroom and studied it critically. The doctor had said that Gabriel could return home tomorrow, but he’d still have trouble for awhile. His surgery had been extensive and it would take time for him to recover. Although her parents hadn’t been completely happy about it, they had accepted it when she told them that she was going to live with Gabriel. Someone has to take care of him, Aislinn thought, and I’m the only person he’ll allow to take care of him.
She herself was going back to school today, although she wasn’t pleased about it. Eyeing the beat up dresser in Gabriel’s room speculatively, she moved toward it. Beneath the clothes piled haphazardly in the top drawer she found a knife. Aislinn pulled the knife free of the plain leather sheath and examined it. The blade was about five inches long, and it looked sharp. I must be out of my mind, she thought, as she slid the blade back into the sheath, secured it, and tucked it into her jeans against the small of her back. It’s a good thing our school never bothered to get those damn metal detectors.
It wasn’t like Aislinn to do such things, but she was worried. Eddie had already tried to kill Gabriel; there was no reason why he wouldn’t try to kill her, too. If Gabriel would only cooperate with the police, she thought, scowling. I guess I don’t blame him, really, he feels like no one will believe him but…still. Aislinn picked up her backpack and headed outside. It was almost April, now, and it was getting warmer. She paused to rest her hand on the tarp covering Gabriel’s bike.
“He’ll be riding again soon,” Aislinn murmured to herself. “Everything will be as it was.”
She knew that wasn’t really true, but she had to stay positive. Aislinn wasn’t going to let Eddie, or anybody else for that matter, destroy what she and Gabriel had built. I’ll be going to college for art next year, she thought, I need to look into places to apply to. Somewhere far away from here, where Gabriel can be safe.
Waiting for Aislinn to return from school was nerve-wracking. Gabriel struggled out of bed for a bit to pace the room, although he really didn’t succeed. The effort left him exhausted and sweating. This sucks, he thought, scowling up at the ceiling. I’m going to go out of my mind. Between being restricted to bed, and hoping that Aislinn would be safe in school, Gabriel was a basket case. He hadn’t told her that Eddie had been aiming for her, and he had no intention of telling her.
The door to his hospital room creaked open a moment later and Aislinn slipped quietly into the room. Gabriel felt a huge sense of relief settle in his chest. He watched her as she pulled off her coat, a smile curling his lips. She looked absolutely adorable. The crème and brown string back halter top she wore suited her well, and he liked the hint of midriff he could see beneath the beaded fringe along the hem. The jeans she wore were plain, but set off by a matching crème and brown fringed scarf pulled through the belt loops. Aislinn was even wearing cowboy boots, something not a lot of people could pull off.
“Who switched your wardrobe?” Gabriel asked, grinning.
“I did,” Aislinn retorted, flicking a strand of his hair. “You don’t like it?”
“Oh, I do,” Gabriel assured her. “What happened to your old wardrobe?”
“Callie helped me burn it,” Aislinn told him, as she sat down on the
edge of the bed. “So, you’re going home tomorrow. Excited?”
“Don’t change the subject,” Gabriel grumbled, sitting up and snaking an arm around her waist. “Didn’t I tell you not to look so damn tempting
when you came here?”
Aislinn laughed softly and leaned against him. Gabriel nuzzled his lips against her neck until she tilted her head to give him more access and let out a contented sigh. He nibbled tenderly at her throat, drawing little mewling sounds from her. For once he was really glad that he had this room all to himself. Gabriel slid his hand up over her stomach and ribs to cup her breast. He brushed his thumb against her nipple through the thin, light material of her halter top and she shivered, and moaned softly.
As she settled back in his arms, dropping her head against his shoulder, Gabriel lifted his mouth to press it against hers. He was ready to scream in frustration when someone knocked on the door of his room. Sitting back, he dropped his hands back to Aislinn’s waist and called for whoever it was to come in.
The woman who entered was not one he recognized. She was fairly young, maybe in her early thirties, with ashy blonde hair that was pulled into a loose, elegant French twist. Wire rimmed glasses perched on her nose, which was a little too long for classic beauty. However her eyes were bright green and lively, and her face had a sort of character that was attractive, if not pretty. She was wearing a pair of straight legged black dress pants, a plain white dress shirt, and a hunter green blazer.
“Can I help you?” Gabriel asked, raising his eyebrows quizzically.
“I’m Sharon Lawrence,” The woman said. “I’m an attorney, and I specialize in cases like yours.”
Gabriel frowned. “Cases like mine?”
Sharon shut the door quietly behind her and walked across the hospital room. “May I sit?” she asked, indicating the chair beside the bed.
“Please,” Gabriel said, eyeing her warily.
Sharon settled in the chair and folded her hands on her lap. “Yes, Mr. Wolfe, cases like yours. You’re a young man who has the misfortune to have several run ins with the law in your past. While a jury would be instructed to ignore this information, in a community like this, such things will usually affect their judgement.”
“And what jury would that be?” Gabriel demanded, scowling. “There can’t be a jury if there isn’t a case.”
“But there is a case,” Sharon insisted. “Someone tried to kill you. For the sake of your safety, and that of Ms. Lexington, it would be wise to find out who.”
Gabriel glanced sidelong at Aislinn, but she shrugged, looking as perplexed as he felt. Who is this woman? he wondered, eyeing Sharon up and down. And how does she know so much? It made him uncomfortable that some woman he didn’t even know knew so much about him, and about what had happened.
“We already know who it was,” Aislinn piped up suddenly.
“Aislinn!” Gabriel hissed, glaring at him.
“Don’t look at me like that,” Aislinn said stubbornly. “I can’t let him get away with this. I won’t risk you being hurt again. If you won’t do something, then I will!” She turned to regard Sharon curiously. “What would you tell me, Ms. Lawrence, if I told you that Gabriel was shot by one Edward Montard?”
Sharon’s eyebrows rose. “I’d tell you we have a lot of work ahead of us.”
Gabriel listened, completely amazed, as Aislinn and Sharon spoke. As it turned out, Sharon was a native of Aislinn’s neighborhood, and she knew of the Montard’s reputation very well. She also did work on cases like Gabriel’s; young men and women who had little chance in the system due to their pasts. He wasn’t really sure what to make of the fact that she was sympathetic with his plight. Aislinn was one of few he’d met in his life that had been.
“I’m going to start looking into Mr. Montard,” Sharon said as she rose from the chair. “Out of curiosity, Aislinn, what did you tell people in school today?”
“Nothing,” Aislinn told her. “I just kept quiet. I thought perhaps it would be best if no one knew yet what had happened. My parents and I have been working hard to keep the whole thing quiet.”
Sharon nodded. “Very good. Keep it that way. It won’t hurt to let Mr. Montard sweat a bit, that’s for sure. I’ll keep in touch.”
She fished a business card from the pocket of her blazer and handed it to Aislinn, then left the hospital room. Gabriel glanced over at Aislinn and saw that her brows were furrowed in concentration. He reached up and touched her cheek, and she turned to smile at him. Leaning down, she gave him a soft kiss on the mouth.
“I should get going,” Aislinn said. “I’ve got more homework than I like
to think about.”
“But…but I don’t want you to go…” Gabriel protested.
“I’ll be back tomorrow,” Aislinn assured him. “Right after school, to take you home. Okay?”
Gabriel sighed. “All right…and you’d better wear something like that again tomorrow.”
“Pervert!” Aislinn laughed.
“I’m still injured,” Gabriel pouted. “Humor me.”
Aislinn smiled and kissed him one more time, then left the room. Somewhat reluctantly, he noted, because she hesitated at the door, gazing back at him. He flashed her his usual lopsided smile and she grinned, finally closing the door. Gabriel laid back on the bed with a heavy sigh once she was gone. He hadn’t been expecting a lawyer to show up. If this Sharon Lawrence stuck around, he would eventually have to tell them both what had really happened.
Aislinn stuffed her extra outfit into her locker, then slammed the door shut. For now her oversized sweatshirt and straight legged jeans would do. Although she really enjoyed being more creative with her clothing, it had some disadvantages. For one thing, it caught Eddie’s attention, and for another, it made it too difficult to hide her knife. The too large sweatshirt, which was actually Gabriel’s, hid the knife perfectly.
I’m way late, Aislinn thought, hearing the bell ring. She was running a bit slow this morning; her mind was on Gabriel. She couldn’t wait to pick him up from the hospital and bring him home. He didn’t actually know yet that she was moving in with him. I hope he isn’t angry, she thought. I just wanted to…surprise him. And she hadn’t wanted to risk that he would say no. Aislinn knew that he would need her, even if he wouldn’t want to admit it.
Someone tapped on her shoulder. Startled, she whirled around quickly, wondering who could still be out of their class at this time. When she saw Eddie, grinning smugly, she felt her heart plunge into her stomach. Backing against the lockers, Aislinn reached behind herself and settled her hand on the knife. She slowly began working the catch free, so she could slip it out of the sheath if need be. Please, she thought, I don’t want to have to use it.
“Hey there, Ais,” Eddie said. “Where’ve you been lately?”
“I, uh…well, I…” Aislinn stammered. She couldn’t let him know what was really going on. “Well, Eddie something…something really horrible happened and I…I couldn’t…I just couldn’t…”
“Aw, sweetie,” Eddie cooed, sounding not the least bit sympathetic.
“Tell Eddie what happened.”
“Gabriel, he…” Aislinn sniffed convincingly. “He…I…ohhh!”
A few tears dripped down her cheeks. This is easy, she thought,
all I have to do is think about that night and I turn into a leaky faucet. There was no sympathy or tenderness in Eddie’s eyes. The friend who she had had as a child was gone, and whoever this man was, he was someone she didn’t want to know.
“I’m so sorry to hear that,” Eddie said, not sounding sorry in the least.
Aislinn glared up at him from beneath her lashes. “Why did you do it, Eddie?”
Eddie’s expression changed almost instantly to fury. His movements were unbelievably quick as he pinned her against the locker, his hands closing around her throat. Aislinn’s eyes widened in shock. Think, think, think, she thought frantically. Don’t panic, don’t panic, not now! Her fingers tightened around the hilt of the knife even as Eddie’s fingers tightened around her throat.
“You dumb bitch!” Eddie growled. “Not that I’m not glad that trash is dead…because I am. But I was trying to kill you!”
Her blood roared in her eyes. Aislinn couldn’t believe it. And darkness was beginning to swim behind her eyes. I can’t let him win! she thought fiercely. She pulled the knife free of the sheath and whipped it from behind herself. The point dug sharply into Eddie’s side, and he jumped back with a yell. Aislinn stared at the blood on the tip of the knife, feeling both horrified and triumphant.
“You little bitch!” Eddie growled.
“Stay back!” Aislinn shouted, brandishing the knife. “I won’t hesitate to stick you again, you bastard!”
Uh oh, Aislinn thought, wincing. A harsh slap on her wrist made her drop the knife, and she looked up into the disapproving eyes of the principal, Mr. Wellington. I am in so much trouble, she thought, as the principal dragged her into his office. The police were at the school in minutes. Fortunately, they allowed her to call an attorney for her defense (she was an adult, after all), and so she phoned Ms. Lawrence.
Within fifteen minutes Sharon Lawrence had stomped into the principal’s office. She was wearing a woman’s business suit in that shade of hunter green she seemed to love, and an angry scowl. Setting her briefcase down on the principal’s desk, she snapped it open, the lifted her blazing gaze to Mr. Wellington. Aislinn was gratified to see the principal flinch.
“Why is my client in here, Mr. Wellington?” Sharon demanded.
“Your…client,” Mr. Wellington said. “Used a knife on this young man.”
“Edward Montard,” Sharon greeted. “Well, I see the problem. This young man shot a friend of Ms. Lexington, one Gabriel Wolfe.”
“I did not!” Eddie protested, glowering at Sharon.
“He did!” Aislinn argued. “But he wasn’t aiming at Gabriel! He told me
himself…he was aiming at me!”
All eyes turned to Eddie. Even if I can’t convince them, I’ve planted the seed of suspicion, Aislinn thought. No one will ever be able to quite trust him again. Eddie glowered at her for a moment, then sat back, folding his arms across his chest. He gazed at her coolly, his eyebrows raised haughtily.
“Why would I do that?” Eddie asked. “I have no reason to.”
“But you did,” Aislinn retorted. “And then you tried to choke me! That’s why I used the knife on him!”
Eddie glared at her. The principal and the cops stared at her in amazement. But Sharon stood up and reached out, sweeping Aislinn’s hair aside. Bruises peppered her skin along her neck. The police officers exchanged looks of surprise, and Mr. Wellington turned his disapproving gaze on Eddie. Eddie merely continued to glare.
“These look very new,” Sharon said quietly. “I think Mr. Montard should get himself a lawyer.”
Gabriel was both furious and proud when he found out about what had happened in school. His was angry at Eddie for daring to lay a hand on Aislinn, and angry at her for bringing a knife into school. And he was so proud of her for sticking it to that bastard. It was a very tiring, conflicting bunch of emotions.
When she took her coat off, he forgot to be angry. He didn’t often see her in a skirt, and the short, uneven hemmed dark crimson skirt she was wearing today was certainly a treat. Aislinn swatted at his hand as he tugged the skirt up a bit, and Gabriel jerked his hand back, grinning.
“Niiiice,” He purred. “Love the boots, hun.”
Aislinn paused to tug at the laces of the knee high boots she was wearing, eyeing them speculatively. Gabriel liked this change in her. She was kind of stiff when I first met her, he thought, sitting up. Now she’s relaxed and let some personality break through. He put an arm around her shoulders, allowing her to help him to his feet. Although he was capable of standing, at least, on his own, Gabriel wasn’t as steady on his feet as he would like to be.
“You’re finally going home,” Aislinn said quietly. “Are you happy?”
“Very much,” Gabriel told her. “Come on, sweetie. Let’s go. I don’t want to stay here another minute.”
He had changed into clothes long before she actually got back from school. Gabriel was very impatient to get back to his apartment. Aislinn held onto the whole time he was signing out, and all the way out to her car, for which he was very grateful. He was also grateful to sit in the car for the ride back to his apartment, because being on his feet made him so tired. I can’t stand this, Gabriel thought. But the doctor said I’ll be better soon, so I need to just bear with it…
He got an interesting surprise when he walked into his apartment. The furniture had been…well, there was a lot more of it now. The place was clean, and it looked very homey. Gabriel glanced at Aislinn as she shut the door, hanging their coats up on a hook behind the door, and setting her keys next to his on pegs beneath the coat hook.
“What is all this?” Gabriel asked.
“Our new life together,” Aislinn replied. “The doctor said you would
need help, so I’m going to stay with you. And don’t protest!”
“But…you never told me…” Gabriel said, feeling stunned.
Aislinn paused and looked up at him. Her blue eyes were bright and a slight bit admonishing, too. Gabriel lifted his hands to her cheeks, gently brushing his thumbs over the tears that suddenly spilled over.
“You didn’t tell me,” Aislinn said quietly. “I had to hear it from
Eddie…if it wasn’t for me, you…you wouldn’t be hurt right now!”
Startled, Gabriel closed his arms around her and pulled her close. That bastard, he thought, resting his head atop hers. I should have told her myself…but this is exactly what I feared! She was trembling in his arms, and he couldn’t stand it. Using all his strength, he pulled her into the bedroom and onto the bed. As they sank together into the pile of comforters, Aislinn snuggled close to him.
“Don’t ever, ever think this was your fault, Aislinn,” Gabriel said firmly. “You mean everything to me. If it meant giving my life to save yours, I would in an instant.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Aislinn told him. “I…I keep having nightmares. I’ve been sleeping here every night now…because I’m…I’m so scared. If something happens to you again…”
“It won’t,” Gabriel assured her. “We’re together now, sweetie. I won’t let anyone tear us apart.”
Aislinn sighed and dropped her head to his chest. A slight smiled curve her lips. Together they struggled out of boots and clothing, then cuddled together beneath the blankets. Gabriel savored the feeling of Aislinn’s warm skin bare against his. Damn doctors, he thought, nuzzling her hair. No “strenuous” activities for another week. And now she’s living with me, sleeping in the same damn bed. Still, it would be a wonderful week. Everyday would be wonderful now that they could always be together.