Dark Impulse Ch. 11byAurora Black©
Grace slowly returned to consciousness, her entire body throbbing in pain. She felt as if she'd been run over by a truck. The last thing that she remembered was being with her son in the park, and then suddenly she couldn't breathe.
"The Lake. I saw it and I felt like I was drowning. I was so cold, all over my body."
Hiroshi sat on the edge of the bed, looking down at her.
"You're okay now, you're safe."
She opened her eyes and saw her father smiling.
"Dad, what happened? How did I get here?"
Hiroshi gently placed his hand over hers where it rested above the sheets.
"Well, your son was lucky enough to find someone who was willing to help, and you were brought here. I had a doctor come over and check you out while you were sleeping. Grace, what's going on with you? You've lost a lot of weight since the last time you were here, and Rafe told me that you were sick this morning."
Grace closed her eyes with a sigh. "I'm not sure yet. I'm afraid that I may be pregnant again. I'm going to get tested by the doctor on Monday to be sure."
"Oh God, honey. Have you said anything to David about this?"
"No way. With everything that's been going on between us, this isn't the right time. I don't know if it ever will be the right time. I've been thinking about leaving him, Dad. He's changed a lot since I first met him and married him, and now I'm led to believe that what I thought I knew about him was all a lie. He keeps secrets from me, and with his violent mood swings and behavior it's impossible to continue living with him. I don't want Rafe to live in an environment like that."
Hiroshi nodded grimly. "Whatever you decide, I'm behind you. Speaking of the Devil, he called while you were sleeping. I told him what happened, and he sounded as if he was very worried about you. We had words, and I was so angry at him for the way he treated you last night that I slammed down the phone in his ear."
Grace winced slightly before the corners of her mouth lifted in a smile.
"Ouch! Very nasty."
He gave a mischievous grin in response.
"Yes, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Nobody puts his hands on my daughter and gets away with it. He's lucky that he's an ocean away right now, that's for sure."
Her smile faded as her thoughts grew serious.
"I don't know how Rafe will take this. He adores his father."
Hiroshi leaned closer. "I believe that the transition will be hard for him at first, but in time he'll realize that you want him to be safe and he'll understand your reasoning. Hell, he's so smart and intuitive anyway, he may already know what's going on and is just waiting for you to lead the way so he'll follow."
Grace rose slowly to prop herself up on one elbow, facing her father.
"Do you really think so?"
His voice lowered to a whisper. "Whenever the two of you come over for the weekend, Raphael confides in me and tells me things that he is afraid to share with anyone, especially you. He doesn't want to upset you. He told me that he feels that he has drifted apart from David, and not just because he's always away from home on business. Rafe senses that something else is going on in David's life, and that as a result he has become a total stranger to everyone who knows him."
Her eyebrows rose in alarm. "What could it be?"
Hiroshi shrugged, his face shadowed with concern.
"Whatever it is, it frightens Rafe. So perhaps putting some distance between the two of you and David truly is the best course of action. The questions that must be asked now are when you will begin, how you're going to do it, and how far you are willing to go."
Grace lowered herself back to the bed, staring at the ceiling.
"The when is the easiest part. I will meet with a lawyer as soon as possible, just to see what legal options I have. As far as the how is concerned, I think that if we have to, we can stay in the studio that I use to paint my portraits. There's more than enough room for us, and David doesn't know anything about the place or what I do there..."
She trailed off, and Hiroshi nudged her arm. "One last detail, Grace."
She took a deep breath. "Dad, you know that I never had any romantic illusions about my marriage to David. He needed a wife and I needed a husband, plain and simple. He even claimed to love me back then, when we were in India. He never faltered in his pursuit of me, even when I told him truthfully that I could never love him in return. I never knew such a feeling of being wanted by a man before, even if it did turn out to be just a marriage of convenience. Over the following years, I believed that we had grown to at least care for each other, having faced many challenges as a couple in both our jobs and building a life here in the city as well as in raising a child together."
Grace turned to her side to meet her father's eyes; her own seemed bottomless.
"Last night was my final attempt to salvage my marriage with him, and his frenzy in the elevator was the last straw for me. I don't know what's happened or how to explain it, but now I don't feel anything for David anymore. Not love, not even the friendship that I should have for my husband after all these years. Nothing at all. Now all I feel concerning him is sadness because the man that I pledged myself to has gone away, and he will never return. I feel anger, not just because David has changed for the worse, but because without my wanting them to, my thoughts keep returning to the person that I truly shouldn't feel anything for ever again."
Recognition dawned in Hiroshi's eyes. "I see now. The one from before..."
She cut him off before he could continue, not wanting to hear the words.
"That's beside the point, Dad, and I haven't answered the other question. Now that I've had time to think about everything that's going on, both in my personal relationship with David and the objective view concerning last week's killing, I am willing to do whatever it takes to remove myself and my son from this potentially deadly situation."
Sitting up again, Grace held up a hand and began counting with her fingers.
"Number one: The killing took place just a few blocks from AE, and David admitted that he argued with Cooper, attacking him just before he was killed. He also 'discovered' the body, but of course he didn't want anyone to know he had been there."
Hiroshi's eyes narrowed in suspicion, and she continued.
"Number two: Despite the bullshit that law enforcement is broadcasting about David not being a suspect, I know better. I remember seeing a strange man in my lecture the morning after the killing, and he had to have been an undercover cop. I know all of my students by their names. I didn't know that guy. Since that one time, I haven't seen anything else out of the ordinary."
He gently grabbed her wrist. "Watch your back anyway."
Grace's eyes glittered with determination. "Oh, don't worry. I intend to."
She picked up a glass of water from the bedside table and briefly sipped from it.
"Now, where was I? Oh, yes. Number three was David's reaction when I told him that I had the shirt with Cooper's blood on it. He panicked, and he bounced from one extreme to the other on the emotional spectrum. One moment he was almost in tears, practically begging me not to turn him in, and the next he was accusing me of trying to blackmail him and he looked as if he wanted to throw me out of the window!"
Hiroshi's hands balled into fists. "You shouldn't have been alone with him."
Grace sighed sadly. "Yeah, well. I made the mistake of thinking I had nothing to fear from my husband." She held her face in her hands, her entire being weary.
"What else, hon?"
She looked up. "You know what? I can't think of anything else right now. My mind is like a finished portrait that someone just dumped a vat of turpentine over. My thoughts are all runny and streaky at the moment."
Hiroshi leaned over and kissed her forehead before standing.
"I should leave you to rest, then. Is there anything you need before I go?"
"Would you bring Rafe in, please? I need to speak with him."
He winked at her. "You got it."
Hiroshi opened the door and left the room, and Grace heard him call for her son.
"Rafe. Your mom wants to talk to you, sport."
Raphael entered the room, and the relief in his eyes made her sorry that he witnessed her collapse. She opened her arms and the child ran to the bed, climbing into her embrace. His small body shook against her, and Grace discovered that he was crying.
"Don't cry, baby. I'm better now, I'm fine."
Rafe spoke, his words punctuated with sobs. "I thought that... like Grandma."
Grace's face crumpled as she remembered her mother's death. Their relationship as mother and daughter had been lacking in affection, but it had still broken her heart to watch the pain that Keiko had endured in the final months of her life.
She emphatically shook her head, both to convince Rafe of how wrong he was and to drive away the painful path that her thoughts had taken.
"Never, sweetie. Never. I can't tell you what happened to me out there, but it had nothing to do with Grandma's illness. Do you trust me?"
Rafe nodded, and Grace held him tighter. "I'm so sorry that you had to see that."
In the distance, she heard the doorbell ring and the sound of low voices in the other room. A moment later, Hiroshi returned with a parcel in his hand.
"Sorry to interrupt you two. Grace, honey? Were you expecting a package?"
She gently let go of her son, her eyes resting on what her father held.
"No, I wasn't expecting anything. Is that for me?"
Hiroshi nodded, his expression unreadable. He silently handed her the box.
Grace looked down and froze, the breath leaving her body. The package was addressed to her at her father's home, and the sender was Gabriel Knight. She stared mutely at the shipping label, her heart pounding.
He's back in the States, back in New Orleans. Back in my life? Impossible.
As if they had a will of their own, her hands tore open the thick cardboard. Inside she found a book and a brief note. She looked at the book first, recognizing the fine quality of the leather. She ran her hands over it, closing her eyes and remembering the nights she spent in the Library at Schloss Ritter, reading the same book in front of the fireplace. Wuthering Heights; how it had spoken to her very soul.
She clutched the book to her chest, her eyes watering. My God, how did he know?
Hiroshi watched his daughter from where he stood, unsure of what to think about the situation. He reached for his grandson's hand with the intention of giving Grace some privacy.
"Come on, buddy. Let's leave your mother to read her letter in peace."
Rafe's curiosity, which had kicked into overdrive since seeing his mother's reaction to the mysterious package, wasn't to be so easily denied. He leaned in for a closer look, greatly intrigued. His eyes sparkled like black diamonds against his pale skin.
"Mommy, what's that book?"
Grace didn't answer for a long moment, reluctant to abandon the pure joy that Gabriel's unexpected thoughtfulness had given her. She lowered the book onto her lap.
"This is my favorite book, sweetheart."
Rafe reached over and carefully touched the leather cover.
"It looks really old."
She smiled at his observation. "That's because it is. It's over 150 years old."
His eyes widened in amazement. "Who sent it?"
Grace thought for a moment before answering.
"It's from an old friend of mine from before you were born."
Hiroshi broke in, renewing his attempt to get Rafe out of the room.
"Rafe, have you brought any other drawings to show me?"
The child's gaze remained on the book, his voice quiet.
"The one with the arm scar was the last of them, Grandpa."
Grace turned her head to stare at her son. Arm scar?
Rafe saw the shock and confusion in his mother's eyes.
"Will you read it to me, Mom? When you're feeling better?"
She nodded wordlessly, not knowing what she was agreeing to.
Hiroshi was done with waiting. He knew that Grace needed time to sort through this latest twist of fate, and she couldn't do that with an over-inquisitive child in her face.
"Rafe, come with me into the other room. Your mom needs to be alone."
Grace was grateful when they left, leaving her alone with her thoughts. She laid back against the pillows, and a tiny smile played on her lips as a quote from Sir Walter Scott suddenly came to mind.
'Oh what a tangled web we weave / When first we practice to deceive.' No kidding.
A laugh escaped her, and she looked down at her lap again to see the note that she had forgotten to read in all the excitement. It was neatly folded, and for a long time she just stared at it, afraid of what it may contain. Then she slowly opened it and read.
'I cannot live without my life. I cannot live without my soul.' You have no idea how true Emily Brontë's words have been to my heart during your absence. Gracie, I must see you. I'm in New Orleans now, but I'm coming to New York very soon. We have to talk. I know that you called last week, and I want to let you know that I'm here for you. I want to help, and I want to tell you so many things that were left unsaid, things that I couldn't even begin to express in writing. I need to see you. Please, call me as soon as you get this so we can arrange to meet when I get there. I long to hear your voice again. Yours, Gabriel.
The letter went on to give his phone number, and the hand holding it began to shake. She let the paper fall back into her lap, and she briefly wondered if she was still unconscious, if she was imagining it all. She touched the paper again. Yes, it was real.
I can't imagine why he would go to such trouble as this. What does he want?
She shut her eyes in an attempt to ignore the tenderness of Gabriel's words. She couldn't let herself believe in the possibilities that he seemed to offer her in his writing. She felt like Eve in the Garden of Eden; she was so hungry for the juicy apple which dangled above her head, yet ever wary of the snake that tempted her to take a bite.
I barely survived one encounter with his deadly fangs. Am I willing to serve myself up to him for seconds? He is a predator; his erotic bite is lethal, yet so addictive.
Grace read the letter again and again, trying to read between the lines and learn the true motivation behind every sentence, every word. She only saw support and concern, and that discovery conflicted with all that she knew of Gabriel Knight.
Gabriel Knight, the man who had always looked out for himself until he became Schattenjäger, and even then he'd had the occasional slip. I should know. One of his most major slips involved me.
She recalled that fateful night in Rennes-Le-Chateâu, and the great awkwardness and hurt that she'd experienced when they had seen each other the next morning. He'd pretended as if nothing happened between them, and she had felt like a sexual Kleenex, used and discarded. He had withdrawn from her and patronized her, while she'd continued to ache for him both physically and emotionally.
The night before, she could have sworn that he'd looked at her with love shining in his emerald eyes. How mistaken she had been. She just happened to be a woman at a time when he needed one. Period.
She read the letter once more, shaking her head in disbelief.
It's not possible; this couldn't have been written by the same man. This has to be some kind of cruel game, a malicious joke. The problem is, I'm not laughing. Damn him!
Breathing hard, Grace balled up the letter and threw it against the wall. Hot tears streamed down her face, and she let them fall. She grabbed a pillow from the bed and buried her face in it, trying to stifle the sobs which came from deep within.
The old wound in her heart, which she had tried so hard to heal over the years, tore open and spilled out her emotions everywhere. She imagined that the bed, the floor and walls were covered with her sorrow. She wanted to throw things and scream at the top of her lungs at Gabriel, but she knew that she had no one to blame but herself. She had called him, and in doing so she had set herself up for more pain.
She eventually calmed down and left the bed, walking barefoot towards the discarded letter. She slowly bent down and picked it up from the cold floor, smoothing it out with her hands. Returning to the bed, she sat and opened her beloved copy of Wuthering Heights and placed the letter from Gabriel inside before closing it.
Something to remember him by, this lovely letter. Whatever he meant when he wrote it, I'll never know, because I'll never call him. But I'll keep his words with me and remember how they first made me feel, as if he actually cared for me. As if he loved me. What a beautiful dream.
At peace with her thoughts, Grace burrowed beneath the sheets. She returned to sleep with a soft sigh, the book pressed against her heart.
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