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Safe Harbor: Chapter 10

HANNAH stood in the center of her room, shaking, bile rising in her throat. Around her, face up on the floor, were shards of the full-length mirror, replicating over and over a horrifying, monstrous image of her body. She looked like a cross-patch quilt, not real, someone sewn together.

She pressed her fingers to her eyes hard, stemming the flow of tears. She would not do this. She wouldn’t. She was alive. Her sisters were healing her. Anyone else would be dead. Dead. She needed to be grateful for the miracle they’d handed her, not too vain to cope with the results. The slashes on her body would fade with time—much faster than normal. Libby was certain the Drake sisters could keep most of the scars from showing too much. She needed to be grateful.

‘Hannah?’ The knock on the door was soft. Hesitant. Persistent. ‘Honey, we heard a crash. Are you all right?’

Hannah swallowed hard and grabbed her robe, hastily covering her body. She didn’t dare take a step with her feet bare. Glass was scattered all over the floor. Large, jagged pieces and small tiny shards. Ruined. Like her life. Like her face. Her body. Everything. ‘I’m fine, Sarah. I just dropped something. I’m just about to lie down.’

‘Let me in, honey. I’ll help you pick it up. I heard something break.’

‘I’ve already got it.’ She needed Sarah to go away. They all had to leave her alone and give her some time. She was broken into a million pieces, just like the mirror, and she had to find a way to put herself back together. She had to find a way to believe in herself.

She didn’t want to be like this—scared and lost and feeling so alone.

Mostly she couldn’t stand the deception anymore. She could feel her sisters’ pity. Poor Hannah. Whatever will she do? We have to think for her. Figure her life out, now that she’s ruined. The sympathy was killing her. She couldn’t be in the same room with them, and they whispered. Whispered. As if she was on her death bed. Maybe that’s the way all of them viewed her now. Hannah Drake, the model, certainly was. And who the hell was she now?

‘Hannah?’ Sarah knocked again. ‘Let me in.’

‘Sarah.’ Hannah’s voice broke. She choked. ‘You’ve got to give me some space. I’m sorry, I just need time. Give me time.’

There was a moment of silence. She could feel the weight of Sarah’s hurt and sorrow crushing her—crushing both of them.

‘Hannah, open the damn door.’

There was nothing soft or hesitant about the command or the voice. Jonas didn’t believe in coddling. He’d see her for the coward she was. He’d think it was vanity. Poor little Hannah, unable to stand not being the Barbie doll.

Immediately following Jonas’s demand, she could hear her sisters whispering to him, furious that he would use that tone and maybe upset her. Protecting her, standing up for her and she so didn’t deserve it. She hated that they wanted to protect her—that they felt it was necessary. All of them jumped him, demanding he back off and let them handle her. Because poor little broken Hannah needed to be handled.

She felt the insistent burn of tears. How utterly pathetic could she get, standing in the middle of her room with broken glass surrounding her—mocking her—and her sisters and Jonas crowding together outside her door whispering together. If it wasn’t so wretchedly sad, she would laugh.

She’d managed to keep everyone at bay the first week home by simply staying in bed, but her refusal to eat had upset them all so much, and she could see she was wearing them out as they tried to heal her, so she’d made the effort to get up.

‘Hannah. I’m not kidding around with you. Open the fucking door now.’ There was an edge to his voice, as if he were gritting his teeth and biting out each word. Her heart accelerated and her throat seemed to swell.

There were more whispers. She could have told her sisters all the demands in the world wouldn’t work on Jonas. He was going to come in. There were no walls between Jonas and Hannah. He never allowed them unless he was the one erecting them. He simply smashed every barrier down. She closed her eyes. When he opened the door—and he would—her sisters would see the mess she’d made and the sympathy would pour from them with such force she would be overwhelmed and drowning instantly.

She wished she could just disappear. Instead, when she heard Jonas working the lock, she reached out to him. Please don’t let the others see in, Jonas. It cost what little pride she had left, but she made the plea. Her sisters didn’t need to see just how weak and useless she really was. Jonas already knew. Maybe they did, too, maybe that was why they always bailed her out, thought for her, directed her and babied her. She hadn’t been able to bear the look on her mother’s face so she asked her to leave along with the aunts. If one more person fussed over her, she might jump off the balcony.

‘Sarah, Kate, just stay out,’ Jonas barked, holding the door closed. ‘I’m not going to hurt her. She’s quite capable of putting me in my place if she needs to. Go away and let me talk to her alone.’

‘She’s fragile, Jonas. Don’t be such a bear with her.’ Kate’s voice was low and anxious.

‘You can’t just barge in on her and yell at her.’

‘Why would you think I’d do that?’ Jonas asked.

‘Maybe using the ‘F’ word was a clue,’ Kate said.

Hannah found the churning in her stomach easing a bit.

Jonas was not going to treat her as if she might break apart any second—even if she already had.

Jonas slipped inside, shut the door and turned the lock. She stayed very still as he surveyed the damage. Her full-length antique free-standing mirror was shattered, only two small, jagged shards hanging from the frame. The glass was everywhere, scattered all over the floor, pieces even sticking up like small daggers, glittering like silver.

‘Don’t move, baby,’ he said. ‘Not one step.’

‘In spite of what everyone thinks, I’m not suicidal, just irrational.’ Her voice came out in a husky whisper, one the doctors said she would have to get used to. She kept her hand in front of her face. He’d seen her swathed in bandages, but she’d taken them off to look and the sight had been hideous. She didn’t want to look in a mirror and she didn’t want to see her reflection in his eyes. Most of all, she didn’t want to see pity on his face.

Jonas stepped through the glass and caught her up, cradling her in his arms. ‘On the bed or out on the balcony?’

She blushed. Not just her face, her entire body. His breath was warm on her neck. Her robe had gaped open and he was staring down at the slashes standing out so raw and angry across her bare flesh. ‘Jonas. Don’t look.’

‘Why the hell not?’

‘Stop swearing at me. And you know why. It’s aw-awful.’ She closed her eyes. She would not stammer. She refused to be any more of a mess than she already was.

Jonas took her to the edge of the French doors and set her on her feet, his hands going to the front of her robe and sweeping it open before she could stop him. ‘I’m so fucking glad you’re alive, do you really think I care what the stitches look like? I want to see if you’re healing properly. The docs didn’t want you to come home yet.’

All the color drained from her face. She gasped. A single strangled cry escaped as she attempted to step back and jerk her robe closed, but he held the material apart ruthlessly.

‘I don’t know, baby,’ he mused, ‘it still looks painful.’ The pads of his fingers brushed the curve of her breast. ‘Has Libby taken a look at this? Because she needs to. It’s very red. Could be infected.’

Only a few short weeks earlier, Jonas had touched her breasts, his mouth had been right where his hands were, hot and hungry with need and desire. She expected to feel his revulsion and outrage, but instead, there was calm acceptance mixed with worry for her and approval of the rate her sisters were healing her. Not so fast that it drained all of their energy and left them unable to function, yet she was alive and the wounds were healing from the inside out.

But not where anyone could see.

She felt very vulnerable standing there naked, her robe held open while he inspected the wounds as clinically as if she was a broken statue glued together rather than a real flesh-and-blood woman. She didn’t know which was actually worse. The wounds traveled from her face to her belly. Horrible deep slashes and punctures, shallow ones that ripped across her pale skin.

‘What did Libby say about children?’ His voice turned gruff. His fingertips drifted up to her throat, slid over the gashes there, traced a path along her breast, down her ribs to her stomach and finally to her abdomen, where he lay his palm, fingers splayed wide. ‘Can we still have children, Hannah?’

She blinked back tears at the rasping in his voice. His emotion didn’t spill over to swamp her, but it was there, buried deep, and she heard it in his voice. ‘There is no ‘we,’ Jonas, there can’t be.’

‘Don’t give me a lot of bullshit right now, Hannah.’ He let go of her robe and transferred his grip to her arms, yanking her to him hard, bringing her body tightly against his. He buried his face in her neck. ‘I thought I had this under control. You’re safe. Damn it, you’re safe.’

Jonas spoke out loud, needing to hear the words, but a tremor ran through him, the terrible rush of unspeakable terror as images filled his mind. He pressed his face tighter against her neck, crushing her in his arms, trying to hold her close enough—tight enough—to wipe out the inconceivable. He thought he was over that moment other than when it haunted his dreams. Each night he woke in a sweat, her name on his lips, bile in his throat and a gun in his hand. But seeing her body brought back every slash and brutal stab of the knife. He knew where every mark would be. How long, how deep—in utter horror he had watched the scene unfold on television until his mind had gone numb.

For one moment he couldn’t breathe. He’d thought he was past it all, yet here he was clinging to her, needing comfort, instead of providing it for her. She was ragged. He’d expected that. He hadn’t expected her withdrawal from him, or her denial of their relationship, but he should have. He had to shift back, get his feet under him and sort it all out.

Hannah stood frozen in his embrace, shocked beyond words—even of comfort—and it was her natural inclination to comfort others. Jonas was a rock. Always. He’d been so stoic in the hospital, it had never occurred to her that he’d been so terrified. Her hands went, of their own volition, to the nape of his neck, tunneling into his hair. ‘I’m all right, Jonas,’ she lied.

He lifted his head and pressed his brow to hers. ‘Not yet, honey, but you will be. And you didn’t answer my question. What did Libby say about children?’

Hannah couldn’t make herself deny she loved him, not when he was so shaken. ‘I can have children, Jonas, but…’ She trailed off, both hands in his hair. He was trembling, his powerful body revealing the extent of his fears. Somehow, because he needed her to be strong, she found she could be. Maybe she could be all right again. Maybe she could find a way to believe in herself. Hannah Drake. Who was she? How did she define herself?

‘I’m so glad, baby. It would have been okay. I would love a child we adopted, you know.

I thought about that a lot, Hannah, so if Libby is worried that it could hurt you, or be dangerous, we’ll go the adoption route.’

She shook her head, tightening her fingers in his hair. He wasn’t going to listen to her about ending their relationship. As far as he was concerned, they had crossed a bridge together and there was no going back. She honestly didn’t know how she felt about it.

He pressed a kiss against the jagged wound splitting one side of her face in two. ‘You sit out on the balcony while I clean this up. I don’t want you walking around barefoot.’

‘Please don’t say anything to my sisters.’ She stepped away from him, drawing the robe tightly around her, careful to keep her back to the ocean. She could hear the helicopter circling overhead. ‘I wish the photographers would go away.’

He grinned at her. ‘Well, you’re doing wonders for the economy around here. Prices for rooms have tripled and even quadrupled in Sea Haven. Especially when it comes to rooms for the paparazzi. Everyone is trying to protect you in their own way. The Salt Bar and Grill where Trudy Garret works has put up a new sign, no shirt, no shoes, no service, no paparazzi, not that it seems to deter them. None of your sisters can step outside without being photographed.’

‘Hand me my blanket.’ She indicated the one at the foot of the bed.

Jonas crunched more glass under his feet as he caught the soft blanket up and handed it to her. Hannah draped it over her head like a cape with a hood, hiding her face in the folds.

She turned then, keeping to the shadows of one corner, but lifted her hand and brought in the wind from the sea. It rushed in, hard and fast, pushing at the helicopter so the pilot had no choice but to take it away from the house. ‘If I keep the wind blowing strong, they can’t come at me from the air and I can get a little peace.’ She pushed her hair behind her ear and sank into the chair she’d put in the corner of the balcony where she could face the sea.

She found it endearing that the townspeople would seek to find ways to drive the photographers and reporters away. It was one of the things she loved about Sea Haven.

While it was true that they knew one another’s business, they were also open and friendly and supportive through every crisis or every wonderful event.

She glanced down to the beach and was shocked to see Joley and Elle striding along the sand in plain view of the cameras. Elle raised her hands as if in fun, gesturing wildly toward Joley, who turned and blew a kiss up toward Hannah.

Hannah bit down on her lip. God only knew what her two younger sisters might do. It didn’t take long to find out. The sand rose up in answer to Elle’s graceful hands.

Hannah’s wind took the grains of sand, whirring them into tight eddies that swayed in tall columns across the beach, slamming into camera lenses, pummeling the men and women trying so desperately to get a shot of Hannah’s ruined face. The wind rose, blasting the particles harder so that they bit into flesh and covered hair, got into mouths and equipment, driving the intruders away.

Hannah shook her head as Joley and Elle joined hands, turned toward her and made a sweeping bow. Hannah couldn’t help smiling. They were so outrageous. She gestured toward the bluff above them where cameras with zoom lenses focused relentlessly on the Drake house. The two girls looked at one another and the wind carried their laughter up to Hannah.

‘What are they up to?’ Jonas demanded, after first using a hand vac, dumping shards of the mirror into the wastebasket and coming out onto the balcony. ‘That’s their witchy laugh, the one that always tells me they’re up to no good.’

‘I have to agree,’ Hannah said.

‘Usually you’re right there in the middle of the trouble,’ he added. ‘The three of you inherited the trouble gene.’ He rested his hands on the railing and peered down at the two Drake women, who faced the north this time, toward the long cliffs out in the ocean where birds by the thousands rested above the waves and white sprays of foam. The birds lifted almost at the same time, filling the air with napping wings widespread, wheeling in the air and heading straight toward the bluff. The sky darkened with the migration. The sound of gulls shrieking mixed with human cries of alarm as the birds dove down toward the photographers, driving them back. A veritable cloudburst of bird droppings landed on the cliffs, coating the cameras, people and cars in the vicinity.

Jonas leaned over the railing and whistled. ‘Wow! Buddy! Don’t be looking up. Good one, Joley, perfect bull’s-eye! Eww, that was just nasty, must taste like crap.’

Hannah shook her head. ‘You’re as bad as my sisters.’

‘Well, those nasty little rats can go take pictures of someone else.’ It felt good to find some humor in the situation. The Drakes had their own way of handling things and it was probably better than his way. He wanted to smash all the expensive equipment and feel the satisfaction of his fist hitting faces. Being an elected official—the sheriff—it probably wasn’t the best or most appropriate idea.

‘I guess we should be worried about bird flu, although maybe if they all get it, everyone would have a little peace for a while.’

‘Elle will have that covered,’ Hannah said. ‘Let them vent. It’s so much safer with pranks.’

He turned to face her, studying her face hidden so carefully inside the blanket. ‘Like the hat trick you were always pulling. What did you want to do instead of robbing me of my hats?’

She shrugged. ‘I have a terrible temper, Jonas. Most of us do. Not Libby, of course, you’d have to be really awful to get her riled, but it’s just safer to do funny or harmless things than vent with anger.’

‘So you were really angry with me,’ he persisted.


‘What did you throw at the mirror?’

A knock at the door had him frowning and her sighing.

‘Hannah, it’s time for you to rest.’ Libby stuck her head in the room, eyes suspicious as she looked at Jonas. ‘You don’t want to overtire her.’

Hannah couldn’t help glancing at the floor to see if the remains of the mirror were picked up. Not only had the glass disappeared, but Jonas had taken apart the frame and stowed it out of sight. She flashed him a grateful smile. ‘I’m just sitting here, Libby.’

‘Well, you can’t overdo, hon. You should still be in the hospital.’ Libby made several gestures toward Jonas, trying to hint to him to leave.

He crossed his arms over his chest and leveled a look at her. ‘I’ll make certain she doesn’t overdo it,’ he assured.

Libby scowled at him. ‘Visitors tire her out, Jonas.’

‘Fortunately, I’m not a visitor,’ he returned smoothly, ‘I’m family.’

Libby glanced at her watch. ‘I really think she needs to lie down and take a nap.’

Jonas’s eyebrow rose. ‘Really? What do you think, Hannah?’

It was an opportunity to get rid of him. On the other hand, Hannah was tired of being treated like a child and he was asking her opinion instead of making it for her. She was sick of everyone making her decisions.

‘I’m not tired, Libby. When I am, I’ll send Jonas away.’

‘Are you sure?’

Hannah nodded, afraid to trust her voice. It was husky enough and she was suddenly close to tears. She had a vision of her sisters gathering downstairs. Poor Hannah, we have to come up with a future for her. Sometimes she thought she heard the house whisper it.

She turned her face away and closed her eyes, sorrow tearing through her. Were there stages she needed to go through as a victim? Because right now, all she wanted to do was cry. She felt confused and apprehensive and wanted to be alone—although she would be terrified if no one else was in the house with her.

Libby hesitated, shot Jonas a warning glare and then went out, closing the door behind her. At once the whispers started up again.

‘I tried, but he wouldn’t leave,’ Libby said.

‘She wasn’t in tears, was she?’

That was Kate and the anxiety in her voice made Hannah wince. She glanced up at Jonas with a small moue and a slight shrug. ‘They think I can’t cope.’

‘Show them you can.’

Hannah sighed. ‘You see everything in black and white, Jonas.’

He rested his hip on the railing. ‘Does that mean you can’t cope? It’s no big deal, Hannah.

It was a vicious crime, it’s natural to have to have recovery time.’

She held up her hand. ‘I don’t want to talk about it yet.’

‘Well, at least come over here and wave at Joley and Elle before they go ballistic on us.

Joley’s flapping her arms like a bird. Do you think she believes she can fly?’

Hannah peered over the railing. Her sisters were gesturing wildly, Joley doing exaggerated sign language and Elle writing in the sand. ‘What in the world are they doing now?’

‘Trying to tell you something, obviously. Why doesn’t Elle just use telepathy like a normal Drake?’

‘Because I asked them all to stay out of my head. I don’t want to risk catching their emotions or have them feeling mine.’

‘You talked to me.’

‘I was desperate. I didn’t want them to see the broken mirror.’ She leaned over the balcony railing so far he wrapped his arm around her, blanket and all. ‘What is Elle writing?’

Far below on the beach, Elle was dragging a piece of driftwood through the wet sand, making three-foot-tall letters.

‘That’s an ‘R’ and a ‘U,” Jonas translated. ‘And why didn’t you want your sisters to see the mirror?’

‘It’s getting difficult to be around them, Jonas. They… reek… of sympathy. Sometimes I think I’m drowning in it.’

‘Of course they’re sympathetic, Hannah. They love you.’

‘I know that. Don’t you think I know that? They’d walk through fire for me. I know how I’d feel if this had happened to one of them, but it didn’t. It happened to me and I can’t breathe with all the pity in this house.’

‘Compassion,’ he corrected, narrowing his eyes as he stared down at the dramatic writing below. ‘That’s a double ‘S’ she’s drawn there—or a snake. Maybe she’s asking if I’m a snake. R U a snake? And they have compassion for you. They were all terrified, honey, just like I was, the way your parents and aunts were. It’s natural they want to look after you.’

‘I know.’ Now she felt guilty. She was always guilty. She swam in guilt. She looked up at the sky and wished she could fly away.

Jonas tugged her closer to him, bringing her beneath his shoulder. ‘Your sisters have always smothered you, Hannah. They can’t help themselves. Maybe you’re just a little more sensitive to it right now. And that’s all right. Tell them to give you some space.’ He glanced back to the beach. ‘Joley is standing on her head. She really has lost her mind.’

Hannah looked down and sucked in her breath. ‘It’s says ‘Russian.’ Elle’s writing the word ‘Russian.’ Joley’s wiping it out so if a photographer is still around no one can see.

The Russian must be somewhere close.’

‘How would they know?’

‘Joley would know. He did something to her—marked her in some way. She can feel him and sometimes he talked to her.’ Hannah waved her hands toward the beach below and the wind kicked up the sand, spreading it across the letters, effectively hiding the evidence. ‘I know he saved my life, Jonas, but what I don’t know is why. He’s too interested in Joley. At first I thought it was because he’s a man and all men are interested in her.’

Jonas kissed the top of her head. ‘Joley’s sexy. I figured out pretty fast I was going to spend a lot of time beating up the boys in her school if I didn’t put out a few warnings.

And just for your information, Joley doesn’t appeal to me at all that way. I’ve never wanted anyone but you.’

‘You’re such a liar. You’ve always been a terrible flirt. And I remember the night you had an invasion of frogs and one of your little hussies came flying out your bedroom window.’

‘I knew you did that.’ He laughed, and tipped up her face.

Hannah pulled away from him before he could kiss her. She couldn’t stand him looking at the ruin of her face. She couldn’t stand to think of him seeing her body. Why hadn’t she thought herself beautiful when she had the chance? She was always dieting and working out to get the right body for the runway instead of enjoying what she had. She’d never looked at herself and liked what she saw. Never. Not since she realized she couldn’t talk in public and crowds made her panic. Not since she realized she wasn’t anything like her beautiful, accomplished sisters.

‘What’s wrong, Hannah?’

She sank back into the chair. She was not about to tell him she was thinking he’d never see her as beautiful again. Would she ever stop whining to herself? She pushed her own personal grief aside and searched for something substantial, something real, to worry about. Something true so he wouldn’t know she was so shallow.

She forced herself to meet his eyes and voiced a concern she’d had since the party in New York. ‘I’m worried about what Prakenskii might want with Joley. He and Nikitin both mentioned her right before… it… happened. And Prakenskii asked me if she was a spell-singer.’

Jonas blinked. He wasn’t exactly certain what spell-singing was. Joley had a voice that could have belonged to an angel or a devil. Either way she could mesmerize a crowd. But Hannah was worried; it wasn’t that difficult to read her.

She pressed a hand to her head. ‘I was running from him. I felt so threatened. I kept thinking if I got outside, I’d be all right. I remember being afraid for Joley.’

‘Breathe, honey. Just take a breath and let it out. Libby said your memory might begin to return, but if it doesn’t, it isn’t a big deal. We’re going to figure things out eventually.

Give me a clue about spell-singing. What does that mean?’

‘Sergei Nikitin has been following Joley around for a long time now, trying to get an introduction, trying to find a way to get to her.’

‘He wrote a couple of letters to her, but her manager intercepted them. Fortunately he always hands over letters to security, even though Nikitin has won some kind of celebrity status and pretends he’s a legitimate businessman. He likes to be in the ‘in’ crowd and Joley is definitely ‘in.’ Anyone seen with her is written up in every tabloid around the world. She’s news, baby, and Nikitin wants to rub shoulders with society. He thinks he can hide what he is that way.’

‘So far he’s managed to do it,’ Hannah pointed out. ‘I think it’s more than that, though, or why would Prakenskii ask me if she’s a spell-singer?’

‘You haven’t explained to me just what that is yet.’

‘It’s dangerous, Jonas. She could be potentially deadly. Sound can cause a lot of damage and it can even kill. Joley is capable of that, not to mention she can take a roomful of people—a stadium full of people—and get them to do what she wants.’

Jonas was stunned. He sat there trying to keep his mouth from hanging open. He’d always accepted the things the Drakes could do as something good. Even with Hannah sending the wind to rescue him, she’d saved his life. He hadn’t thought too much about the others, not quite so lucky, the ones who had been caught by her fury.

‘Joley’s too strong to be used that way.’

‘Is she, Jonas? I don’t know, but Prakenskii was able to keep me from dying and I should have been dead. Libby might have been able to keep me alive for that long without aid, but I don’t honestly know if she could have. It took strength and endurance and a lot of power. A lot of power. He’s already marked Joley. And he wears her down, whispering to her at night. Only a handful of people in the world know what a spell-singer is and what they can do. Ilya Prakenskii knows and that night he and Nikitin wanted me to go back to the hotel with them. What do you think Joley would do if Nikitin put a gun to my head?’

Jonas went very still. ‘You don’t think he could have arranged the attack on you and then had Prakenskii save your life so Joley would feel as if she owed him, do you?’

‘Prakenskii doesn’t talk much, but when he saved Aleksandr’s life, he told us we owed him then. I imagine he feels this is a much larger debt.’

‘Could he be a spell-singer?’ Because if Joley could mesmerize a stadium full of people into doing what she wanted, couldn’t Ilya Prakenskii mesmerize a couple into murder?

‘I see where you’re going with it and I just don’t think he could hide that from us. We’ve been in his head too much. One of us would have known.’

Another small knock on the door had Jonas slipping his hand inside his jacket to grasp his gun.

Sarah stepped in with a wide, forced smile. ‘Hannah, I thought maybe you’d like something to eat. You really should keep up your strength.’

‘I should, too,’ Jonas reminded her, relaxing. ‘If you’re bringing Hannah a tray, bring me one, too, please.’

Sarah’s gaze swept the room. She frowned. ‘Hannah? Where’s your mirror?’

‘I had a little run-in with it,’ Jonas said. ‘She loves me anyway, don’t you, baby?’ He crouched down beside Hannah and took her hand, looking up at Sarah with a wry smile.

‘Guess that earns me seven years of bad luck.’

Kate poked her head in the door. ‘Hannah, you have a visitor. Ilya Prakenskii is here to see you.’

A shiver slid down Hannah’s spine. She couldn’t hide her uneasiness from Jonas, not when he was so close and holding her hand.

‘I’ll go down,’ he said.

Hannah pulled her hand away, sick of being coddled. Yes, she was frightened, but Joley was her sister, her responsibility, and she wasn’t going to send Jonas down while she cowered in her room.

‘While you get dressed,’ he added. ‘Don’t take all day.’

‘No.’ Sarah shook her head. ‘She doesn’t need to go down. Stay here, Hannah. Kate and I can go with Jonas and see what he wants.’

‘No, I need Hannah to come with me. I want her impressions of anything Prakenskii says or does. She’s the strongest empath among you.’

‘Elle and Libby are empathic and Elle is stronger than any of us,’ Sarah corrected.

‘Libby is all about healing, Sarah,’ Jonas said, a bite of annoyance in his tone. ‘And Elle’s volatile. If Prakenskii is here for something other than checking on Hannah, I don’t want Elle starting a war. Keep Joley and Elle far away from him.’

‘Hannah can’t go down,’ Sarah said. ‘I forbid it.’

‘Hannah.’ Jonas turned to her, his tone absolutely neutral, his gaze gentle. ‘You tell me what you want to do, baby. I’d prefer you there, but if you’d rather not—say the word.’

‘Jonas,’ Sarah hissed. ‘Stop pushing her. You’re always pushing her. She’s barely out of the hospital. She needs looking after.’

Hannah moistened her suddenly dry lips with her tongue. Her heart pounded hard in her chest and little jackhammers tripped at her temples, but this needed to be done. Not by Jonas or Sarah. But by her. She owed him a debt and more, she wanted to look into his eyes and read him the way she could most people, because if he presented a threat to Joley, they all needed to know.

‘Jonas is right, Sarah. I want to see Prakenskii myself. I need to thank him for saving my life, and like Jonas, I want to see if I can read him. I spent a lot of time connected to him.’

‘And he has a path to your spirit, Hannah. To your soul. He knows who you are and what you can do.’

‘That’s true,’ Hannah admitted, ‘but at the same time, I have a path to his spirit. He can’t block all of us and I need to find out information.’

‘But…’ Sarah protested.

‘Get dressed, baby,’ Jonas said decisively. ‘We’ll meet you downstairs.’ He held the door open. ‘Sarah? Kate? Let’s go see what Prakenskii wants.’


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