The entire ACOTAR series is on our sister website:

We will not fulfill any book request that does not come through the book request page or does not follow the rules of requesting books. NO EXCEPTIONS.

Comments are manually approved by us. Thus, if you don't see your comment immediately after leaving a comment, understand that it is held for moderation. There is no need to submit another comment. Even that will be put in the moderation queue.

Please avoid leaving disrespectful comments towards other users/readers. Those who use such cheap and derogatory language will have their comments deleted. Repeat offenders will be blocked from accessing this website (and its sister site). This instruction specifically applies to those who think they are too smart. Behave or be set aside!

Safe Harbor: Chapter 12

THE Drakes were waiting for him in the living room—all but Hannah. They knew he was angry by the line of his body. Sarah leapt up to intercept him as he started to the staircase, but he held up his hand to stop her, flashing her one, emotion-laden look.

‘Don’t,’ he warned.

She hesitated. ‘Tell us, Jonas.’

He glanced over her head to Joley. ‘You take care of that one.’ He jerked his head toward her. ‘And I’ll take care of Hannah.’ He cast one more furious look at Joley and hurried up the stairs to Hannah’s room.

The door was closed and locked and this time he didn’t bother knocking. The hell with it.

He began working on the lock. Joley came up behind him with Sarah.

‘You have to leave her alone, Jonas. It was too much for her, facing Prakenskii like that,’

Sarah said. ‘She needs to rest.’

‘And you need to mind your own business. Hannah’s a grown woman. She’s my woman.’

He made the declaration as he freed the lock, opened the door and stepped in, closing it on Sarah’s furious face.

Hannah was pulling clothes from her dresser, tears streaming down her face as she stuffed them into the small sports bag she had open on the bed. He could see the fatigue and the dark circles around her eyes. His heart twisted in spite of his anger. Hannah was a woman of such contrasts. She appeared fragile and delicate, yet had a core of steel. She had panic attacks, yet courageously defended her sisters. She was shy, but made herself into a public icon.

He would never, as long as he lived, get over seeing her come into the room, head up, her face slashed deep and raw, but her eyes steady as she faced Prakenskii with such regal dignity. He knew it cost her pride. He knew she didn’t want to be seen. But she had stood up to all of them and insisted on being treated as an adult. He had never been prouder of her. Yet here he was, about to chew her out. Again. He sighed.

She looked up, her wet eyelashes spiky, nearly breaking his heart. Her hand went defensively to her throat—where three deliberate slashes had been made, damaging her vocal cords for all time. He wanted to gather her into his arms and hold her close.

‘Get out,’ she said. ‘You have to get out and leave me alone.’

Fury swept through him. So much for good intentions. He slammed the door closed again, this time against Joley as she attempted to enter, and turned the lock, crossing the room in three swift strides.

‘What the hell did you think you were doing, Hannah?’ Jonas caught her by the shoulders and gave her a little shake. ‘Do you like playing with fire? I told you to stay away from Rudy Venturi. He may seem harmless, but he’s living a fantasy and you don’t know what could happen if his fantasy is disrupted.’

‘Jonas!’ Sarah protested, from the other side of the door. ‘What are you doing?’

‘I’m going to beat her, that’s what I’m doing,’ Jonas snapped. ‘Why can’t you, just once, go along with something I say, Hannah? That man is loony tunes and you’re bringing him a signed photograph personally! I know what I’m talking about when I tell you about security, but no, you just have to defy me.’ His eyes darkened, blazed down at her upturned face as he gave her another shake, anger sweeping through him, building and building as the images of a knife slashing at her while he was thousands of miles away played in his head. ‘You do whatever everyone else tells you like some damned puppet, but me, you have to argue and defy me at every turn. Even if you’re taking a chance with your life.’

‘Stop it, Jonas,’ Joley called, pounding on the door. ‘Stop it. You sound like you’re going to hurt her.’

‘I’d never hurt her,’ Jonas declared, abruptly letting Hannah go. ‘Get the hell away from here, Joley. You, too, Sarah. This is between Hannah and me.’

‘I’m fine, Joley,’ Hannah assured her. ‘Leave us.’

‘Are you sure, Hannah?’ Sarah asked. ‘You don’t have to put up with him yelling at you.’

‘I don’t interfere between you and Damon, Sarah,’ Jonas hissed. ‘Do us the same courtesy. Go away.’ He shoved both hands through his hair, waiting to hear the fading footsteps before he glared at Hannah. ‘Damn it. Why would you risk your safety like that?’

He stepped back away from her, his hands shaking as he paced across the room. His chest heaved as he tried to draw in air, as he tried to push away the images crowding in. There had been so much blood. Her long hair had been everywhere, but instead of platinum and gold, the spiral curls had been red. He could barely breathe and he actually staggered, reaching out blindly for anything to anchor him.

Hannah caught his arm. ‘Sit down, Jonas. You haven’t slept in days.’

‘Weeks,’ he corrected and sank into the large chair by her fireplace. He wrapped his arms around her waist, burying his face against her stomach. His arms tightened, two steel bands, locking her to him, holding her as close as he could get her. A shudder went through his body. ‘Damn it, Hannah. You’re killing me.’

Hannah’s fingers tunneled in his hair, made small soothing circles against his scalp in an effort to calm him. ‘It’s all right, Jonas. I’m alive. It’s going to be all right.’

Kneeling, she rested her head against his, not certain she was telling the truth. She wasn’t certain she’d survived. She was living, but she lived with terror and the realization that someone hated her enough to destroy her. She wasn’t strong like her other sisters. She preferred the shelter of her home, of her town, the familiarity of things she’d grown up with. She had always felt safe in Sea Haven. Now she didn’t know where safety was.

Whoever hated her was here in Sea Haven and she couldn’t risk them harming her sisters—or Jonas. She had to leave and she had to leave alone.

Jonas usually shielded her from the intensity of his emotions, but right now, he was too upset. She sensed in him that same desperation she remembered from so long ago, when he’d tried to hold his mother to him, tried to save her, tried to find a way to take away the pain in her. Jeanette Harrington’s pain had been, like Hannah’s, both physical and emotional. She didn’t want to die and leave her son alone in the world. Hannah didn’t know how to live. Jonas felt the responsibility for both of them—he always had—and right now, it was all mixed together with rage and grief.

In that moment she knew, with astonishing clarity, that her own uncertainty didn’t matter to her. She felt the shudder that ran through Jonas’s body and she had to find a way to take away his pain. She caught the images of the attack on her in his mind. The desperate need to get to her, the agony at the thought of losing her. The rage at himself for not being with her to protect her. She didn’t find pity, or horror at the sight of her mutilated body, and that was an unexpected gift. But the love she found there, strong—intense—desperate almost—choked her. How could she leave him when she felt the same way?

‘I’m angry with you, Hannah,’ he whispered, keeping his face buried in the warmth of her neck. ‘I’m really angry with you.’

‘I know.’ She cradled his head with her arms, holding him close, ‘It’s all right. We’ll get through this. I don’t know how, but we will.’ She was grateful there were no witnesses to Jonas’s panic. He was a strong, proud man, and falling apart in front of anyone—especially his family, whom he believed he needed to protect at all times—would be humiliating to him.

‘You have to listen to me, Hannah, when it comes to issues of your safety. I can’t function like this. The fear is paralyzing, demoralizing, I can’t even breathe thinking about you like that. You have to at least do that for me. Give me that.’

She pressed kisses to his forehead. ‘I wasn’t doing it on purpose, Jonas. It wasn’t defiance. I didn’t feel a threat from Rudy—only loneliness. I know what that is.

Sometimes, even surrounded by my sisters, I feel lonely.’

‘Because you think no one knows the real you,’ he said. ‘But I do. I see you, Hannah.

You’ve never been alone.’ But she hadn’t seen him. She couldn’t read him and she hadn’t seen past his frustration and anger. He’d protected her from knowing his real feelings.

She’d coped for so long, bombarded by the people around her, and he hadn’t wanted to add to that burden. In the end he’d nearly lost his chances with her.

‘Hannah.’ He tightened his hold on her. ‘Rudy Venturi is unstable. You felt sorry for him, but it didn’t occur to you that in his mind he isn’t a threat. You wouldn’t feel it from him because he doesn’t think what he does is wrong. If he decided he had to kill you to keep the bad men from getting to you, he wouldn’t think it was wrong. He wouldn’t feel evil or even threatening because his intent is to help you. You don’t see everything like you think you do.’

Hannah sighed. ‘I’m sorry, Jonas. I don’t mean to make you so crazy. I did feel sorry for him. I didn’t think handing him a photograph would be a big thing. I should have listened to you.’

‘All right,’ he murmured. ‘All right. Tell me about the Reverend. Did you talk to him as well?’

The switch in topics had her flinching. Hannah tried to pull back, but he kept his arms around her, lifting his head and looking down at her. ‘You did, didn’t you?’

‘He’s here, just in the next county, practically a neighbor, and I thought if he could just see I wasn’t trying to unduly influence young girls…’

Jonas closed his eyes and groaned. ‘Hannah, he’s a couple of hours away. He doesn’t have anything to do with you.’

‘Some of his followers were at nearly every show protesting. They were saying things specifically about me to the press. I just thought if he met me, he’d see I wasn’t such a bad person.’

‘And what happened at that meeting you knew I’d say absolutely no to?’

Hannah took a deep breath and let it out, her gaze sliding away from his. ‘He made me angry, okay?’ She did pull out of his arms and stood up, crossing the room with swift, long strides—runway strides—unconsciously graceful and sexy. She whirled around, her large eyes darkening with temper. ‘Honestly, Jonas, he was the most unreasonable man and very sleazy. I tried not to intrude and read his thoughts, but he was broadcasting so loudly and he was just disgusting—a pervert.’

Jonas groaned and passed a hand over his face. ‘Don’t tell me you called him on it? You didn’t, did you, Hannah?’

She put her hands on her too-slender hips, her chin going up. ‘I certainly did. He stood there with his pompous, pious attitude, all smug in front of his little group of followers, and acted so self-important, telling me what I did was an abomination. It’s not like I’m sleeping with designers. And I told him that.’

The knots in Jonas’s belly were becoming permanent. ‘You told him you knew he was sleeping with his young followers, too, didn’t you?’

‘Well, he is! Innocent girls who trust him. I pointed out that he was the one following the path of the devil.’ She pursed her lips. ‘And I might have given him a small demonstration of power when he got really nasty with me.’

Jonas groaned, nearly tugging out his hair in exasperation. ‘No wonder he fixated on you.

You should have stayed away from him. He would have gone after more exciting prey if you hadn’t engaged with him.’

‘He’s a pervert, Jonas, and you should lock him up.’

‘This is getting worse. You should have told me you’d confronted him.’ He suddenly frowned. ‘What made you decide to confront him? You never do that kind of thing. Why in the world would you start with the Reverend?’

She shrugged, looking suddenly wary. ‘Greg thought it would be a good idea if we buried the hatchet. He didn’t think it was good media to have a preacher protesting every show.

He thought if we got together, the Reverend would be reasonable.’

Both could hear someone fumbling at the lock.

‘Jonas, Hannah really needs to rest,’ Sarah called out. ‘I mean it, if you don’t stop arguing with her, we’re coming in and making you leave. Stop browbeating her.’

‘Go away,’ Hannah and Jonas shouted simultaneously.

Jonas curled his fingers into a tight fist and turned away from her. He was back to wanting to shake some sense into her. ‘You listened to Greg Simpson involving security matters and not me?’

‘You’re making this personal, Jonas.’ Hannah touched her throat as if it ached. ‘Greg is my agent…’

‘Was.’ Jonas corrected. ‘If the bastard shows up here, I’m throwing him in jail.’

Hannah closed her mouth abruptly on whatever she was going to say, a small shiver running through her. It was becoming difficult to breathe. Her chest felt tight and her lungs burned, starved for air. ‘I don’t want to argue about this. I did what I thought was best for my career.’

‘Yeah, because your career was so much more important than your life.’

Hannah hissed at him, her eyes glittering with sparks. ‘You’re making me angry, Jonas. Is that what you want? You’re angry at me so you’re going to say mean things to get me upset? You don’t have to remind me that I screwed up. I’m the one with my face hacked to pieces.’

Sarah thrust open the door, their loud voices disturbing all the Drakes, giving Sarah what she thought was sufficient reason to interfere. Hannah waved her hand and the wind rushed in from the balcony and slammed the door closed before Sarah could step into the room.

‘Don’t you dare do that,’ Jonas snapped, stepping forward, crowding Hannah’s space, stalking her across the room as she retreated. ‘Don’t you play your ‘poor me, I just got out of the hospital’ trump card. Not over this. How many times did I tell you how to handle these nutcases? I’ve been in the business for years, Hannah. It’s my job to know how to handle them, yet you’re going to take the word of a layman over mine?’

‘It wasn’t like that, Jonas,’ Hannah protested, coming up against the wall. ‘And stop trying to intimidate me. It only makes me angry.’

‘Be angry then. Maybe you’ll figure it out this time, baby, because I’m getting damned sick of always being last on your list. When I tell you something, do you think I’m making it up just to annoy you?’

Hannah bit down hard on her retort and realized that for the first time since she’d been attacked, she felt alive. Her blood was singing in her veins and her pulse was thundering in her ears. Jonas refused to treat her as if she was a fragile, delicate flower, too bruised to see the light of day. He was angry and he let her know. She felt normal. Jonas made her feel normal and it felt good. Just moments earlier she’d been close to a panic attack, but just like that he’d wiped it out.

‘Sometimes, yes I do. You annoy me on purpose, especially when it comes to my job.

You’ve always hated it and made fun of it. Greg managed my career. I had to believe he suggested what he thought was best.’

Jonas went very still, his body crowding hers, so close her breasts brushed his chest and he was aware of her every breath. ‘Are you telling me Simpson suggested you give Venturi an autographed picture at every event he attended?’

She put her hand on his chest, fingers splayed wide, bracing herself for the storm. ‘I wanted to do something, and I asked him if he would see to it that Rudy received a picture from me. He said I should give it to him myself every time Rudy attended. He took photos a few times and had a couple of pieces written up about it. I did tell him I didn’t want it used for publicity, but the articles had already been submitted.’

Jonas swore again, biting the words off between his teeth, his fingers sliding through her hair to the nape of her neck. ‘You’re in so much trouble, Hannah.’ There was both a warning and a drawling caress in his voice. ‘Why didn’t it occur to you that I had your best interests at heart?’

‘Maybe it was the ‘Barbie doll’ comment. Or the ‘taking your clothes off for the entire world to see’ accusation, or the million and one barbs you like to throw at me.’ She rubbed her throat again, wincing a little as the pad of her finger slid over the two deep slashes, still raw and red.

Jonas caught her hand and pulled it to his chest, capturing it there while he leaned in to brash the cuts with kisses. ‘Don’t touch that. Is your throat hurting?’ Her voice was even more of a whisper of sound.

‘Inside. It feels torn and braised.’

‘Then don’t argue with me. I’m right anyway and you know it. You should have listened to me.’ Jonas pressed feather-light lasses along her throat, and up the curve of her chin.

‘Say it, Hannah. Say you should have listened to me.’

She couldn’t think very well with his body pressed so close to hers and his mouth running over her skin. She’d been so determined to keep him at arm’s length. Whatever everyone else thought, she knew instinctively that danger surrounded her. It wasn’t coming from one particular direction, but the wind told her. She remained outside as much as possible, hoping to determine her enemy, but the person’s identity eluded her. She could only try to protect the people she loved. And she loved Jonas. She couldn’t remember a time when she didn’t.

‘Jonas…’ She inserted both hands between her and his chest, trying to get a little space.

‘You know this can’t work.’ Just the thought of losing him made her cold inside, but even Jonas needed protection. He didn’t think so, but she’d seen him vulnerable and in pain.

Better he be angry with her and know the complete truth, than later despise her.

Swift impatience crossed his face. ‘Don’t even start, Hannah. You’ve pissed me off enough for one day.’

‘It can’t work, Jonas. You think you see who I am, but you see who you want to see, just like my sisters do.’

‘Your sisters see who you deliberately project for them,’ he corrected. ‘I see you.’

‘I’m a coward, Jonas,’ she admitted, desperate to save him. ‘You’d love me for a while, and then when you realized what I really am, you’d grow to despise me.’

He burst out laughing, bent forward and kissed the tip of her nose. ‘You might be a coward when it comes to admitting you love me, but you’re no coward, baby.’

‘I am, though.’ Panic. It was coming back the way it always did. Full blown, attacking just as the man who had stabbed her had. Gripping her with tight fingers, until she fought for breath, until she couldn’t think straight. It had gotten worse since she’d been stabbed.

The walls closed in on her, and trapped as she was now, with Jonas’s body blocking her from running, she had to reach deep to stay in control.

‘Because you’d rather stay in Sea Haven than travel the world? Because you’re a little shy in public? Or you stutter once in a while when you’re around people you don’t know? If you were a coward, Hannah, you wouldn’t have tried to please your family by going out and pursuing a career you didn’t even want—a very public career.’

‘I should have stood up for myself.’

‘Yes, you should have, but trying to please people you love doesn’t make you a coward.

Exasperating maybe, but no coward. And you’ve never had trouble standing up to me.’

She looked down at the evidence of the cuts on her hands and arms. ‘Yes I do.’

‘No, you want to please me, just like you want to please your sisters, but you stand up and do whatever the hell you want to do when you want to do it. I’m getting gray hair, I ought to know.’

Hannah frowned. Did she? She didn’t know anymore. Her life had changed dramatically in seconds. She touched the terrible wounds on her face and neck, but avoided touching her breasts. She still saw every imperfection in her body, every extra pound, and now there were terrible, gaping wounds in her flesh. Jonas had cupped her breasts, looked at her as if she were the most beautiful woman in the world. She couldn’t bear the memory of him looking at her so reverently, so lovingly.

Abruptly, she caught up her blanket, and took refuge on her balcony. Although the sun had already set and it would be difficult for a photographer to get a clear picture of her, she slid the blanket like a hood over her head to keep her face in the shadows.

Jonas followed her with a small frown. He had never been all that good with words when it came to Hannah. He was certain he could charm the birds out of the trees when it came to others, but Hannah turned him inside out and made him an idiot. He hated that she was hurting. Every instinct, body and mind, wanted to protect her, wanted to make it all better, but he had no idea how. He was fumbling his way, making mistakes and losing his temper.

Restlessly, he went to the railing to get a better look around them. There were no nearby buildings where anyone could lie on rooftops with rifles, but someone could get an angle from the bluff. The strong winds constantly shifting over the cliffs would make the shot extremely difficult, though. There were probably only a few dozen men in the world who could make that shot and he doubted if any of them had a grudge against Hannah.

‘I’m safe up here. The wind would warn me.’

Jonas looked out over the water, noting the rocks. Boats couldn’t get too close and the waves were too strong and choppy. Again, it would be difficult to get a good shot.

He leaned one hip against the railing and looked down at Hannah’s bent head. She still wasn’t really looking at him, hiding her face in the blanket. He didn’t want her hiding from him. She’d stood openly in front of Ilya Prakenskii, the wounds stark and raw on her pale face and neck, yet she hid from him. The lump in his throat was choking him and the wind was bringing in sea salt, burning his eyes.

‘You know I’m not going to let you get away with this. What were you doing packing a bag?’ He kept his gaze fixed on her face. She’d never been good at hiding her emotions from him.

Hannah pulled the blanket closer around her, obviously trying to shield her expression from him. ‘I just need a little space.’

Jonas sat on the railing and swung one foot back and forth, letting silence lengthen and grow. The sea birds called to one another as they flew in lazy circles overhead, one occasionally darting down to disappear into the sea before popping back up with a fish on his way back to the rock where he’d perch for the night. The ocean tumbled and rolled, a thunderous music ebbing and swelling in the background.

He let out a sigh. ‘You’re lying to me again, Hannah.’ He leaned forward to capture her elusive gaze with his. ‘Do you think I’m going to let you get away with it just because you have a scar or two?’

She touched the unsightly lines on her face again with her fingertips. ‘I’m not asking you to. It isn’t your business, Jonas.’

His eyebrow shot up. ‘Really? You’re not my business?’ He snorted derisively. ‘You’ve been my business since kindergarten. Why did you pack a bag, Hannah?’

Sparks leapt in her eyes and her white teeth snapped together with a bite of temper. ‘I’m protecting my sisters—and you.’ Angry with him, she blurted out the truth and was instantly sorry.

He should have known—should have guessed. Hannah who thought she was such a coward. There was a curious melting sensation in the region of his heart. He crouched down in front of her and framed her face with both hands, leaning in to brush his mouth over hers. The softest of contacts, barely there, just a whisper of his lips over hers.

Hannah pulled back, blinking away tears. ‘You can’t do that anymore. Please, Jonas, just go.’

He sank back on his heels, studying her distressed expression. ‘You know me better than that. Start talking, Hannah, and it had better make sense, because you and I both know, I’m not letting you walk out of here alone. You want to leave, we’ll leave together, but you’re not going anywhere alone.’

‘I can’t be with you. I just can’t. You have to accept that it’s my decision.’

‘Not on your life, baby.’

‘Jonas. God. Why can’t you just let it be? Look at me. I can’t look at myself without feeling sick.’ The admission was made in her soft, husky voice, but the whisper of secrecy created an intimacy between them. ‘I can’t bear for you to look at me like this.

And I’d never, never want to be seen with you in public.’

‘Oh for God’s sake.’ Exasperated, he glared at her. ‘Are you kidding me?’

‘Jonas, you’re very good looking and you’re well known around here. You hold a political office. You ran for sheriff and you were elected. Can you see us side by side? Poor Jonas with his freak of a girlfriend.’

‘You aren’t doing this, Hannah.’

‘It’s the truth. I can’t walk outside without photographers wanting to snap my picture and plaster it all over the gossip rags. With you, I’d be in all the newspapers. I do have some vanity and some pride.’

‘I’m not listening to this crap.’ He stood, for one moment looming over her, throwing a dark shadow across her face, his jaw set, his mouth in a hard line, then he simply scooped her up and cradled her against his chest, sitting in her chair, holding her on his lap, blanket and all. ‘You’re so silly sometimes, Hannah, you make me crazy. I don’t give a damn what people say. I never have.’

He kissed the corner of her eye, pushing the blanket back, so he could rub his chin over the top of her silky curls and kiss her eyebrow, blaze a path to the corner of her mouth, skimming the angry red slashes with tiny butterfly kisses as he went. His mouth settled on hers with exquisite gentleness. Her lips were soft and full and trembled beneath his.

Her answering kiss was tentative, reluctant, so he kept coaxing her, nibbling at her lower lip, teasing the seam of her mouth with his tongue, brushing his lips back and forth over hers, tugging with his teeth until she gave in and opened her mouth to his.

He poured everything he was into the kiss, giving her love and tenderness and support, mixing it with desire and heat and raw need. His palm settled around the nape of her neck, fingers finding the treasure of platinum and gold corkscrew curls, holding her still so he could explore her mouth. He was careful, gentle, never letting his passion have free rein, never allowing it to carry him away. Her chest and ribs and stomach were covered in wounds and he took care not to rub against her skin although holding her wasn’t enough.

Hannah’s mouth was warm and moist and tasted like she did, honey and spice and ultrafeminine. He could spend a lifetime kissing her. At first, she was passive, allowing him to kiss her, but as he coaxed, she began to come to life, breathing with him, tongue tangling with his, sending delicious little licks of electricity singing through his veins.

With great care, he brought her closer, angled her mouth for a deeper, more satisfying kiss.

Her lips heated, softened, clung to his. His body turned to steel, hard and hot and so alive he could feel lightning arcing through his bloodstream and heard thunder in his ears. His palm cradled the nape of her neck, and he shifted her just a little so she would fit more comfortably in his lap. He had her trapped, but was careful to make her feel safe, not captured. Loving Hannah wasn’t easy. She was always on the verge of taking flight, almost as if she was afraid of the intensity of passion he roused in her.

One hand slid down her spine, a slow journey of discovery, while his mouth tried to sate an ever growing desire. Lust was sharp and deep, mixing with love, so full he couldn’t tell where one started and the other left off. Hannah was an explosive mixture of exotic, innocence and pure unadulterated sex. She moved and he was instantly riveted. It didn’t take much. Even her new voice seemed erotic to him. Hannah fit with him. He’d known on some level even when they were kids, that she was the one. She was made for him. He kissed her again and again. Soft, gentle kisses, hard, hungry kisses, probing and exploring her heated, passionate mouth.

Hannah moved against him restlessly, her body in meltdown, her need of him shifting from mental to physical. His mouth seemed to be devouring her, yet she wanted more, wanted to be closer, wanted to feel the heat of his skin beneath her hands and mouth. She was so selfish. It was always about her. Her wants. Her needs. She was putting Jonas in danger, just as she was putting her sisters in danger by staying there. Abruptly she lifted her head, aching with wanting to hold him close, afraid she didn’t have the necessary courage to let him go.

‘Jonas…’ She was going to have a panic attack. She was. Again. Right in front of him.

She couldn’t catch her breath.

Couldn’t think with the thundering beat of terror in her ears and fear pounding through her body. She hated the insidious weakness that crept up and pounced whenever she was certain she could be strong. It stole too much of her life away, it took her ability to function and reason.

‘Don’t say it, baby, please.’ He rested his head against hers. ‘Let it be for now.’ He dragged in a hard breath, trying to bring himself back to reality.

She was getting ready to bolt. Hannah was pulling back, away from him, and it had nothing at all to do with arguing. She was so determined to protect them all, she was making herself sick. And if she had one more panic attack and fell apart in front of him, he was going to pick her up and carry her off where no one else would ever find them, just like a caveman. It was going to happen.

Jonas pushed down his own panic and kissed her mouth and forehead, gently pulling back himself. He set her on her feet as he stood, holding out his hand to her, determined not to lose her. ‘I swear, Hannah, you’re thinking so much, smoke is coming out of your ears. Just stop. Let’s stay outside together until you’re too tired and I’ll lie down with you.

If you’re afraid of that, I’ll go sit out there on the bluff again and spend another night in the cold.’

Hannah hesitated, and then slowly stretched out her hand until her fingers lay in his palm.

He tightened his hold instantly, not giving her time to change her mind. The air was cooler as the breeze blew in from the sea, bringing salt and mist and the taste of the ocean. He’d much rather lie beside her warm, soft body, even if it meant his own would be hard and painful, than spend another night worried while he sat on the bluff watching from a distance.

‘I knew you were out there. It made me feel safe.’

‘You are safe with me.’ He wrapped her back in her blanket to shelter her from the heavier wind. When she sat down, he pulled his chair close to hers. Leaning forward, he framed her face with his hands and looked directly into her eyes, capturing her gaze so she couldn’t look away. ‘I know you’re scared, baby, but that’s not being a coward. We have something special between us. You can’t let this madman take it away.’

Hannah couldn’t help herself. In spite of her resolve to protect him, she leaned close, putting her head on his shoulder, and snuggled into him. ‘I know we do, Jonas. I just don’t know what to do about it.’ She pressed her lips against his neck and sat up again, pulling back.

‘I do,’ he answered. ‘I know exactly what to do.’

She wasn’t touching that. Instead, Hannah drew her knees up and stared out over the ocean, where the sun had already sunk into its depths. Earlier, the sun, looking like a giant red beach ball, glowing with promise, rays streaking out with orange and red bolts as it tipped, had seemed to pour molten lava into the churning waves. The entire sky had been layered in bright, vivid color. The sunset was always so beautiful, but she loved this time of day, just as night and day met and passed, like two ships out over the sea.

The sky darkened slowly, as if a blanket was slowly drawn over it. Clouds drifted lazily and stars glittered like gems. The moon, in whatever stage it happened to be in, gleamed a beautiful silver, spilling its light across the dark waves. Peace reigned.

Jonas had deliberately kept her out here, out where she could breathe freely and without too much worry. He had noticed her quickened pulse, her labored lungs and the desperation building in her. She thought she’d been clever hiding it, she could always hide from everyone—but not Jonas.

Hannah rubbed her forehead. Her face itched and burned, but if she touched it, the sensation was worse. She felt revulsion in the pit of her stomach. She couldn’t bear to look at her face in the mirror and she had no idea how much longer she could continue to face Jonas feeling so broken. She stretched out her hands to him for evidence. They were shaking.

Jonas caught both of them and brought them to his mouth, his lips tracing the slash marks. ‘Give yourself time, Hannah, but don’t think you can shut me out. I’m not about to let you go.’

‘I’m trapped here now, Jonas. I can’t go out in public. I can’t remember what I might have done to make someone hate me so much. I can’t make love to you ever again…’ Her voice broke and she snatched her hands back, bringing the blanket up around her face to cover her sob. ‘I hate this—this self-pity. I promised myself I wouldn’t do it, but I have to stay away from you. If I see you, Jonas, it’s so much worse. I can’t see you.’

He felt raw inside, torn open with his guts spilling out. He dropped his face into his hands for a moment, trying to clear his brain, trying to allow himself to think clearly. He took a deep shuddering breath and straightened his shoulders. ‘You’re confused, Hannah, and it’s understandable. Fortunately for both of us, I’m not. You need me, whether you think so or not, and I know damn well I need you.’

He waited until she looked up at him. ‘I do, Hannah. I never thought I’d look at a woman and know she’s the reason the sun comes up in the morning, but you are.’

‘What if they hurt you? Or my sisters? Jonas, what if some madman takes a knife and comes at you in the dark? You just turn around and he’s slashing you. Saying ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry,’ but cutting you into little pieces. I couldn’t bear that. I really couldn’t. I’d rather give you up and have you stay alive—unhurt.’

Jonas’s head went up alertly. ‘What did he say?’ He reached out and pulled her hands away from her face. ‘Look at me, Hannah. He said something to you?’

She frowned, trying to remember. ‘I’m so tired, Jonas, and I can’t think straight when I’m tired.’ She glanced inside at the bed. ‘I’m afraid to lie down.’

He tamped down impatience, his thumb sliding over the backs of her fingers, stroking her sensitive skin. ‘I am, too. Nightmares are no fun.’ He tugged her hand, determined to get her to lie down on the bed with him and rest. She was exhausted, sitting up night after night. Perhaps it had been a mistake bringing her home from the hospital so soon. At least there, they could have knocked her out so she could get some rest.

‘Come on, baby, I’m not taking no for an answer and you’re too tired to argue with me when you know you won’t win.’ He tugged at her hand, taking her with him back inside her bedroom.

She went with him reluctantly, settling beside him, insisting he keep the French doors open. Jonas wrapped his arm around her waist and held her close. She was stiff at first, but slowly, as he nuzzled her neck and pressed kisses into her hair without attempting anything else, she relaxed against him, her body soft and feminine.

‘I’m hurting my sisters. I hate it. I can feel them all the time now—except Elle. She stays away from me. She doesn’t want to intrude on my privacy. But I feel so horrible because I can’t go back to the other me.’

She leaned into him more, fitting her body closely with his, brushing his groin with her bottom and sending an electrical current racing through his bloodstream. Jonas gritted his teeth and breathed.

‘Can you feel them? The house is filled with grief and sympathy and confusion. I’ve done that, Jonas, and I don’t know how to undo it.’

He brushed kisses over her eyebrow and down along the savage wounds to the corner of her mouth and then to her throat. ‘You didn’t do it, a man with a knife did it. We love each other, all of us, Hannah, and we’ll be stronger when we come out of this. He can’t destroy our family. Your sisters will give you whatever you need to cope with this, and they’ll cope in their own way. They don’t baby you because they think you can’t handle it, they do so because they want to show you love.’

‘Why do I get so upset with them?’

There was desperation in her voice. Jonas shifted her against his chest, so that her head rested on his shoulder and he could wrap both arms around her. ‘Anger is a part of recovery and all of us are here, close to you. Someone hurt you, Hannah, traumatized you, you’re going to be angry one moment and afraid the next. That’s natural and we all expect it.’

‘I don’t—didn’t. I’m ashamed that I can’t stop hurting everyone.’

His hand slid over her hair, tangled in the silky strands.

‘Go to sleep, baby, and let me worry tonight. Your sisters are gathering to aid you. I can feel the surge of power in the house. When you wake up, your wounds won’t be quite so raw and hopefully you’ll feel a little more at peace.’

Hannah allowed her eyes to close as she inhaled, dragging Jonas’s scent into her lungs.

He felt, smelled and tasted so familiar to her. Safe. Strong. So Jonas—and he was right.

She felt the rise of feminine power, strong and sure and loving, all directed toward her.

Tears stung her eyes and wet her lashes. No matter how upset they were, her sisters reached out to her with love and healing.

‘I love being a Drake,’ she whispered.

‘I do, too,’ he answered and brushed another kiss along the nape of her neck.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


not work with dark mode