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Soulmate (Chapter 11)

Hannah stirred.

She vaguely felt that something was wrong, something needed doing. Then she remembered. The car!

She had to stay awake, had to keep the car on the road. . .

Her eyes flew open.

She was already off the road. The Ford had gone roving over the open prairie, where there was almost

nothing to hit except sagebrush and tumble-weeds. It had ended up with its front bumper against a

prickly pear, bending the cactus at an impossible angle.

The night was very quiet. She looked around and found that she could see the light of Chess's house,

behind her and to the left.

The engine was off. Hannah turned the key in the ignition, but only got a grinding sound.

Now what? Should I get out and walk?

She tried to concentrate on her body, to figure out how she felt. She ought to feel terrible-after all, she'd

lost blood and swallowed who knew what kind of poison from Thierry's veins.

But instead she only felt strangely dizzy, slightly dreamy.

I can walk. I'm fine.

Holding on to her length of dowel, she got out of the car and started toward the light. She could hardly

feel the rough ground and the bluestem grass under her feet.

She had gone about a hundred yards toward the light when she heard a wolf howl.

It was such a distinctive sound-and so incongruous. Hannah stopped in her tracks. For a wild moment

she wondered if coyotes howled.

But that was ridiculous. It was a wolf, just like the wolves that had attacked her at Paul's. And she didn't

have anything made of silver.

Just keep walking, she thought. She didn't need the cool wind voice to tell her that.

Even in her lightheaded state, she was frightened. She'd seen the savagery of teeth and claws close up.

And the part of her that was Hana of the Three Rivers had a gut-deep fear of wild animals that the

civilized Hannah Snow could never begin to approach.

She gripped her stick in a clammy palm and kept walking grimly.

The howl sounded again, so close that Hannah jumped inside her skin. Her eyes darted, trying to pick

objects out in the darkness. She felt as if she could see better than usual at night-could the vampire blood

have done that? But even with her new vision, she couldn't spot anything moving. The world around her

was deserted and eerily quiet.

And the stars were very far away. They blazed in the sky with a cold blue light as if to show how distant

they were from human affairs.

I could die here and they'd go right on shining, Hannah thought. She felt very small and very

unimportant-and very alone.

And then she heard a breath drawn behind her.

Funny. The wolf howls had been so loud, and this was so soft… and yet it was much more terrifying. It

was close-intimate. A personal sound that told her she definitely wasn't alone.

Hannah whirled with her stick held ready. Her skin was crawling and she could feel a wash of acid from

her stomach, but she meant to fight for her life. She was at one with the cool wind voice; her heart was

dark and cold and steely.

A tall figure was standing there. Starlight reflected off pale blond hair.

Thierry.

Hannah leveled her stick.

"What's the matter? Come back for more?" she said, and she was pleased to find her voice steady.

Husky, but steady. She waved her stick at him to show what kind of "more" she meant.

"Are you all right?" Thierry said.

He looked-different from the last time she'd seen him. His expression was different. His dark eyes

seemed pensive again, the sort of expression a star might have if it cared about anything that was going

on underneath it. Infinitely remote, but infinitely sad, too.

"Why should you care?" A wave of dizziness went through her. She fought it off-and saw that he was

stepping toward her, hand reaching out. She whipped the stick up to the exact level of his hand, an inch

from his palm. She was impressed with herself for how fast she did it. Her body was moving the way it

had with the werewolves, instinctively and smoothly.

I suppose I had a life as a warrior, she mused. I think that's where the cool wind voice comes from, just

the way the crystal voice comes from Hana of the Three Rivers.

"I do care," Thierry said. His voice said he didn't expect her to believe it.

Hannah laughed. The combination of her dizziness and her body instinct was having an odd effect. She

felt brashly, stupidly overconfident. Maybe this is what drunk feels like, she thought, her mind wandering

again. "Hannah-"

Hannah made the stick whistle in the air, stopping him from coming any closer to her. "Are you crazy?"

she said. There were tears in her eyes. "Do you think that you can just attack me and then come back

and say I'm sorry' and it's all going to be okay? Well, it isn't. If there was ever anything between us, it's all

over now. There is no second chance."

She could see his face tense. A muscle twitched in ~ his tight jaw. But the strangest thing was that she

could have sworn he had tears in his eyes, too.

It infuriated her. How dare he pretend to be hurt by her, after what he'd done?

"I hate you." She spat the words with a force that startled even her. "I don't need you. I don't want

you. And I'm telling you for the third time, keep the hell away from me."

He had opened his mouth as if he were about to say something, but when she got to 'I don't need, you,'

he suddenly shut it. When she finished, he looked away, across the shortgrass prairie.

"And maybe that's best," he said almost inaudibly.

"For you to keep away?"

"For you to hate me." He looked at her again. Hannah had never seen eyes like that before. They were

impossibly distant and shattered and still… like the peace after a war that killed everyone.

"Hannah, I came to tell you that I am going away," he went on. His voice was like his eyes, bloodless

and quenched. "I'm going home. I won't bother you again. And you're right; you don't need me. You can

live a long and happy life without me."

If he expected her to be impressed, she wasn't. She wouldn't believe words from him anymore.

"There's just one thing." He hesitated. "Before I go, would you let me look at you? At your neck. I want

to make sure that"-another fleeting hesitation-"that I didn't hurt you when I attacked you."

Hannah laughed again, a short, sharp bark of a laugh. "How stupid do you think I am? I mean, really."

She laughed again and heard an edge of hysteria in it. "If you want to do something for me, you can turn

around and go. Go away forever."

"I will." There was so much strain on his face. "I promise. I'm just worried about you getting indoors

before you faint."

"I can take care of myself. I don't need any help from you." Hannah was feeling dizzier by the minute, but

she tried not to let it show. "If you would just leave, I'll be fine."

In fact, she knew she wasn't going to be fine. The gray spots were swarming in front of her eyes again.

She was going to pass out soon.

Then I'd better start for Chess's, she thought. It was insanity to turn her back on him, but it was worse

insanity to stand here until she collapsed at his feet.

"I'm leaving now," she said, trying to sound clear and precise and unlike someone who was about to fall

over unconscious. "And I don't want you to follow me."

She turned and started walking.

I will not faint, I will not faint, she told herself grimly. She swung her stick and tried to take deep breaths

of the cool night air. But tufts of grass seemed to be trying to trip her up with every step and the entire

landscape seemed to rock every time she looked up.

I … will… not… faint. She knew her life depended on it. The ground seemed rubbery now, as if her

feet were sinking into it and then rebounding. And where was the light that marked Chess's house? It had

somehow gotten over to the right of her. She corrected her course and stumbled on.

I will not faint….

And then her legs simply melted. She didn't have legs. The rest of her fell slowly toward the ground.

Hannah managed to break her fall with her arms. Then everything was still and dark.

She didn't go out completely. She was floating in darkness, feeling woozy even though she was lying

down, when she sensed someone beside her.

No, she thought. Get the stick. He'll bite you; he'll kill you.

But she couldn't move. Her hand wouldn't obey her.

She felt a gentle hand brush her hair off her face.

No …

Then a touch on her neck. But it was only gentle fingers, running lightly over the skin where she'd been

bitten tonight. They felt like a doctor's fingers, exploring to diagnose. She heard a sigh that sounded like

relief, and then the fingers trailed away.

"You'll be all right." Thierry's voice came to her softly. She realized he didn't think she could hear him.

He thought she was unconscious. "As long as you stay away from vampires for the next week."

Was that a threat? Hannah didn't understand. She braced herself for the piercing pain of teeth.

Then she felt him touch her again, just his fingertips brushing her face. The touch was so immeasurably

gentle. So tender.

No, Hannah thought. She wanted to move, to kick him away. But she couldn't.

And those delicate fingers were moving on, tracing her features one by one. With the lightest of touches

that sent helpless chills through her.

I hate you, Hannah thought.

The touch followed the curve of her eyebrow, trailed down her cheek to her birthmark. Hannah shivered

inwardly. It sketched the line of her jaw, then moved to her lips.

The skin was so sensitive here. Thierry's fingers traced the outline of her lips, the join between upper and

lower. The chills became a fluttering inside Hannah. Her heart swelled with love and longing.

I won't feel this way. I hate you. …

But a voice was whispering in her mind, a voice she hadn't heard in what seemed like a long time. A

crystal voice, soft but ringing.

Feel him. Does this feel like that other one? Sense him. Does he smell the same, sound the same… ?

Hannah didn't know what to make of the words and didn't want to. She just wanted Thierry to stop.

The fingers brushed over her eyelashes, thumb stroking over the fragile skin of her eyelids as if to keep

them shut. Then she felt him bend closer.

No, no, no….

Warm lips touched her forehead. Again, just the barest touch. Then they were gone.

"Goodbye, Hannah," Thierry whispered.

Hannah felt herself lifted. She was being carried in strong gentle arms, moving swiftly and smoothly.

It was harder for her to stay conscious than it had been before. She had a strange feeling of tranquillity,

of security. But she fought to open her eyes just a crack.

She wanted to see his hands. She didn't think there had been enough time for the pencil wound to heal

completely.

If the pencil wound was there.

But her eyes wouldn't open-not until she felt herself being lowered and placed on solid ground. Then she

managed to lift heavy eyelids and dart a glance at his hands.

There were no marks.

The knowledge burned through her-but she didn't have any strength left. She felt her eyes lapsing shut

again. Dimly, very far away, she could hear the faint echo of a doorbell.

Then a soft voice in her head. You don't have to be afraid anymore. I'm going away-and so is she.

Don't go. Wait. I have to talk to you. I have to ask you …

But she could feel cold air all around her and she knew he was gone.

A moment later she heard the door open, and the sound of Chess's mother gasping. She was on the

Clovises' doorstep. People were shaking her, talking to her.

Hannah wasn't interested in any of it. She let the darkness take her.

It was when she let go completely that she began to dream. She was Hana of the Three Rivers and she

was seeing the end of her own life.

She saw the bruised and bloody figure of Thierry rising up to kill his torturers. She felt it as her turn

came. She looked up and saw his savage face, saw the animal light in his eyes. She felt her life flow

away.

Then she saw the end of the story. The glimpse of the corridor through time, the recognition of her

soulmate. The forgiveness and the promise.

And then just shadows. But Hannah slept peacefully in the shadows until morning, unafraid.

The first thing Hannah saw when she woke up was a pair of glowing green cat-eyes looking down at

her.

"How do you feel?" Chess asked.

She was lying in Chess's bed. Sunlight was streaming in the window.

"I … can't tell yet," Hannah said. Disjointed images were floating in her head, not quite forming a whole

picture.

"We found you last night," Chess said. "You ran your dad's car off the road, but you managed to make it

here before you collapsed."

"Oh… yeah. I remember." She did remember; the pieces of the puzzle suddenly clicked together.

Maya. Thierry. The attack. The car. Thierry again. And finally her dream. Her own voice saying, "I

forgive you."

And now he was gone. He'd gone home, wherever home was.

She had never felt so confused.

"Hannah, what happened? Are you sick? We didn't know whether to take you to a hospital last night or

what. But you didn't have a fever and you seemed to be breathing fine-so my mom said you could just

sleep a while."

"I'm not sick." This was the time to tell Chess everything. After all, that was the reason she'd been

running to Chess in the first place last night.

But now… now in the bright morning light, she didn't want to tell Chess. It wasn't just that it might put

Chess in danger, either from Thierry or the Night World in general. It was that Hannah didn't need to talk

about it; she could cope on her own. It wasn't Chess's problem.

And I don't even know the truth yet, Hannah thought. But that is going to change.

"Hannah, are you even listening to me?"

"Yeah. I'm sorry. And I'm okay; I felt kind of dizzy last night, but now I'm better. Can I use your

phone?"

"Can you what?"

"I have to call Paul-you know, the psychologist. I need to see him, fast."

She jumped up, steadied herself against a brief wave of giddiness, and walked past Chess, who was

watching her in bewilderment.

"No," Paul said. "No, it's absolutely out of the question." He waved his hands, then patted his pockets

nervously, coming up empty.

"Paul, please. I have to do this. And if you won't help me, I'll try it on my own. I think self-hypnosis

should work. I've been doing a pretty good job of dreaming the past lately, anyway."

"It's… too… dangerous." Paul said each word separately, then sank into his chair, hands at his

temples. "Don't you remember what happened the last time?"

Hannah felt sorry for him. But she said ruthlessly, "If I do it on my own, it may be even more dangerous.

Right? At least if you hypnotize me you can be there to wake me up. You can throw a glass of water in

my face again."

He looked up sharply. "Oh, yeah? And what if it doesn't work this time?"

Hannah dropped her eyes. Then she raised them and looked at Paul directly. "I don't know," she

admitted quietly. "But I've still got to try. I have to know the truth. If I don't, I really think I may go

insane." She didn't say it melodramatically. It was a simple statement of fact.

Paul groaned. Then he grabbed a pen and started chewing on it, glancing around the room. "What is it

that you would want to know? Just presuming that I agreed to help you." His voice sounded squashed.

Hannah felt a surge of relief. "I want to know about this woman who keeps warning me," she said. "Her

name is Maya. And I want to know how I die in my other lives."

"Oh, terrific. That sounds like fun."

"I have to do it." She took a deep breath. She wouldn't let herself look away from him, even though she

could feel the warmth as her eyes filled. "Look, I know you don't understand. And I can't explain to you

how important it is to me. But it is … important."

There was a silence, then Paul said, "All right. All right. But only because I think it's safer for you to be

with somebody."

Hannah whispered, "Thank you."

Then she blinked and unfolded a piece of paper. "I wrote down some questions for you to ask me."

"Great. Wonderful. I'm sure you'll be getting your degree in psychology soon." But he took the paper.

Hannah walked over to the couch and got herself settled. She shut her eyes, telling her muscles to relax.

"Okay," Paul said. His voice was very slightly unsteady, but Hannah could tell he was trying to make it

soothing. "I want you to imagine a beautiful violet light…"

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