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Soulmate (Chapter 7)

It was like being struck by lightning. Hannah felt the current through her body, but it was her mind that

was most affected.

I know you! It was as if she had been standing in a dark landscape, lost and blind, when suddenly a

brilliant flash illuminated everything, allowing her to see farther than she'd ever seen before. She was

trembling violently, pitching forward even as he fell toward her. Electricity was running through every

nerve in her body and she was shaking and shaking, overcome by waves of the purest emotion she'd

ever felt.

Fury.

"You were supposed to be there!" She got out in a choked gasp. "Where were you?"

You were supposed to be with me-for so long! You're part of me, the part I've always vaguely missed.

You were supposed to be around, helping

out, picking me up when I fell down. Watching my back, listening to my stories. Understanding things

that I wouldn't want to tell other people. Loving me when I'm stupid. Giving me something to take care of

and be good to, the way the Goddess meant women to do.

Hannah-

It was the closest thing to a mental gasp Hannah could imagine, and with it she realized that somehow

they were directly connected now. He could hear her thoughts, just as she could hear his.

Good! she thought, not wasting time to marvel over this. Her mind was raging on.

You were my flying companion! My playmate! You were my other half of the mysteries! We were

supposed to be sacred to each other-and you haven't been there!

This last thought she sent squarely toward him. And she felt it hit him, and felt his reaction.

"I've tried!"

He was horrified… guilt-stricken. But then, Hannah could sense that this was pretty much the usual

state for him, so it didn't affect him quite as much as it might have someone else. And beneath the horror

was an astonishment and burgeoning joy that sent a different kind of tingle through her.

"You do know me, don't you?" he said quietly. He pushed her back to look at her, as if he still couldn't

believe it. "You remember… Hannah, how much do you remember?"

Hannah was looking at him, studying him…. Yes, I know that bone structure. And the eyes, especially

the eyes. It was like an adopted child discovering a brother or sister and seeing familiar features in an

unfamiliar face, tracing each one with wonder and recognition.

"I remember… that we were meant for each other. That we're"-she came up with the word slowly-'

'soulmates.''

"Yes," he whispered. Awe was softening his features, changing his eyes. The desperate sadness that

seemed so much a part of them was lightening. "Soulmates. We were destined for each other. We should

have been together down the ages."

They were supporting each other now, Hannah kneeling on the porch and Thierry holding her with one

knee on a step. Their faces were inches apart. Hannah found herself watching his mouth.

"So what happened?" she whispered.

In the same tone, without moving back, he whispered, "I screwed up."

"Oh."

Her initial fury had faded. She could feel him, feel his emotions, sense his thoughts. He was as anguished

at their separation as she was. He wanted her. He loved her… adored her. He thought of her the way

poets think of the moon and the stars-in ridiculous hyperbole. He actually saw her surrounded by a sort

of silvery halo.

Which was completely silly, but if he wanted to think of her that way-well, Hannah wouldn't object. It

made her want to be very gentle with him.

And right now she could feel his warm breath. If she leaned forward just an inch her top lip would touch

his bottom lip.

Hannah leaned forward.

"Wait-" he said.

That was a mistake, saying it out loud. It moved

his lips against hers, turning it from a touch into a kiss.

And then, for a while, neither of them could resist. They needed each other so desperately, and the kiss

was warm and sweet. Hannah was flooded with love and comfort and joy.

This was meant to be.

Hannah was dizzy but still capable of thought. I knew life had something wonderful and mysterious to

give me. Something I could sense but not see, something that was always just out of reach.

And here it is. I'm one of the lucky ones-I've found it.

Thierry wasn't as articulate. All she could hear him think was, Yes.

Hannah had never been so filled with gratitude. Love spilled from her and into Thierry and back again.

The more she gave, the more she got back. It was a cycle, taking them higher and higher.

Like flying, Hannah thought. She wasn't dizzy anymore. She was strangely dear and calm, as if she were

standing on a mountaintop. Infinite tenderness … infinite belonging. It was so good it hurt.

And it made her want to give more.

She knew what she wanted. It was what she'd tried to give him the first time, when she knew he would

die without her. She'd wanted to give him what all women could give.

Life.

She was only a girl now, not ready for the responsibilities that would come with making new life from her

body. But she could give Thierry life another way.

She pulled back to look at him, to see bruised dark

eyes filled with aching tenderness. Then she touched his mouth with her fingertips.

He kissed them. Hannah ignored the kiss and poked a finger in.

Shock flared in Thierry's eyes.

There. That was it. The long canine tooth, just barely sharp. Not yet the tooth of a predator, of a fox or

a lynx or wolf. She ran her finger against it.

The shock turned to something else. A glazed look. Need mixed with pure terror.

Thierry whispered, "Don't-Hannah, please. You don't know-"

Hannah tested the tip of the tooth with her thumb. Yes, it was sharper now. Longer, more delicate. It

would look like the tooth of an arctic fox in her palm-milky-white, translucent, elegantly curved.

Thierry's chest was heaving. "Please stop. I-I can't-"

Hannah was enthralled. I don't know why people are afraid of vampires, she thought. A human could

tease or torture a vampire this way, driving him insane-if she were cruel.

Or she could choose to be kind.

Very gently, Hannah reached with her other hand. She touched the back of Thierry's neck, bringing just

the slightest pressure to bear. But he was so obedient to her touch-it was easy to guide his mouth to her

throat.

Hannah…

She could feel him trembling.

Don't be afraid, she told him silently. And she pulled him closer.

He grabbed her shoulders to push her away-and then just hung on. Clinging desperately, helplessly.

Kissing her neck over and over. She felt his control break… and then felt the sharpness of teeth.

It wasn't like pain. It was like the tenderness, a hurting that was good.

And then… devastating bliss.

Not a physical feeling. It was emotional. They were completely together, and light poured through them.

How many lives together have we missed? How many times have I had to say, Maybe in the next life?

How did we ever manage to come apart?

It was as if her question went searching through both their minds, soaring and diving, looking for an

answer on its own. And Thierry didn't put up any resistance. She knew that he couldn't; he was as caught

up as she was in what was happening between them, as overwhelmed.

There was nothing to stop her from finding the answer.

This revelation didn't come all in one blinding illumination. Instead it came in small flashes, each almost

too brief to understand.

Flash. Thierry's face above her. Not the gentle face she had seen by the porch. A savage face with an

animal light in the eyes. A snarling mouth … and teeth red with blood.

No …

Flash. Pain. Teeth that tore her throat. The feel of her blood spilling warm over her neck. Darkness

coming.

Oh, God, no…

Flash. A different face. A woman with black hair and eyes full of concern. "Don't you know? He's evil.

How many times does he have to kill you before you realize that?"

No, no, no, no…

But saying no didn't change anything.

It was the truth. She was seeing her own memories-seeing things that had really happened. She knew

that.

He'd killed her.

Hannah, no-

It was a cry of anguish. Hannah wrenched herself away. She could see the shock in Thierry's eyes, she

could feel him shaking.

"You really did it," she whispered.

"Hannah-"

"That's why you woke me up from the hypnosis! You didn't want me to remember! You knew I'd find

out the truth!" Hannah was beside herself with grief and anger. If she hadn't trusted him, if everything

hadn't been so perfect, she wouldn't have felt so betrayed. As it was, it was the greatest betrayal of her

life-of all her lives.

It had all been a lie-everything she'd just been feeling. The togetherness, the love, the joy … all false.

"Hannah, that wasn't the reason…."

"You're evil! You're a killer!" She told me, Hannah thought. The woman with black hair; she told me the

truth. Why didn't I remember her? Why didn't I listen this time?

She could remember other things now, other things the woman had said. "He's unbelievably cunning…

he'll try to trick you. He'll try to use mind control …"

Mind control. Influencing her. He'd admitted that.

And what she'd been feeling tonight was some sort of trick. He'd managed to play on her emotions …

God, he'd even gotten her to offer him her blood. She'd let him bite her, drink from her like some

parasite….

"I hate you," she whispered.

She saw how that hurt him; he flinched and looked away, stricken. Then he gripped her shoulders again,

his voice soft. "Hannah, I wanted to explain

to you. Please. You don't understand everything …"

"Yes, I do! I do! I remember everything! And I understand what you really are." Her voice was as quiet

as his, but much more intense. She shrugged

her shoulders and shifted backward to get away from him. She didn't want to feel his hands on her.

He looked jolted. Unbelieving. "You remember . .. everything?"

"Everything." Hannah was proud and cold now. "So you can just go away, because whatever you've got

planned won't work. Whatever-tricks-you were going to use…" She shook her head. "Just go."

For just a second, a strange expression crossed Thierry's face. An expression so tragic and lonely that

Hannah's throat closed.

But she couldn't let herself soften. She couldn't give him a chance to trick her again.

"Just stay away from me," she said. With all the confusion and turmoil inside her, that was the only thing

she could keep clear in her mind. "I never want to see you again."

He had gotten control of himself. He looked shell-shocked but his eyes were steady. "I've never wanted

to hurt you," he said quietly. "And all I want to do

now is protect you. But if that's what you want, I'll go away."

How could he claim he'd never wanted to hurt her? Didn't killing her count? "That is what I want. And I

don't need your protection." "You have it anyway," he said. And then he moved, faster than she could

ever hope to move, almost faster than thought. In an instant, he was close to her. His fingers touched her

left cheek, light as a moth's wings. And then he was taking her hand, slipping something on her finger.

"Wear this," he said, no louder than a breath. "It has spells to protect you. And even without the spells,

there aren't many Night People who'll harm you if they see it."

Hannah opened her mouth to say she wasn't afraid of any Night People except him, but he was still

speaking. "Try not to go out alone, especially at night."

And then he was gone.

Like that. He was off her porch and out somewhere in the darkness, not even a shadow, just gone. If

she hadn't had a fleeting impression of movement toward the prairie, she would have thought he had the

ability to become invisible at a moment's notice. And her heart was pounding, hurting, filling her throat so

she couldn't breathe.

Why had he touched her cheek? Most people didn't touch the birthmark; they treated it like a bruise that

might still hurt. But his fingers hadn't avoided it. The caress had been gentle, almost sad, but not

frightened.

And why was she still standing here, staring into the darkness as if she expected him to reappear?

Go inside, idiot.

Hannah turned and fumbled with the back door, pulling at the knob as if she'd never opened it before.

She shut the door and locked it, and again she found' herself as clumsy as if she'd never worked a lock

or seen this one in her life.

She was beyond screaming or crying, in a state of shock that was almost dreamlike. The house was too

bright. The dock on the kitchen wall was too loud. She had the distracted feeling that it wasn't either night

or daytime.

It was like coming out of a theater and being surprised to find that it's still light outside. She felt that this

couldn't be the same house she'd left an hour ago. She wasn't the same person who had left. Everything

around her seemed like some carefully staged movie set that was supposed to be real, but wasn't, and

only she could tell the difference.

I feel like a stranger here, she thought, putting one hand to her neck where she could just detect two little

puncture marks. Oh, God, how am I ever going to know what's real again?

But I should be happy; I should be grateful. I probably just saved my own life out there. I was alone with

a vicious, evil, murderous monster, and…

Somehow the thought died away. She couldn't be happy and she didn't want to think about how evil

Thierry was. She felt hollow and aching.

It wasn't until she stumbled into her own bedroom that she remembered to look down at her right hand.

On the fourth finger was a ring. It was made of gold and either white gold or silver. It was shaped like a

rose, with the stem twining around the finger and back on itself in an intricate knot. The blossom

was inset with tiny stones-black transparent stones. Black diamonds? Hannah wondered.

It was beautiful. The craftsmanship was exquisite. Every delicate leaf and tiny thorn was perfect. But a

black flower?

It's a symbol of the Night World, her mind told her. A symbol of people who've been made into

vampires.

It was the cool wind voice back again. At least she understood what it was saying this time-the last time,

when it had given her advice about silver and wolves, she had been completely confused.

Thierry wanted her to wear the ring; he claimed it would protect her. But knowing him, it was probably

another trick. If it had any spells on it, they were probably spells to help him control her mind.

It took nearly an hour to get the ring off. Hannah used soap and butter and Vaseline, pulling and twisting

until her finger was red, aching, and swollen. She used a dental pick from her fossil-collecting kit to try to

pry the coils of the stem apart. Nothing worked, until at last the pick slipped and blood welled up from a

shallow cut. When the blood touched the ring it seemed to loosen, and Hannah quickly wrenched it off.

Then she stood panting. The struggle with the little band of metal had left her exhausted and unable to

focus on anything else. She threw the ring in her bedroom wastebasket and stumbled toward bed.

I'm tired… I'm so tired. I'll think about everything tomorrow, try to sort out my life. But for now…

please just let me sleep.

She could feel her body vibrating with adrenaline after she lay in bed, and she was afraid that sleep

wouldn't come. But tense as she was, her mind was

too foggy to stay awake. She turned over once and let go of consciousness. Hannah Snow fell asleep.

Hana of the Three Rivers opened her eyes. Cold and desolate, Hana stood by the rushing river and felt

the wind blow through her. So alone.

That was when Arno burst out of the bushes on the riverbank.

There were several hunters with him and they all had spears. They charged after the stranger at full

speed. Hana screamed a warning, but she knew he didn't have a chance.

She could hear a few minutes of chaos far away in the dark. And then she saw the stranger being driven

back, surrounded by Arno's hunters.

"Arno-don't hurt him! Please!" Hana was speaking desperately, trying to block the men's way back.

"Don't you see? He could have hurt me and he didn't. He isn't a demon! He can't help being the way he

is!"

Arno shouldered her aside. "Don't think you're going to get away without being punished, either." Hana

followed them up to the cave, her stomach churning with fear.

By the time everyone who'd been awakened by Arno's hunters understood what was happening, the sky

outside had turned gray. It was almost dawn.

"You said we should wait and see if the Earth Goddess would tell you something about the demon while

you slept," Arno said to Old Mother. "Has she?" Old Mother glanced at Hana sorrowfully, then back

at Arno. She shook her head. Then she started to speak, but Arno was already talking loudly.

"Then let's kill him and get it over with. Take him outside."

"No!" Hana screamed. It didn't do any good. She was caught and held back in strong hands. The

stranger gave her one look as he was driven outside in a circle of spears.

That was when the real horror began.

Because of something that Hana had never imagined, something she was sure even the shamans had

never heard of.

The stranger was a creature that wouldn't die.

Arno was the first to jab with his spear. The whitish-gray flint spearhead went into the stranger's side,

drawing blood. Hana saw it; she had run out of the cave, still trying to find a way to stop this.

She also saw the blood stop flowing as the wound in the boy's side closed.

There were gasps from all around her. Arno, looking as if he couldn't believe his eyes, jabbed again.

And watched, mouth falling open, as the second wound bled and then closed. He kept trying. Only the

wounds where a spear was driven into the wooden shaft stayed open.

One of the women whispered, "He is a demon."

Everyone was frightened. But nobody moved away from "the stranger. He was too dangerous to let go.

And there were lots of them, and only one of him.

Hana saw something happening in the faces of her clan. Something new and horrible. Fear of the

unknown was changing them, making them cruel. They were turning from basically good people, people

who would never torture an animal by prolonging its death, into people who would torture a man.

"He may be a demon, but he still bleeds," one of the hunters said breathlessly, after a jab. "He feels

pain.",

"Get a torch," somebody else said. "See if he burns!"

And then it was terrible. Hana felt as if she were in the middle of a storm, able to see things but buffeted

this way and that, unable to do anything about it. People were running. People were getting torches,

stone axes, different kinds of flint knives. The dam had turned into a huge entity feeding off its own

violence. It was mindless and unstoppable.

Hana cast a desperate look toward the cave, where Old Mother lay confined to her pallet. There was

no help from that direction.

People were screaming, burning the stranger, throwing stones at him. The stranger was falling, bloody,

smoke rising from his burns. He was lying on the ground, unable to fight back. But still, he didn't die. He

kept trying to crawl away.

Hana was screaming herself, screaming and crying, beating at the shoulders of a hunter who pulled her

back. And it went on and on. Even the young boys were brave enough now to run forward and throw

stones at the stranger.

And he still wouldn't die.

Hana was in a nightmare. Her throat was raw from screaming. Her vision was going gray. She couldn't

stand to watch this anymore; she couldn't stand the smell of blood and burning flesh or the sound of

blows. But there was nowhere to go. There was no way to get out. This was her life. She had to stay

here and go insane….

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