The flight home was so tense that by the time it ended even easygoing Edgar was on edge. The travelers barely dared look at one another as they hoisted their packs and made their way to the waiting shuttle, and then home. Connor sat as far from Madison as he could, ignoring her soft sobbing and Caprice's reproachfulness. He was so angry he couldn't see straight.
His phone started ringing the minute he stepped off the shuttle. He flipped it open, squinting into the midday sun.
"Connor," Cecily sobbed, "thank God you're home. Come to the hospital right away. It's Charles."
"What happened?" He was already on his way to the car, ignoring everyone, tossing his things in the passenger seat and backing out of the driveway.
"Jack," she said. "Oh, Connor, it's all my fault."
Flashes of his dream--Charles, bloody and broken--nearly made him drive off the road. "Is he OK?"
"They don't know," she whispered. "They don't know if he's going to--oh, God."
"On my way," he said. "I need both hands, all right? I'll be there in a few minutes."
All he heard was a sob as she hung up the phone.
What the hell? Had his dream been prophetic? He pushed those thoughts roughly aside. One thing at a time. Cecily needed him. Charles needed him. With one hand he dialed a number.
"Aunt Lorelei, I need you," he said. "At the hospital. You and the Coven. Now."
"We'll be there," she promised, and hung up the phone.
Tires squealing, he pulled into the turnaround in front of the hospital and leapt out of the car.
"Sir, you can't park--" said a teenaged valet.
"Tow me." He strode into the hospital emergency room. Cecily, her face looking battered and bruised, rose to her feet. Jack's going to die for her bruises alone,
he thought as he enfolded her in his arms and let her sob.
"Cecily, tell me what happened," he said after half an hour of letting her cry. She was quieter now, leaning against him.
"Ch-Charles and I were on a date at the Campus Coffee Shop, you know, the Japanese place, and as we were leaving Jack showed up," she said, shivering. "He said . . . he said I was his and if he couldn't have me no one could. He wouldn't let us pass. So Charles hit him.
"Oh, Connor," she wailed. "That was the only hit Charles got in. Jack almost killed him and when I tried to stop him he hit me too. That's when Diego saved us."
"The vampire I told you about. The decent one. He drove up on his motorcycle and threw Jack against the building so hard I heard something crack. He dialed 911 and took off with him before the ambulance got there."
"How is Charles?"
"They're operating. We got here just a few hours ago. He--oh, God."
"Shhh, it's OK, you don't have to tell me any more." He held her, pulling her into his lap like she was five and rocking her back and forth. "Shhh, honey, it's OK."
"It's all my f-fault."
"No. It's not." He pushed her away so he could look into her face. "It's Jack's. You got that? Jack's alone." And he's going to pay for this with his worthless unlife.
She nodded and snuggled into him and he held her until he felt her body relax and knew she was asleep. His arm was numb from her weight but he let her stay where she was, sleeping and drooling onto his shirt.
If Charles died -- he didn't let himself finish that thought. He felt amazingly numb and that allowed him to stay calm. If he thought about the situation too hard he could not be accountable for his actions. So he stayed purposely out of focus, holding his sister, until the Coven arrived.Next Chapter