Chapter 19

Ian's Story

Ian led me out into the foyer and up the stairs, my hand tucked securely into his and me trailing slightly behind him. When he entered his bedroom, he stopped so suddenly that I crashed into the back of him.

"Ian?" I questioned, slightly annoyed by his sudden and unexplained halt.

"Oh," he whooshed, turning to face me and blocking my entrance to the room. I could see my backpack sitting on the bed already. He must have brought it up during his sweep of the house earlier. "Becca," he began awkwardly, "I'm just now realizing that I may have been a bit presumptuous earlier. I…I didn't really ask you…if you wanted to stay…with…um…with…me." He was looking anywhere but at me and he seemed inordinately nervous for some reason. I looked at him questioningly. I had practically begged him to let me stay with him earlier. "I mean, of course you can have your own room, if you want." Realization began to dawn on me and I smiled. "I have lots of them. More than enough. I didn't mean to assume that you would want to-" I cut him off with my hand over his lips.

"I'd love to stay here with you," I said bluntly, smiling at his shyness. I'm sure I was showing off another character flaw, but when Ian was unsure, I just felt so much more confident. I felt more like his equal. Ian trying to please me was even more endearing.

His smile spread beneath my fingers before he playfully kissed my fingertips.

"Good," he sighed. "I had hoped so, but I wasn't sure, after…" He trailed off, the reminder of my conversation with Lisa hanging unspoken between us.

"Yeah, well," I began, wrapping my arms around his waist and snuggling against him. "I've never let Lisa McAllister make my decisions for me before, why start now?" I smiled and hugged him tightly before I shoved him playfully further into the room.

Suddenly, Ian spun and grabbed me, tossing me lightly in the air once before sending me flying to the bed. I was caught off guard and screamed half in terror, half in thrill. I bounced in the center of the massive mattress and then collapsed, giggling, onto the mounds of fluffy pillows. I sighed deeply as the tension from earlier began to release its grip on my nerves. Ian slid gracefully onto the bed beside me and I automatically curled into him, pillowing my head on his chest. We were both silent for a moment, collecting our thoughts, and the thought occurred to me, again, how very silent Ian could be. Not even the thud of a heartbeat would betray his existence. I found the idea somewhat chilling and immediately shifted my head closer to his shoulder, away from the uncomfortable reminder of just how different we really were. He sighed, as if he understood my uneasiness.

"You sure you want to hear this?" he asked softly.

"Mmm hmm," I murmured, unsure of how steady my voice would be if I actually tried to speak.

Ian began to talk, hesitatingly at first, then with more confidence as I didn't pull away. He told a story that was full of youthful innocence, seduction, betrayal, and bitter revelations. His "maker" or "sire" or whatever the hell the politically correct term was for the monster that preyed on him that night, had found him in the local pub, celebrating the engagement of his best friend to the prettiest girl in the county. (Ian made it very clear that he was speaking on behalf of Rory, who was sure as sunrise that Kate was just that.) The parasite, whose name I learned was Amaia, had sent several rounds to his group of friends before finally approaching. She had flirted mercilessly with the besotted fool (again, his words, not mine) until he had finally abandoned his friends, and his mind (that one's all me) for the hussy in a low cut bodice and crystal blue eyes.

She had swept him away in her coach where she had skillfully seduced him before attacking. He "said" he didn't remember much of that night. I wondered if he meant it or if he was just sheltering me again from unpleasant details. I pushed up onto my elbow so that I could look him in the eye, a dangerous proposition, but I needed to make sure that he was keeping his promise to be honest with me. I wasn't entirely satisfied, mostly because I knew just how damned convincing he could be when he wanted to. Finally, I had to accept that he really didn't remember much, and I was disappointed in myself to find that I had some satisfaction in that fact.

"How long were you with her?" I asked softly, hesitant to disturb the sanctity of the confessional atmosphere.

"Quarter of a century, give or take." He said the words almost casually, as if it was irrelevant, but there was a heaviness to his voice that wasn't usually there. Those years had clearly marked him and he still carried their weight.

"Why did you leave her?" I asked, laying my head back on his shoulder, uncomfortable with the intensity of the moment.

"Because she tried to kill me." I was caught off guard by the bluntness of the statement. Surely, I thought, surely he mustn't mean that. I stared at him, dumbstruck, my mouth gaping open like a fish gasping for breath and unable to process the foreign element of air.

"Ian!" I gasped in horror. "What happened?"

"Shh," he soothed, brushing his fingers through my hair the way a parent does with a frightened child. "I'm fine, it was a long time ago, and I don't die that easily."

"What happened?" I demanded, propping myself up again so that I could watch his face as he talked.

"We quarreled. It came to blows. She tried to put an arrow through my heart. She missed." He shrugged his shoulder casually. He was so cool, so calm and dismissive of the whole event. It was as if it had happened to a completely different person.

"What did you do?" I asked the question, and then immediately regretted it when I saw the cynical smile that stretched his features but didn't quite reach his eyes.
"I set her bed on fire," he answered. His eyes were unaffected by the smile, but they were lit by an icy passion that burned deep in their depths. I felt a shiver of fear tingle down my spine as I lay there, wrapped in the arms of a man I hardly knew, a man who could so calmly discuss attempted murder and arson in such an off-handed manner. A man who could blithely dismiss an attempt to end his life as well as his own bitter retribution.

"You see, Becca," he continued in a calm, conversational tone. "Some people think we're evil, that we have no souls." I shuddered as his words reminded me of my own doubts from earlier. "In this case, those stereotypes are entirely correct. She is evil. She has no soul. When I saw how quickly, how callously she could turn on me, abandon me, destroy me-the creature she had created, that she said she loved-" the word curled his lip in derision. "When I saw how little any creature meant to her, I realized that if there were ever a way for me to atone for my own sins, to better the world even a little, it would be to remove her from it." He met my gaze and I struggled to calm my breathing, to will my pulse into a normal rhythm. "I have to kill her," he finished.

"Why didn't you?" I asked, almost choking on the words.

"I wasn't strong enough. She's much older than I am, much more powerful. But someday, I'll find a way to wipe her existence from the world, to blot out some small part of the stain I have been on humanity. I'll make the world safer for you. I swear it." The last was a vow, vehemently spoken, and I honestly didn't want to hold him to that one. I found an angry Ian frightening, but a vengeful Ian, a wrathful Ian…I didn't have a word to say what kind of fear that instilled in me.

"Ian," I whispered. "Ian, you're scaring me. I don't like this, I don't want this." I could feel panic and a sheen of despair creeping into my voice. Why did everything have to be must, and will, and fate, and destiny? I just wanted to live, to have my family together, to laugh and love, and make stupid mistakes and someday-someday- have a family of my own. I didn't want any part of a blood feud. I didn't want to be at the center of a mystical prophecy that might save the man I loved, or could possibly damn us both to hell. I wanted life to be simple again, when my biggest fear was whether or not I would pass Geometry.

"I know," he whispered, and his voice was husky with regret. "Becca, I'm so sorry that I've brought all of this to you. You don't deserve to have this laid at your doorstep, and if I could make it go away…if, by taking myself out of your life, I could somehow give you back your old life, I would do it in a heartbeat." His hands were cupping my face, keeping me from turning away from the painful sincerity in his eyes. "But I can't, and leaving you now would only endanger you and your loved ones even more. She's back because of me -because of me- and I will have to deal with her at some point. I promise, I swear I'll keep you safe. I won't let her near you." He was so sure, so earnest, so very very Ian that I didn't have the heart to tell him that what I was really afraid of was him. Of what I felt for him and how vulnerable that made me feel. Of what he might be capable of. Of whether or not I'd be able to walk away if it came down to it. How much would I risk for him? My life was already forfeit a dozen times. My family? Look what had already happened to Jenna because of me. Who else would be hurt because of my love- no, my selfish obsession with Ian?

I closed my eyes to hide my fears, my distrust, from his all-too-perceptive gaze, and forced a weak smile to the surface.

"I know," I sighed. "I don't blame you," I reassured him, and it was true enough. I could no more blame Ian for what was happening than I could blame the sun for my sunburn or the wind for frostbite. It was my own emotional recklessness that was responsible for where I was now: squarely pinned between heaven and hell.

"Have you changed your mind about staying?" he asked softly. "It's not too late to call Janie." I took a steadying breath and looked up to answer him, but he wouldn't return my gaze. I smiled gently. Ian was a complete contradiction. Confident, but unsure. Arrogant, but hesitating. Bossy, but thoughtful in the most surprising ways. Was I being unreasonable to expect him to still be innocent and optimistic and forgiving after all that he had been through, all that he'd seen in his life? Was I expecting more of him than I would expect of any normal human being? Was I being unfair? Softly, gently, I reached up to cup his cheek in my palm, my thumb tracing along his cheekbone.

"I still want to stay," I answered, and I pushed myself up to press my lips to his. He had trusted me with the all of the ugly details that I had insisted I wanted. He had done as I asked. I wouldn't betray him now by running away when things got uncomfortable. "I'm not going anywhere," I promised.