Bella had some vague thought that she was in a car. Except how was that possible? She must be hallucinating.
No… it really sounded like a car, with that steady hum of an engine. And it felt like a car, a subtle vibration that at times condensed into a bump as something in the road went under the tires.
She tried to open her eyes, found she couldn't, and tried again. As the effort exhausted her, she gave up. God, she was tired… like she had the flu. Ached all over, too, especially at her head and stomach. And she was nauseated. She tried to remember what had happened, how she'd gotten free, if she was free. But all she had was an image of the lesser who loved her coming through the door, covered in black blood. The rest was fog.
Patting her hand around, she found something covering her shoulders and pulled it closer. Leather. And it smelled… not at all like the cloying sweetness of a lesser. It was the scent of a male of her race. She took more breaths in through her nose. When she caught the baby-powder scent of the slayers, she was confused until she pressed her nose into the seat. Yes, in the upholstery. This was a lesser's car. But then why was a male vampire's sweat on what she was wearing? And there was something else, another smell… a dark musk with an evergreen spice.
Bella started to tremble. She remembered the scent well, remembered it from the first time she had gone to the Brotherhood's training compound, remembered it from later, when she had been to their mansion.
Zsadist. Zsadist was in the car with her.
Her heart pounded. She struggled to open her eyes, but either her lids refused to obey or maybe they were already open and it was just too dark for her to see.
Am I rescued? she asked. Did you come for me, Zsadist?
Except no sound came out of her mouth, though she moved her lips. She formed the words again, forcing air through her voice box. A hoarse groan was released, nothing more.
Why weren't her eyes working?
She started to thrash around and then heard the sweetest sound that had ever reached her ears.
"I got you, Bella." Zsadist's voice. Low. Full of strength. "You're safe. You're out of there. And you're never going back."
He had come for her. He had come for her…
She started to sob. The car seemed to slow, but then their speed redoubled.
Her relief was so great, she slid into blackness.
Zsadist kicked open the door to his room, busting the lock mechanism clean off. The crack of sound was loud, and Bella stirred in his arms, moaning. He froze as her head turned from side to side in the crook of his arm.
This was good, he thought. This was very good.
"Come on, Bella, come back to me. Wake up." But she didn't regain consciousness.
He went over to his pallet and laid her down where he slept. When he glanced up, Wrath and Phury were in his doorway, the two huge males blocking out most of the light from the hall.
"She needs to go to Havers's," Wrath said. "She needs to be treated."
"Havers can do what he has to here. She's not leaving this room."
Z ignored the long silence that followed, totally caught up in watching Bella breathe. Her chest was going up and down in a regular pump, but it seemed so shallow.
Phury's sigh was one he'd know anywhere. "Zsadist—"
"Forget it. He'll see her here. And no one is touching her without my permission or my presence." When he glared up at his brothers, Wrath and Phury seemed totally dumbfounded. "For chrissakes, you want me to say it in the Old Language in case you two forgot English? She goes nowhere."
With a curse, Wrath flipped open his cell phone and spoke fast and hard.
When he closed the thing, he said, "Fritz is already in town, and he's going to pick the doctor up. They'll be here in twenty."
Z nodded and looked at Bella's eyelids. He wished he could be the one to take care of what had been done to them. He wanted her to be relieved now. Oh, God… How she must have suffered.
He became aware that Phury had come over, and he didn't like it as the brother knelt down. Z's instinct was to barricade Bella's body with his own, preventing his twin, Wrath, the doctor, any male from seeing her. He didn't understand the impulse, didn't know its origin, but it was so strong he nearly launched himself at Phury's neck.
And then his twin reached out his hand as if to touch her ankle. Z's lips peeled off his fangs, a growl launching out of his mouth.
Phury's head snapped up. "Why are you acting like this?"
She's mine, Z thought.
Except the instant the conviction came to him, he pushed it aside. What the fuck was he doing?
"She's hurt," he muttered. "Just don't mess with her, okay?"
Havers arrived fifteen minutes later. The tall, thin doctor had a black leather suitcase in his hand and looked like he was ready to do his business. But as he came forward, Z sprang up and intercepted the male into the wall. Havers's pale eyes popped wide behind his tortoiseshell glasses, and his case clattered to the floor.
Wrath cursed. "Jesus Christ—"
Z ignored the hands trying to pull him off and pegged the doctor with a glare. "You treat her better than you would your own blood. She suffers one unnecessary flinch and I will take it out of your hide a hundred times over."
Havers's slender body trembled, his mouth working silently.
Phury gave a good pull and got nowhere. "Z, go easy—"
"Stay out of this," he snapped. "We clear. Doctor?"
"Yes… yes, sire." When Z released him, Havers coughed and pulled at his bow tie. Then frowned. "Sire…? You bleed. Your leg—"
"You don't worry about me. You worry about her. Now."
The male nodded, fumbled with his suitcase, and went over to the pallet. As he got down on his knees beside Bella, Z willed lights on in the room.
Havers's harsh inhalation was probably as close to a curse as the refined male could get. Under his breath he murmured in the Old Language, "To do this to a female… merciful Fade."
"Take the stitches out," Z demanded, looming over the physician.
"First the exam. I have to see if there are more serious injuries."
Havers opened up his case and pulled out a stethoscope, a blood-pressure cuff, and a penlight. He checked her heart rate and breathing, looked into her ears and nose, took her BP. When he opened her mouth she winced a little, but then he lifted her head and she began to struggle in earnest.
Just as Zsadist lunged at the doctor, Phury's heavy arm clamped around Z's chest and jerked him back. "He's not hurting her and you know it."
Z fought the hold, hating the sensation of Phury's body against him. But when his twin didn't let up, he knew it was for the best. He was on a hair trigger, and taking out the doctor would be a stupid move. Hell, he probably shouldn't be armed right now.
Phury was obviously thinking along similar lines. He removed Z's daggers from their chest holster and handed them to Wrath. The guns were taken as well.
Havers looked up and seemed greatly relieved that weapons were gone. "I… ah, I'm going to give her some light pain medication. Her respiration and pulse rate are strong enough so she'll handle it fine, and it will make the rest of the examination and what follows easier for her to tolerate. Okay?"
It wasn't until Z nodded that the doctor administered a shot. When the tension in Bella's body eased, the doctor took out a pair of scissors and went to the bottom of the bloodied nightgown she had on.
As he lifted up the hem, Z felt a red rage. "Stop!"
The doctor braced himself for a blow to the head, but all Z did was meet Phury's stare and then Wrath's. "Neither of you is to look at her naked. Close your eyes or turn around."
Both stared at him for a moment. Then Wrath offered his back and Phury lowered his lids, though he kept his hold on Z's chest strong.
Zsadist stared hard at the doctor. "If you're going to remove her clothing, you cover her with something."
"What shall I use?"
"A towel from the bathroom."
"I'll get it," Wrath said. After he handed one over, he resumed his post facing the door.
Havers spread the towel over Bella's body and then cut the nightgown along one side. He glanced up before lifting anything. "I'm going to need to see all of her. And I'm going to have to touch her belly."
"I have to palpate her internal organs to determine whether any are swollen from trauma or infection."
"Make it quick."
Havers pulled the towel aside—
Z swayed against his twin's hard body. "Oh… nalla." His voice cracked. "Oh, sweet Jesus… nalla."
Something was scratched into the skin on her stomach in what looked like three-inch block letters in English. As he was illiterate, he didn't know what it said, but he had a horrible feeling…
"What does it read?" he hissed.
Havers cleared his throat. "It is a name. David. It says 'David.»
Wrath growled. "In her skin? That animal—"
Z cut his king off. "I will kill that lesser. So help me God, I will chew on his bones."
Havers inspected the cuts, his hands light and careful. "You must see that no salt gets anywhere near these. Otherwise the scars will heal as is."
"No shit." As if he didn't have experience with how wounds became permanent.
Havers covered her up and went to her feet, inspecting them and then her calves. He pushed the nightgown out of the way as he went to her knees. Then he moved one of her legs out to the side, parting her thighs.
Z surged forward, dragging Phury with him. "What the fuck are you doing!»
Havers whipped back his hands, holding them up over his head. "I need to perform an internal exam. In the event she has been… violated."
With a quick move, Wrath stepped in front of Z and clamped his arms around Z's waist. Through the sunglasses, the king's stare burned. "Let him do it, Z. It's better for her if he does."
Zsadist couldn't watch. He dropped his head down into Wrath's neck, getting lost in the male's long black hair. The hard bodies of his brothers were sandwiching him, but he was too horrified to panic at the contact. He squeezed his eyes shut and breathed deeply, the scents of Phury and Wrath invading his nose.
He heard a rustling noise, as if the doctor were searching around in that suitcase of his. Then there were two snapping sounds, as though the male were pulling on gloves. A shifting of metal against metal. Some whispering noises. Then… silence. No, not really. Little noises. Then a couple of clicks.
Z reminded himself that all lessers were impotent. But he could just imagine how they made up for the deficiency.
He trembled for her until his teeth chattered.