My Healer (Bewitched and Bewildered Book 3)(2)

By: Alanea Alder

Radek told Levi to manipulate the computer systems so that Penny was officially hers, but they all soon discovered, that forging adoption papers had been the easy part. Penny, when found, had been nearly catatonic for the first six months that she'd lived with her. Rheia had tried to balance the needs of a traumatized child with her career as a doctor at the local hospital. When it became evident that Penny needed more care than she was providing, she took a leave of absence. She used the inheritance she received upon the death of her parents to raise her daughter. It saddened her that her parents would never get to meet Penny, but she believed that, in a way, the money they left her was their way of helping their granddaughter.

"Penny, darlin', why don't you go up to your room and arrange your baby dolls so your uncles can see how well you've learned how to clean?" Rheia suggested. Penny was only four; she didn't want her to hear about the nightmare. Penny looked up at her from Radek's lap and stared at her. Without changing expression, the little girl hopped down and walked towards the stairs.

Shaking her head, Rheia reached out and pulled her in for a tight hug. "I know I treat you like a little girl, but guess what, squirt? You are. Let me protect you for as long as I can, yeah?"

When Penny looked up, her eyes softened and her small arms tightened around Rheia's waist. This was as close as she came to a smile. It wasn't much, but it was a dramatic improvement over how non-responsive she'd been when she had first moved in.

Penny let go and headed up the stairs. When Rheia turned to face the room, the men were trying not to grin. "I know, I know! She acts as precocious and surly as I did when I was a child." She walked in and took the seat next to Radek, surprising her adoptive brothers. She only turned to Radek or Dax when she was feeling scared or threatened. Both men were so imposing that she always felt comforted by their presence. Levi was her go-to movie watching buddy. He knew how she took her coffee and what sweets to bring her for a visit. Marco's specialty was revenge served cold. He was a master at the cat and mouse game. The longer his prey suffered psychologically, the better. His sunny disposition hid a vicious nature. True to his animal, either he was purring or lashing out. Athan, however, did not believe in a long drawn out revenge scheme. He would smile, nod, then go out and happily murder anyone who hurt her. The bond they shared ran deep and she knew, there wasn't much the older vampire wouldn't do for her.

Radek wrapped a beefy arm around her shoulder and pulled her close. "Okay, Pumpkin Dumpling, tell big brother Radek what has you so upset."

She took a long shuddering breath. "It's probably nothing, it's just that I can't seem to shake this nightmare. The bone-numbing terror is as fresh in me now as it was in my dream. I can't stop shaking." She held up her trembling hand.

"What happened in the dream?" Levi asked, concern on his face.

"I'm here in the family room, pacing. It's as if I know something bad is going to happen. Suddenly the front door is kicked in and these savage looking men run in. One of the men approaches me, smiling; I can tell he's insane. Just as he raises a knife I hear a man's voice shout and then..." she trailed off.

Radek started to rub up and down on her arm. "I'll tell you what pumpkin, we'll check all the windows and the doors before we leave. I also have a kick bar in my trunk that you can use on the front door to prevent it from being kicked in. Next week we'll install an alarm system that will not only immediately alert the police, but will also page out to us. Does that make you feel better?"

She took a deep breath and nodded. "I think so." She looked around the room and the men were smiling at her. She knew they would do anything to make her feel safe in her childhood home. She'd been their adopted little sister for over twenty years now. She got the feeling, that even when she was old and grey they would still treat her like a child.

She stood and walked over to stand between the family room and the kitchen. "Let me put a frozen lasagna in the oven, though I don't know if I'll be able to stand the smell. In my nightmare, the attackers smelled like rotten cheese, I woke up gagging." Swallowing hard at the memory, she turned to head into the kitchen when suddenly, Athan's hand grabbed her upper arm. When she looked up, his eyes looked a bit wild.

"What did you say about how they smelled?" His tone was serious. She looked around at the other men, they all looked worried.

"They smelled like death and old cheese. It was disgusting. Why?"

Athan pulled her into his arms. She turned her head to see the men were already moving. Levi's hands were glowing as he spoke low. From the Latin she'd learned in med school, he was asking for protection. In all the years they had spent together, he'd never once cast a spell in front of her. Dax left the room and went out the front door.