Under Orders(12)

By: Doris O Connor

She yanked on her restraints, blinking furiously to stem the threatening tears from falling. She hadn’t thought about that night in years, the memories too painful to process. Jonathan made a rough sound at the back of his throat when a lone tear did spill down her cheek, and in a few swift tugs he’d untied her arms. Her ankles followed, and he gathered her up against him, his hand in her hair, one arm around her waist, and simply held her.

Cocooned by his big body she felt safe, cherished even, and she buried her face into his shoulder.

“You don’t have to tell me this, little one.” His voice rumbled against her cheek, and she nodded her head.

“Yes, I do. I haven’t told anyone, not even Grand-pops. Dad hit Mum that night. It wasn’t the first time, but this time was the worst. And I wished, I wished with all my heart that he would die. And then the next day, Mummy took me to Grand-pops, and they went on one of their trips, and they never came back.” She choked back a sob, and he tilted her head up. Jonathan kissed the tears off her face with such tenderness it made her cry harder.

“Don’t. It was my fault. I …. I wished him dead, and I killed Mummy, too.”

The menacing growl erupting from him at her stuttered words made her jump. Fear coiled her muscles, and she would have clambered off his lap had he not stopped her.

“Your father’s death is not your fault, little one. He brought that on himself. I should know. I was there.”

He froze as though he realized he’d said too much, and this time when she pushed against his chest he released her.

“What do you mean, you were there?” The words came out as a choked whisper, as a new scenario dawned on her, one too horrifying to contemplate. “You said you hadn’t killed anyone. Was that a lie? God, what have you done? What are you? Who are you really?”

He didn’t look at her, a faint flush creeping across his high cheek bones, and she pummeled his chest in frustration.

“Damn you, answer me.”

“I was under orders, little one. Orders to watch over you. When a slayer as obsessed as your father was procreates, the council has a decision to make. Let that child live or eliminate the future threat to us all.”

He smiled grimly at her sharp intake of breath and caught her still flailing hands in his.

“A watcher is assigned to assess that child. That watcher was me. I’ve been the voice in your ear, the shadow flickering across your consciousness, from the minute you took your first breath, until they day your father killed my entire family.”

“What?” He couldn’t mean what he’d just said. That would mean…

“You heard me, little one. He massacred them all in their sleep. None of them ever harmed a human being in their life. Your mother pleaded with him. He’d left her in the car, and she tried to save my sister. She was the same age as you, and by all accounts, she’d run out of the house. In his rage he killed them both.”

“No.” Anna clamped her hand over her mouth at the inhuman sound she’d just made. But his grim words had woken the monsters inside. Her nightmares weren’t dreams. They were snatches of reality, projected to her, as seen through the eyes of her dying mother.

“I wasn’t there to save them, because I was with you. You saw it all. Woke up screaming, and your grandfather ran in about ready to stake me. When he realized what was happening he made a bargain with me. Erase all your memories and kill the bastard who stole your mother from him.”

He ground his teeth, and the sadness radiating off him broke her heart. Tentatively she touched his cheek, and he shook her off.

“I couldn’t be your watcher after that, not that you needed one anymore. The other part of the deal was to leave you alone. Something I stuck to until you walked into that conference room.” He smiled ruefully and ran a hand through his hair. “Your Grand-pops will stake me for sure this time when he finds out.”

Despite the gravity of the situation Anna laughed, and his eyes narrowed.

“Grand-pops couldn’t stake a plant, let alone you, and besides … I—I … wouldn’t let him.”

“Going to do it yourself, little one?”

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