“Yeah, of course not,” I said. In the back of my mind I wondered if Ezra would count Bobby as back up.
“Search all you want, but if you get close, call me.” His dark eyes never left mine, and the severe expression on his face made me too nervous to do anything but nod. “You cannot take him on your own. He is a vampire without a conscience, and we have no idea what his motivations are. That makes him a very dangerous adversary.”
“I understand,” I nodded. When he looked away and his hand loosened on my leg, I let out a deep breath.
“I shouldn’t even have looked this up for you.” He leaned back in his chair, his head resting on the back, and he swiveled the chair slow from side to side.
“Why did you?” I asked. “I mean, thank you. I appreciate it. But I didn’t think you would.”
“I don’t know.” He fell silent for minute. “I wanted a reason to be away from here, and helping you on your goose chase seemed like a viable option.”
“Oh.” I realized I hadn’t talked to him that much lately, and not at all since Mae came back. “How are you holding up with everything?”
“I’ve been through worse.” He smirked, but it didn’t hide the pain in his eyes. He must’ve known that because he turned and faced the monitor.
“Have you talked to her since the first night she got here?” I asked, and Ezra shook his head. “Why not?”
“Alice, you know why not,” he sighed. To avoid the conversation, he began clicking things on the computer, zooming in and out on the dragon brand on the girl’s arm. “I didn’t have anything to say to her while she was gone, and I don’t have anything to say to her now.”
“She’s your wife, Ezra.”
“I am fully aware of who she is.” His words were clipped, and when the mouse didn’t move the way he wanted, he slammed it on the desk. “Damn thing is never working.”
“Don’t take it out on the computer because you’re mad at her,” I said.
“I’m not mad at her. Right now, I’m rather annoyed with this conversation.” He glanced over at me, but I wouldn’t be deterred.
“Why don’t you go with her?”
“And live in a sewer?” Ezra scoffed. “No. She and the child can live happily after like a sewer rat. They don’t need me.”
“Don’t get bitter.” I wanted to reach out and touch his shoulder, but I wasn’t sure how he’d react. “I get you’re angry and hurt and sad and you still love her, but… don’t get bitter over this.”
His shoulders slacked a bit, and his expression softened. Turning his head toward me, he didn’t lift his head or look at me.
“I wasn’t lying, Alice. I have been through worse, and I’ll make it through this. I appreciate your concern, though.”
Ezra had gone back to staring at the computer screen, so the conversation seemed to be over. I thought of telling him about the vampire hunters we’d run into at the blood bank, but he didn’t need to worry about that now. The drawn look on his face let me know he already had too much on his mind.
I’d made it over to the door and opened it when he stopped me.
“Alice, remember what I said. Don’t go this alone.”
“I won’t.” I smiled, and even I wasn’t sure if I was lying.
Jack stood in front of the full-length mirror, holding his tee shirt bunched up in his hands. With his back to the mirror, he kept twisting and turning, trying to get a good view of his back. After watching him for a few seconds from the hallway, I went into our bedroom.
“What are you doing?”
“Something hurts.” He craned his neck around, stretching it so far it looked uncomfortable. “In my lower back. But I can’t see what.”
“What do you mean something hurts?” I walked over to him. Vampires feel pain, but it usually only lasts a few seconds, unless it’s a major injury that takes a long time to heal, or we’re really low on blood, which slows the healing time.
“I don’t know. But it hurts.” He kept moving around, so I put my hand on his back.
“Stop. Let me look.”
When he finally quit moving, I saw it. In his lower back, just above the waistband of his pants, he had a large bump. A wooden splinter from the broken chair downstairs had gotten lodged in his smooth muscles, and it looked angled like it was digging in is spine. Only a bit of the end was sticking out, but I grabbed it with my fingers and yanked it out.
“Ow!” Jack winced. I held the splinter up to him. It was about half an inch thick and three inches long. “That was in my back?”
“That sucks.” He inspected it for a minute, then set it down the dresser behind him. When he started pulling on his shirt, I stopped him.
“What are you doing putting on your shirt?”
“What are you doing?” Jack grinned, raising an eyebrow.
“I don’t know. After I saw the way my kid brother whooped you tonight, I thought I’d see if you wanted to try your luck against me.”
“Sorry. I can’t fight you.” He bit his lip when he smiled, his blue eyes appraising me.
“Cause you know I’ll win?”
“I don’t hit girls.” Jack shrugged helplessly.
“That’s probably a good policy.” I stepped towards him, and he laughed. “Too bad that won’t stop me.”
I put my hands on his chest. He reached up to wrap his arms around me, but I pushed him back. Not hard, but he stumbled back and fell onto the bed. I climbed on top of him, straddling him between my legs, and he put one hand on my hips. My hair fell into my face, and using his other hand, he tucked it behind my ears.
“What’s all this then?” Jack asked, smiling up at me.
“I don’t know. I feel like I haven’t seen you much lately.”
“You haven’t,” he agreed. “You’re gone all the time.” He tilted his head, his expression growing more serious. “What have you been doing, Alice?”
“Training a lot,” I said. I didn’t want to talk about this, not now. This wasn’t the time when I wanted to lie to him. “I don’t know. I’ve been around.”
To silence anymore questions, I leaned down and kissed him. His lips felt hesitant on mine, so I pushed against him, but his skin remained cool.