Lander was good at her job. What she wasn’t good with was people, most people, in fact. Especially attornies who weren’t prepared when they cross-examined her as a witness. She didn’t care. She had work to do. Leaving the courthouse was the last thing she remembered when she woke up in the hospital.
Happy to have finally found his mate after all these centuries, Hamish, an ancient vampire, had been following her scent all morning. The scent led him to the courthouse, where he decided to wait until she came out. But shots rang out when Lander stepped out of the building. Hamish would have to move fast, or he would find and lose his mate at the same time.
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“Please state your entire name for the record.” Lander did as she was told. “And your occupation pertaining to what you’re here for today.” “I’m a diver. As for why I’m here, I’ve no idea. I was summoned based on the findings of another diver.” The attorney went back to the table to look at his notes, saying nothing. Lander had a look around the fancy courtroom. The room was overdone as far as she could see. Large windows were hidden behind long blinds, so there weren’t any blinding rays coming into the room. Although she thought it might be nice to have the sunshine in the room, she could also understand the need for some sort of break from it.
The carpet on the floor was about as stained as the muddy river she’d been in only last night. Chairs instead of benches were nice. Oak, she’d bet, with armrests on them. The pictures on the wall were of past judges and officers that had been killed in the line of duty. Black ribbons wrapped one corner of each frame. Her father had been a judge in good standing, but not in this state. He worked out in California, where she had grown up. When Dad retired some years ago, he and his new wife, Lilith—Lander’s stepmom—decided to sell their home and see the world. That had been three years ago. While she did speak to him on occasion, she didn’t really miss him all that much.
They’d never been what anyone would call even remotely close. “Ms. Henderson, it says here that you were brought in as an expert witness.” Lander didn’t ask for clarification. If he wanted answers, he was going to have to ask her questions. This wasn’t her first courtroom appearance. She’d like to think she was also an expert on pissing lawyers off. “Well, what do you have to say about the condition of the body that was retrieved?” “I don’t know anything about the body that was retrieved. As for its condition, I wouldn’t have the first clue about that either, as I’ve never seen it or heard the file number.” He did some more shuffling. Lander turned to the judge.
“Sir, I was summoned to be here just last night. I’m sure if I had been told I was to be a witness to anything, I would have had more time to go over the notes. I don’t know who did the dive, the retrieval, or where it might have happened. I’m completely in the dark as to what is going on here.” Judge Wilson did the paper shuffle thing too. “It says here that you were given a file folder as early as a week ago. That in that, it had the pictures, notes, and the information you mentioned. You didn’t receive anything?” Instead of answering, she asked him if he had an address where it was supposed to have gone. “It says here that it was hand-delivered to you at the sight of another job you were on in the area of DC.” “Then no, I wouldn’t have been there to get the paperwork. I’ve not been to DC in over three months. In fact, I’ve not been to my own home in over five months. Since I work for several states and agencies on finding bodies and such, I’ve been working nonstop for a while now.”
Judge Wilson called the attorney to his dais. “What is the meaning of this? You bring in an expert who hasn’t any idea what the hell is going on? On top of that, you also stated that she was hand-delivered the paperwork that should have been given to her over a week ago. What are you playing at, Taylor? I’m not going to put up with your shenanigans today.” “All she had to do was ask for the file here, and I would have handed it to her. The expert that was supposed to be here called me three days ago and told me he’d had a heart attack and wasn’t going to be able to make it. It took me that long to find her to come in.”
Wilson asked Taylor if he’d been dropped on his head as an infant. “Not that I’m aware of. But she is the best there is, and I thought it would be easy for her to tell us what she saw in the pictures. That’s all it would take.” They both looked at her. The judge was pissed if the large veins in his forehead and temple were any indication. When she was handed the file from Taylor, she didn’t even bother opening it. He said for her to look at the pictures and tell them what they wanted to know. It wasn’t as simple as her opening it up and looking at the pictures to determine anything that went on at the dive. “This isn’t going to help me or anyone else. I don’t know how many experts you’ve called in before this, but this chick doesn’t play like that. I don’t have any information that goes with these photos.
First of all, I wasn’t on the dive. Also, I don’t know the conditions that brought the person into the, what I’m assuming was water. In a car? Did he jump? Pushed? I haven’t any clue. How long was this person in the water? Where was the water? What were the weather conditions when it happened? Also, when the body—again, I’m assuming—was retrieved. Pictures tell me nothing. If you wanted me to be an expert, you’d have to give me every note, every sample that was taken at the site, as well as I’d need to talk to the person who did the actual job. Pictures mean shit if you want me to tell you the conditions of anything.” Taylor told her to watch her language. “I will not. You pulled me from a job where I do know what’s going on to come here. You’ve wasted my time and that of the people in here.
Also, you should know I’m not free to just come and go as you please. From the moment you ‘summoned’ me, your firm is being charged two hundred dollars an hour. As I said, I’m not cheap, nor free.” “I’m not going to pay you. You haven’t done a thing that was required of you.” She told Taylor that if he was better at his job, she wouldn’t be here with her thumb up her ass. “Your Honor, she’s being hostile to me. Not to mention using profanity in this courtroom.” “If I were sitting there working with you, I believe I would have been a good deal more hostile towards you. Now get over there and sit down while I talk to Ms. Lander.” Wilson turned to her, his face holding a smile, but it was as forced as she was in trying not to be really pissed off. “Now, young lady. How much information can you tell me, if any, from those photos? Other than the fact that the man is dead.”
“That would be about it. Pictures don’t really tell much anyway in a crime scene—that’s why a lot of departments are filming. Pictures don’t show depth. They’re only one-dimensional, so you don’t see what is just below the ear. Or what might be in the mouth. I’m sorry, sir, but as I said, there is nothing I can add to this. You’d be better off bringing in an expert on water deaths. A coroner would even be able to tell you more than I could.” Wilson asked Tayler if he’d called in a medical examiner. He said he hadn’t. “Sir, I would help if I could, but I have no information. And even if I did, there isn’t any way I could get you accurate information for a trial if it comes to that, from what I’ve been handed right now.” After another thirty minutes, she was let go. To say that things were finished would have been far from the truth, as Taylor was still getting his ass reamed by the judge for failure on his part in getting someone to help him.
Just as she was coming out of the building, someone tackled her to the ground. Hitting her head twice on the hard steps of the courthouse, she blacked out. When she woke up, Lander knew she was in a hospital. Not only did the white and gray walls give it away, the ugliest curtain she’d ever seen was pulled around her bed. Sitting up, she nearly threw up. The pain was so bad. The man’s voice had her turning toward him but much slower than she might have. “You have a concussion, and they need to put some stitches in your head.” She asked him what had happened. “I happened. That’s why you’re here in the cubical and not in the morgue, where a lot of other people are. There was a shooting that happened just as I took you to the ground. I’m sorry about your head. But at least you’re still living.”
“Who did the shooting? I’m assuming it was a drive-by?” He said he didn’t know. They’d asked him to come here with her. “Ambulance?” “Yes. I might have brought you here on my own, but you were bleeding a great deal, and I was worried about the laceration you have. Plus, there was still shooting going on when the first ambulance pulled up. It came from one of the higher buildings across the street. I’m Hamish Perry, by the way.” She told him her name as she strained to sit up on the bed. “They wanted to make sure you lie still. Something about the way your wound is deep and wide.” “I have a hard head, and I hate hospitals with a passion.” She looked at him while she let her body adjust to the new position. “Why did you save me? I mean, there are, according to you, several others that you could have knocked on their ass and given them a concussion.” He laughed. It was cute and charming. However, she wasn’t into cute or charming right now. Thinking about moving off the bed, she watched him stand up.
Lander had a feeling that if she were to fall, he’d catch her. “I’m a vampire of considerable age. If you’re wondering why I’m out during the day, I can tell you that I’m old enough to be able to withstand a great deal more light than a younger vampire.” She watched as he took two steps toward her. Lander told him that he was swaying. “Actually, that would be you swaying. Also, you seem to be rolling your head about more and more as you sit there. Would you mind lying back on the bed?
Otherwise, I’m going to have to pick you up and hold you. I don’t know that you’re going to like that any more than what else I have to tell you.” “I don’t care.” Her belly was churning up, and her head felt slightly too heavy for her shoulders. “I’m going to be sick.” His hands at the side of her head seemed to be just the right pressure to make her feel stable for a few minutes anyway. The rest of her body felt like it had been wrung out, turned inside out, and wasn’t going to let her stay upright. Just as she was sure she was going to puke all over the man in front of her, she was without pain. “You’re still hurt and very weak. Just let them stitch you up, and I think you’ll be all right.” She asked him what he’d done to her. “We’ll talk about that when you get out of here. I believe they’re going to keep you overnight.
I’ll stay with you to make sure you’re all right.” “You said, vampire. That you’re old and a vampire.” He said he was one. Yes. “You’re not telling me something. Something to do with why I’m feeling better.” “Not better, no. However, I’ve taken away your pain for the moment. Once they get you numbed to be stitched up, I’ll talk to you.” She demanded that he tell her right now. “All right. I’m your mate. I’ve been chasing your scent all morning since I happened upon it at the convenience store down the street. I was waiting for you outside the courthouse when I heard the shooting. I saved you from being shot because I knew I’d not touched you as yet, and you’d be killed. You’re now an immortal, the same as I am. Lander, are you listening to me?” “I am, but I’m not sure what you’re saying.
My head is all fuzzy. You said you’re my mate? I’m not a vampire.” The curtain swooshed open, the sound of the rings making her head spin again. The nurse told them what she was going to do and that a room had been set up for her. Hamish, she thought that was his name, sat down in the chair again while she was being strapped to the bed. “What are they doing to me?” You’re moving around too much for them, Lander. Lie still, or they’re going to have to put you under. It’s all right, love. Just be still. She couldn’t. Her mind was all over the place with what he’d said to her. Lander, the nurse is afraid your concussion is far worse than the doctors are saying. She is right.
Lander asked him how he was talking to her mind. I’m your mate. Once I gave you a bit of my blood to keep you from dying out there, we formed a connection. Let the medication take you under, Lander. The nurse is worried for you when you speak out loud to me. Just let it take you under. That’s my girl. ~*~ Hamish waited in the waiting room for Lander to be brought out of surgery. They couldn’t get her body to calm with what they could give her in the emergency department. The way she was thrashing around made them think she might have a brain bruise that was causing it. He knew it was from her thinking about the few things he’d told her. Stretching out his legs, he wondered what he should be doing now. While he knew only what he could get from her mind, there were still a great many things he needed to know about her sooner rather than later.
Like that cancer that had been in her bone marrow, as well as spots of it on her brain. She didn’t know he’d healed her of her cancer, of course. In fact, she’d not ever get any kind of sickness again. Once he acknowledged her, she was healed of all that and more. There were no longer spots on her breasts that he was sure no one had found yet, as they’d been very small. Her hearing was now perfectly pitched instead of her having tinnitus in her ear. She was as healthy as he was, with the exception of the wound on her head. He would have healed it by now, but there were just too many humans around that would be suspicious if she were suddenly healed. Standing up when his name was called, he made his way to the nurses’ stations.
The nurse there, an elderly woman, was smiling at him when he arrived at her area. “The doctor wanted me to tell you that your wife is calmer now. They put in forty-three stitches and have made sure there were no foreign objects in the wound.” He thanked her. “They will be keeping her overnight, I’m afraid. She’s been given a lot of medication, and he’s not sure how well she’ll react to that.” “I’ll need to make arrangements for me to be able to stay here with her.” She said she’d already taken care that Lander had one of the rooms with space for guests. “Thank you very much. I don’t want to leave her in the event she wakes up.” Yes, that would be a disaster if she woke up too soon. Then she’d tell everyone that he was indeed not her husband and wasn’t related to her at all. Hamish smiled at his own thoughts as he wrote down the information about which room Lander was going to be in, as well as the outside line, so their family could call and check on them. Going back to his seat, he pulled out his cell.
Who to call? his mind thought. It wasn’t as if he had anyone around close that would want to know he’d found his mate. He’d tell his grandda after Lander was out of the hospital, or he’d be here every second of her stay. Last he’d heard from his grandda, the man had been living the easy life on one cruise after another. Should he call her family? They weren’t close. He couldn’t find a single memory that was recent in her mind about them. No sisters or brothers. Just a dad that was on his fourth marriage to a woman nearly Lander’s age. Hamish also knew her mother had remarried, and they weren’t close either.
He thought that very sad, but nothing he’d not encountered year after year with humans. Not only did they not respect their elders, but they treated children with the same disregard. Putting his cellphone away, he decided now was not the time to make any calls. If she wanted him to call her parents, or she wanted to call them, he’d be there for her in the event things went south. As it seemed to happen a good deal when they were all together. They rolled her bed in about an hour later. The doctor spoke to him about what they’d done for Lander and how well she’d taken the medication. Hamish told him they’d not been together long—which was the truth—and he was still learning about her. After he left them, Hamish touched his finger to the bandage covering most of her head and gave her a little more of his magic. She was going to have a hell of a headache in the morning, he knew.
Leaning back on the seat, he thought about what needed to be done to prepare things for his mate. While he had a house—several of them, as a matter of fact—he’d never been one to upgrade things. In fact, he’d been sleeping in a cave lately. There was no need for him to have a stove or working lights in the place he was staying, so that had to be something he took care of quickly. Also, he did have a bed—not a coffin-like the movies projected men like him to sleep in—but it wasn’t suitable for a woman to want to sleep in. It was narrow, hard as stone, and without any linens on it. Not that he spent all that much time in the house or bed, but it would be something that had to be cared for before he brought Lander home. Or would they live in her home? It mattered little to him where they lived. Hamish had plenty of money if she wanted to start from scratch.
While he’d been looking around in her head, he noted that she spent very little time at her home. Working a great deal, she tended to live from one hotel to the next, as her job kept her hopping. She was a diver. It seemed such a small thing to call her that when she was sought after by agencies all around the world. He’d looked her up after finding out her name and knew that even though everyone thought her name was Lander, it was actually Aulander Fitzgerald Henderson. He also knew she was named from the little town in North Carolina where her mother had been born. Hamish hadn’t been able to find any reference to the name Fitzgerald, but he would soon enough. When the nurse came in to take Lander’s blood pressure and temp, he stepped into the hall. Making sure there was no one around, he took himself to the local shop and got some magazines, as well as a couple of books. He was also able to purchase a tablet he was going to use to research his new mate and her family.
Returning to the hospital was easy enough. He appeared in her bathroom and came out when he knew the coast was clear. Sitting down, he reached out to his grandda, only just realizing that he was supposed to go on some kind of cruise with him in the next couple of days. “Oh, son, I’m so happy to hear from you. I was going to talk to you later tonight. I’m about finished with riding around on a boat. Nowhere for me to feel the grass under my feet— What’s happened? Where are you?” He told him he was fine and that he was in the hospital. “I’m not sure how you reckon that being fine and in the hospital are the same thing, but I’ll come to see you. Is the room empty where you are?” “Just hang on a minute.”
He asked him again what was wrong. “Nothing. My mate found me today. Nearly scaring ten years off my life.” Grandda appeared in the room with him, so close to the bed that he wondered if he’d been hurt in his appearance. When he waved him off after asking him if he was fine, Grandda stared at Lander for several minutes before he spoke. “She sure is a pretty little thing, Hamish. What happened that brought the two of you in here?” He told him how she’d been in the courthouse, as well as how he’d followed her there by her scent. “So she’s been shot but is going to be all right. How bad was it when you first found her? I’m betting she was far from all right.” “Yes, she would like to know too.” Lander looked at him, then at his grandda, before looking at him again. “He has to be related to you, but I’m doubting very much that he’s your dad. You seem closer than that.
I have no idea why I feel that way, but there you go. Why are you even still hanging around here? Don’t you have some bodies to drain or something? And you.” She pointed at his grandda. “Why are you here? I’m sure you guys have a lot more things to do than to sit around with a measly human. I’m right, aren’t I? You are still a vampire?” “Yes. We both are vampires. Lander, this is my grandda. He’s been on a cruise until a few minutes ago. His name is Charles Hamish Perry. Grandda, this is Aulander Henderson Perry.” Grandda stood up and put out his hand. “He is harmless, I promise you.” “What makes you think I am?” She sat up higher on the bed as she stared at his grandda.
“I don’t have a lot of information on either of you, but this one tells me that he’s my mate. I understand the concept—I work with a few shifters—but he must be wrong about this thing with us. I’m not all that healthy and won’t be around for very much longer. Not the way things are going in my life. I have cancer, and it’s killing me.” “You’re not ill, child.” Grandda stepped closer to Lander with his hand still out. “If you were to take my hand into yours, I can tell you a great deal about yourself. Some I’m sure you don’t even know.” “I’m sure you can, but just for now, we’ll shake without having a meet and greet about my life.” Grandda laughed and told her she was enjoyable. “Not really. It’s why I spend a great deal of time on my own. I don’t enjoy people all that much.”
“Neither does my grandson. Until recently, I think he was staying in a cave someplace, working out a way to end his life.” He wasn’t sure how his grandda had figured that out, but he didn’t say anything to him. “He’s lost a lot of family recently. His parents have been gone for some time, but he had a brother who ended his life recently, as well as his aunt. Hamish does have a sister, but she’s not been around for quite some time. I think she’s off her noodle, but then she’s always been flighty. As for the others? They were bored. So was Hamish. But you’ll keep him on his toes, won’t you?” “Not if I can help it.” The nurse came in and was surprised to see Lander sitting up so well. But Grandda told her, with magic, that everything was normal. When she left them, Lander said she was starving. “I could eat a horse. Do you guys do that? Have a horse for your food?” “You’re very snarky, aren’t you? No, we don’t have horses. In answer to your earlier question, no, we don’t drain people either.
Grandda showed up here when I told him you’d found me.” She said she’d not be taking credit for that—she’d not been looking for anyone. “Be that as it may, you’ve found me. I’m not sure of a great many things, but I am sure that you and I are going to get along well.” “You mean if I listen to your every command? Don’t count on it, buster. I have a life, and I’m going to continue to live it despite you being in the background.” He said he wanted to be a part of her life. “Tough. I’m sick and dying. I love my job, but I’m going to have to give it up soon because—”
“You no longer have cancer, Lander. Even the spots on your breasts that were much too small to see as yet are gone. If you’d give it a chance, I think you’ll find out you’re hearing better than you ever were. The bad break at your left ankle isn’t aching as it normally would at this time of the day. You’re healthy and in good shape. You’re no longer going to die. As I said before, you’re immortal, just as I am.” When she sat up fully, he thought she was going to attack him. Standing too, he was surprised when she got off the bed and took them both to the floor. “Lander?” Grandda got down on the floor too. While he didn’t seem to know what was happening, he nearly screamed when the door exploded behind him. Pressing her to the floor to keep her safe, Hamish wasn’t the least bit surprised when Grandda left them in a poof and returned quickly after.
“The man from this morning was going to kill me. His name was Taylor or something. I could…Christ, I could hear his heart racing, and that’s what alerted me to him being hyped up on something. Then for some reason, somehow, I was able to feel his intent about killing me. Why? He was going to kill me because I—because he thinks I made him look like a fool in the courtroom.” Lander looked at Grandda. “Did you kill him? I can’t hear him anymore.” “Yes.” Grandda helped them both up. Lander laid back down on the bed but didn’t stop staring at his grandda. “He wouldn’t have stopped, child. He would have harmed you in some way that would have gotten him killed anyway.” “Because of Hamish.” It wasn’t a question, but he nodded to her anyway. When she pulled the sheet up and over her chest to her neck, he could feel her stress. “I’m very sleepy now. I want to rest. Thank you both for being here with me and for killing that man. I’m sure you’re right. He was a fool, and foolish people never think they’re in the wrong.
Even if it’s glaring them in the face. I’m sleepy now.” Hamish watched as she closed her eyes. Reaching out to touch her hand, he helped her rest. He could feel her terror as well as her need for a great deal of rest. He helped her with that. When she was in a deeper sleep, he turned to his grandda. “Will it come back and bite either of us in the ass?” Grandda told him Taylor would be found as a suicide. “Thank you for that. He was going to kill her, and I didn’t feel a thing. What if he’d gotten by me?” “I don’t think you’ll have to worry over that too much, Hamish.
You were making sure she was doing all right when it got by you. I’m thinking you’ll never get that involved again with her where something will get by you. Or perhaps that is her superpower. That she can protect you when you need it. You remember how your grandma could just know when the humans were coming to kill us off? It’s the reason we don’t put it out there that we’re vampires anymore. Humans get it into their head that we’re there for the killing.” “This man, he really was going to kill her. For her being smarter than him.” Grandda told him that was about right. “I wonder what it is that would drive a person to do something like that in a large hospital.” “I don’t know, son. I don’t. However, the cameras are all fixed that he would have been seen on. The staff is also none the wiser. I already fixed up the door and walls while you two were talking.”
Grandda looked at Lander. “I’m already about in love with the child. She saved us both, but especially you, from being shot up. In my book, that makes her about perfect.” “I’m falling in love with her as well.” Grandda decided to go and get some food for Lander when she woke up. He did know she wasn’t one to eat a lot of sweets—that had been forefront in her mind when she’d been thinking she was hungry. “Grandda, when I go to rest later, will you keep an eye on her for me after you return with food? Please? I need a little downtime, or I’m not going to do either of us any good.” “You know I will. It’ll be my pleasure to do so.” Grandda told him to go on home now, that he had this. “You rest up. I don’t know why I’m thinking this, but I feel like she’s going to keep you hopping for a while. I hope so. She’s perfect for you.” He didn’t know if she was perfect or not, but he knew Grandda was correct. She was going to keep him on his toes, and he was looking forward to it. Yes, having a mate was going to be epic. Hamish popped home, the cave that Grandda had been talking about, and laid down on the bed he’d made for his stay. Tomorrow he was going to have to get things organized for his mate. He only hoped no one was going to be out to kill her again anytime soon.