Numbers Page 6

’’She asked me to end her suffering many times, but I couldn\ do it,’’ he rasped. ’’I kept hoping she\d get better. We were engineered to be stronger than humans, and we heal fast. She wasn\ weak, but they\d hurt her too much for her to recover.’’

’’I\m so sorry, Mourn. Sometimes a body can only take so much. We are all mortal. You didn\ want to give up hope. That\s a part of loving someone. You just have to remember how much she loved you, and that even the strongest will to survive can\ always defy death. It sucks ass, I won\ lie, but the pain will fade over time. It will always be there, but it won\ be the stabbing sensation it is now, like someone is shoving a knife through your heart and twisting it. That\s how I felt right after Tommy died.’’

’’You\ e cold.’’ He grasped the bottom of his shirt, pulled it over his head and handed it to her. He wore nothing under it. The moonlight revealed his upper body. He had a wide chest and massive biceps. The white bandage on his arm was stark against his tan. ’’Wear this. It will fit over what you have on.’’

She hesitated. ’’You\ll be cold.’’

’’I\m fine. Wear it.’’

She only hesitated for a second because she wasn\ as hardy. The material was thicker than her robe and warm still from his body when she pulled it over her head and tugged it down. He was right, it was large enough to go over her pajamas and the robe. ’’Thank you. Tell me if you get cold, and I\ll give it back.’’

’’I feel that knife,’’ he admitted.

’’It does get better. You have to release some of the anger and guilt. I kept hold of it as though it were a shield against the world. I needed it. People never looked at me the same way after Tommy died. I hated the pity and the whispers. I went from being Dana to becoming that poor soul who lost her husband.’’

He accepted that with a nod. ’’The others pity me.’’

’’It makes it worse. I know. I don\ pity you. You survived her death. That makes you strong. Some people just call it quits. They hole up inside their homes and never leave. They stop living altogether. I don\ agree with how you interact with other people though, if you\ e initiating fistfights with big guys who are mean enough that you to think they could hurt you. It might be a good idea to rethink that plan, and start talking instead.’’

He shrugged. ’’The fighting helps me with the anger.’’

’’You came to see me. That\s a step in the right direction. As I said earlier, I\d be the last person to pick a fight with, because I won\ hit back.’’

’’It would kill you.’’

She smiled, not afraid in the least. His race was made up of strong, big guys. ’’Probably. Have you tried to talk to other New Species who have lost their mates? It might help.’’

’’They don\ discuss it. Few had mates. Most of them who did lost them when we were still in captivity. It\s too painful for them to speak about the past.’’

’’There\s grief counseling available. It helped me when I was ready to face my loss head on. I\m sure the NSO could bring someone in for private sessions.’’

’’I don\ want to speak to a head shrink. I hate them.’’

His tone revealed his anger. The experience must have been a bad one. She understood. ’’You could go to group sessions somewhere close by. There would be a therapist on hand if needed, but mostly it\s just people talking to each other, sharing their pain and how they are dealing with everything.’’

’’Humans,’’ he rasped. ’’No.’’

’’I\m not a pork chop,’’ she gently reminded him. ’’You\ e talking to me. Those support groups are for all the people who have lost loved ones. Their race doesn\ matter. We\ e all the same inside. We hurt.’’

’’You\ e Paul\s sister. He\s Species to us.’’

She liked being included, in a roundabout way. It also touched her that her brother was considered family by the people he had decided to live with. ’’I could extend my visit if you want to keep talking to me.’’ She might lose her job, but she didn\ love it anyway. It was just something to get her out of the house every day so she didn\ sink back into hiding from the world. Her mother would have a fit, but she didn\ really care about that either. ’’I\d be happy to stay for as long as you want.’’

’’You could do that?’’

’’Yes. I\m lucky enough to have some savings. My husband wanted to make sure I was taken care of. I\m not dependent on a paycheck to make my bills.’’

’’I could see if the NSO will pay you for being here.’’

’’It\s not needed.’’ She studied Mourn. He was a large, intimidating guy, but he had a good heart. ’’But thank you. I\ll extend my stay if you will talk to me.’’ A blast of wind hit her, and she shivered. ’’Perhaps indoors next time though, when I\m not dressed for bed.’’

’’You\ e tired?’’

’’No. I don\ sleep so well. That brings the dreams.’’

’’I don\ like sleep either.’’

’’What do you usually do at night?’’

’’I run or work out. It helps to push my body to the limit until I\m exhausted. I don\ dream then.’’

That accounted for how muscular he was. ’’Why did you get into a fight today? I got the impression it\s something you do on a regular basis.’’

’’I\m hoping they will kill me.’’

She chewed on her bottom lip, trying to think of the best thing to say.

’’I\ll be deemed unstable and a danger to others. It\s possible that the NSO will put me down.’’

It horrified her. ’’I\m sure they wouldn\ .’’

’’I have nothing to live for.’’

’’I used to feel that way too, but I was wrong. You\ e just immersed in your grief right now.’’

’’What do you live for?’’

The question surprised her, and she struggled to come up with an answer. ’’I guess for my family. They would be devastated if I just gave up. I couldn\ hurt them that way.’’

’’I have no family.’’

’’You have other New Species.’’

’’I am not close to any of them. I only had my mate.’’

’’What about your friends?’’

’’I have none. I spent my freedom time caring for my mate.’’

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