The bus finally stopped, Dylan woke to the scene of confusion, people were standing outside waiting to get on and people were standing in the isles waiting to get off. She stood and grabbed her duffel from under her seat. The young soldier had disappeared possible leaving at an earlier stop that she had slept through. She shouldered the heavy bag and shuffled down the isle and off the bus. Looking around she got her bearings and began walking. She wasn’t sure how long she walked or how far, she remembered crossing over a highway on a nearly barren overpass. It was dark and the lights of oncoming cars blinded her, she ducked her head and kept walking. Finally she reached Shaconage, ‘the place of blue smoke’ the Qualla Reservation and the Oconaluftee Village in particular. She needed her Grandfather, Grey Hawk. Walking through the reservation she did not notice the new stores that had sprung up since her departure, the crowds of tourist snapping photos of young men dressed in traditional costumes. She followed a memory of a Dylan that had left that place three long years ago. She passed the carved figurehead of Sequoyah, the inventory of the Cherokee alphabit, a brave, powerful man who had led his people a hundred years ago. She staggered on drawing the attention of several of the tourist who frowned at the drawn tired figure stumbling down the street. Dylan continued on finally stopping far out of town in a secluded glade in the back of the Oconaluftee Village. The village was a reproduction of a Cherokee village of 250 years ago and beyond it was the home of her Grandfather. He lived near the village but rarely ventured out while tourists were about. She reached the wooden door of the small lodge and knocked. To her ears the sound was defining, echoing of the mountains drawing the attention of all around. She hung her head in distress and waited, the door slowly opened and moccasin covered feet came into her line of vision.
"Grandaughter?" The voice was warm and strong and loving, the tears came immediately.
Dylan felt her knees buckle as she slowly crumpled at her grandfather’s feet. She was exhausted, heartbroken and confused. She needed the understanding arms of her grandfather.
Grey Hawk was startled at the knock on his lodge door and even more surprised to see the distraught woman standing there. He bent to help his granddaughter to her feet and led her into the lodge. Sitting her in the rocker he had just left he hurried into the kitchen and heated some water for coffee, returning, he grabbed a blanket from the sofa and wrapped the trembling woman in it.
Dylan was in a daze; she had not eaten since the bagels in the park almost two days ago and with the exception of the nap on the bus had not slept in 48 hours. She was at the end of her, still weak, reserve.
"Grandfather? Grandfather you have to help me. I don’t know what to do. It seems like my mind is slipping, I see things that aren’t there. My God I almost killed an innocent man." Dylan looked up, her eyes large and nearly black in her pale face.
"Tell me Granddaughter, when was the last time you slept?"
"I am not sure Grandfather, one maybe two days ago. I am afraid to sleep. When I sleep the visions come. They make my heart hurt from the memories."
"What is it you remember Dylan?" Came the softly spoken question.
"Faces, the faces of the dead. I remember my men and I remember those men that I, that I…" Dylan hung her head the tears spilling out onto the bright pattern of the blanket as she pulled it closer around her body, rocking slowly.
Silently the old man stood and walked to the kitchen as the kettle whistled. Dylan could hear him stirring the liquid in the tin cups he always used.
He returned holding two steaming cups one he passed to Dylan the other he placed on the mantel of the fire place. He bent and placed another log on the slowly burning fire, poking at the burning embers until the rising flame began to heat the room.
Dylan blew gently on the tea, holing the cup in her trembling hands careful not to spill it. Bringing it slowly to her lips she was surprised to find it to be herb tea, bitter herb tea.
"Grandfather what is this, it tastes awful?"
"You drink that all down now Dylan. It’s good for you." He replied in a stern no nonsense voice. Turning he stood, his arms crossed as he stared silently down at the exhausted woman.
Dylan scrunched her face at the bitter taste of the tea but swallowed it down as quickly as she could. The heated tea landed in her stomach and burned gently, warming her from head to toe. As she finally lowered the cup she noticed the paper napkin with a thick BLT sandwich resting on the low table in front of her. She turned s quizzical look to her grandfather. "I suppose you want me to do something with that, right?"
He simple smiled, raised an eyebrow and waited patiently until she had finished the entire sandwich. "Now Dylan, I want you to go upstairs and take a hot shower. You will find fresh towels and a nightshirt. It’s one of mine but I figure it should fit ya."
"But grandfather, I’m not sleepy, I need…" Dylan was halted in mid sentence by a scowling old warrior who, again, folded his arms stubbornly and simply stared at her.
"Dylan you take you tail upstairs and shower, then if you still feel like talking we will. You can put your bag on the bed up in the spare bedroom. Go on now and quit your fussing."
The old man shooed her off like an errant child. Dylan smiled indulgently then grabbed her bag and turned for the stairs. Fifteen minutes and one hot shower later she returned to the spare room to put away her toiletries. "I’ll just sit here a minute and get my thoughts together." She sat on the edge of the bed and stared out into space.
Five minutes later the old warrior peeked into the room to see his granddaughter sprawled out over the bed, snoring softly. The tea never let him down. Smiling gently he lifted Dylan’s legs and slipped them under the covers tucking in the edges, then finally placing a kiss on her forehead he slipped from the room turning out the light.
She had been home now for two days and she had not left her suite. Her mother was worried and her father had given up trying to communicate with her through the heavy door. Finally, Lura decided to roll out of bed and rejoin the living. Dressing in a pair of faded jeans and a pink and white t-shirt, she slipped her feet into a pair of nikes and headed down to the kitchen. Lenora, the cook and guardian of the kitchen and all that entailed, was busy cutting tomatoes for the lunch salad when she slipped in. Grabbing a carrot from the pile of freshly washed vegetables waiting to be sliced and dices, Lura pulled up a stool and sat, twisting the unlucky orange vegitable like a wash cloth.
"Okay young Lady, you know my kitchen rules, ‘you come in my kitchen you better be working, eatin’ or just passin’ through."
"Sorry Lenni, just wanted a nibble." Came the soft reply as Lura nibbled on the carrot stick.
"Humm, sounds like you need more than a nibble girl. What’s wrong? You been cooped up in that room of yours since ya got here. You got men problems? Or should I ask if you got Whoa-men problems." The older woman asked with a sharp twinkle in her hazel eye.
"Wha…what did you say Lenni?" Lura stammered almost choking on her carrot stick.
"Listen youngun, I have known you since your Mama and Papa brought you home. Plus I wasn’t born last night ya know. You been upset ever since you got home and left that tall, long legged, dark haired soldier gal I saw you all cosy with on TV. What’d she do got you all upset?" The cook had not even glanced up nor missed a stroke on the chopping block.
Lura smiled sadly and felt her shoulders sag, "She left me Lenni. She just up and left. There was a note on my pillow one morning and she was gone." Her voice choked on the last bit.
"Well, what did the note say lovie?"
"Just that she didn’t want to hurt anyone so she was leaving and she would love me…forever." Lura stared out the window, again twisting the carrot stick, until it snapped. She stared at the two broken pieces surprised when a warm tear fell onto her hand. ‘I though I was over all that crying business’ she though.
Lenni glanced up at the snap of the carrot stick. ‘This child is really hurtin. I hope her Mama’s plans aren’t gonna hurt her worse’. Tell me bout’ your soldier child." Lenni listened as Lura explained all that had happened in the last few months. The deaths she had witnessed and her own personal trials and the surprise she felt when she discovered the famous ‘Desert Hawk’ was a woman. Shyly she told of the beautiful, fierce soldier that had saved her life and stolen her heart. In halting tones she relived the horror of watching the woman she loved, fall in a hail of bullets. She spoke of the personal pain she had suffered watching her as she fought her way back to health. Finally in tears she and broken words she told Lenni how her soldier had struggled, fighting an unseen enemy and herself to control the nightmares that haunted her even now, in the bright light of day.
"I just want to be with her Lenni, she needs me, she just doesn’t know it. And,…and I need her. I feel like there is a giant hand squeezing my heart and there is no relief in sight." Lura tucked her head, her small fist still wrapped around the broken carrot stick, clutched at her chest in an effort to stop the pain. "Why would she leave me Lenni? I love her so much."
"Now you listen here Ms. Lura. That soldier gal loves you. She just needs some time to get her head on, then you watch, she’ll come a looking for ya. You can bet on that. She just don’t strike me as the kind that would give up something she wants, and you, baby girl, are what she wants. You just give her some time."
Lura still sat staring at the mutilated vegetable not really hearing anything. "Yeah, she loves me." She said. Sighing she stood, tossing the orange remains into the trash bin as she left, her mind a thousand miles away.
Lenni’s gaze followed her, shaking her head at the sad figure walking out the door. "That poor child, that woman of hers better get it together quick before her Mama is done with her planning."
Lenora dropped her graying head back down and continued making the salad.
Alison Gillum-Grant sat in her antique Edwardian writing desk in her private day room finishing the list of guest. She had her daughter home and it was time to get down to some serious arrangement. After a quick review of the social registrar she was sure she had the names of the most eligible bachelors of the Richmond 500. Now all she needed was to contact the caterer, the decorator and talk that hardheaded daughter of hers into a dress. She had already had her year of running free, it was time to settle down with a nice young lawyer, or doctor and give her some grandchildren. She ran the last stamp on the wet sponge and glued it precisely onto the corner of the cream colored invitation and with a nod of approval added it to the stack waiting to be posted.
In the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the silence of the late night was broken by a scream.
She watched as her finger pulled the trigger, the man she was aiming at stared in surprise as half his head exploded in a red burst, splattering his brains on the wall. Glancing up she saw skull fragments imbedded in the ceiling. A sound to her right caught her attention, a young boy struggling with a dark man in robes. He was the only thing standing between the man and the fallen body of an older woman. She felt her finger squeeze again but nothing happened. She threw the useless weapon aside and reached into her boot for her knife. Diving for the man she felt her body impact and tangle in his long robes. They struggled until she finally straddled him her knife now protruding from his chest like a tiny third arm. She backed away from the quivering body but the robes held her bound to him. She struggled fighting against the cloth but it had taken on a life of its own and wrapped itself around her tighter and tighter. It suffocated, her filling her mouth and lungs choking her, wrapping around her throat. She struggled fighting the cloth, falling and falling and falling.
"Dylan?!? Wake up! Dylan? It’s only a bad dream, wake up!"
Her eyes opened to the gentle light of the moon streaming into her window. Her Grandfather knelt beside her, that is when she realized she was sitting on the floor tangled in her own sheets.
"Grandfather?" Her voice came out in a whispering croak. She struggled with the sheets but her own body sweat caused the sheets to cling to her exhausted body. She crawled like a small child to her Grandfather throwing her arms around his neck as the torrent of tears streamed down her cheeks. Her chest heaving with the great gasps of air as the anguished filled sobs racked her still weak body.
Finally, the crying subsided and Grey Hawk helped the emotionally drained woman back into the bed. Covering her with fresh sheets and blankets he left her for a moment to heat up the kettle for tea. Returning to the tiny bedroom he picked up a chair from a desk by the window and sat next to the bed. Taking the cold trembling hand in his own he stared into the vacant blue eyes.
"Dylan, can you tell me about the dream?" he asked, anxiety in his voice.
At first he didn’t hear her, but as he leaned closer she repeated her softly spoken word.
"So much blood, so many dead. I killed them, I killed them all. My fault, my fault." The words were full of self-loathing and pain; the large slender hand trembled in his own.
The whistle of the kettle pulled him away from her, but her returned minutes later with a large cup of hot tea. Sitting again in the chair he held the cup as Dylan sipped the bittersweet liquid.
Having taken in as much as she could she lay back and stared at straight up seeing again the deep red stain that dripped like macabre paint from the stucco like ceiling. Her eyes grew heavy and she felt her mind slip into oblivion.
Grey Hawk stared down at his Granddaughter his forehead wrinkled in concern. Her spirit was in danger. He knew that she had many trails to travel before she would be safe. He was just not sure if she would be strong enough to travel it alone.
Dylan woke to the smell of fresh coffee and cooked bacon. Her head was clear but her heart was heavy. Climbing slowly from bed she slipped on a pair of socks and dressed in her dark blue shorts and gray sleeveless t-shirt she head out to find the source of the intriguing smell. Down the hall and around the corner she found the kitchen with her grandfather stirring up a golden pan of scrambled eggs. She paused long enough to evaluate the older man. He stood straight and tall, in his sweat pants and a white t-shirt, his lanky, muscular body belying his age. He had braided his silver hair into two long braids that hung over his chest, each wrapped in bright red cloth. Dylan remembered back to the days of her childhood when she had watched him slowly braid then rap his hair. It had been black as a ravens wing then, the blue highlights glowing in the sun. He had taught her how to braid and had given her two strips of leather died bright blue to tie to the ends of her own glossy plaits. Dylan smiled as she watched him scoop the hot breakfast onto a plate and place it on the small white kitchen table. "Good morning Granddaughter, did I pass inspection and did you sleep well?"
Dylan was startled, she had not made a sound and she did not see her grandfather look up. "Umm, yes Grandfather, thank you. And you are not fooling me; you slipped me a ‘mickey’ last night in my tea. You are a very sneaky individual, you know that?" She said, attempting to be stern with the old man. Who had an annoying ability of being one of the few people who could ignore her anger and not fear retribution.
"Not last night Dylan, two nights ago. You have been sleeping for two full days and two full nights."
Dylan felt the air leave her lungs, and her heart thumping in her ears. She had been asleep for forty-eight hours! How could that be?
"But…but, Grandfather how, why, what…?"
"Hush Dylan," The old man said, "you know the answers to all those questions. The simple truth is your body needed the rest; I just gave it a little help. Now sit down and eat." He added sternly placing a heaping plate of food down on the table in front of her.
She did feel better having really slept for the first time in several days. Sitting down on the wooden chair by the food, she gazed down at the steaming plate feeling, for the first time since leaving Lura, the gnawing bite of hunger.
With her grandfather sitting near by, looking on, she devoured the bacon, eggs and toast in minutes, then gulped down the still hot coffee, surprising herself with her appetite. Finally finishing her meal she sat back and enjoyed the feeling of a full stomach. Dylan knew that the questions were coming, she knew and she dreaded them.
"Granddaughter, you are well now? You have healed from your injuries?" He asked stirring another scoop of cream in a steaming cup of coffee. He sat in front of Dylan, carefully examining the dissolving cream, not even looking up.
"Yes Grandfather, my body has healed but…" Her voice choked as she thought of the nightmares, her eyes staring at her hands looking for the blood stains.
"But what Granddaughter? Do you fear the memories, the dreams, the dead? They cannot hurt you. You have no reason to fear them."
"But Grandfather, I have killed so many, so many…" Her voiced cracked as she slid her hands from the table hiding them from view. She hung her head in shame as the tears fell again.
"Granddaughter? Dylan…Dylan, did you kill the innocent? Did you kill in pleasure or for enjoyment? Did you enjoy the thrill?" He asked in a quiet calm voice. Waiting for Dylan to respond.
"NO!! Never, I could not kill for the pleasure of killing." Dylan felt her stomach rebelling at the thoughts of the dead men. "At first, there was much I did not remember. I had many injuries and it took time to heal. I hated the men responsible for what happened to my unit. I wanted to kill them all." She said in a hard bitter voice. "One day in a small village I was fighting, I saw one of the villagers shoot one of the raiders that had just fired on a woman running with her child. He fell at my feet…he was a boy. No more than 15 or 16, just a child killing children. It was as if someone hit me in the stomach with a board. I fell to my knees, crying. I have no idea why I wasn’t shot that day. But after that, it became harder and harder. I couldn’t stand to see the villages attacked, but every shot I fired I wondered if I had killed a child." Dylan’s voice spoke softly, she stared at her hands again expecting to see the blood of the men whose lives she had ended.
"When you killed these men, were you fighting?" the old warrior asked in a quiet steady voice sipping his coffee his eyes still focused on the creamy brown liquid.
"Yes Grandfather, whenever I heard of the fighting, I would come and…and stop them. Some times I would lure them to a village with the rumor of hidden weapons or money. They would come into the village and I would be there. Waiting." She finished quietly her eyes glazed over as she remembered.
Her Grandfather sat quietly contemplating her comments still staring at his coffee. "So you killed to protect? You protected the helpless? The women and children? And you protected yourself? And you feel there is no honor in that Granddaughter? Would you rather they had been left alone to be killed or raped? You rather they had killed you?"
"NO! Yes! I don’t know, I don’t know…" She cried, tears streaming down her cheeks.
"Granddaughter, think of what you have told me. You killed to protect the innocent and to protect yourself. The people you killed had slaughtered your unit, they have killed innocent people. They would not have thought twice of putting a bullet through you. Yet you agonize over their deaths? Remember this Dylan, they were killers, they claimed to be soldiers, they knew what they were doing. All who kill know the consequences of their actions. These were not needy people. They were not defending their homes or families. They were not honorable warriors. These "soldier", these "men", were not human, they were less than animals. Destroying everything they touched not for their loved ones, not for their country, for themselves, for the sake of their own greed. They needed to beat down the people to make themselves feel tall. There is no honor in that. You saw this injustice. You could have joined them and lived off of the anguish of the people. Would you feel better then?" Dylan did not raise her head just shook it slowly. "Granddaughter, you were the only thing between death and the people. As long as you were there they could not succeed and the people lived. These men were evil, taking all they could, destroying what they could not take. They would have destroyed you if they could. Do not let them win now in death what they could not win in life."
The old man quietly collected the dirty dishes and placed them in a sink of hot soapy water the turned and walked out.
Dylan though of the words of her Grandfather, she knew he was right. The men she had killed were terrorist; they made a living by taking whatever they could from the innocent people around them. They were claimed to be soldiers and they knew the possible consequences of their actions.
Still mulling over these words, Dylan returned to her room and changed into her running gear.
Morning, again. Lura rolled out of bed and shuffled into the bathroom. Looking into the mirror she saw a pale face surrounded by ruffled dull hair and sad eyes.
I have got to pull myself together, I look like poop. Heck, I feel like poop. Maybe I need to get out, go for a run or something. A bit of fresh air to help clear my head. Hell, maybe I will get luck and get hit by a truck, if I am unconscious maybe I can get some sleep.’
Sighing she turned and went back to her room, reaching the dresser she opened the top drawer she pulled out a pair of running shorts, a pair of jock socks and a sports bra, closing this she opened the second drawer and selected a black shirt. Slipping out of her nightshirt she slide the shorts on over her panties and pulled on the bra and black top. Sitting back on the bed she pulled on the socks and slipped her feet into her running shoes. Still sitting there she stared down at her shoes her mind a million miles away. Finally she stood, gathered her energy and headed out of her room and down the stairs. She crossed the hall, passed the foyer and stepped out the front door. The wind and the cool air immediately reminded her that she was in Northern Virginia and fall was definitely in the air. Trotting down the long stairs she jogged down the driveway, across the lawn and out the front gate.
An hour later she returned, sweat pouring off of her and her breath coming in ragged gasps. She staggered up the front stairs and into the house exhausted and no closer to understanding her feelings than when she had started out. She leaned against the front door thinking about Dylan, why had she left, where was she. I know she loves me. She didn’t hear her mother calling to her.
"Lura, Lura honey where are you? Lura? Oh there you are. Goodness dear, you are half naked and covered with perspiration; I hope you didn’t go out in public dressed like that. People can see… well almost everything and what they can’t see I am sure they can provide from their dirty little minds. What were you thinking parading around with your legs exposed like that, and where in the world did you find those clothes?"
Lura finally realized that she was wearing a pair of Dylan’s gray Army shorts and a Pembroke State University shirt. It was Dylan’s favorite. She rubbed her hand across the raised lettering trying to feel closer to her soul mate. When what her mother was saying finally sank in.
"What? What did you say Mother."
"I said, that you need to go upstairs and get cleaned up then get some rest. We are having a small social get together tonight and I want you looking fresh."
"Oh, sure, alright." Lura turned, her thoughts miles away, and headed towards the stairs. "Whoa, wait a minute, what do you mean a ‘Social gathering’?" She asked turning to face her mother
"Well, dear, I have invited some of my dear friends over for a small party and they are bringing their children. I hope you will not embarrass me by staying in your room or presenting yourself in those disgusting blue jeans you are so fond of wearing."
"Mother, back off. I am not in the mood to argue with you over clothes and if this little get together of yours is a hen party to set me up with one of your friends eligible mutant sons, forget it."
"Now you listen to me young lady." Her mother interjected. "You promised that if we gave you time to try out this ‘working thing’ you would come home and settle down. Well it has been a year. It is now time for you to find someone socially acceptable and settle down. No more of this gallivanting all over the world with strange persons and getting shot at. My goodness what were you thinking."
‘I was thinking about a wonderful woman with beautiful long legs and eyes to die for. But if I told you that you would just flip out.’ Lura thought smiling.
"Alright, I will attend your little head hunting session Mother, but I will not, and hear me loud and clear on this, I will not be paraded out like a prize filly for any man there." She turned and climbed up the stairs ignoring the ranting of the woman below.
Dylan returned from her run feeling exhausted but clean, the run had burned much of the self-hatred and doubt from her. All that was left was the confusion of her memories. Would she still be haunted by memories?
"Grandfather? Grandfather?" she called running from room to room calling to the old man.
"I am here Dylan and though I am old I am not deaf." The old man responded entering from the kitchen his arms loaded with firewood.
Dylan rushed forward to relieve the senior of his burden carrying the wood to the fireplace neatly stacking part of it and arranging several small logs over some kindling. Reaching for the long matches to light the fire.
"Grandfather, I have been thinking…"
"Well, it’s about time you stopped moping and started using that brain the Great Spirit gave you." The old man whispered under his breath.
"What was that Grandfather?" Dylan asked knowing that there was nothing wrong with her hearing either and smiling at the remark she had overheard.
"Oh nothing Dylan. What did you need, I heard you calling like a wounded wolf." The old man replied smiling.
"Well, I have though about what you said earlier about…about the men I…I killed." Dylan glanced down at her hands expecting them to be covered with blood. "I have tried to remember all of the men. Thinking of each one at a time. I cannot think of one that was an innocent, not one who did not already have blood on their hands. Those men, the ones I killed were all soldiers. You are right; they knew what might happen, they understood the laws of the warrior. Some fought with honor, most did not. I will not carry their spirits on my shoulders any longer. But I cannot understand why my mind returns to the desert, to the killing. I have lost control of my thoughts, I am no longer safe around my family, my friends, the woman I…" She stopped her and raised her eyes to meet those of her mentor. "The woman I love." She said strongly tilting her head back her blue eyes sparkling in challenge.
"Do not stare at me in challenge Little Hawk. I can still put you over my knee." The old man said in a stern voice.
"I am sorry Grandfather, it is just that…well it is so… argh! My brain is in knots." Came the confused angry voice.
"Dylan, I have know you since the day your mother brought you home screaming and fighting because the day care peolple wanted to put you in diapers. Even then you were a rebel. Funniest thing I ever saw. All you had to do to keep you from crying was let you run around buck naked" He smiled watching the faint red creep up the young woman’s cheeks. Then in a serious tone he told her, "I have know ever since the first trip with the young warriors that you were touched by the Great Spirit and blessed with the spirit of the hawk. I knew then that no man would tame you. What is she like this woman who has tamed the hawk?"
Dylan smiled at her grandfather, her heart and eyes filled with love she told him about her falcon.
Standing by the fireplace in the large formal living room Lura resembled a burning emerald in a deep green satin tea gown. The front was cut low revealing the golden skin, tanned still from the desert sun. The back was cut even lower, accentuating a slim waist and strong back. The soft material hugged her form revealing her taunt muscles and well-shaped legs. Matching deep green sling back shoes finished the outfit and a slender gold chain with a single large deep green emerald graced her throat, her ears were pierced with matching emerald studs. Glancing around the room her eyes skipping over each handsome, perfect male face. Categorizing the young male members of the party into three distinct categories: No, Never, Not as long as there is breath in my body. "There is really a fourth category. she thought, ‘But I am definitely keeping that one to myself; it’s the ‘They could never hold a candle to Dylan’ Category. They all fall into that category’. Sighing aloud she lifted her glass of ginger ale and sipped. She never did acquire a taste for champagne, it always seemed to give her a headache. Her eyes returned again to the room scanning the faces of the men as they laughed, making bold gestures in an attempt to draw her attention. "Just like a bunch of strutting roosters. The one that crows loudest is the one that gets the hens." She smiled her mind slipping to the gutter for a minute as she though, "It’s just that this hen doesn’t like cocks. Oh that was bad!" she though, "Naughty, naughty Lura, shame on you." she smiled as she sipped again silently on her drink in a vain attempt to hide her chuckle. ‘Gingerale tastes great down the throat, but heaven help you if it comes out your nose.’ "Is there something you would like to share with us dear?" a voice sounded at her elbow.
Lura inhaled, startled at the voice and even more so to realize it was her mother. The ginger ale that mere moments ago had acted as a helpful disguise now rushed its chilling way down her windpipe and up into her sinuses. Her eyes bulged as she coughed, choking on the bubbly drink. Her mother patted her gently on the back, a useless gesture since it did not carry the strength she needed to knock the breath back into her lungs. Finally gathering herself she turned to face her parent, her hand still covering her mouth, her eyes watering from the recent fit.
"Mother, you startled me." ‘Boy is that the understatement of the year.’ She thought, still catching her breath. "What can I do for you?"
"Well, dear, if you are sure you are okay?" her mother questioned.
"Yes, mother, I am fine." Lura replied, already frustrated with the smaller woman.
"Well, then, let me introduce to you Mr. Nathan Bedford Owens the third, his mother and I attended the University of Virginia together, we are sorority sisters."
Lura turned to smile at the young man that her mother was presenting, her mind vaguely catching the rather formal introduction her mother was stating.
"Nathan, this is my lovely daughter, Victoria Lura Gillum Grant." She said. ‘Finally my daughter is meeting the proper people. And Nathan is from such fine stock. I hope she has the sense to see what a wonderful opportunity this is for her. My she is just speechless with pleasure.’ Alison thought.
Lura, felt the smile freeze on her face as the hairs on her neck rose. Her eyes made contact with those of the young man and a shiver ran involuntarily down her spine. He gazed at her with cold dark eyes that seemed to undress her and assess her all in one glance. She quickly withdrew the hand she had raised to his, instead using it to brush an imaginary strand of hair from her eyes. "Mr. Owens." She said, her voice chilled and the smile finally gone from her face. "She did not like this man. She was not sure why but she knew there was something not quite right. Her internal alarms were sounding and she had learned long ago, when dealing with men, to listen to those alarms.
"Ms. Grant, it is a real pleasure, your mother has told me so much about you." Nathan bowed his sleek head a thatch of blond hair fell forward giving him a rakish appearance which he knew most women found devilishly attractive.
"This man is dangerous’ that is what is setting off my systems.’ Lura thought. "Funny, she has never mentioned you Mr. Owens." Lura stated coldly, "Please excuse me, I must go freshen up." She said as she turned away and headed towards the stairs.
"I am so sorry Nathan. I have no idea what has come over her. She has just not been herself since she returned from that dreadful experience overseas." Alison gasped in an effort to smooth ruffled feathers.
"I understand completely Mrs. Grant, perhaps you would allow me the opportunity to provide your daughter with a distraction. Would it be possible to stop by tomorrow and perhaps take her for a ride in the country?"
"That sounds like a wonderful idea, Nathan. It may just be what Lura needs to snap her out of her little doldrums." Alison added with a smile.
‘My God, what is mother thinking? Doesn’t she have any idea what kind of man that is? I know a predator when I see one, and that guy is a shark.’ Lura stepped into the bathroom and leaned against the sink, her back to the mirror and her arms folded. "Dylan baby, I love you, but I am gonna give you such a thump on the head when I find you. Leaving me in this situation." Lura sighed, stood up straight, brushed the front of her tea gown, squared her shoulders and turned to march back out into battle.
Dylan sighed as she sipped her coffee, her Grandfather, had always been an understanding sort and had always supported her. He seemed to be fascinated by Lura. The conversation had distracted her from her morose thoughts but now she reluctantly remembered the reason she had left the beautiful blond. "Grandfather, I am troubled." She began, "Twice now I have reacted on reflex to situations and both times I have come close to harming someone, someone who was completely innocent." Dylan remembered Lura’s expression when the coffee spilled down the front of her rode and the terrified expression of terror on the face of the young Frisbee player. "I can’t seem to stop myself, I react without thought. I am afraid…" She stopped here unable to voice her thoughts.
"Yes, you are afraid of what Dylan? That you will hurt someone innocent?
Dylan nodded in silence.
Humm, I understand." Grey Hawk whispered. Leaning forward resting his elbows on his knees, a gesture his Granddaughter unconsciously mirrored. "You have been through much in the last few years, perhaps it is time you took a little vacation." The old man whispered.
"Huh? But Grandfather, I have been on vacation ever since I returned to the United States, I am sick of vacation. Maybe if I go back to work…"
"No Dylan, that is not the sort of vacation I mean. Ever since you returned you have lost yourself. You have not had the chance to stop and touch the earth. I believe it is time for you to go on a vision quest."
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