It filled his mind and conquered his thoughts. He liked the dark. He’d always felt at home in the dark. He should have blown himself up a long time ago.
Dead was good. Dead was quiet. The silence was fucking golden.
Sol turned his head, his mind swimming in the wavering blackness. Something was there—a pinpoint of light. He didn’t question why it was there, he just watched as the light grew into a fire, slowly infusing the dark.
Sol scoffed inwardly. He hadn’t figured he’d get to see another sunrise. That fire blazing toward him was more likely a demon come to claim his soul. The flames floated over him, the reds and oranges burning his eyes. He was hot all over. His skin. His hair. His mouth bone dry.
The fire touched him, but it wasn’t hot. It was cool, blessedly cool and completely unexpected.
He bolted upright and was assaulted by a rush of nausea that invaded his throat. He pitched on his side. Something scraped across the floor. Gentle fingers gripped the back of his neck, holding him in place. His stomach spasmed, his body canting like a boat cresting a wave. Up and down. Up and down. He’d never been seasick a day in his life, but he felt it now. He knew he wasn’t on his boat anymore. His boat was gone. And he wasn’t in the Deep. It was too dry. He clutched the bed, helpless to do anything but ride it out. Bed? Where the hell was he? After his stomach settled and he quit heaving, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, trying to make sense of his surroundings.
“That was close. I almost didn’t get the trash can under you in time. You’ve been doing that all night.” The demon had a nice voice. A feminine voice. A sexy voice. Something cool pressed against his forehead.
Sol blinked through his confusion. Darkness he understood, but why in hell would a demon hold his head while he puked and then press a cold rag to his head? He fell back onto the pillow, oddly exhausted. A fucking pillow. He squeezed his eyes shut and rasped, “I’m not dead.”
“No,” the voice said, a note of sympathy in the gentle tone.
“Where am I?” He needed a drink, something to soothe his throat and numb his mind. He was supposed to be dead.
“The cottage behind our house.”
Should that mean something to him? And that voice? He knew that voice, but he couldn’t place it.
“Levi used to stay out here until he went totally castaway on us.”
She laughed and the sound drifted over his skin like a thousand warm breaths. “So you do know my name.”
He knew her name though he couldn’t recall ever using it, and he was having a hard time picturing her face. As Levi’s sister, Farron was off-limits. Levi had made that abundantly clear numerous times. He’d seen firsthand what happened to guys that looked at Farron in any way Levi deemed inappropriate. Guess that’s why he’d quit looking at her years ago. Now he wished he’d paid more attention.
“How did I get here?” He’d wanted to die. He deserved death, but as he gulped in the moisture-rich air an overwhelming sense of relief snaked through him, making his arms and legs feel like jelly.
He was alive and it was quiet.
“I found you washed up on the beach.” The cool cloth slid over his cheek, wiped across his mouth and down his neck. His hand shot out, fingers curling around a delicate wrist. An erratic pulse beat against his finger.
“How long have I been here?” He wanted to stand up, test his legs, but the darkness was spinning, and he wouldn’t risk being sick in front of her again. That he’d apparently been lying here at her mercy totally vulnerable, totally unaware, was humiliating enough.
“Since yesterday morning,” she said, tugging her arm free of his hold.
That told him absolutely nothing.
“Who else knows I’m here?” Caris. The name poked his mind like a hot wire. The things he’d said. He’d kissed her. She must hate him. He hated him.
What was that catch in her voice? Why hadn’t she told anyone she’d found him?
Sol closed his eyes. Or maybe they were still open. It was hard to tell. Everything was dark except for the fire.
“Are you okay?” Farron asked. “I mean, you look fine. Is there something else?”
He couldn’t answer. He didn’t know. He needed to think. He needed to figure out what to do now that he wasn’t dead.
“Sol?” Her hand fell on his arm. Her warm breath was close to his face, her body heat reaching out to him, but he couldn’t see her. All he could see was the fire. “Are you hungry? I brought breakfast, but I’m not sure you should eat. I thought you’d be better by now.”
Breakfast. Morning. Where was the sun? Why couldn’t he see it?
Bracing himself with his hands, Sol scooted up, resting his back against the headboard. The darkness swirled in front of his eyes, and his stomach rolled again, and he breathed deeply, forcing it to pass. He could keep the dizziness at bay as long as he moved slowly. What the hell was wrong with him? “I could use a drink.”
He felt her move, felt the air tingling with tiny vibrations. Smelled her scent, a mixture of salt and oranges with a tinge of cigarette smoke. He didn’t know much about Farron, but he wouldn’t have taken her for a smoker. Though it was possible the smoky smell was coming from him. Now that he’d been awake a few minutes the details were beginning to come back to him. He remembered catching fire, the heat of it sizzling up his back. His ears numbed to the remembered roar of the blast. One hand slipped under the sheet to his thigh. Bare, not a stitch of clothing.
“Sol?” Her voice echoed from the center of the fire.
He blinked the sensation of heat away. “What?”
“Seriously? You want me to hold the bottle to your mouth?”
Oh yeah, he’d asked for a drink. He stared at the fire. It was on a level with his face. He lifted a hand, and luckily it bumped into the bottle she was holding out to him. He took it, unscrewed the lid, and brought it to his lips, telling himself not to panic. This was temporary. He’d bumped his head or… something. The dark would go away.
Liquid sloshed in his mouth and eased his dry throat. God that was good. “You got anything stronger?”
“It’s eight in the morning.” Her voice had gone flat with disapproval, but he also heard the underlying amusement.
“What’s your point?” As long as he kept talking to her, kept his eyes on the fire he could keep the alarm at bay. Other than a dull headache and the unsettled feeling in his stomach he felt fine.
“My point is water is all I’ve got and all you need.” She sounded like his sister. But no, he couldn’t think about her now.
It was quiet. He couldn’t hear her anymore. That was all that mattered.
He needed to figure out what was wrong with him. He needed to go home, but he’d destroyed his home. Now that he thought about it, his plan had been short-sighted. But then he hadn’t meant to fail. “Why haven’t you told anyone I’m here?”
Her sigh was full of hesitancy and an annoying degree of sympathy.
“Caris told us what happened. I wasn’t sure if you’d want to see anyone yet.”
He wondered how much Caris had told them. God, he hoped not all of it. But it was obvious Farron thought he was mentally fragile, maybe suicidal. Was he? He didn’t think so anymore. He’d fixed it. It was quiet. It was also dark. He took another long drink of water and worked on forming a plan. He needed his boat. This would have been easier to deal with on his boat where everything was familiar.
"Can I stay here for a few days?” Damn, he sounded pathetically needy. He sure as hell didn’t want to need anyone. He didn’t need anyone.
He felt a ripple of shock steal over her, the breath she released stuttered.
“Yes, but your family is looking for you. They think you’re dead. Levi thinks you’re dead. He’s pretty upset. Everyone is.”
Well, wasn’t that sweet.
“I understand, but I need…” To see. “Time.”
“Sol, I don’t feel right—"
“Please.” He reached out blindly and caught her hand, the grip of his fingers desperate. He couldn’t face Caris yet. And the thought of facing his father left his blood running cold. He couldn’t stand up under his father’s disappointment. Not yet. Maybe never.
“Okay,” Farron finally agreed, pulling her hand from his.
He heard the slight buzzing in his head as the air shifted. The scraping noise again as if she’d picked something off the floor. Then she was moving away from him. He wasn’t prepared for the apprehension that swamped him at the thought of her leaving.
“Where are you going?” His voice cracked.
“I need to empty this trash can.”
His jaw worked. She’d been looking after him, acting as his nurse. She’d said he’d been puking all night. Funny, he didn’t remember. He’d been at her mercy and the idea soured his gut. He wondered if she’d helped him to the bathroom too. He didn’t feel like he needed to pee. God he hoped he hadn’t pissed in the bed or worse.
“Farron?” The air quit shimmering. The buzzing in his head lessened to a slight humming. She’d stopped. The fire bobbled and flamed brighter. She was looking at him. He wasn’t sure how he knew, he just did. He swallowed. “Thanks.”
What was that? That sudden spark?
“I’ve got some stuff to do, but I’ll check on you later. Bring some soup,” she said. Then she was gone, taking the fire with her, leaving him in darkness.
He clenched his jaw to the demand rising in his throat for her to come back.
Sol rested his head on the wall behind him and closed his eyes. Nothing changed. He opened them again. The darkness was still there. And so was the silence. He expelled a pent-up breath. He couldn’t hear her anymore. At least it hadn’t been for nothing.