Take My Hand Chapter 2

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            And with those words, the image of Carson in all his vampiric glory returned to her. She jumped from his arms and began to back away from him until she hit a wall.

            "Oh my, you weren't kidding," she gasped, voice trembling. Her whole body began to shake violently. "Get out. Get out now."

            "Jocelyn, please, are you okay?" he asked, desperation creeping into his voice. He hadn't wanted to hurt her. Why did I tell her? How stupid! he thought to himself, angry at himself for causing her distress.

            "No. I'm not okay. Get out."

            Carson carefully reached out with his mind to clear away the image of himself as a vampire, as well as all of the incautious statements he had made that may trigger the memory if she dwelled on them. He allowed her to retain the memory of the rest of the night. He just couldn't bring himself to completely erase himself from her memory. He liked the idea that she would remember him. As he retracted himself from her mind, she shook her head as if clearing her thoughts.

            "I should be going," Carson said somewhat sadly.

            "But you're injured. Where will you go?" Jo replied without thought. "Oh, I'm sure you have a home of your own. But will you be able to make it there okay?"

            Jo was a naturally kind hearted individual. She couldn't stand to see anyone hurt; hence why she had brought a stranger that she found in an alleyway back to her apartment to mend him up. Her compassion could be an extraordinary trait, but there is always the possibility that it could lead her into trouble.

            "Do not worry for me, little innocent. I will be fine," Carson said with a slight smile at her concern. He knew it wasn't just for him and that she would have treated anyone the same way, but he couldn't help allowing himself to feel like someone cared about what happened to him for the first time in his life. It was more precious to him than words could describe.

            "You could stay here if you need to," Jo said, totally unsure of why she was asking a complete stranger to stay in her apartment. But there was something about Carson that made her trust him. He had such kindness and gentleness behind the pain in his eyes. His eyes pleaded for her to care, and something in her own soul answered that plea. It wasn't something she could explain, but this man needed her, and, somehow, she felt that she needed him too.

            "If you only knew how tempting of an offer that is... But I cannot accept," Carson said, taking a step toward her. He raised his hand to touch her cheek as he neared her. His fingertips barely grazed the skin, raising goosebumps along her neck. She closed her eyes and sighed lightly. "Thank you," he whispered softly before turning to leave.

            Before Jo could even gather herself to reply, Carson was gone and she heard her front door close behind him.

            Carson dematerialized just outside of Jocelyn's door and reappeared in a cave in the side of a mountain outside the city. He had no home. He had no one to care for him. He had no reason to live and no means to die. But tonight, as the sun approached the horizon, he curled into the cold stone and thought of Jocelyn.

            Her beauty was something that he could barely comprehend. It went beyond the physical aspects, though those had certainly captured his attention as well. She was so petite; her hair looked so soft, and he was dying to run his fingers through it; her eyes were vibrantly green, framed by dark, curly lashes and perfectly arched eyebrows the same color as her softly curling mahogany hair; her skin was pale ivory and her cheeks and full lips glowed in shades of soft peach. Carson simply couldn't get over how beautiful and innocent she had looked. She was like a tiny porcelain doll, and yet she had cared for him with such strength and certainty. And her eyes were not those of a pampered doll. This girl had pain behind her eyes, pain that Carson could identify with. And it hurt him to know that this compassionate, angelic young woman had known enough pain that it was etched into her eyes and into her soul.

            Carson had longed to take Jocelyn into his arms and hold her tight to him, trying to heal the pain he had seen. He wanted to tell her that he would care for her, protect her from whatever had hurt her. But that could never be. He was a vampire, and vampires had no place with innocent beauties like Jo.

            These thoughts plagued Carson as the dreamless, deathlike sleep of the day claimed him.

            Jocelyn finished cleaning the bathroom in a daze. She let the water out of the bathtub, took the soiled towels to her laundry room and started the washer, put the supplies back in their places, and cleaned the blood from her floor. She did all of this with little thought for the act. Her mind was elsewhere on the man himself.

            As she climbed into the shower, she remembered the pain that had been written over his face. It was for the pain he had endured during the night, though she had never learned how he had sustained the wounds, as well as the pain from his past. She could understand the look in his eyes, the pleading for kindness and caring. There was something in this man that wouldn't allow her to forget him. She knew he would be on her mind long after she was forgotten from his.

            She finished her shower, letting the water rush through her hair and down her body, caressing all of the curves of her body and washing away all of the stress from the day and night before. She tried to wash away all of the dirt of her past, trying desperately to make her body feel clean. Her body never felt clean. She always felt contaminated, no matter how clean she was physically. The water, scalding though it was, could never warm the cold that settled down in her heart so long ago. For a moment, when Jo had looked into Carson's eyes, the coldness had evaporated. She had felt whole for the first time in a very long time. But the emptiness had taken up residence in all of the old spaces as soon as she had heard her front door shut behind him.

            As Jo shut off the water to the shower, stepping out and wrapping a towel around her body, she remembered how he had looked as he reached out and barely caressed her cheek. She sighed, remembering the way his hair had fallen over his forehead. It was so dark, blacker than the night, and longer than most would consider proper. But it was incredibly attractive to Jo as it ended just above those stunning eyes. She had never seen eyes like his. They were blue, but they were so light that they almost looked silver. It was unsettling in a way, and yet they made her stomach do flips when he had looked into her eyes. His dark skin was so much different from her own pale skin; his arms and chest had been tanned and toned, the muscles perfectly sculpted without him looking muscle bound. And he had moved gracefully, despite his wounds. And those lips! They were absolutely delectable. He would have been more than irresistible without all the bruises and cuts. And he wasn't so bad with them, Jo thought to herself. Nonetheless, he was gone now.

            Jo drew on her favorite worn out pajamas and crawled into her bed, cutting off the lamp and staring into the dark as she curled deeper into the sheets, trying to find some measure of warmth. As she closed her eyes, she still saw warmth in Carson's ice-colored eyes.

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