As soon as he recognized Jeff’s voice, LM stopped struggling. “He grabbed my wing.”
“And he tried to force me to come with him.”
“I know. I saw him.”
“I want to kick him.”
“Don’t. You’ve done enough.” He paused for a moment. “If I let you go, will you return to Tessa’s room?”
LM frowned. “Why? What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to take this man to Security and let them sort him out.”
His frown deepened. “We should just leave him for someone else to take care of.” Even as he said the words, he knew they were wrong. Capernaum was no longer with him, but LM could feel his disappointment as surely as if Capernaum were still at his side. “Fine. We’ll do it your way.”
“Okay. I’m going to release you. Return to Tessa’s room and stay there until I come back. Understood?”
“Good.” Jeff released him.
LM fixed a hard glare at the whimpering mess of a man on the floor.
LM woke to darkness. His eyes widened in fear. He screamed. He wanted to stop screaming, but he couldn’t. The darkness was a thing, like a monster, sitting on his chest, just waiting to devour him.
Bit by bit.
Piece by piece.
Capernaum rushed into the room and turned on the light.
But LM couldn’t stop screaming.
Capernaum hugged him. “It’s okay, Ellum. You’re safe. Nothing is going to hurt you here. I have you. I’m here. Shh. I’m here. I’m here.”
LM looked away from him. “You aren’t here. Not anymore.”
“What?” Jeff asked.
“Nothing. I’m going back to the room. Bye.”
LM nodded and walked away.
LM walked under a dark cloud all the way back to Missy’s hospital room. If there were any ne’er-do-wells lurking in the hallways, they all took note of LM’s mood and decided not to mess with him.
He entered the room without knocking, not caring if he were interrupting any hot loving sessions. Turns out, he wasn’t interrupting anything. Raven had wilted back into one of the armchairs near Missy’s bed and was currently unconscious.
“You’re back!” Missy said. “Oh, but where’s Dad? He went running after you and he hasn’t come back yet.”
LM transformed into his normal from. He reclaimed his Little Women book and curled up in his chair with it. “I don’t feel like talking.”
“What? How could anyone who can talk not want to talk? Talking is amazing. It’s the best thing ever.”
His feathers bristled out again.
“Maybe you don’t agree with me, but that’s because you’ve never been without a voice. It’s never been stolen from you. So, you don’t know the frustration of wanting to speak and not being able to speak. Not even being able to scream. You don’t know what that’s like.”
“You’re right. I don’t know what it’s like. Much sympathy to you. I don’t feel like talking now. So, quit trying to make me talk.”
“Why don’t you want to talk?”
“Why do you want to?”
Missy shifted into a more comfortable position. “Because I need to. I’m excited and nervous about going home with my pretty shirtless Raven again. I feel like I’ve been in this hospital room for months on end and I’m so excited about finally being able to leave it. But I’m nervous because what if they change their minds and want me to stay for another day and another day and another day and all of those another days become weeks and months? What if I’m never allowed to leave?” She lowered her gaze to her blanket. “What if Dad is right about that nurse? What if she is from The Institute? What if she decides to steal me and sell me to the highest bidder?”
Half-way through that whole paragraph, LM gave Raven a beseeching look. But Raven was sound asleep. LM huffed out an irritated sigh. “I didn’t recognize her and she didn’t act like she recognized me either. Maybe that doesn’t mean anything. The Institute had a lot of employees. I can’t say that I knew all of them. I just know for a fact that she had nothing to do with the Elemental Program. Because I would have recognized her from that. No doubts about it.” He opened his book to the first page. “I’m going to read my book now.”
“Could you read it to me?”
“It will help calm down my nervousness.”
LM frowned as he thought about it. “If I read to you, will you be quiet?”
“Yes. Unless I have a question or feel the need to comment, but otherwise I will be very quiet.”
“Good.” He flipped to the first chapter. “This is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. It’s my absolute favorite book.” He cleared his throat. “Chapter one…”