Between the Books: Volume Eighteen
|Volume Eighteen - Damali's Dilemma Part II|
|During||"Damali's Dilemma after the dream"|
|Before||Damali's Journal Vol. 4|
|Location||At the house in Arizona...|
|Between the Books Navigation|
Damali fled down the hall just as soon as she could extricate herself from Berkfield’s morning rant in the kitchen. As bad as Berkfield claimed to have to pee, the man had gone on and on about common consideration until her eyes almost glazed over while listening to him. The house was way too small and now felt like a matchbox. Carlos had to be crazy trying to get some in the bathroom!
The shaky plan she’d devised on the fly while trying to get away from Carlos had to work. But one could only hope. If she got busted again after what had happened in the motel, she’d just dig a hole in the yard, cover it up, and disappear!
Multiple emotions battled for dominance within her as she quietly opened the all-female Guardian bedroom door, slipped around it, and closed it softly behind her. Acute embarrassment won out. Damali shut her eyes tightly and leaned against the door, palms flat against it at her sides like she was being chased, and tried to steady her breathing. Her heart was slamming so hard that it was spiking her blood pressure and putting little pinpoints of light beneath her lids.
Men had no concept… Well the senior Guardians were cool, but one Carlos Rivera was not!
Had he any idea how truly mortified she was the next day when they’d left that motel? No! He had this big ole grin on his face like the cat that ate the canary. Damali cringed. That was the problem, he did. Shit! And everybody on the team heard it in stereophonic sound. But did Carlos think about the ripple effect and all the drama that sound-felony had probably caused? Noooooo… he most certainly did not!
Anger wrestled with embarrassment in her head as she sipped shallow breaths and tried to calm down. The younger guys in the house had practically high-fived him that next morning, while her big brothers couldn’t even look her in the eyes. Another wave of shame washed through her as the thought of Shabazz. He was like her Dad! The older women were cool, but it took her three days to be able to meet Marlene’s serene gaze again… Marlene was Mom, in every sense of the word. Poor Marjorie kept dropping things in her presence. Inez was gonna make her lose her mind with the signifying, you-go-gurl vibe. Krissy looked at her like she was an Olympic heroine… and Juanita was gonna make her slap the taste out of that heifer’s mouth. No. Never again. Not like that.
Damali took two, deep, shuddering breaths. Marlene was right. As the team’s female Neteru, she had responsibilities. Each new, untrained Guardian was her charge—and even though they were adults or close to it, in terms of demon-slaying, they were just babies. So how would that seem if one of her kids got killed because she was off somewhere playing? How would she ever be able to explain to grieving parents that it had happened on her watch because she was getting busy?
Scratch the parents, how would she explain it to her queens… or The Covenant, oh my God! She could just see herself trying to tell Father Patrick that Krissy or Bobby had been eaten by a werewolf because Carlos was eating her and she couldn’t get up. Insane. Or, trying to tell Inez’s mother and baby girl that Auntie Damali had let her best friend in the whole wide world get her throat ripped out by a vamp because she had one on her delivering love bites! Yeah, and try telling Krissy or Bobby that one or both of their parents now had fangs, all because she was in the throes of passion with a guy that used to own a pair himself. Even if Juanita got demon-jacked, she’d feel bad, crazy as that was.
The bigger issue was, how would she ever explain any of that to herself, or when the time came to meet her Maker. There’d be no plausible way to explain it to the real rule-makers On High. Uh uh. Carlos had better get out of her face.
Damali slowly wrapped her arms around herself. There could never be another Dee Dee catastrophe, or the loss of any more junior Guardians like they’d sustained a few years back. At least not because of this. Not because she didn’t listen to sage advice and didn’t allow the newbies on the team to come into their own powers without distractions so they could bloom. In her mind, and the way Marlene had described it, not allowing them to fully develop was akin to not allowing one’s children to reach their full potential so they could make it in this big bad world.
Imagine not doing that, she told herself, when one knew full well there were monsters and beasts. Damali quietly sighed. Yeah, imagine not being there when your kids woke up terrified from nightmares that you knew were real. How could one live with oneself if they left little babies all alone in a house to go out partying and something awful happened… like the house burned down… or a predator came in and snatched them? Carlos didn’t get it. Until each and every newbie could stand and fight like a senior Guardian, she was Mom. He needed to start acting like a real Dad. The playboy life was dead.
She had to be the one to fight to the death for the life of a newbie. Didn’t he realize that, without his on-point support, she was the one that had to draw a weapon, square her shoulders, and be ready to kick ass, if necessary. The older Guardians that filled in as her parents were also getting up there in years. They were essentially grandparents now… which meant they weren’t as strong as she was, could baby sit upon occasion, but if some shit jumped off—Mom had to be there, especially if Dad was off somewhere trippin’. Somebody had to be the responsible adult. Period.
The reality made Damali hug herself tighter and lean her head back against the door. Why couldn’t Carlos just see that? She had to teach the newbies… build skills that they’d carry for life so they could have a life. She had to nurture to build confidence so they could bloom. She had to allay their fears, telling them the truth, but while also giving them guidance on how to cope with it. And… she had to set an example. Show them discipline. Make sure they knew how to avoid the carnal so they’d have internal fortitude to resist a vampire’s siren call.
Then there were the basics of efficiently running a full household. Everyone had to eat. Laundry had to be done. The joint had to be orderly like a military barrack so that at a moment’s notice, everybody could find their fucking weapons! Cleaning up wasn’t an option; it was part of the survival skills package. This wasn’t a bachelor’s pad or a dorm. Prayer barriers had to be constantly reinforced, too.
Chores had to be assigned daily in a fair and democratic fashion so it wasn’t all left on a few members of the team—the women—and something else Mr. Rivera needed to stop grumbling about. Sheeit… so what he didn’t like doing tubs and toilets. Last time she checked, neither did she. But when it was her turn, the porcelain was gleaming. Just like his ass had to learn how to cook for the whole house. Whatever.
Plus, with all the personalities in the house, dealing with that took a fair amount of energy, just to squash the constant bickering. By the time she got to bed, it made all the sense in the world that all she wanted to do was drop and go to sleep. No freakin’ wonder she was dreaming insane dreams!
What about all this didn’t he get? It was no longer just about him, what he wanted, when he wanted it and the two of them alone. They had a family, for chrissakes! To her way of seeing things, he needed to be an active part of that, step up, and shoulder his portion of the load without grumbling and complaining about it. And, if the brother had any sense, he’d know that, the sooner he did and pitched in, the sooner the so-called kids in their charge would learn… and that would push up the timeline to more quickly help get them ready to fly. By then, the new compound would be built. With the team trained and fit, and a private space to call their own, then she’d be able to relax. Then he could get all the hot sex he wanted. It was a matter of priorities; booty or losing a newbie to catastrophe. Men!
She let out a heavy breath of frustration and centered her thoughts. She had to get out of this foul mood and focus. Hashing and rehashing the whole problem wasn’t doing her any good. She already knew what she had to do. Unfortunately, there was no space and time for her individual wants and needs right now till ‘the kids’ in the house grew up.
But a small part of her had to admit that, she knew where Carlos was at… Didn’t he know how much she would have loved to stay that bathroom in his arms?
The thought sent a slight shiver down her spine. The man was sexy as hell. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to… she couldn’t. It wasn’t that she didn’t miss those nights alone in his lair—they’d been branded into her soul. It wasn’t as though desire never scorched her; it was just that when she weighed the immediate, short-term gratification against the long-term consequences, she had to make an adult, rational decision. The newbies’ safety and security always won out.
Damali sighed and slowly slid down the door to sit of the floor with her back pressed against it. She almost laughed, feeling hot moisture build beneath her lids. No wonder she was having crazy dreams. By day she was spent, by night on patrol, and in her stone-cold sleep was the only private place that she could finally relax and really get some. Now that was crazy.
And yet, even asleep, she couldn’t completely let herself go—not in a room packed with newbies in the house. It was like having kids sleeping with you in bed. Yeah, right, give in to a full-blown wet dream and wake up to see one of the girls staring at her shocked. Then she would die a thousand deaths. No way! Most nights she fervently prayed not to allow her mind to even go near anything sensual as she drifted off. But she’d been so tired the night before, it slipped her mind. Okay, her bad. Wouldn’t happen again.
But now it made sense why right in the middle of a dream-state sexual encounter, her psyche had probably devised a way to not let that fully happen to completion. Instead of letting the scenario play out normally, she was swinging a blade at Carlos in mortal combat like he was a vamp. Wild. She sighed again. That had to be the answer. This was most likely her own, private, Freudian struggle and not a vision. Even in heavy REM she was on Mommy duty and couldn’t get laid. Damali gathered her knees up to her chest and hugged them to her body hard, resting her forehead on them. Shit…
The cosmos was asking a lot of her. She couldn’t get back in her bed to try to catch a couple more hours of shut-eye… after being hemmed in by Carlos in close quarters up against a tile wall made that impossible. He’d left her so horny that there was no way she couldn’t think about being with him. If he came at her again in a dream or just walked down the hall, right now she had to admit the truth was, she wouldn’t be able to say no if her life depended on it. Sitting right here on the floor where it was safe was best.
Damali tried her best to shake the desire shiver that was creeping down her spine, and lost the fight. The devastated look on Carlos’s face and his honest bewilderment let her know that he hadn’t been tampering with her mind, hadn’t invaded her sleep. Knowing that didn’t help matters. His eyes pleading with her to relent haunted her thoughts. He had such intensity burning in them and that sexy, rough, morning stubble that made his jaw-line darker, simply added to his allure. His hands were sooo hot against her caress-parched skin that drank in the touch as though it had been left in the desert for weeks. He was her water. A true Scorpio man. When he took off his shirt and stripped his drawstrings, she was done. Damn…
Why was her mind kicking her ass like this? She hadn’t been on the astral plane, and had refused to go there with him—that would be no different than leaving the house to get it on in a motel. Both of them would be AWOL and would have left the household unprotected. This had been her kookiness, not his… but God his hands felt so good… and he smelled so freakin’ good… and his mouth… Lawd.
She leaned her head back and took in a long, deep, cleansing breath. She could do this; get through newbie training without incident. Like Marlene said, sooner or later ‘the kids’ in the house would grow up. But keeping her hands off Carlos made months seem like years.
Three weeks suddenly slammed her full force and made her want to weep. She wanted him so badly right now that her body was beginning to shake like a junky. Try as she might to jettison the hot thought of what might have happened if Berkfield hadn’t knocked on the bathroom door, the image was firmly planted in her brain and torturing her now without mercy.
It also didn’t help in the least that she not only knew where Carlos was, but could feel it. Maybe she should have given him some—no. Scratch that. She’d been right. There was way in the world to make love to him and not make a sound. She’d learned that lesson the hard way, literally, in the motel. Biting her lip didn’t help.
They’d been just fooling themselves thinking they could be quiet and do it on the sneak tip, and yet, she couldn’t blame the man. He was to her what she was to him, a damned narcotic, a freaking hallucinogen… a product of pure pleasure—oblivion, when they got together. The world ceased to exist. Time stopped. There was nothing but the two of them wrapped in a hot… profound… ecstasy.
Damali shuddered and swallowed hard. Damn, she loved that man and wanted him so. But she’d cut his heart out if he ever put her in an embarrassing position like that again in front of the whole squad. He knew better, she firmly told herself. She knew better, she mentally chided. They both knew they were too volatile a combination to mix with the night—a loud kaboom waiting to happen… nitro, too unstable to mix with a room… a bed… skin-on-skin catching fire. How was she supposed to stifle a moan when burning up? How was she supposed to just quietly stare at the ceiling when being impaled by the most awesome weapon the man owned, huh? Oh, yeah, right… just be as silent as a mouse when he kissed down her belly and found her secret place and ate her alive. Not possible.
Her breathing hitched, just thinking about it. Carlos Rivera was the most stubborn, frustrating, self-absorbed, aggravating, sexy, awesome, outrageous, cocky, wonderful, intelligent, chauvinistic, maddening, pain in the ass being she’d ever encountered! ‘I’ll be quiet, baby.’ Puh-lleeease. Damali shook her head. The man’s voice traveled like a bass-note sound wave… rattled the damned pictures on the wall, when he let loose.
She smiled, becoming suddenly flattered that she could still make him do that. A slight chuckle quietly filled her. Help her Lord; she was sitting on a bedroom floor losing her mind.
Sure, he always started out quiet enough, but it never ended up that way. They had to be real. Shit, she had to be real. It was always the same drama. First he’d be talking trash, cash-shit… all vamp murmurs in her ear… against her neck, right on her sweet spot. Then he’d whisper with that sexy hiss in it, pulling air through his teeth when he touched her a certain way. She shivered hard. Oh, yeah, he used his voice against her every time.
Her arms relaxed and her legs slid out of their hold in front of her. She pushed her hands down firmly on the floor. He was not going to liquefy her this morning, even though she was almost a puddle on the rug now. Still. She had to hold the line, she mentally shouted to herself. Uh uh. No, she was not getting up to go find him in the yard. She’d heard the back door slam and knew it was him leaving. Good, she told herself. She didn’t need to hear his voice, because he’d start that thing he always did in her ear. She knew full well how the man operated—smooth. Not today. Not until the newbies were trained.
If she went to him, his murmur would become a vibration-laden whisper that slid down her neck, and her legs would become jelly and slide open without her consent. Then he’d be talking to her in Espanol, calling her sweet everything he could think of… and that’s when her voice would start to get louder, as her breathing escalated.
No, no, no, no, no. Then that would kick off something louder within him, starting with a low implosion groan that would hit her insides like a depth charge, sonic boom while he was wurkin’. From there it would be all over but the shouting, and yeah, it would come to that, hollering… her voice sliding up the scales in A-minor, finding new intricate harmonies and louder decibels as he did what he did so well. Naw. Because her voice was a catalyst to his; the more she lost it, and she would, the more he’d lose it, and he always did, and by the time they realized it, it would be too late. Noooo. The whole house would be awake, in their business, and they’d be busted. Nope.
Quiet thunder, yeah right. Damali toyed with the word in her mind, allowing it to leisurely roll over her mental palate as she sat on the floor remembering her hot dream.
‘This is thunder,’ he’d said. Sho’ he was right. She started breathing through her mouth.
Thunder… thunnnder… thunda—shit.
And, lightening… light… ten… ing, sudden strike. Oh, God. The man didn’t lie. She squeezed her eyes shut tighter and tried very hard to breathe. Light’nin’, baby. Electrified, liquefied, white-hot charge. Surreal surrender. Thunder and lightening and oh, baby, just take it. That was exactly why she said no in a tiled room. Call and response ricochets would have happened, sound reverberating off the porcelain like the old nights. Hell no.
Water sources adding to the mix, holding the charge, sending backlash aftershocks leaving her deaf, dumb, and blind. Her voice carrying down the hallways and bouncing off hardwood floors. Their most private endearments playing out before a captive listening audience. Oh, hell no! Thunder and lightening in broad daylight until she rained down sobs and he drenched her with sweat. Her acapella chants urging him not to stop; his promises not to shouted at the top of his lungs. Was that man crazy? She knew how this would go. He’d make her lose her mind when he knocked her head back, and her voice would shatter the medicine cabinet mirror. Then how would they explain that!
Damali dabbed her brow with the back of her wrist and opened her eyes, resolute. But she almost jumped out of her skin to see Juanita leaning up in bed on her elbow staring at her with a scowl.
“Is that my robe?” Juanita asked, her tone sharp enough to draw blood.
Damali looked down and then quickly got to her feet, snatching the robe off, and flinging it to Juanita. Damn, damn, damn! Why couldn’t it have been ‘Nez’s?
“My bad,” Damali muttered. “I half sleep when I picked it up and was in a rush to go to the bathroom and didn’t realize.”
Juanita looked at the robe that was cast to the foot of her bed with disdain and sat up. “Don’t worry. I’ll wash it before I wear it again. Trust me.”
Damali swallowed a retort that would lead to sure violence. If the bitch said anything else smart to her, it was on this morning; her nerves were fried. Rather than follow her first impulse, which was to leap over the bed and put her hands around Juanita’s neck, Damali stood aside as Juanita got up and left the room without putting on her robe.
As she watched Juanita strut down the hall half nude, Damali counted to ten, and then took her count up to fifty. What if one of the other guys woke up and saw her? What if Jose came out of his room, then what? Triflin’ cow!
Recent memories of almost stabbing Juanita to death with a butter knife in the motel diner clenched Damali’s hands into fists at her sides. The urge to run after Juanita to beat her ass made Damali tremble. Just once, that’s all she wanted, Lord. Satisfaction, guaranteed.
Instead, Damali opened one hand and ran her fingers through her locks, and then slaked across the room to hunt for her exercise clothes. She peered at the other women who, thankfully, were still asleep, and got dressed.
A shower, alone, and then she was out. A morning run, twenty miles, would keep her body, mind, and spirit righteous. Then she’d go find her Glock and hit the shooting range and kill a cactus or something else inanimate real good. If only she had Madame Isis…
Oh, yeah, men just didn’t understand. The house was waaaay too small. Carlos Rivera needed to get with the fact that, her soul was in quiet jeopardy for potential murder today.
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