Jonathan stood by the window of Mac's office, scowling. He couldn't believe her sometimes.

 

"Are you nuts?" He turned to glare at Mac, where she sat beside her lab table with a tray of laboratory vials, a blood collection syringe in one arm. "No one runs a toxicology panel on themselves."

 

She barely spared him a glance, her attention on the single-handed collection of blood samples from her own arm. "I lost time, Jonathan, not my mind. That generally indicates the presence of a benzodiazepine derivative. Since they have a durational effect of only twelve to twenty-four hours, it's imperative I get samples now."

 

Of course she'd believe someone slipped her something. That fit with her logic-based approach. "Why didn't you get the ER to run it?"

 

She sighed in exasperation as she finished her blood draw, withdrew and discarded the hypodermic, and put pressure on her arm with a gauze pad. "I tried. The moment they heard 'head injury' and 'lost time,' they did exactly what I'd expect an ER to do -- assume it was a concussion."

 

He frowned, unsure how to approach the subject of the lost time. She clearly believed she was drugged. He had a different theory. "You remember anything more about those red eyes?"

 

She cast him a quelling look. "Don't start. Just because I took a blow to the head doesn't mean I'm going to start seeing ghosts or little green men. The red eyes were probably just security lights or something, and I was hallucinating from the drug that knocked me out."

 

"Come on, Mac. Even you have to finally admit there's another possibility."

 

She glared at him, but he saw the hesitance in her eyes. She wasn't sure what to believe. Still, she shook her head, and her expression set stubbornly. "Please don't say demons."

 

"It's a possibility."

 

She laughed. "And I suppose one of these demons also has access to a rifle using six millimeter ammunition and is stalking me, too? Please, Jonathan, I'm not an idiot."

 

Shock plunged through Jonathan. "Hold up. Go back a minute. Rifle? What the hell are you talking about?"

 

She sighed, rose from her seat, and went to her desk, retrieving a file she thrust into his hands.

 

"I went to see Patton a couple of weeks ago. I wanted some answers about that man at the farmhouse, and since you weren't going to tell me... Anyway, as I was leaving, someone decided to take a few potshots at me. With a high-powered rifle, according to Victor's ballistic analysis."

 

Jonathan barely kept his fury in check as he stared at the report in the file. He knew exactly who was responsible for those shots. The Crucibani couldn't have made his threat clearer. They had no qualms with taking Mac out, if she got in their way. But, damn it, how was he supposed to protect her if she refused to let him know when things like this happened?

 

"Exactly when were you planning on telling me this?" He was aware of the icy fury in his own voice, even without Mac's flinch to confirm it. He wanted to care, but he was too angry.

 

"I..." She shrugged without finishing.

 

"Damn it, Mac! Get it through your head -- This. Is. Dangerous. We're up against a killer who's been doing this for a very long time. I can't protect you if you don't tell me when people are shooting at you."

 

"I don't recall asking for protection," she shot back, her expression going from wary to incensed. "The only thing I'm looking for is the truth -- I don't answer to you."

 

Jonathan glanced out the window as the headlights from Linda's distinctive lime green Honda passed over the window. He was torn between his desire to strangle Mac himself, and wrap her up and protect her from all harm. With the bombshell she just dropped, he didn't want to leave, but he knew he had to. If he was going to get any answers for Mac, he had to get the box Mac found to Damion, but he wasn't about to leave her alone. He originally called Linda from the hospital while Mac was going through the discharge process, to make sure someone would be here. He knew she couldn't go home, and there was no way he could take her with him where he was going. Now that he knew she'd been shot at, he was loath to leave at all.

 

"No, you don't," he answered her, turning back from the window. He didn't want to argue with Mac, and after a long, tense night and her revelation about the shooter, he was too frazzled to trust himself around her. He had to actively fight the desire to gather her up in his arms and promise her the world if she'd just let him protect her. "But we're partners, whether you like it or not, and you need to starting trusting me to have your back."

Contact Esther Mitchell at:

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