Using the sleeve of her shirt, Sansa wiped the tears from her face. There was so much to think about. Sandor had been an abused and neglected child with nowhere to turn for help. He had been uneducated and held captive by the only family he knew.
Sandor had been one of millions of children who are caught in miserable situations with no way out. For the terrible crimes his father and brother had committed, against those women, against Nick, and against him, Sandor had finally fought back. He had made them disappear. He killed them. Was it justified? Had justice really been served? And now there was a little Gregor running around out there somewhere.
Her face was puffy and red from crying, but Sandor could see the fear in her eyes. A nervous tingle edged through him. It was one of the things he had worried about. He didn’t want Sansa to be afraid of him.
“Why didn’t you just let the police get them? They would have gone to prison.”
“They would have gotten out of prison.”
“But there were so many girls,” Sansa said.
“There was one girl,” Sandor told her. “They never found any others. I knew my father and brother were smarter than that. Without a …” Sandor hesitated not wanting to say the word. “Without a body, it’s circumstantial. I didn’t want to take that chance.”
Sandor read the doubt on Sansa’s face. He was starting to lose her. He couldn’t help himself but try to convince her. “I knew the law because my father knew the laws and he made sure we knew them, too. When you’re a drug dealer you make sure you know the law so you can play it to your advantage.”
Sansa couldn’t look Sandor in the face. He felt her starting to slip away from him. “I didn’t plan it, Sansa. They hurt me and so I lashed out. I hurt them for all the women they’d hurt – women just like you. Then I hurt them for all the people they’d hurt with their drugs. I hurt them for Nick.” Sandor was getting angry. He wasn’t angry with Sansa, he was frustrated because he couldn’t stop all the old feelings from resurfacing. All the hurt and torment came rushing back at him.
Sandor thumped his fists on the table as he stood up. Sansa jolted in her chair. “I hurt them so that they could never hurt anyone ever again.” Sandor paced the floor trying to control his rage. He stalked up to the fireplace hearth and punched the stones with his fists, venting his fury. When it was drained out of him, Sandor leaned his forehead against the cold stone, his body sagging.
“Aren’t there enough monsters in the world?” he asked no one in particular. Worn out, Sandor returned to his chair across from Sansa, but she wouldn’t look at him. He had lost her. Maybe it was better that way. She could go back to her world and he could stay in his.
Sansa suddenly got up and grabbed her crutches. “I need to go outside,” she told him. When Sandor moved to get out of his chair, Sansa held up her hand to him. She wanted to be alone.
As soon as Sansa was out the door, Sandor’s body began to tremble. He had tried to warn himself of this. He had tried to control his expectations and not invest too many hopes in the possibility of having Sansa in his life. But she had gotten inside him – more than he wanted.
It wasn’t just Sansa, it was knowing that if there was no hope for him with someone like her, there would be no hope for him with anyone. He bit into his scraped knuckles trying to control the trembling while he waited for his judgment.
The cool afternoon air hit Sansa’s face and she couldn’t hold it any longer. She bolted off the edge of the porch as her crutches clattered to the ground and she vomited. It could have been her. Sansa realized that she could have been another victim of the Clegane family legacy. Shawn was out there, a product of his demented father, while she had been alone on the trail lost in the woods.
Sandor hadn’t stopped all the violence. Or had he? Her imagination was getting away from her again. Sansa couldn’t presume that Shawn was anything like that half of his DNA. He was an angry young man whose father was a monster and who had been the product of a rape, but Sansa couldn’t assume that he was any more than that.
Sansa hobbled over to the rain barrel and rinsed her mouth. While she leaned over it looking at her reflection, she saw a frightened little girl who had been rescued and taken in by a man who had killed his own father and brother. With the memories of the family she’d grown up in, Sansa couldn’t even fathom what it must have been like for him to be raised that way. So was it all justified?
Nick had told her that Sandor was a good man. Sandor had saved his life. Sandor had saved Sansa’s life. And the life of the woman who had given birth to Gregor’s son. Nick and Doc said that Sandor had found many lost hikers over the years. How many of those were lives that might have been lost otherwise?
Sansa sat back on the edge of the porch and closed her eyes. In an instant, she was thrown back to the day of the storm, the day she had been dragged down the mountain and into the landslide. She felt the weight of the earth and rocks around her and she was cold. Then she’d felt the heat of Sandor’s hand as he’d pulled her from the mud dam panicked and screaming. He had wrapped his arms around her as she thrashed in fear and pain, trying to keep her from hurting herself even more.
Sansa hadn’t realized that the memories of that day had been in her the whole time. She couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. She wept until she was dry. With a shuddering breath, Sansa picked up her crutches and went inside.
When Sansa came in, Sandor was sitting with his hands clasped in front of him and his head down. He lifted his head quickly watching as Sansa approached on his side of the table. He was pale and defeated, already having guessed at the judgment against him.
Sansa knew what she was doing. She had made the right decision.
Sansa leaned her crutches against the wall and attempted to stand solidly on both legs, her fists balled at her sides. She winced and shifted her weight to her good leg. Her jaw was set with determination as she clenched and unclenched her fingers.
“You won’t hurt me,” she told Sandor. It wasn’t a question.
The defeat in Sandor’s face disappeared as he sucked in a sharp breath. He slowly rose to his feet and faced her. Sansa didn’t move except for the opening and closing of her fists. Sandor took a cautious step toward her. Again, Sansa didn’t move, but she was on her guard.
“No, I won’t hurt you,” he told her. Sandor couldn’t imagine ever hurting Sansa. He hoped she realized that it would be impossible for him to harm her in any way.
Sandor slowly stepped closer, his heart pounding. He was afraid that if he moved too quickly, she might bolt. When he was within reach of her, Sandor placed his hands on her shoulders and pulled her toward him. He wrapped his arms around her feeling her small body rigid and trembling against his chest.
Sandor rested his chin on top of her head and breathed in the scent of her. He kept one arm around her and put the other on the back of her head and stroked her hair. The warmth of her trembling body rushed over him, but he went no further with her. Sansa would have to come the rest of the way to him. If he had to, he was still prepared to let her go.
When Sansa finally lifted her arms and wrapped them around him, Sandor was so awash in relief and joy that he felt hot tears in the corners of his eyes, but he blinked them away. He hugged her a little tighter. Sansa relaxed, pressed herself into his chest and hugged him back.