Slumber Page 39

“If we don’t find a safe place to stay that’s on you!”

“No.” I shook my head. “That’s on you. What’s so important you can’t trade this?!”

“It’s private, Rogan. You know private, as in none of your business, as in you don’t need to know!”

“Yes, I do!”

“Why?!”

For a moment I couldn’t meet his eyes, my stomach lurching again, my brother’s laughter taunting my guilt. I clenched my teeth, hoping somehow it would hold me together. Finally I met Wolfe’s curious, frustrated gaze. “I don’t know why.”

I don’t know what Wolfe saw in my eyes, but he searched long enough to find it and finally nodded. “Fine.”

“You’ll trade?” I asked in surprise.

“I’ll trade.”

“Then ask away.”

“Rogan, I need you to find us someplace safe to stay and get us there by a safe route.”

My magic washed over me in a warm wave and I was almost sorry when it was over and my skin turned cold again in the downpour. I felt the pull of the little farm over the border into Daeronia. I grinned wearily, glad at the thought of the danger free journey I felt ahead of us. “Follow me.”

Chapter Seventeen

Being a mage came in handy. It took us a few days but we crossed the border into Daeronia with little problem (except hunger and exhaustion) and soon our olfactory senses were bombarded by the sweet yeasty smell of the large brewery to the west of us as we headed towards Caera. It would take another half day or so to ride onto Caera, so I took us off the main trade road and into the fields towards a tiny farm owned by an elderly widow my magic told me would help us.

She was surprisingly wily, peppering us with questions. Since my magic told us it was safe, Wolfe thought it was alright to tell her he was one of the Guard and we had gotten into some trouble at the rookery in Vasterya.

“Oh, I heard about all that trouble at the border.” She nodded, leading us past her little sitting room and into a larger farm kitchen. The smell of home-cooked stew caused my stomach to rumble and I clutched it in embarrassment. The widow threw me a sympathetic smile and gestured to the table for us to take seats. “Sounds like the two of you were lucky to get away.”

“Yes, ma’am, we were,” Wolfe agreed. “We really appreciate you helping us.”

“No thanks needed.” She bustled about, ladling huge amounts of stew into a bowl. I felt the saliva building up under my tongue. “I ain’t got much room in the house I’m afraid but I’ve got a barn outside with a nice warm hayloft. I got some blankets you can take up there; that should keep you cosy for the night.”

Even though I didn’t fancy a night in a barn it was just so nice to be treated with some hospitality again… you know, rather than being kidnapped and thrown around. “That sounds perfect.” I smiled gratefully as she put a bowl of stew and a cup of ale before me. I shared a happy look with Wolfe and we broke bread, scooping the stew up as if we hadn’t had a decent meal in ages. And to be honest we hadn’t. The old widow was almost as good a cook as Cook.

“This is delicious,” I managed between mouthfuls and she smiled cheerily, watching us scoff it down, seeming happy to have someone to feed again.

After our bellies were full we sat with her for a while, engaging her in conversation that we somehow kept centred around her life. Finally, seeing her eyelids droop, I suggested we get some sleep. Handing over some blankets and an oil lamp, the widow sleepily wished us a good night and turned to ascend the stairs to her own bed.

The barn wasn’t huge and when we climbed up into the hayloft we glanced at one another. It was certainly cosy. I flushed at the thought of being in such close quarters with Wolfe. Not saying a word to one another, we spread the blankets out and then carefully sat down next to one another. I could feel the heat from his skin inches from mine, the scent of him tickling my senses. I shivered a little, my stomach doing that strange flipping thing again.

Finally I couldn’t take the silence. “So, you’re quite a powerful Glava?”

Wolfe tensed beside me and I bit my lip, wondering if he was going to go back on his word and not tell me all I wanted to know.

“Well?”

He exhaled so heavily I almost felt badly for pressing him about it.

Not badly enough to stop. “Wolfe?” I placed a tentative hand on his arm and he jolted in surprise, looking down at it there. Those eyes of his lifted up slowly until they were stuck on mine and I flushed, breaking the connection, pulling my hand away from his arm.

“I hid it,” he said quietly, snapping my attention back to his face. “I hid it.”

“But why?”

He shrugged, staring off into the dark rafters ahead of us, his jaw taut with suppressed emotion. “Because… because I was afraid the magic meant I was like my father.”

That vulnerable sentence reached out to me to take me by the shoulders and shake me awake. My heartbeat picked up its pace and I began to get this sick feeling in my stomach.

How could I have been so wrong?

“Kir… Kir said you were as much a victim as him and I. What did he mean?”

Wolfe’s eyes slanted towards me, a well of dark pain and anger fencing in his gaze. I knew he didn’t want to tell me, that I was using his sense of honour, in keeping his promise, against him. If I were any kind of good person I would have reached out and told him it was alright, he didn’t need to tell me anything. However, my own selfish need to discover the real Wolfe dominated. I stared back at him, waiting.

“My father…” his voice cracked but he refused to look away. “He didn’t treat me and my mother very well. As you know… he was a cruel man.”

Ice crawled across my skin. “What did he do to you?”

“Mostly manipulative mind games to make us feel inferior, subordinate. But when Haydyn’s father was dying - when he died - as you know things got worse. For us as well.”

Thick silence took over, robbing me of my voice. In truth, I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what Syracen had done to Wolfe. It was one thing for a man to abuse strangers, but to hurt your own flesh and blood…?

“He uh… he horsewhipped my mother a few times.”

Bile rose in my throat as I remembered the agony Kir had gone through. To do that to your own wife... “And that scar… the horseshoe?” I didn’t really want to know, did I?

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