Slumber Page 40

A bitter, twisted little chuckle escaped Wolfe and he shook his head. “I made the mistake of attacking my father when he took the whip to my mother. Kir helped me because my mother was kind to him. My father beat Kir… but me… he took a hot horseshoe to and branded me. He told me I was his son not hers; like horseflesh I belonged solely to him and as such he expected me to obey him as my master.”

I couldn’t comprehend what he was confiding. My chest flared with sharp, needling pain. Hot tears prickled in my eyes, and I couldn’t speak, my throat had closed up with hurt and anger for him. With guilt. All these years I had been horrible to him, painting him with the same brush, so sure he would want to hurt me for what I did to Syracen.

“I got my revenge though. I helped Kir escape.”

So that explained their camaraderie.

Kir knew Wolfe better than I had. Why did that hurt so much? I clutched my stomach tightly. Wolfe must loathe me for the way I had treated him. The pain sharpened in my chest and I was afraid I couldn’t breathe. Suddenly, I was truly afraid Wolfe hated me.

“I’m so sorry,” I whispered, a stupid tear leaking out and rolling down my cheek. I brushed it away impatiently and was surprised when Wolfe caught my hand.

He stared, seeming amazed, watching as I lost my fight with another tear and it escaped. His thumb caught it, rubbing it softly into my cheek. I was so aware of him… so close to me, my whole body tense to the point of trembling, my heart racing madly. “Are you crying for me, Rogan?”

I nodded and then shook my head stupidly. “I’m sorry.”

“Why are you sorry?”

“Because he hurt you. Because I’ve treated you terribly because of him.” I shuddered trying to calm myself. “I thought you detested me, that you were planning to take some kind of vengeance for my part in getting Syracen killed.”

When his touch left me, I was confused. I wanted him to touch me again but I was also thankful he didn’t. I could breathe easier when he wasn’t so close.

Right now his brow was deeply furrowed with thought. “That’s why you’re snotty with me?”

Snotty? How dare he-

I shook it off, amazed by how easy it was to become irritated with him. I threw him a look for his word choice but sniffed in acknowledgement. The corner of his mouth quirked up and I could tell he was dying to laugh at me. He smothered it with his hand, rubbing it across his mouth in concentration. And then he nodded. “I think I understand. But you should know I felt nothing but relief when he was killed. My mother and I were free. Our lives completely changed that day, for the better.”

I wanted to reach out and offer some kind of comfort, some kind of apology that would make up for the last eight years of disdainful attacks against him. Haydyn would be pleased to know she had been right all along about him, I thought wryly.

When Wolfe tensed beside me I grew uneasy. I understood when he asked, “What exactly did my father do to your family, Rogan?”

The rage burst open across my chest like a tidal wave after a land-shake and I drew in deep shuddering breaths to calm my memories. Finally I asked softly, “Are you sure you want to hear about that?”

“Only if you’re up to telling it.”

So I told him. About a perfect summer’s day ending in tears and bloodshed and a never ending impotent agony. His golden skin grew paler and paler as the story went on. I even told him about Valena. When I grew quiet I hadn’t even realised I’d been crying until Wolfe, eyes bright with sorrow, handed me a handkerchief. I wiped at my tears as another smog-filled silence descended over us.

For a while all I could hear was our soft breathing and blood rushing in my ears.

“No wonder you hate me,” Wolfe choked, his shoulders slumping over. For the first time in a long time he looked like a little boy again and I didn’t want to be the one that had done that to him. Especially since I was coming to realise… I didn’t hate Wolfe at all.

“I don’t hate you,” I replied softly, sure my heart was going to burst it was racing so fast. It only got worse as our eyes collided, his seeming to search mine in desperation. The colour returned to his cheeks and he licked his lips nervously.

“You don’t?”

I shivered at the hoarseness in his voice and shook my head, my cheeks burning. “No. I realise now that this person you’ve been, Captain of the Guard, that’s really who you are. I’m sorry I didn’t treat you the way you deserved.”

He smirked. “I wasn’t exactly charming to you either.”

I laughed softly. “You were just reacting in kind.”

He snorted. “Yes, I suppose I was. It was galling you know. You’re so sweet to everyone else.”

I wrinkled my nose. “Sweet, I’m not sweet.”

“You can be.”

My cheeks burned hotter. I shook him off, embarrassed. Heaving a sigh I pushed him teasingly. “You’re a good man, Wolfe,” I admitted.

Those gorgeous aquamarine eyes of his widened at the praise and he smiled slowly, such a naturally wicked smile it flipped my stomach over again. “Really?”

I nodded.

But then abruptly, his smile dropped, his eyes dimming with sadness.

“What?”

Wolfe shook his head. “I’m still the man whose father killed yours.”

Not for the first time, I didn’t know how to respond. My soul was a mess inside, completely confused and bewitched. Because now I knew that this sick guilty feeling inside was my growing feelings for Wolfe, and the subsequent shame I felt for betraying my family. Caring for the son of the man who killed them… how was that not a betrayal of their memory?

Turning his body in towards me, Wolfe shifted a little closer and I trembled at the look in his eye. Unconsciously, despite what I had only been minutes ago screaming at myself, I tilted a little closer to him too, drawn to his heat like an addict to opium.

He cleared his throat. “I wanted to kill him, you know.”

I frowned. “Who?”

“Kir.” Wolfe snorted, shaking his head ruefully. “I wanted to kill him... and all he did was kiss you.”

My breath caught as our eyes locked. Suddenly I knew what that indecipherable look was he sometimes gave me. Wolfe… wanted me? Wolfe? Wolfe who gave every woman at the palace a fit of the vapours when he spoke to them? Wolfe who had a reputation for being incredibly discriminating with women? For goodness sake, according to palace gossip, he had had a love affair with Vojvodkyna Winter Rada, the woman whose court we were heading to; an incredibly beautiful, sophisticated, young widow. And he wanted me? Me?

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