Slumber Page 63

I acted without thought.

With the hunting knife in hand, I leapt on the dog, plunging the blade deep and up into its belly. It jaws lashed out at me, missing me by an inch, before it whined and slumped unconscious on top of L. I grabbed the top of her arms and pulled her out from under it. The dog’s blood stained her trousers.

Her own stained her jacket, where the dog had ripped it open and tore into the muscles of her shoulder. It was deep. She swayed a little and I reached to catch her. In her usual gruffness L batted me away.

“We need to go.”

When she took off at a run, I followed, anxiety gripping my chest. L was running on adrenaline right now. When that dissipated, I needed to get her home to Sarah as soon as possible.

Finally L drew to a stop, the pallor of her skin worryingly pale. So white. I pulled out the cloth the Somna Plant was wrapped in and put the plant back into the pack. With a briskness L couldn’t argue with, I removed her jacket and shirt, tying a tourniquet up over the awkward wound. It would stem the flow of blood but that was it. Hastily, I put her shirt back on as she lolled in my arms. Next her jacket. I forced a couple of sugary biscuits on her and some water. And then I wrapped my arms around her, watching over her, trying to keep her awake.

Chapter Twenty Seven

I’d never been so thankful in my life to see a house.

Of course our trip going down the mountain was faster than going up, but with L growing weaker by the hour, we weren’t as quick as I would have liked in getting her back home. For once I could pride myself on doing something right on this trip. I was glad I’d paid attention to the route we’d taken, for L was worryingly disorientated the rest of our way back to her home. In those hours with her, looking after her, keeping her conscious, I felt more like myself again. This person, this young woman in control, was me again. And with my old determination, I pushed both L and I to our limits, not stopping for food or rest, until I had her back to Sarah. I wasn’t letting anything happen to the girl who had saved my life twice without ever asking for anything in return.

As if she sensed us, the door to the shack flew open, and Sarah rushed to meet us as I dragged L up the Moss’ garden path.

“What happened?” Sarah’s eyes blazed with worry.

“Mountain dog,” I bit out, relief making me weak. Thankfully Sarah took hold of L and carried her the rest of the way into the house.

When I stepped over the threshold I took in Jnr staring wide-eyed at his mother as she laid L on top of the table.

“Jnr, heat up some water,” Sarah threw over her shoulder as she ripped L’s clothes away from her shoulder. She hissed at the sight of the wound and I turned away, seeing how putrid it had grown with infection. Sarah stroked her daughter’s face tenderly. L barely registered the touch. “L, my love, ye got yerself a fever. I’m goin’ to be sortin’ that out, alright, honey.”

I just stood there, gazing on uselessly. This was all my fault. I shoulder never have taken L with me. Sarah caught the guilt and concern on my face and smiled reassuringly.

“Now don’t ye be lookin’ like that, Rogan. Things happen up in these here mountains. L’s goin’ to be alright.”

Jnr struggled with the pot of hot water so I hurried to take it from him before he splashed the water and burned himself. Sarah took it from me quietly and set about cleaning L’s wound. She stirred a little at her mother’s touch. And then, as she had done with me, Sarah put her fingertips on the wound and shot her energy into L. I watched in amazement as the wound began to close, the colour returning to L’s face with surprising swiftness. L’s eyelashes fluttered and she groaned, looking up into Sarah’s happy but now fatigued face.

“Ma.” Her head rolled and she saw me standing over Sarah’s shoulder, wringing my hands. To my surprise she smiled. “Knew ye wasn’t completely useless.” She turned to Sarah now. “Here, Ma, Rogan saved my life.”

“Well don’t that be somethin’.” We all turned at the sound of Jonas’ voice. He stood in the doorway to the house, his eyes bright on his daughter and then on me, a dead rabbit slung over his shoulder. He winked at me and then stepped further into the house. A shadow moved behind him and my heart faltered. There was a man with him, taller, broader. As he stepped inside beside Jonas, his familiar eyes bored into me, inscrutable and probing.

“Wolfe!” Jnr shouted happily and flew past me to hop at Wolfe’s feet. “This be my sister, L, Wolfe.” He pointed at L lying on the table. I glanced at L as she pulled herself into a sitting position. Her eyes flicked between Wolfe and me, giving me a knowing look.

I exhaled and looked back at Wolfe.

I shook my head.

I couldn’t believe the fool had come after me. Where was the damn Guard?!

When our gazes locked, despite the inscrutability of those pale eyes of his, a delicious relief, like coming home after months of miserable absence, swept over me.

***

It was strange sitting around the Moss’ kitchen table with Wolfe. I knew I’d only known the family a few short days, but I had a bond with L that made me feel closer to all of them, and it was strange to share them with Wolfe. We hadn’t spoken yet about my running off on him, and he wasn’t unpleasant to me. However, I knew that was more for the Moss’ sake than anyone else. We’d been eating for five minutes, and having already exhausted L and I’s rescue of one another from the mountain dogs, Jonas and Wolfe sat discussing hunting techniques while Jnr desperately tried to get in on the conversation, completely enamoured by Wolfe. As he did with everyone, Wolfe had enchanted the Moss family. He took up a lot of room at their table. I forgot how large he was. Thankfully he had forgone his emerald military jacket. The warm jacket he had been wearing when he appeared with Jonas was hanging up on the Moss’ coat pegs, the fur around the cuffs and collar proclaiming Wolfe’s wealth. His shirt and waistcoat were finely made, his boats, his trousers. He looked powerful and rich, his white-gold hilted sword propped against the wall. Just being near him made me feel safe. I thought of L’s words of wisdom in the woods and longed to reach out and brush his hair off his face, stroke his arm, anything to feel the heat and life of him under my fingertips. But he refused to look at me. I watched him talk animatedly with Jonas. From what I’d gathered, Wolfe clearly knew the Moss’. How?

L stared at me. Her eyes demanded me to question Wolfe about it but I was frightened any conversation might start an argument. She kicked me under the table and I muffled a cry of pain. I glared at her and exhaled, turning to Wolfe.

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