Slumber Page 66

“You frightened him, Miss Rogan. Give him time.”

I nodded, but I didn’t think even time would fix the situation between Wolfe and I. Chaeron had no idea what I’d gone through up in that mountain. For that to have happened to me, surely made Wolfe sick with impotence. He was a man who believed in protecting others. And I hadn’t let him protect me. I hadn’t trusted him.

With another woeful look at the man who had so surprisingly complicated my life, I turned and mounted the horse Chaeron had waiting for me.

“Don’t you wish to remove that coat, Miss Rogan?” Chaeron enquired as he pulled up beside me.

“Don’t you dare.” Wolfe was suddenly in front of us, his eyes blazing. “It’s indecent what you’re wearing, Rogan. You will not take that off in front of my men.”

“Indecent?” Chaeron’s brow furrowed.

“You saw?” I blushed, aghast.

“At the Moss’.” He nodded. “Before you put the jacket on.” A strange look entered his eyes and I could have sworn a flush rose on the crest of his cheeks. He shifted on his horse and then glared at me. “Keep it on.” And then he headed off, leading the way for me and Chaeron to move through the men (who all nodded their relieved greetings at me) so we were in front of the entourage.

“Indecent?” Chaeron asked again.

I shrugged, throwing him a sheepish look. “I’m wearing trousers. They leave little to the imagination.”

“Ah.” Chaeron shifted his gaze to Wolfe who began to gallop off ahead of us. His mouth broke into a wide, knowing grin. “I think you’ll be fine, Miss Rogan. You and Wolfe both.”

It was cold and black as tar outside by the time we entered Arrana and were allowed entrance into the Vojvoda’s home. I still had the coat on, and after a day of blazing heat in the valley, my clothes were sticking to me. I needed a warm bath, badly.

As soon as I was inside, Chaeron took care of everything. I was taken to the room I had been given before and I watched impatiently as the servants filled a tin tub with hot water, leaving rose scented soap out for me. After the last maid had laid out one of my dresses for me, I shooed them out and began taking off L’s now dirty clothing. Sinking into the tub was like sinking into my own piece of haven. I breathed a sigh of relief, not really able to comprehend that I had succeeded in retrieving the plant; that I was off those forsaken mountains. I felt as if I’d spent months up there.

I broke into hysterical sobs. My chest ached with the harsh racking, my throat closing and unclosing as I struggled to draw breath, tears burning my cheeks as they rolled down one after the other as quick as rainfall. I hugged my body, trying to blot out of the memory of the Mountain Man, assuring myself my body was mine, and mine alone, and that he’d never get near me again.

“My Lady?” a voice asked softly, followed by a tapping on the door.

I swiped at my tears and shuddered in air. “I’m fine,” I called out, my voice quavering. “I’m alright.”

“Are ye sure, my Lady?”

“Yes. Thank you.”

I waited for the sounds of fading footsteps and then reached for the soap, scrubbing the bar over my body and lathering it into my hair. I couldn’t think about the bad things that had happened to me in Alvernia. I had to think of the good. Like Brint. And L. Especially L. Had I really only known her a matter of days? I smiled through my tears, thinking of gruff L who had saved my life and burrowed her way into my much guarded heart. Haydyn would love L. I couldn’t wait for them to meet. I couldn’t wait to repay the Moss’ for all of their help.

Once I had calmed myself and gotten most of the poisonous memories out of my system for the night, I changed into my dress. It felt strange swishing about my ankles. Encumbering. I frowned at it and kicked out with my legs. I missed trousers. Sighing, I plaited my hair back and frowned at the way the dress lifted from my waist. My clothes no longer fit well.

The Vojvoda Andrei Rada and his son the Markiz awaited me with Wolfe in the dark, masculine dining room.

“There she is,” Vojvoda Andrei called out, approaching me with a fatherly smile. He took my hands and I found it difficult to smile politely back at him. “Lady Rogan, what a scare you gave us, taking off to tour Alvernia alone.”

I grimaced at our lie. I grimaced at the way the Vojvoda looked down on me condescendingly, in his gated home and isolated city. Where was he for the people of the Mountains?! All my anger and frustration over everything that had happened suddenly seethed to the surface. If I’d known this was going to be my reaction at seeing him again I would never have come down for dinner. I struggled to maintain calm.

“Well.” He shrugged, seeming nonplussed by my silence. “I’m very glad the good Captain caught up with you to keep you safe. How did you find my rough lands?”

I thought of L and her forthright honesty. Of the Moss’ kindness and sincerity. Of Brint Lokam and the people of Hill o’ Hope’s generosity.

“Like everywhere else in Phaedra, your Grace. Populated with good people and bad people… and poorly governed.” I straightened my shoulders, jutting out my chin defiantly. “If you’ll excuse me.”

And leaving all three of the men with their jaws hanging to the floor, I spun on my heel and left them to it.

Chapter Twenty Nine

The days ahead were filled with a mixture of anticipation and a sickening coldness. I barely ate a thing as we galloped through Daeronia, stopping to pick up the two soldiers in the mining village, who now greeted us happily, offering us bread and shelter. But we didn’t stay long. If our pace had been gruelling before, now it was frantic. I knew the Guard were curious, that they all suspected something more was going on, especially since they’d seen me come out of the mountains. They wondered what an earth had possessed me to go up them. But I didn’t want to panic anyone, especially when we were so close to saving Haydyn. I’d rather they’d think I’d gone light in the mind than know the truth. The times I did sleep, I twisted and turned with the nightmares. I dreamt of arriving in Silvera only to find we were too late and Haydyn was gone. I dreamt the Mountain Man was still alive and chased me into the empty palace, no one there to protect me from his deranged lust. And I dreamt of Wolfe. Always he stood on the Silver Cliffs, his eyes begging me to save him. I’d make a move towards him and feel a tug on my hand. I’d turn to find Haydyn, shaking her head at me, my parents and little brother behind her, mirroring her expression. When I looked back at Wolfe, he’d glare at me, hatred filling his eyes. And then he’d leap, leap right over the cliffs into the crashing water.

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