Autumn – Chapter 5 – 02

            Kes squeezed his knee and stood up.  “If Elton said she’d be okay, Gray, she will be.”
            Gray grunted slightly and his head dipped toward his chest.  A moment later, a soft snore escaped him.  Kes smiled faintly and snagged an extra blanket from the end of Eva’s cot.
            “Sweet dreams, Gray,” she murmured as she covered him with the blanket.  She turned back to Eva afterward and adjusted the blankets over the sleeping woman.  Eva stirred slightly, a soft groan escaping her.
            “Shh,” Kes said softly, smoothing the blankets with a gentle touch.  “You’ll wake Gray.”
            “Is he finally sleeping?”  Eva whispered, rolling gingerly onto her side, tucking one arm beneath her pillow.  Her eyes were sunken into deep, shadowed hollows, her voice thin and soft.
            Kes nodded.  “How long have you been awake?”
            “Only a minute or two.  Every time I start to wake up, though, he’s here.”  The corner of her mouth quirked upward in a smile.  “Then I’d hear him or see him through my lashes and know I was safe so I’d just end up dropping right back off again.  I haven’t felt safe in a long time.”
            Kes smiled briefly.  “Gray can have that effect.”  She glanced back over her shoulder at Gray, who was still snoring softly, before she looked back at Eva.  “I think he likes you.”
            Eva laughed a weak little laugh.  “He barely knows me, though I appreciate the trust and the sanctuary.”
            “Are you going to stay long enough for us to know you?”  Kes asked, sitting down cross-legged on the wooden floor.
            “Well, you guys haven’t burned me as a witch yet,” Eva said, closing her eyes again.  “I think that bodes well for me staying at least a little while.  Until the snows, something.”
            Kes blinked.  “You wouldn’t leave once the snow flies, would you?  That’d be crazy.  Suicidal, even.”
            “I never told you I was sane,” Eva murmured, eyes still closed.  She tugged at her blankets, hauling them carefully up over her shoulder and curling in on herself with a slight wince.
            “Eva, please don’t do that.”
            “Do what?”
            “Wander out into the snow and wind, when it comes.  Stay with us here.”  Kes shook her head slightly.  “It’d be safer for you.”
            “We’ll see,” Eva said softly, starting to drift again.  Kes touched her elbow.
            “Eva?”
            She shifted uncomfortably on the cot.  “Mmm?”
            “You keep saying the name Teague in your sleep,” Kes said softly.  “Gray told me.  I know you mentioned him before, but who is he, really?  Someone important?”
            Eva let out a weak little laugh.  “He thinks he is.  Maybe he’s right.”  Her eyes flicked open again.  “I was saying his name in my sleep?”
            “A lot, Gray said.”
            Her brows knit briefly.  “I must have been dreaming,” Eva said softly, eyes focusing distantly for a moment.
            “You don’t remember your dreams?”
            “Not always,” Eva said.  “Not the past few.  They must not have been that remarkable.”  She tried to smother a yawn.  “Ungh.  Good-night, Kes.”
            “Good-night, Eva,” Kes whispered, then got up.  Eva was asleep before she’d ever turned her back.

•                   

            Neve sat out on the porch of the cottage, hugging her knees against her chest and staring out into the sunset.  She felt like she was suffocating whenever she was inside, with the cottage turned into a cavern somewhere in hell by heavy curtains and a roaring fire.
            It’s my fault.  A muscle in her jaw twitched as she rested her chin against her knees.  I should have been closer.  I shouldn’t have pretended to leave at the border crossing.  Self-recriminations flitted through her brain like fireflies on a summer evening, burning bright and then disappearing only to reappear a few moments later.
            The cottage door squeaked open softly and after a few seconds, Kira sat down next to her on the porch and nudged her elbow gently with a mug of something steaming.  Neve unwrapped chilled fingers from around her elbows and took the mug slowly.
            “You’ve been out here a long time,” Kira said softly.  “I thought you could use a hot drink.”
            Neve nodded silently, curling her fingers around the mug.  The fragrance of Irish Breakfast filled her nostrils and eased some of the tension in her shoulders.
            “I just needed to come outside,” Neve said quietly.  “It’s so hot in there and so dark.  I just needed to breathe some fresh air.”  And stop staring at Cameron.  It’s my fault.
            “I know how you feel,” Kira said, sliding her arm around Neve’s shoulders.  “It’s like something out of Dante’s Inferno in there.  I told your brother that if he doesn’t bank that fire, I’m sleeping in the barn tonight.”
            Neve laughed weakly.  “Really?”
            Kira nodded.  “I know that it might be slightly less comfortable for Lieutenant MacKenzie, but maybe the discomfort will make him want to wake up instead of continuing to sleep.  There’s no reason the rest of us should be suffering, too.”
            “You sound like Phelan.”
            Kira smirked.  “I learned that from Phelan.”  She slid her arm around Neve’s shoulders.  Neve leaned into Kira’s chest, a little more tension draining away.  “It’s not your fault, Neve.”
            “Yeah it is,” Neve whispered.  “But thanks for telling me it’s not.”
            Kira squeezed her gently.  “Anytime.”

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