She’s right. I won’t make it three miles if I try to leave. Cameron stared bleakly at the trail away from the cabin as he leaned against one of the porch’s supports. Probably can’t even mount a horse. Not enough range of motion in my shoulder for that right now.
He touched the edge of the bandage around his arm. It still felt like someone was jamming a hot poker into it sometimes, even when he hadn’t touched it. He’d never had anything hurt like that before, not even getting shot.
But he didn’t feel like he could—or should—stay here. Kira seemed nice enough, and he liked Neve more than he was willing to admit, but he was more than half certain that her brother was nuts.
Who’s crazier, though? Him for what he believes, or me for even considering it might be true? Cameron sighed, staring at the gray sky. Maybe it’s both. Maybe we’re all crazy. The world’s gone insane anyway, why shouldn’t we go right on along with it?
He swallowed, almost flinched. Neve’s hand closed on his forearm.
“You’re supposed to be resting,” she said quietly. “You said you were going to go do that after I found you in the barn.”
“I know,” he murmured. “I lied.”
“Why am I not surprised?” She squeezed his arm gently and then let go, leaning against the porch railing. “You still shouldn’t push your luck. You should be dead.”
“I’ve heard that before. Maybe they should’ve called me Cat instead of Dragon. Of course, I think I’m running out of lives.” He reached around the post for her hand and found it. Her fingers were warm and strong in his.
“Maybe,” she agreed. “Of course, that just means that maybe you should be a little more careful, right?”
Cameron nodded slightly. “Could be.”
They stood together in silence for a moment before her hand tightened around his. “I hope you will be,” she said. “Not because of anything like destiny or my brother saying you’re important to the future or anything like that. I just don’t want anything to happen to you.”
Cameron’s mouth dried out and words momentarily failed him. He’d never quite gotten out of her why she’d changed her mind and followed him. Is that why? Because she was worried about me? “Neve?”
“When you leave—and I’m not stupid, I know you’re going to because you probably still think Teague’s batshit—at least tell me before you go so I don’t waste too much time before I follow you.”
“What about going south?” he asked, feeling like an idiot as soon as he’d said it. There’s a beautiful woman telling you that she’s going to follow you when you bail on her brother and you’re worried about the plans she used to have before she saved your worthless life? Goddamn, that fever must have fried my brains after all.
Neve straightened and looked him square in the eye. “Cameron,” she said quietly, “I’ve been doing what my brothers told me to do my whole damned life. I’m not going to take marching orders from anyone but myself anymore, fate be damned.”
She kissed him.
Her mouth tasted like chocolate and mint as she pressed it tight over his. For a second, Cameron felt like every synapse in his body fired at once, sending a jolt through him that left tingling in its wake. His arms were around her before he quite realized what was happening, her hands trapped between them but her fingers still struggled for the buttons of his borrowed shirt.
Alarm bells went off in his head. Her brother was inside.
With his wife, possibly doing what we’re doing right now.
Cameron came up for air first, reaching with one hand to still the work of hers. His chest heaved, each breath burning in his chest, his throat. “Are you sure this is a good idea?” he asked hoarsely.
Neve laughed nervously, shaking her head and looking down. “Are you kidding me? It’s a terrible idea for more reasons than I think you’re actually aware of but I really don’t care. You—I—Cameron—”
He squeezed her hand and let go, stepping back and trying to fight down feelings of shameful regret coupled with wanting. “Then no offense, why are we doing it? Not that I wouldn’t—”
“No, you’re right.” Neve sighed and scrubbed her hands over her face. She grabbed his hand and tugged him off the porch. “Come on. We shouldn’t talk here anyway, not when he could walk out and interrupt us at the worst possible moment.
Because talking was what we were maybe about to end up doing. Cameron flushed and tried to think of England.
She didn’t drag him to the barn like he expected. They went into the woods toward the lake, up a hill a few dozen meters into the tangle of dark trunks and verdant pines. Cameron’s shoulder and arm were burning by the time they made it to the top, but the end result was worth the discomfort.
Trees made a half-moon shape facing the lake, sheltering the grassy hilltop. They were high enough above some of the trees that they could see the lake sparkling in the few rays of sunshine that broke through the overcast, setting water sparking like diamonds and the forest beyond ablaze with autumn colors and slashes of stately silver-green pines and spruces.
It was a few minutes before he found his voice. “When did you manage to stumble across this?” he asked as they slowly sank down into the grass.
“While you were sick,” Neve said quietly, wrapping her arms around her knees. “I just got to this point where I couldn’t watch you suffer anymore and not be able to do anything about it. Ran out of the cabin and wandered until I found the hill.” She looked at him sidelong, her dark hair partially obscuring the lines of her face. “Please don’t take what I said back there the wrong way.”
He shook his head slightly. “Whatever happens between us happens, Neve. If something does. I wouldn’t be upset if something did.”
She smiled weakly. “Me neither, but we might regret it.”
“Regrets are better left to tomorrows that might not come,” he murmured, putting his hand on her knee. She laughed.
“I bet you say that to all the girls.” She started to press him down into the grass, onto his back. He let her.
“Maybe one or two,” he admitted sheepishly. Oh Christ, did I really just tell her that?
Instead of slapping him, she laughed again, crawling on top of him. She was a surprisingly small weight on his chest.
“Did it work?” she asked, sounding curious.
“We’ll see if it does this time,” he said as her lips found his again. He put his arms around her, realizing that for some reason, it didn’t hurt to do that.
A few moments later, she tensed against him, gasped against his lips. He went rigid, mentally checking himself. No, not that.
“What’s wrong?” he whispered, surprised to see fear in her eyes and tears on her face. Shit. Shit, what did I do? Did I do something? “Neve?”
“Phelan,” she whispered, her fingers tangling in the soft flannel of his shirt. “Something’s happening to Phelan.”
“Your cousin?” How does she know? But then, how do they know any of what they seem to know? “Is he all right?” He felt a little absurd for asking the question—but at the same time, he knew in his gut it made sense to ask.
“I don’t know.” She put her head down on his chest and shivered. “Hold me, Cameron,” she said, voice weak. “Hold me until it stops.”
“Until what stops?” His arms tightened around her.
“The pain, Cameron.
“Hold me until the pain stops.”
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