J.T. whipped around toward him, blinking rapidly. “Wait, what?”
“He killed the guy? The big bad?” Marin’s nose wrinkled. “How does he know?”
Thom shrugged slightly. “He told me that it’s because the chieftain and one of her allies stood there and watched him do it.”
“What?” J.T. raked his fingers through his dark hair, shaking his head as he sandwiched his temples between his hands. “What the hell kind of batshit crazy—”
“Finn,” Marin said. “The ally of that chieftain. That was his name, right?”
Thom’s stomach lurched as he nodded slightly, heart quickening for a moment. How does she know? “Did Phelan tell you about this before he told me?”
Her lips thinned as she shook her head slowly. “No. I’ll explain later, just…just keep going.”
Don’t think I won’t ask you about it later, either. “The fighting had mostly stopped and the chieftain—he kept calling her Breeheed, so I guess that must’ve been her name—“ Thom stopped as he caught J.T.’s wince out of the corner of his eye. “What?”
“Brigid,” J.T. said quietly, his voice taking on a slight lilt that was vaguely alien and yet oddly familiar. Marin shivered as he said the name, though J.T. didn’t seem to notice. “Her name was Brigid.”
How do they know this shit?
“Keep talking, Thom,” Marin whispered, leaning against him again and pulling his arms around her.
His brow creased. “You two are starting to scare me,” he said.
She smiled weakly, a faint blush stealing across her cheeks as she wrapped her arms around his waist. “Just keep talking.”
He sighed and rested his chin on her head, staring out at the grass that waved slightly in the breeze. “All right. So, those two—Brigid and Finn—got to looking for him, since his warband or whatever was all over the place and mixed up with theirs. They heard something from this gully at the far end of the battlefield and they got there in time to see the last little bit of the fight. Phelan strangled the guy with his bowstring. One-handed, even. His other arm was broken—almost crushed. Said she should have lost it and would’ve if not for someone named Seamus and that blind druid.” Thom took a breath, forcing himself to settle down—listening to Phelan this morning had left him queasy with his heart racing. Telling the story now was having the same effect. “He passed out after the brute was down—he said he’s still got the scar where the guy got him with a spiked part of the warhammer. At least, that’s what they told him he probably got hit with. He’s not sure, of course. Over time, he said he’s regained some hazy memories of what must’ve happened, but he’s never been sure if they’re real memories or if he’s imagining it.
“So I guess it was like this time almost exactly, except it sounded like he was unconscious longer the first time.” His eyes flicked between the other two as the queasy feeling returned. “Of course,” he said quietly, “the silver lady took longer to show up that time.”
Marin’s fingers dug into his arm. “You didn’t tell him, did you?”
“No,” Thom said. “He mentioned her himself—called her an Angel of Death, but the description matched up pretty damn close. He dreamed of her then and it sounded like he dreamed of her last night, too.”
Marin shuddered and J.T. swore under his breath.
“But he doesn’t know we saw her?”
Thom shook his head. “I don’t think so. I didn’t tell him and if he suspects anything, he didn’t call me on it.”
J.T. held his gaze. “Are you sure?”
“I’m positive,” Thom said. “He was pretty damned eager to change the subject anyhow.” He wet his lips. “How long before you’d feel all right about my losing the crutches, Jay?”
J.T. snorted. “Nice change of subject. You don’t use them half the time now. Let me have another look at your ankle tonight and we’ll talk. Why?”
Thom looked down at Marin and sighed before looking back to his best friend. “Phelan wants to do the ceremony for us as soon as he can stand upright long enough to do it.”
“What cere—” Marin shot upright and stared at him. Her mouth snapped shut as realization struck her, her eyes widening. “He wants to—”
“Yes,” Thom said firmly. “He said it’s time and he owes us that much—he can see us handfasted and he can bless the union if it’s what we want.” A weak smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. “The more I think about it, the more the idea’s starting to grow on me a little.”
“But…but this soon? You only just asked me a few weeks ago,” Marin said, seeming momentarily lost.
Thom felt a little tendril of guilt worm its way through his guts. He reached up and brushed some hair out of her face. “Yeah, I know,” he murmured. “But I also meant to ask you almost a year ago and chickened out. We’ve been together a long time.” He rested his forehead against hers. “If you want to back out—”
J.T. snickered. “I think I’ll leave you two to have this conversation in private. I’ll be up by the forge with Matt if you guys need me.”
Thom waved him off, still staring at Marin.
“Then what do you want?” he asked.
She hesitated a moment, then smiled weakly. “I want to let him do it. I knew that I wanted to do it before the snow started, but it’s just that it feels—I don’t know. It feels sudden, I guess, but it’s really not, is it?”
Relief flooded through him as he shook his head slightly. “No. No, it’s really not.” Thom kissed her gently and stroked her cheeks with his thumbs. “I love you.”
“I love you, too. But we do have a problem.”
He raised a brow. “What’s that?”
“What are we going to wear?”
Thom burst out laughing so hard it made his ribs ache and his eyes tear. He wrapped her up in his arms and squeezed her tightly. “We’ll figure it out. We’ve got time. A little bit, anyway. Maybe we can talk Jac and J.T. into buying us more.”
“Just not too much,” she said, grinning widely.
“No,” he agreed. “Not too much.”
“I love you, Thom.”
“Right back at you, Mar. Right back at you.”
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