He didn’t dare stop until it was almost dark, three creeks and a half-dry river between him and the site of their ambush. All he thought about was putting miles between them and it—and that Neve kept on breathing.
Cameron turned the horses off the main road as the sun sunk lower in the west and headed down a narrower gravel path. He could smell water beyond the trees, hear the sound of waves.
Tucked against his chest, Neve gave a soft whimper. He winced, squeezing her gently with the arm he had locked around her shoulders.
“Just a little further,” he murmured. “Just a little further. Then we’ll stop.”
The path wound on for at least two miles before it opened up into a tiny grass parking lot above a rocky beach. Buoys on twists of rope bobbed lazily on the water, marking out what once had been a safe swimming area.
There wasn’t a soul in sight, but there was wood enough, and the parking lot was as good as anywhere to set up camp, tucked into the lee of the trees and out of the wind. The place smelled of water and seaweed, neither smell as sour as Cameron might have expected.
Wonder where we are. There weren’t any signposts to tell him. Maybe he’d investigate in the morning. Maybe they’d stay a few days so he could find out.
He set his jaw. Assuming that thing doesn’t find us—or anything else.
Lowering Neve from his saddle without dropping her or falling himself was a challenge, but he managed it by the skin of his teeth. He laid her on one of their bedrolls and covered her with two blankets before he tethered the horses and began to set camp for the night.
Fire first, he thought as he picketed their mounts. Tent can wait until after I’ve set her leg.
He winced. Hope I’m up to that task.
They’d just have to find out.
• • •
“Ohhh…” Neve’s hands fisted in the blankets spread over her as she came awake, teeth catching her lower lip to silence her pained moan. If there was a part of her that didn’t hurt, she wasn’t quite certain what it was.
My hands, maybe, but if I keep holding the blanket like this, that’s not going to last for long.
She sucked in two shaky breaths before she trusted herself to speak instead of scream. The taste of blood slicked her tongue. Did I just draw blood, or is it from something…? She swallowed hard. “Cam?”
Gods and monsters, I sound like a strangled cat.
His body eclipsed the dying light that flooded into the tent through its open flap, his tread making the tent floor rustle and crunch with each step. They winced in unison—possibly for the same reason. “I wasn’t sure when you’d wake up,” he said as he knelt next to her.
The look on his face said that he wasn’t sure if she’d wake up.
“What happened?” she asked. She could remember things in bits and pieces, as if her memory was a vase that had fallen and shattered—and a few of the pieces had disappeared. “I remember trying to catch up with you, then the tree and my horse balking at the last second…and then not really anything.”
“Something ambushed us,” he said quietly, smoothing her hair. She winced slightly as his fingers brushed against a knot she hadn’t noticed until he touched it. “I don’t know what it was.”
Ambushed? She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, head starting to pound and thoughts starting to scatter. “Who could have–?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “But whatever it was…it was big and ugly and really hated you.”
Hated me? Her lips formed the words, though she didn’t utter them. Cameron’s brow creased.
“I didn’t realize any of them would be that…articulate.”
“Any of what?” she managed to whisper, trying to gather her thoughts again. Bloody hell.
“Your…enemies, I guess. The monsters like those—what’d you guys call them? Dirae?”
“Furies,” she murmured. “Yeah. Why? What was…?” Her voice trailed away, her head swimming. Enemies? Which…who…?
“Big, greenish. Kind of like the Hulk but a lot uglier and more articulate.”
It was like he was talking another language. Neve started to shake her head. White hot pain stabbed her eyes and she groaned, going still. “Déithe agus arrachtaigh.”
She swallowed. “Nothing. Water?”
“Yeah, hang on.”
Neve listened to him get up, fingers tightening in her blankets. Some of the pain was starting to ebb slightly, or was it just fading into the background in the face of fresher, sharper pain?
Focus, Neve. What the hell is he talking about?
“Here,” Cameron said quietly, sliding a hand under her head. She flinched a little as he raised her up.
“Ooof.” The sound was half an exhaled breath, half a moan.
“Sorry,” he mumbled. “Am I hurting you?”
“I’m more thirsty,” she told him, opening her eyes and blinking back tears. “I’ll live.” One shaky hand covered his as he lifted a water bottle to her lips and helped her drink. She leaned into his cradling arm, looking up at him.
Worry was etched in every line of his face, his brows knit, jaw set, dark hollows already forming beneath his eyes.
She pushed the water bottle away. Her throat hurt less now, and her mouth didn’t taste like blood anymore. “How bad is it, Cam?”
“Your horse threw you into a tree.” His voice broke. “I didn’t think you were alive at first. I prayed, I hoped. I shot the thing and it ran away, but I don’t know if it’ll find us again. Rode all day to get as far away from it as we could.”
“Three creeks and a river and I don’t know how many miles.” Cameron leaned in and pressed a gentle kiss to her forehead. “I just hope we’re safe. I don’t—I can’t—” He broke off, exhaling through his teeth. “I’m afraid, Neve. I’m afraid of how bad you might be hurt, I’m afraid that it’ll catch up with us, I’m afraid I didn’t set your leg right, I’m just…I’m fucking terrified.”
“Everything will be fine,” she whispered. A ball of ice settled in her belly. Would it, or was she lying to them both? She groped for his hand, caught it, squeezed.
“Everything will be fine.”