He began the process of re-packing and loading in silence, stewing over the question as Thordin wandered off and returned with a mount of his own, one he’d apparently abandoned a short distance away so not to startle them by simply riding into their camp. Cameron was aware of Neve’s eyes on his back, of a vague sense of concern coming from her.
She doesn’t have anything to worry about. I’m fine. He was still sore from the fight two days before, but it was nothing he couldn’t handle.
Thordin dismantled the lean-to to get to the fire as Cameron carried the last gear out and bundled it for loading. Neve caught his hand as he headed toward the horses.
“I’m fine,” he said quietly. “Just a little worried, that’s all. Three miles is too damn close for my comfort.”
“It is,” Neve agreed, fingers tightening. She tugged him down toward her. He sighed and knelt in the thin layer of snow over the still-green grass. Neve cupped his cheek with her palm, thumb stroking the corner of his mouth. “But they haven’t quite caught up to us yet, have they?”
“No. Not yet.” But someday, our luck’s going to run out and they will. Bile crept upward in his throat and he swallowed hard. “We can’t keep running from them forever.”
She leaned her forehead against his. “Someday, we won’t have to.”
He snorted softly. “I wish I could—”
Thordin cleared his throat. Cameron twisted to look at him over his shoulder.
“Can I give you a little advice?” the big, strange man asked.
Cameron’s eyes narrowed slightly. “Something tells me that you’ll give it whether I say yes or not.”
Instead of getting angry, Thordin laughed, peering around Cameron to Neve. “A sense of humor. I’m thinking that’s a good thing.”
“Probably,” Neve agreed, a smile softening the worry lines that had only recently begun to gather around her eyes. Cameron sighed.
“Believe her,” Thordin said. “In the deepest, darkest hours of life, of your soul, believe in her. Neve is not a woman that would ever lead you astray.”
Cameron stared at him. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Neve drop her gaze to her lap. The bile he hadn’t quite tamped down started to rise again. He squeezed his free hand tightly into a fist. “Have you ever known something that cruel to just give up?” he asked, unable to keep traces of bitterness from his voice.
“I’ve known the things that send them to find the cost so dear they call off their hounds,” Thordin said quietly.
Neve squeezed his fingers again and Cameron looked down at her, throat tightening as he stared into her pale face and eyes ringed by dark bruises born of barely adequate sleep.
“The cost has already been too high,” Cameron murmured. Caliburn hung heavy on his back.
I’m the only one who can protect her.
“You don’t have to,” Neve whispered, as if she’d heard his thoughts. Maybe she had.
He kissed her forehead and pushed himself upright again. “I want to.” He glanced toward Thordin, who wore a faint, wry smile of approval. “Are you riding with us?”
“Do you think I came looking for Lady Rhiannon’s only daughter just to say hello?”
Cameron laughed a tight, bitter little chuckle and nodded. “I thought as much.” He extended his hand. “Cameron.”
Thordin cocked his head to one side as his fist engulfed the pilot’s hand. “No,” he said quietly, almost thoughtfully. “No, you’re the Dragon.”
His hand tightened briefly, then loosened.
As Thordin turned away to tend to the fire and breakfast, Cameron glanced at Neve, who looked even paler for a moment, her lips pressed together in a thin, tight line.
Cameron crouched again. “What’s the matter?”
“Nothing,” she said, giving him a weak smile. His gaze lingered on her for a few long moments before he nodded and straightened up. Neve’s gaze dropped to her knees again and she mumbled, “Everything.”
Shivers shot down Cameron’s spine and he swallowed hard, refusing to give in to the urge to spin back toward her.
“Everything?” he echoed a few minutes later as he settled a saddle blanket into place across a horse’s back.
“I’m sorry, Cam,” she said. “It’s not exactly turning out like I thought it would. Nothing is happening the way I thought.”
“That’s the way life is, Neve,” he said. “Endless chance. Unpredictability.”
“I come from a bloodline of Seers,” she said. “We’re supposed to know.”
“Even gods make mistakes, hjartasystir,” Thordin called from the fire. “Enjoy the unpredictability. What your brother sees isn’t always what comes true.”
“No,” Neve said softly, her voice strange. “No, it’s not.”
When Cameron looked back, she was smiling, though sadly.
“Are you all right?”
She looked up at him and nodded.
She was fine. That, at least, was true.
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