“Thank every power that is or was that we’re clear of all that,” Neve muttered for the fifth or sixth time since they’d cleared the outskirts of the devastated city that had once been the second largest in the state. “Thank you, thank you.”
Cameron’s jaw tightened painfully. Even months later, even with the cold, it still smelled terrible—and felt worse. There had been times when he and Thordin had needed to dismount and lead the horses on foot. Cameron was completely convinced that he now wore the remnants of several someones on his boots.
“But are we still going in the right direction?” Thordin asked, gaze sliding toward Cameron.
He took a long, deep breath and exhaled it, then nodded slowly. “Yeah. Yeah, it feels like we are. Getting really close now, too.”
Thordin frowned, glancing toward Neve, back to Cameron, and then to Neve again. “Are we sure he’s not just sensing the nexus?”
“Nexus?” Cameron asked, brow arching. “What the hell is a nexus?”
“A power node,” Neve said, frowning slightly. “But no, I don’t think he’s feeling that. I’ve been sensing it for days.”
“Is that what’s making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up?” Cameron rubbed his gloved hand against the back of his neck, trying to settle those selfsame hairs. It had been going on for almost a week, almost since they’d crossed the water.
Thordin raised a brow at the question and Neve nodded slightly. “Odds are that it is,” she murmured.
There was something strange in her voice. Cameron reached across the gap between them to snag her mount’s reins out of her hand. “Neve?”
It was a lie. He frowned. “You’re not,” he said softly.
She shivered slightly, lips thinning into a white slash in her wind-burnt face. “There’s nothing you can do,” she said, her voice a bare whisper.
Cameron glanced at Thordin, who shrugged slightly as if to indicate that he didn’t have any more clue than Cameron did.
That does it. Cameron tossed his own reins to Thordin and slid off his horse’s back. “I’ll ride with you,” he said to Neve. She opened her mouth to protest and he shook his head. “Don’t argue with me. There’s something wrong.”
“I can feel it,” she whispered, eyes unfocused, distant. His brow furrowed.
“I can feel him,” she said next, ignoring the question.
“Who?” Cameron demanded.
“Wanderer?” Thordin guessed, brow lofting slightly.
“Her cousin?” Cameron frowned. “He’s close, then?”
“Yes,” Neve said, her voice distant. “Can’t tell how close, but close.”
Cameron nodded and swung up onto the horse behind Neve, wincing as she flinched slightly. He slid one arm around her waist and knotted the reins around his fist. “Bloody hell,” he murmured. “You’re burning up, Neve.”
“I’m fine,” she mumbled.
He glanced at Thordin again, frowning. All his companion could do was shrug and shake his head.
“So I’m starting to realize,” Cameron said, then looked at Neve. “Lean back. I’m not going to fall off.”
“We don’t have to ride double,” she said, but there was little force in her voice to back up her argument.
“I’ll be the judge of that,” he said before he kissed her ear and gently set his heels into the horse’s flanks. “It won’t be for very long, anyway. We’re almost there.”
“We’re riding into a fight,” she said. “Do you realize that?”
His stomach dropped. “I didn’t,” he said slowly. “But I do now. What’re we going to be riding into?”
Her throat convulsed and she turned her head, pressing her forehead into the crook between his shoulder and his jaw. He winced at the heat in her face and swallowed hard as he felt the first of her tears splash hot against his flesh.
“Neve?” he whispered.
“Don’t make me say,” she whispered.
Those words alone were enough to make his blood run cold.
“Must be bad,” Thordin observed quietly, then held out his hand. “Pass me her bow and the quiver. Might need it.”
“I can still draw,” Neve said sharply, lifting her head, face streaked with tears.
“But for how many shots, Neve?” Thordin held out his hand for the bow.
“Cam,” Neve said, voice pleading.
He shook his head and handed the weapon to Thordin. “He’s right,” he said softly. “You know he’s right, Neve.”
She slumped into his arms and squeezed her eyes shut. A sob shook her and he closed his eyes for a brief moment, drawing her even closer.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered.
“So am I.” She pressed her face against his neck again, voice muffled as she repeated the words, “so am I.”
Want to help support Awakenings?
Want to chip in to support Awakenings? Buy Erin a coffee through ko-fi and fuel her creativity with a little caffeine.
Want to help support all of Erin’s writing endeavors?
Thank you to my supporters!
Thank you to all of my supporters at Patreon, especially Karen L. Klitzke and Brandon!
Where we’re listed