Winter – Chapter 28 – 02

            “What happened?” she blurted, already half out of bed before the thin woman pushed her back down again.
            “Stay there,” the woman snapped as she moved to help Cameron and the bear of a man he was leaning against.  “Where’s Jac?”
            “She’s coming,” the big man said as he helped Cameron into a chair, then crouched to peel back the edges of his shirt from the rent in Cameron’s side.  “She went to grab extra supplies.  I think we’re going to need it.”
            “What happened?”  Neve asked again, her gaze meeting Cameron’s.  She didn’t like the guilty look she saw there.  What the hell did you just go toe-to-toe with, Cam?
            Dirae were beyond the walls,” Cameron said, leaning back in the chair and squeezing his eyes shut.  “What was I supposed to do, not help?”
            “One of them clawed you again?” she asked, heart pounding painfully.  “You almost died the last time.”
            “But I didn’t,” he said, opening his eyes and glancing at the big man next to him.  “How does it look?”
            “Not as ragged as I thought it would, all things considered,” the big man said.  “Pretty deep, though.  Care, can you bring one of those lamps over here?  I need a little more light.”
            Neve took a few ragged breaths, trying to gather her thoughts.  Dammit!  What did we pack it with before?  Why didn’t I let Teague give me some of that herb mix before we left?  I’m an idiot.  I should have brought some along, just in case.  “You need to clean it,” she said, swallowing hard.  “Even when you do, it’s still going to get bad.  Needs…some kind of poultice.  Is Phelan here?  He’ll know what to pack it with.”
            The big man looked over at her, blinking.  “How do you know?”
            “One of those things got a piece of me before,” Cameron said, voice tight with pain.  “Was a few months ago.  It’s where the scar came from.”
            “Scar?”
            “Check the other side.”  Cameron looked at Neve and gave her a brave smile.  “We won, at least.”
            “You couldn’t have done that without getting hurt, though?” she whispered.  Her hands curled into fists.  And I was in bed, doing absolutely nothing to help when he got hurt.  Some guardian I turned out to be.
            “I tried, Neve,” he said.  “I really tried.”  His lips thinned and he hissed as the big man crouched at his side poked around at the wound’s edges.  “Dammit, J.T., what are you doing down there?”
            “Trying to figure out how deep it is, now hold still.”
            “Is it deep?”  Neve asked.
            “I don’t know yet, he needs to hold still and people need to stop bothering me.”  J.T. hunkered down and peered closer.  “Bring that light in a little more, Care.”
            Neve’s hands fisted in the blankets, squeezing so tightly she could have sworn that her nails were tearing tiny holes in the fabric.  Her eyes watered, not from pain but from fear and frustration.
            I can’t lose you, Cam.  Not now.
            “Were any of the others hurt?”  Cameron asked.  “I didn’t really get the chance to look once that hag showed up.”
            Hag?
            “Cuts and scrapes,” J.T. said.  “Nothing as bad as the last time we went toe-to-toe with something before today.  You got the worst piece of it, I think, but I’m going to have a look at Rory’s face and Thom’s arm once I’m done in here.”
            “What about your back?”  Cameron asked, biting back another hiss.
            “Jac can take a look at it once I’m done.  It’s superficial.  Stings a little.”
            Hopefully they’re not blooded at all.  Not like…bloody hell, not like Cameron.  “Who else?”  Neve asked, her voice weak.  Who was the hag?  “Who else was there with the Dirae, Cam?”
            “Thordin and Phelan knew her,” he said.  “Called her Hecate or something like that.”
            Her whole body went rigid.  So it’s been her all along that’s been sending the fucking Dirae after us like hounds on a scent.  But what does she want with Cameron?  The sword?
            “Neve?”
            She startled and looked at Cameron, knowing her face must have gone ashen, given the concerned look he was giving her.  She swallowed hard.  “Yeah?”
            “If she didn’t know about the sword, why would she be after me?”
            Her blood ran cold.  “I don’t know,” she said, heart starting to beat a little faster.  Does she know something I don’t?  Why would she be after him?
            Teague’s words drifted back to her.  As if he had Áes Dána blood in him.  She swallowed hard.  Was it possible?
            “Bloody hell,” J.T. breathed.  “What’s happening with these?”
            “I told you, you need to flush them out,” Neve said, hating how weak she sounded.  “Get Phelan, he’ll know.  You need to flush them and pack them and if you have antibiotics you need to pump him full of them.  Those wounds will putrefy no matter what you do, but that’ll mitigate what happens next.”
            Cameron winced, looking at her. “I let it keep bleeding,” he said lamely.  “I thought that might help.”
            It might have.  Neve swallowed hard again.  “I don’t know if that’ll have helped or not, Cam.”  She looked at J.T. and his female companion again.  “Please, just get my cousin.  Please.”
            J.T. glanced over his shoulder and nodded to the woman.  “Go, and hurry.  Round up some boiling water and Jac, too.”
            “Be back in a jiff,” the woman said, setting down the lamp.  Without another word, she was out the door, leaving the three of them alone.
            Neve caught her lower lip between her teeth and eased out of bed.  J.T. glanced over his shoulder at her and cursed.
            “What are you—”
            “Just let her,” Cameron said, sounding tired and resigned.  “She’s going to do it whether we want her to or not.”  He reached for her as she half limped, half crawled the few feet over to them.  She took his hand, not caring that it was sticky with drying blood.  Her nose closed at the familiar smell of the wound and she coughed, swallowing bile.
            “You’d think the first time would teach you well enough,” she whispered, resting her head against his thigh.
            “I had to do something,” he murmured, tilting his head back.  “I had to.”
            “I know.”  She looked at J.T.  “Is there anything I can do?”
            He shook his head.  “Not just yet, anyway.  Just stay put and hold his hand.”  He glanced toward something she couldn’t see, then added, “And pray.”
            The weight of his words, the certainty of them, sent shivers down her spine.  She looked up at Cameron and saw his lips thin.
            “I guess we’d better start praying,” she whispered.
            “Yeah,” he said quietly.  “I guess we’d better.”

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