Book Five – Prologue – 01

“You promised you wouldn’t leave.”

Aoife O’Credne stiffened, her hands going still against the fabric of her pack. She swallowed hard and willed her voice to be steady. “I said I wouldn’t leave until spring and I wouldn’t leave alone. The calendar says it should be spring.”

“What about going alone?” Gray Miller stepped closer to her, one large, work-roughened hand resting lightly on her shoulder.

“Teca said she’d come,” Aoife said quietly.

Gray was silent for a long moment before he called her bluff. “You asked her, but she said no.”

“She said not yet,” Aoife said, straightening and turning toward the taller man. “Gray, I can’t stay here. My brother—”

“He’s fine, Aoife. We know that he’s fine, Teca’s scryed and we’ve seen him and you said yourself he seems all right and seems happy.”

“Seeing him in that mirror isn’t the same as touching him, as talking to him.” Aoife caught her lower lip between her teeth, her stomach doing an uncomfortable backflip. “I have to go to him, Gray. I’ve been here for too long. I should have been with him months ago.” All my life I’ve tried to get out of Phelan’s shadow and now all I want is to be with him. All I want is to know that he’s all right, to touch him with my own hands and hear his voice. She exhaled. “When he—when he was sundered, I know something went wrong. I have to make sure that he’s really all right, Gray. Don’t you understand?”

“We can’t just abandon Wat and Kes and Teca and the rest.”

She blinked. “Who said anything about we?”

“I’m not going to let you go alone, Aofie.” He brushed her curls back from her face and smiled ruefully. “That was part of the deal.”

“Gray, they need you.”

“So do you.” He kissed her forehead. “Come on. Dinner’s ready. Give this a few more days. Think about it. We’ll figure it out.”

“I’m fine alone,” she said in a whisper, her heart giving a painful squeeze. I want him with me, but they need him too much.

“They might be, too. We’ll talk about it. Come on. Food.”

Aoife laughed weakly and nodded, drifting in his wake toward the smell of laughter and stew.

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