Tag Archives: short story

The Sacrifice

Today’s story is a bit special because it’s a gift for @shewhoshipsCS aka @thegreatshipcaptainswan aka Jeannie who is having a Hatchday today. So since I can’t be there, please enjoy this wonderful story written for you.

His father’s old rocking chair moved gently back and forth and the motion had put her to sleep. She was safe in his arms. She was safe in the dilapidated house they’d made their own. Safe from the outside world and the wicked people who walked it.
But the gentle rocking and the comforting arms could not keep her mind from finding danger.
Zena cried out and twitched in her sleep.

“We have to go back.”
The two men reined in their horses and looked back down the road the way they had come, down beyond the wagons that remained and the people that still lived. Charles and Matthew had to lead their people to safety now; their father was among the dead. Everything had changed and it had changed so fast.
The two brothers had been fighting when the first arrows had whistled through the air. Had it not been for Matthew’s good hearing, an arrow might have ended up in Charles’s back. They had been trying to beat each other senseless, trying to hurt each other over a young woman whom they were both in love with.
A young woman who had been left behind. One life to save many. And she had been the one brave enough to make the sacrifice. She had been the one to urge them all to go, to save themselves. She had been crying but resolute as they rode away.
“We have to get our people to safety first. Our duty comes before our hearts.”
“How can you say that!” Matthew snarled at his brother, ready to restart the earlier fight. “She is back there and in danger.”
“And what of these people? What of the children? What of Louisa’s Grandmama? Would Louisa forgive us if we left them to fend for themselves and returned to her?”
Matthew opened his mouth to argue but then he saw the pain in his brother’s face. This was eating Charles up as much as it was him.
“But what if they…”
Charles gritted his teeth and looked at the ground. He could not answer his brother’s question. He could not bear the thought. But he knew what was required of them, and what Louisa had begged them to do. He would not dishonour her bravery by breaking their promises to her.
“We need to keep moving, the sooner we reach the city and safety, the sooner we can go back,” Charles replied after the silence had stretched out.
“But you said…” Matthew looked sideways at his brother.
“I said we have to do our duty first, I said we had to get our people to safety first.”
“Oh,” Matthew grinned at his brother and then spurred his horse on, a wild excitement taking him to be done with duty and rescue their girl. “Well, come on, brother. Get a move on.”

**

Louisa had never thought herself to be a very brave person. She screamed at spiders and needed to light a candle before she could move her feet out from under the covers at night. Today she had found a bravery that she had not known, she had stood up to outlaws and negotiated freedom for her people.
Just two hours ago she had been sitting in the back of a wagon loaded with fabric, negotiating with David and Lea for some maroon lace for a dress she wished to make before the next moon festival. She wanted a pretty dress to wear in hopes that someone might finally find enough courage to make his intentions clear.
Now David and Lea were dead, their wagon emptied of all the expensive fabric they had planned to sell. The wagon had left filled with people. Many of the horses remaining with the outlaws, as Louisa did.
The brothers had not wanted to ride away and leave her behind. She had not wanted to be left behind but she had made the bargain and made them promise. In tears, she had made the two men promise to ride to safety with their people and leave her to her fate.
Because of it, Louisa had found out she was brave. She had found out that she could be a hero like in the stories. Without sword or shield, she had stood up and become a hero. People lived because of her courage.
She would have been proud of herself if she had not been so terrified.
There were at least a dozen men in this gang of criminals. They were not the outlaws of noble heart, robbing the rich to give to the poor. These were terrible men, scar covered and violent, and each looked at her in such a way that her skin crawled. There was violence in their hunger, and Louisa had heard stories…
She knew what was to come and her mind raced as to how she could avoid it, or at least buy time. Not for rescue, she had sent the two men that might do so away. She hoped to buy time for her escape. Hours had passed already and there had been no chance to escape. The men squabbled over the spoils of their attack. They seemed to fight over everything.
That gave Louisa an idea.
A hand rubbed over her back and Louisa jumped, turning she found a gap-toothed man leering at her.
“Are you the leader of these men?” Louisa asked.
“Ha! He wishes!” Another man laughed loudly.
“So,” Louisa said turning to the laughing man. He reminded her of a rat with his long, thin nose. “Does that mean you are?”
“There are no leaders, we are all equal,” another man said. He looked at the others with an expression that made Louisa think that he thought he should be the leader.
“But if there is no leader, then who will I give myself to.”
“All of us!” Another of the men yelled with great enthusiasm and made a lewd gesture. The others all laughed.
“Oh, that won’t work. I want to give myself to the strongest of you, the leader. Only to the strongest will I give myself to willingly and with great passion. So, which one of you is the strongest?” Louisa moved to a tree stump that was clearly often used as a seat by the gang; the wood was smooth. She crossed her leg up over the other, her torn dress flashing her legs.
“I am the strongest!”
“No, it’s me!”
All the men began to yell each other down. Louisa pretended to be unconvinced by their words. Maybe even a little bored. Inside she was terrified and it was all she could do not to shake in her seat.
The yelling turned to pushing and shoving. Punches were thrown.
Louisa watched the men descend into their darker nature. Knives came out and Louisa nearly screamed as one man stabbed another.
They were trying to kill each other, and it was over her! It was insanity. Louisa took no pleasure in the fact nor in the way they were hurting each other. It was awful. But fewer men meant her chance of survival, of escape, increased.
“Whoever is left standing gets me. And to find out what I can do with my tongue.” Louisa called out the words and smiled, gesturing for the men to keep fighting. She had no trick with her tongue but she had heard one of the women say similar in the last town they had visited. The woman had been trying to get Matthew or Charles to purchase her services. Louisa had thrown an apple at the back of Charles’s head, as he was turned away from her. It had served to ruin any moment that might have been happening.
It was that woman that Louisa now pretended herself to be as she waited for a chance to run.
And then the moment came. There were no eyes on her. Four men lay dead and still the others fought on. Louisa slipped from the tree stump and around the trees, she found a horse. One of her own people’s horse. It knew her and knelt for her to get on. She straddled the horse easily in her torn skirt.
The men did not take long to realise she was gone.
Louisa had been born to people that rode, she had been riding since she was tiny and this stallion was young and strong. He moved swiftly taking them back to the road and hopefully to safety. Louisa rode as hard as she could, never looking back.
Perhaps she should have, she heard a rider approach suddenly. How he had appeared so quickly beside her she did not know. She glanced at him and did not recognise his face from the camp and the fight. They must have had others still out on the road waiting for new travellers. Louisa had not thought about that possibility.
The rider leapt from his horse and knocked Louisa from hers. They fell hard to the ground and rolled. The rough ground damaged clothing and skin. Louisa hurt everywhere. She felt as though all the breath had been knocked from her body and she could not draw more. She rolled around on the hard ground clutching her knees up to her chest as she tried to breathe.
More horses approached and Louisa knew her gamble had failed. Now they would not fight over her. Now they would not leave her free to escape. At least Louisa had tried.
Louisa rolled to her knees and tried to crawl away. The man from the horse grabbed her by the hair and pulled her backwards. He tugged her back beside her before striking her in the face. Louisa scratched his face in retaliation and punched him in the throat. He let go of her.
“Leave her alone!”
Louisa looked up and was surprised to see that two of the horsemen bearing down on them were coming from the wrong direction. She was more surprised to recognise them both. It had been Charles that had yelled out. He was in front of Matthew and he leapt from his horse while it was still moving.
A sound behind Louise made her turn back to her attacker. She found a pistol aimed at her face. She had never seen one up close before. None of their people were allowed to carry one.
“Wench!”
The man pulled something back on the weapon that Louisa could not see and then fired. A figure moved and the figure hit Louisa instead of the bullet.
Charles was struck in the shoulder and he lay against Louisa on the ground, bleeding. Matthew yelled as he leapt from his horse, and his blade ended the other man’s life before he could reload.
Louisa cried out. She did not know what she was saying. She cried out over and over, her arms flailing around…

“Zena, Zena, wake up, wake up. It was just a dream.”
She opened her eyes, she was back at their sanctuary, no horses, no bad men. Just them. Zena snuggled in against his chest and sighed. “Charles will find us again, Matthew. I know he will.”
Her best friend looked at her strangely. He shook his head and cuddled her tightly. “You’re safe now, Zena. You’re safe.”
And she felt safe. The dream was fading away and there was nothing else but the rocking chair, the sound of the rain and his arms around her. She was safe now, she was always safe with him.

 

Could you love a boy like me?

It’s been a while since I was inspired to do one of these. But I was, and I can promise that this is part of something far more. I was also inspired by my families recent trips to France and to the commemorations in Arras where our Great Grandfather was a Tunneler. So from a song and from a family history comes a small part of a much greater flood of stories to come one day.

Enjoy

Others were getting suspicious. Young men would come into the hospital near death, or about to lose limbs, and they would have almost miraculous recoveries.

Mathilde knew the truth about the miracles. The truth was, it was all because of Mathilde and her two dads.

Mathilde had been born to a doctor and his wife in Paris. Both were now dead and Mathilde had nearly joined them. Her mother had been the first to fall sick, and her father had worked so hard to save her. He could not, and a fortnight before her death he became very ill himself. Mathilde nursed them both but she could do little ease their suffering. Her mother died one cold morning and her father followed a few nights later. Paris was under martial law at the time and many areas were controlled by factions. A deeply religious man decided that Mathilde had to be infected too and could not be allowed to leave her house to infect others. She was boarded inside, screaming for help. Hysteria saw many others suffer as she did. She was left with the bodies of her deceased parents to die of illness or starve to death.

Luc and Milo were drawn to her cries and found the emaciated nineteen-year-old woman very near to death. They did not fear the illness, they were near immortal Children of the Night, and they offered Mathilde the chance to become one of them. There was an instant bond between the three and Mathilde agreed. She was transformed that night and she had never regretted the decision.

For though they were reviled and hated for what they were supposed to be, they had great power to help others. And with the world being torn about by war now, many years later, that was what they were doing. Few of their kind had the gift to heal, but they did, and they would willingly use it.

“We’ve got more coming in, the trucks are already arriving outside,” another nurse said. She side-eyed Mathilde as she spoke. “We’re going to need a miracle to save most of them from what I’m hearing.”

Mathilde was not sure if that was permission or acceptance of her gifts from the older nurse, but if miracles were needed, she would give them. The men were dying in their thousands and Mathilde and her fathers could only do so much.

The hospital began to echo with the screams of the injured, it was the ones that weren’t screaming that Mathilde went to first.

Her breath caught in her throat as she stood beside one young soldier. He was not a French boy, one of the soldiers come to aid them. She had never seen him before in her life but Mathilde felt an instant connection.

“He is too far gone, Mattie.” Luc stood beside her. “Too much magic would be needed to save him, seek out others.”

“I cannot, Father. I cannot explain it but he must be saved.”

Luc let out a curse and shook his head. “Begin then, my daughter. I will aid when I return.”

Mathilde nodded and knelt beside the stretcher on the ground. The room was chaos and no one had time to watch what she was doing. Mathilde considered turning the young man, something inside her wished to do so. But he was in no position to give consent and the result could be a greater monster than the Germans.

He needed blood, a lot of blood. He drank from her wrist and she worked her blood into his wounds. She willed him to heal but there was nothing more that she could do than she was. She was weak from the loss of so much of her blood and she needed to feed. She could not.

She would never drink from the dying or the injured. It was unconscionable.

There were more to save. Hundreds, thousands. This boy was in the hands of the Gods or his God.

Mathilde worked with the others until she collapsed. Luc found her and fed her while Milo aided her boy. They were all exhausted but Luc and Milo were less picky about who they fed on so could aid Mathilde when she needed. They had to make sure their daughter was taken care of, the same as any parent.

“The boy?”

“He lives, though whether he shall recover is no longer with us. We have done what we can. He will wake if he is meant to.”

“I think he is meant to.” Mathilde got up off the floor where she had fallen. Luc supported her, she was still weak, even after feeding. “I need to see him.”

Luc helped her through the wards to where the boy had been put. In the low light, she could see the steady rise and fall of his chest. She touched his forehead to see if he was fevered.

He was not but her touch disturbed him.

“Potato.”

Luc let out a sound of laughter that was far too loud in the dark ward and he quickly stopped himself. “Did he say….?”

“I think he did,” Mathilde replied and tilted her head to look at the boy. He seemed about her own age. “Maybe he is dreaming of a good home cooked meal.”

“I think most here do,” Luc agreed. “He speaks which is a good sign that he will be okay. You must rest if you wish to help others.”

Mathilde nodded and let herself be put to bed. It seemed there would always be more to help.

***

It took four days for the boy to wake and when he did he seemed energised. He might have sprung out of bed but his leg was not yet healed. It had taken a lot to keep him alive. The magic had not gone far enough to heal him completely. It would be a few weeks before he was back on his leg, and maybe a month before he could be sent back to the front lines.

Everyone called him by his last name O’Connor and Mathilde did too. Though he often asked her to call him husband. He was absurdly cute with his daily declarations of love for the young nurse, and many of the other soldiers she tended got threatened with being taken out back and thrashed when they flirted like he did.

He healed quicker than expected. Another miracle. And Mathilde almost regretted the help she was giving him. He’d be leaving all too soon.

“Come on, Lass. At least promise me a dance after we get out of here.”

“You make it home alive from the war and I’ll promise you that dance.”

“What about us, love? Can we get a dance too?” One of the other men asked. He was to be discharged this week, well enough to go back and fight again. It pained Mathilde to know that many she healed would not make it back home.

“Get home safely and we’ll talk about it.”

“You slay me, Lass,” O’Connor teased. “What does a fella have to do to make you his own?”

“I’m not sure I’m the right woman for any gent,” Mathilde admitted. She was so drawn to O’Connor and her fathers would often exchange knowing looks. Mathilde couldn’t give in though. She was not like he was.

His last night came all too soon and Mathilde allowed herself a private moment with him in one of the storage rooms.

“Could you love a boy like me?”

“Write to me, come back safely to me and we’ll see what happens,” Mathilde promised. She couldn’t help herself, she had real feelings for O’Connor in a way she could not explain.

“I’ll come back for you. I’ll always come back for you.”

He kissed her and Mathilde melted against his body. The kiss was passionate and left them both breathless.

“Come back then,” Mathilde said and she fled, tears streaming down her cheeks. She knew she would be broken if he joined the others in the mass graves that were far too full. She had saved his life and healed his wounds, but she could not protect him as he returned to the fight.

There were only so many miracles they could give, and far too many in the world needed them. All Mathilde could do was keep her secret and pray that he would be safe. Keep two secrets.

Because truth be told, she could love a boy like him. In fact, it was quite certain she had loved him since the moment she had stood beside his stretcher.

Why else did her heart tell her he must live?

 

Lyric Warm-Up Writing – Evermore

29

So, having seen Beauty and the Beast yesterday I am all about that soundtrack, and sweet Faerierebel gave me this prompt because she was first onboard this new obsession. So here we have something little, something part prose, part poem, all heartache. Enjoy…

Evermore

Life could be so cruel, life could be so tragic. And yet the heart keeps hoping. The heart keeps wanting.

And I let you into my melancholy heart.

You’re there in every moment, thoughts plague me. I can’t shake you and you are not mine to keep.

The first moment I saw you, I felt the connection. You walked into my heart like you walked through the open door. Call it clichéd if you want but I know my instincts are always right. The moment you walked into my life I knew what we could be to each other, the passion, the pleasure, the happiness. And I yearn for happiness. My life has not had much of it lately. The sadness held me so tight it almost took my life.

And then you walked into my melancholy heart, one smile and you inscribed your name deep on my soul.

Yet the melancholy remains, no happiness to be had. You are not mine. You’re hers instead.

And I can do nothing but watch and pretend that I can bear to watch you make her smile. Pretend that I am happy for you are her happiness, her contentment. I fix a smile in place and try to fake it until I make it to being happy for you both and not seething green inside with envy.

Why did you walk into my heart if you never planned to let me into yours? You smiled at me like you knew it too and then the moment was gone as she flew into your arms.

But I can’t let this break me. I can’t fall to the darkness where I was before. You’re so far beyond my reach though you’re always within my grasp. So close and yet so far, and I must not let it destroy me. The heart keeps hoping, the heart keeps wanting.

The nights are long and full of aching and I know I cannot keep waiting for something that will not happen. You are hers. You are her happiness.

But when you glanced this way, I thought I saw… No one has ever looked at me that way before.

And so, my heart keeps hoping, my heart keeps wanting.

And my melancholy heart will be yours for evermore.

A kiss can be deadly. – A Tienai tale.

Balien liked to throw parties. Grand lavish affairs that, after the tragedy that had befallen him, allowed him to keep busy, to keep sane, and to keep people around him. It also afforded him a chance to keep an eye on Jaidee’s twin sister Tienai.

The parties were decadent events. If even half the rumours about them were true, few had ever thrown more sinful and wicked revelries. This was what drew Tienai to them. She lived for the wild, the reckless and the dangerous. She needed the experiences that kept her feeling alive and let her forget reality.

Tonight, Balien’s party had a theme of black and silver. Tienai wore a figure hugging dress of shimmering silver. Black ribbons wound through her hair, strands falling around her face and tickling against her shoulders. A simple black lace mask covered her face.

The anonymity of the masks had also appealed to Tienai. Though few Fae could travel the worlds since the end of the age, enough could that she could cross paths with one and Tienai actively avoided the judgement that came with it. She was after all banished and branded and none could do anything but spurn her because of it.

The music was slow tonight, the air heavy with intimate intentions. Tienai had yet to find anyone who could draw her from her seat and her drink as she watched the dancers. Not that she had been short on offers. Even Balien had offered her a dance but she declined, it was the other Tia’Elnial sister he wished to have in his arms. Jaidee was not here and Tienai would not be his distraction.

The current song had a stronger beat to it, slow though it was. Tienai found herself swaying to the music, each beat the cue to change directions. Her eyes closed and she simply let herself go. Though she was no bard as her sister was, she let the music entice her from her seat to dance by herself. By the time the song ended she almost felt happy. She was so close to a feeling of contentment that she could not allow herself to open her eyes and bring the moment to an end.

A new song began to play and a hand slid into hers.

“May I?”

A charge ran through Tienai at the touch of the hand and she opened her eyes to find herself staring at a mask of a tree man, silver maple leaves beautifully sculptured to form the face. The mask showed only his lips which were barely visible beyond his facial hair. The man’s eyes were nothing but shadows. There was something familiar about him regardless and Tienai wondered if she had known him at a previous party.

“It would be my pleasure.”

“I do hope so.”

There was a familiar cheekiness in his tone and Tienai found herself blushing. Her happiness was almost giddiness and it was not simply from the alcohol she had been consuming. The Tree-man in the black suit led her onto the dance floor among the other guests. One hand started on her hip and slid around her back to hold her close to him. With the height of her shoes, they seemed a good match for each other and Tienai imagined it would be easy enough for him to kiss her.

He kept holding her other hand, changing the grip as they began to dance. The song was slow and romantic, it had an easy rhythm for their bodies to pick up.

“It feels wonderful to have you in my arms again, Tienai.”

“You have me at a disadvantage, for I do not recall a time where you might have held me. Your mask gives little hint as to who you might be.”

“I would be wounded but it has been some time.”

“Would you give me your name?”

“If you should guess it, then so be it. Otherwise, I am just your mystery suitor for the night, and I am sure the excitement will only grow for you for it.”

“Do you disadvantage yourself then for knowing me.”

“Trust me, Tienai. Nothing could excite me more than you this night.”

Tienai found she did not care who was behind the mask now, he was right that it was exciting. And what he had said in that husky tone had excited her too. It might have been a line but it certainly worked on her.

By the second song, their bodies were pressed against each other, Tienai’s arms were around his neck, and his were wrapped tightly around her. His palms were pressed to her back and the only time their bodies parted even a little bit was when he would dip her backwards. His beard would tickle her chest as he followed her down, she waited each time for the touch of his lips but he denied her each time.

“This feels so natural, as though you were meant to be in my arms,” he murmured.

“I find I agree,” Tienai replied. And she did agree. Whoever he was, she could only imagine the passion that they had shared before if the chemistry between them now was to be believed. Still, that did not make it easy to guess who he was. Not because there had been so many, but because she could think of very few who had given her such passion since her banishment. And she was certain he could not be them. Perhaps she had been far too intoxicated the last time, and she found herself regretting that now.

After a fourth song, they left the dance floor and the ballroom and made their way outside, walking until they found themselves in the courtyard to the east of the house. The courtyard was a classical style, large statues stood at each of the corners of the stone tiles. Beside each burned a large torch. From the lack of smoke, it seemed they burned by more magical means. It was just like Balien to cheat like that.

Tienai’s mystery man stood behind her, his arms looped around her with his hands resting on her stomach. He nuzzled her neck as he began to speak. “We stood like this once and we looked up at the stars. A star burned bright and soared across the sky and I wished on it.”

“What did you wish for?”

“To keep the woman in my arms.”

“For the night?”

“Or at least a few hours.”

His laughter was loud in her ear and Tienai had a feeling he was teasing. She did not know how much of this story was a fabrication to seduce her, and how much was truth. She did not really care.

“And if she wished to be kept for this night?”

“Then she would be worshipped and pleased until she could take no more.”

“I am sure she could not wish for more than that.”

“Perhaps tonight both our wishes can come true.”

“I do wish so.”

They stood in the courtyard for a while longer. His lips explored her throat and shoulder as she leant back against him, eyes on the skies. She did not look for a shooting star, for at that moment she had nothing she wished for more.

They retired to one of Balien’s guest bedrooms and locked the door behind them. The masks stayed on but nothing else did, and without any lights in the room, Tienai was no closer to being able to tell who her mystery lover was.

She did not spare much time on who he was. She was lost in the now, in sharing passion with him. He had not lied when he said he would show her pleasure. He took his time letting his hands and lips learn and taste her body. She was equally giving.

She slept in his arms afterwards, exhausted and pleased. When she woke, sunlight was pouring in the edges of the curtains and she rolled to face him. His mask had fallen off or been discarded in the night.

She could see him now and she knew him. It broke her heart.

Lying there with a smile on his face, even in his sleep, was the first man that Tienai had ever loved. The first man she had ever been with.

Lachlan.

Which meant that Tienai had to leave. To be with her, to know her now, it was to put himself in danger. She was banished; it was forbidden to give aid or kindness to a banished Fae. It was why Tienai kept her own sister at arm’s length; to protect her.  Lachlan had been foolish to approach her.

She had to leave, for his sake.

So, Tienai dressed and used her magic to flee from him, half way around the world where it was night again, an acceptable time to drink. And drink Tienai did. Seeing Lachlan, knowing what they shared and could not again, it broke Tienai all over again and she wanted to forget. She wanted to forget the pain, the banishment. The shame. She wanted to forget who she was. She wanted to feel nothing.

By the time it was morning again, Tienai was comatose and blissfully pain-free. And Lachlan was safe with her far from him with only a mask on a pillow to remember her by.

carnival-2112042_1920edit2sml

Lyric Warm-Up Writing 28: Say Goodbye

28

It’s been a while, I’ve been working on some novel stuff but I know I need to get back into a good habit of writing. I had a request for more Rachel and Herger, so here we go. (If there is someone you want more of, feel free to ask. Sometimes it helps to know who I’m meant to write for.)

You can find more of Rachel’s stories so far here and here. Technically you can find another couple of drabbles, but I’ll leave that for you to work out or you can wait for the big reveals. For now, enjoy today’s story.

Say Goodbye

“I didn’t realise today was Saint Patrick’s Day,” Matthew said as he stepped inside the tent. He looked hot and sweaty even though the day was completely overcast. And he had smudges of dirt all over his face.

“What are you talking about, Matty?” Rachel got up from the desk and grabbed the packet of wet wipes. She pulled free one, and treating Matthew like she would her own son, she started to clean his face off for him.

“You look green.”

“I do not,” Rachel replied. She was trying to recall if she could have gotten any green ink on her face but she was sure she had not even used her green pen today.

“You do. I guess it’s because a certain professor is back today.”

“Oh, shut your face.” Rachel threw the dirty wipe at Matthew. Her cheeks had instantly turned pink at the mention of Herger. Yes, she was, in fact, feeling quite sick at the thought of his return. She was dreading him returning with a spring in his step and an immovable smile on his face.

It wasn’t that she didn’t want him happy. She just was sick with jealousy that it was someone else that held his heart and created his happiness.

“Ah, so it’s true. You wear the green face for the professor.”

“You’re so full of it.”

“I think you’re the one full of it. Full of the lurve. I might have to go and cry for my broken heart.”

“As I already said, you’re so full of it,” Rachel said. She couldn’t help but laugh as he pantomimed dying of a broken heart. “And no, I’m just busy trying to get things ready for my absence, remember I’m going to be gone for a week. I leave first thing in the morning.”

“So then the professor can pine after you while you’re gone. I like it, good balance.”

“Pine after me? Did you have another of the poles fall on your head? Or is this exhaustion speaking?”

“Why shouldn’t he? You’re beautiful, you’re gorgeous! You’re every man’s dream.”

“And you’re full of it.”

Matthew was sweet but he was clearly a bit crazy. Herger had not looked at her before the fashion beauty came into his life, or back into it as some people said. He would not be looking at her now.

“I have to get going, Matthew. Herger gets in on the tiny plane of doom in an hour and he will need a ride back to the village.”

“Give him a kiss from me,” Matthew said and winked at Rachel. He left her to pack up her bag and find the keys to take Herger’s rental car and go and pick him up.

Rachel was still shaking her head at Matthew’s antics when she got in the car. She felt physically sick as she pulled out from the site and down the gravel road, dust kicking up in her rear view as she accelerated too quickly. She arrived at the airport to find out that Herger had been delayed, he would not be coming in just a half hour before she would fly out to head home to Shaun for his school camp as she had promised.

Heart heavy but moderately relieved at the same time, Rachel drove back to the bed and breakfast house that she and a few of the others were staying in. She stayed up late packing, distracted often by thoughts of Herger. Many of them quite x-rated. She fell into bed around one in the morning and dreamed.

“Does it hurt much?”

“If I say yes, will you stay with me?” She looked up into his bright eyes. They were a bright blue tonight, sometimes they almost seemed green. It was the first time that she had been this close to stare into them. Herger was leaning down over her looking at her wound where the bullet had grazed her.

“I shall stay even if you say no.”

“Then I shall say it did hurt but it feels numb after what they put on it. It went cold.”

“I am pleased to hear that. You were very lucky.”

“I know, I hope Els is okay. We never thought another woman would betray us like that. Not for him.”

“You cannot underestimate the selfishness of people,” Herger said and gently moved the bandage to look at her wound.

She smiled as she watched him look at it. He was so close, maybe she should wrap her arms around his neck and kiss him. Surely he would not reject the injured woman….

Rachel woke up feeling exhausted. It had been a strange dream, one of those ones that were clearly set in the past but Herger was still Herger. It was also one of the most G-rated dreams she’d had about him in a while.

Rachel dressed and headed for the airport. At least Herger’s car would be there when he arrived, in case he was late again. She could leave the keys with the woman in the office. Airport was kind of a generous term, it was more an airstrip with a building.

“Rachel. Hello.”

“Herger. Goodbye.” Rachel replied with a laugh. Her stomach was doing back flips at the sight of him. She tried not to turn into a lovesick fool gazing at him but she was sure that her cheeks were blushing of their own accord.

“Goodbye?”

“I’m off for the week to my son’s school camp.”

“I completely forgot.”

“I’m sure your mind has been on other things while you’ve been away,” Rachel replied and tried not to sound sad or bitter about that. It was not her place to be, no matter her feelings for him. “Matthew has everything under control and he can fill you in on what’s been happening. I’ll be back in a week.”

Remembering the car keys she quickly gave them to Herger before she ended up flying away with them. Without thinking she leant up and kissed Herger’s cheek as he took the keys. She actually kissed him goodbye and she was traumatised by it. Forcing a laugh, she blushed and tried not to look away. “That was from Matthew. He dared me. Tell him he owes me twenty when I get back. See you then.”

Tripping over her luggage, Rachel beat a hasty retreat from Herger and went to get her bag on the plane before she boarded. She could see him from her window but was unable to make out his face. She did notice him wave as the plane taxied and she waved back to him.

She hoped Matthew would back her up on the dare, and he had told her to give Herger a kiss from him after all. A week was a long time, maybe Herger would have forgotten about it when she got back. One could hope, right?