The Price of Vengeance

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A Burnt Tree

“We’ll break for camp.”

“But shouldn’t we-” Nim started. Wanting to press on.

Wanting to avoid bedding down for the night.

Because she knows where I’ll expect to have her.

“We’ll break for camp.” Disseus cut her off with a glower. Grabbing his bow, he headed toward deeper woods.

Almora and Lonnix were already collecting kindling for the evening fire. Knowing it would be needed to keep the Battling Dogs at bay.

Movement toward the trees behind him, caught Disseus’ attention.


Walking alone through the woods this close to dusk. What is she thinking?

Heading through the trees in the opposite direction of their camp she was glancing furtively over her shoulder to make sure they didn’t follow her.

She wants away from the rest of us.

Why? She knows this is dangerous country. His curiosity had him veering off his trajectory to trail after her.

He followed her awhile but became nervous upon seeing how far she’d drawn from Lon and Almora despite that Battling creatures had so recently demanded that she be handed over to the Demon King.

Or is that who she sneaks off to rendezvous with? That made his ire rise to a boiling hot level.

He stalked after her and grabbed her arm. “What are you doing?”

“Going to cool off.” She spat. Rage making her eyes glitter. She pointed the direction she was heading. “I hear water that way.”

“How, in that fool head of yours, can wandering off alone through Battling territory sound like a fine plan? Especially when their king wants you enough to make offers to other realms.”

For his pretty ruby. That galled him. Is that what he called her when he kept her prisoner.

That thought sickened Disseus.

Her lips tightened and her eyes narrowed in a way that told him she was itching for a fight every bit as much as he was.


Bracing himself, his jaw tightened as he drew all the nasty remarks he could muster to the forefront of his mind. He gave her a cold smirk and cocked his head. “Oh, if you want a fight, My Dear, you’ve come to the right place!”

He stood unmoving. Waiting for her to take the bait.

Then the shine vanished from her gaze and her eyes darkened with what could only be pain. Her lips relaxed and her shoulders dropped.

Utterly deflated he stared at her in confusion. What is this? Defeat?

He far preferred the piss and fire to this dejected look.

She studied the ground. Before blowing out a long breath.

While he waited in agony. Shifting anxiously as he hoped her fury would return. Without her anger, his seemed perilously hard to cling to.

“I’m going, Feral.” Shoving his chest, she passed him.

“Going where?” He called after her. Tossing his arms.

She stayed slumped over as she walked dully toward the sounds of rushing water.

To do what?

“You’re giving up? You never give up on anything!” Momentary concern softened his features. “It’s not safe for you alone out here.”

Jogging to catch up to her, he gave her a thoughtful study as he walked beside her before he added softly. “Where are you going?”

“To bathe in the pool. To think.”

“What’s wrong with you?” Now his voice was overly harsh as he attempted to compensate for his weakness.

“This isn’t about you and me, Feral.” She called over her shoulder. “It’s about my son.”

Feeling properly put in his place, he quieted.

“And for that” She finished softly. “I’d endure anything. Even you.”


Those words had cut like a knife.

Swallowing hard, he watched her. Pain sliced through him.

Gritting his teeth, he cursed himself for a fool.

“Never again.” He promised himself under his breath. Watching her shoving her way through the trees, he knew that despite the sting of her words, the knowledge that she was not safe alone in these woods, would force him to stay.

Damn her.

And damn me! Moving silently through the trees he kept her in view.

When she stepped from her dress and began wading into the water, he drew a quick breath and ducked behind a tree. Pushing his back against it, he tried to stop the vision of her body shining in fading light like a pearl, from permeating his mind’s eye. The soft spread of her hair like reaching fingers as the water swallowed her curves was beyond daunting.

She’s more beautiful than I remembered.

Brushing sweat from his forehead and from around his brows, he blew out a choked breath. Slumping against the tree, his bow dangled. Trying to force her image and the memories flooding into the back of his mind. The memory of the feel of that skin flush against his.

The sounds she’d made. Feeling heat at his back, he leaned forward. Unaware of the silhouette he’d already burned into the bark of the tree.

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