The Price of Vengeance

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Don't Go

“She never used to be this bad.” Disseus could recall warmth and laughter and rolling through flowers and being tackled by a woman in skirts dropping out of a tree.

Days of sunshine and laughter. He looked around him now and saw everything through darker eyes. Reminding himself that those days were long gone.

Almora was still giving him a quizzical look.

But I don’t have any answers to offer her.

Almora clearly wanted to know what had changed so much in Nim.

I don’t know. It wasn’t my fault. She left me. His thoughts turned bitter, and he shifted away from the witch. Making it clear the conversation was over and he cared to discuss it no further.

But thinking over what Almora had said made him curious.

I know some of the more ugly parts of her story. Of the time she was gone. But I’d like to know the rest… Yet he feared asking to fill in the blanks would likely cause him pain.

But his hunger to know was making him restless.

What did happen to her the years since I knew her? Other than the demon. And whatever evolving closeness she has with the bloody Guardian.

Bernus…Thinking the man’s name wanted to make him hit a tree.

They were obviously very friendly. Comfortable enough in each others’ company that Bernus could nearly threaten her, and she didn’t bat an eyelash but deflected smoothly.

Like she does everything I say.

Or ask.

That night was fitful for Nim. Nightmares plagued a time that should’ve been peaceful. All she could see was the giant twisted features of the Demon King. The gleeful black eyes as he watched her.

She flailed in an attempt to chase away her attacker. Moaning in despair as the Demon King lumbered toward her. The giant caught her by the neck and lifted her off the ground. Gasping for air she kicked at him.

Her breaths quickened and she was flailing. Kicking in her sleep as she prepared to dislodge him from her. Remembering her vow that she’d never again let him put a hand on her.

Sudden pressure over her mouth was even more real.

She lunged awake to defend herself and found she was pinned down and Disseus’s large warm hand was over her mouth. His eyes burning into her. For a heartbeat she saw only horrible black eyes. Demon eyes. That old familiar, panic gripped her. And she objected to his nearness from beneath his hand.

Watching fear flood her gaze made Disseus unable to hide the brief hurt that flickered over his face. I never gave her a reason to fear me.

“Quiet.” He whispered.

“There’s something in the trees.” He lifted his head to look around intently.

Strangely, she was immediately soothed by his commanding voice. His scent washed over her. Trees, rain and warm volatile male. The long line of his sinewed neck met the hollow beneath his square jaw beckoning her lips. And for the briefest moment, she considered leaning up and hooking her fingernails into his back and drawing him down over her. Sucking at that firm skin along his neck in the way she knew would make him growl in his throat. Wanting more.

Would he be startled if she put her mouth there or would he close his eyes and savor her touch? She couldn’t help wondering. She forced herself from her silly reverie to pay attention to the urgency of the issue.

He was listening for sounds coming from a distance back in the trees. He let his hand slide from over her mouth.

“What’s out there?” She queried in a hushed voice.

He was silent. His gaze still narrowed as he scanned the trees. Body wound for battle.

But then it dawned on her that he could be feigning it. His mocking words from this morning hit her like a dash of ice water. Followed by the swell of humiliation all over again.

His hand slid to the ground next to her head but didn’t lift his body.

“Is this you trying to make your threats from this morning true?” She asked waspishly. Aware he rarely made idle threats.

He looked down with widened eyes. “You truly don’t hear them?”

She turned her head to eye him suspiciously but focused. Trying to hear what might be out there.

Then she could. A rustle now and again. The snap of an occasional branch.

“Demon.” He remarked coolly.

“How do you know?”

“I can smell them.” Those ice blue eyes flashed in moonlight as he scanned the trees Putting his hands on the ground on each side of her, he hoisted himself off.

She reflexively wrapped her arms around his back. “Don’t go.”

Realizing that for this briefest moment, with him laying over her like some kind of a shield, she had felt safe for the first time in the longest time she could recall.

A smile pulled at his lips and his eyes danced as they used to. “You want me to stay?”

He dropped his weight back over her. “Right here?”

It dawned on her then how foolish she’d sounded. Nearly desperate. Quickly rolling she shoved him to the side of her.

“I don’t need more of your condescension.” She said scathingly.

But there was another rustle.

He rose to move toward it, but she caught his sleeve. Heedless of how she sounded this time.

Furtively meeting his probing look she said. “Just stay...with me.”

She stared into the trees frantically before looking back at him with some hint of primal wildness in her gaze.

She’s scared to death.

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