Chapter 28 - Property
“I did almost kill you, and I deserve punishment,” Alena insisted when they were alone.
“Almost, and if you were truly out of control, you would have killed me, but you fought yourself,” Rowan corrected as she lay down gingerly. She felt drained.
“I’m sorry,” Alena said the words as if she was unused to speaking them and she was.
“That’s not good enough, Alena,” it was the first time Rowan called her by her name.
“No, it isn’t,” Alena admitted as she sat back down. “Thank you for defending me,” Alena said as she observed Rowan.
“Why do you let him do that? Is it because he’s male or stronger than you?” Rowan asked, and Alena remained quiet for a while as if she considered her words.
“My father gave me to Marcus along with everything else he owned,” Alena admitted almost with the edge of bitterness to her voice. “He is my master,” the words sounded hollow.
“And what does that mean for you?” Rowan shifted onto her elbows so she could see Alena’s face.
“It makes me his slave, and his property,” Alena admitted with the oddest emotions reflected in her eyes.
“His woman?” Rowan asked, and then realized she had no right to ask such a question. “I shouldn’t have asked,” she apologized and lay back down again.
“No, I’m not his woman,” Alena answered. She sensed Rowan staring at her, and when Alena looked at her again, thoughts ran like water behind those brown and green eyes.
“All of this because you were born a woman?” Rowan asked, and Alena shrugged.
“It’s all a matter of birth isn’t it?” Alena reminded, and Rowan nodded. Who would understand that better than her?
“Or fate,” Rowan contradicted, and Alena had to agree.
“Do you want to continue your lesson, or wait for tomorrow? I promise that what happened today, will never happen again,” Alena said while looking her straight in the eye, and Rowan believed her. She also suspected that if she waited until the next night, some part of her would always fear Alena. When you fall off a horse, get right back up on it, or you might never ride again.
When they resumed the lesson, Marcus moved his table to the practice room, and although he seemed busy with other matters, he watched them like a hawk. His gaze unsettled Rowan.
What must he think of her? Rowan wondered. Compared to Alena she must seem clumsy, and weak. He valued strength. It was there in everything he said and did. He must wonder if this wasn’t a mistake, out there must be some other Damphir, someone stronger than her.
Alena picked up on Rowan’s distracted behavior. It was her thing to see what would elude another. Finally, she stopped and caught Rowan’s fist in a secure hold, right in the middle of a punch. Rowan was already breathing hard from the effort.
“Marcus, it’s all right. I won’t harm her again, and you make us uneasy,” Alena said the words with none of the hesitation Rowan would have expected, and this time she didn’t lower her eyes.
“You think,” Marcus countered without looking up from the ancient document he studied, written in a language neither of them could understand.
“I know,” Alena corrected as she let go of Rowan.
“Do I make you nervous?” Marcus asked as he looked directly at Rowan and dismissed the idea of making Alena uneasy. She got that stubborn set to her jaw which told him everything and made him laugh. She would have loved to slap him, but she wasn’t that stupid.
“Good, then you’ll try harder,” his voice held a sudden chill, and his features appeared cast in stone.
Rowan was angry enough at him to do just that, but it tired her. Alena gave her no quarter, and Rowan was about to give up; when he appeared right behind her.
She was too tired to stiffen as he stepped closer until his body touched hers. Marcus took her hands in such a way that if he moved, she moved. She was tall and only just reached his chin. His touch unsettled her.
“Stand on my feet and keep your balance,” Marcus ordered and moved her like a puppet until the concept that evaded Rowan, became clear as the light of day. He spoke to her with an understanding of his craft that humbled her.
Marcus stepped away, and Rowan missed his presence, but she rejected the thought. Her tiredness had gone, replaced by wonder and a drive she lacked before. His simple lesson opened a door in her mind that altered everything about her view of fighting. She struggled only briefly to alter her perception, but when she managed it, Rowan found that she had been the obstacle to her own progress.
“Enough,” Marcus commanded, and both women jerked to a standstill. They were both so emersed in what they did that they forgot about Marcus.
“Time for more important matters,” he reminded, and they obeyed. They left to wash the sweat from their bodies, and when they returned, found him in the library. Stacks of books awaited their perusal.
Rowan almost groaned. She was tired, and just a little worn out. She needed to go hunt, but she had a feeling that with this being so close to dawn, Marcus would say no.
Rowan fell asleep on her arms, and Alena smirked. Rowan looked both young and innocent in her sleep.
“You’re starting to like her,” Marcus remarked, and her smile faded. She avoided his searching gaze. He was wrong; she wasn’t just starting to like Rowan; she liked her. Alena respected her sibling and loved her.
“Don’t forget,” Marcus reminded and chastised by his words, she turned her attention back to the pages of her book, but she stared blankly at the words. She couldn’t allow Marcus to know that her attachment to Rowan was far more profound than he knew. He might sense some of her feelings, but Victor taught her to conceal her emotions. She even hid her bond with Rowan from him.
Marcus frowned at the silence and found them asleep. He watched them fondly for a while before he carried them to their rooms. They didn’t wake, not because they were that tired, but because he didn’t want them to.