The next few days, Britta kept at her father’s side. She was silent, her gaze lost and her spirit broken. Kiaran kept Ryker with her to give Britta some space. His eyes were constantly on her as they walked several paces back.
“Will she be alright?” he finally asked.
“Give her time,” she nodded. “She will be fine.”
Coming to a bridge, Brinden stopped the caravan. He and two other men stepped forward, inspecting it. Kiaran kept a hand on Ryker’s shoulder, expecting an enemy to hide beneath the stone bridge.
But it was clear. It was strange to have no one after her. Usually, there was someone who wanted to kill her. But as Anika, no one even knew she existed.
“Where is Britta?” Ryker asked quietly. “She isn’t with Brinden, is she?”
“I assume she is in one of the carts,” she shrugged. “Do not worry yourself to death, Ryker.”
They moved forward again, rather slowly. The carts were hardly able to fit on the bridge, making it to the other side. Kiaran stepped off the stone of the bridge and back onto the dirt road, her eyes on her feet.
“Anika,” Brinden’s voice cut through the air and made her jump slightly. Looking up, she found him to be directly in front of her. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you,” he stated.
Scare her? No. Kiaran doesn’t get startled.
“Oh, it is fine,” she replied, ready to walk past him. She stopped, though, knowing he was wanting to speak with her.
“I was meaning to ask you...” he trailed off.
“What?” she asked, her voice holding very little interest.
“What were you looking to do in VinCar?”
“...Find a job,” she answered cautiously. Was he not to ask her about her ability to fight? Perhaps he was respecting her wish to keep it quiet. He wasn’t being invasive at all. “I have no idea what I want to do. Whatever there is for me, I presume. But I’d prefer to be in the castle.”
“Oh?” he asked.
“Ryker likes to read, so I imagine that they have the best library,” she smiled forcefully.
Ryker watched them, becoming impatient. He shrugged her hand off his shoulder and moved forward. Kiaran sighed and began to move after him, but Brinden said, “Anika, I don’t mean to upset your son.”
“I know,” she shook her head.
“I think he is upset because...” He paused when she looked at him, somewhat confused. “Nevermind,” he smiled.
She glanced after Ryker, saying, “He’ll come around.” With that, she rushed after him.
She moved on, past the people and the horses to where Ryker paced. He sat with a heavy thump. The grass was tall, surrounding him as he ran his hands over it. He pulled some grass out and tossed it aside, pouting.
Kiaran sat beside him, asking, “What is wrong with you?”
“Nothing,” he grunted.
“Uh-huh,” she grunted back. “Tell me.”
“How can you forget about,” he stopped abruptly and glanced behind him, ”Dad like that?”
Her brows instantly lowered as she replied, “What are you talking about?” Her stomach twisted though, knowing what he meant.
“Brinden is taking a liking to you, why don’t you say anything to him?”
She stared at him at a loss. “What am I to say? ‘Quit talking to me or my pretend, dead husband will kill you’? I do not understand why you are so upset by this.” She frowned deeply, glaring slightly at him.
He sighed shortly and tossed himself backwards, lying on his back. “I am talking about Davin,” he whispered. Her eyes widened slightly, her heart wrenching, and he continued, “I guess I just do not like that you are being favored by another man...I guess I miss Davin, is all.”
She sighed, saying, “I do as well.”
It became silent between them, the birds singing in the sky above. Finally, she said, “I have to pretend I’m a widowed woman. A regular, everyday housewife. And a regular, everyday housewife would be happy to talk to him.”
“Yeah, I guess,” he shrugged unhappily. “I don’t like it though.”
“Doesn’t matter what you like, does it?” she half-smiled at him.
“Guess not,” he muttered with another pout.
Though all the others slept, Kiaran sat quietly on the outskirts of the camp. Her ears perked to every sound made. May it be the snort of a horse, a chirp of an owl...Whatever sound was made, it cut through her thoughts.
Her skin tickled, hair standing on ends as she fought off the need to stretch. Her body was tense, muscles aching for some sort of exercise.
She inhaled deeply, looking to the heavily starred sky above. Her heart longed to go home. To sit before her fire with Nurra perched on her knees...
Just the thought of having a home to return to was impossible to believe.
Her chest felt like it might cave in, beneath all the pressure of pure pain and anxiety. She clutched at her shirt, hiding her face in her knees. She held her breath, which only seemed to worsen the burning in her lungs.
She needed to calm herself. To focus on what she needed to do. If she couldn't keep herself together, it could be the end of her life. It could be the end of Ryker's. Of Davin's.
"How am I going to do this?" she croaked with an impossibly quiet voice. Tears threatened to flood her face, but she kept them barely held back.
Her ears perked to the sound of familiar feet approaching. Quickly, she wiped her face clean. Ryker came to a stop at her feet, a look of worry weighing his brow.
Wordlessly, he sat on his knees and wrapped his arms around her. She stiffened, every inch of her on fire. Her eyes grew hot with tears and she finally leaned into him, draping one arm around him in an awkward, but much needed hug.