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Take My Hand

Once outside, Elsabet flexed her wings but couldn’t extend them. They were tied to her body.

Relying on her feet, she shook her head like a wild thing as she struggled to become the valkyrie. To no avail. Snarling in frustration, she glanced at the gray sky above her, heavy with clouds. She set toward the trees bordering the meadow.

Thunder cracked, and lightening shredded the sky. Sunlight unable to find her.

She moved through descending darkness. White tunic mingling with shining blonde tresses to make her a beacon in the evening. Her boots left distinct tracks. Signifying her direction.

Her step grew deeper in the dirt as she stalked in frustration, unable to take to the air. Rain dumped, but her clothes never dampened. Slipping off her like oil. Only absorbing in her hair. Causing strands to cling to the curve of her back.

Another woman would’ve admitted exhaustion. Admitted her legs grew weary. But not her.

She put the castle behind her. Stumbling once, she caught herself. The second time there was no salvaging her step.

She fought thick mud she sunk elbow deep into as she fought to free her feet from the muck. The hooves of a great white mount stepped into view. Groaning she saw five or six strange dogs moving around the prancing steed. The beasts snaked around their master, willing to defend him. The horse was unspeakably beautiful. Reluctantly lifting her eyes to find him atop the gorgeous mount. Posture relaxed, his forearms casually crossed over the saddle horn. Heavy armor encased him. His black cloak billowed behind him and over the horse’s back. As the wind calmed it draped down to the dogs. An unnatural semblance of wings.

“I hope he throws you.” She seethed.

Inhumanly still, he watched her. Were his graceful mount to buck, it was clear Sebastian would move fluidly with him. She noted bitterly.

“He’s never dislodged me.” He grinned.

Unable to suppress it, a shiver shook her.

“Cold?” He frowned.

Only to herself, did she begrudgingly admit she’d been cold for a while now.

“Only your mad run for freedom kept you warm, aye?” He offered her a hand up.

“You’re my enemy.” She only stared at him. “And I’m accustomed to that.”

“You should be. Since all men are.”

She drew her knees to her chest, curling tight for warmth.

“Does your fear of me make you hate me all the more?”

She scooped a chunk of wood to toss at him, but he ducked to a side. Evading it.

Twisting her wrist, she felt the comforting sensation of fingernails elongating into long curved claws. Claws that could eviscerate.

He followed her gaze and watched the motion of her hands intently. “Do you wish to cut me, My Lady?”

“To hollow you out, My Lord.” She sneered the title.

“You think you’d be free then?”

She lifted her chin.

“Your fear keeps you captive more than I. Until you can be free of that you’ll never know actual freedom.” The leather of his saddle creaked as the huge horse shifted.

“Fear?” She scoffed. “I fear nothing.”

“Then hop up here. Let me wrap my arms about you. Pull you to me and rest my chin on your shoulder. Warm you against this cold.”

Hissing she reared back as though he’d slapped her.

“As I thought.” He pointed at her as the mount shifted. “The thought of a man’s hand on you terrifies you…That is fear.”

“It’s rage.”

“Only a mask for your fear.” He waved away her excuses.

“You think you know me?”

He leaned over the horn, his eyes conveying the depth of his message. “I see you, Elsabet…”

She quaked with all that delightful anger. Aimed at me.

It wasn’t too far a stretch to imagine her passion would run just as hot as her temper.

“I’ll make you a deal. When you surrender to me. Let me wrap my arms about you and warm you with my flesh. Allow me to chase away all those terrible fears of men…I’ll set you free.”

When you show you can be tamed. Soft and in control of your fiery emotions, there’d no longer be a reason to hold you here. He justified.

Cracking her neck side to side, she summoned emotion to fuel her power. Brown wings rent from her body to splay straight back ominously.

They met in the darkness of the storm. The valkyrie in the shape of a beautiful white woman standing her ground. Still as a statue and contrasting with the bat wings which seemed black in the faded light.

Her enemy was equally as motionless on the back of the white beast, dusky cape billowing and the dogs a single silken mass twining around him. Strange toothy black beasts. Their fur looked dense and rough. More like tree bark then hair.

Neither of them broke contact nor made a move. Two foes facing down in the storm.

“Come little Harpie. Come back with me. To the warmth.” His tone was soft, voice coaxing as he leaned over the horse to offer her a hand up.

Her back went ramrod straight. “As the devil likely said.” She scoffed. “I will not.”

His eyes sparked until gold light, bright as sunlight on a river, glowed in the dark.

She dares defy me? His face turned angry. He dismounted in one graceful motion.

“Stay.” He injected his power, the voice of persuasion, into his tone. Putting up a staying hand.

Immersed in those eyes, she couldn’t will her body to move. Rooted where she stood. Her wings relaxed involuntarily. Blowing a frustrated breath, she fought to budge. Jerking her torso. But her legs refused her.

“Stay.” He said it again. He approached, dogs in stride with him. A rippling mass. One at each side and four flanking him. Hulking beasts. Drawing near she realized they were not dogs, but something nightmarish with huge pointed teeth and wide mouths. She shivered.

His burning gaze seared into her as he reached out to her.

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