Leave Well Enough Alone, Bast
“I mean the vulgar way you talk to me and how you constantly try to find ways to touch me. You never used to do that.”
“I find ye des’rable, now me older. Na’ jus’ me defender.”
“Well…” He was unsure how to reply. “Stop.” He returned to crouching over the driter to clean the meat.
“Ye’re no more the nice man me remember!” She stomped a dirty foot.
She gasped at his audacity. Turning, she stalked through the woods.
Thank you, Heaven above. He tossed up a thankful look.
He felt a momentary pang for hurting her feelings, despite that mere moments ago he’d been considering throttling her. Now he was tempted to go apologize. I’ve known Karina many years.
He’d led her to Margaret and Agatha to raise her after her parents abandoned her. And when she was old enough, he’d built her the rough cottage in the woods.
No. He told himself. She needs to understand I don’t return her favor. He decided against an apology.
No better way to make her understand then let her build resentment. He stepped over a log.
Looking back, he saw her fade into the distance and caught another familiar scent. In a blink he nocked his arrow and spun on the intruder. Recognizing the smell of feline sweat before he let it fly. But loosing it anyway.
I hate when you sneak up on me.
Bast stepped from the brush and smoothly caught the arrow, gaze intent on Karina’s vanishing back, as he twirled the slip of wood between his fingers. Long stride carrying him to Acharius’ side.
He never misses.
“Perfect catch. As always.” Acharius muttered.
“Thank you.” Bast said dismissively. “Perfect shot too.” He continued absentmindedly twirling. “Is she gone?”
God, I hope so.
“Karina? She’s harmless.”
To everyone but me, anyhow.
“That woman is terrifying.” Bast slapped the arrow back in Acharius’ waiting hand. “I’ve no wish for her to see me.” Bast gestured after Karina with a shudder.
Acharius’ eyes lit at the thought of what’d happen if she glimpsed Bast. His animal attraction would have her cloying onto him instead. Fantastic idea.
“Don’t.” Bast shook his head, reading Acharius’ face. Lifting a finger. “Even think about it. I’ll no longer call you friend. You’ll be reading every scroll about Radix, in WaterRose by yourself.” He lifted his fist which gripped a bundle brimming with lengths of parchment.
Acharius snatched them with a surly expression. Highly tempted to hit him with them.
“You should’ve never touched her.” Bast said, laughingly.
“It was one instance. And, as you recall, I didn’t go through with it.” Acharius dropped to sit on a sideways log in shame. “Basil.” He gagged slightly as he shuddered at the memory. Blowing a long breath as he yanked his quiver around to tighten the binding wrapping his back. He barely glanced at where she’d left. “I was a touch lonely. And she’s fair enough.”
“Was she innocent?” Bast asked.
Of course not!
“Gad, no!” Acharius reared back. “What do you take me for?”
“Believe me.” Bast dropped to sit next to him, crossing his ankles leisurely. “I more than anyone, understand having a need to appease loneliness. But that one,” He tossed his head over his shoulder. “Is pure evil.”
“She didn’t sound too pleasant a moment ago.” Bast pointed out.
She never does.
“She’s a vindictive child.” Acharius shook his head. Slinging his bow back over his shoulder to tend the quiver.
“Does your sweet girl know of that one’s nature?”
“Chastain?” He paused. “No. She thinks they’re friends.”
She needn’t know.
Bast clucked in his cheek.
“What?” Acharius looked Heavenward for patience. “I can feel your disapproval.”
Just spit it out.
“You’re not shielding her by not telling her. You’re leaving her open to the claws of another cat.”
“Chastain is no cat!” Acharius shot him a rebuking look.
“All women have claws.” Bast said seriously. “Especially mine...But I meant no insult. You know how fond I am of cats...”
“I know how fond you are of women.” Acharius corrected. “You want a cat, go get her.” He gestured toward Karina’s cottage.
“Oh, hell no!” Horror crossed his face. “Why not that one?” He nodded toward Meredith House.
I’d have your hide. Acharius’ face darkened, and he gave Bast a long look.
Bast grinned triumphantly. “Protective, are we?”
“I am.” Acharius shot him a warning look. Blue eyes hardening.
“Ooh…” Bast returned the look, his flashing gold at the challenge he read from his friend. He leaned forward to better eye Acharius’ stern face.
“Do not.” Acharius warned.
Leave her be.
“And if I do?” Bast gave a wolfish grin.
“You won’t catch it.”
That arrow is going in your leg.
“You take all my joy.”
“You’d only be flirting with her to goad me.”
“Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve had a good spar?”
“Too long, I’ve no doubt.” Acharius refocused on his task, cinching the bits of cloth more tightly.
Everyone is reluctant to fight you.
“You get more facetious when you’re in need of a good throttling.”
“I’m in need of something.” Bast grumbled.
He does not mean- Acharius lifted his head in shock as understanding dawned.