Kane’s back brushes against my chest as we trudge through the heat of the day.
His elbows are hooked under my knees, holding me in place, and I try not to strangle him with my arms wrapped around his neck. But the soft grunts he makes every now and then tell me that my efforts are in vain.
Loosening my grip around him, I relax my body into his, and prop my chin on his shoulder.
My senses are on high alert, despite my relaxed posture.
He is dangerous.
I know that now, without a shadow of a doubt.
The way he’d dispatched those bounty hunters was proof enough.
And with my senses now at full attention, I notice other signs of his deadly abilities.
His large frame moves with predatory precision, firm muscles flexing under his sweat covered shirt.
And as I tuck my chin to get a better look down his front, I take note of his strong legs, thighs bulging against his jeans with each long stride.
“If you keep breathing on my neck like that, we are going to have a problem.” Kane grunts, startling me from my inspection.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Flinching away from him, I nearly topple off of his back, had it not been for his quick reflex’s, I would have.
But a problem quickly presents itself as I regain my balance.
In his haste to prevent me from falling, he’d shifted his grip, hands planted firmly on my back side.
The butterflies that had remained silent since witnessing his skills, roar back to life at his touch.
Heat spreads across my cheeks and down my neck, coloring my chest a bright pink.
When he doesn’t retract his hands immediately, I slowly reach my hands down to his, taping them gently a few times, in an attempt to draw his attention to their current position.
After a moment his fingers flex, and with obvious reluctance, he smooths his hands leisurely down the backs of my thighs before returning to my knees.
My core clenches in response, startling me as small zaps of pleasure rip across my skin, sending a shiver up my spine.
What is this feeling?
I briefly consider asking Kane, but for some reason the thought of discussing this with him, is mortifying.
He doesn’t speak anyways, and my heart is too far lodged in my throat to try, even if I wanted to.
We walk like this for what seems like hours, the silence stretching time into an indistinguishable loop.
I’m almost at my wits end, and ready to fill Kane’s ears with incessant chatter. When a dash of bright green catches my eye from the distance.
As we draw closer, the streak of color shifts into a tree line. The ground at the base of the trees, shimmers in the light, and I quickly realize that the gleam is caused by water flooding the patch of woods.
“Oasis wood, our route was supposed to go around this. The scavers storm must have set us off course.” Kane supplies, an edge of irritation in his voice.
“Is it flooded?” I squirm in his grip to get a better view, realizing too late that my spread legs were pressed to tightly against him, causing my core to rub against his back.
My new found sparks shoot through me, and my stomach muscles clench, forcing my body to fold around Kane’s.
The butterflies erupt.
Heat pours through my veins, an unfamiliar desire beating within them like a drum.
Noticing my distress, Kane stops before the tree line and sets me to my feet.
Quickly, I cross my legs, pressing my hands between them in a swaying dance meant to kill whatever it is that I am feeling.
“Do you have to pee?” Kane tilts his head, eyebrows scrunched high on his forehead.
“Uh, no... my legs fell asleep. I’ll be fine in a minute.”
He stares at me uncertainly for a moment, before shaking his head, probably deciding my strange behavior was not worth his time.
“We will have to cut through here. Normally I would take us around, but with your bounty now being open, we can’t risk wasting any more time getting you to your parents. We were lucky it was just the scavers this time.”
“I don’t associate with the other bounty hunters. I only come in when called for by your father. As far as I know, I’m the only hunter aloud to leave when not on duty. So all of the other hunters naturally despise me.” Kane pauses, glancing at me with a worried expression that disappears as soon as I notice it.
“So...an open bounty, and an opportunity to kill you, means that the entire lot of them will be coming for us like flys to a carcass?” I ask, a sense of dread pooling in the pit of my stomach.
He nods, holding his hand out for me to take.
If I grab his hand, he’s going to pull me onto his back again.
The ache between my legs throbs back to life in anticipation.
“I can walk!” I nearly shout, taking a step away from him.
For a moment, it looks like he will scoop me up anyways, but then he smirks.
“Be my guest.” Stepping to the side, he waves his arms in a swooping motion, gesturing for me to take the lead.
With a withering glare, a limp past him, biting back a wince of pain.
It hurts, but it’s not unbearable. And for a moment I think that I’ll be able to call my bluff, but as I reach the sparkling shade of the trees, my heart plummets.
The oasis woods are indeed flooded. About knee deep as far as the eye could see into the dark needle like foliage, judging by how far up the base of the trees the water reached.
There was no way that my blistered feet would fare well soggy, and cut from unknown obstacles in the murky depths.
Sheepishly, I turn back to Kane.
He’d followed a few paces behind me, and now stood with his arms folded, a smug look plastered across his handsome face.
“Want to reconsider your travel options?” He smirks.
Handsome, but annoying.
With an annoyed click of my tongue, I trudge back to him, pouting like a petulant child.
I expect Kane to carry me the way he had been all day, but when I reach his side, he plucks me from the ground, and cradles me in his arms like a baby.
Instinctively, I wrap my arms around his neck.
His scent surrounds me, and I can’t help but to tuck my face into his shoulder, inhaling his clean, earthy, musk.
“Your legs shouldn’t fall asleep this way.” Kane’s deep voice rumbles against my ear. Breathy and low, it held undertones of something I couldn’t place.
But my body recognized his tone where my mind couldn’t.
And I am struck with the sudden realization, that Kane’s ability to kill, is not the only dangerous thing about him, as my core begins to weep.
“Ignore anything that you may see or hear as we pass through.” Kane’s tone shifts, taking on a deathly serious air.
I’m about to ask him why, when he continues.
“These woods are inhabited by sirens, vile creatures, who thrive on mischief, and take great pleasure in luring people to their untimely deaths. The water flooding this place, is fed from a spring in the middle that is believed to run underneath the entire island, letting out into the sea.”
He falls silent, taking the first few steps into the water.
It’s deeper than I thought it would be, reaching Kane’s waist. His travel bag is thankfully tied high enough on his back, that it remains dry.
“Has anyone made it through alive?” I dare to ask, peering up at him.
His eyes remain focused in front of us as he maneuvers through the water, and around what I now recognize as cypress trees.
“Just one.” He finally replies, turning to me.
My heart throbs, our faces mere inches apart.
“You.” I answer myself, it’s not a question, his immunity to magic would protect him from the sirens call, so it only made sense that he was the sole survivor of the oasis wood.
A small smile lights his eyes as he nods.
“I’ll keep you safe, all you have to do is hang onto me, and try to ignore anything they say to you.”
We stare into each others eyes for a moment, until the trance is broken by a low angelic song, sounding almost like a drawn out sigh, rising and falling melodiously with each exhale.
“Remember what I told you.” Kane demands, shifting me in his arms so that my legs now wrap tightly around his waist, my chest pressed tight against him.
With one hand, he presses my face back into his neck.
The water splashes beside us, but I listen to Kane, keeping my face firmly against him.
The air takes on a heavy presence, each breath feels like trying to breath water.
Fluid and wrong.
Kane’s arms tighten around my hips. Fear grips me too tightly to pay any mind to the reaction my body has to his touch.
And then they begin to speak.
Not aloud, but within my mind.
One at a time.
And then two.
Several bell like voices ring out.
“Daughter of our mother, why do you lust after the one who seeks to deliver you to damnation?”
“Surly you can’t desire this man.” Another sings, demeaningly.
“He will bring you only death.”
I know... but my mom...
“You don’t know that she still lives.”
The sirens fall silent.
Shivering, I lift my head to scan our surroundings.
We have reached the center of the woods, the large clear blue spring marking it clearly.
It’s clean water stood apart from the milky overflow that spilled into the cypress beyond it.
Fog pools at its edges, slithering around low hanging branches of smaller trees, that create a sort of canopy over the spring.
I instantly regret looking.
Over Kane’s shoulder, within the spring, are dozens of glowing white eyes, all fixed on me.
“What are they telling you.” Kane asks.
I don’t answer him, I can’t.
The sirens gaze is mesmerizing, and I’m unable to break away.
“The Son of our mother has been lead astray.”
“You must come with us, we will protect you.”
“Evanora? Answer me.” Kane stops walking, and pulls me away from him, releasing my hips, and gripping my face instead.
His hands placed on either side of my face meant that he no longer had a secure grip on me, the only thing holding me to him, were my own legs wrapped securely around him.
“Come with us. We are family, little Wiccan. Cut from the cloth of our mother. Set apart from humans, you belong with us.” They all cried at once, their octave rising into a blaring crescendo.
They no longer sang.
I unwrap my legs then, dropping from Kane’s grip, unbothered by his surprised grunt.
My feet sink into the water for a brief moment before I order it to carry me on its surface.
“Nora!” His panicked cry follows me as I sprint over the water, small ripples echoing in my wake.
“Yes, come to us. Leave the filthy behind, and cleanse yourself.”
Just a few more steps.
I yearn to join them.
I want it more than I’ve ever wanted anything else.
The spring is inches away.
A heavy weight crashes into my legs, knocking me back into the water, and before I can get away, an iron grip wraps around my body, pinning my arms to my side.
With no effort on his part, Kane stands to his feet, dragging me with him, as we stumble a few steps.
“Let me go!” I screech, throwing my head back in an attempt to break Kane’s nose.
“Not in this life.” He growls against my ear, before turning me roughly in his arms, and tucking me against his body protectively.
He glares over my head,
“Get the fuck out of here before I try my hand at making sushi.” Kane spits in the direction of the spring.
Several hisses respond, and I crane my neck around to see what the owners of the glowing eyes look like.
Five decrepit creatures begrudgingly scoot backwards, their lower half’s, resemble some type of predatory fish, slithering like a snake as they moved.
Their torso’s were human in shape, but that was it.
Oily, and drained of all color, their skin appeared almost as if decomposing. Dark, pore like wounds Ooze a clear jell like substance from every available section of flesh, and as I look closer, they fluctuate... breathing.
“Come with ussss.”
The sun filtering in through the canopy, glints off its bulbous, shining head.
How had such a lovely voice, come from such a grotesque beast?
I balk, climbing back into Kane’s arms, and clinging to him like a monkey, with inhuman speed. All the while my eyes still remained locked on the slimy thing before me.
“The girl is mine.” Kanes voice is low, threatening... deadly.
The siren rolls it’s odd lidless eyes, before giving me one last grin.
“At least we would have killed you quickly.”
And then they were gone, swallowed into the depths of the spring.
We remain still, and completely silent for what felt like an eternity, before Kane finally speaks.
“What did they tell you?” He asks, meeting my eyes.
His brows are furrowed in concern.
“That I shouldn’t trust you...” I leave out the lust part.
Although I’m not entirely sure what that means, it didn’t take a lot to fit the pieces together.
Whatever was causing the butterflies and strange sensations.... had to be this lust they spoke of.
And something tells me that lust is the last thing I need to be feeling for Kane.
“They are not wrong.” He replies, a shadow falling over his eyes, as a frown carves it’s way deep into his face.
Shaking his head, he switches me onto his back again.
“But that doesn’t mean that I will let you run away. So never take off like that again.”
His words were obviously meant to come off as a threat, but the anxiety beneath them was clear as day to me.
I’d almost willingly leapt to my death.
And he was worried.
Bounty or not.
Hunter or not.
“Kane?” I rest my cheek against his shoulder.