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Chapter two, page five
I stepped back, shaking my head. “I can’t go back there.”
With speed too fast for me to track, he was in front me, his arms wrapped around my waist. He pulled me close until our bodies melted into each other. A low growl rumbled from him, sending a shiver down my spine.
We’d spent so much time hiding our attraction. Him more than me. He’d told me he needed to wait until I came of age. Tradition held the female of the family was married off at seventeen.
I was nineteen. I’d stayed in the palace, enduring the king’s cruelty and punishments for a year longer than necessary before fleeing a month after my eighteenth birthday. Secretly, before I fled the palace, I had hoped Kieran would claim me as his. That day never came. Then I fell in love with the princes, who each friended me and made promises I knew they couldn’t keep.
Kieran nuzzled my neck and inhaled. Another growl vibrated from his chest. “You never have to endure the king’s abuse again.”
There was a promise in his words. “Then why are you here?”
He lifted his head and gazed into my eyes. His green depths swirled with so many emotions, I couldn’t decipher all of them. “My debt to the king is paid. I’m no longer part of his royal guard. Plus the plan had always been to find you.”
A renewed fear rose within me. I shoved at his chest until he let go. “And you led them right to me.”
I pushed out of his arms and rushed into the barn, but he was back in the doorway, blocking my way. “They’re not coming after you. The king believes you are dead.”
Relief flooded me and I almost sagged to the ground. Of course. Jonah must had told him he killed me when he pushed me off the cliff. “How did you know to come look for me?”
The corners of his lips lifted. “Remember when you gave me your blood after King Bastard locked me up without feeding?”
I nodded. It had been a few months after my mom died and I was supposed to clean the dungeon. I came across Kieran’s cell and couldn’t leave him like that. “I remember you called me a stupid girl. But I couldn’t let you go mad with bloodlust.”
“Yeah. Stubborn, stupid girl.” He smiled. So did I. The title he gave me became an endearment over the following two years. He cupped my face, bringing my attention back to his handsome face. “Your blood is part of me. I can track you anywhere.”
A shiver of terror went up my spine at the knowledge that it was possible for others to track me. Could King Balsatra track me? He’d most likely had the hounds out looking for me. “I have to go.”
When I pushed out of Kieran’s embrace and moved to the barn again, he grabbed my upper arm. “Stop running.”
Shaking my head, I scanned our surroundings, waiting for something to jump out of the shadows at us. “I can’t go back there.”
Kieran blew out a breath, then in one swift movement, scooped me up in his arms. “I already told you, you’re not going back. Not on my watch.”
I fell silent as he carried me into my cottage and I studied his features. The sense he was not telling me something brushed against my awareness. My mom had always told me for as long as I could remember that I had the ability to read people, to know if they were truthful or not.