‘Where is Kane?’
Henrick shrugged, his usual response to a question he couldn’t – or wouldn’t – answer, she had learned. He pushed her again, but she refused to budge.
‘I will not go a step further until I see Kane,’ she declared.
‘By the gods, woman, what is it?’ asked an impatient voice.
She turned to find the man himself on his mount behind her.
‘Where were you?’ was all she could think to say as she was met with his stupid, ridiculous, handsome face.
He didn’t answer her. Instead he gestured with his head towards the boat, questioning.
‘I don’t know.’ She looked back at the other shore where the men and wagons waited.
Kane rolled his eyes at her. ‘The ferry is nothing to fear.’
She heard Henrick board, saying something under his breath about silly women being afraid of stupid things. She ignored him as she looked Kane over. Finally, he was here. She hadn’t realised how wound up she’d been over the past days until now, as her muscles began to relax. Why would his presence comfort her in the slightest? He was a ferocious brute, she reminded herself crossly. He pretended to be a man, but he wasn’t at all. He was a monster who took pleasure in death – not whatever her silly girl’s mind was trying to turn him into.
‘It’s not the ferry. It’s something else.’ She looked into his eyes and saw a flash – remorse, resignation – and her heart sank. She took a steadying breath and her eyes turned pleading. ‘What’s going to happen to me on the other side?’
Kane actually met her gaze. At least there was that. ‘Our Commander wants to meet you. That’s all. You worry for nothing. Viktor and Sorin are there as well.’
She forced a nod and some semblance of a smile, turned, and walked with leaden feet onto the boat. Kane dismounted and boarded after her, and the craft set off along the thick rope that guided it to the small jetty opposite. She clenched the wooden rail, her knuckles white. She couldn’t explain it, but she knew with certainty that when they got across the river, Kane would show that brutish side of himself and betray her, to what or whom she couldn’t say.
She turned her head slowly. Neither Kane nor Henrick was watching her, and the ferryman was focused on the journey. She turned back and looked down into the water. Dark and deep. It wasn’t the best escape, to be sure, but perhaps drowning here was preferable to what awaited on the other side. At least she could choose something, control something, even if that was her own death.
Making her mind up suddenly, she climbed slowly onto the rail, hoping they didn’t notice her actions as she stretched out her arms. Looking up at the open, cloudless sky, she leant towards the water. Everything seemed to happen so slowly as she pitched forward and felt herself tumbling over. She vaguely heard a yell behind her, but it was too late. Hitting the cold water was a shock that made her limbs freeze, but the darkness quickly enveloped her. She didn’t try to thrash or kick, just let the current take her. The water was murky and the light disappeared quickly. She closed her eyes and tried to ignore the screaming of her lungs as they were starved. She tried to be at peace as she floated, the cloak and skirts of the dress weighing her down. Her limbs grew heavy and she let out the last of her breath, the bubbles tickling her nose as they sped to the surface.
Suddenly something grabbed her and began to pull her, up and up, and she didn’t have the strength to resist. Her head broke the surface and she gulped in a breath. She coughed up water, spluttering as she tried to breathe. Her limp body was dragged through the current until it felt land. Then she was picked up and set down on a blanket of what felt like moss. She finally opened her eyes. Kane lay next to her, looking equal parts furious and relieved. They were on the opposite shore.
‘Why did you save me?’ she croaked.
‘Why did you wait until the boat to try to escape, you little fool?’
She looked away from him and let her head fall limply to the ground. ‘Because you’re a fucking liar.’
He said nothing.
She turned her head towards him. ‘And I wasn’t trying to escape.’ She closed her eyes and snorted softly. ‘I can’t even swim.’
He rolled on top of her in a sudden movement and she squeaked as his mouth crashed down on hers. She struggled under him for a moment as he parted her legs with his in a practised move and pulled up her sodden dress.
His mouth left hers as he pulled at the bodice of her red gown. Freeing a breast, he descended on it like a starving man, licking and sucking the tip, making her arch into him with a whimper she couldn’t contain.
‘What are you doing?’ she asked, her mind in a fog.
He didn’t answer. Instead he pushed a thick finger into her dry channel, and she whimpered as he freed his cock with the other hand. It sprang free of his breeches. Her hands went to push him away but, of their own volition, grabbed his black tunic and pulled him closer instead. With a growl, he captured her wrists and held them over her head as he lined himself up to sheath his rod inside her. She felt sudden wetness gathering at her entrance and made a sound of impatience, aching for him to fill the emptiness she suddenly felt inside her.
‘The Commander is waiting,’ a voice drawled.