Chapter 10 - Warmth
Ileus held her hand and walked with her to the black horse that they had freed from the carriage.
34;Pass me the medicine box, 34; he said to Kaizan as he adjusted the saddle on the horse. In a low voice he said to Anastasia, 34;You will ride with me. 34; He held her by her waist and lifted her onto the horse as if she was a weightless doll. 34;Do you know how to ride a horse? 34; he asked with a frown.
34;No, 34; she replied in an embarrassed voice. How would she? While she could train as a warrior in a secret basement for six years, where would she get a horse for riding lessons? She was barely allowed to leave the confines of her wing at the palace..
And the knowledge that he would ride with her made her skin flush.
34;Then just don 39;t touch the reins, princess, 34; he said and then walked over to Guarhal who was leaning against the carriage with his injured arm supported by another soldier.
34;Zlo, hold his arm while I stitch it, 34; Ileus barked and the boy with blonde hair ran to hold Guarhal 39;s arm.
For the next few minutes, Guarhal stood with his jaw clenched as Ileus stitched his split arm and bandaged it with clean linen. 34;I swear I am going to burn this forest the moment we are out of it! 34;
Zlo chuckled. 34;Count me in! 34; He packed up the medicine kit.
34;Though this was a rogue one, I think that there could be more. We will change the route and follow the trail to the east. 34;
The group hummed in agreement with his decision.
Kaizan came up to him. 34;You must take rest Ileus. We have been riding nonstop, 34; he said, placing his arm on his shoulder.
Ileus nodded slightly. 34;We will stop to rest in three hours. 34;
34;Good, 34; Kaizan replied. 34;I am going to stay right behind you. If you like I can ride with her, 34; he said as he jerked his chin towards Anastasia.
34;That won 39;t be necessary, 34; Ileus snapped and walked to where his horse was. He rubbed the horse 39;s neck again as if to calm him down as Kaizan went to mount his own ride.
Despite Zlo protesting, Gourhal rode his brown equine. 34;You should ride with me. Your arm is stitched up and the injury is fresh! 34; Zlo called after him.
The man grunted and nudged his horse to continue.
Anastasia was looking at Ileus with admiration as he rubbed his horse 39;s skin gently. She marvelled at his skills. The man had great healing powers. She was so focused on him that she hadn 39;t noticed Darla who was for some reason still sitting on her horse, then she noticed that Nyles was sleeping. The girl had somehow slept through all this and Darla had tied her to her body so that she wouldn 39;t fall. Anastasia let out a low chuckle. 34;If I won 39;t hold the reins, how will I move the horse? 34; she asked innocently.
His head jerked back. 34;You will be riding with me, so I will hold the reins. 34; Why did he make it sound as if it was going to be such a difficult task? He took out yet another sweater from the saddlebag and gave it to her. 34;It becomes very chilly during the night. 34;
She took it from him and immediately wore it over her current one. The sweater engulfed her again and she let it hang loose on her body. She curled her palms inside it feeling the warmth.
He adjusted the saddlebag on the horse and then swung himself up to sit behind her in one swift movement.
Two horses moved in front of them and five behind them. Kaizan brought his horse near them sometimes only to check upon Ileus, but he didn 39;t say anything.
Anastasia sat stiff as a rod not allowing herself to touch him. In fact she arched her body in front to put as much distance as possible between them. She could feel his hand around her waist as he held the reins of the horse. He nudged his leg into the sides of the horse, encouraging it to keep moving with the group. For the next hour, Anastasia continued to sit straight, trying not to touch him. She was acutely aware of his thighs, which were against hers. Just a few hours back she had asked him to kiss her in a moment of weakness and ended up kissing his neck instead. That kiss seared her lips, embarrassing her beyond words. She was mortified at her deed.
There was so much heat passing between them that it was impossible to ignore. It was much better when he was disguised as Kaizan and she stared at him from a distance.
As the stiffness in her body increased she tried to focus on the forest around her, but all she managed to see through the mist were silhouettes of dark trees.
Her thoughts ran to the creature who had attacked them. 34;Who are Zor 39;ganians? 34; she asked in order to maintain her sitting position because she was getting tired of sitting like that and she had to distract her attention from the fact that she so wanted to lean back on him.
34;Those are winged demons belonging to the kingdom of Zorgan. Their king is Kar 39;den. 34;
Anastasia 39;s mouth fell down. She had met Kar 39;den and his wife at the ball.
34;That was a rogue demon. He must have been banished by the king and somehow found his way here. 34;
34;I am sure he was part of the gang of legendary bandits of the Dark Prince, Nyles was telling me about, 34; she pondered aloud, hoping Ileus would confirm her suspicion, no, she judged.
He didn 39;t reply to her. Another hour passed and her eyelids grew heavy. She wanted to sleep and her thighs were paining her immensely. She must have slumped forward as she fell asleep because she found herself swiftly gathered in his arms and pulled closer to him. She jerked her eyes open and became stiff all over again to maintain the distance. Every muscle in her body corded with tension. However, not an hour later she was leaning against his chest, almost cradled against his body. As she slept her head drooped and rested against his right arm. His warm breath fell on her neck, lulling her into a deeper sleep.
When she next opened her eyes, they had stopped.
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