With my good arm, I pull my leg up to bend the knee. Hiking the hem of my dress up, I reveal torn muscle and shredded skin. I wince as the fabric moves over it, tugging flaps of skin in directions they aren’t meant to go.
Elias’ hands set to work, scooping water up, and pouring it over my thigh. Each drop, gentle as the administration of them may be, pulls a moan of pain from my lips. Wrapping fingers tightly around a stone, I do what I can to bear the pain without making Elias feel worse.
The blood washes away, revealing the true devastation wrought by the dead wolf’s jaws. My leg hangs open, dark muscle showing itself to the sky as it was never meant to do.
“Itand have mercy,” he whispers, calling on the goddess of fortitude.
But she’ll spare no blessings for the likes of me.
“What do I need to do?” he asks. His eyes roam over me, and one hand finds its way to my cheek. Brows knitted together, he clearly longs for something to do, some reassurance that I’ll be ok.
Does he want me to be alright for the sake of spending more time together? Or merely for the sake of having an escort for the rest of the trek?
I hope for his sake that it’s the latter. But the well of loneliness within me wishes for the former.
Either way, there’s nothing he can do.
“My body will mend itself,” I tell him. “It’ll hurt, but it’ll mend. It’s already started.”
His eyes drop to my arm, my leg. The bleeding has stopped, and the cuts aren’t as deep as they were mere seconds ago. Had he seen it when the wounds were first inflicted, he likely would’ve been sick.
“I wish you would’ve let me help,” he murmurs, sliding his hand along my jaw until his thumb finds my earlobe.
Exhaustion pulls my inhibitions low. Despite myself, despite the guilt churning within me, I lean into his caress.
Nolan won’t want me back, anyway.
My heart shrinks from the thought, and I close my eyes, nuzzling my cheek into Elias’ palm.
“Letting you help would’ve been a terrible idea. They could never kill me. They had no salt, no silver. They couldn’t say any incantations.”
I pause, squeezing my eyes tight against the horrid images which flash before them. I don’t want to see the ways they could’ve hurt him. I don’t want to watch them tear him to shreds. I don’t want to see his blood on the ground.
“They could’ve killed you, though,” I whisper.
Suddenly desperate to see him alive and healthy, to ease my conscience just a bit, I open my eyes. Sure enough, he’s there, face inches from mine. The moonlight glows in his magnificent eyes, but the blood of the Howlers still adorns his face.
Reaching for his sodden shirt, I lift a corner of it to his face. Wiping away the dried blood, I memorize the strength in his jaw, the kindness in his eyes. I trace the small kink in his nose, a remnant from a previous fight.
From a distance, it’s almost impossible to notice, but this close…
My eyes drop to his lips, full and soft. They part, but only to speak.
Confusion wrinkles his brow. “If they couldn’t kill you, why were they sent after us? To maim you and kill me?”
“No,” I say, shaking my head. I stifle a groan as my thigh stitches itself together. “They sent them to find us. They know where we are, now. They know which way we were headed. They’ll find us.”
Those words sew our lips shut, for we both know. This won’t be the last of the vampire and his pledge. And if this was just the search party, what awaits us down the path?
Elexis Bell is a quiet nerd with too many hobbies, including everything from gaming to shower-singing and even archery, weather permitting. She specializes in sarcasm and writing stories that make people feel. She's made a home for herself with her husband, their dog, and a small army of cats.
She writes dark, gritty stories, sprinkling gut-wrenching emotions over high fantasy romance, thrillers, post-apocalyptic romance, and science fiction.
For further information, follow her on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, or check out her blog on her website.