Last week I shared the first scene from Patrick and Sarah’s story. This week I have the first from Tavin & Haiwee’s, Adam’s parents from Stained by Ashes.
Tavin Kindrick stepped softly around the broken branch, careful to make as little sound as possible. He knew his quarry had come back this way. There was a print right there, and he’d been following the drops of blood, growing larger and more frequent the longer he followed.
He kept his rifle in front of him, scanning the trees around him. There was definite movement off to his right. And he was sure he saw the flash of a tan hide. Perfect. He levered another bullet into the chamber and took another step toward where he’d seen the movement. They needed fresh meat out at the camp. Everyone, not just him, was tired of existing on jerked beef and tins of beans.
Adding fresh venison would boost everyone’s spirits.
He brought his rifle up to his shoulder and took aim. But, the large brown eyes looking back at him didn’t belong to a doe. He kept his rifle where it was. In fact, he didn’t think a single part of him moved, even his lungs couldn’t seem to bring in or let out any air.
The girl—woman, he corrected himself—took a step back from him. And he finally dropped the barrel of the rifle down at his side. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to frighten ye, lass.”
Sounds spilled from her mouth, but none of them made any sense to him. He took his gaze over her. The black hair that hung down past her shoulders, the large brown eyes, still showing fear as she stared at him. Her skin was nearly as dark as the bark of the tree she stood next to.
Her deerskin dress was what he’d mistaken for the animal he’d been tracking. Now that he saw it more clearly, he couldn’t believe he’d made that error.
Tavin took a step toward her. “Are ye lost out here, lass? Can I help ye get back to your kin?”
“English. You speak the English. I know others.”
Tavin let out a low breath. At least he would be able to communicate with her. And that voice. It had such a beautiful sound. “Yes. Your kin? Family?” he asked when she looked at him blankly.
That brought a smile to her face. “Family, yes. I have family.”
He let out a long breath. At least she wasn’t out here all on her own. “If you tell me the way, I can make sure you get back there.” It had warmed up in recent days, but it was still too cold for a young girl to be out here on her own.
But, the girl just smiled at him. It didn’t look particularly grateful. Brighter than that, like she knew a joke he wasn’t privy to. It made the back of his neck itch, but he gestured her to join him. Instead, she turned and started hurrying over the rocks and into the next stand of trees.
“Wait,” he called after her. “Lass, wait up.” He didn’t even know her name, but he wished he could call her something other than lass.
Foregoing that, he slung his rifle down his back, and took off after her. The girl was nearly out of sight as it was. He didn’t want to lose her as he seemed to have done with the deer he’d shot. He wouldn’t forgive himself if she was injured when he’d taken her under his protection.
Tavin stumbled over a rock and landed hard on one knee. He let out a rough cry as pain sliced through it but pushed himself back to both feet. He saw the girl heading back toward him, scowling now.
Tavin’s face flushed hot at her question. He didn’t need her seeing him being a lumbering oaf. Some of the men said he seemed like he was part mountain goat at times. Right now, he felt more like a bear.
“I’m fine, lass,” he said, brushing a rough hand on his knee. “Maybe I should lead the way. Make sure there is no trouble.”
One of her dark brows rose, and he wondered just how much she understood. “You find the loose rocks for me?”
To his surprise, a laugh burst out of him. She was certainly a cheeky one. Her face lit up with a grin, then she was turning away again. He was never going to be able to keep up with her at this rate, though. “Lass, wait,” he called out.
She stopped and turned back, her hands on her hips of that buckskin dress. “Go or wait?” she asked. “Can’t do both.”
“Nay, of course not. I just…maybe you should walk with me. Make sure I do not trip over those loose rocks.”
That eyebrow was raised again. Like she didn’t believe him. Well, he couldn’t really blame her. He wasn’t so sure he believed himself.
Still, she didn’t start bounding over the rocks again. She hung back so he didn’t lose sight of her. Still, the way she looked back at him made him thinks he was afraid for something to happen to him. He thought it should be the other way around.
She was just a little slip of a girl, about half the size of him. How could she think she could protect him, especially from a fall?
He should be the one protecting her. Or someone should be. Instead they were just letting her run loose out here. How could that be right?
“Does your family care for you, lass?”
She looked back at him, the space between her brows furrowed now. “What’s that mean? Care for me?”
His brow furrowed. How did he explain this to her? “They…love you. Want you to be…safe. Do you understand that?”
“Yes. Yes, they love me. They are family. You have it, too?”
She took off after asking the question, though not as quickly as before. Almost as if she was holding herself back for him. He shook his head then picked up his pace. “Had family. Back in Scotland. Brother’s still there. I came over after our parents died.”
She looked back over her shoulder at him, and he saw sympathy in her eyes. She didn’t say any words, though, just turned back and scampered over some more rocks.
Tavin let out a long breath. Then, he followed her. He hadn’t planned to be gone long. Just long enough to take down some game. He shook his head. Didn’t look like that was happening the way he’d planned.