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After so much stress and the lengthy ride, Theirran helped me into the tent for the evening. I could not have made it on my own. My breathing was ragged and my eyes were deep purple, spinning in crazy circles from excess power and deep internal shock. Leaning against Theirran I muttered under my breath as we walked, but he could barely make out what I was saying.
“What did you say, Viv?” Theirran leaned down to get in better listening position.
“I don’t think I can do this, Theirran. What can I possibly do to stop Sionn? I’m no warrior. And I don’t even know what the true danger from Sauk is going to be. Will he want to fight with weapons or with elemental energy? To top everything off, my own uncle is the worst traitor of them all, active in working with my enemies against his own blood. I think my grandfather made a big mistake in trusting me. I don’t feel ready to handle all this.”
Theirran grabbed my shoulders, sweeping me up into his arms as my legs suddenly gave out. Inside, he pulled down the covers on the cot and laid my carcass upon the bed. After removing my riding boots, he then unbuckled the leather cuirass, sliding the pieces off and onto the floor. Left in only a silk undershirt, woolen linens and corset I began to shiver from the ever-present cold, which seeped into the tent like a vine worming its way inside to find the scant warmth body heat provided. He found a warm wool shirt of his own that would reach well down my legs. Once it was over my head, he sat down on the floor beside the cot, his face closed off to me. I curled into a small ball, waiting for the pain to dull, but it didn’t.
“Why are you doing this?” I asked, stress ringing loud as a klaxon through every nerve.
Seeing the confusion in my eyes he hurried on before nerve would fail or I shut him down. “Ever since I began training you there has been something growing inside me, feelings unlike any I’ve ever had for a woman. Now, an accident crueler than fate has thrown us together. My feelings for you grow deeper, more intense and more irresponsible with every day that passes.” He twisted his mouth into a bitter smile but there was no smile inside his eyes. Those were full of repressed pain. “I would never be so bold, under normal circumstances, to say anything about those feelings to you. I love my baby brother too much, but I cannot just take and lock them away. I need you to know this—I would rather cut off my own arm than to see you hurt or in danger. So I’ve made the only decision I can live with under the circumstances. Since I cannot be the one you love, I will be your Protector until Devon returns. Then I will tell him of my shame and let him decide my punishment.”
My brain was working on five different dimensions so I was having a hard time focusing on what he was saying. Why would Devon punish Theirran for having feelings? That wasn’t like Devon. The bond between these brothers was strong, not easily broken. But I was aware of being flattered. If my heart had not been sealed tight with pain, I would have been in Theirran’s arms in the blink of an eye. He appealed to me in a different way than Devon, a little taller, a little older and a little more dangerous. What wasn’t to love? Knowing that weakness was also within me kept my emotions from controlling my body.