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He betrayed me.

The three words flashed before Mila’s eyes, angry and red. Already she could feel her heart rate rising. She marched to the exact spot where Caelan and the horses had been and looked around. No sign.

He betrayed me. He took the horses and the supplies and left me to go after the vampires himself.

Taking a deep breath, she tried to calm her heart rate and take stock. She still had her money - that was something, at least. And she had the supplies she’d just bought. Her sword was gone, though, along with what little else she owned. And Caelan… She had actually started to allow herself to trust him.

Her fingers tightened on the hilt of the knife on her belt - the only weapon she now had left. Trusting Caelan was a mistake she wasn’t going to be making again.

“Mila!”

Her head snapped towards the sound. There he was - walking towards her with a characteristic smile on his face and a horse at either side.

Mila’s breath caught in her throat as her brain did a very quick and confused U-turn.

He must have seen the expression on her face. His brows drew into a frown as he approached. “You ok? Did you get all the supplies?”

“Yes… I mean…” She swallowed back her mounting shame. “Where did you go?”

Caelan looked rather sheepish. “I’m afraid I was guilty of turning my back for a bit too long. Someone took the opportunity to nick them. I’ve checked the bags - I’m pretty sure nothing’s gone.”

Several responses flashed through her mind. Caelan was still frowning and she felt the guilt rise in her stomach again. She looked down. “I thought you’d gone.” Her voice was small. “I thought…”

“You thought I’d abandoned you.”

She looked up, meeting his clear blue eyes. He didn’t look angry as such. Just hurt. Although he was trying to hide it.

“I’m sorry,” she murmured. “I just…” A sigh. “I’m not used to… trust.”

Friday was nuzzling at Caelan’s shoulder. He stroked her nose, expression closed-off. Mila waited, not really wanting to break the silence.

Finally Caelan shrugged. “No harm done.”

She suspected he was still upset but he had cast his eyes down to the hat she was holding. “That for me?” Mila nodded and passed it to him silently.

“I filled up the water bottles too,” he continued as he donned the hat. “Only a public pump but it looks clean.”

“Caelan…”

He looked at her again, long and hard, before smiling very slightly. “I know,” he said softly. “It’s fine, really - just forget about it.”

Mila nodded, then her eyes narrowed. “I assume you dealt with the would-be thief?”

“I gave him a stern talking to,” Caelan said, straight-faced. “He got the message.”

She smiled then, she couldn’t help it, and after a few moments he returned the smile and it seemed everything was back to normal. Or as normal as it ever was.

They rode relentlessly for the rest of the day. By mid-afternoon clouds came to cover the sun and despite Mila’s sadness at the turn in the weather she couldn’t help being grateful on Caelan’s behalf. By evening a thin, misty drizzle had set in. They managed to find a relatively sheltered spot in the woods to camp down but the wet logs made starting a fire difficult. Caelan set stripping away the wet outer layers of wood with a pocket-knife while Mila dealt with the horses. By the time she returned he’d managed to start a small flame and she couldn’t help reaching her tired hands towards the warmth.

“Need any help?” She asked.

Caelan grinned. “Well I’m not going to turn it down,” he said, tossing her a soggy lump of firewood.

She was already regretting asking but she pulled out her knife and began scraping away at the bark. She frowned up at the dark clouds. “I’d hoped I’d mis-remembered how crap the weather was here,” she commented lightly.

Caelan chuckled. “Hardly.” He looked up at her. “You’ve spent time here before then?”

It wasn’t posed like a probe but Mila couldn’t help shrinking away from the question. “I…”

But she was saved from replying as at that moment a figure lunged out of the dark towards her. Instinctively she ducked out of the way, rolling and raising her knife, but the vampire recovered quicker than she’d anticipated and his blow clipped the side of her head, sending her spinning to the ground.

She heard Caelan shouting but she didn’t have time to check if he was all right. She narrowly avoided a kick to the head, rolling away and using the momentum to get to her feet again. The kick had thrown the vampire slightly off balance and she lashed out at him while he was distracted, her knife slashing at his throat. Red spray splattered her cheeks, which she ignored, and the vampire went down, gasping and clawing at his bloody neck. She slammed her boot into his chest. He tumbled backwards and she reached for her sword but someone grabbed her from behind, yanking her arm down and sending a shooting pain through her body. Mila dropped to the group, momentarily disrupting the pain, and twisted around, slashing at the thigh of her new attacker. The female vampire dodged the swipe, still grabbing onto Mila’s arm…

A gunshot rang out, sudden and very close. For a split second the female vampire looked towards the sound, her grip loosening, and Mila took the opportunity to yank her arm away. Her next swipe with the knife cut into the vampire’s leg and the vampire cried out, eyes flashing crimson. With one motion Mila drew her sword out, swinging it round with a metallic whoosh to bury it into the vampire’s side. Another gunshot rang out. Mila sprang to her feet, avoided a weak punch to the chest and swiftly severed the female vampire’s head from her body.

The vampire fell. Mila realised her hands were shaking slightly as the adrenaline continued to course through her. For a split second she risked a glance towards Caelan. One vampire was lying at his feet, a bloody hole in his chest, but two more were still fighting him, and even his faster-than-normal reflexes didn’t look enough to hold them both off for much longer.

Sword secure in her hand, Mila took a step towards him, ready to help…

If she hadn’t noticed him coming in her peripheral vision he would have had her for sure. As it was, the male vampire, throat still marked but more or less sealed by now, missed his lunge for her. She caught a glimpse of extended fangs as she ducked out of the way, using his own momentum to shove him to the floor.

But his anger seemed to have helped him. Impossibly quickly he was on his feet again. She lunged with the sword but he swerved, avoiding the blow, and before she could recover he’d kicked her in the stomach with the strength of a charging bull.

Mila flew backwards, colliding with a tree. Pain shot through her and for a moment she couldn’t draw in a breath. She’d lost her knife, she noted dully.

And then someone was dragging her up, one cold hand around her throat. She swung the sword but found it blocked by her own blade, and before she could try again that same blade had pierced her lower arm. She dropped the sword, screaming out in pain.

A blow to the face felled her again, and she landed with a thud, her cheek pressed into the damp earth. It was still raining… in the heat of the moment she hadn’t noticed.

“Mila!” She heard someone, Caelan, yell her name, but it was too late. In the next moment the vampire had dragged her to her feet again, wrapping his arms tightly around her as he bit down into her neck.

She struggled against her attacker but with every pull at her vein her strength waned. Her furious heartbeat rang through her, eclipsing all other sounds. She saw, rather than heard, Caelan yell her name again, and through bleared eyes watched as his eyes flared an enraged violet and he struck out at the nearest remaining vampire with enough force to dislocate his jaw. The second vampire tried to grab him from behind but Caelan head-butted him, shattering his nose, and reached for where his gun lay fallen on the ground.

The gunshots rang through her ears, syncopated against the stuttering of her heart. Her vision was starting to go dark and she lost sight of what was happening.

At least it wasn’t too painful, she thought numbly.

There was an animal snarl at her ear and suddenly she was falling to the ground yet again. The smell of the wet dirt filled her nostrils and she tried to look around but she couldn’t seem to move.

From somewhere behind her came a tearing sound that shuddered through her body, followed by a keening, terrified scream, that faded to a wail, then a whimper and then, finally, to silence.

“Mila!”

Her vision cleared as strong hands turned her over. Caelan. He pressed something against her neck, cradling her, and she blinked slowly, staring up at him. His eyes were still violet, and his fangs were extended - long and sharp in the low light. He smelled of blood, and although she told herself she should have been repulsed she found herself comforted by his presence.

“Talk to me, Mila,” he murmured, leaning in closer. She could feel the edges of his warm breath on her skin. “Try to stay awake…”

His arms were strong but soft around her. The rain was still falling on her upturned face but now she felt warm and safe, watching with fading eyes as he blinked away the violet from his gaze and his fangs disappeared. “Caelan…” She whispered, and even as she felt her consciousness slipping away she wanted to reach for him, to close the distance between them, to feel his warmth on her lips…

 

~ ~

 

“Mila!”

Someone was easing water into her parched mouth. There was still pressure on her neck but now the wound was starting to throb.

Her eyes flickered open. It seemed she’d only been out for a matter of seconds. Caelan’s face, pale and concerned, loomed above her.

“I’m ok…” she managed to croak out.

Caelan looked perilously close to rolling his eyes. “No, you’re not.” A small smile. “You will be though. You’re gonna be fine.”

He moved her good arm, replacing his hand on her neck with her own before moving to examine the gash in her other arm. She watched him through half closed lids as he reached across to her pack, grabbed out a bundle of bandages and started dressing the wound. Her head was slowly but surely clearing and she felt her cheeks grow hot as she remembered her sudden urge to…

He glanced across at her and she lowered her gaze quickly. There was blood all over his hands and splashed up onto his face, and in her slightly delirious state the paradoxical mixture of comfort and trepidation he was inspiring in her was too much to try and wrap her head around.

He had finished with her arm now and moved to look at her neck, carefully pulling her hand away and starting to clean the wound. She shuffled uncomfortably. “I can do that myself,” she murmured.

“I know you can,” Caelan replied easily. “But right now I’m doing it for you.”

It wasn’t so much that her pride was hurt, but she almost felt like it should be. She certainly wasn’t used to anyone looking after her like this.

She thought she liked it though. At the very least, she didn’t mind it.

She let her eyes close until Caelan was finished, trying to relax. The rain had stopped now and a light breeze blew the smell of the damp trees towards her, the smell strong, simple and homely.

“All done,” Caelan said finally.

Mila opened her eyes and slowly sat up. “Thank you. For everything.” Her head was spinning a little but she shrugged it off. “We should burn the bodies…” Her voice faded as her gaze fell on the vampire that had attacked her. Or, more precisely, on the red, messy gap where his arm was no longer connected to his shoulder.

She looked away, realising as she did that Caelan had stood up and backed away from her slightly. He wouldn’t meet her eyes. “I’m sorry…” He murmured. “You… you shouldn’t have to… um…”

“Caelan - ”

“I just lost it for a moment… I thought that… well, that you…”

“Caelan. It’s… It’s fine.” She stood up. For a few long moments she took him in - his downcast eyes, his bloody hands… Perhaps, as before, she should have been repulsed. But she just couldn’t. Whatever he’d done, he’d done to save her, and that was strange and touching and scary in ways that she didn’t want to think too hard about. “Like I said,” she said eventually. “Thank you. For everything.” Quickly she cleared her throat. “So. Burning them.”

“I’ll do it,” Caelan said softly. “Check on the horses?”

“Sure.”

For the briefest moment his eyes flickered back to hers and a strange flutter of something unknown flashed through her body. Mila turned away. The evening had been confusing enough already.

At least, she thought with a small smile, they would definitely end up with a fire tonight.

 

 

 




Submitted: January 23, 2018

© Copyright 2021 Amy R. Beckett. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Sylvermyst

I understand Mila not being able to trust but never jump to assumptions. Caelan is very protective of Mila in a scary, terrifying but sweet way. At the very least: karma. He certainly is very powerful when he is protecting someone he cares about. Not to say, Mila didn't hold her own for as long as she could. Great chapter.

Sat, April 7th, 2018 2:33am

Author
Reply

Thank you for reading!

Fri, April 13th, 2018 8:03am

TheresaVan18

Wow, she jumped to conclusions fast. Good chapter. I made a note of a few things. One other thing I noticed is that there's a lot of sentences that start out with "Finally Caelan..." You might want to mix that up a bit.

Wed, February 6th, 2019 6:11pm

Author
Reply

Thanks for letting me know - I'll certainly look into that! :-)

Wed, February 6th, 2019 10:17am

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