The first time he saw her, she was helping one of her family’s milk cows give birth. Her hair shone like burnished gold in the light of the lantern, almost the same color as her father’s, who was knelt down beside her in the soft hay. Her hands and forearms were spattered with blood, and he watched with morbid fascination at the way a few drops rolled down to her elbows before they were wiped away. The girl looked so incredibly focused and determined and beautiful.
He knew he couldn’t say once the calf was born; his hunger was too great. He’d originally intended to eat the little bovine, but he refused, seeing that it was hers. Pulling back his upper lip in a silent growl, he retreated, vanishing into the shadows even as the lowing of new life caught his ear.
Years passed before he encountered her again. She was galloping along on her mare, the horse’s mane rippling like silver, on her way to the village. He was crouched on the side of the road, digesting his most recent meal, when the light clatter of hooves on the hard-packed dirt brought his gaze up. She had grown, taller and womanlier, he hair longer, but her soft honey scent was the same as it had been.
It took all of his self-control to stay where he was, and Luck was with him; the wind blew his scent away. The mare and rider continued on, unaware of how close they had come to danger.
Ever since then, he’d followed her as close as he dared, unable to keep away but terrified to any closer. He watched as her mother gave birth to twin boys, Joshua and Abraham. He learned her name and whispered it to himself every night until it became a lullaby. He laughed when she was happy and cried when she was hurt.
But in the shadows, he remained, knowing how she’d reject him if he ever revealed himself.
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