The Heart Of Betrayal Page 107

The current was fast and relentless. I wasn\ sure how I had made it to shore myself. By the time I did, I was miles downriver, and my limbs were frozen. Somehow I had dragged myself up on the bank and forced my legs to move, praying she had done the same. I couldn\ accept anything else.

I slipped on an icy rock and fell to my knees, feeling my strength fading. That was when I spotted her ahead, facedown on the bank, settling into the earth as if she were already a part of it, her fingers lifeless in the mud and snow.

Blood stained her back where the arrow had entered. Only a broken stub remained. I ran and dropped to her side, gently turning her and pulling her into my arms. Her lips were blue, but a soft moan escaped them.

’’Lia,’’ I whispered. I brushed the snow from her lashes.

Her eyelids fluttered open. It took her a moment to see who I was. ’’Which side of the river are we on?’’ she asked, her voice so weak I could barely hear her.

’’Our side.’’

A faint smile creased her eyes. ’’Then we made it.’’

I looked up, surveying our surroundings. We were miles from anywhere, without horses, food, or warmth, and she lay badly injured and bleeding in my arms, her face the color of death.

’’Yes, Lia, we made it.’’ My chest shook, and I leaned down and kissed her forehead.

’’Then why are you weeping?’’

’’I\m not. It\s only ’’ I held her closer, trying to share what little warmth I had. ’’We should have stayed. We should have ’’

’’He would have killed me eventually. You know that. He was already weary of the little power he shared with me. And if not the Komizar, his Council would have done the job.’’

With each word, her voice became fainter.

’’Don\ leave me, Lia. Promise you won\ leave me.’’

She reached up and wiped the tears from my face. ’’Rafe,’’ she whispered, ’’we made it this far. What\s another thousand miles or two?’’

Her eyes drifted closed, and her head lolled to the side. I put my lips to hers, desperately searching for her breaths. They were shallow and weak, but still there.

We made it this far. I didn\ even know where we were. We were lost on a riverbank with miles of dark forest surrounding us, but I scooped one arm under her knees and the other carefully behind her back and stood. I kissed her one more time, my lips gently resting on hers, trying to bring back their color. And I began walking. A thousand miles, or two, I would carry her all the way to Dalbreck if I had to. No one would pry her from my arms again.

We already had three steps behind us.

’’Hold on, Lia,’’ I whispered.

Hold on for me.

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