I am enjoying writing this.
The closer they got to Dalunas Main, the harder Erron’s heart thundered. She gripped the reins of her mare, Fancy, until her knuckles whitened. She would see Jarek again. Erron shot a glance at her father and squared her shoulders. He couldn’t know her thoughts.How would she go about it anyway? Norden never left her alone. He would kill her if she ran. If he caught her. No—when he caught her.It wasn’t fair to drag Jarek into her mess of a life. He had a father, too. What if he had a mother, siblings? They would all be in jeopardy.Once again, the possibility of Jarek being married danced in her thoughts. What if he had a wife? Erron’s heart stopped. No. But it was possible. He was grown, of a marrying age, probably a turn or two older than her twenty. Tears burned her eyes and she swallowed hard.What was wrong with her? The pain constricting her chest made no sense. She’d seen the tanner once. Why did the thought of him being married bother her so much? It wasn’t like he would volunteer to save her, anyway.“Erron,” her father snapped.She jolted in her saddle and met his irritated gaze.“What are you doing?”“N-n-nothing.”“Pay attention. Take control of Fancy. If she stumbles because of you I will take it out of your hide.”Erron nodded, but her father had already looked away. He ranted about how he was allowing her to ride his horse. He grumbled that he should have made her walk. She sighed. It was no use daydreaming about the handsome tanner. She would never get away from her father.When they got into Dalunas Main, Erron’s hopes lifted. Her father directed them to an inn. They were staying in town overnight. Though they often made day trips to market, Norden never brought them into town and not returned back home the same day, no matter the hour.After complaining about the costs of stabling their horses and a suitable room, her father paid the rotund innkeeper. The older man then led them up rickety stairs to their room. He asked Erron if she required anything.“She’ll fetch our supper later,” her father snapped.Erron winced as the innkeeper nodded and gazed at her with sympathetic brown eyes. He excused himself with a slight bow.She looked around the small room, her heart tripping over itself. If Norden wanted to overpower her, there was no way for her to retreat. The bed took up much of the room, with a window to the left that opened over the busy streets. The furniture was sparse, only a chest of drawers and a cloudy mirror. The privy was in the corner. Small, but private.At least the room smelled and looked clean. Looking back at the bed, Erron’s stomach clenched. She would have to share it with her father.“I’m going out.” She met her father’s eyes as he spoke. “Do not move from this room.” He was leaving…without her? She stared at him, fighting not to show a reaction.“Yes, sir.”With a grunt, Norden turned on his heel and left, shutting the door with a resounding thud. She studied the warped wood, frozen. He’d left her alone? Norden had never left her alone.Blessed Spirit, he’d actually left her alone! She rushed to the window. Looking down, she scanned the crowds of people moving toward the busy market center. There were people on foot, people on horseback or leading pack animals. There was even a cart lumbering on its way.Erron spotted her father’s retreating figure easily enough. He was headed down the road that led to the blacksmith’s shop. Just two streets over from there was her tanner. Jarek. How could she get to him?∞∞∞∞∞∞∞Jarek sighed. Anais continued her conversation with the butcher’s wife even though she’d concluded her meat shopping. Why he’d agreed to her request to go with her to market was beyond him. He was a human packhorse. The woman had bought one of everything. His arms ached with her four—four full baskets hanging at every angle. It was enough food to feed an army. But her smile was bright and she always did so much for him and his father, so Jarek couldn’t refuse her.She was oblivious to his annoyance as well, but he had no intention to offend her.“Ready, Jarek, love?” Anais asked several moments later.“Of course. Where to next?” Home, please.“I think I’ve gotten everything we need.”Thank the Blessed Spirit. He flashed a smile. “I thought you would never say so.”“Oh, hush. You’re a strapping young man, you can handle it.”Jarek’s smile slid into a sheepish grin. “My arms won’t be right for days.”Anais mock-glared at him. “You’re not too old to have your hide tanned.”He laughed out loud, shaking his head. “I’m two and twenty! What’s too old?”“Hmmm, you’ll always be my lad.”Jarek’s heart warmed. Had he not had arms full of groceries, he would have hugged her. “Thank you, Anais.”She nodded and flashed a smile. “Home, then?”“Before my arms fall off would be preferable.”Anais swatted at his rear end as they headed out of the butcher shop and Jarek chuckled.They fell into step and easy conversation as they headed down the road. He genuinely enjoyed her company. How could he nudge his father into making her an official…permanent part of their family? The sooner the better.Leading her down the shortest path home, Anais followed Jarek across the street and he gestured for her to step ahead of him as the path narrowed for several feet before widening again. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a familiar figure. He froze and turned around.The widow paused, her expression curious as she met his eyes. But Jarek looked away from her, his gaze locked onto Erron’s father as he headed into the blacksmith’s shop.“Jarek? Is something wrong?”“I…need to go.” His heart thundered. Where was she? He scanned the street. Among the people that were coming and going, he couldn’t spot her anywhere. Was she in Dalunas Main? Was she all right?“What are you talking about?” Anais asked, her tone concerned.Jarek forced himself to meet her pale eyes. “Remember the girl from the alley Da and I told you about?”“Yes…”“Her father just went into Hem’s shop.”“Go, lad.” No hesitation in her tone whatsoever.Jarek nodded curtly. Anais’s support made his decision. “Will you be all right with all these things?”“Yes.”He dropped a kiss on her cheek and she smiled at him. Anais patted his cheek before taking the four baskets and Jarek whispered his thanks. He slipped away from her then. He had to find Erron.
TO BE CONTINUED:
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