Feel the Burn Page 88

“How I’d love to. But I can’t. I had a dream.”

“A dream? About what?”

“About you, my love. About you traveling from these lands.”

“Me?”

He turned and faced her, sliding his hands around her waist. “It’s sweet. That you pretend my connection to our god is as strong as yours.”

“Roland—”

“No.” He kissed her cheek. “I have faith in him and he has faith in you. Take what you need. Leave as soon as you can manage. I will not question.”

“Are you sure?”

“I do not deny our god anything. That includes you.”

Vateria had just pulled on her boots when her niece walked in.

“You ready?” she asked.

“Yes.”

Vateria stood, smoothing down the gown that covered her leggings. “Our people ready?”

“Handpicked by me. They’re ready to move when you are.”

“Good.”

Pulling a fur cape over her shoulders, Vateria walked across the room. As she neared the doors, her niece asked, “Are you sure about this, Auntie? Once Uncle Roland finds out the truth about—”

Vateria stopped by her niece, pressed her middle and index fingers against her lips. “Sh-sh-sh,” she whispered. “One must have faith.”

“Yes, but—”

Vateria stepped into her niece, quietly enjoying the way the young She-dragon immediately backed up, her head banging into the door.

“Faith,” Vateria said again. “Understand?”

“Yes. Yes, Auntie Vateria. Faith.”

“Good.” She petted her niece’s cheek. “Then let’s go. Once we have our prize, all will be well.”

Chapter Twenty-Three

Once the two groups had moved out that morning, they’d separated, traveling along different routes to a spot predetermined by Gaius. The suns had already gone down when they met again. But the Riders came with several freshly slaughtered boars, ready for Aidan’s flame, and Ivan Khoruzhaya boiled up some potatoes.

While the food was being made, the Riders tended to their horses. Taking them to a nearby lake, getting them fed, and checking them over for any injuries due to the hard ride.

The dinner itself was a surprisingly friendly affair, with stories of Outerplains tribes and dragon clans. The only one who didn’t offer anything was Aidan. He listened. He laughed. But considering they were heading toward his family for help, he’d said little about them.

That’s when, after spending eight months with the dragon, Gaius realized he knew little about Aidan the Divine. Instead, Aidan was brilliant at getting others to talk. At getting others to reveal much about themselves. Even Gaius, who’d learned early on in his life to keep things to himself or between him and his sister, had told stories about life with Thracius and some of his kin.

Yet Aidan revealed very little. And if his brother Mì-runach knew anything about him, they didn’t reveal it either. They talked of their own lives, but never about Aidan’s. Nor did they ask questions.

Gaius didn’t think Aidan was hiding anything bad about himself, though. His silence made Gaius worry about how difficult it would be to deal with the Southland royals maintaining that area. And about his chances of getting in to see and successfully negotiate with the Western Mountain Dwarves.

But they had at least another day’s ride before they even reached that territory. And Gaius didn’t want to spend all his time obsessing over what might or might not happen. He preferred to leave the fretting and obsessing to his twin and Aunt Lætitia. They were really good at it and Gaius was pretty certain they sort of enjoyed it.

After the meal was finished and the chatter died down while weapons were checked and sharpened and readied, the Khoruzhaya siblings took first watch. The pair separated and disappeared into the trees like the ghosts the rescued priests and priestesses called these Riders.

Gaius spread out his bedroll and quickly went to sleep until he was lightly kicked in the shoulder.

He might normally have woken up, ready for battle, but he was certain if someone wanted to hurt him, they’d have kicked him somewhere with more potential impact. So Gaius turned over and saw Kachka motion to him before fading into the trees. He quickly got to his feet and followed, already getting hard at the mere thought of Kachka Shestakova. A reaction he hadn’t had since he’d first begun to have sex and gone through a time that his father had called “The wind blows and you get hard” phase of male dragon growth.

Gaius stopped when he reached a boulder where Kachka’s armor and furs were neatly stacked. Not only did he stop moving, his heart kind of stopped. But it started again at a hard, rapid pace as soon as Kachka moved out into his line of sight. She was completely naked, walking past him and over to another, bigger boulder.

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