“So you won’t have me, but you won’t let me go. Do you just want me to be miserable like you?”
His nostrils flared. He looked like he was about to say something, but of course he didn’t. He never did. He never explained himself to me.
“I hate you,” I screamed, and without thinking, stomped my foot to the horse’s side. Hamilton bolted forward in a rage. Before I knew what was happening, I was flailing above the horse, my body suspended over the saddle, bumping against his sides as he sprinted. I yelped, trying to grab the reins, my fingers grasping air.
Shit, shit, shit.
I looked back. My heart was in my throat. I’d ascended the mountain far enough that I knew if I fell from Hamilton, I’d roll down a few dozen feet and get seriously hurt. Break a bone or two, at the very least.
Kill rode beside me, fast and furious, barking instructions at me, but I couldn’t hear him over the wind and the adrenaline buzzing between my ears.
Hamilton halted, sloping on his rear legs with a neigh, throwing me off his back.
I tipped over and flew in the air, squeezing my eyes shut and bracing myself for the fall. A sudden, harsh jerk threw me back up and over a horse, my midriff smashing against a saddle.
For a second, I thought I managed to climb back on top of Hamilton, but when I opened my eyes, I saw I was perched on Franklin, my body slung across his back like a potato sack.
Cillian wasn’t on Franklin anymore.
I heard a hiss and craned my neck sideways. Kill was behind me, sitting on the ground. He got up, not bothering to clean himself as he darted in our direction, putting his fingers in his mouth and whistling for Franklin to stop.
Cillian limped but picked up his pace in order to reach us.
The horse slowed to a gradual stop, dutifully waiting for his owner. Kill stopped when he reached us. He grabbed my waist and hoisted me down, making sure both my feet were on the ground before he eased his grasp on me.
I collapsed against my husband, shivering uncontrollably.
“Oh God, oh God, oh God,” I kept mumbling.
I gathered Kill’s face, examining him. His entire left cheek, including the temple and neck, was scratched and bloodied. He hit the ground face-first when he threw himself off his own horse and flung me over it in order to save me.
The realization slammed into me.
My husband saved me.
Put my safety in front of his own.
Without giving it a second thought.
He was bleeding, limping, his expensive clothes ruined and torn.
He looked at me as though he was taking inventory and making sure I was okay. His smoky, amber eyes darted from my face to my shoulders, down my body, then up again to my neck, arms, and fingers.
After everything that happened, he was checking on me.
Instead of thanking him—the sane, grown-up thing to do—I burst into childish tears, dropping my head to his shoulder, clutching his shirt like he was going to fade into smoke.
“Fuck,” he said gruffly. It was the first time I’d heard him curse, and for some stupid reason, it made my heart sing. He patted the back of my head awkwardly.
He didn’t know what to say. He wanted to comfort me but had never done it before.
“You’re not hurt,” he said steely. Robotically. “I checked.”
“But you are.” My tears kept rolling.
“I’ll survive, much to some people’s dismay.” He brushed my flyaways with his thumbs, wiping my face clean before resting his bloodied cheek on top of my head. His other hand ran along my back. “Shhh. It was just a little scare. You’re fine.”
“That’s not the point! You’re not fine!”
I was wailing—full-blown wailing—and there was nothing he could do to stop me. So he didn’t. He let me fall apart in his arms, holding me together.
“I-I don’t even know what I did wrong. Ash said Hamilton is your best horse for rookies.”
Realizing I wasn’t in a state to ride back, he sank down to the grass, taking a seat while I was in his lap, my arms looped around his shoulders.
Franklin stood by our side, eyeing us curiously while grazing.
“You didn’t do anything wrong. Hamilton has had a bad couple of years. He had swelling in his rear legs and didn’t get much riding time. When winter hit, he was down for the count. I knew I needed to re-break him come spring. He wasn’t ready for riding. When I saw you on him without a helmet…” He shook his head, closing his eyes as he took a ragged breath. “I’m going to dismember Hunter and feed him to the polar bears he is so desperate to save.”
“Hunter doesn’t like the Arctic drilling, either?” I hiccupped, surprised.
“Don’t start,” he warned.
“Fine. But you should know it was my idea to ride.” I put my hand on his chest, feeling his heart rioting in contrast to his carefully blank stare. He held me gently as though I was a precious thing he didn’t trust himself not to break.
“Hunter screwed this up. He didn’t give Hamilton enough time to get acquainted with you. Smell you. Feel you.”
“He was by my side the entire time.” My tremors were subsiding, but I still held onto him tighter. “It’s not his fault. It’s no one’s fault.”
Well, I mean…it was kind of my fault.
And by kind of I meant totally.
But I wasn’t going to admit that and give my husband ammo against me.
I trailed my thumb along the cut on his forehead. While he didn’t need stitches, he definitely should sterilize the area to make sure it didn’t get infected. Mud and blood caked his temple.
“You saved me,” I said quietly. “Again.”
The first time was the bleeding heart flowers.
The second was Byrne and Kaminski.
This was the third time Kill kept me alive, despite my unfortunate talent to find myself in life-threatening situations.
“You’re my wife.” He tapered his eyes as though the reason was obvious.
“You don’t act like I am,” I whispered. “We’re not a normal couple.”
“No,” he agreed. “We’re not.”
I waited for him to elaborate, but apparently, that was the sum of it. I looked around, changing the subject.
“A question of the ages. I’ll give you a ride home, then go look for him. You stay with Sailor and try to stay alive while I’m gone.”