A Taste of Winter
by Laila Blake
Excerpt from Chapter 7
Moira woke with a start. Her heart was hammering in her chest and she found herself patting her head and hair trying to extinguish the flames she had dreamed. Still only marginally conscious, she moaned in pain, yowled and curled in on that body that seemed to be pummeled with incorporeal kicks and beatings.
“Owain!” she cried out, as just for a moment, the pain did not seem to hers but his—the flames not on her but on his hair and eye-brows, his face distorted in blind agony. And suddenly, like a veil lifting, the beatings stopped. She touched her face just to make sure, just to feel herself rooted in reality, but there were no burns, no pain anymore. The room was lit by her glow, but Moira still felt around in the bed as though her eyes could have deceived her and missed him.
“Owain!” she called again. He wasn’t there. She had fallen asleep in his arms, but he was there no longer.
She was out of bed a second later. Something was wrong. Very wrong. She could feel it in her skin, in her bones, in her face that still felt scorched even though she had run her fingers over it to check several times.
Where was Owain?
She found herself rubbing her naked arms. Distracted by the strong glow, she strode over to the small and almost blind mirror. She had to trust her fingers about the health of her skin, but the glow was strong enough for both mirror and widow to capture and reflect back at her. Almost too late she remembered to draw the curtains. She shivered again—not because she was cold, though. Something was wrong. It hadn’t been an ordinary dream, that much she was all but certain of. She couldn’t trust herself entirely, not when she was this scared—but even though the direct pain had left her body, her face and her skin—it was still there, had shifted deeper into a hidden place in her soul. Inside, she was hurting and the more she allowed her mind to search for that pain, the more she could feel it.
Moira uttered a confused whimper and then quickly shook her head. Tears had sprung to her eyes and she could hardly see the clothes she was grasping for. She had to find him, that was all she knew: Owain was in terrible danger, and she had to find him.
Even as she had forced a dress down over her body and tights up her legs, she could still see the glow coming from her hands and face. That, too, gave her cause to worry. It had never stayed this long before. She shivered and then found a pair of gloves and a heavy cowl to pull deep into her face.
Her fingers on the door knob, she hesitated. If anyone saw her like this, she knew there was a chance she could make it all so much worse. But she couldn’t sit there and hide, not when her soul seemed to be crumbling, battered and dying inside her body. She couldn’t stay still, couldn’t let him hurt without even trying. He wouldn’t leave her to stay safe himself and neither would she.
As she pushed herself down the staircase and all but fled through the tavern and out into the night, the feeling of pain grew stronger again. She closed her eyes but there was only heavy rain and the wind howling in her ears. Stumbling a few steps down into the muddy streets, she found herself shouting: “Owain! Owain!”
But the wind swallowed the sound.
Tears ran down her cheeks, but she was barely aware of them through the colder water that smacked against her skin with each step. Her dress was soaked almost immediately and her shoes water-logged. She slipped in the mud once, caught herself on a lamp post and called for him again. The next time, she tore her knee open on a piece of gravel. She cursed and ran on. She could feel him—the wolf and the man—could feel them cringing in agony, fighting with their last vestige of strength. He was still alive, she knew that much. He was still alive and she had to find him!
The connection was fragile and tiny—it was nothing like the way she felt in his arms when they lay together spent and happy and wrapped up in each other’s beings, each other’s souls. But it was a connection—and without thinking, without questioning, she followed.