|photo credit: Cheryl Ruffing|
But Adam only mumbled some incoherent nothing under his breath and closed his eyes again, rolling over. Alexis remained where she was, watching them with a blank stare as she battled the overwhelming urge to run screaming into the woods again and never come back. She'd tried that, and no doubt if she repeated the attempt Will would only prevent her again. But this may be her last chance to put Adam behind her forever, to let him carry on his life without the added burden of her own. While she contemplated whether or not she could get to her horse and out of Nottinghamshire before anyone caught up with her, Will called out, shaking Adam furiously.
"Hey, he's not waking up! Adam, Adam!" He looked at Alexis with desperate eyes, evidently forgetting all that had passed between them only moments before. Swallowing her panic, she approached carefully, kneeling down to listen to Adam's heart and look in his eyes. They were more beautiful than she'd remembered. Deep chestnut brown with slivers of gold, soft and sharp, wise and ridiculous at the same time. Just like him.
"He's alive, but he's been hit very hard. He needs to rest, but I'm afraid that's all I can do for him." She whispered, stroking a wisp of hair out of Adam's face. "I'm not sure why you're asking me though, I know nothing of medicine."
Will looked at her incredulously. "Are you trying to tell me that someone who can wield a sword while riding a horse and take on twenty trained, armed men, doesn't know how to diagnose a blow to the head and treat it?"
"That was just... Luck." She faltered, looking at the ground. She had to be careful: display anymore unusual skills and they'd start asking more questions. "Anyhow, we need to keep him still and warm. My camp is just over that ridge, we can take him there until he gets better." Before Will had time to argue, she'd led the horse over and was slipping an arm under Adam's shoulder. "Help me get him on."
Doing as he was told, Will took notice of how one arm hung limp at her side, but said nothing about it. Instead, he asked with a mischievous lilt to his voice, "So, how do you two know each other?"
Taken aback, Alexis stuttered, "Wh-what makes you so sure I know him?"
"Somehow you don't strike me as the type who would interrupt a public hanging and risk getting killed herself for a total stranger." Beneath his sarcasm, Alexis thought she detected a hint of sadness.
Her heart sank. By whatever means, he had found out about that day in Nottingham. No doubt he was aware of what took place afterward. He hadn't come searching because he missed her, but out of some sense of honor and pity for a poor, helpless girl who had suffered in the torture chamber. What a fool she was being. He would do the same thing for any woman; she was nothing special.
"Yes, I know about the dungeons." Will said, understanding her silence. What had they done to her, and why did she pretend it was nothing? "What happened down there?" He saw now that she was trembling, and her eyes sparkled with unshed tears. There was nothing he wanted more in that moment than to hold her close, to give what little comfort he could offer.
But she only flashed a smile and turned away, leading the horse to her camp. "He was a friend of mine, long ago when we were children. Nothing more." Her voice was soft and low, tainted with memory. Inside, she hated herself for lying to him, knowing as soon as Adam regained his senses, the truth would come out.
Will accepted that she had no desire to talk about the past few days, and played along. "If you were friends, than surely you must know this lover of his, yes? A girl named Alexis? He wants to find her as soon as he can." He watched her reaction carefully, noting the look of surprise on her face, and the moment she took to calculate her answer.
"Alexis? No, I'm sorry. He never mentioned her." She replied nervously, speeding up her pace as they proceeding to climb the hill. Now she was really in for it when Adam woke up. She had to find a way to keep him quiet.
"You know something?"
"I think that's the first time you've ever answered one of my questions. You really are different." Will chuckled, lengthening his strides to catch up with her.
Start at the beginning: Chapter 1 Part 1