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Warrior of the Realm

Written by Shannon Curtis

Chapter Five

Balor and his man had their backs to him, but Nieve saw the other man’s fierce expression, his anger on her behalf, and his intent, and her eyes widened. “No!” She held up a hand, and he halted, frowning, as she looked up at the men who were oblivious to his presence. “No,” she said again, more calmly as she shifted her gaze to Balor’s chest, trying to act as though she’d been speaking to him instead.

“One day, Nieve, you will be mine. I’ve waited for you, but I’m not a man known for patience. Look at me when I talk to you.” He reached for her chin, but she dodged his grip. She hated his touch on her.

“You know I cannot.”

“You think I would use this against you, Nieve?” Balor gestured to his covered eye, and Nieve turned her head away, not because of his disfigurement, but because she knew what he could do with it. “I would not. At least, not until after.”

There was silence for a moment, then Balor sighed. “Very well. ’Tis late. Let the lady sleep. I want to get back to the feasting.” He turned to the guard at his side. “I believe tomorrow I’ll tell the cook to make ready for another celebration. It seems fitting to celebrate our joining during the festival of Samhain.” Balor turned, and she hid her relief as her visitor ducked again. When Balor started to walk toward the outcrop, though, her heart pounded, and she mentally scrambled, trying to think of something to draw his attention.

She coughed, and Balor turned at the sound. He frowned. “I hope you aren’t ill?”

She shook her head as he leaned to shove the handle of the flaming torch in a crevice in the rock ledge, his eyes narrow as he stared at her. He put his hand on his hip. “I’ll leave you some light. Hopefully your sleep will be less fretful. You will need your rest to attend our celebration.”

Balor beckoned to his man, and they both left, swinging the wooden gate closed. The room darkened slightly as the guard carried the second flaming torch down the tunnel. Nieve sagged against the rock wall. Sweet Danu. That had been close.

# # #

Luke rose to his feet, easily stepping over the stone outcrop.

The woman called Nieve turned to face him, eyeing him warily as he approached.

Her complexion was pale except for the angry red welt on her cheek, but it didn’t mar her beauty. He could see now her eyes were green, and she moved one foot back at his approach. Her hands fisted at her side as she stared up at him. He wasn’t sure if she was getting ready to run or assuming a fighting stance.

He stepped toward her, slowly, so as not to frighten her any more than she already was. “He hurt you,” he said softly, frowning. He lifted his hand, and although he thought she’d rear back, she stood her ground. He gently tilted her chin to bring the bruise to full light. His lips pursed. “You should have let me go for him.”

She lifted her chin out of his grasp and eyed him suspiciously.

“Who sent you?” she asked him quietly, her dark brows dipping into a V. "Why are you here?"

Luke opened his mouth to respond, then realized he had no answer for her. And that freaked the hell out of him.

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