“Drayco, I want to go in. I can be of more help there. I can handle my sword better than most men.”
“I know, Shyanne. That’s why I want you there to cover our backs once we’re outside running. Joseph will be
weak, and who knows how Drizzle will do. He’s been tied up for several days now.”
Shyanne’s shoulders dropped. She did not look very happy. Finally, she said, “I understand. I’ll be there for
you,” and trotted toward the main building.
Drayco sighed and took off after her. They had gone only a couple of paces when the clouds decided to dump
their precious cargo, hitting them with a torrential down-pour. They were soaked in seconds.
Suddenly, Drayco was grabbed by the front of his shirt and pulled behind a section of half crumbled wall.
Shyanne put a finger to her lips when he started to protest. She pointed to the front porch. He glanced at it and
watched as a man and a woman walked out of the building.
“Come on, Lela, why can’t we disappear someplace away from the others? The rhythm of the rain reminds me
of how badly I want ya.”
The man pressed himself against the woman’s back and wrapped his arms around her, grabbing her breasts.
Lela flung his arms off and spun around in one fluid motion, a dagger in her hand as she faced him. She grabbed a
fistful of shirt to prevent him from backing away. The tip of the blade was so close to his skin blood flowed from the
nick it caused. The trickle ran down his neck.
“I told you before, you stench of a rizbak, I’m not interested. If I were, you’d know it already. Now leave me
alone—or you may not wake up one morning.”
“Aww, Lela, ya don’t have to be like that…mak’n me bleed and all.” The man wiped the blood running down his
throat with his fingers. “Give me a kiss to show you’re sorry.” He grabbed the arm holding his shirt and received
another slice across the top of his forearm.
“Why’d ya have to do that? All I wanted was to have a bit o’ fun with ya.” He shrugged her hold off, causing
blood to splatter across her shirt, and stormed back inside, nursing his bleeding parts.
Lela put her dagger away and went in after him. “I warned you before. This is what you…” The rain covered the
rest of the statement as they disappeared inside.
The twins grinned broadly at each other. Shyanne gestured toward her neck, pretending to slice it as she stuck
her tongue off to the side. Drayco shook his head at her warped humor and twirled his finger close to his temple,
indicating she was nuts. She nodded her head in agreement.
The smile disappeared as he motioned that they needed to move closer to the building. They ran up to one of
the long windows and hugged the wall on either side. Drayco leaned forward slightly and peered inside the room.
A small, crackling fire burned in a dirt pit near the back wall. Men and women relaxed about the room, some
sleeping, others carrying on conversations. A few of the surviving benches were being used as beds. The rest be-
came firewood. Holes were visible here and there in the ceiling; none leaked rainwater. The foul odor noticed earlier
still hung in the air. The smell of the burning wood masked it for the most part.
Ruben leaned against a wall a short distance from the rest with one foot propped up. Joseph and Drizzle lay
close to him, their restraints still in use to prevent any escape.
Drizzle was upset. He kept looking up at the ceiling, ears raised, then flattened alternately. The big man
watched the cat with interest. The rest of the group ignored them. They were no doubt thinking about other things, like
their families, or the local bars that were waiting for them.
“Has Drizzle become the nervous type?” Drayco asked.
“No. He’s the most rock steady creature I’ve ever met.”
“Well, something sure has him jumpy. I don’t ever re-member seeing him this edgy before.”
Shyanne looked inside toward the big cat. “You’re right, something sure has him uptight. I wonde…”
A strange noise started coming from the area near the entrance of the building, a sort of rustling sound. The
mercenaries missed it, at first. Finally, one of the men close to the front heard it. He walked over and looked around,
attempting to locate the source of the sound. It seemed to be coming from overhead, in the ceiling.
“What’s that?” he asked, trying to see into the dark holes above.
Ruben straightened up. He was looking at Drizzle, not the man speaking. The cat was going wild, struggling
against his bonds with all his might. His mouth was tied shut, leaving him unable to bite at the restraints that held him.
He yowled in frustration. Joseph watched the struggling cat, as well.
A bad feeling settled in the pit of his stomach. The odor had reminded him of something from the past.
Unfortunately, he still could not put a finger on what it was.
The rustling sound grew louder, as if many, many things were brushing against each other. Men and women
around the room stopped what they were doing to look first at the cat, then at the man near the front.
The man standing under the holes shouted, “Someone bring a light over here. I want to see what’s up there.”
He had his arm extended toward the fire.
Drayco glanced at his sister. He could tell from the look on her face that she was uneasy. He understood; he
knew he was wearing the same look. He turned his attention back to what was happening inside just as someone got
up with a torch. It was the same woman who had argued on the porch earlier. The blood still dotted her clothes.
Lela was by the reaching man’s side when Ruben finally remembered what caused the disturbing smell. “No!
Wait! Get away from there. NOW!” He started to move toward the pair. It was too late.
Excerpt from the book