Are you up for a second ‘reading’? Not too drunk in virtual mojitos, are we? Well, never mind, take a seat, relax, and listen:
Desperately, Aia gasped for breath, and the fresh air streaming down her lungs was a relief of dimensions. When she realized there was another person there in the water with her, panic returned with full force, making her strike out at whoever it was. Was it him, the man from her nightmares? Had he found her again?
“Hey! Stop it. Stop it!”
The voice was definitely male, dark and very authoritarian. Certainly not the raspy sneering she had come to know from her dreams. So she almost did stop hitting him. But then her head fell underwater again and immediately, she was pulled out and hurled over a man’s shoulder.
“Let me go. Let me go,” she screamed. She was kicking, scratching and hitting him the best she could.
“For god’s sake, woman, will you calm down, I’m trying to save you from a watery death,” he groaned from somewhere near her bottom. “Even if you want to die, I can’t just stand idly by and watch it happen.”
“I can walk myself. Put me down!”
“Put me down this instant!”
“I said no! Deal with it.”
She scratched his neck and pulled the back of his hair so hard that she actually pulled some of it out. But it just made him hold on to her even tighter, refusing to let her go.
But when she managed to swing an arm around his neck and she started to choke him, he ripped her down from his shoulder and dropped her in the water.
They were nearer land now. Aia should be able to stand up and escape. But as soon as he had dropped her on her back, he grabbed her by the neckline of her blouse with one hand and started to pull her towards the shore.
“If that’s the way you want it,” he groaned.
Aia had to cling to his arm to keep her head above the surface, and she tried desperately to keep the splashes of water from entering her mouth, eyes and nose.
“Please…” she struggled.
He leaned down and scooped her up in his arms and carried her the last short distance to the shore. As he sat her down on the ground a little bit too abruptly, hurting her coccyx, he leaned over her and immediately spotted the cylinder in the leather string around her neck.
“Get off of me,” Aia gasped as she was finally given a chance to catch her breath properly.
He rolled over and sat next to her. He was breathing heavily as if he was thoroughly annoyed. Then he wiped his face with his palm, and afterwards he ran a hand through the wet dark curls.
“I’m sorry I ruined your suicide plans,” he said, sounding not sorry at all.
“I wasn’t trying to kill myself,” Aia snapped, immediately thinking she ought to be more grateful because when it boiled down to it, no matter how roughly he’d handled her, he had still saved her life.
“Then what the hell were you doing? I saw you walk out there on your own accord and go under.”
He’d seen her? She gazed over at him and felt a jolt of shock when she saw the grey uniform he was wearing. On his sleeve there were three red bands with the strange looking V across, the marking of a sheriff. Was this Merian’s brother? Was this Lyder Storm, the mean killing machine who killed supernaturals left and right?
She swallowed hard when she remembered how he had looked at the cylinder before. Did he know?
“What are you staring at?” It didn’t even sound like words, more like a rumble from his chest.
“Um, you?” Aia said before thinking.
He wasn’t exactly unpleasant to look at. If he hadn’t been a sheriff in Vithar’s army, she might even have found him rather attractive with the broad nose, the high cheek bones and the bluest of blue eyes under a couple of heavy eyebrows. And he didn’t look scary at all. Well, except for right now when he turned his head and looked enormously annoyed at her mere existence. There was something intimidating about the drawn brows and the slight sneer by his upper lip.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to stare,” Aia said quickly and looked away. “I really wasn’t trying to kill myself. Something was holding me under.”
“What do you mean? Like weed or a branch or something?”
“Something like that, yes,” she mumbled somewhat timidly. Though, she could have sworn it felt like hands, it might just have been her imagination. She had been pretty high, after all, on that tea.
He stood up and brushed down his uniform and sighed at the fact that he had gotten himself wet.
Aia couldn’t help staring up at him as he stood there tall and broad-shouldered. Probably shouldn’t tell him she’d heard a lot about him from his sister. She wondered what Merian would do if she came looking for Aia right now and saw Lyder. Would she draw her sword? What would Lyder do?
“You’re staring at me again,” he said. He looked down at her with his piercing blue eyes, a hard and cold stare that actually sent shivers down her spine.
“What’s your name? Where do you live?” he asked, his tone suspicious.
“Um, well, technically you might say that I’m in between homes.”
God, if looks could make you become inferior, she would have vanished into thin air. Not even Meg had looked at her that way. But this was good, Aia told herself. It meant he wouldn’t suspect her role in a ploy to kill his ruler and the wicked witch from the tower.
“Technically speaking, I guess so.”
“You don’t live out here in the forest, do you? Are you a witch?” He shot her a scrutinising stare, the sneer by his lip made them hard and unsympathetic.
“Goodness, no.” Aia burst into laughter at the mere thought, and also because he was making her so incredibly nervous. But she quickly cleared her throat because her somewhat hysterical laugh just made him look even more suspicious.
“I’m not, I promise,” she added and looked him straight in the eyes without blinking, and she almost felt like cheering when he blinked first and looked away.
“Maybe I should have let you execute you suicide plan anyway,” he muttered. “One less homeless to waste my time.” And on that note, he turned around and walked up the small hill to the forest road.
Aia stared after him, shocked with her mouth hanging wide open. He did not mean that, did he? What an insensitive arsehole!
“Thank you for saving me,” she yelled after him in the most sarcastic tone she could muster.