Alexandru's Kiss (Magic, New Mexico #3)(6)

By: S. E. Smith

Mayli looked up at Ka’ya. “I told him Dru was sick. Jorge demands that he be turned over to him by the new moon,” she replied.

Ka’ya glanced over her mother’s shoulder at the dark gray hut. Her mother was right; Dru would not survive long under Jorge. Two boys and a young girl had already perished under his guidance. Jorge insisted they were accidents or natural causes. No one questioned him. Ka’ya suspected the Spiritual Leader was messing with things he did not understand – a dark power that could prove deadly to the entire village. She needed to escape with her mother and brother before the new moon.

“I need a few more days – perhaps a week to finish securing our passage across the Great Water. Gather what you wish to take and make sure to give Dru the medicine to give him the strength for the journey,” Ka’ya murmured, reaching for the bag of goods.

“Thank you, Ka’ya,” Mayli said, tears shimmering in her eyes.

“I will not let him take Dru and you away from me the way he took Father. At least here, I can see and talk with you,” Ka’ya swore.

She gripped the bag and turned away from her mother. She had much to do before the new moon in a fortnight. Picking up speed, she left the path leading across the meadow and disappeared into the forest. She would return to her home, eat, gather the items she would need, and make sure the trail was clear before traveling to the large city of Perth to secure passage across the Great Water.

Alexandru rolled over onto his back and groaned. He started to lift a shaky hand to his brow when he heard a low growl. Opening his eyes, he smothered a loud curse when he saw three large animals slowly approaching him. His brain tried to identify them, but just trying to think caused another shaft of pain to lance through his head.

The animals were the size of a Shetland pony, but that was where the similarities ceased. He had never seen anything like them – at least that he could remember. The rust-and-silver-colored long fur, short ridged snouts, and the four long tusks protruding from their mouths had him warily scooting back across the rock-and-leaf-covered ground.

“Easy,” Alexandru said in a hoarse voice. He cleared his throat. “Easy now.”

The animal in the front pawed the ground and flashed a set of very long, impressive fangs. Alexandru didn’t bother trying to keep the curse that escaped him quiet this time. He flinched, rolling backwards when the two animals on each side leaped toward him.

“Son of a bi….”

Alexandru’s curse died when he felt his body rolling over the edge. Tumbling, he grunted when he hit a rotten log and went right through it. Twisting, he tried to turn so he could dig his heels into the loose soil, but the slope was too steep. His eyes widened when he saw he was approaching a drop off. Unable to stop his momentum, he braced for the impending fall and impact. He frantically reached out for a sapling. Above him, he heard the snarls and growls of the animals above him followed by a horrendous howl. His fingers missed the sapling by a fraction of an inch.

Glancing down, he once again tried to dig his heels into the soil. He was about to resign himself to his fate when two arrows flashed by him. One struck a tree to his right while the other struck a tree to his left. Suspended between them was a rope. Alexandru reached up and grabbed the rope as he passed under it. He twisted, and the lower half of his body went over the side of the cliff. His fingers tightened on the rope and he prayed that the arrows and the rope would hold his weight.

Alexandru glanced over his shoulder and swallowed. There was no way he would have survived a fall from this height. Far below him, jagged rocks rose up. Debris from his slide rained down around him before disappearing into the shadows of the dark crevices. Turning his head, he rested his forehead against the damp soil. Whatever in the hell had happened to him, he was having a very bad day, he thought with a wince.

He looked up at the top of the slope from where he had fallen. It was going to be a son-of-a-bitch to climb back up the slope – especially with the way his head was pounding, but he had little choice. He struggled to pull the lower half of his body back up onto solid ground.

Alexandru had just managed to get one knee up onto the edge when a rope landed next to him. Looking up at the top, he couldn’t see anything except where it continued over the side. Grateful for the extra help, he released the death grip he had on the rope between the arrows and grasped the new one. Air hissed from his lungs when he suddenly found his body being pulled upward at an incredible speed. He opened his mouth to tell the bastards to slow down whatever in the hell they were using to pull him up, but had to shut it to keep from getting a mouth full of debris when his body rolled and he found himself on his belly.