Tuesday Teaser July 29: Wolf’s Lady Part 28
Woo-hoo! This is one of the last tidbits in Sand and Amanda’s story. If you recall, last week Amanda said goodbye to her father and her cousin in her childhood home, and then she and Sand left to walk back to Sky’s house. As always, please excuse the typos and rough-draft-itis.
Amanda made it almost two blocks before she broke down in tears. Sand came to a stop and enfolded her in his arms. The hard body that sparked her passion to amazing heights was now a warm comfort holding her in a tender embrace.
“I’m sorry,” she sniffled, gripping handfuls of his silk shirt at his shoulders. The Henderson brothers in the house across the street probably had their noses to the front window, watching at them. At least she had stopped in front of the empty lot so no one there could gape at them and it was too dark for anyone to see much. “I hate it when women bawl like babies, especially in public. I’ll stop in a minute, I promise.”
Her husband stroked her hair with a gentle hand. “No, don’t be sorry, and take all the time you need. I’m taking you away from everything you know and love. That deserves to be mourned.”
He rocked her for a long minute, murmuring loving words into her ear over her sobbing breaths. Maybe that was why he didn’t hear the men coming through the empty lot. He must have caught their scent at the last moment, though, because he lifted his head and began to turn while pushing her so she would be behind him. She felt him jerk against her. Breath hissed between his teeth. Then he stumbled and went down.
She simply stared for a moment, uncomprehending, at her strong feral husband sprawled on his side at her feet. “Sand?”
Dark shapes rushed toward her. She fumbled for her whistle and tried to blow. It came out in a thin, trembling whisper of a whistle. She gulped in air to try again, but hands clamped onto her arm, dragging the whistle from her lips.
“Stop!” she croaked, and then managed a real scream. “Let me go!”
A luck blow from her flailing fist landed in a crunch that was both horrifying and satisfying.
“Ow!” a man grunted. “Fucking bitch broke my nose!”
She struggled with renewed hope, but before long she was subdued by two men who stuffed a smelly cloth in her mouth and tied her wrists in front of her.
“Check the man,” one of them ordered. “Be sure he’s dead.”
Her attempt to scream NO! was stifled by the gag. One of the men holding her squeezed his arms over her rib cage with painful force. The pain drove the breath out of her. There was a buzzing sound in her ears that almost drowned out the man holding her. His voice was calm and business-like, even soothing.
“Don’t be scared, lady. We were paid to bring you somewhere, not to hurt you. We’re just trying to earn a living, see? We ain’t Sunday school teachers, but none of us likes hurting women. So as long as you behave, we got no reason to hurt you. So just—”
His voice broke off abruptly and soared into a scream. A heavy weight thudded into him, knocking Amanda off her feet. Her eyes blinked wide at the sight of the wolf. She rolled over the sidewalk to get out of the way as he tore into a man with bloody rage. That hadn’t been buzzing in her ears, it was Sand, growling in his wolf form. Dear God, he was frightening. She pulled and tugged until the gag fell out of her mouth.
“Sand!” she shouted. Or tried to shout. It was more of a wheeze. “Sand!”
She wasn’t sure how long it was before the animal left his prey and trotted over to her, whining and pushing his warm wet nose into her cold face. The beast laid down beside her with a heavy sigh, put his head on his paws and shimmered into Sand.
“Sand!” She crept forward and reached her bound hands to touch his shoulder. His shirt was ripped and wet with a warm thick substance. In the dark she couldn’t see well, but it had to be blood. “Where are you hurt? What happened?” She looked wildly around for help, but there were only three lumps on the sidewalk. Their attackers looked like spilled laundry piled on the concrete. “Sand? Please, talk to me!”
“I’m okay.” His voice was a groan, but hearing it was better than listening to her favorite music. He was alive. “Shot. In the side. I’ll be better soon. You. Okay?”
“Fine.” The worst she had was bruises. “Oh, God.”
She had to get him help. This time when she raised the whistle to her lips she blew a clear, shrill blast. She did it over and over until Sand’s hand caught her wrist.
“Stop. I hear horses coming. Wipe the blood. Off my mouth.” He seemed to struggle for every word, stopping to gasp for breath. “Don’t wanna advertize how I killed. Those men.”
By the time two Guardsmen on horseback arrived she had cleaned his face with the tail of his tattered shirt and settled his pants, torn and twisted from his shift to wolf and back to man, into place. She held her bound hands up as the first of the Guardsmen hurried to her. Thank goodness it was Dean Moynihan, one of the men who had patrolled this area since she was a girl.
“Mr. Moynihan!” she cried. “Thank God you’re here! My husband and I were attacked. He’s shot. We need to get him to the hospital.”
The two Guardsmen worked quickly to examine Sand and wrap cotton around his chest. They took another two agonizingly long minutes to record scene in their notebooks, then snapped open a sling that they suspended between their horses. Amanda hovered while they lifted Sand and laid him into the sling. She clenched her hands under her chin when she saw his head, face slack, loll limply to his shoulder. He couldn’t be hurt badly. He had just spoken to her. Was he faking? Oh, please God, let him be faking!
The younger Guardsman lifted her to sit behind Dean, who patted her knee where it rested behind his on the horse. “Don’t worry, ma’am,” he said bracingly. “We’ll get him to a doctor right away.”
Amanda was worried more than ever. If Sand were awake, he would have growled at seeing another man touching her.
“Hurry,” she ordered.