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The fire crackled as a bit of fat dripped off the remaining meat on the spit. Story wasn't usually one for wild game, but as hungry as she was—and tired of peaches—she was not about to be picky. And the truth was, it didn't taste half bad after Eirnin had seasoned it with spices from his pack. As for the pointy-eared fellow himself, he was keeping quiet on his side of the fire.

“Stop that.”

“Stop what?” He seemed genuinely surprised. She supposed he had a right to be. They hadn't spoken since the foot incident.

“Staring at me. You've been doing it ever since you bandaged my foot. And it's getting creepy.”  It wasn’t an admiring stare. No, it was more of a “you have a horn growing out of your forehead” sort of stare. It wasn't particularly flattering.

“My apologies,” was all he said. He continued to stare at her over the flames.

She sighed in frustration. He wasn't going to make this easy for her, and she needed some answers. “Look, I saw how you freaked out when you saw the blood on my foot, but you don't really strike me as the queasy type.” She indicated the animal roasting over the fire and raised an eyebrow at him.

He stared at the remains of their dinner for a long time before answering. The flames reflected perfectly in his silver eyes, his irises flickering yellow and orange, untamed and alien. “I don't suppose you noticed the beast's blood when I was dressing it?”

“Um, no. Can't say that I did. I was trying not to pay attention. The twins always used to tease me; I don't do well around fish gutting or game dressing. I am the queasy type.”

“The twins?”

“Will and Katie. My younger brother and sister.” Story regretted her slip. She wasn’t about to discuss her family with him, or with anyone, for that matter.

“But I thought you said you had no clan?”

“I don't. They're dead.”

“Your entire clan is dead?” Eirnin’s cocked his head to one side, a surprised look flickering across his face.

“Yes, and thank you for bringing up such a painful memory. Now, you were saying about the animal's blood?” Okay, technically she’d brought it up, but she fervently hoped he would take the hint and leave the subject of her family alone.

Eirnin regarded her through narrowed eyes, as if measuring and evaluating her. Finally, he stood and circled around the fire to kneel before her. He held out his tattooed hand, and Story caught herself staring at the patterns that seemed to dance in the firelight.

“I wonder if I might see your knife, please?” At Story's hesitance, he gave a wry smile. “If I'd wanted to hurt you, I could have just left you alone to walk the wrong way and eventually starve. That is, if the wood sprites didn’t get you first.”

She shot him a sour look, but removed her knife from its sheath and handed it over to him. If she’d been surprised by Eirnin’s request, it was nothing compared to what he did next. He carefully held the knife's blade up to the firelight and scrutinized it closely. Then he brought it up to his nose and inhaled deeply before his tongue darted out to lick the blade.

“Aye, that's got iron in it, to be sure. Downright destructive to the fey.” Amazement, tinged with reverence, colored his voice.

“I know it's iron. If you'll remember, I told you that when we first met.” Story didn’t mean to be snitty, but he was getting on her last nerve. Why didn’t he just listen to her in the first place? It would’ve saved them both time, and she wouldn’t have his germs all over her knife now.

War of the Seasons, book one: The HumanWhere stories live. Discover now