His unnerving quiet weighed heavily in the dewy midnight air. She could hear the horse treading a path with its hooves, a faraway wind sweeping the blanketed land, the lulling sound of crickets chirping and Don’s measured breaths. She realized, she’d much rather hear his roughened baritone as opposed to his flat silence. To her heightened ears, even silence had a sound.
He was angry with her, so much so that she could feel the anger teeming from his sinewy frame. She tried focusing on something other than his heavy thighs which hugged her in the protective shield of his arms, but found it discernibly distracting.
He was still painstakingly quiet when they halted within the clearing of the keep. Don shifted, swinging one of those massive thighs out of reach to dismount.
She gasped when his hand settled at her waist, easing her from the saddle without difficulty.
Her ears caught light steps and realized someone approached.
The sudden coolness on her face indicated that Don had moved away and a fleeting panic clutched her chest at standing alone in the dark. She failed to suppress the whimper that rose up sharply from her throat.
“What is it?” his voice, though clipped with anger and undeniably steely, she detected the evident concern laced beneath the graveness of his tone.
When she hadn’t answered, he stepped closer and she felt his shadow fall over her face and relaxed some.
“What is it, Elle?” his tone was softer now, “Are you hurt?”
She managed to shake her head, “Nay-“ she took a breath and said a bit shamefully, “-I’m afraid.”
He was silent and that was most unnerving. She began to shift uncomfortably feeling quite the ninny. “Why?” he demanded forcibly, almost angrily.
She winced-she shouldn’t have said anything.
“I cannot see.”
She felt his confusion but was too embarrassed to explain. She never had to rely on anyone, though her family insisted at times, mostly, she kept to the main support of her cane, but now that it was lost to her-she was dependent and that notion alone made her cringe horribly on the inside.
“Your cane?” he said almost incredulously as realization dawned. “That is why you came out here?”
She felt a spark of anger at his nonchalance, “Aye.” She raised her chin.
“Why did you not wait till the morning?” he demanded crisply. “Elle, I left five strangers in my hall drunken on mead to chase you and that silly maid out in the dark after a stick?”
She flinched beneath the harshness in which he spoke so casually of it, “Without that stick, I am entirely without sight and am forced to rely on those around me. I would risk it again to retrieve it.”