Chapter 16

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Jacob stared at me for a moment, and then he looked back to Jashon.

"What is the meaning of this? Jashon, why do you have my brother's wife, and where is my nephew?"

I turned to look at Jashon then too.

Everyone was completely silent. Jashon's kinsmen were curious, and mine were confused.

I didn't know how Jacob knew Jashon, but I wanted to tell him at least that Jashon had not abducted me. I couldn't do that. I knew Jacob, and I knew he would not like it if I spoke before he spoke to me, especially in front of all these men. His temper could be volatile. So I waited, and I edged a little closer to Jashon.

Jacob noticed my movement, and his eyes narrowed.

"A small Lamanite war party abducted Ardon from the fields. Salome tracked them into the wilderness but lost the trail. My men and I are tracking the same party. We found Salome in the wilderness." He hesitated and glanced at me. "Half-starved and lost."

Jacob's temper faded from his eyes. He would expect me to have gotten myself half-starved and lost. He would be pitying and condescending, but at least he wouldn't be angry.

"Did you not receive her message?" Jashon asked.

Jacob glowered at me. "A vague message from a child."

I grimaced. I had told his six year old daughter that I was leaving and the men would have to finish harvesting the field when they returned from their hunt, and I had only told her that much because she had been at the well when I had stopped to fill my water skin.

Jashon shifted his weight. "You tracked her?"

I took another long look at Jacob and his cousins—seven men altogether. Jacob was the oldest of Zed's brothers. They had two younger brothers, Neel and Hep, and four younger cousins, Zaph, Abel, Kimnor, and Jareth. Jacob, Zaph, and Abel were all married. I could either become a second wife to one of them, a third in Zaph's case, or marry one of the younger boys. This was the reason marrying again did not appeal to me.

The men were soaked with sweat and weary looking. They had likely run day and night to find Ardon and me—Ardon mostly. I felt guilty for not running straight to them. Despite my intentions to free Ardon quickly and return safely before the hunt was over, I should have told them.

Jacob gave a curt nod. "Her trail was easy to follow."

Jashon stared at Jacob for a moment. Then he shook his head. "That was ours. We left a deliberate trail for her—so she could follow us."

Jacob smiled as if he didn't believe that.

Jashon ignored the condescending in Jacob's smile. "Do you wish to join us in the search for Ardon?"

"Assist you? What is Ardon to you?"

"The Lamanite warriors also captured Gid."

Jacob's brows shot up. "Your brother?"

I could tell from his tone he knew exactly who Gid was, and he would easily discern what an unlikely and horrible situation it was. Jacob was rash sometimes, but he was intelligent and quick.

Jashon was so solemn when he nodded. How heavy this responsibility must feel to him. I lifted a hand to touch his, to offer him strength and solidarity, and to ask a question I could not voice. He looked down at me expectantly, but when I glanced pointedly toward my brother-in-law, he knew what I was asking.

"Jacob fought in Teancum's army. He is my brother in arms. Zaph too."

My gaze drifted away as I pieced together how the men knew each other. "And Hep," I said softly. My eyes found Jashon's again.

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