Chapter 19

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Salome

I couldn't look at Jashon. Not yet. Maybe not ever again.

"What does she mean, Jashon? What just happened?" Keturah asked, to which he gave her a hard look and just shook his head.

Jashon touched my hand, but then seemed to think better of it and folded his arms. "Come on," he said. "Let's go talk."

"Talking is not going to make it okay," I said under my breath, but I followed him toward the stream.

When we got there, we stood for a long time without talking. I knew he didn't know how to start. I could see him thinking about what to say. If I hadn't been mad at him, I might have taken pity on him and spoken first. But I was mad. I was embarrassed.

And I felt guilty.

He had volunteered to marry me so I wouldn't have to go with Jacob and my own kinsmen. Betrothed to Jashon, I would be of his kin, of his family, and all would be right in Jacob's mind. And oh, how he must relish the idea of finally seeing me shackled to someone, as he had tried to see done for so long!

A betrothal would also secure Jashon a place in my clan, and he had volunteered to live amongst them so I could stay with Ardon.

I couldn't thank him. I wanted to kill him. A lifetime was too much to offer a stranger.

"I'm getting the feeling you are not pleased with the arrangement between me and Jacob."

I sighed, relented. "It is not the arrangement. It is the fact that Jacob can make this arrangement for me." I pouted for a moment. "The fact that you, a stranger, can make this arrangement for me."

"It was his condition. I agreed."

"You didn't have to do that!" I burst out. I took a breath, trying to calm myself. "He—Jacob and his father—have been trying to marry me off again since Zed died."

"I knew him, you know," Jashon said gently. His kindness was so hard to accept.

"I figured you did," I admitted.

"He was a good warrior, an excellent warrior. I respected him."

"I imagine he was. Excellence was expected of him. He was obedient and well-liked. He led our men out to battle with much honor."

"I liked him."

"Most men did. Either that or they were jealous of him."

"Did you like him?"

"Well enough."

Jashon put his hand on my upper arm. It was warm and steadying, and I felt its presence heavily. "After the kisses we shared today, I thought you could like me well enough, too."

I blushed just thinking about the kisses. "It is not that. It is more complicated than that."

"It is so complicated that I am not intelligent enough to understand?"

"No. Yes. I mean, of course you are smart enough to understand. It is only that I cannot even put into words why an arranged marriage of this sort angers me so."

He reached up and stroked my cheek with the back of his fingers. It was difficult to stay angry when he was being so kind. But his kindness was part of the problem.

"Then just look at me," he said. "Your eyes will tell me everything there is to tell."

I laughed, but there was despair in it when I let him see my eyes. "Did you not have something else in mind for yourself, for your life? Some other woman? I hate that you are giving up your life for me and for Ardon, a boy you have not even met."

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