Chapter Thirteen

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For several, infinite minutes, Ife sat staring blindly at the closed tent flap. Nassor was going into unknown danger. Although she knew it was impracticable, she wished she could have gone with him. If she were there watching, surely no harm would befall him.

Giving her head a firm shake, Ife rose from the edge of the bed. She needed to do something to take her mind off Nassor's meeting with that crazy bastard, Zaire Akinyi. While tidying up their little lover's nest, she found she wished they could return to their blissful time of unawareness.  Then, it was only the two of them.  The world outside moved on, but they were unaware of anything but each other. Unfortunately, it was impossible to go backward. One could only move forward through life.

The tent was put to rights in no time, leaving Ife with nothing to occupy her mind and wild, worried thoughts.  In the end, she decided to shower, then go to the foundry. With Owen gone, she could continue with her studies without a glowering shaman looming. There, tomes waited to be read, and herbs awaited experimentation. Hopefully, immersing herself in such delicate work would help keep her mind off Nassor and his mission.

Setting down an armful of lanterns she carried, Ife lifted the heavy, wooden door. The familiar scent of damp earth assailed her as she picked them back up and descended the stairs. One was held aloft to guide her steps because she couldn't light the torches as Owen did with but a spoken word.

Arriving at the heart of the now-familiar foundry, Ife set the other lanterns on a worktable. With the one still clutched in her hand, she set about searching for the ancient book she'd wanted to read before the unfortunate incident a few days prior. Finding it in no time, she set it down and opened it on the rough, wooden surface of a worktable. Next, she hunted for the herbs she needed for the "be at peace" potion she wanted to make. It was for Owen. If she did it correctly, perhaps it would help him to forgive her and Nassor.

Ife turned on the other lanterns, spacing them, so the table she worked on had even light. Grabbing a pestle and mortar, she set it on the roughly hewn surface. Reading the book as if it were a recipe, she added herbs to be crushed. A quiet rhythm soon overtook her as she focused solely on her work.

Lost between the pages of the book, it took a moment for Ife to register the sound of quick, booted footfalls descending the stairs. Looking over her shoulder, she was displeased to find Andrew Stevens coming off the last step. His features were tight when he spoke. "You need to come with me. It's Nate. He needs you."

Brows dipping, Ife found she didn't smell a lie in his words. Still, she didn't trust him.  When the shaman impatiently grasped her upper arm and pulled her toward the stairs, she balked. Jerking free, she demanded, "What's happened?"

Andrew scowled at Ife's actions and words.  Thunderclouds seemed contained behind those dark eyes of his.  Any moment, she expected lightning to shoot out of them at her.

Alarm bells clanged in Ife's very bones at Steveson's reaction. Before she could give her perception of his actions much thought, the shaman turned and started up the stairs. "I'll tell you on the way."

Heart in her throat, Ife began to follow. Andrew must have lit the torches with whispered words of magic.  The stairs were no longer shrouded in darkness. As she climbed, she looked at his back, trying to make sense of her situation. But her head kept on drowning out what her intuition was screaming. Surely, she could trust the man Wolfrick Jaeger left behind to watch over her. Nassor even had faith in Andrew and his abilities. It was Owen he didn't like. Besides, what if even now her mate was dying?

Halfway up, Ife paused. Their mating bond would have told her if Nassor were in such dire straits. The only things she could feel through it were her mate's impatience and annoyance. Those were not emotions she'd associate with danger or dying.

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