After I handed Rogan a clean handkerchief to wipe the tears from her pale cheeks, I gazed up into the dark rafters of the hayloft. Her voice echoed in my head over and over again.
Syracen. Her father. Blade in the chest. Syracen. Her mother. The crack of a broken neck. Syracen. Her brother. The slice of a blade across the throat.
I despised my father. Rage and grief flooded me for what he had taken from Rogan. And consequently what he had taken from me. Had he never found her, had he never hunted her, perhaps Rogan would have visited Silvera one day. Our paths may have crossed and I would have just been a charming stranger. Mayhap she would have liked me. Mayhap we’d have had a chance…
I felt my body curl in on itself as any thread of hope I’d been holding onto snapped. “No wonder you hate me,” I choked out.
She was silent a moment and the ache in my chest intensified.
“I don’t hate you.”
My head whipped up at the confession, my eyes searching her face. Her cheeks had grown flush and she was looking at me as she had never before. Her eyes were soft— confused but soft— and just as searching as mine. Hope began to drown out the ache inside of me. I tried to shove it aside, wanting to be certain I’d heard her right before I gave into it again. “You don’t?”
Rogan’s cheeks took on an even deeper shade of red, an adorable flush of color that made her eyes glitter in the low light. “No. I realize now that this person you’ve been, Captain of the Guard, that’s really who you are. I’m sorry I didn’t treat you the way you deserved.”
Elation swept through me. We’d just had a breakthrough? Yes, we’d just had a breakthrough. Feeling a weight fall from my shoulders I relaxed with a small smirk playing on my lips. “I wasn’t exactly charming to you either.”
She laughed softly and I had to stop myself from dragging her into my arms. Rogan had never laughed like that for me before. “You were just reacting in kind.”
I couldn’t believe she was actually making excuses for me. Rogan, making excuses for me? I snorted. “Yes, I suppose I was. It was galling you know. You’re so sweet to everyone else.”
“Sweet, I’m not sweet.”
You’re sweet. You’re delicious. I eyed her mouth hungrily. “You can be.”
I’d embarrassed her. Watching her body language I realized she was aware of me as she had never been before. She was aware of me as a man. Finally.
I chuckled inwardly, enjoying her girlish discomfort as she tried to cover her awareness with an awkward attempt at teasing apology. “You’re a good man, Wolfe.”
Delighted by her sharp turn around, I grinned flirtatiously, the kind of grin that floored young widows and housemaids but had never affected Rogan. Tonight she blushed deeply in response to it and I felt the heat stirring inside of me. “Really?”
She nodded, but turned away, her expression suddenly solemn.
The hope flooded back from whence it came.
What a fool I was to think that just because she no longer thought me a villain she could ever deign to love me. None of this changed who my father was, or what he had done.
As if she sensed my sudden dismay, Rogan asked anxiously, “What?”
“I’m still the man whose father killed yours.”
I studied the play of emotion on her face. I saw the war. My father did kill hers but…
But what, Rogan? I looked closer. Was it possible she could get past it? There was something in her eyes that hadn’t been there before. Did she want me as I wanted her?