She's not dead. No! I won't let her be. But as I press my hands against her back, I feel it is useless. She's lifeless and limp. Her heart is barely beating and she's not breathing. I know I must get the water out of her. I must. Brianna flutters her eyes open as she begins to cough. She is on her stomach, her body drapes over a wet rock, and a knee is against the back of her ribcage. She coughs again and moans.
"Bree!" I whisper to her.
Brianna turns her head to see my face before her as I sit beside her. "What…?" She reaches back and slaps me in the face. "That's for tossing me off a cliff, bastard!"
My ears flatten against my head as I whimper.
"I didn't slap you that hard," she says with concern that she hurt myfeelings. She props herself up, turning her head to see Rodd's knee up in the air towards her. "What are you doing?" She blinks at Rodd, who lowers his knee and coughs.
"I was pushing the water out of you," he says.
"Are you hurt?" I ask her.
"Can you walk?" Rodd asks.
Brianna shakes her head. "I'm fine," she says to me as she sits up on the rock. She has been distracted by the fall, the knee to the back, and the questions that she seems to have forgotten about the pain in her side. She looks up at Rodd, who crosses his arms with a frown.
He is soaked to the bone, his moppish hair wet and ratty and his clothing sticks to his skin. Droplets of water drips from his nose. He breathes hard as his eyes turn towards me, his face beginning to turn pink.
I sit before Brianna, my fur sticks flat against my body. My tail wags lightly, sending drops of water in various directions. "But you're otherwise not hurt?" I ask her.
"We need to get you out of those wet clothes," I say.
Rodd's eyes widen and he clenches his jaw.
"What is it?" Brianna asks Rodd, who ignores her.
I look up at Rodd and back away from Brianna. I rise to my feet and stand tall, though I am still shorter than Rodd. My ears flatten against my head and curl my lip into a snarl.
"Stop it," Brianna slaps her hand onto the rock beneath her. She rubs her head with her hand, closing her eyes against the pain that once again begins to throb in her side. She opens her eyes. "Where's Will?"
I have taken off into the bushes away from her and him, though I stay within earshot. I cannot bear to be around that stinky human.
"Does it matter?" Rodd asks, untying the cloak from her neck and wringing out the excess water from the fabric. He turns and walks about ten feet to a small patch of clear dirt, where he squats until he has built a small fire.
Brianna keeps her eye on the darkness that surrounds them. Does she wonder where I've gone? Was she too hard on me? Did she hurt my feeling when she slapped me moments before? Am I upset with her that they could not find Hammond? I can see it in her face. Her thoughts race through her mind and it reflects in her frown. Though her lips are perfectly pink and plump, they turn downward as she looks around. She looks lightheaded but she plays it off. Instead, she sits patiently upon the rock, staring into the woods.
"Didn't William say that this was the other side of the Dragonscale Mountains?" she asks, finally breaking the silence.
"I don't know," Rodd replies. He stinks of lust all the way from over there, nearly twenty feet away from me. It hangs in the air in a thick cloud around him, swallowing him and choking me.
"If that was true, we are in Mornsbreth," she says in a low voice.
"I don't know where we are," Rodd says, looking up into the night sky.
"We're in Mornsbreth," she sighs, her eyes twinkling and her expression unexpectedly joyful. "He must have gone home to fetch help."
Rodd snorts with derision. "I can't imagine something like that to have a home," he says, standing and stretching his legs.
"He said he's from Mornsbreth," she replies as he approaches her.
His eyes narrow and his expression changes as he fumbles with the laces of her bodice. He loosens them, untying the bow, and pulling out the excess string, his eyes focusing on her.
My breath becomes heavy as I watch him. The creature urges me to intervene and claim what is mine. For a moment, I almost allow myself to be consumed by the creature, but my human side resists the temptation.
"Rodd," her breath quickens as he pulls on the straps that keeps her bodice tight around her waist and breasts. "What are you…?" She slaps his hands away as he manages to undo the corset.
"You need to get out of those wet clothes," he says with a smirk.
Her eyes widen. "Rodd, stop!" she cries as he grips her wrists and pins them to her sides.
He leans forward. "I don't know why you're fighting this," he whispers in her ear. "This wouldn't be the first time I've seen you…"
Brianna lowers her head away from him. "That's the past," she says in a low voice. "This isn't what I want…"
"And what about what I want?" He releases her and steps back. "I want my father to be alive with me. Instead, he's dead. And that filthy mongrel is alive and doing God knows what." He stares down at her. "You were willing to heal that beast but wouldn't even try for my father."
"I told you," she says. "It's not that simple. Rodd, I can't control it." Tears begin streaming down her face.
Rodd shakes his head. "All I ask is for a little comfort," he says with a quivering lip. His eyes well up with tears as he looks at her.
Her face has the expression of guilt as her eyes lower and she bites her lip. "I'm sorry," she says, opening her arms to him.
He slowly enters into her embrace, squeezing tightly as he presses himself against her cold wet body. His lips curve into a sly smirk as his hands roam her body freely. "I'm glad you're here," he says, resting his chin on her shoulder.
A growl rumbles in my throat as she folds her arms around his neck and strokes his hair. Tears trail down her face and she stifles a sob. "It's all right," she says as he sniffles into her shoulder. "Everything's going to be fine." She must have heard me as she turns her head and releases Rodd from her arms.
"I didn't mean to intrude." I say. My eyes narrow at Rodd, who is still invasively close to Brianna.
Brianna lowers her eyes, unable to look me in the face. Is she ashamed of herself for her actions?
Rodd turns his head up towards me and gives me a scowl. He storms towards the fire, where he squats with his back turned to us.
"I shouldn't have come back," I mutter under my breath.
Brianna remains silent, her eyes still lowered so she would not meet my gaze. She bites her lip as she removes her corset, allowing the blouse beneath to billow out a little. Her top is so thin when wet that it is easy to notice the shape of her bosom as they heave beneath the clinging gauzy fabric. My eyes wash over her but she still does not lift her eyes but blushes with embarrassment. "Where did you go?"
"I needed some air… some time to think."
"You're turning pink," I say as I stand before her with my arms crossed over my chest. "Do you need help?"
She shakes her head.
"Are you sure?"
"I saw you," I say to her.
The blood flushes out from her face and her heart pounds as though it would stop at any moment. "I…"
"You and him," I say in a low growl. "He's not what you think he is, Bree."
"What?" She looks up into my face.
"What did he say to you?"
"He just wanted some comfort," she says innocently.
"Is that before or after he tried to undress you?"
She lowers her eyes and her cheeks blush brightly. "It's not that simple," she says. "We've… we've been close before… but I didn't feel exactly what he thought I would…"
"Has he hurt you?" I ask with a snarl.
She looks up and meets my gaze. She shakes her head and swallows.
"I won't let him hurt you," I say in a whisper and turn my back to her. "Go on, get undressed."