Unbidden (Evolution Series #1) by Jill Hughey
He came upon them quickly, the man holding Rochelle not even realizing he’d been discovered. David squinted through the darkness in disbelief. It was Sewell, the pimply neighbor, with one arm around Rochelle’s neck and the other looped under one of her thighs, holding it up high as he tried to force her onto a wild-eyed pony that sidestepped away from Rochelle as vigorously as she did from it. Sewell yanked on her. “Get on the horse, Rochelle. Get on it!”
“Let go of me, you troll!” she screeched, struggling against him as best she could on one foot.
David assessed the boy instantly, not seeing any weapons. “Do as she says if you want to live,” David ordered quietly, barely contained anger coursing through him. The scene before him stilled. Rochelle was panting, her eyes searching for him in the dark as she balanced awkwardly on one foot.
“Who is there?” Sewell asked nonsensically.
“I am Death if you do not get your filthy hands off of her.”
“Who is it?” Sewell asked again, this time shaking Rochelle to encourage her to answer.
“Stop that!” she ordered, then added, “It is David, you idiot.”
“David? The Bavarian?” He let go of Rochelle’s leg in his incredulity and finally located David’s dark outline. “But...but you are not supposed to be here until tomorrow.”
“I think I am exactly where I ought to be tonight. You, on the other hand….”
“Fardulf!” Sewell called over his shoulder, his voice cracking, “Get up here! I need your help!”
A moaning reply came from the darkness some distance away. “I have got her blade stuck in my thigh up to the hilt. I think I am dying!”
“Rochelle, are there only the two?” David asked.
She blinked at him. “Yes, just –“
Sewell jerked at her neck while taking hold of her arm in a painful, wrenching hold “Be quiet!” he ordered.
Rochelle cried out again and David had had enough. He moved like a shadow to get behind Sewell. He grabbed him by the hair on the back of his head. The coward actually whimpered. “Do not stick me,” he pleaded.
David spoke. “Rochelle, he is about to let you go. You will move away from him, to my side. You will not run. Do you understand?” His voice carried authority in a world gone completely mad.
“Yes,” she croaked.
“Sewell,” David continued, “you have two choices. Let her go now, or I will shove this blade through your ribs so you can drown in your own blood. Quick, boy!”
David felt Sewell’s grip begin to slacken. Rochelle wrenched away and whirled, slapping Sewell so hard his head jerked to one side, almost loosening David’s hold on him. She was only vaguely aware of Sewell calling her a bitch and David growling another threat at him. She unconsciously shook her hand at the sting of her palm. Free of her attacker, free from having to worry about getting free, her mind began to wander, unable to assimilate everything that had happened.
“Rochelle!” David said sharply as her gaze meandered toward the view of the house over the wall, the twinkling of lamps visible in upstairs windows. She wanted to go there. She should rightfully be safe inside her house. But David — aggravating Bavarian! — spoke again, pulling back the blanket of numbness her mind kept wrapping around her. “Come to me.” He had let go of Sewell, keeping his spata pressed at the boy’s ribs. He held his free arm out to her. She walked woodenly to him, keeping a wary eye on the whimpering Sewell. As David wrapped his arm around her waist, she curled into his side. “Not yet,” he ordered. “Be strong a few more minutes and walk with me.” She did not want to walk. She wanted him to hold her. His arm urged her forward. She saw the spata in his other hand shining weakly in the night as he prodded Sewell ahead of them.
The strange threesome moved almost silently through the dark until David whispered urgently, “I smell blood. Are you hurt? Are you cut?”
She reacted slowly. “No,” she said with a hollow voice. “No, I do not think so.” Her neck was sore and her leg felt scratchy. Neither were sensations on which she could wholly concentrate.
They were almost to the gate, unaccountably closed, with a torch burning in front. Who would have closed it?
“Theo, will you open that gate?” David roared, startling Rochelle so much that she nearly spun away from him.
“Working on it,” Theo called back. “The whole damned brace has been meddled with!”
“Theophilus?” Sewell whined. “ Oh, God in heaven, he cannot see me here!” He broke away to run back toward his horse. David cursed under his breath as he stepped away from Rochelle. He pulled his semi-spata out of its sheath to quickly throw it, catching Sewell in the back of the thigh. The young man dropped with a shriek, then laid writhing and crying out in the grass, his hands clutched around his leg.
A volley of inquiries erupted from behind the gate. “We are fine,” David shouted back. “Just keep working on that bar!”
Rochelle swayed on her feet. David clamped his arm around her waist, guiding her to the hinged side of the gate. “Sit down here,” he said, trying to help her down.
“No, I want to go inside,” she said, a hint of desperation in her voice.
“Rochelle, is that you?” Marian’s voice cried.
“Mother?” Rochelle answered, pounding against the gate. “Let me in!”
“Sit down and be quiet!” David insisted. She turned, hurt and confused by his sharp words. Didn’t he know she needed his kindness? To make matters worse, she heard Theo rebuke Marian when she began to sob words in the native language she only lapsed into in times of deep distress.
“Sit here, with your back in this corner,” David repeated. Rochelle let him lower her, then clung to his clothing like a child. He glanced nervously behind him as he pried her hands away. He swept his cloak off to wrap her in it. She buried her face in the folds, breathing in the smell and the warmth.
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