Winter Rain, part 27

Chapter 3

The back gate looms ahead, its white paint oddly bright in the grey night.

To see me running here, you’d have thought there’s no place I’d rather be. And I guess I thought the same, too. But . . . suddenly things seem different. The demons I thought I’d left behind in the dust have caught up at last. They stand at the door, waiting for me to go in.

I don’t know how I’m going to face Conlan. Or the look on Tara’s face when she sees what I did to him.

He’ll forgive me, I’m pretty sure. But she might not. She’s going to see things rather differently.

At least Faolan isn’t going to crush me for it. I did save his life, after all. He has the flesh wound to prove it. Or so Tara said. But I can’t help think that we’ve won very little, tonight—a brief reprieve before a long slide into war. Nothing’s going to change in the short term. Not yet. That’s not the way we do things. But Rian has made this whole thing very personal, and Faolan isn’t going to forget it.

Sooner or later, he’s going to want payback.

As soon as he has Keaira’s family on side, probably.

The pain has caught up with me, at last. It’s been okay when I’m running, but now that I’ve stopped, the cuts on my back burn like they’re on fire. And what was my elbow hasn’t appreciated the exercise, either. It throbs with a deep, swollen ache. I crane down to lick it clean, but that only makes the pain worse.

The image of that man, arched up in agony, clawing at the ground as his life slips away, flits around the edges of my mind.

Dead. It’s so permanent, that word.

And nobody knows but me.

I don’t know whether to be proud, or ashamed, or indifferent.

No, not indifferent. Not ever indifferent.

But who do I tell? Faolan? He’d be proud of me, for sure. And I’ll admit, I want that. For once. It would be nice.

But I’m not sure I want him to be proud of me for this. I know I should, but just I can’t feel right about it.

I guess, eventually . . . that’ll change.

The night air smells of autumn—wet, decaying leaves and cold earth. I can smell the river, too, in the mist that is slowly rising from the forest around me. I shiver, despite my fur. But I’m just restless.

Screw it.

I step through the gateway and into the back yard. There are lights on in several windows. One of them Conlan’s. Tara’s is dark.

Whatever. It’s done.

It’s so done.

I change and step inside.

“Tiergan!” Sheridan says, from the kitchen, as I enter. “We were starting to worry. You’re the last one in.”

“Yeah, sorry,” I say and nod. “I needed to run a bit.” It’s sort of a lie, but . . . .

“Of course,” she nods. I feel as if she is looking straight through me, but she betrays nothing about what she’s seeing there. “Tara told me what happened. It was a good call, tonight, Tiergan. Faolan owes you his life. Cormac, too, probably.” She smiles. Like I’d done nothing but right, tonight.

I nod. I should be flattered, pleased. But it just won’t sink in.

“Conlan made it back okay?” I ask, looking down the hallway to the front door.

Tara’s shoes are sitting on the mat.

“Mmm, hmm. Tara’s with him now.” My heart sinks as she says it. I’d hoped I’d get to tell her before she saw him.

“Don’t worry. He’ll be okay in a few days.”

I nod, but don’t turn.

“Faolan’s in the den. He won’t be running for a week or so, but he’ll be okay, too. Get dressed, first, then go see him.

“He’s waiting for you.”

6 Responses to “Winter Rain, part 27”

  1. srsuleski says:

    Dun Dun DUN!!!!!

    I liked it.

  2. Vercin says:

    I like it, but I also think if he doesn’t have the pack’s support covering up his poorly-covered murder scene, complete with bloody fingerprints, he’s going to be in an even bigger world of hurt. I sure hope the truth of that one comes out.

    Wait, I’m cheering for a murderer? Chris, quit messing with my head!

    Oh, and did all the arterial blood he was covered with fall off when he changed, kinda like those Stain Defender(R) khakis? If not, I imagine several people woulda noticed that . . . 

  3. No, it doesn’t just come off, for sure.  I realized after I posted that Tara should have made some note of it at the end of 26, even in the dark.  Unfortunately, it was a bit too late to do anything about it.

    As for the blood now, all I’m going to say is that a “dog” splashing through a wading pool or river in the park draws very little attention, especially at night.

    As for longer-term consequences, we shall see.  :-)

  4. srsuleski says:

    Stain Defender™ Werewolves.  I love it.

  5. Paizleigh says:

    Just read through the whole story to date and I like it (although it did take a minute to figure out what kind of creatures we were dealing with). Well written and exciting, can’t wait for more

  6. Hi Paizleigh — thanks for checking in.  Glad you are enjoying it.  I owe an installment in the next 45 minutes, but I’m racing for a deadline on another project, so I’m probably not going to make it.  :-(  Soon, though.

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