‘He excited me, Erika. He was a bad boy. I was the good boy who grew up with braces, and glasses, and no coordination and stick-thin legs in PE class. I was a virgin until I graduated from medical school at twenty-three. I’d always done the right thing and worked hard, but Stephen was sexy and dangerous, and unpredictable. He had this sort of abrasive funniness about him….’ Isaac shrugged. ‘He was incredible in bed. I knew he wasn’t right, and he didn’t fit into my life… But I let him back in and it pushed you away… I’m sorry, Erika. You needed me, didn’t you? I even forgot about Mark, the anniversary. I’m sorry.’
You mean the astrolabe? Etta asked. I’m not trying to get in your way, I swear—A pair of hands lifted her off the ground, and the last thing she saw before her veil was dragged back across her face was Rose—her eyes wide, backing away.
Let me go! Etta said, disoriented. She was lifted off her feet and thrown over a shoulder. Nicholas, stop, it’s her!But…she sucked in another breath, the veil sticking to her lips and tongue, blinded by the fabric and her own hair. That smell—Nicholas always smelled like the sea, like soap and cedar. And now, with arms crushing around her legs, keeping her in place, all she could smell was camel—animal.They veered right just as someone let out another cry of alarm. Wood splintered against the ground, and there was the sound of something shattering a second before Etta heard the call to prayer sound over the city.
Etta’s back was suddenly drenched in heat, and the world burned a fiery red beneath her closed eyelids. Her hands were trapped beneath her, pinned to someone’s shoulders. She thrashed wildly, kicking, her screams muffled by the fabric around her.Etta’s foot hit a soft spot that brought the man to his knees. She spilled out onto hot stone and had barely crawled to her hands and knees when a sharp kick to the head sent her back down. Dust and dirt filled her mouth, grinding between her teeth as she tried to crawl away. Black and white exploded across her vision, blocking the sight of her bleeding hand against the pale stone.
There was a howl of fury and a shift in the wind at her back. Etta fell forward again, but managed to get the veil away from her face. That’s when she saw Nicholas barreling shoulder-first into one of the men she’d seen before.
People gathered around, some beginning their prayers, others arrested by the sight of Nicholas throwing his fist into one man’s face as the other attacker jumped on his back. The second attacker’s hand disappeared into the folds of Nicholas’s robe and Etta heard Nicholas cry out as he threw his head back and knocked him off.The Phoenix wolves recovered quickly enough from their shock, greeting Zac warmly and behaving fairly amicably toward Makenna. As they took their seats, no one made any teasing comments about Ryan’s display of possessiveness, although it looked as if Trick was eager to say something. Maybe he was holding back because Zac was present—she wasn’t sure. In any case, it meant that the meal wasn’t the uncomfortable affair she’d expected. Until Greta spoke.
How could you, Ryan? The old woman slammed her mug on the table. What were you thinking, branding a loner? Her I expect this behavior from, considering why her pack banished her. But you . . . I raised you better than this.Looking at her blankly, Ryan grunted.
Jaime whispered to Makenna, What did he say?Just as quietly, she replied, He thinks she has way too much time on her hands.