When he gripped me by the wrist and whispered to be quiet, I knew that it hadn’t been my imagination, that there really was something outside the tent. It had been two days since he had taken me hostage, near the front gates of my Forentui family compound. He’d planned well, using an untraceable vegetable cart and crafting a cloaked tent, that blended with the walls of the dead end alley where we were hidden.
I had felt him watching me for months, during my carefully orchestrated trips to various markets. He’d make a point of saying something to me each time, before blending back into the crowd. I’d see him smiling from across the street, or a quick wave from a park bench. So I wasn’t entirely surprised when he decided to claim his bride the old fashioned way. He was from a different clan, with bad blood between his and ours, so he knew that asking for my hand from my brothers was futile at best, and possibly dangerous too.
We said little to each other. I thought his chances were low and didn’t want to get too attached. I was attracted to him, despite my best attempts to be unflappable, and didn’t want to fill my head with girlish fancy notions about a life with him. My brothers would find him soon enough.
“You’ve made it farther than the others,” I said, after the first day was over.
He grinned. “I expected to. I know what I am doing.”
“Do you?” I murmured. “The others lost a thumb for their trouble. You’d better hope my brothers are in a good mood…or you might lose something even more valuable…..”
I stared pointedly at his lap and then raised my eyes to him. He laughed.
“Ah, but you’d be sad if I lost that, wouldn’t ye? “
My answer was to move to the other side of the tent and pull my hood down so my eyes were hidden. I couldn’t hide the fact that I wanted him to win. If he was able to keep me hidden and with him for three days, then the bans would be posted on the front gate for all to see and we would be wed. It was part of the laws of my clan. But if my brothers were able to find us before then, we were lost to each other forever.
There was another noise outside the tent. Had they found us? There was only 12 hours to go. They were running out of time. I could only imagine the favors they had called in, on their search.
He slowly pulled down the small flap at eye level he used to scan the outside. He looked and then drew back, startled. Then looked again.
“It’s my blasted dog! My buddy was keeping him for me…..he must have gotten loose and come hunting for me. He’s a great hunter, that one. ” He grinned, despite himself and opened the large flap to let his dog inside. A large dog in high spirits bounded in, tail wagging fiercely.
“You’d best check him.”
He looked at me and then ran his hands over the dog’s body quickly and within a minute found a small persnu tracking wire. He cursed, and jumped up.
“We’re moving NOW. They’ve found us.”