Musky stew grease still coated Rayanna’s tongue. And her host’s line of questioning didn’t help the swill of bad tastes filling her mouth. She grimaced, unable to swallow away traces of bile.
“Guilty of what?” She rose a few inches, but didn’t make it to her feet.
Reeve kicked the rocker, scooting it a couple of feet from the hearth, and stood. Rayanna gripped the arms of the keeling seat.
Spittle flew from his chapped snarl. “Sit!” He slung the last bits meat from his plate into the fire. Sparks flurried around him as he turned to face her. “You best listen close here, varmit. I got a thing or two to tell ya.”
“Varmit? If this’s how you treat a young lady, maybe I should take my chances with whatever wolves are out there.” She scrambled clumsily from the chair and stomped toward the door.
“They ain’t wolves, I tell you. But you take up with them and see if it don’t end your life.” He pointed his chin from the rifle to her hand on the doorknob. “Whether at my hand or theirs.”
She tightened her grip on the knob. “You plan to kill me like some animal? You’re c-crazy.”
“I’m lot of things, but I ain’t bats.” He arched his brows. “And you ain’t no young lady, neither.”
He stabbed a crooked, thick-nailed finger at her. “That’s the question. You one of their kind? Or one of mine?”
She twisted the handle while thoughts spun through her mind. Could she sprint into the woods before he shot her in the back? With the knob’s click, chills traced her spine. Her first step over that threshold would seal her death sentence.
Rayanna pried her fingers from the door handle.
“That’s it.” He sneered. “Come have yerself a seat.”
As she shuffled to the wobbling rocker, her sour gut careened. She grit her teeth in an attempt to anchor the dizzy sway of her head. The floorboards seemed to shift like a boat’s deck beneath her steps. Upon reaching the chair, she grabbed its unsteady back. “So, what is it you need to tell me?”
“A story.” He swept an open hand toward the seat. As she forced herself to settle into the rocker, he returned to his perch on the hearth. “Your story.”
*** TO BE CONTINUED ***