“Tell me about the journey,” Samantha said, keeping pace beside him. “You said something about a desert?”
“Yes. We’ll have to cross the Marwolaeth Grim.”
“What does that mean?”
He hesitated before answering, “The grim death.”
Her eyes widened and she gulped. “Sounds charming. I can’t wait.”
“It’s better than the alternative. The forest is faster but teeming with demons and werewolves. The desert may be harsh but it’s safer.” Now probably wasn’t a good time to mention the desert beasts. Not as deadly as demons but still something to fear.
“Well, I’ve always dreamt of a sandy vacation. I was thinking more like Maui or Cancun, but, hey, the Grim Desert makes for a great postcard. Maybe I can pick up a souvenir T-shirt. I’m thinking” – she gestured across her breasts – “I survived the Desert of Death.”
He laughed out loud. Damn he liked her spirit.
Her face fell. “That’s if I survive.”
He couldn’t understand why but he had to touch her then. Snatching her hand in his, he gave it a squeeze. “You’ll survive, dove. I won’t let anything hurt you.”
She looked down at their hands intertwined. “Uh, thanks.” She pulled away, leaving his palm empty.
He tucked his hand in his pocket and cursed himself for soothing her. This was no time to get sentimental. “Right. Well, a dead witch is a useless witch.”
“Yeah, yeah,” she mumbled.
They walked in silence for a long time. He expected her to start prattling about insignificant topics any moment. One thing he remembered about women – they rarely stayed silent. But Samantha seemed content in it. Each time he looked at her, she appeared lost in thought, her forehead crinkled as she peered around them. He found himself curious what she was thinking.
He shook his head. Don’t get too close. She was a means to an end, nothing more. He’d be leaving her in the hands of the vicious Underworld Games guard in just a few short days. Stay detached. Focus on getting home.
At the border of his property, the trees began to thin. The grass disappeared, giving way to rocks and sand. They stepped out of the trees and gazed upon the desert.
Samantha stood beside him. “Oh, this is gonna suck.”
Destiny Bewitched, June 2012