A Rose in Winter
She glided silently into his view, the witch’s element in her alive again. Starlight gilded her hair silver, lit her cheekbones, glistened on her lips. He found it painful to meet her eyes, impossible not to remember her kiss, her body, or that long, innocent night they shared of which she remembered nothing.
“Damon, I am uncertain of how to say this to you.”
His attention honed in on her with jagged speed. “Yes?”
She tilted her head to look up at him. “I believe we are headed the wrong way, somewhat too westerly. I didn’t wish to say anything in front of the others, but if we keep going this way, we won’t reach Ironstag in time.”
He fought against the disappointment, telling himself he had no right to expect anything else from her. Certainly nothing personal. Certainly nothing so outrageous as an admission of attraction, or love. Still, he had been expecting this particular conversation from her sooner or later, knowing how observant she was. He would have preferred it to have been later.
“What do you mean, ‘in time’?” he asked, stalling.
“Winter is here. Snow is coming. We’ll want to reach Ironstag before the first of the storms hit, which means we’ll need to ride longer to make up for the lost time. We’ll have about four days before it begins.”
The solution leapt out at him. It was so simple, he wanted to laugh with the discovery of it. He turned away from her to study the stars again. “If what you say is true,” he said finally, “then Wolfhaven is much closer.”
She paused, considering this. “You would take me to Wolfhaven?”
He heard the quiet wonder in her voice, and closed his eyes to hide the relief he felt. Let it work, he prayed, please, Lord, let it work. “It would seem to be best, don’t you think?”
She said nothing, but turned her head to follow his gaze to a slanted row of three glimmering stars: Orion’s belt. Right now the constellation hung low in the sky, so close that it seemed on top of them, the eternal hunter returning with each winter season. It was her favorite constellation, had always been. He knew that.
“At Wolfhaven,” said Damon in his peaceful voice, “the spires touch the heavens. It’s easy to believe you can reach out and sweep the stars from the sky into the palm of your hand.”
Longing filled her, a violent yearning for a place she had visited ten thousand times over in her dreams. I want this, she cried in her heart, please, let me have it now, at last. Let me have it for this small time and I’ll be good forevermore. Oh, please.
“Wolfhaven,” she whispered, and it was all he needed to hear.
Excerpted from A Rose in Winter by Shana Abé. Copyright © 1998 by Shana Abé. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.