Key Of Valor (Key 3) - Page 113

"Okay, boy. Christ." Still a little shaken, he started to reach out for the dog, but felt the pain shudder through his hand. Turning it over, he saw the blood smeared on his palm, welling fresh from several punctures. "Well, some of it was real."

On a long breath, he shoved his bloodied hand through his hair. And the next instant was leaping out of bed. Zoe . If the blood was real, her screams might be.

He raced to her room, threw open the door. In the soft morning light he could that see her bed hadn't been slept in. Pushed by panic, he whirled to Simon's room, shuddered with relief when he saw the boy curled up with the puppy.

"Stay with him." Brad ordered Moe into the room. "You stay with him," he repeated, then tore downstairs to look for Zoe.

Shouting for her now, he burst into the great room just in time to see her stumble in from the deck.

* * *

When she opened her eyes, Zoe saw Brad's face, pale, with his hair tousled around it.

"You need a haircut," she mumbled.

"Christ Jesus, Zoe." He gripped her hand hard enough to rub bone against bone. "What the hell were you doing outside? What happened? No, quiet." He snapped himself back from the line of utter terror. "Lie still. I'll get you some water."

He hurried to the kitchen, filled a glass, then just braced his hands on the counter while he fought to steady his pulse.

Ordering himself to take slow, deep breaths, he washed the blood off his hands, then picked up the glass of water and went back to her.

She was sitting up now, and the color was back in her cheeks. He'd never seen anyone so white as she'd been when she'd come through that doorway.

"Take it easy," he ordered. "Sip slowly."

She nodded, though it was hard to obey when her throat was on fire. "I'm okay."

"You're not okay." He didn't shout it, but there was a slapping edge to his voice. "You fainted. You've got a bruise on your face and blood on your hands. You're not fucking okay."

It was amazing how he did that, she thought. How he never raised his voice, but managed to have the temper and the authority crush you into dust.

"It's not my blood. It's his." It steadied her to see it again. To know what she'd done. "I scratched his goddamn face. I have good, strong nails, and I tore that bastard's cheeks open with them. It felt great."

She handed Brad the empty glass, and because she thought they both could use it, kissed his cheek. "I'm sorry I scared you. I was… oh!" On a sound of distress, she snatched his hand. "You're all scratched and cut."

"I had a little adventure in the woods while you were… whatever you were doing." "He worked on both of us," Zoe said softly. "But we're here, we're right here, aren't we?" She lifted his wounded hand to her lips. "Let's go clean up these cuts, and you'll tell me what happened to you. I'll tell you what happened to me, but first I want you to know something."

She took his face in her hands, looked into his eyes. "I want you to know it's going to be all right. Everything's going to be all right. Let's go in the kitchen. I want to wash my hands, bandage yours, and make some coffee."

She drew a breath and got to her feet. Her legs were steady, she noted with some pride. And her mind was set. "We'll talk about the rest while I work."


"I've got a turkey to stuff."

Chapter Nineteen

"I don't know how you can be so calm." Malory washed fresh cranberries at the kitchen sink.

"Oh, I've roasted turkeys before." Zoe shot a grin over her shoulder and continued to prepare the yams.

"I don't know how she can be such a smart-ass," Dana commented, scowling at the mountain of potatoes she had yet to peel. "You'd think a pissing match with an evil sorcerer god, a fainting spell, and cooking for an army would spoil her mood, but oh, no, our Zoe's in some form today."

"It's Thanksgiving."

"Which forces me to broach the question." Dana frowned at her paring knife. "Why are the three of us doing all the work in here while the men laze around like kings?"

"I wanted the three of us to be alone for a while," Zoe told Dana. "This was the simplest way."

Tags: Nora Roberts Key Fantasy
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