Eve covered her head and crouched low in the raspberry patch. She concentrated on not making a sound. The blare of the horn and the cries of the hunters faded. Lowering her hands, she strained her ears. Not even the echo of their crashing in the distance remained. The birds stayed silent, but considering the recent ruckus, they might have all fled.
A groan broke the unnatural silence.
She froze and listened, heart in her throat. A pained, male grunt came from about three feet to her left. Cautiously she turned her head. A stranger stared at her through the tangle of bushes between them.
A wild mess of brown hair fell over his dark blue eyes as he regarded her in alarm. Sweat plastered the hair to his forehead. He observed her with more of a feverish glaze than true understanding. Pain etched lines about his eyes.
He opened his mouth as if to speak, but then shook his head. Falling forward, he then rolled onto his back and lay still.
Eve hurried to untangle the thorns from her tunic.
Free at last, she crept out of the patch and approached him. Fear and instinct screamed she should flee. Instead she paused. If she stopped to help him, she would be beaten. Her master warned her to stay away from the king’s men.
Well, the king’s men or not, the pursuers were gone. As their prey, he could hardly be one of them. Was he worse?
She inched forward and a twig snapped under her knee.
“Go away and leave me be,” he ordered.
“What will become of you?”
He stared into the sky above the trees. “My pursuers return.” His chest still heaved from his recent exertion. “I die.” Restlessly, his hand clenched and released at his side as though he was fighting the urge to run.
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