Love Me, Still - Maya Banks Page 0,2

something so horrible?”

Lorna stood, her eyes blazing. She strode over to where Heather struggled to stand again. She raised her hand and slapped Heather across her bruised cheek. The crack rang out through the air.

“Don’t you ever speak of love to me,” her mates’ mother screamed. “You have betrayed us all. You are as dead to us as Magnus is.”

Heather’s head snapped back, and she fell backward into the snow. The sky spun crazily above her, and she knew without a doubt, the world had gone mad. Maybe she had died back there. Maybe she hadn’t survived the brutal attack on her.

“Niko,” she whispered. She needed Niko. He knew. He would tell them what had happened.

“You dare speak the name of the noble warrior you murdered,” Lorna hissed. “You aren’t fit to speak his name.”

Heather looked up to see her mates flank their mother. Cael slid an arm around her thin shoulders.

“Come away, Mother,” he said in a low voice.

“Don’t go!” Heather cried.

Only Riyu turned to look at her again. His eyes brimmed with pain and sorrow.

“We loved you, Heather. We would have done anything for you. We would have loved and cared for you forever. And you threw it all away for what? Why do you hate us so much? My father took you in as one of his own. He loved you like a daughter. You repaid him with treachery.”

She watched as he turned his back on her and walked away. In the distance, her mates shifted to wolves. They hovered around Magnus’ body before gripping his fur in their mouths to drag him away.

They were leaving her. Panic swelled and exploded inside her. She was badly hurt. She would die here without their aid. More than that, she’d die without their love.

“Don’t go,” she croaked as tears flooded her eyes and spilled down her cheeks. “I love you. I need you,” she whispered.

Chapter Two

Heather awoke and tugged the heavy furs closer around her body. Then she waited. Hoping this would be a day she could wake without the overwhelming deluge of pain.

Grief soared through her, leaving her weak and limp against the makeshift bed. Her body still hadn’t healed from the attack three weeks ago, but her soul had suffered the most damage. Irreparable damage.

A thump alerted her to John Quincy’s presence in the old cabin. The front door opened, and a rush of cold air blew in before he quickly slammed it shut again.

She looked up from her pallet by the fireplace to see him hauling a small fir tree across the floor.

“Good morning, girl. You feeling better today?” the older man asked.

She nodded just as she did every morning, and he harumphed as he did every morning when he saw the lie in her eyes.

“What’s that?” she asked as she struggled against the pain to sit up.

He quirked a bushy eyebrow at her. “What does it look like, a grizzly bear?”

She tried to smile but gave up. Smiling took too much effort.

He sighed. “It’s a Christmas tree, girl. Thought it might cheer you up. I have a few baubles we can hang on it to make it pretty. We can even string some popping corn if you promise not to eat it all.”

She did smile then. She loved Christmas. Had told him so during one of their long conversations on the cold nights in front of the fire.

“There, that’s better,” he said approvingly. “Smiling ain’t so bad, now is it?”

She looked down, wondering for the hundredth time what she would have done if the old trapper hadn’t come across her lying in the snow. Lying there wishing for death to come quickly so she could turn off the pain.

John Quincy set the tree in a corner and moved to the fire to warm his hands. After rubbing them together a few seconds, he turned his attention to her.

“Let me have a look at that leg I set. I reckon it might be time to take the splints off. You’ll more than likely walk with a limp for a while, but in the end, you should be good as new.”

She allowed him to pull back the covers, and he ran his gnarled hands over the sturdy splints he’d secured to the sides of her leg. As gruff as he looked, he was amazingly gentle.

“Well, what do you say, girl? Are you up to trying to walk on it?”

She bit her bottom lip then nodded.

“Let me get my knife,” he said as he rose back off his