Love Me, Still - Maya Banks Page 0,3


He went to the area of the cabin that served as the kitchen and rummaged around in the cabinet before returning with a sharp hunting knife. He cut open the cloth surrounding the splints then gently eased the wood away from her leg.

“Move your foot around a bit,” he encouraged. “Then we’ll have you stand up and test it out.”

She flexed her foot, wincing when her muscles protested the action.

“It’ll hurt a little,” he cautioned. “Nothing to worry about, though.”

He curled his arms underneath her back and waist, and she put out her hand.

“You can’t pick me up,” she protested.

He chuckled. “Me, can’t pick up a little bit of a thing like you? How do you think I got you here? Girl, I’ve hauled an eight hundred pound grizzly out of the woods to skin.”

She found herself lifted as he stood to his full height.

“Now, I’m going to set you down nice and easy. Take most of your weight with your good leg. Try not to overdo it.”

Her foot hit the floor, and she gritted her teeth as her various body parts protested her being upright. After three weeks of lying down, her body was weak and shaky. She’d barely even sat up each time she had to relieve herself.

John Quincy held her around the waist as she eased her bad leg down. Then she shifted her weight to both legs equally. Her knee buckled and he caught her before she crumbled to the floor.

He half carried her, half assisted her over to the small table and plopped her down in the chair.

“There now, you just sit there and get your bearings while I rustle us up some breakfast. Then you can supervise while I get the tree all decorated.”

Tears filled her eyes as she looked at the grizzled old man. “Thank you, John Quincy. I can’t ever hope to repay you for your kindness.”

His expression softened. “Now, girl, don’t go getting all teary-eyed on me. That pack of yours ought to be hunted down, shot and made into fur rugs for what they done to you.”

She hung her head as John Quincy started puttering around the kitchen. She hadn’t wanted him to know about the wolves at all, but he’d known of their existence a long time before Heather had ever set foot in these mountains. He’d known Magnus himself when he was younger. Called him friend.

Once she’d realized he knew of her wolves, she’d poured out the whole story to him, going through an entire box of tissue in the process. He’d jokingly told her he hoped he didn’t catch cold this winter because she’d used his entire supply up and he wouldn’t get more until the spring.

She looked back up at John Quincy. “Will it ever stop hurting?” she asked in a soft voice.

Kindness softened the wrinkles under his eyes. “It will, girl. In time. One day you’ll wake up and not hurt as much as the day before. And the next will hurt less than that day. It takes time, but you’re a survivor. More importantly you’re a good, sweet girl. You don’t deserve what happened to you, but I have no doubt it’ll make you stronger.”

* * *

Cael trotted toward the spacious cabin that served as his and Riyu’s quarters. He’d run along the ridge of the mountain until he’d panted for air. But still, the pain squeezing his chest wouldn’t dissipate. He could deny it all he wanted but he missed her.

She’d betrayed them, murdered two of his pack, but he still ached for her. He longed to go back before it all had happened. To the nights she lay between him and Riyu, her silky hair splayed out over his shoulder as she slept in the shelter of his arms.

His nose curled as he began his transformation back to human. No matter how he tried, he couldn’t rid himself of the smell of the hunters that had lingered with her scent that final day. She had reeked of them.

As he conjured his clothing and started for the door to his cabin, the remembered scent, the foul odor, was replaced by a more familiar smell. One that he should not be smelling.

He yanked around to stare across the snow-covered ground. In the distance he heard a yip. Niko. It couldn’t be. It simply couldn’t be. He’d disappeared the day Cael’s father had died. Believed dead at the hands of the hunters. And of his mate. Could he have escaped and only now made his