“How are you faring?”
Reese cut her eyes in her lifemate’s direction.
How was she faring? Did he really care? Bran brought his horse up alongside hers. Their mounts stayed in unison as he rode beside her. Lash gave his strange purr and Reese tucked him down into the basket mounted onto her horse’s hardware. Their small group had ridden flat out all that day and Bran hadn’t spoken a word to her until now.
None in the group had had much to say to each other the night prior, but today, everyone seemed to be in good spirits, and chattered nonstop, which seemed odd, if you asked Reese. Of course, no one asked.
She was the only one in a bad mood, it seemed.
And the only one in the group who appeared to worry about their welfare during this year of exile. Reese’s frown deepened at her thoughts.
The evening before their first day of banishment, they’d ridden just a few hours before bedding down for the night.
Now it appeared her lifemate planned to ride on and on with no stopping in sight.
No plans to prepare for the evening before dusk fell and no concern she’d informed him several miles back that she was tired.
“Where are we going, lifemate? I told Shaya we were being led in circles by you. I swear we passed the same rock formations twice today. I have to wonder, do you know what you are doing?”
At Shaya’s snicker, Bran glanced toward her and the horse she sat astride. The skin around his eyes crinkled as he smiled. He shared her amusement, it seemed. His smile faded when he looked back at Reese. Reese’s frown deepened and her posture became ramrod straight.
Everyone in the group was in too high of spirits. Ganit’s booming laughter sounded behind Reese again and she grimaced.
The sound grated.
Reese didn’t know whether everyone’s good humor annoyed because she was tired and her backside hurt or because she felt left out. It seemed everyone had been deep in conversation with each other all day except her. She’d ridden in silence.
She’d been wondering the last few hours if she hadn’t had a moment of madness in joining her lifemate instead of staying at the palace. She could have been snug within the palace walls with plans for her return home. She’d have insisted on going home.
Instead, she was eaten up with insect bites and her butt hurt and she had to listen to people laugh for no good reason.
“I want to stop for the night.
“No, I demand we stop for the night.” At her ultimatum given, Reese winced.
She really was in a foul mood.
Without a word, Shaya turned her horse toward her husband and rode away.
Bran didn’t respond as he watched her departure.
His frown sliced grooves alongside his mouth when he turned back to Reese.
“You wanted to come on this journey, brat. So I suggest you make the most of it. No games and no attitude from you. I won’t tolerate it.”
Reese leaned forward and she gave a snort. “You won’t tolerate it?”
“I’ll not warn you again.”
“I don’t understand you, lifemate. Your own father wouldn’t have allowed the disrespect you displayed toward your sister’s lifemate. You alone have caused this mess we’re in and I hold you responsible for all that will occur.”
Bran’s gaze narrowed.
Reese stood up in her stirrups. The soreness of her butt cheeks eased somewhat with the action. Her horse continued its steady, walking gait.
Bran was livid now, it seemed. Reese gave a mental shrug. She didn’t care.
“We’ll ride for a few hours more, as it isn’t dusk yet. And there are things best left unquestioned and unsaid, brat. I would advise you to remember that.”
Swiveling toward her lifemate at his cryptic remark, Reese studied him.
She plopped back down onto her saddle.
Bran’s attention swung to the horizon ahead of them. His gaze connected with Reese’s again. “We’ll stop for the evening.”
Reese’s mouth dropped open. With open-mouthed amazement, she watched as her lifemate rode toward Ganit. What had he seen that made him decide to stop for the night? Reese pulled her horse to a halt and scanned the landscape.
There was nothing of interest ahead, just looming mountains.
Reese dismounted and the others followed suit.
They led their mounts to the water of a natural watering hole close by. Wild vegetation was thick along its banks.
Slapping at an insect, Reese limped after them.
Shaya didn’t speak when she stepped up beside her.
With a long-suffering sigh, Reese stated, in an undertone, “I am tired and in a foul mood, however, I’ll try to contain it.”
“It would be for the best,” Shaya responded, giving her a sideways glance.
Reese sighed again, deeper, and Shaya turned fully towards her. “Our year of banishment won’t be so bad,” she whispered. “Ganit stated last eve that our King made sure Bran had enough drachmas for us to easily survive the year. I think the King regretted his words after they were said. But he couldn’t back down. Not after his ultimatum was given.”