“Damn it all, I just bought these.”
“You mean I just bought them,” Devlin said in the snotty tone he only used when he was in a truly foul mood and wanted company for his misery.
Neirin looked up from his charred and blood-spattered trousers, casting Devlin a look that held every bit of the ire he was feeling. “Shove off, Winterbourne, or I’ll toss you right into that pile of ash and stomp on you. The trousers were bought with your coin because the pair they replaced was set on fire. By you. While I was wearing them. I think I’ll throw you in that ash anyway.”
“Someone is getting tetchy,” Devlin drawled. “Lack of food? Lack of sleep?”
Refusing to dignify that by acknowledging it was said, Neirin bent to retrieve his poor sword, which looked the worse for wear after their fight with rogue wolves and a handful of particularly nasty trolls. Standing, he pulled a piece of cloth from an inner pocket of his jacket and tried to clean the worst of the mess from the blade. He frowned at the nicks and a scratch that no amount of buffing was going to save. Damn it.
He shoved the sword back in its sheath and tried to think of something else. Troyes growled sleepily beside him and rubbed his head along Neirin’s thigh. Neirin stroked his scales, silently soothing him. “Food soon, I promise.” He looked at Devlin. “Are we done here?”
“One should hope.” Devlin threw out a hand to recall his runes, kissing the last as he dropped them into the bag in his jacket. “Let’s be on our way. The sun is rising faster than any of us wants.” He strode off across the yard, looping around the house rather than choosing to cut through it.
Once had certainly been enough. Neirin dragged himself after Devlin, fighting the exhaustion that washed over him but not quite managing to stifle a yawn. The carriage was where they’d left it, the horses waiting patiently… but there was no Barra or Midnight.
“Would it be so difficult for people to stay where I tell them just once?” Devlin grumbled.
“Oh, yes, because you did such a bang-up job of staying where you were told last month when we were dealing with that demon,” Neirin said.
Devlin didn’t bother to look at him as he replied with a few choice words regarding Neirin’s parentage.
“You two are in fine form tonight,” said a smooth, cheerful voice.
Neirin could practically see the unhappiness drain from Devlin’s body as he turned and held fast to the figure that practically threw himself into Devlin’s arms. Devlin kissed him softly and then drew back with a stern frown. “Where did you go?”
Midnight rolled his eyes. “We made one last sweep of the house and two more of the little terrors bolted into the woods. They’re gone now. Barra stopped at a creek to wash the blood from his hands.”
“Fat lot of good that did,” Barra grumbled as he came out of the woods, clothes a bit askew and a leaf in his hair. He smiled when he saw them, laughing softly as he reached Neirin. He pulled a kerchief from his jacket pocket and reached up to wipe at Neirin’s cheek. “Ash.”
Neirin captured his chin and leaned down to kiss him, enjoying the smell of fresh leaves that clung to him and a faint tang that belonged wholly to his werewolf blood. He smiled as he drew back. “Shall we be on our way now that this little side trip is at an end?”
“Yes, we shall,” Devlin groused and climbed into the carriage.
Barra lifted his eyes to the sky then slipped away to mount the driver’s seat. Next to Neirin, Troyes shifted into his human form. He smoothed down his clothes then lifted his head in silent demand. Neirin gladly acquiesced and kissed him, the hot, metallic scent and taste of dragon surrounding him, mingling in his mouth with the lingering taste of Barra. If there was anything better than his dragon and his wolf, Neirin never wanted to know it.
Troyes nuzzled against him and slipped away to join Barra. “Wolf-elf kiss.”
“Stop trying to be bossy.” But even as he issued the reprimand Barra was leaning in to kiss him.
Smiling, Neirin unbuckled his sword and followed Midnight into the carriage and settled across from him and Devlin, setting his sword next to him on the seat. “Well that is certainly enough of that. I suppose there is little chance of dinner now.”
“We’ll muster up something,” Midnight said with a smile. “I do not want the two of you cranky on through morning.”
Devlin grumbled, but Neirin let the words wash over him, leaning back against the plush cushion of the carriage and closing his eyes. He was tired. They’d been on the road for a month, going here and there as they tracked down the rogue monsters of an alchemist who had lost his bloody mind.
And throughout the affair—actually starting a few days before it—he’d been plagued by a constant feeling of being watched. The prickle on the back of his neck had been there so long, he was almost growing used to it. Even now his fingers itched to try and rub it away.
He ignored it. Whatever was wrong would present itself eventually, and going out to find trouble was not something he cared to do. Well, not anymore. His days of guarding the border of Clan Pendragon territory were seventy-three years in the past.