“In this night and in this hour, we ask the Ancients for this power. Send us now across the sea, to be back with our family.” Liz glanced to the moon, now completely red with the full eclipse.
Several feet below them the circle of people stared. “If the Ancients will it so, send us now and let us go.”
The air thinned and the stars around them swirled until they appeared as streaks of light. Fin held her hands with such a firm grip she thought they’d break but didn’t dare let go.
They were moving. Time shifting.
The cool air hit her senses first, then the quick thud of landing, which wasn’t all that soft. They tumbled to the ground with such force, they released each other’s hands.
When Liz’s head stopped spinning, she opened her eyes to see the forest where she and Fin had made love prior to their journey in time.
They were back. She could feel it.
“We did it,” she called back to Fin.
Expecting an instant response, her heart fell in her chest when he didn’t.
She sat up and saw his frame a few feet away.
“Good God, don’t scare me like that. For a minute I didn’t think we both made it.”
Fin didn’t respond.
She hurried to his side. He lay there, eyes closed. Liz shook his shoulders, trying to wake him.
Had he fainted during the trip?
“Fin. Wake up.”
He didn’t. Liz smoothed his hair out of his eyes.
Something slick and warm coated her hand. Terror swam over her every bone. “Fin?”
She pulled the sticky substance to her nose, but she already knew what it was. Under Fin’s head was a rock, covered in blood.
“No. Please God, no.”
Liz pulled their backpacks to his side, found his twenty first century T-shirt, and pushed it against his wound. “Come on, Finlay. Wake up. Don’t do this to me.”
She needed help, but had no idea where anyone was. Simon! She yelled in her head. Simon, where are you? Liz held her breath, hoping Simon could hear her. She didn’t even see smoke from the camp. For all she knew, the MacCoinnichs had left.
“Please, Simon. Hear me.”
A rustle in the trees brought the hair on her nape to a stand. She watched as a wolf emerged from the bush, its tail bent low. “Simon, is that you?”
Instead of an answer, Simon shifted form and walked from it naked and smiling.
He ran to her arms and started to weep. “I thought I’d lost you forever.”
“Never,” she whispered into his hair.
“What happened? Where were you?”
“Not now, Simon. Fin’s hurt. We need to get him to the others.”
Simon pushed out of her arms and bent toward Fin. “Stay here but keep quiet. There’s a lot of danger in the forest tonight. I’ll be back with others to help.”
Something wasn’t right with her son. If the forest was so dangerous, why was he in it alone?
Before she could ask, Simon shifted into a falcon and took to the sky.
Once he was gone, she smoothed a hand over Fin’s face. “Wake up.”
The sleeve of her gown grazed his bloodied hair.
She noticed the stain and looked down at her dress.
She needed to change before she was seen. She didn’t need anyone linking her in this gown to the image she wanted in the future.
After a quick change, Liz tucked the gown away, and searched the ground for the sacred stone. She couldn’t find it. Where could it have gone?
“Can’t anything go right?”
She stopped. Of course the stone didn’t travel with them. The stone was already in this time, somewhere, either at the keep or in safekeeping with the MacCoinnichs. Six of them made it to this time, to hold one from the future would mean there are now seven, and that wasn’t possible.
Forgetting the stone, Liz slipped beside Fin and carefully pulled his head into her lap and resigned herself to wait.
“We did it, Fin. Now wake up so I can kill you for scaring me like this.”
He didn’t so much as sigh.
There wasn’t time to waste, no pride to be had.
Simon swooped into the massive tent, bringing a gasp from the only real stranger in the space. He knew who she was, didn’t trust her in the least, but had little choice but to shift in front of Tatiana.
Each time the shifting grew easier, like riding a bike. He didn’t even feel his bones pop and muscles pull any longer.
“Simon,” Tara nearly cried his name as she quickly wrapped his naked body in a blanket.
Funny, he didn’t even think of his nudity.
Flipping in and out of wolf and falcon form made him forget he didn’t wear a stitch of clothing.
“Where is Ian?”
Simon’s gaze fell on Tatiana, who sat in the corner with her mouth gaped open and her eyes wide.
“Are they near?”
“Yes. Simon, where have you been? We’ve been worried about you,” Lora scolded.
Simon let his head fall for only a second, then whispered. “Call Ian. They’re back and need his help.”
Sliding a nervous stare to Tatiana then back, Simon didn’t offer a reply. “Tell him to hurry.”
Simon found some clothing, quickly changed, and then left the tent. He met Ian and Cian. Duncan and Todd soon followed.
“Where have ye been, lad?”
“No time. My mom and Fin are back and need help.”
Simon started walking away.
Ian caught his arm. “What is amiss? Are they injured?”
“Fin isn’t well.” Simon forced his eyes to meet Cian’s. “He needs your help.”
Duncan stayed behind while Todd quickly gathered three horses before setting out into the forest.
Simon rode with Cian, although to do so hurt.
Anger still boiled inside him. They had to slow down the horses once they started into the forest and thick brush.
“You were right about Tatiana.”
Simon held perfectly still and said nothing.
“She is a pawn of Grainna’s.”
“Then why is she in our tent?”
“You could call her a prisoner now.”
The sorrow in Cian’s voice helped ease some of his own hurt.
“I didn’t want to be right about her.”
“And I should not have spoken to you the way I did. I hope one day you can forgive me.”
Sucking in a deep breath, Simon sighed. “Life’s too short to dwell.” Way too friggin’ short. The apology helped. A lot.