Home > Devastation (Beastly Tales #3)(12)

Devastation (Beastly Tales #3)(12)
M.J. Haag

Bryn paled, and a sob escaped her. My heart broke for her, despite her name calling.

“Go,” Edmund said softly.

Tennen smirked as she ran up the stairs, and a fire lit inside of me.

I stalked around the counter and pushed past Edmund as I balled up my fist. Without hesitation, I struck Tennen. Again, it wasn’t hard enough to bloody him as I wanted, but his head still moved from the blow.

He growled and stepped toward me, but Edmund stopped him with a hand on his chest.

“You used her then come in here to boast about it to her husband?” I said to Tennen. “Her only fault was to believe your intentions honest.”

“You’re a whore just like her,” Tennen said.

Edmund’s hand on Tennen’s chest fisted then flew to connect with Tennen’s jaw. Tennen grunted as the hit drove him back a step. Edmund managed what I hadn’t the first time. He made Tennen bleed.

Tennen narrowed his eyes at the baker, but he didn’t move to retaliate.

“Get out,” Edmund said between gritted teeth.

Tennen narrowed his eyes.

“Remember what I said. I’ll tell everyone.” Then he left.

“Let me guess. Bread for life or he’ll tell everyone he’s the father of the babe?”

Edmund nodded.

“Don’t give in. As soon as you do, they have you,” I said, rubbing my hand. Hitting someone hurt.

“I know. His mother was already here to see me.”

I shook my head, troubled that the smith had sent his wife out again.

“The last baker was not a good man. I hope you’re better.” I glanced at the stairs before meeting Edmund’s gaze again. “I meant what I said. Bryn’s shame was in trusting Tennen. I know she’s not perfect. She’s selfish and lied to you about the babe, but she has some good qualities as well.”

“Name one,” he said flatly.

I felt badly for him. I knew what it was like to discover people weren’t who you thought they were.

“She can cook well. For a baker’s wife that’s a good thing,” I said with a small smile.

He gave a short, derisive laugh, showing just how much he was hurting.

“Everything she’s been through has been hard on her,” I said. “I don’t think she knows who she is yet. She’s been what we needed her to be. If you can forgive her, I think she’ll forgive herself and maybe find out who she can be.”

He studied me for a moment then looked away.

“Did you need any bread today?” he asked after a moment.

“No, I was just here for a visit. Is business doing well?”

“Not very. People here do not have the coin they did in the Water.”

“I hope your fortune changes soon.”

He nodded, and I left with nothing more to say. I wished Bryn would stop her whore nonsense. As her husband pointed out, we both knew I was not the whore.

Outside, I caught sight of Tennen, pacing before the smithy. I groaned. Being with the beast had made me impulsive. I shouldn’t have hit Tennen. I headed to the butcher’s.

“Hello, sir,” I said as I walked through the door.

“Benella!” The butcher’s glad smile lightened my heart. “I thought we might not see you again. I heard your father is now employed with the returned Liege Lord,” he said, wiping his hands on his apron.

“He is. I’d hoped to visit with Bryn, but she holds me accountable for what happened with the old baker.”

He made a sound of disapproval as Tennen walked past the butcher’s door.

“And, I need your help,” I said softly.

“It seems so. Why does he have such an issue with you?”

“The old baker hurt others as well, not just me,” I said quietly. “I saw something I shouldn’t have. Tennen knows. I think the smith knows, too.”

The butcher heaved a pitying sigh.

“How can I help?”

“Speak with Tennen while I slip out the back door? I just need a head start,” I said with a confident smile.

“Perhaps you should mention this to your father,” he said.

I nodded with no intention of doing so. After all that Tennen had done to me, I still didn’t have the heart to punish Sara by telling all. She might be sent away with her husband who would hold her accountable or, worse, make her do the same thing in another village. No, the punishment should lie solely on Mr. Coalre. As far as the son...well, perhaps he could be apprenticed to the south. Somewhere near the baker.

Slipping through the curtain that led to the butcher’s kitchen, I listened to the butcher cross the store and walk outside. I waited a few moments, then I peeked out the back door. Seeing nothing, I sprinted to the trees and used my old route past the cottage toward the estate. It didn’t take long for Tennen to shout my name, but thankfully it was in the distance. Then he shouted for Splane. Neither of them would have a chance.

I grinned too soon.

Splane stepped out in front of me, knocking me to the ground. He looked behind me nervously, and Tennen shouted again.

“You better have her, Splane!”

Tennen sounded closer, and I scrambled to my feet.

Splane watched me, but I could see he was torn. His gaze shifted behind me and then toward the estate. No matter what he chose, he would face either the wrath of his brother or of the beast. No, not the wrath of the beast. The beast wasn’t there anymore to protect me, and Splane’s brother was just behind me.

Lifting my skirts high to free my legs, I made an obvious feint to the right. Splane widened his stance to block me as we eyed each other. I kicked out, clipping him sharply between the legs.

“Thank you for the target,” I said as I took off, not staying to watch his slow fall to the ground.

Tennen yelled again, much closer this time.

I kept my skirts high and ran as I hadn’t in a long time. My side ached by the time I reached the gates. I flew past a very surprised Swiftly. There was only one place I felt safe.

Mr. Crow opened the door before I reached it, my pounding footfalls probably giving away my presence. I sprinted up the stairs into the dark interior and crashed into a solid chest with an “oof.” Strong arms and a familiar scent wrapped around me. In that instant, I felt safe.

“What happened?” Lord Ruhall asked.

The sound of his voice ruined my illusion.

“A moment...please,” I gasped, dropping my skirts and sliding from his arms. I leaned my hands on my knees as the pain in my side clawed its way into my lungs. I’d found in the past the position eased the pain.

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