The young woman blinked up at the bright stars twinkling in the sky. They seemed to wink down at her as if they were her co-conspirators. She shifted over onto her side; she refused to allow even the heavens to lie to her. Her only family already had; who was to say that the heavens wouldn’t? Everyone knew how much they enjoyed their cruel games as they gazed down like the gods and kings they thought themselves to be.
Half-heartedly, she tried to find the shape of her head in the lump of cloth that was supposed to serve as her pillow. Pulling her sugan up to her chin, she clasped her hands together – Mother Nature was as sly as they came; the nights were as cold as the days were sweltering – and closed her eyes to fall asleep as she should, considering the time they would have to be up and about, when she noticed the lone silhouette of a man.
He was completely still, save the lonely desert wind ruffling his hair. He seemed to be praying, though she seriously doubted it. Outlaws didn’t pray. Isolation was a two-way street; you had to abandon and be abandoned in order to truly be alone. And more than anything, C.C. knew that there was no place in God’s great design for thieves and murderers such as themselves. She had at least learned that much in the first nineteen years of her life.
She considered getting up and investigating but decided against it. He was obviously in deep reflection. To interrupt him would only make her current situation more precarious. Not to mention the fact that it would only fan the scandal until the embers burst into life and burn her. Besides, she wasn’t quite sure what to say to him. What did one say to an outlaw pondering over some deep, metaphysical question? What comfort could she offer him when there was so little she could provide for herself?
With a sigh, she turned back onto her back. She was tired. The journey had been rough on her body, having been unaccustomed to such terrible, inconsiderate conditions, and with the combination of her new company and the fact that she had now truly crossed the line of no return, the last thing she wanted was to be kept up all night by some stupid little riddle she had had the misfortune to stumble upon. She was young, but more importantly, she was a woman. And being a woman in this day and age meant the world had been designed of men, by men, for men. There was little forgiveness to be found among these particular group of degenerates, and what little grace she would find would be sparse indeed. It’d be best if she left him to his devices. What he did in the evenings was none of her concern, just as what she did in her free time was none of his.
Even so, as she drifted off to sleep, finally persuaded by the toil and troubles of sitting astride a horse all-day long, she couldn’t help but wonder how a simple outline could seem so melancholy, forlorn, and… Well… So vulnerable.
It was highly unbecoming of the Black Prince to emanate such an aura, she decided. Totally unlike his reputation to the highest degree, and sounprofessional. You’d have thought that a man with an $8,000 bounty would be more intimidating. But then again… He was a rather curious man.