When she heard the laughter cut short by a sickening crunch, she couldn’t help but wince. The memory of last night seemed far off as she saw in the dirty window the faint reflection of the rifle spinning around so that its muzzle was pointed straight at the bloodied face.
“You can only run for so long. Just you wait; you think you can do this for the rest of your life? One of these days you’ll get tired, and that’s when he’ll catch you. You and your bitch.” Spitting blood, he cracked a smile as he squinted through the swelling of his eye. “And boy, I swear to you you’ll wish you were dead when he finally does and you see just what he has in store for your-”
Surprised, everyone looked up into the cold eyes above the mask. No one had ever seen him so angry; he was always so composed and apathetic that seeing him like this unnerved even the hardiest of them all. Shouldering and holstering their guns, they filed out but not before glancing over their shoulders. C.C., the last to leave, paused in the doorway to see him step firmly on his chest as he cocked the pointed gun. Pursing her lips, she wrapped her arms around herself and closed the door behind her.
When he came out roughly half an hour later, she couldn’t help but notice the pink footprints he left in the clean snow. Shivering, she clambered up into the saddle as the rest mounted. As they started down the small path they had made earlier, she watched as he struck a match and threw it onto the small shack. He seemed to lose himself in the growing flames because he stood silently for a long time until Gino called out to them.
“Hey! Where to?”
Turning around, she saw the three men staring at them. Urging her horse forward, she rejoined them, the Prince not far behind.
“Until the worst of the winter is over, we’ll be staying there.”
She wondered who Campbell was. He was at least a friend, or something resembling a friend anyway, that much she could discern, but that was pretty much it. Not that she really needed to know more. So long as this Campbell wouldn’t try to kill them, they wouldn’t ask for more. And it was better not to, as she had learned.
But when they finally reached the small cabin hidden deep in the woods, she couldn’t help but wonder. As they dismounted, the men were nearly ecstatic. Gino was whistling, and Jeremiah and Xingke both, in spite of their relative stoicism, had a shadow of a smile on their faces. Perhaps this Campbell was actually a woman? God only knew how often she’d been surprised by how many of the Court’s connections were of the gentler sex.
“Oh, you’re here!”
They looked up at the feminine voice, and sure enough, a woman stood in the doorway with a big smile glowing on her face. Rushing out into the softly falling snow, she embraced each of the outlaws warmly as if they were her own blood and were no more harmless than a toddler, until she reached her, the newest addition to the group.
With wide eyes, she stared and was on the verge of saying something – probably something strange – when the Prince quickly intervened.
“C.C., this is my mother, Marianne Lamperouge.”
“Hello, dearie. It’s so nice to see you again. I really…” She sighed as tears welled up in her eyes. Taking hold of her hands, she kissed them. “I really just am so happy to see you. How merciful God is to restore you to me. Praise the Lord! Oh, praise!”
And as she was led into the warm, inviting cabin, she couldn’t help but wonder if she should also be lauding the Lord for her deliverance. Perhaps. But not until the winter passed through, right? Not until she spent some time with the woman who birthed the Black Prince.
Not until she saw if Campbell was really worth all the excitement.