Read Tin Swift Online

Authors: Devon Monk

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Tin Swift (45 page)

BOOK: Tin Swift
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He’d been surprised that she’d decided to stay here at the coven for the winter as long as they’d have her and in town if her welcome wore out.

Of course, Captain Hink was staying with her. Cedar didn’t know if Hink was going back to harvesting glim or riding as U.S. Marshal. That brand on his forehead would change the way he faced the world, the way he did his job.

Cedar hoped he stayed on the side of law, though with a Marshal’s
star burned into your head, it might make the proposition of staying undercover more difficult.

Still, Cedar knew Hink was the sort of a man who could be trusted. He’d done a lot for them, risked a lot, lost a lot. And he was sweet on Rose.

Cedar had never seen Rose happier than this last week. And with Hink promising her a place on his ship working the boiler, Cedar couldn’t help but think that Rose was finally getting the adventure and life she had always longed for.

“You’ll come back, won’t you?” Rose asked when he’d gone out to the
Swift
to find her helping with what repairs they could tend to while the weather held. “If you can, before spring? And if not, you’ll contact us, send a message, so I can see you again? Both of you,” she added, with a gentle rub behind Wil’s ears.

“I’ll come back, I’ll find you, I’ll send messages,” Cedar promised. “You know I’m a man of my word.”

She smiled and it was like a new sun had broken the horizon. “Once she’s flying again, I’ll come find you. If you’re traveling with the Madders, all I’ll have to do is look for something blowing up and head that way.”

Cedar chuckled but before he could reply, she threw her arms around him. “Thank you, Mr. Hunt. I’ll miss you so.” She gave him a warm hug, and Cedar put his arms around her gently.

He was fond of her and couldn’t help but feel that saying good-bye meant he was losing someone very special.

“I’ll miss you too, Rose,” he said quietly.

Then he stepped back and Rose gave him a measuring look. “Have you spoken with Mae yet?”

“No. And don’t give me that scowl, Miss Small. I’m on my way to see her now.”

“Good,” Rose said. “You shouldn’t leave without talking to her first. Without…explaining.”

Explaining. Why he had told her he didn’t want her to break his curse or Wil’s. Why he had decided to travel with the Madders. Why he had brought her to the coven and was leaving her behind while he and his brother hunted down the Holder.

Why he was putting his life on hold to chase down something that might be impossible to find.

“I’ll do what I can,” he said.

Cedar turned and walked back to the main gathering hall, where he knew he’d find Mae by the fire.

He walked up onto the porch and into the hall. One of the younger sisters was in the hall, humming as she swept the floor. Mae was not there.

“Hello, Mr. Hunt,” she said. “Can I help you with something?”

“I’m looking for Mae. Do you know where she might be?”

“She’s back in her cabin, I think.”

“Thank you.”

Cedar strolled out of the hall and headed to the small shack they had given Mae. All the other travelers had stayed in rooms in the great hall, but they had placed Mae in a cabin on her own, almost as if to keep her apart from any other person.

She had told him it wasn’t that they didn’t want her among them, but he knew even she didn’t believe that.

Because it wasn’t true. The sisterhood, while being generous, did not like having Mae there. They treated her with caution, with suspicion.

Cedar didn’t like it. But this was Mae’s home. These were her people. If she was happy here, then he was happy for her.

He knocked on the cabin door, and took off his hat.

“Come in,” Mae said.

Cedar lifted the latch and pushed the door open.

Mae was standing next to the narrow bed in the only room of the house, packing a satchel.

“Mae?” Cedar said. “I need to speak to you.” Then the meaning of her actions sank in. She was packing. “Where are you going?”

She latched the satchel and turned to face him. “With you.”

Cedar held very still. “I don’t understand.”

“I…talked to Miss Adaline,” Mae said, as she walked over to a hat stand, pulled a shawl off it, and wrapped it around her shoulders. “We came to an understanding. I am no longer tied to the coven.”

“They broke the spell?” he asked, his mind still not working as quickly as her words.

“I broke the spell, with their help. But, well, breaking the spell means I am no longer welcome here. No longer part of the sisterhood.”

“No,” he said, “that can’t be true. You are a witch, Mae. You told me it’s something you’re born into.”

“Yes, I’m still a witch, but I have—it’s hard to explain.” Her voice shook a little and he knew it was also a thing of sorrow. “Time changes us all, Mr. Hunt. We adapt.”

“Mae, you don’t have to do this. You can change it. You can stay.”

“Even if I wanted to? If things were different?” She shook her head. “I don’t think I would. I’ve seen too much of the world. And still want to see a fair share more.”

“Mae.” He didn’t know what else to say.

“It’s fine. Truly.” She put on her coat, then glanced around the room one last time and smiled. “I am happy…happier than I’ve been in a long while. Now, let’s go.”

Cedar finally gathered his wits. “You can’t go with me, Mae. Wil and I, and the Madders will be looking for the other pieces of the Holder. You’ve seen what it can do. It won’t be safe for you to travel with us.”

“Can’t?” Mae’s eyebrows raised. “I don’t believe you can tell me what I can and cannot do, Mr. Hunt. And as for danger, we came through the last few weeks still breathing. I’d like to point out that on several occasions I helped keep us safe, even without magic. And I was
under great distress. Think of how much more useful I will be with a clear mind.”

“Do you care so much about the Holder that you’re willing to tramp across this country hunting it?” he asked.

“No,” Mae said quietly. “I care that much about you.”

Cedar felt like lightning had just struck him from out of a clear blue sky. He didn’t know what to say, didn’t want to say the wrong thing and break this fragile moment.

Mate
, the beast whispered contentedly inside of his mind.

Should he tell her he felt the same? Would she understand that he more than cared for her? That he loved her?

Cedar held his breath. Then, “From the moment I first set eyes on you,” he said, “I have cared for you a very great deal. I can’t bear to leave you behind. But I can’t bear to see you hurt either. It’s safe here.”

She crossed the room, her deep brown eyes searching his.

She stopped so close, he could feel the heat of her. But she was not touching him. Not yet.

“I’m not looking for safety.” Mae reached up on tiptoe, her hand brushing his face. “I’m looking to live.”

Cedar leaned down. He wrapped his arms around her and drew her close. He kissed her slowly, passionately, making promises with his touch that no words could convey.

“If you two are done sealing the deal,” Alun Madder said from the door, “then we need to be leaving now.”

Cedar pulled away and smiled at Mae, who smiled right back at him.

She stepped out of his arms and retrieved her luggage.

Cedar turned to Alun. Miss Dupuis stood beside him, wearing a lovely blue dress and politely studying the fingertips of her gloves as if they were the most fascinating thing in the world.

“Morning,” Cedar said to Miss Dupuis.

“Good morning,” she said, glancing up with a faint smile. “Will you and Mae be traveling with us, then?”

“Us?” Cedar asked.

“Miss Dupuis will accompany us for the first leg of the trip,” Alun said. “See that the Holder gets stashed away safely.”

“Where, exactly, are we headed?” Cedar asked.

“Exactly? Why, to find the Holder, Mr. Hunt,” Alun said with a wide grin. “And to save the world.” He spun on his heel and held out his arm for Miss Dupuis. “I thought you’d know that by now.”

Cedar turned to Mae. She was smiling, her luggage in one hand, her satchel over her shoulder.

“Are you ready?” he asked.

“I am.” Her smile grew wider. “Are you going to save the world, Mr. Hunt?”

Cedar glanced over his shoulder. Alun and Miss Dupuis were headed toward the brothers’ airship, where Wil waited in the grass. Then he looked back at Mae.

“I certainly intend to do what I can,” he said.

Cedar held his hand out for her, and she took it. Then he walked with Mae into the sunlight of a new day, the ship ready before him, his brother and Mae at his side, and his heart beating with newfound joy.

Devon Monk
writes the Allie Beckstrom urban fantasy series, the Age of Steam steampunk series, and the occasional short story. She has one husband, two sons, and a dog named Mojo. Surrounded by numerous and colorful family members, she lives, writes, and knits in Oregon. For excerpts, information, and news, please visit her Web site at
www.devonmonk.com
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BOOK: Tin Swift
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