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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

Aiden immediately rushed to her side and checked her for injuries, but there was no
sign of blood. She was still breathing, and merely seemed unconscious. Nellise appeared
at his side moments later, as curious as the others as to the identity of this strange girl.
Not far away, Pacian wore a look of seething outrage as he turned to regard Fletcher,
a look Aiden had seen many times before and knew what it meant.
“Just keep your cool Pace,” Aiden warned. “We took him alive, so we'll get him
back to Bracksford and let Olaf deal with him, and then get paid. You like money right?”
“Don't try and distract me,” Pacian growled, circling the unconscious bandit with a
dark look marring his features. “This prick has been keeping Bracksford locked down for
weeks. He‟s got to pay.”
“Yeah, and he will, just like his mates,” Aiden assured his friend. The bodies of the
fallen bandits lay around them, as distressing a sight as he'd ever seen. He was
emotionally numb from the fight and found that it didn‟t bother him as much as he
anticipated, which in itself was a disquieting thought.
Colt tied Fletcher‟s arms and legs while Nellise began to whisper her healing
prayers, creating an aura of serenity around her that made Aiden‟s injuries tingle.
“This will help her as well,” she whispered to Aiden, who nodded in understanding
and moved away so as not to disturb either of them.
The prone form of Fletcher seemed to be the focus of Colt‟s attention, and it was
difficult to judge what the ranger was thinking. O nce the bandit was securely tied up,
Colt gave him a solid kick to the chest to wake him, but when Fletcher didn't stir he tried
further encouragement.
“Go easy on him,” Nellise warned. “He's already taken a blow to the head and
doesn't need to be beaten up again.”
“I'm not going to beat him,” Colt grunted, “but there's an awful lot of trees to run
into around here and he looks kinda clumsy to me.” Nellise scowled at both him and
Pacian, who smirked at Colt‟s brutal quip.
Fletcher was properly awake now and looked like he was trying to kill the big ranger
with his menacing stare. Pacian walked in circles around the tree, toying with one of his
daggers while glaring at the bandit. It looked a little theatrical, but Aiden knew he was
being deadly serious.
“What are you doing?” Aiden asked of Colt.
“Getting some answers. For one thing, his men didn't have a clue how to fight in a
forest,” the ranger said. “They didn't have proper equipment or training, so I'm thinking
they were either the worst bandits I've ever seen, or something else is going on. What do
you say mate, want to answer any of that?”
“What's in it for me?” Fletcher croaked slyly, spitting blood. “The way I figure it,
you're gonna kill me anyway, right? I can see it in the blond one‟s eyes - he wants to
shove that butterknife through my ribs.”
“Oh you'll be going to gaol, don't get me wrong,” Colt continued, “but you‟ll be
intact, with all your blood still in your veins. Who knows, maybe a crafty bugger like you
can figure out how to escape. If you're still alive, you have all sorts of options. But if
you're not feeling co-operative, well, my friend here does like to wash his knives in blood
sometimes. It's a problem he has, but he's getting help for it. You understand. What are
you called?”
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