A strange screeching sounded out. Mara flinched.
“Mountain lion,” he said in response to her unasked question.
She wrapped her cloak more tightly around herself. “Is it dangerous?” she asked, her eyes scanning the forest edge.
“Could be. We’ll keep the fire going through the night. That should help to keep the wildlife at bay.”
“How is it you know so much about . . . Well, about all of this?” She waved her hand. “About traveling this way? About hidden dangers?”
“It’s like I told you before. I’m an Oathtaker. It’s all just part of my training.”
“And that’s why you have magic powers. Because you’re an Oathtaker, I mean. It’s why you can start a fire with a flick of your fingers. Yes?”
“What other powers do you have?”
Her question surprising him, he shot a glance at her and grinned.
He shook his head, chuckling. “Nothing. I just remember the last time you—” He stopped short.
“What? The last time I what?”
“It’s just that you asked me that same question shortly after we first met.”
“And what did you say?”
The sound of the screeching mountain lion called out again.
Dixon turned toward the darkened woods. The animal grew closer. He stood, then took a couple larger branches from the pile of wood he’d collected earlier. He placed one end of each into the flames. They might need torches to fend off the wild cat before the night expired.
“Well?” she asked when he sat back down.
“Well? Oh, yes, sorry.”
“What are your other powers?”
Again, he grinned. “Is that the question? What are my other powers? Or are you asking me what I told you the last time you asked me that question?”
She pulled back, her eyes narrowed. “Isn’t it the same question?”
“Not exactly.” He chuckled. “The first time you asked me that question, I told you that I had the gift of charm. You thought I was serious, and you laughed at me.”
She tilted her head, thinking. “Huh.”
She blinked rapidly. “I guess if I really think about it, you are quite charming. I mean—whenever we have to deal with the locals you—I mean they—”
“Are charmed? Well, I’ll take that as a compliment even if you don’t share their sentiments,” he said with a sad smile.
She looked hard at him. “No . . . I’d say you got it right the first time. It’s true. You are rather . . . charming.”
He grinned, though his eyes welled with tears. “I appreciate that more than you could know.” Dixon’s mother had told him many years back that if he ever found a woman who thought him charming, he was sure to have found his life mate. When Mara first told him that she indeed found him to be so, the idea both delighted and frightened him. It delighted him, because he’d already come to love her. It frightened him, because while he wanted to spend his life with her, he believed it impossible. He didn’t know then that there was a way for the two of them to marry, notwithstanding Mara’s life oath to protect Reigna and Eden.
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