Banished (Forbidden)(10)By: Kimberley Griffiths Little
“I have no more memories until I woke weeks later, cared for by Chemish’s wife.”
“I should have run away with you the night of Hakak’s wedding! If we had gone away together all those months ago . . . none of this would have happened.”
“No. We’d both be dead if you had come with me that night.”
“At least we’d have been together,” I whispered.
His laugh was brusque. “Instead, you’re Horeb’s wife.”
His statement shocked me. “No! I am not Horeb’s wife!”
A dreadful silence swept through the canyon. A sinister foreboding. There was something Kadesh wasn’t telling me. What had happened to him?
“I suppose I should believe you because you’re here and not in Horeb’s tent. But fate conspired against us. Horeb only had to take you back to the tribe with him to declare you his wife.”
“I escaped Nalla’s house before Horeb could kidnap me. I ran away to the Mari hills and nearly died of starvation until I met Gedaliah and his family.” I took another step closer, all the love I couldn’t contain rising up within me.
“Stay where you are! Don’t move again.”
His voice. So different, so changed. So terrible. “What did Horeb tell you? Why do you hate me so?”
I could see the details of his shadow now, his head buried in his hands. “Oh, Jayden, I could never hate you, but rumors and gossip spread like a sandstorm. I was told Horeb had taken you to his bed after he proclaimed my death. There was no way you couldn’t marry him after that.”
“Horeb has lied about everything,” I said, tersely. I moved again, frantic to touch him, real and solid, not a dream any longer.
“Come no closer, Jayden. Please.”
An odd sense of clarity washed over me. “Gedaliah’s wife, Hannah, told me the man in the Edomite cave kept his face covered. . . . You were scarred by Horeb’s sword, weren’t you?”
I sensed his eyes studying me. “I’m sorry you came so far for nothing. You’re free to leave now that you know the truth.”
“No, Kadesh. I’m not afraid of you or of Horeb any longer. Next time he and I meet I will kill him for everything he’s taken from us. One of his soldiers even attacked me in the hills of Mari.”
The sound of my name on his lips turned my heart inside out. I sank to the parapet, shadows chilling my face. “Whatever Horeb did to you doesn’t matter to me.”
He gave a brief snort of laughter. “You shouldn’t say that before you see the monster he created.”
My senses crackled. “I’ve lost my mother and my sisters. I survived the grief of your death. I’ve crossed the desert and mountains, alone and hungry and exhausted. How could I be afraid of anything else?”
Before he could stop me, I plunged into the cave’s entrance. Kadesh whirled, retreating, but my eyes had adjusted to the dim light. The cave was adorned with a simple fire hearth. Rugs and pillows, pots and candles. He lived here, not as a guest, but as one of them. “You made a deal with the Edomite band of robbers not to harm me, didn’t you?”
“They spotted you when you crossed into Edomite borders. We didn’t know who was hiding beneath my old cloak. You might have been Horeb here to finish me off, his army awaiting his signal to attack. It’s only a matter of time before he returns.”
“I should never have believed Horeb when he said he watched you die.”
“A sword in the skull usually kills a man.”
My breath carved a dagger across my tongue. “What do you mean?”
“It’s taken two moons for me to ride a horse or camel with any sort of competence,” he said. Now I could see that he held his arm in a sling against his chest. He wasn’t completely healed. This was the reason he hadn’t tried to find me.
“I was asleep on my death bed for the first few weeks while Chemish and his wife nursed me back to the living. When I woke again, I realized how much time had already passed, and I knew Horeb would have already declared my death.” His head lifted. “I also knew you had no way to stop your family from forcing you into the marriage.”