1. Smiling slightly, Atty tilted her head toward the man who had been her father’s best friend, and who had adopted her when she’d been orphaned. “If we leave in the morning, we could be out and back in less than a week. Come on, Fortune. There is game out there. The pines are proof enough. We just have to figure out where it is! Besides, you know that eventually we’ll have to send out another scouting party, and soon. This is the time of year when the animals are stocking up against the coming cold. If we wait much longer, we could lose that advantage.” Leaning over, she stared directly into his eyes. “And you know what it’s like when a compound has to go into starvation mode,” she reminded him.
2. He began crawling toward the man, moving on his side rather than on his belly. Going was slow in the mud, but he finally managed to drag up beside the soldier. Immediately, he could see the problem. A huge, ugly gash ran diagonally from Paxton’s left shoulder, down across his chest to his right hip. The coon’s claws had barely marked him, but if they had fully connected, the man would be shredded slivers instead of lying here intact. Renken stared at the wound. Incredibly, when the animal had swiped him, the force of the blow had thrown Paxton onto the ground, where he had rolled in the wet clay. When he’d come to an unconscious stop, the mud blanketing him had sealed the wound, preventing the man from bleeding to death. Renken didn’t dare try to lift the natural patch to see how deep the wound might be, although a little blood tried to ooze out from beneath the seal. “You are one lucky son of a bitch, Paxton.”
3. His head was throbbing. He rubbed the heels of his hands against his eyelids. It was late. Too late to disturb MaGrath for a pain killer. Maybe there was some powder left in the bag Liam had left at the house a few weeks ago. Yulen grinned. The physician was learning first-hand all about babies and their sleep patterns, and he was having to pull some all-nighters to take care of his restless son.
4. Holding her injured arm tightly against her chest, she crawled out of the den. Dizziness hit her again, turning the world into a spinning, sickening mess. Forcing her to lie on the carpet of dead leaves and wait for the moment to pass. Her stomach heaved, but nothing came up. Her throat felt raw. She needed something to drink.
5. The same was true with trying to remember her past. It was like a giant hand had reached inside her skull, grabbed a fistful of thoughts and memories, and pulled them out by the roots, leaving behind open and bleeding wounds in her brain. Every so often, a picture would flash behind her closed eyelids, or a face. Or a sound would whisper in her ear, or a smell would drift up her nose, when there was nothing around her to provoke any of them. These moments came without warning and without reason, but they were more prevalent when she was asleep. Some she remembered after she awoke, but many of them retreated back into the black fog of her unconsciousness. All she had left to let her know she’d been dreaming were their invisible ghosts floating in the corners of her mind. Ghosts that never left, but continued to haunt her when she wasn’t prepared for them to make an appearance.
6. “The damage was bad. In fact, it was still tender to the touch. I had to knock her out to avoid causing her any more pain, in order to clean the dirt and debris from it. Fortunately, the skin was intact, but I could tell her skull had been cracked. She had swelling, which caused her to suffer major headaches.” The man looked directly into Yulen’s eyes. “I inspect it every day. The swelling seems to have gone down. The frequency of her getting headaches appear to be decreasing, as well. But there remains the damage to her brain. I don’t know if it’s irreparable, or if the organ is able to heal like the rest of her. Assuming it can, then...” The man opened his hand, palm up, on the table. “Time, D’Jacques. All she needs is time.”