Dragonheart - Page 11

Having said that, I made a fine show of stalking out of the cave. It was one of my better exits, in fact. So much so that I'm pretty sure none of them noticed how badly I was shaking.

Fortunately I'd gotten myself more or less back under control by the time I heard the father making his painful way through the underbrush toward me.

“There was no need to drag yourself out here,” I sighed without turning around to look at him. “I'd have healed your feet when I came back inside, you know.”

“Yes, I know,” he answered in a tone that implied he knew far more than I wanted him to know. “That can wait. This can not.”

I braced myself.

“You have healed my daughter, sir,” he continued. “You need but say what you want in recompense, and it shall be done.”

I started to tell him there was nothing he had that I wanted, but the monster mocked me for my attempt at self-deception before the words reached my lips. “Don't tempt me!” I hissed to the amusement of the monster and the confusion of the father.

He may have tried to say something, but I couldn't hear it over the clamor of infernal laughter echoing in my soul. I'd hoped that he'd have gone back to his family by the time I managed to drown the laughter out, but, of course, I had hoped in vain.

“You have been alone a . . . very long time, haven't you?” the father asked in a voice full of sympathy I didn't want.

“No!” I snapped, and, strictly speaking, that was true. I turned to face him to forestall any further displays of empathy. “So let's discuss my payment so you can be on your way, shall we?” I made sure my face was a mask of cold disdain.

It didn't fool him for a second, but he was polite enough to simply nod and say, “Very well.”

“My price involves the girl,” I began, deliberately phrasing it that way just to see if I could get the reaction out of him I was looking for.

I did, and it was gratifying to know that there were limits to his understanding and accommodating nature after all.

Page 11

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