“Just admit it Cara.”
The Mord’Sith rolled her eyes. They had been arguing for at least a few leagues, and Kahlan was apparently not about to let it go.
“There’s nothing to admit.”
She nearly shouted the words as she pushed at the leafy thickets they were walking through.
Kahlan, just a few steps behind her, scoffed at her stubbornness.
They had been traveling together for the better part of two days. Nicci and the other Sisters of the Dark had been hot on their trail since Rothenberg, and Richard had decided that they should split up to make their trail harder to follow.
At first, he had suggested that he and Kahlan take the backwoods, while Zedd and Cara drew the Sisters away by staying on the main road.
The plan lacked the strategy and forethought that most of Richard’s plans tended to, but that had never been reason enough for Cara to speak up before.
So, she wasn’t sure what had made her do so this time. In a moment that must have been a rare instance of temporary insanity, she had insisted that it made more sense for he and Kahlan to travel separately. That way, she or Zedd would be on hand to protect them from any magical attacks that Nicci and her cadre might be organizing.
After she had shared her idea, Richard nodded gravely before instructing Cara to go with Kahlan through the backwoods, making sure to meet he and Zedd in four days time.
Now, scratched up by thorny bushes and exhausted by Kahlan’s incessant chattering, Cara sorely regretted having said anything.
Her patience was only further tested by the setting sun. Until they found a reasonably sized clearing they would not be able to make camp.
The entire situation made her brows furrow in irritation.
“Cara, I don’t understand why you just won’t say it.”
The wrinkles on her forehead deepened as Kahlan spoke again. She stayed quiet determined not to be drawn back into their pointless quarrel.
“You had to have known Richard would send you with me.”
Cara ground her teeth at that, in no small part because there was truth to it. Swatting at a small mass of flies, she let her exasperation seep into her response.
“Maybe I simply prefer your company to that of the wizard.”
“So you do admit it.”
She could almost hear the smile in Kahlan’s voice.
Sighing, Cara turned to look at her.
“Saying I find you less irritating than Zedd is hardly the same as saying-”
“That you care for me?” Kahlan finished for her.
Smacking at another fly that had landed on her neck, Cara huffed.
But Kahlan’s eyes had gone wide, and only then did she realize what she had done.
Looking down, the dark red remnants of a blood fly marred her leather glove.
Without thinking she jumped on Kahlan, flattening her against the rough earth.
Pressed against each other, they both stayed as still and as silent as possible.
Tense moments passed as their senses came alive waiting for the impending danger, but there was only the buzz of blood flies and the rustle of heavy branches.
Just as enough time had elapsed that their initial fear and apprehension had started to dissipate, there was a loud hiss and crash as a the furry bulk of a gar tore through the trees overhead.
Cara stiffened and watched as the beast tried to shuffle through the dense forest.
For the first time that day she was grateful for the thick underbrush.
It was a long tailed gar and a young one, or possibly underfed, by the look of it.
That was a small relief. It meant that it would be slower and easier to outmaneuver than a larger one or - spirits forbid - a short tailed gar.
Cara watched it with a battle tested focus, ignoring the feel of Kahlan underneath her, rigid with fear.
When at last the gar’s round ears perked at the sound of something in the distance, it spread its thin wings - as much as was possible considering the overgrown greenery surrounding it - and flew off.
Even after it had gone and the blood flies slowly disappeared into the now darkness, Cara did not move. She waited and counted to ensure that enough time had gone by that they would be safe.
Finally, she let her body loosen. Standing, she held a hand out to help Kahlan off the forest floor. The Confessor took it and rose, both of their hearts still racing from the close encounter.
Without a word, Cara started to walk in the opposite direction that the gar had flown. Kahlan silently followed her.
With the possibility that more gars might be nearby forefront in each of their minds, they walked quickly and in silence for the rest of the night.
Only when the forest began to clear, giving way to rolling hills and the sight of the sun rising, did they fully relax.
“We should look for a place to make camp.”
Cara bobbed her head in agreement, and they soon found a low grassy spot that would provide adequate cover for them to rest.
As they began to set out their bedrolls, Kahlan looked up at Cara from between dark locks of wavy hair.
“I should say thank you.”
Cara rose an eyebrow, and let her continue.
“For protecting me from the gar.”
Kahlan grinned at her, a tinge of pink on her cheeks.
Not sure how to reply, Cara nodded.
“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say it was almost as if you cared for me.”
Cara’s head snapped up at her but whatever retort she had died on her tongue as she took in Kahlan’s wide smile, barely contained laughter, and the way the pink on her cheeks had spread to her neck and chest.
Licking her lips, Cara kept her eyes locked on Kahlan’s.
“I suppose I do care for you, somewhat.”
Then she stood, intending to take first watch. But before Cara turned fully away, she glanced back over her shoulder to see Kahlan’s open expression of pleasant shock.