Alec inched his face closer to Jaycee’s, his warm breath a light, feathery touch on his skin. “You were fearless. I’d never forget someone like you. You sought to remain in the background, out of sight, but something about you caught my attention.”
As Alec spoke, Jaycee sifted through his memories. A notable figure like Alec was unusual, impossible to miss among the crowd, like the brightest star in a cloudy sky. Not as easy to overlook as Jaycee. But no matter how hard he worked to remember, there was no one like that in his recollections. And yet, Jaycee did very few public appearances. The few times he did, they were with Agnar, the very person Alec requested he kill.
“Was it prison that caused you to be this way, or something else? Maybe the reason they locked you up in the first place?” Alec’s fingers grazed Jaycee’s cheek, a slight chill running down his body at the graze of his fingertips. He leaned in, those pale brown eyes staring straight at Jaycee. “Did I hit the mark?”
He heard the pounding of his heart in his ears and wiped his sweaty palms on the blanket. He couldn’t think clearly with Alec so close. For this reason, Jaycee pushed Alec back.
“Ah, my bad. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.” The pressure from Alec’s weight vanished.
“It’s fine.” It was anything but, yet he wouldn’t show that vulnerability to the man near him. Alec’s assumptions were close to the truth, and it had Jaycee contemplating if he didn’t already know why he was in prison.
Jaycee would consider himself a liar if he didn’t invariably question why their little mercenary group kept them around. He barely pulled his weight, and his mind raced at the thought of fighting, and killing, a living, breathing human being. He wasn’t the Sicarii anymore. His previous assassination attempt ended with him in handcuffs.
“I’m on your side, Jaycee. Remember that.” Those were Alec’s last remarks before closing his book and laying down.
With Alec’s back facing him, all he could do was retire as well. As he drifted off, his last thoughts were of where he could have met Alec.
Before Jaycee realized it, morning came and went. The sun was high in the sky by the time Leon was feeling strong enough to clamber down the stairs with the others. According to Kyla, the Blacksmith’s home had bedrooms upstairs, with a kitchen and a workspace on the initial floor.
While the kitchen was small, it was cozy. A table rested in the corner, with Leon and Kyla already there. Compared to the previous night, Leon looked less pale and more awake. Kyla must have taken it upon herself to cut his hair. She chopped off his long locks, and it was now short and even. Leon’s fingers, covered in band aids, reminded Jaycee of a mummy.
“Since you decided to join us, sit down wherever you like. There’s not a lot of space here, but make yourself at home, sweetheart.” He jumped when an unfamiliar woman passed by him.
The voice belonged to the blacksmith, and an older lady Alec called Tia. She had long blond hair and donned a navy-blue, skin-tight dress. Yesterday, after their brief encounter, he remembered her looks startled him. She didn’t fit the typical stereotype for a woman in her line of work.
“Thank you.” He sat across from Leon.
“A little birdie told me your group is making a perilous journey.” Tia held a plate with scrambled eggs, potatoes, and bread. Jaycee’s mouth watered at the sight.
“I wouldn’t say dangerous as much as—”
“Practically suicide?” Alec finished for Jaycee as he slid into the chair beside him.
“Well, I wasn’t going to use those exact words.”
“Now that you’re all here,” Tia interrupted. “We can get down to business. Before I relinquish my most prized weapon, I need you guys to do something for me.”