Mal held him down. The old man’s skin burned, and sweat turned his
mottled flesh slick, but still he shuddered as if chilled. Where Mal’s
long fingers encircled his wrists, bruises blossomed.
Perspiration dampened Mal’s own brow, running in rivulets along his
nose and into the corners of his eyes, stinging. He didn’t move to
wipe them away. All of his strength was focused on the man convulsing
beneath his hands.
“Let him go, Mal.”
“No.” He refused to spare Siobahn a glance. He refused to
acknowledge the disapproval he felt vibrating across the room.
“Malachi. You mustn’t keep him back. It’s too painful.”
“For him? Or for you?” He knew the words were unkind. He didn’t
The air moved as Siobahn shifted. The candles in the close room
flickered, shedding plumes of smoke. Her breath stirred the hair on the
back of his head.
Still, he wouldn’t look around.
The dying man twisted on silken bedclothes. His mouth gaped open,
showing yellow teeth, and his eyes rolled in his skull.
Mal knew the old man was all but senseless, but he couldn’t help
himself; he bent forward and peered into the wizened face.
“Andrew,” he whispered, willing the other man to hear.
“Mal.” Siobahn forced the issue, stepping away from the shadows and
into his line of sight.
Her gown rustled. He could hear the soft pad of her slippers along the
stone floor. She slid through the haze of incense, and set her palms
flat on the edge of the bed, leaning across the mattress until he was
forced to meet her gaze.
“Let him go,” she said again. This time she put just a touch of ice
into the words.
Mal no longer took orders, not even from the young woman who had once
been his wife. But she could still pierce him through with her deep blue
eyes, and she knew it.
No matter how often he wished it otherwise, Siobahn never failed to move
him. She knew that, also.
So he looked away from Andrew’s gaping mouth, and let her rake him
with her gaze. She was angry, he saw, and disappointed. Maybe she was
frightened, but she kept her smile sweet.
“You’re holding him back,” she warned. “Don’t make him
“He might still be saved,” Mal argued, even though his heart knew
better. Already the bitter tang of grief roughened the back of his
Andrew was the last, and Mal didn’t want to be alone.
Siobahn lifted one hand from the mattress, and set it on Mal's arm. His
tendons quivered at her touch. Beneath his own fingers Andrew’s
muscles convulsed in response. The ravaged body arched up off the bed,
then snapped back onto the bedclothes.
Blooded scented the air; a trickle of the dark liquid stained Andrew’s
chin. The old man had bitten through his tongue.
The violence of the struggle touched Mal at last. He flinched away from
the bed, releasing frail bones. The moment his fingers left Andrew’s
flesh, the old man convulsed again, as though plucked off the mattress
by the hands of the gods. Mal heard bones in the tortured spine snap.
“He’s on his way,” Siobahn whispered, relieved.
Mal shuddered. The gods were never gentle with the ones they favored.
He bent over the bed, and took Andrew’s right hand in his own. There
was no response. The old man was well and truly gone.
Excerpted from "Stonehill Downs" by Sarah Remy. Copyright © 2014 by Sarah Remy. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.