Dominique ignored Lysander’s comment, as she had all the others he had made since they set out with each other. She jumped down from the rock she had scrambled over and continued in the direction that they were walking with a determined grace, despite the fact that sweat was beginning to pool at the small of her back.
It was hot. The sun was directly above them, and as they followed the boulder-strewn shore of the river, there were no trees to relieve them from its glare. But, what good did mentioning how hot it was do, except to make them more aware of how hot it really was?
In Dominique’s opinion, the situation was bad enough without Lysander jabbering away at her. She knew what he was trying to do. Keeping up normal conversation made the scenario seem less frightening. His pitiful attempts at conversation were done out of kindness.
Unfortunately for Lysander, nothing was going to ease the gnawing ball of tension that turned in Dom’s gut, or stop the fear and worry from constantly nibbling away at her mind. It was her sister they were looking for, and no amount of commentary on the bloody weather was going to make her forget that.
That, and Molly was still on her mind, lurking in the shadows of the groves of trees as they past. Molly’s last gasping breaths were played out in the bubbling of the water beside a rock, and the shrill, alarming bird calls were her scream.
Guilt was twisting her strength and resolve and her being into pieces. Guilt for Molly’s death, guilt over her sister’s disappearance, and a nagging feeling that somehow, someway all these murders were her fault. Lysander’s presence was just another reminder of her hidden past, and her dire present, a figment of her conscience grown into existence to eat her alive.
“What?” She blinked and saw that Lysander was standing right in front of her, his hand lightly grasping her shoulder. His eyes were filled with concern as he surveyed her carefully.
“Are you all right? You’ve just been standing there, staring off into space for a few minutes.”
Annoyed by his concerned look, Dominique scowled and pushed him away roughly. “I’m fine. Just hot and tired is all.” And, she stalked off without a backwards glance.
“Maybe we should rest for a few minutes?” Lysander called after her, but she didn’t respond. After a few moments, she heard his footsteps behind her as he rushed to catch up. “Hey,” he said gently, reaching out to tap her on her shoulder, “slow down.”
“I can’t,” Dom tried to say determinedly, but even she was aware of how fatigued and desperate the words sounded, like a tired child begging to stay up past bedtime.
“It is hot,” Lysander persisted, not allowing her to get away easily as she had before,”and we’ve been walking a long time. I know this is stressful, and how worried you must be—Lorcan is still missing too, remember?— but you’re not going to be any good to Victoire, once we find her, if you’re falling down from heat exhaustion.”
“It’s my sister,” she croaked past the tightness building in her throat. There was something about Lysander’s understanding and kindness that made her want to cry, just drop to the ground and sob futilely into the dirt.
But crying wasn’t Dominique’s style, that was more Victoire’s thing.
The casual thought of her sister was too much, and Dominique buckled under the trauma, the stress, and the daunting sun and began to cry. Lysander had his arms around her immediately, and Dom found herself liking the smell and comfort of him as she buried her face in his chest. She always had, and that more than anything was the reason she found herself in bed with him time and time again.
“Oh, god,” she moaned incoherently into the fabric of his shirt as her bottled up emotions poured forth.
Lysander stroked her hair as he continued to hold her tightly, and, when her knees seemed to grow weak, he led her over to a boulder to sit on.
Quickly stopping up the flow of tears, Dominique tried to stand up from the boulder. “No, Lysander! We have to keep looking! It’s my sister; I can’t stop, I can’t stop…”
She collapsed back onto the boulder, despite her words, and Lysander continued to stare at her. Unable to bear looking at his face, Dominique watched the water flow down the river until the reflection of the sun in its rippling currents sent a sharp, shooting pain across her forehead. Shielding her eyes with her hand, Dominique wrestled to suppress the last of her tears. When she removed her hand a few moments later and looked up, she noticed something on the other side of the river that she hadn’t seen before. It looked to be some kind of small stone cottage.
If she were an uninvited guest to a private wedding party on an island, thats where she would hide-out. Especially, if she were bent on killing all the people involved.
Dom jumped to her feet.
“Whoa,” Lysander said, gently pushing on her shoulder to try and make her sit again. “Just calm down, for a moment and—”
Impatient once more, she tossed off his hand, and interrupted, “No, Lysander, look! Across the river…it’s a cottage!” She pointed in the direction she was looking.
He turned quickly on the spot and squinted into the distance. His features tensed at the sight of the building. “Do you think anyone’s in there?”
She shrugged. “Who knows, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is where the killer has been hiding the whole time.”
“Come on!” She urged, “Let’s go. We got to find my sister and Lorcan, and there may be clues there.”
“Are you sure we should go over there? It could be a trap.”
“Who cares? We’ve been wandering without a clue as to what were looking for in the woods all day, and now here is a building—there may be something there!”
She stared imploringly at Lysander, but he continued to hesitate. Impatient, Dom turned away from him and began to look for the best way to cross the river. If she found enough big stones above the water level, she could hop her way across. She spotted a rock she thought was big enough to step on, and she made her way over to it, Lysander warily trailing behind her. Dom took one step onto the rock, teetered precariously for a moment before righting herself. She saw the next stone in her path, and stepped forward to hop over to it. Instead, her foot caught on a patch of wet moss that she hadn’t seen before, and she slipped with a small scream. The back of her head collided with a rock, and she fell unconscious into the rushing water.
Dominique woke coughing water into Lysander’s worried brow. “Ow,” she groaned. She stared for a moment at the sun, thinking it looked lower in the sky than it had before when she suddenly rolled over to vomit. Lysander held her hair.
“You fell into the river and hit your head.”
Dominique grimaced as Lysander helped her sit up. “I’m actually glad I don’t remember that.”
Lysander smiled at her, with eyes that clearly communicated how much he still felt for her. “Well, luckily for you, I have quick reflexes and pulled you back to shore before your were swept away.”
“I still want to check out the cottage,” she grumbled.
“Fine,” he said, his smile disappearing, disappearing,”We will go check out the cottage, but we’re going to do it my way.” He held out his hand and helped Dominique to her feet.
Grateful to still be alive, but resenting having to be saved, she dropped his hand as soon as she was on her feet and scowled up at him. Lysander turned away with a small shrug and lead the two of them downriver to a point where the water was calmer. He quickly and effortless conjured a long stick, which he stuck into the water to check its depth, and, finding it shallow enough, he began to trudge right through the water, dipping the stick into the water every few moments to recheck the depth.
With a roll of her eyes, Dominique set off after him. Lysander had always been a quick, rational thinker, only taking a few seconds longer to figure out the clever way of doing things where Dominique tended to blaze right in. He was a problem-solving mastermind, able to push emotions aside and act without them in a way that Dom had never been able to do. He’d always been that way, too, ever since they were kids, even the night Molly died when he jumped into action to help her cover up the accident, and even successfully modified his own twin’s memory. He was efficient, cool, and, occasionally, ruthless.
Dominique stumbled over a branch as Lysander led them back around to the cottage. Her thoughts on his analytical, emotionless behavior replaying in her mind. And as she watched his back retreating into the murky shadow of the forest, a chill ran down her own.
When they reached the area of the cottage, Dominique got ahead of Lysander, hating the feeling of being led. His own footsteps became hesitant behind her own, as though he feared what it was they’d find, and Dom thought she must have been crazy to imagine him as a remorseless killer for even the briefest of moments as she stepped up to the door.
Taking a deep breath and stepping sideways away from the door, she opened it with a flick of her wand, and it swung open slowly with a creak. She rounded the frame quickly with her wand drawn. When she saw what was waiting for her in the cottage, she stayed that way. Weak, trembling and nauseous, she remained frozen in her position as her eyes darted from corpse to corpse to corpse.
It was her family.
A/N: :O! Thanks to everyone who keeps reading and reviewing! I'm doing my best to keep up, but your guy's love of this story is splendidly overwhelming in the best way! Hope you enjoyed it. The chapter title and summary are adapted from the song The House of the Rising Sun by the Animals.