Dani Clayton was filling her canteen at the river when she heard a crunch of grass from somewhere nearby. She stopped moving, turning her head in the direction of the sound but saw nothing. She quickly screwed the cap onto the canteen and picked up her recurve bow, which was resting on the ground beside her feet. She looked around once more, but could only hear the sound of the water and the birds chirping. She waited a few more seconds but when she didn’t hear the sound again, she relaxed. She turned back around, kneeling down to pick up her canteen but the sound of a pistol cocking froze her actions.
“Looking for someone,” the gruff voice said from behind her. “Two someones actually. First one being Rebecca Quint. You haven’t seen her have you?”
“I don’t know a Rebecca Quint,” Dani replied, calmly, but she tightened her grip on her bow.
“She left her husband and her clan,” the man stated. “Abandoning your clan is punishable by death but Peter’s willing to overlook that if she just comes home.”
Dani rolled her eyes. “The only clan leader who kills people for leaving is Quint. He rules the Grims like a fucking asshole and one day someone will-,” Dani felt the gun press into the back of her head.
“Let me see your ink.”
“I’ve got to turn around for that,” Dani informed him, hoping he wouldn’t recognize her. She turned around slowly and the gun was now at her forehead. She took a moment to look at the man threatening her. His clan tattoo, a scythe, was placed at his temple, running down his cheek and curving just above his eyebrow.
She reached up slowly and pulled the neck of her shirt down so he could see the tattoo just under her collarbone.
The Grim member looked at the shield tattoo and sneered. “Fucking Saints. Think you’re better than everyone.”
“Well we don’t go around sticking guns in people’s faces for no reason so we’re already better in that regard.”
“Careful,” the man said, pressing the gun hard against Dani’s head. “I’m known to be trigger happy. Now, Rebecca Quint, where is she?”
“I do not know a Rebecca Quint,” Dani repeated, impatiently. “Maybe if Peter treated his people better, they wouldn’t find the need to leave.”
The man smirked. “You know, you’re a ways from home. Your clan leader know you’re out here? What’s her name… Clayton?” He brought a hand up to run it over his tattoo. “Peter don’t like her much from what I hear. Has a special blade he’s been saving just for her.”
“You’re not exactly near home yourself,” Dani pointed out, unflinchingly. She had been good about avoiding anywhere Grims might be lingering about and she hadn’t run into any trouble until now. She hoped she could get out of this easily enough.
“Like I said,” the man began, “looking for people.”
Dani looked just over the man’s shoulder and as soon as she did, he turned his head thinking someone was behind him. Dani quickly took the opportunity to knock the gun from the Grim’s hand before kicking him in the stomach, sending him falling to the ground. She quickly pulled an arrow from her backpack that had a built-in arrow quiver, nocked her bow and fired just as the Grim was reaching for his gun.
The man screamed and cursed as his hand was penetrated by the arrow. A few colorful words were directed at her, but Dani simply ignored them as she picked up the gun. She hated guns but she wouldn’t just leave it here for someone else to collect when she could add it to her clan’s armory. She put the safety on and tucked the gun into the back of her jeans. “Who else were you looking for?”
“Fuck you, you stupid bitch!” the man shouted from the ground as he held his hand in agony.
Dani rolled her eyes, unbothered as she turned her back on the man so she could pick up her canteen. “Can you answer my question, please?” If she did come across whoever this man was looking for, she wanted to be able to warn them.
Dani dropped her canteen at the sound of someone approaching from her side, she quickly nocked another arrow as she turned, seeing someone raising their gun in her direction. She fired just as they did and as her arrow hit the new person in their shoulder, she heard someone drop to the ground beside her. She turned her head and saw the Grim dead on the ground.
“Fuckin’ hell!” the newcomer shouted. “I was savin’ your skin and you bloody shoot me?!”
Dani winced, guiltily. “Sorry!” She rushed over to the woman. Dani took in her appearance trying to see if anything would give away what clan she was in. She had curly dark hair down to her shoulders and wore a tank-top with a plaid shirt over it. Her jeans had several holes and looked as if they had seen better days. “You caught me by surprise.”
“Why’d you even have your back to a Grim?” the woman asked.
“He was whining on the ground about his hand. Wasn’t really worried,” Dani explained. “I would’ve handled it, though.”
The woman scoffed as she held her hand over her shoulder. “Right. Turn your back on a Grim and you’re a poor shot. Would’ve been well-handled.”
Dani’s eyebrows rose in offense. “If I wanted you dead, you’d be dead. Now move your hand and let me see it.”
The woman slapped Dani’s hand away. “I’ll manage. I’ve dealt with worse.” She attempted to break the head of the arrow herself and only irritated her wound more.
“Stop, you’ll make it worse,” Dani insisted, pushing the brunette’s hand away. She studied the injury for a few seconds before gesturing to a tree so they could sit in shade. “Let’s sit. I’ll have to cut the head off so I can pull it through.”
The woman nodded to her gun that she had dropped when Dani shot her. “Mind?”
Dani picked up the gun and handed it over to the stranger who placed it in her holster.
The woman then moved to sit down, clenching her jaw through the pain as she did so.
Dani removed her backpack and unzipped one of the compartments to pull out a roll of bandages and a clear bottle with the word ‘antiseptic’ written on it. “I studied medicine for a time. I can at least ensure it gets stitched up properly. For now, let me at least get the arrow out and wrap it up until we can get somewhere a few feet away from this place.”
Once Dani received a nod to continue, she pulled a hunting knife from the belt she wore, flicking it open before getting to work.
The woman took a deep intake of breath at the pain Dani’s cutting of the arrow caused. “What’s your name?”
“Dani,” Dani answered with a smile. “Brace yourself.”
Before she could ask why, the woman felt the arrow slide from her shoulder and she dropped her head back against the tree as she clenched her fists.
“Jamie,” the woman introduced herself after the pain passed enough. “Clan?” Dani tossed the arrow and pulled the neckline of her shirt down like she had done before and Jamie chuckled at the shield. “Shish kabob-ed by a Saint. That’s not very saintly.”
Dani grinned. “We’re not perfect.”
“S’pose not,” Jamie agreed. “Just have more morals than the lot of us.”
“What’s your clan?” Dani asked.
“Don’t have one,” Jamie answered.
“Clanless? You’re just out here on your own?”
“Yeah, easier to survive on your own.”
Dani frowned. “Don’t you get lonely?”
“I like quiet,” Jamie replied, simply.
Dani cut Jamie’s shirt from around her wound so she could get a better look at it and removed the cap from the bottle she had before meeting Jamie’s gaze. “Might want to bite down on your shirt or something.”
“I’ll be fine,” Jamie stated, wanting to get this over with so they could move somewhere less open.
Dani poured some of the liquid onto Jamie’s shoulder, which caused Jamie’s body to jolt as she let out several choice words. “You okay?”
“Fan-bloody-tastic,” Jamie said through gritted teeth as Dani packed the wound. “It’s like I didn’t get shot by an arrow.”
Dani began to wrap the bandage around Jamie’s wound, ignoring her words. “Okay, that’ll have to do for now.” She stood and helped Jamie up by her good arm.
“I’m camped out nearby,” Jamie stated. “Once we’re there you can stitch me up.” She gestured to the dead man on the ground. “Should search him. Might have something useful and then we can push him into the river. Water can take him wherever it decides he should go.”
Dani frowned. “We should bury him at least.”
“Think he would’ve buried you after killin’ ya?” Jamie asked, holding her injured arm to her chest. “Fuckin’ Saints,” she muttered as she moved to the man. She searched his pockets with her good hand but only found a freshly rolled cigarette. “You got a horse?” She asked Dani as she tucked the cigarette behind her ear.
“Traveled on foot,” Dani replied. “You?”
“Same,” Jamie sighed before looking down at the Grim. “What about him?”
“Not sure, I didn’t see or hear one.”
Jamie brought her fingers up to her lips and let out a loud whistle. After a few seconds, with no horse approaching, she let out a breath. “Guess we’re walking,” she stated before easily pushing the Grim into the river with her foot.
“Hey!” Dani exclaimed in disbelief. “I said I wanted to bury him.”
Jamie replied. “What makes you think he deserves buryin’?”
“It’s just the decent thing to do,” Dani replied.
“Decent thing would’ve been him not attackin’ you to begin with, don’t ya think?”
“Doesn’t matter now seeing as how he’s floating down the river,” Dani stated, exasperatedly, as she picked up her canteen.
“See, I did you a favor. One less thing to worry about.” Jamie gestured to her shoulder. “Got to get going before I bleed out, yeah? Have a feelin’ you’d feel obligated to carry me if I pass out.”
“Or maybe I’d just roll you into the river,” Dani stated, matter-of-factly, as she placed her backpack on.
Jamie narrowed her eyes at the woman. “You wouldn’t.”
“Don’t pass out,” Dani smirked before gesturing for Jamie to lead the way. “And maybe stop being so prickly. I’m sorry I shot you.”
Jamie shook her head as she headed towards where she was camped out. She gets hit with an arrow and she’s the prickly one? At least the Saint was nice to look at; her golden hair was braided in a ponytail reaching down to the middle of her back and her blue eyes were captivating. Yeah, looking at the pretty Saint would help take her mind off the pain when it was time for her to get stitched up.
Jamie’s eyes fluttered open and she quickly sat up, hissing when she felt the pain in her shoulder. She looked around and saw that she was still in the cave she had brought Dani to.
“You’ll need maybe a month to heal fully,” Dani stated. “I took your shirt when you passed out so I could turn it into a proper sling.”
Jamie looked at her arm and saw her plaid button up shirt had been cut and sewed into a sling. “I didn’t pass out,” she grumbled. “I fell asleep because of your hummin’.”
Dani smiled, looking pleased. “You liked that?”
“No,” Jamie rushed out, “that’s why I fell asleep… so I wouldn’t have to hear it.”
Dani sighed and made her way over to sit next to Jamie where she was lying on the ground. “I went hunting while you were asleep.” She picked up the meat from where it was resting on a rock nearby and handed it to Jamie.
“Thanks,” Jamie mumbled as she carefully sat up to take it. She had several problems. One being that she had easily allowed this stranger into her hideout without much thought. She was getting sloppy letting her guard down like this. Maybe she was tired of being alone.
“What happened to your arm?” Dani asked, nodding to the bandage wrapped around Jamie’s forearm.
Jamie stiffened as she looked at the bandage. She had forgotten about it and was relieved Dani hadn’t taken it upon herself to remove it.
“I can redress it for you,” Dani said.
“It’s fine,” Jamie replied before taking a bite of the meat Dani had given her. “Wasn’t an arrow.”
Dani rolled her eyes and picked up her canteen from beside her. “Here, should stay hydrated.”
“I’m good,” Jamie replied, deciding she needed to put some of her walls back up. “So, what’d that Grim want with ya?”
“Didn’t know him,” Dani replied before taking a sip of her water. “He said he was looking for some people.”
“Give any names?” Jamie asked, nonchalantly.
Dani shook her head. “No, he just wanted to know who I crossed on my travels. What were you doing out there?”
“I’ water,” Jamie answered, “didn’t end well for me.”
Dani smiled and handed the canteen to Jamie. “Just drink it.”
Jamie took the canteen from Dani and took a swig from it before handing it back. “We can share. I don’t need much to get by.”
“How long have you been in this cave?” Dani looked around. “It’s… cozy.”
Jamie raised a brow. “Cozy?”
“Sure, spruce it up a bit and you’d be set.” Dani picked up a stick and poked at the fire.
“Only been here a few days. Was plannin’ to move on tomorrow. Don’t like stayin’ in one place for too long.” Jamie took another bite of her food. “You headin’ back to Charington anytime soon?”
“It wasn’t my plan but you should rest up there. It’ll be the safest place for you until you’re back at hundred percent.”
“Nah, I stick to isolated areas,” Jamie replied. “As I said, I like my quiet.”
Dani yawned and shook her head to try to wake herself up. “You were out for a couple hours. I need to change your bandage and then I think I’ll get some sleep.”
Jamie placed a hand over the wound on her shoulder. “I can change it.”
Dani grabbed a fresh roll of bandages from her bag and moved to sit beside Jamie. “I know you’ve got your loner thing going, but let me help.”
Jamie relented, carefully removing the sling from around her neck so Dani could tend to her injury.
Dani unwrapped the bandage from around Jamie’s shoulder and cleaned around the stitches before wrapping it once more. “There.”
“Thanks,” Jamie muttered before moving to lay herself back down.
“Least I could do,” Dani said before moving to rest by the fire. It had been a long day and she still had three more weeks before she reached home. The incident with Jamie had definitely set her back as well. She’d have to wake up early and get a head start on the day.
Dani closed her eyes and focused on the crackling of the fire to help lull her to sleep. Her curiosity turned out to be greater than her need for sleep as she turned her head to look at Jamie. “You couldn’t have always been on your own.”
Well it sure felt like she had always been on her own. “My mother ran off in the middle of the night when I was fourteen. No note or a word about where she was headin’ but even before then she was hardly around. I got used to dependin’ on myself. What about you?”
“I was raised by the Saints. The leader at the time found me bundled in a basket with a note that read, please take care of her.”
“Least you got a note,” Jamie replied. “Now if you’re done…”
“Right, sorry,” Dani said. “Goodnight, Jamie.” “Yeah, whatever” was the response Dani received and she smiled in amusement before closing her eyes to attempt to get some sleep.
Dani’s eyes flew open and she let out a gasp as she sat up, frightened out of her sleep by her nightmare. She looked around and spotted Jamie leaning against the wall of the cave about to pour alcohol onto her wounded shoulder.
“Don’t do that,” Dani said as she rubbed her eyes. “You’ll harm the tissue and delay healing.”
Jamie lowered her hand. “You sleep like shite, you know that?”
Dani got up and kneeled by Jamie, taking the bottle from her. “Sorry if I woke you.”
“I don’t sleep much anyway,” Jamie admitted.
Dani grabbed the bandages from beside Jamie and began to rewrap her shoulder. “Why's that?"
Jamie looked at Dani, studying her features for a moment. No one could tell by looking at her that she had spent the night tossing and turning. She had even said a few words in her sleep. "You answer one of my questions and I'll answer yours."
"That's fair," Dani agreed.
"Why are you out here away from your clan?" Jamie asked.
Dani’s hand stilled mid-wrap for a brief second before continuing. She had been doing some reconnaissance instead of the usual individuals because she wanted to get away for a bit. Wanted to be alone. Owen was her second-in-command and she knew he'd run things just fine. "I was visiting Edinborough." Not a complete lie. She had stopped by there on her journey.
"Edinborough?"Jamie repeated, surprised. "What business does a Saint have with the Sinners?"
"I'm… acquaintances with Theo Willoughby," Dani answered as she finished up with Jamie’s shoulder.
Jamie hadn’t personally met Theo but she knew her sister, Viola, and she knew the two didn’t see eye-to-eye. “We should stop there on the way back to Charington. You could use better medicine.”
Jamie watched as Dani moved back over to where she had slept. “I’m not going to Edinborough… or Charington, for that matter.”
Dani pulled a map from her backpack and went to sit beside Jamie, ignoring her words. She unfolded the map and pointed to where they were. “We’re here,” she trailed her finger along the map, “and we want to head here. That’s about five days. Maybe seven since you’re injured. We can stop by The Ward and stock up since it’s on the way and the next safest stop after that is Edinborough.”
Jamie pulled the map from Dani as she looked it over. The cave they were in was now sketched onto the map. “You made this?”
“I did,” Dani replied as she let Jamie examine her work.
Jamie had seen handmade maps before but nothing this detailed. “You’re full of surprises.”
“You’ve barely known me for twenty-four hours,” Dani pointed out. “Anything you learn about me is bound to be a surprise.” She took the map from Jamie and folded it back up. “So, when do you want to head out?”
“I think we’re good to go our separate ways.” Jamie stood up, trying not to let the pain in her arm show on her face.
Dani watched Jamie begin to gather her things with one good arm, stopping occasionally when her shoulder would start to bother her. “You should at least put the sling on.” She picked it up from where Jamie had left it on the ground and stood up to approach her.
Jamie accepted the sling and carefully put it on. “Thanks,” she mumbled before reaching down to grab her backpack. She slung it over her good shoulder and glanced around the cave to make sure she wasn’t forgetting anything. “All right, I’d say it was a pleasure, but you shot me so…,”
Dani picked up her bag and pulled out two granola bars wrapped in plastic. She had traded for a handful of them a few days back. “Here. Take these. Save them for emergency purposes if you can’t find food.”
“Keep them. I don’t need handouts,” Jamie said.
Dani rolled her eyes and stepped behind Jamie, unzipping her backpack and dropping them in. “I think I’ll stay here another night. It’s peaceful.”
“Have at it,” Jamie said as she made her way towards the entrance of the cave.
“Wait, I didn’t get to ask my question,” Dani called to her.
Jamie turned back around. “Okay, well ask it.”
“Why don’t you sleep much?”
“Always have to keep my guard up between Grims, Marauders and the occasional prat.” Sleeping required Jamie to feel safe. She wasn’t sure she’d ever had a peaceful night of sleep in her life. “Goodbye, Saint. Stay out of trouble, yeah?”
“I’ll do my best,” Dani assured her before Jamie walked out of the cave.