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Gabriel caught the rotted branch before she broke it over his head. A moment passed. Bark crumbled between them. He stared into her frightened blue eyes. Eyes the color of waters he hadn't seen in a year. They jerked him to his past, a place he didn't want to leave then and now a place he never wanted to visit again. He waited. She waited. Time suspended with their arms overhead and only the bit of wood connecting them.
Had his father sent her?
No. Father wouldn't risk anyone knowing of his plans and Gabriel had not broken his cover in a year. Father still thought he was dead. Even if his father would risk sending someone, he would not have sent someone incompetent. If his father had sent her, Gabriel would be dead.
She was-he didn't know, but he couldn't stop seeing fear in her eyes, in the shake of her arms and slight tremble of her jaw as he towered over her. Her teeth took her lower lip and she raked the reddened plump swell. Her eyes shifted. She was going to run.
She released the limb and did just that.
"Wait!" He tossed the branch aside and chased after.
Her hair flew loose behind her, her dress dragged through the mud. She jumped to the right, low hanging limbs surely slapped her in the face, but she pressed on as though the very devil were at her heels. She wouldn't be far off in that thinking, but he followed her path. His longer stride closed the distance between them. He reached out and dove, catching her about the waist and brought her to the ground. Her heels kicked his thighs and her elbows jabbed his shoulders. He winced under the digs, but didn't release her.
Trapping her against the ground with this body, he forced her wrists with bloody pointy elbows to the muddy forest floor. "What do you want with me?"
She tensed under him, her struggling halted. "You don't know who I am?"
"A mad woman who attacked me?" It wasn't everyday he pinned a woman to the ground, let alone had he been attacked in a long while. Even longer since it was a woman looking to see his head off.
"You're not-oh, dear." Her breath eased out. Her body limped beneath his and all but her bones seemed to mold to the forest floor. "You have my deepest apologies. I mistook you for someone else. Please release me."