“Well, I just can’t believe it!” Danielle bellowed, her face flushed red. “How could you? How could you?” Her hands formed into fists and thrust down, as if to emphasize her dismay.
Anders blanched at the intensity of her rebuke. Several hours earlier, his nerves had been a disaster, when suddenly, Danielle, her parents, Ita-Mudak and Conomorg, along with Danielle’s new dog, Anja, parted into their midst, with none other than Lohxnahr leading them. On the one hand, Anders was thrilled beyond his greatest hope to see Danielle again, for he’d never expected to. Indeed, he’d vehemently argued with his cousin Paign about this very thing. Anders also felt nearly crushing guilt and remorse now that Danielle stood before him, while Paign was suffering unknown but unspeakable torment somehow because of their argument. And now Danielle stared at him defiantly, questioning his allegiances to her companions—and herself.
As Anders shook his head, searching for what to say, Freida rose from where she’d been sitting. Her great mastiff lay next to her with his head across her feet.
“Oh, bother! Tiny’s made my foot go numb!”
Gingerly, she hobbled over to her friend, taking her hands into her own. She gently unclenched Danielle’s fists and wrapped her hands around them.
“Please, Danielle,” Freida said softly. “Please understand that we don’t want to believe this. But we feel we must. Do you understand?” Freida squeezed Danielle’s fingers in her own.
For a moment, Danielle’s hazel eyes continued to glare into Freida’s grey ones. Then, Danielle’s chin dropped, as she looked at Freida’s fingers wrapped around hers. Without thinking, Danielle stroked Freida’s rough farm hands with her thumbs.
Not looking up, Danielle replied, “Yes, I suppose so.” She shook her head as she looked up into the eyes of her friend. “It just seems so wrong to question Lohxnahr.” At the mention of the little gargoyle’s name, both girls turned toward where Lohxnahr was being held.
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