He looked at the man holding Calandra, then turned his gaze to the trembling child. Her nearly black eyes darted about, unable to focus on anything.
“Let the child go.” Though he didn’t raise his voice, Broden spoke with authority.
The man, with a knife at her throat, tightened his hold on her. Tear tracks ran down her soot-covered face.
Broden caught her eye and held her gaze. He smiled weakly at her and winked. She seemed to relax ever so slightly. “Let her go,” he repeated, looking back again at her abductor.
“Where are they?”
“They’re not here.”
“Course they are,” the stranger argued. “Get ’em now, or the child dies.” He wiggled the blade he held just below her left ear.
“I’m not lying to you.” Broden paused. “If you hurt that child, you’ve nothing. You’d be killed in an instant.” He motioned around the camp. “You’re surrounded. Let her go.”
“Do I look stupid? If I let ’er go, I’ll be killed.”
Broden stepped forward. “Let her go.”
“Send ’em out.”
“I told you already, they’re not here.”
“We’re s’posed tuh b’lieve ’at? Is ’at right?”
“I’m telling you the truth. They left some time ago.”
“Really?” the man sneered. “An’ where is it we’re s’posed to b’lieve they went?”
“We’ve no idea.”
The man pulled Calandra’s head back. The tip of his knife broke her skin. A drop of blood ran slowly down her neck as her eyes widened in terror.
“I told you,” Broden took another step, “if you harm that child, you are dead.”
“An’ I tol’ you ’at if ya don’t deliver the twins tuh me now,” the man said, pulling back on Calandra’s head again, “she is dead.”
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