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Pearson Mary E, “The kiss of deception”, public translation into English from English More about this translation.

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“I’m paid to kill you either way,” he answered, “but I could make it more painful for you if that’s the way you want it. And then there’s that pretty friend of yours—”

My knee jerked upward, and I stomped down on the top of his foot as hard as I could, my elbow jamming back into his ribs at the same time. I jumped away and whirled at him, pulling my knife. He was coming at me, grimacing in pain, but then he abruptly stopped. His eyes widened unnaturally and then his face lost all expression except for his bulging eyes. He crumpled to the ground, falling to his knees. I looked at the knife in my hands, wondering if I had thrust it into him without even knowing it. He fell forward at my feet, facedown, his fingers twitching in the dirt.

I saw movement. Kaden was ten yards away, a crossbow at his side, Rafe a bit farther behind him. They rushed toward me but stopped a few feet away.

“Lia,” Rafe said, holding his hand out, “give me the knife.”

I looked down at the knife still clutched in my hand and then back at him. I shook my head. “I’m all right.” I brushed my jerkin aside and tried to return it to its sheath, but it spilled from my fingers to the ground. Kaden retrieved it and slid it into its thin leather casing for me. I stared at what was left of the garlands crushed beneath our feet in the scuffle, tiny pieces of pink and lavender scattered across the forest floor.

“Your neck,” Rafe said. “Let me see.” He lifted my chin and wiped at the blood with his thumb.

Everything still seemed to be happening in fast jerky movements. Rafe produced a piece of cloth—a kerchief?—and pressed it to my neck. “We’ll have Berdi look at it. Can you hold this here?” I nodded and he lifted my hand to my neck, pressing my fingers into the cloth. He walked over and kicked the man’s shoulder to make sure he was dead. I knew he was. His fingers were no longer twitching.

“I heard you scream,” Kaden said, “but I couldn’t get a clear shot at him until you pushed away. At this range, the arrow might have gone straight through him into you.” He set his crossbow down and knelt beside the body, breaking off the arrow that protruded from the man’s back. Together he and Rafe rolled him over.

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