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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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We all stared at the man, whose eyes were still open. Blood filled deep creases on either side of his mouth, making him look like a startled puppet.

Neither of them seemed affected by his appearance. Perhaps they had examined many dead bodies. I hadn’t. My knees weakened.

“Do you know him?” Rafe asked.

I shook my head.

Kaden stood. “What did he want?”

“Money,” I said automatically, surprising myself. “He just wanted money.” I couldn’t tell them the truth without revealing who I was. And then I saw the note, the small piece of paper written in my own hand, fluttering only inches from his fingers.

“Do we call the constable?” Kaden asked.

“No!” I said. “Please, don’t! I can’t—” I took a step forward, and my knees melted away, blood rushing behind my eyes, the world spinning. I felt hands catching me, scooping beneath my legs.

Carry her back. I’ll take care of the body.

My head spun, and I tried to breathe deeply, fearing I would retch, a hand holding the cloth to my neck again. Breathe, Lia, breathe. You’ll be all right … but with my world spinning, I wasn’t sure if the words I heard were Kaden’s or my own.

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

RAFE

I wrestled with the body, hoisting it across the back of my horse. Blood smeared my shoulder. The smell of decay hadn’t set in yet, but I had to turn away from the rank odor of neglect and excrement for a breath of fresh air. That’s the way of death. There’s no dignity in it.

A deep, rugged gorge was just over the ridge. I headed there, leading my horse through the woods. Animals and the elements would take care of the body long before anyone ventured into that remote abyss. It was all he deserved.

I couldn’t get the image of her bloody neck out of my mind. I had seen plenty of bloody necks before, but … ordered by her own father? It was no ordinary bandit who attacked her. This man had been on the road for weeks looking for her. I knew there was a warrant posted for her arrest and a bounty for her return. It had been chattered about in a town I stopped in near Civica when I was searching for her myself. I thought the warrant was only a shallow gesture to appease Dalbreck.

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