I kept my hands busy, tipping soil and creating pockets for seeds. “You don’t need to know who you are to figure out how to survive. It’s irrelevant.”
“No, but you do need skills.” She waved at the mess on the bench in front of us. “Like this. If I suddenly found myself alone, not knowing who the hell I was or how to go home, I wouldn’t have the foresight to learn how to grow a string of beans.”
I pushed past her, stepping outside into the early afternoon sun. “You don’t know what you’re capable of until you’re forced to find out.”
She followed me, carrying the tray of seedlings and placing it on the ground as I waved instruction with the watering can I’d already filled.
“What was that first crop like?” she asked softly as I tipped a shower of water over the freshly planted pots. “Did it give you joy, knowing you could survive even if you didn’t know who you were?”
A chill shot down my spine at her insight.
Yes, it gave me joy.
It gave me something to live for even though death was a constant whisper inside my head.
I stopped pouring and ducked to grab the tray, but she beat me to it.
“Ah, ah.” She clucked her tongue. “You’re supposed to be resting that arm. Lifting is my job.”
I just grunted and pointed at the cart by the ivy-covered wall. “Put it on there.”
She did as she was told, then turned back toward me, still waiting for an answer. Seemed whatever had happened last night had loosened her tongue. There weren’t arguments between us now, just constant interrogations. Her questions made my head ache, and my desire to be alone increased every minute.
Massaging my nape (with my good hand), I muttered, “That first crop was...the best thing in the world. The first sprout, the first vegetable, the first taste of something I made from nothing.” I didn’t want to look at her, but her presence summoned me. My eyes searched for hers and got caught in the kindness glowing there. No, not just kindness, newness, and never-ending eagerness to know me.
I didn’t like that.
I didn’t like her questions.
I didn’t like this.
Whatever this was.
Giving her a sneer, I headed to the cart and pushed it toward the kitchen door. “Of course, now that you’re helping, we’ll be lucky if anything germinates, thanks to your heavy hands.”
She shrugged, not bothered. “You were the one who said this might be a waste of time.”
I crossed the threshold, leaving dirty tracks on the marble tiles from the cart wheels. “Come.” Fables no longer had a greenhouse. A particularly bad hailstorm had ensured the glass did not survive.
But I had a better idea.
I couldn’t make the sun shine for longer hours, but I could ensure the seedlings would be kept at an even temperature all winter by sheltering them in the games room where the largest hearth and the warmest fire would flicker.
“Gemma,” I muttered, “come on.”
The chain slithered behind me, clinking on the tile, ensuring she’d have no choice but to follow. There was comfort in knowing that but also impatience too.
Yet another thing she’d been right about. My temper had reached its limit with how inconvenient working with the long chain had become. It hooked on everything. Later today, we were going into the woods to collect firewood, but the thought of Parable catching on roots and branches...fuck, what a nightmare.
Who the hell knows where—
“What the—” I spun, making the kitchen swirl and my head pound. Abandoning the cart, I tripped back outside. My gaze instantly fell on Gemma. Sunlight etched her with gold, highlighting her cheekbones and arms as she yanked at the ax embedded in the ground by her feet.
I forgot all about the seedlings.
Panic drenched my blood.
Stalking to her, I snatched the ax. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? You could’ve chopped your damn leg off!” Fisting the handle, I scanned her body, ensuring she hadn’t rearranged anything. My muscles locked as my heart raced. I honestly didn’t know what I’d do if she’d maimed herself.
Is she bleeding?
Fear forced words up my throat. “Are you...are you okay?”
She just smirked. Smirked as if I hadn’t just had a fucking heart attack over her welfare. “I solved our issue.”
“What issue?” My temper soared, ripping through my concern.
“The fact that you can’t remember where the key is issue.”
I narrowed my eyes, locking onto the chain.
The now dismembered chain.
She kicked out her ankle, revealing a short leash that could easily be tucked into the waistband of a skirt or threaded through a pair of leggings.
“Now, darling Kas, you won’t do anything stupid, will you?”
Storymaker lashed his hand around my ankle while his other hovered with a key. I tried to hide my desperation to be free, doing my best to keep my face respectful and contrite. “No, sir.”