The light of the campfire pushed at the cold, wet, darkness. Still, I shivered inside my damp clothes.
Alec threw another branch on the fire and then sat down next to me. He rubbed his hands over my arms and shoulders, trying his best to warm me.
“Stretch your feet out towards the fire,” he suggested as he took my hands in his and exhaled his hot breath over them.
“I had no idea it would be this cold,” I stuttered as my teeth clicked together.
He turned and crawled into the open tent, pulling out one of the thick down sleeping bags. He unzipped it and wrapped it around my shoulders.
“See if this helps,” he said.
“Thank you,” I mumbled and moved closer to the fire. I could already feel the smoky warmth spreading over me.
Alec stared into the fire, poking at it now and then with a long stick.
“I know the cold sucks,” he said. “But hopefully it’s so cold whoever owns this property won’t come out and run us off.”
“Do you think they would really do that?”
“How do I know?” He said with a shrug, “We’re about a mile from the Hill of Tara; it was too dark when we stopped to really see anything. For all I know, we could be camping in someone’s back yard.”
I looked out into the darkness, straining to see anything. “We’re only a mile away?”
“According to the GPS on my phone we are.”
“Shouldn’t we be able to see or hear something of we’re that close?”
Alec poked at the fire and frowned, “Maybe your gypsy friends are just lying low.”
“It seems strange to think that Kieran could just be a mile away.”
Alec tossed his stick into the fire, sending orange sparks up into the air.
“Look,” he huffed and glared into the flames. “I’m trying real hard to do the right thing here. I’ve betrayed my family and my heritage for you, so can you try not to rub my face in it?”
I shrank away from him, embarrassed and ashamed.
“I’m sorry,” I mumbled. “It’s just—“
“I don’t want you to explain anything,” he snapped. “I just want to ask you one question.”
My stomach fluttered and my throat grew tight, not sure I even wanted to know his question.
“What is it?” I forced myself to ask.
Alec turned the full force of his gaze on me, his eyes glittering in the light of the fire.
“Why not me?” He asked.
“You heard me,” he said. “Why not me?”
I looked away, thankful that the shadows would hide my expression.
“I don’t understand,” I lied.
Alec turned back to the fire, “I just want to know, why him? Why not me?”
“I was there,” he interrupted. “Day after day, I kept thinking you’d look at me, that you’d really look at me, but you never did.”
“Just be honest,” he said. “Why not me?”
How could I explain it to him? How could I describe that overpowering wave that was falling in love to someone that hadn’t experienced it?
One look at him though and I knew...Alec had experienced that feeling.
“Alec,” I began, too ashamed to meet his eyes. “What do you want me to say? For whatever reason, it was Kieran and I can’t change that.”
He flinched as if I had slapped him and glared into the fire.
“I know,” he said with a bitter smile. “I guess I just had to hear it for myself.”
I hated myself for hurting him, “If you want to leave, I’ll understand. You’ve already done so much to help me.”
“And what am I going to do?” He snapped, “Walk all the way back to Dublin in the dark?”
“I didn’t mean—“
“I promised to get you to Tara safely and that’s what I’m going to do.”
I looked down at my hands, knowing that I didn’t deserve his friendship or his company. It would serve me right if her would leave me here and catch the first flight back to America.
“Why are you still willing to help me?” I asked.
Alec tossed another branch onto the fire, “Because that is what you do when you love someone. You do things that make them happy, even if it breaks your heart.”
“That’s something that your gypsy needs to learn,” he said.
Before I had the change to say anything else, he turned and crawled into the tent.
**WARNING** Since I do not write my stories in order, this sneak peek may change slightly by the time Far Away reaches publication.