Excerpt from War Heart

This is a short snippet from War Heart featuring the lie that Dylan has kept from Ali for so long.


1. Chapter 21 (Ali)


I don't understand why Bella feels the need to gallop full speed through the pass. All it will do is tire our horses and we won't get as much riding done. Plus we're all tired and it's well into the night. Who am I to complain though? If I slow down then I'll be left behind. If I get left behind I'll not only fall prey to mutants but also wild animals that live in the mountains. It's not uncommon to hear of people gone missing while traveling through the mountain pass. Actually it's uncommon to hear of anyone who wants to cross the pass into Mutant territory. King Xander gave a portion of his land to Riley to govern and he sort of turns his head any time Riley does something questionable. I've learn that the way Rayn runs things aren't flawless but they work. In my opinion Queen Zahara of Kilren runs things better in her land but who am I to voice an opinion. That's another reason I joined this ragged group of rebels. Bella has an opinion, and a strong one at that but she knows how to voice it. I stand a chance with her. With her, my opinions are sure to be heard. Maybe one day I can take over and run things my way. I scowl at myself. I am woman. I'm not entitled to anything let alone the thoughts to take over. I sigh, Dylan always listened to my quiet suggestions and he approved. I look over at him to find him avoiding Bella. Something happened between them. They'd be such a great pair if they could get over their hate for each other. Annie stumbles regains her balances and continues on trying to catch up. It's no use and she's not the only horse that's tired. If we don't stop we'll run our horses into the ground and then we'll have to walk the whole way through mutant territory.
"Bella! I think we should stop for the night," I call out but she either ignores me or doesn't hear me. I throw a helpless glance at Nala and she nods tiredly. 
"Bella, we need to stop for the night." Nala rephrases my suggestion. Bella ignores her also.
"Bella. Think of the horses' needs." Dylan's voice floats up the line of galloping horses. Bella whips her horse to a stop so fast I have to circle around again to avoid running into Kara. She spins around and glares at Dylan.
"I didn't ask your opinion." Her words are bitter and hurtful and Dylan flinches away from them. I've never seen him back down, he's always been too proud to. Bella takes in all our looks before sighing.
"Fine, we'll camp for the night but if we get attacked by a mountain lion, just remember this was your idea," she decides for all of us but I can tell she's exhausted too. Her strength seems to fade and her shoulders lower. She slides off her horse and I swing myself off mine. I automatically gather the horses and make sure they're cared for before coming back over to the rest of them. 
"I guess I'll go see if I can catch something." Kara sighs and I notice Bella is having a hard time staying upright. Nala pulls out a pouch of something and tosses it at Kara. She catches it and opens it. Surprise litters her face and she dumps the contents on the ground. Rolls, meat slices, full carrots and potatoes fall onto the ground and my mouth waters. Dylan snorts as he pulls out a similar bag.
"Looks like you weren't the only one to take a trip to the kitchen." He smirks, avoiding Bella even though they're standing across from each other. If someone doesn't intervene those two are going to kill each other with silence. 
"I'll find firewood," I volunteer but Bella shakes her head at me.
"Too risky to have a fire." Her reasoning is good but I have a feeling it has nothing to do with mountain lions.
"Why?" Dylan challenges her but I note that his usual teasing is gone and instead his voice is bitter. She doesn't even look at him while turning toward me.
"Will you tell him that mountain lions happen to enjoy eating whatever they can find in the pass." I frown at her. This has gone too far. 
"Can I talk to you two?" My words pin them to the ground with their sharpness. They both look at me, Bella hatefully and Dylan tiredly. 
"Alone," I add as I begin to walk further through the pass. They follow grudgingly, staying as far away from each other as the pass will allow. After we've reached a considerable distance I spin around and cross my arms at them.
"Look, I don't know what's going on between you two but it needs to end now. Apologize." I am sick and tired of this little act their putting up to hide whatever happened. Bella looks shocked that I would ask such a thing of her and Dylan raises an eyebrow questioningly.
"Why would I apologize when I have nothing to apologize for?" Bella holds her head high and pride jumps between her and Dylan.
"Apologizing isn't explaining your wrong actions. Apologizing is acknowledging that you did wrong and asking for forgiveness," I inform her and her head lowers but her eyes remain hard.
"How can we make amends when we said all we said?" 
"Well, how can I say instead that I hope it's for the best? Because I won't and I won't give up," Dylan answers her although his eyes remain to his right. I take a step back and let them argue it out. 
"Well you should."
"I'm quickly learning how to pick my battles and fighting with you isn't one of them. It should be us against the world not us against each other. If it came to that I'd like to know you're on my side." His words are thoughtful and quiet. They seem to pierce straight through Bella's shield and she bites her lip in concentration.
"Apologizing isn't acknowledging that you did wrong. It's admitting you're wrong and regretting your choices," Bella states as if it has become clear all of the sudden. I smile, this is going better then I planned.
"I won't apologize. I know I was wrong, I'll admit that but I don't regret it. No, I won't apologize but I am willing to put it all aside and forget the things we said as long as you've learned that yelling at me does nothing," she continues and I can almost see the hope bubbling in Dylan's chest. A smile slowly spreads across his lips. 
"Maybe you won't apologize but I will. I am sorry for yelling at you. Yelling wasn't the way to come to an agreement but what I said still stands. Something needs to change," he tells her and she looks away.
"I'll strike you a deal. You help me out and I'll let you stay," Bella offers and Dylan snorts. I raise an eyebrow at her but she doesn't acknowledge me.
"What kind of deal is that? I'll stay of my own free will and I'll help you only because I like you." His sea accent sticks out more than usual and I begin to wonder if it does that when his emotions are more extreme. Like, when he's upset, angry, stressed, that kind of thing.
"Alright, Captain Serane. You can stay," Bella agrees but there's a certain note of mocking in her tone. Her words finally wash over me and I pause. Captain Serane? That can't be right, Dylan isn't a captain. A smile creeps across Bella's lips slowly.
"Nala? Kara? I know you're eavesdropping on us so why don't you two just join us. I believe Dylan has something to tell all of you." Dylan's eyes find mine and I see the apology forming in his eyes but there is too much nervousness of what he's going to say to be mad at him yet. Nala and Kara crawl out from behind the ledge they were hiding behind with their heads hanging. Bella looks smug and Dylan looks shamed. 
"Well?" Bella prods him and he sighs.
"I'm a pirate."
"Yeah and I'm a leprechaun." Nala snorts in disbelief and I almost admire her incredulous attitude. Shock fills my throat. He lied to me. To my father and for what? To save his own neck. A flicker of amusement flies into his eyes at Nala's comment.
"I don't know, that red hair's looking a little suspicious." His old self returns as he teases her. Betrayal pierces my veins like poison and I shake my head at him.
"You lied." My voice cracks and I force the tears back. The teasing leaves his form and his eyes show with pain.
"I'm sorry. I was only going to tell one so your father wouldn't kill me on the spot but then the lies kept piling up. I couldn't keep up so I went back to being who I am. I am a pirate." It all makes too much sense. His accent, his strange behavior, his sword and ship. It's too much to know that for all these years he's been playing me so that he can live. He's been lying to me the whole time. I shake my head again, angry with the tears that are falling. Pirates. Our town is specifically known to hunt them down. He picked the lions den to take a nap in. Typical Dylan. I turn my back to him but not before I see the annoyed glance he throws Bella. Hatred bubbles in my chest as I walk back to our camp. Frustration and hatred and sadness and all those other unnamable emotions fly at my with incredible speed. I shoot out my foot and it sends the rock I aimed for flying. I do it again and again until the rock disappears out of sight. I kick a second rock but cringe when it doesn't budge. My toes hurt and I hop around until the pain fades. I sink to my knees and that's when the tears begin to pour.
"Can you forgive me?" A voice asks and all I want to is shoot a cannon at him. My hand clenches around a decent sized rock and without my permission it going flying at his head. His eyes widen and he narrowly misses getting hit. My aim when I'm upset isn't that great.
"You know what? None of this matters! You're a thief. You're a liar. Why not add being a pirate to your list of things?" I inch closer to him until I'm holding on to the collar of his shirt.
"You're no better than the rest of us. But maybe you'd like to know something before you go running off with Bella. I just thought you might want to know that secretly she's working with Riley." His shock fills me with joy. I've been suspicious for a while now but her recent behaviors have proved it. Her edgy behavior around the pass. She's just afraid that we'll find out. Well I did. 
"No, you're wrong." He mumbles while shaking his head. His body is frozen in denial. 
"I guess we aren't always who we say we are. Are we sweetheart?" I snarl at the incredulous grasp he has on the situation before letting go of the collar of his shirt. Walking off toward my horse, I grab my belongings. Annie nickers a tired greeting and that knocks me into place. I drop my stuff and run my fingers between her ears. She brings her head up and lays it on my shoulder. The weight of her head practically brings me down but I manage to stand. She breathes out a long sigh and for a second I'm not sure she'll let me go. Her teeth grab my shirt and I pull away. She nods her head like a crazy horse before ramming her head in my chest. The wind is knocked out of my chest and I narrow my eyes at her. I turn around and she does it again, pushing me toward the food. She snorts so I walk out to the food. She stares at me intently before lying down on the ground. I carefully sit down too and finally she seems satisfied. I guess she was making sure I stayed. Sighing I pick at the food on the ground until Kara and Nala appear. Bella's not with them and neither is Dylan. I guess I really didn't scare him away. I give Nala a questioning look and she answers my unasked question.
"Bella collapsed again, this time from lack of food, and Dylan's supposed to be carrying her back here. But you know how Bella is." She rolls her eyes at her own comment and I frown. I'm not going to wait around hungry while they do whatever it is that they're doing.
"Lets eat. They can have some when they get back." Nala and Kara mumble what sounds like an agreement and we divvy up fair shares. As I take a bite of a carrot I sense, rather than see Dylan coming up behind Nala. A frown rests on his lips and his eyes are hard.
"Where's Bella?" Kara questions and Dylan glances at her. 
"Being stubborn as usual." He growls and I realize that she ordered him away. Ha! Now he knows how the rest of us feel. He sits down heavily across from me and his eyes remain fixated on the ground. Bella stumbles out of the darkness and even though Dylan's back is turned he still flinches. I start to wonder what kind of other things he's got up his sleeve that he's been hiding from me. I mean, it's practically pitch black out and he still knew she was coming up behind him. When she finally sits down Kara hands her a pile of food and Bella begins to eat with the rest of us. The food is meant to last us a few days so I pack up the rest of my meal and walk to put it with my saddlebags. Yawning I walk back over and lie down. I am so exhausted but I'm afraid of the dreams that'll haunt me tonight. 
"I'll keep first watch," Dylan volunteers but I hardly hear him as the world around me fades. Sleep is quick.

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