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The softly babbling river behind Brontë Matthews and the breeze dancing through the leaves provided accompaniment to the haunting melody spilling from her fingertips. It pulled at her, drawing her into a swiftly moving current of emotion. Unease and pleasure swirled together, flowing through her as rapidly as the water. It was as if the music wove a spell, drawing out her hidden feelings for the two men in front of her—desire, confusion, longing, lust. The song echoed her every emotion.
Closing her eyes, she tried to grasp the next, elusive phrase from her memory as her bow danced across her viola. In her mind’s eye, she could see the cascading notes, scrawled across her composition notebook, but they vanished into a smudge of ink. Frustrated and unable to recall the phrase, she repeated the previous line and lifted her bow from the quivering strings. The last note hung suspended, trembling in the still morning air.
“Where did you hear that?” Quillen Davies demanded.
Brontë slowly lowered her instrument to her lap as his voice slashed through the tranquillity of the moment.
“What do you mean?” she asked, studying his face. His normally relaxed demeanour had vanished, and horror replaced the laughter always apparent in his eyes. She looked to his friend, Tarran Ashe. Though he was usually the more taciturn of the two men, he looked as upset as Quill. She frowned. What the hell was their problem?
Quillen bent his head closer to hers. “I mean, where did you hear it, cariad?” Worry increased his accent’s musical lilt, contrasting sharply with the husky timbre of his voice.
He watched her through the black fall of silky hair that partially obscured his deep green eyes. Darker than the lush foliage around them, they seemed to hide a wealth of secrets. Strange how she’d never noticed that before. Shaking his hair from his face, he scowled—his sculpted lips turning downward. In the month she’d known him, she’d never seen him so much as frown. Now, he practically glowered at her.
She glanced at the other man. Tarran’s pale grey eyes were narrowed as he glared at her, too. Of course, that wasn’t much different than his usual expression, but there was something pinched—something that looked off somehow.
Apprehension and confusion gnawed at her.
The river gurgled pleasantly in the background, but a chill she couldn’t shake settled over her skin like a damp, cloying shroud. The trees of the Gwydyr forest seemed to crowd closer as if listening to them. What had started out as a peaceful morning had quickly become ominous and unsettling. For the first time since arriving in Wales a month ago, she felt like an outsider—an interloper. She was supposed be here working on her graduate degree at the Bren Gwyrdd Music Conservatory. In fact, she hoped to complete this song as one of the requirements of her composition class. But the way Quill and Tarran acted, she was beginning to feel like she’d committed a crime.
How was she supposed to explain that the song had come to her in a series of dreams? Who would believe it? Each night, she dreamt a little more of the melody. The sounds were so vivid, they’d wake her from a sound sleep until she was forced to scribble down the tune, lest it vanish from her mind forever. It was true that the subconscious mind was capable of amazing things, but composing entire songs? Not entire songs, she corrected herself. She still didn’t have the ending.
Tarran reached out and took her hand, enveloping it in his much larger one. “We’re not trying to scare you, love.” His usual, deep, smooth tone was clipped and sharp sounding.
“No? Well, you’re doing a pretty good job. What’s going on? What’s the problem with the song?”