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“Why didn’t you stay at the manor?” He shook his head. “I told you to stay.”

She swallowed hard beneath his hold, confused. His expression shifted, a scowl forming. He pulled her chin upward, jutting it toward the sky in an awkward angle. “What is that?”

Sienna couldn’t answer, her jaw was locked closed in his large hand. He released his hold on her chin only to pull her toward a patch of sunlight breaking through the trees.

He was less abrupt this time, but cupped her chin again, peering closely at her face. It was too close. He was too close. The Matrix Diamond Officer brushed his thumb across her cheek and when she involuntarily let out a gasp, she understood what he was talking about.

“Oh,” she breathed out.

“You’re hurt.”

She tried to yank away as hot shame filled her. He grabbed her arms, refusing to release her and she lashed out. “Let me go!”

Officer Epherion looked down at her. “Sienna. Listen to me. I’m not going to hurt you. Do you understand?”

“You’re taking me to Lord Darius!”

“Shall I take you back to him?

Sienna fell silent.

“Did he hit you anywhere else?”

“What the hell does it matter? You are taking me from one abuser to another.” She glared at him.

“It’s not what you think.” He paused. “There’s so little you understand.”

“Enlighten me.”

“There are a hundred Niles. Wherever you go, another man like him will find you.”

She winced.

“I cannot abandon you to the same fate.”

Sienna wiped at her eyes. Had she been crying? She blinked up at Epherion. “This is madness.”

“It’s the way of the South.”

There it was again. “Then may all the gods curse the South!”

The officer paused and leaned into her face. For the first time his perfectly composed features took on a menacing edge. “That is blasphemy. I would advise you to never say such a thing to Lord Darius. It could mean your head.”

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