That last was too much to ask.
"Irene!" He called. She lifted her skirt in one hand and ran faster, her bow and knife catching on every other stride. Still she ran, not dropping her hem until she pushed the boat into the lake and jumped inside. Her bow and knife clattered to the floor of the boat as she took up the oar.
Still he came, splashing through the water and even diving in. That shocked her, making her oar hesitate across her lap. The water was freezing, fed by the mountains. Even in summer it was barely warm. Yet he dove under and swam with long strokes.
Her hesitation cost her, and she dipped the oar back in too late. He had grabbed the side and begun hauling himself up. She rapped his knuckles with oar, bruising them and sending him back to water. She rowed with vengeance then, paddling hard and quick to pull away from him toward the far shore.
How did he swim in all those skins and boots? Surely they would drag him to the bottom of lake. Then she would never have to face him again. Exactly what she desired.
Turning away from his splashing, she looked toward her goal. There was a patch of beach where she could land the boat. Hopping out, she cussed as the freezing water engulfed her bare feet. She dragged the boat and then ran inland.
"Irene!" Owen called, still following. What did he want from her? "Irene. Gods, I'm cold. I'm going to start a fire, Irene. Please join me. You'll freeze too."
She held her arms, already feeling the chill in the air. There was no way she was seeking his heat, however. She trudged on, bow and knife in hand.
There was more cursing behind her and a violent sneeze. She looked back to see Owen pushing through the trees, his breath coming in misty swirls. He was pale, which looked wrong in his dark complexion. Just as she was about turn and run on, he collapsed.
This was her chance. She could leave him for dead, find some sort of shelter and live free.
Lying on his back, breath continued to swirl over him in smaller patches, further apart. He was dying.
She wasn't hard enough. She couldn't leave him like that. Not when he'd gotten that way following her. Gathering leaves and branches, she started a fire right next to him with his own flint and steel. Then she let it burn while she sought larger pieces to feed it, building it into a roaring blaze.
Irene sat on the opposite side of the fire, watching him. His chest rose and fell so slowly. He was still dying. Approaching him again, she touched his face, feeling how icy he was. Closing her eyes to gather her strength, she pulled off his shirt. Beneath he wore a tunic similar to her brothers'. It was heavy with water and nearly frozen.
Irene left it in place for another minute, but couldn't leave him for dead. She pulled up on the tunic, sliding his arms out of the sleeves until it smacked on the ground near his head. Now she was faced with his broad chest covered in thick dark curls. It was different from her father and brothers with fine pale hair. She ran her hand over it, feeling how cold his skin was. Biting her lip, she rolled atop him. He had better not make her regret this.
As always, the rest of the AfterDark Moments are on the blog.