For Miles, there was something strangely comforting about lying face down in the dirt. He was alive. And no one was bothering him.
He laid there long enough to relax and become a boy again.
He stood up. The thought crossed his mind that he could walk away from it all now.
Pa was right. He wasn’t cut out to be a fighter and there was no shame in admitting that to himself. His father hadn’t told him that to be mean but rather to save him from a life he wouldn’t be able to handle.
Now there was an opportunity for Miles to save himself.
Naked, bruised, bloody, aching all over, he put one foot in front of the other, heading South. Heading anywhere but Highwater.
Miss Bonnie would be fine, right?
Surely, that scrappy lady had a better chance at survival than anyone. But she was up against werewolves.
What about Miss Sarah? The odds of her surviving a werewolf kidnapping were a million to one.
All the images of what could be happening to the women Slade had trusted him to protect ran through his mind. He shuddered and tried to think of something else. Anything else.
He couldn’t. Worse, all he could think about was his hesitation. Would one smash to that random wolf’s face have made a difference?
Sure, he still would have had to face King Zeke, but perhaps he could have distracted him long enough for Miss Bonnie to run.
The boy stopped. He remembered his father’s words.
“Someday a Freeman will do something that will make all the shit we’ve been through worthwhile.”
The kid had taken those words to mean some Freeman way down the line, in a future so distant he couldn’t conceive of it.
Miles was a Freeman. The only male Freeman in his line.
His brain was undergoing some hearty calisthenics. He couldn’t exactly keep the Freeman family going if he died fighting werewolves that were stronger and more devious than he was, could he?
But then again, he wouldn’t set much of an example for his future, hypothetical, non-existent at the moment family if he forever had to tell them that when people needed him, he walked away.
Screw it. The boy wolfed out, pointed himself towards Highwater, and ran.