Iaondrin checked the windows, making sure she knew how to work the locks on the bars and surveying the ground between the building and the surrounding wall. “He must be doing well with his law practice to afford this place,” she said, just to have something to say.
Vermillion checked the room out himself, door bolt, window locks, and just because he was slightly paranoid, he looked for any hidden doors, panels, or spy holes. When he was satisfied that it was nothing more than an inn suite, he turned to her and said, “I’ve had a friend shadowing us since we left Tarrish.”
Iaondrin looked at him, face expressionless, and then gave a slight, disbelieving shake of her head. She turned, threw herself onto the couch, stretched her legs out and stared at her feet, thinking. “Let me guess … the one who needed your help in Darilei.” She did not seem angry, which was a good sign – she did not hide anger well. “The one who asked you to follow me then is the one you asked to follow us now.”
“Yeah, the one who owed Gilford a favor. He’s the only one I trust to do the job right.” He stood across the room from her, unsure of her reaction – but then, he hadn’t known what to expect as her reaction. “Maybe I should have told you sooner, maybe it would have made you worry less, but you were – are dealing with a lot. I didn’t know if it would add to it, lessen it… Maybe I was trying to be too clever for my own good.”
She leaned her head back against the couch and closed her eyes. “I’m not making it easy for you. That’s not my way. To make things easy for people. With your luck I would have spent my time looking for him, and trying to figure out how I would know who not to stab.”
“The thought that you would look for him did cross my mind,” he said with a small smile. “And that’s one of the reasons I’m telling you now – so you know there will be someone not to stab. We’re coming to a point where he may have to step into a fight.” His voice faded a bit at that, and he turned his head to stare at a wall. If it came to that, it would be because Vermillion was over-matched, and by the time Kaz puzzled that out, it could be too late. He almost offered her the dust again, but he didn’t want to start that now. “I will keep you safe,” he whispered fiercely, but it wasn’t clear if he was talking to her or to himself.
She didn’t say anything in response, not knowing how to respond. She had spent too many years keeping herself safe – or at least, on the run and not cornered – and it had not been easy to re-set her mind to rely on someone else. Now, she had to rely on him to put himself between her and anything or anyone that might come at her, and she had to rely on Gilford to help her navigate the arcane and confusing procedures of the High Council and League law, and the like.
She looked around the room. “A day to kill. I need to get some hobbies. That whittling thing just isn’t going to work out.”
He was silent a minute more, as if he hadn’t heard her, then he shook himself and chuckled. “Doesn’t look like it,” he answered. “Can’t help you find one, though. All I do is work. Don’t have a hobby of my own.” The food came, causing a tense moment when he answered the door, but it was just a timid serving girl. “Let me go first,” he said, pouring some wine into a goblet. He studied it for a moment, then sniffed it, then took a deep breath and put the goblet to his lips.
Iaondrin watched with a slight frown. “Take a small sip first. Maybe it won’t poison you too much that way.”
He gave her a sidelong glance without moving the goblet, then sucked some liquid into his mouth, held it for a few seconds, then swallowed.
She leaned forward, arms folded on the table-top, watching intently. It had never occurred to her that she might have to start worrying about whether the food was poisoned. “Well? Are you going to die?” Iaondrin tried to ask it lightly, but the tension was obvious in her voice.
Bryan took a deep breath before answering. “I told you I wouldn’t die.” He handed her the goblet and poured himself the other one, then tasted all the foods before pronouncing them all right to eat. Letting himself relax just a little, he picked at the bread and cheese, nibbled at the fruit. “Feeling a little better after today?”
Iaondrin filled her own plate. “Some. One step, as Gilford said. The thing in the privy, not so good. At least I got to finish. Now, I have to worry about who the priests are going to be, and what questions are going to be asked. That’s something I do well. But worrying is a lousy hobby to have.”
“Yeah, it would be too easy if they just asked, ‘Hey, did you help the Clunne attack League caravans?’ and be done with it.” He stretched his legs out. “And of course, they will try to get you to say your cousin did something.” He tilted his head as he looked at her. “You should consult with Gilford as much as you can if they ask a troublesome question. Also, we should find out if you can decline to answer questions about Morgan or other things that have nothing to do with the claims against you. That might make things easier.”
She nibbled at a slice of cheese before answering. “I don’t want them to use me to put him in a worse place than he’s already in. Not that he thinks he’s in a bad place. He doesn’t care. He doesn’t plan to come back.” From the way her eyes focused on nothing, it was obvious she was thinking it through aloud. “I could throw him to the wolves, and he wouldn’t care.” Her blue eyes flicked up to him, and then away.
“But you would. So don’t. What he’s doing, what he’s done, it’s nothing to do with what you are facing. Gilford is smart enough to stop that nonsense, but we should mention it.” He paused, nibbled some cheese. “They know you can be goaded now.”
Her brows drew together again, and her jaw clenched. “I shouldn’t have lost my temper. I don’t deal well with people.” “Try taking a deep breath or two before answering any question, no matter how simple it seems. Maybe consult with our barrister. Feel free to glare and scowl all you want, though,” he offered helpfully.
She gave him a sideways glance at that, seemed prepared to argue, but then conceded the point. “Do you think I could get some fresh clothes somewhere? Maybe have someone go out to fetch just nicer trousers and a tunic, maybe? That would go with my boots?” She asked it casually, as if it were an idle request, not wanting to admit she wanted to present a better figure the next day. “Though you might have to try them on first, just to make sure there are no traps of some sort. If you do, that might make it worth getting a dress.”
He leaned forward, part way across the table towards her and peered at her carefully for several moments. “Who are you, and what have you done with my Lady?” Inwardly, he was weighing how dangerous a trip out to a seamstress might be for them. It was still the middle of the afternoon, but anyone could hide in a crowded street or marketplace. He didn’t like it. “I think… we could probably sit in the common room for awhile, ask the staff here if they have someone who could go. Come back up when they get back and use that private bath. Unless you think you’d be too worried down there and feel safer here.” Kaz would most likely be in the common room, maybe even one or two of Gilford’s guards.
“I am tired of sitting in rooms, carving mutant horses. But I don’t want to provide an opportunity for trouble. If something happens, then that means someone-” she stopped, then restarted, “that means you, and now your friend, get in the middle of it. It isn’t worth the risk of that. So I’m fine with sending someone out. They can even take my other set of clothes to make sure the hems are the right length.” She took a sip of wine and added without looking at him, “I think you’d look quite fetching in green.”
“You don’t think it would clash with my guttersnipeness?” He slid his pack off and set it on the floor at her feet. “Put your hand on it and think about your spare clothes,” he instructed. “Then I’ll run down and ask for someone to get new clothes and to set up our bath.”
Iaondrin looked from the pack to him and back. “Think about my spare clothes?” she asked skeptically. But she followed his instructions, and when the pack was opened they were on top. She set them on a chair, and moved to the task of unbraiding her hair, pleased inordinately at the idea of another bath. Hair half undone, she considered her nails critically. Not a lady’s hands at all, she realized, and began to chew on a broken nail. Well, the manicure would have to wait for some other time. Pedicure, too, she though, kicking off her boots and tossing aside her socks to consider her bare feet.
The sequence of thoughts was almost transparent on her face, an obvious sign of her lack of guardedness around him.
Bryan found himself smiling slightly as he followed her thoughts. He took the clothes, made sure she knew not to let anyone in until he was back and went down to converse with someone about buying some clothes. “Well-made, two trousers and tunics and one dress, different colors.” The pouch he set on the bar was heavy and he told the woman who would go she could keep what was left over. After he asked for the bath, he turned and went to look out the windows at the sights, and not coincidentally near the table Kaz was sitting at, enjoying a finer meal than usual.
“We’ll be staying here until tomorrow afternoon, then back to the Council,” he breathed without looking at his friend. “Gilford is our petty fogger, if you hadn’t seen him. He’s staying here and has his own guards to help keep this place safe. And she knows I have someone helping us, so she shouldn’t stab you when you appear out of nowhere to help us.” Message delivered, he went back to the room.
Kaz continued to eat without taking any apparent notice of Vermillion. Though he did not react to the last sentence, Vermillion knew he was probably skeptical of the idea that Iaondrin could manage to stab him. But this was neither the time nor the place to debate the point.
Iaondrin didn’t even make an effort at offering to let her bathe first. She sank into the hot water (warmed by magic of some sort, she could tell, from the way the threads skimmed across the surface) with a sigh, letting it cover her face and setting her hair afloat around her. Maybe she could spend most of the time between now and the next Council like this, warm and weightless. Except for the need to breathe. There had to be a way, she thought, to stay under longer rather than simply holding her breath. But she had never learned such a spell, and had no item that would permit it.
Bryan was glad the woman he had sent for the clothes was smarter about it than he was. She had also bought all the necessary under garments and accessories for each outfit. He thanked her profusely and made sure she had had enough coin left over, which she assured him she had. Opening the wrapped bundles, he laid the clothing out on the bed for her to choose when she was done bathing. He would have liked to get her some finer boots, too, but they were tricky and could ruin your feet if they didn’t fit right. To give himself something to do while she enjoyed her bath, he did his best to clean the ones she had, and work some oil into the worn leather. When she had been quiet for awhile, he knocked lightly to check on her.
She may have half-dozed in the tub, until he knocked on the door softly. She sat up suddenly in surprise, half-guilty at how long she had taken, and stood to wrap one of the inn’s enormous soft towels around herself. At least the water was still hot, one advantage of an establishment that catered to the wealthier set. “Sorry,” she said, slipping out, and then stopped to reconsider. The marks of the scar on her back, starting at the top of her right shoulder and disappearing under the towel, glimmered in the mage-lights. “Actually, I’m not. I quite enjoyed it. But you can have your turn now.”
“No, no,” he protested. “Take your time. I just wanted to make sure you were alright and tell you your clothes were here,” he said from outside the doorway. He knew he probably needed a bath, but he wasn’t sure about taking off his armor while he was worried there was an assassin around every corner.
“Did you get yourself anything green?” Iaondrin opened the door to step out and crossed to the pack to search for her comb first before walking over to the bed. “Is that dress for you?” she asked. She would never admit it, but even without the Council meeting coming the next day, part of her was glad to have something new to wear.
“No, my Lady,” he murmured with that same admiration and devotion, a smile in his words. “My own clothes have the right amounts of guard and street trash I am looking for.” He managed to keep his eyes turned from her towel-wrapped form, but only barely. “And my Lady should know that wearing a dress does not fill me with dread or make me feel unmanned. Those shoes, however, you couldn’t pay me enough to wear.”
“Tallentire will be so disappointed.” She picked out a set of small clothes and looked ready to ask him something like “what’s your stance on silky undergarments?” but thought better of it. That could lead the conversation in a direction she wasn’t ready for yet, so instead she waved him away so she could drop the towel and don some clothing. Since she wasn’t going to wear the dress the next day, she decided to wear it now, with the pair of comfortable lounging slippers the woman had purchased as well. The back of the dress was lower than she cared for, baring the scar, but since she was staying in the room that didn’t matter. Then she came out of the bedroom to sit on the couch and start the work of untangling her hair.
Bryan placed her knives on the couch on either side of her, then leaned his sword there also. “If I don’t take one now, I won’t have one before the meeting.” There was still daylight, and he was pretty sure that if they came, they wouldn’t come until after dark. He was in, out, dried, dressed and back in his armor before she was done with her hair. He finished by scraping a sharp dagger over his whisker stubble, deciding that would have to do for now. When he came back to the outer room, he froze when he saw her and watched her work on the last of the tangles, entranced again by her.
“Only a few attackers showed up while you were in there.” She put the comb away and left her hair hanging free to dry. Before she could speak again, someone knocked on the door, tentatively, and then harder, as if working up the nerve.
Vermillion motioned for Iaondrin to grab her knives and stand behind him with the table between them and the door. He slipped his own sword back on, keeping his hand on the hilt. “Yes?” he called out, wondering if he had taken his bath too soon.
“Are you receiving guests?” It was the voice of the guard for the Tarrish representative. “There are a couple of inn servants out here with things that have arrived for your lady as well.”
Vermillion exchanged frowns with Iaondrin, then shrugged and stepped to the door, drawing his sword and keeping it by his side. He opened the door enough to look out and eyed those in the hall, then let the door open wider to allow them to enter, stepping back to Iaondrin as they did.
Celadra stepped aside to let the servants carry in several boxes and wrapped packages, and a stack of sealed correspondence. They bowed or curtsied as appropriate, and set the items on the table, trying to ignore the sword but clearly glancing at it nervously – and at Iaondrin with curiosity before scurrying out and closing the door behind themselves. Celadra jerked her head at the bounty. “The courting of favor begins quickly around here.”
Vermillion asked for another bottle of Vanek Red and a goblet before all the servants left. Most of the plate they had ordered earlier was still there, despite them not having breakfast or middday meal, so he motioned Celadra to sit and help herself. “Looks like you are going to be writing several carefully worded thank you’s, my Lady” he said to Iaondrin. He wondered how many of them were maneuvering for marriage as he slipped his sword back into its scabbard.
Iaondrin watched the other woman, face expressionless, disappearing back into herself.
Celadra looked her over, taking in the change in attire, and picked up a slice of apple with a murmured thanks. “Can you talk?” she asked Vermillion. She left unasked whether he wanted to speak alone, or with the A’nari.
“Guess so,” he answered after a brief moment’s thought. She had been helpful so far, but not all assassin’s might start out with a knife to hand. “We’ll stay across the table for now, if you don’t mind.” They both knew it didn’t matter if she did mind because they were staying where they were.
Celadra nodded, understanding, and took a seat. She kept her hands above the edge of the table, where Vermillion could see them. She could tell the A’nari was not inclined to talk – unfortunate she hadn’t been able to keep herself under control in the Council chamber. “I am familiar with the Nightsong Guild,” Celadra told Vermillion. “Councillor Ankarra in fact has used your services.”
“Not mine personally. I think I’d remember that,” he responded. “But I am here on my own. The Guild isn’t involved in this.” He was able to get himself to go to the door and get the new wine and goblet, then pour Celadra and themselves goblets. “So, what can we help you with?”
She barely sipped at the wine before setting it back on the table. “The inn is sold out now,” she commented. “And the common room is packed. Everyone and his mother wants to see the A’nari.” She nodded again at the gifts and letters. “This will be just the start. When Councillor Ankarra was elected, she received a dozen gifts a day for a week. And she was far less … controversial?” She considered the word, and shook her head slightly. “Shall we say that she was simply of less interest.”
Vermillion found himself frowning. All those people and any of them could be trouble. “I’m not sure my Lady can do anything about that.”
Celadra shook her head. “No, not really. The innkeeper will do good business while you are here. Perhaps even charge extra for this room for a while, after you leave.” She looked at Iaondrin, and then back at Vermillion. “I will be direct, since double-talk is not my way, nor Councillor Ankarra’s. She is straight-forward, and wants to make sure that the questioning tomorrow is conducted fairly.”
“We would like nothing more,” he assured her. “We’re not here to try to trick anyone. Of course, what else would we say? But we have an attorney for keeping everything fair. I’m not sure he would want us discussing it without him.”
“He probably wouldn’t. Look, I don’t expect you to trust me, or her, right off. But you can ask around if you want, see what people have to say.” She popped a grape into her mouth and held his gaze. “Ask Gilford. If you need something – suggestions of other guards, for instance, who you can trust not to sell you out or stab you in the back – you can ask us.”
Vermillion watched her for a moment, assessing again. She seemed to just want to help, but what was the price? Especially from a Councillor from a League city – the same League that wanted to take everything from Iaondrin and sell her into slavery. Still, there had been attacks, there had been entanglements, and there were gifts, Celadra was offering something they could really use. He slid out a chair for Iaondrin to sit in at the table. “Thank you,” he said simply. “That would be helpful, if it works out. But, this being the Aihv’, I have to ask what would you want in return?”
“Most people assume you are here to press for the Seat, and will try to make deals with you on that assumption. But you didn’t press for it this morning, when you had the greatest possibility of working a surprise upset.” She paused a moment before continuing. “Regardless of whether you choose to pursue it or not, there is one thing you could do.” Another might have stopped there, and forced them to ask, but she did not. “Councillor Ankarra’s people have been trying to persuade Owen of Clun to meet with us. She prefers to try to reach a business resolution with him. But he has rebuffed every overture.”
Iaondrin’s eyebrows drew together again, and for a second or two she seemed ready to snap something at Celadra. Then she subsided again, and looked away.
“I don’t expect you to say anything to that. I am not here to try to set a trap, to get you to admit something that can be used against you tomorrow. I am just saying that when all this is done, if you by chance know someone who knows someone …” She shrugged. “Of course, he will make his own decisions.”
Vermillion found that a little surprising, a strange request considering the League seemed to be more inclined to just take what it wants. Then he thought of Ankarra’s ‘fine distinction’ and wondered if a business agreement was just her style. “Your Councillor seems to be a wise woman,” he said carefully. It was the closest he would come to admitting anything, because as she said, there was still the questioning the next day.
Celadra smiled, and nodded. “She is practical. And she prefers solutions that don’t involve killing people.” She lifted one hand, with a ‘may I?’ look, and when Vermillion nodded, she pulled out a folded sheet of paper. “There are a dozen names on there, of people who work here at the Aihv’ or in Malisis. I would trust any of them with Councillor Ankarra’s life, and my own. The innkeeper can send a message for you to any of them. The ones with check marks next to them – there are four – have worked with others in your Guild before.”
He scanned the list briefly, intending to look more closely later, and set it in front of Iaondrin. “Thank you for this,” he said again. No offer to arrange for it, no offer to pay, just a list they could do whatever they wanted with. He wondered how many of the gifts and letters would do that. As he was searching for a way to politely suggest they needed some more time alone, Celadra’s time in the Aihv’ seemed to take over.
“I will leave to let you discuss matters,” she said, rising easily. He walked her to the door with a grateful look and asked that she… discourage other visitors – it had been a long day, the Lady is tired. He knew Iaondrin wouldn’t talk much and eventually would get sick of the fawning or arrogance of the visitors.
“That was interesting and possibly helpful,” he moved back to the table, offered his hand to her so she could move back to the more comfortable sofa.
Iaondrin took his hand and walked with him back to the couch, leaving the gifts and letters behind without even looking at them. “I don’t know that my involvement would change anything with Owen,” she said as she sat back down.
“They just asked that you try.” He slid a chair over by her, easier to sit in a chair while wearing a sword, and handed her goblet to her, took some bread and cheese for himself. “Did you steal Jaely from him or something?”
“Hardly. Her last owner paid me to take her worthless hide of his hands.” She smiled slightly at the thought. “No, he’s just … independent minded. Morgan could convince him to do it. Probably.” She shrugged. “I don’t know. I could try.” She glanced over at the table. “Do you think I have the option to just send it all back? Or would that be some sort of terrible insult?”
“Dunno,” he shrugged. “My guess would be that yes, it would be an insult of some sort.” Growing up in the Warrens didn’t prepare one for the etiquette of the Aihv’. He knew that being chased across the League didn’t either.
He noted that she hadn’t eaten much. He stood to assemble a plate for her, and then it occurred to him to simply slide another chair over and put the tray of food on it so they could both reach it. “Do you want to start on the pile?”
“I suppose.” She looked at it dubiously as he brought things over. “Letters first, I guess?”
“Gotta start somewhere,” he agreed handing the first letter to her. She managed to get most of the way through it before the frown started.
“Well there’s one person hoping I get what I deserve,” she muttered. She crumpled the paper in her hands and tossed it aside. “Next.” She broke the seal with her thumbnail and flipped the paper open. “And this one wants me to invest in a business venture.” She took the third and opened it and began to read, still frowning. ”... hope you would honor us with …” she murmured. And then she jerked backwards, flinging the paper away from her as light flashed from the surface of the paper with a loud pop and a puff of smoke.
“Fuck!” he spat, throwing himself at her, covering her body with his. “Tell me you’re all right,” he said, then again, “Tell me you’re all right,” without waiting for an answer. He cursed himself for not thinking of the traps. It’s your fuckin’ job, shit for brains.
“Umriphbt.” The words were unintelligible, with her face muffled between the couch cushion and his chest. She squirmed under him until she could speak clearly. “I’m fine.” And then she started to giggle, the sound of unexpected fear. “Honor us with … oh my gods, SNAKE!”
Bryan leaned back to look at Iaondrin, still worried. His heart pounding in his chest, he looked her over, hands sliding down her arms, checking her hands. “Sorry, I’m so sorry,” he repeated in a whisper. “Should have known…” He brushed her hair back, checking her face, hands shaking.
She gulped air, breathing ragged as she tried to stop the giggling. “I should have thought of it, too. It’s just -” Iaondrin stopped to draw another breath. “I don’t usually have it come at me this way. I think I will be declining that invitation to dine.” She leaned her head back and closed her eyes, and forced herself to release the tension. When her heart had slowed, she opened her eyes again and looked up at him. “You all right?”
Kneeling in front of the sofa, he kept studying her face, making sure she really was fine. Lost in her gaze, it took him several moments to answer. “As long as you are, my Lady,” he whispered. Another long pause, and then, “Fuck the insults, we’re having it all burned.”
It was the first true smile he had seen from her, a curve of her lips as sudden as the giggling but not driven by fear, and a smile that reached her eyes. “I should separate anything that I can tell has a weaving of some sort on it. Whoever takes care of them needs to know.”
His breath caught in his throat as he watched her smile. Gorgeous, he thought and he was unable, or, more likely, unwilling to keep the thought off his face. “Yes, my Lady,” he was finally able to say. “As my Lady wishes.”
She sat there for a moment, unmoving, and then broke the gaze with an effort. “Let’s put the everything out on the table.” When that was done, it took but a moment for her to call the threads to her. Hands turning slowly, she curled them around her fingers, and then spun them loose again to wrap around the letters and boxes and wrapped packages. Eyes unfocused, she watched and listened
they whispered over and over again, as they moved through the items, and then
at least three more times, touching upon another letter and two of the packages. “This, this and this,” she pointed out to him. “The others show nothing that I can see.”
Vermillion stood leaning heavily on the table, hanging his head in dismay. “Five,” he said absently. “Five attempts in one fucking day.” An example needed to be made, and he had no one to make it with. The lack of a target was frustrating. His eyes moved over all the items and then fell on the list Celadra had given them. Wordlessly, he scooped up all the cleared packages and took them down to the common room. Even as the room was quieting at his appearance, he was saying to the innkeeper in a firm voice, “Please burn these, and tell anyone who brings more to return them. I will suffer no more attempts on my Lady’s life, especially disguised as gifts.” While he was talking, he signed for Kaz – ‘follow now’ – then turned and strode back to the room.
After he entered, he stayed by the closed door, listening, holding up a hand to ask for a moment from Iaondrin. When he heard Kaz’s furtive footstep in the hall, he opened the door just wide enough for the other man to slip inside without breaking stride, then it was closed again. “Iaondrin, Kaz. Kaz, Iaondrin A’nari.”
Kaz nodded, and she nodded back. “Interestin’ day you’ve had,” he said to Vermillion. He looked to Iaondrin. “Glad to see you’re both in one piece. Whose throat do you need slittin’?”
“Pick a dozen at random,” Vermillion suggested, then shook his head. “No one yet. I need you to find out where these things came from and who that woman from the privy was working for. Just take a couple hours or so and see what you can find out. Preferably without getting caught ‘cause I might need you back here later. The guards should be easy to get to talk. These things, you’ll have to talk to the inn staff and then any couriers…” he trailed off, knowing he was telling Kaz things he already knew. “I just need something.” He lifted the list of names and handed it to Kaz. “You recognize any of the names with marks next to them?”
“I’ve worked with Onahi and Hamish before, at different times. They’re both good. Heard about Frasier – Heroz uses ‘im sometimes to come up with diff’rent tests for those as she trains. Don’t know the other ‘un, but can find out from Hamish likely.” He looked back up at Vermillion “We okay on me reachin’ out for ‘em?”
“The guard for the Councillor from Tarrish gave us the list, said they were all trustworthy, so yeah, find whichever Guild ones are on the island. Let them see what they can find, too.” Vermillion reached into his pack, pulled out five pouches each with two hundred gold coins in it. “That should be enough for a couple days’ work.” He was starting to feel a little better with someone else, a friend he trusted, handling something. He slid the items towards Kaz. “Be careful, they have spells laid on them,” he warned.
“Aye, I’ll get on it.” Kaz glanced back and forth between the two of them. “I’ll be back before dark.” He took the trapped “gifts” from Vermillion and slipped out the door.
Iaondrin blinked, and then rubbed her face. “You’re going to have to let me pay for some of this. It’s not like I’m short on funds.”
He nodded slowly, “I offered all my resources to help you is all. I don’t even think about it. Just nudge me and slap a gem on the table next time.” He looked around the room for several moments. “I need to get some rest before dark. I don’t think I am going to sleep tonight.” He decided the sofa would be better than the bed for dozing.
Neither of us will. She pulled the shades, checked the lock on the door again, and took a seat at the other end of the couch while he settled and closed his eyes. She frowned at the floor for a while, and then slid across next to him, to settle into the curve of his arm.
He never opened his eyes, but a smile passed across his lips and he stroked her hair once then rested his hand on her side.
To be continued.