Dragonhearts - Page 10

I knew I'd have to nip this little game in the bud before it went even one inch further, so, with a touch of reluctance, that's exactly what I did.

Yes, I said “reluctance.”

I say that with neither pride nor shame, it's a factual description of what I was feeling at that moment, nothing more. It had been a long time - a long, long time - since anyone had thought me worth flirting with, and some things you don't even think to miss until they're no longer available. I knew she didn't truly mean anything by her flirtations; it was just part of the learning process of a girl testing the waters of womanhood, but there were some lessons she was never going to learn from me! I may lack the concept of “forbidden fruit,” but I'm pretty clear on the concept of “unripe fruit,” and I've never had a taste for it no matter how long it's been since I've last . . . eaten. Besides, if nothing else, I still had my dignity, and there was simply no way I was going to allow my strings to be pulled, however innocently, by a child an insultingly small fraction of my age.

“Do not ever try that with me again,” I intoned.

Efreda looked shocked. “What did I -?” she started to ask.

“And do not pretend that you don't know what I mean!” I snarled before she could finish. “My help is not a commodity to be flirted over like a mug of ale!”

Elfreda's face went bright crimson as she started to stammer, “I didn't . . . I mean . . .”

“I know,” I sighed, letting my voice soften again. “No harm done.” The lie came easily to my lips even as the monster inside my soul began to laugh. “Never again though. Promise me.”

She nodded, looking as shame-faced as I had ever seen her, before assuring me, “I so promise. I'm sorry.”

There wasn't anything else for either of us to say, so before the silence between us got any worse, I whispered, “May you not need my help, but call for me if you do.”

“I will,” she answered.

But I was already gone . . . and she knew it.


Page 10

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