The Nature of the Beast - Page 2

Her long blonde hair was still disheveled from last night's demonstration of her other talents, and that and the simple gray linen dress draped over her slender shoulders made her look like the maiden she was when I first met her uncounted years ago. With her hair neatly braided and her most severe expression on her face, she was able to command unruly children into silence with the power of a feared grandmother, but when she smiled she became ageless.

She was smiling now, but it was tempered with a sadness that resonated with all her years. “You might have told me last night,” she accused with gentle reproach.

“I might have,” I agreed. “Had I been given a chance to speak before you took my breath away.”

Her cheeks dimpled with pleasure from my words, and I foolishly believed for a moment that I had distracted her, when her blue eyes went gray. “You should have told me,” she said firmly.

Placing my rough hand over her smooth one, I asked, “Would it really have made any difference?”

“Yes!” she snapped, her tone as sharp as daggers. “I charge extra for not being told the truth!” She looked again at the pile of coins on the table. “Do you have any more than that?”

“You know I don't.”

She sighed, and her eyes were blue again – blue and moist. “Were the runes as clear as all that then?”

“As clear as fresh ice,” I assured her.

“Can I ask you a question?” she asked thoughtfully after some silence, and though she'd always been more than a bit shorter than I, she suddenly looked a way I had never seen her before – small.

I nodded my assent.

“Did you mean it when you said last night that you loved me?” she all but whispered. “I hear that a lot, you know, but last night was a first from you.”

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