• Dusk settled around Waterview with mist and music. Nirnroot sang softly in Livia’s garden. Bullfrogs and crickets grunted and clicked, and dragonflies hummed through fog rising thick and warm off the river.


    I see it in your eyes as you pass. You do not believe. But I have always believed.


    Livia finished the last sentence of the third page of Watcher of Stones and yawned and shifted in her chair on her way to the fourth. Her gaze didn’t stop at the top of the page, but continued up, over the river and past the tree line, toward red clouds wreathing distant mountains. Bold strokes of gray and indigo painted the rest of the sky—a peaceful backdrop for a peaceful evening, if only Livia could settle.


    She took this evening’s restlessness as a personal affront, since she’d bought the right for an hour or two lost in a book with a long day of industry. Healing Kaidan had nearly depleted her stores of healing potions, and if she didn’t get the last of the summer berries preserved before she left for Winterhold, she’d lose the whole crop. So she’d spent the day picking and boiling and brewing, over hot fires, and under hotter sunshine.


    It was better than moping over things she didn’t have a chance in Oblivion of changing. She’d done enough of that last night, after he’d left, the fury and pain woven through his last words still ringing in her ears.


    You can tell your masters whatever you want.


    “We’ll have rain before dark, wait and see.” Livia jumped at Warnulf’s gravelly voice. He strolled around the corner from the orchard carrying an axe over his shoulder. “Apple trees’ll be grateful.”


    Livia closed the book with her finger hooked inside. “I’m grateful as well,” she said, nodding toward the axe, “for all you’ve done since the storm. The place looks great.”


    Warnulf’s face hardened. “That it does.”


    Livia knew where Warnulf’s thoughts traveled—down the western road with Kaidan. The old caretaker wouldn’t admit it, but he’d grown fond of Kaidan while he’d stayed with them. Or at least, fond of the help he lent clearing damage from last week’s storm. She’d tried to keep her own thoughts at Waterview where they belonged, but had failed spectacularly. No wonder she’d not heard Warnulf’s feet crunching over twigs and dry leaves on his way out of the woods.


    She waved a hand over the little table to her right, where a small plate of apple cake and a tankard of coffee rested next to an orange-flamed lantern. “Want some cake? There’s still some warm coffee, too.”


    Warnulf grinned. “I’m full from dinner. And lunch, come to think of it,” he said, patting his belly. “I’m not used to eating like that, much less twice a day. Many more of those meals, and I won’t fit through the door.”


    One corner of Livia’s mouth twitched. “I’m grateful for that, as well.”

    “Grateful for what?” Warnulf chuffed. “More dirty dishes than I’ve seen in my lifetime?”


    Livia’s gaze flickered from her book back to Warnulf. He’d been uncharacteristically social since Kaidan left—sharing meals and stopping to chat in the garden. Only a day and a half, and Livia didn’t expect it to go on much longer, but she’d take it while it lasted. “For the company.”


    “You’ve had a rough few weeks,” he said, swiveling the axe handle back and forth over his chest. “And I suppose I’ll miss you once you leave for Winterhold.”


    Livia frowned. “When I first moved here, I used to invite you for dinner. When I cooked. But you never accepted.”


    Warnulf shrugged. “I’m used to doing for myself. Like my own routines, my own space,” he said, and peered at Livia. “Nothing personal, never was. Hope you didn’t take it that way.”


    Livia shook her head. “Never.”


    Damp sand squelched under Warnulf’s feet as he walked to the bottom of the stairs. He hooked the axe head around the banister and looked over it, his bushy brows raised below the deep furrows of his forehead. “Do not blame yourself for what that boy did.” Livia’s mouth dropped open and she leaned forward in her chair. Warnulf scoffed. “Hush. I know you’re thinking it, there was something else you could have done to help. There wasn’t.”


    Warnulf was right—she’d thought of little else but Kaidan storming off through the wild, angry and distracted. Vulnerable to sneaky, deadly things. She imagined him still and pale, splayed out on a barren roadway, his armor and sword scattered in pieces around him. “I’m worried,” she admitted, with a shiver. “His state of mind…”


    “He’s a grown man, even though he seems no more than a pup to me. Acts like one, too. But…”


    Warnulf hesitated and Livia leaned forward a little more, waiting for him to continue. He cleared his throat and leaned against the railing. “What you told me he went through, that doesn’t heal. The physical part does, and you know better than I do, but up here,” he said, tapping his brain, “that takes time. More than a week, more than two. Sometimes, more than we’ve got.”


    Livia chewed her bottom lip. She knew Warnulf had fought in the Great War, but unlike other warriors and soldiers in her family, he wasn’t one to tell tales. All she knew was he’d settled at Waterview after the war, and hadn’t left since. “Are you…” she traced the embellished frame on the cover of the book and chose her words carefully. “Are you speaking from personal experience?”


    Warnulf’s eyes drifted to the round finial on top of the banister. “Aye. Nothing like your boy, there,” he said, and didn’t look up to see Livia’s cheeks flush or watch her shift in her chair. No, he’d not meant to make her uncomfortable, she knew, with the way he’d referred to Kaidan as your boy, when he most certainly has not. “But I did things. To others.”


    “But everybody—“


    “Doesn’t make it better,” Warnulf said quickly, and sniffed. “I sent boys younger than you to their deaths, and the righteousness of the cause— even Sovngarde itself—doesn’t mean I don’t still see those boys when I close my eyes—their families, too. Doesn’t mean I don’t wonder if I could have saved them. Some of them, at least.”


    Warnulf’s eyes looked in her direction, but Livia had the oddest feeling he didn’t see her at all, but something else, something distant. “And that’s going on thirty years of time.”


    A fat raindrop plopped on Livia’s hand, and Warnulf shook himself out of his daze, holding his hand out as though balancing a plate. “See,” he said, pulling his axe off the railing and shouldering it again. “Told you.”


    Livia stood up and lugged her chair and treat-laden table under the roof’s overhang and waved as Warnulf trotted around the garden toward his bunkhouse. She sat back down and curled her feet up in her chair and opened her book.


    I see it in your eyes as you pass. You do not believe. But I have always believed.


    A luna moth fluttered over her lantern. Livia closed the book and held it over her coffee and cake to keep glimmerdust from falling into it. She watched the moth dip and spiral close to the house, avoiding most of the pattering rain on its way to the cover of the woods.


    Warnulf’s advice had been difficult to hear. Livia figured he’d meant to absolve her of responsibility where Kaidan was concerned, but she was a healer, and not one to accept defeat lightly. Was there truly nothing she could have done to keep Kaidan from breaking down, from seeing monsters where none existed?


    It was something she’d ask the masters back at school. Caught early enough, there weren’t many physical injuries Livia couldn’t fix. But someone’s mental state…was Warnulf right about that, too? Could nothing be done? Did Warnulf—and Kaidan, and everyone else who’d experienced trauma—simply have to make room in their own minds for such horrors? As long as they lived?


    Darkness had fallen in earnest, and raindrops came down harder, bouncing off the railing and splashing tiny dark spots on the hem of her skirt. Livia sighed and started to gather her plate and book and lantern, but the thought of going inside to her empty house wasn’t one she could tolerate. Not until wind or lightning joined the rain and made it absolutely necessary. She spread her book back over her lap…


    I see it in your eyes as you pass. You do not believe. But I have always believed.


    …and finally shut it with a low groan of frustration. She’d read that same line at least three times and had no idea what it meant. Worry and guilt kept the words from sinking in, she knew. Aside from her fears of Kaidan and how he fared alone and broken in the wilderness, she still wasn’t sleeping. Not well, anyway. Dragons haunted her dreams, and strange battles fought by mages in horned masks.


    On top of it all, the courier still hadn’t come.


    That, apart from everything else, held her on edge. It had to be last week’s storm. Impassable roads were obviously keeping the post away. But worry gnawed at her gut. Her family…she needed to know they were fine before she left for Winterhold.


    She slammed her left hand on the chair’s armrest and grabbed her plate with her right, taking a huge bite of cake and chewing desperately, as though the cake were some drug that might wash her worries away. She drank a long sip of coffee and cradled the tankard in her hands, and remembered the small blue bottle at the back of her buttery. Her own concoction of aloe vera and lavender and just the tiniest hint of moon sugar—brewed in a base of alto wine, its effects included a sense of calm.


    And a smooth, dreamless sleep.


    Relief shimmered down her spine, and a quick wash of tears burned her eyes. She laughed and wiped them away. If the very idea of sleep brought her to tears, she was in a wretched state, indeed.


    Hope loosened Livia’s chest, and she picked up her slice of cake, but stilled her chewing mid-bite. The rain had picked up again, fat drops smacking the porch and drumming hollow on her roof. But under all that, she heard something else—a cracking sound—twigs and pine cones crunching underfoot.


    Something moved through the woods—something larger than a squirrel or rabbit or even a fox. Livia set her plate down and rose and moved behind her chair. She thought of running for the door, but rain and darkness made a wall on the other side of her porch railing, and Livia couldn’t see beyond it. The wolf—or frostbite or bear—or whatever it was could be back in the woods, or just below her porch.


    And if it was a wolf, and already near the stairs, she didn’t want to turn her back to it.


    She kept her back to the house and edged toward the door, raising a ward in one hand and gripping her tankard in another. Heaving it at the beast’s head could provide the distraction she needed to get inside.


    The crackling stopped, but Livia kept her ward raised. Sweat beaded on her forehead, and she peered out into the darkness. Her throat closed, dry as dust.


    Another crack, and the sound of something hollow kicking against one of the rocks at the foot of the stairs. “Livia, it’s me.” The voice was husky and hoarse, but recognizable. Livia exhaled, a short huff of relief, and dropped her ward.


    A creak sounded on the bottom step, and then another. And then Kaidan—drenched to the skin and stooping under what had to be a million pounds of soaking armor on his back—stepped into the lantern light.



    “Good thing you left most of Warnulf’s clothes in the dresser,” Livia said with a brittle smile. Kaidan sat across from her, nearest the fire, hunched over the table and fidgeting with the handle of his tankard. His towel-dried hair hung loose down the back of his dry tunic.


    “Didn’t feel right, taking them.” Kaidan stared at his hands and spoke in slow, measured tones. “Why did you let me back in?”


    They’d stood on the porch—in the rain—for long moments, wordless and staring, until Livia regained her senses and led Kaidan inside, after he’d dropped his armor and sword at the door, under the awning. She’d given him fresh towels and pointed toward the guest room. He’d taken so much time drying off and changing—long enough for her to brew a fresh pot of coffee— she thought he’d fallen asleep. But just as she was ready to check for herself, he appeared in the kitchen, watching her warily.


    Too warily. Like a dog afraid of being kicked out in a storm, Livia thought, and shoved away from the table. He’d hurt her terribly—his words and accusations still raked at her too-thin skin—and her first reaction to his reappearance on her porch had been one of rage.


    She’d wanted to yell at him, to smack her palms against his chest and shove, and watch him stumble back down the steps and into the darkness. She’d needed him to know how much he’d hurt her, to feel it in his bones.


    Part of her still did. But she took one last look at his glassy, red-rimmed eyes and understood—


    He already knew.


    Kaidan’s eyes darted up as she stood. “I’ll be right back,” Livia said, walking briskly to the sideboard. She gathered a large plate of apple cake, as well as a bottle of brandy and two small, bowl-shaped stoneware mugs. She filled one, and took a slice of cake, motioning for Kaidan to help himself, as she sat. “Now, why wouldn’t I let you back in?”


    He didn’t answer, just stared at the rose-colored bottle and sniffed the air. Livia couldn’t blame him—cinnamon and apples mixed with the woodsy vanilla scent of the brandy…damn near intoxicating all on its own. “Is that…Cyrodilic brandy?”


    “Hm,” Livia mouthed around her mug, and took a sip. It warmed going down, like falling into a roomful of hot velvet. “Help yourself,” she said, since he didn’t move.


    “You think,” Kaidan began, his voice the slightest bit shaky, “this conversation warrants Cyrodilic brandy?”


    “I think it’s not going to pour itself,” she said, holding her mug over the table, “and I’ve already drunk from mine, so you know—“


    Kaidan waved it away and poured a small cupful, holding it in his hands like treasure before lifting it to his lips.


    Livia watched him close his eyes and savor the first mouthful. Despite what he’d done, he was still Kaidan, and he’d come back. Made himself vulnerable to her anger and pain. She’d be no kind of friend—no kind of healer—if she threw that back in his face. She traced a curving grain on the table and thought of what she’d say if it were an ordinary evening by the fire. “Is this your first time?”


    Kaidan’s eyes snapped open. The corners of his mouth twitched around his mug. “Are you enjoying this?”


    “Maybe. Now,” Livia said, taking a bite of cake, “I would like to know why.”


    “Why…” Kaidan took a deep breath and blew it out in a puff. Flames danced over thick pillar candles arranged on a stoneware plate in the middle of the table. “Why did I leave or…”


    Livia shrugged. “Both.”


    “I didn’t get far.” He set his mug on the table and spun it around, slowly, by quarter turns. “Spent the night in a cave some hours west,” he said and met her eyes. “You’d have liked it.”


    “I’d have liked a cave?”


    Kaidan nodded. “Shined my torch around to make sure I wasn’t sharing with anything, and there were all these crystals hanging from the ceiling. Looked like diamonds. Pretty place.”


    “As far as caves go, it does sound nice,” Livia admitted, and sighed. “To think I had you dead on some roadside, somewhere, and there you were, sleeping in a sparkly cave.”


    “Don’t sound so disappointed,” Kaidan said, with a good-natured roll of his eyes. He took a slice of cake and rested it on a linen napkin, pinching off a corner and popping it in his mouth.


    “Please forgive the snark. I’m honestly just relieved you’re safe.” Livia sneaked a glance at him under her lashes. His color had improved, she noticed, and his eyes had lost a little of the haunted look he’d come in with. “Go on,” she prompted.


    “I didn’t do much sleeping. Nightmares all night.”


    Livia picked up her mug and took a sip and studied him openly this time. “You didn’t have nightmares before, did you? I mean, before you left.”


    “No, I slept like a baby, here. You were the one having nightmares,” he said, and knocked back another bit of brandy. “Are you, still?”


    Livia nodded. “Every damn night.”


    Kaidan winced. “That night in the cave, I had one after another. I’d wake up, walk around a bit, and try again. But I kept…going back. To the prison.” He met her gaze with a level look. “Last one before I gave up sleeping for good, you were in it.”


    Livia fumbled her mug, but caught it before it hit the table. Only a few drops splashed out. “You had a nightmare. About me. And you came back?”


    “I saw it, Livia,” he said softly. “The prison. And you there, just flashes, you know. There were a couple of men with you, in armor. Guards, looked like. Carrying me. I looked down, and saw the guard—the Thalmor guard, I mean, the one with the golden armor—but it was burned and black, and his face…”


    Livia shuddered. She remembered what his face looked like well enough after she’d blasted him with J’Zargo’s scroll. Not something she wanted to see again, in nightmare or memory. “I don’t understand. Why would seeing that…monstrosity…bring you back here?”


    “I didn’t remember, before. I didn’t remember you healing me in the back of the wagon. I didn’t remember leaving the prison. And I never saw the Thalmor dead.” Kaidan took another bite of cake. “You could have told me anything—“


    “I could have—“ Livia slapped her hand on the table. Kaidan jumped. She wasn’t sure whether the brandy had loosened her tongue or not, but she suddenly had to know. “Did you really think I was one of them?”


    Kaidan shrugged, and nodded. “Suspected, anyway. From the beginning, remember? We even talked about it.”


    “Oh,” Livia breathed the word, leaning back and sifting through her memory. “But I thought that was just in the prison.”


    “I was scared. Scared it was just another tactic. If they couldn’t get what they wanted through torture, it wouldn’t be so strange to use…other means of persuasion.” Kaidan said, and tipped his head toward the brandy bottle.


    “Go ahead,” Livia said, and watched him fill his mug halfway. “So, you never stopped thinking it?”


    “You have to understand,” Kaidan began, and drew a ragged breath, “I saw so many things. In there. Things they made me see, and I thought it was all real. And then you come in, and I…”


    He took a long, slow drink and cradled his mug. His eyes shone in the candlelight. “I wasn’t exaggerating, before. If you had been a Thalmor agent, they couldn’t have picked a better one. You’re everything I’ve looked for in a-a—”


    Kaidan stammered, and all the muscles in Livia’s back seemed to contract. She remembered how she’d felt in his arms. The way he’d gazed down at her—before the breakdown, anyway. Like he’d wanted to—


    Warmth spread up her chest and neck, and she watched him floundering and flushing over his drink. Of course, he’d not been in his right mind that afternoon by the river, and they were finally getting to the bottom of why. She sighed. Any attraction that might lie between them—if it survived their setback at all—had to wait.


    “In a friend?” She suggested, taking a bite of cake and chewing delicately.


    “Yeah,” Kaidan said with a wry laugh, his nostrils flaring slightly. “Everything I’ve looked for in a friend, and you just show up when I need you most? My life doesn’t work that way, Liv.”


    An eyebrow arched at the casual shortening of her name. No one called her Liv, not even her family. She mouthed it and mulled it over, and decided she liked it. “So, what was the last straw?” She poured a bit more brandy and set it close to the candles to warm it. “What convinced you I was…what you thought?”


    “Letters,” he said, and nodded at her surprise. “You came in twice, from outside, and you sat at your desk writing letters.” He took another slice of cake and licked a bit of cinnamon off his thumb. “No big deal, except you folded them up fast and locked them in your drawer. You looked nervous. Flustered. Like you didn’t want me to know you were writing.”


    “And that—“


    “Put me in mind of other things you’d talked about— the Blades, my sword. Dragons. They asked me about all that, too.”


    “Your captors talked about dragons?” Livia considered. She knew the Blades were bodyguards for the old Septim emperors, but why Dominion agents would ask about them in connection to Kaidan or his sword, she had no idea.



    Livia tapped a finger on the table and stood up again, swaying only a little, this time heading for her desk drawer. “I can’t imagine why Dominion torturers are asking about the Blades or your sword. It does resemble Blades katanas, only much bigger,” she said, plucking out two sealed letters. “And what that all has to do with dragons, who can say?”


    She slid back into her chair and placed the letters on the table in front of Kaidan. “But I can answer this—these are the letters I was writing.”


    Kaidan reached out a shaky hand for one and spun it around so he could read her scrawled writing. “J’Zargo. In Winterhold. Mage?”


    “He’s the one who made the scrolls I used in the prison,” Livia said, searching Kaidan’s carefully blank face. “Against the guard and the wizard. I’m no destruction mage, I couldn’t manage that sort of blast on my own.”


    Kaidan slid it back to Livia and looked at the other one. “Marin Black-Briar, in Riften,” he said, and whistled. “Too fancy for the likes of me.”


    “That one,” Livia said, sliding them both underneath the rim of the stoneware plate, “is for my mother.”


    “You’re a…” Kaidan’s voice trailed off, and Livia watched his gaze travel around the room, lighting on pot racks and candlesticks, her lab table, her polished desk…


    “Wondering where I hoard all my ill-gotten Black-Briar gains?”


    “No,” Kaidan said, snapping his neck back around. He winced, and reached up with a hand to rub just where his neck met his shoulder. “Explains why you pull out Cyrodilic brandy for a weekday evening’s chat, though.”


    “I am who I was born to be,” Livia said, reaching for her warmed drink. “And I wouldn’t change it. Maven and the cousins are a chore, of course—she’s my aunt, by the way, my mom’s sister—but I love my mom and dad. And my brother.”


    Kaidan glanced at the letters again and frowned.


    “What’s wrong?” People tended to react one of two ways when she revealed her family connection—they either ran screaming for the hills, or immediately wanted to become much better acquainted. She wasn’t sure what end of the stick Kaidan would choose, if either. He’d declared the Black-Briar name too fancy, but hadn’t seemed upset or overly intrigued.


    Kaidan leaned over and slid one of the letters out from under the plate and smoothed out a dog-eared edge. “It’s wrinkled, they both are.”


    Livia waited a beat, surprised. No more questions about her family? No backhand jokes about ‘the Black-Briars’ below-stairs?’ Even before she’d left Riften, people had already begun to refer to the Thieves Guild that way. It was a catchy nickname, one Livia wished her family hadn’t earned.


    “I’ve been keeping them in my pocket during the day,” she admitted, “while I work, waiting for the courier. They’re late, and I…”


    Kaidan narrowed his eyes. “No courier came by while I was here before, at least while I was conscious. How late are they?”


    “Very,” she said, and shrugged. “But I’m worried over nothing. It’s just storm damage, trees on the road. I’m sure the post will pick up again once the roads are clear.”


    Kaidan didn’t respond with words, but his expression was all raised brows and pursed lips, and he wouldn’t meet her eyes.


    “So, that’s my secret,” Livia said quickly, hoping to nip any discussion about the storm right in the bud.


    Kaidan looked at her, then, and a corner of his mouth turned up. “Not quite,” he said, and leaned back in his chair. “Why were you so nervous, then, writing to your mother? I know I wasn’t imagining it.”


    Livia coughed and sputtered mid-swallow, and waved away Kaidan’s move to help. “I’m ok.” She coughed again, and banged on her chest with the side of her fist.


    For a long moment, Livia debated lying, but she’d never excelled at the craft. If Kaidan detected a whiff of dishonesty—after everything he’d been through—he might never trust her again. “It was you,” she said, finally. Heat flared across her cheeks.




    “First time, I was practicing your accent. Trying to get it right. It’s infuriatingly difficult,” she said, leaving off how cute she thought it was. It was extraneous information at best, anyway, and there was no point in saying too much. “I was afraid you’d heard me.”


    “I wish I had.” Kaidan grinned. “You do accents?”


    “Another mug of this, and you might get to hear my Elsweyr,” she said, grinning back, warm to her toes. That was the first real smile she’d gotten from Kaidan all night. “It’s terrible. J’Zargo loves it.”


    “Drink up then,” he said, and looked at her expectantly. Livia sighed and did take a drink. A long one. She’d hoped he’d forgotten about the other. She certainly never would. But he remembered. “What about the second time?”


    She drained the rest of the brandy and set the mug down on the table with a thunk. “You came in without a shirt.”


    Livia sneaked a look at him under her lashes. He sat back in his chair white-faced, his mouth hanging open. “What?”


    The licks of heat that had flared over her cheeks before were mere sparks compared to the pit of fire she knew was flowing over her chest and neck. “You came in after working and you weren’t wearing a shirt,” Livia said more slowly, pointing a wobbly finger across the table. “It was…distracting, you coming in all sweaty and shirtless, with your…”


    Kaidan’s face turned several different shades of red, and Livia let her voice trail off. She’d said too much, she knew, and blamed the brandy. She watched him sit motionless in his chair, staring at his hands, again. He seemed almost…wilted, somehow. Shocked, maybe, and something else—not upset or offended, or even truly embarrassed. Just…


    A cool, rain-scented breeze blew in from the kitchen window. Livia yawned, and a thought popped into her sleepy, brandy-soaked brain and forced everything else out. She’d interrupted Kaidan’s tale about his nightmare and how it led him back to Waterview. She needed to go to sleep, but not until she heard the rest. “So, the cave. And the nightmare. You saw the guard dead.”


    Kaidan shook himself a little and sat back up to the table. He nodded. “And when I woke up, I remembered. All of it—the guard, the wizard—both dead and looking like they’d been hit by lightning. You walked behind the two men carrying me, barking orders the whole time,” he said, fixing Livia with a pointed look.


    “Well,” she said, folding her hands primly on the table, “I wanted things done correctly.”


    Kaidan chuckled. “I took off that morning, still heading west. I told myself it hadn’t changed anything. Maybe I’d been wrong, but I needed to keep going, figure out my sword. What it had to do with my mother. But the longer I walked, the more it didn’t sit right. My leaving that way. So I came back.”


    Livia let out out a long exhale and then another yawn that practically split her head in two. “So where do we go from here?”


    Kaidan stood up. “I’d say you need to go to bed. Me too, if I’m being honest. I’ve been walking since dawn.”


    Livia pushed her chair back in agreement. Wordlessly, she trudged to the kitchen and closed the window and shoveled ashes on the fire. She yawned again, and remembered the potion in the buttery. She ducked inside and grabbed it, and made her way back to the hallway leading to the bedrooms where Kaidan waited. His eyes snapped to the little blue bottle in her hand and he backed up.


    “I’m not taking that,” he said, shaking his head. “I don’t know what it is, but I don’t need it.”


    Livia looked down at the bottle and then back up at him. “I’m not going to drug you. It’s for me. Aloe, lavender, and moon sugar.”


    “Moon sugar?” Kaidan took another step back, bumping against the wall and staring at the bottle as though it were a snake. “Are you serious?”


    Livia sighed. “I’m an alchemist, I know what I’m doing. It’s for dreamless sleep, and I need a dreamless sleep. So I’m going to take it.”


    “Do you…” Kaidan seemed to study her face. He puffed his lower lip out like he was biting the inside of his cheek. “Do you take it often?”


    “If I did, I wouldn’t be having nightmares every night, now would I?” Kaidan still looked wary, very nearly scared. Livia took a step closer. “Are you ok? This isn’t something else left over from—“


    “No,” he said, with another quick shake of his head.


    “Good,” she said, and backed up, narrowing her eyes. There was a story there. But to hear it, she needed to be both sober and rested, and tonight, she was neither. “I hope you have a good sleep.”


    “You too,” Kaidan said, giving an awkward little wave before turning to walk down the hall.


    After a moment or two, Livia did the same.


    “Thank you.”


    Livia wobbled on her heels, spinning back around to face Kaidan. He stood at the door of his room.


    She padded a few steps his way. “For what?”


    “Saving my life.” Kaidan leaned against the door jamb. “I don’t think I’ve said it out loud, yet. Bit rude of me,” he said with a sheepish sort of smile. “I told you before I wasn’t rude. Apparently, I was wrong about that.”


    “You’re welcome.” A curvy, toothy smile spread across Livia’s face, and she spun back around on her heels and waved over her shoulder on the way back to her room. “Night, Kaidan.”




4 Comments   |   Paws and 1 other like this.
  • The Sunflower Manual
    The Sunflower Manual   ·  August 22, 2019
    Yaaaaay, Kaidan came back! I was expecting a chapter where the two of them mope on their own, but this is good too, moving forward quickly enough. And it's not like he came back like nothing happened, and it's nice that they're communicating more. You get...  more
    • ilanisilver
      The Sunflower Manual
      The Sunflower Manual
      The Sunflower Manual
      Yaaaaay, Kaidan came back! I was expecting a chapter where the two of them mope on their own, but this is good too, moving forward quickly enough. And it's not like he came back like nothing happened, and it's nice that they're communicating more. You get...  more
        ·  August 22, 2019
      I was thinking about doing chapters on their own and meeting up, and if it were an actual novel I was planning, I would probably do just that. But I’ve only planned so far ahead, and I have no idea how I’d bring them back together like two needles in a gi...  more
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  August 21, 2019
    The first half was very vivid, a scene capturing a peaceful twilight by the lake which seems in stark contrast to Livia's distracted mind. I really liked the chat with uncle Warn, too, and that as forthright as his morality seems to be, he does understand...  more
    • ilanisilver
      The first half was very vivid, a scene capturing a peaceful twilight by the lake which seems in stark contrast to Livia's distracted mind. I really liked the chat with uncle Warn, too, and that as forthright as his morality seems to be, he does understand...  more
        ·  August 21, 2019
      Yay! The contrast thing worked!!! I tried so hard to make that come across because I don’t usually just describe things for the sake of description. So I’m glad it came out. Some of Warnulf’s perspective came from things my husband has said—he’s done thin...  more