self for a few moments by focusing his vision narrowly enough to track a sin
gle dust mote dancing along its erratic path, then widened his vision to take inthe entire room without moving his eyes.Beside him, Alyea sighed deeply: he blinked back to human-normal vi
sion in case she woke. She rolled closer; he moved an arm and let her tuck inagainst his side, his mouth quirking in a tired smile. Humans were so damn
. . . and so
at times. Even though he’d promised to protect andguide her, that le a lot of room for interpretation.He wouldn’t take that leeway, of course; but Alyea didn’t even understandthat it existed.Not that she’d had much choice about his presence while she slept. Sheneeded rest before the Conclave, and he wasn’t about to leave her alone again.Besides, the other options for companionship were as welcome as leing anasp-jacau chew his arm o.He watched her sleep, reecting how much more pleasant she was to lookat than the grimly suspicious stares of the other desert lords. Her dark hairwas half undone from the sensible top-knot that kept desert heat from soakingthe back of one’s neck with a continual layer of sweat. Deiq had bound his ownhair in a simple tail; perspiring rarely became an issue for him. Alyea’s lightclothing, however, already sported several tell-tale dark patches. In true sum
mer it wouldn’t have been so bad, but the weather had begun edging towardsthe rainy season, and the ambient humidity was climbing rapidly.Deiq set his ngertips against Alyea’s temple and gently soothed her bodytemperature down until the rank sweat-smell faded. She sighed and rolledaway again, one arm stretching up over her head and her lithe body twistinglike a cat’s; his hands itched to touch her again, with much more than ngertippressure this time.
How many times before this have you fallen in love?
she’d asked earlier, notunderstanding at all; and he hadn’t been able to bring himself to explain. She’dlooked so
, her dark eyes lit with an intensity he’d seen before; she wasstill young enough to be romantic, in spite of her insistence that roses wouldn’tmean anything to her.He sighed and kept his hands to himself. That would just complicate mat
ters, at the moment. Aer the disaster her second blood trial had become, sheneeded extra time to heal–and not just physically.So let Alyea think he was in love with her for now. Humans needed thatkind of security, and it didn’t really maer. She’d gure it out eventually. Untilthen, it was pleasant to have her quiet, innocent trust resting against the edgesof his mind.He knew it wouldn’t last. It never did.Eyes half-shut, he watched the dust of decades swirl through shas of re
ected sunlight and listened to the song being sung at the other end of theFortress. Joyfully accepting servitude to invisible forces: how could humans thinkthat way? How could they not
?A sucking weariness passed through Deiq’s entire body for a moment, haz
ing his vision around the edges; then the haze turned golden, and he felt animmense
thrust into his mind.