YAKOV WASN'T WRONG. I woke just before dawn and stretched hard in bed then relaxed. Huh. I actually feel like a run. The thought made me smile and I felt a buzz of delight, my first genuine smile in days. I got out of bed and slipped quietly around the bedroom, getting ready. The other three snored on, oblivious. Nnelg had slept over again and watched curiously. It amused me when he quickly turned his back on me as I changed; it wasn't every day I made a dragon blush. Audi and I slipped out of the room.

ALEK PACED THE corridor, agitation rippling through him. Yakov said he'd strongly recommended Cat go for a run. He knew she'd do it in the morning but when? He'd paced this section of floor for a good half hour.

What if she doesn't come? Then what? He gritted his teeth at the annoying butterflies he felt. I want to see her.

Hearing a noise Alek froze and listened. It sounded like footsteps. They sounded light. Yes, I hear a dog. What do I do? His mind went to pieces on him when she rounded the corner.

I SKIDDED TO a halt. Alek stood in the middle of the corridor, gaping at me. Uh-oh. Now what?

He took several steps toward me and I instinctively stepped back.

CAT MOVED AWAY from him, a guarded expression on her face. He fought to find words while he gazed at her, marveling. So beautiful, what was I thinking? Any price is worth it. Even if it doesn't last. She wore the running costume Melanite had given her and looked incredible. Then the rose tinted glasses faded and he registered the weight loss and dark shadows under her eyes. It felt like someone had dealt a blow to his chest when he realized he'd been the cause.

WHY IS HE staring at me? What the hell is that expression? It almost looked caring. No, don't be ridiculous. My mind was in turmoil as I stared back. Just go away! You have no idea how much my heart aches when I see you. Idiot! Leave me alone. Drawing a breath I gave him a cool look. 'Alek. What can I do for you?'

SHE SOUNDED SO calm. Then he noticed her hands, clenched fists at her sides, knuckles stark and white.

'Are you going for a run? Do you mind if I join you?'

I GAPED. HE wants to join me?

Shocked, I stammered my reply. 'U-uh... If y-you want to.' Ugh way to sound like a moron, Cat. He gestured for me to continue and after a moment's hesitation, forcing my stupid legs to work, I did. The awkward silence while we made our way to an outer door seemed deafening. Made all the more so by servants who spotted us and stared in open mouthed astonishment. Oh my God, is nothing private around here? Alek took the lead once we stepped outside.

'I'll show you a favorite track of mine.' He beamed at me, then turned and started to jog. My head did serious spins as I followed him. What the hell is going on?

CAT HADN'T RESPONDED but Alek heard her footsteps behind him; I'll take a slow pace and maybe she'll jog beside me.

I FOCUSED ON my feet for the first part of the jog, concerned that with the chaos currently un-reined in my mind I'd trip and fall. It looked like he'd led us to the track around the forest, in the gap between the inner and outer walls. The trees grew rather thick. I hadn't registered how large the gap between the two walls was. Makes sense I guess, you wouldn't want an enemy to be able to jump from wall to wall. Birds chattered and sang in the trees, darting past us as we ran by. Alek hadn't spoken to me again, for which I was grateful.

Maybe he's trying to be friends, the silly voice in my mind suggested. My rational voice refused to consider that, he must just want to make sure we can be civil to each other, to stop the gossiping. That thought left a nasty dead feeling in my chest and I fought back tears.

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