Chapter 1

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[n.b: This is the first draft of a total rewrite of an old novel I resurrected from the depths of my hard drive.]

Chapter 1

Lilliane waited for her turn to wash, the coppery tang of blood stinging her nose and the back of her throat. The muscles in her lower back twinged as she stretched. Their patient would live to drink and fight another day, his blind luck in having an assailant with a knife who managed to miss all of his vital organs and make a dramatic mess instead.

At least she hadn't failed him.

Davyn peeled off his spattered over-tunic and kicked it towards the basket beneath the basin. Hers had soaked clear through to her undergarments and hung wet and heavy against her. She shuddered in the cold stone room as Davyn slipped on a clean, dry tunic and turned, examining her as if she were one of his patients.

"I'm fine," she said, stiffening her body to keep from shivering.

"You're a bad liar."

Aching for a cup of healer's tea, she brushed past him and tore off her bloody layers, ignoring the feel of his gaze on her bare spine. Rubbing her hands under the spigot, she watched the blood swirl down the drain in a lazy spiral and scrubbed between her fingers until her skin burned.
A baby's cry echoed against the stone walls of the infirmary and her heart stuttered.  A flow of hot blood sheeted from her useless hands. She bit the inside of her cheek, struggling not to cry out.

"Lilli?" Davyn's concern washed over her. 

She stared down at her hands: They were clean and dripping with warm water, not blood, the nails bitten down to the quick, the cuticles ragged. There was no wailing infant here tonight. Their patient had been a drunk who lost a fight, not a mother hemorrhaging out her life as Lilliane struggled to stanch the flow and her little sister screamed.

"I'm fine," she insisted, drying her hands. She grabbed spare clothes from the folded pile next to the basin and changed as he stood frowning at her, his blue eyes bloodshot, fatigue dragging at his shoulders.

"When have you last eaten?"

Lilliane shrugged. "I'd ask the same of you."

"Come to supper, Lilli," Davyn said. "Cora and Birn can see to the patient. You need to eat." His familiar warmth offered a wordless invitation. It would be far too easy to lean into his firm body and let his clever hands and his healing touch soothe the abused muscles in her neck and back. He would be happy to do that and more. Reaching over her, he turned off the spigot, his broad chest brushing against her spine, sending a tingle through both of them.

She forced herself to step away, to let cool air fill the space between them. "I'm fine." How many times would she have to say it before they finally believed her? She placed her hand against his chest, damping down her healing touch, and pushed him away gently. "Go. Save me a seat. I'll be right there."

There was no mistaking the disappointment and worry in his eyes. At least he was too polite to do more than study her with his ordinary senses. She forced a smile on her face and walked across the infirmary to the curtained-off treatment area.

"Nice work, healers," she said, nodding at their apprentices. Cora and Birn beamed at her. Three years younger than Davyn, Birn had the same rugged build, deep blue eyes, and playful smile as his brother.

Cora looked too much like Shira. Lilliane swallowed hard and looked away from the young girl's bright green eyes. Not now--she couldn't think about her sister now.

"Lilliane, if you're not in the dining hall in ten minutes, I'll carry you in there over my shoulder," Davyn said.

He would, too, or at least he'd try. "I'd like to see that, Healer Lea," she said, unable to keep herself from laughing.

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