I bolted upright and opened my eyes. It took me a few moments to realize where I was. I don't know what woke me this time. No screams filled the air. There was no commotion in the room. Everyone was sound asleep and safe for the moment. I reached up and touched my cheeks. They were wet. I'd been crying in my sleep again. It was the aftermath of a nightmare that was always the same: waking up suddenly with my heart pounding out of my chest and tears streaming down my face.

The tiniest sound came from my right. I didn't want to turn, but I forced myself to look. A large shadow loomed only a few feet away. A scream formed on my lips, but I swallowed it when the lights flickered on and I saw Luke standing by the side table. He had one arm pushed against the back of the chair so he could keep himself upright.

"You shouldn't be out of bed." I threw off my blanket and started to get up.

He waved me back. "Stop fussing, I'm feeling better." To prove it, he straightened up and walked over to me. "I heard someone crying out. Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. It was just a nightmare."

"That must have been one heck of a dream."

I looked up at him. "I'm sorry I woke you."

"You don't need to apologize. You look shaken. Do you want me to get you a glass of water?"

"You're the injured one. I should be getting you things."

He sat down next to me. "I told you, I feel better. Whatever you gave me helped. The pain isn't as bad."

I leaned over, my hand reaching out to examine the bandage. "Is it still bleeding?"

He pushed my fingers back. "Stop fussing, I'm fine. You've been crying."

Ashamed, I turned my face away from him. "It's nothing."

"Tell me what's wrong."

Even if I wanted to, I didn't know if I could. If I were able to find the right words, could I actually say them out loud?

"What trouble brought you here?" he asked, his voice soft. "Why did you stop being a healer?" He leaned closer. "What happened?"

It was unsettling, having him so close. I moved away, putting distance between us. "You don't have to know my reasons for wanting to learn. You just have to teach me."

"I would like to know your intent."

I looked over at him. "What do you mean?"

"What do you plan to do with the abilities you acquire? Once you train and learn how to use them?" He leaned back and watched me. "Look, it's not in our nature to train people so they can go off and wreak havoc in the world. We usually know a bit about someone's background before we show them the way of the death dealers. Once they learn, they must join one of the death dealer guilds. We're open to everyone who's serious about learning and becoming one of our kind, but we try to keep from teaching our skills to those with violent tendencies, homicidal backgrounds, or mental disorders."

"Are you worried I'm a nut?" When he didn't answer right away, I continued. "What if I am? You already agreed to help me."

"I did." He nodded.

"You don't know anything about me." It was true. He didn't even know my last name.

"Only because you won't tell me about yourself." His expression was sullen.

"Then why take me on? It can't be the money. By the looks of this place, you and your family are extremely well-off."

"Money isn't a problem for us."

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