21 - Bastards and Battles

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Fye did not sleep that night.

Tomorrow, she would face Sir Reuben in the arena.

If she survived that, she would marry Xander.

Thoughts chased themselves in circles in her mind. She spent a while reviewing Reuben's fighting style in her head. He was brutal, fast, and unforgiving. Skilled. Precise. But he had taught Fye how to be all of those things, too. What was his weakness?

Then she would spend a while thinking about Xander. They would share a bed after the ceremony. What would that be like? Would the tingles go away after she got used to him? Would he hog her blankets? Did he snore? He said he would try to seduce her. Would she be able to resist? Of course she would be able to resist. That was a silly question.

Then she returned to thinking about Reuben.

Then back to Xander.

As if her thoughts had somehow summoned them, she heard voices outside her tent. "What are you doing?" Reuben's gruff voice asked.

"I had to pee," Xander answered. "What are you doing?"

"Cleaning my fingernails."

"Right outside Fye's tent? What happened to her guard?"

"He came up with some pathetic excuse. Something to do with getting trampled on by a horse, I think."

"I can take over if you'd like, sir. You should rest before your match tomorrow."

No, Fye thought at Xander as loudly as she could. If Reuben was exhausted when she fought him, she stood a better chance of winning. Let Reuben stay up all right. Still, despite the stupidity of Xander's offer, hearing it warmed her. He really was a kind man, wasn't he?

"Are you trying to ingratiate yourself to me, or do you plan on sneaking into her tent?" Reuben's voice held a definite edge. Fye resisted the urge to tell Xander to run—or to pop out of her tent and tell Reuben once again that this was her choice, not the result of some evil wizardry on Xander's part. But Xander could handle himself, and Fye didn't want either of them to know that she was listening to their conversation.

"Forget it," Xander said. "Of course I have an ulterior motive. I'm not trying to be nice at all, sir."

"I know you're not. Your mother is a conniving temptress, and your father is a halfway reformed criminal. If bad motives are passed down through the generations, you'll be a Satan-worshipping warlord by this time next year. I'm sure Lady Ayla will tell me to put a stop to your conquests, so you better train hard. I want a challenge."

Reuben knew Xander's parents? Interesting.

Fye heard Xander let out a sigh. "Is she all you see when you look at me?"

"No. She was much prettier than you. I wouldn't get into bed with someone who looks like you."

What was going on? Why was Reuben talking like...

Fye sat bolt upright and clamped her hands over her mouth. Did that mean... Was it possible that... No! But the two of them did resemble each other, and sometimes when Xander grinned, she was sure that Reuben had given him special training on how to smile that devil's smile.

"Are you angry?" Xander asked. "About me and Fye?"

No, Fye thought. Go back to talking about your parents. I need confirmation!

"You're still alive, aren't you?"

"So... you're not angry?" There was a hint of hope in Xander's voice.

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