45 - Surprise Arrivals

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Fye was barely breathing. The healer had explained to Xander that it looked like nightshade poisoning; there was no cure, save for perhaps prayer. Xander had prayed, and he kept praying. He didn't know how well prayer worked, but it had seemed to do well enough the last time Fye had been on her deathbed. Back then, though, she had had a physical wound. Lady Ayla had labored for hours to save her life. Now, it seemed that everything was in God's hands.

Xander wished he could trust God. He would even ask the devil for help at this point if he thought it would do any good.

Of course Fye would survive. She could do anything, and Xander pitied any force that dared to assault her—including nightshade.

But maybe she wouldn't survive.

She had to survive.

He watched her breathe, counting his own heartbeats as he watched the slight rise and fall of her chest. Even now, when her skin lacked color and sickness tinged her face, she was beautiful. As beautiful as any sunset or work of art—no, more beautiful.

When Xander heard footsteps behind him, he assumed it was the healer coming to check on his patient. But when a hand landed on his shoulder, he knew that large hand could not belong to the healer. It had too many scars and callouses. It was the hand of a knight.

"Is Lady Salvatrice still alive, sir?" Xander asked.

"Unfortunately. She's well-hidden with Kaylin and Arabella."

"Thank you, sir."

"It's going to be interesting at the tournament tomorrow. We've lost our method for keeping eyes on the duke."

"I'll ask Lord Arken. He fancies Fye. He'll do it. The duke doesn't like him, but I think he can lurk around without too much suspicion."

Reuben nodded. His gray eyes went to Fye, and he knelt to touch her fevered forehead. "What will you do if she dies?"

Xander blinked. "Sir?"

"Will you come back to Luntberg, or will you stay in Italy? You'll have no reason to return to Luntberg."

You know exactly how to make any situation worse, don't you? For a moment, Xander seriously considered beating his own father to a pulp. There were three problems with that urge, though: One, even with Reuben's injury, Xander wasn't sure he would be able to defeat him. Two, the sound of a fight might disturb Fye. Three, it was a valid question. Xander had given his life to Fye. Would Luntberg still feel like home if she wasn't there?

But... Xander would still have family there. Kaylin and the other girls. Little baby Thomas. And Reuben... Even though Reuben had told Xander to get red armor and had even openly acknowledged him as his soon, Xander wasn't making any assumptions about Reuben's feelings toward his bastard son. Still, Xander had grown rather fond of Reuben.

"I'd like to return to Luntberg, sir, if that's all right with you."

Reuben shrugged. "You're tolerable enough. I won't chase you away."

"Thank you, sir. But she's not going to die, sir."

"She better not. I didn't spend years training her so she could die of poison."

"And everything in the universe revolves around you and your efforts?"

Reuben nodded. Totally serious. Xander almost laughed.

"Go get a few hours of sleep," Reuben ordered. "You should be rested for the tournament in the morning."

"No. I'll stay with her."

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