Chapter 20 - Smoke

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Cornelis

Cornelis crossed Phyllis on his way out, and the way her brow furrowed in suspicion kept him from asking her on another ride. She didn't say a word as she passed him, and neither did he.

His prolonged stay in the kitchen left too little time anyway, since the students out in the courtyard had already finished clearing their breakfast away and were now busy pushing the tables aside for their morning lessons. Cornelis assisted them for a while. It rather amused him to see some of them flush as he lifted the long tables singlehandedly. Phelan and Ryann seemed to get that, because they refrained from helping him and disappeared with Philip. Cornelis went to the stables to tend to Storm before he joined them. It was a bright, warm day, and the many birds up in the trees surrounding them were holding a wild hooting contest. Cornelis opened the stable doors and let Storm out so she could amuse herself listening to them and chasing butterflies. He felt rather surprised to cross Marcus once again on his way out.

Cornelis just couldn't resist it. "Leaving?"

Marcus was right in front of him a second later, clearly ready to fight just about anything Cornelis decided to throw at him.

"I've had it with you. Play those games with Phyllis, and you are dead."

Cornelis smiled. "At ease, soldier. In case you hadn't noticed yet, she is not exactly my type."

Somewhere in his outrage, the right corner of Marcus's mouth managed to twitch upward at the implication, and Cornelis cursed the fact that he had decided to open his mouth. There was a reason he kept it shut when possible. But he couldn't back out now, and he needed to stop the cleverness before it spiralled out of hand.

"You know what I think? Your anger is a little overdue."

He hit gold with that comment, he could see that clear as day from the nervous blinking and the way Marcus leant away from him, although he never actually stepped back. Marcus took a deep, frustrated breath.

"That does not mean it is not real," he finally said, as he entered the stables.

....

Connor stood in the middle of the grass field that led to the building spot for the greenhouses, bidding a rather affectionate goodbye to a young woman in a white dress. Cornelis wasn't completely sure, but he thought he had seen her flock around Connor last night as well.

"Who is that?" he asked Connor, as they crossed the rest of the distance together.

"My future wife," Connor grinned.

Cornelis shook his head. They had just brought Masha to safety. There was no way they would bring another person into danger on their way back.

"I don't need your permission," Connor argued hotly. "Just hers. And our village would benefit from a healer. One that doesn't have polluted blood. Why you spend so much time with the Roman-lover is beyond me."

They joined the others amid the glass plates and Connor gave a nod in the direction of the stables. "And what is your plan with the Roman himself? Fuck him to death?"

Cornelis would have preferred to continue their argument sparring it out, but unfortunately that was off-limits so he shot Connor a dark look instead.

"What? I think it is an excellent idea. I would join in on that one."

""Keep your ideas to yourself," Cornelis ended their discussion, and right on time because Phyllis eyed them with far too dark pupils. She was in a foul mood, that much was obvious. Whether she had overheard them or whether she blamed him for Marcus being absent, he had no clue, but he did know he needed to keep Connor at a safe distance from her this morning.

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