Chapter Four

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Ysanne

The next morning, Edmond woke before she did. When Ysanne opened her eyes, he was crouched in front of the fire, poking at the embers with a long stick, coaxing them back to life.

Faint shafts of light found their way through the gaps in the barricaded windows; fortunately none of them touched Ysanne.

As she sat up, Edmond turned to look at her, then quickly looked away, a faint flush creeping along his cheeks. Ysanne glanced down at herself. She had shredded two of her petticoats last night and used them to get the fire going, and the two she was still wearing didn't leave nearly enough to the imagination.

She didn't much care – she had long since outgrown human sensibilities regarding sex and nudity – but Edmond was clearly embarrassed.

She wondered if he'd ever seen a naked woman before.

"You saved me last night," he said, his voice slightly gruff as he poked the fire.

"You saved me first."

She heard him swallow, saw his shoulders stiffen.

"Your injury?" he said.

Her petticoats were torn where the dagger had gone in, and Ysanne parted the fabric with her fingertips, showing Edmond the smooth skin where the wound had been.

His mouth parted in surprise, then he abruptly shut it and turned back to the fire.

"What happens now? Would you like me to leave?" he said.

Ysanne studied him. The hands that gripped the stick were callused and worn, with ragged, broken fingernails, and there was a weary look in his eyes that she had seen before.

Ysanne had been born into French nobility, surrounded by wealth, and for most of her human life, she hadn't known what it was to go without anything.

Edmond had the hands of a boy used to gruelling manual labour, the look of someone who was used to being trampled by the world.

He was a peasant.

She hadn't given it much thought before, too busy focusing on keeping him alive, but now she wondered if his awkwardness was due just as much to the vast difference in their social classes, as her scantily clad form.

People like Ysanne did not mingle with people like Edmond.

At least, not as far as he knew.

"You won't survive a winter out there," she said.

He didn't say anything, but she heard his heartbeat quicken – he knew it as well as she did. Last night he had seemed resigned to his fate last night; he must have known that he was going to die. If she hadn't found him, he would almost certainly have frozen to death.

"I didn't save you only to turn you out now," Ysanne said.

She climbed to her feet. Her hair was a tangled mess; she pulled out the pins and let them drop to the floor, raking her fingers through the snarls. She had a comb in her trunk, along with various other possessions. And of course, the clothes.

"I need to fetch some things from my carriage. Wait here until I return," she said.

Now he turned to look at her, outraged. "You want me to remain here, while you venture out there? Alone and unescorted?"

Ysanne couldn't help a smile. "You know what happened last night, Edmond. You know that I am far more equipped to protect myself than you are."

He lowered his eyes. "It doesn't seem right."

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