Ander

Once I was sure Liv was settled in, I returned to the main room. Hugo, the taller of the two twins, stood at my entrance. "What happened to you? She looks like she had a run in with a giant, and you . . . you look like you actually had to break a sweat."

"Something like that." Ander muttered. "She's rash, but by far the most dedicated and skilled woman I've ever met. She risked her life for a servant girl she'd spoken to twice."

"Enna?" Hugo asked curiously, likely remembering her from a holiday visit.

I nodded. "General Tavor decided to call. It was . . . very suspicious, but Liv seemed more cautious and apprehensive about him. If she wasn't a Bodyguard, I'd say that she had been scared."

Hugo fell silent, and then, "Maybe she's the exception."

I snorted. "There is no exception. It isn't possible."

Hugo nodded; backing away. "As you say, Sir."

"I do." I couldn't help but wonder if he was right. It would fit . . . but it was madness, absolute madness.

Since Liv and I had arrived three weeks ahead of schedule, I decided that I would take a week to allow Liv time to settle in and for the men to get used to her presence. I also needed time to observe the training that the four officers had started in my absence. I went to my room–our room, as it was Liv's room as well as mine–and knocked on the door. She called from within that I should enter. I pushed the door open and found her standing at the window, her fingers pressed into the hilts of her dangers where they rested at her waist.

I joined her there and gazed out at the sparring fields, small fighting arenas, and archery ranges. She watched with a longing. I could see by the way she watched every movement the trainees made, by the way she twitched slightly, perhaps correcting a move, or noting how it should have been made. For a Bodyguard, she wasn't very stoic. "I'm going out to observe more closely. Would you like to join me, or stay here?"

"They don't like me." she said nonchalantly.

I saw past it. "They don't know you."

She shrugged. "They know my kind."

To this I didn't have any reply so I patted her on the back and said, "Come, maybe you will learn a thing or two."

This made her laugh lightly. "I doubt it."

I observed those first who were sparring by hand. The men that participated in this were most often tall, strong, and well built. They knew how to throw their weight around and use their assets for their advantage. I wondered how Liv would fair against one of them. Perhaps later that week he would find out.

When the men gathered around the two fighters and saw us approach, they stepped away uneasily, forgetting in their discomfort to salute me. It wasn't long before Quinn sidled up next to us, his twin following. Hugo settled next to Liv and began his usual commentary. "The left one is strong. Broad shoulders. Smart."

"He's heavy. His opponent has the advantage of quickness." Liv countered. "He may not be as strong, but he's quick enough to avoid any real danger."

I nodded in agreement and approval. Maybe I could use Liv's expertise as well. Another set of eyes, fresh ones at that, could prove useful. After watching the fight end in favor of the lighter of the two, I walked alongside Liv and explained the set-up of the fort. "There is a bath house connected to the barracks at the eastern end, but . . . I'm afraid that it isn't very private at all. There is a pool that is just on this side of the wall, right before the bend in the river. It stays full and fresh year round. I recommend that you go there to bathe."

"That is fine. I will, perhaps, go there later tonight." She was looking around, taking in the sight of the long, U shaped barracks, and tall watch towers posted evenly along the wall. "Thank you."

"For?" I asked, rather confused.

"Accepting me." she responded, quickening her pace slightly.

Still confused, I grabbed her by the elbow and pulled her to a stop. "What do you mean?"

She refused to meet my gaze. "You've accepted me. Many people don't–like the ones here. Like Zy."

I quickly realized that there was more to the conversation, but we weren't in a place private enough to discuss it further. I let her arm go and continued to walk toward the far end of the training fields. "We will finish this conversation later."

"Yes," she agreed, although somewhat hesitantly. "I'm very impressed with what I see here. I think . . . I think I will settle here nicely."

"Good. I was hoping you might say that."