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Ryel woke up some time later. Sunlight came in through a single window in the small, unadorned room. The bed was a single mattress, wide enough for two Ryels to lie side by side, was stuffed with some sort of fine feather. It lay on the floor, and filled half the room. There were a couple of crates of papers stacked up, and on top of them was a tray with a mess of healing herbs and tools. There was one little stool, and a dwarf sat in it.

“Dwarf,” said Ryel. “What are you still doing here?”

“I brought you here. I have an interest in seeing if you survived.”

“You knew I was going to survive. Why are you still here? And not out selling fittings or stealing some blue gem or something?”

“I decided I wanted to know what you were up to.”

“What if I don’t want to tell you?”

“What if I just follow you and see for myself? You’ll get in trouble again and then you’ll realize how much you need backup.” He grinned sideways at the door. “Backup that won’t fall in love with you and get his or her heart broken.”

“How much do you know about me?”

“What I can read from him,” said Arkmar. “He sure doesn’t talk a lot. Shall I go get him? He’ll want to look at you before you’re discharged.”

“Yeah, I guess,” said Ryel, three mutually exclusive emotions surging in her heart. She lay back and looked at the ceiling. “How am I paying?” she asked, just as the dwarf opened the door to leave.

“I’m paying,” said Arkmar, “with one of those gold coins we found. And a chunk of that ruby. I need to make sure all those chunks don’t end up together.”

“Arkmar,” said Ryel, “Dylath-Leen and rubies. Bad combination.”

“I know, right? Now just you rest quiet and I get the healer.”

He went out and Ryel spent a minute trying to strategize. How would she deal with the healer, her former lover? Did she want a dwarf? What did she actually know about him? Who knew about the details of her mission? Did she even know, really? What had she actually done to make Edgardo so mad? How would she deal with the healer, her former lover? What did she know about him? And so on.

Then the door opened and there he was. Edgardo Ramona, healer. Half elf, all gorgeous. That shirt unbuttoned two buttons down, that blue amulet. He had to know the effect he had.

Ryel, usually all bundled up with leather and wood elf green and brown, not a hint of cleavage, not that she had anything to make a cleavage with. What did she know of what effect she had?

“Wait out in the hall,” Edgardo said to Arkmar, who was behind him.

“What, no, I want to—!” the dwarf began.

“Wait out in the hall,” said Ryel, not rising. She realized she wasn’t wearing a shirt at all now, just the pants she’d had on when she arrived in town. And, oh yes. She had bathed in that hotel room. She had re-dressed, but she had chosen to leave off her underwear. It made her feel faster during missions. Right now, it made her feel bolder. She was beginning to revive, she could just tell. She was beginning to get ideas, and they were not good ones.

The door shut. Ryel and Edgardo did not move, listening to the dwarf’s feet stomping down the hall a ways.

Edgardo looked at Ryel, but as if there were actually a screen just in front of her on which her image were projected, and that were actually what he was looking at. “A night’s rest,” he said. “You will leave in the morning. You will need to take it easy for a week or so. Never under any circumstances return to this house.”

“I didn’t come here willingly myself,” she sort of lied. “Edgardo—!”

“You may call me Doctor Ramona.”

“Bull shit I will.” She sat up, holding the sheet over her chest. “Edgardo. I don’t know what pissed you off so, but I—!”

“Don’t. Just don’t.”

“Tell me what to don’t, Edgardo. I don’t remember.”

He looked like he was about to wilt, but he had the strength to roll his eyes. “I think I’ve examined you as much as you merit,” he said evenly.

“No you haven’t. Edgardo—!” He turned to go. “Healer,” she said in her most plaintive voice. “I am not sure I am strong enough yet. Hear me!”

With another eye roll, he turned and stepped to her bedside. She reached up and took the back of his neck, pulling him down for a kiss. Yes, just one kiss, and there he remained, unwilling to back off, unwilling to take part. She kissed him again, staring down her nose at his mouth, then up into his green eyes as her tongue pushed his lips apart. He resisted: slightly. Her tongue met his, and his tongue, at least, had forgiven her for whatever. She raised her other hand to his head and pulled him closer to her for the third kiss, which blended into a fourth and fifth and so on.

Finally the healer managed to separate a little, though the elf maid kept both hands on the back of his beautiful head. He involuntarily gazed down at her: the sheet had fallen. She smirked, and snaked her right hand down his arm to his left hand. “You haven’t finished examining me,” she said huskily.

“I certainly have,” he said, but in a broken voice.

“There’s so much you haven’t even glanced at,” she said, putting his hand on her right breast. Ahhh. He could not help himself. They kissed again, and again, his hand gently, slightly, caressing her breast. After some seconds he tried to resist again, and she clucked her tongue. “Nn–nn,” she said at close range between kisses.

“My back,” he complained.

“Big baby,” she said, pulling him down to sit on the bed. She put his other hand on her side and went back to smooching.

“But Ryel,” he said, not struggling anymore, his right hand moving up and down her naked side.

“You talk a lot.” Ryel deftly unbuttoned his pants: she had not lost her touch. He had not lost anything either. No underwear on Edgardo. She feasted her eyes on his no longer hidden assets, even as her hands turned to the remaining buttons of his shirt.

“But Ryel, we need to,” he tried to say.

“You need to,” she said, and then instead of explaining, she pulled him over her onto the bed and set about getting them both out of their pants. There were no further objections for some time.

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