It seemed to Sheen that some hours passed, but she had no clear memory until she woke in her own bed, tired and drained but clear-headed, at least. Something had nudged her out of unconsciousness. Then she realized that Haden was sitting there beside her, his legs stretching from the chair to the bed. The only light came from the street outside, a faint yellowish glow that touched only half of his face, so that she could see only the baleful glare of his one red eye.
“What are you doing here?” she demanded, although her voice quivered and she sounded more afraid than she liked.
“I might ask you the same thing,” he said, sitting back.
“What?” Sheen asked. She sat up and discovered that someone had put her in clean clothing. What was he doing while I was unconscious? She wondered.
“Tell me about Gyderic,” Haden said evenly.
“That’s none of your business,” she snapped.
“I think it’s very much my business,” he retorted. “You present such a ferocious front that it never occurs to anyone to question you about your past, about your reasons for being here. You throw out a few words here and there about some Council that tortured you because they thought you were an accomplice in a crime . . . what crime? Why did they think you were an accomplice? Were you . . .” he stopped. “Are you still looking for him because you want him? Is that what this is all about?”
“Is that what you think?! Have you lost your mind?”
“I don’t know!” Haden shouted, flinging himself to his feet and pacing the room. “I don’t know what to think! I spent two days with his slimy thoughts in my head, tearing me apart, and all I could think of was . . . was, how could *you* ever . . . ever love something like *that*?!”
“It wasn’t like that!”
“Then what was it?! Give me something that makes sense!” Haden threw himself down on the chair again, leaning forward with his head in his hands and his elbows on his knees. Sheen sat up and brushed his sleeve tentatively with her fingers. “I’m sorry,” he said dully. “I shouldn’t be shouting at you. It’s been a long day, and I couldn’t sleep.”
“No, it’s all right. I just . . . don’t like to talk about it very much. I’ve never been so ashamed of anything before. I hope I never will be again.” Sheen sighed. “I . . . met Gyderic in Waterdeep, when I was sixteen. I’d been struggling for two years, trying to stay alive, to find work. The guilds have a stranglehold on business in Waterdeep . . . anyway, I don’t suppose that matters. No one had ever paid any attention to me, or thought I was anything special, but Gyderic seemed fascinated with me. He can really be very charming when he makes an effort.”
“I believe it,” Haden said quietly.
“I was . . . infatuated, I suppose. I didn’t really stop to think about anything he asked me, I just did it because, well, because it was him asking. Anything from letting him take me to bed to helping him build the device he tried to use against the elder. He tried to kill them, to assassinate them, and since I’d been letting him . . . use me, I must be involved, right? I must have known . . .” Sheen blinked her eyes, hard, her vision blurring.
“Don’t cry,” Haden said softly, stroking her cheek.
“I lost everything . . . my work, my home, even the man I . . . cared for. He just took it all away from me. For what? Ambition? Power? There was no sense to it. And he was dead, so there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t even really think about starting over. Any time I’d try, I would start thinking of him, and I was afraid of it happening all over again. You . . . you must have seen how easy I am to manipulate. How I take everyone at their word. I grew up with dwarves, how was I supposed to know any better?”
“How honest you are?” Haden asked. Sheen looked up at him. He was watching her with a strange purity of concentration that made his features look stern, almost implacable. “Tell me . . . did Gyderic like to drink, and flirt, and . . .”
“Yes. Why? What does that have to do with anything?”
“It wasn’t me, was it? It was never me.” Sheen looked away, but Haden reached out and caught her chin, pulling her face up and leaning in towards her.
“Don’t,” she whispered.
“Can’t you trust me at all? Does everything have to be a battle with you?” Sheen shivered once, convulsively.
“I’m so tired . . .” Haden’s lips brushed hers lightly and his hands slid around her. Sheen sighed and tilted her head back, surrendering to the kiss, to the pressure of his body against hers. She closed her eyes and pressed her face, her lips, against his neck as he began unbuttoning her shirt. She even helped him with his own clothing and clung to him as he coaxed her into frightening ecstasy.
Exhaustion numbed her senses for a time, but she was aware, dimly, of Haden climbing out of the bed. She watched as he dressed in silence, not looking at her, and left the room without a word. Then it hit her, and she pressed her face into the pillow, trying to comprehend what she’d just done.
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