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“That’s nice,” he murmured. “Is this a dream?”

“Maybe,” she said. Her breath was on his face. It was a wonderful sensation, so gentle and yet so arousing. “I was walking with you in Kelsingra. And I suddenly knew that when we arrive there, everything will be fine. And if everything is going to be fine, then everything is actually already fine. At least that makes sense to me.”

A strange stillness filled him, welling up from inside him. He ventured toward it. Yes. It made sense to him, too. “We were walking in Kelsingra. You had a basket on your arm. Were we going shopping or for a picnic?”

A little shiver of tension went through her. She spoke near his mouth. “The basket was heavy. There was fresh bread, and a bottle of wine, and a little crock of soft cheese in it.” She took a small breath. “I liked how you were wearing your hat.”

“Tipped back, so I could feel the sun on my face.”

“Yes.” She shivered again and he pulled her closer, thinking at the same moment that they could scarcely be closer. “How can we dream the same dreams?”

“How can we not?” he said without thinking. Then he took a breath and added, “My ship likes you. You know Tarman is a liveship. Don’t you?”

“Of course, but—”

He interrupted her. “No figurehead. I know. But a liveship all the same.” He sighed and felt his breath warm the space between their faces. “A liveship learns his own family. I know you must know about that. Tarman can’t speak, but he has other ways of communicating.”

For a time, she did not reply. She moved her body slightly against his, a communication of her own. Then she asked a question. “That first time I dreamed of flying over Kelsingra. Looking down on it. Was that a dragon dream from Tarman?”

“Only he could say for certain. But I suspect it was.”

“He remembers Kelsingra. He showed me things I couldn’t have imagined, but they fit perfectly with what I knew of Kelsingra. And now I can’t see the city any other way than how he showed it to me.” She hesitated, then asked, “Why is he talking to me?”

“He’s communicating with both of us. His talking to you is a message for me as well.”

“What’s the message?” she whispered against his mouth.

He kissed her, and her mouth was pliant under his. For a time, they both forgot the question he could not answer.

SHE DID NOT return to her own bed that night. Very early in the morning, he woke her, thinking it might be an oversight on her part. “Alise. It’s dawn. Soon the crew will be stirring.”

He didn’t need to say any more than that. She had been sleeping with her back against his belly, her head tucked under his chin, his arms around her holding her there, safe and warm. She did not lift her head from the pillow. “I don’t care who knows. Do you?”

He thought about it for a time. The only one who might look askance at the arrangement would be Skelly. If it became long term or permanent, it might lead to her losing her position as his heir. Now there was a strange thing to think about. A child of his own? He wondered if Skelly would be unhappy or angry about it. Perhaps. Regardless of that, he wasn’t going to give Alise up. The sooner Skelly knew about it, the better.

“No problems from me. Sedric?”

“Am I asking whom he sleeps with these days?”

So she knew about him and Carson. Hmm. The two men had been discreet, but perhaps not discreet enough. There was more than a drop of bitterness in her question. Something else was there, something he didn’t want to know about right now or perhaps ever. So he made no answer. He kissed her hair, clambered over her, and took his clothing from its hook. As he dressed he said, “I’ll stir up the galley fire and put on coffee. What would you like for breakfast?”

“Um. I may sleep in a bit longer.”

So. She truly didn’t care who knew and might be going out of her way to be sure that everyone knew. He tried to think of the problems that might cause and again decided that it wouldn’t change his mind. Was he captain on this ship or not? He’d deal with anyone sooner rather than later. She had already closed her eyes and pulled his blankets up to her chin. He looked at her for a long moment, at her red hair spilling across his pillow and the wonderful shape she made in his bunk. Then he pulled on his boots and left the room, quietly closing the door behind him.

He smelled the fresh coffee before he reached the galley. Skelly was there before him, sitting at the table, a white mug of thick black coffee in front of her. She looked up at him as he came in. He avoided her glance, fearing to see accusation there. Coward. He poured himself a mug of the coffee she’d made and sat down opposite her. “You used up a lot of our coffee to make this. Didn’t I tell you we’d have to be careful of our supplies?”

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