She was gone in a breath and returned near as quick, her rustling skirts as blue as the pattern on the china cup she brought him.

He sipped the tepid water and was glad it was neither cold nor hot for he feared his throat would tolerate neither.

“Thank you,” he said, his voice husky.

“You’re welcome.” 

She bowed her head to unravel the last pass of bandage around his forearm and he noticed her hair—the rich brown of wet planks—was done just as the day before. Neither down and free, nor coiled tightly, it was simply pinned loose, draping in soft curves at the base of her neck. As if she’d done it with no thought or care. But that was never her way. All the more reason it surprised him. He studied the twists that looked likely to tumble free any moment, if but a pin were pulled free.

He brushed his thumb and forefinger together, minding his hand to stay where it lay.

*  *  * 

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