Authors: David Weber
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For Sharon, Megan, Morgan, and Michael, the four reasons I get up every day. I love you guys.
The roaring, shingle-lifting bluster of snow-laden wind only made the sudden, profound silence more complete. The slight sound as a coal settled on the modest bedchamber's hearth seemed almost deafening, and Merlin Athrawes stood very still, shoulders against the door he'd just closed behind him, sapphire eyes gazing intently through the fire-flickered dimness at the slender woman in the single chair beside that hearth.
The woman who had just called him “Ahbraim.”
Which, he reflected, made the question of how she'd managed to get by the alert sentinels guarding the Charisian Embassy here in the heart of Siddar City rather secondary.
The heavy, utilitarian coat hanging from his coat treeâlike the boots and thick woolen stockings she'd slipped from slim, pedicured feet and set before the fireâwas soaked with melting snow. The firelight cast dancing light and shadow across her brilliant, expressive eyes, gleamed on the gold and topaz encircling her aristocratic throat, and struck subdued highlights from hair that was almost as dark as Sharleyan Ahrmahk's own, and the gown she'd worn under that plain, serviceable coat was as exquisitely designed and cut as it was expensive. She was quite possibly the most beautiful woman he'd ever met and he could smell the subtle sweetness of her perfume, but none of those things were what held him so still.
“Why,” he asked after a moment, in a tone which sounded considerably calmer than it should have, “did you call me âAhbraim,' Madam Pahrsahn?” He cocked his head, expression puzzled. “I assume it's a reference to Master Zhevons?”
“You really are
good,” Aivah Pahrsahnâwho'd once been known as Ahnzhelyk Phonda, among many other namesâsaid approvingly. “Why, you could almostâ
, I sayâconvince me. But you can't, you know. I've been watching you for too long, and I have a
good memory for details.”