Embracing Destiny

Chapter 8

Early the following morning, just after dawn, the lookout spotted land on the horizon. By midday, the brig was docked in the small seaside town of Wesburn. Isabela managed to procure some dark hooded cloaks for the more conspicuous and well-known passengers of the Siren’s Call before they disembarked and headed for the inn.

When they reached the tavern, they located a large table in the darkest corner. Isabela was correct in her assumption that they wouldn’t stand out among the bar’s other patrons. When it came to shady characters, even the Hanged Man had nothing on the One-Eyed Boatman.

They each ordered a pint of ale and a meal then listened as Isabela reported on the state of the Call. “Cortes ordered the supplies we need to repair the ship when we made port. Luckily, the sutler had a replacement for the mainsail on hand, so that can be up and ready by this afternoon. Unfortunately, the topmast is another story. The damned thing has to be rebuilt and that takes time. The earliest we’ll be able to leave is tomorrow night, and that’s only if we can get the materials in time for my men to finish it.”

“So we’re stuck in this inn until the repairs are done?” Alistair asked with a scowl. ”Greeaat.”

Fenris harrumphed. “I would think you would feel right at home here.”

Emily rubbed her forehead between her fingers. “Please don’t start you two. We’re just going to have to try to make the best of this situation.”

“That’s only if the drunk doesn’t clean us out of coin before tomorrow,” the warrior muttered.

Alistair leaned forward, his lids narrowed with a threatening glare. “What in the bloody void is your problem?”

“You!” Fenris shot back. ”You are my problem.”

The prince brandished a derisive smirk. “What’s wrong, elf? Jealous?”

“What could I possibly be jealous of?” the other man huffed, the lyrium lines along his hands illuminated with a faint glow.

“Is there going to be a problem here lads?” interrupted the barmaid as she passed out their ales. “Because it’s a little too early in the day for me to be breaking up fights.”

“No. There’s no problem.” Emily stared daggers at each of the men, warning them to cease their argument. “Is there?”

Fenris scowled at Alistair then crossed his arms and glowered at the floor to his right while Alistair extended a sheepish grin at Emily and mouthed an apologetic, “Sorry.”

“Thank you,” she said to her companions, offering a smile an obviously contrite Alistair a smile of her own before addressing the serving girl again. “Everything’s fine here. You’ll have no trouble from us, serah.”

The tension in the barmaid’s shoulders relaxed with a heavy breath. “Thank you, miss. Enjoy the drinks. Your food’ll be out shortly.”

When the serving girl ambled back to the bar, Isabela downed her first mug then set off to appropriate rooms for the five of them for the night. Fenris continued to glower at the floor while the others drank in awkward silence. The tension in the air grew thicker by the moment until Alistair finally turned his attention to Anion.

“You don’t talk much do you?”

The young healer took a sip of his ale. “I am not accustomed to being in the company of others.”

“Weren’t you living with a tribe of Dalish elves?” asked the prince with an arced brow. “The ones I’ve met didn’t like outsiders much, but they seemed pretty social with each other.”

Anion nodded. “Yes, each Dalish clan functions as a family, and they treat each other as such, but I came to the tribe as an outsider. I lived among them for almost half my life, but they never really accepted me.”

Emily placed a comforting hand on the young man’s shoulder. “I’m sorry Anion. That must have been very difficult for you.”

“There is no need to apologize, falon. It really was not that much different from the alienage. Being half-human, I have never really been accepted among any of my elven brethren.”

Fenris shifted in his chair with a loud harrumphed, prompting Alistair to roll his eyes before returning to his conversation with the younger elf. “So your father was human?”

“Yes.”

“And did you get your gift from him or your mother?” asked the prince.

“From my father,” Anion replied.

“So did you ever think about going to live with him?” Alistair prodded. “I assume he was an apostate if he met your mother in Denerim.”

The healer’s brows knitted together in a morose frown. “I do not even know his name. I asked my mother many questions, but she refused to talk about him. I found out from my grandfather that they were about the same age, the man was quite charming for a human, and he was captured by the templars shortly after I was conceived.”

A strange, cold shiver crept up Emily’s spine, but she quickly dismissed it. “Maybe he’s still at the Tower of Magi.”

“It’s doubtful,” Alistair said with a sympathetic frown. “Sorry. I was at the tower during the Blight. After what happened with the blood mages, not many mages survived.”

Isabela interrupted the conversation when she plopped back down onto her chair. “So what’s going on? Is everybody making nice now?”

“As much as can be expected,” Emily replied with an irritated scowl at Fenris.

Realizing the mage’s aggravation was directed solely at him, the warrior huffed with exasperation. “I have lost my appetite. I wish to go to my room now.”

Without argument, the pirate pointed over her shoulder with her thumb. “The rooms are already paid for. Talk to the bartender, and he’ll have one of the serving girls take you up.”

Fenris gave her a curt nod and rose from the table. The others retained their reticence until the elf disappeared through the upstairs doorway. The moment he was gone, Isabela rolled her eyes.

“I swear. He is such a child sometimes.”

“So it’s not just me who thinks that, then?” Alistair questioned with an embittered grimace. “I didn’t want to say anything, Emily, because I know he’s a friend, but I’m getting a little tired of his superior attitude.”

Emily shook her head. “It’s not that simple Alistair. Fenris doesn’t think he’s better than anyone else, not really. He’s just not that big on empathy. He’s been through a lot, and, when he compares that to the tragedies of others, he thinks they have nothing to complain about.”

“So he thinks his suffering is greater than anyone else’s,” the prince noted. “Which makes him believe he’s better than everyone else.”

Isabela lifted her mug and nodded. “Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.”

“He does behave as if he is above the rest of us,” added Anion. “With the exception of Hawke, of course.”

As angry as she was with Fenris, Emily chose to stay out of the conversation. The elf was still her best friend, after all, and she refused to spend the remainder of their meal badmouthing him. She only hoped that, in airing their grievances, the rest of her friends wouldn’t be as apt to want to strangle the elf the next time they were in his presence.

“Okay,” Alistair continued “I can sort of understand why he doesn’t like me, given my history. I mean, let’s face it, most people don’t like me.”

“I like you,” the pirate told him with a waggle of her eyebrows.

“As do I,” agreed Anion. “Not in that manner, of course.”

The prince turned to Emily and waited for her to concur with the others. When she didn’t say anything, he raised a brow and folded his arms over his chest. Instead of taking the bait, she took a drink from her mug and donned a bewildered expression.

“What? Are you expecting me to say that I like you too?” She paused for a moment. “Well, I guess you did save my life.” Her face twisted in mock concentration. “And you are kind of cute, I suppose. All in all, I’d say you’re mildly tolerable. Mildly”

He leaned over until his face was just inches away from hers. The heavy scent of ale and spiced rum lingered on his breath as he gazed into her eyes. He reached out with his right hand and cupped her chin between his fingertips. When his lips curled in an uneven grin, Emily’s stomach fluttered with her tangled emotions.

“Only mildly tolerable?” he whispered. “Would a kiss help change your mind?”

A wry smirk played at the corners of her mouth. “Possibly.”

Her heart thundered in her ears as he moved his lips closer to hers. Her entire body quivered with anticipation as she closed her eyes to await his impending kiss, but her stomach sank with a disappointed thud when he turned her face and softly grazed her cheek with his lips. They lingered on her skin for a long moment before he withdrew to stare into her eyes again.

“Well? What do you think? Am I a little more tolerable now?”

No. I think you’re an ass. On the other hand…Dear Maker, those damned eyes.

“Okay,” interrupted Isabela. “You two need to cut that shit out, or I’m going to have to take young Anion here upstairs and see if I can teach him a thing or two.”

The healer’s entire face blushed crimson as he lifted his mug to hide behind it. Alistair sat back in his chair and took a long drink of his own ale with a wide grin painted across his face. It was several minutes before Emily regained her composure long enough to realize the barmaid had returned to serve their food.

Alistair scooted his chair closer to the table then rubbed his hands together, excited at the prospect of a good meal for a change. “I haven’t had a proper lamb and pea stew in seven years.”

He beamed like a child in a store full of toys as he tucked into his supper, wolfing it down as if he hadn’t eaten anything in weeks. When he requested another helping, Emily was barely halfway finished with her first. She couldn’t really blame him. It had been years since she’d eaten Ferelden cuisine, and it was nice to have a suitable fish and chips for once.

The four travelers made small talk as they ate, but kept most of their concentration on their respective meals. Once everyone was stuffed to the gills, they ordered another ale before returning to their prior conversation.

“Back to the subject of the grumpy elf,” Alistair began, inciting another eyeroll from Emily. “What?” he asked upon noticing her gesture.

She waggled her head with a sigh. “Nothing. Go on.”

“As I was saying,” the prince continued. “I can understand why he may not like me, but what’s his problem with our young friend here?”

“Fenris doesn’t really care for mages,” Emily answered.

Isabela donned a thoughtful expression. “I think it has more to do with the fact that Anion reminds him of someone else.”

“Who?” questioned Alistair.

After a quick glance at the young healer, the space between Emily’s brows disappeared in a mournful grimace. “Can we please change the subject?”

She didn’t want to talk about Anders or how much Anion favored her deceased lover. She just wanted one day, one night to pass without feeling the grief that his loss engendered. Out of the corner of her eye, the mage spotted Isabela mouth Anders’ name to the prince. A second later, a warm hand closed over Emily’s with a gentle squeeze.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, his hazel eyes fraught with sincerity.

Why are you so utterly amazing sometimes and a complete ass the rest of the time?

He shifted in his seat then regarded her through narrowed lids. “So, what’s this I hear about you and a pirate invasion on the Chantry?”

“Yes,” Anion agreed. “I have heard that story as well. Please tell us what happened.”

The mage crossed her arms and glowered at her pirate friend. “Care to field that one Isabela?”


When the serving girl showed Fenris to his room, he ordered three bottles of Aggregio. Upon the wine’s delivery, he uncorked the first bottle and began to pace while he drank. By the time he finished downing them an hour later, he was completely besotted and could barely walk the length of the floor.

Where was Hawke? He assumed she would have at least come up to check on him. To the void, he would have even been alright with her showing up just to yell at him. Anything was better than her complete disregard. It was the first time in over a year since she ignored him like that.

Something must have happened to her. It was the only explanation. He tore open the door and rushed down the hallway to the stairs only to find Hawke talking and laughing with the others over pints of ale. She was fine, she just didn’t care that he wasn’t in her presence.

Angered welled up inside the elven warrior. He wanted to punch someone. He only wished Alistair in front of him so he could take his frustrations out on the prince’s face. Why was Hawke doing this to him? Was he to be thrown to the wayside so easily? What did Alistair have that he didn’t have? Why would she choose that drunken bastard over him?

He returned to his room and lay down on the small bed beneath the room’s lone window then curled into a ball. In all his time as a slave, even after three years of being on his own while running from Danarius, Fenris had never felt so alone. Life in Kirkwall changed him. Hawke changed him. After years of abuse, bitterness, and rage, being in her presence, her influence bade him to give others a chance. He learned to trust others, to make friends. He even went so far as to arrange a weekly game of wicked grace with Varric and Donnic at the Hanged Man. Why was he pushing everyone away now?

Alistair.

That damned drunk was going to take Hawke away from him, just as Anders had. He needed to say something, to confess his love before it was too late. Before Alistair took the one thing from him that mattered most.

He closed his eyes to rest them for only a few moments. He wouldn’t disturb Hawke right then. It was the first time she had laughed or even truly smiled in months, and he wasn’t about to take that away from her. His confession would keep for a little while longer. She would know soon enough, and if the Maker possessed an ounce of mercy at all, Hawke would accept both his apology and his love.


For the remainder of the afternoon and well into the night, the four remaining companions regaled each other with stories of their past adventures. Even Anion had a few of his own to tell. As they continued to talk and laugh at each other’s jokes, Emily was reminded of all the evenings she and her team spent at the Hanged Man doing much the same.

She missed the absent friends who had grown to be family over the years. She could almost hear Varric relating his impossible tales, Aveline’s haunting recollections of Ostagar, Sebastian’s description of his days as a wild child, Fenris chronicling his years on the run, and Merrill’s incessant questions about everything. Then there was Anders. She could almost picture him sitting there, amber eyes twinkling, as he told stories of his days with the Wardens and the practical jokes he and the others would play on each other and their commander. From what Emily knew of her cousin, she wondered how she and Alistair ever got into a relationship at all. Anders always described Erin Amell as staunch and strict. In fact, Emily’s opposite in every aspect apart from bravery and talent.

Isabela snapped her fingers in front of the mage’s face. “Hey, Hawke! Are you coming?”

Emily furrowed her brows. “Coming where?”

“We’re turning in for the night,” replied the pirate, jerking her head toward their two male companions waiting at the bar. “Are you coming upstairs or are you hanging about down here for a while?”

The mage forced a smile. “No, I think I’m ready for bed.”

Isabela grabbed Emily’s arm and pulled her in close. “Good, it’ll give us a chance to talk in private. Maybe we can even grab a few more drinks so I can get you drunk enough to go for it.”

Emily rolled her eyes. “How many times do I have to tell you no, Isabela?”

“Not with me,” the pirate corrected with a waggle of her eyebrows. “Princey’s been giving you the look all night.”


Alistair leaned against the bar next to Anion, waiting for Isabela and Emily to finish their conversation. Toward the end of the evening, he suggested it was time for things to draw to a close when Emily grew overly quiet and withdrawn. She was so lost in her own thoughts, she didn’t even notice when he and the young elf left the table. By her haunted expression, Alistair assumed she was overtaken by memories of her past. He only wished there was something he could do or say to make things easier for her.

Maybe she just needs some company tonight.

The prince quickly drove the thought from his mind. Ideas like that would only lead to trouble. More than anything, he wanted to show up at her door, take her into his arms then spend the rest of the night making love to her while professing his undying devotion. But the logical side, the broken part that protected what was left of his soul reasoned that such behavior would only bring misery and heartache to both of them. Another failed relationship would surely be the death of him, and he was the last thing she needed in her life. She didn’t need a broken down shell of a man, she needed someone like Anders.

Apparently, Anders was a good man, albeit a bit misguided toward the end of his life. He had loved Emily and devoted his life to her. That’s what she deserved, not a drunken ex Grey Warden who didn’t have a copper to his name, no skills to speak of, and no hope of a future. No, Emily was worthy of much more than the exiled Bastard Prince of Ferelden could ever give her.

In the midst of convincing himself that Emily was off limits, she turned her attention from her conversation long enough to meet his gaze and extend a warm smile. The moment their eyes met, his breath and his heartbeat quickened. How in the Maker’s name was he going to ever resist temptation when she looked at him that way?

Those Maker-damned eyes.

Somehow, Alistair managed to tear his gaze away from her long enough to regain his composure. A few moments later, the two women joined the men at the bar to wait for the serving girl to take them upstairs to their rooms. Emily stood in front of Alistair, facing away from him but close enough to savor the heady bouquet of saltwater and her perfume. The aromatic blend was intoxicating. His eyes trailed up her long muscular legs and over the curves of her body to her soft sable hair, tied back with a red ribbon. The temptation to pull the ribbon loose and close his mouth over the nape of her neck became more overwhelming by the second. Maker, he wanted her.

Unable to control his desires, the prince took a step forward to slip his arms around Emily’s waist, but was interrupted by the barmaid sweeping past, jangling a large ring of keys. “Follow me,” she instructed.

When Emily stepped away from his reach, Alistair exhaled a ragged breath then untucked his shirt to cover his raging erection. Unsure if he should thank the Maker or curse him, the prince followed the others, remaining a few steps behind the object of his desire. Ascending the stairs in that position only made things worse when he was afforded the view of Emily’s perfect round ass covered by a pair of filmy black small-clothes. He turned his gaze to the creaking boards beneath his feet, wishing he could remove the image as easily.

When the serving girl showed them each to their evening’s quarters, the prince entered his and stood by the door for several moments, wrestling with his carnal need to invite himself to Emily’s room. Nearly ten minutes passed, according to the small clock on the mantle, and Alistair was no closer to a solution to his problem. He wanted her, needed her, but was it his cock or his heart fueling his desire? There was only one way to know for sure, and the only way to be certain was to face the dilemma head on.


When Fenris awoke to sound of voices in the hallway, he leapt from the bed and hurried to listen at the door to see if he could discern their owners. He grimaced with disgust upon recognizing Alistair’s. The bastard was loud enough to wake the bloody dead.

The next voice he heard was Hawke’s as she bade goodnight to the others right outside his door. A few seconds later, the door of the room to the right of his shut. It was her, it had to be. He rushed to the adjoining wall to put his ear against it. He immediately recognized the sound of her voice as she spoke aloud to her dead lover. It was a habit she developed shortly after Anders died, one she only indulged in when she thought no one else was listening.

Fenris backed away from the wall and began to pace as he waited for everyone else to retire for the night. After several minutes, he cracked his door and peeked down the corridor to ensure it was deserted. When he was convinced he was alone, he crept to Hawke’s room, and gave a light tap to her door.

“Come in, Isabela,” she instructed from the other side.

He opened the door a crack and slipped inside. “Hawke?”

He nearly lost his nerve when she turned to reveal a displeased frown and petulant glare. “What do you want Fenris?”

He swallowed past the knot in his throat. “Hawke, I wanted to apologize for my beha…”

“Not this time Fenris,” she interrupted. “I’ve listened to you apologize over and over again to me for being a complete ass and treating everyone around you like shit.”

“But…”

“I’m not finished,” she bellowed. “You always apologize to me and never to anyone else, even when they’re the ones you offend.” Her tone softened upon recognizing the apprehension in his eyes. “Look, I care about you Fenris, you know that. You’re my best friend, and I don’t ever want to lose you, but I’m allowed to have other friends too. That includes Alistair. You can’t be rude to them or mistreat them just so you can have me all to yourself. It doesn’t work that way.”

The elf’s gaze drifted to his feet. As he studied the toes of his boots, he gauged the truth of her words. He was jealous, and not just over her friendship with Alistair. After having Hawke to himself for so long, he was reluctant to share her companionship with anyone else, let alone the prince. It was unfair, and if he didn’t change his behavior, he would lose her entirely. He regarded her with an apologetic smile.

“You are right, amica. I have treated your friends very badly, and I owe them an apology.

“Yes, you do,” she agreed.

He drew a deep breath, bracing himself for what he really wanted to say. “I owe you an apology as well.”

“For what?”

His eyes trailed a line from his hands to the floor in front of Hawke’s feet. Why was this so difficult? Why couldn’t he just tell her?

“For what Fenris?” she demanded, her tone turning cross again.

When he finally met her brilliant emerald eyes, his fingers began to tremble and his throat constricted. She was growing impatient with him, but, try as he might, he couldn’t open his mouth. He lost all ability to move or utter a sound under her caustic glare.

“Just go,” she commanded, turning her back to him. “I’m expecting company.”

“Alistair?” he questioned in a whisper, defeat coloring his voice.

Still refusing to face him, she folded her arms across her chest. “Not that it’s any of your business, but no. I’m expecting Isabela.”

Finally able to will his feet to move, Fenris took a step toward her. When he placed his hand on her shoulder, it tensed beneath his touch. “Hawke?”

She responded by jerking her arm away while retaining her reticence. He closed his eyes and inhaled another deep breath. It was now or never, his last chance.

“Hawke, we have never discussed what happened between us four years ago.”

She took a step forward then circled to face him again with her brow knitted together in dismay. “You didn’t want to talk about it.”

Unable to meet her gaze, he stared at the scrubbed wooden floor. He’d never be able to get the words out, otherwise. “I felt like a fool. I thought it better if you hated me. I deserved no less.”

It was no good. It would never work if she doubted his sincerity. He had to swallow his pride, to expose his vulnerability. It was the one thing he fought over everything else. He took a step toward her and searched her eyes. “But it isn’t better. That night. I remember your touch as if it was yesterday.” He took another step forward, and took her hands into his. “I should have asked your forgiveness long ago. I hope you can forgive me now.”

She studied their joined hands for a long moment before turning her gaze back to his. “I need to understand why you left, Fenris.”

“I’ve thought about the answer a thousand times. The pain, the memories it brought back. It was too much. I was a coward.” Tears welled up in his moss green eyes. “If I could go back, I would stay. I would tell you how I felt.”

As she contemplated his words, her eyes began to glisten with unshed tears. “And what would you have said?”

With a gentle hand on her cheek, he whispered, “Nothing could be worse than the thought of living without you, Emily.” He pressed his forehead to hers. “If there is a future to be had, I will walk into it gladly at your side.

A teardrop trickled down her cheek as she leaned forward and grazed his lips with a soft kiss. The instant her lips touched his, he knew it was over. He had to prepare his heart to be ripped in half.

“Thank you,” she murmured.

“For what?” he asked as his tears began to fall.

She drew a ragged breath. “I’ve needed to hear you say that for the past four years. To finally give me closure.” She gazed into his eyes and ran her fingers through his silver hair. “I love you, Fenris, and a part of my heart will always belong to you. But what happened between us, what we could have been, that was a different lifetime, and we can’t go back.”

There was so much he wanted to say to her. He wished she could realize how much he loved her, how much he needed her, but the expression on her face told him it was pointless to try. Her mind was made up. He wasn’t the one she wanted.

Fenris placed his hand over hers, turned his face and pressed his lips against her palm. “I want you to know, no matter what happens, I will always be at your side. To the very end. As long as I draw breath, I will protect you, amica. You will always be the most important person in my life.”

With tears still shining in her eyes, she wrapped her arms around his shoulders in a warm hug He responded by encircling her waist and squeezing her against him. Although he didn’t hear the words he longed for, the weight of the untold confession he carried all those years lifted from his shoulders. He still loved her. He would always love her. Even if she never returned the sentiment, at least everything was out in the open, and they could both finally start to heal.


Against the logical part of his brain that lay buried beneath his unyielding hunger for the taste of the mage’s kiss, Alistair opened the door to the hallway only to crash into Isabela. Catching her balance with a well-timed pivot, the pirate managed to retain her grip on the three bottles of Rivaini rum in her hand. When she recovered her bearings, her brow arched with an impatient scowl.

The prince donned a sheepish grin as his hand flew to the side of his head to scratch behind his ear. “Oh, hey, Isabela.”

“Hey there, yourself,” she said, her lips curling into a wanton smirk. “I didn’t expect to find you wandering around in the middle of the night. I thought you said you were tired.”

To hide his anxiety, Alistair crossed his arms over his chest and exhibited a casual shrug. “I guess I needed something a little stronger than ale to help me sleep.”

“Is that so?” asked the pirate, tracing a slow line down the middle of his chest with her finger.

He cleared his throat. “Yes. I was thinking maybe a bottle of wine or some Rivaini rum.”

“Oh?” She bit her lower lip and batted her long lashes then lifted one of the bottles just inches from her ample chest and let it swing like a lagging pendulum in her hand. “You mean like what I have right here?”

He wet his lips then removed the offered container from her hand and uncorked it with his thumb. “Yeah, like this bottle right here,” he replied with a crooked grin before taking a swig.

“And what are you going to give me for that bottle?” she queried, taking a step closer and pressing her breasts into his chest.

Alistair’s shoulders rose and fell with each heavy breath as his manhood swelled in anticipation. Isabela’s exotic beauty was as legendary as her sexual prowess, and his firsthand knowledge of her talents didn’t make resisting temptation any easier. Did she even remember the afternoon she shared with him and Erin during the Blight?

You could always give her a reminder. She’s a beautiful woman, and she obviously wants you. What harm could it really do?

As he leaned in to kiss the pirate, the image of Emily’s smile flashed through his mind. How would she feel when she discovered he bedded one of her best friends? Although he knew a relationship with the mage was a horrible idea that would never work, a night with Isabela wasn’t worth hurting Emily.

He turned his face at the last moment and gave the captain a friendly peck on the cheek. “Sorry, Isabela. It’s a very tempting offer, but I can’t.” He took a step back and held out the bottle. “I suppose I’ll just have to find my own rum.”

The corners of her mouth turned up in a smug grin as she pushed the container into his chest. “I knew it. I wanted to make absolutely sure, but I knew it.”

“Knew what?” asked the prince, his forehead creased in curiosity.

“I knew you had it bad for her.”

He raised his left brow, feigning both ignorance and innocence. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Isabela.”

She rolled her eyes. “Alright, your Highness. Whatever you say.” She studied his face for a long moment then shoved a second bottle into his free hand. “I promised Hawke rum, but I think you should deliver it to her. Consider the first one your dose of liquid courage.”

“I can’t,” he refused, handing the bottle back at the pirate.

“But why not? You obviously care about Hawke.”

He heaved a prolonged sigh. “Because I’m not good enough for her. Emily deserves someone better than me. Someone like Anders.”

The pirate burst into laughter, leaving Alistair to wonder what he said to amuse her. When she finally recovered, she waggled her head and closed his fingers over the neck of the rum bottle he returned a few minutes prior. “Do yourself a favor loverboy. Before you go off thinking that Anders was some sort of bloody saint whose boots you aren’t worthy to lick, give Hawke this bottle and get her to open up about him. I think you’ll be surprised to find out how right you are for each other.”

With a grin of encouragement, Isabela gestured to Emily’s door with a jerk of her head. Still confused over what the captain meant regarding Anders, he straightened his back and approached the mage’s room. What did Isabela expect him to do once he entered? What would he say? How would he explain why he was there? He knew what he wanted to do, but that would be a mistake for both of them.

He couldn’t do it. No matter how he wished it could be otherwise, he had to preserve his heart and both of their sanities, for his sake as well as Emily’s. He pivoted on his heel to leave, only to find the gimlet-eyed captain watching him with her arms folded over her chest while tapping an impatient foot. She was obviously bound and determined that Alistair was going to talk to Emily, whether he liked it or not, leaving him to wonder, just how far would a pirate go to get her way?

Maybe it won’t be so bad. You just have to keep your wits about you and your hands to yourself.

The prince peered down at the open bottle in his hand then lifted it to his lips. Drinking was a colossally bad idea, he was certain of that, but how would he ever get through the evening without it? He hadn’t partaken of enough ale earlier to completely dull his senses or wits. In fact, he was more sober than he had been in a good long while. His heart thundered as he turned to face Emily’s door again. She was right on the other side, waiting for Isabela’s return.

It’s just a friendly drink and a bit of conversation. You can do this.

After a few more swigs of rum to strengthen his backbone, Alistair threw the half empty bottle to the side and tapped on the door.
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