Arama's fingers crept up her cheek again. With an effort, she jerked her hand back down at her side and clenched her fist. The surgeon had done a good job sewing her cheek. It probably wouldn't scar. Not that it mattered, but she wanted to avoid infection.
The duty was done. She'd brought the prince and his honor guard safely through to Ranarr. On balance, Arama thought the trip might have been safer if they'd skimmed in close to the Blades. But done was done, and she couldn't deny that Kinnet Ardelis had been stormwitch enough to get them through safe.
The stormwitch in question approached, her bag slung over one shoulder. She thought highly of herself, there was no denying that. It was clear in the tilt of her chin and the way she carried her shoulders. But she didn't think herself above carrying her own bag, so there was that.
"Stormwitch Ardelis." Arama wasn't sure what to say. I'm glad you're off my ship? Someone ought to warn the next captain you sail with? She fought a smile at the thought of Kinnet Ardelis with a parchment warning tied around her neck.
"Captain Dzornaea. Thank you for allowing me to sail with you. And..." She paused, her gray eyes flickering. "Thank you for not throwing me in the brig after what I did."
Arama tilted her head. "What, learning how to communicate with one of the leviathan? Discovering the stormsingers were--are--real?"
Kinnet smiled. It was a true smile, and the first Arama'd seen from her. "Nearly sinking your ship," she said. "However unintentionally."
"Eh. It would have been too much trouble, since you didn't sink us." Arama waved a hand. She was still watching Kinnet make her graceful way down the gangplank when warm fingers curled around hers.
Lo. She felt her throat squeeze, but she didn't pull her fingers away.
"You're the finest captain I've ever sailed with," he said. "Thank you for keeping the prince safe."
Arama cocked an eyebrow at him. "Try to keep him that way. He hasn't exactly chosen an easy path." She wasn't just talking about Vistaren.
Lo must have picked up on it. He smiled, though the old sadness was still in his eyes. "I'm not sure how much of it was a choice," he murmured. He leaned in and pressed a kiss to her cheek, whiskers scraping pleasantly against her skin. "Take care of yourself, Arama."
She watched him walk away. He was tall and handsome and capable, and he cared too much for her. Maybe someday she would be able to accept that. But not today.
"After all," she muttered, "taking care of myself is what I'm good at."