Geileis' face was hard as the stone walls around them. She took a cloth from the table and wiped the white sticky mess from Arguis's shoulder. Their eyes locked, her lips preciously close to his. He could smell basil and sage and the sharp scent of peat desperate to catch fire.
She stepped back, turned, and replaced the cloth upon the table. "I know what you be thinking," she finally said. "Show me I've no fulfilled my obligations of our contract and I be shamed. Is that what you mean to do to me, Arguis—shame me?"
"Nay! That's not what I meant," he cried. "Please, Gel. Will you no listen to what I have to say?"
She opened her mouth as if to speak but then closed it, nodding. The flush in his face deepened. "You win."
Geileis looked surprised at that. "And what exactly is it I win?"
"Whatever you want. Move back in with me, eh?"
She took a step back, shoulders slouched, "Why?"
Arguis pulled at his shirt around his neck, swallowing. His heart beat fast. "I—we need you, Geil."
Her eyes misted with tears. "What about ... her?"
"Who? Oh, you mean Locha?"
"Is that her name?"
"She's not as attentive as she should be."
"To my son I mean. To my son!"
She appeared to relax, the redness in her face now a soft pink glow.
"I think she must have a man somewhere else. She's taken to ... er ... going off."
"Going off! Where? The babe's too young to wean."
"She won't tell me and I've no mind to follow her either."
"But aren't you concerned?" She looked down at the child. "For him I mean?"
"Of course I'm concerned," he snapped. "What am I to do if she decides her boon to me is over? I've no claim on the lass after all. She can leave whenever she likes, though I wish she wouldn't."
Her face tightened into a grimace.
"For wee Bran's sake," he added.
"I see," she said a little testily.
"What if we had her stay in your place and you come to mine? Would that suit you, Gel? Would you come back then?"
She shrugged and he wondered what else he should say. She seemed on the brink of agreeing but something was holding her back. What could he say, though? That he wasn't whole without her? That the skin over his bones shivered, yearning for her touch? Could any man admit such foolishness?
Geileis stood there silent, apparently waiting for him to say more. When he didn't, she reached for the fussing baby and he placed Bran in her arms. He caught the scent of her, rose-petals and warm wool, lavender and fresh cream.
She placed a finger again in Bran's mouth, ceasing his distress, though he could see it wouldn't last for long.
"He likes you, Gel."
"Aye. Well." Her gaze was lowered, focused on the child in her arms.
"And he needs a mother."
She looked at him then and his face flushed.
"I—I need you too. I love you, Gel."
She smiled then and his heart warmed at the sight.
"Let's go home," she said, the smile spreading.
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