Simeon awoke to see a beautiful woman smiling at him from the foot of his bed, and knew he was about to die.
He closed his eyes again. He wasn’t a coward, but he didn’t want to see his death coming. Would it be a knife between the ribs? Or a beheading? Or a savage rending with tooth and claw?
“I’m still here,” said the woman. “Closing your eyes won’t make me go away.”
Simeon cracked his eyes open again. Looking a second time, he realized the woman’s features were too dark for her to be a beastling. The folk of Haverness were small and pale and blue-eyed—nothing at all like the bronze, dark-eyed figure above him. But if she wasn’t here from Haverness…
“Who are you?”
“My name’s Amber. I’m here to take you home.” She stood and threw his clothing at him with one hand. In her other hand, she held a long dagger.
“Get dressed. We’re heading out.”
Simeon slid out of bed and into his breeches. He moved slowly and deliberately, keeping a nervous eye on the dagger still aimed at his heart. As he pulled his shirt over his head, he considered jumping his captor, knocking the blade from her hand. But then he saw the sword on her hip and realized that he’d still be outmatched.
“So… Amber. You’re not here to kill me. That’s good. You’re here to take me home? That’s strange.”
“Doesn’t seem strange to me. They put a bounty on your head, but only if you’re returned alive. Lots of criminal have live-bounties.”
“But I’m no criminal. I’m a visiting professor at Potor Academy.” Simeon frowned and shook his head as he pulled on his boots and stood up.
“Sure, I left without notice, but I didn’t even have tenure. That’s no reason to send a bounty hunter.“
“The name Clarissi mean anything to you?”
“What does she have to do with this?”
Amber cocked her head, bemused.
“You honestly don’t know?”
Simeon pulled himself to his full height and set his mouth in a resolute line. For a moment, he looked the part of the distinguished professor.
“Clarissi was my student. And my lover. It was wrong, I know. That’s why I left. At least…” his eyes wandered to the travel bag beneath his bed. “That’s part of the reason.”
Amber laughed out loud.
“You really don’t know.”
“Clarissi’s with child. Congratulations, professor. You’re going to be a father.”
Amber’s words were just beginning to sink in when Simeon heard a scratching at the door. All thoughts of Clarissi disappeared.