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Night in the Woods [Closed]

Mara Kerr

Active member
Grey Warden
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
44
Featured Thread #1
The cold bit at Mara’s nose as she pulled her cloak tighter around her shoulders. Her steps were light, cautious as she maneuvered around lurching roots and pesky twigs. The sun had set just a few hours before, earlier and earlier with each day. It was a blessing Mara was counting on as she clung to the edges of the forest.

Her gaze snapped to the side again, but her heart didn’t leap into her throat like it had the first few times she thought she’d seen that familiar shadow weaving its way through the trees. With a sigh, she pressed onward and kept her eyes focused. The last thing she needed was to trip and hurt herself before she even made it to the meeting spot.

A cursory glance at the edge of the forest had given her little to work with. Traces and tracks were mostly normal with a few straying from the usual beaten path. The strays could be worth looking into, but considering how few and how old they already were, she doubted they would lead anywhere useful. Smart thieves wouldn’t venture off the main road so quickly if they were coming from the city. That, or they had other paths.

Mara halted. She gazed left, right, but nothing stood out so far. Perhaps something was further down, but she hadn’t the time to investigate at the moment. She pressed onward again, eyes diligently searching for signs until she came upon the meeting spot she and Ferren agreed upon. A quick glance up at the moon told her she was early, but not by much, so she settled against the trunk of the large tree and pulled out a small roll she’d smuggled from the kitchens. It would do her well to stave off the Warden hunger lest a growling stomach give them away in the darkness.

As she waited, she let her thoughts wander to Ferren. How would she greet him? Obviously a hug was out of the question, but a simple “Hello” was too cold. They were friends now, right? She tried to think of what that meant, the boundaries she’d have to walk between - not too formal, but not too familiar. A tightness was building in her chest, and a good shake of her head wasn’t enough to make it go away. This wasn’t the old tightness, though, the fluttering, exciting kind that always led to one romantic misadventure after another. No, this was different. This was...well, it was certainly exciting, but there was no flutter, just an underlying calm, like watching a thunderstorm from far away. She wasn’t sure what it meant yet, but it was enough to lift her from the tree and set her rocking back and forth on her heels as she waited for Ferren to arrive.
 

Ferren Bairston

Guard-Captain of Highever
Staff member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
136
#2
Sometimes Ferren felt like a nursemaid who just happened to wear a Guard Captain’s uniform.

Graham and Whelan weren’t talking to each other again in that passive aggressive sort of way Ferren never understood. He didn’t exactly like conflict either, but they’d been real vocal in their need to not be anywhere near one another--especially when said other was there to hear it.

There was a lot to unpack there. Apparently they’d been involved before they joined the Guard and existed in this state where Ferren was never sure day to day if they were fucking or fighting. Cavagh would’ve put an end to it. On-the-job relationships were bad for everybody involved. But Ferren wasn’t Cavagh and he didn’t want to be, so he’d told them whatever they did in their personal time was their business, so long as it didn’t affect their work.

He was going to have to talk to both of them, because they couldn’t afford to have two distracted guards right now. City was just begging to be attacked as it was--especially the South Wall.

It was a conversation that would have to wait for tomorrow, though. He was already late to meet Mara after settling the night’s patrols. There wasn’t any time to change, so he grabbed his cloak and headed for the forest, trying not to think about the fact that he was maybe repeating Graham and Whelan’s mistake.

He and Mara hadn’t ever really worked together, unless you counted the lost kid thing. Which Ferren did. But their problems came more from the fact that their work--and lives--were fundamentally different anyway. That didn’t change just because she was helping him with this investigation, and for the first time in months, Ferren didn’t want it to change.

Heading out of the city, gloved hands tucked underneath his cloak, he walked an uncharacteristically straight and quiet path to where he was going. Normally he meandered, talking to any and everybody. Tonight he was already late and they needed as much time as they could get to find the camp.

As he moved past the treeline, he didn’t see Mara at first. What he saw was the curl of steam from her breath, then her movement as she shifted. She’d dressed for the job, and here he was in his Highever blue uniform and cloak.

Ferren grinned a little sheepishly. “Almost didn’t see y’there.”

He wasn’t really sure how else to greet her. Hugging had never really been a thing, and it definitely wasn’t now. A handshake would be weird. Just saying “hi” felt half-assed, so Ferren went with the no-assed version and skipped straight to the apology.

“Sorry I’m late. Couple o’ guards waist-deep in their own drama right now. Y’ haven’t seen anythin’ while waiting, have you?”
 

Mara Kerr

Active member
Grey Warden
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
44
#3
Mara heard him before she could see him. The crunch of his boots and the rustle of fabric made her pull herself tighter into the shadows on instinct - it wasn’t until she caught sight of the blue of his uniform that she released the breath she’d been holding all along.

“Almost didn’t see y’there,” Ferren greeted her with a familiar grin.

“Yes, well, that’s kind of the point of tonight, isn’t it?” Mara shrugged. “Stealth, laying low, observi - Ferren,” she shook her head and took another look at his attire, “what on earth are you doing in those clothes?”

“Sorry I’m late. Couple o’ guards waist-deep in their own drama right now.”

“Oh, Maker, that must’ve been fun.”

“Y’ haven’t seen anythin’ while waiting, have you?”

“No…” Mara scuffed her boot in the dirt - another mark on it wasn’t going to hurt after everything else she’d put them through that evening. They’d lost their shine as soon as she’d hit the tree line. Arms crossed over her chest, she took in a deep breath and shook her head. “I thought I could find tracks along the trees here, a way for bandits to sneak in and out without going on the main road. That’s what I would’ve done if I was in their place, but it seems they had other plans.”

She sighed and reached up to push a few stray strands behind her ear. Not all of it was long enough - or even tame enough - to stay in the puff of a ponytail at her neck. Her eyes took in the landscape around here, but nothing stood out. No leaf out of place, not even a few pebbles pushed into the mud. Nothing.

“We should head back to the main road, see if we can find anything along there.” Without waiting for an answer, she began to move along through the trees, steps light as air. Since she wasn’t so focused on searching the ground, they made quick time back to the road. Just as she was about to step onto the well-trodden earth, the sound of laughter made her pull back. She put a hand up, indicating to Ferren that he should stop.

A pair of men strode along the road from Highever. They moved single file, the front one occasionally turning back on long legs to remark about something to the much shorter one in the back. Despite his twists and turns, Mara could see how they kept to the rocky edge of the road. A dagger gleamed from the rear one’s belt, but she could only guess where the other one stowed his weapons of choice. The rear one carried a heavy pack slung over one shoulder, the other he would glance over from time to time.

As they neared, Mara put a finger to her lips and gave Ferren a gentle nudge to a nearby tree before fading into the shadow of another one. The pair passed with hardly a glance in their direction. Mara rolled her eyes as she heard the front one hit the punchline of a lewd joke she’d heard in far too many taverns already. It seemed the other man felt the same, for not even a huff of a laugh made it out of him.

Soon enough the men were out of earshot enough for Mara to finally speak to Ferren in a hushed whisper. “They seemed off,” she started. “Not just the dagger, but did you see where they were walking?” She tilted her head at the edge of the road. “Single file, and rocky paths don’t show tracks. They know what they’re doing.”

With soft steps she made her way to where the men had been walking only a few minutes before. She knelt down beside the rocks that haphazardly made up the edge of the road. Years of being pushed aside from travelers had left enough for a skilled traveler to walk along so long as they weren’t worried about sore feet. A few looked like they’d been turned over or scuffed unnaturally, enough for Mara to pick up where they men had been walking. For a moment she wished Duff was there - he’d have their scent in no time and they’d be off, but now wasn’t the time for wishes. She could do this herself. She knew she could.

“We should follow them,” Mara declared. “Their tracks will be fresh if they try to leave the road, and it at least gives us something to start with. What do you say?”
 

Ferren Bairston

Guard-Captain of Highever
Staff member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
136
#4
“Yes, well, that’s kind of the point of tonight, isn’t it?” Fair enough. Just because Ferren hadn't ever been good at it didn't mean other people weren't. “Stealth, laying low, observi - Ferren, what on earth are you doing in those clothes?”

"Didn't have time to change," he said, that sheepish smile returning.

He apologized and explained his lateness, Mara's comment making him want to launch right into a half hour--or probably longer--tirade about Graham and Whelan and everybody else who couldn't seem to separate their work from their personal lives. Then he'd probably find his way to the realization that he wasn't the best at it either, at which point his foot would be so far in his mouth he'd have to backtrack just to find the topic again.

Instead, Ferren just tried to learn from the mistakes of his guards and stuck to the mission. Maybe once they were done here, some less-professional talk would be in order. Just... not that much less professional. And probably not while drinking. He still didn't completely trust himself around her.

“No… I thought I could find tracks along the trees here, a way for bandits to sneak in and out without going on the main road. That’s what I would’ve done if I was in their place, but it seems they had other plans.”

"Might've planned for somebody looking," Ferren said with a frown. "Or I guess they could be going for the obvious and hoping t'throw us off."

Mara seemed to agree. She suggested they head for the road and Ferren followed, trying to walk quietly. He didn't think he'd ever manage to be as quiet as her. She didn't even make a sound. But his uniform wasn't as loud as a Knight-Captain's might be, or even as loud as one of the castle guards. His hauberk was fitted to him, sitting close against his chest. It moved when he did, so the sound of rattling chain was minimized and muffled even more by a tabard and his cloak.

They'd almost reached the road when Ferren heard the sound of laughter. He wouldn't have thought much of it but Mara held up her hand to signal him to stop. Ferren nodded, focusing on the sounds that drifted closer. Two men were talking one after the other, passing along the road in a way that definitely wasn't normal. He squinted, trying to see if he recognized either of them, but from this distance it was hard to tell.

As they came closer, he ducked behind a tree on Mara's suggestion. The men passed by, totally oblivious to the fact that they were being watched, and Ferren was able to get a better look at them in the dimming evening light. The tall one he didn't recognize, but the short one... he was pretty sure he'd seen the man before. The memory Ferren pulled out wasn't anything special--he'd just been in one of the ramshackle taverns past the south wall--but it was clear enough in his mind.

“They seemed off,” Mara whispered once the men passed. “Not just the dagger, but did you see where they were walking? Single file, and rocky paths don’t show tracks. They know what they’re doing.”

"Aye. Nobody'd walk like that unless they didn't want t'be followed." He might not have been a tracker, but that much was common sense. "Pretty sure I've seen the short one before. Don't remember him causing any trouble, but doesn't seem like they're the obvious types."

Mara approached the road, kneeling down along the rocky edge of the path where the men had been walking. Even if the reason they'd been doing it was obvious, Ferren would've never thought about someone walking there if he hadn't seen it for himself.

“We should follow them. Their tracks will be fresh if they try to leave the road, and it at least gives us something to start with. What do you say?”

"Whatever they're up to, it's not anythin' good. Enough of a reason for me," he said with a nod. "Just have t'be on our guard."

Ferren didn't plan on using his weapon tonight--unless he had no other choice. But if they could figure out the location of a camp, it'd be easier for him to send a couple of the stealthier guards to get a read on the place. Once they had good cause to do it, he could make the arrests and break up the whole thing. It wouldn't solve all the problems he was dealing with, but it was a start.

Stuffing his hands back inside his cloak, he followed Mara's lead. They kept a good enough pace behind the men and he managed to keep from filling the silence out of habit. For a while, anyway. There was only so long Ferren could listen to just the sounds of the surrounding woods--a deer or some other animal heading home for the night, the beating of an owl's wings as it took to the hunt, and a host of other things that mostly unnerved him--before he had to fill the void with more familiar sounds.

"Y'know there's a couple o' people in the city guard y'might work well with. Might even get on with. Their backgrounds... well, I mean. I don't know all the details. Guess I don't know all the details o' yours, either. Just... might be some common ground, if you're ever looking for it. I know you're here as a Warden, but it's a ways away from home. Y'know. Wherever that is, I guess."

Ferren had already gotten tired of what he was saying halfway through. It was a bad idea. He didn't know anything about it and shouldn't assume. It wasn't his job to care, he just... did. He didn't like it when people were uncomfortable or lonely or anything else. The way he'd left things with Mara didn't change that.

They followed the road until Mara noticed tracks leading away from it. Ferren was barely able to see them, and even when she pointed them out, he had a hard time. But he trusted her judgment on whether or not they were fresh--and from the people they'd seen. He walked alongside her, keeping alert, his gaze cutting through the forest. The sun was sinking fast, the temperature falling with it, and in the distance he just barely caught sight of an orange glow.

"That look like a fire t'you?" he whispered, then added, "How close d'you think we can get without anybody noticing?"
 

Mara Kerr

Active member
Grey Warden
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
44
#5
"Whatever they're up to, it's not anythin' good. Enough of a reason for me. Just have t'be on our guard."

“Right. Good.” Mara took a breath and steadied the worries she could already feel creeping in. Tracking people was different than tracking animals, and while these men were good, they were also far more likely to retaliate than the usual prey. She was less afraid of wolves than she was of men.

As they made their way along the trail the other pair left behind, Mara’s shoulders relaxed and her fists stopped clenching and unclenching. The rustling of a bush as a fennec dashed into it, the hoot of an owl, the breeze through the trees - all were familiar to her, a comfort that she’d almost forgotten after spending so much time cooped up behind the walls of cities. Each breath filled her lungs with calm and peace, each rocky step steadier than any city street.

"Y'know there's a couple o' people in the city guard y'might work well with.” Ferren broke the silence. Of course he would - he had quite the knack for it - but Mara still jumped at the sound of his voice anyway. “Might even get on with. Their backgrounds... well, I mean. I don't know all the details. Guess I don't know all the details o' yours, either. Just... might be some common ground, if you're ever looking for it. I know you're here as a Warden, but it's a ways away from home. Y'know. Wherever that is, I guess."

“I-” She didn’t know where to begin with all of it. Still, she halted and whirled around to face Ferren and hoped her tongue would untie itself in those few seconds. “Ferren, are you trying to play matchmaker for me? Already? We’ve barely worked out what we are!” Mara struggled to keep her voice no more than a whisper, albeit a very flustered whisper. She crossed her arms and looked anywhere but at Ferren. “And home is wherever I’m needed, not just anywhere.”

His words had a way with making her think things she didn’t want to think about. Tonight was no different than the many, many times she’d felt that way. She’d hardly thought of what her next romantic endeavor would be like after Ferren. Even though he had a way with making her think and feel and say all the wrong things, she doubt she’d find someone able to hold a candle compared to him anytime soon, and that was fine. As far as she cared, it wasn’t an issue right now. She was a Warden. She needed to learn what that meant before she made the mistake of reaching beyond it again.

But home...That was a more difficult idea to think about. She turned around and focused on the path again, but the sounds of the forest were no longer familiar comforts. A few months ago she would’ve called this home. A few years ago she still would’ve claimed Lothering as her home. Now, she didn’t want to admit to herself that home wasn’t real, that it was never going to be real again, so home wasn’t home. Home for now was the inn she was housed in. In a few months it would be whatever Compound she was shipped off to. A few years was anyone’s guess, but hopefully she’d be around to see it.

After following the path for so long, she hardly realized they’d left the main road. Occupied by her thoughts, she realized she must have missed when exactly they’d made the turn. Looking around, she picked a few telltale markers for the area should she have to find this area another time. A scratch on a tree, the branch that dovetailed close to the trunk on a different. As she was taking in their environment, she caught the glimmer of something off in the distance.

"That look like a fire t'you?" Ferren noticed it, too. "How close d'you think we can get without anybody noticing?"

“You?” She looked Ferren up and down as if she even had to think about the answer. “Not very close. Stay here, stay low, and wait for me. I’ll take a look and see if anything seems off.”

Mara weaved her way through the trees as soundlessly as she could, taking care to watch for snappy twigs and crunchy pine needles. Ferren was right - it was a fire off in the distance. As she approached, she saw a handful of figures gathered around it, some dozing but most of them waiting for whatever was cooking in the pot above the fire. They spoke in hushed whispers to each other, just low enough that Mara could only make out spare words here and there. She clung to the shadows of the trees, daring to get as close as she could before the fire’s light could illuminate the trees too much.

Tomorrow was the word Mara picked up the most. She squinted as if it would help her hear better, but instead it made her notice something else, a symbol that united many of the members. On some of their packs and on bands over their sleeves, she could just make out the shape of a pair of daggers crossed over a red circle. It was a simple symbol, but Mara knew better than to tease such men over something that united them in identity no matter how dumb it looked. She waited a few minutes more, hoping to glean some other information from their sparse conversation, but it was clear to her that there wasn’t much more she could pick up without the risk of revealing herself. She turned and silently returned to Ferren as quietly as when she’d left him.

It seemed Ferren had been good while she was away and hadn’t wandered off like she’d half-expected him to do. She held in the sigh of relief as she settled down beside him and began to explain the things she’d seen.

“Do you recognize this symbol?” She took out her dagger and roughly sketched the daggers and circle out in the dirt. “It was on some of their bags. A few had armbands with it sewn on them. Also, they kept saying something about tomorrow. I’m not sure what, but I have a bad feeling they’re planning something and it might not be good.”
 

Ferren Bairston

Guard-Captain of Highever
Staff member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
136
#6
“I-” When she whirled to face him, he knew he’d fucked up. He just wasn’t sure how yet. “Ferren, are you trying to play matchmaker for me? Already? We’ve barely worked out what we are!” Her whisper--if it could be called that--came out hard. “And home is wherever I’m needed, not just anywhere.”

“Matchmaker?”

It genuinely took him a few moments to follow Mara’s tangled logic to that end. Or maybe it wasn’t so tangled. Maybe he just hadn’t thought it over first. He knew he hadn’t. He also knew he hadn’t intended it to come out that way, and now he found himself going over his words to try and sort out where he’d gone wrong.

Not the first time with Mara. Probably not the last. It was a little frustrating, but mostly he just felt… weird. About all of it. The whole thing was weird.

“I meant there’s people here y’might get along with. As friends,” he whispered back. It didn’t matter, but he still felt the need to clear up the confusion. “Don’t think I’m in a place where I’d be matchmaking for anybody, and definitely not you.”

Well, fuck. This time he recognized right away just how she could take that. Best to just… stop talking. At least about anything not related to this job.

Continuing on, they stopped a good distance away from a camp. Ferren crouched down, trying to get a look at the bandits or mercenaries or whatever they were. He wasn’t nearly close enough to see everything he needed to see, and so he asked how much closer Mara thought they could get without catching attention.

“You?” He couldn’t even be mad about the look she gave him. He knew his strengths, and stealth wasn’t one of them. “Not very close. Stay here, stay low, and wait for me. I’ll take a look and see if anything seems off.”

He’d let her have that one. It was probably the least he could do, considering the trouble his mouth had gotten him into already. But he watched her closely, having spent enough time with Lin to get some idea of where she was even as she blended into the shadows. He kept one hand loose at his side, ready to go for his weapon if needed.

He realized then that he’d never actually seen Mara fight. He’d seen her get out of some tough scrapes before, but nothing like what they’d face if those bandits were alerted to their presence. Probably a bad time to realize that, but he felt confident enough that between the two of them they could incapacitate most of the group before it became a problem.

Probably.

Fortunately he didn’t have to put that theory to the test. Mara made her way back, settling in beside him once she was clear.

“Do you recognize this symbol?” He watched as she sketched it out. “It was on some of their bags. A few had armbands with it sewn on them. Also, they kept saying something about tomorrow. I’m not sure what, but I have a bad feeling they’re planning something and it might not be good.”

“Aye, well. Guess people don’t tend to plan good things in the middle o’ the woods.”

Ferren’s brow furrowed as he searched the mental list of things he’d had to memorize since becoming Guard Captain. He’d never really thought symbols would be high on the list, but there were a lot of different groups with a lot of different symbols, and he needed to know the signs of them when they showed up.

“As far as the symbol’s concerned, I can’t say it’s the most original one I’ve ever seen. Having a hard time remembering a name, but I’ve seen it before. Couple o’ farmers to the southwest had some trouble with bandits a while back. Pretty sure that was the symbol they sketched out.” Ferren looked past her, into the camp. “If random bandits are planning something, fair bet they’re being paid off. If we can follow the gold, we’ll find whoever’s behind this.”

Eventually, anyway. More and more, Ferren was sure this wasn’t just the work of some civilians sparking unrest. Whoever was behind this had deep pockets, and he had the nagging suspicion they were trying to poke holes in the recovery Fergus had made.

“Right,” he said, letting out a breath. “Normally I’d be all for crashing their party, but we need t’handle this a little more delicately. If we can make some sort o’ distraction, lure one or two away, I can grab them. Not sure I’ve got much t’make an arrest just yet, but they don’t know that.”

He looked to Mara then, keeping his voice quiet. “So. Y’wanna be on distraction duty, or y’wanna chase down whoever’s stupid enough t’ run for it? They’ll most likely know me by sight, but throw a dagger in a tree, make a ruckus nearby… I bet we can draw them out.”
 

Mara Kerr

Active member
Grey Warden
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
44
#7
“I can’t say it’s the most original one I’ve ever seen,” Ferren commented about the symbol. Mara nodded her agreement, pleased that even he could see the stupidity in it. “Having a hard time remembering a name, but I’ve seen it before. Couple o’ farmers to the southwest had some trouble with bandits a while back. Pretty sure that was the symbol they sketched out. If random bandits are planning something, fair bet they’re being paid off. If we can follow the gold, we’ll find whoever’s behind this.”

“That’s a sound assessment,” Mara complimented. She’d seen enough men like the ones tucked around the fire to know that Ferren was on the right track. “So what would you suggest we do?”

“Normally I’d be all for crashing their party, but we need t’handle this a little more delicately. If we can make some sort o’ distraction, lure one or two away, I can grab them. Not sure I’ve got much t’make an arrest just yet, but they don’t know that.” He looked over at Mara expectantly. “So. Y’wanna be on distraction duty, or y’wanna chase down whoever’s stupid enough t’ run for it? They’ll most likely know me by sight, but throw a dagger in a tree, make a ruckus nearby… I bet we can draw them out.”

“I can distract them,” Mara said without hesitation. How she would manage to do that, she wasn’t exactly sure, but she had a few minutes to sort it out. “I just need you to catch them before they try to pull anything. Stay close, but not too close, okay?” It was a lot of trust to place in him, especially in an environment she knew he was no natural in, but it was the best she had at the moment. That, and she knew he was plenty strong enough to stop any trouble before it started. They could do this.

“Alright, here goes nothing.” Mara took a deep breath and shook out her arms, willing any nervousness to shake off like water. As she made her way back towards the camp, an idea slowly started to work itself out in her mind. It was risky and she already knew she wasn’t going to like it, let alone Ferren, but if these men were anything like the ones she remembered dealing with long ago, it would work.

She pulled the leather keeping her hair back, letting the black locks fall over her ears and settle haphazardly around her face. The braid on the side stuck, although it began to unfurl at the bottom. No matter; it would make it all the easier to sell her role. She pushed her cloak behind her shoulders and loosened the ties at the top of her tunic all while ignoring the knotting feeling in her stomach. Finally, once she felt she was close enough to the camp, she searched around the forest floor until she found just the right branch. In one swift motion, she snapped it loudly over her knee and ducked behind a tree.

The immediate reaction was exactly what she’d expected - silence, then some mumbling between the men that was finally drowned out by one man. Mara couldn’t be sure what he said, but it had to have been something along the lines of sending out a scout. Silence punctuated by scuffling boots and a cough was finally dismissed by a sharp command from the first man and a groan from another. A mix of satisfaction and nervousness settled over Mara as she could hear footsteps drawing closer and closer to her location.

She’d been careful to choose her spot - not close enough for the man to make a dash back, but not far enough away for him to give up. His boots crunched in the dirt and pine needles, each one making Mara’s stomach twist and turn as she tried not to think too hard about breathing. Finally the man paused near her tree, almost ready to turn around and head back before Mara lunged out and snatched him by the tunic.

“Don’t say anything!” she whispered as she pulled him down beside the tree. Before he could even let out a yelp she had a hand over his mouth. Her eyes were wide and she let the nervousness that had built up in her take over with scared, heaving breaths and wide eyes. “I need your help! It's my ex-husband! I - oh, Maker! He - He's so mad a-and I tried to get away b-but -"

The man mumbled something behind Mara’s hand, but she still caught the quick drop of his eyes to her chest. If she wasn’t so set on selling her damsel in distress performance, she would’ve groaned and walked away. For now, it told her that her ploy was already working.

“Look, I just need you to scare him off and take me back to my camp….and maybe stay?” A little tilt of her head and a tiny pout pushed that line to exactly where she wanted it to go. “Just for the night. Please?”

The man obviously didn’t need to be asked twice. His brown eyes lit up as he nodded vigorously in reply.

“Thank you,” Mara said with an exaggerated sigh of relief. She still kept her hand over his mouth, one ear listening out for Ferren to step in as she tried to make this conversation last until he made his grand appearance. Hopefully soon. Definitely soon, otherwise she was already thinking of ways for him to suffer for making her play this stupid role too long.

“You seem tough.” Mara lifted her other hand to give the man’s bicep a squeeze. Nothing special, but he wouldn’t know that coming from a woman like her. “I’m sure you can handle him, no problem at all.” Maker, if Ferren didn’t show up soon she knew she was going to either run out of lines or vomit - her money was on the latter option.
 
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