Basha sucked in her breath. Her eyes flashed up at Dixon.
He leaned in. “Never mind that, Mara,” he said, softly. “You just rest now.”
She tried to sit up. “No. No, I’m all right.” She looked from him, to Basha, then tipped her head to the side. “Who are you?” she asked, her eyes narrowed.
Basha let her breath out slowly. “I’m Basha . . . Therese’s Oathtaker.”
Mara blinked repeatedly. “Therese?”
“Excuse us just a minute, Mara,” Dixon said as he grabbed Basha’s arm and pulled her to the side. “Don’t let Lucy in here,” he ordered.
“Don’t let her in here! If she sees Mara like this, there’s no telling what she might report to the Council. Keep her out!”
Basha glanced at Mara. “You’re right,” she said. Then she stationed herself at the door just as Lucy and the twins reached it from the other side. Opening it before any of them could, she stepped out. “I’m sorry, Lucy.”
Dixon, having returned to Mara’s bedside, listened to the conversation going on outside.
“Mara’s not up to having any company just now.”
“I just want to see that she’s all right,” Lucy said.
“I’m sorry. She’s . . . good. She’s . . . fine. She just . . . She . . .” Basha paused. “She just doesn’t want to see anyone right now. She wants to rest.”
“What’s going on, Basha?”
“Nothing! Nothing. Mara just wants to rest, is all.”
“Then why did you send for me?”
“I’m sorry. We thought she’d be up to having visitors, but she’s not. We’ll let you know when she’s ready.”
Basha stepped back inside, watched Lucy walk away, and then closed the door. She recalled all the times she’d heard Mara say: “Some things you ask. Some things you tell. When there’s no room for discussion, dissent, or compromise, you tell.”
To her surprise, the door opened again as Reigna and Eden sought entrance.
Basha stood firm. “Please, girls, Mara needs to rest now.”
Reigna’s eyes narrowed. “But she’s awake.”
“Yes, but we’re encouraging her to rest more. I’ll let you know when she’s ready to see you.”
“Is she all right?”
“She’s . . . fine. She just needs some peace and quiet.”
“Come on, Reigna,” Eden said, taking her sister’s elbow, “let’s find something useful to do. Maybe some studying. It’ll keep us busy. We can come back later to see how she’s doing.” She turned away.
Sulking, Reigna followed her.
Basha watched the twins dodge the rain as they crossed the walkway and made their way back to the cabin they shared with their Oathtaker and Dixon. She leaned her forehead against the doorframe, closed her eyes, and sighed. Then she returned to Dixon’s side.
Mara struggled to sit up. When he tried to assist her, she turned away from his efforts.
Basha, watching, pulled him back. Then, “Let me do it, Dixon,” she said.
He scowled at her.
She held a finger up to stop him from saying anything, then helped Mara to sit up. Though still resistant, she allowed for the assistance.
“Are you hungry?” Basha asked her, smiling.
“Yes, I . . . I guess I am.”
Basha motioned for Dixon to sit, then went to the table where the pot of beef stew still sat. She filled a bowl and grabbed a spoon.
“Can you handle this on your own?” she asked upon returning.
“Be careful. Not too much now. You haven’t eaten for a few days and don’t want to upset your stomach.”
Mara ate a few spoonfuls, then handed the bowl back.
All the while, Dixon watched.
Finally, Basha looked at him, her brow raised. Then she turned back to their patient and leaned in. “Mara,” she said, “you didn’t recognize me. Is that right?”
“Yes, that’s right.” She motioned toward Dixon. “Do you know who this is?”
Mara’s eyes followed the gesture. “Yes, of course.” She looked back at Basha. “That’s Dixon.”
“That’s right. How do you know him?”
She blinked hard. “That’s what you called him.”
“Good. Good. That’s right. Are you ready to rest more now?”
“Very well.” Basha helped her to get comfortable.
Within minutes, Mara slept soundly.
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