As always, any teasers posted here prior to the final proof-read are subject to changes both large and small, and may even end up on the cutting room floor. So enjoy it while you can. And tell me what you think!
Luca strode ahead of me. By the time that I, carefully carrying my axe, had reached the tent, Luca had already lit two lamps inside and was rummaging in the chest at the foot of his bed. I laid my axe carefully on my pile of furs. When I turned, I saw that Luca had laid a drying cloth on the floor next to the low table, and had a brush in his hand. The brush had fine white bristles and the back of it was silver. Such an item had never been near my shaggy mess of hair before.
“This will get the dust out,” he promised. “Come sit on the cloth, and that way it won’t get all over the rugs.”
I smiled as I went to sit cross legged on the edge of the towel.
“Nothing. Only...sometimes you can be a little...m-motherly.”
There was a long pause. I glanced over my shoulder at him. He was still by the bed, mouth hanging open.
“Motherly?” he repeated. I couldn’t tell from if his voice if he was angry or just shocked. I shrugged, taking a little petty satisfaction in having wrong-footed him for once.
“Sometimes. Can I have the brush now?”
“No,” he almost snapped, coming to kneel behind me. “You can’t see where the dust is.”
A tiny laugh escaped my lips. I put my hand over my mouth. After a second I heard him laugh too, if reluctantly.
“Any more jokes like that and I’ll make you go and dunk in the river again – and it’s cold at this time of night, believe me. Here, hold this.”
He shoved the brush at me over my shoulder, and as I fumbled to catch it I felt a quick series of tugs at my hair. My braid uncoiled from around my head, falling down my back with a puff of rock dust.
“How do you know how to do that?” I demanded.
“How do you think? My hair’s longer than yours. I pin it under my helm all the time. Give me the brush now, and no funny comments, please.”
He tugged the tie from the end of the braid. Feeling him comb gently through the long wriggles of hair with his fingers, I abruptly lost the urge to tease. My breath left me in a long, shuddering sigh. Goosepimples sprang up on my skin. Mortified, I pressed my lips together and prayed this would be over soon.
“Lean back,” he murmured, tilting my head. His fingertips brushed the curve of my ear. My teeth bit into my lip.
The brush made a soft shushing noise as he ran it through the thick, fluffy layers of my hair, parting it gently to get at all the dust. I felt myself slumping back further towards him – I couldn’t help it – and put out a hand to steady myself. My palm landed on his leg, stretched out beside me.
The firm, warm bulge of muscle above his knee tensed under my fingers. The brush paused in mid-stroke. I froze.