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Samir was kissing him.

This was not in any way what Varajas had expected, and it took him a moment to make sense of it. At least in his mind. His body knew exactly how it wanted to respond. He stepped forward to push Samir back against the wall, tilting his head in to deepen the kiss, as Samir parted his lips.

The warmth of Samir’s body, the soft, wet, heat of his mouth—Varajas sank into the sensations. The warmth spread through him, from that point of contact, spreading through his body until he was suffused with it. Samir gave a little whimper of need and pressed in even closer.

It had been so long since anyone had touched him like this, and Varajas had come to terms with his isolation, but Samir had shattered that equanimity and reawakened a need that…

That this was neither the time nor the place for.

Still, it was nearly impossible to drag himself free of soft lips caressing his, the feel of shared breaths and mingled air. Samir tasted faintly of mint and sweetness, and Varajas wanted to explore that. To taste not just his mouth, but his skin as it heated under Varajas’s touch. To find the places that would make Samir melt even more.

Not now. Not here. He lifted his head, keeping Samir pressed against the wall so he couldn’t follow.

Having broken the kiss, Varajas could take in other things. The way Samir was trembling, with an open, lost look on his face that seemed nothing to do with passion. What was driving this? What was happening behind those liquid eyes?

“I want to be very clear that I’m not in any way complaining.” Varajas couldn’t resist tracing his thumb down the curve of Samir’s throat. “But what’s this about? Because I’m not entirely sure it’s about me.”

Samir’s face was still pleading for something, but his voice was as flat and unwelcoming as that first day in the woods. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“All right.” Varajas could respect that, even if he thought Samir was making a mistake. “Next question, then. Do you think it’s safe for us to be here?”

“Not when we don’t know what magic is around us.”

Samir shifted under Varajas’s hands, an expression of discomfort, and Varajas let go and pulled back. “So this is safer studied from a distance. The problem is, once we’re at a distance, we may not remember we need to study it.”

“You see the problem.” Whatever had just transpired between them, Samir seemed calmer now. Back to the calm, collected wizard Varajas knew. The calm, collected wizard that Varajas was starting to suspect was something of an act, but who was he to judge? It wasn’t like he didn’t have plenty that he was hiding.

Along that line of thought, it was possible, whatever magic was messing with people’s minds, Varajas could resist it. That was the sort of thing his brotherhood training was good for. The trouble was, if he got it wrong, they lost. “Is there something you can do—some magic—that will help us remember?”

Samir pressed his lips together, a look of determination driving away the last vestiges of fear. “Let’s find out.”

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A note from Barbara J Webb

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Barbara J Webb

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