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Gryf focused his attention back to Alexandra, but her eyes remained closed. A light spray of freckles dusted her cheeks and the slight bump at the bridge of her nose. Even through the streaks of dirt, blood, and dried tears, she was an alluring young woman. Much younger than his thirty Galactic Standard cycles. No doubt she was too young to understand the burden of his failure to her people, and to his. It was clear she held him accountable for the destruction of her home world, and the massacre of her people. And rightly so.
Her head lolled, and Gryf raised his other hand to cup her cheek. If touching her was supposed to be crude and disrespectful, then why did it feel so natural and right? By the Holy Mother, cease this irrational behavior! He lowered his hand.
Brown and bronze eyes opened and he swore his heart stopped. Her soul shone there, and he could not look away if his life depended upon it.
“I might have over reacted,” she said in a rough whisper. “When I hit you, I mean.”
He cleared his suddenly dry throat. “You did catch me unawares.”
“It’s been a rotten day, you know.” Her lips scarce moved. She suffered, that much he could see. If only he could ease her pain. She wet her lips with her tongue. “I’m sorry I hurt you.”
“I will recover.” How would she react when Dante used his Gift to heal his eye? Or her wounds, if she allowed it?
“My mom says I’m passionate, but my dad says I’m a hothead.” She made a huffing sound that may have been an attempt to chuckle. “I think he may be right, huh?”
“Perhaps they both are right.”
The corners of Alexandra’s mouth edged upward, and the pleasure of making her smile washed through him. Had he taken the first step to smoothing over their rough start? If he had learned anything from years of intergalactic relations and negotiations, it was that success or failure could hinge on the tiniest detail.
“This doesn’t mean I trust you,” she said.
Then again, perhaps not. “I will accept that, Alexandra.”
“It’s Alex.” Her eyes drifted closed again. “And thank you for helping me, by the way.”
“It pleases me to do so.” He shifted in preparation to rise. “Our healer will attend you soon. I shall refresh the cloth to bring you more water.”
Without awaiting her response, he rose and strode toward the small spigot, their only source of potable water. It mattered not if she did not trust him. She had respected him enough to apologize for her actions, and that was a start.