One late morning as he wound his way home through the streets of SnakeIn after laboring to load a fishmonger’s haul into separate wheelbarrows for the city market, Alec found himself wandering through the stalls looking for something to take home to Jon. An elderly woman and child were offering various flowers for sale at a small, roughly built stand. Alec meant to walk by, thinking that it would be best to find something more tangible, such as a nice belt that fit Jon better after the weight loss caused by his injuries, or a sturdy hunting knife to replace the one Jon lost during the ambush, but an array of large, white blossoms caught his eye. He also noticed the raggedness of the child’s clothes and how the elderly woman used one hand to continually pull closed a thin shawl. He stopped and greeting the woman pleasantly and asked after the white flower buds.
“They’re closed now,” the elderly woman explained. “But they’ll open wide after the sun sets. They’re Moon Flowers.”
“They are very special to a friend a mine,” he replied. “I’d like a small bouquet, if I may.”
“Of course, Sir, of course,” the woman said happily. She waved at the child to wrap up the stems, and Alec couldn’t help but smile as he thought about the surprise that would be on Jon’s face.
When he reached the inn, he wanted to run up the stairs to their attic room, but walked up slowly, being careful not to damage Jon’s moon flowers. He tucked them behind his back with one hand as he opened the door and entered their small room. Jon was sitting in one of the upholstered chairs his sister had given them, and Erienne was organizing the medication and dishes on Jon’s table. She glanced up at Alec at the same time that Jon did, so she didn’t see Jon’s happy surprise when Alec revealed the flowers.
“Oh, they’re beautiful,” she said, her voice breathy and her eyes wide. She hurried over to claim her prize, then turned her back to the two men while she found an empty jar that she could fill with water. “I don’t think anyone has ever brought me flowers.”
Alec looked at Jon with his eyes opened in astonishment and held up his open hands questioningly. Jon sighed, tipped his head back and forth as if he had no answer to the dilemma, but then waved his good hand toward Erienne to indicate that they should let her have the bouquet. Alec nodded in agreement, happy that Jon realized the meaning of the flowers, but also glad that his friend was not willing to hurt Erienne’s feelings by telling her the truth.
She moved the various items on the small table she had just organized and placed the flowers in the center proudly. Walking to where Alec still stood by the door, she went up on her tip toes, kissed his cheek, and whispered, “Thank you.”
“You’re very welcome, Erienne,” Alec said gallantly. “But you need to thank Jon, too. He’s the one who suggested it.”
“Oh,” she said softly. She looked back and forth between the two men as tears rolled down her cheeks. “The two of you are so kind to me. Other people called me names, and some of them even spit at me. You’ve never tried to force yourselves on me. You always appreciate the few things I can do to help, and you’ve made me feel as if I have a home again.”
“You do, Erienne,” Jon told her. “Of course this is your home. You and Fia are family now.”
Fia stretched as she rose from the floor, wandered over to Erienne, and pushed her nose into Erienne’s hand. Jon and Alec chuckled with affection for the dog’s obvious concern for Erienne, and soon she was laughing, also.
“I hope dinner will be ready soon. I’m starved,” Alec said as he settled in the empty chair opposite Jon.
“I’ll run down and see,” Erienne offered as she headed toward the stairs with Fia trailing loyally behind her. “I need to go downstairs anyway, because I want to borrow a vase for the flowers, if they have one.”
When the door swung closed behind her, Alec leaned forward and rested on hand on his friend’s knee. Jon responded by quietly resting his hand on Alec’s. He missed their time alone together and was glad for this rare moment. He didn’t begrudge Erienne the flowers. He realized that she worked as hard as he did nursing Jon, answering every need as quickly as humanly possible, and he understood that her presence made all their lives easier right now. Still, an evening with only Jon and him sitting together talking or maybe with Jon already sleeping and him beside him in the uncomfortable wooden chair, or maybe with no conversation at all, but Jon’s hand resting in his, the way it was now.
He heard Erienne’s footsteps coming back up the stairs, so he squeezed Jon’s hand and rose to his feet. “I’ll like to get some of this fish smell off me,” he as he walked over to the empty buckets. “I’ll pop down and get some more water first.”
He smiled at Erienne as they passed on the stairs, but didn’t watch turn to her ascend. Nor did he notice that she paused to watch him.
### End of Sneak Peek ###