Ten Things That Girard Draketooth Doesn't Know About Serini Toormuck:

1. That she has had a thing for him since the day Soon announced 'We're getting an illusionist' and the inn door banged open to reveal a tall, red-haired and red-cloaked stranger.

2. That her better nature forces her to tell herself that she fell in love with his sad, cold steel-grey eyes, the colour of the sea after rain, and his smile, which is sweet and sudden as a shaft of sunlight bursting through the thundercloud of his terrible scars.

3. That this is actually a load of nefarious unicorn-hockey — deep down, she knows perfectly well that it has a lot more to do with the fact that he combines a really nice pair of skin-tight blue dragonhide trousers with an extremely nice backside, and always seems to march directly in front of her in line.

4. That, far from being the delicate little Small-sized flower that he imagines, she grew up in a mixed village and has had a thing for taller men ever since she first stood on a stack of grimoires in order to make out with Bobby Grukman (6'1", and captain of the school orc-ball team) the night of her junior high-school graduation.

5. That every teasing remark he's ever sent in her direction, every mock-scolding she's fired back at him, each time they sardonically refer to one another as 'Draketooth' and 'Toormuck', feels as good as a hug or a present from anybody else.

6. That she suspects her feelings may be returned — a halfling nose for pheromones is a useful thing at times — and has been so confused and frustrated by his failure to make a move that a) she's bored Lirian to tears by talking about it in ladies' rooms all over the Western Continent, b) a small patch of hair on her left foot has started falling out, and c) her diary is now so full of scribbled love-hearts and embarrassing poetry that she's extremely glad nobody else will ever read it.

7. That while the dance that she's been teaching the rest of the Order really is an old halfling good luck dance, she hasn't told anyone except Lirian exactly what sort of good luck it invokes. Dorukan would probably be a bit shocked (but secretly amused!) if he realised the traditional meaning behind the arm gestures he's been doing with the elf, and if Kraagor knew the words that go with the tune he's been beating out on his shield-drum, he'd probably burn it on the spot and have to send back to the Dwarven Lands for a new one. It's not a love spell as such, and it certainly won't make anyone do anything that they didn't already want to do — Serini's a rogue, not a rapist — but the magic is an ancient one designed to, um, speed the natural process along a little.

8. That the 40% proof Captaine Jacke's Olde Original Coconut Rum she dumped into everyone's cocoa after dinner probably hasn't hurt matters either.

9. That as the drumbeats wind down — Kraagor's tired out at last, and Soon is nodding into his cocoa mug — and Dorukan and Lirian collapse into a pile of yellow robes and golden hair and hormones on the other side of the clearing, she's more than a little nervous. If her nose has misled her after all, she's going to feel pretty stupid in the morning. Not to mention the fact that her bedroll is going to seem colder than ever tonight…

Then she looks up as he looks down, autumn leaves pierced by steel, and she holds her breath and lifts her arms and is swept up and away. She's snuggling into his chest, silk shirt and warm skin like velvet as he holds her tight, and when she kisses him it tastes like coconut and chocolate, and then her hands are in his hair and his hands are everywhere, and maybe, maybe…

10. Maybe her better nature has a point about the smile thing after all.

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