The Twisting

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Authors: Laurel Wanrow
a buzz of voices came from the dining room.
    “Dang.” Mary Clare picked up her pace, rushing Annmar by the sickroom and its tempting cots. “We’re late. Dessert is out.” They hurried through the dining room’s archway, past lingering farmworkers and to the first empty chair at the long table. Mary Clare saw Annmar seated and dashed off.
    All around Annmar, people talked of the night ahead, shooting and gobblers. Half of the nearby growers looked familiar, a comforting change from her first dinner here. Fewer ’cambires sat among them, but now Annmar could pick out the animal changers, even without her Knack. At a glance, any of these people would pass for human in Derbyshire. Hair, skin and body shapes were as varied as any Outside. But among them, many—like Daeryn sitting at the far end of the table—possessed a faintly unusual look about their faces.
    She couldn’t keep from looking at him, now decently covered in a golden shirt and trousers and speaking with Famil, leader of the day guards. Strands of his hair curled over the crown of his head, flipped and tossed as if by the wind, his longish bangs swiped to one side, not at all like his neat, bristling polecat face.
    His eyes were brown, a normal enough color, especially compared to Famil’s orange eagle ones. Very few had blue like Annmar’s, but then most of the Basin residents had dark hair, so perhaps the ancestry was lacking. Where might the early settlers have come from? Far from England, to produce eyes as rich as Daeryn’ s .
    Their gazes met, and Annmar twitched hers away. Pain shot through her head at the quick motion. Oh, the things she shouldn’t think, shouldn’t do. She picked up her fork before realizing she didn’t have any food, so put it down and instead grabbed her napkin to place in her lap.
    The chair next to her scraped out, and Miriam settled beside her with a frown. “I should be happy to see you, but I’m not.” She lifted her wrist to Annmar’s forehead. “Whatever were you thinking, getting out of bed?”
    The napkin lost its folds in her clenched hands. “I’m not sure. But we figured I may as well eat before returning.” At least her head wasn’t throbbing again.
    “I presume we includes Mary Clare. Ah, there she is. I need to have a word with that girl. You stay put.” Miriam stalked off in pursuit of Mary Clare.
    Annmar found her gaze trailing over to Daeryn again, just in time to see him look back to his conversation with Famil and Jac. This time she turned more carefully, but still jostled a plate of cake being offered to her.
    “Sorry, miss. I didn’t mean to startle you,” Henry said. “Mary Clare asked me to bring you dessert while she’s gone to the kitchen for your dinner. Mind if I sit with you?”
    “Please.” She gestured to the chair Miriam had vacated and took the plate.
    Henry sat and scooted the chair closer, leaning in to whisper, “I wanted to thank you for healing my arm the other night. I hope you’re feeling better.”
    “I am, and thanks to your help, I’m not worse. So thank you.”
    His head dipped in somewhat of a nod, but his eyes kept tracking around the room. “I’m hunting gobblers tonight.” Henry repeated the news of the stunners, including additional information about how the fungus fuel could also knock out a person and leave a worker defenseless.
    “Are there plans for protecting the unconscious person until he or she comes around again?”
    Henry shrugged.
    Good Lord. No wonder the boy acted nervous. Someone could get torn up worse than a bite to the leg. One of the older farmworkers might be better informed than Henry, one in charge, like… She met Daeryn’s gaze again. This time neither of them looked away. She needed to talk to him, about other things, but this would be a start. A simple wave would—
    Mary Clare placed bowls of broth and mashed potatoes before her. “Have you heard, Annmar?” She dropped into the chair on her other side. “Daeryn surveyed

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