The air began to nip, the larches turned golden, and the bear clan of Pad prepared for its last open-air feast of the year. Genevieve wished she were as glad of this as Jared seemed to be.
“I haven’t seen Cole in weeks,” he told her as he sliced another few inches of hide from a deer carcass. It was one of the last the clan would take down this season.
“You didn’t have to help with the meat,” Genevieve said, stung. She hadn’t had much choice. Three months ago she’d made the long journey from her own clan to meet Jared; a month ago she’d formally agreed to join the clan of Pad as his boar and mate. Directly after that, the old spinster boar Jeff had discovered her experience smoking meat, and she hadn’t spent a day doing anything else since.
These were Jared’s lands, though, as familiar to him as the walls of the clan’s den, and he could have put his hand to any part of their harvest that he chose. Grinding acorn flour, for example, with his brother Cole.
Jared glanced up from the haunch he was skinning, searched Genevieve’s face for a moment, and shied away again. “I wanted to,” he said quietly.
Genevieve’s chest tightened. This was why she’d chosen to stay and fulfill the agreement between the clans: not just for peace and prosperity between them, but for Jared with his bright hazel eyes and capable hands, his claws that hooked trout from the river with such clever skill and the hair he tied back with a strap because he couldn’t be bothered to cut it. For the way he’d steal glances at her sometimes and smile, soft and secret.
She’d told him a little of that once, the night she agreed to stay, but it’d take more courage than she had to repeat any of it. For now, all she could manage was to bite her lip and nod in his direction. Instead of the things she didn’t know how to express, she offered, “Jeff says he thinks they’ll be in tomorrow.”
“Or the next day,” Jared agreed. “Or the day after that. I bet Cole’ll get them to take a day up into the north hills on the way back, too. For huckleberries.” His voice filled with yearning.
“Like you haven’t snuck up there three times in the past week, looking for leftovers,” Genevieve said. This, at least, she knew how to deal with.
“There’s something wrong with your tongue,” Jared said. “How can you be so casual about it? How can anyone be indifferent to huckleberries?”
It was already an old argument, the grooves worn and comfortable. “By eating them on everything since the day I was weaned.”
“What riches the clan of Cor possesses,” Jared said. “Someday, you’ve got take me there.”
He’d said the words before. This time, they caused a new pang in her. Here she was, carving up the season’s last meat to be smoked – in a huge hollowed-out stump, not a proper smoking house like Richard had back home – and ten days distant her brother Lawrence was likely smearing huckleberry mush over a rabbit and eating it raw.
“Gen?” Jared asked, using the nickname he’d found for her. Usually it warmed her to hear it.
She forced a smile and scowled down at her blood-slick hands. “If I never have to strip the bones of another deer, it won’t be too soon.”
Jared laughed. “Until next year,” he said.
The next afternoon Cole arrived with Samantha, clan sow and Jared’s mother. With them were Amy and Matthew, a newly mated couple that Genevieve had only spoken to a handful of times. Samantha wore her summer leathers with an extra deer hide cloak over her shoulders. The rest wore their skins, four-footed. Cole shot straight for Jared, bowled him over, and began nuzzling under his chin with a cold, wet nose. Sticky, too, it turned out, sweet with the juices of scavenged huckleberries. Jared turned practically berry-color himself with envy, which delighted Cole to no end. Even Genevieve, mood still muted, had to smile.
For two more days, members of the clan straggled home. The hillside den filled in with harvested tubers, acorn flour and cakes, and smoked meats packed into holes in the cool earthen walls. When Genevieve went for water the third morning, she walked on needles fallen from the larches near the river. She stood at its edge and felt the teeth of winter graze lightly across her skin. Soon they’d nip with the late autumn breezes, and then they’d sink in with the certainty of the deep freeze, if she stayed awake to let them.
She spent the day at the cooking fire with Amy, the sow whose mate Matthew had arrived from the south the year before. Amy knew more about acorns than Genevieve was certain she ever cared to learn. “My clan doesn’t have many oak trees,” Genevieve explained. “We’ve traded for flour a few times, but we only ever mixed it with water and cooked it on a firestone.”
Amy shot her a glance that signaled the pity she was too polite to voice. “It’s our best winter eating,” she said. “It’s a lot of work to get the flour, but it’s worth it.” She showed Genevieve the other ingredients she mixed into the batter, and she laid it atop the stone that she’d set up for the purpose. As a final touch, she reached into the pack she’d been wearing across her back when she’d arrived and pulled out a small sack of slightly mushy huckleberries. “I had to hide them from Cole,” she explained. She gave Genevieve a secretive smile, and Genevieve found herself returning it. By force of will, she kept from looking over at Jared, busy poking at the deer haunch turning above the roast-fire.
Late that afternoon, as the sun dropped towards the hills, all eighteen bears of the clan – and Genevieve, a bear of Pad now, too, although it still felt strange to think it – collected at the fires. They were two-legged tonight, all of them, some of them after months spent on four legs in their skins. Genevieve had almost forgotten how many there were in the clan that she didn’t know. The fire-pit clearing felt as crowded as one of the occasional summer festivals, when all clans within easy distance came together for food and trade and mating proposals. Genevieve sat close to Jared and tried to remember all the names.
Before any of the food was taken – other than the tidbits they’d all been snatching since the fires were first kindled this morning – Samantha called the clan to sit. Behind her and to one side stood Amy, flushed and hopeful, with Matthew’s hands at her shoulders.
Genevieve sat resting against Jared. She could feel the tension holding him together. They’d be up there soon enough, standing before the clan. These bears stood on formality far less than Genevieve’s home clan, but some topics were too important to treat lightly, even here.
“Last year,” Samantha began, “we welcomed Matthew from the clan of Hen. He came for the sake of our clan and of our sow Amy in hopes that together they would give us new cubs. This spring the seeds were sown—”
“Fun work, ain’t it?” called Kim from the back. Some of the young bears tittered – Cole and Alona. Genevieve felt her face turn red.
As if she hadn’t heard, Samantha continued, “—and today we find out if they’ve taken root.” She nodded to Matthew and Amy. Hand in hand, they walked a full turn inside the circle of the clan. Genevieve took a whiff as Amy walked by, for form’s sake, although she didn’t know Amy’s scent well enough to tell any difference. The conclusion was foregone, anyway; Samantha wouldn’t have called them up otherwise.
When Amy and Matthew were back at Samantha’s side, Samantha addressed the clan. “And what do you say? Will there be fruit?”
In a single unanimous rumble, sixteen voices answered: “Winter willing, the tree will fruit in spring.” Gen said the words along with the rest; this, at least, was familiar.
“Winter willing,” Samantha agreed.
Matthew, to whom these words were surely even less of a surprise than to anyone else, grinned from ear to ear. He leaned in to whisper something to Amy and slid both his hands over her belly. The clan hooted and cheered. Samantha called them all to eat.
Jared hadn’t moved. Genevieve wasn’t sure what expression she saw in his face. “Next year,” she said.
“Is that too far away? Or too soon?” Genevieve couldn’t have said what her own answer was. The prospect of cubs of her own was frightening, unreal, impossibly distant. On the other hand, maybe once Jared was carrying her cubs, she’d feel like she belonged here.
He turned to look at her and tried to smile. “Both?” He ducked his head. “Now that you’re here, I feel like I’m just waiting.”
“Yeah.” Genevieve squeezed his hand.
Suddenly Alona was sitting down on Genevieve’s other side. “I missed you,” Alona said, nuzzling at Genevieve’s ear.
“I thought you were all excited about collecting firewood,” Genevieve said. A week ago, Alona had absolutely refused to go with any other work party.
“Yeah, but the trader never came,” Alona said.
Genevieve glanced over to Jared. He looked as puzzled as she felt. “Trader?”
Alona’s flush was visible even in the graying evening light. “Usually there’s a trader that comes through this time of year from the west.”
Jared snorted. “From the Lick lands,” he said.
The red on Alona’s cheeks deepened. Genevieve glanced back and forth between them. “Adrianne’s clan,” Jared explained. “The boar that’s coming next year for Alona.”
Now Genevieve remembered. “You were hoping for news? A message?”
“Don’t tease,” Alona said, more bashful than Genevieve had ever seen her. “I’ve only seen her the once. But the trader never came.”
“I’m sorry,” Genevieve said, difficult though it was for her to imagine having been able to meet Jared before she got here.
“It doesn’t matter,” Alona said. “I’ll see her next summer and then I’ll... I’ll know.”
“Know what?” Genevieve asked.
“Everything.” Alona poked Genevieve’s shoulder. “Like you and Jared.”
Again Genevieve found herself without anything to say. She pushed to her feet. “I’m hungry,” she said, and went to collect her portion of feast from the fires. When she got back, Cole had taken her seat next to Jared. She settled on Jared’s other side and chewed on her blackened venison and her huckleberry flatcakes.
Eventually, a song rose up from across the circle. Jared’s voice lifted with the rest, enough for her to catch most of the words. Genevieve kept on gnawing at the venison bone.
Jared caught her looking at him. “I can teach you,” he said in her ear.
She shrugged. “You know what I sound like when I sing.” She summoned up a smile, and he let it go.
The bears spent the last few weeks of fall eating everything they could get their paws on, turning it to fat under their thickening winter skins. This was familiar work, and though Genevieve had never gorged on a moth swarm before, the heavy, settled feeling after was still the same as after any other pre-winter feed.
She’d fallen back into old habits with Jared: huddling together in sleep, rarely far from one another when they were awake, never talking much. She spoke even less to anyone else, except for Alona and Jeff and occasionally Cole, none of whom gave her any choice. She didn’t mind. All any of them seemed to need from her was an ear to listen with.
She caught Jared throwing her confused glances sometimes.
A trader came by a week after the feast – not from the west, with news of Adrianne’s clan, but from out past the clan of Cor. Pellegrino with his peculiar name claimed no clan as his own, but he passed through the Cor lands once or twice every year. Genevieve yearned to ask after her clan, but first he had to greet Samantha formally and ask her leave to travel in her territory. Then hospitality required they kindle him a fire and feed him from it. The adults spoke for hours. Genevieve sat and fidgeted.
Finally, when the fire had died down and most of the bears had wandered off to browse or sleep as they liked, Genevieve approached Pellegrino. He lay sprawled out towards the fire pit with his ankles crossed.
“Genevieve,” he said, voice sticky and sweet as honey.
Were it not so rude, she’d have put on her skin for this. She’d have liked to have her claws at the ready. But Pellegrino didn’t carry skin with him, and Genevieve had never heard of him wearing one. Some bears suggested that perhaps he was human, but that was clearly stupid; he smelled faintly but unmistakably of boar.
Instead, skinless and clawless, she sat down on a log near his head. “How do your travels go?” she asked.
“Well enough, well enough. Yours?” He gave her a single sharp glance. “You’re a long way from where I saw you last.”
“You as well,” Genevieve said tartly. Pellegrino rewarded her with a grin she didn’t particularly want.
“I bet I know what you’re here for,” he said. “You want to know about your clan over yonder.”
“That’s right,” Genevieve said, trying to hold back her eagerness. “Did you come from there? Did you see them?”
“I passed through, but I didn’t stay long. Not like here. This clan you’re in with now feeds a man well.”
Genevieve ignored the insinuation and pressed her lips into a smile. “Do you bring any news?”
Pellegrino nodded thoughtfully, deliberately. “Saw your brother. He’s doing just fine. Your uncle’s fine. Oh, but Julian, bad job there.” Pellegrino’s glance toward Genevieve was almost sympathetic. “Took a fall in the river. Two-legged.”
Genevieve’s breath caught in her throat. “Will he... is he...?”
“It’s not looking good,” Pellegrino said. “He took sick, and it’s in his chest now. They don’t expect he’ll come through the winter.”
She nodded. She couldn’t think about this right now, not that and hold a conversation, too. “Is there anything else? Anyone else hurt, or carrying, or...?”
“Well, that’s some good news,” Pellegrino said. “In my bag here I’ve got overtures to the clan of Will, asking after a sow of theirs. Jake. Seems your brother might be heading north next year.”
“Oh,” Genevieve said faintly. “Good news indeed.”
He told her of other bears after that, other distant clans she had no interest in. The thing about Pellegrino was that in order to get from him what you wanted, you had to take everything else he saw fit to give, too. She nodded through it all.
Finally, Pellegrino lay his head back against his folded arms. “Go on, then,” he said. “Shoo. Go cuddle with that pretty sow you came all this way for.”
Blood rose in Genevieve’s cheeks. She nodded sharply, rose, and stalked away.
She was startled to find Jared sitting at the edge of the firelight. She reached out to ruffle the fur between his ears, and he snuffled at her. All right? he asked
“Fine,” Genevieve said. “I have to... I’m thirsty. I’m going for a drink.”
He didn’t follow her down to the riverbank. Once she got there she wished she’d worn her skin. It was too cold now to be wandering far from the fire without it. She sniffed at the air, crisp and clean and thin. Many of the usual forest odors had already been frozen out of the night air, but Genevieve still caught the ever-present sting of pine and the living mineral greenness of the river. Upwind, a fox stalked a rabbit.
She cupped the water in her hands, and it burned an icy trail down her throat.
If she went back to her clan now, made the ten-day trek on the cusp of winter, Julian might not still be there – old Julian, whose sow died of a fever less than a year after Julian arrived, who’d been a wordless, cackling, bright-eyed bystander to Genevieve’s life since before she could remember. Always feeble, yet somehow never ill. She’d never imagined him dying.
A year from now, there’d be no Lawrence, either. Genevieve’s twin and nemesis, gone away to his own life.
Genevieve rose, folding her arms and clutching at her elbows. She stared sightlessly across the water. She wouldn’t cry. She was much too old for it. Anyway, she was boar: she’d come to strengthen the clan, not weaken it.
From behind her came the sound of a bear pushing through the brush. Gen? It was Jared. He ambled down the bank to join her at the river’s rocky shore.
He shoved his shaggy head against her palm. Are you okay?
She dug her fingers, nearly numb with cold, into his fur.
Was there bad news?
Here at least was a question she could answer. “Someone’s dying. A boar from my clan.” Her old clan, she corrected herself. It hurt to think of her clan that way, as it hadn’t before.
I’m sorry. The words were soft with sympathy. Genevieve was explicable now, she supposed. Someone was dying, and she was sad. Jared required no further explanation.
It’s cold. Are you... do you want to come sleep? You should at least come put on your skin.
“Yeah, okay.” Together they trudged up the bank and past the fires, where Pellegrino lay stretched out and snoring, wrapped in a deerskin blanket.
At the den, Genevieve picked her way around the bears already sleeping until she reached her skin, rolled up against a wall. Maybe Jared shut his eyes as she slipped out of her clothing, and maybe he didn’t; looking or not looking at one another’s bare flesh wasn’t a topic they’d broached yet. Either way, there wasn’t much of her to see in this light.
She pulled her skin around herself. One instant it was an object she held. The next it enfolded her in living heat. After another beat, she was the skin, and it was her: all the native bruin strength and brawny force of a bear of the clans. No more unfurred limbs, trembling with cold. No more urge to cry, because bears didn’t.
She followed Jared to an unoccupied corner of the den and slumped down next to him. Her own skin insulated her somewhat from the warmth of him, but he was still soft and comfortable to snuggle in against.
Gen? Jared ventured.
Hmm, she said sleepily.
Is something else wrong?
Like what? She waited almost hungrily for the answer. He saw her more often and more deeply than anyone did; maybe he could make sense of her, even though she couldn’t.
But after a moment, Jared said, I don’t know. Never mind.
The day came. The few bears still awake filed into the den. Jeff and Genevieve were last. They put their shoulders against the rounded boulder that served for a door, and they heaved until there was only a sliver of an opening left, barely enough for a two-legged bear to slip through, skin in hand. Jeff waited for Genevieve to go first, but she flicked an ear and said, It’s my last fresh air for months.
Fair enough, he said. Don’t be too long. There’s a sow in here who’ll miss you.
Jared did miss her. Half an hour later he came out and sat his rump down next to hers. Almost everyone’s asleep, he said.
What are you doing? He sounded bewildered.
She had no good answer for him. Just breathing, she said. It’s stuffy in there.
Her head drooped. I don’t know. I wasn’t ready to go in yet.
Are you going to leave?
She twisted to stare at him, confused. He stared back. What? Leave where?
Back to your clan.
What? No. I’m not... I’m here.
Unflinching, unblinking, he said, Because you know I’m probably going into heat in the spring, and if you’re going to leave we need to find another mate for me. You should have told us.
I’m not leaving! You’re my sow. I can’t leave. She didn’t understand. She took a big sniff, but his scent told her nothing. Her next question felt like an echo; she thought they’d had this conversation already. Do you want me to?
No! Jared swung his head, whuffing in frustration.Look, I can’t talk to you like this. Come inside? Please? You can... You can come back out afterwards, if you want.
Uh, okay. Genevieve got up and barely had a chance to close her eyes before Jared peeled his skin off and disappeared inside. She did the same, wrapping her skin around her fur-side-in, for warmth. Inside the den, Genevieve followed Jared back behind the stores to a corner that was almost empty. There was only Cole, sprawled out with one paw resting against a sack of acorn flour, stored away for midwinter cooking.
Jared nudged at Cole with his foot. “Shoo,” Jared hissed. “Genevieve and I are sleeping here.”
It took some prodding, and Cole grumbled a lot, but eventually he pushed to his feet and stalked away. Jared sat down with his back to the earthen wall. After a moment’s hesitation, Genevieve joined him, resting her bare arm against his. An air shaft dug by bears long ago let in a pale splinter of light.
Jared didn’t speak. Genevieve eyed him, the slump of his shoulders, the hair he usually tied at his neck now falling around his face. After a few moments, she said, “So, what?”
After several more seconds, Jared said, “Are you sorry?”
“For what?” Was there something she needed to apologize for? Some Pad clan rule she’d broken without even knowing? That’d be pretty funny, given how often she wished for a few to follow.
“For coming here. For being my mate.”
She squinted at him. “What?”
His neck hunched into his shoulders. “I know you’re not happy.”
“I...” She said nothing. She had no idea what to say.
“Is it us? Or, or me?” His breath hitched.
“Jared, no.” Genevieve realized that his eyes were shining with tears, and now she was sorry, because she never, ever meant to hurt Jared. “You’re why I’m here at all.”
“For cubs, you mean,” he said bitterly. “For the strength of the clan. Because your clan promised you would.”
Tentatively, Genevieve pressed a hand to his arm. “That’s not why.”
“Then what’s wrong?” His voice broke. “We promised to talk to each other, but you haven’t said anything to me in weeks. Or to anyone else, either, because I’ve been watching. You just sit and stare into the woods like if you look enough you’ll be able to see all the way back to your clan.”
“I’m sorry,” she said, because it was all she could think to say. She was near tears herself. They’d been a long time coming, really.
“But I’m right. You’d rather be there than here.”
“I...” She swallowed. “I don’t know how to be anywhere else.”
Through his tears, he said, “What do you mean?”
“Your clan is all weird!” she said, and she felt him flinch but she couldn’t pay attention to that, or she’d stop talking and never start again. “They sing different songs and they don’t follow any of the rituals, and I don’t know a single thing about acorn flour. My brother isn’t here, and until I came I never did anything without my brother. And I haven’t known any of you for more than three months except for that time your mom came and visited a few days.”
“But... But that’s what boars do.” The bewilderment was evident again. “The boars come to the sows.”
“I know,” Genevieve cried, and then flinched at the sound of her words against the den walls. She dropped her voice and repeated, “I know. Other bears do this all the time, and they’re fine. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” She closed her eyes, but the tears trickled down anyway.
Jared’s arm snaked around her shoulders and squeezed. She leaned her head against his shoulder and tried to cry as quietly as possible.
After a while, he whispered, “Do you want to go back?”
Genevieve sniffed. “My clan’s probably sending my brother up north next year, to a sow there. And I don’t know if Julian’s even still alive.”
“Were you close to him?” Jared ventured.
“To Julian? No. Just, he was just always there. And if I went back, he wouldn’t be. It’d be all different. Everything would be different.”
Jared hummed like he understood. Maybe he did, but Genevieve doubted it; he’d never had to leave his clan, and he never would.
After another long pause, he said, “I thought it was me. I thought you were sorry you’d come to be my mate.”
Genevieve squeezed his arm. “I’m not sorry about that,” she whispered.
“Why didn’t you tell me? Or Jeff, or someone?”
“Tell them what? I’m supposed to be new strength for your clan. That’s what a boar is for. What good does it do to go around crying?”
“Maybe...” Jared rested his cheek against the top of her head. “Maybe we could help.”
“How? Anyway—” Genevieve sniffed again. “Anyway, you shouldn’t have to.”
“Gen, you’re my mate. Or you will be, anyway. Is it such a shock that I’m sad when you hurt?”
“See? You see why I didn’t tell you.” Genevieve lifted her head and pressed her hand against his chest. “I don’t want you to be sad.”
“Well, I don’t want you to hurt, so that makes us even.”
Genevieve laughed shakily. “I’m not sure that helps.”
Jared chuckled, and Genevieve could hear the tears clogging his throat. “But you’re not leaving.”
“There’s nowhere to go,” Genevieve said, and as she did she realized that that was the worst of all. She couldn’t tease herself with shamed thoughts of breaking her word and her honor and running home. Pellegrino’s news had made it clear: home wasn’t home anymore. “Anyway, I wouldn’t.” She leaned a little closer into Jared’s side. “I wouldn’t.”
Jared huffed a sigh. “Please don’t,” he said quietly. She nodded against him. His grip tightened around her. “Maybe it’ll be better at Winterfest. You wake up for Winterfest, right? In your clan?”
“We do, too! We sing a lot, and maybe you could teach us a song from your clan. And we eat a lot of food and bring in pine branches to make the cave smell nice, and usually Alona and I go for a deer. You could come with us.”
Genevieve wasn’t sure it’d be so different from his clan’s other activities, where Genevieve understood the work fine but felt on the outside of all the gaiety. There didn’t seem much point in telling him that now, though. And maybe it’d be different. Maybe she’d like it. “Okay,” she said.
After a while, Jared said, “Do you think we could go to sleep now? Or do you want to go back outside?”
Genevieve snorted. “No, it’s fine. We can sleep.” She shifted away and pushed to her feet, but Jared caught her arm before she put her skin back on.
“We can sleep together, if you want,” he said. “Between our skins.”
He unwrapped his skin from around himself in one unhurried motion, and there he was, pale flesh open to the air. They’d never dared venture quite this far before. Later, Genevieve had always figured. But now Jared was staring up at her, hopeful and with little shyness that was maybe verging on embarrassment. Genevieve swallowed, and then she slowly unwrapped her own skin. A draft prickled against her flesh as she stood there, letting him see what of her there was to see.
Jared beckoned, jerkily, and she sat down next to him again, this time right on his skin. She pulled hers over them both and he tucked his arms around her and pulled her snug against him. Slowly they settled down onto the floor. She ended up lying partway on top of him. He rubbed at her back, and she curled her hand a little ways around his neck.
Snuggling together like this was different. Some of the winter fat they’d stored up was evident even in two-legged form, but still he was bonier and the ground was harder than she was used to. She wriggled, trying to find a comfortable position, and in the process ended up gripping Jared’s hip. She turned her head, trying to see how he felt about this, and then pushed off the floor a little for a clearer view. He stared back, wide-eyed.
There was a heat that was supposed to come with this, Genevieve knew, a fire in her bones and her belly, but for now she felt it only distantly, like the rays of the paling autumn sun. The fire wouldn’t kindle in her properly – or in Jared, either – until after their mating in the spring. For now there was only Jared’s own body heat to warm her and the goose bumps on his arms and the downy curls of hair on his chest.
Genevieve pressed a kiss to his rib.
“You could come up here and do that,” he said shakily.
She laughed and crawled up until her face was even with his. She kissed his mouth, warm and soft and wet, welcoming and comfortable.
They’d done this a couple of times before, stealing moments from more urgent activities to become acquainted with each other’s mouths. The kisses lingered; neither of them was in any hurry. Genevieve’s hands would stray, exploring the contours of Jared’s ear or his collarbone or his ribs. His fingers always ended up in her hair. He’d run his fingers through it, or he’d bury his hands in it up to his wrists. Sometimes he’d fall asleep that way.
After a little while she pulled back. “Hey,” she breathed.
“Hey.” He smiled at her. Tentatively, he reached up and brushed a lock of hair out of her face. “I missed you.”
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I never meant for you to worry.”
“You’re dumb,” he said, and leaned up to kiss away the sting. She supposed she deserved it.
Sleep was sneaking up on Genevieve now. She’d been awake a long, long time: an entire autumn and summer and spring. She scooted back down until she was tucked against Jared’s side. She pulled their skins in close so no cold cave air could seep in at the edges. Before too long she and Jared would wake up chilled and hungry, and they’d have to put their skins on again, but not yet.
“Okay?” he asked.
She pressed her nose into his side. “Okay.”