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come up from the desert

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He didn’t die. The rest of Templestone called it a miracle — Beaumanoir called it heresy. So Bois-Guilbert fled, before he could be strung up on the stake, thinking only of Rebecca. He’d lost everything, because of her. Lost his money, lost his name, lost his eye. And she’d given him back his soul in exchange. It was a heretical soul, no more committed to the church than she was, but a soul all the same. He believed again, in Rebecca, if not in God.

He sought out Ivanhoe first, despite his distaste. No one would be more likely to know where she was than he.

He demanded admittance, then asked, then begged, and finally he was let in. Ivanhoe would not see him, at first, but Bois-Guilbert had nothing left but his persistence. He asked thrice before Ivanhoe softened.

Spain. That was all Ivanhoe would give him. The whole bloody country. It seemed a pilgrimage of sorts. One with no sure destination, and no God at the end. Beaumanoir would die of apoplexy if he knew.

That gave him a certain grim satisfaction.

 

He found her running an apothecary in Granada. He entered with no great hope, as he had entered hundreds of shops, and heard, "I'll be with you in a moment!"

He had dreamed of this, in the months it had taken to heal and to find her. He'd imagined it each night when he laid down his head, and each morning when he lifted it. He had turned it over a thousand times, planned this phrase or that, despaired of ever finding her…none of it had prepared him for the sound of her voice.

"Rebecca," he croaked, dizzy with relief.

She whirled, dark hair flying. He had the urge to gather it all up and bring it to his face, to kiss it, to drown in it. She sagged back against the counter. "Are you a ghost, come to torment me?"

"No," he said, "No, Rebecca, I live, and I love you. Can't you see?"

"I see only a ghost who has pursued me across the sea," she said, "across countries and sense. And you call that love? Love has nothing to do with this. If you loved me --" She broke off sharply when he lurched forward and seized her by the wrist.

"Not love, then," he said. "Last I left England, it was for God. Let me call it what it is, if you do not want love. I worship you. I fought and killed for my last God, and I would do so much more for you."

Her angry flush drained so quickly she swayed where she stood, a chalky white. "You went to the Holy Land for spices, not God," she said. "How dare you?"

His grip tightened around her wrist. "You have my soul, Rebecca," he said and she tried to flinch away from him. "Do not think me a fool, or a madman. I died for you. I gave up my name, my money, my eye, all for you. Will you not have pity on me, even now?"

"Do not pretend you did these things for me." She pulled firmly and he released his grip. "Sit down."

He sat and she put her hands on his face, tilting it this way and that as she examined his scars. He leaned into her touch as much as she would allow. "You reject my soul, but you would care for my body? What a cruel healer you are," he marvelled.

"When you held me," she said, "against my will, threatening rape and love and death, you told me that suffering would ruin me. That God would turn from me, and I would be poisoned and alone. You were wrong. God does not lose faith so easily. And I am not responsible for your soul."

"Did you dream of me?" he asked.

Her lips tightened. "No."

"Do not lie to me, Rebecca," he begged. "I have come so far to find you."

She closed her eyes, and he could fancy it was a surrender. "Your shadow haunted me," she admitted.

"The world is full of wonders," he marvelled.

"You not least among them," she said. "How did you live? I saw Ivanhoe strike the killing blow."

He touched his chest, where the blade had gone in. "God's will," he said. "I must make amends. Will you forgive me, Rebecca?"

She looked at him with honest surprise. "I forgave you when you opened the door and told me to go without you."

"A kindness I had not dared hope for," he said. He had not looked away from her since the first glimpse, but now he redoubled his examination. She avoided his eyes, and her lips were tight. "Are you afraid, Rebecca?"

"Not of you," she said, and drew away.

He caught her wrist again, gently this time. She did not break his grip immediately. "No," he said. "God forbid Rebecca of York fear a man. What do you fear?"

"Many things," she said. "My own weakness highest among them."

"What call you weakness?"

She pulled away and he clenched his hand to capture the warmth of her skin against his palm. "I would woo you, Rebecca," he said when it was clear she wouldn't answer. "Will you have me?"

She laughed.

"I would hear you laugh every day," he said, "if I could. Even if it is at me."

She sobered, but a smile still played on her lips. It made his heart sing as the first one had. "I cannot fault you your devotion," she said. "Convert, and you may court me."

"Become a Jew?" he asked.

"I will not marry a Christian," she said. "Nor will I demand you do this. Forget about me, my lord, and continue on your way."

"Impossible," he said. "So be it. I will convert."