“Come, Keladry, it’s time for us to do this.”
Neal froze as he was about to open the door to the infirmary office. Was that his father’s voice, sounding so amused as he spoke to Kel? Duke Baird had come to New Hope only days before; a new batch of refugees had come to the camp, and between that and the fever that had been passing from person to person over the last month, Neal had finally requested back-up.
“Now isn’t a good time, your grace.”
“Are you having your monthlies?”
Neal felt as though his stomach had dropped from his body entirely. His father couldn’t be having this kind of conversation with Kel.
“No,” Kel said reluctantly.
“Then I don’t see why we shouldn’t continue.” He was smiling. Neal knew the nuances of his father’s voice, and right now, he was smiling at Kel as he was suggesting… whatever it was that he was suggesting. “I know you’re reluctant Kel, but it’s not like we haven’t been through this before.”
This time the physiological reaction, for Neal, was less like his stomach falling out and more like his heart stopping.
“All right,” Kel said. “But make it quick – Neal should be back any minute.”
Removing his hand from the door, he took two steps backward. He needed to get out of there.
“Have you slept with anyone since the last time we did this?”
Neal stopped, abruptly, putting his hands over his face. He was not hearing this.
“No,” Kel said with a nervous laugh. “I don’t have time for romance.”
“Most people don’t have time for romance during war, my dear. However, I’ve learned over the years that most knights will make time for sex.”
“I’m not most knights.”
There were no more words – just the quiet shuffle of undressing. Neal couldn’t take it – he had to stop it before it began. But he said they’d been through it before, he thought, pacing. Even if they had, it didn’t make it right! His father was older, and experienced, and married! To his mother!
Before he could drive himself crazier, he opened the office door. “This is madness!” he cried, eyes clenched shut to avoid the image that would surely be burnt into his mind’s eye.
“Nealan,” Baird’s voice was calm. “Open your eyes, for Mithros’s sake.”
He open one, wincing in anticipation. But the scene before him was not what he’d expected. Kel was on the examination table, and was – he assumed, by the pile of clothing on the floor – naked from the waist down. Her knees, upright, were covered with one of the thin infirmary blankets. His father, meanwhile, was positioned at the end of the table.
“Would you like to perform this particular exam?” Baird asked, eyebrows raised. “I assumed that – given your friendship – you might find it a bit awkward."
Kel covered her face with her hands, mortified. Neal wished that he could do the same.