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With a frown, she wriggled her hand through the rusty bars where it stopped at her elbow. Bowing, he drew her fingers to his lips and closed his eyes. The scent of her perfumed skin filled his lungs, lifted him momentarily from his prison cell and nestled him in her grasp.
"How?" he questioned, the single word almost indiscernible.
"I walked here," she answered. "Eleven streets." She smiled faintly and clutched his hand. "My governess sleeps deeply. She didn't wake when I climbed through the window and landed in the bushes."
"No," he said. If his voice still existed, he would have told her to return home. Agony burrowed into his heart as he thought of someone discovering her here, now.
"I won't let him kill you," she promised.
He reached through the bars and touched her cheek and chin, ran his finger along her lips. With his eyes trained on hers, he caressed her, promised her a night spent far away from this place. Bodies naked and trembling, hair dampened with the rain like sugary mist on the meadows as they lay together, joined as they both craved. He looked her over, imagined his hands cupping her hips, thought of his fingers tangled in her hair grown long once more. Immediately his gaze focused on her belly and the empty womb he wished to fill. He needed her more than ever on the eve of his death, but more than need, he loved her and feared for her.
"Don't die," he forced himself to say. He squeezed her hand harder than necessary. "Nas, don't die for me."
"It's not worth it."
She squeezed his hand, then pulled away. "You think it is worth living if I see you die?"
Helpless behind the bars, he watched her pad away, aphantom in a billow of dark silk.