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He rose from the chair, coming to stand in front of her, and impatience sharpened his tone. "Savarin, for eight years I have entrusted you with the most precious thing I have. I have put my faith in you once more when I agreed to name you my champion. Now you will have to trust me."
Her heart hammered in her chest. The memories of Caserius 9, with its sun-blasted fields and the iron scent of blood in the scorching air, were nothing compared to this. If Herad bonded with her, she would be stripped before him, all of her thoughts, emotions, every nightmare and every fantasy laid out in all their chaotic glory for him to see, feel, and experience. He would know that for seven of the eight years she had resided in his house, she had loved him as fiercely as she loved his son. It wasn't bonding. It was destruction.
Her silence must have alarmed him, because he shook her gently, his black eyes boring into hers, demanding an answer. "What you reveal will go no further than the two of us."
Savarin closed her eyes for a moment. "I'm afraid that might be too far."
He shook her again, a little harder this time. She felt the strength in his hands, understood why humans were indeed inferior to Ulinar. "Give me your answer, Savarin. Arena awaits, and one of us will have to fight today."
She took a deep breath. A small child waited anxiously in his rooms to find out if he would stay with his father or be sent to a near stranger. It was imperative that she win in combat, and without Herad's help, she was destined to fail. No amount of her pride or dignity was worth that.
"I will fight," she said. "Let's make this quick."
Herad smiled, releasing her arms to reach upand cup her face with his long hands. The gentlest flutter grazed her mind, an awareness that he skated along the periphery of her thoughts. "Trust me, Savarin. Your secrets are safe with me."