Something every good politician and soldier learns is the end-run maneuver—you find a way to get what you want by going about it in the most unexpected ways.
— Sarah Farragut, circa 4869 PD
17 Decem, 5249 PD
It was just past dawn and someone was pounding on his door. Despite all the oaths he swore when he became a doctor, Ezra was deeply tempted to say to hell with whoever was outside and stay right where he was.
Alana was stretched out in bed with him, his body cupping hers, his front to her back. She was fast asleep, her breathing soft and rhythmic. Her fever had begun to fade with the judicious application of antibiotics and after Lindsay had coaxed her into taking her pain medication, she’d been much more comfortable, too. Shortly after Brendan and Lindsay had left, Ezra and Alana had crawled into bed together and he wasn’t exactly inclined to move just yet.
But there was someone at the damned door and they weren’t going away.
Alana stirred and he winced. He kissed her neck and willed her to keep on sleeping as he eased out from under the covers and yanked on a pair of pants. Stumbling in the early morning dim and rubbing at his eyes, he made his way to the front door and yanked it open with as much ferocity as he could muster at just past six in the morning.
Grant Channing stood outside his door, one brow climbing slowly higher as he regarded Ezra with a curious, puzzled look.
“Well,” he said. “It took you long enough. Did I wake you from a dead sleep?”
“Yes,” Ezra lied. “What brings you here this early in the morning, Commander? Everyone okay up at the house?” As his annoyance started to wear away and the last vestiges of sleep dissipated, thoughts of what might have brought Grant to his front door at this time of morning flashed through his mind. It could be any number of things, considering the number of people living in Rachel’s cottage these days.
Something happen to Frederick, maybe? America come down sick? Marshal Windsor or Marshal Rose get into some kind of accident?
“Everyone’s fine,” he said. “I actually came to talk to Alana. Is she here?”
“She’s asleep,” Ezra said, crossing his arms. “And I’m not of any mind to wake her right now. Is something wrong?”
Grant hesitated for a moment, his brows knitting. He stepped back off the porch, staring at the sky, at the clouds that drifted against the gold and blue of the sunrise. “Will you walk with me?” he asked after a few moments of silence.
What’s this all about? Ezra frowned. “Let me put on a shirt and some shoes.”
Grant laughed weakly. “Of course. Go get dressed. I’ll wait.”
Ezra nodded slowly, eyeing the older man for a moment before he stepped back into the house. He headed back into the bedroom, digging out a clean shirt and a pair of shoes and socks. Alana stirred as he sat down to tug the socks on.
“What’s the matter?” she murmured sleepily.
“Nothing.” He leaned back and brushed his fingertips along the side of her face with a faint smile. The fever had gone down even more than he’d hoped. “Go back to sleep. I’ll be back in a little while.”
“Mm.” She snuggled deeper into the blankets. “You promise?”
“Of course,” he said softly. He kissed her temple and finished tugging on his socks.
Ezra tucked the covers around her as he got up to leave, pausing just a moment longer to brush hair back from her face. He could almost see her smile in the darkness and smiled himself even as his heart gave a painful squeeze.
I could have lost her.
But you didn’t. She’s still here with you, and here she’s going to stay.
“Hurry back,” she murmured as he retreated from the room.
“I will,” he said softly and shut the door behind him.
Grant was still waiting outside on the path, still staring at the sky as the sun crept higher.
“All right,” Ezra said as he shut the door and stepped off the porch and onto the gravel pathway. “What did you need to talk about?”
“Let’s walk a little way,” Grant said. “It’ll be easier if we’re walking.”
What the hell is that supposed to mean? All Ezra could do was nod.
They’d reached the end of the path and turned toward the track that led toward the water before Grant shoved his hands into the pockets of his lightweight jacket and started to talk.
“I hate to ask it, but there’s a favor I need.”
“What is it?” Ezra asked, brows knitting.
“I need Alana Chase.”