Tainted Saint, Chapter Twenty-FiveMature

It took only a few moments of shocked surprise for Amadeo to spring to action. Rushing through the clusters of guests that were obliviously chattering and dancing amongst themselves, Amadeo pursued the urchin - Cassandra, her name was - because he loved her.

Following the set of small, muddy footprints - Cassandra had clearly ridden on a horse and not in a carriage - Amadeo found Cassandra weeping alone in one of the hallways. I've found you! his soul sang out, but instead of saying any words, he knelt beside Cassandra and tentatively placed his hand on his shoulder.

Cassandra jerked away from his touch, and Amadeo remembered who she was. A prostitute. She probably wouldn't welcome any sort of physical contact.

"Cassandra," Amadeo said softly, trying to embrace Cassandra with mere words, "you don't have to hide here."

No response.

"In fact, it would give me no greater pleasure than to have you be my companion for the celebration. I have no one."

At those words, Cassandra shuddered and looked up. "Listen," she said in a voice hard with the world, "you don't have to lie to me. I'm going back to where I live as soon as I can get myself together. I'm not feeling well, you see. I wasn't feeling well when I started the journey. I should have known better than to come."

It was true. Amadeo could easily see that Cassandra's face was flushed with a tinge of fever. "But you came, anyways," he said. "You wanted to come, didn't you?"

"Morris wanted me to come with him. He said it would be strange if he showed up without a partner. I told him I couldn't attend, but I changed my mind because..." Cassandra's voice trailed away, and she ducked her head. "I don't know why I came," she finished, but her words were unconvincing.

"You wanted to see me."

"You're awfully forward."

"I don't want to let you get away."

Raising her eyebrows, Cassandra met Amadeo's eyes. It was then that the original bolt of lightning passed through the room and hit Amadeo - hard. He cleared his throat. "Uh..." he began, but wasn't quite sure what to say, so he stopped.

Sighing, Cassandra closed her eyes. "I don't know what game you're trying to play, but I'm not participating," she said.

Hurt deeply, Amadeo shook his head, though Cassandra couldn't see the action, what with her eyes shut. "You think I'm playing a game with you?" he whispered, pained that his Cassandra would think such a thing of him.

"You're a man. Men play games."

"Hadrian plays games. Men like him play games." At Cassandra's surprise, Amadeo coughed self-consciously. "I had a couple guards do a...you know...investigation of who he is. But don't tell Marcos and Gabelle. They'd think I'm obsessing."

A vague smile flickered across Cassandra'a perfect lips. For a moment, Amadeo was distracted by those lips. But he managed to drag his mind back to the conversation when Cassandra chuckled and said, "You are obsessing."

For some reason, the moment seemed so inexplicably hilarious that Amadeo threw his head back and laughed. Much to his delight, Cassandra joined him, and they laughed for no apparent reason until someone found them.

Marcos. Oh, dear.

The End

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