It’s Always the Last Place You Look
The key, the key…the Maker-damned key! Her mother always said she’d forget her head if it wasn’t screwed on. How she hated looking the fool in front of everyone. Lately, it seemed to happen at least once a week. Indignity begin to burn its way across her cheeks.
“Hold on a minute,” she said sheepishly, as she began rummaging. Rummaging, as always, through packs large and small, looking for something she couldn’t possibly have lost. It always happened when they were in some place like this—some cave or abandoned temple that reeked of rodent droppings and rotting vegetation or, on special days like today, putrid, days-old corpses crawling with flies.
No good. Andraste’s ass! They’d start their carping any minute. She could practically hear their feet tapping.
“Perhaps you dropped it?” Zevran suggested. “You are always in such a hurry, my dear. You have too much on your mind. If you learned to relax, to slow down, this might not happen so often. I can—”
Alistair took a step toward the elf. “Leave her alone, Zev.”
Alistair turned to her, and she felt a moment of relief. His manner was calm, kind, understanding. He must know where it was!
“Think, Elissa,” he said. “We only picked it up a few minutes ago. What could you have done with it? Try to retrace your steps…”
She fixed him with an icy glare and noted the satisfying look of apprehension on his face. “If I remembered what I did with it, it wouldn’t be lost, now, would it?”
Alistair found himself holding his breath. Why was she so beautiful when she was angry? He’d watched Teagan break a magnificent colt once. The skittishness, the haughty glare, the flaring nostrils…of course the animal hadn’t had Elissa’s delicate flush, the one that spread from her cheeks to her neck and chest once she really got going…
He tried not to look. If she noticed, she’d yell at him even louder. But something glinted there. Metal. A bit of dark metal, once cold, now warm and forgotten against flawless, freckled, ivory skin.
He tugged her aside and shielded her from view. Then he leaned in, as if to whisper something in her ear.
Elissa looked questioningly into his eyes. As Alistair’s face grew near, she felt his thumb and index finger slip just under the edge of her leather breastplate.
“Hey! What are you—?”
He drew back and gave her a triumphant grin as he twirled the key before her eyes.
This, too, had happened before. She silently willed herself not to punch him or stomp on his toe.
He leaned in again, and she felt his cheeky smile against her ear. “When will you learn, my love? It’s always in the last place you look.”