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I’m just curious. I mean, we all heard the story about Graeme and Zorana’s general, and Declan and Sebastian are pretty much legends. The others could easily have been promoted up through the ranks for their skills, but you… You were just a kid when the war began. You’re the youngest of the Rebels, and physically the weakest—no offense—”

“None taken,” he muttered. So he wasn’t an overgrown behemoth bulging with layers of muscle. That didn’t mean he was weak!

“—so how did you end up in the Rebel Court?”

She looked way too wired to drop this. With a weary sigh, he came in and straddled her vanity chair, resigned to his fate. “I used to steal food from Zorana’s troops.”

Lily choked on a bite of noodles. “Excuse me?”

Beau shrugged. “Times were tough; people didn’t have much to share, and the places I used to beg from barely had enough to serve their paying customers. The only ones who were still well-fed and well-supplied were Zorana’s troops. So I watched them for a while, learned their schedules, and then, you know… I took what I needed.”

Lily stared at him, her fork hovering over the noodles.

Uncomfortable with her silence, he kept talking. “I got so good I could walk into a camp with fifteen soldiers hanging around, grab a satchel from the center table, and walk out without anyone ever seeing me. Except for Darius that one time. He saw me go in, watched me do my thing, grabbed me as I passed the wards, and dragged me straight to Graeme and the others.”

Lily blinked slowly, her fork still hovering. She opened her mouth to say something, closed it, blinked again, then carefully set her food aside and turned to face him. “Why were you begging for food?”

Now it was Beau’s turn to stare. How was that relevant to anything? “How do you mean?”

“I may have been a kid at the time, but I remember Kesteran just before the war. The troops were just being moved into those camps, and they never got fully settled before Snow’s rebellion blew up in their faces. Even in places where they’d managed to get fully operational, every house still had rations coming in on a regular basis. So why did you have to beg?”

“Uh, because I didn’t have a house. I was a street rat for as long as I can remember.”

She gaped at him as if he’d grown another head. “Didn’t you have any family who could take you in?”

Beau barked out a harsh laugh, but cut it short when Lily startled. Smoothing out his expression, he said, “I never knew my parents. The only family I had left was my aunt, and she had this bad habit of beating me off her stoop with a broom and threatening to kill me if I ever showed my face around her house again. So…that was kind of out.”

She kept staring, and frankly there was only so much awkwardness Beau could take so, when it didn’t look like she’d blink or close her mouth any time soon, he decided on a strategic retreat. “Well, good night, then.” And because they’d never discussed sleeping arrangements, he turned off the living room lights and made himself comfortable on the couch. Soft seat cushions, a plush blanket draped over the back, a solid roof over his head, and indoor heating if it got cold? He’d slept in worse places.

What he didn’t expect was to feel Lily quietly squeezing in beside him and resting her head against his chest.

Beau could say he hated it, but he’d be lying his street rat ass off.

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