Abram looked out on the busy street and he saw someone he’d never seen before. The young man was small, as he was, but instead of dark hair and eyes, the stranger was fair. He moved with the grace of a dancer as he walked down the street, dodging between passersby.

He bounded from one shop to another with an enthusiasm that Abram rarely saw in anyone who belonged to the Order. His size marked him as a mage, but from his clothes it was equally obvious that he was an outsider.

A part of Abram wanted to go out onto that street and talk to the spirited young man. A part of his was terrified of ever approaching the stranger. He stepped back from the window as the blond ducked into the bookstore.

“Where are you going?” a familiar voice asked. Abram turned to find the father of the order. He seemed, as ever, stern.

“The… the bookstore,” Abram said quickly. He bowed slightly and went out the door, hoping to catch the blond. It didn’t take him long to reach the shop but with the high shelves, it was impossible to see if the young man was still in the store.

“Excuse me,” a crisp voice said from behind him. Abram turned to find the blond man standing there. “I… wanted this book,” he said, pointing behind Abram.

“Of course, sorry,” Abram replied as he stepped aside to allow him access to the shelf. “I’m… my name is Abram Winters.”

“Emery Ballard,” the blond said. His smile held a warmth that Abram had never seen in anyone in the order. He inclined his head slightly before turning toward the front desk.

“I… I saw you,” Abram started. He was rewarded by the blond man returning his gaze to meet his own dark eyes. “I saw you from my window and… wondered if… perhaps we could… have tea together. It… isn’t often that I meet someone from outside the Order.”

Once more the young man flashed a brilliant smile. “Sure,” he said. “There’s a little tea house I know, just down the street. I’ll get my book and we can go… unless you were here to get something too.”

Abram shook his head and followed Emery toward the front desk. Up close his movements were even more graceful. Abram felt his face warm and wondered if the father would be upset with him for meeting this stranger. Then he realized that it didn’t matter.

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