Marius settled back against the trunk of the tree and smiled as he hadn’t in years. “I feel like I’ve been talking almost nonstop about myself. Surely, I’m boring you.”

Elizabeth shook her head. “It’s much more interesting than needlepoint… or business or… riding… or whatever men usually talk about when they’re in my company,” she said. She gazed up at the stars and added, “What you do with the wardens… not only is it so very important, but it’s… almost like magic.”

“Any sufficiently advanced technology appears like magic,” Marius said softly. “Strangely enough, it works the other way around too.”

“Really?” Elizabeth said. She leaned forward, listening intently.

“Where I come from – originally, I mean… Where I come from people are more technological than magical. Here it tends toward the reverse. Both could learn from each other, I think.”

His smile grew as he watched her talk about the mixes of magic and technology that were possible. The moonlight lit her face and danced in her eyes. To him, she seemed like a bright flower about to bloom. She paused, catching him staring.

“What?” she said.

“You’re beautiful,” he said. “Your features are so delicate… so dainty. Sorry, I’m embarrassing you.”

A light blush has stained her cheeks. “No one has ever spoken to me like that,” she admitted. “I always figured that I was rather plain.”

“Not to me,” Marius said. He sighed and looked back toward the building. “We should probably be getting back.”

“My father will be wondering where I’m hiding myself,” she said. She stood and turned toward the garden. “Call on me… maybe we can go for a walk in the park.” Then she was gone.

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