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Evrial grimaced as her gaze landed on the knot of jugglers practicing on the aft deck. Every time she passed them, they decided to make her a part of their exercises, tossing batons and clubs to each other over her head.

A pair of the young men smiled when they saw her coming again. One was juggling a trio of razor-edged knives, and he nodded to his comrade, indicating the other fellow should move closer to the wall so she’d be forced to jog between them as she made the turn. What was it about her that always drew the attention of idiots?

Without slowing her gait, Evrial skewered the blade juggler with a glare. “If you two sludge-licking toads so much as wave those knives in my direction, I’ll rip your apples off, stuff them like taxidermy ostriches, then hand-deliver them to your boss with the suggestion that they be incorporated into future juggling practices.”

That threat was a mouthful, especially given that she was breathing hard from her jog, but it was worth it. The brats shrank away from her path, muttering apologies as she passed. One’s face took on an impressively pale shade, given the bronze coloring of his skin. Evrial supposed being born into a long line of blacksmiths, where the men and women were all over six feet tall, came with occasional perks. Her shoulders were broad enough to swing a hammer, her back was strong enough to move an anvil, and her hands... well, she fancied making good on her threat wouldn’t tax them overly much.

Ah, Sergeant Yara,” a familiar baritone called from a doorway. “I thought I recognized one of your classy threats.”

Maldynado Montichelu, formerly Maldynado Marblecrest, stepped onto the open deck, smiling and spreading his arms wide, as if he expected Evrial to jog into his embrace. His broad-brimmed black hat—an accessory made completely ridiculous by the addition of a giant plumed pink feather—couldn’t throw enough shadows to hide the chiseled features of his face. His high, well-defined cheekbones, strong square jaw, and liquid brown eyes that always crinkled with humor combined to create a visage that made women of all ages swoon. Evrial kept reminding herself that she wasn’t the type to fall for that sort—after all, that sort had never fallen for her—but he kept smiling warmly at her. It was all very disarming, so she reacted the only way she knew how when he fell into step beside her, giving her a pat on the back.

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