My 2 main characters are starting to understand the chasm that exists between their cultures. Zev is dependent on Lilliane right now, both to sail them to safety and to treat his injuries. His fundamentalist beliefs forbid him from being alone with an unmarried woman he is unrelated to and her owes her a life-debt that he must honor.
Sunlight beat down on Zev’s face. He would die out here. Nothing wise remained on the sand near midday. Every Tisreen child knew that. He had to move. The ground seemed to heave beneath him and he rolled onto his back, confused. Cool shadows touched his skin and he opened his eyes. Wooden planks formed an arch above his head. He was on the boat.
“Do you think you can keep anything down?”
The Rimland woman was looking down at him from the cockpit. Lilliane Tor. Zev closed his eyes again, but her image burned in his mind.
“I need to examine you,” she said. “Probably set the arm. Best to do it before the bone knits improperly.”
“If you’re still a little seasick, I can. . .”
Zev swung his legs over the edge of the berth, propping himself upright carefully with his left arm only.
She stared at him, her violet eyes disturbingly direct.
“It is forbidden. You are an unmarried, unchaperoned woman. Simply being here with you in this vessel is proscribed by my beliefs.”
She choked back a laugh. “You’ve got to be kidding.”
Zev narrowed his eyes and stared back at her. If this were Tisreen, the woman would look away and make obeisance. Instead, her body posture continued to challenge him.
“We are at an impasse, then,” she said, shrugging. “Unless you can swim the rest of the way to Arnesh.”
He could have sworn her lips quirked into a brief smile. His cheeks burned. Speaking slowly, he chose his words with deliberate care. “I owe you a life-debt. It is more sacred than any vow sworn to the Divine. I will discharge my debt but I will not permit you to defile me.” Her eyes widened and she opened her mouth to speak, but he cut her off. “You may not touch me.”
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