Hawke stretched in the warm sand, wind drying the spray that dotted her bare skin. She turned to Anders where he lay propped on his elbows, head tipped back and ribs showing. His smile of contentment was worth the lie she’d told to lure him away from his fetid clinic in the rankest corner of Darktown for the afternoon.
She’d only discovered this little stretch of beach because a bandit she’d been pursuing had fallen from the jagged rocks above in his flight. A narrow ledge sloped beneath the forbidding edges, tucked into a small overhang in the cliff face, and from the paths of the mountain the way was utterly invisible. Coated in sweat already that morning, she’d determined that the refugees and slum denizens of the city could do without their healer for a day.
Yet Anders would never have agreed to abandon them for his own pleasure or health. So Hawke had concocted a band of miscreants preying upon the weak with which she needed his help to deal. He’d thought the bag she carried an odd addition to her normal daggers but he was accustomed to the strange things she sometimes did and it was too hot to fuss. He barely glanced at her armor. The lure of the open seaside was enough.
It wasn’t until she’d led him down to the shingle of sand that he had realized something was amiss. Certainly no mercenaries or Coterie thugs had been in evidence and a quick glance along the nearby rock face had revealed no caves in which enemies could have been hiding. Anders had turned in confusion only to find her spreading a blanket, one corner down by her blades in their sheaths while her open bag spilled fruit onto another.
“You’re already here, you might as well enjoy it.” She had cut off his objections because she had already known what they would be and she was having none of it. Rather than argue she’d taken the lowest and most sure road to convincing him: she had undressed.
Studiously ignoring his dwindling words she’d unbuckled the light armor she’d hastily strapped over her undertunic. She’d chosen them mostly for ease of removal so in moments she had stood in little more than her smalls, grinning at her lover as the wind raised goose flesh on her arms and puckered her to points clearly visible behind the thin fabric.
Hawke had backed toward the water. “Coming?” she had asked, impishly wrinkling her nose. She’d gasped when an unseen wave crashed behind her, soaking her back and sending foam up to her knees. Anders had shaken his head and reached for the straps holding his heavy, patched robes and fluffy paldrons together in some approximation of acceptable battle attire.
She’d ducked beneath the water, washing the sticky heat of Kirkwall from her body. The tunic clung, soaked to near transparency, and she came up artfully arching her back, knowing he would be watching. He’d disrobed more quickly than she’d expected and his thinly-muscled body had shone pale a step away rather than still on the shore. Only his snatch at her waist had kept her from falling back into the waves in surprise.
He’d pulled her to him. “Didn’t your mother teach you to play fair?” he asked, his voice angry but the feel of him against her betraying his desire.
“Someone has to keep you healthy,” she’d answered. “You’d drop of heat exhaustion before you’d tell someone no.” She’d raised her hand to his cheek and wiped droplets from his nose with her thumb. “I regret nothing.”
Anders took her hand and kissed it tenderly then used the same arm as leverage to flip her headlong into the water. They’d sported in the waves, teasing and splashing until they’d both spent their relief at being out of the city. Then Hawke had taken his hand and brought him back to the blanket.
She’d fed him berries and bites of the peaches she’d brought, passing bits of sweet flesh to his mouth from her own. He’d licked dribbled juice from her chin before he’d kissed her deeply, then they’d made languorous love, their own heat and that of the sun tempered by the spray of waves breaking over the rocks protecting this hidden cove.
Sated, they’d lain back and watched the restless sea sparkle and toss. Hawke knew that this stolen afternoon would not be repeated. The weather would break and Anders would put her off the next time she asked him on an adventure. His descent into obsession and the drive over which he had less and less control would take him ever farther from her. But for these few hours she could pretend they were nothing more than any couple enjoying an indolent tryst of a summer afternoon.
She reached out and ran a finger down his nose, love and her fear of it washing over her. Anders opened his eyes and turned his face to her. “I’m still angry with you,” he said sternly. Then he smiled sweetly, taking the sting out of his words. “I don’t know what I did to deserve you,” he continued, voice languid with his acceptance of her offered heart, “but I thank Andraste I did it.”
For that one day, it was enough.