Stark trees still in hibernation, he turned the lamp down. Flushed the light from the shutters. Drew the locks across the doors. None had found this hideaway yet.

 His fingertips found his wards scrawled into the doorframe wood. Hoping they would buy him time, should she return. He had let her in once and still paid for it in lost homes.  Self-care had come too late.

 He counted the tools on his belt and settled into the armchair to sleep. For another night, he waited for the light of the hearth to wane. Listened for feet on the gravel path.

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