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“All right, that’s enough.” Mirella stood up suddenly, causing Beckett to scramble backwards.
“Ma’am?” He looked up at her with those big puppy-dog eyes.
“You’re free. I release you. Get your clothes and your stuff and go back to your own room.” She closed her robe around her and tied the belt shut with a tight square knot. “Well, get on, go.”
The habit of obedience sent him crawling to the closet; he’d gotten half his stuff packed before it really hit him. “Wait. Wait, what? Mirella, why? I did everything you asked me to.”
“It’s just too much, Beckett. You’re just too much.” Besides, a quiet Working had told her she’d gotten what she needed. “You’re a lovely boy, you really are, honey, but I just can’t do this.”
“What did I do?” He paused, clothes in one hand and bag in the other, to look up at her. The expression was pitiful, more so for his big, lanky frame. “I can do better.”
“No, Beckett.” She emptied the one drawer she’d given him into a box, and added his books and papers on top of his socks and underwear. “You’ll do much better on your own.”
“So, just like that?” He frowned at her, which would have been a relief, except big lunk of a boy and he was still within her threshold. “You’re kicking me out?”
“I’m freeing you, Beckett. I’ve freed you.”
“What am I supposed to do now?”
“Go meet a nice girl, or a nice boy, or a nice horse. I’ve taught you everything I can about Addergoole. You know what words not to say. You know how to avoid being Kept, and how to trick someone else into the collar. Speaking of which…” She unbuckled her collar from around his neck and stepped back with it before he thought to stop her. She might need that for a couple weeks next year.
“You said a year.”
“I said a year at most. I said a year was tradition.” She handed him his clothes, and, still half on autopilot, he folded them and packed them away. “But not one I want to follow. Look, you’re a nice guy, Beckett.” Too nice. Clingy, affectionate. No fight at all, after the first couple days. “I’m sure you’ll find someone nice.”
“Just not you.”
“Well.” She cleared the last of his things out of her closet and, hopefully, out of her life. “I’d have thought you’d have noticed I’m not very nice.”
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