Sandor walked out of Evenfall Hall and down to the beach, marveling at the view. There was a full moon and the sapphire waters surrounding the island of Tarth shone with an unearthly radiance. Even the sand was shining silver and it was easy to make out the small figure walking down the beach.
It was Sansa, and she was walking very slowly away from him. He could easily catch up with her, but perhaps she wanted to be alone. He was still debating with himself when she sat down, her arms wrapped around her knees, staring out at the ocean. There was something about her that spoke of sadness, and he walked down to her to ask, "Is everything all right?"
She looked up at him and for a moment he didn't think she was going to answer, then she patted the ground and he sat next to her. "You don't need to follow me around any more, Sandor," she murmured. "I'm safe here."
The Hound shrugged. "Aye, but it's a hard habit to break."
"I suppose so." She was still looking at the water. "Have you ever seen such anything so beautiful?"
She had washed the black dye out of her hair and now it stirred in a faint breeze off the waves, glowing copper in the moonlight. Sandor breathed, "No, I don't think I ever have."
She turned her head then to look at him. "Brienne wants to show me the whole island. She says there are waterfalls and high meadows covered with wildflowers, and birdsong everywhere you go. Of course, we'll have to take a guard with us. It's not really necessary, but her father, Lord Selwyn, would prefer it." Sansa smiled. "And I won't mind. The castle guards are all so handsome."
Sandor sternly repressed a pang of jealousy. "No doubt you'll be falling in love before long."
"Oh, I'm already in love," said Sansa.
The jealousy bit with redoubled force and he had to wait a moment before he could answer. Sansa Stark was the most beautiful person he had ever known. It wasn't her pretty face and figure, or her charming ways, although those things were in and of themselves very appealing. It was her genuine kindness that never failed, that spent itself on everyone around her and was constantly renewed, that had won his heart. If she had found someone to bestow her heart on, that was all to the good. She deserved the best, and when Sandor spoke, it was with a calmness that seemed almost indifferent. "And this man, is he a good sort?"
"He's brave and strong and gentle." Sansa sighed. "The only problem is that he hasn't noticed me."
"Then he's daft. Or blind."
"He's not blind. He just doesn't think he's good enough for me."
Sandor shook his head. "Why would he think that?"
"I don't know," Sansa mused. "He's older than me, and not as highborn."
A foolish hope teased its way into his mind, and he strangled it and said, "Those are not such obstacles unless he's in his dotage."
The girl laughed. "Oh, no, he's not that old! He's in his early thirties."
The hope refused to die. "That is perhaps not too old. And his birth? You said he is not as highborn as you."
"Landed gentry." Sansa leaned back on her hands. "He has lost his lands, but so have I. He has a good place here, though, serving Lord Selwyn."
Sandor's heart was pounding so hard his chest hurt. "And is he…" His voice failed and he swallowed hard, then tried again. "Is he handsome?"
Sansa laid a gentle hand on the burned side of his face. "He is to me."