Seven Rivers 2

“I am too broken to love again.” Michael’s voice was matter-of-fact. He wanted this conversation over with. His golden eyes gazed fixedly into the fire, but reflected none of its warmth.

“I am not asking to be loved. I am hoping to be a companion to you.” Kailee’s voice was softer, but just as pointed as his own.

“You hope for less than you deserve.”

She laughed lightly, “Oh, I know that. But so much of life is accepting defeat that hoping for anything at all is a triumph!”

He sighed and looked away from the fire, allowing himself to lose his gaze in the ghosts of flames that danced before his dazzled sight. He heard movement beside him, and felt a small warm hand rest itself on his own. He almost pulled away, but willed himself to remain still.

“Michael. I know that you seek the mate of your soul. You are a broken heart but know that we all are broken hearts. If you hide and protect the break and do not use your heart, like a bone which is not set well and is not used, it will warp and heal wrong.” She took a breath and when he glanced up at her, she was looking into the far distance and he could tell she was listening to an inner voice, “You cannot let the dark ones win your heart. They have stolen parts of you which will not be returned. Live, and remember, and fight them.” He watched her come back to herself and when she turned toward him, their faces were inches apart. She waited, her deep green eyes calmly gazing into his own golden ones.

He felt his heart beating fiercely, as if he had been running from something for far too long. He could feel the back of his mind roiling but couldn’t interpret it. His throat tightened as she leaned toward him and their lips met.

At first, all he felt was the physical touch of them. Her lips were soft and warm, and the light down of her cheek brushed against the tip of his nose. It was less frightening than he had thought it would be. He closed his eyes and pressed in a bit.

Suddenly it felt as if a knife had been thrust deep into his chest, and he reeled back in shock. His eyes flew open and he gazed incredulously down, but there was nothing there. Kailee smiled gently at him and tilted her head.

“What is wrong?” he gasped out, pressing his hand to his sternum. He could still feel her lips on his, somehow more vividly than the phantom pain.

“My love, you begin to feel again.”

“I … I don’t think I want to…”

She leaned in to him again, and just before their lips again met, she whispered, “But you must…”

This time he felt the kiss throughout his whole body, as if it were a sledgehammer knocking down the sturdy walls he had built around the core of his being. He felt the blood rushing to every long-forgotten corner of himself, flooding every painful place he hadn’t dared to touch. He began to sob, even as Kailee continued to kiss and hold him. His body wracked with the violence of his reaction to her gentle embrace. He gripped her too hard, feeling like she was a rock in a bitter sea and if his fingers were not strong enough, he would be lost forever. He buried his face in her soft shoulder and let the storm break over him.

 

When morning came he awoke on his side, facing a rebuilt fire. He was still fully clothed and his eyes ached as if he hadn’t slept at all. But when he searched inside himself he found only an endlessly flat, calm sea. His whole body was in a state between numb and awakened; his every sense seemed alive. His first deep breath was full of the sharp homey smell of wood smoke and he realized it had been a long time since he had taken pleasure in such a simple thing. As he sat up, Kailee came back from the stream with a damp cloth in her hand. She squatted beside him, smiling slightly.

“Today is new, and so we must wash away the night every morning.” Without seeking permission, she began to gently wipe his face with the cool rag. He was too calm within to jerk back from her touch as he normally would have, and the way she was touching him felt… nice. Nothing had felt nice in what seemed like forever. Not since he and Murud had….

He found himself remembering their last encounter without pain. The morning sun had streamed into their room at the Varaine palace. A servant bustled in the background, ignored. They had kissed and made love in a casual way, reveling in their newfound freedom. The knowledge that it had ended so soon after that didn’t taint the memory as it had only yesterday.

Kailee finished, and her cool hand rested on his hot one, bringing him back to the moment to gaze into her tranquil smiling face.

“I have never seen you smile before.” she said, and he discovered that his cheeks were raised in an unfamiliar expression.

“Thank you.” He couldn’t express the depth of his gratitude with mere words, so he took her face in his hand and kissed her, feeling for a moment the familiar stab of sorrow but allowing it to fade into the background of what came next.

Rhiadi 2 (adult theme)

“Oh, Rhia, it’s exquisite! His Majesty will be so pleased!” The lovely cinnamon-haired woman clapped her delicate hands together with delight, her dark eyes shining. Silver bangles which hung from the points of her long ears tinkled merrily with the movement as she bent toward the box her friend had showed her.

Behind a glass pane set in a light colored hardwood frame was a marvelous hunting scene. The miniature figures were carved from various shades of animal horn and bone, and perfectly mimicked the skin tones of the people they portrayed. The king was casting the eagle to the sky, and the green of his gauntlet was marred by tiny talon marks. His horse was tossing its head away from the motion, slivers of white showing around his eyes. The queen crouched, ready to run after the prey the eagle was sent to harry. The fur on her bunched haunches bristled golden, and her red-headed maid stood back holding another horse and the queen’s cloak and crown. Other figures were visible through the trees, each as exquisite as the last.

“Why, Rhia, there’s even a bit of mud on my little skirt! How clever of you. You know that’s why I hate to go on the hunting parties.” Her little pink lips pouted prettily.

Rhiadi smiled at her petite friend and covered her finished work with a dark blue cloth. “Anna, you are a wonder. In all my years of making these, this is the first time I will have made one for royalty. I owe you a debt. This will be my chance to be noticed.”

“Oh, Rhia, dear friend, it was the least I could do! And anyway, I don’t understand why you haven’t approached the court before. Your talent is prodigious! You could command any price.” Her embroidered surcotte brushed the floor and her friend’s bare feet as her hand rested on Rhiadi’s bare arm. The work apron the artist wore in her studio had been discarded, and her naked height dwarfed the clothed maidservant so close beside her.

Rhiadi’s slender fingers caressed Anna’s cheek tenderly. “You know I could not approach the court a commoner as I am. Your influence there has been able to grant me a patron which otherwise I could not have had. You have given me so much, and I have no way to repay it.”

Anna’s eyelashes fluttered delicately above her suddenly flushed cheeks. “Rhia,” she whispered, “You repay me in other ways.”

Their lips met gently as Rhiadi bent herself forward, her soft breasts hanging heavy against the rich fabric that kept Anna’s contained.