The days melted together into a solid week. Emmelyne was quiet, reserved, especially after the attack. Even Ama’s special tea only worked half the time now. I was at a loss as to how to help her in that aspect. Ama promised to aid me by talking with her, though Emmy was rather obstinate when it came to sharing herself with others. I knew the reasons behind her timid exterior; when you’ve been beaten for sharing your thoughts, you’re not likely to suddenly start doing it once you’re free, if I could loosely apply that term to her.
Each night, we sat by the fire, Emmelyne engulfed in the book I’d gifted her. She was ecstatic that I’d given her a present and she knew how to read. It was pleasant, before bed, to unwind quietly, especially since Agnar had left on another small raid.
This night was the very same, Emmy perched near the fire, wrapped in furs, her nose pressed into the book. I sat in a chair, sharpening my dagger and sword to pass the time. I caught myself staring more and more at the enigmatic young woman before me. The snowstorm outside raged, the worst yet. We had nowhere to go, nothing to do until it passed.
I paused my actions to glance at her beauty, entranced as always. Her cheeks were plump, rounded, which only enhanced the wideness of her eyes. Her hair was like brown tendrils of silk, always braided loosely down her back. She was tiny, though her hips widened and her butt curved to give her a womanly figure. I watched as a deep blush rose in her cheeks. She pulled the book away, causing me to chuckle deeply and resume my work.
“What part are ye on?” I asked, glancing at her, careful not to knick my fingers. I sensed it was a lovemaking scene, remembering when I’d read it.
“Umm,” she chewed her lip.
“Care to read it aloud?” I laughed as she sputtered.
“No, thank you.”
“Damn, I was gettin’ bored over here.” I winked. She smiled a bit, finally grasping my sense of humor. She set her book down and watched me intently for a moment, causing me to feel uneasy under her speculative gaze.
“Killian?” She asked. My stomach knotted.
“Emmelyne?” I answered.
“How many people have you killed?” She said. I stopped, caught off guard by her question, though I could see she was only curious, likely due to the nature of the book I’d chosen for her. I shrugged.
“I havena’ kept count.”
“People are afraid of you.” She surmised. I cocked my head to the side, pondering her words.
“I suppose some are, yes.”
She chewed her lip again. I wanted to keep her talking, to keep the conversation alive. I hadn’t realized how lonely I’d truly been until I had someone to come home to each night. I also still had to make good on my promise to her, to take her to my secret sanctuary, once the storm broke.
“Are ye afraid of me, then?” I asked, quirking an eyebrow. She thought a moment.
“Yes,” she answered honestly, staring at her lap.
“And what is it about me that frightens ye?” I pushed. She fiddled excessively with her hands. I always knew she had an answer, though, once her nervous habit ceased.
“Sometimes, you get this look on your face, like you can kill anyone…” she trailed off. I chuckled, setting aside my work to lean forward.
“Aye, ye have seen my skill, ye know I can.”
“But you’re kind as well.”
“And why shouldn’t I be kind to those who deserve it?” I smiled as I stumped her once more.
“Why did you save me, in the way that you did?” Her eyes were curious, piercing.
“Ye mean cuttin’ ye and trickin’ Agnar?” I clarified. She nodded.
“I’ve told ye my reasons.”
“I know but…you risked other people, for me.”
Ahh, I thought, she had finally put it all together, how dangerous my little trick was.
“I took a gamble, hopin’ no one would know the difference.” I shrugged. She nodded again, deep in thought, her brow furrowing.
“Thank you…for risking that for me.” She said. My heart swelled. I nodded tersely.
“Aye, yer welcome, little faerie.”
She snorted at her name. The wind outside howled, causing a chill to seep into the tent. Emmelyne shuddered, glancing to the bed. I knew she wanted to curl into the blankets; she had a propensity to be freezing no matter what, whereas I was always running too warm.
“Bed?” I asked. She smiled, standing and stretching. As was now routine, I helped her out of her corset before she made her nest of furs and blankets. I hid my dagger within reach, and a knife under my pillow. She was always watching me, studying me. I sat on my side, pulling off my shirt, boots, pants. She always turned away as I stripped naked, the blushing, demure virgin.
Whether from the storm or the exhaustion from the past few days, falling asleep was easy as ever.
I awoke to the frigid darkness, the wind outside reaching its peak. The fire burned lower than usual. I realized what had woken me were screams of a woman, not the wind. I rolled over, my hands grappling for Emmelyne as she thrashed, convulsing with nightmares.
“Shh, it’s alright!” I called to her, gripping her wrists. She continued to kick as I tried to calm her.
“Emmelyne!” I shook her, pulling her up so she was sitting. Her cheeks were stained with tears as her eyes flashed open. She held my gaze for a moment before she broke into a sob, shaking in my grasp. Relief had flooded her features when she’d recognized it was me who held her. I cursed in my mother’s clan language, pulling her over to me. She’d never been this inconsolable before. I propped myself against the headboard, pulling her into my lap and throwing my plaid over her. I cradled her to me as she cried, stroking her hair, rocking her gently.
“I’m here, it’s alright, see?” I said gently. She quieted after a few minutes, though she continued to hiccup and sniffle. I wiped her cheek with my thumb, and it was then that she realized how close we were. She froze in my arms.
“I’m…I’m sorry,” she said hoarsely, moving to get away. I held fast.
“Talk to me, eh?” I pleaded, part of me needing to know what was going on in her mind. She shivered but relented, exhausted from her fit.
“I was…having a dream…a good dream. It was about you.” She whispered. I ran my hand over her spine, smoothing her hair, relishing the way she felt tucked into my embrace.
“Aye, and then what?” I prodded. She stiffened.
“I…don’t want to say,” she whispered, her small hand unknowingly resting on my chest, tracing patterns. I shivered at her intoxicating touch.
“I’m here, and yer alright now, hmm?” I said. She nodded.
“Then it’s no so bad. It may help ye, to speak of it.” I suggested. She paused, pulling away to peer at me, eye to eye. My hands fell to her waist, causing her to blush at my choice of no clothing. Her brow furrowed as she shifted her weight on my lap. I waited patiently, elated we were finally making some progress as far as trust was concerned.
“You…kissed me,” she said, a smile hidden in the corner of her mouth. Both of my eyebrows shot up.
“Oh I did, did I?” I teased, lightening the mood. She nodded, her cheeks pink.
“I…enjoyed it, what you were…umm…doing, to me…” she stammered. I felt as though my eyes would bug out of my skull at her honesty, and also felt I should probably move her off my lap if she kept talking of such intimate scenarios. I was only a man, after all, and a man with needs at that.
She shook her head.
“But you changed, when I opened my eyes, it was another man. I told him to leave me alone, and he changed again to another man, and another…and I told them I was yours but they…” her breathing hitched as she began to cry again. I understood her nightmare, then, all too clearly. We seemed to share a common fear.
“Shhh,” I pulled her back to my chest, rocking us to the rhythm of the wind. “Yer safe now, here with me, right?” I asked. She nodded into my chest.
“Get some rest,” I said, pulling away, releasing her despite the agony it caused me. She clung to me, though, her eyes widening with fear.
“No, Killian,” she whispered. I felt my brows furrow now in confusion. Normally she shunned any physical comfort I had to offer her, but it seemed this nightmare had finally done her in.
“Please don’t leave me.” She said into my chest. Fire coursed through my veins, centering in my chest. She needed me, finally, and I was here for her to fulfill that need.
“Never,” I whispered, my lips pressed to the top of her head.