We made it home sooner than planned, good weather on our side for now. The sun streamed down, providing little warmth against the frozen wind. I walked up the path, my steps quicker the closer I got, anxious to see Emmelyne. Part of me hoped she was still angry, just so I could watch her throw a fit again for my own amusement.
I spotted Murdoc splitting firewood between our two homes, Ama on her steps stitching clothing, and Emmelyne—basket on her hip—heading to our tent. Murdoc stood to wipe the sweat from his brow, catching sight of me and waving. Emmelyne’s eyes snapped to me, causing her to nearly drop her basket. Relief seemed to overcome her, before it was indeed replaced by her surliness. She mounted the steps and entered our tent, shunning me. I smirked, readying myself for the challenge.
“How was she?” I asked Murdoc. He pressed his lips together and snorted, rolling his eyes.
“Damn woman screamed like a banshee every night. I was tempted more than once to knock her out.” He said.
“Ahh, I owe ye.” I said. He smirked.
“Aye, ye do. How was the raid lead by boys?” He asked, leaning against his axe. I rolled my eyes.
“Seems I have an admirer. S’pose he’ll be comin’ ’round soon,” I said, turning to see if Puck had already followed me. Murdoc chuckled.
“I’ll keep him away while ye…” he trailed off, tilting his head in the direction of our tent. I raised my brows once quickly, sighing.
“Aye, she’s still pissed at me.”
“Women.” Murdoc whispered, though Ama clearly heard him.
“I’ll remember that tonight,” she said, raising her brows but concentrating on her work. I laughed as Murdoc’s smile fell.
“Ye see the trouble ye young lads get me into?” He growled. I slapped his shoulder, pushing forward over the icy ground. I took a deep breath before I entered, preparing myself. She sat with her back to the entrance, in her nest on the floor, pretending to read her book. I chuckled, tying up the tent tight before I dropped my bags to the floor. I slowly made my way around her, a predator looking for the opportune time to pounce. I sat heavily in a chair, resting my tired body for a moment, leaning forward to stare at her.
She’d braided her hair tightly, worn her black bodice and skirts, attempting to look more menacing than she actually was. I tried to hide my smirk. A steady blush rose in her cheeks, betraying her.
“Hello,” I tried, cocking my head to get a better glimpse of her. She stiffened.
“Hello.” She said curtly. I chuckled. Part of her was still afraid of me, this I knew, otherwise she’d have ignored me entirely.
“I missed ye, wee faerie.” I admitted, gauging her reaction. Her eyes narrowed as she stared at the same page of her book. She licked her lips, raising her brows, still not meeting my gaze.
“Did you bring home another woman?” She bit back. I felt as though I’d been punched in the gut. Did she really think that lowly of me? No, I thought, she was being irrational. But for what reason?
“No, one is clearly enough for me as it is.” I teased, trying to keep conversation from being too tense. She chanced a peek at me and glared. Then I realized the reason for her question; jealousy. I felt almost giddy at this revelation. Oh, how I could use this to my advantage. I leaned in closer, watching as she backed away.
“Why would that matter?” I quirked an eyebrow at her. She jutted her chin out, glaring.
“Because it’s wrong.”
“Aye, ’tis wrong.”
She was stumped.
“Were ye afraid I’d forget about ye?” I pressed, trying in vain to hide my grin.
“No.” She said quickly, hotly. I nodded.
“Were ye thinkin’ I’d find another woman to warm my bed?” I asked pointedly. Her neck flushed in patches of red. I’d angered her, having finally pinpointed her fear, her jealousy. She shrugged.
“I don’t care what you do.” She quipped, picking her book back up.
“Oh, but ye do,” I said, standing above her. She glanced up at me, cowering. I reached down and plucked her up, setting her on her feet before me. She dropped her book, crossing her arms, her false bravado wavering.
“Why do ye care?” I asked, leaning in closer, feeling her shrink away.
“I don’t.” She bit back fiercely, turning all the redder. I felt somewhat guilty for provoking her, but I couldn’t help myself.
“Ye don’t want me sharin’ myself. Ye want me all to yerself,” I surmised, crossing my arms.
“No,” she said, faltering, backing up a pace as she scoffed at such a ridiculous proposal.
“I think that’s why yer mad at me, wee one.”
She threw her fists to her sides and stamped her foot.
“Stop saying what you believe I’m feeling!” She yelled. I smirked at her tiny rage. If I could take her in my arms and plant a kiss on her now, I would.
“Ye don’t want another woman layin’ with me.” I teased, unable to hide my dark humor anymore.
She stooped down and picked up her book to hurl it at me. Laughing, I dodged it.
“Ugh!” She yelled, turning to leave. I caught her arm and spun her to me, our bodies colliding. I bent to be eye level with her, seeing her rage up close in her big blue eyes.
“I have news for ye, my little faerie.” I said. She stilled for a moment, worry crossing her features.
“The only woman I’ll ever desire for the rest of my days is you.”
I watched as her face went slack, felt as the fight left her body. I released her, crossing my arms and waiting for her reply. I didn’t expect her to throw herself at my feet and admit her desire for me as well. She was new to this, not knowing how to navigate her feelings. I waited patiently as her rage dissipated, replaced by confusion. She’d thought I didn’t want her.
“You…I…” she sputtered.
“Hmm?” I teased. She shook her head, fear crossing her face.
“Emmelyne, calm yerself. ’Tis no a big deal, to admit how ye feel about someone. Now ye know where I stand,” I said, shrugging as though this were easy for me to admit. In truth, I was more nervous now than I’d ever been in my life. I’d shared with her my deep feelings, and now she held the power to crush my heart into dust. I doubted she knew she held that potential, which could save me some heartache. I watched as her lip trembled, as her eyes filled with tears, helpless as she turned and fled.
I’d never felt such a deep ache in my chest before. The closest I’d come to this pain was when Maeve had died, but it was different, knowing she was gone forever. With Emmelyne, she was still close, there was still a chance to rectify my actions. She’d run straight to Ama, who was now consoling her. Murdoc and I sat on the steps of his home, not saying a word for at least an hour.
“Ye can’t expect all women to love ye,” he said softly. I stared at my hands.
“I never expected love. Maybe attraction, some room to grow into something more,” I admitted.
“Ye fell hard, lad, and I hate to say that I saw it coming.” He said. I rolled my eyes at the ground.
“I don’t doubt she feels for ye,” he said, kicking at the snow.
“Yeah, hatred.” I grumbled. He snorted.
“Pick yerself up, man, I think there’s more to the story that she’s afraid to say,” he said, keeping his voice low. I glanced at him in suspicion.
“What did she tell ye?” I growled. He feigned innocence.
“Nothin’, I swear it. It was after one o’ her fits, I overhead her and Ama talkin’. She…sees things, Killian.” He explained, struggling for words.
“Aye, she told me once.” I said.
“And how did ye react?”
“Shocked, I s’pose,” I shrugged.
“Mmph.” He answered. We both stood quickly as the door scraped open. Ama approached, looking only to me.
“She has the courage, now, to speak with you.” She said. My chest tightened. She moved aside, allowing me into their quaint stone cottage. It was dark, stuffy with the blazing fire. Emmelyne stood in the center of the space, fists clenched, her face wavering between emotions. Ama closed the door behind me. I waited patiently, staring down at her beauty.
“I…” she began, clearly struggling. I bit my tongue and listened.
“I saw you…in a dream, before you came to me.” She whispered. I felt my arms and neck prickle despite the hot room.
“I see you very often, in my dreams,” she wrung her hands together, shaking all over. I took a step forward, reassured when she didn’t take a step away.
“I’ve…always known you’d be kind to me, because I saw glimpses of it.” She explained. I took another step forward.
“But…lately, all I can see is…bad things, happening to me,” she whispered, her troubled eyes sweeping up to meet my face. I felt crushed in an instant.
“Emmelyne, I’d never—”
“No!” She said quickly, eyes wide as she shook her head.
“It’s not you, hurting me. I…know that I can trust you.” She said. I swallowed, wishing to bridge the space between us.
“Then what is it yer so afraid of?” I asked. She sighed, clenching her fists at her side as a few tears trickled down her round cheek.
“I do feel for you, and though I’ve never felt anything like this before, I feel like its real,” she said, still trembling, confused as her brows pulled together. I smiled, relieved, waiting for her to continue.
“But…things I see, they always come true,” she whispered, her eyes pleading with mine to believe her. I wasn’t completely sold yet, but there was something to be said of her uncanny ability to find things out.
“I just…I don’t think you’ll want me…after…after…” her breathing sped up, her panic rising at the very thought of her nightmares. Unable to stand it anymore, I crossed the room and pulled her fiercely into my arms. She buried her face into my chest and sobbed, timidly reaching up to place her shaking fists on my sides. I smoothed her long braid over and over, speaking the words my mother had spoken to me when I was inconsolable as a child. The meaning had been lost on me, but the cadence was altogether soothing.
“I won’t let anythin’ happen to ye,” I promised. She shook her head.
“It will happen, and I don’t know when, and even if I try to find a way to…to stop it, it will still happen,” she breathed, clutching me tighter.
“I just…I can’t see how you’ll still want me, after he…after he…” she hiccuped, unable to say the words.
“Who.” I seethed, realizing what she meant. I would never make her say it aloud. The fact that she relived this nightmare time and again was enough torture for her. She shook her head.
“I can never see his face,” she cried softly. I gripped her closer still, my mind fervently searching for a solution to quell her fears until I figured out a way to leave this place forever. I cupped her cheeks, pulling her away to look at her properly. Her eyes were truthful, earnest. I believed her. But until I could properly think on the horrible words she’d spoke, I’d have to push my rage aside and focus on what mattered most. I wiped my thumb across her wet cheek.
“Nothin’ will ever keep me from ye, alright?” I whispered. She seemed doubtful.
“Ye say ye have feelings for me?” I asked. She blushed but nodded slightly.
“Look at my past. I’m no some pure god, but does that bother ye?” I said. She chewed her lip but shook her head.
“We’ll figure this out, I swear it, and we’ll leave this place, hmm?” I said. Her demeanor brightened a bit. I realized her fragility in this moment; her vision had yet to come true, but it felt as if it already had in her mind. I’d need to check my boundaries, be more aware of her feelings. In the meantime, the only way I knew around tense situations was humor, even if it was a bit dark.
“So,” I smirked down at her. “Ye think I’m handsome?”
Her face broke into a grin as she blushed between my hands. I let her cheeks go as she buried her face in my chest.
“Because I think I’m handsome, too.”
She giggled, releasing the tension in my heart in a matter of seconds.
“Ye must have really got an eyeful in the cave!” I laughed, glancing down at her as she turned a shiny red.
“I…” she began, turning her blue gaze onto me. I waited, smiling down at her. The mood in the room shifted then, turning serious. I felt it, more strongly than ever, what it was between us. A force that the gods themselves had created. She tilted her head up, her eyes fluttering closed as I bent my head. I pulled her off her feet to compensate for our height difference. Our lips met briefly, sending a rush of fire through my entire body. I yearned to deepen the kiss, but I pulled away as a series of images flashed behind my eyelids.
I stared at her, breathless, feeling my brows knit together in confusion. Her expression mirrored mine. She seemed to know she’d shared her visions. Of all the images my brain had been able to settle upon, it had chosen to give me one that I’d never forget. It was a picture of Emmelyne and I, wrapped tightly in one another’s naked embrace, a crown of white flowers still adorning her long hair. I knew immediately what it meant.
Unable to resist, I pulled her from her feet once more, kissing her more deeply than before. She responded, our lips melting together as though they were truly carved for this purpose alone. My heart thumped steadily, my decision made for me. I’d marry her.