Chills continued to erupt over my flesh, even once we were safe in our tent. Ama and Murdoc stared at Emmelyne with deep concern and wariness. We had her propped in bed and swathed her in thick quilts to warm her, but she continued to shiver, drained of life after giving us her premonition. I felt at a loss as to how I could help her. I felt empty, hollow. My life was slowly being ripped apart at the seams. Ama gripped my arm, turning her back to Emmy. I couldn’t peel my eyes from her, so small and cold in the large bed.
“I think it best I give her some laudanum.” She said. I nodded.
“Aye.” I agreed. I hated the stuff, the substance strong even in the smallest of doses, but it had the power to tame even the most inconsolable. She needed sleep, and I needed to think. Ama left to fetch it as I pulled a chair across the space and sat next to Emmelyne. She turned to me, her whole body trembling, her legs restless under the blankets.
“We have to go, Killian,” she pleaded, her eyes darting between mine, her manner fervent. I gripped her small, clammy hand in both of mine. Her restlessness only grew.
“Where must we go?” I asked, trying to understand. She sighed in frustration, her head falling back onto the pillows. She was clearly irritated. I bit my tongue, feeling my own agitation grow.
“We have to find her,” she repeated, tugging her hand free of my grasp. I pressed my lips together as Ama reentered our tent. She sat on the edge of the bed, holding a small vial out to Emmy. She glared with disgust.
“You need rest, dear,” Ama said gently, holding the bottle nearer.
“No!” Emmelyne said sternly, causing Ama to jump back in shock. I felt my rage begin to simmer.
“Leave us.” I said quietly, not pulling my eyes from the source of my hot anger. Ama stood, placing the vial on our table, before her and Murdoc took their leave. Emmelyne threw the blankets back, moving to shove past me and follow.
“Don’t ye dare.” I growled.
“Get out of my way, you brute.” Her eyes blazed, her mouth pinched. I’d thought I’d seen her angry before; nothing compared to this. I smirked maliciously at her, trapping her wrists as she sat facing me, her legs dangling between mine.
“A brute, eh?” I said, quirking an eyebrow. She squirmed to be free from me, but I only pushed her wrists further down into the featherbed.
“Yes.” She spat.
“What’s gotten into ye, lass?”
“You’re not listening to me!” She yelled.
“Aye, and yer no’ listenin’ to me, either!” I yelled back.
“Argh!” She sprang forward, her strength feeble and pathetic against mine, but she was smart. She brought her foot up, pressing it to the exposed bit of chair between my legs. She pushed back with all her mite, though I was able to stand at the last moment. The chair fell backwards, causing my outrage to hit an all time high. I pulled her up to me sharply, feeling her body thump against mine. Hot and cold, fire and ice.
“If ye don’ listen to me, I’ll tie ye to the bed and force that down yer throat, woman,” I seethed, spinning her around as she thrashed and kicked desperately.
“Let…me…go!” She screamed loud enough for the entire Brotherhood to hear. I clapped my hand over her mouth, my other arm busy restraining her midsection.
“I ought to throttle ye!” I roared. She opened her mouth, attempting to bite me. I threw her onto the bed, quickly using my weight to pin her down, my knees on her arms. She wriggled and growled. I gripped her cheeks with one hand, pulling her face up to mine. In her madness, she hadn’t seen me swipe the laudanum from the table. I used my teeth to pull the cork out, spitting it away. Tears burst from her tired, red eyes.
She shook her head back and forth, thrashing more wildly now. She stood not a chance.
“Ye’ve given me no choice, wee faerie.” I said, smirking, hoping she would forgive me at some point. I saw the hatred pool in her eyes as I pressed the small bottle to her lips, tipping enough in to knock her out for a decent amount of time. I replaced the bottle with my hand, forcing her to swallow the liquid. After a few moments, her eyes began to droop, her body slackening. I released her, pulling her into my arms and cradling her instead. She swatted at me feebly.
“Will ye ever forgive me?” I whispered, tucking a strand of wild hair behind her ear. Her eyes began to cross as she stared up at me, her mouth open. She was fighting it. Tears welled, spilling and running down her temples. I hated myself.
“Kill…ian…” she moaned.
“I’m here, alright? Ye just need sleep, ye need to relax,” I said, gently rocking us side to side. She continued to fight the effects of the potion. I wondered at the dosage, if she had needed more. Her eyes held within their depths the betrayal she clearly felt. I growled, my rage turning inward.
“I’m sorry,” I said, wiping her tears. She only stared back, blinking slowly.
“Dammit,” I cursed. “Emmelyne I…I…I love ye.” I felt my throat constrict with tears. It had been nearly five years since I’d cried of emotion. She stared at me, a hint of a smile twitching in the corners of her mouth. Why I’d admitted my feelings at a moment like this, I had no idea. Other than I was an utter moron. And coward. I watched as she quietly fell into a blissful sleep.
The entire night I hadn’t moved. I leaned against the headboard, Emmelyne wedged between my legs, her cheek resting on my thigh. I brushed through her hair, traced her delicate ear, her cheek, her neck, her nose. I memorized every line of her face with my fingertips, contemplating the events that had unfolded. After a few hours, I could no longer force myself to find a solution; all I could do was stare at the innocent beauty between my legs. I would never forgive myself for how I’d treated her, though she had an uncanny ability to get under my skin with a few simple words that twisted like a knife in my gut.
As dawn broke, I relished the light. The longest night of the year was over. Puck called timidly outside. I sighed, extracting myself from Emmelyne and bending stiffly to give her a kiss on her forehead. She barely stirred.
Puck stood in the frozen morning light, more maps in his arms. I jerked my head, indicating he should go in. I sat heavily as he chattered quietly, excitement clear in his voice. I had no heart to continue the search, at least not at the present.
“Umm…Killian?” Puck asked, pulling me from my reverie.
“Nothin’…ye’ve just been starin’ at the wall for an hour…” he commented. I shook my head, rubbing my hand along my tired, stubbly face.
“Sorry lad, what was it ye were sayin’ earlier?”
“Well, I think I’ve narrowed it down. To four locations.” He said, his eyes peeking up at me, nervous. I leaned forward, suddenly awake and elated at the news.
“Where?” I breathed.
“Here,” he unfurled two different maps, marking the locations with pebbles he’d collected. Each clan’s land was massive, two times the size of Brotherhood lands, at the very least. All of them were south, as well, hundreds of miles past Mount Tier. My eyes darted from one spot on the map to the next.
“I think ’tis this one,” he pointed to a spot on the yellowed parchment. The clan was indicated by a small drawing of what I supposed would be a castle to the imaginative mind. It was surrounded by forest, a river winding its way further south as it passed by the clan’s land. I leaned in closer, attempting to read the smudged name.
“Macdara?” I tried. He nodded eagerly.
“Aye, their traditions are…well, strange, but one scribe made note of there being white flowers that bloomed throughout their lands, here,” he held open a book, pointing to a sketch of the flower. My heart ceased its beating. It was identical to the ones from my vision. My mouth ran dry as my hands began to shake.
“Killian?” Puck asked. I stood, holding my hand to him so I could think. I had to be absolutely sure, before I made any decisions. I couldn’t risk being hunted down. I couldn’t risk Emmelyne’s life on a whim.
“I think ’tis promising.” I said finally, my back to Puck as I stared down at her sleeping form. How I longed to crawl in beside her, to feel her backside pressed firmly to my front. I cleared my throat, attempting to dispel my rampant thoughts. I was too exhausted to keep them in check at the moment. The tiredness, mixed with the events of last night, combined with my aggravation, all made me feel the need to release my more primal urges. I ground my teeth together.
“Thank ye, lad, I need to sleep on it a while, eh?” I said, turning my head to him as I quirked an eyebrow. He smiled and stood.
“Aye, they’re serving duck this morn’, and I don’ wanna miss it,” he said, clambering out of his chair and into the frosty landscape. I chuckled, tying up the tent as he left, one thought clear in my mind as I turned back around. I ached for her, felt her soul pulling mine to her every moment. It was wearing me down. I wanted to wake her, to tell her I’d do as she had asked, purely for my selfish, lustful reasons. I groaned, gripping fistfuls of my hair, feeling my desire grow.
No, I thought. It was her choice. It always would be. I could suffer for now, deserved to after my actions the night before. I sighed, falling into bed irritated and unfulfilled.
I awoke sometime later. The tent was ablaze in orange light from the sunset. I felt worthless, having wasted an entire day. I sat up, causing Emmelyne to stir beside me. I was thankful, at least, that she’d been able to rest rather peacefully. My eyes roamed around the tent, falling on a large copper basin placed in front of our fire. A bathtub.
I stood, making my way to it, my feet and back aching from lack of movement. I smiled as I saw the note attached, the writing clearly Ama’s.
There was a vial of lavender oil and buckets nearby filled with fresh water. I smirked to myself, picturing too vividly how bitter Murdoc would have been as he carried these up from the creek on Ama’s orders. I set to work, heating the water and filling the tub, pushing a few coals beneath to keep the water warm. All the while, Emmelyne continued to stir and awaken behind me. I dropped the lavender oil in, the aroma soothing my senses immediately. I trailed my hand through the water, the temperature causing my fingers to prickle.
“Killian?” A soft voice called. My heart lurched as I stood. Emmelyne pushed herself up, dazed, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. I made my way to her, my apology already forcing its way out of my mouth.
“Emmelyne, I’m so—”
“It’s alright,” she whispered, her eyes flicking up to mine. I knelt by the bed, reaching for her hand.
“I’m sorry, too. I don’t understand what got into me…” she said, casting her eyes down, chewing her lip.
“Ye just needed rest, wee one,” I said, brushing my thumb across the back of her hand. Her eyes met mine again, narrowing slightly.
“What’s that…smell?” She asked. I chuckled.
“Ama brought ye a bath.”
Her face brightened drastically, causing my heart to leap once more.
“I’ve readied it, for ye, if ye’d like…” I said. She nodded, throwing her legs over the side of the bed and standing quickly. She teetered, but I stood with her, placing my hands on her hips.
“Sorry,” she mumbled, still very wobbly as the laudanum wore off.
“Here,” I said, helping her out of her corset. I threw the contraption aside as she breathed deeply.
“Whoa,” she said, falling forward, catching herself on the bed. I chuckled.
“Watch it, woman, yer actin’ like a drunken sailor.” I said.
“I’m fine,” she insisted, turning to face me in her shift. I caught her before she fell back, one arm around her waist, the other holding her hand. She blushed, looking away.
“Ye wish to bathe in that?” I teased.
“No,” she said hotly. I turned my face upwards, still holding her.
“Go on, then.”
I felt her shimmy and shuffle as she worked her way out of the lengthy clothing. Her bare arms brushed against mine where my sleeves had been rolled up. I shuddered with desire, feeling myself grow hot and flustered. I groaned inwardly, hoping she wouldn’t see the evidence of my attraction to her below my belt.
“Alright,” she whispered. I peeked down at her with one eye open. She stared up at me, having no clue the havoc this scenario wreaked on my body and soul. I ground my teeth together. She didn’t bother with covering herself, either. Perhaps she was punishing me, making me look upon her—the thing I desired most in this world—and not letting me have the satisfaction of touching her.
“I…I think I need help,” she admitted, blushing deeply. I smirked at her inability, feeling the tables turn in my favor. I bent at my knees, sweeping her into my arms in one, lithe movement. She yelped, wrapping her arms about my neck. I only stared at her face, though I was more than tempted to view the rest of her. I walked us over to the tub, bending down and setting her in the scalding water, knowing she could handle the heat. She sighed as I released her, kneeling down to be eye level with her.
“Promise ye forgive me?” I asked. She nodded.
“As long as you can forgive me. I called you a brute.” She said. I snorted.
“I’ve been called much worse,” I said, shrugging. She smiled as her eyes slid closed, sighing in contentment.
“You told me you loved me,” she whispered, prying one eye open to stare at me. I flushed as she spoke the truth, nodding once tersely.
“Aye, I said it and I meant it,” I felt my jaw clench.
“So you…choose to?” She asked, clearly remembering my explanation from so long ago. I smiled.
“I feel it, too,” I said, leaning my arms across the tub, staring down at her face, forcing my eyes to stay locked on everything above her neck. She stared back at me, so enigmatic as she pondered my words. She reached up a hand, then, the water dripping down her arm and splashing back into the basin. It hovered near my face, hesitating. I gently grasped her slick wrist, placing her hand on my face. It was hot from the water. My head ached, then, the flashing pain I would never become accustom to. I waited, though, as images tumbled through my mind, settling on a very specific scene. The white flower crown still adorned her hair as we consummated what could only be our marriage. In a flash, just as quickly as it began, the vivid image disappeared.
I opened my eyes, seeing in Emmelyne’s face the knowledge that she also possessed.
“You take me home?” She whispered, her voice thick with emotion, hope.
“That’s my plan,” I shrugged, trying to remain nonchalant.
“I saw that in my dreams last night.” She said. She removed her hand, my body already aching for her to replace it. I swallowed hard, readying myself for a smart retort, but her next words choked me.
“Will you…will you join me?” She asked, blushing hotly, motioning to the tub. Before my brain could think of the thousand reasons why this was a bad idea, I was standing and peeling off my shirt. She scooted forward as I tugged off my breeches.
Bad bad bad
Stupid stupid stupid
But I couldn’t deny something so tempting any longer. I sank into the scalding water behind her, wedging her tight between my legs. Her shoulders erupted in goosebumps as she sat rigidly. I hesitated but reached up, brushing my wet fingers along her spine. She leaned back, then, my chest flush with her shoulders, her head resting near my jaw. She timidly brought her arms up, covering herself, causing a wave of guilt to wash over me. I’d been blindsided by greed and lust, tricked into putting myself into a precarious position. I sighed heavily, kissing the top of her head.
“Nice try,” I said, brushing my fingers along her arm. She shuddered.
“Wh-what do you mean?” She faltered. I chuckled.
“I know what ye want, my faerie, but it doesna’ have to be rushed,” I whispered, wrapping my arm around her. She relaxed at my words but sighed heavily.
“I’m sorry,” she said quietly, adjusting her hips, unknowingly grinding them against my more sensitive parts. I bit my cheek, but there was only so much I could do to prevent my natural response. She was gracious, paying the hardness pressed between us no mind.
“No need to apologize,” I said tersely. She turned her shoulders, staring at me, placing her hand on my chest. Her cheeks were bright red in the flickering firelight. I leaned in as she did, our lips just brushing against each other’s before I grasped her neck, winding my wet hands into her hair. We kissed deeply, the heat between us rising. She turned her whole body to face me. I sat up, her moving to her knees so our lips would remain locked and level. I pressed her lower back, bringing her closer to me, moving my lips to trail kisses down her neck, to her shoulder. She let a small moan escape, causing me to let out a feral growl as my desire reached its peak.
“Emmelyne,” I breathed against her jaw, pulling away to view her face properly. Any trace of doubt or fear that had been there before was gone, replaced by her own gratuitous desire. She wound her hands through my hair, down my neck, resting them on my shoulders. I gripped her hard, standing up, wrapping her legs around my waist as the water cascaded from our bodies and crashed back into the tub. She kept her eyes locked on mine as I stepped out, making our way to the bed.
I leaned in to kiss her, our tongues dancing together, before I pulled away and laid her down, unable to keep myself from staring at her glowing body. I bent over, kissing her neck again, wishing for her to elicit that same noise as before. I was rewarded almost immediately. My slick hands roamed her body, from her hips to her arms to her breasts. I couldn’t take the torture any longer.
“Are ye…sure?” I breathed. She nodded, smiling, reaching for my face. As her hands met my skin, another series of images flashed through my brain. The exact same position we were in now, only it was moments into the future. She’d seen this. She’d known it would happen. I smiled down at her as she grinned up at me.
“Will you claim me already?” She whispered.