I held Emmelyne tight to me, her back flush with my front, as she fell asleep. Her breathing was even, her body emitting a small amount of warmth that became engulfed in my own. We’d bathed, washing the traces of the evening’s events from our bodies, then dried ourselves by the fire. Emmelyne had fallen asleep there. I was tempted to spend the night on the floor with her, but I knew a bed would be preferable, come the morning. Worry gnawed at me that I’d hurt her, but she seemed sturdy enough. Only the morning would tell. I made note to fetch more linens next time I went to town, so she wouldn’t feel embarrassed at her body’s natural response to losing her innocence.
I wound my fingers through her hair, caressing her neck, unable to get enough of her. I’d thought that by sleeping with her, my desire would be quelled for a time. I couldn’t have been more wrong. She was absolutely perfect in every way for me; the way her mind worked, the way she would sass me, the way her small body fit snuggly next to mine.
I was begrudgingly happy, that I’d given in to her desires. The thought that now—no matter what the future held—I would be her first, quieted and comforted my soul. I felt completely bound to her in a way unexplainable. I sighed, inhaling her scent, committing it to memory.
Growling, I sat up, needing to take a piss more urgently than anything at the moment. I left the warmth of the bed, pulling my plaid around her nude body, before I tugged on my boots. I could hear the wind whistling past the trees, could faintly decipher the sound of howls in the distance. It was the part of winter that was past snowing; now the world waited for spring, locked in an icy prison. I made my way outside, thankful once again that my blood seemed to run hotter than most through my veins. The trees behind our tent beckoned me; there was no way I could make myself go any further in the frigid night air. The snow sparkled, crisp now instead of powdery. The moon was barely visible, a thin rim of light shining through the tree boughs and scuttling black clouds.
I fumbled to untie my breeches, the cold numbing my fingers. I bounced, tilting my head back as I relieved myself, sighing in relief. I hurriedly finished and re-tied my pants, turning to head back into warmth and my woman. My boots crunched through the ice.
An earsplitting scream sounded, then, one full of fear and agony, and I found myself hurling along the slick path faster than I’d ever run before. The screams continued, and though I willed it to not be true, I knew they were coming from our tent.
I threw my way inside, seeing a younger man with black hair pinning Emmelyne to our bed. She fought him feebly, legs and arms thrashing, her hands clawing at his face. Her cheek already bore his handprint. A deadly calm rage overtook me as I wrenched him from her. He was ready to fight, though, making me realize he’d been planning this assault. I reached under the bed, groping for my dagger, feeling the cold steel and leather hilt. I advanced on him, itching to carve his malicious smirk from his face.
“Alls I wanted was a taste of yer wee bitch,” he sneered, drawing his own dagger. I said nothing, reaching out my arm to Emmelyne. I felt her cling to me, felt my plaid covering her nudity.
“Ye’ll be tastin’ nothin’ else, lad, because tonight ye die,” I seethed, pushing Emmelyne behind me. The boy laughed, tossing his dagger from hand to hand. I was so angry with myself, for leaving her unprotected, even for the briefest of moments.
“Looks like ye got more than just a taste tonight, eh? A virgin? Wait until Agnar finds out,” he threatened, smirking. I felt myself pale, felt Emmelyne’s nails dig into my arm.
“I’ll tell ye what. Ye let me claim her, right now before yer eyes, and I’ll keep yer secret. I doubt ye wore her out too much already. Should be just like claiming an innocent. Or close enough.” He said. I seethed, my nostrils flared as I struggled to control my breath. I knew what I had to do, though, foolish as it might seem at the moment. I needed him unarmed, distracted. Needed him to think I could care less about this woman’s feelings.
I turned to Emmelyne, pulling her to my side.
“Ye understand what I must do?” I said, quoting myself from so many months ago. Her eyes held within them the same stark fear as before, only now I was even more tightly bound to her, and her eyes pierced me even more deeply. Her lip quivering, she nodded slightly, letting me go. The young boy grinned in his foolish excitement as she slowly shuffled her bare feet across the floor. When she was within his arm’s reach, he grabbed her and spun her around to face me.
“Care to watch?” He laughed maniacally. Emmelyne’s eyes stayed locked on my face, trusting me with her life. He ripped the plaid from her hands, discarding his dagger in his heady haste, as he threw her onto the bed. He’d thought I still lived by the Brotherhood code. It would mean his death.
Emmelyne cried out as he groped her and kissed her. I was on him, though, in a flash of movement, my arm wound tight about his neck as he clawed at me. I rushed to the entrance of our tent, losing my grasp on him the longer I hesitated. He struggled for breath, but we were soon outside. Without hesitation or mercy, I brought my sharpened blade to his throat, slicing through in a fluid motion, giving him a quick death. He deserved worse. He twitched in my arms. I kicked him away, lest I let his dirty blood get onto me.
As I stood in the snow, quaking with anger, Murdoc materialized from the shadows, glancing down at the body with disregard for the life I had just taken. We were both so accustom to it—to killing, that we were apathetic and detached when it came time to defend what was ours. He sighed heavily.
“She alright?” He asked. I nodded once, sitting heavily on the steps, unable to move for a moment as I considered how foolish my actions had been.
“I only left her for a moment,” I said, staring at the lifeless body before me, his blood steaming and seeping into the snow. It had been a while since I’d killed someone. I’d nearly forgotten the twinge of guilt that plucked at my humanity. But I’d been born and bred a killer, and the familiar sensation overcame me once more. I’d saved Emmelyne’s life, though I had been the one to put it at risk.
I stuck the sharp edges of my dagger into the snow, wiping the traces of crimson from the blade.
“Ye canna beat yerself up, lad, ’twas clear he was waitin’ for the right moment.” Murdoc said. I shook my head.
“We need to leave.” I said.
“Aye, and we will, but ye canna risk her life with a rash decision. ’Tis too bloody cold to leave now, and ye need a proper plan,” he skirted around the body as he came forward.
“Want me to burn him?” He asked. I felt a sick smile plaster itself to my face.
“No. Let him be a warning to the rest.”
I stood, giving Murdoc a final nod, before entering our tent.
Emmelyne sat on the edge of the bed, shivering despite my plaid that was once again wrapped about her. I tied up the tent, stepping warily to her, praying she wasn’t afraid. Her eyes watched me silently, calculating. I knelt in front of her, reaching for her hands.
“Yer cold, woman,” I said, chaffing her tiny hands. I watched her, waiting for some sort of adverse reaction to what I’d done. Killing may have been part of my life, but it didn’t have to be part of hers. Her brow furrowed.
“What is it on yer mind?” I said cautiously.
“I never saw his face, in my vision.” She said simply. My blood curdled.
“Was it him, then?” I asked. She shook her head, her eyes far away, seeing things I could only dream of.
“I’m…I’m not sure…maybe?” She said. If it was indeed her attacker, then I could understand the look on her face. Her vision of the future had been altered. Which also meant that we’d done unnecessary things leading up to what she had thought was etched in stone.
“I’m so sorry,” I whispered, anguished. Her brow furrowed.
“For what? You saved me. Again.”
I shook my head.
“I put ye in danger, I was careless. And we…we didna’ have to do what we did earlier, seeing’s how I could have stopped the vision anyways.” I said. She withdrew her hands, tears brimming her angry eyes.
“I…I wanted that. Not just because of what I saw. How dare you, how dare you ruin it,” she seethed.
“Emmelyne,” I whispered, reaching for her face. She moved away from my touch. “I only meant that…I feel a selfish prick, for everythin’. Ye have to understand that I…I don’t know how to navigate somethin’ such as this.” I said. I placed my hand on her thigh, comforted when she didn’t recoil.
“Forgive me?” I pleaded softly. She nodded, reaching to me, jumping into my embrace as she threw her arms about my neck and cried quietly. Her adrenaline wearing off, I knew she’d be left with a thousand emotions. I smoothed her hair, kissing her head, her cheek, pulling her face away to stare into her eyes.
“I love ye, dammit, and I don’t say that lightly.” I admitted. Her lip quivered.
“I love you, too,” her face crumpled as a fresh wave of emotion overtook her.
“Let’s get ye sleep, hmm?” I suggested gently. She nodded and sniffled. I tucked her into my embrace once more, holding her tight. She quieted, yawning and stretching. She rolled, making me move to allow her shoulders some space. She stared up at me, placing her hand over my heart.
“How…” she began, her voice faltering. I quirked an eyebrow, my eyes barely staying open as my own adrenaline wore off.
“Hmm?” I encouraged.
“How do you think we will marry?” She whispered. I felt my eyes widen, my gut wrench. Marriage. I snorted.
“Yer the one that sees the future,” I teased, kissing the lines etched between her brows.
“Get ye some rest, wee one,” I yawned. “Come tomorrow I’ll be wantin’ to claim ye all over again.”
The next few days were quiet amongst the men of the Brotherhood. I spent the majority of my days splitting more firewood for our home, the weather taking another turn for the worse. Men gathered to stare at the frozen body outside our tent, looking to me with reverence and awe. Rollo even made his way by, chuckling at the sight with a callousness I felt in my soul. I’d prevented Emmelyne from having to see it, requesting a chamber pot, much to Murdoc’s chagrin.
As I threw my axe down for a break, Agnar strode into view, glancing at the body. He raised an eyebrow.
“He challenge ye?”
“Waited till I left to take a piss one night before sneaking in.” I said tensely. Agnar’s eyes clouded over with anger.
“That’s against our laws.” He said gruffly.
“Aye, so I slit his throat for it.”
“Did he get yer woman?” He said. I tried to keep my own anger in check.
He chuckled, the sound raspy.
“Told ye it was dangerous to have such a looker,” he said as he stalked off. I let the tension roll off my shoulders as he walked away. Word had it he’d be raiding again soon, and it would be huge. I chewed my cheek, praying he wouldn’t find a way to force me along. Murdoc came alongside me, then, carrying fresh flasks of whisky.
“Thank ye,” I said, listening behind as Puck and Emmelyne laughed. I rolled my eyes at their newfound friendship. He was teaching her the game of chess, being polite and gracious as possible, for she was terrible. You’d think with her visions of the future she’d be a bit better at such a strategic game.
“So, lad, ye finally did it, hmm?” Murdoc said, glancing at me sideways, holding his flask to his lips. I choked and coughed on my sip of whisky. Damn him.
“How did ye know?” I asked hoarsely, wiping my mouth on my sleeve. He chuckled.
“I see that smile on yer damn face, and I’m old enough to know what it means.”
I grumbled curses under my breath. More laughter met our ears. Murdoc turned slightly arms crossed as he raised an eyebrow at me.
I nodded, taking another pull from the flask, feeling it burn my scratchy throat.
“Yer happy,” he nudged me jokingly. I couldn’t hide the smile that crept its way onto my face.
“Aye, I am. Now if ye’ll excuse me, I’m going to go bury my coc—”
Murdoc slapped me upside the back of my head as I laughed, jumping up the steps and into our tent to kick Puck out.
I clapped my hand over Emmelyne’s mouth as she moaned, knowing Murdoc was still nearby and could possibly hear us. I chuckled as her eyes sprang open to glare at me, my other hand preparing her for what was to come next. She lightly bit my palm, causing me to remove my hand. We hadn’t been intimate since our first night, so there was still much to learn about one another’s preferences.
“Ye bite like a faerie, too,” I chuckled, continuing to please her. She moaned again, quieter this time, unable to stay angry with me at a moment like this. I kissed her neck, between her breasts, her breasts themselves, then back up to her lips, aggravatingly slow. I felt her grind her hips against my hand, wanting more. I smiled as I gently tugged on her bottom lip with my teeth.
“Killian,” she groaned, reaching a hand to wind it through the ruddy curls atop my head.
“Hmm?” I feigned innocence as she arched her back, attempting to get herself closer to what she desired. I moved with her. Wanting to be greedy as well, I trapped her wrists above her head, pushing her thighs apart. She smiled wickedly.
“Yer lucky yer so damn cute, wee one, or I’d have been able to resist ye,” I said, easing into her as she softly cried out. I let her wrists go, wrapping my arms about her, wanting to make our connection more about intimacy than blind neediness. I wanted her to know I loved her by my physical actions, I wanted her to feel the connection that I felt.
She grasped my back, clinging desperately to me, her face buried in the crook of my neck, her breath hot against me as we moved slowly. I pulled my face away to smile down at her. Her face was flushed, her mouth parted as I slowly buried myself. Her lips parted wider, a small noise escaping, her eyes still locked on mine.
“Yer so beautiful,” I said, placing a kiss on her forehead. I withdrew just as slowly, hoping to make this last some time, though I knew it was a lost cause. I couldn’t resist her. She clawed at my back as I pushed back in, the squeaking noise I loved so much escaping her lips softly. Her eyes were nearly crossed as she stared at me.
“I—” she gasped. “I love you.” She breathed. I kissed her lips eagerly.
“I love ye, too.”