“Here ye are, lass,” I said, holding my flask to Alice. We were riding due north after a short, three day stent in the southern clan lands. Rollo and Agnar argued constantly, getting physical more than usual. Agnar was blinded by greed as of late, stealing more women from his men than he usually did. I was thankful his preference seemed to be brunettes at the moment.
Alice reached for the flask timidly, her nerves shattered after her brother and I had explained our plan. They’d snuck out the night before last and would remain hidden just outside the next town, waiting for us to pass and to collect their sister. From there, they would be free to make for Macdara.
She took a small sip, coughing a bit and handing it back to me. I chuckled. The day was gloomy, spring tangible down here in the south. It felt as though rain would soon be upon us, washing the world clean before the sun made an appearance. My thoughts ran wild, knowing I was going home. Knowing I’d see Emmelyne sooner than not. I ached to hold her close, to bring her back here to a life of peace. But I still had some miles to go before we could get to that point.
“Remember the plan?” I whispered in her ear, sensing we were near enough to the next small town. She shuddered and nodded. I glanced around, taking in our surroundings. The men of the Brotherhood were quiet, tired, holding their new prizes close to them against the cold. There were enough trees and thick underbrush to conceal us. The river nearby was what we needed, though. We ambled along for a mile or so more before I could hear the rush of it.
“Alright, lass, now’s our chance,” I whispered, tightening my grip on her waist. She nodded slightly before she began to fight against me. She was timid at first, but some of her anger seemed to seep through and cause her to wrench away with force. I pulled Ari to a stop in a grand display as she began to fling insults a me.
“Yer a brute and-and a coward and I-I hate you!” She stammered, though her timidity made it more convincing.
“Ye’ll no’ speak to me that way!” I yelled, swinging down quickly and yanking her with me, tossing her over my shoulder as she squirmed and kicked. The men who rode by either chuckled or paid us no mind. This was typical to them. I pulled her into the brush, waiting until I couldn’t see any of the men passing before I let her down. The river roared, covering any noise we made. I set her down, pulling her quickly to the spot her brother had described. There was still snow underfoot, though it had been melting and freezing each day in a vicious cycle. We slid along the mossy, icy rocks, our pace slow for the moment, our breathing rapid.
“Alice!” A voice called, the sound filled with relief. Jakon and Fin emerged from the brush, perfectly concealed from any leering eyes. I let go of her as she ran to her brothers, flinging herself into their embrace. I smiled, giving them a moment to reunite. Jakon’s head popped up from the circle of arms and shoulders. He smiled broadly at me, tears in his eyes.
“Thank ye,” he called. I nodded, fishing around in my bag for a pouch filled to the brim with gems. I tossed it to him, smirking.
“Give half to those who give ye shelter and food in Macdara, and keep the rest to yerselves, alright?” I called. He opened the pouch, his eyes bulging as he did so. Rain began to smatter my face. He extracted himself from his siblings and ran to me, throwing his arms about me.
“Thank ye, sir, truly.” He said, his voice thick with emotion. “Ye saved us.”
“’Tis Killian, my name,” I said, ruffling his hair. “Tell Jon of Macdara we are comin’.”
I made it back to the road with no trouble, but shouts soon met my ears. I grabbed Ari’s reins and pushed my way forward through the crowd. Men parted as they spotted me. I soon saw why.
Rollo and Agnar stood in a clearing, daggers in hand as they face one another down. I pulled up short, wondering what had caused the rift this time. Rollo’s lip was bloodied, but within his eyes was death. Agnar seemed detached, crazed as he advanced on his younger brother. I wasn’t about to break them apart, and neither was anyone else. They said not a word as they fought, slowly testing the other’s defenses, waiting for the optimal time to strike.
Agnar lunged with all his weight, but Rollo deflected and spun out of his grasp. The crowd began to murmur.
“Stole his woman, again he did.”
“That Agnar needs a good beatin’ fer once.”
“Heard he made an alliance with some big clan.”
“Heard Rollo agreed.”
Dispersed through the crowd’s quiet chatter was the sound of steel hitting steel, of rain splattering against armor, of horses becoming listless and cold and tired. I watched with wide eyes, dread growing in the pit of my stomach as they each threw their best moves at one another. Ari rested her chin on my shoulder, blowing hot air in my ear, her wiry hair and velvety nose tickling my neck. I reached behind and patted her, unable to look away from the fight.
The men were visibly tired now, their faces red, sweat dripping from their brows. Everyone waited with bated breath, waiting for an outcome no one thought possible. In a last ditch attempt to surprise and overpower Agnar, Rollo ducked down and came at him full-force. Their bodies collided loudly as they fell to the ground. Agnar’s dagger flew from his grasp and landed in the icy mud just out of his reach. The crowd gasped collectively. Without hesitation, without mercy, Rollo brought his dagger up with both hands, driving it down and into Agnar’s heart with his full force. Agnar’s blood stained the patch of snow underneath as my gut felt wrenched from my body. He coughed, his final wheeze in this life, spattering blood on his younger brother, his eyes glassing over and seeing no more.
It was still frozen in the north, as was expected. Our bedraggled group made their way into the Brotherhood land under new leadership. Rollo sat tall on his horse, feeling superior to his subjects. He’d promised us all that major changes were coming. He’d made me second in command. Our lives, once more, were being put at great risk.
Casting my fears aside for the moment, I urged Ari into a trot, our home coming into view. A petite, brown haired figure stood from the steps, picking up her skirts and rushing through the ice and mud as fast as she was able. I pulled Ari to a stop as my heart thundered, pushing hot blood through my veins. I dismounted before my horse had even stopped moving, rushing to meet my woman. Her face became clear the closer we got, tears of joy pouring from her eyes. We collided and embraced, not caring if anyone saw. I cradled her head to my chest, felt her heart beat next to mine, felt her warmth in my arms. I pulled her away, our lips crashing together briefly before we resumed hugging.
“Oh gods, I missed ye,” I breathed, gripping her even tighter.
“I missed you, too,” she said softly, gripping my back. I pulled away again to stare at her beauty. Her wide, round eyes were blue as I remembered, her cheeks red from her constant embarrassment, her brown hair long, tendrils playing in the wind. I brushed my thumb over her lips, feeling a hot, heady urge rush through me. It was clear in her eyes that she felt it, too.
Murdoc approached, chuckling.
“Go on, kids, I’ll take care of yer horse.”
We smiled in thanks, rushing hand in hand back to our tent. Ama stood by the steps, chuckling.
“When you’re ready, I’ll have plenty of hot stew and potatoes for dinner,” she winked.
“Thank ye,” I said breathlessly, holding Emmelyne’s hand tight in my grasp. It felt rude to leave so quickly, but Ama nodded to the tent, smirking. Rollo stalked past, a glare now etched permanently into his features. We ignored him, Emmelyne giggling as we made our way inside. I tied up, turning to face her. She stared at me, and I her, us drinking in one another’s presence. I felt whole once more. I crossed the space and cupped her flushed cheeks, pulling her lips to mine, backing her to the bed. We crashed down as she wound her fingers through my hair, pulling me closer.
“Oh Killian,” she breathed as I kissed her neck.
“I missed ye so, wee one,” I groaned. She began to quiver beneath me. Neither of us could prolong this moment. I threw her skirts up, untying my breeches shakily, feeling my need for her grow exponentially. I worried of hurting her, but the look in her eyes told me that wasn’t possible. We held one another’s gaze as I pushed inside her, as we were finally reunited. Her lips parted, but no sound escaped her mouth. I grinned, kissing her forehead as I buried myself in her. She clutched and clawed at my back, wrapping her legs about my hips, being greedy. It made me want her more than I ever thought possible.
I growled, nuzzling her neck, winding my hands through her soft hair, completely lost in her. She moaned, pulling me even closer, pulling my face to hers as our lips found one another again. I engulfed the sounds she made as I quickened my pace, feeling myself to be on the brink of release. She began to tremble, tightening, as she reached her own. I let myself go, let myself ride the waves of pleasure with her, though not moving away for one second once we finished. We knew this would go on for the entirety of the night.
Both of us were left red-faced and panting, grinning like the love-struck fools we were. I kissed her forehead once more, wiping my thumb across her cheek.
“I love ye.” I said simply. She beamed.
“I love you, too.”
Ama was kind enough to bring us stew and leave us be. Our bellies full, we lounged in front of the fire, Emmelyne laying naked on my chest. I stared at her, tracing circles on her back. She sighed in contentment.
“How was it, while I was away?” I asked. I felt her shrug.
“Boring. Puck taught me some new games, and Murdoc showed me how to throw knives.”
I rolled my eyes.
“’Course he did.” I murmured. She propped herself up on my chest, staring intently at me.
“We’re leaving soon.” She said. A jolt hit me as she said her prophetic words. I’d forgotten for a moment what it was like to hear the future.
“Oh we are, eh?” I smirked, curling a loose strand of hair behind her ear. She nodded, biting her lip.
“What else, wee faerie?”
She snorted softly and buried her face in my chest.
“We won’t leave this tent much for a few days.” I felt the burn of her hot cheeks on my skin. I bounced with laughter.
“Oh aye, I was hopin’ we wouldna’!”
“You saved that family, too,” she said, lifting her head to gaze at me. I was struck once more. I nodded slowly.
“Aye, ye saw?”
She nodded, a tender look in her eyes.
“You’re a good man.” She said. I chuckled.
“I’m only good because of you,” I said. She shook her head.
“You were good before me, but maybe you are better now,” she teased, planting a kiss on my chest as I scoffed. I pulled her body on top of mine, gripping her round butt. She gasped, feigning shock.
“I should punish ye for yer dissent, woman.” I growled. She rolled her eyes, sitting up as she straddled me, crossing her arms over her bare chest. I couldn’t help but laugh at her attitude.
“And I should punish you for making me wait so long to see you,” she quirked an eyebrow as I laughed, causing both of us to bounce.
“Weel, I’m here now, am I no’?” I said. She nodded.
“Then punish me, woman,” I grinned as she collapsed back onto me, burying her face in my neck, planting soft kisses there. I shuddered, pulling her hips down and burying myself in her once more.