“I thought ye were dead.” I seethed. I felt Emmelyne’s hand press against my chest, but even her touch couldn’t sway my wrath at this moment. He shrugged, raising his brows briefly and glancing at the ground. When he looked back up, his eyes were full of the same malice I remembered.
“I needed a way out.” He said casually. Although I was dumbstruck and confused, anger was winning the war at the present.
“I should kill ye, then, here and now. How’s that for a way out?” I growled. Emmy made a noise, pressing harder on my chest. Dougal—my father—raised a brow at her. I shoved her behind me in a flash.
“Ye’ll no’ speak to her or even glance her way.” I said through gritted teeth. I could feel the muscles in my neck become tight enough to snap, could feel the hotness of the blood pulsing angrily through my veins.
“Ye really want to do this here, now?” He asked, lowering his voice. I paused, using my peripherals to take in my surroundings. The men in the tavern were all on the edges of their seats, ready for action. I knew they wouldn’t be kind enough to choose sides; they’d kill us all to keep their peace.
“Hear me out over a pint, then ye can decide if ye should kill me or no’. I’ve lived long enough as it is.” He stared levelly at me. He’d changed in the years I’d thought he was dead. Subtle differences in his demeanor, though his beard was thicker and gray instead of woven through with brown. I felt Emmelyne grip a fistful of my shirt. She’d known this was going to happen. Damn her for not giving me more warning.
“Fine.” I spat, wiping my hand across my mouth. He smirked, nodding to me.
“I’ll grab us a pint. Their brewers could use a lesson in their technique. Always tastes like horse piss.” He said, loud enough for the tavern’s inhabitants to hear. They all shot him glares, though none moved an inch in rebellion. He’d been here before, it seemed, and made a name for himself. He stalked off to the bar, leaving me and Emmy. I turned, glaring down at her.
“Ye could ha’ warned me a bit sooner, wee one.” I said quietly. Her eyes widened in shame.
“I didn’t…I don’t know who he is.” She argued in a whisper. I chaffed her bicep, the touch of her releasing some of my tension.
“He’s my father.” I said. I heard his boots stomping close once more. We each sat heavily, Emmelyne keeping a hand on me at all times, likely nervous I’d spring across the table and strangle him. He passed us each a mug of ale. I snatched Emmelyne’s before she could grasp it, giving her a sour look. She sat back, defeated.
“So,” Dougal began, leaning back and crossing his arms.
“Never thought this would happen.” I said. He snorted.
“Aye, me too, but here we are. Did yer faerie see me comin’?” He asked, nodding to Emmelyne. I choked on my ale, wiping my sleeve across my mouth as some dribbled onto my chin.
“What?” I asked. He rolled his eyes, leaning forward.
“I’m no fool, Killian. I may have been a ruthless bastard, but ye can at least admit, I’m a smart one.” He whispered. I glared at him.
“Ye are a bastard.” I growled. He smirked.
“Want to know how I came to be here?” He asked, giving me what I was seeking. I motioned for him to continue, planning on slitting his throat the moment he was done spewing his lies to me.
“After yer…mother died, I knew I was finished with Brotherhood life. They’d never make me their leader, because they knew I’d be too hard on ’em,” he stared at the tabletop, scratching the surface with his fingernail. I gripped Emmy’s thigh, her being the anchor that rooted me to earth as the ghost before me came back to life.
“I waited ’til ye were old enough to fight on yer own. I knew ye hated me, but I had an image to uphold for the Brotherhood, ye see? I began hearing of clans comin’ together, to rise against the mountain,” here he lowered his voice, his blue eyes snapping to mine. My skin crawled.
“So, our next raid, I faked my death. Seems that if ye take enough laudanum, ye can appear to be a corpse,” he chuckled, his smile fading, his eyes turning harsh once more as he stared at my hardened expression.
“After they left, I set out to find those who opposed such power, to join in their fight. I hoped ye’d make it out, someday.” He said. His eyes softened the slightest bit. He reached for his mug, taking a healthy gulp.
“That all?” I asked. Emmelyne tensed under my hand. He narrowed his eyes at me.
“Ye come back into my life out o’ the damn sky and expect me to believe all that? After all you’ve done…all the women you’ve killed?” I said as I began to quake with rage. He narrowed his eyes further.
“I may have fought and pillaged and killed, but I never hurt those women.” He growled.
“Oh?” I asked sarcastically, raising my brows.
“Aye, ye damn fool.” He bit back. Emmelyne’s hand shot up from under the table in a flash, her palm nearly smacking my cheek in her haste. Before I could protest, thousands of images swirled behind my eyelids. I heard myself gasp, seeing the past with utter clarity. Seeing it anew.
I watched as my father concealed a woman in his cloak, rushing her through the trees at night and into town, giving her gems and releasing her. I watched as he told the Brotherhood that he’d killed yet another woman, hearing them erupt in laughter. I watched as he tenderly kissed my mother, her face angelic as I remembered. I watched as they embraced, her eyes filled with silent adoration. I watched as he gripped her hand tight, brushing her hair from her eyes as she gave birth. I watched as he held me close, staring at me in awe. I watched as he wept at her bedside the day she died.
Emmelyne pulled her hand away. My eyes came back into focus. Dougal sat, his arms crossed, a look of indignation and embarrassment coming across his features.
“So she is a faerie.” He surmised. I felt the cool rush of air across my wet cheeks. I hadn’t realized I’d cried. I glanced to her quickly, her face flushed and earnest. My life as I’d known it had been flipped upside down.
“Did Murdoc know?” I growled. He shook his head.
“No one knew.”
I felt some relief at that.
“Ye believe me, then?” He asked, his voice just barely tinged with hope. Who was this man?
“I believe Emmelyne, therefore…I believe…you.” I stammered, still trying to form a coherent thought. He nodded, chewing his cheek.
“Good. Seems fated we’d meet here and now. How did ye escape?” He asked, always curt.
“Umm,” I shook my head, scattering my errant thoughts.
“I killed Rollo.”
His eyes widened.
“The whole bloody Brotherhood will be after ye.” He seethed, leaning across the table. I glared back at him, searching into the depths of his blue eyes, looking for anything besides malice and contempt.
“I had no choice.” I spat back.
“Ye fool,” he growled.
“He drugged me and raped her, then let his friend have a turn. Now tell me, since I see how ye loved my mother so, wouldn’t ye have done the same thing?” I shook with rage. His eyes finally changed, the ice melting as his glance fell to Emmelyne. There it was, then, his weakness. It had always been my mother. He turned his gaze back to me, his eyes narrowing.
“We must keep moving.” He said.
“Aye, we do.” I said, tilting my head to my woman, indicating that we meant Emmelyne and myself. We had no room for passengers.
“I know more about these parts than ye ever will, boy, so best to drop yer attitude and accept my help.”
“Killian,” Emmelyne whispered. I glanced at her. Her eyes were pleading, and I knew the look she was giving me. I needed to believe her, to trust her, and to accept my father’s help. She wouldn’t have spoken up if she hadn’t felt compelled. I nodded once to her, looking back to my father.
“We leave at dawn.”
My father drove us at a ruthless pace. I worried more for Emmelyne than myself and our horses, but she kept quiet as we ambled along. My father hadn’t asked where it was we were headed, but I sensed he knew already. He had an uncanny ability to read people, while he himself remained stoic and closed off. Even with Emmy’s shared visions of the past, I hadn’t been able to accept the fact that my father was an entirely different man than the one who’d raised me to be a killer. We rode for two nights straight, finally stopping on the third. I begrudgingly agreed that traveling at night was the better option, the cover of darkness our shield. Our horses were exhausted, though, so we made camp by a river, the grasses providing them with lush sustenance.
Emmelyne lay with her head on my lap as I traced circles on her back. She’d seemed to gain strength as we moved on, a small but welcome change. I missed our intimacy, our connection, but I knew that it would once more have to be her choice when we made that move. She fiddled with a blade of grass, sighing.
“What is it, wee faerie?” I whispered. My father was a ways off, insisting on giving us our privacy, for which I was thankful. I regarded him simply as a guide for now. I wasn’t ready to claim him as kin yet.
She shrugged, causing me to chuckle. I could sense her tension, her frustration.
“Speak it, ye’ll feel better.”
She pushed herself up, staring at me before wriggling her way between my legs. I wrapped my arms around her, feeling the heat of her back pressed to my chest. I kissed the top of her head.
“Is it…normal…alright to…forget?” She whispered. I was confused for a moment before I understood of what she spoke. I stared past her shoulder and into the small fire.
“I don’t believe ’tis possible, to forget, but it’s alright to move on…to allow yerself to be happy.” I said quietly. She thought a moment before nodding.
“I don’t want to feel sad about it anymore. It happened, and I know it did, but I don’t…I don’t want them to control my life.” She whispered, gripping my hand. I pressed my lips to her warm head, smiling against her. I was filled with pride at the strength she was exhibiting. I knew that her mental recovery would still take a while, but I was proud all the same.
“’Tis a good outlook, wee one.”
She turned in my arms, pressing her hand to my heart, her eyes winding their way to my face longingly. I knew the look all too well. My gut curled pleasantly as my face flushed. I knew she could feel my desire for her, pressing against her hip. She bit her lip, her cheeks reddening. I bent down slowly, gauging her reaction, before I planted a small kiss on her lips. She trembled in my grasp, either from cold or fear or pleasure. I pulled back, waiting to see if I’d crossed a line. Her hands wound up and around my neck as she turned her hips and faced me, straddling me. I smirked up at her, brushing a strand of hair behind her ear.
I waited patiently, giving control over to her completely in this moment. She bent and kissed me deeply, slowly and eagerly. My hands roamed her back, her hips, as she ground against me. She pulled away, flushed and breathless but smiling.
“Killian,” she whispered, gripping my shoulders.
“Yes?” I asked, drunk already off my need for her.
“I want you. Forever, and it…it’s still there, what happened, but…nothing will come between us.” She said with fervency. I grinned up at her.
“Aye, love, I feel the same.”
She grinned back at me, collapsing into my arms and kissing me again. I gripped her hair, pulling back to expose her neck to me. She moaned as I trailed kisses down to her collar bone, her hands latching onto my hair. I pushed us forward, gently laying her down, though my boot slipped in the mud and I fell onto her. She giggled, though, unhurt.
“So much for tryin’ to be romantic,” I chuckled. Her face was bright, as happy as I’d seen it in the past two months. My heart soared at the sight. I kissed her again, winding my hands up and under her skirts, caressing her bare thighs. I pulled away, cautious.
“Are ye alright?” I asked, trying in vain to catch my breath.
“Yes,” she laughed, reassuring me as she pulled my face back to hers. “I want you, Killian.” She whispered. I groaned, her words undoing me.
I tugged at my breeches and pushed her thighs apart with my knee. I cupped her face, feeling her need and desire for me as well as I readied myself. She stared into my eyes, smiling a bit. I pushed in, slowly, still worrying for her. Her eyes fluttered closed as she moaned, arching her back. I collapsed onto her, holding her close to me.
“I love you,” she breathed, clawing at my back as I pushed deeper still. There was nothing between us but that; pure love, pure desire. No one could ever take that from us.
“I love ye,” I growled, quickening my pace, knowing I wouldn’t be able to last long. She moaned louder, grasping desperately at me. I covered her mouth with my own in a kiss, smirking. I didn’t need my father hearing our moment of reconciliation. Her nails dug into my shirt and back as she let herself go, trembling beneath me, her cries of pleasure muffled by my lips. I grunted, though, feeling myself close to the edge. I gripped her closer still, feeling her continue to spasm in my arms as I released myself. Pleasure pulsed hotly through my veins, leaving me winded and lightheaded.
I pulled my face away, breathless, worried immediately that my own pleasure had somehow frightened her. Her eyes were closed, her cheeks bright red, but she was grinning from ear to ear. My heart felt filled to the brim and overflowing. I kissed her nose, causing her to open her eyes. She grasped my face tenderly, her hands soft and warm against my flushed, stubbly cheeks.
“Nothing.” She whispered. I smirked under her hands.
“Aye, nothin’ will ever come between us.” I bent once more, placing a kiss upon her forehead and pulling her into my arms.