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Chapter 36

“As virtuous men pass mildly away,

And whisper to their souls to go,

Whilst some of their sad friends do say

The breath goes now, and some say, No:

So let us melt, and make no noise,

No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;

’Twere profanation of our joys

To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th’ earth brings harms and fears,

Men reckon what it did, and meant;

But trepidation of the spheres,

Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers’ love

(Whose soul is sense) cannot admit

Absence, because it doth remove

Those things which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refined,

That our selves know not what it is,

Inter-assured of the mind,

Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,

Though I must go, endure not yet

A breach, but an expansion,

Like gold to airy thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so

As stiff twin compasses are two;

Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show

To move, but doth, if the other do.

And though it in the center sit,

Yet when the other far doth roam,

It leans and hearkens after it,

And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,

Like th’ other foot, obliquely run;

Thy firmness makes my circle just,

And makes me end where I begun.”

—John Donne

“Jon!” I giggled as he flipped me over onto my stomach. I admired his strength, the way he could move substantial objects with an ease unknown to me. Morning sun streamed in through the window at the head of our bed. We’d only slept a handful of hours, enjoying each other and the now-empty decanter of whisky.

He trailed kisses down my spine, causing me to shiver despite the warmth of the small room.

“I just canna get enough of ye,” he said against my skin, his fingers drawing patterns on my shoulder blade.

“So you’ve said, for the past twelve hours,” I laughed, turning to face him.

He made a sound of disapproval, pushing my shoulder down.

“What on earth—” I began.

“Shush, I’m tryin’ to memorize ye from every angle, should we ever be apart again. The very thought of ye kept me alive,” he whispered, his words causing me to still. Though we had each other once more, the threat of the unknown future dangled above us, a knife waiting to fall. I didn’t want to imagine being apart again, but it was a comfort to know the foundation of our relationship stood firm, our souls connected in a way I couldn’t fathom.

“’Tis like the gods made ye for me themselves.” He said. I rested my cheek on my arms, smiling.

“Why’s that?” I asked. I shuddered again as his fingers traced my neck, my spine, my shoulders, my ticklish sides. I squirmed beneath him, laughing. I heard his chuckle in response.

“Yer skin has these flecks of gold inlaid, just under the surface.” I felt him brush over my freckled shoulder. He pushed my hair aside, revealing more skin.

“And yer hair is as fiery as the flame that burns within ye. But yer eyes, so blue, deep as a sapphire and worth more than all the gems in the world.” He spoke quietly. My throat constricted with tears, hearing how beautiful he thought I was. The thought that he cherished me above all others made my heart swell with pride, but left me perplexed as well.

“Well, then how can I forget this,” he grabbed a handful of my bare rear, causing me to jump. He laughed loudly.

“You were being so sweet,” I growled.

“Aye, I still am. I love the way ye feel beneath my hands,” he moved them to my hips, squeezing the bit of excess fat that I’d always hated.

“Stop that,” I laughed.

“Why? I love it, princess,” he gripped harder. “I canna have a weak woman that’s thin as a stick. I’d worry ‘bout breakin’ ye,” he laughed again. I blushed. Grasping my hips, he flipped me back over. I brushed the hair from my eyes, met with his dark gaze. He cupped my face, as gently as a one would hold something precious and fragile. The length of his hand ran from the top of my head to just under my jaw. My eyes closed as I placed my hand atop his.

“Must we ever leave this bed?” I asked. I opened my eyes, gauging his response. He smirked, causing my stomach to float, my heart to hammer.

“Aye, we must, but no now. We can always find each other again, here,” he nodded to the bed. I reached up, cupping his scruffy face in my hand, brushing my thumb over his lips. He grabbed my hand, placing my palm across his mouth as he kissed it.

“I love ye,”

My heart felt as full as it had been before our separation—even fuller. There would always remain a spot for our child, an emptiness that could never be filled, but I had embraced it, knowing that our love had created something so pure.

“I love you, too.” I smiled. He bent his lips to mine, and I felt his eagerness. I sighed in contentment as we became one yet again.

“Get out o’ bed ye lazy bastard,” Meleryn yelled, pounding on our door. I couldn’t help but laugh, though I tried to stifle it as Jon growled at being interrupted.

“Go away, ye stubborn jackass,” he yelled back, trying hard to focus on the task at hand. I couldn’t help the fit of giggles.

“Ye think that’s funny, eh?” He asked, a devious glint shining in his eyes. I nodded, though my giggles soon turned to breathless gasps as his hips crashed against mine.

Ye two have been at it all damn night!” Mel yelled. Pulled once more from the high of our lovemaking, I laughed. Jon did, too, though he placed a hand over my mouth as he quickened the pace. I gasped beneath his hand, my own trying to find some part of him to ground me to earth. I clawed at his shoulders, his back, gripping him hard.

“Give it to her good, Jon!” Came Thaniel’s voice, accompanied by a thud and scuffle outside our door. Jon and I were both too enraptured in one another to care anymore as we found our release.

“Hungry, Jon?” Thaniel smirked, holding a basket of bread to him. Jon snorted, smiling impishly with his mouth full of bacon. He reached for more food.

“She makes me ravenous,” he winked, causing Meleryn to grow even more red. I glared at him, kicking his shin under the table.

“Ouch!” Charles yelped.

“Oh! That wasn’t meant for you!” I said, my hands flying to my face.

“It should have been,” Thaniel muttered, downing his ale. Jon ignored his discontent, swallowing his food with a loud gulp.

“So, ye leave in the morn?” Jon asked Charles. We sat, cramped together at the small table, the room stifling as the afternoon sun beamed down through the windows.

“Yes. It’s about time I return with news, but I’ll be sure to write if anything changes.” Charles smiled at Jon.

“You’re going back to Mount Tier?” I asked, my heart fluttering like a small bird. Charles nodded, chewing. I glanced at Jon, who stared at me with an unreadable expression.

“Can I write my father?”

“What?!” Meleryn sputtered. Jon glared at her, placing his hand on my leg.

“I think ’tis a fair request, Mel.” His tone ended the debate. “Besides,” he turned to look at me. “Yer father knows yer alive.” He smiled as happy tears brimmed my eyes.

“What if it’s intercepted?” Thaniel argued.

“She won’t write anythin’ incriminating, and Charles is held in high regard. It will be delivered safely.” Jon nodded once in Charles’ direction, who smiled at his praise.

Thaniel sighed, leaning back his chair onto two legs. Meleryn was quivering with anger. Jon shot her a look.

“Don’t start wi’ me, Mel, I can see it in yer eyes. Ye look just like mother.” He warned.

“I’ll do as I damn well please, and you’ll no tell me otherwise,” she growled, gripping the edge of the table. It had been a while since I’d seen Jon this angry, this quickly, though I knew his family could always enrage one another.

“I will tell ye what to do, because I’m yer leader and yer brother,” his grip on my thigh tightened.

“Mel, back off, would ye? We’ve been up all night listenin’ to their racket.” Thaniel teased, trying to dissuade the tension.

You keep out of this, or I’ll be grabbin’ more than yer balls next time.” Her voice rose. Charles and I exchanged a glance as we both blushed; however, I was much more accustom to their outbursts. Thaniel glanced quickly at Jon, fear flittering across his stormy blue eyes.

“Ye what?” Jon whispered. His hand balled into a fist on my thigh.

“Jon,” I put my hand on his arm, feeling the muscle contract.

“Ye heard me, brother.” Mel smirked, crossing her arms. Thaniel seemed to shrink in the shadows. Charles stilled. Jon’s attention snapped to Thaniel.

“Ye slept wi’ her?” He asked, raising his eyebrows, his voice even. Somehow, it was more menacing.

“No! No, let me explain—”

“Because I’ll no have my sister play whore to anyone.” He said, the blackness of his eyes engulfing all light.

“Jon, she only did it to protect me.” I tried to explain.

“I don’ see how sleepin’ with someone is protecting ye.” He growled.

“It doesn’t matter, Elise,” Mel explained, glaring at her brother. “He’s too thick-headed to try and understand somethin’ before he takes off wi’ it.”

“She didn’t sleep with him!” I threw my hands up, catching the slight smirk on Thaniel’s lips.

“Weel, no yet, anyway.”

Jon lunged across the table, scattering plates of food and cups of ale, gripping Thaniel by the shirt collar. Meleryn screamed, jumping at her brother, as Charles and I backed away, him tucking me behind his back as food and utensils flew through the air. The door to the cottage opened, revealing the landowner, James. He was a tall, thin man with shaggy dark hair and a smooth, deep tan complexion. He took one look around, nodded, and backed out quietly.

“So,” Charles called over the din, ducking as a blunt knife flew past his left shoulder and stuck into the wall. “How about we go write that letter?”

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