“We are taking the river route because...?” asked Aliana again. Milos sighed as he loaded the last of their bags on the steamboat. He was annoyed, then good she thought. That was for taking a route that was twice as long as she’d planned. She needed to find the sapphire quickly and return home.
People kept staring at her strangely while she walked down the road. Milos said it was because she was wearing pants and should wear a dress if she wished to blend in. But she flat out refused. A dress would only impede her movements especially when the hem was half soaked in river mud. The cloak would have to do.
“The Hone empties on the north side of the lake close to Turion. There is actually a port there and our crossing will seem less suspicious if we come in with the merchants.”
“But there are more people there so a greater chance of people recognising you.”
“Now she is concerned about me being discovered.” she recognised that sarcasm was one of his defences in uncomfortable situations.
“Yes, especially if I don’t get a chance to find what I want.”
“As you stated before, I am the only one of the two of us who has escaped from Turion, so I know where I am going and how best to get there. If you want to go by land and ignore my advice, by all means do so. It will clearly demonstrate that you don’t need me after all and I can go about my merry way.”
“Fine, but this better not be a trap.”
“Said the spider to the fly.” he then walked off leaving her standing alone in the cabin.
“Milos! Milos!” she called after him but when she walked through the door, she ran straight into someone’s chest. She looked up into the man’s face and then backed away slowly. “I am sorry,” she whispered but the man continued staring at her. His murky green eyes were heavily hooded under his brow. She couldn’t bring herself to look away. The darkness in his eyes cracked with a sudden awareness like they saw beyond her face and had captured all of who she was and all that she wanted to be.
She knew that she would step away, but she was rooted on spot. Everything within her screamed that this attraction was abnormal and that she should move, but she couldn’t make herself go. She just wanted to be with him. She stepped forward as he lifted a pale hand to touch her face. The fingers were long and knobby and a thin membrane of skin connected them all. They would probably feel rough on her skin, but she would welcome the gritty texture.
She closed her eyes waiting for him.
“There you are, I was looking all over for you.” she felt herself being pulled away. Milos put his arms around her shoulder and carried her away. She stole a look behind her and saw that the man was still watching them.
“Who was that?” she asked, finding that her hands were shaking uncontrollably. “He looked at me and I couldn’t move. He was going to touch me and I was going to let it happen.” she said as she was horrified at her behaviour.
They had come on deck and the man also joined them. He however moved over to a small group of men dressed similarly to him and after whispering to them, they all seemed to be looking in her direction.
“Those are river wraiths, mostly harmless. In fact it is said that they have the gift of foresight and get glimpses of the future which they choose to share with those deemed worthy. But I don’t think that is what he wants with you. After the first storm of the season they move upriver to find a mate. Their musk is strong and all females are quite susceptible to it.”
“But don’t they usually swim?” she said still shaking.
“Yes but the boat is faster.” he said pulling her closer. “That one scented that you were an unattached female and will probably coming looking for you again.” he said pointing with his chin.
“What am I supposed to do then?” she asked as she felt the fear rising with her.
“I will have to leave my mark or scent on you. That will deter him for a while.”
“Leave your scent? How?”
“This might be unpleasant for you but I will have to kiss you.” he said as his arms snaked around her waist and pulled her closer to his chest.
“Kiss me! Are you mad!” she said startled and tried to pry herself away from him.
“Would you rather he kissed you then?”
“It will not be lingering, I just have to kiss you long enough to leave my scent on you.”
“You are already leaving your scent on me.” she said still fighting.
“Alright fine.” he said dropping his hands from around her and walked away going to stand by the rail.
The wraith eyes caught her own and he stepped forward.
“Oh heavens.” she muttered and ran over to where Milos was standing. She spun him around to face her and then dragged his face down to hers. She squirmed closer and crushed her lips to his.
He was surprised and sucked in a sharp breath but didn’t pull away. His lips were surprisingly soft. This was the first time she had kissed anyone and she felt a sudden warmth envelope her being especially when his lips started moving against hers. His beard tickled her face, but that was a small nuisance compared to what his lips did to her insides.
She pulled away shocked at herself and what he made her feel. She could see the small amount of shock and wonder in his Milos’s eyes when he looked down on her.
“Well that wasn’t as I thought it would be.” he said as his lips quirked into a smile. “You kiss like a virgin princess, but that wasn’t too bad.”
Aliana’s face flamed with embarrassment as he made fun of her. That was her first kiss and apparently she didn’t do it right and he was laughing at her. She stamped down the tears that wanted to come and asked, “Did that put enough of your scent on me?”
“Enough to last for about two days.” he shrugged.
“Two days!” she bristled.
He shrugged. “There is only one way of leaving a permanent mark on a woman and I am almost very sure that you do not want to get intimate with anyone other than your husband. Then again, if you are amenable, I would be more than happy to oblige.” he actually chuckled at her startled gasp.
“Pig!” she said as she punched him in the shoulder and stormed off. She fixed a look at the river wraiths and none of them seemed interested in her anymore. Well at least it worked. She couldn’t believe that she had to suffer this humiliation again in two days.