ashes and snow

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thirty-six


When they were near enough to see, everything seemed a mess.

Maidens were rushing around frantically, guards everywhere they could see. Aisha’s brows furrowed as their horses neared the castle, the woman she was to lay her eyes on for real for the first time.

She felt eyes on her. Her head turned to the side, to the stark man that rode next to her. Brown eyes met hers.

“What?” she asked.

Her companion raised a lazy brow at her, leaning back in his saddle. A smile tugged at his lips. “You look so confused, Aisha. Did you not see this coming?”

Her lips thinned as she turned her head again. It was better to hold a conversation with him while she wasn’t looking. And it seemed like all he wanted to do was to tease her anyway.

“I was occupied with other things,” she murmured to him, her grip on the reigns tightening. It was true. This time, she didn’t even have to lie.

She had been watching as the light faded from the guards, from Zandro’s eyes, felt the pain that had still been wrecking him after all his years. He had gone mad, dehydrating and hunger only adding to the things that had already been blossoming in him.

Darkness, hunger, and pain... that was how he had died in a cold cell.

A shudder ran through her body. Death had taken him as he had with many others, but she knew he would never see his Inez again.

There wasn’t anything after death... not for people like him.

Ronan cleared his throat, causing her to look at him again. Her trail of thoughts disappeared into nothingness as she stared into the darkness that was his eyes.

She needed to focus.

He would only ask more questions if she didn’t. When it came to her, he was always curious of some sort.

She had always wondered why he was so different around her.

“Lost in different worlds again?” he asked.

A chocked chuckle left her. “Sort of,” she murmured. Their gazes lingered on one another.

“What’s going on?”

She could see the concern in his eyes. Only now, it occurred to her how strange she must have been acting these last few days. Of course, she often got caught up with the future or other events she would see, but it was never that she locked him out.

He had been her rock for years, and there had been nothing she hadn’t told him.

She bit her lip and looked away again. Dread clogged up her throat, but she swallowed against it. This was just to protect-

His heavy hand grabbed her arm, and her head snapped to him again.

“Aisha.”

She licked over her lips.

There was something like fear in his eyes... worry.

She hated all of it. It made her heartache.

Her grip around the reins tightened.

“We need to get to the castle,” she told him. Her eyes moved over his face, noticing the tightness of his jaw. More of that, and he would ruin his teeth. His grip on her arm only tightened.

She swallowed and tilted her head up again. The beating of her heart was getting louder, almost overpowering the sounds of the clacking. The horse under her shook her from side to side.

It was what kept her from losing the little self-control she had left.

She let go of the reins in her left hand and laid it over his, which still laid on her right arm. Her thumb stroked over its back, and his grip loosened.

“I need to get to Arkyn, talk to him, and then we need to welcome the new queen,” she whispered to him, a small smile on her lips. It was forced, and by the look on his face, he could tell.

She leaned forward so that their faces were only inches apart. The brown of his eyes was captivating, golden flecks reminding her of a blazing campfire and weeks of laughter and warmth.

Oh gods, how much she wanted to drown in memories now... She wanted Ronan to lay his arms around her, pull her to him and tell her that everything would be fine. She wanted his body, his soul... she wanted him.

Just him. Like it had always been meant to be.

“And then,” she whispered so that only he could hear, “we’ll have some time to ourselves, alright?”

She tilted her head to the side, chuckling when she found him staring at her lips. It was so simple with him... sometimes she could only laugh at his antics.

But even if she wouldn’t admit it just now, she loved it.

Loved everything he made her feel, from the burning desire to the warmth in her chest whenever he held or kissed her. Even though she had lost everything... she still chose every other day to be there with him.

Just another second, hour, or day... it was enough.

Even if it was just borrowed time.

But fate had yet to choose over that. It rarely happened that she got to see her own future...

The faintest touch upon her lips was what pulled her from her thoughts. Ronan chuckled into the kiss as she quipped up a little, her hand moving to his biceps to steady herself.

But as soon as she had dared to close her eyes, Ronan had already pulled away.

A frown was etched onto her features now, but he only gave her a sultry smile. He turned to the front again.

“Let’s hope we’ll get everything done soon, then,” he whispered.

Her gaze went up and down his body, and she couldn’t stop herself when she reached out her hand-

“Careful,” he laughed when she almost fell off of her horse. She slid to the side, a yelp leaving her lips when she felt the saddle move under her thighs. Ronan’s hand grasped her arm again to steady her, and another set of quiet laughter left him as her horse almost collided with his.

The animal shook his head suddenly, neighing.

Both of her hands grabbed the reins again, her heart pounding heavily. She swallowed but couldn’t keep herself from chuckling under her breath. “You’re right,” she whispered then, “Hopefully, we’ll get to our rooms soon.”


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