The days following the Spring festival passed quickly. Tarienne was required to accompany Aidan as often as possible to official events and was responsible for the running of the castle throughout the day. This meant that she hadn’t seen Daien since the jousting tournament though memories of the brief kiss they’d shared hadn’t been far from her thoughts. She missed the warmth and contentment Daien’s presence provided.
Deciding that it was time to check on how his shoulder and ribs were healing, Tarienne hurried along the corridor fervently hoping she’d find him alone. Her heart thumped with anticipation. Lost in thoughts of Daien she almost bumped into King Eldian and Aidan who were striding along the corridor deep in discussion barely acknowledging her presence as they swept past, their brows furrowed. Tarienne frowned as she caught a few troubling words of their conversation.
“...army,...siege, ....battle, ...River Arnon.”
Tarienne now had a valid excuse to find Daien, to learn what transpired to evoke such a conversation between Aidan and his father.
Eventually she found him in the stables checking his saddle. The familiar tingle spiralled through her, every inch of her aware of his presence. Rewarding her with his killer smile he watched her approach with a predatory gaze. Tarienne’s thoughts scattered momentarily but she managed to yank her focus back. She needed to know what the King and Aidan were planning.
His use of her formal title, ignited a spark of anger. Tarienne moved closer glaring up at him.
“I do wish you would use my name.”
His molten, chocolate eyes focused solely on her making her feel exposed, naked. A carnal shiver rippled through her chasing away any trace of anger. Her proximity allowed her to feel the warmth of his skin causing her heart slam into her ribs. Daien’s eyes flared with desire, sending heat spiralling through her.
Despite being taller than most of the females in Therin Tarienne still needed to stand on tiptoes to come even close to looking Daien in the eye. The emotion in his eyes at that moment turned her legs to jelly. She swayed closer. His hands moved to her waist to steady her. Daien sucked in a sharp breath and Tarienne sensed a moment of indecision before he closed the gap between them gently capturing her mouth.
A little sigh of pleasure escaped from her as his warm, soft lips moved insistently over hers. When his tongue traced the seam of her lips then sought entry she couldn’t deny him. Daien wrapped his arms around her pulling her closer, deepening the kiss. All sensible thought fled as the evidence of his desire pressed into her belly.
Daien finally lifted his head and Tarienne managed a few breathless words
“Daien, we need to take care. The King believes ...”
Daien silenced her, placing his finger on her lips.
“I am aware of what the King believes.” He dragged in a ragged breath, raking his fingers through his hair. “Tarienne, you wished to ask something of me?”
Tarienne shivered at the rich, slightly husky timbre of her name on his lips. Like an intimate caress, it caused a damp warmth between her thighs. Several things she would like to ask of Daien, skittered through her thoughts. Almost blushing at her boldness, she managed to ask her question, but couldn’t bring herself to move from his embrace.
“Yes, Daien, do you have any idea what the King and Aidan are planning?”
Without hesitation, Daien responded. “They are gathering the army of Therin to drive back Lemere’s army. Lemere has demanded that Therin surrender to him and name him King. A messenger arrived before dawn with the demands. It is as we’ve suspected for some time. We are ready.”
Waiting for a response he drank in the sight and feel of her still in his arms. He could never have anticipated what she said next.
“I’m coming with you.”
“Tarienne ...” Struggling to find the right words, Daien held her at arm’s length, but couldn’t bring himself to release her completely. “I’ve witnessed your fighting prowess, but this will be a full scale battle. You’ll be ...” He hesitated, not wanting to offend her.
“I’ll be what, Daien?” she interrupted, impatiently.“In the way? Frightened? I was raised to fight. My father trained me, along with my brothers, to fight for ...” She snapped her mouth shut and Daien wondered what she’d stopped herself from saying.
“Tarienne, please ...” He trailed his fingers down the side of her face.
Tarienne caught his hand. “This is something I have to do, Daien.”
Releasing him, she glided away blowing a kiss in his direction. His eyes followed the sensual sway of her retreat. For a moment Daien didn’t move, bereft at the loss of Tarienne’s sweet warmth in his arms and perplexed at her reaction. He turned back to his saddle deep in thought. Moments later a page hurtled up startling him out of his reverie. His hand flew to his sword before the boy stammered out his message from the King summoning him to the great hall.
Tarienne hurried determinedly along the corridor to the great hall. Aidan strode toward her, fury blazing in his eyes. Before she could ask him what was wrong he shoved her less than gently against the cold, hard wall.
“What are you doing?” he ground out between clenched teeth, “My father is not far behind me.”
She looked into his angry face, confused, but had no time to respond. Aidan slammed one hand above her head the other roughly on her waist and kissed her, hard. Too shocked to respond she registered a chuckle from the King as he passed. Her lips felt bruised. Finally clarity returned. Tarienne thumped her hands on Aidan’s chest forcing him to step back. She swiped the back of her hand across her lips wiping away the unwelcome intimacy.
“What do you think you’re do ...?”
Aidan did not allow her to finish.
“Do you think I’d let my father see you with kiss swollen lips when I hadn’t been near you all day? What the hell did you think YOU were doing?”
Tarienne’s temper ignited. She slapped Aidan, hard.
“How dare you speak to me so when I do this for you?”
She clenched her teeth fury spiking through her. Aidan dragged his fingers through his hair cursing softly. Not waiting for his response, Tarienne stomped off to find the King to inform him she would be going with them.
Tarienne’s audience with the King did not go well. Aidan made no attempt to support her glaring sulkily while she argued with Eldian. Tarienne finally swept out of the hall after a blazing row, during which the King threatened to throw her into the dungeon. Daien, waiting outside the hall with the other guards sent her a look of concern and compassion as she stormed past that was almost her undoing.
Stomping into her chambers she slammed the door so hard that the hinges protested. Tears threatened. Her throat burned and her head ached. How could she keep Aidan safe if she wasn’t there with him? Frustration spiralled through her. She stamped one foot angrily onto the hard wooden floor hating that she was forced to hide her true nature. She was not a silly, useless, female courtier who wouldn’t know one end of a sword from another. She’d fought side-by-side in battle with her brothers. She possessed magic more powerful than they could conceive of and she was sworn to protect Aidan by an ancient prophecy. She cursed colourfully in Fae and clumped to the window.
For a very long time Tarienne watched a few of the King’s guard and a small contingent of the gathering army preparing for the impending journey and the battle that would follow. A knock on the door made Tarienne jump. Her response was waspish.
The King and Aidan moved stiffly into her chamber. Their serious expressions told her they had not reconsidered their decision. Tarienne said nothing, curtsying formally. She couldn’t deny herself raking them both with a peevish glare.
“Tarienne,” Eldian began, his tone annoyingly condescending .“We understand that you feel the need to be with Aidan, but this battle will be bloody and brutal and is no place for a woman. Aidan will be safer not having to worry about you.”
Her indignation rising she wanted so badly to tell them who she was and what she was capable of. Instead she pressed her lips together, swallowing her tart response.
“We need you here to keep everything running smoothly, until our return. Can you accept that and look after things here for us, while we’re away? It is a huge responsibility and honour that we bestow upon you.”
Far from mollified, Tarienne was insulted by the King’s demeaning tone. One glance at Aidan’s sad and remorseful face, however, took the edge off her anger. Turning to Eldian, a battle raged in her mind over her response. He wore a look of steely determination, a contradiction to his soft words. Tarienne decided at the last moment to acquiesce. She knew better than to push Eldian too far, especially after their earlier argument. He was after all, the King of Therin. Pulling in a deep breath, sh e answered.
“Yes, Sire, I can.” Tarienne lowered her eyes in a deference she did not truly feel.
“Good, I’ll leave you two to talk.”
She glared at the King’s disappearing form. Aidan reached ou, gently capturing her hand and lifted it to his lips. His expression held gratitude that she’d backed down from another argument with his father.
“I’m so sorry, Tarienne. I can see that you care deeply for Daien. He’s a very lucky man. When we return from this battle I’ll tell father the truth, I promise. Forgive me?”
Aidan looked so wretched that Tarienne couldn’t resist moving into him for a hug. She wrapped her arms around his waist, leaning into him.
“Of course I forgive you. I’ll be more careful, I promise and ... I’m sorry that I slapped you.”
She hugged him firmly then pulled back, dropping a tiny kiss on his red cheek. Guilt spiralled through her. Reciting a healing spell through her thoughts she placed her cool fingers gently over the mark on his cheek diminishing the redness to little more than a tinge. Aidan held her tightly while he spoke.
“We’re leaving at day break, so we’ll talk more when I return, alright?”
He pulled back, planting a quick kiss on her cheek. Spinning on his heels, he headed for the door.
“Stay safe, Aidan, please.”
Aidan turned, his expression softening. He nodded, smiling reassuringly and closed the door behind him. Tarienne gazed sadly after him her heart heavy with dread. I can’t keep you safe, when you’re so far away. Stay safe, Dear heart.
Sighing, Tarienne picked up her needlework throwing it down again almost immediately in a fit of pique. Unable to concentrate she returned to the window watching the soldiers prepare to leave. A knock on the heavy wooden door of her chamber interrupted her thoughts.
Padding softly to the door on bare feet, Tarienne opened it to find Daien wearing the same concerned look he had after her argument with King Eldian.
“I’m sorry if I disturbed you, but I needed to see if you were well.”
His rich, deep voice and the sweet concern in his eyes shattered the control she’d been clinging so precariously to. Pulling him into the room she swept her arms around his neck.
Burying her face in Daien’s shoulder Tarienne couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. The maelstrom of emotions that had built through the day spilled out. Daien hesitated for a split second before his arms surged around her, strong and warm. Her tears flowed, wetting his shoulder. Daien stroked her hair holding her close until the sobs eventually subsided.
Tarienne burrowed against his hard body suddenly intensely aware of his very enticing, masculine scent. Her heart thumped a staccato beat. When she lifted her face from his shoulder Daien tenderly wiped the remaining tears away with his thumb. Her breath caught at the beauty of him. Daien gazed into her eyes, his chocolate brown ones glistening with such intense emotion that her breath caught in her throat.
Tarienne knew she surprised him when she reached up pressing her lips to his. He tasted so good that passion ignited within her and she poured every ounce of it into the kiss. A low growl rumbled deep in Daien’s chest his arousal pressing against her hip. His hands made an agonisingly slow journey down Tarienne’s back finally plastering her firmly against him. Daien groaned when he reached her buttocks and she couldn’t help but arch into him.
Tarienne smiled against his lips the endearment melting her heart. He nibbled at her lips then deepened the kiss sending liquid heat swirling through her body.
Lifting her off the ground, Daien swung her up into his embrace. Tarienne tightened her arms around his neck and his pulse raced. His entire body hummed with need as he gazed into Tarienne’s expressive, deep green eyes, still watery from her tears. His heart slammed against his ribs and his trousers tightened uncomfortably. Her ethereal beauty took his breath away. For so long he’d wanted to touch her, to kiss her. He’d believed her to be out of his reach and now he was here, with her in his arms.
Certain that she must be able to feel the pounding of his heart, Daien shifted slightly. His body thrummed with desire for this sensual woman wrapped around him. Brushing the hair gently off Tarienne’s face, Daien bent to kiss the side of her smiling mouth. He nibbled his way across her lips and down her neck, then paused, his heart clenching with the emotions that assaulted him.
“You are so beautiful.”
Trailing his hand slowly from her waist to the underside of her breast he fought for control. She almost undid him when she arched toward his body in response. His groin tightened when she wriggled wantonly. He focused on nibbling her ear and the tiny moans slipping from her full, moist lips. His body hummed with desire but he refused to rush her. He wanted to savour the moment, to pleasure her as she deserved. When his thumb brushed over her breast he smothered her cry with a kiss.
The sweet, vanilla taste of her made his body harden impossibly more as her tongue duelled with his. She melted under his touch. Daien burned with the pleasure of her sensual response to him. It took all of his resolve to hold to the thin shred of his self control. This is no tavern wench, this woman is special. A brief moment of shock sliced through him as he wondered where that thought came from.
Daien lifted his head, gifting Tarienne with one of his killer smiles, then moved back up to her mouth to kiss her senseless. Her body tingled and ached simultaneously, she didn’t want this moment to end. She allowed her hands to trail over his sculpted body hearing him draw in a sharp breath as she slipped her fingers under his shirt. Closing her eyes to savour the contact Tarienne revelled in the sweet passion of his kisses. When Daien stilled she barely suppressed a sigh almost crying at the sadness in his eyes.
That one sweet word filled her with a contentment that surprised her. Daien uttering the endearment felt like the most natural thing in the world. His dark eyes were filled with regret.
“I must go.”
Raking his hands through his hair, Daien exhaled loudly in frustration. Letting a deep sigh tumble out, Tarienne pulled back reluctantly.
“I know ...come back to me, Daien.”
“I will, Sweetheart.”
He leaned down, capturing her lips again. The passion and promise wrapped in that kiss had her gasping for air when their lips finally parted.
Daien started to leave,but turning back, blew her a kiss then was gone. Flopping onto the bed, Tarienne listened to the thud of his boots echoing down the corridor. Running her hands over the covers, she smiled. She tucked the coverlet over her to ward off the cold created by Daien’s absence. Her fingers drifted to her lips remembering the feel of his kisses possessing her. Wrapped in his spicy, masculine scent lingering on her clothing, Tarienne drifted into a deep, contented sleep.
Daien strode down the corridor, unable to contain a grin. He could barely believe that Tarienne had dragged him into her chamber and kissed him. It was just as well that he’d had to leave because he wasn’t sure he could have stopped himself ravishing her if he’d stayed any longer. Her delicious curves tucked against him, the way her breasts heaved barely contained in the low cut dress had his control hanging by the barest of threads.
Daien had wondered since the first time he’d woken to see here working on his wound like an angel of mercy, what it would be like to kiss her, to have her curled around him in the throes of passion. His body hardened again at the thought of making love with her. With Tarienne, it would not just be a quick tumble. He wanted her so much that it unsettled him.
Propriety dictated that he couldn’t take this any further and still walk away. He realised for the first time that he didn’t want to walk away. Tarienne was different to anyone he’d ever known and he wanted, no needed to learn more about her, to wake with her after a long night of passion. Daien stopped midstride stunned again at the direction his thoughts had taken. Stay all night? Hmmm! He strode into the King’s Guards’ sleeping quarters, his grin wide. After packing what he would need for the impending journey, he lay on his pallet, his arms stretched behind his head. Lustful thoughts of Tarienne refused to let him sleep until the wee hours of the morning.
Tarienne woke early to the clatter of hooves on the cobblestones in the courtyard below. The army of Therin was leaving. Leaping out of bed she scanned the crowd of men and horses her heart thumping wildly. Finally,she spotted Aidan knowing that Daien would be close by. Spotting him at the head of the column clad in chainmail and a long, deep red cape, bearing the royal crest, her pulse escalated.
As if sensing her watching, he turned in the saddle, his eyes seeking the window where she stood. A smile curved his lips. A deep sense of happiness welled within Tarienne. She brought her fingers to her lips and blew a kiss. Daien nodded almost imperceptibly, extending his gloved hand a little as if catching the kiss and held it over his heart.
Tarienne felt a tingle start in her toes. It spread upward flooding her entire body with a torrent of emotion. She loved him. Her heart swelled then immediately clenched with worry. Daien turned away urging his black stallion through the gates. Hooves clattered and armour clanged for what seemed like ages until the last soldier had left the walls of Therin. Then all became eerily quiet.
“Be safe, my Daien, be safe,” Tarienne whispered into the wind.
Daien’s horse cantered away from the castle, one of close to five hundred soldiers of Therin. Hearing what sounded like Tarienne’s voice whispering to him on the wind, Daien shook his head, smiling at the mental image of her warm, soft body, coiled around him last night. That was a memory that would keep him warm on this long, cold journey, along with thoughts of her in his arms upon their return. His body tightened with need and his heart thumped erratically. Reluctantly pushing all thoughts of Tarienne aside he focused on Aidan cantering along on his destrier up ahead. Clearing his mind Daien mentally prepared for the impending battle. A battle that would forever change the Kingdom of Therin.