Tarienne woke the next morning her body stiff and sore. For the briefest of moments she wondered why. Pain lanced down her back when she started moving and the nightmare of the previous day returned. Her eyes sought Daien. Sitting some distance away he sipped a mug of what smelled like soup. Aidan and Raef were nowhere to be seen. Carefully Tarienne rolled onto all fours, gingerly standing up, grimacing when the movement shot pain down her back.
“Is there any soup left for me?”
She forced a tiny smile attempting to ease the tension between them. Nodding Daien didn’t speak just rummaged through his pack producing a mug which he filled and handed to her.
“Daien ...” she began.
Jumping up suddenly edgy Daien muttered. “I’m going to wash the mugs.”
Stomping away he left her alone. Her heart sank her throat constricting as she fought back tears. Tarienne couldn’t blame him for being disgusted with her, she was disgusted with herself for not being strong enough to resist Lacas’ glamour. She shuddered at the images of Lacas defiling her that consumed her thoughts.
The odour of the soup suddenly made her nauseous, her stomach revolted. Hastily dumping the mug she ran to the edge of the camp dropping to her knees and retching until her stomach ached. Tears rolled down her face as she continued to expel what little there was in her stomach. Alternately sobbing and vomiting until there was nothing left her stomach cramped and she rolled into a ball, her arms wrapped around her belly. Despair and agony warred for her attention.
That was how Raef and Aidan found her when they returned. Raef helped her up, wet a cloth and washed her face. Aidan offered her water to rinse her mouth. They both glanced around looking for Daien. They’d hoped leaving Tarienne and Daien alone together, would give them time to sort out their problems. Aidan’s anger peaked. It was past time to confront Daien.
Tarienne noticed their gazes searching the camp.
“He’s gone.” Turning to Raef she grabbed his arms, pleading. “I need to wash Lacas off my body Raef, take me to the waterhole, please.”
The sadness in her eyes threatened to break them both. Raef squatted in front of her, brushing the stray hairs from her face.
“I’ll take you, Sweetling, don’t cry. I can’t bear it when you cry.” He gathered her into a careful hug.
“I’m sorry.” She managed to control the sobs. “Can you bring my pack, please?”
Raef nodded, turning to Aidan, with a meaningful look.
“Could you and Daien retrieve the horses while we’re at the waterhole?”
Aidan nodded mumbling something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like “...and he’s going to get a piece of my mind while we’re at it!”
Aidan found Daien at the far edge of the waterhole scrubbing at the mugs. He couldn’t help being snappy.
“I think the damn mugs are clean. Help me find the horses, will you?”
Daien looked at him sharply, but didn’t comment r speaking while they searched for the horses, nor as they rounded them up one by one. Luckily, their mounts were well trained responding to Aidan’s whistle despite having been frightened by the wolves.
Aidan led Lacey over to his stallion placing his foot in the stirrup. Changing his mind he cast Daien a black glare. Daien lead both his own and Raef’s stallion his head lowered. Aidan’s temper finally got the better of him. Standing with his hands on his hips he drew himself up to his full height.
“You’re an idiot, do you know that?”
Daien’s head snapped up. Hi eyes flashing at Aidan.
“I just wanted to tell you, that you’re an idiot!”
Aidan stomped back and mounted his horse, leading Lacey away.
Daien quickly hurtled onto his own steed pulling Raef’s black stallion along with him as he galloped up beside Aidan.
“What the hell are you on about?”
Aidan yanked his horse up slicing a menacing glower at Daien. Gritting his teeth he raised his voice, barely containing his anger.
“You have one of the most beautiful women I have ever known in love with you and because of something she couldn’t stop you push her away. Like I said, you’re an idiot.”
Daien rounded on him, angrier than Aidan had ever seen him.
“You’re the idiot if that’s what you think?” he shouted.
A dangerous calm laced Aidan’s voice. “Daien, that’s what we all think, including Tarienne.”
Daien calmed immediately. Shock at Aidan’s words clouded his expression.
He whispered, his words barely audible.
“Ren, thinks that I don’t want her because of what that animal did to her?”
Aidan nodded waiting for more. Daien lowered his head groaning , his confession spilling out.
“I couldn’t face her because I wasn’t able to stop it happening. I should have been able to protect her. I promised her I would. I thought she wouldn’t want me because I couldn’t protect her. Damn it, Aidan how could she think that I don’t want her when she’s the very air that I breathe?”
A string of vehement curses spilling from Daien’s lips, he dropped his head into his hands. His shoulders slumped, sorrow radiating from him. Aidan urged his horse closer his anger dissipated now that he understood.
“Raef and I couldn’t protect her either, don’t you think that we feel guilt too? Only love can help her overcome this. Talk to her, Daien. Tell her how you feel. She feels guilty that she wasn’t strong enough to fight Lacas’ magic. She’s scrubbing herself raw as we speak, to wash him off!”
“I AM an idiot,” Daien groaned.
Aidan nodded, grinning. “Yes, you are. Come on, we can reach them in ten minutes or so.”
Aidan and Daien spurred their horses on hard thundering toward their camp site. When they arrived, Daien jumped off his horse before it had completely stopped looking back at Aidan.
“Go, I’ll look after the horses.”
Aidan sighed with relief as he tethered the horses, certain that Daien and Tarienne would work through their problems.
Daien nodded, sprinting toward the waterhole. Raef sat cross legged on the sandy soil near the water’s edge his eyes averted as Tarienne scrubbed herself in the icy water. Raef watched Daien approach. Daien held his gaze desperately hoping that Raef would trust him alone with Tarienne. Gods, he didn’t deserve their trust. Raef acknowledged him with a nod then stood heading back to the camp. Gratitude spread through Daien, despite how he’d hurt Tarienne Raef was still willing to give him a chance to make amends.
Daien silently pulled off his boots, wading into the water behind his beloved Tarienne. Focused on scrubbing her skin she didn’t seem to notice his approach. A physical pain slammed into Daien at the deep, raw cuts marring the normally perfect, creamy skin of her back. Moisture gathered in his eyes as realisation of what she’d suffered hit him like a punch to his gut.
Stopping at arms’ length he mouthed her name not daring to touch her, not yet. Tarienne turned excruciatingly slowly, her eyes seeking his. The sadness she radiated knocked the breath out of him. He’d done this to her when he’d vowed to love her always to keep her safe. His heart plummeted. What if she couldn’t forgive him?
“Ren, I’m so sorry. I ...”
Tarienne’s shoulders began to shake. Great, racking sobs rocking her body.
“Ren, don’t please. Gods, I’m so sorry, Sweetheart. I love you so much.”
Daien gathered her tenderly into his arms careful to avoid her wounds. Maintaining a stranglehold on his own emotions he didn’t move until she began shivering uncontrollably. Removing his thick shirt he wrapped it around Tarienne’s shoulders. He lead her back to the bank then swathed her carefully in the large soft cloth Raef had left for her to dry herself. Gently patting her dry he took great care not to touch her still angry wounds then helped her dress. Tarienne continued to shiver as he pulled her down onto some soft leaves near the bank of the waterhole. Drawing her to his side he wrapped his arms around her to keep her warm and provide much needed contact for them both.
“Ren, I need to tell you something.”
Daien’s heart pounded when she lifted her watery eyes to his. A moment of fear trickled down his spine. He would win her back no matter what it took. Clearing his throat, Daien forged on.
“I was angry at what happened with Lacas, but not at you, Sweetheart, at me.”
Tarienne frowned a question in her eyes but allowed him to continue. The dam of his feelings broke driving the words that spilled from him.
“Gods, I’m such an idiot. Aidan told me that I am and he’s right. I was angry at myself because I couldn’t protect you, couldn’t stop Lacas from hurting you. You couldn’t stop him either Sweetheart. None of us could and it wasn’t your fault. I’m an idiot who loves you with everything I am. Forgive me for hurting you, please? I ...”
Moisture pooled in his eyes blurring his vision and his throat closed over with the intense emotion assaulting him. Tarienne turned, her arms sliding around his neck, her lips moving insistently over his claiming a searing kiss. For the briefest of moments he hesitated stunned by her heartfelt acceptance of his confession. Wrapping his arms around her waist he gently pulled her onto his lap, pouring all his love into the return kiss.
When Tarienne pulled back to catch her breath her heart melted at the tears in Daien’s eyes.
“Oh, Daien, I love you so much ...even though you are an idiot.”
Chuckling they continued kissing like they never wanted to stop. Daien could no longer resist allowing his hands to roam over Tarienne’s body. Although he knew they couldn’t make love here, he needed her to understand how much he desired her. Sliding his hand under her shirt to the cool soft skin of her flat stomach, then up to her breast he groaned. Tarienne gasped against his lips, wiggling impatiently on his lap. Daien’s responding growl rumbled deep in his chest. The weight of her breast in his palm sent desire spiralling through him but he held it in check as he rubbed her nipple between his fingers. Slanting his lips across hers he tasted her sweetness as their tongues duelled and he couldn’t hold back a groan. When he deepened the kiss his hunger for her grew.
Despite the pain of her wounds, Tarienne wanted this more than anything. To know he still wanted her, still loved her was better than any healing magic. Moaning with pleasure she arched her body closer. When he lifted her blouse and took her nipple into his mouth, suckling each in turn the sweet ache shot straight to her core.
Arching her back to push closer, she instantly regretted it as pain knifed through her. Straightening, she focused on the joy of being with Daien and the sweet ache that building deep within. Daien drew one nipple into his mouth sucking hard. Crying out she tumbled over the top in wave after wave of an intense, sweet climax. Daien recaptured her mouth silencing her cries of pleasure. Replete she relaxed against him.
“Daien, I love you.” Tarienne breathed against his lips.
“I love you, my beautiful, sweet, Fae Princess. I will always love you. I’m sorry ...”
Tarienne silenced him with another searing kiss.
Lifting her off his lap with a sigh Daien stood grabbing her hand to pull her up against him. He wasn’t sure how he’d managed to get this beautiful woman to fall in love with him but he wasn’t going to let her go, ever. He couldn’t resist dipping down to her warm, soft lips for another long kiss as he helped her dress again. Heading back to the camp site hand in hand Daien ’s thumb slid across the back of her hand.
Raef and Aidan looked up smiling as Tarienne and Daien returned. Aidan mumbled.
“About bloody time!”
Daien laughed. “Yes I know, I’m an idiot.”
Chuckling they began gathering their gear preparing to continue their journey. Before they mounted up, Raef checked Tarienne’s back again to ensure it was healing properly. Speaking a few words he hoped to speed her recovery and ease the pain. Tarienne grabbed Raef’s hand when he’d finished tending her wounds, holding it tightly.
“Thank you, Toror, my brother. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
Kissing his cheek, she leaned into his strength. Raef pulled her into a fierce hug. When he released her she was certain that his eyes were glossy with unshed tears.
Daien’s heart sang as he swooped down for a light, sweet kiss before he helped Tarienne into her saddle. They were back together and Daien vowed never to let anything drive them apart again. Tarienne had made him swear to discuss everything in the future so there would be no more misunderstandings. He chuckled softly knowing there would still be misunderstandings but they would work through them together and the making up would be oh so sweet. A grin curved his lips.
Tarienne sighed and wrapped her arms around his neck, nibbling at his lips. Encircling her warm, shapely body with his arms he lifted her off the ground deepening the kiss.Hunger for her swirled through him, heating his body.
Aidan, astride his stallion, coughed loudly. “Excuse me you two, can we get on with our quest, please?”
Smiling against each other’s lips, they parted to mount their horses. Tarienne playfully poked her tongue out, at Aidan. Daien guffawed, watching Aidan’s reaction.
“Charming!” Aidan rolled his eyes, breaking into hearty laughter.
Urging their horses back onto the well worn road, they suspected that they hadn’t seen the last of the Werewolves.