Griffa sat on the sofa in the sitting area of Talon’s room, watching the fire burn. She was glad to be out of bed. She even had on a dress instead of a nightgown, and she felt more like herself than she had in a while. It had been two weeks since she was stabbed in Abscon. She still felt weak and tired, but her appetite had come back. She was able to walk the stairs on her own. She had spent the past couple of mornings sitting in the parlor with Talon.
It was only she and Talon in Wendell House now. Max and Kedan were both in Abscon with Ansel. They were looking for a way to take the protector’s line away from Ansel and pass it on to a new bloodline. Griffa wasn’t sure how to feel about their quest.
She did want to be with Ansel. She missed him so much. She felt like she hadn’t seen him in a long time. She had foggy memories of him coming to her the night of the attack on Abscon, but it seemed a dream. He had only visited her once after that, right before he left for Abscon, but she had been asleep. She couldn’t be angry at him. He was following her wishes as she had given him orders to stay away from her unless she called him.
Now he was far away from her. Griffa knew that if she sent for him, he would come immediately. Not only would his magic make him, but she knew he would do anything she asked simply because he loved her. Griffa would not send for him. She didn’t know if she would get to keep him. She could not have him close to her only to send him away again. She would wait and see if he could find a way to give the protector’s line to another. She would listen to his argument to do it, and she would make a decision.
Griffa wondered if she could let him do it. She was scared that she could not. She was also scared that she would. Griffa felt tears sting her eyes just thinking about it. She loved Ansel above everything, and she wanted him to be happy. She had known him her whole life. His whole identity was being the protector of the kingdom. It was what drove him. It was his purpose. Could she really take that away from him just to be with her? She didn’t know.
The door opened, and Talon walked in. He smiled at her as he came over to stand in front of the fire, facing her.
“How are you feeling this afternoon?”
“Good,” said Griffa. “I am not as tired as I have been.”
“I was wondering if you would like to go for a short walk. It is chilly outside but not as cold as recently. We could walk just to the town center and walk back, if you don’t think it’s too much for you.”
Griffa smiled widely at Talon. “Yes, I would love to go outside, even just for a bit.”
Talon walked over and offered Griffa his hand. She took it and he helped her stand. He gave her hand a quick kiss and tucked it in his arm before escorting her down the stairs to the entry hall. He helped her put a cloak on before quickly putting on his own. The walked outside, and Talon again offered her his arm. Griffa smiled at him and took it.
As they walked from Wendell House, Griffa took a deep breath. “It feels so good to be outside,” she said happily.
“I am glad to see you pleased. To be honest, I’m glad to see you doing anything.”
“It wasn’t so bad,” said Griffa as they walked, and Talon pulled her closer to his side.
“It was, Griffa,” he said seriously. “It was the most terrified I have been in my life. I thought we had lost you.”
Griffa leaned on Talon as they slowly walked. “Don’t think of it. I am here, and I am well.”
Talon turned and kissed her gently on her cheek. He covered her hand with his own and gave it a quick squeeze. “Now, this is just a short walk. I will not have you overworking yourself.”
“I feel much better just being outside. I think I will be fine walking to the town center.”
They walked slowly to the middle of the village. They passed a few people who bowed as Griffa and Talon nodded at them. When they came close to the statue of King Nathin they were met by Clara Vin and her daughter Addi.
“My queen,” said Clara. She and Addi gave a curtsy as Griffa nodded in return. “It is good to see you out. We have been worried about you. I had written to Talon for an update, but he must have been too busy to respond.”
“I am sorry, Clara. I was seeing to our queen. She is much better as you can see.”
“I am glad you are better, my queen,” said Addi looking at Griffa. “When we heard in Abscon what happened to you, I was very worried. I wish the Valley could have gotten to Abscon earlier to help you.”
“I am sure you came as quick as you could. I know what it is like to assemble a village into action. Talon and my protector showed up in time, so all is well.”
“Where is your protector, my queen?” asked Clara. “Shouldn’t he be here with you in the Valley?”
Griffa felt tears come to her eyes. She smiled tightly, willing her tears not to fall. She wasn’t sure what to say.
“The queen has sent him to Abscon to aid in recovery. She is quite safe here in the Valley with me, so he is not needed at the moment. If she requires him, he will come back directly.”
Griffa squeezed Talon’s arm in thanks.
Clara looked confused, but before she could speak, Talon spoke again.
“We should be heading back to the house, Griffa. You have walked too far today. I don’t want to over tire you. I hope you will excuse us Clara, Addi.”
“Of course,” said Clara. “If you need any assistance from me, please let me know, my queen. Talon, I hope you will keep the council informed on the queen’s progress.”
“I will try, Clara,” said Talon.
“Addi,” said Griffa sweetly. “If you have time in a week or so, I would like it if you would come visit me. Most of my friends are in Abscon at the moment and I only have Talon for company. I would appreciate you giving me a little of your time.”
“Of course, my queen.”
“Good, and you must call me Griffa when we are alone.”
“Come along, my queen,” said Talon pulling Griffa gently. “It is time to get you home.”
Griffa smiled and nodded at Clara and Addi. She let Talon steer her towards Wendell House.
“Why did you invite Addi Vin over to visit you?” asked Talon
“Why would I not? She isn’t one of your conquest, is she?” asked Griffa teasingly.
“Of course not. Why would you think that?”
“She is very pretty,” Talon. “I know you how you feel about a pretty face.”
“I suppose she is pretty, but she is so quiet and dull.”
“She is quiet,” said Griffa as they walked, “but I don’t think she is dull. Quiet isn’t always a bad trait you know? I find that some of the quietest people are the most passionate underneath.”
“You don’t need to go any further with your thoughts. I understand you learned that from experience, and I can probably guess from whom.”
“I’m only saying you shouldn’t dismiss her just because she is quiet. She is sweet and seems brave. Like I said, she is also very pretty.”
“Are you already trying to unite houses in your favor, my queen. Have you decided I shall marry Adelaide Vin?”
“No,” said Griffa laughing. “I would like to see you happy one day.”
“I am happy now,” said Talon. “Perhaps after the war and when you are on the throne, I can think about marriage.”
“Perhaps,” said Griffa as they walked on towards Wendell House.
“Griffa, I hope you will not think to play matchmaker for me anytime soon. I am not in place to be interested in anyone no matter how sweet or pretty they are.”
“Don’t worry, Talon, I am not in a hurry to marry you to anyone. It’s wrong and I shouldn’t say it, but I rather like being able to take up most of your time.”
Talon brought her close to him, and said to her quietly, “I would never leave your side if you asked it of me. I might never leave your side even if you ordered me away.”
Griffa put her head on Talon’s shoulder as they walked. “Don’t tempt me, Talon.”
Talon laughed. “Tempt you to what, ask me to stay by your side, or try to send me away?”
“I’m not sure. When I figure it out, I’ll let you know.”
Talon and Griffa continued on in Wendell House for another week with no news from Abscon. Talon tried to keep Griffa occupied, and Addi did come to visit. Griffa found her very sweet and interesting if a little shy. No matter how many distractions Griffa had, she could not help but worry. She was beginning to lose hope that any news would come. Surely, they would have found something by now if there was something to find. She sat in her nightgown on the sofa in Talon’s room one night after dinner drinking a glass of wine, thinking that perhaps it might be time to give up on the dream of her and Ansel.
She didn’t want to give up on him. She wanted to still have hope that he would find a way for them to be together. Sometimes when she was alone, she would almost think of traveling to Abscon and joining him in his search. She knew that would not be helpful. As soon as she saw Ansel, she would want to kiss him. She would want him to hold her, and she would fall right back into bed with him. Then when nothing could be done, she would have to send him away all over again. She couldn’t do it again. She knew she couldn’t.
So, she stayed in Wendell House with Talon. Even though she was melancholy over Ansel at times, she couldn’t say she was miserable. Talon did everything he could to see to her comfort. He found her books to read. He played games with her. He would walk with her through the town and out to the lake. He would take meals with her. At night he would hold her until she fell asleep. She constantly felt guilty about it, but she would not send him away from her.
Griffa watched the fire and drank her wine. It would be so easy to give in and be with Talon. She did love him. She enjoyed his company. She could even admit to herself that there were times when she desired him. Late at night, when he would hold her close and kiss her cheek, for a moment she would want to turn around and kiss him.
She remembered what it was like to be loved by Talon. It was an enjoyable experience. Passion was never something they lacked. Griffa was very lonely, and she was confused. She always thought she knew who and what she wanted, but now that option had been taken away from her. It had been so long since she had been with Ansel. Griffa drank her wine as Talon walked into the room and sat down next to her on the sofa.
Griffa leaned on Talon and finished her glass of wine. Talon took the glass from her and placed it on a low table to the side.
“You shouldn’t drink that so fast. You haven’t had any wine in a while. It will go right to your head.”
Griffa shrugged. “I don’t mind. I could use a little time not to worry as much about things.”
Talon laughed slightly and put his arm around Griffa. She snuggled into his side as he kissed the top of her head. She felt so comfortable. He felt so familiar and safe.
“Talon,” said Griffa. “Do you remember the time we were almost caught by your father in the parlor.”
She felt Talon laugh. “I do. I am glad there weren’t travel wards then. I’m still not sure how we traveled that quickly. I don’t know what he would have done if he had caught us. Probably demand we marry that moment.”
“You would have found a way out of it. You were having too much fun to have been tied down to me.”
“I think it would have worked out nicely for me, actually. Maybe I should have let him catch us.”
Griffa looked up at Talon as he looked down at her. He was very handsome. The look in his eyes held so much love, and there was desire as well. He wanted her. Griffa knew she could do much worse than Talon Wendell as her husband and king. Should she just get on with it? Should she just let herself fall completely in love with Talon? It didn’t seem she would ever be able to have Ansel, and she didn’t want to be lonely the rest of her life. She would have to marry eventually anyway. She would have to have children one day.
Griffa sat up and bit and continued to look at Talon. She was tired, and she felt weak. She was a little dizzy from the wine, but she knew what she was doing. Talon seemed to notice a change in her demeanor because he sat up straighter. He moved his hand down to her waist and rubbed his hand against her side, making Griffa shiver in the best way.
“Talon,” she said quietly.
“Yes,” he answered in a breath.
“Do you remember our first kiss?” asked Griffa.
“Yes,” he answered leaning close to her. “I remember it very well.” He kissed her forehead. “It was your eighteenth birthday celebration.” He kissed her cheek. “I hadn’t seen you in almost two years. I remember walking into your home and seeing you. I remember thinking you were the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.” He kissed her other cheek.
“Hardly,” whispered Griffa. “I’ve seen you with lots of women, Talon, lots of beautiful women.”
“And you outshine them all. It’s true, don’t argue with me,” said Talon smiling at her. “I couldn’t keep my eyes off of you that night. When I saw you walk by yourself to the dimly lit side of the lawn, I quickly followed you.”
“I knew you were watching me,” said Griffa as Talon’s hand on her waist went daringly higher. Griffa felt her breathing become faster. “I wanted to get you alone. I wanted you to kiss me.”
“Did you?” asked Talon as he stared at Griffa.
“Yes,” said Griffa. “I had a crush on you for a while at that point. I rather hoped you wanted to kiss me.”
“I did,” answered Talon. “I wanted to do more than that if I ’m honest.” Talon shifted even closer to Griffa.
“And we did, eventually,” said Griffa, laughing a little. “You never did tell me where I ranked on that list, Talon.”
Talon was very close to her. He licked his lips and pulled her even closer where her body was up against his. “You are the only one that matters, Griffa. I wish I could go back and do so many things differently. I should have known the first time we kissed, that you were the only one who would matter.”
“Do you want to kiss me now, Talon?” asked Griffa leaning towards him.
“Yes,” said Talon quietly. “Every moment of every day.”
Griffa leaned forward and kissed him. She didn’t just brush his lips, she claimed his mouth passionately. Talon groaned against her lips as he kissed her back just as hungrily. She moaned as he ran his hand up her side. They broke apart for a moment, and Talon looked at her closely as he brought his hand up and stroked her cheek.
“Griffa,” he whispered as Griffa put her hand on his chest gently.
He suddenly kissed her again. He rolled Griffa over, so he was on top of her, and Griffa put her arms around him. Talon moved from her mouth to kissing her neck. She moaned as Talon moved her night gown off her shoulder and placed kisses along her collar bone. His hands seem to be everywhere. Griffa started to let herself get lost in her desire when Talon abruptly broke apart from her and stood up. He quickly walked to the fireplace and stood there breathing heavily.
“What is it?” asked Griffa as she adjusted her nightgown and sat up. “Did I do something wrong?”
Talon shook his head with his back to her.
“Do you not want me? Is that it?”
Talon turned and looked at her. “Don’t be silly, Griffa. I have wanted you for so long I don’t remember what it’s like not to want you.”
“Then why did you stop?”
“This isn’t right. You know it isn’t right.”
“Why?” asked Griffa standing up and walking over to him. “What isn’t right about it?”
“You are in love with Ansel. You still want to be with him.”
“I can’t be with him. You know that, Talon. I will never be with him again.”
“You don’t believe it. I know you don’t. You still have hope.”
Griffa shook her head.
Talon took her hands and brought her close to him, looking down at her. “Fine, tell me you have no hope for Ansel. Tell me you have no hope at all, and I will pick you up and take you to my bed right now. If you tell me you have no hope, I might go to the temple and arrange our marriage tomorrow.”
Griffa looked at Talon. She tried to say the words. She tried to say she had no hope, but she could not do it.
“That’s what I thought,” said Talon sadly. “Griffa, I love you. I want nothing more than to be with you, but I will not let you throw away what you have with Ansel. If there is even a small chance you can be with him, you need to keep faith in him.”
Griffa felt tears fall from her eyes. “But I do love you, Talon. I do. I think I could be happy with you.”
Talon wrapped his arms around Griffa, and pulled her against him. He leaned down and rested his forehead on hers. “If you ever could choose me, I would do everything to make you happy, but you can’t choose me, because you have already chosen him.”
“What if I can’t have him? What if there is no hope?”
“If that is true, all you have to do is tell me it is completely over. You say one word about it, and I will take you and I will never let you go.”
“This isn’t fair to you,” said Griffa slightly shaking her head against Talon. “I wish I could order you away from me. I wish I could leave and disappear from your life.”
“No, Griffa,” moaned Talon. “I would find you if you tried to leave. I will never leave you. I don’t care if you don’t think it’s fair, but I will not leave your side. I will always be here for you no matter if you are my wife or you have Ansel as hour husband. You can’t send me away from you.”
“I’m so sorry, Talon. I am,” said Griffa.
“There is no reason to be sorry,” said Talon as he leaned down and kissed her lips gently. “You can’t change how you feel.”
“I really do love you, you know,” said Griffa as she brought her hands up and held Talon’s face.
“I know dearest, I do,” said Talon as he took both of her hands in his. He kissed them and brought them down to his side. “And if you are ever free, I hope you will tell me immediately. I mean it, Griffa. If you ever tell me you are ready to move on, I will not hesitate to claim you.”
Griffa nodded. “If I come to that point, I would not want you to wait. I don’t think I could.”
“You are tired, and we should go to bed.”
“Perhaps I should go to a different room tonight,” said Griffa
“No,” said Talon. “You will stay here where I can watch over you. You may be better, but you are not completely well. I know you don’t like being alone. Come, lay down.” Talon led her to the bed. “I told you, you cannot keep me from your side, especially when you need me.”
He lowered the covers of the bed, and Griffa laid down. Talon walked over and laid down next to her. He covered her up and pulled her close to him. Griffa felt warm and sleepy. She felt Talon move her hair and kiss her neck softly.
Griffa turned. “Are you having second thoughts?” she asked sleepily.
Talon kissed her neck again. “I will probably second guess this night for the rest of my life. It is right, though.” Talon kissed her one more time and held her tight as he leaned his head against the back of hers.
“Thank you, Talon,” said Griffa sleepily.
“Go to sleep, dearest,” said Talon in her ear as Griffa smiled and closed her eyes.