Their Bonds of Duty

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Chapter 11

Walking down the stairs of Cadwin Manor early in the morning, Caerwyn did not feel as refreshed as he hoped after spending the night in the soft bed of a fine room. They made it to the manor very late, and he was too anxious to get settled, seeing that there was no word of the prince or Eleri. He managed to find rest early in the morning, sleeping for a few hours. He woke up with the sun and knew he needed to get up. He had no doubts that Lord Cadwin would be waiting for him, wanting to speak of what happened at the Haven’s Estate. Caerwyn was also curious about what had been done to find Conri and Eleri.

He entered the small dining parlor to find Lord Cadwin sitting at the table drinking a cup of tea. There were two pieces of toast on a plate before him and an opened message. Caerwyn walked over and sat down to the left of the lord. He picked up the teapot and poured a cup of tea, adding a little sugar before drinking it.

“I hope you were able to get more sleep than it looks like, Caerwyn,” said Lord Cadwin as he put his cup down.

“I slept some, not much,” answered Caerwyn.

“Have some toast,” said Lord Cadwin as he pointed to a small platter in the middle of the table. “More substantial food will be put out later as others awake, but a little substance will do you good.”

“I am not hungry yet, my lord. This tea is all I need,” said Caerwyn.

“You are well, aren’t you? You have no injuries from your journey or skirmishes?”

“I am very well. I was not injured in any way,” said Caerwyn. He took a sip of tea and looked down at the open message. “Do you have any news of your daughter or the prince?”

Lord Cadwin picked up the letter. “I have had none. This letter concerns you.”

’Me?” asked Caerwyn.

“I wrote your father after I sent Aron and my guards back after you. He is traveling here to see that you are well. He will arrive later today.”

Caerwyn sighed. “I imagine he will have much to say about my failure.”

“I doubt that. I cannot see where you have failed,” said Lord Cadwin.

Caerywn stared at the man in disbelief. “Is the prince safe here with me? What about your daughter? I failed both my ruler and his First Advisor.”

“Aron said you did what you had to do to keep everyone safe, including Prince Conri and Eleri. I heard what Eleri did, and I know my daughter. I doubt you could refuse her orders even if you tried. I am sure wherever she is, she is well and is protecting our prince.”

Caerwyn put down his tea cup rather hard. “But she said she was traveling here. She is not here, so something must have gone wrong.”

“Traveling by magic is not easy, Caerwyn, especially when you are doing it with another. My extremely talented wife even had trouble with it at times. Eleri may have missed her mark, but I have faith she got herself and Prince Conri to safety. I am sure they are making their way here now.”

“Have you sent anyone out to look for her?”

“Of course I have,” said Lord Cadwin sounding offended. “I hope you do not doubt the love I have for my only child.”

“I do not,” said Caerwyn. “I know you care very much for Eleri. I am only concerned for her and prince.”

Lord Cadwin watched him for a few moments. “You will have to trust them both for the time being. You know my daughter very well. I believe she might be stronger than even you or I know. I imagine the prince is not a useless man.”

“Prince Conri is very capable in many ways,” said Caerwyn. “I don’t believe he would let anyone hurt your daughter if he can help it.”

“Perhaps we are getting to the heart of your real concern, Bright One,” said Lord Cadwin with a small smile.

Caerwyn tried to show no emotion as he took another drink of tea.

“Come now, Caerwyn, we are very alone this morning. I know how deep your feelings run for my daughter, even if you still aren’t admitting them. Her being alone with the very man she is said to be destined with must bother you.”

“If it does, it shouldn’t be my main concern,” said Caerwyn. “All that matters is that they both get here safely. Elathia needs them.”

Lord Cadwin shook his head. “Still deciding to take the way of a coward?”

“No,” said Caerwyn. “I am in love with your daughter, which is probably something you should know. I have told her so and let her know that I want to be with her above anything else in this land.”

Lord Cadwin looked mildly surprised. “Do we need to have a more in-depth conversation about this? Have you claimed her then?”

Caerwyn shook his head. “She will not believe I am serious. I suppose I have told her too many times that I cannot choose her. After all these years of pushing her way, she finally decided to believe me. Just as I realized I can’t live without her, I might have to face the fact I will have to try to.”

“You don’t think she will come around?”

“I don’t know. I don’t wish to overstep in my conversation with you, but I know she is not indifferent to the prince. He has been very focal in his admiration of her.”

“Many in the land would celebrate if they decided to join together as man and wife,” said Lord Cadwin.

“And you would be one of them,” said Caerwyn with more anger than he meant. “I suppose you will push your daughter towards the prince once she is here.”

“Once again, I will not assume you think I am so cold towards my daughter.” Lord Cadwin finished his toast and wiped his mouth before standing up. He looked down at Caerwyn with authority. “I would never tell Eleri what to do as it would be useless. Besides, the only thing I want for her is to be happy. If she believes being with you would make her the happiest, I would support both of you no matter what others might say.”

Lord Cadwin walked towards the doorway. As he went to pass Caerwyn, he stopped and put his hand on Caerwyn’s shoulder. “I am not unsympathetic towards you. I know what it is like to love a woman. Many told me I should not marry Eleri’s mother, but I knew I would not love another as I did her. Still, I gave her a choice. Being my wife was not easy for her. It was somewhat against her nature to spend her time presiding over large suppers and parties. She was snubbed by many of our circle because of who she was. I let her have time to decide if a life with me was what she wanted. As hard as it would have been, I would have let her go if she decided she could not do it. I would have been devastated, but I could never have lived with myself if she found herself caught in a life that not even the consolation of my love and devotion could make bearable.”

Caerwyn looked up at Lord Cadwin and nodded. “Eleri’s happiness means more to me than my own. If she believes she has to choose the prince for duty or love, I will have to accept it, but my heart will always belong to her.”

Lord Cadwin patted his shoulder and walked from the room, leaving Caerwyn alone with his thoughts.

Food was eventually brought in and put around Caerwyn as others came in to join him. Emilia sat down next to him while Aella sat across.

“Lord and Lady Havens are taking breakfast in their room,” said Aella. “My aunt is still very tired, and my uncle wishes her to rest today.”

“I think that is a good idea,” said Caerwyn. “She had a hard time on our journey.”

“It is a shame, though,” said Emilia. “The Moon of the Harvest festival is tonight, and it would be a nice distraction for them both. Perhaps they can come down for a bit to observe.”

“It is time for the Moon of the Harvest?” asked Caerwyn.

“The last full moon of fall starts tonight,” said Aella. “It s been difficult to tell with the weather lately.”

“And Lord Cadwin will have celebrations here with the way things are?” Caerwyn shook his head in disbelief.

“What do you expect him to do, Caerwyn?” Emilia poured him some more tea. “He must have some sort of celebration for his tenants and servants. The prominent families in the community will expect it. If he shuts up the house as if in mourning, people will panic thinking Lady Eleri or the prince has perished.”

“I suppose you are right,” said Caerwyn, thinking he would spend the evening in his room being in no mood for merriment.

“You will have to attend,” said Emilia as though she was again reading his mind. “The Bright One being in attendance will reassure everyone that Lady Eleri and Prince Conri are well. Perhaps they are on a journey in the land for some important purpose. You should not let anyone know we have no idea where they are.”

Caerwyn sighed loudly. “So you expect me to eat, dance, and being cheerful to all the guests.”

Aella laughed a little as Emilia smiled. “No one ever expects you to be overly cheerful, Caerwyn. If you just dance a song or two, force yourself to eat a decent meal, and have some small conversation with the lords in attendance, all will be well.” Emilia took a sip of tea. “I think you are at least strong enough to do that for your prince and Lady Eleri.”

Caerwyn sat back in his seat, knowing she was right. After breakfast, he walked out of the dining room with Emilia and Aella to hear much commotion coming from the entryway. They all three looked at each other in confusion until Caerwyn heard a voice that made his stomach hurt and his blood run cold.

“Has my son made it here yet?” asked Caerwyan’s father loudly as Emilia squeezed Caerwyn’s arm.

“I should go greet him,” said Caerwyn, knowing it was the only thing he could do.

“Who is it?” asked Aella.

“Lord Bradly Nevis,” said Emilia with distaste. She cleared her throat. “He is Caerywn’s father.”

Caerwyn walked forward, not hearing what Aella asked next. He moved into the entry hall as his father was taking off his cloak.

“There you are,” said Lord Nevis as he walked forward. “Any word on the prince?”

Caerwyn shook his head. “Not of this morning. Neither he nor Lady Eleri has been spotted anywhere in the land.”

“She is with him, is she?” his father sighed. “I wish he had someone better than that inappropriate woman seeing to his safety. It should be you by his side.”

“Lady Eleri is his First Advisor and will do all she can to see him safe. She is much more than you ever give her credit for,” said Caerwyn fiercely.

“I suppose I should speak more kindly about her since she will be our queen. Hopefully, she will learn her place quickly. Her king better be strong-willed enough to let her know just how she should act as his consort.”

Caerwyn’s chest was on fire as his anger built, but before he could say something else, Emilia walked into the room.

“It is good to see you again, my lord,” said Emilia with a curtsey.

“Lady Farrow,” he said with a bow. “That is still your title, isn’t it? Since your husband died, I am not sure where you stand with the Farrows.”

“His only living issue is a traitor to our true prince,” said Caerwyn. “I imagine once Prince Conri becomes king, he will see that Lady Farrow receives what is due to her from her husband’s assets.”

“That is probably true,” said Lord Nevis. He looked Emilia up and down. “And you had no idea what your stepson had planned? You aren’t spying for him now, are you?”

“Father,” said Caerwyn harshly. “You have known Lady Farrow since she was a girl. Her father was a faithful tenant on your lands. She would never work against our prince.”

“Her father was a good man though he had too many children and not enough money. You rose higher than anyone could think, Lady Farrow. I suppose your good looks and forward manners attract a certain kind of man.”

’Father,” said Caerwyn warningly as he shook his head.

“And who is this?” asked Lord Nevis as he stared at Aella.

“I am Lady Aella Havens, my lord.”

“Havens? Your family are Ordinaries,” said Lord Nevis.

“They are the good people who saw to the safety of our prince for many years. Lady Aella is the niece of Lord Cyril Havens. We owe their whole family our gratitude. They have paid dearly for their help of the prince,” said Emilia.

Lord Nevis nodded at Emilia before looking at Caerwyn. “Come on. Caerwyn, I wish you to go with me to speak with Lord Cadwin. We need to figure out this mess you have created.” He turned to look at a servant. “Where is your lord? I thought he would greet me.”

“He is in his study preparing for tonight, my lord,” said a servant. “It is the Moon of the Harvest, after all.”

“So it is,” said Lord Nevis. “Come, Caerwyn, to Lord Cadwin’s study, now.”

Caerwyn glanced at Emilia before following his father to Lord Cadwin’s study. They knocked, and the door was soon opened.

“Lord Nevis, I had no idea you would be here so early. I hope you will accept my apology for not receiving you. It has been a trying time, and today is particularly busy,” said Lord Cadwin as he moved out of the way so Caerwyn and his father could enter.

“I suppose I should take no offense at you not acknowledging my arrival. Besides our prince, there is none as high as you in Elathia. We have too much to discuss for such trivial matters anyway.”

Lord Cadwin walked over to his massive wooden desk and sat behind it. Lord Nevis and Caerwyn sat down in the two chairs in front.

“What do you believe we have to discuss, my lord?” asked Lord Cadwin. “I can’t think you needed to come all this way unless it is to greet your son and be thankful he is well. Everything is well in hand at the moment.?”

“Are you serious?” Caerwyn’s father sounded even more irate than he usually was. “Our prince is the goddess knows where out in the kingdom alone, and you are sitting here arranging a party.”

Lord Cadwin kept his expression calm, but Caerwyn could see he was a little agitated by the light tapping of his fingers on his desk. “Our prince is not alone. He is with my daughter, his First Advisor. Eleri is a capable sorceress and shifter.”

“You will forgive me, Lord Cadwin, but as that may be true, we both know your daughter can cause more trouble than she solves.”

“I have no idea what you mean. Eleri is everything charming, good, and brave. She will do nothing that would jeopardize the prince or this land.”

Lord Nevis glanced at Caerwyn. “It is hard to believe that when she has done everything she can to upset the balance of the Court of Gildan. She knows who my son is, yet she still seduced him, trying to get him to forget his duty.”

Caerwyn felt his heart beat faster. His wolf was restless inside of him, hearing his father say such things about the woman he loved. It seemed Lord Cadwin’s own wolf did not like Caerwyn’s father’s worlds. A low growl came from deep in his throat.

“I would be very careful about what you say about my daughter, Lord Nevis.”

“You deny that she has chased after my son, the Bright One. She has asked him the impossible.”

Lord Cadwin looked at Caerwyn as though expecting him to speak. He raised one eyebrow as Caerwyn felt shame wash over him. He wanted to defend Eleri to his father, but he had learned long ago not to do it. For one, it did no good, and for another, it tended to make his father violent. He did not need Lord Cadwin to see that side of his father.

“I believe my daughter follows her heart as any young woman should. Your son is not innocent in this affair, and he is also a gown man. He can speak for himself.”

“I believe he has many times told the lady how it must be,” said Lord Nevis.

“And then sought her out to led her back into his arms. I have seen how my daughter has suffered because of her love for your son.” Lord Cadwin looked at Caerwyn. “Do you have nothing to say, Caerwyn? Will you let your father talk about the woman you love this way?”

Lord Nevis turned sharply to look at Caerwyn. “Love? Have you told Lord Cadwin you love his daughter? Have you said this to her?”

Caerwyn hesitated for a moment before gathering his courage. “I have told them both. I am in love with Eleri and have been for some time.”

His father scoffed and then laughed cruelly. “What was the point of saying it even if you do believe it is true? You can never have her, and she can never have you. Lady Eleri will have to have children to carry on the Cadwin name and pass on the right as First Advisor. You cannot give that to her.”

“I don’t see why not,” said Caerwyn softly. He looked up at his father. “I want to find a way to be the Bright One, see to my duties, and marry Eleri. I wish to raise a family with her, do it all.”

“You have been gone too long from home, boy,” said Lord Nevis in an angry hiss. “If my brother were still alive, he would be ashamed of you believing such stupid fairy tales. You have confused your lust for the woman with love. I thought perhaps you would get your fill of her eventually, but it seems you cannot control your baser nature.” Lord Nevis raised the cane in his hand, and due to instinct, Caerwyn flinched.

Caerwyn covered his face with his hand. He heard something like this many times from the man, usually combined with a wack or two with his cane. It did not hurt him like it did when he was younger, but it brought back so many terrible memories that Caerwyn’s head started to ache.

Lord Cadwin stood up. “It seems there will be no agreement in this room today, and I do not wish to hear my daughter talked about in such a way. Lord Nevis, if you continue on this way and do not apologize for the words said about my daughter, then you can leave my manor this instant. I do not care how long it takes you to get back home or how cold the nights are. I will not have you in my home speaking ill of Eleri.”

Lord Nevis lowered his cane. He took a deep breath and nodded. “I do apologize for any harsh words I said about your daughter. I know my son is to blame for much of it, and one day soon, I believe she will be our queen. You will hear no more harsh words from me about Lady Eleri.”

“Fine,” said Lord Cadwin. “You may stay. I have a bedroom ready on the second floor east wing, third door down. One of my servants can see you there. I hope you will take time to settle and rest before the festival tonight as I don’t wish to see you again until then.”

Lord Nevis stood up. “Thank you, my lord.” His voice was cold and near mocking. “I hope you will excuse my words. The journey here was long, and I worried for my son as I traveled. There is also some shame involved in knowing how my bloodline has failed. I should apologize to you that your daughter must see to the prince and not the one who is charged with the duty.”

“Every one of us is in service to Prince Conri, and my daughter will do her part well. I am sure your son did all he could to keep the prince safe. He also had to think of others who are important to our kingdom and our prince. Without Caerwyn, I am sure Lady Farrow, my guards, and the Haven’s would have perished.”

Lord Nevis sniffed. “I suppose that is something.” He looked down at Caerwyn. “I will go rest now. Walk with me, Caerwyn. I have things to say to you.”

“I have business with the Bright One,” said Lord Cadwin. “He will need to stay here with me for a bit.”

Lord Nevis blinked rapidly. “Very well.” He turned and left the room.

Caerwyn loudly exhaled and moved his hand off his face. He looked up at Lord Cadwin expectantly. “What did you wish to speak of, my lord?”

Lord Cadwin smiled a bit. “Nothing, really. I just thought you might want some time before you had to talk to your father. Caerwyn, you do realize you do not have to take his berating words of your or Eleri.”

“It does no good to argue with him, my lord. I have done it for years, and it has brought me nothing but frustration.”

“And pain, it seems,” said Lord Cadwin. “It is a wonder you have never shifted and done some damage to him, but I suppose your ingrained respect of the man must hold you back.”

And fear, thought Caerwyn.

Lord Cadwin walked out from behind his desk. “I should go check in with my servants. After that, I think I will go for a run in the nearby woods. I haven’t shifted in so long that it would be good to make sure I can still do it.” He laughed a little. “A good run always helps me when I need to think, and it keeps me away from places and responsibilities for a while.” He gave Caerwyn a significant look before he left.

When Caerwyn finally returned to the house, he had just enough time to change clothes and come downstairs before the guest arrived. His head felt clearer and his breathing easier after spending almost all day in his wolf form, but the rest of him was charged and anxious. He longed for Eleri. To just hold her would do more for him than anything else, though he doubted he could hold back if he were able to touch her.

He almost wished he had time to travel to a nearby village and see to his needs as awful as it sounded. He knew he would feel guilty in finding fleeting and unsatisfactory pleasure from some woman for coin, but perhaps it would cool his blood and get him through the night. As it was, he felt like he would come undone. The thought of spending the evening having casual conversations with people he barely knew and then having to see his father sounded like the deepest corner of hell to him.

He did as he should, cleaning himself up and changing into some decent clothes that were provided for him. He remembered what Emilia had said to him earlier, telling him he was strong enough to do this for the prince and Eleri. With though the thought of doing it for the woman he loved, he left the room.

He entered the ballroom to find it full of people. Women walked around in beautiful, colorful ball gowns. Men laughed and talked to one another. Caerwyn spotted his father at the far end of the room talking with two men, none of them looking pleased. Seeing that Emilia was near Lord Cadwin as she made conversation with an older lady, Caerwyn walked towards her. The lady speaking with her gave a small curtsey before moving on.

“I was wondering if you were going to join us at all tonight,” said Emilia as she picked up a glass of wine and handed it to him. “Where have you been all day?”

“After speaking with my father, I felt the need to stay outside as much as possible. I am sure you can understand it.”

She looked over to where Lord Nevis stood. “I do, but I wish you did not let him affect you so. What can he really do to you, Caerwyn? You are a powerful man who is a fierce shifter. Your position alone gives you respect. If you stand up t your father, what are you afraid he will do?”

Caerwyn shrugged. “If I could answer that, perhaps many problems I have would be solved.”

She sighed as the music started. “I hope you will save a dance for me tonight. I have a couple free towards the end.”

“I will be happy to dance with you whenever, Emilia,” answered Caerwyn as a man came up to claim her.

He drank his wine and looked over the couples dancing. They all looked much too happy for so much to be wrong in the land. How could they twirl and laugh when so many were suffering in Elathia? How could they act as if the very lady of the home was not in great danger? He supposed they could do it because they did not know or understand. Many of their lives had been unaffected by Lord Fellen’s actions. It was the Ordinaries and poor, vulnerable families that were suffering. They didn’t care that Eleri was missing because they thought she was out in the land with the prince on some planned journey.

Caerwyn shook his head. He made a mistake coming to the festival. He should have run all night through the woods. He could have watched over the estate, or even better, he could have run out into the land, looking for Eleri and Conri.

“Where have you been, Caerwyn,” grumbled his father next to him.

Caerwyn started and choked on his drink. He did not hear his father come up. “I had some things to do today.”

“I want to speak with you. Come leave this frivolity with me, and let us find somewhere to talk.”

It was the last thing he wanted to do. “I will not go as I promised Lord Cadwin I would attend. I need to be here to represent the Gildan court.” He spotted Aella walking his way. “I have also promised a few ladies I would dance, and here comes one now. Excuse me, father.” Caerwyn put his glass down and moved towards Aella.

“Good evening, Caerwyn,” she said quietly with a pretty curtsey.

“Will you please dance with me, Lady Aella? You would be doing me a great favor.”

She nodded, and he led her to the dance floor.

They danced quietly for much of the song until Aella said fearfully, “I am very sorry for what happened at the Haven’s Estate. I had no idea. I never wanted Eleri to be harmed or my aunt and uncle to lose everything.”

“I know,” said Caerwyn simply.

“You must be angry with me. I was stupid and wreckless, believing someone like Bren Farrow could want me.”

“You are a beautiful woman used to having men try to charm you. Why would you not expect Bren to show you attention? I do hope you will be more careful in the future, but I do not blame you for what happened.”

Aella would not look at him. “I’m not sure I believe you.”

“I was angry with you at first. I was looking for anyone to blame for what happened, and besides myself, you were the only one around I could focus on. I was wrong to be angry with you, and I hope you will accept my apology.”

“I don’t think you have anything to apologize for, but I will accept if it will make you feel better.”

Caerwyn grinned. “Thank you, my lady.”

“I hope you do not blame yourself. You did everything you could to get all of us to safety. The only way to save Eleri and Conri was to leave them. I am sure we will find where they are soon, or they will show up here. Conri is not helpless, and Eleri is very brave and talented.”

Caerwyn nodded.

“You love her, don’t you?” she asked quietly.

“I do,” said Caerwyn, not wanting to deny it to anyone.

“It must have been hard to watch as she grew closer to Conri. Now, they are all alone somewhere in the land.” She sounded sad and distant.

“No matter what Eleri chooses, my love for her will not be affected. I will try to convince her to see that we should be together, but if she chooses another, I can bear it if she is happy,” said Caerwyn.

“You say that like you mean it, “ said Aella.

“I hope I do,” he answered as the song ended.

He spent the rest of the night trying to avoid his father, though the man showed up to whisper in his ear many times. He grew agitated and tried hearing his father berate him and once or twice Eleri. Caerwyn drank too many cups of wine, but he stopped before he was completely out of his mind. By the time the night was almost over, Caerwyn was desperate for an escape of any kind. He had it in his head to pack up that night and leave, going out into the land to find Eleri and Conri.

“Caerwyn, the night is almost at an end, and you have not danced with me,” said Emilia as she walked up to him.

“I am free now,” he said. “I wish to talk to you, anyway.”

“We do not have to dance,” she said. “We could take a walk.”

“It is pouring outside, or have you not noticed?” asked Caerwyn.

“Then let us walk towards our rooms. I am tired, and I can see you are in no mood for dancing,” said Emilia.

Caerwyn nodded, and they slowly made their way out of the room, Caerwyn hoping his father would not see him.

As soon as they were on the stairs, Caerwyn started talking. “I am going to pack as soon as I enter my room. I hope to leave before the sun comes up.”

“Leave?” asked Emilia. “Where are you going to go?”

“Maybe east, towards the edge of the land. I will visit villages along the way and see if I can hear word about Eleri or the prince.”

Emilia shook her head. “You have had too much wine. That is one of the stupidest ideas you have ever had.”

“I have to do something, Emilia. I cannot stay here and just wait and listen to my father malign her. I’m half out of my mind, and I fear what will happen if I do nothing.”

They got to the third floor, and Emilia pulled him towards his room. “Do you not think that Lord Cadwin has not contacted every person he knows in the land? We could have word at any moment about Eleri or the prince. If you leave, you will do nothing but put yourself in danger and miss your chance to help them. Stop talking nonsense.”

“I just can’t do it anymore. I spent all day running around the forest, and all I could think of is what happens if I have already lost her? Whether it’s to Lord Fellen getting his hands on her, or her falling in love with Prince Conri, what if I have ruined everything because I was too scared to admit how I feel about her.”

Emilia took his other hand and pulled him close. “We will not let her be taken or harmed. You know how well she can fight. Between her and the prince, they will not be easy prey.”

Caerwyn shook his head. “Lord Fellen has so many forces at his disposal. If he found her with just the prince, he could easily take her. Then, what do you think would happen to Prince Conri? He wouldn’t back down, and he would be killed in a second. There would be no hope left in Elathia. The woman I love would be ruined and broken. The prince I fight for would be gone. I would have nothing left to live for.” He knew he was blubbering and sounded pathetic, but he didn’t care. “I can’t, Emilia. I can’t take this waiting. There is too much built up within me to be still.”

She pulled him hard towards her, reaching up and kissing him. He was still for a moment before he kissed her back, his arms going around her.

“Let me help you, Caewyn,” she said breathlessly between kisses. “Let me help you find some release.”

His hands moved to her side. Some part of him needed her desperately. He could not have who he truly wanted, but perhaps he could make do with what he could get. He pulled back slightly. “This isn’t right. I can’t do this to you.”

“But I want this. I want to be with you however I can. Do not think I don’t know what I am doing or where we truly stand. Just tonight, Caerwyn; that is all I desire.” She kissed him again as one of his hands worked its way up her side.

He knew he should stop, but he didn’t want to. He wasn’t sure it was possible. He pushed her towards his door, opening it so they could both stumble through. They undressed each other quickly. It was not about soft caresses or playfulness. They knew what they both wanted, and there was no stalling as they fell to the bed.

He looked at her for one moment as she lay naked before him. She was lovely in the dim light. He ran a hand lightly down her neck to her breast as she arched up at his touch. Leaning down, he took one of her nipples into his mouth as he grasped himself with one of his hands. While she writhed underneath him and whispered his name, Caerwyn tried hard not to think of another. The woman in front of him deserved his full attention.

As he settled between her legs and positioned himself to enter her, he knew it was foolish to think he would have no thoughts of Eleri. As much as he cared for Emilia and as alluring as she was, she could never come before the woman he loved. He closed his eyes as he entered Emilia, seeing a flash of Eleri’s face in the throws of pleasure. Shaking his head, he placed his hand just above Emilia’s center, moving his fingers against her as he thrust into her fully.

He opened his eyes and watched her as he loved her. His fingers teased her as he felt his desire grow. He leaned down to kiss her slender neck, trying to focus on the moans she made and not think of another. He had a fleeting thought that he had no wish to claim her. Though her neck was offered up to him, he did not wish to bite down. There was no puling force within him, wanting to make her his as there was with Eleri.

He leaned up, increasing the pressure with his fingers and thrusting as far as he could in her. She gasped his name and slightly sat up as he moved faster. She adjusted herself slightly, and Caerwyn quickly felt his control slip. He plunged two more times in her before pulling himself out. He stroked himself a few times, finishing on her upper thigh as he kept his fingers on her so she could reach her own peak. He almost cried out a name other than hers, but he kept it to himself. She bucked up against his fingers, crying with pleasure as she pulsed against his hand.

When she grew still, he let her go and grabbed the sheet to wipe away his leavings. He collapsed on the bed next to her, and she moved close to him, putting her arm over his chest. He kissed her forehead as she whispered his name. He knew he would regret what he had done in the morning, but for a brief time, he felt such relief that all he wanted to do was rest. After pulling the covers up around him, he pulled Emilia closer and quickly fell asleep.

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