Their Bonds of Duty

All Rights Reserved ©

Chapter 19

It was a special kind of agony having everything you wanted to come true only for it to be immediately taken from you. Conri knew it could be much worse. Eleri could have died, and then all his hope would be completely gone. Now, he still had a small chance that he could earn her love again. It seemed impossible. She had no memory of their special times together. She could not even remember the night of the moon crowning. She did recall a few kisses they shared at the Havens Estate, but she referred to them as mistakes and something they probably both wanted to forget.

He assured her he did not, but she would not believe him. She still thought him hung up on Aella, but Eleri completely filled his heart. Others tried to encourage him. Grace and Effa stayed off and on at Lord Cadwin’s home the next week. Grace told him she just knew Eleri would remember eventually. Efa was more realistic but said he must not give up hope.

It didn’t help that Caerwyn spent almost all waking moments with Eleri. He stayed with her in her room nearly all hours until she was able to leave it. Now that she could walk out on the grounds, Caerwyn spent all his time escorting her wherever she wished to go. One afternoon after lunch, Conri stood in the large parlor looking out the back window, watching Eleri laugh at something Caerwyn said.

She looked unbelievably lovely in her blue cloak. The wind light blew her hair as she pulled a curl behind her ear. Conri remembered it was not long ago when it was he who basked in her smiles. It was him who made her laugh. He couldn’t help but let out a low growl as Caerwyn took her hand and pulled her close. Eleri leaned forward, and Conri turned away, unable to watch.

“I know it is difficult, your highness,” said Lord Cadwin as he looked up from his chair.

“She is alive and gaining strength every day. That is all that matters,” said Conri as he sat in a chair by Lord Cadwin.

“I suppose that is true in some ways, but do not dismiss your pain. I can see how much you love her. Watching her with Caerwyn must be intolerable. I wonder how you do it.”

“I cannot keep away from her. If I were to avoid her, it would harm me more than watching her look at another man with such love. I would feel better if it was someone who actually deserved her. He has hurt her too many times for me to trust him.”

“They do have a rocky past,” said Lord Cadwin. “Which should give you hope.”

“You cannot wish for your daughter to be hurt again. You must want it to work out this time,” said Conri.

“I want her to be happy and secure. If a little heartache makes that happen, then she can endure it. I have a hard time believing Caerwyn will honor any word he gives to her. I received a letter this morning that could make things much harder on his resolve to have her.”

Conri leaned forward. “What message could have any effect on his commitment to Eleri?”

“His father left just before you arrived. I think he and Caerwyn had words, and the man said he needed to see to something securing the land’s future or some nonsense. I got word that Lord Nevis, Caerwyn’s father, will join us tomorrow. He wishes to meet you and check on his son.”

Conri sat back. “You do not sound as if you like your visitor.”

“There are few I think less of than Lord Bradly Nevis. He is a cruel man who has misused Caerwyn all his life. He does not approve of Eleri, especially since he feels she has distracted Caerwyn from his duty.”

“What kind of man would it make me if I wished for Caerwyn’s own father to separate him from the woman he loves?” asked Conri.

“A mortal with one with flaws like the rest of us,” answered Lord Cadwin. “You are in a unique situation, your highness. No one could blame you for wanting something to happen to have a chance to win your love back.”

“What I want is for her to regain the memories we shared. I don’t wish for further heartbreak for her. She has been through enough. I do want her. I believe I need her, but if somehow she is happy for the rest of her life with Caerwyn, and he is faithful, I shall learn to be satisfied.”

Lord Cadwin laughed. “Noble words, your highness, but very defeatist. If you really feel you need Eleri, then why are you sitting here while another man sweeps her away.”

“Sir? Are you suggesting I go outside and pester Eleri and Caerwyn?”

“It is a nice day for so late in fall. Winter will be here soon, and your time outside might be limited. Why not see if some of the other ladies in the house would like a stroll? I think the two youngest would welcome it. I don’t know if Lady Havens needs to be outside as much as she might like your company.”

“I have already spent my morning with both Lord and Lady Havens,” said Conri standing. “But I should speak with Aella, and I would like to get to know Lady Farrow better.”

“I believe they are both in the library reading if you wish to find them,” said Lord Cadwin as he picked up a book.

He found both women in the library, and they quickly agreed to walk with him. Once they all had their cloaks on, they walked together around Cadwin manor, soon coming upon Caerwyn with Eleri on his arm. Conri noticed that Aron was not far behind, watching Caerwyn with Eleri.

“Good afternoon,” said Eleri as she let go of Caerwyn’s arm. “I’m glad to see you all taking advantage of the nice weather today. I am afraid it won’t be long until the snows come.”

“I doubt that stops you from going outside, my lady,” said Conri as he smiled down at her.

She smiled back, but it was nothing more than friendly. It was not the intimate one he had gotten used to. It was not even playful. “I do like to be outdoors. Luckily, my horse is sturdy and good in the snow. Of course, she is not with me now.”

“You have others here you can ride, don’t you?” Conri saw that Caerwyn was speaking with Lady Farrow. He took advantage and moved to Eleri’s side. They walked slowly together.

“I do, but I was fond of my horse. Right now, my aunt does not think it is wise for me to ride. Hopefully, in a few weeks, I will be well enough to handle it.”

He nodded. “I want nothing more than to see you completely recovered.”

“I hope it is soon. I know you must be anxious to take your throne, and I know my father is in contact with many others who are preparing.”

“I know it is important to save the land, but honestly, all I was thinking of was your well-being. You are too important to me for anything to happen to you.”

She looked at him with compassion before looking back at Caerwyn. “Your highness, would you walk close to the tree-line with me. I believe you and I need to have a private conversation. I have been avoiding it, but that is not fair to you.”

He nodded and held out his arm. She took it, and he led her towards the tree line away from the others. He looked back and could see Caerwyn watching them. His hold on her tightened instinctively, and she looked at him with concern.

“Are you alright, your highness?”

He sighed. How could he answer? He was miserable and scared of what she would say. “I am well.”

They stopped just within the trees, Eleri letting go of his arm. She walked away from him a few steps and turned around, looking at the ground. “My aunt had a long talk with me the other day. She told me about some things I said to her, and I have no reason to believe she would lie to me.” Eleri paused and put her hand to her head.

“If this is too much for you, we can stop,” said Conri. “I can take you back to the house.”

Eleri shook her head. “My head just aches a little at times. It seems to happen more frequently when I try to think about any memories with you. I don’t know why.”

“I hate to cause you pain.”

“It is fine,” said Eleri as she looked up. “My aunt tells me I confessed to being in love with you. She said from what she witnessed that you might have felt the same at the time.”

“I did,” said Conri moving forward. “I still do. Nothing has changed.”

“It is so hard for me to believe. I know we shared a few moments. I can remember a kiss or two, but to think that you love me? It seems impossible.”

“It is not impossible. It is the most natural thing in the world. How could I not fall in love with someone as wonderful as you? You saved my life. On our journey, I witness just how brave, kind, charming, and amusing you are. You told me about your struggles and your fears, and they made me love you more.” He took her hand. “I had never felt such things as when I loved you. It went beyond pleasure.”

She pulled her hand away and turned slightly. “So we did share intimate times.”

“Many,” he said. “But not enough.”

“How could I do this to you?” she said suddenly. “How could I do it to Caerwyn? I take it you know our history?”

“I do. You told me much about it.”

“You know how I feel about him then? You know what I have shared with him for years, yet you still profess to love me?”

“I know it all, Eleri. I know how you loved him and gave yourself to him. I also know how he rejected you over and over. He made you love him and then denied he felt for you anything other than lust.”

“He says it is different now. He told me he loves me and wants to be with me.”

“And you trust him? You think he will follow through?” asked Conri.

She turned away from him and wiped at her eyes. Conri moved to her, unable to watch her become upset. He put his hand on her arm. “I don’t want him to hurt you again.”

She shook her head. “What else can I do? I do love him. Loving him is all I know. How can I deny him a chance?”

“He doesn’t deserve another chance,” said Conri adamantly. “And you have a better option. You say you don’t remember the times we share, and as much as I may wish you would remember, I will not press you. I do not want to cause you pain or jeopardize your healing, but can you not give me a chance? I convinced you once how wonderful we are together. We all but made a true commitment, Eleri. You said you would never love anyone again but for me.”

She shuddered, and Conri realized she was truly crying. He could not help it. He brought her into his arms and held her. She leaned against his chest as she cried. He bent down and kissed her head.

When she finally stopped her tears, she pushed away from him gently. “I am sorry, your highness. My emotions have been out of control since I woke up from my injury.”

“You do not need to be sorry. I am happy to be here for you however you need me. I promised you I would never leave you, and I will keep that promise no matter what you decide.”

“I don’t wish to hurt you,” said Eleri as she wiped her eyes. “I may not remember much of our time together, but I recall enough to know I like you.”

“I know you don’t want to hurt me, but you must do what will make you happy. That is what I want.” He smiled at her in a way he remembered she liked. “I believe I am the man who can truly help you be happy, but I might be biased.”

She laughed in her musical way through her tears, and it caused a warmth to blossom in Conri’s chest.

She grew serious. “I think I have to give Caerwyn every opportunity. We have been through too much just to throw him aside.”

“I suppose that must make sense to you, so I will not try to argue you out of it.” He took her hand. “I am not giving up, though. I will do all I can to try to win your heart again. I do not wish to cause Caerwyn pain, but I don’t believe he will prove able to keep any promise to you. It is me that you truly need, Eleri.”

“You are very confident, your highness.” She gave him half a smile.

He closed his eyes for a moment remembering she had once said that to him before. “That is what comes of being a spoiled prince, my lady.” He brought her hand to his lips and kissed it gently as he looked up at her. He immediately felt their connection, and by her reaction, he could tell that she did as well.

He pulled her slowly to him, and she did not resist. His hand went to her chin, and he gently tilted her head up. She stared at him as he leaned down towards her. He gave her a moment to pull away, but she continued to gaze at him. He closed the gap between them and kissed her softly, not wanting to overwhelm her. It lasted only a few seconds before he pulled back.

“Conri,” she breathed as she moved towards him again.

Before he could kiss her again, the sound of someone approaching made Eleri quickly move away from him, and Conri looked up to see Aron and Caerwyn approach.

“You have been gone for some time. I wanted to make sure you were alright,” said Caerwyn.

“We are fine,” said Eleri. “We just got to talking and lost track of time.”

Caerwyn looked closely at Eleri. “You have been crying, Eleri. I hope the prince has not said something to upset you or tried to force you to remember something you might wish to forget.”

Eleri shook her head. “He has been wonderful. You know how my emotions are these days. It is nothing, Caerwyn.”

“You should get back to the house to rest,” said Caerwyn as he took her hand.

“I would like some of the tea my aunt left for me. My head aches a little.” She let Caerwyn lead her away. Before she got too far, she stopped and looked back at Conri. “Did we swim in one of the hot pools at the west of the kingdom?”

Conri took a step forward and nodded enthusiastically. “You found one the morning before we attended the Moon of the Harvest festival in a village.”

“We went to the festival together?”

“Yes. I had never been to one off the Haven’s Estate. You took me to see the town procession and the candle blessing. We participated in the feast and danced together.”

“Sound like an entertaining evening,” she said with a grin.

“I think it was the happiest night of my life,” said Conri seriously. “Do you remember any of it?”

She closed her eyes for a moment. “Did it rain?”

“Yes,” he said breathlessly. “We made it back to the inn before it became too heavy.”

She touched her head. “I had a flower crown.”

“I bought you one that I thought would look well with your hair.”

Her hand went to her forehead, and she rubbed it with a moan.

“That is enough for today,” said Caerywin with authority. “Come inside so you can rest.”

Conri growled quietly, wanting to protest, but he could see she was in pain. Still, she had been so close to remembering the whole night. He watched as Caerwyn led her away. Aron moved closer to him, keeping his eyes on Caerwyn and Eleri.

“Do not give up on her, your highness. It is not my place to say it, but I don’t believe Caerwyn will give her anything but heartache in the end, even if he wishes differently.

“I will never give up on her,” said Conri. “It is impossible.”

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.