Chapter 11 - Kell
Kell pushed Zephyr hard, wanting to put some distance between them and the portal. It was the safest thing to do, with Emmalyn now in their presence. She was quiet and that concerned him. It was more than obvious that her arm was paining her, even though he was making sure she wasn’t jarred. His hold was tight, and it cushioned her against his chest. She had resisted at first, and had tried to put distance between them, but he wasn’t having any of that. Kell liked the feel of her soft frame against his hard one. He’d been with many woman, but none had affected him as she did. He wanted her close, and it was a feeling he was unaccustomed to.
The morning soon turned into afternoon, and Kell was forced to slow and raise his fist to indicate they would be stopping. Horses halted as his warriors pulled on their reins and jumped off. Then it was a flurry of activity. Men set up perimeters, others looked after the horses, and the last of them tended a fire.
Sometime over the last several hours Kell’s precious cargo has drifted off. He took a moment while his men tended to their duties to watch his wee warrior sleep. She was peaceful when she slept, and the worry and pain that seemed to be a constant with her disappeared. It eased Kell some to see her this way, and it was a burden at the same time. His feelings fo her were growing. He knew he should surrender her care to one of his men, but the thought of doing that sent him into a blinding rage.
“Would you like me to take her so you can dismount?” Oryn questioned, as he appeared at Kell’s side.
“No,” Kell denied without any further explanation. Thankfully the warrior knew when he was being dismissed, so after a sharp nod, he turned and disappeared.
Kell looked down at Emmalyn and couldn’t help wondering what it would be like to hold her like this without force. To see a smile on her face and a joy radiating off her as she gave herself over to him freely. For her to actually want him to hold her this way. The thought consumed him for some time as he watched her chest rise and fall. The girl had been through so much recently, and there were many things she did not understand. Kell knew he’d have to let her know her parents were still alive, but the thought of doing that pained him.
The King and Queen of Fairrest had sent their daughter away to save her life, but it was Kell’s understand Emmalyn thought them dead. Once she discovered the truth Kell worried she would blame them for not being in her life, or blame him for not telling her as soon as she passed through the portal. It was a difficult situation and one that should not have been placed on his shoulders. He was nothing to her, it should be Mathias that broke the news to her. However, what was done was done, and the longer he waited the worse it would make him look.
When she stirred, he turned his attention back to her. She blinked in obvious confusion, then shifted to look up at him. A faint blush crept across her cheeks and chest, turning them an enticing shade of pink, and drawing his eyes. When he tore them away and looked back at her she was blinking up at him and biting her bottom lip. Without thought, he reached up and tugged her lip from her teeth. That small action was driving him crazy, and he knew she wasn’t ready for the attention he wanted to bestow on her.
“We stopped to rest for a while. I’ll help you down and we can get Some hot food into you. The stop won’t be long, as I gave you extra time to sleep while the men prepared the area,” Kell explained to her.
“Thank you,” she whispered as she sat up straighter and put some distance between them, something that Kell didn’t like.
He nodded, then slipped his free hand under her knees. When he had a firm hold on her, he leaned back slightly and slid off the horse. She gasped and wrapped her free arm around his neck, causing him to grin down at her.
“I’d never drop you sweetheart,” Kell assured her.
“I know,” Emmalyn admitted. “You just surprised me is all. You can put me down now.”
Kell didn’t want to, so he effectively ignored her request and strode across the clearing and into the trees. Once he was a safe distance away, he finally set her on her feet. She’d been asleep for most of the morning, and he knew she’d need privacy. That was his first priority.
“Do what you need to,” Kell ordered. “I’ll step away for a minute and give you space.”
Kell turned then and stepped back into the trees. He made sure he could hear her if she needed him, but made sure to be far enough he couldn’t see her. He settled against a tree and crossed his arms. Kell had to decide where they were heading. It was time to make a decision. Word would be spreading about her existence and he needed to see to her safety. He understood her parents would want her with them, but he honestly felt she would be better off with him. His only choice was to take her to his kingdom. He was tasked with protecting her, and he took that seriously. He’d need to pull his top warriors aside and make them aware of his decision. When the trees rustled a minute later, he knew she was finished. He headed back in the direction he had left her and found her peering into the trees in confusion.
“You disappeared so fast I missed which direction you headed in,” Emmalyn frowned as she watched his approach.
“I didn’t go far,” Kell chuckled. “I never do.”
“I know because I’m the lost princess and I’m ever so important,” Emmalyn sighed.
Kell stepped into her space and studied her. He wasn’t sure where this change in attitude came from, but he didn’t like it. He wanted his wee warrior back.
“Care to explain where that statement came from,” Kell questioned as he took her arm and led her over to a large rock. She sat, but she wouldn’t look up him.
“I don’t know,” she admitted. “It feels like I’m being left in the dark. I know I was sent to my world with Mathias because my life was in danger, and then I was found, but that’s all I know. It feels like I’m a pawn in some sort of game. You need the princess, you don’t need me. And I’ve been gone my whole life, why am I so important suddenly? There must be a reason others want my death.”
Kell ignored the my world comment. This was her world, not the other way around, but he could understand why she felt that way. To her, that world was home. It was the world she knew. The world she grew up in. When he’d met with the counsel he hadn’t been instructed on what he could disclose to her. Time had been a major factor, and he’d been forced to leave. Now he was regretting the extra five minutes it would have taken to clear this matter up. He crouched on the ground and tipped her chin up with his finger. There were tears in her eyes, but they hadn’t fallen yet.
“This is all too much for you,” Kell declared. “You’ve been strong so far, but you’re holding everything in. It’s about time you broke.” He watched her a minute, and wasn’t surprised to see the first tear fall, quickly followed by more.
When Emmalyn started to fall forward Kell caught her. He dropped to his knees to support her better, placed his hand on the back of her head, and drew her tight against his chest. She shuddered once, as if she was trying to stop the tears, and then she let go and sobbed. Kell stroked her hair and let her cry it out. She needed this, and he needed to allow it to happen. He hated to see her this way though, it actually caused him pain.
Kell waited her out, and when her crying stopped, he leaned back to look at her. She looked so lost as she looked back at him. Regardless of whether the council wanted him to disclose any further information, he knew he needed to. Her cooperation was imperative, and if she remained in this state, they wouldn’t have it. His only decision now was how much he should tell her.
“Let me take you back and get you some food. I also want to check that wound. After that, I promise I’ll disclose what I can,” Kell assured her.
She nodded, so Kell took her hand and helped her to her feet. Then his hand remained wrapped around hers as they walked back together. It was peaceful, but both of them were edge. He was sure Emmalyn was trying to figure out what he would tell her, whereas he was trying to figure out what to say.
When they arrived back at the clearing, food was ready and was waiting for them. Kell made sure she got hers first, knowing his men would have waited for them. He also gave her a weakened version of the tea. He wanted her to be comfortable when they talked, and she wouldn’t be if she was in pain. When the medicine had taken effect, he cleaned her wound himself, and replaced the bandages with clean ones. It was still an ugly looking cut, but Kell was pleased to see it wasn’t red or swollen. It was healing well.
“Enough stalling,” Emmalyn softly told him, reading him correctly. “I want to know what you know.”
Hearing her words, Torin, Behr And Oryn moved closer, while the rest of his men moved away. Kell bowed his head in acknowledgment and knew he couldn’t put it off any longer.