Chapter 15 - Kell
Kell couldn’t help but admire Emmalyn as she laughed with his men while they ate a supper of rich tasting stew and warm bread. She accepted their teasing and banter and entertained them with stories of her world. The technology fascinated his men, while terrifying them at the same time. When she described the weaponry of her world, his men scoffed. They killed by firing what she called bullets at someone from hundreds of yards away. There was no skill, there was no honour, and there was no reason to be proud of the kill.
When the hour grew later and his wee warrior showed signs of tiring Kell called it a night. Then he ran his hands through his hair in frustration as he watched her hug each of his men and thank them for a lovely evening. His warriors returned the hug with a smile, but smartly kept their eyes trained on him. They could see his body tensing more and more as she moved through each of them. The hugs were brief, and his men stepped away quickly, but it still infuriated Kell. He would need to have a word with Emmalyn about touching other men.
When her goodbyes were complete, Kell snagged her tiny hand, and engulfed it with his much larger one. He still marveled at the differences between the two, not only in size, but in colour. His was tanned from the hours he spent outside in the sun, while hers was pale from the obvious time she didn’t.
As soon as they reached the door, Kell pushed it open and stepped inside. He scanned the room, and seeing nothing inside that would harm her, allowed her entrance. As soon as Emmalyn noticed the tub full of steaming water, she hurried over to it. Kell watched in awe as she dropped to the floor, dipped her good arm in, and swirled it around. Her whole body seemed to sigh as she hummed in obvious delight. It proved Kell’s decision to stop at the inn was a good one, and he’d have to take more pains to see she enjoyed more small pleasures. She was a soft woman and not a hardened warrior; he needed to remember that and take better care of her.
“I’ll step into the hall and give you a moment to undress and get in. Then I’ll return and help you wash your hair,” Kell informed her as he stepped out the door.
“You’ll what?” Emmalyn cried, halting him as he was about to close the door.
“You still have stitches in and they need to remain dry. You’re also exhausted and I fear you’ll fall asleep and drown. If you’re worried about your modesty leave your undergarments on,” Kell advised as he softened his voice.
She glared at him a minute, obviously trying to assert some control over the situation, then sighed and nodded, as she leaned against the tub.
“Do you need help to get undressed?” Kell pressed, as her eyes closed and her body relaxed even more.
He had to fight to hold back his laughter as she pulled her arm from the water and clumsily climbed to her feet. A pretty blush spread across her cheeks and chest and Kell growled at the sight of it. He moved across the room, slid his hand in her thick hair, and wrapped it around the back of her neck. Then he tipped her head up and gently brushed his lips against hers. Without pulling back, his next words feathered across her lips.
“I’ll give you some privacy, but don’t take too long sweetheart,” Kell ordered huskily, before he turned and strode from the room, closing the door behind him.
Oryn and Behr were standing in the hall and they chuckled when they saw him.
“Kicked you out already did she?” Behr called as he attempted to reign in his laughter.
Kell glared at them as he moved their way. “No she did not. I’m giving her a moments privacy to attend to herself.”
“Right,” Oryn nodded, not believing a word he said.
“Don’t you two have anything better to do?” Kell demanded.
“We actually cornered two barmaids earlier and are waiting for them to join us,” Oryn informed him. “Torin will take the first shift in the hall, and we’ll switch off over the night. There’s also a man at the bottom of the stairs and another in the tavern.”
Kell nodded in acceptance, then grinned as two young women mounted the stairs and seductively approached his men. Oryn threw his arm around one, and she smiled as she moulded her body to his. The other stepped right up to Behr and pushed her hands up under his shirt. Kell grinned, knowing his men would be well taken care of.
“Have a good night,” Kell called as they disappeared behind closed doors with the women.
Deciding it was time Kell joined his, he turned back to his own room and pushed open the door. Emmalyn was just lowering herself into the tub, and she gasped and collapsed, splashing water everywhere in her haste to hide herself from him. It was too late though, he’d seen her in the thin shift. He shut the door and moved towards her, but didn’t have the heart to tell her the water made the thing almost transparent. He could see all her shapely curves, he’d only told her to keep it on so she’d feel more at ease.
Emmalyn watched him nervously as he approached, so he slowed his steps and gave her a small smile. He tried to take on a relaxed pose, as he pulled up a wooden stool and dropped his large body onto it. It groaned under his weight and brought a small smile to her own lips.
“I don’t think that will hold you,” Emmalyn whispered, as she watched him roll up his sleeves.
“It will hold me long enough,” he lied, worrying a little himself. He hadn’t heard a crack yet, so that was a good sign. “Slide forward and tilt your head back,” he ordered, as he picked up a pitcher and dipped it into the water.
Kell was pleased when she did as asked, trusting him to look after her. He gathered her long hair with his free hand, marvelling at the soft feel if it. He’d never touched hair as soft or as thick as hers, and with its long length it surprised him she didn’t get a headache from its weight. When he told her as much, she answered without thought.
“It was longer, and I did suffer some headaches, but I know how long to keep it now so that doesn’t happen,” Emmalyn explained as he drizzled water over it.
When he was satisfied it was wet enough, he set down the pitcher, reached for the bar of rose scented soap, and lathered it as best he could between his hands. Then he lifted the mass and began massaging the soap into it.
“Oh my god, that feels so nice,” Emmalyn purred as his fingers deftly worked her scalp.
It was then he realized that growing up with only Mathias, and not a mother, she’d most likely experienced nothing like this. Mathias was a hardened warrior, and even though it was obvious he cared deeply for the girl, he couldn’t see him showering her with affection. He now understood why she accepted his closeness so easily; she craved it. His heart hurt for her, and for all that she had missed by being sent away.
Kell moved slowly, gathering a section at a time and working the soap through. The rose smell from the soap drifted up to him, and although he liked it, he found himself disappointed that her berry scent was gone. It was hers alone, and no one else wore it. The fragranced soap in his world only contained flowered scents. He decided that the next soap maker he found would create a berry scented one just for her.
When Kell was done she remained still, and for a moment he was afraid she had fallen asleep. Then she slowly leaned back, and he smiled at the sleepy look she aimed his way.
“Thank you,” she sighed with a small pout on her face, proving she had enjoyed his care and was missing it already. “I should finish and get out. You’ve taken the last of my energy and I feel like jello.”
Kell did not understand what jello was, but he understood what she was trying to say. He nodded as he stood and turned his back, grabbing a towel to dry his hands. He reached for a bag one of his men had brought up while they ate and pulled out a soft cream coloured nightgown. It was knee length, with a scooped neck and thin straps. The bottom flared out, and the top had a delicate dusting of soft lace sewn into the bodice.
“Finish up and I’ll dry your hair as best I can with the towel. Then we’ll get you out of that wet shift and into this nightgown so you don’t catch cold,” Kell ordered.
Emmalyn nodded, so he turned to the window and leaned against its frame staring out into the dark night. He forced himself to ignore the splashes of the water and the thoughts of her running her hands over her warm skin. He stared out into the darkness, thankful his room was at the back of the inn. Kell couldn’t see the rest of his men, but he could sense them out there, and it calmed him. He enjoyed giving Emmalyn some small comforts, but he was still made sure she was well protected.
“I’m done,” Emmalyn breathed, drawing his attention back to her.
He crossed the room and leaned down, causing her to squeal, as he easily lifted her from the bath. When she was on her feet and he was sure she could stand without help, he reached over and grabbed a towel. Carefully and efficiently he dried her hair, then held the towel out and to block her body from view.
“Push down the shift and leave it on the floor, then slip on the clean nightgown,” Kell ordered.
She quickly, yet somewhat awkwardly with her arm, did as told. Once done he replaced the sling she had removed and ordered her to sit on the bed. It took him twenty minutes to use a brush and remove the tangles from her hair. When he finally tucked her into bed and climbed in beside her, she made not a peep. Kell smiled as he gathered her into his arms, and she not only didn’t protest, but laid her head in the curve of his shoulder. It wasn’t even a minute until she was fast asleep, and it warned his heart. He could imagine falling asleep with her, just as she was now, for the rest of his life.
Kell drifted off not long after, until a whisper of wind touched his face and demanded his attention. Something was amiss, and he knew right away the wind was a dire warning from the elements.