*** ESTRID’S POV ***
To my biggest surprise mother joins us on a year’s hunting. Just as she told us. I couldn’t believe her till the last moment she showed up. I never took orders of what to do, so I wear the same dress I had already decided. As I see her getting out of the castle, I am a bit nervous as I don’t want to get on Rhia’s bad side not listening to her words. Guards greet her “Fy, Rhia!” and salutation fills all spaces of our courtyard while she passes them relaxed. She looks so girlish despite wearing her leather hunting outfit but respect they just showed to her!.. It’s astonishing and amazing. How did she achieve while staying so long aside with her loneliness?
- It’s our time! Let’s have fun, guys!
Cheerful crowd disperses leaving just a few couples of trusted men. She showers me in her smiles and non stop chit chat. I watch her absorbedly. Who is she? She is still a big uncovered secret to me.
- Dreamy bird, you are lost in your head. Is everything all right?
She just laughs at my bubbling. Bright sound of her silky laughing voice covers miles of the dark woods.
- It’s a guy, right?
Her shining soft eyes peer at me with interest.
- No! No, no.
Rhia shakes her head with a hidden small smile. I change the topic quickly as I’m not sure how much I should open to her.
- Now I see what it means to be Queen.
- Don’t be mistaken, my sweety. All this is only the grim.
She tucks softly a strand of my hair behind my ear. Her face hides all her small wrinkles next to her eye corners, becomes stony and.. sad?..
- It’s mostly responsibility and hard decisions. Secrets, loneliness, betrayal and losses.
- Your life is different, mom, not like that.
Rhia chuckles. I absorb the life signs which come back to her face.
- I wish your life won’t be this way.. We have to split up. Pick and keep at least two guards around you, dare.
- What are you up to?
She laughs playfully.
- I am definitely joining the playground!
Mother moves her hand with the shining sharp dagger towards the part of not explored woods, our tonight’s most dangerous hunting area. Chill runs my back. I can’t afford to lose her again.
- It could be dangerous on that side.
I warn her.
- Without that it wouldn’t be fun!
She shines as a hot sun. My heart feels uneasy.
- Isn’t it your first one?
- Do you mean hunting?
Her eyes suddenly darken, that deepness drags me in. We stay frozen in a pause. Woman in front of me changes again. My breath starts to shake still remaining inside my body.
- It’s what we always loved.
Her voice is muffled. She puts her palm on her heart. This gesture takes just a second, but it catches my eye.
- Do you speak about dad?
She spits quickly a short word into the air. We know so little about her past. I hope, one day she will open up and let us in.
- Who else was so close and important?
My lips try my luck with still vibrating air in my chest.
- It’s always family, sweaty, it’s always family..
I wait for her to continue leaving her time and space to do it at her own pace. She remains silent for one more long pause.
- I am glad you got qualities from your father.
I look at her eyes searching for more. I want to know him. But I know, if I push her, she will close up.
- He acted the same way as you.
Soft smile spreads on her lips. Her eyes look somewhere far away but I am sure at nowhere. My best guess would be her past. Her face relaxes, her eyes become vivid and a smile still plays on her slightly opened lips. It’s fascinating how she transforms in such a short time.
- That’s one of many things I love about him.
My chest warms up. I was wondering what happened to them. It’s so good to know they were good to each other. I am their love’s creation.
- Let’s move. Hunting won’t last forever!
I hear her voice already receding and hiding in those woods. Despite my warning she went the way she picked herself. I let out a small not so loud laugh shaking my head slightly. In this way I am reminded we are the same blood. My hand lands in V on my chest. I hit the way I was going to take. It’s a calmer area but I am sure I will have fun. As on this particular thought I spot a group of moving targets. They are exhausted and look for a place to hide. Instead of the biggest I pick the one looking most juiciest. However it’s suppose to be our feast! I expose myself to him and suggest friendly help. He thinks I am one of them and clicks to me a bit leaving us behind the group. My hunger drains him in insignificant time. I feel his hands sliding down my neck he was poorly holding and dropping now lifeless. I finish savouring the taste of still warm red treasure pleasuring my throat.
- You did it nicely.
I jump to the side. He caught me by surprise. I sniff surveying. He is alone. Royal.
- I saved my dress. Blood strains are not my favourite.
He laughs and my heart starts to vibrate at his frequency. He is well built. Higher than me, so I’m forced to look up. Some playful wrinkles dance at the side of his beautiful deep eyes as he smiles. They are partly hidden behind messy dark blond hair.
- I am not sure about that.
No one ever was so straight with me. My breath fell to deep airflow. Our eyes are still locked and never moved aside. I brush a strand of my hair and take out a sharp long hair clip. He launches on me and presses my hands over my head. My back leans against the tree trunk. Cracks in the bark of the tree leaves prints on my skin as I’m trapped between it and his muscles. However I feel his grip is not firm enough to hold me, but his gaze pins me in place.. At my own will.. I could easily free my hands and use them for my defence, but being so close to him, feeling his chest with each breath pressing me harder, his hot breath on my neck..
- You are not taking me here, sir.
His head falls a bit back, his crystal clear laugh crosses the air and my stomach catches the tickling warm vibration sliding over my skin. I never felt this way with the man.
- Spread your legs, beauty.
I feel his palm tracing my ribs, slowly checking every inch, looking for weak point to break me. I search his eyes with widened dark pupils.
His hand lands on my hip and suddenly tugs me closer to already our crashed bodies, his knee slides between opening my thighs for him. I moan silently into his ear.
- Good girl.
My heart jumps as if she just got a prize. His lips curl in a wicked smile.
- I could give you more.
He makes a little distance and his eyes roam my body. I feel nacked under his gaze. Loss of his body weight leaves a frustration.
- Don’t ..disappoint me, sir.
My lips whisper into his ear. He groans and his grip on my skin tightens. From where have I got boldness? Our bodies flushed again, his hand traveling high on my inner thigh just inches from my core. My body grinds against him as I lose control over my body, over my mind. Panic and lust caused by new feeling races and I’m not sure which one will win.
- It’s a fine line not to be ever crossed but I like challenges. Will you stay with me, beauty?
I feel his heavy breath traveling down my neck, our foreheads ramm each other. My heart flies as his almost bare dried bloody chest meets and brushes mine. I stare at his eyes not knowing what to expect. He obviously braces himself. My heart flutters. He tilts me, my legs find his waist. His strong hands carry me, not letting our eyes contact break. He searches my eyes and I swim in his. Without words we suck in the same air. My feets press his hard ass and hands don’t want to let go of his broad shoulders. I feel his lips brushing my breasts over the dress. My breathing hitches. This man is insane!
He settles me next to the mossy rock, takes off his shirt letting it loosely drop and jumps into the still lake. I can’t force myself to take my eyes off him. I lean back on my hands relaxing my body after tension and enjoy the view. My eyes follow each water drop rolling down his bare chest and over six packs till they disappear in the hem of his sinful low sitting pants. He is closing our distance and the air becomes electric. Finally he reaches me. It looks like ages.. I suck his scent. It’s like I play with a dangerous wild animal without leash on him. He straddles my outstretched forward legs, sits on his own knees not leaving much space between our bodies. Leans in. Holds my chin a bit up as his thumb brushes my lower lip sending me pleasant shivers. Will he kiss me? I close my eyes and lean on my outstretched back hands feeling his hot look on my breasts. Heat flushes and reddens my pale skin not only between them.
- Beauty, you have to know I am easily tempted, hot tempered.
I feel the urge to see him.
- Be mine. Forever. You will be loved and protected.
That’s a low timbre without a drop of joke in it.
- Isn’t too early to speak about love and forever?
- Have you ever felt this way with someone?
His voice is rough and the same low. My world starts to spin. I really can’t remember anyone who forced such feelings in me. I shake my head.
- Me too.
His forehead leans against mine once more and his eyes close. I feel his hardness pressing my lower tummy. His body responds like mine. I kiss his lips. Soft and light. Or maybe he kissed me first.
- Let’s keep it slow. For now. We don’t know each other.
- I don’t care who you are, beauty. Stay with me.
- But you are royal.
He hesitates for a moment leaving those words hanging in the air.
- If you sensed that, you also have royal blood running in your veins.
His gaze on me is so intense I can’t hold it any more.
- It’s a fine line we would be going.
I whisper to the side of my shoulder. Betts just got higher and we both understand it. Empty air stretches the space between us ready to blow. And we are stuck inside that invisible intense bubble.
- Beauty, I already made my decision. Just say when you are ready and I will whisk you away.
I can’t give him this answer. Not yet. He catches this message and gets up tall on his feet. His hands run his hair. My finger lands on his chest stopping him still. It traces the almost healed scar.
- It’s fresh. Does it hurt?
- ..I still feel it.
I lick it’s track slowly with a sudden urge to share his pain.
- Don’t do it to me, beauty.
His palms wrap my fingers and he kisses them stopping my lips.
- Your tattoo..
- Are you afraid of lions?
He cuts me.
- You should. They are unpredictable.
It sounds like a warning.
- She sang us many times about snakes living in a lake between dried skulls and blooming night lilies and a lion protecting them.
He pulls his low sitting pants a bit lower and exposes a joining tattoo.. With lily and skull.. And snake.. I blink. My eyes find his eyes.
- Who are you?
- I’m Black.
My chest tightens. He is our growing enemy. I stretch out a hand leaning my back against rock helping me stay on my legs as they turn weak. White owl lands on my arm with the uh-huuu bringing me back to reality.
We hear hunters coming.
- It’s time for me to leave.
- Consider my words, beauty.
- I’ll let you know.
I disappear quicker than sound crosses the air with my hammering heart forgetting to suck in the air.
The one word plays drums in my ears. Black as night and hot as a sunny day burning a hole in my heart.
- My mother.. How else could she know about his tattoo in such an intimate place?..
Continue reading chapter 23