Both Senias and Ariessa took to their dragon forms. Ariessa, with her frills and straight-fins beneath her legs, wasted little time getting to a higher dune. She saw the outlines of the enemy, the Weylyn scouts were also scrambling to get into this battle. They were howling as they went.
Ariessa leapt as high as she could and spread her legs to begin gliding on the air from her dune directly to the bowman she saw getting ready to aim. She boiled him alive with her breath before landing on top of the next one. Senias looked like he was playing leap-frog with the water drake – hopping over her to engage his bellows and immolate the Simoa pack that were now running for their lives off of the overhanging cliffs.
Unlike the other lycan Russell was the sly one. He slipped through the shadows and used the darkened areas around them to his advantage. He was creeping behind enemies and slicing their tendons to drop them and quickly rushing up their squirming forms to slit their throats. He took out three before shifting to his hybrid form to continue the battle in.
~ Time to chase the roaches from their holes, old one! ~ Ariessa was having a blast, her iridescent and blue scales shimmered in the sun as she floated or dove from one cliff to a dune to another dune to another, taking out as many as she could. The splattering of blood didn’t bother her. They had taken a child from a parent – Essa had absolutely no qualms in killing them.
Four more were downed before Russell stepped out of the darkness like some demon. He was splattered with streaks and smears of blood, but honestly he was rather clean given what they were doing. He’d even pulled his hair back into a que at the base of his neck to keep it somewhat clean. His blue eyes went to the dragoness and he gave a slow grin as he walked to his father and grandfather.
Senias moved to the side of the valley and down into it where the Weylyns were finishing off those just below the cave. When Devon brought the beta wolf from pack Simoa forward, the dragon moved his mouth very near the man, a low, clicking growl heralding that his bellows were about to be lit yet again. Everyone around watched as piss streamed down the wretch’s leg and into the sand.
“No…don’t!” The beta wolf panicked and squirmed at seeing the dragon and tried to get free of the Alpha’s grip. Disgust crossed over Devon’s face
“As I said, take the message to yer Alpha. I expect an answer before nightfall.” Devon shoved the male back and towards Kieran who kicked up a sandstorm while chasing the pathetic creature. His elder would scare the male a bit more before he would be free to actually take his message to his own Alpha.
Kieran continued running the little shit beta up the next dune with Twilight at his side. They had all shifted. Once the beta was over that dune, they turned back. Once Alpha Xarlan of Simoa got that message, it’d be on.
Senias backed up suddenly, having heard his kindred. He shifted immediately, flipping in the air to do so and landing on his feet. He moved his hands in circular fashion and then pushed his energy out with his palm to create a free-standing portal. He was through and gone before Devon could jump through. He didn’t want Devon in there. He had a feeling if he came into that place, Devon would lose his shit. Terry didn’t need that right now.
The moment the portal appeared Gabriel watched as his kindragon stepped through it. “Sen..” He held Terry to him as he struggled to suck in enough air for his head to clear. All he was hearing was a high ringing sound as his system struggled to make sense of the jumbled words he was seeing them speak but not hearing. “Wa..Water.. He needs… water and.. Air… clean air..”
Senias cast another portal now that they were clear of the barrier and had made sure they were okay. He took a deep breath and growling, he lifted BOTH Gabriel and Terry into his arms to help them through it.
When another portal appeared Devon watched as Sen stepped out with his hands full of Gabriel and the smaller, frail form of Terry. “Ahh Goddess..” The Alpha rushed forward and took the weight from his dragon brother’s arms as if it were nothing. “Let’s get to the palace.”
Senias nodded and helping Gabriel stay up with one arm, he used the other to push his palm outward for casting the next portal.
“Essa, you and Russ stayin’?” Devon asked as he hefted Terry into his arms.
“Yeah, there’s fightin’ to be done, sir,” and with that, the gal was off, running toward the others, but from behind. ~ Where you need me, hot stuff? ~
Russ had Ariessa with him and they were clearing out the rest once she returned to his side. It was good that they had his lil brother back, but he wanted to make damned sure that neither Pack Simoa, the Dwellers nor the Eriksson Coven thought to do such a thing again. Now that his mentor and his father were out of the area Russell let himself truly go on the remaining enemies. It fed the darker side of him to have such free moments as these.
Seeing Russell fully involved in the punishment of those who had done his little brother wrong, Ariessa nodded. She couldn’t go further inside, but apparently lycan could…
Devon had needed to see that Terry was safe and well himself. He also knew the rest of the Pack would see that this task was completed alongside his son Russell and his father, Kieran. He needed to focus on Terry. His dragon brother had the portal opened. He went through first.
Back at the Palace, Gabriel found that he could barely breathe. No wonder the boy had a shallow pant going on.
Senias focused. He had portaled them to the courtyard, the only place within the sanctuary that they could portal. He moved to a water trough as Devon put Terry into the clear, cool water on one end, He did the same with Gabriel on the other.
“Are you okay? Speak to me.” Senias moved his hand into the water and pulled it up onto Gabriel’s hair and brow, his other hand was supporting Gabriel’s shoulders. He looked over to Terry. “How about him?”
“I think he’s really dehydrated..” Devon took his son’s top off so the cool water could refresh him. He felt so hot to the touch. He hoped he hadn’t suffered heat stroke. “Come on baby….wake up for me. Your family’s been so worried. Come on…” Devon patted the boy’s freckled face.
“He’s…he’s gonna be okay, right?” the kindred was snapped out of his own bit of heat delirium quickly enough when he saw the concern on his dragon’s face. He looked at the still sleeping boy. He was what? 15? 16? Right then, he looked very young to Gabriel. Maybe because of what he’d been through. Gabriel pushed up using the sides of the trough and got to his knees so he could move to Terrance. “Terry? Terry? Come on…” he was beginning to be scared now. What was he supposed to tell Eva? Devon was right here… what if they were too late? He wiped the water from his face and pulled the boy closer.
“He needs fluids. Once we get him cooled down, we need to get him …”
“You did it?” Sam was running down the main stairs, there were Weylyn guards all around, ready to help. She had come over with Eva a couple of days prior. She refused to stay on the other side, these people obviously needed a doctor with them. Now, she was glad she had insisted!
“Terrance will be.. okay right Samantha?” Gabriel was trying to help as much as he could without losing his hold on the youth.
“I don’t know Gabe. Dev, Sen – help them up. I need them out of the filthy water and to a place I can get this IV in better.” Sam could handle emergency situations and even combat situations, but they had control of being in a water trough or not, and she’d prefer not to cause unneeded complications thanks to introducing any infections.
Sen reached down around Gabriel’s shoulders. “You get him, I get you. On three?” He asked his kindred.
“Sen.. Sen… I can walk and carry him.. Just tell me where to go.” It was too much on Sen for him to be carrying them both all over this place. It was in vain though, because Devon was lifting Terry from his arms and then Sen had him up in his arms and both men carried them inside.
Devon held Terry as Samantha placed an IV. He never recalled the pup looking this bad.. ever.
Sam got the butterfly needle into the vein easily enough and taped it in place as best she could. Opening the line up she watched the fluid dripping at a high rate and eased it back a little so she wasn’t flooding his poor little system. The last thing they needed was him suffering from excessive fluids right now. “Okay.. just stay right there and we need to figure out where to go from here…”
“We don’t have to go anywhere. They’ll set everything up right here that ya need Doc.” Devon was kneeling beside his pup’s cot and smoothing a hand over his bright red – though dusty, hair. He needed to send word to Eva, but first he wanted to make sure their son was gonna pull through it. He whistled to the guard who were all coming in.
“We can put a tent around you, ma’am,” one of the Weylyn guards offered. He clapped his hands together and the others went about it efficiently. You could tell they’d been in the battlefields living in such places for months or more at a time, this went together so fast. They placed a rug and furs and two tubs and each began being filled with cool water. The tent was put up around them and tables and chairs and medical necessities were brought out for them to use. There was a cot to keep Terry up and off the ground for now while the IV continued to drip and Sam continued to check on him.
Stepping out she grabbed the tube of icing from her med bag and came back. The IV would take care of the fluid electrolyte imbalance, now a little bit of sugar should give the little body a quick boost of energy to work off of. Opening Terry’s mouth just a little she squeezed a thin line of the sugary sweet in and stepped back as she recapped it. “Okay… now we just have to wait and see.” At this point she’d done all she could do and as terrible as it was, they’d just have to wait and see how the boy reacted to everything before she went any further.
~ Gabriel, I knew you could do it… You got him.~ Senias was so proud of his kindred.
He’d had to let Terry lay upon the cot, Devon was too strong and with him being only human, the cave had taken its toll. But he’d remained close – afraid if he stepped away Terry would die. Now Gabriel was seated while still holding the boy’s other hand, listening to his heart, his hand on the boy’s chest. He felt worn out right to the bone and felt as if the heat they’d felt was still burning beneath his skin. How Terry had survived in there? How?
~ Glad you knew I could because I had my doubts. ~ Gabriel could still feel that dried blood on his knuckles and back of his hand.
“You need to get in that tub. You’re still overheated, Gabe,” Sam left the two to ready the beds in the other room and moved her medical supplies to the bedside table.
“Not yet.. Need to make sure.. Terrance is.. alright first..” Gabriel groaned as his head swam. He felt nauseated and yet he shook his head when Sen tried to move him, “No, don’t … don’t you dare.”
Sure that everything was where she needed it, the doctor went back for her patients. She checked on Terry, who licked his parched lips and finally opened his eyes to look at Devon, Gabriel and Senias.
“Hey buddy… you made it,” Senias chuckled, but his eyes were full of tears
“Ah.. Terr..son..” Devon actually had tears in his eyes, too as he lifted the boy up enough to hug gently. “Awe pup, ya mama is gonna be real happy to see ya.” He felt his son shudder and Terry whimpered in his arms. “It’s okay son, I got ya so ya go a head and I promise ain’t no one gonna say nothin’ about it.”
“Papa..” Terry spoke into his fathers chest as he clutched at his father while his body shuddered from crying, tears or not… he was so glad to be saved.
Now that the boy was out of the woods, Gabe wouldn’t argue. He allowed Senias to help him out of his already wet clothing and into another tub to cool his still-feverishly hot skin. His breath left him and his eyes went wide when he sank down in the water. Gabriel would have shot right back out of it if not for Sen’s hands on his shoulders keeping him seated. “Damn it… Sen… are you trying.. to let me… freeze to.. death.” The heat was fierce so it made the cool water feel much colder for a few moments. His teeth even chattered as he gave a full body shiver.
Senias kept bent over, his hands on his kindred’s shoulders and his eyes looking into Gabriel’s dark brown eyes. “Shhhh…”
“It’s not that cold. You’re just too hot,” Sam commented while she watched Senias keep Gabriel from getting up. “The water will equalize as it takes the heat from your skin.” She looked over him closely. “Looks like mostly first degree burns. Terry has a couple of spots that look like second degree. So you got out not so bad.”
Sam watched Devon and his boy, not just because she wanted to be sure they didn’t mess up the IV, but because she felt for them. She was fairly certain that both Devon and Eva had felt that uncertainty about his fate. She was glad the worst had not come to pass.
“Well good to know… doesn’t.. feel.. that way though..” Gabriel tried to stop his body from shivering as he closed his eyes and mentally spoke to Sen, ~ Feels like my balls are shriveling up to nothing. Please get me out of this water.. Such a hero’s welcome…~
Any of the pack or the Dwellers that made it out of that cave found themselves facing the rest of the Weylyn pack or a dragon. Russell was making short work of everyone or herding them out the front door. The last one ran just far enough out of his reach that Russell didn’t catch it’s robe til he was out the front of the cave.
Russell was growling and reaching for her as the blood rage swept through him. He snarled as she slipped away from him again, leaving behind her protective garb. She wouldn’t get far though.
Ariessa put her dragon body between him and his prey with a quickness. The young dweller rolled down the sand to land at Twilight’s feet.
Breathing hard Russ stopped quickly as the water dragoness was suddenly there before him, cutting him off from the Dweller. “Get out of my way!” He snarled and tried to get around the damned female!
~ NO! Russell, stop! She’s a slave. Get control of yourself. Your grandfather and his mate are onlookers. They can’t see you berserk… ~ the dragoness tried to both calm her new friend and keep him from completely freaking any of the others out. Her fans spread while those further down were discussing the slave. She was shielding him from their wandering eyes.
That caught his attention and Russell was slowly calming down. It wasn’t that he wanted to, it was that he knew what she meant. If the elders saw him this way they’d want to execute him. ~ Can ya get us outta here? ~
~ Sure, I can… turn to look away from them. ~ Ariessa shifted into her human form behind him, meaning to cast a portal in front of him. She held her hand out, but then stumbled backward. She too, fell to rolling down the dune. But Russell came out of his violent spell immediately because of his concern for his new partner in crime. The elders and Alphas looked down at him while he was scrambling to Ariessa and stopped to kneel at her side.
“I…I don’t think being in the desert so long is… is good for… a water dragon,” she smiled, delirious with fever.
“We need to get back.” Russ looked at his grandfather, “She can’t portal, she’s worn out and I need to get her into water.” He lifted the female into his arms and looked at her.
~ Sorry. I let it get to me. ~ She sighed and leaned against him, not caring if he was bloody or not. It was all part of how she knew him.
“Looks to me like you both could use some water,” So, this was Russell Weylyn. He was covered in the blood of the enemy, moreso than any of the others. That was saying a lot. Twilight looked to Kieran. “Wouldn’t you agree my mate?” Her brow lifted at Kieran as she tilted her head back to howl. They both knew of fresh water near the palace. “Let’s get back home and your granddad can show ya where water is.”
“Take that one. Find her a proper cell when we get back, until she can be talked to,” Kieran motioned toward the slave, who had been very quietly sitting nearby. She was probably hoping they’d forget her. He had some questions and that one might’ve been the only one that could give him answers. Some of his men picked the lithe girl up, her dark tattoos showing up better now on her roasted olive skin.
~ Your pretty black dragon could do it, ~ Essa lifted her hand up to play with Russell’s chin. She even giggled against his chest.
As the others turned to start walking, Russell stood in place and mentally called out for help. ~ Sen, we could use a lift back to the palace. ~
The smell of blood was heavy in the air and yet there was a difference in some of it. This was yet another reason Russell was the best at what he did. “Hey ole man, ya might wanna pick ya mate up.”
“Why would he need to…” Twilight started only to get cut off.
“Did you hurt ya’self?” Kieran had learned a long time ago not to pick Twilight up unless she was damn well ready for it. The Alpha looked annoyed already.
Russ looked his grandfather in the eyes as he walked passed him knowing Sen would pop a portal soon. “She’s bleedin’.” His gaze dropped down to the woman’s pants before he started walking again.
Kieran turned from his grandpup to his mate. Shaking his head, he didn’t give her the option this time. He picked her up proper in his arms. He rumbled deep in his chest for her. “I kept my end of the bargain. How you gonna go an let yaself get hurt?” His amber colored eyes looked at her with concern, though his words were soft and laced with a bit of humor. “That wasn’t part of the deal, mate.”
“I didn’t think I had.” Twilight whispered it softly against the side of her mate’s neck.
“Side by side. I’ve got ya, love.” Kieran rumbled deeply for her to comfort her, his fierce warrior.
The portal opened in front of them, a nice and expansive one so most of their troops in the area could walk through. Kieran walked through first with Twilight followed by his grandpup and then the prisoner laden men and the rest. Senias held the portal for a few minutes before he had to stop. The rest would need to make their way back on their own.
“What happened? You okay?” his apprentice was literally covered in sticky blood and was carrying their new partner like she was injured.
When he was stopped by his mentor, Russ shrugged his shoulders, “I’m fine. How’s Terry?”
“He’s getting better. He’s dehydrated and got some burns. His fingers are pretty messed up, looks like he might’ve partially shifted, trying to scratch his way out of something. Time will tell on that part, but the doctor’s healing him up physically.”
Russell moved for the gates that led outside, “I’m gonna go find her enough water to change in. She needs to rest properly.”
“Okay, do that,” Senias looked up to where Kieran was going… Had Twilight been hurt? He walked back into the tent where Gabriel was watching for him. He was in a cot and the doctor was finishing up on the spray she was making sure to blanket his skin with. He looked reddened, that was for sure.
“Drink plenty of that fresh water whenever you can. Your body wasn’t made for the adventure you just went on to get that kid. But… I’m glad you did it. Now, just rest.” Samantha got up as Senias came back to sit down and hold Gabriel’s hand. His kindred was finally letting his eyes close, instead of continuing to worry over Terry.
Eva waited patiently as she could at the castle. The last time she had been here, she had thought that would be in, for her. But these wars, they seemed to follow them no matter what they did. It was infuriating. Once she had heard the guards say they had made it, Eva ran to where Devon and Terry would be. He’d not said anything, but the look in his eyes told her that he knew. She wasn’t waddling anymore. She was actually shrinking down to her pre-pregnancy size and it saddened her. But she had a pup still out here that was alive and needed her. She had brought over everything she could think of, including her doctor, who was quickly becoming one of her best friends. Sam had been with her through everything and treated her for everything. And now, she would be here and available to Terry and to Russ if he needed it. For Devon, too if it came to that. After all, her shamanic abilities weren’t very powerful right now.
Eva wanted to be the one to tell Devon and she honestly needed to hold him and know he was safe and doing everything he could to get their son back. Terry was small for his age. Ryker always looked after him. And Izzy… poor Izzy! She had been in the wrong place at the wrong time…
Eva was nervously approaching the area where the guards were putting up the tent. When Eva saw Terry, she couldn’t help but rush over and go to the head of the bed past her mate. She was so happy he was here, he was alive!
“Terry!” her fingers moved over his smooth face.
“Mama…you’re here….” he whispered from a parched throat.
“Shhhh…you rest. I love you, kiddo. You need to just rest. I’m here, now.” She moved her hands through his hair the way she knew her little one liked it to get him to relax as the medicines went into his body along with the water and whatever else the doctor had made sure was there to help. She trusted Samantha or as she insisted to most – Dr. Keene.
Terry did as he was told, and considering his ordeals and the medicines moving into his body right then, he really didn’t have much of a choice. His body was ready to just rest and heal. Now that he had both his mama and papa here, he could do that. He wasn’t scared anymore. He just hoped Ryker would be here, soon, too.
When Eva had entered the courtyard, the big man quickly noticed something about his mate. She was no longer pregnant… he gave a slow grin as he moved to gather Eva close. “Shoulda sent word, I woulda come to ya’ll instead of ya luggin’ newborns over here.”
Eva’s shoulders dropped a bit. “I…I didn’t…” She hugged him from the side, but then let him go to focus on comforting Terrance.
Pressing a kiss to Eva’s forehead he was just as excited as he’d been for all their other pups. “I can’t wait to hold ‘em!” He stepped away to look at Terry who was nodding back off quietly in his mother’s protective embrace. Surely she hadn’t left them so young.
“Devon, mate…they’re not here.” Eva watched him and took a deep breath. “You forgot… they were triplets and so… I got bigger… faster… but…” She looked down as tears came to her eyes. “I’m sorry. I shifted to protect them. I shouldn’t have shifted.”
His smile slid away as Devon realized what his mate was saying. Slowly his shoulders drooped as he looked at Eva, “I don’t understand.”
“Their little lungs weren’t ready, Devon.” she whispered, trying not to disturb their newly rescued son. “Sam even rushed them to the unit at the clinic. I couldn’t stop bleeding and the labor…“ she sighed. “So… I wanted to come and tell you myself. And I prayed you might have good news. And you do! You got Terry back…” She tried to be strong, but that was difficult and her voice wavered as she wiped her tears.
Devon’s chest ached for their lost pups, but his heart hurt for his mate. Carefully as if she were glass, Devon pulled Eva into his arms and held her a moment. He tried to rumble a little, but it caught in his chest as the Alpha cried with his love. “I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for you again when you needed me Eva.”
“You were where you needed to be. You were looking for our son. Don’t apologize to me for that. You can’t be in two places at once, and Terry needed you.”
Devon dropped to one knee then before Eva and rested his face against her stomach. He breathed in and the air left in a shudder as he dropped his guard and became the grieving father that he needed to be.
“Doc said he’s dehydrated for sure, possibly hyperthermic, also malnourished and maybe poisoned.. I don’t know what else physically, but it’s hot and dark with ash on the air in the burning lands, so may have soot in his lungs.”
“Burning lands?” she whispered before looking over Devon’s shoulder to where Terry slept. “You know he’s as strong as his brother. He’s just behind on the growing, is all. But he has just as much heart, Devon.” Eva could feel his unease and she refused to let it linger.
Devon cleared his throat and looked up at his mate.
“Could be dealin’ with his mental state, too,” the big Alpha whispered. “Cause we tend to close off and shut down our minds to survive.” He spoke from experience and knew that Eva had her fair share of it too.
“Okay. We can do this. We WILL deal with it. He’s strong. He’ll handle it and we can heal him.” Eva moved her hands through Devon’s hair and leaned over so she could cry, too. They had needed one another, and she had felt it. She had needed him after the loss and he had needed her to remind him that their son would make it.
“Who best to deal with that than us? Hmm? We’ve both been through the ringer. And we’ve got so many around willing to help, Devon.”
“I’m not injured Kieran.” They were in their own room when he finally let her down to her feet. “I lost it, if there was ever an it there.” Twilight was tugging and jerking at her clothes to get them off. She just wanted to rinse off and go to bed. Her adrenaline was still racing and what she had wanted.. Well now she figured it was best to just go to sleep at this point.
“That’s an injury in my book, Twi. And the way you’re actin’ shows it.” Kieran wasn’t sure what to do for her at this point. She had been so happy the night before. Their decision had been made. Was she upset that what made her happy was gone? Or was it something more?
Twilight snarled when he touched her. She wasn’t one much for crying, she’d learned as a child that such a weakness didn’t get you anything good. That point was made even clearer during her time within Pack Simoa. If anything, this just made it clear that she really wasn’t meant to be a mother. If being a mother meant giving up a life at her mate’s side then she’d never be one!
“MATE!” Kieran let loose with a ton of rumbled and growled lycan. He was telling her to calm down in his own way. His hold on her turned from hard to looser and his big hands moved over her back to try and soothe her. He stopped speaking and just rumbled for her and buried his mouth and nose in her hair while holding her, taking in her scent. He didn’t care. He had her. He had her at his side. He wasn’t sure what to say. Had he wanted a pup with her? Yes. But only if it was meant to be. Only if the timing was right.
He said nothing until she was ready to say something. Instead, Kieran did what he did best when it came to showing his mate how much she was loved. He picked her up and took her to the bathroom, where he sat her down next to the tub, which he began filling with water. Just because they lived in the other world, didn’t mean they had no heated water and electricity. They had both magic and the wheelhouse over the stream next to the palace provided the power. After years out in the battlefield, he made sure they had everything this world could provide them in luxuries.
“Get the rest off and come over here and test the water. Make sure it’s to yer liking.” he stepped by her to get the cloths and the soaps. He waited. He knew his mate. He knew she’d begin talking.
Removing the slip of cloth, Twilight tested the water before easing down into it. It was another few minutes before she sat up and wrapped her arms around her knees as the water turned pink around her. “I really wanted it.. Ya know. I just..” She sighed and rested her chin on her knees, “Don’t guess the Goddess thought so.. Or maybe thought I wouldn’t be good at it.” Twilight shook her head and wiped roughly at her eyes when tears formed in them.
“Now you know that ain’t so. If nothing else, the Goddess knew it was bad timin’. We still ain’t got things settled with Pack Simoa. One of the pups from the other side got stolen because of them and their unholy alliances. Maybe once it’s safer here, we’ll get another chance.” Kieran moved the soap into the water and rubbed it on a wash cloth for his mate. But when he looked to her, she turned from him.
She hid her face from Kieran by shifting to rest her forehead on her knees. This had Twilight’s dark hair draping to the sides of her face like a curtain. “I shouldn’t be like this.. I’m weak.” She quickly shut up and just sat there in the center of the pink water drawn into as tight a fetal ball as she could get. She felt soft and vulnerable and it wasn’t feelings that she was comfortable with. You weren’t allowed such as a soldier and protector to the Alpha. Her emotions and moods were everywhere and it confused her. Why did she feel like this?
“You know what made me love you, more’n anything else?” He moved the washcloth over her back and shoulders. “That you were willin’ ta share things with me that nobody else knew or saw. You’re tough and you’re strong and yeah, that’s somethin’ I couldn’t get enough of. But over the years, that’s not strength. Not real strength. Not between two people. Real strength is showing everything and knowing your mate’ll understand. Trusting me. Letting me trust you.” His accent moved away from his words as he spoke them from the heart.
While she hadn’t moved, Twilight had been listening to everything her mate had been saying. He spoke of trust and right now she really wasn’t trusting him at all. How fair was that? Not fair at all. But what if he saw her weaknesses and after a while he no longer wanted her because of them?
He poured water over her shoulders and placed the freshly soapy washcloth in her hands, even though she wasn’t looking at him. “It’s taken me a while… since coming back… to let my mind wind down, ya know? Last night? That was a perfect example. I wasn’t the fierce warrior anymore. I mean, I was… inside… but with Devon and then really… moreso with you… I was a daddy and a grandfather and then a true mate, holding his future in his arms. And I was no longer limited to just be the warrior.” He got up and began taking off his own bloody clothing. Looking into the mirror, he grumbled. His beard was damned mess. He reached over to his belt hung by the mirror, took out his blade and began cutting the damned thing off, then and there.
At the sound Twilight quickly looked up at where he stood, “What are ya doin?” Her head tipped to the side as she continued to sit there and watch him cut away his beard.
“Getting rid of this. For the love of the Goddess, I don’t even remember what I look like without one. About time to do away with it when it’s tangled in blood and guts and who knows what, don’t ya think?” He looked back over at her, his eyes narrowing. “You better not leave me over mah damn beard, woman.”
That actually made Twi chuckle a little and she relaxed back into the water a moment to rinse. She even dipped down beneath the water to wet her hair and scrubbed it clean while he finished removing his beard. When she felt him return to the side of the tub, Twilight sat up and shifted so that he could join her. “Sit and let me wash you.” Her voice was soft and held her pain in the gentle lull of it.
He just needed to shave a couple of times now to get rid of the leavings, but most of his beard was gone. He’d only cut the rest of his hair off if she wanted him to. He was a traditionalist in the way that… he had braids with a bunch of beads in them. Those would never be cut. But he wasn’t above trying some of those different styles. When she offered, he absolutely wasted no time in joining her.
Straddling his thighs Twilight used the soapy cloth to wash him. The cloth was moved over his arms and up to his shoulders then down to his chest. Leaving the cloth in the center of his chest Twi stared at the soapy little curls that spread out and arrowed downward to vanish beneath the water.
His eyes sought hers, but she was lost in something. So Kieran did as he often did with Twilight. He was silent and he waited for her. She was a woman of few words, and everything she said or did was important and usually full of meaning. He deciphered her very well, he thought. All these years… he hoped he did a good job of it.
“When mother traded me off to the Simoa Alpha, he didn’t want me as a mate nor I him. His mother, though? That was very different. She had made the deal with my mother and so when we didn’t mate she was gonna send me back and shame my family to our Packs. I went to him and made a plea that he let me stay and I would become one of his personal guards.” She swallowed hard and moved her fingers through the curls, “I had to become that hard.. That fierce. I cried and received horrible training days until I cried no more. The Simoa taught me that to cry was showing weakness and weakness led to pain and sometimes even death.”
“That ain’t right and you know it, Twi. You ain’t no less tough for feeling what’s in your heart and showing it. Especially not to me.” he placed a hand on her chest over her heart. His eyes showed his pain and he wouldn’t hide that. When she moved, he let his hand go back to the side of the tub.
Her gaze moved up as her hands slid up the sides of Kieran’s neck. She felt the strong, steady thumping of his pulse beneath her thumbs as she looked over his newly shaven face. She washed over the smooth skin of his jaw and chin as she caught his gaze.
“Ya won’t lose me over the loss of yer beard.” She leaned to press her bare breasts against his soapy chest and whispered against his lips before kissing him, “I love ya too much for that, damn it.” Tears trickled down her cheeks and her bottom lip quivered even as she continued with the kiss. Her heart ached and she was letting him see that, she was trusting him as he had trusted her.
The kiss led to nothing more than their understanding and their reconnection after such a loss. Kieran washed his own hair with her help and continued to rub her aching muscles and make sure she was at least clean and calm again before getting out of the tub. He got her a towel and wrapped her up in it, let her handle her hair and then moved to dry her before tending to himself. He walked into the bedroom beyond the large screen and untucked the covers for her the way she liked them. When she was in the bed, he slid in behind her and pulled her close to him. He rumbled for her a couple of times and kissed the side of her neck and her shoulder before holding her.
With the way her body ached and was sore, she was just glad to be tended to by Kieran and then be able to curl up with him in their bed to be held. Was it weak of her to need such from him? Probably. Or maybe he was right… and that was just what those bastards in the other pack thought. She wasn’t in that pack anymore. They no longer mattered. She just wanted to be tended and be close to her mate.