The four companions have spent a quiet night, with Alton and Revanth communicating mind to mind, due to a bond Alton forged. The women watch them head to the river to bathe.
“Rev needs a friend so very much,” Astrid said softly. “Alton is the perfect one for it. They can chat, just as if Revanth could speak.” She wiped a tear. “I love him so much. The one regret I have, in all of this, is that we had no chance to be lovers.”
“You’ll have your chance,” Velda said. “We’ll find Eleion and make her reverse the spell.”
“Must you kill her?” Astrid’s voice squeaked like a mouse.
“I hope not. Depending upon how she cast it, will depend on how it’s undone.”
“Why would she want us to find you?”
Velda tossed her head, her long blue hair catching in the breeze. It billowed around her in dark blue waves. “If it’s the one I suspect, she and I have unfinished business to settle. I doubt I have anything to do with the spell itself. More likely, she wanted to find me, and you presented her with the perfect opportunity.”
“How dreadful! What did you argue about?”
“Who said we argued?”
Velda smiled, patting Astrid on the shoulder. “Some things are better left alone.” She turned away from the men, and walked to her bedroll.
Astrid had the distinct impression that whatever was between the two naiads, it had to do with Alton.
After the men cleaned themselves, and Alton changed his clothing, the women went about their ablutions. Velda had spare clothing for Astrid, a garment of midnight blue with silver trim. Together, they combed and plaited her unruly auburn hair.
By noon, they were ready. Although it was late in the day, Alton didn’t fancy another night in the forest. Astrid needed a bed, and he longed for a bath in something other than icy river water. He helped Astrid into the saddle, pleased to see that Velda had supplied her with a split skirt riding habit of her own design. The breeches appeared to be a skirt until the lady took horse. Astrid declared it her favorite garment, and determined to have half a dozen made for herself when they got home.
They came across the tavern Alton wanted, shortly after nightfall. He saw to it Revanth was settled in the stable and insisted upon fresh straw and feed for the steed.
“I’m sorry, my friend. It is the best I may do for you.”
Revanth nodded, nibbling Alton’s jacket.
“Soon, I promise. You deserve better. But it beats sleeping outside.”
The horse snorted.
Astrid came in a short time later. She carried currying brushes with her. Alton had removed the saddle and bridle for her, hanging them over the rails. He left the two alone, and went looking for Velda. He found her in their room, going through her things.
“Astrid’s currying her lover,” he teased.
Velda barely looked up. She was too intent on her pack.
“We have perhaps a quarter hour,” he mused, coming up behind her. He put his hands on her waist, pulling her toward him.
Velda giggled, swatting at him. “There’s nothing much you can do in that space of time. You’re too long winded.”
“I am, but I prefer something to nothing.”
“Never you mind. I got Astrid her own room across the hall. Besides ourselves, the tavern is empty. So, after dinner, you can have as long as you like.”
“In that case….”
Alton turned Velda to face him. His fingers dove into her hair, caressing her cheeks with his thumbs. His kiss was passionate, loving, possessive. In all their time together, he’d never kissed her like that. Velda shivered, leaning into his embrace. Her arms circled him as she gave herself over to the desire. Alton chuckled.
“I do believe you want this as much as I do.”
“Don’t I always?” she whispered. “I left my home and family for you.”
“And I, for you.”
“You’ve given up so much for me,” she replied. “More than I’ve ever sacrificed for you.”
“You put up with my womanizing and thieving ways,” he said with a chuckle. “Not all women would allow her mate to do that.”
“I suppose not.”
“I don’t want to do that anymore, Velda. I want only you. If you’d marry me, I would no longer stray.”
“You’ve told me that before, Alton. Forgive me for not believing you.” She struggled to get away.
He held her firmly but gently. “You don’t know as much about my people, as you think. Yes, we men like to wander. Like bees, we shed pollen where we may. But once we are bound to the woman we love, all that stops. We fertilize but one flower from then on.”
“Why have you never told me that before?”
He chuckled, nibbling her neck. “It never seemed important until now.”
“What’s changed now?”
© 2019 Dellani Oakes
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