"You're doing this to spite me, aren't you?" Fiona strode through the open doorway of the barn, her eyes adjusting to the dim slanting sunlight within. Her shadow fell across Yellow Sky’s mottled coat as Storm curried his horse. “ I had to hear about it from the crew. You couldn’t talk to me about it? Were you at least going to say goodbye?”
The graceful line of his back stiffened and he froze. His head dipped as though he was composing himself, preparing to speak. Instead, he sighed, a great deflating gust of defeat. "You're leaving, too." was all he said flatly, placing the brush he’d been using on the shelf. His hands gently smoothed over the horse’s white-mottled muzzle. "It's not going to matter to you where I go." He turned to face her, meeting her eyes, and Fiona had never seen him look so shattered and haunted. "Fiona..." he shook his head. "I can't do this anymore.”
"I just...you don’t understand how I feel." she forced her face to remain steady, refusing to cry. She was afraid. Utterly terrified that the world was ending. "I don’t want to fight with you...but...I can't see you come home in the back of the wagon again...do you understand, Storm?” Her voice cracked, and she was ashamed of the shrill quality of it, at the trite comment she’d uttered. What was coming out of her mouth was not what needed to be discussed and she knew it. "You don't know what that was like..."
"“Yeah, I do!” He spat, his face twisting in anger, brightness gleaming in his eyelashes. “It’s probably just like the idea of you leaving makes me feel. I feel like that every damn time I think about you getting on a ship and going across an ocean I’ve never seen and never will. And that I'll never...that you'll... look...Fiona...I just realized that the only thing worse than staying here with you is staying here without you. I have to get away from... here."
He looked up at her again with his black, black eyes and she felt a tear roll down her cheek. "I don’t belong here, Storm. I want to go home." She reached for him, her fingers brushing his face. And I don’t even know where that is anymore...bloody hell, maybe I do. Maybe that’s the problem.
He flinched, and her heart broke for what felt like the hundredth time. He threw up his hands defensively, deflecting her touch and shaking his head. "Don’t do this.” He breathed, almost inaudibly. “Don’t make it worse for me, Fiona.” He stepped backwards, his bootheel knocking clumsily against the rough hewn timbers of the stall behind him. Yellow Sky whickered, startled. "Just...go."
She caught his wrists, holding them in her hands, feeling his pulse fluttering fast beneath her fingers. Don’t push me away, Storm, I can’t bear it...and I’m sorry...so sorry... She’d tried so hard not to hurt him, not to make it complicated, not to hurt herself. She’d failed in all of it. And now I’m leaving and he’s leaving and we’ll part angry and hurt and I’ll never see him again. All I’ll have left of him is regret...and...and... Her eyes met his startled gaze as she pushed him backwards, trapping him between her body and the timbers behind him, pressing her starved lips against his.
A jolt went through her that nearly buckled her knees as he gasped, his head jerking backwards and awkwardly hitting the wall. He clearly hadn't been expecting this. Neither had she. She lied to herself, swearing she’d intended to kiss his cheek, his forehead, maybe just hug him, swearing that she hadn’t meant to...to... to do this, but he was like sweet water on parched earth, and she knew with a shock of panic that from here on out, she'd spend the rest of her life thirsty. This kiss would not be enough. A hundred of them wouldn't be enough. What was left of her control was shouting at her, telling her to let him push her away, to walk out the door, to not turn this into something irreversible, but then he uttered a throaty, desperate groan that obliterated all remaining reason from her brain. He fumbled his wrists free from her grasp and crushed her against his body, his arms like iron bands. She could feel his heartbeat pounding hard against her breast, his silken hair spilling over her arms as she clutched at him.
He took her over, his mouth hungry, almost frightening, drawing the breath from her. If he hadn’t been holding her so tightly, her knees would have failed and she would have fallen. Her senses exploded with his presence, with the warmth of his body, the velvet softness of his lips and the honeyed sweetness of his mouth. Gripping his shoulders, she sank against him. She could not get enough of him. She knew she never would.
It took everything she had to tear her lips from his and meet his gaze. He was shaking against her, trembling and breathless and she stared in awe at the beautiful face she’d grown so familiar with, the masculine curve of his throat, the sleek, shadowy fall of his black hair. And those endlessly deep eyes. Oh, his eyes...She felt weakness and heat and desperate want surge through her. She tightened her arms around him, her head on his shoulder, her lips sighing his name against the hot pulse at his throat.
The strong arms around her and his hands tangled in her hair were her entire world, the wild galloping of his heart and the staggering gasp of his breath loud in her ear. Nothing else matters. Drawing in a deep, ragged inhalation, she savored the heady scent of him, hay and grass and sweet woodsmoke. Eons had passed in this tiny moment. Civilizations had risen and fallen and were buried by the sands of time in the moment they’d stood here. A different sun shone in the sky than what had shone there when she’d walked across the yard to the barn. The sunlight was brighter, the shadows deeper. She could no longer imagine what tomorrow might be like. “What now?” She whispered, leaning on him, tentatively breathing the air of her new world. She had been right to be afraid.
His whispered voice was hoarse, breathless. “There’s never been a time I haven’t loved you, woman...” Then his voice failed him and he squeezed his eyes shut, falling silent as he held her.
© 2010 Regina Shelley