Warrior’s Bride (PT 23)

Chapter Twenty Three

Cadell dragged in a calming breath as unwelcome memories flooded into him. Something deep within Tialla swelled knowing that he was only tearing open some old wound for her, because he did not want any secrets between them. Because he loved her.
Sitting still, she gave him the time he needed, he soon starting once more to talk. “I remember hearing the scream and looking up. I could see my sister running to the balcony. Garel was behind her, part of her sleeve in his hands. He must have cornered her in one of the rooms and attacked her.”
She could hear the anguish in his voice, she unable to hold back has her hand gripped his, their fingers entwining. He clung to her, seeming to draw strength, continuing, “I remember dropping my sword and running for the wall. Next thing, I was scaling the wall. I had no idea what I was doing, I just knew I had to reach her.”
Swallowing, his fingers tightened around hers. “By that point she had reached the balcony. She was screaming for him to leave her alone. I could see the terror in her eyes. She knew what kind of man he was. She knew that nothing she did would stop him.”
Now she could feel the tremble in his hands – this man so strong, so in command, shaken by a memory. “Then she saw me. She knew that I would defend her, she also knew I was no match for that bastard.” His look rose to meet hers, pain deep inside their darkness. “I knew what she was going to do, and I screamed for her not to, but she just mouthed to me she loved me, and then she jumped onto the wall and over.” A shuddered breath escaped him. “I could only stare at where she lay. My sister, the best person I ever knew, dead.” Now anger seemed to flare in him, his lips curling into a snarl. “Then I heard him. He stood there laughing. He actually laughed. My sister lay dead, my sister with her vibrant, caring personality, had given her life to escape him and he laughed. I saw red. Next thing I knew I was racing up the rest of the wall and had pulled out my knife and was attacking him. He mocked my attempts before knocking me to the ground. I remember him taking his time to go and pick up his sword. I knew that he was going to kill me, but I just didn’t care.”
Once more pain crossed his handsome features as he stared ahead. “I waited for him to take me down, I couldn’t even look at him, but then I heard steel-on-steel. When I looked up, my father was there. He was fighting with Garel.” His head turned once more as their eyes collided, desperation in his voice. “Tialla, he fought like a demon to avenge my sister and protect me, but even he was no match for Garel. I remember seeing Garel pull another knife from his back and I tried to warn my father, but it was too late.”
Another shudder ripped through him. “To this day, I will never forget watching my father die.”
Tialla lifted her free hand, allowing it to gently caress his shoulder, the action one of support. His hand trapped it, bringing it to his lips, her soft voice like a balm to him. “But you lived. What happened?”
Nodding, he resumed his story. “I got back to my feet and lunged at Garel, but by this point others had already entered the room. I was grabbed and dragged to the ground. I welcomed death, to be reunited with my family.” She felt his body stiffen. “My whole family had just been wiped out, my world destroyed and the son-of-a-bitch stood over me and laughed. I told him to do it, to kill me, but he ordered me thrown in the cells.” His lips curled bitterly. “After all he had done, he declared me a traitor and ordered me to be made an example of. I was to be publically executed.”
Her exhale of shock brought a fleeting sad smile to his lips. “As is traditional, my execution was to take place at daybreak and I was ready for it.” His brow furrowed as his eyes once more slid from hers. “That night Zandria appeared at my cell. As you can imagine I was surprised to see Garel’s son there.”
“Garel’s son!”
Tialla’s shocked words saw his smile widen. “Yes Zandria is Garel’s eldest son. He is also everything his father is not. He is wise, brave and fair. All things that would one day have made him an excellent leader. However, I think his qualities never endeared him to his father and I think that he knew it was only a matter time before Zandria would challenge him for leadership, and given his reputation it was likely the people would support Zandria. In fact an attempt on his life had already been made, and Zandria is nobody’s fool. He knew who was behind it.”
Tialla sat back, stunned shock on her features, her head shaking softly. “I had no idea.”
Nodding, Cadell’s brows furrowed deeper. “I owe Zandria more than I can ever repay. I would be dead now if it were not for him. He along with some of the soldiers my father was friends with stormed the prison and freed me and many others imprisoned for no real crimes. He persuaded me that Drakel needed saved and that I should join them.”
Honesty and respect blasted from him. “I owe Zandria everything.”
“So why is Zandria not here now marrying himself a princess?”
Her question elicited a small chuckle as he inclined his head. “As I said, Zandria is a smart man. We had to make aliances and persuade many to follow us. It turned out that I had a knack for leadership, as did he, but he talked me into the role of leader because he knew that being known as Garel’s son, despite the fact he was a hunted man, would lose us support. So I became leader and he became my second. He is my most valued confidant and advisor and above all my friend. I trust him with my life Tialla.”

next installment {14th September}

Warrior’s Bride (Pt 22)

Chapter Twenty Two

Tialla’s eyes widened as she stuttered out her incredulity, “Y… You’re from Drakel?”
Cadell grimaced, standing. “It’s a long story. One best told over food”, his tone softening. “I’ll tell you the whole sorry tale if you go shower and freshen up. Deal?”
Her mouth snapped shut as she smiled, her head nodding. “OK. Food and a shower does sound kind of good right now.”
His hand reached out to lift her to her feet. Seeing as the sheet fell from her naked form she could see the fire that sprung to his dark eyes, a shaky half-laugh leaving him. “OK. I will give you peace, because looking at you right now is not doing anything for my determination to be a responsible husband and ensure you retain your strength.”
Chuckling, she moved to the mouth of the cave, pausing before she rounded the section of the wall which would obscure her sight of him, her movement unhurriedly sexy as she shimmied before him. Turning her head to look at him over her shoulder her sultry look brought another groan from him. “As you wish my lover”, her laugh becoming deeper hearing the small curse from him, his “Now I am going to be needing a cold shower” making her laugh even harder.
She felt strangely powerful at his reaction, his quickly cried out instructions on where to find the ‘perfect shower’ seeing her turn left as she exited the cave.
He was right. The water fell behind the tunnel at just the right point to allow her to wash, she gasping as the ice water sloshed all over her, reviving her body with its refreshing tingles. Washed, she returned to the cave, quickly drying before dressing, her brows furrowed as she once more left, this time turning right in search of Cadell.
Leaving the protective curtain of water her senses were bombarded by the delicious aroma of cooking, her belly once more rumbling, her feet moving faster to join him. In a small clearing, he had a fire burning, her makeshift stove over it with two scaled and gutted fish cooking. He had somehow found fruit as well and cut them into pieces ready for eating.
Hearing her move towards him, Cadell turned, a wide smile on his handsome face, Tialla’s stomach flipping at just the sight of him. So this was what it was like to be in love, happiness swamping her. It felt good.
“As promised my queen – breakfast”, his hands sweeping towards a large tree stump he had cleaned and set her cutlery on. Shaking her head, she laughed, dropping onto the fur rug which she had last seen on their bed, his consideration for her comfort somehow touching.
Within seconds he joined her, passing her a plate and waiting for her to try a piece of the perfectly cooked fish. Her eyes closed reverently, a sound of pleasure leaving her lips. “That is delicious!”
“Well, I might not cook often, but when I do… Let’s just say I have never killed anybody with food”, his smile and cheeky comment making her laugh.
As they ate in silence, her eyes often turned to him. She had so many questions, instinctively knowing that the time to ask was close, but in the meantime having to admit that he was most definitely a surprise. How many leaders, especially warlords, knew how to cook?
When both finished, each having eaten their lot, Tialla rubbed her belly, a dreamy smile on her lips, “I could get used to this”, her wistful words bringing another smile to him, his head nodding too as he looked around at their peaceful setting.
“Yeah. It is pretty nice. No pressure, no life or death decisions to make… Just chill.”
Chuckling, her eyes danced with impish fun. “No poor women to strip and dress as a slave…”
She giggled harder as his features crumpled into an apologetic ‘ouch’ before he too grinned wickedly, turning to her. “Guess I should not admit that I had a really good look right? That would not be the smartest thing to say.”
As she mock-glared at him, he laughed harder, his hands reaching for her and pulling her onto the rug under him, his head bending as he claimed her lips. Instantly Tialla melted against him, her arms wrapping around his neck. This felt right. He felt right.
Pulling from her, Cadell smiled seeing the look on her beautiful face, her closed eyes slowly opening as a wistful sigh escaped her soft lips. She wanted him every bit as much as he her, this knowledge swelling his insides. But now it was the time for some truths.
Pushing up to a seating position, he helped her up, his fingers entwining with hers. “I promised you the truth, and I want to tell you everything Tialla.”
Her lips curved in the most adorable smile, trust shining from her as she wordlessly nodded.
Exhaling a long sigh, his eyes dropped to the rug, a frown furrowing his brow as he began his story. “I was born in Drakel. My father was a soldier, part of Garel’s personal security. When my sister was eighteen, he was able to get her a position as one of Garel’s current queen’s maids.” His head rose, his eyes finding hers. “She was so excited Tialla. She thought that working in the castle would be wonderful, exciting.” She silently watched as anger seemed to seep into his eyes. “At the time I was training as a soldier. We would practice in the courtyard and I was doing well. It seemed my family were destined for good things in Garel’s service.”
Her fingers squeezed his seeing the pain which flashed across his features “Niandra, my sister, had only worked there for a day when it became apparent that she had caught the eye of Garel.” His mouth curling into a bitter sneer, “And Garel is not the kind of man to take no for an answer.”

Next installment {28th Aug}

Warrior’s Bride (Pt 21)

Chapter Twenty-One

Blinking awake the next morning, Tialla frowned, her eyes expecting the sun to be pouring in from the large window in her bedroom, the breeze cooling the large opulent room. However, it was dark, a closed in feel to the area along with a musty smell, confusion filling her. Where was she?
Sitting up, she felt the fur fall away, again not the expected silk sheets she was used to. Her eyes widened seeing herself naked, just as the memories swooshed in, her hands rising to cover her mouth. She was in a cave. She was taking part in Tol Dar. A giggle spluttered up from between her fingers. She was no longer a virgin. She was Cadell’s queen by every possible meaning of the word. Letting herself drop back into the make-shift bed, heat bloomed within. She was in love, and what was more, he was in love with her. Her heart swelled with this knowledge. Her head turned looking for him even as her hands patted the empty place beside her. She was alone, a sense of loss invading her. Where was he?
The sound of feet approaching saw her head swing around just in time to see Cadell himself appear, something swinging from his hands. She heard his small groan as he dropped whatever he carried onto a small outcrop of rock before moving to quickly join her. His hands cupped her face, dragging her mouth to his, “Good morning my love.”
His words curved her lips into a large grin, her hands covering his, “Good morning my King”, her response seeing his eyes shine with pride as he smoothed her hair from her face.
“No. I will always be your slave Tialla because you will always be the queen of my heart. Others may call me their king, but I wish you to only ever call me your love.”
Her arms flew around his neck as she nodded. “I can do that”, the words whispered against his ear with reverence. She felt a shudder from him before he pulled back slightly to look closely at her. “I was not sure how you would feel this morning”, his features contorting into a grimace. “I meant to go easy on you, but…”
Giggling, she allowed herself to once more fall back onto their bed, a throaty purr leaving her, “Never go easy on me my love. I am tougher than I look.” Now her smooth brow furrowed as she looked closer at him. “Where have you been?”, a small pout on her lips. “And why did you not wake me?”
Chuckling, he lay alongside her, leaning in to trail his mouth down her neck, “I woke hours ago, and I decided to get breakfast for you as a surprise.”
At the thought of food, she felt her stomach rumble, the realisation hitting her that after a long walk to the cave neither had eaten, yet both had definitely expended a lot of energy through the night. She felt her insides warm at his consideration, his tongue now tantalizing the small hollow where her neck and shoulder joined, sending tremors through her. Turning her nose towards him, she inhaled him before frowning. He smelled fresh, washed, a throaty laugh leaving her. “Why do you smell so clean?”
Cadell pulled back, a smile on his mouth. “I showered. I found a section of the waterfall that was perfect for you, so I tested it first.” His brows rising and falling, “I don’t want my queen to go off me do I?”
Now her eyes widened, “Really?”
He nodding in confirmation, his eyes sparkling with fun, “Don’t think I didn’t see the different soaps you managed to slide into that bag. I want this home of ours for the next week to be comfortable for you.”
Tialla released a long happy sigh. “To think that I feared that I might spend Tol Dor living under a bush somewhere trying to keep my spoilt husband-to-be from getting eaten by some animal”, her lips curving into a wicked smile. “Or not saving him, depending on his attitude.” Pushing herself half up, her look was quizzical, “Your father must have been a very different king from most. The princes I met would think not having a servant to pull down their bed was living rough.”
Cadell’s features seemed to grow more serious as he shook his head, wariness in his eyes, “My father was not a king Tialla. I don’t come from royal blood.”
“But you are king of Karok?”
His shoulders shrugged as he nodded. “Yes. But only because I overturned the previous ruler,” He looked away, his body stiffening, “I’m sorry. I thought that you would know all of this”, his head dropping slightly as he seemed to stare at something on the bed, his brows drawn tightly together, a strain now in his tone. “The fact is that I am not even originally from Karok. I wonder if this changes your feelings for me.” Now his head turned to her, his expression fierce, yet she could see a vulnerability there too. “Does it make a difference to you that I am not from royal blood Tialla?”
Pushing herself straight, her arms flew around him, “NO! I have dealt with those from royal blood Cadell. They are mostly self-serving, selfish and all things that I despise. You are honourable, kind, protective and you are the man I love. As far as I am concerned a man’s worth is in his character. These other kingdoms would do well with a leader like yourself, and I love you.”
She felt him cling to her before he pulled back slightly, love radiating from him. “I love you too”, the pair staring at each other before her stomach rumbled, both laughing as their foreheads met, Cadell’s fingers gently stroking her cheek. “Well this leader better feed his future wife before she turns into a spitting animal.”
Snorting out a derisive sound she gave him a quick kiss before cocking her head slightly, “So if you are not from Karok, where are you from?”
She felt him tense as he blew out a breath, his eyes sombre as he answered, “Drakel.”

next installment August 12th