Love's Promise

Chapter Seven

"Kiss Me"

Daine wasn't, in all honesty, sure how she'd ended up kissing Kaidin. She knew though, that he tasted a little spicier than Numair. That his tongue was broader and his mouth a bit smaller. That his hands were trembling around her waist and his wonderful blue eyes were closed.

She hadn't meant to kiss him.

Perhaps it'd just happened, she thought to herself, wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling him closer.

Earlier the tension had been unbearable. Numair had grown defensive when Daine brought up Lady Sasha. 'There's nothing to be worried about,' he grumbled grouchily as he ate his breakfast that she'd brought him. He immediately ran off to the library, and Daine hadn't seen him since.

Kaidin had found her. They'd spent the day wandering through the forests. It was a cool autumn day. Daine had realized they wouldn't be leaving before the winter snow filled the pass, but she felt that there was little reason to. She doubted herself. In the weeks that Lady Sasha had been visiting, Daine had grown more passive, more reclusive. Intimate moments between her and Numair were few and far between, and she'd seen the glint in Lady Sasha's deadly blue eyes as she flicked them between Daine and Numair.

The day with Kaidin had been wonderful. She had gathered a few late fruits, and Kaidin had hunted. He was a decent woodsman, she had thought to herself.

The tension had risen between them. Her stress over Numair and the soon to be cold weather had made her irate and short. Kaidin was patient. He waited while she vented, pretended not to notice her random crying fits, and managed to make her feel wanted.

It had been later when things got out of hand.

Daine had shivered in the cool night air, feeling it through the thin shirt she wore. When Kaidin shrugged off his vest and slipped it around her shoulders, she had felt like a girl again, a young girl with a boy who couldn't figure out her breastband and fumbled like a kid.

She didn't know who leaned in first, but the comforting feel of him on her side was enough to cause her to relax into him.

"Kiss me," she had said. And he did. Soft and gentle, exploring her mouth; his trembling hands hovering against her side nervously. It took Daine a few moments to realize that he was in fact kissing her, and a few more to realize that she'd told him to do it.

But now that he was, she didn't want him to stop. When he pulled back, releasing her from the kiss, his dark blue eyes were filled with a want that Daine had so rarely seen in her life. She didn't know why she felt so drawn to him. Perhaps because he too had disappointed his parent so often because of his gift? Or perhaps it had more to do with the fact that he was so vulnerable looking. With those big blue eyes and his calloused hands that were so gentle with her…

"We-we shouldn't." His voice was choked, his hands still trembling. Kaidin was scared out of his wits. What is Master Salmalin found out? He would be turned into a tree or-or a bush! Something terrible would happen and it all would've been for nothing.

But Daine did taste so good…

Daine leaned in to hug him, her cheek against his. "Why?" Her tone suggested more than one word should've been able to. She was scared of losing Numair, of being alone again. She had friends, but that something with Numair was so special. What happened to her if he left her for Lady Sasha? Would her friends still want her? She pushed the thoughts away, her steel-blue eyes on Kaidin's dark blue ones.

"It… it's not right."

When he left her at her room's, he bowed stiffly, not meeting her eyes. Then he was gone. Daine cried in the privacy of her room. She felt wretched. She was despicable, worthless, and shamed. Just like a bastard child should be, she thought caustically as she buried her face in her pillow.

She had kissed another man. She'd enjoyed it, too. She wanted to do it again, she wanted to feel more. She choked back the sobs. It wouldn't do to be crying when, and if, Numair came to bed. And there was little she could do tonight, she thought to herself pointedly. She would wait until tomorrow. Then she could talk to Kaidin, and in a few days, her parents would be visiting, too. Perhaps her mother would know what to do.

Daine never got around to talking to Kaidin or Numair. The next few days were foggy to her. She couldn't quite remember what had gone on. Of course, the fog had been destroyed a little when she'd caught Lady Sasha cornering Numair, her hands and body and lips pressed up against him as Numair sagged.

He didn't remember it the next day, the day of the equinox. Lady Sasha had given him plenty to drink, and the next morning, he'd been just as defensive of Lady Sasha's intent as he had been the days before. Daine bit her lip as she tried to figure out what to do. If she told Numair, and he believed her, perhaps Daine could convince him to leave. They would catch the tail end of the snows at this point, but it was a risk she was willing to take. What with Kaidin and Lady Sasha about, nothing was sacred.

Though the shy knight had been stiffly polite. He no longer appeared when she was alone, or cast glances at her at the dinner table. When she asked him how his day was, he mumbled something before walking quickly down another hallway, giving some excuse of needing to be somewhere with someone directing something or another.

The celebration of the equinox was a merry one, at least. Even Daine felt her spirits lifted at the drinks and food that surrounded the area. Half of the celebration was held outside, the wolves 'patrolling' the tables of food while bats swarmed overhead to keep the area mostly free of bugs.

Daine met all sorts of animals and people in the celebration. The party continued late on into the eve, though Daine soon returned to her rooms to await her parents.

Shimmering light surrounded her mother as she appeared in front of Daine. She was dressed as the Green Lady, her presence alone soothing Daine's nerves. "Oh dear," she mumbled before moving to hold her daughter who was already crying. The drinks had numbed some of her inhibition and she couldn't help it. She didn't know what she was doing, where she was going, and who she would be with in ten years. There had been times that she hadn't thought she'd be alive ten years from now, but with the war having died down… she was still unsure. And the thoughts frightened her. Somehow she felt that she was going to end up losing Numair and Kaidin. That Numair would fall for Lady Sasha and Kaidin would retain his cool exterior. What if she ended up all alone?

Her father appeared next, his antlers knocking on the bed frame as moved to sit beside his wife. He wrapped his arm around her shoulder and held daughter and wife close to him, stroking Daine's back gently. He hadn't been there when she needed him, and while he couldn't offer her advice, he could comfort her.

Her parent's visit seemed all too brief. Her mother had let her spill her thoughts and feelings, and her father had sat comfortably with them, his approval of her shining in his eyes. It felt good, to be approved of. To have someone confirm that she was doing something right with her life that mattered. Ever since the war had died down, she had felt motionless. Like she couldn't grow or change or learn.

It was late. Numair was asleep in the common area across a couch, Scrap curled up in his lap as she purred and cleaned herself in the fading firelight. Daine stirred up the fire, banking it with some extra wood, before wiping her hands off. Her walk led her to the gardens, as it often did when she was listless and tired. There was a peace and a wildly tame feeling about the gardens. She had always admired them, and they soothed her immensely.

Sitting on the soft grassy area alongside the bushes, Daine meditated for a while. She was more relaxed feeling in that moment than she had been all summer.

She wasn't sure how long she'd been meditating when she heard the crunch of leaves. The wolf pack had been singing to mother moon, and she had been with them. It was a beautiful feeling.

Kaidin was watching her when she opened her eyes.

"You were with them," he said with a frown.

Daine raised her eyebrows at him in surprise, opening her mouth for a second.

"I felt you… with them. You were there. But you're here." His dark eyes watched her, the moonlight coming from behind him and obscuring his figure.

Finally, she nodded, giving him a shy smile. "It is rewarding to run with the pack…"

Kaidin thought it over for a second before nodding as well. "True." Daine felt a warmth in her cheeks. Why did it feel so good to not have to explain to him what she meant? That he would just accept it and understand? "Everyone else is asleep," he said finally, his arms across his chest.

Daine looked at her hands, cupped in her lap. "Why aren't you?"

"I was looking for you."

"Oh," she exhaled the word softly, as she stood, feeling vulnerable and exposed sitting while he stood. She brushed her hands over her clothing, the pale pink of her dress shimmering in the light. Her mother had clucked over her, telling her it was much too loose, and that it wouldn't kill her to show off a tiny bit of her figure. Daine suddenly felt self-conscious of the dress. She looked to the ground, fingering a piece of the gauzy material. The lady-like sweater she wore over her shoulders didn't seem to keep the shivers out.

"I…" Daine hated when his voice did that. When he sounded so soft and unsure that she wanted to look at him… and she knew that if she did… She did it anyhow, against her better judgment, her steel blue eyes locking on his dark blue. She didn't like not being able to see his facial features.

If asked, Daine wouldn't be able to tell who moved forward first. All she knew was that his arms were around her waist, pulling her up to him, and his lips were on hers. He was just as spicy as she remembered, a hint of alcohol on his breath. Perhaps that was what had soothed his shyness, she thought in an absent way. Her fingers pulled at his dark hair, finding that it was as soft as those terrible thoughts had led her to believe. Not like Numair's coarse, thick hair.

The sudden thought of Numair caused her to push Kaidin away, her breath coming quickly as she licked her lips, trying not to look at him. "I-I thought this wasn't… right?" She tried to gather her thoughts, tried to think of all the reasons why she shouldn't give in to the young man.

It was harder than it should've been.

She bit her bottom lip and took another cautious step back. Kaidin didn't pursue her, though he was standing stiffly. "It's not." For once he seemed sure of what he was saying.

Daine wrapped her arms around herself, looking away from his face. The angle had changed enough so she could just see part of his mouth, the hard curve of his jaw, and one dark blue eye.

"We can't…" Daine paused, seeing Kaidin accept it, his gaze shifting to the ground. "Not out here."

He looked back up to her, a frown pulling the corner of his lips down before he stuck his hand out at it. Daine took it, trembling as she glanced at him.

A/N: Surprise chapter. Because I quit my shitty job. ;) The next chapter continues after this one, so... you've been warned. Hah. enjoy. Mmm, so happy I'm done with that job.