Chapter 1

"I'm not going to let anything happen to you. Ever." Richard's words were balm to Kahlan's heart. Not only did they assuage her fears of being the last of her kind, but they reinforced his true feelings for her. She knew he cared deeply for her, but Cara's presence had been testing her…bringing out emotions in Kahlan she'd never experienced before. Envy. Jealousy. This was new territory for Kahlan and Cara's ability to give Richard what she could not weighed heavy on her. Those words he'd spoken to her just days ago helped remind her that it was she alone who held a special place in his heart.

Just after making camp, she and Richard had slipped away from the others in need of some quiet time together. Just wanting to enjoy being near one another without the eyes of others upon them.

But Kahlan had heavy burdens: it seemed she and her companions were not the first to learn of the other Confessors' deaths on Valaria and a struggle for power was quickly escalating at the Confessor's Place. She had received word that Governor Rowley was holding council meetings, trying to persuade other Governors throughout the Midlands that the line of confessors was irrelevant now that they believed only Kahlan survived.

Richard didn't understand, "How can he hold council meetings if there are no Confessors left? Who would he be meeting with?"

Kahlan explained that it was called the "Council of Confessors" as it was ruled by them, but the body was also made up of trusted leaders from throughout the Midlands and was presided over by the Mother Confessor herself. Governor Rowley apparently wasn't as trusted as originally believed.

Kahlan knew that while this struggle was vitally important to all the Midlands, finding the Stone of Tears was crucial to the entire world. They had to prevent the Keeper from leaving the Underworld. She had sent word back that she trusted the remaining council members would quell any insurrection in her absence. She hoped she was right; she feared she was not. Considering Rowley was one of the members of that council, she dreaded to think others might harbor his same views. But right now, she was on a much more important mission.

Her thoughts swirled to all that had happened over recent months. Richard had many times over risked everything to save her from Rahl, from banelings; the Midland's was riddled with dangers. She knew that it meant he cared for her as much as she cared for him. And that made him vulnerable.

She needed to keep him safe. Not only from the new evils they knew were lurking, but from herself. She would do anything to protect the man she loved, including sending him away. Their love and devotion to each other was pulling them closer…and tearing them apart with the agony of not being able to be together.

After Pamorah, she would return to Aydindril alone. It broke her heart to think of telling him to leave her side, but there was no point in delaying it. They had fought so hard, given up so much for the freedom and future of the people of the Midland's; but for them, there would be no future.

Until then, she needed him to stay focused. She wondered how she could expect him to remain so when she herself was losing that same battle. Whenever he looked at her or spoke her name, it was all she could do to keep from reaching out to touch him. She knew he felt the same way and she wasn't sure how much longer she could hold herself back. She hoped at least as long as it took them to get to Pamorah. One of them needed to remain strong and she was finding it more and more difficult. If Richard faltered too…

Tears pricked her eyes as she shook her head. The consequences were too great to think about. But she had to think about them. It was the only way to remain strong. If she lost control of her emotions, her power…for Richard, it would be deadly.

Richard saw her tears. He put a hand to her arm halting her steps. "Why are you crying?"

She managed a small smile. She couldn't bring herself to tell him the decision she'd come to. She would let him know, in time. "It's nothing." She said, moving to lean against a tree just off the path. "I was just remembering everything we've been through these last few months…wondering what lies ahead."

Richard picked her hand up in both of his. "It has been pretty scary hasn't it? But we're together, that's what's important, Kahlan." His warm smile only made her feel worse. How could she possibly send him away from her?

Kahlan looked down at her hand in his, blinking back tears that were ready to fall. "We should get back to the others."

He held onto her hand long after he should have. He couldn't bring himself to let go. He needed her warmth, the connection to her. He could see she needed his touch just as much. He suddenly felt a strong pull to her, one he couldn't ignore. He leaned in close, his lips a heartbeat away from hers.

She felt his warm breath on her face. "Richard, no" she whispered softly.

The nearness of her as her breath mingled with his made him dizzy. He brushed her cheek with his, softly nudging his nose against her. The feel of her skin against him sent a shiver down his spine. "It's alright Kahlan." His gentle words sent her heart racing just as his lips took hers.

Kahlan was unable to resist as his gentle kiss lulled her deeper. Her fingers moved up his body to caress the back of his neck. He pulled her close, feeling her melt into him.

His passion growing, Richard's breath came heavy as he kissed her cheek, her ear, her neck. Kahlan relished the feel of his whiskers, rough against her skin, of his warm lips on her neck and face. She gathered his hair in her fingers. When his mouth took hers once more, she felt the heat of desire rising within her, mingling with her power like a tempestuous storm about to strike.

Abruptly, she pulled back. Tears sprang readily to her eyes. "Richard, please," she panted. "It's too dangerous. We can't do this."

Still holding onto her, Richard felt a visceral pain within. The magical barrier between them grew agonizingly more difficult to avoid. How could he make her understand? Understand that he'd rather live under her power as a confessed man than be without her? How many times had he tried to tell her he wasn't afraid. She wouldn't hear of it.

He needed to somehow convince her it would all be okay, but she was too afraid of hurting him. Right now, all he could see was her anguish. He released his hold on her, sorrow evident in his eyes.

Choking back tears, she stepped away from him, back onto the path, "I'm sorry Richard."

xxx