Chapter Three:

Leaving Home

Amilei blinked her eyes open slowly and the full force of what had happened the night before hit sat straight up in bed, her breathing ragged. Amilei glanced first to the right of her on the bed then to the left. Charlemagne was not lying beside her.

Amilei frowned and her gaze turned to room, sweeping across the furniture without leaving an object unchecked. Finally, Amilei spotted Charlemagne curled up in a braided wicker chair using his muscular forearm as a pillow for his head.

She slowly crawled to the end of the bed to get a closer look at the man who was now her husband. Charlemagne was probably the most handsome man Amilei had ever seen, not that she'd ever been allowed to observe that many men. But with his red-gold halo of hair and bright green eyes her husband was certainly attractive. Wait, bright green eyes?

"Like what you see?" Amilei reared back when she noticed that Sharley had woken to found her inspecting him. "Well?" Sharley asked cockily as he rose and stretched.

Amilei stared up at the impressive man before her, unable to move from her spot on the bed. "I don't know..." She finally blurted and dropped her gaze.

Sharley immediately sensed that something had changed, and not for the better, so he rushed to fix it. "Hey now, you've nothing to be ashamed of. I'm rather good looking and everyone knows it." He grinned and leaned forward to trap Amilei in between the bed and his bare chest.

"I've never been alone with a man before." Amilei whispered and her eyes flickered up to stare into Sharley's.

"Well that's good." He replied and grinned rakishly before adding, "But I think you're going to be spending a lot more time alone with me."

"I am?" Amilei asked, her eyes wide with innocence.

"Yes." Sharley replied as he looped an arm around her waist and crushed her body to him while pressing his lips against her rose petal ones. "Tell me to stop and at any time and I will. You have nothing to fear from me." He whispered as he drew back ever so slightly.

Amilei nodded before wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling him close once more.

Sharley groaned and took a knee on the bed, pinning her down beneath his muscular frame. He continued to kiss her until he felt the change, just as he had the night before.

"Stop." She whispered and Sharley immediately rolled off and lay on his back beside her, breathing heavily.

"See, all you have to do is say the word." He said in a ragged voice as he rolled off the bed and stood up, pausing only to brush a kiss to her temple. "I'll give you some privacy." And with that he was gone.

Amilei continued to lay on her back until she finally regained control of her body long enough to stand and make her way to the bathroom where she washed up and changed into a white smock and cream colored pants. She exited the room to fine Sharley standing by the bed, his back to her.

"What are you doing?" Amilei asked and then gasped, aware that she'd just questioned her husband.

Sharley, on the other hand, seemed not to even notice that she broken on of the Empire's severest laws. "Giving anyone proof if they ask for it."

Amilei rounded the side of the bed just in time to see her husband drip blood from his hand over the bottom sheet of the bed. She turned bright red and quickly turned her face away. "Thank you." She managed to whisper before fleeing to the balcony to gaze at the sparkling desert sands.

A few moments later Sharley joined her, his left hand freshly wrapped with black cloth that matched his entirely black clothing perfectly.

"We don't match." Amilei muttered as she turned to inspect his dark clothing compared to her light ones.

"No. But we'll both stand out against the reds and browns of the Desert Kingdom." He replied as her slender fingers took his hand and turned it over to inspect the wounded palm.

"Thank you." She repeated.

"You don't have to thank me." Sharley replied and withdrew his hand from her grip. "I'm your husband. I'm supposed to protect you."

"I know." She replied and paused before adding, "But thank you."

Sharley nodded slowly. "You're welcome."

The silence stretched on until Sharley felt the need to say something. He opened his mouth but before he could speak Amilei whispered, "I'm sorry."

"For what?" Sharley asked, taken aback by her odd apology.

"I'm sorry for not being a proper wife." Large tears spilt from her eyes creating a steady stream of salty water that poured down her delicate cheeks.

"Oh Princess," Sharley said with a snort and drew her into his arms, cradling her head against his well-developed chest. "What would ever make you think I'd want a proper wife?"

"Charlemagne, all men want proper wives. And if they can't have proper than they at least want willing ones." Amilei had extracted herself from Sharley's arms as she spoke and continued to back away when he didn't.

"Is that what you think?" Sharley's voice sounded calm but his expression betrayed the fire that would soon spill over.

Amilei could only nod.

"Well you're wrong." And with those three words Sharley shoved past his tiny wife and exited the bedroom, slamming the door closed behind him.

She waited for a few minutes, her eyes rooted to the door in a feeble hope that'd he'd come back.

He didn't.

Amilei dropped to her knees and sobs wracked her body as she pressed her forehead to the stone floor of the balcony.

Sharley stayed away from his wife for five days, only bothering once to ask a maid to check up on her.

Amilei waited in silence, occasionally staring out across the wide, seemingly endless sands. Eventually reality sunk in and she asked for some paper and charcoal. That was what Sharley found her doing when at last he returned to her side.

She had drawn and image of stretch of mountains and a small trail leading up into them. Along side the trail there were many beautiful flowers that Sharley couldn't identify.

"Is this your home?" He asked, bending over her to examine the drawing closer.

Amilei let out a yelp of shock and nearly toppled off the stool she'd been perching upon. Fortunately for her, Sharley caught her around the waist and held her steady.

Once Amilei had righted herself and her heart rate had returned to normal she answered him. "Yes. How could you tell?"

"I don't recognize any of the plant life." Sharley mumbled in response and he grabbed her left hand to examine it closer. "You're all sooty." He commented, making her laugh.

"I'm using charcoal to draw with, Sharley." Her words were as light and airy as the spring winds in the Icemark.

"Hmm, it appears I am also sooty."

Amilei laughed again and swiped her fingers across his cleanly shaven jaw line. "If you weren't before you certainly are now!"

"Oh you little minx!" Sharley exclaimed and wrapped his arms around her, pressing his chest to her back and rubbing his dirty cheek against one of her clean ones. "Now we're both all dirty!"

Several more moments past filled with pleasant laughter before Amilei's smile faded and her eyes searched Sharley's face. "What did you want to tell me?"

He glanced evasively away, his grip on her waist loosening. "What makes me think I wanted to tell you something?"

"I haven't seen you in five days." She replied and he sighed. "I missed you." Amilei added in a whispered.

Sharley appeared not to hear her because he took a breath and began to speak. "We're leaving for my oasis tomorrow morning."

Amilei's gaze dropped but she remained silent; it was a grave offense to speak out against one's husband. One Amilei wasn't going to break now matter how different things seemed between her and Sharley than with her mother and father.

"Will you spend the night here?" She asked.

Sharley hesitated before nodding. "I will if you want me to."

"I want you here."

And with that Sharley's mind was made up.

"Alright, but I'll sleep in the chair."

Amilei hesitated before shaking her head. "No... but would you mind if we did not engage in, well," Her face heated and her gaze dropped to the floor.

"I'll just lay beside you the whole night, nothing more. How does that sound?"

She glanced up into Sharley's smiling face, his expression tolerant and tender. "It sounds perfect."

"The matter is settled then?" He asked and his smile turned into a playful grin.

"Yes, it is settled." Amilei replied with a laugh.

Amilei lay in bed for nearly an hour before Sharley stumbled into the dark room. He mumbled something that sounded suspiciously like a curse under his breath as he kicked off his boots and fell on to the bed beside her. Moments later she felt his arm encircle her waist and she was dragged flush against his bare chest. Her hands pressed against a sturdy wall of muscle.

She held very still and soon realized that he'd fallen asleep with his nose in her hair and her head tucked beneath his chin.

Amilei smiled slightly and drifted off blissfully into oblivion.

Husband and wife slept peacefully that night for the first time since they'd been married; their dreams warm and comfortable as the lay in on another's arms.