Measure of Affection

Kahlan shifted restlessly on her featherdown mattress, uncomfortable in her pregnancy despite all the finery her husband provided.

What she would not give to be sharing a bed of grass with Richard.

Light footsteps sounded outside the stone archway of her door, then a rustle of velvet drapes as He stepped through.

He said nothing, simply stalked silently toward her bed, watching her from beneath the dark curtain of his hair.

His eyes were filled with lightning, and she felt burned.

Kahlan turned over, the enchanted band of silver encircling her neck digging into her shoulder.

He touched her, ran his fingertips down her back and she shivered.

She wondered if there was blood stuck under his nails.

The bed dipped with his weight and she breathed deeply to still the beating of her heart. He was a gentle, attentive lover most of the time. He sparked a churning swirl of revulsion and arousal within her.

Not tonight.

"I'm tired," she said, and she sounded it. She was tired, body and soul.

"That is fine," he said.

He did not leave.

The mattress shifted again as Lord Rahl laid himself down beside her. She never could bring herself to call him Darken, and he had never invited her to.

"This is my room," she said.

"I know."

She didn't have to see his face; she could feel the slight smug twitch of his lips in the air.

She was startled into jerking away when a masculine hand caressed her unborn child through her nightgown.

"What are you doing?"

"Sharing a tender moment with the mother of my child."

Kahlan held her tongue. He would do nothing to harm her in any way while she carried his heir, but he had a long memory and a talent for grudges.

He gently grasped her chin to turn her head to face him. She could feel his nails lightly sliding against her flesh, a promise of pain in the whisper of contact.

"Kahlan, do you remember what you agreed to, when you agreed to be my wife?"

"To be your wife in every way," she inhaled, trapped in his eyes, "I carry your heir, what more do you ask of me?"

For a moment outside of time, she thought she saw pain in his eyes. But then it was gone.

"I think, wife, that a small measure of affection is not too much to ask."

He let her chin go and then pulled her back flush against his chest, the raised gold braid of his vest scratchy against her nightgown. His hands slipped under and over her hips to support their child.

They laid there the rest of the night, each pretending they were loved.