Open Arms

Darken Rahl awoke a few hours later to the sound of a raging thunderstorm. The rain pelted his bedchamber window mercilessly; the sharp tinging noises it produced resounded throughout the room. A clap of thunder echoed loudly, causing Ember to wake with a start. Gasping sharply, she tore herself from his arms and sat bolt upright.

"It's alright, Ember," he reassured, comfortingly placing his hand on the center of her bare back. "It was only the thunder, my dear."

She nodded vaguely, her breathing returning to normal.

"Yes," she said quietly, "yes…only thunder. Of course. It just startled me, that's all."

I could tell.

Smiling slightly, he gently grasped her shoulders and eased her back down. Embracing her once more, he coaxed, "Get some sleep, my love; dawn arrives far too early."

"Indeed it does," she agreed, nestling her head on his chest once more and snuggling herself up against him. She then closed her eyes and sighed tiredly.

"I love you," she whispered sincerely, tracing a circle on his shoulder with her forefinger.

"I love you, too," he replied, stroking her shoulder idly with his thumb.

He could scarcely believe that the event of that evening had truly occurred. He had hoped it would, and most of him thought it would, so why didn't he believe it did?

He had no idea.

All he knew was that he now held Ember securely, her soft, smooth skin pressing tenderly upon his own. She felt so warm, yet she shivered mildly periodically. He drew his arms tighter around her and pulled her closer to him, hoping to bring an end to her trembling.

"Thank you, Darken," she breathed, lightly kissing his chest.

He smirked, kissing the top of her head. "You're welcome, Ember."

Shortly afterward, Ember had fallen back to sleep. Darken simply laid there: listening to the rain, watching the lightning, feeling Ember's heart beat—merely being, doing no more than just existing—and he had never felt more at peace before in his entire life. He loved Ember deeply, and genuinely trusted her. At first, he had tried to not allow her to win his trust. After all, Zeddicus Zu'l Zorander was one of her dearest friends; he may have sent her to spy on him for the Seeker. But given the incident when Denna and Triana tortured her relentlessly, his suspicions were dead. If she truly was a spy, she would have admitted it to them long before Cara informed him of what they were doing; those two were brutal. By her showing such persistent loyalty to him and not saying what Denna wanted to hear, Ember proved to all of D'Hara that she was not a spy.

And Darken Rahl couldn't have been happier. True, he had had relationships with numerous women in the past, but he had never felt anything like this. What he felt for Ember was more than merely empty lust. He felt like he could tell her anything and everything and not be judged, and he was completely comfortable with the idea of being only with her.

He sighed lightly, starting to delicately stroke Ember's hair.

This is real…this is true love. So this is what all those storybooks talk about?

He grinned.

Then there must be a happy ending in store for us.