Kahlan stared at him as he laughed, her eyebrows wrinkling together as she observed his boyish grin. When Richard's laughter died down, Kahlan smiled sadly at him, absent-mindingly pulling a strand of hair behind her ear. He watched her intently, the light from the window glowing behind her.
"Kahlan, my friend, where do we go from here?" The question was vague, Richard allowing Kahlan to choose any path she wished to. He desperately hoped it was one with him. He couldn't imagine living his life without her now.
She glanced around the room, sighing loudly as she met his eyes. "I'm sorry I have failed you." Richard blinked, unaware of why she had said such a thing. Kahlan diverted her gaze as she continued. "If I would have known that a Seeker was named, I would have aided you on your journey - prevented you from being captured by a Mord'Sith. Your torture was a result of my incompetence." Richard shook his head, taking her hands in his. The contact caused Kahlan to hold her breath, her eyes slowly moving up to meet his.
"You have not failed me and you are certainly not incompetent." He held her hands gingerly in his, realizing how much larger his were in comparison. Richard ran the pad of his thumb over her flesh, lightly squeezing her hands. Kahlan could not seem to keep her gaze held on Richard.
"Regardless, I understand if you do not wish for me to be by your side." Richard sighed and let go of her hands, Kahlan's blue orbs finally meeting his. She nodded and pushed herself off the bed, only taking a mere step forward before Richard caught her by the wrist. She froze under the touch, confused as to what his intentions were - what he would do. Kahlan didn't turn to look at him, but she heard the shift in the bed and his hand slide down into hers, interlacing their fingers. Kahlan held in a breath when she felt him behind her.
Realizing she wasn't going to turn around, Richard reluctantly let go of her hand, stepping around her and moving to stand in her away - not allowing her to move any farther. Kahlan nervously flicked her eyes towards him before blushing and attempting to push away when he rested his hands on her hips, slowly pulling her forward. Kahlan let out a squeal when his nose bumped into hers and he chuckled.
"Kahlan Amnell, if you think that you are going to walk away from me as you did a year ago in the woods, you are mistaken." Richard's voice held a tone of authority that he wasn't aware he had, and he looked into her eyes as she contemplated what to say - what to do. Richard slipped his hands from her waist to her back, causing her to rest her forearms on his chest as he pulled her body closer. Kahlan was now forced to look him in the eyes.
She tried to find her voice, but it came out much more small and meek than she intended. "But I have failed you." Richard smiled at her before shaking his head.
"When has saving my life twice become failing?"
"When you were put in danger because of my actions, or lack thereof." Kahlan snapped, clenching her eyes shut. She wanted to pull away from him, but Richard's embrace was warm and welcoming. Kahlan had never had a man hold her in such a way, she wasn't sure if she ever would after today. She couldn't understand why he was so persistent on assuring her that everything would be fine, that she hadn't failed him.
Kahlan felt the warm touch of one of his hands leave her back, moving to gently brush her hair out of her face, cradling her cheek.
"You could never fail me." His words were so sure. Kahlan had a difficult time doubting him when he was so confident about his statement. She needed to say something that would cause him to lose interest in her, that would allow her to do her job and no more. She was to guard him, not develop feelings for him. With the way Richard was currently holding her, there was no way she couldn't fall deeper into unfamiliar territory.
"I will only hurt you."
"Stop trying to convince me that you will bring me nothing but heartache, Kahlan." She shivered as his hot breath blew onto her flesh. Kahlan shouldn't have to convince him, he should already know.
"I'm only telling you the truth, Richard. I'm a Confessor. Nothing can come of this," Kahlan swallowed past the lump in her throat. "Nothing but pain."
Richard watched her as her blue orbs started filling with moisture. Why did he care so much for this woman? Was it possible that he romanticized the meeting with her for so long? Maybe he was convincing himself he felt more for her than he actually did. Richard doubted all these thoughts. Kahlan had an undeniable pull on him, and he would allow her to pull for as long as she wished. Richard wanted nothing more than for her to trust him, to care for him. From the look in her eyes, she did.
"You're wrong," Kahlan warily glanced up at him, her eyes previously residing on his neck. "A friendship has already emerged." Kahlan felt her cheeks turn red. How could she think that he wanted anything more? Richard had just informed her that a friendship was all that would happen. Kahlan didn't know why the thought shocked her so much - the statement was obvious. She was a Confessor. Kahlan nodded and she felt his hand slip away from her face, repositioning it on her hip as his other hand traced lazy circles on her back.
"This isn't about you fearing to fail me, is it?" Kahlan shook her head slightly, avoiding his eyes. She felt him shift as he kissed her forehead, the warmth of his lips shooting shivers down her spine. "Leaving now will fix nothing. I have already begun developing feelings for you, Kahlan. I would much rather spend my time with you, fully knowing you are unattainable, than to be without you." Kahlan smiled sadly when he gazed into her eyes. "You are the Mother Confessor, after all. You have the Seeker's best interests at heart."
"And what would the Seeker's best interests be?" She cautiously asked.
"For you to accompany me on my journey to defeat Darken Rahl." Kahlan nodded her head slowly. "And then, when I fulfill the prophecy and defeat Darken Rahl," Richard brought his hand up to rest under her chin, forcing her to look him in the eyes as his forehead bumped against hers. "I would like it very much if you didn't immediately run off to Aydindril and abandon me. You may be the Mother Confessor, Kahlan - but you are also my friend. I understand that you have to return to Aydindril to run the Midlands, but I don't want our relationship to be severed when this quest is over." Kahlan wrinkled her eyebrows, not understanding exactly what he was saying. He sighed as he looked out the window. "Hartland was once home. I now find my home in the Midlands. Perhaps I could take up residence in Aydindril." Although the prospect was far in the future, he couldn't help but smiling at living where Kahlan commanded. He didn't want their friendship to fall apart after Darken Rahl was killed. Richard never wanted to be without Kahlan. When his gaze returned to her, her features were disbelieving.
Richard wanted nothing more than to kiss her at that moment.
Instead, he pulled away, gathering the medical items and putting them in a small pouch. Kahlan watched his every move, mesmerized by him. She knew his thoughts would most likely change during their journey, but for now she clung to the small hope. When tying the pouch shut, Richard realized that his ribs seemed to no longer be affected him. Perhaps it was his never ending want of the touch of the woman before him fueling him through his pain. Richard turned to her and smiled.
"I suppose we should get going soon. Zedd will be looking for me." He stated. "The old man is quite the character - I think you'll like him." Richard smiled as Kahlan pursed her lips and furrowed her brows.
"Do you really mean what you said?" Her voice was small and nervous.
"Not wanting our friendship to be over after Darken Rahl is dead."
"And the talk of Aydindril?"
Richard smiled as he stepped forward and wrapped his arms around her, giving her a light squeeze when she buried her face into his neck and wrapped her arms around him as well. "Every word." Kahlan laughed lightly into his skin, causing Richard's pulse to race faster. She pulled away from him and wiped at her eyes. He began walking to the door to call for a maidservant to bring him his belongings from the cellar. Richard turned around and grinned.
"I'm under the impression that Confessors take mates." Richard laughed when her jaw fell open, her eyes blinking furiously as she tried to come up with a rebuttal to his statement.
Zedd was wrong - Confessors could make a man fall in love with just a look.