Thanks for following along, guys! Appreciated the comments you left. Hope that you've enjoed this. I'm off to work on the sequel now

RATED "M / R"! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! :)

Chapter 17

Richard felt his need that continually burned so brightly in his core for her begin to intensify as his lips glided over her belly, caressing her through the fabric of her dress. He whispered his love for his little girls, wanting to let them know that he was here and would fight for them with his very last breath.

Releasing his hair, Kahlan began pulling on the laces of her dress as her blanket fell from her shoulders. She desperately needed to feel him, to know that he truly forgave her, that he still loved her as deeply as she loved him. She pulled the material from her shoulders and allowed it to fall around her waist as her hands found his hair once more, twisting the strands around her slender fingers as she held him against her body.

Feeling the dress loosen beneath his hands, Richard felt his heart begin to pound in sweet anticipation as he slid the silky fabric from her body before helping her step out of her boots. His hands slowly grazed along her sides as he stood, his burning need to taste her driving him to his feet.

He placed heated kisses along her throat, his fingers stroking her arms before he finally gazed into her sapphire eyes glowing brightly in the moonlight, her beautiful face illuminated by the stars shining above them. His mouth softly sought out hers as their noses brushed against each other, their lips seeking their mate.

A soft gasp escaped her lips when they finally connected, the feel and taste of him satisfying but leaving her begging for so much more as her desire blazed hotly for him. She needed so much more, needed to feel him filling her completely, moving over her and inside of her. She had come so close to losing it all that she found herself increasingly desperate to feel that intimate connection with her soul-mate. The kiss that had started out so gentle, so comforting and tender quickly grew heated as their hunger for one another erupted into torrid passion.

Kahlan pulled at his shirt with urgency, parting momentarily as he pulled it over his head only to reconnect again in a fiery clash of sultry opened mouth kisses. Tongues battled for control as he removed her corset from her body, she releasing him from his breeches before kicking off his boots.

Burying his hands in her thick hair, Richard held her close as he began to devour her, the need to be buried deeply inside of her, showing her just how much she truly meant to him, caused desire to pulsate wildly through his body. Kahlan moaned as his lips glided over her throat again, pausing to nip at the sensitive skin, leaving his mark behind.

Lowering her to ground, Richard moved over her, his mouth swiftly finding her breasts. The feeling of being cradled between her legs was pure bliss and yet the climax of being one with her was yet to come. The sound of her repeatedly moaning his name filled his ears and mended his broken heart, healing him from the inside out as his blood pounded through his veins for a much different reason than it had just a couple of days ago.

Raking her fingernails over his back, Kahlan arched her body, pushing herself up into him. Her head rolled back as the intensity of his fiery kisses washed over her. The feel of his scruff prickling against her skin only heightened her pleasure, knowing that he was marking her as his alone…his forever.

His hands were rough and desperate, his touch passionate and aggressive with his urgent need for her, setting her body on fire and sending shivers down her spine. Her hunger for him was no less intense as she kissed his neck, her tongue gliding over his flesh, tasting the saltiness of his skin as she grasped his backside, pulling him closer to where she so desperately wanted him.

Her name was a throaty moan on his lips at the feel of her teeth and tongue teasing his throat, her hands gripping him so firmly. He stroked her sides, caressing her and loving her with all that he had, wanting to show her just how precious she was to him. The terror of losing her still gripped him, driving his need to feel every inch of her.

He was just so frantic to feel her so alive beneath him, to hear her sweet voice crying out his name in the heat of their lovemaking. To know that his Kahlan was safe and so in love with him made him feel more alive than he had felt in days.

Kahlan panted his name as he entered her, his mouth finding hers once more. He kissed her hard, needing her to feel the love for her that thrummed through his body every day. The feel of his hand caressing her thigh as he rocked so forcefully into her was thrusting her to the edge of ecstasy. Her power began spiraling up from her core in the wake of the overwhelming passion that he was stirring within her.

Richard was overcome by the love that they were experiencing so intimately with each other, the passion that was thundering through his body as he moved within her. So overwhelmed by the intensity of his emotions washing over him, he buried his face in the crook of her neck, tears filling his eyes.

Her head tilted back, her body trembling in ecstasy as her powers exploded inside of her, combining and heightening her bliss beyond measure. Her vision tunneled, the stars above her blurring together in a hazy wash of light, her eyes growing black as she gave herself over to the intense pleasure and love that her Richard was pouring into her.

The feeling of her body pulsating so intensely in his arms, their sweat-slick bodies moving together in perfect unison was rapidly propelling to his climax. Then she screamed his name and he lost was little restraint he had left as he followed her right over the precipice into the waiting arms of rapture. His head fell back with a cry of her name spilling from his lips only to collapse on top of her in heated exhaustion, his face finding the crook of her neck once more, his lips whispering kisses along her collarbone.

Smiling her special smile, Kahlan's hands swiftly encircled his trembling form, holding her to him as he came down from heights of ecstasy that only she could take him to. Tilting her head, she pressed her lips to the top of his head.

Regaining some of his strength, Richard pulled back, afraid of crushing his wife and his daughters, but she refused to release her hold on him, drawing him back down to cover her.

"Kahlan…" he choked out her name, tears still fresh in his eyes.

"Shhh, my love…just let me hold you, love you…" she tenderly whispered to him as she stroked his sweat-slicked back, reveling in the feel of him safe in her arms once more.

Richard's tears fell from his eyes, rolling off of her shoulder as he wept. He was so overwhelmed by his love for her, by the fear that had gripped him that he could no longer contain it all. She was safe once more along with his babies and he never wanted to let her go ever again. He wanted so desperately to just stay like this in each other's arms forever, keeping each other safe from the violent world around them.

"It's alright, my Richard," she murmured as she stroked his hair. "I'm right here…it's alright."

He was her powerful warrior, the only one who could have saved her and their girls. And he had done just that, unlike anything she had ever witnessed before. His power had been so immense, greater than even she had believed he possessed. He was truly a rare person…and he was all hers.

Richard finally rolled off of her, pulling her to lie over him as he settled them in the grasses along the lake. The stars twinkled brightly overhead, the moon shining down upon them. The crickets' chirping was suddenly so much more soothing than it had been just a little while ago when Kahlan had first arrived.

Nestling into his embrace, Kahlan kissed his chest as he tightened his hold on her. "I love you so much, Richard."

"I love you too, my Kahlan," he murmured as his lips found her hair. "I love you for how you love me, for carrying my daughters, for loving me more than your own life, but, please Kahlan…please, don't ever sacrifice yourself like that for me ever again. I can't go through that again."

Drawing a deep breath, Kahlan sat up, leaning her arms against his chest. Gazing into his watery eyes, her heart broke at the pain she could see still swimming there in the brown depths. Reaching up, she tenderly brushed a strand of hair from his forehead.

"I love you for how passionately you love me, for your gift of the little lives growing inside of me, for risking everything to come and save us. I never thought I could ever have any of this, Richard; to carry the children of a man that I love more than life itself. I had grown up believing that my future held nothing more for me than a loveless marriage to a condemn criminal, to bear his children out of duty to the line of Confessors and not because of my love and desire to be the mother of his children.

"How can you expect me to turn my back on our love like that after all that you have given me, Richard? You say that you can't live in this world without me, but you expect me to be able to live without you? I won't do it…I can't do it," she cried, her voice trailing off.

Richard watched as distraught tears fell from her eyes as she confessed her fears. It hurt him to think of the horrible future that Kahlan would have had to endure if he had not loved her beyond her magic. She would be carrying another man's child right now, lying here in the arms of some other man. It caused tight knots of jealousy and anger to form in the pit of his stomach to think of a future that could have been.

He knew she was right, that neither one could survive without the other. He was going to have to find a way to protect her at all cost, keeping them both alive. He needed to keep working at controlling and directing his magic. Only then would his family be truly safe.

"I know, Kahlan. I feel the same way about you. The thought of you carrying another man's child, of lying with another man…" his voice suddenly broke, his anger simmering at the thought of another man's hands on her, touching her. "I…I just can't lose you, Kahlan. When I saw you walking towards the temple, coming to take my place…I would have grabbed the nearest sword to take my life just to prevent you from going through what you endured."

"I know, but I wanted to do it, Richard. I couldn't stand the thought of you in there suffering because of me," she declared, leaning up and pressing her lips to his and stealing his breath away.

Kahlan could feel his heart begin to hammer beneath the palm of her hand, could see the pain that permeated his eyes as she pulled back to look at him. She quickly moved to straddle him, placing her hands on either side of his hand as she leaned over him.

"I was going insane thinking of you in there, going through that pain, being at the mercy of that animal," he softly replied as he his hands grasped her hips, swallowing hard at the image of seeing Kahlan's skirt pushed up high around her thighs.

Seeing the question passing through his eyes, she bent her face even closer to his, brushing her nose against his. "No, he didn't, Richard," she simply said.

"What?" he asked, his brow creasing with confusion.

"No, Cullen didn't hurt me that way. He tried, but one of the Sisters stopped him just before he did," she quietly reassured him.

He watched as fear flashed across her face at the terrible memory, knowing she was telling the truth and yet that she was holding something more back. Whatever Cullen had done to her had affected her deeply. He would give his last breath to keep her from having to endure anything like that ever again.

He slipped his hands into her hair as he pulled her down, pressing his lips against hers in a heated kiss. "I'm so sorry for what he did to you, Kahlan. I just wish I could have gotten to you sooner."

"There's nothing to apologize for. You saved me, saved our girls, Richard. You're my strong Seeker, my powerful Lord Rahl and I'm so lucky that you're all mine."

"I will always be yours, Kahlan…always…" he softly replied as Kahlan shifted her position more, wanting to show him again and again her love for him.

XXX

Riding in the afternoon sun, Richard shielded his eyes against the bright glare as he searched the distance. They were only two days away from the People's Palace. Once they crossed that ridge, they would be stopping to set up camp.

His eyes soon fell upon his wife riding beside him. Last night, lying under the starry sky with her, making love all night had been like a balm to his wounded soul. The lack of sleep had been well worth it. They had come to an understanding of sorts, knowing that they would never be able to persuade the other from risking their lives for each other. All they could do was fight for their future, fight to stay alive for one another.

Richard knew he was going to have to come to terms with that somehow. It did bring a smile to his lips as he thought about how deeply Kahlan loved him, how he loved her just as equally. Just as Kahlan had never thought that she would have a love that transcended time and history, he had never dreamed he was capable of loving someone as much as he loved her.

And soon, they would have even more love to share with two precious little girls. They had yet to pick out names, but he knew they had plenty of time for that. He soon found himself wondering what his daughters would look like. Would they look like him or their beautiful mother? Would they have her striking blue eyes? His brown hair? Kahlan's smile? His nose? He found himself growing more and more anxious to meet them every day that passed by.

Approaching the ridge, Cara suddenly came up beside him, her forehead wrinkled in concern, drawing him out of his reverie. "What is it, Cara?"

"There's a temple in the valley on the other side of this small ridge. We'll need to be very careful."

"What kind of temple?"

"It's a Mord'Sith training temple – the Temple at Sharna."

Richard watched as her eyes grew distant, no doubt painful memories flashing through her mind as she stared at the ridge before them.

"Is it still in use?"

"I have no idea. It's been a long time since I've been here. Last I knew it was being run by Mistress Jarah."

"What do you know about Mistress Jarah?" he warily asked, growing concerned about what they might run into. Checking his sword, he made sure it was free in its scabbard in case they would need to fight their way out of here.

"She was pretty loyal to Darken Rahl. Some of the deadliest Mord'Sith were trained in that temple, including Denna and myself," Cara cautioned him, hooking her hair behind her ear. "But a lot has changed since I was last here. I honestly don't know if we'll be welcomed or slaughtered."

"Alert Garren and have him prepare the men. I want to be ready for anything. We'll not attack unless provoked," he ordered, his heart filling with dread for what could be awaiting them.

Cara nodded her head in agreement, spurring her horse forward to catch up with Garren who was riding with Zedd. Richard immediately began searching the approaching ridge, looking for any sign that the Mord'Sith could be waiting to attack as his hand found the hilt of his sword.

He hated the fact that he was bonded to these people now more than ever. They could sense his presence, knew that he was coming, putting Kahlan in that much more danger. He was like a human target, possibly riding through enemy territory. They knew exactly where he was at all times, but he had no idea where any of them were, putting him at a severe disadvantage.

Memories of his time with Denna flooded his mind, reawakening a sickening fear in the pit of his stomach. He would never be taken prisoner by the Mord'Sith ever again nor would he allow his wife or friends to endure that horror that he had experienced.

Kahlan could immediately tell that something was wrong by the way Richard held himself. His cautious but relaxed mood was suddenly tense and very alert. His jaw was clenched, his brow furrowed. His muscles were tense, his hand resting on the hilt of his sword. He was preparing for a possible attack.

"Richard, what is it?" Kahlan asked, moving to ride closer beside him.

"Cara told me that we're approaching a Mord'Sith training temple just over this ridge. We could be riding directly into an attack."

His voice was tight, his eyes never meeting hers as he kept his attention before them. She could tell that he was trying to reach out with his magic, to try and sense what danger they could possibly be getting themselves into.

The soldiers began riding in a tighter formation around them as signaled to them by their commander. Cara stayed with Garren, leading them over the ridge and possibly to their deaths. Reaching down, Kahlan drew her dagger, ready to fight for the people she loved.

Casting a glance at his wife, Richard felt his chest immediately seize at the site of her with dagger in hand, prepared to fight. Swallowing back his fear, he steeled himself with the knowledge that he couldn't prevent her from risking her life for him any more than she would ever be able to keep him from sacrificing his life for her.

Cresting the ridge, Richard pulled his sword, ready for whatever lay ahead of them. He felt his blood turn to ice in his veins as his eyes fell upon the Temple of Sharna resting ominously in the valley below.

Standing in perfect formation outside of the enormous temple was over a hundred Mord'Sith all dressed in their red leather, waiting for his arrival…

TO BE CONTINUED…