The flickering candlelight danced upon his wet skin as he slowly advanced, his fingers trailing through the water and creating thin ripples. Nynaeve didn't realize that she was moving backwards until she hit the front wall of the pool, the sudden sensation breaking her from her trance.
"What are you doing here?" Nynaeve asked, the husky tone of her voice betraying her mounting excitement.
"The same thing as you," Lan said, the candlelight flickering in his dark eyes. "Unless you're not here for a bath."
"Of course I am," she snapped, the sudden flare of anger at his teasing causing her power to swell. Any other man would have backed away after feeling the tingling sensation wash over him, but Lan just smiled and stepped so close that Nynaeve had to crane her neck to keep her eyes on his face.
As much as she wanted to drink in the sight of him—to reach out and feel his flesh—her emotions were too on edge; taking in an eyeful of his naked body might just eviscerate what little control she had left, and touching him would guarantee its destruction.
When Lan's gaze dropped to Nynaeve's bare shoulders and trailed along the leather cord that held his ring, she reacted with instinctive modesty, crossing her arms over her breasts. Even though a thrill ran along her spine to think that he was admiring her body—what little of it he could see, anyway—she couldn't help thinking that Lan should know better than to step so close to her when they were both naked. What did he think she was? A Green Ajah?
"I thought the baths would be empty," Nynaeve said, letting her annoyance at his immodesty mask her arousal. "You should have said something when I came in. This isn't proper."
"Men and women bathe together all the time in Shienar," Lan said, his smile only growing wider. "It's seen as improper not to." He was obviously amused by Nynaeve's discomfort, which only made her angry.
"Well, I don't, and I'd appreciate it if you'd allow me some privacy and leave."
Lan's smile widened even futher as he moved to Nynaeve's right, sinking down into the water and settling himself on the ledge that ran around the perimeter of the pool, his arms snaking out over the lip of the bath. "I'm not finished soaking, but you're more than welcome to come back when I'm done."
Nynaeve's mind blanked—she never imagined that Lan could be so rude! And to think she'd come here to mull over her broken heart. The lout was enjoying himself!
"I didn't realize you were such a brute, Lan Mandragoran," Nynaeve huffed, pushing away from the wall and wading towards the dark end of the pool.
Snatching up soap and a sponge out of one of the bowls filled with toiletries lining the sides of the bath, Nynaeve worked the two together, building a lather. She kept her back to Lan—she didn't trust that his warder's eyes wouldn't be able to penetrate the darkness—and stood up, scrubbing her face and rubbing the sponge down her throat. Nynaeve was so absorbed by her washing, wanting to get it done as quickly as possible, that she didn't hear Lan come up behind her. It was only when she felt his knuckles brushing against her back as he lifted her braid that she became aware of him. She froze as a volley of fireworks was set off upon her skin, her breath catching in her throat.
"What are you doing?" she asked, her voice a breathy whisper.
"I assumed you meant to wash your hair," he said, his breath warm on her neck, "and you can't very well do it while it's in a braid."
"You shouldn't …" Nynaeve began to protest, but Lan had untied the cord binding her hair and was working his fingers through the plait. Every time his hands touched her back, an explosion of excited energy raced along her skin. She knew she should be stopping him, that this was not something a wisdom should be doing, but she couldn't make herself say the words.
"I've never seen your hair down," he murmured as he uncoiled the last of the braid, his fingers grazing along her scalp and back as they ran through the length of Nynaeve's hair.
Lan's touch felt better than Nynaeve had imagined it would, and she'd spent many nights fantasizing about his hands on her body. Closing her eyes, she willed him to continue his caress and nearly moaned when he released her hair and took a step back.
"Turn around so I can see you," Lan ordered, the slight tremor in his voice announcing that he was as excited as she.
She'd never stood naked in front of a man before and considered pulling her hair over her shoulders to hide her bare breasts. But another part of her thrilled with an excitement she'd never known, wanting him to see her naked, wanting to see his desire. Not allowing another moment to reason herself out of it, Nynaeve turned around.
Lan's eyes roved hungrily over her flesh, and the flash of embarrassment that Nynaeve felt at exposing herself quickly dissipated as her own eyes drifted over his body. He was magnificent, his body carved like a statue. Nynaeve wondered what his bare chest would feel like pressed against hers, and when he took a step forward and stroked a loose lock of hair back from her face, she nearly swooned into his arms.
"You are so lovely," Lan said, his hand trailing down Nynaeve's neck and along the cord of leather that plunged between her breasts. When his fingertips grazed the side of Nynaeve's breast, she took in a sharp breath. She'd never felt anything so arousing, and her nipples tightened to aching peaks when she imagined how much better his mouth would feel.
Lan lifted the ring, running his thumb over the crest, his face a tumult of raw emotion. She knew he was thinking about their earlier conversation, and as much as she wanted to speak with him further about what he'd said and what it had meant when he gave her the ring, she feared that her emotions were running too close to the surface, and anything she said would come out wrong.
"Lan …" she said, her voice trailing off. She was completely lost for words, wanting to express how much she loved him and how much it hurt that he wouldn't commit to her, but not daring to say anything that might make him leave. Slipping her hand over his, she pressed his palm to her heart, not caring that he'd feel it beating like a horse at full gallop.
Nynaeve and Lan stood like that for a moment, staring at each other while she clasped his hand to her chest. She wanted to pull his hand down and mold his fingers around the fullness of her breast, to feel his fingers caressing her nipple. Her thoughts willed him to touch her as a man touches a woman, and when he brushed the fingers of his right hand down her cheek and cupped her jaw, she was sure he was going to pull her in for a kiss.
He'd only kissed her once before, and the memory of the embrace had plagued her lonely nights and nearly had her begging him for another more times than she'd like to admit. She didn't care that anyone could walk in on them—she wanted to feel his arms pulling her tight against his chest and his mouth pressed hot upon her own. Nynaeve felt ready to burst with excitement, and when his hand moved against her breast, his thumb caressing soft circles into her wet skin, Nynaeve's eyes fluttered shut as she awaited the feel of his lips.
His fingers stroked through her hair again, and Nyneave wondered why he wasn't kissing her when it was obviously what they both wanted.
One more second and then I'm going to pounce …
"May I wash your hair?" Lan asked, and Nynaeve's eyes flew open.
Sorry for the cliffhanger! I promise I'm going to get the next chapter out faster than the last. I just wrote this today, so chances are I'm going to edit it a lot more, so you might want to check it out again when I post the third chapter.