Secrets Within

A Fan Fiction of Harlequin Intrigue #668 MONTANA SECRETS by Charlotte Douglas

Author's Note: Chapter 3 is exceptionally long; I hope the others are not this long, but long enough from now on. The LOTU will show up in just a bit, so hang tight if you can. Please and thank you. ^^

Chapter Three: Acceptance

Cassa leaned against the railing on the balcony outside her suite. She had only just come back from days of being in Washington and was tired; but she could not sleep. She had not been able to remember a damn thing in the past week since Asim had woken her from her nightmare.

She wanted to shoot herself in the foot for being so useless.

Kena and Ryan had reached the Pentagon just before one o'clock in the morning two nights ago. The pair had been immediately separated and had been subjected to three-hour interrogations that did shit for anyone's already stained stress-level. Afterwards, and they had been brought together again to be subjected to another meeting with a Colonel Wentworth, Director of the Pentagon's Homeland Security Division. They had been through enough in the past couple of days, and simply wanted some rest, but he was not done with them yet.

"You all can't go home as Kena and Ryan anymore."

Her blood had gone about as cold as humanly possible and Ryan growled from behind her, "Why the hell not?"

"The answer is simple, really, but you most certainly won't like it…." his lips pursed, and Kena moaned, unable to hear anymore. "Please, just…" She couldn't finish, and Wentworth gave her a regretful look as Ryan squeezed her shoulder.

"I apologize on behalf of the United States and everyone who's worked so hard in the past five years to catch Righteous Sword, but Lakena Katalina Claire and Ryan Jacob Christopher have been legally dead, killed in the United States Embassy Bombing five years ago."

Cassa slumped against the ornate railing, her head pounding once again. She was sick of these damn headaches.

The sound of a man clearing his throat behind her made her reach into the knife garter on her upper right thigh as she spun to face Prince Asim. He stood leaning nonchalantly against he doorframe, though he tensed as he saw the knife and crossed his arms over his chest.

"Oh. It's just you…" With visible relief and a blushed, Cassa watched him watch her with dark, hungry eyes a she slid the knife back into its garter.

"Just me, huh?" a gleam brightened his eyes, and she forced herself to look away.

Sighing, the Prince stepped outside onto the balcony.

"Don't, Asim." Cassa turned away from him to stare back out onto the desert sands.

"Cassa. Please, don't-"

"Don't what, Asim? Feel as thought the man I-" she stopped herself just in time, and shook her head.

Asim struggled not to wrap his arms around her then, praying what he thought she was about to say was what he thought it was.

"Mama? Buba?" the small, boyish voice made the pair frown in unison and turns towards the door to the suite.

Asim II, Asim and Fatima's oldest son, stood just inside Cassa's door.

"Asim, what in the world are you doing up this late?" Cassa reproached the Eight and a half year old before his father could say a word. She slid past the Prince to kneel before his son as he ran to Cassa and hugged her with all of his strength.

He rubbed his eyes sleepily and fought off a yawn as he began to speak, "Trace told me you were really sad when you guys came home earlier- he was, too -and that's why you didn't want to spend time with us. That you might go away, and -"

"No! Oh, Asim, no!" Cassa gasped, turning to stare helplessly at Asim over her shoulder as she made a mental note to punch Trace in his balls later. Asim and the seven other little ones had- for some reason no one could tell but simply accepted -been calling Cassa "Mama" since they could talk. This did not exactly bode well for her in Fatima's eyes.

He looked as though her were refraining from….something.

"I was sad, yes," she began, turning back to the precious little boy, "Very sad, but that didn't mean I didn't want to spend time with you and the others."

"Mama was going through some very stressing stuff for a while now, with Buba and Uncle Trace. But she'll be feeling better in no time, and-" Asim was cut off.

"And I'm not going anywhere any time soon. I'm staying right here, promise, Little Asim."

The boy smiled at his pet name and threw his arms around her again, kissing her cheek. "Yes! You're staying!"

Cassa and Asim laughed and stood, taking Little Asim with them. "Now you, my little Prince, need to get to bed," Cassa said firmly as she balanced the boy on her hip. She nuzzled his cheek and kissed it as she had when he was younger; he yawned, and Asim smiled fondly mussing his son's hair.

"Mama, sing to me?" Little Asim requested. His father looked in time to catch Cassa's blush before she started from the room and down the hallway.

"Lay down your sweet and weary head.

Night is falling; you have come to journey's end."

Little Asim smiled sleepily, resting his head on Cassa's shoulder as she crooned.

"Sleep now, and dream of the ones who came before.

They are calling from across the distant shore."

Asim stepped in front of Cassa and had taken her hand smoothly in the process, but stopped short.

Trace and another guard, Reilly, who were on duty to watch the kids tonight, were attempting to usher the other seven back into the suite and into bed. Asim could not help but chuckle; it looked like the kids had rallied together and were trying to bully Trace and Reilly into letting them wait for Little Asim to come back with their Mama and Buba. However, as soon as they had seen Asim and Cassa, they cheered in triumph.

"Mama, sing to us!"

"Buba, can you read to us?"

"Will you all just please go back to bed?"


"I refuse!"

"I'm not tired, so take that and stick it up your shorts!"

"What! That's rude as he-"

"Reilly, quit cursing! They learned too many of those bad habits you've got as it is!"

"Damn straight! I taught my kids well!"

"Last time I checked, I fathered them…"


"Enough!" Cassa said, declaring silence in the hall. The kids stared up at her pleadingly.

"To bed. Now," she ordered, pointing inside the room. The kids groaned and cried out in protest.

"Ha! That is what you all get! Nobody listens to the bodyguards-"

"Reilly, shut up." Trace said.

"Please? We promise to go to bed right afterwards, honest!" they begged.

"Scout's Honor?" Six-year-old Salim said, tugged on Asim's pants-leg.

"You don't even know what a Scout is Salim. Now listen to your Mama; inside, all of you. Come on, let's go." he shook his head, taking his other son's hand and leading the small parade into the room.

Cassa, feeling herself relent as she put Little Asim to bed, sighed and went to sit in the rocking chair by the window seat that faced the door.

"Come on in, you two," she called to Trace and Reilly, who gladly stepped inside and closed the door as Salim climbed up and settled himself in her lap. She laughed as the other kids sat in front of her on the Persian rug while Asim took his perch at the window seat.

"Sing the pretty lullaby song, Mama," Salim requested, causing the other kids to take up the cry until Asim hushed them.

"Let Mama sing," he said, staring intently at Cassa, who blushed. Trace and Reilly knuckle-touched and turned towards the door.

"W-wait! Where are you two going?" Cassa cursed inwardly as her voice squeaked. Trace grinned and Reilly winked at her.

"I'm crazy tired from today, and Reilly agreed to take watch without me. Harry, who just woke up, is on his way; I'm heading upstairs to bed. Good night, you little Djinn. Your Highness, Cassa."

"Good night…" they replied as the kids went to hug the men good night.

When their friends left the room, Asim moved to stand at Cassa's right and rubbed the sensitive spot at the nape of her neck. Cassa relaxed, her body turning to putty as she closed her eyes and began to sing again.

"Hidden beneath the ground is the spring that feeds the creek.

Invisible as the wind that you feel upon you cheek.

And every breeze that whispers remind us constantly:

Sometimes what's real is something you can't see."

She reached up and took Asim's hand in her own, which he brought to his lips and kissed softly.

The kids ooh-ed and ahh-ed and giggled while still looking adorably sleepy.

"Believe! -in all you can be-

A miracle starts whenever you dream.

Believe! And speak from your heart- you'll see:

Your heart will hold the key!"

Asim knelt at her side and Cassa leaned into his hand as he palmed her cheek, caressing her bottom lip with the callused pad of his thumb.

"Sing another one, Mama…" Salim yawned from where he snuggled into her lap and rested his head on her chest.

"Time for bed, little ones." Asim said huskily, taking Salim gently from Cassa and putting him to bed.

A chorus of small, feebly protesting groans ignited, and Cassa smiled before moving to put the other kids to bed,

"No, stay there," Asim rasped, and soon had everyone fast asleep under the covers. Cassa bit her lip in anticipation as he knelt in front of her, his expression serious.

"Cassa, I… You know how I feel… I know that you… damnit, why is this so hard?"

"Asim Barakuh Ben Yaman, you are Prince and sovereign ruler of Tabari. You are the most wonderful man I have ever met or will meet. You are strong and compassionate, but can be merciless and ruthless with the ever-changing direction of the flying sands. You are dark and handsome, with the temper of a lion. You are revered; cherished among your people-"

"Cassa…" Asim took her in his arms with a flourish and stood, striding to the window seat.

Moonlight shone into the room, giving Cassa's sweetly pale cinnamon skin a glow more beautiful than Asim had ever seen. She is a Princess in all but name…

"Asim, you are loved by a woman who would do anything and everything to keep you-"

"Though she happens to be my wife, she is in name only. And besides: she is not the woman I have been in love with, Cassandra."

He cut her off before cupping her face, eyes wide, in his hands and snuffed out the gasp that rose from her throat with a passionate kiss.