Her chest rose slowly with each breath, her sleeping posture holding his eyes to the top of her breasts. She was lying on her side, facing him with her left arm holding up her head as though it was her pillow. They had started talking after dinner and found it difficult to stop as their friends went to sleep. He could talk to her without end, but the dark circles that had begun to show beneath her eyes told him to let her sleep. After insisting on taking her watch, she fell asleep and he hadn't taken his eyes off of her since.
Richard rolled onto his side for a better look, fighting the urge to move the few strands of hair that blew over the top of her breasts. She looked peaceful, something he rarely got to see on her face and he found it comforting. The moon was brighter than usual, the clouds having long disappeared to grant them the light. His body began to ache for hers, the desire to touch her almost becoming overwhelming. Inching closer, he gently pulled at her arm until she snuggled against his chest. If Cara or Zedd went to wake her, she would open her eyes before they were close, but she never opened her eyes when he whispered that it was he who came to her.
As quickly as his eyes had shut, she pulled herself closer and brought her right leg over both of his. It took all of his effort to remain still as her warmth seeped into him. Almost instantly, he lost all control and as smoothly as possible, moved out from under her and hurried into the trees. Leaning back against the first tree, he closed his eyes and gasped for air. Unlacing his pants, he removed the painful force that constrained him with a sigh of relief. Reaching into his pants, he let out a low moan and allowed himself to remember the feel of her against him.
All sounds escaped the forest, leaving only the soft pant of his breath to echo in his ears. Her face was burned on the back of his eyelids, making it impossible for him to breathe. Letting out a soft moan, he lost himself in her scent that seemed to come out of nowhere.
"Richard?" He froze at the sound of her sudden stop, realizing she was now inches away from him. She started to turn away in embarrassment, but stopped and stepped closer. He didn't move, afraid that her eyes would leave his and journey down to his. "You left quickly; I thought something was wrong."
"I..." The small smile on her lips confused him, but the moment her hand wrapped around his, he lost every thought in his mind.
Their eyes were locked as he pulled back his hand, trying to ease her away from his manhood, but it didn't work. Leaning forward, she connected their lips and slowly moved her hand over him. Richard moaned instantly, the feel of her hand against him was everything he had ever dreamed of and more. His back was pushing into the tree, but all he could feel was the warmth of her hand and the softness of her lips. She held nothing back in their kiss, something she was rarely able to do. The thrill of their forbidden moment took hold of them, making his hands rush over her body and pull against her dress.
Unable to keep kissing her, he pushed his head against the tree and moaned loudly. Pushing her lips to his neck, she continued on until his body was shaking against hers. Reaching down, he stopped her hand and gasped for air before opening his eyes to meet hers.
"I want you," he panted softly. His right hand was pulling at her dress, lifting it the best he could with one hand.
Her desire was evident in her eyes, showing him that she gave no effort to hide it. "You know that's not possible."
"You..." Leaning forward, he kissed her once again, hoping that it would distract her from what he was doing.
Pulling up her dress, he turned them around and pinned her against the tree. Pushing against her, he grabbed her legs and lifted them from the ground, using himself to hold her up. Her fingers were wound in his hair, holding his head to hers to deepen their kiss. They had dreamed of this moment; this connection, but neither imagined it would be this way. Running his hands up her thighs, he reached between her legs and was instantly rewarded with a low moan as she bucked against his hand. Her body was more than ready for his and the knowledge nearly ended him.
Their united moans were muffled by their lips claiming the other in a furious passion. His hands flew over her body, unable to find a suitable place for them to remain while his desire urged him to find and caress her soft skin. Sliding his fingers up her thighs and beneath her dress, he held her firmly while softly massaging her untouched; porcelain skin. He was hanging on by a thread, his body quivering in anticipation of his release. With his face into the crook of her neck and a grunt, he pushed forward to fill her again and again, slowly letting go of the string that held him together. Her soft cries of pleasure filled his ears and he knew she was close.
Kissing her neck, he snuck his tongue out for a quick taste before lightly sucking. Her nails began to dig into his shoulders, pushing through the thin fabric of his shirt. She could barely hold on and he wouldn't let go without her. Tightening her legs around his waist, she jerked him forward and shifted her body, bringing his release instantly. Her name left his lips in a heated growl, his head falling back. Sucking in a large gasp of air, she tried to calm her racing heart; but the feel of him within her made it impossible.
Pulling back his head with a smile, Richard took in the sight. Her eyes were closed and lips parted, her chest heaving with each ragged breath. He started to move away, unsure as to what to do, but she stopped him. Shaking her head, she took another few breaths to tell him that she was still struggling with her magic. Opening her eyes, she met his and used them to add to her control. The darkness of her eyes drew him forward, speaking to him in soft whispers that filled him with joy. Kissing her, he shifted his weight and slipped from her warmth, both releasing a soft moan of discontent.
Bringing her hands to his cheeks, she gave him a half smile. "What did we do?" Her whispered question made him laugh lightly as she dropped her hands and moved her feet back to the ground. "This shouldn't have happened."
"But it did," he replied softly.
Shaking her head, she smoothed out her dress. "It shouldn't have and we- Richard, we can't let anyone know what we've done."
"I don't understand," he said in confusion. "Your magic didn't-"
Turning away from him, she looked back toward their camp to be sure the others were still sleeping. "It doesn't matter, Richard. I- I never should have come after you. This was a mistake."
"No it wasn't. Kahlan, we-"
"Should get back before one of them wakes up. It-" She looked back to him slowly and frowned. "Please don't tell them."
He knew better than to argue with her, not when she felt so strongly about something. Instead, he did the only thing he could think of. "Kahlan, I- can we have this night?"
"What do you mean?"
Taking a hesitant step toward her, he reached for her hand. "I don't want the night to end here."
Turning her feet back to the others, she nodded. "You should dress first."
When the Seeker woke the next morning, Kahlan was, as expected, sitting on the other side of the fire with her bags already packed. Zedd was busy shoveling the contents of his bowl into his mouth with his favorite spoon and from the way he smiled and the appealing smell in the air, he knew Kahlan had made breakfast. Sitting up and wiping his eyes, he tried to keep himself from thinking of the night before. With a soft sigh, he looked around for his friend.
"Are you hungry?" Kahlan asked in an attempt to keep things as normal between them as possible.
Meeting her eyes, he shook his head. "No."
"Are you sure?" the wizard asked with a mouthful. "It's delicious."
Standing, Richard grabbed his sword. "I have no doubt."
"The rain is coming this way." The Seeker stopped at his friends words. "If we leave now, we may miss it."
He avoided looking at his Confessor, for another look would make it even harder. He could see her movement in the corner of his eyes; her grace still impossible to miss. Stuffing his belongings into his travel pack, he bit down lightly on his tongue to distract himself from her. He had done it many times, but this was different. It took all of his strength to keep his distance when all he wanted to do was hold her again. Though they did their best to make it appear as if nothing had changed, it felt completely different between them.
There were times when he could still feel her against him, but a moment later he would swear they were leagues apart. Their conversations were shorter and they rarely rode beside each other, both making an excuse to keep the others from noticing. The week it took them to reach the Pillars was one of the longest, coming head to head with the week he was rescued from Denna. He began to fear that, as before, things would change. The relationship he had with her was something he never wanted to lose.
Turning his head, he was surprised to see his grandfather staring at him in concern. "What?"
"Are you two all right?"
"Who?" Giving a soft sigh, the wizard motioned ahead of them to the Confessor. "Fine," the Seeker lied at once. "I just- I don't know what to say. When we're done, she will go home and I... I don't know what I will do."
"She thinks it's for the best and who am I to argue with the Mother Confessor." He never used her title and the sound of it leaving his lips made them both cringe. "You were right. It can never be, not with her." Quickening his horses pace, he moved between the woman he loved and his grandfather, doing his best to keep from screaming.
It was the second most beautiful sight he had ever seen. The earth sucked in the green and black flames, extinguishing them completely as the Keeper's reign came to an end. He was no more than a foot away from her and being unable to pull her into his arms and kiss her the way he had imagined for so long. This is the moment he had been waiting for, the time he planned to ask her to be his and she had made it very clear that it was not an option. Just seconds after the rifts began to close, he pulled her away from the others and again, professed his love for her. He was no longer the Seeker and he wanted her to take him more than anything. She did not return the sentiment.
Keeping his eyes ahead of him, he replayed her words in his head and found himself in agony. Silently, he walked away for a breath and decided at once what he was going to do. If there was no future for them, he would do what was expected of him. He was after all, Lord Rahl. If he was to wait there any longer he wouldn't have the courage to do what he needed to and he knew that Cara would follow him without needing an explanation. Mounting his horse, he sighed and waited for his friend to meet his eyes.
The others were focused on the view and it would be a short while before they realized what was happening. As he suspected, the Mord'Sith came to his side and lifted herself onto her own horse, urging it onward ahead of his. With a final glance over his shoulder, he looked back to her and met her blue eyes. Her face held no emotion, but his said it all. Blinking, she gave a short nod and nudged the wizard standing beside her.
"What?" he asked as he hurried toward his grandson.
"It's done; we can all get back to our lives." Lowering his voice, he closed his eyes for a brief moment. "Keep her safe, Zedd."
"When she picks him... Make sure she's all right."
The instant his grandfather nodded, he pulled on the reins and rode away. His future was far from her and he would race to it.
The red robes of the Lord Rahl covered him as he walked through the People's Palace. Months had passed and he had yet to stop thinking of her. Each decision he had made had been done only after thinking of what she would want him to. There was a now an iron-clad peace treaty with Aydindril and he had spent over an hour staring at her signature before adding his own. When she took her mate, the news traveled to him quickly and became the talk of the lands. The description of the man was a surprise to him. He had never imagined her with such a brute.
She was waiting for him at the end of the hall, always knowing when he was heading outside of the palace. Richard's relationship with Cara had grown stronger, the Mord'Sith allowing him to turn to her when he needed comfort and after losing Kahlan, he needed her often.
"The wizard's in the kitchen. He slept through breakfast again."
Laughing, Richard nodded. "Any time he wakes up is breakfast." Nudging her shoulder with his, he began walking toward the kitchen to see the older man. "Has he said anything to you?"
Disappointment flooded him, his mind still trying to find a way to learn more about Kahlan. "He hasn't said anything since he arrived."
"He would if you asked him," she told him. He had asked her the same question every day for the past two months and she was more than annoyed by his lack of courage to ask for himself.
"Maybe," he whispered more to himself, but loud enough to reach her ears. Entering the kitchen, he was greeted merrily by the staff. After a brief hello to the majority of them, he settled down on a tall stool that stood beside the long counter that stretched along the far wall beside the stove. "How is she?"
Smiling the wizard swallowed his mouthful of food. "I wondered when you would ask."
"Zedd please," Richard said breathlessly. "How is she?"
"The council has been keeping her busy."
Turning to his grandson, he wiped his mouth with a small piece of cloth and sighed. "She's doing well." He paused, unsure as to whether or not he should tell him any more. "The child should be born within the next week or so."
Richard's heart stopped. "She's with child?"
Licking his lips, he stood up and pushed his fingers through his hair. "That's good," he whispered. "She must be happy."
"She is," the wizard said tenderly.
Exhaling, Richard turned to Cara. "Put something together for her, a gift. She should know how happy we are for her." Taking three steps away from his friends, he paused and looked back. "When will you be returning?"
"Tomorrow at first light."
Nodding slowly, he swallowed. "I'll have the horses ready."
The time between leaving the kitchen in the People's Palace and the moment they arrived at the Confessor's Palace was a long line of blurred images. The days and nights had merged together to make it seem as though the trip lasted only a few seconds. He stood at the gates for a few minutes, trying to gather the courage to step through them. The life he had always imagined with her was still playing in his mind and he found it difficult to wish it from his mind. She carried a child and he couldn't help but feel a little happiness for her. There was no doubt in his mind that she would be a wonderful mother.
"Richard?" He lifted his head instantly at the purr of her voice. "I didn't know you were here."
She was standing several feet away, but it sounded like she was inches from him. "I'm not," he said quietly, looking down to his feet to show her that he was still on the outside of the gates. "I wasn't sure it was all right to see you."
Taking a couple steps forward, she tilted her head. He almost smiled, her action bringing back a fond memory he had of her. "I didn't think I would see you again."
He wanted to step closer, but he couldn't make his feet move. "Me either." Letting his eyes rest on her belly, he licked his lips. "How are you?" It was the only thing he could think to say, his mind was spinning in all directions; it was hard to pick out a single thought.
"Fine. Richard, I'm sorry I didn't tell you."
Shaking his head, he took a step backward and met her eyes. "Why would you?" he asked softly.
Kahlan swallowed and nodded for a brief moment. "How's Cara?"
"You haven't seen her? She went in with Zedd."
"I haven't- I spent the afternoon with my midwife. I didn't know he had returned."
"He wanted to be here when you..."
"It's a great honor to have a wizard whiteness the birth of a Confessor."
"Mmm." Taking another step back, he looked behind him and then back to her. "Were you going somewhere?"
"I was going to go for a walk; clear my head."
"Are you sure you should go alone?"
His response pleased her, giving her a moment to imagine that nothing had changed between them and he still cared for her. "You're welcome to join me, if you'd like."
Shifting his weight, he studied her face. He could see a mix of emotions, but he couldn't read them all. Capturing one, he nodded slowly. "All right."
After a few minutes of silence, Kahlan looked over at him. "You had the People's Palace redecorated?"
Staring ahead of them, he nodded. "I did."
She remained quiet for a few moments thinking that he would continue, but he didn't. "How are you?"
"I'm fine," he said quietly.
It was now very clear to her that there would be no conversation between them and she found it almost too painful to be around him again. She missed the sound of his voice, the smile that would spread across his face when they would talk and how he would find small ways to touch her. It had always been comforting before, the soft graze of his shoulder against hers as they laughed. She knew that she didn't deserve it, but she wanted it back. Her body ached for his as though they had never parted, but appeared that he had no desire for her any longer. Slowing her pace, she turned away from him and sucked in a quiet, deep breath.
"You should go ahead. I'm going to rest here for a while." Leaning against one of her favorite types of trees, a red maple, she slowly slid down to the ground, struggling for a moment just before she hit the ground.
"I can't leave you in the middle of the-"
"It's fine," she interrupted softly. "I come out here often. I'll be all right."
Releasing a heavy sigh, he sat down onto the ground. "I'm not going to leave you."
When he looked over at her, she had her head leaning against the tree and her eyes closed. It was the first time he realized how exhausted she was. He could see the dark circles under her eyes, telling him that she hadn't slept well in some time. She appeared to be comfortable here and he couldn't help but wonder if this was why she went for the walk. After a moment it was clear that she was now asleep.
Taking his vest off, he folded it and laid it down on the ground. Moving her gently, he laid her down carefully and pushed the hair from her face. He was surprised she didn't wake up when he touched her, but a part of him prayed it was because she knew it was him and she didn't have to fear him. As he laid down next to her, he stared up at the different shades of reds and oranges of the leaves of the tree they were so close to. He couldn't help but remember the last time they were alone in the trees. It had been the greatest night of his life.
Her soft moan echoed in his ears, the softness of her skin seemed to once again, find the palms of his hands. They were things his memory had allowed him to relive more times than he would dare admit. Turning his head, he focused on the contours of her face and found a small smile climbing his lips. She was even more beautiful than he remembered. He often wondered what happened to her after he left that afternoon, the lack of emotion on her face gave him much to think about as he and Cara had rode away. Did she feel hurt that he had left? Had she understood why he had?
The only question screamed in his mind now was if he had done the right thing. She had made it clear that they could never be and he knew her well enough to know that she would do anything to protect him, but was that what she had done? There had never been a moment where he hadn't wanted to take it back; go back to that day and vow never to leave her. He loved her and he hated that it had been so long since he had seen her. She was with child and he couldn't help but wonder if she had needed him at all. There had been a night, more than a year ago, that she told him how it was when a Confessor took a mate and he was saddened by the thought of her going through it alone. She was stronger than anyone he had ever known, but he didn't want her to have to do it by herself.
"Richard?" He turned his head instantly, pushing back the smile on his lips. "I'm sorry." she said as she began to sit up. "I didn't mean to fall asleep."
Reaching over, he eased her back to the ground. "You shouldn't sit up so quickly."
"We should get back. They-"
"We will. When was the last time you slept?"
Closing her eyes for a moment, she tried to think of a lie. She was never lied to him before and she didn't know if she could. "I don't know." She admitted after a few seconds. "Yesterday afternoon, maybe."
Sighing, he laid back down beside her and returned his eyes to the sky. "Is that why you come out here?"
Turning his head toward her, he met her eyes. "Why?"
"Because it's easier to be out here." Rolling onto her back, she licked her lips as her eyes drifted closed. "The first time I came out here, I felt- I don't know. I'm not afraid out here."
Richard turned onto his side for a better look at her. "This is your home. Why would you be afraid?"
"Why did you come here?"
"I don't know. When I heard that you were going to have a child, I... I don't know. I had to come."
"If you hadn't heard I was pregnant, would you have come?"
"I don't know. Would you have wanted me to?"
Turning toward him, she opened her eyes. "I thought you would have come sooner, but after a few months, I didn't think I would see you again... How is she?"
"Cara," she answered in a whisper.
"She's fine; annoyed with me at every turn."
Smiling, Kahlan nodded. "It's nice to know that something remained the same."
"That's not the only thing." His voice teased her, as though begging her to ask for more information.
Her mind raced with things she wanted to say, but before she could speak, his lips were on hers. She returned his kiss in full as she grabbed his shirt and pulled him closer. He was the first and last man she had ever kissed; the only man to touch her in ways that should be seen by no other. Having him so close again drove her insane. When his hands made their way to her stomach, she pushed away and gasped for air.
"I'm sorry," she said breathlessly as she sat forward. "I should get back."
Grabbing her arm, he held her in place until she looked at him. "Kahlan," the taste of her name on his lips and tongue heightened the flame of desire within him. "you can't kiss me like that and then-"
"And then what?" she asked, pulling out of his grasp. "You kissed me. I'm pregnant and you're going to leave- This was a mistake." Struggling to her feet, she straightened her dress and licked her lips, savoring the taste of him one last time. "I'll have the staff prepare some rooms for you."
"That won't be necessary. We'll leave."
Turning away from him, she closed her eyes and slowly sucked in a deep breath. She wished he would stay; wanted him to see how much she cared for him, but it was impossible. He had been right to leave her before. "All right."
As she took a step away, he grabbed her shoulders and turned her to face him. He looked to the ground to buy himself a moment to find the right thing to say. "I love you, Kahlan." The words came out before he could stop them and once they were in the air, he didn't want to.
Staring at him blankly, she waited for him to take it back; to walk away again, but he didn't. "What?"
Meeting her eyes, he presented her a small smile. "You asked me why I came here and I said that I didn't know, but it's not true. When I heard that you were pregnant, I- I had to come. As difficult as it was to hear it from Zedd, I was happy for you. This is all you've ever wanted and I- I wanted to be here for you. And as mad as I was, I couldn't stop thinking that I may have made the wrong decision."
"What do you mean?"
"Leaving you. I thought it would make it easier, but it didn't. I never stopped thinking of you, wondering how you were and if you were happy." Stepping forward, he took her hands, surprised by the coldness of them. "That night we spent together, our night, it's been with me every second and I'm ashamed for having given up on us." She held his eyes cautiously, reading him with each word and he knew it. "That night meant everything to me."
She wanted to tell him her secret, but her fear wouldn't let her. If he knew the truth, he would never be free and she wanted him to be happy. "We should get back. Someone will notice I've left."
"It's not wrong," she said quietly before taking a step backward. "Can I ask something of you?"
His heart ached, but he couldn't refuse her. "Of course."
"Stay the night."
He nodded slowly as he studied her face. "Are you all right?"
"Fine, I just... I think I need to rest."
After a few steps, she grabbed his arm and used it to help steady herself and keep moving. It became evident quickly that she was going into labor.
Richard stood on the outside of her bedroom door, pacing as he was forbidden to enter. Hours past and the only sound he could hear was that of her soft cries of pain; it drove him mad. Servants came and went quickly, bringing things he didn't take the time to notice and he was beginning to worry as the moments passed. Zedd had gone in long before and it was killing him to remain on the outside. Closing his eyes, he pushed his back against the thick, cold stone of the wall and sucked in a deep breath slowly.
He could remember that night in the forest, the way it felt to be with her and suddenly he began to wonder. It had never crossed his mind before; he felt terrible. As the thought rolled around his mind, a baby's cry filled the air and the door beside him flew open. Before he could move, his grandfather was rushing from the room, holding the child to his chest as he raced down the hall. Peaking into the room, he noticed the saddened faces of the servants as they cleaned around the Mother Confessor. Walking slowly, he tried to think of what to do. Was he to go to her or rush after her child?
Kahlan was lying on her side with her back to the door and as he came closer, he heard her soft sobs. His instincts took over and he crawled onto the bed, bringing her close to him.
Pushing her face into his shoulder, she cried. "You have a son."
Richard froze at her words, at last understanding the dark sadness of the room. Leaning away, he laid his left hand on her cheek to make her look at him. "Where is Zedd taking him?"
Shaking her head, she tried to stop her tears. "He's taking him to the council."
"Because I would never be able to harm our child."
Shaking his head, he moved off of the bed. "No! No! Kahlan, he's our son!" He hadn't meant to shout, but the thought of losing their child was too overwhelming. Moving as quickly as he could, he rushed out of the room and after the wizard, praying to the spirits that he caught him in time.
Taking his child from the older man, Richard stared down at him in awe. They were not more than three feet from the door that hid them from the council and he had yet to find a way to save their child. He was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen, his head was covered in hair and it matched his mother's. The child's cheeks were pump and pink, the sight making the Lord Rahl smile. He wanted so desperately to take him back to Kahlan and watch her take their son into her arms and cradle him to her chest. He wanted them to be a family.
"What does he look like?"
Turning around, the men were shocked to find Kahlan leaning against the corner of the hallway. She was pale and covered in sweat, her body fighting to remain upright. Moving quickly, they helped ease her to the ground and without hesitation, Richard handed her their son.
Tears poured down her cheeks as she brought the small child closer to her. Seeing the boy made her pain so much worse. He memorized her at every detail and she could see the man she loved in everything. A small smile pulled at her lips as his hand took hold her little finger. He was perfect.
"He's beautiful," Richard whispered as he sat down beside her and motioned for the wizard to block them from anyone else's view.
Shaking his head, he reached over and gently grazed the boy's cheek with his forefinger. "I don't think so. Look at him, he's-"
"Beautiful." She had spoken without thought and the love she had for him was boiling within her. This was what she had tried to avoid. "Zedd, you must take him now."
"Kahlan, no. Listen to me, this is our child; our son."
"He mustn't- You saw what my son could become."
He took her face in his hands and made her look at him. "Our son will not be that way."
Shaking her head, she blinked out a heavy set of tears. "I probably thought the same thing, but there's nothing to be done. A male Confessor is too dangerous."
Licking his lips, he looked up to his grandfather for help, but instantly realized that he would offer none. "Kahlan, you know this child, you held him within you for months and in all that time, you- You know him and he knows you. You don't have to be afraid."
"Yes I do; so do you."
"I don't fear our child and I'll make sure the rest of the world won't either, I promise. I wasn't here for you through these past months, but I will be from here on. I will make this right and we will be a family."
"No one wants to be a family with two Confessors."
He smiled warmly. "They haven't loved them."
"What did you have in mind?"