Richard watched her from the corner of his eye. She was standing close to Zedd as she spoke softly. Whatever they were talking about, it upset them both. He wanted to say something, but they had moved away from him for a reason and he didn't want to make matters worse. Kahlan had been quieter than usual lately, but he didn't blame her. He told her that he loved another woman and in that moment, it was true.

He could remember the look in her eyes clearly, almost as though it was happening again and again. He never wanted to hurt her, but it hadn't really been him. Once he was released from Annabelle's magic, he understood everything Kahlan had been afraid of. The only problem was that now, he was reinvested, his love proving to be as much and maybe even more than that of confession. The incident made him crave her all the more and feel the truth of their love. With a final set of words, the wizard walked away, leaving the Confessor alone with a frown.

The Seeker was by her side instantly, trying to understand what had been going on. He couldn't think of a reason that would make his grandfather so upset with her.

"Are you all right?"

"Fine," she lied quickly.

Stepping closer, he reaching for her arm and sighed. "You don't look fine."

Her eyes met his coldly. "You don't know me very well." Her defenses were up, something was definitely wrong.

His hold on her arm tightened, keeping her from walking away. "Kahlan, what's wrong?"

"Nothing is wrong. I've just made a decision that he doesn't agree with." Pulling her arm from his grasp, she took a step back. "We will be passing through Aydindril next week; I will be staying for a few days."

"Why?"

"I am the Mother Confessor, I do not need a reason to visit my home."

His eyes never left hers, trying to understand what was happening. "No, but sometimes a friend needs another friend."

Shaking her head, she sighed. "Friends shouldn't hurt friends."

"No, but you can't always protect them."

"You know why I am going, don't you?"

"Yes."

Confused, she stepped closer to him. "Then why did you ask?"

"I suspected it before, after I saw the look on Zedd's face when you told him that we didn't go through with it. Then I waited for you to tell me. Is that why Zedd is angry?"

"He believes that I made my decision callously, because of what happened between us."

"Did you?"

"Not entirely." She moved to take a step toward him, but stopped herself and retreated. "When we- We don't even know if I would have conceived a child. And if we didn't..."

"You can't afford to wait for me to find a way to be with you."

"I'm sorry, Richard."

"If I asked you to wait, just until we sealed the rifts, you wouldn't, would you?"

"I can't," she told him softly. "If I wait, we both know that it will only make this harder."

"Nothing is going to make this easier, Kahlan. You're going to be with another man, you're going to have his children and nothing will ever be harder for me, for either of us." A heavy sigh left him as he licked his lips. "You told me not to love you, you all did and now I see the pain you were trying to protect me from."

Kahlan sucked in a breath of air, his words slicing through her more painful than she imagined. "A friend shouldn't hurt a friend."

Nodding, he pushed his fingers through his hair and sighed. "No, they shouldn't."

*****

To everyone's surprise, Richard continued on as though nothing had changed. He still stared at her when he thought she wasn't looking and did everything he could to make sure she was taken care of. Zedd knew why his grandson went on this way, it was his last chance to be with the woman he loved and once she took a mate, she would change forever. He wanted her to forever remember what it was like to have a man truly care for her and her needs, but not because he was forced to. He didn't know if it was more for himself than her.

They were four days outside of Aydindril when they were given shelter at a small Inn and tavern. Kahlan was greeted warmly by the owner, who, as Richard suspected, was an important woman herself. It was impossible for him to breathe, each moment he sat at his table alone was another he wished her from his mind. They all had said goodnight more than two hours ago, but here he remained, unable to clear his mind for sleep. Her room was at the end of the hallway, making it nearly impossible for him to think about anything else. If he was to run to her door now, there would be no stopping him.

She had given no pause since they arrived, and the smile he had seen on her face through the day had come to make him uneasy. How could she smile when in a few days, another man would be laying above her. He wanted her in his arms forever, but it was impossible. She had made her decision and who was he to ask her to change it? This is who she was, her destiny. He would support her choice.

Standing, he fought the urge to kick over his chair in frustration, not wanting to cause a disturbance or problem for Kahlan. He needed to get to his room and lock himself in, away from all desires and temptation. Closing the door, he pushed his back against it and sucked in a much needed breath. His room was on the far end of the opposite hallway, away from the others and he was grateful for it. Pulling off his vest and shirt, he tossed them onto the bed, kicking off his boots as he walked to the washing station.

The water was still warm, refreshing as he pooled it in his hands and splashed it against his face. It had been a few months since they had such a luxury, it relaxed him. For the first time in days he didn't feel his own pain. He felt hers. Turning, he wiped his face dry with a small towel and walked to the door. The moment he reached it, someone knocked.

The sight of her took his breath away. Kahlan stood before him in a thin, and practically see through, white nightgown that stopped just above her knees. Some of her hair was over her shoulders, hiding only part of her breasts. Her eyes were deeper than usual, standing out against her porcelain skin and dark hair. He felt as though all the air was suddenly sucked from his chest.

She parted her lips to say something but stopped herself as she let her eyes fall to the few drops of water that had landed on his chest. They were silent, both staring at the other in a way that made them weak; a way that would end them. She reached out, laying the index finger of her right hand against his chest and ever so slowly began moving it down through a single drop of water. When he didn't stop her, she flattened her palm against him and stepped in close. Moving into his room, she kicked the door shut, her eyes never leaving his. His heart pounded beneath his chest, racing with passion as he stood completely still.

Leaning forward, she moved her hand to his neck and brought him to her. The kiss was more than passionate, their lips, tongues and teeth pulling, sucking and biting at the other, trying to release what had built up within them. Richard stumbled back as she pushed against him, the need overwhelming her. They flopped onto the bed, both releasing a low moan as they brought the other closer. Sitting up above him, she pulled at her nightgown, freeing herself before him.

His mouth opened for air at the vision of her. She was more beautiful than he had ever imagined. Her eyes remained on his as she sat still, waiting for him to continue as he found it difficult to move. Swallowing, he brought his hands to her sides and pushed up until they could go no farther. Taking her breasts in his hands, he squeezed gently, withholding a long moan as she rocked against him. She was perfect in every way, from the soft coverage of freckles to the scared skin that told her story. This was the only woman for him.

She remained still above him, allowing him to view and examine her body, almost as though she was giving him a chance to change his mind about her. His hands covered her, there were so many things to learn and he didn't want to waste time. He wanted to know where she hurt, what made her jump, tingle and what set her on fire. If he didn't learn everything, he would go mad. The long scar on the left side of her stomach was more sensitive than the others, making her body tense each time he touched it. It was a wound he knew all too well, he had one of his own and no scar came close to one given by an agiel.

Sitting up, he pulled her against him in a hug, committing the feeling to his memory before he lowered her to the bed. His lips moved over her neck, following his hands as he sought to completely explore her beautiful form. Each moan and gasp told him something new, teaching him what she liked and what she wanted. Abandoning the blankets on the bed, she grabbed his hair and pulled, hesitant to allow him to descend any further. His lips traced below her belly button, her body bucking against him for something she couldn't explain. She had never known anything like this, but she trusted him completely and would allow him to continue.

Her gasp for air echoed around them, replacing the sound of everything else in existence. She went back to the blankets, pulling frantically as she tried to keep from crying out. Pleasures like this should not exist. He stopped abruptly, bringing forth a moan of disappointment from deep within her. Kissing his way back up her body, he paused to slide his tongue from her belly button to her breasts, moving between them until he reached her neck.

Reconnecting their lips, he pushed against her as she hooked her legs around his. She could taste herself on his tongue, making her arousal grow wildly. Within seconds, her hands were between them; pulling at the laces of his pants. Using her legs to remove the fabric from his waist, she took him in her hand and pulled gently. He broke their kiss with a loud and heated moan, his body leaning off of the edge. Pushing into her hand, he dropped his head into the crook of her neck and gasped.

Reaching between them, he grabbed her hand to stop her movements, helping her guide him to her entrance. Lifting his head, he met her eyes.

"I love you." He nearly jumped as her eyes changed. She was different than before. "Kahlan?"

She pushed up against him, trying to continue through his firm hold. Her eyes fell closed and she pulled against him, doing exactly what was needed to weaken him. Releasing her hand, he tried to push what he had seen out of his mind; tried to give her what she wanted, but he couldn't. He was gone in an instant, but he didn't go far. Sitting up, she reached for him, trying to pull him back to her, but he didn't move. He was sitting in the opposite side of the bed, his heart pounding and his body about to explode.

Wrapping her arms around him, she moved her hands over his chest and stomach, moving down to where he needed her. Through it wasn't completely her, a part of her found its way to him. Pressing her lips to the back of his shoulder, she took hold of him and slowly moved her hand. He was gone instantly and suddenly she wasn't against him any longer.

Turning around, he lifted her into his arms and laid her at the top of the bed, covering her naked body. He had no idea what had happened, but the peaceful look on her face told him not to get their friends. They had both been drinking and he didn't want to bring in more attention than he had to. Moving to the top of the bed, he leaned against the wall and looked down at her, watching her sleep. If he hadn't taken that moment to tell her that he loved her, he wouldn't have looked into her eyes; he wouldn't have seen that something was wrong. Their love may have saved her.