Chapter 9

They had been talking for a while, but when she didn't answer his latest question, he turned to find her leaning over the table, head resting on her arm with eyes closed.

She jolted awake when he touched her shoulder. "Shh, it's ok, it's me." After the reassurance her body relaxed again. Fastion debated leaving her there and quickly decided against it. There was only one adult-sized bed in the house, so he picked her up and walked towards his bedroom.

*o*o*o*o*

Karigan was first aware of the softness. She wasn't in her straw bed. She wasn't sleeping on the ground. It was so comfortable she knew the mattress must be feather. The thought was exhilarating and she snuggled deeper into the blankets. Never again did she want to sleep in a forest, not when such comforts existed. And the smell…Then her mind snapped fully awake. She was in someone else's bed. She moved and saw a long white sleeve covering her arm. Sitting up fully, she saw that she wasn't wearing her own clothing, but a male's large dress shirt. It only came to her thighs and her legs were bare beneath. Looking down at her attire made her blush. She didn't remember anything after resting her head on the table and knew that Fastion must have undressed her for bed. The experience was more intimate than anything else she'd ever done with a man and SHE HADN'T EVEN BEEN AWAKE. With a weird feeling of disappointment, she went in search of her own clothing. When she found the dress, she couldn't blame Fastion for taking it off before letting her sleep in his bed. The chest of the finely woven satin was flecked with blood and the bottom appeared to have been soaked through. Her inspection ended when she turned it over and saw how it was utterly ruined. Instead of figuring out how to untie the complicated corset, it looks like Fastion had just cut it apart. Wryly she said, "Well there goes the hope of ever wearing that again."

With nothing else to wear, she left the bedroom and walked down the narrow hallway. She could hear food being prepared and the smell was making her mouth water. She stopped in the Kitchen's entrance, to watch her hosts. Lily stood beside her uncle, giving the much larger person strict preparation instructions. The image was so comical and endearing Karigan couldn't break it. So she stood there until Lily noticed her.

"Karigan!" She exclaimed and bounded over to her newest friend exclaiming, "I made you breakfast. Well, Uncle Fastion helped too I guess."

Karigan smiled down at the beaming young face and assured her, "I'm sure it's going to be great." Then she looked up at Fastion, "He's lucky he has such a good helper."

Fastion looked down at the little girl, "Lily, run downstairs and see if Mrs. Applebalm is willing to watch you this morning."

Lily's shoulder's slumped and as she walked away, Karigan could hear her complaining about being sent away again. Karigan watched as Fastion watched the child disappear from view, then he looked at her. She was suddenly very aware of how the morning air felt on her bare legs. The shirt sleeves came down to her knuckles and she toyed with them, as they looked at each other.

He gulped and after gazing down at her once, she noted how he resolutely fixed his eyes on her face. "You look good." He blurted. His tan cheeks took on a red hue.

She walked towards him and when she was close, stopped. Holding his gaze, she raised an eyebrow and accused, "You undressed me."

She saw his throat work as he swallowed. His eyes didn't leave her face. In a voice that had become strained, he stated, "It was either the shirt or you were going to be sleeping in your underclothes."

"I'm curious. Did you join me in bed?"

He swallowed again. "I slept on the floor."

She reached up to run her hand down his cheek. His eyes fluttered as if they wanted to close, but he continued to stare at her. However, when she pulled his head down to meet hers, he didn't resist. The kiss was reluctant at first, but when he ran his hands down her waist, she wrapped both arms around his neck. Her body rubbed close against his and he groaned deep in his throat, grabbed her and lifted. Instinctively wrapping her legs around him, she rested her weight on his hips. He backed her up against the wall and the kiss became more intense.

Just then a voice rang through the house. "Uncle Fastion!" Groaning, they each leaned their heads back. Slightly breathless, he yelled back, "What'd she say Lily?"

"That it was fine. And that I should just yell up to you. And that I wasn't supposed to go upstairs. And that I was to come straight back. And not interrupt you and Karigan."

Karigan leaned her head back against the wall and shook with silent laughter.

"All right. Go play with the other kids, I'll see you later."

When they heard the light footsteps run back out the front door, Fastion rested his head on Karigan's shaking shoulder and he joined her in laughing.

After a minute, she regained some control over herself. Still chuckling, she unwrapped her legs and lowered herself back to the ground. Karigan stepped back and said in a more serious voice, "We really should stop. I need to find some clothing. You butchered my last pair."

Equally serious, he said, "I really don't mind how you're dressed now."

It surprised another laugh out of her. "No doubt, but I insist we find me some clothing."