Their carriage was parked off the main road, back behind some brush and trees. They couldn't be seen from the road and it would take a major search to locate them. They were far enough away where that probably wasn't an issue. Besides, night had fallen and searchers would have to walk into their vehicle to find them, unless the horse gave them away. But then, the horse was tired too and unlikely to make any noise for awhile yet.

The carriage had space in the back, so they created makeshift sleeping quarters. What that really meant was that they both had enough room to lay down at the same time if they had to. And right now, they had to.

Ferris and Ryner had been riding for hours to get away. To get away from Roland. To get away from Sion. And now, they needed some rest. Some time to take a breath and plan their next move. Ryner had an idea or two about that, but with the mad scramble to get away, they hadn't had time to discuss them.

Where the blankets came from, Ferris wasn't sure. Ryner was quite resourceful when pressed. When not pressed, Ryner was normally asleep. Like he was right now. She rolled over to watch him sleep. She smiled.

Funny how things work out. She was a fugitive from her home country, far away from the brother who had the power to protect her. Traveling with another fugitive who would certainly be killed on sight, if found. Away from all the creature comforts that a woman of her station was entitled to. Being a warrior, losing the comforts was no big deal, but it was nice to be able to just stop whatever she was doing and go to the nearest dango shop and eat until she was full. Between their fugitive status and all the wars raging everywhere, it might be awhile before they felt that comfortable again.

Still, she was very happy right now. As long as the two of them were together, things would be fine. She leaned over his sleeping form to touch his hair. Ryner was a pretty man when awake and even more handsome when he slept. She always enjoyed watching him sleep. Sometimes it seemed that was the only time he could have some peace. The worry lines were gone from his face and his tousled hair made him look like a little boy.

It was a sudden thing that happened over a long period of time, her feelings for Ryner Lute. She didn't really understand how she felt until Lieral Lieutolu, Ryner's father, told her that he had killed his own son. A dagger through the heart, he had said. His words felt like a dagger to her own. In her rage, she had tried to kill Lieral, but his power was equal to her own brothers so she had no chance.

Lieral had lied about killing Ryner. He was merely trying to test her feelings for his son. Apparently, he approved. She did not approve. However, the episode did serve a purpose for her-it did clarify her feelings. She understood then that she loved Ryner Lute. She had no acquaintance with that particular emotion so it took quite a jolt to recognize it. But eventually she did see it and understand it. Love was not an emotion that survived in the house of Eris. At least, it didn't survive in the form that most people were familiar with, so she had no experience with it.

Much to her surprise, she not only understood her feelings, but embraced them. Especially after finding Ryner alive in the prison that Sion had thrown him in. Especially since she had been told by Sion that he himself had killed the Alpha Stigma of Roland. She had screamed at the King, wanting to kill him then and there, but she was restrained. Then she was thrown out after being told her presence would no longer be tolerated around the King.

And still, Ryner was hell-bent on saving Sion from himself. Ryner had forgiven their friend for what he had done. No matter the sin; attempting to kill and then locking up Ryner or starting wars across the land. No matter what it was, Ryner forgave him and wanted to help him get back to his old self again. Ferris was having a harder time with forgiveness, especially when it came to the sins against Ryner.

She would never tell her sleeping love this, but if Sion tried to hurt him again, she would take off his head. Without thought. Without remorse. Ryner Lute was hers. Hers to tease and abuse and love. And she would kill anyone that tried to get in the way o f that.

With that comforting thought, she closed her eyes to get some rest herself.


He didn't move when he awoke. It was a habit. He wanted to have an idea of what mayhem might be going on around him before letting anyone know he was awake. For Ryner, it was a habit that saved him more than once in his life.

The first thing he realized was that there was a hand on his bare waist underneath his blanket. The hand wasn't moving so he wasn't worried about it yet. He listened. All he could hear was an occasional snort from the horse outside the wagon, and the sound of someone next to him breathing softly, evenly. The owner of the hand at his waist was asleep next to him . God, he hoped that was Ferris, or his life was going to be hell again.

He opened one eye, and seeing it was indeed Ferris laying on her side next to him, opened the other. He stared at her, unable to comprehend just how lucky he was. Lucky to be where he was and lucky to be with who he was with.

She was touching him and he ached to return the favor, but he didn't want to disturb her rest. At least not yet. She had earned that rest.

His Ferris. He knew for a long time that he loved her. He also knew for a fact that she couldn't, wouldn't, return those feelings. With the way she was raised, she wouldn't know how. That's what he thought, anyway.

She had pulled him back from the brink so many times. She stayed with him even when he was sure he was just a monster. A monster good for only death and destruction. Yet, she was there to pull him back. When he was about to lose control, she was there. When he was about to give up on everything and run away, she tracked him down.

If she believed in him so much to go through the hell he put her through and keep coming back for him, then how could he not stop running and face himself? The answer, really, was that he couldn't do it for himself, but he realized that he could do it for her.

He was afraid of losing control of his Alpha Stigma and killing her. But that was an excuse. She had already been there when he lost control once and he couldn't/wouldn't kill her. And boy, did she rub his face as he destroyed everthing in the area. Everything but her. The woman who was taunting him and telling him what a pervert he was and a lousy monster that wasn't very good at killing. The woman who told him to his face that he, Ryner Lute was not a monster after all. A woman who looked into his eyes and told him that she didn't know what she would do without him around.

That's when he knew he had a chance to love and be loved by Ferris of the house Eris. Cold warrior maiden who was just learning how to express her emotions. Who was always standing beside him to fight for Roland, or even for a little boy who was being persecuted because of the way he was born.

Yes, they were running, for now. Running from everything they knew. Running to god knows where. But, they were running together and that's what mattered.

Unable to resist anymore, he reached for her, his hand landing on her bare midriff.

She didn't pull away and she didn't reach for her sword to beat him with for daring to touch her. Ferris merely smiled at him and played with his hair. A contented, happy smile she wore. He smiled back. He moved closer to her and she let him. She blushed a little, but didn't look angry. Ferris looked expectant and a little excited. He moved his head down and kissed her lightly on the lips and she responded by kissing him back just as lightly. He pulled his head back and saw that her face was flushed and there was a look of wonder on her face. It was probably the same expression she was seeing on his face. She pressed her body against him as she pulled his head back down for another kiss.

Wars suck. Betrayal sucks. The next part of their journey would probably suck too. But there was nobody in the world he would rather face it all with than her.