By: Elizabeth Kelly
“How did your first night go with the baby?” Avery gave Maya a tired smile.
They were sitting on the soft grass close to the water’s edge,and she lifted her face to the sun. The days were growing cooler,but it still felt good to be in the outdoors. They had bathed in the lake and washed their clothing, and Avery couldn’t get over how much better she felt after having her long hair and body scrubbed clean for the first time in months.
“He has a fever. And he threw up nearly everything I fed him in the night,” Maya said worriedly.
“He always has a fever,” Sophia said. “He rarely eats without throwing it up.”
She kissed Nicholas, who was lying wanly on his back on Maya’s lap, before looking at Maya. “Can I play in the water?”
“Yes,love, but you must stay where I can see you at all times and you must not go any deeper than your knees. Do you understand?”
Sophia nodded and skipped down to the water’s edge. They watched as she waded in before glancing behind her to see if she could still see Maya. She waved cheerfully at them. They waved back as she bent over and began to bring up handfuls of stones from the bottom of the lake.
Avery glanced to her right. The other women were checking their clothes that were laid out in the soft grass to dry. They had all but avoided Avery and Maya the entire time they were bathing and washing their clothes,and Avery was glad. She had no patience for women and their gossiping and clucking about, and much preferred Maya’s quiet company.
She checked to make sure that both Mrs. Lanning and Marshall, who was keeping a close eye on the women, were not watching them and then held her arms out.
“Give him to me.”
Maya handed Nicholas to her. She laid him on her lap and quickly undressed him down to his cloth diaper. She stared sadly at the tiny baby on her lap. She could count every one of his ribs, his breath wheezed in and out,and already his skin was starting to turn blue from the cool air.
“Poor baby,” she whispered. Her dress was drying in the sun next to Maya’s, and she was wearing a plain white shift that stopped just above her knees. She quickly unlaced the top of her shift and slid Nicholas inside until his naked body was resting against her naked skin.
She kissed his head repeatedly and whispered to him as he stiffened. He uttered a small hoarse cry before falling silent and collapsing weakly against her. Avery rested her lips against his forehead and cupped his tiny head as she closed her eyes and concentrated.
Maya watched as the baby’s pale skin began to take on a rosy, healthy glow. Avery continued to hold him, rocking back and forth a little, and didn’t release him until he began to squirm against her. She pulled Nicholas free from her shift and handed him to Maya.
Her sister gave her a worried look. “Avery? Are you all right?You’re very pale and I can see you trembling.”
She nodded. “Aye. He was just more ill than I anticipated.” She coughed and then looked at the baby fondly. “He’s a tough little one. I have no idea how he survived this long.”
“What was wrong with him?”Maya asked.
Avery smiled at her. “You know that isn’t how it works,Maya. I have no idea what his illness was.”
She coughed again, wincing and holding one hand to her head,as Maya stared at her with alarm. “Are you sure you’re all right?”
Avery nodded again. “Yes. I didn’t sleep well last night,and it’s been a long time since I’ve had to heal such a deep sickness. I’m just not used to it. I’ll be fine once I get more sleep.”
Maya held out her hand. “Here, take my hand. I’m healthy.”
Avery shook her head. “I’m fine. Do not worry yourself-”
“Take my hand,” Maya insisted. Avery sighed and linked fingers with Maya. They sat silently for a few minutes as Maya crooned softly to the baby,and Avery closed her eyes and breathed deeply.
Read Also: RED MOON (Chapter 1)
She looked up when Marshall whistled and waved his arm at them. The other women had gathered their clothes,and Maya squeezed her hand before standing. She called for Sophia who wandered out of the water and toward them.
“Come,Avery. We’ll get you some breakfast.”
Avery shook her head. “I’m feeling better. I think I’ll take another swim. It’s been many moons since I’ve gotten to swim, and the gods only know how long it will be before I get another chance.”
Tristan glanced around the campsite. Marshall had returned with the women nearly half an hour ago and Avery, easily noticeable with her bright red hair, was missing.
He stood next to Maya who was feeding Nicholas his bottle. The baby was eating enthusiastically for once, grabbing Maya’s hands with his tiny fingers and gulping hungrily at the milk. “Where is your sister?”
Maya gave him a nervous look.“She is still at the lake,my lord. She wanted to swim for a bit longer.”
He shook his head, cursing under his breath before storming over to Marshall. “You left the Red at the lake alone?”
Marshall shrugged. “She said she wanted to swim for a while longer. I wasn’t going to argue with her – she’d probably turn me into a lizard.”
“You know it’s not safe in the woods, Marshall.” Tristan frowned at him,but the younger man just shrugged again.
With a harsh sigh, Tristan turned and headed for the lake. Ashe jogged through the trees,he cursed his decision to buy the Red. It didn’t take long before he was at the lake and he scanned the shore for her. Her dress was lying on the grass,but she was nowhere to be seen.
He searched the water and caught movement in the corner of his eye. He turned to see Avery surface about twenty feet from the shore. She pushed her hair from her face before floating lazily on her back.
“Girl!”he shouted irritably. She jerked and disappeared under the water for a moment before popping back up, coughing and sputtering.
“What?” She shouted back.
“Get out of the water. We’re leaving.”
She nodded and swam toward shore with long, powerful strokes. He envied her obvious confidence in the water. He could swim, but it was little more than a doggy paddle and deep water made him nervous. He would get her to teach Sophia to swim, he decided.
As she drew closer, a strange scent drifted to him and he closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. He turned his back to the lake and stared suspiciously into the trees before inhaling again.
“Hurry up,girl!” he barked over his shoulder. Dimly he was aware of her splashing her way onto shore as he stared into the trees. The scent was fading rapidly, if it had even been there in the first place, but he continued to stare intently into the trees.
“What?” She asked, peering curiously over his shoulder. “What do you see?”
“Nothing.” He turned around and faced her. “But we should get back to the others. It’s getting late and we need to get back on the road before…”
His voice died as he stared at the Red.
She was wearing a short white shift that the water had turned translucent. The wet fabric clung to every curve of her pale body,and he grew hard as he stared at her. The grey dress had done an excellent job of hiding her curves and although it was obvious she was much too thin, the fullness of her breasts and the swell of her hips had him aching to touch her.
He looked up at her face. She had bathed and scrubbed her face and body clean,and he could see a tiny smattering of freckles across her nose. Her skin was the color of milk and other than the freckles, completely unblemished. He was suddenly itching to touch her skin and see if it felt as soft as it looked.
“What’s wrong?” She frowned at him.
His eyes dropped back down to her breasts. The wet fabric and cool air had hardened her rose-colored nipples and he had a sudden image of sucking gently on them.
She looked down at herself. “Gods!”
She blushed and pulled the wet fabric away from her body before searching frantically for her dress. She spied it on the grass but before she could reach for it, he took her by the arm and pulled her close.
She gave him a warning look and he grinned wolfishly at her. “You smell much better.”
“Thank you.” She tugged against his hand,but he refused to let her go. He reached out and pushed the wet strands of hair from her cheek. She inhaled sharply when he ran his fingers along her cheekbone.
“You’re too thin,” he informed her. She didn’t reply, just continued to stare at him with her clear green eyes, and he frowned. “You need to eat more.”
“Whatever you say, m’lord.”
He scowled at her insolent tone before cupping the back of her head and pulling her forward. “You belong to me now,” he whispered. “You will do what I tell you.”
The touch of Tristan’s hand sent weird tingles of pleasure down Avery’s spine. Trying to ignore them, she scoffed in his face. “I belong to no one.”
He bent his head until his mouth was hovering over hers.
“You belong to me,” he repeated himself, his warm breath washing over her face,and Avery felt a surge of warmth in her belly despite her annoyance with him. “And I want you to kiss me.”
She shook her head. “No.”
She hoped she sounded more confident then she felt. She had no idea what was happening to her. His deep voice and warm hand were playing havoc with her system. She felt weak and disoriented and when he had told her to kiss him, she had damn near obeyed him immediately.
“Yes,” he demanded.
“No.” She swallowed hard, her lips trembling.
He ran his thumb over her mouth and at his touch,her lips parted. He groaned a little when her tongue flicked out and licked at her dry lips, brushing against his thumb in the process.
His eyes were dark like Sophia’s and to her horror, her body was responding shamelessly to the look of need in them. He suddenly pulled her wet body against his and ran his hand down her back through the wet fabric of her shift.
“Kiss me,girl.” He hesitated. “Please.”
She pressed her lips quickly and lightly against his. “There, I kissed you.”
Feeling like she was drowning, she pressed her mouth against his again. This time she let her lips linger on his. When the tip of his tongue probed gently at her closed lips, a shudder of desire went through her. His hand was against the small of her back and he pressed her so close she could feel his erection against her abdomen.
“Open your mouth,” he breathed and then flicked his tongue against her upper lip. She moaned and obeyed his whispered command. He stroked her tongue with his and explored her mouth with demanding urgency. Warmth was rushing through her, and her hips bucked against him compulsively when she slid her tongue timidly into his mouth and he immediately sucked hard on it.
An ache was starting in her belly and pelvis and when he cupped her ass, squeezing it familiarly, she didn’t protest.He lifted her until she was on her tip-toes, his hands still holding her ass firmly, so that he could press his erection directly against her warm center. She groaned at the contact and tore her mouth free from his. She pushed on his chest, trying to put some distance between them.
He growled low in his throat and moved one hand to the back of her neck, holding it with his large, warm hand.“Can you feel how much I want you,girl?”
When she didn’t answer, he pushed her more firmly against him. “Can you?”
“Aye,” she moaned.
He kissed her again, sucking on her lower lip, and she stopped trying to escape his embrace and pressed herself against him. He smiled his approval and pulled her head back so he could kiss her throat.
He let go of her ass and took one smooth thigh in his hand. Gripping it tightly,he lifted it up around his hip. The cool air slipped between her thighs, caressing her heated skin and bringing her back to her senses.
“My lord, stop. I –I’m getting you wet,” she whispered. She could feel streams of water from her clothing trickling down her legs and arms,and the front of his dark shirt was wet and sticking to his chest.
He grinned at her. “Aye, so you are.”
He kissed his way to her ear and then breathed quietly, “Shall we see if I’m getting you wet?”
A vision of his warm hand between her legs, his rough fingers touching and stroking her, rushed through her and she couldn’t stop the long, shuddering moan from escaping her lips.
He nipped her earlobe.“That sounds like a yes to me.”
Still gripping the back of her neck,he let go of her thigh and pushed his other hand between their bodies. He traced the tips of his fingers across the front of her thigh. Avery knew she should have been moving her leg from where it was still wrapped around his hip, but instead she squeezed her leg more firmly around him and held her breath. Her entire body tensed as she waited for his warm touch.
There was a sudden, loud noise in the woods behind them. He pushed her away immediately, spinning around and scanning the trees.
Her mouth red and her body trembling, Avery quickly stripped off her wet shift and struggled into the shapeless dress. She tapped Tristan on the back with one finger.“What is it?”
She watched curiously as he lifted his head and inhaled deeply. Without looking at her, he held out his hand. “Let’s go.”
She took his hand and allowed him to lead her back toward the campsite.
Read Also: RED MOON (Chapter 2)
Watch Out for Chapter Four (4) …………