Half of the day gone and Keira felt exhausted. She threw her sac roughly on the ground and threw her body on it too. Colin stopped and looked back.
“Are you alright?” He asked putting the other sac on the ground too.
“I can’t walk anymore.” Keira said serious. “I am tired…my legs are sore…I need a bath…” And as she spoke tears began to fall down her face. She clenched her fists and tapped them on the ground feeling angry. “Why does it have to be so difficult?”
Colin walked up to her and crouched. “Life isn’t easy Keira.” He told her. Keira looked at him with her teary eyes.
“It should be easy. I should have all the right to go straight to my father and tell him I don’t want to be married to someone I do not love. I shouldn’t be obliged to such thing. I am a human being…” She began to babble and tears fell even heavier down her flushed cheeks. Colin took her face between his hands and cleaned her eyes with his thumbs.
“You have all the right to stay with someone you love.” He said.
Keira looked in his eyes. “Seriously?” She asked pouting a little bit causing him to smile. He hated to see her cry but she was so cute while doing it. Her cheeks flushed a little and her lips trembled while she pouted.
“I’m serious.” He affirmed.
“You don’t judge me…like deep inside of you, don’t you judge me?”
“Not even a bit.” He promised.
“I cannot walk anymore.” She said again with her astonishing and almost irresistible pouting lips.
“I think we can stop for today.” He said looking at the sky. It wasn’t going to rain and the day was coming to an end.
“I can hear a river.” Keira stated.
“I think it’s down there.” He pointed down a straight way into the bushes.
“Let’s go there.” Keira got up but Colin held her sac and then he grabbed his.
They walked down through the bushes until they found a nice grass spot near a river. It wasn’t large but Keira could tell it was deep enough to have some fish. The water ran down on a steady pace and it was crystal clear.
“I think I want to bathe too.” She said.
“It must be freezing.” Colin warned her.
“I know but I really need to do so.”
Colin nodded. He knew what that meant. “I am going down there. You call me when you’re done. In fact…” He said already walking away. “…I think I might bathe too. My hair is so full of dust that I can’t even run my fingers through it.”
Keira watched him go down the way before she began to undo her clothes. A gust of wind blew making her shiver with cold but that was the only way to bathe. Even if in Avon she had to go to the river to bathe. During winter, she’d bathe with a rag drenched with hot water from the pot but they didn’t have a pot to do the same so cold water was the only option. Her body tensed when she entered the water and a little yelp escaped her lips. Then she simply submerged into the water letting her hair soak. She ran her hands over her body to clean it the best she could and then also ran her fingers over her hair to take the dust away from it.
Keira got out of the water and searched for the mixture she had done with herbs to put on her hair. Not only would it wash it better as it left a nice smell on it. Little did she know that Colin, already bathed was watching her behind a huge oak. Even if he knew it was wrong to watch her, he had been doing it for quite some time. He couldn’t resist it, it was stronger than him.
His whole body tensed as her figure appeared naked coming out from the water. Her pale skin asked to be touched. He’d close his eyes imagining how it’d be to run his hands over her soft skin and imagined time and time again how it’d be to possess her. Though he was freezing from the cold bath, he was feeling his body heat as he watched her washing her long red hair. The water just until her waist letting him have full view of her round breasts. A smile appeared on his lips as he realized how much attention she paid to her bath. The details he was seeing her doing made him even more curious about her. His heart was racing fast just as any other time she’d look deep inside his eyes with her green ones.
“I’m done!” She yelled yanking him from his thoughts.
Colin didn’t answer not to give away he was close. Just like any other time after doing such thing, he regretted it. He blamed himself for spying on her. He knew he shouldn’t do so but his curiosity was bigger than anything. Keira was so perfect it was impossible to refrain his will and sometimes he wished she’d seen him the way he was seeing her.
“The water is so cold.” He said appearing near her.
Keira looked up to find his hair dripping. “Have this.” She said giving him a large rag. “Run it over your hair. It will help it dry.”
Colin did so. “It smells good.” He said sticking his nose to the wind and Keira giggled.
“It’s the herbal mixture I’ve done for my hair.” She explained.
“What’s in it?” Colin asked sitting down in front of her.
“Rosemary, thyme and lavender.”
“It smells incredibly good.” He said again.
Keira smiled at him but at the same time she looked down not baring his deep gaze. Sometimes it seemed he could see into her soul and that intimidated her.
“I found a nice place to sleep. It’s under a tree down there.” Colin pointed.
“Let’s go there then.”
They moved their things under a huge tree. While Colin tried to catch some fish, Keira began to dispose of the furs for the night and gathering some wood to make a bonfire. Colin watched her doing that too. She was becoming more autonomous and not afraid to do some hard work. He liked that in her, in fact he found things he liked in her every day. Day by day she was losing her princess status and becoming a laboring fearless woman.
“There’s fire and bed…now we need food.” She said smiling approaching the bank of the river.
“I swear we are going to have some trout.” He told her.
Keira shivered and came back near the bonfire. She sat in front of it watching the flames illuminating the dark of the night. The starry sky above them was beautiful, the perfect scenario. Her head then turned to look at him. Her eyes raked every little trace of his body and felt her heart skipping a beat. She turned to the fire again trying to erase the feeling off of her but her head turned to him again. With his back turned at her, Colin couldn’t see how she looked at him, how she stared at him wasting the track of time. Then she saw him shivering a bit and she got up. Keira grabbed a fur and approached him.
“It’s cold.” She said rolling the fur around his back and hanging it on his shoulders.
“Thanks.” He smiled.
Keira watched his feet in the water. At that time he was probably not even feeling them. “Colin…get out of the water. It’s late and dark, I don’t think you’re going to catch a trout.”
“Trust me.” He said.
“But you must be freezing.” She insisted.
“I’ve done this before.”
“With this cold and in this cold water?” She faced him.
“Yes.” He affirmed. Keira shivered and smiled. “Come here.” He said pulling her to him.
“What are you doing?” She asked feeling a little uncomfortable.
“Teaching you.” He said. “Turn around…”
Colin turned her back at him and let her grab the branch he had in his hands. “Hold it like this…” He said so near her ear that she quivered and not of cold.
The cold of the night was disappearing as his body was glued on hers and though she was trying to concentrate on his instructions, her body, mind and soul were not letting her.
“I don’t think I can do this.” She said trying to escape, but he rolled an arm around her waist preventing her to go.
“Yes you can.” He said and Keira stayed. “See…” He said sweetly running a hand over her hair. “It’s not that hard is it?”
If he’d done that some time before Keira would have ran away from him but at that time it felt good to feel his touch. It felt right to feel his touch and that’s why she let him caress her. Maybe she was feeling needy because she was away from home but she knew deep inside that it was his caress she had been wanting for the most, even when she was still at home.
“Oh my!” She exclaimed suddenly and excited. Her head turned back to look at him and it showed a beautiful smile. “Seems like I caught a fish!”
“Yes, you have.” He said smiling too and helping her pulling the branch out of the water with a trout on its tip struggling to live. “Not bad…” Colin commented realizing the size of it.
“Seems like we have our dinner.” Keira told him resting her hands on her waist but at the same time disappointed the trout didn’t let her stay near him for long.
Egan and his men ended their day by settling on an open grass field. The king shivered holding onto his fur and didn’t move ever since he had sit down there. Martin approached him and sat by his side and gave him a piece of dry meat and bread.
“Here’s some brew too.” He added handing him a cup. The man noticed how Egan’s hand shook. “You are ill my king.”
“I feel fine.” Egan said firmly. “I need to find Keira and only then I come back home.”
“What if we don’t ever find her?”
Egan looked at Martin in his green eyes. “We will find her. Even if I have to sweep England from North to South but I will find her.”
A noise made Egan and his men on guard. Some grabbed their swords ready to fight others their arches. Egan only stuck his head up high in the air trying to see. Only two figures were visible in the dark but they could perceive they were men.
“We come in peace!” One of them shouted.
“Who are you?” Egan asked out loud too.
“Just two travelers.” The other answered. “We need a place to spend the night, that’s all.”
“Approach…” Egan ordered and then signaled with a hand for the others to put their weapons down. The men did so but were still eyeing the strangers suspiciously. “What’s your name?” He asked the older one.
“I am Tom and this is my son Henry.” Tom said.
“I am Egan of Avon.” He said calmly but feeling his body shivering with the cold.
“Sire…” Tom said and he bowed in respect. Henry did so too.
“How long have you been traveling?” Egan asked. “Do you have food? We have plenty.”
Tom nodded to the last question. “For almost a week sire.” He said.
“A week?” Egan opened his eyes. “Maybe you have seen a girl traveling alone?”
Tom and Henry looked at each other and then shook their heads. “We haven’t seen anyone sire…” Tom said after. “…we just met a couple yesterday but they were the only people we have seen in a week and now you.”
“A couple?” Egan curled his eyebrow and Tom nodded.
“They were heading North looking for work.” Tom said.
“Colin and Keira were their names.” Henry talked. Egan’s head turned fast to the young man.
“Keira?” He said and Henry nodded. “How did she look like?”
“Long read hair and green eyes.”
It seemed like they were talking about his Keira but the fact that she was with a man confused him. Who was this man? Egan shook his head.
“What about the man?” He asked.
“Tall, blond, blue eyes…” Henry explained.
“They are married sire.” Tom added remembering Colin said nothing when he addressed to Keira as his wife.
“I am looking for my daughter, she is missing.” Egan said.
“I hope you find her.” Tom told him.
“Do you know where this couple is going?”
“They said heading North but not a precise village. I said Kythen and Acton were nice places to find work but I am not sure if they are going there.”
Egan groaned feeling a little frustrated. He didn’t want to believe that was his daughter but at the same time something was telling him that was Keira just the man was deceiving him. Not knowing the exact direction would make them waste time.
“Thank you.” Egan said anyway. “You can stay.”
“My king…” Martin approached him again. Since Jacob’s death and when Cahil was absent, Martin was his man. “Did they see her?” Egan said nothing and just stared at a distant point. His mind was far. Then his head turned.
“We leave as soon as the first rays to daylight appear.” He ordered.
“Did they see her?”
Egan shrugged. “I think so but at the same time I don’t think so.”
“How come?” Martin asked a little confused.
“This girl they have seen was with a man and they say they were husband and wife. Keira left to escape a marriage…”
“And do you know the reason why my king?”
Egan’s eyebrow curled. “What do you mean?”
“Maybe she was in love with another man and that’s why she ran away.”
“Keira wouldn’t do that.” He said. “Or would she?”
“My wife ran away with me. She was betrothed to another man.” Martin told him. “That’s when you sheltered us.”
“But where would Keira meet this man. The strangers said his name was Colin…there isn’t a Colin in the village and that was the only way for her to meet a man. If he isn’t from the village, then who is this man and where did she meet him? Something here doesn’t make sense. It might be a coincidence and this girl might just have the same name. Keira would go and look for work.”
“No?” Martin disagreed. “If she ran away she has to find a way to survive and she has to work. There’s the other part where she would not exactly say who she is because she knows you are looking for her and she wants to keep her cover.”
“You have a point in there…” Egan said thoughtful. “We leave first thing in the morning”
“I am concerned about your well being.” Martin insisted.
“I already said I am feeling fine.”
“My king…if you excuse me I must disagree. With all the respect but I think we should return to the village and wait for your recover. It’s dangerous for you to travel like this and under this conditions. You are looking weak Sire…”
“We are heading North and that is the end of the story.” Egan said firmly. His voice shook when he tried to yell to his subedit.
Martin nodded. There was nothing he could do but to obey. “Still there are many ways they can take.”
“I will find her.” Egan said determined.
Near the river bank the cold increased. Even if near a vivid bonfire and covered with a fur, Keira shook with cold.
“Are you cold?” Colin asked turned on his right side watching her. She rolled on her back to look at him.
“I thought you were already sleeping.”
“I’m not.” He said but hide the fact that he wasn’t sleeping because he was looking at her back, mesmerized as if he was looking at her face.
“I am cold yes. It’s getting colder and colder and we don’t have enough furs to keep us warm.”
“I know…” Colin breathed and then pulled his things near her.
Keira watched him a little scared but didn’t move. She watched him pull his sac down and one fur on the ground, then he lied down again and pulled her against him. She felt her body jump a little but she remained still. She let his body curled with hers and instantly it became warmer.
“This will keep us a little warmer.” Colin explained. “I am cold too.”
“Ok.” She said closing her eyes with her back turned at him.
Her eyes flew opened the next second. Feeling his breath against her back disquieted her. Never had she slept so close to a man and never had she wanted to be that close to a man. Colin was respectful, the furs were between them, there was no body contact though he knew he’d like that. Never had he been that right with a woman and never had he felt the need to show it to her. Usually he had all he wanted for he was a great warrior in his village but there he was just a stranger with no title or nobility.
“Are you sleeping?” He asked.
“Not yet.” She answered.
“I was thinking about your father…” He began.
Keira turned again to look at him but when she fully turned on her side, his face was too close to hers. She felt the need to pull away but as he didn’t move, she didn’t move either.
“Why are you thinking about my father?” She asked.
That proximity was more than he could bear. His body ached for her that very instant and the will to press his lips against hers was almost uncontrollable. That very second, mentally, he asked himself why he was becoming so obsessed with her as if he didn’t want to accept the fact. His heart beat faster on his chest.
“Is he a good hunter?” He finally asked.
Keira curled an eyebrow and then nodded with her head against the sac that was used as pillow at night. “Excellent one.” She told him.
“I thought so…” He said vaguely. He looked up at the starry sky and then back at her. “If he is after you and he is a skilled hunter then he will find us. Plus, we met Tom and Henry and they don’t know you’re a runaway, if they meet your father and he asks about you they might say they had been with a couple…do you understand?”
She nodded. “I do.”
“We are going to sleep a few hours and then we begin to walk again. We should change our path too just in case. If they met Tom and Henry, he will tell them about the villages in the North, so we must not be there when they are.”
“Are you warmer now?” He asked with a smile and Keira nodded. He ran a hand over her face tenderly and she closed her eyes.
“Thank you for taking care of me.”
With her eyes closed she felt his lips pressing against her forehead. “Sleep well.” He whispered and she turned her back at him again.
It took him a couple of time to close his eyes and sleep. He watched her sleep for a good amount of hours without being able to close his. Her innocent figure overwhelmed him and he knew he was becoming more and more attached to her. He also knew she was not attached the same way. They belonged to a different world, they had different principles and ideas. Overall, they were different and yet…yet… he had fallen for her. Colin closed his eyes at his realization as if it was a curse and then opened them again.
“It can’t be…” He whispered.