Keira walked fast and taking huge steps. Her heart pounded hard and quickly of tiredness but also of adrenaline and of fear. Her fists clenched the whole time as if restraining her feelings inside and her mind almost blank. Her eyes blurred her way back making it hard for her to see where she stepped, making her stumble now and then on a stone or a hole on the ground. As Avon approached and became part of her sight, the frenzy inside her became almost unbearable and her chest tightened as if suffocating her. A hiccup escaped her throat as she tried to swallow the pride. Keira longed for the privacy of her chamber and it was there she went. She took the last steps running and threw her body on her bed. Her face buried on her pillow and she gripped onto it with both hands. Her shoulders jerked and a muffled cry echoed. Keira began to cry, even sobbing. The truth hurt her more than lying to herself. She was trapped…prisoner of her status.
“Keira!” She heard a feminine voice entering her chamber but she didn’t venture turning around. “Keira…” A hand shook her behind but she jerked that friendly hand away.
“I want to be alone.” She said. The sound of her voice still muffled by the pillow.
“But I know you are crying. I saw you arriving, you looked weird and now I know that you are crying. What happened? Was it something in the forest that frightened you?”
“Cath…please…I just want to be left alone.” Keira insisted.
“But I am your sister and I care…tell me what’s wrong.”
Keira sighed almost defeated. She knew Cathleen wouldn’t leave. For a few seconds she remained still with her face buried on the pillow and Cathleen just remained there waiting. Her sister was indeed her best friend, she knew that. Keira knew she could trust her life to her but it was hard for her to talk about what tormented her for she didn’t want to admit what deep inside she knew. She slowly then turned around and looked at her sister.
“What’s wrong?” Cathleen asked pouting as if being sympathetic with her.
“I am just afraid.” She said instead.
“Of my life.” Keira claimed. “I think too much is expected from me. I am expected to be the perfect wife, the perfect princess and then the perfect queen. I am not prepared for that.”
Cathleen looked at her for a while and then shook her head. “I know you too well. That is not it Keira…”
Keira rolled her eyes. “It is.” She said determined.
“I think it’s just the marriage to Cahil that is upsetting you.”
“I’m scared.” Keira confessed. “I’m scared I have to comply with my wife duties when I have no desire for him.”
“How do you know that if you never let him touch you? I am sure the moment you deliver yourself to him that desire will come. Come on Keira…Cahil is…” The young girl smiled. “…he is…stunning…what’s there not to desire?”
“I don’t need to let him touch me Cath. I know I don’t desire him like that…I just know…”
“How do you know if you never desired anyone?”
Keira said nothing and then Cathleen’s eyes opened wide. “Oh…” She exclaimed. “Keira…” Her voice almost shaking. “What have you been doing?”
“Nothing!” She almost screamed.
“Nothing?” Cathleen spoke in the same tone. “If you are telling me that then it’s because something happened. Something that made you hanker for someone…”
“Stop that! It’s nothing like you’re saying. I just think that desire is something as natural as love is. I think your heart might beat faster as you look to a man and secretly you want that man to touch you and caress you and you have the will to kiss him even if he’s not asking for it. Desire Cath is not waiting for the other one to do something, you just have the will to do it yourself. Even if it’s just simple things as holding his hand or ruffle his hair. It is to close your eyes at night and know the traces of his face by heart and to know the sound of his laughter even if he’s not laughing and to think he might be rude and stupid but you still think he is cute. It is looking at him and feel your body on fire…that Cath…that is desiring someone.”
“And you know all that because you feel all that for someone else…” Cathleen whispered.
“Don’t be silly.” Keira looked away unable to look at her sister in the eye.
“How would you know all that then?” Cathleen stated running towards her sister and putting herself in front of her. “Is he someone of the village Keira?”
“Don’t be silly Cath!” Keira raised her tone again.
“Oh sister…” Cathleen frowned. “I don’t envy your situation. You don’t have much choice but to marry Cahil.”
Keira looked away from her sister’s gaze. She knew that. She has always known that and she had learned to accept it until a stranger walked in her life and take all her peace away. Colin had taken all her peace away.
“I…” Keira was unable to finish her sentence. Her eyes flooded with tears once again. Cathleen put both her hands on her shoulders and shook her lightly.
“I don’t understand you Keira. I honestly don’t…” She looked in her sister’s green eyes while tears fell down her face. “…of all loveable men in this village, Cahil is the one. I can’t understand how you don’t love him when he is such a great man. Not desiring him?” Cathleen smiled. “What’s in him not to desire? Tall, handsome, fit…amazing blue eyes and a smile to die for. If only…” Cathleen shut up.
“You don‘t understand.” Keira said feeling lost.
“You loved Jacob…now imagine father would get you another man to marry. Would you want him Cath?”
“If that man looked like Cahil does, I think I would be very lucky. Love comes with time. Come on…”
“Leave me alone.” Keira ended up saying.
“Aren’t you coming for dinner?” The other asked.
“I’m not hungry.”
“Father and Cahil will find it strange.”
“I’m not hungry.” Keira simply said again.
As Cathleen left, she sat on the bed with her gaze locked on the wall. She stared at nothing but her thoughts were clear. Even if she didn’t want to, she could feel his hand grabbing hers and his fingers pulling the strand of her hair away. Keira could clearly see the blue eyes staring at hers as if asking her something that was still not clear. The will to kiss him stroke again, to hold him tight. Keira got up and began to walk in circles and tears fell down her face once again.
“Oh God…” She sobbed low. She was prisoner of a situation she didn’t ask for and from which she didn’t have a way out.
Cahil was seated by the king’s side and Cathleen sat in front of him. Gently, she slightly nodded at him and he reattributed the smile but looked immediately away. His eyes searched for something else and Cathleen knew he was looking for Keira.
“Where’s Keira?” He asked.
“She is in her chamber. I don’t think she is feeling well.”
“She’s ill?” Cahil asked.
“No…she‘s just a little nervous. It must be the wedding…”
“And she has been tired.” Egan added. “I talked to her this afternoon and she told me she was feeling tired.”
Cahil stayed silent. Deep inside he knew it wasn’t just tiredness. Keira was struggling with the wedding, with the fact she had to marry him.
“Yes. That is it father.” Cathleen agreed and Cahil looked at her.
She had her dark hair falling down her shoulders and pouted as she took the spoon near her lips. That was enough to distract him, to take him to another dimension. He watched as Cathleen smiled as she talked to the king, as her dark eyes glittered with love written all over them. Suddenly she glanced at him and noticed how he stared at her.
“Is everything alright?” She asked him but in a sweet tone and he nodded.
“Yes…yes…” Cahil answered quickly and grabbed a piece of dry meat.
Cathleen still stared at him and secretly admired his lines. He was so handsome it was impossible not to stare. Even when she was with Jacob she’d stare at Cahil and would lose track of time. His blue eyes have always captivated her as well as his gentleness. By the corner of his eyes he saw her looking at him and he felt disquieted by it. Was she noticing something? By the second time he glanced at her, Cathleen looked away. Cahil was going to be her sister’s husband and she should respect that.
When she wasn’t looking anymore he looked at her. Her naked figure popped up in his mind, her perfect curves, her tanned skin that he imagined being so soft. As he knew he had to erase these sinful thoughts of his mind, he grabbed his cup and downed the brew in a long drag and then he got up.
“If you excuse me…” He bowed to the king and then at Cathleen. “I will see Keira now.”
“You do that.” Egan agreed and Cathleen wanted to tell him not to go that she’d rather be alone but couldn’t betray her sister.
“Perhaps she is sleeping.” She suggested.
“If she is then I will not wake her but I need to see how she is doing.” He insisted and with another bow he walked away.
Cathleen’s head was turned at the door as he walked away. Her eyes raked every trace of his manly figure. Cahil awaked all woman instinct in her. She had admitted so to Keira the other day. It was impossible not to imagine how it would be to bed him, to be held tight by his arms.
“Cathleen…” Egan called for her making her turn her head.
He had noticed how mesmerized she was and wondered how he had never noticed it before. The king knew Cahil was idolatrized by the majority of the women in the village and his youngest daughter was discovering sexuality so he understood but couldn’t let her feed that curiosity.
“Yes father…” Cathleen asked as he didn’t say anything else.
“I must be getting old…I forgot what I was going to say…” Egan laughed and she laughed too. The two began to joke and Cathleen seemed to have forgotten all about Cahil, so Egan had accomplished his goal.
Cahil was cautious approaching Keira’s chamber but she saw a shadow behind the curtain and peeked to see who was there. She had spent that time thinking and rethinking about her options but nothing seemed right and she also thought about what her sister had told her, how Cahil was desirable in every way and how desire and love would come with time.
“Hello.” She smiled and hoped her eyes weren’t so red and swollen.
“You have been crying.” He stated that very second.
“No…I am just so tired.” Keira tried to disguise but Cahil put two fingers under her chin and pulled her face up. His eyes hit hers and she could no longer tell him she hadn’t been crying.
“No, you have been crying Keira.” Cahil insisted and Keira tried to look away.
Still, he held her face still and her eyes were forced on his though she didn’t want to. He wasn’t hurting her but his grip was firm not to let her escape his attentive glare.
“Is it because of the wedding Keira?” He asked her. “Is it so bad to marry me?”
Keira remained silent. She could never tell him it was bad to marry him. He was a great choice, she simply didn’t love him as he loved her. As his blue eyes searched hers for an answer she remembered all Cathleen’s words and decided to give it the chance she hadn’t given it yet. Maybe if he touched her, desire would come, maybe she had the will to do more and maybe she’d find out she had been mistaken the whole time. She grabbed his hand and slowly took it up and placed it on her breast. Cahil jerked a bit and his lips parted in silence surprised with her sudden bold move.
“Is this wrong?” She whispered fearful.
“N…” Cahil choked a bit and shook his head. “No…” His voice trembled. He had dreamed so much with the moment he’d be able to touch Keira like that.
“Kiss me Cahil.” She asked.
His eyes opened a little more with her request. Was she really asking that of him? Was he dreaming? Still, he approached her slowly and looked deeply in her eyes. Keira closed them and his hand rested on the back of her neck, pulling her to him slowly. For the first time he didn’t feel her resisting, she went with his demand. His lips touched hers softly first and he felt his body catching fire as her arms embraced him. Never had he had her so willing. Their lips glued, his eyes closed and their bodies united as he pulled her to him in lust. His tongue searched for hers and absently she opened her mouth to let it in. It was her very first tongue kiss but she followed Cahil’s lead. His kiss was very demanding she thought and his lips very soft. It was good; she liked it and responded to it. His hands traveled to her breasts. Her nipples responded to his touch by hardening and by that moment all his body was ready for her. Keira tried by all means to let it flow but when the touch became more demanding and intense, he began to feel her disconnected.
“What is it?” He breathed against her lips.
“Nothing.” She said. Cahil was gasping and his lips were rather swollen. The lust was visible in him and she wondered if she was the same but she could see that the frenzy in her voice wasn’t the same.
“You’re here but you’re not here.” He claimed.
“I’ve never done this Cahil.”
He grabbed her face between his hands and pecked her. “Oh Keira…” He breathed with his eyes closed. His forehead against hers. “I feel you’re not here with me.”
“I’m trying.” She said.
Her tears probed in her eyes but she closed them for him not to see it. He tried once again. His lips searched for hers and he gently put her down on the bed. His body fell on top of hers and Keira closed her eyes as Cahil tenderly kissed her neck. Her lips began to tremble as well as her body. Her heart racing fast and in her mind Colin was floating. When she closed her eyes she’d see him kissing her neck and his body on top of hers. It had been like that since she had asked Cahil to touch her. Inside her mind there was one man she wanted like that but that man wasn’t Cahil.
“No…” She sobbed a little and Cahil raised his head to look at her. “No…” She pushed him away with both hands. “I’m sorry Cahil.”
Cahil got up and stayed there looking at her somehow between incredulous and at the same time expecting that from her.
“I don’t understand you Keira. I’m getting more lost than ever.”
“I know…” She said crying once again. “It’s my fault and not yours. It’s me Cahil and only me.”
“I’m a man Keira! I came here just to see how you were and surprisingly you want me to touch you. Then you just say no…
“I know. I don’t know what to tell you other than I am sorry.”
“Something is bothering you.” He grabbed her by both her shoulders and shook her a bit. “It’s so clear in your face Keira. Tell me what is it, maybe I can help you. Help me to help you, please.”
“It’s nothing really.” She cried. “Please Cahil…”
“Am I ugly? Unattractive? Tell me…”
“It’s none of that.” She told him getting a little desperate. Cahil let go of her and ran his hands over his hair.
“We’re getting married in three days Keira. Three days…you have three days to get over whatever is affecting you. I don’t want to sound cold, it’s none of that, I would do anything for you but I deserve to be treated right.”
“Do you desire me Cahil?” She asked. Cahil frowned.
“Of course I do. I didn’t know that was not clear to you.”
“Is there another woman you desire more than you desire me?” Cahil gave a step back taken aback with her question.
“No.” He said. Suddenly he was feeling the world shaking under his feet as Cathleen popped up in his mind. She was his curse.
“Seriously?” Keira insisted.
“Aye!” He said firmly. “Why? Is there a man you desire Keira? Is that why you are making me that question?”
“NO!” She raised her tone. “I always respected my commitment to you.”
“Then why are you asking me that?”
“Because as you say you are a man and there are beautiful women in the village.”
“That is nonsense. I think you need to rest and we should not have this conversation.” He said going to the door.
“I know you have bedded many women…” She said making him stop.
“Yes…but I have been waiting for you.” He said. “Keira…” He came back to her. “…I might have been in bed with these women as you say but I wanted you all the time. The women in the tavern are there just to satisfy our needs.”
“Aye!” She nodded and looked down at her feet embarrassed. She felt his lips on her forehead.
“Good night.” He said and then left.
Keira stayed there watching him go down the street. He had answered her question but his first answer wasn’t as secure as he usually answers her but that wasn’t even the point. All she wanted was for him to be happy and if he’d find someone who’d make him happier than her, she’d be happy for him. She couldn’t but conclude she’d make them both miserable. She entered her bedroom and grabbed a sac. She put some tunics, the brush of her hair and two furs in it. Then she grabbed the cloak and put it on. The village was asleep. Everything was quiet and dark except from the sound coming from the tavern. The men were too distracted drinking. No one would notice her and Keira escaped like that.
Cahil entered the tavern moody. Keira’s question awaked his demons. The men cheered and put a cup with brew in his hands and he looked around.
“Where’s Sansa?” He asked almost rudely.
“Sansa!” The Tavernier yelled and the young woman appeared.
“Came to say goodbye to your single life?” She purred holding onto to him.
Cahil downed the brew at once and then looked at her. Her dark hair and eyes have always reminded him of Cathleen but he never linked that to the reason why he always chose Sansa. He held her hair in his hand and pulled her head back without hurting her.
“I didn‘t come here to talk”
Keira felt her heart pounding fast every step she’d make in the forest that late at night. The sounds coming from the dark were frightening her and she ran as fast as she could to get to her destiny. Her mind was running wild that moment but her decision was made and there was no turning back. She didn’t know how her future would be and how she would survive but that would avoid a disaster in her life and in the life of someone else. Hearing noises outside, Colin got up fast and grabbed a sword.
“It’s me.” She said.
He put the sword down and stared at her silent. “What’s that?” He pointed at her sac. “What are you doing here this late?”
“Does you offer still stand?” She asked. Colin stayed there looking at her amazed with her courage. “Aren’t you going to say anything?”
“I said I would help you.”
“Just bare one thing in your mind.” She put the sac down. “I am a Celt and you are a Saxon. Your people kill mine and steal our lands. We are enemies.”
Colin knew exactly what she meant and nodded. “Understood.”
“Fine.” She said and they stayed there looking at each other sharing no words.
His blue eyes stared at her so deeply that she felt he was capable of reading her thoughts. He was the most handsome man she had ever seen, there was no doubt. He was hurt with her words and at the same time fighting the will to grab her and kiss her. Even before she arrived he was unable to sleep for he was thinking of her. She moved him like no other woman moved him.
“We leave tomorrow morning.” He mumbled and turned his back at her. Her words crushed a bit of his world but she was right in a way.
“Where are you taking me?”
“North.” He simply said and she saw him lying down and pulling a fur over him.
“Can you turn around?” She asked and without saying anything he turned his back at her.
Keira looked at him for a little while wondering why he seemed bothered with her words but then she also turned around and began to change her tunic. Slowly he turned to watch her. His heart raced fast at the sight and he swallowed dry.
“I couldn’t marry him.” She said suddenly and he turned away once again.
“I can see that.” He answered dryly.
“Why are you answering me like that?” She asked. “You can turn around now.”
“Go to sleep.” He said.
“Are you mad?”
“Go to sleep Keira.” Colin insisted. “It’s a long way tomorrow.”
“But you sound mad.”
Colin closed his eyes trying to calm down. He didn’t want to yell at her or be rude but he was so upset he could do both.
“Was it something I said?”
“Do you really think we’re enemies?” He confronted her. Keira looked at him but didn’t answer. “It’s alright…” He said. “I see it pretty well. I’ll do my part of the deal, don’t worry.” Their gaze locked and they both fell silent. Keira felt a lump in her throat. Did she hurt him?
“I didn’t mean to hurt you.” She said with her voice shaking a bit.
“You didn’t hurt me. I don’t care, really.” He said proudly. It was Keira’s turn to see her world a little cracked.
“Rude.” She said ending the conversation.