Authors: Abigail Drake
Michael pulled me against him, kissing me with unbridled passion. Our tongues warred, dancing against each other. Michael put his hands on my bottom, holding me close so I could feel his hardness pressing against me. My entire body reacted, and suddenly I was warm, wet and wanting.
He lifted me onto the bed, and his hands slid up to my breasts. He kissed me through the black lace, using his tongue until my nipples became hard little peaks, but still I wanted more. I pushed the teddy aside and arched so my naked breasts could reach his mouth. He made a sound deep in his throat and kissed and sucked and teased my nipples until I was breathing hard and clutching his head against my chest.
But the sweet torture wasn’t quite over yet. Michael kissed his way down my stomach and knelt between my legs, giving me a very naughty look. I had my suspicions about what he was about to do, but nothing had prepared me for the way it felt when he kissed me through the black lace covering the most sensitive part of my body. I had to stifle a scream. It was so intense. And when he pulled my teddy off and began licking me, kissing me, and worshipping me with his mouth, I did scream. A few times, in fact.
When I couldn’t stand another minute of it, he rose in front of me like an ancient pagan god. I quivered, his eager human sacrifice, the bed beneath me my altar.
His eyes never left mine as he thrust into me again and again. Every time it became too much, and I shut my eyes even for a second, he stroked my cheek and pleaded with me.
“Look at me, Emerson. See me. Please?”
I did what he asked. I kept my eyes open as I climaxed, calling out his name, and watched his face as he did the same. He was amazing. And leaving him would be the hardest thing I’d ever had to do.
We were quiet afterwards, unsure how to act, our sadness weighing on us like a heavy cloud. He held me close, stroking my hair and raining soft, sweet kisses on my face until we both fell asleep from complete and utter exhaustion.
In the early hours of the morning, his phone rang, and I knew our time was up. He spoke a few minutes in hushed tones and then turned off the phone. He sat on my edge of my bed, his head bowed. I slid up behind him, putting my legs on either side of his body and resting my cheek against his broad back as I wrapped my arms around his waist.
“You have to go.”
I sighed. I’d promised myself I wouldn’t cry, but I did anyway. They were soft, silent tears, though. I planned to save the serious weeping and wailing for after Michael left.
He pulled me around so I sat on his lap and held me gently in his arms. “Hear me now, Emerson. I will find a way to be with you. If you can’t be a Traveller, I’ll become a Dweller.”
I almost laughed. The idea of Michael, a Traveller through and through, living as a Dweller was ridiculous. The thought of him deserting his people seemed impossible to even contemplate.
“You’d make a terrible Dweller,” I said, giving him a little smile. “But I love you even more for suggesting it.”
His blue eyes were steady. “I will find a way, Emerson. I promise you.”
I nodded, but couldn’t speak. If I did, I would cry, and I didn’t want Michael’s last memory to be of me with a red nose and swollen eyes.
We dressed in silence. I found some of Sven’s clothes in Lucinda’s room and lent them to Michael. His clothes were soaked with blood and beyond repair. He had scratches all over his forearms and some serious bruises on his face. He looked a little funny in the “Greenpeace” hoodie and sweats, but he was glorious no matter what he wore.
He pulled me into his arms and kissed the top of my head. “My Da went to the hospital. Brooke is doing well and her parents are on their way from America to get her. He checked on Leo, too, and it looks like he’s going to be fine. Patrick donated his blood, if you can believe it. They had to give him quite a lot, but he’s responding well.”
“I’m glad,” I said, giving him a tremulous smile. “I hope you’ll get to know him. He’s a lot more like you than I realized.”
He raised a dark eyebrow at that. “Well, we both seem to find ourselves oddly attracted to spunky wee Americans with curly hair and very poor judgment.”
I was about to protest, but he covered my lips with his fingers to silence me. “Hush,” he said softly. “I will visit my brother. I promise.”
He removed his fingers and I gave him a grateful smile. “Thank you. Leo needs you.”
He rolled his eyes and muttered something about a “bloody Moktar,” but I ignored him. I put my hands on his waist and stared directly at a spot in the center of his chest.
“I’m going to do you a huge favor and be very, very brave right now. I’m going to kiss you goodbye with a smile on my face, just like the women do when all the Traveller men go off to battle. I’m going to pretend you’re coming home to me. I’m going to pretend this goodbye won’t last forever.”
“It’s not forever, Emerson. I swear…”
This time I silenced him by resting my fingers against his lips. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep, my love. Just kiss me goodbye and pretend with me.”
I kissed him, pouring all of my love and pain into it. Wanting to hold onto him forever, but knowing I had to let him go. When I released him, I still hadn’t cried, but the brave, brawny, leader of the Traveller warriors turned out not to be quite as strong as a skinny little beauty queen from Kentucky.
I’d made the Ceannfort weep.
Home is where the heart is.
The day was warm for early spring in Bowling Green. It had been months since I heard any word from Michael and once again I tried to act like everything was just fine and dandy for the sake of everyone around me and for my own sanity.
I wore a short yellow sundress and let my hair hang loose. It nearly reached my waist now. I loved the weight of it, the way it felt on my back. As I enjoyed that sensation, I remembered how Michael used to stare at it, how he’d once said I looked like an angel when I wore it down, and my heart slammed to a stop in my chest.
This happened to me all the time. Something triggered a memory, and at first I’d be filled with joy, but then spiral downward in a sea of bittersweet moments. I clung to them, but they caused me pain.
I’d come home at the end of the semester in a daze. It didn’t take long for my daddy to pull me into his study, plop me onto one of the leather chairs near the fireplace, and insist I tell him what the Sam Hill was going on. At first, I didn’t know where to start, but once I started talking, the floodgates opened and I told him about Michael and the Travellers and the Moktar. Everything. Maybe even more than he needed to know, but as soon as I told him why my mother had sacrificed herself, it looked as if a heavy weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
“Dear lord,” he said softly. “She didn’t desert us. She died protecting us.”
I patted his hand. “The best way she knew how.”
After that, things changed at home. He talked about her more. Long hidden photographs appeared on the walls and the mantel. The stern lines around his mouth softened, and a new light glimmered in his eyes.
I got through each day as best I could, but the not knowing was the hard part. I had well and truly been exiled by the gypsies. My calls went unanswered. They didn’t respond to my texts. I had no idea when the Gypsy High Council planned to meet, or when my fate would be decided. The only thing that kept me going was Michael’s promise he would find a way to be with me. That was all I had to hold onto.
My phone rang just as I walked onto campus. I pulled it out of my backpack, my pulse quickening when I saw the number.
“Hello, beautiful girl.”
I hadn’t heard his voice in months. I closed my eyes for just a second, letting the sound slide over me like a soothing balm.
“I have missed you,” I said. “So much.”
“I missed you every moment of every day since we’ve been apart. I love you, Emerson.”
I made a sound halfway between a laugh and a sob. “I love you, too, Michael. More than anything.”
“You look lovely in that little dress.”
pretty cute. I glanced down to admire it and then froze. “How do you know what my dress looks like?”
“Because I’m standing right behind you.”
I turned around so fast I nearly lost my balance and fell over, my backpack sliding off my shoulder. My eyes scanned the brick sidewalk, and the lawn with its shady trees, and the students milling about, but I couldn’t see him. I started to think this was some kind of terrible joke when Michael stepped out from behind one of the trees.
I utilized a Traveller skill I didn’t know I had and leaped to him without even thinking about it. I saw him and wanted to be next to him more than I’d ever wanted anything in my whole life. When I jumped into his arms, I nearly knocked him over.
We clung to each other, holding on for dear life. His face was in my neck, and when he spoke, his words were muffled.
“I thought I was dying. Nothing was right without you. I couldn’t even seem to breathe properly without you.”
“Me, too, Michael. Me, too.” For the first time in months, I felt alive again.
I put my hands on his face and kissed him. I kissed his cheeks and his eyelids with their long, sooty eyelashes. When my mouth found his, once again the magic happened, like we were the only people in the whole world.
Michael pulled away gently, resting his forehead against mine. I knew he felt it, too. The completeness of it. The rightness. Then he scowled.
“Did you just leap in a public place?”
I nodded, looking around. No one seemed particularly interested, so I could only assume they hadn’t noticed. “I think I did. Walking was too slow.”
“Women cannot leap,” he said very sternly. “It’s too dangerous.”
“Shut up and kiss me some more.”
Michael smiled a slow sexy smile that made everything inside of me clench and tighten before he complied. By the time he was done, I could barely stand.
“How long can you stay?”
He pulled me over to a bench to sit down, and I climbed onto his lap. Even sitting next to him on the bench felt too far away. He wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me close.
“Thanks to a little intervention on the part of your father, I’ve been accepted into the doctorate program here.”
Michael nodded. “He contacted me. We had a very nice long chat in which I assured him I had only the best of intentions as far as you were concerned, and he set the wheels in motion.”
I suffered what I can only assume was a case of temporary paralysis brought on by shock and absolute joy. It took a few minutes before I could form a coherent sentence.
“But what about my exile?”
A shadow passed over his eyes, but vanished before I could figure out what it meant. “The Gypsy High Council met last week. They voted unanimously to reinstate you as an upstanding member of the Traveller community, and they changed the law as well. Women can fight whomever and whenever they damned well please.”
“My father is convinced…he’s certain, actually…” He paused and cleared his throat. “He thinks you are more than just an ordinary Traveller.”
I stared at him, nonplussed. “What?”
He rubbed a hand over his head. It took him a few minutes to respond, and when he did his cheeks reddened with embarrassment. “My father and several members of the council believe you are the reincarnation of the Scáthach, a legendary warrior goddess who will rid the world of the Moktar scourge forever.”
“Yes. It’s ludicrous, but it was enough to convince the high council you were well worth protecting. My father used it as the bargaining chip to allow me to come here. A stroke of brilliance, actually.”
“I always thought I was a goddess.” He rolled his eyes, and I laughed. “No. Really. I’m very good at giving commands.”
“Well, we know
to be true.”
“What of the other Travellers? What happened to Monroe?”
“He was given a punishment perfect for his crime. He’ll spend the rest of his days locked in one of those cells in the Moktar dungeon. He’ll never again see the light of day, and he’ll die in the worst way possible for any gypsy. Trapped inside a cage.”
“He deserves it.”
“That he does.” His voice carried the weight of sadness in it. Being betrayed by Monroe had cut him deep.
He chuckled. “Well, getting Patrick’s blood turned out to be a good thing. The transfusion cured his addiction.”
I looked up at him in surprise. “It did?”
He nodded. “He’s fine now, and basically just another average, run-of-the-mill, half Traveller, half Moktar hybrid.”
“I’m happy for him.”
“As am I. He isn’t such a bad bloke once you get to know him.”
I snuggled even closer. “I can’t believe you’re actually here.”
“I would have come eventually no matter what the high council decided, but I didn’t want to muddle things up. I was afraid if I did you’d never see your grandparents or any of the other Travellers again.”
He kissed me, and the sweet intensity of it made me burst into tears once again. He brushed my tears away softly.
“Emerson, my love, you’ve done nothing but blubber since the moment you saw me.”
I sniffed. “You cried, too. In York. When you said goodbye.”
“That I did.”
I sighed against his chest. “I know you’re sick of hearing about him, but Sun Tzu was right once again. He said, ‘Victory is reserved for those who are willing to pay its price.’ “
“The price I paid was great indeed. I spent months without you. It hurt so much it was almost unbearable, and I realized something. We Travellers say we journey all our lives to find the missing halves of our hearts. Well, you aren’t just the missing half of my heart. You’re the whole bloody thing.”
I blinked. That was possibly the most romantic thing I’d ever heard in my entire life. “Your whole heart?”
He looked straight at me, and I saw the truth in his eyes. “You’re all I’ve ever hoped for, all I’ve ever dreamed of, and you have to know that, Emerson.”