I rubbed my arms as I walked back to the tavern. I was kicking myself for forgetting my cloak. It was dark and the temperature would soon drop below freezing, so I picked up the pace.
I didn’t even notice a figure leaning against a tree with its arms crossed and eyes closed.
“There you are.” A soft yet harsh voice spoke causing me to jump slightly.
“What do you want?” I hissed and held back my chattering teeth.
“To talk to you.” He said and walked up to me.
I was about to take a step back when warmth engulfed me.
“I’m sorry.” He mumbled in my ear. His strong arms wrapped perfectly around my waist. My hands were on his chest, not sure if I should push him away or hold him close.
“For what?” I spat, looking down, hoping no one would see us.
“Everything.” He said holding me tighter, “I shouldn’t have left you guys. I shouldn’t have always said I’d protect you and fail. I shouldn’t have yelled at you back there. And most of all I shouldn’t have let you think that I loved the princess more than you.”
“Why does it matter?” I asked him, “What’s done is done. You can take on of the severed heads from the pit and hand it to the king. Better yet take mine. your princess will always be much more desirable than I.”
He pulled away and held me at arm’s length. I shivered at the cold as it hit my bare skin.
I gazed up in his dark eyes, slowly, slowly, slowly did he lean into me. I closed my eyes expecting him to throw me back and take my life. But he never did. Warm lips pressed against my frozen ones.
My entire body was instantly warmed in a passonate fire coursing through my body. His hands still held my arms keeping me there, my hands were on his chest pulling him as close as I could get him.
We pulled back in need of breath and we stared into each others eyes.
“Desirable, yes.” He said, my eyes instantly went down, “But I don’t need her.”
I met his again in an instant. Mine were wide, his were serious.
“You need me?” I asked meekly in a whisper.
Paul nodded, “I didn’t realize until you left.” He admitted and pulled me close again realizing my shivers, “I need you, Jowey. I needed you when we were young and I’d lose in spars, I needed you when Baba died, I needed you when we were brought to the castle, and I still need you. I just wouldn’t admit it.”
“I need you too.” I said and wrapped my arms around his middle, “You probably don’t know this, but I’ve had a great need to kill for the past few years. The only time when Id feel anything was when my opponent would cry out in pain, he would fall in his own blood, or I could deliver a finishing blow. But when I saw you, I didn’t need any of it. I just needed you there.”
“I know.” He said and started to rub my back, “They showed me the pit.”
I buried my head in his shoulder slightly ashamed.
“You killed those who deserved it.” He said, “Don’t worry.”
A smiled tugged at my face, and I couldn’t help but let three little words slip past my lips.
“I love you.” I whispered into the night air.
“Funny,” He said and pulled away, “I could have sworn I loved you.”
I giggled lightly and he pulled me in for another kiss.
I finished getting dressed and glanced over at Paul. He’d just finished aswell. Dawn had just come, light was washing over the forest, yet most of it stayed dark from the trees and clouds above.
“So what are we going to do now?” I asked almost afraid of what his answer would be.
“I’m going to take the freshest head in that pit, other than a hunter, bring it back to the king, talk to Reggie, and retire as a bounty hunter before coming back up here and caring for you.” He said and wrapped me in another hug.
“Were you alright last night, by the way?” He asked as we pulled apart.
“You weren’t cold or in pain or anything?” He asked.
I grinned at him, “I liked the pain, and thanks to you,” I hugged him close again, “I was really warm, you sweetie pie.”
“What?” He asked trying not to laugh.
“So considerate of your women.” I said and put my hands on my hips, “Wonder how the princess liked it.”
“Oh, shut up! I’m choosing you.” He said and began to walk to the pit.
“At least get something to eat before you leave.” I ordered, “I’m not having you leave without that.”
He smiled, “I wasn’t planning on it.”
I smiled and walked with him. We walked in silence the entire way. I went down and pulled out the freshly chopped off head from a few days prior.
We threw it in a sack and headed towards the tavern for breakfast.
If only we knew then what we were about to get into.