Chapter 15 Part 4 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
This section is NSFW.
Gwynna kept Hanni's words in mind as she waited for Tennoc that night in her bower. When he came to her, he'd taken his armor off, as well as Dunnoc's crown. He wore simple clothes and looked like her own Tennoc instead of the frightening Tremontine stranger in the Great Hall. They exchanged formal pleasantries until Gwynna excused her attendants and they were alone. "Oh, Tennoc, I am so very happy to see you well," she began, but before she'd taken more than a step toward him he'd crossed the space between them and seized her.
He had never touched her like this, never touched her at all apart from a surreptitious clasp of her hand as he helped her dismount and the like. His grip hurt her arms. She had time for one gasp before he pressed his mouth to hers as if he needed her breath as well as his own. She thought of drowning men who took their rescuers down with them, but she opened her mouth to him; he whimpered into it. "Gwynna," he choked as he kissed her neck, her cheeks, her eyes. "Oh, my Gwynna." Tennoc lifted her up in his arms and hurried into her bedchamber, where he set her on her feet and began forcing open the fastenings of her dress.
Gwynna stiffened. She had wanted this for so long; she had cried when Daevys and not Tennoc had been the first to unfasten her dress. This, however, was too quick for her. "Tennoc, my own love, please, calm yourself."
His hands slid down the thin chemise covering the bare skin of her back, but his movements slowed. "Just to touch you calms me," he said and kissed her again, this time more deliberately. "Tell me you love me."
"I do, I always have, but…" She'd given birth not long before; should she even be contemplating this? But to mention the birth was to remind him Ardunn was Daevys's son.
"Are you concerned I won't marry you?" he said, an unbelieving laugh in his voice. "You know I will. I would marry you tomorrow, tonight, this minute, but you deserve more than a sleepy Father and a string for a marriage cord." Gwynna's glance flicked before she could stop herself to the elaborately braided cord that had bound her to Daevys, still hanging over her bedchamber door. Tennoc turned his head, saw it himself and released her. He reached out his hand; the cord whipped across the room to him. "You don't need this any more." A ball of flame blossomed in his other hand; he dropped the cord into it and sent the resulting ashes into the fire warming her room. "Is that your trouble?"
Gwynna blanched at his display of magic; she was unused to it in his hands. Her father and brother had used it, certainly, but not so nonchalantly. Without its fastenings Gwynna's heavy dress kept slipping from her shoulder; in irritation she gave up adjusting it and simply held it there. "You…you know I bore a child, yes?" He nodded, his face clouded. "It's been just six weeks. I'm not sure…I should ask the Sisters…"
"Oh, Gwynna, I hadn't thought. I never mean to hurt you." He took her in his arms and kissed her again, and his gentleness this time melted her fear. "I will always love you, always want you. I never thought to have you at all." He slipped his fingers into the hair behind her ears. "Gwynna, may I stay with you anyway? May we just lie together--I won't force you to do anything, no, or even try to persuade you, but oh, I have been so lonely! It has been so hard, all of it has been so hard!" Then he was crying, his eyes nearly shut as he fought against tears. A sob broke from deep in his chest.
She'd always known she would lose Tennoc--he would marry Cariodas, and she would marry whomever her father chose--but losing him to exile had been worse. Watching her father lose his grip on his power, his kingdom and his mind had been worse still. Marriage to Ulvyn had broken her heart, and watching her brother's head follow their stepmother's into the executioner's basket had nearly broken her spirit. Gwynna matched his tears, and the two let their mutual grief overcome them.
They climbed onto the bed, still clothed, and held each other as they cried. When they'd recovered enough to speak, he took a cloth from a pouch at his belt, dried her eyes and nose, and then his own. They lay facing one another; she stroked his face and his hair in wonder. "I can't believe you're here."
"I swore when…" He paused, and Gwynna thought he might begin crying again. "When Cariodas came I swore I would return to you at the head of an army, and so here I am."
She gave a slight laugh. "Am I to believe this was all for me?"
"I would be lying if I said it was all for you, but my other motive I am sure you will approve of," he said with increasing intensity, "and that is to revenge my mother and Kenver. When things have settled I will go to Brennow and Ulvyn and level them to the ground. I will leave no child of those Houses alive. What is it, sweetheart? You've gone white."
Gwynna did her best to wipe the panic from her face. Please don't let him ask after Ardunn. "I don't like the thought of children dying, any child--even an Ulvyn or a Brennow."
"We don't have to talk about it now." Tennoc pulled her to him, cradling her against his chest. There had been an almost-innocent sea air tang to him before, but now he smelled darker, earthier and more masculine, mingled with a scent she'd always associated with her father--wild, unpredictable and terrifying, like lightning. He smelled of magic. "You're shaking--you're cold. Let's go to bed. Skin to skin we'd be warmer, you know," he smiled.
Gwynna was cold, and the idea of lying naked in the bed with a man she'd loved since girlhood warmed her in several ways. "I'd like that, but…"
"I still promise I will not persuade you to anything that might injure you or that you mightn't like. I just want to feel you beside me. Is that all right?"
They shed their clothes before the fire and slipped shivering into the bedclothes. Gwynna huddled in his embrace, his body heat smoothing away her goosebumps. He was true to his word; he did nothing but hold her. Her thigh brushed against his erection. She withdrew her leg quickly, but over time it relaxed of its own accord until it pressed against him. "Gwynna, that is unwise," he murmured. "I can control myself, but you make it difficult."
Daevys was Gwynna's sole experience of sex. He had tied her to the bedpost with the marriage cord and raped her in accordance with custom, though custom didn't call it rape and most married women went to their beds willingly or at least in resignation. Over the weeks she gave up fighting in favor of survival, and Daevys turned into a surprisingly gentle lover, if he might be called "lover." Gwynna was practical. Tennoc's return was improbable at best, but somehow she might escape Daevys if he trusted her enough to let her outside her rooms. He never had, and then had come Ardunn, and now Ulvyn was dead and here was Tennoc, his skin erasing Daevys's memory even as her breasts ached for her son. "It's all right to touch me," she whispered.