From Old Moss Woman’s Secret Garde

She drew a deep, steadying breath, as Huntlust surged up and nearly rolled her under. “You’re going to do what?”

Of course, she hadn’t actually spoken – it was the dream that translated thought to speech, gave the impression of a lean, somber man standing beside the raised platform that held her sleeping furs. He was not truly here; they had never met, never touched, for all that his soul was known to hers, and hers to him.

Or – his soul had been known to her. Once, they’d been closer than even lovers coupled in Matehunt could possibly be. Now, as he stood there, wanting both to turn and leave her and sink with her down into the furs and the pleasures they promised, he was a stranger, and the emptiness that was swallowing everything else within him terrified her.

I must Sever our bond, Jeniah. I cannot go on this way – there is no reason or certainty in being mated to a woman whom I may well be imagining.”

It had been two sunrounds at least since he had allowed doubt to tickle his disbelief, and Jeniah knew she had been a fool. In her memory’s eye, the image of her wetnurse, Trinii, who had first helped her to learn the ways of the Pride. “It is when you think the prey certain vanquished that attention fades, child – so always be certain of the kill, before you begin the feast.”

You would Sever what we share – because of your lost woman? Because of what happened to your Huntleader? How will Severing undo either, or help you now?”

He stood for a pair of tenbreaths, his gaze on the furs, but she knew from his mind that he was no more seeing them than hearing her – the sight and sound reached him, but there was no sense in either, for him, now.

She stepped closer, as though drifiting to peer out into the night, at the moons that hung half- camouflaged by scudding layers of fast moving cloud. The stiff breeze carried whispers of frost, and prickled her skin to alertness.

I do not know.” He had moved soundlessly, but, of course, she had known he was there, knew that he would come. No matter his words or his choices, he could not resist the pull of her, any more than she could the need now to turn to him, to lift her hand in a silent invitation, letting her fingers slip into first pose, as he had shown her so long ago.

He made a sound that was almost a fractured sob, and his hand began to tremble as he lifted it. He watched it, his eyes glittering in the moonslight, as though it did not belong to him; as though he, too, was waiting to see what it would do.

And yet, when his fingers touched hers, his breath left him in a long sigh, and the clutching desperation she had been scenting shifted into another she knew well, musky sulfurous, spiced in a way that always aroused her, as well…

My own- ”. He stepped in as she did, meeting her, and this time he did cry out softly at the press and coolness of her against him. The fingers of his other hand tangled in her hair, just at the point of pain.

Jeniah thought to remind him that he could not call her his own, if he Severed what was between them; that, having shared what they had, she could never play at Matehunt with him as though this were just some random man whose gift she had accepted, and invited to share her furs. No, it could not be that way, for them. There must be more.

You need not remind me.” His voice was a soft, deep, rough caress. “I know it well, my own. Let us – not think on it, in this moment.”

She had held first pose, knowing that forcing him was never a wise choice, knowing too that she would never want him if not of his own free will. No, there were men aplenty, right here, even in the Huntlands, who felt she had the right to command them. Her Everdeep mate, though, chose for himself, and she would have it no other way.

“Give me your word that you will hear – and ponder – all I have to say on the matter, when we have done, Kaivelt, and I will not speak it. Promise that you will give me your thoughts, first, and allow me to think on them.”

I do not wish to cause you pain, my own. I will give them, as well as I am able, and I will ever consider your opinion. But, now….”

He said nothing more, but Jeniah could feel him loosening, releasing some of the suffering he carried. But there was still an unseen distance between them, something she felt keenly in the almost flinching movement of his fingers as they danced over hers, offering her second pose.

Even now, he could not release what so deeply troubled him. Nor, even in his own soul, could he give it voice to speak its sorrows and furies.

But the room was draped in arytana leaves, and there was undilute nectar in two small drinking bowls. “Leave off with words, Kaivelt my fierce one. Will you drink with me, and share in the comforts and pleasures of my furs?”

A soft smile, more a thing of eyes than lips, loosened some of the weight of his melancholy. “I will share them, and drink with thee, my own. Perhaps, even now, thee may hold some answer beyond Severing, some path to peace.”

He said no more nor did she. His fingers left her hair, and he reached instead for one of the bowls, offering it to her with a small bow, in the way of the children of Aletris. He took up the other, and slowly, in the deliberate way of his own people, somewhere out there in the points of light that were Everdeep, he placed his lips upon it, then waited for her to do the same.

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