For disclaimers see Part 1
Warning! The following contains scenes of sexual and physical violence, please be advised that while not graphic it may be disturbing.
As always you can direct all comments to... firstname.lastname@example.org
Mika raced through the streets the night after her failed liaison with the barmaid in hopes of catching up with Erin, but she never saw the woman. Now she was in her wagon where she had been since her return; her hands folded behind her head still fully clothed and staring at the ceiling. 'I don't know why this matters at all; she was already pissed at me, so last night just ensured that she'd run back to what's- his -name.' But it did matter, in her heart it mattered and she wanted Erin to know what had, or rather, hadn't happened with the little bar wench.
'You screwed this up.' The voice chided.
'So what are you going to do?' It inquired.
'Nothing to do, I lost her.'
'You gave her up.' The annoying voice reminded.
'I was stupid.' Mika sighed.
'Yes you were, but the point is you know that now and you're still laying here like an idiot instead of finding her and getting down on your knees to grovel for forgiveness.' It explained, sounding more and more like Luca.
'What if she doesn't accept it? What if she takes one look at me andÖ'
'You won't know until you try.'
Mika rose from the bed and stepped out of the tiny wagon squinting against the bright morning sun.
'What are you doing now?' The voice questioned.
'I'm going to beg.'
'Oh, did you just listen to my advice?' The voice sounded amazed.
'Don't push it.' Mika warned.
Erin stormed through her rooms glad that they were empty for a change; she didn't feel like explaining to Shea about her late arrival the night before. She had come in and gone directly to her room where she spent the night in tears. Seeing Mika with that woman crushed what was left of her young heart and by the time morning had come, she was nothing but numb. Erin paced back and forth feeling more and more like a caged animal. 'I need ta get out o' 'ere and clear my 'ead.' With that thought she grabbed her shawl and left for the courtyard, fully intent on riding until she was too exhausted to think.
Luca looked up and saw Erin headed right for him. 'She doesn't look happy at all.'
"I need a mount," Erin told him, her ice blue eyes brokered no room for argument.
"I don't think it's wise for you to ride out alone Erin," Luca whispered hoping to reason with her.
"I do'na really care if ya think it's wise or na, just get me a mount," she demanded.
He stood staring at the young woman stunned that the sweet girl was being so abrupt with him. 'Damn! What am I going to do? I cant let her leave on her own, Shea would kill me.' Thoughts of facing the older McGorry caused him to shiver. Whether from fear of her volatile temper or just the pleasure of seeing her, he wasn't sure. "I'm sorry Erin, I just can't."
"Ya can and ya will," Erin hissed.
"Do as the lady says man," Hunt ordered from behind the pair. "I'll accompany Lady Erin on her ride." Hunt had seen Erin leave her rooms and knew she would be heading out to the courtyard. Determined to get her alone and get this farce of a courtship over with, he was thrilled when this opportunity presented itself. 'Today we end this Erin, today you will consent to wed me Öone way or another.'
Luca ignored Lord Hunt's order and leaned closer to Erin, "You know what Shea would say if you went out without an escort. Please Erin, don't do this," he pleaded.
Erin was so wrapped up in her own pain and anger she didn't care what either man wanted from her. 'I want ta ride! I need ta get away from 'ereÖnow.' "Just get the horses Luca, Lord Hunt will act as an escort." she waved a hand at him, effectively dismissing any other arguments he may have.
Luca sighed. He knew he couldn't fight this out with her here in front of all the others, especially Hunt who was looking very smug. 'I'd like to smack that look right of your face, you little toad!' He moved off and gathered the horses. Before he could protest again, Erin had grabbed the reigns and mounted. Hunt followed her lead and in an instant they were gone, leaving Luca trying to figure out how to find Shea and give her this news.
He didn't have to wonder for long, Shea had come back to the rooms to find Erin missing and went directly to the yard. She entered the courtyard to find Luca standing in its center looking completely forlorn.
"What's got ya so low today?" she asked unsure of why she would care.
Luca looked into her sparkling blue eyes, "Erin rode off with thatÖtoad a minute ago Shea. She didn't take an escort," he lowered his head, feeling ashamed that he didn't have the power to stop her.
'Damn! What's that girl thinking?' "Did ya na think ta stop 'er?" she demanded.
"I tried! It's not like I have any authority you know. I couldn't very well demand she not go with him. I would have been locked up and beheaded," he retorted.
The pain in his voice took Shea aback. She knew he would have done something if he could have. No matter what his relationship had been with her niece, she knew he didn't want her hurt. "I know, I'm sorry fer accusing ya o' na tryin butÖdamn that girl!"
"Shea, I don't trust that man. She's not safe with him," he told her sincerely. He had seen the look in Hunt's eyes; this was a man who held a deep seeded rage in his heart. 'He's going to hurt her.'
"Can'na say I like 'im much myself, he's ta shifty. Can ya take a mount and go after them?" she asked, surprised at herself for suggesting it. 'But I trust Luca far more than Hunt. When did that 'appen?'
Luca was shocked she would ask him, given her dislike. 'Maybe I'm the lesser of two evils.' He was about to answer when a small blonde form came rushing towards them.
"Luca!" Mika called.
Relief spread through the tall dark gypsy at the sight of his niece. "Mika thank God! I need you to mount up and go after Erin," the words came out in a rush.
Mika looked up at the man completely bewildered. "What?"
"Mika," Shea interrupted, "Erin left 'ere 'ell bent fer glory with a man we do'na trust ta be alone with 'er, would ya please go after them?"
'They don't trust him?' If Luca didn't trust this man then Mika knew Erin could very well be in big trouble. Her heart slammed in her chest at the thought of Erin being hurtÖor worse. She looked from her Nano to Shea and both faces echoed the same fear and concern. "Get me a mount Luca," she whispered swallowing hard against the fear rising in her throat.
He nodded and was about to turn, but swung back to face his little niece. "Take your blade," he instructed. He stared intently at the young woman, the message passing between them. 'Use it if you need to.' Mika nodded.
Mika took the horse and headed back to camp first to collect her sword, leaving Shea and Luca to worry.
"Why send the girl and na go yerself?" Shea was feeling more than confused by his actions. 'Are ya afraid?'
"Because Mika has more to lose and she's better with a sword than I amÖ if it comes to that," he explained before walking away.
'Why would Mika 'ave more ta lose?' Shea sighed.
Erin rode hard and fast away from the palace, her mind filled with the image of Mika and the other woman. Pain tore at her tender heart and tears flowed freely down her cheeks. She was completely uncaring of Hunt's company; she barely noticed when the man pulled along side of her.
"Erin I suggest we give the horses a rest, they can't take this pace," he yelled.
Erin realized he was right, she didn't want to run the poor beasts into the ground. She pulled off the main road and headed for a stand of trees.
Hunt took her reigns and allowed her to walk about while he settled the horses. He was as lost in thought as she was, trying to figure the best approach for his proposal. 'Not that it matters, if she says no I can use that little blonde against her. You would consent to protect her wouldn't you Erin?' He grinned evilly. 'My plans will be solidified by the end of the day.' He carefully composed himself and followed after the young Irish woman.
"Erin," Hunt called to get her attention.
"Aye Chester what do ya want?" Erin's exasperation was evident in her words. She was happy that he consented to ride with her to get Luca off her back but she didn't really want to be with anyone at the moment.
Hunt ignored her tone, "We get along well enough don't you think?" He asked.
"Good, I believe we do as well and I also believe it would be beneficial for both of us if we were to wed. It would strengthen your position in the court and we make a fair "team". I think together we could accomplish a great many things," he stated, hoping that by adding the last part it would appeal to her wish for equality in marriage. 'Even though it's not going to happen.'
Erin was stunned, for a moment her anguish over Mika had disappeared and she turned to face Hunt. "Did ya just ask me ta marry ya?"
"Yes dear lady I did," Hunt confirmed.
Erin had not expected this today or any day. 'Where did 'e get a stupid notion like that? I'd sooner marry a ÖaÖ a Scot! Na that 'e's a bad man but I just 'ad my 'eart ripped from my chest and 'ere 'e is oblivious ta anything but 'is own wants.' The dark beauty wanted nothing more than to laugh in the man's face at the absurdity. "I do'na love ya Chester."
"Love has nothing to do with marriage Erin," he laughed.
"It does fer me," she scowled at him. "I'll na wed unless it's fer love." 'And the one I love does na love me back, so I will never marry in any case.'
"Don't be stupid Erin," he hissed through clenched teeth. "This is the best offer someone like you is going to get. I don't care about your silly ideas of love. You will marry me," he stepped closer to the woman, his fists held tight to his sides, a cold rage burning in his eyes.
"I will'na!" she shouted back at him, surprised by his sudden show of temper.
Hunt reached out and grabbed her arm wrenching it back, spinning her around to face him. "You will! You will consent you bitch or I'll make your life so miserable you'll regret the day you were born," he threatened.
Erin cried out in pain and Hunt squeezed harder, "Yer hurtin me, let go," she demanded trying to pull free from his grasp. "I would never wed someone like ya," she growled.
"You will or I'll let it slip about your little 'affair' with that blonde gypsy. How would you like that Erin? Do you know what they would do to you if they knew of your deviant choice of lovers?" He watched her eyes grow wide, shocked that he knew about her little secret. "That's right bitch. I saw the two of you together," his eyes turned hard and he laughed at her struggles to free herself.
Erin was terrified not of his threat but of the anger and insanity she saw in his eyes. However, the thought of consenting to this man turned her stomach. In her heart she knew that he would always be cruel even, if she did. "It doesn't matter," she spat at him. "Ya can tell whomever ya like about me, I do'na care. I'm already an abhorrence ta these people, one more reason ta dislike me is na a concern ta me."
Hunt couldn't believe she didn't back down after that threat. 'The stupid bitch! ' His plans were all crumbling around him. 'No! I won't fail.' His mind snapped and in one last effort to break the woman he gave into his own dark desire. He roughly pulled her against him and captured her lips in a brutal assault. He felt her fight against him but he was unrelenting, fueled by his anger and hatred, he held tighter. With a free hand, he reached up and ripped away the bodice of her dress, allowing him to roughly take her breast. He squeezed and delighted in her pained whimper. "One way or the other Erin, if I take you now you have no choice. You would have to wed me and don't think for an instant anyone would believe you didn't seduce me in this," he whispered harshly against her ear.
"No!" Erin screamed as she continued to fight against him.
Mika pushed her mount faster; it had taken a moment of precious time to gather her sword, which was now strapped to her waist. Her mind was focused on finding Erin. The fear in her Uncles eyes for Erin had sent a feeling of dread through her body. 'I'll find you Princess and when I do we're going to talk.'
She crested a hill at a break neck speed and in the distance saw two horses near the trees. Mika slowed her mount and rode closer. She had almost reached the animals when she spotted Erin and the man. He had his arms wrapped tight around the young woman in what looked to Mika like a very intimate embrace. 'Guess you were wrong Luca. She's not in trouble, she's right where she wants to be.' Her heart shattered yet again at the sight and she turned from the pair about to ride back to the palace when she was stopped by Erin's shout.
Mika looked up in time to see the man slap her raven-haired huntress; watching horrified as Erin fell to the ground. She was out of her saddle moving at a dead run when Hunt's body fell on Erin's. As she got closer, she could hear Erin pleading with the man to stop. Her pained cries made Mika's blood boil and she turned red with rage. 'I'm going to kill that bastard!'
Without a thought Mika ran to the couple, grabbing Hunt by the collar and pulling him from Erin. He landed to the side with a thump.
It took the man a second to recover from the unexpected interruption and he shook off his surprise. Looking up from the ground he saw the little gypsy standing over him. "I should have known her little lover would come to save her," he spat angrily. "It won't work. I'll still have what I want and you'll be in prison for your treatment of your betters," he rose from the ground, "Tell me, is she really worth that?"
"Yes," Mika growled turning from the man rushing to Erin's side. She knelt down next to the terrified woman. "Hey Princess, are you ok?" She asked gently pushing a lock of dark hair away from Erin's face.
Erin was stunned, when Hunt had begun his assault she was sure it was over for her, but then the little gypsy came from nowhere and ended it. She looked up into brilliant green eyes and felt the pieces of her heart come back together. She reached up to touch the face that had haunted her dreams every night, but a movement behind them caught her eye. "Look out Mika!" she cried.
Hunt had drawn his own sword and had it aimed directly at Mika's back. He came at them with an insane rage burning in his eyes, "You can forget your little lover bitch! She's going to die here and now!" he screamed and swung.
Mika threw herself over Erin and rolled them both out the way of the descending blade. She jumped up and in one fluid motion drew her own sword just in time to block Hunt's next swing. Sparks flew and the sound echoed across the field. For the next minute each met the other with equal and determined force. If Hunt thought she was going to be an easy mark he was sadly mistaken. Mika was one of the best, she had been taught from the time she could walk to defend herself and the sword was her best weapon.
Hunt thrust at her again and Mika smoothly deflected his blade; then turned into him and using her momentum she plunged her sword into his thigh.
"You bitch!" Hunt cursed grabbing at the bleeding wound.
Mika took advantage of his distraction and turned to check on Erin. The Irish woman was now standing with tears streaming down her face, her fear and pain evident in her blue eyes. Mika's heart slammed in her chest seeing the woman she loved looking so devastated. She wanted to take Erin in her arms and sooth it all away. She made a move toward the bereaved woman but was stopped by a staggering pain. Glancing down she saw the tip of Hunt's blade protruding from her side and she heard his insane laugh from behind her. With one last look at Erin's ashen face, the world around her faded and she fell to the ground.
Erin was so shocked she couldn't move. One minute she was looking into Mika's gentle eyes and the next. 'Oh my God!' She ran to Mika's side and gathered the small body in her arms, holding the blonde head against her breast as the tears fell, blinding her to anything but the pale face of the little gypsy.
She never saw Hunt limp to his horse, nor did she see him ride away. She just sat there staring at the sweet face in her lap. "Do'na leave me rogue," she pleaded.
Shea paced nervously in the courtyard waiting for Mika's return, occasionally catching a glimpse of Luca who seemed to be as on edge as she herself. Not a patient woman, Shea was about to demand a horse for herself and go out looking for her niece when the sound of hooves pounding down the narrow streets stopped her.
The gates of the courtyard opened and Hunt flew in clinging to the back of his horse. It was obvious he had no control over the beast and was unable to slow the animal that was headed right towards the redhead.
In a moment of panic Shea froze, seeing the huge beast barreling towards her, sure she was going to be trampled. In the last second a pair of large hands came around her waist and pulled her from the horse's path. She gratefully sank into the safe embrace, knowing instinctually who it was that had just saved her life. She felt Luca's strong arms wrapped around her and felt his heart pounding through the connection of their bodies.
"Thank ya," she whispered leaning back further, uncaring of who saw the rather intimate position they held.
In response Luca tightened his hold of the woman and gently brushed his lips over her temple. "Are you ok?" he saw her nod but still felt the trembling of her body. "You're safe, I've got you," he soothed.
'I'm well aware o' that.' Her mind was racing; fear and desire warred for an instant before she realized that Hunt had returned alone. She turned in his arms and looked up into his handsome face, the deep concern shining in his dark eyes took her breath away. It took another moment for her to clear her head before she could speak. "The girls, they did'na come back with 'im," she finally managed to reply.
'Damn!' Luca looked up and found Hunt climbing down from his horse, finally brought under control by Walther. The man was disheveled and had a large wound to his thigh that was bleeding heavily. Panic gripped his heart, 'Mika!' "Something's happened, he's been wounded," he told her.
Shea was loath to leave the safety and comfort of his embrace but she had to find out what had happened. "I'm goin ta see what 'e knows."
"It's bad Shea," Luca told her, the fear evident in his voice. "I'm going to go out after the girls, something's very wrong."
Shea nodded her understanding and they parted. She watched as the tall Gypsy made his way through the gathering crowd. 'Damn Shea! Ya just fell into 'is arms like ya belonged there.' She chided herself but was still unable to shake the feeling that she really didÖbelong.
Luca grabbed the closest mount and quietly led it from the scene in the yard. He threw himself into the saddle once he was outside the gates and headed out of the square. Once past the city gates he rode for all he was worth. The feeling of dread building in his guts the further he rode. 'Oh God please don't let me find anything wrong. I'll give anything to find them they way I did last time.' His instincts told him that wouldn't be the case. 'Mika wounded him and left him to ride back which meansÖ' He cut off the thought; it pained him too much to think about.
He flew over a hill at a full gallop the only sound was the pounding of his heart, in time with the rhythm of his horses gait. He would have ridden right past the little stand of trees had it not been for the slight veering of his mount, who had spotted it's mate and was intent on heading in that direction. He pulled up on the reigns and slid from the horse before it had a chance to stop. "Mika!" he called.
He ran across the field and stopped dead at the sight that greeted him. Erin sat on the damp ground; her dress was torn and covered in blood. She was rocking back and forth with Mika's blonde head in her lap. 'Oh God No!' He sprinted the last few feet and fell to his knees beside the women.
He stared down at his niece's body; his mind froze with the image. Mika was ghostly pale and blood was seeping from a deep wound in her side. Erin had torn off a piece of her dress and held it to the bloody gash but it had soaked through.
"'Elp 'er," Erin pleaded.
He looked into Erin's water blue eyes and nodded. "You have to give her to me Erin," he whispered.
"Do'na let 'er die."
"She's too stubborn to die but we have to get her back to camp. Can you ride?" he asked wondering what kind of injuries the Irish woman may have sustained in all of this.
Erin nodded and eased away from Mika's limp body, fresh tears slid silently down her cheeks as Luca bent and gently lifted the small body from the ground. It didn't take long to get mounted but the ride back was going to take longer than Luca liked. He cradled the little blonde in his arms trying to keep from jarring her any more then he had to. "What Happed?" he asked.
Erin raised her head staring straight in front of them. "That bastard attacked me and Mika stopped 'im," she spat angrily.
"I saw Hunt return, he was injured."
"Aye she stabbed 'im in the leg after 'e pulled 'is sword," the dark beauty paused, "She would'na 'ave been 'urt if she 'and't stopped ta see ta me," she sobbed.
Luca could see the entire thing in his mind. 'So you played the hero huh little one?' With the mystery solved he knew they had another problem; Mika had lost too much blood. If they didn't get her back soon she wouldn't have a chance. "Erin we need to ride faster," and he took off at a run with Erin following close behind.
Shea had gotten close enough to hear Hunt tell his tale.
"Lady Erin and I were walking in the field and from out of nowhere bandits descended on us. I fought them the best I could but as you see," he stopped pointing to his injured thigh. He reached up and grabbed hold of one of the men. "You have to find her, she had agreed to marry me I can't lose her now," he pleaded with a sincerity that didn't reach his eyes.
'Marry? Good Lord! That lying little weasel Erin would no sooner marry 'im than I would fall in love withÖ' Luca's name jumped to mind but Shea couldn't bring herself to complete the thought. She pushed aside her errant ideas and concentrated on the situation at hand. One thing was for certain in her mind, she needed to find Luca and the girls to make sure her niece was all right.
With that plan, she ducked behind the crowd and slipped into the palace. 'I do'na know what's 'appending 'ere but Erin and I are getting free o' it before she's forced ta do something she doesn't want.' She raced up the steps to her rooms calling to Milly on her way past. "Get some o' our things packed Milly," the fiery redhead ordered, leaving a very confused maid staring at her departing back.
Luca rode into the camp with Erin right behind. He threw his reigns to Corwin and slid from the horse still gently cradling Mika in his arms.
Corwin stepped forward, his face paled when he got a good look at the person in Luca's arms. "Oh God! What happened?" he demanded.
"Later, I'll tell you later. She's lost so much blood she needs care now!" Luca was frantic. "Take care of Erin," He nodded to the tall woman still seated on her horse. "Mika is going to need her."
Mala and Nadja rushed out of the wagon, both stunned for a moment at what they saw but wasted no time in getting Mika taken care of.
"Put her in the wagon," Nadja ordered. Luca carried the young woman into the wagon and Nadja followed.
Mala called out to one of the other women telling her the supplies they would need and then turned to help her Mother. Before she stepped into the wagon she caught sight of Erin standing to the side. She took in the girl's state of dress and the splatters of blood. The girl's bright blue eyes held nothing but pain and fear and it tore at Mala's heart. "It's going to be ok little one," she assured with a confidence she didn't feel.
Erin glanced up at the woman she knew was Mika's Mother. The woman gave her a gentle smile before heading into the wagon to care for Mika. 'Do'na let 'er die.' The thought just echoed in her tortured mind.
"Come on M'Lady let's get you cleaned up," Corwin urged the dazed woman. "You don't want her to see you like this."
Erin looked at the huge man who looked so much like Luca. 'Another Uncle.' Her mind reasoned and she willingly followed the man knowing she was as safe as she could be for the moment.
It had taken Shea the better part of an hour to get their things together. She managed to explain to Milly in pieces what had happened and the older maid agreed that they needed to get away. With a promise to find them a safe transport out of the kingdom she sent Shea on her way with only a couple of their bags.
"I'll get a message to you Shea, don't worry," Milly promised.
Shea hugged the woman and without even a glance back, she ran from the palace. She quickly made her way to the camp but working her way through the evening crowds delayed her and by the time she reached the little circle of wagons is was all but dark.
She came into the camp and the first sight that greeted her was of her niece huddled under a blanket next to the fire. 'At least she's safe.' Shea breathed a heavy sigh of relief. "Erin," she called quietly.
Erin turned at the sound of her Aunt's voice the sight of the redhead started her tears again and she jumped up throwing herself into Shea's arms.
"Shh now lass, ya need ta calm down and tell me what 'appened," Shea soothed.
"The slimy bastard tried to rape her and then ran Mika through with his sword when her back was turned, that's what happened," Luca snarled.
Shea turned to see him, the pain in his eyes broke her heart and without a thought she reached for him. The giant man went willingly to her and wrapped his arms around both McGorry women.
"She was 'urt so bad Shea,' Erin sobbed.
"ShhÖshe's a strong one lass, she's goin ta be just fine you'll see," Shea turned her head to see Luca's handsome face searching for a sign that she had told the girl the truth. He smiled gently through his own tears and nodded.
The sound of the door opening on the wagon pulled the trio from their comforting embrace. Mala stepped out and walked to Erin. "You can see her now little one."
"Is she...?" Erin couldn't bring herself to complete the question.
"She was hurt badly and that wound is going to take some time in healing but we got the bleeding stopped. She was lucky, the blade didn't do any inner damage, it was a clean wound," Mala explained. "She's sleeping now, you can sit with her if you like."
Erin nodded not trusting her voice; she let go of Shea and Luca then headed into the wagon needing to assure herself that the little rogue was indeed alive.
Shea watched her go feeling as though she had missed a big part of something.
Luca caught the look of confusion and took Shea by the hand. "We need to talk," he nodded to Mala. He walked with Shea towards the pens, still holding her hand in his. "Shea things haven't beenÖ ummÖwhat I mean isÖ" he stumbled over his words searching for a way to explain Mika and Erin to the woman.
"Ya were'na the one Erin was sneakin out ta see," she supplied for him.
"Right," he sighed.
Somewhere inside her Shea knew that. She had seen the looks pass between the women that day in the courtyard and Mika jump to defend young Erin from the princess. She just didn't want to admit that it was true. But there it was in front of her now and she couldn't ignore it any longer. "Do ya think they love each other?" she finally asked.
Luca stared at the woman beside him, his eyes filled with a tender longing that also couldn't be denied any longer. "Yes they love each other. Mika's an idiot and she hurt Erin, but she loves her," he reached out and touched her face cupping her cheek gently in his hand. "Just as I think I could really learn to love a stubborn hardheaded Önoble," he winced at the last word.
Shea laughed at his sour face and stepped closer to the man wrapping her arms around his waist. Finally feeling free enough to demonstrate her own feelings she reached up and pulled his head down to hers. "Ya better mean that ya thieving rat," she laughed.
"I do," he whispered moving lower until their lips met in a gentle reaffirming kiss.
They broke the kiss by a silent agreement, both knowing it was neither the time nor place to explore their newfound love.
"This is goin ta be complicated with Mika and Erin," Shea sighed leaning into his chest.
"I know but we'll all get through it."
"Nay, Hunt came back ta the palace with some cock and bull story about bandits and him bein engaged ta Erin. We need ta get 'er out o' 'ere before 'e finds 'er," Shea explained.
"Damn bastard doesn't quit does he? We need to get them both out of here Shea. It won't be safe for Mika if he finds her."
Shea stared at him for a moment and then gave him a wicked grin.
"Uh oh! You have an evil look in your eyes woman, what are you planning?" he chuckled.
"How would young Mika take ta Ireland ya think?" her mischievous grin growing larger as a plan formed in her mind.
In the early morning hours with the sun barely risen in the sky, Luca and Shea sat near the fire sharing their plan with Corwin.
Corwin had been surprised to say the least at his younger brother's new "friend" but the more he came to know of Shea McGorry the more he liked the bold, brassy woman. Her temper, quick wit and intelligence made her a good choice for his sometimes-immature brother. The fact that she was a truly beautiful woman hadn't escaped him either. 'I can see why he's fallen for this one.'
"I think it would be best ta get the girl's out o' 'ere as soon as we can," Shea stated. The woman had been up most of the night and now sat with Luca's arm securely around her waist, hovering over the warm cup of tea cradled in her hands. "If Hunt decided ta make an issue o' this 'e's goin ta be looking fer Mika as well."
Corwin regarded the Irish woman carefully. 'I wonder if she knows that my niece is in love with hers? And if that going to be trouble?' Mika had confessed to him not more than three nights ago that she thought she had fallen in love with someone. It hadn't taken much for him to figure out who it was when Luca brought Mika back wounded and close to death. Erin hadn't left the girl's side for a minute since the moment she was allowed into the wagon.
Luca caught his brother's silent questions, knowing that in Corwin's place he too would have his doubts about Shea. "She knows Cor," the younger man confirmed.
"And this isn't a problem?" Corwin asked.
"Nay, I can'na say it'll be easy fer either o' them but it matters na ta me. I've only wanted Erin ta find love and it seems she 'as," Shea gave the Kapo a charming grin that reflected in her blue eyes. She was truly happy her niece had found someone to love but was equally sorry that young Mika had been injured. "Do ya think Mika will be all right ta move soon?"
"Daj seems to think so. She's running a slight fever but for the moment it's nothing serious," he paused for a moment. "I do think you're right though, we need to get them both out of here. The question is, where do we take them?"
Shea glanced up at Luca and smile slyly, "We send them ta Ireland," she grinned.
At first the idea seemed ludicrous to Corwin but the details of Mika's birth filtered through his tired mind and suddenly it made perfect sense. He knew Shea had talked to Mala about Mika's parentage so it was reasonable to assume the woman also had the facts. "You think he would accept her?"
"'E's a stubborn, pig-headed man fer sure."
"Sounds familiar," Corwin laughed thinking his niece wasn't exactly known for her easy manner.
"Mala has all of Padraig's old paper's and his crest. If that isn't proof enough nothing will be," Luca added. Having been just barely a teen when Mika was born he hadn't gotten all the details of her birth until after Shea had talked to Mala, but he did recall the stocky man who had taught him to hunt and fish.
"True and I would feel better knowing that someone was going with her," Corwin absently stated.
"I do'na think ya could get Erin ta leave 'er side in any case so rest assured that she will'na be alone," Shea chuckled with a bit of devilment shining in her eyes.
They broke the meeting up with Corwin leaving to get the camp broken down. It was decided that they would leave one at a time just as they had arrived and make way for the nearest port to get the girls on their way.
Luca gave Shea a quick kiss and began his own preparations for their departure leaving the Irish woman to her own devices. Her first order of business was to get her niece to eat something and maybe get a bit of fresh air. Shea quietly entered the wagon and spotted Erin sitting beside the narrow bunk holding Mika's small hand. The young woman on the bunk looked so small and frail Shea felt a bit of fear for the first time. Mika had been injured saving Erin's virtue and possibly her life; it was something the older woman would never forget.
"'Ow is she?" Shea asked, laying a hand on Erin's slumped shoulder.
Erin turned to her Aunt and smiled tightly. "She's got a fever but she's restin now," the younger woman sighed, reaching out and brushing a lock of Mika's blonde hair away from her face. "I can'na lose her," Erin whispered.
The girl's haunted look broke Shea's heart. Erin looked as though she hadn't closed her eyes for a second the entire night. The dark circles under her red-rimmed eyes told the tale. "She's goin ta be fine," Shea assured. "Ya look about ready ta drop lass, ya need ta get some food and a bit o' rest I think."
"I can'na leave 'er Shea. What if she wakes and I'm na 'ere?"
Shea wrapped her arms around her niece pulling the young woman to her breast. "I'll sit with 'er while ya get some rest and if she wakes I'll come right away and get ya," she promised.
Erin struggled for a moment with the idea of leaving the little gypsy but knew that Shea was right. "Ya promise ta come if she wakes?"
Erin nodded and rose from her seat; she stretched trying to loosen her stiff muscles. She leaned over the small woman in the bunk and brushed her lips over Mika's fevered forehead. "I'll be back rogue," she whispered and then left the wagon.
Shea took Erin's place at Mika's side, she stared at the pale figure in the bed for what seemed an eternity, finally reaching out and taking Mika's hand in her own. "Ya better get well little one, ya 'ave a wonderful woman waitin on ya."
Keen brown eyes regarded a group of young noblemen as they strolled from the dinning hall. Harold had been hearing the rumors surrounding Erin McGorry's supposed kidnapping and Lord Hunt's miraculous escape since the previous afternoon. The noble's hung on Hunt's every word, believing his story without question. But Harold knew differently, Milly had come to him late in the evening, telling him of Erin's situation.
He had agreed it was best for her to leave the palace and in fact escape from England entirely and vowed to help. The old steward waited until the dining hall was empty and made his way through the dim passages leading to the grounds. Once outside the walls he set out to find the one person who could help them in their plans.
When Erin woke from her much needed rest she was amazed by the changes that greeted her in the camp. The animal pens had been broken down and the wagons had been packed and made ready for travel. She walked slowly through the Romany encampment making her way back to Mika's side. Her blue eyes were still gritty from the lack of sleep but she did feel better and was thankful Shea had insisted she take time to rest.
Nearing the tiny wagon where she had left Mika a few hours before she saw both Shea and Luca standing with the other man she had come to know as Corwin. A panic gripped her heart seeing them all gathered around the wagon and she started to rush towards them. No! Please let 'er be all right. I should 'ave stayed, I knew I should 'ave stayed.
Corwin looked up to see the young woman, her eyes wild with fear and knew immediately what had the young woman so terrified. He stepped in front of Erin and wrapped her in his massive arms, "Easy there chey," he soothed. "They just needed space to change the bandages."
Erin looked up into his kind eyes and released a breath she had been holding. "She's all right?"
"Yes I told you she was tougher than that," he chuckled feeling her sag in his arms. 'Poor girl.' "The stories Luca and I could tell you about that little demon would make your hair stand on end. Did you know the first night we were here she came back to the camp so drunk she passed out under her own wagon?" Corwin winked at Luca. 'This is going to be fun.'
"She did'na?" Erin said trying to stifle a giggle. 'That sounds like my little rogue.'
"Yes she did and Mala was none to happy about it either," Luca added.
"Come sit down chey and I'll tell you about how that little blonde niece of mine once convinced an entire town there was a spirit living in the well," Corwin laughed guiding the young woman to the fire as Luca started dishing out a bowl of stew.
Shea watched the men care for her niece. 'She could'na be in better 'ands.' She smiled at the little scene and then moved in to join them.
It was well after dark and Erin had gone into the tiny wagon to sit with the young gypsy some time ago. Corwin had gone, not long after, to see to the rest of the packing and Luca had joined him, leaving Shea alone by the fire feeling particularly useless.
Mala observed the lone figure huddled near the fire and knew the woman had to be feeling out of sorts. Grabbing two cups of tea the Romany woman made her way to Shea's side and settled next to the Irish woman. "Thought you could use this," She said handing Shea the cup.
They sat quietly for a long moment until Mala could no longer stand the silence. "I remember Padraig's first weeks in the camp, he told me once it was like being on the outside of a window looking in. Everyone had their jobs and no one paid any mind to what the others were doing," she smiled softly.
"'E did find a way ta fit in it seems," Shea commented idly.
"It didn't take long for the boys to find a use for him, but my DajÖshe was less than enthusiastic about him being here."
"Did she change 'er mind?"
"A small, blonde, screaming bundle of terror changed it for her," Mala laughed. "Seems Padraig had a use after all, he had helped provide her first grandchild. From then on it was pretty simple," the dark Romany woman paused, a frown creased her gentle face. "Do you think Erin's Father is going to be accepting of them? It's not like Mikayla is going to be able to pull the same trick her Father did to win him over."
"Na unless the girl is more ÖtalentedÖ than we know," both women laughed at the remark. "I do'na know if 'e'll be pleased, it's a sure thing 'e will be surprised. But I think if 'e sees them together 'e will'na object. 'E's only ever wanted Erin ta be 'appy and yer daughter seems ta be the one who can give 'er that," Shea replied thoughtfully.
"Erin's going to have her hands full with my Mika, she isn't the easiest person to get along with."
"Oh I think Erin will manage," Shea smirked. 'Seems the trick ta winnin a gypsy's 'eart is a born trait fer McGorry women.'
The discussion was halted by a commotion at the edge of the camp, both women rose from their seats to see what the trouble was. When they approached the scene they found Luca restraining a small, older man.
"I demand to see Lady McGorry!"
"And I said you can't come in here and demand a damn thing," Luca growled.
Shea was stunned by Luca's defense. ''E's protectin me but...Oh no! Harold.' "Luca let 'im go!"
"But SheaÖ" the big Gypsy whined.
Shea glanced at Harold, giving the older man a quick wink to assure him things were all right. "Put 'im down ya over grown adolescent, 'e's a friend."
Luca shot the redhead an irritated look and then let the small steward go; but before Harold could step away, Luca grabbed him by the shirt collar, "I'll be watching," he said menacingly.
Shea stepped forward and lightly cuffed the tall gypsy on the back of the head, "That's enough ya rat," she teased.
Luca looked down into her mischievous blue eyes and smiled. "I'll be over there if you need me Öwitch."
Harold was shocked by the play between the two but pushed it aside for more important matters. "Lady Shea," he began, "Milly told me what happened and I thought perhaps I might be of service."
"Unless ya 'ave a way ta discredit Lord Hunt then I see no way anyone can 'elp, but I do thank ya fer the offer," Shea smiled.
Harold hung his head dreading what he had to say next. "Its Baron Hunt M'Lady, the King gave him both title and land Öin Ireland. They've even posted the bans for He and Erin's wedding."
"'Ow can they do that?" She shouted, outraged at the audacity of the men. Her raised voice brought Luca to her side in an instant; he gently slipped his arm around her waist allowing her to lean against him for comfort.
Again, the ease and familiarity the unlikely pair seemed to share dismayed Harold. "You know that if Erin should beÖfound," he hesitated, "then there would be no choice but for her to marry Hunt; her reputation is all but destroyed," Harold explained.
"Well 'e wont be finding 'er then," she hissed.
"I thought you would feel that way so I took the liberty of securing passage for you and Lady Erin aboard the Fortitude. It's in harbor off Cardiff, but you have to be there in 4 days M'Lady. Her captain will only wait that long."
"Where's she sailin ta?"
"Dublin M'Lady," Harold answered with a quick smile.
"Perfect, but I'll na be takin the other berth," she replied absently before turning to Luca. "Will ya see that the others know we need ta leave immediately?"
"Of course," Luca gave her a gentle hug and nodded to Harold before leaving them.
Shea watched the big man rush to alert the others of the change in plans. "Thank ya Harold."
"My pleasure, I just felt it was right to help," he grinned, "So Shea am I to have your things sent to Ireland or will you be returning to get them yourself?" Harold couldn't help but ask even though he knew the answer.
Shea turned to him, "Send them, I'll na be goin back," she smiled shyly. Shea knew that she would spend the rest of her life following the handsome gypsy if that's what it took to be near him. 'Funny what ya will do fer love.'
"I didn't figure you would M'Lady."
Two guards came into Lord Hunt's room making a quick check and then allowed King Edward to enter.
"Wait outside," Edward ordered. The guards left leaving the King alone with Hunt for the first time since his attack. He strolled around the richly furnished room and finally came to stand beside the bed.
Hunt swallowed nervously; this was the moment he had been dreading since leaving that field and Erin McGorry. However, he was positive he had a plan to turn this all to his favor, all he needed was to convince the King.
"How are you feeling Hunt?"
"I'll be fine Sire."
Edward moved closer to the prone man and hesitated for a second, looking deep into Hunt's eyes. "And what about Erin McGorry Hunt? Is she going to be fine as well?"
Hunt struggled not to give into his panic, "I don't know Sire. ThÖ they took her I didn't see if she was injured or not," a slight tremor in his voice giving away his nervousness.
Edward straightened to his full height and looked down at the man. "I think you know full well how Lady Erin was when you last saw her Hunt," he held up a hand to forestall any comment Hunt might make. "But you know what? It doesn't matter, while alive she would be of some use it doesn't matter and do you know why it doesn't matter boy?" Edward pinned him with a steel gaze daring him to come to the right conclusion.
Hunt knew where this was going; it was the same path his own thoughts had taken these past few days. "Because I've already secured her hand in marriage and Lord Aidan has no choice but to accept my word in the matter," he smirked.
"Very good and what happens if Lady Erin should suddenly be found?" Edward asked, leading Hunt in this charade.
"Well Sire having my beloved Erin returned would bring a joy to my heart of course," Hunt answered with obvious false sincerity. "And surely Lord Aidan would be beside himself with relief. However, poor Erin would be ruined by the entire incident, being gone so long with who knows what kind of element and no proper chaperones," his grin widening.
"Ah yes, that would be sad indeed but it wouldn't matter to you now would it Hunt?"
"Oh no Sire, while it would be a hardship for me to think of all the horrible things that may have occurred in her absence, I would do the honorable thing and marry the Lady as I promised," Hunt replied smoothly.
"And I'm sure McGorry would only see it as a young man completely in love with his only child, not to mention relieved that someone as well off as yourself would still wish to be wed to a fallen woman. Thus securing his loyalty to both me and yourself," Edward added.
"I'm sure he would be most grateful Sire."
Edward nodded "I'm glad we had this little chat Hunt, nice to see we agree on things," he turned to leave but paused. "I've taken the liberty of having the bans posted just in case Lady McGorry should ...return. That will ensure that there will be no delays in your marriage," the older man again turned to the door. "Have a good evening...Baron Hunt."
Hunt sighed with relief as the door closed leaving him alone with his thoughts. 'I told you bitch, one way or the other...a' wicked grin came to his thin lips... 'Baron Hunt!'
With the plans made for Erin and Mika's departure the Romany moved quickly to finish their packing. It was decided that Luca would follow Mala so that only two wagons would be leaving at the same time. No one wanted to raise suspicions just yet.
Just as the sun was starting its ascent, the two wagons rolled through the empty streets and out the city gates. Erin refused to leave Mika's side and was given a small cot in Mala's wagon so she could tend the little gypsy on the journey. It had been three days since the incident with Hunt that had resulted in Mika's injury and the young woman had yet to wake.
While Mala and Nadja had both told her that Mika was going to be fine, Erin couldn't help but feel frightened and helpless. However, the young Irish woman was anything but idle in her time. She took care of the little blonde's every need from changing bedding to forcing water and broth down Mika's throat; Erin had opted to do it all.
The others may have thought it a selfless act but to Erin it was her only tangible connection to the small gypsy. She reached across the bunk and held a cool cloth to Mika's fevered brow. "Yer goin ta like Ireland my little rogue. Lord knows ya 'ave the gift o' gab, ya will fit right in," Erin cooed. She spent many hours talking to the unconscious woman about the places they were passing and the things they would see. Mostly it was a comforting gesture, something to pass the time. "Ya need ta get well, ya need to wake up Mika, I want ta see those beautiful green eyes again."
The trip to Cardiff had taken all of three full days. They had stopped only to rest and even then not for long. On the morning of the fourth day they finally arrived and quickly made their way to the docks, looking for the ship that would carry Erin and Mika the rest of the way to Ireland. They rode down cobblestone streets moving closer and closer to the water's edge the mast of the tall ships could be seen in the distance.
The trip while long had been uneventful. For which, Luca was grateful and even more pleased that it had given he and Shea some time together. 'When she's not arguing with me, she really is a beautiful woman. Who am I kidding? She's even more stunning when she's angry.' He had taken every opportunity to rile Shea; it really was something he delighted in. Today however, he could see that the woman was not in the mood to take part in his game. "You're worried," it was a statement more than a question, he had come to know her well enough over the past few days to know the difference in some of her moods.
Shea turned to the man beside her, she had been grateful for Luca's company on the journey. She found him to be intelligent as well as having a wicked sense of humor. It was his humor that usually brought about their arguments and though Luca didn't know it, Shea enjoyed them as well. "A bit. I'm na 'appy that they 'ave ta take this trip alone and I'm na at all pleased that I can'na reach 'er Father before they arrive."
"It'll be all right Shea," Luca soothed reaching for her hand.
Shea held tight to the man, taking the comfort he offered without question. "I'm concerned about Mika as well," she added. "Er fever is still ragin and she's na woke even once." 'If something 'appens ta that girl and Erin's alone it'll devastate 'er.'
It was a fear for all of them. Mika's injury was in a bad place and infection had been inevitable. They would have preferred not to have Erin travel alone but it couldn't be helped. "I trust Erin to handle it Shea, you should too."
Getting the girls settled was easier than expected. Seems Harold left out some information about the captain of the Fortitude, Carrig Quinn was actually an Irishman himself and Harold's cousin. He was ready for the arrival of the McGorry Ladies, having moved his first officer out of his quarters and securing them for the women. When informed of the change in passengers, he took it all in stride, ordering extra blankets be sent in and having the Fortitude's physician look in on Mika.
Luca carried Mika's limp body aboard the ship, following the cabin boy to the rooms set aside for the woman. The others trailed behind and waited while he settled her on the bunk. Once the boy left the room Mala pulled out a packet of papers and handed them to Erin.
"These are Padraig's papers, just some letters and such but it'll supply proof enough I think."
"Proof o' what?" Erin was completely baffled. She looked down at the faded letters in her hand and then back up at the smaller Romany woman.
Mala turned to Shea; surprised the young woman didn't know what was happening. Her brown eyes pleading for help in explaining. 'Its bad enough I have to give up my child please don't make me go through the details again.'
"Go sit with Mika and I'll take care o' this," Shea offered. Mala nodded leaving Shea and Luca to the task. "Sit down Erin."
"What's this about Shea?"
"Ya know that Mika's na like the other Romany, did ya ever question why lass?" Noting Erin's still bewildered look, she continued. "Seems some years ago a brash young man came looking fer some trouble and 'e met up with a beautiful gypsy girl. O' course they fell in love straight away, 'e loved 'er so much 'e never returned ta 'is 'omeland. Instead 'e lived with the family and they 'ad a child together." Shea paused, watching Erin's face carefully for signs of understanding.
"So Mala fell in love with Mika's father and she was born. Na an uncommon tale Shea," Erin sighed impatiently.
"It is when you consider that Mika's Father was an Irishman and a chieftains brother at that." Luca supplied.
'Irishman?' Erin thought for a moment and began to laugh. "Well that explains things then. I knew that gift o' blarney 'ad ta come from somewhere." the truth of the statement caused them all to chuckle.
"Well, be that as it may, Mika's father was killed as ya may know while 'e was fightin fer the English," Shea continued. "'E left behind 'is paper's and signet fer Mika if she should ever 'ave need o' them. That packet ya 'ave in yer 'and is everything ya will need ta prove ta 'er kin who she is," the redhead finished.
"And who am I supposed ta give these ta Shea?"
"Sean O'Flanagan, 'e's Mikayla's Uncle. Ya give 'im those and 'e'll 'ave no choice but ta accept 'er as 'is own. She'll be safe then Erin," Shea explained.
"What if 'e doesn't believe it Shea? Sean O'Flanagan is a stubborn man, ya 'ave said so yerself."
"Then you tell Mika to show him the mark," Luca supplied chuckling slightly. Both Irish beauties gave the man quizzical looks. "She'll know what you mean," he grinned.
The ship departed the harbor just after noon leaving three forlorn figures on the docks watching until it faded from sight. Erin had said her good-byes in the cabin unwilling to leave Mika's side to go up top. She pulled her chair next to the bed and took Mika's small hand in hers, as she had done over the past few days she began to talk to the young woman, hoping something would spark an interest and bring the young gypsy out of her slumber.
Erin didn't know how long she had been sitting there talking to the little blonde when a knock sounded. She rose to answer, finding an old man glaring up at her.
"Can I 'elp ya?"
"Nope, but I reckon I can help you," he told her. "I'm Griz, I'm the ship's "barber" ya might say," the old man winked. "Captain tells me we have us a sick girl, let me take a look at her."
The man started for the bunk, his bent form moving slowly across the cabin and Erin wondered for a moment if she should be allowing him near her little rogue. "Give me a hand here girl," he called.
Erin watched as the man, Griz, check Mika's wounds; she noted the gentleness of his touch and the genuine concern in his rheumy eyes. "Got herself a good infection ragin in the wound. We need to clean that out and get that fever down," he concluded.
"We 'ave been tryin fer days."
"I know girl but don't you fret none ole Griz has just the right thing for this," he smiled reaching into a black case and pulling out some bags of pungent herbs. "Get me some fresh water." together they mixed the herb, Griz showing Erin exactly how much of each was needed to make the poultice. When he was done he covered Mika's pale body with a light blanket and turned to Erin. "I'll be by to check on her every few hours until that fever breaks. You need to start cooling her down girl," he stated.
"I've beenÖ" Erin started.
"No, you need to cool the whole body not just her head. Strip her down and use that water from the barrel. Wash her down ever half hour or so. I'd do it myself but Öwell its not proper," the old man blushed.
Until now caring for Mika's needs hadn't been even remotely intimate. Erin left the washing of her body to her Mother but now she was on her own. 'Oh God! I can'na do that.' Images of Mika's firm body and warm skin slammed into her brain. Erin's heart started pounding in her chest at the thought of touching the gypsy even during something so innocent as bathing. However the seductive painting her mind formed was quickly pushed aside by flashes of the little blonde in a heated embrace with another woman. Erin had all but forgot the incident until this moment but the thought ignited her anger yet again. 'Oh I can bath 'er all right.' A wicked gleam shined in her cerulean eyes as she formulated a plan. 'I'll be makin sure ya are never bored my little rogue.'
Griz left Erin to her duties with a promise to return shortly and the raven-haired woman began her preparations to "cool" Mika's fevered body. 'Perhaps this will wake ya up.' Erin laughed.
Erin stripped the young woman to the waist and set the cool water to the side. She stood over Mika's unconscious body gazing down, taking in the hard muscled shoulders and abdomen. Using just the tip of her finger she traced the gentle swell of Mika's firm breasts. 'God! Ya are beautiful rogue.' Feeling only a twinge of guilt for openly admiring the woman's body while she was unaware. Reaching down she grabbed the cloth from the bucket and started her task. She let the cool water drip over the tight stomach and then gently washed moving higher with each stroke until she reached Mika's breasts. Again she wet the cloth and watched at a drop of water fell onto the warm, firm mound causing the nipple to tighten in an unconscious reaction to the cold. Erin barely stifled a groan as she watched the dark nipple grow hard. 'This may na 'ave been the best plan.'
Somewhere deep in Mika's subconscious she was aware of the subtle changes in her body. Her mind and body fought against the encompassing darkness as she struggled to grasp the tenuous thread of reality. Time held no meaning in the black abyss the gypsy had been lost in, only occasional flashes of light filtered through the shadows of her mind. Her body's reaction was like a sirens call, a delicious tremor rippled through her fevered form and she latched on allowing it to pull her from the darkness. Green eyes fluttered for a second then slammed shut against the harsh light of reality. Mika tried to swallow but the searing pain of her parched throat made it impossible.
So lost in her fascination Erin failed to notice Mika's struggles until she heard a faint whimper. She tore her gaze from the firm body beneath her hands, looking up in time to catch the pain flash across Mika's face. "I'm here rogue," she whispered. 'Open yer eyes, let me see ya.'
Mika heard the gentle sound drifting somewhere just out of her reach and again she tried to focus, "WÖwa..." she choked out painfully.
Erin immediately brought a cup of cool water to Mika's parched lips. "Slowly," she coaxed.
Mika felt the scorching pain ease a bit as the cool liquid slid down her throat. She swallowed convulsively still not able to control the reflex and coughed a bit. The contraction of the muscles brought a sharp pain that lanced through her body. She groaned and paled again as she rode out the agony. However the anguish was just too much for her battered body and she again slipped into the peaceful, painless shadows.
While the sight of the young woman in pain broke Erin's heart it also brought her a feeling of profound relief. "Ya are goin ta be all right," she whispered to the now sleeping woman. Mindful of Mika's wound Erin again ran the cool cloth over the small body knowing for certain that progress was being made.
Erin was awakened in the early morning hours by Mika's pitiful whimpers. Griz had told the Irish woman that as the fever left her body the young gypsy would probably begin to feel pain and experience some delirium. He had left her some herbs to help with the pain but as yet they hadn't been much relief. Erin went to the bedside and laid a gentle hand to the fevered brow, "ShhhÖI'm 'ere with ya," she soothed.
Mika groaned again but settled at the sound of Erin's voice, "Erin," she cried out hoarsely.
The dark woman kept her vigil beside the bed soothing the pained little blonde, listening to the ramblings of her fevered mind. In the long hours Erin had sat there, she had heard many things come from the gypsy's rambling. Erin couldn't help but laugh when the young woman begged her Mother to let her sleep and cried when she heard the anguish in Mika's voice over the loss of her Grandfather. In the time she sat there Erin had been most surprised at the imagined conversation Mika was having with herself. She had called Erin's name several times in the night, both in anger and a breathless passion. Which left Erin to wonder exactly what the little gypsy was dreaming of. As dawn approached, the dark Irish woman struggled to keep her eyes open but finally gave into the fatigue, the last words she heard from Mika's fevered ramblings were "I'm sorry."
Mika felt herself drift up to consciousness, she struggled to open her eyes having to close them tight against the light and then finally adjusting and able to focus. She became aware of three things immediately; the first was an uncomfortable burning pain in her side. She tried to move but it caused the pain to intensify. 'Ok won't be doing that again soon.' The second was a screaming need to relieve her bladder, which she was not at all happy about since to do that she would need to move. The third was the dark head resting on the bed next to her. 'Erin? What the hell is going on here?'
'You were hurt.' The ever-present voice reminded.
'Hunt, he ran his blade though my side.' It was all coming back to her in flashes. Erin crying out in pain, fighting with an insane man and then finally the searing pain as his blade drove through her side. 'All right that explains the pain but where am I and what is Erin doing here?'
'And why are you half naked?' The voice added helpfully.
'Huh?' It took her moment to catch onto that one but it was right, she was half-naked. 'Ok Erin's here and I'm half naked but the way I feel I'm guessing it's not for a really good reason.'
'You could just ask her.' It supplied.
Mika gathered herself fighting off the biting pain in her side and reached for the woman beside her. "Erin," she whispered, her voice rough from disuse. Struggling a bit more she was able to raise up in the bed, looking down into the face of the slumbering woman. 'She looks exhausted.' She ran a trembling hand through Erin's dark hair. "Hey princess, rise and shine." Erin swatted at the hand and mumbled something unintelligible before falling back to sleep. Mika laughed at the young woman's response. 'Oh this could be fun.' She leaned closer to the woman ignoring the pain in her side and nipped playfully at the exposed ear lobe.
Erin's eyes flew open and jumped away from the bed landing on the floor of the cabin. From above her she heard a soft laugh. Looking up she saw mischievous green eyes peering over the side of the bed.
"Morning princess," Mika chuckled.
Erin's heart started thundering in her chest at the soft sound of Mika's voice. For an instant all the pain and worry from the past few days vanished as she reveled in the sight of those impish eyes and crooked grin. 'God I love ya rogue.' She couldn't contain the joy she felt at seeing the little gypsy awake and threw her arms around the small woman.
Mika hissed with pain but wrapped her arms tightly around the woman in her arms. She felt Erin sob against her chest, "Hey now, none of that," she soothed. Mika then became extremely aware of her state of undress, feeling Erin's body so intimately pressed to her own, her nipples tightened by their own volition. 'Oh god if I wasn't in so much pain this could be so good.' "UmmÖprincess?"
Erin raised her head and looked at Mika through teary eyes; still unaware of Mika's discomfort she leaned in and captured the blonde lips with her own. She poured herself into the kiss, feeling the young woman holding her respond in kind. Everything faded into the distance when she felt the warm tongue sweep across her lips begging entry. There was no pain and no argument, only the sweet gentle reassurance of life and love.
Mika was lost in the tender, passionate exchange, feeling her heart mend itself when Erin opened to her. She gently explored the warmth of Erin's mouth, moaning softly when she felt the raven beauty respond with her own teasing tongue. 'Oh why did I think I could give this up?'
'Well deep down you're a stubborn idiot.' The voice chimed.
They were oblivious to the world around them until Erin moved slightly causing a pain to rip through Mika's injured side and the blonde fell back gasping.
"Oh God! I'm so sorry," Erin cried.
Mika took a calming breath hoping to ease the pain and cool the raging fire in her veins. "I'm not the least bit sorry about that princess," she managed a slight grin, which quickly turned to a frown. "I am sorry about everything else Erin, I didn't mean anything I said to you," she admitted softly.
Erin was torn, she wanted her relationship with Mika but she still hurt over the events. She could still feel her heart break with Mika's cruel words and the shattering when she found her in the arms of another woman. It was the latter that sparked her temper, "Ya ran me off and na but a few days later ya were in the arms of another woman," she growled.
'Oh boy, should have known that was going to jump up and bite me in the ass.' Mika noted the fire blazing in Erin's blue eyes, turning them dark and hostile. 'Oh shit she's really pissed.'
'Well what did you expect?' The voice confirmed.
'I suppose wishing it had slipped her mind was too much to ask for. God she's beautiful when she's angry.' Mika sighed.
'You're not well you know that? And you might as well get used to that look if you don't figure out a way to fix this.' The voice warned.
'How am I supposed to do that?'
'Let's see, you could start with something simple, like the truth. I know it's a new concept for you but give it a try.' It advised.
Mika took a deep breath and began. "Nothing happened."
"I saw ya! Do'na lie ta me. I was there Mika," Erin hissed between clenched teeth.
"You saw the beginning Erin, you ran before you saw what happened next," the little blonde hung her head, "Nothing happened."
"What do ya mean? Ya were all o'er that woman, looked ta me like plenty was 'appening."
"I did kiss her that's true and you saw it, " Mika explained. "Well, you see I have this little problem, I saw your face, in my mind it was you standing there in the dark, kissing me, touching me and wellÖyou know a woman really doesn't like it when you call out another name in those situations," she finished sheepishly.
Erin's mind registered what Mika said and she burst out laughing. "Oh rogue ya didn't," she chuckled.
Mika smiled shyly at the raven-haired beauty. "Afraid so. Pretty much told me that I was doing the wrong thing with the wrong woman but by then you were gone. I tried to find you butÖ it was too late."
"Ya really called out my name?"
Erin smiled and leaned in kissing the little blonde lightly on the lips. "Do ya know now who ya belong ta rogue?" she teased.
Mika stared into Erin's eyes captured by the forgiveness and love reflected back. "You," she stated clearly.
Mika's recovery was progressing much slower then the little blonde desired and ended up frustrating the usually active woman. While she could move small distances, it was a slow and painful process and more often than not it left her too tired to do much else. Erin had been her constant companion, another source of frustration for her. There had been little physical contact between the two since Mika woke, other than Erin's insistent help with her bathing. Which often left the young gypsy tense and grouchy.
Mika was more than happy to see Griz come and get the Irish woman to go for a walk on the deck, leaving her alone for the first time in days. 'Thank you God! She has no idea what she's doing to me?' Mika released an aggrieved sigh.
'She knows.' The voice chuckled.
'Oh come on, she wouldn't be doing this on purpose, that's justÖjust cruel.'
'She knows.' It laughed again.
Mika thought back over the past few days, flashes of Erin bathing her and helping her dress. Slender hands slowly buttoning her shirt, Mika had thought she was just nervous and thought nothing at all when those same hands would "accidentally" brush across her breast. 'She didn't mean to do that.' Her mind reasoned. 'Did she?'
'Yes, she did. She's been doing things since you woke up, all just to drive you insane.' The annoying voice added.
'Yup, Sparky she got you good.' It laughed.
'Well two can play this game.' A mischievous grin formed on her lips. 'Oh yes, this is going to be fun.'
The following day Mika was ready for Erin's "help" with her bath. "Hey princess can you give me a hand with this shirt?" She asked sweetly standing next to the bed.
Erin tuned to find the young blonde wearing just the shirt she needed help removing. The sight of Mika's hard firm thighs made Erin's mouth go dry and a blush made its way up her neck. "Sure," she choked. She stepped forward raising her trembling hand to the buttons. "Ya managed ta get yer pants off I see."
"Wore me out," Mika shrugged. 'And the look on your face was worth the pain it took to get them off.'
Erin managed to get the first two buttons undone before the blush crept higher and her breathing became ragged.
'Oh this is fun and she is so beautiful when she blushes like that.' An evil glint came to her eye and Mika chose her moment. Feigning a slight wobble she let her knees go out from under her for a moment. She grabbed Erin's hand to steady herself, pressing the woman's palm tightly against her breast. She felt her nipple harden immediately under the pressure and couldn't stifle a moan.
Erin gasped at the feel of Mika's breast under her hand; it sent a sensuous ripple through her, ending at her core. Before she could stop herself she gently caressed the firm mound, feeling the stiff peak grow even tighter. The sensation made her own knees weak and she let out an almost pained whimper. "Mika."
'Oh God! Whose idea was this?' Mika pulled back from Erin's touch and all but collapsed on the bed. "Sorry princess guess I over did it today."
"UmmÖ well try ta take it easier rogue, we do'na want ya to injure yerself again," she replied nervously.
'The only risk of injury I have is from this constant throbbing I have and it's not from my wound!'
'It was your idea to tease her like that, so quit whining.'The voice chided.
Mika took a deep breath and prepared herself for the rest of what she was sure was going to be a long torturous bath.
The voyage passed calmly enough except for a few raging hormones and a lot of frustrated nights. The two women spent most of their time talking about the events that led them to this place. Erin had filled Mika in on the reasons and the little gypsy, while not happy about leaving her family behind was very grateful to have Erin to herself.
They had fallen into a routine of sorts during their time together. Rising each morning and sharing breakfast, chatting about their lives prior to meeting. Neither was comfortable enough to express any feelings about the other but that didn't stop the gentle teasing or lingering caresses.
On the final day of the voyage Erin pulled Mika from their cabin for the first time so she could stand beside the young blonde when she got her first glimpse of Ireland. Still somewhat weak, Mika had to lean heavily on the taller woman as they stood at the rail and watched the Shore's of Dublin come into view.
"This is my 'ome," Erin whispered her voice filled with emotion.
Mika glanced at the dark beauty by her side seeing the unshed tears in her brilliant blue eyes. She leaned closer, feeling the heat of Erin's body permeate her skin. Turning to look out over the waters she saw the land that held Erin's attention. Green hills in the distance were the prefect backdrop for the bustling port. Mika felt a sense of peace filling her soul as she watched the sun rising higher over those hills. 'It's my home too now princess.'
Continued in Part 6
Return to the Academy
I had considered ending this here