To Tame A Wild Heart
"And then I finally burst from the water and I swear Lyceus almost had a heartattack," I chuckled as Gabrielle threw her head back and laughed heartily, which sounded like music to my ears. "The poor kid was so scared when I jumped from that cliff, thinking that I was going to hit the rocks below. Little did he know that I had been to the waterfall the day before to scope everything out."
We were up in the room on the fourth floor of Cleopatra's palace, sitting in the windowsill that I had occupied several nights before. Gabrielle had been dismissed again after dinner by Cleopatra, the Egypian seeming to be quite taken with the nobleman she had bedded the night before. I had felt a twinge of jealousy when Gabrielle told me with such a forlorn expression on her face. I had immediately dragged her up three flights of stairs and to this room so we could gaze at the stairs. She had told me last night that she loved looking at the stars.
How anyone could want another when they could have this woman was beyond me, I thought to myself not for the first time as I gazed at the slave. We were both sitting sideways in the windowsill, our legs touching just slightly. Her head was turned to look up at the sky, with the moonlight shining down upon her. Her hair looked almost silver in the moonlight and her green eyes sparkled like the Aegean ocean on a sunny day. I wanted to hold her, to share in her light and feel the warmth inside me grow but I contented myself with just being able to sit this close to her, to feel the heat from her body.
She must have felt my stare because she turned towards me as if I had called her name. A small smile played her lips as she caught me gazing at her with a slightly dazed expression. And as if she had read my mind, she pushed my legs apart and crawled between them. She wrapped my arms around her waist and curled up in my embrace, her cheek resting against my chest. I don't know if friends were supposed to hold each other like this, but I wasn't about to protest. She fit perfectly in my arms and I couldn't resist burying my face in her hair and inhaling her scent. It was like a drug and I couldn't get enough.
We sat there in silence and I continued to watch her, wondering what she was thinking. I don't know what made me ask my next question, because asking intimate questions is very unlike me, but I didn't feel like my normal self around her usually so it shouldn't have come as a surprise.
"If you could have anything in the world, what would you want?"
I really don't know why I asked because I already knew her answer. Maybe I was hoping it would be something different, something I could give her. But she answered as I knew she would and hoped she wouldn't.
"My freedom," she replied without hesitation. Her eyes were staring wistfully out the window and I knew what she was thinking. How good it would feel to her, for the first time in over ten years to be able to do as she wished. To leave this place and never return if she didn't desire to. To wander through the world and be the travelling bard she had dreamed she would be when she was growing up. I wanted so desperately to give her all these things and I tried to tell her without the normal seductive pur in my voice.
"We could leave this place," I said softly, resting my cheek ontop of her head. "We could run away, Gabrielle. I could leave here right now with you and make it seem like you didn't have a choice."
I could feel the smile on her face as she turned her head and pressed her lips to my exposed shoulder, kissing my skin softly. It made me want her so badly but I reigned in my emotions. We were friends and I just wanted her to be happy.
No, you want to make her happy, a voice whispered in my head and I couldn't deny it. I wanted to give her everything she desired.
"It would start a war if you were to leave here with me, without Cleopatra's permission," Gabrielle said sadly and I instantly knew that she had thought about this before. Knowing that she had considered leaving here with me made my heart race.
"I would happily take on Egypt if it would give you your freedom." Or if it would make you happy, I added silently in my mind before continuing. "I haven't been in a good battle for years now and I know Alexandria would love to bring my army right to the palace gates if I gave the command. I think she would actually thank both of us for the opportunity."
I grinned as I felt Gabrielle's body shake with silent laughter. The slave had picked up on the hostility between her mistress and my second in command, not that it was hard to see. It had definetly been a highlight of my trip to Egypt and part of the reason for coming.
"Your second, Alexandria..." Gabrielle started before trailing off uncertainly.
"Yes?" I encouraged her.
"She shares your bed," It was more of a statement than a question and I found myself smiling at the small bit of jealousy in her voice.
"Is she the only one?" She asked, hurrying on quickly before she lost her nerve. "I mean, I know you have bedded Cleopatra since you've been here, but you never stay with her. You stay with Alexandria though. I guess I was just wondering... Do you love her?"
It was a hard question for me to answer. Part of me wanted to snap at the slave for asking such a personal question but the reasonable side of me knew it was just because I was scared of the thought of loving anyone. Loving someone meant getting hurt, which was something I had learned when I was younger. Caesar had been the person to introduce me to that kind of pain and it had been unbearable. First he had hurt me with his betrayl, then with his men killing M'lila. I had swore to myself I would never love again. I don't even think I know how to anymore.
I sighed softly into the slave's hair before deciding to answer her honestly.
"No, she is not the only one," I said, my voice barely above a whisper. "There have been many others, but Alexandria is different. I think when we were growing up in Amphipolis, I loved her. I know that she loved me but things changed. Cortese came and I became cold and I hurt her so many times, emotionally and physically until she couldn't love me like that anymore. To be honest, I don't know most of the time why she is still with me and I try not to think about it. I've never been truly in love before, Gabrielle but if I have ever come close, it is with Alexandria. Even if only because I trust her completely with my life, and in that way, she is the only one."
Until I met you.
There was silence for several moments as Gabrielle seemed to be contemplating this information. Minutes flew by and I wondered to myself if I had been stupid to say anything at all when she finally spoke.
"Do you think you ever could? Fall in love?"
I wanted to answer her but I couldn't. I'm not entirely sure why but my throat seemed to close up when she asked me that question. My mind was telling me things, things that I didn't want to hear and I screamed for it to shut up. Falling in love meant getting hurt, I reminded myself. I was not going to let myself fall into that position.
"It is late," I said finally, giving her small but muscular body a gentle squeeze. "We should both go to bed."
I felt her shoulders slump in what I could only assume was defeat when she realised I wasn't going to answer her question. She nodded and slowly extracted herself from my arms and I tried to ignore how the loss made me feel. I brightened when she held out her hand for mine and I took it without hesitation as we left the room.
"Where are we going?" I asked her in confusion as she continued to lead me down the stairs and onto the second floor where the guest rooms were. Her room was on the third floor where Cleopatra's private chambers were kept, along with many of the Queen's other private rooms.
"To bed," Gabrielle replied with a small smile as we stopped outside the door to my room.
I could only smile as I held the door open for her and sigh contentedly as she sauntered past me before crawling onto my bed while I followed closely behind.
To be continued in Chapter Ten.
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