“It was terrible of you," Shanna pouted, but her eyes danced as they turned askance to meet his. "I could have left, you know. I was that angry."
"I would have followed you," Ruark assured with a flash of white teeth. "You have my heart and my baby. You would not have escaped.”
“In your madness you said you loved me," she murmured shyly.
His humor fled, and the smile left her lips as she continued, "You said it before, too. When the storm struck, I asked you to love me, and you said you did." Her voice was the barest of whispers.
Ruark's gaze turned away from her, and he rubbed the bandage on his leg before he spoke. "Strange that madness should speak the truth, but truth it is." He met her questioning eyes directly. "Aye, I love you." The pain of longing marked his face with a momentary sadness. "And that is madness, in all truth."
Shanna raised herself form his side and sat on her heels, staring down at him. "Why do you love me?" Her tone was wondrous. "I beset you at every turn. I deny you as a fit mate. I have betrayed you into slavery and worse. There is no sanity in your plea at all. How can you love me?"
"Shanna! Shanna! Shanna!" he sighed, placing his fingers on her hand and gently tracing the lines of her finely boned fingers. "What man would boast the wisdom of his love? How many time has this world heard, 'I don't care, I love.' Do I count your faults and sins to tote them in a book?"
"I dream of unbelievable softness. I remember warmth at my side the likes of which can set my heart afire. I see in the dark before me softly glowing eyes of aqua, once tender in a moment of love, then flashing with defiance and anger, now dark and blue with some stirring I know I have caused, now green and gay with laughter spilling from them. There is a form within my arms that I tenderly held and touched. There is that one who has met my passion with her own and left me gasping."
Ruark caressed Shanna's arm and turned her face to him, making her look into his eyes and willing her to see the truth in them as he spoke.
"My beloved Shanna. I cannot think of betrayal when I think of love. I can count no denials when I hold you close. I only wait for that day when you will say, 'I love."
Shanna raised her hands as if to plead her case then let them fall dejectedly on her knees. Tears coursed down her cheeks, and she begged helplessly, "But I do not want to love you." She began to sob. "You are a colonial. You are untitled, a murderer condemned, a rogue, a slave. I want a name for my children. I want so much more of my husband." She rolled her eyes in sudden confusion. "And I do not want to hurt you more."
Ruark sighed and gave up for the moment. He reached out and gently wiped away the tears as they fell. "Shanna, love," he whispered tenderly, "I cannot bear to see you cry. I will not press the matter for a while. I only beg you remember the longest journey is taken a step at a time. My love can wait, but it will neither yield nor change.”
“Then take it all! Take my life! What care I now that the wench is gone! Damn her! Damn her fickle heart! Ah, man, I hate her! Fickle wife! She taunts me, seduces me, cajoles me, flees me, leaves me wanting her all the more. Have I no more will of my own?"
His voice broke, and he sobbed, hiding his face behind an arm flung across it. Shanna's throat tightened, and there was no ease for the ache in her breat. With tears of her own gathering in her eyes she tried to hush him. He heard none of her pleas, but lifted his hands and held them before his eyes, turning them, staring at them as if he had never seen them before.
"But still - I love her. I could take my freedom and fly - but she holds me bound to her." His hands became limp fists which slowly crumpled to his sides as he groaned listlessly. "I cannot stay. I cannot leave." His eyes closed, and swiftly the moment was gone.
Choking on a sob, Shanna bowed her head in abject misery.”
“Shanna - Madam Beauchamp. You have provided the brightest moment in my day." As she stared, his lips moved further in soundless vow. "I love you.”
“It was the sound of her name being called that brought Shanna into full wakefulness.
"Shanna! Shanna! Don't go!"
It seemed a call of distress, lonely in the silence of night, and she could not mistake the voice. She flew from her bed and out onto the balcony, not pausing for her robe, and entered Ruark's room...
"Are you really there, Shanna? Or does my dream befuddle my sight?" His fingers closed lightly around her wrist and brought it against his lips. Kissing her soft skin, he murmured, "No maiden of my dreams could taste as sweet. Shanna, Shanna," he sighed. "I thought I had lost you."
She bent low to press her trembling mouth upon his. "Oh, Ruark," she breathed against his lips. "I thought I had lost you."
He laid an arm about her nape and pulled her down beside him, searching her eyes in the meager glow.
"I'll hurt your leg!" Shanna protested in concern.
"Come here!" he commanded. "I would know if this is a dream or more heady stuff.”
“You deny our vows. You deny my rights. You abuse my pride and leave me nothing of yourself. You send me from you on some lackey's strength. You betray me at every turn."
Shanna met his glare and hurled a fierce reply. "You took my heart and set your fingers firm around it, then, no doubt delighted at your success, you rent it with unfaithfulness."
"Unfaithfulness is only from a husband. You play the same to me and yet do say I am no spouse."
"You plead you are my husband true and spite the suitors come to woo me."
"Yea!" Ruark raged. "Your suitors flock about your skirts in heated lust, and you yield them more than me."
Shanna paused before him, rage etched upon her face. "You're a churlish cad!"
"They fondle you boldly and you set not their hands away from you."
"A knavish blackguard!"
"You are a married woman!"
"I am a widow!"
"You are my wife!" Ruark shouted to be heard over the rising wind outside.”
“Shanna, my love, the bargain is fulfilled. But what, then, of the vows we exchanged?”
“Ruark held the door open for her to pass through. “The first I cannot deny, Shanna, for then I did not know of you. But you are my only love and shall remain for as long as I live.” His eyes were serious and seemed to probe her being. “I”
“be gone, Pitney, before you undo the best of my plans.”
“reasons. Included was the episode in which Shanna had slain the one. He related the plan and execution of the escape, with minor details omitted, and”
“When the candle is burning, who looks at the wick? When the candle is out, who needs it? But the world without light is wasteland and chaos, and a life without sacrifice is abomination.”
“You cannot repay evil with evil.”
“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation: we do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have these because we have acted rightly; "these virtues are formed in man by his doing the actions"; we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit;”
“Unconnected to the life of love, uncolored by love, the world resumes its own, its natural and callous importance. This is first a blow, then an odd consolation. And already I felt my old self - my old, devious, ironic, isolated self - beginning to breathe again and stretch and settle, though all around it my body clung cracked and bewildered, in the stupid pain of loss.”
“The Mongols offered no counterpart to the common public entertainment of burning people alive that occurred so frequently in western Europe wherever the Christian church had the power to do so.”
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