View Full Version : A Few Poor Choices... Maybe [12/2, Rowan/Christopher, late evening]
09-19-2010, 01:22 AM
In reality... it was probably an awful idea. Dangerous, for one, considering how hard the frozen ground was now that the weather had turned for good for the winter; it was December and the flurries had just started, the winter wind threatening a full-blown storm by the end of the week. Just plain rude, as well, because Rowan could have the pick of any of the available Mallory stock, and instead she chose Shadowless, to the reluctance of the stable hands, whom took her lying word about Lord Mallory's permission with some disbelief. But still, they had saddled the percheron, and here she was, riding Shadowless out into the available ring.
Rowan justified her actions for many reasons. It was late, and the likelihood of Christopher wanting to go for a ride was next to null, especially in this freezing weather. She pulled the laces of her cloak tighter at her throat, and urged Shadowless further, who was a bit reluctant to move from the warmth of the stable into the biting winds, but seemed pleased nonetheless to stretch his massive legs. She was only taking him into the ring, Rowan reasoned with herself, just for a quick trot around, just a breather. Rowan needed to take a breather from being inside the castle. Just a little escape, from the roaring fires and the Mallory women and their judging eyes, and damn Odelia shivering while Christopher wrapped a cloak around her shoulders...
No. Damn. Rowan shook her head slightly, trying to free herself from such thoughts. It was pointless. She could hate a woman she barely knew for reasons beyond both their control, but it was a fruitless endeavor.
However, there was no reason to take Shadowless. None at all. But if Rowan couldn't have Christopher, she wanted to experience being close to him. To some part of him. And if it had to be horses, the only shared love he might acknowledge between himself and Rowan, then she would ride Shadowless tonight. Just this once.
09-19-2010, 01:45 AM
The fire burned warm and bright within Christopher Mallory's private parlor. Anthony was sleeping soundly on the couch in the corner having been bothered by a nigthmare earlier. It had been a rough transition for his son. While he enjoyed being somewhere new where he could explore unknown places, he was having difficulties sleeping in an unfamiliar place. He glanced up at him from his desk and smiled, turning his head half way to Vivienne. "He seems like he's out for the night," he whispered, standing up, stretching his back and his legs. She stood as well, walking over to pull the blanket she'd covered the young boy with off of him gently. Christopher walked up, got his hands under him and lifted him with ease into his arms. Tony stirred for a moment, wrapped his own arms around his father's neck and then settled his head on his shoulder to fall back to sleep.
In silence, Christopher and Vivienne walked back to his son's room and he set him down carefully on his bed, covering him with the thick comforter to ward off the winter chill. "He looks so like you," Vivienne whispered fondly, looking at Christopher with a mix of adoration and affection. It was a familiar look, one that long ago would have been coupled with love, but there had not been love between the two since Victoria... At least, not like it once had been. Sure, they still loved one another, but it was different. Christopher would always love her because she was the mother of his son, and she would love him for being Anthony's father... And it was in rare moments like these that they actually got to acknowledge that Anthony was their son.
"He's got his mother's eyes," he said, looking at her with warmth in his eyes.
"I will stay with him the night, Chris. You have work to do." He could hear the slight pain in her voice. They had discussed it before, and it was no secret why she carried a constant weight in her heart. This secret they'd kept from everybody but the most trusted of family members. They'd kept it from their own son. The plan was to tell him when he was older, but right now, it was too dangerous to divulge such information, and until he was old enough to keep a secret... Well... Christopher could only imagine what it is like to have to hide from your child that your his parent.
"I'll have somebody send some extra blankets," he said.
"No... I should be fine," she replied, lifting the blanket she'd been carrying up. "Do not worry about me, Kit." She smiled as she uttered the nickname her mother had given him when she'd been his nanny and Vivienne had been his playmate. He smiled as well.
Saying good-night, he turned to leave, closing the door behind him and heading back towards his parlor. He had just turned the corner when one of the newer servants on staff came up to him, bowing and saying, "My lord, I am sorry to bother you, but there is an incident at the stables that he feels should be brought to your attention."
At first Christopher tensed. He tended to do that whenever he thought something might be wrong with the horses, but he forced himself to relax and said, "Go on." It wasn't uncommon for Quincy to send others to give Christopher news. As the one in charge of the stables when a Mallory wasn't present, he took his job very seriously and only left the horses if something dire had happened.
"Lady Rowan came and ordered us to saddle Shadowless. Quincy thought that odd since you've never given permission to anybody to ride him without being present yourself, but she was quite adamant. William saddled him for her, but Quincy thought you should be informed just in case. Though, it's not possible the lady would lie, is it."
Apparently, it was more than possible. Chris wasn't prone to fits of rage, but this was Shadowless they were talking about. Without a word (given he didn't trust himself not to take his anger out on the new stable hand) he marched down to the stables, getting there in record time. "How long ago did she leave?" he demanded, looking right at Quincy.
"Not five minutes, my lord. Is it as I suspected?"
"If you suspected she was lying, why in the name of Kaedori did you let William saddle him?"
"Well... You did tell us to make sure Lady Rowan Ashpool was happy... And to give her what she wanted."
"I didn't think I had to spell out for you that Shadowless was off limits! Damn it, man. For as smart as you are, you're a fucking dumb ass right now! Saddle Heimdal!" he commanded. "I'll go after her." He certainly had some choice words for her when he got out. But right now, he needed to pace and try to calm down...
"Already saddled, my lord," Quincy said. "I was about to take him out as it was..."
Christopher didn't say another word. In seconds, he was mounted on Shadowless' brother and was riding out to get his horse back.
09-19-2010, 02:06 AM
Rowan loved how still this evening was. It was pristine, cold, and silent... perfect for her to gather her thoughts. She felt very much at a conflicted spot, staying in Orqua without her family. They were scattered to the wind... she hadn't heard from Matthias or Chase or Charlotte in weeks, lonely in her seclusion. She could only imagine how her cousins were faring... and here in the Mallory household, no matter how much Christopher tried to reassure her that she was welcome, Rowan couldn't ignore the whispers of his own cousins, Cidney's sly looks and Adrienne's whisperings. She was outranked here. But not out in the field, not on a horse. There, even though the Mallory's professed excellence, Rowan felt like she ran with the pack. She shared that mutual love, and excelled at the skill. She patted Shadowless lightly with one gloved hand, appreciating him silently, as she nudged him into the movements.
But something must have caught his eye in the darkness, as the light was nearly gone from the sky. Perhaps a flickering shadow or a small rodent, a fox darting from beneath the fences, but the massive beast spooked, taking Rowan by surprise. He jolted, his large body shifting suddenly to the right, and because Rowan didn't know how to ease him appropriately, Shadowless bucked, suddenly anxious beneath Rowan's touch. She froze up momentarily, unsure how to handle this situation; he was much larger than her own horses, and while she had spent some time riding Shadowless, she hadn't been prepared. Rowan tried her best to pull tight on his reins and jerk him back to the right, but he jerked once again, bucking powerfully, and while Rowan tried her best to hold on, suddenly she felt her torso slip off to the side, and rather than get dragged alongside him, Rowan had to let go, and she plummeted to the earth.
For a moment, everything went black. And then Rowan blinked, and she was on the ground, wheezing. The wind was knocked clear out of her, and she choked, panicking, unable to breath, a sharp pain shooting daggers down her right arm.
09-19-2010, 02:15 AM
He was going at a reasonably fast pace, but not at a full gallop. Luckily the stable hands had been paying enough attention to tell him what direction she'd gone in and with that alone he figured out where she would be heading. And sure enough, in the distance, he saw Shadowless. At first he thought perhaps it was a trick of the darkness, but as he got closer, he could see clearly that Shadowless had been spooked and was bucking frantically -- Rowan was nowhere in sight. Immediately the anger vanished replaced now by fear and panic. He nudged Heimdal in the side with his heel, yelling for him to go faster. He could see her crumpled form on the ground. Shadowless was too close for comfort and Christopher feared that one ill placed step could end the life of Rowan Ashpool in an instant.
He leapt down from the horse, coming up to Shadowless slowly and cautiously, his hands able to grab hold of the reins. He was jerked a bit as Shadowless bucked from side to side, but he was able to hold tight, easing him and soothing him. He could not see to Rowan until he knew his horse wasn't going to kill her. It did not take long to get him under control and once convinced he wasn't going to be a problem now, he released the reins and fell to Rowan's side, not daring to touch her at the moment, afraid she may have hurt something that would only be aggravated by moving her.
"Rowan," he said, moving some of her hair off of her face, away from her mouth. "Rowan, stop, calm down," he said quickly. "Relax, you're going to be okay. Just try to take a deep breath. It's going to be fine. I'm going to take care of you. Just breathe."
09-19-2010, 02:25 AM
Rowan tried to sit up, but a searing pain flashed through her wrist up to her elbow as she tried to support herself. At first, she thought nothing of Christopher by her side as she choked, but Rowan managed to roll herself onto her side, moving onto her belly, keeping her head low as she tried to suck in some air. Tears were streaming down her face from the struggle, and Rowan was instantly afraid, and embarrassed. He was going to hate her.
"I'm fine, I'm fine," she coughed, trying to ignore Christopher's soothing words as she had rolled away from him, half-crouched upon the ground. "I'm fine, just go away, I'll be fine..." She kept her face masked by the fallen curtain of her blonde hair, too ashamed, too angry and violently red in the face to look at him.
09-19-2010, 02:28 AM
Christopher moved to give her room, not missing how she cradled her arm. He would need to get her somewhere well lit to see what was wrong. But that she was moving as she was now assured him that her back was not injured. So, he got to both of his feet, still crouching beside her and said, "You need to get back on him." It was one of the most basic lessons of horseback riding. If you fell off a horse, you had to get right back on. "I'll help you," he said, putting his hand on her back.
"You're not fine," he told her, trying to ease her to her feet. "And I'm not going away. I need to get you back to the castle." That's where he would personally see to her injuries and that's where he would wait to lecture her about taking things that weren't hers. "Take your time, Rowan. There's no hurry..."
09-19-2010, 02:35 AM
Rowan had pushed herself up with her good arm, still shaky on her legs, but as Christopher reached to touch her, Rowan pulled away sharply, wincing at the pain.
"No," she said abruptly, her eyes still downcast, away from his face. "I'm fine. I will be fine. He just spooked. We are both fine. I know you are going to punish me. Just, let me put him away first..." She side-stepped Christopher, and reached for Shadowless' reins. He jerked momentarily, but with a tug, he stepped into line behind Rowan. She kept her right arm tucked in at her side, inside a flap of her cloak. There was bits of hay in her hair and dirt smudged on her face, but Rowan couldn't look back now. She knew that Christopher was going to be angry, and probably yell. She would, if she were him. But she didn't want to be lectured. Just not in that moment. And add insult to injury and let him nurse over her like a child.
Because that was all he would ever see her as. A petulant child. Not a woman, not who Rowan really was.
09-19-2010, 02:44 AM
"Punish you?" he repeated, confused now. Sure, he was going to have a talk with her about what she did. It was wrong and she had to have known he would have been angry about her taking his favorite horse out without his permission. But punish her? "I'd say you've learned your lesson well enough without me having to do much of anything," he said, ignoring her request to be left alone. "Stop," he said, getting in front of her. Without letting her protest anymore, he reached out for her hand, pulled the reins out of her fingers and then bending, he lifted her over his shoulder and then walked her around to the side of Shadowless. He forced her foot into one of the stirrups and then hoisted her up over the saddle. "We are going to put him away first, but you're going to do it the right way."
He mounted Heimdal and together rode back with her to the stables. The servants all ran up to help, pausing at first when they saw her. Christopher stepped down and then approached her, holding his hands up to pull her down. He did not put her down on the ground. Instead, he cradled her against him, turning to say, "Please see to Shadowless and Heimdal. Lady Rowan needs medical attention."
He blocked her out from here. He would not put her down no matter how much she asked. He carried her as if she weighed nothing, and really, she was not all that heavy. He climbed the stairs and walked down the corridor towards his parlor. It was a good thing Anthony had been moved. He closed the door behind him with his heel, setting her down on the couch and then walking over to the wash basin to wet a towel. "You need to tell me what you've injured. Your arm, obviously. Anything else?" he asked, kneeling in front of her to wipe away some dirt on her face to make sure there wasn't a cut beneath it. "I'm going to have to get this cloak off of you."
09-19-2010, 02:54 AM
While in any other situation Rowan would have done just about anything in her power to be cradled in Christopher Mallory's arms as he took her into his private chambers, this situation was not playing out the way she had fantasized. In her mind, it had been a bit more passionate, and Rowan had been a lot less dirty, and she certainly wasn't nursing her arm and her pride. But this... she could barely look up from the indignity of it all.
He had set her down on the couch, and she scooted to the edge, sliding her legs over the side. More than anything, Rowan wanted to run away and hide. But here she was, trapped (trapped? this was a dream come true... but not at all, at the same time) in Christopher's parlor. He knelt before her to the wipe the dirt from her face, now streaked with lines from the tears that could not help but escape. She jerked her face away from him, and quickly wiped the smudges with her own good hand, glancing away. Christopher was just trying to help, but that hurt even more. He only paid attention to her when she created a problem.
"Really, I just bruised my elbow. That's all. Just a little ice and I'll be fine," she said lightly, trying to shrug the cloak off on her own.
09-19-2010, 03:03 AM
He caught her face as she turned it away, his hand cupping her cheek gently, his thumb slowly wiping away her tears. "Stop it, Rowan. You know I'm not buying it, and you know it's not true. You're not fine... But you will be." He brushed some of her hair behind her ear, and then reached out to help her with her cloak. Her arm was already swelling, but it didn't appear to be serious. Carefully, he felt along her arm, searching for a tell-tale fracture, realizing that his fingers against tender skin would only serve to cause her more pain. But it was necessary. "I will need to make a splint for you. You'll need to rest your arm for a while... I don't think it's broken, but you most certainly sprained it."
The rest was just cleaning scrapes and cuts. None seemed serious enough to warrant sutures or cauterizing. When he returned to her face, he saw her bright eyes looking at him, but could not tell what expression she was conveying just now. For how long had he tried to ignore the way her gaze fell upon him? All this time he was attempting to fall in love with Odelia and here was this girl, now a woman, stealing glances at him, looking at him as though she were the one he was supposed to marry come the new year.
"You don't have to be like this," he told her. "We've all be thrown from a horse. I don't think it makes you weak, Rowan. There's nothing you've done that you need to be so ashamed of."
09-19-2010, 03:10 AM
Her breath caught in her throat as Christopher ran his thumb across her face, gathering the fallen tears that slipped down her cheeks. She wanted to be angry at him, because it was so hard to feel this embarrassed. But here he was, being perfect, just like she always thought he was. And that in itself made her even more upset.
"You don't think I can handle it," she retorted, unsure of where the contempt her voice was stemming from. "You don't. I know that. But I can. It was just an accident." So much of her time in Orqua had been an accident. An accident had caused her to be expelled from her home and sent there. Stealing Shadowless and falling from him certainly was an accident. Feeling the way she did as she watched Christopher administer to her wounds was an accident... and potentially the most fatal of them all.
"I'm not... being like anything," she stammered, caught. It was hard to swallow her pride. "I just... I don't know, I'm sorry. I know that wasn't right. I just wasn't..." Rowan trailed off, glancing over into the fire in the hearth of his parlor. It burned, and the heat was emanating from it all the way to wave over Rowan's skin. "Thinking. I just wasn't thinking clearly."
09-19-2010, 03:16 AM
He pushed himself up, sitting next to her on the sofa and putting his arm around her shoulders. "It's okay," he told her, realizing now that lecturing her would only be counter-productive. She was beating herself up enough to make up for a missed conversation about right and wrong. "Here's what I think, Rowan. I think you are a strong, young woman who has grown up for so many years surrounded by family and people who you are familiar with. And suddenly, you're living with a new family, in a new place, and nothing is familiar. I think if you have so far been able to handle what has been handed to you so far, there isn't much left that you can't handle."
He smiled at her, putting his hand beneath her chin to turn her face towards his so she would look at him. "I know it was an accident. We all have them, just like I said. I can't even count the number of times Shadowless has bucked me off of him. When we begin to break the new horses, hells, I get knocked off at least four times a day. But you know, I can only do what you just did. I can only get back up and keep on trying until I get it. It was an accident, but it wasn't a mistake because you're going to learn from it."
She was being stubborn. He just wasn't about to tell her that. "It's okay... After everything you've been through, I understand."
09-19-2010, 03:27 AM
Rowan might have swooned as Christopher slipped his fingers underneath her chin, but the way he was going on about her life and choices, she just couldn't stand it.
"You think I'm just... a child, don't you?" Rowan snapped, moving away from Christopher's arm wrapped round her shoulder. "I didn't take your horse because I am some stranded little girl who is rebelling because she lost her family. So? I did. I lost them, they are gone, scattered all over Forsilvra. And I've been knocked off a horse more than once, as well. These are all just... facts."
The fingers of her good hand curled over the edge of the couch, her right arm still tucked in close to her side. "I'm am an excellent rider. Excellent. And I slipped up. I've done it once, and I'll do it many times again. But that's because I've lived, Christopher, and I've done things, and I've been places, and I'll keep making mistakes. Because I'm not your little sister. I'm a grown woman. I know you fail to see that. But it's right there in front of you."
Rowan quieted down, unsure of where the tirade came from. It was probably pointless... and made her look more silly than mature. But it felt good to say it. He kept treating her like some little child left in his care, watching over her, checking in on her. It was frustrating.
09-19-2010, 03:35 AM
He looked down at the ground, his smile completely gone and he said in a flat voice, "No. No, I haven't missed it. I've... Just had to force myself to pretend that I have." His eyes met back with hers, no more kindness, no more compassion. Just a hard look -- It was the truth staring them both in the face. "Do you know how hard you have made it for me to act like I don't realize how you're looking at me, the things you're saying...? I've tried so very hard ever since our conversation on the ship here... I'm supposed to be falling in love with Odelia. She's the woman I'm going to be marrying... And yet, here you are... You... You're confusing everything. After everything, I never once considered that this could happen. Everything... Everything I have worked so hard for all rides on my marriage to Odelia..."
He reached for her, shaking his head. "I have pretended to treat you as I would a sister because if I allow myself to explore any further... Rowan... I can't. We can't... I have to marry Odelia. There's no way around that. None. So it's not that I haven't noticed. I have. I have and I wish I hadn't... Because now that I have, I can't just turn it off. But, I have to at least pretend... You understand, don't you?"
09-19-2010, 03:46 AM
Rowan now looked to Christopher, surprised, a slight look of shock upon her face. She couldn't believe it. The words that came from his mouth were confusing, complicated. Of course she understood, because all along she had felt that way too. But how to say that? How to tell Christopher that she pined for him, that he infiltrated her every thought in a troublesome and aggravating way that made it hard for her to think clearly when he stood beside her or spoke to her? That watching him with Odelia made her sick, even in the most innocent of situations? Rowan didn't know how to say it. It was a damned situation. Rowan didn't like being told she didn't have a choice.
"No," she breathed, unconsciously moving towards him as Christopher reached out towards her. "I don't understand that at all." And with that, Rowan moved to Christopher, closing the distance between them, pressing her chest to his. Before he could react, Rowan slipped her free hand from his face into Christopher's hair, feeling the smooth locks between her fingers, and Rowan pressed her lips, hard, to his. He tasted just the way she always imagined.
She had already stolen his horse and sprained her arm. Rowan thought she might as well go all the way with it. It was now or never.
09-19-2010, 03:54 AM
He saw her work through his words in her mind, but something he said hadn't clicked... Or else, it hadn't set well with her. Next thing he knew, she was coming at him, and Christopher was too busy thinking there was no way she was going to kiss him to avoid being kissed. His eyes opened wide... Last time this had happened, it had been in his parlor in Vadra after one too many drinks. And he had sworn it would never happen again. But the guilt had come from somewhere else there... Still, this... This wasn't right, and he needed to push her off and tell her that. But it was so hard for him... He was a strong man, strong in so many ways. But when it came to women, particularly women who wanted him... Not so much. His one weakness, and he could admit that about himself.
His hands went to her shoulders and he pushed her off of him, but he held onto her, his eyes closed. "Stop," he said, his voice airy. "I need to think..."
"I... I want to kiss you. I do. I really do... But it's not that easy for me. The guilt... Odelia... If she found out... it would hurt her... I think." Or would it? "She'll feel betrayed. Rowan... I... I don't want to hurt either of you." It was a sticky position to be in. "I don't know what I'm supposed to do."
09-19-2010, 04:05 AM
And just as quickly as it happened, it was over. His hands were planted firmly on her shoulders, and Rowan felt herself detach from him, a profound sweeping sense of loss. She opened her eyes, and blinked, looking at him. Slowly, she moved away from his grasp, and back to her spot on the couch, looking down, her good hand gripping the edge of the sofa.
"I don't think that there is much for you to think about, Christopher. You either know, or you don't," she said softly, a small pain tearing through her chest. It hurt knowing she couldn't have him. But it hurt more knowing that he'd deny them both the momentary pleasure because perhaps he did want Rowan... just not enough. Suddenly, Rowan felt very foolish. And not just for kissing him in the first place, for Rowan wanted that more than anything. But for thinking that Christopher Mallory could feel anything for Rowan at all. He wanted Odelia, for many a reason, and no matter what he and Rowan might have that would never be there with his bride-to-be, it didn't matter. The ink was no longer fresh on the parchment, was it?
"I can't stop thinking about you," she said abruptly, feeling bold, looking up from the floor to Christopher's face. If nothing else, at least he needed to know, now. "I know it's wrong. And I know it's unfair to Odelia. But that doesn't change anything. I still can't stop thinking about you. That's... what I know."
09-19-2010, 04:17 AM
"It's not that simple," he told her. "If we're being honest with one another now, Rowan, I suppose you should know that I have been in love before. Many times. I fall in love a lot... It's... Not something I'm proud of. Sometimes I'm not even sure if I know what the real thing is anymore. It would be so easy to get lost in you... But if I'm to become Province Lord, if I'm to defend Svavel from those who would do us harm, if I am to succeed where Lord Lennox failed... It all begins with my marriage to Odelia. The people need somebody who knows what it's like to be them. They need somebody who will stop at nothing to do what is best for them. I want to be that man. I want to be the best leader for them. So it's not just about me... It's about them. And if that means I have to sacrifice love... Well, it's as I said... What I want to achieve is bigger than just one person."
He wished she hadn't said that. He closed his eyes and flinched as if she'd hit him. He wondered if that was true with Odelia. If she thought about him...? If she couldn't get him out of her head? It probably wasn't. She was still a child. Sixteen. Young and still so... blind to a lot of things. "I want to be a good husband," he said. "I promised myself in my first marriage, no matter how I felt, I would never dishonor my wife or myself by lying with another. I did not love Victoria. Far from it. Even then my heart belonged to somebody else. So much. I have never loved anybody like I had loved this woman... But I had to make a choice...
"Odelia was not my first choice," he told her. "After Victoria died, I always thought I'd be able to actually marry for love. By this time, I no longer was in love with my childhood sweetheart. And I was bannerlord... I thought that so many opportunities had been at my feet. And there are, as you said, so many better people for me. Odelia is not my type... And I am not hers. But that's just how it has to be... If I could choose, if I could pick anybody and still get to where I need to go... Well..." He looked back at her, his hand reaching back for her cheek. Stupidly, even after everything he just said, he leaned in slowly, his lips finding hers. It was a chaste kiss, and he ended it before he got pulled in. "If there was a way, Rowan... I would find it. But... I just don't see one..."
09-19-2010, 09:07 PM
Rowan watched him as he spoke, listened to the conviction in his voice. She remained perched on the edge of her seat, her pride smarting as well as her injured arm. Rowan supposed she should be happy. Here he was, Christopher Mallory, telling Rowan that he couldn't ignore the way she looked at him, or when they shared the briefest of touches. But all for what? What was the point of feeling any of these feelings if they weren't hers to claim, to embrace? It was... torture. Kissing him once more just cemented that fact. Rowan feared she'd have the taste of his lips on her own forever, a mixed blessing, a double-sided coin. A small glimpse of what she wanted, never to have it again.
"You are Province Lord, Christopher," Rowan said lightly, a small smile tugging at the corner of her lips. "You would find one, if it was the best choice for you." She paused, swallowing the hard lump in her throat. "But I am not. I know that. I am just the sister of a Province Lord who managed to be blinded by an imminent massacre. And Odelia is..." Rowan sighed. "Lovely. She is lovely, and all the things one might want in a Lady wife. A true woman of regal blood to stand by your side."
Rowan glanced down to her feet, and then back up at Christopher. "But that doesn't mean I am any less deserving. And while you might be able to be happy with Odelia... I don't think that we would even have to try. It's just... a hard thought, to give up."
09-20-2010, 01:31 AM
"I am not yet Province Lord," he said to her. "King Alrik made it pretty clear that me becoming one was contigent upon my marriage to Odelia." Which meant that he did have a choice: Either marry Odelia and achieve what he'd worked so hard for, or marry somebody else and go back to being a bannerlord in Saefa. It wasn't really a choice, was it?
"It would have been different if I was Province Lord. An alliance with your family was one of the first things I sought. If I had not been already promised to Odelia, if I had known you then, if marrying her wasn't the deciding factor, perhaps we would be sitting here as a couple soon to be married. But that's just not how the cards were dealt, and that is something we have to accept." The kiss had to be the last. He already carried the guilt of another kiss on his shoulders... And as much as he wanted to kiss her again, he had to make it clear that cheating on his wife, dishonoring her and himself was not something he had any intention of doing. "She is lovely. And she's kind and generous. I did not love her when I was in Vadra... But I am growing to love her. I want to love my wife. I want to love the woman who is to become mother to my son, who will stand at my side. There are others in this land that care not for the worth of the woman they share the oil with. They lay with others and disrespect their wife. My mother taught me to be a better man than that. She taught me to honor my wife as my equal... And because of that, Rowan, I cannot betray her. And I cannot lead you on... It would dishonor you as well."
He smiled sadly, nodding in agreement. "It is I who does not deserve you, my lady. And perhaps it is so. I would be very happy with you. But I am not the last man you are going to kiss. There will be somebody more worthy of you. Somebody who can make you happy like you deserve to be. But I am not that man, and I would be a fool to try to be."
09-20-2010, 01:40 AM
Rowan just nodded, withdrawing in on herself with each word he spoke. It was hopeless, and Rowan felt foolish. Now, more than anything, she wished they'd never spoken about it. Because it would always lay there between them, the unspoken acknowledgment of words they both spoke but could no longer utter. And even worse than that, when Christopher did learn to love Odelia, and married her, and created his family, Rowan would be left behind holding onto this brief moment, clutching it fervently to her chest, while Christopher let it fall away into forgetfulness. Rowan knew she didn't know everything there was to know about Christopher Mallory. But she knew enough to trust how she felt, and if what she felt wasn't love, then it was the closest she had ever come to it.
"I understand," she said lightly, the smile on her lips not reaching her eyes. "I do. But maybe you could set this splint for me anyways? Ignore my professions and help me out?" she said with a little laugh, trying not to look at him. Rowan just wished a giant hole would appear in the carpet and suck her down into it. Anything, save sitting next to this man for another moment longer, having to suffer the weight of knowing she'd never have him, and that she'd never stop wanting him, anyways.
09-20-2010, 01:50 AM
He could see that she did understand, but he also saw just how much she wished it wasn't how it had to be. "Of course," he said, standing to go to his chambers to find his bag. He grabbed the materials he needed and returned to her side, gently setting the splint and then making a sling out of bandages. He said very little as he worked, occasionally asking if it was too tight or loose or if it was uncomfortable. But, before he finished, he looked back up at her, his hazel brown eyes meeting her lighter colored ones, and he asked, "Is this why you took Shadowless?" He wasn't mad at her anymore, and the look in his eyes was benevolent enough to let her know that, but he wanted to know.
"I realize how much harder I've just made it for you to remain here," he said. "But now that you are of age, perhaps the king will see fit to allow you to return home with your brother upon our arrival in Solbra." Perhaps it was not wise to make such a claim without first seeing what the king's plans were, but it seemed logical enough. "I want you to know that I don't think any less of you. I still want your stay here to be as comfortable as possible. I don't want you to be afraid to come to me if you need something or if something is troubling you. I won't make you promise me that you will... I can only imagine how awkward I have made you feel. For that I apologize. But please know... That I do care about you... And all I want is for you to be happy."
09-20-2010, 01:58 AM
Rowan put up her good hand, in a request for his silence. "Please. Stop. Please just stop," she said softly, her voice soft and not accusing. There was no anger in her tone, but suddenly Rowan felt very tired. "Let's just forget all of this ever happened, shall we? I think it's best for both of us. If we just pretend this never happened."
She rose carefully from the couch and away from Christopher, towards the door. Her right arm was tucked in the sling, and it felt pinched against her neck. She just wanted to leave. Her head and her heart throbbed, and Rowan just wanted to lay down and blot out this entire evening. There he was again, addressing her like a diplomat, and not a man she had just kissed and touted her unending feelings for. He was putting on a brave face for House Mallory. Rowan couldn't begrudge him that, could she? He'd never understand how she felt about him. He'd never accept it.
"Thank you for your help. I'm glad nothing happened to Shadowless in the wake of my foolishness. I think I'll just head straight for bed, then, tonight," she spoke, looking to Christopher, requesting his permission to leave.
09-20-2010, 02:05 AM
"I'm... I'm sorry," he said, standing up, wanting to go to her but thinking twice about it. She was not his sister nor his betrothed and he could not suddenly act like she was. Not when his affections did more harm to her than good. "I think you may be right," he agreed, his own tone sounding a bit weary as well.
"If... If the way I wrapped it begins to bother you or if it loosens, please let me know so that I can make it more comfortable for you," he said. "Sleep will do you well, but most likely, your injury will hurt more in the morning than it does now. I do have something for the pain if it becomes unbearable," he said, looking back down at his bag. He'd just have to mix it for her.
"No harm done," he said with a nod. "And it was no trouble. Good night," he said with a nod, watching her as she left and thanking the gods he did not allow himself to get carried away with his emotions this time. But he would definitely have to be careful in the future. It would be all too easy to fall in love with Rowan Ashpool.
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