I ducked my head in through the doorway and stood on the metal grills of the sub-chamber floor. The dark anti-room was empty, but a thumping of steps overhead told me he was on his way down.
The shaft that housed the elevator stood empty, and the transparent security doors remained locked.
I waited for what seemed an eternity, rechecking my hands and nails, absently wiping off the crusty, dried blood.
Why hadn’t I stopped along the way to wash my hands or at least brush my hair? He would hate me for looking such a ragged mess, wouldn’t he?
At last the elevator glided downwards to its soft dock. I jumped when it omitted a hiss on landing, a small cloud of steam rising from underneath that coincided with the doors opening.
Then there he was, just an outline at first until he stepped out of the chamber and into the light. Clothed in fine, dark blue battledress, shirt tied at the side, and combatant trousers, his long, black hair shining like a halo, he looked as wondrously, masculinely beautiful as the last day I saw him.
“Nerído Xipilé,” I bowed, watching him return the royal formality.
He walked lightly forward and stopped to fold his arms across his chest. My gaze took in his blue eyes, the pale skin that stretched across his sharp cheekbones and strong jaw to his soft, red lips. His face was so striking, it was hard to break away my gaze.
“So, how was your day? Do anything special?” he mocked me with a half grin.
I scoffed and went along with him. “Of course, sir. We fought a great battle and were within hours of victory. Your arrival just shortened our timeline,” I jested back.
He hadn’t moved. We still had strides of space between us. Despite our pleasantries, my heart pounded faster just being near him again. I could feel his emotions, troubled and concerned, because of the royal connection that bound us, but now I was unsure what direction this conversation would take. Was he revolted by me? Had he had a change of heart since last year? I couldn’t tell. He masked his feelings cleverly. Something I usually excelled at uncovering.
“Hal, I think you have bits of Primord in your hair,” he shuffled his fingers in gesture to my head.
I reached up automatically and grabbed at strands of my loose red locks in horror. “I do? Oh, that’s nasty!” I muttered, gulping quickly, humiliated as I pulled small pieces of fabric and other unmentionables from my knotted hair.
“And you look … bloody.” Still, he hadn’t moved. He thought me repulsive, I knew it.
I laughed. “Well, be thankful the blood isn’t mine.”
“You look a mess, Halíka,” he said with the sincerest, tenderest softness.
My chin quivered as he spoke the last words, forcing me to look away. Did this mean …? I couldn’t think any more. Battle-weary and sore, I fought the urge to bite my lip, knowing it was covered with blood that wasn’t my own. A small tear crept into my eye as the exhaustion of the day finally hit home. So much for keeping a grip on my tough emotions. What was it about Nerí that brought out my insecurities? He’d worn me down with one solitary sentence.
I suddenly felt drained.
He sensed it, as I knew he would. He rushed forward to wrap me in his arms, crushing me closer into his chest and dipping his head down against mine. Like a protective barrier and the safest place I had ever been.
He kissed my head. “But you are still the most beautiful woman I have ever laid my eyes upon.”
“I missed you, so much,” I croaked into his blue tunic.
“I missed you too, Halíka,” he answered and soothed my hair, sending happy chills down my neck.
About the author:
Alexandra May is an English author of three books, bringing together the epic saga of Halíka Dacomé and her modern day equivalent, Rose Frost. Elemental: The First, Elemental: Origin and The Battle for Arcanon Major draw in Alexandra's love of strong women characters, sci-fi, history, romance and a little warmongering on the side!
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