Adamen appeared with the carcass of a freshly slain dapple draped over his shoulder. Its antlers had been sliced through, and he carried them in his left hand, as was the custom for the killing of such a beast. Even animals had the right to a passing, and there were ways to respect the order of life. Removing the maleness of the creature ensured its passage to spirituality. Slinging the body of the creature to a nearby flat stone, Adamen withdrew his cleaned weapon and took up a stance worthy of his experience. He flashed Jadara a fearsome grin.
“Princess.” He acknowledged her with a quick bow. “Shall we?”
“Warrior.” She inclined her head whilst keeping her eyes on his and backing a safe distance away. Her pulse throbbed in her neck at the closeness of his raw maleness. He was obviously fresh from a hunt, and this made him dangerously tense and alert.
Adamen sniffed the air, catching her scent on the soft breeze. He was a skilled hunter and could read the instincts of animals intuitively. His Earth upbringing, close to the Fire Hills of Dargoon, served him well as a Passer. He had been forced to survive a harsh world since birth, and only the fittest made it this far with Lambord. Adamen’s sire and older siblings, all boys, had trained him well. Nothing could distract his focus in a fight.
Nothing until now. The fresh smell of apple blossom on the wind caught him off guard. For a split second, his thoughts paused on how that scent would taste. That was enough for Jadara to seize her chance. A sharp pain coursed through his thigh. Amid hoots of laughter and taunts from his peers, Adamen saw the retreating blade of a sword bow. Crimson blood seeped from his wound and trickled thickly down towards his knee.
With a growl equal to that of a freegan, Adamen pounced, brandishing his hook sword over his head. Jadara was quick and dodged several potentially fatal blows before she felt a stinging in her shoulder. Lambord had seen enough. He stepped forward and held his hand between the two.
“Peace!” he ordered. “Blood for blood and now rest.” He shot Adamen a warning glare just to ensure the younger man’s compliance.
Adamen nodded and offered his hand to Jadara. She extended hers then recoiled quickly as she felt the warm pulse that Adamen’s touch stirred within her. It spread like liquid through her body and brought an instant blush to her cheeks.
Arrogant in his victory, Adamen’s smile widened at the response he had stimulated in Jadara. His own body hardened automatically at the attraction he felt coupled with the adrenaline of the recent combat.
* * *
Jadara looked away, furious with her body for betraying her in front of this warrior. She stormed off into the woods with Lambord’s voice behind her saying, “We leave as soon as we mount up.”
Jadara walked until she reached the babbling stream and stood for a moment, allowing the rhythmic sounds to soothe her temper. She was unaccustomed to the feelings that betrayed her when Adamen was nearby. Thanly, her truest friend, deserved her loyalty and if anyone was to claim her as a Primary Mate, shouldn’t it be him?
As if to taunt her further, her skin began to prickle, and her heart rate increased as she heard footsteps behind her.
“A lucky strike,” she said, not turning her head for fear of the troublesome blush reappearing.
“I’m flattered you knew it was me,” teased Adamen, crouching down to the stream with a white cloth in his hands. She watched as he soaked it through then squeezed it out, folding it over to make a pad. She gasped as he stood up, towering over her, and applied the pad to her shoulder.
He mistook her gasp for pain and had the grace to look sympathetic. “Does it hurt?” he asked gently.
“N–no. The water is just cold,” she said, the first thing she could think of to cover her true emotion.
“So brave,” he crooned, rubbing the cloth seductively over her shoulder and across her neck.
His lips were so close to her ear that the words made their own light caress across her cheek. He moved in closer and she turned her head towards his. Her lips parted in response to his closeness and a tiny sigh escaped her full lips.
Adamen could fight it no longer. He leaned in to the soft lips before him and kissed them with a gentle possession.
It was hard to describe who was more shocked at Jadara’s passionate response. She returned his kiss with fervour, moving her lips in response to his. His kiss deepened, and she matched his intensity. Her body pressed into his hard chest and a soft moan escaped her.
“Damn!” cursed Adamen, pulling away and stepping back, raking his hand through his hair.
Jadara was bereft. She looked up into his darkened eyes, confused, aroused and uncertain. For the second time that day, she left. She marched back to where the warriors were preparing to depart and leapt onto her horse.
How dare he! she fumed to herself. How dare he kiss her like that then curse her embrace? Wasn’t drawing blood enough revenge for her lucky strike to his leg?