She was on the verge of sleep. Her weight was on him, her head on his chest and hair tickling his nose. Her breath was heavy; it brushed the hair in his oxter, nearly making him giggle.
The evening was hot. He was almost ready to beg for fall, just so late summer’s obscene temperatures could end. Their skin was stuck together were she lay on him, and the rest of him was covered in a light film of sweat. The windows were all open, albeit with nets to stop mosquitos from buzzing in, and a small fire was lit only for light. They had long ago kicked off all the blankets from his bed, but it wasn’t enough.
She seemed to sense his unease. Their skin parted with a wet noise as she moved, and she blinked blearily at him. “What’s wrong?”
He couldn’t help but smile. Her hair was tousled around her head, and her lips were puffy and red; she looked like she had a rough night, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Running his fingers through her hair, he dropped his head into the pillows and sighed. “I’m going to be crowned tomorrow.”
She was so precious when she was half-asleep. All her defences melted away, and she was almost drunk with exhaustion and innocence. She gently spun her finger in his chest hair and blew on his damp skin, making gooseflesh ripple down his chest.
“You will make an excellent king,” she said, and patted his chest. “Have you planned how you will announce your magical inheritance?”
“Not word-for-word, but I have a general idea.”
“That is a start.” With a soft groan, she rolled on her back, so she lay arched over his lap, arms spread and face pointed to the ceiling. He thought it looked horribly uncomfortable, but she didn’t seem too bothered by it. “The king’s chambers are much better than your old room,” she remarked, lifting her head just enough to look around. “More windows.”
Alistair smiled and took one of her hands in his. Her fingers automatically tangled themselves with his. He frowned; she was being unusually affectionate, had been all day. It was odd, but not unwelcome. With a contented sigh, he kissed her fingers and let their hands rest beneath his chin.
“You know, you hated me a year ago,” he said. “Have you ever thought of that?”
She let her head roll to the side so she could see him, and she smiled. “It wasn’t yet a year ago. It was late fall, not summer. It was after your birthday. And I did not hate you, but you were an annoying little fungus.”
His brows arched. “Fungus?”
Her smile lessened, but the tender emotion of it remained in her eyes, and his heart skipped. “You grew on me. I am quite fond of you now.” She moved, leaning slightly on her side; then it happened again, the same thing she had done earlier. He had touched her breasts, they being his favourite part of her—well, other than her eyes and amazing personality, of course—and a grimace had flickered across her face, so quickly it was almost imperceptible. He had refrained from touching them after, except very lightly, to his great disappointment.
She adjusted her position again, so she wasn’t leaning her weight on her side as much, and squishing her breasts between her and his abdomen. His frown returned, but either she pretended not to notice or was completely oblivious to his concern.
“Are you all right?”
She rubbed her eyes and crawled up beside him. He automatically opened his arm so she could lean on him. “I’m fine. Only tired. Thaddeus has had me worked to the bone since we got back.”
He kissed her head and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close. She didn’t fight; rather, she nestled closer, as if taking advantage of every chance she could to touch him. Unable to help himself, he brushed her hair off her neck and kissed her there too. She hunched her shoulders automatically, and he chuckled.
She shuffled to look up at him. “Are you happy?” she asked, hushed.
“I’ve never been happier. Are you?”
She took a moment to answer. When she finally did, and turned to him to look him straight on, he thought there were tears in her eyes. “My life has never been happy, but spending these past few months with you is the closest I will ever come to bliss. I will remember this moment until the day I die,” she whispered, and kissed him.
He wanted to tell her. At that moment, with her warmth pressed into him and her lips, tasting of wine, against his, he wanted nothing more than to tell her exactly what he felt. But Hession’s words still rang in his head, warning him away from any rash decisions.
She pressed her palms against his chest and kissed the heartbeat in the hollow beneath his jaw. Without another word, she settled herself on top of him. His hands automatically set themselves on her hips, but as he looked up at her his breath caught in his lungs.
There was something dark in the depths of her eyes—something desperate and unforgivable.