DARK MAGICK RISING (Part 2)
Copyright 2016 by M.L. Rhodes
He spied the tent through the trees, and with Wen leaning on him, they covered the last bit of ground in silence, the only sounds their staggered breathing and their crunching footfalls in the snow.
Once inside the tent, he helped Wen remove his wet cloak, then shrugged off his own as well. He pulled back the covers on the low, grass-stuffed mattress and eased Wen onto it. As their hands met, Wen’s felt like ice.
“We need to get you warm, and then you need some real sleep,” Wesley said.
“You’re cold, too.” Wen curled his fingers through Wesley’s and squeezed. His tone softened to that low rasp again, the one that turned Wesley’s insides liquid. “And some sleep wouldn’t hurt you either. You look like you’re about to drop in your tracks, Wesley.”
Wesley lifted their joined hands to his lips and pressed a kiss against Wen’s fingers. An unexpected wave of lightheadedness washed over him as he did, surprising him at its intensity. It made him realize he probably did need some sleep. But right now, Wen was his priority. There’d be time for rest later. He gave Wen’s hand a final squeeze, then untangled their fingers.
“You’re going to ignore me?”
Wesley scoffed. “How can I possibly be ignoring you when I’m touching you every second?”
“You know what I meant.” Wen shook his head and sighed, but didn’t argue when Wesley moved to the foot of the bed and pulled off his boots. He’d had to cut Wen’s shirt off him earlier, which had left him clad only in his form-hugging leather pants. Wesley unfastened the laces and tugged the sodden leather down over Wen’s hips and long legs.
Under any other circumstances, he would have taken his time, admiring the view, because, truly, Rowen Daneson was beautiful—tall, blond, lean, yet with sculpted, training-hardened muscle in all the right places. Add to that a fiercely loyal personality and an abundance of inner strength, and he was, by all rights, a man who would make anyone look twice. For weeks Wesley had barely been able to be around him without turning into a hopeless idiot at the sight of him.
But this morning, instead of savoring the view that lay before him, he had to fight to keep from staring too long and hard at the puckered, newly healing scar on Wen’s abdomen. Or think about its mate on his back where the sword blade last night had been driven into him from behind and come out the front. Or contemplate all the damage the steel had done to Wen’s insides before Wesley’s magick had healed him.
Wesley fought a sudden wave of nausea and wasn’t sure if it was caused by the thought of how close he’d come to losing Wen last night, or if his own body really was more drained than he thought.
Damn it all, don’t lose it now. You’ve got things to do.
He suddenly realized Wen, in spite of trying to be a tough guy, was shivering, and he hurried to pull the blankets up over him.
When he did, Wen snagged his hand again. The lightness between them was gone now, and his husky tone radiated urgency. “Talk to me, Wes. I’m not the only one who’s been hiding things. You know because of our bond I can sense your emotions, and they’re all over the place right now.”
Slowly, Wesley sank to his knees beside the mattress. He should have known Wen would pick up on his inner turmoil. With a sigh, he brushed a strand of Wen’s tangled hair back off his face. He was so pale, the golden freckles across his nose appeared darker than they really were.
“I’m okay,” Wesley said, trying to force calmness into his voice. Which of course he miserably failed at with his next words. “I’m not the one who…who nearly died last night.” He almost couldn’t finish the sentence.
“Hey,” Wen said gently, “thanks to you, I’m still here and I’m going to be fine.”
“If you get some decent rest and warm up.”
Wesley felt their connection like a fine shimmering thread stretched between them, rippling with the emotions they were both experiencing.
“Wesley, I feel what you’re feeling, remember? So you can try to act like you’re okay about what happened, but I know you’re not. It was a traumatic night for you, too, and you’re exhausted from it, whether you want to believe it or not. I’m worried about you.” Lines furrowed his forehead as he reached up to caress Wesley’s cheek. His fingertips were cold against Wesley’s skin, even through Wes’s short growth of beard.
Wen was worried about him? No, that was the last thing Wesley wanted. He didn’t want Wen concerned about him when Wen needed to be thinking of his own wellbeing.
“For once in your life, put your own needs first, okay?” Wesley pleaded, knowing how tough that was for Wen, who always seemed to think he had to protect everyone.
“And I slept—”
“No.” Wesley cut him off before he could continue. “You didn’t. Being unconscious for hours because you almost died doesn’t count as sleep. And you never get enough of that as it is, even when you’re healthy. So, please, stop being such a stubborn ass!”
Wen tried to interrupt again but Wesley rested two fingers over his mouth to shut him up. “No,” he said again. “No one, especially me, is going to think you’re weak because you need to rest. You were badly wounded last night, regardless of what came after. And, damn it, Wen…” He shook his head. “You know, sometimes it’s okay to the let the people who care about you look out for you instead of the other way around.”
Wen stared at him for a moment before finally mumbling, “I’m not the only one who’s stubborn.”
The comment and the put-upon look on his face almost made Wesley smile. He felt it twitching at the corners of his mouth. “You just now realized that?” But he sobered quickly at the serious expression on Wen’s face.
Wen’s voice, when he spoke, rasped with emotion. “No, I realized it last night, when you kept refusing to let me die. You believed even when I couldn’t.”
“I wasn’t going to lose you,” Wesley said, a hot lump suddenly clogging the back of his throat. “Not then, and not now.”
Wen’s hand slid up into his hair to cup the back of his head, and then he pulled Wesley down into a kiss.
When they parted, Wen sighed and surprised Wesley by saying, without further argument, “Promise you’ll come back here after you’re done reporting?”
“Of course I will.”
Wen nodded and reluctantly released him.