Note 1: Cariad is the Welsh word for ‘beloved one’.
Note 2: This went longer than I had hoped, but there isn’t a good breaking point and there were things that needed to be included.
Reminder: I’ve only seen the Mini once and that was months ago. Sorry if there are glaring errors.
Previous Chapters: Ch 1 - Aftermath; Ch 2 - Whispers Of A Legend; Ch 3 - Stretched To The Limits
Ch 4 - Cariad
I want to steal your attraction like a bad outlaw - Making Memories of Us - by Keith Urban
The first thing DG realized, when she woke, was that she wasn’t cold any longer. Then she was aware that something rough and spiky pressed against her left cheekbone. She blinked and her lashes caught on blonde stubble. Her head was on Wyatt Cain’s shoulder and he had both arms around her. One of his hands was buried in her hair, pressing her face against his neck and chin and the other rode low on her waist, pinning their bodies together. She was surrounded by him. The thought made her head swim and brought a smile to her face.
Her heart skipped a beat when the hand on her waist slid lower until it cupped her bottom. She lost the capacity to breathe when his fingers squeezed and a soft rumble moved though his chest as he shifted in his sleep, bringing them even closer. Things were moving too fast. If she wasn’t careful, she was afraid she was going to get a quick education on a subject that shouldn’t be taught in haste.
She felt something pressing into her stomach and fought a primitive urge to move against it. It would be so easy. One little rock of her hips and she had no doubt Cain would have her flat on her back and…and…and…It was the and that made her stop. Though she was inexperienced, she knew her Tin Man would never hurt her, but she would hurt him if she responded to his unconscious advances. A quick look upward proved her right. His eyes were moving back and forth under closed lids. He was in REM sleep: dreaming!
Too many emotions to count swirled through her, but she clamped down on them. He had no idea where he was and more importantly, who he was with. He hadn’t liked that she’d woken him from a nightmare the night after discovering Adora’s grave. He’d be mortified if he knew she’d not only been a spectator, but a partial participant, to this one.
She faked a yawn and tried to turn away from him. For one quick moment his grip tightened, as if he wouldn’t let her go, then she felt him instantly waken.
“Deeg?” he questioned, unsure of where he was. All he could remember was holding her to protect her from the cold that had attacked her from the inside out. Then in the early morning hours he’d had a dream about a woman. His mind automatically supplied the name Adora, but something about it didn’t fit.
“Hmmm,” she feigned sleep, forcing her body not to react as he cupped her shoulder.
“Are you all right? I didn’t squish you did I?” He blinked and ignored how tight his pants felt. It was morning. He was male. That was life. He only hoped the Kid hadn’t noticed. He didn’t want to upset or frighten her.
“I’m fine,” she stretched and sat up. “Doing much better than I was last night.” She had trouble meeting his eyes, but what she had to say was too important to give in to shyness. “You saved my life, you know?”
“I doubt it was that serious--”
“Please, let me finish.” She knelt beside him. Her knees pressed against his chest. “I’ve never felt cold like that. It was that serious! I don’t think I’ll be laughing at the idea of Az’s getting uncontrollable hiccups when her magic is depleted, even if it did give the Wicked Witch a terrible time.”
“You’re sure that’s what it was for you, Kiddo, exhausted magic?” She’d been fragile and vulnerable the night before and he knew he would have done about anything to give her ease.
“Yeah, but I’m fine now.” Her eyes were large and blue as she tried her best to reassure him.
“Then I’d have to agree with you. Your sister’s hiccups aren’t so funny after all. If that had been your problem last night I don’t know what I could have done to help.” He sat up, careful to keep the blankets covering him from the waist down. Cold was easy to fix. A little shared body heat and…his mind shied away from the sudden mental picture of his skin warming hers…all it did was make his pants fit tighter. Think hiccups, he told himself. Yeah that was better. He’d give her lost of water to cure chronic hiccups.
“Thank you.” She smiled and curled her hand lightly over his shoulder, imitating the way he reached for her in times of stress. “Not only for keeping me warm, but because by all that’s holy you should wish Azkadellia nothing but ill will.”
“Princess, I saw what happened after the eclipse. Your sister had no control over what the Sorceress did in her name. She was used just as many others of us were by the Witch.”
“All we have to do, now, is convince the rest of the Outer Zone of that small fact,” she did her best to sound unconcerned, but one look at Cain’s serious gaze made her heart plummet. “You don’t think it’s going to be easy do you?”
“I don’t know.” He shrugged and looked her over carefully. “I have a meeting with the Queen and Prince after breakfast. It’ll give me a better idea of what we’re up against.”
“Does that mean you’re going to stay and help?” DG smiled brightly at the prospect. She knew she shouldn’t ask. He had his son back and eight annuals to make up for, but the prospect of losing him was more than she could bear.
“I promised the Mystic Man I’d see to your safety and…”
“Yes, you told me that last night,” her words were clipped, as the joy went out of her world at the prospect that he saw her as nothing more than a duty to be preformed. “Well, Mr. Cain, you’ve taken excellent care of me.”
“I’m not so sure of that.” He frowned and tilted her face toward him for a better inspection.
“I’m perfectly all right!” she huffed. “Whatever was in Cora’s torture salve certainly worked. My cheek isn’t numb and it feels completely normal.”
“It’s still a bit pink, but I doubt anyone who doesn’t know what happened to you would be able to tell.” He ran his thumb over the right side of her face as he held her chin in his hand. “But this…” He let the words hang as he examined a reddened area high on her left cheek bone. He opened the salve and put a small amount on one finger. “Hold still. You can’t go running around looking like this, especially if anyone knows I was in here with you during the night.”
“Ouch!” She jumped and glared at him. “I wasn’t hit on that side. What the hell are you doing?”
“Whisker burn.” He smirked as he let her go. “Not sure how that happened.”
“You obviously need a shave, Mr. Cain!” She stomped to her feet, her emotions in a mess. She’d never heard of anyone getting whisker burn without getting at least one kiss to show for it. She wanted to wail that it wasn’t fair, but thought better of it, when she remembered the way his face had been pressing against hers on waking.
DG walked to the balcony entrance to let the early morning air cool her agitated feelings. The night’s downpour had given way to a light drizzle that was slowly being burned away as the suns rose higher in the sky.
“Awesome, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so beautiful! Everything’s washed clean,” she gasped staring off in the distance. The world glistened. Even the dark stone of the Tower was scrubbed sparkling white. “Look over there.” She pointed where double rainbows marched from the tips of the high mountains across the sky for as far as she could look in any direction.
“Great Gale, they’ve returned!” Cain quickly slid into his vest and began buttoning it. “Get your shoes, Kid!” He tossed them at her as he pulled on his boots.
“No buts. Get going!” his voice crackled with excitement and urgency as he dug through the nest of blankets where they’d been sleeping. “Here, put this on.” He threw the poncho her way and ran to his still damp coat and dug through the inner pockets.
“Wait a sec!” DG tied her shoes and glared at her companion. “What’s this all about?”
“You’re mother is going to need you for this.” He replied cryptically as he shoved his razor in the pocket of his vest. “Put the damn blanket over your head!” he ordered as she tried to follow him out of the room without it.
“I’m not cold!”
“Yeah and you’re not going to be either!” Cain grabbed the scratchy material and shoved it over her head. “Now come on!” He took her hand and headed for the door.
“Whooo!” DG gasped and came to a dead stop when the dark cramped landing at the top of a spiral staircase was revealed. “You carried me up here last night?” Her brows rose alone with her estimation of Wyatt Cain.
“Yeah, well I didn’t have much choice.” With a key he pulled from the pock of his vest, he locked the bolt from the outside. “You gonna be all right, Princess?” Her mouth had that pinched look that he remembered from the night before and she held onto his hand as if her life depended on it.
“Sure, I’m fine, really just fine,” her voice was breathy and hollow.
“Let’s go!” He laced his fingers through hers for added support and headed down the stairs. He could tell she was a long way from fine but he wasn’t sure what he‘d do if she froze or began to fight him in the confines of the stairwell. He was only hanging on by a thread himself.
Together they raced down the steps. With each flight the stairs became wider, less steep and more open. They slowed their decent when they heard Queen Lavender’s voice not too far below them.
“Rejoice, the rainbows have returned to the Outer Zone. It is proof that Goodness has triumphed over Evil.” The Queen stood on the landing above the main hall of the Tower, speaking to the large crowd that had gathered seeking guidance. Ahamo was on her right with his hand placed securely at the small of her back. Azkadellia was to her mother’s left. Her hand that gripped Glitch’s was hidden in the folds of her skirt. “It is time to rebuild our home and recover from the damage inflicted on us by the Witch.”
Cain and DG made it as far as the last step before the landing, above the Royal family, when he suddenly stopped and pinned DG’s back to the wall. “Wait,” he whispered in her ear.
She looked around his arm and caught sight of Az. What she could see of her was frail and drawn. “My sister---” Before she could finish his left hand shot out and covered her mouth.
“Be quiet!” the words were little more than a breath against her ear and his palm tightened against her lips, as he leaned against her.
For a moment she struggled until she remembered who was holding her in place. It wasn’t until later that night, as she was tossing in her bed, fighting claustrophobia, that she realized, no matter how much small spaces caused her to panic, she knew she was safe when her Tin Man was there.
“If I let go, will you be quiet?” He searched her eyes until she nodded in agreement. “Now, stay here,” he mouthed as he drew his weapon. But one look at her frightened face sent him searching in his pocket for the key to the room where they’d slept. “If there’s anything the slightest bit odd, you have to promise me you’ll run back up and lock yourself in,” his quiet words whispered against her hair, and drowned out what the Queen was saying below them. “Promise me, Princess,” he demanded until he felt her nod in agreement.
She shivered when he moved away quickly and soundlessly. She’d admired his easy grace before, but never more than she did now. His stood on the balls of his feet, with his knees bent and his body slightly hunched, taking advantage of every inch of darkness offered by the unlit area where two walls of the stairwell met.
“….My daughters have been returned and together their magic was strong enough to kill the Sorceress and set me free--” Lavender’s voice broke as the light shifted and a rainbow arched in through the tiny slit of a window ten stories up in the stairwell. It hit the wall behind DG and bathed her in colors before traveling to Azkadellia, surrounding both women and finally in paler form to include their mother.
A gasp followed by a hush rose from the restless crowd and they surged forward to get a better look. The light of Glinda was giving its approval of not just the Princess Dorothy Gale, who was hidden from most of the spectators, but of the ex-Sorceress as well.
“It’s a sign…”
“It’s a sign.”
“Praise be to Glinda…It’s a sign” The words traveled from one person to next, until every man, woman and child was chanting. “The Good has returned.”
The Queen nodded encouragement to Az, and together they stepped forward, both still sparkling in colors. But it was the oldest Princess who spoke, “It is time to move ahead. Many Longcoats served the Witch, thinking they were being loyal to me. I ask again, as I did last night, that any citizen of the O.Z. who is faithful to the House of Gale, come forward and help us rebuild in the name of my mother, Queen Lavender Eyes.”
The announcement was met with mixed emotions. The lines had been drawn for too many annuals for most people to simply let things go and forgive and forget.
From his vantage point, Cain watched the crowd carefully; glad he’d been smart enough to keep his Princess out of the public eye. The longer she was able to keep from being recognized at a moments notice, the happier he was, especially now when there was so much doubt and distrust among the citizens of the Outer Zone.
“Dorothy Gale, you should have come forward. The people need to see both of their Princesses,” the Prince Consort chided as he passed his youngest on the stairs. “It is important that we stand united behind your mother.” He had his arm tightly around the Queen, concern for his wife’s welfare written clearly on his face.
“I thought it wiser that she remained unseen for the time being, Sir.” Cain stepped between father and daughter.
“But why?” Az cut in. “The ancient magic of the rainbows – the magic of the light split into its entire spectrum - included her too. People need to know that! It’s her birthright!”
“It wasn’t her birthright I was concerned with, but the temperament of the crowd.” The Tin Man would not be deterred.
“Mr. Cain has a point.” Lavender lay her hand on her husband’s arm. Ahamo was one of the main sources of her strength and he took his job very seriously. Since their long separation, he was more determined than ever to protect and care for her. It was his sure steadying presence that allowed her freedom to concentrate on larger problems.
“Wait just a minute, all of you.” DG cut in. Her hands on her hips, she glared at everyone, including Glitch who hadn’t said a word. “I resent being talked about as if I’m not here.” She turned toward the Prince Consort. “F--father,” she closed her eyes and forced herself to address him as her parent, though she doubted she’d ever feel that way about him. “Father, I believe my actions of the last week have more than shown where my loyalty lies. If you have doubts, than I suggest you conjure a travel storm and I’m outta here! And for the record, my name is DG!”
She turned and put her arms around her sister to hug her. “Az, I may have been born a princess, but I have almost zero memories of that time and no wish to rule. I am thrilled the Emerald chose you. That’s what the people need to know. Now if you will all excuse me, I see Old Cora back by the cook fire and I’d really like some breakfast.” She turned on her heel and headed down the stairs, taking a deep breath to steady her nerves before stepping into the milling crowd. That’s when she discovered Wyatt Cain was standing beside her.
“You said something about breakfast, Princess.” He placed his left palm at the small of her back and guided her through the crowd, with his right hand riding on his holstered gun. His posture and the expression on his face cleared their path like magic.
“Very interesting, very interesting indeed,” Lavender murmured as she watched the couple make their way to Old Cora.
“It looks as if little sis has gained a Tin Man for protector.” Azkadellia smiled gently.
“Oh there’s Cain and Deeg.” Glitch observed. “You already knew that didn’t you?” He frowned in consternation. “Sometimes my synapses don’t…oh Az, I’m sorry.” He put his arm around her and ran a gentle finger over her cheek to wipe away her sorrow. He knew it upset her terribly to be reminded of what had happened to him, but couldn’t for the life of him remember why.
“Dad, over here dad.” Jeb waved to his father and DG, as they approached. “Did you see ‘em? There must ‘a been hundreds of ‘em, and all those colors!” He grinned. “They were amazing. I thought that the storm last night was a sign of good things to come, but the rainbows were unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like them.”
“Yeah we saw ‘em.” The older man smiled and thumped his son affectionately on the back. “You were only two when the Witch took power. That’s about the time they vanished. I doubt you’d remember them.”
“Mom told me stories all ‘bout Glinda and the significance of the double rainbows. I just never thought I’d get to see ‘em.” Jeb’s face relaxed at the memories. “But she didn’t do ‘em justice!”
“I’m…ah…glad that Adora…” Cain faltered as he watched his son. He realized that for the first time since they’d met again, the boy looked only seventeen annuals. Gone were the strained expression and shatter eyes of a resistance fighter who had seen too much and killed too many. Seeing the change made the Tin Man realize how badly he’d failed his family. His wife had paid with her life and he’d spent eight annuals encased in a metal suit, but Jeb had seen and done things that no boy should ever have to do. It had cost him his childhood and likely a great deal more. “Son, guard the Princess for a bit, I need to attend to some things.” He pulled his razor from his pocket, took the coffee that Cora offered and headed toward the west door of the Tower. He was lost in thought and filled with guilt. It wasn’t until hours later that he wondered why Adora had taught their son about Glinda. The rainbows were one thing, that was the loss of the magic of light, but they’d never believed in the Legend of Cariad and the reason it gave for double rainbows!
“What…” Jeb looked around unhappily.
“He’s like that sometimes.” DG couldn’t take her eyes off his retreating form.
“Did I do something or say something I shouldn’t have?” He watched the empty spot where his dad had been.
“No, I think it’s that he misses your mother terribly,” Deeg sighed. She knew from her class in freshman psychology that there were stages to go through in the grieving process. She was determined to wait him out. It was the only way she’d get to see if there was any substance to the feelings she had for him.
“Doesn’t he talk about her at all?”
“As little as possible, but remember he’s spent most of the last seven days with practical strangers…”
Jeb gave her an odd look because he’d heard stories, from his dad, DG, Raw and even one or two from Glitch. The four of them had been through more together in the last week than most people went through in a lifetime. They definitely weren’t strangers. Even if he hadn’t heard about their adventures, he could see the way any of the four of them were happier if the others were around, especially his old man and the Princess. Those two never strayed far from the other, if they could help it.
“…I know I haven’t known Mr. Cain for long, but I think the things he feels deepest, aren’t open for discussion.” She patted the younger man’s arm in consolation. “You’re his son, he loves you. Give him some time.”
“Here ya go, Kids.” Cora handed them each a bowl of oatmeal. “You, young Missy, you’re lookin’ a mite scrawny, so eat it all up.” She waved her serving spoon in DG’s direction. “And young Cain, you’re ta keep an eye on her like your daddy said. You can cavort with Jenna when your watch is ended.” She’d seen the way the boy’s eyes had followed the dark-haired healer’s apprentice from across the room. It was a dead giveaway of how he felt ‘bout the girl, ta look at her that way, when talkin’ ‘bout Glinda’s double rainbows. In her opinion neither of the Cain men was any good at hidin’ their feelings from anyone but themselves.
“Yes, ma’am,” Jeb saluted smartly, but his attempt was ruined by the blush that stained his cheeks.
“Now you two git outta my way, I got hungry people ta feed. If ya go through that door ta the right, there’s a courtyard. It’ll give ya some space and fresh air.
“Cora…please be sure…” Deeg turned and looked through the crowd in hope of seeing Cain.
“I’ll take see ta that Tin Man ‘a yours, see that he eats somethin’ proper afore he goes off ta his meetin’.”
“Thanks!” A grin lit up the young Princess’s face and she turned to follow Jeb.
Minutes later, DG looked around the courtyard in amazement. It wasn’t very large, but gave the feeling of lots of open space. “Why isn’t it wet out here after all that rain we had last night?” She ran her fingers lightly over a large rock before sitting on its dry surface.
“Mom told me it was part of the magic of the rainbows, part of their original purpose.” Jeb checked to be sure his charge had her back to a wall and he was placed between her and the door. “The rains come every night, so the crops will grow as they should. In the morning when the suns rise, they produce the rainbows which clean the air and dry the roads and hard surfaces. If you check the soil, you’ll see that it’s still damp. Cora can tell you more about it than I can. She knows every legend and story there is to tell.”
They sat quietly eating oatmeal and drinking hot spiced cider. The quiet and the fresh air was soothing after the argument DG had had with her…father…her mind stumbled over the word. Out of the corner of her eye she watched Jeb. The way the sunlight hit his hair, made him look blonder than he was. His posture and the way he held himself were achingly familiar.
“You’re a lot like him, you know?” DG looked down quickly when the boy gave her another odd look. He didn’t need to ask who she was talking about, he knew by her wistful tone of voice. “You even eat with your gun out of its holster.” ‘Way ta go, Deeg,’ she rolled her eyes at her stupid attempt at a save. This wasn’t her morning!
“Old habits die hard.” He shrugged and went on eating as his eyes did a careful circuit of the parameter. “Besides, I watched him for nine annuals, as I was growing up, and what I learned kept me a live, when others around me were dying.”
“He taught you well.” But even as she smiled at the image of father and son in her mind, her eyes clouded over. “Why didn’t…” she bit her lip to keep the rest of the words from tumbling out before she could stop them. As it was, she’d already said too much. Cain would hate it if he knew she was prying.
“What is it?” The young man watched her intently. “Go ahead and ask. It’s all right.”
“He spent eight annuals in that…that thing,” her words were full of anguish, as she remembered what Wyatt Cain had looked like when she and Glitch had finally been able to pry the suit door open. “I’m sorry, but…why…why didn’t you or your mother look for him?”
“We were told he was dead, though Mom never believed it, because it was Zero doing the tellin’. Me, I’m not sure what I believed at first, but by the time she died, I figured I was an orphan.” He swiped a hand across his face. He’d seen the question in the Princess’s eyes, but hadn’t realized it would be so hard to answer.
“Jed, please you don’t have to…” She reached for his hand to comfort him, but he pulled away.
“Yeah, yeah I do, Princess. I owe him that much and her too. We were both unconscious when they must…a…ah…put him in that thing.” He swallowed hard remembering the short time he’d spent in the hell of a metal suit. He owed someone an explanation and since he knew his dad wouldn’t stand still long enough for it, DG was the next best thing.
“I woke up in a prison wagon, with bodies piled all around me. Mom was out cold and bleedin’ pretty bad from a head wound. We were real lucky, ‘cause the first night, a band of Resistance fighters attacked and they took us with ‘em. I was just a kid of nine, but there were things we could do in the Resistance. It was mostly cookin’, tendin’ fires and seeing to the sick, but it was something we did to stand against the Sorceress.
“She…mom…made me promise I’d never go lookin’ for dad, no matter what. She said she’d given her word to him that if anything ever happened, that her one concern would be to stay alive and keep me that way. It was the last promise mom ever made him. She wasn’t about to break it and I…well I did it ‘cause I wasn’t able to save her that last time, anymore than he was able to the first. The least I could do was keep her promise for her. I was gonna live, damnit for the both of them. It was what kept me going when…when Zero locked me in that thing.”
“Jeb, you need to tell him, for both of your sake,” her voice cracked and she swallowed to keep from crying.
Wyatt Cain hugged the shadows on the other side of the door eavesdropping. He was angry at himself for letting his family get caught in the mess that they had. He was angry at Adora for passing her feelings of guilt on to Jeb. But most of all he was angry at DG for sticking her inquisitive little nose in matters that were none of her concern. But even as he had the thought, he saw his Princess comforting his son, something he should have been doing, but wasn’t.
He leaned against the doorframe with his eyes closed and fought to keep from drowning in feelings. Behind his closed lids he had a sudden flash of the early morning and waking up with her in his arms. He knew he’d been dreaming but…but…with sudden clarity he realized the woman he’d dreamt about hadn’t been Adora, but DG. In his dream she’d been freezing and he’d been doing his best to keep her warm…from the inside out….He was struck in the gut with a feeling of want so strong he could hardly breathe. To combat it, he grabbed onto the one thing that had kept him going for eight long annuals: anger! It was the only way he could face her.
The scrape of boots on stone flooring, coming from the other side of the door, alerted Jeb that they weren’t alone and he turned suddenly, gun in hand.
“You’re mighty quick with your weapon.” Cain walked slowly out of the shadows and into the courtyard, a carefully blank expression on his face. He’d shaved and cleaned up from the night before, though his hat and coat were still locked in the room high in the Tower. He’d forgotten to get the key back from DG.
Both young people looked at him with surprise. While his son holstered his gun in relief, Deeg stood and turned away, facing the wall. It was evident he’d heard part, if not all, of what Jeb had been telling her. She hated that she’d caused him pain. He’d already suffered enough.
“If I wasn’t, I’d be dead.” Jeb looked back and forth between his dad, who was a bundle of closed off emotions, and the Princess, who was suddenly taking an interest in the stonework behind them. Something was very wrong, but he didn’t know what it was.
“Yeah, unfortunately that’s been the way of it recently. But you can pack it in for a while, I’ll take over here.” He wished he had his hat with him so he could pull the brim over his eyes to hide all he was feeling. He told himself that his son had been through too much and DG had no business rooting through his past. It helped feed his anger and was partially true. “Cora says there’s a girl named Jenna Buckwith looking for you.” His brow rose in question at the pink tinge on his son’s cheeks.
“Yeah, well…ah…Jenna’s folks were killed in a Longcoat raid about six annuals ago. Mom and I took her in. When she turned fifteen, Old Cora saw to it that she got an apprenticeship with a healer. Since mom died she…Jenna and I’ve…ah…ah…she’s…ah…my friend.” He winced when he glanced quickly at DG, remembering she’d said the same thing about his father the night before. The thought made his eyes bulge and he bolted for the door. By Great Glinda’s Wand, he so didn’t want to compare the two relationships!
“Princess,” Cain used cool, clipped tones making the word into a title instead of the nickname that had sprung between them.
She turned slowly and could almost see him thinking. He hid so much behind those cool blue eyes and that stoic expression, but she’d learned to read the little things: the slight twitch of his right eyebrow; the way his knuckles whitened as he gripped his holster; the play of muscles along his jaw. He was furious and she had no doubt it was all directed toward her.
“Tin Man,” she was hoarse, hardly able to get the words out. “I--”
“No!” he cut her off, his words sharp, cold and very quiet. “I don’t want to hear your excuses! You’re to leave my boy out of this. If you’ve got questions, ask me. He’s got enough to carry around without you adding to his guilt!” He gripped her right arm and pulled her toward the door.
“Wait,” she sniffed as she fought tears. “It wasn’t---”
“I said, I don’t want to hear it!” He tightened his hold on her and pulled her through the archway, into the Tower. “The Queen has requested that we both attend her meeting and we’re late.”
“Wait.” She dug in her heels. “I don’t give a damn how pissed off you are at me, your son or the whole God damned world!” Her eyes flashed and she pulled free. Her hands were fisted and she could hardly catch her breath. Cain was the most rational man she knew; now suddenly he was going ballistic on her. It just didn’t ring true. There was more to this than he was willing to talk about.
“I’m not angry at Jeb or the world, but you Princess are another matter.” He glared at her and sizzled with temper. “But it’s painfully obvious you don’t give a damn.” Blue fire shot out of his eyes as he reached for her again. Part of him stood back and wondered what in the hell he was doing. His sudden eruption of emotions was only meant to keep her at arms length, not tear her apart.
“Don’t touch me! No one—and I mean no one—manhandles me!” She turned and took off at a run, dodging through the crowd of men with one very upset Tin Man hot on her heels.
Deeg had both hands up in front of her face as she pushed against the flow of hungry Resistance fighters. Her heart was heavy and she had to fight to keep the sting of tears out of her eyes. It didn’t help that it made her skin crawl to have people pressed around her on all sides.
“Come back here!” Cain growled as he caught up with her and wrapped his large hand firmly around one of her much smaller ones.
“Hey, honey is this guy botherin’ ya?” A heavy set dark haired man moved in close, running his fingers up and down her arm. “Cause if he is--”
“Stay out of it!” the Tin Man grouched. His right hand hovered over his weapon, while he kept a secure hold on DG with the other.
“Back off, mister!” Deeg snapped and shook her fist at the interloper.
“Okay, okay…didn’t mean ta get inta the middle ‘a your little domestic squabble.” He raised his hands in defense and backed away. “But ya can’t blame a lonely guy for tryin’.” He wiggled his eyebrows up and down before walking away laughing.
“This way.” Cain wrapped his arm around her shoulders so she couldn’t shake him free as he propelled her toward the stairway. “The whole idea was to draw as little attention to you as possible,” he chided as they climbed the steps.
“Stop talking to me like I’m two years old!”
“’Years’, Princess?” he smirked. He’d heard her use the Other Side word, so he knew exactly what she meant, but he was pissed off enough to deliberately bait her. “When you stop acting like you’re two annuals-old, then I’ll think about treating you differently.”
“What the hell has gotten into you, Wyatt Cain?” She exploded and he could feel the reverberations against his body and arm. He had a moment to wonder if it was her magic, which expressed her emotions so physically, and then he had his hands full keeping her from slipping free.
“Oh no ya, don’t.” He gripped both of her shoulders and shoved her against the wall. They’d made it as far as the first turn in the stairway and were out of sight of the milling crowd below. “I don’t give a shit how mad you are at me. You are never to run off like--”
“Stop it, just stop it!” She couldn’t stand that she’d hurt something deep inside of him and he was forced to fight back with anger. But she would be damned if she’d simply stand there and docilely take his tirade. “That’s not way you’re angry and you know it,” she accused. “So don’t even pretend that it is. Now where in the hell is this meeting?”
He swore under his breath all the way to the Queen’s chambers where the meeting was to be held. The damn girl had his emotions tied in so many knots he didn’t know which way was up. He’d forgotten that about women, that they could set a man spinning and then blame him for it.
There were three leaders of the Resistance, Cain and the Royal family present at the meeting.
“I want to thank you for coming,” the Queen spoke first and then proceeded to go over what was known about their defenses and the location of other Resistance groups still in hiding.
Once Cain cooled dow, he watched the interaction between Lavender Eyes and Ahamo with interest. The older man usually had one hand unobtrusively resting against his wife’s. At one point, when two of the Resistance leaders argued heatedly among themselves, the Prince spoke up, “Gentlemen, enough! In fighting is not solving this issue.” He stood, taking the focus of the room off the Queen who had visibly paled. “Now, Gunder,” he nodded to the Leader from the north. “You give us your opinion for one minute and then Jenson can speak for the south.” When the Consort sat down again he gave Lavender’s hand a small but significant squeeze. It restored her color and added to her strength.
The tin man wasn’t sure what he’d seen. There had never been any mention of Ahamo having any magic abilities. He was a Slipper – a commoner who had stolen the Queen’s heart. But there was something achingly familiar about the exchange he’d witnessed, though before this morning he’d never seen the Royal couple in person.
The younger Princess wasn’t sure why she was needed at the meeting. She knew almost nothing about Outer Zone politics or economics and even less about the network of legends that seemed as powerful as any laws of the country. But she sat through the whole thing in an attempt to keep her mind off a certain Tin Man.
DG spent the afternoon helping in the field hospital and much to her dismay she had Jeb Cain as a constant shadow. She knew without being told that his father had set him to the task, when the older man had taken off on horse back to try and contact a cell of the Resistance that was operating about an hours ride away.
He had taken both Raw and Glitch with him, but hadn’t asked if she wanted to go. The three males had simply headed out! Deeg had been relieved to see the Viewer leave for a while. She’d been careful to keep her distance from the empath. There were too many feelings she didn’t understand and wasn’t about to share for her to take a chance around him. He’d looked hurt when he’d reached to give her a hug good-bye and she’d shied away, pretending she hadn’t seen his outstretched arms.
And then there was Cain…she didn’t want to think about the silly argument they’d had that morning. They’d both snapped for no reason…Okay, she admitted to herself. Maybe he’d had a reason. She’d been poking around in his past. She knew he was an intensely private person…but…but…at the time. Hell she didn’t know what she’d been thinking!
“Jeb, there has got to be something more productive you can be doing.” She looked up, at the boy and her glance strayed to the entrance of the room, unaware of how sad her eyes appeared. It was hard to watch the door looking for her Tin Man when his son was right there watching her every move. She wished desperately that he hadn’t gone off before they could straighten out the anger that had roared between them.
“Nope, I’m right where I want to be.” He sat in a corner a few feet away, keeping watch. He couldn’t have been given a better assignment. It was inside out of the shifting whether and only a few feet away from Jenna, since the Princess was helping her change dressings.
“Ahh, so I see.” She winked at the attractive young healer’s apprentice who was slightly pink cheeked from the boy’s close scrutiny.
“Don’t encourage him,” Jenna huffed. “He’s a terrible tease. When I was ten he used to pull my bangs. I’m sure he’d have no qualms about pulling yours.”
Jeb snorted. Yeah right, if he pulled the Princess’s bangs, he wasn’t sure who’d deck him first, his dad or the girl he’d wanted ever since he was old enough to realize she wasn’t simply a long-haired, soft boy!
“How’s he doing?” Deeg was using her magic to ease Jenna’s patient’s pain while bandages were removed, and new ones added. Unlike Raw, she couldn’t take away discomfort, but she’d discovered she could mask it. She did it by simply holding the man’s hand and focusing her magic. The patient didn’t even realize that she was helping.
“You’re making my job easy.” She smiled gently at the DG. “And he’s the last one, so we can take a break soon.”
“Good, I don’t think I slept all that well last night,” DG sighed as she slowly pulled her light inward so her patient wouldn’t feel the sudden loss of it. She tried to tell herself that each patient only required a tiny bit of her magic, though she’d lost count of how many people they’d cared for. The amount of power she’d expended was nothing compared to fighting the Witch. To be on the safe side, she pulled her poncho over her head and hugged it close to her body. She was getting cold.
“Hopefully you’ll have a better night tonight. I’m gonna see if Old Cora has any spiced cider left. Do you want to come with me?”
The two girls moved back to the cook fire where dinner was being prepared. Jeb followed close behind with one hand on his weapon and a watchful eye in all directions. He didn’t miss the way the Princess was careful to sit so she was facing the door. She was missing his old man. The idea warmed at the same time it made him feel creepy.
“Here ya go, ladies.” Old Cora handed them each a cup. “Here’s one for you too, young Cain. T’won’t distract ya none from your duty and will warm your insides a bit. My old bones can feel night comin’ on, just like in the old times. In an hour or so it’ll be rainin’ again.” She smiled and took a seat beside DG.
“Cora, what’s Cariad mean?” Deeg was looking at the old woman, so she missed the way Jeb and Jenna’s eyes caught for a moment before they quickly looked away.
“Why ya askin’, Princess?”
“I’ve never head of it before and last night that young man…the one who died mentioned it.” She bit her lip unsure how much more she should say. “And…well…Az was saying something about it today, so I wondered.” It was the reason the Royal family hadn’t moved from the Tower. Glitch needed to be near the other half of his brain and Azkadellia needed to be near him. It all had to do with Ambrose being Azkadellia’s Cariad. Deeg hadn’t asked her sister because the older girl had begun to cry when she talked about it.
“Well that explains why ya haven’t moved on ta Finaqua or Central City.” Cora was a shrewd one, almost nothing got past her. “The Legend of Cariad t’is old as the Outer Zone. T’is from when everythin’ was new and young. The Old Road t’was paved with bright yellow bricks that sparkled in the suns. The fields of the Papay was filled with magic flowers and Central City shown like an Emerald for all ta see. Glinda the First weren’t much older than you. She were a pretty thing, filled with magic and laughter. She were the child ‘a the morning rainbows, the first and best ‘a the good witches.
Glinda fell in love with a soldier, a common man he were, but she loved him somethin’ fierce and the only thing he loved more’n her was his honor. They had three months together ‘till he was called up ta protect the boarders ‘a the Zone from the Evil Ones. The morning her man left, Glinda ran out inta the rain and waited for the suns ta rise. When they did, she called on the rainbows, ta bind all the bein’s in the O.Z., one man to one woman for all eternity. Each pair became Cariad, two separate people, joined at the heart. They’d journey The Old Road together in this life and then would wait, one for the other, ta join forever on the Road that is beyond. This she promised in the name of her parents. It’s why them rainbows are always joined at one end or t’other, like the hearts ‘a the Cariad.
Her soldier fell in the battle ta keep Evil out. It’s said when Glinda died, some sixty years later, he was waitin’ for her. Legend has it that if ya look ‘tween the two suns just right, they can still be seen at dusk and at dawn, walking the Road. They’s there as a reminder that our love, our Cariad, t’ain’t lost to us, but waitin’, separated for only a short span of time, ‘till it’s our turn to move on ta the Road beyond.”
“Like…ah…soulmates?” DG blinked back tears at the sad old legend.
“Yeah, never heard that term, but it sounds ‘bout right. Mates ‘a the soul.”
“And people believe this?”
“Sure do, most ‘a them anyway.” Cora nodded and sipped some cider. “’Course every generation has its share ‘a non-believers, ones who think all modern and don’t believe in the old ways, but like as not, as they get older, they change their minds. It got ta be a real problem when the Queen and the Prince Consort had their fallin’ out. Some folk who shouldn’t ‘a, lost faith. Some bad things happened ‘cause ‘a that. There’s some say it helped the Witch take power. That’s why the return ‘a the rainbows this mornin’ was so important. It reinforced the old ways ‘n tells the people Good is once again in power in the Zone.””
“But they didn’t fall out of love. It was done to protect me.”
“Your momma and poppa did what they had ta do to save the Queendom. It were their choice. They knew what they was doin’. Sometimes ya gotta take a bit ‘a evil to let the good survive.”
“That means…oh my!” DG stuttered to a halt as boots echoed in the hall and voices could be heard on the other side of the entryway.
Cain appeared on the landing. He was wearing his coat and his hat was pulled low over his eyes, but she could feel him scan the room and knew immediately when he’d found her.
She could hear conversation going on behind her, but Deeg had turned toward the fire. She was afraid that everyone would read the sorrow on her face…her Tin Man certainly would and she couldn’t allow that. Not now, not after what she’d learned. All day she’d been searching her mind for the correct order of the steps of grieving, trying to figure out how far along Wyatt Cain was. She just learned that in the O.Z. they weren’t needed. Here love went on forever.
With a sigh she conceded to a dead woman. I’m sorry, Adora, I didn’t understand.