Under Centaurian Protection Ch. 04byAMY_Monaco©
The last two hours of Callum's life had been unbearable. The midwife had ushered him out of his own home and he was forced to stare at the entrance blankly, fear eating away at his very soul. Inside, he heard female voices spoken in short manner. His brothers tried to offer comfort, but Callum could barely hear them.
His hands fisted at his sides; by the gods, he wanted to do something, do damage, shout, cry. He wanted Lila. He wanted to take away her pain. Or perhaps the gods had granted his wish and even now sought to take her life from this earth.
The very thought sent fear through his every nerve anew.
By the time the women came out, Callum was pacing restlessly. His heart stopped when the midwife's face was drawn tautly. With slow, deep breaths, he tried to speak, but the words would not come out. He waited for one of them to speak. His sisters and cousin sent him sympathetic looks and soon walked away, only the midwife stood before him.
Why would she not speak?
For a brief moment, he looked up at the skies, prayed that his mate still lived. He could feel the dampness at his eyes.
"Is she...will she be well?" He asked, his voice hoarse.
The midwife's lips thinned. "Aye. She lives."
Exhaling, he brushed past her.
Callum's hands shook as he approached his mate. Knowing not what to do, he adjusted the blankets around her. She no longer bled.
Lila lay so pale on the bed, so still. Unsteadily, he let out a breath, closing his eyes for a moment. Everything was quiet now, his home empty; his son was fast asleep.
That next hour or so, he stood in vigil. He allowed no one to go near her.
"Callum." She whispered, touching his large, calloused hand. He swallowed, still wounded by the fact he had come so close to losing her.
"Sleep, my love." He said, his voice rough with emotion. "You need rest."
Some color had returned to her cheeks and the herbal broth the midwife brought her would help with the healing.
Her eyes opened and she smiled. "I want to see our son."
He could deny her nothing. Their son lay asleep near the fire and he lifted the small bundle to her. Her eyes lit up from love and fascination as the babe mewled.
"He is so small." She said, touching a finger to his cheek. Callum nodded silently. "Laura says the father names the son." She looked up, her eyes glowing with love. He brushed a wayward lock of hair from her cheek.
"You may name him, if you wish." He replied indulgently.
She shook her head. "No, I want you to."
"Hector, then. It is a strong name."
"Hector...son of Callum and Lila."
He could tell she was still too weak, so he wordlessly lifted their son from her arms and settled him back in his bed.
"Callum, I want you to lie with me. Just hold me." She called out quietly. He met her eyes.
"Lila," he began. All he could do was shake his head. He had known she was too small for him, but he let his need for her control him. He had thoughtlessly got her with child. It was his fault she had gone through so much pain.
"Don't blame yourself for what happened, Callum."
He shook his head. "You lost of a lot of blood. Carrying a babe is too much for your size."
Her hand covered his and he looked down at the paleness of her hand against his tanned skin. His one hand encased both hers easily.
"The midwife said I would be able to have more children."
"Out of the question, Lila. I will not..." He swallowed again. "I won't let you go through that again." He couldn't through that again.
She pulled him down for a sensual, deep kiss.
"I love you, Callum. And we will have more children." Her promise ignited a fire inside of him and he slanted his head to kiss her more thoroughly, pouring his love into that single kiss.
After Julia returned from helping Lila, she'd become distant. She said she needed air and took a walk around the camp.
Soren could understand that all this was new to his mate, but could she not also accept his love? Or perhaps she needed it voiced everyday as his brother Callum and Thayer did with their women.
Soren had seen the way Callum withdraw into himself after the relief of finding Lila out of danger. Callum spent all his time caring for her himself.
Soren was grateful to the gods for sparing Lila's life. It would have killed Callum and Soren would have hated to lose a beloved sister.
Which turned Soren's thoughts back to Julia. His love for his family should only endear him to Julia and yet...she was still cautious. What had happened between the hours of her examination and the birthing? Julia had been willing in his arms, urging him to fill her at last.
After witnessing the difficult birth, she became quiet. Did she fear this happening to her in the future? Though Soren had no experience, he had heard from many women that giving birth to centaur babes was difficult, but they had survived.
So many questions ran through his mind, but he willed his attention to his daughter. Haley was playing quietly near the trees planted by the training area. He was showing her how to tie string around her squirrels' necks to form collars.
"You must let them roam free sometimes, little one." He said. "They are after all wild animals."
With their collars in place, Pika and Gury scampered about amongst the grass and leaves, running as far as the length of the string would allow them. Haley watched with delight as they nibbled and played.
"What sort of name is Gury anyway?" He asked, amused that she would name her second squirrel such.
"Rham named him." The girl said of her new friend, Rhamnes, the one who'd gifted her the second animal. Momentarily, her attention was drawn to the lads training behind the fence. "I want to train, too."
"You aren't old enough."
She thought for a moment. "I'll be older in the spring. Can I start training after that?"
He chuckled. "You cannot, little one. Only Centaurian males are allowed to train and in this, they learn to hunt, protect and provide, as well as gain skills that benefit the camp."
"What will I do?" Haley looked up from where she sat, tilting her head innocently. Her long flame colored hair, so much like her mother's fell over her dainty shoulder. Even darker lashed framed those big green eyes of hers and they stared back at him innocently.
"For now, you will just play with the other children. Then when you are old enough, you will mate."
The answer seemed to satisfy his daughter for now and she went back to playing with her squirrels. Thayer suddenly appeared.
"Uncle, look! I have another squirrel." Haley greeted, pointing to Gury.
Thayer leaned down to ruffle the girl's hair. "And how did you come to have another? Did your father catch it for you?"
Haley shook her head. "No, a boy named Rham caught Gury for me."
Soren grinned. "We do not call young ones like Rhamnes a boy, little one. They are colts."
One of Thayer's eyebrows lifted, murmuring, "Gury? A strange name."
Soren shrugged in agreement.
His older brother pulled him aside.
"One of the prisoners tried to escape."
"What has been done?" Soren frowned, hoping it was Paul so he would have more reason to punish the man.
"His attempt got himself killed." Thayer answered in a low voice. "When he saw he could not get away as he thought, he ran himself into the sword Corwin was holding."
"Suicide." Soren said.
"We have taken the men back inside, but the Elders think it wise to isolate the leader."
"Good." Soren didn't want any plans for escape to hatch, nor did he want that man thinking himself safe enough with his men around. "I will see to him later."
Meanwhile, Julia's walk took her to the longhouses containing the prisoners. She hesitated before going in, not sure if she was ready to see Paul. Forcing her legs forward, she walked in. The dimness had eyes adjusting slowly to the interior, but she recognized his voice when he called her name.
"Paul." She said calmly. She kept her arms at her side, looking down at the man who was tied kneeling down next to a heavy wooden pole. He looked terrible, his clothes damp and stained, his face showing several ugly bruises.
He looked genuinely relieved to see her. "You look well." He said. "At least they do not harm you. And Haley?"
Confused by his concern, she answered, "She is well."
He nodded slowly. Then he grimaced. "How can you live with them?"
"I did not come here to talk about my life here."
His eyes narrowed, showing an impression of his powerful temper. "Then why did you come here?" She took a deep breath. "I came here to warn you that these centaurs mean to kill you if you do not do as they say."
"I'm tied to a pole, aren't I?" He demanded. "I take their beatings and have buckets of water thrown on me in this approaching winter. What do they want from me?"
"To leave them alone. Go away and never come back."
"I don't think I am free to just leave." He muttered sarcastically.
"If I can convince them to free you, will you never return?"
"I came here to bring you back to safety."
"There's no need for that."
"You cannot mean to want to live here!" He asked loudly. "To live here with those animals."
She shook her head, repeating to herself once again why she was here to help him. "Paul, you must do as I say. If I can convince them to let you and your men go, you must promise to never return or to do us any more harm."
He shook his head. "They have cast a spell on you. They worship evil things and they have made you think you are safe here when you are not. Listen to me, Julia. You and Haley are nothing to them but a sacrifice to their gods. They will hurt you."
"You have seen the women and children. They are happy here."
"Lies. All lies. Do not fall for their evil, Julia." Paul implored strongly.
Julia shook her head. It was no use. She had thought to do a good deed, but it seemed Paul could see nothing but his own prejudices.
"I came here to warn you, to help you."
"Because there were times you had helped me and I wished to return the favor."
"Your favor is ill chosen. They intend to kill us."
"Not if I can convince them to let you go."
"Not bloody likely."
Realizing that convincing him was wasted breath, she turned to leave. "You shouldn't have pursued me, Paul. You should have stayed where you were."
He was silent. So she left him alone.
She returned in time to start on the evening meal. With Haley playing quietly with her new toys near the fire, Julia worked on a roast hare and dough for bread. She didn't mind the work, really. With Lila recovering from the birth, and Rose busy with her daughter Sonja, Julia was actually glad to have something to do, even though new mates were exempt from chores.
Julia had to admit that she was sort of avoiding Soren. Something changed while Lila was in danger during her birthing...
Suddenly she had seen how short life really was; it had brought back memories of her own husband, found dead so suddenly one day. Coming to grips with her feelings, her growing love for Soren had become such a reality; she knew not how to handle it. She wanted nothing more than to move forward and be Soren's mate, but her previous life -- Paul -- was intruding. She felt that as long as he was here, he was endangering her happiness.
"Yes?" She looked up at her daughter.
"Why is Paul all tied up?"
Julia's hands froze on the dough she'd been kneading. She stared blankly at her hands, then at her daughter. "He broke a rule, Haley. He trespassed on our land."
"Papa says Paul is a bad man."
She could hear the confusion in Haley's voice.
"It's much more complicated than that. Only know that Paul and his men are different from the centaurs."
"Is he going to stay tied up?"
Julia shook her head. "I don't know. We will find out soon, I think."
"When is papa going to be home?"
"Did you miss me, little one?" Soren had come in without a sound and he went to pick Haley up. The little girl planted a big kiss on her father's cheek, giggling when Soren tickled her. Julia met Soren's eyes and felt a frisson of heat run through her body. She quickly looked away, concentrated on kneading the bread dough.
That night, their meal was eaten with the adults lending most of their attention to Haley, though Julie locked eyes with Soren more than once. Once Haley was put to sleep, Julie donned her coat and wordlessly followed Soren out into the woods.
Arms crossed over her chest, her breath puffing in the air, she watched as Soren paced before her before turning his full attention to her.
"I know you spoke to Paul." He said.
Her chin lifted. "I did."
"What was said between you two?" He demanded, his brows drawing close together.
"I only warned him. I told him that he must leave this place."
Soren smirked. "That, I believe, is up to me."
She shook her head. "Can you not just let them go? They have done nothing really harmful to the camp."
Soren said nothing for a moment, the darkness shielding his expressive eyes from her. "Why is it your loyalties are still to that man?" He asked quietly. He stepped closer to her. "Why do you help them?"
She could feel the heat radiate from his body; it made breathing a bit more difficult for her. Not only had her love for him grown stronger each day, but also her desire to make love with him had blossom equally strong. She could smell the familiar musk that clung to his skin, and it made her think of the moments she'd spent in his arms in these very woods, where he pleasured her with his hands and mouth and tongue.
"That is where you are wrong, Soren." She whispered. "I don't have loyalties to him. I just don't want to see him killed."
"They all must die sometime, Julia. If not by my hand, then by someone else's. They are criminals."
"Haley is asking questions now." She said in a slightly louder voice. "If she knows you will kill them..."
"Such things will be concealed from her." He insisted.
"No." Julia tried to back away, but he grabbed her by her shoulders, brought her up against him hard.
"I think it is time I claimed you." He crushed his mouth to hers, muffling any protest she might have. His kiss was relentless, kissing her deeply until they were both out of breath. Quickly, his hands began to unbutton first her coat, then her dress.
Naked and shivering in his arms, he lifted her up. Breaking away from the kiss, he took one hardened nipple into his mouth and suckled, using his teeth to elicit a loud cry from Julia's lips.
With one arm securely around her, he let the other roam over her soft skin. He trailed it down her back slowly, as he paid tribute to her other breast. Her cupped her bottom, knowingly traced his fingers between her parted thighs and dipped them into her wet, waiting warmth.
How perfect she was, with her head thrown back in pleasure and moaning softly as he thrust his hand against her. His cock stood in hard attention. He felt it brush against her inner thigh and grunted. He waited too long to have her.
Soren knew he shouldn't be taking her like this, with questions still unanswered and the burning need to know if she cared for him.
His mind went blank when he slid his cock into her, felt her muscles stretch over his great length. She wrapped her legs around him and he felt himself sink deeper.
"Remember the day I took you against the tree?" He whispered, pushing in until he was buried to the hilt. She felt so good wrapped around him. He bent his head to kiss her before trailing his lips down her breasts again.
"Yes," she moaned.
His lips curled at the corners and he began thrusting into her harder. "This feels much better."
The humor in his voice was lost to Julia, for the way he stretched her and thrust so deeply inside of her had her panting and moaning. She could think of nothing but the feel of Soren inside of her.
"You are my mate, Julia." He groaned, his cock already pulsing for release. His hand slipped between them to rub her engorged clitoris.
"I need...I need you to come." He demanded. She let out a loud cry against his shoulder, her fingernails digging into his flesh as her inner muscles quivered around him. This pushed him over the edge and he felt his staff swell and explode.
He retained enough strength to hold her up.
"I love you." She whispered, her mind still in a daze. But she wasn't too dazed to feel Soren's arms tightened around her.
He wanted to shout with triumph, yet he was too sated to do nothing more than cup the back of her head and kiss her.
"That is all I wanted." He replied quietly.