Celta Thursday: Heart Story from Hearts and Swords
Her mother was dead. Finally. Good riddance.
Now Arbusca Willow – and the rest of her family – was out from under the woman's tyranny and they all could get on with their lives. Some of the women who'd lived in the Residence had already found lovers or husbands of HeartMates.
Arbusca's son had convinced her that it was her turn. But being married was something she'd forgotten how to do long ago, when she'd married the man her mother had wanted, someone rich whom the woman could dominate. A man who hadn't lasted two years. She was fairly sure her mother hadn't actually killed him, though, just intimidated him to death.
So Arbusca paced the private dining room she'd rented at her social club for the first meeting with her HeartMate.
Before last month, they hadn't connected in twenty-five years. Even then, they'd never met, but linked during hot, sexual dreams when their psi magic had been freed during fugue states. Through their link she'd only known that he'd travelled south...all the way to the southern continent.
The bond between them had been the slimmest, she'd suppressed them – if not the yearning for her HeartMate – so long. But in several hopeful moments over the last year, she'd given the bond gentle tugs.
Last month Dri Paris had contacted her, and now he walked into the room. She hid her fisted hands behind the folds of her heavily emproidered silkeen tunic. Her pacing had brought her to the far corner of the room when he'd entered, not graciously by the table ready to pour cinnamon caff. Typical.
His gaze focused on her. The emotional connection between them seethed with feelings.
He was not the tall, lanky boy whom she'd watched from afar, but a solid man of broad shoulders and craggy face. Suddenly this venue seemed over-civilized as he brought the scent of the wilds into the place. Arbusca stilled to immobility.
But his hard gaze found her and softened and as he strode toward her, little flutters of more than attraction – lust – stirred within her. She wasn't a young woman, but he wasn't a young man.
His lips curved and a quick thought from him impinged on her mind. Both in our prime.
Her shoulders relaxed, her hands unclenched enough that she placed them on the table – though not near her cup of cinnamon caff in case her movements went jerky.
Dri wore clean leather trous that were cut narrowly for a working man and heavy leather boots, both in dark brown. His matching leather tunic also was workmanlike with no frills, encasing him from a round neck to his waist. His shirt underneath was a warm cream color of a soft weave, the material itself showed it wasn't a work shirt, and the sleeves had a faint blouse of fashion.
His smile was full as he stopped by her booth. "Well, if it isn't Blush Willow."
She'd forgotten that childhood name and even as he said it, she felt heat flowing up her neck, into her cheeks. So stupid, so unattractive.
"Now that's a pretty sight," he drawled, more than a hint of a southern continent accent in his voice. "Pretty blush on a pretty woman." He reached out and picked up her hand, bowed over it and kissed the back. Tingles sizzled down her nerves, mixing with the flutters in her core.
He smelled of fire – his psi magical power, Flair – and man. Exciting.
His thumb rubbed over her fingers. "So smooth." Gently, he placed her hand back on the pale pink tablecloth and slid onto the maroon leather bench opposite her. Taking his other hand from behind his back, he revealed a large pink rose in full bloom. "A blush rose. Always reminded me of you."
Her cheeks were pinker than that now. She took the rose that had been stripped of thorns. It was plump and full, almost overblown. Like her. "Thank you." She fiddled with it a little, then caught herself. She moved the vase already on the table sporting a daffodil closer and put the rose in, saying a small stay-fresh spell under her breath.
Dri and she stared at each other.
His hair was still ginger colored with only a few strands of silver. Her own dark brown hair was streaked with gray. She hoped he thought it was due to genetics instead of being worn down by a tyrant's demands.
Weathered skin and a touch of lines were around his amber eyes. She fought time relentlessly and her skin was smoother, but she worked indoors. She'd become plump, too.
A waiter showed up and asked what Dri wanted. Dri glanced at the floral china carafe that held her cinnamon caff, the delicate creamer and sweet holders. His nostrils widened. "Cinnamon caff, nice." He looked up at the waiter. "I'll stick with this, thanks."
Arbusca took the second cup and poured as gracefully as she'd been taught, clamping her nerves tight so her hands wouldn't shake, mindful of her long, heavy sleeves.
"Beautiful Blush Willow," Dri murmured. He put his hand over hers as she was about to lift his cup. "Who'd've thought that I was HeartMate to GreatMistrys Blush Willow, of the colonist FirstFamilies?"
Now a tremor shivered through her at his touch...a touch she'd only experienced in dreams...intimate dreams...and her fingers shook.
Dri's eyelids lowered, his smile grew satisfied, and his hand curled tighter around hers. Once more they stared at each other and the only thing she heard was her pounding blood.