Medieval 02 - Forbidden

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    Untouched .
    The prophecy will remain unfulfilled .
    Weariness finally claimed Amber. Her eyelids closed and she swayed forward, asleep before her head touched the bed. As her weight stretched along Duncan’s side, he woke slightly, gathered her closer along his body, and fell back into a healing sleep.
    Held within the very arms that were forbidden to her, Amber enjoyed the most peaceful sleep of her life.
    She didn’t awaken until a wolf’s harmonic howl rose into the twilight. Her first sensation was that of extraordinary peace. Her second was of a warmth like that of the sun behind her. Her third was the realization that Duncan’s naked body was cradling her and his sword hand was cupped around her breast.
    A curious heat shot through Amber. In its wake came a flush that made her cheeks burn. She began to ease out of Duncan’s grasp. He made a sleepy, protesting sound and tightened his hand. She gasped at the sensations radiating from her breast.
    Nay, this is the very kind of touching that is forbidden to us !
    Dear God, why is it so sweet ?
    The wolf howled again, calling kindred spirits to a twilight hunt.
    As quickly as Amber dared, she eased from the bed. When Duncan threatened to awaken again, she soothed him with light touches and soft words until he lay quietly once more.
    Letting out a long sigh of relief, Amber hurried from the bed. She had to be alone when she talked to Erik and Cassandra. It would be much safer for Duncan that way.
    Amber threw on a mantle of green wool and fastened it with a large silver pin in the shape of a crescent moon. Ancient runes ran down the crescent, giving texture and grace to the beaten silver. When she set aside the board barring the door and stepped into the twilight, the pin shimmered as though made to gather light and hold it against the coming night.
    No sooner had Amber closed the door behind her than Cassandra appeared on the path from the forest. She was afoot, wearing her customary robes of scarlet embroidered at the edges with blue and green, but twilight turned the colors nearly black.
    Her pale, almost colorless hair was plaited and concealed beneath a headdress of fine red cloth. The cloth was held in place by a ring of woven silver strands. The sleeves on her dress were long and deeply flared at the cuff.
    Despite a lack of family that equaled Amber’s, Cassandra looked every inch a highborn lady. Older than Amber, wiser, Cassandra had raised Amber as though she were her own. Yet Cassandra made no move to embrace the child she had raised. She had come to the cottage as Stone Ring Keep’s wise woman rather than as Amber’s friend and mentor.
    Uneasiness prickled along Amber’s skin.
    “Where is Erik?” Amber asked, looking beyond Cassandra.
    “I asked to see you alone for a time.”
    Amber smiled with a brightness she was far from feeling.
    “Was Maid Marian’s hunt successful?” she asked.
    “Very. Was yours?”
    “I didn’t go hawking.”
    “I refer to your quest for information about the man Erik found asleep within the Stone Ring,” Cassandra said mildly.
    Saying no more, Cassandra watched Amber with penetrating gray eyes. Amber had to fight not to fidget or mumble the first words that came to her mind. At times Cassandra’s silences were as unnerving as her prophecies.
    “He hasn’t awakened since morning,” Amber said, “and then only for a few moments.”
    “What were his first words upon awakening?”
    Frowning, Amber cast about in her memory.
    “He asked me who I was,” she said after a moment.
    “In what language?”
    “Accented?” Cassandra asked.
    Amber felt as though she were being quizzed on a lesson. But she didn’t know what the lesson was, didn’t know the answers to the questions, and feared true answers in any case.
    “He asked if he was a prisoner,” Amber said.
    “Did he? An odd thing for a friend to ask.”
    “Not at all,” Amber retorted. “Erik had bound him hand

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