distance, marveling at the joy so obvious on her face at just being here in this beautiful place.
When had he lost that capacity?
When had he last possessed the ability to be in awe of the beauty of nature? When had he lost the joy to live for the moment, not worry about the past, or fret about what he could not change, or keep reaching for a future that was not yet set? When had he stopped accepting, or worse, stopped noticing the small joys life had to offer.
He could not recall.
His life had not been his own since joining the service of his King. Life had evolved into nothing more than one battle after another of either wits or strength. There had been precious little time for smelling the flowers figuratively or literally. Was he jealous of the childlike innocence he sensed in his bride to be? No, not precisely.
“Pffft,” he huffed at himself. He did not have time for this. Let her dream for both of them, he thought, as he went about securing the camp. He had to keep them alive.
Morgan tethered the beautiful stallions to a low branch and brought back the meal for Nic. Her senses were on high alert as she took the bread, highly salted meat, and cheese to him.
Morgan noticed what many might not. Time had honed her senses, too, from vastly different means than Nic's, but to the same end result: to keep her alive.
She found him sitting in a relaxed position. Looks can be deceiving, she thought.
His back was up against an oak so gnarled and ancient it must have seen King Arthur’s reign, with one long leg stretched out in front of him and the other drawn up, bent at the knee. His forearm rested comfortably on that knee, his sword was within easy reach. It would have surprised her more if his weapon had not been close at hand.
Cautiously, she made her way over to his side and extended the offering. Getting no closer than necessary made her feel better. Somewhere on the surface of her mind, she understood it would take more than an arm's length to keep her safe should he decide he wanted to hurt her.
Nic looked up at her, noticing her weary posture, and wondered why she was so skittish. It went beyond shy.
“Thank you,” he said, reaching for the food and covering her hand with his.
That contact was brief, but she involuntarily jerked back, dropping the plate before he had a secure grip.
A deep sound arose in Nic's throat, hot and intense at whomever had abused this delicate creature so much that she pulled away from human touch. Morgan moved back even further, eyes wide with extreme caution at her misstep. She was not necessarily afraid of him, she realized. He did not scare her to the point of being frozen in fear. That was good, she supposed. Actually, Morgan was not really sure how she felt with him; she was just ready for anything.
Nic gritted his teeth. “My anger is not toward you, Morgan, but at the circumstances that would leave you so jumpy.”
He saw her hesitation, but also relief and maybe confirmation of what he hoped she already knew. Then, again, maybe it was his hope.
“I promised to take care of you and I will. Now, eat.” Nic pointed to the food. Lucky for him it was on his blanket and not on the bare ground. The nourishment was too precious to waste. He had only packed provisions for one. Even if in the past, he had eaten some very questionable things out of necessity, it was not his preference.
She shook her head. Never taking her eyes off him, she took another step back. Morgan stared at her new Lord not daring to blink. He did not frighten her as much as distressed her. Simply put, he was intimidating. It was obvious to her what she saw in him was the potential for a dangerous man.
Intuitively, Morgan knew the danger in him went well beyond anything she had ever seen in her uncle. This was a man accustomed to command. He wore that aura visibly. Nic McKinnon was a man who was shrewd. He was, in a word, deadly to an enemy. Yet, somehow, she also knew that he