Anala woke with a start and rolled onto her back, listening for a cause of her arousal. The wagon had stopped moving; the rocking no longer lulled her to sleep.
For as long as she could remember, the gentle rocking movement of a ship or wagon had always been relaxing. She did not know why. Her first extended ocean voyage had been to the Battle of Voco in 4015, as far as she could remember. She’d asked her parents about it, but as on so many other topics, they’d remained silent.
She heard a step outside the small room she occupied, and a soft knock on the door. Recognising Aro’s knock, she merely waited. A moment later, he slid back the door and entered, crouching to avoid bumping his head on the ceiling.
“You’re awake,” he said with mild surprise. She smiled at him.
“Just now, ye ken. I reckon we’ve stopped to make camp?”
He nodded. She sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bunk. “Did ye get no rest?” She noted that he looked as tired as when they’d first joined the caravan.
He shook his head and sat beside her. “I spent the afternoon bonding with Jules, actually.”
Anala looked at him sharply. Had he mentioned the details of their trip? How far could they trust anyone in the First Regiment? Seeing her face, he gave a brisk shake of his head. “I told him nothing of import. Just said we tired of city living in Aeril and so went camping by the lake.”
Anala nodded, mollified. That was both true and safe enough for Jules to know.
Aro looked at her sidelong. He could tell her thoughts. “I know it’s foolish, but I want to feel we can trust Jules.” Anala desperately wanted to agree but, with their lives hanging in the balance, she wanted no errors in judgment.
“I’ll leave it to you to decide, Anala. I can’t always follow my foolish feelings.” He smiled, reached a hand up to cup her cheek gently, and let his lips meet hers in a tender kiss. “Even if they yield such rewards as this,” he finished. Then Anala was wrapped up in his arms as he kissed her passionately. She yielded to the sensations of his exploratory hands on her back, to their entrained breathing, to the scent of him which remained sweet to her even after a few days on the road. Her senses overwhelmed her and she twined her arms around his neck to keep her balance.
Their bodies were pressed together, heat and urgency rising in both of them. Aro’s mouth moved to her neck and then slowly and gently down to the tiny hollow at the base, where he lingered for a moment. His hands moved to her front and his skilled fingers caressed her through her shirt, the texture of the fabric adding pleasure as it rubbed against her skin. Anala closed her eyes and bit her lip, not knowing if she could take much more before yielding completely.
Loud footsteps up the wagon ladder signalled the end of their privacy. In one smooth movement Aro was on his feet and helping her to rise. She straightened her hair and shirt and stepped out of the cabin into the wagon’s main area, where she came face to face with Jules.
“Oh!” he said, smiling. “You’re up. I trust you slept well?” She sensed various meanings behind his words: more than a medic’s concern, there was a desire for friendship in his tone. Anala nodded and smiled back at him, keeping Aro’s suggestion about trusting Jules close at heart. It was too early to decide but she sensed honesty and knew it was worth considering. “Well camp’s been made; so whenever you’re ready to join us….”
“Out of curiosity, what are the camp sleeping arrangements?” Behind her, Aro stepped out of the sleeping cabin.
“They’ve pitched a few two-woman tents at the edge of the shelter, or you can throw your sleep sack down by the fire. Your choice,” the medic said as he exited the wagon.
Aro shrugged and looked down at Anala lovingly. “Shall we, Sweet?”
Anala, her hand in his, smiled beatifically up at him. Making sure no one could see them, she kissed him briefly and sweetly before squeezing his hand and leaving the wagon.