The girl was here now by his side, as his bride, because he had chosen to save her. Twice over. That wasn't her fault. And she wasn't to blame for his pain, for the loss that he'd suffered, the void in his own broken heart. It was wrong of him to hold anything against her.

So Rider turned to face his wife, struggling to force the memory of brown eyes from his mind. "No - I am sorry," he expressed, taking a few slow steps toward the bed. "For having been so cold to you, all this time. I do know your name; others in this camp have mentioned it to me, but I... I should've asked you sooner. I am sorry."

Her heart fluttered and soared at his every word. He was speaking to her. With a sincerity, a softness in his voice that she had never heard.

He came closer, squatting down beside the bed to meet her wide, enamored gaze. "Look, Lachesis. Our wedding was hardly... official, given the circumstances. I ought to have made this clear to you earlier: should you wish to leave my side, the choice is yours. You could be free."

Oh. Those were not the words she might've hoped for. "Free from what?"

He blinked as if it were obvious. "From all of this. From me."

"But I don't want to be," she blurted honestly, biting her lip in the pause that ensued. "And where would I go, Rider? What would I do?"

"Haven't you a home, somewhere? I could take you there..."

"I thought you don't want to take any more detours, on this path. On your mission to Argos. Toward whatever it is you're looking for."

Brows furrowed over darkening bay-blues. What she had said was true. But the poor girl deserved a chance at happiness, which she could never have with him, he knew. It was the least that he could do.

"Besides - my home is here now," Lachesis continued before he could answer. "There is no other place on earth where I'd feel safe." That, too, was true. The only other home that she had ever known was the eternal safety of the Cave, which was not a place on earth.

Rider's gaze rested on hers a moment longer. Then he lowered it to the floor, dipped his head in a nod. "If - if this is what you wish, then I... I've no right to deny you. I promise to... try to be kinder."

He had to try. For he reckoned that fate - or whatever forces laid the course of mortal lives - had bound them together. Even if his true fate felt faraway... That fate was lost to him.

Perhaps Lachesis was his fate now. If she was, then he ought to at least try to be civil to his bride. If for no other reason, then because life by her side would be excruciatingly tense and uncomfortable otherwise.

They eased into polite conversation that night, seated in bed side by side. She asked him for the billionth time what awaited in Argos. Previous times, when he'd replied, he had said only that there was something he must do. But he was trying now to be kind and civil, with his wife; he knew that hidden truths and untold stories such as this one wouldn't serve their marriage well.

Rider warned her that the story behind his mission was a long one - clearly, she wanted to hear. So he began to tell.

2040 B.C.

"Mother! Mother! Look how wonderful!"

The boy scrambled across the rocky sand toward the slender woman who approached the shore, both sporting smiles warmer and brighter than the high noon sun. She ran a gentle hand through his unruly dark brown curls, beaming at the happiness she saw reflected in the pair of bay-blue eyes so like her own. Deep and dark in hue, yet full of light, hopeful and true.

The Fates (Book II)Read this story for FREE!