Rainhart held himself still. "Bernd wasn't shielded. I could feel his mind."
There was a moment's hesitation before Philomena said, "I know."
Rainhart narrowed his eyes at her. With his disheveled hair and rust-stained garb, he looked dangerous. She angled away from him. "I, ah..."
"You tampered with his mind." Rainhart's tone sharpened.
The roil in Philomena's stomach, heretofore a tangled mess of fear and relief, coalesced into fury. "He was going to die!" she snapped. "Don't you dare berate me because I took away the fear of a doomed man."
"I don't--" Rainhart frowned. "If it had been a fair fight he wouldn't have been doomed. But you took away his skill. You made his attacks weak and his breath wheeze. There's no honour in that."
Philomena hissed. "If he had his skills as you say, I would be having this argument with your disembodied head." Rainhart opened his mouth and Philomena rushed on, "At any rate, I didn't do it, because I knew if I did you would climb onto your high horse cloaked in your offended pride."
Rainhart gave her a startled look. She heard her volume climbing until she was shouting. "I watched you fight an opponent who outmatched you, knowing I could do something to help, and I did nothing because I knew you wouldn't want me to. And now you accuse me of 'tampering with his mind'? How dare you? I didn't do it, but if Tancred did, then I'm glad, you egotistical, selfish..." She lost her train of thought and subsided, each furious breath loud in her ears. Rainhart had his hand on her elbow, and was glaring right back at her.
"I would rather like to kiss you right now," he said sternly.
"Then do so, damn you," said Philomena, still at volume.
Then the creases smoothed from Rainhart's brow. He tugged her close, quickly enough that she put her hands against his chest to steady herself. She closed her eyes, and a moment later felt Rainhart's lips brush against hers. Instinctively, she angled her head and pressed them closer. He was so much taller than her. She rose onto tip toes as Rainhart's arm came around her waist and drew her to him.
They kissed again, and there was a hint of anger in it. There had been a lot of anger between them. Or was it passion? She reached up to wind her fingers in Rainhart's sandy hair and scraped her teeth along his bottom lip. He tightened his grip, pressing her up against him, length to length.
When she had no more breath to share with him, Philomena leaned her head against Rainhart's shoulder, winding her hands around his neck. He didn't loosen his hold on her waist.
"I nearly died today," he said.
Nearly died. Philomena shied away from the thought.
"And I thought... in some other world--if I hadn't been such a pillock--you might have sent me into the ring with the feeling of your lips on mine. We might even have been husband and wife."
"Well, that isn't very likely," Philomena said, raising her head from his shoulder and studying him with a frown, "because if we were married, it would mean your father were alive, and there would be no reason for Tancred and Valdon to be sending champions anywhere, let alone into a combat ring."
"Mena," Rainhart tilted her chin up, "by all the gods above and below, let me be a little bit romantic."
Her heart skittered. Rainhart's eyes had gone to her mouth. They were going to kiss again.
"You honourless dog," shouted someone.
"That sounded like Valdon," said Philomena. Rainhart released her, canting his body towards the noise.
YOU ARE READING
Philomena is a child of the empire, traded to faraway Deusetats to seal an alliance and marry a prince: the handsome but arrogant Prince Rainhart. However, politics is never simple. On the eve of Philomena's wedding, the king is brutally assassinat...