For three days, Kahlan endured a barrage of double entendres that seemingly flew over Richard and Zedd’s heads. Some were so obvious—like when Cara asked if Kahlan would like to sit on her lap again instead of sitting on the ground to eat her dinner—that Kahlan started to wonder if the men had figured it out and were staying mum to save her from being forced to admit it. The comments were bad enough, but then there was the way Cara always seemed to be looking at her. Every time Kahlan glanced her way, Cara’s green eyes were fixed on her. And every time she caught Kahlan looking at her, Cara would smirk and wink, like they were sharing a secret instead of holding Kahlan’s future in her hands.
Because that’s what Richard was, Kahlan reminded herself. The Seeker was her future. It had been prophesized, but more important than that, she could see herself with Richard. Having kids, getting old….the logistics were a little screwy, since they both had external responsibilities—he to D’Hara, she to Aydindril—that couldn’t be ignored. But they worked. They would figure something out. He loved her and she loved him and what had happened with Cara was a moment of insanity that could jeopardize everything.
Kahlan came to the decision to confront Cara about the looks and the hints just before they stopped to camp for the night. They were half a days walk from a fair sized village, where they would restock and, to Zedd’s infinite excitement, eat a meal not cooked by one of them. They teased him mercilessly about the bottomless pit he called a stomach, but in this case Kahlan agreed. She was more than a little tired of rabbit and fish.
“I think we should add spices to the list of supplies we need,” Kahlan offered as she shrugged off her pack. Cara sidled past her—she’d taken to walking behind Kahlan to “watch her back”. Kahlan didn’t doubt the watching wasn’t literal, only that it was her back Cara’s eyes were fixed on. Cara dropped her pack a few steps away from the others. Not far enough to seclude herself, but enough to reaffirm that she still considered herself an outsider to the group.
“I completely agree.” Zedd nodded enthusiastically. “A bit of basil, some dried garlic…” he sighed in pleasure at the prospect.
Richard laughed “Zedd, it’s a good thing we do so much walking. You might not be able to keep your girlish figure if we didn’t.”
“I’ll have you know that a wizard’s metabolism is greater than the average person’s. We simply require more food. Simply drawing upon Wizard’s Fire demands two chicken legs, at least!”
“So that’s why you make Richard start the fire by hand every night,” Kahlan said. “Fear of starvation.”
“Quite right,” Zedd agreed, but he was smiling.
“While you all blather on about eating…” Cara pulled the small hunting bow and a handful of arrows from the side of her pack. “I’m going to go do something about it.”
“Be careful,” Richard called after her, and Kahlan could imagine the disdainful eye roll Cara would have directed at the trees.
Cara moved away from them, sauntering off the path and deeper into the woods, the cant and sway of her hips belying her deadly abilities. This was perhaps the best opportunity Kahlan would have to confront Cara. Richard and Zedd knew better than to try to infringe on Cara’s self assigned duty of catching dinner, and after tomorrow they’d have food to last at least a few weeks before they’d have to resort to hunting again.
She couldn’t stand Cara like this for a few weeks.
Quickly, she stood and followed Cara’s line into the woods. If she didn’t catch her before she started tracking some animal, she’d never find her.
“Where are you going?” Richard called after her.
“To relieve myself.”
Kahlan moved briskly through the trees, wrapping her traveling dress tight around her legs and stomach to keep it from snagging on any jutting tree branches. She could just make out Cara weaving carefully ahead of her, her blonde hair an easy contrast to spot in the dark browns and greens of the darkening forest.
She kept pace until she was certain they were far enough from camp to not be stumbled upon, then hissed “Cara!”
Ahead of her, Cara stopped but did not turn around. She said nothing when Kahlan finally closed the distance between them and stood next to her.
The silence between them was awkward and heavy, enhanced by the utter stillness of the forest. The truth was, they didn’t really talk. Ever. Cara most often talked at Kahlan, dropping challenges about her fighting ability or touting the benefits of being a Mord-Sith over those of a Confessor. And Kahlan would speak to Cara primarily through Richard. The last time she’d tried to talk to Cara one on one…well, look where that had gotten her.
Kahlan took a deep breath.
“Cara. I would appreciate it if you stopped.”
Kahlan pursed her lips at Cara’s mocking tone. She’d never hit another human being out of anger—at least not during a verbal confrontation. It didn’t take much imagination to picture Cara as the first.
Through gritted teeth, Kahlan forced out, “You know what.”
Cara pivoted so that she was facing Kahlan. Her forest bow was looped casually over her shoulder. She let the arrows in her grip fall through her fingers and clatter to the forest floor.
“We haven’t even started yet.” The familiar smirk was back. Cara reached out a gloved hand as if to trace the curve of Kahlan’s hip, and Kahlan quickly slapped her hand away. She stepped back and pointed a finger in Cara’s face.
Cara lifted a solitary eyebrow. She didn’t move.
“We are not starting anything,” Kahlan said. Her shoulders were tight and she wished she didn’t sound so defensive, but the words were coming and that was good enough. “It happened. It was stupid. I was stupid to…” Kahlan trailed off. She lifted a hand to her forehead, then shook her head. “I let you do that, and I shouldn’t have. It’s not happening again.”
Cara turned her mouth down thoughtfully. “At least you admit it was your decision.”
Her conciliatory tone was foreign enough to make Kahlan suspicious. Cara was not reasonable unless it was sarcasm masquerading as reason.
“So you’ll stop with the little side comments? All the little hints?”
Cara snorted. “I don’t know why you’re so worried about that. Dust-for-brains back there is not going to figure it out. He’s either too stupid or too trusting to think you’d ever stoop so low as to do that with me.”
Kahlan bristled defensively. “He’s not stupid.”
“No?” Cara was smirking again. “Yesterday I asked if you needed help getting undressed for bed. And then I asked if you wanted to share my bed roll.” She dropped her voice to a whisper and cupped a hand around her mouth, as if they were sharing a secret. “He’s stupid.”
“Fine!” Cara threw her hands up and rolled her eyes. “Trusting, then. Either way, he’s not looking for clues.”
“And either way, I want you to stop dropping them,” Kahlan insisted.
“Guilty,” Kahlan said. She glanced down, then off to the side, looking without really seeing the trees and leaves crowding the sky. “I feel guilty.”
They stood in silence for a few moments. Kahlan was afraid to turn back and find Cara leering at her again, then:
Kahlan’s head whipped around, anger making her vision narrow dangerously. “Excuse me?”
“I said. Yeah. Right.” Cara rocked back on her heels and crossed her arms over her chest. “Lying to yourself again, Confessor.”
Kahlan mimicked the pose, but it was an entirely defensive gesture. She didn’t know where this was going, only that she was angry, that Cara made her furious, and that Cara thoroughly enjoyed it when Kahlan was fuming.
“So, what? You think so low of yourself, you assume anyone who does…” Kahlan gestured vaguely. “That, with you, must feel embarrassed after?”
Cara shook her head, her expression bored. “No, I know how prudes react when they do anything with anyone.”
Kahlan jerked forward a step, fury uprooting her feet from the ground. “I am not a prude!”
Cara shrugged. “Prove it.”
“This is…” Kahlan shook her head. Her jaw hurt from clenching. “I am not—“
Cara held up a finger.
She began ticking things off.
“Arrogant. Pretentious. Masquerading behind that repressed Confessor—“
Kahlan closed the distance between them with one step. She was too angry to think clearly. Too angry to consider she was being baited. The only thing that mattered in that moment was proving Cara wrong. With a quick snap of her elbow, her right hand was situated between Cara’s legs. Her fingers cupped Cara’s sex, the heel of her palm pressed into Cara’s pubic bone. Cara did not look surprised, only mildly interested, and that fueled Kahlan’s ire all the more.
Kahlan leaned in close and said, without unclenching her teeth, “Shut. Up.”
Cara smiled languidly, and Kahlan noticed her tongue curled up behind her right incisor.
She looked like a predator.
Then Cara began to moan. Her face contorted into the most pleasure-fueled squint Kahlan had ever seen. She dragged her gloved hands up her body before wrapping her fingers in her hair, all the while increasing the volume and frequency of her moan. Startled, Kahlan tried to pull her hand free, only to have Cara squeeze her thighs together, trapping her hand between her legs.
“Oh, there it is!”
Cara was practically screaming.
“Ohhh, yes! Oh, right there!”
“Cara!” Kahlan tugged at her hand frantically. Panic replaced her anger in a heartbeat. If Richard or Zedd heard her shouting—
“Don’t stop! Oh, Confessor!”
With a gasp, Kahlan wrenched her hand free. She stumbled back a few feet, her breath coming in short pants. Just as suddenly as she’d begun, Cara fell silent, though the seething glare she fixed Kahlan with was nothing short of terrifying.
“What…” Kahlan gasped, “What in the name—“
“I’m just saying,” Cara interrupted. Her voice was ice again. “Don’t start a pissing competition with me, Confessor. It’s not a fight you’ll win. Though if you want to start something else…” Cara let the insinuation hang as she bent and collected her arrows. She stood and cast Kahlan one last appraising glance. “You know where to find me.”
Kahlan didn’t breathe again until Cara was out of sight. Once she was certain she was alone, she fell back against a tree and pressed a hand to her chest, willing the adrenaline to seep out of her thundering heart.
That could have gone better, Kahlan berated herself. Then she thought of Richard’s reaction, should he have stumbled upon the two of them with Kahlan’s hand between Cara’s legs.
It could have been much, much worse.