Leo gazed around at the pristine white snow which covered the valley floor. Even he had given in to the vagaries of the Midlands' weather and donned a jacket over his sleeveless shirt – Kahlan was wearing a gorgeous velvet cloak and Zedd had added a hat, gloves, and a scarf to his ever-present wizard robes. Cara constantly teased the wizard about the scarf but Zedd was proud of it and refused to rise to the bait.
It was Cara whom Leo was seeking. Seeker of Mord'Sith, he named himself with a smile. Cara had insisted she was warm enough in her leathers and that she had no idea why the others were making such a fuss, but last night he'd held her close and felt her shivering. He'd kissed away her gooseflesh and pressed himself against her throughout the bitter night.
This morning he'd got up early and stolen away to the nearest town where he'd purchased a gift for Cara. He'd tell her it was a Solstice present and she'd have to accept it, if not of her own volition, then once Kahlan had made ooh and aah sounds and given Cara a stern glance to wear down his darling's fabled resistance to all things romantic. He loved Cara, and he thought she loved him in return, but she didn't want to let that get in the way of the quest, and he appreciated that. She also sometimes said she didn't want to get "maudlin" like Kahlan always had over Richard. Leo didn't know how true that was, but he promised that if he got too sentimental she could Agiel him. And, sometimes, she did.
Finding the perfect gift had taken a while but he was thrilled when he'd come across it. When he'd returned to the camp, Zedd, finishing what was surely cold porridge by now, had pointed vaguely in the direction Cara had headed off in, and Leo was now on her trail.
There were the stick-thin tracks made by a bird, probably a robin, and Leo had seen a pawprint left by a fox near the base of a tree, but to his surprise, he hadn't yet seen a single boot-print.
Maybe Zedd had been wrong about the path Cara had taken. Leo sighed and turned. He'd taken only two steps when something slammed into the back of his neck.
Leo spun around, drawing the Sword of Truth and fighting the fear that he'd been wounded – an arrow, perhaps, he thought there was blood running down his back – but his panic was replaced by a mixture of anger and amusement when he heard the beautiful sound of Cara laughing. He looked up and saw her, perched on a branch, a second snowball clutched in one gloved hand.
"That's not funny!"
"I beg to differ." Cara lobbed the snowball but Leo, seeing this one coming, easily ducked aside. She clambered down, dropping the last three feet into a snow drift which swamped her nearly to her knees.
Leo held out one hand and she let him help her up onto more solid ground. "How come you didn't leave any footprints?"
She shrugged. "A Mord'Sith must have some secrets."
Leo held out the package he was carrying. "A Mord'Sith must accept my Solstice gift."
"The Solstice isn't for two days." She stared at the package with suspicion but also curiosity, which Leo took as a hopeful sign.
"I want you to have it now." Before you freeze to death, he thought, but didn't dare say aloud.
Cara took the gift and unwrapped it. She took out a red coat, the same shade as her leathers, elegantly cut to enable her to still ride and fight without it restricting her movements, but long and warm enough to keep away winter's chill. Her mouth fell open.
"Do you like it?" Leo asked when the silence dragged on.
Cara nodded. "I didn’t get you anything."
"I don't care," Leo said softly, adding, in case that was too affectionate a gesture and might earn him an Agiel in the backside, "you've still got time of course. May I?"
It was a pleasant surprise when she nodded and let him take the coat and hold it for her while she slid her arms into it. She fastened it at the front, for it closed to the waist. Cara stepped back, took out her agiel, and practised a few punches and kicks. The coat met with her approval and she smoothed it down over her thighs once she'd sheathed her weapon.
"Thank you," she said.
Leo stepped forward and tipped his head. Cara leaned in and kissed him. Snow began to fall and, as he wrapped his arms around Cara, Leo thought this was a picture perfect moment, one that he would always treasure.