Erik opened his chamber door in Greenhold, leading out into the hallway. Six guards stood posted in the hallway and he made a point to address them individually and by name. In turn, they each bowed, their amour groaning in prostest as they did so. As Alix and Lord Green were so adamant to keeping the king's circle small, the men rotated shifts more frequently and by the sound of the metal, their downtime was lessened because of it, forcing the men to neglect their amour's necessary upkeep. He would speak to Alix about that, assuredly.
Four of his guards broke off in pursuit of their charge as he made his way to his study. Well, not his really, as he currently resided in Greenhold, but Raipert had been a gracious host providing him with the use of the study for his own sanity and necessity.
Up ahead, he recognized the familiar voices of Alix and Raipert; both sounded more clipped and agitated that usual. Erik, despite his leg, increased his speed, ignoring the protests of his leg muscles.
Raipert Green snapped something but Erik was still too far away to catch it. His distance, however, could not hide the pleading tone in Alix's voice in response.
"Lord Green, please, lower your voice."
Erik continued to barrel down the corridor.
"He could have been anyone," Raiperts's words now clear as Erik closed the gap. "How do you know he wasn't in league with the man who tried to kill you? Awfully convenient, don't you think, that he should be waiting for you at the gates only moments later?"
Erik's eyebrow arnched in interest. Neither Alix nor Raipert seemed to notice him.
"What's this commotion?" Erik's deep voice cut in, both Green's and Black's heads nearly snapping off their necks in alert of the king's sudden presence.
Although Alix's head was partially turned in Erik's direction, she averted her gaze completely. "It's nothing to worry about, Your Majesty."
"Olan's battered shield it isn't!" Raipert's outburst surprised Erik as he leaned closer to Alix, his face blotching in anger. Erik was about to interject as the lord continued. "Do you really think you can trust a word the man says? Like as not he'll fill your head with lies and herd you straight into a trap!"
He looked to Alix to see her face colored as well, either with embarassment or her the infamous Black temper, he couldn't tell. She glared at Lord Green in preparation to retort, no doubt.
Erik cleared his throat. "Will someone kindly tell me what in the name of the Nine we're discussing?" Alix's gaze shifted back to him and he caught sight of something out of place on her face. "What happened to your lip, Alix?" The words slipped from his lips without a second thought.
His gaze remained locked on her mouth as her tongue poked out to run over the open and bloodied flesh of her lip. He had to resist the urge to reach out and brush his fingers against her face. He certainly could do no such thing with Lord Green looking on, not to mention his guard detail, hovering around the trio.
Raipert's next response pulled him away from such thoughts. "She was attacked, Your Majesty, by another assassin."
Erik's eyes widened in alarm before he schooled his features; something that was becoming harder to do in her presence. "Where?" was all he could manage without giving more of his emotion away.
"On the road to town..." Raipert went on. And although Erik heard every word, he watched as Alix glared at the Lord, annoyance and betrayal in her gaze.
"It all came out fine," she grumbled at the end of Raipert's summary of events.
"Indeed," Raipert snorted.
Erik fought the urge to roll his eyes at the pair but the direction of his attention landing on Alix, a frown forming on his face in disapproval. She met his gaze then, the look of annoyance on her face directed at him for a brief moment before her breeding kicked in.
"It's more complicated than it sounds, sire, as I was just attempting to explain to Lord Green," she pointed rather petulantly in said Lord's direction before folding her arms. Erik mirrored her, folding his own arms. She then brought one hand out, ticking off fingers as she continued. "I went to the Crooked Mast, as we discussed this afternoon. I've made several such trips—"
"Against my advice," Raipert added, he gaze hopping from Alix to Erik and back..
Alix rolled her eyes. "—without incident. But this time, there was and man waiting for me on the road. He attacked me, and I killed him." Abandoning her finger ticking, she waved a dismissive hand in the air. "Then as I was approaching the gate, there was another man waiting for me. A spy, as it turned out, come from Erroman to offer his services. We talked and he convinced me that he could be of some use."
"He convinced you," Erik reaffirmed, condescension leaking into his tone.
She ignored him. "All it cost me was a few coins. And I'm not so stupid as to trust him blindly. I'll treat the intelligence he provides with caution—as he himself suggested I should."
Erik himself would never confuse Alix with being stupid. Eager however, to get through the conversation, he inquired, "Then what's the point?"
Alix met Erik's gaze. "If he's geniuine, he could be extremely useful. He's already provided me with valuable information.
"How can it be valuable, if you can't even trust it?" Raipert cut in after rolling his eyes.
The conversation continued on for a few more moments until Erik dismissed Raipert to speak to Alix in more privately. Directing Alix by the elbow, he led her to his study, making note of her taut spine before turing to close the door behind them, leaving his gaurd detail in the hallway.
Erik remained facing the study door, his back to Alix as she waited for him near the desk he'd commandeered during their stay at Greenhold. He took a deep breath, avoiding Alix's gaze as he sorted his emotions, schooling them behind his preferred mask; a mask that was breaking down more easily in her presence. He wanted to go easy on her but after the attack in the courtyard he couldn't bear to see her injured again. Starring at her bloodied lip only made it worse— exactly why he kept his back to her. "I'm trying to understand, Alix, how you though it wise to do what you did today?"
"I told you where I was going," she replied by way of excuse, as if it had somehow absolved her of any ill judgement.
Infuriated, he spun around to face her as he stalked toward her, voice raised in anger, the abrupt action caused Alix to flinch. "But you left out a few choice details, didn't you? Alone, Alix? Without armour?"
She hesitated a moment before responding, looking up to the study ceiling, perhaps to send up a silent prayer. "I didn't want to stand out. I wouldn't have learned anything if people knew who I was."
He ignored her. "Reckless," he bit back, leaning into her space.
As if by instinct, Alix backed up. "I thought I was suppposed to execute my duties in a manner befitting my judgement? Or was that just talk?" Her own voice was raised now, all ceremony gone between them. In other circumstances Erik might have relished in it, but not then, not with the anger and disappointment boiling in him. But there was also something else, something he shoved down deep.
"If this is your idea of good judgement, then perhaps it should have been just talk."
"With all due respect, Your Majesty, you weren't there."
"No, I wasn't. I would never have put myself in that position." Nor would she have let him. No, likely she'd have assigned him a full guard detail and more."
"Your Majesty. Erik." The way she said his name then, had that unamed thing rising to the surface once more. But before he could shove it down again she took a step forward, closing the gap between them. Brown eyes met his blue ones. "If I am to protect you, I have to be allowed to follow my instincts. We've talked about this." Her voice was so soft, pleading even yet assertive. He couldn't help but soften towards her. Slightly.
"We've talked about the need for you to be independent. I never said anything about allowing you to behave rashly. It is completely unacceptable for you to risk yourself in that matter."
Alix threw her hands up into the air in exasperation. "It's my duty to risk myself."
"Not carelessly, Alix!" he screamed out, grabbing her shoulders, he continued, "Not needlessly! What could you possibly have learned out there that was worth your life? Do you not know how valued you are? Do you not realise..." It had nearly all come out, the emotions, the words pouring out of him until he's stopped himself. It was the look on her face that did it. The surprise. Erik released the breath he'd been holding. She truly doesn't know. "You really don't see, do you? How can that be? It's not as though I've made any secret of it."
His words seemed to dawn on her then. Her features softened and her body relaxed beneath his grip. But there was more. She met his gaze with a heated look and he didn't dare miss the way her chest rose and fell with each short breath. His hand cupped her cheek to test his thoery and instead of pulling away, she leaned into him. Emboldened, his thumb shifted to brush her injured lip. Lips that had tempted him for days, weeks even. When it started, he didn't know. Alix Black stirred something in Erik that he never thought he'd have.
She didn't speak, didn't move and he himself wasn't sure how to proceed, so he filled the silence with more words. "You were always oblivious. Too locked up in your own head to see what's right in front of you. Then again, perhaps I haven't been as plain as I thought. I can be plainer if you'll let me." He leaned in closer, focusing on that alluring mouth of hers. "May I kiss you, Alix?"
At first she didn't react, seemingly processing his words. He met her brown eyes for only a moment as her gaze shifted to his mouth in turn. He watched her. She nodded and that was all the affirmation he needed. Slowly, gently, his lips met hers, as if giving her time to refuse, to change her mind. Then as his lips pressed into hers, he felt her arms shift around him and he deepened the kiss, parting her lips as he gathered her body closer. She welcomed him in and all the blood in his body pooled south, straining his britches. She tasted of alcohol, from the bar, no doubt. Her tongue met his with equal fervor. She pulled him in, arching her body against his and he found himself addicted. By the Nine, Erik swore he could never get enough. He'd had lovers but never had he wanted anyone like this. And this, this wasn't lust. It was more. She thrilled him and rivaled him. Each and every day he looked forward to their encounters, public and private. But he had not allowed himself to hope for this.
Her strong yet feminine hands shifted from his back, one tangling in his hair and the other pulling at his shirt. Desperate for more, his palms shifted to her rear and pulled her into him and lifted. She sensed his desire and aided him in wrapping her legs around his waist and without a second thought, he pressed her into the desk behind her, his pelvis rocking against her and she moaned, shifting her lower body against his manhood. His mouth wandered to her jaw, devouring the salty taste of her skin. He kissed and and sucked along her neck as her hand shifted under his shirt. He nipped at her earlobe before pressing a kiss to the sensitve flesh behind her ear.
"Allie," he whispered.
Her previously pliant body went stiff. A breath ago she had been pulling him closer but now she was pulling away, a horrified look on her face. Inside he was just as horrified as she looked. Erik took a few steps back, giving her room. Have I made a mistake?
She hid her face from him and Erik was almost grateful because he couldn't bear to have her look at him that way any longer. "I'm sorry." It was nearly a whisper. She seemed truly shaken. "I don't think I'm ready for this."
"I understand. I didn't mean to push you." Where the words came from he didn't know. His mind was a mess of thoughts and emotions.
"I'm sorry," she repeated and bailed from the room before Erik could say anything else.
Erik was left in the pregnant silence of the study, crackling from the small fire several feet away were the only sounds. Slamming the desk with his bare fist, he was swallowed up by his own thoughts. He wondered where he'd gone wrong. Alix had met his desire, there was no mistaking it. She had reciprocated. She'd even gone so far as to begin undressing him until he'd opened his mouth. Allie. He'd call her a nickname he'd never once used in her presence. It was something her brother, Rig, had used every time he'd referred to his sister to Erik. He hadn't realised he'd used it until it had already left his lips and then she pulled away like a frightened animal. She fled from him. He couldn't, wouldn't blame her. It was his instigation, his admittance that had led to it.
The sound of a log breaking in the fireplace broke him from his thoughts. He stood in the same place as when she left, staring at the desk. He moved to a bookshelf, fingering the old tomes until he found something that would distract him from his thoughts. Only as he made his away around the desk to sit, he found he had to shift himself in his pants to sit comfortably. Despite how it ended, he'd been left aroused and unfulfilled. It was a first for him. He'd never longed for the attentions of women but Alix Black was not any woman. She was every thing he'd hoped for and every thing he'd resigned to never have. Kings were not so fortunate to have it all.
Erik shook his head, opening the old tome, desparate for distraction from thoughts of his greatest desire and deepest fear.