I walked into our apartment and saw Tristan at a desk, working through a report. I slid my hands against his chest from behind.
“Caro,” he said gently, “I have to,” I kissed him gently.
“It’s late,” I whispered, “come to bed.” He shrugged me off. “Tristan,” I said, “please look at me.” He turned. “Come to bed, touch me, make love to me, please.”
“I can’t,” he said. I closed my eyes. “I look at you and I,” he exhaled. “Why would you want me?” I looked at him.
“Because I do,” I said. “Because no matter what else happens, I want you, and you wanted me. You stripped me in a park and you pushed me against bookcases and you didn’t even look at the hundred other girl who they paraded in front of you.” I swallowed. “And I broke it, I know I broke it, Tristan. But he looked at me, and I was so lonely and being wanted again, felt so good,” she looked down. “But I didn’t want him, not really, I wanted you, I always want you. And if you don’t want me anymore please let me go, I’ll leave, I’ll go home with Emily and Alex, but please,” he grabbed my face and kissed me.
“I don’t want you?” He whispered. “You think I don’t want you?” I swallowed. “I have wanted nothing but you since the day we met.” He pressed his hands down my body to my lower back. “I spend every minute I’m not with you, on fire, wishing I was with you.” I exhaled and we tumbled back onto the couch. He rushed his hands below my waist pushing my skirts up, tearing my underthings down. “From the minute you walked into your mother’s stupid, overly starched parlor. I could barely speak, I wanted you so badly.” We kissed and I undid his belt.
“You pulled out my chair,” I exhaled and he kissed my neck. “That night, at your grandfather’s you pulled out my chair, and I couldn’t stop looking at you hands, and I wanted them on me.”
“At that damn ball my aunts threw,” he whispered and pushed into me. “I had to dance with those girls,” I gasped for air. “I had to make conversation, when all I wanted to be doing was this.”
“When my father backed Andrei’s challenge,” I moaned. “And the idea of not having you in me again made me feral.” He kissed me deeply. “Oh gods, Tristan,” I screamed out. He said my name over and over again as he moved in and out of me. It was so good. He finished and collapsed on top of me.
“Do you believe me now?” He whispered, I giggled and he rolled off of me. “I have wanted to do that every day since,” I looked at him.
“Tristan, sex has never been our problem,” I said. He smiled. “I mean, until recently.” He nodded. “I love you,” I said, “and you don’t love me,” he cupped his hand against my face.
“I do love you,” he said softly. “Caro, you brought up the challenge,” I nodded. “Do you remember when Uncle Geno sat in judgement of Andrei’s challenge?” I nodded. “It was right after I’d told you what happened with Marina, and I stood in the guild hall, watching you sitting with Emily and your mother, and you hadn’t spoken a word to me in weeks, and Andrei stood there, telling half the city how you’d pledged yourself to him and lived as his wife for months before your contracts.”
“What does this have to do with anything?” I said. Recounting that humiliating day, and how angry I was that I’d almost just told Geno that I had been Andrei’s wife, so that I could get away from Tristan. But I wasn’t angry right now, I was just sad.
“I wanted to tear him to pieces,” he kissed my forehead. “I wanted to take my sword and cut out his heart but not before forcing him to his knees to beg you for forgiveness for his treatment of you, for how he took you for granted.”
“Tristan,” I said softly.
“I’d do it to myself,” he said, “I’d cut out my own heart and fall at your feet, Caro, but it won’t be enough will it?” I sighed. “No, it wouldn’t be. You can’t forgive me for loving her and I can’t stop loving her. I’ve tried!”
“Then why did you marry me?” I whispered. “Why didn’t you let me go three years ago? Why have you kept me? Why did you let me love you so much and be a part of your family?” He closed his eyes.
“I married you because I wanted you,” he whispered. “I wanted you and then I fought for you because I love you.” I wrapped my arms around him. “As for you being a part of my family,” he laughed lightly. “If Aaron and Athena didn’t want you for family, no force in this world or any other could have made them take you.” I laughed. “And now, if you went away,” he sighed, “there would be a hole too big to ever fill.” I rested my head against his chest. “Athena and I have lost so much family, Aaron lost his father,” I exhaled. “And if we lose you, I don’t know what our family will be Caro.” I closed my eyes.
“Alright,” I said and stood up.
“Alright?” He said. I nodded.
“There’s nothing else to say, Tristan,” I whispered.
“You had an affair!” He smirked.
“You have been in love with someone else our whole marriage,” I giggled. He sighed. “How much do you want to know about it?” He looked at me.
“Everything,” he said softly. “I want to understand.” I looked at him.
“When I first came to Pantona,” I exhaled, “and our home, I was so sure everything was going to be perfect. That new life I’d always dreamed about, I had it.” He nodded. “And then you founded the Rangers, and I was so proud of you.” He pressed his forehead to mine. “But it took you away, and I didn’t belong in the guard, that was so clear. And then the spying and code breaking, and I felt useful, but you disapproved, and it put up another wall between us besides the physical distance,” I exhaled, “and William was there, and he listened to me, and flirted with me and,” I swallowed, “and two months ago, you wrote that you were staying away longer and I just wanted you,” I sighed, “I wanted anything, I wanted to be wanted. And I knew how William felt. So I went to him, and he knew what it meant, and then we,” I sighed, “it was only the once. And it was a wonderful night,” he nodded. “But in the morning I knew, that it didn’t matter because I only wanted you. I wanted our life.” He kissed me. “That night that I came home, and you asked me,” he sighed again.
“If I could take back that conversation I would,” he whispered. “I didn’t handle it well.”
“He asked me to run away with him,” I said. “And I considered it.” He looked at me. So hurt. “I, even after we talked, I was thinking about it.” I exhaled. “I still think about it. But I’d lose so much more than just you and losing you would be enough to break me in half.”
“If I lost you I’d lose everything,” he whispered. “I’d be dust. I wouldn’t have a heart anymore, I’d be like a shadow.” I smiled and snuggled into him. “I’ll leave the rangers, I’ll leave the guard even, if that’s what you want.”
“No,” I whispered, “that isn’t what I want. Your work makes you happy, gives you purpose, I don’t want to take it from you.” He exhaled. “But I want you home, Tristan, I want the life we talked about. I want to be your wife, and have your children.” He cupped my face. “But I can’t do either with you away so much.”
“Calla will need a protector,” he muttered.
“They chose Althea,” I said. He smiled.
“Yes,” he said, “but Athena and I weren’t placed in Annalise’s cradle without someone really protecting her, Caro.” He said. I smiled.
“You’d train Althea,” I said. He nodded. “But Calla will be either here or at Pantona.”
“Sometimes Brightcoast,” he grinned. “If you could stand it.” I giggled and tackled him to the floor. “I’ll hand the rangers over to Prior and Elodie. They’ll prefer it.”
“Thank you, Tristan,” I kissed all over his face. “Thank you, thank you!” He smiled. I could live on this smile.