Leto jerked awake, her heart quickening at the quiet darkness around her. She reached for Ethan, her hand hitting empty space. “Ethan?” She said and when she received no answer she climbed out of bed and quietly left her room. She followed his scent as she walked down the dark hallway. She found him on the other side of the castle on the library balcony, a cup of what she was sure was tea in his hands, his eyes staring out into the darkness. “Ethan?” He jumped at her voice, the cup slipping from his hand. He managed to catch it, spilling tea all over the place.
“Leto, are you alright?” He looked embarrassed by his clumsiness.
“What are you doing out here, it’s freezing.” She said, her hands rubbing her arms as she joined him on the balcony.
“I didn’t notice, you should get back to bed though, you’re already getting goosebumps.”
“Come with me, it’s too quiet in my room.” He frowned and she grabbed his arm. “Did you have another nightmare?” He nodded and she took his cup and sat it down so she could hug him. His body always went rigid at first, but he soon relaxed and hugged her back, his arms tightening around her. “Wake me, I don’t mind.”
“I’ve been waking you nightly with my screaming and crying, I wanted you to get a break, you deserve it.” Though he always found comfort in her arms and craved her warmth, he loved her too much to keep depriving her of rest. She had come to mean everything to him, but his fears kept him from pursuing anything more than friendship with her.
“Please wake me next time, no matter how late it might be. You were there for me, so let me be here for you.”
“I will, I’m sorry for worrying you.”
Maybe I can help you fall back asleep if you come back to bed with me. I could read or maybe sing something”
“I love when you sing to me”
“Then come on and I will” She took his hand and guided him back to their room. They laid back down together and he rested his head on her stomach, holding her. She sang a soft song and ran her fingers through his hair. It took a couple songs but eventually his grip loosened and he was sleeping once more. She closed her own eyes, finding sleep easily. In the morning they were both woken by knocking at their door. “Breakfast mam” the maid called “thank you, we’re coming” Leto called back.
Ethan pushed himself up and found his eyes lingering on Leto as she stretched and climbed out of bed. He looked away when she turned around and quickly got up and distracted himself by making the bed. “You should go ahead and take a shower, I’ll go second.”
“You can leave that remember?”
He looked up, smiling. “I know, it just gives me something to do while I wait for you.”
“If you need me, call me okay?”
“I will, I promise.”
Leto gathered clean clothes and when she finally went into the bathroom he dropped down the bed, giving a little sigh. He wanted to be honest with her, to express his love not only through words, but physically as well, but he knew he was too broken. He also worried she would outright reject him after what she had been through, after what she had watched him go through. He told himself just sleeping with her was okay and stood to pick out his clothes for the day. Everything he owned now, Leto had helped him pick out and he happily wore them even though they sometimes showed his scars. She had told him they were his war wounds, signs of his bravery.
Letos heart ached for Ethan again as she lathered her body in soap. She longed for when he could finally sleep without nightmares but he had endured so much she knew a time might never come he could just be happy and nightmare free. He had gone through so much, had even done his best to make sure she suffered as little as possible and all she wanted to do was help him but she didn’t know what more she could do than what she was already doing. She rinsed and then washed her hair, all the while trying to think of anyway she could help Ethna heal, to help him live the life he deserved.
When she finished washing and was dried and dressed, she came out and smiled at Ethan waiting patiently. He never wandered out without her. “Your turn.”
“I’ll be quick.”
“I’ll wait.” He kept his word, not wanting her out there for too long. She needed breakfast even if he wasn’t really hungry. She took his hand as they walked down stairs and took a seat across from Claire and Hesperos. Ethan knew they could tell he had had another bad night, but neither of them brought it up.
“Morning sister dear.” Hesperos said with a warm smile.
“Good morning.” Leto smiled back then too Claire, “How are you feeling today?”
“No morning sickness today, but he insisted on carrying me down here. I’m not even showing.”
“Showing or not, it’s my job to watch over you and our little one.”
“Sometimes I think you forget I’m a warrior.”
“Sometimes I think you forget how much of a treasure you really are.” She rolled her eyes and Hesperos leaned over, kissing her cheek and making her blush. “My beautiful mate.”
Ethan had to admit he sometimes felt jealous of how easily Hesperos expressed his utter devotion to Claire. He wished it was as easy for him to do the same with Leto. “You should eat.” His eyes met Leto’s and her warmth eased some of the tension in his body.
Hesperos looked between them then cleared his throat as he stabbed a piece of sausage with his fork. “Hey Leto, do you remember that little cottage mom and dad took us too when we were kids?”
“The one with the ducks?” He nodded. “Yeah, what about it, did something happen to it?”
“No, just thought maybe you’d like to take Ethan some time, you know, to see the ducks. It’s nice this time of year, the plum trees should be blooming.”
“would you like to Ethan?” She had those beautiful grey eyes on him. He swallowed the bite of food he had in his mouth. He felt nervous leaving the safety of the castle but he’d do anything for Leto.”I guess it’s about time we went out somewhere”
“You’ll love it, I know you will” Hesperos and Leto talked happily about all their memories there. It helped ease Ethan, going out again into the world he knew would help him get better but it was still terrifying. Not just for his safety but for Letos aswell. If he went out with her and harm befell her he would blame himself for eternity. He never wanted her hurt again, would die to ensure she was safe. Ethan had to ask “are you and Claire coming Hesperos?”
“We weren’t planning on it. It has a loft bedroom, one bed and two hammocks.”
“If you don’t want to go, we can do something around here.” Leto said and he felt guilty. She did so much and he was letting his fears keep her from having fun.
“No, we can go, it’s fine.”
“It’s completely safe.” Hesperos added. “Very peaceful and quiet.”
“What about killer animals or bandits?”
“Here? Nonsense. People know better with my men always patrolling the woods. You might even see a couple of them out there. They don’t miss much and they’re always patrolling the roads between the castle and everywhere else.”
Ethan just nodded and Leto reached over and took his hand. “It’s okay, we’ll even lock the doors and windows at night and draw the curtains. My brother’s men would never let us come to harm.”
“I’ll have a messenger go out and let the ones patrolling that area know you’ll be out there so they can keep a look out.”
Leto could tell he was nervous and she didn’t blame him. She was just glad he was willing to leave with her anyway. This would be good for him and she was so glad her brother suggested it. He probably knew aswell it was imperative to Ethans healing that he started leaving the castle grounds. Leto knew he’d stress about it until they left so they arranged for them to leave tomorrow. Leto packed both her and Ethan as he did his best not to pace. “It doesn’t bother me when you pace Ethan, go ahead”
“I just look like a weirdo when I do it”
“a lot of people pass when they feel anxiety”
“I’m…it’s just” she closed their bag and went over to hug him “You’re nervous and scared. We’ll get through this together. We’re going to have so much fun. Just you wait and see”
He held her tightly to him, his chin resting on top of her head as every worst case scenario ran through his head. He would keep her safe, he had to keep her safe. The next day he felt even more anxious and did his best to hide it as he ate breakfast. Their horse was waiting outside for them and Ethan strapped their bag to the saddle then lifted Leto up and climbed up behind her. “You two just relax and have fun.” Hesperos said. “The wolves will be looking out for you.”
“Love you both.” Leto replied and tapped her heels against the horse so it trotted off.
“You’re pretty sly.” Claire said when they were out of earshot.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about my love.” Hesperos smiled at her adoringly then scooped her up.
“He’s never going to get better or be honest with my sister if he doesn’t get out of this castle. This area feels safe to him and he’s been bottling stuff up instead of talking to Leto. She was there, she’s the only one who has any inkling of what he’s been through.”
She kissed his cheek. “You’re a good brother.”
She laughed as he carried her inside. Ethan, everything is okay. our wolves keep this area safe. Leto said, hoping to ease the fear she felt coming off of him as they rode “I know, I’m trying to relax”
“I know, we should start making this a regular thing to get you comfortable”
“Okay” Leto was glad when they arrived and nothing bad at all had happened along the way. She didn’t think anything would but she was glad he had seen they were safe.
Leto took their bag inside while Ethan removed the saddle and reigns from the horse. He followed, still nervous as he headed up to the room. It over looked the downstairs and had a perfect view of the front door. Leto was putting the hammocks away by folding them up into their wall compartments. “There we go.” She said with a happy smile.
“Let me help you unpack.”
“Not until I show you around.” She took his hand and gave him a tour of the small cottage then took him outside and around back. His eyes darted around and he squeezed her hand. The pond and plum trees were beautiful and he did his best to focus on Leto instead of his anxiety. “Ethan look, ducklings, they’re back.”
He swallowed and let his eyes move to her beautiful, joy filled face. She was so happy to be here and he didn’t want to ruin it, especially when this was obviously her favorite place. She giggled, gently grabbing his chin and turning his head so he was looking at the ducklings following their mother across the pond.
He blushed, not knowing if he should apologize or not for staring. It wasn’t the first time he had been caught doing and she always said it was okay so he decided it wasn’t needed. She’d simply tell him she didn’t mind. He couldn’t believe how beautiful everything was out here and enjoyed his time with Leto outside. The beauty of nature and being with her made him forget his anxiety if even for a short time.
“I guess we can unpack now” she said, noticing his ease. All she wanted was for him to relax and he finally had. They went back inside and got everything out of their bag. “so your brother must have them come out and clean things up every now and then. There isn’t a spec of dust anywhere”
“Yeah, this place means a lot to us and he makes sure it’s tended to. He has it cleaned twice a month and checked for any damages each time someone comes to clean.”
“Thank you for sharing this place with me Leto”
“I’m just happy you came with me, even though you were scared. Leaving the castle is a big step.”
He rubbed the back of his neck as he followed her back inside and upstairs. She hummed while they put their clothes away and he let himself enjoy the sound. Everything she said and did always calmed him to the very core of his being. Once everything was put away, she went around and opened all the windows, letting the fresh air in. “So, what now?”
She smiled. “Food, I’m starving.” She pulled her hair up on top of her head. “Hesperos keeps it stocked.” He found himself staring at her again and she waved her hand in front of his face so he snapped out of it. “You listening?”
“Yes, just a little tired I guess.”
“Do you want to nap first?”
“No, you should eat.”
“I’m not really hungry.”
She moved closer and his heart skipped a beat. “You haven’t been sleeping well and you don’t eat much as it is, eat for me please. I hate seeing you so exhausted, eat and then we’ll relax.”
She was so concerned for his health when she should be worrying about her own. He kept her up at night, he was sure she stressed about him, he felt like such a burden to her some days, but she never complained. He nodded and her smiled returned, bright and beautiful. He sat down at the kitchen table and watched her while she made them sandwiches and tea.
She soon had a delicious looking sandwich and a hot cup of tea steaming in front of him. It was things like this that made him love her so much. She was amazing and he was lucky just to be near her. “If you want more please tell me, sandwiches are easy”
“Thank you, you do so much for me” She placed a hand on one of his and smiled again “I’ll make you feel happy and safe again, not matter how long it takes.” He looked into her eyes a few moments before lifting his sandwich and taking a bite. Ethan could see once again this place was specially taken care of. The food tatsed so fresh. He wondered how often they were checking the food left here.
“I have something else I want to show you, if you’ll go with me.”
“It’s a little bit of a walk and it’ll be dark by the time we get there, but it’s really cool.”
He sat his sandwich down and took a drink of his tea. “Oh, well, I guess.”
“Please don’t say that, you always give me my way, the least I could do is go with you somewhere.” He sighed. “I’m sorry if I sound snippy.”
“It’s not, I…I’m holding you back. I do it all the time. You practically had to beg me to come here and now…”
She leaned over and kissed his cheek, silencing him. “Enough, I’m happy to be with you, it doesn’t matter where. I want to help you, I want to be there for you for as long as you need me.”
“Ethan.” She smiled warmly, her eyes lighting up and giving him butterflies. He wished he didn’t need her so much, that she didn’t melt his heart and make him want to touch her. He looked away, his heart aching with want.
“We’ll go, just promise to stay close to me.”
“That will be an easy promise to keep. You can hold my hand the whole way” They finished their food then cleaned up after their lunch before setting off down the road. “I just want to remind you again Ethan we are very safe here. The only reason I got kidnapped is because I went to another world. My family has always seen to keeping this world peaceful. Our knights are always patrolling to keep bandits and other unsavory people away from our people.”
“I try to keep that in mind. She stayed away from that topic for the remainder of their walk, keeping his mind busy. She was happy when she noticed him ease up. Her conversation was doing just as she hoped, keeping his mind off worrying. It would be a long time before she ran out of happy memories of this place and she would share every single one of them to help keep his fears out of his mind.
The sun was starting to set so he asked “are we close”
“very” She said with her normal, bright smile. “so, have you been listening to the birds?” Leto asked and Ethan looked away “No, I’ve just been listening to you” Her smile grew just a bit brighter, making his body want to blush. “well, some of the birds around here are my favorite. They sing such beautiful songs.”
“Not as pretty as yours I’m sure.” He internally yelled at himself to shut up, that he was letting his mouth run. He cleared his throat. “So where are we going?”
“You’ll see.” He wasn’t expecting a cave and he very nearly put on the brakes. It wasn’t like he had been kept in a cave, but the cage had been a close second. Cramped, cold, terrifying. “Ethan, you’re holding your breath.” Leto said and her gentle voice snapped him out of his fear.
“Do you want to turn back?”
He shook his head. “We’re here so we might as well go in at least.”
“I won’t leave your side and it’s safe, I promise.” She pulled him slowly inside and his grip tightened on her hand. “It’s okay, I’m here.”
It wasn’t far in when he noticed a strange glow coming from above them. It was a soft blue and he slowly raised his gaze. There were glowing dots and he could discern what they were. “We have to take our shoes off.” Leto came to a stop and let him go long enough to remove her boots. He quickly did the same and then took her hand back. “Come on, there’s water here, but it’s not deep.” She pulled him and he swallowed when his feet hit the ankle deep water.
“What makes the light?”
“Little slug like creatures. Look down.” He did and it looked for a moment like they were standing in stars. He was so amazed that he actually bent down to touch the water to make sure it was still there. “Pretty cool right?”
“Beautiful” he said in aw. She felt happiness fill her. He seemed to be truly enjoying this. She knew taking him here was a risk, she knew he might be scared but it had been a good risk. He was happy and enjoying himself. She felt like she had taken yet another baby step in healing his wounds. Leto began talking about the different creatures in the cave, stopping when Ethan asked “how do you know so much about them?”
“My parents, reading”
“You do love to read’
“It only comes second to my love of nature”
“which seems to be mostly what you read about” Leto gave a brief laugh then went back to talking. He took her by surprise a few moments later when he hugged her “Ethan?” She said softly as she wrapped her arms around him. “Thank you for never giving up on me Leto. It must be hard sometimes”
“Not really, I’m happy to do it.”
He pulled back to look at her. Even in the pale light she was still so beautiful and he didn’t realize he had leaned down to kiss her until his lips touched hers. The electrical shock that ran through him at that first contact brought his back to his senses and he jumped back, his heart slamming against his chest with panic. “I…I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…”
Leto reached for him and he actually flinched away. “Easy, it’s okay, everything’s okay.”
“I shouldn’t have done that. I’m not good for you.”
She gently grabbed onto his shirt and pulled him back. “Ethan, please look at me.” He forced himself to look into her eyes. “Talk to me, you’re supposed to be able to talk to me.”
“I…” She was so gorgeous, so sweet and giving. It felt almost wrong wanting her when he had put her through so much. He reached up and brushed his knuckles over her cheek. He loved her softness, her warmth. “I love you, but…I shouldn’t.”
“You deserve better than a broken man.”
“It’s wrong for someone like me to need you this much, to want to touch you and kiss you, but just now I just lost my head.” He sighed. “I’m so pathetic.”
Leto gently pulled him into another brief kiss “Ethan, please stop. Don’t ever talk about yourself that way. You are far from pathetic. You are brave and for all you went through you’ve been healing well. Just based on what I saw you go through you’re brave to be so put together. I hate knowing you went through so much more before I ended up there. I love you too Ethan but after being raped and abused I wanted to let you heal. It’s not wrong to want me, I’m glad you do. I’m glad you’re comfortable enough with me and trust me enough to want to be with me. You’re brave, handsome, kind, smart. How could I do any better?”
His bottom lip trembled and his resolve to hold himself at bay fell away. He kissed her again and held her close “You are such a gift Leto”
“and you’re everything I want Ethan” They held eachother for a long time, just enjoying being so close. Eventually they finally moved and started back for the cottage. Every day they stayed she showed him something new, somthing amazing she had discovered on her own, with her brother or with her whole family. By the time they got back home most of his nerves with finally being able to call her his had gone and they were cuddly enough to make it completely obvious to Hesperos and Claire that they were a couple. Hesperos gave his mate a triumphant look and she just smiled “welcome home you two”
Leto hugged them both then they went in to join them for lunch. The night Ethan seemed just as nervous as when he confessed his feelings causing Leto to ask “what’s up Ethan?”
“I…I want to make love to you Leto”
“Really? I mean are you sure?”
He nodded, wanting to be confident for her. “When it’s you, I’m always sure.” He leaned down, his lips pressing into hers. He felt that same shock run through him, desire tingling over his skin. He let his fingers skim up her arms, hooking them in her dress straps. He pushed them down, taking her dress with them so it fell to the floor to pool at her ankles. Her panties followed and his hands slowly explored, memorizing every little dip in her skin from the way her waist curved to the dimples just above her bottom. His lips moved to her neck, his tongue tasted her and she moaned, her fingers gripping his shoulders.
“Ethan.” Her voice whispering his name made his heart stutter and he lifted her and laid her gently on the bed. “Can I touch you too?” She asked softly.
“Yes.” He was shaking as she slowly unbuttoned his shirt and he let out a little whimper when her hands moved over his chest, his body quivering when she ran her nails lightly over his back. They moved over his abdomen, to his pants and he grabbed her hands, pinning them to the mattress next to her head. “Stop, please.”
“It’s okay Ethan, you’re in control.” She whispered, her lips finding his, pulling him back from his fear. “I love you, I need you.”
He took off his pants and boxers, tossing them to the floor. Leto would be the last person on earth to hurt him or force him into somthing but Ethan still needed to do it himself.He kissed from just above her belly button, between her breasts, up her neck then licked it again, loving how she reacted beneath him. “are you ready for me?” he whispered in her ear and she answered “yeah” He plunged into her depths and she moaned deeply, gripping the covers as she kept her arms resting on the bed. She wanted to grab him again but she wanted him to be able to finish without fear.
He couldn’t believe how good it felt to be inside her, to feel her pulse and shiver around him. Being with Leto was the most beautiful, amazing feeling in the world. When he came he pulled out and laid down to pull Leto close. He kissed her head “I love you so much Leto”
“I love you too Ethan” She let silence fill the room as he held her. She loved how happy he was and the fact he had gotten comfortable enough to do that with her. Ethan was finally taking major steps in healing and she looked forward to seeing the day they could make love and go places without a hint of fear anywhere in his being.
~ The End