They woke a few hours later, still bleary-eyed, but so far it had been the longest period of uninterrupted sleep they’d gotten since coming to the cabin.
Elain’s stomach growled obnoxiously loud. Lucien’s metallic eye clicked and whirred as it focused on her. "Cauldron, was that your stomach? What did you do—swallow Bryaxis?
Elain swatted his arm with a giggle.
“We should probably eat something,” he suggested.
She had to agree. Very little sleep and barely more than light snacking for the past three days had her feeling lightheaded. She slid out from beneath the thick woolen blanket and eyed the dressing gown draped over the chair. The house was plenty warm and she was just going to the kitchen and then straight back to bed. It hardly seemed worth the effort.
“What are you hungry for?” She asked, feeling his eyes on her. She had barely taken two steps toward the kitchen when he replied.
“Mmm... you,” he said, his voice low and husky.
Elain faltered a step and glanced back at him. He was devouring her already with his eyes. She let her feet carry her back to the bed, all thoughts of food forgotten.
Later, the muscles in her legs trembled and ached, but in the best possible way. She lay on the pile of pillows, her hair splayed out around her. Lucien crawled up the mattress to lie beside her with a satisfied smile.
“Who do you think is winning the bet?” She wondered idly.
“If I had to guess,” Lucien pondered as he traced a circle around her navel, “either Rhys or Cass.”
Elain’s stomach growled again. “I bet it’s going to be someone who completely shocks us. Amren, perhaps.”
Lucien barked a laugh. “That wouldn’t surprise me at all.”
They stayed in the cabin for another day. After they had gotten their first full night of sleep since arriving and had managed to eat three complete meals, they agreed they were probably safe to return to their friends and general civilization. For the first time since leaving the House of Wind, Elain fretted over her garden and the state it must be in after nearly four days of neglect. She felt slightly guilty for forgetting about it.
"Oh, you know good and well that Az was probably out there keeping it tended," Lucien said with a chuckle. "He was probably out there telling your flowers not to worry, that you'd be back soon."
Elain looked amused but also mildly pleased at that.
Elain’s dress had been cut on the first night at the cabin (another thing she felt guilty about now that the frenzy was waning and she could think rationally again). But because of the magic of the house, she wouldn’t have to make an appointment with Deidre—a new one appeared on top of the nightstand as they dressed, identical to hers. She almost wondered if it was her dress, just repaired.
“It’s going to be so tedious having to wear clothes all day,” she complained.
Lucien snorted as he pulled his trousers on. “I mean, feel free to walk around our house unclothed all you like...”
His russet eye gleamed playfully. “Though when you go out to garden,” he continues, “I’m afraid I must insist you at least wear your apron.”
Elain pictured herself gardening in naught but her apron, more of a smock really... which led her to think about Lucien surprising her in the garden and having his way with her on that little stone bench—
Tsk, tsk, tsk. Naughty.
She threw him a feigned look of offense and wagged her finger at him. Eavesdropping is frowned upon in most places.
She felt his unconcerned shrug. Not my fault if you send it through the bond as clear as day.
Elain just shook her head and smirked. He sat on the bed with his forearm draped over his knee, his chin resting on his fist, as he watched her dress. The house had mercifully provided warmer underthings than she had arrived. She pulled on the thick woolen stockings that went up to the middle of her thighs, resting her foot against the bedframe for balance, and caught him staring at her.
I love you.
Somehow, hearing him say it through the bond felt even more sincere and intimate than the times he’d said it aloud. Perhaps it was because, in addition to hearing the words themselves, she could feel the pure devotion behind them.
I love you.
And she meant it. She felt like she had already loved him for a thousand years. And she would go on loving him for a thousand, ten thousand more. She would love him long after their souls left their bodies behind for the eternal peace the Mother promised.
Once she finished dressing, Lucien rose from the bed and wordlessly took her hand, leading her into the small hallway.
"I still can't believe you winnowed," Lucien marveled.
"Oh, that," she said with a blush. "Az has been trying to teach me. I'm a terrible student, but I managed it once or twice. I can only do it if I can see the spot I'm winnowing to so... it's not very effective yet. I haven't been able to get farther than a few blocks."
Lucien shrugged. "Some people never learn it, though. So be proud of yourself for getting this far already."
Elain just pursed her lips.
"You'll get there, love," Lucien said, kissing her hand still clasped tightly in his. They walked outside and both turned to give the cabin one more glance. Elain felt a swell of affection for the little house—it was where she and Lucien had been made whole together. Where their scents had merged and created something new, something unique, that belonged solely to them. She would miss it.
She would also not know how to behave there when the entire family returned for Solstice or any other occasion. She was glad they had kept their lovemaking confined to the bedroom.
Once they passed the perimeter of the wards, Lucien put his arm around her waist and winnowed them back to Velaris.