I sighed and curled a little closer to George. I wanted nothing more than to stay in her arms forever. Uninterrupted sleep was just a distant memory and Hannah had told us sympathetically that we probably had four more months of them not sleeping through the night. All I knew was that I could sleep sitting up and some moments even standing up.
But I wouldn't change my life for anything. Holding Amanda and rocking her in the old rocker satisfied something deep inside of me. She was a part of me, the same way that little Will was. Nursing them made me horny and sometimes George and I would put the babies back into their cribs before dashing back to our room to make love. With fingers and tongues, we'd bring each other off while trying to stop our giggles.
Life was wonderful and just kept getting better. We were still dreaming of past lives and the Roman Britain life was great fun to remember. George had realized after the sixth or seventh dream that Augustus, the young legionnaire, was Jimmy Lane from Dad's law office. That was disconcerting to say the least but he was seeing a nice girl from another office in their building. Amy Sloan was a legal secretary and he'd brought her out to one of our weekend soirees.
George always laughs when I call them that. Basically, we fed people then made them work off their lunch on one of our projects. The garden was growing by leaps and bounds, expanding to include all kinds of interesting and beautiful ideas. George's dad had made some fanciful trellises and Paul had found a variety of trumpet vines that would grow up them. I could hardly wait to see if they attracted humming birds.
All in all, it was a very satisfying time. The only cloud on the horizon was an insistent reporter named Phil Green who just wouldn't take no for an answer. He wanted to do a story on our marriages and the babies. We were all four adamant that he stay away from them. Dad had had to speak to his editor to get him to keep his distance. It was the oddest thing but whenever George and I went to town, he would pop up like a bad penny.
It got so bad that Dad was tempted to get a court order to make him keep his distance. For some reason, I kept getting the feeling that he was after the babies. I was afraid to let them out of my sight for any reason. George had the same feeling so we curtailed our running around and just stayed home, doing small projects and watching our sons and daughters grow.
Lord Carthenal was a powerful male but his bonded was more beautiful than the sky and all its stars. He was smaller than his mate but he moved with the grace of one of my sisters. We knew that he was one of the sacred ten and had been a slave like us. But his lord loved him so much that he had bonded with him even before his first child could be born. The High Priestess Cesari told us that he feared another lord who coveted the little one and who would be at the court when he presented his bonded and son for the first time to the king.
We knew good things about Lord Carthenal so we agreed to protect his family. Now that I had seen his bonded and son, I knew this was a worthy assignment and so my sisters felt also. Sepira loved pretty clothes so she worked with Nephrites on his wardrobe for the presentation. Lasira adored babies so she played with little Sar whenever she could. I stayed with the lord, watching and making note of his routines, his likes and dislikes.
When I had questions, he answered them quickly. His whole mind and spirit were centered on his people and the family he adored. He was indeed worthy of our protection. The House of Eternal Bliss had dossiers on all the great ones of our land so we already knew many things about Lord Carthenal and his rival Lord Phaisel. The dark one was not a good steward of his lands or people.
The High Priestess had privately told us that it was time to rid the kingdom of his evil. We were to protect our new charges and make sure that no harm came to any of them while at the same time we were to kill Lord Phaisel, leaving no trace behind. The more I saw of this family, the more I welcomed the task.
Sepira was a master with her poisons and we'd see if they could be used. Lasira excelled in physical death and in a one-on-one fight, she could place a kick that would leave no trace yet stop a male heart forever. Personally, I was hoping that my knives would be the final solution to the problem of Lord Phaisel. I smiled to myself and made another round before returning to our luxurious suite of rooms. Lasira was ready for her turn and she kissed me sweetly before leaving to watch over our charges.
Sepira welcomed me into our bed with soft kisses and swift hands that had me stripped in no time. Her soft lips took mine with passion and I sighed beneath her while her clever hands found all the heated places on my body. But my hands were at work also and she gasped just a little when I sank two fingers into her heated sheath. She rocked on them, pushing them deeper while my thumb rubbed her sweet spot until she keened once and sprinkled me with her release.
She panted for a moment before leaving my lips and slithering down my body to pierce me with her moist tongue. I writhed on the soft linens and slid my hands into her soft curls while she twisted and turned her fingers deep inside of me. Sucking on my sweet spot, her tongue flicked at it until I thought I'd go mad. It was but a moment later when I came and came hard.
Her chuckle was soft when she slid up and pulled me into her arms. "How did your rounds go? Any trouble?"
"Nay, none at all, I think he waits for the court appearance when Nephrites and little Sar are not surrounded on all sides by protectors." I held her close and stroked the long clean line of her spine. "They were making love again and I could hear the little one keening with his pleasure. The lord is indeed a master of his cock, giving nothing but pleasure to his bonded."
"He is pregnant again." Sepira said calmly and I blinked in surprise. "I heard the lord proclaiming how good Nephrites tasted. It is true what they say about the Chosen Ones, that their seed changes flavor when they are with child."
"This should be a happy time for them instead of a worry." I frowned while thinking about how to protect Nephrites. "Poison causes miscarriage, falls might do the same without keeping him from conceiving again and last but not least, killing off his bonded, Lord Carthenal."
"Yes, but we will be there to keep any of those things from happening." My heart's desire reminded me. "Now, sleep so you can rouse to pleasure Lasira after her rounds."
Chuckling, I did as I was bid.
********* Ned/Nephrites *********
I carried new life inside of me. All I wanted to do was stay right here, safe and protected with my bonded and our son beside me. But the king commanded and we had to obey.
One of the reasons I wasn't even more frightened was the triad that had entered our lives. For all they looked similar, they were very different spirits. Carira spent most of her time with my lord so I didn't know her as well as the others but even so, I felt very protected whenever any of them were near.
Sepira was a wonder with fabric and although I know that some find me beautiful, I truly *felt* beautiful when I first donned the soft blue robes that she'd created out of two old ones. Each seam was made of gold quilted brocade featuring the lions of my lord's house and they rustled sensually each time I moved. I was already looking forward to Car's reaction when he saw me in them.
That would do for my presentation and there'd been enough to make a small matching robe for Sar. He looked so sweet with his soft blond curls falling on his sky-blue clad shoulders. I was the luckiest Chosen in the land to have such a wonderful little son. I caressed my still flat stomach and daydreamed a little about what this new life would be. A daughter would be wonderful, a little sprite with blonde hair and my green eyes.
I already knew what her name would be - Mara after the woman who was my mother. I often wondered if she still thought of me and if she'd been sad when the priests took me from her. I was almost a year old when it was discovered that I was one of the Chosen Ones. She'd hidden my changeling nature and I liked to think it was because she loved me and didn't want to let me go. I still prayed for her every night, the way that the priests had taught me.
"It's time to go, beloved." My lord's voice came from the doorway and I arose to join him. He held me close and his lips moved softly against my temple. "Stay very safe for me, my Nephrites. I would die if anything happened to you."
"The Sisters will keep all of us safe." I held onto his robe and raised my lips to his. We shared a long kiss until we finally broke apart to leave.
I hadn't left our lands since we bonded in front of the court and the priests. Once I'd delivered Sar, my lord had taken me all over our holdings on horseback. My sweet Narcel was a gentle gray mare upon whom I'd first learned to ride. Like so many other blessings, she was a gift from my bonded and I loved her. Now that I was with child again, I'd have to curtail my riding. I would allow no risk to come to him or her.
Of course, the greatest risk was approaching us at speed. The king's southern palace was only a day's ride from our lands and that was where we were heading. He came south twice a year and it was always a great honor to have him visit. I just wished that I hadn't had to come along this time. My sigh alerted my bonded that I was beginning to worry again and he chuckled before picking me up and setting me in his lap.
For the moment, Sar was sleeping in the carriage behind us with his nurse and Larisa to watch him. Carira was on horseback, moving along the column of riders that surrounded us and making forays into the countryside to check on who was where. Sepira sat atop our carriage fully armed and alert.
"Kneel up, little one." Car sat me on the facing seat then did something to the back seat that turned it into a bed - a small one to be sure but one just right for him to reassure me of how much he loved me. "I think that the gentle rocking of the carriage will add a nice touch to our lovemaking."
I shed my robe instantly and disrobed him almost as quickly. He'd taken me that morning but I was ready for him again and if his shaft was any indication, he was ready for me, too. He lay back and I straddled him while his big hands lifted me just enough so I could position him at my female sheath. I was dripping with arousal and the feel of him sliding oh-so-slowly into me made me mewl with pleasure.
I'd forgotten how wonderful it was not to have to stop for oil or lotion to soothe his way. My body made its own lubricant and he kept sliding in until I thought he'd reach my heart. Once he was fully seated, I opened my eyes and slid my hands up to his broad shoulders, leaning down to kiss him. The rocking of the carriage felt wonderful and I feasted on his mouth until I just had to move.
His hands raised my hips a little then let me drop, each time coming just a little further out until the heat of him turned me wanton. He'd been waiting for my little cries and once they began, he rolled us over so he could begin to move harder and faster. His shaft felt like ten inches of heated steel spearing me so deeply that he'd never come out. Luckily his lips kept mine busy or I'd have embarrassed myself with my cries.
No one could keep silent when being possessed by my powerful lover. I came so hard that I think I passed out for a few moments, for when I came to he had sheathed himself in my back channel. His hands stroked my stomach, occasionally fondling my rising shaft. "Welcome back, sweet one, did you enjoy that?"
"Very much, my lord," I stretched and flexed around his bulk, feeling him pulse for a moment. "Shall you reassure me thusly when I grow frightened in the palace?"
He nuzzled my ear and gently bit the lobe. "Naughty Nephrites, I shall have to gag you so the whole palace doesn't know how beautifully you scream my name." I blushed from my head all the way down to my toes and he chuckled. "The king will wonder why our suite is so quiet unless he hears me calling out your name. Just remember this moment if you feel uncomfortable and know how very smug I am that you belong to me."
I turned my head just enough so I could see his beloved face. "I am the smug one, my love. I am very, very proud that I belong to you. All the court beauties shall be jealous of me when they see you again."
"There is no one at court of either sex who could possibly compare to your radiance." He moved his hips just enough to slide in a little deeper, sparking that hidden spot that made me feel even more wanton than usual. So, I brought one of his hands up to my lips so I could smother it in kisses and little nips that made him groan. The calluses from his reins and sword play meant I could bite harder than normal and his growl made my stomach flutter.
"Little tempter, you shall have a hard time sitting if you're not careful." He sped up his strokes until I wanted to howl my pleasure to the whole caravan. "Sweet Nephrites, you are my own sweet love."
And I came with a rush of seed into his hand, feeling his seed flood me. I realized that I wasn't worried any longer. Between my four protectors, I would be fine and our son would be, too. I held his hand to my chest so he could feel my heartbeat. "I love you more than life, my fierce lord. We shall be safe until we can return home to await the birth of our next child."
"I shall tell the king that I can not go with him on the hunt planned for six moons from now. It will be too close to your time and I would not have you go through such pain without me." He laid kisses over my shoulder and down my arm while his fingers gently tweaked my nipple.
He knows how much I love that and I wondered if they could already be sensitive after being only three days pregnant. Stretching, I tried to keep him inside of me but he slipped out before I could hold him. Turning in his arms, I raised my face for more of his wonderful kisses. If we were going to be at the palace shortly, I needed many of them to armor me against the unknown dangers of the royal court.
********* Carson/Carthenal *********
I held my bonded close and prayed to the many-eyed goddess to protect her Chosen One if something got by us. The triad's agreement to protect Nephrites and Sarpendon had lessened my anxiety but not rid me of it. Phaisel had been a thorn in my side from the moment that he ascended to his father's fiefdom. Rumor said that he killed the old man to hasten his taking the title and I could well believe it.
Watching my love fuss over the wrinkles in my robe, I thought fondly of his sweetness and his delight in bearing our children. He was the center of my world, the same way that I was the center of his. I stilled his busy hands with a soft kiss then donned my robe and helped him into his. I expect our bodyguards would know exactly what we'd been doing when we emerged from the carriage but they would blandly ignore it the way that they usually did.
The High Priestess Cesari had told me that this triad was her very best and after sparring with them, I knew it to be true. I am considered good with a blade but Carira had wiped the floor with me - twice. Instead of being disgruntled, I'd heaved a sigh of relief and gotten busy with the numerous tasks that would leave my lands safe while we ventured to the royal palace.
King Tutenkamos was a good man but rather too fond of his wine. He was not the man that his father had been but there had been no wars for two decades and I was hoping to keep that state of affairs going. Of course, Phaisel was working in opposition to me since the only way he could conquer new lands was to promote war. It didn't help that I'd been beating him at sport and love since we were mere lads.
"We're here." Nephrites' voice had a little quiver in it and I gathered him into my arms for a last hug before we had to exit the carriage.
"Remember to stay with the Sisters and watch over Sar for me." I kissed his soft lips once more for courage. "I love you and I always shall. Now let's go get cleaned up so I can present my beautiful bonded and our sweet son to the court."
We exited the carriage and Nephrites quickly took our son from the nurse to hold him for the walk down the long marble halls to the guest suites. My mind kept note of the shields on each door while my mouth smiled and my head nodded to those we passed. It looked like everyone was here and I prayed yet again that the goddess would protect my small family.
"Lord Carthenal, the king awaits you." Kristos, the king's major-domo bowed low just outside the doors set aside for me.
"I will be with you in just a moment. My love, I'd like you to meet Kristos, the king's right hand man." I waved the Sisters into the suite so they could check it out first before we even entered. "Kristos, this is my bonded and our son, Sarpendon."
Nephrites bowed to the old man and his eyes smiled above the veil that kept his modesty. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Sir."
He bowed back, his eyes busy taking in the size and disposition of the small lad who was my heir. "It is an honor to meet one of the Chosen, Lord Nephrites. Your son looks healthy and strong."
I could tell that my love was beaming at the compliment but also a little taken aback by being addressed as 'Lord'. I'd forgotten to tell him that becoming my bonded had conferred that title to him. "Kristos, I will be right with you."
Then I ushered my family into the opulent suite that was always too warm and never even came close to our cozy home for comfort. Carira nodded that the suite was secure and it was safe to leave them here. I hated to do it but when the king called, it wasn't wise to keep him waiting. Sepira had already shaken out a fresh robe and I hastily changed into it while Nephrites and she made sure I looked presentable.
Then I closed the door behind me with Carira by my side to begin the long walk to the throne room. Two hours later, I was finally dismissed to get ready for dinner. It would be a private meal with only thirty of us breaking bread together. I would eat in the suite first then I could be sparing at the feast. Sepira would attend me and taste my food before me. The others would wonder why except for the few who knew of the bad blood between Phaisel and myself.
The suite looked much better when I walked in but that might have been the smiling bondmate and child who greeted me with smiles and laughter. I hugged them both and made Sar squeal with a tickle to his tummy. They told me what I'd missed and all the fun toys that Kristos had brought for Sar to play with. Sepira nodded behind them so I knew they had tested safe.
I reclined on the soft pillows in the sitting area and Nephrites joined me with a tray of nibbles and a goblet of sweet wine. I tasted him first with a sigh of relief then allowed him to feed me the small bite-sized savories, while telling him of my meeting with the king. Tomorrow he would be formally presented at court and our son would be acknowledged by all as my heir.
He nodded and stroked my cheek, bringing the peace that he always brought to me. I held him close and breathed deeply of his clean scent. The members of court favored perfumes that usually masked inadequate bathing habits and made me sneeze. Nephrites preferred to bathe with me and I told him that when I returned after dinner we would do so. He agreed then dropped a savory in my lap before sliding his slender hand across my groin to retrieve it.
The little tease - I returned the favor without any pretense and he gasped before kissing me sweetly. We traded tongues for a long moment until our laughing son broke us apart. He thought we were very silly when we kissed so I mock-growled and grabbed him to set him in my lap. After that, we finished our pre-dinner snack and I changed robes yet again.
Nephrites kissed me softly before I left. "Eat quickly and return to us. I promise that your bath will be waiting."
"Wicked little one, I shall have to chastise you most severely upon my return." I teased him and he assumed a most angelic pose of contrition before grinning up at me. Kissing him one more time, I left with my Sister shadow for the banquet. I would be counting the hours until my return.
The end of part 12