DISCLAIMER: Legend of the Seeker and its characters are the property of ABC Studios, and Terry Goodkind. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To michkidd[at]earthlink.net
"We're out of tampons."
Kahlan shook her head. She didn't have time for this. She really didn't have time for this. Of course, that didn't stop her from skidding to a dead stop in her tracks. "What?"
"Tampons," Cara responded dryly. "A feminine hygiene product used to stop.."
"Cara," lips mimicking a smile, Kahlan forced the words through her clenched teeth. "Sweetie, I know what tampons are. I also know I'm on my way out the door, to go to Zurich, to terminate an illegal arms smuggler. Just exactly when am I supposed to buy tampons?"
At the sound of feet shuffling, Kahlan turned to watch her wife saunter towards the breakfast table. Her wife. Kahlan was already running late, flustered and irritated because she was running late but just thinking the words - my wife - was enough to make her heart skip a beat. Her wife, in the white, tuxedo shirt she was wearing when they first met.. and nothing else. The buttons undone to an indecent degree, showing enough cleavage to make Kahlan lick her lips.
Cara padded, no, sauntered towards the breakfast table, all big-cat contented but still on the prowl. Her mussed, honey wheat hair haloed by the morning sun spilling in through the windows. She sat down at the table spread with the food she'd cooked for the two of them while Kahlan hurried about their home - pancakes, fresh and hot coffee, fruit, scrambled eggs, bacon. And Kahlan felt a hard pang of guilt at Cara having done all this for her, and Kahlan not having the time to share it with her.
"I am assuming," Cara said, taking one of the pancakes off the stack. She tore a bite-sized piece off with her fingers. It was completely unconscious, the way Cara slid the piece seductively into her mouth. Even when she wasn't trying, Kahlan found everything Cara did completely erotic. "That you'll be returning at some point. How hard is it to kill an arms dealer? Anyway, when you return, stop at the store and buy some tampons."
Kahlan narrowed her eyes suspiciously, the corner of her lips pulling upwards. "And what will you be doing while I'm gone?"
Cara pushed her syrup-covered thumb into her mouth then, very deliberately, slowly pulled it back out with the wettest pop Kahlan had heard since, well, about three hours ago. "Waiting for you to return," she drawled. "When I'm not wondering why my wife couldn't have breakfast with me before she left."
"Cara.." Kahlan didn't intend to whine, it just came out that way. It's not like they never received individual orders, or hadn't been separated for longer than seemed necessary since they'd been married.
Kahlan stepped towards Cara. She reached out, brushing the backs of her fingers against Cara's cheek. Like she could put every emotion she felt into the scant touch.
"How was your meeting?" Cara asked, breaking off another piece of pancake. "With Richard?"
Kahlan's lips formed an 'o' shape. That's what this was all about. She lowered the hand brushing Cara's cheek to grip the back of Cara's chair. Kahlan turned the chair, angling it away from the table and towards herself before lifting a leg and straddling Cara's lap. She pressed her lips gently to Cara's forehead, then added another gentle kiss to the tip of Cara's nose.
"Cara," Kahlan lifted her right hand, the back of it facing Cara. "See this little band of metal? I didn't stand on a beach in Hawaii.."
"Naked," Cara added.
Kahlan smiled, not so mirthfully. "That's because you burned down the hotel with all our clothes during your bachelorette party."
Cara closed her eyes, head tilting back as she groaned. "You're never going to let me live that one down are you?"
"Are you always going to get all jealous and insecure every time I have a meeting with Richard?"
Cara cracked opened an eye, peering at Kahlan through the sliver of an opening. "The two of you did date."
"Yes, we did date," Kahlan sighed, tired of retelling the same story. "He's a nice guy and I was going through that whole 'second-time virgin' thing that was happening within the Confessor's Agency."
"Yeah," Cara's face scrunched up. "That was kinda weird."
"Very," Kahlan agreed. "But, Richard and I broke up, and I met you. I fell in love with you." She drew her arms over Cara's shoulders as she leaned forward, their faces inches apart and getting closer. "Difficult as you sometimes made it. I fell in love with you." She planted a kiss on the side of Cara's nose. "You proposed and I said yes. And even though I was standing naked on a beach in Hawaii because you burned down our hotel, I exchanged vows with you." Kahlan planted another kiss on the other side of Cara's nose. "I promised to cherish, honor, obey.."
"I'm pretty fond of that one," Cara smiled, her hands drifting up Kahlan's thighs, her fingers drifting under the hem of Kahlan's shorter than regulations skirt.
"Cara.." Kahlan husked. "I'm going to be late."
"Be late," Cara whispered, drawing her tongue over Kahlan's bottom lip, fingers already drifting between Kahlan's legs. "For me."
Kahlan would have protested but she was already gone. Her eyelids lazily closed shut, mouth going slack as Cara's fingers slipped between silk and skin, over and into flesh already gone warm and wet at that first touch of Kahlan's lips on Cara's face.
Cara's free hand thread into Kahlan's hair, tightened, holding her there as Cara assaulted Kahlan's neck with lips and teeth. Cara always loved to use her teeth and the feeling of them scraping against Kahlan's neck sent a hard shudder down Kahlan's spine.
Already, Kahlan could feel the magic building within her, bubbling, surging outwards as her thighs tensed and her hips rolled onto Cara's fingers.
"Cara.." she whimpered breathlessly. The hand in her hair tightened to an almost painful grip, pulling at Kahlan's scalp.
"Kahlan," Cara husked, demanded. "Open your eyes. I want to watch you come."
Another whimper but Kahlan obeyed. She forced open the eyelids that felt like they'd been weighed down. Her pale, blue eyes black as midnight, insides coiled and clenching, her magic expanding like an overfilled balloon then Cara jutted her fingers hard and deep and the balloon popped.
Kahlan had always feared this moment, when pleasure and magic collided. To be in this moment with someone she cared for, someone she loved with the knowledge that to do this would be to take their free will, turn them into her slave. Something Kahlan could never do to someone she loved.
Then, Kahlan met Cara. Call it fate or destiny but Kahlan had fallen in love with the one person in the world who was immune to a Confessor's magic.
Kahlan trembled and shuddered, collapsing onto her wife who continued stroking, pushing Kahlan further and further over the edge until there were no more trembles or shudders for Kahlan to give.
And the arms on Cara's shoulders tightened as Kahlan drew her closer, like she could meld their bodies into one. Because she didn't want to let go. Not now.
Somewhere, in her completely spent body, Kahlan found one tiny bit of energy. Energy she used to mumble into Cara's shoulder. "I love you."
Cara wrapped her arm tight around Kahlan's waist. "I know."
ISLAND OF ST. MAARTEN, NETHERLANDS
TWO YEARS AGO
Like taking candy from a baby. All of her kill orders, Cara mused as she brought the bouquet of white tulips to her nose, should be so easy. Checking her watch, Cara noted she was 17 minutes early. Perfect.
She stopped before Room 617, leaning against the doorframe as she knocked on the Confessor named Kahlan Amnell's door.
"I'm coming!" Kahlan hopped on one foot, pulling her strappy heel onto the other one. Cara was early. EARLY. And any thoughts Kahlan had about backing out of their date ended with Cara's (early) knock on the hotel room door. She slipped on her other shoe, standing up straight and taking a moment to smooth out her dress before opening the door.
First, Kahlan saw the flowers. White. Tulips. Then, green eyes peering rakishly over the bouquet at her. And then there was the tux. Black, perfectly tailored to Cara's slender frame. White shirt underneath. Black bowtie.
"You're.." Kahlan stammered, swallowed hard. "Early."
"I hate waiting." Cara shrugged, extending the flowers to Kahlan. "These are for you."
"Thank you," Kahlan said as she took the flowers, a faint blush creeping on her cheeks at the sensation of Cara's fingertips brushing over the backs of Kahlan's fingers. There was something possessive about the scant contact, calculating, like she'd been marked.
"Are you ready?" Cara withdrew her hands, tucked them into her pockets as she leaned against the doorframe.
"Not yet." Kahlan stepped back and felt the blush on her cheeks deepen. The look in Cara's eyes had gone from rakish to practically wolfish as she looked Kahlan down then up. The red dress had been an impulse buy. Something she'd bought because she'd been feeling fat and bloaty that particular day.
She'd never worn it for Richard. She couldn't figure out why she even packed the thing for what was supposed to be an assignment.
Kahlan walked towards the dresser, picking up the gold necklace she'd set aside to wear for the evening. "Would you mind?" she asked, draping the necklace around her neck and turning her back to Cara.
"Not at all."
Kahlan bent slightly at the knees, tilting her head forward. A shiver ran down her spine at the feel of Cara's fingers against her neck as she swept Kahlan's hair to the side. Kahlan lifted her eyes towards the mirror, watching Cara's reflection as Cara fastened the necklace. She felt another shiver as Cara met her gaze. Kahlan was on assignment to find and catch the world's deadliest assassin and, here she was, about to go on a date.
And she didn't even know Cara's last name.
"We don't have to go to dinner," Cara spoke to Kahlan's reflection. "We could stay here," she paused, leaning until her lips were a hair's breath from the shell of Kahlan's ear, voice lowering to a sex-kitten purr. "And I could make you come."
It was a phenomenally bad idea, for a whole host of reasons. Kahlan, at the moment, was just having a hard time finding a reason to say no.
Hand in hand, they walked in silence on the moonlit beach. Their free hands holding their shoes as the surf rolled over their feet.
Their date was, in a word, perfect. Kahlan did most of the talking but when Cara did speak, she was charming, witty, intelligent.. and chivalrous, their conversation free of the not-so double entendres Kahlan had come to expect in the short time she'd known Cara.
Kahlan nudged Cara with her shoulder. "Penny for your thoughts?"
"A penny?" Cara snorted. "I'm worth way more than that. Penny for my thoughts?" She stopped, turning towards Kahlan. "Tell me I'm going to see you again."
She watched as Kahlan's eyes twinkled with moonlight, lips curving into a shy smile. "I don't even know your last name," she breathed, like she was exasperated but anything but.
Cara leaned into Kahlan. She dropped her shoes to free her hand, cupping Kahlan's chin with her fingers, eyes focused on Kahlan's lips as she brought her face closer. "Tell me I'm going to see you again."
Uncertainty flickered across Kahlan's face. Then her eyes were on Cara's lips, tongue licking her own. "Yes," she breathed as their lips connected.
Like taking candy from a baby. Cara had been assigned to kill Kahlan Amnell and it was going to be so easy. So easy.
She just couldn't figure out why she continued to stay her hand.
TEN HOURS LATER
"You stopped for coffee before you called, didn't you?"
Kahlan laughed at Cara's accusation because, well, it was true. Her favorite café was only a block from her hotel, with it's cute little tables, fantastic coffee and a view directly overlooking Lake Zurich.
"We had our second date here," Kahlan sighed wistfully as she recalled the memory. "Do you remember?"
"Of course I remember," Cara answered and Kahlan could practically see the blonde rolling her eyes. "I'd also been sent to kill you. Do you remember that?"
Which was Kahlan's cue to roll her eyes. "Well, if you're considering 'le petite mort' as killing.."
"Multiple 'le petite morts'," Cara retorted
"Fine, whatever," Kahlan's smile broadened. Her cell beeped in her ear, she pulled the device away to look at the screen. "Cara? Can I call you back? This is important."
"More important than phone sex?"
"What?" Kahlan gasped, cheeks blushing. They hadn't done that in awhile. Then, she realized her wife was joking. "You're incorrigible."
"If incorrigible is Swedish for 'missing my hot and sexy wife' then, yes, I'm totally incorrigible."
"I'll talk to you soon," Kahlan laughed.
"Fine," Cara huffed. "If I start growing hair on my palms.."
"Bye sweetie," Kahlan disconnected the line, then reconnected. "Dr. Anderson."
"Mrs. Mason," he answered chirpily in her ear. "Glad I got in contact with you. I got the results of your physical and I have some.. unexpected news for you."
"Unexpected?" she asked. "This couldn't wait?"
"I didn't think you'd want to wait for this," he answered, his tone serious. "Especially if you're already on assignment."
Kahlan listened intently, her fingers trembling as they softly pressed to her lips.
The moment Cara hung up the phone it rang again. She looked at the 'Caller ID' lips already smiling as she lifted the phone.
"Good morning, Zedd," she used her best 'Charlie's Confessor's' voice, the old TV series about a covert group of female confessor's and their mysterious benefactor. Cara had always had a crush on Sabrina. Even as a child, she definitely had a type.
"Cara," Zedd's voice was serious in her ear. "Get out, now!"
In a former life, Cara and Kahlan's home had previously been a boat repair warehouse, a cavernous space with high walls and a view of the bay. From the corner of her eye, Cara saw a shadow move across the wall. Something dropping from the roof. There were snakes in the area, mostly the small, non-poisonous variety. But snakes didn't unfurl like this one, or its companion five feet away. Already, she was moving towards the gun stowed underneath the breakfast table, only to find it missing. Her eyes went to the long, rectangular table on the other side of the room. She'd cleaned her guns last night and the gun that was supposed to be under the dining table still sat in parts across the room.
"What's going on Zedd?" she asked.
"You've been burned," his gravely voice rumbled. "Both of you!"
Cara dropped the phone, going into a low crouch as the windows shattered under a hail of gunfire.
The hairs on the back of Kahlan's neck stood on end. She was sitting at her café table, elbows on the surface, fingertips rubbing tight circles on her temples at the sudden pounding of her skull as she desperately tried to figure out what she was going to say to Cara. Then, the hairs on the back of her neck stood on edge, goose pimples rippled across her skin. One of the reasons why she'd been hand-picked by the Confessor's - her almost sixth-sense perception.
Kahlan lifted her eyes, not a lot, just a little. Just enough to get her bearings. It was Tuesday, late-evening in Zurich. The streets weren't packed with people, they just weren't scarce either. Kahlan removed one of her hands on the table, slowly drifting it down to the gun strapped to her thigh.
Her eyes went to her cup of coffee as a tiny red dot drifted over the surface. Kahlan jerked backwards. Both hands reaching under the table, she flipped it up, the surface exploding as the bullet struck.
A sniper, a fucking sniper, and all Kahlan could do was run, internally cursing herself for compromising her safety - open water on one side, tall buildings on the other. Cara would smack her across the back of the head if she were here.
Kahlan ran north, towards the bridge. Bits of pavement exploding as the bullets continued to rain down.
"GET OUT OF THE WAY!!" she screamed at the small group of people ahead of her. But, it was too late. She felt the bullet as it whizzed by her ear, could only watch in horror as it struck a woman carrying several shopping bags in the head.
Eventually, Kahlan knew she'd be out of the sniper's range. But how many innocents would die before then? Another bullet whizzed by, striking the dirt next to the sidewalk. Kahlan made her choice and ran towards the water. She reached the edge as another bullet hit too close to home, the pain in her arm burning as she dove over the edge of the walled embankment.
Early Spring and the water was still ice cold. Kahlan's chest seized, her body instantly reacting to the sudden shock. Despite her body's reaction, Kahlan stayed submerged, hurriedly swimming towards the bridge where there'd be some form of cover.
Fifty feet from the bridge, her lungs began to burn, her muscles screamed, body already trying to shut itself down. She went to the surface, lungs exploding then coughing violently from the water in her mouth. Her fingers trembling, Kahlan forced them to grip the metal bars of the ladder. Hypothermia had already set in and she shivered almost violently as she pulled herself up to street level.
The street was empty, the light dim from the streetlights a block and a half away. Kahlan, arms wrapped around her stomach in her soaked clothes, made her way towards a tight alley to get away from any prying eyes and avoid suspicion.
As she turned the corner, her reflexes kicked in, leaning back heavily as a hand wielding a knife slashed towards her throat. Kahlan grabbed the attacker's wrist, swung her leg upwards, kicking him square in the stomach. An assassin, judging by the hardness of his muscles. But, she was Kahlan (formerly Amnell) Mason. Hand still holding his wrist, she jerked him forward, keeping him off balance and struck him hard across the jaw with her freehand. Then hit him again, until his lip split, and she felt his bones crack under her knuckles.
He surged forward, like a linebacker making a tackle. But that just put him within Kahlan's proximity, within arm's reach. Amateur. She grabbed him by the throat, her magic surged within her, and he instinctively dropped to his knees.
Eyes turning black, she gazed into his and the color of his eyes matched her own.
"Command me, Confessor," he said reverently.
"Why are you trying to kill me?" Kahlan demanded.
"I was hired."
Her brows furrowed as she loosened the grip around his neck. "By who?"
"I don't know," he said, voice tinged with sorrow at the realization his Mistress was distressed from his inability to provide an answer. "The contract was made by phone, the payment by wire. He just said you and your wife had been burned.."
"What?" Kahlan gasped. She staggered backwards, eyes returning to blue, only one thought, one word in her mind. "Cara."
The windows exploded inwards, first from gunfire, then from the two assassins rappelling down from the roof.
Cara dove onto the floor, sliding towards the kitchen area, wearing nothing but the tuxedo shirt she'd had on when Kahlan left that morning. The three thousand-dollar island, with its hanging pots and Italian masonry that Cara had built herself, served as Cara's only barrier and exploded into bits around her as both men continued firing.
She reached up with both hands, because she'd built the kitchen island, because she knew her own home like the back of her hand, Cara reached up and pulled the two largest knives from the magnetic holder she knew was there.
Cara turned, quickly rose and, with a smile on her lips, threw both knives. They connected, hitting both men square in the chest. Before Cara could claim her victory (and reclaim her knives), the front door burst open. There was the deafening bang of a flash grenade, choking smoke instantly filling the air.
In a low crouch, Cara ran across the floor, towards the two dead men littering her home. She yanked off both their weapons, reloading both clips and rising as the front door suddenly filled with more men in tactical gear, masks and weapons aimed, the lights from their sights cutting through the thick smoke.
Firing both weapons at once, Cara streaked towards the now broken windows. She leapt through, feeling the bullets of returning fire whizzing past her. She hit the ground, rolled into a crouch, eyes scanning the exterior. She darted towards her '55 silver Porsche Spider, the kind James Dean died in. There'd only been 90 made that year and the man she'd 'acquired' it from, well, he wouldn't miss it seeing as how he's dead. Cara leapt over the back, sliding easily into the driver's seat. Key already in the ignition, Cara turned it, heard the engine purr and slammed on the gas.
Bullets pinged off the metal, some connecting and Cara growled because she didn't have time to kill the assholes who shot her car. Tires spinning on the rocky surface of her driveway, she made a hard right turn through the cut open entrance, already a blip on the horizon by the time her attackers mobilized to give chase.
"Amateurs," she muttered.
"WHAT THE FUCK, ZEDD!?!"
Zedd sneered distastefully at the rude and loud words in his ear, hoping, Sally - a recent divorcee who'd just moved up from Pensacola - hadn't heard the angry woman's voice and misconstrued the conversation.
"Cara," he spoke calmly, setting down his mimosa. "Glad to see you're still alive."
"I'm Cara Mason," she answered. "Of course, I'm alive. Back to the topic - WHAT THE FUCK, ZEDD!! I've been burned?"
"My daughter," Zedd said sheepishly to Sally, his hand discretely covering his phone. He turned in his seat, facing away from Sally. "Can we have this discussion someplace a little more discreet?"
"Warehouse district," Cara answered quickly. "You know where."
Kahlan knew going back to her hotel was not an option. Whoever was trying to kill would most definitely have people covering it. But, she was also completely soaking wet. She'd warmed a little but there was still the threat of hypothermia. She needed new clothes. She needed a place to hide.
She kept her head down as she walked the sidewalk, arms still folded tightly over her chest. The couple before her were young, attractive and looked completely in love. And Kahlan felt a pang in her chest because they reminded Kahlan of her and Cara, and already, she felt guilty over what she had to do.
As they passed, she bumped the male slightly, offering her apologies even as she kept walking. She turned the corner, exhaled as she leaned against the wall before taking inventory of the man's wallet and Blackberry. Then she dialed and placed the device to her ear.
"Hello?" Zedd answered.
Kahlan almost cried out at the sound of Zedd's voice. "Zedd! Someone put out a burn notice on me, on Cara. Oh God," her hand went to her mouth. "Cara? Is she okay?"
"Kahlan, calm down," Zedd spoke softly, calmly. "It's my other daughter," he whispered. "Cara's, well, Cara. Of course she's fine. First things first, are you safe?"
Kahlan looked around. "For the moment."
"Good. I'm going to see Cara," he paused to sigh wearily. "Now. We'll fix this. Just give me some.. time."
Cara slammed hard on the brakes, the car fishtailing slightly as it rolled to a full stop. Instantly, she was out of the car and opening the trunk. Cara reached for the duffel bag where she always kept a spare change of clothes, hurriedly putting them on. As she finished zipping her fly, she lifted her head at the familiar sound of Zedd's pink Cadillac convertible.
Zedd parked his car next to Cara's, hands already raised defensively as he exited the vehicle. To the average person, Zedd looked like any other retired Floridian; with his long, white-gray hair pulled back into a ponytail, sunset printed Hawaiian shirt, khaki's and leather sandals. The average person had no idea Zeddicus 'Zedd' Zorander was a Wizard of the First Order and former Director of the M.B.I. (Magic Bureau of Investigation).
"Cara.." his voice was both pleading and warning. Cara was having none of it.
"I've been burned!?!" she practically screamed as she came up to the old man, green eyes ablaze with fury. "Someone burned me? And KAHLAN!?!"
"Cara," Zedd attempted to place his hands on Cara's shoulders, only to have her shirk from his touch. "Calm down."
"Don't tell me to fucking calm down," she spat back, needing to direct her anger somewhere before she exploded. "They tried to kill me. In my HOME!" There was hurt in her voice on the last word, like something safe and sacred had been violated, and Cara had no idea who to blame for it. "Have they gone after Kahlan?" She stopped, her entire body rigid still as her eyes went wide. She then turned on her heel. "I have to go.."
Zedd reached out, grabbing Cara by the arm. She whipped her head towards him, her eyes going to the fingers wrapped around her bicep then back up to the wizard. Anyone else would have been afraid. Zedd wasn't anyone else. "Now, hold on. You've been burned, Cara. The best thing you can do right now is stay where you are."
"The only thing," she said, placing her hand on Zedd's and just a little forcefully removing his fingers from her arm. "I'm doing right now is finding my wife. If anything's happened to her.." her voice trailed, trembling slightly.
"You spoke to her?"
"Yes." He watched as some of the tension dissipated from her body.
"Where is she?"
"Cara. We need to find out who burned you."
"Me?" Her eyes squinted, head turning slightly as she looked ahead. "Both Kahlan and I were burned, what makes you think this is just about me?"
"What makes you think this is not about you?" Zedd sighed, pulling his best 'concerned grandfatherly' look. "You were a double agent, Cara, for years. It'd be easier to find out who you haven't pissed off enough to burn you than sift through the list of who you have."
"Thanks, Zedd," Cara snorted. She lowered her head, features obscured by the curtain of blonde hair falling over her face, her voice going soft, almost childish and lost. "And I put Kahlan in the crosshairs. If anything happens to her.." Cara turned her back to Zedd, bringing her arms up and folding them across her chest.
They weren't friends. They would never really be friends. There was too much darkness in their shared pasts, lines crossed and broken that could never be repaired. Zedd would never call himself Cara's friend but they were close enough that she allowed him to see her like this - vulnerable, emotional, scared. And, Cara might not have been a friend, it didn't mean she wasn't family.
Zedd inhaled deeply, reaching out to place his hand on her shoulder only to draw it back knowing how Cara would take it as a sign of weakness. She'd been trained to think the only strength that mattered was physical, nothing Zedd could say would show her how wrong she was, or how strong Cara was, even when she was 'weak'.
"You'll get her back," he spoke softly, masking his own uncertainty.
Cara turned, her head still bowed unable, unwilling to look the wizard in the eye. "Will you help me?"
He smiled, chuckling softly under his breath. "I wouldn't be here if I wasn't, now would I?"
Kahlan stirred, jostled awake from the sudden slowing of the train. A cabin, where she could stretch her legs and sleep properly, would have been better. But, she already felt guilty about stealing Martin Csokas's wallet and didn't want to do too much damage to his bank account before he realized his wallet had been stolen and called his bank.
The ticket for the train had been cheap, certainly cheaper than her jeans, sweater, jacket and boots, and she benefited from having an empty seat next to her. But, sleep had not come easily for Kahlan. She was thousands of miles from home, from Cara. Burned. Wiped off the grid, with no access to cash or the influence of her Sisters, the Confessor's. Contacting her biological sister, Dennee, would only make things worse for Dennee instead of better for Kahlan.
The door to the front of the car opened, Kahlan leaning her head to get a better look at the Conductor as he entered the car.
"What's going on?" Kahlan heard someone ask.
"It's nothing," the Conductor smiled politely, even if it was fake.
But, it was more than nothing. Kahlan could see the flashing lights of police cars. Two miles from the Italian border and the train had been stopped in the middle of nowhere as opposed to the station just across the border.
The Conductor slowed his step as he approached Kahlan's seat. Kahlan slumped down, attempting to feign sleeping but she was already too late. She'd made eye contact with the Conductor. She should have used Martin Csokas' credit card to buy sunglasses.
"Excuse me, Miss?" the Conductor smiled politely, speaking in German.
Kahlan, who spoke 17 languages, played dumb, playing the role of 'dumb American tourist'. "Sorry," she grinned sheepishly.
"Oh, American," his smile faded a bit, more out of the uncomfortable situation presenting itself than Kahlan's nationality. Behind him, Kahlan could see three police officers entering through the open door of the train car. Despite the uniforms, Kahlan seriously doubted they were police officers.
The Conductor continued, "If you would please come with me."
"Of course." Kahlan rose from her seat. "Just let me get my bags."
She reached for the overhead compartment just as the faux officers approached the Conductor. It didn't matter that the bag wasn't hers, all that mattered was that it was big, and heavy. Kahlan slung it at the Conductor, hitting him square in the back. Balance lost, he lunged forward, colliding with Kahlan's would-be assassins.
Kahlan darted in the opposite direction, the car erupting into commotion. She reached the rear door, yanking it open. The cold night air hitting her face as she lunged towards the ground. Seconds later, she was in the woods and running. Out of cash, quickly running out of options.
It was going to be a long night.
And an even longer trek to Venice.
A GNN SPECIAL REPORT
'A NEW DAY FOR D'HARA'
The GNN (Global News Network) graphics dissolve into the image of reporter Cooper Jones. Cooper, in his jeans and white, button down shirt, a breeze blowing the top of his silver-gray hair, stands in the middle of an empty four-lane highway. Behind him stands a wall, twenty feet high, with windowed guard stations flanking either side of the road where the wall cuts over it.]
Cooper Jones: The D'Haran Wall, one of the great construction feats of modern times. Second only to the Great Wall of China. It took ten years to build, starting in 1952, at the height of the Cold War, when then ruler of D'Hara, Lord Panis Rahl, ordered its construction.
[Image switches to black and white file footage of the walls construction, of desperate people trying to flee and soldiers shooting them down.]
Cooper Jones: But Rahl could keep his people in but he couldn't keep progress out. Even after the collapse of the House of Rahl, democracy has been slow. Ravaged by civil wars, coups, all taking place behind the wall Rahl built, democracy trickled through the magic barrier. Slowly, D'Harans on the other side of the barrier have begun to see the slow trickle of freedom. Two weeks ago, without warning, the guard stations from shore to shore went empty. Then today, again without warning, the magic barrier that has stood along with this wall for over 60 years vanished. An olive branch from current Prime Minister Dell Brandstone, signifying an opportunity for peace between our two great nations? I, and the world, can only hope so.
C.L.I.T. HEADQUARTERS, UNKNOWN LOCATION
The mansion was enormous, the building itself occupied several acres, a neo-modern castle with white, gleaming walls, wide gothic arches, high polished floors. It sat on a hill overlooking crystal blue waters and silk, white sands. The grounds were well manicured, bushes shaped like exotic animals, a giant pond filled with Koi and an Olympic sized pool.
But, these amenities were all surface. A façade to hide what was really within the castle's gleaming, white walls - C.L.I.T., aka, Criminal League of International Terrorists, under which there were three main factions - the Dragon Corps, the Sisters of the Dark. And within walls of the large, white mansion resided the Mord'Sith, the most deadly and feared of CLIT's criminal elements, rumored to have been in existence for centuries. Members - all female and dressed in tight, red leather, with ominous looking metal buckles, straps and tighter corsets, their hair pulled back in severe ponytails - walked the perimeter. Hanging from the belt of their hips, an Agiel, a Mord'Sith's most deadliest weapon.
Inside the mansion, their red leather contrasting with the black tiled floors and white walls, they hacked on computers, emptied/filled boxes with weaponry, planned and schemed and calculated the plans put together by their leader..
"GODDAMMIT!!" a female voice echoed off the stone walls. Her boots clacked loudly on the floor as she stalked between rooms. She was an imposing figure, in her all-white leather, blonde hair pulled back off her head in the Mord'Sith ponytail style. But, she was no ordinary Mord'Sith. She was no ordinary CLIT.
She was Denna.
Denna shoved open the double doors to the main hallway, the wooden doors smacking hard and loud against the walls, the noise echoing down to the beaches below the mansion.
Denna slammed open the doors, nostrils flaring as her eyes blazed hot. "Who do I have to fuck around here to get a Confessor killed!?!"
A dozen red, leather-clad arms with red and leather gloves shot into the air.
"That was a rhetorical question," Denna hissed, pausing to purr as she ran a hand over her slicked back hair. "But I appreciate the sentiment."
"That's unfortunate.." In a room, a mansion, an island filled with nothing but women, the man's voice echoing off the walls was like a sonic boom. Quickly followed by chair legs scraping on floor as dozens of Mord'Sith's snapped to attack positions.
Denna spun around, lips curling into a smile as she watched the man pull off his Ray Ban's. He wore a white suit, pink t-shirt underneath his white jacket, tan loafers, like a fey Don Johnson circa 'Miami Vice'. "Darken Rahl," Denna drawled. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"
"I'm here to answer your question - who do you have to fuck to get a Confessor killed? To which the answer would be me even though I know you don't swing that way and, I might add.." Rahl paused, running a hand dramatically over his shorn skull. "Neither do I."
Denna squinted her eyes, examining Rahl. She wrapped an arm loosely about her middle, resting her other elbow on her wrist as she ran her fingers over her chin. "Men aren't allowed on CLIT grounds. You have five minutes, after which," Denna's polite smile turned menacing. "My Mord'Sith will rip you limb from limb."
Multiple hands gripped the hilts of their Agiel's tighter, the collective magic sounding like distance screams carried on a breeze.
Darken Rahl chuckled, unfazed by the display of force. He folded his sunglasses, tucking them into the breast pocket of his jacket. "There was a time when the House of Rahl and Mord'Sith worked hand in hand.."
"Don't you mean," Denna cut him off. "A time when Mord'Sith worked under the boot of the House of Rahl? Our power no longer comes from a bond with the Lord Rahl and hasn't for a very long time."
"I apologize," Rahl tipped his head congenially. "I stand corrected."
Denna tapped her wrist. "Four minutes and thirty seconds."
He crossed his arms, elbow resting on a wrist, a finger touching his chin. "I heard about the burn notices on a certain Mord'Sith. I'm here to make a proposal, Denna. My family's empire has.. fallen out of favor and I wish to takes steps to restore it. I give you what you want, I get what I want."
"And what is that?"
"As you mentioned, I've never had the pleasure of experiencing the bond between a Rahl and the Mord'Sith." He began walking, slowly, weaving his way through the Mord'Sith's surrounding him, gazing appreciatively at the toys that were no longer his. "I know restoring that bond is.. unlikely. I wish to suggest a partnership with Mord'Sith to help. I kill the Confessor and.." He ran the back of his hand across a blonde's cheek. "Your former pet. And you help me restore the glory of the House of Rahl."
Denna inhaled, tapping a finger against the hilt of her Agiel. "I know you, Rahl, and how your mind works. There's more to it than that."
"Of course there is. Helping you, helps me in another way. I get to kill the Seeker."
"You organized a burn notice against Kahlan Amnell. The Seeker and the Confessor were, well, I wouldn't exactly call it lovers but they were close. Before you," he paused, smirking. "Lost the reigns to your favorite pet. If the Confessor's in danger, the Seeker will try to help her. Let me do this and we both get what we want. I get to kill Richard, and by killing Kahlan and Cara.."
"NO!" Denna's voice roared. Leather squeaking as she stomped towards Darken Rahl. "Kill the Seeker, kill the Confessor but Cara? Bring her to me. Alive. And I'll agree to your proposal."
Twenty-One Months Ago
Kahlan Amnell was drunk. It'd been three weeks since Cara had seen her, since their first date in St. Maarten had turned into two, then three, and they'd parted ways at the airport. Three weeks since Cara had failed in her mission to kill the Confessor or, at least, bed her.
After their parting at the airport, Cara had followed Kahlan around the world as Kahlan, inadvertently, followed Cara. Cara had left bread crumbs, big enough to keep the trail warm but small enough so Kahlan was always two steps behind. Cara had been impressed by the Confessor's fortitude, her dogged persistence and when the trail had led the both of them to Porto, Cara had tired of watching from the shadows.
Their meeting in the hotel where Kahlan was staying had been a chance encounter for only one of them. As far as Kahlan knew, Cara was a sales associate for an international pharmaceutical company. That chance encounter led to a romantic dinner and margaritas, which lead to dancing at a nightclub and tequila shots.
And now, Kahlan Amnell was drunk, straddling Cara in the front seat of Cara's silver Astin Martin convertible, kissing Cara like Kahlan was trying to suck the air from Cara's lungs. And any thoughts Cara had of completing her mission ended when those long legs straddled hers, when blues eyes gazed down at her with a heated and hungry look, and Kahlan's lips possessed Cara's.
Cara was an agent of CLIT, a Mord'Sith, trained in both the arts of pain and pleasure, torture and seduction. She could kill with the flick of a finger, seduce with merely a glance and yet, the Confessor had blue-balled her, reducing Cara to nothing more than a twelve-year old boy getting his first glimpse of breasts.
She drifted her hand to Kahlan's breast, copping only the slightest of feels before she felt Kahlan's fingers on her wrist, pulling her hand away.
"Cara.." Kahlan gasped, part pleasure, part admonishment.
An eyebrow rose on Cara's forehead. "Kahlan," Cara breathed before her lips found the pulse point on Kahlan's neck and the Confessor began to squirm. It was always the same - a date, dinner, dancing then kissing. The moment Cara attempted to move past first base, Kahlan was either pointing her back to first or sending her to the dugout.
It was enough to make a Mord'Sith feel whipped or, worse, the laughingstock of her Sisters if they ever found out.
Kahlan's hands thread into Cara's hair, nails scraping against her scalp as Kahlan dove in for another demanding kiss. And Cara purred, not quite in acquiescence, but at her rising heartbeat, at the warming of Kahlan's skin, the heat between Kahlan's legs she could feel over her own crotch.
Cara softly, smoothly, drifted a hand over the top of Kahlan's thigh, fingers playing in the material of the dress bunched at the top of Kahlan's hips. Slowly, as she pushed her tongue into Kahlan's mouth, Cara drifted her fingers lower, and under, then pressed them against Kahlan's core, through incredibly damp panties.
Kahlan's hips bucked. She yanked their lips apart as she sucked in a surprised gasp of air. Mouth slack, her eyelids fluttered, gazing back at Cara with an expression Cara had seen hundreds of times before.
'I want to.. But I can't.. But I will..'
"Cara.." Kahlan whimpered, taking one of the hands gripping Cara's head and snaking it between them, grasping around Cara's wrist. This time, Cara didn't allow Kahlan to push her hand away and force met resistance.
"Kahlan," Cara purred back, middle finger beginning a gentle stroking motion.
Kahlan grunted at the motion, body suddenly stiff and straining. "Cara," she panted, eyes closing, pressing her forehead to Cara's. "I can't."
"I know you're not a virgin," Cara spoke softly, gently, bringing her free hand up to brush the hair obscuring Kahlan's face. Her lips curled into a knowing smile. "You've never been with a woman before, have you?"
"No." Kahlan's cheeks darkened. "But, it's not that.."
"Then what is it?"
"I.." Kahlan opened her eyes to meet Cara's gaze. "I don't want to hurt you."
Cara chuckled, almost.. touched by Kahlan's words. "Kahlan Amnell," she whispered, fingers curling into the dark locks and tugging lightly. "You could never hurt me." She tilted her head, pressing her lips to Kahlan's, breathing into Kahlan's mouth. "Do you know how badly I want you?"
There was a moment, where 'this' was and it wasn't. Where Kahlan's grip on Cara's wrist loosened, where Cara's fingers circled and Kahlan's hips rolled, where it seemed like 'this' was finally going to happen.
"Cara.." Kahlan half-whimpered, half-keened, black swirling within the blue of her eyes. "Please."
It was, at that moment, the hardest thing Cara had ever done, removing her fingers from between Kahlan's legs. The air forced from Kahlan's lungs and she collapsed her face into the crook of Cara's neck, panting and trembling as if she'd actually come.
Cara drew her hands around Kahlan's waist, then up Kahlan's back as Cara pulled the brunette tightly to her. She held Kahlan long after Kahlan's labored breathing returned to normal, their temperatures cooled and heart rates settled.
"Thank you," Kahlan said, shifting her face and resting her head on Cara's shoulder.
"You," Cara chuckled. "Drive me absolutely crazy."
This wasn't Cara's assignment. She was supposed to kill Kahlan Amnell. Sleeping with the enemy was nothing more than a perk. Somewhere along the way, sleeping with Kahlan had become more important than killing her. Somewhere along the way, just being with Kahlan had become more important than sleeping with her.
And that troubled Cara more than anything.
THE OUTSKIRTS OF MIAMI, FLORIDA
"Yeah?" Cara spoke flatly into her cell.
"I have a plane for you," Zedd answered in her ear, skipping the normal formalities. "It's leaving in an hour at Greyfield Airport. Do you know it?"
"Yeah," Cara answered. "Have you heard from Kahlan?" The tiny sliver of silence told Cara all she needed to know. "I'll be there," she said, immediately closing the device and cutting the wizard off.
An hour outside the city, Cara's Porsche rolled to a stop in front of a standard white and orange colored storage facility. A typical maze of units, the storage spaces big enough to hold a large SUV if one desired. The facility had seen better days, the cement cracked with sprouting weeds. All that mattered to Cara was they took cash and didn't ask any questions.
She parked her car in front of her rented unit, pulling out the key hidden deep within the glove box. She gave a quick glance of her perimeter before unlocking the deadbolt, lifting the door, entering and closing it behind her.
It's not that Cara was a secretive person, she'd just learned long ago to keep her emotions close to her chest. But, she did have secrets. She'd rented the storage unit for years. Long before she met Kahlan, or was recruited by CLIT, or joined the MBI.
The room was 15 by 15 feet but the items stored inside could fill a small closet. There were three boxes stacked on top of each other in the center of the room, a old ARMY foot locker next to the stack of boxes.
Cara knelt down, ignoring the boxes and opening the locker. Her lips pursed at the sight of an old family portrait, the only one she owned. A picture of her mother and father, Cara and her sister. Smiling. Before everything went to Hell in a hand basket. Cara ignored that - the stuffed teddy bear, her mother's jewelry box and her father's ARMY medals, the curios from another life - lifting the tray to get to the lower portion of the locker.
The red leather outfit folded neatly and stowed under a blanket called to Cara's fingers like a siren's song. She touched the material reverently, eyelids fluttering at the soft, silky feel of the material. Cara had been working for the MBI, told she'd be recruited by CLIT and instructed to say yes and Cara danced the razor's edge for years. Until she was so deep she didn't know right from wrong, good from evil, up from down. Until the day she'd been given an assignment to assassinate a Confessor named Kahlan Amnell and a blind date turned into something.. more. A girlfriend. A relationship. A wife.
But there was still a dark pull within Cara. As much as she hadn't been a member of the Mord'Sith, she felt more at home with them than she ever had with the MBI. And she felt that dark pull as she grasped the hilts of her two Agiel's, hissing at the cold comfort of the Agiel's dark magic, at the pain tingling through her body.
She'd told Kahlan she'd burned her uniform - the uniform, the weapons that made her one of the most feared assassins in the world - Cara had lied. Kahlan would never have understood. Because, as Cara tucked her Agiel's into her belt, it wasn't the weapons and training of the MBI that would get her wife back, it would be her life as a Mord'Sith
No, Kahlan wouldn't understand, Cara thought as she closed her father's foot locker and rose to her full height. Kahlan wouldn't understand at all.
It felt like home, being in Venice just as the sun cracked the horizon. Kahlan took a moment to pause and enjoy the view. She stood on the roof of a four-story palazzi, overlooking Canal Grande. She powered up the disposable cell she'd purchased, praying and hoping the time she'd spent charging the battery on the train before she'd been interrupted had been enough.
The cell had power.. barely. Less than a ten percent charge, but it was enough to make a call, hopefully, several. She knew it was futile, dialing Cara's number, and Kahlan disconnected before the voice mail picked up even though she so desperately wanted to hear Cara's voice.
It'd only been a day since they'd parted but Kahlan never thought she could ache so hard. It's not like they hadn't been apart before, but then, the stakes weren't so high. Kahlan never had so much to lose.
She sighed solemnly, the soft smile fading off her lips as she dialed again.
"Hello?" And the tears began to well in the corners of her eyes as she heard Zedd's voice.
"It's me," she answered.
"Ka.." he stopped himself to keep from saying her name. "Are you okay?"
"This is more than a burn notice."
"I know," Zedd sighed. For the first time, he sounded tired to Kahlan's ears, he sounded old. Kahlan realized how much effort Zedd must have been putting into helping her and Cara. Too much, as far as Kahlan was concerned. "We're working on it."
She could hear machinery in the background, it sounded like planes. "Is.. is she with you?"
"No, but she will be. And then she'll be coming for you."
That should have made Kahlan feel better instead, it made her feel guilty. She should be going to Miami, to her real home. Cara shouldn't be coming here, putting herself in even more danger to help Kahlan. "She can't do that. She needs to stay where she is."
"And I'm supposed to stop her, how? You know her better than anyone. How will she find you?"
Kahlan placed a hand on her suddenly growling stomach. "She's my wife. She'll know."
Cara made it to Greyfield with seconds to spare. It was a small, private airport catering mostly to the rich. She found Zedd's car parked next to a small hangar, the large gate already open. A white, private jet, the engine already running, sat on the tarmac. Whatever strings Zedd had pulled, they were big ones. She'd never tell the old man he'd impressed her, but he had.
"Cara," he said, his voice all business as he lead her into the hanger.
She ignored his disapproving glance over her outfit. It wasn't the black, leather duster or white, button down blouse underneath. It was the black gloves, black leather pants and heavy boots. Cut in a manner, to the trained eye, very reminiscent to the outfits worn by the Mord'Sith. Had he seen the Agiel's tucked on either side of her hip in her belt, she was sure his disapproving glance would have lasted a little longer. She'd served her country by, figuratively and literally, sleeping with the enemy. She also knew there were still doubts as to just where her allegiances lay, knowing full well dressing in the manner of the enemy wouldn't alleviate such doubts.
Inside the hangar, Zedd led Cara to a table overloaded with spy gadgets and weaponry. Anything and everything she could possibly need.
Zedd stood to the side, folding his arms over her chest as he watched Cara inspect the inventory. "I thought you might need some party favors."
Cara answered with an 'mmm' as she grabbed a semi-automatic, working the weapon like it was an extension of her body - ejecting the clip, inserting the clip, loading the chamber, checking the sight, the weight and feel.
This went on for several minutes, Cara inspecting each and every weapon on the table measurably, Zedd silently watching.
"Kahlan contacted me," he finally spoke.
Cara whipped around. "You're telling me this now? What'd she say? Is she safe? Where is she?"
He held up his hands defensively. "Yes. She's safe. While she didn't tell me where she is, she said that you would know."
Cara stilled, her eyes getting a faraway look as the corner of her lips upturned minutely. "I might have an idea." She pulled back her duster enough to tuck the semi in the small of her back. "I'll take it all."
Zedd snorted. "Of course you will."
Cara turned, walking towards the jet for another of her thorough inspections. "When do I leave?"
"There's one more detail I have to tell you about.."
But, Zedd didn't need to tell Cara, she could see it for herself. The door to the jet was already open, the stairs extended. A figured moved towards the door and Cara stopped dead in her tracks.
"What the HELL is he doing here?" she spat venomously.
Richard Cypher - the Seeker, the poster boy for the MBI and, most importantly, ex-boyfriend to Cara's wife - stood, in his tailored slacks and tight, ribbed sweater - at the entrance of the jet. The Sword of Truth, more for symbolism, sheathed on his hip.
"Cara," Richard casually walked down the steps, Cara approaching and the two were mere feet apart. "I'm here to help."
"Really?" Cara snarled. "So you can save Kahlan yourself and win her back?"
Richard's eyes went to Zedd's with an 'I told you so' expression. And Cara growled at the silent communication between the Seeker and his grandfather. At one time, they'd been enemies, when Cara was still undercover to undermine and expose CLIT. They'd also worked together. Like Zedd, Cara and Richard weren't exactly friends, she may have respected him but, good goddamn, did she ever not like him. No, she didn't like his history with Kahlan. The ties between them that could never be severed.
"Cara," he turned his eyes back to her, his voice a placating tone. "I am the Seeker. I have resources and access even Zedd would have a hard time acquiring. You need me."
"The Hell I do! Richard's not the only one that can fly a goddamned plane." Her fingers curled, itching to touch her Agiel's, to calm her nerves, to appease her sudden desire to hurt something.
"Richard's right," Zedd spoke.
"Of course you'd say that," Cara hissed. "Fine. I'll accept your help if you can tell me one thing." She stepped towards Richard, eyes hot and eager. "Tell me you're not still in love with Kahlan."
"Fine, then answer me this," Richard growled through clenched teeth, meeting Cara's step until they were toe to toe. "Tell me Kahlan's still not in love with me."
With a crack, Cara's fist connected with Richard's jaw. His head whipped back hard. Anticipating the blow, Richard too the punch then countered with a backhand, striking Cara on the cheek. Cara delivered a sucker-punch to the gut, followed with an elbow to his face. Richard grabbed Cara by the lapels of her jacket and head butted her.
It was on. Cara could have used her Agiel's, Richard could have used his sword. It wasn't that kind of fight. They fought like enemies with nothing left to lose. They fought like friends who, deep down, didn't really want to hurt the other.
"ENOUGH!!" Zedd's voice boomed like thunder in a valley. He raised his hand, fingers splayed open and let loose a burst of fire. It streaked across the floor in a line no more than two inches wide but the flames were high, almost seven feet. The line streaked between Cara and Richard, separating the two as they leapt backwards.
"SHE/HE STARTED IT!" they yelped in unison.
Zedd stepped forward, the flames dying down as quickly as they started. "I don't care who started it. I do care about Kahlan. And the more time you two waste fighting like two little schoolgirls, the longer Kahlan's in danger.
"Fine," Richard grumbled.
Zedd turned his angry gaze towards Cara.
"Fine," she muttered.
Zedd watched, arms folded over his chest, as the two walked towards the plane. Cara took the steps first.
"You still punch like a girl," she muttered under her breath.
"Yeah," Richard grumbled back. "You still project yours."
It was a room, since retiring from the MBI, Zedd would like to say he rarely entered. The truth was, he was there practically every other day. Part library, part laboratory, part sanctuary, the room was huge, the walls over twenty feet high and completely lined with volumes and volumes of books - history, spells, wizardry, the occasional erotica. His wizard's coat hung on a coat rack in a corner.
On the floor level was a laboratory of sorts, where Zedd created and mixed his spells, the wall behind it, stood a windowed refrigerator where Zedd kept all his ingredients.
He was, as the kids these days called it, old school. Zedd preferred the methods of his teachings, methodical, organic, ritualistic. But, unlike his colleagues, Zedd wasn't averse to the new. For the Order to survive, Zedd always believed, it must also 'get with the times'. Opposite his laboratory sat Zedd's other lab - his computer station. Three monitors, twice as many keyboards, it's where Zedd worked his 'new magic' and occasionally played 'World of Warcraft'.
He'd cast a spell, with help from one of the younger wizards who was also a computer programmer, that helped him cast a wider net, allowed him easier access to blocked networks. Someone, from somewhere, had put a burn notice on both Cara and Kahlan. But, for the life of him, Zedd couldn't backtrack where the initial burn notice had come from. With 195 countries, all with multiple government agencies running on different computer systems, it was like searching for a needle in a needle stack. Without discovering where the first burn notice had come from, it would be damn near impossible for Zedd to get the MBI to rescind the orders it had created, in response to the burn notice from a country of origin Zedd couldn't find.
The multiple screens flickered with multiple images as his spell sifted and sorted through the pertinent information. When something of note popped up, the screen stopped.
The screen to Zedd's far left stopped. And Zedd's eyes went wide at the information displayed on the screen. As if things weren't bad enough? They just got worse.
"Oh no," he sighed.
20,000 FEET ABOVE ITALY
Cara pushed open the door to the cockpit and stepped inside the tiny space. There was nothing to do and she was bored silly. She'd cleaned and re-cleaned every weapon within the plane until the cabin reeked with the stench of gun cleaner. It didn't help that there was no flight attendant on board Cara could flirt with. Not that, you know, Cara would ever flirt with a flight attendant now that she was married but it would have been nice to have the option.
"Are we there, yet?" she asked, flopping down into the co-pilot's seat.
Richard sighed loudly, sounding a lot like his grandfather. "We're almost there, another twenty minutes."
Cara leaned forward. She began pushing buttons and flipping switches. Immediately, Richard reached out and swatted at her hand.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"Checking the gauges." She flicked another switch, ignoring Richard's glare. "It'd be a shame to die before anyone had a chance to kill me."
"I already checked the gauges. The gauges are fine."
Cara pulled out the flight manifest and began flipping the pages.
"What are you doing, now?" Richard snatched the book from her hands.
Cara turned in her seat, glaring at him. "According to that manifest, we should have landed thirty-seven minutes ago."
"This manifest," Richard waved it in the air before stowing it back next to his seat. "Was written before we had to fly around a storm. Which you would have known were you sitting in the co-pilot's seat and not back there jerking off."
"I do not jerk off!" she glared, folding her arms over her chest. Then, her lips pulled into a smirk. "I get Kahlan to do it for me. And I wasn't sitting in the co-pilot's seat because I am no one's co-pilot."
Richard smirked. "Not even Kahlan."
Cara's lips opened for a retort when a crackle opened on Richard's headset. He was getting a call. He hurriedly grabbed the headset and slipped them on. "This is Flight 2374."
"Richard!" Zedd's voice rang in his ears.
"ZEDD!" Richard practically yelled as Cara slid on the co-pilot's headset. "Thank.. GOD!"
Cara turned on her mic. "Have you heard from Kahlan?"
"Hey!" Richard snapped, his right hand reaching for Cara's headset cable and she swatted his hand away. "I'm the pilot. I ask the questions."
"You're just mad because I'm a better pilot than you."
"ENOUGH!!" Zedd roared in their ears. "Great Creator's ghost! Can you two please not bicker for two seconds!?! Because, you know, I didn't make this long distance call, taking me away from very important matters.."
"Sorry, Zedd," the two spoke in tandem.
"Now, I'm afraid things have gone from bad to worse. Along with the burn notices, there's now a hit order on both Cara and Kahlan. For fifty million dollars each."
An angry growl rumbled up Cara's throat. She yanked off her headset, rising from her seat, heading towards the cabin. She needed a gun.. and to punch something.
"Get this plane on the ground," she hissed at Richard. "Now!"
Darken Rahl lowered his binoculars as the small, private jet disappeared from his sight.
"Oh Richard," he smiled broadly. "Thank you for being so ridiculously predictable."
He tossed his binoculars through the open window of his car, turning to the Mord'Sith surrounding him.
"I don't care what you do with Cara and Kahlan but, Richard," he warned, his voice growled with a timbre of a true Lord Rahl. "He's mine."
TWENTY-SEVEN MONTHS AGO
Cara entered the communal bath typically used by her sisters. She, not hurriedly, Cara was one never to be in a hurry, but very quickly opened then closed the double doors to keep the warmth and steam from dissipating at her entrance.
The walls were grey-white marble, polished to a high sheen. Four columns surrounded the rectangular pool set in the floor. The pool was large, almost twenty feet long and ten feet wide, but shallow. Deep enough immerse ones self, shallow enough to sit upright and not be underwater.
Today, there were only three sisters in the bath. Denna, body glistening, wet hair slicked back off her forehead, who stood in the pool and two sisters, who sat on either side of Denna, hands and loofa's lovingly caressing Denna's thighs.
Cara stepped to the edge of the pool, resting a hand on her canted hips as she enjoyed the view. Watching as her sisters hands slid up and down and inside Denna's thighs, wondering at what point the fingers would turn curious and Denna would acquiesce. After several minutes of watching, realizing the sisters really were there just to bathe Denna, Cara spoke.
"You called for me, Mistress?"
"Leave," was the first word from Denna's lips. Both sisters bowed their heads, quietly and quickly rose, leaving the bath without grabbing a towel or a robe.
Denna waded through the water, walking towards the opposite end of the pool. Where she turned around fully and sat down on the submerged bench, stretching and extending her arms over the edge of the pool.
With darkening eyes, Denna took a moment to admire the woman before her, tongue poking surreptitiously in the corner of her mouth. "Strip," she finally commanded.
Cara started with her gloves. Putting on or taking off the Mord'Sith uniform was meant to be a communal affair, to maintain the bond between ones sisters. Cara had no such assistance but she still managed to remove her uniform in a quick amount of time.
The last of her clothing removed, Cara once again stood to her full height, once again, canting her hips expectantly. A very 'un-reverent' move in the presence of her mistress. She felt Denna's eyes as they slowly raked Cara's body down then up, wet tongue slowly licking her lips.
"Come to me," Denna said.
"Yes, Mistress." Cara stepped into the water, not stopping until she was at Denna's feet.
Denna's eyes narrowed, the seductive smile on her lips fading slightly. "I said come to me."
Cara walked further, feet on either side of Denna's legs. She lowered, thighs meeting thighs as she straddled Denna's lap. Quick as lightening, Denna's hand snatched forward, fingers fisting the top of Cara's ponytail and pulling Cara forward. Their lips crashed together, hard. Mouths immediately open, teeth clacking as their tongues dueled.
Then, Denna's other hand was between Cara's thighs, three fingers shoved hard and deep, and Cara's hips were rolling, jutting, the water between them sloshing against their skin.
Denna yanked with the hand gripping Cara's head, breaking the kiss, pulling Cara back just enough to feel Cara's wet breath panted onto her lips. "You've been.. distracted lately."
Cara, eyes still closed, licked her lips. "Have I?"
The, intentional, insolence was met with a hard jut of Denna's fingers and Cara growled at the penetration. "Have I, Mistress?"
"Better," Denna purred. "And, yes, you have." She took not-so playful bites out of Cara's jaw, moving up until her lips brushed the shell of Cara's ear. "I was like you once - cunning, ruthless.." she drew her tongue down the line of Cara's ear, pulling the lobe into her mouth and pulling until it popped out. "Ambitious."
"Is this a compliment?" Cara panted. It was getting hard to concentrate, hard to talk with the tension building in the pit of her stomach. "Mistress."
"Yes," Denna chuckled, slowing her fingers and smiling at Cara's protesting whimper. "It's why you're my favorite. It's why I know you've been so distracted lately."
Cara opened her eyes, the lids feeling like they were attached to ten-pound weights. "You do?.. Mistress."
"Yes, I do." She gently pressed her lips to Cara's. "Like I said, I was like you once, and along with all your other attributes.." she withdrew her fingers, receiving a hiss from Cara, then pressed her fingertips against Cara's clit. "And appetites. The Mord'Sith have many things to offer a sister but it can be a bit.. limiting. Especially to a keen mind like yours." She released the hand holding Cara's hair, trailing her fingers down to the tip of Cara's jaw and lifting her head up. "You're bored."
Cara had been with the Mord'Sith for almost ten years. While it wasn't Denna who'd recruited her, Denna had broken her, trained her, taught Cara everything about pain and pleasure. Who's bed Cara first shared, and the last one she always slipped back into. It was Cara who Denna first whispered her plans to depose the, then, Head of CLIT. And it was Cara who came up with the ideas that ultimately brought those plans to fruition.
Cara had been and done many things as an agent of CLIT, a Mord'Sith, but she would never define herself as 'bored'.
Denna continued, smiling in that arrogant manner that made Cara itch for the day she could wrap her fingers around Denna's neck and choke the smile off her face. "You need something worthy of your skills, a challenge and I have just the thing."
The fingers on Cara's clit moved back inside her and she grunted with relieved frustration. She only had one interest at the moment, it didn't involve conversation.
"The Sisters of the Dark have asked for our assistance," Denna continued. "Now, I find them crazier than a shithouse rat and prefer to avoid them at all costs, especially with their insane reverence for the House of Rahl but the request was intriguing and the money even better."
"Who do I have to kill?" Cara grunted through clenched teeth and closed eyes. She was so close.. so close. But, this was Denna, and Denna never did anything without an ulterior motive.
"That's my girl?" Denna purred, rewarding Cara with another hard push of her hand. "A Confessor named Kahlan Amnell."
Cara pressed her forehead to Denna's shoulder, hips jutting chaotically. It seemed the conversation was over, Denna meeting Cara, matching her rhythm in an increasing and chaotic crescendo. As Cara rushed towards the precipice, Denna brushed her lips along Cara's ear.
"And," she whispered softly. "There's something else.."
Cara couldn't move, didn't dare breathe. She stood, rooted to the floor, heart hammering in her chest as she watched Kahlan sleep. The palazzi had been under 'reconstruction' for almost three years. Reconstruction meaning Cara had secretly purchased the building, forced the current residents out under a fake 'asbestos warning' and kept it empty only to be used as her own personal safe harbor.
She walked towards the single bed, sitting down on the edge. Over two years ago, Denna had ordered Cara to kill the Confessor Kahlan Amnell and Cara had come within a hair's breath of completing her mission. She still carried the ache and guilt over what she'd almost done, what she'd almost lost. Battered and bleeding, Cara brought Kahlan here, to her secret home and nursed her back to health.
Kahlan stirred, eyes snapping open. Then she was sitting upright, wrapping her arms around her wife's shoulders as Cara tightly returned the embrace. They parted, just slightly, just enough to press lips against lips. A kiss of reconnection, resolution, a kiss, the longer it continued, growing in passion.
"Cara.." Kahlan breathed heavily as she came up for air. Said Cara's name like that one word could convey everything she felt and meant. "I knew you'd find me."
"It wasn't hard to figure out where you'd go," Cara replied boastfully. Her gloved fingers finding the space between the bottom of Kahlan's shirt and the top of her jeans, caressing the exposed patch of skin tenderly.
"This is where I fell in love with you. Where you made love to me.." Kahlan smiled, almost bashfully. "For the first time."
Cara added with the tilt of her head and a raised eyebrow, "And the second, and third.."
"You counted?" Kahlan giggled.
"You didn't?" Cara's eyebrow rose a little higher. "Seventeen times in two days. That's a record, even for me."
"I will say.." Kahlan purred, the fingers on the back of Cara's head tightening. "You certainly have a different definition of 'nursing one back to health' than, well, the rest of the world."
"That's because I'm right and the rest of the world is always wrong. And I always know how to make you feel better."
"That you do." Kahlan rushed forward as she pulled Cara to her, crushing their lips together.
"Kahlan.." Cara panted as Kahlan's teeth found her pulse point, the fingers in her hair demandingly scraping against her scalp. "We don't.. have time.. for this."
There was a fifty million dollar bounty on each of their heads. Richard was waiting with the car downstairs. Eventually, he'd wonder what was keeping them and come upstairs.
Kahlan pulled back, eyes seductive and playful. "The great Cara Mason doesn't have time for sex?"
"When you put it like that.." Cara lifted off the side of the bed, throwing over her leg and straddling Kahlan. Growling, she pushed with her hands and Kahlan was flopping backwards, back flat on the bed. Soft and gentle quickly turned to a hurried frenzy of opened mouths, dueling tongues and pulling hands.
"Wait!" Kahlan panted, eyes widening, hands pushing on Cara's shoulders to pull them apart. She wanted this. She wanted this so much but there was something Cara needed to know. Something more important than sex. Really. "There's something I have to tell you."
Like someone had pulled the emergency brake on an expensive sports car driving in top gear, screeching to a painful halt. Cara could only gape down at her wife because, sometimes, Kahlan's timing seriously, seriously sucked.
"Cara.. I.." Kahlan stammered, swallowed. Cara gazing down at her with a puzzled, expectant expression. "I'm.."
The building shook furiously as an explosion tore through it. No, not through it, under it. Followed in quick succession by three more explosions. Boom! Boom! Boom! The building rumbled again, cement and wood cracking and splintering as the building split from the surrounding foundation.
Kahlan and Cara looked at each in understanding. Someone had destroyed the wooden pillars holding Cara's palazzi. Cara's building, her secret home, her safe harbor..
In a flash, Cara was up, off the bed and running towards the door, Kahlan close on her heels. When, suddenly, Cara stopped dead in her tracks.
Cara knelt down, her hands going to her boots where, tucked on the side of each boot, she pulled out two thin, silver daggers. She placed them in one hand, turned, extending them to Kahlan. "Thought you'd might want these."
"My Confessor's daggers," Kahlan exhaled softly. Then her hand snaked out, clasped Cara by the back of Cara's neck and pulled her wife in for a quick kiss. "I love you."
Cara's eyes went down to Kahlan's lips and back up again, calculating the odds of her getting a little more sexy time with her wife before either the building sank completely or their attackers were on them. "I know."
"C'mon," Richard hissed under his breath, tapping the steering wheel impatiently with his thumb. He checked his watch, glancing at the entrance to Cara's palazzi. It'd been almost twenty minutes since she went inside, alone despite Richard's protestation. As much as he wanted to see Kahlan again, to get her someplace safe, he had an idea what was taking so long. The thought of walking in on Cara and Kahlan's 'reunion' made him shudder down to his core.
He glanced in the rearview mirror, checking the scene behind him. The street to the entrance of Cara's home was a tight, incredibly narrow one-way street, making it too easy to be blocked in. with no room to turn around, the only options were to go forward or reverse.
The sat-phone stowed between the two front seats began to ring and Richard quickly picked it up.
"Zedd," Richard spoke, eyes once again looking in the rear-view mirror.
"I've hacked into a satellite system. You've been sitting there for almost twenty minutes. Why haven't you left?"
"Cara went inside to get Kahlan."
"So?" the wizard answered with an indignant tone. "What could she be possibly doing that would take twenty minutes?" Richard didn't even bother to answer, letting the old man figure it out for himself. Which took about two seconds. "Oh," Zedd responded. "Regardless, you have to leave.." he paused and Richard could hear fingers tapping through the speaker. "Richard," Zedd's voice went serious. "You have to leave now. I see movement on the rooftops, right on your loca.."
The ground shook as an explosion rocked Cara's building, followed quickly by three more. Instantly, Richard was out of the car, forced to circle around to move towards the entrance. Ears ringing, the hair on the back of his neck stood up. His sixth-sense, more from years of training than any precognition, tingled.
There was the rush of air, like the roar from a fire. Richard instinctively ducked as the concussive blast of magic hit the rear-end of his car. It jumped high into the air flipping over and over before landing in a crumpled heap nearly twenty feet away.
Richard rose to his feet, turning to face his attacker. "Darken Rahl!" he grit through his teeth.
Rahl stood fifty feet away in the narrow corridor of the street, in his white slacks and teal, button down shirt. "Hello, Richard," he called out. "Long time no see."
Then Rahl raised his hand, fingers outsplayed as he let loose a fireball.
Richard dove. The fireball hit the wall above his head, showering him with bits and pieces of masonry. There were people on the tiny street, in the homes around him. If Richard stayed where he was, an innocent was going to get hurt, worse, killed, leaving Richard no choice but to run. His only hope that Cara and Kahlan were faring better than he was.
Cara and Kahlan rushed out into the smoke-filled corridor. The other apartments, the one's that were supposed to be empty, opened as dozens of Mord'Sith spilled out.
Cara went left, Kahlan went right. Cara's lips pulled into a gleeful and feral snarl. Agiel in one hand, gun in the other, she swung her Agiel, cracking it against the jaw of the first Mord'Sith heading towards her, raised her gun and fired into the chest of another. Some of the faces Cara recognized, her former 'Sisters', most of them she didn't. Not that it made a difference, not in this moment. Here, now, they were the enemy. They were trying to kill Cara, Kahlan. Former sisters or not, for that, they had to die.
Kahlan's dagger blocked the downswing of a hissing Agiel. Even in this day and age of high-powered weaponry, Mord'Sith still preferred the use of their Agiel's over guns. Kahlan felt the burn as one connected to her side and she swung with her elbow, connecting with her attackers head, sending her crashing to the floor.
Cara cut a swath through the corridor. Her movements instinctual, as if it were coded in her DNA. She swung and stabbed, punched and kicked, fired her weapon until her clip went empty. Smoking shells clinked onto the stone floor like rain.
But there were too many of them. They continued to spill out of the apartment doors, more coming from downstairs. Cara never backed down from a fight, but she also knew when to cut her losses. If they continued this way, the odds were good she'd end up on the losing end. And Cara hated losing more than anything.
"Kahlan!" she called out. From across the open corridor, Kahlan's head turned slightly towards Cara and nodded in understanding. In tandem, the two began to retreat, moving backwards instead of forwards and heading towards the still open door of Cara's apartment.
With their combined energies, they closed the door.
"Friends of yours," Kahlan muttered, her back to the door as something large thudded against it.
"You know me," Cara answered. "I love a big party."
"We're kinda trapped at this party." Suddenly, the building shifted again, a hard sudden drop as another piling crumbled under the weight.
"I.." Cara stopped. She was going to say 'I know' but an idea struck her. "Do you trust me?"
Kahlan tilted her head. "You did not just ask me that?"
"Fine," Cara smirked, nodding her head towards the window facing the water. "Feel like going for a swim?"
She extended her hand, Kahlan's fingers immediately clasping around her own. Together, they ran towards the window, the door bursting open behind them. Bullets whizzed past their bodies as they connected with the glass, shattering it. Then, it was nothing but air as they plunged four stories into the water below.
Richard dove into the alley as a chunk of the wall exploded over his head. Rolling to his feet, he leapt for the ladder to a staircase. If he couldn't run on the streets to avoid anyone getting injured, maybe he could run over them.
He ran across the rooftop, leaping over the precipice between the buildings. Landing hard, Richard rolled into it, back onto his feet in a flash and running at a dead sprint. He leapt again onto the next building. It was higher and his fingertips barely caught the ledge as his body slammed into the wall below, the Sword of Truth clanging against his thigh. He pulled himself up, watching one of his guns fall from his holster.
Three buildings back, Rahl made his way to the roof. He walked calmly, coolly, stalking like a big cat that knows there's no escape for its prey. "You never should have sacrificed your Han, Richard!" he taunted. "It'd at least make things a bit more interesting!"
"I don't need magic to defeat you, Rahl!" he grimaced, arms straining as he began to pull himself up. "I did it before, I can do it again!"
Richard pulled himself up onto the ledge. Back on his feet, he pulled his other gun, took a stance and began firing. Rahl lifted his hand. The bullets stopped in mid-air, feet from his body, then dropped like stones on the rooftop. Rahl smiled cockily then released another burst of magic from his fingers.
Richard tried to dive out of the way as the ledge before him exploded but the burst of magic was too big. The concussive wave hit him hard and he flew backwards, landing with a bone-jarring thud onto the roof, head smacking against the cement, fingers releasing his gun that he could only watch skitter away from his hand.
Just as the stars cleared and Richard regained some semblance of consciousness, he felt Rahl's shadow as it eclipsed over him. Richard scurried, rolling backwards until he was on his feet, unsheathing the Sword of Truth and holding it menacingly.
"Oh Richard, only you would bring a sword.." Rahl chuckled, with a flick of a finger the gun Richard lost instantly in Rahl's hand. "To a gun fight."
"Let's get this over with," Richard gritted, fingers flexing as he tightened them around the hilt and the Sword of Truth blazed with fire.
Rahl circled, gun hand pointed at Richard's chest. "I'd be lying if I said retribution hadn't crossed my mind." He ran his freehand over his short-cropped head. "Especially after what you did."
"It's just hair," Richard snapped back. "Get over it!"
"It's been two years AND IT STILL HASN'T GROWN BACK!!" Rahl snapped like a petulant child, throwing another ball of energy at Richard, who deflected it with his sword. Their last battle, two years ago, had ended with Richard throwing a potion created by Zedd to seal a rift to the Underworld. A potion with the unfortunate side affect of removing one's hair - all of it. Rahl, defeated and completely bald (everywhere) escaped the scene, tears streaming down his face as his luscious brown hair fell in chunks. "A man's image is everything and the House of Rahl is nothing without our long, flowing locks. Something I'm sure you understand.." Rahl stilled his feet, lips curving into a predatory smile. "Brother."
"What?" Richard stammered.
Rahl's predatory grin broadened. "I'm not here to kill you, Richard. I'm here to ask you to join me, join your brother in restoring the House of Rahl to its former glory."
Richard swallowed hard, narrowing his eyes as he glared. "You're lying."
"Search your feelings, you know it to be true."
"Dude," Richard blinked, tilting his head, sword lowering slightly. "Did you just quote Star Wars?"
Rahl shrugged his shoulders. "I couldn't think of a Lord of the Rings quote that was applicable. Besides," he straightened, posing, once again, in a threatening manner. "The source of the quote doesn't change the fact of the matter. Think I'm lying? Ask your grandfather."
Uneasy, Richard swayed on his feet, taking a step backwards. His head began to pound and spin as the thoughts whirled about.
Rahl took a step forward. "Why do you think your grandfather stole you away as a child? Because, you're the One True Seeker? Please, Seeker's are a dime a dozen but a Rahl.."
"You're.." Richard stammered. His uncertainty symbolized by the dying flame on his sword. "You're lying!"
"Am I? Admittedly, this all makes our father seem like a bit of a slut, which he was as evidenced by our sister.."
"Sister? What sister?"
"Oh dear, brother. You really are behind the times. Zedd, your grandfather, still keeps her hidden." He paused, gazing at Richard derisively with the scant tilt of his head. "Even from you." He took another step forward. "It hurts doesn't it? Knowing that all your life you've been lied to, manipulated, used." He snarled, "Welcome to the club."
"It doesn't matter!" Richard yelled back, his hands re-gripping the hilt as he set his resolve. "I'll never join you!"
"That's too bad. Actually.." he brought his fingers to his chin as if in deep thought. "It suddenly occurred to me.." Richard's eyes went wide as Rahl raised the gun in his hand and fired. "I don't need you at all."
Richard reacted, just not fast enough. His body lurched backwards as the bullet hit him hard in the shoulder. Rahl fired again, hitting Richard in the chest. The Sword of Truth fell from his hand, clanking on the roof. The backs of his knees hit the ledge and Richard was tumbling over. Hands flailing, he gripped with everything he had at the feel of the ledge against his fingertips. He glanced below, at the straight five story drop with nothing but cold, hard cement to catch his fall, the shadow of Darken Rahl eclipsing over him once again.
"I thought.." Richard gritted through the searing pain. "You weren't going to kill me."
Rahl sauntered towards the ledge as if he didn't have a care in the world. "I wasn't. But, like I said," he slowed. He stopped to pick up the Sword of Truth, pausing to admire the blade before he turned his eyes to Richard, the playful glint turning dark and menacing. Lifting his leg, he placed his foot on the ledge. "I've come to the realization.." he moved his foot, pressing it onto Richard's fingers. "I don't need you to succeed. Well, not all of you."
Rahl raised the Sword of Truth and, with a quick slashing motion, brought it down. Down upon the hand holding Richard to the ledge. Richard screamed as steel forged by magic sliced easily through flesh and bone and he watched as Rahl, the ledge and his hand still attached to it, became smaller and smaller.
ISLAND OF ST. MAARTEN, NETHERLANDS
TWO YEARS AGO
The off-season and it felt like Kahlan had the beach entirely to herself. She lounged on a beach chair with the wide umbrella providing enough shade to keep her from getting sunburned, in her floppy straw hat, sunglasses, one-piece bikini and sarong wrapped around her waist. She looked like any other tourist enjoying a Caribbean vacation but it was anything but. She casually flipped through the thick dossier on her lap, cell phone attached to her ear.
"Richard," she sighed. She flipped a page of her dossier. She was tracking an assassin only known as 'The Shadow' because of his uncanny ability to disappear. Very little was known about the Shadow, other than a large appetite for women, wanton violence and a fondness for the Caribbean isle of St. Maarten. The only evidence of the Shadow's existence, as Kahlan pulled the picture from the middle of the dossier and set it on top, a grainy still from a bank security camera. "I'm on assignment."
"I just.." Richard breathed in a sigh that bordered on whining. "I just.. wanted to see how you were doing." He paused, voice lowering. "I miss you."
Kahlan inhaled deeply, tilting her head back until it rested against the back of her lounge as she closed her eyes. Things weren't supposed to be this complicated, at least, not in her personal life.
"I know we're on a.." Richard paused, struggling to get the word out. "Break. But, I'm still here. Whenever you need me."
"Richard.." Kahlan exhaled. She loved him. She didn't want to hurt him. But, she'd signed up with the Confessor's 'Second-Time Virgins' program and, like Murphy's Law, it figured she'd get a boyfriend she desperately want to bone two seconds after. Even with all the increasing sexual tension between them and not so sub-textual pressure by the Mother Confessor herself for Kahlan to consummate her relationship with Richard (after they were married, of course), Kahlan still felt.. empty. The longer she stayed with Richard the more she felt the aching hole inside herself and the desperate desire for it to be filled.
"Kahlan," Richard filled the growing pause between them. "This isn't me trying to pressure you.."
Her eyes drifted to the sparkling blue water and a shadow of darkness beneath the surface. The shadow rose, breaking the surface. Kahlan didn't mean to stare, she just couldn't help herself. The woman rose from the waters and Kahlan was transfixed. She was blonde, tanned, a thin but athletic body wearing a bordering on the indecent white bikini that, now completely saturated, left almost nothing to the imagination.
"..I just miss my best friend." She heard but didn't really hear Richard in her ear.
"I.." she stammered. The woman was walking towards her, no, the beach lounge next to Kahlan and Kahlan watched as the woman pulled the towel off the chair and began drying herself. Kahlan hurriedly closed her dossier and stowed it in her beach bag. "I miss you, too."
"So you'll call me when you get done with your assignment?" It almost sounded like begging, if she'd been paying attention.
"I.." Kahlan swallowed hard as the woman bent over to dry her thighs and she really, honestly, tried not to look at the cleavage on display. "I can't promise you anything. But, I'll try."
She disconnected setting her cell in her bag just as the woman reclined herself in the chair next to Kahlan's and closing her eyes, sunbathing.
"Boyfriend?" the woman spoke and it took a second for Kahlan to realize the woman was speaking to her.
"Not really," Kahlan chuckled.
The woman's eyes opened, she tilted her head, turning it towards Kahlan. "Either he is or he isn't."
"We're.. on a break."
"Isn't. And your ex is an idiot. If you were mine.." and Kahlan swallowed hard at the suggestion as the woman closed her eyes and turned her face towards the sun. "I wouldn't let you out of my sight."
The situation was ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. Kahlan was working, ON THE JOB, attempting to track down the world's most feared assassin. Yet, here she was, blushing like a school girl over some tourist's not so subtle flirtations that included insulting Richard, the Seeker. If she actually knew Kahlan's 'we're on a break' boyfriend was actually the Seeker.
"He's not the possessive type."
"Unless, of course," the woman continued as if she hadn't heard what Kahlan said. "He's horrible in bed. Then, you cut your losses anyway you have to. I prefer the 'rip off the Band-Aid' method, the quicker the better, I say. Was he bad in bed?"
"I don't see how this is any of your business?" Kahlan bristled.
"OH..MY..GOD!" the woman's eyes snapped open, head turning towards Kahlan once again. "You haven't slept with him."
"I.." Kahlan's mouth went slack as her cheeks turned a dark crimson.
The blonde rolled onto her side, propping her head up with a hand. "Now, I'm intrigued. You're not, like, one of those 'Second-Time Virgins' are you? Because that is some serious conservative propagandist bullshit. And makes me wanna find someone and fuck them 'til their eyes roll into the back of their head just to piss them all off."
"You're.. very forward."
"No," she smiled with a wolfish half-grin, extending her hand towards Kahlan. "I'm Cara."
Kahlan reached out, clasping her hand around Cara's. "Kahlan. Kahlan Amnell. I'm sorry, I didn't catch your last name."
"That's because I didn't throw it. But I will.." Cara kept her hand clasped with Kahlan's, the pad of her finger grazing over Kahlan's knuckles. "Over dinner."
For the second time in as many days, Kahlan found herself plunging, fully clothed, into water to escape death. The water wasn't as cold as Lake Zurich, just not warm either. She heard the muffled 'pop' as bullets impacted the surface, saw their spiraling trails as they zipped through the water.
She was a good swimmer, her training as an agent demanded it. Kahlan stayed under water, following Cara for what felt like an eternity, kept swimming even as her lungs burned and her head felt like it would explode.
Cara swam under a boat, surfacing on the other side and Kahlan followed, head bursting above the water as her lungs sucked in a large gulp of air.
The high-performance speed boat was expensive, a twenty footer, with twin-turbo engines. Kahlan was pretty sure the middle-aged man, most likely going through a mid-life crisis judging by the 'young enough to be his daughter' woman on his arm, wouldn't have helped them out of the water had he known Cara was going to 'acquire' his boat. Kahlan was already shoving herself behind the wheel, gunning the engine and heading for open water. She could hear the engines behind her and, she knew, that was definitely not a good sign.
"Go! Go!" Cara yelled in her ear. Kahlan dared a glance behind her, at the three speed boats filled with Mord'Sith's racing towards them. Boats more powerful than Kahlan's, in under a minute the lead boat was already on them, as if they expected Kahlan and Cara might escape and planned a contingency. Damn Mord'Sith's and their efficiency.
The crack of gunfire and Kahlan felt something hot whiz by her ear, cracking the windshield on impact. Cara braced herself against the back of the passenger seat, gun raised, she returned fire. The boat veered hard to the left, colliding with the wake and slowing.
They were on the Canal Grande, the main thoroughfare that bisected Venice. Kahlan made a hard right, cutting into one of the smaller canals. It was mid-afternoon and the canal's were filled with vaporetti's, water taxi's, gondolas. Kahlan zigged and zagged to avoid a collision.
Passengers in a gondola dove into the water as Kahlan's boat roared towards them, cutting through the gondola like a knife through butter.
"Kahlan!" Cara yelled between firing her gun.
"I KNOW!!" Kahlan yelled back. The canal was tight, no more than twenty feet wide. It forced their pursuers into a single-line formation. It also forced Kahlan to slow down in her attempt to escape.
"KAHLAN!!" Cara screamed. A second later, the boat shuddered hard as it was rammed from behind. The other boat's hull crunching on top of Kahlan's stern. And Kahlan's boat lurched as the two boats, stuck together, propelled forward.
Cara leapt upwards, Agiel in one hand, gun in the other. She landed in a crouch on the bow. She fired two quick shots, taking out the driver before jumping over the windshield. Agiel clashed against Agiel and Cara stumbled against the passenger's seat from a hard punch to the stomach. Cara head butted her attacker, then drove her Agiel hard into the woman's stomach. Then Cara moved to face the other three attacker's on the boat. Her eyes quickly glanced at the cache of weapons onboard that could stockpile a small nation. And she paid for that momentary distraction. A fist cracked against Cara's jaw. A boot connected with her ribs.
The wheel turned into a 100 pound weight in Kahlan's hands. Her arms strained as she tried to steer two boats, hers and the one atop the stern. The canal curved and it took everything Kahlan to keep the boat from scraping against the palazzi walls. And then..
Kahlan saw the bridge.
No more than ten feet high, twenty feet wide, with three arches underneath.
"CARA!" she screamed.
It was a cheap shot, a knee to the groin, but Cara's philosophy had always been 'whatever gets the job done'. It put space between her and her attackers. Enough space for Cara to turn towards the fore, grab a particularly intriguing weapon from the Mord'Sith's cache as she climbed over the broken windshield and leapt back onto Kahlan's boat.
Sparks flew as the sides of the boat scraped against the walls under the arch. Kahlan's boat fit, barely. But the other boat, the one half-on/half-off Kahlan's, it was too high. It smacked into the side of the bridge, exploding on impact.
Cara and Kahlan both looked back to see the damage. To see the other two boats speed through the empty arches.
"Do they ever STOP!?!" Kahlan yelled over the roar of the engine.
"They're Mord'Sith'S!!" Cara answered, even if it was a rhetorical question. "They never stop!"
Kahlan could see the end of the canal, where it fed into the larger, Grand Canal. She pressed hard on the accelerator, shifting into high gear. The entrance getting closer, wider.
Cara gripped the newly acquired weapon in her hands. The RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade launcher) was light, disposable, made for one shot and one shot only. The cylindrical tube only a foot long but when Cara pressed the release button, it extended to twice its size. She hefted the weapon onto her shoulder, looking through the site at the boats chasing them. The moment their power boat roared into the wider waters of the Grand Canal, Cara pulled the trigger.
The rocket shot out. The first boat flipped backwards as it exploded, careening into the boat behind it, triggering a second explosion..
And Cara and Kahlan sailed off scott free into the open waters of the Venetian Lagoon.
Kahlan turned to Cara, sticking a finger in her ear and wiggling it to help alleviate the ringing. "Where'd you get a bazooka?"
Cara shrugged, tossing the used launcher into the water. "I'm Cara Mason."
GNN BREAKING NEWS
ALCALTRAZ PRISON BREAK
[Cooper Jones stands on the GNN set before a giant, flat screen monitor. The words 'breaking news' displayed in giant letters on the screens dissolving to 'Alcatraz Prison Break']
Cooper Jones: We've just received news that there's been a riot and subsequent daylight prison break on the island of Alcatraz. Details are sketchy..
[Cooper places a finger to his ear, listening to the IFB.]
Cooper Jones: We have reporter, Miranda Pierce, standing live.
[Cooper turns to the flat screen behind him. Where Miranda Pierce is standing on a beach, Alcatraz Island visible behind her.]
Cooper Jones: Miranda, what can you tell us?
Miranda Pierce: Cooper, less than three hours ago, a riot broke out in Alcatraz prison. While the riot was quickly ended, prison officials discovered the riot was anything but. It was a ruse for a daring, daylight prison break that allowed three prisoners, three of the most dangerous criminals in the world, escape.
[The screen changes, showing three mug shots. Two men and a female.]
Miranda Pierce: More troubling than three prisoners escaping is just who escaped. Markus Raines, member of the Dragon Corps, the woman only known as Dahlia an alleged Mord'Sith, and if those two names don't make your blood turn cold there's this - Doctor Reginald Loomis, geneticist, some would say mad scientist, and former wizard of the First Order.
Cooper Jones: How could something like this happen? Alcatraz is under MBI jurisdiction. Aren't there protections in place?
Miranda Pierce: Yes. Along with the high-tech security, there's also the magic barrier that not only prevents prisoners from using magic but also secures the island. Sources close to the investigation have told me, off the record, this has all the ear markings of an inside job.
TWENTY MONTHS AGO
M.B.I HEADQUARTERS, WASHINGTON D.C.
Richard pressed his forearm against the frame to the interrogation room's one-way mirror. He looked into the room, taking his eyes off Kahlan, focusing them once more on the blonde on the other side of the mirror. "She tried to kill you, Kahlan!"
"But she didn't," Kahlan explained for the umpteenth time. "She had the drop on me, Richard, but she didn't. She saved me. And she saved you."
She exhaled heavily, closing her eyes as she folded her arms over her chest, tired of arguing. Exchanging words that had nothing and everything to do with Cara. Richard knew. Kahlan had been (technically still was) sleeping with the enemy. Even after Cara had tried to kill Kahlan, Kahlan still fell into Cara's bed. And before Cara walked into the offices of the MBI claiming to be a double agent.
Richard pushed himself away from the mirror, stalking towards the desk behind them. He grabbed some of the growing stack of papers, Cara's 'confession', her growing list of crimes. He waved it at her. "No one's been able to corroborate her story, Kahlan."
"It's only been twelve hours, Richard." She turned towards him. Her eyes burned hot as she glared at him, for the first time, with real anger in her eyes. "We.. No, you need her to find the third Box of Orden."
"She's a Mord'Sith!"
"Who was working undercover for the MBI!"
"She's using you, Kahlan. She's lying to you. Only you can't see it.."
"Don't you dare!" Kahlan whirled on her heel, stalking towards him, pointed finger aiming at his chest. "Just because I can't use my Confessor powers on her," she paused, softening as her head turned slightly towards the mirror and she glanced at Cara inside. "Doesn't mean I can't tell whether or not she's lying."
"Kahlan," Richard spoke softly, placing his fingers on her raised hand and lowering them as he stepped closer towards her. "I'm just trying to keep you from getting hurt."
Kahlan closed her eyes as her chest tightened and all the doubts and fears lurking within the darkness threatened to overwhelm her. It'd be so easy, so easy to give in, to do what was.. expected of her. Her head and her heart at war. She had responsibilities, made declarations of duty, taken oaths, made promises. Promises.
Kahlan opened her eyes as she stepped out of Richard's touch. "If you want to keep me from getting hurt," she said, walking backwards, walking towards Cara. "Then let me go."
Cara - in her red leathers, holsters empty of the Agiels she so desperately wished to feel within her grasp - refolded her arm as Kahlan entered the interrogation room. Most of the bruises on her face had healed, but the scar on her lip remained, a final reminder of her battle with her former fellow Mord'Sith.
"The machine upstairs didn't have your favorite," Kahlan smiled sheepishly, setting down a can of soda and a plastic cup filled with ice before Cara. "So I picked orange."
Cara shifted slightly in her seat, brows crinkling, lips setting into a grim line. "Thank you," she said in a clipped tone tinged with uncertainty.
Kahlan took the seat opposite Cara, watching as Cara opened the can of soda and poured it into the cup of ice. Acutely aware of the cameras and microphones. Despite Cara's claims of being an agent for the MBI, she was 'The Shadow', the world's most feared assassin, a Mord'Sith, an agent of CLIT. And, soon, the entire Bureau would know what Richard Cypher had figured out - that Kahlan Amnell, the Confessor, was sleeping with The Shadow.
After a long sip, Cara set her cup down. She wrapped her gloved hands around the thin plastic. Her head lowered, eyes focused on the liquid within. "They don't believe me."
"They believe you're The Shadow," Kahlan smiled weakly. "They're.. just having a hard time corroborating that you're an agent for the MBI."
Cara inhaled deeply, then blew the air out hard through her lips. She pulled away one of her hands gripping her cup and ran it through her hair. Then, set her elbow on the table, resting her chin her hand. Cara looked so.. tired and it made something deep within Kahlan ache, like she wanted to hold Cara, feel her warmth against her as she let Cara fall asleep in her arms.
"It doesn't matter," Cara mumbled in a tone that almost sounded defeated.
"It matters." Kahlan reached across the table, clasping her hand over Cara's. Cara tensed and Kahlan tightened her grip as Cara tried to pull her hand away, lifting her head to gaze at Kahlan. "It matters and I believe you."
FIVE MILES OFF THE COAST OF ALBANIA
It was an island barely a blip on even local maps. No more than two hundred feet wide, craggy steep rocks that jutted upwards like a breached leviathan from the dark waters. There was also the tiniest bit of shore where they'd tied up the boat, and a cave for shelter. They'd quickly stripped out of their soaked clothes, Cara jury-rigging a clothesline that stretched across the tiny interior of the cave so they could dry.
Kahlan, blanket draped over her naked body, busied herself by building a fire while Cara brought into the cave usable supplies from the boat; blankets, mattresses meant for sunbathing, a cooler filled with food and, most importantly, a cell phone. Which Cara used, standing on the rocky shore in nothing but her black boy-briefs and combat boots, to try and contact Zedd.
Cara returned as Kahlan began setting out the food from the cooler. "What is it with us and hiding in caves?" she chuckled, her smiling features quickly turning to concern at the serious look on Cara's face.
Cara was doing that 'thing' with her head, softly tilted down, eyes looking anywhere but at Kahlan, lips pursed tight, like a guilty child uncertain as to whether or not she should confess.
"Richard's been shot," Cara said flatly but sternly. "He's stable but still in intensive care."
"Richard?" Kahlan gasped, suddenly up and on her feet. "Where? How?"
"He was at the palazzi." Cara swallowed. "He'd offered to help me find you. Darken Rahl shot him," Cara paused, lifting her eyes to meet Kahlan's. Her gaze both heated and hurt, the guilt already pressing down on her shoulders. "He stole the Sword of Truth."
Kahlan's suddenly shaking fingers went to her mouth to stifle the gasp on her lips. "By the Creator.."
Kahlan took a step, desperate to feel her arms around Cara. The moment she did, Cara turned on a heel, turned her back to Kahlan. Cara reached out with her arm, pressing her hand onto the cave wall, head bowing as she leaned.
"This is all my fault," Cara growled through clenched teeth.
"Cara?" Kahlan gasped. "How could all this be your fault?"
Cara turned her head a small degree towards Kahlan, features hidden behind the curtain of blonde hair. "Those were Mord'Sith after us. A hundred-million dollars for both our heads? That's a drop in the bucket to them. This is personal. It's me they're after. And I put you in the crosshairs. Richard. Zedd." She turned away from Kahlan, features haloed by the setting sun. When she spoke again, her voice was barely above a whisper. "I'll understand if you want to leave."
"Cara." Kahlan walked forward, not stopping until she felt the warmth of Cara's back. She reached up, gently placed her hand on Cara's shoulder. "Don't be ridiculous.."
Cara shirked from Kahlan's touch. "Am I? Two years later, the MBI still doesn't believe I'm one of their own," the words spilled venomously from her lips like she couldn't make them stop. "Most of the agents hate me or want me dead. Not that I don't deserve it. No matter what, I'll always be a Mord'Sith. I'll always be 'The Shadow' in their eyes. And you're a Confessor. You're better off without me. Richard's.. a good man. He'll.."
Kahlan reached out again, placing her hand on Cara's shoulder. "I'm pregnant."
Cara froze. Mouth still open, the words forgotten on her tongue.
"The baby's yours," Kahlan smiled softly, hopefully.
"Don't be ridiculous," Cara snapped, head turned slightly towards Kahlan. "Of course it's mine." There was a silence, thick and heavy, and Kahlan could feel Cara stiffening under her touch. "And I'll support whatever decision you make."
"Cara," Kahlan breathed as if struck, paling at Cara's implication. She inhaled deeply, jaw clenching as she set her resolve.
"Look at me," she said, placing her other hand on Cara's other shoulder to turn the blonde around. She drew her hands up Cara's shoulders, up the slender neck until both hands cupped Cara's cheeks, tilting Cara's head until their eyes met. "Why do you still doubt how much I love you?" she smiled, pulling her face closer, rubbing her nose against the side of Cara's. "It's always been you. Even before we met. And then, there you were and it was like I'd found the missing piece of my soul."
Cara chuckled weakly. "Before or after I tried to kill you."
"Before," Kahlan kissed the corner of Cara's lips, then kissed the other. "And after."
Cara closed her eyes, like if she couldn't see Kahlan she wouldn't want this - this closeness, intimacy, devotion. "There's so much blood on my hands," she whispered.
Two years they'd been in each other's orbit. Cara wasn't a closed book to Kahlan, just one who's pages were very hard to turn. Despite the history still yet to be revealed, they fit so well together. Kahlan couldn't imagine a life without Cara. Refused to. "Cara please," she breathed, begged, lips brushing against lips. "Please, don't make me do this alone. I want this child. Your child. I want you. Please, don't leave me."
Cara had always been hard to break but break she did. Quickly. Easily. The hands, once slack at her sides, curved over the swell of Kahlan's hips, became fingers digging into the small of Kahlan's back and pulling them together.
Lips already close crashed together. Hungry. Urgent. Desperate. Vows renewed with opening lips and dueling tongues. Kahlan's fingers drifted over the back of Cara's head, fisting, nails scraping demandingly across Cara's scalp. And Kahlan whimpered at the growl breathed into her mouth.
Cara drifted her hands down, cupping Kahlan's ass just above her thighs. She leaned back, taking Kahlan's weight, Kahlan taking the hint, lifting then wrapping her legs over Cara's hips. She staggered towards the mattresses on the cave floor, almost blindly not wanting to break their kiss, their connection.
She dropped to her knees, practically shoving Kahlan onto the mattress. Kahlan flopped back hard, air whooshing from her lungs with a loud grunt. The sound snapped Cara from her haze, eyes going wide.
"Did I hurt you?" she hurriedly asked. "Did I hurt the baby?"
Kahlan purred with eyes still hooded. Hand snaking out, grabbing Cara by the back of the head. "C'mere.. Daddy," she said before crashing their lips together once again.
Kahlan hissed, back arching at the feel of teeth scraping against her pulse point. Cara loved to use her teeth, marking territory claimed long ago. Teeth, lips and tongue, and Cara giggled into Kahlan's neck, at the hands applying pressure on her shoulders, an attempt to push Cara where Kahlan needed her to be.
Her lips trailed, pausing to suckle on Kahlan's breast, to tease pink nipples already hardened and erect. Kahlan was already writhing, undulating beneath Cara. And Cara paused, lips halfway down Kahlan's stomach, to gaze back up at her wife. Pleasure/pained expression all over her face, eyes squeezed closed, mouth slack and panting.
Cara rose up onto her hands, watching as Kahlan's eyes opened a tiny and seductive crack.
"Cara.." she whined.
The grin on Cara's lips widened. "Say it."
Blue eyes opened a little wider, Kahlan lifting her head just a little, lips curving into a smile. "Please," she husked, not quite begging but close enough.
Cara lowered, shouldering her way between Kahlan's legs, pushing the thighs open wider. Her mouth went slack, already watering at the scent of Kahlan's sex, at the sight of her wife - open and vulnerable and just wanting - and all hers. She dove in, tonguing the slippery flesh, Kahlan's hips bucking at that first swipe of Cara's tongue.
This was hers. It was always hers. But, instead of taking, Cara gave. Never one for words, Cara was a person of action. So, she showed, with lips, teeth and tongue, one hand plunging two fingers deep and quick, with the other hand, fingers splayed open, she gently placed upon Kahlan's stomach. This is mine. You are mine.
And I am yours.
"Cara.." Kahlan croaked. Already, she could feel her magic, building like a swirling mist within her, curling around the growing tension. She felt Cara's hand on her stomach and Kahlan reached down, threading their fingers together. Her other hand fisting the blanket beneath her because she couldn't hold back any longer. She didn't want to. Her eyes snapped open, irises black as pits, back bowing as the coiling tension broke and her magic exploded outwards.
Cara slowed her pace, until the bucks subsided to minor trembles, the loud moans to panted whimpers. Until Kahlan's hand drifted onto Cara's head, weak fingers threading into her hair.
"Cara.." Kahlan mewled. "Please."
Cara growled at the nails digging desperately into her scalp, at her wife's total submission. She took her time kissing her way up Kahlan's body, scraped her teeth along the sensitive flesh of Kahlan's inner thigh, painted lazy circles with her tongue along sweat-slick and glistening skin, suckled nipples and nibbled along her collar bone.
She pressed her lips hungrily to Kahlan's, sliding her tongue between the open lips, possessing her wife's mouth until Kahlan was pulling from her, gasping for air.
With eyes still burning hot with desire, Cara rolled her lower lip into her mouth. "I take it that was.. satisfactory."
Kahlan chuckled, hands sliding down Cara's back, under the waistband of the black boy-shorts. "God, I hate it when you get cocky."
"Tell me again.." With the tip of her tongue, Cara drew it up the point of Kahlan's chin, over kiss-swollen lips, snaking it back into her mouth. "How much you love me."
"I could tell you," Kahlan purred, gazing up at Cara with blue eyes gone dark. "Or I could show you."
Head tilting up, she pressed their lips together. Hands gripping Cara around the waist, a push of a leg and the two were reversed. There was a playful resistance as Cara twisted and pulled, testing the restraints of Kahlan's hands as they bound Cara by the wrists, pushing them up and over Cara's head.
Cara wagged her eyebrows. "I love it when you get all butch."
Kahlan playfully grinned back. "You just love me, period."
A point Cara never would have argued with. Kahlan never gave her the chance, pouncing onto Cara's lips. She pushed Cara's wrists across the mattress, until they were crossed and Kahlan could pin them with one hand. She slid her free hand between them as her knee muscled open Cara's thighs, fingers sliding between skin and cotton, over then against wet and slippery skin. She pulled their lips apart, gazing down at Cara, face commanding. Demanding.
"Say it," she growled with a cant of her head, like 'no' wasn't an option.
Cara licked her lips. Pinned. Bound. Her body a live-wire pulled taut. She gazed up at Kahlan with narrowed eyes, a subtle sneer on her lips. "Fuck you."
Kahlan's lips spread into a predatory grin. She loved Cara, with everything she had, possibly more. She loved being with her, kissing her, making love to her. She also loved this. This not-quite-a game of Cara's, dominance and submission. Because Kahlan knew, as her fingertips teased Cara's opening and Cara's hips twitched at the hint of penetration, Cara submitted to no one.. but Kahlan.
"Say it," she commanded in a tone bordering on that of a Confessor.
Cara's lips pursed into a grim line, brows crinkling, like she was trapping the word within her, keeping it from escaping. Then, Kahlan teased, circling her fingers, rolling her hips, showing Cara how good it would be. If she just said the word.
Cara closed her eyes. A ragged and deep exhale hissed from throat, body going instantly slack as Cara gave it. As she submitted.
"Please," she whispered.
With three fingers, Kahlan pushed into Cara. Hard. Quick. Deep. Cara's neck craned, head pushed back into the mattress as her mouth went slack, scream choked off in the back of her throat. Kahlan rolled, jutted her hips, jammed them against the hand between Cara's legs. Just as she'd submitted, Cara also begged. Just not with words, she begged with the knees lifting upwards, the thighs draping over Kahlan's hips, the heels of her feet digging into the backs of Kahlan's thighs. More, she begged with the hips arching up to meet Kahlan's fingers. Harder, she pleaded with the arms straining under Kahlan's grip.
They moved together, two as one, in that way only lovers with an intimate familiarity with each other could.
"Cara, open your eyes," Kahlan breathed, panted into Cara's mouth. "I want to watch you come."
Cara's eyes opened to the tiniest of cracks, glazed and hooded. And Kahlan released her grip on Cara's wrists, moved her hand down, fingers slipping around Cara's throat. Blue eyes instantly went black at the contact.
Never, in a million years, would it have occurred to Kahlan to use her Confessor powers in such a manner. Until, she met Cara. After which, it seemed as natural as breathing. Cara was immune to Confession, it didn't mean she was unaffected by the power.
Cara opened her eyes as Kahlan touched her throat and the magic surged from Kahlan, like the rush of roaring rapids. The magic surged outwards and into Cara, ripped through body like lightening striking a fence, under skin, into muscles, veins, into the twisted, tangling coil of heat and tension between her legs. The scream came first, rough and raw and primal, and then Cara was bucking beneath Kahlan, writhing and undulating, muscles clenching tightly around Kahlan's fingers.
There was a moment, shorter than the blink of an eye, longer than eternity, a moment where they were connected by magic. Souls, like mists, swirled and intertwined, became one. Kahlan wasn't just inside Cara, she was Cara and Cara was Kahlan. No thought, just sensation, emotion, both tangible and intangible. Pleasure. Kahlan's mouth went slack, ragged groan bubbling from her throat as she felt what Cara felt and they came together.
Her magic ebbed, taking Kahlan's energy with it. Black pooled in the corners of Kahlan's eyes as consciousness threatened to abandon her. She collapsed atop Cara, face buried in the crook of Cara's neck as her fingers released their hold.
Moments, hours, days later, when her breathing turned to normal and the stars faded from the backs of her eyes, Cara slowly drew her hands up Kahlan's back, threading her fingers into the long, dark locks.
"Tell me," she breathed heavily. "That you love me."
"Tell me." Kahlan shifted, drawing the tip of her nose along Cara's neck, nuzzling against Cara's ear. "You'll never leave me."
TWENTY MONTHS AGO
It felt good to be home, Aydindril, Kahlan's true home. Safe and sound in the Confessor's Palace, in the quarters designated as her own since she was fourteen. But, even in the safety and comfort of her true home, Kahlan was weighted down by an increasing sense of anxiety, an increasing feeling of guilt.
It'd been a month since she'd been 'killed' by The Shadow. It'd been Cara who'd faked Kahlan's death while Kahlan recuperated from the injuries Cara had given her. And Kahlan didn't know why. Once healed, Kahlan awoke to find Cara already gone, so Kahlan stowed away on the first cargo plane she could find and quietly returned to Aydindril.
There were questions. So many questions. Questions Kahlan couldn't answer and ones she could. And, when asked if she knew what the Shadow looked like, Kahlan looked the Mother Confessor dead in the eye..
That lie caused her to sleep restlessly, tossing and turning in her bed. Burdened by the guilt and shame she'd felt. Kahlan no longer felt at home.
When the assignment arose - a possible sighting of the Shadow - Kahlan leapt at the opportunity, at the last chance at redemption. Even if Richard was in tow.
She'd been in better hotels, she'd been in worse. But, the sheets were clean and free of bed bugs. The ancient air conditioner actually worked, even if Kahlan had to occasionally get up in the middle of the night to turn it off because of the ice accumulating on the pipes. Not that it mattered, she and Richard had been in Panama for a week, obviously chasing a ghost.
Flopping backwards on the mattress, tossing an arm over her face, Kahlan sighed loudly and heavily, frustrated and desperate for the sleep she knew would not come easily tonight, or ever.
Her breathing slowed as her mind settled and sleep seemed within her grasp. Then, the air stilled minutely, like an empty space in the room had been filled. In a flash, Kahlan rolled off the mattress, hands grasping about the hilts of her daggers stowed under her pillows. A shadow against the far wall and Kahlan lifted her hand to throw her dagger..
"Kahlan.." a voice croaked softly. "Stop."
Kahlan froze, eyes widening in recognition. "Cara!" she gasped then reached over to turn on the lamp next to her bed.
Cara, her back to the wall, slumped to the floor. Dressed in her red leathers, Cara looked like death warmed over. Her left eye was blackened, almost swollen shut. A gash in the hairline over her forehead leaked blood down over her face. Her lower lip was split, flesh swollen and purpling. She held her left arm defensively over her ribcage. Her long, blonde hair had been cut, no, hacked off, the blonde locks now ending just above her shoulders.
Kahlan dropped her daggers on the mattress and rushed towards Cara, lowering to her knees. "Cara," she breathed gently, placing her hand gently to Cara's face. "What happened?"
Cara snorted then coughed wetly. "Where I come from, failure is not an option. Neither is insolence." She closed her eyes, tilting her head back until it rested against the wall.
"Insolence?" Kahlan's brows creased as her eyes widened in disbelief. "What could you have done to deserve this?"
"I.." Cara's eyes opened, head turning from Kahlan's with a faraway look. Pained, not physical pain, it was deeper, like something locked away inside had been cracked opened and she didn't know how to deal with what was spilling out. "I refused to kill you."
Kahlan stammered, mouth opening then closing because she didn't know what to say. She knew their would be consequences for her own lie to the Mother Confessor in regards to Cara. For what could be perceived as a betrayal. But, she couldn't fathom the Confessor's doing this to her, this brutality. Cara had chosen - the word and its implications lingered long within Kahlan - she'd chosen Kahlan over her own Sisters. And Kahlan realized why sleep had alluded her for the last month.
Because she, too, had chosen Cara over her own Sisters.
This was too much. Too soon. Too BIG. It'd been easier to process her feelings, lock them away tight and throw away the key, when she had no idea how Cara felt. She couldn't think about it, at least, not right now. So, she chose something else to concentrate on. "We need to get you to a doctor," Kahlan said.
"You're not fine! You've been beaten! Half to death." The anger roiled within her, stoking her magic, seeping around the edges of something that felt a lot like Con Dar.
"Kahlan!" Cara clipped, grabbing Kahlan by the wrist and squeezing. The pain enough to snap Kahlan from her senses. "I didn't come here to just go to a doctor."
Closing her eyes, Kahlan inhaled deeply, calming herself. "Then why did you come?"
She opened her mouth but instead of word began coughing, wracking, hard and wet coughs. When she pulled her gloved hand from her mouth, it was wet with blood. Kahlan winced, chest squeezing her heart.
"Cara.." she whispered gently.
Cara chuckled, licking her lips. "I had a perfect score on the SAT's."
Confused, Kahlan shook her head. "What?"
Cara tilted her head towards Kahlan, soft smile on her lips. "Did you know there's a hidden test within the SAT's? To find potential candidates for various government agencies. Spies."
"Cara.." Kahlan sighed. Cara was becoming delirious. "I don't understand."
"I am.. a genius." She grinned cockily, shrugging her shoulders then winced at the pain from her efforts. "And it's not just the government that uses those scores. My senior year in high school, I was approached.." She watched as Kahlan's eyes lowered, shoulders sagging as if she knew the story. "By the MBI," she said and Kahlan's eyes snapped back to hers. "He said a lot of people were watching me, and had been for a very long time. Mind you, he wasn't the first agency to contact me after the SAT's, but he was the first to give me a mission and I accepted. A mission to infiltrate the Criminal League of International Terrorists."
Cara paused, squinting slightly as watched Kahlan's face as she took it all in.
"By the Creator," Kahlan gasped. "You're.."
"A double agent," Cara smiled weakly. "Surprise."
Kahlan leaned back on her heels, like she'd been physically rocked by the revelation. It should have made sense, like the last piece of an incredibly large puzzle, except she couldn't wrap her head around it. "But.." she shook her head. "You're the Shadow. The Shadow's been around for thirty years. How.."
"Shadow's," Cara explained. "When one dies, she's replaced with another. I'm the eight.." she began to cough again. Hard and staccato-ish.
Kahlan grabbed Cara's hand by the wrist then gently draped Cara's arm over her shoulder. "Come on," she said, helping Cara to her feet.
She lead Cara to the bathroom and Cara set a hand on the counter, leaning against it as Kahlan began to run a bath. Kahlan rose, turning towards Cara then knelt before her, working on Cara's boots. In all of their.. encounters, it'd never been with Cara in her Mord'Sith uniform. The boots removed, Kahlan rose. It was like peeling an onion made of red leather, an onion with straps and buckles and laces. The last of the laces to Cara's top undone as Kahlan peeled the leather off, their eyes locked and Kahlan tilted her head at the almost sultry glint in Cara's eyes.
"Cara," she playfully warned. Kahlan noted with her eyes the multiple bruises on Cara's torso, the dark and purpling stain against her ribs. They may not have been broken but they were definitely cracked.
"The act of removing a Mord'Sith's uniform can be very.. intimate."
"You're injured," Kahlan said in a tone that said sex was definitely not on the table.. as she lowered to her knees and began working on Cara's belt.
Cara raised her eyebrows, eyes widening. "I'm not that injured."
Which was a lie, evidenced by Cara's hard wincing as Kahlan helped lower her into the tub. The water was hot, soothing and Cara immediately closed her eyes, almost purring, as the heat soaked into her bruised skin.
Kahlan removed her chemise, then eased into the tub behind Cara. For a cheap motel, the tub was quite large and the two fit a bit snugly but easily. They were silent for awhile. As Kahlan scooped handfuls of water and poured it over Cara's back, gently soaped and massaged Cara's skin. When she was done, not ready to leave the comfort of the bath, Kahlan wrapped her arms around Cara's shoulders, pulling the blonde back and into her.
"Thank you," Cara said softly, almost sleepily.
Cara turned, nuzzling her forehead against Kahlan's jaw. "For believing me."
Kahlan chuckled, wrapping her arms a little tighter. "I don't even know your last name," she whispered.
"I'd tell you, but then I'd have to marry you." It was meant to be a joke but Cara stiffened minutely at the words that had just crossed her lips. She'd sacrificed to become a double agent for the MBI. She'd also lost herself in the process. Now, she was sacrificing again. More than she realized, more than she'd ever intended. She thread her fingers with Kahlan's, brought their entwined hands to her mouth, kissing the backs of Kahlan's knuckles. "Mason," she breathed softly. "Cara Mason."
Kahlan inhaled deeply as she slowly awakened. Eyes still closed, she rolled onto her back, stretching, muscles languid and sore from the most pleasurable of physical exertions. She rolled onto her side again, sliding her hand across the mattress and finding the space next to her empty. Which was not exactly unexpected. Unwanted? Yes, but not unexpected.
She opened her eyes. There were fresh sticks catching light over the dying embers of the fire. On the other side of the fire, atop the cooler, sat her clothes, pulled from the make-shift clothes line and neatly folded. On top of her clothes sat her Confessor daggers, a pistol and a cell phone.
She sucked in hard breath, jerking upright to a seated position. "Cara?" Kahlan called out but she knew. She already knew. Pulling the blanket about her, Kahlan quickly rose and rushed towards the entrance of the cave. Black/blue sky twinkled with stars over the darker Ionian Sea and waves lapped at the rocky shore below. There was no boat.
There was no Cara.
"Cara!" she hissed through clenched teeth, vision turning blurry as the tears built in her eyes. "You stubborn, thick-headed.." she placed a hand over her face as she slumped her shoulder against the entrance to the cave. "Fool."
A shadow moved in the corner of Kahlan's eye, something down below where the rocky boulders met the water's edge. One shadow turned to two, to three, moving quickly, moving towards Kahlan. When three turned to seven and Kahlan thought she saw a dash of white within the black, Kahlan stopped counting.
She dashed back into the cave. Tossing off her blanket, because now was not the time for propriety, Kahlan rushed towards the cooler. She grabbed the gun, raising it as she spun on her heel facing the entrance to the cave.
The shadows turned to red leather, hair pulled back off their heads into tight ponytail, Agiel's already in their hands. Kahlan fired once, twice, shots direct to their chests and they both spun, flailing backwards and disappearing into the darkness.
A head peered around the corner and Kahlan fired again, missing. Kahlan swallowed nervously. There'd been no extra clip next to the semi-automatic and Kahlan hadn't checked the one inside the gun to see how many bullets she had. She was pinned, trapped and both sides knew it.
The entrance to the cave filled with Mord'Sith rushing in all at once. Kahlan fired, seven, eight, nine times and then her gun was empty. And the Mord'Sith still kept coming. She snatched up her Confessor's daggers. The slice of a throat, the piercing of a lung, an elbow to a face, knee to a stomach.
Then, she felt an Agiel against her collarbone, clenched her teeth to hold back the scream. Hands grasped at her arms, forcing her to drop her daggers. A fist to her face and Kahlan saw stars, quickly followed with bruising kicks to the backs of her legs, forcing her down to her knees. An arm snaked around her throat, threatening to cut off her air. Kahlan didn't surrender, she just stopped forcefully resisting. She'd been captured by the Mord'Sith and there wasn't anything more she could do at the moment than continue to plan an escape.
"Kahlan Amnell," a voice carried into the cave. Kahlan lifted her head minutely, as far as the arm around her throat would let her, to see a blonde woman clad in white leather.
Denna smiled predatorily, triumphantly as she stalked into the cave, hips swaying like she was making a milkshake. She stopped, the tips of her white boots mere inches from Kahlan's knees, then knelt until her eyes were level with Kahlan's.
"Kahlan Amnell," she said again, reaching out and cupping Kahlan's chin with her fingers. Her blue eyes glanced over Kahlan's features, inspecting. "I can see what our Cara sees in you. All that purity and nobility.."
Kahlan jerked her head away, pulling from Denna's grasp. "What do you want with me?"
Denna grasped Kahlan's chin again, because she could. "I'd say I want you to die but that would be horribly, horribly cliché of me. No, Kahlan Amnell.." she released Kahlan's chin, pushing Kahlan's head back as she rose to her full height and glared down at the Confessor. "I want you to live."
Denna's blue eyes went dark, she flicked a glance at one of the Mord'Sith's and the woman nodded her head in compliance with the silent order, raising the hilt of her Agiel and bringing it down hard against Kahlan's skull.
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