The forest they were travelling through was vast and dark. Even in the daytime, the Northern sun hardly penetrated the thick canopy of trees. They had been journeying for five days, and the men and the horses were weary. Unaccustomed to long days in the saddle the guard's muscles were aching and sore. The need to be on constant alert had left him exhausted, and his senses were dulled by the lack of light and the flickering shadows.
Up ahead the Princess's wagon swayed and jerked on the narrow, pitted road. Beside it, the Prince rode, steady in his saddle, seemingly unaffected by the long days of riding. He had kept his wife confined within the wagon away from the eyes of his retinue. At night he joined her and the guard tried not to think what transpired inside it's wooden walls.
That night they set up camp beside a fast flowing stream. He kept guard while the dozen servants and soldiers lit fires, prepared food and then, wrapped in blankets, settled down for the night. When all were asleep, and the sound of snoring echoed through the trees he took a lamp and made his way down to the stream.
He quickly stripped to the waist and taking handfuls of cold water washed his shoulders and chest, kneeding the tired muscles. He submerged his head and rubbed his scalp. He sat for a moment, his back to the camp enjoying the quiet of the forest. Then suddenly he felt a presence behind him and a warm hand touched his shoulder. Just by its touch he knew whose hand it was. His breath caught and he froze while a warm cheek rested on his back and slender arms encircled his middle. Her loose hair covered him in soft waves, caressing his skin and to his horror, he felt tears welling up in his eyes.
'You are married now,' he whispered.
'I don't love him,' she said, caressing the ridges of muscle that ran down his belly. Her lips kissed his bare skin.
'This is dangerous,' he said.
'Always dangerous,' she murmured, closing her eyes.
He couldn't speak. He wanted her to leave but he also wanted her to stay. He was torn.
Her hand slipped under the waist of his trousers and he gently clamped his hand over her wrist and slowly pulled her arms away from him.
'Go back to your husband,' he said, and he turned and watched her go, disappearing into the darkness.