Stepping back a bit, he tilted her face up to his and looked deeply into her eyes before bending to kiss her softly with trembling lips, his heart jumping in surprise when she gave no resistance to his kiss and made no move to back away from him. He pulled away enough to touch his forehead against hers, breathing deeply of her perfume and warmth, and closed his eyes as he sighed.
“Do you understand what I am saying to you, girl, what you mean to me?” he asked softly as he opened his eyes to look deep into hers. Her eyes were wide, and tears threatened to spill, for she did indeed understand the depths of his feelings for her. Not knowing of the awakening in her mind and heart towards him, he went on, his tears now falling without shame, “I cannot stand another day, another moment, with this wall of hatred between us! You are destroying me every time you pretend that I’m not even alive when I’m right here with you! I cannot even find comfort in being near you at night for you jump whenever I accidentally brush against you in my sleep! Please, Leigha, would you at least be my friend as you were when you thought that I was Stephen? Would you at least grant me that much?”
“Simon, you must know that we can never be as we were at Dagonmoor,” she said, her voice hushed and full of emotion as she reached to tenderly touch his cheek with her open fingers, making his nerves jump with pleasure at her touch though his heart was shot through with pain as she continued to speak, “Terrible things have happened since we’ve met. I know now that, at first, it was your duty and your way of life, then your wounded pride that made you hurt me so, and I . . . I believe that I understand why you have taken me away from Robert, from everyone.”
“Leigha, please stop, please love me!” Simon choked as he pulled her against him, willing her to feel his love and to keep her from denying him any longer. “I have never loved or been loved by anyone, and I am afraid that now that I have lost my heart, my very life to you, you will continue to turn from me! I cannot bear that, little one!”
Simon was surprised when Leigha laughed softly into his shoulder, and he held her away so as to see her face as he looked at her in confusion and pain.
“But I do love you, Simon,” she spoke before he could utter any words. “I think that I have for quite some time now. I want you to know that though it sounds peculiar and perhaps ‘tis a sin, I love Robert as well as you. I am his wife, and I have a deep, gentle love for him. I know I should honor my vows to him, but oh, how I love you, my darling, I love you!”
Simon’s heart pounded and rang with her words as he impulsively lifted her up into his arms and carried her over to their bunk set against the wall of the ship. Setting her down gently, he knelt to kiss her deeply before lying beside her. His heart fairly burst as she returned his embrace and as eagerly sought his mouth.
“She loves me!” he thought to himself in elation. Sobering, he murmured aloud, “We will speak later of Robert and everything else that stands between us, but for now, ‘tis enough to know that you love me.”
Leigha smiled warmly up at him as he turned his full attention to her lovely form. She had lain beside him many times before, but now, she was not turning away. Her arms were open wide to hold him close, and as he kissed her full mouth again, Simon’s thoughts of everything, save his love for her, vanished.
Leigha felt only the deep heat of her love that flashed through her as he touched her, and she knew that it was right for her to be with him. She knew her heart at last and stopped the battle she had fought against him, knowing that it was her own self that she had been fighting. She felt giddy and alive as she had never felt before and clung to him as he buried his face in her neck, tenderly but demandingly kissing and sucking her throat as he undressed her perfect form.