22. Last Attempt To Reach His Heart
Just how Thranduil convinced Legolas to return to their rooms, Cellinn was unsure. One thing was certain, however; Legolas had not expected her to be there. As the door closed behind him, he looked up, saw her standing in the doorway to their bedchamber; and then he turned around and tried to leave again. But the door would not open for him. Thranduil had wasted no time changing the words that controlled the locking of the door.
He tried to pull it open several times, but the door did not recognize him. He murmured the password that controlled the lock and tugged on it again. When it still failed to open, he slammed his hand against it and cursed.
Cellinn watched him, her uncertainty growing with each attempt Legolas made to escape her presence. How could she possibly seduce him when so much lay between them? They needed to talk, not make love! But when Legolas dropped his forehead on the door with a groan, she changed her mind. Perhaps seduction would be the key to that long-needed conversation. At least, it might if she could get him to look at her.
"Legolas, please," she pleaded, blinking back tears. Desperate to do whatever she could to make things right between them, her fingers slipped down to untie her robe – the only thing she wore. As the sash fell and her robe gaped slightly open, exposing small glimpses of her body, she gulped and took a shaky breath. It was not easy to make herself so vulnerable to him, but she forced herself to do it.
"Look at me."
She blinked in astonishment as soon as the words left her mouth. Had that husky voice been hers? She took a couple of steps towards him. "Please look at me," she repeated, her voice little more than a whisper, but she knew he could hear her. With her eyes fixed on his slumped form, she caught the slight tilt of his head.
Then he straightened, his hands tightening into fists at his sides as he turned.
His face was blank of expression, but she saw the slightest flicker of surprise in his eyes when he beheld her — the quick glance down her body and back up. She lowered her eyes. "Thank you."
For several moments, they just stood there. Cellinn could hear her heart beating rapidly and wondered if Legolas could hear it as well. Slowly, mustering all her courage, she lifted just her eyes, keeping her chin tilted down in the look he had once said he loved so much. Then she took a step forward, feeling the robe part even more.
The expressionless mask of his face faded; his eyes were on her, roaming over her hungrily. Yet a lingering wariness remained. He swallowed hard, then lifted his eyes to meet hers. When their gazes collided, for a brief moment, she caught a glimpse of his surprise, his pain and, yes, a remaining flash of anger. Then it was gone, the wariness becoming more prevalent as he stepped back, retreating from her.
"What are you doing?" he asked hoarsely.
She pushed her churning emotions to the back of her mind and forced herself to act the part. A slow smile turned her lips as she stepped forward again. "I thought we could talk," she murmured, dipping her eyes to run over his body in a caress before again looking him the eye. "We need to talk."
Her smile faded as all her hurt and uncertainty roiled inside her. She took another shuddering breath, pleading with her eyes for him to listen, to give her a chance. He shook his head slightly and took another step back, bumping into the door. He pressed his back against it, his hand reaching back to give the handle another useless tug.
He was visibly shaken, and she was surprised to see his look of panic. Could she manage to break through his defenses and find the man she had fallen in love with? She had to try! Taking another step forward, the robe slipped open to bare a large sliver of her flesh from sternum to toes. She had never felt so exposed in her life, but she pressed on, taking another step, and another. She was fighting for their love and if that meant she had to open herself up to the possibility of being hurt even more, she had to take the risk.
Another step and she was standing in front of him. His eyes slowly raked down, lingered on the exposed curve of her breasts, then drifted down over her belly and lower. He blinked, and she could see all the emotion swirling in his eyes. But then he glanced back up at her face, and the guarded look returned.
"I love you," she whispered. "I'm sorry."
With a slight shrug, the robe slipped from her shoulders and pooled at her feet, exposing all of her to his eyes.
His brows pulled together as multiple emotions crossed over his face: wonder, desire, longing, and regret. He blinked several times, and then to her surprise, he turned his back to her and leaned his head against the door again. A shudder ran through him, and Cellinn could just stand there, her heart breaking. She had offered him everything — made herself as vulnerable as she knew how. She had no other course to take. If Legolas rejected her here and now, she knew she would be broken beyond hope of recovery.
She had no idea what to do. She did not feel comfortable implementing what Minuialwen had told her — doubted he would even allow her to remove any of his clothing, let alone touch him there — not now, not with him responding like this. Her heart nudged her to take him in her arms, to touch him as a friend and make one last attempt to reach his heart.
So she pressed up against his back, wrapping her arms around him and resting her cheek against his shoulder. "I love you. I want you to be my husband in truth. I want everything to be right between us again. Please, Galas, let me explain?"
When he did not say anything, she continued, pouring out her heart to him. "I understand now why I acted as I did. My mother told me I had nothing to fear, but she never explained why." She paused, thinking of how best to explain all that she had discovered about herself and how her parent's marriage had affected her ideas of bonding. "All my life I've watched her —the wife of the King's Chief Advisor. Everything she does is wrapped up in that — not even I escaped it."
Cellinn nuzzled her face against his shoulder, relishing the feel of him in her arms. How she had missed him, his smell, his warmth. She continued, "Every aspect of her life has to be just so because of her husband's position. Not that he demanded it of her — it is just her way. She even made a point of controlling me as much as my father would allow. I love my mother, but I was afraid of becoming like her, Lass."
He released a shuddering breath under her ear, and she held him tighter. "I love you so much, and I do want to be your wife; but the thought of completing the bond, of not understanding what that really meant… Knowing once it was done meant there was no going back…" She took a deep breath and shivered. It was cool in the rooms, and her bare flesh dimpled with chill bumps.
"It wasn't you I was afraid of, or of the act of joining. Oh, the thought makes me nervous! But not fearful. It's what happens after that I have feared. I won't be just Cellinn anymore, but Princess Cellinn. And I'm not sure what that means exactly."
Her brow furrowed as she considered it. She knew now that she could still be herself, but she struggled with how to remain herself while also being the princess. "I thought it meant I had to become just like my mother — becoming someone else entirely — but I am not my mother!" A small laugh escaped her. "Your father disabused me of that notion! And your mother assures me I know all that I need in order to fulfill my duty to the title, but…"
She sighed, nuzzling her face against his tunic again as she tried to put her fears into words. This was harder than she had thought it would be. "My mother is a lot different than I am, and her relationship with my father much different than our own. She is overly concerned with appearances, with making sure everything is proper — but I am my father's daughter.
"I understand there will be times when I must put duty first, times I must quell my natural tendency to speak first and think later. I don't want to lose myself, to become someone other than I am; and I know now that I don't have to. I don't have to become my mother — I can be me, and…and I'm ready to be your wife now."
For a time there was no sound. Then Legolas's breathing hitched and his shoulders began to shake. He trembled beneath her, his breaths raspy. "I don't deserve you," he croaked in a hoarse and broken voice.
And then she knew — he had listened, understood her. And now… Now they would have to deal with what he had done. She closed her eyes tightly and nuzzled her face against his back once more, trying to block out the mental image of Ninglorwen in his arms.
"I love you," she repeated. Yes, what he had done had hurt her, had pierced her heart unlike anything else; but they would get past it. "I don't deserve you either, so we make a good pair." She smiled against his back when he snorted; then she sobered and went to the heart of the matter. "I'm not going to say what you did didn't hurt me." Her voice broke and she took a shaky breath. "I – I don't ever want to feel such pain again."
She felt him stiffen in her arms, but she rubbed his abdomen soothingly. "Do you remember what we promised that day we admitted our love for each other?" She waited, feeling his body relax a bit.
He let out a long shaky sigh. "We promised we would always forgive when we inevitably hurt each other."
"I forgive you," she whispered. "Can you forgive me?"
For a brief moment, he was very still. Then he turned in her arms, taking her face in both his hands. His cheeks were streaked with tears and more splashed down over his lashes as she gazed up at him.
"I love you." His voice washed over her, and she closed her eyes and smiled.
His thumbs brushed her cheeks. "I hated every second of that scene in the garden…with her."
She knew exactly what he meant. "I know." She opened her eyes and saw the surprise on his face. She gave him a small, sheepish smile. "I stayed long enough to watch you try to detach yourself from her."
He let out a sharp breath, chuckling as he pulled her into his arms. "Is that why you can forgive me so easily?" he asked.
"It's not easy, but yes, knowing you were so quick to want to be away from her helped." She closed her eyes and tightened her arms around him. "Please do not hurt me like that again?"
"Oh love." He dipped his head and buried his face in her hair, his hands caressing her bare back. "I swear I'll never do anything so foolish again."
"Good, because if you do, I have your father's permission to hurt you."
He snorted. "It wasn't enough that he hit me?"
Cellinn gasped and pulled back, her eyes searching his face to determine if it were true. Then she saw the bruise on his jaw. She lifted her hand and lightly caressed the darkened skin. He winced. "He hit you?" she whispered, horrified.
"I deserved it."
"Oh Lass!" She reached up and placed the merest touch of her lips on the bruise. Then she trailed her lips from it to just below his ear. "Does it hurt?" she murmured, smiling as his breath hitched.
"Linn, you have far too few clothes on to be doing that?"
"Do I? And here I thought you had on far too many."
To Be Continued...