The shelter had been ridden of its hay bales, turning it into a surprisingly big empty hall with earthen floor and metal walls. There was not a single living thing in the area, not even a blade of grass or left-behind straw, so Nathaniel's magic could not spread, even if it spilled. In the middle of the empty space, Nathaniel let go of Katherine's hand and faced her.
"You know there's nothing forcing you to do this", he said earnestly. "If you don't feel right or get scared, we can stop at any time."
The stubborn rise of Katherine's chin was all he got for an answer.
"C'mon Nathan, don't be so dramatic", Aston called out from one of the walls of the shelter, where he leaned and nibbled on a sandwich. He had insisted to follow them 'because the experiment should also be watched by someone uninvolved'. It was a surprisingly logic suggestion, though Katherine would have preferred it to be someone more experienced than a fifteen-year-old.
Nathaniel just ignored his little brother and pulled at his gloves. Katherine could not help but notice that his strong and slender fingers trembled slightly as they were bared of any cover. Her heart turned soft like butter.
"It will be alright", she murmured with a smile that was just for him. "I will be alright, because we will be careful. Don't worry."
Nathaniel nodded quietly, though he knew that the tremble was due to excitement. He felt fear, a very explainable and rational fear, but the overbearing emotion, the one he tried hard to suppress, was the excitement to feel someone with his hands again. Especially her. The last time his hands touched living skin was almost twenty years ago. Inwardly, he berated himself for the being so emotional, but he couldn't help it.
"Cover your hands in magic", he ordered quietly. "Put as much in it as you can. We can always reduce it afterward."
Katherine's hands began to glow. First softly like fireflies, then it suddenly lit up, shortly blinding the three onlookers. Katherine let out a small gasp. This view confirmed what she had suspected: somehow her near-death experience had lifted a block on her magic, making it blaze stronger and reach further from her skin than ever before.
When her eyes got used to the light, she saw that an orb of it had formed around her hands, about half a meter in every direction. That was so much bigger than usual that she couldn't help but stare. Especially since it didn't take more afford. If she concentrated, she could intensify the light and even reach a few more centimeters. Fascinated, she played around a bit, until her husband's tense voice called her back to focus.
"I will touch the orb with my magic now."
An ominous black bead had formed on his fingertip. Despite being as small as a pea, it carried an aura of gloom, of destruction.
All three held their breath when it neared the gleaming light. When the two magics touched, Katherine's blazed up again so that it was hard to look on. Yet neither party dared to blink. Soon, Nathaniel pulled back.
"It feels like I'm touching a wall", he said, amazed, but not yet convinced. "Let's try this again."
He conjured a bigger ball of his magic, but the result remained the same. The darkness, though hungrily urging him forward in his mind, couldn't enter the shiny sphere, like there was some kind of barrier. "Fascinating."
Curiously, he stretched out his other hand, waving it through the sphere. As long as it was not imbued with magic, he felt no resistance at all, at most a tingle in his flesh. He also couldn't send magic into the hand when it was already in the sphere. It was stopped just out of it in his arm.
With disbelieve, his eyes searched Katherine's. She was grinning so widely that her mouth almost split. Triumph and happiness were vivid in her expression, finally convincing him that this was really happening. Could it be? Was he free of his bonds?
"Take my hand", she urged him, impatiently stretching out her smaller one. "Take it. You know I will be alright."
Finally, after all these trials, he somehow believed her. When skin brushed against skin, a shudder went through his arm up to his heart. She gripped his hand strongly. In this moment he knew that she would not let go again. He was so glad that he almost turned emotional.
Instead, he blinked against the tears and returned the grip just as strongly. Slowly, his thumb caressed the back of her hand, marveling about its softness and warmth. About the strong spirit of a woman that did not give up despite how broken and complicated he was. If he had known beforehand that she was his salvation, he could never have pushed her away. Though maybe he would have doubted there was salvation for someone like him.
He lifted his head, and when his eyes met hers again, Katherine felt a shiver run down her spine. Her mouth went dry confronted with the hunger and heat that radiated from him. In the light of her magic, his featured had sharpened, accentuating his strong jaw, high cheekbones, and the little scar near his chin. Suddenly, she wondered how it would taste. Her breath hitched.
Hearing it with the accuracy of a predator, he tilted his head. His voice was a sensual growl. "Put your magic around your head. Now."
A conscious thought was not necessary, because the second she heard him, her emotions got in turmoil, causing her magic to flare up all around her body like a living torch. The light only got stronger when he buried his hand in her hair and lowered his head. Her heart sped up with the expectation of a strong, heated kiss. The first of that sort initiated by him. Yet, when his lips touched hers, it was as soft as a feather. They brushed against the corners of her mouth, her upper lip, then her lower one.
His grip in her hair was tight, with all the pent-up hunger, but he deliberately held back to savor in the moment. The frustration let her moan longingly, winding her arms around his neck to pull him closer.
Somewhere at the back of her mind, she heard someone cough. Then Nathaniel's mouth descended upon hers again, and this time there was only heat, hunger, and wetness.
Their breathing turned rough when their tongues entangled, fighting with a fervor that stemmed from endless waiting and desire. The smell of firewood invaded her nose and the slick noise of their kiss burned in her ears, mixed with their moans. Sliding her tongue against his, she licked and sucked him in. His groan vibrated sensually in her mouth before he went to plunder. There was no thought left in their brains. Just the need to feel and devour. To conquer with heart and body.
Katherine's hands tugged at the cords of his shirt, when a loud yell stilled her.
"Hey! Do you really want to do it in a place like this? With me watching? Bro, have some decency!"
Panting, the couple's lips parted. Katherine's face turned red with embarrassment when she noticed that Aston was still in the shelter. She had completely forgotten about him, lost in Nathaniel's sudden intimacy.
With one hand, Nathaniel pulled her against his chest, and scowled at his brother. It was an instinctive reaction to hide her sweet blush from unworthy eyes, but Katherine only turned redder when she heard the fast thumping of his heart.
Finally, Nathaniel caught his breath and spat out: "Listen to the rumors about yourself before you judge what I do with my wife. If I were to take her right here and now, you better turn tail and run. Don't you dare look at her indecently, understood?"