Of course, he didn’t know how to help her. He’d seen a few magic users in his life, but he’d never paid attention to how they’d wielded their power. It just happened.
Emma groaned and rolled her eyes. “This is stupid. I can’t do this.”
Concerned, he took a step toward her. “You don’t need to try. This is a world without magic, so it may not work here.”
Her gaze whipped to his. “Then why did the electricity surge when I won my ring?” She held up her index finger, showing him the prize.
“I’m not sure.”
She exhaled and shook her arms. “Let me try again. I can move this rock. I can.” After taking a deep breath, she held her palms over the object and stared hard. Her tongue came out as she focused.
His heart picked up speed, and he couldn’t take his eyes from her lips. What he wouldn’t give to kiss her. To hold her. He should tell her that he didn’t want to go back. Not really.
Emma Swan was his true love. That portal had taken him to her, and he couldn’t lose her. Decision made, he took another step forward then reached out and took her wrist.
She frowned at him. “What are you doing?”
His explanation stuck in his throat, and nerves danced inside his gut. “I…uh…” He forced a smile. “Why don’t we eat? I’m hungry.”
She relaxed her stance. “I guess we could do that. You can tell me about magic.”
His grin softened, and a tender feeling washed over him at her kindness. She wanted to help him so much. Promises and declaration threatened to spill forth, but he had to hold back. He didn’t want to scare her, and, well, he wasn’t sure if she felt the same. She was his true love, but he didn’t know if that meant she would care for him in the same manner. “That’s a thought. Let’s go inside.”
He put her hand in the crook of his elbow and grew encouraged when she blushed and ducked her head. At least he affected her in some way. As they walked up the gravel path to the cabin, their steps in sync, she asked, “Can you teach me how to punch someone?”
“Yes.” He wanted her to be able to take care of herself if he happened not to be around. He was damned relieved he’d been there when that scoundrel had dared to touch her.
“Do you know how to use a sword?” she asked.
She was quiet for a moment, but he could hear her thoughts.
“Can you teach me?”
Another few seconds of silence. “Are you always going to tell me yes?”
He chuckled. “If that makes you happy.” He glanced down at her. “Then…yes.”
She blushed again.
His heart pounded as he sensed that she might very well feel more than attraction. But he would go slow.
They entered, and she disengaged from him, going to the cupboard that held the bread. He opened the fridge and pulled out jelly. They prepared their simple meal in silence, though he sneaked glances at her and she did the same. Each time he caught her looking his way, she would blush and duck her head.
She liked him. She did. His body vibrated with the need to declare himself, to unfurl his intentions and proceed at full sail. But for a reason he couldn’t name, he felt he couldn’t rush.
Once they were seated at the table, she said with a mouthful of food, “Tell me about magic.”
“Some people make potions and use spells, while others have it inside them.” He ate a chip.
“Am I a person who has it inside?”
“By your description of what you first encountered, I would say yes.” He took a big bite of his sandwich. It was a few moments before he realized she’d stopped eating and was looking at him thoughtfully. “What?”
She pressed her lips together then said, “Since I have magic, does that mean I’m from where you’re from?”
He paused. He hadn’t thought of that. “Maybe.”
Anxiousness passed through her eyes, and she stared at a spot on the table while she nibbled at her meal.
If she was from the Enchanted Forest, then maybe…
Maybe she would come with him? But he had no desire to live there again, especially since he was owned by Captain Silver, and there was no place for Emma on a ship. Still, if she wanted to jump through whatever portal she managed to conjure with him, he’d gladly let her. He wouldn’t hold her back from finding out who she really was.
Her sweet face now had tight lines, and he didn’t like seeing that. “Eat up, love. You’ll need your strength for sword fighting.”
She glanced at him and quirked her lips. “And punching.”
He grinned. “And punching. Promise.”
“Have you been in fights?”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “I think you’re not telling the whole truth.”
Impressed with her instincts, he said, “Really? And how would you know?” He popped a chip into his mouth.
As she cocked her head to the side, a thoughtful look passed over her face. “It’s just a feeling. I think you’ve been in
the middle of lots of…scuffles.”
He laughed. “Scuffles?”
She lifted a brow. “Brawls?”
His cheeks heated as he let out another chuckle. “I’ll take scuffles.”
“Mmm hmm,” she replied with a knowing look. Then she picked up a chip and bit into it.
“Let’s finish then I’ll teach you to fight.”
“You have to tell me more about magic.” She frowned at him.
He found the crease between her brows adorable, and he wished he could kiss it away. “I really don’t know that much about it, and I doubt I can teach you anything.”
“Then what do we do?” she replied, concern on her face.
Was she anxious for him to leave? Had he outworn his welcome? Had he misread her signs? Uncertainty sat like rocks in his gut, and his earlier plan of moving slow irritated him. If he’d gone faster with her, maybe she wouldn’t be working so hard to see him go. He cleared his throat and shifted in his chair. “I’m sure Liam is looking for me. It’ll be easier for him to make a portal than us anyway.”
“Oh.” Disappointment crossed her features.
He waited with baited breath, hoping she’d reveal the reason behind her disquiet.
She picked at the crust on her sandwich and glanced around the cabin. “So…he could find you at any time. You could be gone at any moment.”
His heart picked up speed to see her sadness at his possible departure. “Yes.” He cleared his throat again, the need to hold her and tell her would never leave her, not for any reason, consumed him.
Her crestfallen expression spurred on his confidence, and he stood, ignoring the nervousness swimming in his gut. He walked over to her, and after a gulp, held out his hand.
With questions rising in her gaze, she slipped her fingers through his.
He pulled her to stand, lifting her knuckles toward his lips. He paused just shy of kissing her there. “I have to tell you something.”
Her eyes widened.
“I don’t mean to scare you as we’ve only known each other for two days, but there’s a detail about portals that I haven’t mentioned.”
She continued to focus on him, almost transfixed.
Could he tell her she was his true love? Would she believe him? With his heart kicking hard against his ribs, he started with, “When you go through a portal, it takes you to where you’re thinking of.”
Confusion passed over her face. “What? How…How would you know about this cabin? You’ve never been here before.”
He clutched her hand to his chest. “See I, uh, well…” Another clearing of his throat. “I was thinking of…of you.”
She reared back, but didn’t remove her grasp from his. “Me? You didn’t know me. How could that be true?”
Taking his pride in his hands, he said, “I thought of my true love.”
“And the portal brought me to you.”
Her breath caught, and she ran her gaze over his face. “I’m your t-true l-love?”
“I think so.” His pulse pounded in his ears. Would she flee from him now? Would she demand he leave her alone and never return?
She licked her lips. “Like in a fairy tale?”
Unsure of her comparison, he said, “I don’t know what that is. Where I come from, true love is real and all powerful.”
Disbelief took over the lines of her face, and she appeared to be trying to find her thoughts. “I…I…”
He cupped her cheek with his free hand, ready to bare all, needing to reassure her that he believed in what he’d revealed to her. “As soon as I saw you, I knew who you were. I understood you from the beginning, Emma.”
Her gaze wavered but she didn’t look away. And she didn’t stop him.
“I don’t mean to scare you, but I can’t hide my feelings any longer.” He closed his eyes and gathered his courage. When he looked at her again, the hope shining in her hazel depths gave him all the bravery he needed. “I’m in love with you, Emma.”
She gasped but didn’t jerk away. Instead, she stepped toward him, and now she was so close, their chests touched. “Really?”
The sweet innocent sound of longing rang in her tone, and a shudder tore through him. “Really.”
She bit her lip.
He fairly came out of his skin. “May I kiss you?”
In answer, she nodded slowly.
So afraid she’d bolt, he lowered his head by inches, hoping she understood he had no wish to take advantage. A breath away from her lips, she whispered his name and he came undone. He set his mouth on hers and pressed, pulling her deep into the haze of desire with him.
It wasn’t enough. He needed her closer. He let go of her hand and lowered his palm from her cheek in order to wrap his arms around her waist. She went up on her tiptoes, and when he crushed her to him even tighter, she whimpered.
Bloody hell. He hadn’t expected it to be like this. But how in the hell could he have predicted this flying sensation? This burning need to give her the world? To protect her from all ills?
Never had he felt more connected to a person in his life, and the dogs of Hell would have to pry him from her. He lifted her off her feet, and she purred low in her throat. His head spun and somewhere a voice told him to slow down, to proceed with caution. Where was his strength to obey?
But if he went farther, he might scare her. This thought had him pulling back, raising his head and looking down at her flushed face. Her bright gaze. Her sweet lips curving into a smile of wonder.
“Oh, Killian,” she breathed.
His gut clenched, and only the fear of frightening her kept him from kissing her again.
“I love you, too.”
Hunger roared at her declaration. “You do?”
“Yes. I couldn’t help myself.”
While he wanted nothing more than to fall under her spell once more, her words had brought on a determined calm. A need to settle some things. He put her down and threaded their fingers together. “There will be no portals. I have no wish to return to my world. I will stay here with you, and we will make a life wherever you want. Obviously not here since this cabin belongs to another, but I will find work.”
She gazed up at him, her trusting expression making him feel ten feet tall.
He continued. “You have wondered if we are from the same place since you have magic, and if you want to investigate that, I’ll help you. But we will not find a way to send me back.”
“What about your brother?”
“As I said earlier, he’ll locate a bean or another object that will lead him to me, and when he does, he’ll stay here with us.”
“Just like that?”
Her eyes shone with happiness. “So we don’t have to be apart?”
His heart flew at the joy he saw reflected in her gaze. “Never.”
She laughed in delight and launched herself at him, throwing her arms around his neck and holding tight.
He breathed in deep and held her as close as he could, using his embrace to promise her forever.