On Love’s Wings

Part Nine-

Ari took a deep breath then touched Vikex’s shoulder. “We should look for a place to rest for the night.”

The phoenix nodded then began to lose altitude. Ari knew his bond mate was searching for their usual overnight spot. They were going to have to find a new one soon. Establishing a routine could help enemies discover them. While Ari didn’t expect there to be any on their trip to his family, he couldn’t be too cautious. Vikex would be a huge prize for those looking to hurt Emmem.

“We’ll be stopping for the night soon,” he told Miataga.

Miataga nodded, but didn’t say anything. Ari was impressed by how calm the man had taken everything. He hadn’t complained once during the flight. Ari knew that for people who weren’t used to it, flying could be rough.

Vikex sounded a short cry and Ari tightened his hold on Miataga as the phoenix banked then dropped. Their landing was gentle and smooth. Once they were on the ground, he climbed down then helped Miataga off before leading him over to a nearby tree.

“Lean against this. You might want to be careful the first couple of minutes. You’ll have to get used to being on land again.” Ari grinned at Miataga’s grimace. “I was the same way when I first started training with Vikex, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes.”

Leaving Miataga at the tree, he returned to Vikex and unharnessed him. He got his packs off, needing to get the tent set up and dinner started. Once Vikex was free, he ruffled his feathers before launching himself back into the air.

“Where’s he going?” Miataga asked as he approached Ari. “Can I help? Not that I know what I’m doing since I’ve never went camping before.”

Ari touched Miataga’s shoulder. “Tonight, you watch. If you still want to, you can help me in the morning. We have one more night before we reach my family in the mountains.”

He saw the brief wince Miataga gave and chose to ignore it. Miataga was a whore and a city person. He’d never been outside his little piece of the world before. It would take time for him to adapt to what Ari took for granted. He’d already earned points with Ari by not whining—or asking Ari to take him back.

Of course, wait until the morning and all the stiff muscles Miataga would be dealing with. Then he might see a glimpse of Miataga’s true personality. Being employed at a Loving House taught a person to hide their true souls, giving them the ability to become whatever their client wanted. He figured Miataga had been accommodating so far, but all that might change the further away from the city they got.

Ari made a small prayer that he picked the right one to take with him. If Miataga didn’t turn out to be the person Ari thought he was, then they would stop back in Sendler and he’d return Miataga to his Loving House.

Then he thought of something Miataga could do and stretch his tired muscles as well. “Why don’t you walk around the edge of the clearing? Gather sticks and twigs. Even small branches if you find any. I’ll need them to get the fire going for dinner.”

“Won’t we need it during the night? I’m sure it probably gets cold up here. Where are we by the way?”

Ari nodded. “We’re in the low foothills of the Easterly Mountains. You’re right. It will get chillier than you’re used to, but once he’s finished eating for the night, Vikex will come back. He’ll bed down next to our tent. Because phoenix are so closely tied to fire, their body temperature is much higher than other birds. We’ll be very comfortable with him near.”

Miataga tilted his head while he seemed to think about what Ari told him. “Sounds good then. All right, I’ll go looking then.”

He watched the slender man stroll away. The differences between them were obvious even with Miataga being covered from head to toe in leather and wool. Ari’s body was muscular from training and battle. He was heavily scarred from learning to control Vikex’ fire and continuing to dance among the flames. Those scars were the reason he hadn’t removed his helmet yet, and why he wore such light fabric. For even as soft as his uniform was, it still irritated the sensitive webbing of damaged flesh. He hoped Miataga wouldn’t freak out when he saw Ari.

“Isn’t wearing that making it hard to see?” Miataga said as he brought an armful of wood to where Ari crouched next to the fire pit. He set them down then reached out to lay his hand on the back of Ari’s helmet.

“It is, but I’m a little afraid of letting you see my face,” Ari admitted, dropping his chin to his chest.

“Why?” Miatage knelt at his side.

“I’m not beautiful like you.” Ari snorted. “I wasn’t beautiful before, but I didn’t scare people. Now it’s a toss up on how they’ll react when they see me. I rarely show my full face to anyone.” He didn’t resist when Miataga began to remove his helmet. It wasn’t like he could sleep in the thing, though he’d done it while in battle. Miataga set it aside then placed his knuckle under Ari’s chin, lifting it up so he had a clear look at Ari’s face.

Ari knew what his face looked like. From his nose down to his chin, there were no scars. Yet from just below his eyes and up, the left side of his face looked as though it had been made of wax and melted. The corner of his left eye drooped. He was lucky the flames hadn’t affected his eyesight—at least not yet anyway. His hair had been a rich dark brown once, but now it was streaked with white as signs of stress from the fire.

4 Responses “On Love’s Wings”

  1. Denise says:

    This promises to be one of your best stories. Thanks.

  2. Erika S. says:

    oh very nice, thank you.

  3. josexpressions says:

    Great excerpt! Thanks, TA!

  4. Bobbi says:

    I’m really enjoying this story starts my morning out right. Thanks.

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