It was ever only a matter of time until she would see Denna again. Cara could never know for certain, but even with her life changing and the seasons passing - the possibility lurked in a shadowy corner of her mind, kept her lying in wait for this very day to come.
Even if she considered the likelihood that the other woman might have died after all, there had always been a nagging suspicion that kept telling her, Denna was too stubborn to just die like that. And if she had, Cara would have found her rotting corpse among the D'Haran's in the looming forest close to the Plaines of Morrow. A place she would always associate with death and destruction and her world plunging into darkness.
As their reunion comes about, only the circumstances under which it takes place startle her. Even if there is not much, that should come as a surprise when the former First Mistress is involved. Denna has always been notorious for her sense of reinvention.
Once the perfect, shining paradigm for any Mord'Sith, no one dared to associate Denna with failure - not even after she failed to train Richard. But now after years as an outcast of the Sisterhood of the Agiel? Mistress Denna had become the Madame of a brothel in the outer regions of D'Hara. Where once her life was dominated by pride and glory, are now only suggestive dresses accompanied by moans of cheap whores paid with silver coin.
It should be tragic to see her like this, Cara thinks wryly, and Denna may even deserve her pity, if they weren't Mord'Sith - and especially if Denna were not the woman she is. Mord'Sith feel no pity - would want it even less. Even when Cara is forced by Kahlan's constant influence to get in touch with her deeper emotions, Denna will not be on the receiving end of them. Not after everything.
But it is kind of sad to see her like this - and something clenches in Cara's chest despite herself.
Unbidden, something else flares to life as she sees the woman again she once upon a time called Mistress. Nothing she can define easily, nothing as simple as joy or hatred. It is something more delicate and it creeps up within her - without her even noticing, hiding, simmering just beneath the surface of her consciousness. Out of reach, but nonetheless there all the while trying to overwhelm her.
"Madame Denna, the right hand of Darken Rahl, reduced to peddling flesh." The words roll like velvet off her tongue as she lets her gaze roam over Denna's body, scantily clad in a black dress with golden lining. Seeing her like this, Cara wonders, if Denna still keeps her leathers in her possession. Wonders, if she still wears them on occasion to feel like a true Mord'Sith again. Is it enough to make her forget, when her fingers flex in leather gloves - tightening over a whining Agiel, what has become of her?
Denna only smiles, cold and condescending at her insult. But Cara can see the flicker in her eyes as her statement hits something buried deep and the platinum-blonde is not able to contain the short flash of indignation, before she schools her features back to a well practiced mask of false kindness.
Her reply brings Cara out of her musings as Denna reacts like she anticipates - not giving in, never yielding - not her. Despite how her surroundings have altered or how much her life clearly changed from her old one as First Mistress. She can see, Denna has not grown soft during her absence from the drill of the temple; not that Cara has expected her to. Even if her former sister tries hard to make Richard believe she has. But Cara knows better. Knows Denna better than anyone.
"Times are difficult. A Mord'Sith has to make a living, now that the war is over. I am simply taking what I've learned and putting it to good use. Pleasure, after all, is the inverse of pain. Knowledge of one makes mastery of the other so much easier." Denna fixes her steel-blue eyes straight at her and it makes her stomach churn violently. "You of all people should know that, Cara."
With her name spoken out loud, echos of their shared past flash vividly through her mind, bringing long forgotten memories back to the surface, reclaiming their rightful place at the forefront of Cara's mind. She tries to keep her condescending smile firmly in place and smirks despite her inner turmoil. Oh, Cara does know what Denna is speaking about; remembers a time, when they were more than just rivals who meet again at random after years without any contact. To a time when both of them were intimately aware of the pain and pleasure one could inflict upon the other.
As Denna excuses herself a few minutes later, her insides clench at the prospect of Denna sauntering out of Cara's life once more, without so much as an elusive reference to what they've shared as old friends. Old friends. The chosen term to describe the vestiges of their relationship couldn't have been more ridiculing if she tried - and Denna must know this. Like Cara knows it is the only reason Denna brought it up in the first place. Just to taunt her. To dare Cara to do something about the angry throb rising in her chest at the mere suggestion they had ever been friends. She and Denna had been many things, rivals, lovers, maybe possibly even mates if Denna hadn't vanished and left Cara behind to fend for herself, but at no point in their history have they ever been friends.
Only as Richard orders her to meet up with Kahlan and Zedd, the impulse to settle the score with the other Mord'Sith comes and goes like fireflies in the dusk and Cara reminds herself of the only importance in her life nowadays - Richard's mission. Even if Denna and she never found closure after her sudden disappearance years ago, Cara had to learn quickly how to live without her. But in spite of her best efforts, Denna's absence left a gaping emptiness behind Cara loathed but was unable to fill in the years that followed. But Cara refuses to allow Denna to get back inside her head so easily. The time were Cara was a novice and she called Denna Mistress is long over; she came a long way from the young woman who once bowed to the First Mistress. Nowadays she only bows to the rightful heir of D'Hara.
As she is about to depart from the brothel, Cara does not entertain the eventuality that Denna could reach out to her again, but as her smooth voice sounds out behind her, it doesn't particularly surprise her either.
"You didn't think I would let you leave like this, did you?"
The fine hairs on the back of her neck rise up on their own volition and Cara feels a chill creep down her spine that is not at all related to being in a house of ill fame, but to the very woman who's voice she still dreams about.
For a staggering moment the voice brings the past alive, and her back to a time when Denna still wore red and was as close to her as her very own heart. But Cara doesn't have time to dwell on it for long as Denna is speaking again, blurring faded memories and the present together.
"Come with me." It is an order of their past, and yet, a plea for a future uncertain.
Cara contemplates Denna's demand for a heartbeat or two, but deep down she knows it is nothing but an ill-executed charade. The decision already made even before Denna had said a single word. Still with her back to the other Mord'Sith, Cara can hear as Denna starts walking, the rim of her dress swishing over the stone floor in the otherwise deadly quiet hallway. As Denna strides past her, Cara realizes, that as in awe she was with their journey over the years, a sense of foreboding fills her now so near to its destination.
Despite all the warnings shrilling in her head as loud as the chirping of a thousand night-wisps, Cara follows after Denna mutely without another word spoken between them. Denna does not turn around to see if Cara is following and somehow it irks her more than she wants to admit.
As the heavy wooden door of Denna's private chambers falls into the lock behind them, the disturbing feeling that this encounter will leave her broken like shards of a shattered mirror, has her breath quicken.
But one way, or another, she will find closure unjustly denied for so long. The end is near and as much as she craves it to unfold, dreads it happening just as fiercely.
Denna stands a few feet away with her exposed back turned to her. Cara can't stop but let her gaze roam over pale skin, leaving so less and yet so much to the imagination in her black dress. Not that Cara needs her imagination to know what curves lay hidden beneath dark and gold velvet - to her own startling surprise it comes back to her quite vividly. Gloved fingers tingle with the sudden urge to trail them once more over the smooth expanse of skin, trail them down Denna's neck and lower to the small of her back. Cara's is reminded how it felt touching her - being touched by her. Brushing over invisible scars, causing new ones, shedding blood in the throes of passion. However hard she tries she can't quite shake it. Cara blinks rapidly against the tidal wave of memories. With a deep inhale she forces her thoughts back to the here and now.
"What do you want?" She asks, her tone revealing nothing of the tension she feels since she took notice of Denna for the first time that day and her thoughts turned against her.
The former First Mistress finally turns to her graciously and Cara clamps down on the sudden rush of excitement to be the sole recipient of her attention. Denna inclines her head, a single brow rising. "Isn't it quite obvious?"
The quality of Denna's low voice prompts a chill to run over her back, if it is actually the tone Denna uses or the vague meaning of her words Cara can't tell with certainty. The only thing she knows for a fact is that Denna's presence alone still makes her feel on edge. Even after all these years.
"It never is with you."
The ghost of a smile flickers over Denna's lips as she holds her gaze for a moment longer, then directs her attention back to the wooden shelf in front of her, opening the top drawer and reaches inside. Cara can't see what Denna is retrieving, but her mind drags her back to their first encounter. Holding her breath, Cara is practically certain the object must be a whip. But not just any other, but Denna's own. The one, made of black leather with a sturdy handle, the one shaped to fit perfectly in the blonde's delicate palm. The one she was never able to find in Denna's chambers as she seized them as her own. The one that will form a unit with slender fingers, only to tear deep into pliant skin in an agonizing caress. To this very day, Cara still wears the scars of Denna's affections.
The scream of a thousand tortured voices emerging from the drawer, however, proves her wrong. She continues to observe Denna closely, as the other Mord'Sith places the leather rod cautiously on top of the shelf, then at last shifts to face her.
"I only want back what is mine." Denna drawls. Her steel-blue eyes follow languidly the curves of Cara's leather-clad body, then slowly back up to her face, lingering a bit longer than necessary at her lips. "Some say I can become very possessive at times." She finally meets Cara's eyes again.
Cara raises a brow but says nothing, tensing as Denna deliberately steps closer.
"And I fear, they might be accurate with that assumption." Denna concludes, her voice not much above a whisper, as she comes to stand directly in front of Cara, looking straight at her.
"I don't see anything that was yours in the first place." Cara replies, narrowing her eyes.
"Oh please, don't pretend you have forgotten," Denna breathes, sounding as if the implication alone saddens her beyond measure. Without hesitation Denna invades her personal space and Cara wonders why she had expected her to behave any different now. She has indeed a certain notion what Denna is talking about, but is not yet convinced she wants to acknowledge it to Denna so readily - or ever again for that matter. She hasn't been Denna's for a very long time.
Denna reaches up to touch her and then her hand is caressing the side of Cara's face, slim fingers trail over her jaw and Cara feels her skin burning despite the coolness of the touch. "Don't tell me you have forgotten how I claimed you - how I made you mine forever..." Denna whispers, the pads of her finger continuing their journey, grazing faintly over Cara's lips, causing a jolt of lightening to prickle over her skin.
Cara stands perfectly still; frozen to the spot and even if she desperately wants to, she finds herself unable to move away. The events shaping her relationship with Denna come rushing back to her, memories that still burn far too bright. Denna's gloved hand closing around her throat, the moment when her Agiel hit Denna's temple in the training area in the gardens. Realization dawning on her, Denna would make her pay for striking her down, even before Denna recovered from the blow and looked at her in fury and confirmed her suspicion. Cara can still hear the snapping of the whip guided by Denna's hand as it made contact with her skin, still feels the pain as the leather ripped into her flesh. The sting and the bruises faded after a couple of days, but the prickling sensation and the craving for Denna's touch, the softness of her skin, her distinctive scent, the taste of her lips, her fingers inside Cara, her body pressed against Cara's, her face when she sleeps, when she laughs, when she is taken with pleasure and pain, never dulled completely. It still smolders like the remnants of a fire, glowing embers refusing to die down. Denna planted a seed of longing in her heart that very first night; one Cara had never been able to conquer. Even now, after all this time, all these fights for supremacy and independence, a fragment of her is still Denna's and will ever remain in her possession as long as she lives. Unless Cara can help it - but to this day she never quite could.
The only predicament is, Denna seems to remember it as well. Her calm but stern tone brings Cara back to the present and to the danger to loose herself in Denna once again.
Cara's lips quirk into a smirk. "What in the Creator's name makes you think I will still obey you? You no longer hold power over me, Denna. Who are you going to call to enforce your wishes when I deny you?" Not if - when. Her name falls like a curse from Cara's lips and it feels wrong and especially incongruous with the missing appellation. Despite herself, her heart squeezes in discomfort as she takes in Denna's fleeting reaction, an irritated scrunch of her brows at being refused.
Without missing a beat, Denna's hand slides from her neck back around to her face, cradling her jaw way too gently. "You know as well as I do, I never needed anyone to enforce my wishes." Her thumb traces over her skin and all Cara can do is not lean into the caress of her pale fingers that feel way too familiar for her liking. "I can already tell your body is aching for my touch."
Cara wants to bark out a laugh, wants to mock her for her arrogance, but the sound gets struck in her throat. The miserable, awkward choke escaping her lips instead makes Denna's knowing smile only grow wider.
"I missed you too." Denna murmurs in a way that makes her heart throb and then, she leans in.
At the first touch of Denna's mouth against hers, Cara's breath abandons her entirely. It is barely moments before electricity is crackling across her skin and she is already teetering on the precipice of old, stifling desperation. Cara could have leaned back, could have avoided the touch of her lips altogether, but can't make herself do it. So she just stands there and lets it happen. Her heart pounds all of the sudden with vigorous intensity and the I missed you too runs through her mind over and over again until full lips claim hers in a kiss tender enough it brings unwelcome tears to sting in her eyes.
Cara realizes it was futile even trying to resist her as Denna's tongue flicks over her lower lip, sucking the soft flesh into her mouth. There is no way to describe the feeling how it feels to be kissed by her again. Cara has kissed many along the way, but none of them were as consuming and intense and yes, now she is forced to admit - she has missed it. Missed her. Denna reaches inside her and pries her open. It always was that way with Denna, maybe it is the reason a part of Cara still fears her - or rather the undeniable hold Denna still seems to have over her.
The moment Denna breaks away, her eyes shine strikingly blue and luminous as the waters of a mountain river and Cara feels the passing of seasons that kept them apart, slowly but steadily ebb away. She is reminded of the last time Denna kissed her in her old chambers, how she can still feel Denna's body pressing her forcefully against the wooden door, how her chest ached from all the things she couldn't put into words - all the things Denna made her feel against her will - even then. Denna's lips are plumb from their kiss, dark lipstick smudged around the edges, giving her a wanton look of disarray that Cara hasn't had the pleasure in seeing in many years. She doesn't make a move to wipe the imperfection away. But Cara finds herself doing it and Denna lets her.
Without breaking eye contact, Denna reaches for her Agiel and with the other hand sprawled against her breastbone steers Cara to the four-poster bed to her right. It is not until the back of her knees hit the mattress, Cara begins to wonder why the Keeper she lets Denna do this to her despite her better judgment. She doesn't find an answer until Denna blinks slowly as if making sure she isn't dreaming, then pushes her backwards into the linen sheets. She skims the hem of her dress up her pale thighs and climbs after her until she straddles Cara, black velvet bunching around her waist. For a minute or two Denna just studies her, Agiel on the sheets beside them seemingly forgotten. Her gaze flickers over Cara's face and body and Cara feels her heart skip a beat as she notices and inhales Denna's alluring, heavy scent.
As she leans down with her palms flat against the sheets above Cara's head, Denna's lips press against hers for a second time that day, only this time her kiss is hungry and demanding and when Cara sighs in surrendering content, her tongue licks past her lips. Cara notices that she is trembling above her and without her even noticing the echos from their past turn to whispers of a future.
Denna moans into her mouth as Cara's hands seize her hip and pulls her down, finally kissing her back with staggering abandon. The nagging doubt at the back of her mind fades with each swipe of Denna's tongue against her own. The lines between the past and present blur together and the moment of bliss seems endless. The way Denna is bearing down on her, the warmth and familiarity of her curves makes Cara dizzy for reasons she will not dare think about. A shaking hand captures her wrists above her head and as Denna bites down on her lip and Cara groans, she can do nothing against the bout of arousal settling low and heavy in the pit of her stomach as pleasure meets pain in devastating beauty.
When Denna pulls back eventually, her voice no louder than a rough whisper that is not quite dark enough to distract from the moisture glistening in her eyes."I won't be gentle."
One fleeting moment later, the whine of Denna's Agiel rings in her ears and Cara realizes, shadows make for lonely company. Denna is here now - and this time - Cara will try everything to keep her close.