"My father," Owen said. "I told him I wanted to find the fairest, wildest, hardiest woman in the world for my wife and he let me go, suggested I sail here with a trader. I shouldn't be surprised he's come looking for me. I've been gone months." He walked forward toward the wharf.
Irene held still for a moment. "Why have you stayed?" she asked, chasing after him. "You should still be searching." How many weeks had he spent here?
He stopped, reaching an arm out to her.
She looked at it like a viper preparing to bite. His embrace hadn't hurt, though, she remembered. Could she accept it?
Returning to that night, she remembered the feel of his chest against her cheek, his thick hair drying and curling. His chest rose and fell more quickly, more naturally and her fear of killing him subsided. It wasn't the first time she'd nearly killed him, in fact it was the third. Still he chased her.
And now she chased him. Closing her eyes and praying she wasn't making a mistake, she stepped into the curve of his arm.
He put his lips to her fiery red hair. "I found her a month ago, Irene. She may kill me yet, but I couldn't live without her anyway."
Tears sprang to her eyes and she didn't fight them. She didn't fight him, hiding her face in his chest. His thick arms became walls, protecting and shielding her.
"Irene," he said, his voice soft and whispering. "Can I introduce you to my father?"
She hiccuped on her tears as a laugh bubbled up in her throat. "Yes. Yes, Owen. I'd like that."