Watching the younger generation from the edge of the clearing, Kodac knew they were unaware of his presence. That suited him well. This way he could study everyone at his leisure, for he wanted to see what they were doing and where this was headed. There was, in his estimation, no better way to read their thoughts than through body language. Kodac could read their intentions easily, especially Rhys’, as he stood off to the side watching his eldest son carefully, while Riven spied on Teryka Rose. The younger man’s face reflected the many emotions that were fleeting through his mind jealousy, admiration and longing, were but a few.
Riven stood in the shadows as he watched Teryka. It had been ten years since he had last seen her, and he thought she was even more beautiful than she had been at sixteen. He didn’t particularly like the fact that she was attending the gathering picnic at the side of another man, but he couldn’t fault her for that. He hadn’t been here to invite her to the small gathering in person. That, he decided, was about to change. He should have been the one to escort her onto the fairgrounds, not Darish, and from this time forward, he would be here for her.
It wasn’t that Riven didn’t like Darish, they were good friends, or at least they had been before this. Now Darish was being relegated to the status of his competition, for the girl he was sure they both wanted to call their own. This was something he hadn’t expected. He remembered how they had promised each other that no female would ever break up their friendship, when they were young boys. They swore they would remain comrades for life. They were above fighting over something as silly as a girl. Why did they have to grow up to want the same woman? Damn, he sighed quietly to himself. Teryka was beautiful. Unfortunately, he could tell Darish was thinking the same thing, by the look of admiration on his face. He watched, as Darish said something to Teryka, and she laughed openly. There was honesty in the sound of her laughter. She had nothing to hide from anyone, and they could tell she was enjoying herself. This, he had to admit, was the first time he remembered ever feeling jealous of another man’s luck in finding a pretty girl to be with.
Statler, Riven’s brother, compounded the problem by walking up to his side and commenting.
“Now that looks like someone I wouldn’t mind for myself.”
Riven gave a snort or contempt, as he retorted. “You are too young for her.”
“I am barely a year younger, and she is hot,” Statler exclaimed.
“You are not in the same class,” Riven replied.
“Well, we will see about that. Watch and learn, big brother,” Statler stated, as he sauntered confidently to where Teryka and Darish were to pull her into his arms, so he could give her a huge wet kiss in greeting.
It was easy to see that Darish was tempted to act on Statler’s actions, yet too shocked and civilized to follow through on that. It was something Statler should have appreciated, for Darish could have pounded him into the ground.
Riven couldn’t blame Darish for glaring at Statler. He could barely believe his brother’s actions himself. Statler was asking for trouble, and he had a feeling he was about to get more than he bargained for. He wondered who would deliver the trouncing, Darish, or one of Teryka’s brothers. He was half relieved when their father walked up to his side and asked. “How long has that been going on?” Rhys would put a stop to his son’s idiocy, and probably prevent him from being killed at the same time. He couldn’t understand how his son could be so dense.
“Forever,” Riven replied, meaning Statler’s feelings for Teryka.
“I see, and I thought you were the one that was acting strangely the last time we were here. Now that I see this, I assume you were just trying to cover for Statler. It looks like it is time for me to take a hand to my baby boy, before someone reduces him to powder. Why didn’t you say something earlier? I didn’t realize Statler had a crush on Teryka, or that he would take it this far if he did.” Rhys stated.
“I didn’t think telling anyone would make a difference,” Riven admitted.
“What made you think that?” Rhys wondered.
“Let’s face it dad, the last time we were on this side of the portal together, Statler was barely sixteen. The crush he developed on Teryka was the type most of us grow out off relatively quickly. Usually, all it takes is for another pretty girl to cross our path. I guess Statler never got to the point where he had gotten his fill of her, and it has lingered.” Riven stated.
“Well, this shows that Statler hasn’t woken up to that piece of news yet. He is twenty-six, Riven. That is a long time to hold on to a crush, especially when the woman he was fixated on hasn’t been around.” Rhys pointed out.
“He may believe he is in love with her, but he will soon outgrow that. She may be the one that has to give him the push in that direction though. I wonder if Teryka has what it takes,” Riven asked in his preoccupation.
Teryka was very petite and fragile looking, and Riven wondered, if she had the power to take on his little brother. Statler could be a handful, but she might have more spunk than he figured. That wasn’t out of the realm of possibilities. Statler wouldn’t retaliate, they had been taught better than that by their parents.
Rhys was about to comment, when he noticed Teryka wiggle free from Statler’s grasp, and both Riven and he watched in surprise, as she acted.
“Who said you could touch me?”
Statler didn’t pay any attention to the fury in Teryka’s voice or eyes, instead, he commented. “I thought I would surprise you. I know how much time has gone by since the last time we saw each other, and figured I would show you how much I missed you, so we could carry on from there.”
“I have a news flash for you,” Teryka replied angrily, as she pushed Statler further away. “I never missed you, and your attentions are not appreciated.”
“You needn’t act as if you object to my touch, I could tell by the way you responded that you didn’t,” Statler answered, as he moved to close the gap between them again.
Teryka didn’t think twice about what she was going to do to stop Statler. She buried him in the ground at her feet, right up to his neck, while she warned him.
“If you ever dare try to touch me again, I will make sure there are fire ants in the ground with you next time. Do I make myself clear? Don’t come near me again, don’t even talk to me.”
“Would you like me to move our picnic spot or him?” Darish asked Teryka.
Teryka looked around, to see if there was anywhere else that might suit her better, and then decided she liked where she was. She was not about to move for Statler.
“Get rid of the trash,” Teryka informed Darish. She didn’t notice how the three men who were watching her grinned in amusement. She ignored Statler altogether, while he objected.
“I am not trash!”
“Matter of opinion,” Teryka mumbled, as Darish moved Statler to another location, before making himself comfortable on the blanket that had been spread out for them earlier.
“So, what do you think of Teryka?” Rhys asked Riven.
“I have always liked Teryka. She knows who she is, and is happy to be that person.” Riven stated.
“She should be. If Teryka were in our world, she would be Valley Prime. Your aunt would have found her title given to another. Meridor wouldn’t like it, but she would accept it, for no other reason than she had no choice.” Rhys pointed out.
“Meridor let the title go to her head. She is a bully. Our people don’t need that type of example. We need someone more down to earth to lead them,” Riven pointed out.
“And you believe Teryka is that person?” Rhys asked.
“As you said, when we first saw her. She is our future,” Riven pointed out.
“Not quite what I said. What I told you is that she was YOUR future,” Rhys corrected Riven.
“I remember, I just wasn’t sure if the same rules applied,” Riven admitted.
“If you want them to, then yes, they still apply. If not, then no, they don’t. So, which is it to be?” Rhys asked.
“Wish me luck. It is past time I tried to win myself a bride,” Riven declared.
Rhys grinned, as he watched Riven stride towards Teryka and Darish. He was proud of his son. Riven had proven his worth to their world time and again. With that, he proclaimed softly to himself, “That is my boy, may the best man win.”
As that thought crossed Rhys’ mind, he remembered his own subtle courtship of Teryka’s mother, Merika. He had known from the beginning that there hadn’t been much of a chance that he would win her at the time. Merika had fallen in love with Tyrus at first glance, although it had taken her a while to accept it. Tyrus hadn’t helped her much with that, because he had fought their attraction more than she had. Because of Tyrus’ reluctance to accept the inevitable, Rhys had decided he had nothing to lose by trying. He had been right in his first assumption, Merika and Tyrus were meant to be together. By letting her go, when she chose Tyrus, he had accomplished two things that he felt would help with the future. He had made some very valuable friends and allies, and he had opened a pathway to their doorway for his son, if he ever had one.
Rhys doubted if Riven would come to the same conclusions he got, from what he noticed about Teryka and Darish’s relationship. His son would be looking at their friendship with blinders. He would miss the obvious points that showed their strong and weak points. He would only see Darish as competition for what he felt was the ultimate prize, Teryka. Because of that, he would miss the rest.
The things Rhys saw, were subtle hints of what could be. Darish and Teryka were familiar with each other. They were very good friends, almost too good to be anything else. The camaraderie between them was one of comfort, which could be misleading. The sense he got was that if they tried to move their relationship beyond this point, they would be content, but nothing more. They had the foundation to have a good marriage, but it would lack the passion it took to make a great one. The type of connection Merika had with Tyrus, which was what he would have liked for himself. His marriage was a good one, but the passion he had hoped for was non-existent. He was hoping his sons would be luckier in love than he was.
The lack of potential passion in Teryka and Darish’s relationship, Rhys figured, was the strongest point in Riven’s favor. Riven was a man who had learned to leash his passions years ago. He could teach her to be more than a friend, and he would light up her world. If his son could get past the calm, cool surface, where Teryka held her more fiery nature at bay, they would have it all. They would be close friends and confidants, as well as passionate lovers and partners in life. Could his son get her to open up to him? He was sure Riven could, but he might need help for, as he could see, Teryka had two extra hurdles for Riven to get past. Her brothers were on their way to make sure no one would take advantage of their family princess. He liked that about them; they protected their own. It didn’t matter if it stacked the deck against his son. A little challenge for Riven would make his victory all the sweeter. While he plotted, he quickly decided it might be a good idea to send in a few stumbling blocks of his own.
Teryka wasn’t the only one with friends of another gender. Riven had a few that would make her sit up and take notice of his popularity. It was common knowledge that if you wanted a woman to pay attention to you, it often took another female to show her that you weren’t a pariah. Rhys knew the person best suited for the task. Tarama. She was as beautiful as Teryka, in her own way, which was apt to make her seem like a rival in the back of Teryka’s mind. Where Teryka’s beauty was brilliant, in the way of sunlight, when it came to looks and personality, Tarama, was the polar opposite. Tarama was dark as the twilight. Her essence surrounded a man in a cocoon of heat, like luxurious velvet in the night. Her voice was sultry and low, in ways that made men think of summer nights and silken sheets. Her eyes were a dark brown that smoldered, as they slowly burned their way into a man’s soul. For all that, he considered Tarama the sweetest girl in his world. If it hadn’t been for Teryka, he would have chosen her for his eldest son.
The thought of Tarama tossed into the middle of the group brought a smile to Rhys’ lips. He had a feeling that young lady would soon find herself with three suitors, and not only the one. It would be interesting to see who would win that contest as well.
With several plans taking form in the back of his mind, Rhys turned to leave for his home to set things into motion, but not before he noticed Serena and Rodan’s group of children join the group that was growing around Teryka. The crowd that was beginning to form opened up even more possibilities in the back of his mind. He had been looking for ways to bring his world closer to Kodac’s. Perhaps he would pay a visit to the Alpha Prime of this valley, so they could plot this out together. Kodac, as he remembered, was very good at that, and he approved of his plans to introduce their people to one another. As luck would have it, the man he was going to head out to see, was the first he noticed as he set out to leave. It seemed he wasn’t the only one who had come to the same conclusions as he was, for Kodac was looking at him with an expression similar to the one he remembered from years gone past. Yes, this could prove to be a very interesting time for everyone.