The Rifter Series by Ginn Hale / Character: John Toffler/Jath‘ibaye
“there were even times–when he pressed his hands down […] to the dark, rich earth–that he almost sensed something reciprocal, a warmth beneath his fingers […] he sensed that the very earth felt his affection and returned that sentiment.”
Let me tell you a story about love, D'Artagnan. I knew a young man once, a Count, who feared he would never fall in love. One day, he met a woman. This woman was more than beautiful. She was intoxicating, mysterious, everything he’d ever dreamed of. He felt his heart would burst if he couldn’t have her. The poor idiot married her.
They were riding through the forest one day. She was thrown from her horse and knocked unconscious. When he rushed to her side, he noticed a mark on her body… something he’d never seen before, something she’d managed to keep hidden all this time. The brand of the fleur-de-lis, the mark given to those who are to be executed for murder. The Count was crushed. The woman he loved, his bride, had betrayed him. She’d lied to him. When she came to, she swore that she’d been falsely accused of these crimes, but he didn’t believe her; he rejected her for her lies and for her past. Then he banished her from his province. When the guards came to take her away to be executed, she… she was still professing her undying love.
Soon after, the Count realized how much she had meant to him, but it was too late. His betrayal was far greater than hers could ever have been. He gave up his title, his land, everything he believed in, never to be seen or heard from again, all because of love.