Betrayed Eileen Ann Brennan (c) 2006 ISBN 1-59578-217-6
Betrayed Eileen Ann Brennan Published 2006 ISBN 1-59578-217-6 Published by Liquid Silver Books, imprint of Atlantic Bridge Publishing, 10509 Sedgegrass Dr, Indianapolis, Indiana 46235. Copyright © 2006, Eileen Ann Brennan. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author. Manufactured in the United States of America Liquid Silver Books http://LSbooks.com Email: [email protected]
Editor Carol Guy Cover Artist April Martinez This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.
Chapter One The Middle Kingdoms, circa 14th Century Sunlight peeked through the trees, dappling the forest floor with dainty snowflakelike designs. No creature rustled in the underbrush. No cry of a bird overhead broke the peaceful atmosphere. Even the clomp from the horses’ hooves of her Royal Guard were muted by the layers of leaves and pine straw on the road. Arrianna, Princess of Bethany, pushed a lock of golden hair from her face. Free of its usual heavy braid, her hair hung down her back like a soft shawl. The long sky blue cloak, identifying her royal status, draped loosely about her shoulders, allowing a measure of freedom to control her spirited horse. Her crystal-blue eyes sparkled at the prospect of finally reaching her betrothed’s castle. Although she dearly loved her chestnut mare, Starfire, two weeks of traveling, mounted in the uncomfortable sidesaddle, caused her to regret her refusal to journey by cart. The crisp spring morning silence was broken by the swoosh of a single arrow. The soldier on the horse directly beside Arrianna fell. In the instant before he died, she saw the surprise, then the resignation in the man’s eyes as he toppled to the ground. “The princess! Protect the princess!” Immediately her horse was encircled, the guards raised their shields against the shower of arrows, but each one seemed targeted to cut down a courageous guard. The wall of men that surrounded Arrianna and her companion, Lady Christine, crumbled like dead leaves in a storm. Arrianna clutched the reins of her terrified mare as it danced and shied, but she was no match for the panicked beast. It tore the straps from her hands in an attempt to bolt, but the wildly prancing horse remained hemmed in by Arrianna’s dying defenders. Gripping the horse’s mane, she struggled to maintain her seat as the mare bucked and reared. To fall would bring certain death in the mêlée on the ground. The coppery smell of blood grew strong, flinging the remaining horses into a frenzy. Dust, sent flying by their thrashing hooves, clogged the air. The shouts of the men were drowned out by the horses’ screams. “You there! Protect the…” The soldier’s order was cut short by an arrow through his throat. Everywhere crimson oozed across the brilliant blue doublets of her guards’ uniforms. Her heart ached for the men sworn to protect her, now lying dead upon the earth. For just an instant, she caught a glimpse of her attackers through the dense trees, and the blood drained from her veins. Black livery edged in gold. “Christine! Christine! Where are you?” Arrianna shrieked. Looking over her shoulder, she spied her dear friend and attempted to turn Starfire to draw nearer, but her own precarious position made assisting Lady Christine impossible. The petite girl also clung to her horse’s mane, but the sidesaddle had slipped, and she was in danger of falling and being trampled. “Princess! Princess! Come! I will see to your safety!” The captain of the guard
galloped up beside her, determination etched on his darkly handsome face. “Captain! Help! You must save Lady Christine!” Arrianna’s shout reached the captain. His assessing eyes quickly took in the terrified girl, the frantic princess and the open path to escape that was quickly becoming blocked with the bodies of his men and their stout mounts. The captain edged his broad stallion between the princess and her companion. “Lady Christine! Do not be afraid!” Marchante’s commanding tone caught Christine’s attention, and she bent towards him, her chestnut brown eyes alight with terror—and now a sudden relief. Clutching the woman’s slim waist, Marchante deftly lifted her onto the saddle in front of him. Leaning over, he grasped Arrianna’s reins and yanked, ordering his own steed forward with his knees. Starfire made to bolt at the unfamiliar pressure, but the captain’s firm hand steadied the excited mare and she calmed. “Come, I will protect you, my princess!” He edged his horse around his wounded and dying men until a path into the woods lay clear. They rode deep into the forest. Arrianna bent close to her mare’s sleek neck, clinging to its mane to avoid low branches and the possibility of an arrow yet finding her back. Her long brocade skirt caught on bushes and the rich sapphire fabric tore, leaving remnants to mark their path. The sounds of the ambush became fainter as they traveled into the dense growth. It seemed hours although she knew it could not have been more than a fraction of the time. The captain still held her reins, guiding her feisty little mare at a pace too swift for such an overgrown area. Arrianna now feared a rodent hole or other such rut in the forest floor as much as the assailants’ arrows. For at this speed, the outcome of a fall from her horse would likely be the same. “Hurry, Princess. We are not out of danger yet!” Arrianna stole a glance at her rescuer. Captain Marchante’s broad back sat as straight and unyielding in the saddle as the long broadsword hanging from his wide leather belt. His muscled arm clutched sweet Christine while he controlled the reins of his own horse with his free hand. Her dearest friend’s fingers were clasped tightly behind the captain’s neck, anchoring her to his chest. Her rich, auburn hair, tied in a neat knot at the nape of her neck that morning, now hung down over the captain’s arm. Praise be that her brother had entrusted such a brave soldier to command her guard. Her heart warmed, recalling his soft brown eyes and full sensuous lips when he swore an oath to protect her with his life on the journey that would deliver her to her betrothed. Her guards may have perished in the ambush. Later, she would shed many tears for her brave escort, but for now, she took comfort in knowing she was safe with Captain Marchante. The terrain began to climb, but Marchante did not slow his pace. He must know of an alternate route to Evanwood Castle, one that would take her to Günter. Fear still coursing through her veins, she ignored the muscles begging for rest. The sun had risen to midmorning and cast a warm sheen on her skin. Had the day gone as planned, they would have stopped by now. A cup of water and a small meal to break the
fast of the night would have been quite welcome. Glancing up, Arrianna saw the crest of the steep hill they climbed. A large clearing appeared off to the left, and the captain angled their horses towards it. “We’ll pause at the top of the hill, Princess,” he called over his shoulder. Could he read her thoughts or did he instinctively know the limits of a woman’s endurance? A noise beyond the summit caught her attention. The sound was unmistakable. Were they close to Castle Evanwood? Had Günter and his men ridden out to greet them? Even as the thoughts danced across her mind, she knew she was wrong. They were more than two days’ ride from Evanwood and her betrothed would expect them to travel by the main road, not through the mountains. As they crested the peak, she sat up and turned sharply towards Marchante only to find his deep sympathetic eyes searching her face. Eyes that held regret, yet no remorse. “Forgive me, my princess. I had no choice.” **** “Silence, Christine,” whispered Arrianna into her companion’s unruly hair. “Do you wish that they see us as cowards?” “Highness, they will kill us,” whimpered Lady Christine. “I’ve no wish to die.” Arrianna held her friend’s shaking shoulder. “Shh, all will be well. No harm will come to us.” Her sympathy and soft tone deserted her when the dark man, a stranger to her now, appeared at her side. He executed a deferential bow. “Highness.” “You are a snake, Marchante,” Arrianna hissed. She did not bother to turn her head. Gazing at him would only bring an unbearable stab of pain. “What was your price to betray me and my brother? How much do you hope to gain from my ransom?” Arrianna held her head high, ignoring the expectant faces of the soldiers and women who lounged about. When Marchante did not respond, she goaded him further. “From whom will you seek ransom? My brother or Günter. Or will you be a pig and sue both?” “I offer no excuse, Princess, but I beg your forgiveness a thousand times over. I was merely following orders. We wait now upon Milord’s pleasure.” He did not offer her a chair. The slight, she knew was both intentional and ordered by his lord. She shook her head, allowing her waist-length hair to fall over her face. It provided a convenient veil, permitting her to study the massive dining hall. She crooned softly to her frightened friend as she searched each corner of the great chamber. Row after row of rough plank tables with long benches stood parallel to an even longer head table. As was the custom, the master’s table stood on an elevated dais, three feet above the floor. Access was gained via stairs at either end. A monstrous fireplace, large enough for a tall soldier to stand straight up, gobbled up the left wall. Huge tapestries of mythical events covered the stone fortification, their once bright threads now faded with age and smoke. Located at the center of the fortress, the hall had few windows, and those were narrow and high. She noted several archways leading to outer corridors. Torches lining the walls, provided light. Arrianna wrinkled her nose at their acrid stench. Her stomach roiled and bile rose in her throat, but she would not allow the stares of the soldiers and their wenches to intimidate her. She was a Princess of Bethany, and she would hold her terror within. More importantly, she would guard her wildly churning
emotions behind her pride. She glanced at the top of her friend’s head, huddled against her shoulder. Poor Christine. Arrianna should have left her in Bethany under Edward’s protection. Now she was caught up in a drama which was none of her concern. There was no doubt that the soldiers who surrounded her on the mountain crest were the same ones who had ambushed her traveling party. Although they had maintained a deferential attitude, she’d had little choice but to accompany them to this massive stronghold. On first sight of the immense turrets, wide moat and broad battlements, she needed no introduction to the lord of this castle. She should have known that no other would have the audacity to kidnap her within a stone’s throw of her betrothed’s lands. The raucous laughter and drinking within the hall had ceased at their appearance. Now the occupants sprawled and lounged on the rough-hewed benches, gawking as she stood before the master’s table. She remained as still as one of the figures in the elaborate tapestries. After her cursory glance around the hall, she knew there was no escape for the moment. But she would wait … and watch … and listen. A few impudent wenches giggled and pointed. All waited in anticipation of the master, his reputation having far outdistanced his borders. He was obviously delaying his entrance to increase her anxiety—or her anticipation. A door crashed against the back wall, heralding the entrance of their host. Arrianna stiffened, vowing he would not affect her. She would not succumb to his magnetic presence, his mesmerizing stare, his overwhelming male force. She was no longer a simple maid whose heart could be won by a smile and a devastating kiss only to be dashed to pieces on the whim of a murderous lout. Unwillingly, her body sensed his presence, knew that her soul mate was near. Her heartbeat quickened. The tiny vein in her neck throbbed wildly. No, this was not happening. Not now. Not when she was so close to forgetting his touch. “And what have we here, Marchante?” He circled, eyeing them like a sleek panther taking measure of its next kill. “You have brought me two sweet doves where I only expected one.” Arrianna held her head high, refusing to acknowledge his presence. She’d be damned to perdition before she’d allow the bastard to know how affected she was by his close proximity. André, the Black Wolf of Le Monte, towered before her. How well she remembered every contour of his once beloved face. His olive skin, smooth and taut over high cheekbones, cheekbones covered with a velvet soft, close-cropped beard. His piercing midnight eyes that became heavy lidded when he spoke of love … and pleasure. Hair long and black as sin, and always, an errant lock falling upon his forehead. And his mouth, a mouth that could make the most jaded courtesan beg for its caress. But that was long ago and needed to be forgotten. She refused to allow her body to rule her wits, but he leaned close and his scent invaded her mind and her body longed to follow. She inhaled a slow, deep breath, praying the images of his sensuous affections would leave her soon. Images of a sleek mountain cat, his skin covered with a light sheen of sweat crowded out all around her. The desire in his eyes was blatant, unyielding as he knelt before her naked body, spreading her legs wide for his pleasure. Slowly, he eased his weight onto her as his mouth found hers, his soft beard tickling her chin as he whispered erotic
promises. His shaft probed against her soft opening. His tongue sweetly laved hers before coaxing it back to his mouth. As he gently sucked, her heart had overflowed with love for this man as she prepared herself for his tender invasion. She held her breath as he drew back and… Christine clutched her waist, burying her face in Arrianna’s shoulder, bringing her back to the present. “Oh Highness. We are going to die. They will use us and kill us and cast our bones to the hounds,” sobbed Christine quietly into her mistress’ ear. “Shh,” she whispered, her lips scarcely moving. “All will be well. He won’t dare harm us. Shh.” “You have served me well, Marchante.” The Black Wolf stood toe to toe with his hostage, but still she refused to look into his cold, dark eyes. André placed a finger under her chin and slowly elevated her gaze to his. “It has been a long time, mon petite chou. Did you think I could forget you so easily? Did you think I would allow another man to have what belongs to me alone?” The heat of his finger seared her skin, but the heat of his words seared her soul. Belong to him alone? Would that were true and not another lie to stab her heart. But that’s all André knew. Lies. Lies, murder and the seduction of young innocents. “You make me laugh, sir. We both know you have all the scruples of a dog. Take what is there and rut with the next willing bitch.” Arrianna twisted her chin from his grasp. The sharp motion awakened Christine from her stupor, and she stepped back from her mistress. “Highness! Do not provoke him! He will condemn us!” The crowd loomed close, not wanting to miss a word of the performance unfolding before them. A shrill cackle from a wench well past her prime sent shivers down Arrianna’s spine. Captain Marchante stood a hairsbreadth away, his unwavering gaze blazing a trail up Christine’s lithe body, halting at the apex of her thighs before traveling to the small mounds of her breasts. Arrianna shifted to block his view. Her sharp eyes finding his and condemning him for his betrayal. A small smile quirked across his lips. How dare he gaze at Lady Christine as if she were one of those harlots draped across the soldiers! She fixed him with a stare that carried all her hate and loathing. The Black Wolf once again asserted his position as lord, reaching to cup the back of her head and bring her close. A thin smile shaped his full lips. “So, you’ve not lost any of your spirit, my love.” “I am not ‘your love,’ and I will not have you address me as such. Unhand me!” She clenched her fists at her side, waiting for the perfect moment to slam one into his mocking face. “How would you have me address you?” He lowered his voice so only she could hear his seductive words, ignoring her command to release her. “As my heart, my soul … my lover?” She inhaled sharply, willing away the very sensations he tried to invoke. No. No. She would not remember the hours of pleasure in his arms—the ecstasy when his body joined with hers, when they brought each other to the brink and beyond. Her nipples hardened at
the memory, pushing against the fabric of her tight bodice. Le Monte’s gaze shifted from her face to her breasts. Her cheeks heated when he licked his lips at the sight of the peaked tips protruding from her gown. “My mouth waters at the thought of tasting the sweetness of your breasts again,” he murmured. Arrianna ignored his penetrating stare, even as her throbbing nipples ached for his lips. “You’re twice the fool, Le Monte,” she spat between gritted teeth, her voice low and menacing. “One for thinking you could bring me here without retribution from Evanwood, the other for believing I would have anything to do with a lowborn murderer such as you. You took what you wanted, and I thank the saints everyday that you left me. Elsewise, I would be just another sow wallowing in your muck.” Not by any movement did he acknowledge her insult, but she knew from the tightening of his eyes, the flair of his nostrils, the pulsing of the vein in his temple. She’d hit her mark. He stepped back, and she silently celebrated her victory in inflicting back at him a modicum of the pain he had caused her. She had been young, tender and vulnerable when André de Le Monte first arrived at her father’s castle. He had come to arrange an alliance, mutual protection for both Bethany and Le Monte. War among the middle countries was common and the more allies a lord had, the safer his borders. In the weeks he was there negotiating with her father and brother, he had cast a subtle eye upon her and, without words, made known his intentions. She found him dashing, attentive and worldly as no other man she’d ever known. He had taken his time to woo her, and finding his virility irresistible, she succumbed to his seduction. The morning after she gave him her maidenhead, he was gone, taking with him any illusion she had as to his primary mission. Her virginity had been a minor casualty that night. When the cry had gone out and the true purpose of his visit was discovered, the Black Wolf and his men were long gone. She’d waited for months for a message, a denial, something to tell her that all the damning evidence against him was false, but nothing arrived. Months turned to years. Still she refused all suitors, waiting for word from Le Monte. She had long since given up her delusion of his innocence or hope of his return. Now at one and twenty she was considered past her prime. In order to strengthen his alliance with Günter of Evanwood, her brother, Edward, traded her hand for Günter’s sword. She did not mind being used. Günter was a fair man, although twice her age. If rumors held true, he still had a warrior’s body and a long shaft that would keep her contented and hot in his lands to the North. How she would explain her lack of a maidenhead remained a mystery. She would need to think of a subterfuge, some deception before her wedding night. “Murderer,” she hissed, hoping to anger Le Monte further. André’s eyes narrowed and his breath quickened. “Think you that I do not know what accusations have been brought against me, Princess? Accusations that have blackened my name and caused me no end of trouble! I have no wish to address them now.” Arrianna could not let it drop. She’d waited and imagined this confrontation for
years and would have her say. “Assassin,” she murmured. “Enough!” André glared his displeasure. She felt a surge of power, knowing she had made him lose control, if only for a moment. He immediately schooled his face into a congenial countenance. “Well, I find your spirit still arouses me, my sweet. It has been well guarded, along with your virtue these long years. For that, I have no regrets about sacrificing the captain of my guard to become your brother’s chattel.” At her astonished look, André turned to Marchante. She knew Marchante had betrayed them but did not know how deep the deception went. She had thought he wanted only a portion of her ransom. He was Le Monte’s man? “You have served me better than any man: infiltrating Edward’s own guard, rising to a place of trust and power and, most importantly, carefully watching over my … interests. Ask your reward, man, and if it is within my power, it is yours.” Marchante stepped forward and gave his lord a precise bow. “You are too kind, Milord. Serving you is reward enough.” Le Monte chuckled. “A very correct response, Captain, and I accept your compliment. Now tell me. What is it I can give you?” Marchante bowed again. His gaze slowly traveled the length of Christine’s body. “Since I have delivered two doves where you expected one, I would ask Milord for the extra bird. I have watched over not only your interests,” he paused and nodded at Arrianna, “but my own as well.” Le Monte looked from Marchante to Christine to Arrianna. “No, Le Monte, you cannot…” cried Arrianna, fear gripping her heart. “Done. The little bird is yours.” At Arrianna’s stunned look of disbelief, he continued. “I would ask only for the sake of her mistress that you treat her as the gentle dove she must be.” “Have no fear, Milord. Princess.” He spoke earnestly to each. “She will be well cared for.” With a nod to both, he stepped around them and lifted the astonished woman into his arms. “Princess…?” squeaked Christine. Arrianna clutched at Marchante’s sleeve. “Let her go! I command you to let her go! She is but a child, only seventeen!” “With my deepest apologies, Princess, I fear that is one command I cannot obey.” Marchante bowed, still holding his prize. A slight smile creased his lips when Christine threw her arms around his neck to keep from falling. The crowd, silent as the drama unfurled before them, broke into uproarious laughter as Marchante turned and carried the little companion from the hall. Arrianna whirled on Le Monte who had joined in the merriment. “You barbarian! You can’t give away women as prizes!” She drew her arm back and punched his shoulder with enough force to regain his notice. “Perhaps I can. Perhaps I can’t,” he smiled, revealing the dimple in his left cheek. Arrianna squelched a memory of her tongue delving into that dimple, immediately before André had taken her mouth with his. “Who’s to say, Princess? But I most certainly can keep the prize I have already won!” He cocked one eyebrow as if seeking her agreement. Arrianna stared at him in disbelief. All thoughts of Christine fled. Her own future
was now in question. He could not be serious! Keep her! He had cast her aside once before. Why would he want her now when it would risk war not to return her? Surely, her ransom was worth many pouches of gold. Her brother would pay, although he would much rather have Le Monte’s head. Of that, she was certain. “Come, sweetling. It has been too long since you’ve shared your secrets with me.”
Chapter Two Arrianna shrank away, but the Black Wolf lifted and threw her over his broad shoulder as if she weighed no more than a child. A sharp pain stung her ribs when they made contact with his rock solid contours. She struck out in the only way she could, kicking him and hoping her legs were long enough to do some damage. He held her thrashing legs to his muscled chest, putting an end to her struggle. “Put me down, you bastard!” She pummeled his back, but he only laughed and swatted her bottom. His hand remained on her buttocks, caressing, soothing. Thick though her brocade gown was, it did not shield her from his heated touch. Her heartbeat quickened. Only now it was not from outrage but rekindled lust. His men’s amusement increased as he continued to fondle her backside. Unwanted shivers ran down her spine in unison with his strokes. He guffawed along with his men as his hand inched up under her gown, and he publicly stroked between her thighs. Unbidden, she felt moisture pool within the petals of her womanhood. His fingers gently stroked her sensitive flesh. “She’s a feisty one who has led me on a merry chase these five years,” he called to his men. “But I dare say, I will have my reward this day … and night!” The crowd broke into boisterous howling and snorting. Several men and even women called out suggestions as to what their master should do with his captive. Arrianna’s cheeks heated at their descriptive instructions. She fought to right herself, but he slid a thick finger into her receptive body. Her channel convulsed around it, squeezing it, milking it. Too long had she waited. She lay back down on his shoulder, resting her cheek against his broad back. Her pleasure countered the sheer male arrogance of the act. How dare he…! Another broad finger found its way into her tight, wet puss. She pushed against his solid back to free her portal from his exquisite attention, but slid on his shoulder, only succeeding in allowing him greater penetration. “Be still, Princess, or my folk may think you are unwilling to please their lord.” Arrianna reddened as she gazed out at the mocking faces of Le Monte’s men and their women. Her gown covered Le Monte’s intimate actions, but she had no doubt that those present knew exactly where his fingers were and what he was doing. Embarrassed, she buried her head beneath her arms unable to deny the pleasure he gave as he paraded triumphantly from the hall. “Stop it, André ,” she gasped, unsure why she issued an order that would curtail the delicious sensations. Once outside the hall, he strode directly to his chambers, stopping abruptly in the dim light of the curved stairwell. “I’ve waited too long for what is mine, Princess.” He removed his fingers, and she felt an acute dismay at the loss. Without ceremony, he lifted her heavy gown and tossed the hem over her head. The cool air on her buttocks was immediately replaced by warm, wet, caressing fingers. The silky dampness came from her own feminine juices. She blushed at the thought of André spreading her moisture on her naked ass. This was absurd! She should shout, scream, demand he release her. But her body would not
obey her brain. It craved his touch, his scent, his taste. “Delicious, my dove.” He turned her, angling her buttock towards his face. Heat swirled about and a lightheadedness overcame her. He couldn’t. Not here. On the stairs. Where anyone could happen upon them. But, yes, his tongue stroked her ass, greedily lapping up the cream he had so carefully smeared. “Delicious, little one.” His words were teasing but his deep rasp betrayed the level of his arousal. “I think I will continue this feast in my own bed.” He proceeded up the stairs to his chambers, not bothering to cover her modesty. The chill air of the staircase met with her hot juices to produce sweet, pulsing contractions. Le Monte continued to stroke her dripping folds. Her legs fought the iron grip of his arm again anchoring them to his chest. At her movement, he held them tighter. No! her numb mind railed, I need to spread wider for your touch. Slamming the heavy oak door of his chambers open, he entered and kicked it closed behind him. The dim afternoon light from two small windows fell across the stone floor and a fresh breeze fought its way in through the tiny openings. “I’ve hungered for you for years, my love. I will deny myself no longer.” Le Monte slowly lowered her feet to the ground, gliding her body down the length of his. She swayed against him. Of their own accord, her arms reached around his corded neck, pulling his mouth down. It had been five years since her lips had touched his, but the flame was immediate. She opened and welcomed the invasion of his tongue. Bold and demanding, it probed every recess of her willing mouth. This was madness. How could she allow him such liberties with her body after his treachery and desertion? How many nights had she cried before her tears for him turned into curses? And yet, now in his arms, she was powerless to stop him. Her body, her mind, her very soul craved his touch. Tomorrow she would deal with her inner demons, her regrets. Tonight she would give to herself. A gift. André … hers … for tonight. His hand slid from her hip to her breast, cupping the soft mound though the fabric of her gown. Finding her peaked nipple, he rolled it between his fingers. His eyes closed and he pulled her pelvis against his hips. A strangled roar came from deep within him, and he sought to remove the barrier of her dress. The fitted bodice refused his fingers even the slightest access to the creamy white mounds it covered. All the while, his mouth held hers prisoner, exploring, remembering. He made to rip the gown from her. Arrianna’s body jerked at the suddenness of his yanking motion, but the rich garment would not tear. “Damn dress,” he muttered. His hand slid from her breast, leaving her yearning for his touch. He gently eased her from him, but she pulled harder on his neck not wanting him to break the kiss. “Just a moment, little one,” he whispered against her lips. “We need relieve us of this obstacle.” André stepped back, releasing her hold. He drew his dagger from his boot and made quick work of the lacings on her bodice. A few strokes with the deadly instrument and her breasts spilled free of their confinement. “Perfection,” he murmured, touching a distended nipple with the tip of his blade. Arrianna held her breath, caught between the mind-clouding kiss and the erotic sight of his dagger against her sensitive peak.
“You have nothing to fear from me, my sweet.” His husky voice rasped. Slowly, he trailed the tip of the knife lower. The sensation of the blade against her soft flesh sent a tingling from her plump mound to her already weeping channel. She raised her gaze to his. André’s heavy-hooded eyes were fixed on her breast. Tiny beads of sweat appeared on his upper lip as he slowly circled her areola with the knife point. She closed her eyes, allowing the sheer sensual pleasure of the act to envelop her. He leveled the flat side of the blade below her breast and gently lifted it. She knew she was safe but held her breath, not flinching a muscle. He raised and lowered his knife, weighing her swollen flesh. “So perfect … and mine … at last.” In one swift movement, he lowered the dagger to slice through the waistband of her gown. She shrugged and it fell at her feet in a pool of sapphire and gold. Turning, he hurled the dagger, imbedding it into the headboard of his bed. “André…?” Surfacing from the hypnotic spell he’d woven, Arrianna made to cover herself with her hands. “No,” came his heated response. “Let my eyes feast on you.” Gently, he grasped her wrists and lowered her arms to her sides. “You are the most lovely creature I have ever gazed upon. You haunt my dreams. You invade my very senses.” He slid his hands slowly up her soft belly, over her generous breasts to skim her creamy shoulders before cupping her face gently between his large, rough palms. He leaned in, pressing a light kiss to her waiting lips as her fingers tangled in his soft hair. Arrianna opened her mouth, demanding he deepen the kiss. Rising to her toes, she pressed her naked body to the full length of him. The rough fabric of his clothes heightened the sensations streaking through her already sensitive nipples. His heavy erection thrust against her belly. “Enough!” he growled, picking her up. He strode to the large bed, elevated on a platform by the far wall, and deftly tossed her into the middle. Dazed, Arrianna lay spread before him like some virginal offering. Her body hummed with the anticipation of his intimate invasion. Opening her thighs wider, she shivered at the intensity of desire in his coal black eyes. He kicked off his boots and tore his shirt over his head. The sight of his broad, muscled chest dusted with swirls of ebony hair increased the hunger low in her belly. She noted several new scars and her heart lurched at the thought she might have lost him without seeing him again. Her eyes drifted lower, taking in every inch of him. His swollen sex thrust against his leggings, demanding attention. She licked her lips, impatient for him to shed his remaining clothing. With quick hands, he undid the lacings of his breeches and slid them down his powerful thighs. He stood naked before her, allowing Arrianna to examine him as he had done her. His cock was as long and thick as she remembered, extending out boldly from a nest of midnight hair. Tiny veins pulsed along the shaft. The head, large as a ripened plum, made her mouth water for its taste. “Later, my dove,” he rasped. “We will do everything later. For now, I can only think of burying my cock into your hot puss.” He moved onto the wide bed and knelt between her thighs, pushing them further apart. He stared down at her dripping channel. Only once before had she felt as vulnerable, as open as she did now. Her nipples ached when she realized how close she
was to experiencing ecstasy once again. “I’ve dreamed of your tight, wet puss for five years. My cock is quivering to be sheathed in you.” His fingers massaged her inner thighs, coming close but not touching where she needed him. “Please, André…” She rammed her heels into the billowing burgundy covering, lifting her pelvis from the bed. “Please, André…” If he wanted her to beg, she would. She was beyond pride, beyond need. She reached for his erection. Desire flared in his eyes, and his chest heaved with each ragged breath. She prayed his control had finally snapped. He lifted her legs slowly, placing them one at a time on his muscled shoulders. She lay back in frenzied anticipation, her arms over her head. In one swift motion, he clutched her hips, leaned back and plunged his engorged cock into her aching puss. Her hips jerked at his rough invasion, and the walls of her passage clenched around him. “More,” he groaned, grinding his pelvic bone into her mound. His head fell back and he bared his teeth. A low guttural moan filled the room. Bracing her shoulders against the bed, Arrianna raised her hips, inviting him deeper. He held her motionless between heaven and earth. Long forgotten responses wracked her body, pulling her into an exquisite dream. When she thought she could exist no longer, André abruptly withdrew his cock. She opened her mouth to protest but was filled to the hilt once again. His rhythm began slow and long but quickly escalated to a frantic coupling. Arching, she met each consuming thrust with abandon, taking him deep inside her again and again. “Open your eyes,” he commanded, his voice low and hoarse. “I want to see into your soul when you shatter into a thousand pieces.” Sweat glistened on his chest and shoulders, but it was the dark possessive look in his eyes that penetrated her essence even as his shaft penetrated her body. Her climax came as it had so many years ago. First, as a trembling, an awareness of her body’s need. Then as a rainbow of color breaking over her, spreading its warm touch to every part of her body. She cried out, willing the spasms to go on forever. “Open your eyes!” She forced them to open by gazing up at his beautiful face, contorted now as he edged towards his own release. André threw back his head with a triumphant shout and his warm seed flowed into her. The walls of her channel tightened around his cock, flexing and releasing, urging every last drop of sweet fluid from him. When at last he was replete, he lowered her legs to the bed and fell on top of her. His glistening body slid up hers until his mouth found a ripe breast. The nipple, already peaked, invited his caress. His tongue sweetly laved her, coaxing it into an even tighter bud. She closed her eyes, content with his heavy body crushing her into the bed. “A perfect tit, my dove.” He pulled it softly into his mouth, suckling it like a babe about to fall asleep. She stroked his dark hair, matted and wet from his exertion. The fire between them had not abated in the years they were apart. If anything, it flamed hotter. She was a fool to allow him free access to her body without knowing the reason for his perfidy, his neglect. A wry smile crossed her lips. Why berate herself over something she could not prevent? Had she not gone to him willingly, he would have taken her. There was no question that either way, her body was willing.
Abruptly, André rolled over, pulling her with him. He tucked her against his side, leaving his hand to cup her breast. “It has been an eventful day. Rest, my love. I plan to explore your charms many times before the sun rises again.” She started to protest. Many questions needed to be asked. He held her tightly, placing a soft kiss on her forehead. Until that moment, she did not realize the extent of her fatigue. Much had happened since she awoke that morning and if André was to be believed, much would happen before she would awake tomorrow morning. **** Arrianna lounged across André’s chest. Her head rose and fell with his rhythmic breathing as he slept, their legs still entwined from their last bout of lovemaking. She reached down and cupped his sex. Even flaccid, he was larger than her hand could hold. She reached further and gently squeezed his balls. Their hairy sac tickled her palm, but she relished the power she held over this man. By rights, she should be exhausted. She’d lost count of how many times he had her since the previous afternoon when he’d carried her to his chamber. Now, the last embers of the fire he’d lit to ward off the late evening chill provided the only light in the room. She’d laughed when he’d lit it. All the heat she needed was his shaft between her legs. And he had been happy to service her … many times over. “Do you need to be fucked again, my dove?” His voice was low and husky. The voice of a man satisfied, yet more than willing to extend his sword if his lady required it. His hand drifted down her naked back to cup a firm cheek. “Have I told you that you have a beautiful ass, my love?” He squeezed her buttock playfully. “And a delicious one?” Arrianna countered by gently squeezing his balls. “You have, Milord. Several times.” She rubbed her nose in his chest hair. “Have I told you that you have a beautiful cock?” She hesitated before adding, “and a delicious one?” His husky chuckle reverberated in his chest. “I’m pleased you find me so … appetizing.” He worked his hand into the cleft between her cheeks. His thick fingers probed her crevice until he found the sensitive portal of her nether hole. She flinched, but he did not shy away. “Relax, little one. Have I not pleased you many times this night?” He brushed a soft kiss across her forehead. She nodded her head against his chest, unable to speak as he massaged the tender skin. “A woman can take a man in several ways.” His voice was low, casting a spell over her aroused body. She found her hand fondling his balls with the same rhythm as his finger on her anus. “You’ve taken my cock in your slick, wet puss.” Adjusting his position, he dipped his fingers into her hot, dripping slit. She could smell his seed mingled with her creamy juices and fought the need to beg for his shaft deep inside her. Coating his fingers with her wetness, he returned them to her ass. His slick middle finger urged her puckering nether hole apart. At the foreign intrusion, she jerked, her hips protesting.
“André…?” “Shh, you’ve taken my cock in your mouth. You just told me you wished to do so again. You pleasured me greatly when you sucked it and brought me to completion.” He worked his finger in up to the first knuckle. “Your lips held me even as I spilled my seed down your throat. You swallowed it when I thought you could take no more.” His vivid words heightened her arousal, even now his taste lingered in her mouth. She whimpered as his finger found its way fully into her ass. Each nerve ending in her body was totally alert. “There, my sweet. The worst is over. Now the pleasure begins.” In a smooth undulating motion, he withdrew the digit, only to slid it back in again and again. “Feel the pleasure? It is difficult to decide if it is pleasure or pain, is it not my sweet?” She nodded once more against his chest. “Do you want me to stop?” Arrianna shook her head. The slow even motion of his finger brought with it a fullness unlike any other. What at first had alarmed her, now brought her to a new heightened awareness of her body’s reaction to André’s touch. “Good. I wish you to be tamed and pleading when my cock fills your nether hole.” She jerked her head up. He planned to thrust his cock up her ass? His finger filled her completely, and it was not near the size of his thick shaft when he was fully aroused. Surely, that was an impossibility! “Don’t look so shocked, my dove.” He pinched her turgid nipple with the fingers of his other hand. “You will beg for it when you are ready. Come now,” He eased his finger from her, massaging her tender anus. “Put your lips to my cock and make me shout with pleasure.”
Chapter Three Arrianna struggled in the mist between dreams and awareness. She fought the pull towards awaking, snuggling deeper into the warm coverlet. Something tickled her nose. She twitched, swatting it away. It persisted. She rolled over to avoid it only to find that it followed. Opening her eyes a mere slit, she recognized the rich brown hair of the bear pelt André had pulled over them in the night. She smiled, remembering his powerful arms anchoring her to his side as she drifted off to sleep after their last coupling. André! Her eyes flew open and she sat upright, quickly scanning the chamber. No Black Wolf lurked about. By the slant of the sunlight streaming through the narrow windows, she guessed it to be mid-afternoon. Had she slept away the entire morning? A slight chill turned her attention, and she glanced down at herself. Her naked breasts stood exposed in the cool spring air. As she stared, her nipples tightened into hard, pink pebbles. Lifting the pelt, she saw that her nakedness extended to her whole body. Hastily, she lay back down, covering herself. André! Color rushed to her cheeks as images of last night’s actions pushed their way through her mind. God’s Blood! Had she allowed him such liberties with her body? Had she taken those same liberties with his? Heat pooled in her belly as she recalled where his hands and mouth had touched her. Even now, her folds moistened at the thought of her hands and mouth on his most intimate flesh. Praise God, he was not present. Actions of the night when one was drunk on lust held a different color when examined by the light of day. The bed reeked with the smells of sex, not just sex, but the wild coupling of a man who could not get enough of his mate. She hung her head, not just the man, but also a woman who could not get enough of her man. A low rumble in her stomach reminded her she had not eaten since the prior day. Her gaze returned to a tray she had spied when first searching the room for André. It rested on a large oaken table and overflowed with bread, cheese and grapes. A flagon of wine stood nearby. Wrapping the huge pelt around her, she slipped from the bed and padded to the table. The bread was fresh-baked with a hard golden crust, and she tore a piece. Not bothering with courtly manners, she munched it with satisfaction and poured a measure of wine into a waiting cup. Two wooden buckets sat near a large chest. One empty, one filled with water. She saw to nature’s call, then cleansed herself as best she could with the chill water. Braiding her hair, it soon resembled a thick rope hanging past her waist. When she finished, André’s scent was not so overwhelming on her skin, though she could still detect it. Her dress lay where it had fallen the previous night. Bending to pick it up, the bear fur slipped from her shoulder and she wiggled to cover her breast against the cool air. It would take many hours with her needle to repair the damage André’s knife had caused. Shaking her head, she laid the gown carefully at the foot of the bed. There was nothing to do for it now.
A soft knock sounded at the door. Arrianna scurried to the bed and leapt under the coverlet. The door opened before she could bid ‘Enter’. “Princess?” The soft voice warmed Arrianna and set her heart to rest. She peeked from her hiding place. “Christine. Over here. On the bed.” Struggling with the fur, she wiggled herself into a sitting position against the headboard. Remembering, she glanced up. The knife was gone. Evidently, André’s ardor did not extend to trusting a dagger in her hand. A most grievous shame. Though gently raised, her father had taught her at an early age the proper—and deadly—use of the weapon. Christine flew to the bed, hurling herself onto the high mattress. She threw her arms around Arrianna, laughing and crying at the same time. “Oh, Princess, you’re safe! I was so worried, but could do nothing. I have only now left the captain’s chamber.” A bright blush accompanied her statement. Arrianna clasped her shoulders, searching her face. “Are you in good health, Christine? Did that monster hurt you?” Arrianna was not one to hold a grudge, but she would never forgive Marchante for his treachery. How dare he! The captain of her brother’s guard! “No, my dearest friend, he has not harmed me in any way.” Her blush deepened. “Although, I am not the same person this morning that I was when I awoke yesterday.” Arrianna narrowed her eyes, a sinking feeling deep in the pit of her stomach. “Explain.” Christine sat back, lowering her gaze. “I mean … that the captain has … and I am no longer…” She halted. With a furtive glance at Arrianna, a small half smile played across her mouth. “He stole your maidenhead, didn’t he? The bastard!” “No! He did not take that which I gave him willingly.” Christine protested, clasping Arrianna’s hand. “What?” Christine looked earnestly into Arrianna’s eyes. “For some time now, I have been aware of Henri’s interest in me, and I have wholeheartedly encouraged it.” “Why didn’t you tell me? Although, after this betrayal, I question your good sense.” “Please, Highness, don’t be angry. I could not take the chance of my secret being revealed. He was only the captain of Edward’s guard. His station was sorely beneath mine and as my guardian, your brother would never have allowed his suit. Yesterday simply provided a means to bring us together. And now,” her voice dropped to a whisper, “now, I cannot go to another man. Henri has ensured that.” Arrianna pursed her lips. So, Marchante had had a petit tendre for my friend, and now, he has taken her virginity. “So here is another black mark against that traitor! Christine, what were you thinking? How could you have encouraged his suit?” “Please Princess, at the time I did not know he was other than what he seemed. He was simply one of Edward’s men. How could I know he belonged to Le Monte?” Arrianna sighed. “You are right. He deceived everyone. It is he who should have avoided you instead of treating you like a pawn in Le Monte’s plot.” Christine brightened. “But it was my doing. I pursued him. I was quite taken with Henri from the moment I arrived at Bethany. In a crowded room or courtyard, my eyes sought only his. I had gone so far as to instigate ‘chance’ meetings where we would
exchange a few polite words. But I was careful that neither you nor Edward could see. Edward would not have been pleased.” Christine was quite correct. Edward would never have allowed Marchante to court her. More likely, Arrianna’s brother would have had him thrown in the dungeon if he knew the captain’s intentions. She looked down at her hand clasped in Christine’s. Arrianna had secretly hoped Edward would cast a favorable eye on his ward and make her his lady, but at best he ignored her. It was far past the time Edward should have sired an heir for Bethany, and her dear orphaned friend would have been a perfect mother. The only child of a respected noble family and a childhood playmate of Arrianna’s, Christine came to live at the castle four years ago when her parents fell ill and died of a winter fever. Her beguiling innocence and ability to find joy and delight in every aspect of life warmed Arrianna’s heart even while it strengthened her need to protect her young friend. Sighing for what now would never be, Arrianna grimaced. Who was she to condemn her friend for succumbing to passion when she, herself, had done that precise thing? She squeezed Christine’s hand. “If you are content with your choice, so am I. I wish you much happiness.” She would have to be on her guard when she spoke of Marchante and his betrayal now. She had no wish to cause her friend any pain by voicing her true feelings about the man. “Oh, thank you, Princess!” Christine leaned forward and gave Arrianna a warm hug. “He is everything I always dreamed of in a man … and a lover.” Having no wish to discuss men and their appetites, Arrianna quickly changed the subject. “So, how is it you are about the castle? Have they given us free run?” “I do not know. Henri left at first light with Le Monte and a party of men. Only now have I awoken again. I did not, um, sleep well last night.” Arrianna feared that her friend would spend the better part of the day with bright blushes staining her cheeks if they continued talking about Marchante. “I simply dressed,” she continued, “and left the chamber. No one stopped me. A young serving girl provided directions to the master’s chamber.” A wry smile crossed Arrianna’s lips. “How did you know I would be here? I could just as well have landed in the dungeon like any other captive.” “I may not have had all my faculties yesterday,” Christine giggled. “I was so terrified I could not think, but I did note the looks the master gave you and the seductive tone of his voice when he spoke to you.” She lowered her voice. “I came to live in Bethany after the abrupt departure of the infamous Black Wolf, but I am not so simple that I did not hear rumors of his attentions towards you.” It was Arrianna’s turn to blush. She had thought André’s behavior to her in public had been discreet, above reproach. But then, no servant would dare mention anything in her presence. Evidently, that did not hold true for Lady Christine. “I must tell you, Highness.” Christine hesitated as if disinclined to share her next thought. “I have never understood why you did not marry another after he left. You were young, beautiful and never lacked for suitors. Why did you pine for a man who had abandoned and betrayed you?” Arrianna released a long sigh. How could she explain? “If you had been in Bethany the day André de Le Monte rode up, you would not ask. Dressed in black and gold like
his men, all riding black horses, their banners waving in the wind. He truly was the Black Wolf. Although,” she mused, “his father still drew breath so he had not yet inherited the title.” She looked down at her hands and drifted to that wondrous day. “He was magnificent, Christine. A light snow fell and as they rode up to the main staircase to greet my father, I could see several flakes dusting his hair and tunic. I held back at the archway, hidden from his view but unable to stop staring. He addressed my father and brother in a rich, commanding voice that spoke of friendship and support for both kingdoms.” Arrianna let her memories wash over her and re-lived the heart stopping excitement of her first meeting with André. “As today, Le Monte was a mighty power then. My father sought to align Bethany’s fortunes with theirs. It was a great honor that the heir of Le Monte came personally to negotiate the treaty.” “You describe him as very mature, yet he did not seem so ancient yesterday in the hall.” “I was only sixteen so at four and twenty, he was much older, but I did notice the way his soft brown eyes crinkled when he smiled, how his strong, lean body moved like liquid when he dismounted, and the natural grace in his hands when he passed my father the token sword of peace.” “It was then that he noticed me and fixed me with a blazing stare. My father saw his distraction and called me to his side. When he introduced me, André took my hand and gently brought my fingers to his lips. His eyes held a look I did not know. It was not until later that I recognized it as desire, possession, hunger.” “It sounds so romantic, Highness.” Christine flopped back on the bed. “A dashing warlord, falling into your life.” Arrianna smiled. “Yes, he was dashing, and a bit arrogant—just enough to make him aggressive in his suit. He was kind and gentle, not forward. He treated me like a precious treasure. I could scarce believe he settled his eye on me.” She patted the coverlet, smoothing the silky fabric beneath her hand. “In the months that he was in Bethany, he sought me out at every opportunity. Although, it was not always easy to meet,” she giggled. “My father must have tasked Edward with guarding my virginity. Whenever André and I arranged an encounter, Edward would appear and attempt to lead André away to a hunt or a game of sport.” She looked off into the distance, remembering. “But we did evade Edward on many occasions. André would find me and we could not keep our hands from each other. A simple look from him would steal my breath away. He taught me much about love, passion … sorrow.” Her smile faded and the familiar pain gripped her heart. “And then he was gone.” Christine sighed. “I must say, I always had my doubts regarding his involvement in the, er, incident.” She grew silent at Arrianna’s raised eyebrows. “How can you say that? It was André’s knife that was found. My father was well guarded. No enemy could have entered his chamber, but a friend…” She let the implication hang. “I will hear no more of this talk. Come, have you heard where Le Monte and Marchante have gone?” Arrianna adjusted the fur about her shoulders. “No, I only dimly remember Henri leaving the bed and whispering he was off with
Le Monte for the day.” Christine withdrew her hand and settled herself more comfortably on the bed. “I see the Black Wolf is not a man of patience.” Arrianna followed Christine’s gaze to the shredded gown at the foot of the bed. “No. It appears patience is not one of his virtues, if indeed, he has any.” “I dare say, Günter of Evanwood might have exercised a greater degree of restraint,” Christine chuckled. “Günter!” Arrianna stared at her friend as the true measure of their situation crashed around her. Christine shrugged, “I see no need to worry about Günter now. He will know soon enough you will not marry him.” “No! You do not understand! Edward! Günter! The alliance! I must marry Günter or the alliance will be broken.” Hideous images passed before her minds eye. “Without the alliance, Bethany will be vulnerable to the hordes from the East. Hundreds, maybe thousands could die. No, I must seal the alliance! I must go to Evanwood!” Christine stared at her wide-eyed. “But how? We are trapped here. We have no horses, no guard, and you Princess, you have no clothing! How do you intend to get to Evanwood? It is mad to even think of trying!” “I do not know. In any case, I cannot stay here with the man who murdered my father!” **** A loud thud sounded outside the chamber door, followed immediately by another and yet another. Arrianna folded herself into her cloak, grateful to Christine for retrieving it from the great hall where it had fallen upon their arrival. “It appears the lord of the castle has returned,” Arrianna frowned. She had moved from the bed to a large wooden chair beneath a window. The door burst open and the Black Wolf of Le Monte strode purposely through. His face held no expression, but he raised an eyebrow when he saw Arrianna huddled in her cloak. “Going somewhere, Princess?” he quipped, noting the torn gown in her lap. She ignored his barb. “I trust you ladies have been well cared for in my absence. I left orders you were to be fed and treated as honored guests.” He spoke as if to both, but his eyes never left Arrianna’s face. “Yes, Milord,” piped up Christine when Arrianna continued to ignore him. “Your folk have been most courteous.” “Good,” he responded still staring at Arrianna. “Marchante has returned with me. Do not make him search the entire castle for you.” Christine jumped from her perch at the foot of the bed. “Yes, Milord,” she curtsied. With one last questioning glance at Arrianna, she scampered from the room, pulling the heavy door closed behind her. André’s dark hair glistened with droplets of water and his tunic showed damp patches. He must have washed off the dust from his travels in the courtyard with his men. Arrianna returned her attention to repairing her dress. The light outside waned as the sun dipped below the horizon. Christine had obtained a needle and a bit of thread from one of the soldier’s wives. No doubt the woman wanted to cull favor with the captain’s
new woman. Since yesterday’s confrontation in the great hall, the entire kingdom would be aware not only of their presence in the castle, but in whose chamber each had spent the night. André remained rooted where he stood, the sharp steel of his eyes measuring her. Without a word, he sat on the bed and pulled off his boots. Next, his tunic landed on the floor near her feet. When she looked up, he was unlacing his breeches and shoving them down his long, powerful legs. “Put down your needle, Princess. It would be a great loss to drop it as they are not come by easily.” “And why would I drop it? I have it firmly in my grasp.” She knew exactly why she would drop it, but steeled herself against him. Last night had been a dream, but she had a duty to her brother and their people. She could not fulfill that duty if she lingered in André’s bed. He drew close, quiet as a mountain cat before an attack. She caught his image out of the corner of her eye, broad chest, well muscled abdomen—she inhaled sharply—and erect, engorged cock. Her mouth went dry and a longing rattled through to her very core. “Once again, I ask you to put down your needle, Princess. I will not ask a third time.” The iron in his voice warned her more than his words. She jabbed the needle into the heavy fabric and set it aside. She would not be defeated so easily. “I only keep sewing, Milord, because I have nothing to wear. I am confined to this room until I can repair the gown you so casually destroyed.” She continued to focus on her hands in her lap, not daring to take in the sight of his arousal again. Two well formed feet came into view, one on either side of hers. If she lifted her head, his erection would be inches from her lips. No, she would not give in to the temptation. Gentle hands slid the cloak from her shoulders. She closed her eyes and allowed it to fall without protest. Her naked shoulders and breasts shivered at the early evening chill seeping through the windows. The soft head of his thick shaft caressed her cheek. She lifted her chin, reveling in the velvety smoothness. “Go ahead, my little dove. I’m waiting.” Arrianna resisted the pull, denying the pleasure she knew awaited. She could not succumb again to this Wolf. One who would so blithely take his pleasure with her then slit her father’s throat while he slept in his bed. His large hand caressed the top of her head, turning it so her lips grazed the bulbous head of his cock. “Yes, my love. Kiss me.” Arrianna’s mind fought with her body. She should move away, forbid him to touch her. But the musky scent of his sex and the smooth head of his cock demanded a response. Her own body conspired against her. She placed a soft kiss on the tip of his rod. So sweet. So silky at the head, yet the shaft was harder than steel. She trailed the edge of her teeth down the length of him. “Yes, my dove,” he murmured, stroking her hair. “You service me better than any wench I have ever known.” Arrianna’s mind focused on his comment before her mouth stopped taking its
pleasure. Any wench? Wench? What was she doing servicing the man who had wronged her and her family so brutally? The audacity of the bastard! Taking slow measured breaths, she grazed her top teeth gently up and down his erection. “Yes, love, keep doing that.” His hands moved faster in her hair, his fingers massaging her scalp, positioning her head for his enjoyment. She widened her mouth and scraped her top and bottom teeth along his length. Any wench, eh, Le Monte? Bracing her legs firmly on the floor, she bit down … hard, wanting to leave her mark. At his howl, she released him and leveraging her feet and legs, pushed his hips. He toppled to the rough wooden floor with a crash, clutching his sex. “What the hell…!” In the dim light, she saw tears leak from the sides of his eyes as she scurried to put the width of the bed between them. Struggling, she clutched her falling cloak around herself. With all her heart, she wished she had retrieved his knife from the headboard last night. An angry wolf was a danger. A wounded one was deadly. He rolled on the floor, roaring. “Why? Why? Why?” “Why? Why do you think? And I would do it again, you bastard.” The anger that welled in her heart on her arrival yesterday, anger that had disappeared under his masculine spell last night, finally returned. “Why? You murdered my father, you son of a cur! You stole my innocence so you could kill my father!” Years of frustration, disappointment and pain bubbled to the surface. A surface so thin and frail it cracked under the intensity of her emotion. “You used me, and then you murdered him! And I am not your wench!” André rolled to a sitting position still cupping his sex. No longer aroused, he stared down at it pitifully. “You bit my cock,” he whispered in disbelief. “You bit my cock.” He raised his hand to look at his palm. Astonishment spread across his face. “Blood. There is blood on my cock.” Rage flared, threatening to consume her. He hadn’t heard a word she said. He was only concerned with his cursed cock! “I trusted you! My father welcomed you into our house! He offered you an alliance. My brother called you friend! And how did you repay us? You murdered my father! You planted your spy in our camp! You gave my dear friend to that very same spy! You betrayed us! All of us!” As if returning from a far off place, André shook his head and focused his attention on her. His voice, no longer bewildered, turned hard and cold. “You bit my cock because you think I murdered your father? Have you taken leave of your senses, woman?” He staggered to his feet, still clutching his sex and leaning heavily on the enormous bedpost. “You should not have done that, Princess,” he rasped, his tone as deadly as a double edged sword. Fear shot through her veins as she belatedly assessed the consequences of her action. André was not a man who would forgive such a transgression. He took a step towards her, circling around the bed. She retreated towards the headboard. Her gaze darted to the door of the chamber, and she wished it was behind her, not André. Could she evade him and escape to the hall? “You cannot outrun me. Even in my wounded condition, I would be on you before you reached it,” he stated blandly, reading her mind.
Deciding to take her chances, she dashed to the door, skirting a wide berth around the aggrieved André. Reaching it first, hope sprang into her heart. As she flung open the heavy door, a sudden draft chilled her skin. “Leaving without this, my love?” snickered André. She turned her head to see him holding her cloak aloft, and ran into a solid wall—of chest. “Well, My Princess,” said Marchante, hand raised to knock. “This is quite an unexpected treat.”
Chapter Four André’s roar of laughter drowned out her squeal as she tried to cover her nakedness with her hands. She stooped, shielding her breasts and crotch, but Marchante’s guffaws joined André’s. “It is a good thing I did not know how sweet your little bird was, Milord, or I would have been sore pressed not to commit treason while guarding her.” Arrianna attempted to scoot back into the room, but André blocked her path. He stood behind her, cloak over his forearm, as he addressed his captain. “Pigs breath, man. You would not have survived her rejection. I, myself, am even now learning the length of her talons.” He dropped the cloak over her, shielding her from Marchante’s admiring eyes, but not allowing her to retreat into the room. “What takes you away from your warm bed with a willing maid?” chuckled André, rubbing his foot up Arrianna’s supple leg. Arrianna could not believe he was conducting a civil conversation with the captain of his guard while she crouched naked at his feet. Worse, André did not even notice his own nakedness, but continued his questioning as if they were at a banquet or a hunt, fully clothed. Marchante glanced down at the cowering figure of Arrianna. “Champlain and his men have returned. Günter is more than aware of the attack and that the Princess,” he lowered his voice and Arrianna had to strain to hear, “escaped.” André nodded. “Well then, we needs be prepared for a visit, do we not?” He looked down and Arrianna met his dark gaze before he again turned his attention to Marchante. “How long?” “Two, maybe three days at the most.” “Three days.” André lips curved into a crooked smile. “Well, my friend, the world was made in six. Do you think we can accomplish our task in half that time?” Marchante smiled. “If it is your wish to do so, then it will be done.” “You are a good man, Marchante. Get Champlain and six of your best men and meet me in the hall in an hour. I have some business to attend to here first.” He nudged Arrianna’s backside with his foot. “Yes, Milord.” Marchante turned to go then returned his interest to Arrianna, bending low over her huddled form. “May I say that even in your finest gowns, I have never seen you more beautiful, my Princess.” At André’s guffaw, he straightened, gave a sharp bow and departed. “That man is a gem, a true gem,” howled André, lifting his leg to kick the great wooden door shut. Arrianna thought to edge herself away but was blocked by his lean, muscled legs. “It is time to account for the trouble you have caused me, Princess.” His words ripped into her thoughts. After reciting the litany of wrongs he had brought against her, he had the gall…! “Trouble … I caused you?” André stared down at her, a half smile played across his lips. “You bit my cock. If that isn’t trouble for a man, I cannot say what is.” He leaned over and picked up her huddling figure. She kept her head tucked and her
arms clasped around her knees. “Hmm, you are quite the nicest little ball I have yet to play with.” He carried her to the bed and with no regard to her dignity, flipped her into the middle. Arrianna lay on her back, her cloak spread open about her. André stood at the side of the bed, his hand once again massaging his sex. “You caused me considerable pain, my love. Now, I am a reasonable man, but you pushed me beyond the point that any man need bear.” “I do not care if you slit my throat too. You … you murderer!” André flexed his shoulders like a man who had endured a difficult day only to find his fortitude tested again that night. “You call me murderer, yet you offer little proof. Your father was killed the very same night I bedded you and took your maidenhead.” He sat on the bedside, and she quickly scrambled to the opposite corner. “Why do you think t’was me?” His voice was soft, suggestive. “You were seen leaving my father’s chambers!” “I had business with him … private business. He was very much alive when I left him … and then I came to your bed.” “Then … then you must have returned!” “Tell me, sweetling, at what point that night did you miss my attentions? Was it when I suckled at your glorious breasts? When I sipped the nectar of your sweet nether lips? When I instructed you how to pleasure me with your mouth?” He cast her a sideways glance and his lips curved slightly upward. “Before you learned to unfurl your fangs. Or maybe you missed me when you begged for a release you did not yet understand?” He leaned forward, grabbing her ankle. “Or mayhap it was when I clasped you beneath me, spreading your thighs and claimed you as mine? Is that when you noticed I was no longer in your bed, Princess? Was that when I left to murder your father?” His breath came in short spurts as he pulled her ankle, and slid up her naked body. “Is that when you noticed my cock was no longer thrusting into you? That I was no longer shouting your name as I spilled my seed, seed which I prayed would take root and bear me sons? Is that when you noticed I was no longer in you or your bed?” Arrianna lay motionless beneath him, stunned. The earnest promise in his eyes belied everything she knew to be true. “No, no, you lie!” She shook her head. “You were gone when I awoke! Run away like a thief in the night!” He raised his hand and brushed the hair from her eyes. “Gone, yes. And it is only by the grace of God, or rather Marchante, that I am here now. He knew mischief was afoot and found me in your chambers. It is through his loyalty that I am alive today.” What was he saying? That he was with her when that horrible deed transpired? “How would Marchante even know where my chambers were? As I recall, he was merely a foot soldier when my father was killed. He did not rise in rank until my brother assumed the throne.” André bent his head and devoured her lips with his. He shifted his weight, wedging her thighs open with his leg. “You are so enticing when you are naive, little one. I had Marchante in place months before I answered your father’s invitation to forge an alliance. A man must not be too trusting when courting his friends … or adversaries.” He placed a soft kiss on her temple. “Any adversary.” His lips moved to her mouth, but she held it closed, too confused to understand what
he claimed. If he had been in her bed the whole night and from what splendid memories she held in her heart, it was possible, how could he have killed her father? She struggled to free her lips from his kiss, her hands pressed against his shoulders. “Your knife,” she gasped, trying to fling away the intoxicating aura of his scent. “It was your knife that was found in my father’s throat.” “My knife, eh Princess?” She closed her eyes as his thumbs massaged the beating pulse at her temples. “Yes.” His fingers wove an intoxicating spell even as his hard body wove a more enticing one on her sensitive flesh. “Yes, I saw it with my own eyes.” “Your own eyes, hmm? How do you know it was mine?” He elevated his knee, already wedged between her thighs, and rubbed it intimately against her hot, slick puss. “Your crest. It had your crest.” She breathed hard and stared into his slumberous eyes, half closed now. He was aroused but holding tight control on his desire. It was not fair that he could elicit such passion from her while keeping his own ardor in check. “It had my crest? Then, I must have killed him.” He lowered his head to murmur in her ear, his hot breath sending shivers through her. “You do not deny…,” she gasped, taking in every bit of pleasure he offered. “How can I deny such irrefutable evidence that you saw with your own eyes?” He leaned his head lower, taking her lush breast into his mouth. Arrianna squirmed, threading her fingers through his rich, dark hair and pulling him tighter against her yearning breast. He sucked greedily, drawing her nipples up in long, even pulls. What was he saying? Did he now confess to her father’s murder? Her body ignored her thoughts and sang at his touch. She would hate herself—again—for succumbing to him, but the choice had already been taken from her. She squeezed her thighs in anticipation. The pressure of his hairy knee between her wet folds stirred sharp sensations down to her inner core. She was close, so close. If only he would move his knee faster. Her muzzy brain was unable to comprehend his words. “So you saw my knife?” She lifted her hips and rubbed her clit against his knee in a silent entreaty. “Think you, Princess, that there exists only one dagger with the Le Monte crest?” “Huh? I saw your dagger.” Her need was unbearable. Why wouldn’t he satisfy her? “Yes, my sweet, you have seen my knife,” he whispered taking her mouth in a sweet, lingering kiss. When his lips parted from hers, she met his hungry eyes with a question in her own. Torn between the delicious rhythm he created and her need to understand what he was saying, she stated, “Yes, in my father’s body.” “No, little dove, I did not leave my dagger in your father. We played with my knife last night. You drove me wild with it. Your tit is intimately familiar with my Le Monte dagger. You recall, I flung it into my bed when I could bear the game no longer.” **** In one swift motion, André was off the bed and pulling on his breeches. Arrianna lay stunned, unable to comprehend either his actions or his words. Her body begged for release even as her mind begged for answers. She sat slowly, pulling her abandoned cloak around her. Having laced his breeches, André wrestled into his tunic, tugging the hem over his broad chest and narrow hips.
“What are you doing? Where are you going?” He sat on the bed, pausing to look at her as he pulled on his boot. “André,” her voice rose, “do not look at me like I am simple! What are you saying?” The corners of his lips turned up in a half smile. “No, you are not simple, my love.” He reached and cupped her head, bringing her face close to his. His breath was warm on her lips, and she stuck out her tongue to lick his, tasting a bit of salty sweat on his upper lip. “Mayhap you require some time to think this through. I have to meet with my men.” He released her and pulled on his other boot. “That … that knife is the same one that killed my father?” She shrank from him and huddled deeper into her cloak at the abhorrent idea that the blade that had so seductively toyed with her breast was the same one used to murder her father. André turned, shaking his head. “As I said, mayhap you need some time to think on this, little one.” He stood and strapped on his sword, then bent to shove the dagger into his boot, making certain she could see the Black Wolf of the Le Monte crest carved on its handle. Without another word, he strode to the door and yanked it open. A loud thud followed by a string of curses met her ears. “You there. And you, boy. Carry these chests into my chamber.” André’s voice was low and menacing, the voice of a man at the end of his patience. “Put them wherever Milady wants as long as I won’t trip over the cursed things!” His boot heels echoed on the stone floor as he strode down the long hallway. Arrianna’s mind whirled with questions and her body hummed from André’s gentle assault. But the sight of two young servant boys carrying in her chest brought a squeal of delight to her lips and blotted out all other thoughts. Gathering her cloak tightly around her, she popped off the bed and hurried to the door. She had believed her possessions to be lost or looted after the attack, but through some miracle of André’s here they were. “Milady?” the taller of the boys asked. “Over there. Next to the master’s.” She clasped her hands, astonished. They hobbled to the place indicated, staggering under the weight of the ornately carved chest. They dropped it, then returned again and yet a third time. All three of her chests, containing everything she held dear, were recovered. Arrianna smiled her thanks, and the boys fell over each other to depart before she could find more labors for them. She noted that the casket containing the hundred gold pieces that was to be her marriage portion, her dowry, was not brought with the rest of her things. Closing the door behind them, she shed her heavy cloak, ignoring the slight chill against her naked skin. She threw open the lid of the largest chest, giddy as a child at Michaelmas. A rainbow of color greeted her, but at the sight of her gowns piled neatly within, a wave of homesickness gripped her heart. She recalled packing them with Christine, folding and carefully placing them in the chest, believing the next time she would see them would be at Evanwood. Her hopes from that day seemed a hundred lifetimes ago. Evanwood. She fingered the soft pile of a green velvet gown. The rich emerald dress was a favorite. She had planned to be married in that gown. Married to Günter. Even now, Günter marched his men towards Le Monte. Would he pay her ransom? And what of Edward? It was too soon for her brother to have knowledge of the attack. Even if a swift rider was dispatched from
Evanwood, it would be a week before word could reach him. Dear Edward. Their father’s murder had so affected him, forcing him to assume the throne at such an early age. His joy in life seemed to dry up and blow away like the embers of a long dead fire. He had distanced himself from her then, refusing to take or provide comfort in their mutual grief. For a time, he had obsessed over obtaining retribution from André. But Bethany was a small kingdom when compared with the power and strength of Le Monte. André’s father had rallied his vassals and allies and Edward was forced to desist. Whether it was their father’s death or lack of revenge, she did not know, but Edward no longer sought her company. Would he fly into a rage at the thought of their father’s assassin holding her for ransom? She stopped. Ransom. André had not mentioned one word about that. She shrugged. Perhaps one did not discuss ransom with one’s captive. A glimmer of a thought niggled at the edge of her mind. What had he proclaimed in the great hall yesterday? She had been so angry and, if truth be told, apprehensive, she had not heard half of what was said. André would not allow another man to take what was his alone? Her body betrayed her as she now recalled the desire in his eyes when he called her his prize. Her heartbeat quickened and a heat, which still simmered low in her belly, unfurled at the memory of his words. Did he intend to keep her? Was that his intention all along? Not the promise of a generous ransom or the theft of her dowry? Studying the contents of the chest, she absently stroked her breast, the one André had so recently suckled. Was she to stay here or be ransomed to Günter and her brother? Would she want to spend her nights in André’s bed or Günter’s? André’s mouth did wonderful things to her body. He could play it like a minstrel’s lute or pull every nerve until she was as tight as one of the lute’s strings. Her nipple hardened under her touch, and she gently pinched it. The little bud tightened into a throbbing peak. She flicked her nail across it, heightening the sensation, imagining André’s teeth grazing across the tender nub. Standing, she wandered to the narrow window to gaze out over the battlements at the night sky beyond. His abrupt departure had left her wanting, hungry, in need of release. Caressing both her breasts now, she pulled and pinched her nipples until the sharp sting turned to exquisite pleasure. André had done this on that first night so many years ago. She recalled melting in his arms, wishing him to continue forever. He had not done it last night. Maybe she would ask him to pleasure her thusly when next he bedded her. When the sensation was no longer enough, she moved her hands downward, across her flat belly to tangle in her soft curls. She played with her downy mound until the scent of her aroused body stirred her to move lower. Her channel was slick with her juices, and she placed a tentative finger on her clit. The nub tightened at her touch, shooting a lightening bolt to her core. Closing her eyes, she reveled in the pure joy of being a woman. She massaged the tiny throbbing bud, slowly discovering the sensations were sharper, more intense if she stroked her finger this way, instead of that. Bending forward, she pressed her heated forehead to the cool stone window ledge. Her breath came in short, shallow pants as the speed of her fingers increased. She spread her legs, allowing her hand to reach further. She thought of André, pretended that the fingers eliciting this superb response from her body were his. She thought of his thick erection coated with her honey, sliding deep within her. Moving her fingers lower, she
poised them at the entrance to her channel, savoring the anticipation. Slowly, tentatively, she inserted the tips inside, imagining they were the head of André’s cock. Delicious tremors racked her, and she pushed her fingers further. The sensations were sublime, but she did not have the thickness or length of his shaft. Moving them in and out, she parodied his motions. Her timing was not as exact as his, and she experimented by inserting her fingers swiftly and pulling them out slowly. Good, but not the same. How quickly she had become addicted to him. Pleasuring herself was a poor substitute for his cock. A ragged cry escaped her throat and tears of frustration leaked from her eyes. Why had he left her in such a state? Was she to spend the rest of the night in this agony? A warm breath grazed her ear. “Allow me, Princess.”
Chapter Five Arrianna’s eyes flew open, and she attempted to move away but the hard planes of a naked male body pressed into her back. His scent, male and aroused, enveloped her. She recognized it immediately even in her euphoric state. “Are you having difficulty finding release, my dove?” a husky chuckle caressed her earlobe. “Mayhap you need a firmer hand.” She froze, realizing her fingers remained deep inside her slit. Before she could remove them, André’s large palm covered her hand, pushing them further in. “There, my sweet. Is that better?” In a slow, rolling rhythm, he moved his hand back, drawing hers with it, then leisurely pushed her fingers up into herself. André bent over her, rubbing his hairy legs against her thighs, his cock against her ass, his chest against her back. “Now I know the reason for your delay. I anticipated you joining me in the hall, but then feared once you had your clothes, you might run from me.” His hot words rasped in her ear. “Little did I think you would need to be fucked again so soon.” He kissed her hair, continuing to move her hand. “But after what you did to my cock…” He left the thought hanging. Her mind was a jumble. When had he returned? How did he come to be naked? He departed fully clothed. Had she been so intent on her release she didn’t hear him strip? No, he had more stealth than a sly fox. He could stalk a mountain lion and it would never hear him. With his free hand, he lifted her hair over one shoulder, baring her neck and back to his lips and placed a soft kiss at the curve of her shoulder. “So precious. So perfect.” He shifted his stance and wedged his cock into the crease between her cheeks. Arrianna stiffened, unsure if she was ready for his entry into her back hole. “Shh, calm down, little one. That is not my intention. Sometime … soon, but not tonight.” Her muscles relaxed, now enjoying the feel of his thick shaft nestled between her buttocks. He thrust his hips slightly and she pushed back. He began a slow beat, matching the pace of their hands. Arrianna soon became lost in the primal dance. “It excites me to have your nectar drip so abundantly over my fingers.” He nuzzled her neck, trailing kisses down her shoulder. “If I did not think you would bite me again, I would remove them from your delicious puss and watch you lick them clean.” “No, André. No,” she cried. Alarm tinged her voice. “Do not stop. I would not survive.” His lips curved into a smile against her shoulder. “No, sweetling, we will continue.” He shifted his thumb and so stroked her clitoris each time her fingers moved deep into her channel. At his touch, her world stood still for an eternity before it exploded into a thousand pieces. “André! André! And…” Her mind spiraled out of control, but still his hand and hips continued their sensual rhythm. Her legs quivered, too weak to stand, and he grasped her around the waist with his free arm. His breath rasped loudly in the silent room. She struggled to maintain awareness, waiting for that moment when she could revel in his climax.
André’s hips jerked violently against her thighs. His hand tightened on her fingers, pushing them further inside her. “Arrianna!” His strangled cry exploded from deep within as his seed erupted onto her back. The hot lava flowed with the thrusts of his hips harder and faster against her ass. She moved with him, driving her ass against his pelvis. Tightening her buttock around his cock to squeeze every last drop of fluid from him. “Arrianna, my sweet little Arrianna,” he murmured. “I am spent.” With a heavy groan, he removed his cock from between her cheeks. “God’s Blood! You have milked me dry, woman.” He exhaled, playfully nipping her neck. “Don’t move.” Move? She was astonished she could still stand. By the heavens, was there no end to his appetite for the joys of the flesh? She secretly hoped not. Still clinging to the window ledge, she looked over her shoulder and watched André saunter to the bucket of water near the bed. Dipping in a small linen towel, he wrung the excess water then cleansed his abdomen, cock and balls. A small bit of creamy fluid glistened on his thigh, but he did not notice it and tossed the cloth into the bucket. He strode to the great stone fireplace and stirred the coals. A faint glow appeared, and he reached for a torch. Once the chamber was lit, he rinsed the cloth, picked up the bucket and returned to her trembling form at the window. The cold water on her back was a sharp contrast to his warm seed. He wiped her back, then reached low to cleanse her tender folds and thighs. The liberties he took—that she allowed—with her person caused her head to swim. He had no reservation about placing his hands, fingers, tongue or any other part of his body on or in her. The towel splashed into the bucket. André cupped her shoulders, straightening and turning her in one motion. He pulled her into his arms, and she buried her face in his chest. “Well now,” he chuckled, “it appears that I am still in working condition even after your none too gentle treatment of my shaft.” Heat crept up her neck and blossomed in her cheeks. Was he jesting about her abominable act? God’s Beard, it was inconceivable that she had treated him so savagely and more so that he had forgiven her. André stroked her hair, softly kissing her temple. Such a contentment overcame her, the temptation to believe his endearments of “little one” and “my heart” welled within her. Could any woman be his “sweetling” or his “little dove?” Or were they all meaningless words? “I have missed you, little one,” he murmured. “More than you will ever know.” She was tempted to question why he had forgotten her for five years but did not wish to instigate another confrontation while he held her so tenderly. It did not ring true that he would have her watched by Marchante, treat her so endearingly now, yet have no contact with her for so long. Why did he not have Marchante deliver some message? Or kidnap her from her brother’s castle? Surely, many opportunities presented themselves over the years. Frowning to herself, she nuzzled her face into his chest hair, taking in his wildly masculine scent. She would pursue that line of thinking at a later time. “I fear that if you continue to display your favors so becomingly, my heart, I will have my cock inside you as soon as it recovers from this last bout.” He eased Arrianna
from him. “Come, we retrieved your belongings with great difficulty, I would see you dressed in some of that finery.” She was loathe to leave the warmth of his embrace, but the thought of donning her treasured garments pulled her from his arms and sent her flying to her chests. She knelt before the largest of the wooden carved trunks where she so recently fingered the green velvet. She pushed it and thoughts of wedding Günter aside. Running her hands over the fine silks and velvets, she found it difficult to decide which to choose. “That one,” André said, coming up behind her. “I have a preference for the blue silk, my dove. In its color, I can see your eyes reflected a thousand times. She withdrew the gown, letting its full train fall to the floor. Its rich texture mingled with the subtle grain of the fabric, causing it to glimmer in the torchlight. “It is one of my favorites, but I cannot wear it.” At the slight down curve of his lips, she hurried to continue. “The bindings are in the back. I cannot reach them. Lady Christine will need to be summoned.” His lips now curved into a slow smile that showed his straight white teeth and traveled until it lit his eyes. It was a smile that could lay any woman low, but when directed at Arrianna, it took her breath away. She could not help but smile back. “Think you, Princess, that I am incapable of lacing a lady’s bodice? I assure you, I am well schooled in the practice.” He stepped around, taking the dress from her. “Hold up your arms.” She did as instructed but scrunched up her nose, letting her eyes narrow to slits. Men! Always bragging about their conquests! The gown billowed over her head, hiding her reaction to his insensitive comment. “I would have thought you had more practice unlacing them,” she muttered, her retort muffled by the folds of the dress. He pulled at the garment, adjusting it to her shoulders and hips. “Caution, Princess. Do not show me your claws again. I may not be as patient a man the next time you unsheathe them.” He tugged the lacing tight, squeezing the breath from her. “André !” “Very well,” he chuckled, loosening the bindings. “I have made my point.” He tied off the straps that crisscrossed her back, holding the garment closed. “There you are, little one. Fit to be presented to my people.” She turned sharply. “Presented?” she asked, her voice barely a squeak. He strode to his own wooden chest and threw open the lid. “Yes, presented. Did you think to hide in my chamber the remainder of your life?” Indeed, she had not thought at all. She had been in Le Monte castle for just over a day and had assumed she would be ransomed. She caught herself up short. “What do you mean ‘the remainder of my life’?” He glanced over his shoulder but did not respond. Shifting his attention back to the chest, he pulled out a pair of sleek black breeches and a black tunic trimmed with golden threads. The lid slammed. He sat on it, pulling on his breeches. “André! What ‘remainder of my life’?” How long was “the remainder of her life?” Deep fear rose in her belly, threatening to gurgle out of control. She pushed it back, refusing to believe he would make passionate love to her only to later execute her. Did his hatred of Bethany and her father now extend to all the royal family? He stood, pushing his sex inside his breeches and fastening the lacings. Grabbing the
tunic, he shrugged it over his head, tugging it down past the hard slab of his abdomen. Arrianna registered his curling chest hair displayed in the deep V of the neckline. Dressed as he was, he exuded a powerful male presence, a dangerous presence that until now, she hadn’t thought could be directed at her. “André! Answer me!” No, he could not mean her harm! He sat again on the trunk and pulled on his boots, ignoring her. When he stood to strap on his sword, she backed away, sidling towards the chamber door. Had she been so wrong? Could it be he did not come for her because he did not want her? No, her heart insisted. If he’d wanted to harm her, he’d passed up many opportunities. Picking up his knife, he slid it into his boot. She inhaled sharply. In the excitement of the day, she’d forgotten André’s dagger and all it implied. “André! Answer me now! What do you mean ‘the remainder of my life’? Are you going to execute me?” Without warning, he was on her, gripping her shoulders with his large hands. She shrank back, alarmed at the dark threat in his bottomless eyes. He stared at her for a long minute, his face so close, she could discern the few golden flecks that surrounded the outer rims. His mouth quirked, and he gave her a rueful smile. “I swear,” he teased. “It appears that you are simple, my dove.” **** Andre stood by his clothing chest, inspecting a large parchment. Periodically, he cast a glance her way, but when she turned he would not meet her eye. “What is that you are looking at so intently?” “Nothing, my heart, ‘tis a document I have not reviewed, oh these many years. One that I have not been able to carry out. I am hopeful that situation will soon be remedied.” She smoothed her gown and made to dress her hair. If he did not wish to tell her now, mayhap he would tell her later. Finger-combing the long strands of hair, she remembered her chests and flew to them. The smallest of the three held her attention, and she threw open the lid. Digging through the contents, she located her prize. A comb, hand-carved from the finest beech. Its delicate teeth were pointed to easily separate her hair, yet not so sharp as to prick her scalp. She wandered to the chair before the fireplace, carefully raking it through her tresses. It had been several days since comb had met hair and Andre’s ardor had left it in a mass of tangles. He came up behind her, lifting the comb from her hands. “So beautiful,” he murmured, “like Apollo’s own golden chariot.” She did not move as he threaded the comb through her hair, gently freeing the knots and snarls. As he worked, his hands caressed her neck, her ears, her temples. Her heart thudded in her chest so loudly she wondered he did not hear it. When he was done, he lifted her chin with his finger, smoothing his thumb over her lips. “You bewitch me, sweetling. You would have me forget my duties.” He leaned over and lightly brushed her lips with his. “I want nothing more than to tumble you back upon the bed but away we must.” He released her and abruptly strode to the chamber door. “Come, love, my folk await.” Arrianna hurried to keep up with André’s long strides as they made their way down the corridor towards the stairs.
“Tell me, Princess. Why after five years of refusing all suitors did you consent to wed Günter?” He asked in an easy manner, too easy. What was his real question? Did he wish to know if she had given her heart—and more—to Günter or did he want details of the alliance between Evanwood and Bethany? How much should she say? “Well,” she hesitated and by his sharp look, she knew he would not believe what she said. Very well, she would tell the truth. “In the negotiations of the alliance, Günter demanded me as a bond. My brother agreed without my knowledge. Not that I had any say in the matter.” They had reached the stairs, and André stopped. “You are telling me that after five years of allowing you to refuse suitors, Edward suddenly chooses one without your assent? Did you not find that … odd?” He raised his eyebrow, but the slanted scar that cut it in two gave him a menacing rather than an inquiring look. It was a new scar and she wondered when he had acquired it, but his tone discouraged her from asking. Instead, she concentrated on his question. At the time, Edward said he had no choice if the alliance was to be formed. But now, under André’s scrutiny, that argument did not seem plausible. Her brother had formed other alliances where she was requested, but he had always refused, saying his sister was not a bargaining tool. Some of those wanting her had been young, comely lords. Had she not been in love with André, she may have consented to one of them. Why had Edward promised her to a man twice her age? “I do not know how to respond. That thought did not occur to me.” She spoke honestly, having nothing to hide on this topic. André stared at her for a long moment, measuring her answer against some unspoken knowledge. Evidently, her reply passed his test for he took her hand and pulled her into an embrace. “So, it was not the thought of marrying Günter that caused you to forget me?” He did not wait for her response but leaned her over his arm and crushed his mouth to hers. Tunneling his other hand into her hair, he anchored her to him. She opened to him willingly, wondering at his sudden ardor. He ate her mouth, sucking her lower lip before invading with his tongue. She wanted it never to end. “We should not have tarried,” he groaned, pulling his mouth away. Turning, he backed her against the cool, stone wall and the swell of his cock pushed against her belly. His lips traveled to her neck in a string of hot, wet kisses. “Günter will never have you,” he muttered, lifting her skirt. His hand rode up her inner thigh but he hesitated, not venturing to stroke her. Already quivering from his sensuous hair-combing, she was more than ready for his demands. She lowered her torso, searching for his touch, but he slid his fingers to her hip. His other hand fumbled with the binding on his breeches. “You have two hands, Princess,” he growled. “Use them to unlace me before I burst!” With her mind a fog, her body took over, knowing a sensuous reward awaited. Releasing the last of the bindings, his swollen cock fell into her waiting hands. She stroked him and felt the tiny marks where she had bit him. A wave of regret and humiliation swept over her, and she silently vowed never to harm him again—in any way. “Hold back your skirt,” he ordered.
She released his shaft and grabbed the folds of her gown, freeing his hands. Grasping her waist, he lifted her into position. Instinctively, she wrapped her legs around his hips. The head of his penis toyed with her clitoris. She would go mad if he waited any longer. She nipped his neck, scraping her teeth upward to his earlobe. “Now!” “As you wish, my dove,” he rasped through gritted teeth. He arched back, drove into her wet slit and slammed her down hard on his cock. Her world exploded on his first stroke. She bucked and clung to him as he continued to search for his release. His heavy cock thrust into her again and again until he shouted his satisfaction. The world came into focus as if she were awakening from a dream. The staircase was still dark and the wall bracing her back remained cool. Only her inner core throbbed as André gently eased himself from her. She felt an emptiness once he was free. As if a part of her had been lost. His seed dribbled down her leg, and she pressed her thighs together in an effort to keep it within her. A muffled sound down the corridor caught her attention and she quickly dropped her skirts into place. Had she really just allowed André to have her in the hallway? Was there no end to her need for him? No end to her lack of modesty? André finished lacing his breeches and turned to offer her his arm. His smile was a little too wide, a little too cocky. “Nothing like a quick fuck before dinner, eh Princess?”
Chapter Six “Did you not enjoy the welcome my folk provided?” André whispered into her ear. His lips touched her lobe, sending shivers down her spine. Arrianna sat beside him on the dais, sharing a trencher of food. The venison was not to her liking but the bread was warm and the cheese plentiful. She stared across the table out into the dimly lit great hall, crowded with unruly men and women, all eating and drinking as if this were their last meal. On the benches closest to the dais sat more elegant couples, dressed in finery that rivaled her own. The nobility of Le Monte. Their soft conversations and genteel manners were in direct contrast to that of the noisy soldiers and their wenches seated further back. “It was most … gratifying.” Indeed, everyone, noble and commoner alike, had shouted, stamped their feet, and pounded the tables with their goblets, tankards and anything else they could place their hands on. “Do they hate Günter so much that they cheer at his betrothed being taken prisoner?” “Prisoner?” André affected a wounded countenance. “Never prisoner. I prefer … Honored Guest. It has a more pleasing tone to it. Come, you must keep up your strength.” He speared a slice of meat with his dagger and put it to her lips. So as not to give offense, she plucked it off and placed a morsel in her mouth. Looking at either side of the table, she was again taken by the elevated status of Marchante and Champlain. That the captain of the guard and a lowly sergeant should be seated at the master’s table while nobles and their ladies sat below was unthinkable. Marchante leaned forward, no doubt feeling her contemptuous glare. A thin smile passed across his lips, and he raised a questioning eyebrow before turning to whisper into Lady Christine’s ear. His arm lay draped across her shoulder as his hand slid inside the bodice of her dress to cup a small breast. Christine’s eyes shot to hers. The apologetic look needed no words. Christine was a woman totally besotted with her man and would allow him any liberty. Arrianna offered her a small grin before returning her attention to the hall. “You object to those present at my table?” André speared another piece of meat and bit it from the knife. “It is just that I am unaccustomed to soldiers dining at my table.” And traitors, for that matter. “I see. Captain Marchante was good enough to risk his life to save you and your little friend, but he’s not good enough to eat at the same table?” “He did not save us. Those were your men shooting,” she hissed through clenched teeth. “They would not have aimed at him or us.” André stopped mid-bite. “You think those were my men using their bows against you?” “Of course they were! Who else could they be?” She tore a piece of bread from the crisp loaf and popped it into her mouth. His eyes shaded over and his heavy lashes did not quite mask the steel of his gaze. “Do you think I would trust a captain that led his own men into a slaughter regardless to whom those men pledged allegiance? Men who followed him unquestionably? Think you
that the man who protected you for five years would risk your ungrateful life in a staged ambush when he was sworn to defend you?” The ferocity of his voice alarmed her, but she could not turn away from his piercing look. “But I saw them, if only for an instant. They were dressed all in black … like the men of Le Monte.” What was André saying? Of course, those were his men. “The same men that met us on the mountain crest. They … they were wearing your color.” “Can you not tell the difference between an attacker and a defender, woman?” André’s bellow caught the attention of those at his table. A few heads seated close to the dais also turned. She held her breath and bowed her head, not wanting to be the cause of his rage or the object of attention. André sighed, his anger ebbing immediately. “Each hour I am with you, the more convinced I become that you do not frequently use the good sense God gave you.” Arrianna’s head shot up, and she opened her mouth to protest the insult, but he held up his hand. “Your party was followed by Sergeant Champlain from the moment you came within twenty miles of Le Monte lands. Captain Marchante was aware of this extra precaution. When the attack commenced, Marchante had no thought other than your safety. He could not risk your life by staying and fighting with the men of Bethany—his men.” Her mouth went dry, and she reached for her wine, but she had no strength to lift the goblet. Could she and Christine have been in mortal danger? André leaned past Arrianna and spoke to Champlain. “Tell her the rest, Armand.” Sergeant Champlain’s gentle, black eyes caught and held hers. She was taken by his swarthy good looks and broad, muscular physique . It seemed that most of the men of Le Monte were pleasing to the feminine eye. “I saw Marchante lead you into the forest so I protected your flank until I was sure the attackers did not follow.” He lowered his voice. “Your guard put up a valiant fight, Princess. They kept the attackers at bay. I saw to what lengths they went to ensure your escape. They died bravely.” The image of her bleeding guards lying in the dirt brought stinging tears to her eyes. Those dear, gallant men. But wait… She turned to André. “How came your men to be riding up on the crest? It was no accident they were there. They expected us.” “Excellent point, Princess.” He smiled indulgently. “Maybe you are not as slow witted as I’ve come to believe.” He stabbed another piece of meat and slid it into his mouth. Arrianna knew he but teased her about being simple. It was a small jest they had between them long ago in Bethany. Only there, he had used it when teaching her about intimate pleasures. He used it now both to remind her of that time and—she was sure—to gently mock her. André motioned for a serving wench to pour them both more wine. Arrianna could not help but notice the swish of her lush hips and the saucy smile she gave André. Arrianna frowned, wondering if she was one of the master’s wenches. She was relieved when the girl moved on to Marchante. He whispered something and the girl’s response had Lady Christine blush to a never-before-seen shade of red. The girl and Marchante laughed loudly before he hugged Christine and the wench left the dais. André took a long draught of wine before slamming his silver cup on the table. “My apologies, Armand, please continue.”
“Once I was assured the attackers could not reach you, Princess, I cut West. The trail is shorter but more treacherous. I brought news of the ambush and the men of Le Monte rode to meet you. “With the burden of two terrified, irrational women,” André interjected, “Marchante had to stick to the longer, more docile trail.” “I was not irrational!” Although she was in danger of becoming so now. Champlain quickly excused himself with a courtly bow to Arrianna and a sharp nod to André. He jumped from the dais and joined a group of raven haired ladies at a lower table. Hundreds of possibilities swirled in her mind. The terror for her personal safety had waned in the last day, although her remorse for her lost guard increased. Believing Le Monte had staged the attack, she thought herself and Christine to be in no danger. But if Le Monte was to be believed…? André’s voice took on a seductive tone as he leaned over and flipped his tongue against her earlobe. “You owe Marchante your gratitude, my dove, not your contempt. It pains me deeply to say, that without his aid, you and your Lady would be as dead as your guard.” The few candles on the table were reflected in his dark eyes, piercing her soul and all she believed to be true. Arrianna froze, searching André’s face. “You mean to say I was the target? They were trying to kill me?” “From the banners and colors, there could be no mistaking the party was that of the Princess of Bethany. You traveled with a large, heavily armed guard. No band of common thieves would have dared attack. You say your attackers were dressed in my color. I say, they were not my men.” André’s hand came up to cup her breast, pushing the soft mound out of her neckline. He stopped short of exposing her nipple, but trailed his lips from her ear to the milky white swell. “Yes, my dove,” he murmured, grazing his teeth along the neckline of her gown. “Someone wants you dead.” She shuddered at his words. Dead? Who could want her dead? Lost in thought, she cupped his head, running her fingers through his thick hair. Something was not as it should be. If Le Monte’s story was to be believed, then who attacked them? One of the minor kings? But why? Edward had no quarrel with anyone but Le Monte. Why target her? She frowned, staring out into the dim light of the hall. Who would profit by her death? It was becoming increasingly difficult to concentrate with André paying such ardent attention to her breasts. Her breasts! Heat rose to color her cheeks. Where had her modesty gone? A hundred people, all of whom had an open view of her, sat in the hall watching their lord kiss and fondle her breasts! Leaning back, she placed her hands on his shoulders and shoved. She nearly knocked over her chair but succeeded in dislodging André from her person. “Get off me, you oaf! People are watching!” “What?” he asked, dazed, falling into his high backed, lavishly carved chair. Marchante’s laughter caught her ear. She turned to glare and offer a curt word but was silenced at the sight of Lady Christine straddled across his hips, feverishly kissing his face and neck. His full lips curved into a smile as his hand traveled upward to cup Christine’s breast. As she watched, he drew down her neckline, freeing the small mound. Grasping her nipple between his thumb and index finger, he pinched her. Christine moaned and buried her mouth against his neck. His fingers continued to play with her
while his soft brown eyes held Arrianna’s. He smiled, then lowered his lips to replace his fingers. He took Christine’s pert breast in his mouth and sucked deeply. “Does that fascinate you, my dove?” Arrianna ripped her gaze from the erotic sight. What was Christine thinking? Allowing herself to be handled so intimately and in public! Arrianna turned her attention to André. “I … I…” “Ah, you’ve turned simple again. There is nothing wrong with a man enjoying his woman.” He stared as Marchante exposed Christine’s other breast, moving his mouth to pleasure it while his fingers pulled at the wet nipple he had already attended. “She is lovely, but I prefer fuller, rounder tits … like yours, sweetling.” “André!” gasped Arrianna, eyes wide in disbelief. “What manner of court do you hold? How is it that a man can expose and fondle a woman at the master’s table?” The loud crash of the door at the back of the hall, cut short his reply. “André de Le Monte!” called a loud, belligerent voice. “André de Le Monte!” The sound of a hundred swords being unsheathed drew Arrianna’s attention to a figure on the stairs leading into the hall. Soldiers and nobles held their weapons at the ready. Many of the women and even several of the fine ladies drew daggers. The rowdy hall fell quieter than an interred coffin. “A messenger, Milord! He is unarmed,” called a guard, rushing in behind the intruder. André stood slowly, his chair scraping the wooden dais. Arms akimbo, he sauntered to the end of the dais and passed in front of the table, coming to a halt before his chair. Arrianna inhaled sharply. At that moment, André truly was the Black Wolf of Le Monte. “Let him pass … unharmed.” The occupants of the hall lowered their weapons but did not sheath them. A lone man strode unhurried between the rows of tables, halting before the dais. André made no move but stared down, his eyes sharper than his Le Monte dagger. The bright emerald of the man’s livery needed no introduction, but André waited. The formalities must be observed. “André de Le Monte! I am come from Günter of Evanwood.” Arrianna’s hand flew to her throat, and she shrank back in her chair. What she had prayed for during her first moments at Le Monte—a rescue from Günter—had come true. But now, she was certain that marriage to Günter was not what she wanted. Had today been her last of intimate moments with her soul mate? André quirked a half smile. “And to what do I owe this honor from my neighbor to the North? I have not seen Günter, oh, these last three springs. Why is it that he sends greetings now?” The messenger shifted from foot to foot but strove to maintain his formal stance. Beady eyes glared from under shaggy eyebrows the color of dirty straw. “It is not greetings I bring but rather a command, Milord.” André folded his arms across his chest. “A command? And in what manner of mind is Günter that he thinks to issue a command to Le Monte?” He grinned widely gesturing to his men. They broke into laughter, evidently as amused at the statement as their lord. Arrianna felt a hand on her shoulder and a soft whisper in her ear. “Oh Princess, we are not to be returned to Evanwood, are we?” She shrugged, hiding her own fear and
noted with relief that Lady Christine had returned her breasts into her bodice and stood now behind her mistress’ chair. “Shh, be quiet!” “My Lord Günter demands the immediate release of his betrothed, the Princess Arrianna.” André paced a few short steps. “The immediate release of the Princess?” He paused, mulling over the command, before brightening as if resolution to the problem had suddenly occurred. “Regrettably … no, I do not believe I can accommodate his request. Is there anything else?” The messenger’s dropped jaw spoke louder than words. He had evidently expected his lord’s demand to be met without question. “Milord, mayhap I did not speak plainly.” Anger edged his voice although he made quick to hide it. “You are commanded to return the princess. She is to leave with me now.” He waited a beat to emphasis his next words. “Else my Lord Günter will be forced to attack Le Monte to claim what is rightfully his.” “Rightfully his?” André stopped pacing, his eyes narrowed, revealing only a slit of black pupil. “Did you hear that, Marchante? Champlain? Günter wants what is rightfully his.” Arrianna clutched Christine’s hand as Marchante strolled to stand next his lord. Champlain leapt to the dais, positioning himself on André’s other side, dagger in hand. “Interesting, Milord.” Marchante muttered, his fingers flexing around the hilt of his sword. A general agitation overtook the men and women in the hall. Benches pushed back. Feet shuffled. Fists banged on tables. “Mayhap we need make an example of this one,” growled Champlain, twirling the dagger in his fingers. Arrianna starred blankly at the ornate handle of the dagger and a shiver ran up her back. She had seen that carved image before. The malevolent faces of the three men had her fearing for the messenger’s well-being. André came to his full height and let out a deep sigh of one who was bored with the present conversation. “You may tell your master that I am sorely fatigued by his penchant to steal that which is mine. He wearies me with his incessant greed.” André’s casual stance did not fool Arrianna. The hard set of his eyes and the firm lock of his mouth belied any thought of nonchalance his words may convey. “If Günter could not take my kingdom when my father died, despite the treachery of my beloved uncle—may he rot in hell—why does he think he will succeed now? The walls of Le Monte have never been breached and the sea protects her rear. Has Günter found another perfidious relative who is willing to betray me?” Arrianna’s gaze swung from André, to the messenger and back to André. Günter had marched against Le Monte? When? Why had she never heard? What had André’s uncle done to deserve such revulsion? The messenger’s gaze shifted from Marchante to André to Champlain, then back to André. “It is not my place to comment on what you speak, Milord. Lord Günter is an honorable man who asks only for the return of his betrothed and her dowry. I have been instructed to say that if you will not return her, Lord Günter will come to take her.” “Take her? But she is my captive. Will he not offer ransom?” Arrianna’s attention turned from the messenger to André, hurt and disbelief welling in her heart. In the short time she had been here, she had come to believe that André did still care for her.
“He does but bait the man, Princess,” whispered Christine. “Henri swears Le Monte adores you. He will not ransom you.” “Ransom? Milord, I am not authorized to negotiate a ransom. My Lord Günter will brook no…” “Enough!” bellowed André so that all in the hall shook at his voice. “What is mine is mine! I do not share with any man. If Günter chooses to march on Le Monte, so be it. We have met before on the field of battle, and he has run like a dog with his tail between his legs. I have defeated him before and will do so again. But tell Günter I will not be generous this time. Tell him when next we meet, he will die.” **** With André occupied strategizing with his men, no one took notice when Arrianna and Christine slipped from the dais. “Hurry, Christine!” She spoke only loud enough to be heard over the indignant shouts and brazen promises of retribution. The messenger’s abrupt departure, accompanied by only a curt nod, incensed the men of Le Monte. Christine hesitated, seeking out Marchante but he, like the rest of the men, was consumed in their plans for battle. Hurriedly, she followed. “We must leave,” Arrianna whispered. They had reached a door at the side of the hall. She turned for one last look at André. Surrounded as he was by Marchante and Champlain, all in their black garments, all tall with hair darker than midnight, it was difficult to determine at a glance who was who. But then, they shifted and there was no doubt which man held her heart. With a silent kiss from her soul, she moved quietly into the corridor. “Princess,” called Christine, hastening up behind her. “What do you mean ‘we must leave’?” They turned a corner, their delicate slippers making not a sound on the stone floor. “Don’t you see, Christine? The messenger is right. Günter is right. I am his betrothed. The marriage contract was signed. André has no claim on me.” Arrianna stopped at an intersecting hallway, looking right and left, unsure which way to proceed. “We have to leave. We have to find the messenger and go to Evanwood.” She made her decision and hurried to the right hallway, lifting her heavy skirt to allow her faster movement. “But why?” Christine’s voice bordered on tears. “Do you not find Le Monte pleasing? Do you not wish to be with him?” “It is not a matter of what I wish.” There was no doubt she wished to spend the rest of her life with André, in his arms … and his bed, preferably with him inside her. “But there is more at stake than what I wish.” She pushed images of André, full and erect as she straddled him, impaling herself on his engorged cock, from her mind. But visions of him pinching her nipples and drawing them to his mouth as he slowly lay back quickly took their place. André spreading her legs and leaning close to her puss, teasing her with his breath, giving her a devilish grin before kissing her clit then sucking deeply. How could she bear to live without him? They rounded another corner and Arrianna felt a mixture of relief overshadowed with regret as she recognized the corridor. Her color was high and her heartbeat higher, from both the run and her thoughts of André. But she ignored both. They must hurry. The men would not be in conference all night, and they must be well on their way before the
men broke up. “Günter has every right to me and André has none. Would you have Marchante and his men fight and die for a stained cause? A cause that I can set right before the first drop of blood is spilled?” They reached the door of André’s chamber, Christine several steps behind, her lungs heaving. “But do you think the master will…” “And what of the alliance? If Günter marches on Le Monte, my brother would be honor bound to march with him. Do you wish the men of Bethany to die because I prefer the bed of Le Monte over Evanwood?” “But how will we leave? How will we find this messenger? We do not even know in which direction lies Evanwood. It is late and dark. How can we see where we are going?” “Lady Christine, please! I need help! I need support! What I do not need is a whining nay-sayer!” Christine hung her head, the color tinting her neck and cheeks. “I am sorry. I did not mean to hurt you, my dearest friend.” Arrianna gathered Christine in her arms. “Please forgive me. I should be whipped for speaking to you so callously.” Christine pulled back, sniffing. “No, it is my fault. I did not understand. No, that is not true.” She rubbed a tear from her eye with the sleeve of her gown. “I did not want to understand. I have found such happiness in our short time here in Le Monte, I preferred to forget my duty.” She gave Arrianna a sad smile. “But you are right, Princess, we are honor bound. We cannot allow men to die when it is in our power to prevent it. What would you have me do?” Arrianna smoothed her hand over Christine’s cheek. “I do understand your feelings. I know you will miss your captain. For that, I am truly sorry.” Arrianna returned the cheerless smile. “I will sorely miss the Black Wolf. For he is, indeed, a remarkable master.” Christine’s mood changed as quickly as donning a different cloak. “Come, how shall we accomplish our escape?”
Chapter Seven “This way. And be quiet! God’s Blood, Christine! You sound like a pack of wild boars that found a truffle patch!” The two women kept their horses to the shadows of the outer castle wall as they circled to enter the forest. It had been God’s own grace that the drawbridge was left open after Günter’s messenger departed, and the bright moon only occasionally peeked from beyond the clouds. “If I’m a pack of wild boars, you are a herd of cows, making enough noise to attract the attention of the dead!” Arrianna sighed. It seemed all she did since leaving the great hall was apologize for her sharp tongue. In truth, it was quite outside her character to criticize and find fault, but her disposition was being sorely tested. How could she find her love—and yes, she knew now that she loved him—after all this time, only to have him ripped from her bosom after a single day of experiencing his ardor again? She slowed Starfire’s gait, hoping it would muffle the sound of the hooves. With each step of their escape, Arrianna became more convinced they had God’s blessing. Why else would the stable boys all be abed and Starfire so easy to find? They had even located a docile mount for Christine, since her own horse had been left at the ambush. It had been a chore mounting without assistance especially because they must ride bareback with only a bridle and blanket. Arrianna’s plan had not figured on the weight of the sidesaddles and their inability to lift them. At last, they reached the forest. No one could be more amazed than Arrianna that they had accomplished the task without alerting the entire guard. She shifted the bundle that contained a loaf of bread and a wedge of cheese along with her green velvet gown between her legs. T’was a folly to bring the gown, but it was the one dress she wished to be married in. She squared her shoulders. Although she would not be marrying the man she wanted, she did not have to give away all her dreams. They paused, looking from the dark forest entrance back at the castle, visible now as a small shaft of moonlight spilled from between the clouds onto the walls. “We have made it thus far. Let us not falter now.” She jerked Starfire’s reins and plunged into the forest, reversing the direction that brought them to Le Monte. Once away from the castle, they would surely come across someone who could point them towards Evanwood. The few pieces of gold she had tucked into her clothing chest before leaving Bethany were tied in a kerchief in her bundle. Christine sighed and lingered, gazing up at the battlements. “Christine!” She looked to where Arrianna had called, turned her mount and cautiously entered the blackness. “Keep your head low and hurry! The men will be plotting well into the night, planning their useless war. We need to be well gone from Le Monte before they discover our absence.” Starfire’s reins bit into her hands. Leaning over, it took all her concentration not to fall from the horse’s back. Having no saddle, her legs were soon cramped from clutching
the animal’s sturdy sides. Owls screeched and the whoosh of their wings seemed to be directly over her head. The warm spring evening had turned cold and Arrianna pulled her cloak tighter around herself, imagining it would protect her from both creatures and any evil spirits that may linger in the dark. Off in the distance, the distinct howl of a wolf moaned a haunting lament. Would André howl when he discovered her gone? Mayhap, but he had lived without her for five years so she could not be that important to him. It pained her to think he would soon reconcile to her absence and find another willing woman to satisfy his appetites. Perhaps that sluttish wench who served their wine tonight. They held their mounts to a walk and glided on into the night. Occasional breaks in the tree and cloud cover provided their only light. “Princess? Please can we stop? My legs are numb and I cannot feel my fingers.” “Oh, that we could, but we have not yet put enough distance between us and Le Monte. Sadly, if we dismount, I am not sure how we would regain our seats without a stump or a hand up.” It had been difficult enough mounting the horses without the assistance of a groom or gallant hand. It was not a task Arrianna wished to attempt again if they could avoid it. They came upon a huge clearing and as much as Christine wanted to take the shorter path through the middle, Arrianna insisted they skirt the open field and stay close to the forest. “I do not understand,” complained Christine. “We have been traveling for hours. Surely, we are far enough from Le Monte that a quick gallop across a field will not jeopardize your plan. My legs are in danger of falling off, but if that will stop the ache, I will be glad of it.” Arrianna agreed with her friend. They had ridden most of the night, pausing only to water their horses and to drink from the flagons of water strapped over their shoulders. Every muscle in her body was making its displeasure known, and she had difficulty keeping her eyes open. The shifting clouds revealed that the distance across the field was less than half of that around it. If they galloped, they might cross unnoticed if no searching eyes looked for them. “Once again, you are right, a swift run may wake us up a bit.” Arrianna turned Starfire and with a swift kick, galloped across the field, Christine at her heels. Arrianna shouted to be heard over the horses’ hooves and snorting breath. “We cannot become lax now that…What is that sound?” Before the words were out of her mouth, she answered her own question. “Quickly, Christine! Into the trees!” Pulling sharply on the reins, Starfire balked at the rough handling and yanked the reins from her grasp. She clung to the mare’s mane as she bolted across the field. Over her shoulder, two dark riders bore down on them. The hooves of their massive war horses thundered throughout the clearing. Black cloaks flew behind in the wind, giving them the appearance of the devil returned from hell to ravish those left living. Their loud war cries sent chills down her spine. In an instant of recognition, Arrianna almost wished they were thieves come to prey upon innocent women rather than who it was. Christine’s horse shot past her faster than an attacker’s arrow. Clutching the reins tightly, she was no match for the terrified animal. The first rider flew past Arrianna, his white teeth and black hair sending a sinking
feeling to the pit of her stomach. He slowed only when he was even with Christine, riding steady with the frightened beast, gauging the distance. His arm shot out, grabbing Christine around her waist and dragging her onto his horse. Christine’s arms went immediately around his neck as he continued at breakneck speed across the field to disappear into the trees. Arrianna had only a moment to comprehend that the rider would not bring Christine back to her. Had she really imagined a different outcome? The second rider pulled even with her. She expected to be hauled from Starfire in much the same manner and clung to her green dress. Knowing the choice was not hers, she slowly eased her grip on Starfire’s mane, not daring to look at the rider. Instead of dragging her onto his saddle, he leaned down, grabbed the dangling reins, and continued across the field. Almost losing her seat, she leaned further into the horse, tightening her grip. For the second time in as many days, she was led at a harrowing speed through the forest. Only this time, if Starfire stumbled and fell, she would welcome a broken neck. It had to be less painful than the punishment that awaited her on her return. Not by any sign, any look, any word did the rider acknowledge her presence, not even an hour later when they clamored across the drawbridge into Castle Le Monte. The sun’s early rays just now crested the trees and spilled warmth over her shoulders. She and Christine had ridden for hours making their escape. How could they return in such a short time? The courtyard came to life at their entrance. André did not slow his pace but galloped to the far side before skidding to a halt. He tossed his reins to a groom as his war horse snorted and pawed the ground. Starfire reared up to keep from colliding with it. Arrianna clung to the mane, but felt herself hauled from her back before she steadied itself. She landed on her feet but her knees buckled, and she sank to the dirt, her legs useless after a night of riding bareback. She chanced a look at André’s face and quickly ducked her head. Never had she seen such rage, such fury in a man’s eyes. Not even when her brother spoke of their father’s murder did she see a ferocity equal to André ’s. He dragged her to her feet, but her legs would not stand and she fell against the hard muscles of his chest. She looked up but could not make herself gaze further than his chin. A large vein in his neck beat wildly. She had seen that vein pulsing before, but in passion not anger. She made to step back, but stumbled. André clasped his rough hands around her waist and threw her over his shoulder. Where before when he had done so, his knights and soldiers laughed and cajoled, now not a sound echoed in the courtyard. Even the horses sensed André’s anger and held their stance, not moving. He strode to a door and a groom hurried to open it before him. Arrianna held perfectly still, ignoring the pains shooting through her thighs and buttocks from the clandestine journey. All thoughts of saving her brother’s alliance, marrying Günter and stopping a war deserted her. Now, self-preservation became her chief concern. André kept his pace, neither hurrying nor slowing as he climbed the scores of stairs and strode the numerous hallways that led to his chambers. He opened the door, entered and closed it softly with his back. Arrianna waited, but he did not release her. He stood, surveying the room. She dared not call attention to herself by twisting to see for what he searched. As if coming to a decision, he moved to the foot of the great bed and lowered her. Her legs still wobbled and she grabbed the thick bedpost to steady herself.
André stood back from her. She could no longer avoid his eyes and raised hers. The seething storm that had glared at her in the courtyard was gone, but her breath caught at the mixture of hurt, disappointment and disgust they now held. “Please, let me explai…” “Many men beat their recalcitrant women and encourage their sons to do likewise,” he spat through gritted teeth. “I have never felt the need nor the inclination, believing a woman can be brought to heel better with a gentle hand.” He looked away before turning to spear her with his gaze. “But I am sore tempted to try that way now, Princess.” **** André approached her clenching and unclenching his fists before grasping them behind his back. “Please, André…” “Enough!” He stepped away as if she carried the plague. “So, you would rather flee to Günter than stand by my side. You think you have a better match with Evanwood. We shall see.” How could she explain she wanted no other man except him? But duty came first and Günter had a contract with her brother. “One question, Princess. How did you plan to trick Günter into believing you were a virgin?” He paced the room in front of her. “Did you think him so naive as to suppose you were my honored guest for two days and I did not sample your treasures? Nay, five years ago you gave me your maidenhead. You must have concocted some deception to see you through your wedding night.” With each step, he became more agitated, massaging the sword on his side, sliding it partially in and out of its scabbard. She tried to banish the thought from her mind, but the movement resembled his cock sliding in and out of her own heated slit. Without warning, her folds grew wet. André in a rage was the most primal, masculine, exciting animal she had ever encountered. Her body heated at the sight of his chest heaving, his flushed face, his long muscled legs striding so purposefully. With one hand she grasped the bedpost. With the other, she undid the tie of her cloak, shrugged and let it fall to the floor. It did little to relieve the hot lava running through her veins. He stopped in front of her. “Even now you could be carrying my son. What then? Did you plan to pass off the heir of Le Monte as the heir of Evanwood? And how would you explain a raven haired child to the yellow haired Günter when your own is like spun gold? A jest of nature?” Her heart died a little with each painful word. What had she planned to tell Günter? Had her honor outweighed her common sense? André was right. Günter could not marry her, not with the possibility of André’s seed planted in her belly. What would he have done to her if she had succeeded in making her way to Evanwood? She grew cold realizing her most favorable fate would be Günter sending her back to Bethany in disgrace whether or not she carried André’s child. The worse fate she didn’t wish to think of. “André, I…” “Well, Princess since you insist on being treated as a captive rather than a guest, I will be happy to accommodate you.” The dagger flashed in the morning light streaming through the narrow windows. “No! André! You can’t…” She crouched and shielded her head with her arms.
“Put your hands down. You insult me, woman,” he commanded, disgust plain in his voice. “Stand up!” Arrianna lowered her arms and pushed away from the bedpost. She came to her full height, standing straight and proud. If he was going to execute his captive, she would go to her death as a Princess of Bethany. He stepped close and placed his dagger next to her heart. She raised her chin and starred directly into his eyes, not flinching when she saw the flame of desire there. “I have no intention of cutting your tender flesh.” He slipped the point under the ribbon holding her bodice together. Keeping eye contact, he sliced through the ribbon until the knife reached her waistband. The gown was an old one, lacking the form and fit of her better garments. She’d chosen it for that reason, knowing the journey would be long and comfort was a concern. Her breasts remained hidden behind the voluminous folds of fabric. “Not the result I had planned,” he murmured. “Open your gown. Show me your breasts.” She hesitated, and he touched the soft skin below her ribs with the point. She moved her fingers to grasp each side of the dress and pulled it back, revealing her firm mounds. “Very good, you are learning how to obey like a captive.” With measured precision, he drew the blade through the waistband, working it lower. He paused at her navel, circling it around the outer core before slicing the dress lower to the apex of her thighs. She closed her eyes to feel the sensations more intensely, knowing she was safe. “A beautiful thatch, my captive. So fair, so silky, like your … other hair.” He lifted a few strands of her golden pubic hair with the tip of the blade. “Beautiful.” Arrianna held back a shiver, savoring the erotic play. It is play, is it not? asked a tiny voice in the back of her mind. Of their own accord, her hands rose to wrap around his neck. She felt the soft fabric of his tunic, inhaled his aroused scent. He wanted her. “Put your hands at your sides and do not move again,” he demanded, stepping back before squatting on his haunches. She opened her eyes, catapulted from the sensuality as he cut her dress to the floor. Lowering her hands, she wondered at his game. The gown hung from her shoulders covering her back while her front lay bare. “I must say, I do enjoy cutting your garments from you.” His gaze traveled the length of her body, pausing at her breasts long enough to cause her already ripe nipples to tighten painfully. “Shake it off. I want you naked.” Arrianna did as she was told. The gown fell to the floor in a heap, good now only as a rag. She lifted her chin and breasts proudly. He wanted her and no amount of arrogance on his part could disguise the bulge in his breeches. His eyes shadowed and he stepped back. “Very good. You seem to be a quick learner when you are told exactly what to do. Mayhap it is only when you must think for yourself that you prove your head is filled with straw.” She bristled at his comment. “How dare you speak to me in such a manner. I am a Princess of Bethany and…” “Silence! You are my captive, or haven’t I made that clear? You made your choice. But, unfortunately, Günter does not have you. I do. And you, my little dove, are a sweet prize indeed.” He turned and flopped in a chair near the fireplace, unlit now in the early
morning. “I am weary from chasing you and your lady all night. Though truth be told, tracking you did not require much effort.” At her surprised expression, he added, “After we first discovered you in the forest, we simply waited for you.” “What do you mean?” Only her gaze had followed him to the chair, she remained by the bedpost. He spread his thighs, displaying the thick erection straining against his breeches. A thin smile spread across his face. “You were not quite going in circles, but you were not far off. It was only a matter of time before you found that field. I wanted to overtake you in the forest, but Marchante wished to provide you with the illusion of escape—if only for a time. Besides, pursuit was much more enjoyable in the open meadow.” André stroked his cock through the fabric. “Don’t look so shocked, captive. Oh,” he added almost as an afterthought. “I ordered the drawbridge left down and your horses made readily available. You will forgive me, I could not order them saddled. That would have been too obvious.” He had let them escape? The implication was too much. He knew she would follow Günter’s messenger and had let her go, assisted her. To what end? “Come here.” She stared at him, not comprehending his intentions. “Mayhap you did not hear me. Come here.” Arrianna stood rooted where she was. “Why?” “Why what, captive?” “Why did you make it easy for me to escape, but then track me down and bring me back?” He scratched his balls, before responding. “Is it not apparent? I had to know where your loyalties resided. By allowing you to escape, you answered that question. That I would bring you back was never in doubt. You forget, I will not allow another man to have what belongs to me alone. Now, do not make me command you again. Come here!” In a trance, Arrianna moved to stand before him. He thought she left because she preferred Günter? How absurd. But looking into his stark, cold eyes she saw the truth he believed. Hard, unwavering flint stared back. “On your knees.” She had no will to resist. “Unlace my breeches and suck my cock, captive.” He lifted her chin with his index finger. “Trust me, Princess, if you bite me again. You will regret it most seriously. Most seriously.” Stunned, Arrianna unlaced the ties and his shaft sprang into her hands. She had failed a test of loyalty she did not know she had taken. And now André thought to punish her by calling her “captive” and ordering her about? She took him in her hands, caressing him and flicking her thumb over his cock’s head. But how was this punishment when she so loved having his cock in her mouth? Lapping it, kissing it, gathering it between her breasts to caress it. Smiling to herself, she glided her tongue where her thumb had spread a small drop of moisture. If it satisfied his masculinity to think he was punishing her, so be it. It would not hurt her cause to pleasure herself at his expense. And mayhap when she was sufficiently punished he would listen to reason. She leaned back and eased the breeches lower to free his soft sac. His intoxicating scent had her juices rushing to her puss. With her index finger, she traced a line from his base to the smooth ridge, then
delicately circled it. His sharp intake of breath assured her she would have him between her legs soon. Her thumb polished his head, paying special attention to the small slit. She gently inserted the tip of her thumbnail and massaged the sensitive opening. She hesitated, listening to his harsh breathing. “Don’t stop.” She resumed the hypnotic motion. His head dropped back, his eyes closed, and he spread his thighs wider, submitting to her gentle attentions. Droplets of moisture appeared, and she spread them with the soothing motion of her thumb, covering the head. She leaned forward to replace her thumb with her tongue. Not breaking rhythm, her fingers slid the length of his shaft to massage his tender globes. He groaned his approval, gripping the arms of the chair. Her tongue retraced the path her thumb had followed. As the tiny droplets appeared, she lapped them with the tip of her tongue, spreading them on her lips. She inhaled deeply, glorying in his aroused scent. Slowly, so slowly, she opened her mouth. As always, the feel of his hot shaft sent lightening bolts to her sex. Nothing, absolutely nothing, tasted or felt so wonderful in her mouth as André’s cock. She sucked deeply, savoring him, willing him to withhold his climax a while longer so she could relish the taste and feel of his shaft deep in her throat. His hips jerked and she eased the pressure, circling the ridge of the head with her tongue again. “You are delicious, Milord. Chinese silk topping steel.” His hands moved to her hair, guiding her mouth to take him again. She slid her lips over his head, sucking just under his ridge before opening wide and taking as much as she could. His hips lifted from the chair again and again. “Arrianna! Arrianna!” She sucked him hard. Clasping his balls in both her hands, she gently squeezed. His climax came in long hot spurts. She swallowed as quickly as she could but some of his seed spilled from her mouth, running down her neck and breasts. When he was spent, he lay gasping for air, half sitting, half lying in the chair. She licked the last of his seed from his balls, waiting. Waiting for that glorious moment when he would slide his fingers into her dripping puss and bring her to heaven. A sudden jerk brought her back to the present. André pushed her face from his groin and laced his breeches. “Very good, captive. I see that your treacherous leanings have not impeded that wondrous mouth of yours. But it is time I met with my men.” He stood and stepped around her. “We must prepare an acceptable welcome for your betrothed.” What? She was on fire for him and he was leaving? She knelt in front of the chair, too weak and aroused to move. “Come here, captive.” Arrianna stared at him, the taste of his seed lingering on her tongue. “Now!” She staggered to her feet and moved near the bedpost at the foot of the bed. André slipped a rope over her wrists, tying them together. Before she could react or protest, he looped another rope between her tied wrists and secured it to the bedpost. “Now you truly are my captive,” he grinned wickedly. Tweaking her nipple, he strode out the chamber door, slamming it behind him.
Chapter Eight It was nightfall before the chamber door creaked open again. Oh, Arrianna could not accuse André of mistreatment, not precisely. The slop jar was within her distance as was a bucket of water and a towel. Bread, fruit and cheese along with a flagon of wine were also within reach, although pouring the wine with her hands tied had taken some practice and effort. And, if she grew cold or weary, she could climb upon the bed and under the coverlet or bear skin for comfort and rest. No, she could not accuse André of neglect, except that he left her naked and tied to a bedpost. Her chests of clothes had been moved to the other side of the chamber and, search as she might, she could find no sharp implement to cut the ropes. She could accuse him of cruelty. Leaving her wet and frustrated after she had worshipped his cock with her mouth. It was unconscionable! Trying to relieve her frustration had proved futile, just as before. Her fingers were not as wide and thick as André’s cock. The release she did find was gratifying but not bone shattering. She had searched her small universe for an instrument with which to pleasure herself, but none was within reach. It was as if André had surveyed the room and removed anything that would satisfy her. At the sound of the door scraping open, Arrianna hopped into the bed, pulling the coverlet over her head. That she should come to this! André un-strapped his sword. It clanked against the stone wall as he hung it next to the door. “Well, now, where has my little captive gone?” From her hiding place, Arrianna watched him circle the room, lifting the lid of her chest, peering behind a tapestry, searching improbable locations. Finally, he halted beside the bed. A hard hand swatted her ass, although beneath the coverlet and the fur, it felt more like a caress. “Come out, captive. I have need of your services.” When she did not respond, he reached and threw off the coverings. Tied as she was to the bedpost, Arrianna huddled on her knees, her face in the mattress. “A most becoming position, captive. Should I fuck you as my stallion fucks his mare?” Arrianna rolled to her side. Why was she hiding? She had spent the better part of the day wanting this man, then cursing him, but by no estimation was she afraid of him. As she told herself a hundred times that day, she was a princess of Bethany, and she bowed to no one. She threw her legs over the side of the bed and stood. “I think not Le Monte. You’re not good enough to fuck me.” His eyes clouded but cleared in an instant. “Really? From your screams of pleasure when I speared you two nights ago, I would have thought elsewise.” Heat tinged her cheeks running down to her breasts. Touché Le Monte. “It is not I who have changed since then, but you.” He sauntered to the table and poured a goblet of bold red wine. “Correct, Princess. You have not changed.” Her heart fluttered. André understood now why she had to go to Günter?
He drained the goblet. “No, you have not changed at all. You have been the betrothed of Günter since you arrived, plotting any means you can to get to Evanwood, even if it meant fucking Le Monte.” He poured another. “It is I who have changed. Or rather been educated. Now, I know to what lengths you will go to to get to your precious Günter.” Günter, Günter, Günter! Rue the day she had ever heard of the man! She leaned her head against the cool wood of the bedpost. There must be a way out of this verbal quagmire. If only Christi… Her head snapped up. “Where is my Lady Christine? Is she being held captive as am I?” “Lady Christine.” He plopped into his chair then turned sideways, looping his muscled legs over the arm and leaning against the opposite arm. His breeches pulled tightly over his well-proportioned thighs, emphasizing his lean hips and prominent bulge. “Lady Christine.” “Yes, Lady Christine. Has Marchante treated her to the same indignities I endure? What is her punishment for trying to escape?” André smiled and sipped his wine. “Oh, I imagine Marchante spanked the little thing for attempting to flee. She did appear to have a sore ass at dinner tonight.” “Spanked? My lady-in-waiting!” “Well, it is no more than she deserved for running from her master.” Arrianna thought for a moment. Her breasts heaved at the injustice of it. André had gone from enemy to lover to jailer. She and Christine had done nothing wrong. It was their duty to escape! “So Christine gets spanked, has a sore rear and is able to attend dinner, while I am bound naked to a bedpost. It almost makes me wish I belonged to that lowlife spawn of the devil, Marchante.” In a flash, André was out of the chair holding his dagger at her throat. “Careful, Princess. I will not hear my brother spoken of thusly … by anyone!” Her eyes widened at the ferocity of his action, but she held her ground and did not flinch. “Brother? You mistake my words. I was speaking of Marchante.” “As was I, Princess.” He stepped back, sheathing this weapon. “But…” “Does it wound your sensibilities to know that Marchante is my blood? That he is the by-blow from one of my father’s women?” He moved closer, rubbing her naked flesh with his course tunic. Picking at a lock of her hair, he twirled it around his finger, and continued with apparent relish, “So is Champlain, although he has yet a different mother. There are three sisters also, each by different women. All of them ladies in my mother’s waiting.” Arrianna scoffed. André would have her believe he had five half-siblings? All from different mothers? He must think her simple, she thought, more amused than insulted. “You jest with me, Le Monte. Are you saying your mother tolerated such promiscuity in court? That your father openly bedded five of her ladies? Rubbish. No mistress would allow such to happen in her own court. She would be a mockery to her station.” “Ah, my sweet, you have lived a sheltered life. Think you that because a man is wed, he cannot spill his seed into other vessels?” André returned to lounge in his chair. Retrieving the wine goblet from where he had placed it on the floor, he took a long
draught. “After producing me, the royal heir,” he smirked, “my mother was no longer able to have my father fuck her. She was a dainty slip of a woman and I did not willingly leave her womb. The doctors predicted certain death if she were to bear another child. My father loved my mother but had a lusty cock, so he spread his seed. My mother chose women from her court she knew would please him.” “But how could there be no knowledge of this about the Middle Kingdoms?” Arrianna sat on the bed, enthralled. A scandal such as this would surely have been the topic of much gossip. “My father provided each of his women a chamber in the castle and a generous dowry. He married them off to men of noble birth but empty purses, hence the different names. He continued to visit them when the lust struck. Their husbands were well compensated for this … accommodation. It was all very civilized.” “Are they still in the castle?” This was too incredible to take seriously, but André spoke so casually, she found it difficult not to believe. “No, when my father died, each moved to her husband’s estate. Several of them were at the banquet to welcome you. The three pretty little doves at the middle table? Did you note them?” He raised an eyebrow. She nodded slowly, remembering two dark haired women about Christine’s age and a young girl just entering the bloom of womanhood. All beauties by any standard. “My sisters.” André’s triumphant grin shook her. He was proud of his father’s bastards? Arrianna could not move, could not breath. How could a man maintain a … a … what was that Persian word? Harem! A harem with his wife’s blessing, here in the Middle Kingdoms? And all those children! “You ask me to believe a fancy tale. You call me simple and so feel free to create outlandish stories of harems and debaucheries. Well, I am not as simple as you think, Le Monte.” André shrugged, “Believe what you will. It makes no difference. I demand only that you treat Marchante, Champlain and my sisters as equals. For though they are not legitimate heirs, they are still lords and ladies of Le Monte.” Sitting on the bed, Arrianna reflected on his words. At home she had always felt an attraction to the captain, an unexplained pull. Propriety and her love of André had prevented her from acting on it. Could it have been that Marchante reminded her of André ? She pictured Marchante as he was the day Edward elevated him to captain; capable, handsome, confident. She had looked on him and felt a longing and a regret in her heart. Was it André she saw and longed for? She lifted her eyes to meet his. The mocking victor was gone, replaced by a caring, concerned mate. This was the André she loved, the one for whom she had waited five long years. Now as she examined every crease, every contour in his beloved face, there was no mistaking the resemblance. André and Marchante were brothers. If that part of the story was true—and the proof of it lounged before her—then it all must be true. Why else would Marchante give up five years of his life to live in a hostile kingdom except out of fierce loyalty for a brother? “So you believe me.” “I have not said as much.” She hedged, not wanting to give him another advantage over her so easily. She knelt on the bed, resting her butt on her calves. “There is no need. All of your thoughts are marching plainly across your beautiful face.”
She wrinkled her nose at him, both liking and disliking his ability to read her so easily. Rising from the chair, André placed his wine goblet on the table and approached the bed. “Well, my little captive, what shall I do to you this night?” Until that moment, Arrianna had forgotten the gulf that lay between them. André still felt hurt and betrayed, thinking she desired Günter over him. Holding up her hands, she examined the ropes binding her wrists and the lead tying them to the bedpost. Anger was not the way to tame a wolf and this wolf must be tamed … her future depended on it. Still kneeling, she held out her wrists in the manner of a supplicant. “Set me free?” **** The soft set of his face hardened into a blank mask. Instantly, she realized it was the wrong request. Apparently, André was not ready to forgive her yet. Keeping her welcoming smile, Arrianna withdrew her wrists. “No, I do not wish to be set free just yet. I rather enjoy being your captive.” She brushed the course ropes against her pubic hair and sighed. “Yes, being a captive has some stimulating advantages.” When had she lost her modesty with this man? On those nights of stolen kisses beneath the castle walls of Bethany so long ago? Kisses that progressed to bared breasts and lifted skirts where caressing hands and lips found her naked, throbbing folds. Where her small hands cupped and stroked his engorged sex, learning its texture and bringing him satisfaction with her fingers. Or did she lose her modesty when, finally, in a night of ecstasy, he explored every bit of her skin and taught her how to pleasure them both? It occurred to her that she very much liked being naked for him. Liked his look when he grew hungry for her … the look he now wore. His gaze followed her movements. Leaning further back, she spread her thighs, affording him a generous view of her puss. The tiny wrinkles around his eyes tightened, but he showed no other sign of interest. She dropped her ass to the bed, freeing her legs. With knees still bent, she slowly spread her thighs wider, until they touched the coverlet. André’s eyes stayed focused on her puss, staring, unblinking. He licked his upper lip, an undisguised sign of his desire. “What shall you do with this helpless captive, Milord?” She wet her lips, waiting, wondering how long he could hold onto his control. The deep rise and fall of his chest told her he fought even now to maintain it. The scent of her juices dampening her puss reached her nostrils and by the flare of André’s it had reached his, also. With steady, measured precision, she again slid her wrists down her body. Stopping to massage her soft mound with the rough bonds, she closed her eyes and gave herself over to the glorious sensations. When she again opened her eyes, he hadn’t moved. The harsh rasp of his breath was the only sound in the chamber. “What shall you do with this helpless captive?” she repeated, dipping her fingers low and massaging her heated clit. Smiling at his inability to respond, she sank two fingers into her dripping channel. “Mmm, very nice.” She wiggled her ass to intensify the pleasure before withdrawing her wet, sticky fingers. Holding out her hands, she offered them to him. “Are you hungry, my captor? You appear not to have eaten in some time,” she smiled wickedly. “Would you care to taste my cream?” Beneath the fabric of his breeches, André’s cock pulsed and jerked. She would have liked to stroke it with her foot, but did not want to distract him. Another realization
overtook her. She not only liked to be naked for him, she liked when he examined her most private body areas. “You are a witch, woman!” he growled, falling on her. “I can no more resist you than the moon can refuse to rise.” His close cropped beard prickled her thighs, but she took no notice when his tongue slid down her wet channel. Half pushing-half lifting, he moved her to the center of the bed, making room for his large frame to lie between her legs. With one hand, he stroked her inner thigh. With the other, he tore at the lacings on his britches, all the while lapping at her sweet nectar. With a strangled cry, André slid himself up her length, spearing her with his shaft. Burying his face in the crook of her neck, he thrust deeply as if wanting to make her forget all but him. And he did. He consumed her entire being with a completeness and fervor unmatched yet in their lovemaking. “André, oh André, I love you.” The words were out, but she had no wish to call them back. If he chose to use them against her, so be it. She had loved him too long, too intensely and had no wish to play foolish games any longer. He stiffened at her words. Would he withdraw? Keep himself from her? Looping her knotted wrists around his neck, she skimmed them down his back in a desperate attempt to hold him to her. His head pressed tightly against her shoulder and neck. His labored breathing resounded in her ear. He felt her love. He had to. She wanted to repeat the words, make him understand the depth of her love for him, that she wanted only him from the day she first saw him. She held her tongue, knowing flowery declarations would not sway him. Her bonds prevented her from holding him, but she rubbed her hands along the curve of his shoulders as best she could. With calculated motions, he resumed his thrusts, not the wild rutting of a moment ago, but a smooth pressure designed to give pleasure as well as take it. His lips grazed her neck, traveling with infinite slowness up to her temple. Leaning back, he gazed down into her eyes. Not knowing what he could see by the dim light of the torch, Arrianna poured all her love, all the desire for him into her gaze. He stilled his lower body but remained inside her. She arched her hips in protest, but he did not respond. “Put your hands over your head.” His words were thick and slurred, his eyes locked with hers. She hesitated only a moment, then cautiously raised them. Reaching down into his boot, he retrieved his dagger and brought it to her wrists. With a quick glance at her hands, he slit the bindings, freeing her. The urge to rub her chaffed wrists was strong, but the urge to touch her mate was stronger. She cupped his beloved face, caressing his cheeks and the rough bristle of his beard. “Say it again.” His command was more of a whisper. She arched beneath him, bringing her lips close to his. “I love you, André de Le Monte. Since the first day I saw you. Nothing has changed, I will always love you.” He took her mouth in a gentle kiss, lips brushing lips as if for the first time. Tangling his fist in her long hair, he deepened the kiss, licking the thin line between her lips, for once asking, not demanding, entrance. Arrianna opened her mouth and met his thick, probing tongue with her delicate pink one. Almost shyly, she flicked hers against his before it retreated back into her mouth, the invitation to follow clear. “Oh God, Arrianna!” was the last thing she heard before his mouth swooped down,
taking possession of hers. His tongue probed the familiar depths, and she sought to entwine hers with his, and never release it. Leaning forward, he crushed her into the bed beneath him. His weight a welcome burden. Still probing her mouth, he resumed his slow, easy thrusts. Her body jerked at the unexpected sensation. His kiss so consumed her, so overpowered her, she had forgotten he was inside her. It took only a moment to join his primal dance. Locking her legs around his waist, she raised her hips to meet his thrusts. The exquisite responses he drew from her body had her, too soon, tumbling in a wild expanse of heat, light and intense pleasure. His loud grunt filled her ears just as his warm seed filled her channel. He threw his head back and roared his satisfaction. Spent, she lay exhausted beneath him, listening to his erratic breathing. Her own inhalations came in quick, shallow pants as she took in the scent of aroused male drifting into satisfied male. Her hands glided over the light sheen of perspiration on his back and shoulders, reveling in the sheer masculinity of him. She walked her fingers lower, to the top of his buttocks, teasing the sensitive spot where his cheeks separated. His low moan sounded in her ear, and she slid her hands lower to cup his tight, muscled ass. Massaging, then stroking, then massaging. His low moan turned into a louder growl. “Keep doing that, captive, and I may never set you free.” She smiled into his shoulder. “Then my plan will have succeeded, Milord.” Her tongue darted out to sample the taste of his shoulder. Salty, with a tinge of animal musk. Wrapping his arm around her, he rolled onto his back, taking her with him, lying half on-half off him. “When did you give up your wish for freedom, little one?” His chest hairs tickled her nose, and her mouth rested against his male nipple. She flicked out her tongue to lick it and it pearled at her touch. When it was sufficiently hard, she lay her head back against his shoulder. “As I said, the day I first saw you.” His hand stroked her arm, and he pulled her closer as if wanting to make her a part of him. “May I ask one question?” He raised his eyebrow in assent. “Why?” The other brow raised is question. “Why did you not come for me? In five years, could you not spare a fortnight to return to me? Could you not send for me?” She lifted an errant lock of hair from his forehead and finger combed it into his dark mane. “And how should I have accomplished that? Ride boldly into Bethany, your father’s accused murderer, and claim you? Or mayhap I should have brought my army and condemned hundreds of men to their deaths so I could have you?” He placed his hand over hers and guided it to his chest, sliding it to and fro until she stroked him on her own. “My quarrel is not with the men of Bethany. It is with whomever is truly your father’s killer for it is he who thrust the blame onto my head. It is he who kept you from me, made me a pariah to my own allies. It has taken me years to regain my good name and still there are some who doubt my word.” She continued to caress him, content in the quiet sharing of thoughts. Finally, she would know his reasons for abandoning her. “You had Marchante in our castle, surely in all of five years, there was a chance for him to tell me you still wanted me.” She hated the
petulant tone in her voice but could not keep silent. Five years he had left her to wonder, to agonize over his betrayal. “Would you have believed him? You did see the proof of my guilt with your own eyes, my dagger in your father’s throat. Would you not have turned him in to your brother as a traitor?” She shrugged, knowing the truth of his words. “God’s Blood! Could he not have abducted me and brought me to Le Monte?” “I see. You wonder why I did not risk his life for your lusts?” he asked, placing a soft kiss on her temple. She heaved a sigh, smoothing her palm across his chest again, delighting in the texture of his wiry hair. “When spoken of thusly, my desires sound petty.” “Besides, my dove, information Marchante supplied enabled me to foil a plot against my claim to Le Monte.” She raised her head to look into his eyes. “Someone questioned your right as heir?” “Do you recall my uncle who accompanied me to your father’s court?” Wrinkling her brow, she thought back to those wondrous days when André had first arrived at Bethany. Yes, she remembered his uncle, another tall, muscular man with the Le Monte coloring. He did not stay as long as André, leaving after only several weeks. “Yes, he seemed more occupied with roaming the fortifications than negotiating with my father. What of him?” “My father’s younger brother thought he was the better heir to Le Monte. While I was in Bethany, he returned and waged a campaign of lies as to my legitimacy. With my mother dead and my father in poor health, he almost succeed in discrediting me.” Arrianna’s eyes narrowed. “Can I assume that your father’s penchant to deposit his seed in many flowers was the reason for your uncle’s claim?” He gave her a sour smile and twisted a strand of her hair around his finger. “After my father’s death, it took great effort to keep my inheritance. My dear uncle formed an alliance with your betrothed to steal my birthright. It took many battles, but they were not successful. It eats away at Günter that Evanwood does not have the rich lands Le Monte possesses.” “And your uncle? Does he make his home in Evanwood now?” André lifted her chin and stared into her eyes. “No, sweetling. My uncle makes his home in hell and I sent him there.” “Oh.” He released her chin, and she nestled onto his chest again. “In answer to your real question, I could not bring you here while I was gone to war defending my rights. I could not take the chance of someone betraying you to my uncle just to satisfy my twitching cock. You were safer in Bethany.” She rubbed his chest until her fingers settled on his nipple which she playfully pinched. “I would be pleased to satisfy that twitching cock now, Milord.” “I can see you would,” he growled, flipping her onto her back and covering her in one swift motion. His kiss made her forget five years of yearning, loneliness and heartache. It made her forget everything but the need to be in his arms. When he broke it, she clung, her lips begging for more. “You sorely test my control, little one, but it is time I join my men. There is much to plan before we meet Günter.” He put her from him and stood, searching the floor for his breeches, casting about for where he tossed them when he finally stripped.
“Günter?” For a short while in André’s arms, she had forgotten the threat, but now the bleak reality of her situation returned to weigh heavily on her. “Know that I went to Günter because of my duty and I would not have Bethany dishonored because I reneged on my marriage contract. I see now that my attempt to salvage that honor was pointless.” André finished pulling on his tunic and sat on the bed. He pinched her chin between his thumb and forefinger and searched her face. “I did not know that last night. Believe that I know it now.” He lightly kissed her nose and then fumbled for his boots. “There will be a battle and men will die because of me.” Tears welled in her eyes, but there was nothing to do for it. “Would that I were never born,” she whispered, unable to keep the helplessness from her voice. André halted tugging on his boots. “Never wish that, my dove. To be certain, you are by no means the cause of this. You are merely the excuse.”
Chapter Nine Arrianna stood on the deserted battlements surveying the vast valley before Le Monte. It stretched for miles on two sides of the castle, the forest on the third. Steep cliffs and the pounding waves of the ocean guarded the rear. From her vantage point, the forest with its lush spring foliage and the luxuriant valley spread out far below like her green velvet gown. In the distance, small dwellings with thatched roofs dotted the valley. Tiny figures scurried about the village and beyond, tending to their gardens and herding their precious livestock. A steady stream of carts laden with foodstuffs wound its way towards the castle. Starvation, not enemy weapons, was the usual downfall of a fortress. Warm sunlight filtered down, taking the chill out of the early morning air. She had slept little last night after André departed and even less after he returned. Rising early, he had left to confer with his men and prepare for the attack. Her chest tightened and a wave of deep regret passed over her. In a few days time, this beautiful valley would be littered with the bodies of men she knew: the men of Le Monte, the men of Bethany and those she did not know but had once planned to be their Lady, the men of Evanwood. And what would be accomplished? She would still be here, God willing, if Le Monte won the day. Or should her brother and Günter prevail, she would return in disgrace to Bethany. If that occurred, her good name would not matter, for if she returned, it would mean only one thing: André was dead. So what reason would she have to live, in disgrace or otherwise? “Princess…?” Arrianna turned at the sound of the sweet voice. And what would become of Christine? With André defeated and by association, Marchante, who would defend Christine? She could not face the answer. Should the worst occur, Arrianna must make certain that her dear friend was at her side. Only then might Christine be spared the usual fate that awaited conquered females. “Good Day,” she called with a brightness she did not feel. “Did you sleep well?” The formal greeting was most probably inappropriate, considering the nature of their sleeping accommodations. She quickly covered her error. “Have you come to watch the birds sing and the deer frolic? Look,” she raised her hand and pointed, “even now they play and prance about the valleys of Le Monte!” “Yes, they are lovely.” Christine wasted little time on the wildlife. “It is good to see you about. I am glad Le Monte no longer confines you to his chamber.” A blush rose high on her lady’s cheeks, but Arrianna was past worrying about proprieties. If the entire castle knew she had been tied naked to André’s bedpost, it meant little enough. There was much more at stake than she had ever imagined. “And how did you occupy yourself since our return? I trust Marchante did not subject you to the same indignities the master of Le Monte saw fit to bring down on me.” Arrianna gazed out again over the valley, imprinting in her mind the serene beauty it now held. She glanced back at Christine, realizing her question had not been answered. “God’s
Blood, Christine! If you are going to blush every time someone mentions the possibility of you fornicating with Marchante, you will spend the rest of your life resembling an overripe apple!” Arrianna smiled to soften her words. “Come, tell me. He did not hurt or abuse you, did he?” “Oh no, Princess! He did nothing to hurt me.” She hesitated, turning away, “Not really.” Arrianna felt her dislike of Marchante well within her. If he harmed Christine in any manner… “What did he do to you?” She grabbed Christine’s arm to gain her full attention. “Tell me.” “He … he told me I had been a bad girl for running away, but it was not my fault. I had no choice but to go with my mistress.” Now that she had started, her words tripped over themselves as she related her story. “He … he had me strip and stand before him, but it was not as shameful as the first time he had me do it.” Arrianna had difficulty understanding how this could be shameful. She had been naked with André so frequently it now seemed odd to be clothed in his presence. But then Christine was an innocent. “When did he first have you do it?” “The day we, um, arrived.” Arrianna frowned. “I cannot say I am surprised, but if that is the worst you had to endure, then…” “Oh no, Princess, there is more. He had me strip him until he was naked also. He … he had me lie across his lap and he … he spanked my rear.” “He struck you!” “Yes. No! It was not what you think.” She hesitated, a shy smile passing across her lips. “After I got over my shock, I found I quite liked it. He has a firm but gentle hand. After he punished me for leaving him, he was most solicitous, caressing and kissing my buttocks. It was rather … pleasant.” Arrianna rolled her eyes. She did not need a detailed account of her friend’s intimate activities, although, she was curious about the pleasuring aspects of this spanking. “So you say, even though he struck you, you did not feel pain?” “No,” she said, thoughtfully. “There was some pain, but because it was Henri’s hand, I found it … arousing. I know he found it so. His, er, manly part grew large and hard under my belly.” “Manly part?” As the meaning of her friend’s words dawned, laughter bubbled up inside her. “Oh, for goodness sakes, Christine! It is called a cock. Men have cocks. It is that simple. You astound me with your word puzzles. Manly part. That is indeed brilliant!” She could not contain her giggles. “So tell me, does Marchante know what to do with his manly part?” she asked, surprised at her own boldness, but Christine had piqued her curiosity and seemed to have no modesty when discussing the intimate details of her time in Marchante’s bed. “Yes, Princess, if the way it makes me feel when he thrusts it between my legs is any sign, he knows quite well what to do with it.” A blush crept up her cheeks. Again, her words came out in a rush. “But that is not what he did. He lay on his back on the bed and bade me straddle his shoulders … backwards. I did not know what to do, but Henri explained how I was to lean forward and take his … cock into my mouth. I had sucked on his cock before, and so I was eager to comply. Although, it is so big when it is swollen, I can scarce get half of it in my mouth.”
Were all the dead king’s male offspring well endowed? André certainly wielded a mighty sword. “While I was thus occupied, Henri’s strong arms lowered my hips and he licked and kissed my nether lips. It was wonderful! We spent much of the night like that.” Arrianna’s belly heated at her friend’s innocent description. Of course, she and André had pleasured each other with their mouths but not at the same time. Not with her lying on him. She smiled wickedly to herself, wondering how soon André would return to his chamber. “Well, since you are not of a mind to lodge a complaint against him at your treatment, then I, too, will not do so.” Arrianna returned her gaze to the valley. “Oh Christine, what are we to do? It seems men will fight no matter what the reason or cause. I feel helpless to stop it.” “Henri mentioned that Edward is but three days march from Le Monte.” At Arrianna’s open mouthed stare, she continued, “He said André’s spies—Henri calls them ‘informers’, but I know they are truly spies. Anyway, the spies returned late last evening saying they had seen Edward’s army camped on the Southern Rim, only three days away.” “That is impossible.” Arrianna waved her hand, dismissing the idea. “It has been but four days since the attack. Even the swiftest of Günter’s riders would only now be arriving at Bethany to inform my brother. How could Edward be only three days march when it took us a fortnight to reach here and we traveled much lighter than an army.” “I know not how it has come to pass, but I do not doubt the truth of it. Henri has no reason to lie to me. My guardian, your brother, will be here with an army from Bethany in three days time.” Arrianna’s heart sank. Her brother had raised an army to rescue her when rescue from André was the last thing she wanted. There must be a way to stop him before he started a war from which there would be no turning back. “There is more, Princess.” More? This situation could not get worse! Arrianna nodded for Christine to continue. “Günter and his men travel to join Edward at the Western Pass. André’s informers assure him that Günter’s men set out over a week ago.” “Again, I say ‘impossible’!” Arrianna stopped. The expression on Christine’s face told her it was no lie. “I am sorry. Of course, Marchante has no reason to lead you falsely.” Possibilities spun through her head at how this could have come about. She turned and stared blankly out over the battlements to the forest. “What are we to do, Christine? How can I stop Edward and Günter when they are the wronged parties? André stole me. They have every right to attack him and his allies have every right to refuse to aid him.” What was to be done? Should she be true to her people and her word or to her heart? Did she have any choice? André had brought her back once, he would not hesitate to bring her back again. Christine shrugged, “I do not know what can be done. Perhaps it is already too late.” “I know my brother comes for me out of love and concern. If only I could plead with him to leave me here and to dissuade Günter from taking action.” Christine shrugged again and looked to the sky. “What?” Christine shook her head before responding. “Begging your pardon, Princess, but do not be so certain of your brother’s high regard. I would not want you to be hurt.”
“Explain. I do not understand your words.” Christine looked away but not before Arrianna saw a large tear trickle down her cheek. “I spoke out of place. Forgive me, I will say no more.” Arrianna wondered at Christine’s cryptic statement. Of course Edward held her in high esteem. He loved her as a good brother should. Looking down into the forest, a speck of blue caught her eye for but a moment. It was there and in a blink, it was gone. “Did you see that?” “See what Princess?” “Down there, next to that craggy old oak tree, a flash of blue.” Christine peered over Arrianna’s shoulder. “No. I see nothing. Perhaps it was a bird. Flown away now to find its mate.” Arrianna searched the forest but could not see anything that did not belong. Still, that particular shade of blue was one she was most familiar with. She wore a royal cloak of the same color. **** “I search my entire castle only to find you daydreaming at my tower walls. Plotting another escape, ladies?” André stopped directly behind Arrianna, placing a possessive hand on her shoulder. How did he approach without making a sound? “No, Milord,” smiled Arrianna, her heart welling with love at his touch. “We have learned our lesson with regards to escapes. It seems our attempts are feeble and useless when our pursuers are so bold and talented.” André smiled and squeezed her shoulder. “Lady Christine, the captain of my guard has also been looking for a little dove. It would better his temperament if he was not made to continue his search through the entire day.” Christine’s eyes widened and a delighted smile spread across her face. “Yes, Milord. I would not have him in bad humor either. Princess, your leave?” André’s hand was already making its way towards her breast and she nodded her ascent. Christine gave them each a small curtsey, then hurried to the staircase. Arrianna stepped away from the enticing warmth of his hand. How was she to stop this useless battle if she could think of naught but the pleasure of André’s body? “I thought you would have much to prepare for this coming meeting with Edward and Günter to take any notice of my whereabouts.” She took her place again at the wall and gazed out at the forest through the slits designed for the archers’ arrows. He came up behind her, drawing her into the circle of his arms and hugging her to his chest. “Believe me little one, I always take notice of your whereabouts.” His embrace tightened, and he rested his chin on the top of her head. How could she think about fighting and battles when he held her like this? She folded her arms over his and squeezed, offering him the same comfort he gave her. She continued to search the forest, but that hint of blue did not appear again. Should she mention it? Would he think her foolish and call her simple, or worse, conniving, making up fanciful tales to distract him from his strategies? She loved André, but she loved Bethany, too. And where did her loyalties lie? With André? With Bethany? André nuzzled her hair, and she thrilled in his warm breath against her ear. “I feel a sense of contentment as I have never known when I hold you in my arms, my dove. Would that I had not wasted five years, but now you are mine and I will keep
you and protect you always.” A lump threatened to close Arrianna’s throat. André had spoken many times of possessing her, but never had he voiced such feelings as these. He may not say the words plainly, but he had just told her he loved her. And suddenly, she understood about contentment, for her own sense of it overpowered her. She leaned back and angled her head. Her lips found the soft hair of his chin and she kissed it. His mouth slanted across hers and took it with a gentle welcoming. It was a sweet kiss, filled with tender promises of a future together. The steady thump of his heart attested to his words. Contentment. When he broke the kiss, she rested her head against his chest and returned her gaze to the forest. “André ? When will Günter and his men arrive?” “Hmm?” He nibbled on her earlobe. “I imagine they will arrive when hell spews them out and closes its gates against them. You need not worry your pretty head about it. He will not take you.” No, she did not imagine he would as long as she was under André’s protection. Heated kisses on her throat sent shivers up her spine, and she bent her head to give him more skin to ply his seduction. “I have one last question about the ambush.” He stiffened, and she hastened to reassure him. “I believe it when you say the men of Le Monte were not my attackers, but you made a statement in the great hall when first I saw you.” He relaxed at her trust in him, and his lips resumed their journey down her neck. “And what statement was that, my dove?” “You said, ‘Did I think you would allow another man to have what belongs to you alone?’.” “Yes, I did say that. I was bewildered to think you would consider marriage to another man,” he breathed hotly in her ear. “Could not let that happen. Why do you persist in questioning what I have already explained?” She knew he would be annoyed by her line of questioning, but that niggling doubt about the attack would not give her rest. “Do not think me simple, but if you did not order the ambush, how did you plan to keep me from Günter?” He stopped kissing her, and she regretted pursuing the topic. “Is that what is worrying you, my sweet?” His hands edged upward until he cupped her breasts, his thumbs massaging her nipples to pucker against the fabric of her gown. If he did not respond in the next few moments, his answer would be lost within his sensuous ministrations. “André, I simply do not understand.” She took a deep breath. Releasing it, she found his hand neatly inside the bodice of her gown, fondling her firm globe. “So you still doubt the truth of my words.” “No! I need to understand how you would keep me from Günter.” She did not say “without attacking my traveling party”, for she knew that would anger him. He chuckled. “It was quite a clever plan, but one that would have sent the bastard’s teeth gnashing for years. I wanted to provide him with the spectacle of stealing you out from under his very eyebrows.” His lips pressed hot kisses down her neck. “I do not…” He sighed and halted his seductions. “When your party emerged from the forest before Evanwood, Marchante would have placed you at the rear of the guard. He was to instruct them to go ahead so that Günter could be allowed to ride out and greet you formally. Since you were within clear view of the castle there would be no danger.
Naturally, before that occurred, you would have disappeared.” “Disappeared? And how did Marchante plan to accomplish that, Milord?” “Quite easily, sweetling. I would be there to snatch you away.” At his words, a delicious glow sprang from low in her belly and made its way to settle in her heart. She believed him. His words were spoken with sincerity, although a hint of teasing like a small boy tweaking Günter’s nose rang through. She raised her arm to tangle her fingers in the hair at his nape and urge his head to greet her lips. He turned her in his arms, never breaking the kiss, but removing his hand from her bodice. Why that should cause such a disappointment in her while his lips still melded to hers was baffling. When she felt the pull of her front lacings, she leaned back allowing him to undo them. In quick order, he had them undone and her breasts exposed. After a long moment, he broke the kiss and leaned back. “I do enjoy gazing at your naked breasts. They remind me of mounds of cream topped with delicious ripe berries.” She brought her hand up to caress and lift her aching breast, offering it for his inspection. “Cream and berries are not only meant to be pleasing to the eye, Milord, but also to the palate.” He cast her a wicked grin as he bent and took her protruding bud into his hot mouth. Familiar spears of lightning pricked her clit, bringing with them the most exquisite feeling of stimulation. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed three soldiers climb the stairs and amble towards them. They appeared prepared to call out a bawdy remark until they recognized their master. As if as one, they stopped and stared, their jaws dropping. She made no acknowledgment that she was aware of their presence. A hot flush covered her body. It was quite an erotic sensation, the sun glowing down like liquid silk caressing her flesh, André so attentive to his suckling and the three soldiers gaping at her naked breasts. She would die from the flames raging inside her. André covered her exposed breast with his hand, massaging the mound. Taking her beaded nipple between his lips, he tugged before raising his eyes to hers. “So, little one, you have a streak of immodesty in you,” he whispered, hoarsely for her ears only. “I do not mind my men watching if it excites you. Should I fuck you while they look on? Would it increase your pleasure to have them look upon your milky skin? Your damp, yellow thatch? Your hot, wet puss?” For a moment, Arrianna considered the exhilaration of being displayed while André took her, feeling the eyes of the men examining her every move. Even now, their cocks thrust tightly against their leggings. Would they climax looking at André buried deep inside her? Surely they would wish to be him. “You need ponder the question so long, my love?” He squeezed her breast to gain her full attention. What was she thinking? She must be mad with lust to consider such an action! Quickly, she turned her back and made to lace up her bodice. André stayed her hand. “Be still my love,” he murmured. “Gentlemen,” he called over his shoulder and Arrianna wondered at the elegant address he used for common soldiers. “As much as Milady appreciates your admiration, her modesty has been sorely pressed at discovering we were not alone. If you will please excuse us…?” A clanging of weapons sounded as the men retreated. The quick scrambling of feet
on the stairs, assured Arrianna that she and André were once again alone. “Why did you say that?” “Mayhaps I do not wish that my men know what a little performer I have. Or that she enjoyed their admiration of her curves and was contemplating showing all of her favors.” He turned her around and opened the edges of her gown to stroke her swollen breast. She trembled at his touch. “Oh, my dove, you are primed and ready, aren’t you? And after I fucked you so thoroughly last eve, you are ready for more.” He rubbed his swollen cock with his hand. “Come, show me how much you want me.” André drew her hand to the lacings of his breeches, then reached to toy with her nipples, twisting them, pinching them. Arrianna’s hands flew as they undid his lacings. She had much practice in the short time she was at Le Monte and knew heaven was near. Grasping his stiff rod, she massaged it until it appeared to grow even larger. “You are so beautiful, André ,” she breathed. “So beautiful.” Distracted for a moment, she scanned the battlement. Although there were soldiers on the walls, they were too far away to determine what she and André were about. The three that had observed her were not in sight. “Turn around and bend over, little one.” She did as he bade her, bracing her hands against the rough stones and positioning herself to gaze out over the forest through the archers’ openings. Lifting her skirt, he caressed her soft, naked buttock. “Lovely,” he murmured. His penetration was swift and eager and she reveled in his virility and touch. As his thrusts became harder, Arrianna spread her legs wider, wanting to take more of him. Turning her head, she caught a movement on the stairs. Through half closed lids, she recognized one of the three soldiers. He had unlaced his leggings, releasing his cock. As she watched, he fisted his shaft and pumped vigorously. It took a moment to realize that his hand moved in time with André’s thrusts. She smiled to herself and shifted again to provide him a better view. André gripped her around the waist. Without his steady hold, her head would have knocked against the stone wall. She held firm, letting him control her movements. Carefully, she spread her legs wider, hoping the soldier could see André’s cock plunging into her dripping slit. André would most likely not appreciate this soldier’s attention as she did. His powerful strokes, along with the thought of being observed, served to bring about an exceptional release. She fought to keep her eyes open and watched as the soldier spewed his seed. It gave her a sense of abandon and power unlike any she had ever experienced. André’s climax came last of all and she relished the feel of his seed entering her. Mayhaps this would be the time it would bear fruit. The thought warmed her. A son for André. When she looked again, the soldier was gone and a surprising sense of disappointment enveloped her. André withdrew and she adjusted her skirts as he laced his breeches. He put a finger under her chin and lifted her eyes to his. “Oh, what is this sadness I see, mon petite chou?” he chuckled. “Do you miss your audience?”
Chapter Ten Attempting to appear unconcerned, Arrianna ambled to the stable. Taking advantage of the activity surrounding her, she hoped her movements would not be noted. She meandered about the courtyard, taking a circuitous route from the bottom of the stairs where André had kissed her and told her to stay out of trouble. He would be occupied for the remainder of the day, readying the castle and his people for the siege. The town folk would not seek the shelter of the castle walls until the morrow, but already, André’s vassals and their men arrived to defend Le Monte. With two invading armies bearing down on them, no man would leave his family unprotected. They would all be safe deep within the bowels of Le Monte. Their ladies, children and servants entered in all modes of conveyance: cart, litter, and on foot. Several daring women rode proudly on the backs of spirited horses, some sporting weapons as they accompanied their men. Arrianna’s gaze was drawn to these women, fascinated by their courage and self-confidence. Having herself been raised with a gentle hand, she was unaccustomed to women partaking in such masculine activities. The thought of sitting astride a colossal war horse, at André’s side, weapon drawn to meet an adversary sent a tremor down her spine. How proud André would be. She entertained her little fantasy as she made her way to the stable. Her hair flew in the wind as the thunderous hooves of the horses echoed in the valley as she and André charged… Charged who? Her brother? The men of Bethany? She stopped. Where had her thoughts led? How could she contemplate such a despicable action? Pushing the images from her mind, she side-stepped two hounds fighting over a bone and continued on her task. Men, armed with every manner of weapon, hurried about the vast yard, many riding or leading enormous war horses. She wanted to cover her ears to blot out the sounds. Sounds so loud, she could scarce concentrate on her mission. It would be worse when the townspeople joined them. With their chickens, cows and other livestock, it would make the confusion now seem like a monastery. She did not want to think about the stench that was sure to accompany them. She stifled a grin. Andre had known the soldier watched but allowed it because it heightened her response. He truly did love her. Shaking her head, she dispelled the images from her mind. Something needs be done about the flash of blue in the forest. It must be a courier or soldier from Bethany, from Edward. If she could speak to her brother, she could tell him she could not honor the betrothal, that she must stay with Le Monte. Would it be possible to convince Edward not to attack? To persuade him to undertake a truce? Knowing Edward’s loathing of André, she might be wishing for the stars. But Edward hated him for the wrong reasons. André did not kill their father. Would Edward be more willing to use diplomacy instead of force if she could convince him of André’s innocence? She would never know unless she took a chance and sought out the courier. André would never allow her to meet with Edward’s emissary. He would insist on accompanying her, or worse, going in her stead. She grimaced. No, André would have the man hauled to the dungeon and questioned to within an inch of his life. No. She must investigate this herself.
Finding the main courtyard too precarious, she skirted to the towering walls, praying the late morning shadows hid her movements from any curious enough to wonder at her presence amid the havoc. If questioned, she would say André bid her enjoy her last morning of peace—and then hope the questioner did not seek confirmation of that statement from André . On reaching the stable, she slipped inside, again keeping to the shadows. She wrinkled her nose at the earthy smells. Of course, Starfire was not in the stall where Arrianna easily found her the night of the aborted escape. She had indeed been simple that night to believe it was God’s blessing—not André’s plan—that made escape so easy. Relying on the general confusion, she crept between the rows of stalls until locating her little mare at the rear of the stable. “There you are, sweetling.” Arrianna stood close, out of the way as a groom walked a sleek black stallion past. Before setting out, she had decided that bravado would be her primary strategy. Everything must appear normal. “You, boy,” she called to a young groom loitering against a post. “Come saddle my mare. I wish to exercise her.” One look at her and the boy scurried to do her bidding. Arrianna was not certain if he recognized her or the royal color of her cape, but she was soon mounted on Starfire’s back and casually shuffling out of the stable. Again keeping to the wall, she was soon out the gate, across the moat and cantering towards the forest. There was no mistaking what she saw. Someone wearing Bethany’s colors was in the forest this morning and she would know who. She was more than safe. No one from Bethany would harm her. To be certain, she had worn her heavy cloak although it was not needed on such a warm morning. She turned and scanned the castle walls, but the men were occupied and took no notice of her. Praying she would remain unobserved, she pointed Starfire towards the forest and at a speed neither too fast nor too slow, she made her way into the woods. The sounds of the castle readying for battle drifted away under the heavy canopy of green. She slowed her pace and gave Starfire her head. The only sound was the mare’s hooves, muffled by the fallen leaves and interrupted by an occasional snort. Now that she was here, Arrianna’s plan seemed a bit foolish. How was she to contact the Bethany soldier—for indeed, it had been a soldier’s livery—when he had the vast forest in which to hide? It had been several hours since the streak of blue had caught her attention. What if he was gone? Carefully picking her way through the trees and brush so as not to snag her cloak or injure Starfire on a thorn bush, she wandered through the woods. If she was to meet the soldier from Bethany, he would have to find her. “I wondered if it was too much to hope you had spied me from the battlements, Princess.” Arrianna froze at the voice behind her, momentarily taken aback. With her heart in her throat, she turned Starfire. The man was unfamiliar, but the livery was unmistakable. She had been right—a soldier from Bethany. He had a face that had been used too long and too hard, reflecting a life that most likely matched. “Are there others with you?” she asked, glancing behind him. “I am alone. One man can blend in with the forest, more than one can be easily detected.”
She nodded, wondering now if he was spy or rescuer. “Why have you come?” The man looked down and she knew his next words would be a lie. “I am come from your brother. I am to bring you to him.” She eyed him suspiciously. “Le Monte is a vast fortress. How could Edward know you would find me?” “He could not, Highness, but I was to wait and watch. Today when I saw you on the battlements, I took a chance that you would see me and investigate. My Lord Edward does not wish to wage war, but Le Monte has made no demand for ransom and you must be delivered to Evanwood to fulfill the marriage contract.” Arrianna tried to find the lie in his words but could not. This was the same conclusion she had come to—before André pointed out her less than pure womanhood now made her unfit to marry Günter. Her heart lightened. Edward did not wish to war on Le Monte? “Where is my brother?” He lowered his voice. “He marches to the Western Pass, which is but a three hour ride. He cannot be far beyond that.” She recalled Christine’s conversation of this morning. “How long have you been here? How came you to be in Le Monte when word of my capture could only now reach Bethany?” “Since yesterday, Highness.” His old eyes looked into hers, unwavering. “King Edward had prior knowledge something might befall your party and so sent me on ahead. There are, er, informers everywhere. Come, Highness, I will take you now to your brother.” The man made to grab her reins, but Arrianna quickly pulled Starfire from his reach. “I cannot leave.” The man’s bearing bothered her, though she could not say why. Was he mayhap a bit too keen for her to ride with him? But then, he was from Edward, come to rescue her. Of course, he would be eager to leave. “But why not? You are outside the walls. I have watched and you were not followed. It will be a simple matter to ride away.” Arrianna searched for a plausible reason. She could not advise this man the true nature of her refusal to escape. She wanted to talk to Edward but without André’s knowledge. If she left now, she could not make the trip and return before André noted her absence. “Lady Christine. Yes, Lady Christine is still held hostage and I cannot leave without her.” “But Princess…” “Do not ask me to abandon my dearest friend.” She quickly developed a plan. With the townspeople arriving at the castle tomorrow, André and his men would be preoccupied and not miss her. If she left early in the morning, she could return before nightfall. “I will strive to get Lady Christine out of the castle tomorrow and meet you here. Then, we will go to my brother.” When she saw the man was about to protest, she held up her hand. “Do not argue with me on this. My mind is fixed.” The man opened his mouth, thought better of it, and nodded. “Yes Highness. I will ride to His Lordship’s encampment to inform him we have met and will return tomorrow for you and Lady Christine. As today, I will find you.” “Very well. I will attempt to be here sometime after sunrise. Wait for us. We will be
here.” With a respectful nod, he turned his mount and trotted off into the forest. Arrianna stared after him. So Edward had prior knowledge of the ambush. Was that why his army was so close? But if he knew, why had he not stopped it? And why had he put her life in danger? A rustle of leaves off to the left caught her attention, but when she turned, she could see naught but the serenity of nature shimmering about the forest. Most likely, it was a woodland creature going about its business. She shivered and hoped that creature was not a Black Wolf. **** Closing the chamber door behind her, Arrianna expelled a deep breath. God’s Teeth. It had been easier to leave the castle unnoticed than to return. She had planned to be seen in the valley but had not known what a furor her presence would cause. She had ridden in the forest, careful to leave far from where she entered it. Making a show in the meadow, she had given Starfire her lead, allowing the mare to run and gambol about. Once assured she had been seen, she returned to the stable, only to be questioned by every vassal and lady if she had enjoyed her ride, what she thought of the Le Monte valley and a dozen other inquiries that delayed her return. With the sun low on the horizon, she had hurried to André’s chamber, anxious to be with him. “Did you enjoy your ride today, my dove?” She turned and scanned the dim room, locating him in the chair before the unlit fireplace. His back was to her, his head leaning against the chair’s high back, his legs outstretched, crossed at the ankles and his hands resting on the chair arms. His weary voice matched his posture. “You look tired, Milord,” she said softly, kneeling beside him. “Would you care to lie down and have me rub the weariness from your bones?” He cupped his hand behind her head and drew her up, searching her face. After a long moment, he gave her a small smile and kissed her forehead. “You are so good for me.” It was then that she noticed his filthy tunic and mud stained breeches, and the odor emanating from him was less than pleasant. She wrinkled her nose. “You are right, sweetheart. I look like hell and smell like the floor of the stable. Come, we needs remedy this before I can take you again.” He stood slowly as if each muscle protested its movement. Grabbing his heavy black cloak, he ushered her out the chamber door and into the courtyard. Before long, they were through the gate and strolling hand-in-hand towards the forest. Concerned she had been spotted on her assignation, Arrianna kept quiet until André led her into a different area of the woods. His silence was not disturbing, but rather a comfort, knowing that words were not needed between them. A full moon lit their path as if it were day. As André passed from shadow to light, she marveled at his virility and comeliness. That she should have caught the eye of one so powerful and handsome was truly God’s blessing upon her. Her heart swelled with love even as it ached with regret. She had complained of her misery and loneliness, but how hard were those years for him? Fighting for his birthright, betrayed by his uncle, seeing to the welfare of his siblings, André’s life had been more than difficult.
Instead of her own petty desires, she wished she were here to ease his burden, to comfort him. His gait was slow and weary, not at all the purposeful stride which normally carried him about the day. She wondered at their destination, but feeling his strong hand wrapped around hers and his overpowering presence beside her, she was content to follow wherever he led. She should tell him Edward had a spy in his castle. Hmm, but then he would want to know how she came to know this. No, it would be better to wait until she returned from her meeting with her brother. Mayhaps Edward would tell her who it was. As they journeyed further into the forest, she detected the sound of running water. They followed the sound and were soon on the banks of a bubbling spring. “This is but one of many springs that keep Le Monte in fresh water. Underground streams run through the valley and forest. My great-grandfather had the castle built on that hill not only because of its superior location but a stream runs directly underneath. Le Monte never lacks for fresh water … even during a siege. The springs are also what makes Le Monte such a prize and coveted by her neighbors.” The spring was no more than the length and width of four horses and surrounded by thick vegetation. A soft covering of moss grew on one side around a newly fallen tree. He dropped his cloak and released her hand. “Come, my dove, let us wash off the grime of the day.” Pulling his tunic over his head, he tossed it near the cloak and sat on the fallen log. His weariness appeared to return as he stared at his boots. Arrianna dropped to her knees beside him and lifted his foot. “Allow me, Milord.” She tugged the boot, removing first one then the other. Rolling down his socks, she tucked them inside the boots. “You are so good for me,” he repeated, bending to kiss her hair. It was tied in her customary braid, but he pulled it over her shoulder and proceeded to unfasten it. “So beautiful, like spun gold,” he murmured, raking his fingers through it. Arrianna reached up and unlaced his breeches. His eyes drifted closed at her touch. Although not aroused, his shaft was still impressive. “Can you stand, Milord?” He staggered to his feet like a man whose fatigue had succeeded in bringing him low. Placing his hands on her shoulders for balance, she drew off his breeches. When he was naked, she stood back and admired his hard physique. Though his body was marked by several scars, they did not detract from his beauty. His broad chest, covered with swirls of dark hair, heaved as he tried to summon some strength. In the bright moonlight, she followed the trail of hair to his navel and below to the thick nest surrounding his sex. His cock twitched under her scrutiny. “Though I am more tired than the dead, your attentions can swiftly bring my cock to life. Undress, my dove, I wish to look upon your lovely flesh.” Her cheeks colored, but she undid the ties of her cloak, letting it fall where she stood. Her gown followed and she moved to press herself against him, wishing she were taller so she could rub her mound against his sex. She settled for rubbing her belly against it. She inhaled deeply. He still smelled of work and sweat, but his naked body aroused her. “Before you distract me from my effort, we best put a stop to this.” André stepped back and fished in the pocket of his cloak. Producing a lump of soap, he handed it to her and bent his knees to pick her up. “It is time we bathed.” He entered the shallow water, but within a few steps, it rose to his chest. The icy surface grazed her rear, eliciting a sharp intake of breath. Instantly, her nipples pearled.
“A delicious surprise. How can I resist when you offer such sweet berries so becomingly?” He dipped his head, taking the breast closest into his mouth. Sucking gently, he held her like a priceless treasure as she cradled his head. A deep rumble of satisfaction rolled through his chest, shaking her in his arms. He lifted his head and kissed her cheek. “Alas, my heart, I have no strength to seduce you. You have kept me busy these several nights, and this cold spring has shriveled my cock to nothing.” Stepping back to the shallow area, he released her and plopped cross-legged in water to his waist. He rolled his shoulders and twisted his neck from side to side. Arrianna knelt before him. “Rest, André. Let me see to your needs. Keep your eyes closed,” she said, running the soap over his cheeks and forehead to wash away the grime and sweat of the day. Lathering her hands, she worked the soap into his beard, enjoying the slight scratch of his whiskers on her palms. She cupped her hand and rinsed the filmy residue from his face. He groaned softly as she smoothed the soap across his hard, muscular chest and neck. His gratitude for this act of servitude warmed her heart. Never had she seen him so vulnerable, so utterly exhausted. And tonight might be his last night of rest. If she did not succeed in dissuading her brother from battle, the siege of Le Monte could be a long one. Either way, she would be back at Le Monte before André knew she was gone. “Give me your arm.” He lifted one then the other, allowing her to stroke the heavy muscles and crinkly hair. Her hands then moved to wash his sex which, indeed, was not equal to its usual proportions. “Cease your giggles, woman,” he muttered, his head bent low over his chest. “I’ll have you screaming your pleasure soon enough.” “I have no doubt of that, Milord,” she said, cupping him and squeezing lightly. “I am looking forward to it with great anticipation.” The tightness in his shoulders caused her to scuttle around and kneel behind him to deeply massage the knotted muscles. His head lolled and for a moment, she thought he might pitch forward, but he righted himself. After soaping his back, she washed his hair, alternating between threading his dark locks through her fingers and scrubbing vigorously to remove a layer of muck. “Have a care, woman, before you scour my scalp to the bone,” he growled, clamping a hard fist around her slim ankle. “Well, you are not so tired you cannot complain,” she laughed. “Go. Rinse off and come back with a better disposition.” She kissed his neck, giving him a slight shove. Releasing her ankle, André stood, took two steps, then dove into the spring. The water danced in the moonlight, rippling with his dive. Arrianna hurriedly washed herself and attended her hair. It might be weeks until she had a luxury such as this again. Laughing as André splashed and swam, he reminded her of a big fish in a pond too small. The icy water seemed to have revived him, and he disappeared several times beneath the surface. Unsure where the ledge dropped off, she cautiously waded into the deeper water to rinse her hair. André had not yet surfaced from his last dive, and she wondered how long he could hold his breath. Knowing it would be best to submerge quickly, she still could not bring herself to plunge into the freezing pond. Firm hands around her ankles took the decision from her. André yanked and she lost her footing, falling into his waiting arms. “Andr…!” Her shriek was lost as she dropped beneath the waterline. She surfaced,
sputtering in his grasp. “God’s Beard, woman. Were you planning to delay all night?” He stood firmly, holding her head above the waterline. She clasped her arms around his neck and her legs about his hips. “I cannot swim! Have a care or I will drown!” Her hair floated on the water, fanning out behind her. “I would not allow any harm to befall you, little one.” He held her tightly, reassuring her. “Your hair holds the remains of the soap. I am going to dip us under to rinse it. Hold your breath now.” Arrianna did as she was told, closed her eyes and clung on for her very life, burying her face in his corded neck. André bent his knees, and they both disappeared under the water. What seemed an eternity was but a few seconds. They broke the surface and she again sputtered her displeasure. “I think you have had enough of a swim for one evening.” André waded to the edge of the spring and deposited her on the bank. Reaching for his cloak, he wrapped them both in it. The coarse wool was a welcome cover after the chill of the spring. Arrianna slid her palms up the length of his hard, wet chest, glorying in the wonder of being his. Huddled under the warm cloak, Arrianna pressed her body tightly against him. She lifted her chin, and when she thought he would devour her mouth with a long, searching kiss, he drew his head back and yawned. With their little frolic in the pond, she had forgotten his weariness. Even now, his body swayed against hers as he struggled to maintain his footing. Stepping from the cocoon of his arms, she grasped the edge of the cloak and smoothed it over his chest and abdomen, drying him where their bodies had melded. She avoided touching his sex, knowing for now, he required sleep more than coupling. “Shall we rest here a while? It is beautiful under the stars, Milord, and no one is here to disturb your slumber.” André chuckled. “The reason I have not slept these past nights is here with me now. How can you say that no one will disturb me?” He stepped away, removing his cloak from both of them. “But, yes, some sleep will do us both good. Gather your clothing, sweetheart.” He bent to pick up his own, and she followed him to a secluded clearing guarded on three sides by low bushes and underbrush. A sturdy oak tree stood sentinel along with a few saplings. Several large flat rocks angled up from the mossy ground. Moonlight seeped through as a gentle breeze swayed the full branches, casting delicate shadows on all. André dropped his clothes and boots in a heap and shook out his cloak, letting it flutter to the ground. Taking her cloak, he lay down and stretched out. Signaling for her to join him, Arrianna tossed her gown on his boots and fell into his arms. He unfurled her cloak and covered them both. “Are you warm, little one?” She smiled up at him, heat already swelling in her belly. “With you, I am always warm.” He tucked her gently to his side, resting his heavy arm on her hip and kissed her forehead. She snuggled closer, entwining her legs with his. At the sound of his even breathing, she cut her eyes to his face, hoping he had regained his stamina. A resigned smile sprang to her lips. There would be no coupling at this time. Her soul mate was sound asleep.
Chapter Eleven Arrianna was not certain what woke her. Whether it was the a chill in the night air where her cloak had fallen from her shoulder or the shift in the tree leaves that left her face in the full moon’s light, she could not say. From the position of the moon, she judged it to be far past midnight. Soft fingers on her lips told her she did not imagine the intrusion. Casting her gaze sideways, she found André cautiously searching her face. He was half in shadow, but the twinkle in his eyes was unmistakable. They both heard it at the same time—a muffled shriek behind the large rocks. The shriek was followed by a louder growl in a rich masculine voice with a command to “Come here, wench!” Arrianna’s eyebrows shot up in recognition. That was not a voice she would ever forget. André’s half-brother or not, she could not forgive all his years of deceit. She now knew the source of the shriek, too. What was that man doing with Christine? When she made to call out a warning, André placed a steadying hand over her mouth. “Shh. Do you wish to interrupt their play?” he whispered in her ear, his hot breath sending shivers down her spine. “Play?” she mouthed, then turned to speak into his ear. “That is not play. He’s hurting her! How can you call that play?” “I call it play because it is the same sound you make when I play with you,” he growled, rolling her beneath him as another shriek sounded followed by the rustling of bushes. “Don’t try my patience, woman. I said come here,” Marchante roared. Arrianna flattened her hands against André’s shoulders and pushed, dislodging his hold. “Stop it! We have to help Christine before that … that troll hurts her!” André heaved a deep sigh and rolled off her. “If you must, my love, but permit me to remain here while you make a fool of yourself.” He grabbed her wrist and brought her face close to his. “May I suggest you look first, and if Marchante is not ravishing your lady that you quietly remove yourself and leave them in peace.” She nodded and sprang to her feet, treading gingerly to a large rock. She knelt and leaned against the cool, smooth surface. Stretching her neck, she could just peek over the edge and into another clearing further away from the pond. As she watched, Christine darted away from Marchante. Her cloak, wrapped tightly around her, impeded her step. Arrianna made to call out when she felt a warm body press against her. The rough hair on her back and the hard shaft rubbing her buttocks were a clear reminder that she had yet to don her discarded gown. André knelt between her legs, pushing them apart with his own powerful thighs. “You made such an inviting picture with your shimmering hair falling across your delicious ass, I could not resist the urge to join you.” Leaning back, he lifted her locks over her shoulder before wedging his rod between her pouting cheeks. André’s whispered words sent a lightening bolt of lust to her inner core, awakening the desire for him that was never far from the surface. Leaning in to her, he rested his chin on her shoulder and playfully nipped her neck.
“Well, little one, it does not look like Lady Christine has any objections to my brother’s attentions.” With difficulty, Arrianna turned her notice from André’s hands roaming freely over her body to the activity in the clearing. Marchante had his back to them but had captured Christine. Lifting her by the waist, he held her above his head. He growled something and her hands flew to unfasten the tie of her cloak. It fell to the ground and Marchante pressed his lips to … Arrianna gasped silently. Christine was naked under her cloak! Marchante kissed her exposed belly as he held her aloft. He turned so that they were now in profile. Her head was thrown back and her hands rested on his shoulders. Slowly, he lowered her until her pert little breasts were level with his mouth. “Do you still think she is here against her will, my heart?” André trailed his lips down the back of her neck, angling to nibble the sensitive spot at the crook of her shoulder. Arrianna could not look away as Marchante’s mouth hovered over Christine’s breast. Her own clitoris ached in delicious anticipation, waiting for him to take it in his mouth. He blew and brushed his lips across the beaded tip. Finally, his tongue flicked out to tease a hard nipple. “You enjoy watching as much as participating, eh my sweet?” André shifted, making room for his hand to reach between her legs and stroke her wet folds. “Mayhap you like doing both at once?” She shuddered at his words as much as at his sensuous touch. Marchante’s mouth closed over Christine’s breast and she cradled his head, offering more of herself. Her moans filled the air, causing Arrianna’s own heart to catch. “André ?” “Shh, you don’t want to be discovered and thus put an end to your entertainment, do you? Enjoy the diversion. I will keep myself occupied with another amusement.” He licked a path down her spine, ending at the fissure between her cheeks. His wet fingers moved from her puss to massage her tight rear opening as he kissed his way back to her neck. She tensed, but he continued to caress her nether hole. A spark shot from his gentle fingers, sending a hot message to her throbbing clit, and she wiggled her buttocks to prolong the feeling. “Oh, ma cheri!” At Marchante’s deep groan, Arrianna returned her interest to the erotic drama before her. He lowered Christine to the ground, releasing his hold on her breast. She clung to him, smoothing her palms up his chest. In the pale moonlight, a flash of sun-darkened skin caught her eye. So, Marchante was also naked beneath his cloak. She strained to get a better view, wondering if he had the same hard, contoured physique as André. Curiosity got the better of her, and she focused her gaze on his groin, but his cloak covered him. Was Marchante’s shaft as long and thick as the one that even now, lay heavy against her back? Christine reached up and Marchante’s cloak fell to the ground. A soft giggle drifted over the still night air. Arrianna inhaled a quick, silent breath. Marchante was, indeed, as well hung as his older brother. His cock jutted out proudly as if sniffing out the aroused scent of its mate. In seconds, his staff was clasped between Christine’s eager hands, hands that stroked and massaged. He rested his chin on the top of her head and spread his legs wider. She
reached lower and Marchante let out another satisfied groan. Arrianna could not see, but there could be no question that the man’s balls were receiving extensive attention at her friend’s touch. “Well little one,” murmured André in her ear, a hint of annoyance in his low voice. “My brother’s shaft seems to hold your fascination. Have you tired so quickly of mine?” At his words, Arrianna turned sharply, ready to reassure him that she would never tire of his touch or his attentions. His mouth caught hers in a searing kiss, his hot tongue plumbing its depths just as his fingers surged into her wet slit. He brooked no quarter but took her mouth as it was his right to do. His tongue stroked and explored every crevice, behind every tooth before tangling with hers in a dance that matched the rhythm of his fingers. Arrianna wanted to cry out at his rough treatment, but instead cupped his head, twining her fingers in his hair and anchoring his mouth to hers. She spread her legs wider, hoping he could push higher. A slight squishing sound reached her ears over the deep inhalations as they struggled to breath. He broke the kiss but kept his lips pressed lightly to hers. “Be silent, my heart, or we will yet reveal our presence.” Arrianna gulped in the air she so desperately needed. His fingers inside her stilled, but she had scarce recovered her breath when they began to work her again. She trembled at his touch. “André ,” she muttered through a haze of passion, “André, my love, I thought you wanted me to watch them, to enjoy the sight of them. Never would I consider any to take your place. I promised you. I will never renege on my word. I love you.” He withdrew his fingers, spreading her nectar between her buttocks. “See that you remember that, my dove. You may watch and, mayhaps, learn a new form of pleasure, but never forget, you are mine alone. No other man will ever touch you.” His hard erection pressed into her back and she wondered how long she could continue kneeling. His hot breath in her ear sent a trembling to her center and his words, a glow to her heart. Again, he had told her he loved her without saying the words. “André ,” she whispered, coming to her senses for a brief moment, “You should not be looking at Lady Christine while she is unclothed. It is not seemly.” His chest shook against her back. “And it is not seemly for you to compare my brother’s cock to mine, sweetling.” Arrianna frowned. She could find no argument in his words and decided that if she could stare at Marchante’s shaft, then André could look at Christine, although he did not seem to pay her much mind. André continued to dip his fingers into her dripping channel and lubricate her ass. She tried not to think about what that meant. That first night when he had worked his finger into her nether hole, she had experienced a fiery pain that was quickly replaced by a sizzling pleasure, a blaze so great she thought she might explode into a thousand pieces of light. “Lean against the rock, little one,” André kissed her shoulder. His hands trembled as he grasped her hips. “Look, but keep silent. There is still much to watch … and learn tonight.” She turned to peer over the rock again. Marchante now lay stretched on his cloak, leaning on an elbow while Christine attended to his bulging erection with her mouth.
Hmm, this was not new. She had pleasured André thusly many times. Although she could not be certain, André’s shaft seemed thicker … and longer. She would rather concentrate on the startling feelings he was provoking from her rear. His thumb pressed cautiously around her anus, massaging it, encouraging it to open. “Shh,” he whispered as if sensing her disquiet. “Watch and wait.” Marchante lifted Christine and laid her on top of him. He would now want Christine to ride his cock. Again, nothing she had not done with André. A rustling in the underbrush shifted her focus to the left of the clearing. An icy shiver sent her heartbeat thumping wildly in her chest. Had the messenger from Edward returned early? Would Marchante kill him before he had a chance to speak? She made ready to call out just as a calloused hand clamped over her mouth. “Shh, watch and wait.” **** Arrianna shivered at the thought of the violence to follow, but held her peace as André ordered. A figure picked its way through the underbrush towards the entwined lovers, both of whom turned to stare. Arrianna strained to recognize the newcomer, but it was hidden in a dark cloak with the hood drawn up. Relief washed over her. The figure was considerably shorter than the messenger from Edward. Neither of the lovers moved, but Arrianna did not sense any fear in them. When the figure reached the edge of Marchante’s cloak, it stopped and appeared to say something, but the sound died in the rustling of the trees and bubbling of the spring. Only Christine’s giggle could be heard. Arrianna peeked from her hiding place, fascinated at the scene unfolding. Who was the cloaked figure? Was it expected? Had Marchante and Christine been waiting for it? It seemed so, since neither attempted to shield their nakedness. At a low growl from Marchante, the figure untied the cloak and let it fall. Arrianna’s gasp was again silenced by André’s hand over her mouth. “What is so shocking, my sweet?” he whispered, laughter unmistakable in his low voice. “Do you think a man can only have one woman at a time? My brother has a fondness for several women pleasuring him at once. Is she not a beauty? Not quite the same delicate loveliness of our Lady Christine, but attractive nonetheless in a brash, voluptuous manner.” Arrianna stared at the naked woman and recognized her as the serving wench, Marguerite, from the great hall. She had served the master’s table and had spoken to Arrianna and Christine on occasion. That she should be here while Marchante and Christine partook in their heated pleasures was unthinkable. Arrianna nibbled on André’s palm signaling him to free her mouth. “You cannot be serious!” she returned his whisper. “Marchante is to couple with both of them?” “Even with all I have taught you, you are still such an innocent. It is not for me to naysay his appetites. If his women like or dislike sharing, it is no concern of mine. But all in all, most enjoy the exercise.” “That is ridiculous! What does the one do while he is servicing the other?” A deep rumble of laughter welled up in his chest pressed tightly against her back as his finger slid into her anus. His touch both shocked and delighted her. “Wait and watch, little one. Wait and watch.”
Christine slid off Marchante, and he motioned the serving wench to kneel on his other side. She did so, leaning over to brush her large breasts across his chest and face. At a word from him, Christine reached and fondled one breast while Marchante took the other into his mouth. The contact emboldened Christine, and she soon pushed Marchante away and took Marguerite’s breast into her own mouth. Marchante laughed and slid the serving wench’s thighs over his shoulders. Arrianna gasped. Marchante had his face buried in the girl’s puss while Christine continued to suckle her. Arrianna’s eyes widened, and she heard another chuckle from André before it was replaced by a low growl. His fingers slid in and out as he made her ready. Without warning, they were replaced by the velvet head of his shaft, pressing, easing, encouraging her to open. In her mind’s eye, she could see the bulging head of his cock as it demanded access. All interest in Marchante and his women evaporated into the night. Her world shrank to André and the steady pressure of his cock pushing into her nether hole. She laid her cheek against the cool stone, knowing the pleasure would follow the brief pain. “There, my heart,” he breathed heavily into her ear, “I have breached your entrance. A moment more and I will slide my length inside.” He held her hips, spreading her buttocks apart further, entering her slowly, tenderly. “So tight,” he growled, “so tight!” With a final thrust, she felt his groin against her rear, his cock fully inside her. She wanted to scream at the pain, at the pleasure, but he placed a firm hand over her mouth. “Relax, my sweet. Do not alert our playful friends. Let the pleasure overtake you.” A gentle pulsing motion as her anus adjusted to his size increased the stretching sensation. She clung to the cool surface of the flat rock, bracing herself. André lay his head on her shoulder, the heat of his body warming her further. Her back dampened with his sweat and he blew out a low roar. “Are you ready?” he whispered. When she nodded, unable to speak, he withdrew to the ridge of his bulbous head and waited before plunging back to his hilt. Whimpering, her body throbbed with an unknown bliss, a sensation so powerful, so extreme, she was sure to shatter with the intensity. He released one hip, reaching around between her legs to dip two fingers into her dripping slit. As he slid from her again, he coated his cock with her juices, repeating this several times until she was mindless with need. All the while, he offered encouragement, whispering in a low growl. “Good, my dove. Do that again. Lean forward. Good.” His speed increased and he pressed her flat against he rock, elevating her hips to meet his pounding thrusts. She had never felt such pressure, such fullness. André had stopped whispering. Deep groans vibrated in his chest and spilled into her ears. His pleasure brought a sharper edge to hers, offering a fulfillment and oneness she had never known. With a powerful jerk, his seed spewed into her dark passage. His mouth came down on her shoulder, not quite biting, but using her flesh to silence his cries. A blistering heat overtook her as André continued to shoot wet, scorching arrows into her. An instant before her release overtook her, André’s palm gently covered her mouth. Her screams of completion were muffled in his hand. Long moments later, he eased his cock from her and softly massaged her rear, paying considerable attention to her tender back opening. His fingers were wet with his cream,
comforting the raw flesh. “You are truly a treasure, my dove,” he murmured nipping her earlobe. His breath came in hard, harsh gulps and she took great satisfaction at pleasing him. His slick chest pressed into her back, pinning her to the cool rock. He buried his face in her hair, still damp from their earlier swim. “Arrianna, my heart, I…” A loud shout had them both peering over the rock. Arrianna could not be sure, but there appeared to be a six legged, six armed beast in the nearby clearing. The moon had trailed behind a silvery cloud, obscuring her vision. After observing for a few minutes, she determined Marchante lay on his back, servicing the two women with his cock and his mouth. “Your Lady Christine is quite the follower of Eros, is she not? It is evident that she is an accomplished rider.” He paused and Arrianna turned to find him studying her lady as she impaled herself again and again on his brother’s shaft. “Yes, she must be a quick student if I am to believe she was an innocent when I gave her to Henri.” She returned her attention to Christine as she labored over Marchante’s erection, her head thrown back and her pert little breasts heaving with her exertion. “Yes, Milord, she was a virgin, but I agree. Marchante has taught her much. Just as his brother taught me to quickly appreciate the finer … points of a man.” Arrianna felt his smile against her temple. “Would you not say, my dove, that Henri has a healthy appetite? He appears to be devouring the wench.” She shifted her attention from Christine to Marguerite, still amazed that Marchante entertained two women at once. His head was deep between her thighs as she faced Christine. Her hands splayed up and down his chest and abdomen, rocking with his rhythm. “Are you learning anything, little one?” “They do nothing that I have not done with you—alone.” “True.” He reached his arm over her shoulder and entwined his fingers in her hair. “Like Chinese silk,” he muttered absently before cupping her breast. He massaged it, pinching her nipple until it pebbled. “Marguerite’s breasts are ripe.” She made to pull away, not liking his appreciation of the other woman’s body, but he held her to him. “Ripe, but not as lush and delicious as yours, my sweet. I could spend an entire night and the following day doing nothing but suckling and worshipping your beautiful globes.” “Flatterer,” she sighed. “André. Look at that.” “Don’t be so priggish,” he chuckled. “Marguerite is merely pleasing them both and herself. It is quite a talent.” Marguerite continued to caress Marchante’s torso, her hands moving lower and lower until she tangled her fingers in the dark hair of his sex. As he thrust his hips up to sink deeply into Christine’s wet channel, Marguerite would caress them both. Christine leaned back to take Marchante and Marguerite slipped her fingers into her puss, massaging her clit, keeping pace with Marchante’s pumping. Marchante, in turn, lavished Marguerite’s puss with such attention, she soon trembled and screamed her pleasure. Marchante’s hips jerked and writhed as he clutched Marguerite’s puss to his face. Instantly, Christine threw back her head and joined them. A cool sheen of sweat covered Arrianna’s skin as she watched the three reach
completion. “Enjoy the entertainment, my dove?” “André ?” “Yes, my sweet?” He grazed his lips up her throat to nibble at her earlobe. “I see now that a man can have two women.” She dipped her head, not wanting to ask but curious to know. “Can a woman have two men?” The low rumble of his chest against her back again displayed his amusement in her innocence. “Yes, my heart, a woman can have two men. She possesses more than enough openings. But sadly, you will never have more than one man while I breathe.” His lips brushed her chin and his earnest words resounded in her ears. “You belong to me alone. It may not have bothered my father to produce bastards—recognized or not—but all my heirs will be legitimate and only one woman will produce them. There can never be any question that the issue from your womb belongs solely to me.” Arrianna’s insides warmed. He seemed so determined, so sure. Could he force Edward to break the marriage contract with Günter? She sighed and snuggled closer. “Does that also mean you will not spread your seed as did your father?” A smile curved his lips against her neck. “Yes, my dove, I will only have you. Now, if you are done with your inquisition, I believe I will play with you again.” He leaned back and pulled her to him, but she held him off. “One more question?” “What?” his impatience clear in his tone. “I watched Marguerite pleasure Christine. Can two men pleasure each other?” He let out a long sigh then caught himself and peered over the rock. “Asleep. It would not do to be discovered at this late juncture.” He turned to look her in the face while he reached for her breast. He rolled her nipple between his thumb and forefinger. “Yes, two men can pleasure each other.” She raised her eyebrows in question and a slight beleaguered smile touched his lips. “I care not what other men do, but the act holds no interest for me. The only cock I am interested in is my own. I prefer to seek my pleasures with a beautiful, sapphire-eyed dove with golden hair and perfect breasts.” “But have you ever…” “Enough. Have you learned anything from tonight’s adventure?” She noted André’s husky tone and the increased pressure of his hand on her nipple. Her own breath was deep and labored. “I have learned, Milord,” she said, eyeing his cock, delighted it was again hard and engorged, “that coupling makes one sweaty and sticky. I have heard tell that it is not thus when done in water.” She stood, grasping his hand. “Come. Let us return to the spring for I have much more to learn. And I best be about my education now.”
Chapter Twelve Arrianna waited in a deep shadow in the courtyard while soldiers yelled orders to serfs and townspeople alike, directing them to different areas of the castle and grounds. They would all live here within the castle walls until the matter of her ownership was decided. It would not be as easy to meet Edward’s courier today as it had been yesterday. André warned her not to venture outside the fortress today and would most certainly be told if she were spied roaming the countryside. She also wished to avoid an encounter with Christine. With the sights of last night fresh in her mind, Arrianna did not think she could look her dear friend in the face without blushing to the roots of her hair. It had been bad enough that she and André had spied on Christine and Marchante while they coupled but to have blatantly studied them as they cavorted with the serving wench only added to her transgressions against them. Arrianna still did not understand how Christine could let another woman pleasure her man. If any woman touched André while she was near, she would cut the bitch’s ears off and feed them to the hounds! “There you are! What are you doing hiding behind that cart, Highness?” At the sound of the giggling voice, Arrianna turned. “And a good day to you, Christine. Did you sleep well?” She must remember to forego the usual words of greeting. Here in Le Monte they had a much different meaning. “I am attempting to stay out of the way so as not to be trampled upon. With all these horses, animals and carts, it is impossible to get to the other side of the courtyard.” “Why would you wish to go there?” asked Christine, watching in delight as a tradesman passed, pushing his cart filled with ribbons, fabric and many fancy tidbits to steal a girl’s attention. “The stable is the only building over there.” She whirled to look into Arrianna’s eyes. “You are not planning another escape, are you, Princess? The master will be furious!” Arrianna’s cheeks warmed as a deep blush crept up her face. She had never been good at subterfuge, and Christine was dangerously close to the truth. “I am not planning an escape.” “But you are going to the stable. Why? And I will not believe you simply intend to visit Starfire.” Christine twisted her head, looking about for the true reason Arrianna was bound for the stable. “If I tell you, you must swear not to tell André … or Marchante. He would take great satisfaction in informing André what I am about.” The thought of Marchante lying on his cloak, while Christine and Marguerite… She shuddered involuntarily at what she had witnessed. Not that she passed judgment on her friend, but rather that she herself had no excuse for spying on such an intimate scene. Regardless that André thought it was great sport. “Please, Highness, do not make me take such an oath. The master and Henri will be most displeased if you come to harm and I withheld information that allowed them to protect you.” Christine’s eyes welled with unshed tears, and Arrianna was sorely tempted to withdraw her demand. But no, if André knew her destination, he would not only tie her
to the bedpost naked, he would most likely lock the chamber door and never let her out again. “I am sorry, my dearest friend, but what I do, I do for the men of Bethany and Le Monte. If you cannot give me your word, then I must go.” It occurred to Arrianna that it would be prudent to have someone know where she was on the remote chance she did not return before nightfall. Well, there was nothing to be done for it if Christine did not promise her silence. She turned to leave but felt her friend’s hand on her sleeve. “Please Highness, tell me where you are off. I swear I will inform neither Le Monte nor Henri.” Her voice quivered, but Arrianna sensed the resolve behind her words. She hid her relief. That Christine would know she had not run away aimlessly on a whim would be a service. She did not relish lying to André but knew he would never grant permission to leave. Once Arrianna returned and Le Monte was no longer in danger of a siege, she would explain why she ignored his command and left the fortress. She told Christine of the messenger in the forest and their scheduled meeting. “I must persuade Edward to stop his attack and leave me to my fate here at Le Monte. My brother loves me. He is sure to grant my petition.” “But what about Günter? Even if Edward allows your request, Günter still has a marriage contract.” “Günter cannot want me now that I have been André’s prisoner. He will know that I am no longer pure.” Arrianna felt a momentary twinge of guilt using André’s argument as her own. “It seems too risky, Princess. Many things can go awry. Please, I beseech you. Abandon this plan and stay safe within the walls of Le Monte.” Christine wrung her hands and tears spilled onto her pale cheeks. “Henri will rip out my eyeballs for being a party to this madness,” she murmured under her breath. “What!” Arrianna’s hand flew to her breast. “Does he lift his hand against you?” She knew Marchante had spanked Christine for her participation in the aborted escape but did not think he had hurt her since. “No, Highness. I say that merely to indicate his dissatisfaction when he learns of my knowledge of your latest escapade. Henri lifts his hand only to please me.” Arrianna eyed her warily, wondering at the truth of her words, but Christine’s behavior of the previous night convinced her. No woman would go to such lengths to pleasure a man who abused her. “Very well.” Arrianna bent and picked up a dark bundle at her feet. “What…” “It will be easier riding through the gates of Le Monte if no one identifies me,” she interrupted. “It would not do to wear my own royal cloak. This one is of the Le Monte color. I will be back by nightfall. André will not look for me before then.” She turned to go. “Remember your vow, Christine. Say nothing to André or Marchante.” “Highness, wait!” Christine fumbled in the folds of her skirt and withdrew an item. Turning her back so none but Arrianna could see what she held, Christine pressed the object into her hand. “Take this. It may serve you should something happen.” Arrianna looked down to see a slim dagger in a sheath. The carving on the handle was unmistakable. “Where did you get this?” “It is Henri’s. He gave it to me on our first night here.” A shy smile crossed her face. “He told me if he did anything to my person I did not like and he did not stop when I
asked, I could use this knife to stop him.” She hesitated, “I have not had cause to use it.” “You do recognize the crest, do you not?” Arrianna was astounded. How many of these Le Monte daggers existed? Worse, if Marchante had this dagger while at Bethany, he could have been her father’s murderer. “Yes, of course. The Black Wolf.” Christine drew herself up and stuck out her chin. “I care not that he is a bastard. I would love him if he were a lowly serf, but he is still the son of a high warlord, acknowledged by his father. Thus, he has the right to carry the seal.” “No, dear friend, you misunderstand. Did Marchante have this dagger while he was in my father’s service?” Christine’s eyes narrowed. “I know what you are thinking, Highness, and it does not become you,” she huffed, her small breasts rising and falling with increased speed. “Henri is no murderer! Do you think him so brainless as to bring a weapon with the crest of another ruler when he purports to be a loyal soldier of Bethany? The dagger that killed your father remains in Bethany. I have seen Edward with it many times.” Arrianna wanted to grab her own shoulders and shake herself. How could she be so stupid? Mayhap André was right and she was a bit slow witted. Of course, Marchante would never carry this dagger in Bethany. And yes, Edward kept the weapon in his own belt. As a reminder to trust no one, he said. “My pardon, a hundred times over. I had no intention of insulting Captain Marchante. Thank you for the protection. I will care for it and return it to you this evening. I must be off now.” She looked past Christine to be certain no one witnessed the exchange. “Remember your vow.” Arrianna hurried away, careful not to step into the path of any animals or conveyances, tearing through the courtyard. Focusing on her mission, she paused at the entrance to the stable to look back. Christine was nowhere to be seen. Hmm, probably run to hide and weep over her inability to stop me from leaving. Arrianna found the stable boy who helped her yesterday and ordered a horse brought around, saddled. She would not take Starfire for everyone at Le Monte knew the mare to be hers. The boy was slow, but his eagerness to please outweighed his ungainly clumsiness. While waiting, she unfurled the black cloak. Its owner would soon be searching for it in the great hall, wondering at its absence. Tucking her braid inside, she fastened the ties and drew up the hood, hiding all traces of her golden locks. “I shall return shortly,” she lied to the stable boy as he gave her a leg up. “Will you be here?” “Begging your pardon, Highness,” he tugged on his forelock, “I was told to report to the armory. I was on my way there when you stopped me.” “I see.” This was better than expected. The boy would not be around to note her return—or rather lack of return. “Then I must find another to assist me as ably as you have.” She smiled and eased the horse forward and out of the stable, leaving the grinning boy behind. Once free of the castle, she made directly for the clearing where the messenger found her the previous day. While she waited, Arrianna reviewed her arguments in her mind. Edward must discover who had tried to kill her on the road to Evanwood. It was not André, but it would be difficult to persuade her brother of that. Edward could not attack Le Monte for something André took no part in. She could not marry Günter, although citing the reasons for this would be indelicate. But there was nothing to be done for it. She had naught but a quarter of an hour to wait before she felt rather than saw the
messenger. Whirling her horse around, she found him staring at her from the edge of the clearing. “Where is the Lady Christine?” Arrianna decided the truth—or close to the truth—was the best answer. “Lady Christine has chosen to remain in Le Monte. She decided of her own free will and is in no way being held prisoner. I have given her my permission to stay.” The courier’s face clouded, but he nodded and abruptly turned his horse further into the forest. “We must hurry, Highness,” he called over his shoulder. “Even now, King Edward marches towards Le Monte. He wishes to see you before the siege.” And I wish to see him. **** “It is about time you arrived, sister. You have wasted the time and efforts of good men that I need elsewhere,” complained Edward as Arrianna and the courier drew up alongside his gleaming white stallion. He reined in his mount and the column of foot soldiers behind him came to a halt while those in front continued their march. As far as the eye could see, a legion of soldiers stretched out on the road behind Edward. Surprised at such a cold reception, Arrianna searched his fair face for a sign of welcome. His clear blue eyes reflected back an icy disregard that chilled her beneath the warm wool cloak. “Is that the greeting of a brother whose sister has been attacked and now returns as if from the dead?” she chided him, lowering her hood. The ride had been long and arduous, demanding more strength than she had to offer after last night’s adventure with André. “If you had not been in league with that black devil and his man, none of this would be necessary. How did he get you to go along with the slaughter of your own guard? Did he promise you another night in his bed for the lives of your men?” His face contorted into an angry mask. “As it is, you have pushed the alliance with Evanwood into jeopardy. I know not if Günter marches to join me or attack me.” As if reminded of the matter at hand, Edward kicked his horse’s flanks and continued forward. With a jerk of his head, he dismissed the courier. Arrianna urged her horse to ride beside Edward’s. “No, brother, you are wrong. I had no knowledge of Marchante’s true identity until after the attack.” A tinge of panic crept into her voice, but she beat down the rising alarm. “We were not ambushed by Le Monte’s men. He swore to me they were not his.” “He swore to me…” Edward mimicked with a look of disgust. “I do not doubt he did. Although lies come easily to a man who wishes to bed the daughter of a man he murdered.” “No, you are wrong on that account also. André did not murder our father. He swore to me that…” Her voice faded away at the look of fury on Edward’s face. “Do not test my good graces, sister, or I will have you executed for treason. Le Monte murdered our father, attacked your traveling party and killed many fine men of Bethany. Now, he will pay for his treachery. Do not defend him to me!” Edward looked off into the distance raking a hand through his golden hair, attempting to rein in his temper. He blew out a deep breath and returned his attention. Looking her up and down, his face turned a molten red, his control deserting him as quickly as he had recovered it. “And you have the gall to come to me wearing his color!” Arrianna held her peace. It would do her cause no good to invoke Edward’s ire.
“You had better pray, dear sister,” Edward sneered, “that Günter will still accept you as part of the bargain. While, he most assuredly cannot wed you now, mayhap he will take you as his whore. Who knows? He might find great pleasure in ripping Le Monte’s bastard from your belly.” Arrianna’s head reeled. This could not be happening. She came to Edward to reason with him, to tell him of the mistake, but now he treated her as the enemy. She could not go to Günter, even if she was not carrying the Le Monte heir, she would never allow any other man to touch her. André must know that his heirs truly belong to him. “Why so silent? Did you think Günter would welcome you with open arms? You are but a means to an end. He cast his eyes on Le Monte land before. Unfortunate that fool of an uncle of Le Monte’s proved useless in his claim. But now you offer Günter an irrefutable excuse to attack. Well done, Arrianna. We will rid the land of this stinking Le Monte and parcel up his lands between us.” Edward signaled and a horseman drew near. From his livery, Arrianna knew him to be the new captain of Edward’s guard. She recognized him at once, having seen him about Bethany with Marchante. She recalled his piercing black eyes and full sensuous mouth. Now, those eyes stabbed her sharper than a Le Monte dagger. “The Princess Arrianna has returned to us, Captain Minaret. See that she is well protected and is kept comfortable. She has a predilection for wandering off that must be watched carefully. We would not want her to disappear before we can show her off to her lover tomorrow.” The captain fell in behind Arrianna who could not stop a blush from rising in her cheeks at the blunt language Edward used. “Why are you so sure I am Le Monte’s lover?” It pained her to form the words, but she did not understand Edward’s unwavering conviction. He cast her a sideways glance. “If you are not, he is a bigger fool than you,” he snarled, his upper lip drawing back in a deadly sneer. “After that bastard killed our father, it did not take long to discern why every suitor for your hand was found to be unacceptable. I let you play your game because it suited my purpose. That is, until Günter wanted you to seal the alliance. Since you bore no fruit from your rutting with Le Monte, I decided it was your problem to convince Günter you were a maid.” She continued to ride along with Edward while keeping the captain’s horse in her sights. Dust from the soldiers in front, formed an unending cloud that threatened to choke all words from her. This was far worse than the road to Evanwood. Evanwood! “Edward, your courier said you had prior knowledge that my traveling party would be attacked, that you had a spy in Castle Le Monte. How is it you did not warn my guard?” Edward turned a stony glare on her. “Minaret! Did you hear? One of your men cannot keep his own counsel. See he is disciplined.” “Yes, your Highness.” “It is of no consequence, dear sister, your return has made the siege of Le Monte quite a simple matter.” “How is that, dear brother?” she countered, her mind now searching for a means of escape. It was obvious that Edward would not listen to reason, that he had no reason where André de Le Monte was concerned. The venom in Edward’s voice when he spoke of André was palpable. She could touch it, taste it, smell it. “Why, he will ride out to meet me and surrender it as soon as my army is in place.”
He said it with such certainty Arrianna turned in her seat to stare at him. “The men of Bethany are not known for their prowess on the battlefield as are the men of Le Monte. Otherwise, you would have attacked years ago to avenge our father’s death. Why would the sight of them cause Le Monte to surrender?” An uneasy feeling started in her belly and moved upward until it gripped her heart. Edward kicked his horse again, urging it into a spirited gait, and causing the men before him to break into a trot. “Hurry. We are meeting Günter at the Western Pass. I wish to arrive first and set up camp on the higher ground.” Arrianna nudged her mount and caught up with her brother. The captain of the guard directly on her heels. “You do not answer. Why will Le Monte surrender at the sight of your army?” “Oh, it is not the sight of my army that will bring the bastard to his knees. But, I rather think the sight of his whore tied naked to a cross will catch his attention.”
Chapter Thirteen Arrianna could stand no longer and slumped on the ground at the foot of the tree. A length of sturdy rope looped over each wrist secured her to the trunk of a great oak. Her arms, pulled tight behind her, ached. Oh that she had listened to Christine and stayed safe within the walls of Le Monte! Edward had laughed at her shock, telling her she had brought her fate upon herself by spreading her legs for the enemy. Now, she would pay for her treasonous act. When she’d tried to bolt, his captain had charged her and ripped the reins from her grasp. In short order, he had tied her hands, threatening to gag her if she protested. “Do not think any soldier here will come to your aid, dear sister. They know you are Le Monte’s whore and have betrayed them, their king and Bethany. You will find no friend among the ranks.” For the remainder of the journey, Edward had regaled her with tales of what he would do with Le Monte when he held him in his power. Arrianna could scarce believe her ears. This was not the brother she had known. Or was it? Instances that had appeared innocent at the time now came to mind in a different light. Edward had always been a petulant boy but seemed to grow out of his demanding nature upon reaching manhood until the death of their father. His carefree nature now seemed self-indulgent; his colorful stories of accomplishments appeared to be pompous ramblings. Had he ever truly been the natural leader she believed him to be? Or had he merely been a bully who insisted his way was the only way? Listening to him now, it seemed he had the odd penchant of always being right. She stared at her brother, seeing him for the first time for what he was: a spoiled, self-centered wastrel who thought only of his own pleasures and desires. All his life, he had traded on his good looks to get what he wanted. Gazing at him, she saw that he was almost too handsome, too well groomed, too … perfect. Arriving at the Western Pass before Günter, Edward had commandeered the best location for his tent, near a creek of babbling water on the edge of a forest. She now sagged against the tree in the waning light, straining to overhear the voices of Günter and Edward as they lounged in the lavish tent. The oak was behind Edward’s tent out of sight from the men of Bethany which made her question the unwavering loyalty Edward had bragged of. Were there, indeed, a few sympathetic souls left in the ranks? Men that might not look kindly on the barbaric treatment of their Princess. Lack of food and water had muddled her mind and parched her lips, but that discomfort was trivial compared to the agony of placing André in the position of trading her life for his and his kingdom. She shifted, trying to find some position of comfort. Her dust-covered gown clung to her grimy skin, causing it to itch in unreachable places. She had worked the ropes until her wrists were raw, but the captain had done an excellent job of securing them so that the more she maneuvered, the tighter they became. Marchante’s dagger in its scabbard was still secured to the inside of her thigh, for all the good it did. Given her royal status, the captain had not searched her. But should
Edward carry out his plan to strip her naked, the knife, bearing the Le Monte crest, was sure to send him into a blinding rage. “Open your eyes, slut!” A sharp kick in her ribs brought Arrianna to full attention. When had she fallen asleep? Edward and Günter swayed before her. “I told you she was a juicy piece. Unfortunately, she is also a whore. Think of it this way, Günter, you may not be getting a bride but you are getting a royal doxie!” Edward roared at his own jest. Arrianna lifted her chin and ignored the barb. “Either way, I will have her begging for my cock,” bragged Günter. She shifted her attention. Years ago, she had met Günter at her father’s court when she was little more than a child. It was that picture of a handsome, dashing lord she carried in her mind as she traveled to Evanwood. The man who stood before her was a mere caricature of that stalwart warlord. His broad chest, flat stomach and slim hips had spread, stretched and widened at all the wrong places. His once sun-golden hair was now gray and thinning, and the bulbous nose attested to a life of dissipation. The rotting odor spewing from his mouth of broken, yellowed teeth caused Arrianna to turn her head. “This is much better than I planned,” slobbered Günter. “Unfortunate that your spy of a captain ruined my ambush. The death of my beloved betrothed would have provided ample reason to attack Le Monte. But now, I can attack, and still fuck the bitch and none of Le Monte’s other allies will come to his defense.” Arrianna’s attention returned to the aged ruler. “Ruined your ambush?” Her mind raced. Of course, André had told the truth. He had no cause to hurt her. “You attacked my traveling party and killed my guards so you had an excuse to war with Le Monte?” Her voice pitched higher. All those brave men had died guarding her! Men of Bethany! Edward’s men! She turned on her brother. “You allowed your men to be sacrificed for the greed of this … this … broken down old man?” Edward shrugged, his face barely visible in the few rays of sunlight left. “What happened to you after you left Bethany was none of my concern.” “You insolent bitch!” bellowed Günter, backhanding her across the mouth. “I’ll teach you to hold your tongue!” He threw what was left of his wine in her face. The blow almost knocked her unconscious. Licking her lips, she tasted both rich, bold wine and sweet, sticky blood where her lower lip had split. Günter drew back his hand to slap her again, but was stilled by Edward’s words. “Leave her. You will have time enough later to teach her humility before her betters. Come, I hear my steward bringing our supper.” Edward left to enter the tent. With a withering look and a sharp kick to her thigh, Günter followed. She worked the ropes to no avail, but finally gave up deciding to conserve her energy. She was most certainly at the mercy of her scheming brother and his crony. Her only hope lay in her swift action. For sure, Günter would come for her when his appetite for food was replaced by his appetite for lust. Unless he raped her out here against the tree, he would have to release her. She prayed that the old man’s legs were not up to such strenuous activity and he would untie her. Moving her fingers one at a time, she strived to bring feeling back into her hand. Slowly, she worked her fingers to be sure she could grasp the dagger when the time came. Someone would die this night. If her aim was swift and true, it would be the old man.
If not, she would turn the knife on herself. By no means would she allow herself to be used against André. Günter and Edward would not defeat him by using her. Once the decision was made, a peaceful calm overtook her. She rested her back against the tree, her legs stretched out before her. Her deepest regret was the grief her beloved André would feel, but she steadied herself with the thought that she had told him of her love. There could be no question in his mind about that. The rays of the setting sun slanted across her face. Was André even now waiting for her in his chamber? Had he realized yet she was not within his castle walls? The laughter and noise inside the tent grew louder and Arrianna wondered at Edward. There could be no hope that he would protect her. He took particular delight in abusing her. Why did he hate her so vehemently? And how had he hidden it all these years? Another, more sickening thought occurred. Would he serve up the ultimate degradation and stay to watch Günter rape her? Her stomach was empty, but bile rose to her throat. She would not be able to hold off both men. With that thought, the tiny glimmer of hope for survival was snuffed out. It would not be long now, but she would not go easily. Bracing her back against the tree, she leveraged herself into a standing position. If Günter found her sitting on the ground, he might take her there. Rubbing her thighs together, the warm scabbard renewed her confidence. The faces of her guards drifted through her mind. All had died but Marchante in their effort to save her and from whom? Her own betrothed! Another face drifted by but this one stayed. The soft, dark eyes, the full sensuous lips, the… “Wake up, slut!” The tent flap fluttered and Edward approached. Arrianna took a deep breath, held her chin high and looked her brother in the eye. This time, it was Edward who backhanded her. Her head snapped back and hit the tree, but she did not waver. As soon as her senses returned, she lifted her head and continued to stare. “You always were a willful child,” he spat. “But you’re no longer my problem.” He walked around the tree and sliced the rope that held her up. She slumped, but caught herself. I am a Princess of Bethany. I will conduct myself as such … to the last! “Go inside. I have no wish for any of my men to come upon you.” Arrianna’s ears perked up. So, there may be a few loyal soldiers left. If she could delay Günter’s hands on her, mayhap she could think of some way to call for help. Günter lounged in a wide chair before a table strewn with half eaten food, gnawing on a roasted chicken leg. Arrianna suppressed the hunger pangs but could not silence the rumbling of her empty stomach. “So, my whore is hungry. Here eat. I will not have your noisome belly interfere with my pleasure.” He threw a pig’s foot at her. Making no move to catch it, she let it hit her breast and fall to the floor. “The princess is too proud to accept a gift from her master. We shall see who has the greater power.” Günter placed his hands on the chair arms and hoisted himself up. “One question, Edward,” she stated with as much authority as she could muster. Her brother glanced at her with boredom plainly etched on his handsome face. Raising an eyebrow as if with great effort, he waited. “Why?” she asked, hesitant at first, then with greater conviction. “Why, Edward?” “Why what?” “Why do you hate me so much?” She watched her brother, but noted that Günter had
begun to circle behind her. She casually stepped to the side to keep both men before her. “Hate you? I do not hate you, dear sister. I despise you!” His vehemence surprised her and she lost her focus. “But why?” “Why?” Edward stepped forward, shoving his face into hers. “You don’t know? You truly are a stupid, stupid cow!” **** Günter roared with laughter and Arrianna knew she missed the jest. What did she not understand? Edward’s nose was level with hers, and he shook with a rage she could not understand. “You turned him from me. It is all your fault!” His hands clenched, and she feared he would throttle her. Spittle dribbled down his chin, but he took no note of it, his wild eyes piercing her very skin. Turned who? Who turned from Edward? The thought struck like lightning. Their father! He had replaced Edward in his last years with a need for her company. She had assumed it was no more than an old man keeping company with his daughter, not that she had replaced Edward in their father’s affections. Arrianna quickly stepped beyond his range, but Günter drew closer. There was no reasoning with Edward now. She must calm him, if he struck her, she would be at Günter’s mercy. “I am truly sorry, Edward, I never meant to take your place with him. I never meant to hurt you.” He turned away and seemed to compose himself. “You stupid, stupid bitch.” He threw her a disgusted look. “Take her Günter. Get her out of my sight.” “I would have her here, now. My tent is on the crest of the next hill, and my cock will not wait that long to impale her.” Edward turned his sickened gaze on Günter, made to voice his objection, then fell silent. He picked up his sword and buckled it on. “If you must, but make it fast. I have no desire to witness you rutting with this whore.” He moved towards the tent flap. “I need to meet with my captain. Some of us have a battle to plan.” He turned his attention to Arrianna. “Do not trouble yourself to scream, dear sister. I will alert my guards to ignore all sounds coming from this tent.” With a twitch of his hand against the tent flap, he was gone. A cunning grin spread across Günter’s craggy face. “Come here, whore. Now!” he demanded, stroking the small bulge in his breeches. Arrianna stared at him. Did Günter think she was simple, too? Surely, he did not expect her to submit willingly to his brutality. She backed away, slipping the forgotten ropes from her wrists. Marchante’s dagger brushed her thigh and a surge of reassurance swept through her. She need only keep from Günter’s grasp, retrieve the weapon from between her legs and run out the back of the tent into the woods. She need not kill the man. He would be too slow to follow her, especially in his half drunken state. She needed to threaten him and run. The soldiers would ignore any commotion. She flexed her fingers as Günter stepped closer, but quickly put the table between them. “It will go easier on you if you obey my command, whore of Le Monte, but either way I will enjoy fucking you.” She circled the table, lifting her skirt by slow inches to grasp the knife. “Very good. You are ready to spread your legs for me. Lift your skirt higher, bitch. I wish to gaze upon your cunt.” He wrung his hands in glee at the sight of her thigh.
She dropped her eyes for an instant to unsheathe the dagger, but he was on her, bending her back over the table. Dishes flew and goblets crashed to the dirt floor. Marchante’s blade clattered on the metal plates. “Think you can draw a weapon on me? Did Le Monte teach you that? You stupid bitch. You are mine now.” His putrid breath gagged her, and she struggled to push him off, but his great weight kept her pinned to the table. Günter’s fat paw grabbed the neckline of her light travel gown and ripped it to the waist. She moved to pound her knee into his groin, but his meaty hand pulled back and slapped her so hard her head bounced on the table. He snatched at her breast, squeezing hard until she thought he would pull it off. “You like that, you whore! Say it!” The stench of his unwashed body sent her senses reeling. Reaching over her head, she searched for something, anything to ward him off, to protect herself. Clutching the first thing she felt, Arrianna hit him with the carcass of the roasted chicken. “I like them with fight. Come, bitch, show some spirit!” His hand came down again and again, slapping her mouth, her nose, her cheeks. Blood spurted from her lips and oozed into her mouth. She spit it at him, catching him in the eyes. “You bitch!” Günter tore at her dress, lifting it over her waist as he wedged himself between her thighs. His hands were everywhere now, slapping her breasts, her face, wrestling a goblet from her hand, reaching between her legs. His touch repelled her, violating her even before the degrading act. “You bastard! Let me go! Le Monte will kill you for this!” With one hand pushing him, she rooted around the table with her other for another weapon. Günter’s cock was at the opening of her portal, and for an instant the thought of a dead slug crossed her mind. She fought harder, kicking and biting. He seemed to energize at her struggle. His guttural laugh chilled her, but she had no time for fear. He slapped her again, then grabbed at her crotch, pinching the tender flesh. Her hand continued to search the table for a weapon, anything to bludgeon him. She settled on something smooth, something sharp. Grasping the smooth end, she brought it up with all her strength aiming for the center of his back. Günter suddenly jerked, then stilled, his weight pressing her hard against the table, his fetid smell stealing her last breath. “What have you done, you fucking bitch?” Arrianna withdrew her hand, sticky and crimson. Günter staggered back, still clutching his cock. “You stupid, fucking whore!” His voice was low, with a gurgling echo to it. He lunged at her. Too stunned to react, he landed on her, his breathing now turned into a labored wheeze. She pushed and he fell easily to the ground, his face in the dirt. She stared from her hand to Günter’s back, unbelieving. Protruding from his lifeless body was a dagger— with the Le Monte crest. Scanning the ground, she spied Marchante’s where it had fallen amid the scattered food and dishes. Where did… “Your time is up, Günter. I have work to do. Get your whore and…” Edward stopped, silhouetted half between the moonlit night sky and the bright torchlight of the tent. “What in hell’s name have you done!” Arrianna shrank back, putting the table between them. Günter lay where he fell, his face still on the dirt floor. She avoided looking at him, knowing he was dead for he had stopped twitching and lay motionless. “No … nothing, I but defended myself.” She
braced herself on the table, too weak to stand on her own. With no food or water all day, the treacherous ride, her imprisonment and then Günter’s attack, her strength was gone. She could not summon any to hold her ripped bodice together. Survival, not modesty, was her main concern. Edward’s eyes bulged from their sockets as he continued to stare at the body. “Nothing? You murderess! You have killed Lord Günter! You will pay for this, whore, and you will pay now!” Edward unsheathed his sword, and she shrank back from the table beyond the reach of its blade. She needed a weapon. Where was…? She saw it then, Marchante’s dagger, next to a broken pot on Edward’s side of the table. The other knife remained in Günter’s back. Keeping her eyes on her brother—she would not make that mistake again—she used her side vision to search the tent. Nothing presented itself, nothing that was within her reach but out of Edward’s range. He lunged, pricking the side of her breast. The pain was immediate and searing, and she turned her back to avoid another hit. Another touch of the blade, and her shoulder was on fire. Arrianna fell to the ground. So this is how it would end, not crucified on a battlefield, not at the point of Marchante’s dagger to save herself unspeakable degradation, but at the hand of her brother, in a murderous rage. “I have you now, you murdering whore!” She heard not so much the words as the vengeful tone tinged with glee. Arrianna waited for the final strike. Head bowed, excruciating pain racking her exhausted body. She could sense Edward circling the table, stopping behind her, his feet on either side of her kneeling form. The swoosh of the blade as he raised it over his head was audible in the silent tent. Arrianna prayed for her immortal soul, for God to ease André’s grief, and waited. “Drop it, my friend, or I will slit your throat and laugh as I do.”
Chapter Fourteen Edward’s sword clanked on the ground next to her. “Can you rise, my dove? Are your wounds serious?” Arrianna slowly turned her head, instantly recognizing the beloved voice. “André!” Crawling forward, she reached to leverage her hands on the table and pull herself up. The pain in her shoulder and breast now went unnoticed. André would protect her. Using the table for balance, she turned to face her rescuer. In the glow of the torchlight, she had never seen anything more beautiful than André’s piercing eyes staring into hers. She wanted to fall into his arms and never leave. She stumbled towards him but stopped. Edward was pulled tight against André’s chest, a Le Monte dagger poised at his throat. Edward’s face was flushed to a deep crimson, unable to breathe the blade was pressed so close. André held one of Edward’s arms twisted behind his back, keeping him immobile. “I am late, but it seems you were in little need of my assistance with Günter. Are you badly hurt, my heart? Did he penetrate you?” André’s whispered questions filled the tent with an ominous stillness. She shook her head to answer both questions but then, looked down at her breast. Edward’s blade had caught the side, leaving a long mark but mercifully, it was not deep and the flow of blood was little. Reaching behind her, a searing pain wracked her arm as she felt her shoulder. A sickly ooze greeted her hand and she brought it to her face. Both her hands were now covered in blood. One with Günter’s, one with her own. André’s eyes flashed at the sight of her blood and the vein in his temple beat at a pronounced rate. She wiped her hands on her gown and pulled the tattered edges of her bodice together to stem to flow of blood. André’s grip on her brother tightened and she prayed the Black Wolf would not emerge. If André lost control, Edward’s life would no doubt meet a swift end. She slumped against the table, fighting a weariness as she had never known, but struggled to maintain some composure. If André thought she was truly hurt, more blood would be shed. “I do not think either wound will kill me, although they are painful. Oh, André, I am so tired.” “There is a cloak on the bed. Put it on and lay down, my love. If you are, indeed, not badly injured, then I have business to attend here before I care for you.” “But André! The soldiers, Edward’s guards! They could come in at any minute. We must be away!” She would not survive if André was killed. She would not want to survive. “Do not worry, little one. Your brother instructed them not to disturb him and as long as a Le Monte blade is pressed to his throat, he will not be so ungracious as to call out.” Arrianna stumbled to the bed, careful to avoid Günter’s body. Wrapping the cloak tightly around her shoulders, she lay facing the two men. The temptation to close her eyes and drift away overwhelmed her, but she focused on André, not wishing to miss a moment in his presence. “It is good she is not deeply hurt,” he growled. “Elsewise your death would be very
slow and very painful. As it stands, your death will just be slow and painful.” Edward gagged as André pressed the blade harder. A small drop of blood trickled down his neck. Did André mean to execute her brother now? In her presence? The events of the last few minutes spun about Arrianna’s mind. If not for André, Edward would have executed her. Why should he not die in return? “There is something your dear brother wishes to tell you, my sweet. Do you not remember, Edward? It is about your father’s death. Arrianna will be most gratified to discover she is not bedding her father’s murderer. Though, I daresay, she has completely exonerated me of the crime.” He pressed the blade tighter, causing Edward to rise up on his toes. “Oh, I beg your pardon. How can you speak with a Le Monte dagger so close to your own throat?” André relieved the pressure a minuscule amount. “Tell her!” Edward took a shallow breath, testing the position of the knife. He cast Arrianna a quick feral glance, possibly gauging her reaction, possibly seeking mercy. “It was an accident,” rasped Edward. “I did not mean for it to happen.” André pressed the blade tighter, speaking calmly with an undercurrent of menace. “When I said tell her, I meant tell her the truth.” Arrianna had seen André angry. She had seen him furious and even in a rage, but she had never seen him in this quiet, calculating fury. Closely below a thin veneer of civilized man, lay a savage barbarian. Only his superior control kept the one from overtaking the other. “I … I killed our father.” Edward did not look at her, but shifted his eyes furtively around the tent. André lifted Edward’s twisted arm higher, causing him to wince. It was good she was lying on the bed, elsewise she would have fallen. Arrianna could scarce believe her ears. Was Edward so jealous of their father’s affection that he would murder rather than take second place? “Edward, no! You could not have been so envious of our father’s attention! You were the heir! Surely, father showered you with many gifts and his esteem!” Edward stared at her. His straight, smooth brow furrowed. “What?” She looked at her once-loved brother, puzzled. “When I asked why you hated me, you said because ‘I turned him from you’, because I turned father from you.” The look of disdain Edward now showed her was the same as when he had first uttered those words. “You stupid, fucking bitch.” Immediately André jerked his arm and pressed the dagger tighter to his throat. A frightened look replaced Edward’s sneer. “Careful, man,” warned André in a deep growl. “You are addressing the future Lady of Le Monte.” Arrianna smiled, savoring André’s words. His lips quirked into an almost grin when he glanced at her, but his attention quickly returned to his captive. “Since your dear brother insists on prolonging this interview, let me hurry it along. Arrianna, my love, it is not your father’s attention of which he speaks.” André hesitated as if the words tasted foul in his mouth. “Rather, your brother was very much attracted to one who found his attentions abhorrent. When he was spurned, he thought to destroy that person through lies, deceit … and murder.” Arrianna stared at them, shaking her head against the soft coverlet of the bed. She understood what he said but could not believe it—did not want to believe it. “Let me put this plainly, my love. You appear to be caught in one of your simple
moments. Your brother murdered your father, implicated me, gave you to Günter and now tried to kill you because I would not fuck him.” “That is not…!” Edward made to kick André, but he sidestepped. Edward’s reward was a thin line of blood across his neck as André jerked him backwards. “Enjoy it, brother, this is the closest you will ever get to my cock,” André growled, tightening his grip against Edward’s neck. “It seems, my dove, your father had the poor judgment to inform his son that he had concluded a marriage contract for his daughter. A marriage contract that was signed directly before I came to your chambers that night.” André speared her with his eyes. “Know, my love, that I never would have taken you had you not belonged to me alone.” Arrianna felt his sweet words like a gentle caress, he did want her, he had always wanted her. He had suffered as she had during those long years apart. “I know not if your father was murdered in rage or by design. It does not matter, but I do know that the dagger found in your father’s body belonged to my uncle.” He nodded towards Günter’s body. “I can only be overjoyed that Edward carries it with him as a remembrance for it has done some good this night.” He yanked Edward’s arm higher. Much more and Arrianna was sure it would snap. “How did you get it? Did he give it to you or did you steal it?” André hissed. “Answer me!” “I stole it. The morning he left for Le Monte.” Edward panted, wincing at the increased pressure. “Hmm, one less reason to hate the bastard,” André mused before quickly recovering himself. “Have we covered everything Edward? The murder, the dagger, the marriage contract, the … perversion,” André sneered. “Is there anything you care to add?” Edward stared at her, and she caught a glimpse of the old Edward in the way he held his head as if being scolded as a little boy. How could he have come to this? “Nothing? Good,” continued André. “We can get on with this.” “André! No! Please!” He stilled his hand. “What, my sweet?” “Please, André, I know his actions warrant death, but please, not at your hand. Do not add another death between us.” André seemed to consider her words. “It is my right to execute him for what he has done to me and my name. For what he has done to you and our contract. Pray, woman, a man guilty of patricide is abhorrent, a man guilty of regicide is a traitor and needs die.” She held her breath, willing him to change his mind, pleading to him in silent supplication. “But if it will please you, my love, I will refrain from carrying out this justice … as a marriage gift to you.” Arrianna was neither happy nor sad. Depleted of the last of her resources, she sank back onto the bed. There was a mountain of emotions to be sorted through. There were questions to be asked and answers to be heard, but now was not the time. “Minaret! Minaret! Get your ass in here!” André’s deep voice sounded through the tent walls. Immediately, the captain of Edward’s guard flipped open the tent flap, a crowd of soldiers at his back. André released Edward, giving him a rough shove and kicking his ass towards the opening. Edward fell to his knees before the captain. Shrinking back into the coverlet, Arrianna pulled the cloak tighter around herself, fearing the man who had tied her so securely to her horse and the tree. Mercifully, the
captain paid her no mind. “You heard?” André asked, bending to pick up Marchante’s dagger from the floor. “Yes, Milord. I heard His Highness confess to the murder of his father, as did all my men.” “Good. Take him prisoner. We will deal with him later.” He leaned over Günter and pulled his uncle’s dagger from the body, wiping the blood on Günter’s dirty tunic. The captain hurried to do André’s bidding, motioning to two of his men to bind Edward’s hands. Arrianna stared wide-eyed. Edward’s captain taking orders from Le Monte? Even Edward gaped opened mouthed. When his hands were tied, the captain gave André a precise bow and signaled his men to escort Edward from the tent. Edward paused and fixed her with a withering glare. Silently, he mouthed, “Bitch.” The captain’s fist came up and struck Edward’s jaw. He faltered but the soldiers grabbed his arms and shoved him from the tent. The captain gave André another bow, a slight smile glinting in his dark eyes. “André?” Arrianna shivered under the captain’s scrutiny. A small smile twitched across André’s lips. “Think you Marchante was the only man I had infiltrate your guard, Milady? Have I neglected to mention I have three brothers?” His smile widened. “May I present François Minaret, my youngest brother?” **** Feeling a cool, soothing caress on her forehead, Arrianna dreamed of the bubbling pond in the forest. She laughed as André dove under, then surfaced next to her, spewing water from his mouth like a big fish. The waters shifted and now her breast was the object of the tranquilizing currents. Her breast burned and she moved to cover it, but a strong hand stayed her. “Thank you, Milord. Look, she is returning to us. She feels the sting of the poultice.” From far off a sound drifted by, but she ignored it, wanting to return to the pond with André. Her body shifted and his distinct scent filled her nostrils. She tried to call his name but could not hear the sound of her voice. Again, the cool water bathed her arm, and she rooted about searching for André. “You will need to hold her firmly. If she felt the poultice on her breast, the one on her shoulder will bring more pain. The wound is deeper but the herbs are curing her.” Large hands tightened around her. André’s scent became more pronounced. He must have quit the pond and dressed. His tunic pressed softly against her cheek. Fire shot through her shoulder. Bucking and writhing she sought to escape the pain. A scream caught in her throat as she tried to pull away. The pain came wave after wave, pressing against her shoulder. “Be still, my heart. It is almost done,” André’s soft words comforted her. “God’s Breath, Lady Christine! Finish it! She suffers!” André? Bellowing at Christine? Arrianna bid farewell to the pond, wondering at André’s harsh words. Dear Christine never caused pain. Struggling, she opened her eyes to piercing black ones, searching her face. “Arrianna?” His voice was soft, apprehensive. André? She mouthed his name but no word sounded. Her throat was parched and her mouth as dry as the sands of time. “Water,” she heard him say and immediately a small cup was in his hand. She lay on
her side, in André’s large bed, her head resting near his thigh. He bent, carefully lifting her lips to the cup. Bright morning sunlight filtered through the narrow windows, and she wondered how long she had slept. “Just a little, Milord, or she will choke.” Arrianna gulped from the cup, recognizing the voice behind her. The water did much to revive her, and she shifted to place her hand on his thigh. “Welcome back, my love. Did you have a good journey?” She smiled at his little jest and turned to search for Christine. The pain was like Edward’s blade piercing her shoulder again, and Arrianna inhaled sharply. “I am here, Princess,” said Christine, bustling around the bed so that Arrianna could see her. “You are safely back in Le Monte. You have been gone from us these four days. The pain you feel is the herbs of the poultice draining the ill humors from your wounds.” Arrianna nodded, not quite understanding. Shifting her gaze back to André, she tried to say his name but settled for another weak smile. He leaned forward, and she welcomed the soft touch of his lips. They grazed her forehead and her cheeks before settling on her willing mouth. His gentle kiss was the last thing she recalled. When she awoke again, a fire blazed brightly in the large stone fireplace and a torch on the far wall further lit the room. Still lying on her side, she found her cheek pillowed by André’s naked chest. He smelled of fresh air and the crisp leaves of a spring forest. “Have you returned to stay this time, my love? It has been two days since your last visit.” He reached and held a cup of water to her lips. The liquid burned her parched throat before its soothing spell took hold. She raised her gaze and found him watching her, his soft, dark eyes filled with concern. “What has happened? How long have I been asleep?” She shifted and felt a pain in her shoulder, but it was not overly sharp. It settled into a dull ache as she searched his face. “Much has happened since you fell asleep, my dove. Do you remember riding from the Western Pass while I cradled you in my arms?” She stared at him blankly. “Do you remember Lady Christine caring for you?” She had a vague recollection of sharp pains and Christine but little more, so she shook her head once. Then, it came back in a rush. The guards hauling off Edward. The captain of the guard begging her forgiveness for his rough treatment. He had only meant to keep up the pretense in front of Edward. His plan to rescue her fell apart when Edward summoned him and left her with Günter. “You gave me quite a scare, running away again,” André gently rebuked her. Arrianna sighed heavily, her mind fully engaged now. “If you are preparing to scold me, André, save your breath. There is nothing you can say that I have not said worse while tied to a tree. But how came you to be in Edward’s camp?” Disappointment welled within her. There was only one way he could know where she had gone. Although Arrianna knew it was in her best interest, and she would be eternally grateful, a deep sadness settled over her. The one person she trusted without question had betrayed her like all the rest. “Do not look so downcast, my love. Your lady did not betray her promise. She did not divulge your mission to either Marchante or myself.” Arrianna’s disappointment turned to puzzlement. If Christine did not alert André,
who did? “Lady Christine is a woman true to her word. She is also quite resourceful,” he chuckled, stroking her arm before resting his hand on her hip. “Next time you extract a promise for secrecy, you might think to include Champlain, my love.” He kissed her forehead, and his hand slipped to stroke the silky hair at the apex of her thighs. She lifted her knee, needing his touch, inviting him to probe further. “My regret is I did not arrive sooner and spare you such suffering. Would that I had the pleasure of bringing Günter’s miserable life to an end.” His voice was harsh as his fingers deftly massaged her folds. His tender caresses made her forget the nightmare of Edward’s camp. Looking down, she watched as he made her body glow. The bandage on her breast caught her eye and she winced. André’s hand immediately stilled. “Did I hurt you, my dove?” “No, your touch could never hurt me,” she sniffed, tears welling in her eyes. “I just now realize that I am damaged.” “Damaged! You said he did not penetrate you! Indeed, I do not believe he could.” André released her and sat up, staring down at her. “Had I known, I would have cut off his cock and stuffed it down his throat!” Arrianna placed a hand high on his thigh. “No, not Günter. Me.” She moved her hand to her breast, fingering the bandage. “You have always called me perfect, yours alone. Now, you will no longer think me so. I am scarred. My breast, my back. You will see them and think me damaged, abused by Günter and Edward.” Tears flowed freely down her cheeks. André bent and carefully gathered her in his arms, settling her on his lap. “Think you so little of me? That I would rebuke you for saving your life and your virtue?” He leaned back, watching her face. “I want to be certain that you understand each word I say. When I look upon these marks, I see only the valor of my warrior lady.” He stroked her breast, gently caressing the edge of the bandage. “I see her courage in meeting the enemy and her bold attempt to stop a siege and save men’s lives.” She snuggled against his chest, delighting in the hard muscles and wiry hairs tickling her nose. “Wait!” She sat upright, dislodging his hold of her. “The siege! Has it begun? Is it over? Did we take the day?” “Siege, little one? What siege?” The corners of his eyes crinkled in amusement, but his lips did not break a smile. “The siege! Edward and Günter’s armies marched on Le Monte. Have we turned them back?” “Bethany march against Le Monte? Are you not recovered of your faculties yet or are you having one of your simple times, my love?” Now the corners of his mouth did break a smile. “Why would you think the ruler of Bethany would march on her betrothed? Does he not satisfy her needs in bed? Does she require her army to force her marital rights?” She stared at him, ignoring his barb about her simple mind. Mayhaps she was not fully recovered. Ruler of Bethany? March on her betrothed? André shifted and kissed her forehead. “I cannot jest with you further. You have been too ill and your return to me too precious. Edward is no longer ruler of Bethany. The next…”
She pushed him away, the pain in her shoulder forgotten. “No! André! Tell me you have not executed my brother while I slept!” her voice quivered in fear. No! Not another death! He stroked a strand of hair from her face. “No, your wretch of a brother still breathes. His fate is your decision.” “Mine?” “As the ruler of Bethany, it is your duty to mete out justice to the king’s murderer. You are next in line. It did prove convenient in staying the forces of Bethany.” He pulled her back into his arms, settling her head on his chest. His hand dipped again between her thighs and his fingers took up their sweet massage once more. Arrianna spread her legs and let his words flow around her. Ruler of Bethany. Yes, she was next in line after Edward since he never married or sired offspring. But she never expected to assume the throne. It would take some effort to adjust to the thought. She pulled back again to look into his eyes. Conversation was difficult with his fingers sliding in and out of her dripping slit, but she had to know. “Then what of Evanwood? Bethany’s alliance with Evanwood would not have the power to stop their siege.” “There is an important piece of information I neglected to mention about Evanwood, my love.” She narrowed her eyes. “Do not tell me that you have yet another brother who is captain of Gunt … um, Evanwood’s guard.” The nightmare of Günter’s attack returned and she shivered. André must have sensed the change in her for he stilled his hand and fixed her with an amused look. “No,” he chuckled, “I have quite run out of brothers. There are no more. However…” “However?” “Günter died without an heir. It is rumored that a battle injury at an early age left him unable to sire a child. His closest relative is a cousin, a Lady Gretchen, who makes her home here in Le Monte. Evanwood will pass through her lineage.” He moved his hands to her waist, holding her to conserve her strength. “Mind your wounds and straddle my hips, love.” Arrianna lifted a questioning eyebrow, then shifted so that her thighs spread and the tip of his cock was at her portal. His eyes clouded, but she caught a smirk hovering on his lips. “No,” she sighed, glorying in the anticipation. “You do not mean to say that…” “That Lady Gretchen was one of my mother’s ladies-in-waiting? That is exactly what I mean to say.” She smiled and slowly settled herself down onto his erection. “Which one?” “Champlain,” he stated simply, and began the timeless dance between a man and his soul mate.
Epilogue Two months later Arrianna stood on the steps leading from Castle Le Monte to the courtyard. Beside her towered André in his black tunic emblazoned with the Le Monte Black Wolf. It had taken her many hours with her needle to embroider the gold thread into an exact likeness. He honored her this day by wearing it. Her own cloak was also the rich, midnight color of Le Monte, edged with gold thread. She smiled at her husband, remembering when he first laid it on her shoulders after their marriage. Arrianna, Queen of Bethany and Lady of Le Monte. Of the two titles, she secretly knew which she prized higher. The cloak was not the only Le Monte token she now possessed. André had had a new blade forged and she proudly wore her Le Monte dagger with its elegantly carved Black Wolf in a jeweled scabbard on her belt. She shifted her gaze from André to the courtyard. Before them on sturdy mounts were two traveling parties. Each carried two banners: one the same, one different. On her left, Armand Champlain sat upon a large black war horse, three dozen men behind him. His standards flew proudly from their masts. The Black Wolf of Le Monte and the Green Dragon of Evanwood. He would leave Le Monte to claim his inheritance in the lands to the north. Surrounded by guards and seated on a mule instead of his gleaming stallion was Edward, his hands bound to the pommel. Arrianna gazed at his beautiful face for the last time, her heart aching. He would accompany Champlain to Evanwood. From there he would be taken across the great sea and exiled to the frozen tundra of the Northern Kingdoms. On her right, the banners of Le Monte and Bethany snapped in the brisk wind from the ocean. Soldiers in black livery and others in blue waited. Marchante—now Lord Marchante—sat atop another commanding war horse. At his side, on a dainty chestnut mare, was Lady Marchante. Christine’s excited face was marred by tears of farewell as she and her husband set off for Bethany. Marchante would govern as steward in Arrianna’s absence. On Marchante’s other side rode François Minaret, accompanying his half brother back to Bethany to resume his post as captain of the guard. “My love? They are waiting,” whispered André, draping his arm over her shoulder and settling his palm on the small bulge of her belly. Placing her hand over his, she thanked the heavens for her Black Wolf and for blessing her with his child. “I cannot bear to say goodbye.” “I know, but you must. I have given my leave, but the men of Bethany cannot depart without your word. Give it, my heart. This is not the last we will see of them.” Arrianna raised her hand to her lips, kissed her fingers and waved her farewell to her dearest friend and her men. The End
About the Author: After earning a degree in English, Eileen Ann tossed out her mittens and snow scrapers and migrated from New Jersey to Florida where she quickly got sand in her shoes and never looked back. After successfully climbing the corporate ladder, she decided the rats could keep their race and became a stay-at-home mom. She lives with her husband, daughter and, occasionally, her son who is away at school—or so he says. When not writing, she is a full-time doorman for her three cats who live to go in and out of the house. Eileen Ann would love to spend every minute of every day holed up in front of her computer writing about sexy heroes, sassy heroines and scintillating plots, but somehow those pesky chores of everyday living (eating, sleeping, dental hygiene) always seem to get in the way.
Meet LSB Authors At Silver Net, Aka The House Of Sin Http://Lsbooks.NET We invite you to visit Liquid Silver Books http://LSbooks.com for other exciting erotic romances. Featured Series: The Zodiac Series: 12 books, 24 stories and authors Two hot stories for each sign, 12 signs The Raven Series by Rhiannon Neeley Seven books about the brooding Raven family of vampire hunters The Coven of the Wolf by Rae Morgan Benevolent lusty witches keep evil forces at bay The Max Series by JB Skully Meet Max, her not-absent dead husband, sexy detective Witt, his mother… And many, many more!