Captured by the Dark Lord (16 page)

BOOK: Captured by the Dark Lord
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            The guard made no
move to stop her, just continued sitting in his chair.  Why was he not raising
the alarm?  Could it be he thought she was supposed to be down here?  He was a
drunk but surely not such a fool.  Of a sudden he snorted, mocking her, then
his breath wheezed out his lungs.

            Ashanti looked at
him closely for the first time.

            He was asleep!

            Empty flasks
littered the floor—wine flasks she discovered as she moved closer and the
pungent odor greeted her.  She could scarce believe her luck!  He’d had his own
celebration down in the dungeon by himself.

            Still more than a
little wary, Ashanti moved closer, gently waving her hand before his face.  He
continued to snore, blissfully unaware of her intrusion.  Giving thanks to the
gods for their help, she took a torch and headed down the corridor, using her
memory to guide her down the labyrinthine passages.  She shuddered in the
slightly chill air that permeated the stone lair, grateful for the heavy velvet
that protected her.  She pitied the man who’d suffered in the cold so naked and
helpless.  She would remedy the situation soon, may the gods help her.

            Ashanti paused as
she reached the corridor leading to his lonely cell, wondering if she’d lost
what little sanity she still possessed.  If Lord Conrad even suspected she’d
had a hand in releasing his prisoner....  But then spent blood pooled in her
mind’s eye, remembered and imagined tortures playing out in her thoughts, and
she knew there was no choice.  She
would
do this.  She had to...or she
would never be able to live with herself.

            Decision made,
Ashanti moved quietly to the cell’s entrance and peered through the thick iron
bars at the bound man.  The torch she held flickered, dancing as a secret
breeze struck it, shadows engulfing the sparse golden light as if to snuff its
pale light.

            What greeted her
was a vision of despair.  Her heart ached at the sight of the defeated man. 
His head hung down, hair obscuring the sight of his haggard, worn face.  Had
Lord Conrad continued torturing him?  It was a possibility.  The man appeared
to be sleeping though, or perhaps he was unconscious…in which case, she had no
idea what she would do with him.

            It was all
speculation, best banished by going to him.  Unlocking the cell, Ashanti eased
the heavy door open.  Thankfully, the oiled hinges made no sound.  She left it
open as she stepped cautiously inside.

            Fears assailed
her now that the time had come, and she almost thought she couldn’t do it.  She
wiped an errant lock of black hair out of her eyes, stalling as she tried to
gain her courage.  What would stop him from eating her alive once she released
him? 

            Ashanti shivered
at the prospect.  She could only hope he was human enough to spare her in
exchange for his freedom.  But then, what did she truly have to lose?  She was
living on borrowed time, whether Lord Conrad discovered her treachery or not.
Almost, she wished she’d studied the black arts, but her soul could not have
withstood the jeopardy of eternal damnation...or rather
more
jeopardy
than she already faced.

            She moved close
enough his scent teased her, pleasantly musky and evocative as freedom despite
his ill treatment.  She was near enough to touch him and yet he remained still,
his breathing so shallow she couldn’t detect the rise and fall of his lungs.  A
different fear seized her in its terrible grip, making her stomach clench
painfully.  Was she yet again too late to save someone?  She’d been unable to
help her parents and now this chance for redemption was slipping through her
fingers.  Had Conrad killed him with his tortures?  She had no way of knowing
what had been done before, or since, his capture.

            Tentatively,
afraid of what she’d find, Ashanti reached up to lay her fingers against a
pulse in his neck.  It beat surprisingly strong and fast.  She sighed in
relief, then frowned. 

            A trick? 
Perhaps.  Perhaps not.

            His skin scorched
her, the flesh eat up by unnatural heat and flushed splotchy red in places
Ashanti noticed now that she was so close.  He was ill—likely dying.  Studying
him, she could see he hadn’t healed completely.  Something must have caused him
more hurt than she realized, but she couldn’t fathom what it could be since
shifters had such miraculous healing abilities and strength.  Had a hidden
injury been the reason Lord Conrad had captured him so easily?

            Maybe he’d been
starved since his capture and needed sustenance to power his healing?

            Unbidden,
unwelcome, pity surged through her.  Without conscious volition, she stroked
his neck and head, feeling an instinctive need to comfort.  He did not respond,
assuring Ashanti that he was unconscious rather than merely sleeping or
feigning sleep.  Emboldened, as concerned with his lack of response as she was
relieved, she trailed her fingers from his hair along his neck and
shoulder...still no response...from him.

            His skin was
smooth, silky beneath the sensitive skin of her fingertips and palm, the
muscles beneath that smooth sheath rock hard even in his state of
unconsciousness.  Her fingertips tingled with tiny shocks of energy that she
found strangely unnerving and invigorating at the same time.  The urge to
comfort was usurped by another urge, one she neither completely understood, nor
questioned.

            A brazen urge to
explore what had always been called a nightmare to her people compelled her to
bury her fingers in the pale blond, surprisingly soft hair that flowed from his
scalp along his powerful neck and fell across his chest.  She should have been
repulsed to touch him so intimately, but it had the opposite effect, spurred
her to touch him more.  Tentatively at first, she glided her fingers down his
hair sprinkled chest, wincing as she encountered the welts from his beatings.

            Anger surged
through her. That bastard Conrad deserved retribution for his actions. 
Unfortunately she was not the one to mete out justice.

            In that moment,
it almost seemed as if she stepped outside herself. 

            The side she knew
felt remorse that he’d been made to suffer in her name, compassion for his
pain.

            The side she
barely recognized felt far more than anger—a rising heat, a consuming
hunger—almost a sense of triumph that this powerful creature was helpless to
her will.  Brazenly, she leaned closer, bending her head so that she could run
her lips along the angry welts, brush them with her cheek, lathe them with her
tongue.

            Heat curled
between her thighs.  She squeezed them tightly together and nearly gasped at
the sharp stab of forbidden pleasure.

            She was barely
aware of the restless movements of her hands, stroking the hard ridge of
muscles along his sides, down the rippling muscles of his abdomen, up along his
sides again to the arms chained above his head.  The muscles along his inner
arms stood out in long, hard bands that she caressed.  She touched the cold
steel that bound his wrists, almost as if to reassure herself he was still
within her power, then allowed her hands to drift downward again, fascinated by
the contrast of cold metal and heated, silky skin, roughened by a sprinkling of
hair.   As her restless movements brought her hands once more to the hard chest
beneath her cheek, she discovered a hard male nipple and paused to tease it
with her fingers, then her tongue as her fingers sought new discoveries.

            The rippling
muscles along his lower chest and abdomen quivered slightly as her palms skated
over them, but she barely registered it, caught up in her exploration and the
heady sensations it evoked.  When her questing hands at last encountered his
loincloth, she hesitated.  Dare she explore further?

            She should not.

            She did.

            Almost timidly
now, feeling her two selves converge as doubts surfaced, warring with forbidden
desires, she skated her hand lightly along the band, oh so tempted to delve
inside, but caution won out and she merely ran her palm over the supple cloth
where she discovered to her surprise a very large, very hard ridge of flesh. 
Puzzled, a little confused, she cupped her hand around it, slipping it along
the hard length.

            More than a
little dazed, it took several heartbeats for her heated brain to catch up to
her mental processes.  She looked down at her hand, cupping his sex through the
thin cloth.  Slowly, realization sank in and, still hopeful that she was wrong,
she raised her head, lifted her gaze to his face.

            He was looking
right at her.  And he bore not the look of a man at death’s door.

            Ashanti couldn’t
breathe for several moments, felt her jaw go slack with surprise. Complete
awareness awakened very slowly...the realization that her cheek still rested on
his hard chest—that she still cupped the hard ridge of his sex in her hand....

            She released him
as if she’d just discovered a hot poker in her hand, leapt back, feeling the
blood rush from her head and then back in a sickening wave that brought a wave
of cold and blackness, then a flood of bright red heat.

            What foulness had
bespelled her, she wondered frantically.  Shame filled her, that she’d taken
advantage of an ill man, unconscious, barely clinging to life.

            When had he
awakened?

            His slanted,
tawny eyes, their pupils mere slivers, studied her with a mixture of
bewilderment and...and hunger.  A shiver skated over her skin, leaving goose-bumps
in its wake.  She wanted to run from those alien eyes, to turn away, but
mesmerized, she was held rooted to the spot, her legs refusing to obey thoughts
of escape.

            Without fathoming
why, she
needed
to touch him again, like an unheard beckoning that had
to be answered.  Unconsciously, she stepped close and reached up to comb his
hair from his face, her wrist brushing his lips accidentally.

            She felt a jolt
when his tongue snaked out and touched the fragile pulse that beat there, that
tasted the salt of her skin.  He watched her, watched her reaction to him and
seemed pleased that a simple touch affected her thusly.  But he couldn’t know
that she’d never been touched by anyone but Lord Conrad...and that she hated
him.

            At his touch…her
own reaction, Ashanti wavered, tempted to flee, compelled to stay.  That other
side of herself that she didn’t know or understand seized control of her so
that instead of yielding to her inner warnings and fleeing, she moved
infinitesimally closer, curling her hand around the back of his neck, drawing
him down as she raised up to meet him.

            She closed her
eyes as his lips touched hers and a fire burst inside her, searing heat
scorching soft skin where she connected with him.  Her knees weakened and she
drew her other arm around him to support herself, not daring, nor willing, to
pull away.

            He kissed her
ravenously as though starved, his mouth moving in hungry nibbles over her lips,
debilitating what little strength she still possessed.  She’d never imagined a
kiss could be so powerful.

            Something beat
wildly in her ears and she realized it was her pulse, deafening with its
quickening.  She groaned against his mouth, molding herself to his hard planes,
wanting to be closer still, unwilling to stop even to breathe.

            The chains
rattled as he strained to touch her, to be inside her.  Sensing his need, she
parted her lips and he thrust his rough tongue into her mouth, delving deep,
and then drawing her into him.  She gasped in the back of her throat, unable to
believe the simple pleasure two mouths could conjure together, reveling in the
wild taste of him, an untamed force that consumed her soul and gave it to him.

            Vague and
disjointed as the thought was, it connected with an earlier warning, that she
had somehow been bespelled and fear knifed through her.

            Ashanti broke
away, stumbling back from him several paces, panting for breath as she stared
at him in shocked dismay.  A warmth suffused her limbs, weakened her.  Her skin
tingled all over.  Her thoughts lay in the ruins of confusion, as if she’d
drunk too much wine.

            Touching a hand
to prickling lips, she looked at him accusingly.

            His fierce gaze
swept her up and down, measuring, lingering on her intimate parts as if they
caressed her through the gape of her black cloak.  She regretted her wardrobe
then, felt shame and guilt flood her as she saw herself through his eyes: the
scarlet linen cut in a deep vee to her navel, slit up the sides and held in
place by a gold cord wrapped around her to stabilize the flimsy fabric.  By
Lord Cornad’s will she was clothed like a courtesan, not an untouched
maiden…and yet, her actions had done nothing to lead anyone to believe her an
innocent.

            It angered her
that she had left herself in no position to dispute the knowing look in his
eyes.

BOOK: Captured by the Dark Lord
13.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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