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Authors: Renee Rose

Humbled

BOOK: Humbled
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Humbled

 

 

By

 

Renee Rose

 

Copyright © 2014 by Stormy Night Publications and Renee Rose

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2014 by Stormy Night Publications and Renee Rose

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

 

Published by Stormy Night Publications and Design, LLC.

www.StormyNightPublications.com

 

 

Rose, Renee

Humbled

 

Cover Design by Korey Mae Johnson

Images by The Killion Group, Bigstock/Maugli-L, and Bigstock/1971yes

 

 

 

This book is intended for
adults only
. Spanking and other sexual activities represented in this book are fantasies only, intended for adults.

Prologue

 

 

1779

Gramont, France

 

This was to be his end. Sentenced to death at age eleven over a pig he had not even succeeded in stealing.

Mud smeared the entire village. Three days straight the rain had poured, the misery of God matching his own. Thick and gloppy, it formed brown shoes over his bare feet. His mother’s tears tracked with the rivulets of water, her face expressionless with doom.

“Simon de Rossier,” the executioner bellowed the name of a man convicted of treason.

A fine carriage following two matched mares rode in and the Duc and Duchesse de Gramont stepped out with their young daughter. The proceedings paused as the judge stood from the seat where he was overseeing the execution. The nobility advanced, greeting the judge and taking seats beside him to watch the executions.

The judge waved to resume the activity, and the executioner kicked out the stool beneath Simon’s feet, leaving him kicking and thrashing, dangled from the rope around his neck.

“Jean-Claude Armand,” the man in black called his name.

He slouched forward, and because he was unable to look into his mother’s eyes or see the faces of the villagers, he stared up at the small aristocrat child. She met his eye and their gazes locked, her eyes growing round, her mouth opening. Something passed between them—it seemed he communicated his full despair to her and she absorbed it.

The executioner pulled him forward, and the din of the crowd became a low buzz as a quiet between his ears became deafening. He saw a signal given from the dais where the officials sat and stumbled forward for his death. But instead of hauling him to the hanging block, the guard brought him to stand before the aristocrats.

“What are the charges against this boy?” the duc queried.

Even with his eyes lowered, he felt the burning gaze of the young girl on him.

“Theft. He stole a pig from the magistrate.”

“No. No, he did not.” Her voice, though childish in pitch, held every note of nobility.

He lifted his gaze, unable to resist a glance. The little aristocrat had stood from her seat. Her chest heaved as if she were frightened, but her face only showed a stubborn determination, a smudge of color high on her cheeks. She could not be more than eight years old. She did not glance at him, yet he sensed the same connection he had felt when their eyes met across the square.

The judge appeared confused, glancing at the duc and duchesse for guidance. “Mademoiselle, the evidence was quite sound.”

“I took the pig,” she challenged. “I took it to the château where I dress it up, just as Marie Antoinette dresses her sheep at Versailles.”

The duchesse frowned and opened her mouth, but the duc held up his hand, looking thoughtful. “Is that so, Corinne?”

The small girl nodded resolutely.

“I will punish you,” he warned, as if to test his daughter’s resolve in sticking to the obvious lie.

She lifted her chin. “Yes, Papa.”

The duc made a careless gesture with his hand. “Free the boy. He is innocent.”

The judge’s face turned red, but his authority did not supersede the duc’s. He nodded to the guard, who released the cruel grip on his arms.

Jean-Claude dropped to one knee, bowing his head to his betters, then turned and ran away as fast as his bare feet could propel him through the mud.

Chapter One

 

 

July, 1789

Two weeks after the storming of the Bastille

 

They were coming. The sound of an angry mob reached her window from the château’s long drive. Peasants angry over the disparity in living were now attacking the nobility. Her servants raced around Château de Gramont in a terror, grabbing things of value. The more honest ones hid treasures for the family, but she guessed many claimed items of value for themselves. Furious shouts of the rabble rose from the road leading to her home.

“Quick, change into this, mademoiselle,” her chambermaid Anne-Marie cried, flying into the room with what appeared to be one of the servant’s own dresses.

She whirled to give her maid access to the laces at the back of her day gown, throwing off her wig and stripping out of the hoops even before she was free of the dress. She had already stuffed all the family jewels into a small leather pouch.

“We can sew those into the dress if we have time,” Anne-Marie said, yanking the silk gown from her shoulders and thrusting the plain, rough muslin gown over her head in its place.


Mon dieu
, where will we go?”

She saw it, then—a look of surprise turning to guilt in Anne-Marie’s eyes. She may be helping her to escape, but she had no plan to accompany her. “I do not know, mademoiselle. If you run, you can get horses from the stable and ride like the wind. No one rides as well as you.”

It was not true. Corinne was a fair rider, no more. Panic at the thought of running alone into the night, with nowhere to go, made her light-headed, but the sound of splintering wood below brought her back to her senses. She snatched the needle and thread from Anne-Marie’s hands and stuffed them into the leather pouch, tying it up around her waist, beneath her dress and chemise. Tearing out of the room, she raced down the servant’s stair, arriving in the larder just as the clambering mob burst in.

“Where is your lady?” a man demanded.

“She is in Bourges, with her parents,” she stammered.

The back of the man’s hand flew out and caught her square in the cheek, sending her flying back against the door with a thud. White lights exploded against a backdrop of only black and red before her eyes. She would have lost her footing if the man had not followed her, catching hold of her throat. “Do not lie to me. The footman said she is here. Now where is she?”

“U—upstairs, hiding in her chamber,” she squeaked.

“Show me.”

A younger man pushed through, tall and broad-shouldered, with dark hair falling over his eyes. “Release her, she is just a chambermaid, no better than you. Go look for yourself.” He put a hand on her aggressor’s shoulder, giving a hard yank to pull him away from her.

She looked gratefully at her rescuer, but his brow furrowed and he caught hold of her upper arm, pulling her out of the larder and through the kitchen.

She resisted, crying, “Where are you taking me?”

“Do you wish to die, mademoiselle?” he hissed in an undertone.

He knew who she was.

For a moment, she thought to pretend he was mistaken, but she discarded that idea. He had just rescued her. Perhaps he would save her from the madding crowd of vassals. She moved her feet in tempo with his, following his lead through the crazed throng of peasants smashing their way through the château.

He led her outside and she tugged toward the stables. “There are horses—”


Non
.”

She opened her mouth to argue, but he tightened his grip on her arm, yanking her down the path through manicured gardens to the outer wall surrounding the château. Here, without comment, he laced his fingers together and held them out at knee height. She blinked stupidly for a moment before she comprehended his intent. Placing her slippered foot in the basket of his hands, she stood upon it as he lifted her high enough to reach the top of the wall with her elbows. As she struggled to lift herself to sit, he unceremoniously pushed her backside, boosting her. She peered over the edge. It was too dark to see just how far down the earth was, but she saw it fell in a steep slope down.

Her rescuer scaled the wall with a feline grace, his agility even more impressive considering his height. “Just wait and I will catch you on the other side.”

“It will not be necessary,” she said and taking a breath, pushed off the stone wall, plunging into the darkness. The ground rose before she expected, sending a shock of force through her ankles and legs before she toppled headlong down the embankment. She bit back the curse only for the sake of escaping detection by anyone other than her rescuer.

Strong arms lifted her to her feet and steadied her. “I said I would catch you,” he grumbled. “Are you hurt?”

Her right ankle throbbed and her left lower leg was scraped under torn skirts, but she hissed, “No,” through clenched teeth.

He kept an arm at her elbow for several paces, which she wanted to shake off but unfortunately needed as her legs wobbled beneath her and her feet could not navigate the rocky footing. When they reached a friendlier terrain, he released her, leading the way with long strides.

“Who are you?” she queried the muscled back moving in front of her.

“Keep quiet for now,” was all he answered.

Even though she sensed the leather cord biting into her waist, her hands sought the lump, verifying the pouch of jewels was still beneath her skirts. It was the only thing of value she owned now. As soon as she was alone, she would sew the jewels into the dress as Anne-Marie had suggested. No one, not even her protector, should know how much wealth she carried on her person.

“Where are we going?”

“No talking,” he admonished.

She sighed and continued following his swift pace, the throbbing in her ankle gradually subsiding to a dull ache. When she felt as if her legs would collapse, she tried again. “Please. I must stop and rest. I cannot go on.”

He stopped, but only to turn and face her. The moonlight illuminated his face, and she saw the glitter of topaz blue eyes. They were striking against his dark hair, though they looked ancient, far older than his age, which appeared to be no more than twenty-five. “I know it seems that way, but you can go on, and you must. We will not stop until dawn. It is bad enough the moon is three-quarters full.”

She drew in a sharp breath. Was he mad? She folded her arms across her chest. “I demand we stop and rest.”

He took a step closer to her. “You are in no position to give orders, mademoiselle,” he said. “I will help you to safety if I can, but you must follow my direction. Or,” he said when she glowered, “I can leave you here and return to Gramont.”

She hesitated. She wanted to tell him to go to hell, but she had no idea where they were or what her options might be. No, she should not offend her only ally, even if he was an overbearing boor. “I will follow,” she grumbled.

“Very well. Get it through your head that the rule of the aristocracy in France has ended. The servant today became the master. If you wish my assistance, you must obey my bidding.”

She felt heat flood her cheeks. Were his intentions honest? Or did he mean to lure her away from anyone who might help so he might take his time humbling her? Exacting some kind of revenge on the privilege to which she had been born? She lifted her chin. “And if I do not?”

He gave a half-smile. “Then you will be thrashed, like any servant who misbehaves.”

Her bottom clenched convulsively and the heat in her face flushed through her limbs, pooling between her legs. The idea of being taken to task by the handsome peasant sent a wash of shame and a prickle of something altogether disturbing through her body. They stared at one another; he appeared to be waiting for her to test his declaration, but she did not dare. Contemplating a thrashing by him made her go weak.

She found herself curtsying, a signal of surrender, at least for now. She held her breath, waiting to see his ridicule, but none came. He drew himself up like a gentleman and gave her a small courteous bow and turned, starting up with his swift pace again. She gave a low moan and followed.

True to his word, they walked all night, until she felt half-dead, her feet stepping forward without command, stumbling at times but plodding on as her head lolled on her neck with sleep-deprivation. The tension in her travel-partner brought about her awareness of dawn. The sky had turned smoky gray, and the horizon behind them had the purple-beige color of a bruise.

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