He was quiet when they entered the castle. She wasn’t certain how much was fascination and how much was nerves. Out of the corner of her eye she watched him, noting that he was paying attention to the castle’s fortifications and defenses. That was encouraging, considering one of his duties would be to defend her fortress should such a thing become necessary. Ruarc caught her watching him, and gave her a small nod. “What do you think, darling?” She smiled as she took his arm.
“It is impressive.” He looked up toward the heights. “Considering the approach, I admit surprise you do not have ballistas.”
“Something for you to discuss with my steward. Let me give you the tour.” She kept hold of his arm as she took him through the castle. He was impressed by her armory, and commented on the efficiency of the stables. And it was clear he didn’t miss the looks some of her staff were giving him. Many seemed amused, but a few of the glances bordered on pity. With her arm locked around his, she could feel his tension. It brought a smile to her face. “You may not leave the castle without my permission, but once granted you can ride and hunt in the woods. The map is in my office.”
“Leave without…” He blinked and turned to look at her. “Without your permission?”
Vitalia raised an eyebrow. “What about the instruction confuses you?”
“It’s purpose.” Ruarc frowned.
“I purchased you for a reason, darling. Allowing you to wander freely runs the risk of subverting that. You’ll not be permitted to leave my lands unescorted at all.”
“I will want to visit my family.” He shook his head.
“Arrangements can be made, provided you are otherwise a good boy.” She patted his arm. “Now, I believe you are unhappy with the current status of your family’s stipend.”
A small, slightly bitter laugh escaped him. “You could say that.”
“I believe, unless your sister is not as capable as you described, that a sum of 300 gold a month would be sufficient to allow them to live among the nobility again, yes?”
It amused her to see just how wary his expression became. “I take it you have…” He gave a small shake of his head. “Something in mind?”
“Oh, yes.” She rubbed his arm.
They were ten paces from the door into the bed chambers. It occurred to him he’d rather go fight a band of Wilders single-handedly than accompany her into that room. She’d been clear. He could back out before the door, and she’d leave the stipend where it was. She’d give him the same choice each day. This week would apparently determine its base rate. It seemed to amuse her to make him a whore.
She’d been firm though. Once he was in the room, he was at her mercy and any objection he offered would carry little to no weight. He steeled himself, then accompanied her inside.
A delicate young woman in flowing robes was waiting inside the chambers. She knelt as they entered, not rising again until the Duchess gestured. Then her blue eyes flicked toward Ruarc and widened. His own did as well. The young woman wore a delicate gold collar around her neck.
His eyes widened further when spoke, and he realized he wasn’t looking at a young woman at all. “Oh, mistress.” The effeminate young man looked him over. “He’s magnificent.”
“Isn’t he?” The duchess petted his arm. “Ruarc, darling, this is Gian. He tends to the bedchamber.” She patted his arm again. “Gian, my dear, did you get my letter?”
“Yes, mistress. Everything is arranged as you requested.” Gian nodded.
Ruarc flinched when he heard the door lock click behind him, and realized that Durante and Madzia had also entered the chamber. The duchess released his arm, and stepped away to sit in a chair. He expected Madzia to step forward to remove his clothes, but instead it was Gian. There was a mark on the gold collar. “You’re Manisaran.”
“Ruarc…” The duchess’s voice held a note of warning. “I did not give you permission to speak.”
He took a couple deep breaths, then stood there silently as Gian undressed him. Gian moved behind him, then put a hand on his shoulder and gently pushed. Ruarc looked over his shoulder at the young man. The young man met his eyes, then pushed his shoulder again.
“Kneel, Ruarc.” The duchess took the glass of wine Durante had poured.
His fists clenched, but he knelt. It was difficult, forcing himself to remain still while his arms were bound behind his back. His wrists were secured to the opposite elbows. The duchess had bound him at the inn. If that was the game she wanted to play, he could learn to live with it… He tensed as a blindfold was placed over his eyes, and had to make himself take a few more deep breaths. A touch to his chin, and then he was gagged.
A slight push up on his elbow. He hesitated a moment, then stood. It must have been the correct response, because he heard nothing from the duchess. He was lightly pushed forward, and he started walking. Gian’s touches were light, but he managed to guide Ruarc to the bed without him running into anything.
She gestured for Durante to follow Gian, and saw the man smile and nod. Ruarc had been obedient and cooperative thus far, even if he was uncertain about what was expected of him. And he looked lovely in the blindfold. There was something about a powerful man made helpless that made her nearly shiver with pleasure.
Gian guided Ruarc onto the bed, then secured the harness he’d made around Ruarc’s chest to the head of the bed. Then he moved down to secure the ropes to Ruarc’s ankles. He wrapped the other ends around the bedposts, and offered them to Durante. Durante’s smile widened as he grabbed the ends of the rope and pulled.
Ruarc’s body jerked and thrashed when Durante used the ropes to spread his legs, forcing him onto his belly. She could hear muffled protests from behind the gag. Vitalia stood, and walked over to sit on the edge of the bed. She started petting Ruarc’s back gently. “Shhh, darling.” She could almost make out the sounds he was making behind the gag. The word ‘don’t’ over and over again. Naive, perhaps, but clearly not stupid.
The ropes allowed him space to struggle. She continued caressing him until he started to calm down. “It’s alright, darling.” Vitalia leaned down so her lips were brushing against his ear. “It’s alright, my dear. I’m going to enjoy this.” She kissed his neck, and heard him make a small whimpering sound in protest.
He started thrashing again when Durante’s oil slicked fingers probed him gently. Vitalia went back to petting his back, gently caressing him with her fingernails. She kept up the soothing motion. “If you’re calm, darling, he’ll be gentle.” Ruarc started shaking his head. “Shh, it’s alright, sweet one. You’ll learn to like it.” She nodded to Durante as Ruarc whimpered again.
His body thrashed again when Durante entered him, bucking with enough strength to actually throw Durante off him again. Vitalia laughed delightedly. “Oh, did I not assure you he’d be a wild ride?” She looked up at Durante.
Durante’s grin answered her own. “You certainly did.” He leaped back onto the bed.
“Untie me.” Ruarc glared at Gian.
“Mistress believes doing so would be unwise.” Gian offered him a bite of food. “She thinks that if you are untied you might attempt to hurt someone.”
He yanked at the ropes binding his wrists to his elbows, but there was no give in them. His ankles had been secured together with shackles, affixed to a chain attached to one of the bed posts. He had enough range to sit in one of the chairs, but walking was extremely difficult. Gian had rushed to help when Ruarc had risen from the bed, and when he’d knocked Gian down in response the young man had simply stood back up and gone back to trying to help him. Ruarc growled, and whacked the back of his head against the chair.
“Please, my lord.” Gian immediately set the plate down and rushed over to pet his head soothingly. “Please. Would you like something else for lunch? I can make you something else.” The young man’s blue eyes shimmered a little with concerned tears.
Ruarc laughed bitterly. “How long have you been a prisoner here?”
“I am not a prisoner, my lord. I am the mistress’s loyal slave, my lord.”
“How long…” He exhaled. “Have you been her…” He gritted his teeth. “Slave?”
“She purchased me four years ago, my lord.” Gian offered him a different bite of food. “Please, my lord. I’m to feed you before I bath you.”
This time, he took the bite. “The bathchamber is down the hall, yes?”
“Yes, my lord. But mistress doesn’t want you unchained.”
“Then how…” He sighed. “Do you intend to bath me?”
“With a cloth, my lord?” Gian looked confused by the question, then his eyes widened and he smiled. “Unless you wish me to use my tongue? Durante likes it when I use my tongue.”
“No, no, no no no no no…” He started shaking his head. “No, you mustn’t do that. Ever.”
“I…” Gian actually looked hurt. “If that is your wish, my lord.”
“I wish you to untie me.”
“Mistress said I’m to make you comfortable, my lord, but not to obey your orders until she states otherwise.”
“Fuck.” Ruarc leaned his head back again. He still hurt from where Durante had… He took a deep breath. When the groomsman had finished, the ropes had been shifted and he’d been turned onto his back. He wasn’t sure which of the women had ridden him first, as both had been laughing. Then the poor young man currently trying to feed him had been told to… The worst part of that is the young man’s lips around his shaft had felt good. “No, Gian…” He shook his head as tears welled in the slave’s eyes again. “I’m not mad at you.” He had no one to blame for this but himself.
The open fury in his eyes when she entered the room made her smile. “Oh, come now, Ruarc. Gian can testify that you enjoyed yourself rather thoroughly.”
“Nowhere in our bargain did…” Ruarc yanked at the ropes binding his arms again.
“Come now, darling…” Vitalia sat down across from him. “You auditioned for him too, when we first discussed our agreement.”
“I…” He glared, then gave a bitter shake of his head. “Untie me.”
“Not for a couple days yet, I think.” She smiled. “You did well, last night, following directions admirably. That is why I had Gian reward you.”
“Don’t do that to him.” Ruarc’s voice was cold.
She blinked. “Ruarc?”
“Bad enough…” Ruarc pulled at the ropes again. “I don’t want to rape your slave boy.”
“Gian is well trained, Ruarc. You needn’t worry.” She shrugged. “He enjoys his work.”
“He’s a slave.”
“So are you.” She gave him a pointed look. Then she shrugged. “If you do not want Gian to pleasure you, I can accept that. Provided you behave yourself.”
“Behave…” His eyes widened, then he closed them and took a few deep breaths. “I just gave you another weapon to use against me, didn’t I?”
“Gian will be disappointed. He likes you.” She waved a hand. “Will you crawl for me, Ruarc?”
“Will I…” He looked away from her.
“Crawl to me, clean my feet with your mouth, and call me mistress?”
For several minutes, he was silent. “Is that what you ask of me tonight?”
“I will wish to evaluate the talent of your tongue in other areas.” She leaned back in the chair. “You’ll have to give me your word, of course, that you’ll not attempt to harm anyone if I untie you.”
“And if I refuse to cooperate?” He looked back at her.
“Then before Durante takes you again, I’ll take belt to your lovely ass, my darling. Make sure it’s nice, warm, and tender for him.” She waggled her eyebrows. “So, do you want to pleasure your wife, or fuck a stablehand?”
Ruarc’s angry glare didn’t quite hide the trace of despair in his eyes.