The Duchess: Chapter 9

Gian’s eyes were wide, and he was grinning like a small child.  Sita pranced just a little, making Gian laugh gleefully.  The sight brought a smile to Ruarc’s face as he kept a firm grip on the lead rope.  Sita trotted in a circle around him.  He’d been shocked to learn Gian had not only never ridden a horse before, but had a fear of them.  Sita’s sweet nature had taken care of the latter problem, and letting Gian ride sidesaddle ensured he was comfortable trying the former.

Sita had learned quickly that Gian was an absolute pushover for treats and pats.  Whether it was just the chance at more exercise or her own nature, she appeared to be having just as much fun as Gian.  She even kicked up her heels a little to make him squeal.  Ruarc sighed when he noted the position of the sun.  “Time to head back.”  He clicked his tongue, and Sita came to him.

“She’s wonderful.”  Gian beamed as he slid off the saddle into Ruarc’s arms. Ruarc set him on the ground, and Gian immediately turned to Sita.  “You are.  You’re the most beautiful animal in the world.”  Sita nickered in response, and Gian laughed.  “She’s talking to me.”

“I’ve always suspected she understands most of what I say.”  He led his companions back into the castle.  In the stables, he showed Gian how to rub Sita down, then smiled to himself as Gian started plaiting her mane and promising her ribbons next time.  She tossed her head proudly when he finished.  “He’s going to spoil you.”  He patted the horse.

“Yes.”  Gian rubbed her neck.  “I will bring you apples and carrots and oats and —”

“Not too many, or you can make her sick.”  Ruarc shook his head.

“Just the right amount then.”  Gian leaned in toward Sita and whispered to the horse.  “And I won’t tell Ruarc about the occasional sugar stick if you don’t.”  Sita nickered in response.

Ruarc just rolled his eyes as he headed out of the stables.

(more…)

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The Duchess: Chapter 8

Vitalia ran her hand down Ruarc’s taut belly.  His wrists were still secured above his head, and his ankles were chained to the foot of the bed.  As she demanded when he slept, he was naked.  The bonds weren’t in place because she feared he’d attack her.  She just liked the way the chains looked on him.  His eyes blinked open, and she smiled before slithering atop him.  “Good morning, my darling.  Did you sleep well?”  She fiddled with the ring she’d placed in his left nipple.

The shackles on his wrists rattled a little.  “I dreamed I was trapped in a mad woman’s castle.”

She laughed.  “Darling, you’ve done nothing to make me angry with you.”  She raised herself up a little to kiss him.  Then she trailed her hand down to begin fondling him.  “You’re the most delightful pet I’ve ever purchased.”  Only the briefest shadow crossed his face at the reminder.  He’d become better at schooling his expressions.  She kissed him again, tasting his lips as she continued toying with him until he was squirming beneath her.  Then she mounted him.

His back arched as he moved for her, thrusting upward to please her.  It hadn’t taken him long to learn.  She arched her own back as she rode him, moaning softly.  The rules of their morning sessions had been explained to him carefully.  If he came before she did, Durante would be allowed to take a belt to his ass before using him.  To Durante’s disappointment, Ruarc had proved disciplined enough to avoid that fate.

When she came, she slid off him, leaving him unfulfilled.  A smirk came to her face when he responded with a glare, and she leaned forward to plant a quick kiss on his lips.  “Keep your hands off yourself, my dear.  If you wish release, you may ask Gian to service you.”  He gave a small shake of his head.  He wouldn’t, as she well knew.  Which meant he’d be having a frustrating day.

“Are you going to unchain me?”  He pulled at his wrists before raising an eyebrow.

“From the bed, yes.”  She grabbed the key, then glanced up when Gian entered in response to her ring of the bell.  Gian was limping just a little.  “Gian, bath Ruarc and then take him into the dungeon and secure him to the frame.”

“Yes, my lady.”  Gian bowed.

Ruarc rose from the bed as soon as she’d finished unfastening the shackles.  There were no clothes laid out for him, and he gave a small shake of his head when he noticed.  She smiled at him.  “And Gian?”

“My lady?”  Gian looked at her.

“Keep him hard, but do not give him release unless he asks you for it.”

Gian gave her a slightly confused look, but nodded.  Ruarc, however, clenched his fists and glared again.  “You said —”

“You need not do anything to him, Ruarc.”  She patted his shoulder.  “Unless you want to.”

(more…)

The Duchess: Chapter 7

She ran her fingers through Ruarc’s hair.  He was firmly secured in the pillory, partly bent over and with his legs spread apart.  She’d fixed weights and little bells to the clamps she’d attached to his more sensitive bits, and now and then she could hear them jingling.  “You’ll be pleased to know I have sent the first stipend to your sister.”

He slowly raised his head to look at her, though the pillory made him have to crane his neck to do so.  “She’ll be pleased.”

“I’ll allow you to write to her tomorrow.”  She ran a finger down his cheek.  “I will read it before I allow it to be sent.”  She walked behind the pillory, then trailed her fingernails down his side.  He twitched, making the bells jingle.

Vitalia smiled, then flicked her fingernail against his scrotum.  He made a small sound as he jumped a little at the sensation.  Then she walked all the way around to face him again.  “You wanted a warrior.”  His voice was quiet.

“I have one.”  She ran her fingers through his hair again.

“You won’t for long, if this continues.”  He exhaled.  “Men are weakened in captivity, especially held like this.  If you want me to be able to fight for you…”  He raised his head again.  “You’ll have to allow me to —”

“Exercise, yes.”  She nodded.  “Tomorrow I will allow you a few hours to train.”  She crouched to look him in the eye.  “Tonight though, I want to see you squirm.”

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The Duchess: Chapter 6

She hadn’t been lying.  Having them removed was indeed more painful than having them placed.  Ruarc bit back the cry of pain every time, and did not indulge in any groaning.  The look of disappointment on her face almost make the suffering worthwhile.  She must have caught a glimpse of that in his face, because she knew exactly how to retaliate.

“Making me into your whore isn’t enough for you?”  He fought to keep his hands from clinching into fists.

“Are you denying having second thoughts about our arrangement?”  She arched an eyebrow as a smug expression danced on her lips.

“Durante holds my brother’s marker.”

“And you cannot call in markers on your lands to pay it off.  You owe more than the lands are worth, and those markers will belong to me.”  She sat languidly in her chair, as though it was a throne.  It might well have been.

“Do as you demand and my family does well.  Walk away and…”  He swallowed.  “My brother dies in debtor’s prison.”

“Let’s be fair, my darling.  I’ll also see to your personal destruction.  You can be a whore or an outlaw.  One of the two will see your family secure.”  She stretched her leg out onto the footstool.  “Kneel.”

Ruarc bowed his head before dropping to his knees.  A small, bitter laugh escaped him.  “How may I serve, mistress?”

(more…)

The Duchess: Chapter 5

He rubbed at his wrists, then exhaled before letting Gian take one to sooth the ointment into it.  His ankles had been left shackled together and secured to the chain on the floor.  Gian gave him a concerned look.  “The ropes are nicer if you don’t fight them, my lord.”

Simply fleeing would do him no good.  He might have gotten away with killing Durante, but there was the duchess to consider.  The king’s niece.  Killing her would make him an outlaw if he wasn’t simply executed, and alive her word was worth far more than his own.  She’d laid the trap clearly, and he’d still stepped inside.  “Fighting them seems to amuse her.”

“Oh, yes, my lord.”  Gian nodded.  “She was praising you at breakfast, telling all who would listen how she had to put you in irons.  She feared you’d break the ropes.”  Gian soothed the ointment into his other wrist.  “She’s instructed special restraints be made for you my lord.  Something that can hold her magnificent beast.”  He gave Ruarc a shy smile.  “You frightened me a little when you threw Durante off the bed.  I thought you were going to break free and I’d be punished for not tying you well enough.”

“If…”  Ruarc took a deep breath.  “You’d be punished if I broke free?”

“Of course, my lord.”  Gian gave him a confused look.  “Or if the ropes injure you.  It means I did not perform my duty adequately.”  Gian stood.  “Do you have other injuries, my lord?”

“I’m fine.”  Ruarc nodded.

Gian shifted from foot to foot.  “Are you certain, my lord?”

Ruarc looked up at him.  “I’m fine.”

“I…”  Gian hesitated.  “Are you certain, my lord?”

“Gian…”  He exhaled.  “What concerns you?”

“My lord, Durante did not prepare you before he took you.”

“Prepare…”  He caught on to what Gian was saying and felt his skin start to burn.  “I’m fine, Gian.”

“If my lord would like, I can prepare you before they wish to use you again.”

“I don’t…”  Ruarc shook his head.  “I don’t even know what you mean by that.”

“Oh.”  Gian started nodding.  “I can put oil on my fingers and —”

“Gian.”  Ruarc stared at him and then started shaking his head.  “No, I don’t want you to —”

“My lord.”  Gian put a hand on Ruarc’s shoulder, then crouched slightly so they were eye level.  “If you are not prepared, you could tear, or…”  Gian took a deep breath.  “It is a very painful injury to have, my lord.”

“I…”  Ruarc frowned.  “You know this from experience.”

“Yes, my lord.”  He nodded.  “I would have to prepare well if I were to take you, my lord.  You are bigger than Durante.”

“I won’t be taking you, Gian.”  Ruarc shook his head.  “I have no interest in either defiling you or doing you harm.”

“I…”  Gian smiled at him.  “I wouldn’t mind, my lord.  I like you.”

“Just…”  Ruarc took a deep breath.  Then another.  He had to take a third before he could speak.  “Tell me if you think I am going to need to be…”  He winced.  “Prepared, and I will consider your offer.”

(more…)

The Duchess: Chapter 4

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.

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The Duchess: Chapter 3

By Thatelan law, a marriage wasn’t fully legal until it was consummated.  The duchess had also made her intentions clear, despite being eager to return to her own lands.  Bedding her was to be expected, per their arrangement.  It should come as no surprise that they’d share a room at the inn, being newlyweds.  His eyes went once again to the item sitting on the pillow.  “You want to tie me to the bed.”

“Yes.”  Her smile was that of a lioness who’d spotted prey.

“And if I let you, you’ll double the stipend.”  He stared at the coil of rope.

“I’ve found a new stallion is often skittish at the first ride.  Offering a reward can smooth the process.”  She waved a hand.  “But our bargain was that you will submit to my will.”

“Obeying you is one matter.”  He shook his head.  “Being rendered helpless is another.”

“Hence the offer of the reward.”  The smile never left her face.

Ruarc exhaled, then glanced at the woman standing behind her.  “Your maid is still present.”

“Enjoy the small pleasures of rank, dear husband.  She’ll save you the effort of undressing yourself.”  Something of his reaction must have shown on his face, because she laughed.  “Come now.  She did quite well last time.”

“I am fully capable of undressing myself.”

“I’m sure you are.”  She shrugged.  “But I like the way you blush when she unlaces your breeches.”  Duchess Vitalia straightened.  “Stand, and let her undress you.”

He took a deep breath before rising.  The maidservant’s smile was a catlike mirror of her mistress’s as she began unfastening his doublet.  She took her time, putting on a show for the duchess.  He clenched his fists, but stayed where he was.  After he was naked, the maid went back to her position behind the duchess.

Her eyes raked over him.  “Well?”  She raised an eyebrow.

Kiera would be smart with the coin, see to their security.  This wouldn’t be forever.  Just until…  “It will be as you wish.”  He exhaled.

“Wonderful.”  She stood then, and trailed a hand across his chest.  “Relax, darling.  You may even enjoy yourself.”

(more…)

The Duchess: Chapter 2

He wanted to grab the key and storm from the room.  Ruarc could feel his face burning from humiliation.  And yet, if he left empty-handed, his brother was a dead man.  A whore, she’d called him.  Worst part was she was right.  He took a couple deep breaths, and then took his seat once more.

The maid who’d stripped him brought in the meal.  He started to open his mouth, then caught himself.  She hadn’t given him permission to speak yet.  Ruarc looked up to see her giving him a pleased smile.  “Now, as to terms…”  She looked down at her plate, her voice prim.  “I will first go over what is in this offer for you, and what is not.  You will not be given access to my fortune.  I will, however, purchase the markers for your family’s debts.  Your estates, and your brother’s recent mistakes.  Additionally, I will provide your family members with suitable stipends.  I will also see to the repairs on the estate itself.”

Ruarc went still, as she laid out everything he wanted and more.  He took a sip of the wine, and noted his hand was trembling just a little.  The duchess must have noticed as well, because she smiled again.  “You can, of course, refuse.  In fact, you may walk away at any time.  Your sisters are pretty, no doubt they can find work in a brothel.  You could support your mother and your youngest sibling by returning to the life of a soldier, at least as long as you escape injury.  Your brother…”  She shrugged, then waved a hand.  “You may speak.”

“You’ve made your point, Your Grace.”  He was surprised to find his voice steady.  “Perhaps you should explain what it is you want from me.”

“In public, you will play the role of my adoring and devoted husband.  You will, if necessary, defend my honor and other such matters.  Should I bear a child, you will claim the child as yours and defend the child’s honor as well.”  She speared a bit of meat on her fork.  “In public.”

A show.  A pretense, so she could avoid having a husband with sufficient power to interfere with her.  And yet if that were all she wanted, there were plenty of weak dandies about for her to choose from.  Fools who had to have six servants before they could dress themselves.  “In public.”  He slowly nodded.  “And in private?”

“You will assume no control over my standing or finances.  You will assume no power over me at all.  You will do as I tell you, and submit yourself to my will.”  Her smile became predatory.  “I have no interest in you as a husband, Ruarc.  But as a plaything?”  She looked him over.  “I think I will enjoy you thoroughly.”

It was all he could do not to flinch.  A whore was exactly what she’d make of him, if he agreed to this.  And a cuckold beside.  “My sisters will require dowries.”

“Their needs will be met, as long as you keep your end.”  She speared herself another bite of food.  “Displease me, and their stipends will be cut off until you submit to whatever punishment I deem satisfactory.”

“Not courting a husband…”  He gave a bitter shake of his head.  “You’re buying a slave.”

“Precisely.”  She bit into the meat.

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The Duchess: Chapter 1

Three separate lords had now presented invitations to her.  Duchess Vitalia sighed.  The worse part was her uncle, the king, had looked in her direction whenever the word ‘alliance’ came up.  She hadn’t disposed of one useless old man just to get stuck with another.  Any husband the king saddled her with would mean trouble, as would the sycophants after her wealth and position.  If she did marry, it would have to be on her terms, and none of those louts would agree.  Many of them seemed to think she would benefit from a ‘governing hand’.

Adding to her current frustration was the fact she dare not relieve her frustration with her lover.  Not with so many eyes about.  Durante was both base born and a bastard, and it was scandalous enough merely having him as her groom.  Marzia, her maid, was lush enough, but she was in the mood for something else.  And any husband she ended up with would likely insist both they and Gian be sent away, if he didn’t come up with a pretense to have them killed.  Her not so sadly deceased husband had killed her lovely Nico.

She picked up her drink, then noted Marzia was staring down at the tournament with a small smile.  “Someone caught your eye?”

“That count who annoyed you earlier was just unhorsed.  He is not happy.”  Marzia’s smile became an open smirk.  “Not happy at all.”

Vitalia followed her gaze to see the sputtering count.  It took her a moment to determine who had unhorsed him.  She hadn’t been paying attention to the games.  The knight was young, and his armor battered as though it had seen war rather than just tournaments.  “Who is he?”

“I believe that is Baron Orso’s second son, your grace.  I’m not sure of the name…”  Marzia tilted her head.  “Something foreign.  His mother was Ipruci or Gaebli or something.”

“I’m surprised he was allowed to compete.”  She frowned at the scene.  “Though that seems to be the count’s issue as well.”

“The boy has ridden well.  He’s in the running for…”  Marzia trailed off.  The count was clearly pleased at whatever the tourney master had decided.  The handsome young knight looked frustrated and angry as he turned and stalked away.  “He has been disqualified.”

“Pity.”  Vitalia settled back into her chair.  “I rather liked the thought of Count Servo taken out by an upstart.”

(more…)

The Woods Chapter 8

The Woods: Chapter 9

She entered the bedchamber to find it empty.  Ileana frowned a moment before a sound in the garden drew her attention.  A smile came to her face as she looked out the window.  Keffer and Thomas were both stripped to loinclothes, sparring with quarterstaves.  Keffer was fey, stronger and faster than a mortal man, and he had a greater reach than Thomas.

And yet it was Keffer who was losing the match.  Thomas caught the satyr’s ankle with the staff, taking Keffer off his feet.  The butt end of Thomas’s staff stopped a couple inches above the satyr’s throat.  A killing blow, had Thomas intended it as such.  Her husband tossed the staff aside before offering her lover a hand back to his feet.

“Ileana.”  Keffer caught sight of her watching them.  “My apologies, I took the liberty of untying your pet when I realized he was awake.”  Thomas glared at him.  “I also fed him, watered him, and took him for a walk.”

“Then I beat him with a stick.”  Thomas rolled his eyes.

“Thrice.”  Keffer nodded, smiling.  “I thought I’d save bathing him for when you returned.”

“Hmmm…”  She extended a hand, running it down Thomas’s chest.  His body had just a trace of sweat, and there were a few bruises starting to form from the duel to add to the ones she’d left on him the previous evening.  Ileana gestured for them to follow her to the bath chamber.

Inside the steaming room, she directed Thomas to sit in one of the shallow pools.  Then she stripped off her robe before selecting a soap.  He smiled when she joined him in the pool, a smile that only widened when she sat down atop him, straddling his lap.  His arms went around her, caressing her as she began to wash him.  “You taste of woodsmoke.”  His voice was soft.

Ileana hesitated, then nodded.  “In two week’s time we will travel to my father’s castle.”

Thomas was silent for a moment before meeting her eyes.  “Where Nicolas dwells.”

“I hope that Nicolas will see reason, and speak with me.”  She ran a hand down his chest.  “Since you are…”  She shrugged.

“You intend to use me as a hostage.”  Thomas raised an eyebrow at her.

“If it stops Nicolas from engaging in hostilities, yes.”  She brushed his hair back.  “If he resists my reclamation of the castle, I will be forced to imprison him.”

“Let me speak with him.”  Thomas leaned back a little.

“I intend to.  But first, we must actually get inside the castle itself.  Otherwise Nicolas could hold it against us.”  She smiled at him.  “I’ve arranged a place of safety for his family.  Whatever does happen, they will not come to harm.”

“Thank you.”  He returned her smile.  “Nicolas is a good man, and a wise man.  He will listen.”

“I…”  Strange, how much had changed in just the past few days.  “I remember him fondly.”  She settled back a little in his lap.  “He visited our library, a few months before you and I were wed.”

“He brought you the silk.”  Thomas nodded.

“It…”  Her eyes widened.  “Then it really was from you?”

“Of course it was.”  Thomas blinked.  “Who did you…”  He tilted his head at her.

“I…”  She leaned in to kiss him again.  “After everything, I told myself you probably had some servant handle the letters.  But they were you.  It was always you.”

“There was never another, Ileana.”  His voice was soft.  “Even after…”  He bowed his head.

“Thomas…”

“Who could compare to the daughter of the wind?”  He ran his fingers through her hair.

Her own fingers tangled in his hair as she pulled him to her for another kiss.

(more…)

The Woods Chapter 8

The Woods: Chapter 8

It took him a moment to realize Ileana had spoken.  She stood, then gestured.  “Clear the hall.”  There was grumbling, but everyone save Keffer obeyed the command.

Thomas remained where he was.  At this point, he wasn’t entirely sure he trusted his legs to hold him anyway.  He focused on controlling his breathing.  Keffer’s hand still rested on the small of his back.  “Ileana?”  Keffer shifted his position just slightly.  “Earlier you seemed rather enthusiastic about this performance.”

He didn’t dare raise his head to look up as she walked over to them.  At least the others were gone.  Whatever Ileana intended now, he would not have to endure their eyes while it happened.  She stood there, silently.  Then her hand touched his hair.  Her fingers seemed almost tender as they caressed him.  “Thomas, look at me.”

Only then did he lift his head, and stare up at her.  She was looking down at him, her face contemplative.  “You told the truth.”

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The Woods: Chapter 7

The next morning when she went looking for him she brought a strap rather than the riding crop.  His gaze went to the weapon in her hand before meeting her eyes.  She pointed at the posts.  “Put your wrists through the loops.”  Without a word, Thomas obeyed.  “There is no number, this time.”  She narrowed her eyes.  “I’m going to beat you until you beg for mercy.”

“If you wish me to beg, you need only give the order.”  His voice was quiet.

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The Woods: Chapter 6

He vomited again, and started to wipe his mouth with the back of his hand.  Someone offered him a towel.  He took it, then blinked when he saw the satyr.  His fists clenched.  “What do you want?”

“If you loved her…”  The satyr frowned.  “Why not tell her?  Have her go to her father and convince him?”

Thomas wiped his face.  “I suggested that to my father.  He…”  Thomas sat, leaning his back against the smooth stone column.  “I don’t know.  He was so convincing then, but…”  He looked up at the satyr.  “Why do you care?”

“I could say that the stupidity of humans never ceases to amaze me…”  The satyr shook its head.  “But this is one of those fascinating occasions where nobility and stupidity are all but indistinguishable from each other.  As much as I mock the latter, I do have considerable respect for the former.”  It tilted its head.  “You did something stupid, because your father told you to do it and you were taught all your life that he must be obeyed.  And now you are here, because you are willing to sacrifice yourself to save your family.”

“You’re mocking me.”  He glared.

“If I was mocking you, I would be bringing up just how terrible you are at sucking cock.”  The satyr rolled its eyes.  “If I had known interceding would make her that mad at me I’d have let her strangle you.”

His eyes widened as he stared up at the satyr.  And then, to his own surprise, he started to laugh.  “I hate you.”

“Pity.”  The satyr shrugged.  “I think I rather like you.”  It offered Thomas a hand, and Thomas let it pull him back to his feet.  “I would not protect you from her, even if I could.”  It met Thomas’s eyes.  “But I will ensure she keeps her word.”

(more…)

Hunting: Chapter 21

“Why didn’t you stop his escape?”  Wren glared at Adam.

“That wasn’t the mission I was given.”  Adam shook his head.

She fought the urge to take control of his mind, to make him crawl toward her and beg forgiveness.  “Sima’s pissed.”

“She was already on the phone to Giroux, telling him her version of what happened.”  Adam shrugged.

Wren froze.  “What do you mean?”

“Sima hasn’t been paid yet, Wren.  Giroux finds out Sima diverted resources over a pet, he’s going to be annoyed.  She’s got to downplay it, or spread the blame or something.”  Adam sighed.  “She’s probably going to say it was my fault or something.  I just hope Giroux doesn’t decide that makes it your fault.

“She wouldn’t…”  Wren narrowed her eyes.

“I hope so.”  Adam shook his head.  “I really don’t want to end up her pet.  Especially now that she knows about the talisman.”

Her fingers clutched the ring around her neck.  That’s right.  Sima knew.  And Sima had expressed an interest in Adam and…  She frowned.  And Sima had blown the mission by not letting Adam go into the field.  Adam could have killed the alpha and…  Giroux had known Sima a long time.  Surely he’d know…  Except he didn’t know Wren herself.  “There has to be a way to salvage this.”

“He lost a lot of people, and stands to lose the rest if they don’t get moving soon.”

“You can still kill Matthias.”  She nodded.

“I could.”  Adam folded his arms.  “Be a waste of time though.”

“You should keep a civil tongue when addressing —”

“My mistress?”  He had the nerve to smirk at her.  “Or what, Wren?”

“You know ‘or what’.”  She clenched her fists.

“You could break me.”  He met her eyes.  “Turn me into your pet.  You see how well that game worked for Sima.  But ask yourself something, Wren…”  He straightened.  “What good to anyone is a broken weapon?”  He shook his head.  “You’re a witch.  You’ve got me.  Nobody can do what I can do.  Giroux isn’t an idiot, Wren.  If you can manage not to be one as well, you can still come out on top of this.”

For a moment she just stood there, staring at him.  “I could…”  His gaze didn’t waver.  “You’re still mine.  Don’t forget that.”

“I’m well aware.”  He shrugged.  “Suggest you get to the airport, and use your magic to get the retreat going.  Giroux is going to be annoyed if he loses anymore guys.”

“Fine.”  She jabbed a finger into his chest.  “But when I’m done, you, me, and Sima’s little truth ability are going to have a long talk.”

“Looking forward to it.”  He sat down as she headed for the door.  And to her irritation, he just turned on the TV like he hadn’t a care in the world.

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Hunting: Chapter 20

Ash fought the urge to laugh.  He remained curled up on the bed, every inch the dog.  Even though he knew there was a good chance Sima and Wren would end up taking their frustrations out on him, he couldn’t help but be pleased as he listened to them rant.  They’d sent people after his friends.  His friends had won.  Sima wanted him to think her all-powerful, the flawless mistress.  She wasn’t.  Despite what she’d done to Adam, he defied her.  Adam smiled, played the pet, and the moment Sima looked away, Adam defied her.  For all her confidence, all that she was a witch wolf, Sima was only human.  Adam defied her.  And if Adam could, so could he.

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