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.”



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.”


The Woods: Chapter 5

Keffer caught her arm and yanked her off the bed, pushing her against the wall.  “Enough, Ileana.  You’re killing him.”

She started to protest, and his hand touched her breast.  A wave of sensation flooded through her, driving all else from her mind.  Ileana staggered when it stopped, catching and holding Keffer for support.  It took her several tries to catch her breath.  “My father was not a traitor.”

“I am well aware of who and what your father was, Ileana.”  Keffer pulled her into a hug, holding her tightly.

“He was lying.”  She clung to him.

“He told the truth as he saw it, precious heart.”


“Is it his fault he was deceived?”  Keffer looked down at her.

“That doesn’t excuse that he lied to me then.”  She glared.

“No.”  Keffer nodded.  “It does not.  You were his wife, and should have been his first loyalty.  He broke the laws of sacred hospitality.  You are not wrong to be angry.”  He tilted her head up.  “But some of your anger is misdirected.  Tell me, precious heart, is it the knife or the one who wields it that holds responsibility for the cut?”

“Why would they…”  She shook her head, and let Keffer guide her to a chair.  “Why would anyone seek to hurt my father?”

“Greed for his lands.”  Keffer shrugged.  “And sheer ignorance.  How few among the mortal realm would believe such as I still exist?  Your family has performed its sacred duty well these past centuries.”

“And now it’s his family holding the castle.”  Ileana sighed.  “Nicolas.”

“The man who tried to save your sister.”  Keffer raised an eyebrow.

“I…”  She sighed.  “I need to think.”

“Take your time, precious heart.”  Keffer rose, then bent and picked up Thomas, slinging the unconscious man over his shoulder.

“Where are you…”  Ileana frowned.

“Forgive me, dear one, but I do not think it is in his best interest to be within your line of sight.”  Keffer shrugged.  “I will return him to you when your rage no longer controls you.”

Ileana sighed, then nodded.  She took a deep breath, and then rose and began to pace.


The Woods: Chapter 4

He was no longer certain how many days he’d spent hanging from the tree.  At least a week, maybe more.  Time seemed to pass strangely where ever it was they were.  At seemingly random intervals he’d take his meals with Ileana and her strange companions.  He was becoming somewhat inured to their taunts.  The delicate winged woman had even expressed disappointment in the fact he no longer blushed just by sitting at the table.  The satyr, however, could still make him turn red, though at least half the time it was anger rather than embarrassment.  It would whisper to him when it put him back in the tree, of things it would like to do to him.  Ileana seemed to find it amusing, though she never let the creature go beyond words.

The few hours he was given to sleep were never quite enough.  He’d be woken, and set out to be displayed in her garden again.  Her silent trophy.  She never let him speak, save to make him beg for basic necessities.  And to make him ask the satyr to be put back in the tree.

They were plotting against his brothers.  Ileana viewed Nicolas as a threat, and rightly so.  Nicolas would have known what all these creatures were.  If anyone could get this blasted collar off, it was him.  There had to be some way to get a warning to him.  With warning, he could prepare, could…  Do something.  Thomas had nearly forgotten what it felt like not to hurt.

She was waiting for him outside the privy door.  Waiting to put him back in the tree.  Thomas took a deep breath.  The satyr had suggested a collar for Nicolas, and Ileana had laughed.  Said it was only fair that the beast have a pet prince of his own.  He couldn’t stomach the thought of his brother at that thing’s mercy.  If she would just listen…  He looked up, and met his reflection’s eyes.  Then he took another deep breath, and went to the door.


The Woods : Chapter 3

Refusing to let him dress had been petty of her, she knew that.  Yet the look on his face when he realized he was going to have to be stark naked in front of a dozen of her dinner guests had been hilarious.  Her friends weren’t making it easy on him either.  He sat next to her, hunched in front of the table, trying to keep what modesty he could.  Janna trailed a hand across his shoulder, leaning in behind him as she poured wine into Ileana’s cup.  Then she ‘accidentally’ dumped half the flagon of iced wine into Thomas’s lap.  He yelped when the cold liquid hit him, but managed not to jump out of his seat.  Several of her guests made disappointed sounds.

The slyph produced a towel.  “Here.”  She grinned.  “Let me get that for you.”

He caught the towel.  “Thank you, but I can manage.”

“No, really.”  Janna licked her lips.  “I insist.”

“I have the matter under control.”  He tugged at the towel, but Janna didn’t release it.

“It is a big mess.”  On the other side of him, Keffer picked up his napkin and started toward him.

Thomas immediately released Janna to catch Keffer’s wrist.  “I appreciate the…”  He trailed off when Janna started reaching into his lap again, and caught the towel with his other hand.

“Maybe he just likes being wet and sticky.”  Tsara laughed.

“Well, then…”  Keffer pulled his wrist free of Thomas and set the napkin back down.  “If that’s the way he likes it.”

“Hmmm…”  Janna shrugged, then pulled the towel away before going back to her seat.

Ileana hid her smile behind her wine cup.  Then she set her glass down.  “Thomas.  Would you be so kind as to go to the sideboard over there…”  She pointed.  “And fetch me another roll?”

His glare was luminous.  Then he shoved his chair back, stood, and stalked toward the sideboard.  Several cheers accompanied the action.  He grabbed a roll and brought it back, holding it out to her.  She smiled.  “And could you put some butter on it?”


The Woods: Chapter 2

“How?”  Thomas stared at her.  She was…  and yet she couldn’t be.  Princess Ileana had thrown herself from her balcony into the river below.  He’d seen it with his own eyes.

Instead of answering, she lifted a thin bladed knife.  She moved toward his neck, and for a heartbeat he thought she was going to slice open his throat.  Instead, she cut the rope around his neck.

His head dropped forward, and he sucked in air.  His position still prevented him from drawing a full breath, but he was no longer limited to the painful, shallow gasps.  He wasn’t sure how long he hung there, limp, just breathing, before she caught his hair and viciously yanked his head up and back again.

Around her wrist was coiled a golden serpent.  It raised its head, flicking its tongue at him.  It hissed, revealing glistening fangs.  “You belong to me.”  Her voice was soft, with a curious echo to it.  “Body and soul.”

“Kill me and get it over with.”  He stared back at her.

Her smile was vicious.  “Oh no.”  She gave a small shake of her head.  “It won’t be that easy for you.”

The serpent reared its head back and struck, its fangs piercing the skin of his throat.  Fire seemed to flow through his veins as he felt it coil around his neck.  He screamed as darkness closed over him.


The Woods : Chapter 1

Ileana gave a slow shake of her head at the captive.  Despite the bonds being unnecessary, Vula had overindulged in the ropes.  The young man’s elbows were secured to one wooden pole, and his hands were secured to another.  The particularly cruel part was that his knees had been bound to the same pole as his wrists, and his feet to the same pole as his elbows, nearly bending him in a circle.  Additional ropes formed a harness over his chest and shoulders, going between and around his legs.  Another rope encircles his throat, tight enough to put pressure but not quite enough to strangle him outright.  He’d been blindfolded, with the blindfold used as an additional restraint to pull his head backward.  An inch and a half thick wooded rod had been jammed between his teeth like a bit.  It had been secured tightly enough that there was a thin trickle of blood coming from both corners of his mouth.  The poles had been placed atop two wooden beams, forcing his already strained joints to support his weight.  All he wore was the ropes.

She drew a knife from the scabbard on her hip as she walked over to him.  His breath was coming in short, painful gasps.  If she left him like that for a few hours more, he was likely going to die.  She considered just making herself comfortable and watching it happen.  At the moment, though, he was unaware of her presence.  Possibly even unaware of her continued existence.  And that was unacceptable.

There was a sharp intake of breath from him as she laid the tip of the blade against his cheek.  Even if he had any wiggle room, actual struggling had been beyond him for some time.  She slid the knife between rope and skin, then cut through the bound that held the dowel in place.  She had to tug it slightly to get it loose from his teeth, and he worked his jaw a moment when it came free.

His body was dirty in places, but sweat had long since evaporated and he was unable to produce more.  She found herself wondering if it would be dehydration or suffocation that killed him if she walked away now.  It was likely the bonds had already done serious damage to his body.  That, however, she could repair.  If it suited her.  Leaving him a crippled wreck had its own temptations.

“Water.”  She nearly jumped at the sound.  His voice was cracked and hoarse.

Even a small amount of water could keep a man alive for a long time.  How long could he survive, bound like that, if she watered him?  Her gaze went to the wood laid beneath him.  Vula’s idea, no doubt.  Fire was usually her first suggestion to dealing with any problem.  Ileana walked to the nearby table and picked up a silver cup.  She filled it with the cool liquid from the spring, then took a carved wooden spoon before returning to stand in front of him.  His mouth was dry, the lips cracked.  It looked painful.  She smiled.  She put a spoonful of water, a few measly drops, into his mouth.  It was barely enough for him to swallow.  She gave him another before setting the cup aside.  “Your name.”

“More.  Please.”  There was pain in his voice.

“I asked for your name.”