Read an Excerpt
The sunlight tickled her nose. She tried to brush away the glaring beam with one hand, wrinkling her nose when it stayed with such stubborn tenacity. A sneeze caught her unaware, waking her to a nightmare of bright light and a cuff ringing her ankle. The cuff attached to a long chain, shackling her to a large bed.
Adrianna sat up, staring at the unfamiliar room with a frown upon her exquisite features. Her mind raced as she fought to remember how she'd gotten here. The last thing she recalled was unlocking the door of her walkup apartment in Queens, going through the six deadbolts with a groan. Her father installed them last month, certain that she could never be too safe on her own in the big city of New York. He'd been right, though the deadbolts hadn't helped her cause.
A massive hand came over her face when she'd pushed the door open, causing her to drop her mail and the large ring of keys that jangled as they hit the ancient carpeting of her foyer. She'd been dragged unceremoniously into the apartment, kicking and screaming through the hand that covered her mouth, muffling any noise she tried to make.
Her eyes frantically searched for help, or for a weapon; anything she could use to break free, but the huge man that held her in his grip resisted her easily.
"Do not fight."
The words whispered into her ear, spoken gruffly, in a strange but melodic accent. Adrianna couldn't help but roll her eyes. Yeah, right, like that'll happen. She kicked back, hitting his shin with the sharp heel of her boot.
He cursed, using foreign words that sent a chill through her blood. Who was this man, and why was he here? Her family had no money, and she had no tiesto anyone's fortune. Her thoughts interrupted when the brute wrapped his arm just below her breast and squeezed, cutting off her breath.
"Settle, wench, and I won't have to hurt you."
He spun her around, hand still clasped over her mouth, giving her a good look at his body. He was tall with shoulders that seemed impossibly wide and narrowed to lean hips and long, thickly muscled legs. His chest was covered with a strange leather vest; it almost looked like snake skin, but with a pattern unlike any she'd ever seen. His black pants tucked into knee boots and laced with thongs of hide, a faint fringe of fur ringing the tops. At his waist, pushed through a thick black belt, was a sword that seemed longer than she was tall to her frightened eyes.
"This will be much easier if you do not fight," he said, and she saw his eyes roaming over her with interest. "I will remove my hand if you promise not to scream. If you do," he added hastily, looking into her eyes, "I shall just be forced to knock you out and take you anyway."
Under his stare, Adrianna felt her resolve waver. She was a fighter, but she was smart as well. Maybe if she cooperated, she could come out of this alive. Who knew what this Conan wannabe wanted with her? With a slight nod, she acknowledged his words, giving her assent.
He lowered his hand, and Adrianna got her first unobstructed look at his face. Long, thick hair that was straight as pins, hung past his shoulders, pulled back from his face in thin braids. It was a deep auburn, almost more brown then red. His eyes were brown, wide set and intelligent. High cheekbones and a sharp jaw framed a mouth that was just a hint too full to be perfect. Those lips grinned as she looked into his eyes, seeing the humor he must be feeling at the way she was looking at him.
"Like what you see, wench? 'Tis too bad you aren't mine, but I promised you to a friend. He deserves you for the good that he did me, so see that you treat him well." He turned and spoke to someone over his shoulder. "Bring the bitch in. Place her there, on that long bench so that we may finish this business and return home before much longer."
Adrianna watched, stunned by the man's words and his nonchalant attitude. He spoke of promising her to another as if she belonged to him, a possession to give away at a whim. She opened her mouth, only to close it again at a warning glare from her captor.
They brought in a woman, petite in form, caped and gagged, her hands bound in front of her. The man holding her was as gorgeous and foreign-looking as the one who had grabbed her, wearing the same strange clothing, except this man wore a gold armband. In the short space of time that Adrianna was able to look at it, she noticed it was intricately carved, and detailed with what looked like precious stones. He too, had the same dark auburn hair and brown eyes, though his seemed more serious.
The man pushed the woman onto the couch, her cape falling back off her shoulders with the roughness of the move. She was naked underneath, her body beautiful and lush despite the grime and bruises that marred its satiny surface. Her eyes, a tawny amber color matching the sunlit tresses that cascaded around her, shot sparks of defiance at the men now standing above her. Adrianna couldn't help but admire the feisty demeanor of the slender woman.
She almost screamed when thrust down beside the naked girl, her hands taken and tied securely in front of her. "What are you going to do with me?" she gasped as the ropes bit into the tender skin of her wrists.
Damien turned and looked at the woman he'd come to retrieve. He could understand Kaden's lust for her. She was as beautiful, if not more so, than any woman in their land. Her long hair was russet colored, curling delightfully around her slender, oval face. Huge, green eyes stared up at him with a mixture of terror and defiance. Ivory skin, as creamy smooth as the texture of silk, had turned even paler with fright, save for the mark made by the pressure of his hand upon her face. Her lips were strange, the bottom one slightly smaller than the top, giving her an unusual, upside-down look.
An arresting face, one that made a man want to stop and look, count the green flecks in her eyes, and touch skin that craved a man's hand to warm it. Her body was also a delight to behold. Slender, but seeming with delicate strength, her waist could be enfolded between his hands. Her breasts pushed at the white material of her blouse, straining its capacity with their abundance. Her hips were rounded, long curvy legs easily seen in the short skirt she wore, scandalizing his sense of propriety for what a woman should be allowed to wear.
This was a strange place, and he had to make allowances for the customs and ways of these people. "I mean to take you back to my lands, lady. You are the prize, given by me to one of my men for his bravery and honor."
Adrianna sat as if he'd struck her. Taken out of her home, given to a stranger and made to do God knows what? She had to get out of here, and now.
Opening her mouth, she gulped in a huge breath of air, but before she could let loose the shriek that burned her throat, a rag thrust into in her mouth, causing her to gag at its rancid taste.
"I warned you," her captor said pleasantly. "Now, sit there and be still. I need but a moment to concentrate on the rest of the task that I must perform." He closed his eyes, leaving the man he'd brought with him to stand watch over the two bound women.
After a few moments, he opened his eyes, and with a guttural grunt, waved his hand above the heads of the two women. Adrianna felt a strange tingle start at the base of her spine, a kind of energy that built into a ball, traveling up her backbone and leaving a trail of gooseflesh in its wake. It shivered through her, almost like an orgasm as its heat built.
She moaned, unable to help herself, feeling her legs weaken and shake. Her arms shivered as sensation spilled over and through her, pulling out of her until the energy encased her head. Her eyes closed, rolling backwards as the tingling fingers of sensation probed and tantalized her system. Her thighs grew lax, opening, a moistness dewing between them, growing wetter until she felt as if she were dripping. Her breathing grew heavy; the air thick in her lungs as she waited for something she knew had to come. She longed for it, and she would have begged had she been able to speak. All she could do was moan against the filthy rag in her mouth.
It exploded, sending silvery shots of light behind her eyelids. Pleasure robbed her of her senses and she fell back, her mind going black with the shock.
Adrianna rubbed her eyes, staring around the peculiar room with disbelief. It was round, floor to ceiling windows gracing the thick stone walls every few feet. The wavy texture of leaded glass filled the windows, distorting the world outside. A door stood closed on the far wall; the only wall not studded with windows. In the center of the room were the bed she was in and a large ornate mirror.
"Where am I?" she said softly, her voice unusually loud in the absolute quiet of the room. "Where did he take me?"
Adrianna rose from the bed, anxious to go to the window and see if she could recognize anything. She couldn't have been unconscious that long, so they couldn't have taken her far. Maybe she could find a way to let someone know she was trapped here, held against her will. She gasped with shock, realizing for the first time that she was naked.
Did he do it? The man who'd taken her? Had he stripped her and chained her to this bed? Adrianna shook her ankle, feeling the cuff drag against her foot as the heaviness of the chain weighed it down. She reached over, grabbing the thin blanket she'd been given, and tried to pull it from the bed, cursing when it wouldn't move.
"Who would sew the damn thing to the bed?" she asked aloud, not expecting an answer, just craving the sound of something other than the silence of the room to ease the fear that kept trying to overwhelm her. She stopped struggling with the blanket, resigning herself to walking nude in the small room, and went to the windows.
The view was amazing. It seemed as if she could see forever, staring over a vista of trees and water that stretched to the horizon. She could see a forest, cut back and away from immense walls that surrounded the building she was in, at least this side of it. An orchard lay to her left, large trees heavily laden with fruit. Farther, she could see a garden laid out in neat and orderly rows, people working with hoes, bending and gathering.
They were dressed in curious, long dresses reaching their ankles, rough materials that, even at such a distance, seemed strange to Adrianna's untrained eye. The women wore their hair long, to the waist in most cases, blowing in the slight breeze of the day. One carried a baby at her breast in a sling.
A noise below caught her attention, and she strained forward, pressing her face to the window to stare the long distance to the ground. Three men, all riding huge horses, came into view. She squinted to see them through the wavy glass, amazed as she stared at the leather breeches covering thickly muscled legs and tucked into rough looking boots. Vests covered their upper torsos, leaving huge arms bare to the sun. Gold colored bracelets banded heavily muscled biceps, sparkling in the bright light. At their waists, Adrianna swore she could see swords, again, one looking as if it were taller than she was.
She gasped at the sight of these men straight out of some Robin Hood movie set in the day of brigands and duels, with ladies who fainted and swooned at manly forms. Was she in some kind of strange camp or fair where machines weren't allowed? Worse yet, one of those strange cults she'd heard about where they stole women and made them sex slaves, keeping them from everything they ever knew.
Before she could think further, she heard the click of a key turning in a lock and spun around. The door to her prison pushed open. Glancing at her naked body, Adrianna hurried to the bed, climbing in to pull the blanket up to her chin.
An old woman hobbled into the room, a tray in her hands. She gave Adrianna an angry sneer then slammed the tray upon the floor, close to the bed. Without another look, she turned and started to leave.
"Wait," Adrianna said, holding out her hand.
The woman turned, looking over her shoulder at the girl in the bed, eyes;, a vivid blue and incredibly beautiful, seemed to seethe with untold anger as she stared at Adrianna. She stood, waiting for Adrianna to speak.
"I ... could you tell me where I am?" Adrianna asked, hesitantly. "I'm afraid I can't remember anything."
"Ha! Lucky then you are," the old woman said. Although she was little more than a crone, her singsong voice sounded surprisingly young.
"Why am I here? Whose place is this? How'd I get here? Can't you tell me something? Please?" Adrianna heard the hysteria in her voice but couldn't help it. She was scared, and this glowering old woman was her only source of information.
"You'll know when they want you to know." With those words, she turned and left the room, moving with a speed unexpected from someone so old.
"I'll know when they want me to? What kind of answer is that? Dammit! Why am I here?" Frustration made her want to lash out, and she looked for something to throw. Her food tray, lying on the floor, caught her attention, and she bent over to pick it up, wanting to throw it against the wall, maybe even break the mirror.
Instead, her stomach growled, making her wonder how long she'd been unconscious. She set the tray on the bed, staring at the strange food. A gray, slightly sticky looking mass that reminded her of oatmeal, sat in a roughly carved wooden bowl. Coarse bread was on the tray next to it. A silver mug held a milky liquid. Lifting it to her nose, Adrianna sniffed at the drink. It smelled sweet, like milk and honey, and she took a small sip.
It tasted somewhat odd but good, and even though she worried about the food being drugged, Adrianna ate everything that was there, relishing it like a gourmet dinner prepared by a chef in a four star restaurant. Afterwards, when she put the tray on the floor and settled back against the too small pillow, her mind seemed clearer.
As the day progressed, Adrianna's restlessness grew. The crone returned twice, bringing more food, taking away the empty trays, and cleaning out the rough wooden bucket given to Adrianna for her more personal needs. She never spoke again, no matter how much Adrianna begged for answers. Threats fared no better, ignored, or worse, smiled about. By the time the sun had set in this bizarre place, Adrianna was no closer to knowing why she was here than when she awoke.
By the third day, Adrianna had given up. She slept a lot, finding comfort in unconsciousness. It battled the boredom, the tedious inching of time that passed more slowly as the day progressed. When she was awake, she spent at the windows, staring at the scenery, watching the people go about their daily lives, and wondering if this was all that remained for her. Watching life like a fish in a bowl, always on the outside, and growing more numb every day of her captivity. Would she grow mad if left in this room?
He stood at the foot of her bed every night, hands trembling slightly as he reached to pull the blanket from her slumbering body. His eyes roamed over every sweet inch of flesh as he bared the lushness of her slender form. Those same hands reached out, almost touching silken skin but daring only to hold a lock of her russet hair, watching the play of light, like fire in the satiny tresses, breathing in its sweet scent.
He wanted her with a fervor he'd never felt for any woman, a desire for her hands to touch his skin, and her mouth to battle his own, in fiery ardor. He longed to feel her under him, surrounding him, her body moving with passionate intent, but it was not yet to be. He had to wait; the time must be exact if she was to stay with him forever.
Therefore, every morning, before the first hint of sun could stream through the long windows of the tower room, he sighed heavily, with one last, wistful glance at the picture she made, lying in slumber, kept peaceful by a few well-placed words. Then, he would leave her, waving a hand at a corner of the mirror and disappearing within its suddenly murky surface, leaving no clue of his presence for her to find.