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Dawn found Karina snugly hidden away in Papusza's tent. Her limbs were intimately entwined with the dark-haired girl's, their bodies nestled together. They had made love long into the night. Karina's shyness had slowly, but surely, melted away, with curiosity and desire rising to take its place. She had wanted to please her friend--to make her scream as she'd screamed, moan as she'd moaned, to repay pleasure with pleasure. And she had.
Her touch had been clumsy at first, nervous and unrefined, but Papusza had been patient with her. She'd allowed Karina to explore her body, to experiment, rewarding the younger girl with mewls and cries as she was slowly but steadily brought to climax. It reminded Karina of the time, several years before, when Papusza had taught her the steps of the Czardas.
The raven-haired beauty had shown her the intricate footwork, step by step, over and over, pausing to let Karina try each move herself. She'd felt a rush of triumph each time she replicated a maneuver perfectly. Now, she felt the same, each time her lips, tongue, and hands had caused a moan, a yelp, a sigh. She'd been awakened to a new world of desire. Karina felt as if a fire had been lit deep inside of her, and by the night's end the flicker was a blaze, impossible to extinguish, if even she'd wanted to.
Karina shifted in Papusza's arms, squeezing her eyes shut momentarily before slitting them open to gauge the time. The sun was once again hidden beneath a heavy layer of clouds, but the light grey tint to the sky, as seen through the folds of the tent, indicated that dawn had already arrived.
"Xenav!" she cursed, sitting up and running a hand nervously through thetangled mess of her hair.
"Hmm?" Papusza stirred and tightened her grip on Karina's waist, trying to pull her back down onto the mat.
"It's already past dawn! I have to go!"
"No, Chey, stay with me," she mumbled, still half-asleep. Her hands were caressing the soft flesh of Karina's stomach, drifting lower to slip between the other girl's thighs.
"I can't," Karina said regretfully, pushing the hand away and reaching for her clothes, jumbled in a pile at the tent's entrance. She hastily pulled on her skirts, pausing to brush her fingers across Papusza's cheek.
"You worry too much," her friend grumbled.
"If my father is already awake, I'm done for," Karina lamented, searching frantically for her shoes.
"It's still early, Chey." Papusza smiled at her and produced one loafer from beneath the pile of her own rumpled clothing. She held up the shoe, then tossed it to the other side of the tent. Her other hand was slipping across Karina's waist, attempting to pull loose the ties of her skirt. She bent forward and took one small, pink nipple into her mouth. Her fingers dipped lower, under the voluminous skirt, to circle through the patch of curls between her friend's legs. "You've got time."
Karina's pale skin flushed, and her protests disappeared in the harmony of her own moans.
Karina heard the steady rumble of the horse's hooves before she saw the steed, approaching at a gallop from the rear of the convoy. They'd decided to stop traveling midday, both because of the increasingly foul weather, and because of the vurma they'd found--fresh tracks from another kumpa'nia of Rom who had passed through not long before.
As the sleek, grey animal drew nearer, she was able to identify its rider through the haze of fog and rain. Long, chocolate colored hair, pulled back into a loose ponytail, strong, chiseled jaw, mouth set in a firm line as he steered the horse in her direction. Karina's heart began to pound with such intensity that the thumping in her chest drowned out the cadence of the horse's gait.
Karina's father recognized the visitor, too, and he stood just in front of his smithing anvil, legs spread slightly apart, hammer gripped casually in his left hand. At first glance he appeared relaxed, even tranquil, but the rigid line of his shoulders betrayed that he was ready, and willing, to use the tool as a weapon in an instant.
Don't come over here, Karina pleaded silently. Please don't come over here.
Brishen gave the reigns a sharp tug, slowing the horse to a trot and then to a stop, before turning to face Karina's father. He dismounted and approached the older man with a gesture that was not quite a bow, and not quite a nod.
"I'd like permission to speak with your daughter, Phurò," he said smoothly, casting a sideways glance in Karina's direction.
The older man's eyes narrowed, and he said nothing for several, tension-filled moments before letting out a snort and turning around to face the fire once more. Speaking over his shoulder, he waved the hammer in his hand for emphasis, "Try anything improper, violin player, and I'll see you brought to krìs for it. Understand?"
Brishen smirked and winked at Karina, who was watching, horrified. "Of course, Phurò."
Karina's father snorted a second time. "Stay within my sight," he cautioned.
Brishen walked over to where Karina was standing by the cart, cleaning the jewelry her father had already made with a soft cloth. She pretended to be unaffected by his presence, but the pit of nerves within her abdomen squirmed and writhed like snakes.
"No 'hello', Karina?" he asked, amused.
"You dare come speak to me after what you did!" she hissed.
"What did I do?" he asked, his arrogant smirk still firmly in place.
She glared at him and pursed her lips. "You know damn well what you did."
He leaned in close, breath hot against her ear as it stirred the tendrils of blonde hair that had fallen free of her diklo. "Soon enough you'll be begging me to kiss you again."
"You insult my family with your presumption. You insult me!"
"Oh, yes. You still claim to be pure, even after you spend all night within the tent of a kúrva," he spat, using the Romany word for "whore".
"You spy on me now?" She felt the bile racing up the back of her throat, and experienced a brief moment of panic as she fought the urge to vomit. To her surprise, though, it wasn't shame that she felt. It was anger. He had now violated her twice. The first had been an assault upon her body, but the second assault, upon her privacy, seemed much worse. Worse than a pig, she thought furiously, he is the devil. "I could declare you marhimè for this, Brishen. One touch of my skirts and you would be shunned by the entire tribe!"
"Yes," he conceded. According to Romany tradition, he would be declared impure, and no man would speak to him until his case had been heard by the krisnitóri. "But what do you think I would tell them at my krìs? How would you defend your own actions?"
"You are cruel, Brishen!"
"Am I?" He grinned at her. For the briefest of moments, she thought she saw his arrogance waiver, thought she saw actual emotion behind his eyes. "I only wish to protect you."
"Protect me?" She struggled to keep her voice low, lest she draw the attention of her family.
"If it had been another man you were with, I'd be speaking to your father right now, not you. Consider yourself fortunate in that regard, but if it happens again--and I will know if it does--you'll regret it. I won't have my future wife defiling herself with the likes of that woman, Karina," Brishen warned. He made a move to grab her elbow, but thought better of it, noticing Karina's father watching them out of the corner of his eye.
"Your future wife? Your arrogance has blinded you, Brishen. My father would never agree to that, and neither would I."
His lips curled into a sneer, baring his teeth. "You'll make him agree to it. And I think you're willing enough."
"I hate you!" she seethed.
"Is that why you're trembling? Or is there another reason?"
Her eyes narrowed. She glared at him for a moment before turning away to resume the task of cleaning the large, silver chain in her hands. Talking to him was clearly only encouraging his arrogance. The more she fought him, the more confident he seemed to become.
"Nothing witty to say, Karina?"
"I'm finished with you. Stay or leave, it's your choice, but I'm done talking."
She heard Brishen's sharp inhalation of breath, waited for his retort. To her surprise, he stayed silent. Instead he brushed his fingertips lightly across the back of her neck before walking back to his steed. The grass crunched beneath the heel of his tall, black boots. Karina remained steadfast, and neither turned around nor spoke.
Only when the sound of the horse's retreating hooves filled her ears did she release the breath she'd been holding, and drop the necklace back into the open chest.
Then she lowered her face into her hands, and began to cry.