Copyright © N.J. Walters, 2019
Arrik was spellbound by the beauty seated next to him. Her face was heart-shaped and her skin was pale, almost translucent. Her eyes were huge, slightly slanted at the corners, and the same colour as the violets that grew wild in the mountain meadows near his home. Her nose tilted upward slightly, but had a small bump in the center. He wondered how she’d broken it.
Reaching out a hand, he cupped her fragile jaw, tracing the curve of her full bottom lip with his thumb. She gasped slightly and her mouth parted to reveal straight white teeth. With her hood still covering her, he couldn’t tell if her hair was long or short, but it was black as a raven’s wing. She swallowed hard and he watched her throat move convulsively. Her chest rose and fell as her breathing grew more rapid.
She licked her lips, her tongue accidentally stroking his thumb. Desire, strong and potent, ripped through his veins. His cock swelled, pushing hard against the opening of his leather pants. It had been decades since he’d wanted a woman, longer since he’d actually had one. Neither the beast nor the man in him had been interested. Until now.
But he’d observed the world enough to know how the games of man were played. “How much?” His whispered words were almost a growl, as the lustful beast growing within him demanded he take her no matter the cost. The man was smarter and waited.
“I am no whore!” She was shaking now, more in anger than fear. Her response confused him.
“Then why did you offer yourself to me?”
He could see the confusion in her eyes as she struggled to regain control of her emotions. “I…” She shook her head and sighed.
The door of the tavern banged off the wall as several well-armed men, obviously elite guardsmen, surged through. The woman next to him gasped and practically threw herself into his arms, clinging to his side as she tugged the hood more firmly around her face. “Please.” She grabbed the front of his cloak, twisting the fabric in her fingers. “I’ll do anything you want. Just tell them I’m with you.”
He sensed just how much it cost her to speak those words and it angered him that she felt she had to plead. “They will not take you,” he heard himself promise her. And the moment he spoke the words, he knew that they were true. He would not let her go until he’d discovered all her secrets, until the lust that she fired in his belly had been slaked.
The armed men tore through the tavern pushing aside patrons and shoving tables out of their way. “Anybody seen a lone woman come in here?”
“We don’t want any trouble.” The barkeep hefted a cudgel from behind the counter.
“And you won’t have none,” the guard retorted. “Not unless you’re hiding Lord Hameon’s runaway slave.” He grabbed a woman up from one of the benches and tilted her face toward the dim light from the lanterns before shoving her back down into her seat.
The leader of the guards stalked across the room. Arrik could feel the woman quivering against him. The man reached his hand over the table toward her cloak. “Let’s have a look at you.”
Quick as a snake, Arrik captured the guard’s wrist in an iron grip. “You will not touch her. She is mine.”
The tavern went deathly silent at his refusal. The guard yanked his arm from Arrik’s grasp. “I don’t know who you are, stranger, but I am Proctor, the leader of Lord Hameon of Gradoc’s elite guards. Stand aside or die.” The man puffed out his chest as he spoke, as if expecting to be immediately obeyed. His comrades were behind him now, six men in total.
Arrik stirred, sliding out of the seat. The other man just stared up at him as he stood to his full seven feet. Raising his hands, he slowly pushed his hood aside, revealing his face for the first time. The other man paled and stumbled back a step.
“I am Arrik Varkas Drakon and the woman is mine.”