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Authors: Jackie Ivie

Knight Everlasting (8 page)

BOOK: Knight Everlasting
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He used his mouth motion to maneuver her head backward, giving him full access to her throat and soft cleavage that led to what he suspected was a bosom of flawless perfection. Aidan put his lips into a kiss and slid it along her skin . . . to the bottom of her throat . . . lower, bumping the valley between her breasts as he went, and lifting her with his left arm at the same time. He slit his eyes open to the sight of nipples that were small and erect where they pressed against her shift, and that tightened his arms and hands even more.
A crazed fever suffused him, charging through his veins with unadulterated need, want, and craving, until it became vast and erotic and all-powerful . . . and nearly too massive to contain. Aidan sucked on her skin and shook in place as he fought for control. This was too precious. Divine. He wouldn't take her swiftly and savagely and with little regard for anything save release. He wanted the full ecstasy of when he'd have her fully exposed, spread beneath him . . . welcoming him. It was going to be incredible when he took her, and he knew it instinctively.
He still didn't know why her, and he no longer cared. Aidan released the suction of his lips with a smacking sound, glanced at the bruise he'd just made, and lifted his head. And then he stilled. Stiffened. Stared.
Juliana's eyes were scrunched shut, her hands were wrapped about the top of her head, and the shudders running through her didn't look like passion at all. She didn't look wanton or willing or welcoming. She looked frightened, and anguished, and small . . . as if she was about to be ravished.
Against her will.
Aidan swore. Sucked in a breath and swore again. And again. And again. And as many times as it took to pull back the primal tempest he'd nearly succumbed to. Then he started ordering his body. Silently, relentlessly, and with a determination that made his entire frame shudder.
His fingers obeyed finally, releasing her enough so that she sagged from the position he'd held her in. He rose onto his knees next and shoved her back onto the cot with a force that made it sway crazily. Then, he stood. Groaned. Made fists of each hand with enough force it burned to his elbows. And then he backed a step, his breath quick and angered and loud. His heart pumped through his entire frame with the same angered and loud effects. By the time he reached and pushed on the door flap, he was in an all-over ache. Everything on him felt angered and tensed and primed and frustrated, while his lower belly and groin pained and jumped unceasingly. It stung, burned, throbbed . . .
Aidan spun, took four large steps before he was at an allout run for the swift-running burn they'd camped near. He scrambled into it before he changed his mind and regained his sanity. And then he was gritting his teeth to keep the howl at a level his men wouldn't hear.
Rash. Reckless. Thoughtless. As usual.
But he did feel alive.
Chapter 7
Aidan MacKetryck was annoyed with her. He wasn't making a secret of it, and more than one of his clansmen had glanced at her since he'd first brought her out of the tent, walked her over to a stump, and put her atop it. The extent of his ire at her was clear from the blank expression on his face, the tight, clenched look on his mouth, and the fact that he never said one word to her. Not one.
If it hadn't been for Arran bringing her a hank of boar meat earlier with the instructions to prepare and do so rapidly, she'd have probably been marched out without her boots on or her hair plaited and smoothed beneath her cloak. She watched as they went about systematically dismantling their camp, rolling and tying and flattening tents into packs with an efficiency broken with tongue clicks and whistles, and varied slapping noises that seemed to have a meaning she didn't know. The pot they'd used for cooking got tied to one horse, with the roof thing and poles balancing out the opposite side. Tent packs got tossed atop bare saddles. The little trunks she'd noted went behind saddles, making a backrest if needed. Juliana tipped her head in consideration at that.
No one spoke as if by order. Or they were following Aidan's lead. His annoyance was being demonstrated by every tight-lipped blank expression he gave as well as dark looks from narrow-lashed eyes, as if voicing anything would be a waste of time. He hadn't taken the time to tie his hair back, leaving long, dark locks falling about his face and shoulders that required flipping out of his way constantly. He looked more than annoyed. He also looked dangerous.
Juliana got to her feet when he came for her. She didn't dare do any different. She fully expected to get a fist wrapped about her upper arm while he marched her to her mount. She got neither. He simply looked at her for a moment, and then jerked his head in the direction he wanted her to go.
If she ever got out from under his control, she was not going quietly. She was going to make sure he knew every single reason why no gentle-bred woman welcomed contact with a barbaric Highlander like him. She stomped each foot as she walked in front of him over to where she suspected her horse was. That wasn't good enough. Before she got there and without one bit of warning, hard hands had gripped her waist and flung her atop one, in a move even more careless than the first time.
Juliana nearly went headfirst over the other side. Nobody helped. She had chunks of the stallion's mane gripped in her hands and she had to claw her way back upright. When she got in the saddle, it was to see that Aidan had taken her reins and was almost to the lead horse. But this time when he mounted, he'd started a jog step that became a run, and just before he reached his horse, he leapt atop a rock and that vaulted him into his saddle. It was perfectly timed and executed and rarely done, if the reaction of whistling and clapping from his men was an indication. Juliana's mouth had parted slightly at the move. Despite how he annoyed and bothered every bit of her, she'd have clapped in awe, too, except he'd punctuated his mounting with a slap of his knees to his horse, and a jerk of the reins. If she hadn't been holding on to the mane, she'd have probably fallen. He hadn't looked back to check on her then.
And he still didn't. Nor did he bother to check the riderless horse that took the space between them, mutely testifying to the extent of his annoyance with her.
It was all fine and good with her. She didn't want any contact with him anyway. She hadn't wanted it last eve, and she didn't want it now. Juliana sniffed slightly and raised her chin. She didn't know what was wrong with him anyway. It was clear he could have any woman . . . and probably had. Well! Some woman should have taken his arrogance down a fraction or two before leaving it to Juliana to handle.
She watched his stiff back from a distance of the horse between them, sucked in on her cheeks, and tipped her head sideways as she surveyed him. It wasn't him . . . exactly. He was manly. Immense. Brawny. Beautiful. He was a fine specimen. She'd give him that. Even sitting his horse, you could see his power. It was evident in the thickness of his chest, the width of his shoulders . . . the massive size of his arms. But she already knew all that. She'd had a very good look the prior evening, when he'd stolen every thought and breath and sensation and held her so rapt, she'd lost the ability to form words.
He thought displaying himself like a game cock was all it took to gain a woman's attention? Or perhaps he thought giving her a demonstration would have more effect. Juliana's nipples tightened again, sending a tremor through her that annoyed and disgusted her. It wasn't that she'd enjoyed his caresses. Never. She'd endured them, gripping her arms about her and breathing in short gasps of shock-filled existence while she suffered through each and every lap of his tongue . . .
Juliana tightened her thighs on the horse and felt the same quivering sensation, the same tightening in her womb that started a wellspring of damp to her core . . . with the same results as last night. All night. It still tingled, itched, and frustrated her with a craving for . . .
. She settled herself into the saddle, enduring the rocking of the horse against tissues that were so sensitive, she might as well be unclothed. That disgusted her even more.
She hadn't wrapped her hands about her head to keep from reaching for him! Oh no. Not Juliana D'Aubenville. She wasn't driven by lusts and passions and sinful, moisture-imbued desires. Those things weren't the catalyst behind the quivers running all over and through her, making the past night an agony of sleeplessness, filled with restless tossing, and heavy, heated, sweat-inducing rivulets of sensation. That was not what it had been at all. Not Juliana. She wasn't like other women.
. . . although he had said he'd send his other women away.
What other women?
Juliana's eyes widened on what that might mean. She'd thought his women worked about his castle, just as those at Fyfen had. Now she wasn't sure. She knew providing women for a man's comfort was done although no one spoke of it directly. As the chatelaine of her father's estate, she knew how to provide for a distinguished visitor's comforts . . . if requested and agreed. And what a servant wench did with her evening hours was her own business. Usually. If she warmed anyone's bed, Juliana had turned a blind eye. Such doings were beneath a lady's consideration. No gentle-bred woman would consider such a thing as gracing a man's bed without a proper wedding ceremony.
Her thoughts stalled as well as her breath.
How dare he?
Even if she were the daughter of a village woodcutter, that was no reason to believe her a lass of easy virtue! And even if she allowed this captivity of his and this claim of her . . . she would
even consider such a thing!
Now that was going too far. As was making her ride through a day that lengthened into afternoon and then evening with nothing to do save remember . . . and experience the same breathless state of tremors. And then remember again. Experience . . .
Riding without stopping didn't seem abnormal to them. The horses kept up the steady pace past meadows and across rock, beneath canopies of trees, through heather, and at one point around a loch that had seemed as vast and endless as her continual thoughts and irritations. Her back got tired, sending her into a slumped position against the horse's neck, since she didn't have a small trunk behind her saddle. It didn't seem to affect Aidan. Every time she looked, he was stiff-backed and silent. Large. Powerful. Implacable.
At least it wasn't raining, although the heavy gray shade of cloud cover lingering at treetop level was threatening it, and she was just wondering if he planned on riding through the evening when he stopped, lifting his hand at the same time. Each horse did the same after a few steps, shortening the line as they did. Juliana watched as Aidan dismounted, and he caught her looking when he turned to them. He'd tucked his hair behind his ears, but his expression was still just as blank, and just as dark. Juliana returned it in kind, despite the unsettled feeling in her belly, as if a stone were developing there and had just dropped.
He bowed his upper lip over the lower, gave a whistle, and that brought Arran jogging from behind her somewhere. Juliana watched as the smaller man took the reins, releasing Aidan to walk to the bushes. She looked behind her and saw all the men doing the same thing.
“You doona' have . . . much t-t-time!” Arran called out for her benefit.
There was no appropriate moniker for an uncouth, badmannered, rude and ill-bred cur that would force a woman to dismount a horse, get into the bushes for nature's call, and somehow manage to get back without the courtesy of an assist. But she found a few, and was mumbling them beneath her breath as she moved a stiff and slow left leg to join the right. Then, she jumped forward, landing ungracefully on her knees, and when that wasn't enough disgrace, she found when she tried to stand that both legs trembled and failed to work properly. This put her in an awkward position with both hands and feet on the ground. The only good thing looked to be that the ground beneath her hands was slightly higher than her feet.
“You've g-g-got to wait a-a-a bit. For . . . feeling.”
It was Arran again. He'd moved to the front of the middle horse, which put him near hers while he spoke to her.
“Try a-a-and stand. Th-Th-That's it.”
He was young. And slender. He was only a little taller than her. He stuttered. His voice had a squeak occasionally when he talked. He was still absolutely wonderful. Juliana already knew what was wrong. She hadn't ridden for such a lengthy time, she'd gone soft. Juliana had to blink tears away before she turned her head to him.
“U-U-Use your arms!”
That made sense. Juliana walked herself upright, using her hands to close in on her feet, then she had her ankles, up her legs, and then she was trying to stand erect, arching oddly at the effort. She felt a fool and probably looked worse.
“N-N-Now go! Quick!”
It was a stumble, but Juliana made it to the shrubs beside her horse, and then she went in farther, shoving forward on hands and feet when the greenery dragged at her. Leagues of greenery. Shrubs and bushes and thorn-bedecked stems had to be pushed through until she reached a stand of trees where the air even went dim and quiet, as if she deserved a sentence of solitude from a forest as well. Tears started up before she could stop them, making everything even worse. Juliana shoved a hand into her mouth to stop the sobs and used the other sleeve to wipe at the wetness.
“Hurry, Ju-Ju-Juliana!”
She hadn't gone far, if Arran's voice was any indication. And she still had her privy to attend to. Juliana wiped at the tears brutally, but they just kept falling. She'd rarely felt as weak. She'd had to contend with worse than silence from an arrogant male and sore muscles, much worse. If he thought this punishment, he needed a lesson. He hadn't been forced in the middle of the night to run for safety. He hadn't seen his father's dead body hanging from a castle wall and been forced to pretend it was nothing. He hadn't been forced to do menial labor, while hiding and hoping and starving and freezing for months while a horde of barbarians pulled apart his home. And he hadn't had to watch the only soul who knew the truth shoved into a quickly dug common grave.
Aidan MacKetryck hadn't any idea of the backbone his captive possessed. No one did. And by the saints, she wasn't going to allow that man to break her.
Juliana had her impulse to sob sealed away and most of the signs covered over before she walked back, wondering if her delay had served to get the freedom she craved and they'd ridden on without her. She'd have tried tears earlier if they worked.
She knew the truth the moment she came out of the trees, looked across what had seemed like a huge span of greenery when she'd crawled through it, and saw the MacKetryck laird nod as he spotted her. He had his arms folded atop his chest, his feet apart, and the same expressionless look to him.
She could try being a horrid captive next, but doubted it would work. He wasn't going to let her go and she didn't know why. She wondered if he did.
Juliana had her face turned away when she broke through the last of the brambles, pulling her cloak free of them as she went. Her luck was cursed bad. Still. Aidan was waiting for her at her horse. Nothing about him had changed. He looked implacable, hard, and vengeful. Juliana glanced at the area of his chin, noted it was darker with a beard growth he hadn't scraped away, and looked away.
She knew he was going to throw her atop the horse again. It would be a gesture of punishment and ownership. They might as well just get it over with. She turned to face her horse, looking across the saddle and seeing little.
“You need a rest?” he asked.
The surprise of hearing it stopped everything. She watched the ground and gray sky mesh into a wash of color as her stupid eyes watered up again. She shook her head.
“You look to need one.”
Juliana stiffened and put her shoulders back. If she didn't blink, the tears might stay where they were. And if she didn't speak, perhaps he'd get her reply without having to voice it. She shook her head again.
BOOK: Knight Everlasting
10.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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