In My Lady's Chamber

Stretching like a satiated cat, Lady Astrid awoke from a dreamless sleep. The lids covering her dark violet eyes resisted any attempt to open, as though they were weighted.

She writhed sensually against the satin bedsheet. "Too much intoxicating malmsey last eve," she murmured. "Or perhaps simply a case of overwhelming rapture which has left me weak and helpless."

With a slender hand, she caressed the chestnut curls of the one she desired above all others...her adored Pelleus, most daring paladin in the realm. The sight of his fine form in its manly grace never failed to send shivers coursing down her spine. A mere brooding glance from his bold eyes, the color of polished jade, kindled a flame which endlessly consumed her wholly...body and soul.

Sir Pelleus, known also as the Enduring Knight, and the Lady Astrid could vouch for his prowess in that quarter, was her beloved champion, her rare obsession and the vitality of her life's blood. He was her lord but, unfortunately, not her husband.

She raked her fingernails across his broad shoulders until he stirred. Drowsily, he reached out and crudely seized a handful of long, ebony hair. She gasped. He was seldom tender with her, but she relished his primitive manner, so different from the refined and almost pristine behavior of her cultured spouse, who treated her much like a fragile china doll likely to shatter beneath his gentle touch.

The kiss of Lady Astrid's warrior was demanding and cruel, as his teeth bit deeply into her bottom lip. She trembled at the exquisite pain. His coarse beard scoured against her delicate flesh and raised reddened blemishes which she would later have to conceal, but that was of no consequence. She welcomed such brutal symbols of his unquenchable hunger and thirst. If denied them, she would surely waste away to a hollow shell.

The amber glow of dawn trickled through the narrow aperture which served as the chamber's only window and infiltrated the damask curtains which surrounded the four-poster bed.

Sir Pelleus callously thrust her away, leaving her disappointed and dissatisfied. It angered her to be treated in such a fashion, but she had learned to hold her tongue. One day, she would give him a dose of similar medicine. One day...perhaps, or perhaps not. She suspected she could never actually be strong enough refuse him. Lacking the will to do so, she knew she would continue to eagerly snatch any crumbs he tossed in her direction.

Resting on her elbow and allowing the bedclothes to slip below her curved hip, Astrid watched him dress. Her long hair framed a face whose cheeks were flushed and whose mouth was full and yielding. Her forefinger trailed upward along the inside of her smoothly rounded thigh as she licked her lips.

He laughed sadistically at her contrived seduction.

"You are going to have to wait," he told her heartlessly. "There are times when a man has better things to do than toy with a harlot!"

Sighing, she leaned against the plumped pillow and listened to the clash of armor as Pelleus made his way across the room.

She was surprised but infinitely delighted when she heard him return. With a swift movement, he ripped the bed curtains from their brass rings. Lady Astrid's eyes widened in delicious anticipation and she held out her arms to welcome her lover.

Pelleus swept the jug of malmsey from the small table."Drugged!" he roared furiously. "The wine was drugged...by your milksop of a husband, no doubt. That must be why we heard nothing!"

He grabbed her forcefully by the wrist and hauled her from the bed, where she tumbled, naked and fearful, to her knees. Roughly, he turned her head so she faced the wall. Uncomprehending at first, she stared, and then looked up, panic and terror clouding her tearful eyes.

"Captives!" Pelleus growled threateningly, raising a clenched fist. "Snared like miserable rats in a trap!"

He lifted her as though she were a bale of straw and hurled her against the masonry. She slithered down the thick, square stones which had been carefully placed during the night while they slept, drunk on opiate wine and potent passion.

Moaning softly, Lady Astrid covered her face with quivering hands and cringed against the barricade of heavy blocks which sealed the opening...where a door once used to be.

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