Sunday, 15 July 2012

Chapter 2: Her Protector (Men of Valor 3.5)


Hello readers. I'm continuing the serialisation of Her Protector. Here's chapter 2. It is unedited. 
Remember to leave a comment at the end. Happy reading! 
Read Chapter 1 here.
***
Peter Mensah in Spartacus is the inspiration for Jide

Oma stood with her back against the smooth cool wall of the private chamber. The rest of the palace guards shared quarters. However due to his rank and stature as head of palace security, Jide had his own lodgings.
Self-consciously, she rubbed her arm where he had been holding her previously. Her skin still tingled from his touch. His heat.


“Sit down,” Jide said, waving his hand across the space.
He stood in the middle of the large room. With his back to her, slowly he loosened the leather belt that held his scabbard and whip.

Mesmerized, she observed the contours of his expansive back, the ridges of scars and the markings that identified him as a warrior. Instead of being afraid of the mystical runes that were supposed to protect him against enemies, she wanted to trace the symbols and welts with her fingertips.

Gently, carefully, he folded the strap and placed it on the wooden trunk at the foot of the bed. His movements were sensuous and practiced.
She pictured his callused hand moving fluidly across her skin. The ramming of her heart increased. Her breath hitched softly.

Unhurried, he turned his head, his dark brow raised mockingly.
She stiffened her stance in annoyance at being arrested by his watchful gaze while staring at him. It seemed she was no champion at discrete observations.
And she was expected to be a spy.

Her body ached with tension and rigidity. Yet she remained standing. She stared balefully at the raised bamboo platform covered with a raffia mat. It stood against the far wall. At the other corner of the room stood a wooden bench and a table. She ignored those too. Her chest rose and fell as she fought to control her temper by breathing evenly.

“What am I doing here?” she asked.
“I told you already.”
With a relaxed demeanor, he walked to the bed and sat on it. The wood creaked beneath the strain of his bulk.

She glanced around the room. It was neater than any male accommodation she’d been into. The prince’s quarters were always neat because servants ensured it. Jide had no servants or wife, to her understanding.
The wicker lamp on the table lit the chamber. The ox-blood colored walls were bare. Except for a mantelpiece that had an assortment of weaponry laid out on it.

There were different sizes of machetes and knives, some in their scabbards. In the lamplight the unsheathed weapons gleamed and showed evidence of polish and care. There were no visible blemishes.
She couldn’t help think that Jide was a meticulously tidy warrior. His chamber showed evidence of care. It was organized with no stray items of the floor. Everything seemed to have its place.

It added to her curiosity about this man.

So many things about him flummoxed her. She had thought he would strap her on the wooden palisade in the courtyard and whip her with the cattle whip he had on a loop hanging on his belt for her offenses. It was the punishment for a spy.

Instead he had dragged her to his quarters. What does he have planned for me instead?
She glared at him and noticed his intense heated gaze. Her body flushed with heat and she turned away, biting her cheek.
Does he intend to keep me in his room?

Surprisingly, the slow ache returned to her belly with the worrying thought. She bit her cheek harder, letting the sting give her strength.
She took a deep breath to quell her rising panic. As much as she dreaded the lash of the whip, there was far greater danger with her being alone in this man’s chamber. Brutal and frightening, he could easily overwhelm her with his strength.

“Am I now your captive?” she asked to distract him while her gaze roamed the sill searching for a weapon she could utilize to defend herself.
She would kill him first rather than have him forcibly take her.

“Until I know your intention for being in the heir’s private quarters, yes,” he replied, his tone matter of fact.

“You cannot keep me captive.” She moved closer to the wall with the weapons, one foot shuffle at a time.

“You will find that I can and will. Or would you rather I bind you to the picket outside like a common thief and whip the truth out of you.”

She turned her head sharply and raised her gaze to meet his.
His expression cooled, his lips pursed in a tight line.

Cold sweat broke on her forehead as her skin crawled with nervousness and fear. She had witnessed the effects of the whip on grown men. Seen them break down and cry for mercy as their skins flayed, blood and liquid oozing from the welts.

“Y—you wouldn’t,” she said bravely.
Inside she fought to control her stomach from churning and her feet from taking flight.

“Wouldn’t I? One thing the king detests is spies. I have the authority to mete out instant punishment to offenders.”
He stood and stalked toward her, a tiger prowling.

Instinct told her to pushed back and cower before him. To plead for mercy. She needed to survive so she could take care of her sibling.

Yet the thought of falling on her knees for another man who would take advantage had her bristling with anger. Despite her rising trepidation, she stood tall and met his stare without flinching. She kept her hands by her sides, rubbing her clammy palms against her skirt.

He stopped within reach of her but didn’t touch her. Instead, he crossed his arms across his chest. The flickering low lamp cast his features into shadows. She couldn’t read his expression.

“So if you have no wish for the whip tonight, you will stop your insubordination immediately and do as I tell you.”

His command grated on her nerves. She bit her tongue, quelling her sharp retort. She had no wish to have her skin flayed, or to be displayed publicly as a spy.
Flashing him her most disdainful glare, she asked, “What would you have me do?”
He might have her at his mercy but she didn’t have to make it easy for him.

“Get on the bed.”

Her eyes widened with shock. He isn’t really going to…
Panicked, she lunged at one of the knives on the shelf, grabbing it quickly, unsheathing it and pointing it toward Jide.

He made no move toward her. He appeared unperturbed though she had a weapon pointing at his bare chest.
“What are you doing? Put the dagger back on the mantelpiece,” he spoke so calmly, a chill passed through her body.

“I will kill you before you turn me into your whore,” she replied angrily.

“Do not delude yourself to think you could hurt me with that. You are more likely to hurt yourself.”

Realizing he spoke the truth, she shook her head. She wasn’t a trained killer and he was. This was why he stood with confidence and remained undaunted by the weapon in her hand. There was no way she could attack him without him stopping her.

So she turned the sharp point of the knife toward her belly.

Then he moved. His hands unfolded and straightened down his sides clenched into fists. Worry lines appeared on his forehead and furrowed his face.

“Oma, put that dagger down now.”

She shook her head. “I would rather kill myself than have you defile me.”

In a flash of lightning, he grabbed her hands and applied deft pressure to her wrists. She cried out in pain and dropped the knife. She’d never seen anyone move so fast.

He picked her up and tossed her on the bed. His body covered hers as he knelt above her. He didn’t release his grip on her arms. He was so close; the heat from his skin warmed her body. The scent of his skin wrapped her in spice. She swallowed hard.

“Don’t ever do that again!”
His expression was thunderous—an odd mix of rage and torment.

Stunned, she didn’t say anything. Her mind wandered. Why should he be so disturbed because I threatened to stab myself? Why should he care if I die? There is only one person who will miss my absence. And it isn’t the man looming dangerously above me.

“Did you hear a word I said?”
The vice of his grip tightened, sharp pain shooting through her arm.

She winced. “Yes, I’ll not do it again.” she said hoarsely, her throat clogged with a lump of tear. She’d never had anyone worry about her well-being like that before.

His clasp on her arms loosened. He sat back on his hind legs.
“I have never forced a woman to my bed. I’ll not start with you.”

He released her arms and got off the pallet.
“And in case you hadn’t noticed, you’re not the only maiden in Umunri. Moreover, I have no desire for spies and liars.” He pursed his lips in contempt.

Somehow his rejection and scorn stung. Hurt. More than any lash of the whip he could have taken to her skin.
It hurt because his words were true. She was a liar and a spy. A dirty shameful stain on Umunri. And she hated herself for doing it.
It hurt because for a moment when he’d kissed her earlier, she’d thought that he was the one. Her life mate. Now it would never be.
Her heart sank into her stomach. More tears stung her eyes. She turned her head away to the side so he couldn’t see the tears.

“Do not move from this bed tonight. Sleep. Perhaps in the morning you will see the wisdom of telling the truth.”
She heard receding footsteps and then nothing. She turned and looked around.

Jide was no longer in the chamber.
He’d truly meant to leave her alone. Her sadness deepened, digging its claw into her flesh. At that moment there was a flash of lightning and thunder. The sound of heavy rain drops on the thatch roof resounded in the room. The air chilled.

Without her sleeping wrapper to use for cover, Oma pulled her knees closer to her chest to keep warm. After a short while the sound of the rain lulled her to a fitful sleep.

Copyright Kiru Taye 2012