At the bottom of the mountain, Valen turned his stallion toward the distant city. All the rescued females had lived there before Emonan’s henchman kidnapped them. One after another, the warriors riding behind him moved into defensive positions around their commander and Gallia. Although their deadly attack on Emonan’s camp was the only fight they had encountered in months, the way to the city still held dangers.
Valen pulled the reins to Gallia’s horse closer so that she was riding beside him. “Emonan is out there somewhere, so I don’t want any argument from you if he’s seen.” This was the first time he had spoken to Gallia since leaving his home, and she was surprised by his surly tone of voice. Her surprise turned to anger when he went on, “On the other hand, I’d let him have you if it weren’t for that…” Valen stopped abruptly, silenced by the other part of that blasted vow. Besides doing nothing to impregnate Gallia, he was not allowed to tell her she was an innocent pawn in a plot of revenge.
He glared at Gallia because he never was able, thanks to his brother’s interference, to finish what he had started the night before. Swiveling around in his saddle, he then shot a look of disgust at his brother. Devon was riding just behind him with Origga safely held across his lap. Because Devon knew why his older brother was in such a rotten mood, he only grinned back at Valen.
When Gallia noticed the interplay between the two men, she also started smiling. The night before was fresh in her mind, but she failed to understand Valen’s frustration. Her smile was because she remembered the events much differently.
* * *
Devon had burst into the house and then started yelling at his brother. Valen was furious to be interrupted when he was about to pour his hot stream of semen into a soft, albeit unwilling, female. Cursing at Devon’s bad timing, he rolled off Gallia and quickly got to his feet. After that, he stood nearly nose to nose with Devon, fists clenched in anger and his back toward Gallia.
She slowly sat up on the floor and remained silent while the two men argued loudly. Valen was the first male she had ever seen naked, and she took this opportunity to thoroughly examine him. Well, she thought, starting by looking at his feet and working her way up, he’s taller than I am, and his thighs look like they could crush me between them. The ache in her belly, which had disappeared when he got off her, began to return. Her gaze lingered on his ass before sliding further up his long body. I wonder what his skin feels like. He doesn’t appear nice and soft like me.
As if feeling Gallia looking over at him, Valen turned around and stomped back to stand glaring down at her. His angry frustration increased at seeing her sitting on the floor. Ignoring his brother for the moment, Valen snarled, “Woman, I’m done with you, so cover yourself!” When Gallia didn’t move, without thinking, he raised his hand to strike her across the face.
Devon yelled, “Don’t do it, Val. You know he demanded she come to him undamaged in any way.” He hurried over to grab Valen’s arm and pulled it away from Gallia. “He wants a virgin, and a virgin is what she has to remain.”
Valen give a laugh with no humor in it. “Do you actually think she’s still a virgin after what Jorel told you he saw? You know that bastard, Emonan, raped her and every other woman in that filthy tent, just as he did to my Anaya years before.”
He was so furious at Devon he didn’t notice with wince of pain on his brother’s face. Valen’s thoughtless words made Devon realized what his own wife must have gone through in the months she was a captive.
Valen was standing in front of Gallia and shouting at his brother for thinking she needed or even deserved protection. While the two men continued their heated argument, Gallia was able to examine more of Valen’s body. Because he had not ejaculated before he pulled out of her, his penis was still erect and full. So that’s what I felt inside me. How odd looking a man is! Gallia remained seated on the floor and leaned forward to see better.
She decided to find out if he felt as hard as he looked. When she placed a finger on the tip of his phallus, Valen was so angry he failed to react to her tentative touch. Devon saw what Gallia was doing, though, and decided to wait for his brother’s reaction. Although no longer angry, he kept shouting to distract his brother. He tried not to smile when Gallia licked the finger that had touched Valen’s wet foreskin.
Gallia saw his amused expression anyway and looked up at Devon with an innocent expression. “I just wanted to see what he tastes like.” She didn’t understand why Devon started grinning or why Valen looked unsure of what was happening. She explained, “He used his tongue to lick me. I wasn’t close enough so had to use just my finger. At least I didn’t bite like he did.”
Hearing that, Devon began laughing so hard tears filled his eyes. Even though the woman sitting before him no longer was a virgin, the man who bedded her would never be bored. He might even overlook the fact she already was damaged goods.
* * *
Now as Devon caught sight of the city far off in the distance, he was already regretting having to return Gallia to her father. She was the first woman since Anaya’s death that Valen had shown any serious interest in. Devon knew his brother used the camp whores whenever his pent-up sexual appetite got too strong for him to ignore. It was common knowledge among Valen’s men that their commander had no particular favorite among those women.
Devon thought back to the shock that went through him at the sound of a female scream coming from Valen’s home. His older brother had a reputation as a considerate and somewhat imaginative lover. Even though many powerful men thought nothing of beating a woman into submission, Devon had never heard any stories of Valen abusing a woman. On the rare occasions a woman, whether a lady or a whore, rejected him, the gossip was Valen would smile and move on to the next willing female. In fact, Hakim had confided to Devon that the younger whores often fought to see who would service him. After seeing Valen naked and his impressive size when fully aroused as he was the night before, Devon understood why women found him sexually appealing.
When he slammed open the door, Devon’s first sight was of his brother, his skin covered in sweat, taking Gallia from behind. He quickly realized Valen was totally out of control, panting like a wild animal as he forced himself repeatedly into Gallia. She was almost hidden underneath Valen’s larger body, but he saw her long, blonde hair spread out on the rug. Devon could hear her soft moans even over Valen’s low voice. Even while using his powerful hips to thrust his shaft deeper into her, Valen was whispering harshly about what he wanted to do to her naked body, but couldn’t. Devon quickly yelled to keep Valen from telling Gallia too much about what the plans for her future were.
The line of horses and riders slowly entered the city just before noon. Each warrior split off from the group and headed toward the particular street where the woman in his charge once lived. Soon only four people remained. Devon was still holding Origga across his lap. Earlier in their journey, he had slid one of his hands under the hem of her borrowed dress. He spent most of the long ride enjoying the feel of his wife’s soft, round belly.
When he first touched her there, he had to hold her tight to keep her from falling off the horse. He felt her panic as she fought to push his hand away and felt sad since he knew the reason. “It’s all right, Origga. I know you’re carrying our child.” He waited until she had calmed down enough to understand what he was telling her. “After you disappeared, one of the people helping me search for you was our doctor. In a misguided attempt to make me feel better, he told me of your condition, that I was going to be a father in a few months.”
Devon leaned down to kiss away his wife’s tears and pulled her even closer. His large hand remained under her dress caressing her belly all during his explanation. When he felt a tiny movement under his fingers, he almost dropped her from the shock of feeling the baby move. The day before, Hakim had told him of Origga’s fear about the law aimed at married women. Both men knew many husbands used this cruel law to rid themselves of an older, unwanted wife so they could marry a younger one.
In a teasing voice filled with love, Devon whispered, “I would not throw you out even if the baby wasn’t mine, so you can stop worrying. You, my silly girl, are stuck with me for the rest of your life.”
While Valen guided his small group of four through the city’s narrow streets, he was trying not to think of what Gallia’s future would be like. He kept glancing over at the young woman riding sidesaddle on a gentle, white mare. Gallia again had on the brilliant-blue satin dress taken from Emonan’s tent. Valen noticed how the material stretched tightly over her body until reaching her hips. After that the satin dress flowed down to just above her bare feet.
“Gallia,” he whispered so Devon and Origga riding behind them wouldn’t hear. “What will your father say about you not being home for two days?” For an answer, all he got was a sad look and a shrug. It was enough, though, since Valen had heard rumors about her father. When his wife left him, soon after Gallia’s 16th birthday, Toren had turned to drinking and gambling. For the first year, his drinking didn’t affect the way he wagered on cards at the local gambling hall.
Devon called out, bringing Valen’s attention away from Gallia. “I’m leaving you two now to take Origga home.” Turning his horse away from them, he said over his shoulder, “Valen, I’ll be going to Jorel’s later if you need me.”
After the bloody massacre at Emonan’s campground, Jorel had immediately returned to his home in the city instead of staying overnight at Valen’s home. Knowing of his involvement in Gallia’s future, he felt too uncomfortable to remain near her. When he was told the name of the naked woman coming out of Emonan’s tent, he began to wonder if he wanted to continue with his plan.
On the way back to Valen’s mountain, he looked around to be sure Gallia couldn’t hear him. Before seeing her running from what he thought was her rapist, Gallia had just been an unknown female, a faceless pawn to be used with no regard for her life or her feelings. Now he needed to discuss with the two brothers what he should do.
Finally, unable to come to a decision on his own, he first turned to Devon. “I’m having second thoughts. What if he rejects her just because she’s not a virgin any more? She’s the one who will suffer, not her father. I never thought at the beginning Toren would get the money, at least from him that way.”
Devon thought about his friend’s dilemma until he looked down at his wife cuddled in his arms. The rhythm of the horse the two of them were on had lulled the exhausted woman to sleep. “Jorel, it’s too late to turn back now.”
Valen had been thinking about Gallia’s involvement in Jorel’s plan since the previous evening. He was furious at himself now for making that promise to Devon’s friend months earlier. When Jorel and his brother cornered him after he discovered Emonan had escaped him again, his mind was too addled to understand fully what they were telling him.
Learning the blonde female he found so desirable was Toren’s daughter only sank in on their way back to his mountain. That Gallia no longer was a virgin made no difference to him. His heated imagination kept going back to lying naked and inside her the night before. It was almost is if he still could feel her silky skin under him. All Valen wanted to do was turn their horses around and return with her to his home. Once there, he would spend hours and possibly days having mad, passionate sex with her.
Taking a deep breath, Valen opened his mouth to tell Jorel he was taking Gallia back with him. Instead, he heard himself say, “I agree with Devon. It is too late to stop now.”
Watching Devon and Origga disappear down the street toward their home, Valen slowly turned to look at Gallia. Seeing from her expression she had no idea what was ahead of her, he hated what he had to do. “I think it best you go on alone to your home. Your father might not understand if you return with a strange man.” Giving her no time to argue, Valen quickly turned the stallion back in the direction they had come, gave it a sharp kick in its side, and raced off before he could change his mind.
Gallia slid off her horse and watched until she could no longer see either Valen or his large, black horse. Holding onto her mare’s reins, she slowly walked the short distance to her home. Gallia was unsure of why she felt abandoned by Valen, so she tried to think of something else. How am I going to explain this beautiful dress to my father? He’ll never believe the truth.
When she walked inside her house, she saw she needn’t have worried about the dress since her father failed to notice her right away. He was busy talking to someone hidden from view while sitting in the high-back chair facing the fireplace. All Gallia could see of the visitor were his legs. They were covered in dark-gray material, obviously quite expensive. His legs were stretched out toward the lit fire with ankles crossed above shiny, leather shoes. A thin stream of cigar smoke wove its way into the air, and Gallia could tell from the sweet aroma it was not one of the cheap ones her father favored.
She stood silently by the front door and heard the stranger say, “You promised me she’d be ready today. I brought the outfit I want her to wear, and your daughter isn’t even here.” His voice held no anger, just a hint of boredom. “If you want to get out of the foolish bind you’re in, I would expect you not to waste my valuable time like this.”
“No, please give me a bit more time,” pleaded Toren, wringing his hands nervously. “She visits friends at times and should be home any minute.” He suddenly sensed someone behind him, and whirled around to see Gallia by the doorway.
“Where have you been?” Toren asked, furious with his daughter. Not waiting for an answer, he pulled her into the room until they were both standing in front of the stranger’s chair.
Sitting there was an older man, probably only a few years younger than Toren. He was slightly heavy, but his expensive clothes hid this extra weight quite well. His straight, black hair was short, slicked back, and shiny from his servant’s earlier heavy-handed application of hair oil. His round face was free of either moustache or beard, while black eyebrows made thin, arched lines over his gray eyes.
Gallia started to feel like a dead bug pinned to a piece of paper under the man’s silent and rude gaze. As the seconds went by, she felt more and more like a naked, dead bug. The stranger was looking at her as if she had no clothes on, stopping now and then to evaluate certain areas of her body. Raised to respect her elders, Gallia turned to her father for help.
Instead, she was stunned to hear him ask, “Will she do?”
Continued in next segment: