Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Far From Paradise by Bren Yarbrough Bruhn
|FAR FROM PARADISE
Excerpt from Chapter One
A sudden, sinister quiet descended, with only the low moaning of the wounded and dying men rising like ghostly voices in the dense forest. Even the sound of the warriors’ cries could no longer be heard. She eyed the Indian cautiously, her temper rising at his unnerving, silent scrutiny. Whirling, she put her leaden feet in motion, but with cat-like grace he pounced upon her, grabbing her around the waist with one sinewy arm.
"Let me go, you Godless heathen!" she screamed, her face livid with rage. She kicked against his legs, her booted heels making contact with his high leather boots and appearing to have little effect. He still held her in his grip, turning to face a painted warrior who came to stand next to him. The warrior was a beast of a man, with a muscular build and an imposing air. His expansive bronze chest was crisscrossed with scars.
The two men spoke as she continued to struggle. The big warrior reached out to twine his fingers in her bright auburn tresses, sending a shiver of fear down her spine.
She recoiled in alarm, for even though she couldn't understand a word he had said, she could guess his intention. The man who held her spoke harshly to the warrior, who released her hair reluctantly, then backed away. Her captor bent low, whispering in her ear. "If you wish to live, do as I say. Are you hurt?"
She turned to look at him, stunned that he had spoken such perfect English.
“You speak English, don’t you?” he asked mockingly.
She wondered how often he had been asked a variation of the same question. Knowing he was enjoying a joke at her expense brought her to her senses. “Are you hurt?” he asked again.
“No. I'm not badly injured."
Without another word, he swept her into his arms and kissed her. She turned her head away, struggling against him and beating at his chest with tightly balled fists. “How dare you!” she shouted in outrage.
“If you value your life, you will cooperate with me,” he said in a gruff whisper. “Do keep in mind that many of these warriors speak English as well. They’ve taken quite a fancy to that pretty red hair of yours, and before they take it from you, they will do much worse than kiss you. I can assure you of that.“
She turned back to look at the other warrior, who still eyed her with envy. She had no idea what this man was up to, but she decided it was best to take her chances with him than with the warrior who would surely kill her just for her scalp.
"If I release you, will you behave?" her captor whispered.
She nodded her head in compliance, her eyes wary. Though he eased his grip on her, he still held her lightly in his arms, his lips near her ear. “I’m going to kiss you again,” he warned. “And this time, act as though you are enjoying it.”
Acutely aware that the warriors still watched them with great interest, she nodded reluctantly. Pushing aside her coat, he placed his hands on her waist as his lips met hers in a kiss so bold and demanding it took her breath away. One of his hands slid down her back, gripping her bottom brazenly as he ground his hips into hers, sending a tingle of excitement racing up her spine. As much as it thrilled her, it also filled her with rage. Surely the gesture wasn’t necessary!
When he moved his lips from hers, she promptly slapped him. Hard enough to leave her palm stinging from the force of the blow. The warrior standing near them let out a hearty laugh, then spoke in his own language.
She looked up into the face of the man who had so boldly caressed her and was flabbergasted to see an amused grin curving his lips. Though it had been under entirely different circumstances, she had the oddest sense that she had seen him somewhere before. He spoke to the other warrior, shrugged almost sheepishly and laughed, then turned back to her.
“Let’s try it one more time,” he growled through gritted teeth. “And do try to be a bit more convincing this time if you hope to see the sun rise in the morning.”
“No!” she said, trying to back away. She had no desire to experience his kiss or his touch again. He reached out and seized her by the waist, pulling her flush against him again. She could feel the hard outline of his body against hers. His hands moved to her head, capturing it tightly between his palms. His lips assaulted hers once more, his tongue breaking past the barrier of her teeth and meeting hers. She pressed against his chest with open palms, feeling the burning heat of his skin and the hardened muscles beneath her hands. Suddenly she felt faint, her heart pounding in her ears as she found herself responding with shameful ardor. She lost all sense of where she was and the eminent danger lurking just outside his arms as liquid fire ignited in her veins, setting her body afire.
Suddenly he released her, leaving her swaying slightly against him as she tried to gain some semblance of control.
“Most convincing,” he commented dryly. “But a bit overdramatic, don’t you think?”
She was outraged by his behavior, but even more by her own. She wanted to punish him somehow; to make him pay for the things he had just made her feel—things she was quite certain she’d never felt before. She raised her hand again, but it was met by the steely restraint of his, gripping her wrist tightly. His eyes narrowed threateningly. She conceded defeat, an agonized whimper escaping her lips as he released her hand.
"Get on the horse," he said, pointing to a well-fed roan that stood a few feet away. It certainly didn't look like any of the rail-thin Indian ponies the other warriors rode. She eyed him cautiously as he flashed her a irritated look and gestured again to the horse. She remained standing as she was, blatantly disregarding his order. She had no idea what might lie in store for her if she didn’t, but she wasn’t about to let him think he could just swoop down and carry her off to wherever it was Indians went when they weren’t creating the carnage they had today. She stubbornly refused to move, her arms crossing over her bosom, her eyes meeting his mutinously.
He left her standing where she was, crossing to his horse and removing a length of rawhide from the saddlebag. He came toward her and she turned to run again, only to find herself face to face with the huge warrior who had wanted to scalp her. Her captor spoke again, smiling, and a burst of laughter erupted from the assembled warriors. He moved to stand in front of her, grabbing her wrists. Truly frightened now, she didn't fight him, sensing that even though he might do her some future harm, at least for the time being she was safer with him than with any of the other warriors who now openly leered at her.
Though her eyes shot daggers at him and her lips were drawn into a tight line, she was suddenly submissive. She allowed him to bind her hands in front of her with the strip of leather and lead her toward his horse. He lifted her astride its back, then mounted behind her, speaking briefly to the other Indians just before they took off at a fast gallop.
"Where are you taking me?" she shouted above the clatter of the horse's hooves.
"To safety," he replied.