Possess Me Ch. 04bytitania123©
As always, thank you for your encouragment and support. I've posted a tentative schedule for the next two chapters' submission dates on my author page. But please keep in mind, if the muse doesn't inspire, I will have to push back the dates. Though, no one wants that to happen ;)
And please leave comments of what worked and didn't! And vote if you want, I always appreciate it!
The deep rains that had settled over the forest seemed to have truly moved on. Though the sun had not crested the horizon, Brynna knew the moment she awoke that it was going to be a clear, beautiful day. She happily freshened herself despite the painful grumbling in her stomach. Bounding down the stairs, she entered the kitchens smiling. Out of habit, she was just preparing herself for the cold reception from the staff when Bea turned and smiled very pleasantly at her. For a moment, Brynna was taken aback before she returned a tentative smile of her own.
"Good morning, miss. How do you do today?" the old lady beamed.
"I am well, Bea. Thank you for asking. And how are you?" uncertain at the woman's change of behavior.
"Oh, I am doing very well, miss. We all are. Thank you," she said with meaning. Suddenly, Brynna began to understand. She saw the line connecting the master's behavior towards her and the staff's response. She didn't know if their behavior stemmed from a unified disapproval of her, or if they were afraid when one person was punished, they all would be. Given Ann's involvement in Brynna's latest bout of rebellion, she couldn't blame the staff for fearing wide-spread retribution.
"Shall I get to the loaves, then?"
"Yes, if you please," she said before dreamily going back to her own work.
Brynna set about making the loaves, deciding today she would flourish them with a few decorative leaves. As she beat the bread down, Eleanor approached her, informing her that the master had left his room. Even Eleanor seemed somewhat changed. It wasn't the giddy happiness of Bea, not even a smile, but something hard under her expression seemed to soften.
Upon returning, Beth and Ann were eating and happily invited her to join them, which she did. At first, the girls just smiled, passing furtive glances between each other before Ann finally gave a conceding look and leaned forward to Brynna. In a whisper she asked, "How did you get him to do it, miss?"
"Get who to do what?" she asked, despite her suspicion.
"Get Master Blackwood to let us eat? In two days' time he went from denying you food to punishing you for not eating. How ever did you manage it?"
Brynna had to smother her smile, not wanting to appear too gleeful in her rebellion. "I do not know that anyone managed, it simply was the result of two opposing wills negotiating for things we each wanted."
"Things? Like what?" Beth asked.
"Well, Ann and I are both eating this morning, and I have gained his permission to take care of the green room."
"The green room, miss? What is that?"
"Have you never seen the large glass room attached to the castle? It's an indoor garden." As Brynna explained, she heard a gasp from Bea. "What is it, Bea?"
"Oh, nothing," she answered, but after a time continued. "It is only my husband Gus took care of all the plants there. But it has remained unattended since he passed several years back," she answered crestfallen.
Brynna felt the sadness. "I am sorry, Bea. Perhaps we can plant a special pot of his favorite flower or herb in his honor," she suggested.
Bea seemed to brighten a little at the idea. "That would be nice. Thank you," she whispered before turning around and attending the pot boiling. With that, the girls had finished their food and parted to return to work.
Knowing the delightful chore of refurbishing the plant room lay ahead of her that afternoon, Brynna energetically attacked cleaning the upper rooms, though there was very little for her to do. At lunch she spoke with Brom and Ann, merriment ringing out in the small staff room for the first time since her arrival.
When all were departing, Eleanor informed her that a dress was laid out on her bed for her afternoon of horse riding. Brynna was immediately disappointed that her time in the plant room would have to wait for the next day. Sullenly, she returned to her chamber to change.
Brynna found the dress as Eleanor had said. Not only was the skirt specially made to cover her legs, but there was a pair of linen drawers that would reach mid-thigh. There were also special boots of thin leather that looked as if they ran over the entire calf with thin laces all the way up.
She walked hurriedly through the mud and grass outside, anticipation building at the thought of seeing him. There had been little time to think of the approaching lesson as she had instead dreamed of the plant room all day, but now that it was an immediately looming event, her heart began to thump wildly.
Her deeply ingrained fear of the giant beast had been born when she was only eight-years-old and was nearly crushed under the hooves of a loose stallion charging through town. She had nightmares for weeks after. The terror they elicited still clung to her heart, and she could not look at one without it beating madly in her breast. As she grew older, she was able to temper her fear with reason, knowing they really weren't likely to break free from their tethers or stables only to tear through her. She had thus far in her life been able to avoid the necessity of contact with them and had hopes that she would go to her grave the same. But fate had other designs it seemed, or rather, her master did.
Why should he be so interested in whether or not I can ride? she wondered to herself. As a slave, I should think he wouldn't bother with me. Shouldn't he find more work and not leisure activities to loll away my time? And why horse riding? Does he know how they frighten me? Surely not. If he did, then these instructions would be a form of cruelty, to knowingly torture me. She continued musing to herself as she approached the stables.
She smiled to see Brom leaning against the outside wall of the stables. His arms were crossed over his chest, and he did not return her smile. Her face fell as the atmosphere began to build with tension. Brynna stepped by him to walk into the stables.
A beautiful bay stood next to Malik. She stopped just inside the threshold of the building, not willing to move closer to either deadly creature. His eyes were on her the instant she stepped into view. His face held his hard glare, with a hint of cruelty lying underneath. It was a face that made her reconsider whether or not he knew how horses disturbed her. She straightened, steeling herself against the onrush of jumbling nerves screaming for her to run away.
"Brynna," His voice sent a tremor through her, adding to the anxiety she already felt. He held out his arm, inviting her close. Hesitantly, she moved until she was standing next to him and the horse.
He handed her a grooming brush. "As a rule, you will not be expected to groom the horse nor saddle it; however, it is important as a rider to understand the process of riding in its entirety. Therefore, today, you will perform all the duties." He took her by the shoulders and angled her so she faced the flank of the mare. He remained quiet as she stood, trembling before the animal. After a time, she raised her hand with the brush, a tremor visible in it. But she quailed and dropped her hand, taking a step back.
As she was entranced in her fear, Brynna failed to notice Blackwood position himself directly behind her. As she stepped back, she collided against his hard frame. He pressed back against her, pushing her to step forward until she was closer than an arm's length. He reached around her, gently taking her hands in his large ones. For a moment, as he drew them up, she was distracted by the memory of the feel of those hands on another part of her.
The feeling of warm, thick silk under her hand brought her attention snapping back. She realized he held her left hand pressed against the shoulder of the horse as he moved her right in a deep sweeping motion over the tall back. Her breathing increased and became shallow and raspy. Why did he hold her there? Could he not hear her heart slamming in her chest?
His voice, soft and soothing, began instructing her on grooming the horse. "You should brush her until her coat shines like polished gold. Long, sweeping motions, that's right. Not only is this important in preventing the hair from matting up when you ride, but it is soothing to her and builds trust," his voice eased through her like wine, quelling her distress.
The motions became hypnotic, and when she began stroking the animal of her own volition, he stepped away. Once she had continued around the horse, stroking every manageable part, he brought over the saddle and threw it atop the tall mare as though it weighed nothing. The smooth leather was curved in an almost sensual fashion, hugging the animal's body perfectly.
He began pointing out and naming the various parts of the saddle before instructing her how to secure it to the horse. After she fastened the straps, he came back to tighten them significantly more. Her hands trembled as she lifted the bridle as he instructed towards the top of the horse's head. Do horses bite? Or maybe it will just stamp me until I'm bloody, she thought. When she attempted to fit a strap over its ears, the horse shook her head, causing Brynna to recoil with a startled gasp. He was immediately behind her, pressing her forward, allowing no escape. "Put it on, and do not shake," his harsh voice commanded.
"I can't help it if I shake. It is not as if I do so by choice," she said with a wavering, but indignant voice.
"You can control yourself. Now, put it on, and stop arguing."
She huffed at his bossy tone. She looked back at the horse. Her giant, black eyes stared at Brynna, daring her to proceed. Swallowing with an already dry throat, Brynna stepped closer to the horse and quickly set the bridle on, flicking the ears through with little complaint from the mare. She fastened the bottom slip of leather around the muzzle and stepped back with a shaky smile, pleased that she was finished and had survived.
"Bring the horse," he commanded as he walked outside. Once in the brightness of the day, he turned to her. "When mounting, it is important to hold the reins in one hand so you can always control the animal. When you approach the horse to mount, you should always come to his left flank. Now, take hold of the reins and I will boost you into the seat." Brom had come to stand at the head of the horse, keeping her in place.
"You will what?" she choked out as she took a step back.
His face hardened on hers and a crushing hand came out to grip her arm and pull her back. Positioning her in front of him, without releasing her he said, "With your left foot, you will step into my hands and I will lift you up. You need to swing your right leg over and seat yourself in the saddle. Understood?" She began to tremble more forcefully and shook her head.
"Please, please don't make me do this," her fear-ridden voice pleaded.
"You made a deal with me, did you not? I upheld my end of the bargain, and it is now your turn."
Tears started forming in her eyes. "Please, sir, you do not understand. I cannot do this," she begged in a barely audible whisper.
"You can do this and you will. I will not allow you to fail because you are afraid. Now, step up to the horse, grab the reins, and mount it," his voice ground out.
Still shaking, she turned to the animal and reached with trembling hands to secure the reins. Breathing deep to calm herself, she looked at Blackwood who kneeled beside her and held out his hands, palms up, fingers laced. She did as he had instructed and placed the toe of her left boot in his hands. He lifted her easily, and as she pushed up on the horse's back, she swung her right leg around. With an unladylike plop, she landed in the saddle and immediately cringed.
Brynna hunkered herself down, grabbing fearfully onto the gently rounded pummel and jammed her foot into the stirrup. "Sit up tall," he said. When at last she sat erect on the mare, she took in several deep breaths and wiped her face clear of the few tears that had fallen.
"Your toes go in the stirrup, not the entire foot," he corrected. "If you were to be thrown, your foot would be caught, and you would be dragged along. The same goes for your skirts," he said as he pulled and lifted them, settling them neatly around her. His hand stayed on her foot, barely covered by her skirt, and she could feel the pressure of his fingers and thumbs on her ankle, making her leg itch to kick.
"Now, controlling the horse is very simple. I have given you the most docile horse I own. She responds excellently to rider instructions. You communicate to your horse through your body by applying pressure on the opposite side you wish to go. Therefore, if you lean on your left side and squeeze with your inner leg on the left, you horse will turn right." He slid his hand higher up her calf until it rested on the bottom, inner side of her bare thigh near her knee. "The pressure should come from here. Let me feel it," he said.
She squeezed her thigh tighter and tighter into his warm hand until he said it was enough. "To get the horse to stop, roll your hips forward." He surprised her further by grabbing the bones of her hips and tilted them forward, causing her to roll the pressure from her buttocks to the mound of her sex. Her eyes were wide at the contact he was directing, and she fell still, afraid to move.
His hands dropped, and in his continued cold tone he instructed her on using the reins as last resort to controlling the horse. When he had given her the fullness of the liturgy, he told her to walk the horse down the path to where it joined the main drive and back. After taking a few rough breaths, she nudged her mare forward at an agonizingly slow pace. When she returned, he glared hard at her.
"What?" I am on this damn thing, am I not?
"You are still afraid."
"Well, of course I am afraid. I'm terrified! Please, I've ridden today, can I not stop?" she pleaded.
"No," he said, taking a step forward. "You are not to get off that horse until you've taken her into a full gallop."
"Gallop! I'll die!"
"My lord," Brom interjected, stepping forward. "She is very afraid. Perhaps she has ridden enough for today."
Malik's expression turned murderous. "That is for me to decide, not her, and most certainly not you." He turned back to Brynna with another menacing step. "Stop cowering and send her into canter immediately."
Giving a small, mournful cry, Brynna turned the horse and nudged her forward again, but at a faster pace. Within moments, the speed had picked up faster than she had anticipated and the gait turned jarring, effectively stopping all thought. She was unable to remember anything about controlling the horse and shrieked out as she fell off the side, hitting the ground with a most jarring thud.
Pain reeled through her body as her mind continued to spin. She knew she needed to breathe, but she could not force her chest to work, could not pull air in. Panic quickly filled her brain, and she struggled to gain her bearings. The few proceeding seconds felt like an eternal stretch of time before Brynna found herself being pulled right and turned over to lie in someone's lap. Noise came in the form of voice, though she couldn't make out words. Opening her eyes she saw the devil's face above her, concern marring his usually evil countenance. Her lungs plunged deep, drawing in saving air. "Can you hear me?" She blinked at the sound, now seeming to make sense.
"Can you hear me?"
"Yes," she managed to moan.
"Are you injured anywhere?" she heard him say as his hand roamed her body squeezing here and there trying to elicit pain.
"I do not think so, my lord. I am just sore."
"Damn fool!" he bit out.
"You fell from your horse when you failed to control her. Are you trying to kill yourself?"
"No, I thought you were doing that," she said breathlessly. His face was still over hers, his breath washing over her, her body pressed against him. At her words, his face settled back into its cold calm that caused her to shutter in fearful anticipation.
He gracefully stood up, causing her to fall back to the ground. "Stand up."
She did so with notable pain throughout her body, especially her right shoulder and hip. He instantly jerked her around. Brom had brought the horse back and held it as Malik pushed her towards it. She started shaking her head, pushing against him, trying to resist. "I don't want to get back on there," she whined, fear slamming her.
"You have no choice." Without further words, he threw her on the horse's back. She managed to right herself just a second before he mounted the horse behind her. Taking the reins in hand, he sent the horse flying forward at a neck-breaking pace. They charged like wrathful thunder out the walls and down the road before breaking off the path and heading into the woods.
Brynna's mind screamed in fear at the furious speed. She pushed back against him, leaning into him for protection against the branches and limbs that went streaking by. She turned, burying the side of her face in his chest and closed her eyes. The torturous journey felt as though it went on for hours. Though she was calmed by his presence, her body still shook uncontrollably. In the coolness of the forest, her body was overtaxed from fear and stimulation, shaking her into weary exhaustion.
Eventually, Malik pulled the charging horse up to a halt in front of a fallen tree. He flew down with preternatural grace and then pulled her off, slamming her feet on the damp, leaf-laden ground. He stalked away from her, keeping his distance. Though he usually contained his rage, she felt it running off him in waves. She understood he was struggling to control himself. Don't goad him, she warned herself.
He turned back to her, his face serious and hard. "It is a dangerous thing to be full of fear. When your mind in encapsulated by it, it cripples you until you cannot think and make dangerous choices, not just for you, but for those around you. Do you understand?"
She nodded her head, ashamed at her cowardice behavior that she seemingly had no control over. "Now, for your punishment."
Her head snapped up. His eyes were dark, frightening her more than the thought of the horse. He tied the horse to a branch before stepping around to the other side. Over the horses back, his dark eyes bore into her. "Come closer," he said.
When she hedged, his eyes grew hard. Oh, how he controlled with just those eyes. She stepped forward, waiting for his next command. "Give me your hands," he said, reaching over the horse's back for hers. She lifted them up, her distress building like a sickening knot in her stomach. When his hands clasped about her wrists, he pulled them over the saddle, dragging her up until her body was stretched against the horse, almost lifting to her toes. She felt the leather rope quickly tie around them and hold them in place.
Brynna's forehead rested against the warm saddle, her breathing dragging in the scent of its leather, the dampness of the forest, the musk of the horse. He walked back around to where she stood. His presence enveloped her, drawing her in.
"Now," he said softly, fingers trailing from the back of her neck down her spine, "you have a choice. Either I can mete out your punishment here, or I strip you naked and send you back to the stables tied to the horse. Which do you choose?"
His voice was like a warm caress that belied the danger of his words. With frowning lips, trembling from the threat of crying, she looked to him. How could he be so malicious? She saw his dark, resolved gaze and knew he could not be deterred. She turned back to face the saddle. He was doing it again, forcing her to choose between two horrible options. Of course, she would not go riding back naked. With a defeated sigh she answered. "Here. I choose here."