The Adventures of Lusty Baldwin Ch. 04byJasmine30©
Lusty bit her lip and scowled anxiously through the curtain of her veil. The sight that greeted her did not improve her mood. Down the short aisle of the temporary sanctuary inside the General's keep, even sadistic dictators needed God's help, waited Giselle who beamed with pride at having been invited to participate in the General's wedding.
On the other side of the aisle, the General watched her like a hawk. Lusty shivered and refused to acknowledge his probing gaze.
She had been forced to dress for the occasion against her will in the Islanders' traditional wedding attire that had so many layers she wasn't sure she'd be able to remove it without help. Giselle had ignored her protests and prattled on endlessly about how it was high time the General settled down and started producing heirs, and how he couldn't have found a finer woman to settle down with. At first, Lusty had begged Giselle for help until she realized Giselle couldn't comprehend why Lusty would want to leave.
She had pleaded and cajoled to no avail. Trying to explain to Giselle that she was free to make her own choices when it came to marriage and children, was as about as effective as talking to a wall. Giselle had just stared at her blankly.
Lusty had given up on Giselle's help after that. She had let the other woman dress her in the elaborate costume consisting of several layers of brightly colored gossamer thin silk that was finished off with an even more elaborate headdress that she itched to stomp into the ground. It sat on her head in a ridiculous slant and hurt her neck, but being the General's future wife, or captive, depending on how you looked at it, she wasn't supposed to complain, at least according to Giselle.
While Giselle meant well, she had seriously thought about knocking her over the head with the water bowl. The way she had gone on about how this was the greatest thing to ever happen on this God forsaken Island had been annoying. Lusty could attest to the fact that it wasn't the greatest thing to ever happen. Finding a way off this Island would be the greatest thing that could happen here as far as she was concerned. Barring that, the General's slow painful death would do just as well.
Her short lived and ill-conceived plan to escape had not gone far. Besides the fact that Giselle had not cooperated, the General had seen to it that she had not been left alone for one single moment, further frustrating her escape plans.
Faced with her choices now, few as they were, Lusty felt a deep and unwavering resentment. Standing directly behind her with her elbow firmly clasped between his fingers was Jonathan. He was in charge of making sure she didn't dash out of the chapel before walking her down the aisle. Judging by the look on his face he wasn't enjoying this any more than she was.
Since this might be her last chance to escape, she threw caution to the wind and whispered furtively through her headdress and veil, hoping Jonathan would show her some pity.
"Jonathan, please help me. I am a prisoner on your Island even though I don't have anything to do with the war here. You know the General doesn't have a right to keep me here or force me to marry him. My family doesn't have a lot of money but I'm sure we could come up with an adequate reward if you'll help me. Please, Jonathan."
Jonathan looked at her in surprised horror, his mouth opening and closing a few times before he could find his voice. He shook his head before managing to articulate his thoughts.
"Ms. Lusty no amount of money would be enough to hide me from the General if I should disobey his orders. I like you Ms. Lusty but not enough to risk my life."
"Coward." She hissed under her breath, turning her back on Jonathan.
The music started in the sanctuary, signaling that Jonathan should proceed. The grip on her elbow tightened as he steered her down the aisle. Throughout her entire childhood and many nights since, Lusty had dreamed of her wedding day. But never in her wildest dreams had it happened like this, with a man she barely knew, didn't love and who happened to be an evil dictator to top it off.
She briefly considered breaking free of Jonathan's grasp and running out of the chapel, but the knowing look in the General's eyes stopped her. He knew she was desperate to escape and had taken no chances. It was not a look full of concern but rather the knowing smirk of the class bully. She smirked back at him, glad he couldn't see her face through the veil.
Once at the altar, she tuned out the rest of the proceedings, not bothering to pretend she cared. She answered the holy man's questions with noncommittal grunts until the General's hand on her back prompted her to answer with a clear I do.
The rest of the evening was a blur of food and drink. She had to admit she had downed more than her share of the sweet fruited wine being passed around for the special occasion. She considered it medicine for the giant ache in her neck she had from wearing the ridiculous headdress all night long. She ignored the soldiers and assorted villagers that milled around the magnificent spreads of food and drink laid out on large serving tables. She had even managed to ignore Giselle, who seemed to think she was her new best friend and wouldn't shut up.
But the one person she couldn't ignore was the General. After the brief ceremony, he had walked her into the tent set up as a dining hall for their "reception" and had so far left her alone. So confident was he in his soldiers' abilities to capture her should she attempt an escape, that she was now free to roam, well, at least the dining hall. She couldn't understand why he would insist on marrying her then leave her alone. Not that she cared if she was alone or not, she didn't. She just found it odd.
She scowled in his direction, hoping for once that looks could kill. She was married. MARRIED for Gods sake! She found it more than slightly ironic that the same man who had ruined her reputation all those years ago and prevented her from marrying into a decent family was now her husband, a husband who was now watching her with an inscrutable expression on his handsome but warlike face. Suddenly his face split into a grin as his eyes raked over her.
Her eyes narrowed in suspicion but thankfully he couldn't see her. Damn him, what was he up to now? For the last two weeks she had been in his bed every night and some mornings, but she had no idea who he really was. As a lover he was arrogant and demanding; and those were his good points. She had to admit that he had surprised her a few times with some unexpected tenderness, but those occasions were rare. She had no concept of his personality outside of the bedroom and now she was married to him. She stifled her moan of despair.
She turned away from his scrutiny and pretended to listen to Giselle. Satisfied that he was no longer watching her, she rubbed her sore neck. This night could not end soon enough as far as she was concerned. All she wanted to do was collapse into bed and go to sleep but odds of that happening were slim.
"Take off the headdress Lissette." A warm hand caressed her neck even as his breath tickled her ear. "There's no need for you to be in pain."
"You could have told me that earlier General." Lusty turned around to see the General standing behind her. She turned back around and sighed in pure pleasure as she pulled the pins holding the monstrosity in place out of her hair. The headdress soon followed, along with the rest of her hair which tumbled down her back in soft amber waves. She groaned inwardly as her muscles were relieved of their burden.
"My name is Manuel, Lissette. As my wife it is only appropriate that you address me as such or Sir if you'd prefer." She could hear the teasing laughter in his voice even though she knew he was quite serious.
"Yes Sir, General Sir." She saluted in mock respect.
The General leaned in, close to her ear, and delivered his warning.
"You are my wife now Lissette. I expect you to act like my wife in every arena, but especially when it comes to honoring your position as my wife. Soon this Island will belong to me as it should have years ago; the reason why doesn't matter anymore, what does matter is that I will be ruler here and as my wife you will act accordingly. Is that understood Lusty?"
She cocked her head while considering his arrogant dictate. She knew from listening to his private conversations that he controlled the southern, eastern, and western shores, but had to take control of the northern shore before the Islanders' would accept him as their sovereign ruler. They seemed to have an inordinate amount of respect for him despite the war being waged on their turf. In order to fulfill the conditions that the Islanders held as law, he had to hold the entire Island.
"You aren't ruler yet General." Lusty tilted her head up to whisper her answer to his not so veiled threat.
Digging into that particular vein might be a mistake, but she couldn't help herself. Especially with him reminding her to act accordingly. He was the one who had acted like a barbarian, abducting her and forcing her to marry him and all the while standing there and reminding her mind her P's and Q's.
She eyed him coolly over her shoulder and was surprised to see a sardonic lift to his lips. Surely he must know how ridiculous his request was.
He turned his attention back to the crowds of people seeking him out to congratulate him on his marriage. She turned her attention to her escape.
At first it seemed like he had her pretty well sewn up, judging by the guards posted at every door and the ones milling around in the guise of mingling but who eyed her warily. With cause it seemed.
But when it came time for them to eat she found an opportunity she couldn't pass up. She had been given real cutlery to eat with, a real treat, considering the way the General had kept her prisoner thus far, and had slipped a sharp knife with a long handle into the folds of her dress.
She made a trip to the draped bathrooms set up for the occasion with Giselle in tow. But once she made it into the covered private room it was easy to lose Giselle.
Timing was everything and fortunately Giselle unwittingly helped. Turning away from her she gouged a fingernail into her eye to start the tears. She started babbling and crying about her marriage until Giselle was trying to comfort her.
Giselle was too busy patting her shoulders to question Lusty's motives when she asked for a few minutes alone, mistaking Lusty's tears to be the result of wedding night jitters.
When she finally left, Lusty wasted no time, hiking her dress up and crawling out the back curtain to the soft jungle floor below. She crawled towards the line of trees, not daring to stand until she was well into the jungle, well aware that the General's men would be patrolling the grounds of the wedding.
She stopped every few minutes or so and scanned the area. When she saw that no one followed her, she cautiously sped up her pace away from her wedding and her so-called husband.
She walked for a long time unsure of where she was or where she should go. The small village she had seen when she first arrived on the Island was out of the question due to the villager's loyalty to the General. She could try the docks but the docks were fraught with danger for a single woman on her own. After much consideration she decided she would try the docks, at least there she might be able to sign on as a crew member to pay for her passage home.
Three hours later Lusty was questioning her impetuous decision to leave the wedding party and the General. The General might be an autocratic dictator with a dated idea of women but at least he fed her, clothed her, and generally kept her in comfortable surroundings. After wandering the jungle-like landscape for three hours Lusty was no longer sure of her ability to find the docks, or even her way back to the General. She was tired, hungry and appalled at her complete lack of planning. Escaping from a Dictator without food or water and wearing ridiculously soft slippers that did nothing to protect her feet from the many sticks and rocks, not to mention bugs, on the jungle floor was not her best idea.
She found a large tree with ample shade under its encompassing branches and sat down to think. Not knowing a thing about surviving in the wilds of a jungle, she was overwhelmed and felt real tears start to fill her eyes. Silently, she said a prayer asking God to save her and show her the way to get home. Many minutes later it became clear God was not going to rescue her. She put her head down on her knees in despair.
A sharp crack echoing through the trees brought her head back up. It was quiet on this part of the Island with the exception of the animal noises she had grown accustomed to hearing while living with the General in his war tent, so whatever she had heard was definitely not an animal. Animals did not stealthily creep through the jungle, which was exactly what she heard, the sounds of someone trying to sneak up on her.
Scrambling up onto her feet she peeked around the tree hoping to see who was there. The jungle looked eerily empty of humans. Ignoring the tingling sense of apprehension that slithered down her neck, she moved away from the tree and the safety of its branches. Not knowing where to go but unwilling to stay where she was, she started walking.
Several minutes into her walk another noise sent her running. It was the sound of men marching. She ran until her lungs felt close to bursting then found a fallen tree to shelter her until the men had passed. Thankfully, the tree was large enough that she could perch behind it without anyone seeing her, unless they walked right up to it, she was safe.
Curious to see who was marching through this isolated stretch of the jungle, she peered through the branches and plants surrounding her, hoping the lush vegetation would disguise her hiding place.
A large man, clearly the leader of the group, rode on horseback in front. He was thickly muscled and impressive in stature. Crisp, dark hair curled over the collar of his shirt, but she was too far away to see his facial features. Although she could tell he wasn't an ordinary man just by the way he carried himself. He had a strong lean body that spoke of hours spent training for war. Long-muscled legs gripped the powerful beast underneath him.
Lusty stilled and held her breath, waiting for them to pass. The leader raised a hand to stop the group and turned in her direction. Lusty gasped but quickly shut her mouth. Shaking, she watched while he scanned the area, obviously looking for signs of an intruder. She knew she hadn't bothered to cover her tracks but hoped he wouldn't see them.
He stiffened and she knew he had spotted her. With a low growl, he dismounted and strode towards her, not bothering to conceal his disgust. Scrambling away from the downed tree proved to be more than she could handle after too many hours walking through the jungle without food or water and she tripped on one of the many branches, going down face first into the mud. She tried to get up but soon found out it was hopeless as the mud clung to her wedding dress and only served to bog her down further.
Warm, strong fingers gripped her arm before she could escape.
Lusty looked up into emerald green eyes couched in a face carved from granite. A grim line settled onto his lips as he hauled her out of the mud and half-dragged, half-walked her over to his men.
"Who are you?" he demanded.
"Who are you?" she demanded back, refusing to be cowed by his rude manner although it was difficult to maintain her dignity while wearing a wedding gown covered in fresh mud.
"That is none of your business. I demand to know who you are and what you are doing on this part of the Island." He ordered, his eyes raking over her in open disdain at the mud splattered all over her.
"Well, if it isn't my business who you are, why is it your business who I am?" She shot back, determined not to be intimidated by him, even though he overpowered her by at least a hundred pounds and a few hundred men. A few of the men snickered but were quickly silenced by the look he shot their way.
"Don't play games with me woman. I want to know who you are. I know you're not local, I would've have heard of you before now. You will tell me who you are." He emphasized his point by squeezing her arm.
"Fine, although I don't see how it's any of your business," She grumbled trying to cross her arms over her chest in an effort to cover the wet clothes clinging to her but he refused to release his grip on her arm.
"It's my business because in case you haven't noticed, there is a war going on. The last thing I need is some woman running around getting herself killed. Do you understand me now?" he asked, towering over her in angry consternation.
Lusty took a step back but the fingers biting into her arm prevented her from moving any farther away.
"Do you mind?" She asked haughtily, glaring at him.
"Unless you plan on telling me your name, no I don't." He smirked back.
"My name is unimportant." She replied, trying unsuccessfully to disengage her arm from his grasp. "If you could just point me in the direction of the docks I will be out of your way."
"Why do you need to go to the docks?"
"My, aren't you a nosy one. Not that it's any of your business but I need to find the docks so I can get off this God-forsaken Island once and for all. Now can you help me or not?" Anger and frustration warred inside her as she waited for his answer.
His eyebrows snapped together as he took in her appearance. The layers of silk and mud did nothing to conceal her body from his view. She felt naked under his inquisitive stare.
"I can help you… for a price." He offered generously.
"I have no money." She answered quietly, her head down in shame.
"Who said the price was money?" He leaned down to whisper.
"You Pig!" Wrenching her arm away despite the myriad of bruises she was sure he left behind, she proceeded to stalk away towards what she hoped was the direction of the docks.
Momentarily caught off guard, he nonetheless caught up to her quickly. Stepping in front of her, he gripped her shoulders and gave her a little shake.
"You insult me. Now tell me your name so I can explain to you what the price is."
"FINE!" She shouted. "My name is Lusty Baldwin. Satisfied now?"
"Lusty Baldwin, where have I heard that name before?" A few of the soldiers laughed and shuffled around uncomfortably and Lusty knew her fate had been sealed.
With a grin that nearly split his face in two, he leered at her.
"I remember where I know that name from now." Behind him several of the soldiers had begun to recite the hated poem.
"Down the street comes our dear Lusty
Take a look, she's really quite busty
Once she had a son of Lashingo
Who said why not let's give it a go
For hours they hid from our eyes
The walls were shaking with their cries
When she finally emerged he did not follow
When asked later, he replied, yep, she did swallow."
The men finished off the poem at full volume, their voices growing stronger and echoing through the trees. Lusty flew into a rage.
"HOW DARE YOU!" She screeched at them. Blind with anger and humiliated
, she stumbled away from the laughing voices of the men.
Granite-face, as she had begun to think of him didn't let her get very far. He stopped her with a sharp tug on her hand.
"Don't listen to them Lusty, they're soldiers in need of some entertainment. You have to realize that you are a legend in these parts. I'm sure they meant it as a compliment." He finished, barely able to stop the laugh that threatened to escape. He really was better looking when he smiled, not that she cared; she had other things to worry about.