Being the Maid Ch. 09byGoldeniangel©
Later he would realize that a few hours of sleep under a tree, preceded and followed by a horse ride, was scarcely substitute for a full night's sleep. He would also realize that he had been more than physically tired. After all, it had been three years since he'd been allowed to live his own life, his real life. Three years since he'd seen his father or mother, or visited his half-brother's grave. By now he would have missed the marriage of his other young half-brother or seen him complete his growth from youth to man. Three years of playing robber for Patrick, of whom he was decidedly tired. And Bridget had only exacerbated the situation for he was tired of the other men's eyes on her, of knowing that last night they'd had unfettered access to her, so damned tired of worrying over her safety. He just wanted to get his girl and get out, as quickly as possible and his wits deserted him in favor of straight action - something he hadn't been able to indulge in the past three years, and he was tired of that too.
Or maybe it was also some long-suppressed half-baked notion of honor that made him speak out so. After all, he had spent the second half of his life learning to be a gentleman.
Silence greeted Garrett's pronouncement that he was not only leaving, but that he intended to take Bridget with him. For a moment it seemed as if the world had frozen in place. She felt like she couldn't breathe, as if there was an iron band tightening around her ribs. Not only had she been shocked to find him back in the camp so early in the morning, but now he wanted her with him? Now, after leaving without even looking at her? Her body still ached from yesterday's excesses, her muscles feeling stiff and sore.
And yet part of her exulted in knowing that he wanted her with him. Another part was cursing her for being ten kinds of stupid for rejoicing. It was entirely possible that he wanted her for nothing more than a convenient outlet for his pleasures. Although, that would certainly be preferable for her than her current situation even if the idea did make her heart ache. Not to mention that she did enjoy spending time with Garrett, no matter that she was still mostly furious with him.
All of these thoughts flitted through her head in the time it took Patrick to put his hands on his hips and throw his head back in wild laughter. The sound ripped through the air, everyone else standing silently and watching him. When he lowered his head back to face Garrett, Bridget's body chilled. While there was a smile on his face, there was no true humor in his eyes. The smile was a twisted, malicious thing, and strangely triumphant. The tension that had been growing between the two men seemed thing as a wire, shivering between them to the point of breaking.
The expression on Garrett's face flickered, from almost confusion to a kind of resignation and then to determination.
"Ahh... at last," Patrick said, his hand caressing the sword at his belt. Bridget could see Garrett's fingers twitch although he didn't reach for his own quite yet and she wanted to scream at him. "I was wondering when it would come to this." The wild grin on his face didn't seem entirely sane.
Out of the corner of her eye, Bridget saw Blaine shift, his own hand on the knife at his belt. Bile rose in the back of her throat - what on earth had Garrett been thinking? As if Patrick would just let them go because Garrett announced it! And Bridget was quickly realizing that she would much prefer to go with Garrett, ill treatment of her emotions or not.
"Is there something wrong?" Garrett asked, his voice deceptively mild. The humming tension seemed to buzz in Bridget's ears and she held her breath, afraid to make the smallest sound.
"You. You are all wrong."
The sound of metal unsheathing was fast and slick, and as the two men lunged at each other she saw Blaine pulling his knife from his belt. But who would he attack? Steel clanged as Garrett and Patrick circled around each other, swords flashing in the sunlight, their movements were graceful and confident - almost beautiful if it wasn't so deadly. As Garrett moved so that his back was to Blaine, she saw the boyish looking man shift his stance and set his arm back as if preparing to throw.
Holding in her shriek of fear, smart enough not to distract the combatants, Bridget flung herself at him before he could swing his arm forward. She crashed into him and they went tumbling, his arm snapping forward and releasing the knife. Shouts sounded to the right of her but she couldn't see where she had hit, suddenly she was scrabbling in the dirt, trying to get away from the snarling Blaine as his fingers clamped like a vise around her arm, hard enough to bruise. Now she screamed, a battle cry, as she tried to claw at his eyes with her free hand.
A muscular arm wrapped around her waist and pulled her away, tearing her arm from Blaine's grasp with a painful twist that had her shrieking again as she kicked out at whoever was holding her.
"Be still," she heard Samuel snarl as he tossed her away like she was nothing but baggage. Landing heavily on the ground she felt the wind knocked from her as she struggled for air and sound footing.
Pushing herself up to her hands and knees she blinked in astonishment, she saw that Samuel and Blaine were now fighting, with nothing more than their bare hands. Garrett and Patrick were still slashing at each other, although Garrett was now bleeding from a long cut on his arm and Patrick seemed to be favoring his right leg. The Princess had completely disappeared - escaped again or hiding in her tent?
Good grief, could she find a better time? Surely whichever men won would hunt down the women - or would they decide they didn't care? As much as she wanted to tell herself that Garrett couldn't care less what women he shared his bed with, some instinctive part of her knew that she was lying to herself. He wouldn't have done something so foolish as announced his intention to take her with him if he didn't care. But would he hunt her down or let her go? Or what if Garrett wasn't one of the winners of this brawl?
Looking over at the fire where she had started preparing breakfast, Bridget made her decision. She crawled, ignoring the sounds and grunts of the men fighting around her, doing her best not to draw their attention as she made her way to the food. Grabbing the knife that she used on vegetables - it wasn't dull but it wasn't sharp - Bridget turned her attention back to the men. Samuel and Blaine still seemed evenly matched, both bloodied and bruised but whaling on each other with every evidence that they would keep going... but Garrett was moving slower. Already he had more cuts on his arms and she wondered again at how fast he'd managed to return to the camp - obviously he hadn't gotten enough rest the night before.
Clutching the knife tightly in her grip, she had already begun moving towards him and Patrick and gotten within ten feet of them when they turned again and Garrett stumbled over a rock on the ground, losing his footing and falling backwards, his sword flying out of his grip. Bridget gasped and Patrick whirled around as she rushed forward, releasing his sword with one hand and catching her around the waist.
Wild laughter spilled from his mouth as he pulled her to him, triumph in every line of his body. She felt herself pressed against him as he aimed the sword at Garrett's unprotected stomach and nausea churned inside of her. Gripping the knife in her hand hard, she shoved it into Patrick's body, aiming to push the blade between his ribs and into his heart, and he grunted, his arm tightening around her.
When their eyes met his were filled with all the fury of hell.
"Damn you..." he rasped, his weight pushing down on her as sticky liquid covered her hands and skirt. Bridget sobbed in fear, trying to push him away as he fell atop her, bearing her down to the ground. She could actually feel the life shuddering out of him as he lay atop of her.
Suddenly the dead weight was pushed off of her and Garrett was holding her. She sobbed into his shoulder, not caring that she was angry at him, not caring that he winced as she inadvertently gripped a wound on his arm. In fact, she was nearing hysterics, despite the soothing words he was murmuring in her ear. Never before had she done anything like that. She'd seen dead men and women of course, and animals, but had never felt someone actually die literally on top of her, where she had been able to feel every ragged breath as the life ebbed from his body.
Garrett got her bent over just in time as her stomach roiled and she vomited.
Rubbing Bridget's back, Garrett kept a wary eye on Samuel and Blaine. Although he and Samuel had come to an agreement before Garrett had left last night, he wasn't sure how Samuel would feel about Patrick's death. After all, Samuel had worked on and off for the man years longer than he'd been working for Garrett's father. Which loyalty would win out?
It looked like he'd beaten Blaine into either unconsciousness or death, and at this point Garrett was too wrung out to care which. Except that death would probably be better, because Blaine had been completely loyal to Patrick. Some kind of family connection. Killing a man in cold blood was not one of Garrett's favorite past times, but in the case of Blaine it might be necessary if he still lived. So far no movement, but he was too far away to see if Blaine was breathing. Sometimes, like now, Garrett cursed the life that he'd chosen. Although it made him indispensable to his father and was a great service to England, he could feel lit slowly robbing him of many of the virtues his father had sought to instill in him - honor, chivalry, generosity, humanity.
But in his line of work, being cold and unfeeling led to better results than allowing oneself the luxury of real emotions. Indifference was a shield against regret, rage, and guilt. For three years he'd lived doing whatever he needed to in order to get the job done, because the means were necessary for the end.
And then the woman who was trembling against him came along and he found himself feeling again. Just look to what that had led to - a return to 'honor' which involved facing Patrick, getting himself wounded, risking her life, and Samuel and Blaine's involvement. Not to mention the blood of another man, possibly two, on his hands. Men that he had eaten with, rode with, and fought with; whether or not they were bandits, there had been a connection between them. Perhaps Bridget was also his savior then, for by the time she came along he'd truly started to sink down to their standards and morals, becoming so numb inside that it had taken a bright and shining spirit like hers to bring him back out again.
Turning, she clutched at his tunic and burst into tears on his shoulder. He winced, feeling the ache in his arms from the shallow cuts that he'd had to take in order to prevent worst injury, but put his arms around her anyway and let her cry it out. Across the clearing Samuel was inspecting the pile of loot that Garrett had brought back and the Princess was peering out of the tent, now that the noises of fighting had gone away. Seeing her he let out an internal sigh. Another problem to deal with, and he really wasn't sure how to go about getting her back where she was supposed to be.
"Shhh, sweetheart, everything's fine, you did wonderfully," he murmured into Bridget's ear as he stroked her back soothingly. He continued to murmur soft words of encouragement in her ear, feeling quite sure that she wasn't truly listening but that his tone and general support would get through to her. Really she'd done wonderfully, some men didn't have the presence of mind that she had. It was just another reason he admired her, and... dared he even think it? Loved her. In his life he'd been with many women, some for pleasure, some to cement his identity with the bandit gang, but never before had any wormed their way into his heart quite like Bridget had. She made him ashamed of the part that he'd played with Patrick and the other men and she also made him want to be a better man.
It might be time to quit his job. Or ask for reassignment. He thought of the papers tucked away inside of his tunic. Once he handed those over, he would be done with this assignment, so it was an ideal time to make a change.
"Are we staying or leaving?" asked Samuel, his voice careless.
"Leaving," said Garrett, glancing at Blaine's still body. "Is he dead?"
"Still breathing but he'll be out for a while."
"Then we'll leave him with some loot and food, if he wakes he can use it. We won't miss it." Blaine was a terrible tracker so Garrett had no worries that he might be able to find them once they left, especially if they got enough of a head start. Particularly since he was injured.
Samuel shrugged. "I might miss the loot."
"I'll pay you enough to make up the difference," said Garrett. "And my father will probably give you a bonus for saving my life."
The cruel blonde man grinned. "Why else do you think I did it?"
They looked at each other and Garrett smiled. At one point in his life he might have looked down on Samuel's ethics, but he'd lived too long with the same ones to truly judge him. The man was mercenary through and through, but it seemed that he had his own sense of honor - once bought, he stayed bought. And right now, Garrett's father had done the buying.
Looking down he became aware that Bridget had worked her way out of her sobs and was starting to pay attention to their conversation. "Pack up whatever you want to take with you," he told her. "We're leaving within the hour."
"Where are we going?" she asked.
********* By the time they made camp that night, Bridget was starting to feel slightly more human again. Garrett sat her down by the fire which he hastily made, across from the Princess, and he and Samuel made the camp ready. She shivered convulsively, unable to think of anything but the feel of Patrick's body against hers, shuddering and weakening. A blanket draped over her back and arms and she looked up to see Garrett frowning down at her.
"Here," he said, handing her a flask. "Drink this."
In a bit of a daze, Bridget brought the flask to her mouth and swallowed the liquid. It burned, surprising her, and she coughed and sputtered. Garrett's dark eyes crinkled as if he wanted to laugh at her and she glared at him before taking another swallow of the alcohol. Although it had been unexpected, this was not the first time that she'd tasted spirits and she welcomed the warmth in her belly, the heat that spread through her limbs, and especially the dampening of her overwhelming emotions.
After she'd taken four long pulls on the flask, Garrett took it away from her. "That's enough," he said gently. "You can have more after you've eaten something."
She felt a small spurt of anger that he was still ordering her around, but the alcohol was already doing its work through her system, she felt too good to truly be angry. Instead she just watched him move about the fire, cooking and speaking in occasional mutters with Samuel. Once dinner was ready, Garrett brought her some food and she ate, although she insisted that he hand over the flask so that she could take a few more swallows from it.
"Don't make yourself sick," he cautioned, watching her with worried eyes.
"Don't tell me what to do," Bridget muttered and was surprised to see a small smile curve his lips. They were such nice lips really, so soft and... talented. Bridget licked her own lips as she stared at Garrett's mouth. Did he know what an incredibly handsome man he was?
The liquor was moving through her veins, making everything seem almost hazy, dream-like, and she found herself enjoying Garrett's warmth beside her. It was so easy, under the influence of the warm fuzziness in her body, to forget that she was angry with him and so she leaned into his side, sighing happily as he curved his arm around her and pulled her closer.
"Come on Princess," she heard Samuel say, his voice cruel and eager. Blinking muzzily she stared across the fire, where the two people-shapes seemed to blur and multiply as they moved towards the tent. They were going to have sex.
Heat spread from her belly down to her core, kindling sweet need between her legs as Garrett's fingers stroked her side.
Watching Samuel take the Princess off to the tent, he wondered if he should try to stop them... but that would just lead to another fight and he was pretty sure it was a fight he would lose. Besides, in many ways Samuel would be easier on the Princess than Patrick had been, and Garrett had already seen for himself that the Princess like roughness and pain with her pleasure. It eased his conscience somewhat, a conscience that hadn't bothered him in far too long before the woman beside him had come into his life.
Even now, obviously drunk, he found her incredibly admirable. She'd ridden all day without complaint and had even had the fortitude and spirit to stand up to him when he'd given her his flask. After the shock of killing a man - he was quite sure that it was her first - he figured that she'd need as little anesthetic to help her get to sleep. Although he hadn't expected her to drink perhaps quite so much, but he didn't want to deny it to her if she needed it. Not after today.
Stroking her side softly, he wondered how on earth he was going to explain himself to her, what excuse he could make to her that she would find reasonable, justifiable, for the way that she had been treated. Even rescuing her from the situation didn't seem like quite enough. And he was sure that it would be enough to convince her to go with him. But he wanted her to. He'd never met another woman like her, and already knowing her had turned him into a better man - or at least started him back on the road towards the good man that he'd used to be.
Somehow all his priorities had changed over the time that he'd come to know her, from the desire to serve his father, king and country, to wanting to settle down on his own piece of land, to take advantage of the promise his father had made him. Of course, he'd meant to take that land eventually anyway, but he'd thought he'd had a few more years left in his current business. At least one or two more assignments, although none of them would have been quite as personal as this one.
"Garrett," murmured the beauty at his side, breaking through his thoughts, and he looked down into her big doe-eyes, glimmering in the campfire light. "Kiss me."
She was definitely drunk... but what could it hurt? And her berry-ripe lips were far too irresistible as she flicked her little pink tongue out at him. Besides, he took it as a good sign that she still wanted his kiss.
Lowering his head he met her lips gently, intending to give her a brief kiss, but her hands came up to his neck and pulled him against her hard, her tongue thrusting into his mouth in the most wanton manner and Garrett groaned as his body responded. She kissed him with an intensity and fervor that she had never displayed before, taking control of his mouth and sucking his tongue into hers. It was a passionate, heady kiss, and it took every ounce of willpower he possessed to break it off, his cock rock hard and pressing against the inside of his breeches.
But Bridget was drunk. More than drunk, she'd killed a man today and he'd died practically on top of her. That kind of adrenaline and near death experience was often followed by a need for love making, Garrett was feeling it himself, but he didn't want her like this. Tomorrow she would wake... and what if she regretted their joining? He didn't want her filled with regret or shame when he asked her to come with him, because then of course she would say no. So he pulled away, leaving her panting and breathless and himself aching with need for her.