Sweet Revenge Ch. 02byharemgirl©
Karina struggled up from the depths of unconsciousness. Her limbs were strangely weighted down, and her head felt as if it were filled with cotton. Desert sand seemed to have coated her throat, and she thought she would pay anything for a glass of water right then. She tried for several moments before she was able to open her eyes to mere slits. Even then, the light of the single candle burning in the room hurt her eyes, and she squeezed them shut again.
In the moment she had opened her eyes, nothing seemed familiar, and she wondered vaguely where she was. She tried hard to remember what had happened to her. Had she fainted? She had never been one to swoon, so she wasn't sure if this was what it felt like to faint. She tried to recall how she had gotten here, but all she could remember was a rolling motion, as if she were adrift on the sea. The motion had seemed to go on forever, but perhaps it was only for a few moments? She had no idea how long she had been unconscious, but she felt an urgent need to rouse.
Karina tried once again to open her eyes, and she managed to open them slightly. The pain from the light was less intense this time, and she blinked several times to clear her vision. She looked around and was surprised to find that the walls seemed to be made of some kind of fabric. They hung at strange angles, and weird shadows danced against them, thrown by the single candle burning on a stand beside her. She realized that she was inside a tent. But how could that be? There certainly weren't any tents around the Viceroy's palace.
She looked down and saw that she was lying on a bed of sorts, made from several thick, soft pads topped by silk sheets. She was still dressed in her finery from the ball, but there were smudges of dirt on her dress and her hair was in complete disarray, with some of the pins coming loose.
She couldn't imagine where she was. She managed to sit up, and moaned slightly as her head began to spin all over again. Her throat was very dry, and she found it difficult to swallow. She heard a small movement, and whirled to see a man reclining on a pile of pillows not far away. Her quick movement made her head reel, and she reached up to touch her temple, as her world slowly stopped spinning. The man made no movement toward her. He simply sat in the shadows and watched her.
The candle burning beside the bed was the only light in the room, and the man was shrouded in darkness. Karina was surprised to see how large the tent was. The bed she sat on had two small tables beside it, and the sleeping area was separated from the rest of the tent by a curtain that could be drawn when desired. On the other side of the curtain was an area for preparing food and a small table low to the ground. Beside that was a large seating area, with plush pillows arranged in a circular pattern on the floor, and it was there that the man lay on his side, leaning on an elbow. She squinted at him and was able to ascertain that he was dressed in a traditional Arabic robe, and his head was covered by a long cloth and wrapped by a double thickness of rope. She couldn't make out his features in the darkness, but she could see that he was watching her. She could only see the candlelight reflecting in his eyes.
"Where am I?" she managed to croak. He didn't respond, but cocked his head slightly to one side as he returned her stare. Perhaps he didn't speak English. She knew almost no Arabic, and her mind raced as she wondered how she might communicate with him. She swallowed to moisten her parched throat and tried again. "Wanee?" she asked in Arabic, using one of the few words she had learned in case she got lost to ask where she was. There was still no response. "Please sir, tell me how I came to be here."
"I brought you here," he said, so low that she had to strain to hear him.
Karina noticed that he had spoken in perfect English, and she tried to subdue a rising sense of panic. The stranger's delay in responding made her hackles rise.
"But why? I don't understand." When he gave no answer, she made her voice as commanding as she could. "Where have you taken me? My father will be very angry when he is unable to find me!" She spoke in the same stern tone of voice that she had used in the past to handle difficult servants or a naughty sister. However, it didn't have the desired effect on this man.
Finally, he rose from his pallet and sauntered toward her with feline grace. It was the way he walked that finally made her brain register where she had heard that voice before. She knew who he was before he entered the circle of light.
"You!" The word burst from her mouth as she stared at him in shock.
He stepped before her and executed another deep bow. "Sir Richard Bryant, at your service." His smile didn't reach his eyes, and the coldness in those deep green orbs caused tiny goosebumps to rise on her flesh.
Her mind raced, as images flooded back. The wine, the dizziness. He had drugged her! But why? "Have you lost your mind? Why on earth are you dressed like that, and why have you brought me here."
He canted his head slightly to one side again. "All you know about me is that I am Sir Richard Bryant, Earl of Wiltshire. But what you don't know is that I am also known to the Bedouins as Rashid, one of their own. They look to me as their Sheik, their leader, their protector. In order to fulfill that role, I dropped out of polite society a few years ago. Only my Bedouin people know of my dual identity."
Her amazement was written clearly on her features. For the second time this evening, she racked her brain, trying to remember everything she had ever heard about this man. However, this time, she was trying to remember references to the Sheik Rashid. She hoped that her father's references to him were more accurate than those of Lord Rawlins, for her father had always believed him to be an honorable man! She swallowed convulsively and tried to bolster her sagging confidence.
He was watching her closely. Indeed, too closely! "You must be very thirsty. Here, take some water." He handed her an earthenware cup filled with cold, clear water.
She took it and shivered as her cold fingers brushed his warm ones. Glaring up at him, she inquired acidly, "Is the water drugged too?" He merely gave her an insolent smile, and despite her unease, she drank as if she had never seen water before. When she had drained the cup completely, she handed it back, feeling only slightly better. "You still haven't answered my question," she stated as calmly as she could. "Why have you brought me here?"
He gave her another icy smile. "You, my dear Karina, are my revenge against your father, Sir William Sinclair."
"Revenge?" she whispered incredulously. "You said yourself that you had never even met him before! Why could you possibly be seeking revenge against a man you've never met?"
"I may never have met your father, but unfortunately my wife did. Just before he raped and murdered her." He uttered the words with a deadly calm that assured Karina he wasn't joking.
"No, it's not true!" Karina felt as if the world were teetering again, as the blood drained from her face. "My father has never injured a soul, nor would he ever harm a woman!"
Richard returned her stare and answered with barely suppressed rage. "I assure you, it is true. Your father raped and murdered my wife. He made sure I would know it was him."
Her shock and disbelief were evident on Karina's face, as she shook her head vehemently. "No, you are wrong! I know my father, and he would never do something like that."
"I'm sure that to you, he is a loving father, and you find it hard to imagine him capable of such brutality. But as you have witnessed tonight, there is often more than one side to a man."
Still shaking her head emphatically, she said "I will never believe that what you say is true, but regardless of what you believe, what does this have to do with me? I had nothing to do with what happened to your poor wife!"
He narrowed his eyes as he considered her. "My first reaction was to simply hunt your father down and slit his throat. But after some thought, I decided that method wouldn't bring him a sufficient amount of pain. You see, I loved my wife very much, and she was carrying my child. So, your father not only deprived me of my wife, he deprived me of my unborn child!"
He paused as she digested this new information. "The more I thought about it, the more I realized that you, his first daughter, would provide me with the perfect revenge. By kidnapping you, I would deprive him of his child. That is fitting justice, for him to experience losing someone he dearly loves."
"But I have nothing to do with this! I am innocent!" Her voice cracked with her rising panic, and she felt the blood drain from her face.
"So was my wife! While it is regrettable that you have to pay for deeds you didn't commit, I can see no better way to hurt your father than through you." The words were spoken with deadly calm.
Her fear was a tangible thing now. She backed away from him slowly, her eyes frantically searching for an escape or some weapon to use in her defense. "You're planning to kill me then Lord Bryant?"
He followed in her wake, not trying to stop her. "Please, call me Richard. I have no plans to harm you. You will be returned to your father in excellent health. Eventually."
"Eventually? What are you planning to do with me in the meantime?"
He closed the distance between them. "In the meantime, you will serve as my mistress, until you provide me with a child to replace the one I lost."
Karina's jaw dropped. "Your mistress! You must be out of your mind to imagine that I would become your mistress. I would die a thousand deaths before I would sink that low." She whirled away from him and ran to the flap of the tent. Throwing it aside, she charged through the opening, and straight into the broad expanse of a well muscled back. Her momentum threw her flatly on her backside, just as the huge wall of a man turned to see who had run into him.
Richard followed her at a leisurely pace and easily lifted her to her feet. Taking her arm in an iron grip, he pulled her back into the tent as he said something to the other man in Arabic. Karina turned to the stranger and saw him smile as his eyes swept her from head to toe and back again, pausing for a long moment on the generous swell of her bosom. Then, he looked at Richard and replied in Arabic. They broke into laughter, and Karina fought down a furious shriek, refusing to give them the satisfaction of seeing her annoyance. They were obviously discussing her attributes, and she shivered with disgust.
The other man sauntered away, as Richard dropped the flap of the tent back into place. "It will do you no good to try and escape," he said as if lecturing a small child. All the while he was holding her arm and steering her back into the tent. "We are in the middle of the desert, and even if you should manage to get out of our village, you wouldn't know where to go from there. You would die of thirst and exposure."
This time, Karina did release a furious shriek, as she tried to yank her arm out of his firm grasp. "I would much rather die in the desert than to accept the fate you have in mind for me! Unhand me this instant!"
She pummeled his chest with her fists and tried to stomp on his foot with her heel, all with about as much effect as a flea swatting an elephant. He held her firmly and shook her to get her attention, before he pulled her none too gently against his broad chest. Her breath left her in a whoosh, and she looked up at him through wide eyes as her breasts pressed upward against him, nearly overflowing her dress. She could see, from the muscles working in his jaw that she had angered him, but she was too angry herself to take much notice.
"You don't seem to understand. You are now my possession. I will handle you when and where I wish." His eyes raked her heaving bosom. "You might as well accept that and resign yourself to your fate."
"I won't!" Karina's temper had finally reached its full zenith. "The only way you will get me into your bed is by force. And even if you manage that, I will find a way to escape!"
Richard's eyes narrowed at her, and his arms bit into the flesh of her upper arms. "Unlike your father, who simply resorts to rape, I have no intention of forcing you. You will become my mistress willingly or not at all!"
Once more, Karina's jaw dropped open in surprise. "You really are insane! I will never willingly become your whore! Even now my father is probably hot on your trail, coming to rescue me. If I were you, I would be less worried about revenge, and more concerned with how you can save your miserable hide!"
While her intent was to strike some fear into her tormentor, her words didn't have the desired effect. In fact, he burst into laughter. Karina took the opportunity to break away from his embrace. She stood with arms akimbo, one delicate brow raised in irritation. "Just what do you find so amusing?"
Richard finally managed to stop laughing long enough to respond. "Oh, my little spitfire! Your father doesn't even know you have been abducted. He thinks that you ran away because of his ultimatum that you choose a husband."
Karina's eyes opened wide. "How do you know about that?" she asked accusingly.
He grinned down at her. "I know many things about you. I have been watching you for several weeks, waiting for the right opportunity to snatch you from your father. I know all about the heated arguments the two of you have had, and what they were about." His eyes dropped to her heaving bosom before meeting hers again. "You would have soon become some man's reluctant bride, so you might just as well be my reluctant mistress."
Karina whirled away from him, growling her frustration. "Oh, you cad! How do you dare to call yourself a gentleman and claim the title of Lord? You're despicable!" She spat the words at him with a venomous glare.
Richard grabbed her by the shoulders and spun her around to face him again. "I never claimed to be a gentleman, but I have as much right to the title of Lord as your bastard of a father!"
Karina slapped him as hard as she could. Even as she watched, a large red mark appeared where her hand had made contact with his cheek, and her palm burned with the force of the blow.
Richard's eyes snapped with barely restrained fury, as he spoke in a menacingly low voice. "Don't ever, ever do that again, unless you want the same treatment. As you are well aware, I do not take lightly to being misused, and I wouldn't be above taking you over my knee to deliver a much needed spanking to your tender backside."
Karina swallowed convulsively, but she refused to bow to his authority. "Don't ever call my father a bastard again, and I won't be forced to slap you."
The muscles in Richard's jaw worked as he tried to regain control of his temper. Karina was turning out to be even more fiery natured than he had assumed, and he was going to have his hands full trying to tame her to his will. They stood nose to nose, glaring at each other. It occurred to him that this woman, while she should be terrified of him, was not showing any fear. He admired that, but he kept any approval from showing in his eyes.
"You've been warned," he growled.
He released her and strode a short distance away before turning back toward her. "Now as to the other, you have a choice. Either you will become my mistress willingly, or I will resort to my earlier plan and kill your father outright."
Karina's heart skipped a beat. "You would never be able to kill my father. His house is well protected, and he is quite adept at defending himself."
Richard laughed, but there was no humor in the sound. "Rest assured, I would get to him just like I got to you. I was able to whisk you away from under your father's very nose! I already have some of my people working in your father's household, and as I said, he doesn't even know you have been kidnapped. He thinks you ran away on your own, so he won't be overly cautious. I would only have to decide which method to use to make him suffer while he dies."
This revelation brought real fear to Karina. Her mind raced as she remembered that her father had only recently hired two new housemen. She swallowed hard, as she realized they must be Richard's men. If she refused this man, and he did kill her father, Karina would never be able to live with herself.
"How can I trust you? Even if I submit to your demands, how can I be assured that you won't harm my father anyway in your quest for revenge?"
Richard narrowed his eyes as he closed the distance between them in slow, prowling strides. "Because, my little dove, if I had wanted to kill your father, I would have done so tonight. I want him to live and to know that I thoroughly enjoyed using his daughter. Every time he looks at you, I want him to imagine me climbing between your thighs. I want him to know his beloved daughter was my whore." As he said the words, he reached up and fondled her breast crudely.
Karina slapped his hand away, as her cheeks burned. She found it humiliating that he could be so familiar with her body, and her mind rebelled at the images he conjured.
Her reaction had no effect on Richard, other than to increase his amusement. He was going to enjoy taming this woman! "What ever else you may think of me, I am a man of my word. Should you choose to become my mistress, you will be treated well, and your father will remain safe. As soon as you have given me a child, I will return you safely to your home. Should you choose to refuse me, I will kill your father. Either way, I will have my revenge."
Karina could see that he was deadly serious. "You have left me no choice! You know I can't refuse you, knowing that you would kill my father. But know this, I may surrender to your demands, but I will hate you with every fiber of my being! Every time you touch me, you will know how much I hate you and loathe your touch!"
Richard stared into her eyes. "Your hatred means nothing to me. In fact, I don't want your affection. But as to the other, I have no doubt that you will enjoy my touch. I know from our experience in the garden just how responsive you can be."
Karina felt her cheeks burn with anger and shame, and she lashed out to slap him again, but he captured her wrist in an iron grip. "How dare you! You took advantage of me! I had no idea what you were really like, or I would never have responded to your kiss!"
Richard released her unexpectedly and gave her a slight push, which sent her sprawling onto the bed. "Enough! I am weary of sparring with you. You have made your decision. If you try to escape, I will let you die a horrible death in the desert, and I will take my revenge against your father as originally planned."
He turned away from the tears he could see welling in her eyes. "I will allow you a few minutes of privacy to prepare your mind for what is to come. When I return, I expect to find you willing and waiting." With that, he whirled and left the tent, leaving Karina alone.
She rose and paced the length of the bed and back in her agitation. How dare he? He planned to use her crudely and wanted her to agree willingly. Well, she wouldn't! She would fight and claw and scratch with all the strength she possessed. She might lose the struggle, but at least she would maintain her dignity, knowing that she had not become his willing whore!
Karina jerked when the tent flap was raised and a small woman entered the tent. The woman paused in the doorway, before slowly approaching Karina, who waited with apprehension. Karina could see that she was dressed in a loose, flowing black dress, devoid of any adornment. Her hair was hidden beneath a scarf, but wisps of it had been brought out to frame her face. Judging from the liberal sprinkling of gray hairs and the wrinkles lining her kind face, Karina judged her to be of advancing years. Her wide brown eyes were gentle and warm, and Karina felt herself relax slightly.