Night Child(7)

By: Ann Major


Her first captor had been big, but he seemed as nothing compared to this man. A rough, callused hand covered her soft mouth and strangled her scream.

As he pushed her deeper into the darkness, she felt the terror tugging at her, making her markedly conscious of how slight and fragile her body was compared to his. He jammed her against the wall with his powerful torso and twisted her face so that a single bar of moonlight from a high, narrow window slanted across it.

Though he brought his face close to hers, she couldn't see him. His hard features were shrouded in darkness, but she could feel his gaze burning across her face, studying her, no doubt assessing her charms. Was he going to take her for himself? Or share her with the rest of his friends on the roof? Suddenly the four walls of her cell seemed a paradise when she thought of being used by this brutal stranger and his cohorts.

Rough fingers trailed the length of her throat. He lifted the medallion and held it for a long moment. Then he sifted through her hair, holding it to the light as well. During this intense inspection of her face and necklace and hair, she could feel her heart pounding, her breasts pushing against his chest. He was holding her so intimately that it was impossible not to know the exact moment when his maleness reacted to the feminine nearness of her helpless body. Panicking, she twisted, and her body rubbed itself even more tightly against him in that most intimate of places. She felt the warmth of him, the size of him. Too late, she froze.

She could feel his lips curl in mockery at her modesty. Some taunting guttural sound came from his throat. He let her hair fall like a veil over her shoulder.

There was no way she could stop him from doing whatever he intended, but she held herself rigid, raising her chin in helpless defiance, and stared hard at him, her black eyes crying her fear and hatred of him.

To her amazement, when she stilled he relaxed his grip on her mouth, and the minute he did she bit his hand so hard, she tasted the bitter metallic flavor of his blood.

"Bitch!"

She was so caught up in struggling to free herself from him that she didn't notice he had spoken in English, and that his perfect pronunciation of the insult was American. She lurched past him, stumbled down the stairs, limped the length of the hall and fell full force against Aslam.

"You see there is no escape, pretty American girl," Aslam said grimly, grabbing her by the throat.

She thought he knew of the stranger on the stairs. "Why don't you bullies just shoot me, and get it over with?" she whispered.

"That would be too quick. Too easy." He touched her cheek briefly once, almost gently. "You should not have danced for Prince Ali, pretty American girl. It was big mistake. I have never killed a woman before. I do not like to kill you. You are brave—for a woman. But foolish, as all women are." He threw her roughly toward her prison.

He did not want to kill her, he said, but he would.

In the darkness of her cell, after he was gone, she closed her eyes, and the blackness seemed to suck her deeper and deeper. There was a blinding white flash and a stabbing pain in the back of her head. Only this time there were even more images that made no sense to her.

She was a child running lightly toward a boy who had an Indian-dark face, green eyes and straight black hair. He was holding out his arms, and she was filled with an inexplicable joy. From behind her, without warning, she heard the sound of thunder, only it wasn't thunder. It was a man on a demon-horse, the pounding of its hooves shaking the earth as man and horse bore down on her. Frightened, she turned back to the boy with the green eyes, but he had disappeared. Just as she was fainting with terror beneath the flying hooves, a hand clamped around her waist, pulling her up, slinging her belly down across the saddle. The last thing she saw was the mad gallop of horse's hooves, the careening ground, flying rocks.

Slowly Dawn came back to the present, but her courage had melted before this vision. Every nerve-ending in her body was vibrating with fear. Was she losing her mind? Was it the perpetual darkness? Was that why she was having these terrifying white flashes? She'd never been able to stand the darkness.

She collapsed on her filthy pallet. Whether it was hours or minutes later, she would never know. Something heavy thudded against the wall outside, arousing her from her terrified lethargy. She sat up and strained to hear. Someone or something fell hard again. There was a muffled cry of pain as fist slammed into bone. A boot heel into gut. A desperate battle was going on out in the hall. She heard a single shriek of agony and recognized that it belonged to Aslam.

He had come back.

Why?

Was it time for her to die?

There was an ominous quiet, but she knew someone was outside the door.

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