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Sliding along feeling the thick rope beneath her feet, she drew deep breaths, focusing on the point where the rope ended and became a solid stand again. She moved with grace and skill honed by many hours of training. The taut rope felt solid to her now and she pivoted midway along her route to the gasps of the watchers. Below her, the others in her troupe prepared the finale, a spectacle of tumbling, juggling and fire, while she held the audiences in rapt attention with small wobbles and feigned unbalanced movements as she spun and twirled her way across the rope above their heads.

Eventually she was given a signal from the giant Alec. With a cheeky smile and a wink to the audience below she dove off the rope, the cries of those watching singing in her ears as she spun mid air to be caught by the giant. After acknowledging the cheers and applause from the crowd for a moment she tumbled away in a series of back flips to join the troupe in the finale. She smiled widely genuinely enjoying the fast paced movements and intricate series of tricks she was involved in as the show came to an end.

Rapturous applause greeted them as they moved forward to bow ostentatiously signalling the end of the performance. Leaving the small arena in place the troupe began to mingle with the crowd. Maurice the troupe leader was in his element. He took all the accolades as his own and she smiled as she watched him soak up the spot light. Quietly, she wandered to the edges of the crowds and onto the tent housing the harvest feast. She was always famished after a performance, her nerves making her unable to eat the day before. These were good people. They had become her friends and family as they travelled through villages and towns, the anxiousness of ever letting them down gripped her deeply.

The feast was sumptuous and she ate her fill sitting demurely in a corner her face bent to the food not inviting any conversation from those around her. Alec came to sit beside her. The giant had become her closest friend, mostly because he was as quiet as her. He didn’t waste his words,, he said what he meant and never tried to pry into her past or what haunted her. She looked up at the man whose strong arms caught her safely every time she flew from the high rope and smiled.

“Good food.” He said between mouthfuls, “You should eat more you are too skinny. My arms could catch three of you easy.”

“I have eaten plenty, look,” she giggled as she poked out her belly rubbing it, the small rounded bulge showing clearly under her good dress. “Any more and I might do you damage when you try to catch me.”

Alec snorted in amusement taking a honey cake from his mound of food and placing it before her. “Eat,” He said simply.

Laughing she picked up the cake and took a bite, “Okay but don’t complain when I’m so heavy I break your arms when try to you catch me.”

He rolled his eyes at her, happy that she was eating more. They sat in companionable silence as they finished their food. Finally he looked at her, “Ale?” he questioned.

“No. I need some fresh air but I will walk with you as far as the tavern.”

As the revellers in the village continued to celebrate the end of the Harvest Season and the coming of the Season of Frost, Honey farewelled Alec and continued on to the edge of the village, walking quietly through the moonlit meadow near their camp. She looked up at the full moon smiling, reaching her arms out wide she spun around feeling the effects of the goblet of mulled wine she had had with her meal. “Life was good,” she thought. It was not always so and she revelled in her good fortune of being able to join this troupe as it passed through a village she had been hiding in many moons ago.

Flopping back into the long grass she stared up at the moon, the harvest moon. Her mind wandered to the same harvest moon so long ago when she had fled her home. Her father, the Duke of Martizen, drunken and full of bluff had lost heavily playing dice with well to do visitors. He had put her freedom up as his stake in the end and lost once more. She was supposed to be delivered to the man who won her the following day to be wed. That was the day she ran away.

She remembered with a shiver the man she was to marry, Kade. His serious unsmiling face, the way others seem to fear his moods and she knew she would be trading one tyrant for another. She felt no regret at what would happen to her father when she fled. He had been demanding and brutal since the passing of her mother into the evermore and, try as she might, she could not find a fond memory of him. Nor did she want to, so she roused herself and slowly made her way back to camp.

Expecting most of the troupe to still be at the celebrations, she made her way to the tent she shared with Maurice. Seeing her pack safely tucked under her bed, she berated herself for becoming complacent. She had stayed longer than was safe with these people but she finally felt like she belonged somewhere. From the pack she took out her dark blouse and a pair of pants fashioned to seem like a skirt so they would pass a cursory glance but give her freedom of movement if she needed to run once again. Stowing her one good dress back into the pack with her few precious belongings she lay down to sleep in the dark garments.

As dawn was breaking, she was roused from her sleep by Maurice. Ostensibly the others saw her as his mistress and this was how she had able to join the troupe so easily. The reality was that Maurice liked men, pretty young men even better. Villages mostly frowned on this type of love and she gave him the appearance of respectability if any questions were raised. When he was unlucky in finding love he would rouse her like now. It was the sacrifice she made for her freedom and life here with Maurice was far more preferable to that from which she ran.

Dutifully she slid from the bed and fell to her knees taking his semi hard cock between her lips. Lifting a hand to his balls, she massaged them gently as she sucked and licked him to full erection. He groaned when she fluttered her tongue under the head of his cock and he took her head in both hands beginning to thrust into her mouth with increasing fervour. She had learned to pace her breathing and swallow around his cock as he forced it into her throat making her choke and gurgle. Tears filled her eyes till they rolled down her cheeks. He came quickly as usual and she drank all of him never spilling a drop until he released her and staggered to his bed.

Climbing back into her own bed, her hand snaked down her body to gambol in the damp folds of her sex and at the tease the hard little nub there, wondering at how such a loveless encounter could make her so aroused, so wet. Her fingers teased and trailed through the wet lips, her thumb remaining tight on the hard nub as a finger invaded her depths. Her back arched up off the bed as the first small waves rolled through her body she played her tight little hole in search of the bigger waves.

Eventually giving in to her need for more, she reached the other hand up to pinch and twist a nipple rivulets of pain flowing into her breast making her gasp as her legs began to shake coming closer to apex. She bit down on her lip so as not to cry out as she pinched and twisted hard at the other nipple doing the same to the swollen nub between her legs. Her mind exploded and her body quivered as she whimpered through her bitten lip, collapsing back onto the bed panting lifting her sticky fingers to her mouth to lick them clean.

The sun slowly lifted above the horizon and she lay quietly with her eyes closed savouring the last joyful waves of her orgasm before swinging her legs from the bed to greet the new day. Taking her pack she went to the wash tent to heat some water and clean up her tear stained face and sex stained undergarments. Taking the chance that everyone had partied late into the night Honey stripped off everything using the heated a cauldron of water to bathe properly with soap for the first time in days.

She inspected her body and fingering the faded scars from a cruel adolescence at the hands of her father who had abused her from the time her mother died. “Why hadn’t she left earlier,” she wondered idly, “Why did it take being gambled away like a cheap possession to make her run?” Clean now she shook herself from her reverie.

She began to hear noise within the camp and dressed quickly for the day. They would be moving into a town for the Season of Frost and would need to start their journey today. She smiled as she approached the cook fire and smelled fresh bread. Provisions on the road were never as good as in villages so everyone had gathered for one last good meal before the trek that would lead them to the city of Erato. Having a reputation for lawlessness, she felt there was less chance of being recognised as the runaway daughter of a Duke by anyone that would care in Erato and she looked forward to exploring the town.

Packing up the camp was a busy time. Honey was expected to do her share and she rushed to gather and put things away in the wagons. The men dismantled and moved the tents they dwelt in when in villages to the carts. She was just crossing to the wagon she rode in with Alec and Maurice, when she was swept up by the giant, Alec, who bundled her quickly into the back of a wagon and covered her with tent fabric. “Be still.” He said with such urgency she could not think to do anything else.

Straining her ears she could hear snatches of heated conversations, “…. Last town…. young…. sodomy… charges…” She held her breath. After what seemed an eternity the canvas was lifted off and she saw the face of Alec looking grave. He spoke softly explaining that Maurice had been arrested for the sodomy of a young man in the last town, too young this time it seemed.

“They have asked to see his mistress to corroborate his story of being with her that night.” He looked at her as he measured his words, “If you run now you won’t get far. I don’t know what you are running from nor do I care but it can’t be so bad you would run now when you are needed by your friends.” His voice was pained and she felt her tummy tighten.

Her need to flee was strong and her heart raced as she looked up into his caring eyes. The giant who always caught her, who made her feel safe and cared for. He and this troupe had become like family in the short time she had been with them and her racing heart warred between fear and the feelings she had for her friends.

Guessing her inner turmoil Alec took her choices away by picking her up and throwing her over his shoulder before taking her to where the troupe was assembled before putting her down to face them. She looked into each of the faces of her friends seeing their relief at her appearance before turning to face the Men at Arms and the Knights that led them. She paled and involuntarily took a step back as she gazed into the piecing blue eyes of the man standing with Maurice. “Kade,” she breathed and turned as if to run but Alec rested his giant hand on her shoulder and turned her back to the crowd.

Kade seemed not to notice her reaction as his deep voice rumbled, “Ah the elusive Honey. We meet at last. She seems a bit young for you Maurice. How did you manage to claim her as your mistress? Win her in a game of dice?” He looked at her as he said the last a twinkle in his eye and she died inside.

Maurice began to splutter about hearts meeting and love growing. The man raised a questioning eyebrow and looked pointed at Honey until she moved on shaky legs to stand beside Maurice and nod dumbly in agreement.

Turning to his men, Kade, announced, “This will be no simple judgement. I believe we will have to accompany this troupe to Erato and seek guidance from the magistrates there.” He turned back to the gathering as he continued to speak, “Help them pack their camp so we can be on our way. Our search for the Lady Honiara will have to be delayed but I have the feeling we are moving in the right direction, regardless.” Turning back, he could not hide his smirk as he took in her wide green eyes, “And to ensure no one disappears, I will keep the lovely Honey here with me. Jarrau you go with Maurice to supervise the decampment.”

As the troupe moved off she looked pleadingly at Alec not to leave her there, he nodded at her for reassurance before ambling away with Maurice to the wagons. Once the troupe were out of earshot Kade leaned close to her ear and whispered menacingly, “So my betrothed has become another mans whore. How very disappointing. I believe I will punish you when I have the time and leisure.”

He saw her stiffen a small barely audible squeak escaping her. “Something for you to think about as we continue this charade until we reach Erato. I would not like my men to know the Lady Honiara has become nothing more than a common man’s whore.” Tears rolled down her cheeks. She felt trapped and humiliated and she sagged down onto the ground at Kade’s feet to sit and await her fate.

After long minutes of silence as she stared at the ground near his boots he pulled her to her feet and dragged her to a nearby building. It was empty, the occupants at work in the village. He pushed her against a wall and pressed up close to her whispering in a deep sinister voice. “It has been a long chase little lady you have been quite elusive. Imagine my surprise when I found you had joined a troupe. You are a very talented girl indeed.” He was angry, his voice a snarl as he continued, “What other talents are you hiding my dear or should I ask Maurice?” She said not a word, standing with her head down blushing furiously at his words shaken deeply by the depth of his anger toward her.

Berating her self for staying too long with the troupe, his torments continued to rain down on her. He called her a whore and a cheap harlot lashing her with his sharp tongue. The torment continued until at last he pulled her to a chair and sitting pushed her down over his lap. His hand hit her rounded ass cheeks and she yelped in surprise. He continued to bark questions about what she had let Maurice do to her in increasing lewd detail. She said nothing biting her lip and whimpering determined not to cry out.

He spanked her a dozen times before reaching between her legs and cupping her sex demanding to know if she gave up her virginity easily. She cringed. Thinking of her brutish father and the deal made with this man, she screwed her eyes shut tight and blocked out the questions about Maurice knowing they were unanswerable and her tears flowed freely.

He took her silence as a sign of her guilt and betrayal, ripping her undergarment to insert his finger in her heated folds. He found the tight hole unyielding to his large fingers as he attempted to force a digit inside her, ‘Still a virgin!’ he was stunned by the thought ‘No, she couldn’t be. She was a whore and a mistress to the troupe leader.’ He faltered in his torment of her.

She gasped her body trembling in heat and pain, “How easily the whore is aroused.” He growled at her the tone of his voice not as harsh as it had been but the words retaining their sting despite his confusion. Pushing her to the floor she lay at his feet panting and whimpering. Standing above her he whispered menacingly, “The punishment had just begun.” Leaving her lying on the floor he stalked across the room and out of the door considering what he had just found.

The building was just one room. He stood just outside the open doorway his back to her as she got up unsteadily and stood where he had left her. She looked longingly at the window and wondered how far she could get. Determination to thwart him she walked to the wash basin beside the open window. She splashed water onto her face then, turning to watch his back, she took a step toward the window. Before she could take a second step, he moved with lightning speed to grab her by the waist and push her back toward the door. “Listen to me carefully Honiara,” his face told her of his seriousness. His menacing voice continued “Should you run now these friends who have hidden you so well will pay dearly. Do you understand?”

Her eyes flared wide as she looked up, showing that she cared too much for these people and he smirked as she nodded meekly. “You will continue to be the whore, Honey during our journey and tell no one of your real identity or your knowledge of me. You WILL obey me because should you try to gain help or flee from me once more, trust me, the consequences will be dire for all involved. I have wasted too many seasons searching for you.” His voice was demanding and harsh. “And I will waste no more.”

With that, he grasped her arms behind her back and propelled her ahead of him. He led her to the lead wagon and Maurice. Making sure she was settled within the wagon, he called for his horse. Maurice and Alec looked at her with concern. “I am so sorry, Honey.” Maurice looked desolate, his own fate hanging in the balance with hers he thought.

With Kade and his men riding alongside, the caravan rolled forward heading east to Erato. Having lost time in the morning they travelled late into the first night, sleeping under the wagons rather than erecting tents. Kade or one of his men stood guard duty during the night so no one could accidentally get lost. After a cold unfulfilling breakfast, they moved out. Honey spoke to no one aside of the daily greetings and sat in her own private hell, reliving her brutal adolescence, knowing that same brutal treatment waited in her future. ………………………………………………

Travelling at speed, they covered a lot of ground only stopping late at night to rest the horses and sleep. Each time she roused herself from her dark thoughts, he was there watching her with his icy blue eyes. His anger seemed to simmer just below the surface as he regarded her. This seemed the pattern for four days. On the fifth day, they found a stream early in the afternoon and Kade called a halt. He instructed the troupe to set up tents as they were less than a day’s ride from Erato and they would spend the night here before entering the city.

After helping unpack wagons and set up the camp Honey strolled down to the stream with the ever present Kade not far behind her. He hadn’t spoken to her since that first morning for which she was grateful but she had felt his eyes constantly watching and seeking her out as they travelled. She would be allowed no opportunity to escape him now. Desperation for the chance to bathe in privacy made her turn to him, her question frozen on her lips. He looked back at her and simply said, “No.”

At the edge of the stream she took off her boots and stockings testing the water with her bare feet. It felt wonderful, she longed to swim naked and unfettered. She sighed, glancing over her shoulder at the ever present Kade who was now perched on a rock a few feet from her. He watched her carefully as she moved deeper into the water, ready to pounce if she moved too deep. The situation he found her in with these people confused him. ‘How could she be happy here? She could have so much more if she wanted.’

“Well these clothes needed washing anyway,” she thought and stepped into the water moving slowly deeper the heaviness of her skirt dragging her down. In waist deep water she reached back to unbutton the skirt and pull it off. Washing it and swimming to the edge to wring it out, she laid it over a rock before finally doing the same with her blouse. She finally ducked under the water feeling the grime loosen from her hair and swam enjoying the water despite the clinging undergarments she kept in place.

Kade had laughed at her modesty, reminding her that she was a harlot who whored herself out for food and a place to hide, making her blush and be more determined to keep her remaining clothes in place. She stayed in the water until her pruned skin could stand it no longer and the afternoon cooled to evening. The season of frost was approaching fast and she shivered as she redressed in the still wet clothes gathered her boots and returned to camp. Relieved to see it erected she walked into the tent she had always shared with Maurice.

Taking out her pack, she pulled her clothes out laying out a new skirt, blouse and undergarments. She began to remove the wet clothes as Kade stepped inside the tent, remaining beside the tent flap which he closed tightly behind him ensuring no others would see her. ‘Will he never let me be?’ she grimaced. Closing her eyes in humiliation, she turned her back to him changing as modestly and quickly as she could.

He physically blanched in shock as he glimpsed the scarring on her back as she removed her undergarments and redressed quickly. He said nothing but his jaw clenched together as he watched until she was done. “Put your hair back up into that bun you always wear I do not want my men recognising you.” He continued his voice softer than his usual brusque tone, “I do not think any but Jarrau met you at your father’s castle but they have heard descriptions including the long flowing apple brandy coloured hair.”

“Surely you do not still want a girl you call a whore so regularly to be your wife, Sir?” she was aghast at the idea.

It was the first time she had spoken directly to him since he had discovered her in the troupe and he smiled remembering the musical qualities her voice held. She glared at him as she tied her hair up loosely and he laughed with genuine good humour saying, “You’d be surprised what I want little lady. But first some food, come.” She gave him a cold hard stare and marched out of the tent her face blushing furiously.

“How could he laugh at her? He infuriated her, so smug and self righteous, why would he want a wife that did not want him?” Her inner voice berated her for letting him get the better of her. “She would not talk to him again, ever!” she determined.

She squeezed herself onto a bench seat between Alec and Maurice. She felt so small between the two muscular acrobats. She cared for them both and the troupe was in trouble because of her. She tried to apologise, but they of course had no idea what she was talking about and one look at Kade, who shook his head slightly, told her she could not explain. She ate quietly, concentrating on being with people she cared about if only for one last meal, tomorrow she would be made to leave them without even a goodbye most probably. She felt tears prick at her eyes and she kept her head down while she ate lost in her own thoughts.

Tired from the long days of travel and with satisfyingly full bellies, the troupe retired early. Honey lingered at the camp fire listening to the jovial jibes and jokes of her friends as they retired. Kade’s men at arms even joined in with the troupe from time to time. She would miss them all and performing in the arena. How she had loved being an acrobat. Sadness swept over her and finally she gave in approaching the tent and her bed knowing only nightmares awaited her. She was dimly aware of a watcher following her at a slight distance. It wasn’t Kade for once and she wondered idly where he was until she entered the tent.

Seeing her enter Kade, went to talk with her watcher briefly and returned looking gravely at her.

“Oh gosh,” she thought, “What in the name of Tarana has happened now?”

Maurice appeared nervous and flustered as Kade resumed his chair beckoning her over, ‘Kneel beside me. Apparently you have spent a lot of time on your knees so you should be comfortable down there.”

Her eyes flew wide as she looked at Maurice who could not meet her gaze. All business like she heard Kade continue, “So to get to the crux of the situation, you did sodomise the young man but you did not realise his age and you only use the mouth of this whore for your pleasure and that occurs seldom. Do I have it right?”

Maurice’s horrified look and strangled “Yes Sir” made Honey cringe.

Kade continued on unfazed. “Well I am sure we can come to an agreement then about not returning to certain areas of the realm and avoid a lengthy trial.” He stroked his chin thoughtfully, “The young man said you did not force him, though there is still the question of his age of course.” Maurice looked more relaxed but still miserable as he was guided to a table full of maps where he and Kade talked in hushed tones.

Honey fidgeted, unsure if she was dismissed so she stayed where she was. Finally leaving the table of maps Kade spoke again as he neared Honey. “Now that that is dealt with, there is still the matter of harbouring this fugitive. While I can speak for the King on some matters on others my hands are tied. I am afraid when we reach the city you will lose this girl to the dungeons.”

Honey was horrified, “Dungeons!” her mind whirled, “Had he told Maurice who she was? Surely not,” the conversation went on as if she was not there.

“Is there nothing we can do for her?” Maurice’s plucked up some small courage as he looked sadly at Honey who had been physically rocked by Kade’s statement. “What is she accused of? I cannot imagine this sweet girl committing any crime worthy of a dungeon.”

Honey looked around for a way out of the tent wondering how far she could get before they dragged her back.

“There is no need to warn you I am sure that anyone trying to aid her in flight would be dealt with most harshly so best not to tell your troupe until after the event me thinks.” Kade stared at Maurice his face serious showing he meant what he said.

“So there nothing I can do to plead her case,” Maurice tried a last time looking at her sadly, “She is one of the best acrobats we have ever had. I hate to lose her talent.”

Kade raised an eyebrow at him then shook his head “No, I am afraid she must make amends for her deeds.”

“And you will not tell me of the charges?”

“No. It’s best this case is kept discreet,” he said the last word pointedly and Maurice nodded sadly.

“Now could you give us some time alone please, my friend?” He patted Maurice on the back consolingly as he walked him to the flap of the tent. “Do not to worry any further about this matter and the misunderstanding about the boy can be sorted out. The boy obviously lied about his age.” Reassuring him Kade gently pushed Maurice from the tent.

As Maurice disappeared Kade closed the tent flap and taking his time executed a series of intricate knots to seal it shut and then, returned to the chair she knelt beside. Once settled he reached out to stroke her cheek and she flinched away as if scalded, his brow furrowed and he withdrew the hand reluctantly. “Let your hair down, little lady.”

Knowing he could make her life and the lives of her friends even more unbearable she reached up to loosen the bun and let her long hair flow down over her shoulders and back. Again he reached out and she shied away before stilling her movements stoically. His hand went to her hair stroking it gently. “Good girl.” He said in a soothing voice as if he was patting the mane of a skittish horse.

“Tell me of the scars on your back. Maurice claims to have never seen you naked and has no knowledge of them. Is this true?” She stiffened and swallowed noisily. “I believed him anyway,” he continued as she did not answer, “Women are not his taste. I wish to know the cause of your scarred back,” his tone was soft but commanding.

She lowered her head, determining not to speak to him earlier was a moot point now as her tongue froze. She trembled, unable and unwilling to relive her painful past. Taking a handful of her hair he pulled her head back slowly until she looked up to him and he could see deep into her eyes, “Tell me how you got them,” his voice became hard. Unable to lower her head her eyes dropped and she bit her lip. “We will do this the hard way then shall we?” He pulled her to her feet standing beside her.

The roughness of his hand in her hair and his closeness unfroze her tongue, “Why do you care?” She lashed out at him as he dragged her to her feet. “Why do you care about one whore? There are prettier, finer virgins out there in the kingdom, go find yourself one of them to torment and gamble with.” She kicked at his legs as he held her by her arms, fear and pain and anger at her plight making her rash. “You can have your pick, I am sure. Better than winning a whore in a game of dice…”

“STOP!” he roared. Picking up her thrashing body and holding her against him tightly he moved to the other end of the tent and threw her on the bed.

“Take the blouse off or I will do it for you, but you will run out of clothes if I destroy them because you cannot obey me.” He glowered at her.

“No!” she shrieked at him, “I am not YOUR whore nor will I ever be. Lock me up in your dungeons or whatever you’re going to do.” Her eyes darted around the room looking for escape her fight or flight instinct making her seem feral as she looked up at him preparing to kick him again.

A loud commotion outside the tent interrupted them. “See,” he snarled “Your childish tantrum has endangered your friends. Is that what you want?”

Horror filled her face. “No” she whispered. “No.”

“We will continue this…” He left it hanging as he stalked over to the tent entrance, simmering rage barely kept in check as he undid the knots deftly and stormed out into the night.

The commotion ceased and she curled into a ball on her bed and cried. ‘Why did he care about her scars?’ awful images of her big brutal father danced across her mind and she shook remembering the extreme punishments he lavished on her as a young girl. “What does Kade want from me? Why can’t he just leave me here?”

She felt the bed sink with the added weight of someone sitting beside her. She curled into a tighter ball refusing to look up dreading to see Kade’s face there. The big familiar hand of Alec touched her shoulder gently as he asked, “You okay, Honey? Did he hurt you?”

She sat up slowly hugging her knees to her, “No, Alec” she sighed wearily, “He did not touch me. I might have hurt him though, I kicked him pretty hard.” She grinned up at her friend but the smile did not hide the fear and pain in her eyes.

He pulled her into a bear hug and she squeaked. “You’re going to run again, aren’t you?” he whispered sadly.

She nodded unable to speak. “I knew the time would come but I had hoped…” he shrugged and rocked her in his big arms. “I will miss you, you know. Try and come back to us one day.” From deep within his tunic he pulled a leather sheath, putting his finger to her lip to silence her he showed her the small dagger within and pointed to her pack. Her eyes widened and she hugged him hard. “Erato is a big town. It will be easy to slip into the shadows.”

“Thank you,” she whispered burying the dagger deeply in her pack.

He nodded at her, wishing to give her more to keep her safe, to run with her, but she would not let him he knew. She was a solitary creature; he hoped she could find a place of safety where her fears could be put to rest and her nightmares cease.

Jarrau entered the tent disturbing them to hand her a small glass of mulled wine, “Drink. It will help you sleep.”

They talked lightly as she drank the wine, Jarrau joining in talk about the town of Erato, laughing easily as he chatted with them in his relaxed friendly way. Honey had warmed to him over the last couple of days despite his knight’s attire. Too soon Alec made her lie down saying he would stay until she slept to chase away her demons. Feeling safe as always with Alec watching over her, she lay down, exhaustion quickly sweeping over her, she was grateful too that it was Jarrau watching her tonight rather than the ice blue eyes of Kade. ………………………………………..

She had woken slowly from a deep sleep and blinked clearing the last remnants of strange dreams from her mind. She stretched and rolled over her eyes coming to rest on Kade. “Urg,” she groaned and he looked up from the map he was studying.

“Awake at last. Good.” Getting up and walking to her he picked up a plate from a small table beside her, “Eat. You missed breakfast.” It was a command and she looked up at him sharply. “Please.” He added. “The rest of the camp is almost packed. They wait to pull down this tent.”

He sat contemplating her as she ate. “Will you still not tell me how you came to be scarred so deeply along your back?”

She stopped eating and pushed the plate away at his question. Not answering him she arose from the bed smoothing out the skirt she had fallen asleep in and noticing a wine stain decided she needed to change her blouse. Taking her pack and moving away to the opposite end of the tent from him, she lifted her hands to the buttons and removed the blouse reaching quickly to take up another. He was suddenly behind her slipping the straps of her camisole from her shoulders to see her bare back. She stiffened and gasped but did not want the commotion of last night so she clamped her mouth tightly shut as she shook.

He grimaced, scars from years of beatings crisscrossed her back most faded to fine white lines the deeper holding a slight pink tinge to them still. His finger traced the lines and she crossed an arm over her breasts trembling under his tender touch.

She bit her lip at the feather light touch and taking a deep breath she tried to relax as he spoke quietly “These are mostly faded so I truly believe Maurice that they did not happen during your time as his mistress.” His fingers traced down her back and up her ribs touching the side of her breast making her quiver visibly.

She could hear the smirk in his voice as he asked “Are you cold, little lady?”

She stiffened and taking a step away from him pulled up her camisole straps and redressed in the new blouse, stowing the old one in her pack, carefully hiding the dagger Alec had given her deeper.

He remained standing close behind her watching, turning his eyes and following her as she moved away. He marvelled at her, beautiful and lithe, her eyes showing a wide eyed vulnerability that gave her a sweet innocent appearance. Even in these plain clothes and with her hair pulled tightly into a knot behind her head, she still exuded everything that had drawn him to her so long ago, beauty, frailty, and breeding and that was why he had searched the last six seasons for her.

He had first seen her when she was barely sixteen, a small quiet girl jumping at her fathers demands, during a visit to her uncle, the King. Something about her had touched him even then and he found himself volunteering as the Kings emissary to the lands of the East. Her father was overprotective and let no man close enough to talk with her other than the expected formalities. Kade had coveted her from afar. He had tried to ask for her hand in the formal way but her father had refused to give her hand to anyone and there had been several suitable candidates besides him self who had courted his favour in this regard.

Not one to give up easily Kade had studied the Duke and biding his time had learned the Duke’s weaknesses. Over two years later, during one of his visits to the Dukes castle to deliver a birthday present from the king to her, he had been able to talk with her. She had thanked him for his trouble in delivering her gift and had smiled a smile at him that lit up her face. The smile had totally disarmed him and she spoke with him easily until her father appeared and she reverted back to her timid mouse like persona. Finding her accomplished and bright, he knew without a shadow of a doubt that she was his perfect mate and that she could light up his life with those smiles.

That evening he had plied her father with drink and had won Honiara’s hand from her father through manipulation and subterfuge in a game of dice but she had disappeared the following day as they had detained her father in dowry talks. Unwatched and unfettered by servants who were scurrying to prepare a feast for their betrothal, she had escaped the castle in the early morning darkness when all thought her to be asleep.

Realisation hit him suddenly like a flash of lightning and he cursed the man that could scar his only child in such a way. Her father had kept his daughter close, and out of reach of any other, and now Kade knew why, He felt his anger rise again. Her father had treated her abominably. No wonder she had run at the first opportunity.

His brooding thoughts melted some of the ice around his heart and he moved to her purposefully. His hand travelled over her back again as she flinched and stiffened, she was skittish, afraid to be touched and ready to scamper away any moment. She was not the naïve spoilt brat on an adventure he had expected to find and punish into submission, but rather a girl surviving her past, running from its memories.

His desire that she be his grew even stronger. “She would be his. He had known from the moment he first saw her she was his perfect mate he felt it in his heart and soul each time he looked at her. If only she knew it.” He lamented. “He knew he could bring her peace if she would just let him.” He was determined but he realised now just how hard it would be to win a small smile from her let alone her trust and affection.

Moving away from his light touch which confused her, she looked at him and the odd look he had in his eyes; sad, angry and hungry all at once in a way that disturbed her. Not wanting to be near him any longer she curtsied to him in a farcical move she hoped would disconcert him. She whispered, “With your leave, My Lord.” Then she turned and slipped out of the tent leaving him staring at flapping canvas door.

Kade watched her as the last of the camp was packed into the wagons for the final trek to Erato. Each of the troupe members had approached her as she wandered around hugging her to them making Kade increasingly uneasy. Scowling he approached Maurice, “You told them I am taking Honey when we reach the town.” It was a statement more than a question and Kade voice told of his anger and the threat behind his words.

“No. No. No.” Maurice held up his hands before him his eyes wide. “You’ve misread the situation.”

Kade growled and raised an eyebrow. “Tell me what is going on.” His voice was low and menacing.

Maurice motioned him to follow and walked beside Kade away from the camp activity slightly. In hushed tones, Maurice spoke quickly, “We found her half starved in a village back toward the East. She was running from something.” He looked to Kade’s face seeking a reaction but he saw nothing but the impassive stony glare that had been there from the beginning of this conversation. Exasperated Maurice sighed, “With my troubles bringing the Kings men along with us, they believe she will run again once in the town.” Still no reaction, not a muscle moving Kade’s rigid face Maurice sighed, “They are saying good bye in their own way.”

Honey moved among the wagons cursing Alec for letting word get out that she would be leaving them discreetly once they got to the town. She could feel Kade and his men at arms watching her intently as if they realised something was amiss. She saw Kade move away with Maurice toward the edge of the camp and Honey took the opportunity to walk down to the stream just for a few moments of peace and freedom before she was locked away. “Dungeon” he had said and she despaired. As soon as the troupe was safe in town she would run. She just had to know they would not be held responsible.

There was a crashing sound in the sparse wood behind her and she turned to see the livid face of Kade. Breathing heavily, he strode to her purposefully as she looked at the relief in the face of Jarrau, who had appeared just behind him. Kade picked her up bodily and slung her over his shoulder. She beat on his broad back with her fists as he marched back to the camp his rage oozing out of every pore as he roared. “You WILL stop running from me!”

He slapped her ass and she shrieked at him as she beat on his back. “Let me go. Why do you care so much? I am not a bag of gold to be won or lost in a game of dice!”

As they moved back into the clearing Alec paled and moved toward her as she was dumped unceremoniously on the ground next to the wagon. Jarrau moved to stand between Alec and Kade. Realising the unease was gaining momentum; Jarrau looked between the troupe and the men of Kade’s guard raising his voice, “Tell them. Tell them who she is before this gets out of hand.”

Kade glowered at Jarrau, every inch of his body seething with rage tinged with self loathing for losing his control when he had thought she had run again. He looked down at her, tears staining her cheeks and he turned his rage inward, berating himself and muttering darkly, “You have known this whole time, Jarrau?”

“Tell them.” Jarrau pointed the blade he had drawn from the scabbard on his hip at the men of the troupe who had gathered together ready to follow Alec’s lead.

“This, ungrateful wretch,” Kade pointed at the sobbing girl. “Is the Lady Honiara, only child to Duke Charl of Martizen, niece of the Great King Brandt.” He pointed to Honey growling “Stay.” To his men he said “Guard her well,” before stalking off.

Alec looked at Honey in disbelief and a few of the men laughed believing this to be a joke of some kind as Kade disappeared into the wood back toward the stream. Maurice paled, rocked by the news and thinking of how he had treated the girl. “No,” he thought. “She couldn’t be.” He turned and looked toward the wood where Kade had disappeared before catching the last of a heated conversation between Alec and Jarrau.

“Do you really think knights of the realm would involve themselves in local justice if something bigger was not at stake?” Jarrau had allowed Alec to comfort Honey who was looking at the ground unwilling to meet anyone’s eyes.

Maurice walked slowly back to his wagon, “Something wasn’t right here. There was more to this story.” He scratched at the stubble on his chin trying to think it all through. A smart man he had been in tight situations before but taking on Knights was beyond his abilities he thought. He needed to get to the town and his old friend, Raziel.

A short time later a shadow of a plan was forming in Maurice’s mind as he watched Kade re-emerge from the wood his hair wet but the veneer of controlled self assurance back in place. Maurice scratched his chin absently considering the man and why the girl seemed to matter so much to him. It was more than just a bounty hunt, of that Maurice was sure.


The wagons rolled into the town of Erato. They had decamped and started moving with no further incident. Kade sent two of his men ahead to scout the road for bandits and prepare lodgings in Erato for the knights. He had left her sitting where she was until the last moment then picked her up and threw her into the back of the wagon. She had not made a sound and lay curled in a ball for the entire journey. Kade had ridden on one side of their wagon, Jarrau on the other with two of their men at the rear.

Maurice drove slowly through the outer gates as Alec tried to raise Honey from the back to look at the town. She was unresponsive as in her mind vivid frightening images of dungeons and torture haunted her. ‘She shouldn’t have stayed. Why did she stay with these people? She should have kept running.’ She found herself resenting the friendships she had forged that made her complacent endangering them as well as herself. The wagons pulled into fenced paddocks just inside the town wall.

Her eyes were open but she lay unmoving and unseeing as Alec tried to rouse her. He moved away obviously taking to Kade, “Something is very wrong. Her mind is gone. Let me take her to a healer, please.”

Hearing her friend, her brother of sorts so upset and almost pleading with Kade on her behalf was more than she could bear and she roused herself reluctantly from her self imposed catatonia sitting up slowly.

“She is fine, look for yourself.” Kade said without a trace of concern, his voice impassive.

Alec looked at her, “She isn’t fine. Any fool and see that. Where will you take her? I’ll send a healer.”

Kade did not reply and Honey spoke softly and slowly, “Alec, don’t worry so much, I am fine. We knew I would leave one day. That day is today. Lift me down so I can kiss you goodbye and you can watch me walk away instead of run.” She wouldn’t let her friend be in anymore danger because of her.

She hugged Alec tight and kissed his cheek as he lifted her from the wagon. She smiled up into his face as he finally put her down and touched his cheek, “You have been my truest friend and I will always think you to be the strongest man in the world.” Turning to Maurice who had been standing with Alec she smiled again, “Maurice, these seasons with your troupe have been the happiest in my life. No words can ever thank you for taking me in.” She hugged him tightly and keeping her head held high, every inch the lady they knew she was now, she walked over to Kade.

Kade called to two of his men, “You two will stay here and I will send others from the keep to relieve your watch. Lenneer give the lady your horse. I will see he is returned to you shortly.” Without question the young man stepped down from his saddle and lifted Honey into place. The remaining men formed up around her and without a backward glance the group cantered off into the city.

Try as she might, she could not see the town through the bodies of the men huddled closely around her as they rode. The horse’s hooves clattered over cobble stones and she settled into the steady movement of the ride. She had loved to ride as a child and she let her mind drift to a time when her mother was alive and rode with her. Lost in her reverie the horses stopping startled her and she looked up to see the men stepping off their mounts and handing them to stable hands. Jarrau approached her and lifted her from her mount guiding her to the large manor house across the court yard. “Welcome to Venturer House.”

“This house is kept by the knights of our order. We have one in most towns all called Venturer House.” He rolled his eyes, “We knights are not known for creativity in our surroundings.” Jarrau was talking to her like it was everyday he escorted a female prisoner to a dungeon. He continued to make conversation pointing out paintings of foreign lands and dignitaries, asking her questions though she never said a word. The corridors and stairs seemed endless as he led her deeper into the home showing her around like an esteemed guest.

“You know I have never been to this town before or this house but each of the Order of Venturer Houses is exactly the same. Disappointing really,” he mused, “No one is using this third floor, so I hope you will not be lonely up here. We knights rarely have ladies stay here with us aside of the servants.”

She wasn’t really listening as she followed behind him her shoulders sagging as she tried to resign herself to her fate and the dungeon that awaited her.

He opened a door wide showing her a large comfortable room. Ushering her in before him, he closed the door. “The sitting room.” he waved his hand about and opening a door on the nearest wall he motioned her to follow, “… and this is the bedroom.” She followed obediently to the doorway wondering why she was here still brooding over what sort of dungeon this big house would have.

A young girl appeared at the door and curtsied quickly, “Milady.” Jarrau came out of the bedroom at her voice and smiled, “Oh good you’re here. I was getting tired of talking to myself. Lady Honiara this is Delenn she will be your maid while you are with us. I will leave you to explore your room.”

Honey stood open mouthed, “Her room? A maid?”

“Delenn run the lady a bath and find her something clean to wear I am sure there are clothes somewhere.” As the maid darted off in the direction of the bathroom Jarrau turned to Honey and spoke softy. “Do not run lady. He will only make me go with him to chase you again and this knight needs a long break from the road to drink and carouse with warm soft wenches. Take pity on me, please.”

At his plaintive tone a hint of a smile crept into her confused expression. “Be a good girl and he might even let your friends visit you.” Jarrau wheedled.

“I am not going to the dungeon?” She whispered incredulously more to herself than him.

“Where did you get that idea? Oh don’t worry,” he said holding up his hand, “I can guess.” He looked at her shaking his head, “I have never known him to get so mad or lose control as often as he does with you Honiara. Now you are here and safe his moods will improve I promise.”

He continued to talk as he led her through the bedroom to a small tiled room where Delenn was filling a tub from a pipe in the wall. “Marvellous invention,” he smiled quickly changing the topic away from Kade, “We heat tanks of rainwater on the roof and get instant hot water on tap.” She looked longingly at the hot bath and smelled the scent of fragrant soap.

“Now I will leave you and find that drink,” he turned to Delenn, “Look after her she has had a difficult time.”

Honey looked at him chewing her lip as he spoke to Delenn hearing the concern in his voice, “Jarrau,” she whispered, “Do you really think he would let Alec or Maurice visit me?”

“Promise me one night of peace between the two of you and I will bring them myself.” He smiled his eyes hopeful.

She looked at him dubiously, “As you say I seem to make him angry without even knowing how or why.” She looked up at him seriously, “Can’t you take him with you to find a warm wench who doesn’t make him angry?”

He chuckled with genuine mirth, “Don’t you think I have already tried that in all the time we have searched for you?” Laughing loudly again he walked out of the room shaking his head and closing the door behind him. …………………….

It was late when she emerged from the scented bath and she was helped into a soft white satin night dress by Delenn who had quietly hovered in her room while she had luxuriated in the hot water scrubbing the days of travel from her skin and hair with delicate soaps. “Where did this come from?” She asked absently as the soft material caressed her body.

“Sir Kade sent it while you were in the bath. Are you hungry Milady?”

“Can you just call me Honey please?” Delenn looked worried and started to shake her head, “When we are alone please?” Honey pleaded.

Delenn acquiesced “As long as you eat something please, Mila… Honey,” she corrected reluctantly. “Sir Kade insisted I try to get you to eat.”

Honey rolled her eyes but she was hungry so she ate ignoring the comment about ‘Sir’ Kade. Speaking quietly with Delenn, Honey learned more about the house and town. Eventually seeing no way for a quick escape from her fate and no longer able to keep her eyes open she lay down to sleep. ‘A real bed with fine sheets,’ she thought, ‘There were very few things I missed about home but this was one of them,” she thought as her eyes closed. “There are worse dungeons than this.” she mused and sleep took her.

She woke in terror, the nightmares of her father blending with Kade and his stony face. She blinked into the darkness to find Kade hovering over her causing an involuntary scream to fill the silence of the room, her nightmare lingering in her mind. His hand pulled away from her hair which he had been stroking as he tried to wake her from her night terror. Trying to shake the terrifying images from her head she crawled up to the opposite corner from him hugging her knees to chest.

“I only wished to comfort you little lady,” he said softly. “You let other men comfort you. Am I so abhorrent?”

“Other men do not treat me as a cheap possession to be won or lost on the roll of a dice.” She spat

His anger rose within him as always when taking to her, “Yet you let Maurice use you like a cheap possession, without love like a whore on the streets.”

She sounder braver than she felt as she gave vent to her fears, “I would be his whore a hundred times over if it meant I did not have to see you or my father ever again.”

His voice became brittle at her rejection, “So you would rather be treated as a whore than lady would you?” His voice was growing deeper with each word, “That’s fine with me!” he snarled.

Her eyes widened in fear and she squealed as he pulled her from the bed. He held both her hands in one of his big paws and stroked the other over her night gown feeling her nakedness beneath. “Whore it is then, my betrothed.” He could not help himself his cock hardened just looking at her, trailing his fingers over the lithe silk clad body he guided her to her knees before him, stroking her hair back from her face. ‘If this was what she wanted then so be it.’

She knew this position and what she must do. Her father and Maurice had taught her well. In a trance like state, her body reacted to his now soft touches and she reached up to free his cock. He was already hard as she drew his cock out licking her lips she leaned in to take him in her mouth, rolling her tongue about the head tasting him and coating his cock with saliva till it shone in the moonlight.

Tugging the trews lower, she cupped his balls with one hand and wrapped the other around the thick shaft as she licked at him, fluttering her tongue the length of his shaft and teasing at his balls before finally taking him into the warm cavern over mouth making him groan in pleasure. Her hand worked the long shaft as her mouth adjusted to the size of his cock nestling on her tongue. She bobbed her head slightly and felt it nudge at her throat making her gag slightly.

She became more confident at the sounds of pleasure he made and his hands tightened in her hair as she swallowed past her gag reflex to take him deeply. His breath was coming faster and she knew he would not last much longer. His hands tightened further in her hair but he did not force himself deeper or faster letting her set her own pace and adjust her breathing.

The pain of her hair being pulled became erotic to her making her suck harder and deeper. Crying out, he pulled from her mouth coating her lips and cheeks in thick globs of cum as he pulled her head back making her look up at him with teary sex glazed eyes. She made his heart race faster and placing his softening cock back into her open mouth he murmured, “So beautiful.”

She squirmed feeling her wet thighs rub against each other hoping he would go to sleep immediately as Maurice had always done so she could take her own pleasure but he did not let her go. She panted softly in need for her own release her hips rolling slightly as her thighs rubbed. Finally he let her hair loose and let her fall back. “The difference between a whore and a lady is that she gets her pleasure too.” She was stunned by his words. He picked her up and placed her back on her bed.

He moved away momentarily and she relaxed slightly for a moment then tensed again as with a silk scarf he cleaned his cum from her face softly before saying, “Open.” She opened her mouth slightly and he wedged the scarf between her lips murmuring, “We do not want to wake my brother knights.” Alarmed she struggled slightly. Straddling her body, he grabbed her wrists tying them with another scarf and lifted them above her head to tie her to the post of her bed. “Relax, little one. I will not hurt you.” His voice was pained.

He closed his eyes and trailed his hands lightly over her body making calming noises “I would never harm you as you have been harmed in the past.” His hand moved up her thighs lifting the night gown to expose her sex to him. She stiffened below him and he moved back still holding her legs below his body as he kissed over her belly and hips to her thighs his breath blowing over her sex making her squirm more. In the moonlight from the windows, he could see her glisten wetly and was momentarily surprised. He leaned up freeing her legs wrapping his hands around her thighs to hold her in place as he bent to kiss her mound above the slit, breathing in her scent.

She whimpered pitifully into the scarf, frightened and aroused. She could feel her breasts swell as the nipples grew under the soft material. Holding her thighs tightly, he widened them trailing his tongue between the wet lips of her sex flicking over the hard little nub before finally reaching her hole and lapping at the juices that poured so freely from her. She was panting now her body arching as small waves of pleasure started rolling through her. All thought was gone from her mind as his tongue held her enthral, she lifted her hips to him seeking more.

Wedging the tip of his finger within her wanting to leave her in tact he leaned up slightly watching her breath rise and fall rapidly as he rolled his tongue around clit. She arched more and he bared his teeth biting lightly as he drew it to his mouth and sucked on her.

She came explosively, her body arching as she convulsed her hands pulling at the scarf that held them above her head as she gave a muffled cry. The noise of her panting and muffled cries filled the room and he moved slowly up her body leaving his hand on her hot wet sex. He kissed both her breasts and laid beside her his fingers keeping her aroused as he nibbled at her throat and whispered in her ear. “If I take the scarf from your mouth, you will be quiet, yes?”

She nodded and he leaned forward, his face inches from hers taking the scarf from her mouth and immediately covering it in a deep possessive kiss. He breathed deeply as he pulled back to look at her his eyes softening. She was beautiful and finally she was here with him. He reached out smoothing her hair back from her face gently.

She squirmed, his soft eyes and touch making her uncomfortable. She had been expecting punishment. She did not know what to do or say to this different Kade. She felt his cock which had regained its rigidity rub against her thigh and her eyes widened making her tense up again. He spoke softly, “Do not fear. I do not wish to take the virginity you have guarded so well until we are wed for then every inch of you will be mine take at leisure.” He held her face between his hands and kissed her again murmuring hotly as he ground against her thigh, “Get to know my cock well, little lady whore as it is the only one you will be seeing from now on and I promise, you will see it often.”

She dropped her eyes again humiliation and memories coursing through her of her father who had told her she would never see another as well as he tormented her childhood. He saw her eyes drop and not knowing her thoughts he took it as another rejection. Rolling off her and looking up at the bed canopy he considered what he had just done, “I will not hurt you as your father did. I swear to you, Honey.” It was the first time he had called her that and she looked at him his face glowing in moonlight.

“You still wish to wed me? A girl abused and despoiled by her fathers misdeeds? Knowing what he did to me you would still wed me?” Her voice seemed small and frightened.

He took a breath, “This is not the first time you have asked me this question. And I give you the same answer. You would be surprised what I want little lady.” He turned to face her speaking with conviction, “Do not forget I know you to be the Lovely Lady Honiara who is at home in the courts of the Duke and King. You will be that lady to the public view and you will make me proud. I know this.”

Then he leaned forward looming over her again, his nose and lips grazing her throat as he murmured, “But now I also now know that you can enjoy the delights of an arduous bedding and I am most pleased to discover this about you. It will greatly shorten your training to be my wife for I can a demanding man and my needs would be hard for an naive young girl to accommodate.” He ground against her thigh his need rising again and growled deeply in passion nibbling at her neck.

“I did not know what your father was subjecting you to or I would have tried to take you from him much sooner leaving him with scars equalling your own.” She felt herself responding to him, his thumb began to work over her sensitive clit again and her panting increased. “He did well to leave your virginity in tact or I may have ridden back as soon as I realised how he had treated you”

She gasped, and turned her face to him, “Why do you care? Why do you chase me? Why do you not find a sweet unblemished pure……..” the last words were almost staccato pants and she whimpered his fingers expertly heating her sex and fogging her mind.

His voice was a growl in her ear as he whispered, “Because you are mine. I want no other.” His mouth descended on hers kissing her deeply. “Now we will do this again, my lady whore, but we will do it together,” he straddled her face and fed her his cock as he bent his head to bite lightly at her thighs, his thumb working the sensitive nub. Becoming lost in the sensations their twin noises filled the room with pleasure until they came together each drinking of the other.

He moved up her body breathing heavily and kissed her deeply before untying her wrists and holding her close to his body. He pulled the covers over them and murmured in her ear, “Sleep, sweet Honey, sleep.”

She lay wide eyed staring into the darkness realising she did not feel the need to squirm out of his arms and run from him as she would have before this encounter. She was not sure how she felt at this moment, confusion overwhelmed her. She had thought this man to be a friend to her father. He had gambled for her like a sack of gold. She continued to list off all the reasons she had fled rather than wed him. ‘Could she have been wrong?’ She berated herself, ‘No, he had been cruel and uncaring to her when he found her with the troupe, shaming and humiliating her with his words ever since.’ The Kade she knew was hostile and angry at her all of the time she did not know the Kade who had brought her mind numbing joy just minutes earlier and was now holding her possessively against him.

She wriggled a little to move from his arms but his muscles tightened around her and he pulled her even closer, murmuring “Sleep, Honey.” Her thoughts continued to muddle her mind as she finally she fell into a restless troubled sleep.

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