The Wolf and the Dove

By: Kathleen E. Woodiwis

Sarcasm dripped from Aislinn’s words. “He is where no mortal man can reach him, quite safe from your duke.”

Ragnor’s brows lowered. “You remind me of unpleasantries.”

Vachel smiled. “Your pardon, cousin.”

The sight of Aislinn’s meagerly clad shoulders gleaming smoothly above her tattered gown turned Ragnor’s thoughts in another direction. He bent and swept her into his arms amid a shower of angry protests and a surprising variety of titles. He chuckled at her efforts to escape until she nearly lunged out of his grasp, then he crushed her against him, smothering her efforts in an iron grip. He grinned as he lowered his head to hers and his mouth was upon her lips, wet and searing. Suddenly he drew back in pain. A small trickle of blood ran from his bottom lip.

“You vicious little viper!” he choked.

With a low growl, Ragnor tossed Aislinn over his shoulder, jolting the breath from her as his hard mail slammed into her belly, and stunned, she hung half senseless. Snatching up a candle to light his way up the darkened stairs, he crossed the hall and mounted them, leaving the noise of the rowdy invaders behind as he entered the lord’s chamber. He kicked the door closed and setting the candle aside, strode to the bed and he spilled Aislinn unceremoniously onto it. There was a glimpse of long, slender legs before she scrambled up and tried to leap from the bed. The rough rope around her throat frustrated her effort and brought her up short. With a cruel smile, Ragnor began to wrap the thong about his wrist again and again until she knelt close before him, facing him as a wary dog faces its tormentor. He laughed at her undaunted stare and loosened the rope from his wrist, tying it to one of the massive posts at the foot of the bed. With a casual slowness he began to undress, dropping his sword, hauberk, and leather tunic carelessly upon the floor. He crossed to the hearth, donned now only in a linen chainse and the chausses, a garment combining tight-fitting hose and underpants. Her apprehension mounting, Aislinn tore frantically at the rope around her throat, but her fingers could make no dent in the hard knot. He stirred the fire up and added more kindling, and by its warmth he drew off the linen shirt and the woolen chausses. Aislinn swallowed convulsively as his body emerged lean and muscular, giving her little encouragement that she could hold him off by strength. He smiled almost pleasantly as he came to her and reached up to rub his knuckles gently against her cheek.

“The bloom from the thorn bush,” he murmured. “Yea, ‘tis true, and you are mine. Wulfgar gave me leave to take a suitable reward upon completion of his orders.” Ragnor chuckled as if amused. “I cannot think of a more appropriate recompense than to have the most valuable possession in these towns. What is left is hardly worth my notice.”

“Do you expect reward for slaughter?” Aislinn hissed.

He shrugged. “The fools should have known better than to attack armed knights, and slaying the messenger of the duke drew the old man’s lot to a certainty. We’ve done a good day’s work for William. I deserve reward.”

Aislinn shuddered at his callous disregard for the lives he had spilled. She lunged away from him off the bed to the limits of the tether.

Ragnor threw back his head in a roar of laughter. “Would my little pigeon fly from me?” He twisted his hand in the rope and began to draw her to him. “Come, dove,” he cooed softly. “Come, dove, and share my nest. Ragnor will be gentle with you.”

Sobs struggled from between her clenched teeth as Aislinn wildly fought the pull of the rope. Finally she was held on her knees before him. His hand held the knot tight beneath her chin, forcing her head back so she stared up at him with rolling eyes and gasped for breath. He reached behind him and snatched up a wine skin lying atop a chest.

“Have a taste of wine, my dove,” he coaxed, his face close above hers as he forced the brew between her lips. Aislinn choked and gasped then swallowed the burning fluid. He held the skin to her mouth till she fought again for breath. Releasing her, he sat back on the bed, tipping the skin above his own mouth, half drinking, half bathing in the dark red brew. He lowered the skin and his eyes gleamed as he wiped the stain from his face and rubbed his chest where it had spilled. Laying the skin aside, he reached out to draw on the rope. Aislinn had less strength to fight this time, and he pulled her close until their faces were but a hands’ breadth apart. His breath, sour with ale and wine, almost made her retch, but suddenly his hand was in the neck of her gown and with a swift downward thrust he tore her garments from her and threw them aside. He released his hold abruptly and she stumbled back in surprise. With a smile, he lay back on the bed and took a long pull of wine without taking his eyes from her as she tried in sudden fear and shame to cover herself.

“Now come to me, little dove. Do not fight so,” he cajoled. “After all, I’m not without influence in William’s court, and you could do far worse.” He leered at her in drunken grace, his eyes sweeping every tempting curve of her body. “You could be thrust beneath the churning butts of those cloddish oafs below.”

Aislinn’s eyes grew wide and she strained again at the stubborn knot.