The stink of ale on his breath made Esmerelda gag.
“I want you.” Bason’s small grey eyes caught hers and she shuddered.
“You must know how beautiful you are, Princess. Your poise, your walk, your soft skin—” he reached up one hand to stroke her cheek. She knocked it away. Anger flared in his eyes.
“I am a visiting king, Esmerelda. I am used to getting the pick of women in every city I visit. I pick you.”
She almost gagged. King’s Privilege nauseated her. She hadn’t liked the man before. Now that she knew he forced himself on every woman he wanted, she loathed him.
“I deny you,” she said, loudly. His plush chambers looked empty, but maybe someone passing through the corridor outside might hear her.
She doubted it, though. The thick door was closed, and the stone walls didn’t let sound out. He had known what he was doing when he brought her up here.
She cursed herself. He had lured her in here with talk of peace, of ending the decades-long feud between their two kingdoms. It seemed like an impossible dream, and the lure of helping her people find peace and prosperity had overcome her common sense. Stupid.
“Deny me?” he roared. Spittle blew in her face. “I claim you!”
She had been backing steadily towards the door as they talked. He lunged at her, grabbed her slim shoulders. Her long blond hair swung as he slammed her against the wall. He leaned in closer, till his filthy black beard was an inch from her face. His eyes gleamed with lust.
One hand grabbed her full breast through her gold-embroidered dress.
“I said—“ she rammed her knee into his crotch. He groaned and bent over. “—No!”
She dodged out from under him, moving for the door, but he was faster. He blocked the doorway with his huge frame. Her stomach sank. He wasn’t a soldier—his barrel chest was mostly fat, and his hands looked more accustomed to a chicken wing than a sword—but she had no doubt he could rape her if he chose. Her head swam. What was she going to do?
“Daddy?” A child’s face with a mop of black hair peaked around a door to her right. The door seemed to lead to a sitting-room. A way out? “Daddy, please let her go.”
Her heart stopped. By the Gods. Her diplomat’s brain kicked in, examining the situation.
The king was sick and arrogant, and he doubted he gave a damn what the woman he screwed wanted. But she’d never heard he was a depraved father.
Hope sparked in her. Maybe he hadn’t brought her up here to rape her. No doubt he wanted to, but if his child was watching, maybe he’d hold back. She could still get out of this.
His next words confirmed her hope.
“I’m sorry.” The words were broken, like he was fighting back tears. And slurred. “I’ve never wanted another girl like I want you, Esmerelda. They’re like, wine beside beer…or water, or…damn it!” His grey eyes fixed on hers. “I want you, Esmerelda. You can’t know how…how much. If you’d just say yes…”
He looked pathetic.
She knew how dangerous it was to prod a drunk man, particularly one who already wanted her and was big enough to get what he wanted. But just the thought of spreading her legs for him left her feeling sullied. His weight on top of her, hoarse panting in her ears as he filled her…she shuddered.
“No, Bason. I told you already, leave.”
Rage flared in his eyes.
“If you won’t consent, I’ll have you by force!”
He lunged across the room. She tried to sidestep, but he was fast. His massive shoulder smashed into her chest and he slammed her against a tapestry. Her breath whooshed out, and terror welled up in her. He was going to violate her, right there. Shitshitshitshit I’m going to be—The reek of unwashed flesh, mixed with the salty tang of sweat, assaulted her nostrils.
She slapped him, hard. He grabbed her forearms in one meaty hand and pinned them above her head.
She could feel the bulge between his legs. Fear and revulsion washed through her. She tried to knee him again, but it was the wrong angle.
“Daddy, please!” The child’s voice was thin and scared. His eyes were huge. “Please let her—“
“Get out!” the king roared. Spittle sprayed Esmerelda. “Don’t come into my bedchambers, gods-damned brat!”
The son stayed there, too scared to move. Pity welled up in Esmerelda’s heart. What a childhood he must have.
The king’s free hand dropped to his trousers, ripping the knots that held them tight and letting them drop to the ground. His sweaty fingers skimmed up her thigh.
Her brain shut down. Her body twisted and screamed, but her mind was blank. Nausea filled her. Gods-above-save-me-help-me-pleasepleaseplease. He ripped her dress as he fumbled for her silk undergarments.
Something inside Esmerelda twisted. Her gut felt like liquid, then hardened into stone. Suddenly she couldn’t breathe; she gasped, trying to draw in air that felt as breathable as rock. What was happening?
Then it was gone, and power surged through her, sudden and overwhelming. She shook. With it came rage. Bason was trying to violate her. She would destroy him.
Something in her reached out, and the wall of stone to her right melted and flowed. It became water, surging where the wall had been moments ago.
The kid wailed. She didn’t know why, whether it was his father’s violence or her…whatever the hell she was doing to the wall. But her attention flashed to him. Saw his pale face, the mop of black hair, his scared eyes.
The wall of water collapsed to the floor and flooded towards him. Before he could run, the flood seized him, pulled him into the room. When the water flowed upward into a wall again, it bore up him with it.
When it melded back into stone, it crushed him into nothing. He didn’t even have time to scream.
Everything had happened in seconds. When it ended, Esmerelda stared at the wall where the child had been destroyed. Her heart felt like it had been smote with a hammer. That poor boy. What had she—?
The king’s eyes were small and scared. He backed away from her, forgetting his trousers. They trailed around his ankles. “What the hell did you do to my boy?”
Esmeralda shook her head, stunned. “I don’t…I don’t…”
“Begone from here! You took my son!” Drunken rage flashed to drunken sorrow, and he sobbed. “My boy…my poor boy.”
Anguish poured over her. She bowed her head and ran.
End of Chapter 1