The Curse of Pandora's Box [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Desiree Acuna
eBook Category: Erotica/Erotic Fantasy
eBook Description: There seemed no hope to Pandora until the day the handsome knight, Drake, rode through her village on the way to a tournament. One night of finally fulfilling her aching needs, though, only seemed to make things worse, for Drake wasn't nearly as resigned to his fate as she was.
eBook Publisher: New Concepts Publishing, Published: 2010, 2010
Fictionwise Release Date: April 2012
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As Pandora straightened from weeding her little garden patch and arched her back to ease the pain that had begun to throb there, she noticed a child of around seven or eight peering at her from behind the apple tree in the yard across the road from her own cottage. A familiar warmth filled her, but she'd grown so accustomed to it over the years she scarcely even acknowledged it. Flicking her long, dark braid behind her shoulder, she smiled in a friendly way at the young child, wondering if she waved if the child would run screaming to its mother or indulge its curiosity and move a little closer to chat.
Loneliness ate at her almost as much as the 'misery', the curse than had been passed down to her from her poor mother, and the possibility of having even the company of a child for a few moments warred with caution.
The door to the cottage slammed before she could decide whether to acknowledge the child's curiosity or ignore it-which was usually safest. Her new neighbor stalked toward the child hiding behind the tree and cuffed him on the side of his head. "Ye'll bring a plague down on us, ye hard headed young'un! Ain't I told ye not ta be starin' at the witch?"
Indignation flickered through Pandora. "I'm not a witch!" she snapped before she thought better of it, betraying the fact that she'd noticed the child.
"Yer cursed is what yer are!" the woman bellowed at her, leaning down to grab a fallen apple from the yard and pitch it at her. "An' anybody yer touch is cursed, too! Stay away from me and mine!"
Pandora dodged the apple. Tempted to pick it up and hurl it back at the woman, she paused even as she snatched it up. A rousing good fight might help her feelings but it might only stir up the ire of the rest of the villagers, who barely tolerated her as it was.
Actually, they didn't precise tolerate her. She had little doubt that they would've run her out of the village long since if they weren't afraid to approach her. She couldn't afford to provoke more animosity. Individually, they feared coming anywhere near her, but she couldn't afford to take the chance that that would remain true if enough of them became angry to form a mob. Making an obscene gesture at the woman instead, she rubbed the apple on her skirt and lifted it to examine it. "Thank you for the apple, Mistress Renfroe. I could bake a pie if you could spare a few more."
She was sorry she'd tossed the sarcastic comment almost as soon as she had for it immediately occurred to her that she really would've enjoyed an apple pie. The woman spat at her instead of throwing more apples. Catching the child by one ear, she led him back into their cottage.
Pandora stared at the door of the cottage for a few moments and finally transferred her attention to the tree, studying it speculatively. Noticing that three or four apples had fallen over the garden wall into the dusty road, she decided to collect them and have her pie after all! Pulling open the rickety gate to her own yard, she marched across the road and knelt to gather up the apples she'd noticed.
It was the only advantage of being the 'accursed' as far as she could see-not that there should've been any advantage, she supposed-but she considered it one. Everyone was so fearful of coming anywhere near her that she was perfectly safe to help herself to anything that fell unclaimed, or wandered, into the road. All she had to do was start forward to collect it and they ran for their lives and abandoned it to her. It supplemented her livelihood very nicely. She had a pen full of chickens and even an old cow. With the garden where she grew her own herbs and vegetables, she got by just fine.
It was a lonely life, though, since her mother's terrible death. Although she couldn't help but be happy for her mother that her trials had finally ended, regardless of the manner of her release, she was very sorry for herself. She was lonelier than she'd ever been in her life. She'd at least had a few friends before she'd inherited her mother's curse and she'd had her mother, although, truthfully, her mother had been far too consumed by the curse to be a great deal of company for her only daughter.
Four years earlier, though, her mother had finally found the ultimate release. She'd become so maddened by the insatiable itch that could not be assuaged that she'd coaxed the Brenner's bull into coupling with her and the beast had turned on her and trampled her. They'd had to slay the bull, for it had instantly gone on a rampage and tried to mount all of the village women.
She was almost sorry they'd killed the damned thing before it got to her. At least all her troubles would have been over, as they had been for her mother! Instead, the villagers had caught up with the bull and slain it and she'd had to live with the horrible curse she'd inherited on her twentieth birthday, the same age her mother had been when she'd been cursed!
She didn't know whether to curse the fates, the evil gnome who'd cursed her mother, or her mother.
She tried not to think badly of her mother. Her mother had never been terribly clever and, beyond that, she had been born so fair that she'd been indulged far too much. It wasn't truly her fault. If she'd been gifted with more brains and less beauty it never would have happened. She would never have caught the eye of the gnome-or she would've had more sense than to provoke him.
Fate had thrown her mother in the path of the gnome, but it had been her mother's arrogance that had ultimately been her downfall. If she had tried to placate the gnome instead of spurning him out of hand, and laughing at him, he might not have been inspired to place such a terrible curse on her and her line forever!
As he desired her more than he had ever desired another mortal woman, he cursed her to suffer as he did-to be doomed forever to unrequited desires that would consume her and any who touched her.
And he had made certain the villagers all knew that it would bring her plague upon them if they touched her.
The only bright side to the entire, awful mess, was that the villagers took the threat to heart. They wouldn't come near her-which meant they were also not inclined to harm her. She was certain they wanted to, or at least to run her from the village, but they were too afraid of the curse to do more than shun her.
The sound of shod hooves along the hard packed road caught Pandora's attention as she scooped up the last of the apples and tucked it in the pocket she'd made of the front of her skirt. She lifted her head and narrowed her eyes in that direction, trying to pierce the shadows of the forest that had deepened as the sun set below the horizon. In a few moments, she discerned a magnificent horse. Upon the back of the horse rode and even more magnificent knight.
Awe instantly swept over her and a wave of desire so potent she felt faint with it. Her heart seemed to pick up the rhythm of the horse's hooves as it cantered toward her. The ache never far began to throb far worse until she was dizzy and could hardly catch her breath. The nearer he came, the worse it got until she was certain she would have done something drastic if she hadn't been too frozen with awe and indecision to move.
As he emerged at last from the shadows cast by the overhanging limbs of the forest, the waning light of dusk illuminated a face that was harshly male-a warrior's face-and yet she'd never seen a man more well favored by the fates. He was almost like male beauty personified and beautifully formed beyond that, his chest and shoulders impossibly broad, his arms and thighs thick with the muscles of his trade. Her desire became a conflagration. Her breasts felt painfully swollen. Her nipples felt as if she was being tortured with hot pinchers and her woman's place wept, fluttering with such yearning and excitement that it made her belly cramp.
He slowed his horse as he spotted her.
Pandora tensed, struggling with the sudden urge to try to leap up at him when he drew his stallion to a stop directly beside her. "What village is this, fair maid?"
His voice was deep, melodious. It made her sex contract more frantically, made her throat grow dry, scattered her wits. She gaped at him, struggling to find words.
Slowly, his smile faded and a frown appeared between his brows. "Have I frightened the wits from you, little maid? I mean you no harm, I assure you. I've come a long way and I've no interest in much beyond food, a bath to wash away the dirt of my travels, and a bed-to sleep in."
He flushed slightly at the last, dragging his gaze from her bosom. Pandora hadn't even realized his gaze had come to rest on her bosom until she saw his eyes move upward to her face. She'd been far too focused on his hard thighs and her curiosity of what lay between them. "Hempstead Hamlet," she said a little hoarsely. "There's an inn about the center of the village ... Sir Knight."
His fine lips curled, sending another wave of dizziness through her. "Have you a name little maid?"
"Pan ... Pansy, my lord," Pandora lied, realizing immediately that he might well have heard of her even if he was a stranger. He certainly would if he asked about her at the inn!
"A lovely name for a very lovely maid," he murmured huskily. "'Tis a shame I'm in such a rush to reach the king's tournament. Otherwise I'd be encouraged to linger a bit in the hope of a better acquaintance."
Pandora felt her cheeks redden with delight. "You would?"
Amusement gleamed in his eyes. "Indeed, I would. Dare I hope if I should pass this way again that I might call upon you, little maid?"
Pandora blinked at him, feeling disappointment pierce the heady desire boiling through her. She would've far rather he'd sought a better acquaintance immediately rather than toss her a 'perhaps'. "I ... I'd like that," she said a little wistfully.
Nodding at her, he nudged his stallion and headed into the village. Pandora watched for a moment and finally fled to her cottage, fearful that some of the neighbors might see her and give him warning. She couldn't think very clearly, but that one fear stood out. She was shaking by the time she'd closed the door of her cottage behind her. Feeling weak and ill, she dropped the apples that had delighted her only a little earlier and sank to the floor, her mind churning almost as furiously as her body.
Random thoughts flickered through her mind from time to time, but the primary focus of her thoughts was the possibility of assuaging the fire in her blood. In the recesses of her mind, she acknowledged that it wouldn't be possible to completely alleviate it. The curse would prevent that, but the possibility of dulling the ache even a little drummed through her until she could scarcely even think to plot.
He'd said he meant to stay the night and there was only the one inn. It had no private rooms since hers was a poor village and few besides farmers heading to market ever stayed the night, but she hadn't seen anyone pass through in days. He was bound to have the loft alone.
Not that that mattered a great deal except that if there were others she might accidently creep into the wrong bed and raise the alarm. Or someone might hear her and raise the alarm before she could satisfy her craving.
Guilt smote her at the thought. He'd seemed a very honorable knight, pleasant and well mannered. A less noble knight would've dismounted and thrown her to the dirt upon catching her alone on the road. She shouldn't even be considering what she was thinking about doing.
Getting up after a few moments, she gathered clean clothing and a cloth for drying and headed down to the mountain stream where she often bathed. It wasn't that she was fanatical about bathing as the villagers seemed to think, although she had discovered since she'd begun to bathe there that it was far more pleasant to be clean than dirty. Mostly she went, however, because the water was icy cold and it soothed the burning need better than anything else she'd tried.
Servicing herself certainly didn't help! When the curse had first overtaken her, the itch had been so maddening she'd thought she would lose her mind. She'd rubbed her woman's mound on anything that seemed it might help until she'd chafed herself, but the itch had only moved deeper. After studying the post of her bed for weeks on end, she'd finally sawed a length off and rounded it to reach the itch inside and it had felt glorious for a little while, but it only seemed that each time she appeased the ache, it came back worse. It wasn't until she'd finally, in a fit of temper, thrown the post in the fire that she discovered it was far better to ignore the constant throbbing than to try to relieve it. After a while, she'd grown accustomed to it and although it still ached all the time and sometimes worse than others, the cold baths in the river helped to cool the fire.
It was a hard lesson and one she should not be so quick to dismiss, she told herself as she reached the river. The knight would be gone at dawn, taking his man meat with him, and then where would she be if she yielded to the desperate yearning to mount him?
No worse off, a voice in her head told her.
Except she would! The ache came back worse each time she tried to appease it! And what was more, the poor man would be far worse off!
Trying to shake his image from her mind, she stripped when she reached the riverbank and waded into the chilling water. The shock that went through her as she sat down in the water took her breath. For several moments, she struggled to pull air into her lungs and finally managed to gasp in a breath. Grabbing the rag she used to bathe with, she worked it over the upper part of her body quickly. She didn't rub her breasts with it. Cold or not, rubbing her nipples only made them throb worse. Instead, she leaned down and dipped them into the icy water.
It was sheer torture. Slowly the heat began to cool, though. The throbbing ache seemed to subside. Shivering, she climbed out of the water. Her breasts were pleasantly numb and so was her sex-her buttocks and legs if it came to that-but more importantly, the burning had ceased. Relieved, she dried carefully and headed back to her cabin.
She managed to focus on her chores for a while when she returned, tackling her mending while she waited for the stew she'd cooked earlier to heat up. Her mind kept wandering to the handsome knight, however, her imagination conjuring an image of him in the tavern.
He would be eating by now, she decided. He'd said that he wanted food, a bath, and bed, but he would have had to have seen to his fine stallion first.
And it had been a very fine stallion!
It was a shame the beasts most well endowed with dicks were so dangerously big and unpredictable!
She banished the thought. She didn't want to end up like her mother!
Fixing a plate of stew, she sat down with it and a crust of the bread she'd baked earlier in the week.
The knight would very likely settle down in the tavern to drink and wait for his dinner and the bath to be prepared.
He would probably have a nasty temper when he drank, she told herself. It seemed to her that no matter how good natured they appeared to be when sober, they had only to get into their cups to turn into a beast!
When she'd finished her meal, she went out back to scrape the bowl and wash it in the tub she kept by the back door. Settling on the stoop when she'd finished, she stared up at the clear night sky, her mind conjuring an image of the Knight at his bath.
No doubt that bitch, Meg, who served at the tavern would be helping him with his bath!
Closing her eyes, she tried to imagine what his magnificent body would look like when he was naked. She couldn't quite conjure the image she wanted, though. She kept picturing the stallion's dick and she knew very well he wouldn't have anything nearly that large.
She'd been told it was usually the length of their thumb.
She narrowed her eyes, trying to remember his thumbs, but all she could really remember was his handsome face and his hard thighs.
The heat had stolen over again while she sat thinking and it was worse than before. She wiggled restlessly, tried hard to focus on something else, but she began to feel feverish, so hot all over, she felt dizzy.
Leaping up abruptly, she decided to take a walk.
She couldn't outrun the need pulsing in her veins, though, and eventually she found herself standing outside the inn, staring at the darkened windows above it. She could still hear the slurred voices of men inside the inn, though, and eventually she crept close enough to peer inside.
There was no sign of the knight. Her heart surged in her chest. He must be upstairs!
Moving away from the window again, she began to pace the circumference of the building, searching the walls for some way to climb up. There was a tree that grew quite close to the building, but although she followed one thick limb to the very eaves of the building with her gaze, she wasn't at all certain that it would hold her. Beyond that, the trunk of the tree was too thick, she was sure, to offer her any purchase for climbing.
She moved around it anyway, searching. Finding a knot easily the size of her head about three feet from the ground, she judged the distance from the knot to the limb above it and decided to try.
Her skirts, she quickly discovered, were not meant for climbing! She was tempted to simply pull her gown off and discard it. It occurred to her, though, that someone might find it and if they did they might guess that it was hers and what she was up to.
They would raise an alarm and then she wouldn't get the chance to ride her fine stallion!
Bending down, she grasped the back of her skirt and brought it up between her legs, tucking it in at the waist. It formed a sort of trousers, but very loose-legged. Still, it wasn't nearly as awkward. She managed to push herself up high enough to grasp the lowest limb. Pulling with her arms, she dug her bare toes into the bark and pushed herself up until she could plant her toes on the knot. The knot helped her climb to the limb. From there it was a little easier. In a few minutes, she reached the limb she'd been staring at that almost brushed the side of the building.
Her first thought was to straddle the limb and inch along it until she thought she was close enough to grasp the window ledge. As soon as she did, however, she felt pleasure waft through her. Closing her eyes, she rocked back and forth experimentally for a moment, enjoying the pleasure wafting through her. As it always had before, though, the rubbing only drove the itch deeper and she stopped, staring hungrily at the window so close and yet still so far away.
More reckless now that the heat was fully upon her, she began inching along the limb, studying her goal as she crept nearer and nearer and trying to decide the best way to get in once she reached it.
Unfortunately, the limb began to dip with her weight. Pausing in dismay when she realized that she was going to be far too low by the time she got to the end to reach the window sill, she stared at the window unhappily for several moments before she began to search for another possibility.
The limb above her, she realized, might just work. She'd thought it too high-and it was-but if it dipped as this one did .... Inching backward to the trunk once more, she climbed up to the next limb and straddled it. This time, she ignored the tremors that wafted through her the moment she straddled it and immediately began to pull herself along it. She was nearing her goal and her heart had begun to hammer with excitement when she heard an ominous crack. She froze, her heart thundering in her chest, listening, hardly daring to breathe. After a few moments, when the limb didn't break, she cautiously moved a little further. A second nerve wracking crack emanated from the limb, making her freeze again.
Frustration filled her. She couldn't be much more than arm's length from the damned sill! So close, she thought forlornly. Looking down finally, she discovered the limb she was on had dipped until she was just above the limb she'd been on before. Uncurling her legs, she stretched them out and just managed to plant her toes on the limb below. Shifting some of her weight to her toes, she very carefully slipped her hips a little forward and reached out toward the window ledge. Her fingers grazed it but she couldn't quite get a grip.
Breathless by now from fear, desire, and exertion, she paused to take a few breaths of air and tried again, pushing down on the limb below with her toes and shifting her hips a little further. The limb she was straddling broke abruptly, pitching her forward. She scrambled wildly to get a grip on the ledge and caught a hold just as the branch that had been between her legs hit the branch supporting her toes. Without part of her weight supported by the upper branch, the one below dipped as it had before, leaving her dangling by her fingertips from the window ledge. When it popped back up, it nearly knocked her loose. Gritting her teeth, she dug her toes into the rough wood of the walls and struggled, pushing herself up high enough to get one arm on the ledge and then the other.
Fortunately, although the window was closed, it wasn't latched. She managed to push it open a little and then a little more, wiggling inward as she did until she'd pushed the window wide enough to slip her head and shoulders through. The snoring emanating from the bed assured her of several things. The knight was present and he was probably dead drunk and unlikely to hear her-she hoped. Wiggling deeper into the room, she caught herself on her hands before she could land face first on the floor. Huffing for breath, she walked forward on her hands until she could get her legs inside-one leg. She was afraid the window would slam shut if she pulled both legs free. Instead, she managed to heave herself upward on one leg and grasped the window to free her other leg, closing it carefully.
Wet with sweat from her efforts and shaking all over, she paused to allow her eyes to adjust to the deeper gloom of the room.
There was a substantial lump on the bed nearest the window. As Pandora's eyes adjusted, she realized it was definitely her handsome knight and he was absolutely naked!
The fire leapt inside her instantly. With shaking hands, she began to strip. When she was as naked as he, she crept to the bed and eased onto the mattress, staring at the knight's groin and trying to distinguish his cock from the dim blur of his body. Slowly, her eyes adjusted enough for her to make out the object of her desires.
Her mouth went dry. It was the loveliest piece of flesh she'd seen in forever! Too eager now to get hold of it to think straight, she reached for it and began to stroke it. The man groaned, but she was too far gone the moment she had in her grasp to be cautious any longer. It hardened almost instantly and she moved closer, running her tongue along it. The taste was heavenly! It was so thick and long and growing harder by the moment.
Inspired by his reaction, she shifted closer and covered the tip with her mouth. The hunger surged higher and she began to pull and suck at his cock a little frantically.
A hand came down on the top of her head heavily enough it shoved the cock halfway down her throat. She gagged reflexively, but she gripped his cock more tightly in her hands, fearful he meant to snatch it away, and sucked harder. Fingers tightened in her hair. He groaned and she realized it was a sound of pleasure.
Relieved, she ignored the hand and worked to pleasure him feverishly, feeling her own heat scouring her insides, feeling her belly flutter. It wasn't until she felt his cock jerk in her mouth that she realized she was going to miss the chance to feel it inside her sex if she kept sucking it. It would grow soft again!
Releasing it abruptly, she scrambled to straddle his hips, holding his cock to impale herself on it. He caught her hips but despite the sudden anxiety that filled her, he began trying to drive her down over it instead of pulling her away. It slipped through her juices deliciously and still she discovered it took a great deal of effort to push herself down on it. She began to shudder with release before she'd managed to get it completely inside. Pausing, she squeezed her eyes tightly to hold the ecstasy to herself, to relish it.
He surged upward abruptly, tipping her onto her back. His cock nearly slipped free with the movement and she groaned in despair, but he curled his hips almost immediately, driving into her again. She released a sigh of pleasure as he began to pump into her frenziedly. It created such a delightful ache that in a matter of moments she felt her body surging upward toward another release. She bit her lip when ecstasy surged inside her, mindful of the need to prevent anyone from finding them together, uttering whimpering noises as the rapture shook her with wondrous quakes that spread joy throughout her body.
He tensed abruptly, shuddered, and then she felt the hot tide of his seed pouring inside of her. It set off delicious aftershocks. Gasping hoarsely, he settled heavily against her for a few moments and finally shifted off of her.
Disappointment flickered through her when he'd pulled his cock from her body, but she realized the ache had been appeased-at least for the moment. Vastly relieved, she relaxed, drifting in the glory of absolute satisfaction.
"Pansy, is it?" he said in a rumbling voice still husky with spent passion.
A shiver skated through her. She struggled to think of an explanation for her presence, wishing she'd had the sense to consider it before. "Yes," she responded finally in a small voice, still thinking furiously.
He nuzzled his face against hers. "This was a nice surprise," he murmured, amusement threading his voice.
Inspiration finally flickered through her mind. "I couldn't bear to think of you going off to a tournament without a token."
He seemed startled. "I'd no idea you were such a good hearted girl," he murmured after a long moment, amusement still threading his voice, although suspicion had crept into it, as well.
She shifted slightly toward him, stroking a hand along his chest. "And I did think it might inspire you to come back this way."
"Did you? Sorry, I've no coin to give you. You've climbed into the bed of a landless knight without two pence to rub together. That's why I was on my way to the tournament," he said sardonically.
Pandora felt her face heat. "I wasn't after coin!" she said indignantly before she'd had time to consider it. "That is ... uh .... I don't mind waiting."
He considered that for several moments, but his mind was clearly elsewhere for his hands were busy exploring her.
Oddly enough, although it warmed her to feel his touch, Pandora discovered there was no real heat in her loins as she was accustomed to feeling. She felt oddly ... satisfied. Before she could actually explore that strange circumstance, he rolled over her once more, pushed her thighs wide and speared his cock into her, thrusting until she felt his hard, thick flesh filling her once more.
The ache was back, worse than before, before he'd driven into more than a handful of times. She came, shatteringly and then the heat built again, climbing higher and faster. She'd come twice more before he again reached his peak and came inside of her.
Disappointment was sour in her throat when he dragged in a deep breath and moved off of her.
She wasn't done! Anger warred with the fever in her mind, but almost the moment he rolled off of her she heard him drop heavily into sleep once more. For a time, she lay staring at the darkened ceiling, listening to his heavy breathing, wrestling the fever and trying to will it away. Why was it back, she wondered? She'd felt appeased after the first time! It wasn't right, damn it!
She told herself she should leave, but she couldn't bring herself to do so when she had the means of appeasing the fire so close! Finally, she decided to see if she could awaken his flesh again. Turning toward him, she began to play with the sleeping beast. It resisted just at first, but her determination finally paid off. His cock stood up, grew taut.
"Insatiable witch," he muttered with a mixture or irritation, renewed interest, and amusement.
Rolling her onto her back, he settled his mouth over hers, kissing her deeply and stirring the heat to a flame in her belly. She broke the kiss, pulling at him a little frantically. Instead of immediately attending her needs, however, he scooted lower and began to pull at her breasts.
Effectively distracted by the pull of his mouth on her nipple, Pandora clasped her arms around his head, hugging the delight to her as fiery currents traveled from the nipple he was teasing all the way to her loins, making them flutter with excitement. He moved to the twin after a few moments, tormenting it as he had the first and finally, to her relief, he mounted her.
She came almost immediately. Instead of touching down afterwards, though, the wonderful friction he created sawing in and out of her built the heat toward another explosion. It still took longer to rise and allowed her time to thoroughly appreciate the feel of him inside of her. She was enjoying it so much, she nearly missed the opportunity to climax again. As she felt him caught up in the throes of release, however, it pushed her over the edge and she felt her own convulsions of ecstasy synchronize with his.
Weak in the aftermath, she drifted slowly down to a sense of sublime, peaceful bliss. Her knight grunted as the last spasm hit him and then rolled off of her. Within moments his gusty breaths took on the rhythm of sleep once more.
Sighing in contentment, Pandora smiled, enjoying the first true peace with her body in so long that she'd forgotten what it felt like. As she drifted toward sleep herself, however, her subconscious picked at a puzzle she wasn't entirely aware of-at first.
Slowly but surely, her tired mind sorted her wayward thoughts until they congealed into a discovery that brought her wide awake.
She didn't feel the heat! She was completely and totally relaxed.
He'd cured her! He'd broken the curse, she thought with excitement, sitting up abruptly.
She frowned in the next moment. That couldn't be right, she realized. If it took no more than one good round of fucking to be rid of the curse, wouldn't her mother have gotten rid of it?
She sat considering it for several moments. After a while it occurred to her that she'd felt just as appeased after they'd coupled the first time. Then her knight had decided that he wanted another round and the heat had been back, even worse than it had been before ... until she'd wakened him and coupled with him a third time.
The answer was so unbelievable that she dismissed it at first. Search though she might to find that terrible gnawing at her vitals that she'd grown so accustomed to, she couldn't find it.
She'd passed the curse to the knight!
Her heart leapt with joy at the thought! She was free!
She frowned. Poor man!
After considering it, however, it occurred to her that men tended to be horny all the time. He probably wouldn't notice the difference!
He was bound to want to fuck again if he woke up, though, and if he did, then he would pass it back to her!
Inching from the bed on that thought, Pandora tiptoed quickly to her gown and shimmied into it. A floor board creaked as she crept to the window and she froze, holding her breath as she stared at the form on the bed. He didn't move and after a moment she relaxed. She'd tasted ale on his mouth. No doubt between that and three lusty couplings he would not waken before noon the next day!
Heartened by that thought, she hurried to the window and climbed over the sill. She'd broken the branch she'd used to get in! There was still the other, though. Wondering if it would hold so that she could climb back to the trunk and climb down, she wavered, but she really had no choice. She couldn't go through the inn. Someone was bound to spot her and if they did the knight would certainly discover the terrible thing she'd done to him! He might well cleave her head off with his sword!
Shuddering at the thought, she leaned out until she could grasp the branch and pulled on it. When it was closer, she grabbed a hold a little further along the branch, where it was thicker. Taking a couple of breaths to bolster her courage, she settled her other hand on the branch and allowed herself to slip from the windowsill. Three things happened so fast it was difficult, afterwards, to recall the sequence of events. The branch bowed under her weight, the window behind her slammed shut and caught the tail of her skirt as it did, and she shot toward the ground so fast it was all she could do to keep from screaming. Her skirt, firmly wedged between the window and the sill, tore as her weight proved too much for the old fabric. The limb, as limber as it was, reached its maximum bow while she was still several feet from the ground and then broke with an ominous crack. Pandora hit the ground and rolled instinctively. The limb hit her anyway, but it was a glancing blow.
Fear of discovery had her bounding to her feet before she'd had time to assess the damage from the fall. Dogs began to bark. Grasping what was left of her skirt in her hands, Pandora raced back down the road toward her cottage. She was breathless by the time she reached it. She thought she would have been anyway, but she'd been chased by dogs much of the way and had had to run faster to outstrip them. Slamming into her cottage door, she worked the catch frantically and managed to tumble inside before any of the dogs on her heels succeeded in catching skin between their maws. One snagged the ragged edge of her skirt, however, and refused to release it.
Slamming the door, Pandora tugged until she tore the wedge of fabric loose and wilted weakly to the floor. For a time, she was too panicked to think. Her instincts had her listening for sounds of pursuit, but she only heard the scratching of the dogs at the door and after a time, they went away again.
The fates had smiled upon her, she realized abruptly, a smile beginning to curl her lips! She'd broken the curse and she hadn't been caught!
The smile died. The knight had been in his cups, but he'd recognized her. She had the uneasy feeling that he would remember everything when he woke up. Worse, if he felt anything like she had when she'd first fallen under the curse, he would know that something had happened!
She chewed her lip, trying to convince herself that he wouldn't. Although she'd managed to convince herself, before, that men were such lusty beasts it wasn't likely he would notice the difference, she began to have a bad feeling that he would. After all, they had coupled half the night! He would expect to awaken feeling well satisfied-not hungry, not with the ... desperation she remembered.
If he said anything at all, the villagers would tell him about the curse! He was liable to hear it before he left anyway! She would've liked to believe that he wouldn't be able to put the two together, but she had a bad feeling he would-and very quickly. He hadn't struck her as a man of low intelligence-entirely the opposite.
She didn't know if it was the fear that he would hunt her down and give the curse back to her or the fear that he'd hunt her down and slay her that galvanized her, but it was definitely fear! Surging to her feet abruptly, she glanced around her cabin a little frantically, trying to decide what to do, where to go. She'd lived in the village her entire life, though! She didn't know how far the next village was.
He had a horse! He could chase her down all too easily, she realized. The woods, then! She knew the woods well! Grabbing a cloth, she began to fill it with the food she had ready to hand, a water skin, a change of clothing, and then made it into a bundle. It was awkward and heavy, but she might have to hide out in the woods for days before he gave up and left! She was good at finding natural growing food, but it was early in the season. She might still starve! Pausing to grab her cloak and twirl it around her shoulders, she eased the door of the cottage open and peered down the dark road. Four pairs of eyes blinked at her from a few cottages down!
The damned dogs! Closing the door again, Pandora tied the strings of her cloak and tiptoed toward the back door. Relieved when she didn't see any of the dogs, she crossed her backyard and let herself out the gate. The woods crept close there and she was beneath the deeper shadows of the trees within moments. Fortunately, she'd gone through the woods to the river so often she not only had a well worn path to follow, she knew it by heart. She managed to make to the river without blundering off the trail and into the woods more than a couple of times.
She paused at the bank to think. She didn't especially want to cross it, but it occurred to her that the dogs would be able to follow her scent-if anyone decided to try that! The decision made, she waded out until she was almost waist deep. Her first impulse was to head away from the village, in the opposite direction she knew the knight would traveling, but it occurred to her that he might think of that. Instead, she followed the river in the opposite direction, creeping slowly past the village when she came to it. The sky was beginning to lighten by the time she'd made her way past the last of the cottages, though, and she began to move faster, finally leaving the water on the opposite bank and plunging into the thick woods.
She was numb from the cold water long before she left the river. Her feet and legs didn't even feel like they belonged to her, but after stumping along for a while, the warmth generated from the walk chased the chill. Exhausted after a little while, she began to search for a place to curl and rest. There were a couple of small caves not far up the hill from the village, but she rather thought those might come instantly to mind to the locals. She was about to give up and simply lie down on a pile of leaves when she spotted a hollow in an enormous tree. Uneasiness flickered through her at the thought that there might be fairies or worse, gnomes, but she girded herself and checked anyway. To her relief, all she found was enough acorns to assure her the squirrels used it to stash food. After checking the interior carefully, she squeezed inside, wrapped her cloak tightly around her and leaned her head against the rough wood, closing her eyes.
Drake's cock woke before he did. It wasn't a particularly unusual situation, however, and since he realized as soon as he surfaced toward consciousness that he'd had far too much ale the night before, he decided to ignore it. Despite every effort to do so, the damned thing remained obstinately erect instead of subsiding. In point of fact, the harder he tried to ignore it, the harder it got until it felt as if it was drawing his skin taut all over.
He needed to piss, he decided, realizing after a drunken search that his bladder was full. That explained it! Carefully rolling to his side, he pushed himself upright and flung his legs over the side of the bed. His head reeled and he caught it between both hands to steady it before it fell off his shoulders. When his head stopped swimming, he opened his eyes a crack, allowing his lashes to filter out some of the glaring light and swept the room with his gaze in search of the chamber pot. Spying it in one corner, he hoisted himself upright, got his bearings and staggered a wavering path in the general direction. Without too much difficulty, he managed to reach his goal. Planting one hand on the wall to keep his balance, he grabbed his cock and pointed it toward the pot, waiting a little impatiently for his bladder to act. Uttering a sigh of relief when it finally produced a stream, he leaned his forehead against the wall. The cool surface felt good against his head, reducing the throbbing at his temples somewhat.
When he'd finished, he headed back toward the bed, but even though that required far more concentration that it usually did, he found random thoughts flickering through his mind.
The thoughts produced heat and he felt his cock rising again when it had only just subsided. Irritation flickered through him, but he discovered his thoughts were far too pleasant to be too annoyed.
The lovely maid he'd spotted along the lane as he entered the village had paid him a visit the night before, he realized as an image of her face materialized in his mind. A smile curled his lips. That had been a pleasant surprise! She'd seemed ... such a proper lady, too! Who would've thought she would creep into his room and climb in his bed?
Lusty wench, he thought fondly, collapsing on the bed again and trying to compose himself for sleep.
It eluded him. His cock was up and raring again and the thoughts he couldn't banish from his mind were no help at all in ridding him of his erection. Frowning, he resolutely pushed the memories from his mind and focused on sleep.
He gave up after a time, staring through burning eyes at the ceiling and idly stroking his aching genitals. He would've thought, all things considered, that his soldier would be content. Instead, it remained stubbornly at attention as if he hadn't spent half the night plowing!
Realizing finally that there was only one way to appeased the damned thing and make it cease to throb, he allowed his memories of Pansy to flow back into his mind and began to stroke his cock more purposefully. She was by far the most beautiful wench he'd ever had the good fortune to tempt into his bed and with a body that easily eclipsed her lovely face, soft and warm and round in all the right places!
He uttered a choked grunt when his body abruptly convulsed and began to eject his seed, pumping until he could produce no more. Releasing a sigh of relief, he closed his eyes, struggling to capture the sleep that had eluded him before.
It was a lost cause, he realized. He was awake and worse, his damned cock was up again within a matter of minutes, throbbing as hard as before or worse!
Frowning, he sat up and peered out the window. A jolt went through him. It was full daylight! "Gods!" he growled angrily, scrambling out of the bed and looking around for his clothes. He should have been off at dawn! He was going to miss the start of the fucking tournament and if he did, he might well not get in at all!
Cursing steadily despite the fact that it made his aching head pound worse, he dressed as quickly as he could, wincing when he tucked his cock into his thews. "Down boy! Heel! You're not likely to find any warm dark holes to burrow in for a while!"
Deciding if he ignored it it would go away-since it generally did-he grabbed the rest of his gear once he'd donned his braies, chauses, and gambeson and pulled his boots on and headed out of his rented room. Descending the stairs was a trial in endurance. Every step jarred him, making both his temples and his cock throb painfully.
The innkeeper eyed him curiously as he entered the bar. "It's a bit late to break your fast, my lord, but I think we might have a steak left and eggs if yer interested."
Drake paused, considering. He hadn't lied to the wench. He was the next thing to penniless, but he had enough for a tankard of ale and breakfast. The question was, could he afford to waste the time?
He decided he might as well. There was no point in arriving weak with hunger and with a splitting headache. He wasn't likely to acquit himself well under those circumstances. Nodding, he settled his gear near the door and selected a bench. "Be quick about it. I overslept already."
Nodding jerkily, the innkeeper disappeared through a door into the back. When he returned, he crossed the room and set a tankard of ale on the table. "My wife'll have that right out, my lord!"
Drake frowned. "I met a girl last eve," he said slowly. "You might know of her ... Pan ... uh ... Pansy?"
The man looked at him strangely. "Don't know no Pansy-not hereabouts," he said uneasily, backing away.
"That's damned odd," Drake muttered. Lifting his hand he held it above the floor, judging the height. "About yeah high, dark hair, and as lovely a girl as I've seen. I'm thinking she wouldn't be easy to forget."
The man turned as white as a sheet. "You ain't meanin' Pandora, are you?"
Uneasiness flickered through Drake. "I'm sure she said her name was Pansy," he said warily.
The man shook his head. "Ain't nobody named Pansy lives around here, but there's an accursed wench lives on the edge of the village named Pandora."
Drake gaped at the man, feeling his belly roil. "Accursed? You mean a witch?"
The innkeeper retreated to the bar, staring at Drake wide-eyed from the other side. "Nay. She's no witch ... although I suppose she might as well be! Accursed she was, an' her ma before her by a gnome! Her whole line's accursed!"
Drake jolted to his feet. "Accursed how?"
The man turned whiter if possible. "Don't know ... exactly! The gnome said anybody that touched her would be cursed, too, an' ain't nobody been brave enough to go near her."
"Where does she live?" Drake growled furiously.
The man flinched. Lifting a shaking hand, he pointed down the road. "Last cottage on the edge of town!"
Grabbing his gear, Drake stormed from the inn. After a brief debate about whether to confront her at once or retrieve his stallion, he finally turned to the stables. His horse and his armor were all he owned. He wasn't about to leave them. Bellowing at the stable boy before he even reached the stables, he saddled his horse when the boy came running out leading the stallion, tied his gear behind the saddle and mounted up.
Fury churned in his gut when he reached the edge of town. Any doubt that had lingered that he'd been wrong vanished. The last cottage stood across from the apple tree where he'd encountered her the day before.
Drawing the stallion to a halt, he dismounted and tied the reins at her gate post, then slammed his palm against the gate. It flew open, banging against the fence and bounding back, but he'd stalked up the path to her door by that time. Balling his hand into a fist, he pounded on the panel hard enough to rattle the door on its hinges. When he'd paused to listen a moment and heard no movement inside, he slammed his shoulder against the door. It flew open as the gate had, banging against the wall.
He knew even before he'd scanned the tiny one roomed cottage that the vixen had flown!
"Gods damn it!" he roared furiously, looking the place over again in the hope he might find some hiding place. Fear and frustration twisted inside him when he realized she truly was gone. She'd cursed him, the conniving little bitch, and taken off!
But to where?
* * * *
* * * *
Drake followed Pandora's tracks all the way down to the river where they ended. He glared at the sluggishly flowing water for several moments, the half-formed hope that she'd simply gone down to fetch water dying a painful death.
A mixture of panic and disbelief flickered through him. Why would she do that to him? He was a stranger! He'd damned well not done anything to warrant her animosity!
Deciding after a few moments to settle and wait to see if she would come back, he found a fallen log and sat down, turning his focus inward in search of something that just felt wrong. Aside from his headache, his empty stomach, and his hard dick, however, he couldn't find anything amiss.
What sort of curse had the damned gnome placed on her?
They were evil little bastards, he thought angrily. There was no telling what sort of curse he'd placed on her-or rather her mother, according to the innkeeper. Misery, that was certain, and it was to be passed to the daughters, he supposed, but why to anyone who touched them?
It occurred to him rather forcefully that 'touched' to a male mind generally meant fucking, and he'd done a great deal of that sort of touching the night before! There was no saying that it was a male gnome, of course, but if it had been the horror that came most forcefully to mind was a curse to make any man that touched them wither-or at least their manhood!
He considered that for several moments, but he sure as hell couldn't see that his cock was withering! Reaching down to adjust it for comfort, he felt it for reassurance but it certainly seemed to be all there. If anything, it was hard enough to drive pegs with!
Struggling to redirect his mind, he fell to wondering if any of the villagers might know the story a little better. It would be far easier to figure out just how much trouble he was in if he knew the whole tale!
After glancing up and down the riverbank a few times, he got to his feet and made his way back to the cottage. Untying his stallion, he led the horse back toward the village, searching the cottages along the way until he spied an elderly woman hanging her wash. Securing the reins to the woman's gate post, he strode across her yard and down the side of the cottage.
Hearing his approach, she glanced in his direction, did a double and whirled to dash inside. He cut her off. "Easy old woman! I just want to talk."
She studied him distrustfully. "About what?"
He saw no point in beating around the bush. "I heard a tale about the wench that lives in the cottage down the lane."
The woman paled. "Pandora?"
"That's the one," he said grimly.
She flicked a glance down his length, paused for so long on his erection that Drake felt his face heat and then lifted her gaze again. "Ye've done it now, boy! Ye shoulda asked before ye give her a tumble!"
Drake blinked at her. "Come again?"
The old woman shook her head, seemed to debate briefly, and then moved to a stool and settled on it. "Her mother was the fairest maiden for miles around ... had every male above ten following her about like a pack of hassling dogs! Oh she enjoyed it! Had them falling all over themselves to please her and then she up and married this fellow from the next village over! Well, the women around here was relieved, I can tell you! Not but what the men still made like statues and gaped at her anytime she walked by, but her man guarded her!
"Then one day she's out gatherin' herbs. Pandora were about five at the time, I'm guessin' and she was with her when they came upon a gnome. No surprise he was smitten with her, too. I'm thinkin' he put some kinda spell on her man, because one day he just up and disappeared. Never was seen again. And of course, all the men 'round about starts sniffin' after her again.
"But this gnome, he wanted her for hisself an' he fixes it so the men's warded off. Well, Sophie's real miffed about that. She had her eye on the blacksmith, I'm thinkin', 'cause he was fairly well set up. So she tells the gnome she'll have none of him and when he gets angry, she laughs at him.
"She never was too clever. Beautiful, but not very bright. So, the gnome's furious 'cause he's been hangin' after her all this time, wantin' her, usin' his magic to try to coax her. He says she should suffer like he has-unrequited lust, 'cause I'm thinkin', maybe he didn't want to admit that he loved her-or maybe it was only lust and he knew it! Anyways, that's the curse he put on her-said forever and her line, too!"
Drake stared at her blankly, feeling his anger slowly climb again. "Unrequited lust?" he growled disbelievingly.
The woman shrugged. "That's what he said. A plague upon any that touched her, they'd suffer the same!"
Turning on his heel, Drake stalked from the woman's yard, wondering if he could accept the woman's account or if he should investigate a little more. It sounded damned absurd to him!
He discovered when he reached the front gate that the old woman had followed him. She was staring at him pityingly when he glanced at her. "She done gone an' cursed you now," she said. "Ain't never gonna get that swellin' to go down."
Drake gaped at her, feeling his face heat. Uneasiness flickered through him despite the fact that he'd been willing to completely dismiss the entire thing from his mind only moments before. Resisting the urge to adjust his painfully swollen cock, he gathered his reins and mounted his horse, wincing as he settled in the saddle.
He hesitated for a moment and finally turned the stallion and headed east. If he hurried, he thought, he might still make it to the tournament before they closed the lists.
He should've known not to pay any attention to ignorant hicks, he thought irritably. They'd gotten him all stirred up with the tale of a damned curse and that was all there was to it? It was beyond absurd! It was the most ridiculous thing he'd ever heard!
If there was a curse at all-and he doubted it!-then it wasn't much of a curse! He felt fine. His head was still pounding like a son-of-a-bitch, and his balls had begun to hurt almost as much as his cock, but otherwise ....
Every mile he rode was sheer torment! He ignored the throbbing pain as long as he could stand it and finally drew his horse to a stop and climbed down. When he'd tied the horse to keep it from wandering off, he moved behind a tree and very carefully loosened his chausses and just as carefully pulled his cock out, staring down at it in dismay. He'd never had such a raging erection in his life! His cock was so sensitive it hurt to touch it. Gritting his teeth, he gripped it anyway and began to pump his hand up and down its length. He came within a few moments. It felt like it turned his guts inside out, but his balls ceased to throb so painfully. Dragging in a relieved breath, struggling with dizziness, he leaned his head weakly against the tree, trying to decide whether he needed to jack off again. His cock was still semi-erect, however, and his balls still tight.
At least it wasn't nearly as painful when he jacked-off the second time! Wiping his brow with the back of his hand, he shoved his cock back into his braies and tied them. His cock was hard again before he even managed to mount the fucking horse!
Anxiety flickered through him for the first time since he'd spoken to the old woman. As misery went, he was fairly certain there wasn't a hell of a lot that could be worse! After a few more miles he almost wished his cock would wither!
Anger built as his misery mounted and finally he pulled the horse to a halt again. He wasn't going to make it to the tournament and he would be a dead man if he did! He couldn't fight in this condition!
Turning the horse, he gritted his teeth and kicked the stallion into a gallop. He was going to find that little bitch and choke the life out of her!
If she hadn't been exhausted, Pandora didn't think she would've been able to sleep at all. As it was, however, it wasn't just the discomfort of her position or her surroundings that invaded her dreams and woke her only a few hours after she'd found a place to hide. She already felt the fever rising inside her again. She hadn't passed the curse to him. She was still accursed!
She was so upset by the discovery that it was a while before it occurred to her to wonder if there was actually any point in hiding in the woods after all. If she hadn't passed her curse to the knight, would there be any reason for him to look for her?
A coldness washed over her when she finally remembered the rest of the curse-that it would plague any who dared to touch her! In all the time since she had inherited the curse, no one had allowed her near them, but she'd grown so accustomed to thinking of it as her misery it had completely slipped her mind that that was only the case if she remained untouched.
He would have the fever now!
A shiver cascaded through her but, unfortunately, it was only partly from fear. Part of it was the memories of shared passion that the thought had resurrected and those memories so consumed her that it made it difficult to focus on anything else.
She felt as she had when she had first been struck by the malady and had thought that she might appease it. Each time she'd tried it had only returned more forcefully and such was the case now-except that it was far harder to bear when she had been so careful for so long. She'd grown accustomed, learned to shuffle it to the back of her mind. It was always there, a constant ache, but manageable because she'd refused to allow it overshadow her life.
Until the knight had come and she'd seen the chance, at long last, to find relief.
Well, it was no relief now! She felt far worse than she had before she'd gone to him and beyond that she now had to worry that he would hunt her down for passing the curse on to him-which she had even though she still had it!
After a while, when she heard no sounds indicating the knight was searching for her, she decided that she simply had to get out of the hollow and stretch. When she'd carefully extricated herself, she looked around, stretched to ease her aching muscles and crouched down with her pack to find something to eat and, more importantly, to drink. She felt far more thirsty than hungry. Small wonder, she thought wryly, remembering the time she'd spent with the knight.
And naturally, when she'd drank her fill she felt the need to relieve herself. By her reckoning, she thought it must be well onto noon by that time, however, and he'd said that he meant to travel to the King's tournament. Surely, he must be long gone even if he had stopped to look for her?
She wasn't convinced enough to return to her cottage. She rather thought she should hide in the woods at least a few days, but she thought it might be safe to move about a little. Relieving her bladder, she discovered, didn't give her a great deal of relief. Her woman's place was tender from so much unaccustomed coupling and still throbbing in demand for more.
She decided she would have to bear it for a while. She didn't feel safe enough to head down to the river-not yet. When it was nearer to dusk, she promised herself, she would go and bathe herself and the cold water would soothe the ache for a little while.
Drake was not pleased when he reached Pandora's cottage once more and discovered she hadn't returned. He'd managed to convince himself on the ride back that she would be and that he would be able to confront her for her treachery. After fuming over it for a few minutes, he finally led his stallion around to her back garden, unsaddled him and allowed him to graze at will while he went inside to wait for her.
He paced for a time, but his stomach was rumbling from a lack of food and finally he searched her stores for something to appease that need at least. There was a pot of stew over the embers in the fireplace, he discovered. Stoking the fire, he looked around for anything he might add to it since there was very little left in the pot, and finally tossed in a few of the carrots and potatoes he found. There was no bread that he could see, which annoyed him. She was not much of a homemaker that he could see if she did not keep bread in the house!
And of course there was no ale!
Settling for water, he fixed himself a bowl of stew and sat down to fill his stomach. His headache had pretty much vanished by the time he'd filled his stomach if the other ache hadn't subsided one whit, but he was obliged to admit he at least felt somewhat better. After pacing a while, he dropped onto her cot and lay back, staring at the ceiling and trying to will his cock to lie down. He didn't succeed, but he'd had damned little sleep the night before and he dosed off.
He realized as soon as he woke that it was nearly sundown and the wench still hadn't returned! He might well have dozed, he reasoned, but he would've wakened if she'd come back.
A fresh wave of anger surged through him when he realized that she had no intention of coming back-not any time soon, at any rate!
Well, she would not have gone far! She might well only be waiting until darkness fell to sneak back, but he decided not to count upon it. If he did, he was liable to end up spending the night in her cottage alone and he didn't think he could wait that long to appease the demand of his genitals for relief! They would explode before much longer if he didn't do something!
His decision made, he went out to capture his stallion, saddled him and rode down to the river. Pausing on the bank, he glanced both ways, trying to decide which way she might have gone. He was inclined to think she would've headed away from the village. He would have. On the other hand, she was a village girl and it seemed unlikely she'd ever been far from the village. She would want to stay close to feel safe.
He turned the stallion in the direction of the village and followed it. It meandered through the woods, at times close enough to the village that he could see the thatched roofs, at times far enough away that he might have been miles from the village if he hadn't known better.
It was as he rounded a bend that he spotted her. She was bathing in the river! His heart instantly surged in his chest with triumph and his cock throbbed hard enough he thought he might black out for several moments. Kicking his stallion in the sides, he bounded toward her even as he saw her head whip around. Her eyes widened. Uttering a shriek, she leapt up and dashed into the woods-stark naked! A grin of triumph curled his lips back from his teeth. He'd found the vixen! She wasn't going to elude him now!
Pandora knew trying to elude him was useless, but she couldn't convince her legs of the fruitlessness of it! They began churning almost before her mind had fully grasped that the sound she'd heard was the knight coming for her. She'd raced up the riverbank and into the woods before her mind fully assimilated that he was on his horse and there was no way she could outrun a mounted man on foot! She might have had some chance if he'd been on foot as she was. With the horse-none.
She developed a stitch in her side before she'd gone far. Clutching it, she struggled to keep going, searching the terrain in front of her frantically for some place to hide while she still had enough of a lead to do so. There was nothing but a scraggly bush here and there. The trees grew so thickly they choked out the light below them. Quickly discarding that as a possibility, she began scanning the trees themselves, looking for one she might have some chance of scaling. When she finally spotted one a few yards ahead of her, she bounded toward it, leaping up to catch the lowest limb as she reached it.
She managed to climb just high enough to make it easy for him to pluck her from the tree and plant her ass in front of him on the horse. He uttered a pained grunt as she landed in his lap, his face turning a sickly hue. She might have tried to fight her way free of him if he hadn't tightened his arm around her so hard that it forced the breath from her. By the time she'd recovered enough to try to pry his grip lose, he'd recovered sufficiently to send her a murderous glare.
"Don't move," he growled through his teeth.
Pandora subsided instantly, more because she was too weak with fright to do anything else than due to the fact that she'd heard and understood the order, which she hadn't, staring at him wide eyed. The whiteness around his mouth slowly recovered its natural color. Sweat glistened on his brow.
"Do you have any inkling of what you've done to me, wench?"
Pandora blinked at him, trying to decide if it would help to pretend ignorance. "I ... uh ...."
"Don't bother trying to spin me any tales, gods damn it! I know what you did! Tell me how to get rid of the curse!"
Pandora's jaw went slack. A very little thought, however, produced the certainty that he wouldn't welcome the truth.
He studied her for a long moment and finally grasped her leg nearest him and turned her so that she was facing him, straddling the horse backwards. She gripped his arms as he released her and pushed his gambeson up, snatching the ties of his braies and unveiling his cock. "It has not gone down one time since you climbed into my bed last eve and mounted it," he growled.
Pandora swallowed convulsively several times, feeling her own fever mount at the sight of it. She licked her lips, mesmerized. "I could ... uh ... give you ease," she said a little hopefully.
"Oh you will," he growled. "And then you will tell me how to rid myself of the damned curse."
Catching her around the hips with one arm, he lifted her, positioned the head of his cock against her opening and began to bear down on her. She was so wet, she felt slick and yet it was pleasurable agony to feel his swollen flesh prying at her own, boring into her until she almost felt as if her flesh could yield no more, until it began to burn with the strain. She thought the pained, pleasured grunts he expelled were evidence enough that it was as tortuous for him, but it sent her heat spiraling upward. He clutched her tightly when he had finally sheathed himself deeply inside her, holding her perfectly still, gasping hoarsely.
"Gods!" he murmured thickly, more to himself than her, she thought. "That is the first I have felt any relief at all."
He held her perfectly still for so long that she felt her impatience overcome her fear of him and began struggling to move. A shiver skated through him and then, abruptly, he began to jog her up and down on his lap, short, deep thrusts that made her come almost at once and then climb another peak. She didn't manage to reach it before he'd found his own release and disappointment fluttered through her, but it was short lived.
As soon as he managed to catch his breath, he guided the horse in a turn and headed back toward the river without uncoupling with her. The bouncing ride took her to the top of the peak she thought she'd missed scaling and pitched her off into rapture.
She didn't truly get the chance to come down. His cock didn't grow soft and he kept her mounted firmly as he headed back along the riverbed. She had a vague idea that he was headed toward her cottage, but she was too fevered from the heat that swirled inside her, too drunk with it, to know for certain or care. She came, over and over again until she finally lost touch with reality completely and sank into oblivion.
She roused toward consciousness when he finally lifted her from his lap and dismounted. She fell into his arms, too weak to catch herself. He shifted her onto one shoulder and carried her inside.
A wave of dizziness washed over her as he tossed her onto her cot. She landed hard enough to rattle her teeth in her head, too stunned to move. Before she'd entirely assimilated what he had in mind, he had grasped both her wrists and tied them above her head to one of the bedposts. She stared at him uneasily as he straightened and planted his back against the post at the foot of her bed, studying her through narrowed, assessing eyes, his expression hard.
"I have thought all day long-when I could think beyond the pain in my fucking groin!-and I cannot for the life of me think what I might have done that would inspire you to cause me this torment," he growled finally.
Pandora gaped at him in dismay. It wasn't posed as a question, but she knew it was. Unfortunately, she had no answer that would appease him. "I didn't mean to do it!" she gasped finally.
His lips tightened. "You stumbled in my window by mistake? Mounted me by accident?"
Pandora felt her face heat. "You don't understand! It's the curse!"
His face grew stonier if possible. "I'm beginning to fucking understand a lot better than I want to!" he snarled. "Tell me how to be rid of it!"
"I don't know how!" she yelled at him, abruptly angry. "Do you think I wouldn't have already if I knew?"
His lips tightened. "You might have thought about that before you shared it! I have to tell you I can't decide whether I most want to fuck you or choke the life out of you!"
Pandora felt her anger wilt as swiftly as it had risen. "I really didn't mean to pass it to you! I just ... I couldn't think beyond the need! And I'd forgotten that part of the curse! I really had!"
"But you remembered after you'd climbed in my bed and shared it?"
She bit her lip, but she didn't see any point in telling him that she'd thought she'd truly passed it on to him, removing it from herself in the process. "Not right away. It wasn't until I'd begun to feel a little relief-and you didn't show any signs of being satisfied that it finally occurred to me, and it was too late then."
"I need to think," he muttered after staring at her angrily for several moments in silence. "I can't begin to tell you how difficult that is when I can scarcely get my mind off my cock!"
He got up then and moved away from the bed. Pandora watched him warily. "Are you going to untie me?" she asked a little hopefully after a while.
He slid a narrow look at her. "I don't think so. I'd as soon not have to hunt you down again."
"I wouldn't leave!" she assured him.
He sent her a sour look and strode to the back door, going out.
Pandora stared at the door in dismay, pricking her ears to hear what he might be doing. Finally deciding that he must be attending his horse, she relaxed fractionally. It was impossible to relax completely even if she hadn't been tied to the bed. Despite the fact that they'd coupled since he'd caught her and she'd orgasmed until she'd blacked out, the heat began to flow back into her as it always did, more quickly than it might have otherwise, she thought, because he'd left her naked. It made her more aware. Even the slight air currents that wafted through the room stirred her skin to prickling awareness.
She tried not to think about it. As pathetic as it was, as useless, it was the only defense she had, to turn her mind from it.
The search for something to occupy her thoughts on finally brought their conversation to mind. She'd never even considered the possibility of getting rid of the curse but the very fact that he seemed intent upon finding a way made her wonder if it was possible.
Perhaps if they found the gnome and appealed to him, or bartered with him, he would remove it?
How would they even go about finding the gnome, though?
* * * *
* * * *
The knight's hair was dripping wet when he finally returned and he was naked from the waist up. Pandora craned her neck, straining against her bonds to get a better look as soon as she saw his state, swallowing convulsively when she spotted the evidence of his arousal bulging the front of his braies. Heat instantly flamed in her groin. Aside from flicking her an enigmatic look, however, he ignored her, moving to the hearth and building a small fire.
"That was a painfully interesting new experience," he muttered. "'Tis the first I've ever had my cock try to run into my belly when it was erect."
Pandora winced at the image he conjured, chewed her lower lip a moment, and finally decided it couldn't hurt to try to placate him. "The cold water usually helps to soothe mine," she said tentatively.
"I wouldn't precisely call it soothing," he growled.
"But it did help a little?" she said hopefully.
He straightened, turning to look at her speculatively.
Pandora felt her breasts tingle. "Do you have a name I might call you? Or should I simply continue to call you sir knight?"
"Drake," he growled, striding toward her abruptly and climbing onto the bed. Grasping her legs, he shoved them upward until her knees were bent and wedged himself between her thighs.
Pandora watched his hands as he untied his braies. His cock looked as uncomfortably swollen as it had the last time she'd seen it and she flicked a look up at his face to discover that he was watching her. He fell toward her at that moment, catching his upper body with his palms on the bed. She felt him probing her sex with the head of his cock and then pushing slowly but surely inside of her. Shivers of anticipation began to rack her.
When he reached a point of maximum resistance, where he began to push her slight form up the bed rather than delving more deeply, he pushed himself upright again. Settling on his heels, he stared down at her sex for a moment and finally grasped her hips, lifting them from the bed and pulling her to him until her flesh finally engulfed his. Still watching as if fascinated, he pulled her away until little more than the head of his cock remained inside her and then sheathed himself again.
A shudder went through him. It traveled all the way through Pandora and she closed her eyes, waiting for him to bring her to culmination and the brief relief it afforded. Instead, he jogged her back and forth along his cock several times more, tensed, uttered several choked sounds as his seed was pumped from his body and got up.
Pandora opened her eyes and stared at him in disbelief when he climbed from the bed. She was on fire! He hadn't quenched her fire!
"You didn't ...! I wasn't done!"
He shrugged. "We aren't lovers, Pansy," he snarled. "I don't want you. I only have the need you cursed me with!"
Pandora gaped at him. "But ... but I didn't! It was the gnome!"
"Well, you must tell him how unfair it is when you see him!"
Pandora went back to gaping at him for several moments, trying to wrap her mind around what he'd said and done. He was punishing her? It wasn't her fault!
She considered that sullenly for several moments before it dawned on her that it was-not that she'd intentionally done him harm! She'd explained that! It wasn't right when he knew now how the curse tortured one! It was a wonder she wasn't mad!
She would be if he refused to even give her a little relief!
He moved to the fireplace and crouched beside it without a word.
"I haven't seen the gnome since I was a child! I wouldn't even begin to know where to look for him."
"What of your mother?"
Sorrow tightened her chest. "She is dead."
"Well, that is no help," he growled.
"You are hateful! You might at least pretend that you feel badly for me that my mother is dead!"
"It is sad. If she were here I could wring her neck," he snarled. "Or better yet, fuck her to death trying to relieve this curse!"
Pandora sniffed. "Well, you are too late for that! The Brenner's bull did that years ago!"
He sent her a startled look that changed to one of revulsion.
Pandora glared at him. "You've no right to judge her! If you didn't have me to stick your cock into you would be looking for another place to put it!"
He considered that and finally shrugged. "It is not the same for women," he said dismissively.
"How would you know?" Pandora snapped. "When were you a woman?"
"They do not have balls!" he roared at her, coming upright and jerking his braies down to display his. "Do you see that? They are the size of fucking acorns! Do you know why? Because I have fucked until there is nothing left, no seed to pump out! I will be coughing up blood next!"
Pandora blinked at him, trying to focus her mind on the conversation when all she could think about was the standing shaft. "Truly?" she finally asked a little doubtfully.
He snarled at her, tucked his genitals away, and crouched again.
"How long does it take to fill them again?" she asked after a few moments, wondering if that was what he was waiting for.
"I don't know," he growled. "I have never fucked until they were dry!"
He was a surly brute! She didn't know why she'd thought he was a gentleman! She didn't want to talk to him anymore, but she was on fire because he hadn't appeased her even a little. "Will you at least untie me and allow me to bathe in the river?"
Pandora lapsed into silence, realizing it was worse than useless to antagonize him. He already hated her for what she'd done to him. Provoking him was liable to make him decide to strangle her as he'd threatened, regardless of the consequences.
And she doubted there would be much in the way of consequences for him if it came to that! The villagers would be relieved to be rid of her and he could always leave and find a woman elsewhere-or many women!
To her surprise, he moved to the bed after a little while and untied her from the bedpost. Pain shot through her arms as she lowered them. Catching her by one arm, he hauled her from the bed before she could figure out how to manage it herself when her wrists were still bound. He marched her to the outhouse then to attend her needs. When she emerged, he caught her arm once more and walked her down to the river.
She was so grateful she felt like weeping. Settling her flaming genitals and breasts into the frigid water was sheer torture at first, but it numbed her fairly quickly, giving her a modicum of relief.
It didn't last nearly long enough, unfortunately. The numbness was already beginning to wear off by the time they reached the cottage once more and she discovered Drake had no intention of hesitating to ease his own suffering.
He left her standing by the table while he filled a bowl from the stew pot over the fire. When he returned, he studied her speculatively for a moment and finally sat down in the only chair-hers. Grabbing her, he pulled her to him and guided her until she was sitting astride his thighs, facing him.
Pandora tensed, certain she knew what he would do next-hopeful. As she'd hoped, he dragged his cock from his braies and lifted her up, settled her on his shaft and bore down on her until he was fully sheathed. He released a pent up breath. "Better," he muttered. "Lean back."
Dizzy, her heart hammering with anticipation, Pandora merely stared at him without comprehension. He pushed her away from him until she was leaning against the edge of the table and then picked up the bowl of stew.
She blinked at him when he lifted a spoonful and blew on it. He held it out to her in offering.
She didn't want to eat, damn it! She wanted relief! A glob of gravy dripped from the spoon, landed on her upper chest and rolled down her breast, finally coming to a stop on the tip of one nipple. He stared at it a moment. Dropping the spoon into the bowl again, he dragged her close enough to lick the gravy from her breast. She closed her eyes as he sucked the painfully swollen nipple, feeling the muscles in her sex spasm.
He pulled away abruptly. Dipping in to the bowl again, he blew on the spoonful he'd scooped up and pushed it into his mouth. "You should eat some to keep up your strength," he said wryly. "I know I need it."
"I ... don't understand."
"Counter pressure," he responded, making no pretense of having misunderstood. "I can't say it helps a hell of a lot, but it does help."
Pandora gaped at him. "So you're just going to ...?"
"Whenever the hell I please," he growled. "Stew?"
Pandora didn't think she could swallow to save her life, but as angry and disappointed as she was, she also knew he was right. It was hard to feel any appetite for food when she was so consumed with hunger for sex, but the latter offered no sustenance for the body even when appeased. She took the food he'd offered. After a few bites, she began to actually feel a little better-a little daring. She shifted slightly, hopeful that it might inspire him.
It did. He sent her a deadly glare. "Be still!"
Pandora froze, swallowing with an effort.
When they'd finished eating, he set the bowl aside. Catching her arms, he drew them around his neck, cupped her buttocks and stood up with her. She thought when he climbed onto the cot with her that he only meant to drop her there and leave her. She discovered he had something worse in mind.
He settled her against the mattress, pumped into her a few times until she was on fire, felt her climax almost within reach, and then came as he had before, leaving her fire raging out of control as he withdrew. Pulling free of her bound arms, he got up and banked the fire, latched the doors and returned with another length of leather like the one he'd used to bind her wrists. Grabbing her ankles, he bound them together and then sprawled on the bed beside her.
It was as well he left her bound up, she thought furiously. Otherwise, she might have considered finding something to club him to death!
Her anger didn't sustain her much past the point where he began to snore. She lay staring at the ceiling for a long time, struggling with her curse, and eventually grew too tired to stay awake regardless.
The bindings, she discovered to her dismay only prevented her from straddling him during the night and mounting him. It didn't prevent him from spearing into her when he pleased. He would simply roll her onto her stomach, part her buttocks and drive into her from behind. She lost track of the days, had no notion of whether it was morning, noon, or night except when he took her out to bathe or relief herself. The fever seemed to consume her until she couldn't think of anything else. Eventually, she reached the point where she began to shudder with orgasm as soon as he pushed inside of her, but it was merely her overloaded senses responding not a true climax. It didn't give her any real relief.
"We must try to find the gnome," Drake said one evening as he sat feeding her.
"The gnome?" Pandora asked blankly.
"The one who cast the curse."
She studied over that for a few moments. "I don't know where to look. I was only a child at the time. I don't remember the place."
"Well, we cannot lose from searching," he said dryly. "I am nigh dead from fucking and you aren't faring well, either."
She glared at him. "I would fare better if you were not too selfish to give me even a little relief!"
To her surprise, he looked uncomfortable. "There is no relief," he responded testily. "At least, what there is is so momentary as to be almost more torture than the fever."
"I've felt both," Pandora said stonily. "Some is better than none!"
"And you have had some and I have had some!" he retorted, lifting her up and depositing her on her feet abruptly. "Do you feel a whit better?"
Pandora caught her balance with an effort, struggling abruptly with the urge to burst into tears. He spoke nothing but the truth, to a point, but she couldn't think of how to explain that the little quakes she had felt were far more like almost getting there than actually getting there.
He rose from his chair abruptly and moved about the cottage angrily, gathering up supplies. When it finally dawned on Pandora that that was he was doing, it distracted her from the urge to cry. "We're leaving now?"
"The sooner I am shed of you and the damned curse the better," he growled.
The urge to cry assailed her again but her pride came to her rescue. Sniffing, she looked around for her clothes. She'd pretty much destroyed her second best gown when she'd climbed into the inn that first night, though, and she didn't see the other. "I need clothes."
He ignored her.
"I can't travel like this!"
He turned to survey her. "You'll have the cloak. I don't particularly want to have to waste time stripping you down when I need relief."
Pandora's lips tightened. "Well you never do anything but stick your damned cock in me! I can go without drawers if that's what's bothering you!"
He flushed at the accusation. "If we were making love, I might have some interest in playing!" he snapped.
"Well, we aren't and we won't be, so I don't see any point in baring anything but my cunt!"
He narrowed his eyes at her. "Good point!" Striding toward her, he loosened the ties on her wrist.
Pandora winced as the blood rushed into her hands, clenching and unclenching her fingers. Turning away when she discovered he was watching her, she moved to the chest at the foot of her bed and took out her best gown. She hated to wear it on what she knew must be a grueling journey, for it would never be the same, but she might just as well go naked as to wear her second best dress. She hadn't had the chance to mend it.
By the time she'd managed to get in to her dress and do up the ties with her stiff fingers, Drake had gathered what he could up. He left the cottage with the two bundles he'd made and returned with his armor. After glancing around, he stowed it in her clothing chest.
Pandora managed to get her cloak around her shoulders and tied before he grasped her arm and led her out. To her surprise, he lifted her and settled her on the horse's rump.
She was a little disappointed actually. Remembering when he'd found her and dragged her back to her cottage, she shivered with the heat that rose at the memory. At least if she was mounted on his cock as she had been then she would've gotten the release she so desperately wanted-whether he intentionally gave it to her or not the motion of the horse would!
There seemed little point in asking, though. He would only say no, the brute! It was as clear as a bell that he meant to punish her for her perfidy! She truly hadn't done it maliciously, though it wasn't likely she would be able to convince him!
In retrospect, she supposed she deserved it. Whether she'd meant to or not, she'd done him a very ill turn. He hadn't deserved the misery. She thought he'd been a very noble gentleman before she'd ruined his life!
As it was, she supposed he had shown a good deal of restraint. It was true, he'd made her far more miserable than she'd been before, but he hadn't hurt her and he had seen to her comfort and wellbeing-at least in every way except the one she wanted and needed-and she supposed she could see his point. He was suffering because of her lack of restraint. It was only just that she should also suffer.
They didn't take the road as she'd expected. She supposed that was because he hoped the villagers wouldn't realize that they were gone and help themselves to what had been left behind.
She thought it unlikely that they would've anyway. Few of them actually understood the curse and thought that simply being too close was enough to bring the plague down upon them. They wouldn't want to touch anything she might have touched for fear the plague would leap from it to them!
After following the river for a time, Drake guided the horse through the woods to the road and they began to make far better time. Pandora finally nerved herself to ask where they were going when they stopped at noon to rest and eat.
"There is an enchanted forest mayhap a fortnight's ride beyond Kingsley. I've heard all manner of magical beings dwell there. It seems the best place to search for the fucking gnome."
Fucking gnome indeed, Pandora thought wryly! "Do you think if you slay him the curse will be lifted?" she asked doubtfully.
She frowned. "What do you mean to do then?"
He shrugged. "Mayhap we can use trickery."
She blinked at him. "What sort of trickery?"
"You will entice him and once you have fucked him and given the bastard a taste of his own medicine, then mayhap he'll decide to remove it!"
Pandora gaped at him unhappily. "But ... I don't know that I want to fuck him!" she objected.
"He will have a dick," he said sourly.
"Well that is a hateful thing to say!" she said indignantly. "I didn't fuck you only because you had one!"
He fixed her with a hard look. "Why did you?"
She stared at him, swallowing against the painful knot that rose in her throat, and finally looked away. He wouldn't believe her even if she told him that she had been instantly smitten with him, admired him, not simply desired him. He wouldn't welcome it even if he did.
It was all too true that the curse had been the most powerful driving force, but in spite of it, she had been able to contain herself with the men of the village! Not that she hadn't wanted to scratch her itch! But she could've pounced on most any one of them when they were in their cups and too drunk to defend themselves!
Of course one of the reasons she hadn't was because she'd feared the consequences, been afraid it might upset the delicate balance and send the villagers into a frenzy, but it had also been because she hadn't truly desired any of them.
Despite the fact that Drake had demanded that she make herself available upon need, he managed to restrain himself far better than Pandora actually liked, ignoring her much of the day and succumbing only when they bedded down at night. She hadn't actually realized how hard a battle he was fighting until they were nearing their destination-the enchanted forest.
However, when they'd stopped for their noon rest period and gathered everything to move again, he dragged her up astride his lap instead of behind him as he had before. A suffocating sense of anticipation instantly gripped her as he carefully positioned her and drove deeply inside. Taking her arms, he looped her bound wrists around his neck, staring into her eyes for a long moment before he kicked the stallion and set him to a brisk trot.
Pandora burrowed her face along his neck, clinging tightly, trying to contain the gasps forced from her each time the motion of the horse jounced her up and then down on his hard shaft. The minor tremors she'd been experiencing for days hit her within a few moments and disappointment with it, but unlike the days before, he didn't immediately remove her. He allowed her to continue bobbing up and down on his shaft until a second, far more deeply satisfying climax caught her and shuddered through her-and then another.
She seemed to come a little harder each time until she began to feel almost as much dread as anticipation. She could no more prevent it than she could elude the constant stroke of his cock in and out of her, though. She came until she passed from consciousness and then awoke to feel herself climbing toward release again.
She began to think it was almost more torture than preventing her from coming had been. She was so weak and disoriented from climaxing over and over that she hardly knew where she was when Drake finally drew the stallion to a halt.
The first she realized that they'd entered the enchanted forest and encountered anyone was when she heard a deep male voice.