"I have a name," Emma said a little resentfully when Aydin had helped her to her feet. She didn't know whether to be glad or uncomfortable that he settled one hand loosely around her upper arm once she was standing. Most of the numbness from poor circulation had passed, but she was still painfully stiff.
On the other hand, he had made that comment about his sense of smell, and she didn't exactly feel as fresh as a flower.
Then, too, it was a strong indication, she thought, that he thought of her as a prisoner. She supposed there shouldn't have been any doubts in her mind about that all things considered, but there was an element to the situation that had almost as much the feel of a rescue as it did captivity.
He sent her a look. "But I do not know it."
"That is a strange name," he murmured curiously.
He should talk about strange, Emma thought wryly!
"Very ... exotic, just as your hair is."
Exotic? Emma? She found it oddly pleasing that he thought so when it was so old fashioned.
They didn't walk far before she heard the sound of rushing water herself. She'd more than half suspected--maybe just hoped--that he was exaggerating his sense of hearing and smell. Not that she wasn't thrilled to hear water when she was so thirsty both from the running and the damned gag that it was all she could do to gather enough spit in her mouth to moisten it even a little, but ....
It dawned on her that she found him attractive, regardless of whether she'd consciously acknowledged it before or not, or she wouldn't have been so concerned that he might find her unattractive.
That was dangerous in too many ways to count! They hadn't rescued her, regardless of the sense of relief and gladness she felt at being free of the horrible man who'd decided he was going to marry her--and the hell with how she felt about it!
Not that she'd had the nerve to actually inform him hell could freeze over before she would actually consider it! But, if he hadn't been such an arrogant, conceited jackass, he would've figured it out when she threw up all over him right after he'd forced a kiss on her!
She shuddered at the memory. If she hadn't felt so horrible, what she'd done would've terrified her right then. She had, however, and it wasn't until they'd dragged her up the stairs and locked her in her room that it had occurred to her the disgusting bastard was a king. He could've had her slain right then and there if he'd been of a mind to. It was just dumb luck that he happened to be fearful enough of catching something that he'd decided she was sickening with something--besides his stench!
She'd decided it wasn't a good idea to wait around for the promised visit from his physician, though! Quite aside from the fact that he might have been able to determine that she wasn't sick at all and the possible consequences of that, it was almost as terrifying to think of being quacked by a primitive 'man of medicine'! God only knew what sort of things might have occurred to him to do to her to help her get well!
Aydin dragged her from her frightening thoughts when he halted. "You may relieve yourself there," he said, pointing to a clump of low growing shrubs, "but make it quick if you do not want company."
Emma surveyed the bushes uneasily. "There isn't anything ... I need to watch out for, is there?"
He released her arm and moved away from her. "Only the wildlife."
Thank you for reassuring me, Emma thought indignantly, glaring at his back as he stalked to the edge of what appeared to be a fairly large stream. In little more than the blink of an eye, he shifted from centaur to man. Colwin, who'd walked with them, also shifted. She was still staring at them in stunned disbelief when they unfastened the loincloths around their waists with a complete lack of concern, dropped them on the bank, and dove in.
The gleam of moonlight on their muscular bodies was enough to send her into a trance. Fortunately, the splash of water when they went in broke the spell, and she turned away before they surfaced. After studying the bushes unhappily for a long moment, she gathered the heavy skirts high enough to walk and picked her way over to the nearest bush. When she'd crouched down and saw that the bush created a reasonably effective privacy screen, combined with the fact that the sound of rushing water would thankfully muffle what she was doing, she gathered the yards of fabric in her arms and relieved herself.
It was almost orgasmic. She hadn't realized just how badly she needed to empty her bladder until she finally could!
It felt too good to spend a lot of time chaffing over the fact that she'd had to squat in the woods but, unfortunately, with relief came a dawning of just how dire her situation was. They were in the woods. God only knew when she might have some hope of even a crude bathroom! As disgusting as she'd found the 'handy' pail in the room where she'd been imprisoned, it wasn't as bad as baring her butt in the woods! There was a reason she'd never been a camping enthusiast back home, she liked modern plumbing.
Thrusting it from her mind with the reflection that she had more important things to worry about than discomfort, she moved away from the bushes and dropped the armload of fabric. Almost as soon as she did, she tripped. She didn't know how women in the olden days had managed with all the damned clothes considered required for a lady! The yards and yards of fabric hanging from the waist of the dress would've been bad enough, but she'd had to wear an underskirt that almost seemed like it was twice as voluminous! And, as if it wasn't enough to be weighed down with all of that, a corset that squeezed her lungs so tightly she was almost surprised her eyeballs hadn't popped out of her head.
Well, the centaurs didn't appear to worry about wearing a lot of clothes--or any, for that matter! She decided to remove the underskirt at least and reached beneath the skirt to untie it. It took a few moments to find the tie and then to untangle it, but the moment she dropped the underskirt she felt so much lighter it was almost like floating. Stepping out of it, she considered whether to just abandon it or not and finally decided that might not be a good idea when all she had was what she was wearing.
Gathering it up, she moved down to the bank and studied the two men, who were now standing in the water rather than swimming. The moonlight gleamed off their wet bodies, exposed to well below the waist and, for a moment, she was captivated by the view. She shook it off with an effort, realizing they were liable to consider it an invitation.
She didn't particularly find the idea of bathing in a stream appealing. She'd always had just a little bit of a phobia about natural bodies of water, but nature's bathroom was all she had to work with. Aydin's earlier comment was enough to convince her to make her way carefully down the bank and see what she could do to bathe a little 'scent' off. The clothing hadn't exactly smelled lovely when she'd been forced to put it on. In point of fact, she was pretty damned sure it had already been worn by someone else--who didn't have more than a passing acquaintance with soap and water.
She took the underskirt with her with a vague notion of washing it, but she discovered as soon as she'd gotten it thoroughly wet that it was so heavy that two strong men would've had a problem washing the damned thing. And the two strong men at hand seemed more interested in watching her than helping. She struggled for a few moments to haul it out of the water again and finally gave up.
It began to float away with the current the moment she let go of it.
Colwin, giving her a deadly look, snagged it. "You lost this," he said accusingly.
"It was too heavy," she responded, wondering what she was being accused of.
"It is a very good thing I caught it then," he said tightly. "Else the men hunting us might have found it and realized you would not be far from it."
Emma gaped at him, dismayed. "I hadn't thought about that."
He sent her a disbelieving look.
"Well! I hadn't! I'm not used to being chased!"