Aran vaulted from his horse with such skill Shannon felt only the barest of jolts to mark the sure impact of his feet upon the sandy ground. Waking from an exhausted doze, her apprehension returned anew, and sheer panic caused her to once again pull against the restraints at her wrists and ankles as she was carried in his hard, unyielding embrace.
From the folds of the enveloping cloak that had shielded her from the harsh rays of a sun that pitilessly presided over this vast desert into which she had been abducted, she could see unexpected splashes of color. Shaking her head, she managed to dislodge the hood from where it rested over her brow. With her vision now unimpeded, she gasped and stilled at the sight of what lay before her.
An oasis, green and lush with date-bearing palm trees, grass and other growing things, was spread out in a circle around a pool of azure-tinted water that sparkled under the receding light of the setting sun. Nestled amidst the tangled growth was a white tent, its fabric sides rippling with the breeze that played over the water and through the trees.
Without pause, Aran strode toward the tent, and Shannon's eyes widened. Being confined in an intimate space with this man was the last thing she wanted. "No! Let me go!"
"Quiet. I have not given you permission to speak." The terse, no-nonsense warning in Aran's voice caused Shannon to press her lips together against further protests.
When he was in dominance mode she knew better than to press her luck. Considering what she'd already done, she'd be lucky to escape unscathed. Running from Aran had been foolish, but what else was she supposed to do? She would not stand idly by and let him include another woman in their relationship. Having a harem might be an accepted practice among his people, but did he really believe she would accept such a thing?
Aran swooped through the tent's entrance, and despite the closed, angry look on his face, deposited her gently on a colorful mound of rugs and pillows. "Do not move from that spot," he ordered and retreated outside. Hearing the sound of his voice a moment later, she knew he was seeing to his horse.
Wanting to run, but knowing there was nowhere to go, Shannon maintained the position in which she'd been left and tried to relax. It was impossible. Her body was tense and her muscles tight. Even her toes and fingers curled and released in an unconscious display of high-strung nerves. Unable to stay still, she angled herself into a sitting position and with shaking fingers began plucking at the knots of the silken ties at her ankles.
As she worked at her restraints, she became aware of another feeling, one that had been creeping up on her from the moment Aran had essentially taken her captive. Arousal. It insidiously wormed its way in and around any other emotion that assailed her, heightening and clarifying the knowledge that being tied up was not nearly as unpleasant as she might wish it would be -- especially in this situation. Needing Aran's touch was the last thing she wanted and yet she couldn't deny that fact that her dread of what he would do to her was mixed with more than a little anticipation.
At his return, his eyes narrowed in disapproval. With a practiced move he drew a knife from his boot and Shannon gaped at the sight of the glinting silver blade. Aran approached and knelt beside her. "Hold still," he bade her and with two swift cuts the silk split and the knife was returned to its sheath. She was freed, but it was a short-lived freedom. "Wrists," he tersely insisted, holding out his hand.
With the barest of hesitation, she held out her hands, watched him carefully examine her wrists then froze in astonishment as he pulled a pair of softly padded leather cuffs from the back of his waistband. Before she could utter a word or make a move to escape, the cuffs were on, and she was gently pushed to her back. Aran then pulled her arms over her head, and the cuffs were clipped to a short, light-weight chain that had been attached to the center tent pole. Once more she was effectively restrained, and the time for paying the piper was at hand.
"Silence. I don't want to hear your excuses," he growled and began stripping her.
As he removed her boots, Shannon thought briefly about kicking him, but decided as things stood she was in enough trouble.
"Wise decision, little one," Aran said as though having read her thoughts. "A kick would earn you five more swats with the paddle when we return home, and you, my lovely, have already accumulated quite a few."
Lips thinning in irritation, Shannon remained silent. Aran had the power to make her feel like a sulky child. Once her loose linen trousers and panties were stripped away, his hands on her naked skin irrevocably reminded her that she was indeed a woman. Swallowing hard, she tried to close her thighs but it was no use. He was already between them. His fingers glided from ankles to knees and further, caressing and teasing on a torturous and sensual journey to her pussy.
Anticipation brought more moisture welling forth from her core. Much as she might wish it otherwise, her body was more than ready to receive him. When he bypassed the swelling lips of her sex and instead let his fingers glide under her tunic and over the silky crease where legs met torso, she moaned in disappointment and twisted under his hands.
"You're already hot for me, aren't you? Beneath this fabric you're wet and ready. Do you want my cock, little one?"
"Nooo," Shannon breathed shaking her head in denial.
"Liar. I'll soon have the truth from you... and not just about that. I'll have all your truths, Shannon. All of them."