It was one of the vivid dreams. Even when she was in it, she could tell. She could feel her heart beating faster just at how real everything around her seemed: blades of grass under bare feet, a cool breeze against her skin.
The sound of screams borne on the wind.
She looked down at her body. She was sleek, compact and well-muscled, a match for her form in real life. But she was naked. Her body was covered from neck to knees in an intricate tracery of blue tattoos. Her nipples stood to attention in the chill air. Her long hair whipped in the wind, and she caught a strand on the fingers of her left hand and looked at it: bronze-coloured, just like in life. That was how she knew this was just a dream.
But it was no comfort. This was no lucid dream, she could not control it. And it was one of the bad ones. She’d had it before. She held a rude cudgel in her right hand, caked with blood and brains. Her intricately-inked flesh was splashed with gore. Looking out on the field, she could see Queen Budugg’s mighty host scattering, broken. The merciless legions were shoving their way through great stacks of corpses, starting to advance down from the ridge to press their advantage.
She had to run. She knew it. She looked back behind her at the wagon train, drawn up to survey the battle in expectation of a victory. After all, they had outnumbered the enemy eight to one. But now, the families of the Iceni and their allies were gathering what they could, scrabbling desperately, fleeing for their lives. Already the Roman cavalry had broken through and over a dozen of the wagons were ablaze.
Queen Budugg was dead, the day lost. She didn’t know how she knew it, why she felt the raw grief of it so powerfully. But she did. She could remember her brave Queen’s face, which made up in inspiration and openness what it lacked in classical beauty. The desolation was overwhelming.
Then she saw a warrior go down in front of her, a sword in his back. It was always the same warrior in the same way, with the same terrible cry. She looked up and broke from her trance, realizing the front edge of the Roman infantry were closer than she’d thought. And she turned and fled.
In the dream she was fleet of foot as a gazelle, and her callused feet hardly felt the ground. She could nigh have flown over the fields if the exhaustion of the failed battle wasn’t on her. But it was.
She broke past one of the burning wagons and sagged to her knees as the screams of her countrymen surrounded her. This was the end of the Iceni, she felt it in every fibre. Where was there to run?
Even Roman discipline gave way before the hot rush of victory. The legionaries were hunting their enemies like foxes chasing rabbits. She felt an armoured body hammer into her from behind, knocking her wind out as her club span away from nerveless fingers. She saw stars, struggled to drew breath.
By the time she managed to suck in a lungful of air with a great, sobbing gasp, she had been forced onto her back and he was atop her. Shushing her.
She looked up, saw his face. His helmet was gone. He had short, woolly hair and a nut-brown complexion, chiseled features and striking grey eyes that looked down at her with something that almost seemed like pity. Strange eyes to see in such an hour. He didn’t look like a Roman ... but then, what did a Roman look like? Their mad Emperor had the whole world under his boot.
He held his short gladius at her throat. The blade was dark with blood. He put a finger to his lips. All around them she could hear the despairing cries of women falling into the hands of the Romans, the guttural cries ripped from their depths as they were subjected to the ultimate outrage.
Every fibre of her vibrated with the fear of that. But then the legionary said, in thickly-accented Latin: “Stay down. Stay quiet. I’ll try to spare you the worst of it, but you must be still.”
She wasn’t sure how she understood him. How she even knew he was speaking Latiin. But she held still, her screams of defiance dying in her throat.
She breathed. Watched the blade of his gladius. He pulled it back as if not wanting to menace her, his eyes still wary, a finger still at his lips. All around them she could her the cries of woman being dragged by their hair, thrown to the cold earth and taken on the spot or hoisted over armoured shoulders as booty. She heard one legionary call out to the man atop her. “See how Dracontius guards his prize!” A gale of coarse laughter. “Give her one for me, Africanus!”
There was the ring in that last of a half-mocking nickname. Dracontius looking up and giving a half-hearted smile as he held her down. Her right hand felt blindly around for a new weapon, found a stone in the turf nearby. She could strike him with it, be up and away ... but where?
This part of the dream made her want to wake. She knew what was coming next, and it confounded her, even horrified her. But she could not wake.
She felt a wild urge rising inside her. Perhaps fuelled by the proximity of death all around, the rising need to live, to feel something of life amidst the reeking miasma of the realm of Thanatos. She heard herself say the words, somehow in Latin: “You must do something.”
“What?” The legionary looked back at her, quizzical. “What do you mean?”
“Your comrades won’t let us just lie here until they go away.” Her voice, speaking a terrible truth that could lead to only one thing. “You have to at least look like you’re one of them. Like you’re taking your pleasure.”
He looked back at her in surprise. She could feel his manhood stirring under his leather kilt, the lust rising even as he said: “I ... told myself I would not do that.”
“You’ve already helped to murder my people,” she said matter of factly. “Their blood stains your sword even now. What does the rest matter? You think your hands will be clean if you don’t cross this final boundary?” Heard the barb in her tone as she added: “Or maybe you don’t prefer girls?”
As always, there was disbelief at these words passing her lips, at the strange rush of desire – desperate, animal desire, a yearning for escape from the awfulness of their defeat – rising in her. Her waking-world self recoiled from it ... but the dream went on, implacable, and in her dream body she was only a passenger.
The legionary regarded her for a long moment and then said: “To kill a man in battle is one thing. But this ... I can’t. I can’t do a thing that you do not wish. That you cannot wish.”
“A fine philosopher in soldier’s garb.” She struggled now, spat at him with contempt, goaded him: “All you’re missing is the beard. Will it make you feel cleaner if I ask you, philosopher? Will it make you feel righteous if I beg? Will you be more of a man and less of a murderer?”
He gave a wry smile that only provoked her further. “You’re a fierce one, aren’t you?”
“What difference is it to you?” She felt an edge of hysteria in her laughter, but she laughed all the same. “Hear that? Your comrades can. They hear me laughing at you. One of them will do it if you’re too much of a hypocrite. We will never have this opportunity again.”
“And what opportunity is that?”
“You know.” She held his gaze defiantly. “We’re in the eye of the storm. My gods have abandoned me and cursed me with some madness in their going. The mad idea that I could have some last touch of life before you Romans sell me into slavery and living death. You know. The question is, do you have the courage to act on what you know, philosopher?”
Dracontius’ breathing grew heavier. His hardness pressed against her through his leather kilt. He looked like a man waiting to wake from a dream, the irony of which was not lost on her. His voice was thick with desire as he finally said: “What is it you want of me?”
Her disbelieving mind heard the words come like something pronounced by a dark goddess of lust. “I want you to touch me. Like a lover touches a lover. Give me that last mercy before I’m thrown to the dogs.”
As the words came, the tingling between her thighs testified to their truth. His sword point wavering slightly, the legionary watched her like a man in a trance as he worked his free hand down between their bodies. Down between her trembling thighs.
The conqueror touched her there, found her hot and wet, the blandishments of Eros trying to drive out the curse of Thanatos that she breathed in from the battlefield. His touch was knowing, he was no amateur with women. He found the sensitive nubbin above her slick sex, caressed ever-so-gently it in a slow circular motion, and made her moan, her spine arching as she shut her eyes and tried to shut out the dying screams of her countrymen.
Suddenly there were just the two of them in all the world, two bodies carving out a little island of clinging passion among the ravished and the slain. Her arms went around his armoured torso as he stroked, drawing out the honeyed dew from her petals as she ground against his clever, callused fingers.
“Is that it, my wanton little warrior?” he was panting now. “Is that what you wanted?”
“It ... it will do, philosopher,” she whispered. “For a beginning.”
His fingers slipped into her clasping channel. He began to fuck her with those long, knowing digits. She felt the tide of passion rushing in, gave herself to it like nothing she had ever felt in life, her hips writhing sinuously as she canted them to invite him deeper, deeper, his palm slapping against her swollen nubbin as he claimed her lips in a rough kiss, making her mewl into his mouth as he brought her closer.
The ultimate moment crashed in on her and she was creaming all over her conqueror’s fingers, biting his lower lip as her cunny exploded all over him in spasmodic waves of release, her whole body going rigid with pleasure as she lost herself in her strange lover’s touch and came, and came, and—
The Now (May 4th, 1961).
Delwen Jones jolted to wakefulness in a cold sweat.
She was panting. Looked down at herself, felt the sensitivity between her legs, lifted up her hand and gave her sticky-wet fingers a rueful grimace. It was the third time this week that the old dream had visited her, had roiled her sleeping form with lust. It happened the most when she was under stress.
She climbed out of the miserable little bed, whisked away its sweat-soaked sheets. She tossed them in the corner of the little room, made her way to the bog. She climbed into the shower, shuddered with the vivid memories of the dream as she let the lukewarm water sluice over her skin.
Out of the shower, she looked at herself in the mirror, wiping away the fog with a washcloth. A little foundation would take care of the dark circles under her eyes, and she made applying it her first order of business, hiding the hints of the constant strain that dogged her. Otherwise her old self was still there, and she took heart in that fact. The bouffant flip in her hair was as fashionable as red-light Birmingham would allow, her creamy skin was still flawless, her green eyes still clear and full of resolve. She would see the assignment through. No other outcome was thinkable.
She went back to the bedroom, pulled on the clothes of her counterfeit self: White stockings, a tight green mini-dress and matching shoes. Cheap costume-jewellery earrings and necklace. Returning to the bathroom, she applied the mascara and eyeshadow and lip gloss that completed her look, the look of a fallen woman fit for the wickedest street in Britain.
The doorbell rang just as she put on the finishing touches. She took a breath, centred herself. Went to the door and opened it. Smiled brightly for the expected guest. “Alright, Bill.”
“Alright, bab.” The man on the stoop was big, shambolic and pock-faced, with an endearingly hangdog look about him and a day’s growth of stubble on his jowls. He smiled at her, showing yellowed teeth. Proffered a scrunched-up copy of the Evening Mail in one hand and a paper cup full of tea in the other. “Thought you could do with some news and a kipper tie.”
“Ta, love.” She took the offerings and nodded him in. “Come on, then.”
D.I. Bill Watling strolled into the tiny flat with an air of abstracted bonhomie that she was convinced he had perfected with long practice over the years. For all his unprepossessing appearance, he was the tip of the spear in a vice unit that as yet called only a few men among its core members. The unit that had seconded Del for a most unusual sort of operation that had never been tried in Birmingham before. She saw him size up the surroundings with an acuity that belied his absent-minded air. Reminded herself that Watling was not the sort of bloke you should underestimate or try to dissemble with.
She closed the door behind him, glanced at the headline on the Mail. Another town wearing Birmingham’s name was on the front page, some group of civil rights activists called the “Freedom Riders” featuring prominently. She set it aside, took a sip of the steaming cup of tea. It was double cream, double sugar, just as she liked it. She savoured it, admired his attention to detail.
Watling took a seat on the broken-springed settee in the living room, the sheer mass of him occupying most of it. She sank into the armchair across from him, crossing her legs primly and giving him a smile.
“Worried, Bill?” she asked him.
He shrugged. “Don’t reckon so. Just here to see how you’re gettin’ on. If you need anythin’.”
“Not a bit of it, solid as a rock.”
“Nobody’s solid as a rock, Del.” His smile was nonchalant but his eyes were keen, appraising. “First mistake we make in this business, thinking we’re made of stone. I’m sure you know that.”
“‘Course. Just my way of talking, like. Care for a fag?”
“Wife says I oughtn’t.” His smile was self-deprecating. “But truth to tell, I could murder one.”
She fished in the purse hanging off the armchair, produced her pack of cigarattes and a lighter. Sparked up a pair of cigarettes and handed him one. As he pulled on it with clear satisfaction, she said: “Tonight’s the night, then. We’re sure he’ll turn up.”
“Always does.” Bill nodded. “He keeps his schedule more faithful than a vicar. I just wish I had men to send with you.”
“Last thing I need is men, “ she chuckled. “I can handle him.”
“I know you can.”
He was doing his best to reassure, but he didn’t sound so certain, despite the words. They were taking a risk on her, she knew it: a rookie Women’s Constable being thrown in at the deep end of things, on account of brilliant potential and the fact that she was just the type of bird the target fancied, to boot. Birmingham’s vice squad had never staged an undercover sting quite like this one. Heads would surely roll if it failed.
Bill’s eyes lingered on her small, shapely body, the oval shape of her pretty features, the touch of bouffant flip in her shoulder-length bronze, the striking green of her eyes. And not least at the firm nubs of her breasts pressing against the polyester fabric. It wasn’t a lecherous look, though; he wasn’t that sort, thank God. It was more like professional appraisal, reassuring himself she was the right bait for their particular fish.
He started when she arched a questioning eyebrow at him. And the actually blushed, which amused her. “Sorry, bab, I don’t mean to stare. Just, ah...”
“Trying to see me through his eyes?” she asked. He nodded. “Been practising my presentation, you know. Fancy a look, my old mucker?”
Bill swallowed audibly. He might not be a lecher, but he was surely not immune to the charms of the fairer sax. There was professional cause, though. His nod was a trifle jerky.
Del just smiled. She uncrossed her legs playfully, knowing she was flashing her panties in the process. Stood up and walked to the flat’s front window, making sure to impart a sway to her stride. The hem of the dress was daringly high, showing off the tops of her garters. It had to be; she had to stand out, to draw the target’s eye just the same way the previous occupant of this flat had done.
The windowsill was large enough to sit on, padded with cushions. She took up a place there. Opened the curtains to look out on the bleak expanse of Varna Road. In the daylight it practically looked a ghost town; the night would be another story.
Del had already caught the eye of a few punters on the pavement out there in her last three nights of practising. She had acquired the trick of arching her back, batting her lashes coquettishly, pushing out her shapely rump or her pert little breasts and biting her lip in a way that mixed innocence with lust. She looked back over her shoulder and gave Bill a taste of it, letting a little heat into her eyes and chuckling as she saw sweat begin to bead his brow.
“You see?” she told him. “He won’t be able to pass me up, now will he?”
“You’re right enough there, no doubt about it.” Bill gave a rueful shake of his head, lurching up off the settee. “Now show us some mercy.”
She laughed. It felt good to laugh; some of the lingering strangeness of the dream seemed to slough away, leaving her lighter. She pulled the curtains shut and went back to her armchair as Bill busied himself with checking the transistor mikes and recorders hidden in their recess behind the cheap landscape print on the wall. She wondered how long that painting had been there; it seemed partly discoloured by cigarette smoke.
“It’ll be different tonight from letting in one of our ringers,” he said. He was referring to the vice squad’s assortment of paid informants whom she’d pretended to accept as customers on the previous nights—dodgy-looking fellows all but surprisingly polite, they had mostly passed the time playing cards save for one particularly witty one who had brought her to tears of laughter as he jumped about on the bed and produced counterfeit howls of passion for the neighbours’ benefit. Bill tapped the microphone receiver with a fingertip as he went on: “You mind the word to say if you need us to come riding to the rescue, aye?”
“Periwinkle.” She nodded. “‘Course I remember. Really, Bill, you’re like a mother hen.”
He grunted with satisfaction, finding the surveillance gear in working order and slipping the painting back into place. Gave her an apologetic grimace: “Sorry, Del. Not trying to make you nervous, likes. You’ll be brilliant, I know it. Tonight we land our fish and it’s all over.”
He finished his fag and gave her a fatherly hug and a “Ta-ra” on his way out. As the door closed behind him, Del composed herself and sipped at her tea, knowing the day would feel like a week as she waited for the main event to begin. Right. Tonight we land our fish. She resisted the temptation to retrieve the target’s file from its hiding place in her closet, to look at his picture again. She tried to forget the dreams, and almost succeeded.
It was gone nine o’clock by the time the sun set that evening. Del took up her station as the sun dwindled. She could see girls in the windows of other flats across the road, some of them watching the “new” girl curiously. She’d spied a few of them in the shops when she’d popped out for supplies; but though they shared knowing glances of a sisterhood with a common secret, they never spoke. It were just as well.
Varna Road was coming alive. It didn’t look so bleak in the night time. Cars were beginning to cruise the pitted pavement—mostly Anglias or Morris eleven-hundreds—and groups of lads could be seen walking the streets: either going to or coming from the Kashmir down the way, or pretending to. Del watched them, her heart racing, alert for a certain someone.
She sighted him at nine-thirty on the dot, just as D.I. Watling had said she would. He pulled up in a red Daimler, the flashest car on the street, parked it a few doors down. Also as Bill had predicted.
Two men climbed out of the car. One was big and husky, a Yardie with an ebony complexion and an air of restrained violence about him. He reclined casually against the car, guarding it as his mate came down the road. The second man, her “fish,” was tall and well-muscled but not hulking, neatly turned out in a dark suit and spats with a pork-pie hat and a narrow tie. His stride was confident and measured.
Del bit her lip, batted her eyelashes, pushed out her breasts as he came fully into view. The girl, Sandy, who’d worked in this flat before the squad had rousted her had been more buxom. Women’s Constable Jones would have to make the most of her assets if she was going to hook the target anywhere near as thoroughly.
She saw him stop. Turn toward the window and look at her. His eyes were obscured by the brim of his hat, his features in shadow. She gave him her prettiest smile.
He stood still for a long time. Her heart whumped in her chest as she waited for him to move.
And then, finally, he took off his hat and stepped forward, into the wan light cast by a nearby streetlamp. She caught her breath.
In person, it was even more disquieting than the pictures in the file. He looked exactly like the man in the dreams. The same short, woolly hair, the same nut-brown skin and chiseled features. The same grey eyes, soulful and uncanny.
It was more than just the likeness of him, though. He was staring at Del transfixed, as if she’d stepped out of a vision. His face was incredulous, his eyes shifting as if trying to fully believe what he was seeing. The connection between his gaze and hers was electric, and she couldn’t keep a hand from flying to her mouth as the realized what his expression meant.
He recognized her.
Impossible, she would have said a few days ago. But there was no mistaking it. The target was looking at her face, her body, with the air of a man experiencing the most powerful deja vu of his life. He ran a hand through his hair, and she could see it was shaking.
They watched each other for a long moment. And then, abruptly, the target put his hat back on, turned on his heel and walked away, back to his Daimler. Giving a curt nod to his clearly surprised driver, he climbed in, the roadster’s powerful engine fired up and just like that, he was gone. And Del was encased in shock as she watched him go.
They knelt in the hard-packed dirt of the thrall market, dozens upon dozens of them. Some of them were bound with ropes or leather cord. Others, the difficult ones, had head and hands immobilized in wooden stocks.
She had been one of the difficult ones. She had the bruises on her ribs to prove it. There was a faint soreness when she breathed, though at least the Nordmanni slaver hadn’t broken anything when he’d kicked her.
A corner of her mind quailed in fright, realizing this was another of the bad dreams. But herself-in-the-dream was calm, with the kind of calm that came from believing you had already been through the worst of it. This alternate self was itemizing the small mercies.
The memories of her burning village across the sea, the husband who’d died spitted on a Nordmanni sword trying to protect her, were still vivid. But at least they were not weighing her down with despair. The awful sea crossing was over. She wasn’t starving or sick. True, she was naked on her knees in the infamous flesh markets of Dyflinn, but at least it wasn’t cold. She was in greater possession of her faculties than the women sobbing on either side of her; they looked Brythonic, and neither of them spoke any dialect she could readily understand.
She was resolved to be stronger than them. To try to survive, to keep her mind and soul intact. She had stopped cursing and spitting at the Nordmann, recognized that as a death’s-wish instinct. She held still as she awaited her fate.
That fate was coming at her with speed. The thralls had been rousted and cursed out from the rude wooden barracks for the inspection of buyers. The Nordmanni slaver was pacing up and down the rows of his merchandise. She couldn’t see him but she knew his habits by now; he would be stroking his beard as if to affect thoughtfulness, or patting at the plaits in his long greasy hair.
He was coming closer. Talking to someone in a language she couldn’t follow. He was stopping in front of her.
She kept her eyes down. The Nordmann’s leather shoes and loose leather breeches tucked into thick red and green hose were visible on the left. On the right, red shoes peered out from under the hem of blousy pantaloons, with the fringe of a brocaded robe visible overtop. She kept her eyes on the shoes and nursed the rage in her heart.
Red Shoes suddenly switched over to the Nordmanni tongue, saying: “I can see she still has spirit. That’s a good thing.”
The Nordmann laughed. “I thought you Andalusians preferred them the other way around.”
“You should get to know more Andalusians, Olaf.” Red Shoes’ voice was good-humoured, infuriatingly so. “Where did you take her?”
“This lot came of raids across the Mann Sea. As for her ... somewhere in Mercia, I think.”
“Interesting. Well then, let’s have a look at her.”
“You heard him, girl. Stand up.”
Her legs shook as she got to her feet. She stole a quick look at the stranger: registered a bearded face, nut-brown skin under a skull cap, grey eyes of unsettling acuity. She quickly looked down again, though, lest he catch a hint of the defiance she still possessed.
The stranger stepped around her, appraising. He ran a gloved hand up one of her legs as if to check the musculature, gripped one of her buttocks and squeezed it and then repeated the enforced intimacy with the other, then did the same with each of her breasts as she gritted her teeth, fighting back the tears she had promised herself not to shed again.
She heard him peel off a glove. Jumped and had to bite back a cry as she abruptly felt it smack her left buttock. She cringed and jolted again as the leather glove slapped against her other glute. Three more sharp smacks came on either side, leaving her arse stinging. She couldn’t stop the tears now, much to her chagrin; they slid down her face and she tried not to gave away that they were tears of rage.
Whatever the stranger had hoped to learn from this exercise, he seemed satisfied. He came back around in front of her, reached over the wooden stock affixed around her neck and wrists to take her by the chin. She breathed hard as he forced her to look at him, felt her gaze skittering away from his cool grey eyes as he prised her jaw open and looked at her teeth, took a handful of her long, bronze-coloured hair and ran it through his fingers. After a moment he nodded.
“Fine specimen,” he told Olaf. “And you’re right, she does stand out. I’ll take this one in hand myself, and you can have ... let’s call it two-score of the others delivered to my ship. You know what His Majesty’s tastes are by now, don’t you?”
“Of course,” the Nordmann laughed. “I’ll pick some fine flowers for you, never fear. Ah, but rates are up a bit from last spring...”
“Shall we say two hundred gold dinars for the lot?”
Olaf gaped for a moment at how casually that appalling figure came from the stranger’s mouth, but he recovered his composure quickly. “Yes, alright. That will do nicely.”
“Good. My man Sulaym will make full payment on delivery as usual. Let’s get the stocks off.”
Just like that, her fate was decided. She was set free of the stocks, her wrists were bound with cord, and a hulking Saracen came forward from behind the stranger to lead her away in his wake. The passage from the thrall market was a blur of mingled relief and dread. It was good to escape that terrible place, but bad to know that she might only be trading it for a worse one.
It turned out the stranger had a cog of substantial size riding at anchor at the river quay. She shuddered as she watched the sailors – a motley group of a dozen different nations, not all of them identifiable – watched her naked progress up the plank, their eyes crawling all over her firm young body, her creamy skin.
The muscular Saracen dragged her toward the aft-castle, depositing her on her knees in a small cabin there. He spoke not a word to her, leaving her bound and shivering and alone for a time that seemed interminable. The stranger had abruptly vanished, perhaps setting about preparing for the soon-to-arrive slave cargo. She could only wait. Again.
She realized that her bottom still stung a little from the smack of his glove ... and that her body still tingled where he’d touched her. Her rage at her circumstances had a way of changing, confusingly, into something else that she couldn’t name when she thought about his grey eyes.
She tried to shake the strange feeling. Started as the door opened and the stranger of the Red Shoes finally entered, smelling faintly of some kind of perfume. There was a table and chair near her, opposite the cabin’s small cot, and he sat at it, his eyes still appraising her.
Presently he said: “My name is Darras al-Hasan. But I am more often called Deodato. I work for a very powerful monarch in a country far away that we call al-Andalus. Do you know of this country?”
She shook her head.
He shrugged. “No matter. You’ll know it soon enough, we set sail for it tomorrow morning. You have the very great honour of being chosen for the service of His Majesty himself, in Cordova. You should rejoice in this knowledge. It means you will never again go hungry, nor want for anything.”
She tried to still her tongue, but couldn’t stop herself from saying: “Except freedom.”
“You fear this future now.” He nodded judiciously. “God knows I understand. But you’ve known only the savagery of the Sakaliva. You might find advantages to your new station in time.” He pulled off his gloves and said: “Of course it comes at a price. Do you know why I chose you?” When she shook her head silently, he added: “Because you bore it well when I struck you. His Majesty has certain ... proclivities. It takes women of spirit to be his concubines. My task is to find such women.”
These words sent a chill through her. She found herself meeting his eyes defiantly, trying to fight down the fear. She said: “Oh, he’ll find me ‘spirited,’ well enough.”
Deodato’s face creased in a smile, and she was maddened to find that something else fluttered in her belly along with the fear as his eyes drank in her naked body. He was almost uncannily handsome, and a part of her cursed him for it. What business did he have being so handsome, when he was an agent of such evil?
“Your name—” he started to say.
“My name is Dunnan of Tamworth,” she cut him off hotly.
The stinging slap he gave her was not hard, nor particularly painful. But it shocked her into silence and rocked her back. All trace of amusement had left his face as he loomed over her.
“I have no wish to hurt you,” he said quietly. “But I must take a firm hand with you. I do this now so that you do not suffer unduly later. Be mindful of this. Your name is Dhana. Say it.”
She reached up with her bound hands, touched her cheek where he had struck her. A wild surge of defiance came up in her, and she repeated: “My name is Dunnan of Tamworth.”
Deodato nodded, his grey eyes cool. “So be it.”
Before she knew what was happening he had taken her by the hair, hauling her up as she cried out and throwing her face-down on the cot. It smelled of his musk, and of rose petals. She squirmed and struggled as he pressed in sidewise atop her, leaning the weight of his torso against the small of her back.
One of his strong arms worked its way underneath her. She squirmed, helpless to stop him, and felt that strange fluttering sensation in her belly intensify. It was mad, it was shameful, but as his hand snaked down between her thighs and his graceful fingers took hold of her cunt, she could not deny it. Somehow, being at this handsome, frightening stranger’s mercy had met her wet. His fingers slid into her with ease, holding her in place as she screwed her eyes shut and whimpered, trying to deny this strange betrayal of her soul by her flesh. Tingling sensations raced through her as three of his fingers stuffed and stretched her lubricious quim.
Thus holding her in place, he brought his other hand slashing down across her buttocks with a ringing slap. She jolted from the impact, shuddered as the motion drown her wet sex down on his fingers, let out a moan through gritted teeth.
“What is your name?” He asked quietly.
“My name...” She panted, bit her lip as she felt the walls of her sex gripping the intruding digits, felt his palm moving against her sensitive nubbin as she writhed. A moment later, she managed: “My name ... is ... Dunnan of Tamworth...”
He spanked her again, hard. Again she jerked away from the pain, heard a moan of mingled pain and passion escape her lips as her cunt slid wetly down his knuckles, slicking them with the honeyed juices of her reluctant desire as she gasped.
Again he told her to say her name, and again she defied him. And again. And again. And again. Earning a fresh slap on her naked rear each time as she writhed under the spanking and moaned and quivered like a tautened string with the pain of the humiliating chastisement balancing on a razor’s edge with the pleasure of fucking herself on the fingers stuffing her wanton slit.
The punishment went on and on and on. Before the dozenth slap on her stinging arse rang out, she already knew that she was going to give in. That her new name would be Dhana, just as he’d said.
But somehow ... somehow she wanted to keep defying him just a little longer. The smacks on her bottom sent her wriggling down his fingers more juiciily every time, and she felt the build of something deep within her, an eruption of a delicious and sinful kind that she’d only ever known once in the arms of her dear, slain husband.
She felt disloyal to his memory but she couldn’t help it. By the time Deodato spanked her for the twelfth time, she was moaning lustily and exploding all over his fingers, the juddering waves of pleasure washing out from her cunt as she took her punishment, her cries echoing in the little cabin as she gave into the passion, helpless to keep it at bay.
As the tides of pleasure washed back out again that she heard herself answer his repeated question in a small, breathy voice that was not her own. And she whimpered: “My name ... my name is Dhana ... my lord...”
The Now (May 5th, 1961).
The dream had seared through her. She’d woken up even more sweat-soaked than the night before, her pussy even more wet and sensitive.
This time, she hadn’t been able to shake off the images, the vivid sensations, as if what was in the dream had really happened to her. Deodato with his piercing gaze, his masterful hands, his gorgeous body had done much more than just bringing her off as he’d spanked her. He had introduced her to some of his Caliph’s other perverse proclivities too, had taken her body with a length of hot, hard manhood in ways that her mind wanted to shy away from ... and he had made her dream-self scream and beg for more as he mastered her, stretching her with his domineering thrusts, tearing away all vestiges of her self-control, her defiance, turning her into a creature of pure sexual hunger...
It lingered with her. While she was in the shower she had found herself curling her fingers together, turning them into a stand-in for his throbbing, thrilling tool as she fucked herself to a screaming climax as the water cascaded over her wet flesh. No sooner had one climax ripped through her than she found the scene playing in her mind’s eye again, found herself masturbating anew until she had come off three times in a row before she climbed out of the shower, her hands and legs shaking with aftermath, her pussy still yearning for more.
Bill’s morning visit was agony. She couldn’t even begin to explain what had spooked their target. The explanation she suspected was too outlandish to even consider speaking aloud. Bill thought he’d been tipped off, though, and she had found herself arguing desperately against it when he mused about pulling her out, reassuring him glibly that she could do this, that she could sense the hook was in the mouth of their “fish,” that she could still reel him in.
D.I. Watling had frowned at her suspiciously, but had finally agreed. Checked the surveillance equipment again and gone on his way. And the moment the door shut behind him she had found herself walking back to the bedroom, rummaging in the closet, fishing out the file.
Darrin Parker. The target was a suspected dealer in cannabis and heroin. He supplied his favourite girls on the row with illicit drugs as a way of bringing down the price of sporting with them. He was rumoured to be one of the most vicious gangsters in the city.
His eyes looked out from the picture. They didn’t look like the eyes of a vicious man. His gaze was soulful, penetrating, knowing. He wore Dracontius’ face, Deodato’s face. A face from dreams of the past that shamed her to her depths ... and awakened some dark answering impulse in her that made her squirm with lust.
Before she knew it she had stripped naked again but for her garters and stockings. She was looking at his picture as she heard the voice and felt the muscular, masculine body of those erotic nightmares pressed against her. She couldn’t help it: she lay back on the bed, looked into those eyes and let her free hand slide down to her pussy again, her fingers searching out the hot button of her passion as she bit her lip and prepared for another ride on the circuit of desire.
Del, she asked herself. What the Hell are you doing, girl?
She had no answer. But she couldn’t stop. The muscles of her belly clenched in anticipation as she began to moan and stroke her fat clit, feeling her juices begin to flow as the dreams of wild and forbidden desire rose back up to claim her.