Cielle was out of her hiding spot in a flash and in no time at all, she rolled to her feet.
“You get off of her, you… you pig!” She screamed at the top of her lungs, brandishing the dagger she didn’t even remember pulling out of her bosom.
Branton slowly, blearily raised his face from Larissa’s chest, his lazy drunken gaze widening at the sight of her. “Who the hell are you?” He demanded.
“Your arch nemesis!” Cielle proclaimed, hardly thinking now as she dived forward, dagger out before her.
She was aiming for his exposed genitalia, but at the last second, Branton found the presence of mind to at least roll partially out of the way. The dagger dove fully into the flesh of his leg right through the thick leather of his pants, which he hadn’t bothered to fully remove prior to attempting to mount his victim.
Branton screamed, the pain shocking him very efficiently out of his inebriated state as Larissa, now free from her new husband’s weight, scrambled to get herself out of the bed. Shocked by what she’d done, even if it was sort her intention in coming here, Cielle backed up slowly, her eyes trained on the screaming Lord and the way his blood pooled darkly around the hilt of her brother’s silver dagger protruding from his leg.
“I’m sorry…” Cielle whispered into the Lord’s screams, feeling at a loss.
“Don’t be!” Larissa told her forcefully, propelling herself from the bed and slamming bodily into Cielle.
Cielle was slow to register that Larissa was now in her arms, just like she’d intended. “Larissa, I…” She began.
“I love you,” Larissa exclaimed, against all of Cielle’s expectations, before her soft lips fell upon Cielle’s searchingly, demandingly.
Cielle gave into the moment, let her lips melt into Larissa’s, let her tongue explore this taste of freedom. It was over too quickly as Larissa pulled away. “What about him?”
Cielle struggled to bring Lord Branton back into focus past the haze of bliss her mind had become. In the interim the Lord’s screaming had fallen silent and he was watching them, his jaw open a little. His loosened pants showed clearly his arousal. Cielle immediately felt her anger return.
“We leave him,” she stated forcefully. “He doesn’t deserve you.”
“But where would we go? What would we do? My family…”
“Doesn’t deserve you either,” Cielle cut her off, her anger seething. “They…they sold you to him!”
Larissa’s head lowered in sadness or in pain, Cielle didn’t know. Maybe it was shame, either way, Larissa knew as well as Cielle did that there would be no returning back to the Arbor House after this.
“I…” Larissa began, “I don’t want to lose you.”
“You won’t,” Cielle told her. “It’s you and me against the world now, Larissa. I’ll keep you safe…” She turned her attention back to Branton who licked his lips, watching them, his drunken stupor having fallen back over him somewhat now that the immediate danger had passed. “Starting now.”
Cielle advanced on Branton like one might advance on a rattlesnake. She knew he was dangerous and she knew what he wanted from her… from them both. She darted inwards and her hand grasped the cool hilt of her brother’s dagger just as Branton’s hand clamped warmly down on her wrist. She had only a split second to escape him, she knew. Grimacing, she twisted the handle of the dagger and Branton let go of her, crying out in additional pain. She used that moment to jump back, well out of his reach, grab Larissa’s hand and head straight for the window.
There she grabbed hold of the makeshift ladder she’d constructed from Branton’s spare shirts and sheets she’d found in the armoire and carefully helped Larissa over the sill of the open window. “There, just like the treehouse back at the D’Arbonne House,” she coaxed Larissa through her uneasiness, “just slide down slowly and don’t let go. I’ll be right behind you.”
Her heart pounding fiercely with exhilaration, or perhaps just the sudden absence of fear, Cielle made one last visual sweep of the room. Spotting a thick looking brocade robe, she snatched it up, hoping to use it to cover the flimsy nightgown the servants had dressed Larissa in. Robe in hand, she swung herself over the window ledge and made quick and sure-footed work of following her best friend and the love of her life out the window and down to the balcony below.
Behind them, through the open window, Lord Branton’s wails of anguish continued long after they’d found their way out of the castle’s thick walls, but it didn’t matter. They were free and they were together and right now, that was all either of them cared about.
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