Saturday Snippet

Here’s a quick snippet from The Crimson Outlaw in which Vali’s reaction to being captured by bandits is not 100% appropriate:

Potentially triggery sexual threat situation, for those who are not quite as thoughtlessly invulnerable as Vali.


18th Century Romania

His hand went to his sword just as a man’s long arm snaked out of the darkness behind him, pinned his forearm in place and drew him back against a hard, unyielding chest. The man’s other hand gently touched the long glint of a hunting knife against his throat. And though it pressed in hardly at all, the edge was so sharp a warm trickle made its way down Vali’s neck and pooled in his collar. He froze.

He couldn’t see his attacker, but he could feel the man was much bigger, much stronger than him. Broad chest, big arms, the smell of woodsmoke and sheepskin. If he struggled, he might open his own throat on that razor of a weapon. And what a stupid way to die, at the hands of some common bandit not ten miles away from home.

“That’s it.” The deep voice, more than a handspan above his head, coaxed him as gently as he would have coaxed his horse. “Don’t you struggle or start, and this will go easier for you. I’ve no mind to kill you, unless you make it needful for me.”

“I have no money.” Vali’s chest was heaving, his body still readying itself to fight, his mind trying to clear away the haze of shock and panic, looking out for its opportunity. He allowed himself to be dragged backwards, away from the path, into the utter dark of the moonless wood.

A chuckle, hoarse but good-humoured. “Well, so they often say.” The voice sounded conversational. The body belied it, moving in a rush like the charge of a bear, seizing him by the belt, spinning them both and slamming Vali’s back into the trunk of a tree. “I’m sure you won’t mind if I check for myself.”

The bandit was now directly in front of Vali, flush with Vali from knees to chest, holding him in place with the weight of his great body. The knife remained at Vali’s throat. The man’s coat swung forwards and enfolded Vali on both sides as the bandit’s free hand moved methodically over him, cataloguing what he found.

“Silk waistcoat lined with fur. Stiff embroidery—must be silver or gold thread—and little stones in it. Metal plaques on your belt and, oh, there’s a nice sword. Get your hand off that, there’s my good boy.”

The voice had slipped into a kind of bedroom murmur—pleased, confidential, intimate—and the experience of being groped all over should not perhaps have been so . . . But it was. The knife at his throat and the pressure from balls to lungs of a powerful, demanding warm body thoroughly dominating him stirred something deep in his bowels. Lust added itself to terror in his panting breaths, and he despised himself and the bandit indiscriminately.

But he still didn’t dare buck up against that blade.

“You’re a little lordling of some kind, but where’s your retinue, eh?” Wind moved the branches, and for a moment, a shaft of light reflected gold from the backs of the eyes that looked down on him. All he could see—two round spots of gold in a dark mass that smelled of hot, vivid, animal sweat. “Run off to find your fortune? Daddy won’t increase your allowance? Nobody loves you enough?

“Let’s see. I could strip these clothes off you and take your horse and leave you wandering these haunted woods alone. Something’d eat you, cover your tracks, no one’d ever know where you’d gone.” That exploratory hand returned, less brusque and businesslike than before. It pushed up the long skirts of Vali’s waistcoat and stroked possessively up his inner thigh. “But what a waste.”

“Ah!” said Vali, gritting his teeth. It didn’t sound as much like a protest as he wanted it to. The mockery stung. He barely stopped himself from writhing—away, towards, he wasn’t sure—and slicing his own neck on the still steady knife. That deadly edge filled his thoughts, commanded his movements. Not entirely unpleasantly, for all he wanted to shove the man’s words down his throat and make him choke on them.

The bandit laughed again and drew a length of cord from the inner pocket of his coat. Vali felt the end of it slither over his fingers. “So let’s suit both of our needs and test how much your family values you, shall we? You’ll make a lovely hostage.”


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