The Damned

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 42 (v.1)

Submitted: October 18, 2013

Reads: 106

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Submitted: October 18, 2013





Glencaer, Welsh Marches, Shropshire, 19th April 1231

Conor would assume that it had all been a dream, but there were marks on his shoulders where Isabel’s nails had gouged his flesh, and a satisfaction in his body that couldn’t only be his imagination.

And there was guilt, too. His Isabel, his beautiful Isabel, had crossed the line into dangerous territory. If what they had done were to be discovered… The danger he had placed her in was unthinkable, unforgivable.

Conor was glad that he was away from her, for if he looked upon her his gaze would surely be evidence enough to convict them of their sin. He would not see her again for days, for on the morrow she was to leave Glencaer and visit her sister at Dudley Castle. It was best that they were forced apart, to keep her safe from his incriminating stare.

And yet the mere thought of such a distance between them, of being denied Isabel’s company for any time at all, made him ache to be beside her. His hunger for her mingled with his guilt, creating chaos in his heart. He wanted to see her again, to reach out and grab her, pull her close and kiss her skin.

But that was enough to warn him to stay away. It was too dangerous. He couldn’t imperil her because of his own selfish desires. He wouldn’t do that. Not to her.

His avoidance was successful for only a few hours, and then she cornered him. The stables were deserted. The sun was beginning to set, and everyone had headed to the Great Hall for the evening meal. Everyone except her. He wanted to hide, but he knew that she would find him.

Isabel stood in the doorway, her gaze silently summoning him, before turning and walking away. Conor followed at a distance, allowing her to lure him from the dim interior into a dazzling sunset. She didn’t stop until they reached the forest and the safety of the trees which promised to shield them from prying eyes. She turned to him, her face towards the setting sun. Its rays set her dark hair on fire. The light made her skin look luminescent, soft and young and perfect. Her eyes glinted as she looked at him, burning with the knowledge of what they had done. She smiled slowly, placing one hand on his chest, the other cradling his neck, and stood on tiptoe to whisper in his ear. “You did not think to avoid me, did you?” Her breath was warm on his skin. She twined his thick curls around her fingers as she spoke, tugging in gentle reprieve.

Conor couldn’t help but settle his hands on her waist and pull her closer to him. His lips grazed her neck, because he was selfish and couldn’t think to stop himself. His heart pounded in his ears, the blood rushing through his body as though he was hurtling at full speed towards the edge of a cliff, with too much momentum to pull himself to a standstill. He pulled her closer still. “Never, Issy.”

She brought her hand up to his face and cupped his chin. Her fingers were gentle as they spread across his cheek, lovingly mapping his features. Her eyes seemed to devour him. She leaned forward, pressing her body even closer to his as she raised herself on tiptoes to kiss him again. Her kiss was harder, more demanding, her tongue darting out to meet his.

Conor couldn’t help but kiss her back. He lowered his head to meet her questing lips, pressed his fingers into her skin to anchor her to him. He would hold her there forever, and to hell with Tristan FitzAlan. His master could flay him to within an inch of his life if that was the price for a moment spent with Isabel. For her, he would gladly be damned.

But for her, Conor knew he must stop. He could not let her be damned beside him. He could not let her face the wrath of his lord.

Conor wondered if they would listen if he told them that it was his actions that ruined Isabel, not her own. He would gladly hang for their crime if it would save her from the consequences.

But he pulled away, for there was no mercy inside of his master. Conor could tell them that he had forced her against her will, and still Lord Tristan would cast her down beside him. That was something that he could not have.

And the Devereuxs… How he loved his little Devereux! But how he feared her family and what they would do to them! They were magnificent, chilling meteorites, the most impressive dissemblers England had ever seen: pitiless chess-players, beings of lustful hunger, their paradoxes mystifying, goaded by an all-consuming ambition to which all else was secondary. Her blood would be nothing to them if she brought shame on their terrible name.

“We can’t,” he whispered into her mouth, breathing her in before he had to give her up.

Isabel dropped back on to flat feet, and looked at him with an expression that broke his heart. It was impossible to look upon her and believe her purely human like the rest of them. She was too beautiful, too clever, too perfectly lovely. It hurt him to deny her, for what was left of his heart was reserved for her and her alone.

“Do you not love me then, Con? Does a fruit once tasted lose its sweetness?” she said testily.

He looked at Isabel helplessly, pressed a kiss to her forehead, trying to impart the love he could not put into words through touch. His fingers rested gently on the nape of her neck, that soft, vulnerable place which belonged to him alone.

“Will you deny me now?” she said fiercely.

Conor wanted to pull the pins from her hair, so that it tumbled down around her shoulders, but it was too intricately bound for him to risk ruining it. But he wanted to ruin it, to ruin her. “I love you more than any other man can,” he murmured, his lips still pressed to her forehead. “But we can’t. We risk too much.” Yet they had already risked too much. Why had it mattered so little to him last night when it seemed so important tonight?

Isabel’s fingers gently traced the curve of his cheekbone. He pressed his cheek into her palm, hungry for her touch. “They would damn us already,” she said softly. “What is one more sin?”

What was one more sin? They were already condemned for their actions. Why deny themselves a pleasure for which they could already be punished? And she was beautiful, so very beautiful. He wanted to hold her in his arms again.

Seeing his decision, Isabel smiled and stepped away from him. Her eyes were teasing. “Oh, Con, I shall miss you when I go away. So very much. But I suppose you won’t miss me at all.”

But Conor could not think of a fate worse than being parted from her. She knew that. That was why she enticed him so. A tiny smirk came to play on her features, telling him that she knew exactly what she was doing to him. He wanted to flee from her, to hide his desire for her, bury it, deny it, for it was too dangerous.

Isabel sighed theatrically, and reached for his hand. “Come, Con. Will you at least escort me back to the castle?”

Conor’s fists clenched, for her sleeve had drawn back from her wrist as she reached for him, revealing a delicate chain of purple bruises on her pale skin. He knew that they were not his, for he would never have marred her perfect beauty. “Who did that to you?”

Isabel looked to see what had roused his anger. When she saw, she smiled. “Tristan grows impatient, my love. He has been promised a prize which he longs to possess, but always it is a promise for another day.”

“I should gut him for his crime,” Conor seethed. It made his skin burn with anger, blood rising to the surface. His hands itched to hurt the man who had hurt her. He should destroy him, and any other man who presumed to look on her without love. He didn’t like Tristan FitzAlan, didn’t trust him to be kind to her, but he had never hated him so deeply before. Now his vision was blinded by red. He wanted to set a knife deep between his lord’s broad shoulders; he wanted to feel the man’s final breath leave him.

For Isabel merited more than that cruel tyrant – she deserved someone who would give her everything Tristan FitzAlan could and more. Conor knew that he would never be enough, but nor would her betrothed. She needed more than his master: she needed someone who would be gentle, but never condescending; someone who would recognise her brilliance and afford her the respect she was worthy of.

But instead she would marry Tristan FitzAlan, and there was nothing Conor could do to save her, not here, when the lord was surrounded by armed men. He would happily steal her away, but Isabel would never choose to leave. And here, he was powerless. Here, he could only watch as another man sought to tame her.

“But then I would never be mistress of Glencaer, and I would have to leave here and marry elsewhere. I would have to leave you, Con.”

“I cannot watch him hurt you.”

“I denied him, and he grew angry. But he knows that he cannot hurt me anymore than this,” she said gently, as though she didn’t mind, as if the marks on her body were insignificant.

But she should have minded – she shouldn’t ever be marked. Her perfect skin should never be soiled by violence.

“He cannot risk losing me. He needs this alliance.”

“You could have denied me a thousand times over and I still wouldn’t have hurt you,” Conor said, gently pressing her wrist to his lips, and placing the lightest kiss on the skin which his lord had gripped so tightly.

“He desires me,” Isabel said, raising a delicately arched brow in subtle reprimand.

Conor scowled. “I desire you.” The part which desired demanded that he make her his again, as he knew that she wanted him to. Her family had ordained that she would be Tristan’s, but Isabel wanted him.

“Then possess me, Con,” she said softly. “Claim me.”

He leaned forward so that his forehead rested against hers, and took her face between his hands. His lips brushed over hers, but didn’t kiss. He lingered there, breathing her in. “I want you more than he ever could.”

“Take me.”

“You would never let me,” he sighed, stroking her cheek, before claiming her lips for his own. For he was coming to realise that her title was her birth-right - and she knew it to be so. She was a child of power and darkness. Clad in her silks and her furs, her fingers weighted down with jewelled rings, Isabel possessed remorseless ambition and a hunger for power, even if she had not yet identified it in herself. She wanted so much more than he could give her.

“Tonight I would,” she whispered.

Conor lifted her into his arms and gently laid her down on the ground, her cloak settling around her like the crimson wings of a butterfly. She twined his hair around her fingers, binding him to her. Stretched beneath him, her dark curls framing her face, she looked like the Madonna must have. She was breath-taking, beautiful.

“Don’t be angry with me, Con. You know how I hate your temper.”

“Maybe I like being angry.”

“My flawed demon,” she murmured, stroking his face. “You should try being happy from time to time.”

“I’m angry for you, Issy.”

“Don’t be. It doesn’t matter what they do. I love you. I am loyal to you. They can’t part us - it’s impossible. But you can’t be angry. You can’t be violent. If you’re angry and violent, it makes it harder for me to love you. It frightens me.”

“You’re lying, Isabel. It makes it easier for you when I seethe with the anger which should be yours, doesn’t it? When I feel it, you don’t have to, as if we are one being. And you like me to be angry for you. It lets you know that I care. You’re hopelessly drawn to violence, my darling. It’s all you’ve ever known. Everyone that you love is cruel. And you enjoy anger, manipulate it even, when it benefits you. Your family are all the same.”

“But they’re doing it to protect me. To protect our family. When you get angry, it achieves nothing. You’re not my brother. You have no power.”

“Do you fear their anger?”

“Not as I fear yours.”

“Are you afraid of me now?”

“Is that what you want, Con? My fear.”

“Not yours. But his I would enjoy. Were you to ask me, I would kill Tristan FitzAlan with my bare hands to save you from his cruel touch.”

Isabel kissed him again for a long moment, before releasing him, her hands falling to either side of her face. “I will marry him for my family, Conor,” she said softly, “and so he must live, and I must take him into my bed.”

Conor kissed her fiercely then, hating the thought of another man’s hands touching the body he loved. She laughed at his jealousy, the sound vibrating against his lips as she threaded her fingers through his hair again. Her touch was no longer gentle. She pulled at his curls, enticing him, demanding. Her mouth opened wider for him. He felt as though he was conquering virgin territory, as though he had to make it clear to everyone that it was his.

He tasted her hunger on his tongue, pulled away. “With your name, we both know you could marry any man your brother desires for you. Any man would be glad to marry you, to bind himself by blood to the mighty Devereuxs. Most of them would be desperate to have you. But you do not want a man who will marry you for your name and your fortune, do you? You want someone who will love you. You don’t want to be a pawn, Isabel; you want to make your own moves.”

“The hand of the player is already in motion, my love. The move has already been made. Tristan is my future. He is my destiny. I will marry him.”

“That isn’t going to happen. I won’t let it happen.”

“You will.”

“And what of your promise to me?”

“You do not need to marry me. You do not need to ask for my hand, for you have all of me. We know each other. That’s enough, Con. My family ask for only a small part of me; the rest belongs to you.”

He pulled away from her as her hands began to toy with the laces of his tunic. “Your family should not ask it of you, Issy. Everyone knows of his cruelty. They should have run him through before they agreed to let him marry you.”

Isabel clung to his neck as though it were the only thing she could hold onto. She raised herself slightly, placing her lips beside his ear. “They will not see his cruelty. I will not let them.”

“But I will see it,” he murmured, kissing the delicate line of her jaw. “You will not be able to hide it from me. And I swear to you, that if he should leave a single mark on your porcelain skin, I will drive a knife through his heart.”

“Let me give him a son, and then you may cut out his heart and serve it to me on a dinner plate if it pleases you to do so.” Her hand slowly travelled down his neck, across his shoulders, his torso, and unlaced his tunic. He shrugged free of it as her hands moved to his shirt, lifting it up and baring his skin to the night air. He pulled it off as she watched, her eyes hungry, and tossed it aside. It fell to the floor slowly, fluttering like a dying moth, to land crumpled and drab beside the crimson wings of her cloak.

His lips hastily reclaimed hers, already missing the feel of her skin against his. She turned her head to the side, denying him her kiss. “Cleanse me of his touch, Con. Don’t let him claim me yet.”

The anger came again as he thought of her married to such a tyrant. He would fight for Isabel, he knew it. He would fight them all. She didn’t want Tristan’s fingers on her skin or his body in her bed. His hands, framing her head, clenched in the crimson of her cloak, the material spilling through his fingers like blood. “Don’t you wish for him to lie with you?” he said cruelly, only to hear her say no, to have her tell him that it was his touch she desired, not his lord’s.

Isabel saw right through him, and responded with all the manipulative cunning endowed by her Devereux blood. “Oh, Con, I only wish to lie with you. Make me feel like I’m yours again.”

He tried to remind himself of why he should resist such an invitation, but he could think of nothing but the feel of her skin against his. He relaxed slightly, so that his whole body was pressed against hers. She shifted, spreading her legs to cradle him, as so many women had done before her. But she was not just any woman: she was Isabel Devereux, the daughter of one earl, the sister of two more, and the future wife of his master. Yet she held him so close that he could feel the heat of her body through her clothing.

Isabel smiled devilishly as his hand reached for the hem of her skirt, and slowly drew it up. Her nails dug into his back scarringly, making another mark, another patch to add to his jester’s motley, so that he would wear her mistake beside his own.

“You play with fire, Issy,” he warned her.

She only laughed, and gently pulled one of his curls. Her long eyelashes cast delicate shadows on her cheekbones as they fluttered shut. “Oh, Con,” she sighed, in that way that never failed to make him melt, “you must know that you won’t burn me.”

© Copyright 2018 Jordana J Sacks. All rights reserved.