Anna began to unlace the cords threaded through her bodice, her hands moving with the quick rise and fall of her breasts. Once they were undone, she unhooked it from her shoulders and let it fall to the ground. Quickly she drew her arms up to shield herself.
‘Take them away,’ whispered Damian. One of his hands, released from a sleeve, had begun to move up and down beneath his nightgown. Sweat was gathering at his temples. His breaths were coming in rasps.
Anna was transfixed with horror. It wasn’t meant to be like this.
‘Take them away,’ barked Damian, the movement at his groin more urgent. ‘Take your hands away now !’
Anna did what she was told and stood there, naked, her skin aglow in the light of the candles. She looked down with appalled fascination at the hunched figure before her who was now using his free hand to feel her breasts, pulling and twisting her nipples and running his palm across their tips. Then the hand moved down to her groin.
Anna opened her legs. She felt a shock of pain as Damian thrust his fingers inside her, invading, probing, wounding her. Going deeper and deeper. She pulled his hand away.
Damian looked up at her, his eyes unfocused, his mouthslack with lust. A sliver of sweat ran down the scar on his cheek. He pulled himself to his feet, using the bedpost. Anna stepped forward, attempting a smile.
‘Why don’t you remove your nightgown, Damian, and come to bed?’
A stinging pain exploded across her cheek as Damian slapped her. ‘You bitch!’ he shouted.
What had she done wrong?
‘You’d like that, wouldn’t you? To pity me! Do you think I didn’t know what you were doing at the steps of the Laskaris House? How dare you pity me!’
He’d stopped rubbing himself and with both hands threw her across the bed. Then he fell on top of her, pulling his gown up at the front. He grabbed her hand. ‘You do it.’
Miserably, Anna began to move her hand up and down.
‘Faster!’ he urged, his breath hot against her ear. His hand was at her throat.
She rubbed faster, closing her eyes, wanting to finish this as quickly as possible.
Damian went rigid and his fingers dug into her neck so that, for a moment, she couldn’t breathe. Then he rolled away
Anna felt a wave of burning shame. She could bear the pain in her neck and on her breasts, but this humiliation was more agonising by far. She wondered what she could say to make him understand that, whatever his hurt, he could not treat her like that ever again.
She turned to him, but he was lying on his side and away from her. He was fast asleep.
Outside, standing in shadow in the corridor, was Zoe. She’dheard very little of what had happened in the bridal chamber but she could guess.
She will still be a virgin after tonight .
But why did it matter? Why indeed was she there, listening to the muffled agonies of two people beyond the door?
She knew the answer to this. She’d seen the way that Suleyman had looked at Anna at the wedding. He’d not looked at her like that.
She needed to win Suleyman’s trust. But perhaps she needed to win Anna’s first.
MISTRA, SUMMER 1394
The Despot was not a man often moved to anger, but when he was, it was impressive.
Certainly, that was the opinion of Nikolaos Eudaemis, Kephale of Monemvasia and the Despot’s representative in that city. In theory he had the same powers as the Archon; in practice he was not even close.
Eudaemis had been summoned back to Mistra to explain why, after three months, some important elements of the marriage agreement, such as the handing back of Geraki Castle, had not taken place. Geraki was of particular significance since it was critical to the defence of the Vale of Sparta and its rich farmland.
Theodore was beside himself. ‘How dare he?’ he shouted, stabbing the papers on the table in front of him with his finger. ‘Is it not written there in the contract in black and white? Or
Ross E. Lockhart, Justin Steele