It descended on her almost immediately,
The man was there. He sat behind an enormous oak table with an evil smile spreading over his face.
The room was dark, but his eerie expression caught in the glow of the firelight. Though he grinned as he stared across the room, she knew he was not happy. His eyes were focused into the back room. He was watching a woman work.
Sitting on the floor a few feet away from the table, she watched him as he fidgeted in his seat. She shivered as the sound of low humming came from the room behind her. The woman in the other room was quietly singing some song she'd known for years. The sound of the woman's singing caught her attention and she could not help turning her head toward the noise. She craned her neck as far as she could to peek around the corner of the wall, but the door was too far from her. She could not see the woman.
She tried to stretch her body in a number of ways to get closer. She strained to move closer to see the woman who was singing. It was impossible. She was bound too tightly.
A thick rope tied her small wrist securely to the leg of a wood stove. It denied her the freedom of moving closer to the door. Her arm had stopped feeling the scorching effects of the hot metal long ago, but the coldness of the floor still licked at her bare legs. She shuddered despite the heat of the hot stove.
"You'd better eat up, girl," the man sneered, lifting a bottle to his filthy mouth. "This'll be the last meal you ever get. But at least," he gestured in the direction of the singing woman, "maybe she will finally become a real wife to me when we are rid of you!"
Her eyes shifted down and she saw a plate of cold food lying on the floor in front of her. Her stomach turned as she thought about eating it. The sound of the quiet singing was growing closer and she crouched on the floor, paralyzed with fear. She knew what was about to happen. She could see it in the man's eyes.
Something at the table caught her eye. She looked up, squinting through the shadows of the room. Her eyes caught the cold glint of a metal dagger in his hand. She opened her mouth to scream, but her throat felt choked and the ability to speak escaped her.
A figure moved beside her and she gasped for air as the woman walked into the room. The woman was not looking at her, she could not warn her about the knife. She could only stare in horror as the man rose from his chair. He held the knife behind his back.
"I'll spare you the details, My Love," he whispered to the woman. He saw her pause and stare up at him in confusion.
Without warning, he gripped the knife tighter. His hand shot out quickly, turning the blade away so that the handle struck her instead. It cracked against the side of her head, and she was sent flying across the room. She collided into the far wall before sinking slowly to the floor. Her eyes remained open as she lay there in stunned disbelief.
From her corner of the room, she witnessed this man's ferocious attack in silent horror. Her mouth hung open as she stared at the semi-conscious woman on the floor. Blood was trickling down her porcelain cheek.
Squirming back against the scorching metal, she heard the heat of it searing the skin on her arm. The sound of it sickened her, but she felt nothing as she stared up at the man. He had turned away from the woman on the floor and was now stalking her like a bird of prey.
"Perhaps we might give you a what for. Eh?" His eyes held a touch of insanity as he approached her. A deranged sound glistened in the shadows of his voice as he sneered, "You will never take her from me."
He bent with maniacal force and reached for her then. His hand snaked out and struck her mercilessly. She knew then that he would not be so merciful with her. He had no intention of rendering her unconscious as he had the woman...
Stiff from having sat so long on the bare floor, Caleb finally climbed to his feet. Aside from the growing ache in his back, he knew it wasn't proper for him to remain in Kyra's room this way. After kissing her, he couldn't help himself from remaining a few moments longer. Some part of his mind insisted he stay and enjoy the peace and solitude of this moment.
It seemed a great deal of time had passed since she'd fallen to sleep. Though her breathing remained even and peaceful, he was reluctant to leave the room. He stared down at her sleeping form on the bed, trying to convince himself that she was still the same treacherous woman who couldn't be trusted. He nearly laughed at himself over the idea of it.
Such thoughts had been much easier to believe before he had kissed her. Now, he found it impossible to picture her being so devious. He only saw a beautiful, innocent young girl lying peacefully against the pillows.
Damn, this was doing him no good! With one swift lapse of common sense he'd made a fatal mistake. Before entering this room he had been unswerving in his judgment of her. Now he was growing just as biased as he'd been before. The crucial difference? This time, his mind was arguing in her defense.
Sighing helplessly at himself, he intended to finally turn and leave the room. Instead, he found himself staring down at her, fixated on her sleeping face. It was then that he noticed a fine sheen of sweat had broken out on her skin.
He frowned, wondering if she'd broken out in fever. Before he managed a small pause for thought, she kicked at the bed with her feet, sliding across the width of it to the other side. Once more she kicked and a loud thump could be heard as she fell backwards onto the floor. His eyes widened in surprise.
Caught off guard he almost laughed, but she immediately climbed to her knees and began to whimper pitifully. Slowly she began kicking at the floor and shrank back into the shadows. Cornered between the wall and the wardrobe, she stared out into the room, squirming against some unseen force. Though she appeared to be in a dreamlike state, her eyes remained wide open in obvious fright.
Having spent so much time in the stillness of the room, Caleb was slow to react. He had not expected this. It took him a moment to realize she was having another nightmare. Her whimpering came louder and he felt at a loss for what to do.
Was this the same dream as the last, he wondered. If so, he braced himself for the struggle. She did not intimidate him, though she was certainly a decidedly aggressive woman in sleep. It just worried him that she might unintentionally hurt herself if she fought him again.
He approached her slowly, noticing how oddly she held her arm against the wall. It seemed to be held in place by some unseen force. He stepped closer with measured footsteps as her anxiety became more pronounced.
Her head suddenly jerked sideways and she almost banged her face into the wall. She was beginning to screech in a high pitched cry as she shrank back away from him. Her free hand was held up protectively to ward off his advance. He imagined she must be struggling against someone in her dream. As he took another cautious step closer, she suddenly shouted out against him.
"No, please, please, please!" Apparently weak from misuse, her voice was extremely raspy and almost inaudible. She muttered the word hoarsely, over and over, and he grimaced at the sound of her plea.
One final step brought him to her. He watched as she gripped the arm that was held to the wall. She began jerking to free it from the invisible bond.
"God help me!" Tears shot from her eyes and her voice broke even more from the strain of shouting. "Please, don't hurt me! Please!" Her screaming became incoherent then, and she was desperately jerking her arm.
She was not looking at him. Her eyes were focused on something beyond his perception. Unable to watch this any longer, he knelt down before her and grasped her face.
She began screaming violently. "Mama! Help me, please," she was crying tormented in between screams. It seemed no one was coming to her aide.
Frustrated, he grasped her wrist and pulled her restricted arm away from the wall. She struggled fiercely to be free from him, but he caught her to him tightly. He wrapped his arms around her, forcing her to be still. For endless moments she fought to pull away, but at last she began to settle down.
"Please don't hurt me... Please..." Her words trailed off now. The last word was a whispered plea as the dream faded from her mind. Then she stopped speaking altogether.
Caleb wondered if she was yet aware of her surroundings. "You're all right, Kyra," he breathed as she began to tense up. He loosened his hold on her and began to stroke her hair lightly, hoping to still the remains of her dream. He held her comfortingly, hoping it would help soothe her.
Her body was shaking and he wondered if she was crying. The dampness that wetted the cloth of his shirt proved she was. His hand pressed her head to his chest almost protectively.
"You are safe, Kyra," he whispered softly. "You are safe."
He rocked her back and forth, whispering reassuring words of comfort in her ear and he hugged her close. When he felt she'd regained control of herself, he pulled back slightly and lifted her eyes to meet his.
"Are you all right," he asked.
She looked into the shadowed depths of his eyes. She saw the concern on his face and felt shamed at finding herself on the floor. Uncertain what had happened, she shakily nodded. She was shivering as she knelt there.
Without another word, he lifted her deftly and carried her the short distance to the bed. A thousand questions were spinning around in his head, begging for answers as he laid her down against the pillows. He knew this was not the time to question her. Instinctively, he realized her answers would only incite more questions, and Kyra was in no shape to discuss anything.
He would wait and watch, allowing time to provide a reason for these insane nightmares that plagued her in sleep. Before leaving the room, he opened her closet and pulled out one of the dresses he had seen her wear often. He held it thoughtfully and decided to take it with him. He had one final task to complete before heading off to bed.
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