Selected for Sport Ch. 04

Selected for Sport Ch. 04

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The room was silent except for the harsh, heavy breaths of the man crushing her to the bed. Her ears ringing with the pounding of her cooling blood, Alanna noticed distant, faint sounds of the city creeping inside the heavy floor-to-ceiling shutters in the far corner of the large, shaded chamber.

Her cheeks were glowing red. Her head was hanging off the end of the bed, hair brushing the ornate, colourful covering on the floor. She kept her eyes screwed tightly shut, trying to regulate her breathing, trying to throttle back the singing blood pelting joyously through her veins. Her skin everywhere was glowing with vibrant delight, excruciatingly alert to each brush of warm air.

Her mind couldn’t compass – what had just happened?

A light tremor crept under her skin.

The dead weight lying atop her abruptly rolled away, and air chilled the sweat sheen on her exposed breasts, belly and thighs. Xanir slid off the side of the bed and landed lightly on the balls of his feet, making some heartfelt remark that was met with muted laughter from the four other men in the room, and a murmured comment from the one beyond the foot of the bed.

The other four men.

Blood crashed a fresh wave across Alanna’s fair skin, and she jerked over onto her face, trying to smother herself in the deep mattress, hands either side of her burning cheeks, pressing them together. She forced back the sob that rose in her throat, gritting her teeth against her hoarse breathing.

She couldn’t believe she had been so wanton. What happened?

Cold and hot flushes were darting across her limbs, the shiver increasing, when some silken, stiff material covered her from the neck down. Calm hands lifted her motionless body and rolled her, folding and wrapping the clean fabric around her under her arms, tucking it in across her breasts. She flinched and her eyes flashed open as that hand folded the cloth inside, sliding across her excruciatingly sensitive flesh. Xanir’s dark eyes were looking down into hers, a hint of amusement in their depths. Beyond his shoulder, one of his lords was visible, standing looking firmly at his own feet.

Alanna’s eyes instantly screwed shut again, teeth clenched against a surge of anger and tears. The lords hadn’t been looking at their feet earlier.

She was swung up in Xanir’s arms and carried smoothly across the room, wrapped securely in the cloth. Her brain had noted the pattern of the fabric in the split second of her peeking, and now hunted down the faint spark of recognition, trying desperately to evade memories bursa eskort of what had just happened, or speculation as to what was to happen next.

She was wrapped in the light silk that had covered the bed when she had been led in, a beautiful ornately-embroidered cloth emblazoned with the Tahl’mese royal coat of arms.

While her head swirled in speculation, Xanir descended the steps from the dais which held the bed. He perched on some piece of furniture and sat Alanna across his lap, one arm sliding around her shoulders to hold her steady. He made another remark, the undertone of amusement clear, but Alanna kept her eyes shut. He smelt of cooling sweat and hot sex and male, and the reminder of the overpowering sensations he had just wrought in her made her head swim and her lip tremble.

There was a faint tinkling noise, and something cool pressed against her lips. The rim of a cup, holding some chilled liquid. Thirst grabbed Alanna by the throat, and she lifted eager hands to balance the heavy goblet. Xanir’s left hand lifted from her waist, his fingers tangling through hers, and he drew both her hands back down into her lap, still holding her tucked within his arm.

“No,” he said gently. Then three or four more words. With his other hand he tilted the goblet against her lips. Alanna sighed quietly, and took a small sip.

It was delicious – a cool, refreshing taste of fruit and warmth and sun, crushed in ice and dusted with some faint spice that made her head spin.

Alanna swallowed eagerly, and bent her head forward, trying to take a second mouthful. Xanir laughed and withdrew the cup, nudging her admonishingly with the shoulder behind her head. Alanna sighed a second time and relaxed back against him, parting her lips faintly. Xanir let her drink again. Slowly he fed her the whole, delicious cup, except for a few sips which he took himself.

His chest was bare against the back of her arms, fine hair brushing against the sensitive skin. However, beneath the cloth wrapped around her bottom, Alanna was sure she could feel another layer of material, and she flashed a quick look down when Xanir was drinking. Loose trousers hung low on his hips, a brilliant, rich blue. Alanna breathed a sigh of relief, skin burning again, and took another sip as the cup reappeared at her lips.

Disappointment roiled in contradiction in her stomach. Her blood, stomach and skin were trembling in longing for the feelings he had stoked in them. Something hot clenched between her thighs.

She shut her eyes again, tightly. bursa escort bayan

Behind them, Alanna became aware that the quiet noises she had been ignoring from the top of the dais, noises of cloth and soft footsteps, had ceased.

Several pairs of feet were approaching down the marble steps. Her stomach tightened in fearful anticipation. They passed to the side of the area where Xanir was seated, and with a sound of a wooden shutter hitting stone, the background rumble of the city grew louder. Bright light burned against Alanna’s closed eyelids.

Xanir leaned forward and put down the empty goblet. He stood up, swinging her up in his arms, and stepped forward into the blazing sun. Alanna’s eyes flashed open, realisation hitting as the heat slammed into her. He was stepping out onto a terrace. Three small trees rose above their heads, spaced in huge, ceramic pots along the length of the wide, rectangular expanse of smooth stone paving, dark green foliage offsetting bright orange fruits. In front of the central tree, two unadorned square stone blocks were set, each about waist height. Xanir angled left, toward four wide steps running the length of the terrace that led down to a six-foot deep balcony. The blue mosaic balcony floor was surrounded by heavy stone columns supporting the balustrade, intertwined with a large-leaved vine flaunting huge, deep pink flowers.

Alanna swallowed, and straightened her spine as well as she could in her current position, lifting her chin. Beyond the pink flowers, beyond the thick palace walls visible below the balcony, was a vast, open square. It was crowded, packed with people crammed into every inch despite the hot afternoon sun, more figures squashed atop the fountain spraying in centre, or hanging from the window ledges of the distant buildings. The faces were too far away to pick out clearly, blending in a colourful, seething mass, but their feelings were clear as a mounting roar of approval greeted the Great Tahl. He stepped forward, carrying his latest bride down the steps, and the roar rose to a shout. The Tahl had wrapped her in the national colours.

Alanna’s cheeks were still tinged pink, but she felt her tremor subsiding. Carefully, she held her chin at the correct angle – proud, not arrogant, head angled slightly to signify her secondary status to the man carrying her. She was March Kjeldahl’s daughter, and had grown up to public life.

Xanir lowered her to her feet. Alanna stifled her inward flinch in anticipation of the burning stone on her bare görükle escort soles, but despite the merciless heat beating off the surrounding surfaces, the spot he carefully set her on was cool. And damp. She was barely aware of her own faint relaxation, her thoughts caught, reassured and fascinated by the outpouring of feeling as the voices in the square swelled into song. His people adored their Tahl, but their sound was coloured with a wistful longing.

The emotion in the voices soothed her toward peace. Xanir’s arm slid around her bare shoulders, and he turned her so that they were facing half toward the crowd, half toward the terrace. The four lords who had been in the bedchamber had emerged after them, but they remained on the terrace, poised in front of the twin pedestals she had noticed earlier. Two were carrying a long roll of blindingly white cloth, which they held stretched between the square stones.

The noise of the crowd dropped to a muted hum as the two younger lords leapt up onto the plinths. Alanna watched with increasing trepidation as the pair still on the terrace reached to pass up the white cloth. Theatrically, the two aloft held the folded material stretched taut between them, silhouetted against the dark green of the tree. The crowd held its breath. With a practiced flick, they unrolled the billowing expanse, while the pair below leapt to catch the lower corners and within seconds the white sheet was stretched taut between them.

A rusty stain smeared across the centre.

The crowd burst into cheers and whistles as blood flooded back into Alanna’s cheeks, burning them worse than the sun. She felt as though she had been punched in the stomach, incredulous shame flooding through her as the most intimate moment of her life was bared for public scrutiny. Her head swam in horror, cold leeching into her belly. Tears sprang into her eyes and she clenched them shut, feeling one escapee running down her cheek then drying up in the hot, alien sun.

The crowd sounded like jackals, baying approval of her deflowering.

That is what he wants you for, she reminded herself caustically, trembling as she stiffened to ramrod straight under Xanir’s arm. He was waving at the whistling crowd with the other, acknowledging their shouts. The sound echoed louder in her ears, jeering pleasure at her humiliation. But she was a Kjeldahl. Alanna forced her eyes wide again, glistening blind against the glare of this torturing sun. A Kjeldahl does not flinch.

The touch along her shoulders was an invasion she had to bear. She had no choice; for one year, she was his to do with as he wished. Three hundred and sixty-five days as a toy would provide safety and prosperity to her people for much longer than that, through the mutual alliance with the most powerful ruler in the world.

Three hundred and sixty five days.

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