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Rufus landed on his rear at the entrance of his tent. He saw the silvery glint of stars for a moment before realizing the flashing metal was the water ewer bouncing away. Instinct saved him a second knot on his forehead as he threw up his arm to deflect the next object lobbed at his head. He rolled to his knees and lunged upwards to face his angry adversary.
His breath caught. She was magnificent! Her hair was in disarray around her shoulders, and her chest heaved with fury. Bright blotches of color stained her cheeks, and the determined set of her chin and narrowed eyes warned him this would not be an easy conquest.
And she had prepared well. His two war chests stood stacked one on top of the other, and he saw a number of objects on the ground beside her feet—ammunition for the battle to come. The chests stood as a shield between them.
“I take it you’re upset,” he said mildly.
Her lips curled back in a feral smile as she hefted the copper water basin.
Aware of her intent, he feinted to the left.
Jacq modified her aim before the bowl left her hand.
The copper vessel spun through the air and caught Rufus directly at his midsection. “Oomph!” He rubbed his stomach. She certainly didn’t throw like a girl. “You were placed under guard in this tent for your own protection,” he began, hoping to reason her out of her present course of action. He could easily overpower her but didn’t want to cause her harm, and he hoped the physical venting would aid both their libidos.
Her left hand balanced his helmet.
“Now, see here,” he protested. “I haven’t a smith with me to repair that.”
Her arm came back, and the helmet flew at his shoulder.
Instead of ducking, Rufus reached out to catch the heavy armor. While fumbling with both hands to keep the helmet from crashing to the floor. He felt another painful thud against his back and saw a stone roll away.
“Enough!” he roared. His patience quickly dwindled as the bruises to his skin and pride accumulated. He leapt toward the barricade.
The tantalizing tempest circled, remaining just out of reach.
With a powerful swipe of his arm, he connected with the upper chest, flinging it across the tent. He jumped over the remaining one only to stumble to his knees when her foot connected with his ankle. His curses blistered the air.
Then she had the nerve to laugh out loud, spinning out of reach.
A voice called from outside the tent. “Rufus, do you need aid?”
“Stay out of this, Donald.” He heard muffled guffaws and felt his face grow hot. He’d been tolerant long enough. “Cease, woman.” He rose to his feet, expecting another impact.
Instead, she faced him with his own sword held between her two hands.
“Don’t be foolish. If you choose to use that, you will not take two steps outside this tent without being cut down.”
She faced him calmly, her breath slowing as her hands moved on the pommel of the sword. Despite her bravado, her upper arms trembled with the effort of holding the weapon aloft.
“You will explain to me why you have made a shambles of my tent, and why you attacked me,” he demanded.
“You put that beast on me as a guard,” she yelled back.
He was relieved she at last broke her silence. Her quiet determination had begun to unnerve him. “I placed Beast there for your protection.” He needed to keep her talking while his mind sought a solution to this present coil.
“That’s his name?” She looked appalled then she shook herself. “He never left me.”
Irritated she didn’t seem to appreciate his care, he gritted out, “Those were my orders.”
“You ordered him to stay with me, even when I relieved myself?” Her voice rose toward the end.
Ahhh…he understood now. Her woman’s sensibilities had been offended. “His orders were to keep you in his sight at all times.”
“Well, your protection stinks. I don’t accept it any longer. You’ll provide me with a horse and weapons. I’m leaving.”
“You may leave when you tell me who you are and what you were doing on that battlefield yesterday. That is your only choice.” He stiffened his stance. “And do not think I will let you ride out of here without escort.”
Her eyes narrowed and her hands tightened around the pommel. “Then you’d best be prepared for a battle, because I don’t accept the terms under which you hold me captive.”
“Woman, did this morning not teach you a lesson?” he asked, frustration pounding at his temple. “You need my protection. Or did you enjoy cavorting naked before a company of men?”
“Augh!” At last, her anger made her careless. Lunging toward him with his upright sword, she managed a creditable swipe of the blade. He dodged it and stepped around the tent to keep outside her reach.
“Rufus, what is going on in there?” Donald’s worried face appeared at the opening.
Jacq turned toward the sound.
Rufus took advantage of her distraction to edge farther along the circumference of the tent. “Not now, Donald. As you can see, I am busy.”
She swung back, her gaze narrowing, her hands shifting on the hilt.
Donald’s eyebrows rose as his glance fell on the woman. “Well, Rufus, I will leave you to your game. Shout, if you need assistance.”
“Go!” Rufus ordered.
Donald disappeared behind the canvas, his laughter ringing out clearly in the early evening air.
Odds were, the whole camp would know in minutes that a woman held him at bay—with his own sword! “It seems, lady, we are at an impasse.”
“No, you’ll agree to my terms, or I’ll run you through.”
Her face appeared set, and he wondered if she truly had the courage to try. “Donald,” he yelled.
“Yes, Rufus?” came his answer through the tent walls.
“If you see the woman walk out of this tent first, you will not allow her to leave this camp.”
“If that woman walks out of the tent on her own two feet, I’ll wed her myself and breed sons on her.” Donald’s voice held amusement.
Rufus’s gaze never left hers, but he allowed an eyebrow to quirk upward.
Jacq’s face reddened, and her eyes betrayed a hint of moisture. “I can do this.”
“Madam, you have the advantage at the moment, but only because I allow it.”
“You allow it? I hold your sword.” Her voice shook along with the hands drooping under the continuous strain of holding the heavy weapon.
“You have one more chance to put down my sword and talk to me about this, or I will take it from you.”
“I dare you to try—”
That was all the encouragement Rufus needed. He lunged.
Jacq stepped backward, only to catch the backs of her knees on the overturned chest directly behind her. She flailed her arms outwards, choosing to lose the sword rather than risk impaling herself.
The weapon thudded against the canvas and hard-packed earth.
But Jacq never hit the ground.
Rufus caught her and pulled her up tightly against his chest.
Before her mind could tell her she should resist, she’d been shoved against the square wooden beam that served as the tent’s center pole. She was trapped once more by his overwhelming strength. For a few moments, she struggled. Eventually, her puny attempts ceased, and she conceded, slumping wearily against him. She dragged air into her lungs and forced up her gaze to meet his, refusing to give him the satisfaction of seeing defeat stamped on her face.
He held her easily, subduing her.
She recognized the awesome power of his muscled arms and thighs. She’d never stood a chance.
“Rufus, talk to me. It’s too quiet in there. Is all well?” Donald asked.
“Yes, I have her now.”
“Well, then I’ll go on to dinner. Unless, that is, you need help…”
“No, I have everything well in hand,” he answered evenly.
His gaze remained on her, his face betraying no emotion. Jacq worried now the fire of her self-righteous anger was banked. What reprisal would he seek against her for the attack?
His breathing was even, and other than a slight flush across his cheeks, he appeared unaffected.
She wished she could say the same, but that odd combination of fear and excitement thrummed along her veins. Her breaths shortened and her body softened, yielding to his. Molten liquid dampened the juncture of her thighs, and she was helpless to stop the slight undulation of her hips.
As though he sensed her ripening arousal, his nostrils flared. When he leaned ever so slightly closer, her head fell back to grant him access to her mouth. Through half-closed eyes, she watched him stare at her mouth, and she wantonly slid her tongue in a circle to wet her lips. She heard his groan a moment before his lips slammed down on hers.
For an angry kiss, it was a doozy. She learned his taste while battling for control of this joining. They parried—mouths open, tongues stabbing.
Then something happened that shifted the kiss from another battle between steel-willed adversaries to a burning need to brand and possess each other.
His palms captured her cheeks and held her while his mouth ate hers, his lips dragging over hers in drugging circles.
Jacq mewled and tugged at his hair, her tongue sliding against his, lapping and sucking, until they were both breathless.
He ground his rigid cock against her lower belly, and she relented, widening her legs to make room for him to step between. His hands raked her skirt upward, then his knees dipped slightly, and her feet left the ground.
She wrapped her arms tightly around his neck and lifted her legs to encircle his waist.
They both groaned into each other’s mouths as their bodies met with only the fabric of his braies separating their straining loins.
Held high against him, her body open to his, she rubbed her moistening pussy along his length, entering a rhythm matched by their circling mouths. Jacq’s world narrowed to that burning juncture where Rufus rutted against her, the fabric chafing her tender flesh.
Animalistic grunts and groans rose between them.
Mindless now, Jacq forgot why she shouldn’t be doing this with him. She forgot she didn’t even like him—her body adored him.
His hands cupped her buttocks, squeezed and released, over and over, encouraging her to rub frantically up and down against his cock.
Suddenly clothes were too confining, and she was desperate to feel the steel of his shaft inside her. She broke the kiss. “Please!” she gasped, even as her hips rolled again.
The muscles of his buttocks bunched beneath her heels as he straightened with her in his arms and walked the short steps to her pallet. He knelt, holding her pressed to him, and lay her down amid the furs.
She writhed against him and repeated in a long, keening wail, “Please, now, Rufus.”
He rose up on his knees and dragged her bliaut over her head. Then he rent the neck opening of her borrowed shirt to the waist, shoving the ragged edges aside to expose her breasts. Rufus leaned over her and nuzzled her breast. “Jacq,” he groaned, and his mouth opened over one straining crest. He sucked it hard into his mouth.
She nearly screamed from the pleasure. But still too many clothes were between them. She wanted to touch skin.