Tamara fought the urge to scream and forced her overwhelming panic to the back of her mind. Instead, she drove her elbow back into he attacker and was rewarded with a pained groan and a loosening of the arms that held her just enough so that she could burst free. She was about to flee when a familiar voice called out.
"Highness." The word was gasped through a haze of pain, but Tamara would have known that voice anywhere. She whirled, adrenaline coursed through her veins. Her body shook with the need to run which she now held in check as she came face to face with her assailant.....her brother's Captain of the Guard.
"Captain Jarret." She said in a voice that betrayed her horror at having been found.
Ethan Jarret was a life long friend of King Alexander Tronin. Right now he was down on one knee a hand held to his mid section, but Tamara knew that upright he was of an impressive height surpassed only by the new King. He had short, straight deep brown hair and black eyes. He was a well built and had a look about him that had the ladies at court swooning when he walked in the room. He exuded arrogance and confidence.....usually. At the present time all he could feel was sock that the petite princess had felled him so easily.
To say that Tamara's attack had taken him by surprise was quite an understatement. He had never known the usually timid princess to ever raise her hand in anger much less be violent even when deserved, but then the woman who stood before him didn't seem to be the same girl he had escorted to boarding school a mere six month before.
He took in her appearance as he re-claimed his breath and climbed to his feet. He knew that his sheer size was intimidating and hoped that it would prove to be a deterrent to any further attacks the Princess Tamara had in mind.
Tamara's hair was unbound and cascaded over her shoulders and down to her waist. Her gown showed signs of wear as did the slippers she wore on her feet. he felt the anger rising in him at the sight of her. Her brother would eat him for lunch if he were to see her in this state of disrepair. His lips curled into a sneer as he reached out and snagged her hand, once delicate and smooth, there were now the slightest beginnings of calluses on them. He turned it over and was un-surprised at the dirt he saw under the nails that had been well manicured the last time had seen her. Several of the nails were ragged and broken to boot.
"I see that living among the common folk certainly hasn't done much for you. If I didn't know better I'd have mistaken you for one of them. Look at your clothes and for pity's sake there's dirt under your nails. You look like a common tavern wench." The disdain in his voice was plain and he made no excuses for it. He was shocked by the stinging slap that Tamara delivered to his face with her free hand. The force of the blow turned his head. He rubbed his cheek and fought to keep his temper in check. The cheek was hot and burned where her delicate hand had connected with his flesh. he was certain that if he'd had looked in a mirror a perfect imprint of her palm would be etched into the skin.
When he looked at her there was fury in her eyes, her nostrils flared and he was certain that if she had thought that she could take him she would have attacked. She'd turned into quite a little spit fire since she'd been gone. Alex was in for some shock.
When she spoke her voice was low and pointed, shaking with an anger and indignation that frightened ever her.
"Every one of those so called common folk are worth ten of the likes of you or my brother." She hissed. "They are the kindest, most generous and caring people I have ever known in all my pampered and privileged life. If a little dirt under my nails or blisters on my hands is what it takes for them to be in my life then so be it. I'd rather be one of them than go back to that prison you call a castle." She yanked her hand away and turned on her heel. She started away from him, but his voice stopped her.
"And do you think that Erik Greystone would have any interest in you if you were one of them?" His words were spoken softly, inquisitively, but they had the desired effect. She stopped dead in her tracks and went stiff as a deer scenting trouble. He could tell that she was weighing her words carefully, trying to judge exactly what he knew.
"And what makes you think that Prince Greystone even has an interest in me? Come now Ethan, the prince and I hardly know each other. What makes you think there's an interest there to begin with?" She asked nonchalantly, almost amusedly as she turned back to him. He almost applauded. All signs of the bitter, righteously angry and indignant girl were gone. In her place was a poised woman perfectly in control, a mildly inquiring smile on her lips. She strode back to him, her eyebrows slightly lifted as if to say she awaited his answer. He was more than willing to oblige.
"Well, I'm no detective, my lady, but when a man makes special arrangements for an intimate dinner you tend to think there's an interest, an attraction if you will. You see, your Highness, I happened to be passing through, looking for you in fact, and decided to stop for a meal at this lovely little tavern. To my surprise, who should burst in giddy as a school boy, but the honorable Prince Erik Greystone himself." He paused in his tale, delighting in watching Tamara's detached demenour slowly melt. It was replaced by a quiet horror that crept into her eyes first then worked it's way down the rest of her face until there was nothing left of the haughty mask she had adopted. He smiled coldly and continued, relishing her discomfiture.
"Then, imagine my amazement when that same prince rushes over to the proprietress of the establishment and proceeds to swing her around while saying 'She's finally talking to me, thank you thank you.' He then asks the woman to have an intimate table by the fire reserved and a special meal prepared. He and his guest would be having dinner there tonight. And all the while the usually stoic prince can hardly contain hisexcitement." His voice went cold. His eyes locked with hers, holding them even though she wanted desperately to look away. Those black eyes burned with an anger that frightened her beyond words.
"Do you know who his guest was to be?" she inquired. He knew that the question was meant to be nonchalant, but Tamara couldn't keep the anxiousness out of her voice. After all, if he hadn't known, been tipped off, he would never had found her here. "Again, imagine my utter amazement when the prince just happens to mention the name of the woman he'll be dining with....." His tone was breezy, but his eyes bored into her. "And it just happens to be the very woman I've been searching high and low for for weeks. You see, I would have dismissed the entire conversation as an amusing bit of eavesdropping, perhaps a funny little story to share with your brother, if he hadn't mentioned that name. If he hadn't asked the proprietress to release Princess Tamara from her duties for the evening." All traces of amusement left his voice. He closed the distance between them in a heartbeat. His eyes blazed with barely contained fury as he griped her arms harshly and shook her. When she cried out he pushed her away and she landed in a softly sobbing heap at his feet. That only fueled his ire.
"What am I to tell you brother, our King, when I take you back? 'Your Majesty, I regret to inform you that your once honorable royal sister, the heiress to your very throne, has decided to lower her status to that of a common scullery maid. Perhaps I can find her suitable quarters in the servants wing'." He spat the words at her and she was up like a shot, her hand lashing out to strike him again.. He was ready for her this time. He caught the arm she swung at him and pulled her against him so that she was looking directly into his face. Tears still streaked her face, but she trembled with rage. She was seething. Her breath came in angry little gasps.
"You won't have to tell him anything." She sneered, a nasty little smile curving her mouth. She looked crazed. "Because I'm not going back."
With that she stomped on his booted foot with all the force she could muster. Caught off guard again, he howled in pain and, letting go of her, grabbed at his throbbing foot. Tamara shoved him as hard as she could and he toppled to the ground. She spun around and started running. She wasn't even sure if she was going in the right direction, all she could think of was to get away, to find somewhere to hide, to find Erik. He'd protect her.
As she ran she glanced back and was relieved to find that he wasn't following her. Good. She hoped she'd broken his damn foot. She's gotten away. She almost sobbed with relief until she faced forward again and saw Captain Ethan Jarret standing in her path. She let out a terrified shriek and cowered back, then bolted back the way she'd come, mindless panic giving her the strength to keep going when her lungs wanted nothing more than to burst.
She hadn't gone far before he caught up with her and dove toward her legs to take her down.
"ERIK!" She screeched as she tumbled to the ground and struck the side of her head on the hard packed earth. She tried to struggle to her feet again, but the blackness of unconsciousness claimed her and she crumbled to the ground in an unmoving heap.
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