Hello lovelies! I know it has been WAY too long since I updated, but it's the same story every time. Life gets in the way of my passion, but I'm still working through this as steadily as I can. I love writing Amar and Damien's story, and I want it to be as true as possible, so I take my time, and I'm so grateful to everyone who supports this story. Now, a little recap. Amar is still in the clutches of the mercenary, Gregory, who has a grudge against Damien's family. In order to get her back, he must pay Gregory for doing a clandestine job years ago. Meanwhile, Amar, still in disbelief that Damien cares enough, simply bides her time before she is set free. However, Damien may have some trouble paying the ransom, and now that this old nursemaid, Hanna, is involved the stakes are higher than they've ever been. Will he be able to bargain his way out and bring Amar home safely?
Unexpected Desire Chapter 10
9 years ago…
"Please, Hanna? We'll be right back!" nine-year-old Damien whined to his nursemaid, Hanna, while she was folding sheets in the laundry room. She shook her head, but her shoulders sagged under his persistent nagging. Her deft fingers folded the linens into neat piles with perfect starched creases, and then tucked them into the basket at her feet. She smoothed the material out with her fingers, glancing behind her. Damien stood just over her shoulder, his lower lip sticking out in a pout. He was tall for a young boy, and could have passed for much older than nine if his childish antics didn't give him away. He was a much bigger responsibility than his little brother.
Elias stood towards the back, so quiet you could forget he was there. At six, he was fairly tall, but he possessed none of Damien's penchant for troublemaking; and whereas, Damien inherited their father's darker features, Eli took after their mother. He could have been one of her own boys, with his crop of fair hair and bright blue eyes that sparkled when he was full of glee. Hanna smiled at him, then smiled brighter at his answering grin.
"Haannna!" Damien wailed.
She flapped the sheet she was folding against her thighs. "Stop that hollering! You'll wake the dead!" It was early in the morning, before most of the house was awake. It was Hanna who got the boys up, fed them, got them to their lessons, and started the housework before most of the other servants even stirred. Lord and Lady Maddock wanted them to have as much time devoted to their studies as possible, and Hanna was their primary nursemaid. They were her charges, and her responsibility. At the moment, the boys wanted to skip breakfast and play before their lessons. Hanna had forbade it, but Damien's incessant wailing was beginning to wear on her.
"We won't even be an hour," he continued. "Come on, look, Elias really wants to go." He gestured to his brother, who smiled innocently at Hanna. Her heart broke at the hopeful look in the boy's eyes.
The old woman forced air through her lips. "Now, you know I can't resist that face," she said, frowning at Damien.
"I know," he said, grinning. "That's why I do it." He danced out of the way when Hanna went to swat his backside. "Come on, Elias. We're free!"
"One hour!" Hanna yelled, sternly. As she watched the boys run off, a dreadful sensation slithered its way into the pit of her stomach. She clenched the linens even tighter, trying to shake off her unease. But something gripped her with cold fingers, relentless, and it wouldn't be long before the nerves turned into heart-wrenching pain.
She snapped out of her reverie with a shake of her head. Damien was leaning against the sofa, peering worriedly at her face. "You zoned out for a second," he said.
She blinked, "I'm sorry."
"That's alright." Damien ran his hand through his hair, and Hanna caught a glimpse of the young boy she watched grow up. He used to do that during his studies, when he was perplexed by a question from his tutor, or one he found in a school book. That was his only tell that he was struggling. Besides that, Damien had a rather impressive poke face. Eli was the opposite. He always scrunched up his face in concentration, and his tongue would peek out of his mouth, curling to meet his upper lip. Hanna almost smiled; then she remembered their situation.
Within an hour of Damien's return from the inn, another note had been slipped under the door. He retrieved it, and seeing the now-familiar penmanship, wrenched open the door to try to find the deliverer. But the street was full of people, some carrying goods, others with their eyes forward, walking earnestly towards their destination. Any one of them could have been Gregory, or he could have sent a henchman. It'd been too long since he'd worked with the family and even then, Damien was much too young and uninterested in his father's business partners to gauge their habits. He came inside and shut the door.
He opened the note, and scanned the lines. The letter dictated that he had two days to collect the funds. He was to meet Gregory at noon on the third day or, so Gregory threatened, he would find Amar's mutilated body on his doorstep. Those last words, though. Damien read them again. Don't tally. Your little harlot has a sharp tongue, and my patience is growing short.
He fisted the letter between his hands, battling the urge to tear it to pieces. Every fiber in his body wanted to run into the town, burn it down, and pull Amar out of the ashes. However, the rational side of his brain told him to slow down. He didn't know Gregory, but he knew men like him, and they wouldn't risk taking away the target's incentive. Amar's life was safe for the time being, he just had to keep telling himself that.
Behind him, Hanna hadn't said a word. He smoothed the letter out and placed it on the table. She moved, stealthy as a cat, picked up the letter and scanned the few lines. He heard her take a breath before she spoke. "Can you get the money?"
He answered without looking at her. "I have to go home and fetch what little funds I have. It's nowhere near the amount Gregory demanded, but I know my father will never agree to pay so large a price, much less for a commoner." It hurt him to call her that. Amar meant more than his own life, but to his father, she would never be worth so much money.
Hanna left the room, and re-entered with a medium-sized, wooden box. The light played off the gold butterfly patterns stenciled into the wood. His brow puckered in confusion. "What is that?"
"Here," she handed it over. "These should entice him quite a bit." Damien opened the box to find all of Hanna's precious jewels. Her engagement ring, a diamond encrusted necklace that was a gift from her late sister, a stunning brooch with an emerald stone from her late husband on their 20th anniversary, and several more priceless pieces. The box that held them was well-kept. The mahogany had been polished to a brilliant sheen and the beautiful patterns looked like they had been stenciled yesterday. Damien closed the lid, "Hanna, you cannot give me this." He extended the box back to her. "You can't get involved."
"Not this again," she said, throwing her arms up.
"You don't know this man." Damien urged, his grip tightening. "He's dangerous. I can't have two woman I care for in danger."
"I'm already in danger." Hanna snatched the letter that had been sitting on the coffee table, holding it close to his face. "This was hand delivered. Which means he knows where I am."
"I'll get you out of here."
"There's no time." She glared at Damien, her small hands balled into fists at her sides. Her usual placidness gone, and something more unremitting in its place. "We don't know what he could be doing to that poor girl."
Damien flinched. He tried to hide it, but it was clear how much Amar's danger pained him. Hanna's expression softened, and she moved closer to him. "I'm so sorry, my boy. This never would have happened if I hadn't let you out of my sight."
"You couldn't have known anything." Damien shook his head. "I was his older brother. I should never have taken him out."
"You were a child."
"No," he turned away, placing the box on the table. Tears burned behind his eyes. "I knew. I remember how it was in that house." He paused, walked over to the mantle and picked up the photo of himself, Hanna, and Eli. "Father had been on edge for days. I wasn't privy to the business yet; but I knew, on some level, that he was involved in something dark." He paused, briefly, his eyes scanning every inch of the photo. "There was an ominous presence in that house. You felt it everywhere." He placed the picture gently back in the shelf. "I knew something wasn't right. I should have known better than to take my baby brother away from home." He faced Hanna, tears glistening in his eyes. "His death is for me alone to bear."
Hanna was silent for a few seconds and Damien wasn't sure if she'd speak at all. Then she walked until she was standing directly in front of him. "Listen to me, Damien," she spoke, low and firm. "Eli's death...is not, and never was, your fault." She paused, he kept listening. "You were a boy. Young, with the world a weight on your shoulders at the same time that it was at your feet. You were privileged, and yet, responsible for so many things, but your brother was not one of them. You were not meant to understand the evils in this world. Not then. What happened to Eli…" she closed her eyes, and continued bitterly. "Not a day goes by that I don't regret my decision to let you leave. But whether the blame is on me, or your father, or whomever this monster is, what's certain is that it was never your fault." She opened her eyes and they flashed. "When this is over, you have to promise me that you will let it go."
Damien swallowed, but didn't speak; he couldn't.
Hanna placed her hands on either side of his face, holding him still so she could look into his eyes. "Promise me, that when this is over, you will let this bitterness and anger go. Promise me, that you will love yourself as much as I love you, and live your life the way you were meant to." She paused, searching his face. "Damien, I watched you grow up. You were such a happy, free-spirited boy. And there were brief moments, even after Eli died, that I saw that in you. But you have to promise me, that when all is said and done, you will let go of this darkness and be the man you were meant to be."
His eyes searched her face, but still he said nothing.
His jaw clenched and unclenched. He took a breath and finally said, "I promise." A stray tear fell from his eye before he could turn away from her and walk into the other room. Hanna stood where she was, watching his back as he walked away. Then, she sat on the couch and buried her head in her hands.
As Damien rode up the cliff toward his family home, he tried to quell the dread worming in his stomach. He knew that as soon as he was in view, he would be engulfed by a crowd; it was inevitable. He'd been gone another whole day, and the village was probably well under renovations. Yet, it wasn't the people he was dreading seeing, it was his father. He'd left without a word again, and slipping in unnoticed would be impossible. He didn't even know how he was going to leave this time. Before, the lord was far too consumed with the privy council and decisions to make about budgets, restocking, and rebuilding. He never thought Damien would walk out of the house and ride into the night. Shows how well he knew his own son. Now, however, the moment he was at the gate, his father would be down his neck about where he'd been. Damien sighed, his father wouldn't understand. Then again, how much did his father ever understand, after all.
As soon as he cleared the brush, he could hear the shouts. "The lord is back!"
So much for going unnoticed.
Soon he saw his father looking down on him from the ledge. "Damien! Where have you been?"
"Out." He slipped from the saddle, handing it to a stable boy. "Keep him saddled, I won't be staying long."
"Yes sir." The boy, somewhat befuddled, bowed and walked away. Damien entered his home, and dozens of servants crowded him asking if he needed anything, if they could take his riding gear, and if he had made any progress for the town's recovery. He waved them all off, heading towards the stairs. His father was at the top of the staircase, looking at him with utter disappointment. Damien sighed, but climbed the stairs quickly.
"Damien." His father moved to block his path on the stairs, taking a large step to the left. Damien tried to shoulder his way past him, but in vain.
He moved to the left, "Not now, father." The lord's arm shot out, his hand landing on the banister. "I will have your attention, boy." Damien met his hot stare. "Tell me where have you been when your lord and your people needed you?"
Damien stood ramrod straight, and replied, "That's my business."
"Your business now involves this house and this entire village, or have I taught you nothing?" The king stepped closer, forcing Damien to lean slightly back, but he wouldn't back down. What you taught me helped ruin the only good thing in my life.
Amar's safety was at stake because of him, and even if he managed to get her back unharmed, she more than likely wouldn't want anything to do with him. That thought alone caused him more pain than anything his father could ever say to him. He pushed his way past him, heading toward his room.
"I don't have time for this right now."
"You will make the time." By then, Damien was at his door and he pushed it open. He tried to slam it closed, but his father, though older, still had the youth and stamina of a young man, and was right behind him. He caught the door, flinging it open so that it slammed against the wall. Damien paid him no mind. He walked over to his writing table, slid his hand underneath the center drawer and let his fingers drum the code he had long since burned into his memory. He heard the resulting click and the dropping of wood. He slid his hand along the back panel between the drawers, reaching in and pulling out the purse that held his personal dowry. When he inherited the high lordship, he would inherit all it's prosperities. But these were his own savings, for use should such a dire need ever arise. Dire indeed.
"Damien, what are you doing?" His father stood a few feet behind him, eyes on the purse. Damien had hoped that he could rush in, grab the funds and leave as soon as possible. But it was clear that he wouldn't leave without a confrontation with his father. He heaved a heavy sigh, and turned to face the high lord.
His lordship stood with his hands on his hips, waiting, while Damien cradled the purse in his hands. He didn't want to be doing this, didn't want to tell his father that he was willing to trade everything, even his very life, to get Amar back. It wasn't shame. He didn't want to tell his father because he knew how he'd react, and he didn't want Amar's name soiled, even if only in his father's mind. She meant more to him than all of it, and maybe that was shameful, in a way. To risk everything, his family's future, the village, and everything else, but he was going to do it anyway. Without a second thought, he blurted, "Gregory is back. He took someone I care for. I need 80,000 pounds for a ransom."
This was all he said.
His father stood there gawking until Damien tried to walk around him. Then he moved, placing a hand against his son's chest. "Stop, you can't give that to him."
Damien raised his eyebrows in a challenge, "Are you going to pay the ransom?"
"Then I don't have a choice." He tried to move past him once more, and this time, his father stepped to completely block his path.
"Think about what you're doing." The lord's demeanor changed, from anger and disapproval to almost pleading. He put both his hands up in a placating gesture. "If word gets out that we capitulated and paid a ransom, men just like Gregory will wreak havoc on us. There is no going back."
"I don't care." Damien took another step and barreled right into his father, heedless of the man trying to stop him.
"Gregory is a psychopath!" The lord put his hands on his son's shoulders, holding him back. "He will take your money, but he won't let you live."
Damien shoved his hands away. "I told you, I don't have a choice."
"Why is this woman so important you would risk your life and the future of our rule?" He demanded.
"Because I love her!" He stared his father down. "Because if it takes my very life to bring her home safely I would gladly pay the price." He side-stepped his father, walking over to his wardrobe, pulling out a few articles of clothing. He then reached under his bed, pulling out a duffle and stuffing the clothes and the change purse into it.
His father broke out of his trance, bringing palms together in front of him. "Damien, I understand you feel responsible in some way for this girl, but whatever her involvement, it's not your fault and our rule does not have to suffer for it."
"You still don't get it, do you?" Damien spun around from his chest where he kept his weapons. "He's back because of you, because of us." He turned back, placing several knives into the duffle bag. "He wants revenge, for our betrayal years ago." He picked up his favorite pistol, placing that in the bag, as well. "He did a job for us and you refused to pay him." He grabbed a pile of arrows, throwing them in the bag, zipping it up. "He came after Eli and I, the day Eli died." He stood up, grabbing his crossbow hanging on the wall. He slung it over his shoulder as he turned to look his father in the eye. "It wasn't a fall. He killed Eli that day. He tried to kill me, and now he's back for revenge."
The lord was stunned. He stood, unblinking in the center of the bedroom. The story that Eli had fallen, wasn't just a story. It was what Damien had told his parents upon returning that fateful morning. Apart from telling Hanna, he'd kept that secret ever since. No more. Damien strode out of the room, but his father cut him off at the door with his hand on his shoulder. "Damien stop, you can't do this."
He shrugged his father's hand off. "And you're right, I probably will die, but not before I save her. I will not let another innocent die for your greed."
He walked out of the room, his father following him. "You don't even have the right funds. There's no way you have 80,000 in that coin purse."
All Damien did was shrug. "I'll just have to convince him to take me to Amar before he kills me."
"Amar? The peasant girl?" He rushed after his son, cutting him off at the foot of the stairs. "You can't be serious. You cannot risk our future for a peasant!" Damien stopped cold, glaring. "Be careful, father. You have no idea what I'm willing to risk when it comes to Amar's safety." He stepped around him, and walked out the door.
By the time Damien reached Hanna's home, he had calmed down significantly. In any case, he wouldn't want to behave badly in front of Hanna. He respected her too much. She was probably the only person apart from Amar he did respect.
He dismounted, tied the horse to a nearby tree with a nice patch of grass, perfect for grazing, and went inside. He expected to see Hanna sitting on the couch, or busying herself in the kitchen, like she always did when she was anxious. He walked into the kitchen, and upon finding it empty, called out her name. No answer.
He felt uncomfortable searching through her home, but his unease was growing so much that he steadily climbed the stairs, softly calling her name again and again. When he received no answer, he hastily checked each of the rooms. Where was she?
He raced back down stairs, and it wasn't until he was standing in the middle of the parlor that he noticed the piece of paper on the coffee table. He walked around the couch and picked up the letter:
You never should have been burdened with this.
Let me do right by the you like I should have done years ago.
Please stay away.
Shock registered moments before blood-curdling fear. His eyes riveted to the couch; the jewelry box was gone. He buried his face in his hands as the realization of what Hanna did settled in. "Oh Hanna, no. No!" She had no idea who she was dealing with. Gregory didn't care about money. If he did, this would have been over years ago. This was about vengeance against the Maddock family. He wouldn't waste his time with a housemaid. Hanna could be dead already.
He spun, racing out the door. He ran so fast he startled his horse, but he untied and mounted him. How was he even going to find her? He still had more than two days before Gregory said to meet him and he had no other means of contact. It was then that he noticed the white linen on the clothing line. But his eye caught something else. On one of the corners was a splash of red. He dismounted and trotted over, inspecting the linen. Large enough to notice, but small enough to ignore, was a few drops of a thick dark substance. Was it blood?
Okay, that's it for now. What'd you think? I know it's a little shorter than my recent chapters, but we needed to cover this before we could move on. I have some other projects to work on, so the next update might be pushed back, but don't worry. Amar and Damien's story will continue. Until next time! Please read and review 3