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Loss. Passion. Sacrifice.
It's the worst day of Laryssa's life when bandits snatch her beloved daughter Sofiya, carrying her away to places unknown. Vowing to save her, come what may, Laryssa sets off on a long and difficult journey to find the eighteen-year-old.
When she stumbles across a half ruined castle in the middle of a forest, she realizes she's found the very place where Sofiya is being held by four men. In desperation, Laryssa begs to be allowed to stay with them, to cook and clean, and even offers her body for use to the leader of the gang, a man called Bhodan. Not knowing who she really is, he grudgingly accepts.
Bhodan is a dark man with a troubled past. With livid scars marring his otherwise handsome features, he is gruff, ruthless, and cold. Somehow Laryssa, the woman he has employed to cook and clean for himself and his men, and to service him sexually whenever he desires it, manages to see past his harsh exterior. Her growing attraction to him is undeniable, and no one is more surprised than Bhodan himself to discover that he is beginning to reciprocate those feelings.
Sofiya is not the only girl to have been captured by the gang; Hanna, a girl close to her in age, was already being held when Sofiya arrived. Laryssa is desperate to rescue them both, but knows she must bide her time until the moment is right.
When the four men decide to leave the women alone to go thieving, Laryssa sees her chance. However, she is unprepared for the emotional dilemma she will face when only one of the men – Bhodan – returns. He is badly wounded, and she finds herself unable to leave him alone, as he will undoubtedly die.
Torn between the love of her daughter and the passion Bhodan has awakened in her, Laryssa faces a tough choice. Should she send Sofiya and Hanna back to their village alone to face their demons, or should she accompany them and risk losing what could well be her last chance of experiencing boundless passion and love after years spent alone? Can she forgive Bhodan for what he has done in the past, or will she decide that her daughter's happiness is more important than her own?
Publisher's Note: This is a newly edited, and greatly revised and expanded version of a book previously released under the same title. It contains some explicit sexual scenes, including spanking, as well as erotic horror themes. If such material is likely to offend you, please do not purchase this book.
This tale is set in an impoverished Eastern European country in the mid-19th century…
The icy wind penetrated the woman's flimsy cloak and went deep into her aching bones. It was almost dark, and the dense forest on either side of the track was gloomy and menacing. The trees made a creaking, moaning noise as the wind howled through them, and there came a sound of a distant wolf, but she tried not to be afraid. She had been walking for nearly three days, and her body was so weary that she was scared that it would let her down and she would collapse here in this lonely and desolate place. Sheer willpower and thoughts of her precious Sofiya were the only things forcing her to keep placing one foot after another.
Sofiya was her joy and her reason for living. She was her vibrant and beautiful eighteen-year-old daughter, and since her husband's death, when Sofiya was no more than an infant, there had been just the two of them, together against the harsh and unforgiving world. She would walk to the ends of the earth for her child, and right now she felt as though she was walking to the ends of the earth, but she had no choice since the night the men came and took her daughter.
She had only been away from the house for a few hours, taking care of a sick old man on the other side of the village, but it was long enough for them to gallop to her home and snatch her precious daughter. A neighbor came running to tell her that Sofiya had been taken, that four men on horseback and with daggers tucked into their waistbands had entered her house and dragged her daughter screaming to one of the horses. They had flung her over the saddle in front of one of the riders, and within minutes, had galloped away. When the woman heard the news, she sank to the floor and screamed so much that people came running from far and wide to find out what evil had occurred that someone should cry out with such pain and anguish.
One of the men, new to the village, said he was afraid that Sofiya had been taken by a band of criminals known for stealing cattle and treasure from wherever they could find it, and that they also took away pretty young women who caught their eye. He had heard of such events from people in his previous village, and the women they took were not heard from again. Some said that they were sold into slavery in faraway places.
On hearing this, the woman fainted.
When she recovered consciousness, she knew that she must find Sofiya and rescue her from whatever terror and degradation that would come from being with such men. Life without her daughter could not be contemplated. She collected some food and her cloak, and set out to find her daughter, uncertain where to go and how far she must travel.
The first night was spent in a shed with some goats, who at least provided her with some warmth, and the second with a sympathetic and kind old woman who shared her meagre supper and allowed her to curl up in front of her fire for the night. If it hadn't been for her kindness, she feared that she might not be here now. But the night was coming again, and she dreaded the coming hours of darkness, without food or heat or shelter. She had seen no habitation for many hours and began to sink into a deep despair as she contemplated her fate. Would she die out here on this lonely track, perhaps eaten by the wild animals that surely inhabited the forest?
Just as she was about to surrender to the exhaustion and the pain in her body, she thought she detected a light through the trees. Turning a corner in the road, a large, gloomy, old castle loomed ahead; part of which was in ruins, giving it an abandoned appearance. However, the sight of a faint light coming from one of the narrow windows on the upper floor showed her that the castle was likely inhabited.
Could this be the place she was seeking?
Apart from the light in the upstairs window, there were no other signs of occupation. It looked abandoned and menacing. There may have been extensive grounds around the castle once, but now a small area of rough ground was the only open area, surrounded by dense forest that was slowly creeping towards the building, ready to reclaim it for its own.
The woman knew that there was no point in going to the entrance and begging for the release of her daughter, if this was indeed where she was being held captive. The men holding Sofiya would almost certainly laugh in her face and send her packing. She needed to convince them to let her enter the castle and stay a while so that she could work on a plan to rescue her daughter from their clutches. And how she begged the gods above for her daughter to be within these walls so she had not made the long and tortuous trip in vain.
She reached the heavy oak door and tugged the bell pull, the sound echoing in the corridors beyond. For a long time, it seemed as though the bell was going to be ignored, but eventually the woman heard a shout from above. Looking up, she saw a man staring down at her from an open window.
"What do you want, woman? Why are you ringing the bell? Be gone with you." His voice was cold and harsh.
"Sir, I beg you, please let me in and listen to what I have to say."
Cruel laughter came down from above. "You can beg all you want, but you have nothing to say that we would want to hear. Be gone with you before I come down and beat you and throw you to the wolves."
She heard a second voice. "Who are you shouting at, brother? Who is outside?"
"No one to concern us, Bhodan. Just a mad woman who is begging us to let her in."
"Begging us, eh? Now that is something that we have never seen here, a woman begging to come inside. Usually they are begging to leave. I must come and see what sort of crazy woman we have at our door."
A second face appeared at the window above, but it was too dark to make out his features. He peered through the gloom, apparently trying to see the woman's face in the dark below. Then he disappeared. A few moments later, the heavy oak door creaked and groaned as it opened and a man appeared carrying a lantern.
The woman looked wearily at him and tried to suppress a feeling of revulsion when she saw his face in the lantern's light. Here was a man who might once have been handsome, but whose appearance was savagely mutilated by two livid scars that crossed his face. He looked about forty, had jet-black hair with a few streaks of grey, and dark eyes. He was slim but with broad, powerful shoulders.
He recognized the look of horror that the woman was unable to hide completely. It was a look that he had come to know so many times over the years since he was so disfigured as a young man. His voice lashed out harshly.
"So, do you still want to come inside, woman? Do you want to come forward and take a closer look?"
The woman was momentarily struck dumb, but seeing that he was about to close the door, she found her voice. "Sir, I beg you. Will you please give me shelter? I fear I will die out here."
"And you think that is of any concern to us? You have not walked here unintentionally. The road ends here. There are no other dwellings. Speak quickly before I close this door."
"Sir, I am a lonely widow. I have no home and no money and I have been thrown out of my village. I heard that you are outsiders, too, and I thought I might find shelter here for a while. I have skills. I can cook very well, and sew clothes. I can make your life here much more comfortable, and I expect nothing in return except food and somewhere to sleep."
The man had already begun to turn away. The woman was desperate. "I will even come to your bed if you wish."
He paused, and a half smile came to his ravaged face. "My, my, you really are desperate, aren't you? Do you think you can look at this face while we are fucking? Or would you have to close your eyes?"
"Sir, all men look alike in the dark, as do all women. I am no beauty, and my figure is no longer girlish, but I still feel passion in my loins and could satisfy a man just as well as a young woman, with the added advantage that I would cook you a tasty meal afterwards."
He laughed, but the humor did not spread to his eyes.
"Come inside. Let's see what you look like in the light. Then I will either let you stay, or I will throw you outside and let the wolves take care of you."
The woman followed him into the castle. Despite, or maybe even because of the damage to his face, the man had a powerful aura, and she shivered—a response that wasn't entirely because of fear or the cold. He led the way up a flight of stairs to the room from where he had first shouted to her. The room was warm from a roaring log fire in the wide fireplace at one end. It was sparsely furnished with a few worn armchairs and a table. There was an animal skin covering the floor in front of the fire and the light came from several oil lamps, which were hanging from hooks in the wooden beams.
"Look what we have here, Ivan, a mad woman who is throwing herself on our mercy. Now what on earth makes her think she will find any mercy here? Come over here, woman."
He pointed her over towards the fire so that he could take a better look at her. "Take off your cloak. Let's see what exactly you are offering us. She says she will fuck us as well as cook for us. And she claims to be good at both. What is your name?"
"It is Laryssa, sir."
Laryssa removed her cloak and swallowed hard. She couldn't stop the trembling in her hands, but lifted her chin in an attempt to look more at ease with the two strangers.
"Well, Laryssa, let me see what you are offering."
Bhodan, the man with the scarred face, came close and reached out, putting his hand on her shoulder before running it down the side of her body. She sucked in air at the unexpected intimacy, even though she had promised him her body in a last desperate plea for him to admit her. The reality of her promise was beginning to hit her.
"You might not have the body of a young woman, Laryssa, but you have a pleasing shape. How old are you?"
"I am thirty-eight, sir."
"And how long is it since you last lay with a man?"
Laryssa's face heated up but she answered the question. "It has been eighteen years since my husband died, and I haven't been with a man apart from him."
"Well, well, practically a virgin then. Are you sure that you have not shriveled up down there?"
His brother Ivan interrupted before Laryssa had a chance to respond. He was shorter than Bhodan, and although his face was unmarked by scars, his features were less attractive and he had a harsh expression on his face. He greeted her with a scowl. "Why would you have need of an old woman like this when we have two pretty young things to amuse us through the night?"
His brother laughed.
"Well, I am more tempted by the thought of eating good food and having my clothes washed and mended, actually. The women here are not very good cooks, you must admit."
Bhodan turned to Laryssa.
"You said that you are an outsider like us, that you have been thrown out of your village. Why is that?"
Laryssa had to think quickly.
"I stole from them because I was hungry. And some of the women disliked me because I was widowed very young, and they accused me of trying to tempt away their husbands. Eventually they drove me away, and I have been reliant on the charity of strangers since then. But charity, in these times, is hard to find."
"Well don't expect any charity here, woman," growled Ivan.
Bhodan stared at her for a moment. Here was a mature, sensuous woman. He did not, like his brother, prefer young and inexperienced types, who squealed with fright the moment you approached them. He was not prepared, either, to share a woman with three other men. This woman might be what he was looking for. There was something in her face and demeanor that appealed to him. She looked calmly at him, directly in the eye—she was not afraid of him, it seemed. Whilst Bhodan liked to exercise control over his women, he could not bear those who trembled and sniveled. Conquering those women was too easy. He much preferred a woman with a strong mind whom he could gradually wear down over a period of time. A woman like that was a challenge. The sudden twitch in his groin was the deciding factor.
Laryssa shivered as she looked into his cold and seemingly pitiless eyes. She knew that if she crossed this man, she could expect no mercy, but her love for her daughter was stronger than the fears for herself. She longed to ask them the names of the two women who were here, but needed to be very cautious and not give away the true reason why she had arrived here tonight, or her attempt at rescue would be over before it had even begun.
Bhodan had made a decision.
"You can stay here for a few days on trial. If you are as good a cook and housekeeper as you claim, then we may let you stay a while longer. As for the sex, I will bear in mind what you said. After all, there are four men here and only two women. So there may be times when you are required. Just be ready and willing when the moment comes. Come, I will show you where you can sleep."
He turned and walked towards the door without waiting to see if Laryssa was following. She grabbed her cloak and hurried after him.