Rescued by a Highlander(10)By: Keira Montclair
Madeline climbed out of bed and grabbed Alice’s hands. “It is no use, I will go with him. It will happen sooner or later, his rage only increases as he waits.”
“But you will be stronger in a few days. Don’t go with him yet. Who knows what he will do to you this time?”
“I am coming, Egan.” Madeline turned and lifted her chin. “I will be fine, Alice. I must do as my stepbrother bids me.”
Madeline proceeded down the dark hallway and descended the stairway to Kenneth’s command room off the great hall. Egan shoved the door open when they arrived. Sidestepping the disgusting man, she strode in, her shoulders back and her head held high. Her eyes met her stepbrother’s with conviction. She would not give him the pleasure of seeing her fear.
Kenneth stood behind a large table covered with various tools. She had been whipped before, but she had never seen some of those tools. She had no idea how they were to be used. Raising her gaze to her stepbrother’s, she saw the rage and the madness in them. Madeline sucked in her breath when she gaped at the table again.
“Well, what say you, Maddie? Are you ready to marry the Comming?” he asked as he picked up a horsewhip from the table.
Maddie thought very hard before answering. Unsure whether he was aware of the treatment she endured at the hands of Niles Comming, she reviewed her options. Mayhap if she told him about the rape, he would allow her to stay unwed as she wished. But Kenneth never had any interest in her feelings or her happiness. He was unusual, often taking his anger out on various animals in the keep. His horses all had marks on their flanks from frequent whippings. He kicked any dog that got in his way.
He had not always been like this. Their father had been able to control him. But no one had been able to reach him since her parents’ death. His twisted actions were escalating. She was sure Kenneth would not offer her any leniency, regardless of circumstances. Telling him about the Comming was more likely to make him humiliate her more, giving him more reason to blame her. Nay, she would not allow Kenneth that pleasure. Sweat broke out on her forehead as Kenneth caressed the horsewhip. But she refused to cower to him. She would remain strong. “Nay, Kenneth, I will not marry him,” she said, daring to lock eyes with him.
Kenneth’s grin grew as he peered over the table. “We will see how long it will be before you change your mind. The Comming will be here in a few days with a priest and you will marry him. You will not leave this room until you agree. ‘Tis up to you how much you can stand. Egan, get another guardsman in here. Fetch Iain into the room.”
Egan left the room quickly. Kenneth smirked at her, probably hoping she would beg for mercy, but she refused to give in. When Egan returned with Iain, they moved to either side of Maddie. One breath of the stench emanating from Iain, and her stomach clenched in revulsion. Madeline trembled when the men moved in closer to her. She could handle the beatings, but what else did Kenneth have planned for her? Her stomach turned as she thought of the many possibilities.
Why did he do this to her? Madeline closed her eyes to draw strength from within. A quiet prayer echoed through her bones. Please, God, let it be quick. Truth was she didn’t know how much more she could endure. Her mind retained its strength and quickness, but her pain sensors were overloaded of late. A brief vision of a gentle knight entered her thoughts but left quickly when she perceived a metallic clink in front of her. Her eyes flew open.
Kenneth picked up a long tool with a sharp point and set the tool so that the end was sitting in the fire. He picked up the horsewhip and said to Iain and Egan, “Hold her tight.” He stepped behind her and tore the back of her gown so that it fell below her waist. He snapped the whip on the floor twice and Madeline’s legs started to give way. When he raised his arm to bring the first stroke of the whip across her back, Maddie glanced over her shoulder and saw his smile.
Alex and Brodie held completely still. Alex thought he heard the swish of a whip, but couldn’t tell which direction it came from. He listened again and followed the passageway in that direction. As they approached the wall of the chamber, they could hear the whip connecting with flesh, but caught nothing else.