Pounding. Yelling. What was going on?
Jarek sat up and rubbed his eyes. With a wide yawn, he oriented himself. Ah, that’s right. Anais’s loft.
He looked down at the women nestled against him. The woman he would marry. The woman he loved. Jarek smiled and leaned down, pressing a soft kiss to her mouth as she slept.
Erron stirred and smiled, her breasts heaving with a breath. Her gorgeous sky blue eyes fluttered as she came around, tender smile still curving her full mouth.
“Morning,” Jarek whispered.
“Morning,” Erron echoed, slipping her arm around his waist and squeezing.
Jarek caressed her cheek and brushed her flaxen locks from her face.
The noise outside increased, and Jarek glanced toward the small loft window when he heard a familiar voice shouting. His father. He drew his brows tight and glanced at Erron.
Her eyes were wide. She shoved to a sitting position and yanked the white linens to her chin. Her skin was as void of color as they were.
“My father,” she said, her voice wobbly.
“My father, as well.” Jarek pressed a hard quick kiss to her lips, but she didn’t react. “Stay there.”
He slipped from the small pallet and slunk to the window. Jarek’s father was shirtless, breeches held up with a hand, glaring at Norden. The taller man had an axe in hand.
Anais hovered in the doorway of the shop, long blonde hair loose and mussed.
“Son of a—” Jarek cut off his curse at Erron’s whimper. No use worrying her more than she already was. He winced. Would her father use the tool as a weapon?
The gasp as his elbow made him glance down at her. “You should have stayed in the bed, love,” Jarek admonished. There was no reason for her to witness the scene below.
Her hand over her mouth, her eyes welled with tears. “He wouldn’t…” She paled even more than moments before.
Putting both hands on her shoulders, Jarek squeezed gently. “Shhh. I’m going down there. But you have to promise you’ll stay here.”
Erron swallowed hard, but nodded, her blue eyes misty and wide.
“It’ll be all right, love,” he said. “I won’t let him hurt us or take you away.”
He kissed her hard and fast, then stomped into his boots. Jarek raced down from the loft and out Anais’s front door. Catching his father’s gaze first, Kirgan’s eyes widened, but he said nothing.
Erron’s father glared at him as Jarek slid between Norden and his father.
“Give me my daughter,” the man barked.
A wave of satisfaction rolled over him at the sight of Norden’s bruised face. The man hadn’t even bathed. Dried blood threaded throughout his beard under his nose. And it was a wonder he could see out of two swollen eyes.
“You can return home. Erron stays with me.”
Norden growled and launched forward, but dropped his axe. He snatched Jarek by the tunic with both fists. Kirgan uttered a protest and Anais yelled his name.
“Unhand my son,” his father commanded.
“Give me my daughter,” Norden repeated, spittle leaking from the corners of his mouth.
Jarek winced as his foul breath hit his face. His stomach roiled, but he made no move to pull away from the taller, bulkier man.
“I will not let you rape her again,” Jarek bit out.
Norden’s fair brows drew even tighter, but he didn’t deny Jarek’s statement. “The lass has filled your ears with tales.” His eyes—a match for Erron’s—darted over Jarek’s shoulder, from his father to Anais. The apple of his throat bobbed as he swallowed hard.
So he didn’t want anyone to know what he’d confessed to Jarek at dinner. He threw his head back and laughed.
Glaring, Norden released him. Jarek stepped closer, growling. “You know damn well she told me nothing. You’re a monster. Harming your child in the worst way possible. You should have been protecting her, been her father.”
Erron’s father said nothing, but his jaw clenched and he flexed his giant fists.
“I’m going to petition Lord Rustin this morning and file charges against you. Explain exactly what went on between you and your daughter.”
Stumbling back, Norden’s eyes went wide and he paled, as badly as Erron had up in the loft.
Jarek scowled. Coward bastard. Fear looked good on him.
“Lies. All lies,” Norden muttered, shaking his head. The big man’s shoulders slumped, his bravado gone.
Kirgan stepped forward and thrust out Norden’s axe. “Even if the lass wasn’t to marry my son, I’d never allow her to go back with you.”
Jarek’s chest swelled. His father’s support without question gave him strength. “Expect Lord Rustin’s proclamation soon,” he told his fiancée’s father.
Norden shook his head again, sputtering nonsensical words.
“If he doesn’t commit you to the penal territory, I’d be shocked. And if you come after us, or lay even a finger on Erron again, I’ll kill you.”
TO BE CONTINUED...
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