The Binding Tie
Disclaimers: This is an Alt/Uber story that is for people over 18 as it contains violence and sexual violence.
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She's so soft, mused Hunter, running her fingers through raven locks. She snorted softly to herself, why wouldn't she be? She raised her hand form the tousled head and studied it intensely. She traced the map of thin scars criss-crossing the knuckles and meandering towards a pale wrist. The golden tan covering her hand and forearm was interrupted by a white band of flesh, another reminder of her days spent in bondage. Turning her hand she looked at the calluses coating the hills and valleys of her palm, each fingertip crowned with a rough halo. These were the hands of a warrior, a worker. Hands, she realised, could define their owner. Her lean, strong, scarred hands were the epitome of who she was both inside and out.
Eyes flickered to the pale hand laying beside her thigh. Long fingers curled inwards towards her palm revealing red polished nails, perfect in every way. Smooth porcelain skin over sleek muscle, flawless. Not a single blemish marred the perfection, yet they looked so vulnerable. The fingers twitched in sleep, closing into a tighter fist. This woman was beautiful, unique but ultimately fragile. Without thought Hunter began to trace one rough fingertip across Francesca's wrist. The sleeping woman flinched away from the touch as if she had been burned, recoiling away form the seated woman.
Francesca woke in a blind panic as she felt the touch on her arm. Why was Douglas in her bed? He never came to her any more, not since the twins were born, he had playmates for this. Her body was rigid and her eyes screwed tightly closed, trying desperately to distance herself form the pain that she was sure was coming. In this state it took her several moments to realise that the touch had ended almost as soon as it began. Confused, Francesca extended her senses cautiously noticing for the first time the sound of birdsong and the scent of grass. She slowly opened her eyes and found herself looking at the concerned face of her slave.
Forcing a smile she sat up. She was not going to let thoughts of Douglas spoil her day, it had started so well. She knew that her mother wanted her to relax and the slave was quite good company, once you loosened her up a bit. In her heart Francesca knew that she needed a friend and had found herself placing Hunter in that role in her mind. Wanting to alleviate the tension that had grown around them Francesca's smile turned sheepish.
"Wow, guess I was more tired than I thought!" She joked as she glanced at her watch. "You hungry?"
"You have to ask?" It was the one joke that the women shared. Hunter was a bottomless pit where food was concerned and the amount she could pack away fascinated the free woman.
"Chicken or ham?"
"Mrs Prince said that you might show me something?" Hunter was honestly curious as to her owners special skill.
"Oh, that." Francesca ran a hand over her face to hide her embarrassment. It had been a cool talent to have when she was in school, but in front of this warrior her little feat seemed silly.
"You don't have to, I'm only here to serve. You don't have to feel obligated, you own me." Hunter really didn't want to upset the other woman. She had been distressed by the way in which she had woken up, and wanted to know why the dark woman's reaction had been so extreme (although she had an idea). Yet the divide created by their positions forbade her from prying too deeply.
"Promise not to laugh?" Hunter could see that the other woman was genuinely concerned. The other woman had been playful all day and had even tried to teach the warrior some of the games that her children enjoyed. She hadn't even asked why the slave had been touching her in her sleep, something Hunter could only be grateful for.
"I promise." Her voice was softer than she had intended and took her darker companion by surprise.
"Alright!" As suddenly as she said it, Francesca was up and running straight towards the clear water. Rather than stopping at the edge as Hunter had expected, she ran straight off the bank and splashed into the river only stopping once the water was mid-thigh.
There she stood, rising out of the water like a sun bathed goddess. Her blue eyes reflected the exact colour of the water that lapped against her. She was completely still, breathing slowly, allowing the water to calm around her. Hunter was mesmerised by what she saw. In the time that she had been with the woman she had watched her dance and workout, but had never really thought of her as a physical person. Now, watching her, Hunter was struck by her sleek athleticism. This woman could be formidable if she'd just let go.
Suddenly Francesca darted forwards, her hands disappearing under the water. She rooted around under the surface and with a triumphant grin brought her hands up. In her grip she held a single silver skinned fish. The sunlight gleamed off it's skin as it struggled valiantly to regain it's freedom. She turned, holding up her prize for her audience to see.
"Damn, I could never do that." The words just slipped from Hunters mouth before she could censor them. She mentally crossed her fingers, hoping that the other woman had misunderstood.
"Of course you could, it just takes practice." Francesca waded out of the water as Hunter let out a mental sigh of relief.
The heiress reached the shore and stripped out of her linen pants, leaving herself clad only in a long shirt and panties. She laid her soaked clothing on a nearby rock to allow the warm sun to dry the thin fabric and turned towards her protector. She was amused to note that the other woman was respectfully turned away from her, looking anywhere but at her. At that moment, looking at the shorter woman, Francesca felt a pang of something deep inside. Francesca took in the bowed head, for the first time noticing that the blue was growing out, being replaced by blond roots.
I wonder why she's so embarrassed?
Idol thoughts ceased as both women's heads snapped in the direction of the house...and the ear splitting sound.
The wing laid in ruins, flames licking towards the blue sky as if worshipping the sun. What had once been three storeys was reduced to ground level. Blue and red light bathed the scene as emergency vehicles surrounded the building. Firemen clustered around the perimeter of the blaze, hoses pointed at the fiery menace, water arcing forward at high pressure.
Francesca ran for the three ambulances on the lawn, her body numb with fear as her legs drove her forward. Hunter was hot on her heels, her fear for both the victims and the woman running to them. As the dark haired woman reached the stretchers should was almost knocked off her feet at the sight of two crisp, shinny body-bags laying side-by-side on the grass. Her heart leapt into her throat before she realised that the figures in the bags were almost unnaturally large. Not her children, or even Douglas, she couldn't help but breath an audible sigh of relief. She swept towards the open back of the first ambulance.
Hunter's feet stopped of their own accord as her eye's fell on the black bags. Looking at the dimensions of the bags she knew instantly who was in each one. The identical bags held identical men, gentle men who didn't deserve to die like this. They should have gained their freedom and had a life. She tore her eyes away from her comrades and turned them to the ambulances. Francesca was leaning over a small reclining figure, tears streaming down her face. On two other beds sat Douglas, Terrance and Rochel. The three of them looked battered but mostly fine. At least the boys hadn't died in vein.
Francesca sat in the uncomfortable plastic chair in the emergency room's waiting area. Trying not to think about what was happening to her children she couldn't help but muse about progress. In a world where genes could be mapped and planets could be reached, a comfortable plastic chair was still out of reach. This line of reasoning didn't last long as once more the waves of guilt came crashing down on her. She should have been there to protect her babies not playing in the woods with a slave!
As soon as they had arrived at the hospital Rebecca had been rushed to into surgery. Her beautiful littlest girl had been caught in the worst of the blast, in the same area as Polar and Grizzly. Her left arm had been burnt but the rest of her had been protected from the flames by the body of one of the men. The impact of the falling body must have been extreme as she had four broken ribs and a collapsed lung as well as a possible skull fracture. Francesca desperately wanted to be outside the operating room, but first she had to wait for her other children, then they could all go up together.
Terrance and Rochel had only suffered minor injuries. They and their father had been outside the nursery when the bomb went off and thrown clear of the blast. Terry had suffered a broken arm and minor cuts while his sister only had a sprained ankle. They were presently being treated. Douglas had suffered a broken collar bone and was waiting to be treated.
The singer raised her head from her hands and looked at her slave. The old resentment of the animal was resurfacing as a defence mechanism, she could blame Hunter for all this. They shouldn't have gone to the woods. She was on the verge of lashing out at the silent figure when their eyes locked. In the depths of the artificially blue eyes she saw despair. It was like looking into a bottomless pit of sadness, she started to be pulled into the void and had to tare herself away before she fell too far to escape. She turned her gaze back to the floor.
"Mummy, it hurts!" The small tearful voice instantly pulled her forward and she swooped up her son and held him like he was the most precious thing in the world. One of a priceless set of three.
She wanted to be anywhere but here. She wanted to be upstairs with her parents and her children. Instead she was waiting for Douglas while her babies were being watched protected by slaves. Slaves like those who had failed and allowed this to happen. Once more she felt a welling of intense emotion directed to her own property, but she squashed it. She was neither ready nor prepared to face the implications of the strength of her feelings towards Hunter, either good or bad.
The room was eerily silent, even though it was filled with people, each one waiting for news on a loved one. The air would occasionally be invaded by a muffled sob or a snore as people became agitated or submitted to the blissful oblivion of sleep. Francesca just felt numb. When she had seen her little boy stumble towards her, his arm in a huge, obscenely white, caste and his face bruised and cut she had crumbled. She had clutched him to her so tightly that she had feared that he might break, afraid to let go. When, minutes later his sister had been carried in by a tall, red haired, nurse the relief that had flowed over her had an almost physical impact on the singer. She had fallen back into her chair and held out her arms for Rochel. Her foot was strapped and her eyes were red, but she was in much better condition than her big brother.
They had stayed like that for thirty minutes, until Salvatore and Darla arrived from the police station. They and the rest of the household had been interviewed for hours about the events leading up to the explosion. Francesca and Hunter had also been quizzed, but their absence had made them less valuable witnesses. The police had allowed them to head directly to the hospital from the house, with the condition that they head to the station in the morning. Darla looked at her daughter with pity in her eyes and offered to take the children up to wait for Rebecca. Francesca had nodded in thanks and watched as her parents carried away her offspring, flanked by the dour countenance of Wolf, Phoenix and Snake. That had been two hours ago.
Now here she was looking like the dutiful wife waiting for her husband. The reality couldn't be further from the truth. She wanted to know why Douglas had let this happen. She wanted to blame the man who had been ruining her life for almost ten years. So she sat and waited, alone. Hunter had long since stood and walked away to stand beside the admit desk. Her eyes were constantly looking over the room, never landing on the other woman.
Hunter felt isolated and confused. She had spent years taking other people's lives without remorse, it was what had made her such an exceptional gladiator. Death shouldn't have any impact on her after what she had done, but here she was caught up in thoughts of the men that she had lost. They had been so childlike in their outlooks, they had never become the jaded old soldiers that the rest of them were. She would not cry, she couldn't, but she felt another piece of her heart break off and float away.
She looked back to where her owner sat. She had felt the change in the other woman as they had sat beside each other. It seemed to ebb and flow between pent up fury and despair and most of the fury seemed to be directed at her. She could see it in each glance that the dark woman threw at her, like a weapon. The woman was breaking down and she was not looking forward to the confrontation to come. When the slave had looked at the injured children she had felt a pain in her gut, a sensation that she hadn't felt since Jordan was taken from her. Looking at the pale, tiny form of Rebecca, death did seem like a terrible thing. Nothing like that should have to happen to this little girl. Things like this were only meant for her.
Douglas was seething. How dare she not be there to look after her own children. She'd rather be out gallivanting with that creature, doing God knows what together. That though led to it's own chain reaction of rage, the indignities in his mind building up in layers. She belonged to him, he had marked her years before and she had never so blatantly disobeyed him as she since that slave came along.
Buying the slaves had seemed like such a good idea. He would further exert his power over her, having his eyes, ears and hands close to her all the time. Hunter was too wilful for that to be a possibility. The second rate killer had a set of scruples, a moral code that did not gel with his world view. No, she was not the asset that he had hoped she'd be. He had realised almost from the start that Savage would have been the perfect choice for Francesca. The weasely man was snide and vindictive and cherished the violence. He would have done whatever Douglas asked. When the bitch had hit him things had started to change. Francesca was like a different woman. No, that wasn't it, she was becoming the girl he married again. Not the woman he owned.
He was beginning to be cut out of her business dealings and she was controlling her own money. The physical domination he had used on her for years was no longer an option and he was loosing his hold. There was no way that Salvatore would side with Douglas against his daughter. But this new development might play into his hands, he could use the children to show what a bad mother Francesca was becoming. Blackmail would be a far less strenuous control mechanism than he was used to. He smiled to himself, this just might work out after all.
The doors to the waiting room were flung open by the brown haired man. His arm was close to his body and secured in a sling to prevent him form further damaging his collar bone. His face sported a large gauze over the right cheek and a matching black-eye. His eyes were dark and his countenance was stiff, edgy. His was looking for a fight and he was about to find one.
Francesca stood up when she saw Douglas enter the room and cringed at the look in his eyes. She had seen that look a thousand times before. It always manifested itself before he hit her, with good reason, or so he always told her. She pulled her courage together and stood in front of him. He couldn't hit her in the hospital and even if he tried Hunter would put him down.
Douglas shot a look at his wife's guard and them turned his eyes back to the beauty before him. He reached out towards his wife and grabbed her arm tightly, satisfied when he saw her wince in pain. He quickly pulled her after him out of the room, Savage closely following the couple with Hunter close behind him. Once far enough away from the waiting area that Douglas knew they wouldn't be heard he spun Francesca to face him. The sound of her shoes on the polished floor echoed through the sterile corridor, making the woman painfully aware of it's near deserted quality.
"What the hell were you thinking!" Douglas began in earnest. With each word it seemed as though his hold on her grew tighter. "What sort of mother are you? You leave your children alone so you can go and do who knows what with your precious slave!" Francesca opened her mouth to reply but was cut off by a rough shake. Hunter moved to intervene but was held back by the other slave. Savage shook his head slowly and pulled the warrior further away from the couple.
"You really do think your a princess now, don't you? Seems I've given you everything you ever wanted. I gave you children, a home, a career, servants, slaves and now I've given you a new playmate! Now you can stop dreaming about that kid, I've given you a real live grownup to fantasise about!" The slap to the good side of his face was sudden and unexpected, sending him reeling for a moment. When he regained his senses his face was red, his temple throbbing.
"I'm sorry Douglas." She raised a hand to cover her lips. "I'm so sorry, your just worried about the children, I know you don't really mean it." Her eye's began to mist with tears as her voice broke.
"It's time you made some choices, Princess. I don't know who you are anymore. Do you?" With these hissed words he turned on his heel and headed out of the hospital.
The shadowed figure smirked as the little drama unfolded before their very eyes. The raised voice of Douglas had drawn the watcher to the corridor and the scene that played out could have been choreographed by the warped mind. This was what the stalker had been hoping for. The fact that the house had been easier to get into had been a bonus.
Most of the family had been out when a maintenance person had arrived to fix the air-conditioning. With both Francesca and Douglas out of the house and accompanied by the children all of the slaves had been absent, leaving only the regular security in position. After a cursory search access into the house had been granted. The worker had been escorted by a guard and then left in the maintenance room with a guard on the door. Slipping out had proved simple, what with all the resent practice at the other premises.
Looking for the best place for the bomb had proved difficult with time constraints and the explosive had to be planted in the closest family room. That room happened to be the nursery, as good a place as any. The children would be in a prime location, and at least one parent would be in the blast. What more could be asked for. Quickly getting set up and back to the maintenance room the man on the door didn't suspect a thing and soon the terrorist was home free.
That had been two weeks ago, the watcher was nothing if not patient. The bomb had been a little more powerful than intended, it wasn't intended to destroy the wing, just the room. However, the results were more than pleasing. Three injuries and two deaths, granted not of family members, but it was sure to set the family reeling. There was also the minor detail of one child in surgery, still the chance for a fatality there. Slightly shuffling black boots seemed to alert the blue haired freak to a presence in the shadows. Time for a strategic withdrawal. Douglas had already left, he could be followed. With that the figure was gone.
Terrance was asleep with his head cradled on her lap, his slim body stretched out on the bench. His soft snores filling the corridor with a sense of life that it was otherwise lacking. On her other side sat Rochel. Tucked under her mothers arm, with her head cushioned on her breasts she was as deeply asleep as her brother. Periodically a whimper would sound from one of the two children prompting Francesca to softly stroke the head of the child in question until it subsided.
Francesca was glad that they could sleep almost untroubled. She on the other hand was not able to shut down. Her mind kept running over the events of the day over and over again. It had started so well, she had been happy playing in the grass with Hunter and making pictures in the clouds. It had been like reliving her childhood. These had been the games she had played with her best friend and later on with her own children. Then it had all come crashing down on her.
The house was ruined. Her children were hurt and her husband hated her. Douglas had been right, she didn't know who she was anymore, she was so confused. Hunter was certainly influencing her whether it was a good or bad influence was yet to be seen. What would she do if Douglas left her? They had been married for ten years and she had no idea of what adult life was like without him. He had been a good man when they married, but something had changed when Terrance had come along and the twins had proved to be the last straw for him, apparently. She had been on the receiving end ever since.
She needed to relax, get some sleep. Rebecca had come out of surgery several hours ago and was now in ICU. The doctors said that she was stable and should make a full recovery. She had wanted the children to go home with her parents and sleep in their own beds, but they had refused to leave. They had both started to cry and held their mother as tightly as they possibly could. Darla assured her daughter that they'd be fine in the hospital and that she and Salvatore would be back first thing with a change of clothes and some breakfast. All was calm, yet she was still afraid. Douglas hadn't come back and at this time of night she knew that he wouldn't. He was probably being pampered by one of his 'friends' right now.
Trying to think happy thoughts and get to sleep she looked over at Hunter. The bodyguard had retreated back into herself and stood stoically against the wall. She looked like a tireless machine, scanning the empty hallways, alert for danger. Francesca tried to catch her eyes and when she did the sadness in their depths ran deep. The heiress offered her a reassuring smile in lieu of an apology, which the shorter woman accepted with a weary smile of her own.
She let her mind wander back to the morning. The other woman certainly held a lot of surprises. She had been so gentle when Francesca had fallen asleep, stroking her hair in the same way that Rhani had. In her dream Francesca had even heard herself called Chess by the other woman. Nobody knew that nickname but her family, and they never used it. Nobody had ever used it in front of Hunter.
"I could never do that."
Rhani had never been able to catch the fish in the water, she'd always been put off by the refraction in the water. The fish would be a few millimetres away from where she would strike. Hunter was blond, the roots of her hair showing through the dye. Hunter had seen 'Star Wars'. How could somebody born into slavery have seen any movies?
Hunter knew how to play Chess and Rhani's games. Hunter knew things that slaves couldn't know. Francesca studied Hunter's face more closely than she ever had before, looking beyond the scars and the contact lenses. Hunters attention was elsewhere so she was free to do this. The pert nose and round cheeks made the face look young, the defiant chin giving voice to her true nature. The face was familiar. The face was nineteen years older, but it was her, Francesca had been too blind to see it.
Hunter was Rhani!
Rhani was alive!
Even Rhani had betrayed her...
To be continued in Part 8
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