The Strongest Bond

Disclaimer: The characters are mine! They may share a passing resemblance with other people but I just blame their stylists. Sequel to 'The Binding Tie' you really need to read that first in order to understand what is going on here.

Violence/Sex: Slavery exists in this fic as does extreme violence. Sexual violence of a m/f variety in here. Also a loving consensual f/f relationship. If you're too young to vote, you should probably go elsewhere.

Feedback: Much appreciated mjb1_1@hotmail.com

Chapter 5

Darla rushed to the side of the car as it drew to a halt in front of the mansion. The older woman was clearly relieved as she saw her daughter jump from the back seat. Throwing her arms around her youngest child, Darla checked her for bumps and bruises, clucking over her much as her daughter had done with her own children that morning. Like mother, like daughter, thought Hunter as she looked on indulgently.

Rashid too watched the two women embrace. Brown eyes stayed transfixed by the pair as he remained, unmoving, in the car. His embarrassment was making him reluctant to move from the safety of his seat, he knew that he had ruined the upholstery. Another thing that kept him rooted to his spot was the idea of further humiliating himself in front of the beautiful woman who had held him so tenderly in her arms on the way here.

As he remained transfixed by the reunion of mother and child he noticed movement around the front of the car. As he watched, the bodyguard joined the pair in front of the main doors. Although she still maintained a rigid stance, the way that she leaned into the conversation just seemed… off somehow. When the older woman reached out and cupped the slave's cheek, his curiosity was thoroughly peeked. Pulling together all the myriad threads of his scattered dignity, he opened the door and eased himself to the ground. On cautious feet, feeling uncomfortably damp, he moved beside the hood of the car. It shielded his groin and kept him far enough away that he could continue to observe the interaction without interrupting it. The main difference was that now he could hear their words.

"You've cut your cheek! Are you sure that you're all right?" The motherly tone of the other woman and the gentle touch on her face warmed the warrior's heart.

"I really am fine." She saw Darla reach up a thumb to her mouth. "Really, if you try to clean off my face with that I think I'll die of embarrassment!"

She recalled the morning's fun and couldn't help the smile that crept across her face. The two other women let their own relieved smiles answer hers. She hadn't been entirely truthful when she had said that she was fine, she could feel a definite tension across her chest and needed to check it out. No need to worry the other two just yet. She caught a glimpse of movement out of the corner of her eyes and wheeled towards the car, poorly masking a wince of discomfort as she did so.

Francesca followed her partner's line of sight- but not before noticing her twitch. She would have to ask her about that later. Looking towards the car, she could see Raz hiding behind the hood with a sheepish grin plastered on his face. He was very obviously mortified but trying valiantly to hide it. She waved her mother over and took the towelling robe that she had dropped to the floor when she embraced her daughter. With a casual air she threw it across the car and motioned that the young man should put it on.

"Hay Raz, I need to shower and change, I feel a little uneasy. I also have to make sure that my guard here is fully functioning." This was delivered with a wink only seen by the blonde standing beside her. It caused the smaller woman to colour. "Why don't you go with Mom, she'll show you to a guest room and let you get changed. That's right isn't it, Mom?"

Catching on that he needed some support, Darla readily agreed with her daughter. "That's right. We have plenty of hot water, and the boys all have clothes here so we should be able to get you something. When you're done I'll get you some tea. Follow me."

Feeling much more confident wrapped in the robe, Rashid followed his client's mother into the house. As he passed the two women who had been with him in the restaurant he tried to catch Francesca's eye, but all of her attention was now firmly fixed on her slave. It was strange and unsettling to see. He continued with his revelry as he moved into the house.

******

Cobalt eyes narrowed as the tall woman reached out a manicured hand and grasped her smaller companion's chin. Turning the other woman's face to the side, she intently studied her. The blonde began to squirm under the scrutiny, knowing exactly what her lover was looking at.

"It's just a scratch." It was said in a tiny voice as she tried to shake the hand off.

"It's a cut Rhani, you're bleeding." The hand moved from her chin and a single finger began to caress the flesh around the wound. "I just want to make sure you're fit and well. You protect me, I just want to take care of you." Hunter nodded, feeling a little chastised and realising that this was how her partner dealt with fear.

The couple turned as one and made their way into the house. Just as they passed through the door, Francesca turned to her lover, "Don't think I didn't notice you wincing earlier! I am going to examine you thoroughly when we get to our room!" She noticed the bodyguard grinning wolfishly. "Not like that you little pervert!" A pout was thrown her way, which tuned into a grin as the couple made their way up the stairs.

Now that Hunter allowed herself to feel it, every step sent a jolt of pain through her chest. Hoping that she had not cracked a rib, she followed her partner up the ornate staircase which, today, looked entirely too foreboding. To take her mind off of the discomfort, she continued talking.

"Heard you ask your mom about the kids when you were on the cell. They're all right?" She knew that they were, Francesca would never be this calm otherwise but she did feel the need to check.

"Yeah, the children are fine. Mom said that the Berringers didn't even know that there had been a disturbance. Mom called them the second she saw it on the news. The party is still going on but Dad's gone to get the kids." Hunter tensed and looked like she was about to bolt for the door. "Oh no you don't! Dad took Shep with him, and yes, Shep volunteered. They'll all be home soon and playing in the garden. Right now I'm going to check you over even if I have to knock you out and carry you up here!"

The blonde looked thoroughly chastised and cast her eyes to the steps beneath her feet. She had heard the lingering traces of worry in her partner's voice and knew she was helping. She stayed silent as she watched the stairs turn into hallway. Stopping Francesca outside the door to their shared room, Hunter knew she had to say something.

"Sorry I'm being such a pain in the ass, Chess. Old habits and, well, you know the rest."

"I know that you're not used to being pampered when you're hurt but you have a different life now. You better get used to it, buddy!" A long finger was jokingly tapped onto the blonde's chest with each word. The finger moved up to tickle the underside of her chin. "You just have to learn that you're not a caged tiger anymore, you're a house cat." Although only teasing, Francesca could see that Hunter was a little affronted by that. "Ok, so you're more like one of those tigers that Seigfried and Roy lived with… Oh God, that's worse isn't it?"

"I'd stop digging while you're only half-way to China, Chess. I get what you mean."

Finally entering the bedroom, the warrior made her way straight towards the bathroom. Stopping briefly to take off her jacket, the brunette followed. When she entered she was surprised to see her lover standing in the bathtub, fully clothed. The tub was empty and the blonde seemed to be ruffling through her hair to give it body. Francesca was more than a little confused and had to ask about it.

"Rhani, what exactly are you doing?"

"Oh, I'm trying to make sure I don't get any bits of glass on the floor. I think I've got chips in my hair and clothes from being knocked down. Just wanted to make sure none went on the floor, don't want anybody to get chips in their feet."

"Let me give you a hand." The heiress put a towel over the floor. "Give me your clothes and I'll put them over here. I can wrap them up and take them down to the laundry room."

Quickly stripping off her suit jacket, both women heard the soft tinkling of glass hitting the bottom. Passing one item to her lover, she pulled her shirt off over her head, leaving her clad in only her sports bra. Balling them up, she threw them deftly onto the towel before moving to undo her pants. As she looked up from her zipper, she caught Francesca staring at her chest. Almost comically the warrior's eyes travelled to the spot her partner was staring at.

"Wow!" Across the top of her chest, just above the swell of her breasts, was a long purple welt. The bruise was more than a foot long and an inch wide. It stood out starkly against her pale flesh, looking like a brand. The skin around the wound was reddened and looked livid. "No wonder it hurts like a bitch!" Hunter tested it with her finger and let out a hissing breath at the pain it caused.

"Rhani, that looks really bad. How the hell did that happen?" An edge of panic tinged the melodious voice, not surprising considering the horrific injuries that she had already seen this body suffer.

"I must have hit the floor harder than I thought when I got knocked down by the blast. I probably landed across a chair leg. I never even noticed."

"Do you need to go to the hospital?" The younger woman's voice was starting to crack, an edge of panic creeping in as she remained focused on the bruising.

"Let me take a few really deep breaths before I answer that, maybe do a little stretching. If nothing hurts too much then I'm fine. I think it's just superficial!" Seeing that the other woman still looked shaken, Hunter made a decision. "Chess, I really could use an icepack. Here," she jumped out of the tub and pulled her pants off simultaneously. It was an impressive feat, made possible by the fact that she had left her shoes inside the door. "Take my clothes too."

Francesca looked reluctant but took the bundle of clothes in her arms. "I'll bring that little vacuum thingy up as well. You sit on the toilet and don't move!" The upraised fingered forestalled any protest. "Sit!" Instantly and with a resigned sigh she sat heavily on the toilet seat. "Stay!" With that she rushed from the room like a woman possessed.

Sitting stock still,Hunter waited for the other woman to leave the main room before wadding up a towel and groaning into it. The pain radiating through her was making her feel nauseous. Nothing was broken, that had not been a lie, but no way was she going to let her lover see how much pain she was in. For years she had been in an environment that taught you not to show weaknesses. Pain was the biggest weakness of all and she honestly did not like Chess to see it. It made her feel like less of a protector. Masking her pain made it easier on the younger woman as it alleviated much of her worry. Hunter figured that she'd already caused her share of that.

Breathing through the pain, she felt it lessen across her chest as she continued to stretch and expand her muscles. She'd be fine in the morning if she could give the muscles the right treatment now. All that would be left was some residual stiffness a whole lot of ugly swelling. Damn it, her head fell back against the toilet tank, should have asked for a heat pack too! Stupid! Her head thumped against the porcelain again.

So involved was she in berating herself that she failed to hear her lover re-enter the room. Francesca walked through the door in time to see the tousled head bounce off the edge for the third time. Clearing her throat she stood in the doorway, arms balancing two cool packs and a vacuum. As the smaller woman turned startled and sheepish eyes towards her she raised an eyebrow.

"Chess… Hi… Umm… I was just…"

"I honestly don't think I want to know." Walking forward she perched on the corner of the bath, pressing two small pills into her lover's waiting hand. Placing the cleaning equipment into the tub she watched the painkillers being swallowed dry, before offering two packs to the injured woman. "I bought you a heat pack too!" Once her hands were free she reached out and ruffled the blonde bangs.

"You can read my mind!" Pressing the cool pack to the swelling, she reached up to take the hand threaded through her hair. Pulling the hand to her lips she pressed a kiss to her wrist and gave her partner a beatific grin.

Grasping the hand that now held hers, the brunette pulled her lover to her feet and dragged her towards the bedroom. A wolfish smile spread across the cherubic face, which fell as soon as she saw the look of concentration on her taller companion's face. She was led to the bed and pushed down onto the yielding surface. Lying there, looking up into the gentle blue eyes, she fell in love with the brunette all over again. Unable to resist the other woman's wishes, she gave into her tender ministrations. Francesca saw her lover relax and picked up the cold compress.

The long, thin, bag, which Hunter often used to cool down, was placed along the bruise's length. The chill entered her chest and brought instant relief. The warmer bag was placed on the reddened skin above the wound, while agile fingers massaged the swelling below. Long minutes passed before the heat pack was placed where cool fingers had been. Those same digits moved across the heated flesh at the top of her chest, making small circles that were doing wonders for the prone woman. The bag switching routine went on for a half hour before the taller woman discarded the pack and rested her hand on the taut abdomen of her warrior.

Dazed green eyes fluttered open, a delayed action as she realised that the soothing circles had moved from her chest to her navel. Rolling her shoulders to test just how tender she still felt she found that the pain had been reduced to a dull ache. It was little more than the usual stress that her body was under and she was pleased with the results produced by the drugs and care given to her by the other woman. With her lover's hand still on her stomach, Hunter used those powerful muscles to bring herself into a sitting position. She looked on with delight as she saw the heiress look down at the flesh under her hand. The muscles stood out starkly and turned her stomach into a hard board. Manicured nails started to, almost involuntarily, scratch over the ridges as the women drew face to face.

"Hi."

"Hi."

The words were said simultaneously with a hint of shyness. Both women giggled nervously at having spoken at the same time before they fell into a tender kiss. Hunter moved her hands to tangle in the thick onyx hair, drawing them closer together. Francesca's hand remained on her abdomen but her stroking became more insistent, burning trails of fire in their wake. Passions soon became heated as tongues asked for and were bade welcome into the warm embrace of mouths.

Suddenly the brunette pulled away, gasping for breath and quickly retrieving her hand. Stunned, the blonde almost toppled face first into the mattress. Saving herself at the last moment, the bodyguard sat staring in disbelief at her lover. Francesca refused to meet her eyes and instead seemed intent to watch her hands as they idly picked at the comforter's surface. Grasping the other woman's face in her hands she forced blue eyes to meet with her own.

"Ok Chess, what did I miss?"

"You're hurt and…" A finger was placed over her lips to stop the spill of words.

"Did that seem like it was hurting me?" Francesca shook her head, no. "It's true, my chest does hurt but the pain pills have kicked in and after that massage I feel great. You'll just have to be gentle with me!" Wiggled eyebrows accompanied this and a lascivious grin, which sent the heiress into fits of laughter.

Hunter saw the tension drain from the other woman and took the opportunity to pounce on her. Rolling the tall, lithe woman onto her back she began to tug at her clothes sending buttons flying. Letting out a squeal of protest, Francesca was about to bemoan the loss of her blouse when soft lips suddenly latched onto her nipple through her newly revealed bra. Quickly forgetting everything but the feel of soft, warm lips she threaded her fingers through short hair and pulled her closer.

Sliding one calloused hand down, over the flat plane of her stomach, Hunter moved to one beautifully sculpted leg. The feel of silk beneath the rough pads of her fingertips sent a pull to her very core. Her hands moved teasingly up one stocking clad leg, feeling the breath of the woman below her hitch. Her other hand pushed the reclining woman's bra up, releasing her straining breasts and continuing to feast on them. As her fingertips met the moist fabric of Francesca's panties any lingering thought of pain flew out of her mind. Pleasure was all consuming as hands moved from blonde head to broad shoulders, nails clawing into her flesh.

"Rhani!" the name was panted, breathlessly sexy.

"Mmmm." The blonde didn't even raise her head.

"Clothes… Off… Now!" It would have sounded like an order had it not been punctuated by breathy moans.

Devilish grin firmly in place, Hunter flew off the bed, dragging Francesca's skirt and panties with her in an effortless show of strength and agility. Her lover was now splayed on the bed, legs encased in sheer silk, bra pushed aside and blouse looking like a halo around her torso. She looked like a sacrifice and Hunter was the beast who would devour her. With almost blinding speed she roughly ripped off her own bra and pants, feeling only a slight twinge in her chest as she moved. Satisfied that she was not going to aggravate her injury, she turned her sole focus onto her lover.

In the brief moment it had taken Hunter to remove her remaining clothes, Francesca had taken the opportunity to remove her own bra and blouse. As the warrior stood over her, muscles twitching with tension, tattoo standing out vividly against the skin of shoulders and arms, the brunette moved to take off her stockings. With lightening speed, Hunters hands grasped her own, pulling them away from her legs. She found herself pinned to the bed by the weight of her lover, hands held above her head by one of the other woman's. Lips close to her ear sent breath across the sensitive flesh, making her shiver.

"Leave them on!" It was a seductive whisper and the last coherent sentence that either woman would utter for some time.

******

Raz looked towards the backdoor of the impressive home for what felt like the thousandth time in an hour. What could possibly be taking the two women so long? In the time since he had arrived at the house he had not seen either his client or her bodyguard. Now, sitting in a lounge chair on the patio, watching the three children play in the pool with their grandfather, he let himself contemplate the inhabitants of the house.

Rashid had only visited the mansion once before, in the days when Francesca's career was new and so was her marriage. When the stunning young woman had first married, the couple had lived in the Prince family home. Rashid was never really sure why and it was a very short-lived arrangement, only lasting two months. When he had come to begin his business relationship with the young singer, the family who staunchly guarded their privacy, had held him very much at arm's length. He had seen very little of their home and nothing of their personality. As the years had passed, he had become close friends with the singer but never had any further contact with her parents, until today.

The media portrayed Salvatore Prince as a gruff, no nonsense businessman. He was lethal in the boardroom and did not suffer fools. He was seldom looked on with any affecting in the press. His wife, Darla was simply an enigma. Very few people outside of their circle knew anything about her past or, in fact, her present. Those that did have tales to tell held them close to their chests, realising that the woman's friendship was more precious than the money that would be offered by tabloid rags.

Today was proving to be a revelation to the young Asian man. As he sat in the expansive grounds he was watching one of the countries most powerful men frolicking in the pool like a child. He was chasing and in turn being chased by his grandchildren. Most of the time the surface of the pool was obscured by splashes making it look like a giant Jacuzzi. He had yet to see the older man stop laughing. He was the epitome of a doting grandfather. He had been cordial to Rashid when he had returned to the house with the children. He even seemed to have a real affection for the large male slave who was sitting on the edge of the pool, occasionally hoisting and dumping one or the other of the children into the water.

Rashid had been pleased that the older man had not been around when he arrived at the mansion. He had been mortified by his body's betrayal, and having a man whom he admired see him in that state would have made it truly unbearable. It wasn't that having Francesca, her bodyguard and her mother see him wasn't embarrassing, it was simply that it would be different in front of a man.

Darla Prince had been nothing but kind and gracious since he arrived. Once given over to her care by her daughter, he had been treated like a member of the family and not once made to feel self-conscious. The older woman had taken him to one of the many guest bedrooms, shown him to the en suite and found a change of clothes for him. He had sped through a shower and thrown the clothes on, keen to be clean. While he showered, his clothes had been removed and, he later found out, taken to the laundry.

Darla had taken him to the kitchen, given him a medicinal cup of tea and he was now feeling much better. Granted that the tracksuit bottoms and t-shirt were a little big, but he felt remarkably good. All he needed now was Francesca to arrive in the garden so that he could make amends for embarrassing himself in front of her. She had been inside the house for more than an hour. The only thing keeping him from going in search of his client in order to check on her well being was the calm that pervaded her parents. If they were not worried then there was nothing to worry about. Besides, Darla was extremely good company and she had some amazing stories to tell.

******

"Sal, do you think one of us should go and check on the girls?" Shep had just thrown Terry through the air and back into the water. The boy surfaced quickly and pumped his fist in glee, he had flown further than either of his sisters.

"Not unless you want to see something that'll make you go blind my boy!" Sal smiled up at the younger man. Since the slaves had come into the house, and especially since his daughter had set them free, he had felt a real fatherly affection towards the three who had stayed. "I do think it's time I got out of here, I'm pruning!"

Salvatore heaved himself out of the pool and grabbed one of the towels that rested on the edge. Quickly drying off his skin he rubbed at his head until his greying hair was only damp before wrapping the towel around his waist and making his way over to his wife. He smiled gently at the young man beside his wife as he approached the pair, noticing the slight flush that darkened his already dusky skin. Poor kid! Reaching his wife he leant over and placed a gentle kiss on her cheek before collapsing into a third lounger. Darla noticed her husband's semi-collapse onto the chair and leaned to whisper in his ear.

"You feeling your age, my love?" There was nothing but affection in her soft voice.

"I swear, these kids are going to be the death of me. Ours were never this lively!"

"Oh yes they were Sal, only you were thirty years younger!" She playfully smacked one of his bare arms as she giggled at the grimace on his face. Watching all this, Raz couldn't help but smile at the older couple's antics. He hoped that one day he would have something like that.

The three fell into easy conversation as they continued to watch the children play in the pool. Shep, staunch and reliable as he was, stayed close to the edge of the water to act as lifeguard in case anything should happen to one of the children. The children were totally engrossed in their games, oblivious to what the adults were doing until they heard the sound of the back door opening and closing. With a speed that would have made a prairie dog jealous, three heads turned in the direction of the sound just before the trio dashed to get out of the water and run towards it. Shep thought about telling them not to run, but was pretty sure that his words would fall on deaf ears as he spotted what they were running towards. Standing in the doorway were Francesca and Hunter.

Rashid turned as he saw where the children were headed and his breath caught in his throat. Standing in front of him was one of the most breath taking sights that he had ever seen. Francesca was clad in a simple blue bikini top and a matching sarong. The colour of the garments brought out her vivid blue eyes and her lightly tanned skin seemed to glow in the late afternoon sun. Her feet were bare and he noticed and fine gold chain around her ankle. As the children barrelled into their mother, who crouched down to embrace each one, his eyes moved to the muscular figure standing beside the heiress.

If possible the bodyguard looked even more intimidating in her swimsuit than she had in her suit. Perhaps it was because every muscle was outlined by the fading sun, or maybe it was because of the slight pang of recognition that started somewhere in the back of his mind. She was clothed in a tankini top and swim shorts all in sheer black. It blended into the intricate tattoo that traced over her upper torso. He knew that he should stop staring but something was itching at the back of his mind about her, just as he was about to look away he noticed the long vivid bruise across the top of her chest.

"Tiny, what happened to you?" Sal's voice cut through Rashid's revelry and made him drag his eyes away.

"I'm good Sal, just fell over." The short woman jogged down the short set of stairs onto the patio, Becca firmly held in her arms. The little girl, after hugging her mother had latched onto her human comforter and wouldn't let go. Rather than have a little limpet stuck to her leg the warrior had hoisted her into her arms.

Running towards the lawn she was soon joined by the other two children and Shep who was waving a soccer ball in the air. Soon an energetic game of soccer was taking place although to the watching adults it did seem that none of the players really knew what they were doing. Most of the time the group were in some sort of scrum or wrestling on the ground.

Raz sat stunned at what he had seen since the couple had exited the house. The total familiarity with which the slave had spoken to her master and handled the children was bewildering. Now that he allowed himself to think about it, the other slave had not acted as he expected either. There seemed to be no barrier and discipline between the free and the bound. Not really wanting to air his observation, but too bothered by what was happening around him not too, he turned to the three people who were seated beside him. Francesca had curled up on the floor at her mother's feet and the older woman was absent-mindedly sifting her fingers through the inky tresses.

Clearing his throat he attempted to get the group's attention but before all eyes could turn to him, a red-topped blur flew around the house and came to a skidding halt beside Salvatore. The red head, looking flustered and agitated was dressed in sweats and clutching several pieces of paper and books in her arms. Her pretty face was scrunched into a frown as she dumped her possessions onto the patriarch's lap. Raz was unsure who this woman was- he was sure that Francesca didn't have any sisters.

"Sal, please help me! This stuff doesn't make any sense! I've been staring at the numbers for an hour and it was either come and find you or just throw it all in the pool. Right now the pool seems like a really good option!" Frustration was clear in her voice as she blew mussed hair off of her forehead. Sal reached out and pulled the young woman down to sit beside him, laying out the papers so that they could both see. Quietly they began to converse.

Darla could see that her husband was now totally engrossed in helping Megan with her business coursework and suggested to her daughter and their young visitor that they move closer to the game on the lawn. She had been watching him watching everything happening around the house, even as her daughter was focused solely on her family. Gesturing that the young man should go ahead, she stopped her daughter's forward momentum.

"Princess, I think that you need to talk to our guest." At her child's blank look she directed her attention to the young Asian man. "I think that he's probably noticed that our three 'slaves' aren't being treated in a subservient way. I think you should explain your situation to him, he is your publicist perhaps he can give it some spin."

"I never gave it a thought!" Wide blue eyes looked a little lost as she gazed at her mother.

"Well, once dinner is ready I think that you should talk to him. He seems like a very nice boy and he obviously likes you. Take a chance, Sweetie. You'll have to eventually."

"Mama, you're the best." A kiss was placed on the older woman's cheek. "You think that Dad and Meg will even notice that we've all abandoned them?" Both women cast a quick glance over their shoulders at where the one time gladiator turned full time business student sat rapt by whatever the entrepreneur was saying.

"I sincerely doubt it." Mother and daughter were both giggling at their observation as they sat on the grass beside Raz. Serious discussion could wait until the clash of the titans finished.

To Be Continued...

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