First Page: The Vandal and the Virgin
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“Don’t chain me.” Julia’s voice quavered. She posed half naked on the massive bed, her oiled skin gleaming in the candle light, her heart pounding in her ears. “I’ll be good, I promise,” she vowed.
She hadn’t cried all day, not once—all those years in quiet meditation at the convent allowing her to remain calm in the midst of so much danger. But when two small women walked into the richly decorated tent, bowing under the weight of the chains they carried, glancing at her apologetically as they lifted her wrists to bind her to the corners of the bed….well, that was it; more indignity than any bride could be expected to withstand.
“Don’t,” Julia hissed. “Just…don’t.”
Thera, the gray haired woman in charge of the attendants, frowned. “Princess, you must be chained. I will not allow any harm to come to our King.”
“What harm would I do to your King?” Julia spit out, then paused, trying to keep her voice even. “I came here willingly. You’ve spent the entire day with me. I’ve allowed you to dress me as you wanted, I haven’t complained once. You know I don’t have a weapon. There are guards everywhere and there is no one I can ask for help.”
Thera’s lips formed a thin line. “You have no loyalty to our King. It is my duty to protect him.”
Frustrated, Julia threw her hands up. “I married your King this morning. He’s my husband now!” she said with more passion than she’d expected. But yes, their King was her husband now, whether she liked it or not. She’d made unbreakable vows to the despicable Barbarian before God and man and she needed to do her best to maintain her honor in front of her maker and her people.
Somehow, she would do this. She would get through tonight and the next few weeks.
And really, it was comical that they were worried she would harm him during the deflowerment ceremony. Shouldn’t they be worried about what this man would do to her?
“She hasn’t any family here,” pointed out a young woman with a gleaming red braid and kind blue eyes. “She has no mother or sisters to tend to her in the proper way for the ceremony. She’s right. Look at her. What harm would she do?”
Thera’s jaw clenched and her eyes hardened. “Jasta, she’s not one of us. She’s not pure and she knows it. She’s desperate and sly. We’ve all heard the stories of Princess Galla. She’s capable of anything.”
Julia closed her eyes for a moment, impotent rage washing through her for the hundredth time that day. Sometimes it was hard for her to remember why she’d agreed to this ridiculous charade. No one was going to believe she was Galla. No one. She was surprised she hadn’t been found out already and marched to the gallows.
“She doesn’t seem to be anything like the stories I’ve heard,” Jasta said softly, her eyes darting towards Julia and then away. The other women in the tent murmured behind her, all of them now discussing her fate.
Julia fisted her hands. She wasn’t anything like the stories they’d heard because she wasn’t Galla. She and Galla were night and day, oil and water, vinegar and honey—
“Princess Galla,” Thera announced. “We have decided….” Julia stiffened, her chest constricting. “…..we shall leave you unchained.” Julia exhaled, grateful for small miracles.
“But if you hurt him,” Thera whispered in her ear. “I’ll kill you myself.”