Serenity had been so focused on keeping her eyes to the ground and choosing her words carefully, she had neither seen nor heard the younger barbarian’s approach. She looked up, and what she saw made her catch her breath. He resembled his father, but his heavy features were handsome, not ghoulish.
“Killian. I didn’t know you were here. This girl over my lap was attempting to steal,” Bastian declared. “A bare-bottom spanking is the least she deserves. I should take a leather strap to her backside.”
“Forgive me father, but I couldn’t help but overhear the girl’s plight. If we were starving, I would enter a forbidden garden to find food.”
“Are you saying she shouldn’t be punished?”
“No, she should. Everyone knows the rules, and this other village girl must be punished as well,” he added, gesturing towards Serenity. “She tried to interfere, and she was disrespectful. I heard everything. I was over there by the plum tree, but I don’t think it right we bare them. It’s their first mistake. If they try it again, then, yes, we should.”
Serenity bristled. The young barbarian had just admitted he would have stolen for his family, yet he was still insisting that Layla be spanked, and she should be too. Suddenly Bastian’s wise words about balance and harmony no longer mattered.
“That’s not fair, not fair at all,” she exclaimed. “You don’t know what it’s like to suffer through a blight of pests. For some reason your plants don’t fall victim to such things, and you have more than enough, and you’re big and strong and you can hunt. We can’t, and for you to be so nasty and pass such harsh judgement on us is wrong.”
The words had tumbled out of her without pause or thought, and as her eyes blazed up at him, then fell back on Bastian, she realized she’d just sealed her fate.
“With your permission, father, I shall spank her. She is rude, and she doesn’t know her place.”
“I agree,” Bastian said solemnly, nodding his head. “She must be taught a lesson.”
“NO! I won’t let you!”
Lunging forward Serenity grabbed Layla’s wrist, yanking her off Bastian’s lap. It happened so quickly, and was so unexpected, it caught Bastian completely off guard. By the time he reacted and tried to catch her, they were both sprinting across the grounds towards the gate, but Serenity realized squeezing through the iron bars would slow them down, and might result in their capture.
“No, not the gate,” she panted, “we have to climb trees and jump over the wall. Let’s split apart.”
“You’re right,” Layla breathlessly replied. “I’ll take the apple tree, you take the orange.”
Serenity darted to the left, but as she did the muscles in her right leg fiercely protested. Ignoring the sharp pain, she tried to run faster, but she could feel her leg refusing her desperate request. Layla, taller and more athletic, had sprinted ahead and was almost at the apple tree. Serenity could hear heavy footsteps behind her, but her leg was badly cramping. Layla was now scampering up the trunk, and determined to beat her pursuer, Serenity pushed through the acute shard of pain, but she was suddenly being lifted off her feet. She let out a wail, then realized it wasn’t Bastian who had her, but Bastian’s brawny son.
“PUT ME DOWN. PUT ME DOWN!”
With deft ease he threw her over his shoulder, then landed a swift stinging slap.
“Be quiet. I will be harder on you if you keep up that racket.”
“YOU’RE A BEAST AND A BRUTE,” she howled, paying no heed to his warning and beating her fists into his back.
She had meant every word, but she was also attempting to distract him. As he had lifted her, she had spied Layla throwing apples across the wall before climbing along the branch and dropping out of sight. A second hot smack hit her backside, and with Layla safely gone, all thought switched to her perilous plight.
“Spank her in the hall.”
Serenity couldn’t see Bastian, but his thick, gravelly voice was unmistakable.
“I would rather have privacy. I’ll take her to my rooms.”
“Very well, but don’t keep her too long. I don’t want her family coming up here looking for her. I’ve had enough of the villagers for one day.”
“Don’t you dare take me anywhere,” Serenity shouted. “I demand you put me down!”
“I won’t father,” Killian replied, completely ignoring Serenity’s outburst. “Just long enough to do what must be done.”