Bonus Scene based off of the video game featured in CHANGING HIS GAME…
She had made him mad again.
Evelyn tended to do that a lot, anger Bauer. Even though it always resulted in a decent beating and subsequent imprisonment, she did it anyway. To show him she was still Evelyn, wife to Aric of Arendale, and even though Bauer had taken almost everything from her, he hadn’t taken her spirit.
She moved her chained ankle restlessly, so the metal links clanked against the stone ground. She heard movement in the distance and smiled. Sari must be in punishment as well. Sari, a former princess sold by her evil brothers to Bauer, had even more spirit that Evelyn.
Evelyn picked at a scab on her arm, wincing at the pain in her back. When Bauer took her years ago, he’d intended on making her his mistress. But when he found out that she and Aric had been able to consummate their marriage after all, he was enraged. So for years now, she’d been his maid, relegated to the lowest social status in the castle.
She didn’t care, not really. She’d rather scrub floors than share Bauer’s bed.
She closed her eyes, but it was taking more and more effort to picture Aric’s face these days—that square jaw, the broad shoulders, the warm brown eyes, which had been pained the last time she saw him.
He could be dead. Or alive. She had no idea. But it didn’t matter, really. Bauer’s castle was impenetrable. Unless the prophecy was true, and Aric would come into his powers…
She shook her head. No. No. That way lay madness. And she was barely clinging to sanity as it was.
Evelyn stood, the bottom of her threadbare skirt brushing the floor. She straightened her corset, working to breath deeply despite the tight laces. Even though Bauer hadn’t required her in his bed, he still wanted to leer, and hold the power over her head that he could have her if he so wanted.
She walked to the wooden door of her cell and laid her forehead against it. Softly, she called out, “Sari?”
There was the faint rattle of a chain dragging across the floor in a cell nearby. Then a weak voice, “Ev.”
Evelyn frowned, displeased not to hear the usual strength behind Sari’s words. “Are you okay?”
A hoarse laugh, then a cough. “Nothing that hasn’t been done to me before.”
Evelyn raised a hand and stroked the wood, wishing she could touch her friend. “You need to be more careful.”
“You’re one to say that.”
Sari had a point.
Footsteps sounded outside in the hall and Evelyn didn’t answer, knowing the guards would mete out further punishment if they heard the two women talking.
Although these footsteps sounded… different. Softer. Not like the heavy footfalls of their pot-bellied guards.
Evelyn held her breath.
The next sound was a loud splintering of wood followed by Sari’s ear-piercing scream.
Evelyn went berserk. “No! Leave her alone!” she shouted, banging her fists on the door, kicking it with her slippered feet until she was sure she’d broken all of her toes. But Sari’s shrieks continued, interspersed with masculine grunts and Evelyn was screaming now too, for Sari, for herself, for this miserable life that she’d never escape.
And then she heard a voice she thought she’d never hear again in her entire life. “Woman, I’m trying to get you out of here if you’d stop fighting me!”
Big, brash, Breck.
Aric’s best friend and second-in-command.
Evelyn froze at the sound of his voice, and that’s when she heard it. Or felt it. Even in the dungeon, the change in the air was apparent.
The walls around her trembled and dust rained down upon her head.
Aric had come.
She sank to the floor, scooting back to the corner as screams began to echo from the floors above her. The screams of death and the crackling of fire and the sounds of destruction.
Destruction only Aric could bring.
The prophecy had come true. And he’d used his powers for this.
“Breck!” she called out.
There was a pause in the scuffle. “Evelyn.”
“Breck,” she responded softly.
There was a pause, then a heaving breath. “He’s coming, Evelyn. He’s coming.”
Evelyn closed her eyes and clenched her fists. “Sari, he’s trying to help you!” Evelyn called. “Please stop fighting him!”
But she was unsuccessful in convincing Sari, because the two were still arguing.
She heard a grunt and then Sari continuing to holler as their voices and one set of footsteps carried off down the hallway, like Breck had hauled her over his shoulder.
Evelyn stayed huddled in her corner of her cell, and she didn’t know how much time had passed when she heard a new set of footsteps stop in front of her door.
A key entered the locked, turned, and then the door swung open.
It took a moment for her eyes to adjust. The body standing in front of the doorway was backlit by a sconce on the wall behind him. But he was big, and male, and even in the dim light, she’d recognize that face anywhere.
She rose slowly, using her hands on the wall at her back to help her to her feet. The man took one step inside of her cell, and the light fell over his face.
It was Aric. Those eyes hadn’t changed, even if his face did. He was older, more scarred, standing in front of her in nothing but boots, breeches and a harness over his naked chest, which was stained with soot and blood.
His sword hung on his back in a scabbard. His hair was shorn, his jaw bearded.
She lifted her hand to her own face self-consciously, wondering what he was thinking after having not seen his wife for years. She wasn’t the young beauty she’d been back when they were married. Her face was lined from stress; her hands calloused from hard labor. Her hair was dull, her clothes in tatters, and her body was filthy.
Aric’s chest heaved once, and then he walked toward her in three strides, gathering her in his strong arms. She clung to his biceps, curling her fingers into his skin. He buried his face in her hair and whispered, “My Evelyn. I came for you.”
She hadn’t cried since they took her from Aric. Not once had she let them see her weakness.
But now, now she clung to her husband, the man who’d brought the wrath of his dragons and sought her out and she sobbed against his chest, her tears creating tracks through the soot and blood stains on his skin. “My Aric,” she whispered. “You came for me.”
He hadn’t thought he’d feel her in his arms again. Hadn’t dared to dream. He hadn’t known if she was alive or dead. All he knew was that he had to take revenge upon the man who’d taken her from him. The man who’d stripped him of his land and title and everything that he had.
But Evelyn was alive. And although she moved like she was in pain, and the fabric on her body was a far cry from the finery he’d last seen her in, she was alive. Whole. And she’d said, My Aric.
He didn’t care how they looked or where they were or the state they were in. He cupped her jaw in both hands, lifted her face, and pressed his lips to hers.
She was his wife, always would be, no matter what had happened since he’d last seen her. Their wedding night had been the best night of his life and he hadn’t had a wink of sleep. They’d come together again and again, mouths opening, fingers searching, skin touching. Needing each other. Loving each other.
And then by the next evening, she’d been taken.
But he never forgot her, or what they had, not all these years. And while his original plan was revenge, now it was all about rescue, it was all about feeling his Evelyn’s lips on his again.
She still tasted sweet. And most of all, she still tasted like his.
He pulled back to gaze into those blue eyes he’d fallen in love with all those years ago. Brushing her hair from her face, he ran a thumb over her bottom lip. “What was your position in the castle?”
She swallowed. “His maid.”
Aric raised his eyebrows. “Then what are you doing in the dungeon chained to the wall? You can’t do much from here.”
A smirk tugged at her lips. “I made him angry.”
“Is this a regular occurrence?”
Her smirk grew. “Maybe?”
“And what did you do this time, my Evelyn, to anger Bauer so?”
She made to duck her head, but he held her firm so she had to look him in the eye. She blinked. “I-I covered the arms of his dining chair with soot. It stained his clothes but he didn’t know, and no one wanted to tell him so he walked around like that for an entire evening.” Her shoulders began to shake. “It was worth a week of gruel in the dungeon to see his face when he discovered it.”
Aric shook his head. He’d known Evelyn since she was six, and those kinds of pranks were always in her wheelhouse. “You haven’t changed, have you?”
She shook her head fiercely. “All I had left was me. My pride. I fought to keep it.”
His chest swelled with pride and admiration. “You are a formidable fighter.”
She smiled and he stepped back, pulling his sword from his scabbard. “Don’t move.”
She froze, and with a grunt, he brought his sword down on the end of lock binding her ankle. The metal fell away, leaving behind a red, angry sore on her skin. The sight made his teeth clench, but Evelyn covered it quickly with her tattered skirt.
He held out his hand and waved it around their heads. “Follow me, because all you see here? It’s ours now, my queen. There is no more Bauer. This is our castle now.”
She stared at him with wide eyes, then she lifted her chin, looking like the queen she was always meant to be, and followed him out of the dungeon and into the light.
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