She awoke with a start and found herself – somewhere else. She was still kneeling on a stone floor, but it wasn’t as cold as the floor of the Shrine. The air on her bare arms and feet also felt warmer. Looking around, she realized that she was in a small room about the size of a dormitory room – or a prison cell. The room was dimly lit, and shadows veiled the walls and corners. The cramps in her legs and the sting on her back where the lash had broken her skin seemed very distant.
“Sarya dyr-Rusac,” a deep, quiet voice said from a dark corner of the room.
Sarya caught her breath at the sound of the voice. It resonated deep within her heart and soul, in places that she had shut away long ago, and stirred feelings that she had tried for years to pretend she didn’t have.
She looked in the direction the voice had come from. The shadows in the corner lifted to reveal a man sitting on the floor. He had long black hair, a pale face that was achingly beautiful yet entirely masculine in its lines, and a lean, firmly muscled body. A complex pattern of curving black lines cascaded over his right shoulder and right breast, and Sarya felt a sudden wild urge to trace her fingers along those lines, to feel the skin of his chest beneath her fingertips.
The light in his corner brightened a bit to reveal the color of his eyes, deep sapphire blue. He appeared to be tall, but his wrists and ankles were bound with short chains attached to an iron ring on the floor, which prevented him from standing up. He met Sarya’s eyes with a gaze that reached as deeply into her as his voice had. He looked at her as though he saw her standing naked before him, with all her thoughts and secrets and yearnings revealed, and desired her.
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