Disclaimer: Don't own it.
AN: I am so sorry that it's been so long between chapters. I've been getting ready for college, and I just moved in last week so everything's been a whirlwind. I hope you enjoy this chapter and that it makes up a little for my absence. Warning: little bit of "adult content" in this chapter, so you've been warned.
Chapter 7 Seduction and Denial
Josephine woke up in a cold sweat. This was the third night in a row that nightmares of Ardeth had haunted her sleep. Tears prevented her from seeing anything in the dark room of her hut, but she could hear sounds coming from outside. There had to be several hours before the sun rose, so either the village was under attack or some of the warriors had returned. Josephine slowly pushed the blankets off of her tired body as she rose from her bed. She wiped the tears from her eyes as she wrapped one of Ardeth's large robes about her shivering body.
As she slowly appeared in the doorway to the hut she shared with Ardeth, she saw that the village was alight with blazing torches. Women ran about fetching water and food. Warriors marched around with determined looks upon their faces. Then Josephine saw him marching toward her looking serious as ever with his head coverings removed and his tattered robes swaying in the desert wind. Josephine was shocked when she found herself lifted off the ground into his arms and swung around like a doll.
"Thank you," Rashid whispered as he placed her back on her feet and fell to his knees in front of her hugged her legs as a small child would. "He told me you watched over him and cared for him. I can never repay such kindness," he rambled as he clutched at her robes and actually allowed her to see his tears.
Josephine slowly knelt beside her husband's closest friend as she clutched his hands in hers. "Naji is a dear friend. I stayed with him because I care about him. Never think that you must repay me for such a thing. I am just happy that you have returned to see him healing," she said as she wiped the tears from his eyes and pulled him to his feet. She still felt weak and was upset that it was not Ardeth who was returning, but she was glad to see Rashid well. "Tell me you bring good news with you," she whispered as they walked together toward he and Naji's hut. Naji had been moved out of the tent just the day before and placed back in his own home.
"I'm afraid that such news is not the case," Rashid spoke gravely as he held her hand protectively. "I hope that your husband's travels are more successful than my own. All I found was death and destruction where there was once beautiful life, but I won't worry you with the horrible specifics," he said as they entered his hut quietly.
"Are all of your men well, or should I be assisting Hajar in the healer's quarters?" Josephine asked as they approached Naji's room.
"No one sustained significant injuries, thank Allah," Rashid said as he entered his brother's room without warning. Josephine saw Naji laying on his back covered in a thin sheet. She knew that it was highly inappropriate for her to be alone in the house of not one but two unmarried men, but since Naji had been in her charge the villagers had looked the other way. Now that Rashid was back, she doubted they would continue to turn a blind eye to it. "He still has a fever, but he said that you assured him it was normal," Rashid's words brought her out of her thoughts.
"Yes, it's his body's natural defense against infection. So long as it stays low, he will be fine. It has been coming and going, so I don't think it is anything to worry about," she said as she sat on Naji's bed and pulled the covers back to check his injuries. She hadn't had the chance to do so during the day because of the confusion while moving him, but since she was there now she decided that she might as well take a look. He was healing rapidly considering the extent of the damage, but Naji was in his prime. Ardeth didn't heal that fast because he had been injured so many times that his body took much more time to heal now.
Josephine watched as Naji continued to sleep peacefully. Rashid paced the room silently watching them with relief clearly written across his features. Josephine prayed that she would soon feel such relief with her husband's return.
Josephine's prayers were answered the next morning. As the sun began its ascent into the open sky, Ardeth and his men rode into the camp followed closely by the O'Connells and Josephine's sister. Josephine had been gathering water at the well when she saw the cloud of dust that announced their arrival. Sprinting toward the village entrance, Josephine didn't even wait for Ardeth to dismount before she threw herself into his arms.
"I was so worried," she sobbed quietly forgetting all of her nightmares just at the sight of her beloved. It wasn't until Ardeth slid out of the saddle and held her at arm's distance that she noticed her sister's presence.
"Josie!" her sister cried as she slid off her own mount and rushed toward her elder sister. Josephine caught her in a fierce embrace, but she refused to move away from Ardeth's side.
"Rose, what are you doing here?" Josephine exclaimed as she looked at her husband with admiration, obviously believing this was a gift to her.
"We will speak when we get the chance to be alone," Rose said as she glanced around at the group who was staring at them.
When she said that, everyone seemed to awaken once again with a sense of urgency. "O'Connell, come. We must make plans," Ardeth said as he began to march toward the elders' hut.
"But Ardeth you just returned from nearly a week if riding. You must be hungry and exhausted. You should come home and let me care for you," Josephine said as she grasped Ardeth's wrist.
Ardeth paused and turned to look into his wife's large brown eyes. She was begging him, but he did not have the time to tend to her worries. Every moment that slipped by was necessary to finding a way to stop this plague. "Josephine, I have things to attend to that are more important than my comfort. More important than even your piece of mind. Please understand. You have seen what we have gone up against in the past. You know that I would spend my every waking moment with you and you alone if I could," he whispered in her ear as he pulled her tightly to his chest. "Take Jonathan and Abdullah to Hajar's hut, he is gravely ill," he instructed before marching off once again.
Josephine held back her tears as she told Jonathan to follow her as he led the horse that carried Abdullah's unconscious form. As she walked, her nightmares began to swirl in her mind again. The wind whispered of her husband's infidelity, and Josephine knew she had to do something if she was going to keep Ardeth as her own.
The sun was setting by the time Ardeth finally made it to his own hut. They were to head out in the morning, and he still had many things to arrange before then. However, he needed to scrub the layers of desert from his skin before he would be able to concentrate once again. As he entered his home, he was immediately greeted by the scent of calming incense. He didn't say anything as he walked down the dim hall to he and Josephine's bed chamber.
As he stepped through the veils that served as a door, he was welcomed by a sight that would be seared into his mind till his dying day. Josephine sat with her back to him barely covered by only a long, shear crimson sheet. It resembled the veils that covered their doorway, but it was slightly larger in size. It was draped over her in such a way that he could follow the curve of her milky skinned back all the way down to the small of it. However, as she turned to face him, the shroud was gathered in the front to hide the supple flesh of her breasts. The shroud opened again just below the apex of her thighs to reveal most of her elegant legs.
Ardeth stood frozen just within the room as he gazed upon the woman who had willingly bound her life to his. He couldn't help but send a prayer of thanks to Allah for blessing him with such a wife; however, he wished to curse him as well because Ardeth could not enjoy such a gift while the fate of his people hung in the balance. He was finally brought back to reality when he heard Josephine speak in a soft tone.
"Welcome home husband," she whispered as she slowly stood, the veil sliding down slightly to reveal the tops of her breasts. Ardeth fought to keep his composure as he watched her approach him. Her hips swayed in a way he never would have expected his mousy wife to be able to move, and with each step the material that covered her slid back to reveal her beautiful legs.
"Allah be merciful," he whispered as he took a step forward. "Josephine, what is the meaning of this?" he inquired in a tone that was much stronger than he thought himself capable of at the moment.
"I'm welcoming my husband home like any dutiful wife," she said as she finally reached him only to drop the shroud and stand before him completely nude. She reached up and ran her fingers through his tangled hair. Her other hand cupped his firm jaw and stroked his cheek. "I have awaited your return since you left me on our wedding night. I thought we could pick up where we left off," she whispered before trailing kisses up his jaw to nibble at his earlobe.
Ardeth closed his eyes tightly trying to find the strength to reject the one person who could distract him from his duty. After several moments, he found his voice. "Josephine, my love, I want nothing more than to carry you to bed and continue that magical night, but there is still work to be done. I must ride out again in the morning, and I must send out scouts and messengers to the other tribes. There is no place I would rather be, but my duty to my people must out weight my duty to my own selfish needs," he spoke gently as he ran his fingers lightly up and down her arms.
"What of the needs of your wife?"she said coaxingly as she began to untie the sash at his waist.
"You knew when you married me that my duty as chieftain would always have to come first..."
"Don't I satisfy you?" she asked as she worried her bottom lip looking straight into his dark eyes.
"There are others aren't there."
"You go to them so you can ignore me or use me for breeding when you need an heir. I bet they satisfy you," she now spat. Josephine's mood suddenly changing from alluring to aggressive in a dangerous way.
"Josephine, what are you talking about?" Ardeth asked as he began to worry at her sudden change in mood.
"Don't pretend you don't know of what I speak. How many are there? You probably have an entire harem that you visit every time you have to save the world. Do I disgust you so much that you need others to fulfill your needs?" she nearly screamed as she raised her hand to slap him, but he caught it just before she made contact.
"Never raise you hand to me," he growled as he held her wrist tightly. "What is wrong with you Josephine? I came back to you alive as you'd asked of me, I even brought your sister to you..."
"Is it her that you have been unfaithful with? She was always deemed the prettier of the two of us, but that is low even for a heathen like you!" she shrieked.
Ardeth grabbed both her upper arms and shook her harshly as he looked at her straight in the eye. Fire burned in his own eyes as he looked at her. "You accuse me of being unfaithful? And with, of all people, your own sister? Josephine if you thought so low of me, why did you even marry me? Have I not proven myself time and again?" he asked harshly as he continued to shake her. He paused for a moment and looked down at the pool of crimson fabric on the floor. "I will not stay to be disrespected in my own home," he finished in a whisper as he released her and turned to leave.
Just as he made it to the doorway, he heard a soft sob and a weak voice. "Please don't leave me. I don't know what came over me," Josephine whispered between hiccuping sobs. Ardeth glanced over his shoulder only to find her standing in the middle of the room trembling. Her whole body quivered as bright rivers of tears streamed down her face, and her arms came up to cover her nakedness.
Ardeth sighed as he quickly released the sash holding his outer robed. He took the outer garment and swathed her shaking form in it before lifting her into his arms and carrying her to their bed. He lay down beside her and held her to his chest as she clung to him like a small child. "I worry for you so much that it drives me mad. I don't know what I would do without you. You're all I could ever want," she whispered between sobs into his chest.
"I'm sorry that I caused you such worry," he apologized as he stroked her hair and kissed the crown of her head.
"Will you just hold me for a while?" she asked as she continued to clutch him.
"I'll stay until you find sleep, my love, and I will wake you before I leave," he promised as he gently began to rock them back and forth in a comforting motion. Soon, Josephine's breathing evened out, and she found sleep. However, Ardeth continued to hold her long into the night, unwilling to let her go knowing that just as their wedding night, this could be their last night together.
Morning came too soon, and Ardeth returned to say goodbye to Josephine before mounting up. When he entered the room, he found her twisted in his robe. He gazed at her for several minutes before waking her gently. "Josephine, I must be leaving," he said softly as he rubbed her back. She slowly woke and gazed at him sleepily. He helped her dress, and they left the hut together. Ardeth, who never showed his affection publicly, was actually holding Josephine's hand tightly in his grasp.
As he swung up into the saddle, tears sprung to Josephine's eyes. "Please don't leave me," she begged as she clutched his booted foot. "Please stay with me!"
"I must go. You know that," he said calmly as he bent down to hold her hand again for a brief moment.
"Evy is going with you. Why can't I go as well?" she asked as tears flowed rapidly down her cheeks.
"You are the wife of a chieftain now, Josephine. Your life is sacred. I cannot endanger you or our chances of having a child," Ardeth whispered as he looked her straight in the eye.
"It takes two people to create and raise a child," she said sourly, referring to his lack of both interest and presence.
"I promise I will return to you, and when I do you will be wishing to get rid of me because I will exhaust you beyond measure," he said as he quickly pressed his lips to hers and kicked his horse into a trot. Josephine chased after them until they reached the edge of the village where she stood sobbing as she watched them ride off into some unknown danger. She didn't move from her spot until she felt a soft hand on her shoulder. She turned to see her sister standing beside her along with Alex, and she fell into Rose's arms and sobbed. She didn't understand why she was suddenly so dependent on others. All she knew was that she was wearier than she had ever been, even more than in the time she had believed Ardeth to be dead.
I know Josephine seems to be becoming a bit weak and whiny, but don't worry her feisty side will be back shortly. Once she finds out what's happened to her, she won't go out without a fight. Thank you to those of you have been reviewing. You guys are wonderful, and you continue to inspire me to keep going with this.