The d'Jordan Woman
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Kasia had been running too hard and too long. Her heart pounded, loud in her ears, blocking the sound of their heavy boots on the rough paving. But she knew they were behind her. They would not give up the chase when their prey was tiring.
And when they caught her....
It was the thought of what they would do to her when they caught her that spurred her onwards into the dark night.
Somehow she had to lose them -- find a place to hide, or else weave through the tangled maze of back streets that lined the wharf area until she shrugged them off her trail.
She had slowed enough for her heart to recover a little, and her hearing returned to her. Dismayed, she heard the pair of footsteps too close behind her.
"There!" came the shout. It was a man's voice, rough with excitement.
Fright spurted through her, giving her energy she didn't know she possessed. She ran down the winding street she found herself in, aware of her moon-shadow flitting along beside her, waiting to see two larger shadows close with her own.
But when she reached the end of the street still free, she thought perhaps she might have a chance. They must be tiring, too.
She burst out of the end of the lane, and came to a skidding halt where the edge of the pavement ended in a drop the height of two men, straight into the river.
The wharf! She had got herself so turned around with her dodging she'd run straight back to the wharf. They would catch her for certain out here in this open space, where no shadows could hide her and their greater speed would count against her.
Holding her hand against her aching chest, Kasia looked around wildly for a hiding place. Further along the wharf the Year End gathering was still going -- the sound of the music came quietly but clearly down the water. If she could make it back there she would be safe, but it was too far.
"There, there!" came a shout from behind her.
Kasia forced herself into a run, heading for the distant lights and sounds of merriment, but her legs worked sluggishly, and felt as heavy as iron. It was then she knew they had beaten her, even though she forced herself to stagger on.
"Gotcha!" one snarled as his hands slammed against her back. She staggered and stumbled to the ground.
Kasia felt brief relief because she did not have to run any more, but then the big hands turned her over and pinned her down. Her hair fell across her face, blinding her.
"You ain't going to do it here, now, are ya?"
The little one, Kasia realized. The one with bad teeth that had gleamed like dark fangs in the light of the bonfire when she'd caught him staring at her.
"What's the difference? It's dark, ain't it? Besides, she's a d'Jordan." The tall one had his knees on either side of her now, and her hands were free. She could feel his hands on her chest, pawing her, searching for the neck of her blouse. She began to struggle, pushing at him, using her nails.
"Leaves and light! Hold 'er down, why dontcha?"
"Right." Shorty sounded doubtful, but he was strong enough to reduce her struggles to almost nothing.
The man's hands were in the neck of her blouse. He yanked and the blouse ripped open.
"Ahhh, look at those, matey." His hands grasped her breasts, and Kasia moaned sickly.
"Ever had a d'Jordan woman?" the tall one asked.
"You know what they say about them, don't you?"
"Yeah!" Even Kasia had no trouble reading the glee in that single word.
"Well, let's find out."
His hands were reaching under the layers of her skirt, and Kasia's fear galvanized her. She struggled and fought, trying to lift her whole body enough to push him off.
He grabbed hold of a fistful of her hair, and Kasia was stunned into motionless when his hand cuffed the side of her head, a heavy blow that sent sparks flitting through her vision, and made reality fade....
"Hey!" came Shorty's startled cry, sounding distant.
Abruptly the weight of the tall one lifted from her, and he gave a gargled snarl. She was free.
Kasia pushed her hair aside, and looked up.
The tall one lay motionless at her feet, face down. By the wharf Shorty was crouched, waving a long knife. He faced a dark opponent, a man who moved with confidence despite Shorty's knife.
"I can fight you if you want," the man called. "But I'd rather you jump in the river. It's your choice."
"I can't swim!" Shorty squealed.
"Then I'll just have to kill you."
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