Copyright © 2012 Candi Wall
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
Hadn’t she had this dream before in her loneliest hours? Minus the danger of death and the tribal members looking on? A mysterious, handsome jungle man sweeping her off her feet. Carrying her away to his hut to make love to her in wild, hot passion. Her very own Tarzan.
If she guessed correctly, he might have the same thoughts. It seemed whatever emotions he felt at the moment, about her, excited him, and her heart drummed up another notch. It crashed against her ribs a moment later as she realized her death might be what excited him. Turning her head away, she focused her eyes on the ground, trying desperately to calm the erratic beat of her heart.
She jolted when his hand closed around her hair, tugging the elastic band free. He tossed it away before pulling his fingers through the ends to untangle the thick braid. Lifting the strands, he inhaled deep and brushed the tips over his mouth and cheek.
Before she realized what she was doing, he sliced off a couple inches with a knife and handed it to the man who had held her. He in turn, walked to the fire. Holding it up, he sang out to the others.
A cacophony of sound erupted around them. The whoops and guttural yells of the tribespeople awakened the jungle. Birds squawked and fluttered from their roosts. Angry yips and snarls issued from the dark, and the baleful cry of an unknown creature stretched out on the wind. The man holding her hair tied it to a decorated wooden staff. He waved the staff over the fire and the strands went up in flames. Another round of celebratory noise filled the air.
Tarzan-man hadn’t bothered to witness the burning. His lips parted in a smug smile, and at his nod, two men came forward. They grabbed her arms, digging into her skin as they held her, easily overcoming her struggles. She lashed out, kicking and screaming until the leader grabbed her neck. His hand moved down over her breasts, tucking into her shirt. One sharp tug parted the fabric to expose her chest and stomach.
Panic overwhelmed her in a dizzy swirl. She couldn’t recall a single time Tarzan had raped Jane, and all of her depraved humor fled. Primal instinct took over. She struggled, straining until the muscles of her arms burned with exertion. The men were too strong. She cursed and kicked wildly, landing several blows before the leader stepped closer. His eyes held hers and the slight shake of his head gave clear warning.
Each breath raked through her lungs, and she forced herself to remain still. Her mind wrapped around the image of fighting in vain as she was subjected to repeated rapes. It flashed to the natives burning her alive. Then to other horrendous deaths. Each vision was followed by another. She clenched her teeth and fists, forcing the images from her subconscious.
With an almost imperceptible nod from the leader, the men relaxed their hold on her arms and stepped away. An elderly woman approached, carrying two bowls. Patches of long, gray hair swept the severely wrinkled planes of her face. She kept her head lowered and offered the first bowl to the leader with gnarled fingers.
He brought the bowl to his mouth and drank. Then, he held it up to Myla’s mouth. Cool water dribbled over her lips and she opened, drinking deep. The water disappeared too quickly and she licked her lips, only realizing how thirsty she’d been.
He handed the bowl back and dipped his fingers into the second one. Chanting in a soothing rhythm, he brought his hand to her forehead. Dark crimson stained his fingers, and with a gentleness she hadn’t expected, he pressed two fingertips to her skin. Slow movements drew down over her right eye and lower to her cheek.
Her vision blurred and warmth spread through her belly. She closed her eyes as a languid sensation flooded her entire body. When she opened them again, she felt disjointed, disconnected and sensitized. The slight breeze caressed her skin with incredible strength. Each muffled sound increased and ebbed. Firelight played tricks with the surroundings, creating odd colors and ribbons of rays that danced before her eyes.
She met Tarzan-man’s gaze, entranced by his slow, confident smile. Had his lips been so enticing a moment ago? Full and damp, slightly parted? Dazed and unable to understand the sudden sense of calm, she shook her head to clear the fog. He returned to the bowl and this time, he traced his fingers over her breast, at the edge of her bra where her heart beat with violent punches. He had to feel it.
Then he placed his thumb over her navel and rotated his fingers across her lower belly, brushing the top of her pants to draw a half circle on her skin. He stepped closer, his voice a low, indistinct chant.
She tore her gaze from his and tried to ignore the heavy draw of his body. The need to back away warred with an insane want to press closer. She couldn’t shake the powerful allure that drew her to him. The way his shoulders glistened in the firelight, smooth and taut. The urge to reach out and touch him burgeoned in her mind.
Shaking the thought away, she returned her gaze to his mesmerizing stare.
His eyes never left hers as the sound of the tribe reached a crescendo. Whatever spell his gaze had wrought eased. He raised his hand, and to her utter horror, the men of the tribe started to come forward.
Lost in her stupid imaginings, she’d almost forgotten the danger around her. Now, it looked as if she might pay the price. The strange behavior of the men coupled with the torching of her hair did not bode well. This was it. She shook her head again, noticing the slight daze reflected in his pupils. The water! He’d laced it with something. He’d drugged her!
Fury crashed through the drug’s effects—somewhat—and she jerked back. His gaze followed her movements when she reached into her pocket and pulled her knife free. Wrapping both hands around the handle, she pressed the tip against his chest directly over his heart. “No!”
Silence surrounded them. The other men stopped where they stood. Tarzan-man barely glanced at the knife pressed to his skin. No telling signs of fear, no attempts to move. Then by slow degrees, he lifted his head until their eyes locked.
Anger. Absolute fury laced his icy glare. Her entire body trembled, and she knew her legs would give out at any moment. She pressed the knife closer until it made an indention in his skin. “Please, don’t hurt me. I’m here to help.”
With stunning speed, he grabbed her wrist. He twisted until her fingers burned, keeping the pressure firm as he tipped the knife back. The blade dropped from her numb hand to land harmlessly on the jungle floor.
He didn’t release her wrist. Instead, he dragged her close. His other hand wrapped around the end of her hair, tugging her head back. She had no choice. She had to look at him.
“That was unintelligent, woman.”
“I had to try someth—” Her breath caught in stunned silence.
His English was…nearly perfect.