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Surrender to a Stranger

"Do you really wish to sleep in the chair that much?" he demanded in a tightly controlled voice.

"It is not that I wish to sleep in the chair, it is that I do not wish to sleep with you!" she hissed, her eyes smarting from the pain in her scalp.

He was silent for a moment, as if he was somehow confused or surprised by that statement. Suddenly his grip on her hair relaxed and he moved away from her. "Mademoiselle," he began in an incredulous tone, "when exactly was the last time you bathed?"

"How dare you!" spat Jacqueline as she freed herself and sat bolt upright on the bed.

"I mean no insult," he swiftly qualified. "It's just that if you are worried about your precious virtue, I would like to set your mind at ease. My preference is for women who have bathed, at least sometime within the not too distant past. I realize your friend who visited you before me was not quite so discriminating, and perhaps that is what has given you cause for concern." He turned away from her and adjusted his half of the blanket over his shoulder. "You may share this bed with me and rest completely assured that even if you were stark naked and willing, I would not have the slightest desire of laying a hand on you."

A mixture of humiliation and fury boiled up inside Jacqueline. It was true, she realized, she was sorely in need of a bath. But the rooms at La Conciergerie did not include hot water and a maid service, she thought sarcastically. How dare this vulgar, low-minded lout comment on the miserable state of her hygiene, or tell her boldly that he did not desire her. He was discourteous beyond belief. Still, she had to admit, it did make her feel a little safer. Perhaps in her present condition she truly was offensive enough to repel a man. Well, if so, that suited her perfectly.

"Move over," she ordered sharply as she gave the pillow on what was to be her side a whack.

He sighed impatiently and moved a bit to accommodate her. Jacqueline lay down and primly drew the blanket up to her chin. The space he offered her had already been warmed by the heat of his body. In fact, after a few minutes she found that she could feel the heat of him radiating across the few scant inches that separated them. It filtered through the coarse wool of her shirt and trousers and warmed her chilled flesh. It had been a long time since she had felt warm in bed.

At home, Henriette used to heat the icy sheets of her enormous bed during the winter with a long-handled brass pan filled with hot coals. That was very nice, but inevitably during the night the effect would wear off and she would find herself huddled beneath a mountain of blankets trying not to move out of the last remaining warm spot. During her long nights at the Conciergerie, she had tried unsuccessfully to control the terrible chills that assaulted her every time she crawled into her rickety little trestle bed, fully clothed and with only one thin blanket to offer her any comfort. This unfamiliar sensation of heat was absolutely delicious. It made her very sleepy. She allowed herself a muffled sigh of pleasure and unconsciously huddled closer to its source.

"Good night, Mademoiselle."

The unexpected voice jolted her back to wakefulness. With a little gasp she rolled over, moving as far away from him as the limits of the bed would allow.

© Karyn Monk.
All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction is permitted without express consent of the author.

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