Read Besieged Online

Authors: Jaid Black

Besieged

Besieged

Jaid Black

 

Besieged is the prequel to the Death Row
series.

 

While studying the indigenous people of
Alaska for her anthropology dissertation, Peggy Brannigan is hunted down and
kidnapped in the arctic by a mysterious Nordic male determined to keep her as a
breeding mate.

 

Publisher’s Note: Originally appeared in
the anthology
The Hunted
.

 

An Ellora’s Cave Romantica
Publication

 

www.ellorascave.com

 

 

Besieged

 

ISBN 97814199

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Besieged Copyright© 2002 Jaid Black

 

Cover art by Syneca

 

Electronic book Publication 2002

 

The terms Romantica® and Quickies® are
registered trademarks of Ellora’s Cave Publishing.

 

With the exception of quotes used in reviews,
this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means
existing without written permission from the publisher, Ellora’s Cave
Publishing, Inc.® 1056 Home Avenue, Akron OH 44310-3502.

 

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This book is a work of fiction and any
resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely
coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and
used fictitiously.

Besieged
Jaid Black

To Arne Hansen:

 

for your Norwegian translations &

for proving that men like erotic romance too…

 

this one’s for you ;-)

 

Chapter One

Nearest Village: Barrow, Alaska

335 miles north of the Arctic Circle near the Chukchi
Seacoast

December 1, present day

 

Her teeth chattering, Peggy Brannigan
huddled beneath the warmth of the polar bear skin furs she’d been provided with
by her Inupiat Eskimo guide, Benjamin. Wearing a thick woolen coat, three pairs
of thermal underwear, two hats, two sets of gloves, and bundled under four
polar bear furs, she was still chilled to the bone as the dogsled made its way
across the harsh tundra landscape.

“Faster!” Ben instructed the dogs in his
native tongue. “Move!”

Peggy’s forehead wrinkled as she regarded
him. She’d been living and working in Barrow for a little over six weeks now in
order to study the ways of the indigenous Eskimos for her anthropological
dissertation paper on Inupiaq culture at San Francisco State University. For
the majority of the time she’d been in the arctic northern region of Alaska,
Peggy’s host had been Benjamin’s family. She’d gotten to know the teenager
pretty well in that time and had found him to be a calm, stoic gentleman not
given to outward displays of emotion. That he seemed almost panicked for the
dogs to move the sled faster was a trifle alarming to her.

“What’s wrong, B-Ben?” she asked, her teeth
chattering away from the bitter wind hitting her directly in the face. She kept
her tone neutral so as not to appear alarmed. “Have you spotted some wolves on
the hunt or something?”

Shit!
she
thought as she bit down roughly onto her bottom lip. It would be ironic indeed
if their dogs were picked off by hungry wolves a stone’s throw from the
village. Unfortunately, the only way in and out of Barrow was by the occasional
chartered airplane or by dogsled, which had given them no choice when seeing to
their task but to brave the harsh elements. And the hungry predators.

Making matters that much worse was the fact
that it was briskly snowing on the tundra, which caused visibility to be poor.
And since the sun doesn’t rise near Barrow from November to January, the fact
that it was two o’clock in the afternoon did them no good at all. It might as
well have been midnight for all of the aid daylight hours gave them at this
time of the year.

Peggy took a thorough look around the snowy
landscape, trying to ascertain if there were any signs of pack-hunting activity.
Her eyes narrowed in question when she failed to spot even a single wolf. The
tundra looked so quiet just now that she didn’t see any wildlife at all, not
even pregnant polar bears nestling into the hibernation dens that the expectant
females carved out of snow banks to rest in. She wrapped the furs tightly
around her before putting her question to the teenager again. “What is it, Ben?
What’s going on?”

Ben’s almond brown eyes were narrowed into
slits, his expression grim. Peggy winced when she saw the riding crop he was
wielding lash down onto the buttocks of the lead dog guiding the sled. The dog
let out a pained yelp. “We have to get out of here, Peggy,” he said as calmly
as he could in English, though she could hear the fright in his voice. “You’re
being hunted,” he said a bit shakily.

Peggy’s eyes rounded. She swallowed
nervously as she again glanced around the snowy tundra.

Ben hadn’t said
they
were being
hunted, she thought anxiously. He had said
she
was being hunted. There
was a big semantic difference between the two and one she wasn’t certain what
to make of. “What are you saying, Ben?” she muttered, her heartbeat
accelerating. The serious teenager never said anything he didn’t mean. This was
getting weird. And frightening.

“Igliqtuq!” Ben gritted out, the riding
crop coming down on the second lead dog. “Move!”

Peggy’s heart began thumping wildly in her
chest. Her hands knotted into nervous fists from under the polar bear furs.
She’d never seen Ben behave this way before. Never. “Ben, please,” she said
quietly, an acute sense of panic beginning to settle in. “Tell me what’s going
on.”

The rigid lines of his profile said he
wasn’t inclined to answer her. Not out of meanness or disrespect—not Ben. It
was something more, she realized. Perhaps the teenager was trying to protect
her from this unknown enemy in whatever way he felt he could. Knowing Ben he
probably regretted the fact that he’d alarmed her to whatever presence was near
to their position and wished he’d kept his fear to himself so as not to worry
her.

It was too late for that. She had gone
beyond worry and was nearing the point of panic.

“Please,” she breathed out, her aqua gaze
wide. “Please talk to me, Ben.”

The teenager took a deep breath as he kept
at the dogs, enforcing his instruction to move faster with the occasional harsh
flick of the riding crop. She didn’t think he was going to speak to her,
regardless of her pleas, so she was almost surprised when he did.

“Uyabak Nuurvifmiu,” Ben said quietly in
his native tongue. “Stone dwellers.” He swallowed a bit roughly, his dark eyes
acutely scanning the surrounding tundra as the dogsled made its way through the
bitter wind and harsh snowfall. “I spotted one a few minutes ago.”

Peggy stilled.
Stone dwellers. What the
hell does that mean?

The situation just kept getting weirder and
weirder. Not to mention more alarming.

“What are you saying?” Peggy murmured. She
swiped a spray of snowflakes from her eyes with the back of her wrist. “Ben, I
don’t understand. What’s a stone dweller?”

The endless barren tundra broke, giving way
to the beginnings of Barrow village. The occasional ice-coated hut dotted the
landscape, ice fisherman scattered about every so often. Benjamin visibly
relaxed, a telling sigh of relief escaping his lips. Peggy’s gaze never left
the teenager’s profile.

“Do not worry yourself over it,” Benjamin
muttered. “There is nothing to concern yourself with now.”

Because the threat had passed. For now.

Peggy’s eyes narrowed in speculation but
she said nothing. If Benjamin wouldn’t tell her what was going on then
hopefully his sister would.

On a sigh her eyes flicked away from the
teenager and toward the village they were fast approaching. An elderly
indigenous woman wrapped in wolf furs inclined her head toward Peggy as their
dogsled passed by and Peggy absently smiled back.

She hoped she could get Benjamin’s sister
to talk to her about the stone dwellers—whoever or whatever they were. Perhaps
they were only some bizarre species of predator that the Eskimo people revered
and therefore would not gossip about, she considered. Or perhaps not.

Whatever the case, she had to know what she
was up against before she and Benjamin found it necessary to travel to one of
the outlaying villages next week for more supplies.

A chill raced down Peggy’s spine, inducing
the hair at the nape of her neck to stir. She swallowed a bit roughly when it
occurred to her that something—or someone—was watching her.

And that the gaze belonged to an
intelligent being.

Chapter Two

 

That feeling of being watched faded within
an hour of arriving in the village and didn’t resurface again that day. By the
time Peggy nestled into the polar bear furs in the tiny hut and laid down to go
to sleep that night, she was certain she’d imagined the entire thing. Her
senses had probably been paranoid from the fright Benjamin had given her
earlier—a fright that the teenager never did fully explain to her.

It was probably just as well, she decided.
The stone dwellers were no doubt some sort of myth, some Eskimo legend as
ancient as the people themselves. Nevertheless, Peggy was a scientist through
and through and because of that fact, she would make certain she got to the
bottom of the story. Not only because that’s what a scientist did, but also
because she realized that no other anthropologist had ever written of a stone
dweller myth. It was possible, she thought excitedly, that she could very well
be the first in the field to have ever heard about it.

And that would look impressive indeed in a
dissertation paper.

She bit her lip. She would definitely get
to the bottom of this. Not just for the dissertation paper, but to satiate her
curiosity as well. Peggy had been born with a case of inquisitiveness ten miles
long and an ocean wide. She knew herself well enough to realize that she’d
never just give up and let this go. Besides the fact if there really was
something to be reckoned with out there, she needed to know what that something
was for security purposes. She and Ben traveled about too much, were out on the
naked tundra far too often, for her
not
to know.

On an exhausted sigh, Peggy turned over
within the bed of furs, used her elbow for a pillow, and closed her eyes. First
things first, she needed to get some sleep. Tomorrow she would approach
Benjamin’s sister Sara and hope against hope that the twelve-year-old girl was
in a chatty mood.

And that she’d heard of the stone dwellers
her brother had spoken of.

* * * * *

“Stone dwellers?” Sara glanced away,
turning back to her work outside of the familial hut. It was snowing briskly,
so she saw to her task quickly and efficiently. Raising a knife and slashing
downward, she beheaded the still-quivering fish with one fell swoop. Her shiny
waist-length black hair glimmered from reflections cast off by nearby torches.
“No,” she said weakly, “I’ve never heard of them.”

Peggy’s aqua-green gaze narrowed
speculatively. She absently tucked a copper-gold curl behind her ear as she
considered what to do next. She didn’t want to upset the sweet girl, but she
simply couldn’t get yesterday’s events out of her mind.

Last night Peggy had tossed and turned,
unable to sleep.
Hunted.
Benjamin had said she was being hunted. A
thought that had plagued her to the point of inducing the first nightmare her
unconscious brain had entertained in ages.

Somehow, through the course of the restless
night, she had realized that the enigma of the stone dwellers and wanting to
unravel who or what they were went far and beyond the desire for glory, or the
desire to bedazzle Dr. Kris Torrence—her dissertation advisor—with her discovery.
Instead it loomed on the horizon of
had-to-know-the-answer-for-self-protection-purposes.

“Sara?” Peggy murmured. “I know you don’t
want to talk about it. And I know I’m breaking every rule in anthropology by
affecting your life rather than merely observing it, but I…” Her voice trailed
off on a sigh as she glanced away, her arms coming up to rest under her heavy
breasts. “I’m frightened,” she whispered.

Sara’s body stilled, an action Peggy caught
out of her peripheral vision. Peggy’s heartbeat soared as she allowed herself
to hope for just a moment that the twelve-year-old girl might open up to her.
She hadn’t lied about her fright. She didn’t want to go through even one more
sleepless, worried night. She just wanted to verify that the stone dwellers were
a myth so she could breathe easy and put it from her mind for the time being.
She could find a way to explore the myth later.

“Father says if a girl speaks of them, they
might hear, and take her so she speaks of them no more.” Sara said the words in
a whisper as she set the knife down on the cutting board and slowly turned in
her home-stitched leather boots to face Peggy. Her almond eyes, Peggy noted,
were wide with anxiety. She lifted the hood of her parka and bundled herself in
it. “He says never to speak of them, for the wind has ears.”

Peggy’s gaze clashed with the girl’s. “Do
you believe that?” she murmured, her heartbeat picking up again. Her brain told
her she was letting herself get freaked out by what amounted to ghost stories
told at summer camp, but her body reacted to the child’s nervousness as though
she spoke nothing but fact. “Do you believe the wind has ears?”

Sara simultaneously sighed and shrugged,
looking more like a wizened elder of her people for a moment than a naïve
twelve-year-old girl. “I’m not sure. But it’s true that my auntie spoke of them
once, then disappeared not even two days later.” She shivered from under the
parka, turning back around to slice and dice quivering fish. “My mother misses
the sister of her heart deeply,” she whispered. “As do I.”

Peggy’s eyes gentled in sympathy, though
the girl couldn’t see that for her back was to her. “I’m sorry, sweetheart.
What was her name?”

“Charlene. We called her aunt Chari.”

Peggy smiled. “A very pretty name.”

“She was a very pretty lady,” Sara said
bitterly. “Which is probably why they took her.” The knife whistled down,
severing fish head from fish body in a precise, clean kill.

Peggy’s smile faded. She pulled the hood of
her parka up, then shoved her mittened hands into the pockets. “Who took her?”
She knew what Sara was going to say, but for some perverse reason she wanted to
hear the girl say it. Perhaps if she could get her to voice the words aloud
then Sara’d tell her a bit more…

Sara sighed, setting down the knife again.
She whirled around on her heel to face Peggy, then quickly glanced away. “I’m
not trying to be contrary.”

“I know,” Peggy said quietly. And suddenly
she understood that no matter how many times she asked the girl, Sara would
never open up. Not about this. “It’s okay, sweetheart.”

Sara’s almond-shaped eyes flew up to meet
Peggy’s turquoise ones. She nibbled on her lower lip as she quickly glanced
around, then cautiously inched her way closer to the anthropologist. “I’ll say
this and no more,” she whispered, gaining Peggy’s undivided, wide-eyed
attention. “Stay away from the tundra or you’ll be as easy to pick off as a
fish is to the white bear.”

Peggy nodded, but said nothing. Her heart
rate went wild again as she fought within herself to remain silent. She prayed
that the old adage would ring true and that silence would turn out to be
golden, or at least golden enough to keep the girl talking. Psychologically
speaking, nobody likes awkward silences, which Peggy was trained enough to
know. When faced with awkward silences people had a tendency to prattle, trying
to fill up the void. She just hoped Sara would choose to fill this particular
void up with the words she needed to hear.

Sara sighed, glancing away again. “They
steal women,” she murmured. “Women of breeding years.”

Thank you Psychology 101.

“But who are
they
?” Peggy breathed
out. “Where do they come from—”

“Sara!” Benjamin shouted from the other
side of the hut, inducing Peggy to mentally groan. She loved the kid to
distraction, but of all the rotten luck…

“Sara, where are you? Father’s calling
you!”

Sara let out a breath, obviously relieved
that she hadn’t been caught speaking of things she’d been warned never to
discuss. She politely nodded to the anthropologist then turned on her heel,
quickly fleeing toward the other side of the hut.

Peggy drew in a deep tug of cold, crisp air
and slowly exhaled. Unlike Sara, she was feeling anything but relief. She had
gotten some answers, true, but the answers she’d been given only begged for
more questions.

And there was something else.

As much as she hated to admit it, as much
as she was loathe to even give the idea credence, for the first time since the
incident on the tundra yesterday Peggy was beginning to doubt her initial
supposition that the stone dwellers were based on myth.

She bit her lip. What if Ben’s fears
yesterday had been based on cold, hard facts? What if, she thought anxiously,
someone really had been hunting her out there?

They steal women. Women of breeding
years.

Peggy shivered from under the parka, suddenly
not wanting to be outside of the hut alone. Just to be on the safe side, she
decided in that moment, she’d make certain she was always accompanied by at
least two others from this moment forward until her time in Alaska was done.

She sighed. The situation was getting
weirder and weirder.

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