The Reformer by Breanna HayseAn erotic historical novel that includes both consensual and non-consensual spankings, anal play, graphic sexual scenes, exhibitionism, age play, and elements of BDSM.
Since the day she arrived in England as a refugee from her Russian homeland, Aryanna has been caught in a system of abuse and corruption. She is eventually sent to an academy for troubled young women, where she quickly falls foul of the harsh and mean—spirited headmistress. When Aryanna hears that as a last resort she is to be sent to the home of a reformer for training, she is terrified. According to everything she has been told, they are men to be feared. Lord Ryan Remington, a second generation reformer and a modern—minded man by the standards of 1906, is deeply moved when he learns of the abuse that the sweet and kind—hearted Aryanna has suffered, and Aryanna soon discovers that reformation is not exactly what she expected.
As Lord Ryan’s nurturing strength—and occasional bare bottom spankings—bring her to a place of comfort and happiness, she begins to have much deeper feelings for her reformer. Meanwhile, Aryanna’s previous abuse by Headmistress Eliza Woods is brought to the attention of Ryan’s parents, the Lord Gerald Remington and his feisty wife Brigit. They are determined to alter the direction of the academy which is funded by their patronage, and Eliza finds herself required to submit to them for reform. Her stubborn and arrogant attitude forces Gerard to take Eliza back to the beginning so that she might be reshaped. To her horror, she is dressed in a child’s clothes, spanked, and sent to bed in a nursery! And that is just the beginning…
Publisher’s Note: The Reformer is an erotic novel that includes both consensual and non—consensual spankings, anal play, graphic sexual scenes, exhibitionism, age play, elements of BDSM, and more. If such material offends you, please don’t buy this book.
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The Reformer (Sample Chapter)
An erotic historical spanking novel
© Breanna Hayse and Stormy Night Publications, 2013
Aryanna sobbed silently as she knelt in the corner of the bleak room, hands on her head and her bottom burning in searing pain. The headmistress had been extraordinarily severe with her this time and left marks that would take weeks to heal. No matter how hard she tried, she was not able to easily adopt English as her new language, and in a moment of frustration over a chore, a word of unknown meaning had slipped from her mouth. She had not meant to make Headmistress angry again, but alas, it had happened.
Aryanna shivered, recalling the most recent event in her miserable existence. The appalled headmistress had grabbed her by the ear and pushed her harshly over the large desk in the front of the classroom. Her smock was raised, her knickers dropped, and in the sight of her twenty classmates, the heavy cane fell in repeated, wide arcs to land over the already bruised flesh on her bare backside. She had screamed and begged, but Headmistress was immune to the cries of any of the girls. Headmistress yelled out, "They must learn! This one most of all, these foreigners who dare poison the ears of this respected establishment with such profanity." Despite Headmistress' demands to cease her screams, Aryanna's wails were heard through the great halls of the old building. Many looked up, some with concern, others with knowledgeable smiles, all knowing that another student was being punished and who was administering the discipline. None would dare interfere.
Aryanna leaned her forehead against the cold stone, her tears finally coming to an end. She still could not understand how she had arrived at this terrible fate. It had been two years now since her life had been turned around. She had gone from being the beloved daughter of a professor of mathematics to a lonely, frightened orphan in a single day. She missed her mama and papa dreadfully, and she allowed herself to remember the senseless blood bath in St. Petersburg. It had started out as a peaceful demonstration and an attempt to bring the tsar to awareness of the horrid conditions his people were facing that cold Russian winter. For no reason, shots were fired into the crowds, leaving so many dead and injured. Aryanna's heart pounded as she recalled the feeling as her father's life slipped from him while she held him in her arms. Sobbing, she had searched for hours among the bodies, looking for her mother until she was physically dragged away by the tsar's men.
She was only sixteen at the time, and one among many who had been declared "unfortunates" by the government. Within a single week of losing her family, her home, and the only life she had ever known, she had also lost her country. Assistance in the form of suspicious-looking, unkempt men had arrived and taken the brightest and the most beautiful of Russia's "unfortunates" to Britain, with promises to educate them as proper British citizens and give them an opportunity to be placed in employment. The "unfortunates" had not been given a choice and many, including Aryanna, had to be forcefully sedated before they were taken.
The young girl had awoken to discover that she was in an "introductory" compound where she was expected to learn the English language, proper social etiquette, and skills, so she could be sold to the highest bidder for her services. Aryanna spoke openly against the kidnapping and forced slavery, trying desperately to gain support from her fellow "unfortunates". In dismay, she found them to be broken and fearful, accepting their dismal futures with sad complacence.
It took Aryanna over a year before she found a means to escape from the complex and venture into a strange world that held nothing but fear and oddities for her. She had tried finding work, able to understand the language enough to follow basic instructions, but her inability to communicate effectively left her, once again, alone. Desperate and starving, she had tried to steal some fruit off a stand in an open market. She was caught, jailed, and then placed before the magistrate for final sentencing. He had been a kind man, very old and gentle. He brought her into his chambers with her guard and told her that, instead of prison, he was going to allow her to participate in the new system of reform. She had simply nodded, unable to comprehend her future. One month later, she found herself in an academy for troubled young women, under an even crueler dictatorship than the introductory. At least at the introductory she had not been beaten for every transgression and had been fed well. Not a day passed when she did not mourn the loss of her home, her loving parents, and her freedom.
Aryanna sighed loudly, her face soothed by the cold wall. It had been well over a year since she had been sent here, and she still did not understand the meaning of the word "reform". Hopelessness threatened to rise within her, but she fought it away. She had seen what the world outside the institutions looked like and knew that she had no other chance but to finish her sentence and be placed somewhere for employment. She choked back a sob, realizing that her only chance of leaving the cruelty of the headmistress in this horrid place was to be farmed out to an individual reformer. And this was an option no one would chose, for these men and women were known to be specifically educated to redirect the incorrigible with particularly strict discipline. It was considered by many of the young women at the academy to be a sentence worse than death.
* * *
"Miss Woods appears to be beating another student again. Rather harshly, by the sound of it," Lord Ryan Remington commented, looking up as he heard the girl's screams echoing through the stones hallways of the building. "Does this happen often? It seems to me I hear those screams every time I visit this place, although not quite this ear-shattering," he asked as he casually placed a card upon the table.
"She is impossible, that one," his opponent, Headmaster Henry Stewart responded, countering the play. "She had escaped the introductory after being rescued from the Bloody Sunday massacre in St. Petersburg. We have tried everything, yet she stubbornly refuses to learn the language, will not perform her chores properly, and even spits out her meals. Would you believe the ingratitude?"
"Hmm… has she been evaluated for a possibly disability? Perhaps she is not intelligent enough to learn new things," Ryan asked, attempting to disguise his contempt for the other man's disposition.
"She is very good at mathematics and appears to have some understanding of physics, but no more. It is her stubbornness and refusal to adapt. We are considering sending her out to the country where a reformer can make a final attempt with her. If not, she goes to the workhouse."
"Really? So, she is that bad off? This hand is mine," Ryan announced, laying his cards down. He picked up his cup of hot tea and leaned back in the chair to watch the gray, rainless clouds from the window. Rain was late this year, and the crops were going to suffer if it did not come soon. "I feel I am ready to try my hand at reforming apart from my father. Perhaps I'll take this one on my own, and communication skills are a specialty of mine. Yes, she sounds like a delightful challenge. How old is she?"
"A tad over eighteen, although she looks much younger. She is much too thin and despises our delectable cuisine."
"I've tasted your delectable cuisine, and even I cannot stomach it. She is accustomed to a different diet. Has that not been taken into consideration?"
"Lord Ryan, we cannot cater to every foreign princess who graces our doors. She eats what the other students and the staff eat."
"I'm sure you don't indulge in the same delights by the look of that girth, Henry," Ryan said distastefully. "I seriously would be interested in giving it a go."
"I am certain Headmistress Woods would be glad to be done with her. She would not wish her to be returned to the academy unreformed, though. She still has two years left of her sentence here. Do you have time?" Henry asked, eager to please the young Lord.
"Of course I have time. However, I wish to make one condition. Should I take her on, no one else will be allowed to administer discipline in the event I decide to allow her to return to the school for further education. That means no more of our lovely headmistress' canings."
"Headmistress will not be pleased, but she will comply. I will make certain of that." Henry smiled, lighting his cigar. "That little Russian is a pretty one, too. You might enjoy her for other things than reforming."
"I may be many unsavory things, Stewart, but I am still a gentleman. I do not take advantage of young women when they are under my care," Ryan snapped, his dark brown eyes narrowing as he looked at the other man. "Nor do I allow them to be abused. Father and I are striving to produce a society of civility, not of brutality. You seem to enjoy the use of the cane more than necessary."
"Not so, Your Lordship. That is Eliza Woods' delight," Henry grinned.
"You are headmaster, and it is your responsibility to monitor her behaviors, as well as the students' progress."
"Dear sir, I assure you that I do what I am able," Henry said defensively, "I have other responsibilities as well…"
"Yes, like eating…" Ryan sneered, "It is decided. I wish to have her, and I will take her with me when I depart."
"Yes, of course, Your Lordship. I'll have the house maids pack her belongings and prepare her for the trip. I will arrange an escort…" Henry tried unsuccessfully to disguise his animosity towards the man. It did not go unnoticed.
"Remember your place, Mr. Stewart. And mine," Ryan ordered, watching the man's pale face redden. "I require no chaperone. This girl is obviously viewed in the class of a servant, and I have no concern regarding the social gossip that taints the lips of every busybody in sight, including yourself and your staff. And Stewart? Make sure there is an extra cushion for her in the carriage. There is no reason for that child to be more uncomfortable than she will be. Go on with you now. I will leave within the hour."
Forcing a tilt of his head in acquiescence, Headmaster Stewart scurried from his office to make arrangements, per orders of the Lord Ryan Remington, heir to Earl of Yarlshire.
* * *
Aryanna shivered as she was washed in cold water and dressed in a worn, gray travel dress and woolen stockings. The scratchy fabric against her swollen bottom and thighs made her want to cry out, but she kept silent, not wishing to elicit another beating. She was informed that her incorrigible actions had resulted in the necessity of being sent to serve under the hand of a reformer. She begged and pleaded to stay, tried to promise change, but her words were lost in a language she could not speak. Her friends had whispered their condolences to the quiet foreigner, trying unsuccessfully to reassure her that all would be well and that a reformer was better than being dismissed to the mills or a workhouse. Her classmates and house staff were saddened by her departure, for the girl was gentle and caring. No one spoke aloud the thoughts that ran through their heads, and all silently prayed that she would survive the brutal lessons ahead. Their unspoken words, however, told Aryanna that any hope of freedom was forever shattered.
Aryanna was caught in a daze of fear, confusion, and pain as she was roughly issued into an opulent carriage drawn by two perfectly matched horses. Her heart pounded as she realized that this reformer was not only well to do, but very meticulous in how things were presented to the world around him. He wanted perfection, and from the carefully chosen horses to the immaculate uniform of the driver, he got it. Despair built within her as she pictured her future.
"Papa? Mama? What did I do wrong?" she lifted her tiny voice to the heavens. "Please help me. I am so frightened and so alone."
Be strong, my little one, she could hear the echo from Papa's voice, "I will always blow away the ghosts of fear."
She smiled, remembering him taking a deep breath and blowing hard around her, chasing away anything that frightened her. Mama would then catch the "ghosts" and put them into a bag to burn in the fire.
"A smile is always good to see," a man said gently as he leaned into the carriage, startling her. "I'm assuming it's from a pleasant memory. Lord Ryan," he pointed to himself. He reached his hand out for hers. "Your name?"
Aryanna held her breath as she considered the tall man and his pleasant, white-toothed and dimpled smile. He was younger than she had imagined and terribly handsome. His short brown hair fell loosely in his face, and he had a gentle, casual demeanor that made her at once feel at ease and safe.
"Aryanna," she whispered, facing the floor and trying to practice the manners Headmistress had been beating into her.
"What was making you smile, Aryanna? Was it because you are leaving this wretched place and the tasteless food?"
"No. I think of Papa. He blow bad things away."
Ryan chuckled, "Ahh, my mother used to do that as well. Then she would catch them and throw them into the fireplace to burn. I'm sure you miss your family and your home. I know I would."
Aryanna looked up at him hopefully. He knew about the ghosts and how lonely she felt! A tear of sadness glistened on her cheek, and Ryan's eyebrows crinkled with concern for the tiny, pale girl before him. He gently touched her thigh as he noticed she had propped herself on her knees and was not sitting. She blushed, looking away. This man touched her? And there were no chaperones? What did he want of her? Was she to be used as a common harlot? Her mind flashed to the terrible things she had witnessed the day her family had been killed, and she squeezed her eyes shut with fear that she would face the same horror that many of the others had as the soldiers took liberties upon them.
"I know you understand most of what I say. Please tell me when you do not. I promise that I will not harm you, dove. Come here," he pointed to the floor in front of him. Shaking with terror, Aryanna obeyed the gesture, refusing to look in his direction. He slowly turned her around and gasped. Tiny specks of blood seeped through the thin material of her dress.
"This is too much. Stay here. Shhh, all will be well," he said in a reassuring tone, gently caressing her pale cheek, noticing the intensity of her light blue eyes as well as the dark circles beneath them. He barked an order for food and tonic as he left the carriage and stomped angrily back into the building.
"Stewart!" he shouted, slamming the office door open and seeing the startled man at his desk. "That shrew drew blood!"
"It sometimes happens to the ones who refuse to learn," the other man said calmly and without concern, lifting his pipe to his mouth.
Ryan slapped the pipe from his hand, sending it shattering against the wall. He reached over and pulled Henry out of the chair with a single arm, glaring into his face. "This mutilation of the body and spirit will stop, or I withdraw my assistance! And I want that woman discharged from service immediately!"
"Dear sir, caning has been applied to unmanageable bottoms for centuries. It is neither mutilation nor abuse," Henry said in a tone that bordered sarcasm. "In any event, the Board will not agree to it, Your Lordship. Miss Woods is the best…"
"At torturing young, frightened girls? I said, this woman is to be terminated at once. Do not question my orders. You will lose support of my patronage and your job if you do not obey me."
"I will do what I can," Henry stuttered, seeing the deadly seriousness in the other man's face and recalling his legendary temper. "I know the Board depends on your family's contributions to keep this institution operating, so I will do what I am able to have them consider your request."
"There is no issue of consideration. As headmaster, you have been given authority to hire and terminate. I expect this to be done immediately. And, when I return, I demand a meeting with the Board. There will be changes. I will not stand in silence while these students are beaten in the name of education. I am promising you, Stewart, that if that woman is still present, she will experience what a real caning feels like! And I swear on God's green earth that you will be next!" Ryan shouted, watching Henry cringe. "Warn her of this. And advise her that every girl I discover being bloodied will be felt on her hide."
"Of course, Lord Ryan. I will relay your message to her," Henry said meekly but with a slight sneer in his tone. Ryan shoved him back into his chair, and muttering profanities under his breath, slammed the door behind him as he left. He returned to the carriage, his heart heavy for what the frightened Russian girl had experienced. It was no wonder she could not grasp the changes around her! Ryan was also determined to have a long, serious discussion with his father regarding the school's practices. Lord Gerard W. Remington, Earl of Yarlshire, was a very stern and solid believer in reform, but he would never support abuse.
By the time he returned to the carriage, Aryanna was shaking violently and deathly pale. Ryan shouted orders for a blanket and then turned to the terror-stricken young woman. He spoke in soft, gentle tones, with his fingertips barely touching the top of her hand. "Aryanna? I know that decorum does not sanction my calling you by your given name, but I say to bloody hell with that. You are a good girl…"
"No. Ary… incorrigible. Not good. Sent to reformer to die," she sobbed, looking away.
He hesitated, noting how she referred to herself. He then stroked her white-blond hair as though she were a frightened animal. "Ary is good. And you will not die with this reformer. Shhh… lay down, child. Damn that woman," Ryan growled, forcing the girl to place her feet up on the bench and stretch out on her side. He was livid. Horses and dogs should not be beaten, nor should children or women. Especially to the point of blooding! He shouted for the driver to be on his way and then encouraged Aryanna to drink the bitter liquid he held. She wrinkled her face and pushed it away.
"Aryanna, drink. It is good," he said firmly, using her full name to indicate his seriousness. He pushed it towards her lips.
"No. Bad. Ary not want die yet," she refused, tightened her mouth against the edge of the cup.
He tapped her nose. "Drink. Now," he ordered with a stern frown. Lip quivering and certain he was poisoning her, Aryanna shook her head. Rolling his eyes, Ryan sighed. "Look. It is good. I will drink." He took a sip and could not prevent the wry face that followed. "It tastes horrid, but drink anyway."
Aryanna hid a tiny smile at his reaction. He had proven to her that it was not poison but agreed it was foul tasting. Determined to survive her upcoming ordeal, Aryanna felt it best to try to comply with her reformer's requests. She reached for the cup and, taking a deep breath, swallowed the bitter contents without attempting to hide the screwing of her face. Ryan laughed, praising her, and she offered him a shy smile. He then pressed her back down on the bench, tucked the blanket gently around her slender frame, and prayed that she would sleep through the majority of their ride.
* * *
"Miss Woods? A word, please," Henry said as the stiff-backed headmistress walked past his office. Eliza Woods paused, annoyed that he would distract her from her duties. She did not hide her irritation,
"What is it, Henry? I have work to do." The indifferent and casual way she addressed him irked him greatly. It was a deliberate show of disrespect and too familiar to be proper. Yes, this one would benefit from a sound caning too. Alas, he was not in a position to do so. But he would love to hear her screams…
"Your work will wait a few moments. Come in and have a seat." Henry pulled out a chair for her, waiting as she sat, and then took his own seat across the desk from her, "We have a problem. Lord Ryan is angry."
"His Lordship is always angry about something irrelevant. Last week, he complained that the children were not getting enough fresh air and should be allowed to run. Run! Would you even consider such a proposal? They need discipline, not playtime!"
"While I respect your education in instruction and the training of young minds, we must remember that Lord Ryan and his father, the Earl, are the primary financial supporters of this academy. Without them, both you and I are without employment."
"He is a young, coddled son of a wealthy banker. And he's a Modernist!" She shuddered as the dreaded term came from her lips. "He cares not for social standing, reputation, or his class. He is no better than the American whom he studied under. Further, he knows nothing about—"
"Lord Ryan has been called upon by the Crown, no less, to give opinion in this new venture our beloved King Edward has shown interest in. The Remington's methods have been published both here and in the British colonies worldwide. Not only is Lord Ryan's expertise greatly admired and respected by the Crown, but his father is a long time and personal acquaintance of the present monarchy. Lord Remington's reputation in this field goes unchallenged, and he tutored his son. These men are vital to our institution and are sanctioned by Parliament. Would you have the audacity to defy your King and country, Miss Woods?"
Eliza snorted. Her opinion of the present ruler and his flamboyant indiscretions was low and, in her view, he was not worthy of her regard or respect. "So why are you telling me this? It makes no difference to me," came the haughty response.
"Lord Ryan has demanded that I discharge you for blooding the Russian girl."
"He has no right! That brat was deliberately rude and used ill language in my classroom!"
"Unfortunately, he has reminded me that he has every right. Should he take his argument before the Board of Regents, he will assuredly have both of us replaced."
Eliza's stern, rigid demeanor dissolved before his eyes as she began to plead with him to stop the terrible injustice being inflicted upon her. He shook his head, writing something on a piece of paper. "I am sorry, but it has been decided. You will pack your things and leave these premises immediately. Here is a note of payment. Go down to the treasury and ask them to settle your wages."
"But I have nowhere to go. This place is my home, and this," she held up the note and shook it in his face, "won't even rent a room for me. At best, I could teach in a workhouse. But without recommendations, I will end up as a millworker like… like a commoner! I am educated and from a well-to-do family!"
"You might consider returning to your family or perhaps staying with a relative. I truly am sorry, Miss Woods, but…"
"Returning to my father's home is not an option for me, and I would die before venturing to any of my brother's homes," Eliza snapped. "You are the headmaster! Surely there is something you can do! Perhaps talk with Lord Remington?"
"Lord Ryan made a sworn promise that if you were still here when he returned, he would personally apply the cane to you. Whether you believe that the degree of severity was warranted or not, blooding the girl caused him great distress. You are aware of how that young man holds true to his promises. He is not one to be easily swayed. His father even less so," Henry snarled, not mentioning the threat to his own hide.
"I will take that chance, then. Those men do not frighten me in the least. When is he returning? I intend to stay in my position until I have opportunity to education them in the error of their ways."
"I don't know. I assume after he gets the young lady settled and starts her on lessons. Are you certain you wish to risk his anger? You should be concerned and perhaps consider presenting a tad more respect. I remind you of his reputation…" Henry urged, more concerned for his future health and well-being. "The damage he can do to us… you…"
"He rendered a man unconscious for beating a work horse to death, and because of his favor with the royal house, was not held accountable," she spat. "I restate that I hold no fear for him. He must accept the fact that this child was not a horse! She is an incorrigible—"
"Young woman who does not speak our language. You have very little to rely on to protect you here, Eliza," he said, deliberately using her given name to unnerve her. "Even I have no authority over Lord Ryan or his father. The old man has been a reformer for this academy since its establishment, and his wife served as the headmistress."
"Yes, another foreigner. I am surprised they have not yet brought in a bloody American," Eliza growled. She glared into his face. "Would you even help if you could?" she asked.
Henry looked into her large brown eyes. She wore her long brown hair in a tight, severe bun with her plain black dress buttoned high to the neck and adorned with a simple brooch. It fell cleanly to the ground and had straight, snug sleeves that hid her wrists. Despite the fact she presented herself like an old spinster, the thirty-six-year-old women had soft, lovely cheekbones, a graceful figure, and a rosy mouth that rarely showed forth a smile. A mouth he sorely desired to kiss and a body he would love to fuck. He felt his member stir, imagining her screaming beneath him. But her attitude was deplorable and not worth the time to bring her to heel.
"Yes, Miss Woods. If I could, I would help you. I am truly sorry." His eyes did not hold the sincerity to match his words.
"You are despicable," Eliza hissed. Clenching her jaw, the woman stood proudly and left his office. He shook his head, lit his cigar once again, and for a brief moment, felt sympathy for the next pupil who crossed her path.
* * *
Aryanna suppressed a cry as the carriage launched off the ground after striking a rough portion of road. She clutched the side of the seat, disorientated as her eyes focused on the austere man seated across from her. She attempted to rise and froze as he pointed to her.
"Stay there, Aryanna," he ordered firmly. Seeing her eyes begin to tear, he reached over and touched her arm, "Good, Ary. Shhh. I'll take care of you, dove. I won't let anyone harm you again. I promise. Look," he blew loudly around her, chasing away the "ghosts" and then wiping his hands with a look of satisfaction. Aryanna wrinkled her brow, confused by his gentleness. Reformers were said to be monsters, men who made the brutality of the headmistress appear like play. Perhaps this really was not her reformer? Was he taking her to the one who would change and mold her? Aryanna drew back from his touch, unwilling to accept the possibility that this sweet, gentle man would throw her to the wolf. But then, she did not have reason to trust any of these people who treated her as though she were less than a person.
Ryan studied the girl's expressions, reading the conflict on her face. He had become quite the expert on body language and had given many speeches to interested colleagues on the subject. Since he was a young man, Ryan had been exposed to the amazing transformations of difficult and misguided young women under his father's firm, fair hand and his mother's gentle love. His father, a strong follower of Freudian theory and psychology, had initiated Ryan's interest by teaching his son to be aware of the moods and expressions of the young ladies within the household. The Lady Brigit, Ryan's mother, taught him the benefits of gentleness and patience in conjunction with his father's firm, no-nonsense approach to altering behavior. He deigned himself to follow in their footsteps.
"Since we obviously have an issue with communication, I believe that must be the first thing we approach. Ary? What is my name?"
Aryanna blinked at him. He repeated himself and smiled when she answered him, "Lord Ryan. Reformer?"
"Yes! Good girl. Lord Ryan, and yes, I am a reformer." Aryanna's face paled again, and Ryan sighed, assuming that she had heard rumors about the process. Unfortunately, some were true. He patted her hand. "Don't be afraid. Reformers are good."
Aryanna shook her head, looking away. Headmistress always referred to herself as Good Mistress Woods. The woman was not good—she was evil. Ryan observed her closely. She was definitely in conflict. Right now, he needed to instill trust. As he would approach a frightened animal, he picked up a sweet biscuit from the basket, dribbled honey over it, and slowly offered it to her with a soft smile.
Deprived of dinner the night before because she did not hang her smock properly, and missing breakfast that morning because her lesson cabinet was not up to Headmistress' standards (and which resulted in the word that she was beaten for using), Aryanna realized she was starving. Timidly, she accepted the morsel and waited for Ryan's nod to bite into it.
The soft, still-warm bread sweetened with fresh honey was ambrosia to her mouth. She closed her eyes, savoring the tiny bite, wanting it to last forever. Ryan gestured for her to eat, confused by her slowness. She clutched the roll and pulled it to her body, making him understand. He opened the basket to show her that it was filled with bread, cheese, and fruit. Her eyes widened. This was more food than she had seen at one sitting in over a year! Ryan slowly placed the basket in front of her and gestured.
"Eat, Ary. Good food."
His heart sank again as the gaunt young woman began to devour the contents of the basket. Fearful she would sicken, he touched her shoulder, noting she pulled back again. He closed the basket and put it next to her. Her face relaxed considerably, and she tried to sit up, crying out in pain.
Ryan shook his head. "We are almost home. Rest now. I'll take care of you. I promise," he said soothingly. And I will take care of the evil witch who did this to you, mark my words, was his silent promise.