Sharina had been so embarrassed the previous night that she cautiously crept from her room the next solarity, half expecting to find D’Jon’Ni waiting to lecture her about running around his house in such scant outfits. Fortunately, everything appeared normal as she made her way to the dining chamber. Raima soon appeared with her morning repast, smiled her good morning, then went back to her duties. Yes, everything seemed normal. Until a knock sounded at the front door.
Without thinking, Sharina rose from the table to answer it.
“Ah, good morning, sweetness,” he purred. “I came to apologize over our little misadventure. Why, I’ve even written a new poem for you. It’s all about you. Care to hear it?”
“Not really,” Sharina said, beginning to close the door, only to have it blocked by So’s long foot now wedged in it. “Please go.” Her words were firm and polite, but So ignored them.
“Now, Sharina. Surely we can start off anew. Go out for brunch or merida or something.” He moved closer and took her arm before she could stop him.
“No! I want nothing to do with you,” she spouted, trying to free herself and starting to panic. Knowing D’Jon’Ni was on his rounds, there was little she could do now to prevent being taken away by So. “Raima!” she shouted, hoping the servant would come to her aid.
So slapped her then, all kindness gone from his demeanor, in an effort to shut her up. Taken aback, Sharina put a hand to her face to ease the stinging there.
“You will go with me,” he said. “I have much to show you.”
Sharina tried backing away, fighting then to free herself from his grip.
“No! I can’t. I…won’t!” she blustered, her voice a near growl. “Leave me alone!” Tears began trickling from her eyes as familiar fears poured through her. “Raima!”
“Oh, stop your blithering, wench,” So ordered, moving to free her other hand from the door she now had it clamped on. Forcing her away, he caught her about the waist from behind and started carrying her down the stairs. “You’re going to enjoy meeting all my other friends, and this time I’ll make our solarity more to your liking.”
“No,” she groaned, still fighting to free herself as she locked her foot around the bars of the iron railing in an effort to halt their departure.
“Stop it! Be quiet!” So blasted at her, growing agitated by her behavior. “I know you want to be alone with me. You liked what you saw last time you checked me out, remember? So don’t tell me you’re not interested. If it weren’t for Whitelaw, we could have had a really great evening together. We might have…”
But So cut himself short at sight of D’Jon’Ni Whitelaw standing on the landing, witnessing the attempted kidnapping of the woman he loved. His mouth dropped as D’Jon’Ni moved with deadly calm towards him, stopping just above them on the steps. Aware of the change in So, Sharina made an effort to turn her head, instantly overwhelmed with relief at sight of D’Jon’Ni standing there.
“You’re delusional, So. As soon as I can arrange it, I’ll put you and your disturbed friends in a place where you can get some help.”
So straightened, reluctantly releasing Sharina, who quickly scampered up the stairs and past D’Jon’Ni. Raima stood watching from the doorway, and Sharina ran into her protective embrace, both eager to observe how D’Jon’Ni was going to handle their problem.
“Wh-What are you going to do?” So demanded, slowly backing away from the man he feared above all others. He took two steps down, but not soon enough. Before So could react, Whitelaw had plowed an iron fist into his homely mouth, then watched with great satisfaction as So Jzan tumbled backwards down the stairs. By the time he had landed at the bottom, two of Whitelaw’s men were already there waiting to take him to a detention center.
After he was dragged from sight, D’Jon’Ni then turned back to the women. Still trembling, her eyes wet, Sharina watched him as he approached her and took her into the shelter of his arms. With a sob of relief, she threw her arms tightly about him, finding herself in a familiar refuge.
“You’re always there to rescue me,” she said, still shaking.
“He’ll not bother you again,” D’Jon’Ni said, aware that Raima had left them alone and discreetly gone back inside. He continued holding Sharina until she ceased her trembling, then he set her away from him. “It was fortunate that I hadn’t left yet.”
“Yes,” Sharina managed. “Why are you here? Usually you leave early.”
“I thought I would…wait for you,” he told her shyly. “Would you…care to… accompany me this morning?”
Sharina’s eyes widened and her lips curled with delight.
“Truly?” she said. “I can spend the entire solarity with you?”
“I…would enjoy that very much,” she replied. As she spoke, D’Jon’Ni gripped her chin and turned her face to his. “What?”
“He hit you pretty hard, didn’t he? Despite your other bruises?”
Sharina nodded, unable to respond to this, forgetting that So must have left a huge welt on her face.
“Yes, but I’m sure you hit him harder.” Giggling at the memory of that episode, Sharina grinned. Tenderly brushing some hair from her face, D’Jon’Ni smiled in response, glad her sense of humor was still intact.
“Go in and finish your meal,” he said. “When you are ready, we will go.”
Excited at thought of being with him the entire solarity, Sharina nodded and quickly scampered away.