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This Burning Desire - Chapter One - Like Fire - Part 1
This fire in my skin…
This burning desire is turning me to sin…
He didn’t know what led him there in the first place. Down, deep into the reaches of the Palace, where the foul odor of cess and vomit permeated the air. Frollo grasped the hem of his robe and lifted it above his ankles, so as not to step into anything unsavory that might spoil the expensive cloth. The jailer beckoned him further down the hall and was moving with insulting leisure. Briefly, he considered having the man whipped for his insolence, but reluctantly discarded the idea when he realized it wasn’t worth it.
The jailer finally led him to wooden cell door and pulled out a ring of a dozen or so keys. In no particular hurry, the jailer sorted through them, one by one, and finally landed on the desired key, which he plunged into the lock of the cell and twisted sharply. Painstakingly slowly, there was the sound of a bolt shooting from a lock, and the door opened, revealing utter darkness.
“Anything else, sir?” the jailer yawned.
“Yes,” Frollo replied, pulling a candle from the sleeve of his robe with his free hand. “I require your immediate removal from my sight. I have business to attend to.”
The jailer snorted, but one dark look from the judge sent his massive bulk flying down the hall without a glance back. Satisfied that he could proceed undisturbed, Frollo lit the candle and placed the palm of his hand against the wooden door. He paused, listening for the sounds of any movement behind the door. There was nothing, no rustling of chains, no breathing, no movement. Yet he knew she was there – the gypsy witch – Esmeralda… the very thought of her all alone in the darkness of the cell was like a knife twisting sharply in his chest. The very thought of her chained, helpless, the fire in her eyes dimmed in captivity made him weak in the knees.
“Make me strong,” he breathed a quick prayer, and pushed the door all the way open. Dim light from the hall torches spilled in, and he could just make out her outline. She lie stretched out on the floor not facing him. Her wrists and ankles had been chained to the wall, with barely enough excess for her to stand. Her questionably modest ensemble had been burned, earlier, and had been replaced by a simple white dress that still managed to cling to her voluptuous figure. Yet, even in the dungeons of the Palace of Justice, a degree of modesty was required.
Her dark thick hair, black as a raven’s wing, now tumbled over her shoulders and down her back, as it no longer had any restraints. Frollo’s fingers ached to run through that hair, to grasp it, to wrap it around his fingers, to hold it up and breathe the scent of sun and life – which clung to her like perfume. A witch’s craft all on its own, that.
His head reeling, Frollo battled with himself for composure, which finally he regained. Bracing himself, he cleared his throat and lifted his chin, gazing at her down his aquiline nose.
“Esmeralda,” her name rolled so easily off his tongue! “I am here to gather your confession. As the dark hour of your life’s end draws near…” he would have continued, but he was interrupted.
She rolled over on her side, then, turning at last to face him. Blue green eyes that sparkled like twin faceted gems glared at him with a blazing anger that he was certain could rival the wrath of God Himself. He took a hesitant step back, unsure of what she might do, but she simply remained there, making no further movement but to prop herself up on her elbow.
“You are wasting your time,” she hissed at him, her voice was dry and hoarse. “Your soldiers have already tried everything to extract a confession from me. I have nothing to confess, therefore, leave me in peace!”
Frollo’s thin lips drew back in a grimace, and the disdain was once more rising in his chest, extinguishing easily the climbing desire. “Peace? There will be no peace for you after this night, gypsy. If I leave you here, then it is not the flames of tomorrow’s pyre that you should fear.”
“I can talk to God on my own,” Esmeralda snarled, her eyes bright with tears that she fought to hold back. “He and I have had a nice long discussion or two, and he never mentioned you, so as far as I’m concerned…”
She was silenced by the back of his hand connecting soundly with her jaw. Whimpering, she lowered her head back to the ground, not having the strength for anymore retorts.
“You may burn with or without your tongue,” Frollo hissed, flexing his bony fingers as if the blow had not pained him at all. “It is up to you, really, it makes no difference to me.”
“You can’t save me,” she muttered darkly, spitting out blood onto the stones. His ring had ripped open her chapped bottom lip. “If my immortal soul is in your hands, no offense, your honor, but I’d rather burn in hell.”
“Suit yourself,” Frollo said disgustedly. “You have until tomorrow to make your final decision.” He picked up his robes again and turned to go, angrily, he considered again why he had decided to come do this. God had compelled him, naturally. To what? Save a poor lost soul from the damning flames of justice? There was no redemption for her kind! What had he been thinking?
Before he could get very far, he felt a tug at the hem of his robe, nearly tripping him. Furiously, he whirled around, the tip of his chaperon coming dangerously close to falling over his eyes.
He was about to brush her away, like a troublesome dog in the street. Yet he stopped suddenly, by some unseen force, something that compelled him to notice the delicate, slender dark hand the clutched at his robes. The arm that followed, not weak, but still soft. In fact, it was something he had never bothered to notice about her, even in the Notre Dame Cathedral that eve on the Feast of Fools. He had felt it, then, but disregarded it completely when he got caught up in his threats. Her raven locks, her sun kissed skin, her pale plump lips and her wide blue green eyes. She was still soft, underneath that exterior. A heathen gypsy, yes, but still a woman nonetheless.
And he felt something in him that he had never felt before, a burning in between his legs that left his thoughts muddled beyond comprehension.
“Don’t leave,” She pleaded, her voice barely a whisper. “Don’t leave me just yet.”
The candle fell to the ground.
Greenville, North Carolina
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