Aldonza scrubbed the worn table with her filthy rag, nudged the back right leg back into place with a harsh scrape before heaving herself onto the table, her knees pointing in opposite directions as the table wobbled from the sudden movement. She let out a healthy sigh, could feel her shoulders slumping from the sudden weight of a pair of sturdy hands. The fingers searched over the exposed skin of her neck, the thumb pads dragging over her jawline, a cut on her shoulder, the sensitive skin under her earlobe. The other hand raked through her black, snarled hair and attempted, in vain, to rid her skull of the natural kinks and grimy tangles. Aldonza cried out as the hand suddenly untangled itself from her hair and plunged lower, cupping her breast roughly and forcing her to stare into the eyes of her perpetrator. Her eyes flashed roughly with fear for only a second before returning to their usual musky brown. This was someone she didn't know—not that she wanted him to know that. He had sandy blond hair that was waving, like a flimsy high-five, away from his large forehead. Defined eyebrows laid a blueprint to his tawny eyes. Pink, fleshy lips were pulled over his top teeth in an amused snarl. He couldn't have been a day over twenty, And yet here he is, trying to dominate me. Me! He's in for a rude awakening! Aldonza thought. She made her eyes large and vulnerable as she brought herself to her knees, the table wobbling slightly, and leaned in towards him; her cleavage was shoved against his chest and her lips were pressed to just below his earlobe. "Who do you think you are?" She heard the stranger take a sudden, instinctual intake of breath at the sheer closeness of this seductive woman, and Aldonza mentally rolled her eyes. Amateur. She was going to milk it for all it was worth. The man cleared his throat and straightened his shoulders. When he spoke, it came out first in a crack, much like Pedro's whip. "They call me The Butcher." "And why is that?" She sang to him harshly, causing the hairs on his neck to stand erect. She nuzzled his jawline and she felt his hands instinctually grab her back, pulling her closer. "I—I butcher things." He murmured, distracted. Seemingly coming to his senses, he forced her to look into his eyes by taking a single step backwards. "You know, kill?" At this word he clenched her shirt, snapping it roughly against her shoulders. "I see." Aldonza replied, batting her eyes and again rising on her knees to look this stranger in the eyes. "Now what is it you want?" "What are you offering?" He replied, a grimace spreading out on his features. "Oh, I think someone of your status can figure that out." She retorted snidely. "Feisty one, I see. Just the way I like it." He took a few rushed steps forward, grabbing her neck and slamming his face into hers. Aldonza let out a muffled scream and jerked away. "Not before I receive payment!" She cried, backing up on her hands and knees to the edge of the table. "I forgot to mention," The Butcher replied, "That I'm stone broke." With that he grabbed both of her wrists and slammed them to the table, clambering onto the table and plunging a sturdy knee into her stomach to keep her grounded. Aldonza cried out and struggled to break free, but already she was being dominated, being used, being forced from her shirt. She felt a lump in her throat as well as one protruding from his abdomen and braced herself, knowing that she was not the type of girl to have a prince come and save her whenever she met the slightest bit of trouble. She cried out, a fierce yowl, and waited for it to be over. Suddenly, The Butcher was on the ground, and she was being lifted up. She was placed over a man's shoulders, like a sack of potatoes; at this point she didn't know whether to struggle or simply go limp. Eventually, she decided with the latter. After all, this man, whoever it was, had saved her from being pillaged. The least she could do was make this trip easy for him. A pair of doors was suddenly being creaked open, and Aldonza realized she was in a stable. It was barely illuminated by a single candle in the corner. The rustle of tireless flies and livestock filled the atmosphere. She was placed on a bed of rough, itchy hay with a grunt from her carrier. She fixed her appearance by running a hand through her curls and adjusting her shirt, but it was no use, she was still grimy, she was still ravaged, she was still a whore and that was all there was to it. The man who brought her in here sat down with a grown. She turned to look at him, was waiting for him to advance, when she suddenly realized who it was. It was Pedro. She had only met him a few times; passing wine here, bringing out meat there, sweeping the foyer and filling the fireplace, or gathering water or sheathing corn, she had only seen him, never talked to him, never exchanged more than a grunt, a look, a sigh. "I—Thanks, but I can take care of myself." Aldonza murmured to him, shoulders back, head high. "That's not what it looked like back there." Pedro grunted in response. "Next time if you don't want help, don't scream like you're being raped." "I—" Aldonza stopped. Had she been being raped? It was hard to tell now, the lines were blurred so often. With a strangled grunt, she said, "Thank you." And with this, she knew this one was different, this one was a protector. Pedro was someone she needed and yet would never admit to needing. He was a defining figure. He was hope.