Chapter Ten

The world spun slowly around her when Angelie woke up the next evening. She groaned, her head having just started to pound in a rhythm unknown to her. Closing her eyes tightly, she took her left hand and pressed her right thumb into her palm, waiting for the pain to subside. It took a little while, but with a little more pressure it left entirely. The scent of burning firewood reached her nose, and she sat up quickly. A little too quickly, as the headache came roaring back in full force. With a few choice curse words she stood up and walked towards the door slowly. Where was she? Blue eyes were the only thing that came to her mind.

Centaurs.

She cursed again. Why did this always seem to happen to her? First James, now Centaurs. What am I, easy to kidnap or something? She thought sarcastically. Opening the wooden door she nearly ran into a tall female.

"Oh, sorry," Angelie mumbled. The woman clucked her tongue, saying, "No problem doll, my own fault." She had a strange accent, one that Angelie couldn't name.

"Anyway, I've been told to have you follow me, Ethan wants to meet with you right now," she smiled a tight lipped smile. Angelie nodded and the two started walking in silence.

"You don't like me very much do you?" Angelie finally asked. The woman clucked her tongue again, "You don't have much tact do you? No, I don't like you very much. It has nothing to do with you as a person, just your master. James has never been welcome among us." She said.

"How come?"

"He took away our land, doll," the woman said.

"I'm sorry for your loss, then." Angelie told her sincerely. The woman laughed, "I'm sure you are, doll, I'm sure you are."

They finished the rest of the walk in silence before the two women stopped outside a larger cabin.

"This is where I leave you," the female said before she walked away.

"Wait! Do you have a name?" Angelie called back to her. The woman turned and smiled, "Vanessa is my name, and it was nice to meet you Angelie."

How does she know my name? Angelie thought to herself before she knocked on the door in front of her and opened it.

The male centaur that had taken her, she guessed his name was Ethan, was lying on a bed in his human skin when she first entered the room. He looked up momentarily to see who it was before laying his head back down.

"You asked for me?" she asked, her voice coming out harsher than she had intended it to be. He turned to face her, bemused, "You don't like me already, do you?" She said nothing, thinking it better to stay silent rather than get into more trouble.

"You are unaware, I am guessing, that your Sire has been here already. He offered us thirteen acres for your safe return. Tell me, young vampire, why should I give you back to him?"

Angelie was quiet while she thought over her answer, before saying, "You have no use for me, besides to use as a bargaining chip. What else can you hope to get by me staying here?"

Ethan rose slowly from his bed and crossed over to look at her, "Your dear James is not the only one who has shown interest in you, Angelie. Does the name Lucifer Greely ring any bells?"

"No, you can't let me go with him," Angelie protested immediately, her eyes widening in shock.

"And why not?"

"You wouldn't understand. Please, if you have any compassion, you'll let me return with James."

"You do not know what I will or will not understand. Mr. Greely said you were a servant under his employment, and that you stole something from him. We do not take kindly to thieves, like your Sire, here." He glared down at her, his height giving him leverage against her.

"I didn't steal from him, I've never worked for him in my life!" she protested, taken aback by this accusation.

"He told us that you had taken a pair of diamond earrings and a diamond necklace from his house in order to wear them at a ball held by your Sire."

"I've done no such things! He gave me them as a present before-"

"Captain!" A black centaur in his hybrid form barged in the room. His eyes scanned briefly over Angelie, before stopping on Ethan.

"What is it?" Ethan sounded rather annoyed, his eyes coming to rest on the black centaur.

"Lucifer Greely is here, sir, as you commanded."

Sighing, Ethan muttered, "Give us a moment before you bring him in."

"Sir," The centaur bowed, before galloping out.

Ethan turned to look at Angelie, "Now, if there is any reason why you should not go with him, I suggest you speak up while he is not here. It will not take them very long to get back."

"I didn't steal anything from him. That night, he gave them to me, and acted like he loved me. He brought me back to his room and tried to – tried to rape me." She finally blurted out.

"Only in her imagination," a cold voice said from behind. She froze. Her eyes widened and cold fear and panic seeped into her veins.

"I've never laid a hand on this girl with the exception of friendly gestures. I did invite her to my room, but she started screaming when I touched her on the shoulder when we had arrived. James Akerson kicked me out, saying I had violated her. How I could have, I do not know. But that is the truth."

"He's lying!" Angelie said, finally finding her nerves. Lucifer laughed, "Of course I'm not. What reason would I have? You have nothing that interests me, girl, apart from the items you stole – which I intend on making you give back." He said, turning to look at Angelie. She glared angrily at him, "You can't possibly believe this!" she said, turning to Ethan. He said nothing, his eyes looking between the two.

"Ask James Akerson what happened! Damnit, ask anyone who was there and saw what happened! I would never steal, especially not from him, and he was forcing himself on me! Please, you have to believe me," She finished, her eyes seeking help, pity, anything from Ethan. Once again he was silent.

"I will call Mr. Akerson—"

"Oh, good heavens Ethan, you know he will side with her!" Lucifer protested, "He loves her, for god's sake. If she said jump off a cliff he would do it. If you call him in here and ask him whether or not I forced myself upon her, he will take her side even if though he knows it's false."

Ethan was silent yet again before asking, "Angelie, you did agree to going with Mr. Greely to his room, correct?" Not liking where this was leading, she nodded.

"Then, by default, despite what happened it was your mistake. You are at fault here, and you will be going with Mr. Greely to repay your debt." Lucifer grinned, while Angelie just sat there, too stunned for words.

"Please, Ethan. . ." she whispered, falling to the ground, silent tears rolling down her cheeks. Lucifer scoffed and grabbed a hold of her elbow, trying to pull her to her feet.

"Don't touch me!" She yelled, yanking her arm out of his grasp. "Don't you ever touch me," she threatened. He rolled his eyes melodramatically before turning to the Centaur leader.

"So, we have a deal then?"

"We do, 25 acres for the girl." He held out his hand, and Lucifer shook it, sealing the deal. He took a hold of Angelie again, forcing her out of the room while she squirmed, finally kicking him in the groin to get him to release her. While he fell to the ground she began to run through the forest.

"Aren't you going to get her?" Lucifer was demanding of Ethan.

"She's your problem now, your property. Catch her yourself." The centaur said. She kept running, nearing James' fortress and skirting through the gardens, screaming his name. She could hear a horse behind her and knew it was Lucifer without having to look. She banged her fist on the wooden door until it opened.

James stood in front of her, looking astounded for a moment. There was Angelie, panting, with tears falling down her cheeks, dirty, and bleeding from several scrapes she acquired from the forest brush. Lucifer was dismounting his horse behind her, and she scrambled to get inside and stand behind him.

James's eyes narrowed as he watched Lucifer get closer.

"That girl is mine, James," Lucifer told him harshly, his eyes focusing on what he could see of her.

"She is no one's property, Lucifer. Get out of here, now." James commanded.

"I paid the centaurs for her, she's mine by Law." Lucifer countered.

"As long as she steps foot on this property she is safe, especially from you."

"You cannot keep her forever! I will bring the Law into your household if you make me, James. And you cannot afford to get on their wrong side again."

"And what will they think of you, Lucifer? A rapist, and unable to keep a hold of his own property," James counteracted. The two stared daggers at one another, holding the impasse for at least three minutes. Angelie had taken that time to get away from the two and took a seat against the wall, her head in her lap as she fought to regain her composure. I'm safe, there's no way Lucifer can take me out of here.

Finally Lucifer spoke, "Very well. She is safe while she is housed here. But one step out, and she is mine, James. She has been since you took Xia from me." He threatened, spat on the ground, then mounted his horse and left.

James closed the door and walked over to Angelie, taking her hands in his. She looked up at him, eyes bloodshot from crying, and her hair a mess. He gave her a small, encouraging smile.

"Don't worry. As long as you're here, you're safe. I promise."

"But what am I going to do James?" Angelie stammered, "I can't leave here, and Ethan sold me to him. I don't know what to do," she finished lamely. James' face fell ever so slightly and he pulled her into a warm embrace, "I'll be here with you. I won't let him get to you," he said firmly, pulling away to meet her eyes, "Okay? Don't worry about him, Angelie. I. . . I love you," he said, stuttering over his words. She was silent, those three words ringing in her ears. I love you.

"I'm sorry," he muttered, "I shouldn't have said anything. You're going through a hard time and I should have brought this into it."

"No, it's okay," she said, "I just. . . I really like you, James. But, I don't think I love you, not right now at least. I just need time to figure everything out, so when I say it back, I really mean it and you'll know I mean it." He nodded, "I can live with that. Now, let's get you cleaned up."

He led her up the stairs to her room, and told her that he would be just outside if she needed anything. Angelie thanked him and watched him leave, before heading into the bathroom. Double checking that all the windows were closed, locked, and shuttered, she started the shower and stepped into the heated water. It felt like heaven on her back, and she wondered if it would be her last. With that thought, she dissolved into tears, at an absolute loss for words and thought. She stepped out of the shower at least half an hour later, her skin rubbed red from her unstoppable scratching.

After changing into a new outfit, she opened the door and invited James back inside. He did so and the two took a seat on the bed. She filled him in on the details -- what happened when se woke up --, and he told her what he had experienced. They sat in silence after both had finished their stories. James broke the silence with, "So, I think it's almost morning. I'll leave you to sleep--"

"No! Please. . . I really don't want to be alone." She looked at him for a moment, eyes holding his. He nodded slowly, "Can we move to my room, then? My coffin's more spacious than yours, and I think I'm too tall for yours." Angelie hesitated for a moment.

"I swear I won't try anything, and if I do you can hurt me until your heart's content. Promise." He looked at her with such seriousness Angelie couldn't help but start laughing.

"Alright," she said and the two stood up. As they walked to James' room, James made small talk. Angelie answered his question, but didn't say very much other than that. When they started setting into the coffin, James went in first with Angelie lying on his chest. It was easier to get comfortable lying there, almost balancing on him.

She is safe while she is housed here. But one step out, and she is mine, James. She has been since you took Xia from me. Lucifer's voice echoed in her head. She shook her head a little, trying to get him out.

Keep out of there; I'm finished with you she thought, giving a low growl. James opened his eyes a crack, "Are you okay, Angelie?" She looked up at him, smiling sheepishly, "Yeah, sorry," and closed her eyes.

She felt his chest rumble as he laughed. She fell asleep slowly, images of Lucifer's face just before he left plaguing her and not allowing her to sleep. They vanished as James wrapped his arms around her gently.

"You move around a lot," he mumbled. She laughed, feeling more at ease than before. She fell asleep lying in his arms.