But when he arrived at the stables, Malcolm was on his hind legs, clawing madly at the door and screeching like a banshee.

"Good God, cat. What has gotten into you?"

Malcolm howled, backed up a few steps, and head butted the door.

That was when James noticed that the stable doors were closed, which was odd for this time of day. Even though the guests' horses had long since been rubbed down, and the grooms had probably all removed to the Bag of Nails for a pint, one would think that the doors would have remained open. It was a warm day, after all, and the horses could use whatever breeze filtered in.

James heaved the doors open, wincing at the loud creaking of a rusty hinge. He supposed it was his job to take care of things like that. Or at least to see to it that someone else got it done. He tapped his gloved hand against his thigh for one moment, then headed for the supply closet to find something to grease the hinge. It wouldn't take too long to fix, and besides, he rather thought a bit of messy manual labor would do him good just now.

As he reached for the closet door, however, he heard the oddest sound.

No more than a rustle, really, but something about it didn't sound like it originated from a horse.

"Is anyone here?" James called out.

More rustling ensued, and it was faster and more frantic this time, accompanied by a strange panicked grunting noise.

James's blood ran cold.

There were dozens of stalls. The noise could be coming from any of them. And yet somehow he knew. His feet carried him to the stall in the farthest comer, and with a savage cry that was ripped from his very soul, he tore the stall door off its hinges.

*      *      *

Elizabeth knew what hell looked like. It had blue eyes and blond hair, and a vicious, cruel smile. She fought Fellport with everything she had, but at a hair over seven stone, she might as well have been a feather for all the effort he needed to drag her across the stables.

His mouth ground against hers, and she fought to keep her lips closed. He might be stealing her dignity and her control, but she would keep at least one part of herself from him.

He pulled his head away and pressed her up against a post, his fingers biting her upper arms. "I just kissed you, Miss Hotchkiss," he said in an oily voice. "Thank me."

She stared at him mutinously.

He yanked her toward him, then shoved her back against the post, grinning when her head cracked against the hard, splintered wood. “I believe you had something to say to me," he cooed.

"Go to hell," she spat. She knew she shouldn't provoke him; doing so would only cause him to lash out at her, but goddamn him, she would not allow him control over her words.

He glared at her, and for one blessed moment, Elizabeth thought he might not punish her for her insult. But then, with a furious grunt, he heaved her away from the post and threw her into an empty stable stall. She landed sprawled on the hay and tried to scramble to her feet, but Fellport was too quick, and too large, and he landed on her with a force that knocked the breath from her body.

"Leave me alone, you—"

His hand clamped over her mouth, and her head was twisted painfully to the side. She sensed the crisp hay digging into her cheek, but she felt no pain. She felt... nothing. She was leaving her body, her mind somehow sensing that the only way to get through this horror was to pull away, watch it from above, make that body—the one being abused by Fellport—not her own.

And then, just when the separation was almost complete, she heard a noise.

Fellport heard it, too. His hand tightened over her mouth and he went utterly still.

It was the creaking of the stable door. The head groomsman had meant to fix it yesterday, but he'd been called away on some silly errand, and everyone had been so busy today with so many guests.

But the creak meant that someone was here. And if someone was here, then Elizabeth had a chance.

"Is anyone here?"

James's voice.

Elizabeth thrashed as she'd never thrashed before. She found strength she'd never dreamed she possessed, grunting and squeaking under Fellport's hand.

What happened next was a blur. There was a loud cry—it didn't even sound human—and then the stall door crashed open. Fellport was lifted from her, and Elizabeth scrambled toward the corner, clutching at the ragged pieces of her dress.

James was a man possessed. He pummeled Fellport with brutal fists, and his eyes held a wild, feral look as he shoved the man's face into the hay.

"Do you like the taste of hay?" James hissed. "How do you like having your face pressed to the ground?"

Elizabeth stared at the two men in horrified fascination.

"Does it make you feel strong to hold her down, to abuse someone half your size? Is that it? You get to do whatever you want just because you're bigger and stronger?" James shoved Fellport's head farther down, grinding his face into the hay and dirt. "Ah, but I'm bigger and stronger than you. How does it feel, Fellport? How does it feel to be at my mercy? I could break you in two."

There was a harsh silence, punctuated only by James's ragged, uneven breathing. He was staring intently at Fellport, but his eyes looked strangely distant as he whispered, "I've waited for this moment. I've been waiting years to pay you back."

"Me?" Fellport squeaked.

"All of you," James ground out. "Every last one of you. I couldn't save—" He choked on his words, and no one breathed as the muscles of his face jerked.

"I can save Elizabeth," he whispered. "I won't let you take her dignity."

"James?" Elizabeth whispered. Dear God, he was going to kill him. And Elizabeth, God save her soul, wanted to watch. She wanted James to tear the man in two.

***

***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com

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