"Okay, I take it back," I grumbled as I did my exercises the next day. "I don't want my legs to move."
Angel just clicked her tongue, bending my left ankle gently and grimacing when I moaned in pain. Amelia - now Dr. Amelia as of the official promotion this morning - came in while I worked on my right leg.
"Don't tell me you're complaining already," she teased. "I made more of that tonic," she added, seeing that my face was tinted green.
"What's in it?" Angel asked, helping me into the wheelchair.
"It's just a mixture of ginger and peppermint blended with a bit of rum," she admitted. "At first it was just with water."
"So it was the ginger making me gag," I joked, accepting the tonic and Angel smacked the back of my head.
I pouted but she rolled her eyes and kissed me.
Amelia laughed. "The rum makes for a better taste and doesn't upset the stomach if taken in small doses such as these."
"Where are we going today?" Angel asked.
"What floor is the music room on?"
"The second but we have a piano off of the throne room."
"Will you play for me?"
She beamed. "I would love to!"
While she was walking me there, I beckoned for Amelia to follow us. She looked confused but did so. Angel put me by the window and opened it so I could get some late summer breeze. When she was distracted, Amelia came closer.
"Will you have the kitchen prepare a special lunch for me and Angel?" I whispered in her ear. "We'll take it on the atrium."
She nodded with a grin and hurried out. The rest of the morning was filled with Angel's playing. I closed my eyes, enjoying the sound of her music. It was just as beautiful as her. Well, almost. She would play different pieces but it always came back to her lullaby.
"Lunch is ready," a servant said from the doorway and Angel nodded.
"No," I said when she started going to the dining room. "We're eating on the atrium."
"Oh," she said in a surprised voice. "Okay."
I smiled when we got there and heard Angel's soft gasp. They had put a small bouquet of wildflowers in the center of the table. The food servings were larger than normal but it had all her favorites: lamb, potatoes, snap peas, and a fresh apple tart for dessert.
"Did you have them do this?" she asked, sitting across from me.
"Well, since I can't do much for you, I thought I'd show you how I appreciate all you've done," I said and she smiled. "Now, once I'm on my feet, expect to be spoiled."
She giggled. "I'll hold you to that."
After lunch, I asked her to bring out my paper and some quills. I wanted to sketch the nature around us. She brought a book of poetry with her and read some of her favorite poems to me. It was very pleasant and I hoped it would never end.
"Should I paint this?" I asked Angel, handing her a sketch of a purple tulip which was Sally's favorite.
"Is it for Sally?" she asked and I nodded. "I think she would be ecstatic with just the drawing," she answered and I agreed. "Are you drawing something for the boys?"
"Nah. They're not big on art. I heard that the toy maker has come up with something called a kite I want to get them." I wiped my forehead, drinking the rest of the water. "Hey, Angel?" She looked up. "I'm getting really warm."
She immediately got to her feet and wheeled me in the castle. I put my right hand over her left as she wheeled me into the dining hall for dinner. I was starting to feel bad.
"Don't," she said suddenly. "Isn't this what we should do? Take care of each other?"
I sighed and kissed her fingers. "But I haven't been able to take care of you."
"Nonsense," she argued, sitting in the chair beside me and putting her head on my shoulder. "You took care of me by getting rid of those werewolves." I rested my head on hers and put my hand on her leg. "David? Can I ask you something?"
"Of course, my love."
"What does it mean to be whored?"
I hesitated, remembering how she almost did that to herself. I should've known she didn't truly know what it meant.
"Are you sure you want to know?" I asked and she nodded.
"You were upset to the point of tears and my father gave me a lecture when he found out. He wouldn't tell me what it meant, though."
I kissed her head and deliberated, choosing my words carefully.
"When... when a woman is whored, she loses herself. She loses her name, her family, her home. She even loses her clothing. Usually, her master travels and buys her so that he has a... companion for his travels." I shook my head. "Should he need money, he can sell her services as if she were a rental." She gasped, looking at me and covering her mouth. "Exactly," I whispered, caressing her cheek. "I couldn't let you do that to yourself, Angel. Though I would never do any of that to you, I wouldn't be able to set you free. It is a lifelong contract."
"There is no way out?" she whispered.
"No," I sighed.
I ran my thumb over her lips, about to kiss her, when I noticed they were redder than normal. I frowned, my eyebrows coming together. Was she ill?
"It's okay," she said. "I- Well, I've been biting my lips a lot."
I frowned and placed a small kiss on them. "Why?"
"I've been so scared, David," she said quietly, tears in her eyes.
"Losing you," she breathed, leaning into my hand with closed eyes. "It started with your fever."
"But I'm better now, Angel."
"You're confined to a chair and your bed," she argued. "That is not better. So many times I've prayed for your pain to leave you, even if it means bearing it myself. I would get so angry when I'd hear you whimper in your sleep. You still do. You talk much about your father and Alec. From what you say in your sleep, I've gathered all that happened."
I kissed her again. "Oh, Angel," I whispered and let her cry into my chest. "You praise me but, in truth, you are the strongest of this pair. I wouldn't even be in this chair if it weren't for you. Punish those beautiful lips no longer, please."
I wiped her tears away. She rested her head on my shoulder again. I was so lucky to have her. I shut my eyes and enjoyed the silence. She placed her hand on top of mine and I turned my palm up so we could lace fingers.
Shortly after, her parents and Christina came in for dinner. They all grinned.
"It's so good to see you out and about," the queen said, kissing my cheek and sitting across from me.
The king clapped my back carefully. My gashes had healed mostly but now my upper arms and shoulders were bruised terribly. Dr. Amelia's ointment was working but she said these had to wait until the wounds were closed completely.
Shortly after, the kids ran in. Sally gave me a big hug and I was glad to see she was better.
"I made something for you," I said and Angel handed me the picture.
Sally's face lit up. "You made this just for me?" she gasped and I nodded.
She gave me a big kiss on the cheek and ran to her mother to show her.
Dinner was big for everyone but me and Angel. I was hungry but, after that large lunch, I just didn't have room for much. Until they brought out the dessert.
"Cream pie!" I said happily.
Angel giggled. "Is that your favorite?"
I nodded enthusiastically.
"I wouldn't get it often because my father-" I cleared my throat. "James' wife, Belle, is a wonderful baker and James found out cream pie is my favorite." I finished and sighed, feeling a little sad. "They took good care of me when my father was bad."
"We should go visit them," Angel said and I smiled at her.
"I would love that."
She kissed my cheek and I smiled more but my eyes started to fall.
"To bed with you," the king said and Angel got up to help me.
"No, sweetheart," I said, stopping her. "Let someone else help me."
She looked hesitant. "But what if they hurt you?"
I smiled at her concern but the king spoke. "I'll help him," he offered.
"Spend some time with your parents tonight," I said. "Please."
She smiled softly and kissed me, giggling when the kids made noises of disgust. The king rolled me out of the dining hall and to the room on the first floor.
"You've made her very happy," he said softly.
"She has made me happy," I said.
"What's wrong?" he asked when he saw the frown on my face as he helped me with my left leg exercises.
"Just thinking," I muttered. "I guess this- I guess this is what it's like to have a family, isn't it?"
He smiled kindly at me, rotating my ankle slowly.
"Yes, David, it is. Well, minus the werewolves."
I laughed and cleared my throat. "I like it."
He nodded with a fatherly smile. Dr. Amelia came in and removed my shirt to put more ointment on my bruises.
"When do you want to have the wedding?" the king asked.
"Not until I'm walking again. Without the crutches," I added when Amelia looked at them. "No offense, but I hate those things."
She laughed. "But you'll be using them soon. Your ankle has a few more days and it will be healed enough, I believe."
I made a face and she laughed again, pouring more tonic out for me.
"I've made this for you, too," she said, holding up another small glass.
"What is it?"
"Angel told me that you have nightmares."
"Snitch," I grumbled.
She laughed. "I believe this will help."
"You know a lot about this," the king said. "I'm sorry I didn't notice it sooner."
She flushed with pride and handed me both of the tonics. The one for the nightmares was bitter but I was getting used to it. I felt myself starting to fall asleep and the king left to spend time with Angel.
That night, I didn't have one nightmare.