She tried to breathe, but found she was having trouble working around the panic. He’d seemed like a such a nice guy, before today. Before he and his friends had jumped her in the hallway. Even then, he’d hung back, trying to convince the rest of them to be gentle with her.
It hadn’t been his hand that had bruised her ribs, but it was his large, large hand around her throat now. Not choking, not at all, though his thumbs were pressing into the sides of her neck with nearly bruising force, but holding her while she struggled, holding her upright while she wanted to collapse to the ground and sob.
“Look at me,” he murmured. Terrifyingly, her body obeyed without asking her what she thought about the matter, she found herself looking into his dark brown eyes. He looked concerned, even now.
“What?” she whispered. She’d worn her voice out, earlier, shouting. “What do you want from me?”
“Time will tell,” he answered unhelpfully. “What I already have from you is what you need to understand. I’m going to let go of you for a moment, and I want you to sit down and try to pull yourself together, okay?”
Since sitting down was what she wanted to do anyway, she nodded, feeling his fingers catching her chin as she moved. Why didn’t he just let her go?
She didn’t want to leave right now, she reminded herself. The halls outside were dark and full of monsters. In here, it was light, and there was only the one monster, at least.
He released her, and she sagged to the floor, watching him with dull interest as he walked over to his desk and picked up a bag. “I know,” she breathed, “they told me words had power. Watch what I say. I didn’t think…” She hadn’t thought. That covered it.
“You can be caught even if you are thinking. It just takes more work. And I’m won’t be unkind. But you have to be very clear on this. You agreed to it, no matter what the duress. I own you. And until I graduate, or you do, you belong to me. You’re mine, Ceinwen. That is, after all, what you said.”
She nodded, afraid to repeat it, afraid something else would happen if she reinforced it. She was his. What did that mean? He couldn’t keep her a prisoner here, could he? In the middle of a school?
He returned to her, still holding the bag. “I will take very good care of you,” he murmured, as he knelt in front of her.
He placed a gentle kiss on her forehead. This close, now that she could breathe again, he smelled earthy, but not unpleasantly so. “I will protect you,” he continued, a bit louder. It sounded like a ritual. “I will guide you, and keep you safe, and warm, and fed.” The next kiss went on the top of her head, and then he tilted her chin up with one of his huge hands, and kissed her lips. “This is what I will do for you, Ceinwen, because you are mine.”
“I’m yours, Thornburn,” she echoed, moved by something she couldn’t put words to. The situation seemed to demand the words from her, but her pride demanded she add on to them. “Although I didn’t know what I was saying, although I came to you because I was scared, because you said you’d keep me safe.”
“And I did, and I will.” He reached into the bag, then, and pulled out… something. It glittered warmly in the artificial light. Some sort of necklace, it looked like, a series of amber plaques bordered and connected in gold. A choker? It had no closure, she noted, in a moment of rising panic. How was he going to put that on her? How was it going to come off?
He murmured words that made no sense, and the choker parted between two plaques. She shied back, and he moved forward more quickly than she could escape, holding the choker against her throat, around her neck, with one hand. He pressed the ends closed, murmuring again, and the necklace settled in to place against her skin.
“You are mine,” he repeated, “and I’ve marked you such. As long as you’re wearing my collar, no-one will mess with you. No-one will touch you, no-one will harm you.”
The collar was warm, a weight that seemed to encircle all of her the way his hands did, echoing her pulse back to her. She took a breath, and felt it remind her of its presence, pressing against her windpipe. She shifted, and it moved with her. He would be with her every moment she wore it, because she’d never be able to forget it was there.
Tears welled up in her eyes, but the panic was gone. She couldn’t escape this. “I’m yours,” she repeated. With his mark on her, wrapped around her, there was no way to deny it.
He brushed a thumb against the collar, looking pleased. “You wear it well,” he rumbled. “I will be proud to have you as mine.”
The pressure against her throat seemed unbearable, as his praise sent waves of pleasure through her. She was lost.
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