Part Seventeen

     Once Sarah was settled, Angelique joined Barnabas in the drawing room, where he had a glass of port waiting for her.  He was sitting in one of the wing chairs, staring into the fire.  Taking her glass, she sat across from him, her eyes on the fire as well.
    "I had nothing to do with him coming here, Barnabas," she said softly.
    Barnabas sat back, his eyes moving to her.  "That thought hadn't occured to me," he admitted honestly, aware that his admission revealed much.
    "There was a time when it would have," she told him.
    "That time is behind us," Barnabas said, hoping it was true.  "At this moment, my main concern is how to protect you."
    Blue eyes raised to look at him, filled with confusion.  "Me?  Why should you want to?"
    "I lost you once in 1840.  I can't stand by and let it happen again.  To go through that -"
    "Through what?" she asked.  "I'm not needed here, Barnabas.  Sarah has you -and that makes her happy -"
    "What about me?  What do I have?" he asked her in return.
    "You daughter."
    Barnabas' eyes moved back to the fire.  "As much as I love her, I need more than that.  I need a wife, yes, but not just any wife.  The only one who will do is the only wife I've ever legally had.  A very beautiful young woman whom I considered marrying and then chose another because of my cowardice.  The same woman I was glad to see when she arrived here, yet forced myself to push her away.  I couldn't offer her what she deserved."  He smiled grimly in remembrance.  "I even had the nerve to ask that we be friends."  His eyes still were fixed on the fire, as if he could see that long ago time in the flames.  "She saw things so much more clearly than I.  I was blinded by familial duty -concern for my father's reaction to what I wanted.  Perhaps that young woman had provocation for SOME of the things she did.  Others were simply things that went out of control.  There was no way she could have known that I would challenge Jerimiah to a duel, for instance."
    Angelique spoke softly, not wanting to shatter the mood.  "I never meant that to happen," she agreed.  "I thought you would simply turn to me and learn to forget Josette.  Do you mean all of this, Barnabas?"
    He finally returned his eyes to hers.  "I told you that I lost you once because of a vengeful warlock.  And I went through pure hell for a long time, remembering those last moments, how I could have changed them.  Forgiving you is easy when I think of that.  Can you forgive me for the things I've done to you?"
    Angelique knelt at his feet, resting her head on his knees.  "Oh, Barnabas.  You did only what you had to.  I left you very few choices."
    He ran a hand over her golden blonde hair.  "I wonder if Blair realized the effect his return would have on us?"
    "I doubt it.  Nicholas tends to have tunnel vision when he has a goal."
    "Do you have any idea what his goal might be?" he asked.
    She looked up at him.  "I knew what it was on his first visit -"
    "You mean his plan to create a super race?"
    "No.  That came later.  His original goal was control of Collinwood."
    Barnabas frowned.  "For what purpose?"  He watched as Angelique rose gracefully and refilled her glass.
    "When I first met Nicholas, I was Miranda and a member of Judah Zachary's coven.  I was never sure, but I had the impression that Nicholas had given Judah his powers.  After Judah was arrested, Nicholas came to me and told me I had been chosen to help give Judah a lession in obedience.  I didn't want to do it.  Judah - Judah terrified me.  Nicholas promised to protect me from Judah's wrath and I gave the testimony that convicted him.  Once he was beheaded, I no longer felt the need for Nicholas' protection and asked him to release me to go out on my own, to live a normal life.  He agreed -on one condition.  He said he would name that condition at a later date.  I saw him infrequently, and he never mentioned it again."
    "Until he came to Collinwood to rescue Cassandra from Trask's ghost?"
    She nodded jerkily.  "After he reversed the exorcism, he told me that price for his help.  Collinwood."
    "Because of Judah's curse?"
    "I part, perhaps.  Their relationship was very confusing."  She looked at him.  "If Nicholas IS here to gain control of Collinwood, then he'll let nothing stand in his way.  This is his third attempt, Barnabas, and if he fails this time, he'll be destroyed forever."
    "Then we'll defeat him," Barnabas stated.
    "How?  I haven't any powers, Barnbas.  And Prof. Stokes is living in Europe -"
    Barnabas stood and crossed to take her into his arms.  "We will find a way.  Collinwood must not fall into his hands."
    "If he discovers that we've joined forces, he'll take steps to separate us.  Oh, Barnabas.  Now that we've finally found each other, I don't want to risk losing you."
    "You won't," he promised.  "We're going to play a little game with Nicholas, my love."
    "What kind of game?"  Angelique asked, looking up at him.
    "Blair must continue to think that our marriage is for Sarah's sake only.  Meant to last only as long as her illness.  He isn't to know that we are truly husband and wife."
    "How can we keep it from him?  You know what he is, what he's capable of doing."
    "I never said it would be easy.  Once Sarah's governess begins her work -"
    "You're going to hire Claire Maxwell?"
    "Yes.  Sarah will need to be watched very closely."  He saw the look in her eyes.  "There's no reason to be jealous, Angelique."
    "I'm not," she told him.  "There's just-something about her that makes me uncomfortable.  I can't explain it, but it's there.  Something I missed or saw and refused to recognize."
    "You're not making much sense."
    "I knew.  She's TOO perfect and the timing of her arrival troubles me."
    "She's the only applicant for the position," Barnabas told her.  "Sarah's behind on her studies.  She needs to catch up."
    "I know."  She sighed.  "Very well.  But may I tell Willie not to leave her alone with Sarah?"
    Barnabas' eyes searched her face.  "You ARE worried, aren't you?  Very well, I'll make sure that she isn't alone with Sarah until you're ready to trust her."
    "Thank you."  She rested her head on his chest.  Taking a chance, she said, "I love you, Barnabas."
    "And I love you," he responsed quietly.  "More than my own life.  In fact, I came very close to turning the gun Trask used to shoot you in 1840 on myself.  If it hadn't been for Julia, I probably would have."
    "So Julia saved your life again."
    "I owe it to her many times over.  After we returned to this time, Julia began searching for a serum to end the Leviathan's curse.  I planned to go to Europe to find you.  Then I got your letter saying you wanted to start over.  To sever all ties with your past and had given up your powers.  I wanted to go to you, convince you how wrong you were.  But it was another six months before Julia's cure worked, six months during which I began to wonder if you mightn't be right.  Apart, we could put the past behind us, live our lives.  I wasn't sure either of us could forgive the other comepletely.  So I opened the yards, began trying to forget.  But this house," he said, looking around the room, "wouldn't let me.  There were too many memories."
    "It was the same for me," Angelique told him.  "Every time I looked at Sarah, I could see your face.  I wrote that letter right after I got Sarah back.  I didn't want you to have any reason to come see me.  I was afraid that you would take her from me."
    "I might have then.  But I can understand your reason for not telling me about her before.  The conditions under which we were reunited were never condusive to the news."
    "Hardly."  She smiled up at him, a glimmer of the old Angelique in those eyes.  "How do we begin our little game, my darling?"

    Quentin was in the darkened drawing room when the front doors opened.  "Remember what I said, Carolyn."
    "I will, Nicholas," Carolyn said, rather breathlessly.  "Goodnight."
    "Goodnight, my dear."
    Quentin waited until Nicholas entered the room and poured himself a glass of sherry.  "Making yourself at home, I see."
    Nicholas smiled.  "Is there any reason I shouldn't?"
    "I can think of several.  You'll never get Collinwood, Blair."
    "And WHO is going to stop me?"  He went to the window, looking out into the dark, cold night.  "Certainly not you, Quentin."
    "You sound positive about that."
    "The moon will be full tommorow night.  Or has it been so long that you no longer notice such things?"
    "I notice, Blair.  Every month."
    "Then- becoming that -animal is something you would prefer to avoid?"
    "Is that a threat?"
    "Merely a -warning."  He put his glass down.  "Sleep well, Quentin."
    Alone, Quentin threw back the remnants of brandy in the snifter he held, then refilled it.  It was going to be a long night. 

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