"Don't you dare," she bit out, her eyes flashing silver. "If I wanted to taste Imatra's lips, then I would have kissed her myself."

"Fine." He drew back. "I don't give a shite if you believe me or not." Shoving the car into gear, he sped off once more....

After an hour of silence, she murmured, "Slow down."

"No. We've got time to make up."

"Cadeon, slow down. I don't feel s'good."

"How many bloody shots did you have? Two? Three?"

She gave a shaky laugh. "Bit higher."

"Did they tell you it takes a while to hit?"

"They did, indeed."

"Holly, how many?"

"I can say...with absolute certainty that the number was an integer, a multiple of three, and greater than or equal to nine - " Her head slumped forward.

It had taken Cade two uneasy hours to find even a somewhat decent hotel to stay in. Holly had been passed out, curled on her side in the seat, the entire time.

Just as he was carrying her to their new room, she blinked open her eyes, staring up at him.

So pretty. His anger had already ebbed, and now that mere look of hers made his heart punch his chest. He sighed. "Baby, after nine shots, you're going to be completely legless - "

She gave a moan. "I'm going to...lose my legs?"

He couldn't help but grin at her woeful tone. "You're going to be drunk, blotto."

When he set her on the bed, she lay back, but immediately cried, "Oh, God, it's spinning!"

He hurriedly dragged her leg to the side so she could touch her toe to the carpet. "Better?"

After a few moments, she murmured, "Better."

"Ah, the things I could teach you. Now I'm going to undress you for bed."

"I can do it," she slurred, appearing to reach for the top button of her sweater, instead shoving her knuckle in her eye. "Yow! That hurt."

"Let me do it - I won't look."

In a solemn tone, she said, "Yes, you will."

"Yeah, you're probably right." He peeled off her sweater. "But it's nothing I haven't seen before...."

Oh, but it was, he realized by the time he'd gotten her down to her stockings and her black lacy underwear. He'd never seen anything like this in all his life. He exhaled a stunned breath, muttering, "Ah, gods, halfling, I could come just looking at you."

"Hmm? What'd you say?"

She was exquisite in her silky lingerie and thigh-highs. All that swimming had done her body so damned right.

Her arms and legs were toned, but she'd retained her softness. Her hips flared from her tiny waist. Creamy br**sts spilled over that wicked half-cup bra.

She had a sexpot figure and would for the rest of her immortal life; he wanted to howl with pleasure just to be gaping at it. He reached for her br**sts, his hands itching to knead them -

"Didya say something, Cadeon?" she asked softly.

He drew back his hands, making white-knuckled fists. Once more, he reached for her, again drawing back. He paced, struggling to blunt his hunger. His fantasy woman was laid out in the bed like an offering in silk - and he couldn't touch her.

Then he narrowed his eyes. If he wasn't going to take advantage of her, he'd at least get some answers. "Yeah, pet. Got a question for you...."


"Good morning, sunshine!" Cadeon boomed by her ear.

Holly shot up, immediately clutching her head with a groan.

"Or good evening, rather," he said. "I let you sleep as long as I could, but we're on a schedule, you understand. And some of us like to keep a regimented schedule."

"Oh, God. I'm in hell."

"I've got the night all planned out. You're going to shower because you smell like a cask of hundred-proof, and then we're going to train. Once on the road, you're going to look up our destination. If you're not too hung over. Here, drink this." He opened a bottle of Gatorade, obviously giving care not to touch the rim.

She squinted at the bottle, then at her hands, which were both reaching for the drink. Soon she was chugging it down.

"Eat these," he said, handing her an unopened box of regular Saltine crackers, which she tore into.

For some reason, at that moment Gatorade and Saltines were sublime.

She began to feel better in minutes. "Thank you."

"I live a life of service. Speaking of which, do you need any help getting dressed? Like you did getting undressed?"

At his words, all the events from the night before flashed in her mind, and her eyes went wide.

Not only had Cadeon been with Imatra last night, he'd also taken advantage of Holly's first bout of drunkenness.

Through the haze of alcohol, she remembered him questioning her, coaxing answers from her about all kinds of things - private things. His voice had been so lulling, his demeanor relaxed.

Now she realized she'd been played.

Her face flamed as she recalled her disclosures: She didn't touch herself ever - because she swam laps when the need got too strong, or else she had vivid dreams and would wake up right in the middle of...she thought he'd actually supplied the word coming.

Shaming, but true. She'd often dreamed of vigorous sex to the point of physical reaction....

Her hands clenched, anger warring with her abject embarrassment. And then, she'd admitted to him that she was curious about sex, but that any intimate situation she'd been in had always ended up with her hurting someone.

She shook her head hard. His behavior was beyond low. He hadn't taken advantage of her body, but of her mind -

He began drawing the cover off of her. "Fine, halfling, I'll help."

She yanked at the top sheet, irritably wrapping it around herself as she stumbled to her feet.

"Okay, now you really don't need to do that blushing virgin bit anymore - I got to ogle your body at my leisure for hours. Matter of fact, I had so long, I could have painted you, instead of just taking pictures with my sat-phone." He held up his phone with a wink.

"I loathe you," she said, precariously bending to collect her toiletries and clothes. As she headed for the bathroom, she gave him the evilest eye she could muster....

A long hot shower cleared much of the cobwebs from her head. And her stomach had settled. Once she emerged from the bathroom dressed for the day, she felt like a human being again.

She sighed. Or not. She couldn't truly say.

"How're you doing?" he asked.

"I'm perfectly fine." I think I'm beginning to hate you. Which is good. I should be happy about that. It'll help me keep my eye on the prize.

"You're pissed about last night."

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