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An Elloras Cave Romantica Publication

www.ellorascave.com

Secret Fantasies

ISBN # 9781419908996 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Secret Fantasies Copyright 2007 Elizabeth Lapthorne. Edited by Sue-Ellen Gower. Cover art by Syneca.

Electronic book Publication: January 2007

This book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the publisher, Elloras Cave Publishing, Inc. 1056 Home Avenue, Akron OH 44310-3502.

This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the authors imagination and used fictitiously. Content Advisory:

S ENSUOUS

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E ROTIC X - TREME

Elloras Cave Publishing offers three levels of Romantica reading entertainment: S (S-ensuous), E (E-rotic), and X (X-treme).

The following material contains graphic sexual content meant for mature readers.This story has been rated S-ensuous.

S-ensuouslove scenes are explicit and leave nothing to the imagination.

E-roticlove scenes are explicit, leave nothing to the imagination, and are high in volume per the overall word count. E-rated titles might contain material that some readers find objectionablein other words, almost anything goes, sexually. E-ratedtitles are the most graphic titles we carry in terms of both sexual language and descriptiveness in these works of literature.

X-tremetitles differ from E-rated titles only in plot premise and storylineexecution. Stories designated with the letter X tend to contain difficult or controversial subject matter not for the faint of heart. Montague Vampires: Secret Fantasies Elizabeth Lapthorne Lovingly dedicated to my baby brothertold you Id make you super important.

This one is also for CandieI will happily flash a pub full of bikers with you any day, darling (even if we didnt bet on having the pics to prove it). Keep smiling, babe. Life isnt that bad, now is it?

Chapter One An ordinary lodging in the middle of the city

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Phoebe woke suddenly from her deep sleep, her eyes snapping wide open in the darkness of her sleeping chamber. She blinked a few times, trying hard but unable to picture or recall anything at all about the dream shed been having. After a moment or two of struggling to bring back details of the decadent fantasy, she turned onto her other side, admitting defeat. Her expensive bed and luxurious sheets rustled softly as her body moved around, searching for a more comfortable position. Phoebe sighed and shivered in the cold, and pulled the coverings up closer around her chin. The chill was not from the climate-controlled room, but more from the almost overwhelming sense of being alone. The darkness of the night surrounded her so she could no longer keep up her faade. Phoebe felt all her repressed loneliness come crashing down around her. It had been months since she had shared her large bed with another person, relaxed and felt the warmth of a large male body sliding next to her. Phoebe took a deep breath, held it, counted, and then slowly released it again. She forced her mind to focus on more pleasant thoughts than the hollow darkness of her room and bed. She felt her body begin to relax as fuzzy, half-formed memories flitted across her mind, of past lovers, of past sexual encounters. Back then, when she constantly entertained a string of lovers to keep the loneliness and chill of the long nights away, she hadnt even noticed these dark, solitary hours pass her by. Phoebe made a face into her pillow as she realized those days had almost certainly passed. The evenings of having one man after another parade through her bedroom and her life but never her heart, had been a number of years ago. She gave up on having such a string of men when she realized and finally admitted to herself she felt just as cold and aloneafter the sex with these men as she did right now. Refusing to dwell on her single state, Phoebe let her mind wander once again. She was now considered past her prime for a merc at age thirty-four. She felt a pang inside her chest when she realized a small part of her sadness could well be due to the realization that soon she would have to find a new work path to follow, that the sense of purpose and excitement her current job gave her would need to be replaced with something else. Phoebe chuckled quietly. She would far rather keep her mind and body hectic and busy, trying to keep her ship and crew safe and traveling in the merc world than being maudlin, angsting over no one special person in her life. As her thoughts turned to her frustrations, Phoebe knew sleep would not come again for her this night. With that conclusion, she sighed and ran a well-toned, slim arm out under the covers, stretched it across the wide expanse of the silky-soft ancient Egyptian cotton sheets. The other half of the bed felt chilled, depressing her even further. Phoebe turned herself over yet again, pulled the sheets and coverings closer to her, wrapping them around her body. Its not as if finding a new career is a new thing for you,she tried to perk herself up with a small internal pep talk. At the tender age of twelve, as an orphan and struggling to find a livable existence, she

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had begun modeling. She found this highly amusing, as her youthful body had flourished to perfection almost overnight at the alarming age of eleven. Tall, leggy and slim, she had enjoyed working with a variety of people and a wide diversity of destinations and campaigns. The young Phoebe had positively loved the attention and adoration showered over her, the exotic destinations, the richness of clothing and food. Everything had seemed not only a dream come true but an exciting adventure at the same time. More importantly, she had reveled and grown and flowered under the adulation and care of the photographers and the firsthand experience of the galactic world. By the age of twenty-two, Phoebe had done everything from the July Miss Galactic, the most prestigious pinup centerfold position throughout the galaxy, to modeling clothes and doing holo-ads. And yet she remained grounded and intelligent enough to know in a year or three some new, bright young thing would come crashing through the ranks and upset her perfect setup. Secretly intrigued by the stories of the mercenaries and other spying Forces throughout the galaxy, Phoebe had planned ahead, asked the right questions and smiled sweetly at the right people. She had trained hard, honed her body, and discreetly, carefully, begun to look for new employment. Exactly as she had predicted, within the year a petite but voluptuous twelve-year-old started nosing her way in, slowly taking over more and more shoots. Seeing the road she currently traveled about to take a sharp turn for the worse, Phoebe had taken a good look around her, known it was time to move on to her next phase of life, and quit, much to the surprise of almost everyone. She had moved on with barely a backward glance, but true gratitude in her heart for all she had learned of the galaxy and the business world. With her striking looks and razor-sharp mind, shed been snapped up and poached by a branch of the Mercenaries Force. They had responded positively almost six months prior to her joining them, practically salivating at the opportunity to use her, a well-known face with a fully legitimate entre into many of the elitist places. With Phoebe opening so many previously shut doors, she would have been welcome for that talent alone, but she found shed been almost born for the subterfuge and information-gathering game. She enjoyed working with the elite branch, a half step between the regular Force and the Mercenary Empires. Shed trained in arms, and once again enjoyed not only the physical and mental challenge, but found herself surprisingly good at charming her way through almost any situation. The adrenaline rush when she escaped, her mission complete, was better than any drug many of her modeling contemporaries had ever tried, unsuccessfully, to tempt her with. Phoebe found herself startled and more than just a little proud by just how quickly she became proficient in the use and recognition of most weapons known to the civilized galaxies. More importantly, she learned and soaked up the political movements and environment like a sponge. She was a natural. Phoebe sighed and ran a hand though her hair as she sat up in bed. She loved her work, loved her job in

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the mercenary world, yet more and more frequently now she wished she could share that with someone special, loath as she was to admit such a weakness. Knowing she wouldnt be able to get back to sleep, and her mind now too busy to deal with any meditation, Phoebe switched on her bedside lamp. The holo-clock automatically rose and declared it only three a.m. Cursing, she climbed out of bed and pulled on some well-worn sweats. Maybe if she ran around the block a few times she could clear the cobwebs from her mind, then take a warm, relaxing shower, and still try to grab a few more hours sleep before heading in to start her day. She loved the merc world so much she hadnt even entertained the idea of possibly training for something new, yet now she was fully awake and her senses werent fuzzy with sleep she could feel the sense of change in the air. Phoebe had learned through the hard school of life experience how to keep all her mental and physical senses razor sharp and alert. It had kept her safe and alert more than a few times in her world. Now, she could practically taste a change in her life bearing down on her, she almost felt as if she could reach out and touch it. Maybe this recognition of change was where her melancholy had sprung from. It truly was quite out of character for her to mope around in the middle of the night, or let her deep feeling of loneliness, which truthfully was not that new or different, overrule her usually optimistic and busy reality. Phoebe knew from experience within the next few months something else would crop up, some twist or turn in her life would open a new door, and she needed to be ready to make a call and decide whether to jump through it or not. Surprisingly for someone whod been pretty much alone from childhood, she felt no fear with the insecurity of the future. Phoebe knew without a doubt she had nothing to lose either way, yet the restless energy pervading the air made her want to physically reach out and grab the upcoming decision and shake it into immediate action. She hated not being in charge of her own fate, hated this itchy, restless feeling that woke her up at odd hours and refused to leave. Lacing up her trainers, Phoebe set the door to autopalmlock, so she wouldnt need to carry anything with her, and headed out into the streets. Calmly, determined to clear her mind, Phoebe performed a few cursory stretches to warm up and then set off across the street in a random direction. She started at a slow pace, not wanting to injure any of her muscles by starting too fast and pushing herself too much. As she cruised past well-known stores and businesses, Phoebe enjoyed the surreal feel of the early morning. Even in the darkness of the night, the stores and all other residences were locked securely down and seemed vacant. She breathed deeply as she felt her body warm to life and the blood begin to pump through her system. In the merc world, this was the time the subterfuge came to a head, when most everyone else was either asleep, or too drunk to care what occurred. Phoebe regulated her breaths as she wondered what it was fate had in store for her. She frowned, deep in thought, as her imagination tried to second-guess fate.

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She felt her brow lighten and a sigh of relief escape her as she recognized some of her feelings. How could she have missed it? Out here in the inky blackness of the very early morning, the chill, fresh wind rushing past her as her feet began to quicken and eat up the ground, she felt that itchy sensation, of something just around the corner. Phoebe sped up her pace a small amount. She breathed more deeply and let her lungs expand with the crystal clear, fresh air. Phoebe had never had the inclination to be tested to see if she were truly psychic. A certain level of awareness, while not the norm, was nowadays easily accepted and not considered noteworthy. Phoebe knew she had slightly sharper senses, deeper intuition and the canny ability to piece thoughts and concepts together. It had helped her immeasurably though her life. Yet she had never wanted to be labeled, especially not publicly for any government record, as out-and-out psychic. So she never tried to delve too deeply into categorizing herself or any of her talent. No red flags appeared next to her name because she was unusually pretty, or unusually clever, and so she hated the thought of being branded or labeled simply because she was unusually instinctive. Besides, when she struggled too hard to force or coerce her talentlike second-guessing the lottery numbers, usually the intuitive thoughts and feelings disappeared entirely. Even so, nothing seemed to dim the certainty she felt that change was approaching her life, much as she had when she swapped life paths last time. It would also help explain her odd reminiscing, the restless nights sleep and the strange feelings of self-pity. Her senses, her intuition had cottoned on to the fact change was in the air around her, and had been subtly trying to ready her. Phoebe nodded to herself. This was exactly what she needed to sort herself out. She slid into an easy pace as she tried to sort herself out a little further. Maybe she should try out for the regular policing Force? Phoebe tasted the thought in her mind, rolled it around her head trying to see how it settled inside her mind and soul. After a brief moment, she rejected the notion. The Force had far too much rigid hierarchy structure and paperwork to suit her. She had pretty much been her own boss since the start of her teens. Their bureaucracy, red tape and rules were far too stringent and their points of view on most matters far too narrow to sit well with her. After being her own person for almost all of her life, Phoebe knew that although many mercs retired onto the Force, that was simply not an option for her. Besides, not only would she likely never make anything of herself there, chances were she wouldnt even make it past the psych-compatibility testing procedure. She was far too independent, too free in her thinking to be considered compatible for the Force. It was why she had always thought to be a merc and work in their world in the first place. Rejecting that notion, Phoebe went back to enjoying the utter solitude of the middle of the night. She ran randomly, paying next to no attention where she went. She knew the city well, having lived there on and off for over ten years, and even at this odd hour, had almost no fear of getting lost or something happening as long as she kept away from the more dangerous areas.

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Changing her mind on her destination on a whim, she rounded a street corner and headed out toward the recpark and the lake. The recpark always soothed her, and the almost full moon seemed to beckon to her. Running a few laps around the peaceful recpark and lake would be good for her, and maybe she could figure out her next few moves. Chortling to herself, she picked up her speed and continued the long run to the recpark. She decided to follow the two-mile round track, maybe even twice, and then walk the mile back to her lodgings as a cool down. Shaking her head at how she couldnt even enjoy a simple middle-of-the-night run without trying to organize herself, she smiled to herself and continued on her way. As she entered the recpark, the tiny dots of light shone through the thick blanket of trees. The tiny pinpricks of light appeared almost magical to Phoebe and made her feel protected, at peace with the world and herself. The more she ran the more she felt as if she were being guided, as if something higher than her conscious self had a gentle hand in this nights activity. It was as she came into view of the lake that she saw him. He stood leaning against a tree near one of the recpark lights. The first thing she noticed about him was how tall he was. His hair seemed slightly shaggy, dark brown in the inky blackness of the night and roughly cropped with shining blond highlights. He must have heard her approach, as he turned in her direction, and she slowed, and then stopped running, gasping softly for breath. He had the most beautiful blue eyes she had ever seen. Having been in the modeling world for over five years, and on its edges for another twelve or so, Phoebe had seen far more than her fair share of stunning eyes and drop-dead-gorgeous men. He was as handsome as a model, yet he didnt carry himself in that particular wayhe didnt have the aura of self-knowledge and arrogance every male model shed ever seen cloaked themselves with. To the contrary, the beautiful man appeared as stunned as she, his eyes opened wide with surprise. For what felt like forever, yet could hardly have been a minute or two at most, they both stood stock-still and simply looked at each other. And then Phoebe realizedthis was the turn she had been waiting for. It had been over six months since her last lover, and even he had barely lasted more than a month. Shed been feeling restless, edgy. Phoebe smiled in amusement. It wasnt her career which was on the point of turning around. It was her sexual life that was about to be revamped. It felt way too early to work out if he was The One, but she would be an utter fool to not take note of her own sharpened instincts, and the luscious perfection of this man in front of her. Phoebe smiled widely and ran a hand through her blonde ponytail.

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Im Michael, the man said, placing a hand on each hip in a relaxed pose. Phoebe smiled and mimicked him. Im Phoebe. Do you think its possible to be waiting for someone and not realize it, Phoebe? he asked in his deep, husky voice. She smiled; amused, entranced, and more than a little wet as her libido sped into overdrive. I think so, she replied lightly, not wanting him to realize just how tight and hungry her body had become. I certainly didnt realize I was being drawn here for this. Thoughnow Im here The man smiled at her and stepped forward to close the distance between them. Phoebe felt not an ounce of wariness. She had learned over many, many years how to hone her instincts, how to size up and gage a man or woman on barely a flicker and a seconds glance. This was a good man. He certainly wouldnt hurt her, and shed bet he even had a white-knight complex, since after they had introduced themselves his body had positioned itself protectively. He hadnt shifted closer, but more angled his body so if someone came from behind him he could shield her with his own large frame. In the dim light, she could see the hefty bulge in his pants, and considering his semi-aroused state didnt need any psychic gift to comprehend his reasons for talking to her were not nefarious, but purely sexual. Michael even had a slight hesitancy about him, as if he were afraid to scare her away. Phoebe sincerely hoped those large, warm hands could satisfy her beyond her wildest dreams. I agree, he said softly, reaching out a hand and waiting for her to take it, now we are here he trailed off. Phoebe took a spilt second to once more gage the entire situation. Nothing inside her led her to believe there was the slightest danger. Indeed, sexual chemistry rippled between them. After years of living on her instincts, being able to sum up a situation on a moments notice, she certainly wasnt going to start second-guessing herself now. She smiled widely and placed her hand in Michaels large, warm one. This man felt solid, dependable. He would no more hurt her than he would set fire to his own balls. As they turned and he led her out of the park, she felt the electric tingle of not only a new path of life opening before her, but also a solid, unshakeable sense of rightness ease through her. So, Phoebe, tell me a bit about yourself. Phoebe grinned, and as they walked together, began the comfortable, brief exchange of two strangers who knew they wouldnt be estranged for long. Chapter Two

Michael couldnt help but continually steal glances at the stunning woman who walked next to him. Her hand felt warm, smooth and slim in his, perfectas if she had been created in the exact dimensions to fit

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him. For the first time in longer than he could recall, standing next to a woman he felt the inherent size differences between a man and woman. She felt small next to him, delicate. He wanted to protect her. He did not fully understand what it was that had dragged him out of his bed a short time ago. A restless, itchy, should-be-somewhere-else kind of feeling. Whatever it was, he felt grateful for it. Vampires certainly had heightened senses, though not exactly how they were portrayed in Gavreels cheesy old pulp fiction novels he seemed unaccountably attached to. Michael had often simply known certain things, especially when it came to the rare few people who were held close to his heart and soul. Elder siblings always knew what was going on in their younger siblings lives, he had always rationalized. Yet Michael felt almost as if he had known Phoebe well before he saw her running around the track in the recpark. She seemed familiar to him. The lodging he shared with Simeon and Rylan came into view. Michael led Phoebe up the short pathway and grinned as her eyes widened in appreciation. Thats a pretty big lodging for one man, she acknowledged. I share it with my younger twin brothers, Simeon and Rylan, he explained, not at all worried about what it might portray about him. Its deceptively large inside, so we wont have any trouble keeping out of everyone elses way. Michael pressed his palm to the plate to unlock the door. Keeping Phoebes hand securely tucked in his own he led her down the corridor and around to his own set of rooms. As he had promised and known, there wasnt a sound or peep out of another living soul. Finally closing the door to his set of chambers behind them, Michael licked his lips as he leisurely looked over Phoebe. Her long, pale blonde hair drawn back into a ponytail made her look young, flirty. Deep violet eyes hungrily ate him up. Michael slowly raised his hand, began to peel his clothes from his body. He wanted to give her time to change her mind, even as he silently prayed she wouldnt. Ever the gentleman, he had never taken a woman who didnt want him, and he had no plans to start now even if he did strongly feel this was exactly what Phoebe wanted. Ill need you to talk to me, he murmured softly as the last of his clothing fell to the floor and he stood before her utterly naked. I love hearing that a woman likes what I do to her. His heart stuttered a quick tattoo as she smiled at him. Her lush lips beckoned him, the happiness and lust in her face and especially those dark purple eyes showing him just how much he excited her. His cock thickened and lengthened, pleasure bordering on pain. I love a man who can take his cues from a woman, she replied softly, her voice thick with desire. I think were going to get along just fine. Michael stepped forward, closing the distance between them both and reached out his hand. In a few quick, economical movements he had her top off. Phoebe had toed off her shoes and he had stripped her pants down to puddle on the floor.

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Her pale skin looked smooth and flawless. Casually, giving her plenty of time and room to stop him, Michael ran his fingertips over her slim curves, pleased her breasts were a solid handful. Skin as soft as silk had his cock hardening even more, the sensual pleasure of her body tightening his groin and causing his mouth to water with the hunger to taste her. When she moaned softly at his gentle caress, Michael bent down to run his tongue along the curve of her neck. Phoebe smelled clean, fresh, as if she had recently bathed. The faint but heady smell of exotic flowers clung to her, whether it was the scent of her cleanser, or simply naturally her, he had no idea. She shivered at the sensation of his tongue along her skin. He moaned as her nipples beaded in excitement. Her hand reached out to guide his own much larger one, cupped her hip and automatically he drew her closer to him. Knowing they would soon be moving quickly, their excitement building furiously, Michael slowly backed Phoebe to his large bed. With a laugh she quickly pulled the elastic from her ponytail and fell back onto the softness of his mattress, her pale blonde hair spreading over his pillow. The startling contrast between light and dark appealed to him. In no rush, Michael followed Phoebe down onto the bed and easily covered her body with his. Her hands traced the line of muscle over his chest, the softness of her fingertips giving him pleasure but tightening his shaft even more. He felt hot, thin beads of sweat trickle on his forehead and back. For the first time in centuries he struggled to retain control. He wanted Phoebe with a fire and passion he had never before experienced. Dipping his head once again he traced wet circles around the full curve of her breast, only when she moaned and thrust the peak into his mouth did he take and pull on her pert nipple. Sucking hard, enjoying passing the pleasure to his lover, Michael could feel his own excitement mount as Phoebe moaned and arched her body into his. Her hands roamed over his body restlessly, and when she fisted him and gently stroked his length, Michael could feel his control begin to fray. No, he uttered hoarsely. Quickly, he captured both her slim hands in one of his own, chaining them above her head. A quick glance at her eyes proved this action actually turned her on even further, the violet deepening in her eyes, lust burning brightly. I wouldnt have picked you for being kinky, she teased him, not an ounce of fear in her voice. Michael knew he would never hurt any woman, but this one was starting to mean even more than any other. He would rather suffer agonies than scare, hurt or upset her. Im happy to play as kinky as you want, he promised huskily, but this is pure selfishness. I dont want you driving me wild until Ive satisfied you. Phoebe laughed and Michael merely grinned his reply, turning back to his erotic explorations of her body. With her hands chained well out of reach, even though she unconsciously struggled against her bondage a few times Michael had no trouble keeping her still. Time appeared to stand still, even though he knew it ticked away. The early hours of the morning had

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always seemed magical to him, time somehow melding itself to be quick or slow depending on ones needs and desires. When he had moved himself down to her soft, flat belly, Michael knew he would have to release her hands. Grab the bedhead, he commanded softly. Phoebe, eyes closed and panting hard, reached her hands up to grab the top of his bed, instinctively responding to his words. Michael spread her thighs wide, his hands warm but firm. Breathing deeply he drew in the luscious scent of woman. Eager now, he dipped his head and stroked his tongue along full, pouting outer labia lips. Tasting the exquisite nectar there, Michael instantly became addicted to the taste of Phoebe. Salty and lush, she tasted of ambrosia and heaven. Eagerly, Michael lapped at her, the tips of one hand tracing random patterns on her thighs, the other gently stroking the nub of her clitoris into standing attention. Come inside me, Phoebe panted, Ive had my suppression shot and Im clean, I swear. Michael grinned to himself. Suppression shots were useless to a vampire, when in heat nothing could suppress pregnancy if thats what was meant to be, and at all other times vampires were incompatible. Health-wise there were very few sexually transmitted diseases left nowadays, but for the few that were around, vampires were immune, and they could neither catch nor give any of them. Im clean too, he replied. He wanted to ease Phoebes mind, but didnt think shed appreciate a lesson on his own background right at this moment. Plenty of time for that in the morning, after they had both sated themselves. Right now, however, he continued, I am far more interested in driving you wild. Gently, he eased one thick finger into her as he suckled on her clit. He watched, entranced, as Phoebe pressed her head back into the pillows and moaned in pleasure. Youre doing that, she agreed breathlessly, but I want you, right now! Michael chuckled and gave her another finger. He was astounded at how tight she felt, how her body clenched around him. Crooking his finger, he stroked her inner walls, searched for her most sensitive spot. Even before he found it he could feel her inner walls contracting around him. Enraptured, he watched as the beauty before him flew apart, muffling her screams with a hand. Continuing to stroke her intimately, Michael moved himself up to kiss her full, pouting lips. When she opened her eyes, they stared deeply into each others souls. No one can hear you, he assured her gently as he pressed another kiss to her lips. You can be as loud as you like and no one but you and me will know. I promise.

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The grin that crossed her face took his breath away in its beauty. Michael felt himself tumble headfirst into love. Slowly, gently she lowered her hands to his shoulders and pushed him onto his back. More than willing to comply with this sensual siren, Michael lay passively, only grinning when she lifted herself off his fingers. Bringing his digits to his mouth, he naughtily licked her essence from the two fingers. He watched as her pupils dilated, hunger burning in their depths. My turn, she whispered and he nodded happily. His cock tightened as she straddled his hips, bent to kiss him and then thrust herself down his length. Wet as she was, she smoothed over him like fiery silk, as if they had been meant for one another. Michael groaned, clenched his fists to try and hold on to his slipping control. Let go, she whispered enticingly. No siren song could possibly match her lure. As they stared into each others eyes, she rode him, her breaths coming in quick pants, pleasure, astonishment and a burning lust all easily portrayed across her face. In the heat of the moment, the flames of lust and need began to enflame him, and Michael knew he couldnt wait much longer. Of their own volition both his hands settled on her slim hips, lifting and pressing her, hastening her own movements. She didnt fight him, indeed her hands settled on his shoulders and aided his ministrations. In seconds Michael could feel the heat burning in his balls, his explosion imminent. Lightning-quick, one hand moved back to her pussy, a finger flicking her clit. Phoebe screamed, her body convulsing. The milking motion of her pussy threw him over his own climax, his dick thrusting deep inside her, his seed spurting into her womb, bathing and branding her. She collapsed on him, and for the first time Michael could feel the quick, heavy pound of her heart against his chest. Still intimately joined, Michael shifted slightly so they could spoon together, face to face. Their breaths mingled, both of them panting, and their hearts pounded together. Michael kissed Phoebe softly, gently, the sweetness of the moment stunning him. Their sex had been hot and furious, fast and devastatingly erotic, and yet he felt his cock begin to stir once more. Slowly, she responded to the sweetness of his lips, her tongue flicking out to tease him. That was amazing, she whispered to him, wonder dawning in her deep violet eyes. Michael chuckled. I know, he replied, but the night is still young. They exchanged a warm, secret glancethe kind only lovers of the heart could understand. Let me tell you a secret, he whispered enticingly against her ear as he began to string kisses across her cheek and down her neck. And then you can begin to tell me some of your secret fantasies.

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The moan that seemed wrenched from her was part surrender and part surprise. Unable to believe his good fortune, Michael thanked the Goddess above and slowly began to build the erotic conflagration that he knew would burn between them once again. ***** As the sky lightened with the rising of the twin suns many hours later, Phoebe crept out of the large, comfortable lodging Michael had taken her back to. His large body sprawled across the bed, tempting her still, even after hours of play and numerous bouts of lovemaking. Initially, she had been worried about the fact he shared the lodgings with his two brothers, but Michael had insisted their privacy would be absolute, and it had been the truth. She had screamed out so many orgasms her thigh muscles were still shaking from delayed reaction, and her throat felt tingly and raw. She had shared some of her most secret desires, her hottest and most private fantasies with this man, and even though in almost any other circumstance she might be feeling embarrassed now or shy, she simply couldnt lie to herself. She felt wonderful, as if she had shared some of her deepest, most private self with this man. For a moment she hesitated. She didnt know if she could ever share anything even half as secret and intimate with anyone else. Phoebe paused, fully clothed beside the bed. Should she leave him a message? Phoebe probed her instinct, questioned herself. Shockingly, she couldnt decide either way. Gently, surprised at her own uncertainty, Phoebe worried her lower lip as she debated with herself. Before she could change her mind she picked up the holo-pad and scribbledThank you for a night like no other. P Her skin prickled hotly, whether flushed from embarrassment or nerves she had no idea. Walking quickly out of the lush bedroom, Phoebe retraced the path Michael had brought her down seemingly days ago. She felt a moment of panic as she pressed the release on the front door, worried Michael might have locked the door from the inside. Sighing in huge relief as the door swung open, Phoebe pulled her sweats closer around her body in the chilly dawn air. As she pulled the main door shut behind her, she looked out at the rising twin suns. A bright, clear new day lay before her. Three times, she mused silently, standing on the front steps of the lodging, smiling stupidly to herself. For the second time that morning she began to stretch her legs to try and work the kinks out of her smaller and less used muscles. Three times in what? Four hours tops? It couldnt possibly be later than seven in the morning since the suns were only just over the horizon. Phoebe straightened her back, did a few leg warm-ups and looked up and down the street. She bit her lip, and for the first time she could ever recall in almost any situation, she looked back, at the comfortable, welcoming lodging she had spent a few short hours in. In her minds eye could see Michael still asleep, sprawled in his bed, naked as a jer-bird. She shook her whole body, warming her muscles up, and bounced on the balls of her feet, putting off the

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moment she had to step down off the front step of the only place she had ever felt was a home. Phoebe looked up and down the street once again to get her bearings, and noticed the Candy-Bar Eatery on the far corner. Recognizing the eatery, she knew pretty much where she stood and turned in the other direction to head back to the recpark and lake. It was time she got back to work. Much as she cherished the previous four hours worth of memories, she not only had work to do, but didnt want to impose on Michael. He was everything and more she had imagined in a man, and yet he had taken great pains to inform her of his missing father and how much time of his the search would consume. Not once had he made her feel as if she were unimportant, or just some random lay, in fact, they had both been honest in their feeling something predestined in their meeting. Yet Phoebe held private doubts if this were exactly the right time for them to start a relationship. Maybe she should ask guidance from her aunts. She felt a moments warmth and love as she thought of the two women, priestesses of an ancient temple. The closest thing to family she had were her dead mothers two sisters. Very early on Phoebe had known that was not the life for her, and although her aunts were the only family she had, she could not be with them as they wished her to be. And so she had left. As she started to jog back to her own lodgings, the restless, itchy sensation returned, only far, far worse this time. Maybe it was time she paid her aunts one of her short visits? Since she was family, she was allowed in the temple, but usually as soon as her brief viewing with her aunts ended, she was driven crazy inside the temple, and simply had to leave. Even as she decided this, Phoebe squashed the strong sensation she was heading in the wrong direction. Michael had his own path to travel, and although a small voice in the back of her mind insisted she was a part of that path, Phoebe knew it would be foolish to assume such a thing. She had her work to do. More importantly, Michael had his own quest. She would give him the time and space she felt he needed, and then they could pick up from there. A few weeks here or there would not make any sort of major difference in either of their lives, no matter how certain she had been earlier in the morning. Phoebe ran faster, stretching her legs and pushing her body. She hoped she was doing the right thing. Chapter Three Later the following day Gavreel Montagues study, the back of The Book Nook

Vasili looked over to the other side of Gavreels study and frowned at one of his oldest buddies. Michael generally was the most laid-back of vampires. Sure, he had his mysterious, sensible side, but unlike Simeon, Michaels younger brother, he rarely fretted or worried. Today, however, the usually unflappable elder vampire seemed to be gnawing on something big. Gavreel

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hadnt been heard from for close to three months now, but Michael had only been acting oddly since this very morning. Gavreel was an elder vampire, and the sire of Michael, Simeon and Rylan Montague. He had been taking care of himself for many centuriesit was unlikely he had suffered disaster now. While Simeon tended to fret, Michael and Rylan rarely followed suit and since Vasili had known all the Montague men for a number of decades now, he knew how out of the ordinary this behavior was for Michael. Besides, Vasilis rampant curiosity could almost smell an intriguing, juicy story behind Michaels moodiness. Vasili wondered if it was about a woman, but just hadnt yet figured the right approach to take with his buddy. They were both situated in Gavs study, looking for any indication on what Gavreel might have been following in his academic studies. While Vasili still didnt really feel any true concern for Gav, nearly three months with no contact was unusual, even for him. Vasili paused. He knew Michael hadnt been acting so strangely the last few days. Only today. And so the logical conclusion from that would be that something had happened to him over the course of the previous evening. You doing okay, mate? Vasili asked in what he hoped was a casual voice. Now he had something to aim for in his conversation with Michael, he wouldnt let his good friend brush him off and shut him up. All throughout the day, Michael had been communicating through monosyllables, grunts and expletives as conversation, and Vasili had backed off, not understanding nor wanting to upset his good mate. But after endless hours of such conversation, Vasili had had enough and wanted a few answers. Particularly when it made so much sense that the overnight change in Mikes attitude meant something had happened. Asking outright would likely get him nothing more than another shut the fuck up, or at worst Mike might try and take a swing at him. And so Vasili decided to try to be subtle for once in his life. Vasili, in what he hoped was a casual manner, picked up yet another filea circular disk with a zillion holo-notes by Gav. As the silence from Michael lengthened, Vasili frowned. There were so many files, folders and academic crap littering the place, he had begun to truly think this search was a completely hopeless task. As they had no idea which particular project Gav had been working on, the chances of them stumbling across a remind-it note to himself saying Remember to go to Gactafica in the next few weeks and having a recent date on it were slim to none. Huh? Michael finally replied vaguely. Oh, no, I havent found anything yet. Vasili dropped the file he really should have started to look through and crossed his arms over his chest. Subtlety was one thing, but it seemed to be currently lost on his friend. Okay mate, he said shortly, his patience at an end, sit the five hells down and spill whatever it is that happened last night thats bugging you. At his harsher tone of voice, Michael looked up again, and saw the set expression on his face. When Michael sighed and set down the documents he had been pretending to sift through, Vasili felt his spirits lift and hoped they could sort out whatever bugged Michael fairly easily.

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I met the most amazing woman last night, Michael started slowly and carefully, enunciating each word perfectly as if he had been thinking his speech out earlier. Despite himself, Vasili felt his stomach lurch. It wasnt the full realization that Michael had found a woman, but more the fact he suddenly had a vivid mental picture of all three Montague brothers being happily completed, their souls perfectly joined to their respective women, and he, cold and alone, standing on the outside looking in and watching them. Vasili shook his head, mentally slapped himself and berated his childish behavior. He had a brilliant life, and could pretty much have any woman he desired. So where had that pang of jealousy and loneliness come from? Simeon and Rylan, Michaels younger twin brothers, had both entered their respective heat phases and met the women of their dreams, practically simultaneously. As vampiric twins were almost unheard of, the identical genetic and physiological actions both Michael and Vasili had hypothesized about and discussed seemed to make sense. Once roughly every thousand moon phases or so, a vampire entered what was commonly referred to in vampiric circles as their heat phase. A vampires heat phase was when an individual vampires genetics sequenced them into a fertile period. During this short period of time if the vampire metor already knewa woman compatible with his unique physiology, they could procreate, and thus a little vampire would be brought forth into the galaxy. As vampires were virtually immortal, the universe and genetics had conspired to make them infertile for the vast majority of their lives, so the entire galaxy and potentially beyond would not be inundated with a plethora of vampires, intent on conquering the known worlds. Yet vampires were still a species and race, and they needed to procreate. And so, during their heat phase any vampire, if he or she found the right partner, could sire children. On top of this, the woman a man could be fertile with was generally held to be able to also complete his Souls Circle. A vampire did not have to be in heat to fulfill the vampiric ritual of merging their two soulsboth parties exchanged their missing pieces, creating a whole. Vasili mulled for a moment over his own existence. Sure, he could feel the faint pang of loneliness, always knew just below his own surface was a missing piece of his soul. But he had friends, a scattered relative or two around the galaxy and generally enjoyed his life to the fullest. Yet when he was honest with himself, he knew there was always that part of him that was missing, that yearning for a completely rounded and more fulfilling existence. Vasili smiled wryly, privately acknowledging no woman he had met would offer him parts of her soul, which he would then be able to fuse to his own. He then in return would offer the woman his own soul, which he could fuse to hers. But the fact still remained, even if he had met a woman that special, he had yet to meet anyone who would open herself that deeply to him. To Vasilis mind the ritual was completely fairboth parties completed their souls and had their own intact. The bond created between the two people could never be broken, and Vasili had heard it was an exceedingly intimate connection. Yet he couldnt help the pang of sadness that washed through him as he

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realized he knew of no such woman who would do this with him. Vasili shrugged to himself. To his knowledge, he didnt even currently knowof a woman who was compatible with himself, not that he had tried penetrating womens minds very much of late. When Simeon and now Rylan both found their respective women, Vasili and Michael were ecstatic at them both finding their women and completing themselves. Yet Vasili knew he felt slightly bereft. In the last few days, he had been feeling his incompleteness more and more, a dragging sense that soon, as Michael too entered into his heat phase, the last of his closest friends would find that special, particular woman. Vasili shivered slightly as he realized in many respects he would be left out in the cold, no matter how close his friendships with the Montague men were, and no matter how truly happy he was for his friends. Idiot,he chastised himself sternly.Michael is just stuck on a woman. He, Si and Ry are your best friends. Dont be such a dumbass and feel left out, just deal with it. Although his personal pep talk helped, Vasili knew there wasnt really any sense in trying to convince himself otherwise. For over two hundred years now he had run around with the Montague menit was incredibly hard to feel alone or lonely when one had three great friends with whom to pass the time. Vasili had a strong flash of intuition that Michael, the last Montague bachelor brother, was as good as completed. Amazing woman, huh? he said carefully, wishing his jealousy would shrivel and die. Was he really so petty he couldnt feel joy and happiness for his friend? Vasili frowned, unused to such conflicting emotions. How could one feel happy for ones friend, and simultaneously feel jealous and sad? Vasili sat down on one of the comfy chairs and watched, amazed, as Michael started gesticulating with his hands and talked quickly with a decisiveness that proved he had indeed been mulling this over throughout the day and ordering his words and thoughts. Her name is Phoebe, he said calmly, but with a catch in his voice. Vasili nodded, amazed Michael didnt even pause for breath or to see if he was paying attention. I met her last night while I was out walking in the recpark. Vas, mate, it was the most bizarre thing. I just could not sleep no matter what I tried. Im sure it was partly because of Gav, but my mind was also trying to come to terms with Rylan and Ruthie astounding me by completing each others Soul Circle! Vasili watched as Michael looked down at him, and he nodded, not truly surprised. Rylan and Ruthie had been sniffing around each other and playing hard to get for months, if not years. While surprised they had finally managed to get their act together, Vasili felt no real surprise the two hotheads had managed to make a go of their relationship. I mean, Michael continued without even pausing for breath, the thought boggles the mind! I felt certain those two hated each other, or at least, I felt fairly certain Ruthie hated Rylan. Has the galaxy gone utterly mad? Vasili merely raised an eyebrow at Michaels rhetorical question, but felt a smattering of surprise the eldest brother hadnt noticed that while Ruthie always spat fire at Rylan, she had never done him any real

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physical harm, which she was more than capable of doing. All their mutual bluster and heat and arguing had been a foil, covering their intense attraction. Vasili wondered for a moment how Michael could have never realized that. Maybe he had never taken the time to properly get to know Ruthie, Vasili mused. Michael obviously knew Rylan had been stuck on the fiery Investigator, but had simply not realized that all the loud noises from Ruthie had also been camouflage. Vasili smirked, wondered if part of Michaels shocked outrage was surprise at himself for not catching on quickly enough. I mean, look at how much this galaxy had been driven insane! Gav is out junketing around the solar systems with Chandra, Rylan and Ruthie fusing their souls, for the sake of the Goddess! Simeon and Clare I can understand as a fate thing, they seem made for each other, but everything else Vasili smiled wryly at his friend as he took a deep breath and continued on, barely a pause for Vasili to stick his own opinions ineven if he had wanted to. He held his own council, however, feeling this was all coming to a climax, which would be the root of the real issue facing his friend. And so there I was, wandering around the recpark with a million things on my mind, trying to sort all this bizarre behavior out, when I stopped near the lake. I have no idea whatsoever why I did or even what made me do it. But I stopped, and just waited. Vasili raised an eyebrow, and Michael caught his silent query. His friend nodded, continuing more slowly and calmly. I know, mate, thats exactly what it was like. I was waiting for something there against that tree, with the moon and stars and the lake shining darkly. I had absolutely no understanding and no idea why I was there or even why I felt like I needed to wait! And a few minutes later, when I started to think maybeI was losing brain cells too, this absolute vision started running down the track. Vasili felt himself drawn into the memory Michael shared with him unconsciously. It was dark, the calm, peaceful dark of the very late evening, or early morning. The moon shone sporadically, lighting and creating shadows, which managed to conceal much between the trees. Vasili recognized the recpark, and looked around the memory, until he noticed a tall, slim woman who ran toward him/them, her long blonde ponytail swinging. Vasili, as Michael, first noticed her eyesa dark, entrancing purple. Goddess, Michaels voice cut through Vasilis mental image, and he was brought back into the present. I still get hard just seeing her in my mind. Vasili nodded, but didnt say anything. The woman, Phoebe, had certainly been beautiful, but Vasili wondered at his own, much calmer, reaction to her in comparison to Michael. Would he have responded more if he had been there? Somehow he doubted it, and wondered why he didnt think he would have. He shifted his concentration back to his friend as Michael continued, running a hand agitatedly through his hair. We introduced ourselves, and then headed back to the lodging. It all seemed so natural, destined if youll excuse the arrogance of such a claim. We made love for hours. I felt the beginnings of my heat

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stirring, yet it seems different this time. I thought I was just getting old, I assumed I was gaining more control over my heat phase. We fell asleep close to dawn Vasili watched his friends face closely as his words petered out and he made a scrunched up face at himself and let a hand slap his thigh hard. Vasili had a feeling they were at the crux of the matter. When Michael continued to speak, he knew his guess had been right. Or I thought she fell asleep too. I really dont know. We were both so exhausted after that last bout. All I know is I woke up alonecold and alone in my bed. She left a paltry holo-note, but thats beside the point. She just up and left sometime while I was asleep. Vasili shifted slightly in his seat. He didnt exactly feel uncomfortable, and he couldnt really explain his reaction, but although he still felt slightly jealous that Michael had obviously met the woman he would complete his souls circle with, a shaft of pity managed to flash through him. Michael was gone. The poor bastard didnt even know it yet, but Vasili knew it with more certainty than he knew his own name. He could hear it in Michaels tone of voice. The obvious agitation he felt at the simple act of this one woman leaving. If he didnt feel absolutely certain Michael would bash him in the face, hed laugh his ass off. Five hells, he might laugh himself sick anyway! Cracking a wide grin, Vasili decided to throw his mate a lifeline. I know you, Mike, he started easily, his huge grin almost acting like a red flag in front of Michael. He continued offering his olive branch anyway. You would have wrung information out of her even while screwing madly. Surely this isnt as bleak as youre painting it? Vasili felt shock rush through him as Michael turned on him, angry sparks lighting his dark blue eyes. Dammit, Vas, it was more than just screwing. Despite himself, Vasili felt his eyebrows rise high. Michael ignored his laughing, his humor, even his teasing, and honed in on the fact he had described their night of passion as screwing? Damn, Mike must be even more deeply in love than even he realized. I know it sounds sappy, Michael continued, his temper, as always, burning free before it had even really begun. I feel like the most juvenile of lovesick girls. But wemade love , we didnt simplyhave sex . Vasili swallowed his smile, not wanting to taunt his buddy. He nodded, and solemnly agreed. Michael rolled his eyes and ran a hand over his face. Vasili allowed himself a smirk for just a moment, and then quickly wiped it from his face before Michael could see. He waited patiently, and sure enough in a minute Michael continued as if Vasili had verbally nudged him to continue. Yeah, sure I got details. Her parents died when she was a small child, her aunts helped raise her. She left to become a model and from what I can gather was well known if not famous galaxy-wide, not that that surprised me in the slightest. She got out a few years ago and has been working as a freelance merc ever since. Michael paused a moment, as if remembering the conversation. Vasili looked aside, not wanting to

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intrude on his private moment. He frowned, wondered if Mike would need a nudge toward the woman. A freelance merc was always of some use, and setting the two of them up wouldnt be any hassle if it was indeed needed. Vasili looked back to his friend as he continued again as if he hadnt even paused. She feels restless though. Privately, Im sure she has some psychic powers. She knew a change was coming. She put it down to simply a work change, thinks shes about to start a new career path of some sort, but I honestly dont think its that. I think her mind and soul were preparing her to meet me, and the changes that would involve. Her world is shifting on its axis. I think shes my mate. Vasili smiled at Mike, his heart honestly light and happy for his friend, even while deep in his soul he felt himself sink further into a cold swamp he had never before experienced. He ignored his personal pain and concentrated on helping his buddy. And? I just cant believe you wouldnt have found out who she is. Vasili felt relieved as Michael reached into his pocket and pulled out a hologram holder. He opened it, and a collage of pictures played out before him. Michael handed the holder to Vasili, and as he watched the holograms flip through one after another, he felt a moment of purely masculine envy sear through him. A tall, willow-slim woman stood naked in a variety of different positions, her long blonde hair cascading down her body. Dark violet eyes stared out, teasing and enticing any and every man, daring him to try for her. Vasili instantly recognized this seductive siren as Phoebe from the memory of the recpark Michael had unwittingly shared as he had recalled it himself. More than that, Vasili recognized this particular woman, and the spread the holograms had come from. Unlike he had first assumed, Michael had not convinced Phoebe to pose for him last night in his bedchamber, but instead they were a side-product of a common soft porn holo-zine. The centerfold spreads were often condensed into these picture carriers for men to slip into a pocket and carry around with them without partners or wives detecting. You made it with Miss July? he asked, astonished and still faintly envious, not to mention disbelieving what his own eyes told him. The enormous grin on Michaels face confirmed his thoughts and had him gaping like a fool. You are looking at Miss Phoebe Blenti, Miss July in the Inter-Galactic Best Bods section from about fourteen years ago. Ive found an address for her, but have been chewing over whether to confront her or not. I really dont want to have to beg, or not yet at least. Id much rather have something else up my sleeve and leave the begging for a last ditch campaign. Vasili cocked his head to the side, stunned but amazed at how oddly life turned out sometimes.No one down at Scoopers Pub would believe him if he told them Mike had made it with Miss July, still one of the most drooled-over centerfold spreads of their time. Not even fourteen years had lessened her infamy. Vasili pulled himself together and took a deep breath, ready and more than happy to delve deeper and help brainstorm with his friend so they could form a plan of attack. Even if Miss Phoebe Blentior Miss July as he wanted to keep her just for nowwas Michaels partner, simply having something to do with her would be a brilliant thing to brag about to the other guys

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down at Scoopers. Before he could open his mouth to start throwing ideas around, the door to Gavreels study slammed open and a short, pixyish young woman rushed through into the private office. Chapter Four

Vasili stared in mingled shock and horror as the short, busty young blonde woman rushed into Gavreels office, talking without even looking up from the notes she studied. Alderic! she said loudly in what to him sounded as a frustrated and annoyed tone of voice. The woman was concentrating fiercely on her holographic notes and didnt even appear to notice either vampire in the room. Youhave to contact Gav right away. Ive found something about the Rune Vasili felt his eyes widen even further as he recognized the woman. Was Michael right? Had the world truly gone insane? Just as he thought hed been slammed with a baseball bat in the solar plexus, so too did the young woman finally look up from her notes, only to appear as if she had been hit over the head with something hard. What the five hells areyou doing here? she asked shrilly, obviously disconcerted to find the two of them present. Vasili felt his mouth drop open and he stood up unconsciously. Lea?he stuttered in utter shock. He could hardly believe the woman in front of him was the tiny, barely legal escort who frequented Scoopers Pub. For a split second Vasili considered the probability that he was having a massive, Purple Vodka-induced dream. Or would it be a nightmare? Is that you? he asked hoarsely, needing confirmation that the woman in front of him was in fact the tiny escort from Scoopers. What the five hells areyou doing here? he repeated stupidly. Somehow, with the tiny blonde womans entrance, his IQ had dropped about fifty points. How did she manage to always do that to him? Vasili felt his own world turn on its side and dip unnaturally. Lea Vanvlak, escort extraordinaire and all round sex bomb, had walked into Gavreels study as if she owned the place. Vasili felt his mouth dry and his heart beat practically out of his chest when he noticed that instead of her customary costume of tiny, fake tartan-printed pleated skirt and black breast band, with her blonde hair pulled back into the sexy pigtails that never failed to drive him wild, she stood before him looking older than her supposedly eighteen years. She wore, in fact, his boggled mind assimilated, aForce Uniform ! Complete with badge and identification. With her hair neatly pulled back into a ponytail, she looked older, wiser. Lea still looked young, he corrected himself hastily, but much closer to twenty-five or twenty-six, rather than the seventeen or eighteen she always seemed each night down in Scoopers Pub. How oldare you? Vasili growled out, angry, aroused and yet still stunned by the amazing jumble of thoughts, emotions and new information scattered through his brain.

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Michael appeared as astonished as he, so at least his friend hadnt been holding out on him. Vasili knew no one, not even the Montague brothers, knew he lusted fiercely after Lea. He had told no one at all, hating himself for desiring the tiny young girl, whom secretly he hadnt even been sure had been of the legal age of majority, eighteen. Lea, on the other hand, merely raised herself fully erect, standing all of five foot three, even in her low heeled Force regulation boots. With her curves well hidden behind the Force uniform, she still made his mouth water and his dick stand fully at attention. The world has truly gone insane, he tried to assure himself. Lea was an escort. A picky one for certain, but anescort nevertheless. She was not a member of the Force. She was not wearing that badge and stunner, which appeared enormously large on her rounded hip. And she sure as bloody hell wasnot standing in the middle of Gavreels study looking as if she owned the place and desperately wished to beam the hell out of him and Michael for being there when she crashed in. Vasili looked around, tempted to pinch himself and wake up. He would have one hell of a boner, but he could always cleanse himself and jack off in the cubicle, thinking of a much happier fantasy of Lea kneeling in front of him and sucking him off. This wasnot one of his regular fantasies about Lea. As the moments ticked past, and all three stared in astonishment at each other before beginning to calm down, Vasili realized he was not about to wake up. Dreams, no matter how good or bad, simply did not halt and drag out like this, the embarrassment and confusion stretching out for minutes at a time. Lea finally charged the atmosphere again by placing small hands angrily on her hips. Whats a few years to a vampire? she asked haughtily, appearing to gather the courage to answer his angrily hissed question. Besides, dont you know its incredibly rude to ask a lady her age? I thought Alderic was in here, Lea continued quickly. Vasili noticed as he tried to swallow his smile that she didnt manage to try and change the topic of conversation with her usual subtlety and flair. Hes not in his office or the back room of the Book Nook, she said, waiting for either he or Michael to answer her unspoken question ofwhere exactly Alderic was. Instead of answering, Vasili signaled Michael to keep quiet, and he crossed over to where Lea stood by the door, her back ramrod straight, daggers being glared at him from her cool blue eyes. Vasili gently wrapped a hand around the back of her neck, forcing her to look him in the face. How old? he insisted, thinking of themany times in the last six months he had felt ashamed for his indecent lust toward a girl he thought barely, if actually, past her legal Majority Eighteenth birthday. He refused to think of the number of times he had thought of her, fantasized about her as he brought himself to completion, only to feel ashamed and appalled at himself afterward. Twenty-nine, she admitted softly, apologizing with her eyes, though not her tone of voice. Vasili felt his hand tighten around the back of her neck, nowhere near exerting enough pressure to hurt her, but more than enough to show his non-appreciation of her masquerade.

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Angry, annoyed, royally pissed off and once again aroused, he pressed his lips shut, insisting with his will alone she explain, or at least offer some sort of excuse for her misdirections. Vasili simply didnt trust himself to open his mouth, afraid he would bark out something he would later regret saying. I was especially recruited for this particular case, she finally admitted. Vasili could feel her squirm in his grip. Her eyes slid past him and focused on the far wall. He felt his anger melt, but refused to release her. He knew his hand pressured her, but caused no pain or she would have most certainly retaliated. It was the words, physical sensations and emotions shimmering between them, unspoken, that had her squirming, and not the pressure of his hand. Vasili felt more than owed some explanations. When he realized shed spoken about acase, he felt his heart constrict. Was she in any danger? Before he could question her more, Lea continued. You have to have noticed with a short skirt, careful makeup, the right heels and my hair up in pigtails I can pass easily as eighteen or even younger if the need calls. She squirmed once again, and before Vasili could even think of a coherent question to ask, she blurted out quickly, Im a quarter vampire. My maternal great-grandparents were pureblood vampires. Their only child, my grandmother, had no powers at all, one of those fifth standard deviations who for all appearances are human. Physically, my mother, grandmother and I age very slowly, but otherwise we appear fully human and even now, that small vampire trait is greatly weakened. My mother still looks young enough to be my sister, and I dont exactly look my age as it is. Vasili nodded, understanding. Rarely, but sometimes, vampires had average or humanlike babies born with fully whole souls. Even though a varying number of genetic traits could be vampiric, the child would be essentially human, although a longer living and much better preserved human. What Gavreel had mentioned once before when the topic arose was that the DNA always remained vampiric, even if the characteristics were human. Interesting as Vasili found Leas story, and as desperately as he wanted to dig further into her background and source outexactly which aspects of her were vampiric and which were akin to human, Michael seemed to at least be thinking with the head upon his shoulders. Why did you think Alderic could contact Gav? Michael asked curiously from behind them both. Vasili massaged Leas neck gently for a moment, loath to release her. Knowing he would have to wait, he let Lea go and stood a few paces back. He took a deep breath, willing his erection to subside and his head to get back into gear and start thinking coherently. He still felt a little off-kilter, but with a fierce force of will, he managed to bring his mind back to Gavreel and the task at hand. At least one of them was thinking with his brain, he admitted wryly to himself. Silently nodding, agreeing with the sense of Michaels question, he looked back at Lea. A few wisps of her white-blonde hair had escaped the bondage of her ponytail, gently framing her face. With pale blue

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eyes, Lea looked apologetically to Michael, and then back to him. Vasili felt a moment where he could have sworn he was falling into those clear, pale blue pools. He felt the tug between them, not just a sexual pull, but one of hearts, something far deeper. For the first time, Vasili truly understood how Michael had been so annoyed when he spoke of the sex between him and Phoebe being merely screwing. Sometimes, the connection went far deeper than merely his dick penetrating the folds of some woman, any woman. I cant tell you, Lea said softly. Michael made a rude sound, but Vasili kept his own council. He could easily see the genuine regret in her eyes. You dont have clearance, she explained apologetically. Vasili frowned, not happy withthat as an explanation, but unwilling to vent his annoyance on Lea. Unfortunately, Michael beat him to the punch of getting more out of her. Clearance?What the hell do you mean, wedont have clearance . Hes my father! Vasili watched Leas blue eyes dim. He could see pity and regret clearly within her gaze, but there was also a strong, steely strength in her now. She wore her professionalism around her like a jacket or cloak. Nothing would penetrate that, he instinctively knew. It means just what it sounds like. You dont have clearance to know, and so I cant tell you. Vasili pressed his lips together, annoyed, fairly feeling the heat of frustration radiating from Michael, but unwilling to make Lea feel any more on the spot than she already was. What can you tell us? he said softly, hoping to feel out some sort of compromise to soothe Michael, but also answer their questions without getting Lea into trouble. Lea looked at him, and he felt his chest constrict. Her eyes looked deep into his own black ones, and he willed her to tell them what she could. When she sighed and lowered her eyes, he knew she would. Gavs been working on something for us, she said softly, carefully, almost feeling her way verbally through the minefield Vasili didnt doubt she dodged through. Hes been doing research, of course. He told me the night before he left, down at Scoopers, that he was going to check some stuff out on Owanus. We hadnt heard from him, but he had told us he wouldnt call until hed finished what he wanted to do. Both Vasili and Michael nodded in complete understanding. All too often Gavreel would find himself so deeply entrenched in his own little world of research and notes, he wouldnt think to surface for anything. Even so, he did usually manage to make contact more frequently than once in three weeks. I didnt know until Simeon and Clare came to Scoopers last night that youve all been searching for him. I was surprised. He had intended to keep in touch with you all, or that was the impression I had. Vasili nodded, but Lea continued with barely a breath.

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I was astonished when Si mentioned you had all found out Gav and that vampiress, Chandra, had left Owanus. He definitely should have contacted me to inform me of his movements, not to mention getting in touch with you! Vasili cocked an eyebrow. He felt amusement well deep within him. He felt utterly charmed with how indignant Lea sounded, as if someone had called her cute as a button, instead of sexy or something. She sounded truly offended by Gavreel moving without informing her. More than likely Gav found something, or was just so entrenched in his work he forgot toah informyou, Michael said soothingly. Vasili grinned wickedly. Yeah, Lea, you should know enough about Gav to know when he gets on a roll all he does is run and follow the scent. Everything and everyone else just drops totally from his mind. Vasili watched, amazed, as Lea merely pursed her lips together. She didnt exactly look like a pouting child, but she managed to look annoyed, and sexy as sin at the same time. He saw her look from him, to Michael, and then back to him again. Vasili cocked an eyebrow, leaning back into her as he realized she held still more information. Come on, sweets. Spill. I can see you have more. Vasili felt his cock thicken as Lea flicked out a tongue, ran it over her lower lip, leaving a damp line. She appeared to hesitate a moment, and then give in. We read over some of the holo-files he had been looking at. Weuhmanaged to tap into a few bits and pieces. Vasili merely nodded patiently, willing to hold out and wait as long as necessary. He knew full well the wealth of information the Force had access to. Practically every database in cyberspace could be penetrated by them, either by legal or slightly less-than-legal means. Vasili held his control, and smiled as his patience paid off. We think hes heading to Klampor, Lea said quickly again, as though if she spoke it fast enough, it wouldnt count as her sharing too much information. I need to contact him, she continued earnestly. Vasili wondered again how someone who was twenty-nine could seem so sweet and innocent, especially being in the Force and mostly seeing the seedier, less-sincere aspects of the worlds across the galaxy. The problem is, she said looking pleadingly at him, we dont know how. I was hoping Alderic could help me. Vasili turned to Michael, and both of them grinned. I seriously wouldnt hold your breath, Lea. Sneaky and paranoid bastard he is, hes telepathically blocked everyone, even us, Michael said. And if he isnt taking calls from his family, I sincerely doubt he will be taking them from any of your telepaths. You know how paranoid he gets with his research. Vasili saw Leas shoulders slump slightly, knew she fully realized the significance of Gavreels stubbornness.

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Yeah, I had wondered that, particularly after Simeon insisted he hadnt been able to contact Gav. I had hoped he was just playing something up, but youre right, if he isnt acknowledging even his own children, he sure doesnt want to talk to me. Vasili reached out and squeezed her shoulder in comfort. We knew that Gav and Chandra had headed to Klampor. Rylan and Ruthie contacted Simeon and Clare early yesterday morning and they passed the message on to us. Weve been here searching for references to it most of the day. You wouldnt happen to know if its a planet, galaxy or solar system or what, would you? Vasili watched as Lea shook her head sadly, and then looked at Michael strangely. Vasili turned to see what had caught her attention, and saw as a thought almost literally hit Michael between his eyes. His friend blinked, appeared stunned, and then put a hand to his head as if the idea had actually singed or hurt him. Oh Goddess, I am so bloody stupid, he said, agony in his voice. We might not have heard of Klampor, but I know someone who would have. Vasili frowned, casting his mind through his and the Montagues friends, seeking through to find who it was Michael had recalled. The only person who had been on Michaels mind all day had been Phoebe Vasili grinned widely, his grin contagious when Michael caught it. Vasili understood his friends excitement and irritation at himself. Even if Phoebe had only been working as a merc for four or five years, chances were she knew where the planet or system was and how to get there. At the very least shed have the contacts to find out how to get the information. And as a merc for hire, or some such equivalent, Michael could take her on, and spend a whole lot more time with her. Vasili chuckled to himself. Trust Michael to come up with a plan as purpose-filled as this one. It had the dual purpose of spending a significant amount of time in close contact with Phoebe, but he could also go with her and find wherever Gavreel had ended up. Vasili smirked and shook his head. A better holo-chess planner and strategist he had never met. Even Gavreel refused to play holo-chess against his eldest son now. No one stood a chance. Vasili turned back to Lea, knowing even now Michael was planning his strategy and trying to think of the best way to snare his woman. Vasili looked Lea up and down, even the boxy, dead-ugly Force uniform unable to hide the voluptuousness of her figure. Lust burnt brightly in his eyes. Vasili saw a momentary flicker of answering heat in Leas pale blue eyes, but just as he thought he caught it, she twisted her mouth and it was gone again. Vasili merely grinned wider. Now he knew she was well and truly above the legal age, there was no reason for him not to launch his

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own utterly sensual attack against her. Twenty-nine was a hell of a lot better than seventeen or eighteen in his mind. Although eighteen was fully legal, at his own well over three hundred years of age, eighteen still seemed like a veritable child. Life was certainly looking up. It hadnt been exactly a pit of despair earlier, but somehow he felt better, lighter, happier than he had in an age. Care to help? he asked naughtily, fully appreciating he not only didnt fully explain help withwhat , but alsohow it was she could help. He felt a shaft of lust rip through him as Lea bit her lower lip, worrying it gently. Damned if he didnt want to draw her close and gnaw a bit of her full, pouting lower lip as well! Even with her hair professionally tied back except for the few loose strands, and her Force suit chastely covering her body, she still incited an almost unbearable heat inside him, and heknew he was years away from his heat and fertility phase. He remembered wondering a few times at Scoopers why she was never seen going out back or upstairs with clients like all the other escorts did. He had thought it was her age, and her pickiness when it came to men and clients. Being brutally honest with himself, hed beenglad no one ever saw her firsthand leaving with clients. His gut had usually twisted with the thought of someone so young and innocent being an escort. Now he knew better. Vasili felt his cock harden at the picture of her with her pigtails and the tiny fake tartan skirt, the band that barely concealed her breasts. He imagined her kneeling before him, taking him into her mouth as she looked up at him with those clear, innocent blue eyes. He swallowed hard, saw the answering heat in her eyes. For a moment, he stared at her, wondered what it was she imagined he would do to her, what shewanted him to do to her. Before he could coherently think, form the question in his mouth, Lea had blinked and all the heat, the hunger in her eyes was gone. Vasili grinned. He knew shed only managed to press her desire under the surface. He now knew it would be sitting there, ready to come forth once again when he attempted to incite it. He licked his lips, desperately hungry to taste her, to feel her come against his lips and tongue. Sure, she said huskily. It took Vasili a moment to even recall what hed asked her. This is my case, after all, she added silkily. Vasili wrapped a warm, muscled arm around her shoulder, drawing her into the heat of his body. He turned to Michael, not surprised to see a grin on his friends face. Vasili made a childish face at his friend, mentally telling him to shove off. You going to go contact your girl, Phoebe? Vasili asked, his tone more than clear. When Michael merely grinned wider, Vasili decided on the more direct approach. You dont tease me about Lea, he silently but clearly sent his friend,and I will stay off your back about Miss July .

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When Michael smirked back at him and nodded, they all turned to head out the door. Whos Phoebe? Lea asked softly, trying to whisper in his ear. Even though he was a good six inches taller than her, he still heard her and grinned. Ah, Lea, he said deeply, a laugh caught in his chest. Michael would likely smite him if he pushed him too hard, or worse, embarrassed Lea. And so Vasili restrained himself. That is a story, my sweet, he continued happily. Lets sit up front and talk a bit. Vasili heard Michael snort as he turned to head for Gavs private quarters, likely to pick up his bag before he went and did whatever he planned to do to Phoebe. Vasili instead kept a tight arm around Lea, and steering her, headed for the front. They needed to head for the street, to walk out amongst the public, for at least as long as it took for his erection to subside. Considering the potency of Leas effect on him, likely they would never get to be in private, at least not for a while. Vasili knew if he was to retain some semblance of control and not strip the ugly suit from the delectable Leas body, they would both have to stay in public areas.Very public areas. At least for now. Vasili sighed, and led Lea to the public gathering spots. He had a feeling this would be a long afternoon. Chapter Five

Phoebe gave up trying to read the documents she normally would have finished at least half an hour ago. She turned her neck from side to side, hoping to get the small crick out of it. She knew everything was just one excuse after anothershe needed a hot drink to settle down, she needed to rearrange her chair and desk, she had a crick in her neck, she had a headache Phoebe sighed as she pushed herself upright in her chair. Much like a pouting teenager trying to finish her homework, the harder her reading had become, the more she had slumped in her chair. Phoebe raised her arms straight above her head and stretched out her back. Still feeling itchy and slightly claustrophobic, she gave up and stood up. She carefully placed the documents on her desk, right in the center so anyone passing by would know she was at least attempting to work. Walking quickly, hoping no one would think to stop her if she looked like she walked with a firm purpose, she stalked over to the ladies room and slid the door open. As she entered the room she set the ambience to tropical forest, something warm and musky, with the calming sounds of the waves to soothe her and help her clear her mind. Phoebe sat down on the ancient couch and sighed. She breathed in deeply and fully let the air enter her entire body. As she slowly let her breath out Phoebe let all of the stale air from the bottom of her lungs leave her, breathing from her diaphragm.

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Even though she had been trying to calm herself all day, keep her mind focused, which had never,ever been a problem before, Phoebe finally let her head drop into her hands. In the privacy of the bathroom, with no one for her to pretend for, Phoebe cradled her head in her hands and let out a groan of weary defeat. Why the five hells couldnt she get Michael out of her head? Damned if she hadever had this much trouble with any male, great shag or not! Which begs the question, said the small intuitive voice that so rarely came out in her mind,what is so special about this man, and should you get back in contact with him ? Phoebe groaned and massaged her temple. Shedidnt have a headache, but she felt like sheshould have one. The back of her mind wrestled with the never-ending debate of whether she should try and find out more about the mysterious Michael. She knew a lot about his character, she knew him exceedingly well in the biblical sense, but she didnt have a lot of his personal data. Worse still was her own seemingly exaggerated response to the man. No man had ever stolen her concentration to the degree where she couldnt focus on work. Not even in her wildest teenage years surrounded by every temptation known in the galaxy. Phoebe wondered uneasily if, with a few hours and a bit more effort on her behalf, she would be able to get back to concentrating on work, or if this would be a semipermanent effect of her infatuation with him. Or maybe your initial assessment was correct, and he is The One for you, her mind whispered seductively. Phoebe pushed the thought aside, confounded as to how to deal with the mouth-wateringly tempting thought. She shifted in the well-padded seat, her worksuit, usually so comfortable as to being a second skin, now feeling tight and restrictive. Her body burned like it never had before with an aching need. Phoebe had the unpleasant sensation she craved Michaels touch, and having been a sexually liberated woman for well over half her life, the almost palpable desire for one particular man shocked her. Despite the real excitement shimmering in her body and the interest she felt with these new, untried emotions and experience, Phoebe still felt hesitant. She had heard secret whispers in her model days of drugs that could enslave one, or other new narcotics which could heighten a sexual experience to the point where pleasure and pain intermingled, the resultant hormones and adrenaline proving literally addictive. Phoebe knew she had neither eaten nor drunk anything, and Michael certainly was not the type of man who would need to stoop to such levels. But still with the hyped-up way she felt, Phoebe wasnt sure whether she actuallyenjoyed the uncomfortable feeling of literally burning for a man for the first time ever. Even worse than her body and hormones betrayal was the deeply ingrained feeling that her one night of rocking passion was not over. Phoebe had no idea at all why this thought niggled at the back of her head along with that usually silent voice which seemed to think she should get back in touch with Michael. Strangely enough, much of Phoebes subconscious seemed to agree, if not feel absolutely certain she had not seen or heard the last of Michael. Much as she tried to dismiss the thought, the feeling stuck there like a lurking animal in her mind. Phoebe had long ago come to fully rely on her instincts. Much as she might like to, she did not dismiss the thought

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out of hand. Phoebes internal instinct system screamed at her that Michael-the-sex-god was strongly wrapped up somehow in the monumental change she had been feeling, but she felt at a loss as to how she could fit the pieces of the puzzle together. While she and Michael hadnt exactly sat all through the early hours of the morning talking, they had exchanged conversation. She knew he wanted to focus on his missing father and she respected that. The last thing she felt Michael would need was some clingy female dropping on his doorstepeven assuming he was home at this hourand beggingfor what? More sex? A commitment? To talk through the fact she thought he was instrumental in the next phase of her life? She snorted as she began to massage her temples once again with her hands, her head still downcast. She was not this pathetic, was she? Instead of being her ever-efficient self, she dreamed of large, warm hands covering her body, cupping her breasts and stroking down her stomach to rest at the tip of her shaven apex. Michaels hands had easily, almost casually stroked her to a fever pitch. Phoebe stood up and began to pace, still instinctively fighting even the memory of the delectable man who had played her body as if it were his favorite instrument. And he had definitely been a master at strumming her tune. She couldnt afford to have her mind sidetracked like this. Damnation, she couldnt afford to have her body sidetracked like this! She was supposed to be working hard, not thinking about the sexy man whose bed she left earlier this morning. Phoebe knew she simply could not continue like this, and she refused to surrender herself to some man purely for a little bit of intense sexual gratification. That was what escorts were for, and heaven knew she had a truckload of toys to keep herself entertained. Phoebe laughed, placing one slender hand over her lips as the almost hysterical sound reverberated around the small chamber. That strangled, too high-pitched sound could not have come from her? Phoebe closed her eyes and began her deep breathing again. She seriously had to get herself under control. She held her own fate firmly in her own hands, no one else could do anything about that. As she finally began to calm down, she wondered how one simple maneven if she strongly suspected that man had been a vampire as no mere human could have hadthat much staminacould turn her world so upside down. Concentrating on Michael being a vampire helped settle her somewhat. He simply had to be one, she insisted to herself, pleased forany new train of thought to distract her. A few times she had thought she might have caught his eyes burning red-hot, a typical vampire-in-lust trait. Also, Phoebe reminded herself, while an ordinary man might have been able to go three or four rounds in an evening, no man without enhancement or drugs could go that many rounds in a few hours with no break at all. Not even a sex-starved man. Phoebe paused for a few moments, listening idly to the sounds of extinct birds trilling, and of trees swishing in the wind. She wrinkled her nose, casting another sin at Michaels door. She couldnt believe the soothing noises werent helping to calm her or help her settle down. Phoebe paced faster, her boot heels clicking on the tiled floor.

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Thinking about Michael, however, in a hypothetical, analytical frame of mind, did seem to be calming her somewhat, and that fact alone annoyed her more than it ought. Something big was happening, or coming, and for once in her life Phoebe was not only unsure of exactly what it was, but she also felt strangely unsure if she wanted it to be coming at all. Taking one last, deep breath, Phoebe turned to head back out the door but before she could even reach it, the door swung inward, admitting a new woman. A dark head peered around, searching for someone. Thick black hair had been pulled tightly back into numerous braids and dark black eyes peered curiously and lightened upon finding her. Phoebe? The Man wants to speak to you pronto. Youre being shifted assignments. Confused by the message, Phoebe frowned at the woman, one of The Mans pool of secretaries. John Brownridge, otherwise known to everyone who worked in the company as The Man, was an enormous man, six-foot-four and built like the proverbial tank. He had spent the vast majority of his years fighting other peoples wars, and enjoying it immensely. In those many, many years and skirmishes, he had learned practically everything there was to know about fighting, information gathering, and everything else that went hand in glove with wars and the politics surrounding them. Brownridge was commonly heard to point out the only thing hehadnt learned effectively was when to call it quits. After his leg had been busted up for the umpteenth time, wellmodern medicine could only do so much. His leg was physically intact, but he was no longer fighting fit, and in his more honest moments, he could admit his leg was barely even workable. Much of his movements were restricted, painfully so even in this modern day and age, and so he had set up his own merc company Phoebe had worked in for years now. Im being pulled, Rai? she repeated, feeling slightly stupid as the world shifted under her feet once again. Do you know why? she asked, curious now. The dark-skinned woman shrugged, obviously not concerned now she had completed her task and passed along the message. Client asked for it apparently. The Man has been in a meeting for close to half an hour now. From what I hear youre just going on a leading mission. Some dead-sexy civvy asked for you particularly. Phoebe frowned, but nodded. The Mans pool of secretaries almost invariably had their finger firmly on the pulse of what occurred in The Mans empire, and were the best bet for knowing exactly what was going down and when. It still made no real sense for her to be pulled from her current project, unless The Man was pissed at her vagueness today. Phoebe wrinkled her nose and quickly cast aside the thought. The Man might be tough as nails, but he was fair. One days shoddy research wouldnt make The Man too upset, or not upset enough to pull her to help a civvy unless there was a hell of a lot more behind the situation. Thanks, Rai, she said idly, turning back to the mirror and checking her own hair was still pulled firmly back in its braid. Ill be right there, she added, knowing how useless it would be to procrastinate any further.

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Even now as she fiddled one last time with her hair, she could see in her mind the dark blue eyes, burning in the almost-light of predawn. So too, could she so clearly see warm, soft, passion-swollen lips edging closer to her own, so smooth she simply couldnt help but kiss them again and again. Phoebe could feel her skin itch, the worksuit chafing her now-sensitive skin. Phoebe straightened her uniform and patted her braided hair one last time. Determined to push Michael out of her mind, she mentally began to prepare the dossier she would need to type as soon as The Man and his new civvy client allowed her back at her desk. Satisfied she was once again under control, Phoebe nodded once at her image. Go get em, she chided herself. Phoebe turned on her heel and left the room, shutting off the ambience on her way out so the following woman wouldnt be stuck with her own personal, soothing atmosphere. Getting her stride up, Phoebe enjoyed the soft sound of her heeled boots as she strode confidently through the main working area. She hastily crossed past all the smaller work cubicles and headed directly into the side office of what outwardly appeared to be the head of the division. Phoebe idly wondered what new task The Man would have for her. Brownridge knew the intimacies of most main systems and galaxies and thus was in high demand, as it was well known he only worked with and accepted the best. Brownridge also knew the key to much of his success was not just keeping a low profile, but also keeping his hand in. While people often assumed there were more command chains above him, internally, the group knew the buck stopped with him. Brownridge might be accepted by many as being an old dog, but Phoebe knew firsthand he was the best of the best, and even with his busted leg she would happily walk into practically any fight with him at her back. More important than all his experience, his knowledge, his power and the force behind the company, John Brownridge was a man you could trust. And to Phoebe, that was worth its weight in gold. Many of the recruits were out fighting, part of a team instead of individuals as many mercs were forced to work. Yet part of the appeal Brownridges company held for Phoebe was that there was far more to it than simply fighting the wars. Phoebe herself had spied many a time, collecting data and information from one side, to sell it to another, only to turn around and perform the same thing for yet another group. Her connections and her easy acceptance practically anywhere had worked wonders for Brownridges company. Phoebe smiled when she recalled how thrilled she had been to be accepted so easily into the company, nave and still innocent enough to not even realize Brownridge had recognized her from the moment she had entered his office. Another service the company performed, though Phoebe personally rarely did so, was acting as guides for those traveling to less safe parts, or less traveled planets and areas. From what Rai had said, Phoebe wondered why a civvy would specifically request her, and more confusing, why the five hells Brownridge

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wouldaccept such a bizarre request. Brownridge was nobodys fool, and more importantly, not a man used to blindly following orders. He had been his own man for more years than one could count, and had always danced to his own tune. Phoebe frowned as she halted outside the door to the office. Either the civvy held some sort of power over Brownridge, something she didnt think likely but still possible, or he had shown compelling reasons that had swayed Brownridge. That scenario was another Phoebe wouldnt have thought likely to occur, but was easily the more believable of the two. Even if a civvy had attempted to bribe, coerce or blackmail The Man, he would likely find his ass being dumped outside the quarters, not meekly followed. Taking a deep breath and holding her head high, Phoebe stepped into The Mans office and closed the door behind her. She had a query and genuinely cheerful greeting on her lips before her mind registered the man sitting opposite John. A head full of brown hair with blond highlights scattered throughout turned so the handsome face could watch and assess her warily. Phoebe stopped still, wryly admitting the mans wariness was rightly placed. How the bloody hell had he found her? And so quickly too? A light sprinkling of dark whiskers covered his chin and jaw, a jawline she clearly recalled stroking delicately with her fingers the night before. She had scattered kisses across his face, enjoying the tiny faint roughness of the stubble before it had fully come through. Indeed, Phoebe was honest enough to freely admit the scrubby stubble made Michael appear far more handsome and dangerous than he had appeared almost clean-shaven the evening before. Not like the seedy bum she had always felt it made most other men appear. Piercing eyes ate her up hungrily. Phoebe swallowed, feeling cornered and ensnared in that hungry, sexy stare. The depth of the blue seemed even more devastating in the clear light of day. Phoebes stomach turned with raw lust. Something about Michael drew her to him, more than just his sheer physical beauty. She had spent many years surrounded by the most beautiful of them allit was something else about him which dispelled her peace of mind. Shockingly, surprising the shit out of her, for the first time in a very long time, Phoebe felt her heart beat faster simply because of a mans beauty. She admitted it wasnt just the beauty of his face and body she felt drawn to. Strangely enough, it was his soul which seemed to call out to her, strike a chord with her. Phoebe could feel her own soul trying to resonate with his, almost as if the deepest, innermost pieces of herself recognized the inner pieces of his own soul. Which was pure and utter fantasy, she tried to convince herself, not doing a very good job of it. Phoebe hesitated there in the doorway to Brownridges office, not knowing or even really caring how long she had been standing there like an idiot, pinned in Michaels stare. When she felt the dampness in her panties and felt the flush covering her cheeks, she knew she had been caught unawares by her own rampant attraction to the man. Phoebe smiled slightly, not needing to be psychic to see the reprimand in those gorgeous eyes.

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Obviously waking up alone had not amused Michael. Phoebe smothered the nervous laughter she felt welling up in her throat. She could practically hear his thoughts chiding her for leaving him as she had at dawn. Almost hearing the lecture in her head, even though she knew it shouldnt be possible from the merelook he sent her, Phoebe felt herself struggle to overcome the completely insane urge to laugh aloud. Even so, Michael chastised her thoroughly and effectively without showing a flicker of emotion on his face, or a single word being uttered from his mouth. She could just imagine him shaking a finger at her like a naughty five-year-old caught pilfering cookies. How could she leave without waking him? Did she really think she could run away and not have him find her? For the first time in more years than she cared to count, Phoebe felt all of four again, and being chastised gently by her aunts. Thankfully, there was no anger and no self-righteous proclamations, either of which would have annoyed her and sparked her temper. Instead, she felt just a gentle, easy chiding as if he werent truly mad, but merely informing her that her behavior just wouldnt wash. This time or the next, she felt as she shivered.There would be a next time? Phoebe couldnt recall all of the sensual, lust-drugged words she had spoken to Michael, but obviously she had given more away of herself than she recalled, otherwise he wouldnt have been so easily able to follow and track her. Phoebe snapped back to attention as John stood up and introduced them to each other. She knew John was savvy and smart enough to know something was between them, yet merely by introducing them allowed them to play their little game. Phoebe Blenti, this is Michael Montague. Michael seems to want an escort out to Klampor, and has heard enough about your stellar reputation to request you personally. Phoebe smiled wryly, crossed over to Michael Montague as he stood up and they shook hands like the calm professionals they pretended to be. Only Phoebe was able to tell Michael had exerted a tiny amount of pressure on the hand he shook. Nowhere near enough to hurt, but certainly enough for him to communicate for her to play along. Phoebe shrugged to herself, knowing Michael would explain whatever was going on later, and if he knew what was healthy for himself, he would answer any questions she had by then. Phoebe flashed Michael her brightest, I-am-a-professional-and-happy-to-help-you smile as she eased her hand back. Spending years in the modeling world, smiling sweetly and serenely no matter her own personal circumstances had stood her in good stead many a time, but none more important than now. Mr. Montague, she said softly in what she classified as her work voice, so lovely to meet you. She was about to open the conversation, find out whatexactly Michael wanted and why she was being dragged into it all, but he cut in gently. Please, Miss Blenti, call me Michael. Michaels dark, liquid voice rolled over her, proving that, at least, hadnt merely been a figment of her

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tired imagination the evening before. His voice did indeed resemble liquid sex. Phoebe continued to smile at him even as her pussy dampened more and her legs felt a tad wobbly. Even with her instant and slightly embarrassing sexual response to him, she knew her eyes blazed hotly at his, demanding he explain this game he played with her. Sexual games were one thing, but she never,ever let them enter or interfere with her work. Michael, then, she said calmly. And please, call me Phoebe. Klampor, she continued, looking to John for direction. An ancient civilization, mostly desert region I believe, in the outer Crann System. Inhabited almost exclusively, even in this day and age, by female priestesses. The priestesses were, or are, interested in purification of the body, mind and soul. Thats all I know off the top of my head without doing a bit of refresher research, but that shouldnt take more than fifteen or twenty minutes at my work console. She returned Brownridges smile as John beamed at her, his pride obvious. He had been the first, and to date only male who instinctively assumed she would use her head and her work skills, and not her body and beauty. She had been proud the first day they recognized that about each other, and happy to have never let him down. I told you, Montague, John said, his confidence in her easy to hear. Phoebe is one of my best. Phoebe kept her smile firmly planted and unchanging as Michael replied in a casual tone, Oh, I had no doubt about it at all. It was, after all, why I requested her. Phoebe shifted slightly on her seat as he turned those blue eyes to her, speaking to her directly instead of to Brownridge. My brothers and I believe our father has headed to Klampor, and I want some fast research on any space passes, insurrections, interplanetary wars and such going on at the moment. Phoebe merely raised an eyebrow at this. And The Man hadnt been skeptical at Michaels specifically requestingher ? Such research could be performed by the lowliest techie, or even a novice who was allowed to borrow their files and servers. It didnt need a seasoned merc and traveler like herself. Then again, it did take a seasoned merc like her to escort a civvy around to somewhere as far-flung as Klampor, and many people would expect an escort. The fact Phoebe had a strong suspicion Michael was merely turning a genuine situation to his own advantage didnt really mean a lot. Particularly since The Man likely knew Montague was using the situation for his own reasons as well. As if to prove his genuine good-ol-boy routine, Michael continued with a smile at both her as well as Brownridge. Im supposed to be meeting and talking to my brothers very soon, but since they both have partners to take care of it will likely be delegated to me to head out and follow our father. The thing is, previous to this morning, I had never even heard of Klampor, let alone know the intricacies of heading out there. Phoebe nodded, amazed at Michaels resourcefulness. She didnt doubt his story, it was far too easy to check out. Also, if theydid head out to Klampor and they didnt search up Michaels father, then he likely knew she would be too severely tempted to turn around and leave him there to risk lying about such a thing.

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So thats where I come in, she added gently. She felt a grudging admiration for Michael. He had to be awarded full points for finding the perfect situation to drag her into. You two better head out, seeing as you need to do all that research before you decide how youre going to approach the situation, Brownridge said. Even though Phoebe couldnt see even a hint of smirk on her boss face, sheknew from many years of learning different techniques from him that it was hidden very carefully under his pleasant, smiling features. She sighed as The Man continued, ignoring her crossed arms and slightly annoyed body language. Phoebe, pass the report youre currently working on to Florg. He can cope with the extra load. Montague will need your full support. Phoebe barely suppressed her snort, and nodded. The mere fact her boss had insisted Michael needed her full support meant she knew he was cautioning her not to blow Montague off because of personal feelings. Phoebe insisted to herself she didnt inform Brownridge of her sexual liaison with Michael because she wanted to spend time with him, but rather because she didnt want to create any trouble. Obviously Brownridge liked Michael enough to go along with his requests. Yet deep inside herself, Phoebe knew curiosity lurked. Hidden deep, there was a tiny part of herself who wanted to get to know a lot more about Michael Montague, and if he needed help, which she knew on some levels he did, then she couldnt turn him away simply because the fierce level of her lust and slowly budding love for him made her feel uncomfortable. Besides, she knew without a doubt if Michael got out of hand, John would back her all the way, even if she did blow him off and leave him behind on a true hole like Klampor. If Michael pushed herthat far, Brownridge would know he had it coming to him. Phoebe nodded to The Man, acknowledging his hidden comments. Casting a glance at Michael, she waited while he stood up gracefully from the chair, all lean and lithe muscles and delectable body. Phoebe pressed her lips together, not wanting to drool in front of Brownridge. Instead, she turned around and led Michael out of the office and into the main cubicle area. Phoebe kept her eyes staring straight ahead of her as they crossed back to her cubicle. She paid no attention to the small amount of attention the two of them received as they crossed the room. Partly it was because she knew once she caught peoples eyes, they would ask questionsit was incredibly rare for her alone to deal with a client. Usually it was The Man, a secretary or more rarely a group of mercs who would deal face-to-face with a given client. More than just that, however, Phoebe had plenty of her own thoughts and questions burning up her mind. Mainly, what the hell had she said to give herself away and made it so easy for Michael to catch up with her so quickly? Her working for Brownridge was no secret, but since her years as a model she had always been careful about how much of her personal information could be easily accessed. Problem was, she didnt feel she could ask him outright, as she didnt want half the room privy to the conversation that would result from her questions. And so she kept her mouth shut, her eyes focused straight ahead, and walked briskly to her cubicle. She

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noticed Lanos, the man who usually worked in the cubicle next to her, was not there, and so she snagged his chair for Michael, dragging it into her cubicle as they both entered the small area. She pulled her own chair up, sat down with a rush of breath and immediately began to log back in to her console, an automatic gesture, as she tried to work out the chances of being overheard in the cubicle if they spoke carefully. Michael sat beside her, not teasing, talking or asking awkward questions. As Phoebe felt her fingers click over the keys to the console with only half her mind focused on what she did, she realized with not a little surprise that both of them had fallen silent in an astonishingly comfortable manner. Phoebe smiled, and decided to indulge herself and ogle Mr. Montague while she performed the rudimentary task of searching the available, and less available, databases for information on Klampor. Ill begin by just plotting our course. The database will check all the air spaces well need to travel through, so anything dangerous or in the middle of a fight should come up as flagged straightaway, she said as her fingers continued to type quickly. Phoebe felt grateful for once that her eyes were on the holo-screen, as she could feel the heat of Michaels gaze on her. She felt a faint tinge of blush cross her face as she wondered what he looked at and what he thought about what he could see. Interestingly enough, even though she felt warm under his gaze, she didnt feel uncomfortable in any way. She felt aware, energized and rather sensitive, but not uncomfortably so. The faint blush stayed on her cheeks, even after she felt her blood slowly return to normal, and so she continued to concentrate hard on the holo-screen in front of her. I recognized Miss July, he said under his breath, practically in her ear so no one else would be able to hear. Phoebe froze for a moment.Surprising , she thought wryly to herself,how something so very many people never forgot could so easily slip her mind . Phoebe didnt say anything, but smiled sarcastically at the holo-screen and nodded, the rest fairly easy to figure out. Since he knew her full, true name and not the half alias she usually used for privacy, as well as knowing she worked as a mercenary, the rest of her details would not have been exceedingly hard to come by. So,Mr. Michael Montague has seen the infamous pinup. The agent said I would be famous, my face and body known throughout the entire galaxy for decades to come. Phoebe snorted to herself. It had been many years since anyone had even remotely recognized her from her modeling daysit was getting close to twenty years ago after all. Trust it to come back and bite her on the ass now. That was a long time ago, she said softly, but loud enough for him to hear her, even though he was sitting practically with his legs grazing hers. You have an older collection of the holo-zines, I take it? Phoebe continued. All the while, her fingers nimbly continued to type, as she carefully and thoroughly flicked through screen after screen of data. Years of practice had her assimilating the data and information the databases and assorted flight codes whizzed past her screen.

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Professional that she was, she easily chatted to the sexy man beside her as she highlighted notes and continued to search every virtual nook and cranny for other tidbits of information they sought. Not particularly, he replied, his voice husky. Phoebe felt a shiver run up her spine at the innate sexiness and sensual promise in the deep voice that practically caressed her neck. Its just very hard to forget one of your warmest and fondest fantasies, not to mention that pale, straw-blonde hair and those purple eyes once one has seen them. Phoebe smiled wryly, casting a glance at the man who sat next to her. Hey, he said cheerfully, raising his hands in self-defense. Much like any number of men, I spent more than my fair share fantasizing over that particular spread. I do have to admit, who you are didnt click straightaway. Phoebe snorted in disbelief. Apparently Michael was more than savvy enough to understand her nonverbal response. She didnt think he was feeding her a line, but in the months following that cover spread, she had barely been able to move in public without being propositioned by almost every man from twelve to a hundred and twenty. She had never regretted the enormous coverage and prestige in the shoot, but she had grown quickly and heartily sick of the masculine response to it. Michael lowered his voice, the depth and feeling in his tone causing her to shiver. He turned his head so it looked like he was surveying the readouts on her holo-screen, when in fact he was whispering seductively, teasingly in her ear. Or I didnt recognize you until you were astride me, he said, making the faint dampness in her panties flow like a molten river. Phoebe felt her eyes unfocus as memories of the night before, very poorly suppressed, leapt forth and inundated her with sensual images. You cupped yourself, he continued, reminding her of how wanton and hungry theyd been for each other, much the same as you were in the shoot. Id fantasized any number of times of having you like that, astride me, flushed with hunger and satiation. It hit me then, how you were no ordinary Phoebe, butthe Phoebe Blenti, Miss July and pinup extraordinaire. Phoebe felt her heart hammering, a kernel of disappointment inside her chest until the rest of his words penetrated her mind. Of course, by that stage I was too far gone to care if you were Miss July, or some ravenous escaped convict. I needed and wantedyou more than Id wanted any woman before. I wasnt grateful I knew exactly who you were until I woke up the following morning. Alone. Phoebe stopped her nodding at the strong note of censure in Michaels voice. She looked up hastily, glancing around to check no one was loitering near her stall or close enough to have overheard Michaels heated confession, or his condemnation of her actions the following morning. Stunningly, Phoebe recalled thinking that night when she had posed on top of him, that there had been a flash of recognition in his eyes. Later she had brushed it aside, assumed shed been wrong, particularly when he had said nothing.How could she have forgotten that?

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So what are you really needing? she whispered, wanting to cut as much of the game playing as possible. It also, she wryly admitted, circumnavigated the issue of her leaving without waking him up. I really am searching for my father, Michael said easily, so easily Phoebe knew he told the truth. Besides, he might possibly have been able to bullshit her, butno one could bullshit Brownridge. Phoebe shrugged and returned to typing on the console. I want to make sure Gavreels trip will be safe and uneventful, Michael continued, and Phoebe felt a measure of respect sear through her at his genuine caring for his father. Even so, I also have a feeling I will need to go out and chase after him. Thats where you come in, sweetheart. I need someone to help me get there. Phoebe frowned, partially at the endearing term, but more at the rogue thought that crossed her mind on his proclamation of needing her to come with him to Klampor. Surely you have a ship license? she asked disbelievingly. She frowned as she realized she trusted him not to lie, and wondered where that level of belief in Michael came from. Surprisingly, she didnt feel anger or deceived when he nodded at her. Of course I have a license, but only for small crafts, he said without the least bit of guilt or defensiveness. But previous to coming here, I had no idea where Klampor was, had no indication of just how long this trip would be and whether I was licensed correctly for it. Phoebe smiled at the bland, almost disgustingly innocent manner in which Michael spoke. She knew he was being truthful, but she had a sneaking suspicion it played perfectly into his plans at the same time. It just appeared to be simpler all around to come out here and request the specialized skills of someone like you to help me and lead the way, Michael continued, a grin breaking through the serious and oh-so-innocent expression on his face. Phoebe laughed, quickly collecting herself back under control, and shot a wry smile to the man seated so casually next to her. She turned to face him properly, to shoot him a solid, hard question. Easier? she said, keeping her voice lowered just in case her earlier laugh had gathered the attention of some of her co-workers nearby. Or more like the feeling of Providence handing you a gift, taking it and running as far as you can with it? Phoebe felt her heart flutter as Michael smiled, his face seeming angelic in its stunning beauty.Damn. She tried to keep her raging hormones under control.How can one mans beauty turn my insides to mush so often and so easily? Both, Michael said roguishly, his confession not upsetting her and instead making her chuckle. He joined in with her and they both enjoyed a quiet laugh at themselves. Phoebe shook her head and turned back to the holo-screen in front of her, shaking some starch into her back and purposely pulling her work faade down over her face, needing to be cool, calm and professional. Usually it wasnt even necessary for her to chide herself, the mask came down easily. Today, however, she more than struggled, she didnt even know if she succeeded or not. Does everything always work this smoothly for you? she asked, intrigued to learn if Michael was

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blessed or something, always having everything fall so easily into his lap. She shook herself, grateful all the information flashing across the holo-screen would be saved, collected and neatly arranged however she chose to see fit. With so much of her mind concentrating and focusing on Michael, she couldnt have sworn to her retention of the facts and data, and even that was embarrassingly unusual for her. Determined not to lose her mind completely, she tried to focus more on the readouts flashing before her eyes. Not always, no, Michael stated humbly, or what she assumed was humble for him. She smiled to herself as she continued to watch the holo-screen. But when something is this important Phoebe glanced at him as he smiled wryly and shrugged a shoulder. I dont know, Phoebe, everything always just seems to work out, yes. Havent you found the same? Phoebe let her eyes glaze for a moment, remembering her huge rise up the modeling world, and then falling into the merc world afterward. She wrinkled her nose slightly and nodded. Somehow, yeah, things always did seem to turn out. Sure, the path might be hard, or bumpy, or both, she justified to herself, but Michael had a point. When push came to shove, and shereally needed a break, things usually just tended to fall into place. Much as he said. Yeah, she said softly, taking a deep breath and forcing her attention back to the information she sought. Sometimes feels rather like fate has me marked for something, thats for sure. I make my own choices and decisions, but somehow it often feels rather like even my own free will is moving in whatever direction fate has in store for me. Instead of instantly agreeing or denying, Phoebe noticed Michael remained silent, looking at her, and then turned his attention back to the screen. He smiled slightly, but thankfully, didnt say anything. They both lapsed into a companionable silence as she went back to work. Chapter Six

Vasili had never felt so incongruous standing inside the Book Nook. He watched with hunger, like the predator ancient fiction had held his kind to be, as Lea skimmed her hands over a shelf full of books. He had no idea how the mere knowledge of Leas true age had metamorphosed his lust toward her so dramatically. He figured the fact she wasnt really jailbait had unblocked the thin veneer hed been forcing himself behind, and let his real feelings roam free. He smiled, knowing he wasnt entering his heat phase, and remarkably grateful for it. He had no idea how he would have been able to deal with the clamoring emotions, wildly out of control needs and primitive urges, as well as trying to not scare Lea silly, or push her away with his rampaging needs and screw her blind. He snickered, relieved beyond measure he was not even close to his heat phase. The strength of his desire for Lea was already almost as strong as he could bear. There just seemed to be something magical, something elemental about her that drew him like a magnet.

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He enjoyed looking at the sassy hairstyle which framed her face and would never go out of fashion. He ran an eye up and down her neat body, sexy even in the ridiculously asexual Force uniform. He watched her unashamedly as she wandered around the mazelike structure of the shop front, appearing to casually touch the books at random. Vasili knew, however, that her mind would be cataloguing everything, never missing a thing. Never again would he take her at face value, nor would he blithely assume because she didnt appear to be paying attention that she wasnt analyzing every move and sound the people around her made. So hard did he stare at her that she cast numerous quick glances at him from under her lashes. A completely alien thrill washed through him as they snuck small, lightning quick smiles at each other. After a number of minutes of comfortable silence between them, as well as more than just a few coy smiles, finally Lea broke down and spoke first. What? she finally asked, her voice unusually low and slightly husky. Vasili wondered if she had added that sexy cadence into her voice on purpose. Realizing he couldnt care less either way, he let a ripple of lust run though him as he laughed. With her white-blonde hair gently grazing her shoulders and her light blue eyes glancing frequently back to him, she still appeared young, but no longer barely a day past her Majority Eighteenth. From the flicker of heat in her eyes, to the seductively feminine manner with which she swung her hips and turned her shoulders, Vasili knew the lust he felt for her was reciprocated. Little Lea, he murmured almost to himself. He smiled and shook his head, clearing his throat as he spoke louder. I think Im still reeling from the knowledge that youre not some barely legal little girl, he explained honestly, not to mention trying to get my head around the fact that youve been working with Gavreel, for months moreover, and none of us had the faintest inkling or even any suspicions. Thats a lot for a vampire to come to grips with in the one sitting. Vasili watched slim, feminine shoulders shrug through the thin blue fabric of her uniform. He wondered how soft Leas skin would be to his touch. Even though he had pretty much seen all there was to see, somehow Lea managed to give the impression she retained her own womanly secrets. Vasili swallowed and tried to shift his focus back to something less erotic as she sat herself down in one of the comfortable reading chairs, which had been strategically scattered throughout the shop front. Its not as if Gavreels consulting for us is a Territory secret or anything, but neither did we want the knowledge of him working with us on certain projects falling into the wrong hands. I hadnt exactly meant letting you and Gavs sons in on his jaunting for us, but now that its out in the open, the galaxy hasnt ended. Vasili nodded and could practically hear a number of small, odd things he had seen Gavreel studying and researching all snap into place. He looked into the DeMonte artifact for you, didnt he? I remember

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Vasili cut off as Lea hissed at him, looking around her like some cheesy ancient secret spy. Vas! Be careful what you say. Vasili smiled wickedly, enjoying the novel sensation of taunting Lea. Come over here and make me, sweetie, he said softly, but with enough emphasis to carry to Leas ears. She blushed a strong, dark red, and he could tell she was about to stand up. He felt his blood thicken and heighten, the lust, desire and faint tingling of attitude which seemed uniquely Lea. He drew a deep breath in, unconsciously feeding gently from the incredibly strong waves of emotion she sent out to him. He had never felt anything so potent or powerful as the deep burning desire within Lea to teach him a lesson. She didnt even need to try and project her thoughts, he could hear them loud and clear without her even attempting anything. After a moment, Lea slowly lowered herself back into the seat, crossing her legs primly as if the gesture itself could keep her emotions in check. Vasili smiled in what he hoped appeared an innocent manner. Lea merely shook her head and continued speaking. You are incorrigible. Its really no wonder I never flirted with you or led you on. Vasili opened his mouth, ready to point out the numerous times theyd playfully flirted down in Scoopers pub, but she continued not letting him get a word in edgewise. Anyway, as I was saying earlier, Gavreel has helped us out with a few bits and pieces. Sometimes I sought him out myself, but Gavreel had already independently begun to study this particular assignment. Apparently its a pet project of his, or something like that. Vasili pulled another huge armchair over and close to the one on which Lea sat. He looked her in the eye and nodded to indicate he was still listening to her. Well, one of our techs kept on finding Gavreels PCCs footprints everywhere we had been searching. Being a savvy young man, he came up with the idea of approaching Gav and suggesting we pool data. From that Gav suggested he consult for us, and we pay him a pretty credit to do so. We gave him the few kernels of information we were already privy to which he hadnt come across, and now he shares his findings with us. Vasili sat next to her, idly stretching an arm over the back of her chair, letting his fingers rest just barely on the juncture of her shoulder and neck, faintly and oh-so carefully stroking the sensitive skin there. So since this is Gavreel we are talking about here, Im assuming its all something vaguely academic he and you are chasing? Gavreel isnt really interested in paltry things such as new weapons or performing secret surveillance on an insurrection or something along that ilk, is he? Lea shook her head, pale blonde strands lightly swishing across her shoulders. The manner in which she pressed her lusciously pouting lips together showed she once again appeared to be mentally weighing just how much she wished to confide in him. Rather than get all heated and upset over her strict personal code of justice, and which aspects of her work she chose to share with him, Vasili instead concentrated on resisting the temptation to remove the tie that held her thick, white-blonde locks together in the cheeky but proper ponytail.

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Already a few small wisps of hair were falling free from their bondage, and Vasili had an insane urge to release them all so they could run wild and free around her face, and turn him on even more than he already was. His mind was held up as Lea obviously decided he did not represent some threat to her secrets. Gavreel, to my knowledge, is perfectly safe and in no danger whatsoever. He is on a pure information-gathering search, or thats whatI sent him on. The only thing I know of that might get him into trouble is grief from the brass. Lea bit down on her lower lip, driving Vasili insane with the need to taste her, but he held himself in check as she smiled at him, utterly unaware of his entrancement with her. Management is going bonkers because Gavreel refuses to check in regularly, she confided quickly, as if she said the words fast, instead of normally, no one could prove she stated them. Yet the fact she thoughtthat was a secret at all really hit his funny bone. Vasili laughed loudly, unable to stop when Lea merely looked at him as if he were insane. Finally, he managed to get himself under control. Welcome to our life, he said with a grin. Gav cant even remember to check in regularly with his family, so what hope do you honestly expect to give his employers? The man always has, and likely always will, do whatever the five hells he pleases. Vasili laid his hand gently on her nape as they both laughed and relaxed into each others company. The chilly ice that had been sitting between them since she stormed into Gavs office earlier seemed to tingle, then break and melt away. Vasili leaned forward, knew he wanted to kiss Lea and taste her lips more than anything he had ever wanted. He saw the recognition in Leas eyes first, the gentle, hungry acceptance. He even could have sworn he saw curiosity burning in her depths, a feminine interest he had never noticed before, not when she looked at him or any other man. Vasili bent toward her, could taste her soft breath. Just as his lips were about to close that last hairsbreadth and finally taste the true softness of hers, the door buzzer sounded, jolting them both. Startled, they flew apart onto their own respective seats as if they were a pair of sixteen-year-olds, caught about to have unsafe penetration. Alderic walked through the door, removing his outer jacket as he entered. The old vampire seemed supremely blind to the fact two people he had never, to his knowledge, seen in the same room, were mere seconds away from eating each others face off. Vasili mentally cursed the old dog throughout all five of the commonly known hells and back. Alderic didnt even appear upset he had walked in at the precise second Vasili would have given anything for him tonot interrupt. He cast a quick glance at Lea, admitting that she looked flushed, but not disconcerted in the slightest. Was he the only one annoyed at the interruption? Just as he was about to stand up and pace the small shop, Vasili noticed the whiteness of Leas knuckles as she pressed her hands together.

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Aha, he smirked to himself,obviously Im not the only one slightly flustered and annoyed here . Bloody brilliant. Ah! Young Lea, Alderic said as if he ran in on her like this all the time. I havent seen you in a while, my dear. Im so glad to see you come back and visit an old dog like me. How are you, my dear? Vasili grinned, amused more than he would have guessed to hear how Alderic kept his gentlemanly manners no matter what. He mentally shook his fist at fate, while relaxing back into the chair and silently acknowledging the hit fate had dealt him. Next time, he promised himself solemnly,next time I will make sure we are somewhere we wont have Alderic, or any Montague, waltz in on us at a seconds notice . Vasili snorted as Lea brushed the few strands of her blonde hair behind her ear and hastily stood up from the largely padded, comfortable seat. Vasili felt a touch smug to notice the faint red flush still covered her cheeks, even though her voice came out of her mouth smooth and perfectly natural. How often had this happened, he mused, and he simply hadnt looked closely enough to see? He could see the interest in her eyes, hear the very slight difference in her tone of voice. Maybe Leahad been interested in him from the start. I am fine, thanks, Alderic, she said, I actually came here to look for you, she added. I need you to contact Gav for me, please. Vasili felt like smirking when the elderly vampire merely shook his head at her rather sadly.He had known Alderic had no means of communicating with Gavreel, and for once, for the first time since she had begun to drop her bombshells, he felt slightly more in control. I am sorry, my dear, Alderic said slowly, but Gavreel always closes his mind to all outside distractions when he is deep in his research. Often he has sequestered himself away here, his mind so closed to everything outside of his research that not even I have been able to penetrate his mind telepathically. Vasili watched Leas face fall, as she realized Alderic was not lying. I have spoken to Gavreels sons a few times, and he has his mind so closed not even they have been able to penetrate his mind. I am sorry, my dear, but I cant get in touch with Gav, not even through our personal telepathic link. And you know better than I that he isnt wearing his unitindeed, I do believe it was you who told him to leave it back here so it wouldnt fall into the wrong hands or be hacked into. Vasili snickered, and tried to cover it with a cough as Lea shot him an angry glare. Alderic merely shrugged, not seeming concerned in the least with the byplay between them. Vasili couldnt help his pleasure as Lea ran an agitated hand over her smooth ponytail, at finally seeing her unable to ignore her reaction to his presence. He laughed aloud as Lea made a gesture of frustration at him and likely the world at large. She sent him a fiery glare over her shoulder which likely would have felled a lesser vampire. As he has not been responding to his childrens telepathic attempts, I sincerely doubt he is communicable to anyone at this moment.

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Except Chandra, Vasili thought suddenly, recalling how Ruthie and Rylan had informed them all earlier that Gavreel seemed to have hooked up with the female vampire on Owanus, the home planet of all vampires. After a moment of internal debate, finally Vasili dismissed the notion. Likely it would just upset her, cause her to stress about something she could do nothing about. He could not see Gavreel, under any circumstances whatsoever, betraying his beliefs or succumbing to the wiles of a female vampire hed been sparring with in journals for decades. That only meant Gavreel and Chandra were working on the one goal, whether Chandra knew the full story behind Gavreels work or not. And so there seemed little to no point in ruining Leas afternoon by pointing out Gavreels deviation from the set course. Surprisingly, the longer he watched Leas pale blue eyes flick over the bookshelves stacked and crammed with titles, the harder he could feel his cock twitch in lust. He tried hard to put his finger on what exactly it was Lea currently did to make him so lusty. To make him crave so much to throw her over his shoulder, and cart her to his lodgings so he could strip her gently and make love to her until they both expired from exhaustion. Yet he couldnt work it out. She wasnt trying to turn him on, she was not teasing him, taunting him or flaunting herself at him. She simply was thinking. Goddess above, he thought, shocked to his core. How the five hells had he managed to stay sane and not jump her these last few months? Just as he began to create the fantasy in his mind, conjuring the image of himself dragging Lea out the back of the shop and working the odd fastenings on her Force uniform, the door buzzer sounded yet again and Vasili reallydid groan this time. He propped one leg discreetly up onto the thigh of his other leg as he sighed in resignation. Damned fates were against him today. He crossed his arms over his chest, hoping to either brazen out the massive rod tenting his pants, or to hide it from anyones more casual glance. Vasili winced internally as Simeon and Rylan both entered the store together, feminine laughter floating in from behind them. Damnation, he cursed to himself. Now he really was in for it. Si and Rylan might have their heads up in the stars with their new partners, but he had a sneaking suspicion all the teasing and jestinghe had given them in recent days was about to be repaid, tenfold. Vasili rose from his chair and made sure his loose shirt covered the massive erection the sexy little blonde was responsible for. He watched two of his oldest friends warily, waiting for the recognition and surprise to enter their eyes. Vasili took the few steps needed to stand next to Lea, as Clare and Ruthie slowly entered the shop, both of them chatting a mile a minute together as if they had known each other forever. The twins both looked at Vas, and he felt a start of surprise himself. Both vampires looked as if they had spent the last few days in heaven, bliss and a sense of deeply ingrained satisfaction on their faces. As the two women eagerly chatted to each other nonstop about the latest in the seasons fashions,

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utterly ignoring Lea as well as the four men, Vasili snickered as a weary resignation entered the two vamps faces, the reluctance known galaxy-wide to interrupt two women so happily conversing about something their men had almost no interest in. Clare caught sight of Lea first, a questioning look upon her face. Vasili realized the young woman had never met Lea before, and had no idea who she was. Ruthies attention was quickly snagged, as Clare had ceased chattering to her. Lea! Ruthie said, shocked, and gave Rylan the opening he, Simeon and Vasili had been waiting for. Rylan introduced everyone, and before he had even finished, both Clare and Ruthie were looking curiously at Lea. Vasili felt his heart constrict a moment, and he stood even closer to Lea, ready to wrap a protective arm around her, but he never got that far. Before anyone knew exactly what was happening, Clare had solicited Leas opinion on whether non-hooded jackets, or silver-lining trimmed jackets would be all the rage the following month. Lea crossed over to the two women, gesticulating as she raved about the merits of silver-lining trim. In barely the time it took for Vasili to blink, the three women were verbally off and running, talking through a staggering number of options, accessories and tailors at what almost felt like mach speed. Vasili felt stunned, wondered how the hell the three women could keep up and understand exactly what each one was insisting. Vasili looked at both Rylan and Simeon, and they merely shrugged, indicating this was what the women had acted like since the start. Feeling more than overwhelmed, Vasili opened his mouth, having no idea what he wanted or needed to say. Thankfully, Rylan and Simeon hustled Alderic to the opposite corner of the room, and with a final glance at Lea, Vasili followed suit. Lea was gesticulating madly, making some point about gold piping versus silver piping, or some such nonsense, and Vasili knew he was not leaving her undefended. In fact,he was the one who felt as if he were moving in sheer self-defense. Even on the other side of the shop, with a mountain of shelving and books between them, Vasili still could hear the three-way friendly arguing and disagreeing going on as if he still stood next to them. Yet being out of the line of sight did calm him down somewhat. He breathed a sigh of relief, only to have Rylan and Simeon face him, their arms crossed in an identical manner across their chests, equally fierce frowns on their faces. Why the hell is Lea in a Force uniform, Vas? You getting kinky in your old age? Need jailbait as well as a member of our Forces to help you get off? Rylan asked in what sounded almost like an angry tone of voice. Vasili felt his hackles rise, and reminded himself this was one of his oldest friends he spoke to, not some punk out in the streets trying to get a rise from him. Youre a riot, Ry, Vasili rejoined defensively, attempting to keep his anger in check. Its actually you who appears to be losing your touch, old man. Vasili smirked, anticipating the shock on the twins faces when he dropped his bombshell. Leais a Force member, and is twenty-nine to boot, not the jailbait you assume her to be, Vasili continued on ruthlessly, enjoying the startled looks on both Rylans and Simeons faces. Vasili shrugged,

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decided he might as well drop all his bombs at once. Shes been working undercover at Scoopers, of all places, in conjunction with Gav. Gav? Simeon interjected, his shock making his voice pitch higher. Vasili wondered if Simeon thought he was lying through his teeth. He snorted at the thought. As if Lea would go along with some tall tale of his! Are you yanking us around, Vas? What the hell has Gav got to do with the Force? I cant really see them needing him to look up some musty old tome. Vasili puffed out his chest, feeling important. He grinned wickedly at his two friends, enjoying them hanging on his every word. Gav has been following something, and consulting with Lea and the Force, he started easily, and thats why so few people have ever seen her wandering off with anyone else. Aside from the fact she was passing herself off as barely legal. Vasili shrugged, pushing aside the sexy image of Lea with only the common breast band the escorts wore, and the tiny fake tartan skirt. His mouth watered at the mental image. Roughly pulling his mind out of the gutter, Vasili cleared his throat and continued. He had a sinking sensation his momentary mental break had not gone unnoticed by either Montague twin. She wont say what exactly it is Gavs working on for her, but I bet its all connected with that tome Clare brought over with her. Its the only massive breakthrough hed had before he left for Owanus. And remember you and Ruthie found out hed been doing much deeper research on Owanus, Vasili said, nodding at Rylan. Rylan scratched his chin but nodded, acknowledging the truth of his words. Its all linked up somehow, he concluded, I just have no idea how. A heavy silence followed in the moments after he stopped talking, all four vampires thinking, trying to piece together what they could from what they knew. And Chandra? Rylan finally asked, breaking their silence. Vasili just shook his head, not knowing really what to say since he only had suppositions to go on, and didnt want to make Lea look bad to his friends. I have no idea, mate. Lea didnt mention anything about Chandra, but she did seem to be pretty hot to point out that Gav was supposed to be keeping a low profile and not communicating with anyone or letting anyone steal his data. Both Rylan and Simeon exchanged big grins with Vasili. Even Alderic snapped out of whatever mental reverie hed been in to crack a smile. I assume whatever Lea knows about Gav, Alderic spoke with a faint smile, she hasnt yet worked out that hell do whatever he damn well pleases whenever it pleases him? And to the five hells with whatever anyone else wants?

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Vasili snorted. I bet hes tried to be polite and charming to Lea. Nah, my credits are on Lea thinking shes in charge of whatever investigation shes doing, and Gav is willing to let her think hell follow her orders. The three vampires nodded sagely, and Vasili smiled. Besides, I havent had the chance to follow this whole Chandra thing up in any great depth with Lea. More than likely Gav mouthed off after some journal argument between the two of them, and Lea thinks shes some secret nefarious spy, instead of just another vampiric academic. And besides, my gut still says this whole Chandra thing is a fluke meeting and Gav either decided he could use Chandras knowledge, or they joined forces. I mean, can any ofyou see Gav breaking his word, or turning to another side and playing the political game? Both Rylan and Simeon snickered. Alderic appeared to contemplate the thought for a moment, but then shook his head. No, not Gav. The only thing outside of family hes really interested in is his research. Thats where the strength of most of his passion lies. All three of them nodded sagely with Alderic. So whatdo you think Gav is working on, Alderic? Simeon asked curiously. Vasili turned with both Simeon and Rylan, intrigued about the answer and patiently waited for Alderic to speak. The old vampire scratched his chin and seemed to contemplate something deeply for a few more moments. Gavreel has a few personal quests hes been following for years, Alderic started slowly. All three of them nodded, already more than aware of this information. I would think the only reason he would agree to work together with the Force, something he has never seemed keen about in the slightest, would be for one of his most passionate and deeply held projects. Other than that I could not give a more detailed answer. In truth, I am not certain which particular item he has been following these last months and would hate to hazard a guess and send you all off in the wrong direction. Simeon started to say something but Rylan elbowed him in the stomach. Simeon scowled but held his words. Alderic continued slowly as if he hadnt even noticed. Like you asked, Si, I have been following Gavs research this last week, or what I knew hed been doing, and it has led me to hesitantly believe Gav is seeking out the Rune of Knowledge. The three of them all appeared hung on the elderly vampires words. The Goddess Adedenious, the partner and lover of Dante, the God of all Vampires, stole the Rune of Knowledge in a jealous rage. Dante and Adedenious had many years ago completed their Soul Circle, but Dante had become obsessed with the Truth of All, with the Rune itself and with the hidden power knowledge gives one.

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Vasili felt his stomach twist slightly. Gavreel was by no means obsessed, but he was one single-minded vampire, easily able to close everything else off around him when the situation suited him so. Vasili caught a glance between Rylan and Simeon, but they all remained silent, letting Alderic continue. Legend has it that Dante began to neglect Adedenious, focus more and more fully on his studies and search, until finally the goddess snapped. She coaxed him into having sex with her, after stealing his Rune and giving it to Glorina, their eldest child, and Adedenious, a powerful goddess in her own right, wove a spell, through their soul binding, scattering them both through the galaxy as stars. There are always the constellations of The Lovers throughout any solar system, and this is rumored to be them, united in the heavens, but with a noticeable regularityit is the woman hunting the man, or binding the man, in the constellation, not the man chasing the woman as is common in the popular literature. That was Adedenious revenge, they would be together, and Dante would not be able to ignore her anymore. And this Rune that Adedenious stole, thats what Gav is chasing after? Rylan asked, his eyes wide. Vasili smiled, wondered for a moment if it was finally hitting home to Rylan that women were not just wonderfully sexual creatures, but damn powerful entities in their own rights. There are thousands of rumors surrounding the Rune, Alderic stated, removing his old-fashioned glasses to clean and toy with them. The most popular theory revolves around the fact that Adedenious cautioned her daughter, the founder of one of the feminine priestess temples, that the Rune gave unlimited knowledge and power to the entity that held it. She instructed her daughter to hide it and guard it. The stories onwhere Glorina hid it, or some say destroyed it, are legion. Generally speaking, each tale is more ridiculous than the last, and since not even the full story behind Adedenious betrayal of Dante is solid fact, you can bet the Goddess followers would have a vastly different tale to tell. And thus the Rune moved from supposed reality and into legend and has never been proven to be sighted again. So, Vasili summarized, Gav and Chandra, two vampires who have been at each others throats over obscure references in journals for the last couple of decades have headedtogether to Klampor? And to discover the Rune which supposedly broke up the God of all Vampires and his Soul Partner and lover, the Goddess of a temple of priestesses, and one forthright and independent woman? Alderic nodded thoughtfully, but both Rylan and Simeon had started to look at each other uneasily, likely seeing where Vasili headed here. Am I the only person here to notice two things? Firstly, if these two gods, who supposedly loved each other beyond compare, ended up pretty much killing one another, because you can bet the Goddess Adedenious had more than one blowup fight before taking such drastic action as putting them both in the sky, how the five hells do we expect Chandra and Gav not to kill each other? But more importantly, secondly, how do we know theyll find this Rune where its supposed to be, and if itsnot there, wont they just head straight back out to where the second most likely place they think the Rune will be? Rylan frowned and spoke up. Thats a decent point, Vas. We could spend months chasing after them, running all over and across the known galaxy. Personally, I can think of better things to do with my time. Both Simeon and Rylan exchanged meaningful glances. Vasili barely stopped himself from rolling his eyes in comedic disdain. Sure, he would enjoy spending a few weeks or more doing nothing but learning every curve and crevice of Leas body, but he, at least, could restrain himself in public.

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He heard Lea laugh at that very moment, a light, happy sound seeming to come from her very soul. He felt a quiver of lust roll through him. He grinned to himself, but didnt say anything aloud. Im not sure theres much point in us constantly chasing after him, or not anymore now that we know hes okay. I mean, even though it sounds like hes on a massive shadow chase, we know hes fine, and with Chandra. Vasili watched as Rylan turned to Simeon, seeking his twins thoughts on the matter. Simeon had been fretting in the beginning, insisting they search and find what had happened to Gavreel. Rylan obviously thought if Simeon was easy over the safety of their father then the matter would rest. Vasili coughed, looked back to where the women had been left and checked they were still in their own little world. Actuallyahh He paused trying to think of a delicate way of putting things. Michael has already left to hire a merc guide to chase after Gav. When Alderic as well as the twins looked at him as if he had lost his mind, he shrugged. Mikewent after Gav? And he hired amerc to do it? Simeon questioned, his voice raised in utter astonishment. Oh man,wait until he comes back. Mr. I-am-so-cool-and-you-are-such-a-fret-pot. What could possibly have made him chase after Gav of his own volition? Are you holding out on us, Vas? Vasili stood tall, knowing Simeon was actually thinking he had withheld information on Gavs safety, not the fact Mike had indulged in a one-night stand, only to find himselfthough he didnt yet know itdeeply in love. Much as he shared with the twins, he felt Michael might want to share his own news in his own way, and at his own convenience. Vasili scrambled about mentally, trying to think of something to say. Something to do with a woman, he mumbled, knowing all three vampires would be able to hear him, even over the womens voices, especially since he had their full and complete attention. Vasili had no idea what else to say, and truthfully, he didnt know much more anyway. Youre kidding me? Simeon said, shocked, but his voice at least lowered to its usual pitch. That is so lame I cant believe it. Michael is chasing after Gav so he can have a bit of fun on the side and spend time withoh! He doubled over, Rylan having jabbed him again in the stomach with his elbow. Vasili snickered, wondered if Rylan had taken so much offense simply because he had almost instantly known not even Michael would go running after some woman merely on a whim. It didnt take a rocket scientist to gage the high odds that Michael was in heat. Or maybe Rylan had something else on his mind? Frowning in thought, Vasili wondered just how much he had been missing while the Montague men cavorted all across the Galaxy. Rylan had only just come back from chasing Gavreel to Owanus, with his new partner Ruthie. He had shamelessly used the excuse to remain in close contact with her. But Simeon scorning Michael for merely trailing around after a woman on the flimsiest of excuses had likely cut a little too close to Rylans ego and peace of mind.

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Besides, Simeon should know firsthand that vampires in heat generally didnt chase after one,particular woman unless there was something serious to it. Unless the vampire had very good reason, like feeling an overwhelming need for just that woman, any willing female would do. Both Simeon and Rylan had needed their respective partners, and no other would have been as fulfilling for them. So too did Vasili know Michael felt this way about Phoebe, though he didnt feel inclined to share the knowledge with either twin. They would have plenty of ammunition to tease Michael with, after his odd behavior. Right, gotcha, Simeon finished lamely, coughing and attempting to catch his breath. Vasili had to grin as Rylan glared daggers at his twin, looking as if he would happily throttle the life out of him. What the hell is so lame about Rylan started to defend himself and his actions, but all four vampires shifted awkwardly as women returned to the conversation. Rylan snapped his mouth shut, totally unwilling to go any further with Ruthie present. He sent a serious shut the fuck up look to Simeon, who smiled but pressed his lips together, indicating he understood. Ruthie wrapped her arms around Rylans waist, hugging him from behind and seeming more than just a little bit interested in the conversation she knew shed interrupted. Whats lame? Dont stop talking for us, Ry! The men all looked at each other, a surprising blankness on both Simeon and Rylans faces. Alderic appeared to be deep in his own train of thought, and so Vasili decided to make a decent and hopefully halfway believable excuse up as he went along. Michael has hired a merc to help him research and head out to Klampor, and we were just saying it was a bit of a lame cop-out for him to do that, and not try to do it alone, he said, lying shamelessly. Vasili had a hard time keeping a straight face as both Simeon and Rylan cast him grateful glances, obviously appreciative it washe lying to their respective partners, and not either ofthem . Vasili wondered if Clare and Ruthie knew their partners well enough to tell when they were lying, and shrugged as he decided maybe theydid know each other well enough to gage that. Thankfully, both Clare and Ruthie took his words at face value and began to throw their own opinions into the mix, and a new conversation began. The temporary argument between the twins was dropped instantly, and hypothesis on whether Michael would be able to catch up with Gavreel, considering he had such a huge lead, began a new round of arguments. As the conversation became more volatile, Vasili followed Lea as she tugged him slightly to the side and behind a random shelf. She reached up and, speaking softly said with surprising pride in his ear, You can liereally well. Vasili attempted to look wounded, but when he realized Lea looked at him with awe and not feminine annoyance or irritation, he decided to play it for all it was worth. Lie? he said, wondering which piece she hadnt believed. I was telling the truth, Michaelhas hired a merc

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I know your words werent a lie, but that certainly wasnt what Simeon and Rylan had been arguing about what was lame, she said cheerily. Vasili licked his lips, wanted to touch her as he noticed a strange gleam in her light blue eyes. Before he could suggest a raunchy way for them to pass the time before Simeon and Rylan left them alone again, Lea continued, amusement deepening in her eyes. Vampire hearing, she continued to whisper in his ear so the other women wouldnt hear, brilliant stuff. Particularly comes in handy when one wants to keep tabs on a male conversation occurring across the room and one needs to really remain with the little women. Vasili raised an eyebrow, intrigued, but still not completely convinced. You could talk your way through a conversation about fashion and other assorted female things with two women, at light speed, andstill listen in on our conversation and follow both? Lea laughed, a happy, almost delighted sound. Vasili grunted and reassessed his opinion on the stunning woman before him. His respect for her abilities and skills went up several notches. How the hell had he missed so much about her down at Scoopers? Maybe if he hadnt avoided her like the plague, thinking she was little more than a baby, he could have been getting to know her better months ago. And why the hell had Gavreel been busily introducing her to Simeon and Rylan? Vasili felt insanely tempted to kick his own ass, for judging someone without even trying to get to know them. Never would he make the same mistake again, he swore. Its called multitasking, Vas, Lea said, laughter still prominent in her voice. Vasilis face split into a grin. At leastsomeone seemed to be enjoying his stupidity. Women have been doing it for millenniums, and men never really seem to catch on. Vasili shook his head, bewildered and knowing he fell deeper and deeper into her spell with every breath they took. So whatis so lame about taking a woman on a shadow chase simply to seduce her? Vasili nearly choked as he heard the ardent curiosity in Leas tone. He looked around himself, hoping for divine intervention, or at least a reasonable story he could produce. Sure, he didnt owe Rylan anything, but the payback for ratting on his mate would be severe, and likely worth far more trouble later on than it would be for him to satisfy Leas curiosity now. Around the corner, Vasili could hear the argument between Simeon, Clare, Ruthie and Rylan about the merits of chasing after Gavreel again. For the first time all week, Rylan and Simeon were trying to talk Clare and Ruthieout of following with Michael. Vasili snorted. At least the men had all agreed without even discussing it that Michael deserved at least a fighting chance of making headway and seducing his woman without the interference of the rest of his family and their chosen partners.

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Uh Vasili hesitated, not wanting to lie, but neither wanting to say the truth. Instead, he decided to go with the ever-present cop-out of, nothing, really. We just were expressing howits justlame, dont you think? Vasili winced as the only lame things that had been happening recently seemed to be coming out ofhis mouth. He smiled in what he hoped was a confident manner but he had a sneaking suspicion it was just a thin, weak thing. She looked at him hard, and then shrugged her shoulders. He watched as Lea took a deep breath and placed one hand high up on his chest. The palm pressed warmly against his thin shirt, making his heart beat even faster. He looked down into pale blue eyes, and felt his whole world tilt to the side.One simple touch , he mused to himself,and I turn into jelly.Wouldnt the twins howl with laughter if they knew? I can think of a better way of seducing someone, dont you know, Lea purred seductively in his ear. Vasili gulped as her other hand strayed from his hip, to in front of his pants. The hand on his chest continued to stroke softly, in time with his pumping heart. Could she tell how much she turned him on, with just one small caress? With but a few words from her lips? Vasili had never felt so out of control before. Come by Scoopers, she whispered sexily, teasing and tempting him with the myriad images he felt conjure behind his minds eye, just on closing time tomorrow morning. Vasili watched as Lea licked those pouting lips, dampening them and making him wish they were alone. He would love for her to go onto her knees, open those pouting lips of hers and take him in her warm, damp mouth. Vasili swallowed audibly, his cock rising even more uncomfortably in his pants. He stood stock still as Lea stood on tiptoes and planted a warm, soft kiss against his mouth. He hungrily tasted her, fire and honey making an intoxicating mix he thought he could drink forever. All too soon he felt her pull away slightly, and for the first time in his more than three hundred years of existence, he didnt want to let a woman go. Vasili wrapped an arm possessively around his woman, and drew her closer to him, not letting her escape. For another heaven-sent moment, he tasted Lea, let the tip of his tongue toy and play with hers, the two of them twining together and parrying in an endless game of chase. When Lea moved slightly, indicating with her body language that she wanted to go, he reluctantly loosened his hold on her, but only by moving his arm from around her waist to across her shoulders. Mmm, she murmured huskily, I have never before enjoyed the masterful type, but I rather like it on you, Vas. Vasili groaned slightly, what he had previously thought an iron-ore hard cock becoming even more painfully so. A million thoughts ran through his head, almost all of them centering on taking Lea somewhere secluded and quiet, well away from the Montagues, and stripping her slowly, until she was bare-assed naked, and having his wicked way with her. Id love to stay here and be naughty with you, with or without the wannabe voyeurs nearby, but I have to report in to work, she said softly. A moment ago, Vasili would have sworn he couldnt have let her

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go, but the true regret in her tone, coupled with the knowledge she wanted him as much if not more than he wanted her, gave Vasili the strength to squeeze her shoulder tightly once, and then step aside. Vasili looked down at her, and caught the kiss Lea blew to him. With a final wink, she called out her goodbyes to Simeon and Rylan as she rounded the shelves again. Vasili followed more slowly, enjoying the sight of Lea, who twenty minutes ago had never met Clare to his knowledge, hugging the two women as if they were long-lost sisters. After the rounds of hugs and farewells, Vasili stepped back a pace so he had a better view of Lea as she left, more than enjoying the sensual sway of her pertly rounded ass as she sashayed out of the store. He watched her leave, with a spring in her step as if she didnt have a care in the world, until the crowds passing by on the street swallowed her from his sight. Vasili smiled innocently to the twins, amused to see even Alderic had a gleam in his eye when he surveyed him. Vasili felt grateful for his mind block. He didnt want the elderly vampire or either of the twins having an inkling of the lustful thoughts scattering around his mind. Besides,he reminded himself firmly,there are a lot of hours between now and the time Scoopers closes, where hopefully there will be chances to seduce and torment Lea. And afterwards, anything was possible after hours. For the first time in more years than he could count, both Simeon and Rylan seemed to sense his muted frustrations. Even more amazingly, with smarmy, almost identical smiles which promised vengeance of the most deplorable kind, they began their farewells and in a matter of minutes led their partners out into the back of the shop into the more private quarters of Alderic and, when he felt like it, Gavreel. Simeon was promising Clare a hot drink, one she apparently had not tried as yet, and Ruthie seemed confused, but willing to follow suit. Vasili found himself left alone with Alderic. A real vixen, your woman Lea, Alderic said clearly, almost as if he had not been lost in his own musings the last ten minutes. Vasili felt surprised but not shocked. Alderic often could be completely on a different plane, only to snap back to reality and know everything that had occurred while lost in his own mind. I remember her great-grandparents, Arthur and Jean, he continued easily. Feisty couple they were. I never knew another pair of anything, let alone vampires, who ran around the galaxy collecting tickets and fines for lewd and indecent behavior like they did. Vasili grinned, not knowing if laughter was really the right response to Alderics admission. It wasnt so much they relished their childrens chagrin, but I think they felt disappointed their children were not as free and liberal thinking as they were. In any event, I feel certain thats why the rest of the family headed into the Force. Massive repression and denial, the lot of them. Lea seems to at least have a bit of spark and humor in her soul. Vasili nodded, interested to learn more about Leas family and history. You think they know about her working undercover?

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Alderic chortled, seemingly genuinely amused. Are you kidding me, son? I bet theyd lock her up and throw away the key if they thought she was working as an escort, even just as a cover. I also would bet on the fact they think she has some safe, sane, cushy desk job and never sees the light of day. Scoopers would be the last place theyd expect to see her. Vasili turned to the elder vampire, looking at him seriously. Do you think shes coming on to me because shes repressed? Vasili felt a huge measure of relief as Alderic shook his head. He hadnt realized how much he relied on the elder vampire until he negated what had suddenly, in the space of ten seconds, become a huge fear. No, son. I dont think Lea would be capable of using you or anyone like that. Unless I miss my guess, shes entering a very, very mild form of heat. Her DNA is still derived from vampire, even though it is diluted through the generations. She has a few vampire characteristics, right? Vasili cocked an eyebrow and nodded, not able to say a word. Alderic shrugged and raised his own eyebrows, almost as if to say well, there you go then. Vasili took a deep breath, not sure if he could wait until closing time. A vampiress in heat was a stunning thing to behold on numerous levels. Not many incomplete vampires, and even fewer human men could ever say they had experienced a vampiress in full throes of her sexual heat. What time does Scoopers close again? he asked his old friend, licking his lips in anticipation and glancing at his timepiece, wishing to heaven it werent so many hours away. Chapter Seven

Gavreel looked over his shoulder at Chandra, who was sitting comfortably in the copilot seat. For the moment the ship was cruising on course and only needed one or the other of them to glance at it every few minutes. And so Chandra had her legs curled up beneath her and a huge brown and gold tome open across her legs. Gavreel smiled at the picture she made, rather like a contented cat. He cast his eye over the spiky gold hair he had come to love running his fingers through, and even though he couldnt see the brown eyes reading over the words of the tome quickly, he knew they would be bright and a warm brown, excited to be reabsorbing some much loved history. Aha! she interrupted his thoughts, a definite tone of gloating in her voice. Gavreel smiled and as their eyes met, he discovered he had been correct. Warm brown eyes held a glint of excitement and pure contentment. Itold you so, she preened. Gavreel felt a smile slash across his face, and his heart lift a little at her excitement. It had been years since he had really relaxed and enjoyed a females company. Rebeka, his first love and Michaels mother, had died tragically and suddenly, ripping much of his world apart. Janni, the mother of his twins, Rylan and Simeon, might have lived a decent amount of time, until she had

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been about eighty, but even though he had loved her, by that stage he had begun to close himself off to women and love, still scarred by the hole Rebekas death had left in him. More than that, he had been terrified the woman he opened up and shared his soul with would pass on, leaving him truly broken, alone and terrified. And so he had always held some distance between himself and the fairer gender. Although for completely different reasons, both of his more serious romantic relationships had crumbled. Gavreel had never really come close again to truly opening himself. He belatedly realized what hed been missing out on by never truly experiencing everything a loving, open,giving relationship could offer. He could now see that even though he had honestly loved both women, he had never really fullytrusted them, which a true, honest love needed to flourish. Gavreel closed his eyes for just a second, sending a prayer to ask for forgiveness, wherever Rebeka and Janni now were. Gavreel still felt slightly shocked that it was Chandra, above all others, with whom he seemed to share this delicate new trust. Chandra, with whom he had argued and bickered endlessly over obscure reference points both in journals, and eventually over comm calls, and whenever they had bumped into each other at gatherings. He found it amusing and comforting that they still disagreed vehemently over certain philosophical and academic points. Even though both their lives had drastically changed when they completed each others Soul Circles recently, and even though he now felt an incredible sexual hunger for her, much of the basis for their friendship and relationship had not altered. This gave him hope, as in a comforting manner it showed to him that where it counted with each other, they trusted implicitly and truly loved each other. How else to explain why neither got upset or offended when the other started arguing strongly over some obscure point? Gavreel smiled wryly as he also acknowledged the still present frissons of doubt and worry, the mild panic over joining himself fully and completely to another woman, vampire or not. Now they had merged souls he truly did feel complete and replete, as if all those small missing pieces of himself had been handed back to him. Yet he also felt worried. If something happened to Chandra, if those pieces of her soul were ripped from him, he would never, ever be the same again. He might heal eventually, or he might not, but he would never again be this complete, this fulfilled. Gavreel took a grip on himself and purposely pushed that particular worry and doubt aside, refusing to allow himself to dwell on something so out of his control. Instead, he thought of the better ramifications. His heart began to pick up speed, beat faster as he realized over time his and Chandras heat phases would merge in sync. There was no specific rule to how it would take place, or how long it would take. It might only be a few years, or it might be decades but, Goddess willing, theywould eventually slide into sync, and then they had an incredibly good chance of eventually creating a child together. Gavreel laughed silently at the thought of a child of Chandra and him. A more hot-headed, bookish vampire would surely never exist. Are you listening, Gav? Chandra said impatiently. He turned back toward her and smiled.

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Sorry, my dear, just daydreaming. You found the temple reference from Klampor and the Goddess Adedenious I denied existed, I assume? You bet your ass I did. Here, read this and grovel, she said in what could only be described as a smug manner. Gavreel grinned, pleased for her, and took the heavy tome she offered him with a grunt. His eyes quickly scanned the page and easily found the paragraph Chandra had felt so victorious over. He quickly read the contents, going back and rereading it more slowly and carefully. Once done, Gavreel flipped to the start of the ancient tome, still keeping the pages Chandra had found held with his thumb, and curiously checked out the title and author of the tome. Nodding in approval, Gavreel mentally filed the data away, interested to read the entire tome at a later date. Well, my dear, he said clearly and easily, you were certainly right, if Llewellyn Glampartin knows what he writes of. Give me another second Gavreel smiled, but ignored the smug pride radiating from Chandra, and bent back to reread the few small paragraphs one last time before commenting. No sense in rushing things, this was important to both of their quests. Sure enough, the tome documented an ancient temple of Klampor, in which the priestesses had registered receiving the presence of Goddess Adedenious and taking her power into safekeeping. Gavreel read the rest of the paragraph and frowned. He looked up from the tome and chewed over the possible meanings and ramifications of the knowledge listed here. Often information and articles were slippery things, couched in one light or another either for the authors personal agenda or the publishers. Gavreel admitted the agenda was almost always long, long gone by the time he became interested in the text, but the fact remained this point, like so very many before it, was particularly vague and hyped up to become a legend and not a factually based documentary. I think this is an excellent start, Chandra, but you must admit this doesnt explainhow to find the Rune of Knowledge, or even any real details on this temple the Goddess Adedenious power was given hold to. It only records they took it into their keeping, which could easily have been anything from a token of her thanks blown out of proportion, to the true Rune. He had to smile as Chandra rolled her eyes in exasperation, and sighed. Truly, he wasnt trying to shoot her theory down, as well she knew. If she had believed he was picking on her or tearing her work to pieces, she likely would have leapt from her seat to throttle him, not merely sighed and made a rude gesture at him. Well, of course, its vague. Tell me truthfully, in a blood vow if you must, when have youever found a neat recipe for findingany artifact written in a, b, c instructions? Gavreel chuckled and acknowledged the hit. His grin widened as Chandra nodded back to him and continued speaking quickly.

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Its not as if Llewellyn, and certainly not the priestesses or anyone else, are going to leave easy-to-follow instructions in a printed text. None of them ever do. You know half of this academic stuff is traveling and proving oneself right. Gavreel watched as Chandra paused, ran a hand through her short, spiky blonde hair. She looked up and caught his eye. He knew instinctively she didnt want to, but she was waiting for him to agree with her. You know you are right, my dear, he said softly, smiling as she grimaced and crossed her legs underneath her on the seat. Honestly? she said forcefully, obviously getting into her stride, I bet we will be able to work it out when we get into the temple itself. Thats what my gut says. We know the temple should be there, regardless of whether the reference is valid or not, and we even have a rough idea of where the temple itself stands. Considering Iknow youve been on quests and searches on far less than this, you have to at least have faith in this. What more could you possibly want? Gavreel chuckled, Chandras passion flowing over him. She felt so damn strongly about this, he could do nothing but respect her for it. Many other academics felt awed by his reputation, unwilling to voice their thoughts, hypotheses or real opinions. It had, from the very beginning, been so refreshing to always know exactly where he stood with Chandra. Very true, my love, you do deserve credit for this, Gavreel agreed truthfully. He grinned widely as he watched Chandras eyes darken, her pupils dilate with lust and desire. Gavreel would never have admitted it, as he knew his woman truly didnt mean to share, or burden him as she thought of it, with her blinding hunger, the raging lust and heat which seared through her, but Gavreel could feel her hunger quiver through her, making her feel both powerful and weak. With age came some level of control over the heat phase all vampires went through. Gavreel knew that for a fact, as he assumed did Chandra. He knew Chandra didnt want to pressure him into exploring their newly found sexual feelings for one another by making him feel like some a stud ordered to perform upon command. But what he hadnt been able to convince her of yet was that heenjoyed sharing her heat. He wanted her body just as much as she, in her heat, wanted him, but he genuinely liked to share her loss of control. Gavreel had found he loved the freedom of being able to let go sexually with his partner, particularly a vampiress, and not having to hold back his sexuality, or dampen it down for fear of scaring his partner or harming her in any way. Tell me you hunger, my love, he asked her silently.Show me and let me know how it truly is, not the polite faade we show the rest of the world . Even as he sent her his thoughts, opened his mind to her, he could feel the heat seeping into his cock. He could feel himself lengthen, swell out to his aroused state, and the pleasure of his desire sharpened to almost pain. He could feel his cock lift up, strain and struggle against the confines of his clothes. The thickness swelled to uncomfortably stretch the pants of his skinsuit and made him wish for the more comfortable, casual pants in his bag. His cock felt full, thick and hot, and heavy enough to burst the pants of his skinsuit.

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He laughed softly, amused to realize in the space of thirty seconds the tables had reversed. Now it wasnt Chandra who needed him as a stud, but he who needed her as an open, wet and willing body. He projected the image to her, as well as his heavy amusement at the ease with which the power between them could shift and turn. Chandra bit her lip to smother a laugh, Gavreel knew. He could feel the amusement and hunger positively radiate from her. The wicked glint shining in her eyes acknowledged his point and he felt as if they could work out any difference ever coming between them. Behind it all though, Gavreel could feel her heart was still bruised and slightly wary. As he felt the sameoverjoyed with their new bond, a new, pure love forming between them, but worry and doubt nibbled the edges. Gavreel knew it would take patience and time to get things perfectly right between them. But they were vampires, they had plenty of time, and more than enough knowledge between them. Gavreel had faith in them both. He closed the brown and gold tome, which lay half forgotten in his hands and lap, and placed it gently on the floor. Chandra, he chided gently, softly, you know I am more than happy to help ease the heat in you. Surely you can feel the burn of my own desire, or even see it. He threw a wry glance down at his pants and the massive erection straining there. Not many women have the reality of their fantasy of a willing stud, a man more than happy, willing and able to perform practically on command. Gavreel smiled, grinning wider as Chandra laughed. Her eyes had darkened further upon looking at the impressive shaft filling his pants, her hunger burning hotter, harder. As long as were not in the middle of a firefight or in view of masses of public, you should surely know by now that I am fairly easy when it comes to you, he added huskily, forcing himself to sit in his seat and not pick her up and lay her on the floor so he could tear her skinsuit from her. Gavreel saw the dawning wonder and trust light her eyes first. They warmed her brown eyes even more, making her seem like some woodland sprite from ages gone. Gavreel sucked in a deep breath and hoped beyond everything that he might finally have managed to get through to her his honest need to be here, and his true and deep sexual desire for her. How much longer do we have? he asked, his voice deep and a naughty twinkle in his eye. About half an hour til we have to start the landing procedures, she said, an answering twinkle in her eye. Perfect. He reached across the space dividing them, and grabbed her hand. He tugged on her lightly, relieved when she played along, stood up and came to stand in front of him. With the lightest touch of his fingers, he undid and removed her skinsuit, shocked but unbearably excited to see she wore nothing beneath it. As she toed off her shoes, he held her steady as she stepped out of the skinsuit. He still remained in his copilot seat, not wanting the hassle of having to remove and replace the cot at the far end of the cabin.

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He felt his face split into a grin as Chandra knelt before him, bent down, and began to remove his shoes. That is a favorite position of men galaxy-wide, you know, my love, he purred teasingly, knowing she had positioned herself kneeling before his feet on purpose. When she pulled one shoe free, and turned her face to look fully up at him, she smiled, an eager, vixenish smile that sent the heat, and his blood, even further south. His cock tightened painfully, and he knew once again he wouldnt be able to move slowly, treasure her as she fully deserved. He had no idea if he simply picked up on Chandras heat unconsciously, driving himself nuts, or if she simply drove him wild. He had a feeling they would both have much less time in the future to argue in their writings, or spend hours on end in libraries and studying ancient texts. Gavreel could easily see a lifetimes worth of verbal arguments and carnal make-ups and sexual explorations in their future. Neither would ever have time to be bored or lonely again. He felt his second shoe removed and reached out to grasp Chandras shoulder as she lifted herself easily to straddle him on the seat. As she reached up to kiss his lips, he felt her heat explode over him as if she had combusted. Her heat and hungry need rushed over him like a wave of pure lust and craving, so potent he felt he could physically reach out and touch it. He laughed quietly as she ripped his skinsuit, eager hands fumbling with the fastenings. He heard the thin material tear as she swore and tugged harder. Laughing, he maneuvered his body to help her pull the suit out of his arms and skim it down over his hips. Their bodies grazing each other, they both reached down together to pull the suit from his feet. You arent wearing briefs either, Chandra said, amazed. He found himself grinning like a fool. I felt rather the same way when you stripped, my dear. Knowing you wore nothing under your skinsuit is not helping keep my libido in check. He felt his cock lengthen even further as she carefully grasped him, fisting it in her hand and her delicate finger twirling the pre-cum around the heated tip of his penis. I dont want you to keep yourself in check. I am rather fond of the potent, more feral you. Gavreel grunted, unable to answer her as his throat had closed over with the rush of lust he felt from them both. They almost appeared to be feeding from one another, their lusts a living, breathing entity. Careful, Chandra, he warned, or this wont be gentle. I dont want gentle, Gav, she said seriously, looking deep into his eyes. I want you to fuck me raw, right now. Gav moaned and spread her legs wider over himself, opening her pussy to him. He reached a hand down and stroked her lips, separating them and opening her to him. She moaned, shifted her legs herself to grant him easier access. She was dripping wet, her creamy juices flowing freely. Youre so wet, he exclaimed, surprised.

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Youre so hard, she countered breathlessly. She fisted him and stroked him again, sending his need into overdrive. I cant He cut himself off, taking a deep breath to try and regain his composure. I dont want you to, she moaned, stroking his entire length again. Gavreel exploded into action. He removed her hands, pulling them behind her back and holding them steady in one of his much larger hands. Effectively bound, he then separated her labia again, flicking her clit and enjoying the muffled scream that came from her. He could feel her pleasure wash over him, knew she was perfectly ready and primed to explode which pleased him, as he felt on the edge himself. He shifted them both carefully, retaining a firm grip on her hands, intrigued to realize from the emotions washing over him from her that having her hands restrained turned her on unbearably. He filedthat piece of information away for use later on. He positioned his cock just barely inside her weeping pussy, and with a hand on her hips, guided her gently down upon his shaft. He was thick, knew from the slow, sensual way she lowered herself onto him she enjoyed the friction of him entering her tight pussy. He let her take her time, drawing them both out erotically. When she finally settled down upon him, fully encasing his thick shaft, they both breathed heavily and looked at each other. He wrapped an arm around her back, still keeping a hold of her hands and they kissed passionately. He throbbed inside her, and her wet pussy clasped him tightly. She broke away, panting heavily. She wriggled her bound hands, I want to touch your chest, she pleaded, and smiling wickedly, he held her hands a moment longer, but then released her. She laughed breathlessly, reached out to hold his shoulders and raised herself, moaning at the friction their movements caused. I never thought having my hands bound could be sexy, she panted. They both moaned as she began lowering herself back down. Gavreel reached out and angled her hips, pulled her down faster, needing the extra stimulation. Well get to that another time, maybe on the trip back, he promised huskily. We have an awful lot of things to experience and experiment with together. He felt as if he were covered in sunshine as she smiled at him, radiant in her pleasure. I need to come, she said, her voice rough with its urgent need. Gavreel bent and captured one of her nipples in his mouth, pushing and pulling her hips to have her move on him in short, sharp bursts of speed. Gavreel held onto himself, fiercely keeping his own orgasm in check until he could feel her rushing up the peak to climax. When the wave crashed over her, she unconsciously projected her pleasure to him, forcing him into his own climax, rushing them both over the edge and into oblivion.

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He came in hot bursts inside her, shooting load after load of his seed deep inside her body. When she collapsed against his chest, he wrapped his arms around her without even thinking about it. Wanting to hold her near his heart, wanting to keep her safe and protected. Wanting to keep her with him forever. As they both came down from the ecstatic high, he felt her shift uncomfortably on the slim chair. Bet they didnt think of this when making the pilot seats, she said with a laugh in her voice. If it was a man, I bet he did, he replied sexily, a glimmer of knowing, masculine laughter in his tone. He released Chandra as she lifted herself from him and turned to stare at the controls. We have five minutes to clean up and get dressed again, then we need to start landing procedures, she said easily, ducking across the cabin into the instant cleansing chamber. Gavreel stood up and crossed to the chamber more leisurely. Even though he knew the chamber could only be activated for a maximum of three minutes at a time, he still figured it safer for them to cleanse themselves separately. Three minutes wasnt even nearly enough time for him to kiss and touch Chandra like he wanted. And when one started with steam and water, one needed to keep the cocoon of wet warmth until the end. There was no sense in getting himself all worked up and then leaving himself high and dry, figuratively and literally. He grinned and kissed Chandra lightly on the lips as she exited the cubicle. Ill grab you a new suit, she said, laughter and complete understanding shining in her eyes. That would be lovely, thanks, he said as he entered the cubicle. He forced his mind back onto the task at hand, knowing he would need all his brain cells to focus on the rune, not how and when he could next have mind-blowing sex with his mate. As he cleansed himself, he breathed deeply, clearing his mind of everything but the task ahead. Chapter Eight

Michael sat back in his seat and sighed. John Brownridge had loaned him a console to do his research on, placing it next to Phoebes on her desk, cluttering it some, but making life far easier for them both as they performed their research. Michael had worried for a short time as they had received some odd looks from her cubicle-mates, but when no one had said or suggested anything, both he and Phoebe had been able to easily settle into a routine and both get their work done. Michael rubbed the back of his neck, surprised at the crick that had formed over the last hour or so. It had been a long time since hed been so single-minded and focused on anything like this.

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He hit the close key in frustration, thezip of the holo-screen going blank catching Phoebes attention. He ran a hand through his hair in agitation, not wanting to really let loose in front of the sexy woman. Unfortunately for him, his annoyance at the documents hed been reading welled inside him, too great to be ignored. From what I can tell, he started, his voice heavy with anger, this damned place, Klampor, is more than two days hard journey away from us. He felt his agitation begin to trickle away as Phoebe laid down her stuff and turned in her seat to give her full attention to him. She had unconsciously taken her hair out of the braid, fiddling with the strands and running her hands through them as she researched and thought. Michael had been entranced for a full minute initiallyhe had simplyhad to watch the long tresses fall halfway down her back in light blonde waves, as if he were under some sort of compulsion. Phoebe, however, had been completely oblivious, her eyes scrolling through the data, busy in her own little world, the unconscious gesture of toying with her hair perfectly natural for her. Now, however, her deep violet eyes watched him, taking him seriously, and he felt the heat of his soul-deep need for her return, replacing the frustration he had been experiencing mere minutes before. He smiled at her, enjoying the brightness of the smile she returned to him. Michael had no idea why she didnt feel the same frustration he did, but it soothed him to feel her presence, her eyes and her smile upon him. Even if we jumped on a ship right now, he continued with far less heat, there is no way wed be certain to catch up with them. I think its a fairly safe bet that once Gav and Chandra get this rune theyre after, theyll simply turn around and head back home here. There might be another way, Phoebe said slowly. Michael turned and gave herhis full attention. Over the last hour or so he had not only appreciated her beauty, but come to appreciate her mind. She had a sharp intellect, and an analytical way of thinking of things that, though not the same mannerhe approached things, was nevertheless clever. Also, he had recognized Phoebe had a canny knack of putting a dozen different, seemingly unrelated pieces of a puzzle perfectly together and making a big picture out of it, surprising the shit out of him and making him inordinately proud of her. He had a feeling from the slow, thoughtful way she spoke that there might be another way. He felt certain she was thinking furiously whether it was a viable option or not. Michael waited patiently, not wanting to push or rush her, knowing she would let him in on her thoughts when she was ready. He waited while Phoebe simply gnawed on her lower lip. After a minute, then another few passed and she still sat there staring at him in deep thought, he nudged her gently. Yes? Another way? Im perfectly willing to indulge in a seemingly stupid idea at this point. My brothers might have given up on chasing our father, but I have a feeling hell need some help with taking this rune back from the Goddess Adedenious. He felt his gut clench as Phoebe turned more closely to him, looking around them both to make sure no one else paid undue attention. She lowered her voice for privacy, her purple eyes seeming dark and

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solemn suddenly. How much do you know about this Goddess Adedenious? she asked quietly. Michael frowned, perplexed at the surprising shift in mental thought. Not much really, why? What have you found? When Phoebe shrugged and looked around, many of the cubicles surrounding them still dotted with people, he nodded understandingly. He stood up, held out a hand gallantly. Shall we retire back to my place? Remembering both his brothers, as well as Vasili, Lea and his brothers partners, were all more than likely scattered throughout the large lodgings, Michael smiled wryly. Or maybe, come to think of it, we should head back to your place? He felt his stomach twist when she smiled and began quickly closing down both of their terminals without a single word. In less than a minute she was taking his hand and standing back up next to him. My place might be better, she said teasingly. Michael felt the heat grow inside him, weighing heavily in his chest, but somehow simultaneously making him feel lighter and happier than he had ever known. He struggled, but managed to get himself back under control. He had gone through heat more than a couple of times, and so he felt confident in his ability to keep it under control and manage it this time around. Sure, he would have to lose himself inside Phoebe sooner or later, but at the moment he still could manage to keep himself from jumping her like a randy youth. He followed docilely as she led him out of the office building and down into the street below. He raised an eyebrow as she led him to an underground parking garage, and over to a cruiser. While the machine was admittedly a slightly older model, cruisers, regardless of age, were still not cheap to come by as long as they simply ran. I take it Miss July made a mint as a model? Miss July certainly did well enough for herself, Phoebe replied easily but vaguely, unlocking the car with abeep . They both climbed in and Michael watched Phoebe lovingly and professionally steer the car. He found himself entranced with her movements, the easy, fluid way she maneuvered the car around the busy streets. The unconscious grace she revealed was yet another piece of the puzzle he enjoyed collecting and piecing together. Hopefully the end product would be a final, deeply accurate view of the big picture of who Phoebe Blenti was. He also felt a faint amusement, wondering if she had driven professionally some time in her illustrious career. Right now he would believe almost anything of hersupermodel, merc for hire, adventurer extraordinaire. Who was he to say she couldnt possibly have also been a professional driver? So are you going to tell me more about the Goddess Adedenious? Michael asked curiously, breaking the easy silence between them after a minute or two of comfortable driving silence.

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He smiled charmingly as Phoebe shot him a curious glance and then went back to concentrating on the road. Legend has it that Adedenious, back near the dawn of time, was the lover of Dante, the God of all Vampires. They completed each others Soul Circle, as they were not only compatible, but irrevocably in love. Over the years, they became totally inseparable, incomparable lovers and friends. But slowly, the God of Vampires began to investigate the meaning of life. Over a long period of time, he became obsessed by his need to discover the Truth, as it were. Adedenious became frustrated as her lover slowly began to cast her aside, forgetting her existence. Michael felt his eyes widen. This sounded like a tale Gavreel would love and study, and it also held that ring of truth Michael knew from his own studies. Often it was the simplest and oldest of tales, which held the greatest truths and meanings. He nodded, waited for Phoebe to park the cruiser and continue her story. As time passed on, the Goddess Adedenious became despondent with her partner and lover, and after even more time, she finally became truly angry. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned is also a saying as old as the ages, but in this instance it has particular truth. And a wrathful goddess is not a happy or easy beast to tame. Michael nodded, having a sinking sensation where this story was headed, but still needing to hear it. He felt a measure of pity for Dante, but also could see where Adedenious was coming from. He kept his own council, however, as Phoebe continued. The Goddess Adedenious slept with Dante one last time, and stole the Rune of Knowledge from him. Dante had only recently discovered the Rune, but it had driven every other thought from his head and in essence been the crux of the problems between them. And so Adedenious stole it and gave it to the eldest of their twelve children, their daughter Glorina. Adedenious explained what had occurred in brutally truthful detail, and explained that she was going to take both herself and Dante far away and create constellations in their stead. She cautioned her eldest child to hide the Rune, protect it from all the galaxy, as it drove all thoughts from the head of anyone who possessed it, creating nothing but heartache and destruction. And my father is trying to find this Rune, Michael stated in shock, his mind freezing over with potential ramifications and outcomes. Yes, Phoebe said softly, but with a noticeable difference from Dante. Glorina, Dante and Adedenious eldest child, set up a temple, and a priestesshood of mainly women, but with a few men, who would guard and protect the Rune. Over the millennium the teachings and stories have sifted down, to only a few scattered, largely unknowing temples. Michael raised an eyebrow, a sudden flash of insight blindsiding him.How could Phoebe know all thisunless? Before he could ask any questions, Phoebe was continuing. Before she passed on, my fathers aunt, my great-aunt, was one of the last priestesses in this temple. I thought the whole story was just a fairy tale, and had completely forgotten all about it. But when you told me you were looking for Klampor, I knew Id heard of it from somewhere, I just couldnt place where. As we did more research though, we discovered its where an original temple of one of the ancient goddesses stands, who we now know was Adedenious. Michael watched as Phoebe removed her safety harness and prepared to climb from the cruiser, and he

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unconsciously followed suit, his mind whizzed with the possibilities. They both climbed out of the cruiser in silence, and Michael realized they were not at Phoebes lodgings, but outside a small, sand-colored temple. As they slowly walked toward the temple entrance Michael followed along behind Phoebe, dazed by the seemingly hesitant, new side to her hed never seen before. When I was a girl, she began to explain, my parents would leave me here with my great-aunt and two other aunts. My father was a well-known adventurer in his time. My mother also a well-known explorer. They believed uncharted territory was no place for a child, so they left me here with my only other relatives. Michael felt a surprisingly swift and painful pang for Phoebe. No wonder shed followed the beat of her own drum at such a young age, and entered the modeling world. Without really having her parents love, or the support of siblings, she must have felt lost and alone. When Phoebe smiled at him, her eyes easily saying she had known love and held no regrets, Michael smiled back, but still felt a small shaft of pity for her. My aunt loved telling me the ancient tales, she continued, passed on down through the novices and priestesses. Her favorite was what I called the tale of true love. It was a much sanitized, watered-down version of what I suspect was the real tale I told you earlier. My aunt used to say how there were two star constellations, Dante and Adedenious, the lovers. But Dante went on a journey, leaving Adedenious all alone, only to find the Gift of Knowledge. When he held it in his hand, he didnt become the smartest star of all, but his realization waslove was the greatest gift of all, the most powerful force of knowledge of all kind. Michael pursed his lips, but nodded. Very sanitized, he realized, but still with that truth that had rung throughout the entire tale shed been telling him. When I grew older I researched everything I could in the temple about Dante and Adedenious. Something compelling which I never did fully understand, pushed my thirst for knowledge about this particular story. They stared a brief second at each other and Phoebe continued. I reached a few conclusions, all of which seemed interlinked and none of which could be fully justified. But I believe aside from his mania about knowledge, and the neglect of Adedenious, Dante must have discovered for himself the Rune had twisted his life. Sadly, I think it was only after he realized just how badly the Rune had screwed with how his life should have been, did Dante fully appreciate the perfection of his love with Adedenious and heallowed her to turn them both into the constellations. She paused for a moment and Michael kept silent, waited for her to finish. Dante held plenty of power himselfin most ways he and Adedenious were true equals. He should have been able to prevent Adedenious from doing so much damage to them both if that had truly been his wish. Michael stood at the entrance of the temple, paused and waited respectfully for Phoebe to lead him inside. She turned to face him, reached up and cupped his face.

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He easily met her lips with his as she gently pulled him toward her, and enjoyed her spicy taste. The High Priestess might say some odd things, she warned him softly, making him smile, so dont be offended by her. Michael smiled at the worried expression on Phoebes face. I seriously doubt anything she could say would offend me, but I will keep your caution in mind, Phoebe. He bent down and lightly brushed her lips with his once again, cherishing her. Youre amazing, you know that, right? He laughed at her cocky grin. Of course Im amazing. She laughed as she opened the doors. Michael smiled, enjoying her laughter, and followed where she led. Chapter Nine

Michael walked inside the temple, the same muted hush pervading the inside that he had experienced inside every temple. The sand-colored stone the temple was built with was different from anything he had ever seen before. It looked gritty and soft, but had obviously withstood centuries of wars, battles and weather, so it was indeed much stronger than it appeared. The interesting analogy, much the same to how he viewed Phoebe, made him smile and want to reach out and touch it. He resisted the impulse, unsure what those who lived and worshiped here would deem offensive. Intricate carvings ran up and down all the available wall space he could see. Visions of forests, deserts, men and women everywhere eating, drinking and enjoying life to the fullest. Flowers were carved into the corners and across the ceilings. All manner of man and beast, as well as many of the other races scattered across the galaxy, were represented. This is the main receiving area, Phoebe said, her voice soft with respect. One of the novices, or maybe a lesser priestess, should be here in a moment to guide us where we need. I thought you came here often as a child? he said, keeping his voice also soft and respectful. No matter what ones belief was, only a certified fool wouldnt show the utmost respect for a god and or goddess in their own temple, along with their followers. I did, she agreed, her eyes locking on a door on the other end of the room as it opened, and I still have my fathers two sisters here, but as I was never fully initiated into the temple, its a mark of respect for me to wait to be shown, instead of simply wandering around. Michael nodded as he watched a short, slim man come through the doors. The man had a head full of white hair, neatly combed back, and pale, pale blue eyes. He wore a sand-colored set of robes, indicating him one of the postulants of the temple, with gold trimming edging his robe. The man nodded a greeting to Michael, and then bowed low at Phoebe. Phoebe, he said in his soft tone, a genuine warmth and recognition present, it has been far too long, young lady. The High Priestess is expecting you. Please, both of you follow me. Michael placed a hand gently at the bottom of Phoebes back and followed them both as they walked back through the door the postulant had entered. Michael gazed around them as they walked through a

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seemingly endless tunnel. Muted yellow-white light shone from sources he couldnt see. The torches he could see that were placed sporadically along the corridor gave a warm orange-red glow, but Michael could sense there was more light, a brighter light which lit the corridor, but he couldnt see where it originated. Intrigued, even in the dim light, Michael could quite clearly see the carvings etched into almost every available space along the hallway. He could only catch glimpses as they walked steadily down the hall, and wished for a brief moment he could stop and study them more carefully, but from what he could gather the carvings appeared to be documentation of stories, or maybe the history of the temple itself. Not wanting to speak out of turn though, unsure of the etiquette, he kept his musings to himself and simply followed where he was led. He smiled, amused to see on just a short days knowing, how deeply he trusted Phoebe. Soon the postulant paused outside a large set of double doors. Michael recognized the scene as a number of men and women, all sitting at the feet of a woman who sat on a large throne-like chair. The postulant knocked three times and paused. Michael continued to study the scenes on the doors, interested and curious. After a number of seconds silence, without a single sound the doors swung open, seemingly of their own volition. Michael tried to look inside the room, but could see very little. He watched as the postulant bowed to Phoebe once again and she bowed in return. Michael and the man nodded at each other respectfully, and Phoebe again led the way inside the cavernous room. Ah, Phoebe, a light and slightly amused female voice sounded from somewhere inside the room. I told you that you would be returning one day, didnt I, girl? Michael kept his hand protectively at the back of Phoebe as his eyes adjusted to the brighter white light inside the room. He didnt feel any tension in Phoebe, however, and neither were his own instincts indicating any trouble, so he wasnt too concerned. Gavreel had always taught him, however, to be aware and cautious in new surroundings, and so for now, until his eyes at least adjusted to the change in lighting, he kept his hand lightly and protectively on Phoebe. Yes, you most certainly did, Mother Kindra, Phoebe replied easily, amusement and a certain affection in her voice. And I told you it would be one of Dantes ancestors whom you would fall in love with and mate with, yet you scoffed at me, you little cub, didnt you? the voice continued scolding. Michaels eyes adjusted and he saw a strikingly beautiful woman sitting on a throne very similar to that engraved on the doors they had just walked through. She appeared statuesque, but she was seated, her long white robes also embroidered with golden trimming, the same as the male postulant. Yet the High Priestess also had flowers and leaves embroidered in the same gold trimming over her robes, making it appear as if she had grown somehow into the throne. The throne itself had golden wrought leaves and carvings of flowers all over it, making it seem as if the chair and woman were molded into one being. Michael had to smile as he felt a ripple of laughter flow through Phoebe. So the High Priestess had foretold her of their meeting years ago, had she? He felt his respect for the woman rise a number of

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notches. Yes, Mother Kindra, you did indeed warn me and I merely scoffed at you. Michael felt a smile cross his face, for Phoebe sounded both resigned and amused at her chastisement. Even so, he could hear the genuine affection and love in Phoebes tone. And I also told you that you would fully understand Dante and the Goddess Adedenious story in time, didnt I, my child? the woman continued, smiling brightly at Michael as their eyes met. The High Priestess had purple eyes, he noticed in shock, eyes almost exactly like Phoebes! Welcome, Michael, the High Priestess said warmly, not even waiting for Phoebes rueful acceptance that the High Priestess had been seemingly right in all things and predictions, and she simply had refused to listen. I can feel your love for my niece from all the way over here. I am so happy the two of you finally found each other. I have been waiting a number of years. I told the stubborn girl how it would happen, but nobody listens to an old lady. She bet Jai, my sister you know, fifty credits and a packet of sugargums she would never fall in love with, let alone merge her soul with, an ancestor of Dantes. Jai willlove meeting you later. Michael felt his face split into a grin. He had a feeing the High Priestess would also relish telling this tale a million times over. He grinned again as the High Priestess nodded happily. Oh definitely, my boy, not much else to do around here but retell old and interesting tales. A new tale is better than the first breath of warm spring air. All three laughed, and the High Priestess stood up from her throne. Michael nodded to himself. Hed been right, she was quite tall and statuesque. Now, my darlings, you want to travel to the first temple? Phoebe, you know we have the archway, but you also know there are rules surrounding it. As my kin, you are allowed enter it. But it will not accept Michael until you both make a proper spiritual commitment. Michael felt a calming sense of peace and acceptance wash over him. He might not know the intricacies of this particular following, but only a fool would be blind to what a proper spiritual commitment would mean. He felt himself smile softly, wishing hed been able to articulate his desire and need for Phoebe more clearly before the High Priestess had taken his chance away from him. He felt no real loss, but knew he would want and need to make up for it in many other ways in the future. Phoebe watched the emotions playing over his face, and he sincerely hoped she could see his genuine desire to do this. They looked at each other for a long minute, their eyes communicating their love and happiness. They both smiled. Dark purple eyes searched his, and he knew they both found what they needed in each other. I dont want to force your hand, Phoebe said nervously, I can feel your strength of feeling for me, but I refuse to make you rush this decision. I can always go alone and

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Michael cut her off, not even wanting to hear the rest of her so-called plan. Not a chance, he said firmly, but without heat. I will be entering my full heat very soon. I can explain much of that to you later. Ive been able to keep a large amount of the preliminaries under control due to my age and experience, but I know whats in my heart very clearly. You are the only woman for me, the only woman who can complete me and make my soul whole. Do you really think Id give up a chance like this to bind you to me? He smiled as Phoebe laughed and threw her arms around him. He wrapped his arms tightly around her, and hugged her to him as closely as he could. He pressed her slender curves into his body and felt truly as if he had everything he needed right here and now. Very well said, Michael, the High Priestess said happily. So you have made your decisions then? Michael looked down at Phoebe, still holding her close as she lifted her head to his and kissed him tenderly on the lips. She had stars shining in her eyes, and he could see a lifetime of love open up before him. He cocked an eyebrow, wanting her to be sure. She turned around, wrapped his arms across her front and smiled at her aunt. I am sure, High Priestess, she said formally. What do we need to do? The High Priestess clapped her hands, and a woman shot out from the shadows, raced over to Phoebe and, tugging her from Michaels arms, embraced her warmly. Phoebe laughed and the woman hugged her even tighter. Michael guessed this was the much-loved Aunt Jai. Jai, take Phoebe to the adjoining room, and get her ready. Michael, please follow me. Michael looked at Phoebe, who was released by her aunt. She smiled secretively at him and nodded. He felt his heart accelerate at the naughty, knowing look in her eyes. He felt his cock stir to life, and he watched as Phoebe turned and sashayed sexily out of the room. Your lust for Phoebe is interesting to watch, but it is the love that shines from your heart and soul for her which is truly beautiful. Michael smiled, slightly embarrassed to be caught staring at the swish of Phoebes ass by a High Priestess. The woman beckoned him to follow, and she led him to the other end of the room. Another large door could be seen as they approached, this one oddly free from any carvings. This door leads to a room that can be many things, and thus no carvings are on it. Door carvings bind a particular door to a particular room, so this one, and others like it serve for entry to multiple places, the High Priestess said, amused. She opened the door for him and waved him in. There is a bathing area, and a clean set of robes for you. Purify your body however you wish. I will come back in a few moments for you. Michael entered the room, turning around slowly. He saw a pool of water, and a pile of white robes, just as the High Priestess had said. He nodded to her and thanked her. As she shut the door behind him he turned back to the pool and began to strip. He carefully folded his clothes and piled them together and strode naked toward the pool of clear-looking water.

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He dipped a toe into the pool cautiously, pleased and amazed to find it comfortably warm. He quickly walked down the stairs and when he reached the bottom of the pool, warm water lapping up to his waist, he pushed off with his feet and began a lazy crawl-stroke from one end of the pool to the other. As he reached the far side of the pool, he found a few small, capped bottles. Standing up, he opened and sniffed them all, finally picking the more woodsy scented cleaning lotion and scrubbed it happily over his body. Running his soapy hands through his hair as well, he cleansed himself and then set off up and down the pool again, letting his mind wander aimlessly. Minutes later, with his muscles warm and stretched from the swimming, he stepped out of the pool and padded, a trail of water dripping, over to where a large stretch of fluffy material lay folded neatly next to what appeared to be similar white robes with gold trimming the postulants had been wearing. Michael dried himself, surprised at how much he enjoyed the soft fabric rubbing over his skin. He dressed in the robes, shifting at the odd sensation of not wearing briefs. Not wanting to sit still on the couch, Michael found himself walking idly around the room, looking at all the different carvings in the walls. He paused at a set of erotically explicit scenes, of a man and woman lying on the floor, seemingly in a pool of light. They were both naked, the womans large breasts palmed in the mans hands, her nipples pointed in her aroused state. The mans shaft was fully erect, just a thrust away from penetration. The woman arched into him, her back raised from the floor in her eagerness to embrace her lover. In the next scene, the man had penetrated her fully, and both participants seemed on the verge of ecstasy, yet they had shadow-selves hovering above their physical bodies. The shadow-woman held out her hands, offering a ball of light, the man also offering a ball of light he seemed to be pulling from his chest. Michael frowned, recalled his fathers explanation of how one completed their souls circle. Somehow, the person or people responsible for these etchings understood the ritual for completing the soul, yet it was not exactly the same as the vampiric ritual, as no blood seemed to be exchanged. Michael turned around as he heard the door behind him opening once again. He watched as the High Priestess entered and smiled at the scene he looked at. Ah, you have found our representation of how two souls can unite. Interesting representation, isnt it? Michael merely smiled. Is it time? he asked curiously, enjoying the slow burn in his gut. He knew he would need to touch Phoebe soon, but for now he enjoyed the anticipation building inside him. He watched as the High Priestess cocked her head to the side, as if she listened for something. When the door opened once more, she smiled and turned to greet the person who entered. Michael watched the woman Phoebe had greeted and he had assumed was her other great-aunt enter the room. Her white robes seemed slightly wrinkled, as opposed to the High Priestess whose were crisp and perfectly white.

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Let me get a look at you, my dear boy, the elderly woman said fondly. Michael smiled and stood still, amused as the womans familiar purple eyes surveyed him as if he were an animal about to be bred. She tilted his head, and circled him, gazing at him from every angle. He wondered why she even bothered, as the robes were vast and hung from him, and none of his physical form could really be seen beneath the tentlike material. You have a wonderful soul, she said happily, glancing over at her sister. The High Priestess nodded. They are a perfect match, and I get a packet of sugargums from it. How marvelous. Michael looked from one lady to the other, smiling his amusement. Phoebe is waiting for you in the adjacent room, the High Priestess said, nodding to a door he hadnt seen upon his earlier perusal of the room. Michael raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. He nodded, and then remembering the postulant who had led them inside the temple, gave each woman a quick, brief bow of respect, and headed to the door. He opened it slowly, his cock throbbing with need and his mind conjuring a million lightning-quick scenes that could be behind the door. As he opened the door and stepped through, he smiled as none of them turned out to be accurate. Chapter Ten

Phoebe lay stretched out on a lazing couch, in the middle of what looked to be an oasis. A large, tentlike structure surrounded her, the multicolored silks looking soft enough to touch, and sensual enough to tease. The room seemed endless. Michael couldnt see the walls in his line of sight, and trees filled the area, every shade of green imaginable. The ambience was warm, steamy, yet not uncomfortably hot, just the perfect climate to sit around naked, indulging oneself for hours on end. Phoebe, he noticed, did not wear the similar white and gold robes he and the other postulants wore. She had pure white lingerie, all silk and lace, cupping her breasts and hiding her pussy from him. She waited for him patiently on the couch, her hands idly toying with the lace cups covering and holding her breasts. Michael realized hed been standing there gawking like a virgin for a minute or two. He walked into the room, gently moving the fronds of the trees and plants aside as he made his way to her. She finally looked up at him as he approached, her purple eyes dark with lust and wanting. Im hungry, she greeted him, a sensual smile on her face. Well then, wed better feed you, hadnt we? he replied, smiling. He knelt down beside her, cupped his hand over hers. The white lingerie was startlingly soft, whisper-thin and warm from the heat of her flesh. The lace was delicately spun from the finest of webbing, causing it to be silky-soft instead of scratchy like the lesser quality lace. As he felt her nipples, pebble-hard beneath the white silk, he ducked his head down and sucked one into his mouth through the bra and all. When he heard her groan he felt a rush of lust and excitement tingle through him. When she cupped his face, drawing him closer to her breast, he could feel her need grow

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inside her. He tried to penetrate her mind, forgetting for a moment he couldnt. As she completed his Souls Circle, her mind was naturally blocked from his for now. He grinned, a devilish delight at the thought very soon her mind would be open to him, as his would be to her. He stretched himself as she began to remove his robes, pulling them over his head with a haste he found himself emulating. He cupped and toyed with her other breast as he continued to suck the one he had, needing to feed on the heat and passion he could feel growing inside her. He laughed as she pushed him over onto the floor, startled to find it carpeted in a mossy kind of growth he had never seen. Soft and warm, it appeared to be real, but Michael didnt bother to think too hard about it. Phoebe turned herself upon him, so she straddled him backward. As she bent down to encase his heavy shaft in her mouth, her rounded ass bent and she presented herself to him. With ease, Michael tore the skimpy panties from her waist, the delicate white silk doing practically nothing to hide her, soaked as they were from her excitement. He bent his head up, pulling her hips slightly down so his mouth aligned perfectly with her damp lips. He thrust his tongue inside her, relishing the sweet, tangy taste of her juices, finding himself unbearably aroused by her own excitement. The fact she couldnt hide her pleasure, that she found the situation they were in not only highly erotic, but also still dead sexy, helped feed his own burning hunger. He felt astounded that as she suckled him he couldnt keep himself quiet, he cried out, incoherent from the strength of his need and lust. He kept his hands spanning her hips, pulling her as close down upon his lips as he dared, as he needed her suckling him as deeply as she could. Time drifted into nothingness, no longer necessary or important as they intimately explored each other. Michael let his tongue roam around her body, murmuring encouragement as he found her clit, enjoying her moans of delight as he laved it, suckled it. He laughed when she squirmed as he sent one slim finger exploring her hidden passage, slick with her own juices. And she certainly seemed to enjoy her own explorations. She fondled his balls, gently lifting their weight into her small, delicate hands. She drove him wild when she fisted his shaft in one hand, and lifted his balls high in the other, prolonging the burning need growing to volcanic proportions deep inside him. He gasped and moaned, pulled away from her when she wickedly sucked on one finger and then inserted it into his ass. No one had ever done that to him, and he felt himself amazed to feel a deep, unknown arousal at the sensation. He felt an inkling of understanding why the delicate, nerve-filled area held such a plethora of passion for women and men alike. When he finally felt his control begin to truly slip, he pulled his mouth away from her delicious pussy, and he pleaded with her. Phoebe, I need you, love, need to feel you riding me, he said, laughing when she immediately turned herself around. He looked deep into her bright purple eyes, the deepest purple color he had seen on her yet. It seemed she was more than ready herself. And to think he had been holding on forher benefit. Goddess, but I need you too. Its never been this intense, the need has never felt this strong. Is it the same for you? she asked hoarsely. He could only get a strangled sound from his throat as she held him gently in one hand, lifting herself to

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place him at her entrance. Goddess, no, he replied in her mind, giving her a warm, secure sense of intimacy she had never before experienced.Ive never felt anything even remotely close to this, Phoebe. Its all you, youre the only woman for me, he sent telepathically. She smiled sweetly, obviously getting not only the message, but the love and commitment behind the thought as well. As she lowered herself onto him, he felt an explosion in his head as she connected with him. He could feel her hunger, a burning, almost out-of-control lust engulfing her. Her hunger fed his, and his had already raged out of his control. The combined heat of both their passion and need erupted like a volcanic explosion, forcing them to both cry out with the hunger. Phoebe rode him like a madwoman, thrusting herself up and down as if she were possessed. She dug her nails into his chest, needing some grip on reality, something to hold onto. Michael gripped her hips so tightly he feared shed be bruised the following morning, lifting her and pulling her down with a strength he would never previously have believed possible. Their bodies rammed together, both of them pressing harder and further to reach the elusive climax they both could feel shimmering brightly just out of their reach. Michael felt the explosion inside Phoebe first, could feel her whole mind fill with a blinding white light, her ears ring with a noiseless explosion. A nanosecond later, he felt his own body seize up, gather together for the biggest damn orgasm he had ever experienced. He had no idea how it happened, but in that moment, he was ripped from his body. He opened his eyes, and the only words he found to describe it was that he felt on another plane. Phoebe stood next to him, stunned and naked. Michael looked down at himself, and noticed he too was naked. He frowned as he realized not only that he didnt feel freaked out by having a honest-to-the-Goddess out of body experience, but he also found it enticingly erotic playing voyeur on himself and Phoebe. Michael had never felt it necessary to have mirrors showing every angle of his and his lovers sexual play. But somehow seeing himself and Phoebe below, slowly tracing their hands over each others bodies as they coupled was sweet, erotic, not uncomfortable or weird in the slightest. Ive only ever heard of this, Phoebe said softly, looking around. Michael felt as if they were inside a cloud, or maybe a bubble. They were both encased in a clear, pure, white light. What is this? he asked curiously, feeling no fear or upset as Phoebe stood with him. Youre not afraid, are you? This is the bubble of our trust, she said calmly. The priests and priestesses of the Goddess Adedenious train and meditate and spend years trying to achieve this perfection. Michael raised an eyebrow as Phoebe smiled brilliantly and came to him, hugged him around the waist. Weve achieved not only harmony, but a blind trust and faith in each other. We truly and honestly

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connected ourselves. Here, Michael watched as she offered him what he could only describe as a ball of light. He frowned, not knowing what it was. Its my soul, she explained, smiling at his shock. I didnt need to read your mind to know what you were thinking, but when we go back I will be able to read your mind. She nodded below them, and he saw himself and Phoebe, paused at the moment of climax. He remembered the etching in the wall to his room, and the light of understanding finally penetrated his mind. He felt his love and utter devotion to this woman fill his heart, and as he raised one hand to his chest, he felt the ball of his love, a ball of light remarkably similar to the one she offered him, move from his chest and into his hands. Here, love, he said softly, my heart and soul. We dont exchange, she chided him gently. What would I do with your soul? We merge them, here, like this. She threw her ball of light into the air, and with complete faith in his most wonderful woman, he also threw his own ball of light, his love and soul, into the air after hers. The two balls collided and exploded. Michael was thrown back into his body, and he recognized the same instant with Phoebe. Her eyes exploded, dark purple with lust and shock. She gasped for breath, and he knew it wasnt just from the climax. He rolled them over as he continued to thrust deep inside her, spilling his seed into her womb. He bent down to her neck, and gently, he bit. She felt his cock spurt again as she screamed, the intense mixture of pain and pleasure blindly shooting her into another orgasm as potent and powerful as the first. He wallowed for just a moment, her rich blood an intoxicating elixir he felt totally drunk on. As he felt her come down from her high, he gently healed her wound and pulled himself reluctantly away from her neck. They both panted and gasped, reeling from the intensity of what they had experienced together. Although he didnt completely understand, neither did he need to question what had just occurred. In a hazy, dream-filled way, it made a sort of sense. Michael cradled Phoebe to him, cuddling her tight to his chest. He knew they hadnt created a child this time around, and he could feel the raging lust of his heat phase begin to wane, but he somehow didnt feel theneed to create a child together just yet. Maybe the next time. Phoebe snuggled in his embrace, and he felt her fall asleep. In the warm ambience, surrounded by trees and the comfort of their trust and love, he closed his eyes and, holding his woman tightly to him, relaxed and also fell asleep. Chapter Eleven

Vasili opened the door to Scoopers Pub and inhaled the familiar smoky atmosphere. He stood still

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inside the foyer for a moment, letting his amazement of the past twenty-four hours wash over him. This time yesterday he had been wrapping up his search of Gavs study for the day with Michael, organizing what time they would both meet again in the morning. Michael had pleaded exhaustion and had headed over to his lodgings, and consequently met Phoebe, and Vasili had headed here to have a taste of the atmosphere and emotions, and tried not to stare hungrily at Lea. Oh, how things had changed since then. He now understood Lea a hell of a lot more than he ever thought possible, but more importantly, he now knew she wasnt barely legal. He grinned, licked his lips in anticipation of the night of flirting ahead of him. He paid the cover charge, casting a startled glance over Cindie, one of the frequent escorts who worked at Scoopers. She wore a miniscule black leather shirt, the normal black band across her breasts, but instead of the usual jewelry she wore, her bare chest was crisscrossed with lightweight chains. Vasili raised an eyebrow. You looking for a new clientele, Cindie? he asked curiously. She smiled back at him, teasing him with a twisting show of her cleavage. Ill always give you a good time, Vas. But tonight is biker night, didnt you hear? Vasili shook his head, about to ask another question when a roar of masculine laughter and cheering came through from the pub proper. I might go have a look for myself, he said easily, curious as to what biker night would entail. He entered the main section of the pub, a large, cavernous room perpetually filled with smoke and the smell of alcohol, men and people having a good time. In general, the pub was a decent place to hang out. The regular low-level criminal element of unregistered escorts and under-the-table additional extras were present, but by and large it was a safe, average place to be on any given evening. The local Force turned a blind eye as long as everything remained low-level and low-key. Everyone including Scooper knew as soon as something medium-level occurred, the place would be slapped with a heavy fine and a whole lot of messy paperwork. So everyone remained paddling in the kiddy pool. Practically every man in the entire pub stood in a cluster around the main stand, all the spotlights on a line of just over a dozen women, all of whom wore identical, tiny white crop-shirts. The women were all shapes and sizes, and all had already had their crop-shirts wet, presumably one by one, in the small wading pool in the middle of the stage. Each womans crop-shirt had turned perfectly translucent, showcasing over a dozen different sets of breasts. Vasili found himself focusing on one particular set of breasts, attached to a short blonde-haired woman with pigtails who once again looked barely legal. Lea seemed to be heading up the wet crop-shirt competition. Vasili squashed the urge to pull her away from the stage and out back and paddle her little ass raw. And now, lets welcome Lyzz back, and hope shell flash us this time!

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Vasili watched as a tall, voluptuous brunette stepped forward. She wore the transparent white crop-shirt with a pair of slim black pants and what appeared to be black boots. Her long hair had been pulled back into a ponytail, and Vasili noted the slight flush to her cheeks. She seemed like an average woman who had come here for a drink or two, and been happily roped into this scene. The alcohol buzz was still apparent in her dark blue eyes, as they were lit with laughter and a jovial enjoyment of the proceedings. The crowed roared again as Lyzz came forward, but then she paused and turned to the man commentating on the show. Vasili watched as, with his excellent hearing, he heard Lyzz point and ask if she could flash with her friend, Cadie. Every male head craned back to see the statuesque blonde who had been standing next to her. Cadie was a few inches taller than Lyzz, and more Amazon than voluptuous. Her breasts were more rounded, fuller than Lyzzs, but neither woman needed to feel embarrassment over their additions to the show. Cadie wore a tiny, pleated black skirt and stockings with ankle boots. A second roar with cheers and wolf whistles drowned out whatever the broadcaster had said, but Cadie stepped forward to link hands with Lyzz, so Vasili assumed they had accepted. The two women playing together were a knockout show, and Vasili tipped them to win with this little stunt. The two women complemented each other perfectly, with their naivet as well as their freshness of obviously being two friends out for a night on the town. They certainly wouldnt be needing to pay for their own drinks throughout the rest of the night. The two women, shivering slightly in the cold, their nipples beaded, stepped into the wading pool as Mik, the bartender, scooped up another jug full of the icy cold water. Speaking lowly to the two women who still held hands, he began to spill the water over their chests. The men roared, and the women began to get into the swing of things, grinning wildly, even as Vasili could see their lips tremble with the cold. The men started chanting, Flash! Flash! Flash! and the two girls looked at each other. With huge grins, they nodded simultaneously, as if coming to a mutual agreement without any words. Letting go of each others hands, first the blonde and then the brunette pulled up their crop-shirts and flashed their tits to everyone present. The crowed boomed their approval, an enormous masculine roar as they whistled, clapped, stomped their feet and begged for more. Vasili was surprised it didnt draw more customers directly in from the street in sheer curiosity. Nearly deafened by the cheers, whistles and thundering applause, Vasili edged closer for a better look at Lea standing at the head of the line. Upon closer inspection Vasili noted a number of the girls were shivering in the chill, even though the room was comfortably warm. He saw ice cubes in the drum Mik ladled the water from and felt a pang of pity for the girls. Lyzz and Cadie laughed, and slipped slightly in the water. Once again linking hands after replacing their soaked and useless crop-shirts back over their chests, hiding nothing with the transparent material, they slid their way back into the line.

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Six men were near the podium where the broadcaster was discussing something, and Vasili winced slightly as he projected clearly, And the winner is Lea! With honorable mentions for the delightful Lyzz and Cadie! Great tits, gals! The crowd cheered, and Lea stepped forward, laughing and waving to the men. She once again stepped into the wading pool, and Mik upended the barrel of icy water over her, eliciting a tiny squeal of surprise from his love. Vasili frowned as a man pushed his way through the crowd, a small holo-cam in his hands. Without even thinking about it, Vasili found himself pushing himself toward the man. He was short, rounded in an obscene manner that made him look like a squat toad. Light brown hair had been poorly dyed with red, making it seem as if someone had simply run their hands full of dye through the greasy strands instead of spending ten minutes doing a proper job. Homemade job, Vasili concluded with distaste. As a man who took pride in his appearance without being a pansy about it, Vasili never understood how some men thought it macho to be disinterested in their physical appearance. Obviously this dickhead had no clue at all. The man began taking holo-shots, making Vasili clench his teeth in frustration. The man had murky brown eyes, alight with an inner glow that somehow seemed to Vasili to be unhealthy. A rusty, ugly silver hoop had been pierced through one of the mans ears. As Vasili reached the ugly mans side, laying a heavy hand on his shoulder, he felt the man jerk with surprise, looking up at him through wire-rimmed glasses. Surely no one still wore glasses?He laughed to himself. Medical technology being what it was, there was no longer a need for glasses. Yet about five years ago, it had been cool among a few writers, academics and journalists to be seen wearing the old-fashioned icons. Vasili knew Alderic wore glasses, but the elderly vampire was far too set in his ways to be bothered with fashion statements. Besides, the elder vampire needed no help with his appearance, the glasses were simply a part of him. This dickhead obviously thought the glasses made him look cool, or maybe more professional. On Alderic the glasses looked perfect. On this man, they just looked ridiculous. Get off me, mate! the man called out loudly, shoving Vasilis hand away with far more force and anger than necessary. I am Alann Boncher, Global Tabloid holo-zine. Im covering this Vasili didnt even let the man finish his sentence before he felt a blazing red haze overcome him. This dickhead was taking holo-shots for the sleaziest, nastiest holo-zine throughout all the known galaxy? Not even Rylan bothered to buy the smutty holo-zine, as its ethics were nonexistent and its management spent so much time in court for infringements of the already loose rules surrounding privacy and decency that no one knew how the trashy rag remained solvent. Only the most perverted, lowest breed of Glykers bothered to even look at its holo-snaps. Vasili felt his

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blood boil at the thought of these shots of the average, perfectly normal women present, not to mention ofLea , making the rags spread. Without even thinking, Vasili found himself grabbing the holo-snap from the little weasels hands and crushing it easily in his fist. The oily man squealed like a baby, and got a mean look in his eye. Ill sue you, you bastard. Those were my only shots of this scene Then I guess youll have to look elsewhere for your slimy little cover, wont you? Vasili growled, not really certain when he had ever felt so angry before in his life. A large part of his anger revolved around the fact this man made his living from exploiting women and children, but he could also see in his eyes, through to his soul, this dickhead actuallyenjoyed what he did. Vasili knew his kind instantly. This was the sort of man who maneuvered and manipulated for everything he needed. He took advantage of genuinely nice women and mooched from them until they wised up. He drove wedges between friends, and with a cunning only his ilk had, manipulated any given situation until he had everything he wanted, and to hell with anyone else he hurt. He was a plague on the race, human or otherwise, which he lay claim to. Vasili bent close to him, so he could smell Alanns fetid breath. Get the hell out of here, and never come back to Scoopers. We dont need your kind here. Boncher drew himself fully upright, a sneer on his face. Even as his stomach roiled with disgust, Vasili couldnt help but feel a tiny felt a flicker of respect go through him. Lowest life form in the galaxy Alann might be, but he didnt seem to be the regular style of coward. Vasili was a fair person, gave credit where it was due. The weasel didnt cower and scurry away scared. My kind? Boncher repeated, incredulous. With these sluts here, practicallygiving it away, who are you to judge me? Vasili took a deep breath and ran his eye over the fourteen women contestants. Two of them, as well as Lea, were youngish escorts, using Scoopers as protection against the nastier element out on the street. They might be escorts, but Vasili knew for a fact that one of them, Jayne, had a four-year-old boy she had to feed and clothe, and no other way to make credits. The rest of the women were all average-looking women, some of them regular drinkers here, all here for an enjoyable evening out. None of them were skanky, or here for a quick buck, and none of them deserved to be exploited by human dregs like this imbecile. Vasili looked back to Boncher, and warned him once more, holding carefully onto his fraying temper, unsure why this man in particular pushed all of his oversensitive hot buttons of protection. Get the hell out of here, before you make a scene, he warned, feeling the control over his anger begin to slip. When Boncher looked down to his crushed holo-cam, a feral grin crossed his face. Well, look at the vamp who thinks hes not only the gift of the Goddess, but also some kind of macho,

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manly protector of the weak. Vasili merely cocked an eyebrow, taunting the greasy man. He could see from a mile away as Boncher brought back his fist, prepared to punch him. Vasili waited patiently, knowing by Scoopers rules that if the dickhead hit him first, Vasili would be given carte blanche to beat him up in return. Besides, Vasili knew the bouncers here well, and could feel them already on their way, crossing the room to jump into the fray to see what the commotion was all about. Vasili felt the full force of Alanns might behind his punch, felt his jaw dislocate and the associated radiating pain that came with it. Vasili wished he could smile cockily at the muted hush that appeared in his head, as a roar from the regulars who knew him well sounded up through the whole room. All of Vasilis instincts, both vampiric and those simply of a man, kicked into high gear. Time appeared to slow down, as it always did in the middle of a fight, and Vasili smiled a crookedly evil, uncannily pleased grin. Carefully he lifted his hand up to his dislocated jaw, pushed it back into place and held it steady a moment. You will so regret that, mate, he said softly, uncaring if the dickhead heard him or not. Vasili prepared himself, took a calming breath, and let rip into the stupid human. With an astonishing ease, and no regret whatsoever, he felt himself act in the guise of fate. He started by breaking the mans nose with the flat of his hand, knowing Alann would be the sort of man who thought his face was his fortune. With a swiftness not even he could have truly guessed at, Vasili bent down casually and with a strong and steady foot, kicked out at Bonchers leg and knocked the kneecap out of its socket, causing the man to fall to the floor, howling in pain. Vasili looked casually over the writhing man, getting ready to push his other leg out of its socket, when he felt a soft hand on his arm. Even though she exerted no real force, her mere presence acted as enough to make him pause. Vas, dont! she said, pale blue eyes wide with worry. Before he could turn back to the dickhead screaming obscenities at the top of his voice from his curled position on the floor, Tak and Dak, the two enormous, burly bouncers, were hauling Boncher up from the floor and not very gently dragging him toward the door. Vasili twisted his mouth, a small shaft of pain twisting through his jaw. He felt far more annoyed at his vengeance being halted than the small pain from his dislocated mouth, but he knew that not only would Alann never make it through Scoopers doors again, but likely would have a matching dislocated kneecap before he was thrown from the premises. Tak and Dak knew how to take care of the patrons here at Scoopers. Vasili turned back to Lea, shivering in the cold, her pleated skirt and stockings damp from the chilly water. She was stroking his jaw carefully, a worried, scared look in her eyes. Vasili felt the heat of the anger and resultant blood rush abate.

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Are you okay? she asked, a quiver in her voice. I saw him hit you. Why the hell did you let him do that? It must have hurt like a bitch. Vasili merely shrugged, lifted a hand to his jaw. He covered her hand with his, and felt amazement seep through him as he felt the energy pour from her hand. She was healing him, he recognized, utterly astonished! Not all vampires could heal with their energy, with their touch, and so he felt doubly amazed this young woman had the knowledge and power to do such a thing. Lea raised up on tiptoes, brushed a kiss along his now-healed jaw. That was a very sweet thing for you to do, but Tak and Dak had already been alerted about him. They would have confiscated the holo-cam on his way out. Vasili felt a light blush creep across his face. He hadnt thought of that. No one took advantage of the clientele at Scoopers. Vasili removed his jacket and placed it across Leas shoulders. Come on, love, he said softly, nodding in masculine acknowledgement as Tak and Dak returned into the main room. Lets get you dry and warm. The two burly men nodded back at him and he knew with that innate male knowledge that they all understood one another. Gently, Vasili led Lea around the back to where the change cubicles stood. He watched her duck into the cubicle and headed back to where the two bouncers stood, mean looks on both their faces. Vasili shook hands with both men, relieved when they both winked at him. Thanks, Vas, but we had it under observance you know. Vasili winced, but smiled. Yeah, Lea told me. I just lost my head. Sorry, boys. Both men shrugged identically. Not a problem. We all saw him throw the first punch. He wont be back, or even in the neighborhood. We started the spread of the word. Vasili nodded, the three of them lapsing into silence. A moment later Lea returned, a neon orange shirt thrown over her chest, his jacket hanging from her small frame keeping her warm. The damp skirt, stockings and boots were still on, indicating she hadnt had a whole change of clothes in her locker. Ill need a shower to warm up back at my lodgings. Care to drive me? she said huskily. Vasili felt his throat close up and so he merely nodded his farewell at the two men and wrapped an arm protectively around Leas shoulders. Give me directions and Ill have us there soon, he said through clenched teeth, still massively pissed at that dickhead reporter. My cruiser is parked under Gavs place and its only a step from here.

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I know where Gavs place is, silly. You really didnt need to punch out that man, you know, but I have to admit, it felt good to watch you do it. Hed been hanging around all evening, acting all slimy with the girls, harassing the other patrons. I dont know how he knew wed be having the wet crop-shirt competition.I didnt even know it would be on. Vasili led her over to his cruiser and helped her in. As she gave him directions, he pulled out onto the street. He felt surprised at how close by she lived, and in less than ten minutes they were parked out front of her small lodgings and heading inside. Chapter Twelve

Vasili watched as Lea gave her palm lock the imprint of her palm. The door to her lodgings swished opened and she walked inside and then hesitated. For a moment his heart stood still. Had she changed her mind? When Lea turned around and headed back out the door, she grabbed his arm and he felt his heart constrict. What the hell had he done? He hadnt even said anything yet! I figure well be seeing a lot more of each other after tonight, she said with an utter calm he felt incapable of feeling. He felt his breath whoosh out of his chest in relief as she pressed his palm to the pad beside the door, and keyed in a few commands. He could barely believe his childish exuberance at Lea coding his palm into her lock. He was now fully welcome into her lodgings, anytime, day or night. We might as well get this awkward moment out of the way first, she said with a casualness he didnt know if he could believe. The panel beeped, obviously accepting and recording his details, and Lea let go of his hand again, walking through the door once more. Vasili blinked at how fast he had moved from utter desolation to relieved anticipation, all in the space of less than a minute. As the door swished shut behind him, he didnt even try to say something witty, his mind still playing catch-up with Lea. He followed her through the small living area into what appeared to be the bedroom. Blues, purples and red dominated the small room, all of it somehow managing to be sexy and feminine whilst still being rather bare. Vasili watched Lea as she pulled the soggy boots from her feet, wincing at the sound of the squishing on the floor. Youd have thought they would have warned us at least about that competition. I would never have worn my favorite pair. Likely theyll never be the same again. Vasili continued to stare hungrily as she stripped out of the still-damp stockings, and untied the tiny pleated skirt, which fell to a sodden mass on the floor. He swallowed as she crossed the room to stand

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toe to toe with him, only wearing the bright orange shirt. Youre awfully quiet, she said softly, reaching up to flick a stray curl that had fallen across his brow. I seem to be at a loss, he said huskily, drawing her into his arms. Ive never reacted so violently to a man, particularly one Ive never met before. Lea, I was pleased he hit me, let him do it in fact, as it meant I could retaliate. Ive never come across that side of myself before. Just the way he was abusing the situation Vasili shut up when Lea placed a finger over his lips. Vas, honestly, if you hadnt done it, Tak and Dak would have. And to be truthful, if I could have, I would have done it myself. The guy is slime, and he will heal, likely before the night is out even, as there are plenty of medtechs roaming the streets looking for men just like him. Its nothing to be ashamed of. Vasili wrestled with himself, but decided to be honest. Lea, I dont mean I was ashamed of myself. Surprised, yes. Astounded, maybe. But I wasnt feeling ashamed. I wanted to do more than smash his ugly nose and break his kneecap. Lea laughed and twisted to pull her shirt over her head. Vasili caught his breath at her pale skin and perfect breasts. Without meaning to, he reached his hands up to cup her warm, heavy breasts. He bent his head, feeling his need for her grow. His cock pressed uncomfortably against the restriction of his pants. He growled in frustration, not wanting to remove his hands from the ripe perfection of her breasts, yet desperately wanting to remove his own clothes. He moaned in approval as Lea began to tug his clothes from his body. They both shifted restlessly against each other for a minute, she with his clothes, he with the need to feel more of her skin pressed enticingly up against his body. After what seemed like an age, he toed off his shoes and helped her slide his pants from his legs, letting them drop carelessly onto the floor next to his discarded shirt. He smiled as she walked them both back toward the wall. You going to take over, baby? he asked cheekily, loving the light and hunger he could see in her pale blue eyes. Maybe, she said sassily, I have those manacles, after all. Force issue, unbreakable. Vasili threw his head back and laughed. Lea was a delight! He couldnt wait to have her screaming in his arms. He continued to let her lead, taking slow steps backward. Instead of bumping up against the wall, however, she reached behind him to press another panel, and a door swished open to reveal the cleansing chamber. Vasili stepped back into the room, amazed at first by how big it was. Most lodgings consisted of medium-sized living areas and bedrooms, with tiny cleansing chambers. Lea, however, had obviously chosen to take a much smaller bedroom to have a larger cleansing chamber. Enjoy your steam-time, huh, baby? he said wryly, more intrigued by the minute by this woman.

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Oh yeah, she said huskily, you have no idea. With that, Vasili watched as she automatically set the water and steam running, turned them both around and pulled him into the cubicle. Vasili felt his eyes widen as he entered the hedonistic cubicle. Obviously Lea took her relaxation and steaming to absolute heights. A small niche had been made into one corner, lightly padded with steam and water jets at very interesting angles. A number of different cleansing lotions stood waiting to be decanted, and as he sniffed, he could smell an old-world scent of faint flowers pervading the air around them. With the water and the steam, as well as the floor being heated beneath their feet, Vasili knew he and Lea could stay here as long as the water regulations lasted. He smiled as Lea drew his head down to kiss, then he wrapped his hands around her slick body, enjoying the simple feel of her in his hands, her body moving fluidly against his own. When she bit down gently on his lip, he moaned, enflamed by the simple gesture. He kissed her back passionately, nipping gently on her lips and causing her back to arch, pressing her soft breasts further into his chest. He felt his need climb higher and higher as her hands slowly explored his body, gently touching and stroking his muscles. He pulled one of her legs up to place it around his waist, aligning his cock with the notch of her pussy. He paused then, not wanting to rush things, but needing to feel himself buried inside her soft body. I need to be inside you, Lea, he sent heatedly, unable to penetrate her mind.Were mates. I cant read your mind. I cant tell if youre ready for me yet. Your body tells me it is, but I need to be sure. He had expected her to verbalize a response, even a simple Yes would have sufficed at the moment. So he nearly fell over in his shock as she replied back in kind to him. Vas, I am more than ready. I need to feel you inside me like nothing I have experienced before. Just do it already. Unwilling to probe her further on how she knew to communicate with him, he gently eased the tip of his cock into her wet heat. Dammit Vas, I NEED you. Vasili couldfeel her sever the connection, something he rarely ever experienced, and nearly laughed aloud as Lea pulled him to the floor of the cubicle. He was likely fifty times stronger than her, even with her Force training and slight trace of vampiric blood, yet he allowed her to pull him down as if she were an impatient teenager. He balanced his weight carefully on his arms and legs, but felt his muscles quiver when she wrapped her legs sturdily around his waist and lifted herself, pressing his cock half into her pussy. He moaned and with a single, hard thrust, pressed himself in to the balls. There, they both paused, panting lightly. Vasili stared down at this amazing woman, intoxicated by her body and bravery. You really shouldnt do that to a man, Lea, he panted, desperately trying to retain a hold on his control. It could be dangerous.

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The only thing Im in danger of, Vasili, she panted back, pressing her nails lightly into his back, is of growing old while you wait and see if Imready . Vasili laughed, nearly choking with lack of breath. How could this woman prick his anger and lust simultaneously? He wanted to pump inside her, losing himself, and throttle her both at the same time. It was the most bizarre situation he had ever found himself in, particularly while bedding a woman. When she tightened her legs around his waist, simultaneously clenching him tighter and nipping the head of his cock, he felt everything fly from his mind. He no longer cared about anything except finishing this, and then working out what the hell they would do. Grasping her hips to hold her steady, he withdrew slightly, only to press straight back in. Leaving the warmth of her pussy was just unbearable, and so he made do with short, sharp thrusts. He angled her hips so his shaft could graze her clit as he penetrated her. He knew she enjoyed that as she shifted beneath him, moaning and bringing his lips to hers. He struggled to contain himself, relieved when she cried out softly and he felt her contractions squeeze him. His mind splintered into a thousand diverging thoughts when he felt Lea inside his mind, offering her soul piece to him. As on the brink as he was, he didnt think about anything, but grabbed it greedily and bent to her neck. As he sank his teeth into the soft skin of her neck, he felt a wave of love and tenderness overwhelm him. He offered his own soul piece back to her, ecstatic when she took it. He gently sipped at her blood for a moment, relishing the intimacy of the spicy, erotic flavor of her, as well as the incredible nature of this moment. He felt himself completed as never before, whole and fulfilled as he had never realized he had been missing. When he felt Lea touch his mind, sharing her own completion and satiation, he felt as if nothing in the galaxy could be better than this. He felt her silent laugher inside her head, and felt his cock jerk as she showed him a raunchy mental image. In it she lay splayed wide for him on the largest bed he had ever seen, her hands bound above her head. She pictured him between her legs, sipping delicately from her as she creamed for him. He didnt manage to hold his own climax in order to see more of her naughty thought. He began to spill his seed inside her, pumping into her with a roar of primitive satisfaction hed never experienced before. He fell onto his side, pulling Lea closer to him, not wanting to sever the intimate contact between them. He felt amazed to feel the floor give slightly beneath him, instead of the hard, unyielding floor he was used to. His mind felt scrambled, a jumble of images, thoughts and queries. And still Lea managed to surprise him. So, she said sleepily, her voice slightly vague, how do you feel about anal penetration? Vasili blinked, assuring himself hehadnt just heard what he thought he had. He rose up gingerly onto

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one elbow, his cock sliding gently from her body. Even now, with what he thought shed said, his cock was twitching, struggling to rise and accommodate what he thought she had inquired about. Excuse me? I think I have water in my ears, he said cautiously. Water, off, steam dry, she said clearly, pushing herself upright. Vasili stared at her in awe as she shivered slightly as the warm air caressed their bodies dry. They both remained silent for the minute or so it took for the room to dry them, and they stood up in tandem, like an old-fashioned mimicking pair. I dont mean right now, obviously. Im exhausted and its rather late, not to mention I feel rather bushed from that whole soul completion thing. Im talking about another time. Vasili let her lead him back out to the bedroom, and together they crawled into her bed. He wondered if he was losing his mind. Baby, what are you talking about? he said, confused. Lights off, Lea said, and he heard her yawn as she snuggled into his arms. Anal sex, of course, she said sleepily. Ive always wanted to try it, but never had the opportunity Vasili opened his mouth, desperately searching his mind for the right words to beg, plead and con her into finding the stamina to try some out right now, but before anything could leave his mouth he heard a whisper-soft Gnight Vas, from Lea as she fell asleep in his arms. Vasili spent the next twenty minutes employing each and every meditation and mind-calming technique he had heard of, until he too finally managed to fall asleep. Chapter Thirteen

Gavreel felt his chest swell out with pride as Chandra bartered with the poor sod for a desert hoverski for them to share. Klampor was a desert planet, harsh and unyielding. They both had fed well at the main port, knowing it might be the last opportunity theyd have for a day or two. Thankfully, in such a remote region, tempers were usually high, and excitement over the smallest of things was not uncommon. Even so, they both agreed to bring a small stash of emergency blood just in case. They both knew from long years of experience how important it was to be prepared. Gavreel was more than happy to stand back and watch Chandra barter like a pro. When she and the man finally came to an agreement, Gavreel could see the glint of respect in his eyes. She had not been ripped off a single credit, and had indeed in many ways bartered them an excellent deal. Yanna bubliquo femma, eh? the man said admiringly to Gavreel. Chandra merely raised an eyebrow, handed over the credits they had agreed on and climbed onto the hoverski. Gavreel grinned widely and nodded amicably, climbing up onto the hoverski behind her. More than happy to give Chandra her moment, he didnt even quibble over who would drive the damned thing.She is indeed a remarkable woman , he conceded to himself, letting Chandra in on his thoughts.

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The wind picked up as she ignited the engine, and turned them around in a full circle. Dust spun up everywhere, and they headed together out into the middle of the desert. Show off, he thought fondly. Chandra merely laughed. ***** After what felt like hours of nothing but sand, sand and more sand, Gavreel and Chandra finally came upon the temple rising right out of the middle of a sand dune in the desert. The both held their breaths in wonder, the ancient temple real and solid as they gained ground, rushing toward it on the dusty hoverski. The temple appeared to be an ancient structure, its walls crumbling with age. Yet the sand-colored stone was remarkably sturdy, even as it didnt appear to be so. Gavreel found himself breathless in awe as Chandra pulled the hoverski up close to the enormous structure. They both climbed from the machine, legs slightly stiff from the couple of hours or so of sitting still on the large vehicle. Stretching their legs, they waddled around for a moment, until they finally burst into laughter. We must look like a couple of ancients, Chandra said jovially. Or the old-style cowboys, Gavreel interjected. Or wannabes, Chandra said. They both laughed and massaged aching muscles, finally turning back for each of their packs strapped to the craft. Gavreel placed a soft kiss on Chandras neck. Did I tell you how amazing you were back there, bartering with the man? Mm, she murmured, returning a kiss to his cheek. No, but you can tell me in intricate detail on the flight back home. Gavreel smiled and nodded. All right then, maybe I will. They laughed again and, hoisting their respective packs onto their backs, turned to face the mammoth structure in front of them. This temple was likely built close to four thousand years ago, if not more, Chandra said, breathless with her wonder. Obviously they must have built it with the harsh weather conditions of the desert here in Klampor firmly in mind, she added. The worshippers must have known they would need this monument to withstand the test of time. Gavreel nodded next to her, understanding the awe and wonder in her voice. He felt the same himself. Awe and a deep understanding of how they both believed such feats remarkable. The mere thought that this structure had been built thousands and thousands of years ago was mind boggling to say the least. And yet it still stood here, likely as sturdy and fortified as the day the priestesses had finished it.

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Lets head inside, he finally said, wanting to move them forward. Side by side they headed inside, an excited bounce present in both their steps. Gavreel felt the addictive thrill of triumph as together they entered the huge structure. The large door appeared to be carved out of a light-colored wood. Gavreel rapped his knuckles on the door, testing to see if it was indeed wood or some other, perhaps native, material. The sound of his knuckles echoed solidly.Wood , he thought to himself, knowing a similar sentiment echoed inside Chandras mind. An ancient material basically obsolete in most galaxies nowadays. Gavreel nodded to Chandra, and they both pressed against the door, expecting a heavy resistance. Taking them both completely by surprise, the door opened with a startling ease. It still took some effort, but certainly not their combined strength to open the large door. They cautiously entered, keeping an eye out for any security traps, but not really expecting any. Even deserted temples rarely held traps nowadays. Since they both believed strongly that the temple had been abandoned, likely there remained nothing easily gatherable of any value. Thus no time and energy would have been wasted trapping the structure. These worshippers were of the Goddess Adedenious, Chandra said softly, reverently. A group of largely female priestesses who came here to purify their mind and bodyto attain a higher knowledge, Chandras voice echoed slightly in the large room. Gavreel nodded, knowing the broader, more common knowledge of these women, but deeply respectful of Chandras more specialized knowledge of this particular group. Most of them scattered and incorporated themselves into the Amazon tribes when they realized the Amazons were descendents of theirs. The main difference between them was that the Amazonian offshoots believed in needing more concentration on the physical and sexual aspect of personal health and exercise, whereas the followers of Adedenious had believed in the mind and knowledge-gathering side of things. Gavreel turned to face Chandra as they entered the main receiving area, smiling happily into her gorgeous dark brown eyes, enjoying the way her short, spiky blonde hair ran in every direction. Already it had paled slightly in the few hours of sunlight it had received. Certainly makes sense to me, he said happily, giddy with joy at having her here by his side, exploring this ancient civilization with him. The giant entrance opened into a cavernous receiving area, all made from the very same sand-colored stone they had witnessed outside. Intricate carvings lay everywhere before them, ancient writings on the wall, the columns carved into trees and flowers ornately covering the ceiling. Both Gavreel and Chandra slowly walked toward the far wall, their footsteps somehow muted on the floor. Finally they reached the other side of the main area, and both simultaneously lifted a hand to carefully, delicately touch the carvings etched into the wall. Although the stone looked gritty, as if it were made of sand, it was smooth to the touch, and rock hard. Gavreel lovingly stroked a picture of a woman sitting beside what appeared to be a pool, her legs crossed beneath her and her eyes closed in what was likely meditation.

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For a picture carved in stone, it had intricate detail, and as he ran his eye over the rest of the wall, the entire room seemed to be covered in such pictures. This must be a collection of years worth of work, he whispered in awe. Beside him, Chandra merely nodded, her hand tracing delicately over a portrait of a woman and a man, naked and locked together in an intimate embrace. They appeared to be in a medium-sized room, with a rectangle bathing enclosure, or maybe an old-fashioned dipping pool. Columns rose around them, and enormous cushions lay on the floor, softening the hardness of the floor for the writhing lovers. I think this is where the Rune will be, she said softly, her eyes drinking in the picture. Gavreel tilted his head, but kept his thoughts to himself. They both had packs on their backs, and plenty of supplies for however long it took them here. They were sheltered, and could easily keep warm. As Chandra honestly knew more than he about this group, he decided, for once, to follow her lead. Okay then, he agreed easily, is there a map? No, Chandra said, moving her hand away from the carving with obvious reluctance. This is a mystical temple. I imagine it was well before its time, and works similarly to most modern mystical temples. Only a pure intention and a solid purpose will lead one to the room one desires. Gavreel nodded, and searched around them. The vast room within which they stood held no doors to his eyes. Gavreel closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths. He pictured the carving Chandra had found, pictured the man and woman locked together intimately. In his minds eye, he drew the details of the pool, the columns, the cushions, and finally the man and woman themselves. As they came to focus in his mind, he realized instead of picturing the strangers in the carving, the man and woman he had portrayed were Chandra and himself, naked and locked together moments before penetration. She sat in his lap, his fully aroused erection straining between them, moving softly against her soft, almost flat belly. They were kissing fiercely, hungrily, as if they could never get enough of each other. Feeling his erection lengthen and grow, Gavreel shifted uncomfortably and opened his eyes, wanting to take another look at the carving and regain his bearings. His eyes shifted to Chandra, who stood with a slightly flushed face and her eyes tightly closed. Gavreel smiled to himself. Obviously she too, had lost her train of thought momentarily. Gavreel turned to the wall with the carving, and instead was faced with a large door, which appeared as if it too, was actually carved into the wall. Amazed, he looked up and down the wall, which mere seconds ago had contained an array of carvings and etchings. Chandra, Gavreel said softly, reaching out to touch her arm. Looks like we found it, he said happily. As Chandra opened her eyes and smiled dreamily, Gavreel wondered for a moment if it had been his thought or hers which had opened the door. With a flash of intuition, he knew it had been their combined efforts that had opened the door to them.

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He pushed against the door, but it didnt budge. Seeing the pattern laid out before himonly their harmonious cooperation would get them anywhere hereGavreel nodded for Chandra to help him open the door. We need to work together, he said in explanation. The front door would only have opened if we had both pushed on it, this door would not have appeared if our thoughts had not been in tandem. I honestly think we have to work together here to get anywhere. Chandra nodded as she grinned. Makes sense to me, she said as she lent her strength to pushing on the door. Once again, just like the front door to the temple, when they both pressed against it, it swung open with ease. They both stood upright, shifted their packs, and Gavreel held out his hand. Shall we? he asked, feeling love and affection for this amazing woman well inside him. She nodded and took his hand, giving it a warm squeeze. I certainly think we shall, she replied. Together, hand in hand, they headed down the long corridor which stretched out before them. Chapter Fourteen

Phoebe thought she could hear a child giggling. She frowned. There were almost never children in the temple, and on the rare occasion there was one or more, they were always in the nursery, not out and about exploring the different rooms. Just as she was about to sit up and call for one of the priestesses, she felt Michael thrust himself inside her again. She moaned and fell back into the softness of the couch. She opened one eye lazily, enjoying the look of heated concentration in the dark blue eyes. His pupils were dilated, making his eyes seem an even deeper, richer blue. She could feel his heat and need, leashed for now, but slowly working into a fever pitch not even he would be able to control. She felt an answering heat flare to life inside her. How could this man have possibly become so very important to her in such a short period of time? She wrapped her legs around his waist and drew him closer to her. She could feel her body, liquid and pliant, fully receiving him with an eagerness she knew would never wane. As he thrust his thick shaft into her yet again she felt her back arch as the electric pleasure pulsed through her, sensitizing her every nerve. Her eyes closed of their own volition, the pleasure overwhelming her.

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And she heard a childs laughter once again. This time closer. Phoebes eyes snapped open, and she quickly glanced around the room, astonished to once again not see anything. Phoebe? Michael asked softly. She could hear the concern in his voice. He paused his stroking, causing her to moan in disapproval. Are you okay, hon? Phoebe opened her mouth to ask him if he had heard a childs laughter, but the words froze in her throat. Michael looked sexy and disheveled, his brown hair soft and the golden streaks glinting in the natural light source the rooms always seemed to have. Concern was evident in his dark blue eyes. Phoebe swallowed her ridiculous claims and smiled enticingly at him. Just fuck me, she said softly. Right now. She felt joy well inside her as he relaxed and let the heat of his erotic feelings wash over them both. He thrust inside her, faster now, and when his thumb flicked lightly over her clit he knew she wouldnt last long. They both moved against each other in a slow, timeless dance of lovers across the galaxy. As she felt herself cresting, Phoebe once again heard the childs laughter, and she embraced the sound, no longer caring who it was or where the child hid. As she felt the peak of pleasure rip through her, she arched her back, dug her nails into Michaels back, and shared her pleasure with him, opening her mind to him so he could feel the wonder he gave to her so selflessly. She felt his mind in hers, his pleasure meld with hers, and as he heard the childs laughter once more in both their minds, she felt his cock burst and his seed shoot hotly inside her, bathing her womb. Phoebe saw a dark-blond-haired child, running in the recpark, zipping up and back from the lake she had run past that fateful first evening. She felt Michaels warm presence next to her, could feel the heat of his arm wrapped around her shoulders. She recognized the feeling of being perfectly relaxed and content on such a gorgeously sunny day. Phoebe unconsciously rested her head against Michaels shoulder, as they both watched their little son running around, chasing the wildlife near the enormous lake. Mummy! the little boy cried, rushing back toward them, Daddy! Look what I found! Phoebe smiled, knew Michael also grinned as their little man raced toward them as fast as his little legs could pump him. Phoebe felt her heart constrict as her sons dark blond hair, a gorgeous shade somewhere between hers and Michaels hair, came rushing up to them. He lifted his hand toward them with pride, a slimy stone obviously rescued from the lake held within his tiny fingers. Nico, she heard Michael say from beside her, I see weve found another specimen to join the collection, huh? Phoebe felt her heart overflow with love as her little boy nodded his head solemnly. His dark, dark blue eyes almost seemed purple in the bright sunlight. Again, Phoebe noticed that her little sonNico?had eyes that were only a few shades lighter than her own, a few shades darker than his fathers. They were

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stunning eyes, and Phoebe knew without a shadow of a doubt that he would break hearts when he grew older. Do you think Grandpa will be able to tell me its species? he asked, his young voice serious and firm, not even stumbling over the strangely adult word. Phoebe smiled again, her heart utterly overflowing with love for this young man caught in a childs body. I feel sure Grandpa will love to examine your rock, she assured her son, and if anyone can tell you its origin and species, it will be he. Phoebe returned back to her body with a rush, blinked dazedly as she felt the tiny quivers in her body, reaction to the intensity of both her vision and the orgasm they had just shared. Nico, huh? Michael said, laying a warm hand on her stomach. Phoebe cocked her head to the side. You were the one who called him Nico. I think that means I get naming rights next time, she replied easily, laying her hand over his. Together they settled back onto the couch, lost in the warmth of their thoughts and the sated lethargy of their bodies. Phoebe suddenly felt full of energy, full of enthusiasm for her life, for their shared life. She carefully extracted herself from their twined limbs, wincing slightly as Michaels cock slid from her body, and she rushed over to the small bathing area. She gingerly felt the temperature of the water first, but finding it at a comfortable warmth she quickly immersed her entire body and dunked her head under. As Michael came up behind her, she splashed him playfully. No one wins a water fight with me, he laughed, and soon they were creating an enormous mess, splashing one another in the small area and laughing joyously through their game. Yeah? Phoebe said tauntingly, daring her partner to try and make her yield. Prove it. Phoebe laughed and fought her water war with her lover in earnest. ***** Dressed in a new, clean set of pants and shirt, Michael smiled as he crossed over the room to sit next to Phoebe on the couch. He casually wrapped an arm around her shoulders and kissed her lightly on the lips. He smiled as she pulled away. Mother Kindra said we need to get moving, she said, the reluctance evident in her voice. Michael nodded in resignation. Will we be able to return here, back through the archway? Or will we be trapped on the ship for a couple of days with Gav and Chandra? Michael asked, slightly uneasy for the very first time. You do realize, he continued in a wheedling tone of voice, they will likely argue the entire way back? It will drive us both nuts. Not to mention likely we wont get a nanosecond of privacy. Phoebe laughed and patted him on the leg. I wouldnt even dare ask Mother Kindra if the arch would allow us to return again as soon as we help your father and his friend. We are supposed to be on a noble quest, remember!

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Michael laughed wryly, knowing it had been at least worth a shot. Noble, huh? Remind me of that when Im burning up and about to go insane from Gav and Chandras incessant squabbling. Phoebe smiled down at him, her purple eyes burning with a hungry lust. She bent her head down to kiss his lips when they both heard the door behind them open. Michael managed not to groan in dismay. Just. Phoebe stood up from the couch so quickly, Michael wondered if she felt embarrassed. He raised himself far more leisurely, not upset or embarrassed in the least. The priestess from before, Phoebes Aunt Jai, had entered the room. Aunty Jai, she said surprised. Michael smiled. How like a priestess, or High Priestess for that matter, to do the unexpected. I thought Mother Kindra was taking Mike and me to the arch. No, my dear. Kindra had something else come up. Hello, Michael, are you both ready then? Michael smiled, swallowed the sigh he desperately wished to release. Of course, Priestess, he said cheerily. Phoebe, however, turned her head so her aunt couldnt see her and raised her eyebrow at him. He felt his grin broaden at her perplexed look, his amusement deepening. He could barelywait to have Phoebe alone once again. He watched as she threaded her arm through her aunts, Jai patting her hand fondly. Right now, she said cheerily, its been longer than any of us have been around since the arch has been used. Matia said something was afoot when it turned up a few months ago. Turned up? Michael inquired, interested in how an archway could merely turn up. When he thought back to how doors simply appeared and disappeared at will, he began to understand how this particular branch of temples worked. Of course, dear. We are a mystical branch of worshipers of the High Goddess Adedenious. To my knowledge, we are the last remaining practicing descendents of the original Adedenious brethren, directly from their eldest daughter, Glorina. Michael smiled, amazed how Jai could recite the lineage and not sound arrogant or pompous. In any event, Jai continued easily, from what Matia mentioned to me, I am assuming once you walk through the archway you should appear through a sister archway in the room where the Rune of Knowledge is in keeping. Now, Matia mentioned something about how because the arch has chosen to reveal itself, this means Gavreel and Chandra will have found the Rune, or some such thing. All I am meant to impart to the two of you is the firm understanding this is fate here, and so no matter which course of action you decide to take, it will likely be the correct course. Likelybe the correct course? Michael repeated, more than a little confused by Jais rambling explanation.

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When the elderly woman turned and merely shrugged her shoulder at him, a twinkle in her purple eyes, he felt himself stifle another sigh. How the hell was he supposed to know what to do, when it appeared he was to leave here more confused than when he had arrived? I suppose, as Gavreel and Chandra have both discovered all this it is time for the Rune to be revealed? Phoebe said carefully, looking at her aunt and not Michael. Michael smiled and followed as the two women led the way out of the cozy room. I think so, dear. I simply have a strong sense that its one of those things that when you get there it will all make sense. Michael had the urge to roll his eyes. A more useless piece of advice he didnt know of. He swallowed uncomfortably when he thought follow your heart was in a similar category, and yet he had done just that with Phoebe from the start. He looked at the walls of the corridor they were walking through, struggling with himself to accept he just needed blind faith here. He looked at the back of Phoebes head, her long blonde hair pulled into a loose braid. He felt a warmth steal through his chest when he realized although he mightnt necessarily have blind faith in her slightly nutty great-aunts, sage priestesses they might be, hedid have a blind faith in Phoebe. Michael knew without a doubt he trustedher implicitly, and knew she would stand beside him no matter what. So in this case, he knew instinctively he needed to stand behind her. Feeling himself far more at ease now, he followed behind the two women much more comfortably than he had been mere moments ago. ***** Phoebe could feel the very instant Michael decided to accept their fate and trust her, trust them. Walking down the corridor with her aunt, she felt a huge burden of relief fly away from her shoulders. If she hadnt been arm in arm with her great-aunt, she would have turned around and kissed Michael right there. Instead she sent him the thought, pictured herself clearly kissing him full on the lips, a tiny swish of her tongue to spice things up a bit. She felt his answering heat and he ate at her mouth in return. Pulling away from him and his naughty thoughts, Phoebe felt her face flush. Am I going too fast for you, dear? her aunt asked, a knowing gleam in her eye. You seem all flushed, darling, she said, pressing the point. Phoebe blushed harder. Before shed have to make up some lame lie for her aunt, they came to a stop outside a carved door. Etched into the stone was the picture of two people, a man and a woman. Phoebe had studied the reading of the carvings as a child, and although she felt incredibly rusty, she could tell from the manner in which the couple held hands, but more importantly, how their hearts beat in synch together as one, the couples souls were linked, bonded, merged, whatever term one deemed acceptable.

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She smiled wryly, realized nothing since she had woken that nightwas it really only two days ago?feeling the emptiness inside her and herself standing on the cusp of a massive change, nothing had been chance. Everything had been ordered as it was. In a sense, she felt overwhelmed, but in another, far deeper sense she felt relieved. She honestly doubted anything she and Michael would do would be jeopardizing the temple or the Order. This was all simply meant to be. Aunt Jai released Phoebes hand, and she smiled at her aunt, planting a kiss on her cheek. I think we can take it from here, she said easily, knowing her aunt understood. Aunt Jai stepped back and Michael came forward, looked at the carving. Phoebe wasnt sure exactly what it was he saw, but she made a mental note to ask him about it later. Together, they rested their hands on the door and pushed it open. The door revealed a small closet-like space. About two paces away stood an archway, nothing but blackness and a dark, full-feeling space lay beneath it. Michael stared at her and she felt herself drowning in his dark blue eyes. She could feel him press her mind, and then retreat once again as he felt her calmness and surety. She felt her heart overflow with love as she realized he trusted her fully, without question or doubt. They linked hands, entwining their fingers together. In step, they entered the room and walked through the arch. Chapter Fifteen

Gavreel could feel the impatience simmering in Chandra. They had been walking the corridors for what felt like hours, thinking hard about the Rune, desperately seeking it. Room after room they had searched, but yet had found nothing even resembling the room they searched for, or a way to reach the Rune. Gavreel gently wrapped an arm around Chandras shoulders. Lets rest a moment, get our breath back and sit to think. He could feel her disagreement in her head, but she simply nodded, not vocalizing any dissent. Gavreel decided they would rest in the next room they found, and almost straightaway a door appeared to their side. They pressed together on the door, Chandra wearily, Gavreel determined, knowing his love needed a few minutes to collect herself and regroup. He felt his flagging spirits lift as they both entered the calm, tranquil area. A pool of water resided in the middle of the room, plants and trees sprouting all over the place. This room seemed a haven of some form, a refuge. Perfect for them to relax a few moments. Gavreel led them both over to a large, couch-like structure. They dropped their packs and sank

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gratefully into the softness of the furniture. Gavreel drew Chandra toward him and let her rest bonelessly against his frame. We must be doing something wrong, she said wearily. Maybe we were wrong Gavreel cut her off, not wanting her to become miserable. Not a chance, Chandra. We both know its here, maybe its just not meant to be found. Either way, I think we both just need to relax and let it go for a minute. How about we go for a dip, the pool is right here. Gavreel smiled as Chandra eyed the pool longingly. It had been over a day since they had cleansed themselves for more than a minute in the ships auto-cleanser, and the luxury of bathing was almost unheard of nowadays. He chuckled when Chandra stood up and began to strip. Grateful his idea had merit in her eyes, knowing a swim would relax them both, he stood up more slowly and, as Chandra practically raced to the pool edge, he began to remove his clothing. Its so warm, she moaned, jumping into the pool feet first and dipping herself below its surface, like an enormous old-fashioned bathing pool. Gavreel stripped himself and padded over to the edge. Dipping a toe into the pool, he nodded agreeably. A perfect temperature. He waded into the water, enjoying the refreshing nature of this mode of cleansing oneself. For long minutes they both frolicked around, enjoying the relaxing nature of bathing. Finally Chandra waded over to where Gavreel sat in a corner, lazily swishing the warm water around himself. Thank you, she said softly. You were right, this is not only relaxing, but soothing as well. I appreciate your making me take the time to do this. Gavreel smiled lazily. Thats what makes the two of us such a great team. Partners help each other like this. Theres no need to thank me for it, though I do appreciate the gesture. Gavreel felt the slow rush of heat flow through him as she glided over him, the water acting as a liquid conduit. She reached for purchase on his shoulders, and kissed him lazily. Gavreel eagerly kissed her in return, loving the slow burning heat between them. When she grasped his hardening shaft, he felt the wash of her heat beat at him. Gavreel reached out and grabbed her hips, amazed by her eager responses to him. Now, she panted in his mind,I want this hard, and now .Do it, Gav! He could feel the urgency in her mind, the blind, insatiable need beating away at her and causing her desperation. He was rock hard in an instant, the urgency of her need building his own to a fever pitch. He brought her legs over his, so they bobbed in the water, he half sitting, and she sitting completely over him. With them both weightless in the water he found a number of interesting ideas entering his mind, but he discarded them all for now with Chandras urgent need the most powerful motivator present.

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With a smooth, easy movement, he pressed himself deep inside her, her back arching as he penetrated her folds. Eagerly she rode him, the water splashing around them, but neither of them caring as the water gave them both a freedom they had never experienced before. Within moments he felt her peaking, and when she squeezed him, he felt his own climax explode. He pumped himself into her, the ecstatic pleasure almost blinding him for a moment. She collapsed against him, and he fell back against the wall he had earlier been supporting himself with. They both rested for a few moments, their breaths calming down, and Chandra nuzzling his neck. When she finally pushed herself away to continue her swim, he found himself smiling. He stood up, wondering how to dry himself, and climbed out of the pool. Sluicing the water from his body, he crossed over to where he had left his pack and clothes and rifled through the contents until he found a spare shirt he could dry himself with. As he climbed into his clothes, he watched Chandra lazily swim about. Smiling at her relaxation now, and her enjoyment of the bathing area, Gavreel dressed himself and casually looked around the room. As he was pulling his shoes back on, seated on the couch, he noticed a small table on the other side of the room he didnt believe had been there earlier. Looking around the room, he fastened his shoes, and called out to Chandra. Was that table there earlier? Chandra turned to face him, confusion in her eyes. Table? I didnt notice one, why? Gavreel nodded to the table over on the far side of the room. That one, he indicated. I didnt see it earlier. Chandra stood up and climbed from the pool. She looked at the table, and shivered as the air chilled her skin. Get dressed, hon, Ill check it out, he said with a grin in his voice. He watched as Chandra raced back to her pack, wiping the water from her body and using his half-wet shirt to rub the worst of the water from her skin. Dont touch it til I get there! I dont believe it was here, but I was pretty cranky. I might have missed it. Gavreel walked to the table, and looked carefully at it. He smiled wryly at Chandras bossy tone. He gently ran his hand over the table, made of the same sand-colored stone as the walls and doors. He knew this was linked to the temple somehow, but was it a red herring? Or even a trap? Just as he could hear Chandra rushing up behind him, he found the hidden panel. Aha! he cried out as Chandra reached his side. He pressed the panel in, a smallclick sounding. The middle of the table opened up, to reveal a hidey-hole, and a dark blue velvet box. Oh wow, this is better than I could have imagined. Just wait til I write this up, Chandra breathed

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excitedly, the muted hush of her voice showing her respect and awe for what they had discovered. Untilwe write this up, Gavreel chided gently. From the blush and nod of Chandras head, he knew she felt slightly embarrassed. Gavreel reached inside and gently removed the box. Opening it, a pale, pale pink stone sat inside, etched with runes. Gavreel gently picked up the stone, and he and Chandra read the runes together. After the first sentence, he knew what it would say. Without even reading the stone, he recited the whole riddle.

To reach your hearts desire One must travel far and wide. But then take the time to look inside Thats where, for what you search, you will find.

Chandra stared at him. How did you know? she asked curiously. I found it months ago in a tome a woman unknowingly brought into our time. That was what gave me the keys to getting here. I didnt expect to find the same words etched in here. It doesnt make sense. Chandra took the stone and reread it aloud. Take the time to look inside, she repeated, and Gavreel watched as she looked back inside the hiding place they had discovered in the table. He shook his head. The followers of the Goddess Adedenious were all about purificationself-knowledge leading to greater understandings. Gavreel sat upon the floor, the sandstone being smooth and flat. He closed his eyes and searched within himself. He breathed slowly, a meditative trance he had practiced for years to calm his mind and help jiggle free pieces of a puzzle that were refusing to come. Everything seemed circular. The rune did not feel magical. He had been around magical artifacts and spiritual beings, he knew what the feel, the taste of magic and power felt like. This rune, while special and a prized artifact, held no secret magic, no secret powers. So where was the knowledge? Where was the completion? As Gavreel looked deeply inside himself, he realized hedid feel complete, he did feel whole. But it was Chandra, and his love for her which completed him. He recalled all his studying on this temple, they believed in one true love, in the completion of ones soul and the special bond only merging ones soul could bring. They understood fleeting enjoyment, but they were focused on the fuller relationship one could gain understanding from.

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Everything revolved around love, he realized. Love for oneself, a deeper understanding of who one was. But this also felt linked to that special closeness one could only experience when one opened themselves to love, when one took the risks of loving and being loved in return. Gavreel smiled. The rune of knowledge was not a holy grail, was not some mystical, magical talisman. It was the end of a journey, but the realization it brought meant the start of a much deeper, more meaningful journey. To travel far and wide, to find ones hearts desire, he repeated to himself. One needed to go on the journey, to follow the paths and roads, but instead of some magical solution waiting at the end of the road, one had to sit and look inside oneself, realize that it was the gaining of knowledge, yes, but it was the self-acceptance, the finding and cherishing of love that was the ultimate journey. Gavreel opened his eyes only to find Chandra holding the stone in her hand, gazing intently at it. He paused a moment, as she seemed deep in thought. Look inside, she repeated softly, looking up at him. When I look inside myself, I only see love for you. A thirst for knowledge, a hunger for study, but mixed in with everything is love. Thats the whole point, isnt it? Without love we have no knowledge, we have nothing to thirst or hunger for. Gavreel smiled widely and stepped toward her, wrapping her in his arms. Thats right, my love. The Rune is a means to an end. It is the biggest red herring of them all. By focusing on the Rune, by going down that path and exploring that journey, one gives oneself the confidence and time to realize thereal journey before them, the one of love. Chandra smiled at him and looked back down at the small stone she held in her hand. She turned, picked up the box from where he had placed it on the table earlier. She returned the Rune to the box, and placed it back in its hidey-hole. The moment the box sat in its place, the table closed itself, and vanished. Gavreel cocked his head, curious. I think we should leave it here, let someone else discover this journey. We have fully and completely learned our own lessons, although it took a while. We have each other. We can live without the prestige of this particular story. I know I have a number of interesting papers on the back burner. This certain one refuting an arrogant claim that the male vampire existed before the female vampire Gavreel chuckled to himself, kissed Chandra before he felt tempted to throttle her. OhDad , that is so not cool, came a well-known voice from the back of the room. Gavreel pulled away from Chandra, astonished. The familiar voice of Michael jarred him from his lusty thoughts. What the hell was his eldest son doing here? Gavreel turned, found Michael in the corner of the room, opposite where the door should have been, his arm around a stunning young blonde woman with interesting purple eyes.

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Michael? he said still feeling shocked. What in the five hells are you doing here? Chasing after my old man. But I could easily return the question. Why the hell are you kissing Chandra? Uh For the first time in centuries Gav felt at a loss as to what to say to his eldest son. When he saw Michael grin, obviously teasing him, Gavreel heaved a sigh of relief as Michael changed the topic. Chandra and I he started to explain but then shook his head. Centuries older than his son and he felt like a youth being called to account for his actions. Were compatible, and fell in love. Weve merged our Souls Circles. Instead of amazement, which frankly considering his volatile previous relationship with the vampires he felt would be perfectly justified, Michael merely grinned hugely, his wide smile splitting his face. That makes the set of us then. Just wait until you catch up, Dad. Simeon and Clare, Ruthie and Rylan Rylan andRuthie ? Gavreel couldnt help but interject. If Michael had suddenly sprouted three heads he could not have been more surprised. Michael merely laughed and changed the topic. Si has been having a cow hes so worried about youyou realize its over ten weeks since you checked in? Gavreel frowned, and tried to count the weeks back. Had it really been that long? Think about the time differences and add on the amount of shipping time youve had, Chandra added wryly. Gavreel quickly added the days and nights together and felt a flush of embarrassment cross his face. Before he could think to say something, Chandra had left the shelter of his arms and was walking over to Michael. She shook hands, and Gavreel knew Michael could feel the connection between the two of them. Gavreel walked over himself, carefully looking over the stunning young woman. From all accounts it seemed like he hadnt been the only one falling along the road of love recently. Im Gavreel, he introduced himself, sticking out his hand, Michaels father and sometimes a doddery old vampire who loses track of time and keeps his mind closed to everything except his study. The woman smiled, her startling purple eyes warming perceptibly. Im Phoebe. Michael hired me to help guide him here. It just so happened I knew of a, uh, back entrance so to speak. Gavreel raised his eyebrows, surprised but intrigued by this young lady. I dont suppose you can return via this back entrance of yours, can you? Michael laughed. I had hoped so, but apparently not. Looks like were rooming for a few days on the ship home.

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Chandra snorted in laughter, and Gavreel could picture his return home stretching out into infinity. No more sex in the copilots seats then, and it would be a squishy hoverski ride back to the port, he concluded sourly. On the bright side, Gavreel noticed that at least Michael and Phoebe didnt appear to have any luggage. Thankfully, Chandra had bartered for the larger model, so while they would be uncomfortably close, they would all fit together. Gavreel sighed. I knew I was forgetting something, Gavreel muttered darkly to no one in particular. Michael just smiled. You should have spoken to Simeon earlier, Dad, he chided gently. Gavreel wondered when his son had become so wise. Youknow how he frets, Michael seemed to enjoy adding for good measure. Gavreel just nodded, knowing his middle son well and also aware that his eldest son was correct. And I suppose Rylan got trashed at the Desperate and Dateless ball? Gavreel asked, trying to subtly figure out what date itactually was. Nah, Michael said cheerily, shooting him an amused glance, thoroughly enjoying catching his father up with the family gossip. Well, nottotally trashed. He and Si are getting properly into their heat phases. Both of them completed their Souls Circle. Vas, on the other hand, got himself completely and utterly wasted and spent much of the following week feeling like he had died, but thats a different story entirely. Gavreel felt his eyebrows rise. Allthree of you really found your partners? he asked, incredulous. When Michael merely shrugged, he felt his head spinning slightly. Did you find the Rune? Phoebe asked as she looked about the room. Gavreel glanced at Chandra and decided to be honest. We did, but its not magical or mystical, or not in the manner many people would understand. Its the end of one journey, and an indicator of the greater life journey oneshould be taking. Its a talisman, which indicated the ending and subsequent beginning, much like it appears we are all doingending one path and beginning down a new one. All four of them paused for a moment, recognizing the truth of that statement. All of them had ended certain cycles in their lives over the last few days, and all of them knew they had just set foot on the beginning steps to a new path, a new circle of their life, a new beginning. Michael acknowledged that Simeon and Clare, Ruthie and Rylan, as well as Vasili and Lea if he knew his old mate well, were all also in the same transitionary phase of their lives, all of them also were in the middle of endings and new beginnings. We decided to leave it here for the next set of people to come looking for it, Chandra added softly,

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drawing everyone out of their own musings. Phoebe nodded, a glint of understanding in her purple eyes. Gavreel linked his arm through his new daughter-by-blood, and led them over to where his and Chandras packs rested on the floor. But what say we head home? Gavreel asked everyone and no one in particular, I think weve done about all we can here. Phoebe laughed, and Gavreel let go of her arm to bend and pick up his pack, swinging it over his shoulders. Chandra bent beside him, picking hers up as well. They caught each others eyes, and smiled at the love and laughter residing there. Gavreel took Chandras hand in his, smiling to see Michael had already taken possession of Phoebes. Shall we head on out? Gavreel asked the small group. When everyone nodded, he turned to Chandra, Well, my love, lead the way. Laughing, they headed out the door. Epilogue A few years later

Gavreel enjoyed the sensation of the warm suns upon his face. He felt determined to enjoy the suns warmth here and now, as he knew all too soon they would set, and the pale blue moon would rise, indicating his growing family would all head off to their respective homes, and his grandchildren would all be tucked safely into their beds. He leaned against the sturdy tree, enjoying this rare moment of peace and calm. Lea stood a few paces away from him regaling Alderic, Ruthie, Clare and Michael with an amusing tale of the latest wet crop-shirt competition at Scoopers. Lea had found herself addicted to the atmosphere of Scoopers Pub, much as the rest of the gang had, and she frequently spent her spare time down there with them all. Gavreel couldnt help chuckling as Lea vibrantly complained about the fact she had only come second this year to some skanky hobitch in yellow lace panties who had obviously blown the judges previous to the competition in order to win. Gavreel snickered at her genuine outrage, but was far more interested in watching his familys different reactions. Clare, although he knew she was listening and could jump into the conversation at any time, had her eyes firmly glued to her twin sons, who ran pell-mell throughout the large oval in the recpark they had almost needed to cordon off for their picnic. Ethan and Zebadiah, who grew more and more like Simeon each day, screamed as they played some twisted form of tag with their cousins and father. The two little boys were identicalbut easy enough to tell apart if one knew howhad straight, dark

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brown hair, and very dark brown eyes, almost the spitting image of Simeon. Yet where Zeb was cautious, weighing everything inside his genius little mind, Ethan was a roughish charmer, almost scarily like how Rylan had been at that age. Clare was right to watch her two little boys carefully, Gavreel mused, as between the two of them they caused enough trouble, noise and mess for ten little boys their age. Ruthie had her back to the children, knowing Rylan watched out for their little Rhian, a young girl who knew precisely what she wanted and how to get it. Gavreel had no doubt at all in his mind that one day the imperious little woman would rule the known galaxy, no question. Even at barely two years of age she ordered everythingeven attempting to organize her cousins, a task doomed to failure, no matter what. At this precise moment she seemed to be generally holding court with the recpark. Rylan stayed close to his little princess, conversing with Vasili, Simeon, Phoebe and Chandra. Phoebe seemed the least fretful of the lot of them with good reason. She and Michaels son, Nico, was the most serious and intriguing of the lot of his grandchildren. A wisdom beyond his years, and a thirst for knowledge rivaled by many of Gavs associates, little Nico was an astonishing young vampire. Gavreel loved each of his grandchildren, but it was Nico whom he kept on coming back to, wondering what it was exactly that went on in his mind. He grinned widely, and knelt down to Nicos level as his young grandson ran toward him, something clenched in his fist. Grandpa! the young man called, Grandpa, I need your help! he called out. Gavreel smiled, loving the name of Grandpa more than he had ever thought possible. Well, my young Nico, I am always here to help you, he said soberly, meaning every word he uttered. And he had always been close at hand to help his family, he admitted silently to himself. Since his quest for the Rune, and his spending so much time with Chandra, they had both limited their travels to the strictly necessary. Why would Gavreel want to trail around, following other peoples journeys, when his own here at home was far more fulfilling and rich? Gavreel chuckled slightly as Nico opened his fist to reveal a slimy stone, caked in a metallic blue fungus of some sort. Obviously the boy had been playing in the lake again. Gavreel kept his face serious. Whats its species, Grandpa? I know you know everything, and I need to label this and know its name. Gavreel smiled. Nico was almost certainly a young academic in training, though Gavreel would never push the child in one direction or another. All his grandchildren were surrounded by love, by extended family, and had more than enough support. He didnt care where they turned or what they did, the Montague clan protected and cherished their own, and he only wanted his offspring to be happy. Hmm. Gavreel studied the rock carefully, not wanting to lie, but refusing to not take his grandsons query seriously. After a moment, he looked into the serious young eyes of his grandson. I do believe you have found aspecies homus , Nico, a homegrown species. It hasalae bleuverd on it,

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thats the slimy stuff, and all up I believe this will be a remarkable addition to your growing collection of rocks. Gavreel smiled back as his grandson beamed at him, truly excited. Oh, man, he said happily, twirling around, just wait til I tell Mom! Gavreel snickered as the youngster ran back to Phoebe, his little legs pumping excitedly. Phoebe would smile graciously and add the rock to the collection, while wincing internally, he felt sure. Gavreel stood up as Chandra crossed over to him, a large smile on her face. You are incorrigible, she said, a smile in her voice as she shook her finger at him. Gavreel laughed. Not so, he insisted, the boy wanted to know about the rock, and as he says,I know everything. He smiled and felt his soul warm as Chandra gently pressed her lips upon his. Even a few years later, he still hungered for the taste of her mouth on his. You happy? she asked softly, dreamily. Gavreel nodded. Not a question or doubt in his mind. Oh yes, he said softly. Looking for that Rune, with or without the pressing of Lea and the Force, even though they grilled us both afterward, finishing the end of my old life and beginning anew with you was so worth it. Look at my children and Vas, he added, pausing as he watched them all one by one. Each of them started down a new and exciting path, their lives happier and more fulfilled than I could even have dared hope for. How could I not be happy? Gavreel and Chandra both watched the extended family laugh and play in the warm sunshine, the enviable sound of childrens squeals and laughter rocking through the recpark, the happy murmur of adults talking, at ease with one another and love singing through the air between them all. As Lea shouted out, calling to Gav for he and Chandra to umpire an argument that had sprung up over what should be allowed as acceptable bribes in a flashing contest, he caught the laughter in Chandras eyes and they headed over to act as benevolent Elders. Aspects of ones life might end, but new and bright beginnings were always just around the corner, and Gavreel knew beyond any doubt that fate would have it no other way.

About the Author

Elizabeth Lapthorne is an Aussie girl, born, bred and living in Melbourne, Victoria. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Melbourne University and wrote her first story while looking for a job. Two and a half years later, with a Research position in a lovely company and seven published works, Elizabeth is still slightly dazed at how everything fell into place.

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She had written a well-received series about the Rutledge Werewolves, and is often amused at fans/reviewers commenting on how popular her series is. Very recently she started to tell people about her writing career and even confessed to her parents (though she did chicken out with the explanation of what Romantica is). She still finds it incredibly strange to be able to order paperbacks written by herself, and is shaking with nerves at what the hell shell write when finally asked for her first autograph. Elizabeth is completely addicted to Tim Tams and chocolate, and barely ever goes a day without one or the other. She loves email, is a self confessed bookaholic, and has been known to buy books instead of food for herself, much to the teasing of her brothers and good friends. She was astonished recently to be asked to do an interviewand spent a long time chewing over her responses. She loves people and adores going out for a girls night for nachos and margaritas (unless shes designated driver, and then she eats chocolate mousse for dessert instead).

Elizabeth welcomes comments from readers. You can find her website and email address on her author bio page at www.ellorascave.com. Also by Elizabeth Lapthorne

Behind the Maskanthology Bonded for Eternity Elloras Cavemen: Legendary Tails Ianthology Lion In Love Merc and Her Men Montague Vampires: Desperate and Dateless Montague Vampires: Flaming Fantasies Montague Vampires: Heated Fantasies Payback Rutledge Werewolves 1: Scent of Passion Rutledge Werewolves 2: Hide and Seek Rutledge Werewolves 3: The Mating Game Rutledge Werewolves 4: My Hearts Passion Rutledge Werewolves 5: Chasing Love

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Discover for yourself why readers cant get enough of the multiple award-winning publisher Elloras Cave. Whether you prefer e-books or paperbacks, be sure to visit EC on the web at www.ellorascave.com for an erotic reading experience that will leave you breathless.

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