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Disclaimer: same as chapter one. in addition, a caution of sexual explicitness, and very specific naughtiness. (bad ivanova!) NC-17, rate adult.

merci beaucoup to bar jain, for her help with my french. enjoy. :)

growl.


Beauty
By Metis


Chapter Four: Capture

The feathery wisps of airborne pollen fall dangerously close to my Talia's sleeping lids and by angling my head I manage to blow the tiny intruders away. Asleep once again, my darling prey, this time beneath the trees in a sunshine filled glen. Such a fitting accompaniment her sleeping figure makes to the rolls and curves of my forest floor. Moss as her soft bed, clover to frame her golden head. The very sight of her is making a poet of me, and I think, a very bad one, at that.

My hand flies a lazy path above the hills and valleys of her contours, sensing the warmth radiating from her flesh. Asleep once again, despite herself. And she knew--she had known that the drink I had given her this morning had the medicine mixed in that would make her drowsy. I had felt her blue-gray eyed gaze upon me nearly a full minute before she decided to put the cup to her lips. Half an hour into the forest, and she had finally succumbed to the medicine's effects, eyes shutting often even as she sought to follow me through the growth and branches. When she had finally sunk on the path, I had caught her easily and carried her to a more suitable resting place.

"Keep....your hands to yourself," her low voice, slurred with drowsiness, had warned me, and then she gave up to sleep.

I had laughed at such a prim reprimand. I would not touch her while she slept....Not yet, anyway. I am a perfectly mannered Were.

One who has just drugged her human, but for a very good reason. I have until midday to present her to father, which would leave enough time for my Talia to indulge in a much needed rest. I could have told her my intentions instead of relying on subterfuge, but, well...I find myself chuckling as I lean in to sniff her hair....I am certain we would have argued about it.

Keep my hands to myself, indeed. My fingers play a soft, airy tune above the even rise and fall of her breasts. The tempting peaks are once again snug within the lacy cups I've become quite fond of viewing through her sliced open jacket front. This morning she did not bother to dress again in the shirt and satin chemise I had likewise damaged. A large patch of dark blood still stains her dark green Psi-Corps jacket, surrounding the long, neat tear at her side my first knife strike had made. When I had checked her wound this morning, it was healing well, despite our...ardent activity of last night. It will make a very pretty scar.

Keep my hands to myself....I gently snort aloud, as I lazily regard her from my position close beside her, a hand supporting my head. To turn prudish on me now, after the intimacy we had shared last night...especially after our morning encounter in the shuttle's tiny shower closet. Only hours before, I had had her there, her hands bracing against the shower's back wall when she had felt one of mine insistently caress her body from behind...my other pushing coaxing fingers into the warmth and wetness of her. As the vibes thrummed upon our bare skin, my hand pumping in sensual rhythm, her exquisite responses to my touch had held my fingers willing, enthusiastic captives...

I scoot down to reexperience the musky scent of the body part in question. She did not even have to touch me, I had shuddered into orgasm in that shower unit just at the sound of her throaty cries and breaths, at the pungent scent of her sex and the clenching heat that had imprisoned my fingers....

Keep my hands to myself, indeed.

I lean forward to touch my lips to her soft, exposed belly, and then teasingly run my tongue along the sweet border her trousers' waistband makes at her bared waist. When she does not move, I stick my tongue into her belly button, a peeping indentation beneath the waistband.

".......Urrm...." I hear softly from a reluctant, sleepy throat.

I take the edge of the trousers' fly opening in my teeth, and, with a gentle, practiced tug, undo the top fastening.

A lethargic, yet insistent hand buries itself in my thick mass of dark hair, pushing me away.

"Stop...." she murmurs, in a voice still unable to rouse itself from the depths of sleep. "I hear others...."

Ah, so she is not so restrictive in the use of her telepathic powers. I was afraid her ethics would render her unique senses willfully blind and dumb on a planet she cannot afford to be disadvantaged upon...the Were are always present in the forest, and on whatever territory our Kin are masters of. She should always be aware of that. She is prey, after all.

"Yes," I finally reply from my position at her pelvis. "You are denying them a good show."

She attempts to pull herself up and to shake off the rest of her drowsiness, but even then she looks at me like she can't believe I am serious.

"Rrrrrrrrr...RRwrf!" I growl, snapping my teeth playfully at the soft, flat plane of abdomen still by my head, and the muscles contract in response as she scoots a bit away, fully awake now. She bites her lip but cannot help a smile, her eyes wide as if expecting me to try and bite her again.

"Didn't I say--" she dares to remark.

"--Keep my hands to myself?" I finish for her. "I did."

She shakes her head, trying to straighten the grin that threatens to curl her mouth.

I move to my feet and she accepts the hands I offer to help her to hers.

"Come," I say. "We are nearly there."

She is anxious now, I can tell, as I feel her body follow close in my purposeful wake. She is trying to move as I do through the growth, with the quiet that blends into the foliage and the knowing foot that can find sure purchase on the unpredictable forest floor. Quiet, for a human, yes...but she is as loud and clumsy to my Were senses as a newborn pup stumbling its first time way in the world.

I know why she is nervous; she is about to meet my people, and, more importantly, she is about to see her new home.

After a while, we descend down a ridge, then up an incline, and then I take her hand as my home breaks into view.

"There," I softly say, indicating with a hand.

"A valley...." she breathes, taking in the scope of a rich, sprawling settlement complex nestled among vineyards, gardens, and habitats. I was born on Earth, in our Russian House's ancient home city, St. Petersburg, and I will admit that my home in the Lyraean forests resembles more of what the southern clans of the European Consortium are used to than my northern steppes, snowy origins.

"It's so..." she attempts to say.

"Civilized?" I fill in cheekily. I tug on her hand to lead her away to the shade of a tree that overlooks the valley. As I firmly direct with my grip that she sit beneath the tree, her face alternates between protest to my remark and indignation at my authoritative hands.

"--Beautiful," she corrects me. "Aren't we going down?"

"Wait here, and do not move," I order without explanation. Instead I make sure she is seated snugly and my hand comes up to close her jacket front, which promptly opens again. "I will be back."

Five minutes down the hill to my father's estate, five minutes to my own quarters where I hurriedly retrieve a leather coat I know will fit her. My own lasciviousness had gotten the best of me--it was my personal decision to leave her so unsuitably dressed for this long, although she seemed to tolerate well enough her ruined clothing. Now I am embarrassed that father might inadvertently see her so inappropriately attired.

When I make my way up the hill to where I had left my human, I realize she is not alone.

The wind meets my face as I creep up and I smell at least five of them. Their voices drift down, casual and light...by all appearances, friendly.

"Lost?" a male voice asks.

"No, I am waiting for someone," I hear my Talia say.

"You should not be alone, here in the forest," another male voice comments.

As I peer through the brush, I see the young Weres who have surrounded my Talia. Some dressed for scouting, they have positioned themselves in a loose circle around her, seated, crouched, or kneeling, so as to appear non threatening. Three are males, two, girls, all having an air of casual curiosity. Although with the young men, I sense a sexual tension.

Talia sits where I had left her, a hand clutching her uniform front modestly closed. She regards the youths with some tolerance and polite good humor.

"I am fine, thank you," she answers with a soft smile.

One bold youth edges slightly nearer.

"Hungry then?" he asks, face intently focused on my prey, and then suddenly he tosses an apple to her.

The calculated toss was designed to make Talia catch it, thereby dropping her grip upon her jacket front. Instead, just as suddenly as the young Were had tossed the fruit it halts--inexplicably--in midair. It's shiny, red surface rotates, like an ornament on an invisible, taut string, and then, of its own supposed free will, the apple sails gently to drop into my Talia's lap.

"Thank you," she demurely acknowledges to the gaping young Were around her.

I take that moment to make my entrance through the brush.

Five pairs of enlarged eyes manage to tear away to look at me. Three have the presence of mind to drop their regard to my belt and the gleaming trophy--her Psi badge--I had hooked there.

"C'est vrai! elle est télékinétique!" one blurts in his native language.

"Allez!! You've posts to maintain!" I bark at them, and due to their youth and my obvious authority, they scramble to their feet and within a blink, are gone.

Talia laughs under her breath, the first time I had ever heard such a sound from her. She looks at the fruit in her hand.

"A Lyra apple," she muses appreciatively.

 


It doesn't take long for word to spread of who I am bringing into the Ivanov complex. With as much discretion as clan mates are capable of, they stop to regard my Talia openly as I escort her through our grounds and directly to our medical facility. The Kin haven't much need for doctors, since we self heal so rapidly, but our humans do, and since Talia is a newcomer to our world, she must be appropriately processed, examined, inoculated, and evaluated. A procedure that takes several hours, so it is with no surprise that when I decide to tear Talia away from the medical staff, a heated argument ensues that can only be rectified with my promise to bring her promptly back. As we leave, Talia rubs her sore arm where a row of inoculations had been administered to protect her against the natural, robust microorganisms residing on our healthy planet. Such microorganisms, the doctor had sternly indicated to me, had already made my human ill.

"So it wasn't you trying to poison me," I hear my Talia mutter gruffly.

I stare at her in astonishment.

"How could I have done that? You fell ill before I gave you any food or drink," I admonish.

"I meant when you cut me, that first time," she explains, eyes hooding.

I laugh, my arm finding its easy way around her reluctant waist as I lead her down the pathway to my home.

"My knives are clean," I murmur, lips briefly at her temple. "You are an Earther softie," I further tease. "Where have you spent your life? In cities? Under domes and inside small spaces with the staleness of recycled, climate controlled air?"

"All those places," she answers, raising her eyes to our vast sky, sketched with the unfettered beauty of windswept clouds. "I've always been in all those places," she softly repeats.

We approach the formal gate that marks the grounds of my family estate.

"This is the House of Ivanov," I say to her as the gate opens to my voiceprint. "Welcome."

Perhaps because we are an ancient race, our history often accompanies us, not so much in exciting family legends or engrossing memoirs, but in the rather staid heirlooms and possessions which appropriately declare to onlookers, our auspicious bloodlines and wealth. Once within my home, Talia stops yet again to stare at another large, gilt framed oil painting, this one, of a youthful version of me. It is a portrait which I'm not particularly fond of, although father was immensely happy with it.

"Talia, come!" I nearly snap at her.

Within the confines of my quarters--my lair--Talia gazes about her with equal fascination and curiosity. I close my heavy doors against the inquisitive eyes of servants I can spot venturing peeks around the corners of the corridor. Really, it is not like I have not brought someone home before--

I pause, realization forcing me to swallow. Actually, whenever I had been deeply interested in someone, the relationship had been off-world, or regretfully, short-lived. I had never brought anyone home--to stay--and especially not to my lair.

Not until now.

I turn and find Talia still absorbing the visual aspects of my lair--it is a large, yet cozy room, and she certainly seems taken with it. I prefer milky, warm colors for my walls, heavy wood and thick fabrics for my furnishings...plush cushions, soft coverings, and the sleek, smooth hides of animal skins--especially of those I've slain. Some weapons adorn the space above my fireplace and scattered among my shelves and tabletops are the alien gifts or memorabilia I've acquired in my travels off-world. I move in front of Talia to unbutton the leather coat and help her out of it. She still has the apple that boy had given her.

"Go in there and take a shower," I indicate with my head. " I will lay out clothes for you to wear. Then I will take you to meet my father."

My prey acquiesces, moving for the bath area as I had requested, but I know she is brimming with questions.

Perhaps I too, am anxious, else I would have join her once again in the pleasures of getting one's body....clean. But just the thought of papa smelling sex on her is enough to chill my ardor and freeze any lustful thoughts like a winter thaw shower. Brrr.

I hurriedly flip through my hung clothing, finding a simple combination for her to wear. I can hear her sounds of pleasure as the shower's cascading water splashes on her skin and on the tiles of my bathing area. I place some clothes on the bed. There--that throaty sound again. I find the shoes she had slipped off and ring for the house boy.

"Here," I indicate, handing the shoes to the boy who answers my hail. "Clean these. You've fifteen minutes."

As I close the doors I hear her humming softly to herself.

I give in. I walk quietly to the opening of my bathing area and gaze in.

There is no glass or walls to mark off the shower area--I had them removed. Thus, by the large, square bath, my Talia stands on the tile floor beneath the lone shower head, slow hands combing through her wet, blonde hair as generous rivulets of warm water run down her body. My eyes run likewise down the erect nubs of her breasts, along the exposed ribs to the soft jut of her hip and then to the wet hint between her thighs....

I roll my eyes and quickly remove myself from the doorway. Keep my hands to myself. Grr.

With a resolute sigh, I move to the other side of my lair and open the doors that lead to my office. If ever there was a time to be distracted and to see to the mundane aspects of business, this was an opportune time. The com is lit with a large number of messages, most likely from Alexi, my assistant who is still off-world and managing our business transactions while I indulge in this short holiday at home. My planned leave did not take into account, however, the sudden acquisition of a provocatively beautiful, human telepath.

I open the verandah doors to let the morning breeze in, and seat myself for work.

Five minutes later, I connect with Alexi, in his hotel quarters on Io.

"Privyet, Ivanova," Alexi greets me, his young handsome face coming to view on my com screen as he wipes the vestiges of shaving cream from it. "You are one day over your planned leave. Has something happened?"

"Yes, something has, which means I may be gone for longer--two weeks."

He stares at me a moment, evidently shocked. Susan Ivanova never indulges in long absences. Such had been my reputation, but right now I have a very good reason to spend attentive, quality time at home, and it is not to play chess with father.

"Does this mean I close the IPX mining negotiations myself, as well as the Centauri wine export contract?"

My boy Alexi learns fast. The gleam of ambition sparks in his eyes as he realizes the opportunity I am giving him.

"Give me the deal I want, and I will sign it," I reply with a grin. "Report every aspect to me, make no move without my consent. I will request Eshe Mocamba to second in the IPX negotiations."

"Wh--Ivanova, I'm capable of handling that account myself--"

"Eshe is currently an IPX affiliate. She has experience participating in talks with that organization."

"She is not familiar with this mining proposal--"

"Then inform her, Alexi."

The young man finally gets the hint, shutting his mouth in an obvious glum line. I think I've just deflated his ambition balloon. He is bright, with good ideas, but inexperience is his weakness. Not only will Eshe, who is from the African House, balance him out, but they will be keeping a wary eye on each other.

We speak more about some minor business contracts and I further parcel out what I want him to handle. At one point I rise from my seat to end the conversation and I notice Alexi staring at my pelvis.

I had forgotten--at my belt still hangs the gleaming Psi emblem I had taken from my prey.

My transmissions are usually on high privacy channels for security's sake, but this will be one I and Alexi will promptly erase once we break off. He knows better than to speak over this channel, though I can see the many unspoken questions in his interested eyes.

"Da, I will report in to you later, Ivanova," he finally says, and signs off.

As I track the communication and wipe its existence, I hear a distinct crunching sound from my bedroom....of teeth biting into the firmness of a tasty sweet fruit.

I grin, finding my human seated on the bed, terry robed and apple in hand. She attempts to swallow what she is chewing.

"I'm sorry, do you need me to dress now?" her low voice asks, and she is actually not being sarcastic about the question, but entirely accommodating.

"Finish your fruit," I answer, retrieving her now clean and shined shoes from the hallway. "Have you never had a Lyra apple before?"

"Once in a while, when I lived on Babylon 5," she replied. "They were the only ones I could actually afford, since they were not from Earth. Those, and the lilies you grow."

She smiles, in memory and possibly in appreciation for the fact that Lyra colony made it its business to cultivate and successfully grow specific, native Earth products the more far-flung EA colonies would crave.

"We actually dropped our produce prices when Babylon 5 and the other colonies declared independence from the EA--a concession we made in order to acquire certain, other trade agreements. You must have enjoyed quite a few of our apples during that time."

She stops eating, and a shadow crosses her face that blights the warmth in her blue eyes, leaving grayed windows to some unexplained, private sorrow....

"I was no longer on the station by then," she finally says.

I take the apple from her hand, and lay her shoes before her.

"Get dressed. I have to shower as well. Unless you need help with your clothes?"

She makes a sound at my supposedly innocent suggestion, softly scoffing, and effectively, the gray leaves her eyes, momentarily forgotten.

"Keep your hands to yourself," she gruffly answers.

 


Five to noon, and when we emerge from my lair, papa's valet is waiting to escort us. As Talia and I pause at father's study entrance, allowing the servant to proceed and announce us, I can't help a fussing hand to straighten the already immaculately aligned buttoned front of the white silk shirt Talia wears--Er?! She has just slapped me, a hand batting mine away, irritated at how my unwelcome attention was adding to her already frayed nerves. Just for that, I quickly pick an invisible speck off the back of her black, tailored trousers before her angry hand can find mine again.

Gods, she is trim. That is the last thought I have about her body when the doors are finally held open to reveal my father standing before his verandah windows, back to us.

"Papa, may I present the former Psi-Corps telepath, Talia Winters. Talia, this is my father and patriarch of the House of Ivanov, Andrei Ivanov."

Father turns, dark eyes sharp and piercing as he acknowledges our presence.

"Talia Winters," his deep Russian voice rumbles in slow tones, pronouncing the name with grave consideration. "Welcome to my home."

Talia bows slightly, an elegant inclination of her head.

"I thank the Master of this House, whose hearth shelters me," her husky voice responds respectfully.

How interesting...Talia had just paid respects to my father with a simplified variation of a formal Centauri greeting. Papa recognizes this as well, I can see it in the keen knit of his brow, signaling his interest. I believe this pleases him.

"Susan....you may leave."

Oh, now--my mouth parts to protest, but before I can even say 'papa', his ringed hand comes up to wave dismissal.

"I hear Alexi needs to speak with you," he says, focusing sole attention upon my Talia.

I shut my mouth....I nod my reluctant acknowledgment, and turn to leave. Now was not the time to argue with father, especially before my human. I give her one final glance, which she catches from the corner of her eye before returning her attention to Andrei Ivanov.

As the doors shut behind me, I try not to think on a billion ludicrous reasons why father would find Talia unsuitable and not allow her to live.

 


My chronometer chimes the quarter past on my desk and I overreact with a leap from my seat. Only a quarter past--they have been together only fifteen minutes. I cannot interrupt yet. Papa is slow and methodical when conducting his meetings. That has always been his way. Receiving a lecture from him would drive Ganya and I to tearful, maddened boredom. We suffering children would promise any ridiculous demand for good behavior if it would secure our escape from his study and endless didactic ponderings. The worst Talia could be going through right now is fighting the sleepy hypnosis of his rumbling voice. Right.

I fling my stylus down and head quickly through the balcony doors for the verandah, needing a new view and fresh air. Gripping the balcony rail, I suddenly spot the shining hair of my Talia, on the arm of my father, apparently accompanying him on a leisurely stroll of the garden.

That old wolf!!

In my anxiety I hop a bit up and down, debating if I should err on the side of being an annoyance and joining them, or leaving be and allowing this essential time between papa and Talia.

"Woo hoo hoo!" I hear my brother pester me from his lair's balcony, which adjoins mine. In playful imitation of my frantic mood, he hops up and down as well.

"Idiotka!" I curse at Ganya. "What are you doing here--shouldn't you be up in space making a nuisance of yourself to asteroids and meteors?!"

"You have obviously not been home enough to appreciate cook's cooking," his broad face grins at me. "Beats having space paste and sucking on an aluminum water bag!"

He gives a nod in the direction of the garden. "Cute couple, er?"

"RRrr!!" I growl at him, and stomp back into my lair.

Ten more minutes, and Talia is still not back. I have worn a spiraling circle into three transparencies, and broken the tips of three styluses. Suddenly, I get the uneasy feeling that I should sense Ganya around--even if he is burrowed somewhere deep in his lair next door, but I do not. I spring up and head for the balcony once again.

His side is empty, and now I see some servants hurrying down a garden path, laden with the covered dishes that signal some meal is being laid out in one of the garden sections. Wait--now I see the familiar broad back of my brother who is running eagerly from the house to follow the disappearing servants.

Papa is eating with Talia, and Ganya intends to join them!

I am nearly at my lair's entrance when I hear the alert signal of my com, bleating its direful tune in my work room.

I put my forehead to the door, not wanting to recall papa's parting words to me. He was never one for mentioning anything casually. If that is Alexi on the com, father would want me to take care of it--immediately. The old man would definitely ask about it whenever he sees me again. Which meant--

I groan, resigned and defeated, and turn for my office. And they wonder why I brood.

 


It is a wonder that I haven't yet created an intergalactic incident.

I had been so engrossed in yelling at a prominent Centauri import/export liaison, and watching poor Alexi try to mend the relationship between Lyra (meaning myself), and the Centauri businessman, I neglected to notice that a full hour had past without a sign of my Talia.

Finally I and the Centauri come to a grudging understanding and I cut communication, just in time to hear Ganya's jovial voice outside my lair's door.

I fling it open.

"--perhaps I can take you up for a space flight. Then you can see the beauty of Lyra's surfaces for yourself."

"Mmm," Talia answers with a polite smile.

"Susan flies as well," Ganya continues, stepping into my lair. "But she hardly has as much combat experience as I--"

I pull Talia in further with one hand, and with the other, shove my brother back out the door, slamming it.

"Had a good meal?" I question my Talia, hands on my hips.

"It was wonderful," she answers, her blue-gray eyes still wide at my behavior with my brother. "Where were you?"

"Detained. What did father ask you?"

"Who I was, where I was from...why I was here. I guess the usual questions one asks a stranger and newcomer to one's household."

"Mm. And did he explain what will be happening in the next few days?"

"Yes."

Perhaps she does not realize it, but the light mood she had been in while with my brother disappears, and she puts a hand to her forehead, rubbing it anxiously. She will be facing the House Council of Elders, tomorrow, and possibly for the next few days, to be questioned--debriefed, as it were--and evaluated for her worth to the One House. The House of Ivanov will be her sponsor.

"You won't be too busy during that time, will you?" she asks me lightly, trying to mask the unease in her mood and tone. Unconsciously, she is hugging herself, just as she had done outside that shuttle when she first gave up her Psi-Corps badge to me.

I place a hand on her back and direct her out the verandah doors for the balcony.

"I will be busy," I reply. "Escorting you. It is bad enough that I will now have to fight off my brother and my father for the right to keep you company."

She laughs, a burst of husky mirth that gladdens me. Her arms leave her body to relax and rest upon the railing.

"It's been a long time since I've had such attention. Sometimes a little safe flirtation is nice, but in the past, it was rare to receive that kind of attention instead of the other kind," she admits, smiling. She turns to me and her mouth has a sweet, soft line to it as she observes. "You are a beautiful woman. I'm sure you know what I mean."

"Besides," she adds after a while, eyes lowering and then rising in side glance to the garden. "Your father and Ganya know I am with you."

I am....a bit at a lost for words. She has called me beautiful. And I am....as affected by that as by her innocent acknowledgment that she belongs to me.

I move close, and when she willingly stays, leaning upon the rail and exhibiting no desire to retreat, I kiss her cheek, the corner of her mouth, her chin. They are small, attentive kisses, but perhaps they can say what my mouth cannot find in words right now....or refuses to express.

 


Her hands come up again to nervously smooth the contours of the evening dress as it clings to her body. Floor length gleaming black, slit on the side, with a high neck and long, tapered sleeves. A simple opening in front reveals her milk white chest and the soft push of cleavage. She looks sewn right in, and she practically was. I had taken the liberty of sending her body measurement scans from the medical report to the local seamstress. The expense of having such a dress made on such short notice was worth it.

She has swept up her hair, and as she regards herself in my mirror, her pale hands rub anxiously together.

Perhaps she misses wearing gloves.

Turning to my closet, I decide on the dark blue evening jacket and drape it over the back of a chair. From a jewelry box I choose diamond cufflinks set in silver and also pick up my favorite silver bands--one for my right thumb and two for the other middle fingers. Her eyes follow me in the mirror.

"You will find tonight that the Kin are quite ostentatious, though hopefully not garish," I volunteer with a grin. "I usually don't flaunt such gewgaws off-world."

"I am but a poor girl from Psi-Corps," she answers lightly, smirking at my reflection in the mirror. "I would be impressed by any gewgaws you wish to flaunt."

I laugh. I pick up a thin, silver chain and toss my long dark hair aside to place it around my neck. It is a chain I usually wear beneath my clothing. Mama gave it to me and I like it against my skin. When I wear it to our parties and functions, which she had always enjoyed when she was alive, I feel I am bringing her with me too.

Talia approaches close behind me, raising her hands to touch mine.

"Allow me," she says softly.

She fastens the clasp and helps tuck it under the collar. It is fleeting, but I believe I feel an affectionate caress of her fingers on my neck.

There is a knock at the door.

When I return, I remove the cap from what I have retrieved from the deliverer, presenting it to Talia.

"Would you like to use this?" I offer. She is utterly surprised, accepting the deep red lipstick from my hand.

"I...thank you. It is a color I used to wear, when I was....how did you know?"

"It looks like you," I answer.

Tonight, the House of Ivanov is filled with dinner guests, all Kin invited to view the newest acquisition to our House, my Talia. Personally, I would have preferred no fanfare, but papa is an Elder of Council, and he keenly understands the social curiosity of our community. We are as bad as cats, in that respect.

He also understands that if our guests find my Talia acceptable, her future life in the One House will be that much easier.

"It will be fine," I had consoled her on my balcony that afternoon, reclined in one of the lounge chairs and holding her body to mine. I had had her dutifully resting against me, back against my chest, but I had felt the tenseness in her shoulders.

"I'm sure you've been to parties like this before," I had added. A woman like her would have been asked to hundreds of them, I was certain.

"Yes, diplomatic functions, ceremonial gatherings, parties for dignitaries--but those were never about me. This time I will be the one everyone watches," she had complained worriedly. She had sighed then, closing her eyes, and as I held her I had wondered if perhaps then was my chance to....

Eyes still shut, her hand had surprised mine by stilling the delicate, yet covert caress I had attempted along her trouser clad thigh.....and her firm hand had not released my fingers until she was certain that I would not go further than that.

As I accompany my beautiful companion down the staircase of my home, feeling the regard of numerous curious eyes and the near hush of every voice at our entrance, I am already eagerly anticipating the evening's end and the night's pleasurable beginning....

Surely she would not deny me that.

The Kin come in all variations of the human form, but we all exhibit an attitude in common when we sense something...desirable. We become predatory. Civilized manners do not mask our ancient, basic natures, and those of the guests who approach my Talia and I have the spark of that darkness in their eyes, even as they politely incline their head or take her hand to kiss it. Talia had not died with her Psi-Corps comrades when we had hunted them down. She had bested our hunt, surrendered herself only to me, who had laid claim to her, and now walks among us as proof of her worthiness as prey. None of this is lost to any in the room as eyes follow her every move.

And for her part, Talia speaks little when acknowledged or greeted by a clan mate, but watches carefully, attentively; never avoiding eye contact with a Were, never removing her hand too soon or to seek my side as a shield. The guests cannot know that she would never use her psychic abilities on them, but I believe she is intentionally challenging their trust just as they challenge hers, each time they draw near, each time they place their mouth on her bare, pale hand. By all appearances, every gesture and word is polite, genteel, and even charming at times, but always there lay the undercurrent of a double meaning, of a silent message to establish just who the predators were in the room.

"Who are they?" Talia manages to whisper softly to me, under the pretense of smiling at something I have said. She is referring to the much older, distinguished looking Kin across the room, who speak only to father and to no one else.

"They are the Elders. No one speaks to them unless addressed. They will be at father's table, as well as you and I. When you are seated, do not speak during the meal out of respect."

She nods her understanding, just as the announcement for dinner is made.

Truly, one would think a human who can meet the eye contact of a Were with calm in her own blue-gray eyes can handle what is merely served for dinner, but I had already guessed my Talia would find it the worst test of the night. Unfortunately, I could not intervene by having our cooks prepare a usual human's fare specifically for her. She is dining among us tonight, and like anyone wishing approval into a new culture, she must eat what we eat.

Thus, as Ganya and I take each side of her seat in the middle of the House patriarch's table, patiently sit through the solemn blessing and the pouring of wine, it is no great surprise to me what Talia's silent reaction is to the unveiling of the main, and only course, of the meal. With great politeness, and a bold leap into the unknown, she accepts the server's conscientious choice of a modest sized slice of raw meat from the serving platter--whose pile of fresh, warm slabs ooze blood before her--and then silently contemplates the uncooked guest on her plate.

My poor girl. We do eat a great many things, as she must have realized at her lunch with papa today, but when a dinner party is held such as this, the head of the House must host a traditional feast, which, traditionally, provides copious amounts of fresh meat as proof of papa's ability to feed his House. It is an old Kin thing.

None of the elders at the table address my Talia, which is a good thing, or perhaps in her mind, not such a good thing, since nothing then can conveniently distract her from the presence on her plate of a savory, bloody cut of flesh. But there must have been a thing or two she had learned from those diplomatic functions she had spoken of--some discreet trick for dealing with the gastronomic surprises of xenocuisine. Even as our Elders ask I or Ganya questions, occupying my attention with conversation, I am still aware of how Talia would take a large sip of wine, slice a very tiny piece of meat for her mouth, then chew for a very long while, and, once swallowing the piece, take another large sip of wine. In this way did she slowly continue, like a turtle dawdling its day reluctantly nibbling bits from one, terribly unappetizing leaf--or carcass--until she makes it a fourth way through her tender portion. I think she well deserved the look of grateful relief that fleets briefly across her face when her plate is finally taken away.

And she had the presence of mind to rise each time I and Ganya do and respectfully bow for each Elder who leaves the table.

When we are finally able to leave the table ourselves, her hand slips into mine, and from the clamminess of the touch and the paleness of her face--despite how much wine she had drunk--I realize her human digestion had overreached its limits.

"Your lips need touching up," I observe. "Come."

Once within the vanity foyer of the nearest bathroom, I seat her at a chair rather than allow her to continue to the facilities. I put tablets to her mouth and hurriedly fill a glass with water.

"Swallow it--swallow it," I gently coax. "It will immediately work once you get it down."

"I'm," she gasps, after emptying the glass. "I'm a little drunk."

"I've oxy pills for that too," I inform in good humor.

She puts her forehead to the coolness of the porcelain counter, breathing deeply until her nausea abates. I couldn't allow her to throw up. The other Were would know just from her scent and not only find such a physical reaction weak, but disrespectful.

My thumb strokes her neck in sympathy.

When she finally raises her head from the counter, her smoky blue eyes cast accusatory daggers at my reflection in the vanity mirror.

"Is there anything else I should prepare myself for that you are not going to tell me?"

I tuck a shiny wisp of hair back into her twist and hand her the lipstick. I'm afraid I am smirking.

"You did very well," I say softly, putting hands reassuredly upon her shoulders. "You have impressed all of them."

She sighs, and the color is returning to her cheeks as she dutifully uncaps the cosmetic.

"As long as I am not asked to witness a killing or do it myself, I will be fine for the rest of the night," her husky voice murmurs in reply.

When we rejoin the party, the mood has lifted from its genteel and overall snooty atmosphere to that of some boisterousness and actual good temper. Wine loosens the tongue and spirits, and Ganya is the loudest of those, as he heartily engages many of the guests with entertaining stories. For once I am grateful for his overly gregarious nature. He draws much of the attention now, although there remain many still who follow Talia with interested eyes.

"Well met, in the hunt," one says to my Talia as I hand her a glass of wine. The man has a well lined face, and a wiry, muscular body. Along one tanned temple is an actual, faint scar.

"You gave me this, for killing one of your friends," he continues, indicating the scar. "Never has a human or Kin harmed me as you have."

If he is scarred, it must have been a near death blow. There are some injuries we Kin do not always rise unscathed from.

"I must have been lucky," Talia merely answers, and because there seemed nothing more to say, the man slowly nods, and we turn away.

Wine does loosen the tongue, and those who had remained aloof, now approach as the scarred Were had, speaking of the hunt or their part in it, each having some private fascination for how my Talia had fought them, and won. It is necessary that she tolerates this fascination, so perhaps this is why I am summoned away from her side by father's valet--though every atom in my body screams its refusal to leave--so that she may stand alone among these strange admirers. When I return from my private talk with father, I find myself waylaid by a group of Were with nothing better to do.

"Tell us, Ivanova, how did the pretty, little prey give herself up to you?" one drawls, his practiced look of sophisticated boredom marring his dark good looks. "Did it take much convincing on your part, or did she finally realize who was master?"

They are waiting for me to tell a boastful, possibly dirty little tale, wanting me to entertain their bored ears with some derogatory indulgences that will make them feel superior to my human. I have never liked this group of Were. They are vulgar.

"How she became mine was in a manner you could never imagine earning, Armand, not if you waited until the world's end and beyond. Ask her yourself, if you find yourself brave enough."

I leave them to sputter a bit in anger or stare with a kind of mockery that wants to believe I am the fool, not they.

"You have spent far too much time with them, Ivanova."

Yes, I heard that. I continue through the room, for I have no time for those Were. I am the liaison between our world and the humans, between the Kin and their longtime servants and prey. I still would not hesitate to hunt and kill a human, but I've fallen into that strange, paradoxical place where I have taken them as lovers and romantic interests as well. I am among a minority of Were who have broken from our ancient isolation to discover this long forbidden realm.

Perhaps I have spent too much time with them, but as I catch my Talia's blue-gray eyes through the crowd of guests, I am certain that I am a better Were for that.

There is music, there is drink, there is conversation and many intriguing faces and bodies to look upon and engage with one's own charm. But strangely, it seems as if none can take his or her eyes from her, and though I remain close by her side, I can feel the unspoken hang like invisible smoke, subtle, yet darkly apparent, thickening in the party's heady, surreal atmosphere.

They all want her.

Finally, I take my Talia by the hand and retreat to the garden.

"I feel like the barbarian, paraded before Rome," she comments wryly. She takes a deep breath of the soothing night air, allowing the proud, quiet line her body had upheld through the evening, relax its guard.

"Funny, I thought it the other way around, and that you were the Roman captured by we barbarians," I reply.

"You are enjoying this," her husky tones suddenly, surprisingly note. "You make a point of showing that I belong to you."

Well....Yes, I have. Not an opportunity has gone by tonight where I have not touched her possessively, whether with a brush of the fingers or just with my eyes. I had hovered by her body like one coveting fresh kill.

We have stopped moving, and she studies me intently under the moonlight, this telepath who will discern what she can of me with only her eyes.

"I am some trophy to you," she finally states softly.

This observation bothers me. It is the truth, yet I am.....unprepared to affirm more than that.

"How can I not value you in this way?" I finally reply, moving behind her so that I may place my arms around her waist to pull her back against my breasts. She allows the possessiveness of my embrace, falling easily into it. Her body molds into mine like water poured upon water.

It is fascinating how she trusts my touch without question or reservation; it is a gift, I realize, that I am entitled to ask of her again and again.

"You are an enchanting creature," I hear myself murmur in her hair.

 


I play a little game of catch with her badge; I flip it, watch its burnished bronze surface spin and glint in the moonlight and then catch it as it comes down. My fist finally tightens around the shield, feeling its edges bite into my fingers and palm. I squeeze tighter, killing that bit of metal with the one thought exalting in my mind. Mine.

Below, the remnants of the party's sounds and movements continue, but more like the presence of ghosts along the edges of my now preoccupied consciousness. Frankly, I hear nothing...only what my ears can pick up of her soft movements inside. I smell nothing, only of what I can catch of her scent, the memory of it lingering on my clothes. I see nothing...as of yet, because I am reserving my vision for that moment always worth relishing. And that of course, is in seeing her naked.

I turn from my balcony back to my lair, and step within.

Hmm.

Tsk. She has stripped down, at least having the presence of mind to drape the dress over the chair before collapsing onto my bed. Perhaps, in modesty or with the last coherent idea of taking another shower before sleep, she had tied on the short, terry robe before succumbing to the beckoning bed surface....

Mmm. No need for such covering tonight, sweetling.

I slip out of my own clothes, whispering the com command that leaves the room shadowed and lit by the blue soft light of the moons. Luna's light plays along her bare, slender legs, illuminates the white, fluffy robe with a soft glow, and blesses my Talia's hair with shimmering highlights, the fine strands flung like gold flaxen upon the pillow.

No need to wear anything, darling.

She is lying on her stomach, mouth soft from exhaustion as her rib cage expands and contracts with each deep breath. Her cheeks are flushed from a little too much wine. I slide up near her legs and plant a kiss on her bare thigh. Nudging the robe up with my nose I kiss along the length of smooth, warm flesh. I nudge the robe higher, kissing along the trail I've picked out until I bare her buttocks.

Did I not mention that I was perfectly mannered? Well not tonight, not tonight.

I nip one of those beautiful cheeks.

I admire the little red mark I had made, then slide up to rub my breasts against the soft, firm surfaces, nudging her body slightly with my insistence.

Her only answer is her soft, deep breaths and the slight furrow of her brow, as if her sleep self has traveled too deeply into the dream time to comprehend the erotic communications disturbing the edges of her slumber.

I slide further up to hover above her, my dark hair falling from my face to tickle hers. I take the shoulder fabric of her robe firmly in my teeth.

"RRRRR," I growl deeply, worrying the fabric a little, then I snap my head hard to the side, flipping my prey over.

She falls on her back, the bed giving a little under the shift of weight.

"..m..." was the only sound she made, sighing, and her arms lie apart, and her bare legs mingle with mine as I hover above her, smelling her sleep and the enticing muskiness of her soft, soft skin. I kiss her mouth, tasting wine.

Her mouth does not kiss back. I nuzzle her soft throat, feeling the beat of her blood. I move further down to nose in the cleft of her breasts, hearing the steady drum of her heart. I take the knot of the robe's belt in my teeth and worry it loose.

Still no movement; the beat of her heart is steady and smooth and undisturbed.

I undress her with my mouth, pulling the robe's edges apart, and display her sleeping, vulnerable nakedness to the loving moonlight and my lustful eyes.

I kiss the softness between her legs. A long deep kiss.

Her legs twitch, attempting a shift--the leadened limbs still under the hypnosis of sleep. A tiny, reluctant groan sounds belatedly in her throat, her eyes still shut.

I smile against the intimate folds of her flesh. I toss my hair to the side and then put my mouth to her again. I hum. I hum steadily, humming the deep tune of need.

"MM..."

She is stirring now, trying to, swimming her way up from the lassitude of too much wine and a long day's wary interactions. I grin madly, nose pressed against the rich scent of her now aroused sex. I kiss the sweet, moistened folds once more before playing a naughty trick.

I take some of her pubic hairs in my teeth and tweak them.

"OHH YOU--" she groans out loud, finally roused out of slumber. In frustration, her hands bury themselves in my hair, attempting to drag me up. I slide eagerly up her exposed body, rubbing my own nakedness against hers, eliciting another, gorgeous, deep groan from her mouth at the feel of my body's length and the weight of our pliant breasts, catching on the other. She opens her smoky, darkened eyes.

"I did not use my hands," I whisper to her, grinning triumphantly, and capture her mouth with mine. She kisses back, hard, coaxing fire from my mouth as her fingers tangle themselves in my hair. When we part, I am gasping, losing my sensibilities for the moment.

"Shall I use them now?" I suggest, finding my unsteady voice at last. Her hands still hold my head even as I feel her pelvis begin to move against mine.

"No," she simply answers, voice rough and deep with arousal and determination. I am lost in the swirling, darkened blue of her eyes. "Keep them where they are."

My hands are by her head, supporting my weight as I hover above her. She keeps my eyes mesmerized to hers, even as she begins to move beneath me, arching, rubbing her sweet body against mine. Her hands release my head to run possessively down my torso to grip my buttocks, holding me tighter to her. I feel the silky slide of her parted sex stroke mine and it nearly drives me insane.

Again and again she undulates beneath me, her eyes never releasing me, the intimate, slick folds of our pressed selves frictioning and mingling musk and moisture and heat. She is hot against me, so hot, and her eyes are burning into mine, branding my irises with the images of her darkened pools of blue. A deep growl grows in my chest as we move against each other. I am sweating, my body rendered a furnace just at her touch. Droplets fall from my face to strike her cheek, her mouth. I clutch the silk sheets--my nails rip the fabric.

She watches me--she watches me, and she wills my eyes to stay open as I near the edge--the edge of the throb and exquisite heat, of the burn and ecstatic torment of her touch. My body stiffens--I explode--

I feel her fingers grip my buttocks hard, nails digging, as she rides my pleasured heights with me--she reaches between our pressed selves just as I ebb from that great wave and she slides fingers intimately against me. I hear myself cry out again, my bed sheets shredding in my clenched fists. Gods she is slipping fingers inside me--she won't stop--I sink my teeth into the bedding by her head.

I can take no more of her touch, I pull myself away, panting, feeling the throb between my legs still. I finally close my eyes, swallowing dry.

Against my hard breathing lips, I feel a tender touch trace a familiar, salty moisture upon my mouth....my tongue darts out to lick it. It is the taste of me.

I open my eyes, taking in the sight of my Talia's flushed countenance, the ragged parting of her own lips, the strands of fair hair sticking to her face...and the intense regard of her darkened, primeval eyes.

The fingers that had touched my lips, she puts to her own mouth. Slowly, slowly, she savors the taste of them before me.

I've waited a long time, woman. Such a long, long wait to see the dark eyed lioness within you.

 

Chapter 3: Lure
Chapter 4: Capture
Chapter 5: Train

"Delta leader to delta wings, show's over. Let's collect the stragglers and return to base." ( Signs and Portents )