Chapter 58

Jeclarren had been relieved to find Morsi asleep when he had returned to their room the night before. Now the boy was a font of energy that could be put to no use but those that might benefit Daviona, and he didn't particularly want to benefit her.

"Do you mind if I clean out the room we're sleeping in?" Morsi asked.

Jeclarren shrugged. "Go ahead. Just close the door so you can stay out of her way, okay? I don't want her to . . . to bother you."

Morsi nodded earnestly and ran off. Jeclarren continued to fix lunch for them all. He had taken her breakfast up to her while Morsi ate downstairs. He knew why she had done this. A boy tied him to her. He could no more leave a boy in her clutches than he could have left Sanviro, and any threat to isolate him from Morsi would be even more effective.

"He is most eager, is he not?" Jeclarren stiffened at her voice. She moved so damned silently when she wanted to. "Eager to please. That's why the age is so perfect. They're old enough to do real work, but young enough to want to please anyone who is kind to them."

"It's not a kindness to steal a boy away from his father," Jeclarren said without turning away from the work he was doing.

"Perhaps, but he will live a good deal longer and more luxuriously than he would ever be able to in his father's care."

"Luxury?" Jeclarren repeated sarcastically. "I haven't seen any signs of that so far."

"In time, my pet," she said, walking up and running her hands up his arms. He stiffened again and stopped working. "In due time. Randor and Skeletor have spoiled everything, but I can build it up again." Her hands found the hem of his shirt and slipped beneath it.

He pulled away, glaring at her. "Not where Morsi could see," he said harshly. "He's only a child."

She laughed. "I will be back late. Be certain that Morsi is abed by then, and prepare me a dinner that will keep. I have things to do."

Jeclarren shrugged. She leaned up and kissed him on the lips, and he shuddered away from her. She turned away and built another portal, then left without another word.

"How are you feeling, Teela?" The queen had sought her out and taken her for a walk in the garden, so Teela contemplated the question seriously, recognizing that Marlena must have a reason to be asking.

"I don't quite know," she said slowly. "A little overwhelmed, but . . . I don't know, calmer somehow. I've been worried constantly for the past few weeks about Adam, but now he's just a thought away. I know how he is just by wondering about it." She blinked. "Right now, he seems calm and very content."

"I'm glad to hear that," Marlena said. "But you? How do you feel about getting married so soon? About having given up your position? How do you feel?"

Teela took a deep breath. "I would do anything for Adam," she said. "I have to confess, I never thought I'd get married this young, and I'm a bit nervous about how the court is going to take it."

"I'll make a confession to you," the queen said and Teela looked up at her attentively. "I am too."

Teela sighed. "That's not a good sign, I don't think."

"Don't worry, dear, we'll muddle through." Teela nodded, uncertain that she liked this sign that adults didn't have any more sense of control over the world than kids did. The queen seemed to recognize this reaction, because she put an arm around Teela's shoulders and squeezed. "You should be prepared for people treating you almost as a bereaved spouse for awhile, you know," she said gently, and Teela knit her brows.

"What do you mean?"

"We've told people that Adam is ill," Marlena said, drawing Teela over to a bench and sitting down with her. "And now we're marrying the two of you in a sudden, surprise ceremony." Teela nodded. "The assumption will be that Adam is so ill that he isn't expected to live for long, and that we hope the two of you will provide heirs quickly to secure the succession."

Teela blinked. She hadn't really considered that construction of events. She'd been so caught up for so long in finding Adam and then looking for his kidnapper that she'd almost forgotten that most of the court had no idea what was truly going on. "How do we convince them otherwise?" she asked.

"We don't," the queen said. "You won't produce an heir in the next year, Adam won't die young, and people will forget about it. Gradually."

Teela shook her head. "People never forget things at court," she said. "They seem to, they stop talking about them, but they never forget."

The queen sighed, but she smiled at Teela with a sad look in her eyes. "I sometimes lose track of the fact that you and Adam were forced to become so savvy about court at a young age. No, they won't forget, and it will undoubtedly come up again from time to time in some rumor or another, but all we can do is keep going. You may have to insulate Adam from any amount of unpleasant gossip. I quash stories about Randor more often than I'd like."

Teela noticed that Adam's anxiety seemed to be growing, and she hoped her discomfort with the queen's words wasn't influencing him. "Being queen is more than boring parties and being nice to diplomats, I know that, but I don't really know everything you do, Aunt Marlena."

Marlena tilted her head and tucked a strand of Teela's hair back behind her ear. "In a way this early wedding may be good." Teela raised her eyebrows. "You'll have a long apprenticeship. Once things settle down, you'll have to start attending parties and functions with me." Teela made a face, and quickly suppressed it. Marlena tapped her on the nose. "Once you start watching from an angle other than security, I don't think you'll be bored. Irritated, quite likely, exasperated, sometimes amused, but not bored. More goes on at those functions than meets the eye."

Teela felt a sharp upswing in Adam's anxiety at the same moment as a beep sounded on Marlena's com unit. "A wind raider is arriving, your highness," said the familiar voice of Guardsman Ivan. "I believe you'll wish to meet it."

Abruptly, Teela realized that the increase in tension she'd been picking up from Adam over the last few minutes had nothing whatsoever to do with her. She reached out mentally to test her theory, and discovered that she could sense Adam's proximity to her. He was nowhere near as far away as Grayskull. Marlena deactivated her com unit, looking puzzled, and Teela seized her hand. "Adam's back!" she exclaimed quietly.

Marlena's eyes widened, then her smile grew incandescent. Catching hands, they ran together towards the landing pad.

Adam looked around the palace grounds from the air. It felt like it had been a year since he'd been here. He wasn't altogether sure he was ready to come back, but he was now committed. His father sat next to him, seeming almost as tense as he was.

"Land at the end near the infirmary," Dorgan said from the front seat, and Duncan nodded.

"Why?" Adam asked. "You checked both of us over before we left Grayskull."

"Yes, but there are instruments in the infirmary that I did not have available to me at Grayskull."

"So I have to spent my first hours back home in the infirmary?" Adam exclaimed.

"It shouldn't take more than thirty minutes," Dorgan said. "I'll get you and Sanviro out as quickly as possible."

As they approached the landing site, however, Duncan began to curse and Adam peered out over the edge of the wind raider. There were forty people gathered, and more coming. He saw his mother and Teela in the front of the group, but there were dozens of people there, lots of them women. Court girls of every shape and size crowded forward.

Adam looked at his father. "There's no good way to ask them to leave, is there? Not one that won't make things look worse."

"I'm afraid not, son," Randor said grimly. "Can you do it?"

Gulping, Adam raised his chin. "I'll have to, won't I? Turning back wouldn't be any better than asking them to leave."

"I'll be right beside you." Adam looked up at him and smiled his thanks.

They landed and Adam's father got down. Adam slipped down beside him and Teela ran across to greet him. Her eagerness to see him was almost overwhelming, and he could feel it as well as see and hear it. He stepped forward and gave her a tight hug. Having her in his arms felt so right, it was unbelievable.

After a moment she pulled away and glanced aside at the throng, flushing slightly. "I'm sorry, I think it's our fault you have this reception committee. Your mother and me, I mean."

"Let's worry about why later," his father said, his voice quiet, but pitched to reach them in the babble. "We need to clear the pad so the other wind raider can land."

"Right," Adam said and, offering Teela his arm, he started forward through the crowd. It was alarming, but his father was at his back, Teela was at his side and his mother and Duncan were nearby as well. All that helped, but he was deeply nervous as he walked among the gathered people. They felt very close, very confining, and his steps faltered. His father put a hand on his shoulder, exerting gentle pressure forward, and he got moving again.

He didn't meet anybody's eyes, but he nodded frequently as people called out to welcome him. Scents reached him, some of the girls were obviously doused with perfume, and that made him tense. Calm seemed to exude from Teela, however, which helped him to maintain. He was very glad that Teela didn't feel the need to bathe in perfume.

The halls were lined with people, too, and while he was pleased to know that everyone was glad to see him back, it was all a little hard to deal with. Teela squeezed his hand. It might have been his imagination, but he thought he felt some of her strength flow into him. Whether it did or not, though, the gesture helped.

Finally, they reached the infirmary. The room was largely deserted, and Adam heaved a sigh of relief. He couldn't have handled being crowded by medics after that greeting. Dorgan pushed his way into the room and said, "Let's get started, Adam."

More poking and prodding. Adam sighed and put up with it because he didn't have much choice. Man-at-Arms didn't come in. Presumably he was out dispersing the crowd. Within a couple of minutes, though, Sanviro and Ford entered, Sanviro looking vaguely harried.

"Are you all right?" Adam asked.

"Where is Romily?" Sanviro said, looking around.

Teela made a strangled sound. "I'll go get her. I don't think she even knows you're –"

The door flung open and a very pretty girl with curly brown hair came running inside followed by an older man. "Sanviro!" she cried.

"Romily!" They ran towards each other, and Adam almost expected to hear music, like in a play. They hugged tightly, then Sanviro drew away. "Can you ever forgive me?" he asked.

"There is nothing to forgive," Romily declared. "The trials you have suffered only make me love you more!"

"Thoughts of you helped me to survive that awful place," he replied tenderly, and she burst into tears, burying her face in his chest.

It deteriorated from there. There was much talk of worthiness and unworthiness, of beauty and compassion. It was amazing. Adam had never heard the like outside of a play. Still, he couldn't begrudge them their happiness. They'd been through a lot. Ford and the other man, who he assumed was Romily's father, were watching with amused tolerance, as were Adam's parents. Adam glanced over at Teela to find that her eyes were shining. She appeared to be close to tears. He poked her and she looked down at him in surprise.

"What?" she asked in a low voice.

"If you turn into a fountain, so help me, I'll . . ." Her face lost the touched, teary look and her eyes snapped angrily. "That's better," he said with an impish grin.

She glared and punched him lightly on the shoulder. Dorgan had just stopped poking and hadn't started prodding yet. Adam responded by poking her again in the side, just were he knew she was most ticklish. She poked back, and Adam tugged on one of her front locks of hair.

"Children!" his father said in an undertone, and they both turned to look at him in guilty surprise.

"Sorry, Dad," Adam said.

"Sorry, your highness!" Teela said.

"Uncle Randor."

"I think it's better if I continue to call you 'your highness' at the palace, unless you want to announce things."

Adam's parents exchanged an unfathomable look, and Randor nodded without speaking. Finally, it was Sanviro's turn, which broke up the babbling. Romily began asking the old healer questions and Adam waited for the explosion. It was unexpectedly mild when it finally came.

"What can I do to help?" Romily asked breathlessly after a long series of other inquiries.

Dorgan pointed at a stool about ten feet away and said, "Sit there, and be quiet." Romily nodded earnestly, then walked over and sat down, watching intently.

Teela let out a wordless exclamation and went to Romily's side. "It's all right," she said. "He's like that with everyone, even the queen sometimes."

Adam fully expected Dorgan to say something about how the queen didn't ask him nonsensical questions so quickly that he didn't have time to answer them, but he didn't, he just kept working on Sanviro. Evidently Sanviro and Romily's tenderness towards each other softened even the irascible old healer's temper. A bit.

Eventually, everything that needed checked had been checked, and Dorgan released them to go to the royal wing. Sanviro seemed to be surprised that he was accompanying them, but Adam knew that Romily had been given a room there already. No doubt Ford and Borleon would be as well.

Duncan had cleared the halls, so they reached the royal section of the palace without an audience. Adam was glad to be inside his home again. Dropping Teela's hand, he rushed to his bedroom and flung the door open. Running across to his bed, he flopped down on his back. Cringer bounded up and landed next to him, bouncing slightly. Adam let out a sigh. This felt so normal.

After a moment he sat up and looked around. His mother and father stood in the doorway, smiling at him. He smiled back and for the first time in ages felt like himself.

Evil-Lyn dropped one last shield around Snake Mountain. As it settled into place, she surfaced from the trance that had been required to build and place it. When she opened her eyes, she found Trap Jaw standing over her, looking down at her. She stiffened. "What do you want?" she demanded, her voice coming harshly.

"Skeletor has called a meeting," the oaf said. "Tri-Klops just told us that the prince is back from Grayskull."

"I see." She rose from her cross-legged position and strode out of the room. Trap Jaw had to scramble to keep up with her, which made her grin slightly. Putting any of them out, discomfiting them, made her very happy.

In the throne room, Skeletor sat comfortably atop his dais. "Is everyone here?"

Evil-Lyn smiled. "I'm here. Do you need anyone else?"

"That's difficult to say, Evil-Lyn," he said, looking around at his other minions. "It rather depends on how useful the others feel inclined to be. The time has come to seize my bride."

"Bride?" Beastman asked. "I thought we were grabbing the prince."

"We are, you nincompoop!" Evil-Lyn said, concealing her own disgust at the idea behind a facade of contempt for the furry oaf.

"But he's a boy," Beastman pointed out with irrefutable logic. "Boys can't be brides."

"He won't be a boy at that point," Skeletor explained.

"But . . ." Beastman shook his head. "It's not productive. Can't produce offspring."

"That doesn't matter, Beastman," Skeletor growled. "The boy is –"

"Better to take that 'Teela' to mate," Beastman went on. "She is strong and smart. She'll produce good whelps."

"I don't wish to produce whelps," Skeletor said. "I wish to gain the power that dwells within Prince Adam."

"But –" Beastman didn't get anything more out because Skeletor blasted him. Evil-Lyn watched him slam into the wall, then turned back to the lord of Snake Mountain.

"He has a point, Skeletor," said a gravelly voice. Evil-Lyn turned to stare at Tri-Klops, and she sensed Skeletor's power building for another blast. "If you had kids with Prince Adam . . . disturbing as that idea is . . . they'd be the lawful heirs to the throne."

The power dissipated, and she looked over at Skeletor to find him gazing with surprised pleasure at Tri-Klops. "So they would," he said musingly. "And if Randor were to die thereafter, I would be wedded to the legal monarch of Eternia. What an intriguing notion."

Evil-Lyn saw the awful logic of it and shuddered internally. Only the fact that she already knew that Skeletor couldn't gain access to Adam's power kept her from panicking. She cocked her hip and crossed her arms. "So, what is it you wish of us, Lord Skeletor?"

"We must formulate a plan to seize the young prince of Eternia," Skeletor said with an evil grin. "Any suggestions?"

"We could just grab him," Trap Jaw said. "Wait until he goes out on his own and –"

"That's not likely to happen any time soon," Evil-Lyn pointed out. "They're going to be guarding him closely for awhile after what happened the last time they took their eyes off him."

"We could do it in a week," Tri-Klops said, and they all turned to look at him curiously. The tech shrugged. "I suspect that the wedding will provide a sufficient distraction to take advantage of."

"Wedding?" Skeletor repeated. "What wedding?"

Tri-Klops had the smallest of grins on his face. "Prince Adam's wedding," he said. "It's set to take place a week after his return from Grayskull, which happened today."

"Who's he marrying?" Trap Jaw asked.

With a gesture, Tri-Klops summoned one of his doomseekers. It began to project images of one of the palace parlors. Captain Teela stood on some sort of platform in the center of it surrounded by seamstresses and young women. The queen was there as well, and they were all discussing the upcoming event.

"Will Prince Adam's clothing be ready, your highness?" asked one of the young women. Evil-Lyn didn't have any idea who she was.

"He's having his fittings in another part of the palace, Romily," the queen said with a smile. "I had them start early with his old measurements, and I've arranged for the tailors to fit your Sanviro out with something suitable."

The girl, Romily, glowed with happiness, and it was enough to make Evil-Lyn sick. The other girl spoke up wistfully. "I haven't seen his highness yet. How is he?"

"He's fine," Teela said with a smile and an inward look that told Evil-Lyn just who the boy's power was bound to.

The queen smiled at her daughter-in-law to be benevolently. "He is perhaps a little nervous, but you'd expect that under the circumstances."

"I wish I could strangle the beast who hurt him," the girl said, and Evil-Lyn narrowed her gaze. Who was this girl?

"You and me both, Delira," Teela said. The seamstresses backed away and called the queen's attention to the gown. Teela flushed as they all gazed at her. "How do I look?" she asked.

"Like the most beautiful bride in all the world," Romily declared with unbounded enthusiasm. "I hope I look half so lovely in my gown."

"Turn it off!" Skeletor snarled and the images faded. "So, that little snipe thinks she's going to marry my well? We'll see about that." Evil-Lyn looked over at Skeletor and was no little astonished to see how very jealous he looked. "You're quite right, Tri-Klops. The wedding would provide the perfect moment, but we had best interrupt it before the solemnities are finalized, or I'll have to kill the little bitch before I can take Adam to wife."

Evil-Lyn blinked, unable to control her own discomfiture at this image. Skeletor's gaze switched to her instantly and she knew she had to come up with something to distract him from her reaction. "Why not kill her anyway?" she asked. "It would probably be fun."

"You have a point," Skeletor said with a maniacal grin. "It would emphasize my control over the boy from the outset." She hadn't expected him to latch onto the notion with quite such enthusiasm, but there was nothing she could do about it now. "Very well, it is settled. We will seize the boy during his wedding and kill the bride . . . and anyone else who happens to get in our way."

Evil-Lyn gazed up at the Overlord of Evil and nodded with the others. She would have to warn Duncan as soon as possible. In the meantime, she'd better fall to with the planning or Skeletor would become suspicious.

Duncan walked into the room where Randor was watching the tailors fit his son with his wedding clothes, heart heavy with the news he had to impart. The king turned towards him with a happy smile that fled at the sight of Duncan's eyes. He rose and crossed to his son. "Adam, I'm afraid I may have some kingdom business to see to. I'll be back in a moment."

Adam smiled at his father, but there a brittleness to his expression that was most worrying. "Okay," he said.

"I'll be right outside," Randor said, and Duncan bit his lip at the grateful look Adam gave him. "I'll be back soon."

They left him alone with the tailors, Sanviro and his witnesses. Raon and Mekanek both looked a little worried as they left, but Duncan knew he could count on both of them to conceal their concerns from the boys.

Outside the door were the guards that Duncan had set on the prince. Adam didn't seem to have noticed, or if he had noticed, he didn't seem to mind. Duncan led Randor far enough away from the guards to be out of earshot and the king gazed solemnly at him. "What is it, Duncan?"

"I think she's killed again," Duncan said. "I'm taking Orko to the death site to be sure, but there is a cluster of young men dead in one of the southern townships. Four of them, again, but I think it may have been worse than the previous occasion, because these four were together, and I . . ."

Randor's jaw dropped. "Together? But with one woman – how –"

"She's a mage, Randor," Duncan pointed out. "And I gather that the four of them were ruffians who got their kicks together, keeping just the sunny side of the law."

"Elders," Randor breathed, and Duncan nodded.

"I'm afraid she may have lured them in and then slaughtered them one by one with the others watching."

"But you haven't seen them yet?" Randor asked, and Duncan shook his head. "Then you'd better go and find out. I don't want to tell Adam anything until we're sure, but go speak with Marlena as well."

"Yes, sire," Duncan said. "And I'll report as soon as I know anything."

Randor nodded and returned to the parlor where Adam was. Duncan went out to the township of Lunadel and found all to be as he'd expected. Orko verified her presence in a sick voice, then attempted to leave so quickly that he ran into the doorway and had to be carried out by Ram-Man. They took care of the formalities, then Duncan left Buzz Off with the local authorities to clean up the mess. He returned to the palace and went straight to his rooms. He felt filthy and in need of a wash.

When he emerged from the shower he found a familiar figure looking in his closet. "You should wear some of these casual clothes more often," Evil-Lyn said, her voice laden with irony. "It might make you more approachable."

"Who says I want to be approachable?" he asked sourly. "What are you doing here?"

"I told you I'd return in two nights," she said, turning. Her eyes widened and she smiled at his unclad state. "You know, even though you claim not to appreciate my visits, you always provide such a welcoming air of informality."

"It's not my choice," he growled, irritated beyond words because at this point he could either drop the towel to dress or retreat into the bathing chamber and demand clean clothes of her. Or he could stand where he was and speak to her wearing nothing more than a towel around his loins.

"You have a lovely chest," she observed, and Duncan grimaced. "Have I told you that?"

"Strangely enough, it hasn't come up."

Her eyes dropped to his groin and then met his again with an arch look. "Not yet," she said.

"What are you doing here?" he demanded. "It's been a wretched day, and I'm not in the mood for games."

"Too bad, I think you might be fun to play with," she said, but at his glare, all the playfulness dropped out of her expression, leaving her expression somber. "I thought you might want to know that Skeletor has decided to take advantage of the wedding to seize Adam. He also plans to kill Teela as his primary rival for Adam's affections."

"Adam's affections?" Duncan exclaimed. "What the hell are you talking about? I thought he just wants Adam's power."

"It's Skeletor," Evil-Lyn said, the mocking tone back. "He never does anything by halves." Duncan had to admit the truth of that statement. Evil-Lyn crossed her arms, her eyes narrowed. "And Tri-Klops pointed out that if he turns Adam into a girl, then marries her and gets children on her, they will be the legal heirs to the throne, and he reasoned out for himself that if he was married to Adam when Randor dies, he'd be the husband of the reigning monarch."

"Wonderful," Duncan groaned. "Will it never end?"

"Unfortunately, I doubt it. Even if Skeletor finds out that Adam's power is locked away from him, the lure of legally ruling Eternia may still call to him, and two of his other goals in transforming Adam into a woman will still be met, discomfiting He-Man and Randor."

"Damn!" Duncan growled. A thought occurred to him and he straightened. "How did Skeletor find out about the wedding?" If she'd told him. . .

"Tri-Klops showed us images of your daughter getting fitted for her wedding clothes," Evil-Lyn said with a roll of her eyes. "It was quite nauseatingly sweet, though your daughter does seem to attract very martial friends." Duncan wasn't altogether sure what she meant by that. Evil-Lyn shook her head. "I think you'd better work on a way to guard yourselves against those doomseekers."

He ground his teeth, then took a deep breath. "I have to report to Randor, so if you don't mind, I need to get dressed." He gestured toward the towel.

She smiled and sat down on the bed as if prepared for a fine show. "Oh, I don't mind at all."

Snarling imprecations, he snatched some clothing and slammed back into the bathing room. Her laughter chimed merrily behind him. When he emerged, she was still there, and he glared at her. "Can I help you?"

"You could, but I doubt you would," she said, leering at him. "Come now, Duncan, surely it's been as long a time for you as it's been for me." She was drawing closer, and the way she was moving reminded him firmly of her definite femininity. It had been a long time, but now was not the time and she was not the woman.

He held up a hand. "I have to go report."

She shrugged. "Fine. Go report. I can wait a little while longer."

Irritated by her heavy-handed flirting as well as alarmed by Skeletor's plans, he hurried out of the room. It took a little looking to locate Randor, but he was loathe to use his com unit for fear Adam would hear. As he strode through the halls, his libido kept reminding him of what he'd just passed up, despite the fact that he knew she'd only been teasing him. What she didn't – couldn't – know was that he'd always found her attractive – on a physical level – even back during the war, and his body was less discriminating than his mind. Banishing thoughts of those long legs and deep violet eyes from his mind, he focused on the task at hand.

He finally found king was sitting in the parlor next to Adam's bedroom. Duncan walked in and sat down. "Adam?" he asked.

"Asleep in his room. Sanviro and he are sharing a bed. I think they may do so until the wedding."

"That's a touch more appropriate than Teela," Duncan observed. "I was right in all respects. Daviona killed all four of them, and according to Orko when he regained his self control, she drew power from the whole process, the sex with each of them, the pleasure in what they initially took to be a . . . a . . ." He searched for an appropriate word. ". . . a group event, the fear as they realized that she was the one in control, their deaths, one by one . . . it was nauseating, and Orko may be some time in recovering from it."

Randor shook his head. "I imagine the power she gained from such manipulation . . ."

"Orko says it was staggering. He's very ill from the little contact he had with the residue of her . . . her orgy."

"Poor Orko," Randor said. "What are we going to do, Duncan?"

"Unfortunately, that's not our only concern at this point," he said, and the king's eyes widened.

"What more is there?" Randor asked.

"Skeletor has decided to capture Adam, and he plans to take advantage of the wedding to do so. Evil-Lyn told me," he added to answer the mute question in Randor's eyes. "Evidently the doomseekers picked up people preparing."

"Damn it," Randor growled. "Can't Adam have anything remotely normal in his life?"

"I'll give some thought to ways to solve the problem," Duncan said. "But I think I'd better check on Teela, then go to bed."

"Teela's staying the night with her witnesses," Randor said with an amused smile. "Delira, Romily and she are becoming fast friends. I believe she's going to ask both of them to be her ladies in waiting when things settle more. I must confess, I like the idea of Sanviro staying around for Adam's sake."

"And Sanviro could surely use Adam's presence," Duncan observed.

Randor smiled. "Yes, I think he could." He put a hand on Duncan's shoulder. "Get some rest, old friend. I will need you tomorrow."

"Are you going to bed soon?"

Randor nodded. "Marlena will come and fetch me before long. Go, Duncan."

Duncan rose and left his king. Returning to the suite he shared with Teela, he went into his bedroom, half expecting to find Evil-Lyn still there. The stab of disappointment that struck him when he found she wasn't surprised him. He'd known she wasn't serious.

He stripped off his armor and tossed it in a corner, then stretched. The day had been long and had ended with horrors beyond comprehension. He only hoped he would sleep without dreams.

Hands settled on his shoulders. "That didn't take as long as I'd expected," a low voice said in his ear, the husky tone thrilling along his nerves. He almost didn't recognize Evil-Lyn's voice devoid of her usual overly dramatic tones. "I almost didn't have time to prepare."

He whirled in surprise, but her hands just lifted long enough for him to turn, then settled on his pectorals, hot through the thick fabric of his shirt. He gazed at her in deep shock for a long moment, her violet eyes meeting his in challenge. She was wearing nothing but a wisp of purple silk. Abruptly, he grabbed her around the waist and crushed her to him, kissing her deeply, caught beyond all thought of self-control.