She steps down the stairs slowly, dreading the sight of her two men staring across the table at each other, eyes deadlocked in a brutal internal struggle for the right to own her, essentially. She wonders whether this is even entirely what she wants; she certainly knows she doesn't want them ripping each other apart for her, because she's not even entirely sure she wants to make the choice in the first place. Lucian's sway over her is immense, and even the sight of him rouses that beast inside her. After that kiss . . . and only hours before that, the sensation of magnetism holding her near him throws her decision to the wind. She can still trace the pattern of his kisses on her neck, still feel the burn of his palm against her back.

But Alyn is dependable, and steady, and loyal. Lucian's passion could potentially persist for hundreds of years to come, but Alyn's love will persist until his death. Alyn cares deeply, Selene knows that much. He is built to love with his soul, to revere and respect her. Lucian, she thinks, Lucian is built to love with his body and his mind, to tear down and disrespect. He's brutal and violent, and she knows well that a life with him will be turbulent and dangerous. But her connection with him is so strong, so irresistible, that she can't imagine telling him to leave.

She reaches the last step, and as her bare foot touches the landing, she pauses. The scene is not unlike she'd imagined: Lucian and Alyn stand slouched against the counter, arms crossed, not looking at one another but both sulking in their opposing corners. Lucian's dark sensuality clashes with Alyn's sandy-haired wholesomeness in a striking way. Selene's lower lip shows the signs of constant biting for the last ten or fifteen minutes.

"Sit down," she says sternly, and the men take opposing sides of the small wooden table in the center of the kitchen. She moves around the table and settles in a chair between them, tenting her fingers and drawing her lip under her teeth again. Lucian reaches for her and her hands fall away from her face; his finger draws her lip down ever so slightly as he wipes away the blood, placing the stained finger against his front teeth and tasting her with a shudder down his back. Alyn loathes the air Lucian breathes, hates that her blood will taste sweet to Lucian and repulsive to Alyn.

She takes a single deep breath, her chest rising and falling deeply underneath her black camisole. "Listen," she says, and her voice cracks ever so slightly. "I . . . I don't want to choose. I won't beg for anything. But I want you both to stay." And with that, she stands gracefully from her chair, resting one hand on the table and holding the other one awkwardly at her temple. She taps her fingertips butterfly-soft against the wood table, as if waiting for one of the men to comment or just to hold her back, then abruptly turns. The only concession she makes is to run her fingers behind the collar of Lucian's jacket, ruffling his hair just enough for him to respond strikingly like a cat, turning his head and shivering once. His eyes follow her, and she can feel his gaze on her back.

Climbing back up the steps, Selene takes a moment to relish the air around her, the cool floor underneath her, the feel of the fabric resting against her. She's tired, though, and as she comes to her bedroom, she pulls away the black jeans and curls into a ball in her bed. It's too soft, she thinks, damn the men these days that need comfort like women. Dragging one of the blankets over her, she closes her eyes and rakes her hair out from underneath her.

Moments later, she hears soft footsteps in her bedroom, tentatively making their way towards her bed. Alyn, she knows, coming to be sure she's alright. She glances at him once, her eyes remaining half lidded. He settles down next to her, and his fingers slide silkily through her hair. As she closes her eyes again, he gently rubs the rim of her ear and lays himself down, facing her. His lips seek out her forehead and he pulls away after a chaste kiss, positioning so he's an appropriate distance away but directly in her line of sight when she wakes up. Almost wanting to smile, she allows him to take her hand is his own warm one, holding it clasped in both of his against his heart and closing his own eyes.

They sleep in harmony for several hours, the most peaceful hours of Alyn's time with Selene so far. While Selene needs no sleep, he senses that her exhaustion is from emotional rather than physical strain. When she wakes in the early part of the evening, her eyes open to find his side of the bed empty. She can't quite read what that may mean, but glances quickly up at the door, realizing that something had woken her. Lucian.

He shuts the door behind him slowly, and her eyes follow the crack of light that slowly wanes until it disappears entirely. Although he shuts the door quietly, he knows she's awake and knows that his stealth is unnecessary. His eyes cut through the similar dark; his are equally sharp in light or velvet dark, and he seems to study each ripple in the fabric covering her. Slowly, moving softly over thick carpeting, Lucian treads to the side of the bed which Selene is curled into. Settling down next to her, his abdomen turned at a sharp angle in order to face her, he leans down slowly and rests his forehead against her temple. Her back is turned, but he knows that she senses his every move.

"Listen," he whispers. His voice is soft, but to her enhanced ears, it cracks the silence like a hammer. "I'm sorry. I'll imagine you didn't want me to frighten that man so much, nor did you want me to maul you quite like that. I was rough, I apologize." His head presses against hers still, but softly. She turns over hesitantly, and he moves a little back so he can meet her eyes. They study each other for a moment until Lucian shifts, laying his body beside hers on the bed. His left arm slips under her neck, and she can feel his muscled bicep supporting her head. She smiles a little; he understands the mechanics of the thing, she thinks, if nothing else, as his right hand crosses her body to rest warmly on her hip.

She remains in his embrace until he moves, shifting his hand to her back and turning her towards him. He alters his position slightly, moving closer until she can feel the heat from his body. Curling his arm around her neck, he drags her closer with his right hand and rests his lips against her neck. Instinctively, she lifts her hand and slips it behind his head, relaxing it tangled in his hair. Lying, snarled together like ancient lovers locked in eternal embrace, Selene is lulled almost back to sleep.

"Don't leave me," he whispers as her eyes close, intimate; but at that instant, she jolts back to wakefulness, pulling away sharply and pressing her elbow underneath her. Her eyebrows draw down, furrowing uneven lines in her brow. She stares at him again, as if trying to pierce into his mind through his eyes, then rears up and climbs off the bed. Pacing from one corner of the room to the other, she shakes her head briskly a number of times. Then she stops suddenly, glaring back at him and leaning forward aggressively.

"What the hell do you want from me?" she yells at him, her eyes flashing angrily.

He turns, rolling up so he can meet her gaze more easily. He cocks his head, confused in a sense, simply wanting her to lay back down and kiss him again, the way he'd kissed her hours before. But she knows this, and is suddenly disturbed by his selfishness.

"Come back," he whispers, not meaning to be seductive but still sending a shiver through her.

"I need time, Lucian," she says, her voice still hard despite the thing inside her that is crying to lay down next to him and wind herself into him. "I need space," she says, her voice showing none of the traces of the thing inside her that is screaming to touch him and feel him pressing hungrily against her. Her desire for him is unquestionable, his for her equally so. But something in her is terrified of the harsh difference between Alyn and Lucian, and finds herself unsure that she should choose the passion of Lucian's love over the purity of Alyn's.

"Just get out," she mutters coldly. He stares at her, bewildered, for a second more, then rolls up and stalks out the door. She closes the door behind him, refraining from slamming it shut behind him. Stalking back and forth a few more times, she makes up her mind and locks the door. Pulling out the dresser drawer, she she slides a thick leather suit from under a pair of jeans. She'd hidden it away for a surprisingly long time, considering how she'd so rarely taken it off before, but now the feel of warm leather was comforting between her fingers.

Just a moment later, she has effectively strapped into the suit, comforting herself with the gentle creaking and the tight compression against her muscles. It's been too long, she decides, feeling a little jolt of adrenaline as she fingers the steel guns in the thigh holsters. She pulls on the last piece of her armor, a flowing trench coat, and stands for a second contemplating the familiarity of her clothing. Walking casually to the window, she pushes it open and lets the cool breeze play with her hair for a moment. One breath, one second of indecision, and she leaps from the window. Landing twenty feet below, barely flinching, she strides out of the yard and climbs into the sports car.

She drives for hours through the countryside, her car windows down and the ambiance of the pastoral region calling out to her. Thinking back, she's never been calmed by cool mountain air so much as by the promise of a hunt in the cool mountain air, but tonight, she just wants to drive. She comes to a red stop light and waits, coming to a full-stop and anticipating the green. She senses it before she sees it; slamming the gas to the floor, Selene pops the clutch out. The car leaps forward, pressing her body against the bucket seats from the force of it, and she rams the clutch in and shifts from first to second. Seconds later, she repeats the motions and moves into third, then fourth, then fifth, then sixth. Within ten seconds, the car pushes 120. Her foot stays on the gas, and she winds along the roads at almost double the speed limit.

After several hours, Selene glances down at the clock on the dash and realizes that it is nearly 3 A.M. She down-shifts slowly, loathing the idea of going back to that Godforsaken house but yet knowing that she should go back. Had they torn the house down and murdered each other, she can't say she'd have been surprised. But parking the car and treading wearily back towards the house, she sees a single light on in the kitchen, and no others. That means they can't have killed each other, she hopes.

She opens the front door stealthily, but has to walk past the opening to the kitchen. Sitting quietly, head in hands, Lucian sits half-asleep at the table. His hair pulled half back, his eyes mostly closed, he jolts awake when her foot hits a loose board.

"Selene," he says, his eyes wider than normal. "I was worried," he says slowly, as if registering the ineffectualness of his anxiety. He stands up and crosses the room to her, sweeping her into his arms and holding her tightly. Her head rests in the hollow of his shoulder, but her arms remain limp beside her.

"I need you, I want you, I love you," he says, and his words burn through her like a searing iron.

"Lucian," she whispers, pushing him away enough so that he can look down at her. "I . . ." a long, awkward pause. She doesn't want to tell him, but at the same time, it's become useless to lead him on any longer. "I'm sorry, I can't . . . I can't go on like this." They study each other for a moment, his eyes cold and harsh with hurt.

"I understand," he says, and turns away. "I'll be gone in the morning."