Pairing/Character: Logan, Veronica, Lilly, Duncan, Logan/Veronica

Rating: NC-17

Warnings: Sex, strong adult language

Spoilers: AU, but there are Season 1 spoilers

Disclaimer: Veronica Mars is not mine.

Author's Note 1: Written for the loveathons "Snowed In" challenge and the vmlibrary "Losin' It" challenge.

Author's Note 2: This is my first ever attempt at smut. The whole thing is different than anything else I've tried writing, so any concrit would be greatly appreciated. Love and thanks to vagajammer for the handholding.

Snowbound

"This is your fault!"

Logan didn't deny the accusation; it was true, after all. Besides, nothing he said would make a difference to the tiny blonde pacing back and forth across the palatial living room. Veronica rode a wave of anger that wasn't about to subside for anyone, much less a mere mortal like himself.

God, the woman was so fucking gorgeous when she was pissed off.

Veronica swept her arms in a dramatic gesture and nearly poked him in the eye. "If you hadn't insisted on this damned trip, I'd be home with my dad instead of trapped here behind a fucking snowbank with the three of you."

Duncan seemed bemused and confused by the vicious, swearing, elemental force that was his naive ex-girlfriend. Logan had always suspected even when Duncan and Veronica were dating, his best friend had never really seen the little blonde, not as she really was, but only as the sweet little innocent he had wanted her to be. Lilly, however, had never had any such illusions and appeared delighted by her friend's outburst.

Logan had known what slept behind the quiet facade, but the moments Veronica let loose her temper were few and far between. And, even through the chaotic crap that had been thrown at them in the six years of their friendship, he had never seen her quite this ticked off. He didn't care if it was the broadening effects of college or the magnitude of her fury that had frayed her reticence and unsheathed her claws. He was sitting back and enjoying the show.

Seeing Veronica in a temper was well worth being verbally flayed alive.

"Unlike all of you," Veronica growled, sweeping her arms to encompass Logan and the Kane siblings, "I like my family, and I look forward to spending the holidays with them. I love my dad, I like my two step-brothers-to-be, and I'm even reasonably fond of my dad's fiancée. I didn't intend to spend our first Christmas as an almost family a thousand miles away snowed in at a fucking chalet in Colorado!"

Logan grinned. "What, you don't like us?"

Veronica whirled and pushed into his face. "I promised my family I'd be home for Christmas, asshole. Y'know, the family that I haven't seen since August, because I chose to stay at Stanford for Thanksgiving, instead of flying home? The family that I still haven't seen because I capitulated to your crazy scheme of flying me to Colorado from college, before I even had a chance to go home to Neptune? The family that, by the way, I miss terribly?"

"You haven't seen us since August either, and you always said we were your family by choice if not blood," Logan pointed out. "Besides, if you were gonna get so homesick for peaceful little Neptune, why didn't you choose a college closer to home?"

Veronica made an incoherent noise that sounded like a strangled scream and clenched her hands into fists.

Okay, so goading that temper? Not a good idea. But fuck, the spark in her eye when she focused her anger on him made the snarky comments entirely worth it. He wanted to do things to her that were not a good idea, not if he wanted to maintain the bonds the four of them had managed to reforge. If he had the slightest hint Veronica felt the same way about him, that making a move wouldn't be sending their years of friendship up in flames, he'd take the chance in a heartbeat and both Kane siblings could go to hell if they were upset.

To Logan's disappointment, the violence of Veronica's displeasure finally prodded Duncan into attempting to defuse the situation. "They'll dig out the roads soon enough," he said, eyeing Veronica warily. "Then we can get to the airport and catch a flight home."

"It's four days before Christmas, Donut. It'll take them, like, days to get the airport running again, and then it'll be forever before us poor stranded passengers can get anywhere near a plane." Lilly gave a feline grin as she played antagonist to her brother's peacemaker. "Nope, we'll be missing all that overblown Christmas pageantry. Whatever shall we do to pass the time?"

"I don't know," Veronica snapped, her irritation redirected from Logan to Lilly. "You don't have any willing playmates under this roof, so your normal options are limited."

Lilly smirked seductively. "Why Veronica Mars, you don't want to play with me? A little girl-on-girl action to warm ourselves up and give a good show to blow the minds of my boys?"

Logan blinked at the image of sweat-slick pale-skinned blondes writhing together Lilly's words had conjured up, unsurprised by the jagged surge of jealousy that fought for dominance with the lust.

"Just because they're male, they aren't yours, Lilly."

"What, you want one?"

"Not everything's about your libido," Veronica retorted sharply. "I just . . . I . . . oh god, forget it. I'm . . . it's the stupid snowstorm." She shrugged, wrapping her arms around herself. "I'll go sulk somewhere else, stop taking it out on all of you."

Logan hated the catch in her voice, the abrupt tumble from crusading angel to unhappy girl as the wave she was riding crashed. He mentally cursed Duncan and Lilly for interrupting the flow of her tirade, for allowing her the time to think her actions through rather than just react. He watched Veronica retreat from the room, only realizing he'd risen to his feet when Lilly laughed.

The nonchalance of his former flame irritated him. "Happy?" He glared at Lilly. "Now she's not pissed, she's upset."

"She's a big girl, Logan." Lilly waved a hand dismissively. "She'll be fine."

"You are such a bitch." Logan said flatly. "Could you possibly show a little less concern for your friend?"

Every time Lilly-the-bitch reared her head, Logan rejoiced in the day--almost three years ago now--he had broken up with her for good. Escaping her machinations and self-centered dismissal of anyone who wasn't her 'fabulous' self had been one of the best things he had ever done.

Lilly just raised an eyebrow. "I could, by going after her when she doesn't want to talk to me. But by all means, you go. Have fun."

Logan glanced over to Duncan, who shrugged. "Don't look at me, man. At this point you know her better than I do."

Logan withheld the comment that he had always known Veronica better than Duncan and went in search of the small blonde.


Veronica huddled on the steps, leaning against the porch rail as she watched the drifting accumulation of snow that trapped them in the mountains until the storm passed through and the road crews could dig them out. Shivering at the bite of snowflakes on her exposed flesh, she stared into the swirling dance of white. The day was really too cold to be outside without a coat, but she was not ready to go back in.

The issue that gnawed at her, that sparked her lashing out at everyone who had put themselves within her reach, wasn't the company. Even after a year and a half of college-compelled long-distance friendship, Lilly was one of her closest friends, sister in everything but blood. Duncan, her first love, had actually become a good friend after she had healed from his boneheaded and sadistic method of protecting her by breaking up without a word. And she was still surprised and gratified Logan was one of her best friends. If she had to spend Christmas with anyone but her family, these would be the people she would choose.

The problem? The last five days had proven her more than friendship-y feelings for Logan had not subsided in the four months apart. Absence making the heart grow fonder amused her as a cliché, but proved to be annoying and painful when the degree of fondness went unreciprocated. Now, with the enforced closeness of being housebound, there would be no way to avoid him. It didn't matter that the winter hideaway could have swallowed her entire house and yard, with room for a few more snacks along the way. Just being under the same roof, knowing he was one of only three other people in the house, sent frissons of panic along her spine.

She refused to torpedo a perfectly good friendship just because she had inconveniently developed warmer feelings. And if Logan found out about her crush, that friendship would most likely founder and ultimately disappear from sight. Every moment she spent under this roof in forced idleness was a moment closer to her slipping and giving herself away.

A moment closer to losing a friendship that meant far, far more than it probably should.

"You don't have to freeze to death to escape us."

And of course, the object of her infatuation had to be a good friend and come to find her.

He pulled the stocking cap he dropped on her head over her ears and draped a ski jacket across her shoulders, then settled beside her, long legs stretched out inches from her own. "The sheriff'll be pissed if we haul his one and only precious daughter home as an ice cube. And it's colder out here than you think."

"My California born and bred body knows exactly how cold it is." She slipped her arms into the jacket, clutching the overlong sleeves and sticking her hands under her arms to warm her numb fingers. "I was just ignoring it in favor of feeling the misery of the season."

"Isn't that 'joy of the season'?" He grabbed her hands and enveloped them in his own, rubbing warmth back in. "Why so cynical? College can't have changed you that much in four months."

She refused to purr as his hands rubbed her skin. "Less joyful when you're a thousand miles away from where you want to be."

"I am sorry for that." Bent over her hands as he was, she couldn't see his face, but his voice was low and contrite. "I never wanted . . ."

"I know you didn't Logan. You couldn't have anticipated a blizzard five days before Christmas. Just ignore the snow-induced grousing." She bumped his shoulder with hers, and tried to inject perkiness into her tone. The last thing she wanted was him feeling guilty over something that wasn't his fault. Or only peripherally his fault, anyway. "And seriously, it was fun. Hanging out with you, Lilly, and Duncan, trying not to break a leg or any other body part skiing . . . it was a great idea, and a totally awesome Christmas gift."

"I'm glad you had fun."

Despite the welcome coat and hat she still shivered, the cold of the porch seeping up through the jeans to numb her butt and the icy wind curling around her face and the gap between her jeans and her socks. Logan let go of her hands and tucked her under his arm. As she leaned into his side she resolutely told herself it was nothing more than a polite gesture against the wintry afternoon.

She closed her eyes and allowed herself to enjoy the arm around her shoulders, the chin resting on the top of her head, the vibrance that was the essence of Logan. She had missed these quiet interludes with him, when he wasn't performing for the crowd or his friends but was relaxed, his usual frenetic energy muted.

Her thoughts were suddenly echoed by his deeper voice. "I missed this. I missed hanging out with you. And Duncan and Lilly, of course. I missed having friends who didn't give a fuck about my parents and all that other crap, but who liked me for me."

If she was flippant, she could avoid the lump in her throat. "Except when you're being a jackass. Then we pretend we don't know you."

"Oh, come on. You love me even when I'm being a jackass. It's all a part of the charm."

It would be more amusing if it weren't the truth. "Is that what they're calling it?" she said with forced levity, trying to ignore the knot ricocheting between her stomach and her heart. "And here I always thought it was sheer obnoxiousness."

"Nope. Charm and good looks, baby."

"I'll take your word."

"Hey, the good looks, at least, are obvious."

"Whereas it takes longer to detect the charm?" The patter of the banter soothed her, even when it skittered on the edges of the things she avoided thinking too hard about.

He shrugged and hugged her tighter. "That's 'cause you're immune. Everyone else knows how charming I am."

"Good thing I'm not everybody else."

"For which I'm forever grateful. I'd be very upset to find you were one of the hordes of sycophants who worship at my feet." She knew there was more coming; she could feel it in the tenor of his voice and the rhythm of his words, and didn't need to see his face to picture the smirk that had stretched across his lips. "Well, the sycophant part, anyway. The worshipping you can do anytime you like."

"I think I'll pass. Your ego's big enough already."

"Your loss."

"Not really losing much, here."

"Your dignity and self respect?"

"Yeah, I'm friends with you and Lilly. Those kinda vamoosed years ago."

His wry laughter caught her by surprise. "Nah, no matter what we've done, you've survived with those remarkably intact. The untouchable Veronica Mars."

"Untouchable?" The word conjured images of cold and distance, a chaste goddess on a pedestal that no one could approach. Did he really see her like that? "Is that what you think of me?" Her voice cracked, and she wanted to bury her face in her hands, to run away and hide from how glaringly she just exposed herself to him. She shouldn't have asked the question, at least not with the trace of hurt that laced those words, the plaintive note that echoed in her ears.

"Veronica . . .?" She kept her head down and her face hidden, but she could feel his eyes boring through the top of her skull as he hesitantly said her name. He touched the back of her neck, pressure feather light, and she trembled more from the feel of his fingers against her skin than the cold of his hands. "You're the strongest person I know," he murmured, his quiet voice resolute. "Honorable, forthright, genuine. Not incorruptible, but you have this . . . this basic decency that shines through all your actions, no matter what crap your friends drag you into. Meeting you was one of the bright points of my life. You're a better friend than I ever deserved, and you have no idea how damned thankful and honored I am you let me into your life."

Veronica knew there were better reactions to Logan's speech than the 'deer in headlights' look she sported, but she'd never felt quite this responseless in her life. She pulled away to study his expression, searching his face for any clue as to how she should respond, if the tension and anticipation that thrummed though her was mutual or if she had finally crossed the line into delusional. He stared down at her, eyes half-lidded and a small, sad smile quirking his lips, but no other readable sign of what he was thinking. Afraid to move, even to blink, she watched him watch her.

She would have stayed frozen in that moment the rest of the day, but her body had other ideas. Away from Logan's warm side, it awoke to the arctic conditions surrounding her and broke into uncontrollable shivers.

Logan blinked and shot to his feet. "Crap, you're freezing. C'mon." He grabbed both of her hands and hauled her up. "You need to go in and get warm. I may have inadvertently trapped you here for the holidays, but I'm not gonna let you get sick on top of that."

Caught between disappointment and relief, Veronica allowed herself to be herded inside.


One thing that always amazed and amused Logan was how much food Veronica could put away. She'd never been one to settle for three leaves of lettuce and a carrot stick. "Good thing I made enough pancakes to feed a small army. They might be enough to feed a tiny Veronica."

"Hey!" Veronica protested through a full mouth. "I'm hungry! And that's petite, not tiny."

"Tiny black hole, maybe." Logan grinned at her death glare, glad to note that shooting dirty looks at him didn't stop her from eating. Veronica with a healthy appetite was a good sign of a happy Veronica.

Duncan sighed, stabbing his fork into his own stack of pancakes. "Veronica, you can't kill him by willpower alone."

"You're right." The chewing diminished the effect of her glower. "Killing him using my hands would be much more satisfying."

"Can't wait to get your hands all over me?" Logan gave her a cheeky grin, squashing down the pictures his brain dragged up at that thought.

"You wish."

"Every day." He couldn't help the comment but he tried to keep it light, to make sure snarky humor muffled the frustrated longing. By the odd look Duncan gave him, he wasn't entirely successful. Veronica didn't seem to notice, but just rolled her eyes and ignored him in favor of her breakfast.

"Can I trust that the two of you are going to play nice now?" Duncan asked, using his best 'responsible adult' impression. "Or do I need to separate you into different corners?"

Logan glanced at Veronica, who was focused on finishing the massive stack of pancakes in front of her, then back at Duncan. "Nah, we're good."

Veronica licked her fork, then tilted her head in that oh-so-cute-and-innocent manner she used to twist every male around her finger. "Since when is he nice?"

"Veronica," Duncan chided.

"I'm always nice." Logan waggled his eyebrows and gave her a comically lecherous smirk.

"Logan!" Now Duncan sounded exasperated.

Veronica raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, in what bizzaro universe is that? The one without shrimp?"

"What the hell has gotten into the two of you this morning?" Duncan asked incredulously, looking from Veronica to Logan. "Watching the ping pong match is making my head hurt."

Veronica suddenly found her pancakes riveting and didn't say anything; Logan just studied Veronica. She'd been quiet all last night, nesting on the couch in a pile of blankets bigger than she was, watching movies the rest of them chose with minimal snark and tolerably good humor. This morning she'd started on the banter, and it hadn't stopped in the hour she'd been downstairs. Logan couldn't tell if the verbal sparring was a sign of happiness, nervous energy, or deflection of the fact he'd almost kissed her yesterday.

Fuck, she probably didn't even realize he'd almost kissed her yesterday.

"I think they're cute, all snarky and feisty." Logan didn't trust Lilly's half smile or the knowing glint in her eye. Whatever she thought she knew, she was trouble. And if she really did know something and opened her mouth to talk about it, he was going to fucking kill her.

Veronica finally raised her head, all innocence personified as she smiled at Logan. "Pancakes are delicious, by the way."

"I'm still shocked that you've gotten so . . . domestic, Logan." Lilly batted her eyelashes and took a deliberate bite. "It's kinda hot."

Logan laughed. "Lil, under the right conditions you think snow is hot."

"Oooh, snow," she moaned, throwing her head back and thrusting her hips forward.

Duncan covered his eyes with his hand, trying not to laugh. "I so didn't need to hear that. Or see it, for that matter."

Logan smirked. "Dude, she's your sister."

"And I've been trying to get her to stop saying things like that for years. Unsuccessfully, I might add."

"She does have a tendency to over share," Veronica said, busying herself with sopping up the rest of her maple syrup with the remaining pancakes.

"All part of my charm."

Duncan dropped his head into his hands. "Lil, we don't want hear more about your charms today," he said, voice muffled. "We really don't."

"What? It'd be, like, a learning experience for everyone. Well, for two of you, anyway. Logan can more than handle himself without my expert guidance."

"Lilly," Veronica snapped out, morphing from innocent and easygoing to bitchy and pissed in 0.3 seconds. "Enough."

Logan would have paid to understand the subtext that rode beneath Veronica's ire and the staring match between the two blondes. Lilly broke the silence first, shrugging and asking in as close to an apology as he'd ever heard her give, "So what are we gonna do today, then?"

"Something outside," Duncan said promptly. "Because at least then, if any of the three of you get obnoxious, I can throw snowballs or dump you in a pile of snow or something."

Veronica's grin of agreement showed a few too many teeth.

Lilly, predictably, bitched about the upcoming cold the entire time they were bundling themselves into warmer clothes, even while she talked trash about how she was going to totally own them. Duncan and Veronica responded with good-natured catcalls and ribbing. Logan mostly remained silent, watching each of them--well, watching Veronica, really, something he spent way too much time doing.

Sunglasses were a necessity in the sun-drenched world of white they tromped into. Light refracted off of the snow and ice-draped trees and blanked landscape, creating an untouched, magical world. Veronica skipped forward, jumping into hip-deep snow and laughing as she tried to wade her way through.

"Now this is cool!" she called, twisting back to grin at the three still tentatively stepping into the deep snow. "Much funkier than the ski resorts." She fell backward, flapping her arms and scissoring her legs to make a snow angel. Logan watched, entranced by her enthusiasm.

Which was why he missed seeing the snowball that thumped into the side of his head, shedding snow down his collar.

Lilly laughed delightedly and bounced. "Told ya! I am so gonna nail your asses."

Veronica's snowball hit her between the eyes, and started an all out war of flying snow.

After the initial free-for-all skirmishes that left all of them more snow-covered than not, Veronica and Duncan imparted organization to the battle. They structured the competition, complete with teams divided by sex, elaborate defenses, and as many rules as they could agree on.

Three hours later no clear winner had emerged. Logan and Duncan may have been bigger and could throw farther, but what Veronica and Lilly lacked in size and strength, they more than made up for with an uncanny aim and the sheer viciousness of their attacks. The taunts and trash talking flew as fast and furious as the snowballs, and Logan knew if he and Duncan were to maintain any sense of self-respect, they needed to come out on top.

Logan lobbed a snowball at Lilly, who ducked easily, and then threw a fastball at Veronica that brushed the edges of her hair. He just barely avoided the missile she shot back in retaliation.

"Dude, cover for me," Duncan whispered, crouching next to Logan behind their protective wall of snow. "I'll sneak around, try to take them out once and for all."

Logan nodded and pulled a pile of snowballs within easy reach. "Put those years of soccer to good use, man. I'll distract them, keep 'em from knowing you're even gone."

He watched Duncan take a wide arc into the trees, then turned and popped up, ducking and dodging missiles while he tossed snowballs rapid-fire in the direction of the girls. He traded accuracy for numbers in his bombardment, hurling as many snowballs as possible over their defensive wall but not worrying about hitting an actual target.

Three successive snowballs splattered against his head and shoulders, and he spun to see Veronica with an armful of packed snow.

"You should pay attention to the locations of your opponents." She grinned and hit him with another snowball.

He cocked his head, listening to Lilly yelling at her brother, who had evidently snuck up on her even more successfully than Veronica had on him. "So should Lilly."

"Crap."

He took advantage of her distraction to tackle her into the snow, both of them losing hats and sunglasses as they tumbled to the ground.

Intent on neutralizing the enemy and winning the snowball fight, he hadn't stopped to consider what a monumentally bad idea this was. Not until he felt her under him, laughing and squirming and mashing snow into his hair and face, did he realize that this was bad. Very, very bad. Monumentally, tempt him into doing something irrevocably stupid, bad.

He allowed her to flip him over, and fought to keep his eyes from rolling back in his head at the feel of her straddling him. Nothing else mattered, not the cold of the ground he lay on, not the snow melting under his collar and beneath his gloves and socks, not even the knowledge that this could lead to the most fucking idiotic thing he had ever done. Powerless to resist, he pulled off a glove and reached up to tuck errant strands of blonde behind her ears. He ran a single finger along her jaw, skimming over the soft, cold-reddened skin. Her hair cascaded forward as she leaned over him, propping herself up by her arms. The bright sun haloed her when she leaned closer still, their foreheads nearly touching. He breathed in the white clouds she breathed out and combed his hand through her hair, caressing the back of her neck.

He thought he saw, he hoped he saw, a question darken her eyes, a question he desperately wanted to answer, and lifted his head towards hers.

"'Ronica, my loser brother totally tagged me! I hope you nailed Logan to the wall, 'cause he so needs to be taken down."

Veronica's eyes widened and she stared at him in panic, then pushed backwards and clambered upright.

"Fuck." Mentally cursing Lilly for interrupting, Duncan for not distracting his sister for ten more seconds, and the whole situation for being so fucking frustrating, he let his head thump back to the ground.


"So what'cha doing?"

Logan. She hadn't been hiding from him, precisely. Hiding would have involved being some place he couldn't hope to find her. Stretched out on her bed, game system in hand, could not have been called hiding. Avoiding, maybe.

She had reason. This morning, giddy from the joy of the snowball fight and the man she sat astride, she'd almost kissed him.

She couldn't tell if he'd noticed.

The object of her concern still stood in the doorway, waiting for an answer. "Rhetorical much?" Veronica said without looking up, lifting the blue Nintendo DS and waving it in his direction.

She heard his footsteps as he entered the room uninvited, the bed shaking when he flopped down beside her. His breath warm against her ear, he looked over her shoulder at the screen. "You're playing Nintendogs!"

"I emailed you that I'd gotten addicted." And it was entirely his fault. She'd been bitching about missing Backup while at school, since the dorms were distinctly anti-dog. He'd retaliated by getting her Nintendogs and a game system to play it on, telling her that a virtual dog was better than no dog. Touched by the gesture, she had resolved to play the game at least once.

She'd logged in over two hundred hours in the last four months.

"I know. I just . . . " He shrugged. "I didn't know if you'd actually play it."

Now she actually looked up at him. "What, you expected me to abandon my gift by the side of the road with a sign saying 'free to a good home'?" She smiled when he ducked his head. "Besides, it was a sweet idea."

He shrugged again and twisted the comforter cover in his hands. "Yeah. Whatever. I'm glad you liked it."

This awkward, almost bashful, Logan was the antithesis of his usual suave confidence. She studied him, worried. Did he know she'd wanted to kiss him, and was that what made him uncomfortable, trying to figure out how to let her down gently? For a moment during their tussle there was something in his eyes, in the way he'd touched her face, that suggested he saw her as more than a friend. Or was she reading intentions that she wanted, not ones that were there?

She pushed those thoughts away. "Duncan still talking to Meg on the phone?" she asked, trying to act casual.

"Yeah. All cooing and 'I love you's and 'I miss you's and sickly sweet crap." He snorted and rolled onto his back, waving his hands for emphasis.

"They're cute."

"They're so fucking teen movie perfection, it's scary. The most popular boy in school and his perky cheerleader girlfriend, on their way to the white picket fence and two and a fraction progeny."

"On the surface. There's always more going on than we can see." She even knew what much of it was, but those stories were not hers to tell.

"Yeah."

She knew he understood the sharp division between perception and reality. He had his own secrets. Behind the movie-star perfect family lay a darker reality that led to infidelity and suicide. Little things led her to suspect the wounds ran even deeper, darker, and more painful, but he'd never directly confided in her. She respected him too much to push for answers he was not yet ready to give.

She wondered if he would ever be ready, and if not pushing the issue had been a mistake.

"Why did you two break up?" Logan asked abruptly, breaking the silence.

It was one of those questions from out of left field that should have seemed strange, but didn't. She turned her head to find him watching her intently. "Duncan never told you?"

"No, just that he was breaking it off and he didn't want to talk about it."

She'd wondered about that for three years. If Duncan was going to confide in anyone, it would have been his best friend. Somehow it eased the last vestiges of pain to find she hadn't been the only one who'd been shut out. Lilly had known, but Lilly had had her own ways of weaseling information from her victims, and Veronica had forgiven her a long time ago. Logan had stood by her through the fallout from those revelations, even though she had never confided all the causes. He deserved to the truth.

"He thought I was his sister." Enough time had passed that she could say the words, stripped bare of any emotion. Eventually enough time would pass that she could feel the same.

"What the fuck!" The bed rocked as Logan whipped around. He stared at her with wide eyes, mouth agape in shock. His reaction lay to rest any remaining doubts he'd been oblivious to the reasons behind the breakup.

She expanded on her first statement. "Celeste told him that Jake and my mother had an affair and I was his sister."

"So the bitch lied to break you up?" He sounded relieved.

"No."

He blinked, then blinked again, mouth opening then closing as he tried to absorb this and figure out what to say. A rare occurrence, Logan Echolls without words. "So . . . then you two . . .?"

"Paternity test showed he wasn't." Thank God. She didn't know what she would have done if her father had not proven to be her father. The whole situation had been fucked up enough without that additional agony.

"But they . . . fuck." He fell back on the bed. "That's still . . . twisted."

"Mmm. Yeah. Especially when you consider what I almost did with my almost brother." She could find dark amusement in the situation now, from the perspective of time; back then she'd been torn between retching and crying.

"Fuck."

"You said that already. Several times, in fact."

"Is that why your mother left?"

She had to give him credit, he put facts together fast. Of course, it helped that he'd supported her through the aftermath of her mother's abandonment and he'd probably always known there was more to the story than she'd been willing to explain at the time. "That and the drinking. Which are probably the same thing, anyway."

He touched her shoulder. "I'm sorry."

"For what?"

"For not forcing Duncan to tell me what was going on at the time. For not being there for you when you found out." He paused. "When did you find out, anyway?"

"Remember when Lilly and I didn't talk for three months?"

"Going into our Junior year?" He asked. She nodded. "Yeah."

"That's why were weren't talking. She let slip about it during an argument about something else entirely, and I realized she'd known for months. I was kinda pissed."

"I don't know if I would have told you," he said slowly. "I'm not sure if I'd've wanted to take the chance on destroying your world unless I had to."

"Then when I found out about it I wouldn't have talked to you for three months."

He made one of his lightning quick emotional shifts, going from concerned and thoughtful to full bore mischievous. "Oh, come on, you'd never have been able to resist me."

"Contrary to your warped certainty in your powers of attraction, you are perfectly resistible, Logan." She had to believe that. She just had to. Trying to derail any possible destinations the teasing conversation could lead, she switched back to the original subject. "Why ask about Duncan and me now? It's been three years, and we've never talked about it."

"Maybe that's why. I . . . back then, it was you and Duncan who were the perfect couple. And then you two broke up, and now he's with Meg, but you never really dated anyone seriously after the breakup . . ."

"Unlike you, who resolved to get over Lilly by dating as many girls as possible." The comment came out much sharper than she intended.

"I was fifteen," he defended, unrepentant. "It sounded good at the time. It was good at the time."

"And what, now you've grown up and discovered the bitter emptiness of casual sex? Started searching for the one woman in a million that has half a chance of making an honest man out of you?" She closed her eyes against the harshness of her own voice, gratingly bitchy, cynical, and distinctly jealous. Fuck. From someone whose goal had been to hijack the conversation away from potentially too-revealing conversational pitfalls, that had been the exact wrong words to say and tone to take. Now what? Deflect? Apologize? Add another snarky quip and hope the pit she'd dug herself wasn't the gaping hole she thought it was?

Veronica lifted her head to look at him, only to see his eyes burning into hers, expression intent as if she'd suddenly become the focus of his entire being. Moving slowly, never breaking eye contact, Logan reached out and brushed fingers down her cheek; she couldn't stop the hitch in her breathing when he finally touched her skin. He lightly cupped her chin and inched forward until his forehead rested against hers, noses nearly bumping together. Holding her captive with his eyes, he closed the distance between their lips.

She clutched his shoulders as the only solid point in a room that spun, falling into sensation at the touch of his soft lips on hers, the dance of his tongue against her own. She'd been kissed before, certainly, but it had never been like this. Those had been pleasant explorations in hormones; this, a massive tide that all but shut down her brain and dragged her under. He drew back and she gasped, coming up for air and composure and sanity.

The wonder in his eyes, a reflection of her own awe, stunned her.

"Logan . . .?" She trailed off, not sure what to ask or how to ask it. How did she open discussion about the single best kiss she had ever experienced, the culmination of months of shifting and repressed emotions?

Something in his face changed, hardened, and he closed his eyes. When he opened them, they were too bright and too pained. "I shouldn't . . . we shouldn't . . . this . . . God." He rolled away and raked a hand through his hair. "Veronica . . . I'm sorry."

Before she could string the words together to question or respond, he was out the door.

"Fuck," she breathed, then growled out louder, "Fuck!"

Logan running away? Logan never ran away from anything; his style was to jump into situations with little thought and even less care for consequences. She had never known a single instance where his fight or flight response had triggered flight and not fight.

She didn't know what his problem was, and she didn't care. Long bottled up feelings had erupted into the open, and the ball was now squarely in her court.

She was damned well not going to let that man escape without the fight of his life.


Dark trees stretched bare branches towards a dull grey sky, reaching for a sun hidden behind a shroud of clouds. The snow, so white and pristine the day before, was dingy in the absence of the sun and had been defiled by the tracks of countless animals, both human and otherwise. Logan had left one such trail on his early morning trek--he refused to call it flight--from the house.

He perched on the large rock that had been his outpost since dawn, staring moodily into the creek he had barely stopped himself from tumbling into and trying to untangle the snarl of what the hell was going on in his head. He had kissed Veronica. He should be over the fucking moon, dancing with joy, and every fucking other cliché that was created to celebrate a moment like this. He'd known for over a year he was sliding out of friendship and into something deeper, and he had just gotten the first sign that she felt the same.

Sign? Fuck, that kiss had been a revelation.

And maybe that was the problem.

Quickly, passionately, irrevocably, he had fallen in love with Veronica Mars. But it was one thing to long for her and fantasize about them being together when there wasn't a chance in hell of it actually happening, and another to actually make a move, to try to bring his dream into reality. She was fifth in their class at Neptune High, at Stanford on a full ride, brilliant, funny, honest, warm, giving. He . . . he was none of those things. The poor little rich boy, off to spend his father's millions and dishonor his name. What the fuck did he have to offer her? Tragedy and heartbreak.

He was his father's son, and his father's legacy was one of destruction and pain.

That basic decency he so admired in Veronica? Sooner or later he and his world would drag her down and tarnish her, leaving her a shell of the woman she should have been, filled only with misery and regrets. It would kill him to know he had been the one to hurt her when all he wanted to do, all he had ever wanted to do, was protect her. Giving in to this insane desire that consumed him was decidedly not protecting her, but opening her up and leaving her exposed to the demons that would claw out her heart and steal her soul.

Fuck what he wanted. For once in his life he would be the grownup, do what was right, and let her go. He had to stop whatever lay between them before it really started; the memory of that searing kiss alone nearly rendered him powerless to step away. More than that taste, and he would merrily damn them both to hell, and dance the entire trip down. He had to cut her loose now, or he might never be able to.

Fuck, if she knew what lay in store for her, she'd be running as far and as fast as she could; he'd be doing her a favor by chasing her away. Possibly losing her as a friend was better than being the cause of her destruction, it had to be.

He longed for some physical target of his turmoil, something to pound until the ache in his arms and the burn of his knuckles settled everything into numb calm. He fucking hated this whiny emo crap that muddled his brain. If this was what maturity tasted like, after the long swallow burned through his gut and ate him hollow, he'd never take another drink.

All he had to do was let her go, then keep her away. A simple little thing, right? In his eighteen years, he'd become adept at keeping others at arms length; he could score Olympic gold in the event. Of course, it wasn't that easy. It could never be that easy. This was Veronica, stubborn little hellcat who had never met a question she didn't want answered.

And, as if on cue, there she was to tempt and torture him.

Soundless she might be on solid ground, but in the woods Veronica was out of her element. The crunching and swishing of her trudge through the snow warned that his attempts to find peace were about to be shattered, giving him plenty of time to steel himself against what he knew had to do.

"Hey."

Her voice was soft, just a little hesitant, and entirely too welcome. There was no fucking way a single word should have that much power. He forced disinterest into his own, refusing to turn to her. "Hey."

"You missed the Dr. Who season finale last night."

"And that is why the gods created TiVo."

"I wondered where you were."

He answered her gentle concern with flat rebuff. "Alone, like I wanted to be."

"You took off before breakfast."

"Yeah, and there was a reason. That alone thing I mentioned? You do remember, right? It was like, two seconds ago."

Undeterred by his harshness, she pressed on. "Are we going to talk about it?"

Anger started to kick deep in his gut. For once could she just let something go? He was doing this for her; why couldn't she see that and make it easier on him? Why should he be the only one to make the sacrifice? "What is there to talk about?"

"So the kiss last night? Nothing but an aberration?" A trace of impatience and more than a trace of sarcasm laced her tone.

"It was a kiss. Nothing more. A momentary flight of fancy, never to be bothered with again." Nothing more, because he would never let it be more, and a flight of fancy that would haunt him for the rest of his life; telling her that part would be counterproductive to his self-imposed mission.

"Really."

He finally pushed to his feet and turned, glaring at her. "What the fuck do you want me to say?"

"Something resembling the truth might be nice."

He deliberately used his much greater height to loom over her. Fuck it. He'd tried to do this as gently as he could, but she had to push the issue. All the frustration and growing anger he'd been trying to keep capped boiled over and poured into his calculatedly cruel words. "The truth? Fine. You're not worth the time and effort it would take to break you in. Sorry to get your hopes up."

He didn't get the reaction he expected, hoped for, and feared. She just stared at him, her head tilted and her eyes thoughtful, not running, not upset, not even surprised or particularly impressed. When she finally spoke, it was with the same reasonable intonation she would use with a particularly stupid six year old. "Logan, when you're deliberately setting out to drive someone away, it helps if they haven't, like, known you for six years and seen you pull bullshit like this before. Get over yourself."

"Fuck." Bitter laughter caught in his throat at his subconscious sabotage. He rolled his shoulders and ran a hand through his hair. Of course she knew him well enough to recognize and call him on the crap he was spewing, just as she was stubborn enough not to give up and walk away. He loved these things about her, even if right now they were driving him insane.

"Talk, Logan," she ordered. "You never run from anything, yet you bolted out of my room last night like the hounds of hell had just put you on their meal plan. Just . . . was it something I did?" He watched her iron will waver, her insecurities suddenly rearing their head and twisting around her. It hurt to watch her fight for emotional control.

"It's not you." Despite all his resolutions to drive her away, he had to give her that much. He wanted to touch her, to reassure her, and twisted his hands into the sleeves of his coat to keep himself from reaching out.

"Then what?" she asked. "I want you. Do you have a problem with it?"

The part of him that hungered for her clawed against the morally responsible adult he was attempting to be. "Getting what you want would only get you hurt," he ground out.

"Stop trying to wrap me in cotton and protect me!" She shoved him in the chest in sudden fury, fingers curling into his coat like she wanted to tear through to his heart underneath. "Damn it, Logan, you know better! You've been treating me like an equal for years. You and Lilly are the only two people who don't give a fuck what I should or shouldn't be, but accept me for who I am, and that's what I want."

"Then go fuck Lilly."

Her eyes narrowed. "She tried, but I don't swing that way. I'd rather fuck you."

Lust flared through him and he dug fingernails into his palms to distract himself from the scenes that played through his head. He had to end this soon, or he wouldn't end it at all. "What makes you think I'd want to? You're a bright girl. Get a fucking clue and go away."

"Back to this line again? I'm not going anywhere until you give me a straight answer."

"What is it going to take, Veronica?" he said desperately. "I. Don't. Want. You." Even as he said the words, he knew his voice and body language screamed the opposite.

As bright and perceptive as always, she understood the subtext as clearly as he. "The whole looking at me like you could eat me alive? It really sells your disinterest."

"I'm not a nice person," he warned, his willpower eroding.

"Yeah, I got that," she said with equal parts humor and bite. "The verbally abusive dickhead thing is a great indicator."

He flinched as the barb cut deeper than she probably intended. "You don't know who I am," he said in a final effort to warn her off. "Not really."

"Six years, Logan? Give me some fucking credit. You think it's possible I've known you for that long and not had a fucking clue who you were before I fell for you?"

The 'fell for you', an open admission that this thing between them spanned more than the physical, punched through the last of his resistance. He closed his eyes and sucked in a lungful of cold air. Fuck attempts at nobility and the fear of a destruction that might never happen. It was time to throw caution to the winds and live for the now.

"What I feel for you . . . it's bigger than high school friends having a college fling, parting ways when lives change," he said with a level of calm intensity unusual even to him. "I may not be able to let you go."

"Who said I'd want you to?"

He nodded and opened his eyes. She stood six feet away, arms wrapped around herself, expression combative as she braced to return whatever he threw at her. Now, finally, he could allow himself to unreservedly appreciate the soft curves almost disguised by the bulky grey coat, the adorable tilt of her head and glint in her eye that betrayed her busy mind working out her next plan of attack, the curve of her lip in a wide smile she couldn't quite suppress. "You're mine," he murmured. "I don't share, and I'm not particularly nice about it."

"I always thought a jealous streak was kinda hot."

This last was the hardest thing he'd ever said, bringing out into the light things he'd conditioned himself to shove into the darkest corner of his soul, but he owed her this much of a warning. "My family . . . has a history of abuse. Physical and emotional."

"Logan-"

He ignored her interruption and continued on. "That puts me at a high risk for continuing the cycle. If I ever," he focused on the depths of the forest, not able to look at her and say these words, consider these possibilities, "if I ever cross that line. You leave. No matter what lies between us."

"You'd never hurt me."

His heart clenched at her unwavering faith, but it wasn't enough. "Promise me, Veronica. I need to know-"

"I'll kick your ass," she said impatiently. "Then I'll shove counseling down your throat, whether you like it or not. I won't stand by and let you hurt me, but I won't let you go through it alone. I won't abandon you just because you get on some nobility kick and think I should leave for my own good."

The tightness in his chest and stinging in his eyes felt like love and hope and happiness.

"Is the question and answer period done? 'Cause I'm telling you-"

He silenced her with his mouth, cupping his hands around her face as he explored her with lips, tongue, teeth. Her arms locked around his waist, hands restlessly stroking up and down his back. His world narrowed to her and him and the overwhelming wildfire that flared between them. He ran his hands along her shoulders, down her arms, pulling her as close as he could. Desperate to get beneath the bulky layers and touch skin, he slipped his hands under her coat and reached up to find her back.

She gasped, laughing against his mouth. "Cold! Logan, your hands are cold."

"They'll warm up soon enough," he breathed, trailing fingers along her spine. Her own hands dipped, found his ass, and then traveled upwards, pressing icy paths into the small of his back. He jerked and shuddered, caught between the bliss of her hands on bare skin and the burn of her cold fingers.

"Enough?" Her eyes sparkled with mischief.

"Point taken." He grinned down at her, pulling her hands out from under her coat and pressing a gentle kiss to her forehead.

"Dinner, my room?"

He took her both her hands, walking backwards and pulling her back towards the house. "I think I can be convinced."


The transition should be harder somehow. There should be some period of adjustment, of reminding herself that she didn't need to hesitate before touching him, that she didn't need to hide her appreciation for his lean form, that she didn't need to stop herself before darting in and dropping a kiss on his mouth. Going from close friend she was hopelessly falling for to boyfriend she adored should be weird or awkward or something other than the most natural, normal thing in the world.

"What?" he asked, glancing at her from across the bed where he lay munching on the last of the chips. "You have that crinkle between your eyes that says you're thinking deep, serious thoughts, and that smile that says they're all about me."

"Aren't you surprised this," she waved between Logan and herself, "is so . . . simple? That going from friends to a relationship isn't more of struggle?"

He smirked. "I can struggle if you want. Y'know, if it makes things easier for you."

She smirked back, and said dryly, "You already did, after I tracked you down to where you were emo moping."

He stiffened, rising to his knees. "Hey! I wasn't moping. I was-"

"Trying to be all sacrificial and protect me from yourself?"

"Bite me." Then, more seriously, "It's not gonna be all puppy dogs and roses, Veronica. Eventually I'll do something fucked up, you'll be unhappy, tears and violence could ensue."

"If I wanted puppy dogs and roses, I'd find someone like Duncan." She considered the fallout of that relationship, and added, "Except without the whole almost-incest angle, of course. That kinda leaves the puppies bleeding and lifeless."

The way he buried his hands in his sleeves betrayed his concern, so she crawled to him and ran a hand through the soft brown spikiness of his hair. "I know what I'm getting into, Logan," she said softly. "I didn't fall in love with you because this thing between us was going to be smooth and painless. I fell because you were you, issues and angst and all."

He pulled her closer, one hand between her shoulders and the other on the back of her head as he angled in for a kiss. The world dropped away, her entire existence defined by the play of his lips against hers. An eternity later and yet not nearly long enough, he drew away and leaned his forehead against hers. "This is why it's simple, being able to kiss you. I've wanted to do this to you for a year. It was stopping myself that was so fucking difficult."

"A year?"

He nodded. "Right before Christmas last year, when you were standing under the mistletoe at the annual Echolls Christmas extravaganza. I realized I wanted to kick the crap out of the guy that got to you first."

"Eight months." She brushed fingers down the strong line of his jaw and the soft skin at the side of his neck, reveling in the fact that she could touch him now without fear of giving herself away. "When I realized we were graduating and going different directions, and if you fled Neptune for good like you always vowed I might never see you again."

"Why didn't you say something?"

"Why didn't you?"

He laughed and kissed her on the nose. "For the same reason you didn't?"

She nuzzled into his collarbone and imprinted his scent on her soul, cedar and cinnamon overlaying something wild and musky and male. "We're both idiots," she said, her voice muffled. "All the time we wasted, when we could have been doing things like this."

"Mmmh," he murmured in agreement, running hands down her sides and around her hips. "Not that any time with you was wasted, mind you. Just that we never had the opportunity to also explore any of the other, pleasurable pursuits we can now."

"Then lets not waste any more of it." She raised her head and sat up until she could look him in the eye. She wondered if she was supposed be scared or worried about the step she was about to take. She wasn't. All she felt was love and lust and an immense trust that he would do this right. "Show me. Show me everything."

His hands stilled. "I want you for more than just sex."

"Don't be more of an idiot than you've already been, Logan. I wouldn't want you so much if you did." Her heart thumped hard as she watched his battle between lust and control play out in his eyes. "But I've had you as a friend all this time and ached for more; I want to finally find out what it's like having you as a lover."

The words charged the air between them. His nod, when at last he gave it, was carefully controlled. "I want that, too."

She found the bottom edge of his soft green sweater and dragged it up and over his head, then drew back so she could appreciate the exposed skin. She relished the thought that every toned, tanned inch was now hers.

"Like what you see?"

"You've been working out." She glided her hands over his well developed chest and down to his similarly defined abdomen, enjoying his intake of breath and involuntary shudders. "You weren't nearly this cut last summer."

"I had to do something to ease the frustration." He exhaled suddenly as she explored lower, barely ducking under the waistband of his jeans. "I couldn't have you, and I didn't want anybody else."

Fascinated by his reactions, she traced the soft denim over his thigh, then edged closer to the rapidly expanding budge.

"Fuck," he bit out, and grabbed her wrist. "If you do that I won't last long. Let me . . . I want to give this to you."

As soon as she gave her assent he took her lips, hands rubbing abstract patterns that tingled on her skin. He slowly worked his way from her waist to her shoulders, dragging her sweater up to expose bare flesh. He broke away long enough to pull the sweater over her head and toss it to the side. When he laid her back on the bed, his mouth trailing wet kisses and nips along her throat and under her chin, her eyes all but rolled back as the tingles gave way to burn. Quickly, expertly, he managed to divest her of her bra, then sat back to stare at her.

He smiled softly at her questioning look. "I never expected to see this. I just wanted to memorize how gorgeous you look right now." Before she could respond he dove back down and took a nipple into his mouth, and all coherent words, all coherent thought, disappeared.

She dimly noticed the unbuttoning of her jeans, the denim pushed down over her hips, and she gasped as a new heat streaked through her when his fingers dipped beneath her underwear and brushed her clit. His fingers danced lower, finding her opening, and her hips thrust involuntarily as he worked a single finger in. He growled, deep and low, and she felt her jeans and underwear being dragged the rest of the way off.

She couldn't think and could barely breathe with the movement of his fingers against her, pushing in and circling around, driving her forward to combustion. Her hands clutched convulsively at the comforter beneath, scrabbling for purchase, fighting for solid ground as she started to fall apart. Her world dropped out from under her as she shattered into sensation.

When she came back to herself he was soothing the last tremors from her body, dropping kisses along her abdomen and chest as he worked his way up to her head.

"Hi," he murmured, his expression exultant. He brushed the hair from her face, spreading it back on the bed.

"Hi," she sighed, smiling, and lifted her head to kiss him. She gathered him closer, enjoying the feel of his skin sliding over hers and the play of the muscles of his back under her hands. She ran her fingers lower, encountering the waistband of his jeans. "You're wearing too many clothes."

He quickly shucked his jeans and underwear, trailing kisses along her jaw all the while. "Are you sure?" he whispered against her throat, mouth and tongue tracing paths of fire against her skin.

She laughed, wondering how, after the orgasm he had drawn from her, he could still ask, and loving him more for doing so. "Haven't we waited long enough?"

"Beautiful and impatient are such a hot combination." She closed her eyes as he stroked downwards again, finding the sensitive bundle of nerves with the pads of his fingers. The tearing of foil was nearly lost as the banked flames roared to life and consumed her. She could feel him against her, his cock nudging her folds, following the path of his fingers not long before. Pushing in, waiting, then a thrust. A sharp pain penetrated the burn of pleasure, but not as much as she expected, not with the ecstasy of his fingers circling her clit and the satisfaction of feeling him cradled inside her where he belonged.

He gave her a long moment to adjust to the feel of him between her thighs, then withdrew with aching slowness, sending sparks across a whole new set of nerves. By the time he surged forward once again, she had wrapped her arms around his shoulders, desperate to drag him back into her. She moaned as her hips met his, his cock hitting a place deep within that sent spikes of lightning through her system.

He started moving and she matched his rhythm, whimpering against his mouth every time he slid home. Never still, his hands stroked and soothed every inch of her skin, tracing patterns of love and possession. He murmured endearments and encouragements against into her lips, words of love and lust and wonder that inflamed her as much as the friction of his body against hers. Her control snapped and her body arched and exploded, convulsing against his final ragged thrusts.

As soon as she regained sense and mobility she wrapped herself around him, savoring the weight and heat of his body languid against her own and idly kneading the muscles in his shoulders, perfectly content to stay right there for the rest of her life.

He laughed, a rumble that shivered against her. "You," he whispered, pressing a kiss against her collarbone, "are amazing."

"I am, aren't I?" She grinned up at him, happier than she could ever remember being. "You're pretty damned amazing yourself. And you did do all the work."

"This time." He dipped his head to kiss her lips, then rolled to his side, pulling her against him. "Next time I'll let you do whatever you want to me."

She stretched like a cat, muscles popping against new and interesting aches, then curled into his chest, her hands playing over his abdomen. All hers. Finally. "Good. I'll hold you to that."


The clock had long since passed midnight and Christmas Eve had come. Logan hadn't stopped smiling in the hours he had been holding Veronica. She was the most precious, beautiful, wonderful creature he had ever met and she was here, asleep in his arms. If this was some sort of dream, he never wanted to wake up. He knew he should sleep, but just in case this was somehow a mirage, he wanted to be able to remember this day for as long as he lived.

Veronica was his. He pushed the concept around in his mind, savoring the reality of it.

It wouldn't be easy. She was at Stanford and he was over 300 miles away at UCLA, but that obstacle could be overcome with phones, emails, cars and planes. They were such different people, from such different backgrounds, but years of friendship had given them a common ground to work from. And if having her lost him friendships he'd valued for years? Well, the small blonde snuggled trustingly in his arms was more important than anyone else could ever be.

Despite all his fears, maybe they could make it. Making it was the only possible outcome left to him. It would take an act of god to drag him away from her now, and even then he would fight to keep her.

The door banged open and Lilly swung into the room. "Hey, Veronica, get up! You'll never guess--oh." She stopped and leaned against the door, studying the bed with amusement.

"Get the fuck out, Lilly," he growled, pissed that she was interrupting Veronica's slumber and intruding on what had been a perfect moment.

Veronica stirred, opening sleepy eyes. "Lilly?" she asked groggily. "What is it?"

"My, my, Veronica Mars. Whatever have you been up to?"

Veronica returned Lilly's smirk with a glare, securing the comforter against her chest. "Claiming what's mine. Now why the hell did you wake us up?"

Grinning with delight at her blatant declaration, Logan pulled the comforter to cover both of them and wrapped his arms around her stomach, resting his chin on her shoulder. She intertwined her hands with his and leaned back against him.

Lilly just raised an eyebrow. "Well I was coming to tell you they've finally gotten around to digging out the roads, and Dad's sending the corporate jet to carry us home in time for Christmas. We've got, like, two hours before the limo gets here. If I'd had any idea what I'd find, I'd have woken you up just to see the two of you all snuggled together."

"Great, Lilly," Veronica said. "Message given and understood. Now go. Away. And close the door behind you."

"Oh, I can tell when I'm not wanted." Lilly sashayed through into the hall, saying over her shoulder, "Congrats, you two. It's about time you guys saw what was right in front of you." The door shut on Lilly's laughter.

"Claimed?" he questioned once he was sure Lilly was out of earshot. "I really have to introduce you to the art of the hickey."

"I thought the claw marks I left on your shoulders were good enough for the moment." She sighed and lay her cheek against his. "I wish we could stay here forever."

"Three days ago you couldn't wait to get home for Christmas."

She turned to face him, smiling as she rubbed at the stubble on his chin. "Three days ago I was trying to keep from throwing myself at you, and was terrified by the close proximity."

"Now you can throw yourself at me anytime you want." He grinned lecherously and fell backwards onto the bed, dragging her on top of him.

She sat straddling his hips, grinning wickedly. "And I intend to."

Staring up at her, he realized something he had never expected to discover: Veronica passionate and in love with him was even more gorgeous than Veronica pissed off. As she lowered herself into his arms, he prepared to enjoy the best Christmas he'd ever had.