SWEET SURRENDER

By Margaret Price

CHAPTER ONE

IT STARTED OUT NORMAL ENOUGH

Athens, Greece
September 2003

Dorian wasn't sure how he had gotten himself into his present predicament. He thought back on what he had said and how he had said it.

It had all started out normal enough. No different than any of the other hundreds of times the Major was around, any of the hundreds of other suggestive comments he had made. It was the Major himself who was the problem. He was so totally unpredictable, something that was not helped by the fact that the Earl had not bothered to gauge his mood when he walked through the door. He had been so shocked that the Major was in the same country that he just reacted automatically, as did the Major. Unfortunately, the officer's reactions could range from an annoyed snort to physical violence. It was the latter that was the cause of Dorian's current discomfort.

The Major was behind the Earl, an arm locked across his throat. He also had one of the Earl's arms twisted behind his back. "You bloody pervert, I should break your fucking neck!"

Before or after you throttle me? Dorian thought as he pulled vainly at the arm across his throat with his free hand. "Major, I can't breathe."

"Good!"

Since struggling was obviously useless, Dorian gave up and let his free hand drop to his side. To his surprise, the moment he did this, the pressure on his throat eased up ever so slightly, as did the pressure on the arm twisted behind his back. After a short pause, he said calmly, "Well, what are you waiting for, Major? I am literally at your mercy."

The baffled Major responded with a snarl.

"You didn't honestly think I was gonna carry out my…um, threat, did you?" Dorian asked cautiously. He wasn't sure why the Major had come to his hotel suite. To berate him over some infraction, real or imagined, concerning his mission, presumably. Before the man could get up a full head of steam, the Earl had cut him off, stating that the officer looked so incredibly sexy when he was angry that he wanted to throw him to the floor and ravage him. Dorian wasn't surprised that the Major had taken exception to the idea. It was the startling thought that the man might actually think he was capable of doing it.

"What do you think?" Klaus growled.

Dorian chose his next words carefully. The Major may have stopped choking him, but he still had him in an iron grip and could just as easily start up again. "I think you're considerably stronger than I am. You've been trained in hand-to-hand combat and can fire a Magnum with one hand." The grip on him eased up a bit more and Dorian pressed on. "I watched you take on Mischa the Cub in a fist fight that ended in a draw. And he's twice your size."

The Major gave a snort at the memory. He would've liked to have beaten the Commie into a bloody pulp that had to be scraped from the road.

"Taking all that into consideration, Major, how could I possibly hope to take you on?" Dorian paused, adding, "In a fair fight, at any rate."

The Earl felt the Major's body stiffen in response to this, the arm at his throat tightening ever so slightly. Clearly, he had struck a nerve and made a conscious effort not to react. So long as he maintained a defenseless posture, the Major seemed disinclined to hurt him. You are such a dichotomy, aren't you, my dearest Major?

"Are you challenging me to a fight?" came the incredulous inquiry.

Dorian considered a moment. "Yes, I believe I am."

"Do you want me to kill you?"

This actually caused Dorian to give a small laugh. "No. But I'm not sure you really want to kill me, Major," he observed. "You've had me in this strangle hold for nearly five minutes. You could've killed me right off, but you didn't. Why?"

The Major stiffened further, suddenly very aware of how close he was to the Earl. That he had been holding him firmly against himself without any actual reason other than to threaten him. And he could easily do that from across the room.

"Are you sure you don't want me to ravage you, Major?"

"Are you sure you don't want me to beat the shit out of you?"

Again, Dorian gave a small laugh. Something very strange was going on in this conversation. Something he could not quite put his finger on. "Major, who else would have the balls to goad you if I weren't around?"

"I don't know. But I'd be more than happy to find out."

"So now you're challenging me to a fight…"

"Eroica, I've known you long enough to know you couldn't beat me in a fight, fair or not."

Dorian's eyes lit up. He was glad the Major couldn't see the grin spreading across his face. "I accept your challenge!"

"You idiot," the Major replied with a snort.

"How about I just get out of this choke hold?"

"You'll never be able to—Aargh!" The Major gave a sharp cry as the Earl's free hand suddenly clamped onto his crotch. "Bastard!"

"Oh Major, such a handful," Dorian purred as his long fingers quickly shifted position to take a firm grip on the Major's scrotum.

"Let go of my balls, you damned pervert!"

"Let go of me first."

"No!" The Major gritted his teeth and gave a whine of pain as the fingers tightened their grip. "This is how you fight?"

"I did say it wouldn't be fair."

"I can still break your neck."

"Not if you don't want to walk funny for the rest of your life."

Another whine of pain escaped the Major as the fingers dug further into his tender flesh. It was all he could do to keep his knees from buckling. Bloody bastard has to be enjoying this, damn him! "I'm gonna beat the shit out of you for this!"

"How about we do this…" Dorian suggested calmly. "We let go simultaneously. And..." he added quickly, "if I can get you down before you take a swing at me, you concede the fight."

The Major was fighting tears by this time and gritted his teeth to keep another cry of pain from escaping him. He knew he could easily flatten the Earl once he let him go, even if the idiot tried to step away from him. "Fine, whatever!"

"On the count of three?"

Dorian was ready for the inevitable retaliation. The instant he was released, he spun on his heel and dropped down, pulling the Major's now open trousers down with him.

The Major was shocked beyond words when his trousers were suddenly pulled to his knees. Thrown off balance, he staggered and fell. The next thing he knew, the Earl was giving him a shove backward. He fell heavily back, his head making contact with the carpeted floor, momentarily stunning him.

By the time the Major recovered his wits, Dorian was sitting on top of him, pinning his wrists to the floor. "I win," he said triumphantly.

"Like hell!" Klaus concentrated all his strength, raising his arms—and the Earl's hands—off the floor.

The shocked Dorian tried to put all his weight on his hands, but to no avail. The Major was an incredibly powerful man. There was only one thing for it. Dorian leaned down, kissing the man full on the mouth.

The ploy worked. Klaus completely lost his concentration. His eyes widened and several sounds of protest rose in his throat. When the Earl finally broke the kiss, Klaus lay staring up at him in a stunned silence.

"I believe the rule in wrestling is three seconds to consider an opponent pinned," Dorian said mildly.

"You cheat to get me down here, and then have the nerve to invoke the rules of Submission Wrestling?"

Dorian replied with a light laugh. "Why not? This is Greece, the birthplace of the Olympics."

The Major was not in the mood for a history lesson, which he had no doubt would lead to the Earl talking about how the participants of the ancient Olympics competed naked. The information that he wanted was more modern and closer to home. "How the hell did you get my pants open?" he demanded. It wasn't so much that the Earl had opened his belt without his realizing, since he had stolen his belt once. It was the fact that he had also managed to completely open his fly without his realizing that bothered him.

"You were just a tad distracted," Dorian grinned. "Submission Wrestling, huh?" He leaned forward, moving closer to the officer's face as if he meant to kiss him again. "Well then, Major. Do you submit?"

Klaus lay staring up at the Earl for what seemed like forever before he finally closed his eyes and sighed heavily. "Yes."

Dorian's mouth dropped open upon hearing this. Then he realized the Major did not seem to be in any hurry to get up. Nor was he struggling to get out from under him. Had he really surrendered completely? "Are you waiting for me to ravage you, Major?" he asked playfully.

Klaus opened his eyes, giving him a puzzled look. "Wasn't that the point of all this?"