The cool air startled awake any part of me that was still groggy. If the silly girl had the nerve to run from me… again… I hoped she'd at least had the foresight to bring a coat. There would be no words to describe my irritation if I found she'd made herself sick trying to escape me.

Too bad I never get sick, or I'd turn the tables on her in a flash. That'd teach her. Foolish girl.

What was she even thinking? Didn't she realize it was only a matter of time before I captured her again? No… this was not a clever move on her part at all.

But, enough complaining… I had to find her.

The predator in me came alive and my ears and eyes became more attentive. I could sense her fear… her panic. She knew I was coming.

I noticed an imprint in the soil beside a raised tree root. She must have tripped. If I followed the pattern of broken twigs and out-of-place leaves, I could begin to track her progress.

I did so slowly and methodically. There was no rush… she would not be getting far.

A gust of wind blew around me and my face twisted into a grin that could only be described as feral.

I had caught her scent.

That glorious fragrance had been on my mind since I rolled over that morning to be met with a still warm but empty pillow. I remember how my eyes had snapped open and my hand reflexively felt the bare sheets beside me, confirming what I already knew.

She was gone.

Ah. But now I had found her.

"It is only a matter of time now, my lovely." I said into the wind.

She had played an awful trick on me to make me sleep so soundly this morning. She'd kept me up late, singing and reading and whatnot… she had tricked me with her feminine wiles and exhausted me. If I had known what deception she was plotting, perhaps it would have made a difference.

But I doubt it.

Besides… she had to have been just as exhausted as I was. And she had been running, while I was walking just as leisurely as if this had been nothing more than a morning stroll. She couldn't keep this up much longer.

As if on cue, I heard a branch snap behind me. I quietly maneuvered myself behind one of the larger tree trunks. Her scent was stronger now, despite the wind, and her harsh breathing was deafening.

She froze, like a rabbit who senses a wolf, suddenly unsure of which way to run and seeing no adequate hiding places. Her back was to me. Wrong move, Christine.

"Erik?" she called quietly, her voice quivering as she looked directly at a nearby tree.

"Guess again," I said from behind her.

Without giving her time to react, I tackled her to the ground. I turned my body slightly so as to take the impact on myself--I am a gentleman, after all--but quickly rectified the situation once we landed, by flipping her over and pinning her hands above her head.

She twisted and fought my hold on her and squealed when I leaned down to nuzzle her neck.

"Let me go!" she shrieked.

"I think we both know the answer to that, my dear," I chuckled, as I kissed her ear.

Meanwhile, I had transferred both her wrists to one hand. I needed the other free so I could--and this is purely a scientific experiment, mind you, with no ulterior motive--see just how far I could get my hand up her shirt without her noticing. She struggled… but I have learned to ignore such trivialities.

Suddenly a thought crossed my mind and I pulled back abruptly.

"After all these years… you still run from me?" I asked

The infuriating woman had the audacity to smirk at me. "Don't look so hurt, Erik," she said, "I know your secret."

Well, that piqued my interest. "And what might that be."

She whispered conspiratorially, "You like to chase me!"

I considered her for a moment: face flushed from her running, wild hair--now adorned with the radiant silver flecks she had become so self-conscious over--sprawled around her head, her breath coming out in short pants.

I narrowed my eyes a bit. "Be that as it may… but… if I didn't know better… I'd say you love to be caught."

She had since stopped trying to squirm out of my hold on her and I took advantage of the fact, finally touching her the way I wanted to. She stilled and shut her eyes as my one free hand traced ever so lightly down her jaw line. My fingertips glided over every contour of her face… her lips… her cheekbones… her shuttering eyelids.

I imagine this is going to sound rather frivolous considering how many times I have mentioned that I love Christine… but I really, really like her. It is true… I feel good when I am around her. She makes me smile and laugh and think. And, in time like these… she is just fun to play with.

She's like the best friend I never had. Hmm… well… as Nadir comes to mind, I believe I should make an amendment: she's like the best friend I never plan to strangle.

Everything about her, from her vibrant laugh to her charming spirit, is so very… nice.

And so very mine… which makes it all the more perfect.

"You caught me sooner this time." she whispered, leaning into my hand.

"Well, panic will do that to a man. Really, Christine, that is no way to wake a tired husband first thing in the morning."

"Perhaps that husband deserves a reward, then, for all his trouble."

"You think so?" I asked, moving away enough to allow her to wriggle out from under me. I stood first and offered her my hand. "What do you have in mind?"

"Well…" she started. I wasn't sure I liked the wicked gleam in her eye. Although, that thought vanished the second she kissed me.

"I…" she said, kissing me again--she spoke slowly, punctuating each word with another kiss--"…think… you… should… go inside… and…"

Then she kissed me hard enough to make my head spin. "And?" I rasped. There should be a law against this kind of torture.

"And… come sing with me!"

On that note, she turned and practically skipped towards the house, cheerful as can be. In that strange moment, she seemed every bit like the girl I fell in love with years ago… who became the woman I fall more in love with each passing day.

I admired her even as she dragged me, by the hand, into the house. Her cheeks were pink and her eyes glittery and her smile… oh, her smile…

Anyway, as she impatiently tugged on my arm, I couldn't help but think…

This is what I wanted… what I had in mind. A real, living bride of my own.

And I am happy.


The End.