She felt his hands on her hips, demandingly pulling her closer.

He felt her hands on his chest, unknowingly staking a claim.

The golden monkey's arms were around the snow leopard, and they were both staring at each other with a restrained look of feverish lust.

His lips were over hers in an instant, forcing her backward against the wall. She opened her mouth for air, pulling back from him, so he gently pressed his lips to hers, asking for permission of entry. She became fiery, angry almost, as she kissed him back with a hungry passion. He gently slid his tongue into her mouth, causing her to gasp slightly, and moan with pleasure. She put her arms around his neck, forcing him closer and pulling his mouth harder against hers. Thank God there was no one else in the deserted hotel corridor.

You're mine, Asriel thought angrily, Mine, God forbid, you should say no to me, My God you're beautiful.

Oh, God, Marisa thought desperately, He can't do this to me. What about Edward?

Almost as if he'd read her frightened thoughts, Asriel growled, "Screw your husband."

Marisa pulled back angrily, and in defiance pushed him away. "Asriel, I'm married, for God's sake! You can't just expect me to take you in just because you're so rugged and manly, and sexy..."

Stelmaria growled.

She trailed off at the surprised but pleased look on his face and sulkily stalked away, muttering under her breath.

"How dare you take advantage of me, Asriel..."

He was behind her in several quick strides, catching her arm and pulling her body against his, his hand tight around her wrist. She tried to pull away, but he only held her closer each time. She let out a soft scream of frustration and fright. The golden monkey looked around as the snow leopard cornered him.

"Asriel, what are you doing?" she said softly, "You know we can't do this. It's against the Church-!"

"What about it? That story about the priest having a baby secretly, what about that?" he said defensively, his hand still locked over hers.

"I'm not a priest," she said matter-of-factly, "Im a-!"

Her protest was cut short when a male voice floated from around the corner.

"Marisa? Darling, are you there?"

"Shit. Edward." She said, her face going an inhuman shade of white. The golden monkey tried to pull away from Stelmaria, who was holding him down with one paw.

"Asriel, please. If he finds out that I'm in lo- am in this relationship, he'll kill me."

Asriel knew she wasn't joking.

He pressed her against the wall, enveloping her in his musky scent.

"To remember me by." He said simply, kissing her again before disappearing with a soft growl from Stelmaria.

"There you are, darling!" Edward said charmingly. He leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek, making her wince and the golden monkey shudder as the emerald snake licked its face.

Marisa looked down at the floor, too ashamed of what she was feeling for another man. She felt like screaming in anger and frustration. Why was it that she had a perfectly loving husband, but didn't love him back?

Great. Twenty-five years of training of etiquette, polite manners, and how to not show your feelings. Then one look from that gorgeous man and it all goes out the window. Marisa thought defeatedly.

Without realising it, she sighed loudly. Then, as she noticed Edward staring at her curiously, she quickly attempted to cover up her mistake.

"Oh, sorry darling! I'm just so tired!" she tittered, covering up a fake yawn.

"Oh," Edward said, "I've got some bad news, honey."

"Oh?" she said, interestedly.

"I'm going to be away for a week, ok?"

She turned an even lighter shade of white. Just when the color had been draining back into her face!

"No," she whispered, her thoughts flickering again to Asriel. Who knows what he would try when Edward was gone! "Can't you stay? No, can I come with you?" she pleaded.

"No, I'm sorry, darling. Business with the boys. No wives allowed." He said proudly.

Sexist pigs!

He walked with her to the front desk, where his bags were already packed and waiting with a bellboy. He kissed Marisa goodbye, and she clung to him desperately, something she was not known to do. Her dæmon clung to his, moaning pitifully. The snake slithered away disgustedly. Edward pried Marisa's hands away from his now rumpled shirt.

"Marisa, I won't be away that long. Goodness, someone would think that you don't want to be left alone." He laughed uneasily, waving goodbye to her and disappearing through the revolving door.

She felt like crying. But crying is not something Marisa Coulter does, let alone in public. But what she did do was go back to her room, drink five Scotches and pass out on the floor.

She was awakened by a throbbing headache and a very familiar laugh.

"What did you do to yourself, Marisa? God, I thought you were dead! Don't do that again, OK?"

She growled, a sound not unlike that of his snow leopard.

"Hey, calm down. You're lucky I'm here, anyway. Lucky I put you in your bed before an innocent Lord came along who wanted a bit of fun." He laughed.

"Oh, shutup." She snarled.

Marisa sat up to find that she was still in her dress from the night before and she was in her own bed.

"You look so peaceful when you sleep." He said, unknowingly.

She turned around to face him. "Huh?"

"All the stress is gone from your face and you look very calm. I was about to climb in there to join you."

She glared at him.

He put his hands up. "No offense."

She collapsed back onto the bed in a dead faint.

He laughed to himself. "That's got to be one of the worst hangovers I've ever seen."

He pulled the blankets back onto her back and over her shoulders, and kissed her gently on the cheek, stroking her soft blonde curls. He hung a 'Do Not Disturb' sign on the door and walked away.

Marisa sighed, pushing back her soft ringlets as she stared at the portrait on the wall. Another old man's dead lover, or whatever, she assumed. She was at the art museum in Denver, and was NOT admiring the paintings.

"Dreadfully boring, isn't it?" Asriel said, making her jump.

"God, don't do that to me, Asriel." She gasped, holding a hand to her head.

He laughed. "Enjoying your hangover? I mean, day?" he said innocently.

"Very much, Thankyou." She said stiffly, and then walked away to her room.

"Hey, Coulter, I was just joking! Christ, you women are all the same." He muttered under his breath.

She spun round, her crystal blue eyes flashing angrily. "I'm not like all the other girls." She said, her British accent showing. And with a haughty flick of her hair, she turned away to the door.

"That man is impossible." Marisa said angrily as she dressed herself for tonight's party, her dæmon grooming his golden fur to a captivating shine.

The monkey growled in agreement.

"I mean, how can he treat me like a whore? One of those witches he would bed like a common slut!"

The monkey chittered fiercely, pulling its own fur in frustration.

She slipped the black dress on, over her shoulders, her dæmon modestly averting his eyes.

Marisa stepped out from behind the curtain and draped a golden chain of glimmering pearls around her neck. She hung delicate pearl earrings in her ears and the golden monkey wound a black ribbon around her shining curls. Then her dæmon passed her the lipstick and she gently rubbed it on her lips. She took her golden clutch purse with onyx jewels off the dresser, and checked that the black matching onyx purse was inside.

All the remaining hotel occupants could see was an intoxicating sight as she left for the party. With a flourish, the beautiful woman and her golden monkey dæmon stepped through the revolving door, the woman's dress swirling behind her.

Marisa stepped through the door of the grand ballroom and had to restrain a gasp. From the ceiling hung millions of tiny crystals and coloured gems.

But WORST of all was the sight of Lord Asriel Belacqua walking towards her. Her and her dæmon looked around in fear, she afraid of the man, the monkey, Stelmaria.

The man's dæmon stepped closer to hers, purring seductively.

Asriel smiled dangerously at her, and Marisa felt as if he would sweep her away then and there, and it thrilled her. She had never been courted in this way before. She'd had lovers, yes, many, but this was totally different.