A/N: Sooooo... remember my plan to avoid provoking the admins by not posting this chapter with explicit content? Instead I was going to post a link to my LJ account and let you guys read there? Fucking fell through. I don't know how to circumvent their spam protection. So I'm going to take my chances with a very graphic chapter. Enjoy, and just hope this story doesn't vanish into a black hole somehow, I guess. Or pray exactly for that if you hate it.

If anyone's looking for me, I'll be somewhere far away, fuming against computers and fucking censorship.

Chapter 26

The room beyond was comfortable, if a bit nondescript; a dresser, two bedside tables on either side of the king-sized bed, a large mirror, a closet and a love chair with another reading lamp in the corner. A large painting of a snow covered winter landscape hung on the wall. A plush cream coloured carpet covered the floor, matching the thick coverlet, the lampshades and the light woods of the furniture. The air smelled a bit cloistered and artificial, which was to be expected considering not a breath of fresh air could make it down here underground without help, but other than that, it was as perfectly acceptable a guest bedroom as the rest of the Tamwood-Randall estate suggested.

"Not bad." I said as I glanced around. The door behind me shut with a faint click that made me swallow softly with nervous excitement and anticipation, the sound announcing Ivy and I finally had some real privacy. On purpose Ivy made a soft shuffling sound as she drew near, exacerbating the feeling and drawing it out until I could feel her at my back and I was jittery with anticipation and longing. The vampire's strong arms snaked around my waist, tenderly pulling me close so that her body and mine moulded together, her chin resting on my shoulder and her long, sighing exhale tickling my cheek. I relaxed into her touch, letting my eyes flutter close in content at the way our bodies fit so well together for a second before we started getting sweaty.

"Hmm, I know how to make it better." Ivy breathed in my ear before gently kissing my jaw.

"How?" I asked as I moved into her touch, her lips and naughty tone making me shiver.

"Well, I was thinking it would look lovely with your clothes scattered all over. Don't you agree?"

"Mm, it's an idea, but if I can suggest a little alteration to that plan, I think it would look even better with your clothes all over as well." I suggested saucily.

"You're right. Oh, how I love the way you think, Dear Heart." Ivy chuckled, her nimble fingers taking the first steps in our home makeover plan on the buckle of my belt. I whirled around as the leather band slipped from its hoops around my waist, my hands going straight for Ivy's hair, tugging her close to kiss her deeply while she worked skilfully at removing my dark skirt. One after the other, every article of clothing I wore was strewn about the room, until I was left in nothing but my underwear. I even stepped out of my shoes, leaving our height difference even greater than before and Ivy looking just a little bit daunting as she hungrily loomed over me. It came with the territory, what with her being an immortal predator of the night, and I couldn't honestly say I wasn't turned on as well.

"There's no need for that, is there?" She murmured in a husky voice that would have, once upon a time, had me carefully withdraw from the room in a minor fit of panic. Undeterred by the hint of intimidation, the vampire crowded closer to me, pushing me back until the back of my legs hit the edge of the bed. In a blink, I found myself staring at the ceiling rather than her naughty black eyes, Ivy having shoved me onto the bed. A little stunned, I propped myself up on my elbows and brought her back in my field of vision, my jaw dropping at the sight of her. With seductive slowness, the vampire was swaying her body from side to side, her long nimble finger deftly working the buttons of her shirt to teasingly reveal the snowiness of her humbly sized but perfectly shaped breasts, the sheer, lacy bra that contained them, and as her fingers moved lower, the drop of blood of her ruby piercing caught in her navel and the tautness of her lean stomach. The last button popped and the shirt fell completely open, aided by her fingers trailing back up to part it further, brushing against smooth skin and the soft swell of her breasts up to her neck. The motion led my eyes right back to hers, her sparkling, lustful obsidian orbs capturing mine, even more captivating that the perfect body she was sensuously exhibiting for me. A whisper of breath escaped her lips, and even though she was probably too far for the sensation to have anything to do with displaced air, I felt it dance upon my skin along my collarbone and twirl about my neck like the softest silk ribbon. I shuddered once, hard, and promptly decided I didn't want to wait for Ivy to take off what little clothes I had left on herself. Once she was done with the lovely show she was putting on, I wanted us straight to business.

Seeing me fumble clumsily with my bra and slip my panties down my legs, Ivy smirked like the cat that ate the canary, the sight of me naked (and almost ready to start without her; just saying, patience never was my strong suit) not making her speed up at all. With a dancer's grace she spun around, showing me her back as she slipped her shirt leisurely off her shoulders, undulating her hips hypnotically from side to side while it fell down her arms and slid to the floor. Deftly, she undid her own belt buckle and took off the length of leather, improvising a prop for her little show, holding behind her back and using it to make her lean, feline musculature play fetchingly for my devouring eyes' benefit before cracking it like a whip and discarding it to the side. I yelped in surprise, and glowered at her a little, but in her state of increasing undress I found it impossible to hold on to what little ire I could muster, which only fed the vampire's already inflated ego. Teasingly, she hooked her thumbs into the waist of her dress pants, hinting at unbuttoning them before using them to enticingly trace the contours of her hips with a sly wink at me. Three times it looked like she would let me see if she wore the panties that matched this lovely bra, each time eliciting a louder groan from me until she finally popped that damn button. The silk fell from the pronounced and shapely curves of her hips like water to gather around her ankles, loose enough that she didn't need to take off her high heels to step out of them.

"Better close your mouth before you drool all over yourself." Ivy mocked me with a fond, smouldering smile, startling me. In my eagerness to ogle every inch of her, I'd done another impersonation of Rachel the horny goldfish. "I want you all wet, but not like that."

"Well, I think that's one accomplished goal." I muttered embarrassedly as I wiped my mouth, just in case, blushing a bit at my body's wanton reaction. "How about you get over here now?"

Looking impossibly smug and self-satisfied, the vampire shook her head in response, the motion swishing her long black hair to the front of her body, covering much of her lovely chest from view, to my chagrin. Again, she whirled around to show me her back as she took off her bra. Holding it to the side to show me her upper half was now completely exposed, she flicked it away and came full circle, using one of her arms to hide her breasts from view, the hand of the other running down the muscles of her stomach, drawing my eyes to the slip of lace that covered the most intimate part of her. She naughtily chewed on her lower lip as she hooked her index on the thin strip of fabric holding her panties in place, feigning to debate whether or not to remove them. I growled impatiently in response, but my eyes were riveted to her fingers, following their most minute motion, only leaving them when she pulled the panties far enough away to show me a hint of her impeccably trimmed pubes. Inch by tantalising inch she pushed the last piece of clothing she had on down her endless legs, her creamy thighs, her shapely calves and finally to her lovely feet still propped up on stylish black back torture implements. Gracefully, Ivy freed one of her legs from the tiny garment, but before I could rejoice at the impending sex, she kicked her panties straight in my face with unerring accuracy, in a feisty display of her vampire abilities. I gave a startled gasp as I pulled the lace from my face and found a hungry vampire, with an equally hungry look in her black eyes staring at mine inches away. Reflexively I shimmied away, to Ivy's obvious delight. The vampire gave me chase, very closely, crawling half over me on all four until my back hit the headboard. As soon as she had me cornered, she was straddling my legs, her arms trapping me; her lips were on mine in less than a second, swallowing my surprised cry as well as my following moans of satisfaction.

She's just lusting after you. I reminded myself as Ivy didn't go for my jugular. It's eagerness, not bloodlust. My worry died down as the seconds of kissing gave way to minutes, her mouth firm and soft upon mine, her tongue dancing with mine while her fangs were denied any action. Her hands held me close while my own began their long awaited exploration of the soft expanse of skin of her back and the luscious heaviness of her hair. It was a perfect start to what I was sure would be a memorable night... right up until Ivy decided to nuzzle my throat. Her initial eagerness died down into uncertainty and hesitation, despite a sound of approval from me born from the feel of her lips on the thin, sensitive skin there, the vampire going still and inhaling my scent deeply before doing the last thing I expected.

After a second holding in her breath, Ivy abruptly let out a short chortle of laughter. She let her forehead rest against my shoulder for a short while before rocking both our bodies down to the bedspread, manoeuvring to place herself at my back, her figure moulding itself against my every curve in a very, hum... post-coital manner, as if all of a sudden we'd had our fill and she wanted to contently hold me while we drifted to sleep.

"Huh, Ivy, I hate to ask again, but what do you think you're doing?" I asked the vampire now spooning me out of the blue, wondering where the sexily dominating woman had disappeared to. Despite the clamouring of my lady bits for her attentions, she wasn't doing anything at all. "I know I'm getting more flexible when it comes to bumping uglies, but I'm not going to move on that one. Cuddling comes after sex. Not before. This really doesn't work for me." I spelled it out, shifting a bit uncomfortably in hopes of alleviating the pulsing ache within my core.

Once more, Ivy chuckled, her face burying in my hair and her chest vibrating against my back. She wouldn't let me move, damn her, and her position gave me a very good feel of her succulent breasts that I desperately wanted to fondle and pinch and cup and -blargh!

"Sorry, Dear Heart." Ivy apologised, apparently finding something very funny because she was still chuckling, even though we were pressed naked together and I was all hot and bothered and so very willing to let her have her way with me... and she preferred to laugh about it rather than ravish me. "We have a small unforeseen problem. Stop wiggling." She ordered and locked a solid steel leg around both of mine when I tried to grind my ass against her, hoping to make her move already. "I'm afraid I won't be getting it up anytime tonight, so to speak. It's not your fault." She hurriedly added before my insecurities, brought about by her recent striptease, could make me say one self-derogatory word. "You're as gorgeous as ever, but..."

"But what?" I asked curtly. If her tone had been different, I might have been worried, but I was in sexual limbo, and I wasn't in on the joke that made her laugh her ass off at my back, and possibly my expense. It made me a little bitchy.

"But it doesn't change the fact you smell like Erica. You're positively covered in her scent. It wasn't all that noticeable when you were wearing clothes soaked in my old scent, but now, it's making things difficult, to say the least."

"What? You mean I smell repulsive?"

"No! No, definitely not." Ivy laughed and planted a chaste little kiss on my shoulder. "God, between your scent and hers, you smell like sunshine and happiness and everything worth fighting for. I can't help biology, though. I think she smells wonderful, but I'm still wired not to be turned on by Erica under any circumstances, even if her scent is mixing with yours. It's..."

"A natural safeguard in case you lose your mind and entertain thoughts of snacking on her." I recited from memory what Reed had told me when we rescued Ivy's baby sister. "I know. It's why Erica found your blood so gross when you fed it to her. Too much DNA in common. Shit."

"Something like that, yes." I felt Ivy nod. "Imagine trying to have sex in a cold shower, and you'll have a pretty good idea what it's like for me right now. It's physiologically impossible for me to want you until you stop smelling like her."

"I feel I could have sex in the cold shower right now..." I grumbled. "Hell, I'll take twenty showers if it gets me laid tonight." I offered weakly, knowing it probably wouldn't do much good. Evolution had made a vampire's scent notoriously difficult to remove from one's body. Erica's scent would cling to me until it either faded on its own with time or another vamp's scent overpowered it. Obviously, that's why Ivy wouldn't let me move, and why she was nuzzling me everywhere. She was working on the problem, but it could take all night to get me smelling like her instead of her baby sister... and fuck me if her nose, lips, hands, breasts and calves rubbing against me everywhere helped with my sexual frustration!

"Oh, come on!" I exclaimed, the pitch of my voice getting higher the lower Ivy's touch got. "I can't possibly smell like her there!" I couldn't conceive the anatomical possibility of Erica's scent having made its way to that low and sensitive spot where Ivy was touching me, but it didn't stop her hand's delicious stroking motion. Under normal circumstances, I would have been more than happy about it, but I knew there was no follow-up to that coming, and I was going nuts! "Ivy, y-you got to be kidding me..." I stammered, panting after her hand brushed against the underside of my breasts. "You're practically sexing me up a-already. You don't have to lick me or anything, just-just use your fingers, go through the motions, or-or God help me, I'll..." Whatever I was about to say was drowned out in a groan of pure frustration. I swear to God, I was on the verge of tears, and she'd only been at it for a few minutes. I could NOT endure a whole morning of this.

"I'm so sorry, my little witch." Ivy murmured in my ear, sounding anything but. "I know what this must feel like to you, but I really don't think I can do anything really libidinous to you right now. To me this is really more like tickling you than anything else. As good as it feels to hold you, I could go all night like this and never get turned on. Get on your belly, please? I'll start on your back." She asked pleasantly, nudging me with firm, gentle hands until she got my reluctant self on her stomach. The vampire immediately climbed on top of me, her legs coming on either side of mine, her hands pressing down on my shoulder blades, effectively pinning me down while she started rubbing my back and shoulders. Her massaging caresses were almost a relief... at least until her lips started following her hands' lead. With languorous slowness, she ran her fingers down my spine, spreading tiny butterfly kisses in their wake, all the way to the small of my back and back up again.

"Jesus, j-just stop!" I begged her. "If you're gonna do this all day, then I quit! I'll sleep upstairs! Better yet, I'll go home!" After I use up all of your parents' cold water... I added mentally. Shut up. It made loads of sense to me.

"This is the only sun-proof room left in the house, and I'm not letting you drive during the day if your eyes are really as sensitive to sunlight as you said." Ivy countered me from about the height of my hips, her lips never missing a goddamn beat. "Besides, that's only delaying the inevitable. If you want us to have a sex life again, we're gonna have to do this sooner or later. Might as well be now, right?" She added reasonably just as she pushed away from me, letting me breathe a sigh of relief only to make it worst again, this time by laying squarely on top of me and slowly rubbing me with her whole body, like a big tabby cat in heat (yet somehow incapable of getting turned on... seriously, fuck me). With one hand she pushed my hair out of the way so she could nuzzle my shoulder and neck. My pulse shot up even higher than it already was when she closed in on my scars, because I'm sure I would have literally exploded if she set them off again. Being ready to give up my firstborn for her to fuck me was one thing, being willing to do the same for a bite was another. I'd threaded those waters once already, I didn't need to do so again.

"What the... wait a minute." A light bulb lit up in my lust-addled brain at the thought, making me blink. "Ivy, how come you didn't mind when Erica was with us in the study? You actually... drew blood back there... How did you do that?" Ivy ignored me, preferring to get me on my back rather than answer. "No." I shook my head violently, my eyes widening at the sight of the vamp looming over me like a gorgeous black storm cloud of pure sexual frustration. "You're not touching anything on that side unless you promise to follow through! I mean it- Iv-y-y-y-y-y-y-y-y-y! Damnit, you pig-headed vamp!" I keened whiningly; of course, she didn't listen to me. Fluidly, she dove for my stomach, nuzzling and caressing exactly the same way she had on my back, only this time she was hitting much more sensitive buttons.

My hands shook pretty badly, but I managed to grip her long dark locks, tugging on them until I could get her away from my bellybutton and get her eyes level with mine. "Tickles! Cut it out!" I yelled at her, my voice clipping almost brutishly. "Answer me. How come Erica's scent didn't bother you when she was asleep on your lap?" I panted, my eyes narrowing at the way Ivy's brown gaze was twinkling. I had a growing suspicion I was getting played. "Did you lie to me?"

"Not at all." Ivy smiled innocently. "You do smell like Erica, although I think at this rate you won't anymore in a few hours." I groaned loudly at that insinuation. My eyes almost rolled back in their sockets at the thought of hours more of this torture. "It is a big turn-off." She whispered deviously in my ear, on her way to rubbing her cheek against mine. I had to brace against her shoulders to push her away before she could start again. "Rachel, I'd love nothing more than to go down on you, but you must understand I can't right now." She said airily, her eyes darting downwards for a fraction of a second to illustrate her thought. I would have blushed at the double entendre of my gesture if I didn't desperately want exactly what she was suggesting. As it was, it just made my state worse to think of her mouth between my legs, doing delightfully wicked... Guh.

"Then how did you manage to make out with me when Erica was around?" I snapped at her, bringing the subject of her sister's scent on me back up.

"Hmm. Well, that's a good question. How did I manage it?" Ivy cheekily wondered out loud. "I suppose I must have... held my breath?" She suggested, her mischievous smile broadening. For a second I thought she was joking; then I remembered her lack of dependence on oxygen, and I realised she was, and she was making me the butt of the joke.

"You held your... You ASS!" I yelled at Ivy, the vampire bursting out laughing as I did. Seeing red, I reached above my head, scrambling for any object I could use to bludgeon her to death with. It only made Ivy's hilarity worse when I started pounding her over the head with one of the pillows. "You stupid, blood-sucking, blue-balling ass!" I yelled again, hammering her in time with my words. "You couldn't have mentioned that earlier? Sometime before I melted into a puddle?"

Ivy was still laughing, laughing so hard in fact that I managed to knock her off me with a mighty blow. Getting on my knees, I loomed over her, the pillow held high over the vamp, and brought my fearsome wrath down upon her over and over again, 'beating' her thoroughly with it until I was breathing hard and Ivy looked on the verge of spontaneously shattering her own ribs in laughter.

"You're gonna pay for that, Fang Girl!" I seethed when I finally paused, breathless for wholly different reasons now (though I was still feeling more than a little of the earlier ones). "You're not the only one who can go all night!" Can't get turned on, my ass! I raged at the sight of the obviously damp curls nestled between the laughing vampire's thighs; clearly, she'd been getting off on frustrating me. Oh, I was going to show her. This pillow would be the fluffy instrument of my all-mighty revenge.

Unfortunately for my righteous pillow-crusade reckoning, the second those words made it past my lips Ivy made her move. Quicker than thought, the vampire wrenched the pillow from me and shoved me back down, pinning me to the mattress with a hand on my chest and looking down at me with what can only be described as a shit-eating grin plastered on her face. Her teeth looked very, very white next to the curtain of hair that tickled my face as she lowered herself towards me, and I swallowed loudly at the sight. She wouldn't bite me now... would she?

"Aw, poor itchy-witch." She cooed in a perfect parody of my earlier tone instead, wrenching my narrowing eyes from her sharp ivory canines back to her amused gaze. "The big bad vamp is being so mean to you."

"I hate you." I hissed at her, but it didn't stop her slow descent. Since I looked ready to bite her face off, she wisely angled her mouth for my nose to plant a little kiss on the tip of it.

"It definitely doesn't feel like hate in here." She ran her fingers over the interior of my thighs, murmuring cockily before she vanished in a blink, leaving a little girly giggle hanging in the air.

"I mean it. You are the most loathsome- whoa!" Seemingly of its own accord my ass lifted off the bed, the firm pillow I'd been using to tenderize Ivy's face materialising beneath it when it came down, leaving my back slightly arched and my aching core vulnerable and exposed. Before I even had a chance to understand what was happening, Ivy nudged my knees apart to make room for herself to lie in between them, her arms looping below my legs and around my hips so her hands rested low on my middle, trapping me. Still peeved, I tried to wiggle out of her grip, but with a quiet half-purr, half-growl sound of warning, Ivy nipped me on the thigh, not quite hard enough to draw blood but definitely enough to snatch all of my attention; whether she did it to arouse me or to assert her dominance was really anyone's guess, but needless to say, feeling the sharpness of her formidable fangs made me go very still all of a sudden. Seriously, how the hell could she speak without a lisp with those things in her mouth?

"You know, the past half hour was entirely your fault." Ivy righteously declared once she was satisfied I wouldn't try to break free again, her little nip turning into a little kiss, and another, and another, slowly trailing down my thigh, getting my blood pressure up higher and higher as she drew nearer to her obvious destination.

"MY fault?" I spat, stung, at her, earning myself another pinch of her fangs. "You're the one who pretended we couldn't have sex." I yelped and added more quietly, though I was still tossing daggers at her with my eyes, despite the threat of her very sharp teeth so close to very sensitive parts of my anatomy. I wasn't sure if a bite there would be the most awesome thing ever, or whatever the polar opposite of the most awesome thing ever is, but as sexually frustrated as I was, I didn't feel too experimental.

"Hmm, no, I think you did that, all of last week, actually. As I recall I've been nudging you to spend time with me, but you never agreed. Maybe you should be a little more equalitarian when you offer yourself next time. I might get jealous that you spend all your time with another, younger vamp..." She trailed off, her lips just barely skirting my center before moving to my hip and onto my lower belly.

"I knew you were pissed..." I groaned, falling back on the bed with my hands covering my face. Swell, she was sooooo gonna let me have it. "Ivy, I didn't do it to piss you off, it had nothing to do with you at all. She was hurting, and crying and it just... happened. Be mad at yourself, you're the one who got me over my hang-ups about vamp bites!"

"No worries." Ivy shook her head, the movement causing her long ebony hair to tickle me. I almost twitched at the sensation, but her grip on me was so unyielding it didn't even show. "I'm not angry at you for donating blood to my little sister in her time of need. As a matter of fact, I think it was kind of sweet of you to take care of her like that." Ivy explained sweetly from a position that could either be described as 'perfectly suited for giving head' or 'really not fucking suited for a long-ass speech'. "I am a little mad at you for neglecting me at the same time, though. Really, all I wanted was one sleep over, one dinner date or even one little evening visit for coffee. I wouldn't even have minded if you brought her along, but even that was too much to ask." She sighed dramatically, meeting my glare over the length of my body with a look that was both naughty and strict. My ire faltered, and I swallowed loudly at the fire in her eyes, my mind coming up with all sorts of implications for being trapped in bed with Ivy while she was 'a little mad' at me. Maybe I should have heeded that earlier warning about locking myself in a room with her, because now, she looked like she was gonna take it out on my hide.

"Now, you're going to make it up to me. Oh, I won't be too cruel, I promise." She reassured me wickedly when I winced at that. "I don't have anything out of the vamp dating guide in mind. We're just going to have sex at a different pace this time, and you're going to be cooperative, eager and vocal about it."

"What do you mean, a 'different pace'?" I asked with wary hesitancy. Did she mean really fast and hard... or excruciatingly slow? I wasn't even sure which was worse. One could put me in the emergency room, sure, but the other could just as easily land me in a mental ward.

"I don't mean I'll pound into you with all my speed and strength. I don't want to put you in tractions, silly."Ivy 'reassured' me with a sinful laugh and a rub of her cheek against my thigh. "No, I mean quite the opposite. As a lover, you're wonderful, truly, so responsive I can barely keep myself in check around you. But you're so impatient too. It's like sex is a race for you. I can't say I'm not down for a quickie once in a while," she smiled, no doubt thinking about the fingernail scratches on the felt of Kisten's pool table, scratches she had left there in circumstances I did not want to know about, "but there's more to it than reaching orgasm, you know. You haven't given me a chance to truly draw out our pleasure since we got together. Now that we have all the time we need, I want to take you to the very brink, my little witch, and see how long I can keep you there. I want you to feel like your fulfilment is so close you can taste it on your tongue, and deny you until your sanity is slipping like water through your fingers. If you're a good girl, once you can't take it anymore, I'll let you to come undone; not before. "

Notice how she didn't add "and not after" to that last sentence? Okay, maybe she wouldn't let me have it after all, if you consider 'it' to be a violently wanted and desperately needed orgasm...

"You did that already." I pointed out what I thought was obvious in a tiny, winded voice, clearly affected by the surreal sexual quality of Ivy's grey silk voice. "Can we skip forward to the orgasm part now? Please? I promise I'll return the favour after." I offered, trying to sound enticing despite feeling like a boiling teakettle about to burst. Ivy clucked her tongue in response, her head slowly moving from side to side. "Once for every time Erica bit me? Once for every day of the week I so stupidly refused to see you? Over and over until I've got cramps so bad I can't move anymore or you pass out, whichever comes first?" Every offer was met with the same response. No, no, and no.

"You don't understand; it's not my own pleasure I crave, Dear Heart. It's yours." Ivy explained sultrily, her mouth now back at the junction of my hip and thigh, slowly moving up to my soft and exposed mound, making me twitch. She was so close now I could feel ghosts of her touch on the place where I desperately wanted her. Great, now my memories were jumping in on the teasing... "You gave me tremendous pleasure the last time, especially for a debutante, but I don't need you to touch me much tonight. I can assure you I'll follow you right over the edge when I finally let you fall. Pleasing you will be just as pleasurable to me as it will to you, so the more tremendous your orgasm, the more pleasure I'll derive from it."

"If that's true, then. Get. On. With. It." I whined in a clipped tone, my teeth gritting together. Damn, this woman was really starting to piss me off. She was the one who got off on delayed satisfaction, not me. "Go ahead already! Dig in! Please yourself on me, if that's what gets your rocks off!"

"'Dig in', really? Now you're being crude. And so very impatient..." She took her lips off me, making me fall back on the mattress, torn between relief and frustration. I shot right back upright when a flutter of cool air drew across the slick flesh of my most intimate parts.

"Wha-what-What are you doing?" I stuttered, the barely-there teasing positively maddening.

"What does it feel like I'm doing?" Ivy asked sultrily.

"Ivy, I want you to blow me, not- gah, blow on me!"

"Oh, is that what you want? I can never tell the two apart."

"You are being such a fucking- OW!"

"Don't swear in bed, Honey. I hate it. It's not attractive." Ivy chastised me off-handily as she released the pressure of her fingernails digging into my hips, her attention obviously elsewhere. She wasn't looking at me anymore, she was staring straight at my exposed sex, her pink tongue slowly running over her very red lips, wetting them and making them shiny in the subdued light from the nearby lamps in anticipation of what was to come. Using her fingers, she gently spread my nether lips, and as lightly as the brush of a butterfly's wing, she began to blow with horrible softness at my sensitive flesh, her plump lips I craved like a madwoman a perfect half-inch away.

"Fu-u-uck!" I cried out. Ivy was relentless, her exhalation going on and on and on, the cool current of air chipping away at my sanity until I couldn't stand another second of it. My hips bucked uselessly against the steel circle of Ivy's arms, my own arms and feet slipping on the coverlet as I scrambled for the grip I deluded myself in thinking could help me wrench myself away from her. My squirming did no good at all; my hips and buttocks, shaking with effort, remained firmly planted on the pillow, as effectively immobilised by the vampire's strength as they would be if someone had poured concrete over them.

"Try to relax. Breathe." Ivy whispered soothingly, her mouth still maddeningly hovering over that pulsing ache her breath was stoking. "I'll take care of you in a minute."

"Can't... I can't..." I gasped and twitched, my feet slipping on the coverlet when I tried to jerk towards her. Hoping to stave off some of the crushing waves of frustration, I gripped handful of my hair, but the painful tug didn't even take my attention off what she was doing for a second. "Iveedisisnfunnee-ee-ee!" I cried out the nearly shapeless words, unable to take it anymore. Flexing my abs, I bent my upper body towards her quickly and reached for her raven-wing locks in an attempt to pull her where I needed her, but, big surprise, my hands never made it to her hair. In a flash, Ivy snatched them out of the air and pulled them down, needing only one hand to pin them on my belly by the wrists.

"So impatient." She growled again. "This is not what I call being a good girl, Rachel. In fact, if you don't start behaving soon, I can promise I won't give you satisfaction." Oh, surprise, that promise didn't help me keep still, but after several seconds squirming under her stern black eyes, I managed to get my 'good-girl' act together enough for Ivy to stop teasing. With a sigh the vampire puckered her lips and lightly, much too lightly for my raging need, pressed them to my sex, kissing the most intimate part of me thoroughly and, despite her annoyance with my lack of patience, lovingly, before letting the tip of her tongue just peak out of her mouth, teasing the entrance to my body.

About damn time... I thought with the last of my rationality.

I went rigid as Ivy's tongue earnestly began to slide up and down and circling my clit. I actually managed to keep still for a little while, the mounting pleasure of her mouth on me and the promise for more giving me the will to do so. My body taut as a piano wire, I was almost crying in frustration by the time I neared my peak after an excruciating ascent, made frantic by Ivy slowing her pace so she could hold me there, denying me. I needed release so badly, I didn't care if I had to rip my hands off to get her to let go of me.

"This isn't going to work, is it?" The vampire reprimanded me when I uselessly tried to wrench my hands away from her grasp. I didn't want her slowing down, I wanted her to finish me off, damnit! "My God, Rachel, I'm just getting started." She complained, spacing out her words with broad, nearly aimless and unsatisfying swaths of her tongue, the little bundle of nerve she had just been divinely adoring, which was still clamouring for just a tiny bit more of her attention, going suddenly ignored. "You really need to learn some patience."

"Don't stop!" I begged her frantically, wanting her mouth and tongue back to work right this fucking second. "Ivy, please. Find your heart, for fuck's sake!" I canted my hips with all my uncoordinated strength, so violently that, for all the good it did me, I managed to loosen the vampire's hold for a fraction of a second. I didn't have time to do anything before my lover and tormentor caught me again, chuckling ominously.

"Fine, be like that. If you can't be pliant and cooperative like I want you to on your own, I guess I'll have to teach you how..." Ivy announced forebodingly, something sinister and dangerously sexual going on behind her black eyes, making me gulp in worry. "I'll let you go now, but I'll be right back. If you try to touch yourself in the meantime, you'll be making what's coming even worse for you. Do you understand?" Ivy warned me in a soft but inflexible voice. Without waiting for a reply, she crawled over to my mouth for a quick kiss then released me, getting off the bed and scanning the floor for something. I tried, I mean, I seriously tried to listen to what she had said, but I was so worked up that I failed miserably, and with no conscious effort on my part my hand made its way between my legs. Unfortunately for me, Ivy wasn't kidding when she said she wouldn't be gone for long, and I'd barely run a shameful and hesitant finger once up my sex that already she was back. With a playful growl, Ivy snatched my hand away, bringing it between us so we could both see the glistening of my need on the tip of my middle finger.

"What did I say?" The vampire slowly shook her head, looking amused and exasperated at once, and brought the finger to her lips, kissing, licking and sucking away the moisture until it was clean. My eyes widened at the feel of her tongue, and incredibly hot sight, of her, and she met them with a sultry look, slowly pulled my finger out of her mouth, smirked a bit at my expression...

"I said no touching."

...and promptly twisted my arm behind my back. I cried out in discomfort that bordered on pain, my protests going unheeded by the vampire whose knee was pressing down against my lower back. Effortlessly, Ivy grabbed my other wrist, showing off her law enforcement training (or was that her dominatrix streak?), and before I knew it, she had both of them tied up behind my back, using the belt she got off the floor to immobilise me. Desperately, I tried to wiggle out, but Ivy clearly knew what she was doing when it came to this kind of activities. The belt wouldn't give me an ounce of leeway, holding my wrists in place as effectively as a pair of cuffs would. I was left immobilised and helpless on the coverlet, naked, squirming and wiggling while an apex sexual predator that was less than pleased with me had me square in her sights. Mommy...

Being able to walk tomorrow suddenly seemed like a very farfetched idea.

"Mmm, you've got such a gorgeous body. You look scrumptious like that, little witch. I should definitely tie you up more often. I've got this pair of nice padded leather cuffs back home that would look great on you. They're much more comfortable than this thing, you'll see." Ivy mused as she took a second to appreciate her handiwork, her hands slowly running down the lean muscles of my straining back and my buckling shoulders as she made soothing sounds for my benefit, sounds that were about as calming as the snarling of a hungry panther. "I know you won't like this right away, Dear Heart," Ivy apologised in my ear, giving me no hint as to what 'this' would consist of, "but the sooner you relax and let go, the sooner you'll enjoy yourself."

"What are you up to?" I panted worriedly. Things were not going according to plan so far.

"Why spoil the surprise? You're a smart girl. I'm sure you'll figure it out soon enough." She sounded enthusiastic about whatever she had in mind, which made me very nervous considering how our little encounter had unfolded so far. With the ease granted to her by her superhuman strength, Ivy manhandled my struggling body to the edge of the bed, where she sat and promptly settled my belly over her lap, my back slightly bowed so my ass was sticking out in the air.

"Oh, you gotta be kidding me..." I groaned when I realised just what it was Ivy had in mind. It doesn't take a genius to figure out what this position was most suited for. Not something that was on my sexual curriculum, and I was in no hurry to add it. "You're not going to... are you?" No way. She couldn't possibly have that in mind. Her vamp strength was far too much. She'd break something. If she truly didn't want me in traction, THAT was not the way to go about it.

"Oh, yes I am. Have you ever been spanked, darling?" Ivy asked sensuously, her hand massaging my admittedly great butt, making me squirm with equal measure dread and... some really dirty feeling I wasn't comfortable examining closer. At all. "I'm not surprised. There's hardly a single submissive bone in you. I had a feeling you never let anyone do this. It's going to be a deflowering of sorts, then." Her following giggle? Creepiest thing ever.

"Here's how it's going to work. I'm going to touch you, and you're going to stay very still and take it until I decide you've been good enough. If you complain, or you struggle, or you try to come before I tell you to, this is what's going to happen..." Her hands left my ass, one of them pressing down on my shoulder blades to keep me still, and my whole body tensed in anticipation of the incoming slap. I got pretty much what I expected; she hadn't used most of her strength (I could tell because my bones hadn't snapped like twigs), but a sharp pain zinged through my buttocks a millisecond after an equally sharp sound was heard. My teeth had been gritted against the coming blow, but a loud yelp erupted from my mouth anyway, to Ivy's obvious delight. Literally purring, the vampire caressed the burning mark her hand had left on my ass, and without warning lifted her hand and brought it down again on the other cheek, making them match. "And this is going to happen if you don't express your gratitude enough." Fawning over her handiwork, she soothed the fierce heat with her cool hands while I was left gasping for breath, reeling from the pair of slaps. The burning pain mixed with the ache between my legs to combine into an unreal sensation that, God help me, I wasn't sure I didn't like.

"This is a really bad idea!" I squealed, trying to sound like the spanking had been entirely unpleasant, the high pitch of my voice and the tight curling of my toes probably betraying me. Goddamnit, what was wrong with me? "Leave my butt alone!"

"I think this is a stupendously good idea." Ivy replied in a smouldering vampiric tone that made me twist around in hope of catching a reassuring glimpse of humanity in her eyes, because there sure wasn't any in her voice. Just as well I couldn't; from the sound of her, the hunger in her gaze might have scared me enough to tip her into forbidden territories. "You're the one making up to me, and this is what I want." She said with the entitled finality of a spoiled child, lightly tapping my no-doubt beet red ass cheeks with her finger.

"No. Think of something else." I shot back categorically.

"I spank you, or you let me drink from you. Either your butt or your neck is agreeable to me, but I will abuse one today. It's up to you, my little witch." Ivy growled, less than impressed, turning instantly from light-hearted and playful to domineering, the fingers of her hand stroking my back crooking into claws that lightly, and deliciously, scratched along the curve they were tracing. "Or, if you prefer, I can tie you up to the headboard so I can listen to you beg and watch you squirm. Maybe set off your scars and let you cook off for a few hours... that would be lovely too."

"Then we'd both be in sexual limbo." I replied, failing in my pathetic attempt to sound forceful. I could keep Ivy from completely dominating me outside the bedroom with relative ease, but when the clothes off came off, I was quickly finding out she was like a fickle, less-than-merciful goddess; indomitable and capricious. "Where would that leave us, Ms Compulsive-Planner?"

"Why, in a situation where only one of us is free to touch herself of course, while the other can only... watch... and... listen." Ivy answered, leaning over me to whisper in my ear. Her voice was so husky it practically wiped all thoughts from my mind. "Would I prefer your pretty little mouth or those nice rough fingers of yours bringing me to fulfilment? Of course, but it would be infinitely worse for you, and still deliciously wicked for me. Is that your choice? Please tell me that's your choice. I'm warming up to the idea by the second." I could only swallow and shake my head in response, something low inside of me clenching violently from her eager tone. "Will you let me give you a little slip of fangs, then? You get all the instant gratification your petty impatience for things of the flesh can handle, and I get satisfaction for you offering yourself to my sister but not me. That's fair, I think."

"No." I answered immediately. "No blood."

"No strings attached, promise..." The vampire added, the roll of her eyes all but audible in her suddenly much flatter voice. "God, one of these days I'll get it through your thick skull I'm not interested in-"

"No." I stated unyieldingly, cutting whatever reassurances she was about to utter short. "No. Blood. Not even a drop."

"Then this", she lightly tapped my ass to illustrate what she meant, "is all that's left, isn't it?" Crap... trust her, right? I silently thought, and tried to relax. "If you're done complaining, we have business to get down to. Remember, hold still, and feel free to show appreciation." Ivy chided me as her nimble hand slipped between my legs, stroking my inner thigh without waiting for any further consent from me. My skin felt so hot in contrast and I was aching so badly I had to tense again not to writhe on her lap even though she was still inches away from the epicentre of my carnal lust. Sensing my sudden effort of will, Ivy decided to be an evil(er) bitch. From their slow, agonising crawl towards toward my center I could mentally and physically brace myself against, her fingers jumped straight to my clit like they were laser-guided, the smooth pad of her index circling it with unbearable, perfect precision, making me cry out loudly. Urgently, I arched into her touch, hopelessly attempting to increase the contact of her hand with the engorged little nub and giving Ivy exactly what she wanted in the process. 'Hold still' had been the first rule, and Instantly, the vampire took her heavenly finger away, punishing me for my disobedience and leaving me limply sagging, just in time to receive the second half of my punishment. Four times she struck my ass cheeks, her timing as flawless as a pendulum's, each slap reverberating on the little bud she had been touching a second earlier, making me throb.

"Really, is it so hard to hold still and let me play with you?" Ivy sighed with mocking exasperation. "You're making it look so much more complicated than it is."

"Screw you!" I whimpered thoughtlessly through gritted teeth, earning myself another pair of slaps that set my ass on fire. Panting like a woman possessed, I bit down on the coverlet to keep myself from moaning wantonly, confused beyond words by the effect her spanking and her domination was having on me.

"You won't be able to sit down tomorrow if you keep this up..." Ivy chuckled as she gently rubbed my sore, flaming rump, no doubt in preparation for making it worse in the near future. "Oooh, I think the damage is already done actually." She crooned delightedly. "I'm in charge, Rachel. You're bottom for now. Stop trying to top me, and I'll make sure you can't stand tomorrow either. For all the right reasons of course."

I didn't answer that. I didn't want to open my mouth again, for fear of what would come out, unsure whether it would be vindictive or pleading. My natural disposition was not submission, but Ivy was slowly getting me to bend for her... and part of me liked it. I kept my mouth tightly shut, scrunching up my eyes and gnashing my teeth together when her hand found its way between my legs again. Ivy was making soft, approving noises at my near-compliance, and if I wanted this little game to end and get my climax sometime in the next decade, I had to keep that approval.

"My, my... you're more responsive to this than I thought." She marvelled sultrily as her fingers began to swirl around down there anew, forcing me to bury my burning face in the coverlet. "You're loving this, aren't you? Hmm? Tell me you love it, Dear Heart..." The vampire whispered as she slowly pushed the tip of one finger inside of me. Long and dextrous, the exploring digit began to expertly stroke and rub my pulsing passage, some of the spots it found driving all the air from my lungs.

"No, I don't..." I barely managed to catch my breath to deny it, even though it was increasingly obvious Ivy was on to something, and I had to focus hard not to admit the truth.

"Li-ar." Ivy said in a sing-song voice. "Liar, liar, pants on fire... well, pant seats on fire, anyway." She added gleefully. "Be honest. I'm not a sadist. It makes it all the more fun if you admit you like it..."

"I don't!" I reiterated more forcefully, forgetting myself when she stilled her fingers and left me hanging, waiting for a reply. Sensing what was coming, I braced for the four slaps that landed a second later, the pain sharper and hotter than ever, yet I managed not to cry out this time. Ivy was either feeling extra mean or extra cheated by my stubborn silence, though, because as soon as I got used to it and managed to relax my muscles, she landed another pair of lightning fast blows that made my body arch and tore a cry from my throat. Sagging, I landed back on the bed, the first tears of need beginning to flow onto the coverlet, the first sobs of confusion starting to quiver my body. "Bitch..." I stupidly rasped feebly, expending the thin, tattered remains of my willpower.

She brought the count to eight successive slaps then, and just about killed any defiance I had left dead. Once the cracks of her hand against my backside subsided, I was left laying limp on her lap, crying with need and turned on beyond words under the absolute sway of another person, something I never thought I'd crave so violently. We were playing cat and mouse, I was the mouse, and couldn't believe how much I liked it. This just wasn't a side of me I recognised, but it was getting harder to deny it by the second.

"It's okay, you know." Ivy murmured compassionately, the back of her free hand gently caressing down my shoulder blades while its twin began to titillate me once more. "I know it's hard work being you all the time, always in charge, never wavering, even when people judge you and label you unfairly. It's okay to need someone else to take over for a while. It's a lot of pressure you're living with every day. You're not a freak for needing me like this, or getting turned on by what I'm doing." She hit the nail on the head at the same time she did my clit, and my sobs redoubled as I was brought up to the edge once again with little to no hope of finally tumbling off it. The burning throb of my ass was slowly spreading to every erogenous spot I had, and God, I needed to come so badly...

"All right then, I'll make you a deal. Admit you like getting to be bottom like this, and I'll pretend I'm satisfied." Ivy purred, her voice as smooth and comforting as warm honey. "Do that, and I'll finish you off and take care of you all day long. I promise I'll untie you and please you however you want until you're too sated to keep your eyes open. Whether you want my mouth, my fingers, my fangs, anything you want, I'll give you. You just have to admit one shameless little truth we can both see plain as day. Is that so scary?"

"Yes... no... maybe..." I hiccupped, not managing to make much sense. "I don't... I don't know anymore, Ivy. I need you so bad, I... please, just fuck me..."

That answer wasn't good enough for Ivy. The gorgeous sadist that held me at her mercy wouldn't take any uncertainty, or negativity for that matter, for an answer. She wanted that admittance of enjoyment, and if I didn't offer it willingly she planned to extract it from my hide one spanking at a time. I have no idea how long she kept her little game going, her fingers bringing me up, holding me over the edge and stoking me until I felt ready to burst then leaving my center blindingly fast to spank me, the pain dragging me back down while her dominance and my helplessness before it turned me on and frightened me ever further, making the cycle of my need for her even more intense when her fingers slipped back in and it started anew. Before long I was completely incoherent, sobbing madly in lust and frustration, but Ivy remained merciless to the very end, when I sensed she couldn't push me further without her 'pleasant' (I use the term loosely) torment became straight-up torture.

"No more... no more! I can't take it... Ivy, I can't take it anymore... please!" I implored Ivy frantically when the time came again for her to spank away the pleasure she had built up. Sadistically, she pulled her hand away slowly this time, taking the time to scratch her fingernails along the slick interior of my thighs with one hand while gripping the back of my neck with the other to keep me still when. I began to trash in her grip, desperate to either get away or orgasm myself into oblivion.

Bad, bad, baaad idea.

A snarl coming from Ivy's throat was all the warning I got before the world turned to black, the vampire having thrown me off her lap and ruthlessly pinned me face-first into the mattress, forcing my head to dig into the coverlet with a painful grip on my hair. Twin, diamond hard peaks dug into my back as she covered my body with hers, and four little pinpricks of ice closed in on my jugular, making me go absolutely still in terror. I was covered in six feet of fully vamped out Ivy; a twitch could trip her into sinking those fangs in, consenting or not.

"Move a muscle before I tell you to, and you will bleed." Ivy raggedly warned me, her voice thick with hunger. Roughly, she shoved my knees apart and wedged her legs between them, so I couldn't keep mine closed even if I tried. Without an ounce of care, she then wrenched us both upright, one of her hand finding its way back to my center with unerring accuracy, the other gripping my shoulder and pushing downward, so that I was jack-knifed around the fingers fucking me, helpless and nearly smothered. Ivy's grunts of pleasure began to fill the room as my butt was thrust into her crotch and she met it halfway, grinding herself up against my flaming ass. She was at least as soaking wet as I was, her arousal so abundant I felt it drip between my cheeks as she mounted me like an animal. That's what it was. There was no tenderness here, no caring, just animalistic instinct, sex competing with bloodlust in Ivy's mind to decide whether I'd be her snack tonight or not.

And even through that terrifying ordeal, even though she'd clearly lost it, she STILL didn't slip up and let me climax. Fuck. Me.

Eventually, her grunts gave way to sharp gasps and long moans, her grip on me tightening as the lucky bitch braced herself for her own orgasm, then loosening when she slumped forward on top of me, her chest heaving against my back. Back to her 'affectionate' self now that she'd tempered her bloodlust through sexual satisfaction, she nuzzled my back, a lazy sigh escaping her.

"You are so mule-headed... look what you made me do." Ivy clucked her tongue with naughty disapproval as she flipped my limp, burning body around and took the sight of the sweaty, trembling mess I'd become. Smiling, like she hadn't just come within a hair's breadth of losing it, she helped me sit upright and pulled me back in her lap, one of her arms snaking around my quivering shoulders to hold me face to face with her. "Wouldn't it have been easier to work with me? Always flirting with disaster. I guess you wouldn't really be you if you didn't live on the razor's edge, would you?"

"Please..." The coarse, rasping warble was all I could manage. I would have begged on my knees if my muscles hadn't turned into noodles and my arms weren't still tied behind my back. Ivy chuckled at my pleading, a soft, satisfied smile spreading her lips. Gently, she kissed my quivering lips, whispering a soft promise that it wouldn't be much longer now, the silkiness of her voice nonetheless ripping a whimper of desperation from my throat. My God, I couldn't take 'not much longer'. I needed an orgasm right now. In fact, I could've found use for a buttload of them.

The plaintive sound only amused Ivy further, and it made the pace of her fingers between my legs seem even more leisurely. Her eyes were riveted to mine, her air turning lazy and almost complacent as my pleasure and desperation grew, and I became more and more frantic. Her fingers glided in and out of me with practiced ease, sometimes simply stroking, others crooking and rubbing in a way that made me keen in intense variations of pleasure I'd never experienced before. Her thumb brushed against my clit, titillating the little nub until it was so stimulated I could barely tell if it felt good or not. Too much, too much, it was just way too much, and in her first display of kindness since we got into bed she let me bury my face in the hollow of her neck, holding me tighter while my climax dangled before me, nanometres out of my reach.

"Just a little more. You're doing great." She whispered to me, right before I realised it wasn't compassion but devilishness that made her hold me this way. She had breathed those words right over my demon scars, and in the state I was in, it was enough to set them off.

You know what the worst part is? Even with the added pressure of my scars Ivy was deft enough not to let me fall over the edge and come undone. The two sensations, the one she'd been drawing out since what sure felt like the dawn of time and the fresh ones that spilled in a torrent from my neck, pushed by my racing heart through my entire body, were like oil and water; I felt the effect of both, but for the first time since I'd been marked by Al they didn't actually mix. Perhaps it had something to do with the rhythm of Ivy's hand between my thighs that changed almost imperceptibly, becoming lighter and slower so she kept expertly denying me even though it challenged all the laws of this world or the next that I still hadn't come undone. Perhaps she was morbidly interested in seeing what it would take to make me explode under the strain she was putting on me. That outcome was certainly becoming more likely by the second. My body rebelled against the sensual assault, so violently that if it wasn't restrained by Ivy's grip I probably would have broken my spine arching back. The vampire enjoyed the feel of me a great deal right where I was, if the small groans and moans and gasps she kept making were any indication, so all I could manage was a strangled cry...

...And a powerful clamp of my teeth on her jugular.

I'm not a big enough liar to tell you it was some perfectly executed plan on my part. With Ivy's hand where it was, all the things she did to me in the past hour AND my scars set off, I was beyond higher thoughts process at that point. However, even if it never was that bad, I was used to nibbling or downright biting a vamp's neck when I was so close to climaxing, something Kisten could attest to if he were still alive. The way Ivy cradled me had simply triggered that reflex. Willing or not, I couldn't exactly argue with the result, though. She'd been working herself up again, and so the feel of my teeth tipped her over the edge. The vampire cried out, blissful and surprised at once, as my blunt teeth pressed into her flesh, her flawless skin supplely giving without breaking (vamps have fangs to bite other vamps; soft as it was, her skin always was as resilient as leather, much too tough for me to draw blood with such inappropriate tools), and I didn't need an ounce of her enhanced senses to know that little act had been enough; she definitely had just climaxed herself. Her fingers twitched inside of me, her thumb skidded clumsily against my clit, shattering the carefully maintained equilibrium Ivy had built up, while a potent cloud of pheromones enshrouded me, plunging a silver spike of white-hot pleasure straight through the core of my being, only Ivy's neck I still hadn't let go of smothering my screams as the most monumental climax of my life finally overtook me. Conceding the unavoidability of my victory with a modicum of grace, the woman who tormented me for so long finally began to take me earnestly, her fingers drawing out the more carnal aspect of my pleasure while her lips and tongue worried the scarred side of my neck, intensifying the sensations the tissue soaked in dormant vampire saliva gave me to the point I might have been scared she had drawn blood, if I still had a single brain cell that wasn't drowning in a flood of hormones and endorphins.

My body remained wracked with aftershocks of that monumental orgasm for some time, Ivy being compassionate enough not to simply withdraw and drop me on the floor once my pleasure began to subside. She eased me down from it, helping my breathing and my pulse slow down with gentle kisses that swallowed up the last of my half-rapturous, half-desperate cries, and soft strokes of her fingers. By the time I stopped shaking, I was feeling so drained there was almost an empty pit somewhere in the center of my being. Ivy might not have broken skin, but that hadn't stopped her from taking everything from me.

"Jesus, Ivy... That's what you call not being too cruel?" I rasped once I felt I could speak again without sobbing, still in the same position on Ivy's lap, with the small, relieving change that I was no longer tied up. My shoulders were sore when I experimentally rolled them, the sensation dull and distant as my consciousness decided it didn't want to stick around long and I started to black out. My eyelids weighed a ton each, and so did my arms as I looped them around her neck to bury my face deeper in the hollow of her throat, tears streaming down my cheeks to wet the patch of sore, red skin the vampire hadn't yet healed. "Promise me you're not planning to make spankings a regular event on our sex life calendar? I think we're square now." I tried to joke to hide how shaken I was by what I had just experienced, but the quiver in my voice probably made me sound more like a condemned woman begging for a reprieve from the death penalty. This was the first time I'd come face to face with this long-suspected side of Ivy, the undead vamp side, the one that rejoiced at exerting its will over me, the possessive part that wanted to bend me for pleasure. There was almost no trace of it left now, though. The vampire held me firmly but gently, her left hand running slowly along the length of my side, caressing me in a lazy, or perhaps distracted, fashion while her right wrapped around my middle to hold me close. I nudged her with my nose, hoping to get her to give me some TLC after this. Call me a wuss, but I badly needed some tenderness, to remind myself there was more to her than that. Her taste for domination had always been there, even when she was still alive. Just because she'd let it express itself for once didn't mean Ivy was different in any significant fashion, or so I desperately needed to believe. I'd teased her too far, and it brought the monster out. My ass cheeks burned, but she hadn't bitten me, had she? She came close, but close calls were to be expected until we found our balance again, right? God, I hope so...

"Go to sleep, Rachel." Ivy told me almost wearily. I frowned, grumpily shutting my eyes and resting my head on her shoulder; it's not that that wouldn't happen very soon, but it was no reason to have such poor bedside manners. With a sigh of mild annoyance Ivy manoeuvred us onto our sides and into a more satisfactory position, her body embracing mine from behind. I tucked my legs closer, and hers followed until we were spooning together and I relaxed into the warmth and closeness I needed to balance out the intense experiences of the morning. What we had just done was almost as terrifying as it was mindblowing, and I felt very ready to hit the sack.

"I just don't understand... I thought we were doing so well. Why would you do this, Rachel? Why would you help him?"

It was the last thing I barely perceived through the dark haze encroaching over me, but I was already too far gone to give it any consideration, and as I slipped into velveteen darkness, her words didn't feel ominous at all.


Waking up from a deep sleep in an unfamiliar room with no windows or no source of natural light whatsoever is a bit of a disorienting feeling. Until you take a look around and find a clock of some kind, you have no clue at all how long you've been asleep, whether it was an hour or a week. There was still light in the guest room of the Tamwood mansion, but it was dim and easy on my eyes, even as I rubbed the sleep from them. Soft, heavy sheets covered me and my head was resting on a pillow, so Ivy had to have tucked me in once I passed out from her attentions. Considering her strength, that wasn't exactly unlikely. A bit stranger, but nice, was the fact I was no longer naked; instead, I'd been slipped into the lightest, most luscious silk nightgown you've ever seen, dark and shiny like a star-filled night sky, and the perfect length to be both enticing and decent, as the situation called for. A quick sniff of it confirmed my suspicion that it was a loaner from Ivy, probably what she had intended to wear today; it smelled just like her, and unlike the outfit I'd picked from her closet which smelled of the relaxing and homely incense of her living vampire self, this one had the sharper and spicier fragrances of the new her. The real kicker, though, was around my right wrist; a beautifully tooled silver bracelet, crafted in the likeness of a snake swallowing its tail, its eyes a pair of small, flawlessly cut emeralds. Nice bauble.

Yawning, I got on my back, stretching myself luxuriously from head to toe with a satisfied groan. Maybe there was something to Ivy's whole 'delayed/earth-shattering' approach to sex, because, damn, I felt great. My whole body was wonderfully sore and pleasantly tired out, no doubt from the same activities that left a delightful lingering buzz of sexual energy coursing through my limbs. As I finished shifting into my new position, however, my abused buttocks gave me an unpleasant jolt of pain, reminding me of the rather unorthodox (at least for me) techniques with which the vampire had brought this state of relaxed bliss upon me. The reminder made me doubly sorry my lover had stopped embracing me; unfortunately, just like that first morning after, said vampire was not under the sheets with me. Ivy was still in the room though, which could be considered an improvement, at least, but she would have some serious catching up to do on her cuddling quotas if she kept this up. I wasn't going to put up with this "fuck and run" approach to our sex life for much longer...

"Don't you think I deserve more than five seconds of spooning after what you put me through? Is there a rule written somewhere that says I can't wake up in your arms, ever?" I propped myself up on one elbow and sleepily asked the vampire sitting on the bed close by, unconsciously striking a coquettish pose. What? Even with all the spanking and the vamping out, you'd feel sexy too after spending the day with someone like Ivy. Her yummy back was to me, and as I flushed more and more my drowsiness from my system and took a closer look at her, I noticed she was sitting in a weird way, hugging her shins like a child trying to comfort herself. Unlike me, she was also naked, making her look extra vulnerable. "Ivy? Is something wrong?" I asked her, extricating myself from the covers and crawling over to her. Her lean and usually limber musculature was all bunched up when I laid my hands on her shoulders, its power almost too much for her lovely skin to contain. "What's the matter?" I put my arms around her from behind, embracing her comfortingly. If she wouldn't cuddle me, then screw it, I would cuddle her. So there. She was cool though, and it wasn't all that comfortable to touch her, but I held on anyway, and simply hoped she would flick the switch back on her vitals, like I knew she could.

"Nothing- Something... I'm not sure yet." Ivy replied distractedly, no more forthcoming than that. If she noticed I wrapped myself around her, she sure didn't show it.

"Is this from you?" I brought the bracelet to her eyes and asked sultrily, determined to up the ante. She nodded in answer, but gave no sign that she noticed me beyond that. "It's nice. Thanks." I breathed on her neck, choosing to bring out the big guns and nuzzling her gently, back and forth from her shoulder to that spot she loved beneath the ear. Zit, zilch, nada. She didn't even shiver; I might as well have been trying to distract a marble statue...

What the heck? Am I out of practice or something? After all we'd done, and sleeping next to her in a nightgown that smelled like her, there was just no way my scent still turned her off. I was pretty much trampling her buttons; Ivy should have been all over me by now...

"It reminded me of you." Ivy said, her fingers brushing lightly against the reptile-shaped bracelet resting against her collarbone. "It's got your eyes."

"Oh, yeah? Well, I think it's got your teeth." I replied more bitingly than I intended, both peeved I couldn't get a rise out of my lover and a bit insulted at being compared to the snake on my wrist. Now that I took a closer look at it, I found it had a much more vicious air about it than I first realised. It wasn't swallowing its tail at all, just resting its head against it like it was lying in ambush, and its eyes... I wouldn't have trusted anything with those eyes. I doubt Ivy would have either, which could have worrisome implications if it reminded her of me. "Ivy, what's the matter?" I asked again, giving up on bodily distracting her from whatever dark thoughts were running through that pretty head of hers. "Did you get some bad news while I was asleep? You can talk to me, you know."

Ivy stayed silent at that, her eyes slowly closing and her face completely emptying of emotion. It didn't go with the pose at all. Her body language suggested vulnerability, sorrow, worry. Her face, on the other hand, was set in a coldly distant calculating expression.

"I got a call I don't know what to make of yesterday. Truthfully I've been trying to wrap my head around it ever since I got it." She finally spoke, her head pivoting slowly so she could look at me. Her eyes struck me cold; she was looking at me the exact same way she had when she first rose and was faking her post-death stupor; detached, devious, viciously intelligent, but this time, there was no accomplice wink, just that dreadfully cold void.

"A call?" I swallowed softly as hesitantly disentangled my body from around her. "Ivy, stop it." I pleaded, throwing my pride out the absentee window. "You're scaring me."

"Why would you say that, Dear Heart?" Ivy asked neutrally, the dispassionate way she said her moniker for me chilling the blood in my veins. "Do you have a reason to be afraid of me?"

"N-no." I stammered. "I mean, you're giving me a pretty good reason to be scared right now, but other than... Ivy, if you're trying to sweat me, you did it, just cut it out. Whatever I've done, I apologise, okay?" Normally, I would have been a lot more flamboyant about being given the cold shoulder or accused that way, but Ivy... Ivy would have scared the pants off of me if it wasn't for my current attire.

"You haven't done anything, I'm afraid that's exactly the problem. It's what you didn't mention that worries me, and it's going to take more than an apology if I turn out to be right." She stated enigmatically. "I'm curious to know what Trent wanted with you yesterday afternoon, or why you kept your little meeting a secret. Considering what almost transpired, I think I should have been informed..."

"What Trent- How did you know Trent came to see me?"

"Come now, Rachel. Who did you think Erica would call if she barged in on a meeting involving you and people threatening you, hmm?" Ivy asked expectantly. The cell phone, I realised, feeling like banging my head against a wall all of a sudden, Ivy was on the phone with Erica when Quen caught her. "The poor dear was so scared for you, she got sloppy and gave herself away when she called me. I hope for Quen's sake I never lay eyes on him again, because I'll be sure to snap his fingers off and shove them into his eye sockets if we do."

"Ivy, w-wait. Calm down. I can explain."

"You'd better. I was listening in. As a matter of fact, a few of Reed and Heidi's colleagues were seconds away from barging in and killing every elf in the church when Erica assured me everything was fine and I called them off. I clearly heard you say you agreed to help him." Ivy cut me off, her pupils smoothly swallowing up her irises. Her hunting aura rose about her, seemingly wrapping itself around my throat and choking me it was so intense. I couldn't look away from her eyes, couldn't think at all. The warmth of life left me in the space between one heartbeat and the next, leaving me trembling, numb and weak. "He put the three men I had watching the church in magically induced comas in order to talk to you without my knowledge, you know. The doctors aren't sure they'll ever wake up, so for your sake you'd better tell me what 'helping him' means." Ivy demanded, her voice deeper and colder than I ever heard it.

"He... He wanted me to help him stop you. F-from taking over." I couldn't help but answer. Far too much of my brainpower was dedicated to being scared out of my mind to even think of ways to present the truth otherwise.

"And you agreed?"

"N-no, I didn't-"

"Don't lie to me." Ivy warned me with deathly calm. "I heard you. The only reason I'm giving you a chance to explain is that you declared Erica was off limits. You agreed to help him. Tell me what he's planning."

"I didn't agree to work with him against you." I amended, panicking when the smothering aura reached negative Kelvin. "I agreed to talk to you about letting him perform some treatments on pregnant elf women! That's all! Ever since you seized his labs, he's been falling behind on their treatments! I agreed to help them! He wanted more, but that's all I gave him! If he's planning something, I've got no clue what it is!" My words stumbled all over each other as I gushed out, clutching at my throat even though her fingers were only wrapped around it in my head.

"I don't believe you." The vampire said, the oppressive waves of cold emanating from her redoubling. "If you think sharing my bed somehow gives you a free pass to plot against me, I've got some news for you, little witch." That was it. She pushed me past my limit; the very concept of pride long since lost to me, I skittered off the bed like an insect startled by sudden light, falling flat on my ass on the carpeted floor. The pain going ignored, I crab-walked into a corner of the room, driven by pure fright or flight instinct (yeah, I was that scared) and shaking like a leaf from head to toe.

"It's the truth! Smell it, or hear it, or whatever vamp mojo you always use! You could always tell when I was lying before, do it now!" I scrambled for a way to convince her of my innocence, still scared out of my mind even though Ivy hadn't made a move to close in on me. The vampire was still sitting in bed, in the same position, looking harmless at a glance though her mere presence chilled the air around us. For what felt like a very long time, Ivy stared at my cowering self, her expression impassive, her only movement the flaring of her nostrils and the slight rise of her chest as she breathed in what information my scent offered her. I felt like a bug pinned under a sadistic kid's magnifying glass while she analysed whether or not I could be trusted.

"You've altered your scent before." She finally stated simply, her aura retracting back into her body anyway, letting me stand upright and breathe easier, though I was still scared enough that I didn't want to move from the furthest spot in the room from her yet. "I don't know if I can trust it." Like a child listening to her parents fight in the next room, she hugged her shins more tightly, letting her forehead rest on her knees. She was clearly lost in thought, and God help me, I didn't want to know what conclusion she was going to draw.

"I think I want to go home now." I gathered enough of my wits and said in a quiet, wavering voice. Screw sunlight, screw great sex, screw cuddling and most importantly, screw my stupidly ignoring Jenks', Ceri's, Trent's and even Ivy's own warnings. I'd gotten close to a goddamn undead vampire, offered her my body, locked myself naked in a room with her, surrounded by who knows how many of her minions... there was no word for my stupidity. Jenks was right. Out of grief, I'd placed my head on the chopping block for a chance to hold on to a shadow of what Ivy and I could have had, and now Ivy was fiddling with the guillotine's trigger, debating whether to pull it or not.

No, not Ivy. Ivy died a month ago. She's dead. She's gone, and she's never coming back. All those dark, despairing emotions that had washed away in that first kiss we shared in the kitchen a week ago came flooding back, threatening to drown me once more, but before the realisation Ivy was truly gone could knock me flat on my ass, I slammed everything down, locked down my heart and threw away the key. I could cry my eyes out over losing her a second time once I was back on holy ground.

I swear to God, if I can get back to the church I'm never leaving it again...

"I understand." Ivy murmured without raising her head. "Unfortunately, you're not."

"Ivy, please. Don't be stupid." I pleaded with her, tentatively sending a part of my mind searching for a line, feeling a little more confident when I found we weren't too deep underground for my magic to work. I was still trapped in close-quarters with an undead vamp, so short of a chainsaw manifesting out of thin air, nothing would really reassure me, but at least I wasn't helpless. I had an edge her sheer physical aptitudes couldn't match; I could only pray I wouldn't have to find out if it was enough.

"I can't let you go, Rachel. Where you're involved, I don't tend to act rationally. You're one of the only weaknesses I have left. It's too dangerous to let Trent get his hands on you. You're too close to me to be allowed to work for him, in any way, shape or form."

"I'm not." I defended myself curtly, discreetly letting the energy trickle into my chi so as to not give my hand away. "Ivy, I don't want to fight you." It was the truth. Even for me, turning around and blowing the face off a lover I'd just shared myself with was pallid. No matter what Ivy thought or how it turned out, my desires and my feelings had been honest when I stepped into bed with her.

"I don't either." Ivy responded, still not moving a muscle. She sounded so genuine I could've almost forgiven the aura... and the brutal interrogation... and the death threats. On second thought, that was one stupid impulse; we were light-years beyond gluing back together. "Please come back to bed. It's still early, and we have a long night ahead. Get some more sleep. I won't lay a finger on you, you have my word."

"No. I'm not going to come back to bed. I'm leaving. I'm not going to pick a side between you and Trent, so just let me go peacefully, and we can both go our separate ways, without killing each other."

"Please don't be too mad at me. You have to look at this my way. I'm getting a serious case of déjà-vu here. It always starts like that, doesn't it? First he comes to you with a proposal that you refuse him, saying you'll never help him ever again." Ivy recounted reasonably. "Then he finds a chink in your armour. You start to waver, he starts to make sense somehow, and before you know it, he's gotten through to you and it ends very badly for the poor schmuck he needed help with. Tell me this isn't history repeating itself?"

"It's not! I swear to God it's not."

"I'm sorry if it's the truth, but I still can't take that chance, not anymore." She said with patient stubbornness. "If we were living in a vacuum and it was all up to me, maybe I could trust you, but by the time the sun rises tomorrow, I'll be the new master of Cincinnati. I have duties to others, too. Duties I don't intend to fail in. There's too much at stake to beat around the bush any longer."

"You... Your mom gave up?" She won. Ivy's going to be master of Cincinnati. Yay? Boo? Little bit of both? Great for the city, but it sure sucks for me? I couldn't decide how I felt about that. It didn't make her immediately more threatening than she already was... right?

"Didn't you wonder why it took nearly half an hour to tuck my little sister in? My parents and I had a chat after I saw Erica to her room. It turns out they had their own talk while we were together in the library, and my father convinced my mother to come to me with a reasonable proposal. The terms aren't very important here. What matters is that tomorrow the life and prosperity of all this city's vampires will become my responsibility... and you are conspiring with one of their enemies. That makes you one of mine."

Okay, maybe that righteous leader act did make her more dangerous...

"I'm not! For God's sake, you incredibly stupid moron, how many times do I have to tell you?"

"Why did you spend the morning with me, then? Why did you try to seduce me, all of a sudden?"

"How about the obvious reason? Because I wanted to!" I yelled at her. "God, Ivy, is that so mind-boggling you can't wrap your head around it? I love... loved you, damnit!"

"You refused to see me all week, but mysteriously let go of all those doubts you had today? Mere hours after Trent met with you, wanting your help against me?" Ivy wrongfully analysed my supposed motives. "Even you can see how it looks. If you had just mentioned what happened instead of keeping it a secret, I would have believed you, but now? The evidence isn't in your favour."

"I didn't keep it..." I began to protest, before remembering I had indeed kept it a secret. I'd done it in hopes of preserving the semblance of peace that had come back to my home town, but why was I getting the feeling telling her that would not convince her? "You're paranoid." I scoffed and threw my arms up in consternation, turning my back to her with a confidence I sure didn't feel. "Worse than paranoid, you're day-tripping. It's clear I can't convince you I didn't plan this, so, sorry, but we're done talking now. Don't bother calling anymore." Swell, I hope I don't have to fight out of here. I'm already driving out in her nightwear... I realised as I strode towards the door, thinking there was no chance Ivy would let me dress, but before I could even finish that nervously flippant thought, Ivy, still naked as the day she was born, materialised between the exit and me, slowly shaking her head with a look of pure regret in her eyes.

"I implore you, Dear Heart. Let go of the line, and come back to bed. I can give you another pheromone bath, even a massage if you want. You'll sleep like a baby. I promise no one will hurt you, not now, not later." She was blatantly trying to bribe me, but I only went colder at the mention of her pheromones, and I listened more attentively for the sound of the ventilation, finding only a vague reassurance when I faintly made it out. Could it keep up with her outpour of mind-altering chemicals? Damnit, I had to get out before she had me bespelled and I stopped wanting to get out altogether.

"Get out of my way, or I swear to God, I'll blast you right through the door." I grunted at her, stubbornly tapping the full extent of the line and bracing myself for the kickback of discharging energy I was about to be hit with. The vampire didn't even blink, to my never-ending dismay. "Last chance. You've got three seconds." I swallowed audibly, raised my right arm to her face, my fingernails cutting into the skin of my left palm and my eyes scrunching close as I mentally counted down. I didn't want to do this, let alone watch this, no matter how dire a turn our relationship had now taken. It was still the face of a woman I loved. I'd just been too stupid to let her go when she died, and now it was my turn to pay the price to keep my freewill and my life.

"No. That was your last chance." Ivy said from under her dark bangs... just as her gift came alive. "You can spare yourself some pain if you let go of the line right now." The silver snake encircling my wrist mysteriously began to constrict it so tightly it made me gasp in pain and clutch my wrist in a desperate attempt to get the crushing bracelet off. The damn thing wiggled over me for a few seconds, becoming in turn almost loose enough to be pulled off and so tight it cut off all blood flow to my hand, until it settled somewhere in between, uncomfortably tight, but not so much that it hurt.

Then the real pain started.

The snake reared its vicious little head back, coming alive before my bewildered eyes and hissing menacingly at me like a real one would, its silver fangs aglow with dark purple energy. It struck just like its flesh-and-blood kin would, sinking them blindingly fast into the tender flesh of my wrist. I screeched as the metal points broke the skin, but the flesh wound soon went ignored. The line energy I was channelling slipped from control, my mastery over it wrenched from my grasp by the construct quickly bonding to me.

"WHAT THE HELL IS THAT!" I yelled frightfully at the vampire, trying pointlessly to wrench the silver teeth from my flesh.

"Let go and it will stop. Don't, and I can guarantee you won't like what happens next."

With a cry of effort, I attempted to lash out at her, using all of my willpower to tap more from the line, but all it did was accelerate whatever process the bracelet was going through. No matter how much I sucked out of the line I tapped, the snake just sucked it right back out of me. For several heartbeats nothing happened, other than the familiar, violating sensation of being drained of ley line power and the sharp pain of the little silver fangs sunk into me. The emerald eyes of the snake shone with an inner light that intensified by the second, its metal skin warming up as it pulled more and more from me, until it felt like I had a small star strapped to my wrist, dramatic shadows getting cast every which way from the pulsating glare. It trembled, like it was reaching breaking point, and I took heart in that, fighting through the revolting feeling in hopes I could overload the damn thing and get it off me somehow. I could channel and hold a lot of power; there was no way in hell some magical trinket could outdo me in raw magical strength and stamina, I was sure of it.

Turns out, I was half wrong. At least half wrong. Maybe the bracelet couldn't hold out as long as I could, but I never got a chance to find out. All the energy it stole from me had to go somewhere, hence why it looked more and more like the Energizer bunny's infinitely creepier cousin. A new pulsing joined in low in my belly as the amount of energy it held obviously reached a critical point, at first barely noticeable but quickly rising and intensifying, turning uncomfortable, then rapidly downright painful, all the way up to agonisingly unbearable, making me double over in pain as I realised just what was going on. The damn thing was giving me back what it took from me, with what sure felt like a buttload of interest; painful bursts of power surged out of it straight into my body, raw and wild, their jagged edges tearing my brain apart. It felt like getting hit with Angel's backlash in miniature version all over again, and repeatedly this time around, my chi and mind mercilessly assaulted into submission. Frantically, I listened to Ivy's advice and let go of the line before the damn thing left me with medium-well done synapses, but the waves of burning power didn't stop with my compliance. Apparently, once it got going, the snake construct had to discharge entirely, and I hurt from it all the way, like I was getting tasered a hundred times over. My legs gave out in the near-seizure, and I collapsed miserably to the floor, twitching and drooling, lost in torment that felt never ending. Damn it all to hell, how much juice had I been stupid enough to pump into that thing?

I have no clue how long I was left writhing on the floor, getting fried from the inside by my own magic harnessed against me, but eventually, the damn bracelet ran out of power to throw back at me, leaving me sagging in nigh-orgasmic cessation of pain, panting and squirming in my smouldering, too tight skin. My muscles were so sore I could barely move without their protest cutting off my breath. I felt like I'd been run over by an eighteen-wheeler, and my head was killing me, but as I painstakingly pushed myself on all four, I got the feeling there wasn't quite as much damage to my chi this time around as there had been after my confrontation with Angel; bully for me, I may not need a month of recovery this time around. Small favours. It's not like I could use magic anyway as long as the serpent bracelet was around my wrist. The trinket apparently didn't trust me anymore, as it didn't loosen its grip on me, even as its vicious little head settled itself back against its metal tail. There was a little blood left where the fangs had pierced my skin, but in the wake of the energy backlash I barely felt the little punctures the piece of jewelry had left. My God, what dark corner of hell had that thing crawled out of? How had Ivy gotten her hands on such a nasty magic item?

"I did warn you..." Ivy whispered very close by, her cool palm against my sweaty cheek snapping my thoughts back to the present crisis. In all the pain and misery of the past minutes, I'd forgotten the other mortal danger I was in. Startled, I fell backward, crawling away on all four until my back hit the wall. "I was hoping you wouldn't trigger it. To answer your question, it's an unfortunately necessary insurance policy that will make sure you don't use magic again before I trust you to. Think of it as a distinguished version of those spelled zip-strips you're so fond of. It will relax its grip too eventually. As long as you don't try to use magic, or to take it off, it will remain comfortable to wear." The naked vampire informed me casually, as if she hadn't stood there watching me get pounded into submission by her goddamn 'insurance'.

"Was all of this morning a pretext to get it on me?" I rasped accusingly, feeling as used as a blow-up doll. "Everything you said, everything we did? You knocked me out with sex and pheromones just so you could slap that thing on me without a fight?"

"That was one reason. Your magic was the only thing that could threaten me while I questioned you. I had to find some way to neutralise it, and I could hardly risk forcing it on you where someone might see us. They might get the idea our relationship is strained, and there's a lot of faith riding on both of us being together."

"And you accused me of seducing you..." I scoffed with dark, bitter irony. Seriously, how the HELL could I have been this stupid? "You're the one I never should have trusted. This was all an elaborate trap from the beginning, wasn't it? You got me right where you wanted."

"Not remotely." Ivy replied, her voice still as smooth and mild as warm caramel, even in the face of my accusations. "If anything, it was a test, not a trap. I didn't want this. I would have been so happy to simply sleep alone today. If you hadn't offered yourself to me, if you had proven to me beyond a doubt you were still letting our relationship evolve naturally rather than using it to further Trent's agenda, I would have gladly put this incident in the church behind us. Instead, you gave me just enough blood to whet my appetites for you and took those risks to get close to me. You have to admit you shouldn't have gone along with a lot of what I did to you this morning."

"Because I wanted to show some trust. Some damn acceptance. I was a damn fool and I wanted to be with you again, so I let you do what you wanted, because I wanted to trust you not to go too far!" I spat bitingly, my voice rising and rising. I knew I was cornered, and all I had left was a sharp tongue to put up a defence. Ivy would make a mockery of me if I went hand-to-hand against her, and attempting to use magic would again harm me more than her. I was trapped like a rat.

"So you say. Maybe that's the truth. I'm terribly sorry we came to this extreme if it is, but I promise you it won't matter anymore after tonight, one way or the other." Ivy replied enigmatically. Slow and confident, she stalked towards, making me flinch away from her even though I had nowhere left to run. "Look at me." She demanded gently once she was kneeling before me, her voice taking on a mysteriously vampy quality hypnotically reverberating soothingly through my abused brain, bypassing it entirely to force my eyes to meet hers. "Breathe. Slow and deep. Breathe. Relax. There won't be any more pain if you just relax."

My heart hurt so much that promise almost made those deep breaths she wanted me to take sound like a good idea, but I had enough self-preservation left not to want to. I knew what she was doing, but I could only hold my breath for so long before I passed out, and I eventually drew a shallow, shuddering breath. The rush of pheromones in my lungs almost instantly weakened my resolve and the air whooshed out much slower and steadier than my panicked state should have allowed. I couldn't hold out any longer, and soon my breathing was synched with hers, slow and deep, just like she wanted, taking in the pheromones she was putting out to sap my will completely, slaving it to hers.

"I was such a fool..." I whispered. A single tear made it down my cheek before her pheromones took root in my brain, altering my thoughts to whatever shape the vampire wanted them to be. An unnatural numbness spread through me, as if I was watching someone else's life unfold and unravel all of a sudden. Ivy righted herself and offered a hand to help me up, my own hand meeting hers without any conscious control on my part. I was a prisoner of my own body, enthralled to the vampire's will, yet I also remained cruelly aware of the control I no longer had. I watched myself walk to the edge of the bed though I desperately didn't want to. I watched my hands throw the covers back and my body slip beneath them, though entering the gates of hell would have frightened me less. I watched Ivy pull them around me and distantly felt her climb next to me, over them.

"Will you let me hold you?" She asked softly.

"Why do you even bother to ask?" I sniffled, trying my hardest to keep from crying. "It's only a courtesy anyway when you can just make me want it."

"Rachel, only your body is outside your control right now. Your mind is your own. I wouldn't take that away from you." The vampire defended herself, her tone not fluctuating one bit. "Please, let me comfort you."

"Get my hair out of my face?" I swallowed and asked, her compulsion not even letting me deal with the annoyance of my red curls irritating my nose myself. The vampire complied immediately, her fingers taking the time to lightly caress my jaw and ear as she pulled the fiery strands away. Giving my lack of protest the value of worded consent, she almost timidly slipped under the covers and encircled my waist with her arm. I didn't tell her to get off me any more than I told her to embrace me, feeling I was at least preserving a fraction of my pride this way. There was one very simple reason why I wanted her there; if I closed my eyes and used my imagination, I could almost pretend the creature at my back really was my Ivy, not just a broken shell of her, and find some semblance of solace in it, if only for a moment.

"What's going to happen tonight?" I asked even though I couldn't look at her, dreading the answer so much but inquiring anyway in hopes the small mental effort required could stave off the darkness encroaching on my mind. Ivy was willing me to sleep, and she was winning, big time.

"Tonight, I'll be officially recognised as the master of Cincinnati. And you'll be by my side, as my prospective Scion when I receive the families' allegiances." Ivy declared almost mournfully. "It's going to be the first night of the rest of our lives, Dear Heart. Tonight, the last scores are settled, the last debts repaid. Tomorrow at this hour, we'll have a blank slate and a whole city to make whatever dreams we want come true."

"You're planning to bind me, aren't you?" I asked, deducing I wouldn't stay her prospective Scion for long in that grand vision of hers.

"I didn't want it to be a punishment, Rachel." Ivy murmured wearily. "I was planning on making it a beautiful gift. I wanted to give you a few years to warm up to the idea before even proposing to you. Proposing, not forcing you. But thanks to Trent, I can't afford to wait or to let you choose. I have to make sure you don't harm anyone under my responsibility. Binding you is the only way to make sure of that now. I won't turn you into a puppet, my love." She added and gave me a comforting squeeze when I started crying quiet, frightened tears. I couldn't help it. A feeling of crushing helplessness was weighing down on my chest, a blind panic rampaging through my mind though my body was only dead weigh I couldn't will to move, to fight, to flee or just... act! Ivy had set loose one of my worst nightmares; she turned me into that dying child again, the one who dreaded going to sleep because she knew that if she closed her eyes, they might never open again. Protectively, Ivy curled her body more tightly around mine in a gesture that could have been sweet if it hadn't been preceded with torture and interrogation. "I still loathe Piscary and what he did to me. I won't force you to exist in a state of constant mental violation like he did. Your binding to me will be nothing at all like that. You've seen Angel, haven't you? She's a strong and wilful companion who speaks her mind, who has a life and a will of her own. I want you to be like her, even freer. You and I will be beautifully intertwined, but I want you to remain your own person. I want you, such as you are, with all your strengths and all your infuriating quirks. It will be loose and gentle, I promise. I just need to make sure beyond a doubt you're not trying to take me down. Do you understand?"

"Ivy, I don't want this! I'm begging you, let me go!" I sobbed, using the last of my rapidly decreasing strength to force the words out. "I won't ever do anything to cross you again, I swear! I'll shut down Vampiric Charms! I'll leave the city behind and never come back, but please, please don't do this to me!" I promised frantically, more than ready to follow it through if it meant I could escape my approaching doom. That Ivy compared her plans for me to what Nathalie had done to her seemingly free-spirited Scion gave me no comfort whatsoever. My free will couldn't merely be a gift from her, a reprieve she granted me from slavery. I would die first.

"Dear Heart, is the thought of living by the side of someone who loves you forever truly that terrifying to you?" Ivy asked, having the gall to sound hurt about my plea, even after she tortured me into submission and temporarily enslaved my will to hers. "I don't want to consume you or degrade you. I want to give you more power and status than you ever had; strength, grace, influence, beauty, safety, all the material comforts you could want, even immortality that you won't have to stain your soul to pay for... This is hardly a living hell I'm offering you. It's... the closest I can do to asking for your hand in marriage, actually. I want to make this happily ever after, for both of us. Please don't be afraid."

"Don't... want it. Not like this." I breathed out barely audibly. I didn't have the strength to protest further. I couldn't keep my eyelids open any longer, but in the few seconds before my consciousness evaporated into oblivion, I made out Ivy's last words, the coddling in her voice clearly gone despite the illusory distance.

"I'm afraid there is no other choice, my love. When the sun comes up tomorrow, you will either be mine... or you will die. I can't let you go any other way. I'm sorry."

You know what? I'm totally blaming it on falling asleep that I didn't tell her I preferred that last choice. I was not balking in the face of death at all. The tsunami of terror that overcame me in that last second of consciousness was just a coincidence. Yeah...

A/N: *blank* *the author ran away again*