Author's Notes Numero Uno: This story takes place some time after the second novel Claimed by Shadow. I haven't read the remaining books yet, so I have no knowledge of what comes afterwards. This is based on the assumption that Cassie is somewhat answering to the Circle, and that Pritkin has remained loyal. There aren't any spoilers for the first two books, really, except for very minor and vague details that probably wouldn't give anything away, anyway.

Of course, the wonderful characters of Cassandra Palmer and John Pritkin remain the property of Karen Chance, an author I really admire and hope to see a lot more of. Both in published format, and fanfiction!


My mind was in turmoil.

Why the hell wasn't the geis working? It had always stopped me from doing stupid things before, but when I really, truly needed it, it had decided to take a rather unwelcome vacation.

My hands were currently curled into fists, fighting the urge to run themselves over the taut muscles pressed against me. I felt a hand skim my mostly bare side, and I shuddered. This couldn't really be happening, could it? The man in front of me nipped my ear, trying to get my attention. My musings were cut short when I looked up into green eyes gone emerald with lust. I didn't need to have the ceremony of Pythia hanging over my head any longer, apparently-- I had always known, I suppose, that without the geis to protect us, John Pritkin and I would either end up killing each other, or screwing each other's brains out.

"I'm not wearing it," I glowered at the hideous costume the mage had delivered, holding the scrap of material between forefinger and thumb as though it offended me. And, really, it did.

Pritkin glared right on back, his usual scowl firmly in place. "I've seen you in worse, Miss Palmer. Now, if you would please..."

"No, I would not please!" I interrupted, throwing the garment back at him, "That thing is little more than lingerie, and I am not appearing before the Circle in underwear," I spat, "And, just to keep things straight, the only time you've seen me in worse is that damned costume from Dante's, at which time I was undercover and running for my life! I don't wear these things voluntarily."

Pritkin was holding the outfit, the thin straps drooping from his forefingers. The straps were attached to a bodice, from which hung a waterfall of silk down the back and sides. It was a dark crimson, the color of blood, and I was briefly surprised that this particular ceremonial outfit hadn't been created by the Council.

"Not even for the Vampire?" Pritkin's voice was low, dangerous. The veins on his throat were visible, as though he were struggling. I didn't know what I had done to put that anger in Pritkin's eyes, but I didn't like it.

"What?" I asked stupidly.

"Your Vampire Lover," Pritkin repeated, "Mercea. You have not even worn such things for him?"

I blinked at the mage stupidly. "Are you serious? The only time Mercea and I have been together all my clothes were in shreds and I was forced into a bathrobe three times my size. Even if I wanted to, which I don't, I never had the opportunity!" I was getting angry now, and when I was angry I was usually stupid. I glared at Pritkin and moved closer to him, getting into his personal space. I had been told I was to meet with the Circle that evening, so I had bathed and was clothed in only a plush robe, my hair still damp. I moved within a few inches of Pritkin, droplets from my hair falling and plopping onto his shoes.

For some reason Pritkin looked relieved, but it was a brief flash and I couldn't even be sure that I had seen it before anger once again dominated his face. "You will wear what befits your title," he growled, "And it is known that the Pythia is the lover of Apollo. Does it surprise you so that you would portray such a role in your position?" he paused, and a droplet of sweat traced the contours of his face, "Besides, this is not the entire ensemble."

I was so relieved I took a step back. "It's not?"

"No," the mage held the outfit out to me again, "There are matching panties."

I felt my face go bland. "You can't be serious," I threw my hands into the air, and felt a stab of pain when the action immediately reminded me of Agnes, "This is some kind of practical joke, right? Some initiation right that you put all the new Pythias through? Well, forget it, mister. Not this Pythia. I will not be humiliated anymore than I already have been."

Pritkin growled, literally growled, and stalked towards me, "If you do not put this on," he managed to squeeze through his clenched teeth, "By God I will undress you and put you in it myself!"

The threat was real enough, and I ought to have been terrified, but somehow the only words that had penetrated my brain were 'I will undress you...' I physically shook myself, because I was afraid that my only reply would be, "OK."

Pritkin continued to glare at me, the significance of his words not registering. Maybe he no longer felt as he had when the geis had been activated, or perhaps he had forgotten the incident entirely. I know I had tried my hardest to. However, unless I wanted to shift, there wasn't an especially good solution to this scenario. Either I could continue to refuse, some point at which Pritkin would take it upon himself to make up my mind for me, or else I could choose my battles and fight with Pritkin about something more important later. And, knowing us, there would definitely be a later. Besides, what was a little more dignity lost in front of the Circle?

I blew out a breath, making a big show of snatching the garment from him. "Fine."

The mage seemed surprised that I had finally given in, but stepped back and bowed, "Then I will wait outside while you change, and then escort you to the audience hall." And he left, presumably guarding my door from murderers and perverts.

I tugged the robe off in irritation, throwing it across the room to appease my anger. "Hmph," I crossed my arms across my naked chest, "That's what you get for... well, for being in the line of fire, I guess." I let out a long sigh and picked up the lingerie. There really wasn't any other way to describe the scrap of cloth, no matter the significance. So I was supposed to be the Sun God's lover tonight, huh? I had enough trouble keeping my reputation as clean as possible, but now I had to add slut to the long list of insults? Good grief.

I managed to pull myself into the bra, and couldn't help the shiver of pleasure as pure silk brushed against my bare back and sides. There was something innately sensual about silk, and it always brought to mind warm skin and sweat-soaked sheets. I indulged myself, twisting my hips and causing the material to brush against my sensitive skin. I felt my nipples peak and I let my breath out in a shudder. I so did not have time for this.

With reluctance I reached for the remainder of the outfit, only to realize that I had never received them. I huffed, crossing the room and retrieving my robe before calling the mage.

He entered a moment later, his face instantly morphing into irritation. "Why are you still in the robe? Are you really going to argue with me further?"

"You didn't give me the damn panties, Pritkin!" I muttered, yanking open the robe enough to bare the crimson of the bra and hints of skin, "I'm only half-dressed!"

Something visibly snapped in the mage. One moment he was his usual irritated, snooty self, and the next he was vibrating with suppressed energy. His eyes followed the line of skin visible between my robe, traced the path from my throat to my navel and back again, finally settling upon my red, silk-encased breasts.

I swallowed hard and pulled the robe closed.

The next moment I was pushed against the wall, the breath knocked out of me, with a frantic mage pressed against my front.

"Don't," he swallowed, "Don't do that."

My breath was caught in my throat at the sound of his voice, at the press of his body, and especially at the distressed and obviously aroused look in his eyes. "Do what?" I managed to whisper.

He looked pained, but his eyes met mine when he said, "Close yourself off to me."

I couldn't answer him and I couldn't look away from the green of his eyes, but I didn't stop him when his hand moved to my shoulder, pushing aside the robe. He did the same to the other, and he inched us off the wall enough to allow it to fall, then catch again just above my navel. His eyes seemed to drink in the details of my skin as his hands glided lightly up and down my arms. The sensation made me shiver, and I felt a pleasant warmth begin to pool between my legs.

I brought my hands up uncertainly between us, not sure if I was going to push him away or undress him. He saved me the trouble of having to debate with myself by pulling his shirt over his head, throwing it away. His hands were hot against my sides, where they glided underneath the silk.

My hands were in fists against his warm chest, and I realized that I was leaning forward slightly, my lips parted. My tongue darted out to wet them unconsciously, and his eyes followed the movement. It was amazing and unlikely, but I had never felt very sexy until that moment, when it seemed as though the world could fall down around us and it would be only me he saw. It was a heady feeling, and I had to close my eyes to stop myself from letting my robe drop that final inch and open myself to him fully.

"Cassie," he whispered my name, his lips brushing against my ear, "What about the geis?"

I licked my lips again, "I don't know."

Pritkin nipped my ear, not allowing my thoughts to wander, the moved back in order to see my face. "My question is, do you care?"

I searched his eyes, as though I could find the answer hidden there. His expression managed to still be haughty, but his eyes were the softest I'd ever seen them and his hands kept soothing circles against my back. I closed my own eyes, looking for an answer within myself, and found it unexpectedly easily.

"No," I said, and opened my fists, fingers resting against his curls dampened with sweat.

He let out a shuddering breath, then he moved so that the robe fell completely to the floor, so that I was bared before him. His hands went beneath my knees and he picked me up easily, my arms automatically going around his head.

He strode us quickly to my bed, placing me gently upon the sheets and crawling over me quickly, his lips covering mine with a franticly whispered, "Finally!"

I smiled against his lips, but my smile dissolved into a moan as his hand roamed across my bare skin, his tongue parting my lips and his khaki-clad knee between my legs. The material was rough against my skin, but I couldn't help from rubbing myself discreetly, wanting that pressure badly.

Pritkin's hands continued to wander my body, sending delicious shivers to my core, but it wasn't enough. His lips left mine a moment later and he regarded me with a smirk. "The Circle's taste is poor, Cassie," he bit my bottom lip, running his tongue across it, "and though I must say this garment suits you, I'd much rather it not." And, without further notice, the thing was ripped from my body, leaving me completely naked to his sight.

The force of his action made me cry out in both surprise and arousal, and it was then that I realized what the geis had recognized in him, and why I couldn't help but be enamored. Pritkin was strength embodied, with his warrior's soul and his hard-earned muscle. I loved strong men, and with so much struggle to control any aspect of my everyday life, it was a relief to relinquish control, even for a brief moment, even just during sex. For a few blissful moments, I didn't need to fight. I could let this beautiful, strong man make love to me, and it wouldn't cost me anything.

My realization made my eyes water, and in an effort to distract the mage from my tears, I began tearing at his pants. I wasn't at my most graceful, but it achieved the desired effect. Pritkin's eyes darkened with need, and he latched his mouth onto my throat while I worked.

It was more difficult than I realized, trying to undress a man while he nipped and sucked at such a vulnerable place. I was finally able to undo the snap and slide his zipper down, and he took a moment to kick off his shoes and slide the pants down his legs. I sat there a moment, still a bit stunned, when he moved back over me, completely naked, and kissed me tenderly.

I felt his flesh resting against my leg, and I opened to him.

He broke the kiss, whispering softly, "I will not allow this to end so soon." He kissed a path from the hollow of my throat, down between the valley of my breasts, where he took a moment to tweak each nipple into stiffness until I made soft sounds of encouragement, to my navel, then to the inside of my thighs and behind my knees where he nipped gently and tickled me with his tongue. He ended at my ankles, placing soft kisses on my Achilles heel, then began the trek in the opposite direction. By the time he once again reached my thighs I was thrashing, making sounds low in my throat that sounded curiously like, "More."

He placed one more kiss upon my navel before smiling up at me lasciviously, "As my Lady commands," and plunging his tongue inside of me. My hips lifted off the mattress of their own accord and my hands tangled in his hair. I moaned, and he rewarded me by pressing his thumb against my clit.

The world exploded into light. I was flying, pleasure pulsing in my core, and the descent was equally as pleasant. I returned to earth to find Pritkin worshiping my breasts, taking my nipples into his mouth and biting just this side of pain.

I grabbed a fistful of his hair and pulled him to me, knocking teeth in an effort to portray everything I felt into that kiss. I kissed him with lips and tongue and teeth, and still it wasn't enough. I released his mouth and latched onto his throat, nipping and sucking until I was sure I'd leave a bruise. Good, I decided, let them see he's been claimed.

Finally I moved back to his mouth, but I simply whispered against his lips, "I want you now."

He didn't argue this time. I felt a finger enter me cautiously, and when he felt no resistance he added a second. I was wet and ready for him, and he knew it. Still caught in the sensations, I sighed with exultation when I felt his digits being replaced by something larger, harder.

Pritkin pushed into me slowly, inch by agonizing inch, and I dug my nails into his back in an effort to not cry out. I wrapped my legs around his waist, trying to get him to move faster, damn it. Anything for that delicious friction.

I felt the mage's hot breath against my neck as he fought for control, trying to prolong the pleasure even as his hips twitched with need. I pulled harder against him. "Let go," I said, stroking a hand down his cheek, "I want all of you—give me all of you, John!"

I'm not sure if it was my plea or the sound of his first name from my lips, but his eyes were suddenly darker, fiercer, and he slammed into me hard enough to make me cry out, make my toes curl from the pleasure. His hips moved almost too fast to follow, the friction incredible and the pressure building inside of me until I thought I would drown in sensation. I grabbed at sweat-slicked skin, trying to anchor myself, but it was as though everywhere our skin touched I was melting in pleasure. Pritkin continued to rain soft kisses on my neck and shoulders even as his forehead creased in concentration. He was still trying not to break me and, considering the strength I'd seen him demonstrate, I appreciated the gesture.

The pressure continued to build to an impossible height, until I was simply a bundle of nerves thrashing against the pillows making helpless, needy sounds. I cried out, shouting his name and unintelligible noises, pleas to let me finish and promises to never stop.

His rhythm finally began to break, his breath came faster and it was with a cry that I felt that wonderful light burning its way into my vision once more, Pritkin shouting my name above me and warmth spreading from my core outwards, sending delicious tingles from the tip of my head to my toes. I sighed, content, and hugged the man that had collapsed on top of me.

Pritkin moved off of me, and before I could protest he had snuggled up behind me, draping an arm over my stomach, effectively spooning me. He kissed the back of my neck, and I felt his lips curve in a smile.

So much between us was ruined with words, and I wasn't ready for that yet. Apparently, neither was he, because he stayed silent until I drifted off contentedly to sleep a while later, still enveloped by his warmth.

When I woke several hours later I was still naked but Pritkin was gone. I wasn't especially surprised, considering his line of work and his other duties. He had people to answer to, probably to explain why we hadn't made it to the audience chamber...

"Shit!" I sat up abruptly. I had completely forgotten about the ceremony!

I couldn't seem to muster a good deal of regret, considering that not going to the ceremony had resulted in fantastic sex. Not to mention the lack of public humiliation.

Since the ceremony had long been over and there weren't mages trying to knock my door down to chastise me, I took the time to bathe again. I luxuriated in the feel of the warm bath water and the fatigue that good sex brings. I wasn't sure where this little session put me and Pritkin now, and I wasn't sure I was ready to explore the possibilities yet. Even if Pritkin and I could stand each other's company and decided we wanted to give being lovers a shot, what if the geis decided to start acting up again? I had no idea why it had malfunctioned this time, but we might not be so lucky next time. God, did I want a next time? Mostly, I didn't want to think about it, I just wanted to enjoy the afterglow.

I was slipping into my robe when there was a knock at my door.

"Come in," I called, tying the belt around my hips.

Pritkin entered, freshly showered with a new set of Commando-R-Us khakis and tee. He wasn't blushing, or looking cocky, or any of the other reactions I would expect of a man who had just slept with a woman he couldn't stand normally. In fact, he looked perfectly normal, with even a hint of annoyance in his gaze.

"We missed the ceremony," he said. At least he didn't blame it all on me.

"Um, yeah," I said, at a loss, "Is the Circle particularly angry?"

Pritkin shrugged, as though not really interested, "They understand it was for good reason, and they are willing to reschedule."

My mouth dropped open in astonishment. Had he actually told them what we did? Did he brag about it to his mage buddies? Yeah, that's right, I banged the Pythia. I knew that he wasn't exactly my biggest fan, but I really didn't think that he would be so cruel as to use me as a trophy. If nothing else, the mage had always appeared moral to a fault, and loyal to his ideals. I opened my mouth to yell at him and call him all kinds of nasty names, but I only managed to squeak, "What, exactly, did you tell them?"

Pritkin smiled one of his rare, genuine smiles, and pulled a scrap of crimson cloth from his pocket. "That the ceremonial garb was destroyed in a fit of anger, and that you very well wouldn't attend the meeting naked."

He continued to smile even as I glowered at him, until it became infectious and I couldn't help but smile back.

"Bastard," I said, and laughed.

Author's Notes Numero Dos: I really hope it's not obvious, but I don't normally enjoy or even attempt to write smut. In fact, I haven't written a fanfiction in at least a couple of years. I couldn't, however, allow the lack of Cassandra Palmer fanfiction to continue. I hope that my contribution has been enjoyable, and that I'll even have inspiration for another in the near future. Mostly, though, I hope that Karen Chance continues to build a fanbase, and that we'll enjoy fanfiction from a good deal more of talented writers who I know are lurking out there.

This fanfiction was unbeta'ed, written in approximately two hours, partly on Vicodin. I have bum hip, k?

I love and adore reviews, although I will ask that no spoilers be written in reviews. I had a reviewer ruin the end of the manga Hana-Kimi for me, and I am very much looking forward to finding out what happens in the next two books all on my own.

Thanks again for reading!