Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. They belong to KH.

I fiddled childishly with the bandages wrapped around my neck, flinching when my fingers dipped into sensitive flesh. The white healing cloth was wrapped twice around my neck, under my armpit, circling my shoulder, and descending the length of my arm just before my elbow as to permit mobility. With the tips of my fingers and every jerk of my body reacting painfully to Ivy's violent lovemaking, I managed to count four bite marks. One located in the fleshy tissue behind my right shoulder, the other in the area between my shoulder and neck of the same side, a third throbbing deep within the muscle of my inner bicep, and a final wound situated in the hollow of my throat. If this last wound didn't stay wrapped tight, Ivy had yelled at me from the bedroom, I would have trouble breathing.

My hand pressed itself to the base of my throat and I took in a deep breath. Chances were, the vampire had pierced my airway in her haze of raging bloodlust; effectively filling my lungs with my own blood and ceasing every one of my breathing capacities for a few seconds, if not minutes. I had nearly drowned in my own bodily fluids. Peachy.

"Rachel."

As soon as I heard my name called from the bedroom across the hall, my head snapped in its direction and my back straightened. From a third person's perspective, it was likely I had reacted the way a dog does when a sack of familiar food is shaken; though I didn't go running towards temptation.

"Yes, Ivy?" The simple way I called the vampire's name sounded desperate, needy; I cursed myself for it.

"Nothing happened. You're alright and so am I." I snickered while she lectured me at the mention of her own well-being. "It was a one-time slip-up; it isn't going to be happening again. So get the fuck over it and stop thinking about it as if it were the end of the world."

I cringed at the acid dripping from her tone, directed towards the path of my thoughts. Since Ivy had bound me, our thoughts had begun to mingle in with one another's until it was difficult for me to distinguish my own internal dialogue to her occasional butt-ins. Not only, now, did I have to watch what I said and what my specific actions would entail, but the way I thought was closely monitored by the antagonistic vampire that plagued my existence.

I shifted my position—cross-legged on the carpet before the door—to wrap my shaking arms around my legs, bringing my chin to rest against my knees. I rocked my body back and forth with a gentle ease, trying to dissipate the growing feeling of discomfort spreading within me. Insects and rodents gnawed at my insides for no reason; my thoughts swirled with so many potential escape routes that had once been so fresh within my mind. Now, they were nothing but dull memories of a past hope. Nothing made sense anymore. I was well aware of the fact that my abilities as a witch hadn't been affected negatively by the binding Ivy had forcefully placed upon us, so why was I cringing in a corner away from the Big Bad Vampire when I could easily defend myself?

"Because you love me."

I turned to see the gorgeous vampire standing at the end of the hallway, a smile plastered upon her delicate features. One of her hands was on her hip, the other held high in the air as she took an over-enthusiastic pose. "What do you think?"

"It's nice," I responded immediately and without hesitation. "I like it."

After answering, I looked her up and down to really see what she was wearing. It was much more elegant than what I had on. What she was wearing was black as well, but the material on hers was much silkier; shining wherever light dared touch it. The neckline dipped down to her navel, revealing the luscious curve of her breasts and the delicious texture of her abdominals. In five places along the cleavage of her dress were strings holding the material together as to not allow any more skin to be shown unintentionally. It hugged her waist lightly, descending to her feet in the simplest of manners. The dress was slit on both sides, reaching from her feet to the middle of her thighs, in a way that only a Tamwood could pull off without appearing even the slightest bit whorish. She wore white heels, with strings lacing up her ankle and accentuating the creamy shade of her legs—only visible due to the intentional cut in her dress.

Once again, Ivy had chosen something to wear that made my attire appear drastically less elegant than her own. My frilly cocktail dress was garbage compared to the sophisticated way the vampire wore hers. It didn't exactly bother me the way she always out-dressed me, but the way she flaunted the fact that she could, did. I'd always take garments from her closet, and the clothes allotted to me were always less fashionable.

"I'm glad you do," she said with a knowing smile. Ivy stopped, placing her hands on each hip and looking at me with mocking scorn. "Rachel, what are you doing on the floor?"

"Waiting for you to come back," I told her earnestly, even though it made me look like a dependant puppy.

She smiled, glad I didn't hesitate the way I usually would when posed a question directly connected to my subordinate state. I tried hard not to let the anger bubble up within me at the fact that she'd asked that specific enquiry to see how I would react. "Well, here I am. Now come on, get up—we're going to be late."

I grabbed her offered hand, hoisting myself up. We're already late.

"Now, dear heart, stop being so pessimistic. If worst really comes to worst, then we'll be fashionably late. Rynn will be able to understand that there is a perfectly valid reason behind our tardiness." She gave me an accusing glare, and my head fell to the side. I didn't want to make her any more disappointed than she already was, and the only reason to avoid such a hostile reaction in Ivy was to offer complete and utter submission.

She pulled me up towards her and planted a gentle kiss on my forehead, whispering words of adoration into my ear when she pulled away. Surprisingly, then, I hugged her. I didn't realize until my arms were holding her tightly within their embrace, my biceps squeezing hers with every ounce of emotion that swirled within me. Anger. Love. Despair. Fear: not only of her, but of losing her.

"Rachel…" Ivy's hands were suddenly on my shoulders, pushing me away with a strength generally utilized for punishment. "You'll wrinkle my dress."

"I'm sorry." Those two words meant nothing to me anymore; I'd been using them so often, their implication had altered from apologetic to a simple desire not to be physically or mentally punished for whatever action had been done. "I didn't mean to."

"Go get on the bike." Ivy's words were devoid of emotion. "I'll lock up behind you."

I slipped my single pair of black dress shoes on without a word and stepped outside to stand beside her bike, parked next to my car—was I even allowed to call it my car anymore? Not because of the fact that I hadn't driven it in years, but because Ivy had once specifically claimed that no person, place, or thing would ever belong to me.

I didn't even hear the sound of Ivy's keys jingling in the lock of the church; she was suddenly behind me, hand on my shoulder, and soft breath against my cheek. "Do you have your helmet?"

Damn it all back to the Turn if Ivy Tamwood didn't make every aspect of life appear sexual in one way or another. The vampire might as well have been asking me if I wanted her to give me a lap dance for all my body cared. I swallowed and shook my head, trying to focus on the question asked and not the way her skin touched mine in the most delicious of ways.

"For the love of blood, Rachel," Ivy sighed and shoved her own helmet into my arms. "You need to start getting organized or it's going to come back to bite you in the ass."

"I'm sorry," I whispered, staring at the helmet.

"Get on the bike." She gave me another harsh order without acknowledging the hollow apology I had managed to spit out. The hand at my shoulder begun kneading the tender muscle there, and my lids fluttered shut at the soothing sensation of her strong hands against the naked, pale flesh of my shoulder. "And put that helmet on—I don't know what I'd do if, God forbid, something ever happened to you."

My eyes shot open as Ivy gave me a brusque nudge towards her motorcycle. I shovedthe useless piece of thick plastic over my frizzy curls with clenched teeth. Whatever happened didn't exactly matter in the end, though, did it? I was already dead.

"She's perfectly fine," Ivy assured Beth, another living vampire we'd met at the party. "Just a little slow on the healing, if you know what I mean. Rachel's never been one for prolonged sex sessions—it isn't her fault, she just has difficulties handling the strain it puts on her endurance. But everything always turns out fine."

Ivy patted my bandaged shoulder before squeezing it, never breaking eye-contact with Beth. The pain shot throughout my entire figure, throbbing in my temples and churning my stomach. Shut-up. Don't move. Ivy's commands were harsh and menacing within my mind, and I stayed still as a statue as the bitch deemed it necessary to show her newfound friend just how "fine" I really was by poking around under my bandages and sending jolts of electric agony sizzling through me. I was glad when she decided not to venture near the bite mark nestled happily in the hollow of my throat—but it was likely the only reason she didn't poke at it was because she didn't want me to make a scene if I ever couldn't hold the pants of pain back any longer. Plus, if I stopped breathing in the midst of the party, it would be difficult for Ivy to pin the entire blame on her disobedient shadow.

"Healthy as a horse." Beth agreed with a smile in my direction.

No one in the room at the exception of Ivy and myself were aware of the fact that Ivy had let me keep a part of my humanity—that I couldn't refuse her but was still capable of making my own mental decisions and that Ivy had intentionally made it so. I didn't know why the vampire had persisted on me keeping my mouth shut, but there was likely a good reason; otherwise she wouldn't have gone to such extents to keep it a secret.

Soft music played in the background, and I tried to focus on it instead of the insults and orders throbbing within my mind. You are not to speak this evening. Stay beside me unless I tell you otherwise. Quiet. Stand up straight. Smile when you're required to—and for God's sake laugh when someone says something that's supposed to be funny.

"Tamwood!"

Here we go again. I turned to face the direction of the originating location of a male voice, surprised to find a fine-looking young man. He had messy red hair, a shade darker than mine, and was wearing a dirty white T-Shirt and a pair of jeans—as opposed to the rest of the party members, elegantly dressed in tuxes and dresses. Freckles spotted his youthful visage, and I shouldn't have been surprised to see small, sharpened fangs where his canines were supposed to be. But for some reason, I was taken aback by the fact that he was a living vampire. I didn't know this man; why should I care? He had wide, green eyes, the color mine used to be—eyes that were locked on my own, almost drawing me nearer with their simple allure. He wasn't slim, but wasn't what someone would call over-weight either. And out of the entire individuals present at the party, he was the one who stood out the most, and not because of the choice of his attire.

Rachel. Stop ogling him or I'll tear his throat out.

I broke eye contact, staring at the floor and bearing the bandaged side of my neck as Ivy appeared behind me. "I don't believe I've ever seen you at any of the social gatherings in Cincinnati before." Ivy spoke to him, her tone sarcastic. "You are?"

"Kyle." He held his hand out to me, and Ivy grabbed it. I saw the flesh of the back of his hand wrinkle together as she squeezed it in a firm shake. His eyes narrowed slightly, but other than that, he showed no sign of pain. "It's a pleasure to see you again."

Again?

I heard Ivy growl as she realized he had spoken directly to me. He never glanced at the vampire beside me, even as she wrapped an arm possessively around my waist. I wasn't used to having strangers speak to me, even less doing so while ignoring Ivy. God, she was going to be pissed. I didn't answer him, in fear of Ivy's uncontrollable and unpredictable wrath—knowing the length of her temper, she wouldn't hesitate to punish me in public as long as it wouldn't affect her image; a small slap on the back of the head or a firm grab of the bicep wouldn't diminish the way the other vampires thought of her. On the contrary, it might even positively affect her reputation.

"My apologies, Ms. Morgan." He once again spoke to me, and I was astonished by his respectful and formal tone. "For but a moment I had forgotten the clashing state in which you must be in. The mechanics of such a connection between a vampire and their shadow still eludes me. To be completely honest," for the first time since calling her name, he turned to Ivy, "I don't care much for such bondages. Especially if either participant is unwilling."

"Well…" Ivy said defensively, tightening her hold on my hip, "it's one thing to have opinions, it's another entirely to judge people based on those…opinions. Rachel is in perfect condition."

"I can see that." Kyle smiled, showing his fangs, aware of the fact that Ivy hadn't had a retort. In my presence, this was the first time someone had questioned her methods of making me hers. "Ivy, would you mind if I borrowed your friend for a few moments? Don't fret, she'll be back whole."

He winked at her, and Ivy responded with a hostile snarl.

"Ivy!" A familiar voice scolded her. "What seems to have come over you?"

I turned to see Rynn Cormel, his black hair slicked back upon his scalp as one would see in a Dracula movie. At least he wasn't wearing a black cape. He was the only one in the room wearing a white suit—completely that one color at the exception of the red handkerchief in his pocket, and a red tie disappearing in the V of his jacket. The dark crimson contrast gave the eerie impression of a slit throat leaking blood; dripping, staining the perfect white of his attire.

"Nothing, Rynn," Ivy responded politely, with a forced smile. She released me and swept her past master up in a bear hug. "It's so great to see you again. How long has it been? Almost a year, right? God, I can't believe neither of us has had time in our busy schedules to meet up recently. You've met Rachel since we…"

"Yes. I have. Once." Like nearly every single other vampire present in the room, Rynn didn't even glance at me when I was the topic of the conversation. "I take it you were getting acquainted with Kyle. As I can see, things aren't going as fine as they should. Jealous, Ivy?"

Cormel grinned, making Ivy's brows furrow in confusion. "Jealous? Why would I be jealous?"

The undead vampire placed a large hand on Kyle's shoulder, making the younger, living vamp beam with pride. "Kyle is my newest scion. As of the beginning of this week, in fact. I'm surprised your shadow hasn't shown any sign of recognition towards him—I hear they were both in the same classes before your pet joined the I.S."

Again… I repeated the sentence fragment in my mind once more, the word now making complete sense. I did remember him.

"Yes, I was just asking Ivy if she minded Ms. Morgan and I having a private conversation. Perhaps we can leave you two to catch up while we do the same?" Kyle spoke to his master, smiling innocently when he glanced at Ivy for approval. It might have been due to the connection I shared with the possessive and domineering living vampire, but a strange instinct roused within me at the sight of Kyle's smug performance. I didn't mind in the least—it was a good thing that there was finally someone out there willing to participate in a battle of the wits with Ms. Perfect Tamwood—but it was easy to see just how much Ivy loathed him already.

"We won't be long, dear heart." She assured me, slipping her arms around my waist and bringing her lips to mine in a hungry kiss before all these spectators. I had the distinct impression, however, that this little act was meant for Kyle more than any of the other gaping audience members. One of her hands slid down to my ass, and she lightly grazed her nails over the thin material of my dress; without thought, my hands circled her neck and I stood up on my toes to better reach the luscious, pulsing tissue of her lips. She pulled away before the trance I'd been put in would amount to anything more serious, and allowed Cormel to slip an arm around her slender waist while they walked away to greet the other guests. I knew she didn't want to leave me alone, least of all with Kyle, and that if Rynn himself wouldn't have been awaiting her presence beside him, she would have left the party with me to bring us into the safety and privacy of our church. Behave, Rachel.

Though she was no longer in proximity, she made it apparent that she would be tracking each of my thoughts, words, and actions. Without strain, it was easy for her to become aware of the smallest error I made—when she was making an effort to listen in, it would almost be as if she'd be watching a movie from my perspective; as if she could see through my eyes. I could do the same, but not only did I refrain so because the vampire prohibited me from delving into the confines of her mind, but because I would never willingly desire to strengthen the bond we already had by merging my mind completely with hers. Ivy expected me to behave, and the only reason I would obey her would be because within those two words directly uttered through our telepathic connection, I could easily detect the promise of negative reinforcement to help me learn the mechanics of "time and place."

I felt strong arms circle my shoulders and help me to the nearest sofa, holding me so gently they could easily be compared to a parental figure. My chest was still heaving from Ivy's unexpected attack upon my inescapable desire for her body pressed against mine. I could still taste the sweet tang of her delicious flavour on the tip of my tongue, and I was certain that I could amplify its taste by running my tongue over my already swollen lips. Her delicate aroma still enveloped me, and images begun to form in my mind. Images of Ivy and I: naked, sweaty, and writhing…

"Ms. Morgan, calm down. You're hyperventilating." Large hands grasped my shoulders and shook me gently, making certain to watch out for the wounds that were crying out for medical attention. "Open your eyes."

I hadn't even realized that my eyes had been closed, but I did as I was told.

Kyle was kneeling beside me, his emerald eyes piercing and alive. The moving figures in the background were nothing but faint blurs, their presence insignificant compared to the man facing me right now. Kyle and I had indeed been in the same classes back in college; we had been good friends. I'd let him cheat off of me a couple of times, and in return he'd give me the delicious meat subs his mom would make for him every day.

"Kyle…" I whispered his name, my fingers rising to touch his cheek as if to check the authenticity of his existence. "It's really you, isn't it?"