A Bargain for Love

This was absolutely rubbish. This whole plan was absolute rubbish!

A fuming Adelynn paced the halls of a well furnished manor that was not her own, rather it was their enemy's. It was a bit much for the new queen of Albion, it had seemed like only a week ago Page had offhandedly mentioned torching this mansion for kicks and giggles, and now Adelynn was here to suck hold to the owner of said mansion.

The rebellion's organizers had decided that they could not face the Crawler without help, soldiers and fighters they had, but their quarry was more like "financial" help. The Queen's funds were necessary for preparing Albion but also for aiding the people, and they were vastly missing funds for its army. So if the Queen herself didn't have enough money, who else in all of Albion could possibly even be a near candidate?

That man's name was Reaver. Reaver was despised by most of Albion for his pompous attitude, sexual deviance, thirst for murder, ethically wrong business practices, and his wicked skill with any firearm. However, there was the rare and generally twisted fan or two, and of course the ever abundant supply of wealthy socialites who flocked to his parties to simply say that they had been on the guest list.

Nonetheless, the Rebellion members had decided it was a good idea, and had even gone as far as to appoint the proposition job to her. It ended with several lamenting curses and even a threat here and there, Adelynn still had to go no matter how hard she disputed. Page had said Reaver would find an appeal from Adelynn far more convincing than anyone else, and she had a faint idea why this was so. Appealing to her vain side once more, she eyed her face in the nearest mirror, which were in abundance at this home, wishing for once in her life that she had been born ugly or at least had been horribly maimed in battle.

Adelynn waited for a servant to announce her arrival, she had been waiting for several minutes and had taken to eyeing the decor around her with clear distaste. That man had managed to fill every available space either with a portrait or statue of himself in a suggestive pose. His arrogance was actually outstanding, as he had even gone as far as to autograph a few. Adelynn could admit to being possibly a little vain herself but she certainly didn't have any self-portraits or statues – and she the Queen for god sake! There was a shuffle of feet behind her and she turned to face the servant girl, "Master Reaver will be out shortly."

The girl was young and no doubt pretty by all standards, certainly the way Reaver liked them but then again Reaver was not known for hiring ugly staff, if his expensive and grandeur mannerism gave any hint. Adelynn nodded in response to which the servant broke eye contact and quickly shuffled away. Odd indeed, the girl possessed an innocence uncommon she thought for any Reaver staff

member. Adelynn had half expected to be propositioned for a quickie by any servant in the Reaver household whilst waiting for the Master. Her own eyes wandered to her attire, she had dressed causally for the occasion with her usual garments that was most effective in any combat situation. Hell she decided she didn't care, the rebellion and Reaver himself were just lucky that she had held up her end of the bargain, appealing attire be damned.

"Well who do we have here?"

Reaver's voice seemed to float in the air caressing the addressed with a subtle tingle from head to toe, a well rehearsed trait she was sure. Adelynn raised a brow and faced Albion's most immoral individual with an inward cringe.

"Ahhh, quite the pleasant surprise I assure you."

She bit back the snide remark that threatened to burst from her lips, remembering that they needed this man's money desperately. Reaver sauntered down from the large staircase with a sense of elegance that only his long limbs could afford, a smirk plastered on his features and a sinful stare that tore through her clothes, Adelynn hoped her gaze radiated as much ice as she felt.

"I'm here on a matter of business, Reaver."

"Oh business how positively boring, but alas I'm simply grateful for the company."

"It's rather important and...confidential," Adelynn stressed the last word as she eyed the man warily.

His smirk widened by another mile, "Very well, let's take a little stroll to the parlour we'll be very much alone in there."

Reaver reached her position and offered her his arm, Adelynn eyed the offending limb with resentment but took the offer hesitantly. She felt the suit's silk fabric slid under her fingertips like oil, another testament to the man's enormous wealth. Despite the vast difference in height he moved agilely and always within her own stride like a gentleman should, his hand coming to rest upon her forearm in the traditional manner. His touch made her shudder involuntarily and she thought she seen the man smile, anger began to boil familiarly in her veins. Very well, she'd play his little game and Hell, she'd even play it better.

"How do you fare today, Mister Reaver?"

A flash behind those dark eyes, "Most excellent as always, my dear."

"How exceedingly wonderful."

His pace relaxed more and the Queen fought a smirk of her own, the man loved it when people played to their expected parts. He was very much a man who liked to play dress up and influence the lives of individuals around him. "I was most surprise and delighted when I heard they were sending you for the negotiations."

No doubt a lamb to slaughter she thought darkly, "Who? Me? I can't imagine why."

Reaver never answered her question opting to raise a graceful brow and wink, she feigned an oblivious manner despite the crawling of her skin.

They entered a distant parlour which was a much smaller room but no less grand, heavy red drapes adorned the windows while upholstered oak furniture decorated the centre. He dropped her off gracefully into a chair and seated himself in front of her, she was suddenly aware of the intensity behind his gaze as he cleared his throat.

"Now my dear, what is it you wish to discuss?"

She fought an inner battle with herself, Adelynn had never actually thought up a speech or really even prepared herself for presenting such a proposal. Reaver's stare never left her face almost as if he was enjoying her little inner struggle – and he probably was.

"Well as you have heard Albion is soon to face a devastating attack, and well frankly we just don't have the required funding for our armies. So as odd as it is, we were hoping that your generous and patriotic nature would wish to aid our call."

Bloody Hell she thought miserably, words of practised wisdom and glory right there.

He remained as still as stone in that chair with his ever prominent smirk, "That is a lot of money Adelynn, to fund an entire army is no simple budget I can assure you."

Her brows furrowed at the mention of her name, she was sure she had never heard it tumble from his mouth before as he preferred to use some ridiculous pet name, it gave the meeting a more intimate feel and she wasn't sure she liked it.

"We are aware that we are asking a great deal here," Adelynn smoothed her hands down the folds of her coat, Reaver's eyes watched the motion intently.

"Indeed I am a generous man but I am also a business man lovey, why would I possibly give any handouts hmm? Especially ones that offer no interest in return."

Adelynn's mouth dropped slowly, how could he put a price on the lives of millions?

"You'll die too if we fail."

He rested his two hands on that damnable cane and leaned in closer, she smelt the tang of an expensive cologne.

"So they say."

She sighed in defeat, the deal was a bust, there would be no possible way to convince a greedy bastard to part with his wealth. Anger and despair burned in her chest and she cast the vermin her darkest stare, "I hope you're the first."

Reaver laughed at this, his eyes never leaving her face and in defiance she held his gaze, which she must admit, was becoming increasingly uncomfortable.

"I always admired your fire, Adelynn."

The Queen's lips furled up into a wolfish snarl, "Go fuc-"

He was upon her in an instant, somewhere between a blink and a heartbeat he had moved from his regal perch to standing directly in front of her, his hand pressing against her throat and the barrel of a gun jabbed into her stomach. Adelynn may not have been as fast as Reaver but years of being who

she was had made her clever, a dagger was firmly pointing into the soft flesh of the gunner's chest. Coy eyes batted their dark long lashes, "It's your move, Reaver."

All this earned was another laugh, "Oh pity, but I do so love games."

She had no doubt that the gunner's trigger was a fast one, but she also had no doubt in the speed of her nimble wrists. The second before he'd pulled that trigger she'd plunge that knife into his cold black heart. Adelynn pushed her way further into the man, close enough to feel the surprisingly steady rise and fall of his chest, she craned her neck to his ear, "You should be so lucky to die by the intimacy of my bare hands, a bullet is a quick and selfish thing."

A rumble announced itself in the back of his throat, its one part laughter and two parts moan. Despite the look of maddening rage in those dark eyes she sees something akin to desire, it's a tempting tease to torture the man whilst killing him. But rationality returns to her as it always does, she

pockets the small blade and attempts her most charming smile. Its a dangerous move she knows, now she's unarmed and he's pointing a loaded gun into her guts.

"Now I'll give you one more chance to be the good host I know you to be." Adelynn laces her voice with so much honey she almost chokes.

Reaver prepares the trigger, she can hear the chamber slide into place and a fire ignites in her veins, Adelynn was actually almost surprised by his audacity not to back off – almost. Her booted heel slams into his calf, she rises from her seat to bring her full weight into the blow. The two superpowers collide and tumble with the other, they're falling but his aim is broken and Adelynn lands on top, pinning the marksmen beneath her. She can't help the triumph smile that passes through her features, "That wasn't very nice."

There's a wicked gleam in his eyes, it's both satisfied and scheming, he holsters his expensive agent of death and the royal becomes aware of their awkward position. Truthfully, it was a bit undignified but dignity wasn't in play where it involved her life.

"Sorry my dear, I've been known to get a little overzealous sometimes."

A hand snakes to her hip and flips her with such force it stole the air from her lungs. He's changed the tables now, Adelynn was trapped beneath him and she can't ignore the sudden panicked flutter of her heart. He's strong and he's heavy too, she was running out of escape routes.

"Much better," Reaver practically purrs to the crook of her neck and she can feel the motion against her skin.

Adelynn wants to spit in his face or claw at his eyes, she kills the thought, it would be devastating to her image to admit defeat now. She has studied his character enough to know that she might gain the upper hand by playing to his games. Knocking down some of her pride, the Queen lets a free hand wander up the side of his left thigh, he growls softly like some kind of tomcat and nips at her collarbone. Rage like she's never felt before boils in her stomach at the indignity of his touch, but she continues to barb him by releasing an excited gasp.

"And this is not the best of me yet, my lovey."

Bile rises in her chest but her prowling fingers have reached their mark, the emblazoned handle of his Dragonstomper. Her head is dizzy with the prospect of shooting the vermin with his own beloved gun, a long fingernail touches the edge of the trigger and she's just about ready to – a free hand traps her wandering wrist while his other hand slams the back of her head into the marble floor beneath.

Pain and surprise flood her skull, and now she's beyond the point of murderous wrath, no one has ever even dared to treat her with such humiliation! Her red mouth curled over gleaming teeth with an animalistic growl, she thrashes her arms, her legs, her knees, anything to get this man off of her.

"Oh how I love it when they're frisky," he retorts with the delight of a child.

"Love this!" Adelynn screams, having managed to free at least one of her hands she swung back and pounded her fist into the deviant's jaw. There's a succulent second where his head moved back and the woman heard a delicious crack, only to have his gaze back on her with as much malcontent as Skorm himself. Two hands are on her windpipe instantly, pressing so hard she can't even gasp for air, fingers clawing at his face for reprieve. Adelynn is hit with the sick realization that she's going to die like this, begging for air while pinned under the worst villain in history.

Her hands cease their actions and freeze in the silent sign of surrender, she can only pray that he'll agree. Realization seems to dawn on him slowly, the maniacal twist of his features subdues only slightly, and finally he carefully removes his hands from the column of her neck. She howls for air like a newborn babe, lungs exploding and heart hammering in her chest, after a quick second when she relearnt the art of mobility, Adelynn rolled away from his still crouching form.

Breathe. Just breathe. Her fingers fly to her raw aching throat and she stares so hard it practically pins him to the ground.

"I will kill you well before the Crawler gets a chance!" She spat, her voice is so blistered it sounds foreign to her.

Reaver picks himself up off the floor with a delicate sweep of limbs, there's blood running down the side of his mouth, and the left arch of his jaw is sitting more slightly to the right than she remembers. Adelynn feels a slow burn of satisfaction.

"Apologize now, that was very un-guestly of you," he states, fingering his jawline.

"You're absolutely right, I'm sorry that I didn't kill you."

A slow smirk spreads across his bleeding lip, "Oh my dear girl, the things I could do to you."

His hand slowly slides to the Dragonstomper strapped ever-faithfully at his hip, he's aimed at her head before she even blinked. Exhausted as she was, Adelynn was not going out without a fight, fire crackled wickedly at her fingertips. It would probably do nothing to him, maybe burn off a few hairs or char his good clothes, but it had been noted as something before she'd die.

He watches her face before sighing dramatically, "Tell you what, I let you live and I'll even pay for your little tea party if you agree to one thing."

Whatever it was he wanted from her, was it truly worth the price of life?

Maybe not her own, but for the lives of all of Albion...

"What is it?"

"Three nights from now you will dine at my table in this very manor, and there can be no backing out later, I will send an escort to see you here.

Shit, shit, shit, she'd much rather die.

"What say you?" He asked, the beautiful pistol still hovering in place.

"Agreed," she mumbled despairingly.

OOOO

Adelynn was shown out by the same pretty little handmaid that had brought her in, the maid raised a black brow to the now welting marks on the Queen's neck. Adelynn was more concerned as to how she was going to explain them to the rest of the rebellion, especially about Reaver's little arrangement.

Millfields was quiet at night, very much unlike the city of Bowerstone to its immediate right. She was left relatively undisturbed on the roads by traveller or bandit alike, save for the gleaming red eyes that peered at her from deep in the bushes. Weeks ago, the nobility had been abuzz with news of balverine attacks all along the borders of Millfields, and just as suddenly as they had come they had stopped. Although the beasts themselves made regular appearances on back roads and wooded trails, they didn't attack, not that anyone complained but there was always that nagging question of why. Adelynn knew it had something to do with Reaver and his secret company of shape shifting balverine guests – but what kind of bargain had he really arranged?

She shook her head angrily, the less she knew about the bastard and his nefarious deeds was all the better.

xxx Author's note:

Reaver is just so deliciously evil...I was inspired to write this a while ago while playing fable and realizing that it takes a really damn long time to save all of Albion with my lute hero earnings, and wouldn't it be a lot easier if you could just borrow the money? Thus this fic was born.