Love and Marriage

Preface

The victory felt hollow, although it had been his prime desire for centuries to reach this point. Whether she would come to love him or not was hardly the point, after all, and he knew he had made a mistake by agreeing to their plan; it was obvious that Stefan had never taken into account Damon's happiness. She turned to face him and her pail skin glistened like diamonds, flawless with not a mark upon it. He took some solace in the amount of effort she had expended to look nice, and for his sake. "Damon..." she murmured against his cheek as she took his out-stretched arm. The flashing light bulbs blinking all around them reflected against her creamy skin and pearly dress as she manoeuvred herself into the back of the sports car.

"Elena..." he replied with the warmth of a frosty morning, his voice too harsh for this sunny day. He was angry but it would have to wait for release. What he had planned for their honeymoon would make her regret ever trapping him like she had.

She and Stefan had interrupted him when he had been in bed, when they knew he was likely in an intimate position. Bonnie's smile had faltered and she had wriggled self consciously beneath him on the mattress.

"I know that you don't want this..." Elena carefully told him, all the while smiling at the crowd gathering tightly around them. She gave Stefan, who was standing near-by in a finely styled suit, a look of such longing and desire that even the guests stood nearby could guess that this was not really what she wanted at all. Why she couldn't at least pretend to want him, he did not know, but he could hardly begrudge her for wandering eyes when his own were doing the same. "Damon...?" she began, "Don't forget why we are doing this..."

Why were they doing this?

"As if I could..." he replied in a tone that ended the conversation. He was too busy searching for Bonnie's face in the crowd.

Chapter 1

Just Damon's presence in the same space was making Elena unhappy, he could tell that just by the quality of her silence and the distance she put between them in the car. She sat in the front passenger seat beside the silent Stefan, though the ripples of tension flowing between them was practically stinging Damon as he slouched in the back seat by himself. He did not wear a seat belt, even though the car was speeding down the highway at at least double the speed limit, figuring that he would probably survive being catapulted through the windscreen – unfortunately. If he had to spend another moment alone with Elena... it would probably be considered justifiable homicide if he were human and could be taken to court.

"What do you want from me, Damon?" she asked at last, turning to face him with thin lips. Her body tensed as soon as she said this, as if preparing for a blow. During the honeymoon, she had experienced the worst of what her new husband could do. She had known he could be cruel, mean, but after being strapped eagle to a bed for the majority of their two week "holiday" her perspective of evil had changed. He just smiled wryly.

"There's nothing you can give me..."

Stefan slammed on the breaks and the car's passengers felt their bodies continuing forwards. He had stopped the car so suddenly that Damon's heart felt as if it was plastered against his ribs. He turned around and fixed him with a shadowy glare. "You can't treat Elena like this." he said, "She's your wife now."

He felt his insides turn bitter and cold at yet another thing he was denied by his little brother. Stefan should not be able to dictate what he could, or could not, do. It was wrong that he should be so helpless against these two – they were both practically human, Stefan because of his diet of bunnies. "You sound as though you want to marry her!" He wanted to get a rise out of him because anything was better than this desolation.

Stefan looked over to Elena and smiled.

"What a shame it is that she's taken..." Damon sneered, grabbing a hold of Elena's arm and hauling her over the little gap between the two front seats. He drew her against his hard, muscled chest and waited for her to stop thrashing as if she were a child and he a patient parent. When all her energy was spent she reluctantly sagged against him.

"Damon..." Stefan said warningly.

The expression of misery on Bonnie's face during the ceremony shackling him to Elena would not leave Damon's memories ever; when he felt capable of recalling this day, maybe in a century or two, he would still cringe at the cruel way he had ignored her. Difficult was not nearly a strong enough word for what it had been like to say the things he had to his bride to be and know that she would think he meant them for Elena.

"Yes, Stefan..." Despite his misery, he felt a smile tug at one corner of his lips. "I hope you aren't going to start lecturing me again, brother. You know how tedious it is after five centuries..."

"Damon," Elena began in a whisper, "It doesn't have to be like this..."

"Oh, but it does – remember?" he hissed in her ear, the threat of violence both in his voice and in his clenched fists, "It's either this or you die..." and he was beginning to think that he had made a mistake in agreeing to help make sure she's safe.

X

No one in the crowd of people all around her seemed to notice that she was sobbing, big wet tears that dripped onto her ruby red dress. It seemed that once again she was invisible, like she had been before he came along. He, Him, Damon—even the sound of his name in her thoughts sent her heart breaking. Would she ever see him again? Did she want to if seeing his beautiful, yet utterly handsome, face even if she knew she could never have him almost killed her?

Meredith appeared through the crowd of people filling the large hall and came to stand by her side. She had known without Bonnie, or Damon, having to admit anything, that something had bloomed between them. She had seen it in their body-language when they were around each other while no one else did. She supposed that they couldn't be blamed for not being as aware of their surroundings as she was, because the books she read were strictly to be kept in the family and within the confines of the Sulez household.

"Listen, Bonnie," she said at last, "you know it's the only way to stop Klaus..."

Bonnie spun around and felt her face transform into an angry grimace. While she knew that the fury was uncalled for, that she was an adult and should act like one, the fire in her chest forced its way out in two angry words. "Like hell!" she bellowed, attracting the notice of everyone in the room. "Like hell she has to. Wasn't one enough, Meredith? Did she really have to take Damon too!"

Everyone in the room was staring at her now, all expressions a variation on shock, but Bonnie did not care. She had never been so angry in her whole life. Why did Elena have to do this when it was Stefan that she wanted instead. If Damon had to be married to someone, why couldn't it have been her? What was wrong with her, what about her wasn't good enough?

"Calm down..." Meredith whispered tentatively beside her.

Did no one care how she felt?

She ran from the room as if her dress had caught on fire, sprinting like she never had done before towards a distant place that she had yet to see. She needed to get out of here, out of Mystic Falls, out of the hell that her life had become. As she ran into the tarmac expanse of the parking lot she remembered that she had no money to get home, but in the same moment she realised this she realised she didn't care; she would run until she disappeared.

Chapter 2

Bonnie ran, ran far into the forest, jumping clumsily over any fallen logs that got in her way. It felt good to be surrounded by nature but it felt even better not to be surrounded by people. The trees did not ask questions as she ran between them; they did not judge, though the leaves in the canopy above her head whispered in the breeze. The more crowded the trees were to each other, the less light reached the forest floor, the further the shadows stretched. The birds that had been singing in the branches when she first entered this ancient place, were now eerily silent, and in that silence she could still hear something disturbing the fallen leaves behind her.

She turned and gasped. She closed her eyes—opened them, a little shocked to find a beast this close to human habitation. It was a huge bear, it's slick black fur reflecting the pin-pricks of light that filtered to the ground. It's eyes were a kind of gold and it's teeth were large and shinning. She felt the uneven ground beneath her feet as she backed wearily from it and knew that she would have to concentrate on each and every step – if she fell down the beast would get her, maybe eat her alive. The book she had read years ago hadn't skirted around the animal's ferocity, but she was surprised by the sharpness of it's glistening white teeth.

She spread her arms out in front of her as if this were any protection, "Away! Leave me alone!" Tears were beginning to form at the corners of her eyes. She raised her voice to a screaming shout, or the nearest thing she would ever be able to do, "Help! Anyone! Can anyone hear me!" There seemed to be no response at all from anything but the trees as the leaves rustled in the breeze. With a sense of inevitability, she stared into the dark eyes of the predator and saw the hunger there that was not for flesh. The animal gave no warning before it lunged forwards; A heavy body slammed against hers and she felt all the air rush out of her and the pain as her skull cracked on the ridges of the tree.

The snapping sound of bones breaking and then reforming echoed in the still forest, sounding just like twigs snapping beneath a sole of a boot, and the bear lay on the floor, shaking and snarling. The fur dissolved as she watched and Klaus straightened from his predator's crouch. He stretched and sniffed the air – he could smell all that there was in the forest. His gaze shifted to where she half-lay, propped up at the base of the large oak tree. The doppelgänger might be harder to acquire now, but this one was not... she was free for the taking – and take her he would.

Damon leapt from the car as soon as he was sure no one outside would see him making the dare-devilish move, landing with ease on the road bordered by a forest that was almost as dark and dense as a cemented brick wall. Even he, a vampire, super-naturally graceful and quick, had to watch where he was going with care. It would be better if he could turn into a crow to search for her, but for that he would need to ingest some more blood; what he had drunk before the nightmare of a wedding had in no way been enough, and now Stefan was driving away in a car that held emergency packets of blood. Perfect, he thought.

Klaus tore the flesh at his wrist and held the bleeding wound to Bonnie's slack mouth, praying that the cut would stay open long enough for a few drops to find their way into her system. He knew that she would die soon if her body did not receive the power he was giving to her, and that was something he could not bare to let happen. A power as pure and rare as her's couldn't be allowed to die so easily. He stroked her throat and watched her skin move as she reflexively swallowed the warmth and life he was offering her.

"C'mon, Bonnie, swallow for me..." he whispered coaxingly into her ear.

Chapter 3

Bonnie squirmed in his arms as he ran through the forest, even though he was running at such a high speed that everything they passed was just a blur. If Klaus dropped her now, who knew what injuries she would incur and whether she would survive them? The lingering drops of his blood in her mouth tasted sweet on her tongue, and part of her hungered to drink it again. Was she a vampire now? She doubted it – he had bled for her, not the other way around, but she was stronger now, she could feel it with every breath, every beat of her heart. Drinking his blood has changed her – but in what way? And in what way was she bound to him now?

He slowed, coming to halt at the crest of a cliff, and stood dangerously close to the edge with her in his arms. The sun was setting, painting the sky in different colours. His eyes were intense when his gaze shifted to her after a moment, but they were also icily cold, as if she had done something wrong. He drew in a breath through clenched teeth, then spoke as if continuing a conversation, "You have choices, dear one. Choice one; you accept my offer and remain at my side for all eternity, doing my bidding, being my companion, becoming a hybrid like me..." The ice that had been in his eyes thawed as he said this, replaced with something close to compassion. "Choice two..." and here he paused, turning his face away, "You will die – either when you hit the ground, or when wild animals find your prone body and eat you alive..."

Damon stopped running and glanced around him. He had never been this far into the forest before, not ever, and he knew that he had to be vigilant. Bonnie running this far into dark shadows felt more than a little wrong to him. He knew for a fact that she was terrified of being alone in the dark, so why had she ventured in this deep? It didn't make sense unless she was being chased by something, or somebody, she truly, honestly, feared. Who could that be? He thought back to when Bonnie had been brave, and his heart broke when he imagined what had become of his little red-bird.

There were footsteps behind him and he turned to see Stefan appear out of the gloom. His face was strained by worry and remorse – but that was hardly unusual. He always felt guilty about something or other. "Did you find anything?" he asked.

"No—nothing," he kicked the base of a huge oak and the whole tree quivered. "There's no scent to follow, no anything..." He was about to go insane; how could he trust that he was following her trail at all? How clearly could he remember her sweet fragrance, anyway? For all he knew, they could be tracking a flower-laden fox. This was useless – there had to be a faster way. There was a tingling at the back of his skull which he knew meant Bonnie was is grave danger. There would be no point in asking Stefan if he was feeling this too; whatever bond he and his red-bird shared, it was theirs and theirs alone.

"Don't do this!" She screamed, "Don't kill me!"

"If you want to live, Bonnie, you know you only have to say the words..." Klaus whispered these things so close to her neck that she could feel the sharp tips of his fangs grazing her skin. She knew he meant it, that she had only one choice if she wanted to live.

"Klaus..." she began, and already she could feel the bile rise up her throat, the sick feeling of being without hope, "I'll do want you want... just don't hurt any of my friends... not Damon..."

He sighed, she still felt for Damon, but this was a start and there was plenty of room for progress. "Good girl," he said, then jumped off the edge.

The tickling sensation of feathers on the back of his skull turned to pinpricks and he crumpled to the ground, clutching the back of his head. He had never felt so much pain in all his centuries.

Chapter 4

Her face was pressed into the hollow of his neck and her body was clutched tenderly to his own. One hand was at the small of her back, pressing her body close, and the other was at the back of her head; he did not want her to see how rapidly the ground was drawing nearer, the velocity of their fall. He himself had no such worries, but he made sure it was only his feet that took the impact when it came. It felt good to have her so close to him, and he never wanted to let her go. If she had any idea of the depth of his passion she would not think of the vampire Damon again. His legs bent gracefully the moment they came to the ground.

"You can open your eyes now, princess." Klaus told her sweetly, as he lowered her to the ground and put a hand on either side of her waist to steady her. He had not planned on taking her here, to a tiny beach at the bottom of a tall cliff, but it was as good a place to take her as any place was. At least here it was private, at least now they could talk, and he had her alone. He watched her face relax and her eyes open just a slit. "You're not hurt, are you?" he heard himself asking.

She blinked in a blindingly bright light. Was it a rhetorical question? There was no way of knowing. Bonnie tried taking a step backwards, but her legs felt awkward and numb and the ground below her feet was made out of pebbles. She couldn't have been sure she could walk on smooth tar-mac with the way the world swayed and danced all around her. It had all happened so fast that this would have seemed more like a nightmare than reality, if she hadn't been a witch and the being embracing her hadn't been a vampire – both things she knew co-existed with the human race. Anything was possible in a world such as this one, in the town of Mystic Falls.

The moment she looked as if she were about to say something, he held up a finger and pressed it to her lips. He shook his head, "Don't." And he kissed her long enough, and hard enough, to leave her speechless. His vampiric hearing twitched at the sound of their pursuers in the forest not a hundred feet above them. He slapped her when she opened her mouth, probably to call for help, "Don't... you... dare." he growled menacingly, punctuating each word with a snap of his teeth.

Damon's clawed hands pulled out clumps of his hair and still the prickles did not abate. His fear rocketed to knew heights, and the first tendrils of panic entered his system. Bonnie must be in the worst kind of danger for him to feel like this, and he knew in his heart that he alone was to blame for this pain. If he had just refused them from the beginning he would not be here now, but Bonnie would be with him. He shouldn't have imagined agreeing to marry Elena. If he had just insisted that Stefan suck it up and marry her himself none of this would have happened. If it wasn't for Elena he would have Bonnie safe in his arms.

He sniffed the air. He and Stefan stood at the edge of the forest, each trying to catch her scent. He found it first, but even to his superior nose it was a faint trace to follow. He was confident that they had finally found something significant, but the string that would lead him to her was delicate. He would have to mind his step so not to fracture the only lead they had. With a flick of his wrist, he signalled for Stefan to follow him past the fallen branches and twigs, to be careful where his feet touched ground.

His lips were soft and plump against her's and his tongue was masterful in it's domination of her's. She had never been kissed like this, and it was an experience she would never forget for as long as she lived. This vampire, this man, had had over a thousand years of kissing in his repertoire, and it showed. If he wanted to seduce her this was the surest way to do it; she couldn't have fought the wave of lust that crashed over her if she tried, and she was far beyond trying. She even found herself kissing him back, but she doubted that her skill was anywhere close to his, even when he moaned with pleasure.

"That frightened me," Bonnie mumbled through lips that were as dry as paper, "You scared me." She couldn't quite describe the extent of how shaken she was – there were no words that felt adequate, strong enough for the emotions churning within her stomach. "Why do you scare me?"

"You just don't know me well enough..." he took her bottom lip between his teeth and nibbled it carefully. "...at least, you don't yet..."

Chapter 5

Damon traversed the forest without thought, his body automatically dodging tree stumps and ducking under low-hung branches as he raced through it. It was impossible to remain calm, impossible not to think, and he knew he couldn't waste time watching for what he crushed beneath the sole of his boot. He knew If he lost the trail he would never be able to find it again, it was that faint, and the slower they moved the less he felt her with him. He moved like water over the ground, but unlike a river he did not make even a whisper of a sound, he moved instead like a breeze. He weary of any sound he made less it give Klaus any indication that he was coming for him.

"This is hopeless, Damon," Stefan said from a few metres behind, "If Klaus has her there's nothing we can—" his voice cut off in a whoosh of air and he crashed back against a tree, cracking the ruff body of it with his own. He knew better than to struggle with Damon's hands squeezing his throat.

"Be silent, you fool!" he exclaimed in a hiss, his exasperation coming through more than the tension he felt. "I will get Bonnie back with, or without, your assistance." The anger that had only been simmering below the surface now erupted from his throat. "I will not lose her to that monster, Stefan. I will not abandon her to whatever fate that original vampire has in mind." If anyone could know how time changes a man, makes him crueller, it was he who had indulged his dark side over centuries who knew best. It was ironic that he would be ruthless while saving one of the gentlest creatures he had ever known, but a necessary course of action nonetheless.

Klaus lifted his head from where it had been buried close to Bonnie's breasts, a growl rising in his throat. The noise sounded more like something coming out of a rabid dog than anything that looked like a man. Anything close to humanity dissolved in the same moment that he realised that this would not be the slow and sensual thing he had had planned. He took hold of her chin in a vice-like grip and kissed her thoroughly enough to prevent her making a sound, whether in consent or rebuke. It didn't matter what her thoughts were on this particular turn – she only had to be quiet. He knew that if he told her who he sensed she would call out, and he couldn't have that. It was far more convenient for her to be ignorant.

Damon's first sight of what was beyond the thick grove of prickly bushes was... nothing. There was nothing beyond the trees other than the deep blue of the ocean.

Bonnie's eyes squeezed closed but the water that already entered into her eyes stung like nothing else could. He had moved so fast, so seamlessly, that she hadn't know he had moved her until the cool wetness of the sea surrounded her. He hadn't warned to clamp closed her mouth, or to quit breathing through her nose, so she spluttered and tasted salt. Underwater time seemed to drag along like melted toffee, and it was forever before they broke the surface again. Klaus hit her on the back and she vomited more water than she she ever remembered consuming. When the water had stopped coming out of her mouth as if she were a decorative water feature, she saw that in every direction there was nothing but blue.

"Where the hell is she?" Damon demanded of no one in particular, as he approached the edge of the cliff and looked down at the little bay. There might have been signs of disturbance in the sands if he had gotten here just a little bit sooner, but now the sea was raking over it and stealing any sign. It was as if nature itself was working against him, which should have been unlikely, but did he really know what kind of powers the Original ones possessed?

Chapter 6

"Klaus..." the word came painfully out of her mouth because her lips stung and her throat was tight after contact with salty water. She knew she ought to be feeling something more than this, emotionally speaking, but the truth was that she felt nothing at all, which was strange because she knew her throat was hurting. Was she in shock? Maybe. It was not every day that she finds herself out in the ocean with no land in sight, being held tightly by a vampire, an original at that. He was the ultimate creature of the night, she reminded herself sternly, a creature that all other's fear, and she knew on a basic level that she should be scared too. There was no reason why she should be trying to figure a plan of survival; she could so easily disappear here and never be found. "Why have you done this... to me? I thought it was Elena you wanted, not me..." It's always Elena.

He made a scoffing sound and lifted her high enough out of the water that she looked down on him and he looked up. He knew he was scaring her, but that was not his intention at all. "My dear Bonnie, you think this is a mistake? Believe it or not, I think I may have made a mistake." He smiled at her slightly skeptical expression, "I thought it was Elena I wanted, too." It was obvious to him that she still did not understand what he was saying. His breath, when he blew it out, swept across her face and dried droplets of sea still clinging to her skin. If he could seduce her, he could weild the power to erradicate anything that stood in his way, including any competition he might have for her un-dying affection. He was not stupid enough to suppose that this would warm her to him, but when he had no other competition for her affection she would have little choice but to surrender to him.

"We need to get out of this water..." she mumbled through lips that were trembling with the cold, deciding to ignore the heat burning in his eyes. Although he was a vampire and not effected by even extreme tempretures, she thought he must comprehend the danger the cold presented to her health. Hypothermia was only minutes away from rearing it's ugly head.

Stefan stood motionless with his arms hanging loosely at his sides and with his skeptisism working overtime. He didn't know whether he ought be applauding his brother's determination or if he should tell him that going after Klaus would be a mistake. He was under no illusion that he himself would be any use, but Damon was most likely going to his death and he felt that he should be at his side. But Elena... What if something happened to him, what if he died and there was no one to defend her. Would she ever forgive him for abandoning her so recklessly? He did not think so.

Damon stood, his beautiful, nude, perfect body reflecting the light from the sun. He stretched and worked any kinks out of his neck, flexing all the muscles from the top of his body to the bottom with the air of someone who knew every inch of their body and how each bit could be used to the max. "Wish me luck," he called over his shoulder before plunging himself into a decent over the edge of the cliff.

He hit the water cleanly, cutting through the rippling surface as a knife does through butter, and dove deep beneath the churning waters of above and into the smooth, colder water that lay beneath. Vampirism definately had it's advantages; while it was still neccessary to breath oxygen, he found that he only had to surface for it every hundred metres or so. It saved time and helped him move unseen. If he were simply human, all his enemies would need to watch for was his head breaking the surface as he breathed in more air.

Klaus emerged from the water with Bonnie laying horizontally in his arms, her breathing shallow but regular. He should have taken to into consideration her human frailties before soaking her in icy water, but her suffering from the cold had never occured to him. He had been a vampire for so long that these kinds of things simply hadn't crossed his mind, maybe for too long.

Bonnie stared around her in amazement at the huge stone castle perched upon a rocky mountain that stretched high into the sky, thinking that it's being here was so random that it belonged somewhere within a fairytale.

Chapter 7

Being held by him, being cradled in his arms, was one of those moments she had never expected in her wildest dreams—or would that be wildest nightmares? He sprinted up the uneven side of the mountain of rocks like it was nothing, while gripping her as tightly as he would a porcelain doll, which compared to him she supposed she was; The sea-water stung her all over, but it seemed like Klaus barely felt it. His body shielded hers from the worst of the sea-spray, but she couldn't decide whether he was protecting her on purpose. They reached the only door to the structure just as the biggest wave of them all crashed down with the weight of a tonne of bricks, and instead of opening the door conventionally using the handle he ploughed straight through it and into the shadowed interior.

He had not thought to wire the castle for electricity since he had not been to it in over a century, and his eyes were perfectly suited to the dark, and so there were about a dozen lanterns lining the walls, each burning a soft, forest green. These weren't normal candles burning within them, they were enchanted and had been for almost a thousand years. His mother, the original witch, had set them to burning and since then the wick hadn't grown shorter. The fire would live forever, much as he did. Their combined shadow chased them up the winding stone staircase as Klaus ran up the stairs at vampire speed and got to the upper-most floor within ten seconds

Damon's head broke the choppy waters and he spat the salt water out of his mouth as if it were poison. It burned his throat as a few stray droplets went down, and yet he barely felt the pain he should. Pain was only relative, after all, and compared to the pain of his heart it was nothing. Though he told himself that he would not think of it images of Klaus raising his head from Bonnie's neck, his lips bloodied, flew through his mind. He no doubt in his mind that he would kill Klaus, even when if he knew that compared to him Damon was just a pup. When the moment came, his own life would not matter, and he would gladly give it to save her's. If there was no other choice, he might be able to bring himself to be killed if it meant that she would be alive, and free.

She felt him cradling her, but it was too dark to see anything. She held herself ridged, as if she were a subject in a photograph, frozen in time, although being this close to Klaus made her warm. He said nothing for what felt like a very long time, but when he did it was to say something surprising, "I felt your pain, Bonnie, I felt even from afar. I think this why I was able to..." it seemed as though he couldn't decide on the best phrase to use. Despite knowing how evil he could be, she felt a rush of sympathy come over her. It was the most human response she had ever heard from him, although he was admitting to something regular humans were not capable of doing, and suddenly she was desperate to see his face in full light so she could read his expression. "I also feel your fear," he said after a lengthy pause as he opened the door to the highest room in the building, "What makes you so afraid, is it me?" he might have been able to see her answer in her eyes, even through the pitch-black. "You have nothing to fear from me, Bonnie. Nothing at all..."

He wondered, if he kept on swimming, if it would all be for nothing. Bonnie could be dead already, sunk to the black depths of the ocean, and the only thing he would find when he caught up with Klaus would be his own grave. His own demise did not bother him half as much as her's did, and that was the reason he would continue forwards. He forced his pessimism to take a back seat in his mind, knowing that any worry that he would be too late would only slow him down. He had already lost one love, however indirectly, because of this original and there was no way he would lose another; maybe Katherine hadn't loved him, but he had loved her, and Klaus had been the one to twist her into madness.

Klaus laid her down on the stone floor of the room, laid down beside her on his side, and wrapped a long arm around her slight frame. Her wet clothes would have to be removed or she would surly begin to suffer from hypothermia, but he would not undress her without her consent, that at least he could do for her. Her pale skin was already beginning to turn blue and her teeth were chattering loudly, but she was still aware of most things. "We have to get you out of these clothes, Bonnie. Do you understand?" he asked quietly.

She nodded weakly, knowing that he was right. She had learnt enough from Biology class that if her body did not receive warmth quickly, she would be in a much worse state. But getting undressed in front of this man who was little more than a stranger to her? How on earth could she make herself do that? Her body relaxed and within moments she felt the first of her wet clothes being peeled from her skin. She ought to have been embarrassed about him undressing her, but when his finger brushed her skin she forgot all about it. His touch was surprisingly gentle and soon she was melting into the floor.

The water was cold, not that he felt it, and he worried that Bonnie might already be dead...