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Illusion (Chapter 9 Method Acting)

The house was strangely quiet. It was rare for things to be so subdued, I'd become accustomed to the flurry of activity and conversation that always seemed to surround me and the difference was glaring. The silence left me plenty of time to think, and I had enough on my mind to sort through.

After folding yet another blouse and tucking it away in the suitcase, my thoughts focused on Georgia and the incident at my villa. I was extremely concerned about her state of mind and confused at her strange behavior. I still couldn't figure out what had possessed her to seek out Stefan and Lukas alone. Had she always been off kilter and I hadn't seen it? Was it the knowledge of mythical creatures existing that had pushed her over the edge? Every time I tried to focus on her future, it was it was scrambled with gaping holes in it. It was comparable to staring through Swiss cheese.

And then there was Stefan… he had been exceptionally careful with his thoughts, almost as if he was afraid for me to know how he was truly feeling. I glanced up to see Stefan staring out the windows, and I studied his profile from across the room. His chiseled face was contemplative, stress deepening the feathery lines around his eyes. He had his hands shoved in the front pockets of his dark wash blue jeans, the muscles in his arms tight.

"You're awfully quiet over there. What's going on in that head of yours?" I asked, reaching for the next item to pack away. "You've closed your mind to me or I wouldn't have to ask."

He turned to face me and his eyebrows furrowed over his blue eyes. "Do you need to ask?" Stefan snorted. "I had no choice but to erase a huge portion of your friend's memory and we are heading back to New York tomorrow. I am worried about Georgia's state of mind and your safety once we return to the US."

Exhaling a deep breath, I nodded in agreement. If I were to be completely honest, I was worried about not only my safety, but his as well. My father was a big unknown to us since he had the capability to deflect Stefan's psychic ability. Stefan was a meticulous schemer, careful and precise. He didn't like to be caught off guard by a rogue vampire that was older and considerably more powerful.

"Georgia seemed fine when she left. We'll be able to watch her tonight. As for Kian… maybe my shield will work on him. Nikolaus can work around his power, maybe I can too." I resumed folding clothes and sighed. "I can't let him control my life, Stefan. I refuse to do it."

"That we are in agreement with, vackra. I refuse to let him control you and what we have. I am also unwilling to let you be a guinea pig and test your shield. We cannot assume your mind works the same simply because he can thwart Kian's ability." His voice had a sharp, cutting edge to it, like the blade of a newly sharpened knife. Glancing up at his expression, his beautiful face momentarily had an inhuman quality to it, cold and unfeeling. By the time I blinked again, it had rapidly been replaced to reflect the Stefan I loved, his handsome face was unworried and lips quirked slightly at the corners. His other expression had been so fleeting that I almost thought I imagined it. Almost.

Even though it was tempting to just stand and observe him longer, I disappeared into the closet, bringing out the final things I wanted to pack away. Packing away clothing into the luggage gave me time to deduce exactly what Stefan was planning, most likely for my father. He would not be hasty in how he chose to attack. Call it intuition or a hunch, I could sense the smoothly-oiled wheels of his mind cataloging information into the vast filing cabinet of his mind, each piece of information vital to his strategy.

Zipping up the suitcase, I turned and carried it to stand by its mate at the closet door, my hands on my hips. Logically, I should be disturbed to know that the love of my life was planning my father's death. I had no emotional tie to my father, the only link I had to Kian was the blood that ran through my veins. The knowledge that he had single-handedly killed my mother quickly alleviated any troubled thoughts that lingered. It was a necessity, as Nikolaus had told Stefan. It was either kill or be killed.

I wasn't ready to die.

I glanced up at the windows where Stefan had been standing only moments ago to find that he had moved silently and swiftly to stretch his long body across the bed, ridding himself of his clothes to lie naked. He was reclining on his back, his long arms behind his head. Even though I'd seen him nude many times, seeing him like this never lost its powerful effect on me. My breathing shifted into rapid pants and I suddenly felt like I had on too many clothes. My concerns were pushed away as I stared at him, transfixed by the sight of his pale skin against the chocolate brown of the duvet cover. My hands moved on their own accord to undress, letting my discarded clothes fall behind me, unwanted and unneeded as I approached the bed.

He was a paradox of sorts: dark and light, vampire and man. And I craved him like any addict would hunger after the object they desired. He had gotten under my skin in the most mysterious of ways with his charm and beauty.

He smiled one of his crooked smiles and his arms reached out to tug me to the bed beside of him. He pushed me to my back, opening my legs wide and moving to settle between them, simply staring at the wetness that glistened between my thighs. His fangs were fully out, his blue eyes heavily lidded with his need as he knelt before me. The now familiar excitement of seeing him aroused and filled with want made me desire him so intensely that my entire body cried out for his touch, writhing and arching my back off the bed as I longed for him to touch me.

"Always so impatient, Josephine."

His nostrils flared as he smelled my arousal in the air between us, and his fangs retracted slowly. He parted my folds with his fingers, burying his head between my thighs, his tongue tracing a slow line from my wet pussy to circle around my swollen clit, then returning to delve inside of me. He let out a deep rumble of pleasure, his thumb rubbing over my clit as he sucked and licked, his soft, sensual touch making me shiver at the same time a low moan fell from my lips.

He raised his head and hovered over me. The burning intensity of his eyes had me trapped, unable to look away.

"Beg."

My eyes stared into his, filled with astonishment. He wanted me to beg? He sat back on his heels and began stroking his full length with long, languid strokes, still staring at me with eyes that beckoned for me to yield to him.

"Beg," he repeated. His tongue slipped out to lick across his lower lip eagerly.

"Please," I whimpered. I wasn't above begging when the end result would have him buried inside of me.

"Please, what? What exactly do you want me to do, Josephine?"

He was playing dirty, making me tell him what I wanted merely to hear me tell him how badly I needed him.

Sneaky bastard.

Trying to make my voice stay low and sultry, I stared deeply into his eyes. "Please, Stefan. I need you…"

His eyebrow rose slightly and his lips twitched, the speed of his hand on his cock increasing. "Tell me what you need and where you need it."

I let out a frustrated groan and bowed my neck against the bed. He was going to kill me. My mind flashed back to the first night I met him and I mused of self-combustion. If he kept this up, I'd be a pile of ashes from all of his sexy talk.

Sitting up a little, I rested on my elbows. I focused on him so intently that I felt myself slip into his mind, our thoughts fusing together, our desire mingling and fueling the craving that was burning in each of us, threatening to blaze out of control.

"I need your cock inside of me. Now," I said in a low growl that was worthy of a vampire.

His answering smile was triumphant. His fangs dropped again and he lowered the entire length of his long, lean body against me, letting our joining come naturally, his cock sliding deep inside of me. After a moment he ducked his head to kiss my neck, his tongue licking along my pulse point.

"I love it to hear you talk like that, vackra. Du v?nder mig, Josephine," he said into my ear before his lips drifted to the other side of my neck. My fingers gripped his taut ass to keep his slow, steady rhythm from stopping. This time when he spoke, it was his voice I heard in my mind. "You are so wet for me. Do you want more?"

"Yes! More!" I panted. He picked up the pace, our bodies starting to make the sounds I associated with our lovemaking: wet sounds of flesh against flesh, our cries and moans matched the frantic rhythm we'd set. "More!"

"More? You want more?" Stefan asked, his voice a deep rumble in his chest. He leaned closer, the hard muscles of his chest pressing against my breasts, his strong arms on each side of my head, caging me in.

"Yes! Harder," I begged, pulling my legs back and letting my heels dig into the firm cheeks of his ass. His eyes darkened and his speed increased, our hips meeting at an almost brutal speed.

Turning my neck to the side, I moved so my throat was exposed. I wanted him to bite, to take everything I had to offer to him.

"No!"

In a flash, he had moved us into a new position. I was kneeling on the bed with my back pressed against his chest, my legs straddling his thighs. He was buried inside of me, deeper than before and moving faster, one hand rubbing circles against my clit. He bucked and I ground my pussy against him, calling out his name with every thrust.

He raised his other arm to his mouth and I heard the sound of his skin ripping, taken aback when he presented his bloody wrist to me.

"Drink from me while I fuck you." His mental voice was heavily accented and filled with lust.

Without any hesitation my lips attached themselves to him, greedily sucking on his wrist, enjoying the taste of his blood as it made its way down my throat. It wasn't until I felt his overwhelming emotions that I realized he had bitten me, our blood intermingling, making a complete circuit as we drank from one another.

"We are one in every way, vackra. Heart, soul, body. Vi ?r ett evigt."

His mental voice was my undoing and I climaxed hard, my body pulsating and shaking as my orgasm felt like it was ripping me apart violently from the inside out. The sounds falling from my lips didn't even sound human. They were primal grunts and growls, my hands clutching at his thighs as I clamped around him, gripping him with my inner walls.

I wasn't alone either. His answering roar was just as animalistic as he pulsed inside of me, his hands moving to grip my breasts in his large hands. Both of our thoughts were filled with our desire to please one another, to claim what we valued above all else. Our love.

We collapsed against the bed in a heap of arms and legs, lacking the strength or presence of mind to do anything but stay wrapped in each other. His fingers drifted up and down my arm. "It does not matter what happens now or when we get back to New York. You are mine, Josephine. Nothing will take you away from me. Nothing."

"Stefan, it'll be fine. No one is taking anybody anywhere. If Kian tries anything, I'll kill him myself before I let him hurt you or take me."

He turned me in his arms and placed his finger against my lips, silencing me. His eyes narrowed and his face looked hard as he stared at me with his piercing eyes. "You and I both know it is not going to be fine. It is a matter of how or when. Not if."

His hand gripped my face and he crushed his mouth against mine, his tongue slipping between my lips. He rolled me to my back, deepening the kiss, his hands drifting to the nape of my neck, combing through the waves of my hair. His lips were firm against mine, his mouth hungry and insistent. I wrapped my arms around his back, pulling him closer to me as his thoughts spilled into my mind.

"I will not lose you. I cannot lose you. No. I will rip apart anyone that attempts to take you from me. Jag kommer att titta p? dem drabbas p? mina h?nder och njuta i deras sm?rta."

I broke the kiss, wanting his way of thinking to stop. "Enough! You aren't going to lose me. Stop talking that way, Stefan. You're stuck with me."

His expression softened and he nipped at my lips playfully between his words. "As you are stuck with me."

He disentangled himself from me and stood, regretfully looking down at me. "As much as I wish to stay here, your friends will be arriving soon."

Shit! The impromptu going away party. I'd been so wrapped up in worries about Georgia, packing and then distracted with Stefan that I'd forgotten about the get together Anna and Lukas were planning. Lukas had taken off in his red convertible, heading off to meet Anna to plan the last minute get together. I'd been hoping to say my goodbyes to Anna and Georgia separately and bypass a celebration, but once Lukas had planted the seed in Georgia's mind, there was no going back. Anna just took over the preparations and I just needed to show up.

Groaning loudly, I covered my eyes with my hands. "I know, I know."

He leaned over the bed and pulled my hands away from my face. His blond hair fell across his forehead and his eyes sparkled teasingly. "Shower?"

Smiling despite myself, I nodded and sat up on the bed. Satisfied that I was right behind him, he turned and strutted towards the bathroom, six-feet-four inches of gorgeous perfection.

I couldn't help but admire the view. The muscles in his back moved as he walked, stretching and flexing. And that ass…

"Let's go get clean so we can get dirty again later."

He spun to face me, shock etched on his face. I'd finally managed to surprise Stefan.

Jumping up from the bed, I breezed past him, winking at him over my shoulder. "Last one to the shower loses."

"I do not think there is a loser if I get you in the shower," he said, speeding up to catch me and throw me over his shoulder.

He was right once again. Neither one of us was going to lose.

* * *

By the time Stefan and I made it downstairs after our failed attempt at getting clean in the shower, the unofficial party was under way. Lukas had some sort of Latin influenced music playing on the stereo and was busy behind the bar mixing drinks. Anna was perched on one of the stools, sipping away on a margarita, laughing loudly at something Lukas had said. Georgia stood beside them, uncharacteristically quiet. She fiddled with her dark hair and appeared to be uncomfortable. In other words, she was exhibiting very un-Georgia like behavior.

Glancing up at Stefan, I shot him a concerned look. He raised one of his blond eyebrows, and his mouth was set in a thin, straight line across his handsome face. "You need to talk to her and find out what she is thinking."

"I know. I'm afraid of what I'll find out once I start talking to her."

His large hand slipped to rest against the small of my back, leading me towards the small group. Managing to plaster a huge smile on my face, I approached Georgia first.

"Hey, Georgia." I reached out and hugged her lightly, concerned when she stood unmoving and stiff, her arms hanging at her sides. I was relieved when she finally returned the hug and laughed lightly. "I'm glad you're here."

"And miss your going away party?" Georgia asked, pulling away and patting my cheek with her manicured hand. Her smile was tight as her gaze flashed to Stefan. He was standing next to me, holding me close against his side. Her smile slowly faded as awareness swept over her face. I had purposely left my shields down tonight so I could monitor Georgia and her emotions were… odd. She wasn't frightened of Stefan, or even scared. Instead she was emoting smugness and resentment, yet had resigned herself to not cause any trouble. Unconsciously, she had recognized him for what he was, even though she didn't understand or have a name for it. She sensed he was something different. Not exactly human, but something peculiar.

As Stefan would say, interesting.

Anna made a beeline to me, with a drink in hand. She handed it to me and winked, her cheeks flushed. She swayed back and forth for a moment before she whispered loudly to me. "Drink this, Josie. Lukas is the best bartender ever. It's a shame he's gay because…"

"La la la. I don't want to hear it." Plugging my ear with my free finger, I shook my head to clear my head of Anna's drunken chatter. I swallowed down half of my drink in one gulp as Stefan's handmade reappearance at my back and guided me towards Lukas. His ice blue eyes sparkled as I sat down at the small bar and watched me toy with the stem of my margarita glass.

"I'm glad you could join the party, Josie. It's for you after all," Lukas placed his hands on the bar and rested his weight on his forearms. "It must have been difficult to pull yourself away from the magic Stefan possesses. You know, his magic di…"

"Shut your mouth, Lukas!" I hissed, pointing a finger at him as a blush spread across my face.

"Don't shoot the messenger! Anna and I were just talking." He waved his hands in surrender. "I've spent 175 years with him and I've found out more about him since you've been in the picture. Magic dick and all."

"Lukas," Stefan muttered his name in warning. Lukas nodded and busied himself in cutting up a lime.

Anna had wasted no time in telling Lukas about our discussion today. Angrily, I glanced over my shoulder to glare at Anna. She was talking away to Georgia but felt my eyes watching her and glanced up. When she saw the expression on my face, she swallowed and diverted her eyes downward into her drink.

Sensing my annoyance, Stefan scooted my drink away and took me by the hand just as the music changed.

"Come dance with me…it is the merengue," he said, leaning to whisper in my ear.

"What is it with you and your obsession with dancing, Stefan? I don't know how to do this." I tugged against him, attempting free myself of his grasp.

"I love to dance with you. Come."

He began walking seductively backwards, pulling me along with him, his hips moving in time to the music. He drew me to the middle of the spacious living room and spun me once around to face him. He grabbed my right hand with his left and pulled me against him, his right hand splayed across my lower back. His powerful thigh slipped between my legs and we started moving in a one-two rhythm, our hips swaying together to the music. He twirled me around. The infectious music and the enticing way we moved together were making my reservations slip away.

"See. You are having fun, yes? It is all in the leading." His mind voice was smug as he tightened his grip on me.

Stefan seemed to love dancing almost as much as the way my hips moved to the music, if I judged solely by how often his hand would drift down my back to brush against my ass. He'd then wink and twirl me out, pulling me back against him. It was then that I let my eyes sweep over his chest, watching every muscle ripple beautifully as he moved in sync with me. Finally, I looked up and our eyes met, his blue eyes were glowing as our legs and feet moved quickly to match the beat.

The song ended and he dipped me backwards until my hair touched the floor. When he pulled me back up, his lips aligned with mine. They were soft, his breath warm and sweet. He kissed the side of my mouth, brushing my lips against mine until they parted to allow him in. His soft tongue filled my mouth and our tongues met in a lazy duel, each moment that passed increased the strength of the kiss until I could barely breathe at all.

His lips pulled back, although he didn't look away. His eyes were focused on mine with a force that almost brought me to my knees in front of him. I realized we were in the middle of the living room with three sets of curious eyes focused on us and I shyly cleared my throat.

"We can't do this now, Stefan."

He pouted for a moment, his teeth catching against his full bottom lip, releasing his grip on my hand and waist. His hand cupped my face, his thumb tracing against my cheekbone. "I know. It was entertaining while it lasted."

Giving him an affectionate shove, I didn't resist when his fingers interlaced with mine. We rejoined our little group that had been watching our display with fascination. Georgia was the only one that chose to speak.

"You love her." Her statement sounded more like a question and it was directed to Stefan. He looked down at her for a moment before he replied.

"As I have told you many times, I love her more than my own existence," Stefan paused and studied Georgia's unsmiling face. "If I had to sacrifice my life for her, there would be no choice. She will always come first."

"You'll take care of her?"

He let out an exasperated sigh. "Georgia, did I just not tell you how I felt for Josephine?"

"Yeah, yeah. I just had to ask." She smoothed her hand over her dark hair. "I have friends in New York, you know. I'll be visiting you. A lot."

His entire body tensed for a split second. I'm sure Georgia missed it; however being familiar with his mannerisms I was quick to notice the change in his demeanor.

"Josephine will be thrilled to see you." He squeezed my fingers tightly.

Georgia smiled an unnatural, peculiar smile. It was forced, as if she'd watched other people and was mimicking it, the perfect replica of a real smile with no actual emotion behind it. An alarm bell rang loudly in my head, causing my stomach to knot with dread as I observed my friend. Whatever was happening to Georgia wasn't going to end well. I couldn't see around the voids and swirls of darkness to figure out what she'd gotten herself into, or the better question, with whom.

"Something isn't right, Stefan. She's different. She's not the same Georgia anymore." I sent my thoughts to him and cleared my throat audibly. Stefan met my anxious gaze and his handsome face tensed his chiseled jaw clenching as he ground his teeth.

"Georgia, if you will excuse us, we need to talk to Lukas," Stefan said, smiling apologetically at Georgia. He looked away from me to study Georgia's face as he waited for her reply.

She only nodded and focused back on her drink. Stefan pulled me into the kitchen and started pacing.

"Explain what isn't right." Stefan's mind voice was demanding and eager for information.

"She's putting off weird emotions. She realizes something isn't right but can't figure out why. And her smile… it's like she imitating what a smile looks like. There's no feeling behind it. Is this because of what you had to do?"

His pacing stopped as he rested against the countertop and his hands gripped his hair. "I would assume the change in her personality has to do with me removing part of her memories. It was traumatic for her to discover that there are vampires, to know what we are and what you are, only to then rip those from her and replace those with scant recollections of watching a movie and going to bed. I feared this would happen."

His head fell back against his broad shoulders. His hands tensed to make fists and then he relaxed them again. "Fuck!"

I flinched at his sudden expletive. Moving to stand in front of him, I placed my hands against his hard chest and looked up at him. Our eyes met and his were stoic. "This seems like more than that, Stefan. So what happens now?"

"For now, nothing. We watch, we listen and we wait. This could be temporary."

I didn't move. My hands were still on his chest and I stood breathless. "And if it's not temporary?"

He let out an audible chuckle, dry and humorless. "You know the options, Josephine. She will either die or be forced to accept the truth again. Or be changed." His hands floated along my arms. "Do not ask me to change her. I will refuse."

A cold chill ran along my spine. I couldn't force Stefan to do anything he didn't want to do. And he'd attempted to save Georgia already. If she hadn't been so damn nosy and impulsive we wouldn't be having this discussion about the precarious fate of her life right now.

"So we wait."

He nodded. "I am proficient at waiting. I waited 200 years for you."

I loved him for attempting to lighten the mood. I just found it hard to be jovial when my friend's life was dangling by a slowly unraveling thread.

"Come. They will start to wonder what happened to us. It is time for us to smile and act like nothing is amiss."

We walked hand in hand back to rejoin my friends, vaguely noticing that Stefan and I both were wearing the same grin Georgia had been displaying earlier. On the surface, it appeared like we didn't have a care in the world, but it covered our fear and concerns. We were suddenly the actors in our world of secrets, smiling widely to hide the truth.

My unintentional crash course tonight gave me an understanding of what it was to be immortal. You had to learn to blend in with humans; mimic their laughter, their happiness, and their smiles. Yet you were always on guard, watching and anticipating when a human would put the pieces together and figured out your true nature. How had Stefan lasted almost 1,000 years and still maintained any humanity? It was frustrating and I'd only just now realized what my life was going to become.

"Yes." Stefan's mind entered mine and interrupted my thoughts. "This is your life now as well."

He was right. Thanks to my parents, I was dealt a bad hand and I had no other option but to play this game beside of him, smiling, calculating, watching, and staying vigilant. I was an immortal oddity, my blood neither entirely human or vampire.

Conversations went on around me and I nodded and laughed in all the right places. I drank, ate and watched as the festivities went on around me. I wasn't really here with them. I'd retreated to a corner of my mind where I observed and thought, figuring out the next move of what had rapidly become a very complicated life.

Georgia and Anna finally were going through the motions of gathering their things together to leave. They pulled me into a group hug and I was reassured to feel both of their emotions filled with affection and sadness. Maybe the old Georgia was still there, underneath it all.

"I'll miss you both," I sputtered as I embraced them both.

"Don't you dare avoid my calls," Georgia warned. She leaned back to look in my eyes, lifeless for a moment until they sparkled again. She seemed to be operating on a 10 second delay.

"Josie, I'll call you tomorrow. You still need to sign paperwork to list your house," Anna said, tugging Georgia along with her out the door. They stood in the doorway and turned to look back at me. Georgia crooked her fingers in a small wave and Anna winked at me. When they disappeared into the Bali night, I let out the breath I'd been holding all night.

"This is it, isn't it?" I said aloud. Stefan and Lukas flanked me on both sides as we watched their departure.

"For their sake it has to be, Josie," Lukas replied. He placed his hand on my shoulder and squeezed it affectionately. "The sooner you let them go, the easier it is for you and for them. This is the hardest part. After 50 years or so, this won't be so difficult."

Lukas' words ricocheted in my head. In 50 years I'd be 78 and I'd appear just as I look now, living a life surrounded my immortal creatures. Attempting to be human, struggling to fit in.

Unreal.

"Is it still worth it?" Stefan's soft voice questioned me. I turned to face him and saw the worry that lined his handsome face. He was still afraid at any moment I'd run and come to hate the life I had in front of me. What could I do? I had no choice but to live my life. I hadn't chosen it any more than Stefan had chosen to be turned that cold spring night as he lay dying on a funeral pyre almost 1,000 years ago.

"For you, it's worth it," I replied, leaning into his embrace. Stefan sighed contentedly against my hair and pulled me closer.

"God, you two make me sick. An eternity of this mush. If I could vomit I would right now," Lukas groaned and flitted off.

Stefan chuckled at Lukas' disgusted departure. He let go of me long enough to retrieve a blanket from a closet. "I have something to show you. Come with me."

My curiosity roused, I followed along. I'd learned that Stefan's surprises were usually worth investigating.

* * *

Stefan's surprise had been worth it. We'd been laying on the beach, looking at the stars and listening to the waves as we alternately kissed and whispered to each other. It was nice to be alone, away from the worries and drama from the evening. Our connection was soothing, a comforting bond that made everything easier to handle.

"Our last night in Bali," Stefan said. He sat up on the blanket he'd spread across the sand and pulled me to sit along beside him. Our eyes met and he stared lovingly at me. I found myself unable to look away from the depths of his blue eyes, glittering brightly in the moonlight.

"Yes. And I get to spend it with you," I replied softly. I couldn't imagine ever spending a night apart from him now. We were forged together irrevocably, two parts of a whole.

A smile broke over his handsome face, revealing his even white teeth. He glanced to stare at the ocean for a moment, his blond hair shining in the darkness. His profile was glorious with his deep set eyes and the strong line of his jaw. When he turned back to look at me, I knew I could look at him a million times and it would always be like that first night we met.

"We have many more to spend together. I have thousands of nights to make love to you. I lived a half-life until I met you on the beach that night. I thought it fitting that we end our time here the way we began," Stefan murmured. His thoughts mirrored my own and we met half way for a slow kiss.

His mind opened up to me and I saw myself through his eyes. He looked past all of my imperfections and only saw the good and the beauty in me. It wasn't possible to feel more wanted and loved than I did in this small moment in time, leaving me in awe of this creature that always saw more in me than I dared to see in myself. I wasn't sure what I had ever done to deserve his love.

"Follow me."

Stefan got to his feet and took my hand, leading me to the edge of the water that was sweeping across the deserted stretch of beach. We stood silently, our hands intertwined as we listened to the erratic tempo of the ocean hitting the sand.

He released my hand and he stripped out of his jeans and t-shirt, throwing them to the sand. His fingers were quick and nimble as he removed my dress, unzipping and pulling it over my head to toss in the pile with his own clothes. We stood naked in the darkness, our bodies so close they were almost touching.

He clasped each side of my face in his large hands, his soulful eyes searching my face. He smiled, leaning to capture my lips in a kiss that was reverent and soft, filled with love and adulation. Pressing my body closer to his, electricity sparked between us when our skin touched, a maelstrom of emotions unleashing inside of me: desire, need, lust and love, each sentiment warring for control.

He lifted his lips from mine, only to see the same passion mirrored in his heavy eyes. He wordlessly lifted me into his arms, carrying me out into the ocean, the warm waves splashing against our skin. We advanced a few yards until the water reached the top of his narrow waist and nearly covered my breasts.

Stefan twirled me around through the water in front of him and his long arms cradled me to his chest, his wet fingers trailing lightly over the skin of my back. Our lips met tenderly and our embrace tightened.

"Float back," Stefan instructed, releasing me from his arms.

I complied, falling back into the sea, my hair floating in the water around me. He spread my legs and drew me closer to him, the salty water keeping me afloat. His fingers teased my pussy softly, occasionally plunging in, while his other hand caressed my nipples, rolling and making them pebble under his touch. I was filled longing, trembling under every expert touch of his hand.

"Please," I begged.

He smiled, his thoughts filled with delight that I had begged for him yet again. He took his cock in his hand and poised it at my entrance, pulling me slowly towards him until our bodies were completely joined together, both of us letting out a soft sigh of satisfaction.

"Stefan," my voice came out as a breathless whisper. I wasn't able to manage much more than that.

"I love you, vackra."

We made love slowly under the moon and the stars, our bodies moving easily through the water, with gentle thrusts and an easy rhythm that rocked me to my core. As he slid inside of me, my eyes traced the beads of water that was clinging to his arms and chest, hypnotized at watching the smooth, sinewy muscles ripple with his fluid movements.

When I fell over the edge, it pulled me gently, my body shaking with the aftershocks of my orgasm. He joined me, quietly crying out my name. He gathered me in his arms and I wrapped myself around him as the gentle waves splashed against us. Hugging him closer to me, I rested my cheek against his shoulder and pressed a kiss against his neck.

"I should be sad," I whispered. I knew he could hear me over the surf. "I'm not though. I've never been happier even with all of the bullshit."

"The bullshit will not be forever. It is a blip on the radar of our long lives," he responded. "Hold on."

Locking my legs around his waist, I held on as he walked us out of the ocean. Even though I was content in his arms, part of me wished I could see him striding naked out of the ocean. He had to look like some sort of Nordic god rising from the sea with his gleaming blond hair and glowing skin.

"You compared me to such the night we met if I am remembering it correctly," he teased as he let me slide from his arms to stand on the sand beside him.

"Hmm." I stood back and looked over him, from his thick wet hair, down over his broad shoulders and muscular chest. My eyes traced over the ridges of his toned abdomen to finally sweep over the length of his long, solid legs.

"Well?"

"Fucking beautiful." I used his words from our first night together; the night that forever changed my life.

"Min gudinna." He closed the distance between us and cradled my face in his hands. "You were worth the wait, vackra."

* * *

Anna stayed true to her word. She'd phoned early the next morning, agreeing to meet at my villa. She needed to take photographs and have me sign the necessary contracts giving her permission to represent me in the sale of my house. I'd snagged the keys to Stefan's car since my jeep had been donated to charity and been picked up the day before. Slipping behind the wheel of his Audi, I drove the familiar route to my house, anxious to get the paperwork signed and get back to catch our flight later in the afternoon.

As I pulled into the driveway, I was surprised to see Lukas with Anna, standing at the rear of Anna's car. Putting the Audi into park, I stepped out of the car and glanced between Anna and Lukas.

"Hey Anna," I hugged Anna briefly. "What are you doing here, Lukas?"

"I'm saying goodbye to Anna," Lukas replied abruptly. His ice blue eyes lacked their normal sparkle and he seemed reserved for Lukas. Normally, he'd find some way to sexually charge the conversation or tease me. He was reserved, standing uncomfortably between us.

"Alright, let's get this show on the road. I don't have much time."

Anna was prepared and made short work of snapping pictures around the house, leaving Lukas and I alone in the living room. He sat nervously on the edge of the couch, cracking his knuckles and rolling his neck from side to side.

"Is something wrong, Lukas?" I asked as I watched his odd behavior. He looked down at the floor and refused to meet my eyes.

"I hate to fly."

Lukas' behavior was peculiar, but I couldn't put my finger on exactly what was different. He'd been very quiet and detached. He normally loved to be the center of attention, thriving on it.

"Ok, Josie. Get your ass in here and sign this contract so you can be on your way. Lucky bitch," Anna called out from the kitchen, her voice breaking through my mental musings about Lukas.

Making my way into meet her, I took the pen from Anna and signed in the appropriate places. I was handing Anna her pen back when her eyes widened and her mouth opened in a loud scream. I felt something heavy hit the back of my head and everything went black.

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