A/N: Chapter Eleven, ahoy. . thanks for your patience, my dear readers. I wanted to thank everyone who voted for me at SKOW! It's such an honor to have been nominated, let alone win too. THANKS YOU GUYS!

Tearitrightup—Yes, I have. Actually, I was an editor for KnR. I loved her work and her plot, mainly 'cause I am such a fan of those soul-mate fantasy romance stories (like Christine Feehan's Dark Series—I read those ALL the time!!). I wanted to try my own twist on the genre, though, and make it a bit darker. I'm glad you liked it.

Atreyu Love— Noreen's German, alright. Her mother is from Stuttgart, but she lives in America (her father is American, thus her surname ).

SadHappyFace—I personally say it "Arr—ih—dose" though I am curious as to how others might pronounce it. : ) How do you say it?

Noreen stopped short of the third post, breathing hard. Ahead of her stretched at least another half mile of expanse, if she followed the path fully around the dorm. Her forehead puckered. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale.

Today's routine had gone well; she and David met outside of her classroom, so that they could walk together on route to their respective classes. It was the easy sort of walk that she so looked forward to—one where she felt both comfortable and aflutter at the same time. He'd mentioned Rehearsal, the weather, other things…she replied as expected.

Lori had pulled her aside very recently at Rehearsal, informing her in a low voice that David had most definitely been ogling her during the Act I reading. That had put a triumphant glimmer in Noreen's coal-dark eyes, immediately causing Lori to squeal in delight.

"How long has this been going on?" demanded the girl in a quick voice. "Have you gone out yet?"

Noreen had replied with an unfortunate no. She truly hoped that would change within the next month, though. Even now, lungs practically void of oxygen, she had to bite back a giggle at the mere thought of the boy. She wiped her hand across her sweaty forehead, bracing herself for another sprint.

She was sure he knew she liked him, and had even caught his eyes flickering down her legs. Now, she supposed, it was left to him. The idea of dating a boy who wasn't a complete low-life was extremely appealing. Her last boyfriend had been in the band here at Caldwell, and things had gone less than wonderfully between them. She had returned early from Rehearsal during her sophomore year (in the one semester they had dated) to find him and her former room mate Melinda entangled in a rather intense biology study session. Or so was their story. In either case, both were out of her life within the next month. Melinda, after realizing that reconciliation with the obstinate Noreen was hopeless, transferred living situations (supposedly to a private suite, as she heard through the grapevine). Noreen had only seen her former flame once since then, and at a distance.

It was definitely a case of good riddance. Two months after the Melinda fiasco, she was assigned a new room mate: a transferee named Sophie. That arrangement had ended up working quite well. A brief smile flitted across her features before she took off at a sprint.

Yes, today was going well. But Noreen had to confess to a snag in the usual commonality.

That snag came in the form of an extremely attractive, broad-shouldered Nox brother.

He had been waiting near the fitness building, apparently for her. In the daylight, he wasn't quite as intimidating, with sunlight playing through his unruly dark curls and uniform properly secured. No pectoral eye-candy to distract her. Curiosity crept over her.

"You weren't at lunch." She raised a brow. It might have sounded a bit stalkerish, but what the hell? He must have known how obvious his absence was.

He looked pleased that she noticed, regardless. "No. Nor breakfast."

"Skipping?" He couldn't have been sick. The guy looked as if he'd never even come in contact with the common cold. She wouldn't be surprised.

He grinned, eyes warm, cypress pools. "You make it sound so frivolous."

"Isn't it?" She gave his person a brief inspection. Again, she was overcome with precisely how strong he looked. She'd bet he didn't have any trouble with a mere dozen laps.

He didn't reply, but simply smiled at her. There was familiarity and affection behind that smile. It was odd, but she couldn't keep her knees from going weak.

He suddenly reached into his pocket, pulling out something grey. He held it out to her. "You dropped this yesterday."

She stared at the little book without recognition—and then gasped. Hurrying forward, she was already babbling. "Oh mein Gott! If Flock knew—God, thank you! I can't believe—wow. Thank you. Thanks a lot." She grabbed the book for the book.

It was only by chance that they touched. For a brief instant, her fingertips pushed against his, fumbling for the book.

Something jolted through her. Xeridan, with a movement she couldn't even perceive, ripped his hand away. Her eyes widened and flew to his. He, too, looked surprised. He rubbed his fingers, as if she'd physically shocked him.

"Whoa." She blinked, mouth agape. "Sorry, I didn't mean to—" She laughed nervously, pulling her hands close to her stomach. The script booklet was clenched tightly in her fist.

Xeridan laughed, then—a sound that made her stomach clench pleasantly. She watched as a look similar to exhilaration fell over the smooth planes of his face.

The bell rang, warning her for her tardiness. She'd given him a brief, flustered word, and literally ran to make it to class.

She'd done a lot of running today, she thought dryly. Her legs pumped across the grounds as she twisted behind one of the dorm buildings, reveling in the cool air. She kept up her pace, losing herself to the physical.

Aridos ran his fingers through her hair, marveling at the silken quality. He leaned forward, burying his nose in the strands. His other hand sneaked around her waist, running over her supple curves. She wore the same orange nightshirt he had first glimpsed her in. Standing behind her, he couldn't see her face, but felt the shiver run through her at his touch. He smirked, breathing softly in her strands. His fingers ran upward, grazing her flesh until he reached her breast. As his hand fondled her, he leaned forward, delivering slow kisses to the curve of her neck.

She breathed out, moving under his hand. Her dark head rolled back slightly to rest on his shoulder.

"Aridos," she breathed. His body thrilled at her tone. Now, if only she would moan it. He grinned against her skin at the thought.

She said his name again, this time reaching behind to twist hands into his blonde locks. His tongue traveled up the arch of her neck.

"It's just a dream," she said softly, aloud.

"Yes, it is," he agreed, voice dark. Fervor burned in his kiss. Just a damn dream.

"Not real," she continued. Her voice was barely a whisper.

He couldn't muster the words to agree. Agony ripped at his heart; he knew it was a dream. Only in a dream could such things transpire between them. But now he had the object of his fantasies reminding him it wasn't real. Not even with her spectral copy could he pretend a reality. He simply kissed her again, pushing that thought from his mind.

Sophie lounged on her bed, book in hand. She'd reached the thirteenth chapter, yet couldn't push herself to read anymore. Her thoughts were elsewhere. Not on her birthday, either, which was lurking ever closer at only two days. Her mind, instead, was revolving around one thing.

The dreams hadn't stopped these past three days. Every night was the same—her dreams, at first, would be common, silly dreams that would gradually slip into something very not common. She couldn't understand why this was happening. She hadn't been the "hot dream" sort of girl before…and even then, it was hardly normal, she was sure, to have dreams of this caliber repeatedly over such a short span.

She tried one more time to get into her book. When that failed, she bookmarked it, and shoved the novel beneath her bed.

Something was very wrong if she couldn't even enjoy reading.

Sighing heavily, the dark-haired girl laid down, head at the end of her bed. The room was empty. Noreen was—like usual—at Rehearsal. It was just before 5:00, and she wasn't feeling particularly rushed to get to dinner. She'd brave the lines later. Instead, her eyes moved restlessly over the ceiling. A slight breeze trickled through the window.

The truce with Aridos was proving to be beneficial. His nastiness had decreased somewhat, and whatever superiority he flaunted didn't offend her as much as it once had. He didn't harass her in public, but instead sat beside Summer Cooke (though, again, she couldn't help but notice how hesitant Summer seemed to be feeling with the blonde boy) during class. They'd even nod to each other in the hall. No surprise episodes. It was working out wonderfully.

Except, of course, for those damn dreams.

If it weren't for them, she would almost admit that things were returning to normalcy. To the routine she'd dully enjoyed before the arrival of the pesky Nox brothers.

Of course, she wasn't sure how long she would be able to say that. It was safer to presume disaster, frankly.

Eventually, she grew bored of simply watching the cracks on her ceiling. Her camera was sitting in the crack between her dresser and the wall, and after a few moments of contemplating, Sophie rolled off the bed. Camera slung around her neck, she departed from the room.

Aridos could smell her in the air, and immediately felt the pull. As if she were a magnet, he began drifting ever nearer, tracking her over the campus.

He found her kneeled beside a patch of flowers, back to him. Her hair was loose. A memory ran through his mind—his pale fingers, twisting through the strands. He swallowed before addressing her.

"They're practically dead," he told her.

Her head turned, profile catching the light. A trace of a smile lingered on her lips. "That doesn't mean they aren't beautiful." She turned back, raising a camera to her face.

His brow quirked. "They're still dead."

She ignored him. He stepped forward, careful not to get in the way. At this proximity, he was engulfed; her scent mingled with the fresh cleanness of the air. He inhaled deeply, not wanting to lose such a perfection. Through barely-opened eyes, he asked, "Do you do this often?"

"What's that?" She didn't turn around.

"Pictures, photos," he elaborated. "This is twice now that I've run into you doing this." A pitch in the breeze made his senses flare with sweet aroma.

"Only if I have time." He heard her fumbling with the camera. His eyes cracked open as she began to stand. "I'm not all that good. I like it, though." She peeked up at him through her eyelashes, meeting his gaze in such a way that he thought he might just tackle her right then and there.

He swallowed uncomfortably, incapable of pulling his eyes away. Desperately trying to distract himself, he asked, "What else do you like to do?"

Sophie looked so surprised that it was almost offensive. His temper flared. "What?" he snapped.

"Nothing," she said hastily, expression clearing. "I just didn't expect you to— nevermind." Astonishment still lurked in her eyes, however.

"Didn't expect me to what?" His marble face was traced with irritation.

She shrugged. "Care, I guess."

Christ. Her reaction highly irked him. Where did she get off, thinking he was so insensitive? Glaring at her, he simply growled, "Answer the question."

She blinked, then was quiet for a long time. Her fingers drummed the lens cap. He watched patiently, eyes still cold from her reaction.

"Read." Again, she had to think before adding, "And I like learning."

He thought about that. When he didn't reply immediately, her face flushed slightly. "Does that sound really lame?"

He couldn't resist the bait. "Yes," he responded silkily, mouth quirked in mockery.

Her face turned a deeper crimson, but her brown eyes flashed. The girl actually squared her shoulders against him, which simply widened his smirk. "What do you like, then?" she challenged.

Too easy. Aridos grinned at her, eyes glittering like hard gems. "Fighting. Brawls. Rock music. Sex." His hand reached out, fingers brushing a section of dark hair that fell over her shoulder.

Scowling, she pulled out of reach. "I think that sounds really shallow."

"Did I ask for your assessment?" He stepped forward, eyes glued to the silk of her tresses. "At any rate, yours weren't that bad. A little boring, maybe. Scholarly, definitely."

Her frown lessened somewhat, but she still looked guarded. "Better than yours."

Aridos shrugged as he took another step forward. He disagreed entirely, but allowed further argument to slip away. Purringly, he acceded, "To each his own, then."

She took in his nearness with widening eyes. After a short pause, however, he saw that her face had cleared of her earlier irritation. Instead, she looked slightly wondering, dark eyes glittering clearly. Turning her face up to him, she said, "You know, I think this might be a first."

"Mmm?" Now less than a foot away, he lazily drank her aroma in. He was beginning to suspect that she used a variety of shampoos. There was always something a bit different in the way she smelled—the same underlying natural scent, of course, but today he could detect a light floral aroma that she normally didn't carry. While he wasn't particularly gifted with his nose like Lyrs was, he could distinguish that much. He inhaled again. Yes, different shampoo. He was sure.

She was looking at him. "You and I." He didn't give her any reason to suspect the sudden hardening of his body at her use of that phrase, but instead raised a brow in question. "Sharing our interests—despite our opinions-- and just talking. Like friends," she elaborated.

"We're not friends." His voice was sharp and immediate. Perhaps too much so.

There was an uncomfortable quiet for a second, and then she responded, "No, of course not." Her voice sounded careless, eyes cast off to the side in disinterest. But a faint blush lit beneath her cheeks—not the one that he was particularly fond of either. On most occasions, the flush of her cheeks was ever so inviting, an undeniably lovely thing.. How he loved seeing her riled, watching emotion bloom beneath her skin. It was a tough decision, he found—keeping the peace, or provoking her into such a state. The latter he found very…arousing. He only had to watch out and keep his toes from the crossing the line. This, however, was not the enjoyable sort he so aimed for. This made something akin to guilt sting his gut.

Friends…nonsense. He almost wanted to shake his head at such foolishness. They would never be friends. Not in the sense she figured, anyway. It would be physically and elementally impossible. Ridiculous in all aspects. But his reaction was a bit uncalled for, admittedly. "I didn't really mean it that way." His voice sounded edgy and unyielding, even to him. Probably not the best apology voice. "I was trying to—"

Her eyes were strangely calculating as she took him in, interrupting his half-baked apology. "Have you ever had a relationship before?" The soft tones of her voice lacked venom—it was simply curious, wondering. Almost disarming.

Aridos looked at her with wide diamond eyes, surprised. Of course he had been in a relationship before—for Christ's sake, he was centuries-old. "Of course," he answered, insulted. They might have been spacious in quantity, but he'd had a few. Just who did she think was the virgin, here?

"It doesn't seem like it." She was getting the most curious little smirk on her face, as if she could sense how irked he was becoming. He glowered at her, but before he could answer, she asked another question. "What's been the longest one?"

"Longest?" he sneered. "How should I know? I don't keep a diary of this kind of thing, you silly human."

Now she grinned outright. "Why are you so defensive?"

"I just hate stupid questions." The thrill of seeing that smile didn't distract him….entirely.

"Six months?" she guessed.

He almost laughed aloud. Six months? Who the fuck did she think he was? Now it was clear that she had no idea who she was talking to. He was no simple man. It was difficult to find a woman with whom he could maintain a long relationship. First of all, there were very few girls whom he deemed interesting or desirable enough to keep around for that amount of time. Second, it was hard to sustain the illusion of normality.

His silence was an implication. She knocked down the number slightly. "Three months?"

Diamond eyes shifted to meet hers. The breeze stirred her hair slightly, pushing the long strands off of her shoulders for a second. With the coming night, his senses could easily detect the noise of the mess hall…the voices, tumbling and dancing with each other in an easily confused jumble. But those were not the sounds captivating him. Instead, his attention hung off of each breath she took.

Sophie seemed to have reached a different conclusion now. "So you haven't been in one," she said slowly.

He shook his head, blonde bangs falling around his face. "No, I have. But you can imagine it's not easy."

"No one finds your ears cute?" Her voice was normal, but the words were teasing. He glanced up quickly, drinking in the sight of her.

"Do you?" His spine straightened, eyes peering down into hers sharply. Again, he said a prayer of thanks for having a mate with such attractive coloring. A smirk widened his lips. Again, he pressed, "Do you?"

"I think they're one of your better qualities," she said, voice sounding comically strangled.

He grinned, flashing white teeth. Sophie's eyes rolled, before she returned to her original topic. "So why isn't it easy?"

Aridos expelled a breath, shoving his hands in his pockets. The explanation was quick and easy: "I get bored quickly."

Apparently that was not the thing Sophie most wanted to hear, and even he had to admit that it wasn't probably the sharpest thing to say to the girl he was courting. But there was no way around that fact. She looked at him blankly, stating, "You're so shallow."

"Think about it." He attempted to be helpful. "I've been around for centuries. With most girls, it's simple: you've seen it once, you've seen it a thousand times. Trust me on that."

Sophie was floored by his careless observations of female-kind. He chattered so easily that she was rather frightened by exactly how many women he had been with. Putting it into perspective, she had to confess that she couldn't imagine Aridos being a particularly chaste guy, and especially not over the course of hundreds of years. Her brow crinkled at that.

"Are you trying to say, then, that you don't find Summer gorgeous?" That was something she truly couldn't believe. If he replied "no," then she would know in an instant that he was lying. But she wasn't quite sure what she did want to hear: her intestines knotted funnily at the idea of him drooling over her.

"Of course not," he replied airily. "She's hot."

Well. That was one thing all boys had in common; apparently it didn't matter how many years they had under their belt. A sinking feeling pitted her stomach.

"But I've seen her a million times before," Aridos continued. "Summer-like girls are not difficult to find. They tend to be both easy to find and easy to fuck."

She frowned at his crudeness, but smoothed over it quickly with an offhand comment. "So no Summer has ever managed to trap you in a relationship?"

"No." His eyes were suddenly serious, liquefying into warm pools that managed to snag her attention without effort. They probed deep, making her heart beat oddly. "Not even close."

Mouth suddenly dry and tasting like sand paper, she tried to swallow, unable to sever their shared gaze. After a second, she asked, "Has there…ever been anyone?" Why was she even asking? What was she trying to do?

"Only one."

For what seemed like its own small eternity, Sophie simply stared at the Nox boy, chocolate eyes wide as they searched the strangely alluring silver depths before her. Her mind took its own sluggish path as his face neared ever closer. She felt her lips part on their own accord, and images of her recent dreamings overtook her mind. Vaguely, in the rear of her mind, a logical voice was pushing at her, trying to break through, trying to warn her—

She could feel his cool breath at her lips, see the delicate eyelashes over his mercury eyes, and all thought was wiped clean. His scent made her senses jump pleasurably. Only a centimeter closer and—

A nervous bubble of laughter burst through, ruining the moment so perfectly that it could make any stoic cringe. She ducked out of his proximity, slipping around him, still chuckling anxiously. "I would hate to disappoint with my sad lack of experience," she said, half-joking awkwardly. Even to her, it sounded high-pitched and bizarre. She turned around to look back at him, but instead found he'd kept pace: he stood only a foot away, silver eyes dark and intense. Again, she fumbled for a distraction, trying not to lose herself in those eyes again. "Especially after all the trouble we've gone to, making a truce and—" Her voice snapped off sharply when his long fingers wrapped around her wrist, pulling her close. He had somehow pulled them together so that their bodies matched perfectly, molding her form to his in their proximity. In the brief second before her mind tottered away, she prayed that no one would happen by and see—

"You'd never disappoint," he said thickly. His voice played over her nerves deliciously. Paired with those magnetic eyes, she could feel her body going pliant—though, this time, she noted in shock, was not the same as it once had been. This time…the horror and disgust that had once accompanied her physical reaction was decidedly absent. There was fear, oh yes—but she could sense the difference. The knowledge of this change made her heart thunder erratically, but it wasn't enough to break her. "And damn the truce."

She shook her head, eyes falling closed. She pulled back slightly, but it didn't help much. His grip was firm. "I think our agreement is one of the few things we can both be proud of."

"Let's come to another agreement, then," he said quickly. His voice was hopeful, but his eyes still held traces of dark lust that struck her very core. She knew she should be wriggling and screaming for help, but…well, more than half of her shied away from that idea. Still, she couldn't just roll over because he happened to have one fine pair of eyes and a marble-cut body…Oh, God. She swallowed, trying to breathe, but found herself only further immersed.

"I don't think that's the best idea," she finally managed to say. Her body seemed to shriek in protest, but her mind nodded shortly in agreement.

"I think you'd be surprised." His face ducked so that his lips could catch hers. It was barely a kiss, but it still shook her. The brain that so solidly backed her up only a second before turned to mush, and all that was left was the strange urge to wrap herself around him so solidly it'd take a crowbar to pry her away.

It was getting harder and harder to blame Summer for her lifestyle choices—

She twisted her head away, squeezing her eyes shut. He couldn't enthrall her if she wasn't looking, she thought triumphantly. "Yes, maybe I would—but I probably wouldn't." The memories of those dreams were printed fresh over her mind. "We'd end up being really angry by the end, and you'd be bored, and then…"

"I won't be bored." His voice was vehement and on the edge of anger. Her eyes snapped open to meet his. They were on fire. "In case it hasn't sunken in yet, Sophie, there is a severe difference between this and what I've had in the past."

"Right now, maybe," she said quickly, feeling his grip begin to loosen. Without it, it seemed a little easier to think. To make sense of things. She placed her hands on his shoulders, pushing him away just the slightest bit until they stood a respectable distance apart. That is, if half a foot was considered respectable. His fiery stare didn't move from her face. Logic was taking hold again, sweeping in with all confidence. "But think about it, Aridos. I'm not what you'd consider 'your type' usually, right? Your type is the beautiful, perfect Summer-type, not me. At the moment, it's just the effect of having something new to chase—"

She didn't get to finish, because the next thing she was aware of was the sensation of his lips crushed against hers, moving in a primitive foray that made her blood race. His tongue slipped in ever so casually, slipping and brushing against hers in a most natural way. Heat poured between them as his passionate assault continued, coaxing a splendid reaction.

When he finally broke away, she realized that their bodies were once again molded against the other's form. His was muscular and hard—solid and wonderfully…male. Dear Lord, what was happening? First in her dreams, and now on the middle of Caldwell campus. Her breath was heavy and panting, a testament to her inexperience—until she realized with a graitfying jolt that his breath intermingled with hers, irregular as well. Her eyes slid closed as she breathed him in. This was getting too easy—probably because of those blasted dreams.

How could she be sure this wasn't just another, as well?

"You're beautiful to me." Deep and strong, his voice was just that of a whisper. The tone caused her eyelids to lift. Their gazes met. She was certain he could feel her heart beat, and positive that he could hear it. Hell, she could even hear it. But it seemed unimportant, somehow. Because he'd just called her beautiful.

It was probably a silly thing to find so moving, but in that tone of voice…well, she couldn't resist. It wasn't said with false feeling or underlying intention. A simple statement. Her throat went dry. After all, "beautiful" was not a word directed at her often. At best, she could pass as "cute" or, once every long while, "attractive." She could in no way compete with Summer Cooke, or Adriana Atkins. Noreen was definitely more beautiful, with her strong natural beauty. Sophie was simply not delicate enough to be called such. Her lips weren't full, her features too soft, her body too large—

But, somehow, locked in the arms of Aridos Nox, she was beginning to doubt such harsh criticisms. If he, in all of his god-like, carved-from-stone beauty, could look at her with a straight-face and call her beautiful, then perhaps she needed to re-evaluate herself.

Her heart continued to drum out its loud rhythm. Her fingers tightened, suddenly, winding tentatively around the strong muscles of his upper arms. It was a weird state, she thought…so aware of what she was doing, yet so undecided at the same time. But now she couldn't muster up a speck of resistance. All she could concentrate on was the splendid heat between them, and the excited hammering of her heart…all she could hear was his deeply musical voice, murmuring a compliment so touching that it dazed her. It may have been trivial or simple to anyone else, but to Sophie…she had been reduced to a blushing little thing, intent on repaying him for the words, no matter the cost. With a strong grasp on his arms, she closed the small distance between their faces, lips parting to capture his with her own. It was not the most passionate kiss ever shared, but with it she tried to convey the sincere gratitude that so filled her. Her fingers dug into his skin, eyes squeezed tight as she delivered the kiss.

The kiss lasted for only a few seconds when he suddenly broke away. At first glimpse, his eyes were strangely bright, watching her with almost too much alertness. He fell back a step. She dragged in some oxygen, unable to look away. What was this? Rejection?

Nothing was said. His eyelids dropped, a slow, strangely grim smile curling over his features. "Go," he said, tone soft. His eyes were hidden.

Sophie nodded once, a step pulling her back. Clarity plucked at her. This wasn't rejection. This was…He was giving her an escape. A clean way out. Did she dare take it?

He didn't glance up. Another step. Another. Finally, when it seemed he wasn't going to look up again or speak, she turned slowly around. Again. More. Away. Yes, she had to. Move. Away.

She was barely aware of her own movement. Oddly detached, she couldn't count her steps, or her distance. But Sophie knew. It was like she could sense it—as if her body could perceive his, no matter the growing expanse between them. Strange. Her head turned, glancing back over her shoulder even though she already knew. Already she felt his absence.

Sure enough, Aridos was gone.

Aridos leaned against the door of his suite, body raging as breaths came hard from his lips.

He had let her go.

He had let her go.

Shock over his own actions—or lack thereof—settled heavy in his mind. He couldn't believe it. He had had her so close, so near to where he wanted her…to where he had always wanted her…and he'd broken away. Allowed for her escape.

No, worse than allowed. He created an escape.

His hands balled into fists, head hitting wood. His eyes flew across the ceiling, unseeing. The way she reacted to his confession—how her heart rate had shot up, the way her brilliant eyes had widened. As if she had never expected such a compliment. As if she had never even suspected such a thing to begin with. Ridiculous, of course…she would have to be stupid to not appreciate her own beautiful details. But when she leaned in, fingertips pressing against his skin…her lips fluttered against his for an instant, soft as butterfly wings, before her mouth found his perfectly, and gave to him a sweetness unlike anything he'd ever felt before. His chest felt oddly tight as he remembered the purity of their contact.

A sudden shuffling on the other side of the door made his ears perk. Knuckles gently rapped. Immediately, his glamour shimmered into place. He composed himself, hand stilling on the doorknob. He waited for a second, listening to the breathing on the other side.

It was not Sophie's. Hers he could recognize. Hers he could almost feel, as if it were moving through his lungs instead. No. This was someone else.

Summer stood in the hall, hair perfectly curling over her shoulder. A light dusting of pink highlighted her cheeks. Blue eyes jumped with undisguised excitement, and he saw her hands tighten on the book she'd brought. An English book. His eyes found hers again. When he spoke, his voice was composed and solid. Nothing implied that only an instant before, he'd been tottering on the edge of control.


"Aridos, hey," she said. He could smell the perfume on her. Heavily doused, too…it almost stung his senses.

"Hello," he replied. When she didn't immediately speak, he prodded her on with a hasty, "What do you want?"

If he had cared more, he would have regretted the sharp tone. Instead, he stared, demanding answers.

Summer, obviously taken off guard, seemed to flounder for a second, her perfect lips dropping open. "Uh." She quickly gathered herself, however, and cleared her throat. She held up her book. "I thought we could look over the reading from class—"

"I already have." He crossed his arms.

She blinked, perfectly shaped face going slack. "Oh…but I thought…"

"Is that all?"

Her lip jutted out, eyebrows dipping down in a frown. Clearly disliking the flow of events, her lip jutted out in a scowl. "What's wrong, Aridos?"

"I'm busy at the moment," he responded easily, "and I don't like being interrupted."

Summer's nose wrinkled. "Busy? With what?" Her eyes flew behind him as she tried to peek over his shoulder.

"Homework." He didn't bother to move. What did she expect to find in there? Another girl? As if she had any right to jealousy. He hadn't fucked her; if he had, he probably would be even less obliging. He leaned his shoulder against the door frame, eyebrow lifting skyward. "Not all of us copy the answers before class."

Blue eyes shifted to his, bad temper lurking in the depths. "That's not fair. I do some of my work. You know that."

He shrugged. "Fine. Are we done, then?"

She sucked in her cheeks, an unpleasant look crossing her face. For a second she looked as if she wanted to say more, but the moment seemed to pass. His eyes held hers evenly.

It was almost a full minute later when she, looking fully dejected, took a step back, arms tightening around her textbook. "Goodnight, then. See you tomorrow." The last of her words slanted upward, as if in inquiry. He simply nodded, pushing the door closed.

He went to the window, ponderous. Reluctance bit at him when it came to acknowledging his involvement with Sophie publicly. While he was in no way hesitant himself, he was fairly certain she would bite his head off should he mention anything to one of her classmates. Silly, of course… it was only a matter of time before the truth came out. Before she would want to acknowledge his presence in her life. And how he looked forward to that—to stroll about, with everyone recognizing his claim on her. Inside Caldwell or out, the world would note his connection to his Bride.

His marble features lifted slightly in a smirk. That would be marvelous indeed. But until that day…

The mattress shifted under him as he lay, long legs stretched over the silken sheets. Until then, he thought with a strange clench of his heart, he could dream.

A/N: Hope you enjoyed it. I'm sorry it took so long for it to be published, but between brainstorming, writing, and then distractions, it was tough to push it out. Here it is though. Thanks for being patient, you guys. I have a good idea for the next chapter, and Sophie's birthday, so hopefully things go smoother there. Now I just have to worry about school. But the next chapter should be up soon.

Thanks again for being so patient, my lovely readers! I LOVE YOU!