1

Thunder. Thunder, echoing the lightning. Lightning, illuminating the darkness. For a moment, her face is alight with electric fire. For a moment, her eyes betray her, before the darkness closes in again like a safety blanket, warm around her shoulders.

The beat of the drum began low, thrumming. The tightness in her chest was the catch of her breath, the erratic thrumming of her heart that seemed to echo the beat of that seductive drum. A deeper breath calmed her. A second sent thrills of adrenaline down her spine. The third reminded her of her purpose.

Candles ignited around the room. A hazy, golden glow made her skin luminescent, shimmering, dream-like. Ruby-red velvet caressed her breasts, her hips, her thighs, emphasizing the paleness of her wrists and face, pulling the eye to the thick chocolate of her hair. Her fingers flicked. Her hips twisted, slowed, dipped. Her spine arched, her legs extended, her eyes glittered, and every face in the room let their gaze fall down the curved expanse of bare flesh she created.

The smell of jasmine engulfed him, forced its way into him, lay on his senses like dead weight and the air tasted sweet. He heard her voice, slow and sweet, like honey, like the light of her eyes, rich in the air. She said nothing, but he heard. The wax of one golden candle dripped, slowly, down to the floor. Power caressed his skin, soft, cool, full of the scent of rain.

Thunder rolled, and his eyes opened to darkness.

2

He slept, and she walked through his mind. Flame licked her feet as she passed. She turned, moved, burned. The scent of rain surrounded her as the weight of fire pressed him down, pressed him against everything and nothing. Her wrists were tied with red ribbons: red like her lips, red like passion, red like the dark welling of first blood.

She fixed those golden-brown eyes on him, locked sweetness and seduction in her gaze and leveled him with it. She wasn't sure how he came to her this way, nearly every night, walking her dreams, haunting her days. It made her ashamed of the illusion, hesitant to return to it, determined to keep him from his goal, whatever it might be. He felt like power, whether he knew it or not. He smelled like earth and the cold. And he was calling her name.

Chandani.

3

He saw her eyes first. The light caught the glistening gold as she turned, dancing. She was dancing, as she was the first time he saw her.

She felt his power first. The heavy heat rolled from him in waves, so hard she could almost see it. She wondered what he was trying to prove.

He made his way toward her, hardly believing that he had found her. He had despaired of ever finding her again. Shadows on the walls followed her movements, sinuous things like darkness come to life, twisting in exaltation. Shadows on the floors mimicked his stealth, tracing his footsteps, flickering in the dimness.

She let him wrap arms around her, let him press against her, and dragged him down with her, and he dreamed of rain, the sweet intoxication of power, lust, and safety.