Before she knew it, Alek had led her to their room. He opened the door and memories of the night before flooded her. How angry and betrayed she had felt, how she had pushed Alek away completely. Alek must have noticed her emotional spike, Madeline noted as he removed his jacket from tense shoulders.

Start fresh with him. Anna's words came back to Madeline. Get a better first impression and go from there.

"I need a drink," Madeline blurted out when she saw Alek open his mouth to speak. She barely caught his confused look as she brushed past him to the mini bar. She grabbed the closest bottle of liquor and poured it in a tumbler, shakily. Before her courage was lost, Madeline tipped back the glass and downed the contents then promptly choked.

Alek was at her side immediately, taking the glass from her hand and pulling her hair from her sputtering face.

"That was stupid," he remarked as he slowly rubbed her back. When she glared up at him, he added, "That was straight whiskey. You look more like a wine girl."

Without another word Alek reached behind her and set her empty glass down then picked up a wine glass. He bent down to open the fridge, pulling out a bottle of wine. Madeline dipped her head to look at the label. She wasn't an expert in alcohol at all but she did know her general preferences. Kieran used to stand watch while Madeline would sneak into her parents' wine cellar. She bribed him with baking, which she only ever did late at night and when she was buzzed.

"It's red," Alek interrupted her thoughts, reaching out and slipping a lock of her hair around his finger, staring at the rusty strand. Madeline took in a shaky breath and his eyes shot up to hers. "The wine. I got you red wine." Madeline nodded and he stood up to pour some for her.

"I was hoping we could talk," Madeline said once his back was turned. It was easier talking to him without those piercing green eyes staring at her.

"About earlier," Alek supplied.

Madeline shuffled her feet a bit. She wasn't ready for that just yet. She felt like her emotional capacity for filled for the day. "Or about other stuff."

Alek turned to Madeline with a raised eyebrow and a full glass of wine. She grabbed it from him and took a quick gulp as he continued to stare at her.

"Slowly, little one," Alek murmured. Madeline pulled the glass back and took a breath, her eyes never leaving Alek's. His had darkened considerably, with barely a ring of ivy green circling the black depths. She needed more to drink.

Madeline didn't respond to Alek's reprimand, tightening her grip on the wine glass instead. For a reason completely out of her comprehension, she couldn't look away from Alek's intense stare. His eyes were making her wolf want to purr.

"We'll play your way, sweetheart, but we need to talk first." There was a strain in Alek's voice that told Madeline she had an advantage.

Whenever you have the upper hand, take it, Anna had told her. Don't let him walk all over you.

With a smile on her face, Madeline stepped closer to Alek, swirling the wine in her glass that gave her a ridiculous amount of courage.

"Are you sure that's what you want, Alek?" Madeline watched Alek's muscles tense then ripple at his name. "After a long day of meetings and negotiations, you really want to talk?" Madeline took a sip of her wine as she peered up at Alek through her lashes.

"What do you have in mind?" he finally asked with a tight jaw. Madeline gave a delicate shrug.

"We should get to know each other, don't you think?"

Madeline didn't wait for his answer, instead taking the last drink of her wine and suggesting what she knew only the alcohol could give her the guts to do.

"Truth or dare."

Alek stared at Madeline from where she was curled up on the opposite end of the couch from him. He couldn't figure out what to say to her. She had completely taken him off guard from the moment they walked into their room. And Alek was even more surprised with himself for liking this side of her. More than that, he was turned on by the shy, flirty Madeline who batted her eyelashes and nervously downed liquor.

"It was your idea, pretty girl, so go ahead," Alek finally spoke up. Madeline tore her gaze away from the fireplace he just lit and blinked at him. He took her moment of silence to refill her wine glass. "Tell me a secret, Madeline." Madeline laughed then took a sip of the wine Alex had handed her. "What, isn't that how it works? You pick secrets or embarrassing things to make the other do?"

Madeline remained silent for a few minutes as she looked down at the glass of wine she was swirling.

"I'll compromise with you," she suggested with a quirk of her lips. "We'll stick to truths if you give me some time to wait and talk about the other stuff. I'm not brave enough for dares just yet."

Alek resisted a grin. Good, he thought to himself. Because she had no idea what she was getting herself into if she opened that door right now. Alek picked up his glass of brandy off the table and nodded for her to continue.

"Truth… I'm not mad at you, per say, about the mating. I mean, I'm pissed that you, among other people, didn't tell me but I don't…resent you or anything."

Alek concentrated on the ice cubes in his glass. This was not was he expected.

"It's your turn now." Madeline's leg stretched out across the couch, still not touching him.

"I don't have any secrets." Alek's response was met with Madeline's deadpan expression, raised eyebrow and all. "Besides that one. But I told you and if you really want to talk about it then I need another drink."

Madeline hastily motioned Alek back to the couch when he began to stand, nearly knocking her wine to the floor. He swiftly reached over, pushed her down by her shoulder, and handed her the glass. She stared up at him with those damn blue eyes and he repeated over and over in his head that it was the brandy making him slide his palm up the curve of her neck and along her jaw. But fuck, did he want to slip the pad of his thumb across her pouty wine stained lips and feel her teeth nip at his skin.

"I didn't mean that." Madeline's words shocked him back into his sitting position across the couch from her. She blinked from him to the floor before continuing. "I meant things about you… It's just…" Her smooth brow furrowed in a struggle to word her thoughts.

"I get it, Madeline." Her gaze jerked up at him in desperation. The clouds in her eyes told him she was close to being full on drunk. Maybe that's what she needed. "It might help with...bonding, for lack of a better word. We should get to know each other before mating."

The words slipped smoothly from his lips but what Madeline couldn't know was how his stomach clenched at the thought. The alcohol dulled the tense feeling a bit though. Alek knocked back the rest of his brandy before continuing.

"So tell me about yourself."

As she stared down at her wineglass, Madeline's expression grew somber. Alek's chest tightened as he worried that he struck a nerve with her.

"I don't want to talk about…" Her brow furrowed again as she tried to find her words. "I don't want to go into me...before this…" As unstructured as Madeline's thoughts were, Alek still understood the meaning behind them. When she continued to frown at her wineglass Alek reached across and placed a hand on her folded knee.

"I get it. We don't have to talk about before." Madeline began to shake her head and Alek realized he needed to clarify. "Not yet, anyway. You're a different person now, Madeline. There's been a lot going on and you're going to change. So tell me about you now."

Madeline mulled his words over for a moment before taking a sip of wine and answering. "I like swimming. When I saw that creek by your house, I got pretty excited. My favorite color is gray and I can't stand not showering after shifting."

Alek blinked, slightly taken aback by Madeline's tumble of words but he knew he had to keep her going.

"What's your shoe size?" he blurted out without thought. He wanted to know more about her and that was the first thing that came to mind. As stupid of a question it was, Madeline took it in stride.

"Six. But I'm not really a shoe person."

Alek could only nod and reach over to refill her wine. When he pulled away from the glass, Madeline threw him through a loop.

"I like it when you speak Russian."

Alek's muscles tightened as he sat back into the couch, barely registering that he had to place the almost empty bottle of wine on the table. He didn't even notice half the time he slipped into his native language but the fact that Madeline picked up on it and enjoyed it made a flicker of warmth surge in Alek's chest. Madeline's soft voice interrupted him from furthering that feeling.

"Say something to me in Russian."

Alek immediately flicked his gaze to hers and the fire in her baby blues made his breath falter.

"Is that a dare, darling?" He couldn't keep the low rumbling growl down if he tried. Alek watched with satisfaction the hitch of her throat and flush of her cheeks.

"I don't know," she murmured, not breaking eye contact. "I'm not sure if we're still playing."

Madeline's fingers trembled around the stem of her glass and Alek reached over to take it from her. He didn't need to be cleaning a wine stain off the floor and she didn't need any more alcohol in her system.

"We can play a game if you want, malinkaya," Alek's wolf took note of the darkening of Madeline's eyes at that.

"What kind of game?" Her voice was a husky murmur that made Alek want to lose his mind. As a deeper flush of red colored Madeline's face, a slow grin spread Alek's. Oh, this is going well.

A/N: A little short but it was a bitch to get out so I cut it off here. Things are going to speed up after this, I promise. I'm tired of taking these chapters day by day timeline-wise and this story is about to hit it's three year mark so I'd like to get this thing moving. That doesn't mean I'll update faster but the pace of the story will be quicker and I'll do my best to keep up with updates because you all are amazing and deserve it. As a reader I hate waiting on a story and since some of you consider this to be good and worth following, I'd like to give you what you want. As always, comments, reviews, suggestions, motivation are beyond welcome.