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Relishing the Burn

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Sex: The act of procreation

Fucking: Sex for pleasure's sake. No ties, no meaning, no strings.

Making love: An act of intimacy between lovers.

And here we are, betwixt and between.

Time to pay the piper.

Naked, she sat in the middle of the bed, in the perfect center of the white antiseptic room. Hands clenched, knees drawn up and pressed firmly together, her eyes were riveted on the wall-sized pane of mirrored glass across from her.

That Operations and Madeline were equally disgusted, frustrated and repelled by the situation, she had no doubt. Madeline had made that perfectly clear in her abbreviated briefing this morning. But the promised information was too vital, too tempting to resist.

And, in the end, it wasn't their asses on the line, Nikita thought bitterly. It was hers.

And, of course, Michael's.

As if her thoughts had conjured him up, Michael entered the room, silently striding in on bare feet. In the unforgiving glare of the fluorescent lights, his skin took on a pasty hue, the bruising acquired during his most recent mission highlighted in livid colors of purple and magenta on a translucent canvas.

He was naked as well; a fact that didn't appear to trouble him at all as evidenced by his smooth and casual gait. Until she looked into his face and read his repressed fury in his carefully too-controlled eyes and the tight line of his jaw.

The bed sagged slightly as he sat next to her. Michael's hand slid across her shoulders, the calluses rough against her skin. She stiffened rebelliously, but his strength was inexorable. Gently but firmly he pulled her closer, closer until her head was drawn under his chin, his arms wrapped around her protectively.

"No, Michael," she whispered. "Don't make me do this."

He hushed her with a finger to her lips. "Close your eyes, Nikita." As she hesitated, he lifted her chin and kissed her gently. "Close your eyes," he repeated. "There is no one and nothing else but us. Only us."

His lips caught hers again: soft, warm, full of invitation and promise. Obediently, she closed her eyes and let herself slide into an eddy of pure physical sensation. He shifted her until she sat in his lap with her chest pressed to his; presenting only the curve of her spine to the watchers. For several minutes he proceeded no further, simply concentrating on her lips. With a long exhalation, she relaxed in his arms and opened her mouth to his probing tongue. Drawing her hair aside he delicately caught her earlobe with his teeth. Her breath hitched as he bit gently before continuing his downward progression. He was unshaven and the beard stubble scratched and burned against her tender flesh, setting off undulating waves of heat even as she struggled with the revulsion of being an up-close-and-personal sex show.

As if she weighed nothing, Michael rose and lifted her. In a heartbeat, the unsheeted mattress was beneath her back. Her hand rose and tangled in Michael's hair, pulling him closer.

Nothing else but us.

***

Sex.

Desire.

Want.

Need.

Where is the line drawn?

He watched as Michael bent her backward, pressed her down to the mattress. Whatever difficulties he encountered with Nikita - and they were legion: she was the most stubborn, troublesome, undisciplined, headstrong and unreliable operative not currently in abeyance status - she was also the most beautiful and intensely sexual female operative he had ever had under his command.

With one exception, one great exception.

Operations slid his eyes sideways to regard Madeline. Elegant in her rose-colored suit, her face and eyes were cool and composed. But he knew the volcano of heat hidden beneath the unruffled exterior. She had burned in his embrace once and, by God, she would burn again.

A quiet cry from the other room drew his attention back to the one-way glass. Nikita lay spread-eagle beneath Michael. Their fingers were interlocked and he had drawn her arms out from her body while his mouth feasted on one breast, then the other. Red chaffing marks were obvious on her fair skin. Operations lifted a corner of his mouth sardonically. Apparently Michael had not bothered to shave once again.

As he watched, Michael suckled hard, drawing most of her small breast into his mouth. Nikita arched, crying out softly again. Her eyes snapped open and fixed on the glass, glaring at the unseen observers behind the shielding mirror. The hatred evident in her blue eyes hit Operations like the heat from a blast furnace.

"Nikita." Michael's voice was thick with lust. He shifted position and his erection, hard and heavy, came into view, pressed against the sweat-sheened skin of Nikita's belly. Releasing her left hand, Michael turned her face from the mirror.

Their eyes met, held. The desire in the locked glances struck Operations like a blow in the stomach; then traveled lower. With a quick glance at the other observers, he quickly adjusted his jacket and trousers to disguise the instinctive reaction.

Inhaling was difficult; the air was thick with the pheromones of sex. The temptation to loosen his tie and unbutton his collar was nearly overwhelming; instead, he stuffed his hands in his pockets.

She had looked that way at him, once. With such desire and need and - yes, it was true - clawing hunger. She had craved his touch, driven him beyond all decorum and restraint. Then it had changed, had dissipated into thin air. She had found Charles: safe, steady, undemanding Charles, while he... he had found the path to power.

And when they had met again, when he had brought her over to Section One, had carefully pushed Sand aside into oblivion: it was gone. That atavistic, primitive need had left her. No, not left her, he thought stubbornly. Just sublimated. He had to believe that.

A soft gasp came over the intercom, half-smothered, as if the utterance was struggling to break free of someone's faltering control. She had done that, too, he recalled suddenly.

The Ukraine: the missiles screaming overhead as they crouched in some grimy god-forsaken hellhole, waiting for rescue that never seemed to arrive. She was filthy, sweat streaked with her hair tumbling down. He thought she had never looked so beautiful.

She had trembled in his arms. It was the only time he could ever recall the formidable Madeline showing a weakness. Her mouth had met his halfway, her hands frantic on his buttons, nails scraping his flesh in her hurry.

How he had wanted her. Smooth pale skin under his lips, her slender body beneath his, her warmth enveloping him.

He suddenly focused on the entwined couple before him, seeing for the first time how desperately he clung to her, as well as her to him.

His eyes flickered again to Madeline. She hadn't moved a muscle, and yet... and yet there was an indefinable difference.

Did she remember what it was to need so intensely?

He did. Oh God, he did and he felt it again.

***

Her skin is translucent. Even in the poor light I can see the flush as the blood rushes to fill the capillaries so close below the surface.

Her breathing deepens, hitches in passion.

God, how I want her.

She hated this, hated him. Despised Perry Bauer - that slug - for his perversions, for his undisguised glee in forcing them back into this humiliating situation.

And Michael.

It was unfair, she knew, to blame him for knowing her too well. To hate him for using his knowledge to wrest her control away, for turning her own weaknesses against her. A touch, a caress, a mere kiss and she was helpless beneath the whiplash of her lust. He knew just how to conquer her reluctance, to weaken her reserves, to drive all thoughts from her mind and make her a slave to physical sensation. She kept her eyes fixed on the glass across the room, concentrated on transmitting every iota of loathing and resentment in a steely glare.

Michael's hand stroked her jaw, gently but inexorably turning her face toward him. His eyes were heavy lidded with lust; the pupils enlarged, making his irises appear nearly black.

"Close your eyes, Nikita." His voice was both soothing and seductive, enticing her away from the cold knowledge of their predicament and back into the warmth of their own private world. She could resist, she could fight him, but in the end he would win. And Bauer would enjoy her struggle more than her surrender.

Yielding, she shut her eyes and blindly reached one-handed. "Michael."

He released her other hand, enabling her to embrace him, to stroke his back. His hands found her breasts and his lips worked down her chest to her stomach. He hadn't shaved in several days and the beard stubble was abrasive on her tender skin, sending waves of sensations cascading over her. His tongue was sandpaper rough on the sensitive flesh of her belly; pleasure edged with the slightest of discomfort.

The room echoed with her soft sighs and she was suddenly scalded with rage again. Bauer was getting off on this, perversely enjoying both the erotic show before him and the humiliation he demanded as payment for his latest intel.

Which was worse, she wondered, to resist or to submit? Either way it felt somewhat akin to rape. To be forced into sharing something that was so intensely private. We have so little, they do not have the right to take this from us.

Michael sensed her tension; he shifted still lower and caressed her hips and belly with his talented fingers, seeking, demanding her undivided attention. And he got it, she thought, tendrils of resentment still clinging even as she spiraled into the abyss of sensation. It wasn't his fault he was so innately sensual, or that experience that taught him exactly where and how to touch her.

"There's no one here but us," he reminded her, his accent thickening as it always did when they made love. She closed her mind to all thoughts and succumbed to the rush of pleasure that surged over her.

Roughened cheeks caressed her inner thighs and she arched, silently pleading for him to move higher. Eyes shut tight to enhance her concentration; each touch of his lips sent a tremor through her body. Inch by minuscule tormenting inch he brought his mouth closer.

A cry was torn from her when the target was acquired.

His breath was searingly hot against her, a blast furnace of heat and desire that coursed up from his mouth and engulfed her in his inferno.

She melted.

*** Desire is a weakness. It is the soft underbelly of my defenses that leaves me open to evisceration by my enemies. Against my better judgment, the damn warmth rises within me, muddying my thoughts, eroding my self-control, and setting a fire in my belly.

It was interesting dilemma, she decided, to burn so intensely for two such diverse reasons. Nikita's cry of surrender echoed around her and Madeline felt herself go damp in empathy. Need tore at her. She glanced over at Operations, caught his rising desire in the intense brightness of his blue eyes.

And on the other side ...

Perry Bauer was revolting. In a life filled with disreputable and even despicable characters, only Bauer left Madeline with the impulse to wash her hands. For all her serene speeches about 'shades of gray' and the need to use men such as Bauer in the relentless pursuit of evil, he repelled her.

His eyes never wavered from the scene before them; his tongue flickered out, snakelike, to lick thick lips moist with anticipation.

If only the promised intel wasn't so critical.

Before her, Michael rolled a limp Nikita onto her stomach. He bent over her, his legs spreading hers and their fingers tightly interlocked. Both sets of knuckles - his and hers - showed white. Nikita turned her head toward the one-way glass and Madeline felt the scorch of her hatred through the viewing screen. A low murmur from Michael and the luminous blue eyes closed once more as she tossed her head to expose one pale-skinned shoulder and the tempting length of neck.

Pressing tightly down on her, his erection cushioned on the soft contours of Nikita's ass, Michael bared his teeth and began to bite her rigid trapezoid muscles.

A move she herself had carefully taught him. Michael had not required instruction in sexual matters. Whatever had transpired in his pre-Section life - and Madeline harbored explicit suspicions about his past - Michael had proved himself an adroit and practiced lover. Lessons were unnecessary, only fine-tuning to build on a well-constructed foundation.

He had been as restrained, passionless and dependable as a programmed robot. Until the advent of Nikita.

Beside her, Bauer grunted in appreciation. Nikita arched her upper body, pressing her hips tightly to the mattress. One of Michael's hands crept around her torso, cupping a breast as he continued scraping his teeth against her shoulder blades, leaving faint crimson welts in his wake. His other hand ran down her smooth back, over the curve of her buttocks to lift her hips and gently nudge her legs further apart. There was a brief glimpse of moist pink skin before Michael shifted his position and slowly entered her.

Nikita exhaled a long shuddering breath, one echoed by the man beside Madeline.

"Oh, yeah," he muttered.

Madeline kept her eyes on the couple with an effort. Michael held still, his hands now planted on Nikita's hips. For one brief moment his face was naked; she could easily read his fury and his struggle for control in the fisted hands, the tense jaw, the nearly closed eyes.

Then he trembled.

That was a surprise. Madeline had never coaxed anything more than the suave experienced lover from Michael. The man before her was completely removed from her experience. Sweat ran in rivulets down the muscular back, shimmered in the bald fluorescent lighting.

Buttocks flexed as he began the ancient rhythm of lovemaking. His control was still wavering, Madeline noted dispassionately; his usual smooth effortless movements were jerky, his ragged breathing easily overheard by the room's microphones.

His mouth fastened on the base of Nikita's neck as his thrusts gained force and speed. A small cry of pleasure and surrender burst from Nikita.

He had never touched her so. She had never permitted him.

Madeline permitted her gaze to drift to the tall man to her left. Operations stood perfectly still, at formal military attention. Too still, too-perfectly composed. Only his hands gave him away; even as she watched, he balled them into fists and shoved them into his pockets. There was only one man on the planet that she trusted to take her control from her.

Nikita uttered a low half moan/half cry, stroking the burn of desire that was growing in Madeline. Her lips were dry, her breasts throbbing, craving Paul's rough touch.

Stop it! she ordered herself. Lust was dangerous and undisciplined. The one constant in Madeline's life was her self-discipline. It had been a mistake the first time, and she had no intention of repeating the error. Emotions were a dangerous thing: explosive and unreliable in the best of circumstances.

Section One demanded absolute control, perfect dependability. What she and Paul - Operations - had once shared was the farthest thing from order and consistency. It had been a flame, an unquenchable wildfire that scorched the surrounding landscape.

No, that was in the past and there it would stay.

And yet...

From this vantage point, she could observe all the details of the lovemaking in front of her with startling clarity. Her body pulsed with craving, throbbed in time with the rhythm being performed before her. She longed for the taste of his sweat, the smell of their mixed sex.

Her skin crawled with need. And she ached; oh, god she ached.

***

What are love and hate but opposite sides of the same coin?

He burned to make her bleed, to make her plead and beg for mercy.

His gut still recoiled with humiliation when he remembered how she had pointed that damn gun at him, inches from his nose; how pathetic he had been, and how weak.

She would pay.

She deserved it.

This was only the first installment on the retribution he would exact.

Those haunting eyes snapped open again and he repressed a shudder. There was murder there. Reminding himself that he was invisible behind the one-way mirror, he surreptitiously wiped his suddenly sweaty hands on his wool slacks. Still, she knew he was there and the power that knowledge gave him over her was intoxicating, driving away his momentary flash of fear.

Brushing his hands on his pants had pulled the fabric tight over his crotch, where his erection stood rock hard. God, how he would love to fuck that bitch... his lip curled. Such a whore, it wouldn't bother her to have him where she had entertained so many others, her precious Michael being only one in a cast of thousands.

Perhaps she had never been fucked up the ass, he mused.

That was a tempting thought, indeed. To take that last cherry, to fuck her so hard she screamed; and to make Michael watch.

He felt himself harden more at the thought. Oh, yes, Michael would be forced to watch... that would be perfect. It was patently obvious how the man felt about the blond bitch: just watching his protective and possessive movements today had confirmed every suspicion Bauer had ever harbored about Michael and Nikita's relationship.

Stupid fucking bastard, to open himself up like that. Better to fuck 'em and leave 'em. Never let a bitch become important.

But that gave him the key to Michael. Certainly Michael deserved retribution for the L-Virus fiasco as much as Nikita. To butt-fuck his woman in front of him... oh, yes, that would do nicely for starters. He wouldn't fuck Michael though, Bauer decided. Not only was he quite certain that would not be a virginal experience for Michael; the other man would actually - pathetically, Bauer thought, his lip curling again in contempt - be grateful he was being screwed instead of his whore.

Gratitude was not what this was about. Vengeance was.

No, Michael would wait. And watch. And - best yet - listen to the bitch cry.

He closed his eyes for a moment, imagining. Michael could suck him off when he was done with Nikita. The feel of his fingers threaded into the long dark hair, forcing Michael's mouth onto his cock... the expression of disgust and resigned submission in both faces... Bauer forced himself to open his eyes again. He would come in his pants right now if he didn't stop the fantasy.

He gave his hard-on a brief pat and caught the disdainful sideways glance from Madeline. What a pair: the cold bastard and his ice princess second-in-command. He doubted there was enough warmth between them to resuscitate a mouse. He might drink their booze and play their games, but he didn't trust these two one second longer than necessary.

They indulged him today, he knew. The promised lead on Osama Bin Laden was simply too tempting to refuse. And his demanded payment... ah, it felt as satisfying to hold the whip hand over Operations and Madeline as it did to humiliate Michael and Nikita.

In the other room, Michael said something to Nikita in French, the words too soft and too quick for Bauer to understand. The murderous blue stare shifted from her reflection in the mirrored glass and fixed on Michael's face, only inches from her own. Then closed as her body arched down on his, her breath audibly hitching over the amplified sound system.

It was a very good day.

***

In a small secret part of my brain, I still wonder if I should trust him.

Then he holds me close. I hear his breathing stutter in my ear and feel his body shudder. And I realize that for right now, this moment, he is as vulnerable to me as I am to him.

That doesn't forgive the past, or promise for the future. But for this instant it is enough.

Rage and lust were a powerful concoction. The mixture coursed through his veins, searing any remaining control or resistance he might have clung to.

Control.

It was his mantra, the watchword by which Michael Samuelle had lived his entire adult life.

But the anger, the complete and utter rage always lay beneath, never diminished, held in check only by the barest of restraints.

And today it was teetering on the edge of release.

Only Nikita's obvious distress and her own barely-contained fury enabled him to keep his temper in check. The wrath was contained, funneled and transformed by the necessity of keeping Nikita in control of herself. If she refused the mission, if she did not comply with instructions, she would be cancelled. And that was an outcome Michael would not let happen: whatever it took, whatever she needed, he would provide.

Having collapsed onto her belly after her last orgasm, her head was turned so she was facing the pane of mirrored glass opposite her. Without being able to see her eyes, he knew she would be staring, radiating her hatred at the watchers. He would never convince her it was unwise to expose her emotions. Leaning forward, he felt her quiver under his chest as he laid his lips between her shoulder blades. She shifted forward to lie completely on the bed, first on her back, then flipping on top of him as soon as he lay down. Tipped over him, her blonde hair fell about her face, shielding them briefly from the prying eyes.

"Seulement," he whispered, and watched her eyes change, the incandescent fury subsiding into tenderness. Seulement... only you. By necessity the statement was left unfinished. She understood, and they would not.

"Toujours," she responded, her voice low and husky. Always and forever, only you.

She moved fractionally forward, over and onto him. Her heat engulfed him, ignited him, destroyed him. He clenched his hands into fists to prevent himself from exploding immediately.

Rising up on her knees, she began to ride him slowly. The friction sent thunderbolts of craving ricocheting through him. The barriers teetered and cracked, scalding desire nearly overwhelming his faltering self-control. His fingers dug into her thighs, enforcing momentary stillness, fleeting restraint.

One hand slid down, over the curve of her breast, the convex curve of her hip, then dipped between her legs. Fingers extended, he reached for the tender place where their bodies joined; finding it, he stroked her gently. She responded to his touch like his cello, her pulse vibrating beneath his fingers like a plucked string, her body as strong and resilient as the maplewood of his instrument. The last traces of rage left her eyes; they blurred and glazed in passion. Her breath hitched and shuddered as she peaked, her body clenching around him.

Enough. No more. He will get no more. He rolled, putting her under him, shielding her from their scrutiny. And succumbed to the craving.

Two thoughts echoed rhythmically through what remained of his conscious mind as his body drove to climax.

I will kill him. I swear.

The sound of her soft groan in his ears. The heat of her body under him, around him. The whiplash pain/pleasure of his own need.

White light flashed before his eyes and he surrendered to her.

When he was more aware of his surroundings, he could feel his heartbeat pulsing through his body: head, heart and cock throbbing in the same rhythm. The rage had cooled and coalesced, settling into a ball of icy determination.

I swear.

I swear.

I swear.