"You're the one to lend a hand; you're the one who understands. You're the one to comfort me, keeper of my heart."



…I do this only for you, Cairn. How I wish it was you with me like this tonight!

I stood, awkward, frightened and shy in the middle of the tent as Lagan eyed me, framed by the up-lifted tent flap.

"Well, well," he purred as he let go of the flap and began to walk slowly toward me, his eyes seemed to take in every little thing about my barely robed form. "What have we here?"

My breath caught in my throat as he reached forward and grabbed my wrists, pulling a reluctant me into his embrace. Was it just me, or was there something…different…about him?

Could it be the moon's magick? I wondered as Lagan buried his face in my neck; I couldn't get a good look at his eyes, so I couldn't be certain whether anything had changed at all, or if I was just imagining it all as a result of my frightened imagination. But… my heart skipped a beat. There's no moon tonight!

My thoughts were suddenly interrupted when the Black Irish traitor wrapped his arms around me and lifted me off of my feet. Startled, I involuntarily threw my arms around his neck, my eyes going wide, my mouth opening slightly in surprise as I glanced up into his shadowed face. He turned his face ever so slightly and I caught sight of his eyes, illuminated by the flickering candles that sputtered in the candelabra on top of the table. My heart sank at first; his icy blue eyes glittered coldly in the dim candlelight, as emotionless and inhuman as they were during the light of day.

But then he shifted, turning toward the light and I realized with a jolt that he was preparing to carry me toward his bed in the corner. I glanced fearfully toward the magnificent wolf pelt that covered the low, hay-stuffed mattress and then back toward Lagan's face as he strode purposefully across the tent floor.

I had to stifle a sudden gasp. The candle's full light fell across his face and I could clearly see his eyes once more.

They had changed.

There was a hard, primitive edge to them; the steeled eyes of a warrior focused on one goal. But they were no longer cold. Within those blue depths, I saw human emotion. And to my shock, I felt myself reacting to the passion reflected in the Black Irish's eyes.

Lagan suddenly let go of me and I squealed in involuntary surprise as I fell onto the bed below me. My thin shift loosened and shifted about my body as I settled immediately into the soft fur and fragrant hay beneath me.

My eyes never strayed from Lagan's and a strange sensation knotted inside of my gut as I saw his eyes flash with a dark desire as he eyed me from above. My thin piece of clothing did little to hide the curves and hollows of my body; his eyes lingered on my breasts, down to my legs and then up to my eyes. A blush crept embarrassingly into my cheeks when he caught me watching him and I lowered my eyes from his face, only to watch in strange fascination as he fingered the buttons of his shirt, sliding each one out of its hole.

I found myself wondering what he looked like beneath that shirt. Despite my fear and pounding heart, despite persisting thoughts of Cairn, I couldn't fight my curiosity.

With almost breezy carelessness, Lagan shrugged off of his unbuttoned shirt and my breath caught in my throat.

He was magnificent.

The candlelight flickered across the muscled panes of his chest, pooling in the hollows of his stomach and neck. My eyes widened as my mind registered what the swirls and patterns of color across his upper torso were. A tattoo of impressive design twisted across his stomach, chest, arms, and shoulders. I propped myself on my elbows, leaning toward Lagan, trying to get a better view of his tattoo.

As if sensing the need to sate my curiosity, Lagan sat down next to me on the edge of the bed, turning so the candle's light illuminated all of his upper body.

The tattoo started – I assumed – with an enormous blue and green sea serpent that coiled sensuously around Lagan's powerful right arm, curling around the back of his neck, its roaring head resting in the center of his slowly falling and rising chest. Around its head circled an intricate Celtic half-moon design of leafy vines that stretched from the middle of his stomach to the top of his chest, encompassing the serpent to create a strange contrast of earth and water.

Fascinated, I reached out hesitantly and brushed my fingernails across the dragon-like serpent's head. The design clearly held some sort of significance, but I couldn't fathom what that was and that intrigued me.

I glanced shyly at Lagan's face from beneath my lashes, my hand falling back into my lap. He seemed to read the question in my eyes and he shifted once again, almost turning his back to me. Puzzled, I knitted my eyebrows together into a frown – but then I saw what lay across his back.

A pale white hand, clearly a woman's, rose above the waist of his pants. Celtic patterns swirled in blue about her fingers, which were curled around a wonderfully detailed sword hilt. The sword itself covered Lagan's entire spine, from the nape of his neck, down toward the hand, which lay toward the bottom of his back. Flaming runes scrolled down the length of the two-edged sword – unlike the serpent and the half-moon made out of vines, I knew what this tattoo stood for.

The hand was that of Lagan's mother, the legendary Lady of the Lake. And the sword she held in her hand was none other than Excalibur, the emblem of Arthur's Camelot.

The intricacy of the tattoos' designs and the brilliance of their color amazed me. I had never seen anything like it before and being in the Navy had exposed me to a wide range of tattoos. Even more distracting than the tattoos themselves was the powerful muscles that rippled beneath them and the wide expanse of dark, bare skin that looked warm and tempting in the candlelight.

"Like what you see, Queen Arthur?" Lagan's deep voice startled me and my eyes returned to his, only to find that he was watching me with keen interest from over his shoulder.

I got the distinct impression from the smoldering look in his eyes and the suggestive inflection in his voice that he was insinuating an interest in more than just his tattoos.

"I…uh…" my felt dry and I was completely speechless.

What could I possibly say to him?

"Well…" Lagan turned once more toward me and placed both of his hands on either side of me, bending toward me, forcing me back on the bed. "Let's see what you have underneath that shift."

I could feel panic rise into my throat as Lagan's eyes turned from mysterious and sultry, to cold and dangerous. I couldn't but try and shy away when the Irish-Nazi general reached toward the laces on the front of my skimpy white shift. His eyes darkened and a frown turned down the corners of his mouth when he saw my reaction.

"You're not going anywhere, my queen," he hissed.

He suddenly grabbed hold of the front of my shift with both hands and tore the thin fabric apart, without even bothering to unlace it. My jaw went slack with shock, but before I could cry out in fear, his mouth covered mine in a hard, possessive kiss.

Lagan leaned forward into the kiss and his body pressed me firmly into the mattress below us as his rough hands wandered over my breasts, pushing the sleeveless shift down over my shoulders and arms. He suddenly stopped in the middle of his kiss and he glared down at me, no doubt displeased that I didn't return it.

"You will be mine," he hissed in my ear as he settled the full length of his body against mine, his hands leaving my breasts as he propped himself up by his elbows.

I immediately regretted what I so rashly spat back at him.

"You can take my body by force, Lagan of the Fae, but I'll never belong to you," I set my jaw defiantly.

"We'll see about that," Lagan's eyes flashed.

But the flash in his eyes was a curious one indeed. It wasn't cold and hard as I expected, the flash of an inhuman predator. It was the jealous flare of a human man's passionate desire.

And that realization did a strange thing to me. Instead of filling me with fear, it fanned my own desire, which had been steadily building since Lagan had tossed off his shirt, since I had felt his hands wander over my bare skin.

And that flame of desire both puzzled and emboldened me.

I won't give into him, I vowed inwardly, returning Lagan's glare. I refuse to be his.

So my mind and heart told me, but my body contradicted both. I wanted Lagan.

But why?

It was destiny, I suppose. But when Lagan kissed me again, I returned his passion with my own, throwing all internal inhibitions to the four winds. I allowed myself to enjoy the taste of his tongue as his kisses started off hard and demanding, gradually becoming more and more searching, more gentle and more deep.

His mouth was warm and inviting, stifling the gasping little moans I couldn't stop as his hands continued to wander my body, stopping to caress and tease my sensitive breasts, steadily moving lower and lower.

I ran my own hands over the muscled contours of his body. Somewhere in the course of our heating passion, his pants came off and we were both lying naked, together, enjoying the sensations of bare skin on bare skin and the soft wolf's fur that surrounded us.

Lagan became increasingly bolder, his mouth following his hands down the length of my body. I no longer needed to look into his eyes to know that the intriguing, masterful lover straddling me was a completely different man than the one that I had met in Stonehenge's mists. There was a warmth and a gentleness in his touch, and in his actions. Sive's words echoed in my ears – Lagan, the true Lagan, was a kind man, powerful, yet gentle.

There was no doubt in my mind that the transformation was all but complete. The man slowly making love to me was the real manifestation of Lagan of the Fae, Irish rebel leader and Lord of the Lake.

I had discovered the truth and it indeed set me free.

I allowed my desires to take over and I didn't protest at all when Lagan gently stroked my legs, urging them open so he could settle between them, pressing himself against me. The only time I balked was when he finally entered me; my cry of pain was covered by yet another kiss and the realization hit me.

The deed was all but done. I was no longer a virgin.

A thought flittered across my mind as I wrapped my arms around Lagan's shoulders, digging my fingernails into his back as our combined breath quickened with each stroke he took inside of me. Lagan buried his face in my neck, his deep moans stirring something deep inside of me – I found myself wishing that it was another loving me, another who was whispering sweet nothings into my ear.

Cairn… a tear trickled out of the corner of my eye.

I had done my duty. Yet all the same, I couldn't stop a sharp cry of pleasure as Lagan's slow, purposeful ministrations made me climax. With a shuddering groan he came soon after; I could feel his warmth spread inside of me and I couldn't stop my tears.

"My queen," he all but breathed into my neck, his breath ragged and panting. "Thank you…"

His hand, which had wakened my body to pleasures of the flesh, smoothed back my hair, which stuck to my sweating forehead. I squeezed my eyes shut, refusing to look at him and my heart did a funny little turn when he kissed my cheek, sensuously licking away yet another traitorous tear.

"Don't cry," he whispered.

He wrapped me in his strong arms, pressing me against his own warm, sweaty body. Within moments he was asleep, breathing deep and even, his broad chest rising and falling gently against my breasts.

What have I done? my heart cried.

I had done what I supposed to do. If what Pan had said was true, then Morgause's spell over Lagan was finally broken; he was once again the true man that had been trapped inside.

But I found myself curiously torn. My body still longed for Lagan's touch, while my heart longed for Cairn.

Even then, despite my confusion and heartache, I couldn't fight Sleep's subtle call. I drifted into comfortable oblivion, held in the arms of a man I barely knew, wishing that I was back in the arms of Merlin's son.