72. Unreal Dream of a Really Wonderful Nightmare

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I woke in a torture chamber that bore significant resemblance to my bedroom. It couldn't really be my bedroom, though. In my bedroom, my head was never filled with such agonizing pain, nor did my tongue dare to feel so much like an inflated badger's tail in my private sanctum.

This was a torture chamber. Now, I only had to wait for the torturers to arrive, and the fun could begin.

I waited.

And waited.

And waited a little longer.

The badger who had substituted his tail for my tongue wiggled his behind, and I groaned as pain lanced through my head. Desperately, I tried to think of any ways I had ever learned to make badger-tails vanish from one's mouth. None came to mind.

I waited some more.

Slowly, the piercing pain in my head began to recede a little. As it did, memories of the previous night started to trickle back into my consciousness.

The drive to the East End... Dear me, had I really visited that horrible part of the city? It seemed so, the images were there all right, if a little bit jumbled. The dirty pub... the old sailor... the fight... by Jove, a real gun fight! Pity I didn't have a nice, daring scar to show for it that would put any suitors off for the rest of my life. The drive back to Empire house in the dark... the office... the kiss...

My mind froze in mid-thought.

Wait just a minute!

The kiss?

I sat bolt upright, and regretted it immediately as a searing surge of pain shot through my skull. Clamping both hands on my eyes in an attempt to shut out the world, I pushed the pain aside and grasped desperately for the vague images of last night. No! Dear God, no...!

My hands slipped from my eyes, over my face, down to my parted lips. I was sure they had to be hideously swollen, about twice their normal size. Nothing less than such a gruesome disfigurement would do as a punishment for forsaking all my feminist principles and giving myself, even if just for a moment, willingly over to a man.

Shivering, I remembered Mr Ambrose mouth on me... The memory was demanding and gentle, cold and fierce all at the same time. It had been like nothing I had ever felt before.

In a totally disgusting way, of course, I reminded myself!

Ha! As if having Mr Ambrose kiss me could ever excite any other feelings than horror in me. It really had been horrifically horribly terrible, the way his lips had caressed mine, had asked me to open up, to give myself to him and just for a moment forget my aims, my dreams, the world and everything else for the sake of a hot feeling in the pit of my stomach that had rapidly grown into a firestorm. His arms around me had been like iron vices, his eyes dark as the deepest wells, and full of secrets I couldn't hope to fathom. The fire that spread through my body seemed to be drawn to them, to him, out of my body into his, heating us and moulding us together in a silent cyclone of feelings.

I realized I was staring dreamily off into the distance, and hurriedly snapped my thoughts back on the here and now, where they belonged.

As you said before, I reminded myself once more. Frightfully disgusting and horribly terrible! That's what it was like. Definitely. Absolutely.

My hands were clenching the sheets in a steely grip, and only now did I realize that they were shaking. How could I have let myself go like this? How could I have let got of every cherished principle of female independence, for the sake of a few seconds of hot, immensely blissful...

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