Chapter dedicated to ValkyrieCain1998. You keep me laughing and are always awesome, my friend!

Chapter 31 – Circus Performer – Raine's POV

"No..." I breathed, all other words lost from my vocabulary. I trembled.

He spoke comfortingly, "I know it's a little bit shocking for you, but it is a perfectly routine event here. And really there will only be six other people in the room with us."

I shook my head, trying to make sense out of my chaotic thoughts. I had just had sex for the very first time, and now he wanted me to consummate a mating ceremony in front of an audience?!!

In front of Vladimir?!!

There was no way I could do that!

I didn't realize I had begun to hyperventilate, until he grasped my hands and spoke soothingly, "Shhh... Just breathe. It's okay. You have time to make this decision."

Three days was not my idea of time to decide.

"I can't..." my voice shook.

The disappointment and hurt on his face was enough for me to get myself back together. I had to think about this logically. I started over, "What about Vladimir? If what you say is true, if he really does want me, watching you and I fornicate is not going to help."

He smiled slightly at my use of the word fornicate, and replied, "I am perfectly happy with killing him before the ceremony. I have no desire for that bastard to see any part of you. Just say the word."

I cringed. I knew Cage was absolutely serious. But as much as I wanted Vladimir gone, my heart went out to the Queen's plight, to the torment she obviously felt. I hated that she had to resort to subjecting herself physically to the likes of Vladimir, just so she could feel a man's touch.

I shook my head. And then asked, "Is it our choice what we do sexually? We don't have to follow a script or something, do we? Shit, is this going to be recorded?!"

He chuckled, "No, it is not recorded. What we do will be up to us, and I will be covering you most of the time."

"I'm going to feel like a circus performer," I muttered under my breath.

He reached to stroke my cheek gently with his knuckles and murmured, "Are you really considering this for me?"

I stared into his dark liquid gaze. There was no question in my mind that I wanted to be with him. I mused wryly, "It would seem so. I guess if I am willing to die for you, fornicating in front of an audience certainly seems like a much lesser sacrifice."

His face lit up like an angel, and he said, "I promise to make it quick. It will be over with before you know it. And then I will take you, and make love to you for days to properly consummate our union."

Heat wound through my belly. I asked worriedly, "Do I need to climax?"

He raised an eyebrow, and asked pointedly, "You don't think you will?"

"I don't know. What about performance anxiety?"

He laughed and then teased, "I am confident that I can make you come. Who knows, you may not want to stop after the first time."

"I love you and I will probably enjoy it, but I am certain I will be ready to move on to a much more private venue. There are a couple of things I would like to try, that I certainly don't want an audience for," I murmured, absentmindedly licking my lips.

He growled low, fine tremor running through his body. He groaned, "You can't say things like that and lick your lips, and still expect me to let you go to sleep. Shit, as it is I have no idea how I'm going to survive being away from you for the two days leading up to the ceremony."

Alarm filled me. "What do you mean two days away from me?"

"I'm sorry, Tigru, but part of the tradition is we cannot see each other for forty-eight hours before we are mated. After tomorrow night, you will have to stay with Talia. I will not see or speak with you again until that moment."

Anxiety caused my heart to beat faster and I whispered, "What about Vladimir? What if he tries something because he knows you will not be around?"

"It's all right, love. Kieran and Talia will protect you with their lives. Just don't leave their sight."

"Why three days from now? Don't get me wrong, I want this, with you. It just seems strange that Armand was fairly set against it, and now he wants it done immediately."

Something flashed in Cage's eyes that I couldn't quite identify, but it was gone in the next instant. "Felaern endorsed you. Armand is intent on having it done right away, so that the throne remains intact. If something were to happen to him, there would be very little time to consummate our union and perform the symbol change."

I cringed when he mentioned taking Armand's symbol. I couldn't imagine what amount of pain he would have to endure if that day ever came. He recognized the struggle in my eyes and whispered softly, "It is okay, love. If I must, we will deal with it together."

All of the sudden, I felt overwhelmingly exhausted; the physical and emotional trauma of the day catching up to me. I yawned widely.

He rolled me over and pulled me snug to his chest. "Sleep now, Dulce..."

..........

The next day, I stretched lazily and sighed in contentment, as I rolled over in the bed. I lay there for a minute, waking slowly. When I finally came to my senses, I looked around. Cage was gone. In his place however, I found ten new fluffy pillows! I snorted and shook my head.

I jumped up quickly, eager to find him and made my way through the suite. Immediately, I was reminded of our previous night's activities when I felt a very discernible soreness between my legs, causing me to slow down just a bit to allow my body time to accommodate. I was thankful Cage wasn't there to see me. I knew I would never hear the end of his male ego. Not that I was complaining. I felt utterly and completely satisfied. Well at least for the next hour or so. After that, he might have to get here quickly.

I cringed. I wasn't sure how I was going to be without him for two entire days. Hell, I didn't even want to be away from him for an hour.

After a quick shower, I got dressed to find Ella waiting for me with lunch. Guilt flooded through me. I rushed to her. "You shouldn't be working! Please, here, sit!"

She smiled at me easily and resisted, "I am perfectly fine."

I insisted, "No, you must sit at least for a moment, just to make sure you keep your strength."

She settled down on the chair, but I could tell she only did it to placate me. I looked around. I wasn't sure when Cage would return and I thought maybe I shouldn't keep her longer than necessary. I murmured quickly, "I am so, so sorry for what happened!"

She must have picked up on my nervous scan around the room because she grasped my hands to get my full attention and said, "Master Cage found me earlier...And apologized for hurting me."

I stared at her in shock. I was quite certain that Cage never felt it necessary to apologize for any of his actions.

She whispered, "I know. It was unexpected for me as well. He also told me I had been good for you, and asked me to continue taking care of you."

I think my mouth hung open a little.

I could see that she understood her value in his actions and response to her, and had completely forgiven him. I guessed it was time for me to let it go as well. I clicked my mouth shut and nodded simply, "Okay."

"You need to eat. He will be back in about thirty minutes and wanted you to be ready to go," she explained lightly and headed toward the door.

"All right, thank you." I smiled at her.

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