By Carol Sandford


Chapter 01


Deanna sat with her back against the very old, gnarled tree. It had taken her a while to find a comfortable niche amongst the tangle of exposed roots to be able to sit with her legs out-stretched so that the man's head could rest comfortably in the shallow nest of her exposed thighs.

She watched the sun play across his handsome features as he soaked up the last hazy rays of the rapidly setting sunset that created minuscule shadows which flickered along his long body. As she smiled tenderly into his eyes, even though they were lightly closed, she knew that Will didn't need to see her face to know her thoughts. The gentle returning smile told her that he felt the same way.

Deanna reached into the wicker basket beside her and picked out another large, luscious, deliciously scented strawberry and dangled it lazily beneath his nose, tempting and tormenting him with it.

Will opened his mouth to accept the tantalising morsel, but Deanna deprived him of his reward for thinking up this perfect moment - this perfect setting - this perfect reunion between him and the woman he loved - the same woman that he was allowed to love again, only this time, nothing was going to step in between them. Life had a last shown him that heartbeats could stop in an instant, but feelings could not and their feelings refused to be pushed aside any longer.

Will opened his eyes with surprise. "Hey! no fair!"

But he was moved to silence as the angelic, tinkling laughter of his Imzadi echoed through the whispering leaves as he watched her put the strawberry between her own lips and slowly bit down, her eyelids fluttering shut as the sensuous taste of the fruit tickled her tongue. Will reached up close to her face, snaking out his tongue to lick the juice from her now pink tinged and glistening lips.

A groan made its way up from the very pit of his stomach as those same lips opened to allow his tongue to slip in and caress hers, drinking the fruit's juices along with her. Will moved to his knees, intent on moving nearer to her, needing to get closer, inside and out. His huge hand pushed its way into the ebony mane of hair and he clung to her as though his life depended on it.

Until now, he hadn't realised just how much he needed her, not only beside him, but in every aspect of his life. Now joined once more Will felt lost without her. Will was lost without her. Every thought, every dream was filled with her, and only her. Everything he did he did for her, and only her. Deanna had become, at last, the other side of him - the better side, the side that was for her, only ever for her, and Will was the happiest man alive again.

Something hit Will on his back and they broke apart with shock until they spied the attacker. An apple. A huge green apple had broken away from its anchor to join the few already scattered around and as Will picked it up he sat down beside Deanna and studied the fallen fruit with interest.

Deanna pouted, her eyes alight with mischief, "Aw, Will, you didn't get to pluck this one."

Their eyes locked as the meaning of her words bounced between them, and a lazy grin spread across his handsome face, his eyes lightening up when the opportunity to tease came to chance.

"No fun in having something that just falls in your lap, Deanna. A challenge is much more rewarding, don't you think?"

Deanna rose to the bait. "Oh, so you think I was a worthy challenge? But maybe I didn't want to be considered a challenge. Maybe I really didn't want you to hunt me down, or batter down my defences just to make love to me. Maybe I didn't want you to rescue me from the clutches of the Sindarin raider. Maybe I wanted him to be the one to show me the meaning of intimacy. Maybe I rather liked the idea of someone dangerous, someone who didn't care about my feelings, someone who wasn't going to become my Imzadi on my first physical encounter with the male form. Maybe I wanted to 'sleep around'. Experiment. Live life like a normal, young, vibrant, red-blooded woman."

Each word that fell from her lips was met with puzzlement, surprise and and then unease. Did she really feel like that? he wondered. Did she really regret that he was the first man to, 'pluck the fruit of her youth'?

He suddenly felt guilty. How long was it before she let another man invade her body after he ran out on her all those years ago? A few days? Weeks? Months? Years!? He was ashamed to admit that he had never considered what he had done to her.

Oh, he knew he'd treated her in the worst way imaginable. He had taken her heart and her virginity and tucked it into his pocket like a prized medal and left her planet with no explanation, no letter, no apology, nothing, and the worst he'd ever felt of himself was a heel. But now he realised that he'd hadn't even had the manners to set her free.

As he studied the beautiful woman in front of him, Will suddenly began to look deeper. Sure, he had taken her innocence. Sure, he had shown her the pleasures of womanhood, and sure she had enjoyed every tantalising moment along with him.

But making love to Deanna Troi had sealed his fate - their fate. And then he had left, leaving her suspended. Having given her body, her heart and her very soul to him, and knowing that he had felt the same back; felt that same wonder, that same unity, that very same realisation that they would be forever locked together, or at least until they crossed paths and beds once more.

But then he had left her, without a word, tucking their liaison into his back pocket and walking away from her without barely a bruise.

Only it didn't occur to him until now that he'd left her with those same feelings, each of them exposed and raw, and she'd probably been devastated, too. And it also didn't occur to him that when they came face to face again, that time for her would have started moving again. That they would be together. That the Imzadi bond would be as strong as it was all those years ago.

God, he had been a fool. A heartless, callous, stubborn fool. It had taken him years to finally stop and take another look at his relationship with Deanna Troi. But she had never stopped looking, or waiting. She had waited for twelve, long years for him to finally stop and take a second look at his and her lives.

Will was ashamed - ashamed of being that heartless, callous fool.

Will rolled away from her, his mind effortlessly cutting her off and then he belatedly wondered how many times he'd done that to her when it suited him? When he thought he was falling into those obsidian eyes, and losing himself to their depths, he'd run. Falling into that cosy routine, like couples do when they strolled home hand in hand after a poker game.

How many times had he stopped himself falling in love with her again?

Until now.

Her quiet admission broke the uneasy silence,"I'm sorry."

Deanna had moved to sit upon her knees facing the man she loved, her own unease radiating from her, her eyes apologetic. Gone was the look of lust as she sat before him. The creamy shoulders, the vast expanse of breast, her dress hanging low from when Will had unplucked each pearly button, one by one, freeing her body for him to devour with his eyes, and eventually, he had planned to devour her body. Her hair, wild, free, and totally abandoned barely covered her nakedness, but neither one of them noticed now.

Will studied her with intent at first, trying to gauge her sincerity, but then gave her a shadow of a smile as he turned his head away and asked,

"Why? Why are you sorry? In amongst your words were truth, Deanna, you can't deny telling the truth, least of all to me."

"But it's not true, Will, I swear it." She claimed.

He looked sadly back at her and told her, "Yes, Deanna, it is."

A Silence hung between them, heavy with thoughts, heavy with misery and even worse, heavy with realisation.

Deanna was surprised when Will reached his hand toward her, trailing one finger along her smooth jawline, his eyes never leaving hers. The spirit-blue gaze looked almost tearful, but they stayed dry.

Deanna sighed and moved her face out of reach and confessed, "Yes, it is."

Will's hand suspended in thin air just like the moment; Hovering, waiting. Heartbeats thumped in unison as the time of revelation swam between them like a tormenting hurricane, waiting to do its ultimate damage.

Will's husky whisper swallowed up and swirled before them, teasing, testing. "Tell me."

Deanna looked away, ashamed of her feelings, of feeling the way that she had. Worried that the man who she had worshipped from the moment she had set eyes on him all those years ago in the small chapel on Betazed would think that she was little more than a tramp for the erotic thoughts that had plagued her off and on all her adult life.

But she had blamed William T. Riker for leaving her with those feelings. Leaving her craving for more, and desperate for more. Desperate to spread her wings and take the passions that had been offered to her on a plate so many times that she had lost count. Time and time again her body had let her down. Her heart had let her down.

Her Imzadi had let her down.

Will had left her unable to feel for any other man. Time and time again as she had lay beneath the body of another, Will's invisible presence had stopped her from satisfying her most primal needs. Or the need to feel love. Or the need to make love. To feel what she'd had with him, with her Imzadi.

For twelve, long years, and after numerous, fruitless affairs, Deanna's heart, soul and body still belonged to the man before her and she'd had no choice but to wait, aching and wanton and insane for Will's touch to satisfy her body, and her soul.

Will watched the tears form within her huge eyes as she battled with her innermost emotions, acutely aware that he'd been right all along. He didn't know how he knew, but he did. Deanna had been unable to build other relationships, or make love, or live normally since their last heart-stopping, mind-blowing union in the Jalara jungle.

But he needed to hear her say it, to tell him the truth.

"Devinoni Ral?"

Deanna shook her head, her voice heavy with shame, "No, I...I tried. He came close, but..."

Will held his breath as he almost growled the next name. "And Worf?"

Will watched the tear break free and trickle down her porcelain cheek. She only nodded.

Will was perplexed. That was good wasn't it - that she'd made it with Worf, even if it did make the bile rise in his throat. He went to tell her that he was pleased until he saw and felt the pain ebbing from her and he found himself shuffling towards, somehow knowing that within seconds he was going to have her within his arms.


Her name brought out the tightly held back gasps of a woman who was hurting. Of a woman about to fall to pieces. Her wail ripped through him and he crushed her to him as her heart broke. For many long moments he let her release her torment until he heard the first hiccup and dared to ask again.

"Tell me."

Deanna clung to Will's body and her tears soaked his shirt, but he didn't care about any of it. All he wanted was to understand; To try and make things right. To allow her to forgive him, if she could.

"Tell me, Deanna." He implored again.

She went very still in his arms and her silence was unnerving, until at last, he heard her whisper hoarsely.

"Every time Worf made love to me, it felt like he was raping me, like he didn't belong there, within me. He hurt me so much Will, and I had to hide it from him...from you, from Beverly, from everyone who cared about me. I didn't want you all to know that I'd failed again. I wanted to get you out of my system, Will, I really did. I could see you getting involved with other people and I just wanted to do the same."

She pulled away to look him in the face as silent tears still streamed down her face. Will tried to wipe them away, but it was futile as the more he tried the worse it become. "Oh Deanna," he crooned.

But she cut him off. "I wanted to be set free, but I couldn't. I couldn't let you go, Imzadi."

"What can I do, Deanna, what can I do to help?"

Will had pulled the still weeping woman onto his lap and hugged her tight for so long that from afar, the couple appeared to be locked together and not even a breath could slip between them. One man, one woman, one heart, each feeling each others pain, both riding the tide of misery together.

Deanna went silent for a while, but Will could sense her feelings, that she wasn't about to fall to pieces again. In fact, he was surprised about the intensity of her emotions as they took on a different course.

Deanna pushed herself back onto her knees to face Will once more. Her eyes were alight with desire, the kind of desire that could scorch with just one look. She reached across and dragged the pink pearly-tipped nail down the centre of his chest, coming to rest in the barrier of his waistband.

Will's eyes found hers as he tried to understand the change. The sudden switch from the woman that was falling apart in his arms barely minutes ago, to the sensuous witch that purposely allowed her dress to slide even lower, exposing her upper body to its full glory for his eyes to feast on, and for the throb that began to pulsate throughout his loins and make itself known.

Leaning forward, her breasts straining to reach his chest so that they too could be tormented by the soft cotton that covered his broad chest. Deanna touched her lips to his, then pulling back as quickly as they had met. Will's eyes, drugged from the heady scent of her, lazily opened, only to find hers as equally smouldering as his barely inches away from him, hovering, waiting.

This time it was he who stretched to cover the tiny distance, only for her to pull back away from that final union, a union that could only escalate into something they both wanted desperately. Will felt the surge to his loins and the passionate flair of anger that lit up his eyes as her intent overpowered his senses. The intense need to tell her, show her that she belonged to him now rushed through his soul, and before Deanna had been given a chance to back away from what was about to happen, Will had grabbed a handful of her luscious hair and pulled her hard up against him, so hard she couldn't stop herself from falling across his lap.

His head followed hers, his eyes never leaving hers as his desire and challenge poured from his depths. His growl was low, so low, that Deanna could barely hear his words, "I'm glad. I'm glad no other man managed to do what I did. I'm glad, Deanna. It's proved that you truly do belong to me."

His mouth ground against hers in a deliberate demand for submission. He didn't know why he felt the need to do it and even before he felt her struggle against him, Will had felt her acceptance. But he wanted to hear her say the words. His mouth broke away and they both gasped for precious air. Her eyes sought his in a hopeless moment of realisation as she cried, "Yes, yes, I belong to you. I love you, I've always loved you. I'm yours, Will, for forever."

Her tender but eager resignation was all Will wanted to hear. She was his, she always had been, but he'd needed to hear and feel the words fall from her own lips. He tenderly wiped away the tears that began to trickle down her temples, watching the movement as he tried and failed to reign in his own tears that her revelation had triggered.

She loved him as much as he loved her. He had been a thorn in her side from the moment they had met, and she still loved him after all this time, even after everything that had happened in their separate lives, including the numerous failed affairs they'd both had. The feigned friendship that had managed to keep their true feelings hidden away from each other for years had been pointless.

If only he had known. If only he had realised that the one woman he wanted to be with had been suffering as much as he. But they had been given another chance to put the wrongs to right, only this time they were both ready, both prepared, both committed.

Now that they both belonged to each other completely.

  Book index