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Love's Desire

By Audra Symphony

Erotica / Romance

Love's Desire

Sophie wandered around the garden. She was snipping and tossing flowers into the enchanted tub Markal gave her. The tub followed her this way and that. It was St. Valentine's Day the next day and the shop was sure to be busy. Markal had been bothering her the day before about what to get Martha. Martha had smartly told Sophie weeks ago about what to tell him when he did ask. She really was a sneaky one. Lettie seemed to be enjoying herself as well. She was now learning under Wizard Suliman and not only that, but Prince Justin seemed to be taken with her as well. She had written Sophie telling her how the Prince was taking her to the ocean city on St. Valentine's Day. Even Fanny had grand plans with her rich husband who seemed to be not only vastly wealthy, but also quite the romantic. Sophie sighed. She didn't have any plans. She would be stuck in the shop until the day was over. Sophie wandered over to the roses. She cut plenty of red and coral and lavender roses. Passion, desire, love at first sight. She fell upon the yellow roses. Friendship. She guessed she should pick some of those too. She clipped one and held it under her nose and breathed in its scent. She wondered if she should give a yellow rose to Howl. Sophie looked sadly down at her tub full of red, coral, and lavender roses. She sighed and clipped a few yellow roses before returning to the castle.

Sophie was stripping the thorns from the roses when the door opened with the black side down. Howl came through the door and by the look of his face he seemed to be in in a fowl mood.

"Did you go to visit your sister?" Calcifer asked from the fireplace. He was lazily lounging about the logs.

"She's an insufferable woman at times," Howl replied.

"Only because you give her a reason to be insufferable at times," Sophie said without thinking. She almost regretted it as Howl cast a glare her way. She always tended to do things without thinking and things never went her way. It was the fault of being the oldest she supposed. Sophie was too busy trying to dispel Howl's glare when a thorn sliced through the pad of her ring finger.

"Ow," Sophie said, "Shoot how clumsy of me." Sophie looked about her for a towel to stop the bleeding when Howl snatched up her hand and placed the tip of her injured finger in his mouth.

"Howl," Sophie objected, "What are you doing?" The glare from Howl's eyes didn't leave as his tongue rolled over her cut.

"Howl," Sophie said again. She could feel a blush start to roll up her neck. Before it could reach her face though Howl released her finger.

"There it's healed," Howl said gruffly, still not forgiving her for her earlier comment. He turned away from her and flopped down in the chair next to the fireplace. Sophie looked down at her finger. It was indeed healed as if the cut had never been there.

"Thank you," she said softly. When he didn't reply Sophie gathered up her roses and took them to the shop.

"Was that really necessary?" Calcifer asked once she was gone.

"What?" Howl said grumpily.

"You know as well as I do that healing her finger did not require you to suck on it the way you did," Calcifer said, "What are you up to Howl?"

"I'm not up to anything," Howl shrugged.

"I know you Howl," Calcifer argued, "Are you going to court Sophie?"

Howl shrugged, "What if I did?"

"Howl!" Calcifer scolded, "Sophie is the best thing that has happened to either of us. Don't screw this up by including her in one of your silly games."

"This isn't a silly game, Cal" Howl argued, "Sophie has always been precious to me."

"And the moment she admits her feelings to you, you'll drop her like hot coal," Calcifer snorted.

"I would never!" Howl tried to say, but Calcifer interrupted him.

"You always say the same thing about every girl. She's special. She's the one. You spend weeks wooing her and as soon as she reciprocates your feelings, you get bored. You cannot do that to Sophie. You say she's precious. Are you really willing to play with something so precious and then break it? We'll lose her forever, Howl. She broke our curse. We owe her our lives. And the least I can do is protect her heart from you."

"But that's what's different," Howl explained, "My heart. I can feel it. I can feel the flutter it gives whenever Sophie's around. I've always had these feelings for her. I just didn't know what they were until I got my heart back."

Calcifer stayed silent for a moment. He knew what Howl was talking about. When he held Howl's heart it always fluttered when Sophie was near, but he often thought that it was rather him quivering in fear for her constant bullying into bending his head to cook.

"Say I believe you, Howl," Calcifer said finally, "Sophie knows you as well as I do. Do you honestly think that she won't see through what you're doing? As soon as she finds out, she'll run." Howl's face fell. He knew Calcifer was right.

"I'll prove to her I've changed. I won't woo her. But I'll show her how precious she is to me. And then when she comes to me, I'll tell her I love her," Howl resolved.

"You might be in for a long wait," Calcifer snorted.

"Nonsense," Howl said, "It'll take no time at all. Now heat up some hot water for my bath." And that was that. Howl marched himself upstairs and into the bathroom where he was sure to be hidden away for hours. Calcifer sighed and mumbled something about slave driving. As soon as he sent the water up he etched a note into a log for Sophie and flew up the chimney to visit his star friends.

Sophie watched costumers run in and out of the store all day. There were dozens of men in to purchase flowers for their loves. Barely any of the yellow roses were sold. But that was to be expected. Who wants a friend on St. Valentine's day? Sophie wondered if Howl had a date? He didn't seem to be wooing girls the way he used to, but then again Sophie was busy with the shop. How was she to know what Howl was doing when she was away?

"Excuse me?" Sophie jolted up straight. She hadn't realized how she was leaning over the counter thinking to herself. She didn't even notice a man walk in and stand right in front of her.

"Oh, I'm terribly sorry sir," Sophie sputtered, "How can I help you?" Sophie noticed the man was quite handsome. Surely he came to buy flowers for his wife, but when she fell on the flowers in his hands, they were the yellow roses.

"Yellow?" Sophie blurted out.

"Yes," the man smiled, "They're for my aunt. They're her favorite color."

"None for you wife?" Sophie questioned nosily.

"If only I had a wife," he said, "She'd be as pretty as you I hope." Sophie blushed.

"Can I help you with anything else," Sophie asked shyly.

"You wouldn't happen to sell vases as well would you?" he asked.

"Yes of course," Sophie smiled, "I know the perfect one to go with those. One moment." Sophie walked out from behind the counter and across the store. She pulled out a stepladder. The vases were stored on the top self off to the side of the store. It may be no difficult for Howl to reach them, but she was too short. Sophie carefully climbed up the ladder and looked at the top shelf.

"You know I've come in here once before," the man said.

"Is that so?" Sophie responded. She concentrated on finding the vase she had in mind.

"An old woman ran it the last I came in," he continued. Sophie froze for a second.

"Well, she has since retired," Sophie smiled down at him.

"I'm glad," he replied, "You're much better to look at." Sophie honestly wasn't sure if she should be flattered or insulted.

"Found it," Sophie said as she reached for the vase on the back of the shelf. Suddenly she felt something snake around her waist. Sophie yelped and jerked causing a vase to tip off the shelf and shatter on the floor.

"Um, I'm terribly sorry," Sophie mumbled as she looked down at the man. She gasped as she noticed that it was the man's hands that had touched her waist. His hands ran down her hips and then back up again.

"Please, don't do that," Sophie said sternly.

"Why?" the man asked. He didn't wait for her to answer. The man pulled Sophie down from the ladder and pushed her against the wall. Glass crunched under their feet.

"What are you doing?" Sophie yelped, but the man didn't answer. Instead he smashed his lips against hers. Sophie struggled against him, but he had her pinned against the wall.

"Sophie, I heard a crash. Is everything alright…" Howl froze in the doorway. The man pulled away from Sophie.

"Howl, I was only trying to find a vase," Sophie tried to explain as she wrenched out of the man's loosened grasp. Sophie stopped cold when she noticed the look of rage on Howl's face. Magic seemed to whirl around him, making his hair stand up straight.

"Howl, don't…" Sophie started, but it was too late. In a puff of smoke the man was gone and replaced by a rat. Sophie squeaked a bit. Howl walked over calmly and picked up the rat by the tail.

"I should feed you to an alley cat," Howl spat. The rat screamed and struggled to get away.

"Howl, change him back," Sophie ordered.

"Why should I?" Howl snapped, "The way he was touching you was disgusting."

"Howl!" Sophie yelled, "Change him back. Or you're no better than the Witch of the Waste." Howl sighed and snapped, but the rat in his hand was still a rat.

"Howl!" Sophie said sternly.

"Relax," Howl said, "He'll turn back into a man, and I use the term loosely, in an hour's time. Until then." Howl went to the entrance to the store and dropped the rat outside in the street."

"He'll have to fend for himself," Howl smiled.

"I can't believe you," Sophie said angrily. She stomped past him to the door, locked it and flipped the open sign to close. Then she stomped past him again to go back to their home.

"Sophie don't be angry," Howl said as he followed her. Markal watched them curiously from his workbench as the couple stormed in.

"I'll be whatever I want to be," Sophie snapped.

"Fine then," Howl snapped back. He went to the door and changed the knob to green a fifth color he had added that lead to a city known for it's bars and gambling. Howl disappeared through the door and slammed the door behind him. Sophie plopped down into the chair by the fireplace and crossed her arms. She noticed the Calcifer's welcoming warmth missing. She looked down and saw the little note scorched into the log. Sophie sighed as her anger drained away. She guessed she would have to warm herself with a normal fire. She quickly lit a fire.

"Did you two get into a fight again," Markal questioned.

"Yes," Sophie sighed, "And I'm afraid we both overreacted." Though changing the man into a rat and throwing him out on to the streets was a little more of an overreaction than her temper was.

"Tell me what you're working on, Markal," Sophie said. There were several stacks of books in front of him. Many open to random pages.

"Well I was looking through some of Howl's books," Markal replied, "He seems a little distracted lately so I thought I would teach myself."

"That's responsible of you. Taking control of your own education," Sophie encouraged. She stood up and walked over to his workbench.

"Which book are you working on?" she questioned.

"I'm not sure," Markal admitted, "Some of these books are old and the titles have rubbed off, but I think this spell has something to do with true love. It's called Love's Desire," Markal pointed to a spell in a very old black book.

"Should you really be messing with that type of spell," Sophie questioned.

"I'm just reading it," Markal said, "Besides the last word has torn away see?" And sure enough the corned of the page was torn away. Markal read aloud:

"Everyday a warm embrace; a simple stare on a handsome face. In thy heart there is a fire. Now from thy heart that one desires. Giveth thy heart, body, and soul. Be free thou heart. So it shall be. Burn like…"

"What do you think it ends with?" Markal questioned.

"It sounds like it would rhyme," Sophie said, too caught up in the pretty language to be cautious.

"Um.. Cart, chart, part…?" Markal tried, "That doesn't make sense."

"No, think it's supposed to rhyme with soul," Sophie corrected, "Soul. Foal, bowl, toll…"

"Coal!" Markal announced, "That must be it! Burn like coal!" Suddenly a quiet ping rang through Sophie's head.

"I got it!" Markal congratulated himself, "Now I can move on. I don't know what I would need with a love spell. I've already got Martha."

"And don't you ever lose her," Sophie smiled down at him, "Did you get your gift?"

"Yes, I went out and got it today," Markal replied.

"Good," Sophie said. She helped Markal work on several other spells in other books. They found one to exterminate spiders, but Markal suggested that they pretended that they never read that one.

"Why don't you take a break and I'll make us supper," Sophie suggested after a couple hours of studying. Markal nodded eagerly and went to wash up while Sophie got the frying pan. Bacon and egg sandwiches would do and with out Calcifer there to protest she'd be able to make them quickly. Its too bad Howl wasn't there. He did love his bacon. Sophie frowned as she mindlessly went through her actions. Howl wasn't missing anything. He was out and about in that risqué town. He probably was gambling away money that she and Markal worked hard to save. Or he was spending it on lavish clothing. He did love his clothes. Sophie couldn't remember a time he wasn't dressed dramatically. Right before Sophie managed to give Howl his heart back. He had been sleeping and the Witch attacked his family. While he was gone the Witch tricked Sophie in to going to her castle in the Waste. Howl burst in heroically, but he didn't quite look the part. His hair was disheveled and his clothes were wrinkled. In fact, all that he wore of his suit then was the pants and his button up shirt. All the buttons on his shirt were missing, leaving his chest bare. She had been living with Howl for a year then and she had never seen so much of his skin save for the slime incident, but the slime hid everything to her eyes. Sophie remembered wishing she could just rest her hand on his bare skin and feel the disturbingly still chest. She imagined now Howl's chest wouldn't quite be so still. Suddenly Sophie had the strongest urge to place her hand on Howl's bare chest. She wanted to feel his heart. She needed to feel his heart. Why? To make sure it was there? Of course it was there. She put it there herself. But she still wanted to feel it. She wanted to feel his heart and his muscles. Howl looked tall and lean, but his suits disguised his muscles well. Howl lifted her with ease when they flew back to the castle that day. His arm muscles must have been just as defined. What if she felt those too? She could just feel his chest and arms and maybe his abs… Would he let her? Probably. Howl was such a vain creature. He'd let her touch him anywhere she wanted if it meant he was being praised. He'd tell her, go ahead Sophie. I am marvelous. I do not blame you for wanting to feel my body for yourself. Go ahead Sophie. Sophie. Sophie.

"Sophie," Markal yelled.

"How long has she been like this?" Calcifer demanded as he darted around the room. He flew in front of Sophie's dazed face. There was no reflection in her eyes as she stood with the pan in hand over the fire.

"I don't know," Markal cried, "I just went upstairs to wash up. She said she was going to cook us supper, but when I came down she was just standing there and the bacon was burning!" Now the bacon pieces were charred black crisps, moments away from catching on fire.

"I'm concerned about Sophie getting burned," Calcifer said. The fire was getting a little out of control and was starting to lick at her hand, but she didn't flinch away. She only stood there.

"I've tried to move her," Markal said worriedly, "She won't budge no matter how hard I push her."

"Where's Howl?" Calcifer demanded.

"He and Sophie got into a fight and he stormed of through the green door," Markal replied.

"Do you think you could find him?" Calcifer said.

"I can try," Markal said as he made a mad dash to the door and disappeared through it.

"Sophie," Calcifer tried again. He darted in front of her eyes, but they weren't seemed to focus on anything. It was as if she was asleep. Calcifer flew down to the fireplace. He needed to stop the fire from inching any closer to Sophie than it already had. Her hand was already bright red. He pushed the fire back, but despite how the saying goes, he could not fight fire with fire. The fire just pushed Calcifer back. Calcifer jumped back. Maybe if he figured out how to make Sophie drop the pan. He looked around the room. He needed something to pry her fingers away from the pan. Sophie's old walking stick! It was gather dust in the back of the cupboard. Calcifer struggled to lift it, but he managed to wedge it in between Sophie's thumb and the pan. Calcifer used all his strength to pry her thumb away. The stick snapped and Calcifer went flying across the room.

"Sophie!" The door flew open and Howl rushed in followed by Markal. Luckily, Markal ran right into Howl only about a block away. Howl called Sophie's name, but she didn't answer. He placed his hand over Sophie's, but retracted it when a flame licked at it. Howl quickly went over to the sink and filled a bucket of water. He dumped it over Sophie and the fireplace. Only then did Sophie turn her head towards Howl.

"What in the world do you think you're doing, Sophie," Howl demanded as he caught his breath. Sophie's eyes still seemed unfocused, but she looked down at her hand just the same and dropped the pan. Her hand was very badly burned. She turned to Howl.

"My hand hurts," Sophie whispered.

"Well of course it hurts," Howl snapped, "Honestly, Sophie what were you thinking…" Howl stopped as he noticed tears fall from Sophie's eyes. He sighed.

"Come here," Howl demanded, "Markal get me the poeth powder." Markal did as he was told as Howl dragged Sophie to sit sideways in his lap as he sat in a chair. Howl cradled Sophie's hand in his own. Markal gave Howl the powder. Howl carefully sprinkled the powder onto Sophie's hand and worked his magic. The skin there quickly healed and came back pink and new. Howl stared at Sophie's face as he did this. The dullness in her eyes slowly went away as her senses came back.

"Why does it smelled like something was burned," Sophie asked wrinkling her nose. She looked about her. She saw Markal and Calcifer looking worriedly at her.

"What?" Sophie asked.

"How do you feel?" Howl asked. Sophie yelped. She suddenly noticed where she was sitting and jumped to her feet. She looked over at the fireplace.

"What a mess," she exclaimed, "Markal did you do this?" Howl gave Markal a pointed look.

"Uh yeah," Markal lied, "I did. Sorry Sophie." Sophie sighed and patted Markal's head with her newly healed hand.

"I'll clean it up," she replied.

"She's cursed again?" Calcifer whispered when Sophie walked away.

"Yes, but how and when," Howl mused, "She seemed fine before I left." Howl and Calcifer looked to Markal.

"Sophie and I were messing with some spells this afternoon," Markal offered.

"Which one?" Howl demanded.

"I don't know," Markal said, "We looked at a lot of them in several books." Howl sighed.

"She seems fine for now," Calcifer said as the three watch Sophie quickly clean the mess.

"Just don't let her cook again," Howl told Markal, "I'll figure out what happened." The rest of the night went on with no surprises. Howl cooked food for all of them. Sophie went to bed early claiming to be exhausted and having a busy day the next day. Sophie came downstairs the next day to see Markal sitting at the table.

"I thought you would have left already," she said.

"I just wanted to make sure you were okay," Markal shrugged.

"Of course I am," Sophie replied, "Why wouldn't I be?"

"No reason," Markal lied, "Well I'm off to see Martha! Don't expect me back until late!" Sophie waved him off and Markal was gone.

"Morning Calcifer," Sophie said to the fireplace. Calcifer grew tall from the logs and yawned.

"How are you feeling today, Sophie," Calcifer greeted.

"Fine," Sophie said, "Why do you ask?"

"No reason," Calcifer said in a hurry, "There's something on the table for you." Sophie looked down at the table. There lay a single yellow rose. Tears sprung to Sophie's eyes.

"Sophie, what's the matter," Calcifer asked.

"Nothing," Sophie replied as she wiped away her tears and picked up the flower, "It's a very nice gesture."

"I think it's a little presumptuous if you ask me," Calcifer said.

"What do you mean?" Sophie asked.

"Yellow means friendship," Calcifer explained, "You've only met Wizard Suliman once. I would hardly call you two friends."

"This rose is from Wizard Suliman?" Sophie clarified.

"Yes," Calcifer said, "A page boy dropped it off this morning. A 'friend' would come in person." Sophie laughed.

"It's a very nice gesture," she murmured as she left it on the table and turned to go open the shop. So the rose wasn't from Howl. That was a relief. Where was Howl that morning though? He wasn't in his room. He must have left early in the morning. Sophie didn't have much time to think about Howl's whereabouts. Floods of people came into the shop. At some point in the day Sophie noticed the man that Howl turned into a rat walk across the street in front of the store. Sophie breathed a sigh of relief. So he was alive. A cat jumped in front of his path, though, and the man jumped ten feet in the air. Sophie couldn't help, but laugh. She couldn't say she was all that sorry he was turned into a rat. She was angry at Howl for it, yes, but he did kind of deserve it. Sophie could feel his dried crack lips over hers. She wrinkled her nose. Sophie was truly grateful to Howl for coming in the way he did. Her knight and shining armor. She pictured Howl on top of a brilliant white stead. She giggled to herself. Howl? A knight? Would he accept her handkerchief or a lock of her hair as a present? Sophie couldn't help, but snort. She doubted it. He'd probably want at least a kiss. A kiss? How would kissing Howl be? Would she enjoy it? His soft warm lips moving against hers while he held her tight and ran his fingers through her hair…

"Excuse me, Miss?"

"How can I help you?" Sophie broke her daydream again and helped her costumer. The shop quickly sold out of flowers by midafternoon. Sophie gladly closed the shop and went back into the castle. It was quiet. Calcifer snored on his logs. Markal was still out and Sophie guessed so was Howl.

"What's the matter, Calcifer?" Sophie murmured to him, "No girlfriend up there among the stars?"

"Too many girlfriends," Calcifer yawned back. Sophie laughed, "You're just as bad as Howl."

"I don't break hearts for a living my dear," Calcifer replied. Sophie's smile dropped.

"Of course," she said solemnly, "That's how he gets pleasure in life."

"That's not true," Calcifer said, fully awake now, "When Howl was wooing all these women, he was just searching for something he knew he would never find."

"What's that?" Sophie questioned.

"Love," Calcifer answered simply.

"What do you mean," Sophie scoffed, "Howl fell in love all the time and got those women to fall in love back."

"Ah, but that wasn't true love," Calcifer corrected, "It was impossible to love without his heart, but he did try."

"That's why he was wooing them all?" Sophie questioned.

"And why do you think he never put the moves on you?" Calcifer asked.

"Because I was an old hag?" Sophie shrugged.

"No. Please, Howl didn't care," Calcifer replied, "Besides he knew you were cursed from the moment he saw you."

"Then why?" Sophie said rolling her eyes.

"You're precious to him," Calcifer said.

"How do you figure that," Sophie asked.

"He thought of you as something he never wanted to break. He wanted to keep you close, safe, and happy. And that was before he got his heart back. You make him a better person and he knows it," Calcifer explained, "He never felt that towards any of the women he wooed. They were just pretty faces. It was always something special from the day you two met at May Day. He just didn't know it until he got his heart back. And that's all thanks to you."

"I think you're reading too far into Howl, Calcifer," Sophie replied, "Howl isn't that complex."

"If you say so,"" Calcifer shrugged. He went back to sleep on his logs. Sophie watched him for a while before her mind drifted off to Howl.

If Howl could truly love her, what would she do? She'd live happily ever after she'd suspect. But she was the eldest and that's not how things were supposed to work out. If what Calcifer said was true, why didn't Howl say something the moment he got back his heart? It's been half a year already since then! Howl hadn't changed at all. But if he truly did change then he wouldn't be Howl and she wouldn't love him if he weren't Howl. Did she just admit to loving Howl? What had gotten into her? She couldn't love Howl. She knew where that would leave her. Heartbreak. But wouldn't it be worth it, she thought to her self. Wouldn't the heartbreak be worth Howl holding her, whispering sweet nothings in her ear, and kissing her? She wanted it. She wanted it all. Heartbreak be damned, she wanted Howl.

Sophie took a deep breath.

"I'm going for a walk in the gardens," she said suddenly, startling Calcifer awake.

"It looks drizzly outside, are you sure you should go outside," Calcifer called to her as she turned the knob of the door orange side down. Sophie looked back at him.

"I'm hot," she said with glazed over eyes,

"Sophie wait!" Calcifer called, but it was too late. Sophie left. She wandered through the gardens. Calcifer was right. It was a wet day, but she was hot. It felt nice. Here she was. Alone on St. Valentine's Day. Howl probably had a date. Who knew what him and his date were doing. They were probably strolling through gardens such as this one, holding hands. Sophie pictured Howl beside her with his hand in hers. Or his arm could be draped around her shoulders while he kissed her face and neck and shoulders and… Sophie was hot. She needed to cool down. She looked around and found the pond in the middle of the garden. She walked towards it.

"Howl," Calcifer scolded, "Where have you been?

"I was looking for something," Howl said annoyed. He closed the door behind him, green side down.

"Where's Markal and Sophie?" he asked.

"Markal went to spend the day with Martha," Calcifer replied.

"And Sophie," Howl prompted.

"She went for a walk in the gardens," Calcifer answered.

"How did she seem today," Howl asked.

"She looked feverish like last night, but again she didn't seem to noticed, but Howl…"

"Good," Howl said, "The curse doesn't seem to be doing that much damage yet. I was thinking of taking her to see Wizard Suliman, though, I would hate to admit he's better than I am."

"But Howl. I saw her…"

"Because he's not better than I am. I was the better student so if I can't solve this than neither can he. Where does that leave Sophie then?" Howl mused.

"Howl!" Calcifer snapped.

"What Calcifer?" Howl said.

"When she left, Sophie had the same sort of dazed look as she did before and that time she almost burned her hand off," Calcifer said.

"Right," Howl said, "I'll go fetch her before she does anything stupid." Howl switched the knob orange down and stepped out into the gardens. Howl couldn't see Sophie at first. He wandered around the gardens, but there was no sign of her. Finally something by the pond caught hi eye.

"Sophie?" Howl saw her standing in the pond. Her skirts were billowing around her thighs as she stepped deeper into the pond.

"Sophie," Howl called. She didn't seem to hear him. Howl reached the shore of the pond and called her again, but again she didn't seem to answer. Howl cursed as he started to follow her into the pond. She was waste deep before he finally caught her arm.

"Sophie!" Howl said. Sophie looked over her should at him. Her eyes were indeed dim and dull.

"What do you think you're doing?" Howl demanded.

"I was hot," Sophie replied slowly.

"So you decide it's okay to walk into the pond?" Howl said, "Come on." Howl started to drag her back, but Sophie managed to slip out off his hand. She turned back to the pond. Howl quickly stood in front of her.

"Sophie," Howl said, as he pointed a disapproving finger at her, "No!" He was trying best to be stern. Sophie ignored him or maybe just didn't hear him. She tried to walk past him, but he kept cutting her off. Howl heaved a sigh and scooped her up in his arms. She was soaking wet between the pond and the drizzle and she in turned soaked him to the bone as well.

"Let go!" Sophie shouted. She started to push away from him.

"Stop struggling," Howl ordered as he marched back to shore. He tightened his grip. By the time he got back to shore Sophie had stopped fighting against him. Instead she had dug her fingers into the front of his suit jacket.

"You should put me down," she whispered.

"Not until we get back home," Howl said not noticing the glassy dazed look she was giving him, "You're not trustworthy." He never thought he'd ever say that in life. Sophie was the only person outside Calcifer who knew almost all of his secrets.

"Howl," Sophie said in a deep voice. Her voice sent shivers throughout Howl's body. Since when could Sophie sound like that? Howl looked down at her, but her face was hidden in the crook of his neck. She nuzzled him there. He could just feel her lips graze his collarbone through the fabrics of his suit. Howl held his breath. He stared down at her in his arms. This wet girl in his arms. Her dress was plastered to her body. It usually hung loosely on her, but now it clung to every inch of her body. He could even see the little divot from her bellybutton and the little lumps atop her breast pushing through the fabric. Howl dragged his eyes away and swallowed.

"What is it, Sophie," Howl said, trying his best (and failing at it) to keep his voice level.

"I'm hot," she said. You're not the only one, thought Howl. He finally reached the castle and the door swung open for them.

"What happened?" Calcifer demanded as the walked toward the stairs.

"She went for a dip," Howl said sarcastically as he took the stair two at a time. He reached Sophie's room and set her down.

"Now change out of those clothes before you catch a cold," Howl ordered as he waved at the fireplace by her bed where a fire instantly erupted.

"I don't want a fire," Sophie complained.

"What do you mean? Look at you! You're shivering." Howl said.

"I'm hot," she repeated. Howl sighed and placed a hand on her cheek where she leaned into it. Howl looked at her confused and felt her head. She did feel hot. So why was she shivering?

"Just change clothes," Howl said retracting his hand. He had to look away as Sophie looked at him with a pout on her face. She had never looked at him that way.

"I'll be back with something for you to eat," Howl dismissed himself and ran away downstairs.

"So she has a fever and she's acting weird," Calcifer said underneath the pot Howl was using to warm up some porridge.

"She just sounds sick to me," he said.

"But you said yourself that she was cursed again," Howl pondered as he stirred the porridge, "I can feel the magic clinging to her, but I can't figure what kind of curse. I don't think she even notices what it is. Because the fever is messing with her senses, she can't even give us a hint. If only I knew what the curse was I could remove it or break it at least."

"Markal did say they were reading some of your old books," Calcifer said.

"The curses in those books are mostly innocent," Howl dismissed, "And I've read all of them last night. None of them match what we're seeing in Sophie."

"What if it was just a spell?" Calcifer said.

"What do you mean?" Howl asked.

"Well a curse is an affliction you're stuck with until it broken or removed," Calcifer explained, "A spell just needs to run its course. What if spell has her acting strangely in order to obtain something?"

"Obtain what?" Howl sighed. He removed the pot and poured the porridge into a bowl.

"I don't know, but it'd make more sense," Calcifer said.

"But most spells can't be broken or removed since they have a short shelf life, while curses can," Howl said.

"Maybe it'll be a simple spell that doesn't require much to complete," Calcifer suggested hopefully, "You just need to figure out what it is."

"Fine. I'll look through the books again after I put her to bed," Howl said carrying the bowl and a glass of water up the stairs.

"Sophie," Howl called through the door, "Are you dressed?" Howl didn't hear anything. Was she asleep? Howl carefully opened the door. Her bed was empty. Instead he saw Sophie leaning halfway out her window.

"Sophie," Howl yelped. He quickly put down the bowl and glass and yanked her back into the room. He put his hands on top of her wet shoulders and shook her.

"What were you doing," Howl demanded. He seemed to be asking her that a lot lately.

"I was hot," Sophie whined.

Howl sighed, "Sophie Hatter, you're going to be the death of me. And I told you to change." Sophie just stared at him. Howl sighed again and turned her around. He started to unbutton the back of her dress. Curse woman's clothing and these hundreds of buttons, Howl thought. As he started to peel the clothing away from her back he couldn't help but be mesmerized by the glowing light dancing on her back from the fire. Howl tried to focus and finish unbuttoning her dress. He pulled down the top of her dress so that it pooled at her waist. Sophie gasped at the sudden draft as she stood in front of Howl bare from the waist up. Howl was distracted by her back again and her smooth skin. A drop of sweat trickled down from her neck and ran down her spine. Howl caught it just below her shoulder blades with his lips. He stayed there. He was a fool, letting a mere back arouse him enough to act with out thinking, but never the less he was there kissing her pretty back. Sophie sighed and shivered as Howl's lips kept contact with her burning skin. She didn't want him to move away. He seemed to be cooling that one part. She wanted him to touch the rest of her. But all too soon his lips disappeared. Suddenly, her nightgown fell over her head and her dress pulled the rest of the way off. She was maneuvered to sit on her bed, shoes taken off, and then tucked into bed with the window shut as well as the door shut with Howl on the opposite side. The wrong side.

Howl took a deep breath. That was stupid. That was not how to show Sophie he had changed. That was showing Sophie that he was exactly the same as before. Howl wandered away from Sophie's door.

"Calcifer," Howl called downstairs, "I've put a charm on Sophie's window and door. Do tell me if she tries to open either, would you."

"What are you going to do?" Calcifer called back.

"Take a cold bath," Howl mumbled as he disappeared into the bathroom.

The next day Howl was skimming through all of his books when Sophie came down in the morning.

"You look frustrated, Howl," she observed, "St. Valentine's Day not go as planned?"

"Not quite," Howl mumbled.

"So you did have a date," Sophie assumed.

"No, why do you asked," Howl replied gruffly.

"Because you have that sour look on your face as if a girl rejected you," she said frankly. Howl blushed, but kept quiet. It was then that Markal came down the stairs in his finest clothing.

"Sophie, how are you feeling," Markal asked.

"Fine, Markal. Why do you ask," Sophie replied.

"Because you look tired," Howl lied, "You're skin is greyish and you have dark circles under your eyes. You know awful baggies."

"I do?" she questioned.

"Yes," Howl said, "In fact, why don't you keep the shop closed today and rest?"

"I do need to go to the market," Sophie shrugged.

"No you don't," Howl argued.

"We're running out of food," Sophie said dryly.

"Then Markal you go with her," Howl suggested.

"But today I'm supposed to deliver that potion you made for the king," Markal said waving his hands at his fine clothing, "Or did you forget."

"Howl, is everything alright?" Sophie asked, "You're acting strange."

"Everything's fine," Howl said, "Both of you go. You're bothering me." Sophie gave him a pointed look before shrugging and leaving with Markal.

"Will you be okay going to the market on your own?" Markal asked.

"Yes," Sophie said a little annoyed, "I always go alone. Is there something I don't know?" Markal looked all about nervously.

"I don't know what you're talking about," he said as he turned away, "See you later Sophie!" Sophie sighed and turned the opposite direction into town. And they say women are the mysterious ones. What was going on with Howl? Sophie tried to shove him out of her mind as she shopped. It was almost mid afternoon by the time she was finished. Her basket was full to the brim with things, but it was enchanted for her so it'd be as easy to carry as if it were empty. Sophie stopped to look at a jewelry stand. One pair of earrings looked much like the one Howl wore. She had the urge to buy them. She felt her earlobes. It would be a silly frivolous purchase. Her ears weren't even pierced.

"Oh Sophie!" a voice called. Sophie turned to see Mrs. Fairfax walking toward her.

"Hello, Mrs. Fairfax," Sophie greeted.

"Sophie dear I haven't seen you in ages!" Mrs. Fairfax exclaimed, "Not since May Day wasn't it. When you and Howl beat that Witch of the Waste and her awful fire demon. Things have settled down I hope!"

"For the most part," Sophie smiled. Sophie could think of several adventures she had to deal with with Howl over the past half a year. One left poor Markal without a pinky toe, though Martha was more upset than he was really.

"Tell me," Mrs. Fairfax said, "Has Wizard Howl made you the Lady of the house yet?"

"Well I am the only lady there…," Sophie said, confused.

"No darling," Mrs. Fairfax laughed, "Has he made you his wife!"

"N-no," Sophie stammered, "Howl isn't the type to settle down."

"No man is the type, dearie. Until they meet the right woman that is. And you child are the right woman for him," Mrs. Fairfax encouraged, "Well I have to be off. I promised to be at Martha's shop by noon."

"Have a good day," Sophie said.

"You too dear," Mrs. Fairfax said, cupping Sophie's cheek, "And don't give up hope on that man. You'll catch him." Sophie just stared at her as she walked away. Her touch suddenly made her remember a dream she had had. Sophie wandered down the street not paying attention to any of the vendors. She was too busy trying to recall the dream. She placed her hand against her cheek. The hand in her dream was cool against her burning hot skin. She almost cried when he pulled it away. He? The hand belonged to a man. But who? Did it belong to Howl? Howl's face appeared in her mind with his hand stretched out stroking her cheek. Sophie smiled to herself. That sounded lovely. His cool hand on her hot cheek. Or his icy lips on her burning back. Lips? Back? Was that part of the dream too? Sophie sighed. She looked up at the sun. How could it be so hot when being blocked by the clouds? She was burning up. She looked around for a place to rest. She noticed an alley up ahead and ducked into it. She set her basket of groceries down and leaned against the cool brick wall draped in shadows. She sighed at the coolness, but it wasn't enough. She needed Howl. She didn't quite know why, but Howl was the answer. She didn't know the question though.

"Ma'am, is everything okay?" A man stood at the entrance to the alley. Sophie jumped at the sound of his voice.

"I'm fine," she whispered.

"Are you sure?" the man questioned, "I can escort you home if you'd like." Sophie turned her dazed eyes toward him.

"Why are you following me?" she questioned.

"I beg you pardon?" he said, "I assure you I wasn't. I was walking by and I just noticed…"

"Come here," Sophie demanded. The man slowly walked toward her. He looked over his shoulder.

"You're not a witch are you?" he asked nervously. Sophie didn't answer. She just waited until he stood directly in front of her. She slowly took his face in her hands. She stared deeply into his eyes with her own dull ones. Her face was inches away from his. He could feel her breath on his lips.

"Do you think I wouldn't recognize these eyes," Sophie asked the man.

"W-what are you talking about?" the man stuttered.

"I know it's you Howl," Sophie said. The man looked absolutely shocked.

"How did you know?" he asked as the man's face melted away to Howl's.

"I know you," she whispered slowly. Howl couldn't help, but be a slight bit aroused. Loud laughter floated through the air down the alley. Howl pushed Sophie against the brick wall, back in the shadows.

"But I'm expert at disguises," Howl argued.

"I know you," Sophie whispered again, "All of me knows all of you." Howl couldn't do it anymore. He was done proving himself. He leaned down and crushed his lips onto hers. Sophie eagerly kissed him back. Howl pinned his body against hers. Oh, did she feel nice against his body. Howl could only imagine how nice it would feel with out their damn clothes hindering them. Howl broke the kiss and came up for air. He looked into her dim eyes. He really did love this girl. Sophie reached up to kiss him again and Howl panicked.

"Sleep," he ordered. Suddenly Sophie's head fell to rest against his shoulder and her body went limp against his. Howl sighed and picked up Sophie and her basket. It would look suspicious if he just carried her through town unconscious. He was going to have to fly which is just a suspicious, but at least all he would have to face were nasty rumors rather than an angry mob. He pushed him and Sophie into the air and flew back to the castle.

"What happened this time?" Calcifer asked as Howl rested Sophie down on the cot under the stairs that served as her bed when she first came to the castle.

"I know what spell was used on her. I thought I locked up that book. How did Markal get a hold of it?" Howl sighed as he flopped down in a chair next to Calcifer. He draped his arm over his face dramatically.

"What spell?" Calcifer asked, "It isn't black magic is it?"

"It's not black magic no, but it is far from good magic," Howl sighed. Calcifer raised his fiery eyebrows.

"It's called a "Helper" love spell," Howl said finally looking at Calcifer, "Wizards don't use it anymore, because most of us developed morals."

"What's it supposed to do?" Calcifer asked.

"It's supposed to make a woman crave the one she loves. Nothing can satisfy her until she gets him. It was often used on virgins so that wizards could either convince them to marry early or skip the marriage part all together."

"That… that's disgusting," Calcifer said, "I can see why you'd have such a book though."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Howl snapped, "I'd never use that kind of spell on Sophie or any other woman for that matter. Besides I'd never need to. That spell is for wizards with out my sort of charm." Calcifer snorted.

Howl ignored him, "How do I get it off of her though." He looked over at Sophie's sleeping form. She squirmed on top of her cot.

"Let her have her way with you," Calcifer said simply. Howl looked at him in surprise.

"Isn't that your only choice?" he pointed out.

"But," Howl said.

"Let me guess," Calcifer sighed, "Now that you know that she wants you you're bored."

"That's not it at all," Howl said, "And how do I really know that she wants me. I could be just fueling the fire rather than cooling it."

"There's only one way to find out," Calcifer replied, "Ask her."

"She'd never admit to it," Howl argued, "That was the whole point of me showing her that I was a changed man."

"Well you're able to skip some steps now," Calcifer shrugged, "If you ask she'd be all too willing to tell you because of the spell. And once the spell is off you can get on with being a better man."

"Are you seriously suggesting I bed Sophie," Howl asked.

"Well we can't let her go on in a fever full daze for the rest of her life," Calcifer sighed, "Just make sure she doesn't run away afterwards."

"I was going to save it until I'd proven myself to her, but do you think this will help?" Howl pulled a small box from his sleeve. He opened it to reveal a gold ring with a giant sapphire set into it.

"Wow, Howl. If I didn't believe your intentions before I do now," Calcifer said, "Is this what you were looking for through the green door? You didn't steal it did you?"

"No," Howl said snapping the box closed and putting it back into his sleeve, "I won it."

"Fairly?" Calcifer questioned.

"As far as the jeweler I won it from knows," Howl replied, "I told Markal that the seven league boots would kick up too much dust and dirty his clothes so that means he isn't going to get back until tomorrow evening"

"So tonight would be a good time to…," Calcifer said following Howl's thought process.

"Would you mind leaving too?" Howl asked. Calcifer looked up at him surprised.

"Howl, I'm can't believe it," he said, "Before Markal when you brought home woman after woman you never asked me to leave! Not that I could…"

"But Sophie is…" Howl's words died off as he looked over at her.

"Are you really that nervous, Howl?" Calcifer asked.

"It's the heart thing working against me," Howl said nonchalantly, but Calcifer saw through him. He quietly flew up the chimney without Howl even noticing. Howl waited hours for Sophie to wake up. He just watched her from his place in the chair.

Sophie woke up just as the sun was setting. She could since a pair of eyes on her. She sat up. How did she get back to the castle and why was she on her old cot? She looked up. She saw Howl staring at her from across the room. He had a strange look on her face.

"Howl?" Sophie questioned, "Is everything alright?" He nodded quickly and tore his eyes away from her.

"Why am I sleeping on the cot?" Sophie asked.

"You, uh, fainted at that market," Howl said.

"Did I?" Sophie said suspiciously. Howl wasn't making eye contact with her.

"I've been very worried about you Sophie," Howl admitted.

"Why is that?" she humored him as she stood up from the cot.

"Markal…," Howl said hoarsely. He cleared his throat and tried again, "Markal accidentally cast a spell on you."

"What do you mean," Sophie said, "I feel like I'd notice if I was under a spell." Sophie stood in front of Howl and leaned down so he had no choice, but to look at her.

"You've been feeling warm lately, yes?"

"So the spell is to have hot flashes?" Sophie questioned.

"Not that kind of warm," Howl mumbled.

"Then what?" Sophie questioned.

"Like hot. Bothered. Antsy," Howl described. Sophie sighed annoyed and tapped her foot.

"Like walking straight into the lake, hot," Howl finally said. Sophie looked at him in surprised and recognition.

"That wasn't a dream?" Sophie said. Howl shook his head.

"That means then after while in my room. You really did… my back…" Sophie's voice quivered. Howl nodded slowly.

"And at the market in the alley?" Sophie asked.

"It happened," Howl said quietly.

"Oh no," Sophie whispered. Her face slowly grew bright red.

"Oh no. No. No!" She quickly backed away from Howl.

"Sophie," Howl tried as he stood up from the chair.

"No," Sophie said. Tears started to breach her eyes. She turned away from him and started to run up the stairs.

"Sophie, wait!" Howl called as he ran after her, but Sophie ran into her room and slammed the door. Howl heard the click of her lock. He knew that the lock really wouldn't stop him on a normal day, but he thought better of unlocking it and coming in.

"Sophie," Howl knocked.

"Go away!" she yelled.

"Sophie, lets just talk," Howl called through the door. Sophie cowered in the corner of the room with her hands over her ears, crouched facing the wall. This couldn't be happening. It had to have been a dream. If those things really happened then there's no doubt that Howl knows how she feels. And if Howl knows then it's only a matter of time before she is nothing to him. She used to be special. She used to be closer to him than any female had ever been to him. Now she was going to amount to nothing more than a fling. She didn't want that. Calcifer said she was special. She wanted to stay special. She didn't want to end up like all those other girls. She didn't want to end up heartbroken. Then she felt the immense pain and fear and loneliness in her chest. She was already experiencing it. She was going to have to leave. She couldn't stay there anymore with them. Tears streamed down Sophie's face. She stood up and opened the window. She looked down. It was a long ways down, but Calcifer must have been out because the castle wasn't moving.

"Sophie, please open the door," Howl called. Maybe if she tied her sheets together she'd be able to get close enough to the ground to jump. At least she was young again. She couldn't imagine her plan working with old brittle bones.

"Sophie!" Sophie ripped the sheets off her bed and started tying them together.

"Sophie, I love you," Howl yelled. Sophie froze with her hands over a sheet knot. He doesn't mean it, she told herself, but oh how she wanted it to be true. Sophie started to cry harder.

"Don't cry, Sophie," Howl called, "I'm telling the truth."

"You're not," Sophie yelled, "You only think you do."

"Please believe me!"

"You'll only drop me like hot coal! I won't be treated that way! I won't be another girl who's had her heart eaten by you!" Honestly that rumor really was more than just a rumor. It described him perfectly.

"Sophie, I've changed," Howl said.

"Why because you have a heart?" Sophie scoffed through her tears, "You haven't changed one bit." Sophie tied the sheet to the bedpost and yanked hard. Hopefully the bed would hold her weight.

"Sophie please let me prove it to you," Howl said. Sophie paused. She was tempted. Maybe he had changed. Maybe he did want to prove it to her, but then she remembered all the girls he got through to with just his pretty worlds. Sophie held back a sob.

"Sophie just open the door and I'll prove to you my dedication," Howl pleaded. Sophie took a tight grip onto the sheet and climbed over the windowsill.

Howl didn't hear Sophie's cries anymore. It was silent behind the door.

"Sophie?" Howl called. There wasn't a response. Howl held his ear to the door. All her heard was a breeze. Howl broke down and magically unlocked the door and opened it. Sophie wasn't anywhere in sight, but the window was open and Sophie's bed sheets were tied to the post and hanging out the window.

"Sophie," Howl exclaimed. He rushed to the window and leaned out. Sophie was struggling down the makeshift rope. Suddenly, she slipped and started to fall. Howl quickly touched the rope and the rope came to life like a snake. It wrapped itself around Sophie's wrist and pulled her up. It pulled her all the way back up to the window where Howl grabbed her by the waist and dragged her in.

"Let me go," Sophie yelled. Howl held onto her tightly. She thrashed about so hard, she made them lose balance and fall back on their butts. Howl pinned her with his arm against his body and held on tight until she eventually gave up fighting and fell into pathetic sobs.

"I don't want this," Sophie cried.

"I'm sorry you're unhappy." Sophie could barely hear Howl, but suddenly she felt moisture on her shoulder through the fabric of her dress. Sophie wrenched her neck to look at Howl. Tears of his own were streaming down his face. He looked scared. His eyes were wide and staring at the floor as he clung to her.

"And I'm sorry I'm a coward and I can't let you go. You can't leave. You have to stay by my side." Sophie had never seen Howl cry before. Tears continued to drip on her shoulder.

"I know what happens to the girls who love you," Sophie whispered, "I don't want a broken heart."

"Do you love me?" Howl asked.

"Yes," Sophie cried. Howl squeezed her.

"I love you," he said.

"Howl," Sophie cried as she tried to squirm out of his grip. He squeezed her tighter.

"I'll keep saying I love you until you believe me," Howl said, "I'll never get bored of you Sophie Hatter. You're special."

"Don't say that," Sophie said.

"You were always special," Howl continued, "Since the day I met you, I've wanted to keep you close. I tried everyway to break your curse when you were an old woman and when I couldn't I did my best to get rid of your aches and pains in hopes to make you happier. My stomach was in knots when I found out that you went to the Waste to confront the Witch on your own. I need you here to nag me and to stick your nose where it doesn't belong, to scold me, to praise me, to love me and only me. I wanted to kill that guy who kissed you the other day. And I wanted to kiss you harder to remove any trace of him from your lips. I wooed woman after woman to find out what love was. It wasn't until I got back my heart did I realize I had it all along. And who was it that gave me back my heart, but the woman it beats for. Please believe me, Sophie. Please."

Sophie didn't say anything. She was trying so hard not to turn around and kiss his tears away. She was starting to believe him. She was losing the battle. Was the battle worth it? Didn't she say earlier that if she could just have Howl for a little while then the heartbreak would be worth it? She could have him now and deal with the consequences later. She could have him now. He felt so nice wrapped around her. His muscles were strong and chest firm. She could feel his breath on her ear and he smelled like flowers.

"What was the spell?" Sophie asked after a moment.

"It makes a person crave the one they love. They feel hot and become dazed and out of control of themselves," Howl replied.

"You can't take it away?" Sophie questioned. She could feel Howl's muscles tense.

"The only way to make it stop is for the person to get what they want," Howl said.

"And I want you. Do you want me?" Sophie asked quietly.

"Yes, but…" Howl said.

"What was the spell called?" Sophie interrupted.

"Love's Desire," Howl answered. Sophie held her breath for a moment. She was scared. She clearly loved Howl, but what if he didn't love her. Was she prepared for that? There was only one way to find out.

"Everyday a warm embrace," Sophie remembered the spell easily, "a simple stare on a handsome face. In thy heart there is a fire. Now from thy heart that one desires. Giveth thy heart, body, and soul. Be free thou heart. So it shall be. Burn like coal." A ping ran through Howl's head.

"Why did you do that?" Howl asked. Sophie took a deep breath.

"To prove to myself I can handle whatever the outcome may be," she said.

"I was going to prove myself you know," Howl said a little annoyed.

"Well this is an easier way to prove it," Sophie replied, "I'll find out your true feelings regardless of how…" Suddenly Sophie felt Howl's lips on her neck.

"I told you my feelings," he growled, "Now you've gotten yourself into a situation neither of us has the ability to back out of, not that I'd want to."

"Who says I want to either?" Sophie asked with a sigh as Howl moved up her neck to behind her ear.

"My sweet innocent Sophie would be blushing a deep red right now for not for the spell," Howl whispered in her ear. Sophie shivered. He was right. She'd be way to shy normally, but right now she wanted nothing more than to connect with Howl. Sophie turned her head so their mouths could meet. As soon as their lips touched Howl ravished Sophie's lips. Sophie wrenched herself from Howl's arms and turned to face him without breaking contact. She pushed him down with his back on the floor and straddled his waste. Sophie broke the kiss and stared into Howl's dazed eyes with her own.

"Tell me you love me," she whispered. Howl only smiled. He snapped his fingers. Suddenly a chorus of his voice rang out throughout the room.

"I love you!"

"Let me hear it from your own lips," Sophie said rolling her eyes. Howl chuckled and pulled her down on top of him so his lips brushed her ear.

"I love you," he cooed before tracing her outer ear with his tongue. Sophie groaned. Howl snapped his fingers again. The buttons down the back of Sophie's dress popped open at the same time.

"I guess you are a useful wizard," Sophie murmured. Howl just winked at her. He pulled the top of her dress down so it rested in a bunch around her hips. Howl simply stared for a moment. Howl was cheated out of this sight last night. He could only let his eyes play on the skin of her back. Now he could drink in her front. He reached up and cupped each of her breasts in his hands. Sophie gasped. He could see the slightest bit of a blush form on her cheeks, but her dazed eyes and slack jaw showed none of her embarrassment. Sophie placed her hands over his as he started to knead her breasts. She groaned softly.

"You're beautiful, Sophie," Howl said. Sophie started to rock her hips as she straddled Howl's waist. She could feel his growing member press into her rear. She looked down at him and frowned. Her top half was bare, but he still wore his lavish suit. Sophie spied a loose thread where his long sleeve met his shoulder. She a few silent words and then pulled at the thread. With one quick pull of the thread the suit jacket and the shirt underneath fell to rags off Howl's body.

"Beautiful and talented, my dear Sophie," Howl laughed. Sophie ignored his compliment and placed her hands where she once had when she returned his heart, She could feel it beat wildly in his chest. She leaned down and kissed the skin above his heart. Howl gasped as she sent open mouth kisses all over his chest.

"Hold on," Howl suddenly said. A wave of rejection suddenly washed over Sophie as she froze mid-kiss. Howl wrapped his arms around Sophie and sat up.

"Howl what…?" Sophie questioned.

"The floor is not the proper place to do this," Howl replied. He stood up with Sophie in his arms. Sophie quickly wrapped her legs around him in order not to fall. He left Sophie's room and walked down the hall into his room. When the door opened Sophie was surprised at the tidiness. She didn't even see any spiders. Sophie didn't have time to be impressed. Howl dropped her onto his plush bed and grabbed ahold of her skirts. He swiftly yanked her dress the rest of the way off her body and tossed it over his shoulder. Sophie shuddered as he looked at her like a starved man would a piece of steak. He quickly took off his shoes and socks and dropped his pants. Sophie couldn't help, but gape. She never actually imagined what Howl's member would look like. She wouldn't allow her imagination to get that far. Nothing her imagination could come up with could compare.

"No spells here, darling," Howl said proudly when he notice Sophie's stare. Sophie rolled her eyes. Howl climbed onto the bed with Sophie. He kissed her softly. Sophie was surprised at how slow he kissed her and how much demand was behind that slow kiss. Sophie imitated that same kind of demand. She urged him to deepen the kiss and he did. She opened her mouth so Howl's tongue could dive into and explore her wet cavern. Howl's hands found Sophie's breast again. Her back arched into him as he rubbed them roughly while pinching her nipples between his middle and ring fingers. Sophie broke the kiss with a gasp and Howl moved on to suck on the nape of her neck. He kissed down her neck and then her shoulder. He licked at her collarbone and planted how kisses in her chest. Sophie squeaked when Howl reached her breasts. He chuckled at the sound she made. He wrapped his lips around one nipple and pulled and sucked hard. Sophie couldn't keep her voice back as her nipples became more and more sensitive with Howl's attacks.

As Howl continued his assaults on Sophie's breast, his hand wandered down to the apex of her legs. He pushed her legs open and ran a finger up her slit. Sophie yelped in surprise.

"You're already so wet Sophie," Howl murmured into her cleavage, "Is this all for me?" Sophie tried to control her breathing, but Howl repeated his actions causing Sophie to yelp again.

"You shouldn't hold back, Sophie," Howl said, "Let your voice sing. Let if free. What do you think your voice would sound like if I did this?" Howl pushed a finger into her opening. Sophie cried out in ecstasy.

"Good girl," Howl said as he kissed down her stomach, dipping his tongue into her navel. Howl started to pump his finger in and out. Sophie squirmed. The more she squirmed though the faster he pumped.

"Howl," Sophie said through gritted teeth. Howl kissed the inside of her thigh.

"Howl," Sophie repeated. He licked Sophie's clit, earning a pleasure filled shriek from her. He continued the action as he pushed a second finger in and pumped even faster.

"Howl, Howl, Howl," Sophie cried almost like a mantra.

"What's the matter Sophie?" Howl questioned. Sophie took a moment to catch her breath while Howl's sweet torture was momentarily lax. Sophie grabbed Howl's shoulder and flipped them over so she laid on top of him. She slammed her lips against his as he vigorously pumped his fingers. Sophie moaned into their kiss. This only further aroused Howl. She was getting closer. He could feel it. She was starting to squeeze his fingers in a sporadic way.

"Howl," Sophie said into a kiss.

"Do you need to cum, my dear Sophie," Howl asked. Sophie nodded. Howl stopped his moments. Sophie all, but glared at him. Howl chuckled.

"Calm down," he whispered. Suddenly Howl pierced her. Sophie gasped which turned into a moan.

"No barrier?" Howl questioned.

"I'm not a virgin," Sophie said quietly. Howl frowned as he started to pump up into her. Sophie quickly learned his rhythm and worked to meet his pace.

"Who was it?" Howl asked after a moment. He slowed down a bit.

"Who was what?" Sophie questioned, annoyance in her voice from his slow pace.

"Who was the man who took your virginity," Howl demanded.

"Oh, Howl lets not talk about that," Sophie complained. Howl stopped his movements and gave Sophie a pouty look.

"Honestly, Howl," Sophie scowled down at him, "You're being childish."

"I want to know," Howl said. Sophie gave a desperate little wiggle, but to no avail. She sighed, defeated.

"I was fifteen. His name was Peter Feldman, a boy I went to school with. It was only once and neither of us knew what we were doing so it wasn't even any good," Sophie said, "Happy?"

"Yes," Howl said as he thrusted upward. Sophie screamed as he suddenly moved faster than any normal man should. Sophie was being built up again. She started her mantra of saying Howl's name. She could feel a tightness start to grow.

"Howl," she moaned.

"Cum for me, Sophie," Howl demanded. He was already so close, but he wanted to cum with his love.

"Howl," Sophie whined. Howl reached down between them and pinched her clit and that did it. Sophie's tightness released all at once and she screamed his name. Howl let go of his on orgasm with a low moan.

"Sophie," he sighed. They both heard a quiet ping in their heads. Sophie looked up at Howl with a blush. She was laying naked in his arms with a layer of each other's sweat covering the both of them. Their lovemaking hung in the air and she cold feel his heart slowly start to beat normally underneath her hand. But suddenly Sophie was self-conscious.

"I love you, Sophie Hatter," Howl said.

"I love you too," Sophie mumbled.

"What was that?" Howl said. Sophie blushed and hid her face in the crook of Howl's neck. He grabbed her chin and tilted it toward him.

"I love you, Howl," Sophie said a little more clearly this time. There were tears in her eyes. Howl frowned. She still didn't believe him.

"Have this, Sophie" Howl said as a small box appeared in his hand. He handed it over to Sophie and she opened it.

"A ring?" Sophie said sounding confused.

"Be by my side forever," Howl whispered in her hair.

"Like your wife?" Sophie questioned.

"Yes," Howl said simply.

"Will I get to use your real name?" Sophie questioned.

"Jenkins?" Howl questioned, "Sophie Jenkins? Don't you think Sophie Pendragon sounds much better?" Sophie just frowned at him.

"Fine fine," Howl sighed, "You may call yourself whatever you want as long as you're mine." Sophie smiled and pulled herself up to kiss him. Then she settled herself comfortably against Howl's chest with her new ring on her finger.

"Remind me to turn him into a toad," Howl said suddenly.

"Who?" Sophie questioned.

"This Peter Feldman fellow, for playing with my Sophie before I could get to her," he replied.

"Howl," Sophie scolded, "You will do no such thing!"

Mrs. Feldman yawned. She turned in her bed to wish her husband a good morning, but screamed instead. There on his pillow where his head should have rested sat a toad.

"Gribbit," it told her.

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