Chapter Four: La Femme Bulma


Vejita strolled up the main street of Padua's stately villa quarter. He spotted it up ahead; the sturdy iron gates of the estate of his fiancee. Fiancee, Vejita snorted. He, himself, was still shocked with the notion of the whole thing. But what did one expect from the most elegible bachelor in Italia ? Vejita glanced at the trees without seeing them; he breathed the fresh morning air without smelling the youth and the energy that hummed with each particle; his eyes sought the pillowy puffs of clouds dancing in the clear spring sky, yet he did not let their natural beauty enhance his soul. Such was the way he regarded womenkind. He saw them, touched them, let their 'come hither' smiles beckon to him. But he saw none of their radiance, felt none of their gentle caresses as they tempted to enchant him with their womanly grace. He knew nothing but the empty shell he believed them to be; a doll set up for his pleasure. And pleasure him they did... As a wolf drinks pleasure from a midnight kill; the raw, warm blood penetrating its teeth, a drunken pleasure to be had.

He did not think himself ready for marriage... nor did he presume to be unready for it. It came like the rising of the tide to sweep him up whole and deliver him to paradise. Paradise... That was what Bulma's dowry would bequeath him. He was already a very wealthy man by the modern standards but his fiancee's marriage price would make him a king. Vejita shrugged it off like all things that came his way of late.

"I am officially engaged," he sighed heavily. He had not thought of it at the time, of the day when his little charade would end. When he would have won his bet against Signor Hortensio, he would be stuck with the shrew for life. Signor Hortensio knew. "And he played me for a fool," Vejita muttered under his breath. Still, there was much game left to be made with his rodent of a fiancee. He would milk her for all the entertainment she was worth.

Later, if she wanted nothing to do with him, that was fine. He would find other sources of entertainment...and he doubted she would mind. Perhaps, the bitter scold will find her own diversion , he mused. He chuckled to himself, earning a few stares of bewilderment from passers-by. "The shrew finding a bedwarmer... perhaps a young stable boy?" He chuckled once again. "Oh, how rich," he ground out in his husky voice. He continued on down the beaten path to the grand estate of his fiancee...

Bulma sat quietly at the breakfast table, observing the servants clear away the empty dishes. Her mother and father had already left to parts unknown in the Briefs estate, no doubt to take advantage of the bright spring day. Chi Chi muttered something about impromptu Latin lessons before dashing from the day; destination: the back garden. Bulma rolled her eyes. "I don't see anything fascinating about being outside." "I quite agree," a voice behind her stated.

Bulma whipped around her chair. "Signor Hortensio," she breathed. "You gave me quite a start." Her eyes narrowed in suspicion. He chuckled; she found it most displeasing to her hearing. "I did not mean it, m'lady." "Of course," she huffed. "Chi Chi is not here at the moment." Bulma caught her tongue before she divulged where her young cousin was biding her time...and with whom. Oh, let this nitwit figure it out on his own. "Oh, no. I would rather add pleasure to my morning by simply being in your presence," he said, giving an oily grin. Bulma shuddered though her body remained immobile. "I do not think you would enjoy my companionship, Signor Hortensio. I am quite disagreeable and prone to fits of violence," she stated cooly. He merely chuckled again. It was then that Bulma decided she did not like this man at all, no. And God save Chi Chi should he continue to pursue her.

"I have heard of you, shrew... In fact," he began. "It was I who turned the tamer's nose in your direction..." "The tamer?" Bulma inquired softly, for truly, she was lost. "Your fiance, I believe?" Bulma's eyes narrowed once again, becoming mere slits of cold steel. "Oh yes, I believe my fiance mentioned your name once. A passing acquaintance, he told me." Signor Hortensio did not waver as he stood before the infamous 'Shrew.' She was a rare and passive beauty, nothing he could not search for elsewhere... but her 'passive' beauty had a fire that burned within it. He brushed an empty hand against her cheek, finding it slightly warm to the touch and as smooth as porcelain. He knelt before her.

Bulma took this opportunity to size up her opponent. His features were not masculine like Signor Petruchio's but more soft like a child's. His hair was slick it seemed, from toils he had not participated in. And his body reeked like the humid updraft of the fields, bringing the manly stench of body and labor. Bulma took a wild guess that Signor Hortensio had not participated in any of the rigors of the field. That seemed highly unlikely. The ungodly stench that permeated from his body was wholly unnatural and Bulma had the sudden inclination to gag. The inclination only grew worse as he neared...

Signor Hortensio now knelt before her. With what he deemed a charming smile was plastered on his face. "You and I know, Bulma, that your good fortune of late is my doing. So I believe a little compensation is in order." He finished by placing of his hands upon her knee. Bulma growled. "You will not address me so informally. You and I are nothing close to friends and so you will treat me with the due respect of a passing acquaintance, Signor Hortensio," she spat. She pushed her chair away from him and stood up. She shook with a fervent anger that pulsated through her whole body. But before Bulma could attempt to leave, Hortensio had latched onto her arm. "Now, now... be nice, dear shrew. I always get what I want. I will have your young cousin Chi Chi as my bride... but for now, I shall enjoy tasting of her dear older relation. I always wondered about you... Your cheek is not cold but pleasantly warm. I wonder if the rest of you is this way..." He leaned in ever so slightly to Bulma's quivering body. She would not cry. She would not show him her fear. He could not beat it out of her, all her emotions. She stiffened visibly as he brought his face closer to her. Her eyes did not waver from his. Her lips did not part. If he had her, all he would have would be an empty shell. For no one, no man could ever see Bulma, the woman that she was. No one...

They were interrupted by the deep, heavy cough from the doorway of the dining room. "Oh, I'm sorry. Is this a bad time?" Vejita asked from the doorway. Bulma almost let a sigh of relief escape her lips before pulling her arm from Hortensio's loosened grasp. She glared once more at her "assalter" before turning to refuge in her room. Vejita smirked as he walked in, leaning a hip against the table. "I would not have thought it so soon that we meet again," Vejita said as he watched the other man turn around to face him. What are you up to, you disgusting little man ? he asked himself. But Vejita, always the talented gentleman, kept his face neutral, concealing his animosity with a congenial air. "You seemed to have frightened away my fiancee." Hortensio regarded Vejita for a moment but it was all he needed to judge what was "safe" around this man. "Oh, we were just having us a little chat. You know, wishing her happiness in her marriage... no matter how empty it may be." Vejita scoffed. "And what would you know?" "A great deal more than the infamous bachelor of Verona..." He gave a 'hmph' then made to walk out the door. Vejita stepped in his path. "I wouldn't go to the back garden if I were you... you might not see something you like." Hortensio raised his eyebrow at this enigmatic comment. He brushed it off, then sidestepping around Vejita he went to the door. "And Signor Hortensio," he called over his shoulder. Hortensio stopped short of the threshold, waiting for Vejita's words. "Stay away from my woman." With that, Signor Hortensio darted from the dining room in search of more pressing engagements. While Vejita took off to locate his frightened dove...

He found just as he expected, in her room. Though he had forgotten just how far that particular corridor was away from the rest of the house. She was lying listless upon her settee, head draped over the top, staring out the window absently. She did not register his presence and he felt no need for her too. He sat upon on the velveteen couch a few feet from the settee. He cleared his throat once hoping to break the stifling silence. "What do you want?" she whispered, never turning to meet his gaze. "Only to see you," he said with a small laugh. "You're wasting your time." "Nonsense," he replied, brushing aside her comment. "I never waste my time. What precious little time we have," he said as he walked over to her. He noted mildly that she had the stain of one long tear drying upon her pale cheek. "He frightened you?" he inquired harshly. "No," she shook her head furiously, swiping a hand to collect the renegade tear. "I was not frightened. Only you have the power to frighten me," she growled at him. He made a noise of discontent at her comment. Sitting at her feet upon the settee, he folded his hands between his knees. "Then why are you crying?" "I am not crying," she ground out between her teeth. He rolled his eyes. "Do you honestly think me stupid, woman?" he grunted. She shook her head, her long aqua curls that had been painstakingly pinned upon her head were now gathered frantically about her shoulders. "Leave... you don't care." Once more he sighed, more frustrated than ever. "Maybe I don't but it annoys me to see you carry on this way." "What way?!" she snapped. "I simply wish to be left alone! Is that so difficult, Signor Petruchio?" In that instant she leaped from her settee, almost racing across her sitting room to the large paneled doors of her bed chamber.

She flung them wide open. Vejita stormed in after her. "Stop being such a child!" he ordered. His eyes searched the darkened room after finding that he could not locate her. He crossed into the drafty chambers with its high ceilings and sparse furnishings. A simple four poster bed accented with drapes, another velveteen couch in a luxurious rouge color, and a tall ancient cherry-stained amoire were all that inhabited the dwelling. He took slow deliberate steps along the marble tiling, perking his ears to any sound echoing the vast room. She was nowhere in the confines of her bed chamber as he had searched ever square inch, including the vast bathing room adjacent to her bedroom. As he turned to leave, his fingers tracing the gentle lines of the sandstone tub, he noticed the small door leading outdoors had been left lightly ajar. "Turtledove..." he whispered smugly as he stuck his head out of the window. He found her leaning against the rod iron railing of the porch that spanned around the house. Her light azure hair blew over her face as the wind ran with more speed. Her eyes searched as if desparate, the quiet little villa below with its flickering lights resembling a cloud of fireflies... He came up behind her and put his hands on her hips. She stiffened slightly then lifted her arms to remove his own. "Shh, shh, turtledove. Let's not fight now." She placed her arms back on the iron railing though she was still stiff to his touch. "Did he hurt you?" he whispered into her ear. For a few moments it seemed like she would not answer. But then she turned her cold blue eyes to meet his and her lips parted to speak. "He's a horrible man." His grasp tightened around her waist. "I know," he replied softly. "I am not some animal to be had, Signor Petruchio. Not by you, not by him. Not by anyone." He looked at her queerly. "I had thought that women adored being possessed." She turned her head away as if brushing his remark away like water. "Some women crave the feeling of security that possession brings... like Chi Chi." As if the young girl had heard her name being called, her joyous laughter rang out across the main green.

"However," she continued. "I am a person. I am no less than a man, no less than you," she said pointedly. He scowled at her righteous remark. Silly notions this woman has. What could Vejita say, what could he say that would make this woman believe in him? He was honest in saying that he would never love her. But that did not mean he would stand by and watch as another man cut into her. Obviously, whatever Hortensio had said or done had affected her strong will greatly, leaving her the shell of sadness standing before him. "I told him to stay away from you," he said as he pressed his face into her hair. "If it would please you, I would rid this earth of him." "You would?" she asked, gazing up at him with her shining blue eyes. Vejita's face softened slightly. So this is the soft grace that we call woman... "Of course," he replied. "I will keep my end of the bargain as you would keep yours," he gently reminded her. Bulma's stern countenance soon returned at the mentioned of her "engagement" to Signor Petruchio. The farce, the reality of her impending marriage bore down heavily upon her heart. She felt his hands once again caress her sides in empty comfort.

Vejita looked down once again into her face. It was as smooth as stone as she stared out at the stretched countryside. The villa quarter contained a few estates besides the Briefs'. Two of those estates could be seen like tiny dollhouses on the facing valley wall. And below sprawled the vast yet quaint collection of peasant homes and small shoppes. All clustering together on the outlying land of a neighboring estate, close to the vinyards. He brushed a hand against her cheek. She turned to look at him queerly. "What?" he asked. "You also..." she whispered to the wind. Vejita's eyes took on a look of concern, searching her face for any meaning behind her cryptic statement. A few moments passed before he pushed himself away from her. "I am to meet Kakarotto within the hour. I must go." She nodded dismissing him. Vejita regarded again from his place by the doors leading back inside. This weak, distressed nature was not her at all. No doubt later she would return to her usual wrathful self. He nodded in assurance. Then left.

All Vejita could think as he left that compound was how utterly confusing females were. Especially my betrothed... Honestly, the woman was unreadable. She seemed pleased with his concern, though she tried to hide it. That much he was sure of... yet, when he had mentioned their arrangement, he saw that the thought caused her much pain. "She agreed," he scoffed. "So why should she be unhappy?" He shook his head as turned on to the main road leading to La Bella Fresca . Still, a part of him was angered that another man had had that sort of effect on her. She had said that Vejita was that only one to frighten her yet that rat, Hortensio, had illicited a reaction from her that Vejita had never gotten. All he got was her rage and her contempt....never her sadness or her despair. He didn't know whether he should be jealous of her "assaltor" or enraged with him... Or perhaps I should congratulate him? Vejita grinned. To hell with these endless stipulations, let's get drunk!


Two hours later, Vejita was situated at, rather half lying over the bar at the inn. His overcoat lay discarded beneath his bar stool and Vejita noticed some blurry figure stoop to pick it up. "H--hey! That's mine, y'bastard!" Kakarotto shook his head in disbelief. His level-headed, clever companion was extremely drunk. Heck, he was about to fall asleep at the counter. Kakarotto put a reassuring hand on Vejita's shoulder only to have it swatted away. Kakarotto hefted Vejita up off the bar, putting one arm around his torso to let Vejita lean on his shoulder. He stumbled up the stairs to their rooms with Vejita mumbling incoherently.


About three hours later, Vejita opened his eyes. His head felt heavy and clogged and he had an overwhelming urge to relieve himself, which he did in his chamber pot. Just as he finished and stumbled back into bed, Kakarotto entered the room with supper. "So, you're awake, my friend?" "No," Vejita mumbled. "I'm sleepwalking, you idiot." "In that case, mind if I eat your dinner?" Vejita snatched his plate away from his companion before Kakarotto had a chance to follow through with his plan. "So what happened, Vejita? You were almost passed out at the bar," the young man inquired. "Obviously, I was getting drunk," his older friend retorted. "What for?" "Because I felt like it, nitwit!" "That's not very gentlemanly, Vejita. I doubt Lady Bulma would appreciate that if you did it again." "Bah, what do I care what the woman thinks?" "Well, she is your fiancee..." "And my future wife by law, as everyone keeps reminding me." "Everyone?" "You... and that foolish man responsible for this whole mess!" "You mean the man who was going to court Chi Chi?" "I don't think he has plans of stopping, Kakarotto--" "Well that's all fine and well but I already asked Chi Chi to marry me and she accepted." Vejita gave Kakarotto a withering glance. "Well, congratulations. You've been welcomed into the ranks of the miseable and the wretched." Kakarotto watched his bitter friend with concern. "Really, Vejita, just because you're not content with the thought of being married---well, maybe some men want to spend the rest of their lives with the women they love--" "LOVE?! Love, Kakarotto," Vejita spat, "Has nothing to do with it? There's either something to gain or there isn't If there isn't, then you're wasting your time!" "No wonder you were a bachelor." "But no more, Kakarotto. I've been tied down to a simpering snide little female who does nothing but flail her vicious little tongue." Kakarotto gave a small smirk. "And what happened to 'silencing her with your tongue ,' hmm?"

Vejita looked at his companion blankly for a moment then replied Kakarotto's smirk with one of his own. "Of course, my friend. How true to the point..." he grated out in a cold tone. Kakarotto, turned to change the subject, hoping to the lighten the chilly air that suddenly pervaded the quaters. "Signor Marettio is having a small dinner party at his estate tonight. Of course, rumors of our arrival in Padua have reached him..." Vejita was broken from his mischievous dark thoughts and he turned to listen to Kakarotto's announcement. He finished the other man's sentence. "....And we are cordially invited to attend since we go back quite a while..." Kakarotto nodded his ascent. "Yes, Marettio's son is back from his scholaring in France. And Marettio, Sr. thinks it would be good for young Marettio if he had a few young men his own age there." "How old is Marettio's son?" "Only a few years younger than us, I believe." "You know how I hate getting stuck babysitting, Kakarotto." "I know...but there will be an open buffet," Kakarotto hinted, his voice tone raising to pique Vejita's interest. Vejita shook his head. "You and I are both well enough off that we do not need some old man's charity dinner spreads." "But think of all the lovely young ladies that will need our company, old friend." Vejita looked shocked. "Kakarotto, so there is a lecherous side to the innocent soul." The young man gave a hearty laugh. "We need to get it out of our systems before we are married anyway. Light flirting never did any man harm." Vejita smirked at his friend's comment. "Kakarotto, I believe you have been around me too long." Vejita's companion put a hand behind his head and laugh. "You know, I think so too, Vejita."


But mid afternoon, Bulma had fully recovered from her morning's depressing event. She was back to her spiteful, cold self and bided her time away from the cheery household, finding assylum in the catacombs of the library. She perused various titles before selecting one and spreading it before her on the large oak reading table with its carved detailings and finely crafted lion's feet. Though she was deeply immensed in her reading, she did not fail to notice the squeak of the library door as it opened nor the telltale soft, clipped treading of her intruder. She heard the visitor draw closer and she suspected that her intruder did not think that she knew of their presence. When the "silent" intruder was but two feet away, Bulma slammed her book closed and turned around.

"Hello, Chi Chi," she said with fake joviality. Chi Chi grinned at her older cousin. "Well, I was just--" Bulma held up her hand to silence the bubbling young girl. "Party?" she asked. Chi Chi nodded enthusiastically, her thoughts did not linger to question how her cousin had known. "Tonight Signor Marettio is holding a light dinner party because his son has come back from France!" "Yes, that so," Bulma asked, interested. It was not the party that so much caught her interest but that she was intrigued by the chance to divulge some knowledge from the young Marettio. Mentally, Bulma rolled her eyes as memories of her neighboring young suitor came flooding back. Before he left for France, Marettio--actually, when he had come seeking Bulma's hand, he had no plans to go to France. Needless to say, Bulma found him naive and gullible, all to eagar to please and mentally unchallenging. After his encounter with 'the Shrew,' Marettio, Jr. had made plans to spend a season studying and touring in the neighboring country of France. It had no been Lady Bulma's goal to make him shy away in fright but then... he had been so awfully weak. Bulma sighed. Her hopes of pulling useful information from the now cultured young man shattered before her eyes when she recounted her cruelty. Too bad...

Chi Chi had been chattering away merrily this entire time about the delectable array of foods that would be present, the romantic setting, the pleasure of the company of Padua's elite society, her engagement to Kakarotto... This last statement made Bulma falter, almost falling out of her chair. "WHAT?!" "I said that I heard that Lady Gabriella was having a new gown imported from--" "No, before that." "Oh," Chi Chi giggled. "I'm engaged to Signor Lucentio." Bulma's eyes grew wide. "When did this happen?" "Oh, this morning, after I left you for the back garden. I went back to find you to tell you the wonderful news but you had disappeared." Bulma's face grew cold as she remembered where she had been. "Bulma? Are you alright?" "Just fine, little one. A little flustered is all." Chi Chi giggled mirthfully again. "Your mother was when I told you, but she adjusted to the idea rather quickly. She even suggested that you and I should have own weddings together! Then we could invite the Montevaria Family, of course, the entire clan of Count Venellini, and, oh, we can't forget Lady Maria Palatta and her two daughters--" Bulma shook her head, almost pleadingly. "Chi Chi, I don't think I want a formal wedding." Chi Chi looked at her, shocked. "What?! Bulma, you can't possible---oh, your mother would be so upset! I know you consider yourself a modern girl, but please be reasonable, cousin." Bulma's face never wavered as she listened to her silly little relation beg of her to be what everyone else wanted her to. If only Chi Chi knew what she was asking.... For Bulma to parade around in a display of fake happiness, to make the dreams of others come true while her own heart felt rotten and disgusted.

Chi Chi stared at Bulma after her short rant and, realizing she had "lost" her cousin, decided to broach upon a different subject. "So... what are you going to wear tonight?" "Who said I was going?" Bulma snapped hotly. "Well I only assumed..." "You assumed wrong, an action which you seem to be doing a lot lately," Bulma growled menacingly. Chi Chi swallowed a lump in her throat. "Bulma, it wouldn't be right if you didn't go--" "You mean you would miss my company?" Chi Chi nodded eagarly, completely missing the sarcasm so obviously apparent in Bulma's statement. Bulma rolled her eyes. She decided to play along to Chi Chi's naivety. "So, what are you going to wear?" Chi Chi beamed at her cousin. "Well, I was thinking of going into town to find something nice..." "Did you not buy some things a few days ago?" Bulma asked, raising an eyebrow wearily. Chi Chi blushed. "Yes, well, I thought perhaps--" "Perhaps what?" Bulma asked naughtily with a mischievous grin on her face. "Well, since I will be married soon..." she stopped her shy statement with a stamp of her heel. "I want some shameless flirting before I--" Bulma erupted into a fit of laughter. "Oh, Chi Chi, you are a riot. Surely, you jest. The 'fair and innocent' Chi Chi planning to go behind her fiance's back?" Bulma smirked. "Oh stop, Bulma. You know I did not mean it like that..." But her reasoning could not halt Bulma's laughs. "You really are horrible sometimes!" Chi Chi yelled. Bulma wiped imaginary tears from her eyes. "Only sometimes, little one?" Bulma asked, sounding disappointed. Chi Chi huffed, crossing her arms under her chest in protest of Bulma's mocking. Bulma rolled her eyes at the younger woman's childish behavior. She grabbed one of Chi Chi's elbows and proceeded to the door. Chi Chi looked up at the woman. "Where are we going?" "To find us something simply deliscious to wear, of course," Bulma replied matter-of-factly. Chi Chi gave a small laugh of joy before breaking from Bulma's hold to fetch her purse from her room.

As they reconvened at the front of the iron gates, Chi Chi pulled a few stray wisps of dark hair from her face. "Did I forget to mention, Bulma," she began and Bulma looked up from making sure she had all the contents in her purse. "Mention what?" she asked absently. "Tonight is a masquerade party!"


A peacock-masked young woman giggled as she pulled her counterpart--- a female figure dressed in all white with a simple white feather mask--- into the grand courtyard of Signor Marettio's estate. The italian villa was tastefully decorated with romantic paper lanterns, flickering in the gentle breeze, and an array of mid-spring flora placed in an exuberant arrangements completed the scene. There were groups of other costumed ladies and gentlemen chatting amicably in the light of the dying sun. Bulma sighed and made her way towards the refreshment table. Bulma had always been a wallflower. It simply was not in her nature to smile coquettishly and bat her lashes until a victim of a man took the courage to sweep her onto the main floor. Bulma enjoyed nothing of these social gatherings. 'Ridiculous entrapment arranged by withering elders fearing for their legacy,' Bulma had once called it. Her mother had then berated her for calling them "withering elders." Bulma settled against the lush vines of the inner wall of the courtyard. She did not hear the footsteps until the man stood before her.

"What is a lovely lady such as yourself doing hiding amongst the foliage?" Bulma turned to see a young man wearing deep browns and reds with two ears of fur sitting erect on his wavy auburn hair. Young Marettio... Bulma knew him from his cocky grin and burning hazel eyes. She had been cause for those eyes to weep. "How would you know if I was lovely or not? You cannot see my face," she said in a haughty voice while turning away from him. He grinned wolfishly and sidestepped to be within her view once more. "But I could always take an educated guess." "How much education does one need in this game?" asked the woman in the white mask with a bored tone. "Well," he began. "The women of these parts are from the shallow side of the beauty pool... You, I have not seen before." Bulma raised an eyebrow. "What if I've seen you?" she inquired. This comment only fueled him further. "So you noticed me, lovely one? But how could you not? In fact, this soiree is being held in my honor." "Lucky you," she mused, her lip twitching slightly. "Will you dance with me?" he asked. "What?" He gave her a simple smile. "Will you dance with me?" At first Bulma was speechless. No one had asked her to dance befoer but-- Before Bulma could ponder the request any longer, she found herself swept onto the sandstone flooring of the main courtyard by the young Mario Marettio, dressed as a fox. Mentally Bulma rolled her eyes. He really thinks too highly of himself. Bulma allowed Marettio to gently grasp her right hand in his left and he absently let his other hand wander to rest on her waist. She had to resist the urgent calling of the bile in her throat.

Marettio turned to look at her, throwing her an arrogant roguish grin. He noticed in the pale light she appeared even more porcelain-like than he first noticed. Perhaps it is from being so near to one as handsome as I... Bulma was lost in thoughts, wishing her mind to wander so that she could be anywhere but here. She did not notice the large group of people that just crowded in through the front entrance. More importantly, she did not notice the two men that were jostling in with that group.

Marettio loosened his grip on Bulma when he felt someone tap his shoulder. Bulma feeling the release of his evil grasp, broke out of her reverie. Marettio came face to face with a set of midnight black eyes, the rest of the face was shrouded in a gold mask with a matching golden crown perched atop his head. His attire was the deepest black, almost allowing him to merge with the dark night sky. A violent red cape fluttered behind him. "Let me guess," said Marettio jovially. "A Prince?" "No," the man said "A King." His deep voice carried on the gentle evening air. Bulma knew immediately who Marettio was up against, but thought it in her best interest not to clue in the arrogant fool. Vejita noticed Marettio's hand resting casually on Bulma's hip. A deep burn pierced his body and his eyes snapped at the young man.

"I would release my fiancee if you know what is good for you," Vejita warned in a cool voice. Marettio hesitantly pulled his hand away from Bulma's body beofre fulling turning to face Vejita. Bulma ignored the flustered Marettio and chose to watch Vejita like a hawk. Marettio clucked his tongue. "Leaving a beautiful young woman alone. For shame." Vejita's eyes narrowed menacingly. Bulma saw that at any moment the situation could become explosive so she put a reassuring arm on Marettio and then Vejita. "Mario, Signor Vejita had no idea that I was going to be here tonight." Mario Marettio turned to look at her. "You call your betrothed on such formal terms." "Well, we are not so known to each other," Bulma admitted stonily. "But I do not see that that is any of your concern." Marettio turned a roudy shade of red. "Whatever you wish, nightingale." Vejita smirked at the young man then crossed over to stand behind his fiancee. "Turtledove," Vejita said. "What?" Marettio asked as he turned to leave. "Not a nightingale, you fool. She is a turtledove."

"Clever costume, little one." Bulma shuddered as she felt his breath hit her neck. Breaking away from his hold, she turned to face him. She refused to let him play her like he did other women. He would learn that his "sexual prowess" counted little to nothing where she was concerned. "I was pressed for a costume. This was the only one I could think of." "I'm greatly honored that you would like of me in a time of need." "Don't flatter yourself," she spat. "But I have you to do that for me..." She rolled her eyes. "You are impossible." She curled her lip. "Perhaps Marettio would have been a better suit." Vejita gripped her arm suddenly. "Then run along to him. I'm sure he would love to have an idle twit like yourself for an arm piece." Bulma shuddered. She would be NO man's trophy wife! "What now, Vejita?" He turned to look at the raucous crowd. Kakarotto had obviously found Chi Chi and was looking quite hurt and befuddled at the way she was dismissing the many man that had gathered around her.

Vejita slipped his arm around Bulma's waist, pulling her forward with him. "Care to dance?" She shrugged in differently, causing the light tulle wrapped around her shoulders to bob gracefully in the breeze. Unlike Signor Marettio, Vejita's grip was strong and sure while Marettio's had been weak and slippery. Vejita guided her deftly through the crowded courtyard in perfect rhythm to the orchestra. Not once did Bulma feel the unwelcome joustle of a dancing couple nor did she experience the pinch on her toes of some overly zealous dancer. Vejita seemed to know what was going on everywhere while keeping his eyes bored into her own. Bulma felt a bit lightheaded after many minutes of straight concentration, trying not to break the hard stare between herself and her partner. But finally she relented and looked away, she could still feel his heaty gaze on her face. His hand tightened on her waist as the song drew to a close and suddenly he whipped her around so that her back was pressed gently into his chest.

Bulma heard a few claps from nearby guests that had been watching the dancing. Looking up she saw a few familiar faces in the crowd like the widow Signor Marissa Ortelli and... one of the young ladies standing by the widow started walking towards Bulma. Bulma looked at the girl with a suspicious and quizzical eye. She looked so familiar... "Lady Bulma, am I correct?" The lady was about Bulma's height with rich honey blonde hair and light green eyes. She wore a blue velour dress with trappings and a matching blue mask. Bulma nodded her ascent. The blonde woman noticed Bulma's confusion so she raced to clarify. "Lady Michele Vernanci," she stated. Bulma sighed. "I do believe I recall you." The other girl nodded eagarly. "Last summer your father invited our family to the summer villa..." "Oh, yes," Bulma replied, her voice betraying much of her annoyance. Vejita chuckled. "Be nice, duchess," he growled playfully. Michele's eyes sparkled delightfully as she spotted the handsome man standing behind Bulma. "Oh, Bulma! Who is this?" "I am her fiance," he answered before Bulma could open her spiteful mouth. Michele giggled lightly. "Bulma, dear, how did you ever trap such a man?" Bulma's face relaxed selfconsciously, trying to erase her open emotions. "Actually, he was the one who trapped me," she stated icily. Vejita smirked. Michele eyed the two of them warily. How could such a handsome man want such a cold unfeeling person? "Bulma dear, I know you wouldn't mind if I stole your gentleman consort for just one moment. He looks an awful good dancer." Bulma looked emotionless at the flirtatious insect in front of her, then darting a glance at her amused counterpart, she turned and left. "I'll take that as a yes," Michele said breathily. She latched onto Vejita's arm and led him to the dance floor.

An hour later, Vejita escaped to the back of the courtyard. The young Lady Michele would not quit! He had tried to be as gentlemanly as possible, keeping his hands in all the appropriate places, but she had made it blatantly obvious that she desired more. Finally, after an hour, Vejita managed to detangle himself from her clutches. He walked through to the back garden, a small plot of land between the main courtyard and the rest of the estate house. He let himself fall down onto the lush green grassy knoll in the center of the garden. He heaved a sigh and rolled onto his back, unbenownst to him that another person had sought refuge in the back garden also.

Vejita rubbed his left arm, the upper muscles had cramped from holding her damn hand for so long! He let the cool night air sweep over his body before he noticed something. A slight smell like early winter air and vanilla blossoms floated on the breeze. He knew that smell! He sat upright, searching his immediate surroundings. He stood up quietly and crept over the side of the knoll.

Bulma sat with her hands clasped in her lap. She stared stonily into the glassy pond right beneath her feet. It was small and round, placed to the edge of the garden with small orange and red fish that darted merrily beneath the calm surface. She sat upon a granite bench with relief sculptures of flowers and birds chiseled into the side. The wind was starting to pick up and her light gauzy dress with the tulle wrap did little shield her from the cold. She shivered lightly--- almost bolting out of her seat when she felt heavy cloth descend upon her shoulders. She turned to see Vejita placing his overcoat upon her frame. He sat down next to her on the bench, his back facing the pond. "I don't care you know," she said softly. "What do you mean?" he asked in his usual arrogant tone. "I mean, you don't have to be back here. I really don't care that you spend your time with other women." He scoffed. "Please, woman. That little friend of yours is a walking deathtrap. I could not escape her to save my life." Bulma's face did not change. "Did it make you jealous?" he inquired evilly. She shook her head. The aqua waves that had been brushed back, suddenly flew forward to cascade down and around her neck.Vejita stared at her in the ensuing silence. He turned her face to look at him. Her eyes were glassy with unshed tears and her face was pale, as if no blood ever touched her cheeks. Her lips were a deeper red than usual. He stared at them for a moment. It was not rouge, he surmised. It looked as if she had been chewing on them for there were slight indentation upon the otherwise perfect lips. They were just so red....

Vejita leaned in, placing his lips softly on hers, begging her to comply. Submit to me... He pushed his lips harder upon her own when she did not respond. One hand shot out and gripped a handful of her hair, pulling her to him. She whimpered as he crushed his lips upon her own, forcing her mouth open, he poured all his passion and ardor into her. Bulma felt her lips bruise with he forced them to open and he invaded her mouth with his tongue. He was just daring her to resist him. Vejita let himself relax for a moment... if only to taste the sweetness. In that one moment, Bulma changed everything. Feeling him relax as he roamed the confines of her mouth, Bulma allowed herself to think of a way to rid herself of this situation. She did the only thing she could. She bit down.

Vejita felt a searing pain in this tongue and Bulma bit down hard upon it. Quickly, he pulled away from her. This reaction allowed her enough time to throw his coat from her shoulders and jet from the stone bench. Bulma ran a few feet away before turning to face him, her face an incarnation of pure rage. Vejita cupped his hands over his mouth. He knew nothing that would soothe the pain. His black eyes turned vehemently on her. Bulma gritted her teeth. "You think you can play me for a fool! All of you!" She stomped one foot on the ground. "Stupid, stupid.... horrible men," she spat. "Why do you insist on playing with me such? What not that God made you superior to women that you have to taunt us and tease us..." She swallowed the cry that was easing its way up her throat. "Why?" she whispered. By this time, Vejita's inflamed tongue had calmed down enough that he could form an answer. "I was not toying with you, woman." She shook her head furiously. "I do not believe a word you say, man ! I refuse to be treated as a a trophy... but more importantly, as your second choice prize." Vejita stared up at her amazed. He did not think about what she said or whether it was true. But the fact that she had refused him, refuse to let him play his games with her...

Vejita shook his head. He did not know what to say that would appease her. Vejita had never had to appease any woman; make her feel wanted or loved... it was a delusion they set up for themselves. All Vejita ever had to do was show up to play the part. Honestly, for the first time since Vejita could remember, he was not in control. He did not know what to do, or say, or how to make the situation go away. Vejita could not control it, control her. In his anger and confusion, he turned his back on her to watch her from the corner of his eye.

She stared at him blinking rapidly before she covered her mouth with the back of her hand and ran off. Vejita turned to see her go. She disappeared between two of the outer buildings of the main estate. There was no doubt in his mind that she could get home, which meant that he need not go after her. He turned and stalked back to the bench where they both had sat only minutes ago. He sat exactly where she had been sitting and stared into the pond, hoping to see what she had seen that brought her such serenity and clarity of mind. He saw nothing but his reflection. "Grr..." he growled outloud, slapping the pond water with the heel of his boot. "Stupid girl. Any other wench would die to be by my side. A normal wench would not be so emotional and needy..." Suddenly it dawned on him. "But she is not a wench," he whispered. "She is a woman...."

* * * * *

***What will happen???? gah...only i kno... or do i? actually, i do since i will finish this damnable thing tomorrow!!! anywho, sorry, this is late. college is a bitch and life in general has been taking craps on my head so... but my refuge is in b/v. god, sometimes i wish i were bulma. reality is way not fun; doncha agree?? be prepared for some citrusy material. but as of now, i'm not sure how comfortable I will be with a lemon. we'll c my mind tomorrow. thanks for your patience!!!

Contest Index
Chapter 3
Chapter 5