Alastair had no sooner shown Legolas how to open the suite door with his card-key than the elevator opened again and out spilled two bellhops guiding a cart loaded with their luggage.

"Good evening," said the first, all but bowing before slipping past the trio of guests to flip on the lights.

The bellhop with the cart headed down the long hallway. Entering what looked like a living room, Ivy caught her breath at the night view of glittering skyscrapers that didn't even look real. Vaguely, she was aware of one of the bellhops explaining that the suite had seven plasma televisions, a DVD player, and two wall safes that recharged laptop computers. In each room was a remote control for adjusting the drapes.

The suite, relayed the bellhop, also had two bedrooms featuring king-size beds, and an adjoining library that could function as a third bedroom as the couch pulled out into a double bed.

"Where is the fax machine?" asked Legolas.

"In the library, sir. First door on your left down the hall."

"Please put my duffle in there. Alastair, you'll have the bedroom on the right, it is the most quiet. Ivy, you'll take the large bedroom near the front door."

"You should let me take the pull-out in the library while you take the big bedroom," she protested as the bellhops began sorting the luggage into the respective rooms.

"The library suits my needs," said Legolas. "I do not require a bed, as I'll be working through the night."


One of the bellhops returned with a wicker gift basket and set it on the table. 'For Ivy,' declared the pink envelope secured to the crackling purple mylar wrap. Two Beanie-Baby bears eyed her from their perch on a mountain of Godiva chocolate.

"Here now, you've got a present from the hotel," said Alastair.

"Oh, how sweet." And expensive, I'll bet. Ivy summoned a smile.

"I didn't get a present."

Legolas sounded petulant, and Ivy stared at him. Is that a pout? And, if it is, is it Legolas or Lee pouting?

One bellhop disappeared down the hallway. Within seconds, he was back with two more gift baskets wrapped in blue mylar. Their baby-blue cards were addressed to Lee and Alastair respectively.

"Our pardon, gentlemen." Twin bows from both bellhops this time, and Legolas handed over their tips. Ivy thought the bills were fifties, but couldn't be certain. "If you require anything at all, please don't hesitate to call the front desk or the concierge. Enjoy your evening."

They slipped out of the suite, their footsteps whispering on the thick carpeting.

Tearing open his gift basket, Legolas handed his two Four Seasons Beanie Baby bears to Alastair. "For your little ones."

"My thanks, m'laird. I've five littles at home."

Ivy tore into her own basket. "Here, take mine as well."

"That's one more as I'd need," he protested.

"Wouldn't your wife like one as well?" asked Ivy.

"Aye, she would. Thank you, that's right generous of you." Cuddling his four bears, the pilot picked up his gift basket. "Now, there's a restaurant and a night callin' the two of you, but there's a bath and bed callin' me if I'm to fly you home tomorrow."

"What about your supper?" asked Legolas, breaking off a generous piece of chocolate and popping it into his mouth.

"I'll be ordering something from room service. And it's something more substantial you'll be needing for your supper than sweets, laddie." Scowling at the laird, Alastair and his bears disappeared around the corner.

Ivy stared at the space the pilot had just vacated. "I can't believe he used that tone on you."

"We take care of the villagers of Lairg, and they take care of us." Crossing to the cash bar, the Elf swung back its door. Pulling another Four Seasons bear from within, he held it out to Ivy. "You need a replacement, I believe?"

"I don't need...I mean, it's sweet of you to think so, but..." She stared from him to the bar. "Lee, rule one in these places is that you never, ever so much as breathe on the bar because they'll charge you for it. That seven-dollar bear is going to cost you...oh! you have no idea."

Legolas laughed outright at Ivy's panicked tone, and she stared at the deep dimples revealed. Gods, but he's gorgeous when he smiles.

"I saw the look of longing you cast your bears as Alastair carried them off." He shook the little stuffed toy at her. "Please take charge of this one, else I'll have to carry it home to Haldir who never takes proper care of any bear."


"He prefers playing with a toy oliphant, not a bear."

Taking the pale blue bear, Ivy followed the Elf from the room. "Say what?'

"The castle has a small, shabby oliphant replica on wheels," Legolas explained, leading the way into the bath. "I've no idea where it came from originally, but Haldir enjoys torturing me with it. He will place it in the most outlandish and unexpected places, so that it leaps out and startles me. When last I saw the creature, it had three arrows embedded in its thick neck."

"Um...with your bow's compliments?"

"Of course." He flicked on the bathroom's light switch.

There was gleaming black and white marble everywhere, which made for a stark elegance Ivy had glimpsed only in movies. The tub was sparkling white, deep and broad, with a separate, enclosed shower. The thickest of white towels were stacked above and below the counter featuring two deep sinks. There was even a scale and--

"Good lord, there's a television in here!" Ivy exclaimed. Stepping further into the gleaming room, she poked a finger at the bountiful assortment of beautifully packaged soaps and lotions housed on the counter. "These are sybaritic toiletries."

"They look like Bvlgari to me."

Ivy cast Legolas a slanting glance, but it was impossible to tell if he was laughing at her.

"Haldir said the tub fills in sixty seconds." Casually, the Elf flipped on the controls, and a furious whirlpool of water exploded from the tap. A sensor turned off the flood seconds later.

"That's kind of scary," said Ivy, wide-eyed. "What if the sensor fails or you put in bubble bath? What if you don't like the water temperature they've chosen for you?"

Legolas shrugged. "In the first instance, ask room service to clean up the mess. In the second, ask them to bring a thermometer, turn off the sensor, and manually refill the space to your expectations."

Ivy stared at the steam rolling off the still-swirling water. "Now what happens?"

"Now, I take a bath in sybaritic warmth which is infinitely more welcoming than a freezing Alaskan lake."

Ivy blinked as visions of a naked Elf began dancing in her head. He has such beautiful lines. It was stupid of me to leave my sketchpad on the plane. Feeling her face grow hot, she backed out of the bath. "I'll leave you to it."

"There's no rush. I need to speak with Haldir while the water finishes swirling." That dimpled smile appeared once more as Legolas paced after her, and Ivy thought he definitely had to be playing with her.

Entering the library, Legolas approached the desk and eyed the fax/printer with much suspicion. "Do you know how to use one of these?"

"I think you just give Haldir the phone number and make sure it's turned on. He should do the rest from his end to make the pages magically appear." Ivy wandered over to the window, where the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building lit up the night, looked almost close enough to touch. "Wow."

Legolas spared the skyline a brief glance. "No need to go to Top of the Rock, I see."

"What's that?"

"An observation deck atop Rockefeller Center." Flipping open his cell phone, he called Haldir.

Again with the Elvish, Ivy thought, letting the words wash over her. I wish I understood what he was saying. It feels like I should, not that the feeling helps at all.

The machine beeped, and paper began printing. Snapping closed the cell phone, Legolas stared at the magic. "Haldir has many pages to send."

"There's plenty of paper. Even if the printer runs out, the machine should store everything in memory."

"Memory," Legolas echoed. "It has its own brain, then? How amazing." The Elf glanced from his phone to the fax machine. "Cell phones, printers and faxes. Communications that race around the world in a matter of seconds when they used to take many weeks. These are miraculous things." He gave a sigh. "The world has moved on while I have stood still. Much has changed, and I must learn it. Quickly."

"You've adapted really well to everything that's happened over the last four thousand years," Ivy said quietly. "I really don't think the office technology equivalent to the Model-T is going to come anywhere close to defeating you."

His blue eyes were startled. "Thank you for that vote of confidence. I hope it does not prove misplaced."

Legolas spared the printing faxes a final glance before shoving the cell phone back into his pocket. "I've been a poor host so far. Will you allow me to remedy this by taking you out to supper this evening?"

"You don't want to stay in, order room service, and baby-sit the faxes?"

Legolas shook his head. "You should see a bit of the city while we are here, and I do not enjoy dining in hotel restaurants. Too often I have found myself seated beside a businessman who was sacking the businessman eating with him. There are much better meals to be had, and we also need to do a bit of shopping."

"Shopping?" Ivy echoed, mystified.

"We both need warm clothing and proper coats, do we not?"

"Yes, but I can't afford New York prices."

"You can, but let's not argue it. Dinner and shopping will be my gift to you, the newest Queen's Daughter. Please--" Legolas insisted as Ivy hesitated. "Consider it part of my apology for welcoming you so badly this morning."

"You don't need to apologize, I get that you're under a lot of pressure."

"That is no excuse." His blue eyes held both storm and sorrow.

Ivy sighed. "I’m not going to win this argument, am I?"

"No," the Elf said pleasantly enough. "I shall take my bath, and then we shall go out. Underground shopping is available only a few blocks away in the Catacombs, and the Rolls is waiting."

With that, Legolas left the room. Biting her lip, Ivy waited a few seconds until she was certain he was safe in his turbo-filled tub before heading down the hall to her own bedroom. Setting her Four Seasons bear on one of the pillows, she decided he looked very small and lost in the huge bed. Rather how I've felt all day.

Digging through her meager supply of clothing, Ivy wished she had something nicer to wear than an oversized sweatshirt and jeans. But I'm no beauty, and this is New York. Gorgeous models abound on every street corner, so who am I trying to kid? I do need to get some warmer clothes, and Legolas would probably be seriously insulted or something if don't let him buy me stuff.

Part of her was jumping up and down and squealing in excitement at the thought of having supper with him. Another part of her wanted nothing more than to curl up on the bed and think about all the things the very strange day had brought her way. Aragorn was an ancestor of mine. I'm immortal, and I get to hang out with the Elves. With Haldir and Legolas and...who else?

Sitting on the edge of the bed, she pawed through her purse. Don't think about that right now. If you do, you'll become a blithering idiot and want to call Mom and talk about everything. You can't. Not right now. Legolas won't be in that bathtub forever, and something tells me the hungrier he gets, the grumpier he gets. I don't want a repeat of ultra-snarky warrior Elf, so...

Closing her eyes, she took several deep breaths. He'll knock on the door in only a few minutes and expect me to be ready. I'll go downstairs with him and we'll climb back into that Phantom Rolls Royce and go to dinner. It's just dinner and shopping, nothing spectacular.


She pushed down that part of her. I've been with Legolas all day, what's a couple more hours? He's just an Elf.


Just. An. Elf, she repeated to herself. I'm going to wash my face and run a brush through my hair. There's no time for anything more, and even if there were, it wouldn't help. He says I'm Queen's Daughter, and that seems to be enough for him. So I'm going to remember my manners and try not to screw this up.


Ivy slipped through the door leading into the Catacombs only to stop dead at the alarming wall of noise and people passing before her. Maybe it wasn't such a hot idea to go shopping at Rockefeller Center a few days before Christmas?

Coming up beside her, Legolas captured her hand and shouted, "Don't let go! Have you money for a taxi back to the hotel if we get separated?"

"Yes!" she shouted back and held on tight to Legolas' hand as he pulled her into the moving crowd. A harried-looking woman yanked the headphones from her son's head and yelled something at him. Startled, the teenager dropped his iPod and sent it spinning at Ivy's feet.

The device and Ivy were instantly set upon by at least five people – none of whom was the teenaged owner. All she could see before being shoved out of the way was a blur of hostile, determined faces. Stumbling backward, she felt her hand slip out of Legolas'. Another hard shove, this one downward, and Ivy was headed for the floor.

Her knees buckled, but never struck the tile. Someone grabbed her around the middle, and she was snatched tight against a hard body only to be half-dragged and half-carried with the tide of people. A wave of long blonde hair caressed her face, which easily calmed her rising panic as she realized who had hold of her.

"I've got you," she felt more than heard her protector say as she found her feet. She clutched Legolas' arms, still wrapped about her waist, to walk in lockstep with him. Somehow, she found herself guided out of the crowd and through the entrance to J.Crew. The roar of the crowd receded as the doors closed. Moving off of the main path, Legolas released her.

Whirling, she nearly hugged him in gratitude. "I didn't think I'd need to be rescued so quickly, but thank you. I didn't know so many people could fit into one space."

"The mob presses and scrabbles like orcs." Glancing about as Ivy rearranged her clothes and smoothed her tangled hair, he murmured, "It seems safer inside."

"For the moment. I think the men's department is over there."

Legolas led the way through a dizzying array of displays, to where the sweaters and jeans began. A slender clerk with a spiked crew-cut and delicate goatee darted forward to accost the Elf the moment Legolas crossed some invisible threshold.

"Good evening, I'm Dante. I'd love to help you tonight, so what would you like to see first?"

Noting Dante's perfect silk shirt and tie, Ivy hung back the watch the gushing and the fawning. Can he be any more stereotypical in his sexual orientation?

"I require jeans, sweaters and a pair of good, waterproof boots," said Legolas.

"Let's start with the denim, shall we? Do you prefer slim fit, straight leg, boot-cut, or relaxed? And what's your size, darling?"

Circling the two males, Ivy watched Legolas draw himself up to his full height and narrow his gaze - no doubt at being called darling. "I've no idea."

Rocking back on his heels, Dante considered. "Well, let's see. With that long waist, I'd say you're a perfect thirty. Let me snag the measuring tape and we'll see what your inseam is, shall we?"

The tape was snagged, and Dante went down on his knees before the Elf. Shoving Legolas' sweater out of the way, Dante encircled the Elf's waist with the tape.

Ivy swore she heard Legolas growl and tried to intercept the explosion she sensed was coming. "Dante, shouldn't you let Lee measure his own--"

"I was right, you're a perfect thirty-two!" Still on his knees, Dante stared in adoration up at his customer.

"We heard you think he was a perfect thirty not a minute ago," Ivy persisted. "And you need to stop ignoring me."

The clerk ignored her. "You know, with your length of leg, broad shoulders and tight abs, I'd love to see you in some slims. Now, let's get that inseam, shall we?"

Ivy could only watch, horrified, as the clerk planted the end of his tape between Legolas' feet and then ran its length quickly up between the Elf's legs. From her view, it looked as if Dante dared to cup Legolas' crotch.

The next instant, the Elf grabbed the clerk by the jaw and was lifting him to his feet. Dropping the measuring tape, Dante clawed at Legolas' fingers.

The Elf's other hand gripped Dante's throat as the clerk staggered. Lunging, Legolas shoved the man backward no few feet. "You will not touch me."

"What is your childhood issue?" Dante rasped, grabbing his throat. "I was only--" The clerk choked and coughed.

Blue eyes darkened and yes, that was definitely a growl, followed by a few words that might have been Scots Gaelic. To Ivy's ears, they certainly weren't Elvish.

"I have seen other men gelded for daring what you did."

"Gelded?" Dante smirked. "I'm sure we'd both have fun letting you try."

Legolas lunged forward again, only to have Ivy throw herself between him and the clerk.

"I think it might be better if you found someone else to help us," she told Dante, her arm muscles screaming as Legolas pushed against Ivy's hand on his chest. "One who won't mack on my boyfriend."

Dante rubbed his throat. "I didn't—"

"Yes, you did. Now, back the hell off, or do we need to talk to your manager?" Turning toward Legolas, she laid both hands against his chest. "Are you all right?"

The Elf's nostrils flared, and he glared at Dante over her head. He'd be all flashing hooves and teeth right now if he were a stallion. Rubbing circles on Legolas' chest and thinking calming thoughts, Ivy waited until his blue eyes cleared a little and acknowledged her.

"We don't need his help, Lee," she murmured. "All we need is a dressing room, and I'll bring a few things for you to try on. How does that sound?"

"Fine," came the lock-jawed answer.

"Fine," Dante croaked. "The dressing rooms are over there."

The clerk wandered off, still clutching his throat, while Legolas headed with all speed across the store.

"I hope they've got locks on the doors," Ivy muttered, trotting in Legolas' wake.

# #

The Elf took the room at the very end of the narrow aisle, where his back was to the wall and Ivy knew he'd be aware of anyone trying to sneak up on him. Slamming the door closed behind him, he glowered at Ivy over the top of it.

"This is not an auspicious beginning," he growled. "You know I wanted to kill him."

"Oh, Lee." Determined to lighten the mood in case someone was listening, Ivy summoned a pout. "That would have been so messy, and there'd be all these forms to fill out. We wouldn't get any dinner until midnight, and what would your father say?"

Ignoring the astonished look Legolas gave her, Ivy turned to greet the new clerk bustling down the narrow aisle toward them. Thankfully, this one was female.

"I've sent Dante away for the night," the new clerk began, breathless, "so he won't disturb you two again. Please allow me to apologize for his rudeness, and accept J.Crew's offer of fifty dollars off your bill this evening."

"I think a hundred would be better," Ivy said, still smiling.

"Erm..." The clerk glanced from Ivy to a still-scowling Legolas. "Um...all right."

"Thank you." Legolas accepted the woman's peace offering with as much good grace as he could muster through clenched teeth. "Could we return to the business at hand? I require a sampling of the jean styles you have available."

"Of course, sir. In what size?"

"Thirty-two waist," Ivy interjected, subtly planting her claim. "Let's start with a thirty-five length and go from there."

"Of course. What color would you prefer?"

"Black and dark blue," Legolas inserted.

The clerk went to do their bidding, while Ivy hung back and laid her fingers over Legolas' white-knuckled ones atop the door.

"I'll intercept her before she comes back and send her off for some sweaters. Do you want patterns or solids?"

"Solids. Please."

She patted his hand. "I'll be right back."

"Ivy." He caught hold of her wrist. "I must thank you. The last time someone stepped between a threat and me...the last someone was Aragorn. On the plains of Rohan. When Eomer—"

"When he threatened Gimli?" she asked softly.

"Yes." Preoccupied, he stroked the delicate bones beneath his fingers. "Your obstruction is all the more amazing, considering my anger. I had forgotten how fragile a female can be. The last Queen's Daughter I touched was far from fragile. "You have my gratitude."

"Thanks for letting me help. That man had no right to touch you that way." Her green eyes flashed as her grip on him tightened. "Nobody's getting a second shot at you while I'm around." She stalked off, all feminine outrage and determination.

Moments later, Legolas found himself the recipient of what seemed a very tall stack of jean and sweater samples. A few minutes after that, and the Elf was feeling nothing but overheated and frustrated as he tried on garment after garment.

"I have no idea what to purchase," he told Ivy, who was leaning with her back against the dressing-room door after having chased off the anxious, inquisitive clerk for the third time. "What is considered fashionable?"

"You're asking me, an artist who lives in jeans and sweats? I'd go with what you think looks and feels good."

"I am an ill judge of what looks good," Legolas insisted. "The task is not made easier by standing in a clothing stall and staring into a distorted mirror. Life was easier when my wardrobe consisted of a tunic and leggings."

"You could come out here, or at least open the door and let me have a look."

Legolas deliberated but a moment. "All right."

Ivy whirled and backed away as he pushed open the door. Stepping warily into the aisle, Legolas watched the play of emotions over the girl's face. First came disbelief - no doubt because he was letting her 'have a look' as she had put it. Ivy then raked him from head to toes with her gaze, only to settle on an intense visual inspection of his legs that would have had Legolas blushing as a young Elf.

"Well?" He demanded.

"Are those the slim-fitting ones?"


"They look good. You look good. Are they comfy?"

"Very." Reaching back into the dressing room, he snagged a package of black briefs and tossed it atop the rejected clothing stacked just outside the door. She followed the gesture as he hoped she might - anything to get those intent green eyes off of him.

The briefs did not hold her attention any more than they would have held the attention of the inquisitive ravens he'd left behind in Alaska.

Her gaze swiveled back to his, and she arched an eyebrow. "You go commando?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"Um..." She seemed unable or unwilling to explain. "I think the jeans you're wearing look great. You might want to get a few of the boot cut ones, too. Because you wear boots."

"Ivy, you are staring at me."

"I thought you wanted me to look at you." She glanced away. "Are we done with the jeans thing?"


"Do you want help with the sweaters?"


"Great. I'll get rid of the rejects while you change clothes." Scooping up the discarded items, Ivy headed down the narrow corridor. "Meet you at the register."

Watching her go, Legolas couldn't help but feel he'd missed something. Retreating back into the dressing room, he exchanged the new jeans for his old pair before pulling out his cell phone and calling Haldir.

"Yes, Legolas?"

"What does it mean if one goes commando?" the Elf demanded.

"You know as well as I what it means - not washing and generally being dirty, as the Royal Marine Commandos—"

"No. What does it mean to an American?"

"To them, a commando is a soldier trained to make dangerous raids," the marchwarden dutifully relayed. "How are you and Ivy getting on?"

"We are shopping for clothes, and she has confused me. What has a commando to do with male underwear?"

There was silence in Scotland. The next moment, Haldir burst out laughing.

"Oh, sweet Elbereth," the marchwarden wheezed. "What have you and Ivy been discussing? That commando means regimental."


"You can't have forgotten the first Commando units we trained in Inverness during the last war? Regimental is what we Scots called the proper state of not wearing anything beneath our kilts. That is what 'going commando' means to an American."

"I see. Thank you, Haldir. Good-night."

"Hang about," Haldir protested. "You must tell how this subject came up between you and Queen's Daughter."

"No, I mustn't. And I won't. Good-night, Haldir."


Snapping closed the phone, Legolas sat and stared at the baseboard. How did Ivy ascertain I am regimental in my dress? Has she been watching my crotch since we met, or only since I invited her scrutiny moments ago? Did she like what she saw?

I don't want to know, Legolas finally decided, quickly gathering his stack of clothing for purchase. In fact, I think I'm going to forget she mentioned the matter at all.


Having had quite enough of the men's department, Legolas headed with all speed towards its borders, only to have Ivy wheel away from him when they were just shy of leaving.

"Wait a moment." Capturing his arm, she dragged him back to a haughty-looking male mannequin adorned in a long black-leather trench coat. "You have to try that on."


"Because it's so Lee Greenwood, that's why."

"I think not." Grabbing Ivy's hand, Legolas tugged her away. "We must get you some warm clothing. And shoestrings."

"I need shoestrings? Why do I need shoestrings?"

"The laird gives the children of the village a token present every Winterfest. Haldir suggested we offer them sets of ornamented shoestrings this year."

"That's nice, but that leather coat is nicer. You said Lee's is the face you present publicly?"


"Then you'll need a visible public image. Trust me when I say Lee needs a coat like that."


"Because nothing says 'I'm rich and dangerous, so screw with me at your peril' like a black-leather coat."

Legolas glanced back at the coat on display. "How do you know this?"

"Feminine reactions and artistic prerogative." Glancing about, Ivy spied a rack full of the same coats against a nearby wall. "Just try one on, okay? You won't even need to get another dressing room to do it."

Sliding a sample off its hanger, Ivy held it out with what she hoped was a suitably pleading expression.

"Please, Lee?" She shook the garment. "This thing's heavy. My arms are getting tired."

One long-suffering sigh later, and Legolas was shrugging into the coat. Ivy's fingers itched to cinch the belt at his waist, but she settled for walking around him instead. It seems the safer option.

"Well?" He all but looked down his nose at her, and refused to turn toward the mirror.

She fidgeted. "The black contrasts really well with your hair and complexion, but I'm not sure..."

"Ivy, what did I tell you on the plane?" It came out more gently than she expected, given look of fire in his eye.

"You said I should always speak my mind. Okay, fine. You look like the elegant, spoiled son of a wealthy man until I hit your eyes and then it's a case of watch out, pow! I guess it's hard to hide thousands of years of experience."

He sighed. "Hide it, I must. If you think this coat will help--"

"It will as long as they don't look into your eyes. It's for Lee, remember?"

The storm in the blue eyes dissipated as if it had never been, and the Elf smiled so that Ivy finally got a good look at his dimples. "You must have a coat like this as well."

"I don't think so." She backed away.

He stalked her, and the coat billowed around his legs. "Does Ivy MacLeod not also need a visual image? Is she not also beginning a new life?"

Ivy shook her head. "Bohemian artists don't need public images. My paint smudges speak for themselves."

"You are Queen's Daughter."

"What has that to--"Ivy snapped her mouth closed as a mother and daughter wandered by in their quest for holiday gifts for Dad or Uncle Charlie. Waiting until the women were no longer in earshot, Ivy whispered, "Maybe we should talk about this later? In private?"

"Of course." He shrugged out of the leather beauty. "But you are still getting a coat like this."

"Fine. I'll get a coat if you do." Even if I can't afford it, she thought. Capitulation's a lot easier than arguing with him.

It also made Legolas keep smiling - something Ivy decided was well worth losing the fight if it meant she got to keep seeing his adorable dimples. Folding the coat across his arm, Legolas invaded the women's department next door and sought a clerk.

"Have you a leather coat like this for the lady accompanying me?" he demanded.

Need to work on that syntax, Lee, Ivy decided. You sound like Heathcliff meets Mirkwood.

"I believe so, sir," said the clerk.

"My companion also requires indoor clothing suitable to an old home with no central heating, and outdoor clothing suitable to sub-zero temperatures."

"Jeans and heavy sweaters will be fine," Ivy inserted in her own self-defense.

"She will also need fleece-lined boots and gloves," Legolas persisted.

The clerk arched an eyebrow. "A stylish as a leather coat is, I'm afraid it won't keep her warm."

"Of course it won't. That is why you will also bring her a heavy coat suitable to the climate I have just described."

"Yes, sir." The clerk nearly bowed to the Elf's superior attitude.

And so another female learns it's easier to comply with His Highness's orders than argue, thought Ivy.

"Thank you. Where are your dressing rooms?"

"Over there."

Legolas whirled toward Ivy so fast, she jumped. "What size do you wear, and what colors do you prefer?"

She told the clerk, only to find herself being hustled by the Elf toward the small, curtained rooms. "Geez, but you learn fast."

Legolas' smile was angelic in the extreme as he chose a dressing room for her. "Clothes off now. Would you like me to make a selection of lingerie for you as well?"

"No." She glowered at him as the clerk returned with the first stack of clothing samples. "I know how to try stuff on all by myself, too, so why don't you go look for some shoestrings?"

He hesitated, all sincere blue eyes and solicitation while the clerk watched and listened. "If you're certain you can manage alone, Ivy?"

"I'll be fine, Lee." She matched his saccharine tone, knowing it was all a payback for her overly solicitous act back in the men's department. "Shall I ring your cell when I'm ready?"

"If you wish."

"I wish." She locked the door and snatched up the first pair of jeans. "See you later."

# #

She dared not exit the dressing room with anything less than what the Elf thought she needed. If I come up short, I bet he'll just send me back in here.

Most of an hour later, she had a huge collection of jeans and thick sweaters, as well as a fine pair of fur-lined boots. She also had another, very heavy coat that the clerk had brought, saying, "Mr. Greenwood asked me to send this in."

Ivy herself requested wool socks and a heavy sweatsuit, sensing the flannel pajamas she'd brought wouldn't intimidate the Highland cold. The clerk carried it all away, presumably to the cash register where Ivy would try to keep from physically cringing as she handed over her debit card. I'm probably spending the equivalent of two payments on my student loan.

Shrugging into her old clothes, Ivy realized she didn't have the number to Legolas' cell phone. That's great. We've got reservations for dinner, and how am I supposed to find him in a store this size?

As it happened, the Elf was waiting, slouched in a chair just outside the dressing rooms when Ivy exited.

"All done?"

"I think so, but I've no idea what it's going to cost." Pushing back an annoying strand of hair, she tied back the entire unruly mess with the bit of twine she'd found earlier on the dressing room floor. "Halden made a deposit to my account, but after that leather coat's added in--"

"Consider all your purchases my Winterfest gift to you."

"That's very generous, but I can't possibly--"

Blue eyes narrowed, and the Elf slowly rose to his feet, looking every bit as regal and dangerous as he'd been in Tolkien's books. Ivy took a step back.

"You can, and you will," he all but growled. "I am your host in Lairg, and I will see to your comfort."

"Um...okay." Dominant much? she wondered. Maybe it's time for a change of subject. "Did you get the shoestrings?"

"I did."

Leading the way to the counter, Legolas produced Lee Greenwood III's credit card, and Ivy tried not to gasp at the sum he signed off on. Some sound must have escaped despite her best efforts, as the Elf cast a slanting glance her way and leaned closer.

"Image is all, remember? It's not as if we cannot afford it," he muttered for Ivy's ears only. Addressing the clerk, he continued. "Please have all of the packages delivered this evening to my suite at the Four Seasons."

"Of course, Mr. Greenwood."

"All except this." Retrieving Ivy's new heavy winter coat, he said, "You may want to wear this and have your old jacket sent to the hotel."

"Good idea." Ivy shrugged out of the coat.

The clerk checked Legolas' passport against the signature on her form. "Forgive me if I ask, but are you Halden Greenwood's son?"

"I am."

"I was so sorry to hear of your father's ill-health. Thank you for letting us be of service to you this evening."

"Thank you...Gina." A quick glance at the clerk's tag and he was all but purring her name. Reaching into his pocket, Legolas handed the clerk a folded bill. "This is for you, in thanks for your kindness tonight."

"Oh, but I can't--"

"I'm sure you can. Happy holidays."

The flustered woman melted at Legolas' reassuring tone and radiant smile. "Thank you so much, Mr. Greenwood. A happy holiday to you, as well."

"Did you just tip her a hundred dollars?" Ivy squeaked as they left.

"I did. She was kind to both of us, and she know of my father. I wished to reward her. I also wished to ensure our purchases will arrive before we depart in the morning." Capturing Ivy's hand, Legolas led her back into the crush outside the store. "Hang on tight, and don't let go."

# #

Puccini's Italian Restaurant was very Renaissance, very dark, and very warm after the cold, brittle trek across the street from Rockefeller Center.

How romantic, it's lit only by candlelight, thought Ivy, glancing around the Tuscany marble and custom-tiled entrance. Too bad we're not on a date.

Date or not, Legolas still hadn't let go her hand, and Ivy found herself pressed up tight against his side as they moved through the waiting crowd. Almost like a real couple. She basked in the fantasy.

Magical words were spoken - words like 'reservation' and 'Greenwood' to conjure a table where Ivy suspected there wasn't a good one available within six months for mere Mortals. The maitre'd actually bowed to Legolas before leading the way to a private alcove deep inside the restaurant, and Ivy thought the gesture might have put the Elf in a good mood for the rest of their visit in New York.

A miniature statue of Michelangelo's David graced a recessed nook inside the alcove, and a bottle of fine wine - complimentary, Ivy suspected - was already waiting for them.

"From the written warning posted outside and the formal atmosphere inside, I thought they'd give you a tie and make you put it on before letting us back here," she whispered over her menu once they were seated.

"You don't ask this Greenwood to dress if you want his custom a second time," Legolas murmured, studying the fare. "Can you read Italian?"

"Only on tubes of Maimeri."

He glanced up from his menu. "I beg your pardon?"

"Sorry. It's a very good and fairly expensive brand of artist's oil paint."

"Ah. Then you will allow me to order for you. Would you like to try the wine?"

Legolas pushed one of the goblets toward Ivy that the maitre'd had poured out for them moments before. The last wine she'd tried - a bottle shared with her mother and Reuben to celebrate their marriage - had tasted like vinegar. Ivy had gasped and made a face, and her mother had laughed at her daughter's naivety. Remembering that embarrassment, Ivy took a cautious sip.

"This is good." Surprised, she drank more deeply. "It tastes like grape juice."

"I'm glad you like it."

The waiter arrived to take their order. Leaning back in the chair, Ivy was contented to let Legolas order for her. A few minutes later, she was feeling comfortably warm and shrugging out of her new coat as the waiter returned with breadsticks and salad.

Savoring her new sense of relaxation, Ivy smiled sweetly at the Elf. "Why did I ever think you were scary?"

"I can't imagine. But I think you may have had enough wine." Legolas switched out Ivy's mostly empty wine glass for a tumbler of water. "Why don't you have some salad while we wait?"

"You're not scary." She searched beside her plate and scowled at the tablecloth. "Where's my fork?"

"Here it is," said Legolas. "Forgive me, Ivy. I did not realize--"

She stabbed at the unruly lettuce on her plate. "This is a great place to eat. Don't you think it's a great place to eat? My salad is really good, but I feel" A great yawn took her. "I'm so sleepy."

"Yes, I see that."

She peered across the table. "Where'd my wine go?"

"It's all gone, I'm afraid."

A few minutes later, and Ivy was literally falling asleep over her meal. Calling for a take-out box, the check, and a whole cheesecake for Haldir, Legolas urged Ivy to her feet and guided her through the restaurant. He wondered if she'd remember the trip back to the hotel, and found himself half-amused and half-appalled at the tipsy affection he had created.

Burrowing beneath Legolas' arm, Ivy snuggled closer to him in the back seat of the Rolls. Even as the Elf struggled to set aside the plastic bags containing their scarcely touched meals, Ivy wrapped herself around him and murmured, "You smell good. Like garlic and spaghetti."

Resting his cheek against the top of her head and having no choice but to wrap his arms around the clinging girl, Legolas found himself smiling. "Now, there's a compliment I never would have heard from your grandmother."

# #

Awaking some hours later with a headache and gnawing hunger, Ivy threw back the covers only to discover someone had put her to bed fully clothed, except for her boots. She blushed to remember slapping away Legolas' hands and protesting loudly when he had tried undressing her for bed.

I hope I didn't wake Alastair with my screeching, she thought, or upset Legolas with my...oh, grief, was I drunk?

She vaguely remembered Legolas laughing at her after she had fallen into the bed, cuddled her pillow, and crooned happily to her little stuffed Beanie bear. Burying her face in her hands, Ivy knew that hiding in her room the next morning and dying of humiliation wasn't an option. Neither one of us had anything to eat all day yesterday, and Legolas is the one who gave me the wine, so he's just going to have to understand.

Could I get something to eat now?

Sneaking out of her room, she found the suite dark and quiet. Skulking down the hall and into the living room, she sought the wet bar with its small refrigerator, as she vaguely remembered Legolas putting their leftovers in there, along with the cheesecake they'd bought to take back to Haldir in Scotland.

Finishing her food, Ivy decided a glass of water and a Styrofoam box of cold parmigiana was a blessed feast at two in the morning. Going back to her room, she saw light spilling from beneath the library door and couldn't resist laying her ear against the door.

"Legolas?" she heard a tinny voice say from within. "Are you there?"

Peering cautiously inside, she saw the Elf sprawled on his back before the couch. Fully dressed, he lay with the back of his head braced against the front of the couch. While the Elf's eyes were open, he was staring glassily at nothing.

He looks dead, Ivy thought, coming further into the room. Legolas' right hand held the phone receiver while his other hand rested on a thick stack of papers on the floor beside him.

"Legolas! Wake up!" ordered the receiver.

Inching closer, Ivy debated the wisdom of attempting to remove the phone from the grip of a sleeping Elven warrior. Holding her breath, she ran the tip of her finger over the palm of Legolas' half-open hand. His fingers twitched in muscle reaction, and the phone fell. Catching it before it struck the Elf, Ivy eased it completely from his grasp.

"Haldir?" she whispered, tiptoeing away.

"Ivy, is that you? Where is Legolas?"

"He's asleep. So Elves really do sleep with their eyes open? That looks really creepy."

"So we've been told by Mortals throughout the ages," came the dry reply. "Is the fax machine still receiving?"

She peered at the machine. "No, I think it needs more paper." She went looking and filled the tray. "Are you the one to thank for the chocolate and the Beanie Babies?"

"Is that what the hotel gave you? I did happen to mention Lee had a teenager traveling with him."

"Haldir, I'm twenty-four."

"To us, you are still a teenager. How are you enjoying your night in New York?"

She slumped back in the comfy desk chair. "I like it. The beds are big enough to swim in, and the bathroom is a religious experience. Legolas seems happy enough too, but Alastair thinks we should have stayed at the Ritz."

"So he told me before leaving Lairg. The Four Seasons is known for its wonderful beds, and I felt Legolas' comfort on this trip was of more concern than pleasing Alastair."

"But Legolas isn't in a bed, he's sprawled on the library floor. He didn't even bother pulling out the couch-bed."

Haldir said something biting in Elvish.

"I beg your pardon?"

"I said that I buy him books and buy him books, but all he does is eat the covers. What am I to do with him?"

"Um, you know him better than I do, I'm sure you'll think of something." She stared at the brilliant nightline of New York visible beyond the window. "This city never sleeps, does it? And forgive me for being nosy, but what does a suite like this cost?"

"Five thousand dollars a night, give or take a few hundred."

Ivy choked, and Haldir continued. "Yes, I know The Four Seasons has stratospheric prices, but we are not in this life to suffer. Greenwood can afford it, and it is all tax deductible, so enjoy the splendor. Do you know your hotel's designer also designed the glass pyramids at the Louvre?"

"Do you mean I.M Pei?" Ivy guessed.

"I knew an artist such as yourself would know him."

Ivy wrinkled her nose. I hate to tell you, Haldir, but the Louvre entrance looked better before Pei messed with it. "He's very into modern, isn't he?"

Haldir laughed. "I too think the pyramids look out of place at the Louvre. Any road, I know that our Legolas is much stressed with returning to a world that has much changed while he's been away. He required a flawless, stress-free stay in a serene atmosphere, and that is why you are not at the Mandarin Oriental or the Ritz. The Four Seasons' décor may be more ostentatious, but the hotel prides itself on pampering its guests, and both of you need that. Is the fax in working order again?"

She sat up and removed the new-arrived pages from the machine. "It's stopped printing and still has lots of paper. Is Legolas supposed to review all of this before the meeting?"

"As much as is possible. There are also documents you'll need to look at upon your arrival."

"Could you fax some of mine too, and I'll read them on the plane?"

"Of course. Do let me clarify any confusion when you get here. If it's all too much to think about, you can designate another board member to vote for you. But yes, I'll send along some things and we'll see how you do."

"Okay, that's a plan." She yawned. "It's great talking to you again, Haldir, but I think I'd better go back to bed now."

"Of course. Would you mind waking Legolas before you go? We still have some things to discuss."

"How do I wake him without his attacking me?"

"Attack you?" For a moment, Haldir was speechless. "Has he attacked someone already?"

"Not really. It's just that there was this Dante guy - a salesclerk - who tried to come onto Legolas. There was no blood. I just...I don't think it's a great idea to walk over there and shake him."

"No, that wouldn't do," Haldir said thoughtfully. Ivy wondered if the marchwarden was making a note to ask Legolas about the Dante incident. "Is there a pillow close by?"

"There's a few on the couch."

"I recommend you take one, stand well away, and throw your pillow at him."

"Okay. I have to put down the phone."

"Of course."

She did as Haldir instructed. Leaping to his feet, Legolas spun in a circle and once again reached for long-knives that weren't there. Coming back around to face her, he blinked at Ivy, lowered his hands, and glanced around the room as if to satisfy himself no orcs were hiding behind the furniture.

"Ivy. What are you doing out of bed?"

"I got hungry and then found you asleep. Haldir said to wake you." She held out the phone.

"Hannad," he murmured. Taking the phone, the Elf picked up the sheaf of papers at his feet, only to wander over to the fax machine and stack them atop the new arrivals. "My apologies, Haldir. Where were we?"

Ivy had the feeling she'd already been forgotten. Slipping out of the library, she closed the door quietly behind her.

How long has it been since he's had a good sleep? she wondered. And what's so daunting in Scotland that he and Haldir have to prepare for it all night long?


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