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CHAPTER 13. Delphine laid her hand against Jericho’s face, letting his whiskers tease her palm as she stroked his lips with her thumb
Delphine laid her hand against Jericho’s face, letting his whiskers tease her palm as she stroked his lips with her thumb. "Have you any idea how much you mean to me?"
Jericho swallowed at her question. He hoped the answer was at the very least equal to what he felt for her. Otherwise it was going to really suck. "No."
She reached down to take his hand in hers. "More than any words can ever express."
Those syllables were still ringing in his ears when she used her powers to dissolve her clothes. Completely naked, she led his hand to her breast. "Make love to me, Jericho. Show me what it's like to experience you with all of my emotions intact."
His body reacted instantly to her request as his internal voice shouted in jubilation. "Are you sure?"
She dissolved his clothes before he even had a chance to think about it.
Jericho slid himself into bed with her so that he could gather her into his arms. Oh, the sensation of her velvety skin rubbing against his . . .
If he died right now, he could ask for no greater send-off.
Her lips met his as he inhaled the warm scent of her body. He'd spent eternity alone. But somehow her touch eliminated all of his past. It was as if he'd known her forever. As if he couldn't imagine a world without her in it.
He never wanted to be away from her. If only he could have that one dream.
Delphine shivered at his hardness as he pressed against her. His body was ripped with taut muscles. Hard and smooth. Oh, he felt so incredibly good on top of her. She reveled in running her hands down his back to his lean waist and tight hips. Even though he was so much larger than she, he fit her perfectly as his soft white hair fell forward onto her face.
She sank her hands into his hair, pulling it back as their tongues danced together. He was so hungry with his kisses, she half-feared he'd devour her. She wrapped her legs around his hips, cradling him with her body. Chills spread over her as he left her lips to kiss a hot trail to her neck and ear.
Delphine gasped at the sensation of his tongue swirling around her earlobe. She should feel vulnerable and exposed, yet she didn't. All she could feel was Jericho. She wanted to possess him and keep him with her forever.
Her love for him burned white-hot through her heart, spreading out to every inch of her body. She alone knew this part of him. Saw the side of him that was kind and giving.
To the rest of the world he was brutal, but to her he was tame and sweet.
She almost laughed at the thought of his being sweet. Yet it was true. Where she was concerned, he was. And it made her wonder what he'd be like with a child of his own. She could so easily imagine it.
She wanted to be the one to give him that legacy and peace. To hold him close, away from the world that would harm him. She didn't want him to fight anymore. He'd had more than his share of that. She wanted to show him a world where he could trust and be gentle. A world where no one would hurt or betray him. Ever.
"Stay with me, Jericho," she whispered in his ear.
"As long as you hold me like this, I'm not going anywhere."
She smiled at his husky words. At the emotion that deepened his tone and touched her heart. "You will always be safe with me."
Jericho breathed her in as he lost himself to her touch and to her promise. Never one to believe in such bullshit, he couldn't suppress the part of him that caved to it now. The part of him that would walk through the fires of hell just to touch her cheek.
Against all of his armor, she'd wormed her way into his soul. And he was lost to her now. There was no hope for him. All he could do was trust in her to keep her promises. Trust in her not to be one more person he should have never believed.
Don't hurt me, Delphine. The silent plea lodged in his throat, making him ache even while her touch set him on fire.
Her hands skimmed over his skin, teasing and delighting him. It'd been so long since anyone had held him like this.
No. No one had ever held him like this. For the first time, he was in the arms of someone who cared for him. Not a goddess out to make her other lovers jealous. Or a nymph who wanted to scratch an itch.
Most of all, he was being held by someone he cared about. Someone who meant something more to him other than a quick tumble.
Delphine touched more than his body. She touched his heart and his soul. And he would die to protect her.
Why not? You've already sold your freedom for her.
He should be angry over that. But he wasn't. The thought that she would be whole was enough for him.
You won't be saying that when Zeus is torturing you.
Actually, he would. The memory of this moment would carry him through Zeus's worst and there would never be a single regret. He knew it. His own life no longer mattered to him as much as hers did.
She was his life and he was safeguarding it by giving up his freedom. It was a small price, really, and one he was glad to pay.
Pulling back, he stared down at her face. He traced the line of her cheek while his gaze was locked to hers. "You are so beautiful."
She reached up and fingered his eye patch before she lifted it off and dropped it to the floor. He'd always been so self-conscious over the scar and white eye, but not with her. He wanted her to see him as he was.
And she did see him for all his faults and strengths, and it didn't matter to her.
Smiling so sweetly that it made his breath catch, she cupped his cheek in her soft hand. Tilting his head, he kissed the inside of her wrist.
"I'm so sorry for what Zeus did to you."
"It's all right. It was worth it." Part of him wanted to tell her why he felt that way—because it had been for her—but the other part didn't want to shatter her memories of her childhood. What good would it do to tell her that he was the reason she'd been spared?
It wouldn't help her. Telling her that would only serve him, and he didn't want her to love him for what he'd done back then.
He wanted her to love him for himself. For what they shared together now. Not out of gratitude or debt. He wanted her love untainted.
I can't believe you said that. More than that, he couldn't believe that he wanted her love or anyone's. He was a god of hatred and strength. He'd always been disdainful of love and all tender emotions. He'd scorned anyone and everyone for acting a fool over something as transitory as love.
Yet as he lay here, naked with her, there was nothing inside him except a gentle peace he never wanted to end. She knew him. Had seen him at his worst, and yet she weathered it with grace and kindness, all the while never giving in to him.
She was the best part of him and he knew it.
Never in his life had he begged anyone for anything. But for her, he would gladly sacrifice his dignity and life.
Something you will be giving up as soon as Zeus has his hands on you. But that was all right, too. He could live with that.
"What are you thinking about?" she asked. "You look so sad."
He kissed her brow. "Only that I wish we could stay like this forever. That we never had to get out of this bed."
"It would be nice, wouldn't it?"
Jericho nodded before he rolled over, putting her on top of him and cupping her breasts in his hands. Though they were on the small side, they were still the most perfect breasts he'd ever seen.
Delphine sucked her breath in sharply as Jericho rose up to suckle her right breast. Every flick of his tongue made her stomach flutter in response. She was on lire now, craving him with a madness she barely understood. It was as if she held an emptiness that only he could fill and until he did. she was going to ache for it.
She cupped his head in her hands while he teased her. His hard erection pressed against her stomach. She wished she had more experience to know how to please him. What it would take to make it special.
"What should I do for you?"
He looked up with a frown. "What?"
"I want to please you. I'm just not sure how."
His smile touched her deep inside, "Baby, I'm happy just to taste you. But. . ." He took her hand and showed her how to cup him.
His groan of pleasure made her smile. At least until she squeezed too hard and he hissed. "Gentle, love, gentle."
Jericho laughed at her fearful tone. It thrilled him that she was so concerned about him and his pleasure. Most of all, he wanted to bathe in her scent until it was branded into his senses. Until he was coated with her.
Laying her back on the bed. he pulled back to stare at her there in the dim light. Her pale skin was gorgeous, her legs slightly parted in open invitation. And he was going to love her so thoroughly that she'd never forget this moment.
Zeus could put him in chains any minute now. But before he went, he wanted this one last memory to take with him. She would be the only balm he'd ever know.
Delphine was stunned by the ferocity of his kiss as he returned to her lips. But he didn't stop there. He moved over her body slowly, thoroughly, kissing and licking every inch of her. From her throat to her breasts, then lower to her hips. He worked his way down her legs to her feet and toes. Squealing in pleasure, she had to force herself not to kick as he suckled each of her toes in turn.
But it was when he came up between her legs to taste the part of her that craved him the most that her real pleasure began. He lifted her hips from the bed as his tongue delved deep inside her.
Delphine couldn't breathe at the intensity of the heat that cut through her body. She buried her hand in his hair as he tasted her fully.
"Come for me, Delphine," he growled. "Let me taste your pleasure."
But she didn't give in until he sank his fingers deep inside her. The moment he did, she screamed out in release as her body burst into ribbons of ecstasy.
Jericho smiled at the sound of her orgasm. Finally it was time for what he wanted most. Her body was still convulsing as he lay over her and slid himself inside.
Delphine gasped at the sudden fullness inside her body. At the sensation of Jericho full and hard. Never in her life had she imagined just how good this would feel. And when he slowly began to rock himself against her, she honestly thought she'd die from the bliss.
He held himself up on one arm to look down at her. "Are you all right?"
She wrapped her legs around his, drawing him in even deeper. "Absolutely. I couldn't be more so."
His smile made her heart flutter. She cupped his scarred cheek, staring into his dual-colored eyes as she watched the pleasure play across his face. He drove himself deep inside her, then paused. Gathering her in his arms, he rolled, putting her on top of him.
She gasped as he lifted his hips.
"Ride me, Delphine. I want to see you take your pleasure from me."
Unsure, she was timid at first, afraid she might somehow harm him. But as she moved and he growled tenderly, she grew more bold. Honestly, she loved being able to look down at him. To see the way the muscles of his abdomen moved.
His gaze locked with hers, he reached down between their bodies to where they were joined. She had no idea what he intended to do until his lingers stroked her cleft.
The moment he touched her, she jumped in pleasure. "Oh, my goodness."
He smiled again. "Like that, do you?"
Unable to speak, she nodded.
Jericho laughed as he stroked her in time to her thrusts. He loved the sight of her biting her lip as she quickened her strokes. He wanted to come so badly he could taste it, but he didn't want this to end. He wanted to stay inside her forever.
Why did sex have to be so short?
He ground his teeth, trying to stave off his climax, but as she found her own release while he was inside her, he was lost to it. Throwing his head back, he roared with the ferocity of his orgasm.
Damn. . .
He drove himself as deep as he could while his body exploded with pleasure. Oh, yeah, she was worth hell and then some. And he'd sell his soul to the lowest bidder if he could stay here with her like this for eternity.
Damn you, Zeus. But he'd made his bed and he would lie in it.
For Delphine. He could never lose sight of why he'd made his pact. It was for her and her alone. . . .
She'd, been right all along. Sometimes people did do things for others without expecting anything in return.
Love was real and he felt it with every part of him. All he needed was to know she was happy, and it was enough for him.
I am the worst sort of fool.
But even with his conscience yelling at him, he couldn't regret what he'd done. This was exactly what she'd tried to explain to him, and it was only by experiencing it that he finally understood.
His mother was wrong. Hatred wasn't the strongest emotion. What he felt for Delphine gave him more courage and more determination than all the hatred that had corrupted him. This was the reason to live.
Not for revenge and definitely not for hatred.
He lived for her love.
Sighing, Delphine sank down over him. She laid her head against his chest so that she could hear his heart beating as her body settled down. His arms held her close, making her feel protected, and as far-fetched as it was . . . loved. She knew better than to hope for that where he was concerned.
He thought of love as a weakness to be spurned. If only she could make him understand what she felt for him.
But it wasn't meant to be. She could only dream of having Jericho love her the way her parents had loved each other. Even now she remembered the way her mother had wept when her father had died.
She'd been thirteen when he'd caught an infection. For weeks he'd suffered while her mother did everything she could to heal him.
He'd left them in the middle of the night. Her mother's anguished screams had awakened her in the morning. It'd taken three men to pull her mother away from her father's body, and there had been no consoling her.
Her mother had only lived six months before she'd succumbed to an illness herself. At least that's what they told Delphine. But she'd known the truth. Unable to live without her father, her mother had willed herself dead. Nothing Delphine had done had been able to cheer her mother.
"You will find love one day, daughter. And you will understand. I only hope that when it comes for you, you're able to grow old and have decades together." Those had been the last words her mother had spoken to her.
Arik had brought her here three days later.
Since the day of her arrival on the Vanishing Isle, Delphine had given up on ever understanding what her mother had tried so desperately to explain.
And when it had finally come for her, she'd found it in the most unlikely of places. In the arms of a god of hatred . . .
Who would have ever imagined?
She propped her head up on her hand to stare up at his beautiful eyes. "That was incredible."
He laughed gently as he brushed his fingers through her tangled hair. "I'm pretty sure you broke me."
She jerked up, concerned over what he meant. "What? Did I hurt you?"
"No. I'm just too content now to move."
She returned his smile. "You're so wrong."
Jericho wrapped his arms around her and held her tight against him until she protested. Never in his life had he felt like this about another being.
No anger. No pain.
At least until a sharp crash sounded outside their doors. He could hear angry voices and something that sounded like breaking glass.
Anger destroyed his hard-won peace. "I should have known it was too soon to be feeling satisfied," he groused, dressing himself.
"Let's at least hope it's not a gallu."
He scowled at her, and the tone of her voice that said it was the worst thing she could imagine. "Why? They're not all bad, in a smelly, skanky, need-to-be-killed kind of way."
"My point exactly." She dressed and joined him by the bed.
Jericho took her hand and led her from the room, making sure to keep himself between her and the possible threat they were heading toward.
By the time they reached the hall, three Oneroi were holding Zeth back while M'Adoc brushed at his clothes. It appeared that Zeth must have attacked him.
But at least M'Adoc was looking better. Some of the bruises had healed, and he wasn't nearly as pale as he'd been earlier.
"I want his heart in my fist," Zeth snarled.
M'Adoc gave him a patient stare. "As do we all. But for now, we're blocked out of Azmodea. The best we can do is prepare to fight until we find a way in."
Zeth struggled against the men holding him. He let loose a battle cry that echoed around them.
"Easy, tiger," Jericho said, letting go of Delphine to join their small group. "I don't want that shit ringing in my ears. If it does, you've got a much worse problem than Noir. I'll be the one beating your ass."
Zeth shook the others off him. He straightened up to give Jericho a knowing once-over. "I remember you. You tried to get through the drugs to talk to me."
Jericho inclined his head. "You were definitely out of it." He looked around at the Skoti and Oneroi. . . and remembered a time when the two groups had seldom interacted. "You guys all good now?"
M'Adoc shrugged. "Depends. Now that we have emotions again, some of us are harboring grudges and hard feelings." He passed a meaningful look at Zeth. "While others just want to kill because they can't handle their anger."
Jericho scoffed. "Sounds like a regular walk in the park for me."
M'Adoc gave a sarcastic laugh. "We're trying to restructure our duties, and some of us are in disagreement about who the new leaders should be."
Zeth curled his lip. "The Skoti need their own rep. We don't trust you assholes. Too many centuries of you killing and stalking us."
M'Adoc growled low in his throat. "Excuse me? You were the ones who provoked us. None of you could behave, and you were one step away from bringing the wrath of Zeus down on all of us. Having been one of the original ones he tortured, I can tell you we were kinder on you than he would have been on us."
Zeth rolled his eyes. "Whatever."
Jericho cast a sideways glance to Delphine, who seemed as bemused by their argument as he was. Not to mention he really resented being pulled out of her arms for something so stupid. They were lucky he was feeling a bit mellow right now.
Delphine looked about the room of gathered Oneroi and Skoti. "You all appear a lot more clear-headed than you were earlier. What else have you decided?"
M'Adoc indicated several of the Oneroi around him. "We're getting rid of the nomenclature Zeus forced on us."
Jericho scowled, not understanding. "The what?"
"M, V and D apostrophe names. Zeus gave them to us as a punishment and to strip out our individuality. Our real names were forbidden, and he used those letters to further humiliate us by reminding us that we were his obedient servants and not our own entities."
Zeth's blue eyes glowed with hatred. "Each letter designated a job we were supposed to perform. M were those who policed the Oneroi and Skoti—basically the narcs of the group. The V's helped humans through sleep and the D's helped the gods and the Dark-Hunters. It's why one of the first things Skoti do when they rebel is to revert to the names we were given at birth. In most cases. There have been a few such as V Aiden who didn't. But I've always thought he was an idiot anyway."
Madoc glanced to Zeth. "And we're now one force reunited. Right, Zeth?"
"Bite me, asshole."
The Oneroi standing behind him popped him on the back of the head. Zeth turned to attack, but didn't manage more than a step before Madoc had him in a headlock. "Don't try my patience, Zeth. It's running perilously thin." He let out a deep sigh as he glanced back to Jericho. "It really makes you wonder how Ash manages to handle the Dark-Hunters, doesn't it?"
Jericho laughed. "So what name do we call you?"
He released Zeth, who snarled, but thought better of attacking him again. "I'm sticking with Madoc. It'll remind me of why we can never let Zeus or anyone else ever subjugate us again."
"I can respect that. And I think I know how Ash handles his crew." Jericho pulled off the whip that Azura had given him and handed it to Madoc.
But as he did so, a thought struck him.
"Sonofa. . . I know how we can get inside Azmodea."
Madoc's eyes lit up with the same excitement he felt. "How?"
"Asmodeus!" he shouted, summoning the demon to him.
The demon appeared instantly. "You rang, Mino— well, you're not really the Minor Master anymore, are you? What should I call you?"
Jericho narrowed his gaze threateningly. "Think of a polite term, demon."
Asmodeus's eyes widened. "Mister Master it is. What can I do for you?"
"Get us into Azmodea."
The demon sputtered in disbelief. "Why in the name of smelly feet would you want to go there again? What good could possibly come from that?"
"We need to get Jaden out."
Jericho turned as Jared approached them. He must have teleported in right after the demon. Still dressed in black, he looked remarkably fresh and undamaged given the fight they'd all been through.
"What do you mean?" Jericho asked.
Jared's eerie eyes were sad. "Jaden willingly consigned himself to their service. You take him out of there without their permission, and he dies. Believe me, if I could have carried him out of there, I would have."
Delphine sighed. This was getting worse. Thanks to Zeus they couldn't send Jericho in and now they couldn't even use Jaden. "Then how do we stop Noir and Azura if we can't get to Jaden?"
"You'd have to send in Cam and Rezar. Only they have the power to imprison Noir and Azura."
Delphine glanced around, grateful to see she wasn't the only one who thought Jared had lost his mind. "Who?"
Jericho answered in a cold, dead tone. "The original gods of the sun and of fire. They are said to be the most powerful of all the creation gods."
Jared inclined his head to him. "Exactly. They alone have the powers to negate Azura and Noir." Air and darkness. Those could only be extinguished by sun and fire.
That at least gave Delphine a degree of hope. "Where are they?"
Jared shrugged. "No one knows. After the first war, they, disgusted by what they'd seen from the gods and humanity, withdrew into hiding."
Jericho cursed foully at the news. "You've got to be kidding me."
Jared shook his head. "The only person who could find them or even identify them is Jaden. Or Noir and Azura. Since I'm relatively sure they don't want them found, I wouldn't put money on the two of them helping us."
Jericho expelled an agitated breath. "So there's no way to completely defeat them."
"They're gods, Jericho. You've already fought that war, and how many centuries did you and the Olympians fight? Taking out a god isn't easy. The best you can do is trap them, but that takes stealth, and since they're both on guard now . . ."
"So what do we do?" Madoc asked.
"You'll have to negate the gallu threat. Protect the humans and wait for the Malachai to mature his powers—praying the whole time he doesn't join ranks with Noir." Jared looked around at the Oneroi gathered. "And keep them out of our dreams. I'm sure with the gallu, they'll be attacking on that front. Zarek's plan is the best bet you have. Reclaim, neutralize or kill every Olympian who stands with them. Show them no mercy."
Zeth frowned. "But you're still saying that we can't win this."
"No—we can . . . eventually. It won't be this week or this year and definitely not today. But if we assemble the right team and make no mistakes, we can defeat them and put them in a place where they'll never be able to harm another person or god again."
Delphine swallowed at the dire prediction. "And if we fail?"
Madoc sighed. "It'll suck to be human."
"It'll suck more to be us," Zeth said in a surly tone.
"I can't believe I was ever stupid enough to trust Noir. Come to the dark side. We have cookies," Zeth grumbled.
Jericho clapped him on the back. "Don't be so hard on yourself. It wasn't the cookies that tempted you."
"No. When you're denied basic necessities, you're willing to do anything to get them."
Jericho met Delphine's gaze. "Believe me, I know and I almost made the same mistake you did. Evil is seductive. It's what makes the two of them so dangerous."
"No," Jared said, his tone dire. "It's our willingness to believe their lies and to see what we want to see that makes it so dangerous. Even when we know better, we lie to ourselves and that's where the tme betrayal is."
Zeth nodded. "As the great poet once wrote, 'To thine own self be true.'"
They all stared at him aghast.
"What?" he asked in an offended tone. "You don't think a Skotos can be literate? I happen to love Shakespeare. Hamlet is one of my faves."
Jericho snorted. "I'm not touching that one with tongs and a gas mask." He looked back at Madoc. "What other changes have you guys decided on?"
Madoc indicated him and Zeth. "We don't know if D'Alerian lives or not. I'm going to keep hoping, but until we know for sure, we have to have someone to lead the Oneroi and help them adjust to what's going on." His eyes sad, he hesitated before he spoke again. "M'Ordant's dead, and our hierarchy is in shambles. As much as it pains me to admit it, I think Zeth is right and it'll help to have him in as a commander. He's been leading the Skoti for a while now and they tend to listen to him."
Zeth scoffed. "For the record, I was his third choice behind Solin and Xypher."
Madoc gave him an unamused stare. "And all things considered, you're probably the more sensible one anyway. Xypher's more demon than Skotos, and Solin . . . he'd only be interested in monitoring and helping our women."
Deimos gave a short laugh of agreement. "Phobos and I are still in charge of the Dolophoni. Nothing changes there, except we'll be assisting the Oneroi more now than we have in the past."
It all sounded great to Jericho except for one minor concerning detail. "Have you run this by Zeus?"
Madoc shook his head. "Not yet, but I don't think he'll oppose it. So long as we keep his dreams clear, he should be all right with it."
Zeth didn't look as convinced. "What if he takes our emotions again?"
"He won't," Jericho said with total confidence.
Still, Zeth was skeptical. "How can you be so sure?"
Jericho wasn't about to tell them of his bargain with the asshole. No one needed to know what he'd relegated himself to for their benefit. "I put a safeguard in. If he goes back on his word, it won't go well for him."
Asmodeus wrinkled his brow as he looked back and forth between the group. "So where does my demon self fit into all this?"
Deimos draped an arm around his shoulder. "Technical advisor. Since you know our enemies so well, we're going to pick your brain."
Asmodeus's eyes widened. "I'll tell you what you want to know. There's no need to torture me for it."
Deimos looked around, his face a mask of befud-dlement. "Huh?"
Delphine laughed before she explained. "Pick your brain is an idiomatic expression, Asmodeus. It means we'll have you tell us things. We're not actually going in there to mess with your head."
He let out a long, relieved breath. "Oh, thank the Source. I can't stand it when someone opens my skull. It really hurts."
Deimos screwed his face up in sympathy. "I'm glad I'm not a demon."
Asmodeus looked eager again. "So where do we start?"
Madoc glanced to Jericho and Deimos. "With Azura and Noir—we need to be attacking them and weakening them. So long as they're defending, they won't be able to plot. The more we use our Oneroi to hit them, the better. They have to sleep sometime."
"And I can help," Jared offered. "So long as my lady allows me to. By the way," he looked at Jericho, "you can never allow them to have Jaden's medallion." "Why?"
"When placed over the heart of a god, it renders the god powerless."
Jericho gaped as a brilliant idea went through him. "Can we use it on Noir?"
"I'm rather sure that's why Jaden wanted it."
"Then why hasn't he used it?" Zeth asked.
Jared gave him a wry stare. "Have you ever tried to put something like that around the throat of a god who hates you? It's not the easiest thing. I'm sure if it were simple, Jaden would have done it."
"Okay, good point, but still. . ."
"We need that amulet," Jericho finished.
Jared nodded. "But once Zephyra learns you don't have it, she's going to recall me."
"Maybe, maybe not. We might be able to negotiate with her again."
Jared scoffed. "Negotiating with her isn't the easiest thing to do. More often than not, it involves bloodletting. And by that I mean mine."
Delphine frowned as she saw an Oneroi woman calling her from across the room.
"Do you know her?" Jericho asked.
"No, but she obviously knows me." She smiled at him. "I'll be right back."
Jericho watched her leave, his heart heavy. The one thing he regretted most out of all this was that as Zeus's slave, he'd never see her again.
She would be lost to him.
Unwilling to think about it, he returned to their conversation. He wouldn't regret what he'd done. Only the future that the two of them would be denied.
Delphine followed the Oneroi who motioned her out of the hall. What could the woman possibly want? And why couldn't they speak in the large room with the others?
Curious, she approached the goddess, who had finally stopped walking away from her. "Did you need something?"
Raven-haired and petite, the woman reminded her of someone, but she couldn't think of who. She turned toward Delphine with a smile. "Yes, there is something I need."
"And that is?"
The woman split from one into three identical goddesses. Before Delphine could even move, they had her bound.
"Your death," the first one snarled an instant before she slashed her throat.
Äàòà äîáàâëåíèÿ: 2015-09-13; ïðîñìîòðîâ: 5; Íàðóøåíèå àâòîðñêèõ ïðàâ