Crescent Moon (Chapter 27)
The words whispered through my mind. I'd heard them before. Now I heard them in Adam's voice.
I fought the heavy veil of sleep, tried to surface, to see. Who was speaking? What had they said and why?
Bursting awake as if coming from the depths of a rolling ocean and into a silent night, I found myself alone. I glanced toward the window, but nothing was there.
"A dream," I murmured.
I was so sick of dreams.
The room was dark; the moon had disappeared and the sun hadn't yet arisen. A secret, lonely hour, which wasn't night or day or even dawn.
The front door closed. Before I even knew what I was doing, I jumped out of bed and pulled on my clothes. Or what was left of them. My tank top was shredded, so I helped myself to one of Adam's, but my breasts tumbled out the armholes, since he'd shredded my bra while he was at it.
What had been incredibly sexy last night was merely an annoyance now. I mumbled curses as I found a T-shirt that might have been white once but was now kind of gray, and tugged it over my head.
A quick glance out the window revealed Adam slipping through the shadows and into the tall grass.
This was his place. Where was he going?
Time to find out. I raced through the house and out the front door.
Did I actually believe I'd be able to follow him through the swamp without his knowing I was there? He'd lived here all his life, and while I'd spent a lot of time in some very odd places, I wasn't exactly the invisible woman. Nevertheless, I had to try.
Head down, he barely looked where he was going as he meandered through the weeds and the standing water. Was he thinking of me? Or the us that could never be? What about the us that might be? Did I dare tell him I wanted to try for more, or would that scare him off for good?
Considering I'd never woken in the daylight with him by my side, no matter what we'd shared in the night, scaring him off wasn't hard. Why worry about it now?
Dawn broke, spilling muted sunshine across the land. There was a chill to the morning, but soon the heat would rise. Ahead tires roared across pavement; a horn tooted. I glanced around, uncertain where I was.
Adam climbed an embankment, then crossed a highway I didn't recognize. On the opposite side lay a trailer park.
Frowning, I crept forward, catching sight of him just as he opened the door on one of the mobile homes and disappeared.
What the hell? Was this where he spent his days? Not in a coffin or a grave or a lair but a trailer park? I hadn't seen that coming.
I left the cool shadows of the swamp, slipping and sliding up the embankment, then waiting for a semi truck to pass before I scooted across the two-lane highway.
Expecting the trailer park to be run-down, kind of shimmy, I was surprised to find neat plots of grass and flowers planted around the bases of most of the mobile homes. Each was well kept, clean, even shiny.
Tricycles, Big Wheels, Flintstone cars, resided in nearly every driveway. Where Adam had disappeared, they had one of each.
My eyes narrowed. Who lived here? I had a very bad feeling I wasn't going to like the answer.
Tempted to bang on the door, I refrained. Just past six in the morning, I didn't want to be rude. So I slunk around the side and peeked in the window. I didn't mind being criminal.
Cartoons spilled across the TV screen. A little boy of perhaps four or five stared avidly at the square yellow blob with a face, legs, and hands that appeared to be dancing under the sea.
I craned my neck. A young African-American woman stood in the kitchen, pouring cereal into a bowl. Her hair had been left natural, forming a short, tight, attractive Afro around her pretty face. She couldn't have been more than eighteen, maybe twenty.
I returned my attention to the child – dark hair long and shaggy, his skin kissed by the sun. I couldn't see his eyes. He could be hers.
Hers and –
The young woman's head came up as Adam appeared, his hair slicked back from his face, a towel around his neck. Chest bare, he now wore jeans instead of slacks.
"Daddy!" the child screeched, and left the cartoons behind to launch himself into Adam's arms.
I didn't realize I'd stopped breathing until black dots shimmied in front of my eyes. I sucked in air, let it out again. I should sit down, put my head between my legs, or maybe just pound it against the cement. But I couldn't tear my gaze from Adam and his son.
The child clung to Adam like a monkey, arms tight around his neck, legs clutching his waist, and Adam rubbed his cheek against the boy's hair. The love on his face caused a tiny sob to escape.
Adam looked up and I ducked so fast, I got dizzy again. I crouched below the window, breathing as shallowly as I dared, listening for the creak of a door, but nothing happened.
So I sat on the ground, dangled my head between my knees. I should get out of here. Someone, if not Adam or the little woman, was going to discover me dallying in the patch of grass beneath their living room window and wonder what kind of psycho they were dealing with.
A snort of laughter erupted. He'd been angry when he thought I was married and screwing him. What was his excuse?
"Maybe they aren't married," I muttered.
Which was no excuse.
He'd lied to me somewhere along the line. Although I hadn't asked if he was involved, nevertheless, wasn't it good form to mention it? He definitely should have mentioned the child.
Of course Adam had made certain I was leaving, made clear he didn't love me and never would. He probably figured I'd be gone long before it mattered that he had a son and a live-in woman. Maybe she didn't care if he played around. But I did.
A thought niggled at the edge of my mind. If I could just get my brain to function past the sight of that little boy's smile and the sound of his voice shouting, "Daddy!"
But I couldn't From the way I was hyperventilating and clutching my chest, you'd think I'd just caught the love of my life in bed with another woman.
I cursed, forced myself to my feet, and took a deep breath. I'd head back to the mansion, gather my things, and move in with Cassandra. Then I'd hire another guide, find the freaking loup-garou, put a leash around its neck, and deliver the beast to Frank. All without ever seeing Adam Ruelle again.
I turned and ran right into him.
He glanced from me to the window and back again. Neither one of us spoke.
I lifted my chin and tried to walk away. He sidestepped, putting himself directly in front of me.
"What are you doin' here?" he asked.
"You followed me."
"Dub.," I muttered, which was so constructive but the best I could think of right now.
"You shouldn't have."
I was tempted to say "duh" again but managed to stop myself. Instead I said nothing.
He grabbed my arm and dragged me away from the mobile home, glancing over his shoulder as if afraid someone might see. I struggled against his hold, for all the good it did.
"You have to go."
"I'll come to de mansion tonight. I'll explain."
"Don't bother." I pulled free.
"You don't understand, cher."
"Do not call me cher!" I shouted, and to my horror, my voice broke.
He reached for me, and I stepped back so fast I tripped over my own feet. My eyes burned. I was going to cry, and I couldn't let him see. I just couldn't.
"Diana," he murmured. "It's not what you think."
"Not your son?"
His lips tightened and he didn't answer.
"That's what I thought."
And suddenly I recalled his incredible lie.
"You said…" I stared at him wide-eyed. "You said you couldn't have children."
My fingers itched to touch my stomach, where even now his child might be growing. Why on earth had I ever trusted this man?
"I can't." He rubbed his hand through his hair. "Not anymore."
"And I should believe you?"
"Why would I want to get you pregnant? I don't even want – " He broke off.
I could fill in the end of that sentence. He didn't even want me. Not forever. Not in any way that mattered.
I'd deluded myself into thinking I was the type of woman who could have sex without strings, but I wasn't. The instant I'd had sex, the strings were there. They might be invisible, but that didn't make them any less real.
I must have made a movement toward the road, as if I might take off, as if I had a prayer in hell of outrunning him, and his hand snaked out, his fingers encircling my wrist.
"You weren't supposed to see," he said.
"Diana." He sighed. "What am I going to do with you?"
"Not much. Not anymore."
His lips thinned again. He was angry. Well, join de club, my mind mocked.
I was the injured party here. So why was he making me feel as if I'd done something wrong?
"Who is she?" I whispered.
The child I could forgive, but a wife… never.
Adam's eyes met mine, startled, a little confused, as if he had no idea who I was talking about, and I snapped. My free hand balled into a fist and I swung at his head.
He ducked, quicker than spit, and I nearly fell when I missed him. My other arm twisted sharply, painfully, when he didn't let go of my wrist, and I almost went to my knees. Would have, if he hadn't grabbed me and hauled me against him.
Despite everything, my body recognized his. We still fit together so right. How could everything have gone so wrong?
Oh, yeah. That.
Adam tensed. To his credit he didn't shove me away. He released me slowly, almost gently, and stepped back, turning and putting himself between me and his son, as if he could hide one from the other.
"What are you doin' out here?" Adam asked.
The child didn't answer, instead leaning to the side so he could see me. I was struck with the urge to cover my face, as if that would make me invisible.
He grinned, exposing an adorable gap in his front teeth. If that hadn't made my heart clutch, the sight of his bright blue eyes would have.
"I'm Luc," he said. "Luc Ruelle."
He didn't have the Cajun twang of his father, but the South still lived in Luc's voice.
"Go inside," Adam ordered.
The kid ignored him. I had to admire that Adam wasn't exactly ignorable.
"You gonna be my mom?"
"Luc," Adam growled.
"Uh-oh." Luc's gaze shifted to his father, then back to me. "Now I'm in trouble."
He didn't appear worried, and instead of leaving, he advanced. Adam stepped between us again, and I was tempted to shove him out of the way. Honestly, did he think I was going to gobble up the child like a… a goblin?
"My real mama died. I got sitters. Lots of 'em." He glanced at Adam. "Sadie says she's quittin'."
Adam groaned as Luc gave a long-suffering sigh. "I know, another one bites the dust."
I laughed and Luc smiled again, even as Adam shot me a glare. How could he remain so sour with such a sweet, funny child to enjoy? And why was he treating Luc like a curse and not a blessing?
My head tilted. Curse? Could Luc be… ?
"Get back inside," Adam repeated. "I have to take – " he broke off and scowled at me again – "her home."
"Who is her?" Luc asked, undaunted, "What's your name?"
"Deesse de la lune."
All urge to laugh fled. I heard again the whisper in the swamp, Adam's murmur in my mind, Luc's voice in the sun.
"What does that mean?"
Luc glanced at Adam, concern wrinkling his forehead. "She don't know French?"
"Not everyone does."
The child peered at me as if I'd just farted in church. Not to know French – what a cretin!
"Goddess of the moon," he chirped. "Diana."
"Oh," I said lamely.
Interesting that a child knew all about the power of names.
"Daddy likes the moon."
My gaze went to Adam, who stared at me with no expression. "Does he?"
"Especially the smiley moon," Luc continued. "Whenever there's one of those in the sky, he's gone all night."