Shades of Twilight (Chapter 17)

The damp night air washed over her, the breeze cooling the heated flesh between her legs. The feeling of exposure, of vulnerability, was too sharp to be borne, and with a soft, panicked sound she tried to close her legs.

His hands tightened on her thighs.

"No," he said. Slowly he leaned forward, letting his body touch her, lightly press down on her, and his mouth closed over hers with a sweetness, a tenderness, that was devastating. The kiss was as gentle as a butterfly's wings, as leisurely as summer. With the utmost delicacy he cherished her mouth, lingered over the kiss. At the same time his wicked fingers moved boldly between her legs, opening the secret folds that protected the soft opening of her body. One big finger probed at her, making her squirm, then it pushed deep inside. Roanna arched helplessly, moaning into his mouth, overcome by the startling sense of being penetrated.

He kept on kissing her, the sweetness of his mouth gentling her for the marauding thrust of his fingers. It was almost diabolical, that contrast of intensity, arousing every aspect of her sensuality. She was both seduced and ravished, enticed and taken.

His lips left her mouth, slid hotly down her throat, then were at her breasts. He sipped delicately, sucked hard. Roanna sank into a dark, whirling storm of pure desire, trembling with need. She put her hands on his head, feeling the thick, cool silk of his hair between her fingers. She felt dizzy, drunk with arousal, with the heated musky scent of his skin. He was hot, so hot, his body heat burning through his shirt.

His mouth moved downward, over her trembling stomach muscles. His tongue probed her shallow navel, making her loins clench wildly as a bolt of pleasure shot through her. Down, down … He gripped her buttocks hard, pulling them forward so that her bottom was right on the edge of the chair, then draped her legs over his shoulders. She made an incoherent sound of panic, of helpless anticipation.

"I told you," he muttered.

"Good enough to eat."

Then he kissed her, his mouth hot and wet, his tongue swirling around her straining, yearning nub. Her hips lifted wildly, her heels digging into his back. She cried out, muffling the sound with her own hand. She couldn't stand it, it was too intense, it was torture and ecstasy all at once, and her hips bucked in an effort to escape the sensation. He gripped her bottom tighter, pulling her harder against his mouth, and his tongue stabbed deep into her. She climaxed violently, shuddering, biting her hand to keep from screaming from the force of it.

When the sensations finally ebbed and released her from their dark whirlpool, she lay sprawled limply in the chair with her legs still spread on his wide shoulders. She couldn't move. She had no strength, not even enough to open her eyes. Whatever he wanted to do to her now, she was open, compliant, completely vulnerable to his desire.

He lifted her thighs off his shoulders and she felt him moving, felt the brush of bare skin against her as he stripped out of his shirt. She forced her heavy eyelids open as he undid his pants and pushed them down. His urgency was a hot, wild thing. He hooked one arm around her bottom and dragged her forward even more, off the chair and onto his thighs, onto his thick, thrusting penis. It speared upward into her, so hard that she felt bruised, so hot that she felt burned. Her weight aided in her own penetration, pushing her down so that he went even deeper, and she choked on a soft scream.

Webb groaned, leaning back on his hands so that his body arched powerfully beneath her.

"You know what to do," he said from between clenched teeth.


She did. Automatically her body responded, rising and falling, her thighs clasping his hips, flexing as she lifted herself almost completely off him only to slide back down. She rode him slowly, so that she took him by increments.

Her body was magic, moving with the fluid grace that had always captivated him; she enveloped him with a downward glide, then tormented him with the threat of release as she moved upward again, almost off of him … no, no … then back down, and he groaned at the wet heated relief of being surrounded by her flesh, held, caressed. He was stallion hard inside her, and finally she rode him hard, moving fast, slamming herself down onto him. Sensation built unbearably, and he thrust upward, hard. Helplessly she cried out, her sweet inner flesh pulsing and hugging him as she came again.

A harsh cry tore out of his throat and he reared up, throwing her back against the chair. He pinned her to it with his weight as he plunged and bucked, spurting hotly into her.

He lay heavily on her, trembling and sweating. His release had been so powerful that he couldn't speak, couldn't think. Sometime later a measure of strength returned to his muscles and he withdrew from her, bringing a wordless murmur of protest from her lips. He stood and kicked his pants off, then lifted her up into his arms and carried her to the bed. He stretched out on the bed beside her, and she curled into his embrace and went to sleep. Webb buried his face against her hair and let the darkness claim him, too.

Some unknown time later she moved out of his arms and got up from the bed. Webb awoke at once, disturbed by her absence. He blinked sleepily at the pale form of her naked body.

"Ro?" he murmured. She didn't answer but walked calmly, deliberately toward the door. Her bare feet were silent. It almost looked as if she were drifting over the floor.

The hair stood up on the back of his neck and he shot out of bed. His hand slapped against the door just as she reached out for the doorknob. He peered at her face. Her eyes were open, her expression as serene as a statue's.

"Ro," he said, his voice rough. He put his arms around her and pulled her against him.

"Wake up, darling'. Come on, baby, wake up." He shook her a little.

She blinked once or twice and yawned as she cuddled closer. He held her tighter and felt tension slowly rob her body of pliancy as she realized that she was out of bed, standing at the door.

"Webb?" Her voice was choked, shaken. She shivered, her skin roughening with a chill. He picked her up and carried her back to the bed, sliding her beneath the warm covers and getting in beside her. He held her close to the warmth of his own body, held her as the shivers became shudders.

"Oh, my God," she said against his shoulder, the words almost toneless with strain.

"I did it again. I don't have any clothes on. I almost walked out of here naked. " She began pushing against him, trying to squirm away.

"I need my nightgown," she said frantically.

"I can't sleep like this."

He controlled her struggles, pressing her down into the mattress.

"Listen to me," he said, but she kept trying to pull away from him, and finally he rolled on top of her, ruthlessly controlling her delicate body with his much bigger, stronger one.

"Shh, shh," he murmured against her ear.

"You're safe with me, baby. I woke up as soon as you moved away from me. You don't have to worry; I won't let you leave this room. 11 Her breath was coming in gasps, and two tears rolled out of the corners of her eyes into the hair at her temple. He rubbed the wet tracks with his beard-stub bled cheek, then kissed the last traces away. She was soft beneath him; his penis was stiff and urgent. He tugged her thighs apart.

"Hush, now," he said, and stabbed deeply into her.

She gasped again, but stilled at his penetration. He lay on her and felt her slowly calm. It was a gradual process, her body changing beneath him, around him, as her distress faded and her physical awareness of him, and what he was doing, increased.

"I won't let you leave," he whispered in reassurance as he began to move inside her. At first she was simply quiescent, accepting his possession, and that was enough. Then his hunger grew and he * 301

wanted more than her compliance, and he began stroking her in ways that made her cry out, made her flesh heat and begin to press urgently against him. She began to climax and he pressed deep into her, pulsing with his own release.

Afterward she tried again to get up, to put on her nightgown, but he held her tightly. She needed to trust him, to be able to fall asleep knowing that he would wake up if she tried to leave, that he wouldn't let her roam the house in defenseless sleep. Until she had that assurance, sleep would remain difficult for her.

Roanna huddled against him, devastated by what had almost happened. She began to cry again, choked sobs that she tried to stifle. She hadn't cried in years, but she was helpless to stop, as if the very fierceness of the pleasure she received from his lovemaking had battered down the walls of her defenses, so that she couldn't hold any emotion at bay.

It was too much, all of it, everything that had happened since Lucinda had sent her to Arizona in search of Webb. Within an hour of finding him, she had been lying beneath him, and nothing had been the same since. How long had it been? Three weeks? Three weeks that comprised shattering ecstasy and devastating pain, three weeks of tension and sleepless nights and fear, and the more recent days when she had felt herself changing inside, facing life and in the process beginning to live again.

She loved Webb, loved him so much that she felt it in every pore of her body, every particle of her soul. Tonight he had made love to her, not with anger, but with a breathtaking possessiveness and sensuality. She hadn't gone to him, he had come to her, and he was holding her as if he never intended to let her go.

But if he did-if, when morning came, he said it had been a mistake-she would survive. It would hurt, but she would go on. She had learned that she could endure almost anything, that her future was still out there.

Oddly, realizing that she could live without him made his presence all the sweeter. She cried until she couldn't any302

more, and he held her the entire time, stroking her hair, murmuring to her. Exhausted both emotionally and physically, she slept.

It was six o'clock when she woke, the morning already bright and sweet, the storm long gone and the birds singing with mad abandon. The veranda doors were still standing open, and Webb was leaning over her.

"Thank God," he muttered roughly as he saw her eyes flutter open.

"I don't know how much longer I could have waited." Then he mounted her, and she forgot about the morning, about the household awakening around them. For all his impatience, he made love to her with a lingering enjoyment they hadn't been able to savor the night before.

When it was over, he gathered her trembling body close and wiped the tears, this time of ecstasy, from her eyes.

"I think we've found the cure for your insomnia," he teased, his voice still hoarse and strained from his own climax.

She gave a hiccupping little laugh and buried her face against his shoulder.

Webb closed his eyes, that small, happy sound reverberating through his entire body. His throat clogged, and his eyes burned. She had laughed. Roanna had laughed.

Her small laugh died away. She kept her face pressed to him, and her fingers moved along his ribcage.

"I can handle not sleeping," she said quietly.

"But knowing that I walk in my sleep … terrifies me."

He moved his hand down her spine, stroking each vertebrae.

"I promise you," he said, "that if you're in bed with me, I won't let you leave the room."

She shivered, but it was from the delicious sensations his stroking fingers were causing as they moved along her spine, probing and caressing. She arched inward, the movement pressing her body more firmly against him.

"Don't try to distract me," she said.

"I really would feel more secure if I wore my nightgown."

He shifted so that he was lying to face her, gathering her in.

"But I don't want a nightgown between us," he murmured, coaxing her.

"I want to feel your skin, your breasts. I want you to go to sleep and know that I won't let anything happen to you-unless I'm the one doing it."

She was silent, and he knew that he hadn't convinced her, but for now she wasn't going to argue the point. Slowly he combed his fingers through her tangled curls, letting the strands drift down so that the sunlight caught them, highlighting the reds and golds and richest browns. He thought of the night he had first taken her, and damned himself for his callousness. He thought of the empty nights since then, when he could have been making love to her, and damned himself for his stupidity.

"I thought I was being noble by not taking advantage of you," he said in lazy amusement.

"Stupid," she said, rubbing her cheek against his hairy chest. She nuzzled one of his flat nipples and caught it with her teeth, lightly biting. He sucked in his breath, undone by her uncomplicated sensuality.

He tried to explain further. "I blackmailed you into that first night. I didn't want you to think you had no choice."

"Dumb." She tilted her head back and looked up at him, whiskey eyes drowsy with sensual completion.

"I thought you didn't want me."

"Ye gods," he muttered.

"And you called me dumb." She smiled and returned her head to its resting place on his chest. Number five. They were coming more often now, he thought, but were just as precious.

He thought of the shots that someone had taken at him the day before, of the danger she had already faced because of him. He should get the hell away from Davencourt, out of her life, for her safety and that of everyone else in the house. But he couldn't, because he had already been careless of her safety even before returning to Davencourt.

He put his hand on her belly, spanning the narrow distance between her hipbones. For a moment he studied the contrast between his big, rough, sun-browned hand and the silky smoothness of her stomach. He had made it a principle a his life to protect a woman from pregnancy, and AIDS had made the practice even more sensible. All his fine principles had flown out the window when he'd had Roanna beneath him; not once had he worn a rubber when he was making love to her, not in Nogales and not last night. He flattened his palm on her belly.

"Have you had a period since that night in Nogales?"

His tone was soft, even, but the words hung between them as if he had shouted. She went very still in that way of hers, motionless except for her breathing. Finally she replied with caution, "No, but I've never been regular. A lot of times I'll completely skip a month."

He'd wanted certainty but realized he wasn't going to find it yet. He rubbed his hand over her stomach, then up to lightly cup a breast. He loved her breasts, so firm and high and elegantly shaped. He watched in sensual delight as the nipple immediately began to pucker, standing up as if begging for attention. Were her nipples slightly darker than they had been that first night? God, he loved her reaction, the immediate response to him.

"Have your breasts always been this sensitive?"

"Yes," she whispered, her breath catching as pleasure flooded through her. At least they were whenever he looked at them, or touched them. She could no more stop her reaction to him than she could halt the tides.

He wasn't immune himself. Though it hadn't been long since they'd made love, his sex stirred as he watched color flush her breasts and cheeks.

"How did you manage to stay virgin for twenty-seven years?" he marveled, thrusting himself against the cleft of her bare thighs.

"You weren't here," she said simply, and the open honesty of her love humbled him. He nuzzled her hair, feeling himself grow more urgent.

"Can you take me again?" To make his meaning plain, he pushed his erection even harder against her.

For answer she lifted her thigh, sliding it along his hip, up to his waist. Webb reached down and guided himself to the soft, swollen opening and pushed inside.

He didn't feel any urgent need for orgasm, just the need for her. They lay together, gently rocking to keep the level of305

sensation. The morning was getting older, and the chances were increasing that they would be caught naked in bed together. Of course, everyone was more likely to sleep late today after the party last night, so he judged it fairly safe to indulge themselves for a while longer. He didn't want to embarrass her, but neither did he want to let her go.

He loved being inside her, loved the tight clasp of her body. They began to slip apart, and he put his hand on her bottom to anchor her to him. She might not think so, but he'd bet the ranch that she was pregnant, and the thought of her carrying his baby at once thrilled him to his bones and scared him half to death.

Maybe it wasn't the most romantic conversation to be having while they were making love, but he tilted her chin up and looked square into her eyes, so she would know he meant it.

"You have to eat more. I want you to put on another fifteen pounds, minimum."

A shadow of insecurity darkened her eyes, and he cursed aloud even as he thrust deeper into her.

"Don't took like that, damn it. After last night, there's no way you can doubt how much you turn me on. Hell, what about right now? I wanted you when you were seventeen, and I sure as hell want you now. But I also want you strong and healthy enough to carry my baby."

It took her a moment to catch her breath after that strong thrust. She moved against him, an enticing wiggle to make herself more comfortable.

"I don't think I'm-" she began, then stopped, and her whiskey eyes widened.

"You wanted me then?" she whispered.

"You were sitting on my lap," he said wryly.

"What did you think, that I was carrying a lead pipe around in my pocket?" He thrust again, letting her feel every inch of him.

"And after the way I kissed you-" "I kissed you," she corrected. Her face was growing flushed, and she clung tighter to him.

"You started it, but I didn't push you away, did I? As I remember, it took about five seconds before I had my tongue halfway down your throat."

She made a little hum of pleasure, perhaps at the memory, more likely at what he was doing to her now. A hard surge of sensation brought him to the realization that the need for orgasm was abruptly urgent, for both of them. He stroked her bottom, trailing his fingers down the cleft until he reached the point of their union. Gently he rubbed her, feeling how stretched and tight her soft flesh was around him. She whimpered, arched, and dissolved. It took only two thrusts for him to join her, and they strained together in completion.

He was still sweating a long time later, when he maneuvered out of her arms and out of bed.

"We have to stop before someone comes looking for us," he muttered. Swiftly he dressed, stepping into wrinkled black pants and picking up his equally wrinkled shirt. He leaned down to kiss her.

"I'll be back tonight." He kissed her again, then straightened, winked at her, and sauntered out onto the veranda as casually as if it were perfectly natural for him to be leaving her room, half naked, at eight o'clock in the morning. She didn't know if anyone saw him or not because she jumped up, grabbed her nightgown, and darted into the bathroom.

She was still quivering with excitement and pleasure as she showered. Her skin was so sensitive from his lovemaking that even the act of bathing felt sexual. She couldn't believe the raw sexuality of the night, but her body had no such difficulty.

Her hands moved over her wet abdomen. Was she pregnant? It had been three weeks since Nogales. She didn't feel any different, she didn't think, but then it had been an eventful three weeks and her attention hadn't been on her menses. Her periods were so irregular anyway that she never paid much attention to the calendar or how she felt. He seemed oddly certain, though, and she closed her eyes as sweet weakness made her tremble.

She was glowing when she went down to breakfast. Webb was already there, halfway finished with his usual hefty meal, but he paused with his fork in midair when she307

entered the room. She saw his eyes linger on her face, then slip down her body. Tonight, she thought. Tonight, he'd promised. She filled her plate with more than she usually took and made an effort to eat most of it.

It was Saturday, but there was still work to be done. Webb had already gone into the study, and Roanna was lingering over her second cup of coffee when Gloria came down.

"Lucinda isn't feeling well," she said fretfully as she began dipping scrambled eggs onto a plate.

"Last night was too hard on her."

"She wanted to do it," Roanna said.

"It was important to her." Gloria looked up, and her eyes were sheened with tears. Her chin wobbled a bit before she controlled it.

"It was silly," she grumbled.

"All that trouble for a party."

But Gloria knew, as they all did: that had been Lucinda's last party, and she had wanted to make it memorable. It had been her effort to set aright the wrong she felt she had done to Webb ten years ago by not standing up for him.

Lucinda had been holding her decline at bay by sheer willpower, because there had still been things she wanted to accomplish. Those things were done now, and she had no more reason to fight. The snowball was rolling downhill now, picking up speed and hurtling toward its inevitable end. From long, quiet talks with Lucinda, Roanna knew this was what she wanted, but it wasn't easy to let go of the woman who had been the family's bulwark for so long.

Booley Watts called Webb that afternoon.

"Carl told me what happened," he drawled.

"Interesting as hell."

"Thanks," Webb said.

Booley chuckled, the sound ending in a wheeze.

"Carl and I both watched the crowd last night, but we didn't see anything out of the way except for that little scene on the patio. Roanna was something, wasn't she?"

"She took my breath away," Webb murmured, and he wasn't thinking just of the lovemaking that had happened later. She had been standing in the middle of the crowd like a pure, golden candle, her head high, her voice loud and clear. She hadn't hesitated to wade into battle on his behalf, and the last part of him that had held on to the image of -little Roanna" had faded away. She was a woman, stronger than she knew and perhaps beginning to realize that strength. She was a Davenport and, in her own way, every bit as queenly as Lucinda.

Booley's voice intruded into his thoughts.

"Have you thought of anybody who would carry a grudge against you for that long, a grudge serious enough that Jessie was killed because of it?"

Webb sighed tiredly.

"No, and I've wracked my brain trying to come up with something. I've even gone over old files, hoping I'll notice a detail, remember something that would make sense out of all this."

"Well, keep thinking. That's what bothered me about Jessie's murder from the beginning: there just didn't seem to be any sense to it, no reason that I could see. Hell, even drive-by shootings have a reason behind them. So whoever killed Jessie-and I'm saying now that I don't believe you did it-killed her for a reason no one else knows. If your theory's right, then the reason didn't apply to her anyway. Someone was after you, and she got in the way."

"Come up with the motive," Webb said, "and we come up with the killer."

"That's the way it's always worked for me."

"Then let's hope we can figure it out before he takes another shot at me … or someone else gets in his way." He hung up and rubbed his eyes, trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together but they simply refused to fit. He stretched and stood up. He had to go into town on an errand, so he had a decision to make: play it safe and take a roundabout route, or drive his usual route and hope he got shot at so he'd have another chance at catching the gunman-assuming the shot missed. Some choice.

Lucinda came down for supper that evening, the first time all day she'd been out of her room. Her color was waxy, and

the palsy in her hands was worse than it had been before, but she was jubilant over the success of the party. Several of her friends had called her during the course of the day and told her it had been simply wonderful, which meant she had accomplished her aim.

They were all at the table except for Corliss, who had gone out earlier in the day and hadn't yet returned. After chattering excitedly for several minutes, Lucinda looked at Roanna and said, "Dear, I'm so proud of you. What you said last night really made a difference."

Everyone else, except for Webb and Roanna, looked confused. Lucinda had never missed much that was going on, though probably it was one or more of her cronies who had filled her in on what had happened on the patio.

"What?" Gloria asked, looking from Lucinda to Roanna and back.

"Oh, Cora Cofelt made a snide remark about Webb, and Roanna took up for him. She managed to make everyone feel ashamed of themselves."

"Cora Cofelt?" Lanette was aghast.

"Oh, no! She'll never forgive Roanna for embarrassing her."

"On the contrary, Cora herself called me today and apologized for her own bad manners. Admitting when you're wrong is the mark of a lady."

Roanna didn't know if that was a dig at Gloria or not, for Gloria had certainly never admitted being wrong about anything. Lucinda and Gloria loved each other, and in a crisis they could each be relied on to support the other, but their relationship had its sharp edges.

Webb's eyes met hers, and he smiled. Slowly, blushing a little, she smiled in return.

Number six, he thought triumphantly.

The front door slammed, and heels clattered unsteadily across the foyer tile. "Yoo-hoof" Corliss yelled.

"Where is everybody? Yoo-" "Damn it!" Webb said violently, shoving his chair back from the table. The alarm went off, shrieking like all the fiends in hell. Everyone jumped and covered their ears. Webb ran from the room, and after a second Brock followed him.

"Oh, no, the horses," Roanna cried, and darted for the door. When the alarm had been tested, the horses had all panicked. Webb had debated changing the alarm to one less shrill but had opted for the safety of his family over the nervousness of the horses.

The godawful racket stopped as she reached the hall, and instead she heard Corliss whooping with uncontrollable laughter and Webb cussing with every breath he drew. Brock turned on Corliss and yelled, "Shut up!"

Everyone else piled into the hall behind Roanna as Corliss straightened from where she was clinging to the huge, carved newel post at the bottom of the stairway. Corliss's face twisted with fury. She worked her mouth and spat a gob of saliva at her brother.

"Don't tell me to shut up," she sneered. The spit missed Brock, but he looked down at the wet splatter on the floor with disgust etched on his face.

Lanette stared at her daughter in horror.

"You're drunk!" she gasped.

"So?" Corliss demanded belligerently.

"Just having a IN fun, nothin' wrong with that."