Shades of Twilight (Chapter 7)

"How did you find me?" he finally asked.

"Did Mother tell you?"

She shook her head.

"Aunt Sandra?"

She shook her head again.

"Damn it, I'm not in the mood for guessing games," he snapped.

"Either talk or get out of the truck."

Roanna's hands tightened on the edges of the jacket.

"Lucinda hired a private detective to find you. Then she sent me out here." She could feel his hostility radiating from him, a palpable force that seared her skin. She'd known she didn't have much chance of convincing him to return, but she hadn't realized how violently he disliked her now. Her stomach twisted sickeningly, and her chest felt hollow, as if her heart no longer lived there.

"So you didn't come on your own?" he asked sharply.


Unexpectedly he reached out and caught her jaw, his fingers biting into the softness of her skin as he wrenched her head around. A purr of soft menace entered his voice.

"Look at me when you're talking to me."

Helplessly she did so, her eyes eating him, tracing every beloved outline and committing it to memory. This might be the last time she ever saw him, and when he sent her away, another piece of her would die.

"What does she want?" he asked, still holding her face in his grip. His big hand covered her jaw from ear to ear.

"If she simply missed my smiling face, she wouldn't have waited ten years to find me. So what is it she wants from me?"

His bitterness was deeper than she'd expected, his anger still as hot as it had been the day he'd walked out of their lives. She should have known, though, and Lucinda should have, too. They'd always been aware of the force of his character; that was why, when he'd been only fourteen, Lucinda had picked him as her heir and the custodian of Davencourt. Their betrayal of him had been like pulling a tiger's tail, and now they had to face his fangs and claws.

"She wants you to come home and take over again."

"Sure she does. The good people of Colbert County

wouldn't dirty themselves by doing business with an accused murderer."

"Yes, they would. With Davencourt and everything else belonging to you, they'd have to, or lose a lot of their own income."

He gave a harsh bark of laughter.

"My God, she must really want me back if she's willing to buy me! I know she's changed her will, presumably in your favor. What's gone wrong? Has she made a few bad decisions, and now she needs me to pull the family's financial ass out of the fire?"

Her fingers ached to reach out and smooth away the anger that lined his forehead, but she restrained herself, and the effort it cost her was reflected in her voice.

"She wants you to come home because she loves you and regrets what happened. She needs you to come home because she's dying. She has cancer."

He glared at her in the darkness.. then abruptly released her jaw and turned his head away. After a moment he said, "God damn it," and viciously slammed his fist against the steering wheel.

"She's always been good at manipulating people. God knows, Jessie came by it honestly."

"Then you'll come?" Roanna. asked hesitantly, unable to believe that was what he meant.

Instead of answering, he turned back to her and caught her face in his hand again. He leaned closer, so close she could see the glitter of his eyes and smell the alcohol on his breath. Dismayed, she abruptly realized he wasn't exactly sober. She should have known, she'd watched him drinking, but she just hadn't thought' What about you?" he demanded, his voice low and hard.

"All I've heard is what Lucinda wants. What do you want? Do you want me to come home, little-Roanna-all grown-up? How did she get you to do her dirty work for her, knowing that you'll lose a lot of money and property if you succeed?" He paused.

"I assume that's what you meant, that if I go back she'll change her will again, leaving it all to me?"

"Yes," she whispered.

"Then you're a fool," he whispered derisively in return, and released her face.

"Look, why don't you trot on back, like the good little lapdog you're turned into, and tell her you gave it your best shot but I'm not interested."

She absorbed the pain of that blow, too, and shoved it into her inner shell where the damage wouldn't show. The expression she turned to him was as smooth and blank as a doll's.

"I want you to come home, too. Please." She could feel his intensifying focus as it settled on her, like a laser beam finding its target.

"Now, why would you want that?" he asked softly.

"Unless you really are a fool. Are you a fool, Roanna?"

She opened her mouth to answer but he laid one callused finger across her lips.

"Ten years ago you started it all by offering me a taste of that skinny little body. At the time, I thought you were too innocent to know what you were doing, but I've thought about it a lot since then, and now I think you knew exactly how I was reacting, didn't you?"

His finger was still covering her lips, lightly tracing the sensitive outline. This was what she had dreaded most, having to face his bitter accusations. She closed her eyes and nodded.

"Did you know Jessie was coming down?"

"No!" Her denial moved her lips against his finger, making her mouth tingle.

"So you kissed me because you wanted me?"

What did pride matter? she thought. She had loved him, in some form, her entire life. First she had loved him with a child's hero worship, then with an adolescent's violent crush, and finally with a woman's passion. The last change had, perhaps, taken place when she had watched Jessie cheating on him with another man and knew she couldn't tell, because to do so would hurt Webb. When she'd been younger, she would have been gleeful at the prospect of getting Jessie in trouble, and told immediately. That time she had put Webb's welfare above her own impulses, but then she had surrendered to another impulse when she kissed him, and he had ended up paying the price anyway.

His finger pressed harder.

"Did you?" he insisted.

"Did you want me?"

"Yes," she breathed, abandoning any scrap of pride or self-protection.

"I always wanted you."

"What about now?" His voice was hard, inexorable, pushing her toward an end she couldn't see.

"Do you want me now?"

What did he want her to say? Maybe he just wanted her complete humiliation. If he blamed her for everything that had happened, perhaps this was the price he wanted her to pay.

She nodded.

"How much do you want me?" Abruptly his hand slipped inside the jacket and closed over her breast.

"Just enough to give me a feel, tease me? Or enough to give me what you offered ten years ago?"

Roanna's breath wheezed to a stop in her chest, frozen with shock. She stared helplessly at him, her dark eyes so huge that they dominated her pale face.

"Tell you what," he murmured, his big hand still burning her breast, lightly squeezing as if testing the firm resilience of her flesh.

"I paid for this ten years ago, but I never got it. I'll go back and take care of business for Lucinda-if you'll give me what everyone thought I'd had then."

Numbly, she realized what he meant, realized that the years had made him even harder than she'd suspected. The old Webb never would have done such a thing-or perhaps he'd always had the capability for such ruthlessness but hadn't needed to use it. The iron was much closer to the surface now.

This, then, was his revenge against her for her juvenile romantic ambush, which had cost him so much. If he went back home he would have Davencourt as his payment, but he wanted Roanna's personal payment, too, and his price was her body.

She looked at him, at this man she had loved forever.

"All right," she whispered. The motel room was small and dingy, with a chill that went all the way to her bones. Roanna was certain there had to be better motels in Nogales, so why had he brought her here? Because it was closest or to show her how little she meant to him?

It would take a great deal of ego to think she meant anything to him at all, and ego was on-, thing Roanna didn't have. She felt small and shriveled inside, and a new guilt had been added to the burden she already carried: he thought he was punishing her, and in a way he was, but a secret part of her was suddenly, dizzily ecstatic that soon she would be lying in his arms.

The secret part was small, and deeply buried. She felt the shame he meant her to feel, and the humiliation. She didn't know if she'd have the courage to go through with it, and desperately she thought of Lucinda, ill and diminished with age, needing Webb's forgiveness before she could die in peace. Could she do this, lie down and let him coldly use her body, even for Lucinda?

But it wasn't just for Lucinda. Webb needed revenge just as much as Lucinda needed forgiveness. If this would help

him even the scales, if he could then return to Davencourt, then Roanna was willing to do it. And deep inside, that secret little part of her was giddy with selfish delight. No matter what his reasoning, for a brief time he would be hers, the experience held to her heart and savored during the empty years ahead.

He tossed his hat onto the chair and sprawled on his back on the bed, bunching the pillow up behind his head for support. His narrowed green eyes raked down her body.

"Take off your clothes."

Stunned again, she stood there with her arms hanging at her sides. He wanted her to strip down naked, just like that, with him lying there watching?

"I guess you've changed your mind," he drawled, sitting up and reaching for his hat.

Roanna pulled herself together and reached for the buttons of her shirt. She had decided to do it, so what did it matter if he wanted to look at her first? Shortly he would be doing much more than looking. The enormity of what she was doing was what shook her, and her hands trembled as she struggled with the buttons. Odd how difficult this was, to bare herself for him, when she had dreamed of it for years. Was it because she had always dreamed he came to her in love, and in reality it was the opposite?

But it didn't matter, she told herself over and over, using the litany as protection against thinking too much. It didn't matter, it didn't matter.

The buttons were finally undone, and the shirt hung open. She had to keep moving or she'd lose her nerve entirely. With a quick, nervous movement she pulled the cloth off her shoulders and let it drop down her arms. She couldn't look at him, but she felt his gaze on her, narrowed and intense, waiting.

Her bra had a front clasp. Briefly, trembling with cold and embarrassment, she wished it was a sexy, lacy thing, but instead it was plain white, designed for concealment rather than enticement. She unhooked it and pushed the straps down, so that this garment too dropped to the floor at her feet. The cold air swirled around her breasts, making her nipples pucker into tight buds. She knew her breasts were small. Was he looking at them? She didn't dare glance at him to see, because she was terrified she would see disappointment in his gaze.

She didn't know how to undress to please a man. Mortified at her own awkwardness, she knew that there had to be a way to do it gracefully, to tease and interest a man with the slowly revealed promise of her flesh, but she didn't know what that way was. All she knew how to do was unbutton, unhook, unzip, like a schoolgirl changing clothes for gym class.

The best thing to do then was to get it over with before she lost her nerve. Hurriedly she kicked off her sandals, unzipped her slacks, and bent over to push them down. It was icy in the room now, her skin rough with chills.

Only her panties remained now, and her meager supply of nerve was almost gone. Not giving herself time to think, she hooked her thumbs in the waistband and pushed this last garment down to her feet and stepped out of them.

Still he didn't speak, didn't move. Her hands made a brief, aborted motion, as if she would cover herself, but then she let her arms fall to her side again and she simply stood there, staring blindly at the worn carpet beneath her bare feet, wondering if it was possible to die of embarrassment. She forced herself to eat these days but she was still thin, a meager offering on the altar of revenge. What if her naked body wasn't desirable enough for him to have an erection? What if he laughed?

He was completely silent. She couldn't even hear him breathing. Darkness edged her vision, and she fought to drag oxygen into her constricted lungs. She couldn't look at him, but she had the sudden panicked thought that he might have had more to drink than she'd imagined, and gone to sleep while she'd been undressing. What a comment that would be on her practically nonexistent charms!

Then the whisper came, low and rough, and she realized he hadn't fallen asleep, after all: "C'mere."

She closed her eyes, trembling as relief threatened to buckle her knees, and edged toward the whisper.

"Closer," he said, and she moved until her knees bumped the side of the bed.

He touched her then, his hand sliding up the outside of her left thigh, callused fingertips sliding over the softness of her skin and rasping nerve endings to life, leaving a trail of heat behind. Up, up, he moved his hand over the column of her thigh and around to the roundness of her bottom, his long fingers cupping the cool under curve of both cheeks and burning them with his heat. She quivered, and tried to control the sudden, fierce need to rub her bottom against his hand. She didn't quite succeed; her hips moved in a barely perceptible shimmy.

He gave a low laugh, his fingers tightening on the flesh beneath him. He stroked her buttocks, shaping his palm to the underside of each one as if he could imprint the soft female shape on his hand, and running his thumb down the crease between them.

Roanna began to tremble violently under the combined lash of pleasure and shock, and no amount of willpower could stop the betraying tremors. No one had ever touched her there. She hadn't known that this slow caress could make an empty ache begin between her legs, or make her breasts feel hard and tight. She squeezed her eyes even more tightly together, wondering if he would touch her breast again and if she could bear it if he did.

But it wasn't her breasts that he touched.

"Spread your legs."

His voice now was so low and raspy that she wasn't certain she'd heard him, and yet part of her knew she had. A dull roaring began in her ears, even as she felt herself shifting her stance so that her thighs were open enough to admit his exploration, and felt his hand slipping between her legs.

He ran his fingers along the closed, tender folds, feeling their softness, gently squeezing. Roanna stopped breathing. Tension stretched in her body, pulling tight in an agony of waiting that threatened to shatter her. Then one long finger boldly slipped into the closed slit, opening her, probing with unerring skill, and pushed deep up into her body. Roanna couldn't stop the cry that broke from her lips, though she quickly choked it off. Her knees trembled and threatened again to buckle. She felt as if she was held erect only by his hand between her legs, his finger inside her. Oh, God, the sensation was almost unbearable, his finger big and rough, rasping against her tender inner flesh. He withdrew it, then quickly pushed it into her again. Over and over he stabbed the finger inside her, and rubbed his thumb against the little nub at the top of her sex.

Helplessly she felt her hips begin to move against his hand, heard breathy little moans forming in her throat and slipping free. In the quietness of the room she could hear his breathing, heard how hard and fast it was coming. She wasn't cold now; great waves of heat were breaking over her, and the pleasure was so acute it was almost painful. Desperately she reached down and seized his wrist, trying to pull his hand away from her, because it was too much, she couldn't bear it. Something drastic was happening to her, something even more drastic was about to happen, and she cried out in sudden fear.

He ignored her efforts as if she were holding his hand rather than trying to push it away. She could feel him probing at her, trying to work a second finger into her alongside the other, felt her body's sudden panicked resistance. He tried again, and she flinched.

He went still, and his low curse exploded in the silence. Then everything turned upside down as he grabbed her and pulled her down onto the bed, turning her, dragging her across his body to lie beside him. Roanna's eyes flew open to combat the sudden dizziness, then she wished she'd kept them closed.

He leaned over her so close she could see the black striations in his green eyes, so close she could feel the heat of his breath on her face, smell the tequila. She was sprawled on her back with her right leg draped over his hip. His hand

still rested between her open thighs, one fingertip moving restlessly around and around the tender opening that had grown moist for him.

She felt another wave of mortification, that she was naked while he was still fully clothed, that he was touching her in her most private place and watching her face while he did so. She felt her cheeks and breasts heat, turn pink.

He moved his finger back into her again, probing deep, and all the while he held her gaze with his. Roanna couldn't hold back another moan, and she yearned for the dubious comfort of her closed eyes, but she couldn't look away. His dark brows drew together over the fierce green glitter of his eyes. He was angry, she realized in confusion, but it was a hot anger instead of the cold disgust she would have expected.

"You're a virgin," he said flatly.

It sounded like an accusation. Roanna stared up at him, wondering how he'd guessed, wondering why he sounded so angry.

"Yes," she admitted, and blushed again.

He watched the flush pin ken her breasts, and she saw the way the glitter in his eyes deepened. His gaze focused intently on her breasts, on her hardened nipples. He removed his hand from between her legs, his finger damp from her body. Slowly, still staring fixedly at her breasts, he stroked her nipple with that wet finger, spreading her own juices on the tightly puckered nub. A rough, hungry sound rumbled in his throat. He leaned over her and fastened his lips around the nipple he had just anointed, sucking hard on it, taking her taste into his mouth.

The pleasure almost shattered her. The fierce pressure, the rasp of his tongue and teeth, sent pure fire racing through her. Roanna arched in his arms, crying out, and her hands clenched in his hair to hold his head in place. He moved to her other breast and sucked just as hard on that nipple until it too was dark red and wet, and painfully erect.

Reluctantly he lifted his head, staring at his handiwork with feral concentration and hunger. His lips, like her nipples, were red and wet, and slightly parted as his breath moved hard and fast between them. The heat radiating from his big body dispelled any lingering chill she might have felt.

"You don't have to do this," he said, the words so harsh they sounded as if they'd been ripped from his throat.

"It's your first time … I'll go back anyway."

Disappointment pierced her, sliding like a dagger straight into her heart. All color faded from her face, and she stared at him with a stricken expression in her eyes. Taking off her clothes had been difficult, but once he'd touched her, she had been gradually losing herself in a rising tide of sensual delight, despite the shock she felt at every new caress. The secret part of her had been delirious with ecstasy, savoring every touch of those hard hands, waiting with barely restrained eagerness for more.

Now he wanted to stop. She didn't entice him enough for him to continue.

Her throat closed. A strained whisper was 0 that could escape the sudden constriction.

"Don't-don't you want me?"

The plea was faint, but he heard it. His eyes dilated until only a thin circle of green shimmered around the fierce pools of black. He caught her hand and dragged it down his body, pressed it hard over his straining penis despite her instinctive effort to pull away, an action that underscored her innocence.

Roanna froze in wonder. She felt the hard ridge under the denim. It was long and thick, the heat of it burning through the heavy fabric, and it pulsed with a life of its own. She turned her hand, grasping him through his jeans.

"Please, Webb. I want you to do it," she gasped.

For a terrifying moment she thought he would still refuse, but then with a sudden, violent motion he jackknifed off the bed and began stripping off his clothes. She was only dimly aware that he watched her as she watched him. She couldn't keep the fascination from her face as she stared at his body, the broad shoulders and hairy, muscled chest, the ridged abdomen. Carefully he maneuvered the zipper down, then

pushed his shorts and jeans off with one motion. She blinked, startled, at his pulsing erection as it thrust forward when freed from the restraint of his jeans. Another blush warmed her cheeks.

He paused, sucking in deep breaths.

Suddenly terrified of doing anything that would make him stop, Roanna held herself still and quiet, forcing herself to look away from his body. She thought she would die if he turned away from her now. But he wanted to do it; she knew he did. She was inexperienced, but that wasn't the same as ignorant. He was very hard, and he wouldn't be if he wasn't interested.

The glare of the light was right in her eyes. She wished he'd turned it off, but didn't ask. The mattress dipped under his weight, and she spread her hands to balance herself, because the cheap mattress didn't give much support.

He didn't give her any time to think, to perhaps change her mind, not even time to panic. He moved on top of her, his hard thighs pushing between hers and spreading them, and his shoulders blotted out the light. Roanna barely sucked in a deep breath before he set his hands on either side of her skull, holding her head as he leaned down and covered her mouth with his. His tongue probed, and she parted her lips to accept it. Simultaneously she felt his hot, rock-hard penis begin pushing at the soft entrance between her legs.

Her heart jumped violently, banging against her ribs. She made a faint sound of apprehension, but his mouth smothered it as he deepened the kiss, penetrating her with both tongue and penis.

It wasn't easy, despite her arousal, despite the dampness that readied her for him. Somehow she had thought he would simply slip into her, but it didn't work that way. He rocked his hips back and forth, forcing himself a little deeper into her with each motion. Her body resisted the increasing pressure; the pain surprised her, dismayed her. She tried to endure it without reaction, but it grew progressively worse with each inward thrust.

She groaned, her breath catching. If she had expected him to stop, she was mistaken. Webb merely tightened his arms and held her firmly beneath him, controlling her with weight and strength, all of his intent and attention focused on penetrating her. She dug her nails into his back, weeping now from the pain. He pushed harder and her tender flesh gave under the pressure, stretching around his thick length as he surged deep inside. Finally he was in her to the hilt, and she writhed helplessly beneath him as she tried to find some level of ease.

Now that his masculine goal was accomplished, he set about soothing her, not withdrawing, but using touch and voice to reassure and calm her. He continued to hold her head in his hands, and he crooned to her as he kissed the salty tears from her cheeks.

"Shh, shh," he murmured. "Just lie still, sweetheart. I know it hurts, but it'll ease off in a minute."

The endearment soothed her as nothing else could have. He couldn't truly hate her, could he, if he called her "sweetheart"? Slowly she calmed, relaxing from her frantic struggle to accommodate him. Some of his own tenseness eased, and until then she hadn't realized how tightly drawn his muscles had been. Panting, she softened around him, beneath him.

Her breathing calmed, became deeper. Now that she wasn't in such distress some of her pleasure returned. With growing wonder she felt him deep inside her, pulsing with arousal. This was Webb who penetrated her so intimately, Webb who cradled her in his arms. Only an hour before she had watched him from across a dimly lit bar, dreading the moment when she had to approach him, and now she was naked under his powerful body. She looked up at him and met his brilliant green gaze, studying her as intently as if he could see through her to the bone.

He kissed her, quick, hard kisses that had her mouth trying to catch his, begging for more, preparing her for more.

"Are you ready?" he asked.

She didn't know what he meant. She gave him a bewildered took, and a tight smile twitched his lips.

"For what?"

"To make love She looked even more confused.

"Isn't that what we're doing?" she whispered.

"Not quite. Almost."

"But you're … inside me."

"There's more."

Confusion changed to alarm.

"More?" She tried to draw back from him, pressing herself into the mattress.

He grinned, though it looked as if the effort cost him.

"Not more of me. More to do."

"Oh." The word was drawn out, filled with wonder. She relaxed beneath him again, and her thighs flexed around his hips. The movement caused a reaction inside her; his sex jumped, and her enveloping sheath tightened around the thick intruder, caressing him. Webb's breath hissed between his teeth. Roanna's eyes grew heavy lidded, slumberous, and her cheeks pinkened.

"Show me," she breathed.

He did, beginning to move, at first thrusting into her in a slow, delicious rhythm, then gradually quickening his pace. Hesitantly she responded, her body lifting to his as her excitement soared. He shifted his weight to one elbow and reached down between their bodies. She gasped as he stroked her tightly stretched entrance, her flesh so sensitive that the slightest touch jolted through her like lightning. Then he moved his attention to the nodule he'd touched before, rubbing his fingertip back and forth across it, and Roanna felt herself begin to dissolve.

It happened fast under his ruthless, sensual assault. He didn't ease her into climax, he hurled her into it. He gave her no mercy, even when she bucked under his hand in an effort to escape the intensity of it. The fierce, rapidly increasing sensation burned her, melted her. He rode her harder, thrusting deep, and the friction was almost unbearable. But he was touching her deep inside in a way that made her cling to him and cry out in a pleasure so strong she couldn't control it. It spiraled inside her, growing stronger and stronger, and when it finally shattered, she arched wildly beneath him, her slender body shuddering as her hips undulated, working herself on his invading shaft. She heard herself screaming, and didn't care.

His heavy weight crushed her into the mattress. His hands pushed beneath her and gripped her buttocks, hard. His hips pistoned back and forth between her widespread, straining thighs. Then he convulsed, slamming into her again and again while harsh sounds tore from his throat, and she felt the wetness of his release.

In the silence afterward, Roanna lay limply beneath him. She was exhausted, her body so heavy and weak that all she could do was breathe. She lapsed into a doze, barely aware of when he carefully separated their bodies and moved to lie beside her. Sometime later the light blinked off, and she was aware of cool darkness, of him stripping the bedspread down and positioning her between the sheets.

She turned instinctively into his arms, and felt them close around her. Her head settled into the hollow of his shoulder, and her hand rested on his chest, feeling the crisp hair beneath her fingers. For the first time in ten years she felt a small measure of peace, of rightness.

She had no idea how long it was before she became aware of his hands moving on her with increasing purpose.

"Can you do it again?" he asked, the words low and intense.

"Yes, please," she said politely, and heard a low chuckle as he rolled atop her.

Roanna. Webb lay in the darkness, feeling her slight weight nestled against his left side. She was asleep, her head on his shoulder, her breath sighing across his chest. Her breasts, small and perfectly shaped, pressed firmly against his ribs. Gently, unable to resist, he rubbed the back of one finger over the satiny outer curve of the breast he could reach. Oh, God, Roanna.

He hadn't recognized her at first. Though ten years had