All this time the young wife simply stared at him. His eyes then turned to her. She didn't flinch.
"Thank you," she said softly.
"You know what I am."
"Most the isle know what y'are," she told him.
"You're not afraid?"
"Of many things, aye."
"But of me?"
"Should I be?"
"No," he told her.
The following day he had the strength to walk the beach while the sun was still up.
And it was there that he saw his wife.
A ghost? He called to her. "Igrainia ..."
Selkie, the Irish said.
He did not believe in such things. But could he create her with the power of his mind? Would she disappear if he raced for her, to touch her, feel her, to know the softness of her hair, the angel's breath of her whisper against his cheek?
She was real. Flesh and blood and bone. He touched her. Her sea eyes touched his. "My wife, my love
He started shaking and fell to the sand at her feet.
She touched the top of his head.
He looked up. She was smiling.
"My God, Igrainia ..."
He stood, and he lifted her into his arms. He kept his eyes on hers as he walked with her to the fisherman's cottage he had made his home.
"How can you be here?" he whispered. He laid her on the bed. He loved her so much. And still ...
He could feel her warmth, hear her blood. He would never hurt her, could never hurt her-or could he?
Would the agony seize him, overwhelm him? Would he slash her throat with his teeth, make love to her by stealing her lifeblood, her heart, her soul?
"I have to tell you-"
"No!" she pressed a finger to his lips.
"You must understand-"
"I know what you are. And I know you won't hurt me."
She lifted her lips to his, and he opened his mouth and kissed her and kissed her, more and more deeply.
And he felt her body, and her warmth, her shape, her hips flush to his. He felt a burst of arousal, and with it lust and tenderness, and it was sweet, so sweet to know desire with love, and a longing that did not tear at whatever remnants of his soul might remain.
Insanely, he stripped away their clothing.
Sophia knew only violence, and the hungers of the flesh.
There were deeper hungers.
Hungers that hinted he might still have a soul.
He put his lips to her breast, down her belly, between her thighs. She writhed, wrapped herself around him. He tasted the sweetness of her flesh, of her being, of her sex. His body pulsed and groaned, he reveled in what he had, he felt the hunger gnaw at him, felt the ultimate ecstasy he denied himself, and still...
He nearly, so nearly, brought his teeth to the vein throbbing so sweetly at her neck. He fought down the desire, fought it with all the strength in him. She seemed unaware. Wild and wanton, hips locked to his, glued to his, breasts damp against his chest, her delicate fingers digging into his buttocks, her whispers, her words, the sweet wet explosion against him ...
Climax rocked him. He bit down viciously on his own teeth. Fell to her side. Swept her into his arms.
Held her ...
"I thought I had lost you. I thought you had drowned. The sea was so cold. The waves were high that day, the wind sweeping. How can you be here?" he whispered.
"Does it matter? Love me. Just love me. As I love you."
He held her. The sun grew stronger. He grew weary. She sat against the hard wooden headboard, down pillow against it, and cradled his head to her breast. She stroked his cheek.
"Igrainia." He wanted to talk. To stay awake.
"Sleep, rest, heal," she told him.
Her fingers were magic.
In the darkened cottage, he slept.
When he awoke, she was gone.
Before Jade could start out again, the phone started ringing a second time. It was Shanna, telling her she was at a coffee shop, and that she'd be right up-if Rick was gone.
Jade assured her Rick was gone.
"When did he leave?"
Jade hesitated. "He never really stayed."
"What?" The word was incredulous.
"He never really stayed."
"Great! And I just soared out of bed and went off to Dad's house to baby-sit-so that Liz wouldn't disturb your little love nest!"
"You baby-sat already today?"
"Mornings are not my thing, you know."
"I know. I'm impressed. Is everything all right?"
"Fine. Petey had a fever, but they gave him a shot, and Liz brought him right home. I mean I leaped out of bed, thinking you were decadently busy! And you didn't even do anything!" Shanna moaned. "You're going to have to explain when I get there!"
The phone clicked
. Shanna was gone, on her way over. When she arrived, she was impatient and disgusted.
"Nothing? Nothing happened?"
"How did you get here so quickly?"
"I was just down the street at a coffee shop. Tell me what happened. Did you fight? Why did Rick leave?"
"He was exhausted and sick. Really sick. He's got an awful bug." Shanna looked down the hallway, toward Renate's door. "I wonder if our old buddy Matt at least got lucky."
"No, he didn't."
"How do you know?"
"Renate has already been over, looking for Rick."
"Who knows? She must think there's great info for her work in all this. But anyway, you're here now, so you can just come to the police station with me. Rick got Gavin to find out more about the tiling in New York City-"
"Oh, God!" Shanna groaned. "What good is this going to do? Say you are in danger-you won't even make the effort to sleep with a good cop."
"Shanna, I told you-"
"He should have needed comfort."
"People can be just dead tired. And he wanted a bath."
"Did your water stop running?"
"He wanted it to be right."
"It's already wrong, if you can't just get to it!"
Shanna shook her head with disgust, turned, and started out. Jade froze behind her, wondering if her sister was right. Had she felt that all along, or ...
Had something changed last night?
I seem to have sex all by myself, and it's just great- better than it could be with him. And anyway, I couldn't make him stay, because he would see what my room looked like!
The whole thing was awful. Mortifying. She couldn't say any of it out loud.
Not even to her sister.
"I thought you were in a hurry?" Shanna said impatiently.
"Yes, let's go."
"I still don't see how you let Rick go home! You should have taken care of him. Run him a hot bath, given him a cold beer."
"He didn't have any clean clothes."
"He didn't need clean clothes for what you intended. Jade, if he's so sick, he should need you. If he's hurting, he should want to feel better."
"Shanna, he's sick, really, truly, rotten-feeling sick. Sex will not make it better. So stop. You are a pain in the butt!''
"Oh, all right, I'll leave off. You two can continue with your sweet, platonic, totally boring relationship. I won't torture you anymore."
"No, but let's get going anyway."
The station wasn't far. They walked the distance easily.
Jade had known that she wouldn't find Rick at the station. She was glad to hear that he had phoned in and reported that he was really ill and was going to sleep all day.
"He's got an awful flu bug," the desk sergeant told her.
"I know. I'm going to make him go to the doctor if he isn't better by tomorrow. Would you mind giving Gavin a ring for me, though? I need to see him."
Gavin Newton was one of Rick's best friends. Squat and a bit chubby, he had an amazingly cherubic face and a slow, laid-back nature, which, Rick had told Jade, made him an exceptional Homicide cop-people said things to Gavin. He could draw a suspect's trust, and he could encourage the most reticent witness to talk. He was also a very nice guy, a truly concerned citizen, and nothing in the horror of the job had made him insensitive to the fears, cares, and concerns of others as individuals.
He greeted Jade warmly, welcomed Shanna, then stared at Jade again, sighing. "Come on back to my desk," he told them. "It was your guy, all right. I sent for information yesterday that was wired back to me, but if you take a look at most any of the papers floating around the country, you'd know that anyway now. Let's see.... Here's the fax on Hugh Riley."
He handed Jade a piece of paper. She scanned the information. It gave his name, height, weight, eye and hair color, and age. Apparently, when he'd left Scotland, he'd transferred schools. Then he'd signed up for a new fraternity.
The fraternity didn't demand any illegal or immoral offerings from its pledges-no beer guzzling, beatings, eating bizarre substances, no stealing the school mascot or trophies, and no flying underwear from the flagpole- but on the last night of pledging, the pledges were to tell ghost stories at the cemetery just outside the city. And in the dark of night... That was when the murders had occurred. "At midnight," Jade said under her breath. "Now, Jade ...," Gavin said softly. "Gavin, it's exactly the same as what happened in Scotland."
"Jade, if there are real similarities, the FBI will be calling on you." She gazed at him sharply. "They'll definitely be called in on it." He shifted the papers on his desk, selecting one of the national dailies.