Crescent Moon (Chapter 16)
I spun toward the bed. "Where did you hear that?"
Adam tested his head on one palm, his face shuttered. "From you."
"I never told you about him."
"Not told, no. You said de name in your sleep. And since you're sleeping with me, I want to know who he is."
Had I dreamed Simon or not? I wasn't certain. If I had, was that good or bad? If I hadn't, what the hell?
I glanced at the window, but the handprint was gone. Had it ever been there in the first place?
"Who is he?
Adam sounded as if he was speaking through clenched teeth. When my gaze returned to his, I saw that he was.
"Simon's my husband."
A flicker of violence passed over his face. "You didn't think you should mention a husband? I might do a lot of things, but I try not to fuck another man's wife if I can help it"
"No. I'm not – I mean we're not – He isn't – "
Adam got out of the bed and crossed the floor so fast I barely had time to take a step back. When I did, I hit the wall. He grabbed me by the forearms and dragged me onto my toes. His grip hurt, but I was too bewildered to protest.
"He isn't what?'
Or at least I didn't think so.
Adam released me as if I were a hot potato; I would have fallen if I hadn't had the wall to hold me up.
"Sorry." He shoved a hand through his hair.
I wasn't sure if he was apologizing for Simon's death or for manhandling me, but I understood his anger. In fact, his fury at the idea I was married made me view him in a different light.
Adam Ruelle hadn't seemed the type to respect marriage vows, to take to heart the myth of one man, one woman, forever. If I'd been wrong about that, I'd been wrong about him. Which only confused me more.
"Never mind," I said. "Forget it."
"You haven't forgotten."
"You still love him. I could tell by de way you said his name."
I wanted to ask how he knew so much about love, but I didn't The conversation only emphasized that we were practically strangers, and I wanted to keep it that way.
"I'll always love Simon. Death can't change what I feel."
He stared at me so hard, I got the feeling he wanted to open my head and peek inside, find out what made me tick. "How did he die?"
I didn't want to talk about this, especially naked, so I yanked the sheet off the bed and headed for the bathroom. Adam caught the tail end and held on.
"You dream of him," he whispered.
I wasn't so sure it had been a dream, but I couldn't tell Adam I'd seen my dead husband outside his window.
"I saw a wolf," I blurted instead.
"Dreams aren't real."
I wasn't so sure anymore.
"There." I pointed. "At the window. Big, black, with weird blue eyes."
If Adam hadn't been nude, I wouldn't have noticed him tense. His gaze nickered to the window and back. Nevertheless, I was distracted by the ripple of muscle beneath skin, the wave along his abdomen like a softly flowing river.
"There was no wolf, cher."
"What about the howls in the swamp? The deaths? The tracks?"
"What about them?"
"Why do you keep denying even the possibility that there's a wolf or ten out here?"
"Because there isn't."
I gave a frustrated little shriek and resisted the urge to kick him.
"You want me to prove it? Tonight I take you. I know this swamp like I know my own name. If there's anything here that doesn't belong I'd have seen it"
Unless he was hiding something, and I kind of thought that he was. Maybe I shouldn't go tripping off merrily into the swamp with him in the dark. I might never be heard from again.
Be safe, Simon had said. What had he meant?
From the loup-garou? From my feelings? Or from Adam?
But what choice did I have? If I was going to fulfill my vow, I needed help. And the only help available was the only man who'd made me feel alive since my whole world died.
Life certainly was a vicious bitch.
I blinked as another thought occurred to me, one that made me dizzy with dismay. Cursing, I collapsed on the bed. "I'm no damn good at this."
Sex required responsibility. Protection. My celibate lifestyle had kept me free of disease. I was also free from birth control, being both a widow and an idiot.
The bed dipped as Adam sat beside me. His hip brushed mine, but he touched me nowhere else, and for that I was grateful. When he touched me I couldn't think.
"You're pretty good at this, if you're askin' me."
"What?" My mind wasn't keeping up very well with the conversation.
"You said you were no damn good, but you are."
I smiled before I could stop myself. "Thanks. But I meant at technicalities." His blank stare made me continue. "Protection. We didn't use any."
I saw the understanding spread across his face. I waited for the horror, the panic, the escape, but it didn't come.
"You don't have to worry."
"I think I do."
"You wanna ask me have I been with a lot of women?"
I shrugged. My lame-ass equivalent of "Hell, yes!"
"Once I fucked tike rabbit, my father said."
"He thought so."
Now would be the time to ask about his father. Then again, what did it matter how, when, or why Ruelle Senior had died?
"Me, I was lookin' for love. What's that song? In all de wrong places."
The sadness on his face made me want to touch him, but I knew where that would lead.
"Those days are gone," he murmured. "Love isn't for me."
Adam contemplated my face. "You aren't lookin' for love. We both know that."
He was right, so I dipped my head.
"I want you. Shouldn't, but can't seem to help myself. I see that red hair," He picked up a strand and rubbed it between his fingers. "Smell your skin, stare into your pretty green eyes, and I lose my mind."
Being wanted for my body was something new, and I kind of liked it.
"Since I left de army, there's been no one."
"No one?" I found that hard to believe.
"No one," he insisted. "And in de army, they tested us regular for every old thing. I came out clean, cher, and clean I still am. Right?"
He quirked a brow and my face heated. I'd never had a conversation like this before, although if I planned to spend the rest of my life alone, with the occasional lover to take off the edge, I'd have to get used to them.
"There was never anyone but Simon," I whispered.
The words until you hung in the air unspoken.
Adam touched my hair again. "Why not?"
"He was everything, and when he died – " My throat closed.
"A part of you went with him," he finished.
I didn't bother to answer. Couldn't, really.
"It's not natural to be alone."
I cleared my throat. "I'm fine."
"Sure you are. You'll fall in love again."
"No," I snapped.
"I don't ever want to feel the way I felt when he died."
"So you feel nothing?"
"I had my shot. Simon was it for me."
"You don't think you can love twice in one lifetime?"
I lifted my head, looked him straight in the eye. "No."
He studied me for a second to ascertain that I meant what I said. He must have seen that I did, because he gave a sharp nod, as if we'd sealed a bargain. I guess we had.
"You're like a wolf," he murmured, "mating for life. If one dies, de other is forever alone."
"How do you know so much about wolves?"
"Common knowledge, no?"
I stared at him, suspicious though I wasn't sure why. He was right. The whole mating-for-life thing was common knowledge.
"Never mind," I muttered. I'd had another cheery thought. "There's more to be concerned about than STDs."
All I needed was a baby. I could barely take care of myself.
I glanced around the sparse bedroom. Adam wasn't doing much better.
In truth, I wasn't crazy about kids. I didn't long to be a mother. Maybe this made me a freak of nature, but that's how I felt.
I was an only child. I'd never played well with others. Without brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, I'd had neither a reason nor an inclination to babysit Kids just made me twitchy.
Simon and I had decided all we needed was each other. We'd planned to travel the world, sleep in tents until we couldn't anymore, then retire. Besides, if I wasn't going to have Simon's child, I certainly wasn't going to have anyone else's.
"I can't," Adam murmured.
To make sure we were talking about the same thing, I asked, "Can't what?"
"No kidding." I lowered my gaze to his lap. "You aren't exactly equipped for the process."
"I meant I can't get you, or anyone else, pregnant"
I wasn't sure what to say. I could ask what was wrong with him, but since he hadn't offered to tell me… should I? What was the etiquette for something like this? I didn't have a clue.
Adam stood and turned away, as if the conversation upset him. Maybe he'd been wounded, although I hadn't seen any scars and I'd seen pretty much everything.
Perhaps, unlike me, he'd wanted children one day. Learning he'd never have them would hurt and might account for some of the sadness in his eyes.
The question was: Did I believe him?
I studied Adam's tense shoulders. A better question might be: Why would he lie?
Since I couldn't come up with an answer, I went to him and slid my arms around his waist. "It doesn't matter."
The way he said the word, with that French twist, always made him sound just a tad sarcastic, which was probably the whole idea.
"For us, that's a good thing."
He turned in my arms, taking me into his. "Whatever you say."
"We're having a – "
Adam tilted his head. "A what?"
An affair sounded too long-term and old-fashioned, a fling too flippant for the intensity of what we'd shared.
"I'm not sure," I said. "But whatever it is, it's about sex, not love, or kids, or anything but the moment Right?"
"What man would say no?"
Lowering his head, he kissed me, putting all of himself into the embrace. Only later, when we were back in bed, my heart still pounding, my chest still heaving after another bout of exactly what I'd wanted, did I consider his response. Or rather his lack of one. Adam had the habit of answering every one of my questions with a question of his own.
And that wasn't really an answer at all, was it?