Shades of Twilight (Chapter 20)

"Next week?" She all but shouted the words, at least as much as she was able to, crushed against his chest the way she was.

"You didn't think I was going to give you time to change your mind, did you?" She could hear the smile in his voice. "If you have your heart set on a big church wedding, I suppose I can wait if it doesn't take too long to arrange. Lucinda … Well, I think we should be married within a month, at the most."

Tears sprang to her eyes.

"That soon? I hoped she … I hoped she would last through the winter, maybe see another spring."

"I don't think so. The doctor told her that her heart is failing, too." He rubbed his face against her hair, seeking comfort.

"She's a tough old bird," he said roughly.

"But she's ready to go. You can see it in her eyes."

They held each other quietly for a moment, already grieving for the woman around whom the entire family revolved. But Webb wasn't a man to be deterred for long from his set course, and he leaned back from her, giving her an inquiring look.

"About that wedding-" "I don't want a big church wedding," she said forcefully, shuddering at the idea.

"You did that with Jessie, and I don't want to repeat it. I was miserable that day."

"Then what kind of wedding do you want? We could have it here, in the garden, or at the country club. Do you want just family present, or invite our friends, too? I know you have some, and maybe I can scare up a couple."

She pinched him for that remark.

"You know darn well you have friends, if you can bring yourself to forgive them and let them be friends again. I want to get married in the garden. I want our friends to be here. And I want Lucinda to walk with me down the aisle, if she's able. A big wedding would be too much for her, too."

One corner of his lip quirked at all of those decisive "I wants." He suspected that before long, even though she professed not to be interested in Davencourt's business concerns, she would be poking her nose into it, butting heads with him over some of his decisions. He couldn't wait. The thought of Roanna arguing with him made him weak with delight. Roanna had always been stubborn, and she still was, even though her methods had changed.

"We'll work out the details," he said.

"We'll get married next week if we can, two weeks max, all right?"

She nodded, smiling a little mistily.

Number seven, he thought triumphantly. And this one had been open, natural, as if she were no longer wary about showing joy.

Twisting, he reached for the plastic bag on the bedside table and withdrew the contents. He opened the box, read the instructions, then gave her the small plastic wand with a wide slot on the side. "Now," he said, with a determined glint in his green eyes, "go pee-pee on the stick."

Ten minutes later he knocked on the bathroom door.

"What are you doing?" he asked impatiently.

"Are you- all right?"

"Yes," she said in a muffled voice.

He opened the door. She was standing nude in front of the sink, her face blank with shock. The plastic stick lay on the rim of the bowl.

Webb looked at the stick. The slot had been white; now it was blue. It was a simple test: if the color of the slot changed, the test was positive. He eased his arms around her, pulling her into the comforting warmth of his body. She was pregnant. She was going to have his baby.

"You really didn't think you were, did you?" he asked curiously.

She shook her head, her expression still stunned.

"I don't-I don't feel any different."

"I imagine that will start changing soon." His big hands slid down to her flat belly, gently massaging. She could feel his heart thumping hard and fast against her back. His penis rose to jut insistently against her hip.

He was excited. He was aroused. She was stunned at the realization. She had been thinking he would feel only responsibility for the baby; she hadn't considered that he would be excited at the prospect of being a father.

"You want the baby," she said, her amazement plain in both face and voice.

"You wanted me to be pregnant."

"I sure as hell did." His voice was rough, and he tightened his arms around her.

"Don't you want it?"

Her hand drifted downward, lightly settling over the place where her child, his child, was forming inside her. Radiant wonder lit her face, and her gaze met Webb's in the mirror.

"Oh, yes," she said softly.

Corliss slipped into Roanna's bedroom. She was alone upstairs, because all the others had either gone to work or were down stairs at breakfast. She had been trying to eat, but with her pounding headache and upset stomach, it had been more of a pretense than anything else. She needed some coke, just a little of it to make her feel better, but all the money she'd gotten before was already gone. When Webb and Roanna had entered the breakfast room, she had made a point of getting up and leaving in dignified, offended silence, but they hadn't cared, the bastards. She had stopped just outside the door and listened, waiting to hear what they said about her. They hadn't mentioned her at all, as if she weren't important enough for discussion. Webb had told her to leave Davencourt and poof! just like that she didn't matter any more. Instead, Webb had announced that he and Roanna were getting married.

Married! Corliss couldn't believe it. The thought made her mind fog with rage. Why would anyone, especially someone like Webb, want to marry a mealy mouth like Roanna? Corliss hated the bastard, but she didn't underestimate him. Despite what he'd said, she could have handled Roanna, she was sure of it. She couldn't handle Webb, though. He was too hard, too mean. He was going to throw her out of Davencourt. And that's why she had to get rid of him.

She couldn't leave Davencourt. She felt sick with panic at the prospect. Nobody seemed to care that she needed to live here. She couldn't go back to that dinky little house in Sheffield, back to being just a poor relation to the rich Davenports. She was somebody now, Miss Corliss Spence, of Davencourt. If Webb threw her out, she'd become a nobody again. She wouldn't have any means of getting money for her expensive little habit. The thought was unbearable. She had to get rid of Webb.

She prowled through Roanna's room. She'd get to the money, but first she wanted to poke around a little. She'd gone first into Webb's room, hoping to find something of his she could use, but-surprise, surprise! It didn't look as if he'd slept there. His bed was perfectly made, not a wrinkle in it. Somehow she couldn't see him making his own bed, not the arrogant Webb Tallant. Well, wasn't he the sly one? No wonder he hadn't wanted his old suite. He'd chosen this room beside Roanna's so they would have a cozy little arrangement, alone here at the back of the house.

She'd gone then into Roanna's room, and sure enough, the bed was a wreck, and both pillows bore the imprint of a head. Who ever would have thought it of prissy Roanna, who didn't even date? But she sure didn't mind screwing, from the looks of that bed. Smart of her, too. Corliss hated to admit it, but this was one time Roanna had been the smart one. She'd made certain Webb wouldn't tell her to leave, by setting herself up as a convenient source of sex, and somehow she'd convinced him to marry her. Maybe she was better in bed than she looked. Corliss would have slept with him herself if she'd thought of it. It pissed her off that she hadn't.

She wandered into the bathroom and opened the mirrored door to the medicine cabinet. Roanna never kept

anything interesting in there, no birth control pills or condoms, no diaphragm, just toothpaste and boring shit like that. She didn't even have any good cosmetics Corliss could borrow.

She glanced down at the small trash can and went still.

"Well, well," she said softly, bending down to pick up the box. A do-it-yourself pregnancy test. So that was how Roanna had done it.

She was a fast worker, Corliss had to give her that. She must have made her plans and gotten in bed with him first thing, when she'd gone to Arizona. She probably hadn't expected to get pregnant so fast, but what the hell, sometimes you took a chance and hit the jackpot.

Wouldn't Harper Neeley be interested in hearing about this?

She didn't bother with the money after all. This was too good to wait. Quickly she slipped out of Roanna's room and went back to her own. Harper was her only hope. He was one strange dude; he seared her, but he excited her, too. He looked like there was nothing too low or raunchy for him to do, nothing he would balk at. It was weird the way he hated Webb, almost to the point he couldn't think about anything else, but that was to her advantage. Harper had messed up twice, but he would keep trying. He was like a gun; all she had to do was point him and fire.

She called him to set up a meeting.

Harper's eyes gleamed with a cold, feral light that made Corliss shiver inside with both fear and satisfaction. His reaction had been more than she'd expected.

"Are you sure she's pregnant?" he asked softly, leaning back in his chair so that the front legs came off the floor. He was poised on the back legs of the chair like an animal preparing to spring.

"I saw the damn test," Corliss replied.

"It was on top in the trash can, so she must have done it just this morning. Then they came downstairs all smiley-faced and Webb said they're getting married. What about my money?" Harper smiled at her, his eyes so very blue and empty, "Money?"

Panic nibbled at her nerves. She needed some money; she'd been in too much of a hurry to get out of Roanna's room, and now she really needed a line or two to hold her steady. She was really on edge; she only had two days left before Webb made her move. Harper had to do something, but the waiting was killing her. She wouldn't be able to hold it together unless she could get just a little coke to tide her over.

"You never said anything about money," he drawled, and his smile made cold shivers go over her again. Nervously she looked around. She didn't like this place. She met Harper at a different place every time, but always before, the locations had been public: a truck stop, a bar, places like that. After the first time, they'd always met out of town, too.

This time he'd given her directions to a ratty little trailer out in the middle of nowhere. There were junk cars in the yard and discarded carcasses of old chairs and box springs piled haphazardly against the trailer, as if they'd just been tossed outside and never thought of again. The trailer was tiny, consisting of a cramped little kitchen with a cramped little table and two chairs as the dining area, a cracked Naugahyde couch and a nineteen-inch television sitting on a rickety end table, and beyond that she could see a closet sized bathroom and a bedroom in which the double bed took up most of the floor space. Dirty dishes, beer bottles, crumpled cigarette packs, overflowing ashtrays, and dirty clothes littered every surface.

This wasn't where Harper lived. There had been a different name, crudely lettered, on the mailbox, but she couldn't remember what it was. He'd said the trailer belonged to a friend. Now she wondered if the "friend" had ever heard of Harper Neeley.

"I've got to have money," she blurted.

"That was the deal."

"Nope. The deal was you'd pass along information about Tallant, and I'd take care of your problem for you."

"Well, you've done a piss-poor job of it!" she snapped. He blinked slowly, his cold blue gaze growing even colder, and belatedly she wished she'd kept her mouth shut..

"It's taking longer than I expected," she said, moderating her tone to a plea.

"I'm broke, and I need things. You know how girls are-" "I know how coke heads are," he said indifferently.

"I'm not a cokehead!" she flared.

"I just use a little every now and then to settle my nerves."

"Sure, and your shit don't stink either."

She flushed, but something in the way he was looking at her made her afraid to push him any further. Nervously she got up from the couch, peeling her thighs from the Naugahyde where sweat had made her stick to the damn thing. She saw his gaze drop down to her legs, and she wished she hadn't worn shorts. It was just so damn hot, and she hadn't expected to be sitting on Naugahyde, for God's sake. She wished she hadn't worn these shorts especially, but they were her favorites because they were so short and tight, and they were white besides, which really showed off her tan.

"I got to go," she said, trying to hide her agitation. Harper had never tried anything with her, but then they'd never been in a place where he could. It wasn't that he was ugly, far from it, for an old dude, but he scared the living shit out of her. Maybe if they'd been someplace where she wasn't so alone, like a motel, where someone would hear if she screamed, because Harper looked like a man who made women scream.

"You ain't wearing any panties," he observed, never moving from his balanced position on the back legs of the chair.

"I can see your pussy hair through your shorts."

She knew that; that was one reason she liked the shorts so much. She loved the way men glanced at her, then did a double take and looked again, with their eyes all bugged out and their tongues all but flapping like a dog's. It made her feel sexy, hot. But when Harper looked at her, she didn't feel hot, she felt scared.

He tilted even further back in the chair and reached into the right pocket of his jeans. He pulled out a Baggie filled with about an ounce of white powder, twisted into a little pouch and secured with red yarn tied around the neck of the pouch. The yarn drew her gaze, held it. She'd never seen a cocaine bag tied up with red yarn before. It looked exotic, unreal.

He swung the little bag back and forth.

"Would you rather have this, or money?"

Money, she tried to say, but her lips wouldn't form the words. Back and forth the little bag went, back and forth. She stared at it, hypnotized, fascinated. There was snow in that little bag, a Christmas present all tied up with red yarn.

I'M-maybe just a taste," she whispered. Just a taste. That was all she needed. A little snort to chase away the edginess. Carelessly he turned and swiped everything off the surface of the dirty little table, knocking newspapers and ashtrays and dirty dishes to the floor where it joined the rest of the litter and looked right at home. The owner of the trailer might not even notice. Then he untied the red yarn and carefully poured a portion of the white powder onto the table. Eagerly Corliss started forward, but he gave her a cold look that stopped her in her tracks.

"Just wait," he said.

"It's not ready for you yet."

A magazine insert, one of the stupid little cards that magazines stuck all through the pages, giving the reader an opportunity to become a subscriber, was lying on the floor. Harper picked it up and began to divide the tiny white mound into uniform lines on the table. Corliss watched his quick, sure movements. He'd done this before, many times. That puzzled her, because she thought she knew how to spot the cokers, and Harper didn't have any of the signs.

The little lines were perfect now, four of them. They weren't very long, but they would do. She quivered, staring at them, waiting for the word that would release her from her position.

Harper took a piece of straw from his pocket. It was a regular soda straw, cut down to not much longer than an inch. It was shorter than she liked, so short she'd have to '341

bend down right over the table and take care that her hand didn't brush the lines and disturb them. But it was a straw, and when he held it out to her, she eagerly took it.

He pointed to a place on the floor.

"You can stand there." The trailer was so tiny that it was only one step forward. She took it, then looked at the table and back at him. She would have to bend all the way forward and stretch to reach the lines.

"That's too far," she said.

He shrugged. "You'll manage."

She reached out and braced her left hand on the table and carefully held the little straw in her right. She bent forward, inching, hoping she wouldn't fall and turn the table over. The lines came closer and she lifted the straw to her nose, already anticipating the rush, the sizzle of ecstasy as her head expanded, the glow' You not doing it right," he said.

She froze, her gaze still on those sweet little lines. She had to have them. She couldn't wait much longer. But she was afraid to move, afraid of what would happen if she moved before Harper said she could.

"You have to drop your drawers first."

His voice was expressionless, as if they were playing May I? But now she knew what he wanted, and relief almost made her knees sag. It was just screwing, nothing important. So what if he was older than anyone else she'd ever screwed? The little lines beckoned, and how old he was didn't matter.

Hastily she straightened and unbuttoned her shorts, let them drop to her ankles. She started to step out of them, but he stopped her again.

"Leave them there. I don't want your legs spread, it's tighter when they're together."

She shrugged.

"Whatever cranks your tractor."

She didn't pay any more attention to him as he moved behind her. She bent forward, eagerly focused on the cocaine, left hand braced on the table, right hand holding the straw. The tip of the straw touched the white powder, and she inhaled sharply just as he shoved into her, driving deep, the force of his thrust making the straw skid across the table and knock the cocaine out of its neat lines. She was dry, and he hurt her. She chased after the coke with the straw and he shoved again, making her miss. She whimpered, frantically adjusting her Position and inhaling as hard as she could to suck up any particle the tip of the straw might touch.

The coke was scattered all over the table. There was no point in trying to aim, only to time her inhalations as his thrusts rhythmically pushed her forward. Corliss held the short straw to her nose, avidly sweeping the tip across the table, sucking hard through her nose as she went back and forth, back and forth, and it didn't matter any more that he was hurting her, damn him, because she was managing to inhale enough, and the glow, the rush, was spreading through her. She didn't care what he did as long as he could get the coke for her, and as long as he took care of Webb Tallant before the bastard kicked her out of Davencourt.

That afternoon when Roanna returned from a meeting of the Historical Society, she opened the garage door and saw that Corliss had returned before her and taken advantage of her absence to take her parking slot again. Sighing, she pressed the button on the remote control to lower the garage door again, and parked her car to the side. Corliss would be gone in two days; she could be patient that long. If she said anything about the parking space, there would be another big scene that would upset Lucinda, something she wanted to avoid.

She was walking across the yard to the back door when something moved softly in her heart, and she stopped and looked around. It was one of the most beautiful days she'd ever seen. The sky was a deep, pure blue and the air was unusually clear, without the usual haze of humidity. The heat was so intense it was like a touch, releasing the rich, heavy fragrance from the rose bushes, which had been carefully cultivated over decades and were laden with blooms. Down at the stables, the horses were prancing around and tossing their glossy heads, full of energy. That

morning, Webb had asked her to marry him. And above all that, she was carrying his child.

Pregnant. She was actually pregnant. She was still a little stunned, as if it couldn't possibly be happening to her, and she had been so distracted she had no idea what had been discussed at the Historical Society meeting. She was accustomed to being the only person inhabiting her body. How did she get used to the concept of someone else living inside her? It was alien, and it was frightening. How could something so strange be so precious? She was so happy she wanted to weep.

That, too, felt alien. She was happy. She examined the emotion cautiously. She was going to marry Webb. She was going to raise kids and horses. She looked up at the huge old house and felt a wave of pure elation and possessiveness sweep over her. Davencourt was hers. It was her home now, truly and for real. Yes, she was happy. Even with Lucinda's inevitable passing coming closer and closer, she was filled with a rich contentment.

Webb was right; Jessie had poisoned enough of her life, convinced her that she was too ugly and clumsy for anyone to love her. Well, Jessie had been a spiteful bitch, and she'd been lying. Roanna felt the knowledge seep into her pores. She was a capable, likable human being, and she had a special talent with horses. She was loved; Lucinda loved her, Loyal loved her, Bessie and Tansy loved her. Gloria and Lanette had been concerned when she'd been injured, and Lanette had been surprisingly helpful. Brock and Greg liked her. Harlan-well, who knew about Harlan? But most of all, Webb loved her. Sometime during the day, the certainty of that had penetrated the layers of her soul. Webb loved her. He'd loved her all her life, just as he'd said. He was certainly aroused by her, which meant that her looks weren't all that odd either.

She smiled a private little smile as she remembered how he'd made love to her the night before, and again that morning, after the pregnancy test had shown positive. There was no doubting his physical reaction to her, any more than he could doubt her desire for him.

"I saw that," he said from where he lounged in the kitchen doorway. She hadn't heard him open the door.

"You've been standing there daydreaming for five minutes, and you just got a mysterious little smile on your face. What are you thinking about?" Still smiling, Roanna walked toward him, her brown eyes heavy lidded and filled with an expression that made him catch his breath.

"Riding," she murmured as she walked past, deliberately brushing her body against his.

"And woofs."

His own eyes grew heavy, and color stained his cheekbones. It was the first seductive move Roanna had made toward him, and it had brought him to a full, immediate erection. Tansy was behind him in the kitchen, cheerfully going about her daily baking and concocting. He didn't care if she noticed his aroused state. He turned around and silently, purposefully followed Roanna.

She glanced over her shoulder at him as they went up the stairs, her face glowing with promise. She walked faster. The bedroom door was barely closed behind them before Webb had her in his arms.

Getting married involved running a lot of errands, Roanna thought the next morning as she drove down the long, winding private road. The guest list for the wedding was much smaller than the one for Lucinda's party had been, with a total of forty people, including family, but there were still details to be taken care of.

She and Webb were to have their blood tests later that afternoon. This morning, she had arranged for the flowers and the caterer and the wedding cake. Normally wedding cakes took weeks to prepare, but Mrs. Turner, who specialized in wedding cakes, had said she could do an "elegantly simple" one in the eleven days left until the chosen wedding date. Roanna understood that "elegantly simple" was a

tactful way of saying less elaborate, but that was what she preferred anyway. She had to stop by Mrs. Turner's house and pick out the design she liked best.

She also had to shop for a wedding gown. If she couldn't find anything she liked in the Quad Cities on such short notice, she would have to go to Huntsville or Birmingham.

Fortunately, Yvonne had been ecstatic about the prospect of Webb's second marriage. She had tolerated Jessie but never really liked her. Roanna suited her to a T, and she had even said that she'd always wished Webb had waited for Roanna to grow up rather than marrying Jessie. Yvonne had thrown herself into the preparations, taking over the onerous chore of invitations and volunteering to handle the logistics of everything else once Roanna had made her choices.

Roanna reached the side road and stopped, waiting for an oncoming car to pass. Her brakes felt mushy when she applied them, and she frowned, experimentally pumping the pedal again. This time it felt fine. Perhaps the level of brake fluid was low, though she kept the car well maintained. She made a mental note to stop at a service station and have it checked.

She turned right onto the side road, traveling toward the highway. The car that had just passed was at least a hundred yards ahead of her. Roanna gradually accelerated, her thoughts drifting to the style of gown she wanted: something simple, in ivory rather than pure white. She had some gold hued pearls that would look gorgeous with an ivory gown. And a fairly slim skirt in the Empire style would suit her far better than a full-skirted, fairy princess gown.

There was a curve in the road, then a stop sign where the road intersected with Highway 43, a busy four-lane highway, with traffic continually zooming past. Roanna rounded the curve and saw the car ahead of her halted at the stop sign, left turn signal blinking, waiting for an opening in the traffic to enter the highway.

A car turned onto the side road, coming toward her, but the traffic was too heavy for the car stopped at the intersection to make it across to the other side, Roanna put her foot on the brake pedal to slow down, and the pedal went to the floorboard without any resistance at all.

Alarm shot through her. She pumped the pedal again, but there was no response the way there had been the first time. If anything, the car seemed to pick up speed. She had no brakes, and both lanes of the road were occupied.

Time warped, stretching like elastic. The road elongated in front of her, while the oncoming car loomed twice its normal size. Thoughts flashed through her mind, lightning fast: Webb, the baby. A deep ditch was to the right, and the shoulder was narrow; there was no room for her to swing past the car stopped at the intersection, even if there hadn't beer, the danger of shooting across four lanes of traffic.

Webb! Dear God, Webb. She gripped the steering wheel, anguish almost choking her as the seconds churned past and she ran out of time. She couldn't die now, not now when she had Webb, when his child was just beginning its life inside her. She had to do something … But she already knew what to do, she realized, memory gleaming like a bright thread through the terror that threatened to engulf her. She'd been a terrible driver, so she had taken a driving course when she was in college. She knew how to handle skids and lousy road conditions; she knew what to do in case of brake failure.

She knew what to do!

The car was shooting forward, as if it were on a downhill course and the roadway was greased.

The driving instructor's voice sounded in her head, calm and prosaic: Don't take a solid hit if you can help it. Don't let yourself hit anything head on, that's when the worst damage occurs. Turn the car, slide into a collision, dissipate the force

She reached for the gear shift. Don't try to put it into park, she thought, remembering those long-ago lessons. The instructor had said it likely wouldn't go into park anyway. She could hear his voice as clearly as if he was sitting beside

her: Put the gear into low range and pull the emergency brakes. The emergency brakes work on a cable, not on pneumatic pressure. A loss of brake fluid won't affect them.

The stopped car was just fifty yards ahead now. The oncoming car was less than that.

She pulled the gear shift into low and reached for the emergency brake lever, pulling it with all her strength. Metal shrieked as the transmission ground down, and black smoke boiled up from her tires. The stench of burning rubber filled the car.

The rear end of the car will likely come around. Steer out of the skid if you can. If you don't have room, and you see you're going to hit someone or be hit, try to maneuver so it's an indirect collision. Both of you will be more likely to walk away.

The rear end swung into the other lane, in front of the oncoming car. A horn blared, and Roanna caught a glimpse of a furious, terrified face, just a blur in the windshield. She turned into the skid, felt the car began to slide in the other direction, and quickly spun the steering wheel to correct that skid, too.

The oncoming car swept past with inches to spare, horn still blaring. That left only the car in her lane, still sitting patiently at the stop sign, turn signal blinking.

Twenty yards. No more room, no more time. With the left lane clear now, Roanna sent the car into a spinning slide across it. A cornfield stretched out on the other side of the road, nice and flat. She left the road and plunged across the shoulder, the car still skidding sideways. She crashed into the fencing, wood splintering, and a whole section came down. The car plowed down head-high stalks of corn as it bumped and thudded across the furrows, clods of dirt flying in all directions. She was thrown forward, and the seat belt bit hard into her hips and torso, jerking her back as the car shuddered to a stop.

She sat there with her head resting on the steering wheel, too weak and dazed to get out of the car. Numbly she took stock of herself. Everything seemed to be all right.

She became aware that she was trembling uncontrollably. She'd done it!

She heard someone yelling, then there was a tapping on the window beside her.

"Ma'am? Ma'am? Are you all right?"

Roanna lifted her head and stared into the scared face of a teenage girl. Willing her shaking limbs to obey, she unclipped the seat belt and tried to get out. The door didn't want to open. She shoved, and the girl pulled from the outside, and together they forced it open enough for Roanna to climb out.

"I'm okay," she managed to say.

"I saw you run off the road. Are you sure you're okay? You hit that fence pretty hard."

"The fence got the worst of it." Roanna's teeth began chattering, and she had to lean against the car or sink to the ground.

"My brakes failed."

The girl's eyes widened.

"Oh, gosh! You ran off the road to keep from hitting me, didn't you?" "It seemed like a better idea," she said, and her knees sagged.

The girl sprang forward, sliding an arm around her.

"You are hurt!"

Roanna shook her head, forcing her knees to stiffen as the girl showed signs of bursting into tears.

"No, I'm just scared, that's all. My legs feel like limp noodles." She took a few deep, steadying breaths.

"I have a cell phone in the car, I'll just call someone to come-" "I'll get it for you," the girl said, wrenching the door open wider and scrambling inside to find the cellular phone. After a brief search she located it under the right front seat.

Roanna took some more calming breaths before she called home. The last thing she wanted to do was unduly alarm Webb or Lucinda, so that meant she had to steady her voice.

Bessie answered the phone, and Roanna asked for Webb. He came on the line a moment later.