Veiled eyes, p.18
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       Veiled Eyes, p.18

           C.L. Bevill
 
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  No more secrets from you. Gabriel was resigned, but it was a jovial acquiescence.

  Not even one?

  “Well, maybe one or two,” he whispered aloud, his lips making their way along her throat. “We’re only human after all.”

  Phideaux leaped off the bed and headed for his doggy door, certain that the bed was no longer habitable for him.

  Gabriel’s agile fingers traced her face and her arms. He directed her arms around his neck as he pressed soft but arousing kisses along her collarbone. His clever hands made short work of the T-shirt she was wearing. He groaned as he took the weight of her breasts into his hands, lowering his head to touch one firm nipple with his tongue. Anna arched into his searching mouth and probing tongue.

  His thoughts were decidedly erotic. Each was shared with her as a heated fantasy, bringing rush upon rush of heat to the center of her womanhood. Gabriel licked and tasted his way down to her belly button and rimmed the indentation with his tongue. One of his hands removed her panties and then worked at his own clothing. She arched again as his fingers parted the plump flesh at her apex and delved into her inner heat. Gabriel moved further down and followed his fingers with his tongue.

  Anna moaned and let her defenses down. She shared with him her secret thoughts and her hidden desires. Gabriel lifted his head for a moment and murmured, “Never?” He didn’t wait for an answer but let Anna feel the throbbing pulsation of his shaft as it demanded release.

  He slid up her body and angled her hips for his entrance. He pushed gently and reached in-between their bodies to find the little nub that would give the her greatest pleasure. When his manhood was about to breach the tiny barrier, he bent his head to her breasts and sucked hard at one of her nipples.

  The pleasure broke like a dam within Anna. She reached the pinnacle with a harsh sob and waves of release poured over her. Gabriel stroked inside her and continued his powerful thrusts until his release followed hers. Together they collapsed into a panting mass of satisfied lassitude.

  Chapter 18

  Tuesday, December 23rd – Thursday, December 25th

  On Christmas morning, the first one up shall take the largest broom to the doorstep, open the door to its widest, and sweep past and future trouble from the threshold. Else, trouble will take residence upon your steps; whenever you shall pass that way it will haunt you and all your kin.

  Inside Gabriel’s mind Anna found acceptance. Perhaps it wasn’t unconditional, but it enveloped her like a warm blanket. She saw what he was and that he had kept little from her. He was the second person she found in her life that she could trust.

  It gave Anna pause. It also convinced her she might very well have been wrong about Meg.

  “You let my dog get on my bed,” Gabriel said much later.

  Her head was resting on his shoulder, her eyes on the window looking out toward the lake. A faint smile coursed across her features. “I didn’t know he wasn’t permitted.”

  “Well, most of the time he’s not.” He ran a hand through her hair and made a disparaging noise. “You need to take a bath, Anna. Normally I wouldn’t mention such a thing to a lady in my bed, but well, you’re dirty. Got mud on your face like a little child.”

  “That brings up two things in my mind. One is to ask you how many ladies have been in your bed.” Anna rose her head up to look him in his face. She curled her fingers in his chest hair and pulled a little.

  “Ouch,” he said. “There hasn’t been that many, you little wildcat. After all, you could have been—”

  Listening? How inconvenient for you. Whistling man. Anna’s smile became smug. After all, you know exactly how many men there’ve been for me.

  I know, he answered her, his thoughts solemn. “What’s the other thing?”

  “I know you don’t think so, but I was inside the mine.” Anna’s head went back down, cushioned against his warm flesh. “When you warned me not to move, that I was in danger, why were you so concerned? What did you think would happen to me?”

  Gabriel studied the top of her head, marveling that she could keep her thoughts away from him even after what they had done. “The mine’s dangerous. It’s been flooded on some levels for years. Two kids drowned in there a dozen years ago. They picked the locks off the doors, I think.”

  Family?

  No, outsiders. Just children. Found them a week later. A friend who hadn’t gone finally told the police where to look. Sebastien took the police right to the spot where the kids were.

  “Sebastien?” Her question was wary. “Why Sebastien?”

  “His family owns the mine, part of it anyway. I reckon it’s his now. His and the other elders. He doesn’t want anyone to sue him over some needless death. That’s why all the fences and gates.” He reached down and tipped her chin up so he could look her in her face. “But Anna, if you were in the mine, then how could the doors be locked?”

  “They weren’t locked when I went in. Neither was the gate by Meg’s shack.” Her gold eyes flickered with some nameless emotion. Gabriel wasn’t disbelieving; he was frankly concerned. “You said Sebastien was out looking for me too.”

  “Oui. He was worried about you. There are…dangers in the bayou, as well you should know.” He didn’t want to repeat aloud the fate of her mother.

  “Then someone else with a key opened the mine’s doors. And they locked them afterward. I never saw anyone. I thought I saw, you know what I thought I saw.”

  A great hulking shadow that moved in the darkness making the walls shake like a god pounding his hammer against the earth. Gabriel tried hard not to smile at the image that seemed ludicrous in the daylight. He thought Anna might hit him if he did.

  But then Anna smiled at him. “Are you being sarcastic or just poetic?” She brought herself to her knees and wrapped a sheet around herself. “I’ll take the shower now.” She glanced around. “Where are my jeans?”

  Gabriel put his hands behind his head and looked at her. It didn’t matter if Anna was filthy or not. She had something that emanated from her that attracted him like a bee to the flower. But she worried him as well. Stubborn and willful are truly her catchphrases. She said she was in the mine. There was no doubt that she believed it. But if the mine was locked, and he had seen it with his own eyes, then how had she gotten out? He decided to keep that bit of logic to himself. She wasn’t insane, just under a great deal of stress. With Gabriel’s guidance, he was sure that Anna would weather the storm. “They were tattered to pieces. Ripped at the knees. A little on your butt, which was very attractive, I’m sure, but no longer serviceable. I put them in my rag box.”

  “I liked those jeans,” she complained. Actually the pants were the only pair she had left.

  “I’ll buy you another pair. I’ll buy you a dozen pairs.” Gabriel sighed. “You need something new to wear anyway. Since you lost it all when that man took your car.”

  “Is there anything you don’t know about?”

  “Oui. Way behind your eyes there is something that lurks like a redheaded stepchild. You keep it hidden. Something about stealing a Playgirl magazine from a 7-Eleven store in the seventh or eighth grade.” Gabriel chuckled. “Jane was very upset with you. She made you go to confession the very next day. And the priest made you say a hundred acts of contrition. My little criminal.”

  Anna had climbed off the bed and was halfway to the bathroom. She looked over her bare shoulder. “That’s what you meant by no secrets.”

  “The family has a saying,” he said. “Sin alone and everyone knows anyway.”

  She looked at him for a long moment. “I said I’d help Mr. Lemoine with his transmission. He says it screams at him.”

  “Then we’d best hurry and get you those jeans then,” said Gabriel amicably.

  “What I am going to wear?” Anna’s face was neutral.

  “My sweats?” Gabriel smiled. “But you don’t have to get dressed on my account.”

  Anna threw the balled-up sheet at him and escaped into the bathroo
m.

  * * *

  Gabriel took Anna out on the lake the next day. It was a cloudy afternoon, and the lake was like the surface of a mirror, glassy and reflective. She leaned over the rail and stared into the water. “What about the elders?” she asked him.

  He had stopped the Belle-Mère near the eastern end of the lake where a bayou splintered off to the north. “Mossy Brake is what they call this place,” he told her. The oaks and cypresses grew so thick that the forest at the edge of the lake looked impenetrable. Moss covered the bases of the trees; it was a golden color that showed it was languishing in the winter light. “When it’s spring it’s the color of emeralds.” He pointed. “Once there was an oil rig there. You can still see the supports when the water level is low. I have to be careful not to snag the bottom of the Belle-Mère.”

  “They drilled for oil here?”

  “Oui. Several areas of the lake. All over this part of the country. And Texas got some too. But they also found the salt dome below.” He looked over at her. She was wearing a pair of scratched Wayfarers perched on the edge of her nose. One of his shirts came to mid-thigh on her, and she had on a brand new pair of Lee’s. Sparkling white Reeboks were on her feet. He nodded approvingly. Wonder if I can get her to wear a dress?

  “Salt mines,” she murmured. I don’t like dresses. “Oil. Pearls. Fishing. Quite an industry through here.”

  Gabriel put his hands on her shoulders and directed her to look at the cypresses. Each hulking tree spanned yards around in circumference where they met the lapping edge of the black waters. “These trees saw steamboats come through on their way to the Red River, going to Baton Rouge, or New Orleans. Union soldiers once fought a battle against weary Confederates not a mile from where we’re standing. You can find Minié balls if you look hard enough. And our last great industry is tourism, p’tite.” But you would look so beautiful in a dress, chère.

  “Your ships. The bed and breakfasts. The fishing. The guide trips.” Anna laughed shortly. No dresses. “Ironic, isn’t it?”

  “What?”

  “You depend on outsiders for your livelihood.”

  “Yes, I can see why you would think that’s ironic.” Gabriel looked over her shoulder at the forest. “But most never stay for long, and the land all belongs to the family, every bit of it.”

  “Is that why there are no chain stores here? No big companies come to take over?”

  “The lake is part of us, Anna.” Gabriel rubbed her shoulders gently. “Remember it calling to you. We can’t take any risk with such a company.”

  “Doing business with a bunch of telepaths might be problematic, it’s true,” Anna said complacently.

  “Telepaths. Some clairvoyance. There are other gifts as well. You never played the lotto, hmm?”

  Anna laughed. “It never seems to work for more than a couple hundred bucks. And even then, well, it’s more like a twenty here on a scratch-off. Or a five or a ten.”

  “I have a Christmas gift for you,” Gabriel suddenly changed the subject.

  “Gabriel, you’ve already spent a ton of money on me. I can’t—”

  “Just one more thing. We were talking of the lake, and I wish you to have it.” He reached inside his pocket and brought out a little white box. She turned around and stared curiously. He gently wrapped her hands around the box and then let go, allowing her to hold it by herself. “Open it, chère. It won’t bite you.”

  Anna stared into his remarkable face for a moment before she slipped the satin ribbon off the little box. When she saw what was inside she made a little noise. A dainty gold chain draped elegantly over the folds of blue velvet inside the case. The pendant itself was iridescent like the surface of the lake. “It’s a black pearl,” she whispered.

  “Grown in the freshwater mussels from this very lake. Given to my grandmother on the birth of her daughter, my mother.”

  “By your grandfather.” She touched its polished surface with a finger. It felt like the cool brush of silk against her flesh. Anna thought she could stare into its exterior forever and lose herself in it. Finally she tucked a finger under the delicate gold chain and held it up to Gabriel. “Will you put it on me?”

  His fingers fumbled a little with the catch, and Anna thought it endearing. Gabriel wasn’t perfect, after all. He was as human as the rest of them. When the chain settled around her neck, falling over her collar bones and letting the pearl pendant rest at the base of her throat, she reached up to touch it. It felt good, like it was part of her. “Did she die?”

  “My grandmaman?” Gabriel asked, but he knew what Anna meant. “A few years ago, praying that happiness would come to me at last. She always said that I should have patience, patience with you. And when I realized the whole of it all, I thought of her and her words. I think she would have liked to see you wearing her pearl. Now your pearl.”

  “Thank you,” Anna said. She rose up on her toes and kissed his cheek.

  Gabriel appeared surprised. He touched his cheek and stared down at her.

  Anna suddenly realized that he had run out of things to say. “You don’t have to say anything,” she said comfortingly.

  He smiled at her. No, of course not.

  There was an image that popped into her mind. Anna flushed scarlet from the roots of her hair all the way down to her toes. In the picture in Gabriel’s mind, she was lying completely naked on his bed except for the beautiful pearl necklace draped around her neck. The unreal self in his thoughts was lustrous with light, almost an angel who waited for him with bated breath. She saw herself from his perspective with full breasts, a trim waist, and hips that curved voluptuously, beckoning his touch. Her skin was like ivory, flawless and glowing with radiance.

  Anna took a breath at the sheer eroticism of the thoughts. Gabriel blinked and realized that she knew exactly what was in his mind. Then he shrugged lightly. Well, she thought, that’s one thing I can give you.

  The vision vanished. Gabriel’s eyes became serious. Anna, you’ve already given me something I’ve never had before.

  * * *

  “Pope Urges Peace on Day of Lord’s Birth!” read the headline. Gabriel’s eyes flickered to the headline on the bottom half of the page. “Manhunt Intensifies!” His eyes went over the story and he thought, Shreveport. Oh shit! Not him. Not now.

  He waited on Anna while she finished up on Herb Lemoine’s transmission. Parts had come in late the previous day, and she hadn’t been able to finish the job. Although it was Christmas Day, she knew the older man didn’t have transportation to get to his son’s house. Herb had protested that his son would come pick him up, but Anna could read in his thoughts that his daughter-in-law was soon going into labor. “April doesn’t know it,” said Herb confidently to Gabriel. “She’s going to have the Christmas baby, oui.”

  Gabriel said, “Anna knows you need the car.”

  Herb looked through the open bay doors at Anna, who was tightening up bolts on the bottom of the car. “The old mechanic, you remember John Fleur, he wouldn’t have worked on the Lord’s birthday for an old man.”

  The newspaper wavered in front of Gabriel’s face. The little headline popped out at him like it was taunting him. “Manhunt Intensifies!” The Louisiana State Police were searching for a man who had allegedly killed at least twelve young women and two young men and the count was growing. His backyard was virtually a graveyard. Some forensics teams were spending their Christmas with bones and death instead of their families. “Gracious God,” muttered Gabriel. He looked up at Herb Lemoine and murmured, “Yes, oui. She caught the part about the labor. She wanted to make sure you were able to see your third grandchild.”

  Herb beamed. “Yes, I like that gal. Don’t care what some of them no-accounts say about her. She’s got moxie like the best. Good heart makes all the difference.”

  “You want to know if it’s a girl or a boy?” Gabriel asked because it suddenly came to him, and he wondered if it was Anna who was feeling it or him or a combination of them both
. He was hoping that Anna wasn’t reading him back.

  Herb chuckled. “Doesn’t make a difference to me. I like the boys just as well as the girls and all them babies smell just alike to me.”

  “Seven pounds, seven ounces,” Gabriel said. He folded the newspaper up. As soon as Anna was done, they were going to a Christmas dinner at Sebastien and Aurore’s house. Half the family was invited. The other half was going to other family events out-of-town. Tents had been raised to cover the Benoit’s large backyard, and the party would go well into the evening.

  “What?” said Herb, still smiling at Anna. “And she’s so cute, too. A little button. Gonna make you a fine missus.”

  Gabriel rolled his eyes. “The baby’s going to weigh seven pounds and seven ounces. Your son is going to name the child after…lost that part.” He turned to look at Anna, who was peering up into the chassis of the car. “Anna’ll argue too much. She’s obstinate. A mule.”

  Herb shrugged. “Don’t want a marshmallow, Gabriel. That would be très terne. Boring. Life should be exciting, oui?”

  “Oui,” Gabriel agreed. He couldn’t prevent the glance down at the paper in his hand. There was a sudden urge to say a little prayer of thanksgiving because he had the oddest feeling that the other shoe was about to drop.

  What other shoe? came her thought. Then, Anna must have picked up on exactly what he was thinking. Dan Cullen? The psychopathic truck driver? He’s loose? How the hell did that happen?

  No more secrets, Gabriel groaned out loud. We couldn’t take you to the police, Anna. We couldn’t take the chance with a family member. Instead we took him. We left him there all tied up with the photographs in his lap. He made bail and then he vanished. He doesn’t know where you are. Tell me you understand why we did this.

  Her thoughts were turbulent and troubled. Gabriel sighed with relief as he realized that she did understand. And when Anna was done with Herb’s transmission she cleaned up, and they went to the Christmas celebration. She was wearing the pearl necklace.

  Chapter 19

  Sunday, January 18th – Friday, January 23rd

  Gossiping on the Sabbath bodes ill for the gossiping monger and no good shall come of the venial sin.

 
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