After the night(3)

By: Linda Howard


"Why don’t you come out from there and have some fun with us?" She lost herself in the delicious daydream of being part of that group of laughing, roughhousing, suntanned kids, of being one of those curvy girls in a brief bikini.

Even before she got to the edge of the clearing where the summerhouse was, she could see the silver gleam of Gray’s Corvette parked in front of it, and her heart began the familiar violent pounding. He was here! She slid cautiously behind the shelter of a big tree trunk, but after a moment she realized that she couldn’t hear anything. There were no splashing sounds, no yells or shrieks or giggles. Maybe he was fishing from the pier, or maybe he’d taken the boat out. Faith moved closer, angling for a view of the pier, but the wooden length was empty. He wasn’t there. Disappointment filled her. If he’d taken the boat out, there was no telling how long he’d be gone, and she couldn’t stay there waiting for him. She had stolen this time for herself, but she had to get back soon and start cooking supper, and take care of Scottie.

She was turning to go when a muted sound reached her ears and she stopped, head cocked to try to locate it. She left the edge of the woods and took a few steps into the clearing, closer to the house, and now she could hear a murmur of voices, too low and indistinct for her to understand. Instantly her heart swelled again; he was here, after all. But he was inside the house; it would be difficult to catch a glimpse of him from the woods. If she went closer, though, she could hear him, and that was all she required. Faith had the knack of small, wild things for silence. Her bare feet didn’t make a sound as she crept closer to the house, trying to stay out of a direct line to any of the windows. The murmur of voices seemed to be coming from the back of the house, where the bedrooms were located. She reached the porch and squatted by the steps, her head cocked again as she tried to catch the words, but she couldn’t quite understand them. It was Gray’s voice, though; the deep tones were unmistakable, at least to her. Then she heard a gasp, and a kind of moan, in a much lighter voice. Irresistibly drawn by curiosity and the lodestone of Gray’s voice, Faith eased out of her squatting position and cautiously tugged at the handle of the screen door. It was unlatched. She eased it open barely enough for a cat to slip through, and wriggled her own lithe, skinny body inside, then just as silently let the door close. Going down on hands and knees, she crawled across the plank porch to the open

window of one of the bedrooms, from which the voices seemed to be coming. She heard another gasp. "Gray," said the other voice, a girl’s voice, strained and shaking.

"Shhh, shhh," Gray murmured, the sound low and barely reaching Faith. He said something else, but the words didn’t make any sense to her. They slid past her ears without triggering any understanding. Then he said, "Mon ch&re," and the tumblers clicked into place. He was speaking French, she realized, and as soon as she did so, the words became clear, as if it had taken that small understanding for the sounds to find the needed rhythm in her brain. Though the Devlins were neither Cajun nor Creole, Faith understood most of what he was saying. The majority of the people in the parish spoke and understood French, in varying degrees.

It sounded as if he were trying to coax a scared dog to him, Faith thought. His voice was warm and crooning, the words scattered with reassurances and endearments. When the girl spoke again, her voice was still strained, but now there was a drugged undertone to it.

Curious, Faith eased to the side and carefully moved her head so that one eye peeked around the frame of the open window. What she saw froze her to the spot.

Gray and the girl were both naked on the bed, which was positioned with the headboard under the window on the adjoining wall. Neither of them was likely to see her, which was a stroke of fortune, because Faith couldn’t have moved then even if they had both looked straight at her. Gray was lying with his back to her, his left arm positioned under the girl’s tousled blond head. He was leaning over her in a way that made Faith catch her breath, for there was something both protective and predatory in him. He was kissing her, long kisses that left the room in silence except for their deep sighs, and his right arm – it looked as if – he was – he shifted his position, and Faith could clearly see that his right hand was between the girl’s naked thighs, right there on her kitty cat. Faith felt dizzy, and she realized that her chest hurt from holding her breath. Carefully she let it out, and rested her cheek against the white wood. She knew what they were doing. She was eleven, and she wasn’t a little girl anymore even if her breasts hadn’t started to grow yet. Several years ago she had heard Renee and Pa carrying on in their bedroom, and her oldest brother, Russ, had leeringly and graphically explained what was going on. She had seen dogs doing it, too, and heard cats screeching while they did it.