"I'm so s-sorry... you must be thinking that I'm awful... I..." she started saying in between sobs.
She was about to open up the water works again. I had to respond fast, I couldn't take much more of this brand of torture. For me that's saying a lot and I got the scars to prove it.
"Listen sweetheart, enough with the tears." I took out another hankie from my breast pocket and wiped her face as gently as I could. "I don't think you're awful, but you've got some explaining to do."
She looked up at me and her sad eyes nearly did me in.
"I-I'm sorry I lied to you."
I took her hand in mine and tried to be gentle. "You haven't exactly lied to me yet. You can't lie if you're not saying anything. What I heard though, it wasn't pretty. Talk to me." She shut her eyes and bit her lower lip.
"I'm supposed to lie to you. Tell you that I have a case and keep you busy, chasing fake leads."
"Yeah I about heard that much, the real question is why?" I asked keeping my eyes fixed on hers, she was wiggling like a worm on a hook and that didn't sit well with me. Pop used to say "If they're sweating or squirming they're either lying or trying to kill you." Either way, my gut was turning upside down.
"I really don't know," she said.
I stared even harder. She lowered her gaze and continued nervously "All they told me was to keep your father busy this week. I guess they didn't know he had passed away. It has something to do with some jewelry of my Mother's."
"Alright, let's back up and take it step by step. First who's 'they' exactly? And second why would my Pop have anything to do with your Mother's jewelry?"
"My Father and my brother, to answer your first question. As for the second, you won't believe me, but the truth is that I really don't know anything, except that he has or had a piece of jewelry that belonged to her and that according to Donnie is 'our salvation'."
"Well kid I think your brother is wrong. I don't know anything about expensive jewelry, except that my Pop never had anything more pricey than what he could buy at the 'nickel and dime' store. He never told me anything about working a case for anyone named Maclay either."
"I'm telling you what I know," she replied.
I could sense she was still holding something back. I decided to keep my cool. If she was playing a game with me I could play too. "O.k. That still leaves more questions than answers. Now that I know about 'the plan', what are you going to do?"
"I know what I don't want to do. I don't want to lie to you. I want you to trust me. I know you have questions so do I, so many you can't even begin to imagine, I..." She hesitated before continuing.
"I don't want you to get hurt. There's no telling what Donnie would do if he found out that you knew something. Maybe if you could trust me enough, we could find some answers together?"
She sounded hopeful, but trust? That wasn't exactly at the top of my list, but my curiosity was piqued. I had to find out what was going on. "So doll... how are we gonna play this?"
She served me a drink from her brother's stash and we talked for a while. It was simple enough, she would go into my office with her brother as planned. We would both play along and while he thought that I was chasing wild geese I would really be chasing him. Tara would stick to me like she was told while trying to find out more about her brother's intentions. I was worried about the connection between her mother and my father. I couldn't make one from what she was telling me. There were too many blanks to fill in.
She told me that her family had once been one of the most influential and wealthy families in all of the South. Crops, factories, mining, you name it they had it. Her Mother inherited the fortune from her grandfather and married very wealthy at very young age. She said things were good for a while.
Aren't they always? I knew the rest of the story. It's the same one all over the world. Still I listened patiently. She had a far away look in her eyes and I could tell it hurt her to remember.
"He was a good father and a good husband. He used to call me princess and take me horseback riding. Then one day everything started changing. His father, I guess I should call him Grandfather, came to live with us. Things were never the same. There was fighting all time, Donnie and Papa began to have mood swings. Grandfather had a say in everything from the running of business to the running of the house. My mother fought him all the way. I over heard them one night and she even threatened to get a divorce, but then she started getting sick. She was getting weaker as time passed. Then one day she just went to sleep and never woke up again."
Her voice cracked and lump as big a boulder made its home in my throat.
"You don't have to go on if you don't want to," I offered.
"No I want to." She took the glass of bourbon from my hands and stole a little sip. "I hope you don't mind," she said almost shyly. I nodded my head 'no' of course and she continued. "After that it was down hill. Papa drank, Donnie drank, Grandfather ran the business right into the ground. At least I think that's what happened, because the money just stopped coming in and everything was getting shut down or mortgaged."
"What about you, didn't you have say, weren't you in your mother's will?"
"I was young and sheltered to an extent I suppose. Momma was teaching me about business and other things, but with Grandfather even that became a problem. After she got sick she really couldn't protect me anymore and the men of the house didn't let me question these things. When Momma died the first person Grandfather called was the family lawyer, Mr. Duncan. They had a meeting that lasted hours behind closed doors and ended with a shouting match that could be heard all over the house and Mr. Duncan leaving the house in a huff slamming the front door nearly off its hinges. The very week the will was to be read, he passed away and a new attorney took over. The will was read only in the presence of my Father supposedly as per my mother's wishes."
This got my attention. "Supposedly? So you don't think that's true?"
She sighed deeply and rubbed her temples. "I don't know what to think or who to believe anymore."
I took her hand "You can believe in me," then stood and walked to the window. "So according to this lawyer everything went to the old man and your brother? I guess that would include her jewelry and anything else of value. Why would they think any of it is here, hundreds of miles away and in the possession of a dead P.I.?"
"I know that Grandfather was angry for a very long time. Like I said I wasn't exactly Miss Intrepid, I'm not very brave. They could be so cruel... it hurt so badly sometimes... I was afraid to even ask questions, still am I guess," she said in a sad tone that tore me up.
Boy my blood was boiling now. Have I told you how much I hate bullies? I wish I could get those three jokers in a room alone. I rubbed the back of my neck and made my way back to her.
I squatted on my heels and put my hands on hers squeezing them to offer support. "Listen it's not you who lacks bravery. They're cowards for picking on someone who doesn't know how to fight back. The good news is you can learn to fight them, you already started by siding with me." She gave me a little smile and squeezed my hands right back.
"I really think that by your side I'll have the strength to be brave."
Her words made me smile in return. I wanted to believe in them.
"Let me remember... maybe I could remember something useful. The only time I knew anything about what they were doing was when I accidentally heard them talking from time to time. I was always so quiet I guess they never felt me coming. One of those times I heard Grandfather saying something like 'That bitch... she hid it... she knew and she hid it.' I can only suppose he was talking about Mother and whatever it is Donnie is here to look for."
I looked up into her face streaked with some of the tears that she had shed earlier. I looked for a sign, any sign that she wasn't being honest with me. Maybe I only saw what I wanted to see cause I swear all I saw was honesty. I guess the joke's on me.
So there it was, a mystery that spelled out 'cheap novel' in bold letters: A dame with a past, an evil family, a missing gem and a clueless gumshoe. I would've liked the outline if I wasn't playing the part of the patsy.
We sat in silence in the semi-dark room for a while. I was trying to put together the bizarre puzzle, but too many pieces were missing. My head was starting to hurt and I paced the room rubbing the back of my neck vigorously.
She looked up at me and called out my name softly. "Willow..."
I chuckled a little. "You know you're the only one?"
"The only one what?" she asked furrowing her brow.
"The only one who's ever gotten away with calling me Willow."
She smiled. "Why? It's a beautiful name."
"Yeah? Well I never thought so. I prefer 'Red'."
"Do you mind? I could call you 'Red' but I really like saying your name."
I shook my head. "Nah, it's o.k. I kinda like how you say my name."
Don't laugh, but I think I blushed when I said that to her. I've never been too keen on the mushy stuff.
She smiled even brighter, a sort of lop-sided really sexy smile and I melted like butter on hot popcorn. Boy did she have my number. She motioned for me to sit back on the bed.
"Come over here, you look tense," she said looking a little nervous.
I obeyed like a puppy. Hell if I had a tail I would've probably wagged it. She made me sit sideways on the bed. She took off my jacket and began rubbing my shoulders. Man I had to hold myself back from groaning at the first touch. It's just that every time we even came close to each other the air around us became alive with electricity. That's why I knew I was in deep trouble from the moment she walked into my office.
The more her hands traveled over my shoulders and up and down my back the more unsettled I became. My brain was shutting down like a burnt out light bulb and my body was coming alive. I had to swallow hard cause my mouth was starting to get dry. My hands were sweating and I had a funny feeling in my gut that was slowly but surely making its way down south.
I was surprised at just how much she was affecting me with just a few simple touches. I had never felt like that in all of my life. It was like I was a different person whenever she was near me. The strange thing is I liked it. I liked that I could be completely different and yet still be completely me, really me around her. It didn't make sense, but it sure felt perfectly right.
I turned and held her hands. "Stop... I can't think when you touch me."
Her eyes were locked onto mine, her lids fluttered just a little and in a slow and deep tone she said, "Then don't think."
I shook my head, as the blood rushed through my body. "Not thinking is a no-no in my line of work. It can get you a nice new pair of very gray, very heavy shoes."
She hesitated for a moment, but then surprised me by putting her right hand on my cheek and her left hand on my leg. She caressed my face and again spoke to me in that throaty tone that was turning the heat up in the room and in my body. "This isn't about work. It's about... something else. My brother won't be back until morning. I don't know what will happen tomorrow, but we've got tonight. You're here and I'm feeling... brave." She then leaned in and kissed me.
Well three cheers for bravery. I snaked my hand behind her head and buried it in her hair. I was falling and I didn't care. I couldn't care, even if the fall never ended, even if it broke me, shattered me completely.
Her lips were soft, sweet and warm. I felt grateful that she had offered them to me. I felt them part and I accepted the invitation. Our tongues began a gentle and firm duel. I felt her body reacting and changing with each stroke, just as mine was. Our breathing became rapid and shallow. I could hear the mingled beat of our hearts. My skin was on fire and hers also felt ablaze. I parted from her lips only to give attention to the rest of her body.
I kissed her graceful neck and she threw her head back moaning as her hands traveled the length of my back. I could feel every inch of my skin sensitized by her touch. My lips were thirsty for her. I wanted to taste her everywhere at once, but at the same time just stay in one place forever. I returned to her lips and ordered myself to take it slowly.
She was right. We had all night, but who knew beyond that? This was the first time that I've ever really wanted not to just have sex and be on my way. Usually one-night affairs suited me just fine. No questions, no complications. With Tara Maclay I wanted questions and answers, I wanted more than just a quick goodbye at dawn, in a nutshell: I wanted her to complicate my simple life.
She sucked on my bottom lip making it difficult for me not to just ravish her completely. I let her take the lead of the kiss, while my hands started wandering down her luscious curves. She gasped as I barely touched the underside of her breasts. I caressed them gently, tracing the nipples with my open palm through the fabric of her robe.
She traced my thin lips with the tip of her tongue and I shivered from arousal. She teased me relentlessly, pulling away from me every time I moved in to capture her warm and full mouth. She played this game so well, it was hard to believe that I had been the first. What I knew was that I wanted to be the last. I finally caught her and I sucked on her tongue for little while before lightly biting her lips. We couldn't stop kissing even when oxygen became an issue. We parted only for seconds at a time. We took the air that we needed from each other. We were breathing as one.
At some point we ended up lying on the bed I was slightly on top of her and when I felt her moving beneath me kissing was suddenly not enough. We both had reached the point where we needed so much more that it was physically painful. The truth is that I ached to have her. I lifted myself briefly from her body and I stared down into the most beautiful, deep blue eyes I had ever seen. Again like the first time, I was silently thanking whatever deities existed for this one moment in my life. I could've gotten lost in that azure depth, as matter of fact I did.
Our lips met again and this time more frantically. She moved sensuously as I pressed my leg to her center. We both sucked in a wild breath of air upon contact. She lifted her leg and we rocked back and forth in a fevered state. My hands got restless and I struggled with the sash of her robe. Her hands were also busy fumbling with the buttons of my shirt. We parted again with the unspoken promise of hurrying right back. We needed skin to skin contact. The heat was suffusing up our mingled bodies. Her flushed face made me tingle all over.
We sat up to facilitate the discarding of everything that came between us. We undressed each other and kneeling on the bed we took a moment to really look at one another. I had to struggle to breathe. It was like I was seeing her for the very first time. She was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, in life or even in dreams. I had found my religion. This was the Goddess I wanted to worship. I couldn't tell you what she was thinking at that moment, but I could've sworn I saw love written in every one of her features.
We pulled out of our daze and locked our hands together. Our foreheads touched and we exhaled a breath I think neither one of us knew we were holding. We lay on the bed face to face to face her mouth and whole body, opening, inviting me in. I gladly complied. My hands traced her smooth skin, as her hands danced on me at their own beat.
I traced the lines on her face, I wanted to remember every detail. My lips retraced the steps of my fingers. Her brows, eyelids, nose and neck I stopped there for a while lightly sucking on the throbbing pulse point, she whimpered just a little making me smile. I licked her neck and bit her earlobe making her squirm and breathe heavily. Our arousal was thick in the air and I was in no condition to linger as much as I would've liked.
I continued my path down and across her collarbone. When I reached her breasts she pushed herself into my hands groaning, I felt a jolt of pleasure traveling at lightning speed towards my already wet center. I caressed the perfect and full flesh, I teased the already hardened nipples with my thumb and fore finger. The dark erect tips made my palms tingle. Tara continued her soft moaning, it sounded almost like purring.
Her voice was driving me wild. Her hands were caressing my breasts as well and I had to retain her. I was getting lost in her touch. I couldnít function properly if she was touching me. I wanted this to be about her. I needed to please her, like she deserved. She seemed to understand. I took turns loving each of her breasts with my mouth. I leisurely sucked on them until I was satisfied that I had paid them the merited homage. She caressed my head and ran her nails through my back, making me shiver. I looked up and she was chewing on her bottom lip, picture perfect. I strummed my fingertips along her ribcage like I was playing a guitar and she sucked in a breath, raising her hips slightly off the bed. I reached her navel and dipped in the tip of my tongue, swirling it a little, enjoying the soft sounds of pleasure that were coming from her mouth.
Her movements were becoming more agitated. I wanted to continue a slow pace, but her unique aroma was engulfing my senses. I could barely contain myself. I closed my eyes and let the air around us encompass me. I was shaken to the core as I let this feeling of red desire wash over me. I slid down her body moist with sweat and I rested between her legs. I shifted my position to have better access to her silken temple. I parted her legs and from my kneeling position bent my head down to kiss the apex of her inner thighs, one at time I kissed, licked, bit and teased the sensitive spots that were at the limit of where I knew she needed me the most. It was a torture for her, but it was agony to me. I was eager to taste her, but I was thinking of her pleasure. I wanted to make this special for her. Her hunger was as palpable as mine. I could feel her throbbing need. Finally when she couldn't stand it any longer, she uttered the breathless plea that I couldn't ignore. "Ohmm... God... p-p-please... I need... oh-ah-a-I... need..."
I knew exactly what she needed. I parted her outer lips and let my tongue sneak out for a taste, I flicked it over her clit only ever so slightly. She nearly rose off the bed completely. I held her down with my hands and finally fully entered her with my tongue. It was like drinking ambrosia. She rocked her hips and rode my mouth. I entered and exited at her rhythm, but when her undulations were becoming frantic I retreated. She let out a groan of frustration, but I didnít intend to let her suffer for long. I licked up and down the length of her hot opening, lapping up the exquisite juices. She pushed my head down entangling her fingers in my hair. I took the hint and again seized the swollen bundle of nerves between my lips. I could feel the small pearl pulsating with need. Tara rocked herself against me and writhed in pleasure. She was calling my name and I knew she was close. "Willow... Willow... Willow..."
She had hardly touched me but I her smell, her taste, her movements and her voice were equal to a million caresses. There was a wild fire coursing through my veins as I sucked on her clit. Her legs were beginning to quiver. I used one hand to steady her and with the other I paved the way to her release. I took two of my fingers and entered her portal, her moaning became strangled, I picked up the pace, thrusting in and out, feeling her inner walls contracting around my digits, feeling every drop of her liquid heat. I lifted my head so I could see her face. It was gorgeous. Her head was thrown back, her long blonde hair shimmering in the dark, her neck muscles straining and sticking out, her hips in air and her hands clutching the sheets while she crashed down on the mattress her essence spilling onto my fingers with my name still fresh in her lips.
I was beginning to really like my name.