Several days had passed since Brigh's encounter with Lucius in the stable. She went about her tasks by rote, unable to concentrate. She didn't know whether to be relieved or disappointed at the outcome of their encounter. She knew she would have let him make love to her that afternoon in the stable had he continued; she also knew any sort of relationship with the stern Roman general was pure folly. It was utterly doomed from the start, she thought angrily. So why even begin? That was logic, but her heart wanted no part of that. From the moment she first saw him watching her from his horse by the great hall, Brigh knew this was fated. They would love and hate, be separated by death, but would meet again. That was the way of things, the way of the Great Wheel.
Her thoughts were pulled back to this world by the shouts of playing children. She realized she had walked all the way around the village without even realizing it. She watched the children playing, running the skin ball back and forth across the field, attempting to get past the other team’s border.
"Brigh," shouted one of the children, "come play with us! Our team is short one."
Maybe a little exercise would clear the cobwebs in her brain, she thought. "All right, I shall. If you think the other team can handle it?" she asked challengingly.
Hoots and whistles erupted from the opposing team at the question. One of the girls threw Brigh the ball and the game was on. After about an hour of continuous play Brigh called a halt, breathless and flushed from the rowdy game.
"That's it children, I'm far too old to keep up with you," she laughed, pushing her hair away from her hot face.
"Awww, Brigh, just a little longer?" one of the little girls begged.
"Now, Douicca, no pouting. Besides, look at the sun. It's almost supper time and I'm sure you all have tasks waiting for you at home," she said firmly, shooing the children away. "Now, home, all of you, and no dawdling!"
Despite much muttering and protests, the children obeyed. Brigh watched them head back to their homes, relishing the sudden silence their departure brought. Realizing she was filthy, her clothes covered in dust and sweat, her hair out of its braid, she decided a bath was in order before heading home. Walking over to the trees bordering the field she took down from a branch the overtunic she had discarded early in the game. She decided to bathe in the stream that ran near her house -- it would be chilly but private. She didn't feel like socializing at the village baths tonight; she wanted to think not gossip.
A hand grasped her shoulder from behind and she shrieked in surprise.
"I enjoyed the game," a voice whispered at her ear as she was whirled around by a pair of strong hands. Hands that pulled her tight against a hard lean body.
Before she was able to react, Brigh found herself being kissed thoroughly and expertly. She surrendered to the sensations coursing through her body, returning the kisses with abandon. He smelt of leather and horses, she could almost taste it on him. Hands moved through her hair, catching in the tangles. Reminded of how filthy she was, she pushed herself away with some difficulty.
"Is there a problem?" Lucius asked with dry amusement, looking down at her with gleaming eyes. He hadn't let her go entirely, keeping his arms loosely wrapped around her as she attempted to keep him at arms length, her hands pressed against his chest.
"Yes. Well no, that's not the problem," flustered, she grasped for words. "I'm filthy," she said plaintively.
He laughed. "Well as a matter of fact, so am I. Breaking a new horse works up a sweat. So if we're both filthy then there is but one solution. I suggest a bath," he finished, kissing her lightly on the lips.
"That's where I was going before I was interrupted." She looked pointedly at him, and then at his arms which still held her.
"We'll take my horse, shall we?" Not waiting for her reply, he took her arm and led her down the path to where his horse was tethered.
Lucius mounted the horse quickly and held a hand out to Brigh. She looked up at him, suddenly unsure.
"I think that 'later' is here, don't you?" he asked her softly.
Making her decision, she nodded and grasped his hand. Lucius pulled her up in front of him, putting his arms around her to take the reins. She leaned into his hard chest, resting her head against his shoulder as they rode in silence.
Suddenly something occurred to her. "You know where I live," she stated. "Of course you do, that's your job, knowing things," she answered her own question.
He didn't reply, merely leaning forward to kiss her as they neared her home.
Before she knew it, they were there. Dismounting, he held his arms out for her as she slipped off the horse. He held her off the ground for a few moments in his strong grip, looking up into her eyes with a silent promise of what was to come.
The sun was just setting as they reached the pool that had formed from the rushing stream above it. Brigh knelt next to the water, running her hand through it . "It's warm from the day’s sun."
Lucius held his hand out to her, pulling her up to stand next to him. He undid the tie around her waist then slowly pushed the fabric of her tunic off over her shoulders. She was now clad in only the almost transparent cloth of her shift. With Brigh assisting, he removed his own clothes. She looked at his now naked body, the body of a warrior and a horseman, in appreciation. Fine gold hair sprinkled his chest. She reached her hand toward it, wanting to feel the silky strands in her fingers. But he grabbed her hand before she was able to.
"Fair's fair." He indicated her shift.
Nodding her understanding, she swiftly removed her remaining clothing. Brigh watched his face as he devoured her with his eyes. In those eyes she saw approval and desire. She felt a rush of power at the look. Slowly she turned away and walked into the pool, immersing herself in the water. Turning towards Lucius she beckoned to him to join her. He needed no second prompting, and within seconds was with her in the water. He moved to take her in his arms, but she laughed, swimming away from him. She teased him thus for several minutes, darting in and out of the water like an otter, he making less than a serious effort to capture her.
She glided just past him, but this time he took the opportunity to seize her. In one swift movement he pulled her up out of the water. He leaned down to lap up the water that dripped down her chest, following the little rivulet to the hollow between her breasts. He raised his head, consumed by her intense gaze. Lucius ran one finger down her face and over her lips, which parted at the gentle touch.
He moved to stand behind her. Starting at her shoulders, his hands began moving down over her breasts, his thumbs rubbing her now-taut nipples. Brigh sighed in pleasure, leaning her full weight against him. His hands moved lower, down her ribcage and across her stomach, coming to rest at her hips. He pulled her closer to him, and she felt his hardness against her back, as he wrapped one arm around her waist, pinning her firmly against him. He combed the fingers of his other hand through the soft triangle of hair between her thighs. Brigh moaned as Lucius' fingers began to drift lower, slowly, teasingly, probing and moving. Gasping as he slid two fingers deep into her very center. A distracted corner of her mind noted that he knew his way around a woman's body. But even that faint thought was pushed away as his fingers moved in and out in hard deliberate thrusts and his thumb rubbed over her mound. As she whimpered and struggled against the hold he had on her, his talented fingers redoubled their efforts. Her body, already hyper-sensitive from the ministrations of his fingers, was pushed over the edge. She screamed as her body convulsed in an overwhelming burst of sensation and light, totally unaware of anything outside the circle of his arms.
As she began to come back to herself, Lucius swung her up in his arms and carried her to the shore. Setting her down, he pulled her to him in a fierce embrace, crushing his lips to hers. They kissed hungrily as Brigh's hands dropped to his shaft, making him gasp in pleasure this time as her fingers began a slow exploration. Dropping to the ground, he pulled her down on top of him, running his hands up and down her body as she slid over him. She moved up the long length of him, kissing and tasting as he groaned at each new touch. Reaching his chest, she nipped each nipple while her hands continued their work lower down.
Suddenly, she found herself pinned underneath him. He separated her legs with his knee and settled between them, raising himself up on his elbows to look down at her. Covering her mouth with his, he rose up and in one smooth motion, thrust into her. Brigh arched against him, wrapping her legs around him as he began to slowly rotate his hips, penetrating even deeper with each new thrust. She dug her nails into his back as they both came at the same instant, overwhelming any sense she had left....
Gwen woke abruptly, not knowing where she was. Finally remembering who and where she was, she began to tremble; partly in fear and partly from the aftereffects of the passion she had just experienced in her *dream*. Oh God help me, she prayed silently. Am I going mad? It can't just be a dream, it's like my own memories. I remember Lucius making love to me, I remember how it felt. How can it be? Was I her, am I possessed? Please help me, I feel so lost. My universe is crumbling around me and I am helpless…. She curled into the corner of the couch and began to weep.
Gwen rang the buzzer to Nick's loft. She had called the station earlier and had been told he would be in later tonight. She hoped that meant he was at home -- she had to speak to him.
"Yes?" came Nick's voice from the speaker.
"Nicholas, it's Gwen. Do you have a minute?"
"Sure, come on up."
Nick opened the elevator door for her. "Come on in, let me take your coat."
"Thanks," she said. Suddenly realizing Nick was still in his robe, she apologized, "I'm sorry, did I wake you?"
"No, I've been up for a while. Going over, again, all the reports from the murders. I'm still waiting for the reports on the last killing. I don't have anything new to tell you, I'm afraid," he told her as he led her towards the couch. "Have a seat."
He took a closer look at Gwen as she sat down. She looked awful. The black silk blouse and skirt she wore only accentuated her too-pale complexion and the dark rings under her eyes. He had seen her tired and stressed out, but nothing like this. She looked as if the bottom of her world had just dropped out. Something was definitely wrong.
"That's not why I'm here, Nicholas," she said in an exhausted voice, nervously twisting the fabric of her skirt.
Nick waited patiently for her to continue. He grew more concerned as her eyes became unfocused, as if she were looking somewhere very far away.
"Gwen," Nick said gently, taking her hand, "why are you here? What's troubling you?"
She looked at him as if she really wasn't sure where she was or who he was.
'I'm sorry, I drifted away there didn't I?" she apologized. Gwen looked up at Nick, eyes haunted. "I need to know who the man with you last night was, at the rally."
Nick looked surprised. It was the last thing he had expected to hear from her. "No, you don't, trust me. You have to believe me when I tell you that it's for the best," he said adamantly.
"You don't understand, I have to know who he is!" Her voice rose on a note of panic, "You have to help me, please. I have nowhere else to turn."
He gripped her shoulders, forcing her to look at him, deciding it was time for more persuasive means. "Gwen, listen to me, you must calm down, take a deep breath." He waited a moment. "There." He sensed her heartbeat calming. Good, now for the hard part. "I want you to listen carefully."
She nodded in understanding; she did want to listen to him. She felt safe and calm now, but it was odd she felt that way. Wasn't it? Gwen's mind felt all muzzy, like waking up after a fever, all strangely colored and off-center.
Nick decided to start off simply, just in case this didn't work. If it did he'd remove the memory of LaCroix in his company altogether. "You don't want to know about the man you saw me with."
She began nodding in agreement, then he felt her begin to struggle mentally. Damn,, he thought, she's resisting! He attempted to tighten his control over her thoughts. "Gwen, you don't want to know, do you understand?"
Gwen shook her head, trying to fight the strange lethargy that had gripped her. What was he saying? She didn't want to know? That wasn't right, she knew it wasn't. Suddenly angry at being told what to think, she pulled away from Nick's hold on her. "No, it's you who doesn't understand. Don't patronize me, I'm not a child! Do you think I would come to you like this if it wasn't truly important?"
He sighed at this complication -- she just had to be a resistor, didn't she? He had been so close. Nick swore mentally as the phone chose that moment to ring.
"Knight." He nodded, listening. "Okay, I'll be right in." He hung up the phone. "There have been a few new developments. I need to go upstairs and get ready to go in. Please stay till I come down? We still need to talk." He looked at her expectantly, hoping she would agree.
Gwen considered for a moment. He was right, they did need to talk, she had to convince him. "All right, I'll stay."
Nick gave her one of those smiles of his, the kind that made Gwen's knees go a little weak. That smile should be illegal, she thought ruefully.
"Good! I'll be back down in a while. Watch the TV, listen to the stereo if you like," he told her, handing her the remote.
She watched as he bounded up the stairs to his bedroom; a few minutes later she heard the water in the shower begin to run. Deciding to take him up on his offer she looked at the remote, staring at it in consternation. By the time she figured out which button to press, it would be a little late in the day. Maybe it was time for the direct method. Walking over to the stereo, she hit the power switch. Opera poured out of the speakers -- ugh, too depressing. Gwen hit the first preset button, bringing in an all news channel. She sighed and tried the next button, and this time got music. She wasn't quite sure what it was, but she liked it. She went back to the couch and closed her eyes, letting the music take over. The piece ended, and a female announcer came on.
"It's nine p.m. and you're listening to CERK, Toronto's alternative station. Stay tuned for Nightwatch with the Nightcrawler, coming up next, live from The Raven."
Nightcrawler? Now there's a happy sort of name for a DJ, she thought. She decided to leave it on out of curiosity.
"Good evening, my children. Tonight we speak of death. Is it the true end? Or just a different beginning?"
She stiffened in shock at the voice coming out of the speakers. It was him, she could feel the certainty of it in the depths of her soul. She leapt off the couch, walking back to the stereo, staring at it as if the voice might suddenly materialize from it in the flesh.
The voice continued, "It is you who say that the shades of the dead seek not the silent land of Erebus and the pale halls of Pluto; rather, you tell us that the same spirit has a body again elsewhere, and that death, if what you sing is true, is but the midpoint of a long life."
It was as if he were speaking to her, to the thoughts that had driven her to near the breaking point. Gwen’s attention was caught as the shower stopped, and she quickly turned off the stereo. Something warned her not to let Nick realize she had discovered the truth.
A few minutes later Nick came back downstairs, his hair still damp. "You been sitting here in silence all this time?"
"Oh, I couldn't find anything that interested me so I turned it off," she replied, trying to keep her voice level, not liking how easy it was for her to lie to him.
The sound of the elevator arriving saved her from having to continue. She always felt that he could somehow see right through her, a talent she found disconcerting to say the least. Especially now.
Nick greeted the woman exiting the elevator, bringing her over to introduce to Gwen. "Nat, I'd like you to meet the Reverend Gwen Frizell. Gwen, this is Dr. Natalie Lambert."
"I'm pleased to finally meet you, Gwen, Nick has told me so much about you," Nat said, smiling.
"Likewise, Natalie, although I'm sure he mostly tells you how annoying I am in regards to his investigation," she replied lightly. "But I'm interrupting. Nicholas, I've taken enough of your time, I really should be going."
"No Gwen, really you aren't and you haven't. We still have matters to discuss."
"We will, later. I'm much better now, really," she answered with as much sincerity as possible. "Thanks for helping me calm down, I apologize for falling apart on you like that. Maybe you’re right, I do need a vacation!" She smiled as she gathered up her coat and purse. "Nice meeting you, Natalie."
Nick couldn't help but think something wasn't quite right. Gwen was giving in far too easily, and she was too calm. Yet another mystery to solve. At least he knew she was safe, there was no way for her to discover LaCroix's identity. For that he was grateful.
"Thanks again." Gwen hugged him quickly. "Call me if you make any progress on the case?"
She got into the elevator, closing the door behind her and leaning against the wall in relief as it descended. She knew what the next step had to be -- the Raven, and a visit with the Nightcrawler. One way or the other, she would have her questions answered tonight.
On to Part Four