‘Can’t wait to get you into bed,’ I mumble into his neck.
He looks down at me indulgently and chuckles. ‘I’m so glad you’re such a greedy little thing.’
We get back to the hotel and fall into each other’s arms.
‘You are my dream,’ he whispers in my ear. ‘You have made me who I am.’ Neither of us mentions the father he dispatched into the next world for me, or the funeral that must be attended tomorrow, but it is there, silently watching, its long shadow falling over our entwined bodies.
Stay if you must, but I will never pretend I am not glad a predator like you is gone from this world. And that because you are gone, my son is safe.
That night I wake up to sudden movement beside me. I sit up and in the light from the moon I can make out that Blake is caught in a nightmare and thrashing about in distress.
‘I killed him!’ he yells.
I shake him awake urgently. His bleary eyes focus on my face, and for a micro-second he looks at me with fear and horror, and then his brain gets into gear, and he recognizes me. With a look of relief he clasps me to his body with such force that my lungs can’t expand to take the next breath.
He loosens his hold. ‘Oh, Lana, Lana, Lana,’ he sighs.
‘Were you dreaming about your father?’
A cold hand comes to clutch my heart. No. I close my eyes with anguish. I cannot not love him. But oh God! Oh God! Has he killed someone else? Who is this man that I love?
‘Who then?’ I ask fearfully.
‘I don’t know him. He is covered in blood.’
My body sags with relief. It was just a nightmare. How incredibly frightened I had been as I formed those two words, ‘Who then’. Tears of relief start running down my face. He feels them against his skin and pulls me away from his body.
He touches them with wonder. ‘Why?’
I don’t tell him the truth. Because for a moment I thought I was in love with a monster.
‘Because I love you,’ I say. But that, too, is the truth. I loved him even in that corrosive, soul-destroying moment when I thought he was a monster.
It is Brian who gives me the exact time the funeral will be shown on TV. I tune the TV to the appropriate channel and settle myself in front of the large flat-screen to wait. The film clip is remarkable for two reasons: its brevity and the fact that it is filmed in church. A suitably sober woman’s voice announces that the funeral of an industry leader was held that afternoon.
The camera rests for a moment on the widow and I see Blake’s mother properly for the first time. In those few seconds it is obvious to me that Blake is her favorite son. Wearing a matt black coat she stands very close to him and seems almost to lean on him. He appears very tall, broad, and unapproachable. Almost I don’t recognize that stern, imposing man!
A little farther away Marcus stands beside his immaculate and totally expressionless wife. They are flanked by their two children. I look for Quinn and I think I recognize him. The family resemblance is strong. He is the one standing a little to the left of Blake. Blake seems very protective of him. Then there is a quick shot of the casket and the news item is over and the Barringtons slip seamlessly into their manufactured obscurity. The entire news clip is another carefully crafted PR exercise from a notoriously secretive family.
I switch off the TV and time seems to stop as I wait for him to return.
I try to read, but cannot arouse any interest in the words before me. I put on some music and try to relax in the bath. But I am too wound up and after a few minutes I get out and dress in a blue blouse and black skirt. I hear him at the door and run out to greet him.
He takes off his long dark coat and stands in his funereal garments. His face is grim. I want to run to him and bury my face in his neck, but he seems unreachable. I stare at him without comprehension. He bewilders me, infuriates, makes me feel weak and vulnerable, and yet he is my hero and the strength that carries me through the day.
‘How was it?’ I ask instead.
‘As expected.’ His lips curl into an expression I have not seen before.
‘Everything went well, then?’
He nods. ‘Let’s get drunk together,’ he says.
I look into his eyes. He looks furious about something. ‘OK.’
He goes to the phone and orders up a bottle of Scotch.
They must have asked which brand.
‘Just bring your best,’ he says impatiently, and puts the phone back on the hook. I go to hold him and he puts his hand out as if to ward me off. ‘Don’t touch me,’ he says, and I freeze.
He runs his hand through his hair. ‘I just need a shower. Meet me in the bedroom,’ he says, and turning away goes to the bathroom.
The bottle arrives with two glasses and a bucket of ice while he is in the shower. I tip the man, and taking everything into the bedroom, pour two generous measures into the glasses. I can hear the sound of the shower. At any other time I would have gone into the shower and joined him, but I can see that today he is different. He seems like forbidden territory. I shudder. Something has happened that has affected him deeply. I pace the bedroom. Look at myself in the mirror. I look OK.
He comes out and leans in the doorway in a towel loosely hitched around his lean hips. Wow! Divine. I love this man with wet hair. The blood starts to pound in my eardrums. When will the half-naked sight of him cease to affect me this way?
‘You are still dressed,’ he notes with raised eyebrows.
I say nothing—simply, slowly, start undressing. First the blouse goes over my head, then the skirt ends up at my feet, the bra gets flung away, and finally the knickers go the way of everything else. The balcony windows are open and the slight breeze scatters goose pimples on my skin. I look at him as he approaches me. God! He’s so f**king delectable. I watch the muscles rippling as he loses the towel. He stops inches away and twirls my hair in his fingers. The nearness of him makes me want to lick that pulse beating at the base of his throat. That is the only real conversation we have. That pulse that never lies to me. When it beats, I know he wants me, bad.
‘Want ice cubes in your drink?’ I ask, huskily.
He smiles and shakes his head. ‘The ice cubes are for you.’
I smile back. ‘Really?’
‘Really,’ he drawls, and pulls me towards him until I feel his entire length and his hot, hard shaft presses into my abdomen. His mouth descends. My hands rise up and entwine around his neck and we kiss. We kiss. And we kiss. Both he and I know. This is the magic staircase by which he can climb back from whatever dark place he has been in.