Laura Moon, nude, and still a bit damp from her shower, scrunched down lower into the depths of the queen-sized bed. The mattress was a little lumpy, the sheets rough, and the single blanket that covered her was thin and scratchy. This motel was definitely a dump. She hoped there were no roaches, although considering her recent experiences with maggots, the roaches might actually be an upgrade. At any rate, it was all they could afford, and was certainly a hell of a lot better than spending an even more uncomfortable night hunched up in the car. Besides the bed, the place was pretty bare bones - a television and phone, a couple of rickety night stands, and a chair upholstered in tatty brocade. The bedside lamp cast a sickly glow over everything. Through the closed bathroom door, she could hear the shower running. She closed her eyes, trying to envision something lovely and soothing from nature - a waterfall perhaps. And then came a voice - it was Sweeney, singing in a foreign language - was it Gaelic? He had a pleasant singing voice, and she wondered what the words meant. They seemed familiar in some way, but the meaning kept eluding her.
A few moments later, and the shower abruptly ceased, as did the singing. The door creaked, and Laura opened her eyes. Sweeney loomed in the doorway, dripping wet, his brilliant red hair plastered to his head. He was naked, except for a large towel wrapped around his hips. Drops of water glistened on his bare skin, and on his beard. She couldn't stop staring. The man was incredibly tall, as muscular and perfect as a statue by Michelangelo. He put his head to one side, and smirked. It was a facial expression that at first meeting had infuriated her, but which over time, had grown oddly endearing. "Well, Dead Wife - If you've looked your fill, did you leave any supper for me?"
"Umm - yes," she finally managed. She gestured to the nearest nightstand. It was piled with the spoils of their fast-food foray: wrapped sandwiches, a big packet of fries, and bottled water. There was also a half-eaten salad. "I wasn't very hungry, so I left most of it for you."
"Are you all right?"
"I'm fine - just tired."
He sat on the bed, which sagged beneath his weight. Peering into her face, he put a large hand on her forehead. "Your temperature feels normal."
"Why are you staring at me like that?"
He looked baffled. "Like what?"
"I - I don't know," she replied, acutely aware of his body next to hers. Again, she felt that strange sense of familiarity. She frowned. What the fuck was going on?
Sweeney sighed, and reached for one of the sandwiches. Almost absently, he unwrapped it, and took a big bite, his worried eyes never leaving her face. "You haven't eaten anything since early this morning - and then only coffee, and half a donut. 'Tis folly, lass - You need to keep your strength up. Especially now that all of your body parts are properly working again."
"Why are you being so nice to me?" she blurted. "Is it because of what happened in New Orleans?" There, it was out.
Another sigh. "Ah, lass, lass," he chided. Clearly exasperated, he bit into his sandwich, and chewed. There was an awkward silence, as the two of them solemnly regarded each other. Finally, he slid off the bed, and moved to the window. Turning his back to her, he swept aside the blinds, and stared out into the darkened parking lot.
"You're not under any obligation, Sweeney." She raked her fingers through her wet hair. "I've thought a lot about that night, and I understand now. It's hard to fight a sex spell as powerful as the one Samedi and Brigitte cast on us."
Sweeney whirled around. "You understand nothing!" His eyes flashed with anger, but beneath that was a deep, lingering sorrow. "The magic only revealed a truth which was hidden, but always there." Appetite suddenly gone, he tossed his sandwich into the little trashcan in the corner. "There is so much more to us, than that damned spell. So much more."
"There's an "us"?" Laura asked, although the word seemed to resonate within her, stirring an inexplicable sense of longing. Why did it feel so - right?
"Aye, there is." Briefly, he looked away. "But you should get some rest. You keep the bed, and I'll sleep in the chair."
"That's very gentlemanly of you - but quite unnecessary. There's plenty of room for both of us in bed." She patted the ugly blanket. "I promise I don't snore."
There it was again, that charming little smirk. "Neither do I - snore, that is. Unless I'm drunk, and that doesn't count." He hesitated. "Well then, if you're sure, I gladly accept your invitation."
She laughed. "Come to bed, you big goof."
Laura was dreaming. She stood beneath a canopy of oak trees, shivering in the chill wind. The full moon floated in the night sky, partly hidden by clouds. Utterly alone, her anxiety and fear was almost over-whelming. The man she loved had been expected home from the hunt hours ago. It wasn't like him to be late. She knew with dreadful certainty that he was in danger. As she moved deeper into the forest, desperate to find him, an owl suddenly flitted overhead. She started at the sound of its mournful hooting. Lifting up her long bronze-colored skirts, she stepped over an exposed tree root, her sheathed sword a reassuring weight at her side. Ahead was an opening in the trees. She could hear men shouting, and the clash of steel. Cautiously, she stopped and peered into the glade. Soldiers surrounded a tall red-haired warrior, who fought valiantly to keep them at bay. His two retainers had been slain, but several attackers also lay dead, their bodies sprawled at his feet. With grim determination, the warrior swung his broadsword, decapitating one enemy, and then disemboweling another, who shrieked in agony. As they fell, their blood splattered his face and leather armor. But he was tiring, and he was only one against many.
Another soldier attacked, and then another, and another. Finally one of them managed to slip his sword through the warrior's guard. It sliced viciously through his cuirass, biting deep into his shoulder. Blood flowed from the wound, shining darkly in the moonlight. With a sneer, the enemy yanked his weapon free, and took another swing. Gritting his teeth against the pain, the redhead brought his weapon up, and swiftly parried the blade crashing towards his head.
"Suibhne!" she cried, and drawing her sword, rushed into the clearing. With a blood-curdling scream, she ran towards the soldiers, and plunged her weapon deep into the nearest one.
"Wake up, Laura - Wake up!" She felt a hand shaking her shoulder, and with a gasp, her eyes flew open, frantically searching the darkened room for danger. Gently, Sweeney embraced her. She was shaking. "It's okay, lass, it's okay. It was just a nightmare."
"Sweeney," she sobbed, clutching his arm. "I thought those bastards were going to kill you."
"Shall I turn on the light?"
Laura nodded, but still clung to him. There was a click, and the lamp came on. She blinked in the sudden light.
"Want to talk about it?" he asked. "It might help."
Sweeney rubbed her shoulders, trying to sooth away the tension they held. "Do you think you can get back to sleep?"
"Not yet, just hold me - please." She smiled ruefully. "My real life is fucking strange and scary, but that dream terrified me - I really thought you were going to die."
"No need to worry, I'm perfectly fine." He chuckled. "I'm a damned hard fucker to kill - Not that some haven't tried."
Laura laid her head against Sweeney's chest, comforted by the stolid warmth of his big body, and the steady beat of his heart. As he pulled the blankets up higher, she snuggled closer. She glanced up at him, marveling at the tender expression on his face. "You can turn the light off now - I think I'll be all right." Another click, and the room went dark, the only illumination the gleam of the motel's parking lot lights shining faintly through the blinds. It was very quiet, but Laura couldn't sleep. She kept thinking of the dream. While many of the details were already fading, she still remembered the fear and the wild rush of adrenaline - and more perplexingly, the strong love that she'd felt for Sweeney.
"Sweeney - are you awake?" she finally whispered.
"Aye - Had another bad dream, did you?"
"Not exactly." Nervously, she bit her lip. She scarcely knew how to articulate what she was feeling. "Sweeney - will you please - make love to me?"
Stunned silence - and then she felt his arms tighten around her. "Are you absolutely certain?"
Breathless with desire, she could only nod.
Sweeney needed no further invitation. He drew Laura close, turning their bodies, until the two of them were lying on their sides, facing each other. Slowly, he trailed one hand up and down her spine, while the other caressed her breasts, and her most secret places. She closed her eyes, shuddering with delight, her nails digging into his back. Murmuring her name like a benediction, he kissed her - deep, drugging, open-mouthed kisses that spurred her arousal to a fever pitch. Wildly, she returned them, her hands roaming over his magnificent body, until he was moaning in unison with her. She gazed into his eyes, confused by that same odd sense of recognition and yearning she'd experienced earlier. Almost reverently, she touched the side of his face. He placed his hand over hers, and bent forward to kiss her. Their mouths clung, tongues darting and twining, as he finally plunged into the velvety warmth of her sheath, each long hard thrust bringing them closer and closer, until together, they toppled over the edge.
Still tingling from their lovemaking, Laura nestled into the Irishman's embrace. For the first time in a very long while, she felt safe, and completely at peace. "That was absolutely amazing."
"Indeed it was - I trust you'll be able to sleep now?"
"Like a baby," she grinned. "Good-night, Sweeney."
As she drifted off to sleep, her slim form molded trustingly to his, he kissed her again. "'Oíche mhaith mo mhíle stór (good-night, my darling)."