Judgment of the Dark Hunter

Chapter 9
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Chapter 7
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Chapter 9
Epilogue

From the Private Journal of Marguerite Krux.

Even after I came back to my senses I never apologized. Maybe I should have. It might have made all the difference in the world. But, it’s too late for that now.

Once returned to the treehouse, especially after donning a new rust colored blouse (I had just finished sewing it before Roxton and Malone left for the graveyard) and a fresh skirt, I started to remember everything. Over a three day period familiarity kicked in, recall returned, and it filled me with both satisfaction and an immense amount of trepidation.

Challenger later said, do to my fall - the rock making contact with my head - I was suffering from a little known disorder called Post Traumatic Brain Injury. He said in years to come there would be more written on the subject but, for now, he could only repeat the spoken theories of a few wise doctors and scientists he had lectured with at a British university. George told us I was one of the fortune few who would managed an eventual full recovery. For many, especially in this day and age, the syndrome is permanent. For others it could take years of intensive therapy before a breakthrough is made. However, the professor noted, in rare cases - such as mine - the injury could spontaneously correct itself. It might take time to get all the residual false-memories and what I like to call personality stumbles from rearing their ugly heads but I would be fine.

If it wasn’t for Challenger’s clarification, I think Ned Malone would still be looking at me as if I was possessed by some heinous demon. He and Roxton have grown close, like brothers, over the years and - despite what I had gone through myself - he felt what I did at the graveyard was a betrayal like no other. Until he heard the diagnosis, Ned held me in total contempt. Now, knowing the story and probably feeling a bit guilt-ridden, he just looks at me with pity -- which I hate possibly even more than the man’s disdain.

Oddly Veronica, who is often my biggest foil in far too many issues to mention here in this journal, was supportive from the very first moment she saw me. Even after my conduct in the graveyard she stood beside me, talking with me and fussing over me all the way back to the treehouse. While walking Malone made a quiet but snide remark and she cut him down to size very quickly. Her presence was a comfort. I think being a woman herself Veronica could empathized with if not totally comprehend my fragile state.

Unfortunately, Challenger’s explanation was not enough to make things right between Lord Roxton and myself. Don’t get me wrong. He was sympathetic and has not said one derisive word against me. During the passing days and weeks we have been very polite to one another and speak often. We talked about chores and where he’s going to hunt and how it’s my turn to cook … and all the things we have always spoken and laughed about in the past.

But something very important is missing.

We seldom make eye contact anymore. We never go off together alone. There is always an excuse to bring someone else with us. And we never argue. I think I miss that more than our flirting and late night coffees or even …Well, it’s just … We have stopped visiting each others rooms in the middle of the night. Neither of us has made an attempt at making matters right since returning from the dinosaur graveyard. I thought at first I had hurt his pride, then considered that Roxton may be giving me time to recuperate, but now I know the truth. Our connection is gone. I cannot bring myself to take the initiative and, it seems, neither will Roxton. Deep inside I feel I must disgust him terribly. Just as Hunter knew where to kiss me, to bring out my wildest passions, Roxton now knows - or at least has some idea - of what went on between myself and his dark half.

However, I will not apologize. I have legitimate reasons for behaving as I did and will not be the first to buckle under the weight of separation. Still … I should have expressed regret for pushing him away. I wonder if Roxton would even listen now if I did approach him.

We’ve been going through this stillness now for nearly a month and ...

***

Marguerite looked up from her journal, turning her head and gazing to the entrance of her bedroom, seeing a shadow fall across the curtain. It was late night and nearly everyone had retired for the evening. Marguerite herself was currently wearing her nightgown and silk robe. She sat still, completely motionless, noting how he stopped, seeming to think about something, before he continued onward to his own room.

Disappointed, she once again turned back to her journal.

***

From the Private Journal of Marguerite Krux.

And now, as I sit here, putting pen to paper I wonder about forgiveness. Could John ever forgive me my quick judgment and that sudden act of violence? Can he understand why I had fallen for that dark part of him, even though it had kidnapped and had taken advantage of me? God knows I would never have allowed the whole man to treat me like Dark Hunter did, amnesia or not. Or maybe, under the same circumstances, I would? I’m still not quite sure who or what I am.

And what about me forgiving Roxton? Okay, maybe it does sound a bit cruel to hold a grudge but I was, after all, held captive by that creature - he who was a part of a man who had always treated me with respect and honor. Hunter manipulated my innocence (and I am surprised to find there is still innocence in here somewhere) and drew out an intense and forbidden desire, revealing one of my closely guarded secrets.

His dark side connected with my dark side … and I’m still having such a hard time making sense of the whole confused scenario. A dark fantasy had come to life and, may God forgive me, the rough love, the only way Dark Hunter could express himself, felt good. Perhaps in the nights to follow it would have been me taking advantage, holding him down with my passion, and not letting go until I got what we both wanted; something so mutually satisfying as not to be understood by anyone other than the two lovers who participate in the …

Forgive me. I go too far. Where was I?

Oh yes, forgiving Roxton. I think Roxton’s dark side is a very desolate being. Is it any wonder it reached for me? It understood my loneliness, my on-going search for myself, for my name -- and it found companionship. What the poets and romantic writers say is untrue. It‘s not opposites that attract -- it’s a people who are the same.

Now I’m back. I am nearly whole. Roxton is whole. And we have never been so opposite.

We have lost each other.

I was never one to swallow my pride and the isolation I suffer as a results is deep, gloomy and bitter. I feel as I did at the beginning of our journey to the plateau … when knowing my name meant everything …and loneliness was something I had learned to live with.

****

With a sigh, Marguerite slipped the quill back into it’s clip and closed the cap to her ink well. That was enough for tonight. It was late. Still, as she twisted about on her stool, she was well aware she would not sleep well tonight. Too many thoughts were swirling about in her mind. It had been good to get them out, to write in her journal as Challenger suggested, trying to sort it through. But, in truth, Marguerite was exactly where she had started three in a half weeks ago. Her resolve had taken a beating. She was a strong woman but so much had happened. Marguerite just wished she could rest without nightmares, real or imagined, getting in the way.

“Tea.” Marguerite whispered. She would need something soothing to help her sleep.

Carrying a candle, its gentle gleam giving her enough illumination to see a few feet in front of her, Marguerite moved quietly from her room, to walk down the hall. However, before placing a foot on the first step which would take her up to the common room, Marguerite paused and glanced over to Roxton’s bedroom. His entrance curtain was drawn, of course, but there was no faint glimmer coming from within. He wasn’t sitting up and reading, obviously. Marguerite shook her head back and forth and softly chuckled to herself. So what if he was? Was she going to march in on Roxton and demand his attention? Not likely. Then, sobering a bit, she wished she had it in her to do just that. Maybe later, when she felt more secure, more like her old self, she would throw caution to the wind but now ... she needed tea.

Once upstairs Marguerite moved silently to the kitchen and, after adding water, placed their old, worn teapot on the small grill above brightly gleaming coals. “Good, they haven’t grown cold yet.” she muttered, gratefully.

“Can you make enough for two?”

Startled, Marguerite saw Veronica sitting near the balcony, looking out at the darkened jungle and night sky before them. There was a bright half moon and its glow caused her blond hair to shine with an eerie golden aura. “Take it you couldn’t sleep either?” Marguerite asked, pouring more water into the teapot. She then walked over to sit on the small sofa next to her comrade.

“Ned and I had a small argument about …” Veronica shrugged, “Oh, we’re always arguing these days about something. It doesn’t matter.”

Marguerite had been so wrapped up in her own troubles she hadn’t realized that Veronica and Malone were having problems of their own.

“Nothing we can’t work out.” Veronica said when Marguerite voiced concern, “But there are times when he can be such a numbskull.”

“I think that’s men in general.” Marguerite lamented, recalling a few indiscretions from her past.

There was a silent lull as Veronica stared at Marguerite’s profile. “I know you and Roxton are having difficulty, Marguerite. I’m sorry. Has he been unkind?”

Marguerite looked over at Veronica and was surprised to see her distress. “No, not really. We’re just taking it slow. I’m still sorting out a few things and he …” she heaved an unanticipated sigh, “To be honest, I’m not altogether sure what he is thinking but I doubt he’s taking the time to deliberate over me. I’m beginning to think that ship has sailed, Veronica.” Marguerite bowed her head slightly and picked at some imaginary lint on the front of her silk robe, “He’s lasted a lot longer than a lot of my relationships, I‘ll give him that much.”

“You think Roxton doesn’t love you anymore?”

“How can he love me when I’m so mixed up?” Marguerite, finding a boldness she hadn’t felt for a long while, determining her behavior was probably prompted by the darkness, having just written in her journal, and also the company of a kindred female spirit, spoke plainly. “Veronica, you know there are things about me I don’t tell everyone. They’re my secrets and I feel I have a right to them. But when I was with that dark portion of Roxton, living with him for those two weeks, I began to feel and do things that even I never knew I was capable of. And now that Roxton has pulled himself together and is able to look at me with both sets of eyes, meaning his light and dark half, I think he knows things that are not just disturbing but are … Well, let‘s just say I‘m not the woman he thinks I am.”

“So, this isn’t just about what happened in the graveyard?” Veronica asked, confused but also fascinated, “Because, if it is I really don’t think he …”

“No.” Marguerite rolled her eyes. She was going to have to reveal a confidentiality and wasn‘t sure how it would be taken. “When I was with him, the dark Roxton, during those last couple of days before you and Challenger came for me -- I slept with him.”

“Oh?”

Marguerite nodded.

“That wasn’t your fault, Marguerite. You were hurt and not thinking like yourself. He probably forced himself on you and you were too ill to recognize what he was doing for what it was.”

Patiently, Marguerite further explained. “I wish it were that simple. You see, I began to feel a sick sort of attraction for him even before my injury. At one point he took me in his arms and, for a moment there, he just left me … breathless.”

“You wanted him.” Veronica said and quickly saw the guilt in Marguerite’s eyes. “Did you and he …?”

“No, not then. I came to my senses and hit him on the back of the head. I made my escape then. It wasn’t long after that Assai and Jarl saw me and I had my accident.”

Veronica’s expression held a glimmer of amusement, “Marguerite, I don’t see where you’ve done anything wrong.”

“Okay,” Marguerite lifted fingers to briefly scratch her forehead and explained further, “Veronica I pride myself on a few things. One of them is having a certain knowledge about men. Basically, I have skills with the opposite sex that often come into play when I need to get out of a sticky situation or, perhaps, get important information -- from them.” Marguerite continued when Veronica didn’t comment, “Guess what I’m trying to say is I can generally wrap a man around my little finger if the occasion calls for it. Hell, if I’m motivated I can get a man to do anything I want. It’s nearly always worked for me in the past. I’ve had complete control and have never done anything with a man that I really didn’t want to do.” She cleared her throat slightly and didn’t miss that fact Veronica was trying to prevent a chuckle. “But, with Roxton’s double it was different. I didn’t have that control. I should have but …” Marguerite’s voice slowed and her thoughts came to a brief stand still, “… something was wrong. How could I be me but still melt under the embrace of a brute like that?”

“Have you ever melted with Roxton before?”

“What?”

“You heard me. Has Roxton ever made you grow weak in the knees like that?”

“That’s different. It was mutual. Roxton has never forced himself on me. And if he ever did I would be showing him the door. There was no excuse for how I felt other than Roxton’s evil half brought out the …” Again, Marguerite’s voice slowed as she began to reveal something she really didn’t want to admit, “ … harlot in me.”

This time Veronica did laugh. She couldn’t help herself.

“It’s not funny, Veronica.” Marguerite snapped, “You have always been independent and strong. You’ve been lucky enough to get away with it here on the plateau but on the outside there are certain standards. Doing what I did either makes you a whore, a victim or a weakling. And if I’m not a victim or a weakling then I’m a ….” The humor had yet to leave Veronica’s face and Marguerite was ready to pack it in and leave. This hadn’t been such a good idea after all.

“Wait, wait.” getting control of herself, Veronica took Marguerite’s arm, sensing she was going to bolt at any moment. She really didn’t mean to have hysterics but it was such a bizarre sight, seeing Marguerite so flustered about her own reaction to a man. She just couldn’t help it. “Let’s look at this another way.” Veronica said, attempting to be as serious as possible. “You’re basing all of this on the fact that you were unharmed before your accident so there should be no reason why you felt as you did, right?”

“Well, yes.”

“What if I told you, Marguerite, that despite what you think you were already the victim of shock, stress and any number of other emotional problems.”

“Hunh?” Marguerite asked in a sarcastic manner, thinking the girl had spent far too much time around Challenger lately.

“Marguerite, you thought Roxton was dying. We all did. Remember when he started to convulse? You were practically catatonic. That was not like you at all but you had a good reason for acting like you did. The man you love -- probably the person you loved more than any other in your entire life -- was dying and there wasn’t anything you could do about it. You said yourself you are a strong woman, a person who makes her own destiny, but I don’t think you’ve ever been in a position like that before.”

Slightly dazed, Marguerite began to see what Veronica was speaking about. “I had to get the blood stains out.” she whispered, “And when Roxton’s clothes were stolen I had to find them. Even if a dinosaur ate them.”

“Now, what kind of a clear thinking person does that sort of thing?” Veronica asked, “I submit that you were not responsible for your actions while with Roxton’s evil twin. You were already ill and once kidnapped you subconsciously decided Roxton’s dark half was the whole man and you reacted accordingly.”

“But I knew he wasn’t.”

“Yes, but deep down you probably believed Roxton had died while you were gone and while the dark Roxton was a poor substitute for the whole Roxton he was still alive and breathing -- and he wanted you.”

Marguerite looked from Veronica into the darkness of the common room for a moment. A very small smile began at the edge of her lips as she looked back at her friend, “Wow.” she said in amazement, “We really do need to have these girl talks more often.”

“Then you’re willing to take what I’ve said into consideration?”

“It makes a lot more sense then what I came up with. And believe me, I’d much rather think of myself as a woman with emotional problems, that can be cured, than a common street strumpet.”

This time, after a thoughtful hesitation, both women chuckled.

The tea pot began to whistle.

Veronica stood, “I’ll get us mugs.” she said, crossing to the kitchen.

“No.” Marguerite also stood, “Veronica, go ahead and have tea on your own. I think I’m going to bed.”

“You’re sure?” Veronica asked, pulling a single cup down from the cupboard.

“Yes, I’ll take a rain check.” she smiled gently and made a motion to head to the stairs that led down to the treehouse’s bedroom area. She paused, watching as the jungle beauty poured the boiling water into her mug. “Veronica.” Marguerite called.

She looked up and over at the slender brunette, “Yes?”

“Thank you.”

Again, Veronica smiled as she watched Marguerite descend the stairs. Lifting the mug, taking in the aroma of her mother’s herbal brew, Veronica decided she would take her tea to bed with her, along with a good book. Perhaps another of Professor DeMartino’s psychology books. They truly did make for fascinating reading.

***

Marguerite touched the bottom step with her slippered foot, glancing quickly upward to see if she was being observed then, with a determination she hadn’t felt for over a month, walked in the direction of Lord John Roxton’s bedroom.

***

Taking a deep inward breath of annoyance, he punch the middle of his top pillow once again and lay his head where he had made an indention. Roxton was finding it more and more difficult to sleep as the days and weeks passed. Every night he would walk the hall, holding a lantern, and move slowly by her curtained door, pausing briefly, then continue on.

“Coward.” Roxton mumbled under his breath, laying an arm over his eyes, and nearly huffed in ironic humor at the word. Yes, back when they were living in the civilized world he was the helper of innocents and had participated in the odd barroom brawl when a friend’s honor was at stake. He had climbed tall mountains in Tibet and swam deep oceans off the coasts of Australia and New Zealand. He’d fought undesirables during the war and had taken down a charging white rhino when he was yet a young man. Here on the plateau he’d done his best to insure the safety of everyone of his companions, often taxing himself to limits he never thought a man could endure. And he’d enjoyed every minute of it. Brave he was and it would probably be written on his grave marker one day …

So, with these attributes in mind, why was it that he - a man of such heroism - was not able to summon up the courage to go to Marguerite Krux and have it out? Really, they didn’t have to quarrel. Just talk.

Roxton rolled his eyes.

No. They would argue, as they always did. Never had a woman driven him to such heights of fury … and never had a woman touched his heart like she. Everyday Roxton swore to approach Marguerite but he could not. He didn’t know if she was ready for the questions he would ask and, in all honesty, he didn’t know if he was prepared for her answers. Could he forgive himself if his dark half had done unspeakable acts to the woman he loved?

And what if Marguerite, so unsure about him from the beginning, started to ask about matters he could not, as yet, bring out into the open? He too had well hidden secrets, a few matters he had not yet told his friends. Having an ancestor that was a pirate was only the tip of an iceberg. None of them were prepared to hear about what happened in …

Had Dark Hunter revealed this secret to Marguerite? Is that why she looked away the moment he walked into the room? Right now it was safe just to stand back and observe, hoping Marguerite would make the next move. Coward, he thought again. “Tomorrow.” Roxton swore as he had so many night previously. He then closed his eyes, attempting yet again to sleep.

Roxton heard Marguerite before he saw her. Just the slightest creak of her delicate foot at the entrance to his quarters, the gentle swish of hanging material as she warily pushed his curtain aside. Then a soft patter and the delicate scent of jasmine as she ambled from the opening over to where the lone window of his room was located.

He opened his eyes and stared. She looked like a angel, practically floating across the floor, her dark hair - tinge by moonlight - down about her silk wrapped shoulders. The off white of her nightgown’s bodice complimented the woman’s own creamy complexion. When she paused by his window, looking up, the glow alighting her face, the serene expression, Roxton thought his heart might burst. She was so unbearably beautiful. A goddess, he thought. ‘A priestess.’ his inner mind reminded him.

“What are you doing, Marguerite?” Roxton finally heard himself ask but it was almost as if he wasn’t in the room. Someone else had asked the question.

“Did you know you had the best view of the jungle from your bedroom window?” she asked, still staring out, not appearing startled he was awake and had been observing her.

“I’m surprised you can see anything. It’s been dark for hours.”

“A bright moon.” she explained. With a gentle sigh, Marguerite moved away from the window and directed her attention to the man laying on his bed. She looked at Roxton for a short while, noting his white T-shirt and, no doubt, the long underwear he was wearing underneath the coverlet. ‘So British.’ she thought. The temperature got up to eighty six degrees today but Roxton still wore his long underwear. If only she could convince him it was unnecessary.

“Umh -- can I help you with something, Marguerite?”

Carefully, considering the question as she moved forward, Marguerite sat at the bottom edge of his bed’s mattress. She looked about Roxton’s bedroom, as she had so many times in the past. His weapons were hanging about on the walls. A few books, undoubtedly from the Layton collection, lay on a dresser. His clothes - folded carefully - were lain out for the following day, resting on a bamboo stool.

“I was thinking about Malone.” Marguerite said.

“Malone?” Roxton questioned, “Is he okay?”.

“He and Veronica have been arguing. He’s changed since his return. I’m not sure she cares for it.”

“He’s become far more an adventurer. I wouldn’t worry about it. He’s a writer at heart.”

“He could lose her.”

“If Malone and Veronica are meant to be,” Roxton said, “then they will be. Besides, sometimes good things come from a fierce fight.”

“Speaking from experience, Lord Roxton?” Marguerite arched an eyebrow as she spoke.

Roxton did not answer but he smiled and averted his eyes, indicating affirmation.

Marguerite pressed, “I think Ned feels responsible for what happened to you. He‘s working out guilt feelings.”

“He shouldn’t feel liable. Malone didn’t drag me to the dinosaur graveyard. I went quite willingly. We were there by accident, really. Before we knew it …”

“You still might want to talk with him, John. Veronica doesn’t deserve the brunt of his anger. My foster mother wasn’t one for wise words but she did tell me once that you always hurt the person you love most. I think that’s exactly what Malone is doing to Veronica. He’s frustrated and taking it out on her.”

Roxton found himself amused by Marguerite‘s concern for Veronica. The women, who often fought like cats and dogs, appeared to have grown close over the last month. “I promise to talk to him.” Then, Roxton allowed another thought. “I think you should probably say something to Malone too.”

“Me?” Marguerite nearly snorted a laugh, “He doesn’t owe me any apologies. And even if he did he’s not aware of it.”

“That’s where you’re wrong.” Roxton sat up on the bed and looked at her carefully, “If what you say is true about his guilt feelings then he also thinks he set into motion the events that caused your kidnapping …” Roxton stopped speaking. The two of them had tried very hard not to address what happened to Marguerite, the particulars of their estrangement, and now here he was bringing it into the open. They needed to talk but this, using Malone as the catalyst, was an underhanded way to go about it. “I’m sorry.” Roxton said and genuinely meant it.

“Not his fault or yours.” Marguerite whispered then: “Yes, if you think I should I’ll talk with Ned.”

“Good.”

Again, there was silence as the couple tried to figure out what it was they had both just exchanged. Certainly, it had far less to do with Ned Malone then what was indicated.

“Was there anything else?” Roxton asked, unsure.

Marguerite looked down at her hands, a bit wounded by the question. Of course there was more. Why was he just sitting there like a lump? Could it be that Roxton was playing with her after all? “I umh …” she began but could not tell in the darkness what his reaction might be. It frightened Marguerite. She could usually gage a person by their facial expression, a slight twitch of the lip or raise of an eyebrow, but now she just could not tell what Roxton was thinking. “No,” she finally said, “I guess there isn’t.” Disappointed, Marguerite stood and began to make her exit.

“Marguerite,” Roxton spoke quickly, to her back. “I miss you.”

Taken by surprise, she stopped her progress halfway between his bed and the door. Marguerite gulped but managed to keep her voice steady as she said, “You could have fooled me.” She then took another two paces forward.

“So many times I wanted to go to you … and tell you … something.”

Again, Marguerite stopped her forward movement. This time she closed her eyes, took a shallow breath, and pulled on the front of her silk robe, tying the belt a bit tighter. She turned very leisurely, as if unaffected by what was being discussed. “And what would we talk about, Roxton? Hunting? Cooking? The weather? That’s about all our conversations have consisted of lately.”

He looked away from her. It was the truth. Such evasion.

Aggravated, Marguerite walked back to his beside. “You know, I spent the last month of my life worrying over something that was completely out of my control. It took good common sense from Veronica to steer me straight. We’re beating ourselves up for something that could only have happened here, on the plateau, and it’s not right, Roxton. Why can’t we get over this and live our lives?”

“I thought that’s what we were trying to do.”

“Hardly.” Marguerite lifted her hands in frustration, “I’m wandering around, afraid to say the wrong thing. Me!” She thumbed her own chest, “And just when I think we are ready to start reaching out to one another again, you pull back -- then you give again. I need to know what is going on once and for all, Roxton. No tap dancing around the subject anymore. Is this it? Are we finished?”

“We are both still recovering, Marguerite.”

“What a perfectly safe answer, Lord Roxton. What does that mean?” she nearly shouted.

“It means that our bodies are fine but our minds and emotions …” Roxton fell back once again and rested his head on the pillow, “… are a mess.” How to explain it. “Marguerite, when I overheard our friends say they thought you were dead, when I saw your stained clothes, the blood on the brim of your hat -- I wanted to be gone. How could I live here, reminded of you everyday, and manage to live? But something deep inside kept telling me Veronica, Ned and George had to be wrong. I could still feel you. I saw you in my dreams. They were so real. I reached for you and you responded …”

“You rescued me.” Marguerite unexpectedly said.

“What?”

She was looking away from him now, remembering. “When I fell and hit my head I was unconscious, floating face down in river water. Drowning. Dying. But then I felt someone touch me and lift me out of the water. I was unconscious but I could still feel this happening. And soon I was floating on a log. I looked up and, for a fleeting second I saw you, John. You whispered my name then you were gone. Later I awakened on shore with your double, thinking it must have been him. But it was you who saved me.”

“The raft. Yes. I saw it and you in my dream … my nightmare … and I reached for you and …“ Roxton blinked, “I saw you, believed you were alive, and in turn you saved me, Marguerite.”

Stunned, she did a double take. “How?”

“If I had never seen you, had given up on all hope, I might not have been able to continue. My wound and the very idea of having failed you would have killed me. But I felt your fear and …”

“… my love?” she said and astounded herself as well as Roxton with the admission.

They stared at one another and for the first time in a very long time met each other’s eyes.

Roxton scooted over in his bed, “Come.” he said, pulling down the covers. He took one of his pillows, plumped it slightly, and placed it where it might do a guest some good. “We need to go into this further.” When Roxton noticed her reluctance he said, “Marguerite, please. Get in. This is going to take awhile.”

It wasn’t as if she had never been in Roxton’s bed before but, after such a long hiatus, it felt strange to be invited. However, after a few moments of deliberation, recognizing the invitation for what it was, Marguerite slipped off her robe, laying it at the foot of the bed, then crawled in. Yes, they needed to talk and might as well both be comfortable while doing it.

They spoke with one another for hours, breaking down barriers, trading stories and whispering words of reason, forgiveness and understanding. They even managed an occasional chuckle or two after emotional revelations, some of which had nothing to do with their present circumstance but had everything to do with rebuilding a relationship that had been predestined since the moment they first met.

Slowly drifting off to sleep, Marguerite remembered her last words to him: “Just hold me, John, please.” and he did. His strong arms embraced her and his warmth brought Marguerite back to life, yet also soothed her. With a full heart, bursting with love and tenderness, Marguerite prayed all they had spoken of tonight would not be a dream when roused in the morning.

In each other’s arms she and Roxton drifted off to sleep, content the entire situation was behind them and they could now move forward with their lives.

***

Little by little she awakened, balancing between reality and a world of dreams. It was still late -- or early in the morning. She couldn’t be altogether positive. But right now it didn’t matter. Marguerite was becoming aware of something quite delicious.

He was kissing her. Just feeling the soft touch of his skin next to hers, the way he caressed her shoulder with his lips, was intoxicating. The familiar sensations of having Roxton close, the feel of him, his scent, and her body’s reaction was a simple thing, truly. Yet, also quite extraordinary. The vibration and warmth was strange and almost pure. Marguerite had felt this way before, had sensed this astonishing tingling, it seemed, a long time ago now. It was when Roxton had first kissed her and made his needs known. This was back when it had been a game between them. Not soon enough Marguerite came to understand it was not just lust they were experiencing but some deeply unnamable emotion that threatened to weaken her control. She was a resilient woman and Roxton an equal. What were they to do? Release the inevitable. And it had been splendid.

Gradually, conscious of her awareness, Roxton let a hand slide down, just brushing the front of her silky bodice, making a request and feeling her respond. He watched as Marguerite’s eyes fluttered opened and, although it was still dark, the moonlight streaming through his window made the expression on her face come alive. So much beauty and wanting. How could anyone not love her? He recognized the desire, that which he remembered so well. But this could not be rushed. She … both of them needed time to get reacquainted.

Carefully, admiring her always smooth skin, Roxton traced a very gentle finger from the mid edge of her collarbone over her sleek shoulder to slide very seductively down her arm, to finally end at Marguerite’s wrist. He then brought her cupped hand upward and kissed the open palm.

Unable to bear Roxton’s seductive teasing, Marguerite reached for him, stroking his facing and brought him to her for a kiss. Her fingers ran through his hair, their mouths touched at first softly, just wanting to take one another in, to tastes each other’s resolve, then grew more intense.

Marguerite could feel his longing. She sensed the heat of his body through the T-shirt and her own silk gown. She responded as only she could, fingers searching for the material and tugging it upward, freeing Roxton of the shirt, leaving his chest free and bare for her exploration. Soon, she had him liberated of all his underclothes and Roxton, as if inspired, leaned forward once again.

However, instead of kissing her sweet lips he veered, drawing a line across her cheek until he arrive at a spot directly underneath her right ear, sending a passionate charge through Marguerite and causing her to gasp. That spot. Her desire was growing as Marguerite’s breaths grew more shallow and he reveled in her ardor. Roxton pulled the straps of her gown very gently down, off her shoulders, placing kisses where the material had been, and with her help soon divested his lady love of her own clothing.

The moonlight was too perfect. Allowing the couple to see so much but also keeping any lingering uncertainty hidden. They came together with soft, passionate kisses, tasting each others bodies; with memories of past love making sessions that, even then, could hardly contain them.

This had to last, all of it, or she would die. “Oh … John.” Marguerite nearly cried, feeling his soft mouth journey from her neck down to the silky, fragrant valley between her breasts. She wanted to be pleased but also to please him like never before. Her legs wrap around Roxton, her hands caressing him and Marguerite whispered loving words to drive him on-ward.

Roxton, barely contained for the want of her, could feel Marguerite’s hands - both loving and desperate - and he could only assure her with his touch and whispers of worship and need. He carefully rolled over onto his back and carried Marguerite with him, the change of position lending an even more profound trust to their intimacy. He could feel her mouth on his neck, nearly driving him mad, the lips moving over to the small hollow of his throat, her tongue gently lapping at a few beads of perspiration that had gathered in the hollow. Roxton breathed in deeply, the touch of her hands moving past his beltline into an area were the fires of a seemingly unquenchable inferno raged.

Had he ever wanted a woman so much in his life? Never.

Soon, unable to hold back any longer, they were moving together. Their fingers entwined as Marguerite sat upright, straddling Roxton, and tossed her hair in passion. Her eyes closed, back arched and face positioned as if looking to the ceiling, a call came from deep within her throat: “My love ….” and she recalled a vague deep dark secret -- when she wanted to be taken by her lover … to be used by him … to have a fantasy fulfilled … But that fantasy, that sensuous incredible moment was now.

Feeling his tenderness, consideration and the true love John Roxton displayed whenever they were together, whether it being intimately joined as they were now or just walking in the jungle and enjoying one another’s company … That was what she truly sought. The excitement of compassion and security. Commitment. He loved her for what she was, not what he could make her be … He already saw the woman he loved, her inner self away from secrets and anything that might hold her back, as perfection. He, the whole man, fulfilled her fantasies and Marguerite could not ever want for more.

Far too soon they pinnacled and she was laying in his embrace, drained and flushed, his warm arms comforting her, his lips touching her forehead, his fingers caressing her back … and his voice, oh how she missed it, saying those words that were so vital …

“I love you, Marguerite. I will love you forever …”

Never would she have doubts again.

****