Saturday, August 17, 2019
Succubus on Top CHAPTER 16
I rang Bastien's doorbell for the third time and then glared peevishly at the house. Where the hell was he? I was a little earlier than our agreed meeting time but not significantly. I gave the door a petulant kick as I imagined Bastien Ã¢â¬Å"held upÃ¢â¬ in the arms of some panting housewife. Ã¢â¬Å"He's not here,Ã¢â¬ said a cool voice nearby. I looked over and saw Dana standing there, a small leashed dog by her feet. It looked like the product of a tragic accident at the cottonball factory. Ã¢â¬Å"Nice dog,Ã¢â¬ I said. Ã¢â¬Å"My sister's. I'm taking care of him for a few days. You want to walk with us?Ã¢â¬ No, but I had promised myself the other day that I would pick Dana's brain to figure out how I might aid Bastien, and this seemed as good an opportunity as any. Besides, he'd kill me if he knew I'd passed up a chance for Ã¢â¬Å"reconnaissance.Ã¢â¬ I fell into step beside Dana and the fluff ball, congratulating myself for the hundredth time on being smart enough to choose cats over dogs. Tutu Ã¢â¬â yes, that was his name Ã¢â¬â pranced along daintily, small tongue hanging out. His beady black eyes peered everywhere as he trotted merrily, but otherwise seemed oblivious to the wet sidewalk dirtying his tiny white feet. Ã¢â¬Å"How's your rally going?Ã¢â¬ I asked after we'd exhausted dog topics. Ã¢â¬Å"Excellent. I'm surprised you haven't heard about it in the news. We're getting a lot of press.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Haven't paid that much attention to the news.Ã¢â¬ She told me the date and time. Ã¢â¬Å"Think you can make it?Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"I think I'm working that day,Ã¢â¬ I said automatically. Dana gave me a knowing look. Ã¢â¬Å"Tabitha, I get the impression you're not entirely settled on that issue.Ã¢â¬ You think? I looked away, again fighting the mental battle of speaking my mind versus causing trouble for Bastien. I finally opted for something that sounded vaguely like the truth. Ã¢â¬Å"I just thinkÃ¢â¬ ¦there's a lot of different ways to look at it, that's all.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"It's okay to be unsure, you know.Ã¢â¬ That was astonishing, coming from her. Ã¢â¬Å"Is it?Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Of course. That's why groups like the CPFV exist. To help you see the truth of an issue.Ã¢â¬ I repressed a snort. I'd thought for a moment she might startle me with a display of open-mindedness. I let the silence collect again. Ã¢â¬Å"So,Ã¢â¬ she began after a moment, Ã¢â¬Å"what do you believe then?Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Er, on what? Homosexuality? Or homosexual marriage?Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Either.Ã¢â¬ My opinion was simply that people wanted who they wanted, end of story. There was no regulating love or saying it was wrong. But Dana's views on that were religiously based, and I of all people knew better than to argue the right or wrong of faith. Ã¢â¬Å"I'm just not sure people choose who they're attracted to,Ã¢â¬ I explained, not exactly attacking her question head-on. Ã¢â¬Å"So, I guess, it seems weird to me to talk about Ã¢â¬Ëhelping' or Ã¢â¬Ëchanging' people who can't really do anything about their natures, regardless of whether that nature is right or wrong.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"So you think homosexuality is inborn?Ã¢â¬ That sweet voice couldn't entirely hide her scornful surprise. Ã¢â¬Å"For some people. I think there are those who engage inÃ¢â¬ ¦uh, same-sex activities for the fun of it, but for others, it's biological.Ã¢â¬ I had a feeling Dana wouldn't describe same-sex activities as fun, but I still felt better at having voiced my opinions. Ã¢â¬Å"You express yourself very well,Ã¢â¬ she admitted. Ã¢â¬Å"Even if I don't necessarily agree with you.Ã¢â¬ I laughed out loud, and she looked at me strangely. Ã¢â¬Å"No, I didn't think you would.Ã¢â¬ We grew quiet again, and I remembered I was supposed to be sounding her out on what she found romantic for Bastien. Ã¢â¬Å"I wish I could choose who I was attracted to,Ã¢â¬ I said out of the blue, bringing up personal matters in a manner that was out of character for both Tabitha Hunter and Georgina Kincaid. Dana seemed appropriately startled. Ã¢â¬Å"Things aren't going so well with your boyfriend? What was his name? Sven?Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Seth,Ã¢â¬ I corrected, feeling only a little bad at dragging him into the cover story. Things with Seth were actually beautiful at the moment, but for the sake of appearances, I kept lying. Ã¢â¬Å"He's okay, I guess, and I like himÃ¢â¬ ¦but he's not very, you know, romantic. Ã¢â¬Å" Ã¢â¬Å"Ah,Ã¢â¬ she said neutrally. Ã¢â¬Å"Am I crazy? Is that too much to ask? Maybe I should focus on other things.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"What do you consider romantic?Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"I don't know. Little touches and flourishes here and there. Gestures to show how important you are, how much the other person cares about you.Ã¢â¬ Irises, smiley-face pancakes. Ã¢â¬Å"What do you think it is?Ã¢â¬ She shrugged. We were rounding the corner back to Bastien's now. Ã¢â¬Å"I've come to see romance as not quite so important anymore,Ã¢â¬ she admitted. Ã¢â¬Å"Neither Bill nor I have time for it.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Oh.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"That's not a bad thing. I'd say, more important than superficial flourishes is being able to connect with someone. To talk openly with them and share yourself. To know they're feeling what you're feeling.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Oh,Ã¢â¬ I said again, surprised. Her comments almost made sense. In some ways, they were a variation of Seth's views on honesty in a relationship. Biting my lip, I plunged on. Ã¢â¬Å"And what aboutÃ¢â¬ ¦you know, attraction and sex appeal?Ã¢â¬ She gave me a sidelong glance. Ã¢â¬Å"What about it?Ã¢â¬ I shrugged. Ã¢â¬Å"I don't always feel it around him.Ã¢â¬ Liar, liar, pants on fire. Ã¢â¬Å"Do I have the wrong ideas about it? What do you think is sexy?Ã¢â¬ Her answer took a long time in coming. Ã¢â¬Å"I don't know.Ã¢â¬ Bastien stood by his front door as we approached. He waved a hand in greeting. Ã¢â¬Å"Hello, ladies.Ã¢â¬ He looked pleasantly astonished to see us together Ã¢â¬â and getting along. Dana thanked me for the company and returned to her own home after refusing Bastien's automatic invitation to come inside and stay a while. Once she was gone and we were in the car headed to my photo shoot, I gave him the scoop on our talk. Ã¢â¬Å"She doesn't know what's sexy?Ã¢â¬ he exclaimed. Ã¢â¬Å"She's practically begging for me to ravage her. Hmph. And Bill's not romantic. Well, no surprise there. You think she was lying about saying it wasn't important? Sort of a defense mechanism?Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"I don't know. Possibly. But even if she does miss romance, I think too many over-the-top gestures would throw up a flag. She isn't stupid. Profound conversation might be the way to go.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Then the cooking thing is a good idea. Lots of talking there.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"I guess.Ã¢â¬ I didn't tell him that I had doubts about the efficacy of that method. Honestly, I wasn't sure what he could do anymore. We'd decided to pull out all the stops for my pictures. He drove us downtown to the Hotel Andra, one of the nicest local spreads, despite its plain exterior. Through some charm I didn't know about, he'd even managed to book us the hotel's one-of-a-kind Monarch Suite on practically no notice. It had more room than we could possibly need, but its true selling point Ã¢â¬â for me Ã¢â¬â was an utterly sumptuous, utterly sexy bed. Enclosed in its own romantically lit alcove, it had a deep, royal purple spread and a headboard of gleaming, black wood. The whole effect was dark and sensuous. We shape-shifted out of Mitch and Tabitha upon clearing the door. Ã¢â¬Å"This bed alone,Ã¢â¬ declared Bastien, Ã¢â¬Å"will sell these pictures. Well, that and your naked flesh. But really, it's a tough call.Ã¢â¬ He raided the mini-bar and made us improvised Grand Marnier martinis, which I gulped down with surprising eagerness. Suddenly, facing these pictures seemed a lot more daunting than I'd originally believed. Ã¢â¬Å"Nothing to it,Ã¢â¬ he said, sensing my nervousness. Ã¢â¬Å"Put on something sexy and sprawl on the bed.Ã¢â¬ I hadn't brought anything in particular to wear, for once willingly opting for shape-shifting. I started with a basic black nightgown. Super short, super low-cut. It seemed like a safe bet. Bastien positioned me on the bed, lying back in a sort of languid pose. He mussed my hair and requested a lazy pout. Ã¢â¬Å"The point here, Fleur ,is to make it look like if you don't get fucked again soon, you're going to be very, very upset. Men go for that.Ã¢â¬ My apprehension melted away as Bastien took over, directing my postures and expressions, snapping away with his digital camera. We ran the gamut. Some shots I did completely naked, hiding nothing. For others, we found the suggestion of nudity could almost be more provocative. The way the slipped strap of a chemise could nearly reveal a breast. The way a sheer bra and panty set could cover and yet not cover. Nor did we give all of them the just-got-fucked look. In some, I was very elegant, unbelievably perfect in every possible way, not a strand of hair out of place. In others, however, we played up the messy, wild look Ã¢â¬â Ã¢â¬Å"unplanned,Ã¢â¬ as Seth would say. We also didn't limit ourselves to the bed, as gorgeous as it was. I posed by windows, by a sofa, by the bathtub, in the bathtub. Both of us, as was requisite for our jobs, had pretty good imaginations for what was sexy and alluring. Nonetheless, we had brought along a few lingerie catalogs and adult magazines for inspiration. We would take breaks to plan, both of us frowning and giving each new pose serious thought. All in all, it was an exhausting endeavor, but Bastien's energy never flagged as he guided me through it all with a professional ease. And honestly, after a certain point, I didn't need his coaching. I knew I was sexy, and it was easy to play that up, especially knowing that Seth would view all of this. When the incubus had filled up the memory card, we finally called it quits. Sprawling on the bed beside me, he called room service and ordered us some professional martinis, since we'd run out of Grand Marnier. They arrived, and we luxuriated in a well-deserved rest, sipping our drinks. Ã¢â¬Å"Thanks Bas,Ã¢â¬ I told him, touching his arm. Ã¢â¬Å"You're a good friend.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Easy to be one when the subject matter is so nice to look at. You're going to have a bitch of a time getting these printed, though. Take them to a store, and you won't get them back.Ã¢â¬ I'd already thought of that. Ã¢â¬Å"Hugh has a snazzy, state-of-the-art printer. I'll do it there.Ã¢â¬ I considered. Ã¢â¬Å"Although, he might keep a few too.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"I wouldn't blame him.Ã¢â¬ Bastien set his drink down and rolled over to regard me affectionately, face almost serious for a change. Ã¢â¬Å"You're a beautiful woman, Fleur ,and that means something when you can perfectly control your appearance. It's not your physical side Ã¢â¬â as nice as it is. It's something in here.Ã¢â¬ He tapped my breastbone. Ã¢â¬Å"Something warm and sensual and lovely that shines out. I'd know you in any body, in any place. Ã¢â¬Å" I curled up against him, happy. Ã¢â¬Å"I'm glad you're here. Even if it's because of the Barton and Dana mess. We're going to fix that for you, you know. I promise. I'm not letting them ship you off somewhere horrible.Ã¢â¬ A faint, playful smile curled his lips. Affection shone in his dark eyes, affection that was no doubt mirrored in my face. Suddenly, he leaned over and kissed me. Whoa. It wasn't a friendly kiss either, not the kind we so regularly planted on each other's lips in a careless way. This was a deep kiss, an erotic kiss. His lips felt like velvet, his tongue slowly sliding over mine. I was so floored by what was happening that for a moment I couldn't do anything except sink into that kiss and let it send shockwaves through my body. My senses returned to me, and I broke away, sitting up. Ã¢â¬Å"What the hell are you doing?Ã¢â¬ He sat up as well, as surprised by my reaction as I had been by what triggered it. Ã¢â¬Å"What do you mean?Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"You kissed me. I mean, really kissed me.Ã¢â¬ He grinned, sensual and provocative. I shivered. When incubi targeted you with that charm, it was bewildering, even for a succubus. Ã¢â¬Å"What's wrong with it? You mean more to me than anyone else in the world. This is a natural step for us. We should have been doing it a long time ago.Ã¢â¬ I shook my head, backing away. Ã¢â¬Å"I like the way we've always been.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Only because you haven't tried anything else. Look, I'm not asking you to run off into the sunset here. We're friends. I know that, and I like that. But you've said it yourself Ã¢â¬â sleeping with people you don't care about is wearying.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Yeah, butÃ¢â¬ ¦I don't think this is necessarily the answer.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Then what is the answer?Ã¢â¬ he demanded. Ã¢â¬Å"Sleeping Ã¢â¬â or rather not sleeping Ã¢â¬â with a mortal you do care about?Ã¢â¬ I climbed out of bed. Ã¢â¬Å"That was harsh. And it's unrelated. I don't want us to be anything more than friends, Bastien. Sex,ll mess things up.Ã¢â¬ He stayed on the bed, watching me pace. Ã¢â¬Å"Sex will fix a lot of things. It's about time we got some satisfaction that wasn't all business. It'll be therapeutic for both of us. We need it.Ã¢â¬ I turned away, staring out the window without seeing. Ã¢â¬Å"I don't need it.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Don't you?Ã¢â¬ Only the voice that asked me that wasn't Bastien's. It was Seth's. I spun around, eyes wide. Ã¢â¬Å"Stop that! Change back right now!Ã¢â¬ Bastien Ã¢â¬â as Seth Ã¢â¬â lay back easily against the pillows. He wore jeans and a Whitesnake T-shirt, just as Seth might have. His hair was unkempt. He'd even perfected that cute, distracted smile. Ã¢â¬Å"What's the problem, Thetis?Ã¢â¬ I stormed up to the bed, wanting to give him the full force of my fury even as I longed to run away. Ã¢â¬Å"This isn't funny! Change back now.Ã¢â¬ Sitting up again, he slid to the edge of the bed. Ã¢â¬Å"Come on, how have you not seen this coming? This is the perfect solution to all your problems.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"No, it's not. It's really not.Ã¢â¬ He stood up and walked toward me, not touching me but coming close enough to make my heart race. I stood rooted, unable to move. Ã¢â¬Å"Of course it is. If you ever want to get Seth out of your system, this is the way to do it. You spend all this time pining for him, wondering what it'd be like to touch him and be with him. Well, this is your chance. This is the only safe way, your chance to do everything you want without hurting him. Do this now, and you could save yourself a lot of grief in the future. Ã¢â¬Å" I shook my head, as my mouth apparently couldn't move now either. Too many conflicting feelings. The entire scene was unreal. Mind blowing. I was still shocked by Bastien's audacity in doing it in the first place. I knew he was rash and bold, but this was crossing the line, even for him. On the other hand, Bastien had mimicked Seth down to the last detail, and seeing him had the effect it always did on me. Everything was the same. Cute and flawless. More intoxicating still was the truth of Bastien's offer. I really could do what I wanted here. It was wrong on so many levels, but I couldn't deny the pull. The perfect temptation. Ã¢â¬Å"I won't cheat on Seth.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"What's cheating between you guys? You do it all the time.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Then I'm not going to be one of your conquests,Ã¢â¬ I snapped. Ã¢â¬Å"Fine.Ã¢â¬ He shape-shifted the shirt away so I saw only lovely, bare chest now. He drew my hands forward, resting them on his skin. I discovered it was almost entirely smooth; there were just a few soft and silky golden hairs. Ã¢â¬Å"You do the conquering.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"I'm not doing any conquering.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"All right. Then take your hands away.Ã¢â¬ I stared at where my hands lay on his chest. On Seth's chest. He was warm. My hands matched him almost perfectly. We both had light, barely tanned, golden skin. Take your hands away. That's all I had to do. I just had to move my hands, step away, and leave this ridiculous game behind. I was only a hair's breadth from normalityÃ¢â¬ ¦yet I couldn't seem to move away. I knew it wasn't Seth, but the illusion was so powerful, I could easily imagine that this was exactly how it would feel to touch him. Without thinking, I ran my fingers down his chest, down to his stomach. Seth was no bodybuilder, but he was lean and trim from swimming and running. I had seen him in boxers before; the strong muscles were firm and exactly where they should be. Again, a perfect illusion. My hands had brushed this same part of Seth in bed before, but I never allowed myself to sensually explore him, the way I could now. I moved my fingers further, tracing the lines and contours. For his part, he didn't say or do anything. But whenever I looked up, those brown eyes were on me, brimming with heat. They made my body respond with a heat of its own. Would Seth look at me the same way if we were together like this? Somehow, I expected the answer would be yes. I knew Seth viewed sex as a serious matter, despite his characters' casual attitudes. He would treat such an encounter seriously. Also Ã¢â¬â although I had no proof Ã¢â¬â I thought Seth would be just as cautious as Bastien was being now, letting me take the lead. Nothing aggressive. My hands slid farther, down to the edge of his jeans where blue flannel boxers barely peeped out. I ran my fingers under the edge, arousing myself further with this dangerous game. Being this close to hitherto forbidden territory was heady. My scouting fingers started to tremble. Never, never would I have let things reach this point with Seth. Not with both of us pressed together. Not with both of us in so little clothing. My common sense would have long since kicked in before something dangerous might happen. But Bastien was right: nothing dangerous could happen tonight. At least not physically. I looked back up. His own breath had quickened. The space between us sizzled. He was so like Seth, I realized. So very much like him. It would be so easy. Easy to pretend. I leaned up and kissed him, again tasting those soft lips, pushing my tongue past them so I could fully savor him. His hands moved around my back, touching silk and bare skin. I was in the same outfit I wore for the last picture: another chemise, this time with a revealing top of ivory lace and a rose-pink silk skirt. I pushed into that kiss, letting it burn me. He kept his hands carefully neutral the whole time, not taking liberties, instead letting me dictate the terms. Reaching around, I grabbed a hold of his hands and moved them over me. I wanted to know what it was like to have him Ã¢â¬â Seth Ã¢â¬â touching me. I moved them down to my backside, then over to the sides of my thighs, urging him to push the chemise up. He did, letting silk gather up in his fingers as it slid up, up over my breasts and then over my head. I exhaled as those hands traveled up my body, every part of my skin electric and alive as I stood completely naked now. Ã¢â¬Å"Lay down,Ã¢â¬ I said, surprised at the rough note in my voice. He obliged, and I crawled onto the bed after him, straddling his hips with my legs so I leaned over him, letting my hair brush his chest as it had that night at Terry and Andrea's. Seth. I had Seth. And I could do anything I wanted. I kissed him again, harder than I had before, as if my mouth realized this could stop at any moment and had to get as much as it could right now. Pulling back slightly, I placed his hands back on me. Ã¢â¬Å"Don't stop touching me.Ã¢â¬ I returned to his lips, crushing his in return, letting my teeth nibble that soft flesh. All the while his hands roved over me as I'd commanded, coming to rest under my breasts so that he could cup them and stroke them. His fingers trailed to the nipples, which were already standing erect, brushing them lightly at first and then squeezing with greater intensity. I cried out, my own savage urges stoked, and I moved my lips to his neck. My mouth worked fiercely against that tender skin, pressing and biting, as though by leaving a mark I could somehow brand Seth as mine forever. Breaking away at last, I raised myself up slightly on my knees and moved his hand between my legs. He stroked me without being told to, letting his fingers slide over my clitoris, building up the mounting, scorching sensation in my lower body. His fingers moved easily, aided by my own wetness. Greater and greater that swelling ecstasy grew until it was almost agony, but I stopped him before I peaked and could find release. Frantically, I tore at his jeans and boxers, getting them off as fast as I could. I sighed shakily, looking at that long, perfect hardness as though it could keep me alive when nothing else could. I moved myself back down and ground myself against him, rubbing myself against that hardness, letting it finish the job his fingers had started. I came almost instantly, having been already on the edge, and before those spasms could even begin fading, I slid him inside of me, letting him fill me up entirely until it seemed there was nothing left of me in my own body, only him. He was still letting me take charge here, but he wasn't unaffected. His breath came heavy and hard now, his own lips parting slightly with desire, eyes begging me to do more. As for meÃ¢â¬ ¦I was losing myself. I didn't care about anything else but him inside me, as close as I'd ever been able to get to Seth. It still seemed like something had to give, something had to stop us. But it didn't. I became more than a conqueror. I was a ravager, taking what I wanted with no thought of the consequences. I rode on top of him, bringing myself down hard each time, willing him to pierce right through me. My hands held him down as I thrust, not that he was trying to get away. My breasts shook as our bodies moved together, the nipples still hard and sensitive. I heard the slap of skin on skin each time I moved down, forming a rhythm with our ragged breathing. I was drowning in Seth, in his sweat and in his touch. I was liquid and golden, merged into him. My body ached, unable to get enough of him, and I moved harder still. I knew exactly which angle I needed to make myself come, and I didn't even try to hold back the waves and waves of pulsing bliss that racked my body. Small crackles of energy passed between us occasionally Ã¢â¬â not the usual absorption that occurred with a victim, but the inevitable sharing that happened between an incubus and succubus, two creatures whose bodies were made to collect the power of life. I needed to consume Seth, take as much of him as I could. I had no other purpose. Time passed. My body took its pleasure greedily and often. I said his name over and over, sometimes whispering it, sometimes screaming it, until finally exhausted, I couldn't move anymore. I stopped, nearly collapsing against him. Barely able to work my lungs anymore, I struggled to get the air I needed. He was still inside me, still ready, but I had nearly rubbed myself raw. My throat was dry and painful. Sweat formed a slick coating on me, and I hung over him panting and desperate, an animal who had just sated her hunger with no concern for who lay beneath. He watched me intently, running a careful hand over my damp cheek. Then, at some unspoken signal between us, he flipped me over onto my back to at last finish himself off. Gripping my ankles and putting them over his shoulders, he knelt before me and pushed back inside. A soft whimper passed over my lips. I was jelly now, unable to do anything but lay there and let him have his way with me. My arms spread out carelessly over my head, fingers brushing the black headboard, and I closed my eyes, just letting myself feel Seth taking me now. I was weak and spent, but it still felt wonderful. I opened my eyes and watched him working hard against my body, at last able to give in to his own pleasure. He'd held back for so long for my benefit, waiting until I had satiated my lust. Now he was the greedy one, ravaging me in the way he wanted. At last, he climaxed with a small groan, closing his eyes briefly, holding himself against me as he came into me. When he finished, he slumped forward and pulled out, lying beside me. We stayed like that for several moments, and then he pulled me roughly to him so we spooned, the back of my body pressed against the front of him. Both of us still breathed in heavy, torn gasps as our hearts gradually slowed. I let my cheek rest against his arm. I still shook all over from sex with Seth, with the feel of Seth inside of me and the way he had broken my body with that devastating ecstasy. Then, as one hand tightened on me and his other ran gently over my hair, I noticed something. He didn't smell right. I don't mean to imply that he smelled bad. He didn't. He just didn't smell like Seth. The sweat wasn't the same. There was no fleeting smell of apple, leather, and musk, no unique Seth scent. He smelled like Bastien. He was Bastien, I reminded myself sternly, and with that, the illusion shattered, the spell broke. I wasn't with Seth, no matter how perfect the shape. I was with my friend the incubus. Ã¢â¬Å"Change back,Ã¢â¬ I whispered. Ã¢â¬Å"What?Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Change back to yourself.Ã¢â¬ He didn't ask why, and a moment later, I rested in Bastien's arms. It wasn't Seth, I realized with a dull and terrible emptiness, but it was the truth. We said no more after that, staying in bed together for the rest of the night. Sleep never came for me, however. I lay awake the whole time, staring off into the shadows.