The woman hovering above him hastily backed away, herChapter Three
face swallowed up by shadow. Still, it was too late.
Duncan knew what he had seen and he was definitely not
going to forget it. He came to his feet quickly, rising hope and joy completely healing his wounds.
She hadn't moved far and he caught her easily. He
pulled her resisting body close, studying her face
intently. The smoothness of her pale skin, like fine
alabaster, the deep blue eyes that wouldn't meet his
were the same color as blue diamonds, the full rose
mouth that he had kissed so many times before, the
sweeping curls of deep brown hair.
Just as he knew it two hundred years ago, he knew it
now. Only one person on this Earth could have those
perfect features. It was Alexandra Payne. Joy filled him, swift and furious, setting his veins on fire with a different kind of heat. He wasn't sure why, but Alexandra was here, she wasn't dead. She hadn't been taken from him at all. There was no possible way he'd believe it wasn't her.
Duncan crushed her body to his, his breath leaving
him as her warmth met with his, her softness against
his chest. Duncan buried his face in her hair, inhaling the floral scent that had been there even two hundred years ago. His eyes drifted shut as her arms closed around his back, a sob tore out of him as they tightened, her fingers splayed over his shoulders. The tears were there, hovering right on the edge of his lashes, but he wasn't going to allow them to fall.
His hand wound in the thick tresses of her hair, her cheek was resting on his shoulder. Her breath was warm and slightly damp against his neck. He whispered, "Alexandra" into her hair and he felt the shudder that racked her body. She pulled away slightly from him, her face still downcast. Finally, in a certain kind of defeat, her eyes met his. Something in those spectacular eyes made him let her go, but she didn't make any move to run away.
"Hello, Duncan," she greeted him quietly, something
like sorrow in her voice.
Now that he knew she was here, that it was indeed her, confusion overtook him. How was this possible? She couldn't be an immortal, he'd never felt her. He couldn't think of any other explanation, but he knew somehow, that had to be it.
"Alexandra, how?" he choked out, saying her name as
if it pained him.
Alexandra raised a long, slim finger to his lips, quieting him. She shook her head, a ghost of a smile coming to her face.
"No questions, okay? You don't ask me and I won't ask you," she told him, clear that she wanted no argument.
Before he could reply, she was pulling him into her arms, her lips against his cheek. Duncan closed his eyes as the familiarity took him back, way back to when he held her like this all of the time. With a jolt, he realized that she was taller. By several inches even. He said nothing, though. He didn't want her to move away from him.
"How I've missed you," she whispered, her breath warm
and sensual on his ear.
Duncan felt as if he could hold her like this forever, feeling her soft curves against his body, her hair caressing his hands. But he couldn't. His mind was tossing over thousands of questions that demanded answers and he wasn't the type to turn them away.
"Alex, I've never felt you. Immortals can feel each other, but I've never felt you, never." Duncan knew he was babbling, but the shock of what was happening made him not care. Alex was here and even though he didn't know why, she was here in his arms again.
Alex nodded, understanding his confusion. Resting her cool hand against his feverish cheek, she smiled softly. She stared at his face for several moments, neither speaking, Duncan barely breathing. A certain look came over eyes, one of regret and pain.
"I had forgotten just how perfect you are, Duncan MacLeod," she whispered, almost in awe. Then she took his hand and began to lead him out of the alley.
"I know a little cafe down the road. We can get some
cappuccino and we can speak there," she told him, not
leaving any room open for debate. Duncan followed her along docilely, all his earlier fear of her forgotten. All he could think about was her lovely smile and those striking eyes. Even all the years had not dimmed the color of her eyes.
Once at the little restaurant, they discussed their unique condition. Or rather Duncan did. Alexandra sat quietly listening, her face as that of young student who was learning something of great interest. As if she had to learn it. Duncan told her everything, knowing that it was the only way she could be here now. He told her of the Quickening, the sense of another immortal, and of the decapitation. Alex wasn't denying any of the things he said, but one.
"You've never felt another immortal?" he asked,
Alex shook her head, a shrug lifting her shoulders. "Perhaps it is because I'm so very old. And believe me, Duncan. I am a tried and true artifact," she told him, a smile blooming.
Duncan didn't return it.
"That doesn't make any sense. The older an immortal is, the stronger the sense. The intensity of it comes from the life-line. If you are so old, you should have a very strong detectibility. Very strong," he mused, talking more to himself than to her.
Alex sipped her cappuccino, her eyes on his over the brim of her cup. There was something in the sapphire depths, something Duncan couldn't identify. He recognized it, though, from two centuries ago. Alex had given him that look many times before. She always stared at him like this when he wouldn't trust.
"I'll admit, it is strange, but how else would you explain it? Perhaps I was around before all the rules came into effect. It's possible, you know," she added, seeing the doubt on his face.
"No, it isn't. Detecting one another is how we protect ourselves," Duncan insisted, his brow deeply furrowed.
Alex's cool hand closed over his as she leaned toward him. Her gaze was open, yet he knew there was something she wasn't telling him.
"Well, not being detected is a way of protection. After all, to another immortal, I appear as a normal human being. They wouldn't bother me," she explained.
Duncan's words hung over them for a moment, neither saying anything, only thinking. There was a tenseness
that they had never experienced with each other. There
was so much that was lost and could never be reclaimed.
"Who did it, Alexandra?" he asked.
She didn't answer him at first, but it wasn't because she didn't want to tell him. She was thinking of how to put it. "I'm not sure. It was just some random thing. I had no enemies in London. Anyway, I don't want to talk about it," she finished.
Duncan looked down at his hands. It disturbed him that she had said she had no enemies in London, but didn't include anywhere else. Of course, it really didn't matter. Her murderer was long gone, dead for quite a while. There were other things to be asked. When Duncan looked back up at her, his eyes were dark in anguish.
"Why did you leave me, Alexandra?" he asked finally, the question that had weighed more heavily on his mind than any other.
Alex sighed and looked away. Her hand slipped off of his and disappeared under the table. Duncan reached for the exposed hand, holding onto it tightly even though she flinched as if burned. He tried to get in under her gaze, but it was no use.
"I thought we loved each other. Did you change your mind and not have the courage or the cruelty to tell me?" he continued, needing the answers to his heart's questions.
Alex finally turned her head, but her eyes did not meet his. Instead, they focused on his shoulder, his chest, his throat. They finally rested on their entwined hands.
"Duncan, you must realize that I didn't know you were an immortal. I couldn't imagine how you would take such news and I figured you would leave me. So many others did. So when I was killed, I let myself remain dead to you. It all seemed easier for you that way. I had my reasons as I'm sure you did," she finished,her mouth tight.
Duncan released her hand. He couldn't blame her for not telling him because he himself had made the same mistake. He hadn't told her because he didn't trust her reaction. A terrible sadness overwhelmed him then. If only he had told her before the party, they would have had all of those past years together. If only he'd stayed with her.
Then, suddenly, Alex brightened, her face lifting into a heart wrenching smile, his to behold once again.
"Look, Duncan. We can forget about all that, start over. After all, we have forever now," she told him, her voice holding a note of desperate pleading.
"We can only do that for so long." Duncan wasn't pacified. He truly hated his suspicious nature sometimes, but there was no getting rid of it. Even with Alex, the woman he'd carried a torch for all his life after she so abruptly left it. He just wasn't sure of what she was telling him.
Alex's grin faded a little, something dark coming into her eyes. The look she gave Duncan was one of absolute suffering.
"We'll talk about it as necessary," she acquiesced.They finished their drinks in silence, neither really knowing what to say. The two hundred years between their meetings had taken their toll. They did not know each other anymore. They had only the past versions of one another and people changed quite a bit in mere months. There had been too many months. They left quickly, Alex agreeing to any destination.
Duncan took Alexandra back to his hotel room. He knew Richie might be there, but he could have cared less. He and Richie had to share a room because the hotel overbooked.On the way there, Duncan told Alex where he had been on his travels during his long life. He introduced her to the memories of the people he had met. He told her of Tessa and of Ann. He had to fight to keep the pain out of his voice when speaking of Tessa. She had been killed in a robbery for a few dollars and the keys to his car.
During all of this, Alex stayed absolutely silent. The expression on her face unnerved him, deep down in some part of him that told him that there was death behind the door that night so long ago. She looked as though he had said something to shame her, to put her beneath him.
"What's wrong, Alexandra?" he asked, stopping to face her.
When Alex looked up at him, the stricken expression in her blue eyes startled him. He had never seen such misery reflected on her face. What had he said?
"All these stories of your friends, the way you help people, the spared lives. You're so good," she whispered.
Duncan had no clue of what brought that on and he didn't ask. He had his reasons for not prying. Her tone frightened him enough to not want to know. Duncan spoke no more.
They reached the hotel a few moments later, and Duncan unlocked the door to his room carefully. He knew Richie was there and he wasn't alone. For a moment, Duncan forgot the night's most recent events, and remembered the start of it all. When Richie abandoned him. What a perfect way to get his revenge.With an evil smile, he tossed open the door.
It was evident that Richie had expected Duncan to go away out of courtesy. He was on the bed with the pretty blonde, whom he obviously caught. All clothes were on, but she let out an embarrassed squeak anyway. She quickly pulled out of the tangle of Richie'sarms. Richie's handsome young face looked up at Duncan murderously, his eyes narrowing even more when he was confronted with Duncan's pearly grin.
"Mac! I see you made it back allight. Why don't you go check the desk for messages," Richie said, making it plain that he wanted Duncan to split. Duncan shook his head.
"Why haven't you already done it? From the state of things, you haven't been that busy," he said, eyeing the organized appearance of his clothes. Behind him, he heard Alex swallow a laugh. Richie was not amused. The girl was leaping off the bed quickly, rushing for the door. She scuttled past Alex, her head down.
Then she was out into the hall, moving with an almost
comic haste. Richie got up to follow, panic on his face. Duncan could understand why. The girl was very
attractive and very willing from the look of things.
"Thanks," he muttered to MacLeod as he ran past.
"My pleasure," was Duncan's smug reply.
The door closed. Silence filled the room, the tension between Duncan and Alex very intense. Slowly,
simultaneously, they turned toward one another. Duncan
raked his eyes over her exquisite form, drinking it in as a man dying of thirst. He never fully understood the loss that she had left in his life until now. It came to him with an aching clarity as he realized how much he had missed her azure eyes, the graceful slope of her neck, her soft voice like a caress on his skin.
"Alone again," she whispered.
"It truly has been a while," he replied, his voice thick.
Alex began to move toward him, her face downcast, but
her eyes on his with an almost predatory stare. Duncan noticed with rising desire how fluidly her body moved, with a grace that suggested bonelessness. Duncan inhaled deeply as her scent reached him, like wildflowers at night. She had worn the same scent two hundred years ago.
Alex's hand came to rest on his cheek and he found his fingers wrapping in her thick soft hair, his other hand going around her slender waist. As their lips met, a sharp lance shot through him, filling a part of him that had been left empty for two hundred years. The pleasure of it was agony. So much history came back to him as their lips and tongues moved in a heated dance. He had missed this mouth, this body, these hands. No one had ever done this to him. Not Tessa and not Ann, not even Amanda, whose adventurous nature rubbed off on him at the best times, though they had definitely tried. They had all felt as if they would never have
all of him and they were right; part of him had been left with Alexandra Payne.
Alex broke away, moving her lips to his ear. Duncan kissed the long slope of her neck, feeling her thudding pulse eneath her soft skin. "I need you, Duncan. I've needed you so badly," she whispered, her words pained as if they were being torn out of her.
Duncan knew Richie would be back soon, and as Duncan did not, would not hesitate to come inside. Still, he was afraid to let Alex go, fearing she would disappear if he lost track of her even for a moment. He couldn't let her slip away again. Already so muchtime had been lost.
"Alex, we can't do this here. Richie will return
The long finger resting on his lips stopped his
words. Alex was looking up at him, nodding."I have an apartment. It's close," she told him, her words breathy.
Duncan needed no further urging. Halfway down the hall, they ran into Richie, who had obviously lost the blonde. Richie was also an immortal, but he appeared to be in his early twenties. He had wavy, short strawberry-blonde hair, light blue eyes, and he was several inches shorter than Duncan. He was one of the few people that had remained constant in his life.
"Richie, this is Alexandra Payne. Alex, Richie Ryan. He is my student," Duncan introduced, his voice barely in check. He wanted desperately to get to Alex's apartment. There was a fire raging inside of him that refused to be put out by a simple kiss. It needed a full dousing and it wasn't going to happen standing here with Richie.
Richie looked over Alex cautiously, but very appreciatively. It was obvious that he was confused. Duncan wasn't the sort of man who just picked a woman up off the street. Besides, there was something very tangible between these two people, something raw and sexual that demanded attention. It could only mean one thing; she had known Duncan before.
"She know?" he asked Duncan, figuring it was the only way she could know him. Maybe she was a Watcher, but Richie doubted it. First of all, there were no attractive female Watchers and second of all, Duncan wasn't that lucky.
"She is one," Duncan replied shortly.
Richie took Alex's proffered hand, pleasant confusion
lighting on his face. He didn't imagine that was possible. He'd never come into contact with an immortal who couldn't be felt. As his fingers closed over hers, he was shocked at how cool the smooth skin was.
"Pleased to meet you. Funny, I'm not feeling you, only Duncan. Why is that?" he asked, curious.
"We haven't quite figured it out yet," she answered, her voice a little tight and strained.
Duncan saw that Richie was reacting to the tension in Alex's voice. He was about to ask more questions that neither of them knew the answers to. "We're going out for a while. Don't wait up," Duncan warned, breaking off Richie's words. Luckily, Richie knew when to shut up.
As the couple continued to move down the hall, Richie
watched Alex's shapely behind swing sexily in her tight black jeans. With a low whistle of appreciation he shook his head. Duncan always found the gorgeous ones.
"Don't worry. I won't."
The second they were in Alex's apartment, Alex and Duncan were at each other, kissing, touching, undressing. The walk over had only inflamed the rising pyre of their passion and now they knew they could fan it out without being interrupted.
Alex's bed was a huge four poster, and it didn't take long for them to get to it. The old desires that had long lay dormant now awoke with a ferocious intensity that threatened to take them both to the edge and back. Duncan found the past rushing back to him as their lips met over and over again in a
familiar dance. Alex's fingers wove inside the spaces between the buttons on Duncan's shirt and with a quick motion, she ripped it open clear down to the bottom. Those same fingers were instantly on the hard muscles of his
chest, her mouth on the hollow of his throat. Her
hands were on his jeans now, unzipping and moving
toward what she wanted more than anything right now.
Duncan pulled in his breath as her hair moved over
his stomach, her mouth everywhere. God, how he had
missed her. His own hands were pulling off Alexandra's clothes with little more finesse than she had shown. He revealed her full round breasts, the enticing flesh that had filled the dresses that she wore so perfectly. Her stomach was flat and smooth,her legs long and lean.
No words were passed, only heated gasps and moans.
They were taking no time now. They had plenty of
that. They only wanted to quench the thirst that was
roaring inside them and to give them something to
bridge the gap in their past. The heavy fullness of Alex's breasts in his hands brought back the familiarity of all of this. It had been two hundred years since he held her, since he touched her, since he'd been inside of her, but it was
all coming back so swiftly that it felt like no time
at all had passed.
He took her like she wanted, fast and hard. She wanted no tenderness now, only completion. Her fingers raked up over his shoulders, her head thrown back into the pillow. A low groan passed her lips, her expression of pain. Duncan understood it. The desire that was through every limb was sheer misery in its intensity as it filled the empty part of him. Their kiss had only been a preview.
A deep groan alighted in the room, neither sure of who it came from as they reached their release. Gasping, Duncan collapsed on top of Alex, already settling into old habits. With the other women in his life, he rolled off them quickly, not wanting to crush them with his bulk. Alexandra was the only woman who delighted in the weight of his body over hers. He looked down at her face, knowing the dreamy, sated expression on her face would be there as it had always
been so long ago. Her head was turned to the side,
her mouth slightly open. Duncan didn't see it, but a
tear had worked form Alex's eye to dampen the pillow.
She made sure he didn't see it. It brought up questions she didn't want to answer yet.
When their breaths came a little easier, sweat forming a slick sheen over their bodies, Duncan was holding Alex, stroking her hair as he had two hundred years ago. Her body was cool over his, her breath damp on his throat. He could not get enough of touching her skin, staring at her face, inhaling her scent. Every caress was a reminder at how close he
had been to happiness so long ago, how close he was
He knew that Alex was basically a stranger to him now. She had lived several lifetimes before and after him that he knew nothing about. He had made love to her because he knew that would never change. Their passion for another would always be a constant, no matter how much time they spent apart.
"I have missed you, Alexandra. I have missed being with you like this," he told her, his voice full of emotion.
She did not stir in his arms, only exhaled gently. "I know," she replied, barely a whisper from her bruised lips.
"How I wish that I would have told you about my immortality sooner. We have lost so much time," he lamented, his breath ruffling her hair. Suddenly, she was moving away, her legs disentangling themselves from Duncan's. She sat on the edge of the bed for a moment, the graceful line of her back very pale in the moonlight, her fair skin almost translucent. From what Duncan could see of her face, it looked as if she were in pain, some ailment that she was trying to hide.
Duncan quickly sat up beside her, his hands resting
on her shoulders. He wasn't sure what was wrong.
Sometimes this had happened in the past, but she told
him it was the same affliction that made her dizzy at
times. Now he knew that she could have no illness.
"What is wrong?" he asked, his lips touching her
nape.Alex tossed him a smile over her shoulder. He noticed that it didn't reach her eyes.
"You wore me out. I haven't had a good bout of intense sex in a long time," she replied, trying to sound light.
It didn't work. The words came out strained. He reached out to touch her when she sat up, getting to her feet. He watched her as she moved across the room gathering her discarded clothing. She made no effort to hide her magnificent body. She'd never been modest.
"What are you doing?" he asked, one brow furrowed.
"I forgot that I had an appointment," she replied brusquely.
Duncan glanced over at the small clock beside her bed. He looked back at her, suspicion coming into his eyes."Alex, it is almost one thirty. In the morning," he told her.
Alex merely shrugged and moved to the mirror where she began to brush her hair with long stokes."I usually keep late hours," she replied.
Duncan was shocked by her coolness. What had he said? Just moments ago, she was passion personified and now she was acting as if he were below her notice. This was a side of her he had never seen. After they had made love, she had always been the one to keep him in the bed. Of course, he had to consider that a lot of time had passed. People change. Still, though, he didn't want her to leave. Not tonight.
He got up after her and walked quickly to the mirror. She didn't look at him so he took her arm and gently turned her around. Her eyes wouldn't meet his, but she didn't pull away. He could feel how tense her body was and it shocked him. "Alex, can't it wait? We have just found each other
and I'd really like to spend this night with you," he pleaded, knowing he was being selfish. He just wanted to hold her this night, every second and every breath that passed.
Alexandra looked down at her hand that was holding her shirt. For a moment she merely stared, fighting with herself. When she sighed in defeat, Duncan knew he had won. Her fingers opened and the shirt fluttered to the floor.
"Yes, I guess it can wait," she answered. With a smile of triumph, Duncan caught her willing lips, moving back as Alex began pushing him back to the bed.
Duncan slipped back into the hotel room, closing the door quietly behind him. Richie had sensed his presence and was awake and alert. He relaxed as soon as he saw that it was only Duncan. Then he rubbed his eyes, yawning deeply. He watched as Duncan tossed his jacket over a chair.
"Looks like you had a stressful night," Richie commented, seeing the lines around Duncan's eyes and mouth.
Duncan sat wearily on the bed, letting himself fall onto his back. He sighed in release as his body began to relax.
"I wouldn't call it stressful, exactly," he replied wryly.
Richie caught the gist of his words and sat up a little more in the bed, resting against the headboard. He looked utterly defeated.
"Yeah, well I wish my night had been a little more stressful. I never did get the blonde back up here. She slapped me and told me I was a pig," he revealed.
A slight smile started to form on Duncan's lips, but was gone when Richie began to speak again. He knew it was coming, but he didn't want to face it. He didn't want to have to admit to himself that he wasn't sure of her anymore.
"So who is this Alexandra Payne? That is one beautiful woman," he said, drawing out his words.
Duncan yawned. He wasn't quite functioning the way he should be. Alex hadn't let him get much sleep. He was going to tell Richie because he needed his young friend's input. He needed to know if what Alex had told him was possible. If she could be immortal but not be felt.
"We knew each other about two hundred years ago. It was in London. To say the least, we were very close. I don't think I've ever been so close to anyone since," he began.
Richie interrupted with, "What about Tessa and Ann?"
Duncan smiled wryly. Count on Richie to add more painful questions."Not even with them, though I've loved all three
differently. Alex was my equal, though, my perfect mate. I didn't find that with Tessa or Ann. I didn't tell her what I was right away, though. I wasn't sure she could accept it and I was absolutely terrified of losing her. I knew she was a strong woman, but you can never be sure. We were going to an engagement ball and I decided that I would try to make it ours as well. I was going to tell her after the dance was
over and ask her to be my wife."
Duncan got through that part okay. His voice was strong, his jaw set. Even so, that all slowly wore down as he continued his next words."I lost track of her at the dance and I began to look for her. I'm not sure how I knew, but something
terrible had happened". Duncan swallowed convulsively,
his throat trying to stop the words that had dropped to a whisper. He had to say them. He knew now that Alex hadn't died in that room like he thought, but the image they brought still hurt him.
"I found her in a room upstairs with a steward. His throat had been torn out and Alex had been run through with a chair leg. For all appearances she was dead. I attended her funeral, went to her home to get my things. She had every chance to contact me, but she didn't. I never heard from her nor did I ever expect to. Last night, I was attacked in an alley and as I was healing, she just appeared. I never had any idea she was an immortal," Duncan finished.
Duncan had lied about something. Some part of him had always expected to see Alexandra again. He couldn't explain why, but something deep back in his memories would prick him every now and again, and it told him she was alive. He could never catch it enough to examine the thought. He could see her beautiful face by firelight, pleading with him, but he couldn't remember why.
Richie listened carefully, knowing that this woman had to be something very close to MacLeod. He was the sort of man who did not allow his emotions to play over his face unless they were beyond his control. He'd only seen Mac this distraught when Tessa had been killed.
"Mac, this is weird. I've never heard of an immortal who could not be detected or detect. Have you?" he asked.
Duncan looked at Richie heavily. He had voiced the doubt that had been in Duncan's mind. He was so desperately hoping for someone to give him one small beam of light to hold on to, but he knew it was not to be.
"No, I never have," he replied, "and I've met quite a few immortals in my time. But how else can you explain all of this? I know it's not some sort of con. She recognized me from the very start and we've discussed things that only she and I knew. Besides, there can't be anyone else walking around with her features. They are too perfect to ever be
duplicated," he finished.
Richie shrugged."I don't know. Maybe she's another type of immortal. Like us, but with different features. I mean, not
being detected means that you are passed by and never
challenged. She would never lose her head unless she
told people," Richie offered.
Duncan shook his head wearily. He wasn't sure about
anything anymore. He had never been told of any other
type of immortal and he'd never met another. Of course, how could he meet them unless they approached him? They wouldn't register as immortals to him so he would think them mortals. This new revelation heartened him a little. If that was true, then Alex could truly stay with him forever.
"I don't know and I'm not going to care. I'm just glad to have her back," he replied, more to himself than Richie.
Richie looked over at his friend strangely. He didn't like Duncan's tone at all.
"I've never known you to not want to get an explanation of things," he commented. Duncan stared at the ceiling, at the whirls and bumps, finding pictures in their pattern. Every one formed her face. His eyes were burning from exhaustion.
"Perhaps it's time I learned to trust a little more," he replied, his voice soft.
Even as Duncan lay back to sleep, Richie stared at him, wide awake and not pacified. Duncan was acting very out of character. He wasn't the type to look the other way when something was going on. And Richie knew something was going on. There was something strange about Alexandra Payne. She may be immortal, but he couldn't help but feel that she wasn't what they thought at all.