her going for his eyes, her fingernails tearing at him. He twisted away but she was on him again in an instant, gouging him. He felt one eye tear up and blur his vision, felt blood roll down his cheek. Pain and rage surged through him and he hit her, not open-handed as before but the way you hit a man, to stop him, hit her in the stomach and heard the breath whoosh out of her. She fell back on the bed gasping, then came at him again, fists flailing.
He grabbed her wrists, held them and forced her down on the bed, his full weight pressing on top of her. She rolled and bucked, sweat streaming off her face and body. She lurched at him, trying to use her teeth on his arms and neck. He kept them away from her. He held her. And finally she subsided.
“Don’t lie to me.”
“You want me to hit you again?”
“Is that it?”
“You want that?”
She rolled beneath him. Her hips pressed up to him. The blue eyes burned, the bruised moist lips hung open.
“Give me your hand.”
“Give me your hand, Robert.”
“Stop it. I’m telling you.”
“I’ll fight you all night long, Robert. I'm strong. You know that. I’ll do anything. Now give me your hand you son of a bitch!”
He stared at her. Then he released her. He pushed himself up away from her, leaning back. Her hips continued to writhe beneath him.
He extended his left hand.
She spread his fingers wide and pressed them to her breasts. She seemed to flush with the contact. Her breasts were slick with sweat.
It was a dream, erotic and awful. He would awaken, he knew, feeling as though he had slept with the dead.
“Hurt me,” she said. “Hurt me badly.”
And because he wanted to, he did.
Afterward he lay awake, only pretending to sleep.
There were two good reasons for that.
He felt as though he’d crossed a threshold now and wondered if it was even still possible to go back. His guilt was not only guilt but knowedge. She had goaded him, yes, angered him right to his limits and beyond but after that the crossing was mutual. They had not made love, they’d made combat. He’d hurt her all right-but hurt her because he needed to as much as because of anything she’d said or done. Only a part of him could plead insanity. The other part knew it was not her at all but had more to do with the death of a woman far away in New York City and the empty angry years that followed, the nursed and curdled anger that could no longer reach her, the questions that tormented him useless on his lips, to remain unanswered now forever. Why, Margot? What did I do? And why have you done this thing to me? That was one good reason to stay awake.
The other was fear.
He remembered what she’d said.
“Maybe you ought to be careful going to sleep tonight.”
His guilt hadn’t numbed his sense of her. His fear.
And he wondered-just how crazy was she? Did it only run to rough, punishing sex or was she capable of more? And worse?
Hurt me. Kill me. I dare you.
He had his guilt, his knowledge.
But he also had someone in his bed.
He looked at her. She looked peaceful now, her face composed and tranquil.
Jesus, he thought. Who is she?
What have I done?
He lay still and silent watching her and waited for sunrise.
JORDAN THAYER CHASE
Chase sat in the harbor where the tour boats departed for the grottoes and waited for Tasos, “Koonelee Tasos” to his friends-because at the age of seven