Italian Rhapsody Ch. 03bykevklein©
La Rocca, Cefalu, Sicily
Roxie awoke alone in the jeep. She rubbed her eyes and stretched. Suddenly realizing she was naked, she crossed her arms over her breasts and clasped her elbows. Memories of last night flooded her mind. Daniel's lips on hers. His hands and mouth on her body, giving her the ultimate pleasure. And her hand circling him. Giving him sexual release like he did her.
Sighing as she remembered the way his tender, intimate loving had made her feel, she sat up quickly and looked for him. A hundred jumbled thoughts rioted in her mind. Emotions of various kinds warred within her. She had allowed Daniel intimacies that should have been reserved for her real husband. She had given herself over completely to his desires, letting him do with her as he wanted. If he had asked for more, she would have given it to him. She would have given him everything. She should feel remorse and shame, but she didn't. There had been nothing ugly or dirty or evil about what she and Daniel had shared. The experience had been the most beautiful and profound moment of her life. And she still had her virginity.
But how did Daniel feel about what had happened? Somehow she doubted that their lovemaking held the same significance for him as it did for her. Glancing around, Roxie noticed her boots sitting on the tailgate beside her folded clothes. Morning sunlight filtered through the trees. She checked her watch. Eight o'clock. Why had he let her sleep so late? They should have resumed their trek up the mountain at dawn. She dressed hurriedly, groaning when she discovered her bra and panties were still slightly damp. Just as she stuffed her shirt into her pants and pulled up the zipper, Daniel approached the jeep. He held two metal cups in his hands. She slid off the open tailgate and met him. He offered her one of the cups. "Sorry it's not hot coffee. Fresh water will have to do."
"Thanks. Fresh water sounds great." She took the cup from him, deliberately letting her fingers brush across his.
When he looked at her, she smiled. He returned her smile. She had slept in his arms all night, her naked body nestled against his. He had rested in a half awake state. His instincts had warned him to be on guard for wild animals, for unexpected human intruders, and for a resurgence of passion. Realizing that she was his for the taking had made it all the more difficult not to make love to her again; fully and completely. No woman had ever held any power over him. No woman had ever been a fever in his blood. He sure as hell wasn't going to let some religious virgin wrap him around her little finger and make him vulnerable.
"Sleep well?" he asked.
"Like a baby." She took a sip of the cool water. "Why did you let me sleep so long? We should have gotten an earlier start."
"We both needed the rest." He finished his cup of water. "We might not have to do anything while we are here."
"What do you mean?"
"Vladimir and Giancarlo are doing the work for us. They have way more knowledge than we have. They are both former Mafia gangsters, so they know what to do."
"That is good news."
Walking past her, he leaned over into the jeep, pulled out their ration bag and rummaged in it. He retrieved the last two bananas and oranges, and held out one of each to her.
Roxie sensed the strain between them. She wondered if Daniel felt as awkward as she did. Probably not. After all, what had happened last night was hardly a new experience for him, even if it had been for her. She didn't like to think about how many other women he had given the same shattering ecstasy. Or about how many women had given him far more than she had. She stared at Daniel. He looked so big and powerful and almost savage in his wrinkled fatigues, with his long, black ponytail and his five days' growth of dark stubble. He cocked his head slightly, as if listening for the sound of predators. Sunlight hit the gold ring in his left ear. When he lifted his ponytail and flung it over his shoulder, Roxie stared at the coiled-cobra tattoo on his left hand. Her stomach tightened into knots. Dear Lord, this savage-looking man was the real predator. Dangerous and deadly. And yet every instinct within her cried out that she could trust him. That he would never harm her. That to others he might be a predator, but to her he was a protector.
After he had peeled an orange, he held it out to her. She lifted the fruit and brought it to her mouth. While nibbling on the juicy flesh of the orange, she watched Daniel as he peeled the other orange, lifted it to his mouth and bit into it hungrily. He lay the knife onto the tailgate.
Roxie shivered, remembering the vivid sensations of Daniel feasting on her body; the moist sounds, the musky smells, her own taste on his lips when he'd kissed her, and the hot, unbearable pleasure. Heat rose up her neck and flushed her face. She glanced away, not wanting him to realize what she was thinking. She nibbled on the orange, each bite lodging in her throat.
Picking up the knife, Daniel tossed the orange rinds aside, wiped his hands on his pants, and slid the knife under his seat in the jeep, then turned and looked at Roxie.
"As soon as you...uh...freshen up, we can drive into town," he said.
She nodded her understanding, took a couple more bites out of the banana and then tossed the skin into the trees. Relieving herself in the seclusion of the nearby thicket and washing her hands and face in the pond took a quick five minutes. When she returned to the jeep, she found that Daniel had cleared away the camouflage of limbs and was already behind the wheel. As soon as she climbed into her seat, he started the engine, but didn't shift the gears. He glanced at her.
She felt his heated gaze. Turn around and face him, she told herself. You can't pretend that what happened between the two of you last night didn't really happen. But she didn't want to face the truth, didn't want to accept the fact that, for him, last night had been nothing special. Instinctively, she knew he was going to say something that would break her heart.
Taking a deep breath, she glanced at him. He reached out and clasped her chin, cradling it in the hollow between his thumb and forefinger.
"There's no need to be embarrassed, Roxie."
"I can't help the way I feel," she said. "I've never done anything like that before and...and I've never allowed anyone to...to do those things to me. No man has ever made me feel the way you do."
He squeezed her chin. "Don't make a big deal out of this, okay? It all boils down to one simple thing; I'm a man and you're a woman. We both needed a little sexual release. So, I gave you pleasure, and you gave me pleasure. That's what happened. That's all that happened."
"That's all that happened." She repeated his words like a trained parrot.
"I admit that you might have lost a little of your innocence, but you didn't lose your virginity. You still have that to give to the lucky guy you'd marry for real."
He released her chin, turned around and shifted the gears. When he pulled the jeep onto road, Roxie leaned back against the seat and closed her eyes, covering her tears.
He was right; she hadn't lost her precious virginity. What he didn't know, what he must never find out, was that she had lost something far more valuable; she had lost her heart to him. She had gone and done it; she had fallen in love with him.
"You've got me confused with some imaginary man you've conjured up," he said when she again told him that he was a good man. "I have nothing in common with your brother. Don't kid yourself, lady. I barely have a soul anymore, and what's left of it sure as hell isn't good."
Roxie bit down on her bottom lip, as tears lodged in her throat. Poor Daniel. She had been right. He was tormented by demons. And those demons had convinced him that they were destroying his soul.
Closing her eyes, Roxie said a silent prayer. Dear Lord, give me the power to help cleanse Daniel's soul. Let him open his heart to my love for him.
Later in the day they were a few miles from the cabin when it started raining. Leaning back against a tree, Daniel pulled Roxie into his arms, pressing her close, as the rain soaked into their clothes. She lifted her face to his. He lowered his head. She parted her lips in unspoken invitation. His mouth covered hers with savage possession.
She clung to him, returning the passion of his kiss, ravenously taking from him and then giving back in full measure. He broke the kiss, gasping for air.Rising up on tiptoe, she kissed his pierced left earlobe. "Tell me about your first time."He chuckled, the deep sound resonating up from his chest. "Are you sure you want to hear this?"
"Now you have to tell me, and you know it." Lifting her arms from his waist, she draped them around his neck.
"I was fourteen the first time I got fu... I mean...uh...the first time I had sex."
Roxie's eyes rounded and her mouth dropped open. "Fourteen?"
"Yeah, I was a pervert when I was young."
"You!" Laughing, she poked him in the ribs.
He grabbed her jabbing hand and laid it over his heart. "Her name was Maria and she was my buddy's older sister. She was seventeen and a very experienced girl by the time she... Well, Maria had this thing. Whenever she made a man out of a boy, so to speak, she marked him with a tattoo on the back of the neck. Being seen bearing Maria's mark was quite a big deal in my neighborhood. You were envied by every guy."
Flushed with naive embarrassment, Roxie lowered her head, unable to look Daniel in the eye.
Tucking his fist under her chin, he lifted her face. "Are you sorry you asked?" He grinned wickedly.
"A little. But that's only half the story." She glared at him, looking lovely with her cheeks stained pink and her green eyes wide.
"What more do you want to know? Are you asking for details?"
She shook her head vehemently. "No. Well...maybe. As a matter of fact..."
"She was like the neighborhood prostitute. Men and boys went to her for sex. For a price, of course."
"Stop!" she said. "I don't need to hear any..."
Daniel kissed her quickly.
"Before my sixteenth birthday, I've gone through more than fifty partners."
Fifty! Roxie laid her head on Daniel's chest and listened to the steady beat of his heart. He held her, wanting her as he had never wanted another woman. That desperate need scared him. And he wasn't a man who scared easily. How had this happened? he wondered. How was it possible that his desire to have sex with this plump spinster had become interwoven with a gut-wrenching need to possess her completely; body and soul?
While they stood under the trees, wrapped in each other's arms, the rain slacked off and gradually stopped altogether. By the time he eased Roxie from his arms and turned her toward the road, he was painfully aroused.
They talked very little for the next couple of hours as they trekked up the narrow path. The distant rumble of thunder followed them as did dark, heavy clouds. Daniel was sure it would rain again tonight. Not hearing or seeing signs of any other humans was a lucky break for them. As long as they remained in this territory, they ran the risk of running into some Mafioso's.
"We'll stop soon," he said.
"I'm okay," she told him. "Don't stop on my account."
She was one stubborn woman, he thought. Her face was flushed, but a pale ring circled her mouth. Occasionally he caught a glimpse of her frowning. He knew the signs. She was in pain, but didn't want him to know. Didn't she realize by now that she didn't have to keep proving herself to him? He already knew how brave and strong she was.
"Well, I'm thirsty," he told her. "And I need to take a..." Booming thunder cut him off.
The swirling clouds obscured the late-afternoon sun. Knowing that night would come early because of the impending rainstorm, Daniel led Roxie in search of shelter. Surely there was shelter somewhere. All they needed tonight was one small hole in the mountainside.
They walked farther and farther from the road. And not a sign of a cave or even an overhanging boulder. If they didn't find some sort of shelter soon, they would be getting cold and wet.
"Look!" Roxie cried out, pointing ahead. "That's some sort of stone building, isn't it?"
La Rocca of Cefalù, the rock, known by the Phoenicians as Hercules promontory, is a massive spectacular calcareous crag with an altitude of 270 meters. The mythological and legendary origins tell of the importance of the area. A Greek myth tells of the love and despair of the handsome shepherd Daphnis, Sicily's Orpheus. He was blinded by the goddess Hera whose daughter he had betrayed, and was then transformed by the god Hermes into the huge crag that dominates Cefalù and that gave the place its name. The ancient Greek inhabitants saw it as a gigantic head, and 'head' is in fact the meaning of the town's name.
Sitting at the top of La Rocca there were the remains of the Cefalù Castle. The structure dated back to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. It had a rectangular plan of thirty-five by twenty meters. What was left of those ancient stones made it possible for experts to formulate a firm hypothesis on the layout of the castle which consisted of two towers and twelve rooms. The castle dominated the surroundings of Cefalù showing how important strategically La Rocca and castle once were.
Near the ruins of the fortress at the top of the rock of Cefalù were the remnants of the Temple of Diana, a Megalithic building which dated back to the ninth century BC. It is believed to have originally had a sacred function connected with local water worship, in fact, into it there is a cistern which also dated back to the ninth century. Because of its strategic position, which dominated the surrounding area, the building probably had a defensive role as well.
Thunder echoed throughout the mountainous region. A raindrop hit Daniel's face, and soon it came down harder. Hurrying to the mostly crumbled stone shelter, he led Roxie forward toward it. He stopped. Running into his back, she steadied herself by grabbing him around the waist.
"Take a look at this," he said.
Roxie eased around beside him. "Oh, my." She stared in awe at the sight before her.
The building lay in ruins. Grass and weeds grew up between the individual rocks comprising the floor.
Thunder rolled overhead. The rain increased in intensity. Daniel grabbed Roxie's hand and together they ran up the stone steps.
Drenched and breathless, they clung to each other as the rains came down in a heavy deluge. Lightning shot out of the sky and struck a nearby tree. Fire sparked between the severed limbs, but the rain doused the flames.
Roxie snuggled closer to Daniel, grasping the back of his damp shirt. "What is this place?" Her voice quivered.
"I'd say it was some sort of temple. Probably the Temple of Diana." He rubbed his hands up and down her arms. "You're shivering. Are you cold?"
"I'm just a little chilled, that's all. The rain is cold."
"I can't build a fire, but..." He hesitated making the suggestion. "I can pull out the sleeping bag and we can take off our wet clothes and..."
She laid two fingers over his lips. Her hand trembled. He kissed her fingers and eased her hand away.
"I'll spread out the sleeping bag and we can sit down and share body heat." Dropping his hands from around her, he stepped back a few inches.
Smiling weakly, she nodded. "Alright. You do that and I'll fill our cups with rainwater."
She set the cups out in the rain until they overflowed. She placed the cups on a carved niche in the stone wall and watched Daniel draw the sleeping bag out of the sack and lay it on the floor. Did he know how very tempted she had been to agree to his suggestion? The moment he mentioned taking off their clothes, her body recalled last night's pleasures. But if she gave herself over to her desires tonight, things would be different. And she was sure he knew that, too. The erotic experience they had shared last night would never be enough again. If he touched her tonight, he would ask her for more. And she would give it to him. She was already in love with him. She hadn't intended for it to happen. She had fought her feelings with all her strength. But she had come to realize that there was no point in fighting the inevitable. He was her destiny. And she was his. He might not realize it yet, but eventually he would. He could no more fight the powerful magnetism between them than she could. He probably thought that it was nothing more than lust, but he was wrong.
"Dinner is served, belladonna." He bowed gallantly.
There was that word again; fair lady in Italian. She picked up their cups and carried them across the shadowy area. Nighttime would soon encompass the old temple and seal them into a dark, safe hideaway. The ruins had no roof but they stayed against the wall in the corner. She handed him a cup, then sat down on the outspread sleeping bag. He sat down in front of her and handed her one of Vladimir's meals. He finished off the unknown foodstuff hurriedly, washing it down with the water.
Roxie ate more of the concoction than she'd thought she would, taking sips of water after every bite. The moment she finished her meal, Daniel shoved aside the empty containers and metal cups. Instinctively, she scooted away from him.
"I'm not sleeping in my wet clothes, so if you don't want to see me naked, you'd better turn around," he said.
She turned quickly, facing the opposite direction. Her heart beat wildly as images of his magnificent naked body flashed through her mind. Shivering from head to toe, she clasped her hands in her lap and prayed for the strength to resist temptation. She tried not to listen to the noises he made while he undressed. The thump of one boot and then another as they hit the floor. The swirl of air when he stripped off his shirt. The metallic sound when he unzipped his pants.
Daniel knelt behind her, and Roxie scooted to the edge of the sleeping bag. When he touched her hair, she jumped. Soothing her, he stroked his hand across her shoulder. She didn't move, barely breathed while he unbraided her hair. Keeping her back to him, she sat stiffly when he spread out the long, damp strands.
"I love your hair," he said, his voice low. "Even in this dim light it is lovely."
She swallowed hard. Cupping her shoulders with his open palms, he closed his hands over her wet sleeves in a tight grasp. She tensed momentarily, but when he lowered his head and nuzzled her neck, she gasped and let her body lean backward into his. Nuzzling aside her hair, he kissed her neck.
"You know how much I want you, don't you?" he whispered in her ear.
He eased his hands down and then back up her arms. She sighed. His fingertips trailed across her collarbone. His palms covered her straining breasts. Tossing back her head, she melted against him and knew that now there would be no resisting temptation, no turning back from the inevitability of what lay ahead for them. With fingers that had suddenly lost their dexterity, Daniel fumbled with the buttons on her wet shirt. She lay back against him, neither helping nor hindering his efforts. He stripped the shirt from her body, then unhooked her bra and tossed both shirt and bra toward the foot of the sleeping bag. Encompassing her breasts, he squeezed gently, then lifted them and stroked their peaks with his thumbs.
Roxie moaned from the incredible pleasure as he flicked her nipples into tight brown nubs. He placed a row of slow, damp kisses across one shoulder and then the other, all the while tormenting her breasts with his hands.
"I've never wanted anyone or anything in my whole life as much as the way I want you."
He slipped one hand down between her thighs and touched her intimately. She moaned as tremors rippled through her. "I will not take your virginity if you don't want me to. You've saved that for the man you'll marry for real someday, but we can give each other the same pleasure we shared last night."