Title: Enchantress: 02 The Lighthouse
Author: Daydreamer
Written: March 1999
Rating: NC-17
Category: V PWP
Keywords: Sk/O
Archive: Yes, please.
Feedback: Yes! Please!

Disclaimer: Skinner is owned by Chris Carter, 1013 Productions, Fox Television Network, etc. He is wonderfully brought to life by Mitch Pileggi. I will make no profit from this, and neither will Fox if they sue me, for I am exceedingly poor and have nothing material they can profit from.

Summary: While taking some mandated leave time, Skinner meets a mysterious woman.


Damn 'use or lose' rule. He hated it. He'd never been one for time off much beyond his regular schedule. He knew the need for recreation. Both body and mind demanded change from the day to day grind. And he met those needs. He ran. He hit the weights. He boxed. And he read. Damn it -- he was an adult; he didn't need Uncle Sam dictating his leisure time requirements.

He sighed, then reached out a hand to steady himself on the deck as the ferry lurched when it left the dock. He took a moment and looked around. The sky was a peerless Carolina blue, pristine white laughing gulls dancing in the gentle breeze. A deep breath now, and he was drinking in the air's crisp saltwater tang so familiar to the coast, watching as a few smaller birds mixed in with the gulls -- all begging scraps from the ferry's passengers.

He hadn't wanted to be here, but it was shaping up to be a nice couple of days. One thing he'd learned in his twenty some years in government service -- don't let them hold all the cards. Hee'd gotten caught by the damn 'use or lose' rule a few times in the past, always at the end of the year. Then he'd been stuck with mandated leave right at the holidays. Not the time a man like himself wanted free. Holidays were a bitch as it was; work helped make it a little better.

He smiled grimly. He'd learned. Now he took two and three day 'breaks' throughout the year, making sure he used what he had to use to stay off Personnel's list. This little expedition to Ocracoke Island was one of his breaks. It was a place rich in history, full of fascinating stories and legends, yet far enough away that he might convince himself he'd really gotten away from it all.

He had a reservation at a bed and breakfast and planned to spend the remaining time on the island hiking and exploring. Still a rather rustic fishing village, the island had acquired a good-sized tourist industry over the years. It made for a nice mix; he had the modern day conveniences and luxuries at the bed and breakfast, but the village itself, and the surrounding National Park areas were preserved almost as if from another era.

The ferry reached the dock, and he went to collect his small bag. There was an open air trolley to take visitors back to the town center, and he boarded quickly, taking a seat at the rear and away from the other guests. When they reached the inn, he checked in and found his room. He was pleased to see he had a small balcony off the second story room, with a wooden rocker just waiting for someone to while away a lazy afternoon.

He kicked off his shoes, and changed into jeans and a cotton polo shirt. He'd never quite shaken that inbred training that required him to travel in full business attire, even when traveling on personal time. Comfortable now, in short sleeves and bare feet, he dug through his bag and grabbed the small history of Ocracoke Island he had bought that had originally piqued his interest and caused him to make this trip.

He padded out to the wooden balcony, plopped downin the rocker and gave a sigh of contentment. Thiswas nice. As much as he fought this mandated leavetime, when he planned it right, he invariably foundhimself enjoying these small breaks in routine thathe sprinkled throughout the year.

The still warm autumn air wrapped him in a comfortingembrace, and he kicked back, propping his feet on therail before him. From where he sat, he could seethe ocean, waves lapping rhythmically at the shore.The town was to the left and behind him and on thefar hill, to his right, the Ocracoke Lighthouse roseinto the cloudless blue sky.

He browsed the small book, reading of the initialsettlement in the New World. History had alwaysbeen a passion for him, but today, it was all the moreinteresting as he was able to look up from the bookand see some of the landmarks mentioned in thestories he read.

"Colonists traveled through the Ocracoke inlet,Trinity inlet, or perhaps even the Hatteras inlet,and made their first settlement on Roanoke Islandin 1587." Skinner sighed, and closed the book,one finger holding his place. He closed his eyes,feeling himself drift off.

The next thing he knew he was on the beach,the tang of salt filled his lungs and moist sandoozed between his toes. He looked down, shocked.He never left his house in bare feet. It was asingrained in him as the need to travel in a suit.He had no memory of the walk over, but finallyshook off the odd sense of disorientation, andshrugged. He must have been lost in thought. Hestood looking out over the water, water tinged goldand orange in the light of the setting sun. It wasbeautiful, peaceful, almost magical. Like a placeout of time.

He scanned the shore again, surprised to findhe was totally alone. It was well beyond the summerseason, but he hadn't been alone on the ferry over.There were other tourists here. And even the localsmust occasionally come to the beach. He drewa deep breath of the sharp, clean air. It was odd.He looked around again, a growing sense of unease surrounding him, but the tranquility of the placecaptured him. He felt something *shift* and he relaxed,content to enjoy this moment of quiet, this momentout of time. The word "enchanted" crossed his mind,and he felt a sudden sense of deja vu, and turnedhis head again, rapidly scanning the deserted beach.Shaking his head, he mentally berated himself forparanoia worthy of Mulder.

He turned again, stepping back to dry sand and sat,facing the endless sea, eyes gradually being drawn toan object far out on the water. He stared, unable tomake it out clearly, but watched with quiet contentmentas it bobbed gently on the ocean surface, seeminglyuntouched by the surrounding waves. It carried a spaceof peace around it, and as Skinner watched, the objectslowly began to resolve itself, coming more fullyinto his view.

Mouth falling open, he jerked himself to his feet,squinting through the evening dusk. The objectwas a woman, and as he watched, she movedslowly toward him, born on the crest of thewaves as Aphrodite herself, springing forth fromthe salty foam. Rooted in place, he watched indisbelief as she made her way through the water,seemingly untouched by waves crashing aroundher.

As she left the water and moved toward him, itfinally registered in his fogged brain that thiswoman was walking to him -- from out of the sea! The white of her clothing merged with thewhitecaps of the waves and for a moment hethought she was nude. Her wet garments clungto her curves, a long skirt trailing behind her,jet black hair falling nearly to her waist.

He shook off his immobility and moved swiftlyforward, offering her his hand, which she tookwith a small smile. "H - how?" he stammered,as he helped her up the beach. She held his handand allowed him to lead her away from thewater-line, then looked down to his feet.

"You've gotten your pants legs wet," shecommented softly.

Skinner shook his head impatiently, consumedwith the need to know how she had arrived here,concerned she might be injured.

"Are you all right?" he finally asked, lookingdown into her dark eyes.

"Oh, yes," she answered dismissively. Shewaved one hand in a loose gesture back tothe sea, "I'm fine."

Skinner realized he had unconsciously putone arm around her as he walked her upthe sand, and she had drawn next to him,chilled in the cooling night air. He tightenedhis grasp on her, and she made no move topull away.

"You're cold," he said, and she shrugged."You need to get out of those wet clothes."

She arched an eyebrow at him and teased,"Here? Now? But we've only just met, Sir,"and Skinner felt himself blush red beneathher gaze, even as he felt the first stirrings ofarousal that accompanied having a wet and wiggling woman pressed firmly against hisside.

"Not what I meant," he said gruffly.

They stood there a moment, then she noddedand turned to look back out over the ocean.He was filled with conflicting emotion.He felt obligated to take her back to the town,help her get warm and dry -- how much help, Walt? his traitorous mind asked -- and hewanted very much to know what had ledto her appearance out of nowhere. But sheseemed reluctant to talk and he began towonder if she was in shock. If so, he wascertainly not helping matters by standing here,one arm wrapped around her.

She moved then, stepping around to face himand his other arm came up, encircling her,and he was embracing her.

"Better," she purred. "Now I'm not so cold."

Skinner could feel the heat radiating fromhis groin, feel the flush that spread upwardover his chest, crawled up his neck, and oncemore colored his face. "You should getinside. I should take you inside somewhere."

"So now you want to go inside?" She laughedand he was captivated by her music. "I supposeyou still want me to get out of these wet clothes,too, eh?"

Though he hardly felt it possible, yet anothersurge of blood pooled below his waist, and heflushed more deeply. Who the hell was she?Where had she come from? Why was shehere? The questions buzzed through his head,but he found himself incapable of puttingvoice to them. He continued to stare downat her, growing more lost in her eyes witheach passing minute. Who was this woman?

She tolerated his searching gaze for longmoments, standing still and easy in thecircle of his arms.

"Tourist?" she asked finally, and he nodded.

"From DC." He paused, considering his nextwords. "Where did you come from?"

"You know the area?" She seemed to ignorehis question.

This was an odd conversation to be havingwith a mysterious woman, a woman who had*walked* out of the ocean and who was nowclinging to him, her every breath evoking a mostungentlemanly response, her every movement arousing him more. This was not the first timehe'd held a woman in his arms, and he beratedhimself for his lack of control.

She smiled up at him, almost amused, and for amoment he wondered if she had read his mind.

"You know the Lost Colony is near here?"

He nodded cautiously.

"A thriving colony, the first English baby bornin the New World was born there."

"Virginia Dare, yes, I know," he answered.

"Then some of the men sailed home to England,and when they returned -- poof! -- nothing. No signof the settlers or of where they had gone." She cocked her head up at him, smiling most beguilingly,and added, "People have been disappearing aroundhere for centuries."

"But you didn't disappear," he said, appalled to hearthe flirtatious tone in his voice.

"Perhaps I just appeared in the same way."

He nodded again, wondering where this strangeconversation was heading.

She turned her head to stare out over the oceanand he turned as well. Her hands were locked inthe small of his back and her head rested againsthis chest, just under his heart.

"I can feel your life," she whispered, and heflushed again, wondering if she referred to hisheart, hammering beneath his ribs, or tosomething else.

"Where did you come from?" he demanded again,his own confusion and mounting frustrationmaking him sound gruff and insistent.

She laughed again, a high tinkling note thatsang to his heart and he knew she was goingto tease him again.

"First you want to get me out of my clothes,then you want to take me inside somewhere.I had high hopes for you, Walter." She shookher head in mock disappointment. "Now youtell me you don't even know where people come from ..." Her voice trailed away, andwhen she looked up to see the mixture ofbewilderment and disbelief on his face, shelaughed again, tickling him under his ribsuntil she drew a deep, reluctant chuckle from him.

She drew away slightly, then led himup to the dry sand and gently pushed himdown to sit. He moved on autopilot,allowing her to position him, offeringno resistance, and the last vestiges of hisrationality questioned whether he'd forgottenhis sanity when he had packed that morning.

She settled down before him, between hislegs, and leaned back against his chest.His arms once more wrapped around herand he felt his erection, which had faded tohalf-mast at the absence of her touch, leapback to readiness. He groaned softly whenshe wiggled and slid back against him more tightly.

"Who are you?" he asked.

"Shhh," she whispered. "Watch the water.It's very soothing, isn't it?"

He nodded mutely, staring out at the waves,watching as they rolled methodically intothe shore. Who was this woman? Why wasshe here? Hell, for that matter, why was hehere, instead of insisting that she come to the town, the inn, the clinic, somewherewhere she could be warm and dry, and tellher tale. Somewhere where she could explainhow she just happened to *walk* out of thewater.

"Do you like the area?" she asked suddenly,rousing him from his reverie.

He looked down at her, then murmured, "Thisarea is very nice," as he tightened his grasparound her waist. The words had escaped himbefore he thought, and when she laughed oncemore, he again colored, relieved for once thatshe wasn't watching him to see his befuddlement.

"Ahh, Walter," she murmured, "you think youknow yourself, but your body betrays you."She rolled in his arms, coming up on her kneesto face him, her face inches from his own."*I* know you better than you know yourself."

She leaned forward, her lips gently brushing his,a feather touch. She kissed his cheek then trailedkisses over to his ear and down his neck. His mindwas insisting he end this, that he be sensible,that he be reasonable, but his body remainedpassive, allowing her touch, her taste, her temptation.

He was breathless when she pulled back, andwishing very much that he had worn the fullercut jeans. She turned in his arms again, sittingonce more, and he rested his chin on the topof her head.

The sun had finished its downward journeyand the beach glittered in the silvery moonlight.Stars reflected off smooth patches of oceanand a gentle breeze perfumed the air with thescent of autumn flowers. He felt his eyesdrift shut, wondering at his curious ease withthis woman, his contentment to sit here witha relative unknown.

Through his half-asleep stupor, he heard herask, "Do you know where the lighthouse is?"and he nodded. Thinking back, he rememberedseeing it from the balcony of his room.

"There's a cemetery there," she continued.

"A cemetery?"

"Yes, a cemetery. A graveyard. Where dead peopleare buried." She laughed again, then tilted her headto look back over her shoulder at him. "Cemeteriesare best visited at midnight, you know."

"Oh," he answered, wondering how on earth hehad suddenly become so inarticulate. It musthave something to do with the fact that all the blood in his brain seemed to have drained to asouthern location.

He lifted his knees, bending forward slightly asthe woman placed her arms around them andleaned slightly to one side. He was still holdingher, her clothing still clung damply to her everyswell and curve. Her head rested comfortablyagainst his arm and he found himself stroking herhair. Rhythmic strokes, soothing, keeping timewith the waves that flowed gently against thesand. His eyes were drifting shut again, whenhe felt her turn, felt her lips brush his, her handtouch his chest, then trail lower until her fingertipsdanced lightly over his straining erection.

"Midnight, Walter, at the lighthouse." The wordswere whispered against his ear, her breath warmwhere it brushed his skin. He nodded mutely, unable to move, unable to open his eyes, unableto shake the lassitude that encompassed him now.

He felt himself drifting, sliding away on asense of comfort and ease, and was startledwhen there was a sudden thump - a sound ofsomething heavy landing on wood. He listeneda moment, trying to make sense of the sound. How could something strike wood? He wason the beach, right? With his mystery woman.

He opened his eyes, and looked around. He wasback in the rocker, on the wooden balcony, andthe thud had been the sound of his book hittingthe deck when it had slipped from his sleep-heavyfingers. He shook his head groggily. So it hadall been a dream. Beneath his jeans, he couldstill feel his erection straining the fabric, and hehad to smile. A *very* realistic dream, that muchwas sure.

He shivered slightly in the cool, evening air,and stood, then immediately froze, his eyesgrowing wide with shock. Looking down,he stared in growing disbelief, at his sandcovered feet, and the still damp hems of hisjeans.

End part 1/2

Title: Enchantress: The Lighthouse 02/02Author: DaydreamerAuthor E-mail: Daydream59@aol.com

Dinner had been superb. Skinner had dressed for themeal, back into the suit he'd worn on the trip over. Itwasn't a formal meal, and he could have worn hisjeans, but he'd quickly become uncomfortable in them,unable to explain the sand and salt that clung to thebottoms.

He'd remained on the small deck for a while,reliving the memory? vision? dream? again, andfighting the temptation to ease his arousalhimself. Such solitary pleasures no longer heldthe same enjoyment they had when he wasyounger, and in the end he suffered throughan icy shower before changing back into hissuit and heading down the stairs.

The small restaurant on the first floor of the innlived up to its reputation. The meal was outstanding --an array of local seafood, all fresh and prepared toperfection. He'd enjoyed the quiet, the good food,the opportunity to observe the inn and its guestsas he relaxed over coffee. He'd long ago masteredthe knack of eating alone comfortably, havingdecided early on in his career that he was *not*going to live on fast food meals and food that camein cardboard containers as some agents seemed todo.

The restaurant was busy, apparently a favorite withlocals as well as the tourists, and he found himselflooking up expectantly each time the door opened.In his mind, he knew the woman from the beach,hell the whole beach itself, had just been his vividimagination. But his heart pulled his head around,staring at each new person who walked through theFrench doors and was seated at a table.

He was on his third cup of coffee when the ownerwalked over and spoke. "Is everything OK,Mr. Skinner?"

Skinner blinked and looked up, drawn froman especially powerful recollection of the sceneon the shore -- or his dream -- he still wasn't surewhich. It had to be a dream, didn't it?

"Mr. Skinner? Sir?" The man spoke again,and Skinner realized he had never responded.

"Oh, yes, everything's fine. I'm sorry, I waslost in thought," Skinner managed to mumble.Beneath the table, he was very glad he'd lefthis napkin in his lap through coffee and dessert.It was hiding a rather remarkable expressionof the realistic mind trip back to the beach this man had interrupted. And the effects of hisearlier shower had all been erased. Damnhis vivid imagination anyway.

He managed to compose himself enoughto compliment the man on the meal, andtell him how nice the room was. They chatteda bit longer, Skinner sharing his plans fora hike the next day and the innkeeper offering points of interest to visit.

"It's behind the lighthouse," the man said inanswer to his query about the graveyard. "TheBritish cemetery. We had German subs offthe coast for both of the Wars, and they sunka fair share of ships. In the first War, someBritish sailors were rescued by boys from theLifesaving Station, but the Brits in the secondWar weren't so lucky. The bodies were recovered and interred in the cemetery by the lighthouse."

Skinner nodded. He'd read this tale in his book,but it was interesting to hear the islander tellit. Perhaps he would stop by and see the graveyard --but certainly not tonight, and certainnly not atmidnight.

************************************

It was 11:30, and he'd been tossing in bedfor almost an hour. He'd tried to read hisguidebook to the island but it hadn't heldhis interest. He'd tried to read the newscience fiction novel he'd brought, but hadfound himself staring at the words as ifthey'd lost their meaning. He'd turned the television on -- for all of five minutes,before shutting it off in disgust. He'dnever been so jumpy and uneasy before,and all because of some damn dream.

He could see the lighthouse through thebalcony doors from where he lay on thequeen-size bed. It winked steadily into themisty night, the oldest lighthouse still inoperation on the Eastern coast. It had cost a ridiculously low amount by today's standards,about $11,000.00. But of course that had beena fortune when Noah Porter built the thingin 1823. At seventy-five feet, it was theshortest lighthouse on the North Carolina coastand could only be seen for 14 miles. Damnlight. That had to be what was keeping himawake.

He threw the covers off and rose, stridingquickly to the dresser where his bag lay open.A walk. He needed a walk. Just to clearhis head. Getting out in the night airwould settle him, help him relax, makehim sleep. He pulled a pair of sweat pantson, refusing to think about why he choseloose clothing, then a T-shirt emblazonedwith FBI on the back and finally a hoodedsweatshirt. It was going to be cool outthere. He slipped bare feet into sneakers,grabbed his key and wallet, then hesitatedas he looked at his gun. It was lying neatlyin its holster, tucked securely into a pocketof the overnight bag. He stared at it indecisively,before finally reaching out and lifting it. Heshed the sweatshirt, strapped the holster aroundhis chest, and pulled the jacket back on. Then,with one last look at the lighthouse through thedoors to the balcony, he headed out for his walk --just to clear his head.

He wandered aimlessly at first, but everywherehe turned the lighthouse was there. The lightwas a steady visual metronome, winking itswarning to sailors and sea creatures alike,watching over the small island, seeminglyprotecting all who were within its sight.He tried to lose his mind in other thoughts,but the light was always there, beckoninghim, calling him, weaving a spell aroundhim and before long he found himself movingin that direction. The flash of the lighthousecut the darkness with a regular beat, and hecould hear the waves pounding the shore as thetide came in. The ocean meeting the beach,the sound of his feet marking out the stepstoward the light, and the light itself, winking unceasingly into the void of the night, all casttheir mesmerizing enchantment around him, andhe realized he wanted to see the light,at night, when it was operating. He wantedto see the light *now.*

It was a bit of a hike to the old light, butSkinner was in good shape and made goodtime. Once he'd decided to go to the light,the unsettled feeling that had dogged him allevening had evaporated, leaving only a sensation of excitement and anticipation.

As he approached the imposing beacon,he felt it was staring down at him, watchinghis every step, measuring his worth as aman. He stared back up at the light, timeceasing to flow; how long had he been out here?He started to look at his watch, a habit longingrained, but stopped as he realized that forthis moment, this place, time didn't matter.He felt something *shift* around him, a familiarfeeling that he couldn't place, but knew he hadexperienced before. It almost brought himback to alertness, almost chased the drowsycontentment away, but before he could fully process what was happening, there was a deepbong from a church in the town, and as he stared,half-hypnotized up into the single eye of the lighthouse, the clock marked out twelve, andmidnight had arrived.

There was a touch on his back, and he knewinstinctively it was her.

"I knew you'd come," she purred, her handsrunning possessively over his back andshoulders. "I know you better than youknow yourself."

His erection was back. It had leapt tolife at her first touch, an electric spark thatseemed to flow directly from her hands tothe very center of his being. He foughtfor self-control; it had been years since he'd been governed by his libido, and hewas damned if he'd allow it now.

"Who are you?" he said, shocked at thehoarse whisper that escaped his throat.

"I thought you decided I was a dream,Walter," she whispered back, her voicelow and seductive.

"How," he paused swallowing hard, thenwetting suddenly dry lips, "how do youknow my name?" She'd called him byname this afternoon, too, and he hadn'teven realized it. What the hell was happeningto him?

"What's happening to you, Walter?" shemurmured, echoing his thoughts to him.

He struggled with himself for a moment. Herhands had never stopped moving, and her touchwas warm, inviting. But this was crazy. Thiswoman, this strange, unknown woman hadwalked out of the ocean this afternoon. Thatalone was enough to make the whole damnedencounter an X-File, but then, she knew hisname. More than that, she knew *him.*

Her hands traveled around to his chest, herbody pressed firmly up against his back. Hecould feel her nipples, firm and erect, wherethey pressed insistently against his back. Herhands moved slowly over his chest, an eroticmassage that he seemed unable to stop. Thiswas ridiculous. He could stop her if he wantedto. She was small, just over five feet tall, andcouldn't weigh more than 110. He could stopher with a gesture, if he wanted to. But heseemed rooted in place, his eyes drawn backup to the light that watched this eerie seduction.

"Do you want me to stop, Walter?" she askedas her hands dipped below his waist for the firsttime. She cupped him through his sweat pants,holding him gently in her hand, then slowlystroking the length of him.

He groaned in the darkness, unable to speak,but shook his head, *no.* God help him, he'dlost his mind. At best this was public indecency;at worst, well, he couldn't think clearly enoughto determine the 'at worst.' But no, he didn't wanther to stop.

"What do I call you?" he managed to ask.

She laughed and pulled back from him, dancinglightly beyond his arms when he reached for her."You don't need to call me," she teased, "I'malready here."

He nodded soberly. In some weird way, thatmade sense. As much sense as anything elsethat had happened since he'd reached the island.She took his hand and led him around to theother side of the lighthouse, down a narrowpath and into the cemetery.

"I love the peace of this place at night," shesaid, coming into his arms again. "I'm athome with the spirits of warriors."

At his quizzical look, she gestured at thegraves. "British sailors, fighting in WorldWar II. Warriors." She traced the outlineof his holster, fingers resting lightly on theweapon itself. "You're a warrior, Walter.I think it was your warrior soul that calledto me."

"I thought I didn't have to call you," heteased, relieved that his brain seemed to befunctioning at last.

"Touche," she responded, tugging at thezipper to his sweatshirt. "But, my warriorWalter, this has to come off."

He wasn't resisting, but he was curious. "Why?"

"No guns in the lighthouse."

"We can't go in the lighthouse."

She had his sweatshirt off now, and wasunbuckling the holster, pulling it off, and hefound himself once more wondering when hehad taken leave of his senses. That he wouldlet this woman -- a woman he didn't even know --remove his weapon. He must be insane.

Or this was just another dream. He thoughtfor a moment. That had to be it. Anotherincredibly realistic dream. She was placinghis weapon on a gravestone, and moving backinto his arms, her body rubbing firm against his own. Without his jacket, the night wascool, but he hardly felt it as the woman continuedto move within the circle of his arms.

Every cell in his body was alive, swarmingwith an inner energy he hadn't felt inyears. He tightened his arms around thewoman, snarling his fingers in her hair totilt her head upward, then lowered hismouth to cover hers. He kissed her hungrily,feeling her open beneath his touch, acceptinghim, welcoming his gentle assault. Whenhe could breathe no more, he pulled reluctantlyaway, drawing in a gasping breath of the salt-tinged air.

"You're a thief," he accused.

"A thief? Really, Walter, this is pirate country,not thieves."

He smiled in the dark, the lighthouse aboveflashing its steady warning to those on the sea,as she moved against him, her head comingto rest over his heart. "Edward Teach," he said.

"Blackbeard. He had a home here on theisland you know."

"So I've read." He stroked her back lightly.The garment she was wearing -- was it thesame as this afternoon? -- was light, gauzy,and seemingly wrapped around her with noobvious means of removal. He continuedwhat he hoped was a surreptitious explorationof her clothing, not seeing her predatorysmile against his chest. "Are you telling meyou're a pirate?"

She ignored his query, offering instead, "It's howthe island got its name. When Edward faced hisfinal battle, he grew tired and longed for it to end.'O crow, cock! O crow, cock!' he called, beggingfor the light of day." She sighed, a sad little noisehe found most curious. "That wretch Maynardbeheaded him and his headless body swam roundthe ship seven times before he gave up." Shesmiled up at him, seeming to shake off her temporary melancholy. "His treasure was neverfound. It's said no one even knows what it is ..."

She stretched on tiptoe, her mouth coming torest against his, and he jumped slightly atthe electric touch of her tongue againsthis lips. She kissed him softly, then settledback on her feet, looking up at him. "Come,"she said, taking his hand and steppingaway.

He followed docilely, half-convinced thiswas a dream and he would wake in the bedin the inn at any moment. But since he haddenied himself his solitary pleasure earlier,he wasn't too sure he wanted to fight anywet dreams that might choose to visit himthis night.

"Where are you from?" he asked as she ledhim to the lighthouse door.

"You ask a lot of questions," she answered.

"I'm curious."

"Curiosity killed the cat."

"I'm not a cat."

"No," she looked appraisingly at him, "but there'sa sort of feline grace about you. An economy ofmotion, a studied intent in every movement. And the coiled strength of a big cat, just waiting topounce on unsuspecting prey ..." Her voicetrailed away to nothingness, and he found himselfblushing under the scrutiny of her gaze.

"Are you unsuspecting prey?" he finally asked.

She laughed, smiling up at him as she pulledhim into the lighthouse. "Oh, I hope so," shemurmured, stretching up to kiss him again.The door closed behind him and there was asudden feeling of time accelerating. Therewas a room, then a bedroom, and he idly wonderedwhere the keeper was, or if the lighthouse evenhad one.

He kicked his shoes off, and then hands were tuggingat his shirt and he bent to allow the woman to removeit. His pants followed, and when he lifted his headagain, she stood before him, glorious in her nudity.Her alabaster skin seemed to glow from within, andthere was a gentle blush of excitement coloring herbreasts and cheeks. Her nipples rose in taut littlepeaks, and she moved forward slowly, her handscoming to rest on his torso.

She began to stroke him, light up and down motions,tiny little circles, a soft touch, then a deeper pressure.She kissed his chest, her tongue snaking out to ticklethe hairs that grew there and he shivered as hisarousal mounted. All thought of who she was,of why this was happening was gone. Flown assurely as the cock would crow at dawn. His abilityto think was gone completely, and he was a sensualistcreation, content to feel, to experience, to know onlythe pleasures of the flesh.

She dropped to her knees and he felt himself engulfedin a warm, tight, wetness, and he staggered from thesensation. He reached out and touched her, fingerstracing her shoulders, playing with her hair, evenas he fought for balance. He was climbing, movinghigher and faster than he'd ever moved before, andhe wondered if he was still on the ground.

Before things could end, he gave a mighty roarand jerked the woman to her feet. He swepther up into his arms and moved the few steps tothe bed, laying her down, then collapsing besideher. Her clever hands were on him again, andhe groaned as he fought for control. His own handswere on her, covering her body, moving of theirown accord over skin so soft it really did feellike silk, or maybe velvet. There was a moistnessin her center, a wet heat, that beckoned him, andhis hands moved there, feeling her arch beneathhis touch.

There was a flash of light, and he felt the womanstiffen, a strangled 'no,' escaping from quiveringlips. Something was so odd, so strange here, andhe found himself struggling to remember what it wasthat caused this sense of unease. His hands falteredin their exploration of her body, and she whimperedsoftly, then murmured, "He's mine." She was tuggingat him now, pulling him over her, and he resisted,not at all sure of what her unseen conversation meant.

"Come, Walter," she said encouragingly, and helooked into her eyes as she spoke. They were darkand black, the pupils huge, swirling with color and light. He stared, mesmerized, and felt that same,odd *shift* around him, and then he was relaxed,ready to enjoy this moment, in this place, with this woman.

She pulled again, and he rolled onto her, and intoher, and she moaned at the joining. He was aroused,excited beyond anything he'd felt in years, and hedoubted he would have much control. She moanedagain, her fingers digging into his back, urging himonward, harder, faster, deeper, and he did his bestto meet her silent demands.

He was climbing again, climbing the steps to thetop of the lighthouse, each upward movementbringing him closer to the light that warned,the light that welcomed, the light that watchedover them all. He moved up the stairs, faster,faster, the impact of each step crashing throughhis muscles, but he pushed on. He had to reachthe top. It was harder, taking all of his concentrationto stay the course, but he held on, hands gripping tightly to the sides as he continued to pull himselfup, higher and higher, always reaching for thelight.

There was sound then, a deep blare of a foghorn,and he roared as he reached the light, explodinginto tiny pieces, shattering into shards of self,swimming in the light, its warmth washing overhim, as he merged into the brightness that couldsee so clearly for miles and miles and miles. Themoment stretched on, an ecstasy of illumination,the epitome of pleasure -- he *was* the light -- andthen it was over, his being reassembling, scatteredbits of self reforming, and a sulky voice echoed inhis consciousness: "But he was mine." And thenhe was collapsing at the base of the beacon, outsidethe lighthouse, struggling to stay awake, but beingpulled into a sleep that could not be fought.


He woke in the inn as he had expected, thoughhow he ended up nude was a mystery. Thelighthouse was visible through the doors to thebalcony, a friendly sentinel watching over thewaters, over the island, over him. The sun hadn'trisen yet, the night was not over, but the sky hadthat pre-dawn glow that heralded day's arrival.He rose and showered, humming contentedly inthe warm spray. Wonderful dreams. Incrediblywonderful dreams. This really was a lovely littleplace. Perhaps he would come back.

He finished his morning ablutions, and crossedto his bag for clothing. Opening it, he quicklypulled on boxers and dug out his other jeans anda pullover. He was ready to close the case againwhen he noticed the zipper compartment wherehe kept his gun was partway open. He slidthe zipper the remainder of the way, then staredin dazed confusion at the empty space. Impatiently,he turned and searched the room quickly, butrepeatedly came up empty-handed. Finishing atlast, he straightened from his position on handsand knees by the bed, a look of disbelief and horrorcrossing his face.

Rising, he threw on his clothes, slipped intosandals -- his sneakers seemed to be missing aswell -- and made his way rapidly down the stairs of the inn. He moved swiftly out the door andheaded straight for the lighthouse -- and thegraveyard behind it. By the time he reachedthe path leading to the light, he was jogging,and he had burst into a full-fledged run whenhe reached the cemetery. He ignored the "DoNot Enter" sign and moved into the smallgraveyard, moving swiftly between the markersto the one that had immediately caught his eye.The gravestone that stood straight and tall,distinguished from all the others by the neatstack of clothing that sat upon it, his holsteredgun resting neatly on top.

He lifted the weapon gingerly, hefting it lightlyas his mind ran back over the events of the night.The spell the woman seemed to weave. The feeling that the light was looking out for him.Her murmured words that seemed to speak tosomeone other than himself. He sighed andlooked around. The lighthouse still blinked itswarning, but the sun was ready to break acrossthe horizon. Skinner stared out over the water,out into the sea, suddenly eager for this nightto be over.

"O crow, cock," he murmured, "O crow, cock."

He watched as the sun appeared, almost in answerto his words, then glanced up once more at thelighthouse before he turned to make his way backto the inn. If he hurried, he could catch themorning ferry. Somehow, this small island didn'tseem so idyllic anymore.

End

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