A Spice in the Blood: Part VI

electric wolf“You’re late.” Dussault’s deep voice rapped out at them from the shadowed doorway of the lodge. In the interior dimness, his golden eyes floated and burned like candles. Celeste clutched Jamie’s arm, unwilling to climb the steps to the porch and face the artist.

“We ran into Ridgeley on the way up, Lou. I ran him off.” Jamie studied the tops of his sneakers as though finding the meaning of life there, and Celeste felt the tension in him, his muscles readying themselves for flight. What kind of man was Dussault, to inspire such devotion and such fear? Her heart skipped and fluttered at the thought of sitting in the studio, alone with him.

Dussault was silent for a long moment, and then he stepped out into the light, coming to the edge of the porch to look down at them. “Did you? And did he go limping, Jamie? I think not.” Jamie made a tiny, moaning sound of grief and hunched smaller in his denim jacket. Dussault stared at him, and the harsh planes of his face softened from disapproval to affection. “No matter. I will have to have a discussion with Mr. Ridgeley, and soon. It is not a job for such youth. Celeste, my dear, the light flees. Come in. We begin painting today.”

Jamie looked up, smiling, his whole body thrumming with happiness, and thrust her forward. Dussault held out his hand, and she took it numbly, allowing him to pull her up the steps and draw her into the dusk behind the door.

***

“You fear me,” Dussault said. “It is written in every line of your body. You are coiled like a spring.” He flung down his brush and glared at Celeste from under knotted brows. She shuddered against the curved back of the chaise, her pulse leaping when he stood and approached her.

“Come, come, child. I won’t bite you. Stand here, just so, raise your chin.” He lifted her from her huddle and moved her about like a mannequin. She felt the light fall on her face from the skylight above and closed her eyes, listening to the leaves slide across the glass on the broom of the wind. “Ah, you begin to relax,” he breathed, his lips near her ear. “You are charmed by the music of the forest, yes?”

It was true. Safe behind her closed eyes, she was a different creature from the pitiful teenage girl who shrank from life. She expanded, she flowed, her senses awakened. Dussault stood close enough for her to feel the heat of him, but here, in her personal darkness, she did not fear his nearness. She was blindly aware of his strength, of the savage life that moved through him. He circled her, and her new awareness followed the light scuff of his feet, the smell of him that was tobacco, and wood smoke, and earth.

“We have begun all wrong,” he whispered. “I have been too distant, too severe. It is not merely your beauty I seek to capture, Celeste. It is your light. It must be free to blaze.”

“My light?” Celeste opened her eyes. Dussault stood before her, tall and lean, the picture of intense concentration. No one had ever looked at her with such attention. She felt disassembled, opened, her secrets scoured from her. She looked up at the greying skylight. The day was bleeding away.

“Do you understand how light is spirit? It is more important than facial expression, more honest.” Dussault smiled, a sharp and raffish gleam of teeth. Celeste felt the charisma of that smile as a physical touch, as though the white points of it had stroked possessively along her throat. “The quality of the light upon your hair, your … flesh, it tells me who you are. It is so much more than a play of shadows. It rises from you like a fragrance, like a spice in the blood.”

Celeste did not understand how light could be a fragrance. She only knew that Dussault was about to ask something of her, and she would either consent or flee. Whatever her decision, it would define her. She looked away from him at the fire making balletic leaps up the chimney. The studio was very warm, alive with darting gleams of firelight, and Dussault’s regard made her lightheaded. Something feverish and new lay coiled in her belly. It felt like fear and mad craving together.

“I had the sense of it immediately,” he said, and his fingers floated forward and brushed the pearl buttons of her blouse. Where they passed, the demure cotton parted. The buttons dropped to the floor and rolled lazily about the room. “Like calls to like, my dear.”

His hands waved aside the gauzy straps of her bra. She clutched her blouse against her thudding heart, and the silken sweep of her hair on her bared shoulders made her feel as naked as if she were entirely unclothed.

“I can’t,” she whispered, horrified to hear a strangled plea in her denial.

“You can’t – what?” he asked. His voice was soft, but there was laughter in it. Blood rushed to her cheeks, and she closed her eyes in shame. He opened the trunk that sat beside the chaise, and the old book of French poetry slid from it to thump on the floor. “Open your eyes, Celeste. I want to show you something.”

She peeked at him from under her lashes. He sat and smoothed something that looked like a fluffy rug over the back of the chaise. He pulled her down beside him and put her hand against the rug. Her eyes sprang open as her breath rushed out. It was a pelt of the thickest, softest fur she had ever touched, and it spoke to her in a language of primal sensuality. The joy of long limbs stretching over the moss and root tangle in headlong flight; an intoxicating perfume of earth, stone, and blood fizzing along nerves and arteries; a symphony of bird and insect song, grounded by the bass drum of a strong heart; passion, fierce and constant, given and returned. Her fingers flexed in the deep silver fur, and where she pressed it, a shimmering light arose. Her palm burrowed, greedy for more. She looked into Dussault’s tawny eyes.

“Is this a wolf’s fur?”

“Yes. Would you like to wear it while you pose today?”

She nodded. Dussault slipped to his knees in front of her and undressed her with grave care. Her skin glowed bare and ivory in the firelight, and then he drew the glorious pelt around her. As she fell under the spell of the wolf’s spirit, Dussault returned to his easel. She saw him there, painting, and she saw him running beside her through the ferns. She saw the light that told her who he was, and breathed its rare spice.

 

to be continued…

2 thoughts on “A Spice in the Blood: Part VI

  1. elizabethyon says:

    Thanks, Teresa! I have always loved Beauty and the Beast, too. Not the Disney version, but the old tale. I’ve always loved the Beast.

  2. Wow! Beautifully and seductively written! Beauty and the Beast was my favourite fairy tale as a child and I have loved stories that carry the same theme. I can’t wait to read more!

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