...The stable boy was nowhere around. Everything suddenly was dead silent, the air thick with the coming storm. Dar dismounted and went into the barn. It was unexpectedly warm in there, from the heat of a small efficient pot-bellied stove. But no one was there. No one.
A flash of white, around the hayloft columns. A crack of thunder suddenly in the distance.
"Ducas!!" The voice was musical, compelling, seductive. Behind him.
He whirled. "Jesus God who's there?"
"Ducas --" A voice pining for lost love, a flurry of skirts just by the tack room. Lightning crackled.
He leapt toward the tack room. "Who are you?"
"You must remember"
"I don't know who you are." He felt like a blind man, groping, feeling, missing everything. It was like talking to a ghost. He felt the dread of someone caught in a trap.
There was always a woman; why hadn't he realized Ducas would have one too. A seductive-sounding woman. Something unexpected to get in the way. Something unforeseen to trip him up.
"Who are you?" he asked resignedly. The rain started. Thunder rolled.
He could just see her in the dim light; she was beautiful, her sinuous body draped in a translucent gauzy white.
"Oh God," she whispered. "It's true. You don't remember?"
"I don't remember," Dar said brutally. He didn't need a woman complicating things, he didn't.
"Ducas" There was such yearning in her voice.
Too easy to let that silky voice turn all his intentions to mush. "I don't remember, so I'd appreciate it if you would just tell me who you are."
"I can help you remember," she murmured.
"Maybe I'd appreciate that," he said warily, pacing closer toward her. She noticed. "But not right now. Who are you?"
Angene cocked her head and stared at him in the lowering light. She'd had to come; how could she not come? She hadn't believed Gaetana. And she wasn't prepared for for the fact that he was a stranger and yet he was exactly the same. That he wouldn't know her and yet, he had known her so well.
Nothing about him had changed, except that. The dark hair, the world-weary features, the beautiful mouth, the long lean body, so tall, so proud and erect, this was her Ducas, the man who had made love to her in the hayloft of this very place, the man on whose honeyed promises she had lived.
And there was nothing. Just the blank look of wariness out of those sharp intelligent eyes that she had loved so well.
This was a moment, she thought. Who was she? Such an apt question. She could tell him anything, she could tell him the truth. But if he didn't remember, she could tell him the lie, she could make her one powerful desire a reality.
And with that, she could be the very thing she had always wanted to be, and no one could disprove it, ever. And maybe, in the throes of Ducas' recovering his memory, he would make it happen in reality.
At best, she had little to risk and nothing to lose. And she had already learned that the less she revealed, the more intriguing she became to Ducas, and she saw it was no less so with this stranger whom Ducas had become.
"Tell me who you are." His voice was gentler now he was even closer to her. She really was quite beautiful.
She backed away still further, almost to the stable doors, as thunder suddenly rolled and the rain came pouring down.
Lightning cracked again, limning her in eerie shadow.
"I wish you remembered," she whispered regretfully, as she edged out the door. "I'm Angene. I'm your mistress." And she vanished like a ghost into the rain.
THE FOREVER KISS