"I brought ya somethin' to eat, such as it is." he said, setting down the tray, and turning to leave.
"Please, Willie, don't go! I can't stand to be alone."
His helpless fury gave way to pity and confusion. Every day he heard the same entreaty, dissolving into sobs. Grudgingly, she took the handkerchief he offered, but she wouldn't settle down. Would she never give up? Couldn't she understand that he had no choice? He had to drive to Bangor this afternoon; he had about a million and one chores to see to before dusk, not to mention the constant vigilance required to keep that nosy kid away from the house, yet Maggie's plea always got under his skin.
"Please, Willie, I've got to get out of here-"
"Now, ya know I can't let ya do that. I told ya." he said, knowing he should back away, while everything in him compelled him to stay with her, for even William Loomis possessed some decency, some vestige of gallantry, so unlike the mere facade of gallantry that Barnabas Collins displayed.
"Beats me how anyone could take him seriously, all that phony charm," thought Willie, continuing to regard Maggie Evans, pale, dirty and shivering, huddled in that cold basement cell.
"I won't try to run away, I promise," she beseeched him. "Please, just let me go upstairs and have a bath."
"Yeah, Barnabas, he forgets what it's like to be human." Willie chuckled, despite the life threatening circumstances of their captivity, his and hers, to the vampire. "Thinks a dab of that stale jasmine water's good enough."
Willie considered it a small success and joy when she bestowed the faintest of smiles upon him, because God knew, there was nothing about this half life in the Old House that inspired cheer. But Maggie herself was a ray of sunlight, a ray of hope, and that light of goodness was what Barnabas had seen in her-or was it? No, Barnabas didn't see her at all. He couldn't see the girl for the knock-out she truly was, only projected upon her the likeness he wished to see, only a shadow of the prim French miss he'd lost. That Josette couldn't have been half as pretty, Willie mused, and not half as clever as Maggie Evans.
"Okay, but ya gotta be quick, and keep your word."
"I will!" she enthusiastically vowed.
"I'll come for ya an hour after sunrise"
"Oh, thank you! You won't regret it." she assured him.
"Hey, it's nothin'." he laughed. "Try and get some sleep, now."
But contrary to Willie's statement, they both knew it was no small risk that he was taking, agreeing to take Maggie upstairs while Barnabas "slept." If discovered, his disobedience would result in some unimaginable, brutal and ruthless punishment.
How Willie wished he could take the girl out of here, once and for all! It killed him to be forced to decorate that shrine to a dead woman, with flowers he himself had picked, and then have to escort the girl upstairs nightly, to Josette's room, to a cruel madman, who had admitted that he found madness preferable to sanity! Why, it was veritable emotional rape, and who was to say that the real thing wouldn't eventually happen?
While she was up there with Barnabas, suffering through his nutty speeches, pretending to be honored by the touch of his icy kiss upon her hand, listening to that insipid music box, Willie felt he would die a thousand deaths. His own cowardice was loathsome! What mortal man could stand against the supernatural?-yet Maggie expected him to do just that. Knowing that she believed him powerless, or worse, simply unwilling to free her from the vampire's clutches, anguished him. The paltry and foolish token of flowers wouldn't compensate for any of that!
It pained him almost as much to see the depth of Maggie's suffering, and to feel the tension in her frame when Barnabas had ordered him to physically restrain her in the hallway above, so nearby that she could overhear the beloved voice of her father, Sam Evans. The sadness in the man's voice had pierced him; it must have devastated Maggie.
Willie could scarcely keep himself from going crazy, praying that she'd make it through one more night of this torture, alive... and sane. It was a relatively small matter, when measured against all of that, to grant her request.
What she asked was now possible. The plumbing he'd installed two weeks before was sound; he took some pride in the job, for the Old House offered no other modern amenity.
By now, having passed through a full lunar cycle as a prisoner, she was no stranger to the many indignities this hostage situation had created, and Willie, his back turned to afford her some privacy, had refused to leave the girl entirely alone, for fear that she would attempt escape, even though in his conflicted heart, he hoped she could find a way to get away from this prison.
Invigorated and refreshed, Maggie stepped from the bath, gleaming with droplets that clung to her smooth skin. All around her, the delicate fragrance of his secret gift of the rose soap sweetened the musty air. The bathroom was dim, chill and dank, and as she reached to wrap a fluffy blue towel about her body, she noticed the mirror on the door. Perhaps the servant had had an unobstructed view of her, all the while that she lay in the claw-foot tub, washing herself, scrubbing away as best she could the dust of Barnabas Collins's world of fantasy.
Amber eyes met blue-gray ones in the mirror, and the terror that each knew all too well diminished, just a little.
'I-I'm sorry," he stammered.
She went to him and touched his arm, choosing not to let this become an awkward moment, for the rules that governed behavior and manners in the world outside didn't apply to life in the Old House.
"It's all right, Willie." Her voice dropped to a low pitch. Not frightened. Not shy. Not the voice of that other, the ghost entity she enacted, simulating Barnabas's impression of a chaste, demure young lady he had probably never truly known well; if Maggie's performance could deceive him, he was a creature too eager to be fooled.
When Willie turned, Maggie let the towel fall to the floor, dispensing with false modesty, and they locked eyes. Face to face, the pair were transfixed by their own daring, and this unexpected turn of events.
"After all, I'm a common creature." she said in mimicry of Barnabas's words, and began to laugh hysterically.
"Don't say a thing like that."
"He said it."
"He's crazy." Willie replied, disgusted.
Drawing in a steadying breath, she calmed, and said, "I'm going to die, Willie. No, don't deny it." she halted his automatic protest. "You're the only one who knows I'm alive, the only one in this house who cares if I live. You've tried to help me. I'm grateful, so grateful. I know he's hurt you, in different ways, but just as much as he's hurt me."
Recklessly, Maggie put her arms about him, so close to a breakdown, so desperate for touch-any touch. In the normal course of her life, she wouldn't have spared Willie Loomis a second glance, yet the tingling in her body signified that at this moment, it was only the touch of this ruffian that she craved, untrustworthy and shiftless though he might be.
What happened next was comfort to them both, but he wanted to believe it was something more, inevitable, a genuine attraction that might have blossomed naturally, if not spurred to the fore by the incredible circumstance that imprisoned them, and had forced such close contact.
"I want to know what it's like to be loved, just once." she went on, urgently. "Show me, Willie... show me. I know you want to. I've seen how you look at me."
"Ya don't have to ask twice." he said with a boyish smirk, but then grew serious. "Maggie, have ya ever-"
"Yes, once." she admitted, unashamed. There could be no shame attached to a rushed, fumbling occurrence she could barely recall, and that night with Joe Haskell seemed to have happened in another lifetime, to another girl. She remembered that she had given in and gone all the way with Joe out of nothing more than curiosity, and mild fondness. Only afterward did they declare themselves a couple; it seemed the right thing to do.
"Not here," she decided, "not in any of these rooms. They're HIS rooms. Take me to yours."
Wordlessly, casting aside his doubts, Willie led Maggie past the stairs, and through a dusty back passageway to the small room he occupied. It was neat, simply because Willie had so few possessions, yet it didn't seem the place to take a classy girl, like her.
"It isn't much." he apologized.
NO fire was laid in the hearth, no candle lighted. The room was Spartan, characteristic of his existence as it had been, from the years of a deprived childhood with three sisters and a bitter, negligent mother, onward to his rootless adolescence, spent in the rough streets of New York. He carried with him no keepsakes, for there were no strong ties to other places, or other people.
"Are ya sure you wanna do this?" he asked, asking this of himself, too, deciding that it was worth enduring Barnabas's vilence, should barnabas find out, and if Barnabas made good on his numerous death threats, well, Willie reckoned he had no quality of life, anyhow. Still, he waited for Maggie's consent, gripped by a strong aversion to even the pretense of forcing her. They'd both been the victims of enough violence, already, both needing to prove that they were still desirable, worthy human beings, not objects to be bent to another's will or crushed into inhumanity by the will of another.
"I do." she said with certainty. Forgetting her scruples, she perched there, on his bed, She massaged the knotted muscles in his shoulders. Sliding her hands down to his hips, pausing, she allowed herself to boldly take the lead. She untucked his shirt and unbuckled his belt, an impish smile playing about her mouth, as she glanced up to gauge his reaction. "I really want to do a lot of things."
"Oh. You're a minx, ain't ya?"
She laughed, and impulsively laid her cheek against his warm belly, breathing in the seductive clean scent of his skin. The back of her hand brushed against the front of his trousers.
"Am I? Well, only for you."
Pleased, he allowed himself to relax, to enjoy whatever she would do. For the first time in weeks, his tremors ceased; he gained confidence in the glow of her admiring, gentle gaze and her nearness. He was a man once again... a man, and no one's slave!
"Kiss me, Willie." she invited, fire in her eyes and in her voice.
They tumbled to the bed, heat driving all other concerns away. She welcomed the weight of his body atop hers, ravenously trading kiss for kiss; desire sparked between them, and he moaned with the sweet agony of anticipation, as Maggie pressed closer to him, breathless, seeking to entwine her body with his.
"Hey, take it easy, we got all day." he teased.
June sunlight bathed the brass bed where they lay in a weak summer light, filtered through a dingy curtained window. They had hours yet, for even though they had little else, they were blessed with the gift of daylight.
Willie helped Maggie to shed her garments, revealing all her flawless, unclothed beauty; he felt he could spend the entire day just looking at the vision of her, large eyes radiant, silky chestnut curls fanned across his arm and the pillow.
"God, you're so beautiful." he murmured.
"And you-" she let the expression of her own admiration trail off, but he read it in her shining eyes, as her gaze openly appreciated his physique.
But when his own shirt was tossed to the floor, Maggie gasped to see a dozen bruises marring the flesh of his back.
"Willie!" Distressed, she wrung her hands in dismay. "Barnabas did this, didn't he? Because of me, because you tried to help me."
To have to talk about the vicious beatings he'd endured, and the nightmares he had about that goddamned cane, would sicken him, and frighten her more than she already was frightened; it might be too much for her, and for him.
"Leave it." he encouraged, pressing his lips to hers in a deep, probing kiss. "J-just forget it for today, huh? You and me, we need to forget, for a little while."
She nodded, for the moment resigned to the truth that she could not change anything-that neither of them could break free. Yet, some form of freedom lay in the brief reprieve from the unrelenting terror; the daylight and this man promised such a reprieve, so she complied with Willie's suggestion, and she relished the sight of this flesh-and-blood man, excited by her, alone, Margaret Evans. Maggie. Her name from his lips was like beautiful music. He whispered it reverently, then lustily into her ear in his silky, soft accented voice, a familiar voice, so unlike those of the high-and-mighty upper class Collinses... must forget them... she must drive out all other thoughts.
Willie placed kisses from her ear to her neck, , and when she offered no resistance, he took it as a sign of her willingness to have him continue. Boldly, his hands and lips attended to her aching breasts, kneading, tasting, taking the nipple into his hot mouth with just the right pressure; his tongue danced across her tender skin just enough to ignite the deep need to offer herself, pleading with him, she was wild to feel all of him inside her.
Willie raised himself onto his elbows and looked at her intently.
"Uh, Maggie, maybe this wasn't such a hot idea. I don't have nothin' . It ain't gonna be... you know... safe-"
She caught his meaning after a beat, and shook her head, blushing.
"It doesn't matter, Willie." The hoarse timbre of her voice revealed that she was past the point of caution, and he hadn't really wanted to be stopped, or to satisfy her only halfway. He was glad to be granted a chance to give and to take some pleasure, in the midst of this Hell in which they both dwelt.
She need not put into words again her belief that soon her life would be ended, and compared to that, what was a little careless behavior? The notion that what they were about to do might result in a baby seemed such a wonderfully commonplace, trivial worry.
Willie's voice murmuring her name, looking deep into her eyes as he did so, really seeing her, calling her his "baby" banished, temporarily, her hopelessness. Every utterance from him assured Maggie that she was alive, her identity unquestioned. She reveled in the feel of his strong young body moving against hers, her hands roaming through his sandy-blonde hair. She pulled him close, enfolding him; she couldn't get close enough to quench her need.
"Oh, Willie," she implored, kissing him, exploring the landscape of his masculine form with eager hands, caressing, enticing, urging him on. When she leant over him to take him into her sweet mouth, it was all he could do to restrain himself.
"Ya-ya gotta stop now, Maggie." he panted, a gleam of mirth in his darkened eyes. She stroked every inch of the length of him until he was sure he would explode.
"Mmm. I don't think you want me to."
"No, but ya gotta get some o' that for yourself," he said, taking charge, pushing her onto her back, opening her thighs with his knee. "Ya want it, I know ya do."
His fingers skimmed over the creamy soft skin of her inner thigh, finding the moist haven he sought and longed to possess.
"Oh yeah, you want it real bad," he breathed, "I'm gonna make ya want it."
Her breathing grew ragged as she felt the heat of his palm against her, his knowing hands discovering what he would soon claim, and what he could do to her.
"I'm gonna give ya what ya been needin'."
"Please. Yes," she said, almost sobbing in relief, clasping his body to hers, sighing in extreme pleasure as he entered her, filled her, with nothing between her skin and his.
God, she was so tight, almost a virgin, he guessed. Made for him.
They lay inert for a minute, becoming used to the new sensations, then they fell into a rhythm. At first he moved slowly, unsure how much she could take; he would not be rough with her, unless she wanted it rough. Once he became sure she could accommodate him, his shallow thrusts became stronger, deeper, as he lost his tenuous powers of self-control.
"Ya like it? Is it good?"
Her answering movements elicited a growl of pure delight from him. Maggie cried out, and tossed her head in abandon, surrendering to his steady pace. The clenching of her oncoming release sent him abruptly over the edge, and he let it happen, let it all spill into her, and he collapsed against her, breathing hard, feeling exhilarated, powerful, satisfied.
Maggie pulled a rumpled blanket from the foot of the bed, covering the two of them, and shut her eyes... just for a few minutes.
The house creaked and settled.
The sun moved westward across the sky.
"How ya doin'?" he asked, languidly surfacing from a light doze. He leaned across her to peer at the alarm clock.
"I'm sorry, but ya gotta go back down there soon. It's already after three o'clock." he reminded her, his manner suddenly somber, dejected.
"I know." came Maggie's forlorn reply, matching his own mood. The day had taken on a chill in the fading afternoon. Shoving the handkerchief into her pocket, she dressed quickly, not looking at him.
He rose from the bed and came to her.
"Ya forgot to put your ring back on," he said quietly, his voice catching with emotion, slipping the tiny band of diamonds onto her slender finger. He had somehow reclaimed it from Barnabas. The gesture seemed to her so intimate, a promise of some kind-a promise unspoken but real, that she would have his protection, in the limited degree he could manage, and his promise that he would never forget her, though the future would wipe many memories from her mind.
"I wish I could give ya something more."
His wistful tone made her heart ache.
"Willie," she said, touching his cheek. "I don't need flowers, or trinkets, no special gifts, or anything. Just you. You made me feel... safe, safer than I've felt in a long time."
Everything might change on the morrow, it was probable that they would betray each other, in their mortal fear of that evil creature. But for today, in the illumination Barnabas could not enjoy, to the accompaniment of bird song Barnabas could not hear, partaking in a very human solace, a woman and man ceased to be prisoner and slave.
Maggie smiled to herself, thinking that they'd cheated the vampire. Now she could not be his bride, for she belonged to Willie Loomis, he had made her his own, his woman, even if it wasn't meant to be an eternal union. He was all that Maggie needed; he was her flower, her melody, her love. She was his lady, giving all the sweetness and pleasure he could dream of. He would find sustenance in this dream and in memory, long, long after she had to leave him alone, to survive his solitary existence, in the Old House.