Savage Love, page 14
Looking at her he wondered if she were trying to get back at him, asking skeptically, “Why should I believe you? This night has been full of your lies.”
“Because, I’d never lie about the children. In the morning talk to Justin, tell him I told you what happened. Although he didn't want to tell you himself, he'll talk about what happened now that you know. A therapist has been here working with him.”
“One of the so-called tutors Patrick employed?”
“Yes, the matronly-looking woman. Anyway, since late Saturday when Justin and I were out sitting under the trees he gave me permission to tell you. But I didn't want to hurt you and I didn't want you to be angry, so I kept silent.”
“I am angry. You took too much onto yourself and now you're fantasizing you're his mother. His care should have been left to me or Liz, not you and Patrick.”
Looking at him nervously Carolina thought he didn't appear upset. He was exaggeratedly calm considering what she'd told him. “And what about Justin's honor? Patrick told me that because of who you all are, Justin never would have known a moments peace if you'd gone to the authorities. What could you have done?”
Dylan didn’t feel the need to tell her that Patrick was wrong about his family and the media. Instead, he looked at her suspiciously, “What did you and Patrick do?”
“I stayed with Justin. Patrick took care of most of the people who hurt him.”
“'Took care of'? Is Patrick some sort of gangster?”
“No. I told you he's a fixer. Those men have gone missing. Soon the people who masterminded the blackmail will very likely go missing too. They had pictures and videos of Justin but Patrick got them all back.”
His tone was hard, “First you tell me two men conspired to hurt my son, now the claim is that there are more involved. You say Justin was molested, told me without blinking an eye he died, then your tale mushrooms into a blackmail plot. I'm thinking you need the therapist.”
She wiped stinging wetness from her face. “I'm so sorry for all of this. I have the photos and videos. I brought them here so they'd be safe and I'll give them to you, but I want you to talk to Justin in the morning, but don't mention the blackmail because I never told him after Patrick found out. He needs to feel safe.”
His voice was low and steady, “You have Justin so wrapped around your finger, he'd confess to shooting J.F.K. if he thought you wanted him to. But if you truly have photos and videos give them to me.”
“After I say a few more things. First, I want to apologize for tonight. I was out of line. I didn't mean most of what I said and I'm sorry for forcing you to take me. But, if I hadn’t, you never would have. You haven't touched me since you slept with your ex. I felt terrified, desperate because I'd failed you and I was dwindling away into oblivion.”
If he'd doubted her sanity before, now he was sure she was touched. He massaged his temples. “You didn't force me. I haven’t made love to you because you deserve time after my offense.”
“What I needed was for you to help me erase the memory from my mind and I did force you, by deliberately fighting and letting you believe I'd slept with Patrick. I knew what you'd do especially once you saw the tattoo. I needed to know what your complete loss of control felt like, wanted you to be with me the way you were with Liz.”
He read in her eyes that she didn't want to hear the truth, that he hadn't completely lost control with her tonight, so he didn't make the admission. Instead, he admitted, “I hurt you badly. Taking you as I did was a deplorable way for you, or any woman, to have that kind of first experience. Now you're terrified and trembling, thinking I'll hurt you again.”
She fiddled with the robe's belt, unable to look at him. “No I'm not. I knew pain and at times the hurting was hellish but every moment, your every movement thrilled me,” she confessed, closing her eyes and crossing her legs in an effort to control the seismic quakes that threatened to knock her off balance. When the tremors passed, she admitted breathlessly, “I got sick because I have a headache and I'm shaking and trembling because I keep having orgasms.”
Clenching his hand that still stung from the spanking he'd given her, uncertainty ate away at him. If she'd really enjoyed the experience or if she were only saying she had so he wouldn't feel disgusted with himself he couldn't discern because lying, for her, was such an art that she most times effortlessly fooled him. However, regardless of her statements he was still responsible for treating her brutishly. “Carolina-”
“Let me finish. I'm sorry I hurt and disappoint you. Our time together I don't really regret and I could never rue loving Justin. But, I need to go back to the life the twins and I had. I'm leaving. The tutors can drive the twins home tomorrow. Though you're not fond of Patrick, please allow the therapist to continue working with Justin, he likes and trusts her. And sometimes, with your permission I'd like him to visit me.”
Pinning her with a stare, he told her bullheadedly, “We're getting married.”
“I don't want to. I've never felt so seriously ill in my life but now something is making me so and I'm scared. I've had a headache for nearly three weeks. Perhaps all the fighting and stress is having a negative effect on me.”
“You'll fight with the twins if you take them away and you'll fret over Justin's broken heart when you’re apart. So just stop fighting me, we'll stay together and everyone will be happy.”
She grew teary-eyed again. “Except me. I need you to acknowledge that I'm Justin's mother, know I've loved him beyond this life, but you won't and if ever you went to her again, or left me I'd die inside so my leaving now is what's best.”
No, it wasn't 'best'. She just had to see reason. “I give my word I'll never be unfaithful again and you'll be Justin's step-mother, the love you share won't lessen.”
Her hands shook as she swiped at her eyes. “No, I'm his mother. If you won't honor me with that standing then I should leave.” She'd already spent the majority of her life without pride of place, permanent standing in the hearts of the people she loved. She wouldn't do so again.
He felt her slipping away and rasped out achingly, “It doesn't have to be all or nothing.”
“For me, on this matter, and on the matter of that woman being in your lives, yes it does and don't threaten to send him away. I know you're all he's ever really had. He couldn't survive being far away from you. Since your divorce you've seen that he's not the same as before and now with what's happened he'll need your strength and understanding in order to completely heal.”
He knew she was dead set on leaving but he wouldn't allow her to part from him. She still didn't have her keys back and if he had to, he'd hide every stitch of clothing she had access to so she'd be forced to stay with him until he could persuade her that they were meant to be together. “Stay the night. I'll talk with Justin in the morning. Be here in case he needs you.”
“Only if you don't look at the pictures and videos.”
He held out his hand, “Give them to me.”
She lifted the items from the box and extended them to him. “If you ever loved me just destroy them. Don't torture yourself.”
“I do love you. As a matter of fact you destroy them.” He lowered his hand.
“I will.” She still couldn't believe how calm he was.
“Now put those things away and get into bed. I need a shave. I'll be back before you're asleep. Carolina, honey, I wish I could undo how I handled things earlier but all I can say is I'm truly sorry.” Dylan rose and strode into the bathroom.
Turning on the faucet, he shaved with a shaking hand. Then he walked to the side of the tub where he'd so badly ravaged her. Sitting on the floor, with his head bowed, he silently wept as he had the day he learned his parents had died, his chest burning, his eyes continually leaking the salty evidence of his agony over the woman he loved desperately but treated so horribly and his son who he'd not protected. Burying his face in his hands, he fought to keep real and made-up images out of his mind.
A longtime passed be
“I promise,” she whispered dreamily, snuggling deeper into her pillow.
Sadly, undeservedly, Dylan requested, “Tell me you love me just this one time.” He watched as she turned away from him, her gentle snores the only sounds breaking the silence between them.
Early the next morning they rose from their bed together, but aloof. Still in his robe, she journeyed to the kitchen to prepare breakfast and Dylan strolled to the stables for a long ride to clear his head. When he returned she was still working diligently over steaming pans and sizzling griddles but he could see she wasn't well. Dark smudges underlined her eyes and a deep furrow marred her usually smooth brow. When he offered to relieve her of the task so she could return to bed she waved him aside saying she'd promised her boys something special, then she'd go home and rest.
Dismissed and on leaden feet Dylan walked out to the tree house to wake his sons, sending the reluctant twins into Carolina so he could privately speak with Justin. Sitting on a denim beanbag next to his son's he told Justin he was aware of what had happened to him. After a slight hesitation the child spoke freely about his abduction and abuse, wasn't tearful or angry, nor did he blame himself. Justin even revealed a great deal of forethought, saying that although he felt he was doing alright he knew he still had a long way to go, was aware he might have issues later when he started dating or when he wanted to marry and have kids.
Dylan was amazed at the exceptional rate in which Justin appeared to be processing the trauma. He, on-the-other-hand, felt as if he were being flayed with a cat-o-nine-tails at every word his son uttered. The thought of his child being tortured set Dylan to praying silently and when Justin grew quiet, Dylan asked why he hadn’t come directly to him about the abuse. It was then that his son cried with the abandon of an infant, sobbing out that he could have endured anything except his rejection. Dylan hugged Justin close, assuring him that would never happen.
As he sat comforting his child, Dylan realized what Carolina had meant by calling the tree house a temple. He was shocked by the amount of his memorabilia the large room contained, countless items that marked different times in his life and career. While studying a framed magazine cover he'd appeared on shortly after Justin's birth he realized there wasn't a single representation of Liz anywhere; images of her had been carefully cut from photos where they'd appeared together. However, before he could ask Justin why he'd done such a thing the twins were down below calling them to breakfast.
Dylan accompanied the boys to the house, taking advantage of their presence to hold Carolina in his arms, stroking her hair and smoothing lines from her brow. He managed to hold on to her until the rest of the Savages stormed the dining hall and kitchen, then he physically lost her in the wild crowd of hungry Texans.
Leaning against a wall he studied her every movement, the way she placed heaping trays of French toast, sausages, and bowls of fruit salad on the tables, how she managed to carry steaming carafes of chocolate and coffee in each hand, serving the piping liquids without spilling a drop or confusing the called out requests. He saw her blush when Jesse and Frank teased her about the dress she'd worn the night before. However, Dylan put an end to her serving and socializing when he saw her noticeably swaying as she placed a serving platter into the sink. Making his way over to stand behind her he enclosed her in the strength of his arms, forcing her to relax against his body, until she whispered her head was killing her and she felt she was going to be sick. He walked with her through the dining hall where she stopped to give Vega a hug and solemn apology for her avoidance the previous day, then she moved on to quickly kiss the twins and Justin. Dylan could see her pale skin taking on a sickly green tint and he rushed her from the dining hall.
They barely reached the nearest bathroom before she began retching violently. He helped her to the toilet, holding her hair and stroking her back while her body shook with spasms, her stomach trying to expel contents that weren't there. When she was done, he washed Carolina's face then helped her up to their bedroom where he tucked her under the covers and ignoring her weak protests he phoned the doctor.
Dylan was finishing his second cup of coffee, preparing to pour a third when Chris tossed Carolina's discarded garments of the previous night onto the kitchen table. Placing the coffeepot aside Dylan picked up the thong and placed it in his pocket before bundling the heels into the folds of the robe. He could smell her alluring scent wafting up from the pink cotton and immediately he wanted to be back upstairs with her but she'd steadfastly told him to leave her alone.
Taking the seat across from his brother Chris' tone and look were accusing, “So what the hell did you do that had her so riled up?”
Dylan resumed pouring his coffee, then gulped down a mouthful of the hot liquid before professing, “I slept with Liz, after that fight on Sunday, and Carolina saw us.”
Chris reached out and smacked his brother upside the head. “Damned idiot. You have a great woman who clearly adores you and your son, hell she's taken a shine to all of us. Why would you ever sleep with Liz again?”
Drinking more coffee Dylan shrugged, “Because I'm an idiot.”
Stupefied Chris shook his head at his little brother, “And people think I'm a tomfool. Don't tell me you took Liz in Carolina's bed.”
Dylan leaned back out of Chris' reach. “Okay I won't.”
Chris tossed a napkin at him. “If you'd screwed any other woman besides Liz and if you were really like the rest of us Savages I might understand. But it wasn't, and you’re not. If an escaped serial rapist broke in on Liz, the poor fool would take off screaming in terror, and you stink of monogamy, so does that wild Irish rose you've hooked up with. You have to be a crazy fool to cross her.”
Rubbing his bruised and throbbing jaw Dylan confessed, “You don't have to tell me. She walloped me pretty hard last night and I don't think she was really trying.”
Pointing at his brother's face Chris advised, “Listen to me, don't fight with that redheaded imp. Heck, I'm bigger than you and I wouldn't take her on. I nearly dislocated my shoulder trying to keep hold of her when she was set on murdering Liz.”
Dylan nodded with a raised brow, “You're lucky she never got round to cutting off your hair as payback for that cobra chili.”
Chris grinned. “Me and Carolina, we're straight, even though we got off to a rocky start. She liked that chili and she wouldn't cut my hair cause if she did Vega would never forgive her. But man, I feel sorry for anybody who’s really on her bad side. What she did to Liz was wicked but if you could've seen her light into that boyfriend. She was all over him like a bad rash. The poor guy didn't stand a chance and neither do you. Whatever you have to do, make peace with her 'cause I don't want to be attendin' your funeral.”
Dylan sat his cup aside. “Trust me, if she wanted to kill me I'd be dead already.”
Chris' look was quizzical, “Are y'all still getting married?”
“Yep.” He'd swiped most of her clothing except for one outfit and a pair of shoes, was set to hogtie and haul her to the altar if he had to.
“Where is she? I wanted to thank her for breakfast and see if I could wrangle that French toast recipe from her. I wasn't in the bedroom two minutes before Vega was all over me like a duck on a June bug.”
Dylan was glad he'd forgone breakfast then. “She's in bed waiting for the doctor to come over and check her out.”
Chris gave his brother a hard, mean look. “She's taken sick cause you slapped h