Come lie with me, p.10
Come Lie With Me, page 10
Suddenly a memory of Scott flashed into her mind and she almost cried out, her hands rising in the dark to push him away. The sickness in her changed to pure nausea, and she had to swallow convulsively to control it. For a moment she wavered on the edge of a black abyss, memories rising like bats from a rancid cave to dart at her; then she clenched her teeth on the wild cry that was welling up in her and reached out a trembling hand to turn on the lamp. The light drove away the horrors, and she lay staring at the shadows.
To combat the memories she deliberately pushed them aside and called up Blake’s face as a sort of talisman against the evils of the past. She saw his blue eyes, burning with despair, and her breath caught. Why was she lying there worrying about herself, when Blake was teetering on the edge of his own abyss? Blake was the important one, not her! If he lost interest now, it would wreck his recovery.
She’d trained herself for years to push her personal interests and problems aside and concentrate entirely on her patient. Her patients had reaped the benefits, and the process had become a part of her inner defenses when things threatened to become too much for her. She used it now, ruthlessly locking out all thoughts except those of Blake, staring at the ceiling so intently that her gaze should have burned a hole in it.
On the surface the problem seemed to be simple: Blake needed to know that he could still respond to a woman, still make love. She didn’t know why he couldn’t now, unless it was because of the commonsense reasons she’d given him just a few hours before. If that were the case, as his health improved and he gained strength, his sexual interest would reawaken naturally, if he had someone to interest him.
That was a problem Dione chewed on her lower lip. Blake obviously wasn’t going to start dating now; his pride wouldn’t allow him to be helped in and out of cars and restaurants, even if Dione would allow him to disrupt his schedule so drastically, which was out of the question. No, he had to stay in therapy, and they were just now getting into the toughest part of it, which would require more time and effort, and pain, from him.
There simply was a shortage of available women in his life right now, a necessary shortage, but there nevertheless. Besides Serena, Alberta and Angela, there was only herself, and she automatically discounted herself. How could she attract anyone? If any man made a move toward her, she reacted like a scalded cat, which wasn’t a good start.
A frown laced her brows together. That was true with all men…except Blake. Blake touched her, and she wasn’t frightened. She had wrestled with him, romped on the floor with him…kissed him.
The idea that bloomed was, for her, so radical that when it first entered her consciousness she dismissed it, only to have it return again and again, boomeranging in her mined. Blake needed help, and she was the only woman available to help him. If she could attract him…
A shudder rose from her toes and flowed upward to shake her entire body, but it wasn’t from revulsion or fear, except perhaps fear at her own daring. Could she do it? How could she do it? How could she possibly manage such a thing? It wouldn’t do Blake any good if he made a pass at her and she ran screaming from the room. She didn’t think she would do that with him, but just the thought of trying to attract a man was so foreign to her that she couldn’t be sure. Could she tempt him enough to prove to him that he was a man?
She couldn’t let the situation progress into anything concrete; she knew that not only was it something she wasn’t ready for, but an affair with a patient was totally against her professional integrity. Besides, she wasn’t Blake’s type, so there was little chance of anything serious happening. She tried to decide if he would find her so lacking in expertise that she wouldn’t appeal to him at all, or if his isolation for the past two years would blind him to her inexperience. He was fast leaving behind his morose preoccupation with his invalidism, and she knew that she wouldn’t be able to fool him for long. Every day he became more himself—the man in the photo that Richard had shown her, with a biting intellect and a driving nature that swept everyone along with him like the force of a tidal wave.
Could she do it?
She trembled at the thought, but she was so shaken by what he’d said that night that she didn’t push the idea away as she would have before. For the first time in her life Dione decided to try to attract a man. It had been so long since she’d cut herself off from sexual contact with anyone that she had no idea if she could do it without looking obvious and silly. She was thirty years old, and she felt as inexperienced and awkward as any young girl just entering her teens. Her brief marriage to Scott didn’t count at all; far from trying to attract Scott, after her wedding night she’d gone out of her way to avoid him. Blake was a mature, sophisticated man, used to having any woman he wanted before the accident had robbed him of the use of his legs. Her only advantage was that she was the only available woman in his life right then.
She just didn’t know how to arouse a man.
That unusual problem, one she’d never thought she’d face, was the reason she was standing hesitantly before the mirror the next morning, long past the time when she usually woke Blake. She hadn’t even dressed; she was staring at herself in the mirror, chewing on her lower lip and frowning. She knew that men usually liked the way she looked, but were looks enough? She wasn’t even blond, as Blake preferred his women to be. Her thick black hair swirled over her shoulders and down her back; she’d been about to braid it out of her way when she’d paused, staring at herself, and she still held the brush in her hand, forgotten, as she intensely surveyed the ripe figure of the woman in the mirror. Her breasts were full and firm, tipped with cherry nipples, but perhaps she was too bosomy for his tastes. Perhaps she was too athletic, too strong; perhaps he liked dainty, ultrafeminine women.
She groaned aloud, twisting around to study herself from the back. So many ifs! Maybe he was a leg man; she had nice legs, long and graceful, smoothly tanned. Or maybe…Her bottom, covered only by wispy, pink silk, was curvy and definitely feminine.
Her clothes were another problem. Her everyday wardrobe consisted mostly of things that were comfortable to work in: jeans, shorts, T-shirts. They were neat and practical, but not enticing. She did have good clothes, but nothing that could be worn while working and be practical, too. Her dresses weren’t sexy, either, and her nightgowns were straight out of a convent, despite Blake’s comment about her “running around in see-through nighties.” She needed new clothes, things that were sexy but not transparently so, and definitely a real see-through nightie.
She was so preoccupied that she hadn’t heard the sounds of Blake in his bedroom; when his rumbling, early-morning voice broke into her thoughts with an ill-tempered, “Lazybones, you overslept this morning!” she whirled to face the door as it swung open and Blake rolled his wheelchair through the doorway.
They both froze. Dione couldn’t even raise her arms to cover her bare breasts; she was stunned by the shock of his entrance, so lost in her thoughts that she was unable to jerk herself back to reality and take any action. Neither did Blake appear capable of moving, though good manners demanded that he leave the room. He didn’t; he sat there with his blue eyes becoming even bluer, a dark, stormy expression heating his gaze as it raked down her almost naked body, then rose to linger over her breasts.
“Good Lord,” he whispered.
Dione’s mouth was dry, her tongue incapable of moving. Blake’s intent look was as warm as a physical touch, and her nipples shrank into tiny points, thrusting out at him. He sucked in an audible breath, then slowly let his eyes dip lower, down the curve of her ribcage, the satiny smoothness of her stomach; his gaze probed the taut little indentation of her navel and finally settled on the juncture of her thighs.
An unfamiliar curling sensation low in her stomach frightened her, and she was finally able to move. She whirled away from him with a low cry, belatedly raising her arms to cover herself. Standing rigidly with her back to him, she said in a voice filled with mortification, “Oh, no! Please, get out!”
“I’ve never seen anyone blush all over before,” he said, his voice deep and filled with an almost tangible male amusement. “Even the backs of your knees are pink.”
“Get out” she cried in a strangled voice.
“Why are you so embarrassed?” he murmured. “You’re beautiful. A body like that just begs for a man to stare at it.”
“Would you please just leave?” she begged. “I can’t stand here like this all day!”
“Don’t hurry on my account,” he replied with maddening satisfaction. “I like the back view as well as I did the front. It’s a work of art, the way those long legs of yours sweep up into that perfect bottom. Is your skin as satiny as it looks?”
Embarrassment finally turned to anger and she stomped her foot, although it was largely a wasted effort, as the thick carpet muffled any sound her bare foot might have made. “Blake Remington, I’ll get back at you for this!” she threatened, her voice trembling with anger.
He laughed, the deep tone vibrating in the quiet morning air. “Don’t be such a sexist,” he taunted. “You’ve seen me in only a pair of undershorts, so why be shy about my seeing you wearing only panties? You don’t have anything to be ashamed of, but you have to know that already.”
He evidently wasn’t going to leave; he was probably enjoying himself, the wretch! She sidled around until she could reach her nightgown, where she had thrown it across the bed. She was careful to keep her back to him, and she was so fiercely preoccupied with reaching that nightgown that she didn’t hear the soft whir of the wheelchair as it came up behind her. Just as she touched the nightgown a much larger hand appeared from behind and anchored the garment to the bed.
“You’re beautiful when you’re angry,” he jibed, returning the teasing compliment she’d given him the day he’d become enraged when he had discovered that she lifted weights.
“Then I must be the world’s most beautiful woman right now,” she fumed, then added, “because I’m getting madder by the minute.”
“Don’t waste your energy,” he crooned, and she jumped as his hard hand suddenly swatted her on the bottom, then lingered to mold the round, firm cheek with his long fingers. He finished with an intimate pat, then removed his hand from the nightgown.
“I’ll be waiting for you at breakfast,” he said smoothly, and she heard him chuckling as he left the room.
She wadded up the nightgown and threw it at the closed door. Her face felt as if it were on fire, and she pressed her cold hands to her cheeks. Furiously she considered ways of paying him back, but she had to stop short of physical harm, and that left out all the most delicious schemes she could imagine. It would probably be impossible to embarrass him in return; since he was in so much better condition now, she doubted if it would bother him if she saw him stark naked. In fact, from the way he’d acted that morning, he’d probably enjoy it and proudly let her look all she wanted!
She was seething, until the thought came to her that her scheme to attract him couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. He hadn’t been thinking about sex, really; he’d been indulging a streak of pure devilry, but the end result was that he’d become aware of her as a woman. There was the added advantage of the entire scene being totally spontaneous without any of the stiffness that would probably result from any effort she deliberately made.
That thought enabled her to get through the day, which was a difficult one. He watched her like a hawk, waiting for her to betray by either action or word that she was still embarrassed by the morning’s incident. She was as cool and impersonal as she knew how to be, deliberately working him as hard as her conscience would allow. He spent more time than the day before at the bars, balancing himself with his hands while his legs bore his weight. He kept up a continuous stream of cursing at the pain he endured, but he didn’t want to stop, even when she decided to go on to other exercises. She moved his feet in the first walking motions they’d made in two years; sweat poured off of him at the pain in his muscles, unaccustomed to such activity.
That night the cramps in his legs kept him awake for hours, and Dione massaged him until she was so weary she could hardly move. There were no intimate discussions in the dark that night; he was in pain, barely getting relaxed after one cramp was relieved before another one would knot in his legs. Finally she took him down and put him in the whirlpool, which relieved the cramps for the night.
She really did oversleep the next morning, but she had been careful to lock her door before she went to bed, so she wasn’t afraid of an interruption. When she did wake, she lay there with a smile on her face as she relished how he would react to the interruption in his route that she planned.
Over breakfast she said casually, “May I borrow one of your cars? I need to do some shopping today.”
Startled, he looked up; his eyes narrowed thoughtfully. “Are you doing this because of what I said the other night?”
“No, of course not,” she lied with admirable ease. “I do need some things, though. I’m not much on shopping, but like every woman I have necessities.”
“Do you know anything about Phoenix?” he asked, reaching for the glass of milk that he now drank without protest at every meal.
“Nothing,” she admitted cheerfully.
“Do you even know how to get downtown?”
“No, but I can follow signs and directions.”
“No need to do that; let me give Serena a call. She loves shopping, and she’s been at loose ends lately.”
At first the thought of shopping in Serena’s company dampened Dione’s enthusiasm for her project, but she realized that she would probably need another woman’s opinion, so she agreed to his suggestion. Serena did, too; he’d barely mentioned it to her over the phone before he hung up the receiver, a wry smile tugging at his chiseled mouth. “She’s on her way.” Then the smile gave way to a sharply searching look. “You didn’t seem very enthusiastic,” he remarked. “Did you have some other plans?”
What did he mean by that? “No, it’s just that I had something else on my mind. I’m glad you thought of asking Serena; I could use her opinion on some things.”
The searching look disappeared, to be replaced by one of lively curiosity. “What things?”
“Nothing that concerns you,” she replied promptly, knowing that her answer would drive him crazy. He wanted to know the whys and wherefores of everything. He’d probably dismantled every toy he’d received as a child, and now he was trying to do the same thing to her. He probably did it to everyone. It was one of the characteristics that had made him such an innovative engineer.
As she quickly dressed for her shopping trip, she realized that lately Blake had shown signs of becoming more interested in his work again. He talked to Richard on the phone more than he had before, and designing the pulley system at the pool and in the gym had piqued his interest even more. Every night after dinner he made some mysterious doodles on a pad in his study, random drawings that resembled nothing Dione recognized, but Richard had seen the pad one evening and made a comment on it. The two men had then embarked on a highly technical conversation that had lasted until Dione put an end to it by signaling that it was time for Blake to go to bed. Richard had caught the signal and understood it immediately, giving her a quick wink.
The Phoenix heat prompted her to wear the bare minimum of clothing: a white sundress; the necessary underwear, which wasn’t much; and strappy sandals. The weeks had slipped away, taking the summer with it, but the changing season wasn’t yet reflected by any dip in the temperature. When she went downstairs to meet Serena, Blake gave her a quick comprehensive look that seemed to take inventory of every garment she had on. Dione shivered at the fleeting expression in his eyes. He knew what she looked like now, and every time he saw her he was imagining her without any clothes. She should probably be glad, as that was what she wanted, but it stil
Serena drove, as Dione knew absolutely nothing about Scottsdale or Phoenix. The pale blue Cadillac slipped as silently as oiled silk past the array of expensive millionaires’ homes that decorated Mount Camelback. Overhead, a sparkle of silver in the pure blue of the sky, one of the innumerable jets from the air bases in the Phoenix area, painted a white streak directly above their path.
“Blake said you had shopping to do,” Serena said absently. “What sort of shopping? Not that it matters; if it exists, I know a shop that carries it.”
Dione gave her a wry glance. “Everything,” she admitted. “Dresses, underwear, sleepwear, bathing suits.”
Serena arched her slim, dark brows in an astonished movement. “All right,” she said slowly. “You asked for it.”
By the time they’d had lunch several hours later, Dione firmly believed that Serena knew the location of every shop in Arizona. They had been in so many that she couldn’t keep straight just where she had bought what, but that didn’t really matter. What mattered was the steadily growing mound of bags and packages, which they made regular trips to the car to stow in the trunk.
Dione systematically tried on dresses that made the most of her dark coloring and tall, leggy build. She bought skirts that were slit up the side to showcase her long, slender legs; she bought real silk hosiery and delicate shoes. The nightgowns she chose were filmy, flimsy pieces of fabric that were held on her body more by optimism than any other means. She bought sexy lace panties and bras, wickedly seductive teddies, shorts and T-shirts that clung to her body, and a couple of bikinis that stopped just short of illegal.
Serena watched all of this in amazed silence, offering her opinion whenever Dione asked it, which was often. Dione couldn’t quite decide if a garment was sexy without being blatant, so she yielded to Serena’s taste. It was Serena who chose the bikinis, one a delicate shell pink and the other a vibrant blue, both of which glowed like jewels on Dione’s honey-tanned body.
by Linda Howard / Romance / Mystery & Thrillers have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes