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Come lie with me, p.11

Come Lie With Me, page 11

 

Come Lie With Me
 


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  “You know,” Serena mused as she watched Dione choose a skin-toned teddy that, from a distance, made her look as if she had nothing on at all, “this looks like war.”

  Dione was feeling a little frantic and out of touch by that time, and she merely gave Serena a blank look.

  “I could almost pity Blake for being the target of such firepower,” the other woman continued, laughing a little. “Almost, but not quite. From the effort you’re making, Dione, I think you’re out for unconditional surrender. Are you in love with Blake?”

  That got Dione’s attention with the force of a punch in the jaw. In love? Of course not! It was impossible. Blake was her patient; falling in love with him would be against every professional ethic that she had. Not only that, how could she be in love with him? Couldn’t Serena see that it was totally out of the question? she wondered distractedly. It was just that Blake’s was such a demanding case. She’d rebuilt him almost literally, molded him from a basket case into a strong, healthy man; she couldn’t let him give up now, couldn’t let all of that sweat and effort go to waste.

  But suddenly, seeing through Serena’s eyes the staggering amount of clothing she’d bought in one day, she realized what a hopeless effort it was. How could she ever have imagined that she’d be able to physically attract Blake Remington? Not only did she not know how to do it, but she’d probably go into screaming hysterics if she succeeded!

  She sagged into a chair, crumpling the flesh-colored teddy in her lap. “It’s no use,” she muttered. “It’ll never work.”

  Serena eyed the teddy. “If he’s human, it will.”

  “All of these props are useless, if the actors can’t perform,” Dione said in self-disgust. “I don’t know how to seduce anyone, least of all a man who’s been around as much as Blake has!”

  Serena’s eyes widened. “Are you serious? The way you look, you don’t have to seduce anyone; all you have to do is stand still and let him get to you.”

  “Thanks for the pep talk, but it’s not that easy,” Dione hedged, unable to tell Blake’s sister the entire story. “Some men like my looks, but I know that Blake’s always preferred blondes. I’m not his type at all.”

  “How you can look in a mirror and still worry about not being blond is more than I can understand,” Serena said impatiently. “You’re…sultry. That’s the only word I can think of to describe the way you look. If he hasn’t made a pass at you yet, it’s because you haven’t given him a go-ahead signal. Those clothes will do it for you. Then just let things develop naturally.”

  If only they would! Dione thought as she paid for the teddy and a bottle of heady perfume that the saleswoman had sworn drove her husband mad with lust.

  She didn’t want Blake mad with lust, just aroused. What a dilemma for her to be in! Life was just full of little ironies, but she couldn’t find this one very amusing.

  Blake wasn’t in evidence when they arrived back at the house, and Dione could only be thankful for that. She didn’t want him to have any idea of the extent of her shopping trip. Angela silently helped Dione and Serena carry all the packages up to Dione’s room, and when asked about Blake’s whereabouts, the woman smiled shyly and murmured, “In the gym,” before quickly walking out.

  Serena gave a little laugh after Angela had left the room. “She’s something, isn’t she? I think Blake picked his entire staff on the basis of how much they talk, or rather, don’t talk.” Before Dione could make any comment, Serena changed the subject. “Do you mind if I stay for dinner? I know you probably want to start your campaign, but Richard told me this morning that he’d be late coming home tonight, and I’m at loose ends.”

  Far from being anxious to begin her “campaign,” Dione was dreading it, and gladly asked Serena to stay. As she usually had dinner with them, Blake might think something was off if all of a sudden she stopped the practice.

  While Serena went to the den to entertain herself, Dione made her way down to the pool and entered the gym. She stopped abruptly. Blake was on the bars, balancing himself with his hands, while Alberta was on her knees, moving his feet in walking motions. From the looks of him, he’d been hard at it since she’d left with Serena that morning, and poor Alberta was frazzled, too. Blake wore only a brief pair of blue gym shorts, and he’d tied his shirt around his forehead to keep the sweat from getting into his eyes. He was literally dripping as he strained, trying to force his muscles to do his bidding. Dione knew that he had to be in a great deal of pain; it was revealed in the rigid set of his jaw, his white lips. The fact that he’d enlisted Alberta’s help instead of waiting for her to return said something about his determination, but she was afraid that he’d tried to do too much. He’d paid for his excesses the night before with agonizing cramps, and she had the feeling that tonight would be a repeat.

  “Time for the whirlpool,” she said easily, trying not to sound anxious. Alberta looked up with an expression of acute relief, and achingly got to her feet. Blake, on the other hand, shook his head.

  “Not yet,” he muttered. “Another half hour.”

  Dione signaled to Alberta, who quietly left the room. Taking a towel from the stack she always kept handy, she went up to him and wiped his face, then his shoulders and chest. “Don’t push it so hard,” she advised. “Not yet. You can do yourself more harm than good at this stage. Come on, into the whirlpool; give your muscles a rest.”

  He sagged against the bars, panting, and Dione quickly brought the wheelchair over to him. He levered himself into it; he seldom needed her help moving himself around now, since he was so much stronger. She switched the whirlpool on and turned around to find that he’d been staring at her bottom as she bent over. Wondering how much she’d exposed in the unaccustomed dress, she flushed pink.

  He gave her a wicked little smile, then grasped the pulley and swung himself over the pool, letting himself down expertly in the water. He sighed in relief as the pulsing water eased his tired, strained muscles.

  “I didn’t expect you to be gone all day,” he said, closing his eyes wearily.

  “I only shop once a year.” She lied without compunction. “When I shop, it’s an endurance event.”

  “Who won, you or Serena?” he asked, smiling as he lay there, his eyes still closed.

  “I think Serena did,” she groaned, stretching her tight muscles. “Shopping uses an entirely different set of muscles than weight lifting does.”

  He opened one eye a slit and surveyed her. “Why not join me?” he invited. “As the old saying goes, ‘Come on in, the water’s fine.’”

  It was tempting. She looked at the swirling water, then shook her head regretfully as she thought of the many things that she needed to do. She didn’t have time to relax in a whirlpool.

  “Not tonight. By the way,” she added, changing the subject, “how did you talk Alberta into helping you with your exercises?”

  “A mixture of charm and coercion,” he replied, grinning a little. His gaze slipped over the bodice of her dress; then he closed his eyes again and gave himself up to the bliss of the whirlpool.

  Dione moved around the room, putting everything in place and preparing for the massage she’d give him when he left the whirlpool, but her actions were purely automatic. Their conversation had been casual, even trivial, but she sensed an entirely different mood under the cover of their words. He was looking at her, he was seeing her, as a woman, not a therapist. She was both frightened and exhilarated at her success, because she’d expected it to take much longer before she got his attention. The intent way he stared at her was sending messages that she wasn’t trained to interpret. As a therapist, she knew instinctively what her patient needed; as a woman, she was completely in the dark. She wasn’t even completely certain that he wasn’t staring at her with derision.

  “All right, that’s enough,” he said huskily, breaking her train of thought. “I hope Alberta’s not going to hold a grudge against me, because I’m hungry. Do you think she’ll feed me?”

 
Serena and I will let you have our scraps,” Dione offered generously, earning a wryly appreciative glance from him.

  A few minutes later he lay on his stomach on the table with a towel draped over his hips, sighing in contentment as her strong fingers worked their magic on his flesh. He propped his chin on his folded arms, the look on his face both absent and absorbed, a man concentrating on his inner plans. “How long before I’ll be able to walk?” he asked.

  Dione continued manipulating his legs as she considered the answer. “Do you mean until you take your first steps, or walk without aid?”

  “The first steps.”

  “I’ll take a stab and say six weeks, though that’s only a rough guess,” she warned him. “Don’t hold me to it. You could do it in four or five, or it could be two months. It really depends on how well I’ve planned your therapy program. If you push too hard and injure yourself, then it’ll take longer.”

  “When will the pain ease?”

  “When your muscles are accustomed to your weight and the mechanics of movement. Are your legs still numb?”

  “Hell, no,” he growled feelingly. “I can tell when you’re touching me now. But after those cramps last night, I’m not certain I want to feel.”

  “The price to pay,” she taunted gently, and slapped him on the bottom. “Time to turn over.”

  “I like that dress,” he said when he was lying on his back and could stare at her. Dione didn’t glance up, consciously keeping the flexing of her fingers in an unbroken rhythm. When she failed to comment he pushed a little harder. “You’ve got great legs. I see you every day, dressed in next to nothing, but I hadn’t realized how good your legs are until I saw you in a dress.”

  She quirked one eyebrow. That statement alone verified her suspicion that he hadn’t been aware of her as a woman, not really. She half-turned her back to him as she rubbed her hands down the calf of his right leg, hoping that the vigorous massage would lessen any cramps he might have. When the warm touch of his hand rested on her bare thigh, under her skirt, she gave a stifled half scream and jerked up straight.

  “Blake!” she yelped, pushing frantically at his hand in an effort to dislodge it from under her dress. “Stop it! What are you doing?”

  “You’re playing with my legs,” he retorted calmly. “Turnabout’s fair play.”

  His fingers were between her legs while his thumb was on the outside of her thigh, and she flinched from the feel of his hand as her other leg instinctively pressed against him to halt the upward movement. Her face flushed brightly.

  “I like that,” he said huskily, his eyes bright. “Your legs are so strong, so sleek. Do you know what you feel like? Cool satin.”

  She twisted, trying to loosen his grip, and to her dismay his fingers slid even higher. She sucked in a lungful of air and held it, going still, her eyes wide and alarmed as she tried to still the flare of panic in her stomach. Her heart lurched drunkenly in her chest.

  “Let me go, please,” she whispered, hoping that the trembling of her voice wouldn’t be as noticeable if she didn’t try to talk loudly.

  “All right,” he agreed, a little smile moving his lips. Just as she began to sag in relief, he added, “If you’ll kiss me.”

  Now her heart was slamming so wildly that she pressed her hand to her chest in an effort to calm it. “I…just one kiss?”

  “I can’t say,” he drawled, staring at her lips. “Maybe, maybe not. It depends on how well we like it. For God’s sake, Dee, I’ve kissed you before. You won’t be violating any sacred vow not to become involved with a patient. A kiss isn’t what I’d term an involvement.”

  Despite her efforts to hold her legs together and trap his wandering hand, he somehow moved a little higher.

  “It’s only a kiss,” he cajoled, holding his left hand out to her. “Don’t be shy.”

  She wasn’t shy, she was terrified, but she could still hold on to the thought that Blake wasn’t Scott. That alone gave her the courage to lean down and touch her lips to his as lightly, as delicately, as a breath of air. She drew back and stared down at him. His hand remained on her leg.

  “You promised,” she reminded him.

  “That wasn’t a kiss,” he replied. The expression in his eyes was intent, watchful. “A real kiss is what I want, not a child’s kiss. I’ve been a long time without a woman. I need to feel your tongue on mine.”

  Weakly she leaned against the table. I can’t handle this, she thought wildly, then stiffened as the thought formed in her brain. Of course she could; she could handle anything. She’d already been through the worst that could happen to her. This was just a kiss, that was all…

  Though her soft, generous mouth trembled against his, she gave him the intimate kiss he’d requested, and she was startled to feel him begin to shake. He removed his hand from her leg and placed both arms around her, but he held her without any real force, only a warm sort of nearness that failed to alarm her. The hair on his bare chest was tickling her above the fabric of her sundress; the faintly musky smell of him filled her lungs. She became aware of the warmth of his skin, the roughness of his chin against her smooth skin, the light play of his tongue against hers. Her eyes had been open, but now they slowly closed, and she became lost in a world of sensation, the light only a redness against her lids, her senses of touch and smell intensified by the narrowing of her concentration.

  That was what she wanted, she reminded herself dimly. She hadn’t thought she would enjoy herself in the process, but the excitement that was beginning to course through her veins brought with it a warmth that could only be pleasure.

  “God, you smell good,” he breathed, breaking the kiss to nuzzle his face in the soft hollow of her throat. “What perfume is that?”

  Giddily she remembered all the perfumes she’d tried. “It’s a mixture of everything,” she admitted in a bemused tone.

  He chuckled and turned his head to claim her mouth again. This time the kiss was deeper, harder, but she didn’t protest. Instead she kissed him back as strongly as he kissed her, and he finally fell back onto the table, gasping.

  “You’re taking advantage of a starving man,” he groaned, and she gave a spurt of laughter.

  “I hope Alberta doesn’t feed you anything,” she told him, and turned away to hide the color that she knew still tinted her cheeks. She fussed over several insignificant details, but when she turned back he wasn’t paying attention to her. She disciplined her face into smoothness and helped him to dress, but there was a sense of determination about him that bothered her. It nagged at her all during dinner, where Serena entertained Blake with a wholly fictitious tale of their shopping trip.

  What was he up to? She’d agonized over her scheme, gone to ridiculous lengths to put it into action, but somehow she still had the feeling that he was the one who was scheming, not her.

  Chapter Seven

  Dione, may I talk to you? In private, please.” Richard’s face was tight with strain, and Dione looked at him sharply, wondering at the bitterness that was so evident in his expression. She looked past him to the study door, and he read her mind.

  “She’s playing chess with Blake,” he said heavily, thrusting his hands into his pockets and moving to the doors that opened onto the courtyard.

  Dione hesitated only a moment, then followed him. She didn’t want anything to be said about her being in his company, but on the other hand, she knew that Richard wasn’t going to make a pass at her, and she resented feeling guilty for being friendly to him. Serena had continued her efforts at friendship, and Dione found that she really liked the younger woman; Serena was a lot like Blake, with his directness, his willingness to accept challenges. Sometimes Dione had the uneasy thought that Serena could check on her more easily under the guise of friendship, but more and more it seemed that the thought came from her own wariness, not any premeditated action on Serena’s part.

  “Aren’t things going well?” she asked Richard quietly.

  He gave a bitter lau
gh, rubbing the back of his neck. “You know they’re not. I don’t know why,” he said wearily. “I’ve tried, but it’s always in the back of my mind that she’ll never love me the way she loves Blake, that I’ll never be as important to her as he is, and it makes me almost sick to touch her.”

  Dione chose her words carefully, picking them like wildflowers. “Some resentment is only natural. I see this constantly, Richard. An accident like this really shakes up everyone connected to the patient. If it’s a child who’s injured, it can cause resentment between the parents, as well as the other children. In circumstances like these, one person gets the lion’s share of the attention, and others don’t like it.”

  “You make me sound so small and petty,” he said, one corner of his stern mouth curving upward.

  “Not that. Just human.” Her voice was full of warmth and compassion, and he stared at her, his eyes moving over her tender face. “It’ll get better,” she reassured him.

  “Soon enough to save my marriage?” he asked heavily. “Sometimes I almost hate her, and it’s damned peculiar, because what I’m hating her for is not loving me the way I love her.”

  “Why make her take all the blame?” Dione probed. “Why not put some of that resentment on Blake? Why not hate him for taking her attention?”

  He actually laughed aloud. “Because I’m not in love with him,” he chuckled. “I don’t care what he does with his attention…unless he hurts you with it.”

  Shock rippled through her, widening her enormous eyes. In the dimness of twilight they gleamed darkly gold, as deep and bottomless as a cat’s. “How can he hurt me?” she asked, her voice husky.

  “By making you fall in love with him.” He was too astute, capable of summing up a situation in a glance. “I’ve been watching you change these last couple of weeks. You were beautiful before, God knows, but now you’re breathtaking. You…glow. Those new clothes of yours, the look on your face, even the way you walk…all of that has changed. He needs you now so intensely that everyone else is wiped out of his mind, but what about later? When he can walk again, will he still watch you as if his eyes are glued on you?”

 
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