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Come lie with me, p.15

Come Lie With Me, page 15

 

Come Lie With Me
 


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  In her own room she stared at her bed, but realized that it would be a waste of time to return to it. She’d never be able to sleep. Too many sensations, too many memories, were warring in her mind and body. Her bedside clock told her that it was a little after three; she might as well stay up the rest of the night.

  She felt oddly empty, her regret candeling out the bittersweet pleasure she’d found in his embrace and leaving her with nothing. For a short while, in his arms, she’d felt wildly alive, as if all her fetters had fallen away. Reality was something less than that. Reality was knowing that the night meant nothing to him beyond the immediate satisfaction of his sex-starved body. She’d seen it coming from a mile away and still hadn’t had the sense to duck; no, she’d taken the punch full on the jaw.

  But mistakes were something to learn from, better textbooks than anything that ever got put into print. She’d picked herself up before and gone on, and she’d do it again. The trick was to remember that there was an end to everything, and the end of her time with Blake was coming at her with the speed of a jet.

  She cringed inwardly at the thought, and in agitation walked out to the gallery. The desert air was cold, and she shivered when it touched her heated skin, but she welcomed the shock of it. The night had been an emotional roller coaster, a ride that had left her stunned, bewildered. She’d gone from fear to acceptance, then to joy, followed by regret and a rerun of acceptance, and now she was afraid again, afraid that she wouldn’t be able to pick up the pieces, afraid that life after Blake would be so hollow that it would be useless. Afraid, even, of the possibility that the fear he’d destroyed had been her strongest defense.

  Chapter Nine

  The sudden lancing of light across the dark gallery made her heart leap into her throat, and she turned her head to the left to wearily eye the sliding doors to Blake’s room, where the light was coming from. What had awakened him? When the glass doors remained closed, she turned back to stare out again into the blackness of the garden. She hoped he wouldn’t come looking for her; she didn’t think she could face him right then. Perhaps in the morning, when she was dressed in her familiar “therapist uniform” of shorts and a T-shirt and they were involved in the routine of exercise. Perhaps then she’d have herself under control and could act as if nothing unusual had happened. But now she felt raw and bleeding, every nerve exposed. Wearily she leaned her head against the railing, not even feeling how cold she’d become.

  A whirr came to her ears and she lifted her head, frowning. It was coming from her room…then it stopped just behind her, and she knew. Blake had used the wheelchair, because he could get around faster in it than he could using the walker. Her entire body tensed as she listened to him getting out of the chair, struggling for balance, but she didn’t dare look around. She kept her forehead pressed against the cold metal of the railing, hoping without belief that he’d realize she didn’t want to be disturbed and leave her alone.

  First she felt his hands, gripping her shoulders, then the hard, warm press of his body against her back and the stirring of his breath in her hair. “Dee, you’re freezing,” he murmured. “Come inside. We’ll talk there, and I’ll get you warm.”

  She swallowed. “There’s nothing to talk about.”

  “There’s everything to talk about,” he said, a hardness that she’d never heard before in his voice making her shudder in reaction. He felt the ripple of her muscles under his fingers and pulled her closer to him. “Your skin is icy, and you’re coming in with me now. You’re in shock, honey, and you need to be taken care of. I thought I understood, but you threw me for a loop tonight. I don’t know what it is you’re hiding, what you’re afraid of, but I’m damned well going to find out before this night is over.”

  “The night is over,” she told him thinly. “It’s morning now.”

  “Don’t argue with me. In case you haven’t noticed, I don’t have a stitch of clothing on and I’m freezing, but I’m staying right here with you. If you don’t come inside I’ll probably catch pneumonia and undo all the progress you’ve worked for. Come on,” he said, his tone changing into one of cajolery. “You don’t have to be afraid. We’ll just talk.”

  She shook her head, her long hair flying wildly and striking him in the face. “You don’t understand. I’m not afraid of you; I never have been.”

  “Well, that’s something,” he muttered, dropping his arm to her waist and urging her to turn. She gave up and dully let him guide her inside, with his using her for balance. His pace was slow but remarkably steady, and he didn’t really put any of his weight on her. He stopped to close the sliding doors, then guided her to the bed.

  “Here, get under the covers,” he ordered as he bent down to switch on the lamp. “How long have you been out there? Even the room is cold.”

  She shrugged; it didn’t really matter how long it had been, did it? She did as he said and crawled into the bed, pulling the thick comforter up to her neck. Blake studied her pale, set expression for a moment, and his lips pressed grimly together. He lifted the cover and slid into the bed next to her, and she stared at him in shock.

  “I’m cold, too,” he said, and it was only half a lie. He slid his arm under her neck and curved his other hand around her waist, pulling her into the cocoon of his body heat. At first she was rigid; then the warmth began to penetrate her chilled skin and she started to shiver. His hand exerted just the slightest pressure and she moved with it, unconsciously pressing more closely to him in search of extra heat. When he had her settled, her head cradled on his shoulder and her legs tangled with his, he stroked the heavy black hair away from her face and she felt the pressure of his mouth on her forehead.

  “Are you comfortable?” he murmured.

  Comfortable wasn’t the word for it; she was so tired that her limbs lay heavily, without strength. But she nodded, as he seemed to want an answer. What did it matter? She was just so tired….

  After a moment he said with misleading mildness, “I thought you said you’d been married.”

  Surprise made her lift her head and stare at him. “I was.” What did he mean?

  Gently he threaded his fingers through her hair and forced her head back to his shoulder. “Then why was it so…painful for you?” he asked, his voice a rumble under her ear. “I damned near fainted, thinking that you’d been a virgin.”

  For a moment her mind was blank, struggling to understand what he was saying; then realization came abruptly and a hot flush warmed her cold cheeks. “I wasn’t a virgin,” she assured him huskily. “It’s just that I haven’t…it’s been a long time.”

  “How long?”

  With rising alarm she heard the determination in his voice, barely masked by the quietness of his tone. He meant to know everything, to uncover all her secrets. Twice before he’d torn away the protection of her forgetfulness, forcing her to remember the pains and failures that she’d tried so hard never to think of again. Did he like causing her pain?

  “How long?” he repeated inexorably. “Talk to me, honey, because you’re not leaving this bed until I know.”

  Dione closed her eyes in despair, swallowing in an effort to relieve the dryness of her mouth. She might as well tell him and get it over with. “Twelve years,” she finally admitted, the words muffled against his skin because as she said them, she turned her face into his throat.

  “I see.” Did he? Did he really see? Could any man really understand what goes through a woman’s mind when her body is violated? A wild bitterness sprang out of the well of pain that she usually kept covered. He didn’t care if he explored the clock’s workings until it could no longer tick, as long as he discovered what had made it tick in the beginning. Her hands stiffened against him and she pushed, but now he was much stronger than she was, and held her welded tightly to him, his body hard and unyielding against hers. After a moment she gave up the futile effort and lay beside him in rigid rejection.

  He curved his long fingers over her smooth shoulder and tucked her even
closer to him, as if to shield her. “Twelve years is a long time,” he began easily. “You had to be just a kid. How old are you now?”

  “Thirty.” She heard the ragged edge of panic in her voice, felt the way her heart began to skitter, the increased rhythm of air rushing in and out of her lungs. She’d already told him too much; he could put the pieces of the puzzle together now and read the whole ugly story.

  “Then you had to be just eighteen…. You told me that you got married when you were eighteen. Haven’t you been in love since then? I know men have been attracted to you. You’ve got a face and body that turn my insides into melted butter. Why haven’t you let someone love you?”

  “That’s my business,” she cried sharply, trying again to roll away from him. He held her without hurting her, gently subduing her with his arms and legs. Goaded, maddened by the bonds that held her, she shrieked, “Men don’t love women! They hurt them, humiliate them, then say, ‘Whatsamatter? You frigid?’ Let me go!”

  “I can’t,” he said, his voice catching oddly. She was in no state to pay any attention to how her words had affected him; she began to fight in earnest, kicking at his legs, trying to scratch his face, her body arching wildly in an effort to throw herself off the bed. He snatched her hands away from his cheeks before she could do any damage, then wrestled her around until she was beneath him, his weight holding her captive.

  “Dione, stop it!” he yelled. “Damn it, talk to me! Were you raped?”

  “Yes!” she screamed, a sob tearing out of her throat. “Yes, yes, yes! Damn you! I didn’t want to remember! Can’t you understand that? It kills me to remember!” Another tearing, aching sob wrenched its way out of her chest, but she wasn’t crying. Her eyes were dry, burning, yet still her chest heaved convulsively and the awful sounds, like someone choking on a pain too large to be swallowed, continued.

  Blake’s head fell back and he ground his teeth in a primal snarl, his neck corded with the rage that surged through him. His muscles trembled with the need to vent his fury physically, but a despairing whimper from the woman in his arms made him realize the need to control himself, to calm her. He held her and stroked her, sliding his palms down her body and feeling the marvelous tone of her sleek muscles even through the fabric of her gown. His lips nuzzled into her hair, moved on to discover the softness of her eyelids, the satin stretch of skin over her exotic cheekbones, the intoxicating bloom of her soft, generous mouth. He whispered to her, crooned endearments, reassured her with broken phrases that told her how lovely she was, how much he wanted her. He promised her with his words and his body that he wouldn’t hurt her, reminding her over and over of the hour not long past when she’d trusted him enough to let him make love to her. The memory of that joining burned over his skin, but his need for her could wait. Her needs came first, the needs of a woman who had known too much pain.

  Gradually she calmed; gradually she reached out to him, by slow degrees curling her arms around his muscular back. She was tired, so worn out from the emotional strain of the night that she was limp against him, but he had to know, so he said again, “Tell me about it.”

  “Blake, no,” she moaned, turning her head weakly away from him. “I can’t….”

  “You can; you have to. Was that why you got divorced? Couldn’t your husband handle what had happened to you?” His questions fell on her like rocks, bruising her, and she flinched in his arms. He caught her chin and turned it back to him so he could read the nuances of her expression. “What kind of bastard was he, to turn his back on you when you needed him most? Did he think it was your fault?”

  A high, strained peal of laughter escaped her, and she shut it off abruptly by clapping her hand over her mouth, afraid of the rising hysteria in her. “He…oh, this is funny! He didn’t have any trouble handling what happened to me! He did it. My husband was the one who raped me!”

  Blake went rigid, stunned both by her words and the way she began to laugh, gasping shrieks of laughter that again she shut off, visibly clenching herself in an effort to regain control. She attained it, but she used all of the inner strength she possessed, and as she lay in his arms she could feel the emotion draining away from her, leaving her heavy, spent…

  “Tell me,” he insisted, his voice so hoarse that she didn’t recognize it.

  Her heartbeat had changed from a frantic sledgehammer pounding to a ponderous rhythm; dimly she wondered at it, but what did it really matter? What did anything really matter? She’d had all she could bear tonight….

  “Dione,” he prodded.

  “I don’t know why I married him,” she said dully. “I don’t think I ever loved him. But he was handsome and he had money, something I’d never had. He dazzled me with it. He bought me things, took me places, told me how much he loved me. I think that was it; he told me that he loved me. No one had ever told me that before, you see. But I was still standoffish with him, and Scott couldn’t stand that. I don’t think anyone had ever said no to him before. So he married me.”

  Blake waited a moment for her to resume, and when she didn’t he jostled her lightly. “Go on.”

  Her eyelids lifted slowly. She stared at him with half-veiled eyes, the glimmering, mysterious golden pools darkened to amber by the shadow of her lashes. “On our wedding night, he hurt me,” she said simply. “He was so rough…I started fighting him. I was strong even then, and I knocked him off of me. He went wild…. He forced me to have sex with him, and he wasn’t gentle. It was my first time, and I thought I was dying.

  “I knew then that the marriage was an awful mistake, that I wanted out, but he wouldn’t let me go. Every night I’d fight him again, and he’d force me again. “He was going to teach me how to be a woman if he had to break every bone in my body,” he said. I couldn’t stop fighting him,” she muttered to herself. “I never could just lie there and let him get it over with. I had to fight back, or I felt like something in me would die. So I fought, and the more I fought, the rougher he got. He started…hitting me.”

  Blake cursed violently and she jumped, throwing her arm up to cover her face. She was so deep inside her bitter memories that she was reacting as she had then, defending herself. His curse changed into a groan and he cuddled her, coaxing her to lower her arm. “I’m sorry, darling, I didn’t mean to startle you,” he panted. “When he started hitting you, why didn’t you turn him into the police?”

  “I didn’t know that he couldn’t do that,” she said tiredly. “I was so dumb; I read a lot of things about it afterward, but at the time I thought he had a legal right to do what he wanted with me, short of murder. He got worse and worse; he almost stopped wanting sex. He’d just start right in hitting me. Sometimes he’d go ahead and rape me, as roughly as he could, but most of the time he didn’t.”

  “You stayed with him for three months? Isn’t that how long you told me your marriage lasted?”

  “Not even that long. That I stayed with him, I mean. I can’t remember…. He pushed me down the steps one night, and I landed in the hospital with a broken arm and a concussion. I was there for several days, and a nurse figured out that I hadn’t simply tripped while going down the steps. She talked to me, and a counselor talked to me. I didn’t go back to Scott. When I was released from the hospital, the nurse let me stay with her.”

  She was calmer now, the memories easier to bear. In her normal voice she said, “Scott’s family was horrified by what had happened, they were good people, and when I filed for divorce they forced Scott to go along with it. They gave me a lot of support, paid for my training as a therapist, kept Scott away from me, even got him into psychiatric counseling. It must have worked; he’s remarried now, and they seem very happy. He has two daughters.”

  “Have you kept in touch with him?” Blake asked incredulously.

  “Oh, no!” she denied, shaking her head. “But while his mother was alive she kept track of me, sort of looked after me like a guardian angel. She never got over what had happened to me, as if it were her fault becaus
e Scott was her son. She told me when he remarried, and when her grandchildren were born. She died a couple of years ago.”

  “So he lived happily ever after, and you’ve been dragging a ball and chain around with you for all these years,” he said angrily. “Afraid to let anyone touch you, keeping people pushed away at a safe distance…only half-alive!”

  “I haven’t been unhappy,” she said wearily, her lashes sweeping down. She was so tired…. He knew all of it now, and she felt so empty, as if all the terror that had filled her for so long had seeped away, leaving her hollow and lost. The warmth of Blake’s body was so comforting in the chilly room; the steady rumble of his heartbeat in his strong chest was so reassuring. She could feel the iron in the bands of flesh that wrapped around her, feel the security of his strength. She’d given him that strength; it was only right that she rely on it now. She turned her face against him, inhaling and tasting on her tongue the heady scent of his body. He smelled of man, of sweat, of a clean grassy scent that eluded her when she tried to search it out. He had the musky smell of sex, a reminder of the incredible night. With a slow, gentle sigh, she slept, all of her senses filled with him.

  When she woke she was alone in the bed and the brightness of the room told her that the morning was almost over. She wasn’t fortunate enough to forget, even for a moment, the events of the night. Her eyes went to the gallery, but the wheelchair was gone, and she wondered how Blake could have left her bed and taken the wheelchair without waking her; she was normally the lightest of sleepers, coming awake at any unusual noise. But she’d been so tired…she was still tired, her body heavy and clumsy feeling, her reactions slow.

  She eased out of bed, wincing at the unfamiliar soreness of her body. How could she have been so stupid that she’d let Blake make love to her? She was trying to get through these last days with him with the least amount of emotional damage, and she’d made it impossibly complicated. She should never have tried to arouse him; she didn’t know anything about handling men, or handling herself, if it came to that. He’d said, “I need you,” and she’d melted. A real pushover, she told herself contemptuously. He must have seen her coming a mile away. Then, to top it all off, she’d told him about Scott.

 
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