Come lie with me, p.16
Come Lie With Me, page 16
She writhed inwardly with embarrassment. She’d managed for years to control herself, to keep herself from wallowing in the slimy pool of the past. So she hadn’t been comfortable with men; what of it? A lot of women managed very well without men. When she thought of the way she’d clung to him, weeping and moaning, she wanted to die of shame. Her solitary nature hated the thought of displaying so much of herself to anyone, even the man who had taken up her days and nights for months.
Willpower had a lot to say for itself; it steadied her nerves, gave her the courage to shrug her shoulders and step into the shower as if there was nothing unusual about that morning. She dressed as she normally did, then went straight to the gym, where she knew she’d find Blake. There was no point in putting off their meeting, because time wouldn’t make it any easier. It was best to face him and get it over with.
When she opened the door he glanced at her but didn’t say anything; he was lying on his stomach, lifting weights with his legs, and he was counting. He was totally engrossed in the demands he was making of his body. With a slow but steady rhythm he lifted each leg in turn.
“How long have you been doing that?” Dione asked sternly, forgetting her discomfort as her professional concern surfaced.
“Half…an…hour,” he grated.
“That’s enough. Stop right now,” she ordered. “You’re overdoing it; no wonder your legs give you fits! What are you trying to do, punish your legs for the years they didn’t work?”
He relaxed with a groan. “I’m trying to get away from the walker,” he said irritably. “I want to walk alone, without leaning on anything.”
“If you tear a muscle you’re going to be leaning on something for a lot longer than necessary,” she snapped back. “I’ve watched you push yourself past the bounds of common sense, but no more. I’m a therapist, not a spectator. If you’re not going to follow my instructions, then there’s no use in my staying here any longer.”
His head jerked around, and his eyes darkened to a stormy color. “Are you telling me that you’re leaving?”
“That’s up to you,” she returned stonily. “If you’ll do as you’re told and follow your training program, I’ll stay. If you’re going to ignore everything I say and do what you want, there’s no point in my wasting my time here.”
He flushed darkly, and she realized that he still wasn’t used to giving in to anyone. For a moment she expected him to tell her to pack her bags, and she pulled herself up, braced for the words that would end her time with him. Then he clenched his jaw and snapped, “All right, lady, you’re the boss. What’s the matter with you today? You’re as touchy as a rattler.”
Absurd relief washed over her, at both her reprieve from exile and the familiar, comforting ill-temper apparent in his words. She could handle that; but she knew beyond a doubt that she wouldn’t have been able to handle the situation if he’d made any reference to the intimacy of the night, if he’d tried to kiss her and act like a lover.
She was so determined to regain the therapist-patient relationship that during the day she resisted his teasing and efforts to joke with her, turning a cold face to his laughing eyes. By the time they had finished they were snarling at each other like two stray dogs. Dione, having eaten nothing all day, was so hungry that she was almost sick, and that only added to the hostility she felt.
Her body was rebelling against her misuse of it when it was finally time for dinner. On wobbly legs she made her way down the stairs, her head whirling in a nauseating manner that made her cling to the banisters. She was so preoccupied with the task of getting down the stairs in one piece that she didn’t hear Blake behind her, didn’t feel his searing blue gaze on her back.
She made it to the dining room and fell into her chair with relief at not having sprawled on the floor. After a moment Blake made his way past her and went into the kitchen; she was too sick to wonder at that, even though it was the first time she’d seen him enter the kitchen in the months she’d been living there.
Alberta came out promptly with a steaming bowl of soup, which she placed before Dione. “Eat that right now,” she ordered in her gruff, no-nonsense voice.
Slowly Dione began to eat, not trusting her queasy stomach. As she ate, though, she began to feel better as her stomach settled; by the time she’d finished the soup the trembling in her body was subsiding and she wasn’t as dizzy. She looked up to find Blake seated across from her, silently watching her eat. A wave of color heated her face, and she dropped her spoon, embarrassed that she’d begun eating without him.
“Lady,” he said evenly, “you give the word stubborn a whole new meaning.”
She lowered her eyes and didn’t respond, not certain if he were talking about how hungry she’d been or something else; she feared it was the “something else,” and she just couldn’t carry on a calm, ordinary conversation about what had happened between them.
She made an effort to call a truce between them, though without lowering her guard an inch. She couldn’t laugh with him; her nerves were stretched too tightly, her emotions were too ravaged. But she did smile and talk, and generally avoided meeting his eyes. In that manner she made it safely through the evening until it was time to go to bed and she could excuse herself.
She was already in bed, staring at the ceiling, when she heard him call. It was like an instant replay of the night before and she froze, a film of perspiration breaking out on her body. She couldn’t go in there, not after what had happened the last time. He couldn’t have cramps in his legs, because she’d heard him come up not five minutes before. He wasn’t even in bed yet.
She lay there telling herself fiercely that she wouldn’t go; then he called her name again and years of training rose up to do battle with her. He was her patient, and he was calling her. She could just check and make certain that he was all right, and leave again if there was nothing wrong.
Reluctantly she climbed out of bed, this time reaching for her robe and belting it tightly around her. No more going into his room wearing only her nightgown; the thought of his hands on her breasts interfered with the rhythm of her breathing, and an odd ache began in the flesh that he had touched.
When she opened the door to his bedroom she was surprised to see that he was already in bed. “What did you want?” she asked coolly, not leaving her position by the door.
He sighed and sat up, stuffing his pillows behind his back. “We have to talk,” he said.
She froze. “If you like to talk so much, maybe you should join a debating team,” she retorted.
“I made love to you last night,” he said bluntly, going straight to the heart of the issue and watching as she flinched against the door. “You had a rough deal with your ex-husband, and I can understand that you’re wary, but last night wasn’t a total disaster for you. You kissed me, you responded to me. So why are you acting today as if I’d raped you?”
Dione sighed, shaking her long hair back. He’d never understand something that she didn’t really understand herself; she only knew that, in her experience, caring led to pain and rejection. It wasn’t so much a physical distance she wanted from him as an emotional one, before he took everything she had and left her only a shell, empty and useless. But there was something he would understand, and at last she met his eyes.
“What happened last night won’t happen again,” she said, her voice low and clear. “I’m a therapist, and you’re my patient. That’s the only relationship that I can allow between us.”
“You’re closing the barn door after the horse is already out,” he said with maddening amusement.
“Not really. You had doubts about your ability to have sex after the accident, and that was interfering with your training. Last night removed those doubts. That was the beginning and end of anything sexual between us.”
His face darkened. “Damn it,” he growled, all amusement gone. “Are you telling me that last night was just a therapeutic roll in the hay?”
Her lips tightened at his crudity.
She returned to bed, knowing it was useless to think of sleep, but making the effort anyway. She had to leave. She simply couldn’t stay until the first of the year, not with things as strained as they were now. Blake was almost fully recovered; time and practice would accomplish the rest of it. He didn’t need her any longer, and there were other people who did.
Her bedroom door opened and he stood there, without the walker, moving slowly and carefully as he closed the door and crossed the room to her.
“If you want to run, I can’t catch you,” he said flatly.
She knew that, but still she lay where she was, watching him. He was nude, his tall, perfect body shamelessly exposed to her gaze. She looked at him and couldn’t help feeling a thrill of pride at the ripple of muscles, the fluid grace of his body. He was beautiful, and she’d created him.
He lifted the sheet and got into bed beside her, immediately enveloping her in the warmth of his body. She wanted to sink into his flesh, but instead she made one more effort to protect herself. “This can’t work,” she said, her voice cracking with pain.
“It already has; you just haven’t admitted it yet.” He put his hand on her hip and pulled her to him, nestling her against him down the entire length of his body. She sighed, her soft breath tickling the hairs on his chest; her body relaxed in traitorous contentment.
He tilted her chin up and kissed her, his lips gentle, his tongue dipping into her mouth briefly to taste her, then withdrawing. “Let’s get one issue settled right now,” he murmured. “I’ve been lying to you, but I thought it best to keep from frightening you. I wanted you since…hell, it seems like from the first time I saw you. Definitely since I threw my breakfast at you, and you laughed the most beautiful laugh I’d ever heard.”
Dione frowned. “Wanted me? But you couldn’t—”
“That’s what I’ve been lying about,” he admitted, kissing her again.
She jerked back, her cheeks going scarlet. “What?” she gasped, mortified when she thought of the effort she’d made to arouse him, and the money she’d spent on seductive clothes.
Wryly he surveyed her furious face, but braved the wildcat’s claws and pulled her back into his arms. “Several things you did made me think that you might have been mistreated,” he explained.
“So you decided to show me what I’d been missing,” she exploded, pushing at his chest. “Of all the sneaky, egotistical snakes in the world, you’re at the top of the heap!”
He chuckled and gently subdued her, using the strength that she’d given him. “Not quite. I wanted you, but I didn’t want to frighten you. So I pretended that I couldn’t make love to you; all I wanted was for you to get to know me, learn to trust me, so I’d have a chance at least. Then you started dressing in those thin shirts and shorts, and I thought I’d go out of my mind. You damn-near killed me!” he said roughly. “You touched me constantly, driving me so wild I’d almost exploded out of my skin, and I’d have to hide my reaction from you. Didn’t you wonder why I’d been working like a maniac?”
She sucked in a shaky breath. “Is that why?”
“Of course it is,” he said, touching her lip with his finger. “I tried to get you used to my touch, too, and that only made my problem worse. Every time I kissed you, every time I touched your legs, I was driving myself crazy.”
Closing her eyes, she remembered all the times when he’d stared at her with that peculiar, hot light in his eyes. A woman with any real experience would have known immediately that Blake wasn’t impotent, but she’d been the perfect, all-time sucker for that line. “You must have laughed yourself sick at me,” she said miserably.
“I haven’t been in any shape to laugh, even if it had been a laughing matter. Which it wasn’t,” he said. “The thought that someone had hurt you made me so furious I wanted to tear the guy apart. Whoever he was, he was the reason you were frightened of me, and I hated that. I’d have done anything to make you trust me, let me love you.”
She bit her lip, wishing that she could believe him, but how could she? He made it sound as if he’d been so concerned for her, and all he’d really been concerned with was his own sexual appetite. She knew how touchy he’d been about letting even Serena see him while he was less than perfect; he wouldn’t want to make love to a woman who might pity him for the effort it took him to walk, or, even worse, might want him because of a morbid curiosity. Dione was the one safe female of his acquaintance, the one who knew everything about him already and was neither shocked, curious, nor pitying. “What you’re saying is that you wanted sex, and I was handy,” she said bitterly.
“My God, Dee!” He sounded shocked. “I’m not getting through to you, am I? Is it so hard for you to believe that I want you, not just sex? We’ve been through a lot together; you’ve held me when I hurt so much I couldn’t stand it any longer, and I held you last night when you were afraid, but trusted me with yourself anyway. You’re not just a sexual outlet for me; you’re the woman I want. I want all of you: your temper, your contrariness, your strength, even your downright bitchiness, because you’re also an incredibly loving woman.”
“All right, I absolve you,” she said wearily. “I don’t want to talk about it now; I’m tired and I can’t think straight.”
He looked down at her, and impatience flickered across his face. “There’s no reasoning with you, is there?” he asked slowly. “I shouldn’t have wasted my time talking to you. I should have just shown you, like I’m going to do now.”
Dione drew back sharply, her golden eyes flashing. “Do all men use force when a woman isn’t willing?” she said between clenched teeth. “I warn you, Blake, I’ll fight. Maybe I can’t stop you, but I can hurt you.”
He laughed softly. “I know you can.” He lifted one of her fists and carried it to his lips, where he kissed each knuckle in turn. “Darling, I’m not going to force you. I’m going to kiss you and tell you how lovely you are, and do everything I can think of to give you pleasure. The first time was for me, remember, but the second time is for you. Don’t you think I can show you?”
“You’re trying to seduce me,” she snapped.
“Mmmm. Is it working?”
“Damn. Then I’ll have to try something else, won’t I?” He laughed again, and pressed his warm lips to her wrist. “You’re so sweet, even when you’re mad at me.”
“I am not!” she protested, practically insulted by his compliment. “There’s not a ‘sweet’ bone in my body!”
“You’re sweet smelling,” he countered. “And sweet tasting. And the feel of you is sweet torment. Your name should be Champagne instead of Dione, because you make me so drunk I barely know what I’m doing.”
“What did I do for excitement before I met you?” he asked wryly. “Fighting with you makes mountain climbing pale in comparison.”
The amusement in his voice was more than she could bear; she was so confused and upset, but he seemed to think it was funny. She turned her head away to hide the tears that welled up. “I’m glad you’re getting such a kick out of this,” she muttered.
“We’ll talk about that later,” he said, and kissed her. She lay rigidly in his arms, refusing to let her mouth soften and mold itself to his, and after a moment he drew back.
“Don’t you want me at all?” he whispered, nuzzling her hair. “Did I hurt you last night? Is that what’s wrong?”
“I don’t know what’s wrong!” she shouted. “I don’t understand what I want, or what you want. I’m out of my depth, and I don’t like it!” The frustration she felt with herself and with him came bubbling out of her, but it was nothing less than the truth. Her mind was so muddled that nothing pleased her; she felt violent, but without a safe outlet for that violence. She’d been violated, hurt, and though years had passed, only now was the anger breaking out of the deep freeze where s
Furiously she shoved at him, rolling him over on his back. Before he could react she was astride him, her face pagan with the raw force of her emotions. “If there’s any seducing to be done, I’ll do it!” she raged at him. “Damn you, don’t you dare move!”
His blue eyes widened, and a rich understanding crossed his face. “I won’t,” he promised, a little hoarsely.
With a sensual growl she assaulted him, using her mouth, her hands, her entire body. A man’s sexuality had always been denied to her, but now this man offered himself in spread-eagled sacrifice, and she explored him with voracious hunger. Much of his body she already knew; the sleek strength of his muscles under her fingers; the roughness of the hair on his chest and legs; the male scent that made her nostrils flare. But now she learned the taste of him as she nibbled at his ears, his chin, his mouth; she pressed her lips against the softness of his temple and felt his pulse hammering madly. She kissed his eyes, the strong column of his throat, the slope of his shoulder, the sensitive inside of his elbow.
His palms twitched as her tongue traced across them, and he groaned aloud when she sucked on his fingers. “Hush!” she said fiercely, crouching over him. She didn’t want any break in her concentration. As she learned him, her body was coming alive, warming and glowing like something long frozen and slowly beginning to thaw. She moved upward, licked the length of his collarbone, then snaked her tongue downward through the curls of hair until she found the little nipples that hid there. They were tight, as hard as tiny diamonds, and when she bit them he shuddered wildly.
by Linda Howard / Romance / Mystery & Thrillers have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes