Come lie with me, p.19
Come Lie With Me, page 19
“Stop trying to change the subject,” he ordered sharply. “Was Serena warning you away from Richard?”
That again! She stiffened, both angered and hurt by the way he had continually accused her of seeing Richard on the sly. How could he possibly think that of her? She had agreed to marry him only two days before, but for some reason she couldn’t get it out of his mind that she might be involved with another man. She sat up, the sheet falling to her waist, but she was too angry to care if she were nude.
“What’s with you?” she demanded furiously. “You sound like a broken record. What is it that makes you so suspicious of me? Why am I always the cause of any trouble between Serena and Richard?”
“Because Richard can never take his eyes off you when you’re together,” he replied, his mouth a hard line.
“I’m not responsible for Richard’s eyes!” The injustice of it made her want to scream.
“Aren’t you?” he snapped. “Whenever you look at him, it’s as if you’re passing secret messages.”
“You just accused me of doing the same thing with Serena. Am I having an affair with her, too?” Dione exploded. She clenched her fists in an effort to control the burgeoning fury in her. It would be stupid to lose her temper, so she forcibly sucked in a deep, calming breath and made her muscles relax.
Blake eyed her narrowly. “If you don’t have anything to hide, then why won’t you tell me what Serena meant by what she said?” he questioned.
Another sneak attack. She registered the hit and realized that again he’d caught her when her control was slipping. “If you’re so curious, why don’t you ask her?” she said bitingly, and lay down again, turning her back to him and pulling the sheet up to her chin.
She heard his breath hiss through his teeth a split second before the sheet was jerked away from her and thrown to the foot of the bed. An iron hand bit into her shoulder and turned her over, flat on her back. “Don’t turn your back on me,” he warned softly, and the cold uneasiness in her turned into icy dread.
Silently, her face white and set, she threw his hand off her shoulder. She had never, never, been able to passively endure, even when resistance cost her additional pain. She didn’t think; she reacted instinctively, the automatic resistance of someone fighting for survival. When he reached for her, angered by her rejection, she eluded his grasp and slid from the bed.
It didn’t matter that this was Blake. Somehow, that made it worse. His image blurred with Scott’s, and she felt a stabbing pain that threatened to drive her to her knees. She had trusted him, loved him. How could he have turned on her like that, knowing what he did about her? The sense of betrayal almost choked her.
He sprang from the bed and reached her as she stretched her hand out for the doorknob. He grabbed her elbow and spun her around. “You’re not going anywhere!” he growled. “Come back to bed.”
Dione wrenched herself away from his grip and flattened her body back against the door. Her golden eyes were blind, dilated, as she stared at him. “Don’t touch me,” she cried hoarsely.
He reached for her again, then stopped abruptly when he looked at her and saw the fixed expression in her eyes. She was white, so pale that he expected her to slide into a faint at any moment, but she held herself tautly upright. “Don’t touch me,” she said again, and his arms dropped heavily to his sides.
“Calm down,” he said soothingly. “It’s all right. I’m not going to hurt you, darling. Let’s go back to bed.”
She didn’t move, her eyes still locked on him as she measured every move he made, however slight. Even the expansion of his chest with every breath he took made an impact on her senses. She saw the slight flare of his nostrils, the flexing of his fingers.
“It’s all right,” he repeated. “Dee, we had an argument, that’s all. Just an argument. You know I’m not going to hit you.” He extended his hand slowly to her, and she watched as his fingers approached. Without moving her body somehow drew in on itself, shrinking in an effort to avoid his touch. Just before he would have touched her, she slid swiftly to the side, away from the threatening hand.
Inexorably he followed, moving with her but not coming any closer. “Where are you going?” he asked softly.
She didn’t answer; her eyes were wary now, instead of blindly staring. Blake held out both his hands to her, palms up in supplication.
“Honey, give me your hands,” he whispered, desperation threading through his veins, congealing his blood. “Please believe me; I’ll never hurt you. Come back to bed with me and let me hold you.”
Dione watched him. She felt odd, as if part of herself were standing back and watching the scene. That had happened before with Scott, as if she somehow had to separate herself from the ugliness of what was happening to her. Her body had reacted mindlessly, trying to protect itself, while her mind had exercised its own means of protection by drawing a veil of unreality over what was happening. Now the same scene was being replayed with Blake, but it was somehow different. Scott had never stalked her, never talked to her in a crooning, husky voice. Blake wanted her to put her hands in his and go with him back to that bed, lie beside him as if nothing had happened. But what had happened? He had been angry, and he had grabbed her shoulder, throwing her to her back…no, that had been Scott. Scott had done that once, but they hadn’t been in bed.
Her brow knitted, and she brought both hands up, rubbing her forehead. God, would she never be free of Scott, of what he had done to her? Blake’s anger had triggered the memory of the other time, and though she hadn’t confused their identities, she had been reacting to Scott, not Blake. Blake hadn’t hurt her; he had been angry, but he hadn’t hurt her.
“Dee? Are you all right?”
His beloved, anxious voice was almost more than she could bear. “No,” she said, her voice muffled behind her hands. “I wonder if I’ll ever be all right.”
Abruptly she felt his touch, his hands on her arms, slowly drawing her to him. She could feel the tension in him as he folded her into his arms. “Of course you will,” he reassured her, kissing her temple. “Come back to bed with me; you’re cold.”
Abruptly she felt the cold, the chill of the night on the bareness of her body. She walked with him to the bed, let him put her between the sheets and draw the comforter up over her. He walked around to the other side, turned out the lamp and got into bed beside her. Carefully, as though he were trying not to startle her, he pulled her into his arms and held her tightly to his side.
“I love you,” he said in the darkness, his low tones vibrating over her skin. “I swear, Dee, that I’ll never again touch you in anger. I love you too much to put you through that again.”
Hot tears burned her lids. How could he apologize for something that was, essentially, a weakness in her? How long would it take before he began to resent the flaw in her nature? He wouldn’t be able to act naturally with her, and the strain would tear them apart. Normal couples had arguments, yelled at each other, knowing that their anger didn’t harm the love between them. Blake would hold himself back, fearing another scene; would he come to hate her because he felt restricted by her? Blake deserved someone whole, someone free, as he was free.
“It would probably be better if I left,” she said, the words trembling despite all she could do to hold her tone level.
The arm under her neck tensed, and he rose up on his elbow, looming over her in the darkness. “No,” he said, and he achieved the firmness that she had striven for but failed to obtain. “You’re where you belong, and you’re going to stay here. We’re getting married, remember?”
“That’s what I’m trying to say,” she protested. “How can we have any sort of life together if you’re constantly watching what you say and do, afraid of upsetting me? You’d hate me, and I’d hate myself!”
“You’re worrying about nothing,” he said shortly. “I’ll never hate you, so forget that line.”
The edge in his voice cut her like a razor, and she fell silent, wondering why
Already the bloom of Blake’s infatuation was dying, killed not by the attraction to another woman as she had feared, but by daily exposure to reality.
Knowing that it was happening was one thing; preparing herself for it was another. Every time she glanced up and caught Blake watching her broodingly she had to turn away to hide the pain that twisted inside her. She knew that he was regretting his marriage proposal, but his pride wouldn’t allow him to back out of it. Probably he would never ask to be released from the engagement; she would have to do the severing. She sensed that he still wasn’t ready to admit that he’d been wrong, so she didn’t try to take any action to break their engagement now. When the time came she would know, and she would free him.
New Year’s passed, and, as he had planned, he began working full time. She could tell that he was always eager to leave the house, and he began to bring home a briefcase crammed with papers. Dione wondered if he brought work home so he would have an excuse to shut himself in the study and escape her company; then he mentioned that Richard had taken his suggestion and indulged in a month of vacation, and she felt guilty. He really was buried in paperwork without Richard to take part of the load off him.
One night he came to bed after midnight and groaned wearily as his body relaxed. Dione turned over and touched his cheek, trailing her fingers over his skin and feeling the prickle of his beard. “Do you need a massage to relax?” she asked quietly.
“Would you mind?” he sighed. “My neck and shoulders have a permanent kink in them from leaning over a desk. My God, no wonder Richard and Serena are having problems; he’s had two years of this, and that’s enough to drive any man crazy.”
He rolled over on his stomach, and Dione pulled her nightgown up to her thighs, straddling his back and leaning forward to work her magic on his tight muscles. As her kneading fingers dug into his flesh he made a muffled sound of pain, then sighed blissfully as the tension left him.
“Have you seen Serena lately?” he asked.
Her fingers paused for a moment, then resumed their movement. “No,” she replied. “She hasn’t even called. Have you talked to her?”
“Not since the night she had dinner here and told us she and Richard had separated. I think I’ll call her tomorrow. Ahhh, that feels good. Right there. I feel as if I’ve been beaten.”
She rolled her knuckles up and down his spine, paying particular attention to the spot that he had indicated needed extra work. He made little grunting noises every time she touched a tender area, and she began to laugh. “You sound like a pig,” she teased.
“Who cares? I’m enjoying this. I’ve missed the massages; several times I’ve started to call you and ask you to come to the plant to give me a rubdown, but it didn’t seem like such a smart thing to do in a busy day.”
“Why not?” she asked tartly, a little irritated that he considered her to be a traveling massage parlor, and a lot irritated that he hadn’t followed through on his idea.
He laughed and rolled over, deftly keeping his body between her thighs. “Because,” he murmured, “this is what usually happens to me during one of your massages. Let me tell you, I had a hell of a time keeping you from realizing what was going on when you thought I was impotent and were so sweetly trying to turn me on to prove that I wasn’t.”
She moved off him like a rocket, her entire body blushing. “What?” she yelled furiously. “You knew what I was doing, and you let me go ahead and make a fool of myself?”
He laughed uproariously, reaching out to pull her into his embrace. “It didn’t take me long to figure it out,” he admitted, still chuckling. “As if you needed sexy clothes to turn me on…but I couldn’t let you know what you were doing to me without frightening you away. Honey, you weren’t seducing me; I was seducing you, but I had to let you think it was the other way around.”
She burned with embarrassment, thinking of the things she had done, the revealing clothes she had worn. Then she felt his hand on her breast, and the heat intensified, but no longer from shame. He hadn’t made love to her for several days; he had been coming to bed late and falling asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow, and she had missed his touch.
“You don’t really mind, do you?” he asked softly, pulling the nightgown over her head. “What are you doing with this thing on?”
“I get cold when you aren’t in the bed,” she explained, stretching her body in his arms, reveling in the rasp of his hair-roughed skin against hers.
With a growl he rolled her to her back and buried his face between her breasts. “I’m here now, so you don’t need it,” he said, his voice muffled by her flesh. He took her quickly, impatient after the days of abstinence. She held him even after he was asleep, her doubts momentarily eased by the passion of his lovemaking.
Serena called the next morning. “I’ve just talked to Blake,” she said, laughing a little. “He practically ordered me to take you out to lunch. He said that you’re going a little stir crazy with him so tied up at work. Does he really think I believe that?”
Dione laughed. “He thinks you’re sitting there alone, brooding, and he wants you to get out of the house for a while. Shall we make him happy and go out to lunch?”
“Why not? I’ll pick you up at twelve.”
“I’m not brooding,” Serena said firmly a few hours later as she bit into a crisp radish. “Richard wanted some time to himself, and I gave it to him. We didn’t have an argument or anything like that. He’s in Aspen. He loves to ski, and I’ve never learned how; he hasn’t been since we were married, because he wouldn’t do anything that I couldn’t enjoy. I’m not athletic,” she explained, grinning.
“You’re not upset at all?”
“Of course I’m upset, but I’m borrowing a page from your book and keeping it all under control.” She shrugged lightly. “We had a long conversation before he left, got everything out in the open. That’s a first for Richard. He’s so good at keeping his thoughts to himself that sometimes I want to scream. We decided that he’s been under so much stress that the best thing to do was to get away from each other, let him relax and catch up on his sleep, before we did any more talking.”
“Have you talked to him since he left?”
“No. That was part of the bargain. When he comes back we’ll settle things once and for all.”
Serena had changed a lot in the months since they had met, becoming a self-assured woman. Things might not work out for her, but she was facing the future with her chin up; Dione only hoped that she could do the same. While Blake was making love to her, she could forget that he was growing away from her, but they couldn’t spend the rest of their lives in bed. The ruby heart rested warmly in the valley between her breasts; he had said that it was his heart, and she wouldn’t be selfish. She would give his heart back to him.
“I know what we can do,” Serena said firmly. “Let’s go shopping! We can look for your wedding dress.”
Shopping was Serena’s cure-all, and Dione went along with it, though she couldn’t work up any enthusiasm for any of the dresses that they looked at. How could she be concerned with a dress for a wedding that would never take place?
Blake was so tired when he came home that night that his limp was more pronounced, but he cross-examined her over dinner, asking for a word-for-word repetition of everything Serena had said, how she had looked, if she had seemed worri
The passion of the night before wasn’t repeated; when he finally came to bed he threw his arm over her and went to sleep before his mumbled “good night” was out of his mouth. She listened to his steady breathing for a long time, unwilling to sleep and miss a moment of her time with him.
With calm resignation she made plans the next day for her future; she contacted Dr. Norwood and accepted a case, then booked a flight to Milwaukee. Her next patient was still hospitalized, but in three weeks he would be able to begin therapy, so that gave her three weeks to spend with Blake.
Every day he became more distant from her, more involved in his work, needing less from her. In her weak moments she tried to tell herself that it was just because he had so much work to do, but she couldn’t believe that for long. She responded by doing as she had always done, shoving her pain and misery into a dark corner of her mind and building a wall around them. If it killed her, she would still leave him with her shoulders straight and not distress him by crying all over him. He wouldn’t like that, and she wasn’t the weepy type, anyway. She wouldn’t just hit him with it; she would tell him that she was having doubts about their marriage, and that she thought it would be a good idea for them to spend some time apart. She would tell him that she’d taken another case, and that when it was finished they would discuss their situation. His conscience wouldn’t bother him if she did it that way; he would be relieved that it was her idea.
She learned that Richard was back in town when he called her and asked if he could talk to her privately. She hesitated, and he said wryly, “Serena knows that I’m here. She suggested that I talk to you.”
Why would Serena want Richard to talk to Dione? What could she possibly tell him that Serena couldn’t say just as well? But a third party could sometimes see more clearly than the ones involved, so she agreed.
by Linda Howard / Romance / Mystery & Thrillers have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes