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Come lie with me, p.2

Come Lie With Me, page 2

 

Come Lie With Me
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  Richard knew an amazing amount about Mr. Remington’s personal life, and finally Dione asked him what his relationship was to the man.

  The firm mouth twisted. “I’m his vice-president, for one thing, so I know about his business operations. I’m also his brother-in-law. The only woman in his life who you’ll have to deal with is my wife, Serena, who is also his younger sister.”

  Dione asked, “Why do you say that? Do you live in the same house with Mr. Remington?”

  “No, but that doesn’t mean anything. Since his accident, Serena has hovered over him, and I’m sure she won’t be pleased when you arrive and take all of his attention. She’s always adored Blake to the point of obsession. She nearly went insane when we thought he would die.”

  “I won’t allow any interference in my therapy program,” she warned him quietly. “I’ll be overseeing his hours, his visitors, the food he eats, even the phone calls he receives. I hope your wife understands that.”

  “I’ll try to convince her, but Serena is just like Blake. She’s both stubborn and determined, and she has a key to the house.”

  “I’ll have the locks changed,” Dione planned aloud, perfectly serious in her intentions. Loving sister or not, Serena Dylan wasn’t going to take over or intrude on Dione’s therapy.

  “Good,” Richard approved, a frown settling on his austere brow. “I’d like to have a wife again.”

  It was beginning to appear that Richard had some other motive for wanting his brother-in-law walking again. Evidently, in the two years since Blake’s accident, his sister had abandoned her husband in order to care for him, and the neglect was eroding her marriage. It was a situation that Dione didn’t want to become involved in, but she had given her word that she would take the case, and she didn’t betray the trust that people put in her.

  Because of the time difference, it was only midafternoon when Richard drove them to the exclusive Phoenix suburb where Blake Remington lived. This time his car was a white Lincoln, plush and cool. As he drove up the circular drive to the hacienda-style house, she saw that it looked plush and cool, too. To call it a house was like calling a hurricane a wind; this place was a mansion. It was white and mysterious, keeping its secrets hidden behind its walls, presenting only a grateful facade to curious eyes. The landscaping was marvelous, a blend of the natural desert plants and lush greenery that was the product of careful and selective irrigation. The drive ran around to the back, where Richard told her the garage area was, but he stopped before the arched entry in front.

  When she walked into the enormous foyer Dione thought she’d walked into the garden of paradise. There was a serenity to the place, a dignified simplicity wrought by the cool brown tiles on the floor, the plain white walls, the high ceiling. The hacienda was built in a U, around an open courtyard that was cool and fragrant, with a pink marble fountain in the center of it spouting clear water into the air. She could see all of that because the inner wall of the foyer, from ceiling to floor, was glass.

  She was still speechless with admiration when the brisk clicking of heels on the tiles caught her attention, and she turned her head to watch the tall young woman approaching. This had to be Serena; the resemblance to the photo of Blake Remington was too strong for her to be anyone else. She had the same soft brown hair, the same dark blue eyes, the same clear-cut features. But she wasn’t laughing, as the man in the photo had been; her eyes were stormy, outraged.

  “Richard!” she said in a low, wrathful tone. “Where have you been for the past two days? How dare you disappear without a word, then turn up with this…this gypsy in tow!”

  Dione almost chuckled; most women wouldn’t have attacked so bluntly, but she could see that this direct young woman had her share of the determination that Richard had attributed to Blake Remington. She opened her mouth to tell the truth of the matter, but Richard stepped in smoothly.

  “Dione,” he said, watching his wife with a cold eye, “I’d like to introduce my wife, Serena. Serena, this is Dione Kelley. I’ve hired Miss Kelley as Blake’s new therapist, and I’ve been to Florida to pick her up and fly her back here. I didn’t tell anyone where I was going because I had no intention of arguing over the matter. I’ve hired her, and that’s that. I think that answers all of your questions.” He finished with cutting sarcasm.

  Serena Dylan wasn’t a woman to be cowed, though a flush did color her cheeks. She turned to Dione and said frankly, “I apologize, though I refuse to take all of the blame. If my husband had seen fit to inform me of his intentions, I wouldn’t have made such a terrible accusation.”

  “I understand.” Dione smiled. “Under the same circumstances, I doubt that my conduct would have been as polite.”

  Serena smiled in return, then stepped forward and gave her husband a belated peck on the cheek. “Very well, you’re forgiven,” she sighed, “though I’m afraid you’ve wasted your time. You know that Blake won’t put up with it. He can’t stand having anyone hover over him, and he’s been pushed at and pounded on enough.”

  “Evidently not, or he’d be walking by now,” Dione replied confidently.

  Serena looked doubtful, then shrugged. “I still think you’ve wasted your time. Blake refused to have anything to do with the last therapist Richard hired, and he won’t change his mind for you.”

  “I’d like to talk to him myself, if I may,” Dione insisted, though in a pleasant tone.

  Serena hadn’t exactly stationed herself like a guard before the throne room, but it was evident that she was very protective of her brother. It wasn’t all that unusual. When someone had been in a severe accident, it was only natural that the members of the family were overprotective for a while. Perhaps, when Serena found that Dione would be taking over the vast majority of Blake’s time and attention, she would give her own husband the attention he deserved.

  “At this time of day, Blake is usually in his room,” Richard said, taking Dione’s arm. “This way.”

  “Richard!” Again color rose in Serena’s cheeks, but this time they were spots of anger. “He’s lying down for a nap! At least leave him in peace until he comes downstairs. You know how badly he sleeps; let him rest while he can!”

  “He naps every day?” Dione asked, thinking that if he slept during the day, no wonder he couldn’t sleep at night.

  “He tries to nap, but he usually looks worse afterward than he did before.”

  “Then it won’t matter if we disturb him, will it?” Dione asked, deciding that now was the time to establish her authority. She caught a faint twitch of Richard’s lips, signaling a smile, then he was directing her to the broad, sweeping stairs with his hand still warm and firm on her elbow. Behind them, Dione could feel the heat of the glare that Serena threw at them; then she heard the brisk tapping of heels as Serena followed.

  From the design of the house, Dione suspected that all of the upstairs rooms opened onto the graceful gallery that ran along the entire U of the house, looking down on the inner courtyard. When Richard tapped lightly on a door that had been widened to allow a wheelchair to pass easily through it, then opened it at the low call that permitted entrance, she saw at once that, at least in this room, her supposition was correct. The enormous room was flooded with sunlight that streamed through the open curtains, though the sliding glass doors that opened onto the gallery remained closed.

  The man at the window was silhouetted against the bright sunlight, a mysterious and melancholy figure slumped in the prison of a wheelchair. Then he reached out and pulled a chord, closing the curtains, and the room became dim. Dione blinked for a moment before her eyes adjusted to the sudden darkness; then the man became clear to her, and she felt her throat tighten with shock.

  She’d thought that she was prepared; Richard had told her that Blake had lost weight and was rapidly deteriorating, but until she saw him, she hadn’t realized exactly how serious the situation was. The contrast between the man in the wheelchair and the laughing man in the photo she’d seen was so great that sh
e wouldn’t have believed them to be the same man if it hadn’t been for the dark blue eyes. His eyes no longer sparkled; they were dull and lifeless, but nothing could change their remarkable color.

  He was thin, painfully so; he had to have lost almost fifty pounds from what he’d weighed when the photo had been taken, and he’d been all lean muscle then. His brown hair was dull from poor nutrition, and shaggy, as if it had been a long time since he’d had it trimmed. His skin was pale, his face all high cheekbones and gaunt cheeks.

  Dione held herself upright, but inside she was shattering, crumbling into a thousand brittle pieces. She inevitably became involved with all her patients, but never before had she felt as if she were dying; never before had she wanted to rage at the injustice of it, at the horrible obscenity that had taken his perfect body and reduced it to helplessness. His suffering and despair were engraved on his drawn face, his bone structure revealed in stark clarity. Dark circles lay under the midnight blue of his eyes; his temples had become touched with gray. His once powerful body sat limp in the chair, his legs awkwardly motionless, and she knew that Richard had been right: Blake Remington didn’t want to live.

  He looked at her without a flicker of interest, then moved his gaze to Richard. It was as if she didn’t exist. “Where’ve you been?” he asked flatly.

  “I had business to attend to,” Richard replied, his voice so cold that the room turned arctic. Dione could tell that he was insulted that anyone should question his actions; Richard might work for Blake, but he was in no way inferior. He was still angry with Serena, and the entire scene had earned his disapproval.

  “He’s so determined,” Serena sighed, moving to her brother’s side. “He’s hired another therapist for you, Miss…uh, Diane Kelley.”

  “Dione,” Dione corrected without rancor.

  Blake turned his disinterested gaze on her and surveyed her without a word. Dione stood quietly, studying him, noting his reaction, or rather, his lack of one. Richard had said that Blake had always preferred blondes, but even taking Dione’s black hair into consideration, she had expected at least a basic recognition that she was female. She expected men to look at her; she’d grown used to it, though once an interested glance would have sent her into panic. She was a striking woman, and at last she had been able to accept that, considering it one of nature’s ironies that she should have been given the looks to attract men when it was impossible for her to enjoy a man’s touch.

  She knew what he saw. She’d dressed carefully for effect, realizing that her appearance would either be intimidating or appealing; she didn’t care which, as long as it gave her an edge in convincing him to cooperate. She’d parted her thick, vibrant black hair in the middle and drawn it back in a severe knot at the nape of her neck, where she’d secured it with a gold comb. Gold hoop earrings dangled from her ears. Serena had called her a gypsy, and her warm, honey-tanned skin made it seem possible. Her eyes were cat’s eyes, slanted, golden, as mysterious as time and fringed with heavy black lashes. With her high cheekbones and strong, sculptured jawline, she looked Eastern and exotic, a prime candidate for a lusty sheik’s harem, had she been born a century before.

  She’d dressed in a white jumpsuit, chic and casual, and now she pushed her hands into the pockets, a posture that outlined her firm breasts. The line of her body was long and clean and sweeping, from her trim waist to her rounded bottom, then on down her long, graceful legs. Blake might not have noticed, but his sister had, and Serena had been stirred to instant jealousy. She didn’t want Dione around either her husband or her brother.

  After a long silence Blake moved his head slowly in a negative emotion. “No. Just take her away, Richard. I don’t want to be bothered.”

  Dione glanced at Richard, then stepped forward, taking control and focusing Blake’s attention on her. “I’m sorry you feel that way, Mr. Remington,” she said mildly. “Because I’m staying anyway. You see, I have a contract, and I always honor my word.”

  “I’ll release you from it,” he muttered, turning his head away and looking out the window again.

  “That’s very nice of you, but I won’t release you from it. I understand that you’ve given Richard your power of attorney, so the contract is legal, and it’s also ironclad. It states, simply, that I’m employed as your therapist and will reside in this house until you’re able to walk again. No time limit was set.” She leaned down and put her hands on the arms of his wheelchair, bringing her face close to his and forcing him to give her his attention. “I’m going to be your shadow, Mr. Remington. The only way you’ll be able to get rid of me is to walk to the door yourself and open it for me; no one else can do it for you.”

  “You’re overstepping yourself, Miss Kelley!” Serena said sharply, her blue eyes narrowing with rage. She reached out and thrust Dione’s hands away from the wheelchair. “My brother has said that he doesn’t want you here!”

  “This doesn’t concern you,” Dione replied, still in a mild tone.

  “It certainly does! If you think I’ll let you just move in here…why, you probably think you’ve found a meal ticket for life!”

  “Not at all. I’ll have Mr. Remington walking by Christmas. If you doubt my credentials, please feel free to investigate my record. But in the meantime, stop interfering.” Dione straightened to her full height and stared steadily at Serena, the strength of her willpower blazing from her golden eyes.

  “Don’t talk to my sister like that,” Blake said sharply.

  At last! A response, even if it was an angry one! With secret delight Dione promptly attacked the crack in his indifference. “I’ll talk to anyone like that who tries to come between me and my patient,” she informed him. She put her hands on her hips and surveyed him with a contemptuous curl to her mouth. “Look at you! You’re in such pitiful shape that you’d have to go into training to qualify for the ninety-eight-pound weakling category! You should be ashamed of yourself, letting your muscles turn into mush; no wonder you can’t walk!”

  The dark pupils of his eyes flared, a black pool in a sea of blue. “Damn you,” he choked. “It’s hard to do calisthenics when you’re hooked up to more tubes than you have places for, and nothing except your face works when you want it to!”

  “That was then,” she said relentlessly. “What about now? It takes muscles to walk, and you don’t have any! You’d lose a fight with a noodle, the shape you’re in now.”

  “And I suppose you think you can wave your magic wand and put me into working order again?” he snarled.

  She smiled. “A magic wand? It won’t be as easy as that. You’re going to work harder for me than you’ve ever worked before. You’re going to sweat and hurt, and turn the air blue cussing me out, but you’re going to work. I’ll have you walking again if I have to half-kill you to do it.”

  “No, you won’t, lady,” he said with cold deliberation. “I don’t care what sort of contract you have; I don’t want you in my house. I’ll pay whatever it takes to get rid of you.”

  “I’m not giving you that option, Mr. Remington. I won’t accept a payoff.”

  “You don’t have to give me the option! I’m taking it!”

  Looking into his enraged face, flushed with anger, Dione abruptly realized that the photograph of the laughing, relaxed man had been misleading, an exception rather than the rule. This was a man of indomitable will, used to forcing things to go his way by the sheer power of his will and personality. He had overcome every obstacle in his life by his own determination, until the fall down the cliff had changed all that and presented him with the one obstacle that he couldn’t handle on his own. He’d never had to have help before, and he hadn’t been able to accept that now he did. Because he couldn’t make himself walk, he was convinced that it wasn’t possible.

  But she was determined, too. Unlike him, she’d learned early that she could be struck down, forced to do things she didn’t want to do. She’d pulled herself out of the murky depths of despair by her own silent, stubborn belief t
hat life had to be better. Dione had forged her strength in the fires of pain; the woman she had become, the independence and skill and reputation she’d built, were too precious to her to allow her to back down now. This was the challenge of her career, and it would take every ounce of her willpower to handle it.

  So, insolently, she asked him, “Do you like having everyone feel sorry for you?”

  Serena gasped; even Richard made an involuntary sound before bringing himself back under control. Dione didn’t waste a glance on them. She kept her eyes locked with Blake’s, watching the shock in them, watching the angry color wash out of his face and leave it utterly white.

  “You bitch,” he said in a hollow, shaking voice.

  She shrugged. “Look, we’re getting nowhere like this. Let’s make a deal. You’re so weak, I’ll bet you can’t beat me at arm wrestling. If I win, I stay and you agree to therapy. If you win, I walk out that door and never come back. What do you say?”

  Chapter Two

  His head jerked up, his eyes narrowing as they swept over her slender form and graceful, feminine arms. Dione could almost read his thoughts. As thin as he was, he still outweighed her by at least forty, possibly even fifty, pounds. He knew that even if a man and a woman were the same weight, the man would be stronger than the woman, under normal circumstances. Dione refused to let a smile touch her lips, but she knew that these weren’t normal circumstances. Blake had been inactive for two years, while she was in extremely good shape. She was a therapist; she had to be strong in order to do her job. She was slim, yes, but every inch of her was sleek, strong muscle. She ran, she swam, she did stretching exercises regularly, but most importantly, she lifted weights. She had to have considerable arm strength to be able to handle patients who couldn’t handle themselves. She looked at Blake’s thin, pale hands, and she knew that she would win.

 
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