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Come lie with me, p.7

Come Lie With Me, page 7


Come Lie With Me

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  To her relief he asked no more questions and in no way referred to what she’d told him of her childhood. Because of the extra demand he was making on his body, he was always sound asleep when she checked on him at night, so there were no repeats.

  Over Serena’s protests Dione also began giving him therapy in the pool. Serena was terrified that he’d drown, since his legs were useless and he obviously couldn’t kick, but Blake himself overruled her objections. He’d said that he liked challenges, and he wasn’t backing off from this one. With his engineering expertise, he designed and directed the construction of a system of braces and pulleys that enabled Dione to lower him into the pool and hoist him out when the session was ended, something that he would soon be able to do for himself.

  One morning, after she’d been here a little over two weeks, Dione watched him as he devoured the breakfast that Alberta had prepared. Already it seemed that he was gaining weight. His face had fleshed out and wasn’t as gray as it had been. He’d burned a little during the first few days he’d been in the sun, but he hadn’t peeled, and now the light tan he’d acquired made his blue eyes seem even bluer.

  “What’re you staring at?” he demanded as Alberta removed the plate before him and replaced it with a bowl of fresh strawberries in cream.

  “You’re gaining weight,” Dione told him with immense satisfaction.

  “Shouldn’t wonder,” Alberta snorted as she left the room. “He’s eating like a horse.”

  Blake scowled at her, but dipped his spoon into the bowl and lifted a plump strawberry. His white teeth sank into the red fruit; then his tongue captured the juice that stained his lips. “That’s what you wanted, isn’t it?” he demanded grumpily. “To fatten me up?”

  She smiled and didn’t reply, watching as he demolished the fruit. Just as he was finishing Angela glided in with a telephone, which she placed on the table before him. After plugging it in, she gave him a shy smile and left.

  Blake sat there, staring at the phone. Dione hid a grin. “I think that means you have a call,” she prompted.

  He looked relieved. “Good. I was afraid you wanted me to eat it.”

  She chuckled and got to her feet. As he lifted the receiver and put it to his ear, she touched his shoulder lightly and murmured, “I’ll be in the gym; come down when you’re finished.”

  He met her eyes and nodded, already embroiled in conversation. She heard enough to know that he was talking to Richard, and just the thought of Richard was enough to pucker her brow in a line of worry.

  Serena had been very good after that first day; she’d come to see Blake only in the late afternoon, when Dione had completed her schedule for the day. She’d also learned not to wait until too late to arrive, or Blake would already be asleep. Most nights, Richard also arrived for dinner.

  Richard was a witty, entertaining man, with a dry sense of humor and a repertoire of jokes that often had her chuckling in her seat, but which couldn’t be repeated when Blake or Serena asked what was so funny.

  Dione couldn’t say that Richard had been less than a gentleman. In no way had he said or done anything that could be termed suggestive. It was just that she could read the deepening admiration in his eyes, sense the growing gentleness in the way he treated her. She wasn’t the only one who felt that perhaps Richard was becoming too fond of her; Serena was subtle, but she watched her husband sharply when he was talking with Dione. In a way, Dione was relieved; it meant that Serena was at least paying attention to her husband. But she didn’t want complications of that sort, especially when there was nothing to it.

  She didn’t feel that she could say anything to Richard about it either. How could she scold him when he’d been nothing but polite? He loved his wife, she was sure. He liked and admired his brother-in-law. But still, he responded to Dione in a way that she knew she hadn’t mistaken.

  She’d been the object of unwanted attention before, but this was the first time that attention hadn’t been obvious. She had no idea how to handle it. She knew that Richard would never try to force himself on her, but Serena was jealous. Part of Dione, the deeply feminine part of her, was even flattered by his regard. If Serena had been giving her husband the attention he deserved, none of this would be happening.

  But they weren’t important, she told herself. She couldn’t let them be important to her. Only Blake mattered. He was coming out of the prison of his disability, more and more revealing himself as the man he’d been before the accident. In another month she hoped to have him standing. Not walking, but standing. Letting his legs get used to supporting the weight of his body again. What she was doing now was dealing with the basics, restoring him to health and building his strength up enough that he would be able to stand when she demanded it of him.

  She ran hot water in a plastic container and set the flask of oil that she used down in it to warm it for the massage that she always gave him before he went in the pool, in an effort to protect him from any chill. Not that a chill was likely in the hundred-plus-degree heat of a summer day in Phoenix, she thought wryly, but he was so thin, still so weakened, that she didn’t take any chances with him. Besides, he seemed to enjoy the feel of the warm oil being massaged into him, and he had little enough joy in his life.

  She was restless, and she prowled aimlessly about the converted game room, pausing to stretch her body. She needed a good workout to release some of her energy, she decided, and positioned herself on the weight bench.

  She liked lifting weights. Her aim was strength, not bulk, and the program that she followed was designed with that in mind. For Blake, she was altering the program enough to build up the bulk of his muscles without pumping him up like a Mr. Universe. Carefully regulating her breathing, concentrating on what she was doing, she began her sets. Up, down. Up, down.

  She finished her leg sets and adjusted the system of pulleys and weights to what she wanted for her arms. Puffing, she began again. The demand she was making on her muscles reached a plateau that was almost pleasure. Again. Again.

  “You damned cheat!” The roar startled her, and she jerked upright, alarm skittering across her features. Confused, she stared at Blake. He sat in his wheelchair, just inside the door, his face dark red and contorted with fury.

  “What?” she spluttered.

  He pointed at the weights. “You’re a weight lifter!” he bellowed, so furious that he was shaking. “You little cheat. You knew the day you beat me at arm wrestling that you’d win! Hell, how many men could beat you?”

  She blushed. “Not everyone,” she said with modesty, which seemed to make him even angrier.

  “I can’t believe it!” He was yelling, getting louder and louder. “Knowing how it would make me feel that a woman could beat me at arm wrestling, you made a bet on it anyway, and you rigged it!”

  “I never said that I wasn’t good at it,” she pointed out, trying to keep the laughter out of her voice. He looked wonderful! If sheer rage could have put him back on his feet, he’d have been walking right then. A giggle escaped her control, and at the sound of it he began pounding his fist on the arm of the wheelchair; unfortunately he was pounding on the controls, and the chair began jumping back and forth like a bronc trying to rid itself of an unwanted rider.

  Dione couldn’t help it; she gave up even trying to keep a straight face and laughed until tears ran down her face. She howled. She beat the weight bench with her fist in mute mockery of the way he’d pounded the wheelchair controls; she clutched her arms across her stomach, gasping for breath, and every new eruption of rage from him sent her off into renewed paroxysms.

  “Stop laughing!” he thundered, his voice booming off the walls. “Sit down! We’ll see who wins this time!”

  She was so weak that she had to haul herself to the massage table where he’d propped his elbow and was waiting for her with a face like doom. Still giggling, she collapsed against the table.

  “This isn’t fair!” she protested, putting her hand in his grip. “I’m not ready. Wait
until I stop laughing.”

  “Was it fair when you let me think I was wrestling a frail, normal woman?” he seethed.

  “I’m perfectly normal!” she hooted. “You got beat fair and square, and you know it!”

  “I don’t know any such thing! You cheated, and I want a rematch.”

  “All right, all right. Just give me a minute.” Quickly she squelched the remaining laughter that wanted to bubble out and flexed her hand in his. She began tightening her muscles. “Okay. I’m ready.”

  “On the count of three,” he said. “One…twothree!”

  It was fortunate that she was ready for the quick count he gave. She threw her entire body into the effort, realizing that the extra weight he’d gained and the few days of workouts that he’d had with the weights had increased his strength. Not by much, perhaps, but with the added impetus of his anger and the laughter that had weakened her, perhaps it would be enough to win the match for him.

  “You cheated!” she accused in turn, gritting her teeth as she bore down with all her strength against the force of his arm.

  “You deserved it!”

  They panted and huffed and grunted for several minutes, and sweat began to run down their faces. They were close together, almost face to face, as their locked arms strained harder and harder. Dione groaned aloud. His initial burst of strength had been greater than hers, but not enough to make a quick end to it. Now it was a matter of stamina, and she thought that she could outlast him. She could have let him win, to soothe his ego, but it wasn’t in her to trick him that way. If he won, it would be despite everything she could do.

  Something of her determination must have shown in her face, because he growled, “Damn it, this is the part where you’re supposed to let me win!”

  She puffed, sucking in much-needed oxygen. “If you want to beat me, you’re going to have to work for it,” she panted. “I don’t let anybody win!”

  “But I’m a patient!”

  “You’re an opportunist!”

  He ground his teeth and pushed harder. Dione ducked her head, a movement that placed her head in the hollow of his shoulder, and counteracted his move with everything she had. Slowly, slowly, she felt his arm begin to move back. The rush of strength that winning always gave her zoomed through her veins, and with a cry she slammed his arm down flat on the table.

  Their panting breaths filled the room, and her heartbeat thundered in her ears like the hoofbeats of a galloping horse. She was still slumped against him, her head on his shoulder, and she could feel the pounding of his heart throughout his entire body. Slowly she pushed herself off him, letting her weight fall against the table. Like a rag doll, he slumped forward onto the table, too, his color fading almost to normal as he sucked in deep breaths of air.

  After a moment he propped his chin on his folded arm and regarded her out of dark blue eyes that still held storm clouds.

  Dione drew a deep breath, staring at him. “You’re beautiful when you’re angry,” she told him.

  He blinked in astonishment. Stunned, he stared at her for a long, long minute that hung suspended in time; then an odd little gurgle sounded in his throat. He gulped. The next sound was a full-throated roar of laughter. He threw his head back and clutched helplessly at his stomach. Dione began to giggle again.

  He was rolling, howling with mirth, rocking back and forth. The abused controls of the wheelchair caught the impact of his fist again, and this time the jerky movements combined with his back and forth motion to pitch him out on his face. It was lucky that he wasn’t hurt, because Dione couldn’t have stopped laughing if her life had depended on it. She fell off her stool to lie beside him, drawing her legs up to her stomach. “Stop it! Stop it!” she shrieked as tears rolled down her face.

  “Stop it! Stop it!” he mimicked, catching her and digging his fingers into her ribs.

  In all her life, Dione had never been tickled. She’d never known what it was to play. She was so startled by the unbearably ticklish sensation of his fingers on her ribs that she couldn’t even be alarmed at his touch. She was screaming her head off, rolling helplessly in an effort to get away from those tormenting fingers, when another voice intruded on them.

  “Blake!” Serena didn’t stop to interpret the scene before her. She saw her brother on the floor, she heard Dione screaming and she immediately assumed that a terrible accident had happened. She added her despairing cry to the din and dove for him, her desperate hands catching him and rolling him to her.

  Though Serena wasn’t supposed to be there during the day, Dione was grateful to her for the interruption. Shakily she rolled away from Blake and sat up, only then realizing that Serena was almost hysterical.

  “Serena! There’s nothing wrong,” Blake was saying strongly, deliberately, having sensed his sister’s state of mind before Dione had. “We were just playing around. I’m not hurt. I’m not hurt,” he repeated.

  Serena calmed down, her white face regaining some of its color. Blake pushed himself to a sitting position and reached for the blanket that usually covered his legs. As he covered himself, he demanded harshly, “What’re you doing here? You know you’re not supposed to come during the day.”

  She looked as if he’d slapped her, drawing back sharply and staring at him with a stunned look in her eyes. Dione bit her lip. She knew why he’d spoken so sharply. He’d become used to her seeing him, and in her presence he could sit around wearing nothing but a pair of briefs or gym shorts, but he was still sensitive about his body with everyone else, Serena most of all.

  Serena recovered, lifting her chin proudly. “I thought this was supposed to be therapy, not play period.” She lashed out as sharply as he had, and rose to her feet. “Excuse me for interrupting; I had a reason for seeing you, but it can wait.”

  Her outraged temper was evident in every line of her straight back as she marched out the door, ignoring Blake’s rueful call.

  “Damn!” he said softly. “Now I’ll have to apologize. It’s just so awkward explaining….”

  Dione chuckled. “She’s definitely your sister, isn’t she?”

  He eyed her warningly. “Don’t be acting so cocky, young lady. I’ve found the weakness in your fortress, now. You’re as ticklish as a baby!”

  She prudently scooted out of his reach. “If you tickle me again I’ll sneak up on you when you’re asleep and pour ice water on you.”

  “You would, too, you wretch,” he snorted, and glared at her. “I want a rematch in two weeks.”

  “You’re a glutton for punishment, aren’t you?” she asked gleefully, getting to her feet and contemplating the problem of getting him from the floor to the table.

  “Don’t even try it,” he ordered, seeing the speculative look on her face as she looked at him. She smiled sheepishly, because she’d been about to try lifting him herself. “Call Miguel to help you.”

  Miguel was Blake’s chauffeur, handyman and, Dione suspected, bodyguard. He was short and lean, as hard as rock, and his dark face was marred by a scar that puckered his left cheek. No one had said how Blake had acquired his services, and Dione wasn’t sure she wanted to know. She didn’t even know where Miguel was from; it could have been any Latin nation. She did know that he spoke Portuguese as well as Spanish and English, so she suspected that he was from South America, but again, no one volunteered the information and she didn’t ask. It was enough that he was dedicated to Blake.

  Miguel wasn’t one for asking questions, either. If he was surprised to find his employer on the floor, none of that surprise was reflected on his face. Together he and Dione lifted Blake and put him on the table.

  “Miguel, I need another contraption rigged for me in here like the one by the pool,” Blake instructed. “We can bolt a bar across the ceiling, this way,” he said, indicating the length of the room. “With the pulley arm swinging in any direction we want, and running the length of the bar, I can get myself up and down as I please.”

  Miguel studied the ceiling, getting in his
mind exactly what Blake wanted. “No problem,” he finally allowed. “Will tomorrow be soon enough?”

  “If you can’t do it any faster than that, I suppose it will.”

  “You’re a brutal slave driver,” Dione told him as she was massaging his back with the warm oil.

  “I’ve been taking lessons from you,” he murmured sleepily, burrowing his head deeper into the cradle of his arm. The comment earned him a pinch on his side, and he laughed. “One thing about it,” he continued. “I haven’t been bored since you bulldozed into my life.”

  Chapter Five

  He was already awake the next morning when she went into his room; he was bending from the waist and rubbing his thighs and calves. She regarded him with satisfaction, glad that he was taking an active part in his recovery.

  “I had a long talk with Serena last night,” he grunted, not looking up from what he was doing.

  “Good. I expect the apology was good for your soul,” she said, slipping behind him and kneading his back and shoulders.

  “She was upset. It seems Richard has been leaving again as soon as he takes her home at night, and she thinks he’s seeing another woman.”

  Dione’s fingers stilled. Was it possible? She hadn’t thought him the type to sneak around. It seemed so tawdry, and Richard wasn’t a tawdry man.

  Blake swiveled his head around to look at her. “Serena thinks he’s seeing you,” he said bluntly.

  She resumed the motion of her fingers. “What did you tell her?” she asked, trying to stay calm. She concentrated on the feel of his flesh under her hands, noting that he didn’t feel as bony as he had at first.

  “I told her that I’d find out and stop it if he was,” he replied. “Don’t look so innocent, because we both know that Richard’s attracted to you. Hell, he’d have to be dead not to be. You’re the type of woman who has men swarming around her like bees around a honey pot.”

  Richard had said much the same thing about Blake, she thought, and smiled sadly at how far they both were from the truth.

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