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Come lie with me, p.8

Come Lie With Me, page 8

 

Come Lie With Me
 


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  “I’m not seeing Richard,” she said quietly. “Aside from the fact that he’s married, when would I have time? I’m with you all day long, and I’m too tired at night to put forth the energy that sneaking around would take.”

  “Serena said that she saw you on the patio one night.”

  “She did. We were talking about you, not making love. I know that Richard’s unhappy with Serena—”

  “How do you know that?”

  “I’m not blind. She’s devoted the last two years to you and virtually ignored her husband, and naturally he resents it. Why do you think he was so determined to find a therapist for you? He wants you walking again so he can have his wife back.” Perhaps she shouldn’t have told him that, but it was time Blake realized that he’d been dominating their lives with his physical condition.

  He sighed. “All right, I believe you. But just in case you start thinking how attractive Richard is, let me tell you now that the one thing I won’t tolerate is for Serena to be hurt.”

  “She’s a big girl, Blake. You can’t run interference for her for the rest of her life.”

  “I can do it as long as she needs me, and as long as I’m able. When I think of how she was after our mother died…I swear, Dee, I think I’d kill to keep her from ever looking like that again.”

  At least she’d had a mother who loved her. The words were on Dione’s lips, but she bit them back. It wasn’t Serena’s fault that Dione’s mother hadn’t been loving. Her burden of bitterness was her own, not something to be loaded onto someone else’s shoulders.

  She pushed it away. “Do you think he really is seeing someone else? In a way, I can’t see it. He’s so besotted with Serena that no one else registers.”

  “You register with him,” Blake insisted.

  “He’s never said anything to me,” Dione replied honestly, though she was still stretching the truth a little. “How do you know? Male intuition?”

  “If you want to call it that,” he murmured, leaning back against her as he tired. Her soft breasts supported his weight. “I’m still a man, even if I couldn’t chase a turtle and catch it. I can look at you and see the same thing he sees. You’re so damned beautiful, so soft and strong at the same time. If I could chase you, lady, you’d have the race of your life.”

  The soft words alarmed her in a way that was different from the panic she normally felt when faced with a prowling, hunting male. Her hands were still on his shoulders, and his weight was resting on her; his body was as familiar to her as her own, the texture of his skin, even the smell of him. It was as if he were a part of her, because she was building him, remaking him, shaping him into the gorgeous man he’d been before the accident. He was her creation.

  She suddenly wanted to rest her cheek on his shaggy head, feel the silky texture of his hair. Instead she denied the impulse, because it was so foreign to her. Yet his head beckoned, and she moved her hand from his shoulder to touch the dark strands.

  “You’re beginning to look like a sheepdog,” she told him, her voice a little breathless and tinged with the laughter that they shared so often now.

  “Then cut it for me,” he said lazily, letting his head find a comfortable position on her shoulder.

  “You’d trust me to cut your hair?” she asked, startled.

  “Of course. If I can trust you with my body, why not my hair?” he reasoned.

  “Then let’s do it now,” she said, slapping his shoulder. “I’d like to see if you have ears. Come on, get off me.”

  A shudder rippled down him, and he turned his eyes to her, eyes as blue as the deepest sea, and as primal. She knew what he was thinking, but she turned her gaze away and refused to let the moment linger.

  A nameless intimacy had enfolded them. She was jittery, yet she couldn’t say that she was really frightened. It was…odd, and her forehead was furrowed with a pensive frown as she plied the scissors on his thick hair. He was a patient, and she’d learned not to be afraid of her patients. He’d gotten closer to her than she’d ever allowed anyone else to get, even the children who had tugged the most strongly at her heartstrings. He was the challenge of her career; he’d become so much to her, but he was still a man, and she couldn’t understand why she didn’t get that icy, sick feeling she normally got when a man got close to her. Blake could touch her, and she couldn’t tolerate the touch of any other man.

  Perhaps, she decided, it was because she knew that she was safe with him. As he’d pointed out, he wasn’t in any condition to do any chasing. Sexually, he was as harmless as the children she’d hugged and comforted.

  “You look like Michelangelo, agonizing over the final touches to a statue,” he said provokingly. “Have you cut a big gap in my hair?”

  “Of course not!” she protested, running her fingers through the unruly pelt. “I’m a very good barber, for your information. Would you like a mirror?”

  He sighed blissfully. “No, I trust you. You can shave me now.”

  “Like heck I will!” With mock wrath she practically slapped the loose hair off his shoulders. “It’s time for your session on the rack, so stop trying to stall!”

  In the days that followed nothing else was said about the situation between Serena and Richard, and though the couple continued to have dinner with Blake and Dione, the coolness between them was obvious. Richard treated Dione with a warmth that never progressed beyond friendliness, though Dione was certain that Serena wasn’t convinced that the situation between them was innocent. Blake watched everything with an eagle eye and kept Dione close by his side.

  She understood his reasons for doing so, and as it suited her to be with him, she let him be as demanding of her company as he wanted. She liked being with him. As he grew stronger his rather devilish personality was coming out, and it took all her concentration to stay one step ahead of him. She had to play poker with him; she had to play chess with him; she had to watch football games with him. There were a million and one things that took his interest, and he demanded that she share them all. It was as if he’d been in a coma for two years and had come out of it determined to catch up on everything he’d missed.

  He pushed himself harder than she ever would have. Because she could lift more weigh than he could, he worked for hours with the weights. Because she could swim longer and faster than he could, he pushed himself to do lap after lap, though he still couldn’t use his legs. And every week they had a rematch at arm wrestling. It was their fifth match before he finally defeated her, and he was so jubilant that she let him have blueberry waffles for breakfast.

  Still, she was nervous when she decided that it was time for him to begin using his legs. This was the crux of the entire program. If he couldn’t see some progress now in his legs, she knew that he’d lose hope and sink into depression again.

  She didn’t tell him what she had planned. After he’d done his sets on the weight bench she got him back into the wheelchair and guided the chair over to the parallel bars that he would use to support himself while she reeducated his legs in what they were expected to do. He looked at the bars, then at her, his brows lifted in question.

  “It’s time for you to stop being so lazy,” she said as casually as possible, though her heart was pounding so loudly it was a miracle he couldn’t hear it. “On your feet.”

  He swallowed, his eyes moving from her to the bars, then back to her.

  “This is it, huh? D day.”

  “That’s right. It’s no big deal. Just stand. No trying to walk. Let your legs get accustomed to holding your weight.”

  He set his jaw and reached out for the bars. Bracing his hands on them, he pulled himself out of the wheelchair.

  The weight lifting came in handy as he pulled himself up, using only the strength in his shoulders and arms. Watching him, Dione noted the way his muscles bunched and played. He had real muscles now, not just skin over bone. He was still thin, too thin, but no longer did he have the physique of a famine victim. Even his legs had responded to the forced ex
ercises she gave him every day by forming a layer of muscle.

  He was pale, and sweat dripped down his face as Dione positioned his feet firmly under him. “Now,” she said softly, “let your weight off your hands. Let your legs hold you. You may fall; don’t worry about it. Everyone falls when he reaches this phase of therapy.”

  “I won’t fall,” he said grimly, throwing his head back and clenching his teeth. He was balancing himself with his hands, but his weight was on his feet. He groaned aloud. “You didn’t say it would hurt!” he protested through his teeth.

  Dione’s head jerked up, her golden eyes firing with excitement. “Does it hurt?”

  “Like hell! Hot needles—”

  She let out a whoop of joy and reached for him, drawing back as she remembered his precarious balance. Unbidden, her eyes moistened. She hadn’t cried since she was a child, but now she was so proud she was helpless against the tears that formed. Still, she blinked them back, though they shimmered like liquid gold between her black lashes as she offered him a tremulous smile. “You know what that means, don’t you?”

  “No, what?”

  “That the nerves are working! It’s all working! The massages, the exercises, the whirlpool…your legs! Don’t you understand?” she shrieked, practically jumping up and down.

  His head jerked around to her. All the color washed out of his face, leaving his eyes glowing like blue coals. “Say it!” he whispered. “Spell it out!”

  “You’re going to walk!” she screamed at him. Then she couldn’t control the tears any longer and they trickled down her face, blurring her vision. She brushed them away with the back of her hand and gave a watery chuckle. “You’re going to walk,” she said again.

  His face twisted, contorted by an agony of joy; he let go of the bars and reached for her, falling forward as his body pitched off-balance. Dione caught him, wrapping her arms tightly around him, but he was too heavy for her now, and she staggered and went down under his weight. He had both arms around her, and he buried his face in her neck. Her heart gave an enormous leap, her blood turned by icy terror into a sluggish river that barely moved. “No,” she whispered, her mind suddenly blanking, and her hands moved to his shoulders to push him off.

  There was an odd quivering to his shoulders. And there was a sound…it wasn’t the same sound of her nightmares.

  Then, like someone throwing a light switch and changing a room from dark to light, she knew that this was Blake, not Scott. Scott had hurt her; Blake never would. And the strange sound was the sound of his weeping.

  He was crying. He couldn’t stop the tears of joy any more than she’d been able to a moment before; the heaving sobs that tore out of him released two long years of torment and despair. “My God,” he said brokenly. “My God.”

  It was like a dam bursting inside her. A lifetime of holding her hurts inside, of having no one to turn to for comfort, no one to hold her while she cried, was suddenly too much. A great searing pain in her chest rose into her throat and burst out in a choked, anguished cry.

  Her body shuddered with the force of her sobs, and her enormous golden eyes flooded with tears. For the first time in her life she was being held close in someone’s arms while she cried, and it was too much. She couldn’t bear the bittersweet pain and joy of it, yet at the same time she felt as if something had changed inside her. The simple act of weeping together had torn down the wall that kept her isolated from the rest of the world. She had existed on only a surface level, never letting anything get too close to her, never letting herself feel too deeply, never letting anyone know the woman behind the mask, because the woman had been hurt so badly and feared that it could happen again. She’d developed quite a defense mechanism, but Blake had somehow managed to short circuit it.

  He was different from every other man she knew. He was capable of loving; he was at once a laughing daredevil and a hard-hitting businessman. But most of all, he needed her. Other patients had needed her, but only as a therapist. Blake needed her, the woman she was, because only her personal strengths had enabled her to help him with her trained skills and knowledge. She couldn’t remember anyone ever needing her before.

  She cuddled him close to her, stunned by the slowly increasing warmth inside her that was gradually melting the frozen pain that had dominated her for so long. She wanted to weep some more, because she was both frightened and excited by her new freedom to touch and be touched. Her hand stroked his hair, her fingers lacing themselves in the silky waves, as his tears finally stopped and he lay sweetly, limply against her.

  He lifted his head to look at her. He wasn’t ashamed of the tears that wet his face and glittered in his blue eyes. Very gently he rubbed his wet cheek against hers, a subtle caress that mingled their happiness as well as their tears.

  Then he kissed her.

  It was a slow, wondering kiss, a gentle touch that sought but didn’t pursue, a delicate tasting of her lips that lacked any aggressive, masculine need. She quivered in his arms, her hands automatically moving to his shoulders to shove him away if he progressed beyond the still-guarded borders of intimacy that she could accept. But he didn’t try to deepen the kiss. He raised his mouth and instead touched his nose to hers, rolling his head back and forth in a light, brushing movement.

  After a long moment he drew back slightly and let his gaze roam over her face with a certain curiosity. Dione couldn’t look away from his eyes, watching the irises expand until they had almost swallowed the blue. What was he thinking? What caused that sudden flash of desperation that startled her, the shadow that crossed his face? His eyes lingered on the soft, trembling fullness of her lips, then slowly lifted to meet her gaze and lock in place. They stared at each other, so close that she could see her reflection in his eyes and knew that he could see himself in hers.

  “Your eyes are like melted gold,” he whispered. “Cat eyes. Do they shine in the dark? A man could get lost in them,” he said, his voice suddenly rough.

  Dione swallowed; her heart seemed to be rising to stick in her throat. Her hands were still on his shoulders; beneath the warmth of his flesh she could feel the flexing of his muscles as he levered himself up on his elbows, the weight of his body still pressed into hers from the waist down. She shivered, faintly alarmed by their posture, but too bemused by the emotional intimacy quivering between them to push him away.

  “You’re the loveliest thing I’ve ever seen,” he murmured. “As exotic as Salome, as graceful as a cat, as simple as the wind…and so damned mysterious. What goes on behind those cat eyes? What are you thinking?”

  She couldn’t answer; instead she shook her head blindly as fresh tears made her eyes glitter. He sucked in his breath, then kissed her again, this time parting her lips and slowly penetrating her mouth with his tongue, giving her the time to decide if she would accept the caress. She was trembling in his arms, afraid to let herself be tempted by the gentle touch, yet she was tempted, terribly so. Her tongue moved hesitantly and touched his, withdrew, returned for another shy taste, and finally lingered. He tasted marvelous.

  He deepened the kiss, exploring the ridges of her teeth, the softness of her mouth. Dione lay quietly beneath him, unaware of the growing force of his passion until suddenly his mouth turned hard and demanding, asking for more than she could give, reminding her abruptly and with chilling clarity how it had been with Scott—

  The black pit of her nightmares loomed before her, and she squirmed under him, but he didn’t feel the sudden tension in her body. His hands grasped her with the roughness of desire, and the last thread holding her control snapped.

  She tore her mouth from his with a raw cry. “No!” she shrieked, sudden fear giving her strength. She shoved him away with all the considerable power of her arms and legs, and he rolled across the floor, bumping into the wheelchair and sending it flying across the room.

  He pulled himself into a sitting position and seared her with a scathing, furious look. “Don’t bother screaming,” he snapped bitterly. “
It’s a cinch that nothing’s going to happen.”

  “You can bet on it!” she snapped in return, scrambling to her feet and straightening her blouse and shorts, which had somehow become twisted. “I’m a therapist, not a…a convenience!”

  “Your professional integrity is safe,” he muttered. “From me, at any rate. You might want to try someone like Richard if you’re really serious with your kisses, though I warn you right now, all of his parts are in working order and he might not be so easy to throw off!”

  It was evident that his ego had been bruised, because she’d tossed him off so easily; he hadn’t even noticed the wild expression that had touched her face. She gave silent thanks, then calmly retrieved the wheelchair and placed it beside him. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself,” she said curtly. “We have work to do.”

  “Sure, lady,” he snarled. “Anything you say. You’re the therapist.”

  He pushed himself so hard for the rest of the day that Dione had to lose her temper with him that afternoon to make him stop. He was in the foulest mood she’d ever seen him in, surly and bleak. Even Serena was unable to coax him into a better mood that night over dinner, and he excused himself shortly afterward, uttering that he was tired and going to bed.

  Serena’s brows lifted, but she didn’t protest. Richard got to his feet and said, “Let’s go into the study for a minute, Blake. There are some things that I need to talk over with you; it won’t take long.”

  Blake nodded briefly, and the two men left the room. Silence fell between Dione and Serena, who had never had much to say to each other.

  Serena was apparently engrossed with the strappy white sandal she was dangling from her toes. Without looking up from it, she asked casually, “What’s wrong with Blake tonight? He’s like a hornet.”

  Dione shrugged. She wasn’t about to tell Serena about the kisses that day, or the reason for Blake’s ill humor. Instead she passed along the encouraging news that Blake, for some reason, hadn’t. “He stood today. I don’t know why he’s so grouchy; he should be on top of the world.”

 
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