Come Lie With Me by Linda Howard

  “I mean it, stop fooling around!” she said sharply.

  He gave her a lazy smile, a heart-stopping smile. “Lady, if I decided to fool around, you’d be the first to know.”

  “Why don’t you go back to work tomorrow?” she demanded in sudden exasperation.

  “We’re closed for the holidays. I wouldn’t have anything to do.”

  “I’m going to give you something to do,” she muttered.

  “Like what?”

  “Picking your teeth up off the pavement,” she said.

  He threw his hands up in mock alarm. “All right, all right! I’ll be good. Next thing I know, you’ll be sending me to bed without my supper. I wouldn’t really mind, though, because you always come to tuck me in, and I get to watch you running around in those thin nightgowns of yours that you think are so modest…. Serena’s house is the solar redwood and rock one.’

  He threw in the last sentence just as she opened her mouth to blast him again, and she maneuvered the Audi up the steep drive to where the house nestled against the mountain. By the time she’d gotten out of the car and gone around to help Blake wrestle with the walker, Serena and Richard had come out to greet them.

  The steps were a problem for Blake, but he mastered them. Serena watched, an anxious look on her face, but she didn’t run to help him. Instead she stayed firmly by Richard’s side, her arm looped through his. Dione remained a step behind Blake, not out of servitude but to catch him in case he started to tumble. He looked over his shoulder at her and grinned. “Not bad, huh?”

  “A regular goat,” she replied, and only he caught her hidden meaning.

  He gave her another of his breathtaking smiles. “Don’t you mean mountain goat?”

  She shrugged. “A goat is a goat is a goat.”

  His eyes promised retribution, but she felt safe from him for the time being. If he started anything on the drive back home, she’d get out and walk!

  The traditional dinner had all of them groaning before it was over. Blake and Richard then retired to talk business, and Dione helped Serena clear the table. Serena had a cook, but she told Dione that everything had been prepared the day before and she’d given the cook the rest of the week off. “I don’t mind being alone in the house with Richard,” she said, laughing a little.

  “Is Operation Manhunt going well?” asked Dione.

  “At times.” Serena laughed. “Sometimes I…ah…undermine his resistance. Then he’ll freeze up on me again. But I think I’m winning the battle. He noticed that I’ve stopped going to Blake’s every day.”

  “Did he ask you about it?”

  “Richard? Not a chance! But he calls me almost every afternoon about some little something, as if he’s checking on me.”

  They traded a few comments on the mule-headedness of men in general and finished cleaning the kitchen. When they finally emerged they discovered that the men were still deep in conversation about the company, with Richard going over some sort of electronic blueprint with Blake. Dione looked at Serena, and they both shrugged. Kicking off their shoes, they sat down, and Serena used the remote control to turn on the television set, which revealed two football teams tearing into each other.

  Within ten minutes the men had left their technical conversation and were sitting beside the women. Dione liked football, so she didn’t mind watching the game, and evidently Serena shared the same fondness for it. At first Dione didn’t pay attention to the hand that touched her shoulder, lying absently over it so that the fingers touched her collarbone. Gradually the touch firmed, shifted and exerted pressure. Without quite knowing how it had happened, she suddenly realized that she was leaning back in the circle of Blake’s arm, resting against his chest while his arm kept her firmly anchored there.

  The startled movement of her body brought a knowing smile to his lips, but he merely held her more closely than before. “Shhh. Just watch the game,” he murmured.

  She was so rattled that nothing sank into her consciousness, but eventually the warmth of his body began to relax her. He would behave himself here, so she was free to enjoy the sensation, let herself drown in the heady scent of his skin. All too soon she would have only the memories of him to take out and savor.

  The time passed swiftly. Incredibly they became hungry again, so everyone raided the refrigerator and constructed enormous sandwiches of turkey, lettuce, tomato and anything else they could find. Blake’s sweet tooth demanded feeding, and he devoured what was left of the strawberry pie. The atmosphere was easy, comfortable, and he commented on it when they were driving home late that night.

  “Serena and Richard seem to have patched up their differences,” he said, watching her sharply in the dim light from the dash.

  “I think they’re well on their way,” she said, carefully keeping her tone bland. She wasn’t about to divulge anything Serena had told her.

  When they got home Dione looked him squarely in the eye and smiled. “I really don’t think there’s any need for me to tuck you in any longer,” she said sweetly. “You’re perfectly mobile now. I’ll see you in the morning. Good night.”

  As she let herself into her room she heard him doing a perfect imitation of a chicken clucking, and she had to bite her lip to stifle her laughter. The monster!

  But when he called her several hours later, jerking her out of a sound sleep, she didn’t hesitate. She hurried to his room and flipped on the light switch. He was lying on his stomach, hopelessly tangled in the sheet as he tried to reach his left leg.

  “Easy,” she crooned, finding the cramp and briskly rubbing the muscle of his calf between her hands. He went limp with relief as the pain eased away.

  “How much longer will this go on?” he muttered into his pillow.

  “Until your muscles are used to the demands you’re making on them,” she said. “It’s not as bad as it was. You seldom have a cramp in your right leg now.”

  “I know. My left leg drags more than the right. I’ll always limp, won’t I?”

  “Who knows? It won’t matter, though. You’ll look smashing with a cane.”

  He laughed and rolled over on his back, tangling the sheet even more. Despite what she’d said earlier, Dione bent over him and automatically began straightening the sheet. “You managed to make a disaster area of your bed,” she complained.

  “I was restless tonight,” he said, his voice suddenly strained.

  Dione glanced up, and her hands froze at their task. He was staring at her, his gaze locked on her breasts. A look of such raw hunger was in his eyes that she would have flinched away if she’d had any strength in her limbs. But she continued to sit on the side of his bed, mesmerized by the way his gaze moved lovingly, longingly, over her female curves.

  “Lady, what you do to me is almost criminal,” he groaned in a shaky voice.

  An odd tightening in her breasts made her close her eyes. “I’ve got to go,” she said weakly, but for the life of her she couldn’t make herself move.

  “No, don’t go,” he pleaded. “Let me touch you…my God, I’ve got to touch you!”

  Dione caught her breath on a sob as she felt his fingertips trace lightly over her breast, and she squeezed her eyes shut even more tightly than before. For a moment the awful unfamiliarity of a man’s touch on her breast brought back a nightmare of pain and humiliation, and she made a choked sound of protest.

  “Dee, honey, open your eyes. Look at me; look at how I’m shaking. Touching you makes me dizzy,” he whispered fiercely. “I get drunk on the very smell of you.”

  Dione’s eyes fluttered open, and she found that he’d moved closer, until his face was filling her vision. It was Blake’s face, not Scott’s, and his blue eyes were as dark and stormy as the sea, full of incredible hunger. His trembling fingers were still moving only lightly over her breasts, though the heat of his hand burned her even through her nightgown.

  “That…that’s enough,” she said, her voice thin, wavering out of control. “This isn’t right.”

  “I need you,” he cajoled. “It’s been so long…can’t you tell how much I need you? Please. Let me touch you, really touch you. Let me unbutton this granny gown and see you.”

  Even as the words were tumbling harshly from his lips, his agile fingers were slipping the tiny buttons of her nightgown free of the buttonholes. The buttons ran down to her waist, and he undid every one of them while she sat helplessly transfixed by the primitive call of his need. Slowly, with rapt attention, he opened the gown and pushed it off her smoothly tanned shoulders, dropping the cloth around her arms and baring her to the waist.

  “I’ve dreamed of this,” he whispered harshly. “I saw you, that morning…. You were so perfect, so damned female, that you took my breath away.” Gently he cupped a breast in his palm, curving his fingers over its ripe curve as if he were measuring the heft of it.

  Dione began to tremble, wild little tingles of sensation shooting through her body. She didn’t know what to do, how to handle him. She had no experience with men other than her husband, and that had been a horror from start to finish, nothing that compared to the sweet pain of Blake’s touch. Sweet, yes…and not really pain. Incredible. Unknown. A primitive exultation raced along her veins, heating her blood, making her feel stupidly, happily weak. She wanted to sink down beside him on the bed, but she couldn’t do that. Despite the joy her body was feeling, her mind was still locked away from even the possibility of it.

  Now both of his hands were on her, holding her breasts together. His head bent, and she sucked in a convulsive breath, staring down at his dark hair with terrified fascination. His tongue darted out and washed a cherry nipple, then he blew his warm breath across it, watching with delight as it tightened and thrust out at him. “That’s beautiful,” he breathed, and tasted the other one.

  At last she could move, and her fingers threaded through his hair. She thought dimly that she’d pull his head away, but instead her palms pressed against his warm skull and held him to her, held his mouth to the tender flesh he was suckling as fiercely as any starving infant.

  He released her nipple from his mouth and lay back, his hands sliding to her ribs and drawing her with him, pulling her down until she lay half-across him. He began kissing her with short, hard kisses that stung her lips. “I need you,” he panted. “Please. I want you so much. Let me make love to you.”

  Dione moaned, a high, keening sound that reflected both the tumult he’d stirred in her and her fear of going any further. “I can’t,” she cried, tears suddenly stinging her eyes. “You don’t know what you’re asking of me.”

  “Yes, I do,” he whispered, moving his mouth down to the line of her jaw, nipping at her with his teeth. “I’m asking you to let me love you. I want you so much that I’m aching all over. I can’t sleep for dreaming about you. Let me be a man with you; let me bury myself in you and forget about the past two years. Make me whole again,” he pleaded.

  She’d spent too long nurturing this man, agonized over him too much, felt his pain, celebrated his triumphs, loved him. How could she refuse him now? She’d be leaving soon, and she’d never know the heady taste of him again. But she was shaking, almost convulsed with the fear of what he’d do to her. For him, she’d bear it, this one last time. The scars that Scott had left on her mind had ruined her forever, kept her from feeling the total pleasure of a man, and when Blake rolled, deftly placing himself above her, the nauseating panic that beat its wings in her stomach threatened to overtake her.

  He saw the fixed expression in her enormous golden eyes and began to speak softly to her, making her realize his identity. With silent desperation she stared at him, her nails digging into his shoulders.

  “It’s all right,” he murmured soothingly. “You know I won’t hurt you; I’d never hurt you. Let’s get you out of this,” he said as he began thrusting the bunched cloth at her waist down over her hips, then stroking it away from her thighs. He leaned on his elbow and looked at her, drinking in and savoring all the details that he’d only dreamed about before. He steadied his shaking hand by flattening his palm on her stomach and sliding it over her satiny skin. One finger dipped into the tight little hollow of her navel, and she gasped again, but though her nails were digging so deeply into his shoulders that she’d broken the skin, the blind fear had left her face. Her eyes were locked on him, letting him know that for him, she would do this. Though she was afraid, she trusted him, and she would give him this one last gift, the pleasure of her body.

  His hand slid lower, insinuating itself between her thighs and exploring, as he’d tried to do so many times before. She clenched her teeth in shock and tried to control her body’s instinctive movement, but her thighs tightened as she tried to dislodge the alien touch.

  “Honey, don’t!” he cried. “I won’t hurt you, I swear.”

  Dione swallowed and slowly regained control of herself, forcing her legs to relax. He was shaking all over, his body dewed with sweat, the color in his face as florid as if he burned with fever; she felt the heat of his skin beneath her hands and wondered vaguely if he weren’t really fevered after all. His blue eyes were glittering wildly, and his lips were red, swollen. She removed one trembling hand from his shoulder and touched his face, placing her fingertips on his lips. “It’s all right,” she whispered thinly. “I’m ready.”

  “Oh, God, no, you’re not,” he groaned, kissing her fingers. “I wanted to wait, but I don’t think I can.”

  “It’s all right,” she repeated, and with a muffled cry he moved to lie fully over her.

  All of the love she felt for him welled up and made her body pliable for his touch; with her eyes wide open and locked on his face, she knew that this was Blake, and that she would do anything for him. Though her heart was slamming against her ribs with almost shattering force, though her entire body shook, she clutched his shoulders and drew him tightly to her.

  He tried to be gentle, but the years of celibacy had destroyed a great deal of his normal self-control. When he parted her legs and felt the silkiness of her thighs cradle his hips, he moaned deep in his chest and took her with a single strong movement.

  Hot tears burned her lids, then slid down her cheeks. This wasn’t the agony she’d expected, but her body had been untouched for twelve years, and the pain and shock of his entry were all too real. To her astonishment, her flesh didn’t flinch from him; she still lay soft and willing beneath him. She began to weep in earnest, not from the pain, which was already fading, but because suddenly she realized that Blake had given her as much as he was taking. He’d given her back her womanhood. The years had wrought their healing miracle, after all; it had taken Blake to make her realize it, Blake to make her love enough to overcome the past.

  He lifted his head from her throat and saw the tears, and he paled. “No,” he croaked. “Dee, what have I done? I’ll stop—”

  Inexplicably the tears mingled with laughter, and she caught him tightly, preventing the removal of his body. “Don’t stop!” she said joyously, the words clogging in her throat. “I didn’t know…I had no idea! No, don’t ever stop—”

  He caught the babbling words in his mouth, kissing her wildly and deeply, relief making him drunk. “I’m going to have to stop,” he panted, beginning to move rhythmically on her. “It’s been over two years, darling. I don’t think I can wait—”

  “Then don’t wait,” she said softly, her eyes shining. “This is for you.”

  He kissed her again, even harder than before. “The next one’s for you,” he promised hoarsely, just before he slid over the edge of control. Dione hugged him to her, accepting his body and his desperate, almost violent movements, cradling him, soothing him, and in a moment the storm had passed and he sagged against her.

  She could feel the heavy pounding of his heart as he lay on her in the silent aftermath, feel the heat of his breath on her shoulder, the trickle of sweat that ran from his side and slipped down her ribs. She smoothed his tousled dark hair, adjusted his head more comfortably on her shoulder.
He murmured something and his hand came up to cover her breast. She waited, lying there pressed into the bed by his weight, as his body relaxed and he drifted slowly, easily into sleep.

  She stared up at the light that still blazed brightly; turning out the light hadn’t occurred to either of them.

  Exhaustion made her body heavy, but she couldn’t sleep. The night had been a major turning point in her life, but she didn’t know what direction to take. Or was it such a major turning point? Blake had taught her that she no longer needed to fear the touch of a man, but what difference did it make? If the man weren’t Blake, then she didn’t want him. It was the love that she felt for him that had enabled her to tear down her prison of fear, and without that love she simply wasn’t interested.

  Nor, she realized suddenly, could it ever happen again. She couldn’t afford to let it happen. She was a therapist, and Blake was her patient. She’d violated her own professional code, totally forgotten the rules and standards that she’d set for herself. This was the worst mistake she’d ever made and she felt sick with remorse.

  Whatever happened, she had to remember that soon she’d be leaving, that she was only a temporary part of Blake’s life. She’d have to be stupid to jeopardize her career for something that she knew was only a moment out of time. I should have seen it coming, she thought tiredly. Of course Blake had been attracted to her; she was the only woman available to him. But she’d been so engrossed in her own misery and attraction that she hadn’t realized that his actions hadn’t been meant merely to tease.

  Gently she shifted him to one side, and he was sleeping so deeply that he didn’t flicker an eyelash. With slow, careful movements she sat up and reached for her discarded nightgown, pulling it over her head before she got to her feet. As she stood she winced at the unfamiliar soreness of her body, but forced herself to walk silently to the door and leave, turning out the light as she passed the switch.

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