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Saras surprise, p.12
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       Sara's Surprise, p.12

           Deborah Smith
 
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  She looked at him sadly. “How could I face you after … being with Noelle’s father?”

  He groaned softly, a sound of regret and understanding. “I wouldn’t have tried to make you feel guilty for that. You and I met only one time. When you were rescued you still didn’t know that I had survived. I was no more than a dead stranger in your memory.”

  “A dead stranger?” She stared at him in disbelief. “I never thought of you that way!” Her shoulders slumped. “When I found out that you were alive but badly hurt, I assumed that you wouldn’t want anything to do with me. After all, if you hadn’t been assigned to find me …” She looked at him with the pain of memories in her eyes. “But after I saw you at the hospital, I had to know everything that had happened to you after that day in the courtyard. So I asked Jeopard.”

  “You shouldn’t have.”

  She struggled for control and had to turn her face away. “I had to. You were so thin, and the scars … I could tell that your wounds had healed poorly. I asked Jeopard. He said that you’d been kept in a cellar, that you had never received any medical care, that some of the wounds had become infected.”

  Kyle sat up and grabbed the towel she’d brought. Roughly he began toweling her orchid concoction off his face and body.

  “No,” she said brokenly, reaching out to him, her hand shaking. “Please don’t.”

  “When I want pity from you, I’ll ask for it.”

  “You don’t understand. My sympathy doesn’t take anything away from all the good feelings that you and I share.”

  “It takes away a hell of a lot. Respect, for one thing.” He knew that he was overreacting, that she was trying to be kind and he was kicking her for it. But he didn’t want kindness from her—he wanted her to see him as a strong, desirable man, someone for whom she didn’t have to feel sorry, someone she could love.

  He got up. “Good night. I know I’m a bastard right now. I’ll try to get my good humor back before breakfast.”

  Kneeling on the floor, she looked up at him, seeming small and fragile. But her eyes snapped with resentment. “You are a bastard right now,” she agreed.

  He bowed in acceptance, and left the room.

  Sara sat there alone, her hands clenched in her lap, her thoughts rebellious. She had tried so hard to make him relax. Her unseductive attitude and conversation and the way she had dressed for bed had been meant to make intimacy seem so comfortable, so right. She had obviously taken the wrong approach.

  She leapt to her feet and hurried from the room. First she went to her bedroom, where she kicked her tiger slippers into a corner, then stripped naked. She covered herself in the green silk robe she’d been wearing the day he had climbed down her chimney unannounced.

  Next she went to the nursery, tiptoeing so that she wouldn’t wake Noelle and Daisy. She rummaged through a set of drawers until she found everything she wanted. Her arms full, she went back to her bedroom, shoved open the door to the hall, and marched down to Kyle’s room.

  She used one bare heel to drum loudly on the bottom of his door. He apparently thought some new emergency had risen, because she heard him run to the door. He jerked it open and looked down at her worriedly. “What is it?”

  “Respect,” she said grimly, and found a knot in her throat. Why did he make this so difficult? “You want respect, I brought you respect.”

  He frowned at the things in her arms. As his eyes took in her change of clothes, he frowned harder. “Is this an experiment? Will there be a quiz later?”

  “My mother liked to sew and crochet,” she told him between gritted teeth. “She also did embroidery. Look.” She threw one of Noelle’s crib blankets at him.

  He caught it, his angry, bewildered gaze never leaving hers. “Just tell me what point you’re trying to make, Sara.”

  “I can’t tell you. You don’t listen. You don’t believe.” She nodded toward the blanket. “Look at it.”

  Slowly he dropped his gaze. His fingers touched a corner of the blanket where Anna Scarborough had embroidered her granddaughter’s initials. “NKS,” he read, then looked at her impatiently.

  She threw a pink cap at him. “NKS,” he said again, the cap spread over his hand as if his fingers were wearing it.

  “NKS,” she echoed, her voice trembling with bittersweet distress. She threw a tiny dress at him. Its collar bore the same initials. “NKS.” She threw a pair of mittens. “NKS!” Then a monogrammed sweater. “NKS!”

  “Whoa,” he protested, trying to hold everything. When she drew her hand back with a pillow in it, like a powder-puff quarterback, he began to back away. “Easy, Sara, easy.” His voice was soothing, his expression sad. “I’m sorry I upset you like this. Now, calm—”

  “NKS!” She advanced into his room, her arm still posed to fire the pillow at him.

  “Dammit!” he said finally, and stopped backing. He tossed everything on the floor and came toward her, hands out to grab the small pink pillow edged in crochet.

  “NKS!” she yelled, and thrust the pillow into his hands.

  Kyle halted, staring at the name that had been lovingly stitched into its center. “Noelle Kyla Scarborough,” he whispered. “Kyla?”

  Sara’s anger crumbled. “I named her after you,” she said, her voice breaking. “If that’s not respect, I don’t know what is.”

  He continued to look at the pillow, his blue eyes reflecting his stunned, troubled thoughts. “Why did you do it?”

  “Because I wanted to honor the most wonderful man I’d ever met. Because I never wanted to forget that man.” She stepped close to him and laid a hand on his arm. “Because from the first day I knew that he was very, very special.” He brushed his fingertips over the name on the pillow. His hand quivered visibly, and his voice was hoarse.

  “I hope I haven’t done too much to destroy your opinion.”

  Her throat ached with emotion. “Nothing you can’t fix easily.”

  He looked up at her, restraint and tenderness creating a volatile gleam in his eye. “Tell me what you want.”

  “I want you to show a little pity for me.”

  “Oh, God, let’s drop the subject of pity—”

  “No.” She took the baby pillow from him and tossed it onto a chair in his shadowy bedroom. Then she grasped his hands. “You can’t bear the thought that I might feel sorry for you. But don’t you feel sorry for me? For my loneliness? Don’t you want to make me happy?”

  “Any way that I can—”

  “Then why won’t you accept the fact that I want you?” She raised her hands and cupped his face. Sara watched the slow tensing of the muscles. “I love touching you,” she whispered. “I love looking at you. And I’d love to do a great deal more of both.”

  He was silent, searching her eyes, his torn emotions evident in the tense set of his broad shoulders and the quiet dilemma that darkened his expression. Give him time, Sara told herself firmly.

  Stepping back from him was one of the most difficult things she’d ever done in her life. “I love you,” she told him. She smiled through tears of hope. “I am going to believe that you want me to love you, and that eventually you’ll believe that I do. In the meantime, I’ll be waiting. Good night.”

  She turned shakily and started for the door. He reached it with a few loping strides and blocked her way. Sara gasped lightly as he snatched her into his arms and pulled her against him, lifting her to her toes.

  “Would you say the first part again?” he said.

  She lost herself in his hypnotizing gaze. “I love you, Kyle.” Sara laughed weakly. “I think I knew that in Surador. We were strangers, but I knew that I wanted to be a part of you. How’s that for jumping to an unsubstantiated, unscientific conclusion?”

  “Sometimes you have to go with your instincts, Doc,” he whispered, his voice deep and husky with emotion.

  “Do you … do your instincts tell you anything specific?”

  “They tell me that I was right that day in Surador.”

&n
bsp; She looked at him through half-shut eyes and wound her arms around his neck. “Right about what?”

  “That I wouldn’t mind dying for you.”

  Destroyed in the most tender way, she broke into a million pieces. Sara buried her head against the crook of his neck and cried.

  “Oh, Sara, Sara,” he said anxiously. “I was just being honest, not trying to upset you.”

  “That’s why it means so much to me.”

  He managed to chuckle. “Do you know what else I was right about?”

  “What?”

  “This.” He sank his mouth onto hers for a long, deep kiss that buckled her knees. “And this.” He stroked his hands up and down her back, slid them over her hips, and pulled her tight against his pelvis. “I knew you’d be magic.”

  She gave herself to him, arching into his embrace, licking the corners of his mouth, then kissing the dampness she had made, whimpering with devotion each time he opened her lips with the loving command of his tongue.

  He dipped his head and delved into the smooth flow of her neck, nuzzling the sensitive skin under her ear. Sensation scattered down Sara’s body, and she curled into his arms as he lifted her from the floor. Kyle carried her down the hall to the master bedroom and stood quietly in the dim light from a single bedside lamp, kissing her until her head fell back weakly and she moaned.

  “I thought you’d be more relaxed here,” he whispered, laying her on the bed. He glanced at the open door to the nursery. “Where we could hear if Noelle cries during the night.”

  Looking up into the warm, unclouded blue of his gaze, Sara smiled. He understood so perfectly. She drew him down to her and nibbled his lower lip. “Thank you.”

  “Thank you.” He slid a hand under her head and raised her face to be mapped by kisses. “Thank you.” Slowly he settled beside her, his belly curved against her hip. He stroked the backs of his fingers down her robe and was superbly adept at raising goose bumps on the flesh underneath.

  Again and again he repeated his patient caress from shoulder to thigh, and now he found points of particular interest, where he lingered, bonding the silk’s smooth seduction with the more primitive urgency of his hand.

  Sara writhed under his touch and kissed him wildly. Her hands tugged at his robe, pushed it open, and impatiently roamed over his T-shirt. She realized she was going too fast, being too greedy, and slowed her hands. Then, taking an infinite amount of joy in his clothed body, the hardness of his chest muscles, the slow flexing of his thighs under the cotton jogging pants, she met and held his gaze.

  “I love you,” he said in a tone that made her feel as if she were floating. “And I wish I were the man I see in your eyes.”

  “You are.” She guided him onto his back and leaned over him, smiling tenderly. Sara knelt and ran her hands along his body, finding the special places as he had done with her body. When she caressed the straining ridge on his belly, he made a soft growl that was potently masculine.

  She began to push his shirt up. He grasped her hands and burned her with a pensive, questioning look. “Would you like to turn out the light?”

  She shook her head gently. “Would you?”

  “Not really. I want to see you. I just wasn’t certain—”

  “I do,” she answered. “I want to see you too. All of you. You have to understand something. I think you’re the sexiest man I’ve ever known. When you did that ridiculous striptease for my security cameras, I was enthralled. I mean that.”

  He laughed, the kind of rich, relieved sound that told her she’d finally started to break through. Slowly the laughter faded into a look that simmered with desire. “Would you like a second performance?”

  She nodded eagerly and even applauded a little.

  Kyle rose from the bed and moved a few feet away, his back to her, the glow of the bedside lamp casting him in a tantalizing mixture of light and shadow. He shrugged his robe off one shoulder, struck a melodramatic pose with one hip thrust out, then smoothed both hands over his hair in a preening gesture.

  He swiveled a little and let the robe fall from the other shoulder. With the burgundy material draped around his elbows, he pulled it back and forth across his rump.

  “More, more,” Sara urged, laughing softly. But this was no bawdy performance, this was a sharing of trust.

  He dropped the robe and turned around. One brow arched wickedly as he splayed his hands across his stomach and rubbed, inviting her to think about the terraced muscles under his T-shirt.

  Sara pressed her hands to her throat and sighed grandly, while inside her heart nearly burst. This was the man he had been and would learn to be again, the man who was confident about his body and its effect on a woman.

  He pulled the shirt over his head and tossed it to her. She buried her nose in the soft material and inhaled his scent as she peered at him coyly. He was a beautifully athletic man, and the scars were only marks of honor, the same as any knight would bear if he had fought dragons.

  Abruptly he turned and flipped down one side of his pants, exposing a tight haunch covered in white briefs. “I forgot my G-string,” he told her solemnly.

  “You’ll have to pay the penalty, then. Go naked.”

  “Hmmm. You’d better tip big for this performance.”

  Sara fumbled with the tie on her robe, finally unfastening it so that the robe remained closed only by sheer luck. “I have your reward ready.”

  He stood very still and scrutinized her gently. “Are you blushing?”

  She nodded. “We scientists are allowed to be a little shy. It’s part of our image.” She cleared her throat. “Go on with your show.”

  He pulled his pants down, bending gracefully from the waist, giving her a breathtaking view of his lean, long-legged body. The briefs remained, outlining every curve and bulge of an aroused male.

  Sara’s thighs relaxed as heat wound through the center of her stomach. She breathed with soft, shallow puffs, and her fair skin tingled. She knew that a mirror would have revealed that her face and chest were flushed with a fine pink mist of desire.

  “Let me help with the rest,” she whispered.

  He moved to the edge of the bed and stood quietly, though his chest rose and fell as swiftly as hers. Sara nuzzled her face into the springy blond hair on his stomach and completed his performance with hands that trembled as they pushed his briefs down.

  She moved her head lower and touched her lips to him. His hands sank into her hair convulsively. “Magnificent,” she said.

  He lifted her to her knees and cupped her chin in one hand. She looked up at him as her fingertips skimmed over his thighs and arousal. He traced her lips with his thumb, and devotion brimmed in his eyes. He mouthed the words I love you. Sara turned her face toward his palm and whispered them against the warm, callused skin.

  She lay back on the bed as he knelt beside her. His hands parted her robe an inch at a time, savoring every moment. When she was bared, he let his gaze move over her just as slowly as his hands had, and the fierce love in his eyes coupled with primal need.

  The moments that followed left Sara in a daze of wonder. He cared for her with his hands and his mouth, absorbed the essence of her skin and her mysteries, touched her everywhere, and brought her to an edge that made her cry out with happiness. In the midst of that pleasure he lowered himself on top of her and sighed hoarsely when she circled him with her legs.

  They shared the joining, coming together on some silent signal, then following the rhythms of desire while their lips whispered words of praise and adoration. In the blue heaven of his eyes she saw a shattering that matched her own. Together, safe inside her magic and his enchantment, they made the world right again.

  Nine

  “Next we go out into the real world,” he said as his fingertip traced a streak of afternoon sunshine across her stomach.

  Sara raised her head from a rumpled pillow, lovingly eyed the chaos of her bedcovers, the empty Coco-Moo bottle that had gotten lost in them sometime during
the night, and finally the naked man sprawled half on top of her with his head on her breasts.

  “I don’t think we’re ready,” she protested dryly.

  “Obviously, we’d have to get dressed first.”

  “Yes.” Smiling, she played with his golden hair, spearing her fingers through it, separating the copper strands that gave it such warm, dark undertones. “I’ve forgotten how to tie my shoes.”

  “No way, Tinker Bell. I’ve kept you in bed for only three days.”

  “But I haven’t paid attention to my feet once in that whole time.”

  “They got you back and forth to the nursery and the kitchen.”

  “No, I was floating. I’m sure of it. You have that effect on me, Mr. Surprise. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.”

  She felt him smile against her breast. He lapped his tongue across one of her nipples. “What flattery.”

  “My gorgeous man.” She ran her hand down his back, lazily scratching a spot between his shoulder blades. “I know how to keep you from getting out of bed.”

  He made a gruff sound full of pleasure. “You think I’m helpless just because I go limp when you scratch my back.”

  Her laugh was throaty and confident, the sound of a woman who had been well loved. “Limp? Only on rare occasions when you’re asleep.”

  “You’ve been peeking!”

  From the nursery came Noelle’s sleepy chatter, then the sound of the crib bumping the wall as she bounced around. Sara stretched and patted Kyle’s shoulder, letting her hand linger on corded muscle and smooth, lightly freckled skin. “Baby time.”

  “I’ll go get her.”

  He placed several jaunty kisses on Sara’s breasts and another on her mouth before he rose from the bed. She sighed happily as she watched him pull on his T-shirt and a pair of sweat pants. He winked at her as he left the room.

  She hummed with satisfaction as she put on her long blue robe and straightened the bed. After a second she heard Kyle call, “We’ve got a soggy-bottomed elf princess in here.”

  “Hold the fort. I’ll be there in a second.”

 
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