Headmaster, p.14
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       Headmaster, p.14
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         Part #2 of Lessons From the Rack series by Tara Sue Me
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  she’d ever heard. What were they supposed to do, agree on everything? Never disagree? That didn’t make any sense.

  She was getting ready to tell him as much when someone knocked on the door. Thankful for the diversion, she looked that way expectantly to see who it was and grinned as Andie and Fulton walked in.

  “Hey,” Andie said. “Look who’s up.”

  “Hi, Mariela.” Fulton set down a vase of light pink roses. “We picked these up for you.”

  “They’re gorgeous. Aren’t they gorgeous, Lennox?” Mariela waved to the couple. “Come on in. Fulton, give those to Lennox so he can find a spot for them. It’ll be the first useful thing he’s done all day.”

  Andie and Fulton exchanged a look, obviously picking up on the tension between the two of them.

  “Um,” Fulton said. “We can come back later if now’s not a good time.”

  “That might be for the best,” Lennox said.

  “Absolutely not,” Mariela insisted. “Now is perfectly fine. Don’t listen to him. In fact, Fulton, why don’t you take Lennox out for coffee or something, so Andie and I can have some time for girl talk.”

  Lennox looked none too pleased with her suggestion and that was just fine by her. She was the patient, and if he didn’t go with Fulton, she’d kick him out or have a nurse do it for her. She was tired of his attitude. Tired of his self-imposed martyrdom.

  Andie glanced at Fulton, obviously searching for some guidance.

  He nodded. “Come on, boss. Let’s go find some coffee.”

  Lennox stood to leave. “I’ll be back, Marie, and we’ll finish this conversation.”

  You bet your ass we will. But she didn’t say that. Instead she smiled and told the men to take their time. It wasn’t until they’d both left the room that she felt she could relax.

  Andie sat down in the seat Lennox had recently vacated. “Whew. What was that about?”

  Mariela waved as if shooing a bothersome fly. “Nothing. Just Lennox being himself.”

  “It sure didn’t look like nothing.”

  “I’m just tired of his shit. The way he acts like everything’s his fault.” She took a deep breath, needing to calm down. The last thing she wanted was to get herself worked up. The hospital would probably kick out all her visitors.

  “He blames himself for your accident, doesn’t he?”

  “Yes, and it’s completely ridiculous.”

  “Do you want to talk about it?”

  Not really. But she had to talk to someone about what happened. “I went to the cottage, I knew he’d go there when he left the island. And we . . .” She closed her eyes. She hadn’t yet had the time to process last night and everything about it still felt raw and tender. She sighed and Andie placed a hand on top of hers. “It was wonderful. Incredible. It was everything I’d imagined and fantasized about and so much more.”

  And then they’d woken up the next morning and it was back to the same old treatment from him. She looked away from Andie, not wanting to see the pity she knew would be there when she told her what happened next.

  “This morning, he acted like it was nothing. Nothing.” Mariela swallowed. “I should have known and expected it, but it surprised me and we had a horrible argument.”

  “Just like Winnie.”

  Mariela nodded. “Very much like Winnie. You know about my leg.”

  Andie nodded.

  “He thinks it’s his fault because we argued.”

  “What does he think? That no one should ever argue?”

  “I guess. Or at least he shouldn’t.”

  Andie didn’t say anything.

  “Seems as if no matter what, plan or no plan, Lennox and I are doomed for failure,” Mariela said.

  “I wouldn’t look at it like that,” Andie said. “You’re not a failure.”

  “I don’t see how you can call it anything else. I mean, seriously, he’s acting like it never happened and I have a busted leg? It doesn’t get much more of a failure than that.”

  Andie shook her head. “I think you’re looking at it the wrong way.”

  Mariela just gave her an are you kidding me with this look. Because, really?

  But Andie was determined she was correct. “You and Lennox had an amazing night, right?”

  Mariela nodded.

  “That in and of itself is progress.”

  “I would be more likely to agree with you if he didn’t act as though the whole thing never happened.”

  “That’s what I mean,” Andie said. “He’s acting like that because he hasn’t processed the new development yet, and until he does, it’s safer for him to shove it in the ‘not yet’ box in his brain.”

  Mariela decided Andie had lost it. “And you think once he’s processed it, he’s going to profess his undying love?”

  “Nope, I still think he’s going to shove it to the ‘not yet’ part of his brain.”

  “What good does that do me?”

  “It’s up to you to get that night out of the ‘not yet’ box and in the ‘I can’t live without this’ box.”

  “I’m not even sure he has an ‘I can’t live without this’ box.”

  “Trust me. He does.”

  Mariela yawned. “I’ll have to try to locate it.”

  “I should let you rest. All this talking and planning can’t be calming you down. And I promised the charge nurse that I wouldn’t overexcite you.”

  “Trust me, if being in the same room with Lennox didn’t overexcite me and send my bp through the roof, talking to you won’t either.”

  “I believe you, but just to be safe, let’s talk about something else.” Andie reached into her bag. “I brought you some of my homemade granola and some superfood powder you can add to water. Hospital food is pathetically devoid of necessary nutrition.”

  “Thank you,” Mariela said as Andie placed the items on a free shelf in the tiny hospital room closet.

  “When do you start PT?”

  “I’m not sure, I haven’t even spoken to a doctor yet.”

  “I heard Lennox tell Fulton they were going to stop by the nurses’ station on the way to get coffee. Maybe they’ll ask for your doctor to come by.”

  With all that had been going on with Lennox and then Fulton and Andie coming by, Mariela had pushed anything having to do with her leg to the side. But she couldn’t get rid of it completely, and every time she thought about it, a chill took over her body. What if the injury was worse than they thought and she never walked again? How could she live if she didn’t dance?

  Dance was such a big part of her life. It was like breathing. She couldn’t separate herself from breathing, she doubted she could remove herself from dance either. She was a dancer. Without dance, who was she? Would she even recognize herself?

  Unbidden, hot tears ran down her cheeks.

  “Mariela?” Andie asked.

  “What if I never walk again? And can’t dance?” Mariela asked. “How can I go on?”

  “First of all,” Andie said. “Don’t get all negative and pessimistic on me. Of course you’ll be able to walk again, because you’re going to have the best medical team known to man working with you. Not to mention me.”

  Mariela gave a small snort.

  “You may laugh, but I can be a little stubborn. Just ask Fulton.”

  Mariela knew that for a fact.

  “And since I’m so stubborn, I’m going to do everything in my power to get you up and walking. In fact,” Andie’s eyes sparkled and Mariela knew she was in trouble then. “I’m going to bet you’ll be up walking and dancing at the Holiday Ball.”

  Mariela did laugh then. “Now I know you’ve lost it. Lennox said they’re not sure when I’ll be able to walk and you’re saying I’ll be dancing by the end of the year?”

  “Crazier things have happened.”

  “Not many.”

  There was a knock on the door and Fulton stuck his head in. “Ready, Andie?” He glanced over to Mariela. “Nurse said we needed to let you re
st, so we’re going to go for now. We booked a room in the city for tonight, so we’ll be back tomorrow.”

  “You guys don’t have to do that.” Mariela hated the thought of her friends going out of their way for her. Especially since they would be staying on the mainland. Granted, not everyone felt the way she did about that.

  “It’s okay, really,” Andie said with a knowing glance at Fulton. “This is like a little mini escape for us.”

  “We don’t need to hear the details.” Lennox came up behind Fulton and slapped him on the shoulder. He passed him and stepped into the room. “You two go on and get out of here. I’ve got things covered.”

  Mariela waited until the couple left before she talked to Lennox. “I thought the nurse wanted me to rest?”

  “She does.”

  “Then why are you staying?”

  He settled into the chair and closed his eyes. “Because I am.”

  Damn stubborn man. She huffed and pulled the covers up, willing herself to sleep and surprised when it came so quickly.

  WINNIE’S JOURNAL

  Oh god, what have I gotten myself into?

  CHAPTER

  Nine

  Lennox was there when Mariela was released from the hospital a few days later. She frowned when she saw him.

  “I thought Fulton and Andie were coming,” she said.

  “Change of plans.”

  The look she gave him suggested she thought there was more to it than that. “I would have thought Andie would have called me in that case.”

  He shrugged. He sure as hell wasn’t going to mention that he’d told Fulton to forbid Andie from calling Marie. Lennox feared that if Andie had told her he was picking her up, Marie would have found some excuse not to be released. She’d never said it in so many words, but he couldn’t help but think she’d blame him for the accident. It was for the best she didn’t know that he had manipulated things in order to be the one who took her home. Whether she liked him or not had no bearing on the fact that he was the reason she was in the shape she was in.

  “I’ll get you to the island and get you settled.” He didn’t want to bring up how they needed to talk about her rehabilitation. There was time for that conversation later, after she rested.

  He found, once they got in the car and headed out on the highway, that he wasn’t sure what to talk about. Small talk seemed too light. Silence would be preferable. Anything heavy he didn’t feel ready to discuss with her. He wasn’t going to talk about them, the crazy wonderful night at the cottage, or her future at the academy.

  He decided he might try his hand at gossip. There were rumors floating around the school about Master Nader and his supposed new girlfriend. Marie would want to know. But when he glanced to his side, he discovered she was snoring softly.

  He couldn’t help but smile at the sight. She was such a firecracker. He needed to remember that no matter what front she put on, she’d been in the hospital and needed to take it easy.

  Unbidden, the scene came back to him.

  “But we’re going slow and easy this time.”

  “Blah. I’ve never been a fan of slow and easy. I think I’ll go back to sleep.”

  “Roll back over and I promise you’ll never say ‘blah’ to slow and easy again.”

  Forget that. He wasn’t going to mention any kind of easy anytime soon.

  She was still sleeping when they made it to the docks. If it hadn’t been for how sheepish she looked when he woke her, he would have thought she did it on purpose.

  “Sorry I’m such rotten company.” She yawned. “Who would have thought sitting in a wheelchair would be so tiring?”

  Once they were on the boat, she stayed inside while he piloted them to the island. He’d asked that no one be at the docks when they pulled up. Marie only liked to be the center of attention while doing a scene. Outside of that, she preferred to disappear into the crowds.

  So unlike Winnie. He’d found himself comparing them more and more lately. Since they were so close, some might have assumed them to be similar in many ways. But what struck him lately was how different they were.

  Although he’d never admit it, the comparison started with sex. Marie had been free in her submission—she owned her submissive nature, and she made no excuses for it. Winnie, after the first few years anyway, saw it as degrading and said it made her feel weak. She didn’t understand that hearing that made him feel weak, too.

  Because what kind of Dominant makes his submissive feel worse?

  “Thank goodness there’s no one here,” Marie said, when they arrived at the empty dock. “I was so afraid everyone was going to be out to greet us.”

  Thank goodness, he’d finally gotten something right. About damn time. “By order of the headmaster,” he said. “I know you well enough to know you only want to be the center of attention when you’re naked.”

  She laughed and he smiled. He didn’t think he’d heard her laugh the entire time she was in the hospital. Maybe being back on the island would be good for her and allow her jovial personality to come back.

  “God, that sounds awful, doesn’t it?” she asked, still giggling. “But how very, very true.”

  He helped her out of the boat and into the waiting golf cart. But if he thought the return to the island would lighten her mood, he was wrong. She grew more and more somber the closer they got to her residence. By the time they arrived at her door, she was completely pale.

  “Marie?” he asked.

  “I can’t do this,” she said, and for the first time since he’d known her, she looked scared.

  “Can’t do what?”

  “Any of it. I can’t be here like this. I can’t teach. And . . .”

  “Marie?”

  She looked down at her hands in her lap. “I can’t be here with you and act like that night never happened.”

  That was the crux of it. The lack of mobility and the teaching were ancillary. It was the fact that they’d dropped all their boundaries and had sex. Though even he knew it went much deeper than mere sex. Somewhere deep inside, he’d known that night if he didn’t stop and send her back to the island before things progressed any further that they would end up like this.

  As many times as he’d told himself it was only one night, that one night didn’t mean anything and nothing had changed, he had known. Deep down, he’d known that he’d never be satisfied with only one night with Marie. It meant a hell of a lot, and it’d changed everything.

  But now, sitting outside her place in a golf cart, on the day she got released from the hospital, was not the time to have the needed conversation.

  He took her hand and she looked at him in surprise. “I know we need to talk, but I think we both can agree that now is not the best time. You’ve gone through a very rough ordeal and you have a hard road ahead of you. Let’s take it one step at a time.”

  He hated to admit it, but that was probably the most honest he’d been with her and it shamed him to no end. Somehow, she must have heard and understood the truth in what he said because she simply nodded.

  He gave her hand a squeeze before letting it go. “Thank you. I think the one step we’ll do today is get you settled. How does that
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