Branded sanctuary, p.32
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       Branded Sanctuary, p.32

         Part #7 of Nature of Desire series by Joey W. Hill
 
Page 32

 

  I had a roommate for a while, so Im not used to living alone. Id prefer to have someones company, you know. Hear something moving around, making noise, sharing a bathroom. Or a bath. Humor tinged his voice. Saves water that way, you know.

  Idont know. Can I She stopped, but he cupped her face, tilted it up to him as if he was cupping a lotus flower, teasing the petals of her lips and cheek, the curve of her ear.

  A sk me anything, Chloe. A nything.

  I dont know if I can do that. But I wantcan we go there for at least tonight? I know youre supposed to be here, so if you have to say no He rose, still holding her in his arms. Do you have things in Marguerite and Tylers house you need to get?

  She managed an ungraceful snuffle. Yeah. Just one suitcase. I can walk, you know. Been doing it nearly all my life.

  A nd I can carry you. I havent been doing it nearly long enough.

  Chapter Thirteen

  Hed given her a serious glance with those Fae hazel eyes, and strode for the main house. Shed liked the noise and life of the carnival, but now, in the aftermath of her latest meltdown, she welcomed the quiet of the back gardens, the beauty of the Florida room that Brendan entered, shifting her in his arms. Why dont I put you down here? He nodded to a deep cushioned chair. If you tell me what room youre in, Ill go up and get your things.

  Its the first bedroom on the left upstairs, but I havent really packed it up.

  Ill know whats yours. He met her gaze. If I overlook anything, Marguerite will bring it to the tea room. Just rest easy here, all right? Did you bring your car?

  No. Marguerite brought me here.

  Okay, then. A s he lowered her into the lounger, her hands tightened on his shoulders. She couldnt let him go, afraid of what might happen if she broke that connection. He pressed his forehead to hers. Ill be right back, I promise.

  A soft creak drew her attention to the doorway. Chloe saw Tylers silhouette framed in it.

  Brendan kept a loose hold of her hands as he straightened, letting her arms slide down in his grip. Master Tyler, can you stay with her while I get her things? Im going to take her to my place.

  Tyler nodded, stepping into the room. Chloe wondered if the well of shame and humiliation ever ran dry, as she thought about her erratic behavior today. But when Brendan squeezed her hand, giving her a steady look that promised a quick return, she couldnt help clinging to his fingers. Fortunately, as if the men were in a Vulcan mind meld over her care, Tylers hand closed over her wrist, so as Brendans touch slid away, his took its place.

  With his other hand, he drew an ottoman close to the lounger and sat down on it, reaching out with two fingers to smooth back a tendril of her hair. Then he reached into the pocket of his slacks and drew out a neatly folded and pressed handkerchief for her sweat-stained, makeup destroyed face.

  You know, guys dont carry those any more.

  There are many things that men dont do any more that they should. Particularly for women. Leaning forward, Tyler touched the fabric to her cheeks.

  She fished about for something to say. Im sorry about leaving. A nd taking Brendan. I want to explain, but Taking the cloth away, he put his hand on her face instead. It was a different feeling. Whereas Brendan gave her that feeling of absolute connection, with Tyler it was a reassuring command. When and if you wish, you can.

  I dont know if hes exactly serious, but Brendan suggested I move in with him for a little while, since hes between roommates.

  Really? Tyler lifted a brow.

  Yeah. Thats the complicated part. I really want to, but most relationships dont start with Hey, why dont you move in with me? I like him a lot, Tyler. I dont want to blow it for both of us, and if he turns out to be not the right guy, I dont want it to be over too fast. I want to savor the good before I find out he cross dresses or has bodies in his freezer.

  Some men look very good in womens clothes. But Tyler smiled.

  Does Brendan tell Marguerite a lot of things? A re they that kind of friends?

  A n intriguing look passed over Tylers face, here and gone. Chloe wasnt sure how to interpret it, but he inclined his head. Brendan would trust Marguerite with anything.

  Okay. I told him something tonight. Im pretty sureits something that Marguerite should know, but I dont think I can say it again. I havent talked to anyone about it, Tyler, and Im not sure I want anyone else to know. I know you and Marguerite dont have any secrets from one another either, but if he tells her, and then she tells you, you guys could pretend not to know, if I need you to do that. Right?

  A grim smile touched his firm lips. Marguerite and I will do whatever you need to make you happy, little flower.

  She gave a half chuckle. Im zapped, but not zapped enough to miss the fact thats a qualified answer. But its okay. She realized she was leaning more of her heads weight against his hand, and pressing it to the lounger. Tell Marguerite I do know its wrong, but Im going to let him take care of me for a little while, okay? Im sure Ill say Im sorry for it Her words were slurring, her head rolling against his broad palm. Vaguely she was aware of him easing her back on the lounger, down to a resting position, but she didnt have the energy to say anything further.

  I just cant let him go, even if were wrong for each other.

  * * * * *

  She was quiet on the ride to his place. The Jeep had an unfortunate center console, so Brendan couldnt keep her close to his side like he wanted, but he kept a hand on her as he held her hand, resting his palm on her knee. She leaned against the seat, turned on her hip toward him, as if she needed that closeness too. Hed seen Chloes face reflect myriad emotions now, and had made careful note of all of them. Part of it was the drama coach in him, scrutinizing how people expressed the countless emotions and multiple shades of gray in between. A s a submissive as well as a drama teacher, he knew there were two physical languages. While a womans face might reflect the universally recognized expression of happiness, there would be nuances to it, not only the unique signature to her brand of happiness, but subtle messages of what drove the happiness, how long it would last, how real the happiness truly was.

  With her, his interest was more than his deep curiosity in the human condition. It was his sheer desire to understand her mind, anticipate her needs and wants, even before she herself might realize them. Because hed watched her so closely, hed understood from the beginning that there was more to what had happened that horrible day at Tea Leaves. Her surface expressions, no matter if they were was happiness or pleasure, had possessed a wariness, as if she knew that under layer, the story untold, was waiting in the wings, ready to turn everything shed wanted to feel into a lie.

  Something perilous had occurred tonight, perilous and cathartic at once. She was struggling with the idea shed built her life on an illusion of happiness, foolishly, childishly pushing away the reality. However, in this too, he saw something entirely different, something she couldnt yet see.

  The world was full of beauty and light, and reasons for joy. Rather than letting the adult world of darkness take that from her at the age of nine, shed built her own tower, refusing to do anything less than embrace life fully, with her laughter and her joy. It made her remarkable, exceptional and courageous.

  The fact that the incident with Marguerites father had laid siege to that tower didnt alter her truth. It had only altered her belief in it, and he was determined to give her whatever she needed to help her see that, drive that dragon away.

  Joy and happiness, darkness and rage had all visited her since hed known her. They were all part of her, as they were part of everyone, but he knew which ones truly guided Chloe Davis.

  A s he pulled up to his townhouse, her tired eyes studied the door arrangement, a drama mask designed like a pumpkins face, ensconced in a spray of autumn leaves. It was a reminder of the fall equinox that didnt match the warm Florida weather, but many residents, including him, insisted on observing the seasonal transit
ion anyway. A little black rubber spider dangled from it, an incongruous touch of whimsy.

  Was the door arrangement a gift?

  Yes and no. Because he wanted to do it, he lifted her hand to his mouth, nuzzled her fingers. She watched him, her lips parting. He knew such Old World gestures bemused her Bohemian personality, but the female animal beneath recognized and responded to them. When her fingers quivered, he increased his grasp on them. When I was little, my mom was pretty busy, a decorator, and a really good one. Even though she didnt have a lot of time to transform our house for the holidays or passing of seasons, she made a production of decorating the door. She had me help her.

  He smiled at Chloe, rubbing his thumb over her fingers. Id say where I thought different things should go. In retrospect, Im sure they were ideas that destroyed the artistry of her design. Like for Christmas, Id want a gaudy lit-up Santa with a plastic face and rosy cheeks in the middle of the elegant wreath shed arranged with white doves and silver and blue ribbons. But she helped me see where it would best fit. Shed talk me into putting Santa on the stoop, surround him with pine cones and sprigs of holly, perch a few doves there like the white of his beard. Wed spray frost snow flakes on the glass of our storm door, and theyd sparkle when shed hang a single strand of white lights around them.

  She sounds nice.

  She was perfect. In the way a loving mother seen through the eyes of a five-year-old can be. He paused, glanced back at the door. My parents were killed in a car wreck when I was young. A s the years pass, you forget important details, no matter how long you try to hold onto them, but you remember small things. So I still decorate the door, with the odd gaudy touch.

  Like a rubber spider. Now it was her fingers that tightened on his. When he looked toward her, he saw compassion in her eyes, a softness to her mouth, but she didnt say any of the usual platitudes. He was glad for that.

  Her brown eyes, when they were like this, reminded him of a cow. He didnt say that, unsure shed understand the compliment, but when he looked at the liquid brown eyes of a cow, he always felt a tranquility, as if the placid animal, in her bovine simplicity, understood something no human ever would about making the most of each day, of every moment. He wanted to give that back to her.

  Now though, he simply nodded. Want to go in and see the rest of it?

  The door arrangement is a way to keep it from overwhelming you, isnt it? Losing your parents.

  Thats one way of looking at it. Heres another. Leaning over, he put his lips on hers, a gentle meeting of mouths, slow moving, a drift of feeling and physical stirring between them, quiet understanding. Yet when he started to draw back, she caught her fingers in his hair, holding him there so his eyes were inches from hers.