The boys of summer…
There were dreams, but she couldn’t call them nightmares.
Hot, sexy dreams where Caleb put his hands on her and she returned the favor. They were the kind of dreams that had her kicking off the blankets and when she woke up sometime near two a.m., hovering on the edge of orgasm, it took a great deal of willpower to keep from climbing out of her bed and finding him in his.
It took almost as much willpower not to push her hand between her thighs and bring herself to the climax she could feel hovering just out of reach.
She ached with the need for it.
For a long, long time, she’d existed without any of that. It wasn’t even that hard. After what had happened with Dawn, she’d turned herself into a tool. Focused on the job, on making herself better so that she never made such awful mistakes again. She’d always acted on impulse, lived by the emotions that guided her gift, actions that led to the awful mistakes she’d made.
In response, she’d cut off those emotions. She couldn’t stop feeling but she could damn well stop letting them control her and it became second nature. Sexual desires, pleasure, even simple happiness had all become obstacles that were in the way of the job, so she shut them off.
Odd and random dreams about Caleb would slip in, but they were forgotten almost as soon as she woke up, and when she didn’t forget them soon enough, she reminded herself about what he’d done. How he’d hurt her. How he’d left her. That made it even easier.
But it was almost impossible to brush this dream away, this need away, when he was sleeping just a few yards away.
She missed his heat.
She missed his quiet strength and the way she felt so much steadier when she was near him.
She just plain missed him.
And you didn’t say a thing to stop me. Every step of the way, I waited for you to say something, Destin. Every damn step.
His words echoed in her mind and she had to wonder, how much different would her life have been if she’d given in to that impulse? She’d always thought that he’d changed his mind.
He’d told her that he loved her, and she’d almost believed him. Almost. But Destin had had people tell her they loved her before. Like her mom and dad. And then her abilities had started to surface and their love hadn’t been all that real, after all. They’d hated her. Feared her.
Had even thought maybe she was as bad as some of the monsters out there. Monstrous little thing—
It wasn’t so far a stretch for her to think that the man she’d thought she might have loved had changed his mind about them. If she had reached out to him, then, would things be different now?
“It’s too late to worry about that,” she whispered. “No do-overs allowed.”
He didn’t seem all that different. A few more lines around the lines and maybe a little more serious, but all in all, Caleb was just as he’d always been. Solid, strong, steady.
She was different, though. She was completely different and if she needed any reminder of that, it was in the mirror. Stroking a finger down the scar, she closed her eyes and curled up on the bed and waited for the miserable, achy need to subside. It took too long. By the time she was able to fall back to sleep, hours had passed.
Come dawn, she woke to hear him moving out in the sitting area; she didn’t bother trying to go back to sleep. She opened the door and almost swallowed her tongue when she saw him. He was wearing nothing but a pair of running shorts and another old T-shirt with the sleeves torn off, leaving his biceps bare.
A fine sheen of sweat highlighted his muscles and she watched, mesmerized as he lowered himself to the floor and then pushed himself back up. Slow, steady.
Talk about a perfect push-up. The man could have done a TV infomercial, the way he looked.
Of course, he’d always looked good.
Get over it, Des, she told herself. Squaring her shoulders, she made herself walk past him into the small kitchenette. She desperately needed coffee. Coffee, and a psych eval. She went about making the coffee and tried to pretend she wasn’t watching him as he did a good fifty more push-ups beyond however many he’d already done and then shifted around to lie on the ground and do crunches.
The hotel had a perfectly good gym. Why couldn’t he do his workout there instead of in here?
Five more minutes passed while she stayed in the kitchenette and drank her coffee. She passed the time by studying an absurdly boring abstract painting and hoped by the time she had her coffee done, he’d have his workout done.
But she planned it a little too perfectly. He finished up his workout at exactly the same time as she finished her coffee, which meant they ended up running into each other at the refrigerator.
“I didn’t wake you up, did I?”
Destin shrugged. She almost told him the truth, but she figured that would have just given him more of an excuse to keep talking and she wanted to go hide in her room while she got her treacherous body under control.
He didn’t seem fooled. “I take that means yes,” he said, shifting so that she couldn’t go around him unless she brushed up against his body.
A body that was damp with sweat and way too hard on her self-control. “I was already awake.”
Caleb studied her face. “You don’t look like you slept well. Nightmares?”
Shit, no. But she wasn’t about to tell him that she hadn’t slept well because she kept having lurid sexual fantasies with him as the one and only star. “Some dreams did keep waking me up, but it’s nothing I can’t handle,” she hedged.
A sympathetic look entered his eyes and he reached out, skimmed his fingers down her arm. “Need to talk about them?”
“No.” Talking used to help. Or rather, talking with him had helped. But no way, no how was that happening now, even if it had been nightmares keeping her awake. Nope.
He squeezed. “You sure?”
“If I wanted to talk about them, I’d talk about them,” she snapped. Lack of sleep, need and general moodiness were quickly eroding any politeness she might have started out with when she climbed out of bed. She jerked her shoulder away and shoved past him. “We’re not together any more, remember?”
“Just because we’re not together doesn’t mean I can’t listen.”
Destin stopped in her tracks and turned back to him. “Yes. It does. I laid my soul bare for you because I felt safe doing so. Then. But that’s changed now.”
Caleb narrowed his eyes. “So that means you don’t feel safe doing it now?”
“That’s exactly what it means,” she said. Destin rubbed her hands over her face and then drove her fingers through her hair. The words danced on the back of her tongue, fighting to be free, and for once, she decided, to hell with pride.
Mandy M. Roth