Points of View
She reaches out to me with one hand, her smile impossibly gentle, and responds to my question about where we're going by reaching out with her other hand as well, her voice soft, her accent a little thicker than normal, as she asks, "You trust me?"
Maybe I should stop, think about it, pause for reflection, but I don't, I simply reach back. Is it crazy, feeling like I can trust someone this much, this quickly? And yet that's how I felt, almost from the first. That's why it hurt so much when she tried to leave. I thought I'd totally misjudged a situation---again---that I'd totally misjudged her. But no, I can see it in her eyes, hear it in her voice, feel it in the way she touches me. This is real and not just imagined on my part. Her hands are incredibly soft as she wraps them around mine. Almost as soft as the expression in her eyes. I've never felt so completely cared for in my life, and I'm completely hers as she tugs me to my feet and then out of the waiting room. I think I would follow happily---gratefully even---almost anywhere, so long as she was the one leading me.
Still, I can't help asking, "Where are we--"
"Going?" she finishes for me and looks back to offer an affectionate smile. "You'll see." We don't go far, just down a short hallway, then a sharp turn and into another hallway before she calmly leads me past a yellow, triangular, 'Closed for Cleaning' marker and through a set of swinging doors into the hospital's small solarium. Thick with overhanging plants, it's cool and a little dark despite the broad windows and skylight designed to let in much needed sunlight.
It feels safe and welcoming, except we're not supposed to be in here, and I start to point that out. "The sign. I don't think--"
Lena turns, catching me when I don't quite stop in time, her arms wrapping around my body, a tender smile on the mouth I've taken to dreaming about. The length of her body is suddenly plastered against my own, every warm curve molded to me, while her arms make me feel safe and protected. God, that feels good, like the world can't possibly be that bad if there's someone in it to hold me this way. "I put the sign there," she admits before I can say anything else, then lifts her shoulders in a hint of a shrug. "I thought perhaps a few minutes away from ... everyone ... might be good for you."
I don't know what to say. The press is here with their cameras and questions. Uncle Jack's a local celebrity, and the fact that mom's involved guarantees the tabs will show. Doctor Joe had security move them outside the emergency room area, but there's still Kendall, and Donald Steele's probably around here somewhere looking to slime somebody. God, I can't even talk. My throat's too tight, and words won't come, so I just nod, hoping she'll understand.
She seems to because she strokes my cheek very lightly on the journey to cupping a hand behind my head and pulling me close, her hold tightening protectively. I haven't felt so safe since I was a very small child. Hiding my face in her shoulder, I wrap my arms around her body, holding on desperately, fingers digging into the softness of her t-shirt under her jacket. I didn't even know how much I needed this before I had it. But now that I do, my god, how did I ever survive without it?
Velvety lips brush my temple, her breath teasing my ear as she pets my hair soothingly. "Shhhh ... it's going to be all right."
That's when I realize I'm shaking and crying, the shell of numbness cracking now that I'm safe in her arms. My hands dig into her back, fingers curling into her shirt. She's my life raft in the storm, and I'm terrified that if I let go I'll be swept away and drown.
That tender hand keeps sliding over and through my hair, soothing me like a wounded animal or frightened child, while her voice, warm and accented surrounds me and slips inside, melting the ice-bound terror so it can seep away. "You must have faith, Bianca ... your uncle is still alive ... and with the best doctors available." More words follow, soft and rhythmic, all variations on the theme that it's going to be all right. She almost makes me believe it, her reassurance loosening the grip of horror until I can almost breathe again. Finally, she curves a hand along my jaw and draws my head up. Even through the blur of tears, she's incredibly beautiful, and the look in her eyes calms me. "Your uncle, he is strong?"
I want to tell her that Uncle Jack's one of the strongest people I've ever known, but the words won't come, leaving me to nod a little helplessly.
"Then you must believe he will fight his way back." Her thumb brushes my lower lip, stroking lightly. "He has far too much to live for to surrender easily." Then she ducks her head, her thumb moving on to explore my cheek while her lips find mine. With only one kiss between us, the second kiss is a different entity entirely, in no way about desire or need---at least not the same kind of need. This time it's a gesture of caring and comfort. A lover's kiss, not in a sexual sense, but in the sense of someone who loves and wants to help. Her mouth brushes mine, warm and velvety, a physical expression of caring, then moves on, brushing my cheek, kissing away damp tears before pressing delicate caresses to my temple, then along my brow. Each fluttery touch feels like a vow of some kind, one neither of us wholly understands, at least not yet, but which means more than anything that's come before it. Her arms wrap more tightly around me, and I can't resist the urge to turn my face into the curve of her neck, while she buries her face in my hair. "It will be all right," she whispers again, and this time I'm surprised to hear a new raggedness in her voice. Not her own pain, I realize. She's met Uncle Jack, but barely knows him. It's a sympathetic kind of ache. Hurting for me. I shouldn't enjoy someone else's distress. And in the literal sense, I don't. But at the same time it feels good to have someone feel so strongly for me and my emotions. After banging my head into the last few dead-end and/or never-quite-made-it-to-be relationships, I finally feel like there's someone here for me---someone attuned to my thoughts and feelings who actually gives a damn.
I'm not sure how long we stand there like that, wrapped around each other, hearts pounding together, breathing in tandem, drawing much needed comfort from the closeness. Occasionally, she presses a soft kiss to my cheek or forehead, the gesture meant to calm and soothe, the feeling each tiny caress engenders nothing like anything that has come before. It's not sexual, but there's an inherent sensuality---an awareness that, for all of its innocence, this is nothing like a similar gesture from my mom or Uncle Jack. How many time did Leo hold me and do much the same thing, and yet it never felt like this. Never once felt like I'd come home.
I guess I'm examining it all in such detail to avoid thinking about Uncle Jack, and the fact that--
"Shhhh, easy...." Her voice interrupts a beginning slide into a fresh wave of panic and a gentle hand tips my chin up. She picked up on the emotional shift without my having to say a word. "Have faith," she whispers very softly, the look in her eyes reassuring me and pushing the terror back. She ducks her head, leaning so close I can see my reflection in the dark well of her eyes, looking a little frightened, but also adoring. Then her lips brush mine, moving slowly, drawing me into our third kiss. I suppose it's strange to be counting kisses this way, but each one is totally different. The first was an explosion of want and need, an admission of things she was trying to push away, the second an expression of kindness and caring. And the third? It's a mix of the first two with an entirely new component stirred in, an underlying note of desire that feels like it encompasses everything physical, emotional, and mental. When it finally breaks, it's because she pulls away to drag in air, her eyes wide.
Suddenly she's the one trembling, leaving me with the strangest sense that something happened---not literally, but inside her head. She pulls my head to her shoulder, her hold different this time, not so gentle and a little shaky, her fingers working into my hair, holding on for a long moment, then slipping loose and petting, then holding on again. Whispered words touch my ear, husky and incomprehensible, so softly spoken that it takes me a moment to realize she isn't speaking English. There's an urgency in her tone that tells me it's important, but when the words finally trail off, and I pull back to stare up at her, something in her eyes warns me not to press. She has her secrets, and pressure along those fronts only makes her more skittish. Glossy with tears, her eyes slide away from mine, fixing on a point in the distance as she takes a deep breath, letting it out as though to release tension. A hard swallow ripples through the corded length of her throat.
"Lena?" I don't know how to word the question I want to ask---don't quite even know quite what the question is, just that there's something going on and it affects both of us.
The heat of her palm nearly scorches me as she cups it along the side of my face. Her lips move, struggling for words, then after a moment, her eyes slide shut. "I just never expected ... this," she whispers at last, and when she finally looks at me again, her eyes are all naked emotion. "It-it's more than I could have ever dreamed...."
Her expression holds me in thrall and I can't stop staring stupidly up at her, my heart thudding against my ribs until I'm afraid they might just crack under the impact. "Me neither," I manage to whisper at last. Not exactly suave and sophisticated, but then if that's what she was looking for, I'd already be out of the running. I'm not stupid. I know damn well, she could have pretty much anyone she wanted. And yet, somehow, she seems to want me. "But I'm so grateful for it."
"I am the one who is grateful," she whispers, pulling me closer again as she ducks her head.
Our fourth kiss contains shades of everything that's gone before, but also a promise of things to come. Her mouth moves against mine, and mine against hers, lips meshing, tongues tentatively playing tag, while our hands spread and cling more tightly. My hand finds her hair, fingers twining into the silky strands at the nape of her neck. God, I'm falling for her---no, check that, I've fallen for her, past tense---and right now that feels like the smartest thing I've ever done. I've made so many mistakes and missteps in the past. For the first time, it feels like my every emotion is returned. Long and surprisingly strong for all of their delicacy, her hands press into my lower back and shoulders, pulling me closer, making me feel wanted and needed. As we press into one another, a low groan vibrates from her mouth to mine, then back to hers again.
I'm totally lost in her and oblivious to the outside world until the soft sound of someone clearing their throat finally breaks in on the sweet haze. She heard it too. I can tell by the way she curves her hands to my upper arms, bracing herself as she breaks the kiss, her breath coming harsh and ragged, seeming to need her hold on me to steady herself. Dark eyes rise and focus on a point somewhere past my shoulder. For just a second I catch a glimpse of something fierce in her gaze, and then it slips away, leaving me uncertain that it was real or just some fleeting fancy.
"Doctor?" She sounds almost as rattled as I feel.
"I ... uh...."
Recognizing that voice, I half turn and feel my cheeks heat. I'm not the only one. I don't think I've ever seen Doctor Joe blush before. I didn't know he knew how. He always seems so calm and collected.
"Bianca," he says with a faint nod toward me, then his gaze tips up, eyes touching on Lena with a questioning look. I mean, Doctor Joe knows about me---heck, the whole town knows at this point---but he probably didn't notice her when we came in. Things were a little crazy after all. And ... well ... I'm sure this isn't exactly what he expected to find when he entered the solarium.
Then my embarrassment flees in the face of remembered terror. "Uncle Jack, is he--" Lena's hands curve to my shoulders, strong and warm, as if to catch me should I start to topple.
"He's fine," Doctor Joe instantly assures me, holding up a hand to halt my panicked bolt.
Arms wrap around me from behind when I start to tremble, suddenly light-headed and shaky in the aftermath of the adrenaline rush. "It's all right," Lena whispers in my ear, her strength possibly the only thing keeping me vertical.
Doctor Joe glances over his shoulder at the yellow plastic marker barely visible in the half open door. "Actually, I was just checking to see if there was a problem." He doesn't ask about it directly, but there's a questioning note in his voice.
"I'm afraid that's my doing," Lena says before I can answer, her breath ruffling my hair. "I noticed the press on my way in. I thought perhaps it would be best for Bianca to escape for a bit." I can feel the faint movement as she offers a small shrug. "I'm afraid I rather cheated to achieve that end."
"Oh ... uh ... well..." Doctor Joe stammers a bit uncertainly, clearly torn between lecturing her for the infraction and giving way to the stunning charm turned his way. He glances back again, then offers a wry smile. "Well, I know Donald Steele has given you some trouble over the last year or two, Bianca." Now there's an understatement if ever there was one. "I guess I can't blame you for needing to escape for a few minutes." He straightens his shoulders, the kindly doctor giving way to the hospital administrator. "However, I'm afraid the solarium is needed for patients ... so, please, no more moving signs around."
"Of course, Doctor," Lena says smoothly. "And you have my apologies. My only thought was for Bianca ... and I very likely got a bit overprotective."
Doctor Joe's blush returns, his cheeks turning a ruddy color as he looks at the two of us, clearly putting two and two together and coming up with four. Somewhere in all of this, my manners kick in, as if that little bit of normalcy will somehow push back the nightmare of Uncle Jack's shooting. "Lena, this is Doctor Joe Martin. Doctor Joe ... Lena Kundera. She ... uh ... works at Enchantment. W-we've been...." my voice chokes off, the whole situation seeming surreal.
"I ... uh ... I think I understand." Even his ears are crimson. "But perhaps you should return to the waiting room."
Stable once again, I nod. "Uncle Jack, is he--"
"He's fine," he quickly assures me. "But your mother was looking for you just a few minutes ago."
Which means I need to go back. Mom's gotta be a mess right now, and I know I need to be there for her. I still feel my stomach sink at the notion of surrendering the warmth and comfort of the last little while. "Thanks, Doctor Joe."
He turns a gentle smile my way. "All right then. I need to get back to check on Jack," he says with automatic kindness, then turns and leaves, discretely leaving us alone, though I notice that he scoops up the sign on the way out.
When we're alone again, I turn in Lena's arms, resting my hands on her upper chest. "Thank you."
A frown forms a crease between arched brows. "For what?"
"I needed this ... to just escape for a few minutes."
Tender fingers brush hair off my cheek, stroking lightly during the journey. "I just want to take care of you any way I can." Her lips brush my forehead, then my cheek, then down to flutter over my mouth while her fingers brush along my jawline, stroking lightly. Finally, she straightens, smiling down at me.
"I should probably go find mom." I don't really want to leave this safe haven, but I can't help but remember what Doctor Joe said. "This is really hard for her."
A concerned frown sketches its way across Lena's expression. "Of course. Perhaps I should go get you something to eat? I know you haven't had anything in hours."
I don't want her to go, don't want her to even leave my sight, but my stomach growls as if on cue. "Yeah, that would probably be a good idea."
"Then I will see to it you are fed." Rising up on tiptoe, she presses a kiss to my forehead, her hands resting on my shoulders.
It's so tempting to just stay here with her that it takes all of my willpower to remind myself, "I really should find my mom ... before she finds me." Having mom come across Lena and I like this would definitely not make for a fun scene. Another time I might just allow it. I don't want to hide who I am---ever---but even I know there are times to back off and let things lie. With everything else going on, it's not the time to be waving the red flag of our relationship in front of the bull that is my mother.
"Then go on. I'll see you shortly." Our fingers brush, briefly clinging as we move to the door. It's hard to let go of even that tiny bit of contact as we step back into the hallway. She gives me so much strength that a part of me wants to just hold on and never let go. She pauses as well, as though she doesn't want to part any more than I do. "I won't be long," she says at last, then lifts my hand and presses the softest of kisses to my knuckles before letting her hand trail away from mine, seemingly as hesitant to let go of our contact as I am.
We part, headed different directions, but I can't resist the urge to look back and watch her. I can't help but smile when I catch her doing the same thing. Her lips curve in an answering expression, her steps slowing, and then finally we can't gracefully delay any longer we both head on our respective missions, but the look in her eyes is with me as I return to the waiting room, her support with me even when we're apart. I know that I can get through this now.
"You trust me?" It's the sort of thing I've asked my marks in the past when I wanted to manipulate. Most people asked that question are quick to offer assurances of their trust, and will convince themselves in the doing. It's more effective than the most sincere protestations of innocence, and a tactic I've used against the unwary so many times in the past that I've long since lost count. For the first times in years, maybe ever, it's simply an honest question, and even something of a plea. I want her trust more than I've wanted anything from anyone in a very long time. Not that I deserve that trust. I've lied to her so many times in so many ways, the only truth I've offered, my feelings for her. Those were never a lie. If I let myself I stop and think about it, I live in perpetual terror that she will look up one minute and see me for what I am. If that happens, I fear I'll lose everything I didn't even dream I wanted so much. She is everything to me.
Only now that Michael knows about my mother, I don't know if I can protect them both. There's a kind of madness in him. As much as I want to defy him, it's most likely safer for all involved if he simply gets what he wants. Maybe then he'll just go. Enchantment will be financially damaged but not destroyed, and my mother and Bianca will be safe. It's not a good solution, but it's the only one I can come up with that at least minimizes the damage. Otherwise I honestly don't know what he'll do. I never allowed myself to see his cruelty before, refusing to admit to the joy he takes in hurting others because it would have meant truly acknowledging my own complicity in his actions. I looked at it as a game---a challenge---and found ways to rationalize the way I played with other people's lives. This one was cheating on his wife, that one embezzling from her business, while another was busy stealing his daughter's inheritance. I suppose I talked myself into believing they deserved whatever they got. And what do I deserve? I shudder to think of the answer.
And now there's her---reaching back to me, her hands curving trustingly into mine. She deserves none of this, and I know I should have gotten on that plane to Prague. It would have hurt her, but she would have gotten over it. Unfortunately I've always been greedy---once upon a time for money, now for her---and I couldn't refuse the pleading look she turned my way or the opportunity to have something I wanted so much.
She's looking at me that way again, except this time she's silently begging me to take away the pain and banish the terror---to make it all better for her. Oh, how I wish I could. But all I can do is offer her a little escape from the storm. No more than the gentlest tug brings her to her feet, and I have to push down the guilty fear that I'm leading a lamb to slaughter as I pull her away.
I will not lose this, not for Michael's perverted schemes. I will find a way to protect her, no matter what it costs me.
We round a nearby corner just as she asks, "Where are we--"
I can't help but look back and smile, darker thoughts momentarily forgotten in the face of her presence. "Going?" I finish for her, my smile broadening a bit. Her open curiosity is one of the things I found appealing from the first moment we met. "You'll see." I noted the small solarium on the way in. It's the perfect place to bring her to escape the outside pressures setting so heavily on such slender shoulders. A closed sign stolen from a nearby utility cart guarantees us some small measure of privacy, though I feel her tense as I lead her past it. So honest she isn't even comfortable with that minor infraction of societal rules, and yet she's somehow found the strength to defy her mother's and the world's expectation on her sexuality, refusing to hide it away the way so many would clearly prefer. Her strength amazes me once again as does her honesty. It would never occur to her to tell even such a minor lie. I find it rather amazing she hasn't come to wonder why I do it so easily because she's seen me in action on more than one occasion. Sometimes I even wonder if I've been subconsciously trying to warn her that I am a creature of deceptions and half truths. I've even told her flat out that I'm a brilliant liar and I get what I want because of it. Yet, somehow, she still believes in me, sees the best of me, and not the worst. She's the only truth in my life right now. And if I'm honest---an ironic phrase, I know---I'm getting her through lies.
No, that's not true. I've lied about so many things, but never about how I feel about her.
And here, in this cool and safe place, I just want to protect her from the world outside, and make a new world in which she and I are the only inhabitants.
Her attention is still on the sign. "The sign. I don't think--"
I turn before she realizes I've stopped, and when she nearly stumbles into me, it's my pleasure to catch her. There's nothing untruthful in the way I gather her close, doing my best to form a protective shield against the outside world. In an instant, words become completely superfluous. "I put the sign there," I explain when she peers up at me, her expression questioning. "I thought perhaps a few minutes away from ... everyone ... might be good for you."
She's trying so hard to be brave, struggling so fiercely to control her emotions and not fall apart. The beauty and purity in her eyes makes my chest tight, causing a desperate ache that makes me just want to hold and defend her from everything. She nods, fighting tears, but not speaking, silently pleading but uncertain what to do until I curve a hand to the back of her head and tug, gently urging her to lean against my shoulder. Suddenly she's pressing into me, hiding her face and whimpering softly like a frightened puppy. She seems so young sometimes, and yet so strong and so wise. She is an old soul---and a beautiful one. And I pray she never knows the kind of desperation I have seen. "Shhhh ... it's going to be all right." I whisper the words near her ear, keeping them soft for she and I alone even though no one else is present. Her hair is silky and cool under my fingertips, and she clutches more tightly, her hands digging into my back. I'm unused to this, the notion of offering kindness and genuine caring instead of sex that has been, for me, more mechanical than passionate, no matter what impression I gave those temporary lovers. This is nothing like those cruel, transitory relationships. This is all innocence and genuine emotion. Those were simply acts of mutual advantage, played for the profit.
Not liking where that thought takes me, I pet her hair tenderly, focusing instead on her. She's trembling violently, scared to death of the darkness that has invaded her world. I know that fear, have lived it. And I know I can't protect her from it. I can only offer comfort. "You must have faith, Bianca ... your uncle is still alive ... and with the best doctors available." Nuzzling deeper into my shoulder, her fingers clawing into my shirt, she makes no effort to respond, but I feel the tremors that shake her from head to toe. All I can do is offer more reassurances, struggling to make her believe that it will somehow be all right when her every instinct is saying otherwise. I'm not sure how long it takes, but finally, she starts to settle in my arms, some of the awful tension draining away, harsh sobs no longer shaking her slender frame. Despite the terrible nature of what's happening, it feels so good to hold her this way and know she trusts me. I could happily stay here forever. Finally, I draw her head up, her skin impossibly soft as I stroke her cheek. Her eyes are rimmed in tears that glitter silver in the low light, creating an illusion of depth that makes the darkness of her gaze seem as infinite as the night sky. Despite the fact that I am older, she is the wiser of the two of us. I've seen it so many times in so many ways, but this time I need to be the clear-headed one. The fear is like a living thing tearing at her with teeth and claws. She needs to see it's not over yet. "Your uncle, he is strong?"
She stares up at me, silent and frozen, her heart in those remarkable eyes of hers. For a moment I fear she's too frozen to work her way through to hear what I'm saying, but then I start to see the gears turning in her mind. Finally, she nods, the movement a little jerky, but definite.
"Then you must believe he will fight his way back." I can't resist the urge to touch and stroke, outlining the lush curve of her lips with my thumb. "He has far too much to live for to surrender easily." Her skin is so soft, far too tempting for someone like me to resist, and I don't even want to try. I trail my hand from her mouth to stroke her cheek, leaning down to find her lips with my own. It's not a kiss meant to seduce, just one meant to show how much I care, how special she is to me. I thought people like her were works of fiction dreamed up by idealistic authors. It never occurred to me that anyone could be so completely decent, and it makes me want to take care of her, to keep her wrapped safely in my arms, the world blocked out. Only, despite the seriousness of the situation, the feel of her lips on mine has my pulse racing and my hands trembling. This isn't the place, and it certainly isn't the time. Parting my lips from hers, I brush soft kisses onto her cheeks and temples, silently promising to keep her as safe as I'm able---even if it's myself I must protect her from. That thought drives me to hold her closer as if I could pull her inside myself and make everything but the two of us go away. Relief surges through me as she turns into my body, her breath warm on my neck as she hides her face again. She is everything to me, the feel of her body in my arms so right, the scent of her hair filling my senses as I bury my nose in dark silk strands. I feel the tiny shudder that slides through her muscles, hear a soft sound that's somewhere between a gasp and a sob. She's hurting so much, and there's so little I can do for her. It's like I can feel her pain inside me, tightening my chest, making it ache and throb. I know what it will do to her if she loses her uncle, and the idea terrifies me. She's faced so many hurts in her life. It's unfair that she might have to face another. "It will be all right," I whisper, wanting it so badly for her that my tone slides over into desperation. It's a strange feeling. I barely know Jackson Montgomery, but because it would hurt her so badly, his survival is suddenly of paramount importance. Not so long ago, I wouldn't have cared since it didn't affect me directly. Only suddenly I find myself wanting the man she talks about to be all right. I see him through her eyes, and that person matters to me.
God, she brings parts of me back to life that I thought were either long dead or never even existed. She makes me think I have a soul like any other, and I'm grateful for it. It's been so long since I felt this alive---this complete. Or maybe I never have before. Suddenly I'm not sure. I just know that I'll do anything to keep this, whether I have to fight Erica, Michael, or the devil himself. I'm almost as frightened as she must be. As I hold her, I find myself unable to resist the urge to press soft kisses to her cheeks and forehead, reassuring myself that she's all right, and she's here with me. It seems like we're there like that forever, just holding one another, and then I feel a fresh wave of tension slide through her.
Thoughts and fears catching up again. I've been there. In an instant she goes from quiescent to trembling violently. "Shhhh, easy..." I soothe. Feeling the panic wash through her and hoping to break the cycle, I pet her back and hair, then draw her head up, peering into her eyes with a look I hope will reassure. "Have faith." I can see my reflection in her eyes, a face I know objectively draws the attention of men and women alike. But it's the expression I see that suddenly fascinates me. I never knew I could look like that, so emotional and involved. And it suddenly strikes me that I've been avoiding really seeing my own reflection in the mirror for years, just looking at enough to put eyeliner here or the right amount of blush there, but never letting myself see the whole picture. I've been afraid, I realize in an instant. I didn't want to see the dead eyes of a whore staring back at me and know they were my own. Now seen through her eyes, I'm amazed by the person looking back at me. There is nothing of a whore in the image I see. Just a woman in love. She does this for me, gives me back to myself and I cannot resist her. My mouth finds hers, and we both sink into the kiss, our lips moving together, and I pull her closer, my fingers working into her hair, a low groan bubbling up from my chest.
This is everything I've ever wanted even though I didn't know it.
Sheis everything I've ever wanted.
God, and if she ever finds out the truth about me....
I don't know if I could survive that.
I'm in love with her. The truth washes over me in a tidal wave of self-knowledge.
Suddenly I'm hugging her close, trembling from head to toe and confessing all, the words coming husky and desperate. Unable to lie to her, I tell her everything I've done and the feelings I have. Before I can think better of it, the words are out and the horror just beginning to rush over me.
No. I spoke Polish---slid back into some instinctive state where all language but those first words in childhood fled from my mind. Unless she's hiding some heretofore unseen abilities, Bianca could not have understood a word I said. Relief and shame surge through me in equal measures. Relief that she doesn't know. Shame that there are so many secrets I need to hide from her. When she looks up at me, her gaze clear and curious, I can't face such openness, and have to look away to find the strength to keep my masks in place. She wants to know what I said. I can feel the desire to understand radiating from her as palpably as I feel her body heat. I fervently wish I'd lived a life that I could share with her instead of the one I have led.
"Lena?" Her voice is soft, pleading for more information, but there's a hesitancy in her tone, an understanding that I'm not necessarily ready to share my secrets, and a fear of making some kind of misstep.
I want her to understand that my secrets are not her fault---that she means so much to me. I cup her cheek, struck once again by the softness of her skin, unable to resist the desire to touch, her warmth and heat soothing me fears. I've never felt this way for anyone. I want her to know that but I don't have the words, and my efforts fall short of what I want to say. "I just never expected ... this. It-it's more than I could have ever dreamed...."
She simply stares at me, leaving me to wonder if I've totally failed in expressing my feelings for her. Normally English is easy for me, but right now I'm having a hard time functioning in what suddenly seems like a completely alien language.
Suddenly she moistens her lips, and I can't take my eyes away from the nervous but seductive slide of her tongue outlining that pink cupid's bow. "Me neither," she says at last, her voice sounding dry and a little rough to me, and I realize the pause was because she's just as scared of this as I am. "But I'm so grateful for it."
That she should be grateful to me is almost beyond my ability to comprehend. She is a bright, summer day, while I am ... not. "I am the one who is grateful."
The kiss that follows is totally natural, the most comfortable of everything we have shared, her passion feeling as real and visceral to me as my own. It's not simple, sexual desire---this is hardly the time for that---but rather something deeper and far more meaningful. I wonder if she realizes I'm hers now or just how frightening that reality is. I've shared more beds than I care to remember, but I've never risked giving myself---heart and soul, not just body---to anyone. I feel as though she made me, but she could also destroy me. I think rejection would shatter me if it came from her.
I fear it will shatter me one day. That she will learn the truth and want nothing of me ever again.
But there is no rejection for now, only the softness of her lips bonded to mine, while her body surges into mine, and her fingers tangle in my hair, the faint sting as they strain to pull me closer causing a welcome hint of pain. It represents her desire for me, and as such, I glory in the intensity of sensation, a low moan escaping my lips as the kiss goes on. Under the circumstances, I shouldn't be aroused, but her kiss drives my pulse and makes me tremble, an ache starting deep inside my body in spite of everything. For the moment, nothing matters but this sweet pleasure we share. If I am hers, perhaps she is just a bit mine now. I am lost in our bond when I suddenly realize we aren't alone, the crawling sensation making its way down my spine warning me of possible danger even as I hear the intruder clear his throat. I pull away from the heavenly kiss, still holding Bianca, half afraid Michael has found us and means to cause some new mischief. But no, it's a doctor, elderly, his eyes kind and a little worried. Terror grips me that he bears bad news from which I cannot protect her. "Doctor?"
"I ... uh...." Under different circumstances, his obvious embarrassment might be charming. At the moment, it's merely frustrating, but it's obvious he knows Bianca as she turns and he looks at her. "Bianca."
In an instant, some of her startled tension flees only to return a second later a thousand times worse as she remembers her uncle. Afraid for her, I grab her shoulders, gripping tightly, wanting to wrap her in cotton and protect her but unable to offer more than this. "Uncle Jack, is he--"
"He's fine," the doctor assures her instantly, one hand rising to ease her panic.
I feel the tremors start through my hands where they're resting on her shoulders---her strength fleeing in the aftermath of such fear---and wrap her in my arms, holding her close, my voice for her ears only. "It's all right." It seems like scant comfort, but all I have to offer---especially since I'm shaking as well.
The doctor does not hear my whispered words, his attention instead focused on the pilfered sign just outside the half open doors to the solarium. "Actually, I was just checking to see if there was a problem," he says when he looks back. Either not having heard my words to her or politely ignoring them, there's nonetheless a question inherent in his tone. A hospital administrator as well as a doctor, I suspect. Why else care about such minor matters? "I'm afraid that's my doing." In such situations, it's often quicker and easier to admit to petty crimes. Also it helps make people believe you when you deny the major ones. "I noticed the press on my way in. I thought perhaps it would be best for Bianca to escape for a bit." At the mention of her name and my purpose, I feel Bianca lean more firmly into my hold, her hands settling over mine. "I'm afraid I rather cheated to achieve that end."
"Oh ... uh ... well...." This time I do find his embarrassment oddly endearing. I'd almost forgotten that people could be so innocent. I half expect to be chastised, but when he looks at us again, he flashes an understanding smile "Well, I know Donald Steele has given you some trouble over the last year or two, Bianca." I recognize the name from Michael's background checks. A sleazy reporter who has tormented Bianca in every way he could imagine, and one of the reasons I brought her here. "I guess I can't blame you for needing to escape for a few minutes." His understanding is quickly hidden behind a more formal wall as he remembers his job. "However, I'm afraid the solarium is needed for patients ... so, please, no more moving signs around."
"Of course, Doctor." I offer the most contrite smile I can summon, eager to keep things as calm and smooth as possible. "And you have my apologies. My only thought was for Bianca ... and I very likely got a bit overprotective." For once, I'm even telling the truth, though my remorse is as big a lie as I've ever told. I regret nothing about this time together.
I suspect this doctor is no fool and understands the situation quite well. I can see the knowledge in his eyes and the way color creeps over his cheeks. I feel Bianca tense, pulling away from me ever so slightly, not free, but enough to look back up at me as she makes introductions that seem oddly banal under the circumstances. "Lena, this is Doctor Joe Martin." Her head swings around, eyes touching on the doctor again. "Doctor Joe ... Lena Kundera. She ... uh ... works at Enchantment. W-we've been...." The doctor isn't the only suffering one from some embarrassment. Even as forthright as she is, Bianca stumbles and stammers over the words of explanation.
Thankfully, Dr. Martin is kind enough to put both of them out of their misery. "I ... uh ... I think I understand ... but perhaps you should return to the waiting room."
I feel Bianca catch her weight and start to pull away, only to lean more heavily against me again, the shifting tide of fear making her shake once again. "Uncle Jack, is he--"
"He's fine." The sympathetic assurance is offered quickly. "But your mother was looking for you just a few minutes ago."
Bianca doesn't move, but we both know it means she must return, and this short respite from the storm is nearly over. "Thanks, Doctor Joe."
He looks at her with genuine affection and I find myself grateful for the care he offers her. "All right then. I need to get back to check on Jack."
A moment later he's gone, taking the stolen sign with him and Bianca is turning in my arms, her hands on my chest, their heat threatening to burn through my jacket and shirt. Or perhaps it's the heat she sparks that threatens to set me on fire. My god, I'd almost forgotten I even could feel this kind of desire. It's been so long since I've felt anything real for anyone. Her lightest touch makes my heart pound and my palms sweat, but it's the look in her eyes, shining with faith and innocence, that makes me want to be the person she thinks I am. I thought I'd lost the capability to even want ideals, and yet her belief makes it seem as though I've never lost them.
That's why it sounds so strange when she smiles up at me, her voice soft and inviting. "Thank you."
"For what?" I should be the one thanking her just for existing, even moreso for letting me into her life.
"I needed this ... to just escape for a few minutes." She leans into my body, her arms wrapping around me in a hard hug, her obvious trust enough to make me feel like this is the moment my entire life has been building to. Despite all of my mistakes and poor choices, if I can feel this way and put someone else's needs above my own, perhaps there is still some part of me worth saving.
Fascinated by the textures of silk and velvet, I find myself unable to resist the temptation to stroke her hair and cheek. "I just want to take care of you any way I can." And then I taste her skin, my lips brushing her forehead, her cheeks, and finally her lips. This kiss is quick, a butterfly brush that nonetheless leaves my mouth tingling, her scent and taste dominating my senses.
She wavers gently on her feet, momentarily leaning into me, then starting to pull away with a regretful sigh. "I should probably go find mom." She shrugs, sadness and fear returning to her eyes. "This is really hard for her."
She is so caring. "Of course." Despite all of the problems with her mother, and the fact that Erica Kane so clearly disapproves of her, she has it in her to forgive those slights and simply love her mother. Not that she's unrealistic, but neither is she vindictive. I want to stay with her, not leave her side and make certain she's all right. Unfortunately, I'm well aware that in dealing with her mother, my presence is only likely to make things more difficult for her. "Perhaps I should go get you something to eat? I know you haven't had anything in hours."
She nods hesitantly, and I can tell she doesn't want to part anymore than I do. "Yeah, that would probably be a good idea."
It's the least I can do for her. "Then I will see to it you are fed." Pressing another kiss to her forehead, I enjoy even this innocent closeness.
"I really should find my mom ... before she finds me," she adds, her tone resigned. Erica does have something of a hunting instinct where her daughter is concerned. I've not seen some of the more outrageous behaviors that Bianca has complained affected her in the past, but I've felt her mother's tension over any woman showing interest in Bianca from the first.
"Then go on. I'll see you shortly." Despite the practical words and the knowledge that we must part, neither of us is in a hurry to let go, and our hands twine together as we move to leave. "I won't be long." I couldn't stay away from her if I wanted to---and I don't want to. Without thinking, I lift her hand to press a kiss over her knuckles, not yet ready to let go of our bond for even a short time. But finally, I have no choice but to let go if I'm to see to her health. Still, I'm drawn to her, and look back only to find that she's done the same thing. Our gazes lock and hold for a long moment.
I don't know how yet, but I won't let Michael destroy this the way he's destroyed so many things. Not when I've finally found my heart. I will do anything to keep her.
Even if I must betray her to save us both.