Taking chances, p.20

Taking Chances, страница 20


Taking Chances

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  “Why not?” he jested. “This is private property.”

  “You have men working for you, remember? And it’s too cool.”

  “I forgot about them. I’m used to swimming in the buff. You chicken?” he challenged, his green eyes glittering with daring.

  “Puck, puck,” Kirstin imitated the real thing as she placed hands under her arms and flapped them like wings.

  His chest rumbled with laughter. “At least you’re honest, and still a bit modest,” he added and cuffed her chin with a playful gesture.

  “I don’t care for your friends and workers seeing me au naturel. I’m surprised that you would be willing to share your private view, either.”

  “I’m not. You want to eat now? We should to keep you on schedule. You did test your blood and are carrying enough emergency tablets?”

  “Yes, and I’m starved.”

  He lifted the basket they had brought with them, took out a blanket from it, spread it beneath a solitary tree, then pulled out sandwiches, chips, carrot strips, fruit, and drinks—a diet one for her. He finished unpacking a bottle of Chablis, two wineglasses, some napkins and paper plates. “For later,” he said, nodding at the bottle.

  As he opened the wine to let it breathe, she remarked, “I see you’re well prepared, Doc. Does that mean you do this frequently?”

  “Is that jealousy in your voice?”

  She giggled like a young girl on a first date.

  He handed her a glass, tapped his to hers, and murmured, “Only a sip for now. To good times which are flying by swiftly, Kirstin.”

  “To the best vacation of my life,” she added, tapping his glass again. She could only take a sip on her empty stomach, and set the wine aside for later.

  They enjoyed the light meal. Afterward, they lay down to rest and talk some more. They covered casual subjects, avoiding the one which was foremost in both their thoughts: each other.

  Christopher rolled to his stomach and propped up his chin with folded arms. He reached out and snapped off a blade of grass to chew. His gaze traveled before him as he sank into deep thought.

  Kirstin turned her head to observe him. A breeze lifted wisps of his ebony hair and played with them. Slivers of fading sunlight filtered through the leaves as wind moved them with gentle fingers. The lulling sound of cattle and horses in the distance drifted across the almost flat landscape. Every so often, a fish flicked its tail, made a splashing sound, and rippled the water’s surface. The taller grasses swayed to and fro, wildflowers sent forth sweet scents, and the Appaloosa munched on grass beneath its hooves. The setting was serene and romantic.

  Kirstin looked toward the vanishing sun and the colors it created on the horizon, then closed her eyes. She inhaled the variety of scents surrounding them, and let her body go limp. How long would this simple life and cozy arrangement satisfy her before boredom and a hunger for her career and family set in? She frowned, knowing she wasn’t ready to accept this uncomplicated lifestyle.

  Christopher witnessed the mixture of emotions that played over her face. He sensed what she was feeling and thinking, and grimaced. Eventually she would be miserable. Living here was fine for a short time, but permanently wouldn’t please her. He wasn’t insensitive to her needs. How could he ask her to give up her life in San Diego and move here? Give up her work and become only a housewife again? That wasn’t right or fair. Trouble was, he needed her and wanted her with him all the time. If she hated her work or could enjoy this rustic existence permanently, he would ask her to marry him today!

  That thought shocked him; yet, he admitted, it was true. He wouldn’t even mind them having a child together; that thought gave him a greater shock. Kirstin had already reared her children and made it clear, with many good reasons, that she didn’t want to begin another family. How would she feel about settling down with him? Would he push her away in panic, if he pressed her this soon? How would he feel if she rejected his proposal? He almost laughed at himself for having impulsive and premature ideas; she hadn’t mentioned love, not even during their most passionate moments. Too, she hadn’t even hinted at a future together; she just kept implying this was a vacation. Her desire and affection were apparent, but did they go deeper? Could she fall in love with him, given time and opportunity? Encouragement? Marry him?

  Her eyes opened and she glanced at him. Her gaze clouded with puzzlement at his grave look. “What are you thinking about, Christopher? You look so solemn.”

  He leaned forward to nip at her mouth and nose. He grinned and said in a deceptive tone, “I was trying to decide if you were asleep. And if you were, should I awaken you and make passionate love to you.”

  She laughed. “Not here, Doctor Harrison. Some things shouldn’t be done in public.”

  “I want you, Kirstin Lowrey,” he vowed in a husky tone, his words carrying a deeper meaning than she realized. His mouth captured hers with an urgency he felt soul deep. As his body moved over hers, he groaned with passion and spread kisses over her face and neck. His hands roamed her prone body.

  Kirstin returned his kisses and caresses as her mind warned of the sheer madness of their actions. What if, she fretted, someone rode up on them? She struggled to master the fire that raged within her. “Christopher,” she called to him. He didn’t answer, just continued his heady assault on her senses. “Christopher!” she repeated sharply, pushing back his head.

  His eyes glittered with desire and his voice was hoarsened by it. “I need you, woman. You make me feel crazy with hunger.”

  “I need you and want you, too, but not here in the open like this.”

  “Hell, Kirstin, my men knocked off work on the east side long ago. I’m burning for you. Make love to me” he entreated, as if her submission would prove something important to him.

  “Then let’s go home right now. Any time and any place at home, Christopher, but not here. I’m sorry, but I can’t. It isn’t even dark yet.”

  “I promise no one will come by.”

  “I couldn’t relax worrying you might be wrong.”

  He studied her, then smiled. “I’m sorry if I sounded demanding and selfish. If it wouldn’t be good for you, it wouldn’t be good for me. We should get back; the sun’s almost set and we’ll have to ride slowly. Let’s get this stuff gathered and packed.”

  “You aren’t angry, are you?”

  He kissed her forehead. “Of course not. Disappointed and aroused, but not angry.”

  “Thank you.” How unlike David you are! He would have thrown a fit if he’d wanted sex and I’d refused— which she’d wanted to do many times!

  After Christopher left for town the next morning, Kirstin changed the sheets on both beds and washed the linens. While they were drying, she made his bed, then hers. She reflected on their lovemaking last night. Breathstealing and rapturous as always.

  Suddenly the phone rang. It was Joe Bob at the Nissan dealership in Clovis; he had called to say her car was ready whenever she wanted to get it.

  Kirstin hung up the receiver and frowned. She was doing fine with her medical condition. Her car was repaired. Did she have a logical reason to stay at the ranch longer? She fretted over that question during lunch. Before returning to her household chores, she put on a roast with vegetables to cook for dinner.

  Several hours passed in steady labor and distracting thought. Kirstin began her final cleaning project at three-thirty, unaware something terrible was about to happen.


  Kirstin dusted items on the built-in bookcase unit in the den. It made her feel warm and serene to do simple tasks for Christopher and to be a part of his life, if only for a while. She wished the house and furnishings reflected his tastes more than its past owner’s, because she wanted to know and understand him better. She assumed these familiar surroundings had been soothing to Christopher after he fled his other world, so he hadn’t redecorated. Apparently he felt comfortable and protected in the old-fashioned but cozy setting. Would he object to any colorful and modernizing c
hanges if she ever came to live— “What’s this?” she muttered to herself and frowned.

  Kirstin stared at an engraved plate on the back of an eight-inch-high pewter—trimmed in 24K gold no less!—statue of a physician: “I’ll never forget last night …” The signature showed it was from Carla Thompson—that hateful woman who called last week—and was dated March eighteenth, less than a month ago! Hadn’t Christopher told her or implied that he hadn’t been with a woman in months? What was so special about that “night” that she’d rewarded him for it with a suggestive reminder? Had they slept together? Many times? Used safe sex as Christopher had vowed was his practice?

  Yet, there could be an innocent meaning behind those alarming words. She shouldn’t jump to wild conclusions until Christopher gave an explanation. But if nothing special happened, why keep the memento and why had Carla been so angry to find another woman with him? She was sure she would glean some enlightening clues when she saw them together at the barbecue.

  In vexation, Kirstin leaned too far to the left to replace the disturbing statue; her head spun like a toy top, her vision blurred, and she lost her balance. Her fingers grabbed a shelf to prevent a fall but failed to get a grip. The stool teetered and flipped to its side, tossing Kirstin off its worn leather seat. Her hands tried to lessen the force of contact with the floor. She screamed as she crashed downward. Her right wrist took the brunt of her weight; pains shot up her forearm; two fingernails snapped off near the quick and bled.

  Christopher dropped an armful of packages on the kitchen floor and came running to her side. He dropped to his knees.”Kirstin, are you all right? What on earth were you doing up there?”

  She moaned and grabbed her left ankle. “Damn!” she squealed as she released it to cradle her wrist. She couldn’t decide which hurt the most, or if she should tell Christopher about her other problem. Before lunch, she had skipped her glucose monitoring. She had begun the procedure, but the meter had flashed the insufficient sample message: “NOT ENOUGH BLOOD. RETEST.” On the second try, the meter had warned: “ERROR 1. RETEST.” On the third attempt, it had said: “CLEAN TEST AREA.” Each time required a new prick for fresh, first-drawn blood and she couldn’t bring herself to stick a fourth finger as all were sore from the numerous daily checks Christopher demanded. The extra exertions with housework had devoured the glucose in her bloodstream and she hadn’t replaced the spent fuel in an adequate amount to prevent hypoglycemia. If she admitted her oversight, it would evoke another lecture, which she didn’t need in her anguish.

  “Let me check that hand.”

  “Ouch!” she screamed as his fingers tested for trouble.

  “Sorry,” he murmured. “I don’t think it’s broken, just sprained.”

  “My ankle,” she shrieked as he pulled her to a standing position. With haste, she took her weight from that leg and swayed against him.

  He dropped back to his knees and she braced herself with hands atop his shoulders. Through a series of finger probings, questions, and responses, he concluded the ankle wasn’t broken either, to his relief. “It’s tender and swelling. What the hell happened?” he snapped.

  With reluctance, Kirstin related what she’d been doing. “I’m not an invalid. I was working slowly and carefully. I slipped.”

  He scowled and motioned to her throbbing ankle and wrist as he asked, “This is a result of being careful? How many times do I have to tell you, woman, you can’t take risks?”

  “I can’t live in a vacuum, Christopher. I have things to do.”

  He made sure he softened his tone. “I can handle any necessary household chores. Just tell me what needs doing.”

  “I have to learn to take care of myself; I’ll be alone soon.”

  “But while you’re recuperating, let me do everything. Please. This is your second fall in a week. I don’t want you getting hurt again. Broken bones or a cracked skull aren’t any fun. Damnation, woman, you could have struck your head on the bookcase and been killed.”

  “Don’t be such a worrywart; accidents happen.”

  “Too often,” he muttered. “I’m taking you to the hospital.” Dreading to lose her from any complications, he carried her to the car.

  Kirstin protested, “This isn’t necessary. Just get some ice bags and elastic bandages. We can-”

  “With my bum hand I can’t wrap them correctly. We have to halt the swelling and prevent further injury. Besides, we need x-rays, too.”

  She was rigid with discomfort and tension. Her face was pale and her expression was tight. “You win,” she responded in a strained voice.

  He caressed her cheek. “It isn’t a contest of who’s right or wrong or the strongest willed, Kirstin. This precaution is for your benefit.”

  “I know. It’s just that I’m being so much trouble.”

  “Would it be selfish and impolite to say I like this kind of trouble? Any help with keeping you around longer is appreciated.”

  Was he jesting, she wondered, or did he believe this was a trick? “I wasn’t trying to create another reason to hold me here.”

  “I’ll be damned,” he quipped with a mischievous grin and twinkling eyes. “I’m not worth a little pain and feminine wiles?”

  Kirstin couldn’t help but laugh. “Well, this does give me a good excuse to hang around without risking gossip; now your neighbors can see an excellent explanation for my continued presence here. Joe Bob called while you were out to say my car is ready. It’s a shame I can’t drive with an injured hand and foot. Despite the temptation, it really was an accident.”

  He grinned. “I know. You need anything before we leave?”

  “A sugar fix; I’m feeling a little low and light-headed. That’s normal.”

  He didn’t retort that stress usually raised glucose levels, as he was certain she knew that fact. He suspected a low had caused or contributed to her fall. Eventually she would accept and follow the rules. He didn’t want to fuss at her now. “I’ll put you in the car, then get it for you. You can snack on the way to Clovis. Anything else you’ll need?”

  “My purse.” After he nodded, she relaxed in his strong arms.

  Kirstin settled on the sofa with her left foot propped on an ottoman. “It’s feeling better. You’re certainly living up to your promise of being a personal physician,” she teased to coax Christopher from his moody state. The hospital x-rays and treatment had proven his diagnosis of simple sprains and his suggestions of bindings and rest to be accurate. Yet, the incident had called attention to his tormenting inability to handle what he must consider a simple medical procedure. His pride as a man and physician were stung. “I promise, no more recklessness and accidents, even to earn TLC.”

  “I’ll hold you to that vow, woman. Some vacation, isn’t it?”

  “The best I’ve ever had.”

  “Is the pain bad?”

  “Not if I baby them.” The staff doctor didn’t want her to take any medication unless it was necessary because she was diabetic. “How about dinner? My tummy says it’s past time. Your surprise is ready by now”

  “You’re a relentless slave driver. Coming right up. I smelled my treat when we walked in the door, and my mouth’s watering to sample it.”

  “If you need any help, I have those crutches you insisted on getting. But in this sorry condition, it looks as if I’ll have trouble repaying you properly for services rendered as we agreed.”

  “You heard the doctor’s orders: rest those injuries as much as possible for a few days. I’ll watch them closely and decide when you can return to duty. No hurry to be up and around too soon,” he murmured.

  Kirstin cherished the beguiling and hearttugging grin he sent her. “You aren’t tired of playing nursemaid yet?”

  “Nope. It’s a nice habit I’ll hate to break.”

  After they ate and he cleaned the kitchen, they returned to the sofa. Christopher placed his arm around her shoulders and drew her to him. She half turned to nestle her head against his chest, her hand lying acr
oss his muscled thigh. She sighed in dreamy contentment, then she closed her eyes and allowed her body to go lax in his embrace. It felt wonderful to sit cuddled together.

  On the CD player, Kenny Rogers crooned the words to a stirring love song. Christopher wriggled down on the sofa, lay his head back, and closed his eyes. His hand caressed her arm, then her thigh. She was soft and firm, and she fit perfectly in his arms and lonely life. His other hand played in her silky tresses, admiring the texture and vitality. He cocked his head to look at her. She was beautiful and desirable. If only she would accept him, they could share a wonderful life here. He wanted to beg her to stay forever but that had to be her decision. He had to be patient.

  Kirstin lifted her head. Her bright sapphire gaze fused with his sparkling emerald one. His hand left her thigh to trace over her cheeks and parted lips; the action made her quiver. His finger trailed over her nose, around her eyes, and poised on her chin. His hand was like an explorer, branding each area it discovered as his property. Even if she possessed the will to break his visual hold over her, she didn’t want to. She was lost in his eyes. Her hand drifted up to stroke his chest. She eased her fingers between his shirt buttons to make contact with his warm flesh; they toyed with the curly hair there as they traveled in tiny circles. She was aware of the heavy thudding of his heart and that of her own. Her fingertips made contact with his nipples and a guttural moan escaped his throat. He was just as stimulated and intoxicated as she was, which thrilled her to the core. “Are you going to kiss me or not?” she murmured. She didn’t wait for him to respond before reaching up to bring his lips down to hers.

  Kirstin had never felt freer or more confident to behave as she pleased. This man was what she wanted and needed tonight. She would accept and take whatever he was willing to give, and for as long as he was willing to share anything with her. She felt comfortable and safe with him, desirable and special, feminine and powerful, happy and alive again; no, for the first time. She feasted on his lips and kisses. When his hand slipped beneath her top and inside her bra to fondle her breasts, she didn’t protest. She wanted to murmur yes a thousand times.

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