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Authors: Beth Kery

Glow (26 page)

BOOK: Glow
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“That's not a bad idea,” Dylan muttered after a moment. “People are going to think it's odd, and Kehoe is going to be pissed as hell to be pulled away while his precious camp is in session, but you know what?” He leaned back in his chair, already mentally planning how he was going to orchestrate the maneuver. “I really don't give a damn what that asshole thinks.”

*   *   *

THAT
night, Dylan had expected that Alice would be flushed with excitement over her team's tied win for first place in the team competition. Instead, she seemed tense, tired, and distracted when they returned to the castle. When he suggested she take a hot bath in the Jacuzzi tub and try to unwind, she agreed immediately, making him think she realized she wasn't herself, too.

After she emerged from the bathroom a while later, hair damp and wrapped in her robe, she appeared a little more relaxed. He was reading a report, half-reclining in bed against the pillows. He
set it aside as she approached and beckoned her with his hand. Wordlessly, she came down on the mattress and cuddled up to him, her head on his chest.

“That tub is amazing. My legs and arms are like cooked noodles.”

“Good, you needed it.”

She made a satisfied sound of agreement.

“Did something happen today that made you so tense?” he asked, sliding his hand beneath her robe and stroking the soft, dewy skin of her shoulder. He glanced down and saw her lips part, but she said nothing. Her long eyelashes flickered. He sensed her hesitation. “Alice?” he prompted.

“It was nothing,” she said softly.

“If there was an ‘it,' then it
had
to be something.”

She placed her opened hand, palm down on his bare abdomen. His nerves flickered in awareness at her touch. She caressed him, gliding her hand toward his crotch. He placed his hand on top of hers.

“Are you trying to distract me?” he asked her.

She turned her face into his chest. “No, you're distracting me. You smell good. And you feel good,” she said throatily, rubbing her lips against his skin. His skin roughened at her touch. He resisted a strong urge to push her head closer . . . encourage her. He slipped his fingers beneath her chin and applied pressure. She looked up at him reluctantly.

“What happened?” He read her anxiety like a neon sign. “Tell me,” he insisted.

She shook her head impatiently. “It was Kehoe,” she finally admitted.

“What about Kehoe?”

“He came down really hard on me for this thing my kids did—something that the other managers liked and he didn't.”

“What did he say?”

She sighed. “I don't expect you to fight any battles for me when it comes to Kehoe,” she said impatiently. “I don't expect you to do
anything for me when it comes to my counselor duties, and you've said you wanted me to sink or swim on my own merits. I can handle it, Dylan.”

He cupped the side of her head. “This isn't about your success or failure as a Camp Durand counselor, Alice. It's about Kehoe. And you. He came up here tonight, ranting. I've never seen him like that before.”

She blinked in surprise. She planted her elbow on the mattress and propped herself up, so that she could see him better. “He came up here? What was he ranting about?”

“You. Me. He insisted that I was somehow responsible for you doing well as a counselor, implying I was coaching you. He said he was going to refuse to offer you a position as a junior executive, even if the other managers gave you the votes.”

“He
did
?” she gasped. “What did you say?”

“That if he did, I'd fire him.”

Her eyes widened.

“He acted like a lunatic. Jim Sheridan heard it all, and he thought the same thing. I want to know what he said to
you
. I'm not trying to fight any human resources battles for you. This is about something much more practical and important.”

She sighed. “He just said stuff about how while everyone else might think I'm doing well as a counselor, he doesn't. And then he said all this weird stuff about me being dead wrong if I thought I was going to ride off into the sunset with Prince Charming.” She rolled her eyes. Despite her supposed casual attitude, he sensed her anxiety though. It made him tense.

“What else, Alice?” he prodded.

“He . . . he sort of implied
this
”—she waved between them—“has happened before, and he didn't allow it
then
and he wouldn't now, either.”

“What? That you and I had been involved before?”

“No.” She glanced up at him warily through spiky bangs. “I
think he was implying that you'd slept with someone under his watch before . . . like a new Durand recruit or something, and that he put a halt to it.” She shook her head, appearing bewildered. “Maybe I misunderstood him. I know you've said that isn't true, that you've never slept with a Durand employee before.”

“You're just not sure you can believe me.”

“I do believe you, Dylan. But why did he
say
that? What's he trying to accomplish?”

“Dissention. He's jealous of your success at the camp, of me, of what we have . . . everything. And he's trying to poison any happiness we might have,” he said, sounding more irritated than he'd intended.

“He obviously knows about us. If he tells the other Durand managers we're involved, they'll probably withdraw their votes for me.”

“He wouldn't dare,” Dylan told her, his glance assuring her he was stating a fact, not an opinion. In the privacy of his mind, he was having some pretty vivid fantasies about punching away that smug, superior look on Sebastian Kehoe's face. How
dare
he try to sway Alice by implying Dylan had a history of seducing Durand employees?

Alice's anxious expression penetrated his aggressive fantasy. He cupped the side of her head and waited until her dark blue eyes met his. “You've done extremely well as a counselor. No one is going to take that away from you. I'll make sure Kehoe is solid on that point. He's taking a trip with me to Reno tomorrow. We'll be away for a couple nights, so there'll be plenty of opportunity for us to talk,” he stated grimly.

Her spine straightened. “You're going away tomorrow?”

He nodded. He planted his hands at her waist and shifted her, sliding her farther up his body. When she craned her chin up and stared up at him through her spiky bangs and long lashes, their mouths were only inches apart. He maneuvered his hands between
them. She lifted slightly to accommodate him, and he loosened the ties of her robe. He parted the sides of the fabric, exposing her nude body to his naked torso. He grunted in pleasure when she settled against him.

“I tried to get out of it, but I can't. I'm going to put some extra security on you at the camp while I'm gone,” he said.

“Dylan, I don't want—”

“And I'd appreciate it”—he interrupted her, sliding his hands along her bare shoulders and arms, and ridding her of the robe altogether—“if you didn't lead that security on some kind of wild-goose chase. They're good people, and they're just trying to do their job, Alice.”

“I know,” she mumbled, looking vaguely contrite. His gaze narrowed on the vision of her teeth scraping against her lower lip. “I won't try to get away from them.”

“Thank you. Now come here.”

He put his hand at the back of her head, bringing the tempting distraction of her mouth within striking distance.

*   *   *

SHE
ran through a sun-dappled hallway, laughing. The gong had just sounded, and she was so hungry. The smells of chicken and macaroni and cheese filled her nose, making her salivate. There was chocolate ice cream for dessert, too. Mommy had let Cook have the day off, and she'd made the meal herself—all of Addie's favorites. But the chocolate ice cream: That was
Daddy's
favorite, too.

“Hurry, Daddy. Dinnertime,” she called over her shoulder. He was more of a feeling than a tangible man behind her. He was so big—as big as a mountain—and so strong. And he loved to laugh. There was nothing her daddy couldn't do.

“I'm right beside you, Addie. I always will be,” he called.

Her scurrying footsteps halted. His voice echoed in her head. So rich and warm, love knitted into every syllable.

So real.

“Daddy?” she called out shakily, because all she saw behind her were shadows. Fear slinked into her golden world like a light-sucking serpent. A shiver tore through her. Why couldn't she see him? She peered into shifting light and darkness, taking a step toward him, hoping to see him. Craving it. Someone grasped her upper arm from behind, the hard grip making her cry out in shock. She turned and saw Mommy, but she didn't look right. Her face was pinched with fear. Her neck and ear were wet with a shiny bright red liquid, but it was the wildness in her large eyes that terrified Addie the most.

“Run, Addie.
Hide
.”

*   *   *

ALICE
awoke to the sound of her own shout. Her muscles immediately tensed and moved for fight or flight, but someone was holding her down.

“Alice. Shhh, it's okay, baby. You were having a nightmare.”

The sound of Dylan's voice penetrated her thick fear. Her thrashing slowed, but she couldn't seem to stop it altogether, as though the primal necessity for flight was quieted by degrees, not entirely in a moment.

“Shhh. You're safe. Everything is fine,” Dylan soothed, tightening his hold on her until her sluggish fight eased. The sounds of her ragged breathing filled her ears. “You okay?” he asked after a moment, stroking her arms, warming her pebbled flesh.

“Yeah. It was the
dinner
gong,” she gasped. In her mind's eye, she reviewed the brief but vivid dream. “Mommy would ring it to let Daddy and me know it was time to eat. There was going to be macaroni and cheese and chicken . . . and . . . and chocolate ice cream.”

“Your favorite meal,” Dylan murmured. “And yes. You're right. That's what the gong was used for. It called you to dinner every night.”

“And I heard his voice,” she panted. “But I couldn't see him.”

His soothing motions slowed. “Alan's?”

“Daddy's,” she whispered. She flinched. “I wish I could have seen him,” she cried out in frustration. Intense longing and grief flooded her. She paused to repress a powerful urge to sob. “But I heard his voice, and it was so real. And then Mommy was telling me to run and hide again, and there was blood on her ear and neck. Dylan, are you sure she wasn't there when I was taken in the woods? Are you
sure
those men didn't hurt her, too?”

She felt Dylan shift behind her. The bedside lamp clicked on. He urged her with his hands to face him. Alice scooted onto her side. She was naked. They'd made love before falling asleep, she recalled dazedly. Her skin was sheened with perspiration, but she was cold. She shivered, and Dylan pulled the sheet and comforter securely around her neck. She searched every detail of his tense, handsome face.

“It was a dream, Alice,” he assured quietly.

“But his voice . . . I think it was real.” She
wanted
that part to be real.

He nodded. “That might have been a real memory, or memory of emotions mixing with a dream.
Not
the part about the blood, though. You never saw Lynn like that.
Never
. She was up at the house when you were kidnapped.”

“It's the first time I've ever had any memory of him. It's always been her,” she mumbled, determinedly reliving that portion of her dream again. She didn't want to dwell on the expression of stark fear and panic on the woman's face.

Or the blood.

“He sounded so strong and warm. He liked to laugh, didn't he?”

“Yes. Especially with you. All of his thoughts about his business,
every worry or problem that needed to be solved: All that melted away the minute you ran into the room. He became lighter with you there. Happier.”

“He told me he was right beside me, and that he always would be. And . . . and he liked chocolate ice cream as much as me.” This time, she couldn't restrain her sob. She turned her face into the pillow, embarrassed by the raggedness of her emotions. How was it possible that so much feeling could be embedded in a brief flash of a dream and a few words?

Dylan rubbed her back. “I know it must hurt. But isn't it better to have the memory, as painful as it is? You're right about the ice cream. It was Alan's favorite. You really
did
have a memory of him. Your father adored you, Alice. I never knew a man could love a child so much and without a shred of reservation. It was a revelation to me, to see his devotion to you and Lynn.”

“I'm never going to know him.” She gasped and curled up her legs. The realization had felt like a knife going through her belly. “Those bastards took him from me. I wish I could kill them.”

“I know. I know, baby.”

After a moment of Dylan holding her and kissing her cheek and the side of her head, the acuteness of her pain eased to an ache. “I'm never going to know them,” she repeated dully, as if she were teaching herself a lesson she instinctively didn't want to learn, but knew she must. “Never.”

“You
do
know them,” Dylan said, his fierceness making her blink and rise out of her misery. “Feelings like they had for you, and you once had for them, don't disappear, Alice. Who they were is a part of you. It's like Alan said in your dream: He'll always be beside you.”

Another shudder of grief went through her. It was too big for her to absorb, that dream. “I can't do this, Dylan.”

“You can. Your mind knows what you can handle and what you can't. That's the natural way of things,” he soothed, stroking
her with long, reassuring caresses. “And I'm right here with you. Do you understand?”

BOOK: Glow
13.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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