Authors: Karin Tabke
Tags: #Romance, #Erotica, #Contemporary, #Fiction
“What are you thinking?”
“That I deserve this. For God’s sake, I invited a stranger into my bed because my
boyfriend dared me to!” Shaking her head, she pushed his hand away even though she craved it on her. “What does that make me, Simon? And what does that make you? A married man cheating on his wife, just like the man who dared me to fuck you! How screwed up is that?”
“You propositioning me was the best damn thing to happen to me. Don’t be ashamed of what happened. And most of all, Kat, don’t compare me to him. I’m not like him. This situation is not like that.”
Stiffening, she tucked her purse beneath her arm, tightened the wrap around her shoulders, and said, “Tell me how this situation is different! Explain to me about Jen.”
“I’ve said all I can say. I’ve said enough that you should know there’s more. More that I can’t tell you. Not yet, Kat. I’ve said enough that you should forget everything that’s happened since you got that damn phone call, come home with me so we can finish what we started. Maybe that’s not fair. Maybe a sane woman wouldn’t do it. But this is you and me and that’s what I’m asking of you.”
Her jaw dropped. “Are you serious?”
Tilting her head back, she looked up at him and poked him in the chest with her index finger. “Look here, buddy. I might be easy. I may be trusting, and yes, I have certainly been more than a little unwise in my men choices, but I have some pride!” She choked back a sob. “Leave me that, would you?”
Frustrated, Simon jammed his fingers through his hair again, then across his mouth. “Damn it, Kat! I can’t—Fuck!” he punched the air. “I never meant for you get hurt like this. Everything just took on a life of its own.” Exhaling loudly, he winced as he reached his right hand out to her.
“One day soon, Cinderella, you’ll see.”
“Soon is already too late.” Tossing her long hair over her shoulders, Katy looked up into his deep gaze. Secrets swirled behind their emerald depths, but she would never know them.
“Fine,” he said stiffly. “I see there’s no reasoning with you right now. I’ll see you home, as soon as the cops arrive.”
“I’m a big girl.” But she was terrified to go down the alley alone.
“And you just saw what happens to big girls.”
Indeed. She nodded and allowed him to place his hand on the small of her back and guide her back down the alley to Powell, where the driver of the Mercedes patiently waited. Several SFPD squad cars pulled up as Simon saw her into the car.
“Give me a few minutes,” he said to her, then met the cops and gave what she assumed was the low down on what had just happened. Several moments later he slid in beside her, though he did so a little stiffly, as if his muscles were tightening up.
“Back to Dr. Winslow’s place, John.”
The driver nodded and maneuvered his way through the traffic and back to her apartment.
Kat sat stiffly, not surprised when Simon reached over and grasped her hand. She didn’t even bother to protest. She was tired and the sooner she was home, the sooner she’d have to deal with a life without him. Might as well enjoy whatever brief touch he’d give her now.
“Your hand is as cold as ice and you’re trembling, Kat.”
Staring straight ahead, afraid to look at him and beg him for answers, Katy stayed her course. “I was attacked by three men, how do expect me to be?”
He wrapped his big, warm hands around hers, rubbing gently. “I’m sorry you had to experience that. As we speak, the cops are hauling them in. They won’t bother you again. But don’t think the same of me. I’m going to keep coming back until you get me, Kat. Until you understand you have nothing to fear from me, regardless of what the evidence might point to.”
Minutes later the car rolled to a quiet stop in front of her building. As she moved to slide out of the car, away from Simon, he gently pulled her toward him so that she was forced to look at him. Stress lines furrowed his brow. “Kat—”
She shook her head. Her heart throbbed painfully. She felt as if her entire world had collapsed. Knowing Simon was not hers to have left a gaping void in her heart. She would never experience his energy, his sense of humor, his patience, or his passion again. She never should have answered his text. She never should have let Evan goad her into that dare. All the crap life had thrown at her before she’d met Simon, she could handle. This, this she could not.
“Kat,” he said again softly, as if saying her name caused him pain. “I know you’ve been through the emotional wringer tonight, hell since we met, but I’m asking you this one last time to please trust me.”
Her eyes flashed angrily. “To do what, Simon? Get a divorce?”
He shook his head, opened his mouth to say something, then set his jaw.
Trying to yank her hand from his, she said, “It’s too late for that, anyway.”
He yanked her back. “It’s not too late. Things aren’t over between us, Cinderella. One day soon, you’re going to understand. You’re going to realize you should have trusted me.”
“I don’t trust anyone. Not anymore.” With that she pulled her hand from his and slid across the seat to the door. John opened and held it for her, extending a hand. Having had enough of “gallant” men to last a lifetime, she moved past him and hurried to the building as Mr. Poe from the third floor came walking out. Holding the door open for her, he smiled and bade her good evening.
Katy hurried as fast as her legs could carry her to the elevator. The doors opened and she hurried in, hitting the close door button, then her floor. She just wanted to be alone to lick her emotional wounds.
Once she was safely in her apartment, Katy leaned against her door as she tried to regulate her erratic breathing. Her entire body shook as wave after wave of emotion crashed through her. It was all too much. Evan’s confession, followed by his duplicity. Losing her job and having three lawsuits looming, and her attack tonight, all wrapped around her discovery that Simon had a wife … Did she have “Stupid” stamped on her forehead? Maybe, because both Evan and Simon had thought they could play her. And they both had for a time.
Katy was used to abandonment and betrayal, but she honestly could not remember ever feeling so angry—or so bereft. A sob shuddered through her chest. She had shown her gooey center to Simon. Trusted him to be her hero!
Clasping her hands tightly together, Katy forced herself to breathe in slowly and exhale more slowly still. “You can do this, Katy. Be strong.” Closing her eyes, she continued her deep breathing exercises. Once her heartbeat regulated to a more normal pace, she opened her eyes and blinked as she stared at her hands.
Raising her right hand into the air she saw that the blood was heaviest on her fingertips. Quickly she looked down at her bare legs to check for injury. Nothing hurt but her heart. Where was she bleeding?
“Oh, no!” The last thing she’d touched before she’d come upstairs was Simon’s right hand.
was bleeding! Oh God, there had been a knife. He’d been stabbed!
Grabbing her cell phone from her purse, she called him. He answered on the third ring. “Hello.”
“Not to worry, Doc.”
“Were you stabbed?”
“Just a nick.”
“You need to get to an ER and get sewn up, Simon.”
“Only if you do it.”
“Then I’ll suffer.”
Biting her bottom lip, Katy hung up. She was not going to be coerced or guilted into allowing him back into her life on any level! But what if a vital organ had been nicked? Her cell pinged that she had a text.
Gasping, she stared at the picture he sent. A nasty looking laceration across his right pectoral was oozing blood. His message read:
My heart is bleeding for you.
Setting her jaw, refusing to be lured in, she texted back:
You deserve it!
Katy paced her kitchen floor for what seemed like hours. Worry wrestled with her resolve. He was a stubborn man, and if he didn’t get that wound tended to, it could get infected … Oh, no, she wasn’t going to let him manipulate her into feeling bad for him. He was a big boy. He knew what could happen if he didn’t get medical attention.
I’m bleeding for you, Cinderella, the least you can do is talk to me.
Go home, your wife is waiting.
It really hurts.
She refused to respond.
She did not respond.
I think my heart is breaking.
That felt like a mule kick to the gut. But she stood her ground. Setting her phone down on the kitchen table, she walked into the living room and grabbed the remote. But when her cell pinged again she couldn’t help herself and hurried back to read his text.
I’ve never had a broken heart before.
I’ve lost too much blood …
He was just joking, wasn’t he? He wasn’t seriously hurt. But …
God, he’d saved her from a nasty assault earlier this evening. She couldn’t really let him wander off, knowing he was bleeding because of her. The least she could do was clean his wound and make sure his machismo wouldn’t land him with an infection. Throwing her arms up in the air, Katy groaned, swore, then grabbed her phone and texted:
Where are you?
Outside of your building waiting for you to buzz me up.
Shaking her head, hating herself for being such a sucker for Simon, she buzzed him up.
My door is unlocked.
y the time Simon made it into her apartment, Katy was standing in the kitchen with her supplies. Though she wasn’t a clinical MD, she cherished the little black bag her mother had given her when she’d graduated medical school. Even knowing she was not going to be a clinician, she’d kept it with her and the bag had come in handy over the years. As it would tonight. Along with the obligatory stethoscope and other tools of her trade, it was stocked with several sterile suture kits, alcohol, Betadine disinfectant, and even lidocaine. She smiled nastily as she debated injecting Simon with the anesthetic or not. Would serve him right if she didn’t …
Her smile diminished when he walked in, his face pale and his skin glistening with perspiration.
“Oh, Simon,” she gasped, rushing to him and guiding him to the chair at the kitchen table. “You’re an ass,” she chastised as she carefully pulled his ruined suit jacket from his broad shoulders. “I can’t believe I didn’t see this!”
“I didn’t feel it until my adrenaline started to drop a few minutes ago.”
When she bent over him to unbutton his shirt, he grasped her hand. “I’m not an invalid, I can do that,” he said roughly.
Pushing his hand away, she shook her head and deftly unbuttoned his shirt. His chest was smeared with blood, and on close inspection, the cut looked deeper than it had in his text picture. “It’s deep, Simon.”
He shrugged. “I’ve had worse.” He pulled her between his knees, sliding his hands down her back to rest on each of her cheeks. She was supremely aware that she was not wearing panties, and the heady scent of their sex wafted tauntingly between them. All he had to do was slide his hands a little lower and …
“Want to see my scars?” he asked the deep timber of his voice rough and sexy like he had drank and smoked too much the night before.
Closing her eyes, Katy slowly counted to ten, inhaled, exhaled, and opened her eyes to look into two intense green ones.
“You have lying eyes, Simon.”
He smiled and squeezed her cheeks. “They’ve never lied about liking what they saw when it comes to you.”
Deciding to play along with his desire to keep her close at hand only because she liked the feel of his hands on her, she reached over his shoulder, brushing her right breast across him. His sharp intake of breath prompted a smile. She’d take what little revenge she could.
She pulled on a pair of purple latex gloves, grabbed several gauze pads, and cleaned his wound with the Betadine. He grimaced when the antiseptic touched the exposed flesh, but other than that he didn’t flinch. “I like your tattoos,” she said.
She traced the long, intricate eagle wing design that started at his right shoulder and wound halfway down his forearm and along the edge of his torso. “What is this?”
His eyes dimmed, taking on a faraway look. “A reminder of the cost of battle.”
“You were in the military?”
“What branch did you serve in?”
“Army, the eighty-second.”
“What does the eighty-second do?”
“We’re the hammer that strikes from ten thousand feet in the air.”
“Were you in Iraq?”
She felt him close up as his mood darkened, so she moved away from the subject. Once the wound was cleaned, she inspected it and the surrounding area. He was scraped up and would be sporting a few colorful bruises in the morning. Tenderly she cleaned the scrapes then reached across him again.
“I like the feel of your skin on mine, Doc.”
She briefly closed her eyes. It was hard enough dealing with the realization that all evidence pointed to him being married. The fact that their chemistry was
off-the-charts explosive drove her nuts, because there was a very small part of her that insisted he was not lying. And that part of her kept the Simon torch burning. How could she distrust him
physically desire him, much less still have feelings for him? Yet here she was, tending his wounds. Wounds caused because he had come to her rescue.
Suddenly, it was too much for her. She hated it, but she knew it was coming. Her body began to tremble. Her eyes stung. Her knees weakened. She tried to move away but she wasn’t fast enough. A sob ripped from her throat as she crumpled against him and started to cry. Immediately, Simon wrapped his arms around her and held her while she fell apart.
Simon stroked her hair, but his soothing gesture only served to remind her of what she couldn’t have. Her sobs deepened.
“I’m so sorry, Cinderella. More than you can know. I had big plans for us tonight.”
Collecting herself, Katy sniffed. Nodded. Pulled away. “Instead, we both got stabbed. You just can’t see my wound.”
“Kat,” he groaned.
“No,” she said, waving off his hand that reached out to brush her tears away. She was a big girl and could do it herself. “Let’s just get you cleaned up and then you have to leave.” Her voice steeled. “And I mean it this time, Simon. I never want to see you again.”
He said nothing as she prepared to inject him with lidocaine. At the last minute, he said, “Save it.”
“But it’ll hurt like hell when I sew you up!”
“I deserve it. And that’s what you want, right? For me to hurt the way I’ve hurt you?”
“I’m not going to hurt you, Simon.”
“You already have, Kat.” She stared at him in disbelief, but all he said was, “Do it, now. Sew me up.”
Anger boiled through her at the challenge she saw in his eyes. He didn’t think she’d do it, she realized. Didn’t think she had the guts. Well, he was wrong. She grabbed the needle and thread. But in the end, she hesitated. Hesitated so long that he wrapped his arms around her again. “Maybe you don’t want to hurt me, after all. What does that tell you, Kat? Part of you doesn’t trust me, but part of you does.”
“The stupid part of me, maybe,” she whispered.
He rubbed his nose along the soft skin of her inner arm. His hands tightened around the curve of her cheeks. “There’s no stupid part of you.” Inhaling deeply, he sighed. “Your body has gone from cold to hot since you’ve been standing here between my knees, Doc. You still want me and I sure as hell want you.” He kissed her just above her cleavage. She didn’t dare move. “I have never enjoyed fucking a woman as much as I have enjoyed fucking you.”
In another place and another time, she’d straddle him and remind him just how much he enjoyed it. “You’re crude.”
“Would it be more polite if I called what we do, vigorous sex?” She made a face at him. He kissed the sensitive valley between her breasts. “And it was good fucking, Kat, the best, but now all I can think about is making love to you.”
His hands tightened around her bottom and he pressed his cheek to her chest. The hard lurch of her heart against her ribcage reverberated through them both. She looked down at his dark head against her heart. Resisting the urge to stroke his hair, tore her in half. “When I saw those gangbangers grab you, Cinderella, I went crazy,” he breathed. “I was so afraid of losing you.”
Her legs trembled.
“I’m not yours to lose,” she reminded him, moving back so that she didn’t do anything stupid and could get to work on his wound.
Carefully, she pierced his skin with the needle. He didn’t flinch. An hour ago she would have loved to inflict great bodily harm on his person, but now—she sighed and tied off the first stitch, then snipped the thread. Now, after her crying jag, she was so confused about how she felt versus how she
feel, she didn’t know what to feel.
“Is the blonde your wife, Jen?” she softly asked.
His gaze caught hers and she saw a deep-seated pain. He opened his mouth, shut it, and finally said, “No.”
“Is the little girl with green eyes your daughter?”
“Who is she?”
“And the blonde?”
Exhaling loudly, as if he had finally given in to some self-imposed gag order, he said, “My sister-in-law.”
“What’s her name?”
Halting mid-stitch she looked at him. Finally, he was opening up to her. His green eyes held hers, and despite the pain residing there, he refused to let go until she believed him. And she did. But … “Why are you in that picture with them? It looks like you’re a happy little family.”
“That’s not me in the picture, it’s my brother Mark.”
You look exactly alike. Are you twins?”
“Eleven months apart. I’m the elder.”
Katy nodded, grateful that he continued to talk to her about a subject that obviously caused him pain. But why? “Are you—in love with her? With Amanda?”
Thank God. But then— “Why the ‘Mandy’ ringtone?”
He shook his head and pulled away from her and she knew he was done offering answers. “You’d make a good detective, Doctor.”
“I am a detective of sorts, just one that looks through a microscope.”
Swiping his hand across his chin, he looked pointedly at her as a different kind of pain crept into his eyes. “You’re good at what you do. I’m sorry that douche bag is trying to screw it all up for you, and I’m sorry about what happened tonight.”
“I’ll get through it.” And she would. Alone.
She continued to stitch, the silence hanging between them. She wanted more answers, but he was not volunteering any.
“‘Mandy’ is a breakup song,” she said.
“If you don’t love her, why that song?”
Irritated by his continued vagueness, she finished the last stitch and cut the thread. “You need to keep this dry for a few days. In about ten days, you can take them out. I’d say have a doctor do it, but knowing you, you’ll chew them off yourself, so have at it, just use sharp scissors.”
“I’ll let you take them out.”
Shaking her head, she moved out from between his knees, grabbed the bottle of betadine and applied it liberally over his entire wound before picking up a large bandage, and carefully securing it over the dozen stitches, and gently but firmly sealed the edges. “I won’t be seeing you again.”
“You’re being stubborn. Come home with me, Doc,” he said, his deep voice barely above a whisper.
Tears stung her eyes. “What about the old ball and chain? What about Jen?”
His emerald eyes deepened to onyx. “I’ve told you it’s complicated, Kat. Right now, I can’t say more than that.” He dropped his hand and grabbed his torn bloody shirt, stood, and shrugged it on. He kissed the top of her head and said, “But when I can talk about it, I promise you will be the first one I talk to.” He walked past her and out of her apartment.
She stood staring at where he had just stood and didn’t know if she should laugh, cry, or throw something.