Authors: Lisa Ruff
Tags: #American Light Romantic Fiction, #Romance: Modern, #Contemporary, #General, #Romance, #Romance - Contemporary, #Fiction, #Fiction - Romance, #Man-woman relationships, #Pregnant women
As the shudders of pleasure ebbed, she found herself lifted and carried down the hall to her bedroom. Patrick laid her on the comforter, then reached over and flicked on the bedside light.
“I want to see you,” he said, his voice hoarse. “All of you.”
He held her eyes captive as he pulled off his shirt. Underneath were broad shoulders her hands itched to touch. The dragon tattoo that snaked around his upper arm snarled at her. She followed his hands as he unbuckled his belt, then unbuttoned his trousers. Slowly each tooth of zipper released.
Kate swallowed in anticipation, her mouth dry as she waited for him to reveal the rest of her prize. Her breathing shortened and it was all she could do to not reach out and grab him, tearing him free of what few clothes remained. Patrick’s eyes teased her as he slowed the unveiling even more.
“Now you’re the one killing me,” she said on a sigh.
He laughed and leaned down to kiss her, hard and quick, then pulled back before she could grab him. “Don’t worry. I know just the thing to bring you back to life.”
He slipped his thumbs into the waistband of his black boxer briefs and pushed them, and his pants, down. His erection sprang free, thick and ready. Kate put out a hand to stroke him, but he evaded her grasp. The sight of him naked and just out of her reach made the breath hitch in her throat. Desire swamped her.
“Please, Patrick,” she whispered. “I need you. I want to feel you pressed against me.”
“Soon, darling. Soon.”
With his clothes disposed of, he knelt on the bed beside her and took off her shoes. Next came her stockings, each one slowly rolled down as he placed a trail of kisses from thigh to toe tip. Kate couldn’t keep still. Every touch of his mouth tingled and sent arcs of heat through her bones. She writhed and tiny gasps rose to her lips.
He kept himself just out of her reach, so she could only accept his attentions and revel in them. His light touch was unbearable torture, but Kate wouldn’t have changed a moment of it. The anticipation drove her wild.
Patrick slipped her panties down her legs. He took a long, slow survey of her body, each touch of his eyes as tangible as a kiss. He reached out and smoothed a hand over her belly. Kate gasped and arched her back into the callused warmth of his touch.
“Are you sure?” he asked.
Kate smiled. “I’ve never been so sure.” A thread of doubt crept into her mind and she searched his face. “Does it bother you?”
“Bother me?” Patrick asked. He lowered himself to the bed beside her, stretching out to lie against her full length. He stroked her belly again, this time allowing his fingers to drift lower. “That you’re pregnant?”
He kissed her tenderly as his nimble fingers set her on fire. She could barely remember her question.
“Yes,” she gasped. She reached out and wove her fingers into his hair, bringing him closer.
Patrick rose above her and fitted himself into her moist, welcoming warmth. Kate gasped at the glorious feel of him inside her. He braced his arms on either side of her head. She could tell he was being careful not to put his full weight down on her as he thrust. As he moved, he kept his eyes locked with hers. With each plunge he took her higher and higher.
Kate lifted her knees to let him slide deeper until he groaned in pleasure. The friction was so intense, as if her every nerve ending was twice as sensitive as usual. She felt herself spinning wildly out of control. In seconds, she reached the pinnacle and tumbled over it into ecstasy. Dimly, she heard Patrick’s shout as he joined her.
Panting and sated, he laid his forehead on her shoulder. He shifted to the side to keep from crushing her. Kate reached out and gently touched the line of his jaw. Patrick turned his head to bury his lips in her palm. Slowly, their breathing returned to normal. Cuddled in each other’s arms, Kate felt a contentment she hadn’t in a long time, not since Patrick had last held her like this.
“No, Katie.” His voice rumbled in her ear, startling her.
He rose to one elbow and propped his head on his hand. Stroking a hand over her stomach again, he smiled. “It doesn’t bother me at all that you’re pregnant. In fact, maybe I like it better.”
Sunlight eased its way into the room, first a glimmer along one windowsill, then a growing streamer of light over the floor. Kate rolled onto her back and sighed. The beam of sun found its way to her pillow then over her closed eyes. With a groan, she flung an arm across her face. It was no use. Daylight would not be denied and her eyelashes fluttered open.
Memories of the night before washed over her. Smiling, she stretched long and slow, savoring the friction of sheet against bare skin. She rolled onto her side, reaching out to Patrick. Her hands felt nothing but cold cotton; the space next to her was empty. She rose up on one elbow. He was nowhere in sight. Even his clothes were gone from the floor. The sunlight, now flooding the room, lost some of its bright cheer.
The door to the bathroom opened quietly and Patrick stepped through. His eyes met hers and he smiled, bringing the joy back to the morning.
“So, you’re finally awake.”
His teasing words sent a shiver down her spine. Kate pulled the sheet up around her breasts and sat up to face him. He tossed the towel hanging around his neck back into the bathroom and walked to the bed. As he came closer to her, she was vaguely aware that she was staring. Shirtless, his unbuttoned trousers hung low on his lean hips, he was a fantasy come to life. Her fantasy.
He sat beside her, one foot curled under him, one on the floor. “How’d you sleep?”
“Did we sleep?” Her voice was husky and low.
Patrick laughed, running a hand over her cheek and into her hair, pulling her close for a brief kiss. One taste was not enough. Kate leaned closer and kissed him back, holding his lips captive with her own. Patrick pulled away with a groan.
“I have to go, Katie.”
Kate let go of the sheet and put her arms around his neck. Her breasts pressed to his chest, relishing the contact between them. “No, you don’t,” she whispered against his mouth.
Their lips fused as passion rose. Kate gasped when his hands cupped her breasts. Her back arched and her nails bit into the taut skin of his shoulders as he caressed and kissed her. Patrick rose on one knee and laid her on the bed, coming down to cover her.
“I have to go.” He repeated the words against her skin, trailing a line of kisses down her throat. “Jimmy’s waiting for me.”
“Let him wait.”
Patrick lifted his head to look into her eyes. He bent and kissed her again. “Let him wait,” he agreed.
No more words were spoken as they touched, stroked and seduced each other. The passion between them flared just as hot as it had the night before.
Finally, Patrick lay panting at Kate’s side. He raised his head to look at the clock and fell back with a groan. “Jimmy’s going to kill me.”
Kate looked over at him and smiled. Contentment filled her heart. “Well, I’d have killed you if you left. Which was better?”
With a laugh, Patrick rose and disappeared into the bathroom, grabbing his pants as he went. When he came out he was dressed and tucking his shirt into his waistband. He shoved his bare feet into brown leather boat shoes as he buckled his belt. Raking a hand through his hair, he came to the bed and leaned over her again.
“I’ll come back as soon as I get done.”
“Why are you meeting Jimmy?”
“We’re test-sailing his boat.” Patrick dropped a kiss on her lips. “It was his boat we went out on the other day.”
Kate frowned. She remembered that day all too clearly. “Be careful.”
He ran a finger lightly down her cheek. “It’s not dangerous.” His gaze was tender and his lips held a slight smile.
She wasn’t convinced. “For my sake, be careful,” she said again.
Patrick kissed her, this time longer, lingering and gentle. “I’ll be back this afternoon.” With that, he rose and strode to the door and out.
Kate sat up abruptly, clutching the sheet to her chest. “Patrick! I won’t be here this afternoon.”
He returned to the doorway. “Where are you going?”
“I have a doctor’s appointment at two-thirty.”
Patrick looked at her for a long, silent moment. His gray eyes were dark, his expression still. When he spoke, his voice was soft and low. “Can I come with you?”
Tears sprang to Kate’s eyes. The door to her heart opened a little more to him and, this time, she didn’t try to slam it shut. She nodded.
“I’ll have to meet you there.”
Kate swallowed past the lump in her throat. “Chesapeake Medical Center, on the fourth floor. Dr. Cassel’s office.”
“Two-thirty. I’ll be there.” With a nod, Patrick disappeared.
Seconds later, Kate heard the door slam and his truck start up right after that. She lay back on the bed and stared at the ceiling. The tears in her eyes slipped down her temples. Was she crazy? Her head said yes, but her heart said no. Her heart had been saying yes to Patrick Berzani for a long time. This time, she was going to listen.
RE YOU ALL RIGHT
“I’m fine.” Kate caught the skeptical look in Molly’s eyes. “Really. I’m fine,” she repeated, more to reassure herself than her aunt.
She shifted in her chair. The padded vinyl seat was hot and sweaty against her thighs. She stifled a sigh and tried not to look at her watch again. Two-thirty had come and gone with no sign of Patrick. He hadn’t even called. Kate told herself it was a good thing the doctor was running late, since Patrick was, too. But why hadn’t he called?
“Kate Stevens?” Stephanie, Dr. Cassel’s nurse, stood at the door to the waiting area. Dressed in pink flowered scrubs, she was a beacon of cheer in the drab room. She smiled and motioned to Kate. “Come on back.”
Kate and Molly both rose to follow the slender woman down a long, wide hallway. A few open doors gave glimpses into examination rooms. The sharp, not unpleasant smell of disinfectant and alcohol teased Kate’s nose.
“I’m sorry about the long wait,” Stephanie apologized cheerfully as she led them to the end of the hall. Turning left, she stopped in front of a set of louvered doors across from a darkened room filled with equipment.
“We got backed up in the ultrasound room this morning and we’re just starting to catch up. We’ve discovered two sets of twins today!”
Kate exchanged a look with Molly. “I hope you don’t find that she’s carrying the third set,” Molly said.
“That would be a miracle for sure,” the nurse said with a laugh. “You can change in here.” She opened the louvered doors. Inside, against the far wall, was a bench with a fold of blue cotton on it. On one side, mounted high on the wall, were three hooks. A small shelf with a mirror over it faced them on the opposite wall.
“Put the gown on with the ties in front, and wrap the other cloth around your waist.” She reached out and patted Kate’s stomach affectionately. “And you still have one to wrap it around.”
“Not for long,” Molly said. “Her figure is disappearing faster than the ozone layer.”
“I can still see my feet,” Kate said with a frown. She felt irritated at Molly and the nurse joking about her body.
Stephanie smiled and stepped back. “When you’re ready, come across to this room and we’ll get started. You can have a seat in there now,” she told Molly.
Kate stepped into the changing room, then turned back. “Stephanie?”
Kate paused, biting her lip, and darted a glance at Molly. Heat rose in her cheeks. “If a man comes in looking for me, would you let me know? His name is Patrick. He’s tall with dark hair.”
“Is that Dad?” Stephanie asked. “I’ll be sure to bring him back.”
The nurse turned and hurried away, dropping the file she carried in the bin attached to the door of the ultrasound room. Kate went into the changing room, avoiding Molly’s eyes. Inside, with the doors closed, she checked her cell phone one more time. Nothing.
Slowly, Kate sat on the bench and tried not to cry. Patrick wasn’t coming, she told herself. And he wasn’t going to call, either. He must be too involved in sailing and had either forgotten about her or else drowned in some accident. She almost hoped it was the latter. Feeling sorry for herself, she snatched a tissue from the box on the shelf and wiped her eyes, then balled it up and threw it in the trash. Rising, she changed into the loose gown and tied the long cloth belt across her protruding belly. The thin cotton made her feel exposed and vulnerable.
She looked at herself once in the mirror and scowled. Who was she trying to fool? What she wore had nothing to do with how she felt. Nor did Molly’s or Stephanie’s quips. Patrick made her feel this way: annoyed, irritated with herself, embarrassed, alone. She closed her eyes on a sigh. Last night in his arms and this morning’s happiness seemed light-years away.
With a jerk, she opened the door and walked across to the other room. Molly sat on a chair chatting with another woman. When Kate came in, they both turned to her.
“You must be Kate,” the chubby, older woman said. “I’m Delia. I’ll be doing your ultrasound today.” She rose and shook hands with Kate, her grip soft and warm. “Climb on up here and let’s get started.”
Kate got onto the padded table and lay back on the inclined rest. “I don’t want to know what sex it is, okay? So if you see anything you recognize, don’t tell me.”
“Got it,” Delia said with a smile.
The older woman’s hands were gentle as she worked on Kate. Tears trickled down Kate’s cheeks as she saw the shape of her baby on the monitor, tears of happiness; she had a wonderful, growing child inside her. She shed tears of sorrow; that child’s father was not here as he had promised.
After Delia was finished, Kate changed into her clothes and joined Molly in the waiting room. Stephanie stood behind the desk.
“Delia got some lovely pictures,” she said. “We’ll see you next week for your regular appointment.”
“Thanks, Stephanie.” Kate nodded and turned to go.
“Sorry that Dad couldn’t make it. I’m sure he’ll be really bummed.”
Kate nodded, unable to speak. She turned away, moving blindly, more tears flooding her eyes. Molly led Kate out of the office. She wrapped one arm around Kate tightly as they walked.
“I’m sorry, Katie,” she whispered as they headed outside and into the parking lot. “I’m so sorry he wasn’t here.”
“He said he’d come.” Kate couldn’t help the gulping cry that sounded from her throat. “I t-told him where I would be and he
me if he could come.”
Standing beside her red SUV, Molly wrapped her in a close embrace, patting her soothingly on the back. “I know, sweetie. I know.”
“He sounded like he wanted to be here. Like he cared.” Kate pulled back to look into her aunt’s eyes. What she saw there—pity, sadness and anger—didn’t calm her own tangled emotions. “Why do I do this?” Kate whispered. “Why do I let him keep hurting me?”
“Because he’s the father of your baby and, despite everything he’s done—” Molly paused and stroked a strand of hair behind Kate’s ear “—despite who he is, you love him.”
“How can I love him? Why? We barely had two months together. That’s nothing.”
“Sometimes you know the first minute you meet someone that he’s the one,” Molly said. “You told me you felt that way about Patrick.”
“I thought I did. I thought he felt the same, too.” She shook her head as a fresh spate of tears fell. “But he didn’t. He doesn’t.”
“He feels something, or he wouldn’t keep showing up.”
“It’s not enough,” Kate whispered, mostly to herself. “Whatever he feels, it’s not enough. Not for me. Not for my baby.” She swiped the tears away with her fingers, smearing them across her cheeks.
Molly dug in her purse and handed her a crumpled tissue. “It’s clean.”
Kate took it, wiped her eyes, then blew her nose. “Let’s go home.”
The two women got in the car. Molly drove and kept up a stream of conversation at first, but Kate couldn’t follow the words. Finally, Molly fell silent. As they turned into the driveway, Kate’s phone rang. She stiffened. Her purse was in her lap, but she made no effort to open it and dig for the phone inside. She put one hand over the brown leather and felt the vibration as the phone begged her again and again to answer it.
“That must be Patrick. Are you going to talk to him?” Molly asked after the fourth ring.
Kate clutched the purse tightly and shook her head.
Molly looked at her for a long moment. “Do you want me to?”
Kate shook her head again. “No. He can leave a message.” Her throat felt clogged with the tears she held in check.
The phone rang a sixth time. Molly opened her mouth then closed it. She nodded, pulled the keys from the ignition and got out of the car. Kate sat still, waiting, but the phone had stopped ringing. Slowly, she climbed out of the SUV. Sliding the straps of her bag over her shoulder, she shut the door.
From the depths of her purse, Kate heard a faint, two-toned beep indicating a message had been left. She opened the bag and grabbed the cell phone clipped to an inside pocket. When she flipped the phone open, “One Message” appeared on the screen. “Listen” or “Ignore,” it prompted. Kate’s thumb hovered over the buttons for a long moment. She finally pressed “Ignore” and closed the phone.
ATRICK GOT OUT
of his truck in a rush, slamming the door without bothering to lock it. He took the stairs up to Kate’s door two at a time. There, he knocked—hard. Leaning one hand against the jamb, he dropped his head, listening for some sound inside. He ran a hand through his hair, raking the damp strands back from his face, forcing himself to be patient.
The day was scorching hot. The high humidity made it seem even hotter. Pulling his T-shirt away from his chest, Patrick grimaced at the streaks of sweat striping the pale blue cotton and creating circles under his arms. There had been no time to change before rushing over here. He knocked a second time. It was all he could do to keep himself from beating down the door. He listened again, even pressing his ear to the wood, and heard nothing.
With a muttered curse, Patrick leaped back down the steps and headed for the studio. He reached the door and tried the handle. It was unlocked. Pushing the metal panel open, he stepped inside and closed it behind him, expecting to see Kate at work. But the furnace stood cold and silent. The light that bounced off the glass globes was the only thing moving in the room.