Authors: Donna McDonald
Tags: #General Fiction
Created In Fire
Book Two of the
Art of Love
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Copyright 2011 by Donna McDonald
Cover by Dara England
Edited by Toby Minton
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is coincidental.
This book contains content that may not be suitable for young readers 17 and under.
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This hero is for J Stowe who said she always liked dark-haired men with long ponytails.
This hero is also for my editor T. Minton who liked him from the beginning.
Thanks to metal artist, Bates Webster, for talking to me about her work.
Thanks to all the artists and dreamers in the world. Please don’t stop. This world would be a much sadder place without you.
It wasn’t the first time Michael Larson had awakened in a strange bed early on a Saturday morning, but it was the first time the strange bed was one in his own house.
He listened for a moment to a silence that was broken periodically by the sound of the master bath toilet being flushed. It took only a few seconds of total consciousness to know the sounds meant that Carrie Addison, the mother of his future child, was sick again.
Jumping from the bed, Michael tugged sweat pants on to cover most of his nudity before bolting to check on her. Tapping lightly, he opened the bedroom door a crack and saw no one in the bed.
“Carrie?” he called softly. Hearing no answer, Michael walked quietly inside and across the length of the room to tap lightly on the mostly closed bathroom door. What he heard on the other side of it made his own stomach clench in sympathy.
Michael opened the door gently, calling her name again just as she was flushing the toilet yet another time.
“I’m mostly okay,” Carrie told him sadly, not the least surprised to see Michael with all the noise she was making. “I think the worst is over now.”
Glancing up at his face and seeing pity there brought stinging hot tears of regret to her eyes. She rolled off a handful of toilet tissue and used it to wipe them away. “Being sick is not nearly as bad as feeling sorry for myself. I’m never this wimpy. I hate the constant crying as much as throwing up. I hope the crying stuff doesn’t last the whole pregnancy.”
Michael walked around where Carrie sat on the floor to get to the sink. Reaching over to a shelf to snag a washcloth, he quickly ran cold water until it was as frigid as possible before wetting the cloth and folding it. Bending over to Carrie, he wrapped it around the back of her neck.
“Hold this in place. It will calm the gag reflex,” he ordered softly.
Then Michael returned to the sink and wet another cold cloth, all the while thinking that for a month before now Carrie had been alone every time this happened. It made him really glad she had agreed to move in with him for the duration of the pregnancy, no matter the conditions.
Carrie snorted in disbelief, but pulled the cold cloth tighter around her neck. “Thank you, Dr. Larson,” she said sarcastically.
“No, the closest to a doctor in our family would be Shane, who I wouldn’t let put so much as a band-aid on me or anyone I care about. Actually, Mom used to do this cold cloth trick for us when we were sick. It worked every time,” Michael told her.
He dropped to the floor to sit beside Carrie, wrapping his body around hers which was currently hugging the toilet. Reaching around the front of her body, Michael patted her forehead and flushed cheeks with the second cloth.
He was surprised when Carrie started crying long streams of really hot tears. “Hey now,” he said, his arms going around her to hug before he could censor the action.
“I’m sorry. I just hate this,” Carrie said, choking on the apology through the tears. “I can’t seem to stop crying. There’s nothing really wrong. ”
“Good to know. A little human kindness is no reason to dissolve into tears,” Michael joked, trying not to frown at how vulnerable she seemed.
It was so unlike Carrie’s usual take-no-prisoners approach to her life. Watching her cry this morning was like an instant replay of the night she’d come to tell him about the baby. Trying not to think about all she’d shared that night, he used the cloth to wipe the tears even though nothing he did seemed to be slowing them. Her body was tense, and through the tears Michael saw her frustration.
It was amazing how much he truly wanted to soothe her. All he wanted was to hold her and make sure she knew he was there for her.
Scooting closer, Michael wrapped his body more tightly around hers, creating as much contact as possible.
“You’re the strongest woman I know, and every time you cry it kills me. I’m truly sorry you’re so sick. No one should have to go through this without choosing to,” Michael said gently.
“I think we both know what I chose that got me into this situation,” Carrie said tearfully, tone full of honesty and self-pity.
Michael’s very impressive, very hard erection was even now pressed against her hip as he held her. Her tears of self-pity dried up only to be replaced by mortification as she felt herself becoming aroused.
“You mean, this old thing,” Michael teased, grinning and pressing himself even closer. It was heaven to even imagine the possibility of being with her again, but he’d settle for making her laugh this morning. “No worries about that being a problem, honey. That’s just a morning thing for most guys.”
Carrie snorted and laid her head on the seat rim of the toilet. She could laugh only because she knew that not even the worst man would seduce a woman who was retching every couple of minutes. Michael was lecherous by her standards, but he wasn’t that horrible.
“I was married twice. I know what men are like. It was just the irony of throwing up while thinking about. . .never mind. I think the sickness is passing now. You can let me go,” Carrie told him, taking the washcloth from Michael’s hand and wiping her entire face. “It would help if you got me a glass of ice water so I can take the nausea medicine.”
Michael ran a hand down the back of her short cap of brown hair and flipped the cloth on her neck over to a cooler side. “Sure. I don’t mind taking care of you. I want you to ask me to help when you need help.”
“So you keep saying,” Carrie retorted, sighing and nodding, keeping her face and expression hidden in the washcloth. “I’m going to start crying again if you don’t leave right now. Niceness seems to activate the water works.”
Michael slid away from her and used the sink to pull himself up. “Stay down there until I get back.”
Rolling her eyes, Carrie pulled the washcloth away from her face and watched Michael Larson’s very attractive back and rear disappear quickly through the now open bathroom door. His dark hair was loose from sleep, and she marveled again that it hung longer than most women’s. What would have been effeminate on many men only enhanced the masculinity he seemed to exude without even trying. Memories of her hands in his hair had arousal tugging at her even through the waves of nausea.
“And that feeling, you stupid, hormonal woman, is exactly how and why you got yourself knocked up again by the man. You never learn, Carlene,” she lectured herself.
Her words echoed softly in the empty bathroom as she sniffed the next bout of fresh hot tears away.
Using the toilet for leverage, Carrie pushed to her feet and walked to lean limply against the sink. She wet both cloths with cold water again. The one behind her neck really was helping. The urge to throw up was lessening every second.
Carrie rinsed her mouth and gently brushed her teeth, having learned that too much toothpaste only made the nausea worse. She rinsed her mouth several times until the mint flavor was gone. Then she walked carefully back to the bedroom and crawled into the bed.
When a fully dressed Michael with hair restrained behind him came back with a glass of ice water, Carrie was propped up on pillows. She sighed in relief that she wasn’t going to be tortured with a nearly naked version of him again.
Day one of being alone with the man in his house was going just about as badly as she had envisioned, including having to confront the humiliation of still wanting him every bit as much as she ever had. The illusion of getting over him just kept crashing and burning every time she turned around and saw him.
“I would have helped you,” Michael chastised, handing Carrie the glass of ice water and watching as she sipped it gratefully.
“And you can still,” Carrie said, striving for a light tone despite how resentful she was of needing help—specifically, his help. “I left my nausea medicine in the bathroom.”
Michael walked into the bathroom and returned with the pill bottle, shaking out the recommended dosage into his hand before passing it to her.