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A shadow shifted across the room, startling Kate. The heart-shaped glass bubble she held slipped, fell to the steel table with a crack, then shattered into a hundred red shards. A strangled cry of distress escaped from between her lips. She put her hands out, as if to gather the pieces back into a whole, but knew there was no saving it. She lifted her eyes to the figure standing in the doorway, limned by the afternoon sun.
"Damn it, Patrick! Can't you at least knock?"
The tall, dark-haired man moved around the worktable. His tanned face held a crooked, teasing smile that invited her to play. At the sight of it, the studio felt ten degrees hotter than before. The quick beat of her pulse could come from fright, but she knew that wasn't the cause. Patrick Berzani was reason enough.
"After three months at sea, you'd think I'd get a better welcome than that."
Low and intimate, his voice raised a shiver across her skin. He sounded amused that he had startled her, but she could also hear desire threaded through his words. The combination unlocked the lid on memories that Kate thought she had banished forever: their first cup of coffee at the café, his long-lashed, silver-gray eyes looking at her with warm interest, his curly black hair splayed across her pillow, begging to be touched. She tried in vain to stuff all these images back where they belonged. She had spent months forgetting themand himand thought she had succeeded. How could all that effort disappear like smoke?
The smile, the eyes, his hair, even the golden earring, high in the curve of his left ear, had deceived her from the start. Patrick had laughed when she asked if he was an artist like her.No, he was a sailora racerwhose only experience painting was on the hull of a sailboat. The earring was from a trip around Cape Horn. Later, after they were lovers, she learned other things: he got the tattoo around his arm after his first voyage across the equator, wore boat shoes for all occasions and always had string and a rigging knife in his pocket for emergency repairs.
Dragging herself back to the present, she drew a deep breath. "It's the only kind of welcome you deserve, scaring me like that." She meant to sound harsh and angry. Enough so that he would take his captivating smile and beautiful eyes far away, but her voice came out husky instead. She heard the want, the need, all too clearly.
She knew Patrick heard it, too. He didn't pause a single step. He held her eyes with his. Kate's feet were rooted to the floor as if encased in the concrete. The furnace behind her, with its bubbling pot of molten glass, roared and huffed, echoing the turmoil inside her. Glass globes hanging from the ceiling caught the sunlight from the windows. A kaleidoscope of colorscyan, turquoise, amber and lemonshimmered around the room, creating more confusion.
When he reached out, her more rational half asserted itself briefly. If he touched her, she would be lost. She grabbed a brush and dustpan from under the table.
"I have to clean up the mess you"
"Later." He cupped her face in his hands and stopped her words with a soft, hungry kiss.
His warm mouth captured hers as his arms encircled her, drawing her close to his tall, muscular body. The dustpan and brush slipped from her grip and clattered to the floor as she wrapped herself around him like molten glass onto a punty. Kate was flooded with the flavor and scent of Patrick Berzani. She felt as though she was drowning when she was in his arms. But she wasn't afraid, not the way she was around water. This drowning was exhilarating, spinning her, engulfing her with pleasure, daring her to descend into the depths where she should not go.
A slight fluttering in her abdomen, the faintest of sensations, brought her back to reality. She wrenched her lips from his. "Patrick, wait." Her voice was breathless. Desire coursed through her body, expecting fulfillment. Patrick's eyes, their silver-gray darkened to pewter, didn't calm her.
"Katie." He brushed a hand over her cheek and back into her hair. The blue bandanna wrapped around her head dropped to the floor. Her hair sprang free of confinement as his fingers delved into the mass of curls. "It's been too long."
Cupping the back of her neck, he bent his head to give her another intense, drugging kiss. Kate began to slide under his spell again. She fought free and put a hand on his chest, twisting away before their bodies could make contact again.
"Wait a minute. This is going way too fast."
"It's not going nearly fast enough." He reached for her again.
Kate evaded his grasp. "I've got a piece working right now. I can't just leave it."
"Sure you can." Patrick's wicked smile coaxed her. "You've done it before."
She smiled back at himshe couldn't help itbut shook her head. "This time I can't."
"All those weeks at sea, I thought of you."
His words shored up her shaky resolve, reminding her that he had left her alone for some time, reminding her why she should be rid of this man. "Well, you'll just have to do more thinking."
She stepped around the worktable. Six feet in length and steel topped, it was only a temporary barricade against him. Even the long metal arms at the end of the bench, where she rolled her blowpipe, were poor barriers. What she needed was a defense. She could use one of the glass rods on the table like a foil to fend him off. Or the torch she used for melding glass. It burned at over five thousand degrees, surely hotter than her passion for this man. There were plenty of weapons at her disposal in the studio. Not one of them could guard her heart.
The baby in her womb kicked, as if to tell Kate that she was not the only one agitated by this man. She took a deep breath and resisted the urge to press a hand to the slight protrusion. Instead, she took a wide paintbrush and swept the broken glass onto a tray. She wasn't going back around the table for the hand broom and dustpan. It was too dangerous over there, for a number of reasons. Patrick's eyes followed her, but he stayed where he was, perching himself on a stool at his side of the table.
"Sorry about making you break that glass."
Kate kept her back to him as she dumped the broken pieces of the heart into the melt bin. "It's not the first time it's been broken," she said, and swallowed down the tears that sprang to her eyes.
When she turned around, Patrick was watching her closely, his head tilted, eyes narrowed.
She cleared her throat and smiled a little. "I mean, it's not the first piece of glass I've ever broken. It won't be the last." Moving over to a large oventhe "garage" that kept glass pieces in progress hotKate extracted another glass bubble with a lustrous blue sheen and brought it to the worktable. Setting it on a ceramic-fiber blanket, she pulled out paint and a brush. She could feel Patrick's eyes on her as she worked.
"When did you get back?"
"Yesterday. Actually, it was early this morning." He smiled. "I came right over to see you."
Kate arched an eyebrow and looked at her watch. "It's three o'clock in the afternoon."
"A man's got to sleep doesn't he?"
"You hardly ever sleep. I bet you were sailing." When he grinned, Kate knew she had guessed correctly. "Don't you ever get tired of it? You just spent three months racing a boat on the ocean and within twenty-four hours you're out on another one."
"Different boat, different sailing." Patrick shrugged. "A wind junkie's got to get his fix."
She shook her head. He always said the same thing, whatever version of the question she asked. She didn't understand him any better today than she had five months ago when they first met. Picking up the warm, delicate sphere by the punty, she brushed dark blue paint onto it in a spiraling pattern.
"What's that?" Patrick asked.
"A new paint I'm experimenting with. It keeps its color better after it's fired." She kept her eyes focused on her task, pretending to ignore him. Her hands trembled slightly as she wielded the brush. She concentrated on the glass in her hand, but her lines were as wavy as if she were painting on a boat at sea. She set the globe down for a moment and went to the furnace, peering into the crucible.
She checked the gauges and turned one knob up a notch while dialing down another to adjust the heat and flame. The small act of control settled her nerves a little. She went back to the table and took up brush and globe once again. This time, her lines were better, more smooth and even.
Patrick came around the workbench and stood next to her. He trailed a finger down her cheek. She raised startled eyes to his. The design on the glass ended in a blob of paint.
"I missed you, Katie." His voice was soft and caressing. "Did you miss me?"
"Every now and then." The brush that slipped from her fingers and fell to the table belied her casual words.
With an internal curse, she stiffened her spine and evaded another touch by turning back to the furnace, settling the piece inside the garage to rest in the heat. She would finish it when her head was clearer, when Patrick was gone. Surreptitiously, Kate smoothed a hand over her abdomen. This child was more than enough reason to send Patrick on his way, but how? She could tell him that she was needed in the shop in front of the house, but he might remember it was closed on Mondays. She couldn't hope for an interruption from Molly, either, since she was in Santa Fe.
She kept her distance from Patrick, aligning a few pieces of flat, dichroic glass that were already in tidy rows. She moved back to the other side of the table, keeping the barrier between them. "How long are you here this time?"
"That depends." Patrick followed her around the table and leaned against the bench, his hands braced on the edge.
"On what?" Kate just barely kept herself from making the circuit to the other side of the table again. She could imagine him chasing her around it all afternoon.
"I've got a couple of new boats to run some trials on." He picked up a rod of deep green glass from the workbench, twirling it between his fingers. "It depends on you, too."
Kate bent down to the floor and picked up her bandanna and the brush and dustpan. His casual attitude grated. After those months apart, did he actually think they could just pick up where they had left off? Whether he knew it or not, things had changed.
"Really? It never has before."
Patrick raised a brow. "I thought you'd want to spend some time together before I leave for the Trans-Oceana race."
Kate shoved the bandanna into the back pocket of her jeans and tossed the brush onto the shelf under the table. "I'd have to rearrange my schedule."
"Your schedule was never a problem before."
She turned and met his eyes with a frosty stare. "It's been three months, Patrick. I didn't think I'd see you again."
"Why would you think that?" He looked puzzled. He put the glass tube down and walked over to rest his hands on her shoulders. Close enough to kiss, his lips lifted in a slight smile. "I told you that I'd be back."
"Then why didn't I hear from you?" Kate watched him closely as she asked the question.
"I called you," Patrick said with a slight frown.
"Once! One call."
"I was in the middle of the Atlantic"
"Don't try to tell me you were cut off from all communication, Patrick." Kate threw up her hands and spun away from him, away from his touch. If she didn't put some distance between them, she would strangle him. "Everything you dideverything you saidwas posted on the race Web site every day."
"I didn't write that," Patrick said in protest. "I was sailing the boat. The sponsor put some guy on board with a satellite phone. He did all the updates."
"What about before, then? The race took three weeks. You called me when you first got to France, but you didn't leave the dock for weeks after that. You could have let me know you were all right, or asked me how I was doing. Did you even think about me once while you were gone?"
"I did. Honest." Patrick faced her squarely. "But it's crazy before the race. There's never enough time to get everything done. Something always goes wrong at the last minute."
"There were photos of you on the boat, on the docks and at lots of parties, Patrick." She shot him a glare. "You looked really busy with a beer in your hand."
Patrick ran a hand through his hair. "Katie, I"
"I never even crossed your mind, did I?" She searched his eyes. What she saw there deflated her anger, filling her with sadness.
Patrick fell silent, his face somber now. Finally, he raised his hands in a gesture of defeat. "I'm sorry. I should have called more."
Kate sighed. The apology only depressed her. She had handled this poorly. She had let anger take control, when she should have been calm. Of course, she had never planned to have this conversation with Patrick, but that was no excuse. It was time to end this once and for all.
"Yes, you should have, but that's beside the point." Kate rubbed a hand over her forehead. "It was over between us when you left. I"
"It was?" His laugh was short and sharp. "We spent every night together for the last month. Did I miss something?"
Kate flushed, remembering all too well the passion they had shared. "I should have known it after the first week you were gone, when I didn't hear from you again. When I saw what a good time you were having," she continued, ignoring his interruption.
"I'm sorry, Kate." Patrick reached to take her in his arms. "We can start over."
"No, we can't." She stepped out of range.
"Sure we can."
"We had an affair." She sat on the stool and leaned an elbow against the table, shoulders slumped. "I thought it was more, but three months of silence taught me a lesson. It was just an affair."
Kate met Patrick's eyes. The gray had somehow turned to silver again, hiding his thoughts. That clear color was the perfect camouflage. Like water, it reflected its surroundings, never revealing what lay beneath.
"So what do you want?"
Kate swallowed hard. The words she had to speak were painful. "I want you to leave. I'll stay here and work, and we'll both get on with our lives."
"No, it doesn't end like this. It's too good between us."