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Closing his hands into fists, he muttered, "I can do this." Hell, all he'd wanted do for twelve years was hold her again. No reason he couldn't manage it now, right? He settled down on the couch, sitting behind her. She was sitting sideways on it, with her legs drawn up to her chest, huddled in on herself. Nestling up behind her, he slid his arms around her waist and tucked her against him.
She was cold. Too cold. Nuzzling her neck, he whispered, "Come on, Angel. Snap out of it."
The rapid, irregular beat of her heart was clear to him as if he'd had a stethoscope pressed to her chest. Sliding one hand down her arm, he closed his fingers down on her wrist. The thready beat had him swearing. Scooping her into his arms, he strode through the house, searching for her bedroom. The dog followed along behind him and when Kel laid her down on the bed, the dog jumped up as well and stretched his length out against her side.
Kel let the dog be. As cool as Angel's body was, she needed heat from somewhere and she wouldn't get it from him. There was a fat quilt folded down at the end of the bed and he tossed it over Angel. As the dog wiggled up to poke his nose out from under the blanket, Kel lay down on the other side of her and wrapped his arms around her.
Snap out of it, he thought. If she didn't soon, he was going to have to get her to a hospital. Most of the Hunters received crash courses on emergency first aid and as far as he could tell, she was in shock. She hadn't been physically hurt--
No. You just pretty much ripped her heart out. Kel didn't mind feeling guilt. Sometimes it was the only thing he did feel. But the weight of this was too damnheavy, crushing him. Easing her over onto her side, he curled his body around hers and pushed up onto his elbow, staring her profile.
"Do you remember that summer you broke your arm..."
He talked. Seemed like he talked for hours. He might have given it up after the first few minutes, but her body no longer felt so cool against his and her heart rate slowed down, taking on a more regular rhythm. By the time he got to their last summer, she had a faint blush of color to her cheeks and her gaze would flick his way for a minute, then just bounce away.
"That night you moved out of your mom's place ... remember that?"
Her lids lowered over her eyes, shutting him out. Pressing on her shoulder, he guided her onto her back. A soft breath shuddered out of her, but other than that, she made no response. Kel took her hand and twined their fingers. His voice was harsh as he muttered, "I remember it."
Shit, did he remember. You need to find something else to talk about, man. Fast.
But before he could wrest his attention to something other than that first night they'd made love, her lids lifted, revealing heated, hungry eyes.
"I remember." She laid her hand on his cheek. "Are memories all I'm ever going to have of you, Kel?"
She shook her head. "Never mind. That's answer enough." She started to wiggle away, but the dog's weight kept her from moving away too fast. He brushed a hand over her shoulder but she jerked away. "Move it, Rufus." At the sound of her curt voice, the dog shoved his mammoth weight upright and leaped off the bed.
Kel watched as she headed toward the door, the rational voice of common sense telling him to let her go. Disappear from her life. She'd be better for it.
He didn't remember leaving the bed. He didn't remember crossing the room, or barring the doorway. He didn't even remember reaching for her, but he must have, because she was pressed up against him, his hands gripping her upper arms. She had her palms pressed against his chest, keeping him at bay. He held back but it took a measure of control he wasn't sure he had.
"Go ahead, Kel. Disappear. I know that's what you want." She stared at him, her blue gaze icy and cold. She tried to twist away from him but he wouldn't let go--couldn't seem to manage it.
"You think that's what I want?" he rasped, dipping his head and pressing a kiss to her neck, just below her ear. Her scent was strong there, warm, soft and female and he wanted to lose himself in it. The rapid beat of her heart was a siren's song and he could almost imagine how she'd taste, could imagine pressing his mouth to her neck, his teeth piercing her silken skin...
Instead of doing it, though, he lifted his head and stared down at her. "Can you really believe, even for a minute, that I'd wouldn't do anything to have you back in my life?"
His words had little effect--if anything, her gaze became more aloof. She flashed him a hard-edged smile. "Doesn't look that way from where I'm standing. Let me go, Kel. Despite what your nudist friend thinks, I'll be fine."
"Nudist ... Toronto." Narrowing his eyes, he studied her face. "You heard him."
"Yeah, Kel. I heard him--sort of. I took a mental trip but that doesn't mean I've completely taken leave of my senses."
I only wish I had ... maybe life would be easier that way. Insanity sounds a lot easier. That or just plain dead.
Angel never spoke the words aloud. But those words echoed between them. She paled and jerked against his hold as his eyes flew wide. He snarled and wrapped an arm around her waist, locking her against him as she struggled. "Damn it, Kel, let go of me."
"Not going to happen, babe," he growled. Reaching up, he fisted a hand in her hair and jerked her head back, forcing her to meet his eyes. "You don't think like that, Angel. You hear me?"
A sneer curled her lip. How such a derisive expression could be so damned appealing, Kel would never know.
"You can't tell me how to think, babe." Her voice was deliberately scathing, deliberately insulting.
His control stretched tight, he tried to let her go. He needed to do just that--get some distance between them before need, love, lust and fear got the better of him.
But his body wasn't listening to his head's commands and instead of letting her go, he shifted, turned, pressed her back against the door. Leaning into her, he slid one hand up and rested it over her neck. His thumb lay in the hollow of her neck, feeling the silken softness of her skin, the warmth of life rushing just below.
"I said, don't," he muttered as he dipped his head and pressed his mouth to hers.