The Scream Behind Her Smile
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I drag my gaze from across the room and look at my husband. Really look at him. He has his eyes squeezed shut. Has he always done that?
Was there ever a time we’d looked at each other as we made love?
“Derek?” I whisper. “Derek,” I repeat a little louder when it is clear he hadn’t heard me.
Derek opens his eyes, a slight frown between his brows. “Do you want me to stop?” Is that impatience in his tone?
“No,” I say. “I… I love you.”
“Love you, too.” But he closes his eyes as he says the words. He doesn’t see the tear that escapes between lids I’ve squeezed shut.
He changes the angle of his thrust. It’s only slight, but I recognize it, and I know he is getting close. I can almost tell, to the exact thrust, when he’ll climax.
Then he’ll roll off me and onto his back. I’ll lay my head on his chest and listen to the beat of his heart as it slows. For one minute. Never longer. He’ll then roll over, and I’ll spoon his back.
His eyes are shut, so he doesn’t see the other tear that rolls down my cheek to dampen the hair at the base of my neck. But I’m not even sad.
I don’t feel anything at all.
How can I cry when I feel this empty?
How can I feel empty with my husband inside me in the most intimate way possible?
With the final thrust of his hips, like an orchestra conductor’s last wave of his staff, Derek finishes.
Without a single glance in my direction, he rolls onto his back.
I didn’t even bother to fake an orgasm.
He doesn’t seem to care.
This time I roll over, my back toward him.
He doesn’t move to hold me as his heart slows. Instead, I listen as his breathing turns to a light snore.
I’m not where I belong. But that can’t be right. I’m married. I’m living with my husband. Surely this is where I belong.
Then why do I feel so lost?
And so terribly alone.
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“Well, the alternative was pretty awful, so there’s that.” Luis grimaced. “It’s grim work sometimes, and it’s sure not easy, but it’s worth it. We’re getting our happily ever after, so I’ll do whatever it takes.”
He would, too. He’d always been willing to work for his happiness with Donovan as long as there was hope. He had his concerns about working on a case together again, but they’d get through it. Like the alternative to recovery Donovan had mentioned, the other option was too awful to contemplate.
“So I’ve got to ask,” Donovan said after a few seconds. “Freetown State Forest has a reputation, right?”
“Place is full of ghosts.” Luis chuckled. He didn’t need to ask what Donovan was getting at. “Most of them were kind of static though. I guess the technical term is residual? They weren’t interacting with the modern living world at all. They were just kind of re-creating the past. It was kind of interesting to see that past, but not helpful. Some of them were a little more aware. One chased after the pickup truck the other day, when you first joined in. Or when we first joined in, depending on your point of view. Anyway, he chased after us for a while, yelling at us to ‘Get off his lawn.’ ”
“Wait, what?” Donovan burst out laughing. “You’re joking.”
“Nope. Angry old white guy sitting in an old lawn chair, drinking a beer. If it weren’t for the glow, and the fact that none of you could see him, I’d have thought he was alive. He chucked the beer at the truck, and another one appeared in his hand. If I have to be a ghost when I die, I aspire to that level of badassery.”
Donovan pulled onto the highway. “Luis, you don’t even drink.”
“I’ll throw something else then. Or I’ll start drinking ghost beers just so I can throw them at passersby.” Luis grinned. “I still feel like I’m lost at sea with all this ghost stuff, but I’m getting there.”
“You have a slight concussion. And it’s perfectly natural to be confused after a blow to the head.”
I reached up to touch the back of my head and probed gingerly, wincing when I hit the tender spot.
I hated this fuzzy feeling. This strange, helpless flutter inside me. “I can’t remember what happened. God, I hate this.”
“It may come back to you, it may not.” Emory smiled kindly. “Don’t worry too much about it. All that matters is that you’re all right.”
A lock of his silver-blond hair had fallen across his forehead, and before I could stop myself, I’d reached up and brushed it back. He froze. His pupils dilated and fixed on me, and then he let out a sharp exhalation and quickly stood and put distance between us. His gloved hands hovered at his pockets, but in the end, he settled for clenching them at his sides.
Oh, shit, Emory was a stickler for his personal space, and I’d just violated it. “Sorry, I … I have no idea why I did that.”
“It’s fine.” His tone was easy and smooth, but the clenched fists gave him away. I’d rattled him. “Just get some rest. Danika will give you some pills for the headache. Take the rest of the day off.”
He canted his head. “No? Echo, you just fell twenty feet into a chasm.”
“I don’t want the others to think I’m getting special treatment.”
His frown was incredulous. “Special treatment? Of course you’re getting special treatment.” He leaned in slightly and enunciated his next words. “You just fell into the chasm.”
Incredulity had morphed into irritation, and although I’d seen him annoyed before, it was usually a flick of the brows, or a twitch of the lips; he never exploded, never raised his voice.
But Finn’s revelation as to why the other guys hadn’t accepted me was prominent in my mind, and maybe it was the fall, maybe it was the damn concussion, but my mouth decided to speak the thoughts running through my mind.
“The heart keepers think you’re favoring me because we’re lovers.” The sentence tumbled out and then sat between us like a bomb waiting to be defused.
Emory went very still. Was he holding his breath? Was I?
I pressed my fingers to my temple, wishing I could take the words back just to wipe the look of horror from his face. A look that was not good for my ego.
The Blood Covenant
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He feels her hand jerk slightly under his touch and smiles at her. She is timid and sweet, and he likes the feel of her soft white skin, and the contrast of his dark olive tone to her lily white.
“Do you have a wrap, Kate Reese?”
“Wrap? Yes, it’s in, uh….” Oh my God, can I at least stop tripping over my own tongue!
“I believe your wrap is in the study. Allow me?”
He offers her his arm and watches as she hesitantly places her small hand around his elbow. She glides in those stilettos and he slides his eyes behind her and watches that beautiful ass swish and sway on the way to the study. She identifies her green suede coat from the pile and he notices the label inside; Italian…leather from Florence, and he smiles. He holds the coat for her as she slips her arms into the sleeves, then he slides the coat onto her slender shoulders, letting his hands graze her hair and neck. He loves the feel of her, touching her; he loves her petite stature to his height and mass. He watches as she pulls those long crimson locks from the collar of her coat and flings her hair back. He is assailed, once again, by the scent of roses. She turns to him, looking into his eyes again, before quickly looking down.
She is unable to maintain eye contact with him for more than a few seconds. “Do I make you nervous, Kate?”
“No, no, no… I, really, I just need to go. Thank you.” Nervous? Does he make me nervous? He scares the hell out of me! Who looks like this?
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