Evening Light Ch. 03byzouzouni©
Thank you for your comments. I really appreciate all of them. I'm trying to keep this coming as quickly as possible. Enjoy :)
Grace allowed Miss Em to comfort her as she dissolved into tears back at her place. As was her way she did not permit herself a great deal of time for self pity and after many assurances Miss Em went back to her day and Grace started hers. She had some apprehension walking back into the stables where it happened but she was determined not to let her life be ruled by fear.
It was in that very spot giving Kendra's Smile an apple that Bradley found her. "What are you doing here Grace, you should be resting." He admonished looking with concern at her swollen lip. She was grateful the rest of the bruises were covered up.
"I'm fine Bradley. Just a little shaken up." She said marvelling at how quickly the country grapevine actually worked. She realized that by Monday the whole county would know about what happened. Bradley continued to fuss over her but she reassured him that she was ok. She was touched by his concern.
Sheriff Peters came by in the afternoon and she told him all that she could remember. He informed her that they would do their best to apprehend Tex and make sure she was safe. He suggested that she didn't go anywhere alone until he was caught. Grace promised to be careful as he left.
Grace tried her best to return to a normal routine. People in town stared for a while but then it became old news. The men on the ranch took the edict of keeping her safe very seriously escorting her to and from town on the rare occasions she needed to go. She was becoming annoyed at their over-protectiveness. Lucas was making himself scarce as usual.
All this she could manage, it was the nights that were the hardest. Her nightmares were back with a few new ones thrown in for good measure. There were ones about Jaime, the young girl that committed suicide. Dreams with Tex attacking her, and some other ones where Tex was attacking Jaime and she couldn't stop him. These were happening nightly. She dreaded going to sleep but she was so tired. Then once a nightmare occurred she was wide awake. Grace was exhausted. It was taking her longer to finish her chores, so she just started earlier since she was up anyway. She was barely eating and definitely not her usual self.
A couple of weeks of sleep deprivation and no food had left her weak and careless. One evening she pulled out some left-overs that had gone slightly off. But she ate a few bites anyway, too weak to taste anything and too tired to care. Less than half an hour later she was bringing up the meagre contents of her stomach as she lay groaning on the bathroom floor.
Lucas was going over the schedule for the day when he noticed Bradley practically running towards Grace's place. Lengthening his stride to join him he asked "What's up Bradley that's got you moving so quick of a morning?"
"Grace didn't come to do her work this morning and I'm worried about the girl. She ain't been sleeping well, nightmares, heard her scream from time to time. Ain't been eating either, wasting away to nothing, gonna make herself sick. Stubborn too, insisting she's fine." Bradley panted. Even though he was keeping out of her way Lucas had noticed the weight loss and the permanent bags under her eyes but she had never missed a day and her absence worried him too.
With a burst of speed he ran to her house and looked around. Nothing. Then he heard noise from the bathroom. He opened the door to find her sprawled on the floor shivering. One touch told him she was burning up. He gathered her in his arms and headed quickly to the main house. He ran into Bradley coming in "Good Lord!" he exclaimed.
"Bradley, call Doc Jenkins and tell him to get his arse over here straight away." Lucas demanded as he rushed out.
Lucas took her straight upstairs to his room and cleaned her up as best he could. He was applying a cold compress to try and cool her down when Dr Jenkins and Bradley walked in. "What happened this time?" the doctor asked. Lucas explained how he found her as the doctor busied himself by taking her temperature and her pulse. Bradley filled in some gaps about her not sleeping or eating, as well as noticing some off food on her kitchen counter.
Dr Jenkins gave Grace two shots, one to stop her vomiting and bring the fever down and one of Vitamin B to boost her recovery. "So Doc?" Lucas asked.
"Ran herself into the ground that one did. Gave herself food poisoning to top it off. Post traumatic stress I'd say, but she'd know more about that if she's willing to admit it. Just look after her for a couple of days, plenty of water, maybe some of that electrolyte enriched stuff. As for the rest, time and an understanding ear would be the best bet." He explained and left shaking his head at the girl on the bed. Lucas couldn't help but feel partially responsible for her state. Pushing at her so soon after and saying those horrible things. He so wanted to make up for it.
Lucas barely left her side for the next two days. Making sure he followed the doctor's instructions. He even slept next to her and held her while she dreamed whatever horrible things and soothed her crying when she woke. Nothing had ever felt so right to him as having this woman in his arms. He didn't like the weight loss though. It didn't suit her. On the third day he woke to find her side of the bed empty. Looking around he found her showered and dressed again in one of his t-shirts staring out the window. He smiled to himself. He liked the way she looked in his clothes but she would look even better out of them. Mentally clamping down hard on the desire threatening to flame, he cleared his throat.
"I apologize but I had to borrow one of your t-shirts again." She said shyly. He dismissed her concern with a nonchalant shrug. "What happened?" she asked. Lucas explained about how he found her and briefly about how he looked after her. "So I've been here for two days, in your room, in your bed." She said.
Something in him purred at her statement but he said "Nothing untoward happened."
"Oh, I know, I just ... well people will talk and ..." she stammered and then as though it just occurred to her she rounded on him "Why are you being so nice to me anyway?" she accused. Standing there she began to feel very self conscious in his t-shirt with him reclining shirtless on his bed looking positively edible.
Lucas smirked "People will always talk. Who's Jaime?" he asked deftly avoiding her question. That took her breath away, still weak from the last few weeks she felt her knees go as she sat hard on the window seat. Lucas noticed and he sprang up and helped her back to bed. "So?" he insisted. Fighting back tears, Grace explained about what happened before she arrived at Evening Light. "It wasn't your fault you know." He said quietly marvelling at the depth of compassion in this woman. A woman he was dangerously starting to think of as his.
"I know. It's just not fair." She responded deep in thought.
"You feel up to eating? You have to get your strength up." He said. Grace nodded absently. "Maybe, if you're up to it tomorrow we'll saddle up Kendra's Smile and you can take her for a ride. She's been pining for you." Lucas said impulsively.
"Are you serious? You're going to let me ride? Really?" she said doubtingly. It was her dearest wish to be allowed to ride again. Lucas nodded and she smiled. It lit up her whole face like a child on Christmas morning full of wonder and hope. The beast inside him purred again wanting to do anything to make her smile like that again. Lucas cleaned up and got dressed in the bathroom and then left the room quickly. Ostensibly he left to get her food, but mainly because he wasn't sure about his level of control around her.
By the end of the day she was feeling better and eating solid, all be it bland food, and had moved back to her own place. Miss Em made her promise that she would start having dinner with them in the main house so she could keep an eye on her. Grace agreed so that she wouldn't disappoint her.
The following day relieved from her chores on pain of death by Bradley she wandered about with nothing to do. Lucas found her in her favourite spot, Kendra's Smile's stall. "You up for that ride?" He asked as he approached. She smiled eagerly nodding and she took his breath away. Lucas busied himself saddling the mare and his own chestnut stallion, Helios.
"I could have done that." She admonished. He silenced her with a look. Easing herself into the saddle she felt right at home. All the memories of Cloud and her grandparents came flooding back. Wiping a tear she set off grateful that Lucas was in front and couldn't see her.
This was a side of Lucas she hadn't seen. He was calm and relaxed. He showed her over the extent of his holdings. Explaining how his great grandfather came to be there and started off as a cattle farmer. His father preferred horses and that was how the ranch changed from cattle station into a horse training and breeding facility. Lucas had finished his business degree and was beginning an internship when his father became ill and he had to come home and help run things.
When his father passed away he began implementing some of the ideas he'd had to modernize the place. Turning it into one of the most lucrative and sort after stables in the country. Grace was mesmerized by his voice and the way he sat in the saddle. Her mind was going a million miles an hour trying to figure out why this man who had basically called her a slut was now being so caring and considerate. None of it made sense. She couldn't help but recall the feel of his arms around her as he soothed her nightmares away and how safe she felt. Her experience with men was limited but she knew enough to realize she was on dangerous ground.
When they got back to the stables Connor came in and told Lucas he had a phone call from a client. Lucas excused himself handing the reigns of Helios to Connor. Grace took it upon herself to take care of Kendra's Smile. She felt glorious after her ride. Lucas returned later from his call and was leaning against a stall watching her rub the horse down. She was truly stunning as she smiled running the brushes over the horse's flank. Again he was reminded of the sensuality of her movements and he felt the desire flare in him. "I haven't seen that style in a while." He said surprising her. She blushed realizing that he had been watching her and as he smiled he took her breath away.
It should be a crime for a man to look that good. The things his smile did to her body were making her head spin. Heat pooled in her belly as he came closer. "Grandpa was old fashioned. He liked things done a certain way. I hope its ok?" she asked tentatively.
"Kendra doesn't seem to mind." He responded with another heartbreaking smile. Lucas couldn't stop looking at her lips. Before she realized his lips descended on hers and he was kissing her. This was a world away from what Tex had done. This was divine. Grace melted into his arms. Lucas groaned as her lips parted allowing his tongue to explore her mouth. She never realized that a kiss could feel so good.
Grace's head was swimming in a pool of desire. Her whole body felt hot and tingly. It was at that precise moment that her analytical mind decided to make an appearance. She could feel the evidence of his desire against her stomach. This caused a mini flashback to the incident with Tex. She knew that Lucas wasn't like that. But then she thought back to what he'd said to her in the kitchen the day after the incident. This conflicted with how he'd been nice to her. What if his actions were just a way to get in her pants because he though she was easy that way. This seed of doubt spread like wildfire.
Suddenly she pushed him off her and stared at him angrily. Lucas was taken aback. He moved forward to go to her and she stepped back. "Don't." She said her voice shaky.
Confusing her anger with fear Lucas said "Did I frighten you? Is it too soon?" Confusion swirled with her anger and Grace let out a frustrated sigh.
"No. I just don't get this." She said waving an exasperated hand between them. "One minute you're calling me a slut the next you're being nice to me. Well you can think what you like. I'm nobody's whore and it's not that easy to get in my pants!" she yelled at him and stormed off.
Lucas stood there in shock. His body was still highly aroused from their kiss but her reaction was unexpected to say the least. He went over what he said about calling her a slut and realized he had never apologized for what he had said. She was under the false impression that he thought so lowly of her. He felt like a complete fool. No wonder she was confused about his behaviour.
This was all very simple to rationalize. But in the fog of desire and having the object of that desire hurl accusations at him and remove herself from him. Well all logic went out the window and anger and frustration walked through the front door. That woman was going to be the death of him. He wanted her beyond all reason but she couldn't be reasoned with. So he did the next best thing, he but the mare back in her stall and went to have a cold shower.