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"You're a heartless bitch," he shouted as he stuffed his male parts into the jeans he had just snatched on over his legs. He yanked the fly closed and grabbed his T-shirt off the floor. Cramming his arms into the sleeves, he yanked it over his head, dragging it down to cover his torso. "They're right about you. You're the queen of glaciers." He dropped into a chair and pulled his shoes onto his feet without bothering to lace them. Picking up his socks, he stood and jammed them into his pocket, then raked his fingers through his hair and continued his rant. "You're unbelievable! For three months I've danced around trying to get inside that frigid heart of yours. What a waste of time!" He stomped down the hall. The front door opened and he yelled, "Heartless bitch!" Then he was gone.

That's me, the heartless bitch. I wasn't always that way. Once I was sweet and silly and full of life. I had a young girl's idealism and a young girl's ability to love, but I'm not a young girl anymore. Things happen that can change a person forever; things that can destroy all that is human in a personality, leaving behind a cold, heartless bitch.

The guy's name is Clayton and he is just another in a long line of men who found nothing but disappointment and discouragement in me. Poor Clayton had shown so much patience in trying to woo me and discovered what all the others had. I have no capacity for love.

Is it so much to ask that a man just give me what I need and not expect more than that in return? We made love. That should have been enough but he had to throw emotion into the mix. He wants to order the invitations and plan our future together when all I wanted was sex; thus his hasty departure in the middle of a rainy night. I knew that I would never see him again. At that point I decided that I would never allow anymore men into my life.

Memories of the past often come back to haunt me, usually when a moment like this occurs. How I hate those memories. Loss of trust to deception and betrayal can be detrimental to the female soul. Some of us never quite fully recover. And some of us never recover at all.

There was once someone that I loved, someone that meant the world to me. I was quite young when Billy and I met. We were in grade school when his family moved in next door. We soon struck up a fun association that developed into a real friendship by junior high. He was my escape from the endless hours of walking on eggshells when my father was in one of his moods. Those moods usually ended in beatings.

Billy was kind to me and helped me to forget the horrors of my home life. It was in my pre-teen years that my father put me in the hospital. Billy visited me every day. After several weeks I arrived home to find that my father had moved out. My mother was sad and cried every night and I knew that it was my fault he left and she was alone.

Billy helped me to deal with my guilt. I couldn't imagine my life without him. As time moved on our friendship became romance within the confines of our teenage lives and we planned to be together always.

He was a year older and went away to the University of Illinois my senior year. It's where I had planned to join him after my own graduation. It was just two hours away and many of my classmates would also be attending. I missed him so terribly when he was gone and when he came home for visits we spent every moment together.

That spring of his first year I decided to surprise him on my eighteenth birthday with a visit. I suppose I should have called him first. That way he would have had time to get all those people out of his apartment. As it was I walked smack into the middle of a sex party. There must have been at least twenty people there, all naked and screwing. I finally located him only to see he had two women on top of him. When he saw me he laughed insanely and kissed the girl nearest his mouth. I have never trusted anyone, including myself, since then.

Men have come and gone but none of them had been able to penetrate that veneer that I had so carefully constructed over the years. I could not seem to let down my guard with any of them. Perhaps I just hadn't met anyone that I wanted to let get close to me. Or perhaps I was incapable of ever giving anyone that part of myself again. Whatever the case, one man decided that he wanted in, no matter the cost. His name is Devlin Jeffreys and he went after me with a determination that I had never before encountered.

I met him quite by accident—literally. I was walking up the stairs of an apartment building, intending to visit a friend. She had been my best friend since our college days and I wanted to tell her about an opportunity that was offered to me at work. It would mean a transfer to the West Coast and I needed her advice. As I reached for the door that led to her floor it opened suddenly, bouncing off my cranium. When I came to he was standing over me, telling me not to move. I did as I was told, not because the eyes that were looking at me were filled with concern, but because they were the most beautiful and expressive eyes I had ever seen.

He was dabbing at my forehead with a piece of white cloth stained with blood and telling me how sorry he was for not being more careful. A part of me was angry at him for hitting me with the door, but the rest of me just wanted to hear his very deep, masculine voice speaking in that soothing tone. It was mesmerizing. I had to get hold of myself and remind myself that he was just another man.

I pushed his hand away, sat up and was struck by a wave of dizziness. He grabbed my shoulders to steady me. "You should lie back down. An ambulance is on the way."

I was embarrassed and hated to show any weakness. When I tried to stand he blocked me. Then my self-sustaining anger came into play. "Get off me. I don't need any help."

He released me and I pulled myself to my feet, putting my hand on the wall to stop the floor from hitting me again. That's when I saw Sara, my friend. She was reaching for me. I took her hand and she helped me to her apartment. After I sat down I was startled to see that this man had followed us.

"This is my cousin," she said. "Devlin, this is my friend, Amelia. The one I was telling you about. Melia, are you ok?"

"Aside from feeling like I've been hit by a train, yeah, I'm ok."

Tact was never my strong suit. Devlin looked mortified. He disappeared into the kitchen and returned with a bag of ice in his hand. "Here," he said, handing it to me. "Put this on your head."

We all heard the ambulance siren at the same time. Sara went to the lobby to meet them, scoffing at me when I told her to send them away. Devlin knelt in front of me and looked as if he wanted to crawl in a hole.

"Stop hovering," I told him. "I'm fine. I've been hit in the head harder than this before."

"Maybe," he said, "but not by me. I feel like shit."

"Don't beat yourself up. I'll live."

He touched my face. He was looking at the bump on my head with deep concern and it was at that moment I noticed just how handsome he was. He had thick, dark hair that curled just enough at the ends; deep, hazel-green eyes; a strong nose and full lips. I let my eyes travel over the rest of him and saw that he had a well-defined, athletic frame. When he looked me in the eye again I was grinning at him.

"What's so funny?" he asked with a smile of his own.

"Nothing much."

His smile widened. "Go ahead; I could use a good laugh right now."

"I was just thinking about my bad luck."

"Bad luck? Oh you mean getting knocked out."

"No, I was thinking how it's just my luck to meet a good-looking guy like you and have an ugly, bleeding goose-egg on my head. I'm not exactly looking my best."

"I think you're gorgeous." His statement caught me by surprise. His startling gaze was boring into me. His expression, though sincere, held a peculiar quality to it, as if he was looking at a long lost friend.

I was just about to thank him when the door to the apartment burst open and Sara returned with two men in white who were carrying equipment. I shook my head in frustration. "Sara, I told you to send them away. I'm all right."

"Just let them look at you," Devlin said. "It would make me feel a whole lot better."

"Oh, well, I just live to make you feel better," I snapped. If he couldn't hear the sarcasm in my voice he was an idiot.

White coat number one started shining a light in my eyes and examining the bump on my head as white coat number two was opening his cases. "Out!" I shouted. "Everyone leave me alone. I'm fine." I pushed myself to my feet with a strength I didn't feel and headed to the bathroom. I was shocked when I saw myself in the mirror. I was going to look like hell for a couple of weeks. Just great.

When I returned to the living room one of the white coats handed me a clipboard and asked me to sign that I had refused treatment. I did so gratefully. I just wanted to go home. After the men left I told Sara that we would have to do lunch another time and headed for the door.

Devlin stopped me. "You are not driving home like this."

I was getting very annoyed by this point. "I can't very well walk and I'm not leaving my car here. I live on the other side of town." I moved toward the door again and he put a hand on my arm.

"I'll drive your car and Sara can drive mine." He took hold of my elbow in such a manner as to suggest that he would abide no argument and steered me toward the door. I was too tired and hurt to argue with him so I let him lead me. And twenty-five minutes later I found myself lying on my own couch with a blanket tucked around me and an ice bag on my head. I was finally alone.

The summer sun was on its way to the horizon when the doorbell rang. Before I could respond I heard the door open and a voice call out. "Don't get up. It's me, Devlin."

I rolled my eyes and let my head fall back on the pillow. "What do you want?" I returned in a less-than-friendly voice.

"Sara fixed you some dinner. She's pretty concerned about you. She wanted to bring it out herself but you know she has to go into work now. I told her I would do it."

I watched as he placed the covered plate on the coffee table. "Kind of you," I said. "Be sure to tell her thanks for me." He pulled a chair up and sat next to the couch. I raised myself up on my elbows. "Just what do you think you're doing?" I asked as he unwrapped the plate and flatware.

"I'm to see to it that you eat every bite," he stated plainly.

"I don't need a babysitter."

"I'll be the judge of that," he said with a delicious smile.

I couldn't imagine why he was so intent upon being nice to me. After all, I had been incredibly rude to him since we met and yet he was solicitous and kind. I dropped back on the pillows and turned my back on him. I wanted to be left alone but he wasn't taking the hint.

"Are you going to eat or do I have to feed you?"

"I'd like to see you try," I muttered into the upholstery. I refused to turn back toward him.

"Ok," he said with a resigned sigh. "But I imagine it would taste a damn sight better if it wasn't being stuffed down your throat."

I turned around at last. He was grinning at me and holding a forkful of food, waving it in my direction. "You can't be serious."

"Yep, I promised my cousin that I would see to it you eat and I always keep my word."

"Oh, for fu..." I censored my language. "All right, hand me the plate." I pulled myself up to a sitting position. I didn't feel like eating. I was still woozy and had no appetite but I was afraid he would never go away.

He handed me the plate and utensils and adjusted the pillows behind me. I wasn't used to being taken care of and it wasn't a feeling with which I wanted to get acquainted. I shooed him away and stuffed in a mouthful of roast chicken. It was tasty. Sara has always been a good cook.

I ate about half of what was on the plate and handed it back to him. I was tired and wanted him to go but he didn't move.

"Sara says you have to eat every bite," he told me.

"I can't. There's enough there for two people."

Devlin eyed me for a moment and then took the plate. He covered it with the foil again and carried it to the kitchen. "I'll put it in the fridge. You can heat it up later if you get hungry again."

"Thanks. You probably have a lot to do and I don't want to keep you."

"Nope. I'm free the rest of the evening."

"Really, you don't have to stay." I was getting exasperated.

He returned to the living room with a big, cheerful smile. "I'm staying until you decide to be rude enough to throw me out. Sara told me all about you. You hate men and prefer to live without them. I think she's wrong."

Feeling a bit offended I tossed the blanket aside and pushed my feet onto the floor. "I really don't see how you can stand there and insult me in my own home. Have you always been this incorrigible?"

His eyes twinkled with the wickedness of a naughty child. "Yep. My mother has always told me what a daunting task it was to raise me up properly. You should meet her some time. You'd like her."

I shot him what I hoped was a scathing glance. "Well, stay if you like but I'm going to get a bath and go to bed."

"Sounds like a good idea," he said with another grin. "Let me know if I can help at all." He crossed his ankle over his knee and reached for the TV remote.

I snorted at him as I stood. "I'd love to meet your mom. Then I can tell her what a brat she raised." I ambled out of the room to sound of his chuckle.

I took extra long in the bath, hoping he would get bored and leave. I had no such luck. I heard him moving around in the other room and I wanted to scream at him to leave. I was afraid that my own yelling would set my head to throbbing again so I remained quiet. I finally had to pull myself out of the water when I noticed my fingers were wrinkled up like old prunes.

I dried my body and reached for my robe. That's when I realized that I had forgotten to grab my robe. Living alone meant that I didn't have to worry about being seen in my own home, usually. With a sigh I wrapped my damp towel around myself and tucked in the end. The hell with him, I decided, and opened the bathroom door. Without looking to see if he could see me I walked into the hallway and strode to my bedroom. I heard a low whistle behind me and closed the door with a loud thud.

I searched for something to put on. I normally sleep in the nude so I have no pajamas. I finally settled on my warm robe and went to the living room with the purpose of tossing him out on his ear. When I entered the room I was surprised to see him puttering around with a dust rag in his hand.

"I thought you drowned," he said.

"What are you doing?"

"Well, I noticed it must be the maid's week off so I thought I would tidy up a bit for you."

Again with the insults, I thought. "Did it ever occur to you that I like my dust bunnies?"

He smiled genuinely. "I remember Sara telling me how busy your life is and I just want to help. Hey, I feel like crap for what happened today. I'm trying to appease my conscience."

"I can appreciate that but you really don't have to do all this. You can forgive yourself now. It was just an accident." I looked around to see how clean my home had become and couldn't help the comforting feeling it gave me.

"Ok, then try this on for size. Maybe I'm just looking for an excuse to stay in the company of a sexy and beautiful woman. I'm drawn to you."

Oh, great. Another man on a mission, just what I needed. "Did Sara also tell you that I am hell on men?"

"Yep. It's a bit of a challenge but I think I can handle it." He marched into the kitchen and I followed.

"I'm really not looking for another failed relationship so if you don't mind I would like to be alone." I stopped to stare at my sparkling kitchen. "How did you get this so clean? I wasn't in there that long."

He grinned. "I'm a man of many talents and you were in there a lifetime."

"Devlin," I said with a conviction I no longer felt. "Thank you for cleaning my house but you are wasting your time here."

"I'll be the judge of that." He took my arm and steered me back toward the couch. "You just sit here. I'm going to brew you up something that will help you sleep. It's an old family recipe." He tucked the blanket around my legs and left the room.

"I found some rum in the liquor cabinet," he called from the kitchen. "I'm going to make you hot-buttered rum. It will send you right off to sleep."

"You went through my cabinets?" I bristled at the thought of my things being rifled through. "Did you happen to find my underwear drawer on your travels?"

I heard him laughing. It was an irritating and wonderful sound. "I haven't made it back that far," he said. "Is there something in there I should see?" He came back into the living room with a mug of steaming liquid.

"You are going to make me nuts." I took the mug and sniffed at its contents.

"Go ahead, try it. I promise you'll like it."

I took a sip. I refused to admit that it tasted good. "Would you please go now? I have to be up for work in the morning. I'm going to need all the sleep I can get."

He sat next to me on the couch. "As soon as you're done with the toddy I will tuck you into bed and then I'll go."

"What am I, three? I don't need another father. I already have one of those. I'm a big girl now and I am quite capable of taking care of myself."

He was unperturbed. He gazed at me with those damnable green eyes and I wanted to slap him. He raised a hand to guide the mug to my lips. I took another sip and set the mug on the coffee table. My head was starting to ache again and I just wanted him to go.

"You fascinate me," he blurted out.

I frowned at him. Where was he going with this line?

He stood and walked around behind the couch. "I feel that I know you." I felt his hands touch the back of my head. He began to seductively massage my scalp. It felt wonderful and, for some reason, I let him continue.

"I don't think we ever met before," I mumbled.

He laughed softly. "You never know." He stopped rubbing my head. "Pick up your drink."

I did as I was told. I thought how strange it was to just blindly comply with his orders. It wasn't like me at all. I took a sip of the toddy and settled back against the couch, holding the mug.

"I want you to drink it all," he said as his hands returned to their task. He rubbed the base of my skull. It felt like heaven. His hands wandered slowly downward to my neck and shoulders. The deep kneading motion was having its desired effect as my body began to turn to rubber. Warmth was spreading through me and reaching the area between my legs.

"You should go now," I murmured. I didn't want to make anymore mistakes with men, and I was very attracted to this one.

"Not until you finish your drink." He continued working the stress out of my muscles. "We'll get you into bed and then I'll go."

I took a gulp of the savory drink and sighed. I had always prided myself on not allowing anyone to pamper or take care of me, and here was this man breaking all my rules. And, what was worse, I could not make myself care.

"Why are you being so nice to me?" I was searching for a topic of conversation to distract my thoughts from his hands.

"Because you're letting me." His voice was soft and deep. It made my body tingle.

"No, I'm not. You're just doing it."

He laughed. I was becoming more and more fond of the sound of it. I leaned back into his hands and rolled my head back with my eyes closed. He stopped massaging for a moment. I felt his lips on my forehead. It was a tender little kiss but it brought me out of the spell he was casting. I jerked myself upright and pushed away from him. I set the mug down and stood to face him.

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bySweetWitch© 57 comments/ 51875 views/ 111 favorites

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