Playing Doctor Ch. 06byWine_Maker©
Chapter Six: Taking the plunge
From the silence that followed my agreement to go away, I assumed that I had caught them all off guard; they had all marshaled their arguments for my expected resistance and now had to reorganize their thoughts. That amused me in a kind of dark way.
While Keven was making a phone call, Danny opened the door and let the detective in. His expression told me his news hadn't changed for the better. "Are you feeling better, Miss?" At my nod, he pulled up a chair, looked at me for a moment and sighed. "There is no way to sugar coat this. The news is bad, I'm afraid. It looks like the same person or persons set your home on fire. The same message was sprayed on the sidewalk. Someone broke a window with a brick and tossed in another Molotov cocktail. The fire crews are working hard, but I'm afraid the house is going to be a loss."
I sagged back onto the bed. Thank God I'd never gotten any pets. "What about the guy that did this? Do you have any leads on him?"
He shook his head. "We're still working on getting an ID. The parking lot camera at the restaurant where the first guy grabbed you caught a good view of the other guy, and we're putting him out on the wire and have an all points bulletin out for him. There is a policeman outside your door right now, and if you stay in the city we'll have one with you at all times."
I nodded. "I think they want to smuggle me out of the city and hide me away in the boonies."
He smiled. "So I heard. I gather they expected armed resistance to the idea from the way they were plotting out a step-by-step attack. Since I didn't hear any screaming, I assume you decided a little vacation was in order, right?"
I smiled wryly. "I'm a woman, so I can't let them figure me out that easily. I'll go."
He smiled at my attempt at humor, and then got serious again. "I understand you're a doctor, so I know that you've occasionally had to tell someone something they don't want to hear, and give someone a professional opinion to do something they don't really want to do. Right?"
"Yes," I replied, a ghost of a smile on my lips. "I've been in that position once or twice."
"Okay, so I also know you must hate the idea of running away, of feeling like you have to run away, but in my professional opinion, I think that's the smart thing for you to do right now," he agreed. "It's exactly what I would do if I were in your position."
I stared in surprise for a few moments, for the first time, really seeing him as a person. With just a few words, this man had placed my situation in a context I could understand, and that alone made me feel better about my decision to leave. "You have a terrific bedside manner, Detective," I told him, with no sarcasm at all in my voice. "Thank you for your consideration of my feelings. You're a good man."
He flushed in embarrassment, ignoring the compliment. "The doc told me he's already working up the paperwork to cut you loose so I'd expect to be moving in fifteen or twenty minutes. I'd like for you to help me in an attempt to catch the bad guy before you vanish, though."
My cheek twitched and I tensed back up. "How?"
"It's possible that this guy has someone watching the hospital," he said calmly. "I'd like you to come back to the station with me, in my car, and then to go inside. I'll have someone watching us for tails. When we get there, your boyfriend will be around back, and we'll slide you right through the building and get you on the way out of town with them none the wiser. I'll even have another detective follow at a distance to make sure someone doesn't twig to the switch. It makes sure you're safer than if you just bolted for cover on your own. Oh, and I'd like to know where you are and how to contact you, but I'll keep that to myself until we catch this whack-job."
For a moment, I agonized over it and then nodded. The man was trying to help me. "I'll do that."
He reached out and squeezed my hand. "Good. I'll go work out the details and let your boyfriend know."
I watched him as he went to talk with Keven and the Hammersteins. Then I shook my head. He'd called Keven my boyfriend twice, and it only now occurred to me how normal that sounded. I was adjusting to this relationship thing much more easily than was normal for me, or more easily than I thought I should. I'd have to make sure and keep the pace slow when we got there. I would not fall right into his bed. I wouldn't. I hoped.
The little huddle broke up a few minutes later. Danny and Holly came to give me hugs and tell me to be safe, and then they left with the detective, leaving me alone with Keven. He took the chair next to the bed and held my hand comfortably. It made me relax in a way that was frightening all on its own.
"This is scary," I told him softly.
"They'll catch him," he assured me with a confident smile.
"Not that," I chuckled. "That detective is good at what he does, and I know he'll get the guy. I mean us. This boyfriend-girlfriend thing. It's feeling way more comfortable than I like."
Raising his eyebrow, he smiled. "See? That wasn't so hard. Now we know who we are in relation to each other."
"That's one of the things that makes me uncomfortable," I admitted. "For a long time now, my only relationship has been with my work. It's been so important to me, for so long, that I don't have any idea how to mesh that 'relationship' with the one you and I are beginning to share, and it's a bit unsettling."
"You don't think my work has been my relationship, too?" he asked softly. "Painting is a solitary task. I sometimes have models but they are not really interacting with me like that."
I fixed him with a smirk. "Well, you did have a girlfriend."
"Karen," he said with a knowing nod. "Well, that was a mistake from almost the first day, and I knew it. She modeled for me, and I was weak. Maybe a bit lonely, too. She pushed and pushed, and out of my loneliness, I let the relationship develop when I should have just quashed it."
"Quashed it before or after you slept with her?" I asked archly. I flushed as the rudeness of my question struck me.
Keven didn't take offense, however. "After, of course," he said with his roguish grin. "Priorities, my dear. If a woman is going to throw herself at me, I should at least sample the goods so I can make an informed decision."
"You didn't sleep with me," I pointed out.
He nodded and toned the grin back down to a smile. "No, I didn't, and that's because however much it might have seemed like a casual relationship, I never saw it that way, not from the very first moment. I won't lie to you. I've chased my share of skirts, and a few besides. And I've let myself get caught by a few, sometimes to my regret." His gaze grew intense, his dark eyes smoldering. "The difference here is that I'm not chasing your skirt. I'm chasing your heart."
My mouth went dry and a bolt of electricity shot through me. Dear God, it was worse than I'd thought. He was after the whole package. I really didn't need this kind of complication in my life, as much as I was starting to want it. No, crave it.
Keven leaned forward slowly. He was going to kiss me, I knew. He was giving me the chance to stop him if I chose to, but he wasn't asking. I licked my dry lips and didn't dodge him.
Our lips touched and it felt like a spark jumped between us. The kiss wasn't urgent or possessive. It was slow, soft and warm. Comfortable. I saw that he didn't close his eyes and we looked deep into each other's soul as the kiss deepened. My insides melted, causing me to start to leak, and I wondered how much weight this bed could support.
His hand slid around my waist and pulled us together. The touch of his body to mine told me I was lost. It wasn't a matter of if I'd make love to him anymore. Now it was just a question of how long I could hold myself back. My body ached for him and only my mind -- 'more like your stubbornness and your fear,' an inner voice chided -- kept me from pulling him on top of me right here.
With gentle insistence, his tongue split my lips and I opened my mouth in welcome. It began dancing with my tongue in the age-old ritual of passion. My doubts, whether they were borne of stubbornness, fear or something else - I no longer cared - vanished in seconds. I felt the connection to him emotionally and knew it was right. It was so strong, like a river current, strong and unstoppable. The taste of his mouth was like nectar, sweet and at the same time that of primal man.
I tangled my hand in his luxurious hair and crushed his lips to mine, giving myself to him in the way only a woman can. Our mouths writhed together in a kiss that had suddenly moved from gentle to demanding. I wanted him and it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out he wanted me, too. His hand on my waist moved higher, pausing indecisively below my breasts. I used my free hand to put his hand on my breast before sliding my arm around him again. I needed him to know I wanted him, too.
Another little voice in my head started whispering that I was supposed to go slow. I groaned and gently pushed him back until our lips parted. His eyes were wide with desire, and I know my heat matched his. I didn't try to dislodge his hand from cupping my breast and my nipple was achingly stiff, digging into his palm through the hospital gown. "I don't want to stop," I whispered, "but I need to."
His warm breath on my cheek sent enough sparks through me that I almost gave back in and used my hand tangled in his hair to take him again, but the moment was broken by someone clearing their throat at the door. We both jumped back from each other and stared at the nurse in the doorway. She was grinning at us. "Excuse me, but the doctor has released you, Doctor Craig. I have your prescription and we're ready for you to - ahem - put your clothes back on."
I blushed furiously at having been caught making out. Necking and groping. Keven stepped into the void and smiled at her. "Thanks. Close the door and she'll get dressed right away."
The nurse backed out, still grinning widely. "There's a detective waiting, so don't take too long," she sing-songed right before she closed the door.
I slid out of the bed and opened the bag holding my clothes. Then I looked over at Keven, still seated in the chair. "Out." If I pulled off this gown, there would be no doubt left as to how far gone I was for him.
He grinned. "But I've already seen you naked."
"And that will just have to tide you over," I said archly. "The next time you see me naked will be when we're ready to spend some quality time alone. There are too many interruptions around this place. Now, out." I pointed at the door.
Unrepentant, he slid out and closed the door behind him. I slumped against the gurney and let my breath out. What was I doing? I wasn't even trying to pretend we weren't going to make love anymore. Not even to Keven. Had I lost every ounce of self-respect I'd ever had?
I stripped off the gown and ran water over a washcloth. I had to freshen up. He'd driven me to the edge of sexual assault on his hard body and I had to get rid of the evidence. The question in my mind wasn't "could I delay sex for a few days?" anymore. Now it was "can I hold off on ravishing him until after dark?"
As I dressed, my emotions were a whirlpool of desire and worry. I realized that my mind had said 'make love,' not 'do the mattress boogie,' and I took some comfort in that, but that 'L-word' was enough to send both panic and desire spearing through me. Would this be the first step in something wonderful or an enormous mistake? I guess there really was only one way to find out.
The shell game at the police station went off smoothly, and in an hour or so I was in my car with Keven in the passenger seat. I'm not sure what machinations they had to go through to get Keven and my car, minus his bike, behind the police station, but it had all worked.
I drove and also kept an eye on the detective tailing me. He'd been back there since the police station where we'd been introduced. He faithfully stuck behind us at a distance and stopped at the city limits. That made me nervous, being on our own.
"I need to find a place to stop and get some clothes," I said, glancing at Keven as we left the urban area behind.
"For simple things, there is a Wal-Mart about halfway there. Will that work?"
I nodded. "That's fine. I need underwear, jeans and stuff. How rough is it going to be?"
"You'd better get some boots, too. It's way off the beaten path."
"It's been a while since I went camping."
He laughed. "Well, it's rough but not that rough. I have a cabin up in the foothills. There is some great hiking and all, but you'll have a roof over your head."
"Indoor plumbing and a bed..." Just starting that sentence set off a shock-wave in my belly.
"Indoor plumbing and a bed," he agreed. "All to yourself unless you decide you want company."
"I appreciate that," I said quietly. "I'm just still trying to figure out my feelings."
He grinned at me. "After the hospital, are you sure it's your feelings you need to figure out?"
I swatted his arm and laughed. "Can't a girl have some secrets?" His hand snaked out and rested for a moment on my leg.
I looked over and felt the heat flash between us. I licked my lips and forced myself to watch the road. No, I guess that secret was out of the bag. "Okay, so I have a pretty good idea how I feel about things. You win."
He pulled his hand back. "I love winning."
"Men!" I said derisively. "Hold onto those thoughts for a while, Slick."
At the Wal-Mart he picked up some food stuff while I found a selection of rugged clothes and underwear. I picked up enough to last a week or so.
I dithered over getting some sexy night clothes and finally gave in and added them to the cart. If I was going to give myself to him, I wanted to wrap the present really well. I could get them bought and sacked before he saw them.
When I got to the check-out I discovered I had no cash. That's right, I'd been robbed. I shuddered and handed over my check card.
The checker had just finished loading my bags back into my cart when Keven arrived with what looked like a month's worth of groceries.
"Good Lord! We can't eat all this stuff!" I chided him.
"Not all at once," he agreed, loading the stuff onto the conveyor. "But this gives us a selection so we won't be down to rice and beans in a week. Choice, my dear. It's all about choice."
"But I like beans," I confided. "And how long are we going to be out here? A week?"
He shrugged. "I can't guess, but it all depends on how accurate your assessment is of your cop friend. When he tells us it's safe for us to return, then we can come back. Not before then, however."
I frowned and tapped my foot. "I don't like being away from my patients that long, and I don't like open-ended time-frames, either."
"Do you like goons hiding out and waiting for you any better?"
A good point, I admitted. "No, but I'm not going to live like a prisoner."
Keven nodded. "Then let's run with it for a week or two and see how things settle out. They may have him in a few days and it will be a moot point."
I grimaced, but bowed to the inevitable. "That's as good a place to start as anywhere, I guess."
When the food was all bagged we went back out to the car. I started to pop the trunk but he blocked me. "I have stuff in the trunk, so this will have to go in the back seat."
I raised an eyebrow. "What's in the trunk?"
"You'll find out tonight," he said disarmingly. "It's a surprise."
"After the last few days, I'm not so sure I like surprises," I said, "but I'll wait and see."
The remainder of the drive took us far from the well-traveled roads. First we left the blacktop for a one-lane county road and then a gravel road. As low slung as my convertible was, I started to get worried. "Is it going to get much rougher? This isn't a Hummer, you know."
"It's gravel all the way up, and there aren't any major dips," he said. "The road is a couple of miles in, though. Then we get to the gate to my place and its dirt, also without major bumps or holes. We'll make it."
I tried to hide my doubts and followed his directions. The gravel road rose higher into the foothills and took us deep through the tree line. The dappled sunshine made patterns of light and dark all along the road. Mixed with the sweet scent of the outdoors, it lulled my worries.
At the end of the road was a sheet-metal gate with a chain and combination lock. Keven hopped out and opened it for me and then locked it behind us. Now there was a flat dirt road that led to a house on the low ridge ahead of us. Well, perhaps house wasn't the right word. It was more of a lodge. Big and rough looking, it fit the mountains that framed it perfectly. Leave it to an artist to even make his house fit the theme.
I parked the car in a sheltered area under the lodge and climbed out, stretching my back. The place smelled of trees and flowers, even here in the garage. A wide set of stairs led up to the ground floor.
Keven popped out and grabbed my hand and the small ice-chest that had what little cold stuff we'd picked up. "Come on. I'll give you the nickel tour, and then I'll come back and empty the car."
I smiled and let him pull me up the stairs. The ground floor was wide and spacious. It was also decorated in a rugged way that set the tone. It was made to look like a camp house, though I soon saw that the kitchen was fully outfitted with everything from a Sub-Zero built in refrigerator to a massive cooking surface.
Keven efficiently stored the food and then pulled me into the living room with a smile that promised something special.
The huge picture window stopped me dead in my tracks. On the other side of the ridge was a small lake surrounded by trees. The terrain was shaped like a bowl with the lake at the bottom and it rose into the mountain range on the other side. The view was breathtaking. I was so overwhelmed that I almost didn't feel Keven wrap his arms around me.
"There's a gravel path up front that leads down to the lake. It's sheltered by the trees and it's private. The whole lake is private, and we won't see anyone up here but us. The lake is spring fed and crystal clear."
I relaxed into the shelter of his arms. "I didn't get a swimsuit," I said regretfully. It sounded wonderful.
"Since it's private and secluded, I think we can safely say that it's swimsuit optional," he whispered silkily into my ear, his breath tickling the small hairs on my neck.
I turned my head and smiled at him. "You just want to see me naked again."
"Well, you did say that the next time you get naked we would be spending quality time," he said disarmingly. "And I'd say swimming counts as 'quality time', wouldn't you? Surely you didn't have something else in mind."
"Let's finish the tour, eat something, and talk about shedding our clothes," I laughed.
The place was massive. It had a master bedroom that was to die for and the guest rooms were almost as nice. The upper deck had a hot tub and even a shrouded telescope. Everything was in the style of a camp house, with every possible amenity imaginable.
Even with all the cool things, the one room that caught my attention was his studio. It was at the end of the house on the second floor and had a three-sided view of the pristine wilderness. It also had every known supply a painter would need from blank canvases to bushels of brushes to about a billion tubes and bottles of paint. The floor was covered with a plastic sheet - to protect the wood, I supposed.
I looked at him standing in the doorway. He looked like he was itching to come in and start painting and he was eyeing me. I smiled. "So, I suppose you'll want me to pose for you while we're out here."