tagRomancePlaying Doctor Ch. 07

Playing Doctor Ch. 07


Chapter Seven: Tiger burning bright

We dried off and gathered our clothes in a euphoric cloud. I kept sneaking peeks at Keven and I caught him eying me with a goofy grin on more than one occasion.

Brazenly, I walked back to the house with my clothes in hand and a towel across my shoulders. Keven was a gentleman and walked beside me, rather than behind me. For the first time in my life, I was actually disappointed that I wasn't being ogled. The conversation between us was almost non-existent on a verbal level, but the body language was speaking up loud and clear. We hadn't just crossed a barrier, we'd pole-vaulted over it.

When we got to the house, I saved Keven from wondering where things stood by selecting the guest room next to the master. "I'll take this bedroom," I said, and I smiled at him and the slightly disappointed expression my comment elicited. "Though I don't know how many nights I'll sleep in it." That perked him up.

Keven pulled me into a gentle embrace and whispered in my ear. "I'm happy we've moved to this level in our relationship, but..." He seemed to be choosing his words with care. "I don't want you to feel like you have to sleep in my bed. In fact, I don't want you there unless you want to be there. I do hope, though that you do."

I looked into those dark eyes of his. I couldn't tell him how much those words meant to me, so I opted to lessen the emotional level before I was bawling my eyes out -- or maybe me balling him till his eyes fell out. "It's good you're not taking me for granted already," I said with a mischievous smile. I touched his cheek briefly. "We'll talk after we shower and change. You owe me dinner."

Closing the door behind me, I set my dirty clothes in a chair and kicked off my shoes. Then I slipped into the large shower stall, cranked the heated water up till steam was everywhere and groaned as my body thanked me.


Half an hour later I was down in the kitchen, dressed in new jeans and a teal blouse. With bare feet, I padded up behind Keven and gave him a drive-by kiss before he knew I was even there.

"I'm thirsty," I announced. "What's to drink around this place?"

"Water, tea, beer and wine," he replied. "What do you want?"

"Tea, for now. Maybe a glass of wine with dinner." I opened the refrigerator and found the tea on a lower shelf. "What's for dinner, oh mighty hunter?"

"Chicken Alfredo," he said while taking in my posterior. I grinned at him and poured us each a glass of tea. "What sparked that," he asked when I handed it to him.

"You looked thirsty."

Keven laughed. "That's not what I meant. I was talking about the pier. I thought you wanted to take things slow."

"Well, that's not exactly right," I said, taking a seat at the table. "I was feeling like things were rushing along, beyond my control. So, I decided to give in to temptation, take something I wanted anyway, and take control at the same time. Are you complaining?"

He held out a hand in denial. "No complaints here. I was surprised, but I guess that's what you wanted. Making love to you was a life-altering experience."

"We were both hungry for each other and that took the edge off our lust. Now that we aren't spending so much time wondering how good it will be, we can take our time to do this right. For example," I said putting some heat into my smile, "I hope tonight is slow and romantic. Not that I mind fast and furious, but it's been a long time for me and I want it all."

"I think we can manage that." He started draining the noodles. "Was it the same for you - the hunger?"

I nodded. "I don't know what it is, but I feel like I've known you all my life, and it's like an empty place is filled when you're around." I laughed at his grin. "Not that empty place, Stud. Not everything is sex, sex, sex. I mean emotionally."

That didn't dim his grin at all. He poured the sauce over the chicken and noodles and set my plate in front of me. "I know, but all men are pigs; even emotionally everything is sex, sex, sex." He exchanged the grin for a gentle smile. "Honestly, I feel the same way. From the moment I saw you, I not only wanted your body but I wanted your heart."

Again I felt the emotion for this man well up inside of me. Again, I couldn't meet it head on. "You know the path to a woman's heart," I said instead, taking a scrumptious bite of the tender chicken. "Right through her stomach. This is wonderful!" One of my pesky inner voices chided me for my cowardice, pointing out I would have to face the emotions at some point.

Keven laughed and shook his head. "I thought that was a man's line. And as a doctor, you know the shortest path to a woman's heart is through her rib cage."

"True," I admitted, "except that I mean the emotional heart, not the physical one. And I'm being facetious anyway. The food is wonderful, but the emotional connection is much, much better." Maybe it was time to face it now, I thought. I looked out the window to gather my thoughts and froze with my fork partway to my mouth. The sun was just setting behind the curve of the central mountain peak and the ice was lit up with red. At that moment, I knew I was in love. Admittedly, I was in love with his house and not Keven, not yet, but it was a start.

"It's unbeatable," he said after the sun had set, plunging the valley into a kind of twilight; hours before dark back home. "I sometimes live out here almost full-time. Though I can't anymore."

Forcing my eyes away from the spectacle outside, I looked at him questioningly. "Why not?"

"Because my girlfriend, my emotional touchstone, is a very successful doctor who can't live this far away from her patients, and besides, she makes the beauty of this place pale in comparison anyway."

That unexpected comment slid through any of my remaining reservations like a scalpel. With a happy cry, I jumped up and kissed him soundly. He, of course, was caught completely off-guard. Men. They never see it coming, although Keven saw my few tears. His expression went from bewildered to thoughtful, but he had the presence of mind, at least, to hug and kiss me back.

When I sat back down and dug back into my food, I kept sending him glances that would tell a perceptive man that he had cleared the last hurdle. Maybe Keven would interpret them correctly, maybe not, but he had become my boyfriend in my heart as well as in my brain with that one sentence.

I still didn't have time in my career for a relationship, but tough shit. I was having one anyway, and the doctor would just have to make room. I was so happy that even all the other troubles were sliding out of my mind. I couldn't do anything about them anyway.

We finished our dinner, chatting about inconsequential things. I insisted on doing the dishes and he didn't argue. When the kitchen was ship-shape, I tracked him down in the living room. "What would you like to do now?"

Keven smiled lazily. "I should think that would be perfectly obvious." He pulled me into his arms and kissed me. "After an afternoon of wild, unexpected sex there can only be one suitable follow-up."

I smiled knowingly and he nodded. "That's right; I want to start painting you."

I swatted him in mock outrage. "Painting?!? You don't want to throw me over your shoulder and carry me off like a caveman would take his woman?"

He grinned undeterred. "I can't do both?"

"Funny man," I laughed. "Okay, what do you want to paint that you can actually display somewhere?"

Stepping back, he took his chin in his hand and considered me thoughtfully. "I think a nude of you rising out of the water, climbing the ladder on the pier with the water running off your body."

I shivered at the memory of that ladder and immediately felt myself moistening. "Okay. How do we do this? It's a bit dark to go down to the lake."

"Here's a little painting secret. I can start with the centerpiece, you, and then add in the background at a later time." He gestured to the stairs. "Let's go up and paint a red-haired goddess. Then we'll see what happens next. Actually, you head on up and I'll be right there after I change into my painting togs."

"You have special painting clothes?" I asked. "Are they as weird as some golfing outfits? Do they come with a goofy hat?"

Keven laughed and shooed me up the stairs. "You'll find out in good time. Why don't you get yourself comfortable, and I'll just be a minute?"

Right then, my cell phone rang in my purse on the table. I fished it out and looked at the number. It wasn't one I recognized.


"Miss Craig? This is Detective Williams. I have some good news for you," he said. My heart started thudding in my chest. "We picked up the man that was harassing the two of you."

"You've got him already? That's wonderful!" I gushed. "Thank God! So, it's safe to come back?"

"He isn't talking, and he seems to be working alone so I think it is safe enough for you to come back," he confirmed.

I looked over at Keven and he was frowning and shaking his head. "Hang on, Detective. What, Keven?"

He adroitly snatched my phone from my hand and held it up to his face. "Detective?" he asked smoothly. "Keven Braddock here. Just to be safe, I think we should stay here a few more days, possibly a week longer. Don't you think that would be prudent?" He waggled his eyebrows at me and I rolled my eyes. "I'm glad you agree. If there's any other breaking news, please give us a call. Thank you."

He hung up the phone and tossed it back to me with a grin. "Safety first. Oh, crap," he said, snapping his fingers. "I forgot."

He pulled me into the living room and pointed above the fireplace. There was a display of horns and a shotgun. "That's loaded and ready to fire. If something were to need shooting, just pull it down, press the button beside the trigger in and then it becomes a 'point and click interface.' Point it at whatever needs shooting and interface." He grinned at me.

"I don't like guns," I said with a theatrical shudder. "If something needs shooting, you can take care of it. Wait, you mean like snakes? Are there snakes out here?"

He nodded. "Yes, but they won't trouble us. I was more concerned with the human kind of snake."

"Thank God we don't have to worry about that," I said with relief. "And about staying out here, I don't know about a week. Maybe a couple of days."

"We'll talk about that tomorrow. Just be happy that it's over. Now let's go do some painting," he said with a note of assurance in his voice. It would be interesting to see who got their way on how long we stayed out here.

I showed him my dimples and headed up the stairs and into the studio. The massive windows showed the land outside in a deepening twilight that was turning into night. The quarter moon lit the ground in an ethereal, silver light. The lake shimmered like something from a fairy tale. It was so romantic.

Undressing slowly, I folded my clothes and set them on a handy chair. The warm air of the studio relaxed me, but I still felt vulnerable with all my clothes off.

Keven came in carrying a covered canvas that he put on a stand by the door. He looked like he hadn't changed yet.

"I thought you were going to get into your painting gear." I fought the urge to drape my arms across my breasts. I shouldn't feel so self-conscious after we'd made love, but it felt really odd to be totally naked while he was fully dressed.

"I fibbed," he said with a grin. "I actually went down to your car to get something."

"What?" I asked, stepping next to him.

"A present for you." He pulled the cover off with a flourish.

My breath froze in my throat and my hands flew to my mouth. The racing children! He had saved it! Then it hit me. He said it was a present for me.

With a squeal, I crushed him in my arms, jumping up and down like a mad-woman. "You planned this all along? Ohmigod! I love you! Thank you! Thank you!" Then I froze. "Waitaminute! It's worth thousands of dollars! I can't accept a gift like that!"

He kissed my forehead softly. "Of course you can. From the moment you said you wanted it, it was yours. I can't deny you anything." Then he looked deeply into my eyes. "Do you?"

"Do I what?" I asked, comfortable in his arms.

"Love me. I realized that I loved you that first night, you know."

Had I said that? I ran my mind back over the last few moments and realized I had said it, in a moment of unguarded enthusiasm. Did I mean it like that?

"I suppose that I do mean it, though I don't know how deeply it's going to go yet." I looked deep into his eyes and kissed him. "And I don't know that I won't fall so head over heels for you that my life will never be the same, either. I guess we'll figure that out as we go."

"I like that idea. Maybe we should put off painting for tonight," he whispered, sending a thrill up my spine.

I was about to nod my agreement when a flash of light outside diverted my attention. There was something moving out there with a white light.

Keven turned with me toward the lake. "What in the..."

It looked like a car driving down to the lake, but that wasn't possible. We were all alone out here. No, it was a car. "Someone's out here," I said quietly. "Who could it be? And I didn't think the path was wide enough for a car."

"It's not," Keven said, the tension in his voice as sudden as the arrival of the car. "See how it's coming in from the left? There aren't any trees over there, so it's a straight shot to the lake. That's how the workers that put in the pier went down."

As we spoke the car careened down the hill. It was obvious that it was accelerating way too fast to be safe. It was hard to see clearly, but it looked almost uncontrolled. Squinting, I tried to see what the shape of the car was, because it looked familiar. Right as it hit the pier and splashed into the water I realized what was so familiar about it.

"That's my car!" I screamed. I started for the door, trying to figure out what was going on, but Keven grabbed me by the arm.

"No, stay here." His eyes, so warm and loving were cold and hard now. "Someone did that, and they may be in the house. I'm going to get the shotgun. Stay here."

My heart was in my throat and I felt frozen where I stood. I had to do something. I couldn't just stand here and let Keven go get himself killed. Forcing my feet, I started out the door and into the upstairs hall. It was so open, how could anyone expect to sneak up on us? As if on cue, the lights went out, plunging the house into darkness. Great. Shut up, Sandy. Stop giving the bad guys ideas.

With one hand on the wall, I found the stairs without falling to my death. I was about to start downstairs when I heard a crash that sounded like someone had dropped a silverware drawer and lots of metal bouncing around.

I froze, waiting to hear something else. Anything else. Silence. Like a tomb. Jesus, Sandy! Shut up!

Taking a deep breath, I descended to the bottom of the steps and turned toward the kitchen. The light of the moon filled the room with shadow and dim light. Small glittering things were scattered all over the floor and the shotgun lay beside the glass door leading out to the patio. Just outside the door on the patio itself was a sprawled figure.

"Keven!" I screamed, running to his side, almost falling on scattered silverware. A fork jabbed me painfully in the foot but I ignored it. I grabbed his head and turned him over onto his back. His hair was matted in hot blood.

I was ready to freak out completely when I forced myself to take a deep breath. Panic wasn't the answer. Time to be like Danny; just put it aside and deal with the crisis. I could panic later if I wanted to. Bending over, I put my ear to his lips and heard him breathing. He was alive, thank God!

"Isn't that just so fucking sweet?" a cold, female voice asked from outside. I felt like I was back at the lake with cold water suddenly splattering my naked torso. Then the smell hit me. Gasoline.

I grabbed the shotgun and brought it to my shoulder, backing up till the railing touched my ass. Karen stepped out of dark shadow and hefted what looked like a half-full whiskey bottle.

With a nasty laugh, she upended it and poured some of it on Keven. "You should never have taken what was mine, bitch," she continued in that cold, totally insane voice. "You'll both burn in hell tonight." She stepped back from Keven and pulled a cloth from her pocket, stuffing it into the half-full bottle.

"Don't move," I told her, trying to hold the gun pointed at her even though my trembling arms made it swing almost in a figure eight.

Karen laughed again. "Even if you knew how to use that thing, which you obviously don't, you won't shoot me. What is it that doctors swear? Do no harm?" Digging into her pocket again, she pulled out a lighter. "Time for you and Kevy-Boy to die."

I closed my eyes and jerked the trigger. Nothing happened. My eyes popped open and I stared at the damned thing. It was broke! I held it out and stared at it.

With a flick of her thumb, Karen lit the cloth on fire.

The safety! I'd forgotten the safety! Searching with my finger, I found a button in front of the trigger and pushed it in with a sharp "click." I forced the heavy gun back up to my shoulder and pointed it at Karen. "Drop it! I'll shoot!"

With a sneer, she drew the bottle over her head to throw it at Keven and I felt the calm inevitability of certainty. I jerked the trigger and the shotgun went off.

Everything happened so fast. It was just a jumble of images and pain. The gun kicked me in my shoulder like a sledgehammer wielded by John Henry. Incredible pain exploded where it hit me and I stumbled back.

I had a momentary vision of a burning, screaming torch where Karen had been standing, and that calm voice in the back of my mind told me I must've hit the bottle. The next half moment, my ass hit the rail and I flipped backwards off the patio.

In barely a moment I screamed and then I hit the ground. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say the ground hit me. Hard. Even harder than the shotgun. I heard a sickening snap as I landed on my left arm. Then I really started screaming.

I wanted to throw up. I wanted to pass out. I wanted to do anything but get up, but I didn't have a choice. I staggered to my feet, sparing my left arm a look as cold adrenaline pumped into my bloodstream. Broken forearm, that calm voice told me. It needed to be splinted, I was advised.

Swallowing hard, I stumbled around the patio until I came to the stairs. The screaming had stopped and now the horrible stench of burnt meat filled my nostrils. Burnt pork, I thought almost laughing wildly. "Bitch, the other white meat!" the voice in my head shouted. I was going into shock and I didn't have time for this.

When I was able to pull myself up the stairs with my right hand, I found things pretty much as I'd left them. Keven was still on the patio by the door and bitch was spread out like a burning starfish on the patio. I staggered well clear of her and idly wondered if those cheap implants of hers would burn.

I stepped over Keven and fell down hard when a piece of silverware slid under my foot. The pain almost made me pass out and I confess I screamed like a little girl, cradling my left arm. I didn't want to get up. The gasoline was making my skin burn, something had scratched the hell out of my back when I fell off the patio and my arm hurt like a stone-cold bitch. Too bad I didn't have the luxury of just giving up.

Forcing myself to my feet, I slid my bare feet on the floor, kicking silverware all over the place with every step. I made my way to the counter and found the fire extinguisher by the sink. Stumbling back outside, I stepped over the now twitching and groaning Keven and tried to figure out how to pull the stupid pin with one hand.

Grabbing the pin in my teeth, I pulled it out and spat. Then I squeezed the handle and put the smoldering bitch out. There was nothing left but a charred corpse. Without warning, my stomach revolted and I barely made it to the rail before I vomited. The extinguisher fell to the patio with a metal "thunk."

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