She entered his office, shook his perfectly manicured hand, and sat down. Despite its cleanliness it repulsed her. Ready to hear the list of demands about to be placed in the contract, she sat down and took out her notebook. This client was not her favorite. This one made her feel a little off, but she wasn’t going to let some odd feeling stop her success. She had made a name for herself, and she wasn’t going to let one jackass slander her. She would complete his redesign, prove she was great at what she did, and then move on. Never again would she have to shake hands with this sad excuse for a man ever again.
She sat down, prepared to get every last detail perfect. Only he didn’t do the same. He paced uncomfortably around the room and began a speech. The self-righteous kind of speech about how he was so great and she ought to recognize that he had made her big and that she owed him big. He repeated how she should have taken him up on his offers of dinners and dates and on and on.
She stood. Enough is enough. She is done, now. Damn the rest. She relayed that much to him, and when she headed towards the door, he stepped in front of her, grinning, his crooked but perfectly bleached white teeth glaring at her. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong. She stepped around him forging her way to the door, but he grabbed her wrists and slammed her hard against the wall. “You listen up real good,” he snarled, “You hear me? You are mine, I own you, and you had better start listening.”
She tried to scream, but nothing came out, she screamed at the top of her lungs but not a single note vibrated from her throat. She tried to run for the door, to run to safety, but her legs wouldn’t work. She was frozen in place, unable to move or speak, yet wanting to claw her way out. She was panicked, her heart beat a thousand beats per second, but she was helpless, thrashing uselessly about yet remaining paralyzed….
She woke up in a sweat. She was breathing hard, every muscle coiled tightly. Her heart was pounding. She looked around. She was safe. She was still curled up on that comfy chair, and even though the stars were covered by clouds, she knew they were there. She could see the light from the stars and the moon shining through the clouds and she was safe. She was alive. Her breathing slowly returned to normal, and eventually her heart did the same.
Damn these nightmares.
She would live to see another day. It was just a dream she continued to remind herself, soothing herself, alone, in this apartment, her only companions being the awful memories that had set up residence in the living room and the fear of the unpredictable future making itself permanent in the bedroom.
But her mind wouldn’t shut down. She got up and hobbled to the kitchen. She had skipped supper in favor of Tylenol and rest, but now her stomach was crying in response. She looked around, but nothing looked good. Some crappy cheap wieners were in the fridge, along with her left over mac n cheese she made from a box. Ish. She opened the cupboard, but it was just stale popcorn in a Ziploc bag and some cheap noodles in a box. She thought back to her old home where instead of noddles from a box she’d be eating homemade ravioli with homemade bread, the smell wafting through the door from her housekeeping/cook’s efforts earlier in the day. The thought made her stomach flip again, and she was desperate for some comfort food. She couldn’t even splurge and order in. This town would definitely be shut down by this hour. She scanned the counters and found a wonderfully bright red box of cereal, the kind mixed with sweet little marshmallows. Yes. This will do.
She hobbled back to the chair and munched on her goodies. She thought back to the attack earlier in the night. It just seemed to be some wild teenager with a terrible idea gone wrong. He gave up too quickly to be a real criminal, but the thought that anyone could attempt something like that brought acid to the marshmallows in her belly. Life was so full of contradictions – a beautiful sunset and a horrible attack. A painful injury and a handsome helper.
Her mind drifted back to the events of the previous evening. The young attacker, a run gone badly, and then her first conversation with Mr. Goodlooking, Tucker if she recalled correctly. Oh yes, Tucker Johnson. She remembered the deep reverberation in his chest when he spoke, the sultry voice that seemed to slow her chaotic, spinning world, the kindness and compassion he showed upon her injury, and how quickly her body responded, still aching with need.
Her blood pooled below her navel just about every time he spoke, or touched her hand, or when she was touching him and it seemed to settle there, even now. He set something off in her body that she hadn’t felt, hadn’t allowed for years.
After two years of purposely avoiding human connection beyond skin deep, she was afraid she had lost her ability to connect with another human being. She was starting to think she had become an old clay pot, finished, completed, set in her ways, unable to feel the way she used to, unable to melt and be molded, especially not by a sexy, stimulating, and intriguing man. She was delighted that her body responded in ways it hadn’t in years, possibly ever.
But then again, if she got her heart involved, it would be hard to leave. And she didn’t always have time to say good bye. She wasn’t sure she was ready for that, but knew it was inevitable if she was around that man much longer. In just two short hours she had learned more about him than she had about all of her friends over the past two years. And she loved it.
But thinking about him made her body ache again in fresh ways, and she wanted to scratch that itch. Maybe she could keep it only skin deep. Maybe she could scratch this itch, and just let that be. Dust out the cobwebs only… Any man’s dream, right?
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