Chapters 20 - 23September 5 2005 at 8:05 PM
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Janice (Premier Login Mrs.B.)
Response to Turn Around, Look At Me
They swung for a moment in no-man’s land. At least that’s what it felt like to Belle. As nightmares went, this was the worst. Rappelling down three-quarters of the tower was a new experience for her. It was the last quarter, however, that would prove to be the most dangerous. The weather conditions were worsening. The temperatures were dropping rapidly and a sleet storm was building on the horizon. Her hands were frozen to her guide’s belt now and she couldn’t stop trembling.
Patrick gave up trying to see anything. It was like the blind leading the blind. He called upon his military training and experience as well as heartfelt prayer to get them through this. Belle couldn’t hold on much longer. Neither could he, but he didn’t want to admit it...not to her and not to himself. He needed to get them down and out of there in a hurry. Pushing his frozen limbs to do the impossible, he let them slide down the rope, their bodies being rammed in the process. There was no other way.
It would be so easy to snap her neck in half. Anger such as he had never known invaded Shawn’s system. Murder for the sake of murder was not something he relished, but there were always exceptions to the rule. His one true nemesis—Jan Spears would not fall through the cracks this time. His ethics be dammed. Somehow this was different—very different. The things this monster had done, and not just to him, made Shawn want to throw her to a pack of wolves and watch them slowly devour her. Removing the gun from her waistband, he pocketed it for future use.
The silence was a weapon in itself. She hung between life and death. He held the key. Jan wondered to what degree the spell was actually broken. She felt the blood rushing to her head. This man was everything to her. She existed for him and him alone. Even in a precarious situation such as this was, Jan reveled in his touch. Never a woman to hesitate, she began to sing the song that had pulled him into line so many times before. At the same time she felt her body becoming liquid heat against his. Why wasn’t his body responding accordingly?
“Round and round the cobbler's bench
The monkey chased the weasel,
The monkey thought 'twas all in fun
Pop! Goes the weasel"
His body stiffened in fierce revulsion. “Shut the hell up! It won’t work, bitch. There’s nothing you can do to me now or ever again that will make me do your bidding. Want to beg for your life? Want to give me the information I need? The damn truth for once in exchange for your miserable life?” He was whispering menacingly in her ear, just as he was cutting off her oxygen supply at the same time. “Time’s running out. Your head must be swimming by now. Just say the word and I’ll show you the mercy you never deigned to show me!”
She was shaking now. “Wh...wh...what do you want?” She croaked out dazedly. Any minute now she would pass out from lack of oxygen.
He threw her to the floor and stood over her, his eyes a deadly pool of hate. “Answers! Truthful answers for once! I know you can’t tell the difference anymore, but if I hear lies, it’s all over for you! Did I do it, Jan? Did I kill those people for you? You made me into a killing machine! Why?”
Jan took in great gulps of air, but her smile was feral in spite of the danger. “Oh poor...poor...Shawnie. What do you think? I taught you to kill and you did it so well. I only had to snap my fingers and you did whatever I wanted. I taught you so much. You were such a sweet virgin to initiate...one thing your bitch Belle never got to experience first. I do hope she is enjoying herself now!”
He slapped her hard. “It’s called rape!” He shouted. “It’s called filthy rape! If you were as much of a woman as Belle is, I would honor my code of never hurting a lady. You are nothing but a monster so I don’t feel that compulsion. You’re nothing but a piece of garbage!
Blood was dripping from her lip now. “You certainly didn’t think so when you were in my bed, honey. You couldn’t wait to get into my body, do things I’m sure Miss Belle would never understand in a million years...my little sex slave...once...twice...three times a day at a minimum! Want to hear more?”
“Tricks, bitch! Why was that exactly, Jan? You needed to brainwash me before I would touch you? Is that how it went down? Because I swear to god I would rather touch a rattlesnake than go anywhere near you!” His laughter was grating. The memories were excruciating.
Even now her eyes were glassy with need just thinking about it. She reached for his leg and he kicked her away. “You can make any explanation you want, but I have the tapes. You came to me of your own free will. You did whatever I told you. And most of all baby, you loved every minute of it. You couldn’t get enough! You begged for it! You crawled on your knees for it! But only from me...you were addicted to me and me alone!” She laughed seductively, taunting him at the same time. “Why don’t you let me show you just what you’ve been missing?” She was so ready for him.
Shawn’s hand reached for a bottle from the liquor cart and smashed it on the desk. Taking the largest shard, he knelt down beside her and pressed it against her vocal cords. “Save it for Jiang! You destroy everything you touch, don’t you Jan? He was a good man! He had a good family! Now he’s nothing but a broken man...a traitor...and for what? So you could amuse yourself? Play your little games? Hurt me?”
With the glass so close to her throat, her voice barely rose above a whisper. And yet it still held amusement. “I had something he wanted. He had something I wanted. Just a business deal, lover. You knew how to stop all of this at any time. You knew what I wanted! Deep down you knew what you wanted as well! Me, Shawn! You wanted me! You still want me!”
She was delusional as well as insane, he thought. “Belle is the only woman I have ever wanted. She’s the only woman I will ever want. If anything happens to her, you’ll die! Now I’m asking you one last time, Jan. Did I kill them? I have nothing to lose. Nobody on earth cares whether you live or die. I would be doing humanity a great service by removing your miserable polluted body from our planet!”
Jan shook her head in disbelief. “It’s killing you to think you might have done those things, isn’t it? Shawn has to be the hero...Shawn has to save the day...you won’t kill me! You can’t do it! You don’t have the guts!” In the next instant she felt a little sting...a tiny cut.
His eyes met hers sardonically. “Oh but I can. I’ve changed in so many ways because of you. Killing the monster who took Belle away from me has been my one and only goal for a long...long...time.”
Jan smiled evilly. “She’s probably dead by now anyway. Of course the guards would have played with her first...they aren’t choosy...maybe she even enjoyed it...the little slut...”
His foot came down on her stomach. “You have a death wish?” He pulled her up. “Call them off! If they even touched her, you won’t see the light of a new day! If anything has happened to my friends, I will destroy you inch by inch. That’s a promise.” He handed her a cellphone from the desk and waited.
The guard opened the trapdoor and gasped. Visibility was almost nil but... What the hell? There was no way they could have escaped from up here. He flipped on his heavy duty flashlight and searched the corners, up and down the walls, and finally the ledges. No way! His hands felt along until he felt something. A rope? Fighting the sleet and snow, he looked over the ledge. The whiteout prevented him from seeing them, but he knew they were there. He had two choices as he saw it—cut the rope and let them fall to their deaths, or be waiting for them when they finally made it down. The latter would allow him to use the girl. The former would be messy to clean up... His cellphone went off and he let go of the rope.
Moments later he was swearing.
The doctor in Belle was very much afraid that even if they did get out of this mess, the physical damage would be too much. She hated that she was just a dead weight against Patrick now. Her strength was all but gone. She wondered if she would ever be warm again. She wondered if she would ever see Shawn again.
He felt a slight tugging at the rope. Damn it! All he needed was for it to be caught on a jagged edge. After what seemed like hours, they were twenty feet from the ground now...still too far to jump...unless... Just then he felt the rope straighten itself out once more. He made a life and death decision and yelled Belle’s name.
“Are you okay?”
She tried to move her frozen lips. “Yes. Don’t worry about me, Patrick.”
He could hear the exhaustion in her voice. “We need to get down now. It isn’t much farther. I know it’s dangerous but I’m going to move us as fast as I can. You need to tuck your knees into your body when we get near the bottom and then roll. I’ll tell you when. Do you understand, Belle? I swear I’ll be there right by your side. Do it for Shawn, Belle. Do it for Shawn...”
“Tell him to bring them to you, Jan. I swear I am this close to killing you if you don’t,” Shawn whispered angrily... “And no tricks!” He listened as she followed his orders. Twisting her arm behind her back, he sat her down at the desk and waited behind her. She whimpered as her arm caught on the desk lamp and sent it flying.
...The team infiltrated the chateau with nary a sound. There first order of business was to find and protect the consortium’s most precious commodity—Shawn Brady. The sound of a crash had them running silently towards its source.
“Now Belle! Do it now!” He screamed to get his voice heard over the winds.
Belle strained to tuck herself into a ball, falling on her side as they finally reached the frozen earth beneath the tower. She just laid there for a moment, stunned by their achievement. Only by the sound of his heavy breathing could she tell that Patrick was lying right beside her. She ached all over. But he must feel ten times worse.
His hand reached for hers. “We have to go Belle. Come on honey. I’ll help you up. We have to get out of here. I promised you I would go back for Shawn once I got you to safety and I will.” His voice was a harsh whisper against the frigid cold.
She tried to smile but it was impossible. “I...I... don’t think I can go any further,” she mumbled tiredly. “I w...w...want you to go on without me...save yourself, Patrick. Tell Shawn I love him.”
He pulled her against him to get her warm again. “You’re one of the bravest women I’ve ever met, Isabella Black.” He lifted her chin and smiled ruefully. They both looked worn-out and the worse for wear. “If Shawn hadn’t already scooped you up, I might just have had to give it a try myself. I’m not leaving without you, Belle. We’re a team. We do this together...or at least die trying!”
As impossible as the situation seemed, she was sure that he winked at her. She felt his arms lift her to her feet. Her body swayed in weak defeat. He must be so tired and yet he wouldn’t give up. “Shawn is lucky to have you in his life, Patrick...so am I.” She leaned against him for a second to gain her balance, pressing a kiss on his cheek.
“What a precious moment. All that work and for what?” The guard butted his rifle against Patrick’s shoulder. “Move it! Both of you! The boss wants to see you. Wait till she hears how you tried to escape.” He started to laugh and couldn’t stop.
Patrick pulled Belle closer to him. She looked up at him anxiously. “Just do as he says, Belle. I’ll be right here with you. I’ll kill him if he even tries to hurt you!”
It was so damn cold. She was so wet that it didn’t seem to matter anymore. They should have been dead by now, she thought. And every time her legs gave out, Shawn’s best friend braced her weight against his tired body until she could move once more, whispering quiet words of encouragement, and getting a rifle butt in his back for his efforts.
Patrick wondered if he would ever feel warm again. Then again, he was surprised that they had actually made it down the tower in the first place. So many times, he had thought that this was it...this was the end. God, something, or somebody must have been watching over them. He only hoped the same could be said of his buddy.
They trudged through the storm back towards the chateau until the sound of gunfire shattered the silence...
Shawn stood there with the gun in his hand as the team broke into the room. She was dead. She was dead at last. He felt no remorse. He felt nothing but emptiness.
The team leader ran up to him. “Are you alright?”
He looked at them in surprise. “Who the hell are you? Interesting timing you’ve got!”
“Finias sent us to make sure nothing happened to you.” He looked at the dead woman, a pool of blood thickening by her head. “We’re also on clean-up duty,” he said matter-of-factly as if it were an everyday occurrence to dispense with the lifeless body of someone. He nodded to his guys to remove her. One stayed behind to clean up the bloodstain.
Shawn turned to go but was stopped. “You need to stay with us until we can get you to a safe house,” he was told. He shook his head firmly. “I need to find my woman and best friend. After that, you can take us all out of here. Until then, forget it!”
Another shot was heard from outside and as one they all started to run.
Patrick was wrestling with the guard when the gun went off. An unexpected surge of adrenalin pushed to the forefront as he pulled the gun away and knocked the other man to the ground.
Belle gasped, stumbling up to him. “Patrick! Your arm!” She pointed to the gaping gunshot wound. “I need to take a look at it,” she told him anxiously.
In the next moment Shawn came running towards them. He looked at them, took in the situation, and ran towards his woman.
She whispered his name.
Shawn caught her before she fell to the ground unconscious. He nodded to the others to take care of the guard and help Patrick into the chateau.
He sat by her bedside and waited. Both she and Patrick had been through hell and all because of that bitch. Even in death she reached out to maim those he loved. If he didn’t know better she was probably laughing down at them all. No, that wasn’t right. There wasn’t even the slimmest chance that Jan Spears had ascended to heaven. He wanted her to burn forever in hell just as he planned to for what he had done. Deathbed revelations were notoriously suspicious but somehow he believed hers. He believed that he had done what she said and he would have to live with those deeds on his conscience for the rest of his miserable life.
She looked so fragile laying there, his brave and loyal Isabella...always tending to the sick...the less fortunate. Her paleness, her stillness, everything about her made him want to cry. The team’s medic said it would take time. But then he had added that the longer the fever lasted the more damage it would do. Her fever was a direct consequence of the harrowing time she and Patrick had gone through trying to escape. Patrick’s fever challenged his gunshot wound for priority. Either way, both were struggling to survive and it was all Shawn’s fault.
Best of both worlds, that’s what you want Shawn. Everything your way or no way. You led the love of your life and your very best friend into danger and look at you now...not a scratch on you. He could make all the bargains in the world with God...save them...take me...but that wasn’t how it worked and he knew it. He didn’t even bother to hide his broken-down composure. There was no one to see his warts at the moment.
For two days both patients struggled. On the third day, Patrick rallied and took a turn for the better. His fever collapsed and the infection from his wound lessened in severity. Shawn knew he should be grateful that at least one of them was better. He hated himself even more for not feeling that way. As long as Belle stayed unconscious the chances of her getting worse continued to rise. He was still reeling from the medic’s recent suggestion that maybe she just didn’t want to come out of it. Totally unacceptable...not his Belle.
Another two days and Patrick insisted on being wheeled in to see his pal and his escape cohort. As bad as he still looked, his first glimpse of Shawn made him cringe.
“You’re not doing her any good by making yourself sick, pal. Why don’t you get some rest and food into you? I’ll sit with her for a bit.”
He looked up with bloodshot eyes and clenched fists. “My fault, Paddy. My own damn fault that you got hurt.”
“Oh yeah. You forced us to come with you. You brainwashed us into following you into danger. I don’t think so, Shawn. C’mon buddy, do you honestly think you could have stopped Belle or me from being there for you?”
The other man’s face was a picture of misery. “Why won’t she wake up? Murdock asked me if I thought it was because she didn’t want to...not even for me. You know what, Patrick? I’m going to cut my wretched life short if she’s not here with me. I’m going to die right along with her...”
As sore as he was, Patrick wrapped his good arm around his friend and let him sob out his sorrows until there was nothing left. “No one is going to die, Shawn. Belle will wake up in her own good time. It’s a miracle that neither of us got frostbite let alone anything worse. Murdock told me that she was suffering from extreme exhaustion. That’s all it is, Shawn. She’s a fighter. She’s a real trooper. You would be proud of the way she handled herself on that tower, pal. She never gave up then and she won’t give up now. Damn it man, go and get some rest. I swear I’ll send someone if anything happens.”
Shawn clutched his hand, slowly giving in. His energy was sapped. “You won’t leave her? You’ll tell me right away?”
“Scout’s honor.” Patrick pulled Shawn back. “One last thing, Shawn. Your woman begged me to leave her up there and save you first. That doesn’t sound like someone who plans on giving up anytime soon.”
His lips brushed hers. “She’s better than I deserve, but I’m not giving her up...not in this lifetime or any other.” With one last sweeping look, he left the room.
Patrick wheeled himself closer to her. If he didn’t know better he would think that he was just a little bit in love with the girl himself. Always a day late and a dollar short, old man, he thought ironically. He wondered if there were anymore like her around...a sister maybe?
“You know you’re killing that guy, don’t you Belle? You’d better wake up soon or I swear he’s going to implode.” He brushed a wayward strand of hair away from her face. “I don’t know what’s going on in that beautiful mind of yours, little one, but you have to know that you have a lot of people pulling for you to make it.” He took a painful breath and sighed. “You were the best partner I could have for that escape we engineered. I bet you didn’t know that. I’ve seen guys who grumbled doing half as dangerous a descent. You put Shawn first even then, so after everything we went through are you going to tell me that you’re just giving up?” His eyes watched her unmoving body with sadness. “Can you just let Shawn go like that? Somehow I don’t think so…not the Belle Black I’ve heard about and gotten to know…”
...His dreams were more like repugnant nightmares. The killing of two innocent people, by his own hands, haunted his subconscious as nothing else ever would. He pictured his last scene with Jan Spears over and over again, unable to erase it from his emotionally-troubled mind...
His voice was gruff with anger. “What did you do to me? What did you make me do, Jan? I have to know!” His hand was shaking, the gun wavering at the same time.
She was trying her damnedest to confuse him. What worked in the past might be her only opportunity to survive the present situation. But then he slapped her once too often and her anger got the best of her and she told him what he didn’t want to hear. “I made you want me, Shawn. I made you want me so badly that you went down on your knees and begged for it. Once I had you where I wanted you, I made you my little foot soldier, my mercenary at large. You killed for me, baby. It turned you on to slaughter for me. We had the best sex after each hit. First there was the senator and then there was that bitch of a young debutante, the Chilean ambassador’s daughter. I didn’t like the way she looked at you. I didn’t want to share you. Didn’t you just love how she screamed and screamed?
The words penetrated his mind like a mortar shell explosion. He didn’t even realize he had pulled the trigger until it was over, and now the scene was playing over and over until he woke in such a disoriented state that he cried out in desperation for Belle. He rubbed his eyes and remembered. So was this payback? Was God taking Belle’s life in exchange for the two he had summarily dismissed? He prayed that wasn’t the case even though it was no less than what he deserved.
He would tear down his intelligence empire brick by brick. He would voluntarily present himself before a tribunal of his peers and lay his blood crimes out before them. Shawn gripped his hands tightly as he thought of the repercussions, the damnations, and last but not least, the punishing long-term incarceration he fully expected to be subjected to.
An ice cold shower did little to calm his inner turmoil. Changing into clean fatigues, he flipped open his cellphone and made a phone call to a place called Salem, Illinois. It was time to end this masquerade. His reasons were twofold and he just hoped he could control the fallout. Above all, he was tired of lying to the woman he loved. When she came to terms with what he had become, she wouldn’t want him anyway. The least he could do was move her back into her family’s arms.
Where was Shawn? She was looking everywhere for him but getting nowhere fast. Her voice was hoarse from screaming his name. Where was he?
Patrick woke up from a light catnap to find Belle agitated to the extreme. No longer still and deathly white, she was thrashing in bed and mumbling Shawn’s name. He wheeled himself to the door, opened it and yelled for his buddy and the medic before moving back towards the bed and attempting to calm her.
Shawn ran into the room and gathered her to him. “I’m here! Belle I’m here, sweetheart!” He turned to his friend. “Where the hell is Murdock? She should be in a hospital damn it! When is that storm going to let up so we can get her out of here?” She was moaning and clutching his shirt at the same time, desperately calling out to him.
The medic rushed in and took a quick assessment—temperature and eye examination. He jotted down a few notes and turned to the two impatient men. “This is good, Shawn. She’s fighting the fever. She’s trying to get back to you.”
“Can’t you do anything for her?”
“I’ve given her as much antibiotic as I dare, Shawn. We just have to wait it out. It shouldn’t be long now.”
And it wasn’t. An hour later and Belle was awake and shivering. Shawn cradled her in his arms like the most precious cargo. “It’s all right now, baby. Everything’s all right. You’re going to be okay,” he whispered over and over again to her.
She watched him without saying a word, taking in his every nuance, feature by feature, almost as if she was committing him to memory for ever.
“You better marry me after all this,” she whispered through dry, cracked lips.
His hands tightened around her body. “You have to know that I would do anything to make you my wife. You have to remember that I will always love you. I will never forget you. I will always cherish you...” It was what he didn’t say that made Patrick look at him in astonishment. It would have to wait though.
She hadn’t heard him. Exhaustion overtook her again but with a marked difference. This time she fell into a natural, rejuvenating sleep. He could do nothing but hold her. Each time he tried to move away, she cried out in her sleep for him. It didn’t matter. They didn’t have much time left together. He would will her to get better and then turn himself in. In the meantime, he pressed her head to his heart and closed his eyes. Only with her could he sleep dreamlessly. Only with her did he feel safe.
With the medic watching over her, Shawn left the room a few hours later. Patrick waylaid him in the hallway.
“You are not letting that girl go again, Shawn. There is no way in hell that I am going to let you make such a stupid mistake!”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about, Patrick. I’m not letting her go. I don’t have a choice. I’m turning myself in. Belle won’t want to have anything to do with me once she finds out the truth.”
“The truth? What truth?”
“Murder, Patrick...cold-blooded murder. I followed Jan Spear’s orders and killed not just once but twice. It’s over and there’s nothing you can say to change that!”
Will see about that, Patrick mumbled to himself as he watched his friend storm away.
....By morning, the storm had lifted and four new people descended on the chateau. Two were expected. Two were not. None were turned away. All heard the raging argument going on between Shawn Douglas Brady, Finias Kane, and Dr. Lipton and then suddenly there were five.
Bo and John slipped into the room unnoticed. They stood on the sidelines. They marveled at the man the boy had become. Bo stared with eyes full of love, admiration, and saw traits of himself. John stared at him with love for protecting his daughter, admiration and respect.
“The Keeper of the Lists rises above any crimes. He is immune to punishment. The murders must stay secret for all time,” Finias Kane expounded.
Dr. Lipton raised his hand to stop him from saying more. “We don’t even know for sure if he did them. Shawn you can’t simply give up because of something that might or might not have happened!”
“I have nightmares of killing them. I remember doing it, doctor. I remember killing two innocent people. I will not stand back and let their deaths go unpunished! I have to pay!”
Bo stepped forward. “My son is not a murderer for hire. He doesn’t have it in him!”
Shawn and the others spun around in amazement. “Dad? What are you doing here?”
John ushered the others out and closed the door behind him. “Gentlemen, why don’t we move this to another room and order refreshments. I for one am very hungry.”
Back inside the room, one young man and one older man faced off. The family resemblance was remarkable. The stubborn tilt of chins, the narrowing of eyes and the grimness of lips mirrored each other.
Shawn’s father opened his arms. Shawn flew into them. Nothing had changed...long absence or not....definitely not his father’s unwavering love. “Dad, I’ve missed you so much. I don’t understand how you got here though.”
“Your mother and I thumbed a ride with John and Marlena. You didn’t really think we would miss a chance to see our illusive firstborn did you? Your mother is upstairs with Marlena looking in on Belle.” Bo wouldn’t tell him about Patrick’s call. He watched as a veneer of sadness came over his son at the mention of her name. “By all accounts, it looks to me like you have something important to tell me. I have all the time in the world, Shawn....always.”
They skirted the chairs and sank down on the carpet, their backs braced against the wall. Little by little, Sanctuary’s Leader broke down and told his father everything. He left nothing out in the telling and at the same time did everything to tarnish his reputation and little to enhance it.
Bo sat in silence watching the young man he loved so much. He knew of his son’s exploits, having kept tab on him through his high connections for years. The face he turned to him now was ravaged with pain. “If the opportunity had arisen, I would have made her pay for what she did. I would have killed her but not as sweetly as you did. By god, she would have suffered!”
“Dad?” Shawn was shocked by the extent of his father’s anger. He had never seen him this way, his tough and stubborn old man.
“What she did to you was cruel and inhuman. Look at the price you paid...look at all the pain you’ve suffered. I’m the one who should be ashamed, Shawn. I should have been there for you. She hurt my boy...may she rot in hell for what she’s done!” And things went downhill from there. He broke down and started to cry.
This time is was the boy who comforted the father. He held him until he was all cried out. They sat there quietly gathering their turbulent thoughts. He waited for his dad to speak.
“Your mother and I knew that you were traumatized by what happened with Jan Spears. We just didn’t know how much. I’m sorry you didn’t feel you could come to us for help, Shawn,” he said shakily.
“It wasn’t you, Dad. It was me. I felt like used goods. I felt so ashamed that I couldn’t bear to see the look on your faces when I told you what I had become,” he spoke with tears in his eyes.
The father also spoke with renewed tears in his eyes. “We would never have blamed you, Shawn. You were caught in a monster’s net. None of this was your doing. I know you want to blame yourself but you did nothing wrong. You never were and never could be less that my beloved son. I would never judge you. How does Belle feel about this?”
Shawn’s breathing became painfully constricted. “She loves me no matter what. She thinks I’m a hero but she doesn’t know about the killings, dad. When she does she won’t want to be anywhere near me... As it is I’m still only half a man. I can’t function in bed. I’m a freak of nature...”
“And if you allow the specialist to treat you, you will become whole again. I think that if I read between the lines, I see a scared young man who is afraid of giving his heart. Shawn, you take such risks in certain areas of your life but when it comes to the important things...”
“When it comes to the important things...I’m a coward. I love someone who believes in me. She’s so strong dad...so compassionate. But she has strong ethics. Damn it she’s a doctor...she works to save lives not destroy them. When she hears what I have become...
it’s over dad. I can’t be her knight in shining armor anymore.”
“I doubt she wants you on that pedestal, Shawn. I think she just wants the boy she fell in love with. Belle isn’t the debutante she once was. You know that. What you don’t know is if you really committed those crimes. Jan Spears could have programmed you to believe that you did those hideous things. You need to let the doctor work through this with you. I swear that no son of mine would ever kill innocents. Look at all the good work you have done. It’s not every father whose son gets calls directly from the President of the United States begging for his assistance. We are so proud of everything you have accomplished. Don’t denigrate all the good you have done. Don’t second guess yourself before you have proof.”
Shawn’s body shook with despair. “I feel awful, dad. I feel as if I don’t know who I really am anymore. I love Belle so much, but I hate myself just as much. She almost died because I decided to meet Jan on her own turf. Patrick almost died as well. I worked so hard to keep her safe for so long and then I almost blew it!”
“Haven’t you spent all this time protecting her and rescuing her from war zones because you love her? She’s become a strong woman on her own, Shawn. I doubt you could have stopped her from following the man she loves into danger. So what now? You’ll let her go for good? After all this time, you’ll stop watching over her? You won’t mind if she finds someone else to love?”
Shawn’s face blanched. Not his Belle...no not his Belle. She belonged to him and no one else. He couldn’t bear the thought of another man in her life...another man touching her. He felt his father’s eyes on him and bent his head in sorrow.
“She won’t judge you either, son. We are as proud of her as we are of you, and god willing, she will forgive us our sins against her. Either way, you belong together. You always have and always will. She’s not going to turn you away. We both know that.”
...Marlena and Hope opened the door to Belle’s room quietly. She was sleeping soundly so she didn’t hear their combined gasp. Belle was no longer a girl. She had grown into a beautiful woman albeit ill at the moment. So much time had passed...water under the bridge...The women sat vigil, praying that she wouldn’t turn them away...
Isabella was hearing voices...she didn’t want to open her eyes...voices from the past... delicious voices belonging to those she had longed to hear from forever and a day. With eyes shut tight, she listened carefully.
“My baby is all grown up, Hope. I’ve lost so much of her life. I haven’t been there to pick her up when she’s fallen or to dry her tears. I think I could honestly win worst mother in the world,” Marlena couldn’t stop the tears from coming...so many years lost...so much stubbornness. Her hand drew agitated circles on the bedspread.
Hope sighed. “My son loves her very much, Marlena. I thought his love would die after I found out what she did. I believed the lies. I cut off all ties and in a very harsh way. Now I find that the lies were lies. Bo and I should have known that someone as sweet as Belle could never betray us, let alone Shawn. I have no right to expect her forgiveness but I am praying that she will give it. She almost died for Shawn. To me that says everything. I want my son to know a love like Bo’s and mine and yours and John. He can only have that with Belle. Isabella has every right to cut us out of their lives. God willing she won’t.”
“Why, Hope? Belle was everything a daughter should be. Why would I believe that she could do something that was so anathematic? Why didn’t she defend herself? Why did she run off instead of challenging our accusations?”
“We broke her heart, Marlena. We should have believed her on faith, not condemned her outright...”
Her eyes were open now, tears streaming. “That’s not it at all. I blamed myself more than any of you did. I blamed myself for what happened to Shawn. I couldn’t live with what I thought I had done. I ran because I didn’t belong anymore. I was an embarrassment to my family and yours. It wasn’t what you said. I already knew what a terrible person I was...”
A soft tap on the door, the slow turning of the doorknob, and John stepped into the room. Father and son were sitting quietly at the table now. Both looked up at him warily as he walked over.
“I won’t take up much of your time. There is something I have to say that can’t wait.” He looked directly at Shawn as he spoke.
Shawn waited for Belle’s father to berate him for putting his daughter in danger. It was no less than he deserved. “I’m sorry, sir. I should never have brought Belle here. You have every right to be angry,” he said quietly.
John Black held his hand up for silence. “Patrick explained to me the plans Jan Spears had regarding my daughter. All this time you have watched over my girl and protected her, Shawn. I will be forever grateful, as will her mother. We haven’t been the best parents where Isabella is concerned and it is something we will always regret. Through you we have been updated on her whereabouts even though we didn’t deserve it. If there was ever a boy who measured up in my estimation to be with my daughter, it is you Shawn Brady.” He walked over and hugged the young man, nodded to Bo, and walked out again.
Shawn stood as still as a statue. “I thought he would hate me. I thought he would despise me for everything I have put Isabella through.” He spoke as if he had just seen a ghost.
“Are you going to let that little girl go, Shawn? Are you going to condemn both of you to a world without love? Denounce her feelings for you?”
Shawn spun around in anger. “When she finds out what I did it will all be a mute point anyway.”
“So you don’t have enough respect for her to let her make that decision for herself? You’re right, Shawn. Belle doesn’t need someone who belittles her intelligence. I’m sure she can find someone who will take your place...maybe even Patrick!”
He clenched his fists because that was the only way he could stop himself from attacking his own flesh and blood. “She loves me, dad! Only me!”
Bo continued to needle him. “But you don’t want her, son. Surely you don’t expect her to mourn you forever? Belle wants a family...children. Should she join a nunnery just because you don’t want her? You can’t have it both ways, Shawn. If you care at all for her, you’ll want her to be happy.”
Both women looked up at her in shock. Belle refused to be daunted. “I ran because I couldn’t face what I had done. I ran because Shawn hated me. I ran because I believed everything you said,” she ran out of energy then and lay back against her pillows. I don’t blame either of you. The evidence was pretty damning. I don’t understand why you’re here now though, after all this time.”
Marlena spoke with tears in her eyes. “We were tired of being cowards where you were concerned, sweetheart. When Shawn called your father, we made a collective decision to end what should have ended long ago. None of us are blameless, darling. We are so proud of what you’ve become. We know we haven’t the right, but we came to apologize and beg your forgiveness. You don’t have to welcome us back, Belle. We just wanted to see you one more time before you shut us out forever...”
The young woman looked at her visitors and was amazed at how weary and sad they looked. Never had she thought that this day would ever come. Why had Shawn called them now? What was he up to? She felt tears burning at the back of her eyes and opened her arms wide. “All I ever wanted was for my mother to love me and for Shawn’s mother to forgive me. No matter what anyone says, I should have been there for him. I shouldn’t have given up so easily or believed everything Philip and Jan told me. I don’t have to forgive either of you for what happened. You just have to forgive yourselves. I could use a mother in my life...two if Hope will allow it...”
John walked slowly up the stairs. He was dying to see his baby girl. As he had done below, he turned the doorknob slowly and opened the door. His eyes widened in shock at what he saw. A young woman, with an older woman on either side of her were fast asleep...hands held tight. A smile spread across his face. Things were going to be all righ,t he thought. Finally, his family was back together as it should be.
He listened while Shawn’s dad said his piece and nodded. “I’ll do it. I won’t like it but I’ll do it. You know how stubborn your son is, Bo. I just hope this works.” He walked away and entered the room.
“Your dad’s right, Shawn. If you don’t want Belle then what’s to stop me from going after her?” Patrick smirked. He wasn’t going to enjoy pulling his buddy’s chains, but hopefully he could pull this off.
Shawn refused to answer him, turning his back and looking out the window.
“She’s certainly worth the chase. We got to know each other quite well when we were escaping. I had her cute little body wrapped tightly around mine when we descended that tower. She’s a sweet little thing...” He never got any further. Shawn’s fist got in the way.
“Shut the hell up! Stay away from her or I’ll give you a matching black eye,” Shawn said furiously.
“A case of you don’t want her but nobody else can have her? Maybe we should let the little lady decide. Last I heard she had a mind of her own. Why shouldn’t she move on if you don’t want her? Think about it man! Belle’s young, beautiful, and definitely intelligent. Wouldn’t you rather she be with someone you like than just anybody?”
He couldn’t take it anymore. He couldn’t bear to think of his woman in someone else’s bed. He needed to get out of there. He needed time to think. Grabbing his parka, Shawn walked towards the door, turning one last time before he left. “I will kill you if you go near her, Lockhart. She belongs to me and she always will!” He slammed the door, walked towards the entryway, opened the front door, and slammed it as well.
The storm had died down somewhat as he trudged through the snow. The frigid air glanced off him as the snow danced above. He didn’t know where he was going and at that moment he didn’t care. All he could think about was her...what his life would be like without her...whether he could give her up and embrace the emptiness.
He remembered the good times...the magical moments between the two of them...the connection that had brought them together as little children and kept them together as young adults. There had never been anyone else for him. There never would. How could he let her go? How could he give up his only reason for living?
Bo saw an opportunity and knocked on her door. The women were dressing for dinner and John was on the phone dealing with ISA business. Her voice was sweet and quiet as she said to come in.
He found her sitting by the window seat with her hands clasped in her lap. “Can we talk, Belle?” His voice had been the harshest back in Salem. His words had judged and condemned the loudest of all. It wouldn’t surprise him in the least if she were to turn her back on him now. His eyes widened as she held her hand out to him.
“I’d like that,” she whispered softly. The father was so like the son, she thought. She loved them both. She understood the turmoil...the worry in his eyes. “There’s nothing to forgive, Bo. There never was. It does my heart good to see all of you again. I never thought I would. I never thought any of you would want to have anything to do with me. I wasn’t there for him when I should have been, Bo. You were right to push me away. I don’t blame you for what happened.”
He sat down beside her and smiled ruefully. “You’re being very generous, Belle. In your place I don’t know if I would be so forgiving. Hope and I treated you very badly. We have never forgiven ourselves for the way things were left. I know how much you love my son. I know how much he needs you. Shawn’s mother and I would love to have a daughter at last...you Belle...only you can heal all of us...make us a family again...” And then he told her about Shawn.
“He didn’t do it, Bo. Not my Shawn. Jan Spears lied.”
“Yes she did, sweetheart, but I think you’re the only one left who can convince Shawn of that.”
“Bo’s right, Isabella. He’ll listen to you, just like I should have. Shawn’s the only one of us who was brave enough to admit he was wrong and go after you. Can you excuse your old man for turning his back on you?” John Black stood just inside the doorway, nervous as all hell.
Bo kissed her cheek, gave an encouraging smile to her father, and left them to their privacy.
Belle was just as nervous. Her mother was one thing. She had always been a daddy’s girl. At that moment she realized just how much she had lost. “I missed you so much, daddy...I missed you so much!” She started to cry and found herself in his arms.
John held his little girl at last. His own eyes watered with untold pain. “I love you so much, Isabella. I was a fool...a stupid old fool.” No other words were needed. A gentle yet fierce healing process had begun.
She wondered where he was. Supper had come and gone and Shawn had yet to appear. With all the love and laughter that had flowed, there was one thing missing. Now that she was back in her room, she was becoming more and more worried. Once again she sat on the window seat looking out at the majestic winter scene beyond. In the blink of an eye, Belle saw Shawn running towards the chateau as if hounds were nipping at his heels. The door crashed open below. She heard an echoing slam and held her breath.
He took the steps two at a time, shedding his coat and boots as he went. The fact that his face was reddened from the icy cold, that he was shivering inside and out, didn’t faze him. He didn’t knock, he just threw opened her door and looked at her. He was goaded beyond endurance.
“We need to talk,” he said testily. “I need to talk. You need to listen.”
She smiled softly. “Whatever you say, darling. Come sit.”
She was confusing him. He sat but jumped right back up, much too restless to stay still. He stood with his rigid back to her. It was easier that way. “I don’t blame you for wanting out, Belle. I’ve made a mess of things. I don’t deserve you.”
“Yes you have and no you don’t,” she answered him sweetly.
Confusion swept over him once more. “Wait a minute, you can’t mean that!”
Belle grinned. “I’m just saying what you want me to say, Shawn. Go on, I’m riveted. What more did you want to tell me?”
The damn woman was driving him crazy. “I...I know you could have anyone you want, but...but...I’ll give you anything you want, anything in my power to give...all I’m asking for is a chance, Belle, a chance to show you that I can make you happy.” He broke off and rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m making a muddle of this, aren’t I?”
“Yes you are.”
He ignored her and went on. “I’ll wait forever if I must. I’ll fight for you...”
“We can’t go back, Shawn.”
There was a strain in his eyes. “Don’t say that! You can’t deny that you love me. I know I’ve let you down badly, but I can’t let you go, Isabella. Don’t ask me to!”
The painful honesty left her breathless. She watched him take her hand and hold it to his lips.
“When I fell in love, I fell the hard way. I see you in a room and I can breathe. When you’re gone I can’t. Now I know what it’s like to love someone so much that she is my life.”
“I feel the same way, Shawn.” There was no mistaking the torment in his voice, the agony and despair. She needed to reach him somehow...needed to make him see.
He fell to his knees, clasping hers and went on as if she hadn’t spoken. “Just don’t leave me. Don’t walk out on me, Belle. I’ll take whatever you’re willing to give, just don’t shut me out. I’ll wait forever if that’s what it takes.”
She slid down beside him and took his hands in hers. “Forever seems like an awfully long time, baby. I don’t think I can be that patient.” Taking a deep breath, she plunged on. “Will you marry me, Shawn Douglas Brady? Will you be my lawfully wedded husband? Share my breakfast table forever and ever?”
He jerked his head up in surprise. “What did you say? Did you just propose to me?”
She nodded. “I’d marry you tonight if you wanted,” she whispered huskily.
His throat was so tight that he could hardly breathe. “I’ll sue you for breach of promise if you renege.” He cupped her face in his hands and looked into her eyes. “You’ll never regret this, Belle. I’ll make you proud of me if it’s the last thing I do.”
“There is just one little thing though...,” Belle looked at him sternly. She stood up and waited for him to follow.
He stood sheepishly waiting for her reprimand.
“Don’t you ever believe that dead tramp again! Do you hear me, Shawn Douglas? You didn’t kill anyone and if I ever hear you say it again I will personally kill you myself!”
She spoke with husky sotto-voiced sexiness, laughing and at the same time playing up to the terribly handsome man standing before her. “Has he seen us yet?”
Patrick smiled at his buddy’s fiancé, his eyes scanning her face and body as if he’d like to ravish her on the spot. “Yep. He’s on his way down,” he whispered as his hand reached to play with one of her lustrous curls, and he dropped a velvety kiss on her blushing cheek.
They both knew their parts off by heart. Dr. Lipton had briefed them thoroughly.
He watched them together and felt a tight of the band of jealousy wrap itself around his cold heart. Unreasonable? Yes! Stoppable? No! Did she regret their promises to each other? Was she moving on with his best friend? And was she playing it out in front of him?
His hands clenched at his sides, his face painted with despair. After all, what woman wanted half a man? As far as he was concerned, his treatments were proceeding at a snail’s pace. His specialist never wavered from the belief that a breakthrough could occur at any time. Would she wait that long? Even now he second-guessed her continued presence in his life. Pity? Love? He hated feeling this way. He hated taking time out from his life to, as his doctor put it, make himself whole again. Maybe a trip to the Wizard of Oz would help. Six weeks had gone by since her marriage proposal to him—42 long, frustrating, never-ending days or 1008 excruciatingly dismal hours. He was ready to scream. He was ready to kill his buddy. And if nothing else, he was ready to lock her in their room and throw away the key.
Dr. Lipton led him into the office that had been set aside for his sessions. Today he had something else in mind. His patient was giving up and drastic measures were needed.
Shawn knew the score by now. He readied himself on the couch and waited to be put under. He knew that belligerence would work against him but at this point he just didn’t care.
“Okay, doc! Do your voodoo! Let’s get this over with! I’m half a man. A monstrous woman made me her sex pet. I’m no good to anyone...yada...yada... Give me a Band-Aid and I’ll get out of here. Teach me how to jump like a trained elephant!” The young man’s sarcasm was out of control.
Belle paced back and forth in the hallway leading to Dr. Lipton’s temporary office, debating whether she should make a run for her life. She couldn’t do this. She just couldn’t do this. She wasn’t a femme fatale. She wasn’t a flirt or a sex siren either. She was a mass of nerves and nothing was going to change that. Dr. Lipton was wrong. She didn’t hold the key to Shawn’s problem. She was barely surviving herself when it came to emotional intimacy.
She thought back to her meeting with the distinguished specialist the day before. No wonder he was as successful as he was. He certainly got her to open up.
“I’m stymied, Belle. His therapy is at a standstill. The only thing stopping him from moving on now is himself,” the doctor paused before adding, “and you of course.”
Belle looked up at him in surprise. “Me? How am I stopping Shawn from healing? What have I done wrong?”
“It’s what you haven’t done, Belle. It’s what you need to do if Shawn is ever going to conquer his impotency with any degree of permanence,” he explained patiently.
Belle paled at the implications. “You know I would do anything to help him. I’ve tried so hard to show him how much I love him…how proud I am of him. I haven’t belittled his problem. I haven’t put any pressure on him. What more can I do?”
“You can up the ante, Belle. You can push his buttons. You and only you can make him feel alive again and you’re going to do it tomorrow!”
She jumped up. “What are you saying?”
He pulled a wild card. “Are you a virgin, Belle? Are you afraid? Do you have your own intimacy issues?” The doctor asked quietly.
She was a doctor too. She shouldn’t be blushing, but blush she did. “I suppose you need to know this? I can’t keep any secrets?”
“I’m trying to help your man, Belle. I need to know what I’m up against. Shawn isn’t being exactly cooperative.”
She knew all about Shawn’s temper tantrums. She had witnessed a few herself. “Okay. Pretty pathetic isn’t it? I’m a twenty-eight year old virgin without the slightest clue as to how to please a man.”
“Well at least you didn’t slap me for asking,” Dr. Lipton smiled gently. “Have you told Shawn how anxious you are?”
She found herself talking to him as never before. “No. He’s got enough to deal with without worrying about my insecurities. There are other ways of achieving passion. Shawn has taught me a few of them. But…but I just worry that when he’s whole again…well, I have no experience. I love him, but what if that’s not enough? What if I don’t…I mean he’s larger than life. He’s important and vital to a lot of people. I’ve seen the way women look at him. I’m just a doctor. I know he loves me, but if I can’t satisfy him…”
“Shawn has a steadfast propensity to watch over you, and I firmly believe that he will never give you up no matter what. Belle listen to me, you and Shawn have the ability to achieve what most couples only dream of…the perfect love. You’ve challenged fear of the unknown before and very successfully. Your experiences with Doctors without Borders proved that tenfold. Given your past history with Shawn and Salem, it’s only natural that your self-esteem would take a beating. No one can give you courage but yourself, Belle. In your own way you are in as much of a prison as your fiancé is.”
They needed to move on. She understood that. “What do you want me to do?”
As soon he explained his idea to her, Belle shook her head. “I don’t know if I can do that.”
“Patrick will be a part of this as well, Belle.”
She blanched. “Oh god! I definitely can’t do this!”
...So that was how she ended up flirting with Patrick a little bit earlier. And that was how she ended up standing outside the door and looking as if she was waiting for the executioner. There was no subterfuge about Belle Black. She wore her heart and her on her sleeve. Playacting and pushing herself at anyone of the opposite gender was foreign to her. She was going to lose her breakfast. She couldn’t do this. Oh god, the door was opening and the doctor was ushering her in. Showtime!
Inside the room, the specialist kept himself to a brisk nod. “That’s quite the chip you’re building on your shoulder, Shawn. I didn’t think you were a quitter, but I guess I was wrong. So let’s try something new. I think I’ll bring in the big guns!” He smiled encouragingly at the beautiful young woman who walked in and sat down where he indicated.
Shawn gasped. “What the hell is this? What’s she doing here? Haven’t you heard about doctor-patient confidentiality?” He turned to her and smirked nastily. “Are you sure you can bear to tear yourself away from my best friend, Belle?”
She ignored him completely, quaking on the inside but looking calm and serene on the outside.
“The first-half of your session today is going to be conducted by Belle. You won’t be put under until afterwards. It’s up to you what you reveal. For now, I am going to talk to Belle for a few moments. You can listen or not, it’s completely up to you.”
Belle sat down beside her fiancée and smiled softly. “You’re going to do this for me, Shawn Douglas.” She traced a finger across his lips and then sealed her words with a passionate kiss. Turning, she grinned at the doctor and folded her hands in her lap in readiness for his first question. Maybe she could do this after all.
Dr. Lipton was enjoying his patient’s discomfort immensely. He loved nothing more than jolting his clients out of their complacency when circumstances warranted it.
“Isabella, I’d like to begin with how you two met…any special memories from that time…”
Shawn rolled his eyes, but found himself anxiously awaiting her answer.
Belle laughed tongue-in-cheek. “I remember it as if it were yesterday. I remember all of our meetings...but I digress. We were both seven years old. My dad had given me skates for my birthday and we went to the rink to try them out. Shawn was with his buddies and showing off. I had my back to him and was trying so hard just to stand up without falling. My fiancée skated backwards, knocked me over, and gave me a big fat lip.”
“You were angry?”
“I was furious.” Her fingers were entwined in Shawn’s now…caressing…enticing…
“What did you do?”
Belle winked at Shawn and continued. “He begged me not to cry, dusted me off, and taught me how to skate. He’s always hates when I cry.”
Shawn smiled reluctantly at the memory. He remembered how clear her blue eyes were, and when she looked up at him he felt like he could climb mountains even back then. But this was now… She was talking again and he strained his ears to listen.
“Shawn’s parents moved and he ended up in my school and in my class. He pretended that he didn’t know me at all, but every time I turned around he was staring at me.” She winked again at her man.
Shawn felt his body reacting embarrassingly to her. “This is stupid. I already know all there is to know about our relationship. Why are we rehashing it all?”
Dr. Lipton watched gleefully as Belle pushed Shawn back down on the pillow and sat astride him. “Because I want to, Shawn. Because you want me to be happy. Because I love you...so you are going to listen and be a good little boy or you won’t like your punishment!”
He was going crazy. Belle never vamped like this...and...and...and in front of a doctor no less. “Um, Belle, um...this really isn’t the place to be...to be...damn I don’t even know what I’m saying anymore! What’s gotten into you, woman?”
“Shawn, what do you love about me? Why me and no other girl? What’s it all about, baby?” She whispered softly. She felt a certain part of his anatomy stiffen sharply beneath her and gasped slightly. Really, this vamping was pretty new to her. Who knew that it would work so well? Sheesh!
He didn’t hear the door close and lock behind the doctor. “You’re everything to me...you always have been and always will be the other half of my heart, Belle. How could anyone mean more to me than you?”
She rotated her body on his pelvis. “You know, Dr. Lipton told me that you’re ready to move on, Shawn. He says that you’re afraid. It doesn’t feel to me as if you’re afraid. It feels to me as if your friend knows just what it wants to do and where it wants to be. What do you think, Shawn?” Her hand was reaching for his belt buckle...sliding it loose...moving towards the zipper of his jeans...
“Jesus, Belle. I can’t think when you do that. What the...what the hell has come over you? Damn it! What was the question again?”
Her smile was kittenish. “You’re going to teach me, aren’t you Shawn? I’ve waited all this time for you and nobody else.”
His eyes blazed at her words. “Gulp! What have you done with my Belle? What about, Patrick?”
“Were you jealous, baby? Did it bother you to think that he could do what you couldn’t?”
“Damn it to hell, woman! I was crazy with jealousy!” In the next second he flipped her over, taking the upper hand.
She watched him with the sexiest veiled eyes he had ever seen. He swallowed painfully as her hands went to her blouse, unbuttoning it with excruciating slowness until he thought he might resort to ripping it off her. And then...and then...
Belle lifted a little and unclasped her lacy bra. “I’m going to close my eyes and count to ten, Shawn. I sure hope when I open them that you know what to do, because nobody gave me a rule book...and...and I’m flying on a wing and a prayer!” She was quickly losing her bravado. The look in his eyes was enough to melt her into a puddle of goop.
He saw the sweet uncertainty in her eyes and didn’t wait for ten to come around. His hands pulled hers above her head and his mouth settled on her left breast, moving back and forth to her right breast until she was gasping in reaction, her nipples hard and needy the instant he touched them.
Her eyes, when she opened them, were smoky with desire. She had one last bit of courage left and wasn’t going to waste it. “You’re not afraid, are you Shawn? We’ve always given each other everything. We love each other desperately, don’t we?” But her nerves were shot and the tears were pooling in her eyes.
“Damn, you know I hate it when you cry, honey. Tell me what’s wrong.”
And so she told him about Dr. Lipton’s idea and about Patrick and about the vamping. She was so upset about tricking him that her tears flowed over.
He didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. God! You have no idea how scared I was. I didn’t know what had gotten into you, Belle!”
She cried all the harder. “You know I’m technically still a virgin. I don’t know how to please you, Shawn. What if you decide...what if I’m hopeless?”
He looked at her in amazement, suddenly realizing the fear and uncertainty she had gone through with him. How could he have missed the demons she was fighting? Because you were to busy feeling sorry for yourself, Brady.
“I don’t know if I can do this, Belle. I want to...god knows I do...I just don’t know. But it won’t be your fault. Do you understand? You are the most beautiful, sexy woman I have ever known. I see you in a room...in our bed...and my body goes berserk. Now if I can just get my brain to cooperate...” How could she not think that he wanted her?
She stopped crying. “I’m afraid too. Do you want to know what I’m most afraid of, my love? I’m afraid that if we don’t get over this hurdle that you’ll go all noble on me and let me go. I’m terrified of what will happen if I lose you again. It almost killed me last time. I...I don’t know if I could get over it again when I’m still shell-shocked from the first time we parted.”
His heart filled to bursting. She had to know that she was more important to his survival than the air he breathed, didn’t she? “I won’t let you go, Belle. It would be worth more than my life to push you away again. Just...just bear with me. I love you so much, sweetheart. I’ll be yours for as long as I live...I swear, baby, I swear!”
She clutched his hands to her breast. “Then make love to me, Shawn. Don’t make me beg. You know I can’t vamp worth beans!” She blushed as the words popped out of her mouth.
He started to laugh and couldn’t stop. “Do you have any idea how much you mean to me, honey? The thing with Patrick? Was it really just a setup? To make me jealous? Really?”
She nodded shyly. “And I was shaking all the time we were talking. I can’t even do that right!” A single tear fell down her cheek.
He scooped it up and pressed a sweet kiss in its place. “I was jealous as all hell, Belle. Don’t you ever scare me like that again! And don’t you ever vamp for anyone but me, okay? I don’t think my heart could take it!”
She smiled. “Okay, Shawn. But...but...do you think we could make love now? Please?”
She wanted him more than she had ever wanted anything, but it was up to him now. She had done as much as she could. As nervous as she was, she knew it down to her very soul that today would be memorable.
He saw complete trust in her eyes and he came full circle.