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Signed, Sealed, Delivered (SYTYCW winner)

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CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Over the next two weeks, Lane and Adam saw each other four times. Each time, they made love as though the demons of hell were after them, with Lane now the aggressor, urged on by Adam who kept reminding her that this was the way she'd wanted it.

But as their lovemaking grew more desperate, as Lane grew more desperate trying to make herself indispensable to Adam in the bedroom, she felt him withdrawing from her on every other level.

They just made love and then he left.

Two days a week.

And for the other five days a week, Lane was lonely. And miserable. And confused.

*****

Adam was so wretched at the two-and-a-half-weeks-to-go point, he was on the verge of asking Sarah - or even bloody Erica - for advice.

He'd canned anything that wasn't sex, so they were together for the minimum possible time whenever they met up. He was non-committal, calculatedly standoffish.

And - yep ' 'wretched' summed it up.

He longed for Lane to stop him in his aloof tracks and demand to have things back the way they were. At least then he would know she felt something. He could build on 'something'. The way things were, he had nothing to build on. Nothing except sex, which - damn, damn, damn - seemed to just keep getting better. Familiarity breeds contempt? What kind of freaking idiot was he, anyway? Did he have any handle on reality, to believe that had ever been a possibility?

And then, so suddenly it made him reel, there were only two and a half weeks of the contract to go, and he started panicking.

It somehow seemed vital that he prove to himself that he could keep his hands off her, no matter what the provocation.

If he couldn't do that, he might as well start looking into chemical castration.

He had made arrangements to meet her tonight.

And tonight he wouldn't touch her.

*****

When Lane saw the apple in the antique store, she wanted it for Adam. An apple for the teacher - but a perfect, beautiful, expensive one, which she hoped would show him how much she valued him.

She'd had a bad afternoon. Sarah had been distinctly unfriendly when Lane had called her to tell her that she was definitely going to Beijing. Her slides for the China presentations were a mess. And a phone call to her mother had elicited the news that Brad had thrown in the course she'd paid for.

Despite their fractured relationship, Adam's presence tonight was going to be the one bright thing in her day. She put the wrapped present on his bedside table, brushed off her Japanese cooking skills to prepare dinner for the two of them, and waited. Tonight would be perfect. She would make it perfect.

When Adam hadn't put in an appearance by eight o'clock, Lane was feeling less positive.

At nine o'clock, she threw out the dinner, changed out of her carefully selected dress into one of his shirts (pathetic but she couldn't help herself), donned her dressing gown, and gave herself a stern lecture on why naive, love-starved twenty-four year old economists shouldn't even look at men.

At 9:45, she only just restrained herself from throwing out the jade apple.

The righteous anger lasted fifteen minutes, by which time the prospect of Adam lying dead in a ditch had loomed out of nowhere to lodge in her brain.

Lane worried her hair into knots and paced - she! paced! - the room. But she couldn't get the horrific mental picture out of her head. She had to hear Adam's voice. Had to.

But what if he was fit and well and just late? Would she seem like a pathetic, nagging wife? She could call Sarah instead ... but that felt like being both a sneak and a nag. And Sarah didn't want to talk to her anyway.

Lane had chewed three fingernails low enough to make the fingertips ache by the time she decided she really, really had to call him. But as she was reaching for the phone, she heard her front gate squeak.

She ran to the door, flung it open, ran down the path. "I've been worried sick," she said.

Adam didn't stop. He continued up the path, giving her an unconcerned smile. "Have you? Why?"

Lane hurried up the path beside him. "It's late. I thought- I thought something had happened to you."

Adam kept walking. "I got caught up, and since we never specified a time, I didn't think it would matter when I arrived."

Lane watched in confusion as he reached the doorway and glanced back at her. His face was blank. Uncaring. Even the smile had gone.

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