Part 78

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When I woke up, Caitlin was still asleep, her head resting on the pillow beside me, a slight smile visible on her face. No more nightmares, then, I decided.

I reached out to stroke her hair, then hesitated. How much of last night will she remember? What else has she remembered?

Last night, she'd kneed me, called me...names, I'd almost gotten her killed and she'd tried to kill me. And afterwards…

I'd kissed her, she'd responded and the feel of her skin, the taste of her, her hands on me, how much I'd wanted her, how much I still want her now...

Oh shit. I sat up and started looking for my clothes, hoping I could make it into a cold shower before she woke up.

Part of me hoped she'd forget all of it, thinking the whole night was a dream. It wouldn't be the first time. Then she could go on, tolerating my presence because I was a friend who wanted to help her and I didn't want anything else.

Can I go back to ignoring how much I want her? Especially now I have the faintest hope that she wants me. Or one day she will…

Last night, she'd shown me a small part of the fire she'd had before all of this. The inner fire that had gotten her through it. To imagine what she'd be like, not scared and not hurt any more. Just Caitlin...

I found myself staring at her. I want you was probably written across my face – and my shorts as well.

Her big, dark eyes opened.

Oh fuck. Quick, cover up before she notices and runs away screaming. Or worse.

I smiled and sat on the edge of the bed, dumping my clothes in my lap. "Good morning."

She was silent for a moment as she sat up, pulling the quilt with her. Caitlin winced; her fingers looking thicker than usual. I'd forgotten the ice pack, so they'd swollen up from the beating her hand took last night. A beating I gave her…oh God. I swallowed.

"Good morning," she replied vaguely. "What happened to my hand?"

I thought quickly. "You must have been lying on it. You passed out in the toilet last night, angel – remember?" Of course she won't. "Maybe you hit it as you fell. You were lying pretty awkwardly on the floor."

Awkward's an understatement. Pinned under Navid before he knocked her out as I looked on and did nothing.

Caitlin looked puzzled, then nodded slowly.

I changed the subject. "Did you have any more nightmares?"

"No, no more nightmares." Caitlin's face lifted with a watery smile.

"Good." I hesitated, before I gave in and leaned forward to kiss her. Her hands crept around my neck as she kissed me back. I didn't want to stop. Her quilt slipped down and I was conscious of her breasts pressed against my chest.

She pushed me away, clutching at the quilt again. "Nathan, please, stop." She sounded breathless.

I leaned back again as she caught her breath. "I want...I wish...I wish I was brave enough to do this. I'm still scared, Nathan. I'm scared of...even with you." She looked up at me, her eyes filling with tears.

I wrapped my arms around her, quilt and all, and told her it was all right, that she knew I'd never hurt her.

As she cried, my heart sang. She wants me. One day, next week or next month or next year, she'll be ready.

All I have to do is hold onto her and wait. Hoping she doesn't remember…

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