I could sense him standing at the doorway behind me for some moments before he spoke. I couldn't turn around and looked at him to save my life. I knew my face was flaming.

'How are you, Jennifer?' he said at last.

'OH, I'm fine, just fine,', still unable to face him. Blindly, I turned on the water tap, just for something to do, and immediately put my hand in the sudden burst of hot water. I gave a little cry, more of annoyance at myself than of pain, and shut the water off. He was beside me now, looking down at the hand, which was reddening and beginning to blister.

'You don't seem fine,' he said drily. He reached out and turned on the cold water, then took my hand and placed it under the cooling stream. 'Is that better?' he asked. I nodded, still unable to speak. He turned the water off and reached for a towel. Gently, he began to dry my hand.

'It's much better, now, thanks,' I muttered. 'It was a stupid thing to do.'

'Look at me, Jennifer,' he said, at last, tossing the towel over a chair. He put His hand under my chin and forced my head up so that I had to face him. 'Now, let's start over again. How are you?' The grey eyes were kind, and I recognized genuine concern in the deep voice. I smiled weakly. 'I'm fine. Really.'

He raised one dark eyebrow and held my gaze in his. 'No regrets? About last night?'

I shook my head slowly, melting under the silvery gaze. He needed a shave, I thought and longed to run my hand up over the light stubble on the flat, hard cheeks. 'No. No regrets.'

He smiled then and leaned down and kiss me lightly on my nose. 'Good girl.' His hand dropped away then, and he turned to go. 'I have a meeting tonight,' he called over his shoulder. 'Do I have time to shower?'

'Yes. Yes, of course. It's so warm I've just fixed a cold supper. It can be ready at any time.'

Then he was gone.

I waited up for him that night until past eleven o'clock, staring blindly at the television set, watching whatever came on without paying any attention to it.

I didn't know what to do, what to think. Our conversation over dinner had been desultory and impersonal. Matthew had been appointed to an important Senate subcommittee, and that seemed to be all he had on his mind. I had listened to him, waiting for some personal word, a touch, even a glance, but when he had finished his dinner, he had gone off to his meeting with only a casual goodnight.

I finally switched off the television and went to bed. Lying there, listening to him, I thought over his strange manner to me. What was going through his mind? Did he regret coming to me last night, revealing his naked passion to me?

At dinner, I had found myself looking at him with new eyes. I'd always known he was an attractive man, but now his cool good looks had an entirely new effect on me. As I watched him eat or speak, all I could think of was that fine sensitive mouth on mine. When his hands reached out for a cup or a fork, I stared at the long fingers and remembered how they had felt moving on my body.

Finally, just as I was drifting off to sleep, I heard him come in the front door, his step in the hall. I sat bolt upright in bed, my heart pounding. I could sense his presence just outside my door, hesitating, listening. Should I call out to him? Before I could make up my mind, I heard the soft footsteps moving away down the hall towards his own bedroom.

The next day we only saw each other briefly at breakfast. He called me in the middle of the day to say he wouldn't be home for dinner. I had known when I married him that a senator's life was taken up with time-consuming obligations. Then, it hadn't seemed to matter. Now, it was agony.

That night I left my light on after I went to bed, thinking he might come if he knew I was still awake. I read in bed until midnight then dozed off. When I woke up, the light was still burning and it was after two. If he had come home, he either hadn't knocked at my door or I had been asleep and hadn't heard him.

The next night we went out together to a cocktail party, then on to dinner at a restaurant with several other people. Matthew treated me with the same cool courtesy and polite deference he always had, but even when we were alone, on the way home, our conversation was impersonal. I noticed that not once during the evening had he touched me.

By now, I had had enough. I had slept badly the last two nights and was so absorbed in trying to figure out what was going on in my husband's head that I couldn't work, couldn't even eat properly. Did he think that one visit was going to produce a pregnancy? Was that all he wanted from me? Did he see me only as some kind of broodmare, my only value in his eyes as a receptacle for his offspring?

By the time we got home late that night, I had worked myself into a wave of fine self-righteous anger, and as soon as we were inside the apartment I stalked off to my own room, tossing a brief 'Goodnight' at him over my shoulder. I didn't even turn around.

Still simmering with resentment, I threw my clothes off, put on my old cotton nightgown, turned out the light and flopped into bed. If there had been a lock on the door, I would have turned it. I fell asleep immediately, exhausted from the nervous intensity of the last two days, the sleepless nights.

I dreamed that Matthew had come to me at last, so vividly that I could feel his face next to me, his hand moving on my breast. Then, gradually awakening, I realized it wasn't a dream.

My eyelids fluttered, opened, and focused on a dim form sitting on the edge of the bed, leaning over me. His mouth was at my ear.

'Is it alright if I stay, Jennifer?'

I tried to recall my earlier anger, but the soft quick breath in my ear, the gentle fingertips tracing a line across the low bodice of my nightgown, distracted me. I murmured my assent, still dazed from the short sleep, and felt him slip into bed beside me.

When his arms came around me and I reached out for him, my hands fell on bare flesh, and I realized he was naked. I drew in my breath sharply, and then his mouth came down on mine, blotting out all thought, reducing me to a quivering, yielding response.

His lovemaking was more tender tonight, his kisses more seductive, his touch gentler. When I sat up so that he could pull the nightgown over my head, his hands slid back down lingeringly over my upraised arms, my shoulders, stopped briefly to cup and mold my warm breasts, then moved down over my flat stomach, to my thighs, the soles of my feet and back up again.

I found myself responding as powerfully to this sensuous gentleness as I had to his wilder passion. I bite my lip several times to stop myself from telling him I loved him, intuition warning me that such a declaration at this point would ruin everything between us.

I knew he didn't love me with his mind or his heart. But my deepest feminine instinct assured me that he did indeed love me with his hands, his mouth, his body and in time he might learn to love me as fully as I loved him. I could hope, anyway.

Once again, he left me after I had fallen asleep in his arms. When I woke up the next morning and found that he was gone, my hopes vanished and the bitterness returned. I lay for a long time alone in bed staring up at the ceiling, wondering what to do.

What could I do? I had to accept the fact that to Matthew I was only an object of desire, good merely for satisfying his lust, bearing his children. Could I live with that? The future yawned emptily before me, frightening me.

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