Sunday, November 16, 2008

Chapter Twenty

I know I should let it go, but I can’t.

I just can’t get Emme Sutton out of my mind, and I hate the way we parted when she darted out of my flat the other night.

I know I was cold, but I was hurt.

I might be able to accept that it was over if we had a little closure, and for that, I need to see her, one more time.

I’m not a stalker, though I feel vaguely like one as I jog up the hill, away from the front and towards her flat. Glancing at my watch, I see that it’s after seven o’clock in the evening, so she should be well home from work by now.

As I round the corner, I see her car slip into its spot in the parking lot, the headlights flicking off as the engine is killed. I cross the street and see Emme emerging from the car, and I call out to her, hoping not to startle her with my sudden appearance in the growing darkness.


She whirls around, lightly banging herself against the open car door.

My jaw drops and I sprint into a run as I see her doubled over in pain.

Emme is clutching her stomach, her breath whistling through clenched teeth as I skid to a halt beside her. “Oh, god, ugh…” she says, and I lay a hand on her shoulder, shaking with concern.

“Emme?” I ask, hating to see her in pain. “What is it? Are you hurt?”

She finally straightens, and then looks up at me, her eyes containing a mixture of confusion, pain, and, unless I’m imagining it, happiness at seeing me in front of her.

But then again, I really may be imagining it.

“Oh god, Connor. Hi. I’m sorry, I’m so clumsy…” she says, slamming the door shut and slinging her purse across her shoulder as though nothing were out of the ordinary.

“Are you hurt?” I ask, examining her for signs of injury.

“I’m… I’m fine. I just banged that bruised rib on… the car door. I’m fine,” she says, giving me a wide, too wide smile.

And suddenly, all the pieces fall into place.

There’s no way that little bump against the car door would hurt her rib so badly, unless it had been reinjured somehow.

Couple that with the injuries she sustained the night she was brought to the emergency room at the hospital, and her cryptic phone call the other night, and it all makes sense.

“Emme,” I say, my voice quiet, concerned. “Is he hurting you?”

She looks at me, her face a mask of confusion. “He, who?”

I take a deep breath, and then continue. “Your husband.”

I wasn’t expecting her reaction, though.

Which was a burst of laughter, echoing through the dark, empty street.

“I’m not married, Connor!” She screeches, still laughing. “You’ve been in my flat, does it look like another human being, much less a husband, lives there? What on earth would give you that idea?”

I take a step back, thrusting my hands deep in my pockets, embarrassed by her reaction. “Well, your lover, then. Is he abusing you? Hurting you?”

She looks at me, befuddled, and I meet her gaze evenly, willing her to tell me the truth. “Connor,” she says, tenderly. “I’m not seeing anyone. No one but you,” she whispers, taking a step towards me, and then gently cupping my cheek in her cold palm. “What is all this about?”

She’s still seeing me.

Thank the gods above.

I sigh, daring to believe her. “I… I overheard the phone call you got at my flat the other night. I wasn’t spying or snooping, but voices carry in there, and I heard…”

She is silent for a moment, and then I see the penny drop in her eyes. “Oh. Oh god. No, Connor, those things I said…”

“’Love, honor and obey’?” I ask evenly, and then continue. “’You know how much I care about us? You know I’ll do anything you ask?’ I swear I wasn’t eavesdropping, but that sounds awfully like that there is another man in your life. And I understand… I understand that a girl like you isn’t likely not to have a lover, or hell, fifty lined up, because you are so damn beautiful and smart, but I just wanted to know…”

“How I felt about you?” She whispers, and I nod stupidly.

“I don’t like being played, Em. And I really like you…”

She squeezes her eyes shut, and then opens them again, meeting my gaze. “There is no other man, Connor. I’m not seeing anyone but you. That’s the truth, and I want you to believe me.”

“I do,” I murmur. “Or, at least, I want to.”

She nods, her hand still cupping my cheek. “What you heard… it’s not what you think.”

“Then what is it?”

She takes a step back, assuming a slightly defensive stance. “Connor, I really like you, but there are things I can’t share with you. Not yet, not now. I’ve promised to keep some things… confidential. I want you to trust me. Please…”

I process this, not yet saying yes or no.

“And your injuries?” I ask, believing science and medicine, even if I can’t quite believe her words yet.

“The emergency room is what you know – a mugging. And as for the rest… I’m a klutz. What can I say?” she shrugs self deprecatingly, and gives me a small laugh. “I’m always the walking wounded. Good thing I know a pretty good doctor…” she gives me a flirty glance, and I can feel my resolve crumbling slightly.

“You swear there isn’t anyone else?”

“No one but you.”

“And that no one is… abusing you?”

“No one,” she says, meeting my piercing gaze. “I promise.”

We stand, watching each other for what feels like hours, and then she speaks again. “Do you trust me, Connor?”

I want to, god, I want to.

But then, every relationship is a leap of faith, right?

“I trust you,” I say softly, and she sighs, sounding relieved.

“I trust you, too,” she whispers in return. “And you should know I don’t trust easily. For me to say this to you… it’s a lot, Connor.”

“I know,” I murmur, still watching her. “I know.”

We stand, only a few feet apart, processing this exchange when I see her shiver slightly in the cool air. “Will you do me a favor?” I ask after a long moment.

“If I can.”

“Will you at least let me look at that, make sure it isn’t more serious?” I ask, gesturing in the general direction of her belly.

“Sure,” she says, nodding, and then a wicked smile crosses her face. “And then, maybe you can check me for other injuries. Head to toe.”

My jaw drops slightly, not missing the innuendo in her words.

“If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were seducing me to make me forget about our little confrontation here.”

“Well, I AM trying to seduce you, but it has nothing to do with confrontations,” she says, her smile gleaming in the low light, a wicked tinkle in her eye.

“In that case, Ms. Sutton,” I say, unable to hold back my grin, “why don’t you lead the way?”


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