At first I considered not answering the doorbell. In fact, I ignored it. But whoever it was, wasn’t going away. They rang it again, and then a few moments later rang it again but this time with a repeated pattern indicating insistence. I walked to the door intending to just tell them to go away. I wiped my tears, hoping no more would spill out until I got rid of whoever it was. I held onto the door to try and quell my trembling. Taking a deep breath to temporarily calm my nerves, I opened the door and there he stood.
He filled the doorway with his substantial form full of strength and a determination his stance projected without a single word being spoken. Taking one look at me, before I had a chance to utter a sound, he grasped the screen door, opened it and swept into my life like he owned it.
I continued to hold onto the door this time for dear life. It was my rock anchoring me to reality as Steve strode in letting the screen door slam shut behind him. I flinched at the loud noise. Intending to stop him, I took one step backwards in the time it took him to take two steps towards me and encircle me in his arms.
I couldn’t utter a word. His arms cocooned me in their strength and buffered me from the world. Still clinging to the door, I felt his hand encase mine, gently working my fingers loose from the doorknob. Once free, he placed my hand around his waist, then closed the door, he guided me into the living room which was behind me. He sat down upon the sofa dragging me with him while keeping me encompassed in his arms.
No words had been spoken. Undoubtedly he had read me like an open book the moment I had opened the door. My surprise at finding him there at my door had lodged the words deep in my throat which I had intended on speaking to whoever had been ringing the bell. I had always known I could not refuse Steve anything and now was no different.
I sat to his left, my legs curled slightly beneath me and to the side so my body leaned into him and my head lay upon his shoulder and chest. He sat at an angle so our bodies fit better together and he could look at me. Raising the fingers of his right hand I felt them lightly follow the trail of my tears. Tears I had not realized had continued to flow down my cheeks even after I had wiped them away.
His movement was not to wipe them away but to acknowledge them as if they were a priceless gift and the look on his face was one of sorrow and worry.
I took a shuddering deep breath, making another attempt to pull away from him but his embrace was too powerful containing within it a refusal to allow me to create any distance or barrier between us. His insistence made me cry even more. It was hard to experience his touch, his embrace knowing this would never happen again. That whatever had brought him here had nothing to do with how I felt about him or anything could ever become of it.
I gave in and let him surround me with his strength and essence. I couldn’t resist it. I needed it like I needed the air to breath. Collapsing, I cried, ashamed at my inability to contain my emotions or to suppress them until I could get him out of my house. I became a helpless puddle of emotions, I was unable to understand or unable to control until there was nothing left. Taking another shuddering deep breath, my body relaxed against him as the last tear slipped down my cheek adding more wetness to the growing dampness of his shirt.
Once again I attempted to pull away. Once again he did not allow it. I didn’t look at him for fear of what I would see. As I cried, I had felt his hands soothing me, sometimes brushing through my hair, other times, up and down my arm or my back, a constant gentle rhythm which sank through the turmoil of my emotions lending me comfort and strength.
Becoming aware of the heat of his body penetrating wherever we touched, I felt the slow rise and fall of his chest. Each breath charged the atmosphere between us with a slight spark into a steady electrifying pulse. I shifted slightly hoping to ease the growing sense of discomfort. His arms tightened slightly, taking a deep breath, I sensed his intention to finally speak. I knew one of us would have to say something. Any thought of doing so on my part, made me curl up deep inside, wishing I could hide.
“Kate. I can’t pretend to know what this is all about but whatever it is, I intend to help. Don’t shut me out.”
With my head still against his chest, his words rumbled beneath my ear. I knew I couldn’t pretend like I didn’t know what he was talking about as I had so many times in the past when at work, he had asked me what was wrong. What could I tell him which would be plausible? Could I pretend it was something other than it was and have him believe it? I couldn’t tell him the truth. I couldn’t tell him how his being transferred felt like him abandoning me and had only escalated the problems I experienced when doing the presentations. Just thinking about it all again was causing tiny tremors to begin again deep within my body.
Steve felt the tremors. I could tell. His arms tightened slightly and his fingers began a soothing caress upon my arm. “Kate, talk to me. What is going on?”
I knew I was copping out when I said in a soft voice, “I don’t know.” And I could feel Steve stiffen slightly at my response. I was nervous about how he would respond. I knew he didn’t like my answer and I prepared myself for a negative and even possibly a harsh response.
“Then we’ll figure it out together.” came his soft rejoinder.
Shaking my head no, I pleaded with him, “No. Please just go.”
“I’m not going anywhere, Kate. Trust me when I say this. I’m here to stay.” with one finger pressing lightly under my chin he tilted my head up so he could look into my eyes. “Look at me.” he murmured softly when I kept my eyes lowered.
At his words, I could not deny him and I slowly lifted my eyes. I didn’t see the tanned skin peeking out from the opening of his collar where two buttons had been released from their confinement. I didn’t see the rapid beat of his pulse point on his neck, or his nervous swallow, or the smattering of salt in the dark stubble of his five o-clock shadow. Or the nervous swipe of his tongue to wet his dry full lips. I saw nothing but the deep indigo specks scattered throughout the softest blue eyes which I knew could turn to ice if he was crossed in any way. This is what I had feared seeing when I knew, he knew, I had lied to him.
He repeated what he had said, “I’m here to stay, for as long as it takes. We will figure this out together.” I started shaking my head no, tears started gathering in my eyes when I felt his fingers close upon my chin and stop the movement of my head. “Yes.” he said, this time his eyes turned a darker blue with his determination, just as his head lowered and he brushed his lips gently across my mouth, barely discernible, like a soft whisper.
I jerked away as if burned, this time too fast for him to stop me. I stumbled back, almost losing my balance before righting myself onto my trembling legs. “No. No. No.” Holding my hands up, palms out, like a traffic cop signaling the cars to stop.
But Steve had stood just as quickly when I had jerked out of his arms. He was faster. One step equaled two of mine. The reach of his arms were almost twice mine. By the time I had taken two steps he had grasped my wrist to keep me from retreating any further.
“Oh no you don’t Kate. You are not getting away this time. You have been running for weeks now. It is time to stop. If it is me you are afraid of, I can be patient,” my head had started a slow shake from side to side when he insinuated I might be afraid of him, and I felt my face alter into a look of shock or horror at the idea, as he continued, “but, I don’t think it is me you are afraid of.” I pulled, trying to get him to release my wrist but his grip was firm. Instead, I ended up being pulled closer to him, his hands moving up to my upper arms grasping me more firmly, keeping me close and facing him. I felt terror rise in my throat.
I knew I wasn’t afraid of him. I was afraid of what his kiss meant and what it made me feel. We shouldn’t do this and I knew that. Why didn’t he? Why was he doing this?
“I’m not letting you go. Not until we solve this. Tell me what is going on. Why have you been running from me at every turn?” His eyes burned into mine, reaching in, taking hold, and wouldn’t let go. I couldn’t pull away from him and I couldn’t pull my eyes away from his eyes either.
“Why are you doing this? Let me go. Please.” I begged. I kept pulling, digging my feet into the rug on the floor, bending my knees, sitting back using my weight to try and get him to release me. All it did was make him hold on even tighter.
“Stop it, Kate. Enough. If I let go of you now, you’ll land flat on your back on the floor. I don’t want to hurt you but I can’t let you go. I won’t let you go, not and have you run again.”
God I hated men. They could be so stubborn. “Fine!” I growled at him. I jerked my arms and then stood up straight. Stopped struggling all together and stared at him. I felt the anger rise in me. Anger so furious that yet another man would try and manipulate me. Try and make me do what he wanted regardless of how I felt. I stood staring at him while he held onto my arms. I could tell I startled him by my sudden change in demeanor.
“God, Kate, you are like, well, I don’t know what. Meek and timid one minute and BAM! a seething inferno the next. What the hell is going on with you?” he suddenly dropped his hands letting me go.
“Nothing! Not a damn thing. You have the nerve to barge your way into my house demanding god knows what from me and you are shocked about my behavior?” He had raised my ire and now I had no trouble standing my ground in front of him.
“That isn’t it and you know it.” He sounded exasperated.
“Oh, Please!” I said sarcastically.
“God, Kate. I’ve never seen you like this. In all the years we have worked together I’ve never seen you like this. I’m worried about you. Even more so now.”
“You have no right to be worried over me now. I don’t work for you any more. You have other employees to take care of, and to worry about. Leave me alone!”
“Is that what this is all about? Are you this upset over my transfer?”
“God forbid, no!” I practically yelled at him. Denying it even to myself.
Steve was looking at me as if he didn’t quite believe me. He cocked his head to the side and in a soft voice he said, “Then what is it, Kate? What has you so upset? Was it the kiss? Was it how I touched you that day when you passed out after the presentation? Is that it?”
Dear god, just the mention of it sent a surge of hot liquid fire through my body and I felt the tremors start again. And damn him! He saw it. And a slow smile softened his lips. My eyes devoured his lips as I watched them curl unaware he had taken a step closer and another. Unaware of the light touch of his finger underneath my chin, pressing upwards until my eyes traveled from his lips over the tip of his nose, to the startling blue depths of his eyes.
I was frozen in place, but burning like molten lava, suddenly flaring into a fiery crescendo when his lips pressed demandingly onto mine, daring me to deny what he had seen so clearly in my eyes. I was his to strum to play any tune he desired. His arms once again encircling me, keeping me from collapsing into a heap on the floor at his feet.