Chapter Eleven

***

Nick looked over at Michelle as she drove.  She had been unusually quiet during the drive back to her place.  He reached over and took her hand that rested on her thigh in his.   "Surprised to see your family tonight?"

She nodded.  "Very.  Did you have anything to do with it?"

Michelle eyed him suspiciously and he couldn't hold back a grin.  "Maybe a little.  Actually all I did was suggest Jason invite them and he said he would see what he could do."

"Thank you," she sighed, squeezing his hand.  "We're a stubborn group.  It could have gone on for some time...our not dealing with what happened.  I was hurt to be thought of as a reminder of Rach's death."

"And they were embarrassed because they put you in such a position.  But I can see how much they love you."

Michelle smiled as she pulled the car up to the house.  She hurried up to the door, unlocked it and entered without waiting for Nick.  She was nervous and scared to find out what he wanted to talk about.  Actually, she was fairly sure she knew what he was going to say.

"You in a hurry for something, Shelley?" he asked, catching up to her and closing the front door behind him.

"Actually, yes," she admitted, turning to face him and tossing her small purse onto the table.  "It was difficult to hear over the noise in the club, but I'm sure you said something about needing to be alone to talk."  Her pulse quickened and her nerves tightened her stomach into knots.

"Yes," he agreed, "I said something to that effect."

Her eyebrow arched in expectation.  "So we're alone..."

"So we are," he chuckled nervously.  How to broach the subject?  "That song you sang," he began, "I felt you were talking to me...only me."

"And if I were?" she asked hesitantly while she headed to the kitchen and poured a glass of wine.  "Would you care for one?"

"Not right now," he answered.  "If you were, I must tell you...things have moved very fast between us..."

Michelle gulped the glass of wine in two large swallows and felt the warmth spread through her body quickly.  Yep, this was it.  The big brush off.  "Yes, fast.  Now it's over, right?" Tears filled her eyes but she was damned if she would give him the satisfaction of knowing he hurt her.  Broke her heart.  She went to the stairs and began to walk up them backwards.  "Fine, fine.  You've had your fun, I can dig that...go back to your life pining for Rae..."  Say something, damn you!

Nick was taken aback and struck speechless at her sudden onslaught of accusations.  He had never given her any indication he wanted to end the relationship.  Was she that ready to be hurt?  Is that what she feared all along?  That he would use her and run begging Rae again the first chance he got?

Michelle was halfway up the stairs now.  "Go back to Rae, Nick.  But please don't ever..." she trailed as the sobs threatened.  She did not want him to see her cry.  "Go...go home, Nick!" she cried as she turned and tripped up the stairs, falling flat on her face.  On top of all the humiliation, she just gave herself a nasty rug burn on her knee.

Nick was up the steps faster than he could breathe in and out.  He sat next to her, turning her into his embrace.  "Shelley, what..."

"Please, Nick," she pleaded, wiping the tears furiously from her cheeks.  "Please go."

"Not until I said what I had intended to say before you so curiously went off on a tangent."  Her look of indignation almost made him chuckle, but he held it back.  "What I was trying to tell you...that although things seemed to have happened so quickly between us, I just can't imagine a life without you."

His voice had dipped to a low, husky whisper; his breath fanning her cheek causing her to shiver in his arms.  When he tightened his embrace as if trying to ward off her chill, she sighed wearily.  "What are you trying to say?  You still want to be friends?"

"Yes.  NO!"  Why was he having so much trouble saying what he knew he wanted to say?  "Yes, I want us always to be friends.  I want us to be everything to each other.  Friends and lovers.  Do you understand?"

Michelle nodded and buried her head in her hands.  "You want to be friends, but you also want someone to have sex with," she murmured into her hands.

"No...M'lady...you don't understand.  I want for us to always need each other...in every way." 

Michelle almost growled her frustration.  "I still don't understand.  I don't just want to be your part-time lover, part-time friend.  It's not enough for me.  Say what you mean to say, or just leave me be."  The last line came out as a pained request.

"I love you."

Michelle's head flew up in astonishment.  Was she hearing things?  Did he truly say those words?  "Wha-t?"

Nick nodded while he cupped her face in his hands.  "Love you, want you, need you...do you understand now?"

"But..."

"No, Shelley...I have never had any intention of leaving you to try for Rae again.  I told you...that's over.  Long ago.   Can you trust in that?"  His eyes held hers for a moment before she answered, curling into his embrace.

"I was frightened...to lose you.  That I grew to love you in such a short time just took me by surprise.  I just knew it was too good to be true," she admitted her fears out loud.

"Ah, so you DO love me," he exclaimed, hugging her fiercely.  "I had hoped..."

"Yes, Nicky...'I look at you and life comes from you'...."

~finis~