Disclaimer: I don't own these characters, and I make no money from this work of fiction!
Missing Scene from One Special Night
"I'm just gonna grab a couple of winks," Robert said, settling himself more comfortably on the old couch, and closing his eyes to escape the sudden tension in the room.
Catherine, who had gotten up to poke at the fire in her attempt to escape that same tension, stood and looked back at him while he spoke. She nodded. "Okay. I'll take the first watch."
As his eyes closed and he gratefully sank into sleep, she smiled. It really was amazing how much she liked him now, considering her opinion of him when they had first met that afternoon. For the first hour in his company, she had truly considered that her offer of a lift had been misguided, not to mention idiotic. Right from the moment he had insulted her car, she had regretted the chivalry which had prompted her to go back into the hospice to speak with him. After they had found the cabin and had a fire started, he had introduced himself and said rather brashly that since they were sleeping together, they should know each other's names. Catherine hugged herself now, feeling again the exasperation and the strange, unwanted frisson of excitement which had rushed over her at his words.
He had encouraged her to get out of her wet clothes and have a hot shower to warm up. Pulling the warm, plaid dressing gown tighter about her neck now, she smiled to see him clad in a matching housecoat. After supper, he had gone out into the storm for more wood, saying he didn't want to run out in the night. She had looked at the almost-full woodpile in the house, then gravely nodded. He had obviously needed the exercise and the excuse to get away. Catherine had been glad to see him go, as she had needed to pull herself together as well. When he had come in, she had refastened the secure lock on her emotions and had sternly told him that even though he might think of himself as the original Macho Man, now HE was soaking wet and could easily catch a chill and the last thing she needed was to have to nurse him. So he had gone for a hot bath too, thanking her when he came out for telling him about the second dressing gown. She had replied airily that it was merely repayment for making supper for her. "You cooked supper almost as much as I did, and yours TASTED better!" he had quipped. Then he had said, "It's great being male. You get extra credit for the slightest act of thoughtfulness."
Well, she had to grant that, although he often said the wrong thing, he often said the right thing, too. She still thrilled to his comment as they were starting supper that perhaps she had never had her own child because she was destined to save one special child. He had seen her pain at her lack of family, and had assuaged it in a very adept, caring fashion for an old curmudgeon! And then, after she had slipped again on the ice while outside helping him with the shutter, which he had already just about finished by the time she had her boots and coat on, he hadn't hesitated to sweep her off her feet and carry her indoors. Taken aback at the swift surge of feeling he invoked in her, she had been overwhelmingly conscious of his after-shave lotion and the very warmth of his nearness. And astonishingly, she had been possessed by the conviction that he was every bit as aware of her as a woman as she was of him as a man. Catherine's hands went up to her cheeks now as she felt them heating again at the memory of his words as he brought her in the house and gently set her on her feet. "You need picking up." Painfully conscious of the colour flooding her face, she had felt as awkward as an infatuated teenager, and that had infuriated as well as excited her. Had he meant that the way she was beginning to wish she could take it? Sweeping her off her feet ... picking her up ... such suggestive language. Their eyes had met for a long moment and they had actually begun moving closer to each other before both had realized what they were doing and had turned away quickly.
Now hearing the wind whistling about the cabin, and the flames in the fireplace jumping when gusts came down the chimney, Catherine began to pace in order to keep awake. The last thing she needed was to fall asleep while on watch! She tried to clear her mind and think of William and Marina, to wonder if they had tried phoning her, but it was no use. Her thoughts kept coming back to Robert and the incredible evening they had just spent playing Scrabble. She and Tom had played that game often, and she had forgotten just how competitive she was in such situations. And yet, the main memory was not of the game, but rather when she and Robert were talking about the chocolate chip pancakes at Murray's. They had agreed to meet there on Sunday for breakfast, she had said, "It's a date." and put out her hand over the scrabble board. He had put his on hers and they had held hands for a moment, neither speaking. Yet their silence was deafening. He had begun to pull her a little closer, his eyes on her lips, and the suddenly combustible atmosphere of the cabin had been intensely obvious. It had seemed to her that she could feel an instant response from him that had matched her own near-convulsive reaction, that in itself making her heart thud. Then, hastily averting their eyes, they had disengaged their hands and changed the subject abruptly.
After an uneasy few moments discussing sleeping arrangements, it had been mutually decided that they would stay up talking. As the night had worn on, Robert had become much more open. Finally he had admitted the truth about Mary Beth to her and perhaps to himself for the first time, saying "She doesn't even know me."
Catherine, wanting to ease his pain as he had eased hers earlier, had said quietly, "She knows you. In her soul. A woman never forgets a man who has occupied her heart for so long." She had told him then a little about Tom, adding, "Take this time with Mary Beth. It's precious. I know. I've been there."
Again a poignant silence had fallen and when it had become too much to bear, Catherine had gotten up and poked at the fire, trying to get away from his probing gaze and to hide her own thoughts. Robert had announced that he had to sleep a bit, and had done so promptly. She looked over at him now, seeing his vulnerability and recognizing her own in him.
Almost stumbling over the stool in her tiredness, Catherine resumed her seat on the couch. Maybe if she just closed her eyes for a moment ...? Jumping awake a second later, she shook her head to try to clear it, tucked her hair behind her ear in an automatic gesture, then sat forward, her elbows on her knees and her chin in her hands, as she stared into the fire. What had Robert REALLY meant by saying that she was a woman who had given up on being one? Well, at least he had said she was beautiful! When she had asked him to explain his comment about her being walled in ice, completely unavailable and uninterested, she had been almost hurt. She had always thought of herself as being a warm person, and had never really thought about being either available or interested, or the opposite! Then Robert had said that if she put on a dress and wore her hair a little softer, men would notice her hiding in there. She had instantly retorted that she wasn't interested in being noticed ... and now, thinking back, she realized how contradictory she had been in that exchange. No wonder he had just smiled slightly and had said that he hadn't meant to embarrass her!
Still not willing to examine her own makeup too closely, Catherine got up again to add more wood to the fire, feeling the chill of the night. She wondered what the temperature was outside. Last night, she knew, had been -38 and tonight had felt much colder when they were keeping the shutter open to fix it. She then debated going up to the bed in the loft, but wasn't sure she wanted to climb the rickety-looking ladder. She felt exhausted, yet restless and uneasy. In fact, she almost felt as if her insides were turned out. It was strange, she mused, she had thought her love and desire had been buried with Tom. Now it seemed as if she were coming to life again. She wasn't sure she could handle this. Could it be that her loving was not over, her heart was not buried? The past few hours had proven to her that she was a vital, warmhearted, loving individual, a woman whose passions may be repressed temporarily but could not be obliterated. What would his kiss have been like, had either of them allowed it to get that far? Somehow, when making the date for pancakes, his warm look had seemed to promise that he would see to the assuagement of her grief and the quickening of her ardor once more. Was she ready for that? More importantly, could she handle it tomorrow morning if Robert just walked away and she never saw him again? Sighing, Catherine sank down on the couch again, giving in to her need for some sleep. Just for a few minutes ...
That night, Catherine snuggled up closer and closer to the body beside her. Oh God, she had missed this! Tom had been gone for so long, it seemed. Now, even in her sleep, she savoured the feelings his presence invoked ... feelings she hadn't experienced for such a very long time. He moved, obviously trying to get comfortable underneath her on the narrow couch, and after several moments of shifting, they both settled again, Catherine sprawling face down with her head resting on his chest. Oh, what a lovely dream she was having ...!
Waking up with a start and automatically throwing up her hand, Catherine found herself blinking in the pale winter sunlight, lying in Robert's arms in a very compromising position, having just whacked him on the chin with her outflung fist.
"What the he ...?" he yelled, automatically tightening his arms around her slim body.
Lying perfectly still now in her prone position on top of him, Catherine felt horribly embarrassed. She raised her head slightly from his chest and stared down at him, her eyes wide with slight confusion. Wishing she could just die and escape this humiliation, she swallowed, then said, "Sorry I punched you. It was an accident. Are ... are you all right, Robert?"
He looked down, then had to grin, even though his back was killing him. Sleeping on a too-short sofa was not conducive to a restful night, but from her position atop his body, it may not have been a restful one in any case. No wonder he felt so good this morning! "Not exactly. I really feel as though I should have, at the very least, taken you out for a high-class supper first."
She appeared momentarily bewildered, staring blankly into his eyes, then she looked downward, following his gaze. Seeing her legs straddling his hips, and her dressing gown half off, twisted around and hiked up to show a great deal of thigh, her cheeks grew pink, then very red. She closed her eyes in a vain attempt at denial. The charming flush of embarrassment affected Robert in a way he never would have expected, and resting on him the way she was, Catherine couldn't help but notice his appreciative male reaction.
Her eyes flew open again, drawn abruptly back into the present, and her scandalized and self-condemnatory gaze rocketed to his.
He cleared his throat. "Apparently I'm fine," he murmured, unable to deny the obvious.
His words seemed to jar her from her stunned paralysis, and she scrambled off him, galvanized into action. Sucking in a deep breath, she pulled her robe together. She MUST remember that she was a woman of science.
"Just physics ..." Robert growled, tossing his robe over himself.
"Yes," her voice was small. "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction." Last night, Robert had wanted to kiss her more than once. She knew that. Any woman would have known that. Her whole being ached now for his kiss, something that should never, COULD never be. Her thoughts continued to race, as did her pulse.
As he sat up rather gingerly, he groaned again, then looked over at her. "Are YOU all right, Catherine? Did you sleep well?"
She nodded mutely.
"So did I. The best night I've had since ..." he broke off, and shook his head in disgust. "Sorry, Catherine. If, well, if I did anything in the night, please, forgive me ..."
Catherine turned away abruptly. He got up, adjusting his dressing gown and re-tying the belt. She kept her head down, tracing the pattern on the back of the chair. Then Robert stepped closer, and one hand gently lifted her chin so she was looking up at him. Catherine melted at the look in his eyes and caved in to the inevitable. Of course they would kiss! How could they not?
His thumb touched her lips, and they parted on a sigh as her eyelids fluttered shut when he bent nearer. Ever so lightly, his lips brushed hers, again and again, until her lips softened under his. Her body pressed closer to him, silently and eagerly welcoming and encouraging his touch. She could no more pull away nor resist his mute urging than she could fly. His kiss deepened and his hands pressed her so close to his body that she felt as if she were fused to him. The kiss seemed to draw her into him, and she sensed she could be lost to herself forever. It was shattering, encompassing and terrifying all at the same time as heat and pleasure washed over her. She gasped at the feeling of being part of him.
Part of him? HER? That was madness! That could never be! Yet she wanted it so desperately. She was as crazy as she had termed him last night. Kissing this man, feeling him against her, and wanting more. When his lips moved against her, trailing a line of fire from her chin to her throat, she automatically tilted her head back in abandonment. Then she froze. What was she doing, offering herself to him, letting him kiss her? No, it was wrong, so terribly wrong. This shouldn't happen. It couldn't happen.
She jerked herself back from Robert. She had to regain her balance, emotionally and physically. She had practically no, there had been nothing practical OR sensible about the way she had reacted to him! She had been so close to yielding to the temptation to delight in his touch! No, she had been close to wordlessly demanding that he make love to her!
"My dear, I ..." his words halted as she made a quick movement.
"Please." Even just that one word was an effort to speak. She stared at him for a moment, her trembling hand going up to touch her passion-swollen lips, then she turned and fled to the bathroom.
Inwardly, she was cursing herself for even thinking about his nude body up against hers. Why, she saw nude male bodies every day at work! Just because the naked males she saw were only about a foot long was no reason to be dreaming or worse, daydreaming about ... about Robert! He was just a ... a ... an irascible, arrogant, chauvinistic, pessimistic curmudgeon! So why was she still thinking about him? In the shower, she scrubbed herself viciously in an attempt to get rid of the illusive memory of his touch, but inwardly, Catherine groaned. If nerves were visible, she was sure she would look like a porcupine. Every single one stood on alert, distended, ready. Her skin felt as if it were on fire. What on earth was wrong with her? She really must be crazy, she thought in some disgust, dressing in her now-dry clothes.
When she came out of the bathroom much later, he was gone. Muttering about how he could have left her to find her own way back, she worked to clean up the fireplace, spreading the hot ashes around a bit to cool them off fast, whacking the dying embers with the poker to help them burn more quickly. Suddenly she heard the door, and she froze, then looked around.
Standing up, she stared at him. He was smoking a cigar! As the smell reached her, tears burned in the back of her eyes. It must be one she had bought for her husband before his illness.
Robert walked over to the fireplace casually, still smoking while he explained that he had been out to the car and the battery was dead, but that the plow had come through ... At that point, he realized that she was trying to hide the fact that she was weeping. Cursing himself inwardly for causing her undue pain, he threw the cigar into the fire and told her that it was the smell that had triggered the memories. He then recounted his story of following a woman who had happened to smell like Mary Beth, and laughed a trifle harshly at himself when he confessed that it had been the scent of the same shampoo. "I miss my wife's hair, and I didn't even know it," he muttered, turning away from Catherine's sympathetic gaze and rubbing his hands to warm them.
Catherine stood up. "That's dear," she said softly and sincerely as she moved to stand beside him, looking at him intently. "She would love knowing that." She knew Robert had begun to tell her the story to get her mind off her tears for Tom, and she loved him for that.
"Thank you." He looked at her for a moment. "I like talking to you," and he turned fully towards her. "I want to know all about you. Catherine ..." he couldn't seem to be able to word what he wanted to say, but his eyes were saying everything and more.
"I know." Again her voice was soft and sympathetic and she wrapped her arms about herself for warmth and comfort. She refused to admit that if she didn't hug herself, she would be tempted to hug him, an action which could prove disastrous. "It was just one, special night. But thank you for helping me discover that life can still be ... pleasant ..."
"Maybe ... some day in the future ..." he began, but his voice trailed off.
Catherine smiled, already resigning herself to the fact that miracles rarely happened. "Who knows?"
Just then, a woman's voice was heard calling, "Dad? Dad?"
Within moments, their one special night was over. Lori and her husband urged Catherine to come with them, saying they would take her home and would arrange to have her car delivered to her house as soon as possible. Very aware of Lori's curious glances and of Robert's presence in the vehicle beside her, Catherine tried to remain casual. She airily joked with Robert, throwing back some of his own words to him, delighted when he entered the spirit of the word game and replied with her phrases.
When they dropped her off at her house, Catherine refused Robert's company to the door. Finding in the pocket of her coat the one dollar bill he had pushed into her hand last night, she held it up, and teasingly bet him a thousand dollars he couldn't keep his promise to be always honest with her. Then she hurried into the house before she gave any more of herself away.
After letting herself in and shedding her coat, Catherine automatically phoned her answering service and was thankful to hear that there were no messages. Putting down the phone, she looked around the room, and wondered why it seemed so empty and she so alone. Then she smiled slightly. But they did have a date for Sunday, assuming Robert showed up, so she might be seeing him again. And, who knew? Something just might happen ... some day. Hanging up her coat, she delved into the pocket and pulled out Robert's crumpled one dollar bill. Kissing it, she went to put it safely in her jewelry box then go through her wardrobe to pick a nice dress for Sunday, just in case. She thought she would try a new way, a SOFTER way of doing her hair, too...