Kendall turned the key in the lock and opened the door. She flipped on the light switch. The sight which greeted her was thoroughly depressing. Emptiness. No furniture. No pictures on the wall. No little girl laughter. No pound puppy yipping. No Bianca. It was strange that Kendall would miss her sister's presence here, when she had in fact never lived here. It was the house she had bought to live in with Miranda. When Bianca moved to Paris, she didn't sell it – she rented it out. Currently there were no tenants, so Kendall agreed to look in on occasion.
Kendall shivered from the cold. She bypassed the thermostat, went over to the fireplace and flipped the switch. The gas burner sprang to life, and the flame started eating away merrily at the logs. Bianca had loved this feature, especially since it had a master off button on the circuit breaker box. Kendall started to do a walkthrough, checking water pressure, light switches, and the occasional outlet with a night light she carried in her purse. She made it back to the living room and sat in front of the fire. It was such a charming little house. Perfect for a family. Kendall had toyed with the idea of moving into it herself, but knew she would have felt out of place in the neighborhood. The street was chock full of children.
Kendall put her hand on her belly. Maybe Ryan and Greenlee could move here when the baby was born. She dropped her hand. Who was she kidding? They were never getting back together. Not after what he told her about Jonathan. There was no way he was going to abandon his freakazoid brother. And there was no way Greenlee was going to tolerate his presence in their lives – especially with a baby around. Kendall couldn't blame her. Right up until the point when he mentioned Jonathan, Kendall had convinced herself that Ryan could be a father, that he and Greenlee could raise their child with no problems. Kendall put her head in her hands. The whole thing was such a huge mess. She found herself longing to ask Zach for advice. Damn him. DAMN him!
"So this is the house where Bianca planned to raise Miranda." Kendall flew to her feet and saw Zach standing in the entrance to the living room, as if she had conjured him up with her curses. He continued, "Unfortunately, this town tried to suck the life out of her, so she escaped." Kendall balled her fists. "What the hell are you doing here, Zach?" He looked around. "You really should do something about security. You're here all alone at night, and you left the door unlocked." Kendall groaned inwardly. That was a stupid thing to do – she had been preoccupied. "You just never let up with being in protective mode, do you? It was endearing once, but now its freaky. And I really don't appreciate the spying and the stalking. You followed me here, didn't you?" He smiled wolfishly. "No, one of my employees did. When he told me where you were, my curiosity got the better of me."
Unable to look at him anymore, she turned back towards the fire. "Greenlee came to Ryan's room. She told me about how you came to see her and threatened her." He raised his eyebrows. "Threatened? In what way? Raise my fist to her, like Ryan did?" She made a cutting motion with her hand. "Would you lay off Ryan for once?" Zach took a step closer. "Why should I? You haven't laid off me from the moment you realized that I lied to you." Kendall folded her arms. "You don't deserve to get any slack for what you did to me." Zach took another step closer. "Yet Ryan does get slack. Why?" She tossed her hair. "Are you jealous because I've forgiven him and not you?" Zach took another step closer, and now he was in her personal space. "Is that why you hugged him? To try and needle me? You and Ryan, the two Smuggersons making little taunts, trying to get under my skin. It was disgusting really, and you know why? It reminded me of that night of the murder game. You remember how insufferable Ryan and Greenlee were to you that night? How awful they made you feel? It was the same thing at the hospital today, except the difference was that you were playing the role of Greenlee, and your efforts to belittle me failed. Your childish behavior doesn't do a damn thing for me."
He stepped away from her and walked to the fireplace, holding his hands out to feel the warmth. Kendall stared at him through unshed tears. She closed her eyes in an attempt to will the tears back where they came from. She walked over to him, and stood just behind his right shoulder. "I can't get under your skin because you have none. I can't make you bleed because you're incapable of it. You're made of stone. No flesh and blood at all. Just pure granite." He whipped around, and she was so startled that she stumbled backwards. He grabbed her shoulders with his hands. "You think I have no flesh and blood? You really think that?" He moved his left hand down her right arm, and caught up her hand in his. "Feel this, and tell me that it is made of granite."
He held her hand to his chest, and pressed it, so she could feel his heartbeat. Her breath caught in her throat. It was beating very quickly. She took a shaky breath. "What, did you jog to the house?" He shook his head. "You do this to me. You make me bleed, Kendall. But it isn't when you're behaving like a brat, trying to taunt me. No, you get under my skin when you tell me that you care about me. When you look at me like you're trying to figure me out, and then triumphantly tell me your conclusions. When you smash a very expensive bottle of champagne, and then meekly tell me you're sorry. When you pretend like someone has broken into your condo because you want to protect me from the bad guys. I could go on and on, Kendall." She was unable to prevent the tears from falling this time. He reached up and wiped one of them away, cradling her cheek in his hand.
Her hand still on his chest, she began to notice that in addition to his fast heartbeat, his breath was starting to become labored. She closed her eyes. "You keep doing this to me, Zach. You get so close to me, say the most intimate things to me, touch me in such a personal way. Yet you never kiss me. Except that one time when it was a joke for the reporters." She opened her eyes again. He shook his head. "Kissing you is not a joke. I took advantage of the situation because I figured you couldn't get too angry at me under the circumstances." She blinked. "You mean you haven't kissed me because you thought I would get angry?" He nodded slowly. "There've been a number of things I've wanted to do to you, but your anticipated fury held me back." She lifted her chin and glared at him. "Well, I'm pretty much furious with you all the time now." He regarded her thoughtfully. "True, that's very true. I guess one more thing to piss you off won't matter then, will it?"
He lowered his head and covered her mouth with his. The hand that had been on her cheek, inched back to tangle in her hair. The other hand, which had been holding hers to his chest, traveled back up her arm, then continued on to her shoulder, stopped at her neck for a few moments, and then on into her hair. Her hands snaked between his jacket and shirt, around to his back, and pulled him against her. She started trembling. How many times she had wanted to be doing this with him. Now, of all times, when she wanted so much to hate him. As if he were reading her thoughts, he broke the kiss. "Since you hate me so much already, it won't matter how angry it makes you if I do this." He lowered his head again, and kissed her jawline, then kissed down her neck, stopping at her pulse point to apply pressure with his tongue. Her knees buckled. She clutched at him to keep from falling. His hands came out of her hair and to her shoulders to hold her up.
Regaining her composure, she stepped back a pace, pulling her arms from the warmth of his jacket. His hands went from her shoulders to her collarbone. He played with her necklace. "Would you be furious with me if I did this?" His fingers teased open the lapel of her blouse, so that they were skimming the top of her breasts. Her voice was rough. "Well, I am feeling a bit heated at the moment. So do you, actually." She grabbed the lapels of his jacket, and pulled them outward. He dropped his arms so that she could pull the jacket off him. She stared at his shirt buttons for a moment, and then looked up into his eyes. They burned into her. "So, what are you going to do next to piss me off?" He gave her a small smile, and then lowered himself to the carpet. Propped up on one elbow, with one knee bent casually, he responded, "Make you come to me." She glared at him for a long moment, then lowered herself to her knees. She leaned over him. "That is infuriating. Good work." He smiled and pulled her down on top of him. "I try hard, for your sake." Her body was pressed against the entire length of him. "I can feel how hard you're trying."
She levered herself up so that she was straddling him, causing the hem of her skirt to hitch up around her thighs. She began to unbutton his shirt. He explored her exposed legs with his hands. With fistfuls of his shirt, she pulled him into a sitting position so she could remove it. Then she began to unbutton the top part of her dress, while he worked on uncinching her belt. Their eyes were locked. Her breath ragged, she said, "Its common knowledge that I do impulsive and unwise things when I'm angry. Are you sure you want to get sucked into my destructive little vortex?" He helped her pull her dress over her head, and then tossed it away. He pulled her to him so that their naked flesh came together. "I think getting sucked is a fantastic idea. Lets explore that." He let his tongue slide from her neck to the end of her shoulder, moving the strap of her bra out of his way. He sucked on the end of her shoulder, while at the same time unhooking the catch of her bra. He maneuvered the two of them forward so that she was now on her back, and he was hovering over her. He pulled her bra all the way off. All she wore now was her thong.
She looked down at his pants. "I'm feeling underdressed." He smiled. "Does that make you angry?" She smiled back. "I don't get mad. I get even." She pushed him back into a sitting position and went to work on unbuckling his belt and undoing the zipper. Her fingers brushed against him and he sucked in his breath. He kicked off his shoes and quickly helped her dispose of his pants so that he could get back to her breasts, which were adorned so charmingly with her gold necklace that winked in the firelight. His eyes traveled back up to her face. Her eyes also reflected the firelight. Her expression was one of…vulnerability. He hesitated. Was he taking advantage of her raw emotions? Transforming her anger into passion because he needed her so badly?
As if she were reading his mind, her eyes hardened. "Don't you dare, Zach. Don't you dare pull away from me now." She stood up and pulled her thong down, letting it drop to the floor. "Here I am, Zach. Naked. Defenseless. You vowed to protect me against the world. Do your job, damn it." He slowly got to his feet. He touched her collarbone, then let his fingers trail down to her breast, before cupping it in his hand. "What if what you need protection against, is me?" She closed her eyes briefly, then opened them. "If that's true, its only because you are my world. Why do you think I'm so furious with you? If I didn't give a damn about you, your betrayal would be as effective as a pellet gun against a battle ship. Right now you're the battle ship, and I'm the pellet gun. Try as I might, I can't even put a little ding in your armor."
He laughed humorlessly. "You really believe that? Your pain has shredded my armor far more effectively than any of your hateful words. And right now, I'm the one that's completely defenseless." Something flickered in her eyes. She looked down at his boxer briefs. "Not completely." She reached out and pulled them down. He kicked them away. They were both fully naked now, physically and emotionally. He reached over and gently grasped her necklace with his fingers. He pulled on the necklace, urging her forward until she was against him. He swept her up in his arms, and lowered her gently to the carpet.
He lowered his lips to hers and prodded them open with his tongue. Having shed all pretense of toying with each other, their raw need took over and their movements became more urgent. They took turns exploring the other – caressing, licking, biting, massaging. Whenever their tongues left a trail, the heat from the fire burned it off immediately. Their breathing became more labored, their skin more feverish. Kendall couldn't stand it anymore. "Zach, please. I need you inside me." He groaned. "I don't want this to end." She cradled his face in her hands. "It doesn't have to." He gazed at her, wanting to believe her. How would she feel when her passion died down? "Please," she said. He couldn't deny her or himself any longer. He thrust into her. Her eyes squeezed closed. "Zach." He buried his face into her neck, inhaling the scent of her skin and her hair, burning it into his brain. He concentrated on controlling himself until he could feel her starting to convulse beneath him. Her hands clutched at his shoulders. He memorized the sound of her voice crying out, before his own orgasm took over and he was unable to think anymore.
He rolled over to the side, pulling her into his arms. She sighed contentedly. He rubbed his hand on her arm, noticing the goosebumps. The fire wasn't hot enough. "Is there a blanket in this house at all?" She shook her head. "No, it's completely empty." The word struck a chord in her. Empty. That was how the house had felt when she walked into it earlier. But it no longer felt that way. She looked up at Zach, touching the dimple in his chin. It was now filled with a precious memory.