Disclaimer: Not my characters, but you already knew that.
Explicit Content Warning: This story deals with dark themes and contains references to sexual violence, rape, and forced sex. That probably makes it sound a lot worse than it really is! But I want to be sure to warn away people who will be upset or offended by this type of subject matter.
A Word of Explanation: I do not take issues like sexual assault or rape lightly. This scenario occurred to me and I couldn't get it out of my head. I wondered how Cal and Gillian's relationship would be impacted if someone else forced them to cross their self-imposed line. I've tried to handle the subject matter with respect and sincerely hope I've succeeded. I promise that actual violence is kept to a minimum (the bad guys gets the worst of it, for sure).
Still Here? Awesome, I hope you like it!
WHERE DO WE GO
Cal Lightman raised an eyebrow, spinning his chair around to look at Dr. Gillian Foster, who stood in the doorway of the main viewing room with a hand on her hip. Her eyes were locked on the freeze-frame of a smirking man's face on the monitor over Cal's head, but her lips turned up at the corners, signaling that she saw and enjoyed Cal's reaction to her sudden entrance.
"Not at the moment, love, but you're welcome to try." Cal gave her a rakish grin, covering up the true attraction he felt at the sight of her red dress with an air of mischief. He couldn't help flirting on occasion, but he never wanted Gillian to take him too seriously. "The red is a good start."
Gillian quirked a smile, and though he couldn't see her flush in the low light, he imagined the heat crawling up her neck. Nodding at the screen, she said, "Nathan Andrews. He's clearly aroused right there."
"I agree," Ria Torres said. Cal was somewhat startled to remember that she was sitting at the row of monitors next to him. "The question is why?"
Gillian's throat moved and she glanced down at Cal, meeting his eyes briefly, before looking at Torres. "I have a feeling it's going to be a long night while we figure that out. I was going to order pizza to help us get through it. What's your poison?"
"Pepperoni works for me." Torres turned back to the monitor. "Thanks, Dr. Foster."
Cal watched Gillian's smile widen when she finally locked gazes with him. "You know what I like," he told her in a mild voice. Better not to push his luck by continuing to flirt. Especially with a statement that loaded.
"I think I do," Gillian said. Her voice had taken on that sexy edge he loved. She was throwing caution to the wind, flirting back. "Naked, right?"
Cal blinked and tried to interpret what she meant. All he could think was that he really loved hearing the word naked from her full red lips.
"Just cheese," Gillian clarified. The sparkle in her eyes told him that she enjoyed leaving him speechless. "No mysterious meats or salad toppings on Cal Lightman's pizza."
"You got it." Cal flashed her a quick smile then swiveled back to face the monitors. He feigned deeper interest in Nathan Andrew's face than he actually felt. If he kept looking at Gillian, she was going to see that it was getting to him. The lingering looks, the playful banter. It seemed to be escalating lately, now that they were both single. And it was hard as hell not to let it go too far.
Not that he particularly wanted their dance to stop.
"Okay, then." Gillian cleared her throat behind them. He could hear a trace of confusion in her voice, maybe even disappointment. "I'll call in our order and finish up in my office. I'll join you when the food's here."
He'd hurt her feelings, hadn't he? By shutting down their banter so coldly. Cal ignored the pang of regret in his chest as best he could, holding up his hand to signal his agreement. He still couldn't meet her eyes. "Thanks, love."
Torres snorted softy after Gillian left the room.
"What was that?" Cal said without looking at her. He kept his voice calm while giving her a non-verbal warning. Back off or face his bloody wrath. He didn't need the prodigious child passing judgment on his failings.
Cal turned his chair and focused on Torres's face. She tensed slightly, as she always did when she knew he was reading her. Scorn. A familiar look of thinking he was an idiot. Amusement. "Something funny?"
"Just thinking about arousal."
Torres knew exactly how he felt about Gillian. He could see it written all over her face. She probably even knew he was scared as hell about it. Cal leaned in close, intentionally invading Torres's space. "So you've come up with something that'll sort out this case?"
Torres blinked, all business again. She reached for the desktop controls and rewound their video. "I'm going to take this back about fifteen seconds."
Cal stared her down. Her face had gone blank, not revealing anything. Goddamn wunderkind. "Good idea."
Cal stewed as they reviewed the video. Maybe he should have just flirted back. One more teasing remark wouldn't have hurt. In the future he had to make sure not to let those moments end with Gillian feeling badly about them. Or she might stop dancing around their line altogether.
A half hour later, the door to the viewing room banged open again. Cal startled at the sudden noise and swiveled in his chair, a conciliatory remark on the tip of his tongue. Time to make things right with Gillian. The sight that greeted him wiped the smile from his face and stole the words from his mouth.
Gillian wasn't alone. A man stood behind her with his arm across her throat, holding her close to his body. He had a gun pressed to her head. Gillian's eyes were wide with fear and blood trickled from a small cut on her forehead.
"Oh my God," Torres murmured. She rose to her feet and the man tightened his grip on Gillian, shaking his head.
"Sit down. Right now." The man licked his lips as his gaze darted to Cal. "Or I'll kill her."
He was telling the truth.
Cal tried to think, but everything was moving too fast. "Sit down, Torres."
Torres dropped stiffly into her chair, hands in her lap. Her face told Cal she was counting on him to have a plan. Problem was, he didn't. Gillian had a gun pointed at her head and Cal had no idea what the hell to do.
"Can we help you, mate?" Cal said as evenly as he could manage. "Why don't you let Dr. Foster come sit down with us and we can all talk about what it is you need? Get this sorted?"
The man scoffed, an expression of contempt. Cal frowned, recognition tickling at the edges of his conscience. He knew this guy.
"How about I keep her right here with me for now?" the man said. He tightened his arm around Gillian's chest, causing her hemline to ride up dangerously close to her hips. She was wearing red panties, to match the dress.
Anger surged through Cal. "Listen, you've got all the power here. You've got the gun. So tell me why you're threatening my colleague."
"This has nothing to do with your colleague." The man's grip on the gun relaxed slightly as he lowered his free hand to brush over Gillian's breast. "Though I admit I was tempted to spend a little time alone with her before we came to find you." He looked at Torres and licked his lips. "You work with some beautiful women, Dr. Lightman."
Gillian shivered, then grimaced when the man leaned close to run his tongue along her cheek. He smiled at Cal as he did it, as though gauging his reaction.
Cal's blood ran cold as he finally put a name to the face. "Noah Benson. You look…older."
"You remember me," Benson said with a grin. "Good. I remember you, too."
Cal had never forgotten Noah Benson, or the things he had done. He was a serial rapist, a sexual sadist. Violating women hadn't been enough for him. He'd kept his victims captive for hours upon hours, repeatedly raping them, verbally degrading them, then leaving them with the word Slut carved into their stomachs with his hunting knife. Something to remember him by. Benson was a sick, empty bastard.
And he was touching Gillian Foster. Cal's stomach dropped, and it took everything he had not to lose his lunch on the floor. Benson had Cal's heart in his hands and he didn't even know it.
"They let you out?" Cal asked. Benson had been sentenced to life in prison, partially on the strength of Cal's testimony. He knew they hadn't released Benson. But maybe if Cal kept him talking, he'd let down his guard, make a mistake. "Time off for good behavior?"
"Oh no, Lightman. You made sure that wasn't going to happen. Remember?"
"So you escaped and decided to come see me?" Cal gave him a grin he didn't feel. Terror for Torres and Gillian, for his daughter Emily, flashed through his mind. "That was sweet."
Benson looked around the dimly lit viewing room with an expression of disgust. "You got somewhere else we can go? Maybe with a table or a desk?"
Cal watched fear pass over Gillian's face. It looked very much like what he was feeling at that moment. He didn't like Benson's request. "We can't talk in here?"
"I don't want to talk, Lightman. Now show me where we can go or I'll have Gillian here lock you in this room while she and I find somewhere else to play."
Like hell. Cal stood up, then raised his hands in a calming gesture when Benson reacted by jerking Gillian more tightly against him. "We have a conference room down the hall." He would have suggested his office but he didn't want to give Benson access to a couch.
Benson buried his nose in Gillian's hair and inhaled deeply. "Open the door," he murmured into her ear. He maneuvered them so that she could reach the knob, then walked her backwards out of the room. Gesturing with his head, Benson said, "You two lead the way. Do anything stupid and you'll have one hell of a mess to clean up."
"Come on then, Torres," Cal said. He waited until Torres was standing close to him before he walked into the hallway. Two pizza boxes were lying on the ground near the front door. Cal glanced at Gillian, trying not to imagine how scared she must have been when Benson had attacked her. She was looking at the ceiling, and Cal could see her obvious effort to stay calm.
Benson kept his distance, never loosening his hold on Gillian. His eyes watched Torres, though, in a way that made Cal's skin crawl.
"I love Latina women." Benson gave Torres a seductive look, almost as though he were trying out lines at a club. "You're very beautiful."
"Your second victim was Latina, yeah?" Cal opened the door to the conference room, amazed that his hand wasn't shaking. He was proud of himself. Better for Benson to think that Cal didn't care for Torres and Foster at all. Especially when Cal knew he couldn't stand to see either one of them hurt. Especially Gillian. "As I recall, you raped her for almost eight hours before leaving her bleeding on that warehouse floor."
"She was also beautiful." Benson smiled. Pride. He obviously enjoyed remembering his past conquests. Looking Torres up and down, he said, "But not as beautiful as you, Ria."
Torres flinched noticeably. She looked just as shocked as Cal was that Benson knew her name.
"Yeah, I know all about The Lightman Group." Benson gave Cal a smug grin. "Amazing what you can find on the Internet these days."
"Impressive Googling," Cal said in as bored a voice as he could manage, under the circumstances. He leaned back against the conference room table and kept his arms at his side, playing calm. "So now that you've got us in here, what do you want?"
Benson took his hand away from Gillian for just a moment, too quickly for Cal to react. He withdrew something from his pocket and tossed it to Cal, who caught it on instinct. Zip tie. "Secure Ms. Torres for me." He nodded at a leather chair that sat against the wall. "Tightly, please. I'll be checking your work."
Cal met Torres's eyes, apologizing silently, then took her arm and led her to the chair Benson had indicated. He pulled it away from the wall and stepped behind it. Torres sat down and linked her hands behind her back. Cal secured her a little looser than necessary, but gave her a look of warning. He didn't want her trying anything while Gillian's life was at stake.
"Great," Benson said when Cal stepped away. "Now this one." He put a hand on Gillian's back and shoved her hard toward Cal, who caught her in his arms.
Cal gave Gillian a brief squeeze, hoping to reassure both of them. Then he helped her sit down, subtly pulling her dress over her thighs. "He hurt you?" Cal mumbled next to her ear as he tightened the zip tie around her wrists.
"I'm okay." Gillian's voice wavered, and it took everything Cal had not to put his arms around her.
Cal touched Gillian's back briefly before drawing away. He turned and fixed Benson with a blank gaze. "Well, that's done. Got a plan or are you just making this up as you go along?"
Confusion and uncertainty passed over Benson's face. Just as Cal suspected. He was improvising. He'd come here tonight hoping to confront Cal, probably kill him, but he likely hadn't expected to find the situation he had. And why would he? The decision to work late had been last-minute, which was why Loker wasn't pulling an all-nighter with them. He'd had a date, thank God.
Benson's jaw tightened. "I've had a plan for you since you testified against me, Lightman. Believe me. I've been waiting for this moment."
"So you're here to kill me, is that it?" Cal could hear Gillian's quick intake of breath and hoped that Benson wasn't paying attention to her. The last thing Cal wanted was for Benson to know how much Gillian meant to him, and he to her. A psychopath like him wouldn't hesitate to use that knowledge to his advantage. "Will that settle our score?"
Benson's eyes darted between Torres and Gillian. His face lit up. Happiness. Downright perverse glee. "Kill you? Now where's the fun in that?"
"So what will it be, then?" Cal's throat went dry at the look on Benson's face. He knew something very bad was about to happen, but he had no idea how deep Benson's hatred ran. To what lengths he would go for revenge. There was so much to read on Benson's face. Contempt. Anger. Arousal. "Hand-to-hand combat?"
"I want to make you hurt," Benson said, staring murder into Cal's eyes. "I want you to know what it's like to lose the trust of someone important to you. I want you to suffer. And then live with that suffering. Like I do."
"Sounds reasonable." Cal had no idea how to play this one, so he fell back on his 'flippant and unpredictable' Lightman routine. But he was rattled to the core. "But this is about me, yeah? These two just work here. They're nothing to me. I'm sure you can come up with something better."
Benson walked behind Gillian's chair. Cal saw the fear in her eyes and he met her gaze, keeping his face impassive even as he willed her not to react to Benson's taunting. That's what this psycho wanted. A reaction. If they could keep from giving him one, maybe he would get bored.
"You fucking either of these bitches?" Benson swept Gillian's hair away from her neck and pressed the barrel of his gun against her skin. Gillian swallowed and closed her eyes, tensing. "This one?"
Cal was glad that he was so practiced in keeping his face expressionless, because it took everything he had not to come unglued. "Dr. Foster and Ms. Torres are my colleagues. Nothing more."
Benson stalked over to Torres, twisting her hair around his fist. "But I bet you want to fuck them, huh? I mean, how could you not?" He dropped a hand to Torres's chest, rubbing her breast with obscene exaggeration. Disgust passed over her face and her back stiffened. "Hardest decision would be which one to do first."
"Why don't you be a bloody man and sort this out with me?" Cal met Benson's hard gaze and gave him a calm smile. "I don't know what you think you're doing, but it's not working."
Benson's face reddened and a vein in his forehead visibly bulged. Fury. He fumbled behind Torres's chair for a moment then pulled her up by her hair and shoved her toward Cal. "Get over there."
Torres stumbled into Cal's arms. He righted her and she stepped away quickly, shooting him a nervous glance. Then she turned and fixed Benson with a blank look that stirred Cal's pride.
"You ruined my life, Lightman." Benson stood behind Torres's empty chair and pointed the gun at them. "My wife Sarah filed for divorce after I went to prison. She lost faith in me. Because of your testimony. She believed you and not me."
"You're a rapist," Cal said. "A sexual sadist. I'm not the one who drove your wife away. You hurt those women, and you got caught. That's on you. Not me."
Benson drew back his arm to deliver a vicious backhand across Gillian's face. Gillian cried out softly, cowering in anticipation of more. Torres flinched at the sudden violence. Cal stood motionless, even as he burned inside. He was going to kill this son of a bitch.
"Ria Torres," Benson said, turning to look at them. He smiled at Cal, as though daring him to say something else. "You're the protégé, aren't you?"
Torres straightened, shoulders back. Defiant. She said nothing.
Benson snorted. "I imagine you mean a lot to the Doctor here. You're his little knowledge receptacle, right? Hanging on his every word? Seeking his approval? Making him feel like a big, strong man?"
Cal shifted his gaze to Gillian, whose face was full of dread. She was terrible at hiding her emotions. Everything she felt was broadcast for the world to see. Normally Cal loved that, but not now. Her fear would only excite Benson. Cal hardened his expression, trying to communicate with Gillian to shut it down. Everything she felt. Everything.
"Take off her clothes, Lightman."
Cal startled. He pulled himself together almost immediately, but the command had taken him by surprise. Gillian went pale, and Cal found it almost too painful to look at her anymore.
"Excuse me?" Cal said.
Benson used his gun to gesture at Torres. "Start with her shirt. I want to see her tits."
Cal shook his head. "No."
Rage flashed across Benson's face. He cocked his gun and made a show of aiming for Cal's head. Gillian cringed below Benson's arm and sought out Cal's gaze, pleading with her eyes.
"You'll do exactly what I tell you." Benson's features relaxed slightly. He moved the gun so the barrel pressed against Gillian's temple. "Or I'll blow this one's brains out."
Sometimes Cal was a gambling man, but not when the stakes were this high. Too high. Benson's face told him he would pull the trigger. Cal turned to face Torres.
"Just do it." Torres kept her voice low, meeting Cal's gaze for only an instant before looking over his shoulder. "It's okay. Do whatever he tells you to do."
Cal nodded. Torres was tough. She understood. "Right," he murmured, then brought his hands to her shirt and efficiently unbuttoned it from top to bottom. He pulled it off her shoulders and she helped him ease it down her arms, letting it drop to the floor. She wore a silky black bra, quite attractive. Cal glanced back at Benson, feigning boredom. "This what you wanted?"
Benson's eyes narrowed. He was annoyed. Cal knew his lack of emotion meant that Benson wasn't getting what he had hoped from this little exercise. Benson fed off the fear and pain of his victims, that's what got him off. That Torres was just as blank as Cal had to be downright infuriating. "Now the bra."
Cal reached around and unhooked Torres's bra clasp. Torres slipped it off her arms and tossed it to the side. She made no move to cover herself. She just stared at Benson as though she were looking through him.
"Play with her tits," Benson said. He shifted his weight and swallowed.
Fantastic. Benson was highly aroused. Determined to make things as uninteresting as possible, Cal rested his hand on Torres's breast. Her flesh was warm and soft, her nipple hard against his palm. She tightened her jaw and kept her gaze locked at a point in the distance. Her face was disassociated, cold. Almost as though she were somewhere else.
Torres had been abused as a child, so it made sense that she could retreat into her head. Not react to what was happening to her, no matter how unpleasant it might be. Cal was glad for it. Between his mechanical, dispassionate movements and Torres's distance, Benson couldn't be getting much from this little show.
Indeed, Benson's face twisted with frustration. "Suck on them, for Christ's sake. Bite her nipples. Make her cry out."
Cal chanced the quickest of looks at Gillian. Tears welled in her eyes as her throat worked convulsively. Grief. Shame. And more, so much that Lightman couldn't immediately read it all. Then pain as Benson pressed the barrel of his gun against her temple so hard the skin turned white.
"I said suck on her titties, Lightman. Now."
Cal didn't meet Torres's gaze. He wouldn't give Benson the satisfaction. Instead he bent and put his mouth on Torres's nipple. Torres went still as a statue.
Cal rolled his eyes. This guy was a real sicko. He tried to ignore the stiff flesh between his lips, and simply crouched there waiting for Benson to abandon his fucked-up idea of revenge. He moved his head slightly as though he were actually doing something.
Benson made an angry noise. "Fucking…Lightman, you're a real pussy. You know that? Just stand the fuck up, okay? Forget her tits. Take off her pants."
Cal turned around slowly. He scrutinized Benson's eyes, trying to decide just how far he was going to go. There had to be some way to dissuade him from carrying on like this. Cal had never touched a woman without her consent and he sure as hell didn't want to. Especially someone he cared about so deeply.
"This is really doing something for you?" Cal lifted an eyebrow, conveying pity. A touch of embarrassment, really. Hoping to shame Benson into taking Cal off on his own so Torres and Gillian might have a chance to escape.
"It's about to get better, believe me." Benson smiled. Confidence. Good humor. He wasn't tired of this yet. He was just getting started. "Take off her pants and have her sit on the table."
Gillian blanched and looked away. For an instant Cal felt overwhelmed by shame. That he had gotten her into this situation, that Torres had been dragged into it as well. This was his mess. They shouldn't be here with him. If Benson wanted to hurt him, Cal would have rather just taken a bullet to the head.
"Just take off my fucking pants," Torres muttered under her breath. "Do what he says. Until we have a better option."
Right. Cal put himself between Benson and Torres, thumbing open the button on Torres's pants and lowering the zipper without meeting her eyes. He pushed the material over her hips and she stepped out of them. Black panties, too. He hesitated.
"All of it." Cal could hear Benson's smile in his voice. "Naked."
Cal pulled Torres's panties down and she kicked them to the side. She still wouldn't meet Cal's eyes. He could see the tiniest bit of anger in her face, but only because he had the training to know where to look. Benson no doubt saw nothing. Drawing from Torres's strength, Cal showed Benson nothing as well.
Torres eased onto the table, keeping her thighs pressed tightly together. Cal swallowed, afraid of what would come next.
"Put your fingers inside her." Benson giggled, coming alive at his graphic request. "Let me see you finger-fuck that bitch."
Cal dropped his shoulders, then turned to stalk toward Benson. "You've taken this far enough, eh? Let's leave the women out of it."
Benson dropped his hand and grabbed Gillian's breast, squeezing her until she cried out in pain. Cal stopped his advance. Don't react. Don't react. Curiosity flickered over Benson's face. He twisted Gillian's nipple between his fingers, and she gritted her teeth and inhaled sharply. Cal felt his jaw tighten and he looked away.
"Oh," Benson said quietly. "I picked the wrong one, didn't I?"
Cal's heart sank. He met Benson's gaze as steadily as he could. "Dr. Foster is my colleague. Just like Ria Torres."
Benson shook his head and smiled. "Not just like Torres, I don't think." He looked over Cal's shoulder. "Ria, get your ass over here." Torres walked to Benson, still naked, and sat in the chair. Benson kept his gun aimed at Gillian's head and nodded to Cal. "Tie her, please."
Cal walked to Torres on legs that had gone numb. His mind spun as he tried to figure out how they would get out of this. He considered lunging for Benson. Would he be able to get a shot off in time? Cal swallowed. There was a chance, which meant it was too risky to try. Better to lose Gillian's trust and friendship than her life.
He left Torres's zip tie even looser than the first time. Again he stared into Torres's eyes as he drew back, hoping she understood his silent communication. Watch for him to get sloppy. Try something only if you think you'll succeed. Torres gave Cal the barest of nods.
Cal stepped back, choking down his fear when Benson moved to Gillian's chair and untied her. Grabbing her by the hair, Benson pulled Gillian to her feet then shoved her toward Cal just as he had with Torres. Cal moved forward to catch Gillian before she fell, pulling her into his arms.
"So she's the one, huh?" Benson ran his eyes over Gillian's body, from head to toe. He raised an eyebrow. "I don't know, Torres is more my type. But I have to admit, Dr. Foster here is definitely fuckable. I wouldn't kick her out of bed."
Cal released Gillian and took a step backwards, needing to get away. Gillian made him feel weak, like he had everything to lose. This had to end. Now. He couldn't bear it if Benson made him touch Gillian. Not when it was such a perversion of everything he wanted, everything he thought he could never have.
"Okay, Lightman. You know what to do," Benson said.
Cal looked at Gillian's face, even though he knew it would break his heart. Fear. Shame. Grief. He caught her gaze and shook his head, warning her. Don't. Stop crying. Stop feeling, as much as possible. Gillian bit her lip and broke eye contact.
"Clothes. Off. Now."
Cal could refuse. But then Benson would threaten Gillian again, or Torres, and Cal would just give in and do it anyway. And in the refusal, he would be admitting just how much Gillian meant to him. How this represented something completely different than it had when it was Torres standing here. That with Gillian, this had the potential to break him. To ruin everything.
To hell with Benson. Cal wasn't going to let this sick fuck reduce him to begging and pleading. He wasn't going to give Benson the victory of seeing Cal destroyed by what he was being asked to do. Cal hardened his expression and looked Gillian in the eyes. He was going to have to be strong for both of them.
Cal reached behind her and unzipped her dress. He helped her step out of it, holding her hand so she wouldn't lose her balance. Her bra was red, to match her panties. Cal's throat went dry and he kept his eyes locked on her clavicles, resisting the urge to let his gaze sweep over the creamy tops of her breasts.
Benson made a noise in his throat. "Maybe you're right, Lightman. I'd never have picked Dr. Foster out as the slutty one, but…very nice."
Gillian's face colored. Humiliation. Cal took a chance and caught her gaze. No, he told her with his eyes. No, you're beautiful.
Gillian bit her lip again, so hard it looked like she might draw blood. Her throat worked convulsively, and Cal knew she was struggling not to break down.
"Hurry up," Benson said. "Take off the rest. I can see already that she's going to be a lot more fun than the other one. She seems much more…upset about all this, don't you think?"
Cal didn't answer. He had no idea how upset Torres was, but there was no doubt that Gillian was devastated. Just like he was. What a fucked-up, horrible thing he was being asked to do. Cal tried to shut down his feelings as he unhooked her bra and pulled it off. Then her panties.
"Gorgeous, isn't she?" Benson said appreciatively. "I know my cock is hard. How about yours?"
Cal couldn't breathe. Gillian Foster, his best friend, the only woman he had ever loved honestly and unselfishly, was standing naked in front of him. Vulnerable. So lovely his heart ached. And she was frightened. Ashamed. Fury surged through Cal's body and he had to tighten his hands into fists to keep a lid on it.
This wasn't how this was supposed to happen.
Gillian brought up her arms and folded them over her breasts. She threw her shoulders back and put on an only marginally convincing look of defiance. Maybe Benson would buy it. Probably not. Cal sure as hell didn't.
"So where should we begin?" Benson settled into the chair where Gillian had been tied, keeping the gun aimed at them as he spoke. "I can't decide if I should let you get her ready, or if you should just start fucking her. There's nothing like tearing into a woman when she's dry. Painful, but so very satisfying. The look on her face, you know."
Gillian's eyes widened. Her mouth twitched and she met Cal's gaze.
Cal read exactly what she was thinking. "I'm sure you'll want me to prepare her," he said quietly. "After all, that's more for you to…enjoy."
"Sure," Benson said. "Why not?"
Thank God for small favors, Cal supposed. Not that he wanted to touch Gillian any more than necessary. Not when it would be a mockery of the loving caresses he had imagined himself giving her. Not when it was against her will. But penetrating her before she was ready, causing that kind of damage to her delicate flesh…it turned his stomach even to think of it.
A tear spilled from Gillian's eye and snaked a path down her cheek. On instinct Cal brought his hand up and caught it on his thumb, wiping it away. "None of that, love," Cal murmured under his breath. "Okay?"
Gillian nodded bravely, then exhaled. "Do whatever he says." She met Cal's eyes and her chin trembled. "Just don't get killed. You hear me?"
Cal shook his head. "Wouldn't dream of it."
"Just touch her already, Lightman. No matter how charming you think you are, I doubt she's getting wet just talking to your ugly ass." Gillian stared into Cal's eyes and, incredibly, he felt a brief moment of connection despite Benson's obnoxious voice in the background. "You have about three minutes before I expect to see your cock inside her. It's up to you how to get her there."
"Fucking bastard," Cal muttered under his breath. He searched Gillian's face, trying desperately to read what she was thinking. He knew she loved him, but had Gillian ever imagined the possibility of them being together one day? Of actually taking that chance? And would this ruin any hope for them if she had?
"Touch me, Cal," Gillian whispered. "Please. This isn't your fault."
Cal felt his composure slip, and watched Gillian react to his moment of weakness. Surprise. Sympathy. And there, at the corners of her eyes. Love. She was telling him it would be okay, but he didn't know if he believed that.
Cal pulled Gillian to him, and she tensed up until he simply wrapped his arms around her. Then she melted against him, grabbing fistfuls of his shirt at his shoulders. He let his hands splay over the bare skin of her back, shivering at the feeling of her naked curves pressed against him. She was warm and soft and she smelled so good, and he was so in love with her, had been for so long, that although he felt shame when his cock hardened, he wasn't surprised. He dropped his hand to her bottom and touched her gently.
How many times had he imagined taking her in his arms like this? Marveling over the smoothness of her bare skin? Cal didn't want his body to respond to what was happening, but it was beyond his control. He felt sickened by how quickly he was ready to penetrate her.
And he had no idea what he should do to prepare her. Nothing seemed appropriate. Everything Cal could think of felt degrading, with Benson's eyes on the two of them. If they were alone it would be different. But this wasn't how he pictured them together at all, and he was loathe to throw away his visions of a perfect first coupling with the reality of forced sex.
Cal knew damn well that Benson saw through him now. This was different and that bastard knew it. Cal wished he could shut down his emotions completely so that he wouldn't give Benson even a moment of satisfaction. He was probably capable of it, at least outwardly. But Cal refused to fuck Gillian Foster with cold, empty eyes and a face devoid of emotion. Because that would be a lie. And he wouldn't lie to her about this.
"I'm so sorry," Cal murmured into Gillian's ear. He took his hand off her bottom, feeling as though he were taking advantage of her.
Gillian shook her head, brushing her lips against his cheek. "No more apologies."
Cal knew she was telling him to stop feeling guilty, but his stomach still twisted. Steeling himself, he drew back and brought his hands to her breasts, cupping them gently. Cal locked eyes with Gillian and rubbed his thumbs over her nipples, letting her see every bit of his desire for her smoldering in his gaze. Would that turn her on? Seeing how much he wanted her? Or did it just make things worse?
Gillian bit her lip and color rose in her cheeks. Her pupils dilated. Arousal. He watched her gaze shift to Benson. Disgust. Then to Torres. Shame.
"No, love. Look at me," Cal whispered. He dropped a hand between her legs, cupping her with trembling fingers. "Only at me. Just us here, okay?"
Gillian met his eyes and nodded. The color in her face deepened and her mouth opened slightly as his fingertip glided gently over her labia. Cal was rock hard now. Gillian was so silky and hot beneath his touch, and he enjoyed the feeling of her more than he cared to admit. Though he dared not ask her aloud, Cal raised an eyebrow in question. Was this doing anything for her?
Gillian gave him a slight nod, nostrils flaring. She seemed as though she were struggling to maintain eye contact, like she wanted to look away in embarrassment. He kept his face as still as possible, trying hard to be strong. Stepping into her, he backed Gillian up until he could lift her onto the table.
"Nice," Benson said. "Let's get to the good stuff."
Cal ignored him and placed his hands on Gillian's thighs, pressing them apart far enough to allow him to step between them. He kept his back to Benson, shielding Gillian from his view. Gillian's breathing picked up as he rubbed his fingers over her labia then traced around her opening. His heart thudded at the slick wetness he found there.
Gillian brought her hands up and covered her face, breaking their eye contact. Her whole body screamed that she was ashamed of her arousal, even as he felt relieved by the discovery.
"This isn't your fault either," Cal mumbled. "Don't you dare feel badly about any of this. You hear me?"
Gillian nodded quickly then dropped her hands. She looped her arms around his neck and brought her face close to his. Licking her lips, she hesitated a moment, checking his eyes, then pressed her mouth to his and eased her tongue inside.
Cal's heart thudded. Christ almighty. He was kissing Gillian Foster.
It shouldn't have felt good. Cal knew it wasn't a real kiss, the kind he had always dreamed about. That kind of kiss wouldn't involve a gun or an audience. So it shouldn't have felt so goddamn exquisite, but it did. Bloody hell, it did.
Cal felt like he was going to explode. He eased a finger inside of Gillian and returned her kiss, carried away by how good it felt to touch her. More than anything he wished they had crossed this line sooner, so it could have been real. This was probably the last time he would kiss her like this. Not wanting it to end, Cal broke away only when he was desperate for air.
There was so much he wanted to say, but this wasn't the time or the place. Still he had to say something. Cal brought his free hand to Gillian's hair and twisted a strand around his knuckles. Tugging gently, he whispered, "You are stunning." With his other hand he stroked inside her, easing a second finger into her pussy to join the first. She was so tight he was afraid he would hurt her. At least she was wet. "Just stunning, love."
Gillian shifted on the desk, squirming against his fingers in a way that almost made him forget that there was someone forcing them into this. "This is going to be okay," she murmured, cradling his face. He wasn't sure if the words were meant for him or if she was trying to convince herself.
Benson cleared his throat. "I know how to pick 'em, don't I? Slut wants it, look at her." Cal could hear Benson's chair creak as he shifted in it. "Maybe I'll fuck her after you, Lightman. Show her what a real man feels like."
Gillian tightened around his fingers and her face tensed. Terror. Cal shook his head gently and met her gaze. Over his dead body. "Just me, love," he whispered.
"Stick your cock in her, Lightman. I'm tired of this lovey-dovey shit. Just do it already."
Cal stepped away from Gillian, removing his fingers from inside her. He half-turned to study Benson's face. The man was pale and trembling. Shiny with sweat. Agitated and aroused. And very, very angry. They needed to figure out something soon. When Benson snapped, there would likely be little or no warning.
Shifting his gaze to Torres, Cal read very little on her face. Except resolve. She nodded at Cal, then flicked her gaze to her left, at Benson. Cal didn't know what she was planning, but he could see that there was something going on in her mind.
Benson aimed at Torres's head. "This is the last time I'm asking."
Cal looked back at Gillian, who was doing a piss-poor job of hiding her reaction to Benson's gun. "Right," Cal murmured, and brought his hands to the button at his waist. He thumbed it open and dragged his zipper down harshly, then pushed off his pants. His erection strained against his boxer briefs. Gillian's eyes widened slightly when she looked down and saw his obvious arousal.
Cal couldn't even work up the courage to read Gillian's face. He didn't want to know what she was thinking. Even without having completed the act, things had changed between them forever. They would never be able to go back to how things had been before. A powerful wave of grief swept over Cal. Gillian was his best friend in the world, his anchor. Benson couldn't have planned this better if he'd tried.
But there was no time to feel anything about what was about to happen. If Cal kept trying to delay the inevitable, Benson would shoot Torres. Or worse. Benson meant business and he was clearly running out of patience. Cal tugged off his boxer briefs and stood in front of Gillian. He had never felt more naked.
"Turns you on to think about raping your business partner, doesn't it?" Benson's words were steeped in sick pleasure. "Did you realize that, Dr. Foster? That Lightman wanted to fuck you this badly? That he would be able to get it up even when you're this scared?"
Gillian met Cal's gaze and shook her head lightly. Her hand brushed against the head of Cal's cock and he nearly lost it at the warm touch of her fingers on his skin. Cal had to grit his teeth to keep himself from coming right then like a virginal schoolboy. Pathetic, is what he was. So excited he could barely contain himself. Cal found it hard to look at Gillian, not wanting to see disgust on her face.
"Don't listen to him," Gillian whispered. From the tone of her voice, Cal knew he wasn't doing a very good job of hiding the effect Benson's words had on him. "It's just us, remember? You and me here, that's it. And I want you too, Cal. To hell with the line. You're not going to do anything I haven't imagined doing with you, okay?"
Bloody hell. Cal saw no obvious signs of deceit on her face, but he didn't know whether the confession made him feel better or worse. He felt small and helpless, ashamed that he couldn't protect Gillian, resentful that Benson could create such an awkward situation. After so many years of loving her from a distance, respecting the boundaries of marriages and their working relationship, to have all that torn down in minutes by a garden-variety sadist…well, this was a cruel joke. Very cruel.
Cal pressed Gillian's thighs even farther apart and stepped into the space between them, letting the head of his cock rest against her opening. He trembled as he looked down at their bodies, unable to believe what was about to happen. He was going to be inside of Gillian Foster. Finally. And there was nothing right about it. Not one thing.
"Just do it, Cal." Gillian gripped his cock at the base and pressed the head slightly inside. He watched her quick intake of air, feeling a surge of arousal. "Fuck me. It's okay."
Cal drew back his hips and thrust forward, sliding deep inside Gillian. "Oh Christ," he swore under his breath. She was so tight, so hot. Her pussy gripped him hard, holding him inside, threatening to milk all the semen from him before he could move another inch. He closed his eyes and grabbed the edge of the table, trying like hell not to ejaculate. Gillian couldn't get pregnant, of course, but it felt too intimate to release inside her. Not to mention that if Benson thought he was finished, he might decide to pick up where Cal left off.
That thought alone was enough to stave off Cal's orgasm. He lifted his head and looked Gillian directly in the eyes. She met his gaze head-on, showing a strength he hadn't yet seen tonight. He felt her confidence flow through him and he pulled back slightly, then pressed inside her again.
Behind him, Torres grunted and then there was the sound of crashing. A fight. Cal withdrew from Gillian quickly, feeling a pang of guilt over the way she winced in discomfort, and turned to appraise the situation. Torres had her hands free and she lay naked below Benson on the ground, wrestling him for his gun. Without a thought, Cal launched himself at the two of them, grabbing for the gun before it could go off and injure Torres.
Outnumbered, Benson gave up his weapon after a brief struggle. As soon as Cal had the gun in his hands, he aimed it at Benson's head. "Get the fuck off of her," he said, finally letting the full force of his anger into his voice.
Benson ground his hips into Torres, who shoved hard against his shoulders, knocking him to the side. Rolling onto his back, Benson looked up at Cal and laughed. "Bad timing, huh? You were just about to get your rocks off."
Torres leapt up and took the gun away from Cal, but kept it aimed at Benson. Cal was grateful not to have a weapon anymore, because he was afraid he would use it. Enraged, he drew back his fist and slammed into Benson's nose. He felt the spray of blood against his knuckles and grinned. He punched Benson again, delighting in the way his eyes rolled back in his head.
"Lightman," Torres said. She put her hand on his shoulder but he shrugged her off violently. Half-naked, cock still hard, he didn't want her to touch him. Not right now.
Cal reared back and delivered a third punch to Benson's face. He was unconscious now, Cal was sure of it, but it didn't ease his fury to see Benson boneless on the floor. He pulled back his fist for another go.
"Cal, no. Stop." A new hand on his shoulder. Gillian. Cal tensed and went still, breathing heavily through his mouth. "It's over. He can't hurt us anymore."
Cal knew she was right, but he wanted to hit Benson again. And keep hitting him, until he stopped breathing. Shocked at the pure violence coursing through his veins, Cal rose and staggered across the room to his pants. He spared a quick glance at Gillian, who had managed to pull her bra and panties back on. More than anything he wanted take her in his arms, to hold her and be held, but guilt made him tear his gaze away.
"We have to call the police," Torres said quietly.
Keeping his back to Gillian and Torres as they dressed, Cal tugged on his pants and considered Torres's words. They definitely had to call the police. Benson had to pay for what he'd done. And Torres and Gillian—
"Call the police." Cal took a deep breath and schooled his expression back to baseline. He turned and regarded Gillian for only a moment, then met Torres's eyes. "When they get here we're telling them the truth. That you were sexually assaulted, Torres." He forced himself to glance at Gillian, even though the emotion on her face made his heart feel as though it was trapped in a vise. "And you were raped."
"No." The vehemence in Gillian's voice shocked Cal. She presented her back to Torres, who zipped up Gillian's dress without meeting Cal's gaze. Even after everything that had happened, Gillian managed to look dignified as she straightened the hem around her calves. "You didn't rape me, Cal. That's not what just happened."
"Forced sex, then. Whatever you want to call it, Foster. But it wasn't lovemaking, now was it?" Cal knew he was creating distance between them, no help from Benson required. He was being a bloody idiot, in fact, but it was easier to push Gillian away before she could retreat from him. Maybe it would hurt less if he controlled the aftermath of this thing.
A myriad of emotions passed over Gillian's face. Hurt. Profound sadness. Anger, certainly. Cal felt even smaller than he had all night, and that was saying something. She was upset with him. Again.
"That wasn't rape." Gillian's chin quivered for an instant before she got control of her face. "I'll tell the police what happened, but I'm not using that word." She turned and walked out of the office, hands shaking.
Cal's throat tightened and he coughed harshly, desperate to hold it together just a little longer. He could fall apart when he was alone. Not in front of Torres. Not when Gillian might come back and see. He didn't deserve to fall apart. He was the aggressor tonight, not the victim.
Cal sneered down at Benson's unconscious body, tempted to give him one last kick. The son of a bitch had won, hadn't he? He'd gotten what he wanted. Cal lifted his gaze and found Torres watching him with concerned brown eyes. Leave it to her to still fix him with a look of such sympathy after everything that had happened.
"Call the fucking police," Cal said. It came out rougher than he intended. His inner turmoil bled into his words, coarsening his language and thickening his accent. "Please, Torres. The sooner we get that done, the sooner we can all fuck off out of here."
Torres walked to the phone. "Go talk to Foster, Lightman. Before they get here."
Cal shook his head. "She doesn't need me barging in on her right now."
"I don't think you know what she needs," Torres muttered as she dialed.
Cal felt the anger flash across his features. God, he was exhausted. There was just no controlling his emotions anymore. "I'm not leaving you alone with this maniac. He could wake up."
"I don't think he's waking up anytime soon. And I do have this." Torres waggled the gun she still held, then turned her attention to the phone. "Yes, I'd like to report a break-in at the Lightman Group building."
Left without the chance to snark back, Cal dropped into the chair where Gillian had been and scrubbed his hands over his face in frustration. Fuck. He could still smell her on his fingers. Cal ran his hands over his head, tugging on his hair until the pain brought tears to his eyes. Go talk to Foster, Torres said. Easier said than done.
When the police came they handcuffed Benson and wheeled him out on a stretcher, then took each of them into a different conference room for separate interviews. Cal tried to respect Gillian's feelings to not use loaded words when he went over what happened, keeping it as simple as he could. Benson wanted revenge and he got it. Under threat of gunpoint, he had forced Cal to touch Ria Torres in a sexual manner, and then have intercourse with Dr. Gillian Foster. It didn't really matter what words Cal used: it sounded like a horror story.
Cal watched with clinical detachment as disgust, embarrassment, and anger flashed over the faces of the cops who interviewed him. They pitied him. Felt angry for Torres and Gillian. Maybe even wondered if there was something he could have done to stop Benson. Cal wouldn't blame them. He wondered the same thing.
By the time his interview was over, Cal wanted nothing more than to go home and pour himself a stiff drink. It was the only way he would get any sleep tonight. He already knew what he would see when he turned out the lights: Gillian's eyes wide with fear, the blood on her head, the way her face tensed slightly when Cal thrust into her the first time.
It was bad enough that he had fucked her. Worse that his heart rate quickened even now when he thought about how she had felt wrapped around him. He was a goddamn animal. Maybe Benson had known what he was doing tonight, or maybe he had just gotten lucky. Either way, he had managed to hit Cal Lightman exactly where it hurt.
And goddamn, did it hurt.
Cal escorted the cops to the door and thanked them for their time. There would no doubt be more questions later, but at least they were done for tonight. The three of them were free to go home. Gillian was still in her office. Cal hadn't seen her since she had walked out of the room after they disarmed Benson.
He knew he would have to go to her, that they needed to talk, but he didn't want to. Part of him yearned to walk out of the Lightman Group building, possibly forever, and forget about what had happened here tonight. Not that he could do that to Gillian. Not after what had passed between them.
Torres walked to the front door, pulling her jacket on. "I don't think I'll be in tomorrow. I know we've got the Andrews case—"
"No." Cal shook his head. Going back to their daily routine seemed impossible at the moment, let alone straight away. "Take the week."
Torres stopped, then met his gaze. "Just tomorrow. I'll be in on Thursday."
Cal searched her face for some clue as to how she was doing. Torres was good. Even now her impassive mask hadn't dropped. She could be traumatized beyond belief or barely perturbed, for all he could tell. "Thursday, then."
"Good night," Torres turned to open the door and Cal caught the barest hint of worry in her eyes. Uncertainty.
"Ria," Cal said in a quiet voice.
Her shoulders tensed slightly. She turned to face him with pure steel in her gaze. "Yeah?"
"I'm so sorry. It kills me that you got involved in that, and I—"
"It wasn't your fault, Lightman." Sometimes Torres could be brash and uncontrolled, but not now. He had never seen her hold her emotions so tightly inside. "I know you feel shame about what happened. But please know I don't blame you."
Cal nodded, too embarrassed to say more. "We're all right, then? You and me?"
"I'm a big girl. I'll be fine," Torres said. It looked like she was telling the truth. At least he hoped she was. "Foster's the one who needs you right now." She put a hand on the door, then glanced back at him. "I don't know what to call what happened back there between you two, but it didn't look like rape to me, either."
Cal swallowed the urge to lash out at Torres. Keeping his voice even, he said, "It doesn't really matter what you two want to call it."
Torres tilted her head. "Doesn't it?" She didn't wait for an answer, just walked out the door and into the night. Cal turned her words over in his head as he watched her go.
He supposed it mattered a little. To some extent. Cal knew he and Gillian had crossed their line earlier, that what happened between them had brought long-buried feelings into the open. Gillian didn't consider it rape. But that didn't mean she had chosen to have sex with him. Cal didn't know how to feel about the boundaries they had so carefully constructed being destroyed against their will. Especially because it had excited him so bloody much.
Cal stood staring at the front door. He could just follow Torres out to the parking lot. There was a bottle of scotch waiting for him at home. Drinking away reality had never sounded so good. After a moment of hesitation, he walked to the front door and locked it. Better safe than sorry. He wasn't going anywhere.
Crossing the hall to Gillian's office, Cal took a deep breath and knocked on the door. "Foster?"
"Come in, Cal."
Her voice sounded so quiet and sad. Cal turned the knob slowly and poked his head inside, not knowing quite what to expect. Gillian sat in her leather office chair, hands pressed flat against her desk. He could see her trembling from the doorway.
"I just wanted to check on you before I…" Cal gestured behind him with his head, gazed longingly at the front door, then forced himself to step inside Gillian's office and look at the turbulent emotion that flowed from her like an open wound. "You all right?"
A microexpression of fear. Cal knew Gillian didn't think that he would hurt her physically, but she was definitely scared of something. "How's Ria?" Gillian said. "I didn't get a chance to talk to her…after."
Classic deflection. Cal shrugged. "Doing as well as one would expect, I guess. She's gone home. Taking the day off tomorrow."
"That sounds like a good idea." Gillian's chin trembled. "I regret asking her to work late tonight. She shouldn't have even been here."
"Not your fault," Cal said softly. "She doesn't blame you."
"Doesn't make me feel any better about it."
He understood. Nothing was going to make him feel better about what had happened, either. "I suggested she take the week off, but she said she'll be in on Thursday."
Gillian nodded. "She's tough." Sorrow passed over her features.
"Back to my first question," Cal said. "Are you all right?"
"Am I all right?" Gillian repeated quietly. She closed her eyes then exhaled, and her fear seemed to melt away. She smiled, opening her eyes. "No, I don't think so." Her gaze finally found his. "Are you?"
Cal considered lying for only an instant. "No, love. I'm not."
Gillian stood and walked to her couch, sitting down carefully. Then she patted the empty cushion beside her. "Sit with me?"
Cal crossed the room in what felt like slow-motion and eased onto the corner of the couch. He told himself he was just trying to give her space. But he knew he kept his distance because he didn't feel worthy of being close to Gillian anymore. He had contaminated her again, through far more than just the touch of his skin on hers. It was his past that brought Benson here. It had been bad enough when it was just fallout from his business dealings that hurt her. What happened tonight made their financials seem utterly trivial.
Gillian might not think it was rape, but Cal's cock had gotten hard even as he saw fear in her eyes. What kind of man could get it up when his best friend was terrified? Cal moved to stand, suddenly certain that he couldn't face her.
Gillian caught his hand, stopping him from walking away. "Please don't."
Cal exhaled. Regardless of her feelings for him, he didn't understand how Gillian wasn't more shaken by how easily he had been able to fuck her. "I'm not sure I know how to stay."
"Just stay." Gillian didn't let go of his hand. Her fingers felt warm curled around his, and he found that he couldn't leave her. He didn't want to leave her.
Cal sat down again. "I'm being a coward, aren't I?"
"We're both scared."
Cal held his breath when she pulled his hand into her lap, then closed his eyes, remembering. What it felt like to touch her. The warmth of her skin. Being inside of her.
"I've never seen you like this," Gillian murmured.
"Pretty sure I've never felt like this." Cal opened his eyes. All his practiced confidence was gone, the wall he built around himself to keep people at a distance crumbled at his feet. "Can't say I much like it. I guess Benson got what he wanted."
Gillian shook her head. "No. He wanted you to lose my trust. You haven't."
Cal stared at a spot on the couch next to Gillian's shoulder. He didn't want her to see just how vulnerable he felt. "I'm sorry for upsetting you before. When I said you had been raped."
Gillian stiffened and Cal was afraid he'd fucked up again. The word seemed to hang between them like a dark stranger in the room. Then Gillian relaxed, using her free hand to run a fingertip over Cal's earlobe. "Benson didn't make me kiss you, Cal."
Cal shivered. No, that had been all Gillian. "Yeah, about that. Why did you?"
"Because I wanted to. Because I'd be damned if we were going to—" Gillian's throat moved and she ducked her head to meet his gaze head-on. "What I said before, about saying to hell with the line. You know I meant that, right?"
"Yeah." Cal had seen it in her eyes. Not that she had any choice at that moment, as far as their line went. That's what made this all so confusing.
"Then why do you feel so guilty?" Gillian lifted his hand and cradled it to her chest, holding him close. Cal inhaled sharply at the press of her breast against the backs of his fingers. "He forced you just as much as he forced me. It wasn't something we chose to do, but it wasn't anything I hadn't thought about. Or that I imagine you haven't thought about."
Embarrassed to admit how much, Cal opened his mouth but didn't respond.
His hesitation seemed to send her into a bit of a tailspin. Gillian blinked rapidly and said, "At least I guess I hope you've thought about it. Haven't you thought about it?"
"Of course I have," Cal said. But the admission made him feel dirty. He covered the shame with a smile that felt like a grimace. "That doesn't mean we would have ever gone there together."
"Maybe not." Gillian ran her fingers over his, sending another shiver through his body. His cock threatened to harden again, unleashing a fresh wave of guilt. "There it is again. Tell me what's got you feeling so bad about yourself."
She wasn't going to let it go and Cal didn't know what to say. So he opted for radical honesty. "It felt incredible to be inside you, Gillian. Even though I knew you were scared." He felt her heart begin to pound against his hand. "How could I not feel like a bastard about that, love?"
"You're a man, Cal. We're attracted to each other. And we've been moving toward this for some time now. Haven't we?"
"I suppose we have." Cal thought back to their flirtation in the viewing room earlier, and the obvious pleasure she had taken from it. What if they had been able to make a real start, instead of being forced into this mess? "It just wasn't supposed to happen this way."
"Of course it wasn't. But it did." Gillian squeezed his hand tighter against her chest. "So I guess the question is where do we go from here?"
"Where can we go?" It wasn't a rhetorical question. Cal asked because he needed an answer. He had no idea what their options were. Could they ever go back to dancing around their line, now that it had been destroyed?
"How about forward?" Gillian stared into his eyes. It felt like she was daring him to look away. "Come home with me tonight."
"I want you in my bed, Cal. On my own terms."
"I don't think that's—"
"Just to sleep. I need you with me tonight. I need to feel you breathing next to me."
He knew if they went their separate ways and he had time to think too hard, he was going to push her away again. Not because that's what he wanted, it's just what would happen. So he grabbed onto her invitation as though she was throwing him a life preserver. "All right. Whatever you need."
"Thank you." Gillian smiled and tilted her head, touching his face gently. Cal leaned into her warmth and stared into her eyes. He searched for her true feelings there, not much trusting that everything was really okay. No matter what she said. It was only a matter of time before the other shoe dropped, and Cal didn't want to let his guard down.
Gillian's lips parted as she studied his face. "Why do you do that?"
"Shut me out," Gillian said. "It feels like every time I'm about to see the real Cal Lightman, he runs away and hides."
"I think we already established that I'm a bit of a coward when it comes to you, love." Cal was too tired to be anything but honest with her. He rested his head on the back of the couch, pressing his lips against Gillian's shoulder. "Can we go home now?"
Gillian scratched her fingers through his hair and he suppressed a groan. He loved a woman's nails on his scalp, and Gillian had never done this for him before. She gave him a gentle smile. "You can drop the mask, you know."
"Or you could stop trying to read me." Cal offered her an exhausted grin. "It's been a long day and it'd be brilliant if I didn't have to work so hard at looking like I'm not about to fall apart."
"Simple solution, Lightman. Just let me inside." Gillian tugged on his hair and he shivered. "Please."
If only it were that easy. Cal was so used to hiding vulnerability that he wasn't sure he knew how to let anyone see it anymore. Especially Gillian. "If I promise to work on it, could we go home?"
Gillian nodded and stood. "Come on. Want to follow me in your car?"
"No." Now that Cal had decided to stay the night with her, he didn't want to lose sight of Gillian for even a moment. "We'll ride together."
"I'll drive, then." Gillian helped him to his feet. She got her purse, then led him to her office door by the hand. "Let's go."
The ride home was quiet. Cal didn't know what to say and thankfully Gillian didn't try to make him talk. Sometimes he just needed to sit and stew, and she was usually a fair judge of when to leave him to it. He knew they weren't done talking yet, but he was grateful for the reprieve.
When they got to Gillian's house they met at the back of the car and linked fingers again. She walked them to the front door then released his hand to dig in her purse. The night air chilled him as soon as they stopped touching, and he jammed his hands into his pockets and watched her fumble with her keys. When she got the door unlocked she immediately reached for him and pulled him inside.
Cal had slept in her guest room before. Tonight would be his first time in her bedroom. The thought had him both scared and excited. Cal walked to the middle of her living room and stood awkwardly while she dropped her purse on the dining room table. He waited for her to tell him what to do next.
"I really need a shower," Gillian said. "Wash this night away." She gave him a tremulous smile that laid her bare, leaving her so open and exposed it took his breath away. Was that what she wanted from him? So much naked, uncontrolled emotion? Sometimes Cal felt like he couldn't breathe when he let himself feel too much. And right now he was feeling far, far too much.
Cal eyed the dried blood on her forehead with a wince. "Brilliant idea." In fact, nothing had ever sounded better. He could feel every drop of blood and bodily fluid on his skin. Suddenly being clean became an obsession. "I think I'll have one, too. Is there a towel in your guest bathroom?"
Gillian stepped close to him and put a hand on his chest. "Join me?"
"You really want that?" Cal asked. As much as he didn't want to leave her, the thought of being so close to her nudity again was frightening. He didn't know how he would react, or even how he should react. "I mean, after what happened—"
"Please, Cal. I need it. Because of what happened."
"Right." No matter how nervous he was, Cal intended to surrender control to Gillian. It seemed only right. And he wanted so badly to have faith that she knew the right thing to do. "Lead the way, then."
Gillian walked to her bedroom, looking over her shoulder as though making sure he didn't make a break for it. Cal trailed behind her and puzzled over what she was feeling. He wouldn't have guessed she would want to be so vulnerable with him after the night she'd had. It wasn't as though Cal had been the only one to touch her. Benson had smacked her around. What if being naked in the shower with him triggered her into some kind of panic or flashback?
Then again, maybe she really did need him there. Maybe she needed for Cal to prove that he still found her attractive, that he wasn't disgusted by what had happened. That he could let her call the shots.
"You need to trust me, okay?" Gillian closed the bedroom door behind them, putting a hand on Cal's arm. Her face told him that he was doing a shit job of hiding his anxiety.
"It's not you I don't trust."
"Well, I trust you. And that's going to have to be good enough." Gillian went into the master bathroom and turned on the shower. Cal stood in the doorway, watching silently as she came to him and presented her back. "Unzip me?"
Cal's hand shook as he worked the zipper down the curve of her spine. Gillian kicked off her shoes then pushed her dress off her shoulders, allowing it to fall and pool around her ankles. Then she stepped out of it toward the shower and checked the water temperature with her hand.
Cal stared down at himself, feeling less and less certain where to start. He looked up at Gillian but tore his gaze away when she reached behind her back to unhook her bra.
"I think we're way past being shy, Cal." Gillian gave him a smile tinged with sadness. "Please don't let me be the only one with no clothes on."
The words kick-started him into action. Cal unbuttoned his shirt and let it drop to the floor. He watched Gillian slip off her panties and hesitated with his hands on the button of his pants. Now that they were alone, he was able to really look at her. And she was breathtaking. Her body was so womanly, with delicious curves in all the right places. He allowed himself a moment to stare at her breasts, overwhelmed by how beautiful he found her.
"It's okay," Gillian said, drawing his attention to her face. "I'm still attracted to you, too." She gave him a confident, open smile. "Now get in here."
Gillian stepped into the shower and moaned quietly when the steaming water hit her skin. She pulled the shower curtain closed, obscuring Cal's view of her body. He thumbed open the button on his pants. Hesitating only a moment, he shed his boxer briefs and walked into the shower after Gillian.
Cal closed his eyes as the water hit his chest, ducking his head so that it soaked his hair and ran in rivulets down this face. He combed his fingers through his hair and scrubbed, then backed out of the spray and shook his head. When he opened his eyes Gillian was staring into them.
"Hey," she said quietly.
"Hey." The air between them was charged. Emotion welled in Cal's throat and he put out a hand to touch Gillian's arm, not sure how else to ground himself. He didn't want to break down, goddamn it. But if she kept staring at him like that, he wasn't sure how he'd hold it together. He grabbed her other arm and gently turned her around. "Let me wash your hair."
If she knew he was trying to avoid eye contact, Gillian didn't let on. She handed him a bottle of shampoo over her shoulder. "Thank you."
Cal squeezed a dollop of shampoo into his palm, then set aside the bottle so he could rub his hands together to work up a lather. He buried his fingers in her soft, thick hair, massaging the soap into her scalp. Gillian moaned, low and throaty, and Cal's nostrils flared as his cock got hard all over again.
Fuck. Cal kept up his massage of her scalp, not wanting her to turn around and see his erection. It didn't really matter that he was standing naked in the shower with a very wet Gillian Foster. As good an excuse for being turned on as that was, it felt like no excuse at all. Why couldn't his body just recognize how inappropriate arousal was after what they'd been through?
Gillian grabbed a loofah sponge and squirted some soap onto it, then went to work scrubbing the front of her body. Cal brought his face close to the back of her neck and inhaled. This is what Gillian smelled like every day: a heady combination of shampoo, soap, and something uniquely her. Cal loved those smells. The sight of her arm working the sponge over her breasts and between her legs was doing nothing to quell his interest.
Gillian offered him the loofah. "Get my back?"
"Sure." Cal grabbed the sponge and exhaled. He ran it over her shoulders, down her spine, to the dip in her lower back. Closing his eyes, he soaped her bottom, trying to ignore the perfect shape of it beneath his hand.
"Thanks," Gillian murmured. She turned to face him and their eyes met.
Cal knew she could see right through him, and his first instinct was to retreat. To crack a joke. Even leave the bathroom altogether if he had to.
"Let me wash your hair now." Gillian picked up the shampoo and had a coin-sized pool in her palm before he could refuse. She rested both arms on his shoulders, trapping him in front of her, and rubbed the shampoo into his hair while her fingernails scraped against his scalp. Her breasts brushed against his bare chest, and he jerked his hips backward, not wanting her to feel what she was doing to him.
"You're going to bloody kill me, darling," Cal said quietly. It was a warning as well as a plea. This was getting to be too much: a terrifying overload of arousal, fear, relief, and soul-crushing love. He could have lost her today. Benson could have pulled that trigger and taken Gillian Foster away from him forever. But he hadn't. Even what Benson had done didn't seem to have scared Gillian away. Cal's chest tightened as a sob welled up. "Please," he begged her. "I need to—"
"I'm here, Cal. Be here with me." Gillian rubbed her thumbs over his temples and leaned her forehead against his. "It's all right."
Something snapped inside of him. Cal reached for Gillian's face with the desperation of a dying man. He stroked his hands over her cheeks, then her mouth, pushing one fingertip between her lips. She trapped his finger between her teeth, never breaking their eye contact.
Cal opened his mouth to speak, but found he had no words. Gillian released his finger with a gentle swipe of her tongue across the tip.
"I know," Gillian whispered. "It's okay."
Cal dropped his hands to Gillian's throat and bent to kiss the warm skin between his thumbs, poking out his tongue out to lick at the steady thrum of her pulse. That she was alive and in his arms was more than he could process. Everything he was feeling was written all over his face, and for once, Cal didn't try to stop Gillian from seeing.
Gillian clutched at his shoulders, biting her lip as her eyes filled with tears. Not sadness. Joy. Carried away by his need for her, Cal pressed Gillian against the wall of the shower and let his body touch hers. He kept his hands on her throat and trailed kisses to the corner of her mouth.
"I love you," Cal said. Wrapping his arms around her, he pulled her as close as she could get. Her body was warm and slippery, and so supple, and his hard cock pressed against her, but the embrace wasn't about lust. It went so much deeper than that, so deep that Cal could hardly breathe. "I was so scared I was going to lose you. You're my best friend and I can't…I can't lose you."
"I love you, too." Gillian clung to him, both hands in his hair again. She was shaking. "And you haven't."
Cal held her against the shower wall, wanting so badly to get closer, not knowing how. "This okay?"
"More than okay." Gillian dropped a hand to his lower back, keeping him in place. "The real Cal Lightman takes my breath away."
Cal drew back and studied her face. "Funny, that. You do the same to him."
Gillian flushed and lowered her gaze. "I've wanted to be with you like this for so long." Her voice broke on the words, and she tugged lightly on his short hair with a watery grin. "I was afraid it might never happen. I'm glad it did. No matter how we got here."
Cal looked down at the scant space between their bodies. Gillian's breasts were crushed against his chest, their arms entangled. Water pooled between them with no way to escape. "So what do we do now?"
Gillian used the hand on his lower back to pull his hips into hers. Desire surged through Cal. He had never seen Gillian like this before. So confident and unguarded, and utterly gorgeous. "Let's go to bed and remind ourselves that we're alive. And making the choice to celebrate that together."
The thought made his head spin. Cal didn't know whether to slow things down or take Gillian's hand and hold on tight. Gillian's eyes studied his reaction and he saw a flicker of worry on her face.
Cal shook his head, cradling her chin in his hand. "It's not that I don't want that, love. But I thought we were just going to sleep." Raging hard-on aside, Cal wanted to make it clear that sex was the last thing he needed from her tonight. He had already gotten more than he could have dreamed. "Believe me, I don't need anything more than you in my arms."
"I believe you." If he hadn't already been hard, the coy smile Gillian gave him would've made him that way. "But I don't think I can just sleep after that."
No matter how surprised he was, Cal had to trust that Gillian knew what she wanted. It wasn't like he didn't want her just as badly. To drive away thoughts of what had happened earlier, to have a first time he could remember fondly. To be as close to her as possible.
Cal stepped away from Gillian and helped her off the shower wall. He turned off the water, then moved the curtain aside to grab a towel from the rack. Pink and fluffy. Very Foster. Unfolding it, he put it around Gillian's shoulders and tugged her into his embrace. Cal lay his head on her shoulder and rubbed his hands up and down her back, drying her off.
After a moment Gillian stopped him by dropping her hands to his hips and giving him a firm squeeze. "Come on." She unwrapped the towel from her body, rubbed it over Cal's hair quickly, just enough to get the loose droplets off, then took his hand. She led him to her bed, pulling back the comforter and sheets with a shy smile.
Cal slipped beneath the covers beside her. He opened his arms and she crawled into his embrace with a sigh. It felt so right to hold her this way, Cal almost couldn't remember why he ever would have thought it was wrong. Intellectually he still understood all his worries—losing his best friend, complicating his professional life—but here in her arms, it felt worth all the risk.
Gillian tilted her face up and he kissed her mouth, gently at first. When she deepened the kiss with an excited little moan, the last of Cal's fears evaporated. He was in love with her, and she with him. There was no going back.
Cal moved over Gillian, holding her face in his hands as he returned her kiss. She threw her arms around his back and wrapped her legs around his hips, pulling him tightly against her body. Drawing him in. Keeping him close.
Cal lifted his head and stared down into Gillian's eyes. Her body fit perfectly against his. His cock nestled between her thighs, the length of it pressed along her impossibly soft heat. On instinct he rocked against her, and Gillian matched him by pushing her hips into his. She was slippery wet, drawing the tip of his cock slightly inside.
With effort Cal stopped moving. He bent and kissed her neck, then shifted lower, covering her erect nipple with his mouth. Gillian gasped and scratched his back when he laved her with his tongue. The slight pain of her nails on his shoulder blades kicked his heart rate up and sent a jolt of pleasure to his groin. When he tried to press a line of kisses down her torso, Gillian gripped his bicep tightly.
"Where are you going?" she asked breathlessly.
Cal picked up his head and gazed into her eyes. "I want to make you come in my mouth."
"Not now." Gillian tugged him back up so that they were face-to-face. "I need you right here. Kissing me. I need to feel you inside me."
Lowering his mouth to hers, Cal gave Gillian a deep, slow kiss. She splayed her hands across his back and cradled his hips with her thighs. Literally enfolding him in her warmth. Cal broke away from their kiss and gritted his teeth as his cock slid over her labia, then grunted when Gillian angled her hips upward so that he slipped inside.
"Foster," Cal groaned, closing his eyes tightly and burying his face in her damp hair. Gillian writhed against him and he had no choice but to match her rhythm, thrusting deeper. Her pussy clutched at him, squeezed him until he couldn't think. He lifted his head and touched her throat again, staring into her eyes. All he saw was love. "This is exactly how it was supposed to be," Cal murmured.
Gillian's grin lit him up from the inside out. She slid her hands down to cup his ass in her hands, using her leverage to pull him against her. There was no fear, no hesitation. Just the two of them, together.
Cal knew he wasn't going to last long. There was no way. Not his first time with Gillian, not when he was this emotionally exhausted. He mourned the end of their coupling before it was over, wanting to stay inside her forever.
Gillian moaned and whimpered as he thrust into her. She turned her head to the side and sucked on his fingers, face contorting with pleasure on every stroke. Watching her reactions spurred on his release, and there was disappointment but no surprise when he felt the telltale signs of orgasm after only a few minutes inside her.
"I'm so sorry, love," Cal mumbled, embarrassed. He tried to disentangle himself, to pull back. "I swear I can usually go longer, but—" Tightening his jaw, he tried to stave off the inevitable. "This is just too much."
Gillian curled a hand around the back of his neck, scratching lightly with her nails. "Don't go," she murmured, tightening her legs around him. "Stay."
Cal traced his thumbs over her eyebrows. "You sure?"
"Come inside me, Cal. Just don't stop."
Lowering his mouth to hers, Cal pressed his tongue inside Gillian's mouth and kissed her hard. She brought her hips up into his, meeting him stroke for stroke. Cal held out as long as he could, but after a few more thrusts he lost control. When he felt himself start to tumble over the edge, Cal raised his face and gazed into Gillian's eyes.
"Oh fuck," Gillian whispered quietly, then arched her back beneath him. She cried out, a wild, breathy noise that immediately had him releasing inside her. Snaking his arm beneath her back, Cal held Gillian close, focusing on the thump of her heartbeat against his chest.
Cal stayed that way for a long time, even as his cock softened inside of her. He didn't want to let her go. He buried his face in her neck again, feeling like he would cry if he let himself meet her eyes.
No matter how much he wanted to trust Gillian with the real Cal Lightman, he sure as hell wasn't going to cry. Not after a shag, no bloody way.
Gillian rested her hands on his back, skimming her palms lightly over his skin. He waited for her to push him away, knowing she was bearing all his weight, but she didn't. Instead she held him and kissed his temple.
"Now that was lovemaking." Gillian sounded content in a way he had never heard before. Because of him.
Gathering his courage, Cal lifted his head and stared at her through wet eyes. "Yes, darling. It was."