5a.m.. He got up slowly, careful not to wake up the beautiful woman who had shared his bed. Quietly, he got dressed and left the room on tiptoe.
He headed to the sea and let the fresh water finish awaking him. He swam for a while, appreciating the contact of the ocean on his skin. He hadn't swum like this for a while, his knee always slowing him down; but now, the pain had almost disappeared and he knew well why.
Every night, before going to bed, she would massage his shoulders where the scar was printed; then, she would put cream on his knee, where the bullet had hurt him, to soothe the pain. He could not remember last time he had taken his painkillers.
A soft smile wandered on his lips. He finally had all he had ever wanted.
Still smiling, he drove to his office and started filling all the waiting paper work. He hadn't been sitting for five minutes that his phone rang: the Chairman wanted him and the She Spies on the field asap. He pulled his phone and dialed their home number.
- "Good morning D.D., are the others up yet?"
- "No, still sleeping. But, from the tone of your voice I have a feeling it's about to change", she grinned.
Cross smiled before answering: "Nicolas Webb has escaped from prison. The Chairman wants you to find him and bring him back before the press hears about it. The prison is in a very populated area and this announcement would create a panic that I don't need to describe you. I am expecting you in my office in thirty minutes."
He hung up and D.D. put the phone back on the table. She was not exactly ready to face Shane and Cassie's unhappiness at being pulled out of bed at such an early hour.
Thirty minutes later, three women pushed a wooden door.
"Just on time, ladies."
They bore tired faces. Once again he explained the mission, with every once in a while a reference to the screen facing them. Files in hands, the she spies left his office and separated: D.D. headed to the prison while Shane and Cassie were planning on paying a visit to his ex-partner, Lana Pennington.
As they departed, he followed her silhouette until she disappeared from his sight. That remembered him how far they had come.
He had crossed the line on a Tuesday night as she was nursing him after he got injured in Mark Galen's attack on the ISD. His body was covered with bruises, and his shoulder had almost dislocated itself as he tried to prevent one of the felons to shoot at his team. Filled with painkillers and various antibiotics and creams, he had laid motionless in the dark for hours until the doctors decided he could go home as soon as someone stayed with him. Duncan and the ladies had all spontaneously offered themselves and had then split between his guestroom and the sofa, relaying on watching him. She had come last, rubbing her tired eyes, and had laid next to him without a word, probably thinking he was asleep. There she shivered for a while – he kept his room pretty cold- until he offered:
-" If you are cold, get under the cover, I would not like you to get sick while watching me."
She had started at the sound of his voice, but after some time, she had crawled under the cover, her thin body very close from his. There, she laid silent for a while until she could not hold it anymore and asked:
"How are you feeling?
"Groggy . But I'll be fine."
Saying that, he tried to turn on himself to face her, but a grin of pain that he hid as well as he could distorted his face.
"It's dark, but I can see you're in pain, you know? Where is the cream the doctor gave you?"
"It is nothing, don't worry, it will have disappeared by tomorrow…"
"Where. Is. The. Cream? You know I won't let you sleep until you've told me…Helping me with that would save us both some precious sleeping time…"
"It is inside the drawer of my bedside table but…"
He didn't have time to add anything else; she had already jumped above him, and opened the drawer. She then helped him sit at the price of great efforts and sat behind him. A chill ran down his spine as her hands first came in contact with his body and the freshness of the paste had nothing to do with it.
Slowly and carefully, she massaged his back where the wooden bar had hurt him, and moved gently towards the bruises on his torso. He felt her hands hesitate as they pressed his perfectly fitted body. That was too much for him: he grabbed her wrists and took her hands off him, as gently as he could given the circumstances. Their eyes met as he let them go and remained locked to one another. She felt dizzy, she could not take her eyes of him at that moment, although she knew that was what she was supposed to do; she felt trapped in his brown eyes. He was in no better state: his current weakness added to the impact she already usually had on him made it impossible from him to let go of her hands.
He could not remember what had happened next, but what he knew is that a few minutes later, her lips were pressed against his, firmly but gently. She had left his arms for a second to lock the door and had returned quickly huddling against him. The rest of the night had lost itself in delicious embraces and long kisses, the warmth of which he could still remember.
After that, although he could not deny the pleasure he had had, he had felt awful. The tension between them was still there, but now she knew too. He remembered the last time he had let his feelings guide him and tried to forget about what had happened. But she did not let him; she wanted to talk about it; she wanted to know. One, two, five times they met again and he fell for her every time.
One night, as he was leaving the beach house- Cassie was sick and he had come to see if she needed anything- she ran after him and grabbed his arm, forcing him to face her:
"Don't leave! Stay with me… There is plenty of room upstairs as you know…", she added teasingly.
He shook his head to drive away the thoughts which had assailed him.
" You know I can't. I have to go now, I have to be up early tomorrow…"
"Like every morning! Pleeeeaaase!"
Her green eyes begged him. He looked away; he could not stand that gaze. He motioned to leave. She screamed at him:
"You can't just come here when you want, take what you want and then refuse to talk about it!"
"It is not like that and you know it. I can't be with you, it is that simple. Now please, if you would let me…"
"Is that what you want? Because I can't stand having you all over me one day, all caring and tender, and falling asleep alone in my bed for the rest of the week, wondering if you are going to come. I can't stand waking up alone, unsatisfied and… cold … every morning. In prison and after, I had learnt to live without it, but now that you have awoken it, it's burning inside of me… you have no idea how much it can hurt…"
She was wrong. He perfectly knew. But he could not tell her. So, he remained silent.
Witnessing his absence of reaction, she added:
"If I had been younger maybe I would have appreciated the mystery and the wait better, but now I am too old for these games. So either you play frankly and you are here every night, like a gentleman, or you don't need to bother ever coming back!"
" If you are not here tomorrow night, I'm done. I leave you tonight to think about it…"
"You can't do that…"
But it was useless, she was already gone. He drove home in a fog of thoughts, contradicting feelings boiling inside of him. He took his head in his hands trying to ease the pain which had spread to it.
He knew she was waiting for him but he couldn't go; he turned on TV to try and distract his thoughts from her but it was useless.
A day had passed; nothing had changed except he felt dead inside. But everybody continued to act as if nothing had happened; for them it was a normal day.
He caught sight of Shane and D.D. as he was returning to his office. It was awkward as it was late in the evening and they should have been out in some bar or club or at least home by this time. He greeted them:
" Ladies; may I ask what you are still doing here at this late hour?
D.D. smiled and said on a confidential tone: "Cassie is on a date with that cute cable guy. He is taking her to dinner, and then she plans on taking him home, if you see what I mean; so Shane and I figured we should clear the way."
Shane added: "As it's Monday night, there is nothing to do, so we figured we might as well fill the paper work that's left from last mission".
"Well, have a nice evening then". He walked slowly towards the lift and took it down to the ground floor, and from there ran to his car.
He had never driven that fast and ignored all the limitations he met. When he finally reached his destination, he parked hastily and jumped out of his car. He sprinted towards the door and knocked, first politely, then with both hands, and called her name. But in vain, the house was silent.
He turned, his fists clenched and trembling as emotion submerged him.
"Is there anything I can do for you?"
He stopped and turned back. She was standing in the door frame, her forehead resting on her arm, smiling. He ran at her and grabbed her in his arms feverishly. He hold her tight in the doorframe for several minutes, he could not let her go.
Finally, she loosened his embrace and shut the door softly. She lifted her eyes, looking for his. But his arms were already around her, caressing her back, then her face, and his lips ran through her. Gently, she led him to her room and sat on the bed next to him:
"So have you made up your mind or…"
His lips closed on hers before she could finish her sentence. He took a deep breath, then resumed:
-"I am an idiot… I know I should have come yesterday, but I couldn't resolve myself to do so. Instead, I thought about you all night; I couldn't sleep and kept turning in my bed.
He put a finger on her lips:
-"Listen... I feel trapped between Charybde and Scylla; none of my available options seem fully possible. I don't know what to do… But I do know the thought of another man coming even near you is intolerable; that … it hurts too much…So I'll try my best to be at your side as much as you will let me. I promise you won't wake up alone anymore or cold… For unsatisfied, well… I'll do my best. If you would just give me another chance…"
He looked up at her for an answer, and as soon as he saw her face, he knew he had made the good decision. Her hands lifted to his face and caressed his cheek softly before opening way for her lips. When she looked at him this way, his heart melted and he almost told her as she kissed him again. But he could not. Not yet. She would freak out. He couldn't take the risk of losing her again.