Chapter 17 – Bubble Baths & Blankets
Thursday evening, 9:00 pm.
Emily was trembling, from cold as well as the warm touch of Horatio's hands. He had carried her in the house and set her down in the large master bathroom. For some moments, he just looked at her, taking in her soaked tresses, windblown into a mass of tangles, her cotton shirt clinging to her curves, and the drippy cotton skirt clinging to her legs. Emily heard her Grandma's voice telling her to always wear clean underwear, you'll never know when you'll be in an accident. She began to giggle, feeling a bit of hysteria coming on.
"Emily!" His voice was sharper than he intended and she quickly focused on him. His expression softened as he saw she was beginning to shiver and said gently,
"Let's get you warm, sweetheart." She could only stand there numbly, not sure what exactly he meant, several different scenarios running through her head, each ending up with her in his arms.
Horatio turned on the tap, checked to make sure the water was warm, poured in some bubble bath Yelina had left, and as the tub filled up he walked over to where Emily stood. Very slowly, he reached for her skirt, saying softly, "We need to get you out of these wet things Emily." She nodded and accepted his help while he felt the light touch of her hands on his back as she leaned on him to keep her balance as she stepped free of the clinging cotton. Her shirt soon followed.
"You are so beautiful, Emily." His voice was husky. He turned his back while she slipped out of her bra and panties, and stepped into the bubble-filled tub. Once she had slipped beneath the scented foam, he turned back to look at her. She blushed as she found herself again looking into those passion-darkened blue eyes.
He looked at her for several moments, and said softly, "I'm going to change and get your coffee started. Wash up," he put soap and a body sponge on the side of the tub, "and when I come back in, we'll wash your hair." She nodded and watched him go, thinking this situation was so surreal. As she reached for the soap, Emily felt like one of the characters from the Wicked Loving Lies novels she and Jean could never get enough of in college. Soon she had scrubbed until her skin was pink. She could hear Horatio moving around in his bedroom, then a few moments later she heard a coffee grinder. She smiled in anticipation.
When he came back into the bathroom, she was once again submerged in the bubbles and watched him from under lowered lashes. He had put on a pair of navy lounge pants and tee. Her eyes roamed over him hungrily as he gathered up towels, shampoo and conditioner. When he turned and caught her watching him, he smiled and said softy, "All in good time, sweetheart." Emily blushed again and tried to sink further beneath the bubbles. He came over and knelt beside the tub.
"Now, let's get your hair washed." She caught a glimpse of pale freckles scattered up his forearms, before he tilted her head back and gently began pouring water over her hair.
"Relax sweetheart," she heard him say, "I know what I'm doing." And she had to agree, he certainly did. She almost moaned with pleasure as he massaged her scalp. Opening her eyes, Emily glanced sideways at him, murmuring,
"You certainly know what you're doing there, Lieutenant. It would seem you've had some experience in this area."
"More than you know," he answered her softly, a sad expression lingering in his eyes for just a moment, before disappearing as quickly as it had come.
"All done," he announced, gently squeezing the water from her tresses. He brushed aside her protests that she could manage from here on out and held out a fluffy bath sheet for her, promising to close his eyes. When she touched his bare shoulder, for balance as she stepped over the tub, a shock zipped from her hand up her arm and she looked at him quickly, seeing by his expression, that he had felt it too. Once wrapped in the fluffy towel, sarong-style, he helped her towel dry her hair, and told her, "I've left some shirts and sweats out in the bedroom. Find something comfortable and meet me in the living room. If I don't see you in 10 minutes, I'm coming in there after you, Emily." He didn't say anything else, but she could tell by his tone and the suddenly sober look in those blue eyes that he would come after her.
"Ok," was all she could say and fled into his bedroom. In addition to his clothes, she found several lacey panties. Her mind refused to consider why a bachelor like Horatio would have such intimate pieces of a woman's wardrobe among his things.
Nine minutes later, Emily was following her nose down the hall in search of the hot liquid that was creating that wonderful aroma. She gasped with delight as she stepped into the muted light of the large living room. The light, she discovered, was coming from a large electric fireplace on one wall. In front of that, Horatio had spread out a quilt and piled to the side were several more blankets and a comforter. A low table nearby held a steaming mug of light brown liquid. From hidden speakers, the first bars of Enya's Book of Days could be heard.
"Do you like it?" She looked in the direction of the sound of his voice, her smile wide, dimple showing. He stepped into the light from where he been watching her in the shadows, his head tilted to one side. If it was possible, he thought, she looked even more beautiful. Standing in the light of the fireplace, he could see her body outlined through the knit Henley shirt she had chosen for nightwear. The 3 buttons at the top were undone, the sleeves were too long, covering the lower part of her hands and he noticed the hem of the shirt stopped about mid-thigh.
"It looks wonderful, Horatio. I could kiss you!" Emily made a beeline over to the cup of coffee on the table, humming along to the song. "This is one of my favorites," she commented as the song came to it's close.
Horatio made his way to the fireplace asking, "Would you like to sit on the sofa or the floor?"
"Oh, the floor." Soon she found herself wrapped in a snug cocoon of blankets, leaning back against the sofa, ready for the coffee mug he was about to pick up from the table. Kneeling in front of her, he asked, "How about that kiss you mentioned?"
"Come closer," she whispered, watching wide-eyed as he moved in closer to her, his knees touching her blankets. Blue eyes held hazel, and Emily leaned forward to kiss him as he bent towards her. She brushed her lips against his, murmuring his name. She kissed him again and was rewarded with his mouth opening beneath hers. Sighing, she deepened the kiss until he groaned and moved to pull away from her. "No," she whispered against his mouth, "I'm not done yet." Her words took him by surprise, and it was several minutes before Horatio could lean back and take several deep breaths, while attempting to get his breathing under control.
He smiled as handed her the coffee mug, saying, "Let's hope this offers you enough distraction for just a little while longer sweetheart. Sip on this while I get your dinner. Then, while you eat, I'm going to take a shower and then we are going to have a little chat and clear the air."
"You're making decisions for me again, Lieutenant."
"Humor me?" he asked softly, his head tilted to one side.
"Ok," she said grudgingly, taking a delicate sip of the coffee. "Er, Horatio… what did you put in here?"
"Coffee, milk and Bailey's."
"Trying to get me tipsy, Lieutenant?" she asked teasingly, looking up at him as he stood.
"No. I don't keep the lightener of your choice in my fridge." He paused. "I guess I'll have to begin putting that on my shopping list," he said, carefully watching for a reaction from her.
"Better make sure you buy it by the quart ," she advised demurely, refusing to look at him as she stared into the light brown liquid. She could hear him chuckling as he walked into the kitchen.
It wasn't long before Horatio had brought her supper – a very large bowl of steaming vegetable soup and crackers. After rearranging her blankets to accommodate the tray table he found to put over her legs, she was soon tucking into the savory soup, her bare feet sticking out of the blankets. He knelt beside her and asked if she had everything she needed.
She nodded, not trusting herself to speak. He tucked a few stray strands of golden hair behind her ear and kissed her on the forehead, then quickly got up and went to take his shower.
The soup was delicious and soon it was gone. With food in her stomach and warm once again, Emily set the tray aside and snuggled up in her blankets. 'Just a little catnap,' she thought leaning back against sofa.
That was how Horatio found her a little while later. He carefully slipped a pillow under her head so she would be more comfortable, then quietly cleared away her dinner things. He thought about getting some air out on the deck, but decided against it. He wanted to be nearby if she woke up. After a final check of the doors and windows, he poured himself a glass of wine, then sat down on the quilt beside her. He sipped his wine and watched her sleep, lightly stroking her cheek. Somehow, he had to find the words to explain his behavior to her, to let her know that he would never again treat her as he did on the beach. Horatio sighed, knowing that no matter how hard he denied it, the fact remained unchanged. He was head over heels, completely and totally in love with Emily Saunders.
Thursday evening, 11:00 pm.
Emily awoke to the steady beat of Horatio's heart in her ear and the smell of his aftershave tickling her nose. For a brief moment, she thought she was back in her apartment, nestled in his arms on her loveseat. Opening one eye, the events of the evening came flooding back to her and she lay still, wondering how she had wound up lying in Horatio's arms, her head against his chest. A quick check told her she was still wearing the Henley shirt. She couldn't remember anything happening, but then …
"It's Ok, Emily. You fell asleep after your supper." She heard his voice come from somewhere above her. "I guess I dozed off too." He finished softly, unwilling to let her move from where she lay against him, but knowing he must in order for them to clear the air. "You can take your time waking up, though."
"Sixty seconds," she said and closed her eyes, gathering her thoughts about what she needed to say to him.
"Emily, it's been a couple of minutes. Did you fall asleep?"
"No, umm … Horatio I need a few minutes …"
"Of course, sweetheart. I left a toothbrush, toothpaste, towels on the sink in the bathroom for you." He set her back against the sofa, then stood and helped her stand. "If I don't see you coming down that hall in 10 minutes, I'm coming after you." She nodded and went down the hall.
He was staring into the fire when she came down the hall some eight minutes later. For a minute, Emily watched him, enjoying the play of the firelight as it danced across his muscular arms and shoulders. He ran his hand through his hair, the familiar gesture almost dissolving her resolve to keep her distance.
"Horatio…" He turned and saw her walking towards him.
"Would you like a glass of wine?"
"That would be nice."
"I'll be right back." When he had returned with two glasses of wine, he handed one to her and indicated the sofa. Emily sat down and he took the seat beside her. Her shirt had ridden up to the top of her thighs and he reached down and retrieved one of the blankets, laying it across her legs, saying, "That is way too distracting sweetheart." She hoped he could not see her blush in the dim light.
"I don't know where to start," he said self-consciously, looking away from her into the darkness of the house.
"How about the beginning?"
"It's a long story."
"I'm a good listener."
Haltingly at first, he told her about Marisol. How she had cancer, but it had gone into remission, and their decision to marry. He stopped and looked at his hands for a long moment, trying to get up the courage to tell her the rest of the story. Emily saw how difficult this was for him. It hurt her to see him in so much pain. She reached over and squeezed his fingers encouragingly.
"I'm here Horatio." He looked up at the sound of her voice and she almost gasped at the pain in his blue eyes. Carefully he explained about the green light out on him, what it meant for the people who cared about him and the people he cared about.
"She's dead, Emily because of me. I couldn't protect her. I'm afraid I won't be able to protect you either," he whispered and looked away from her, trying to get his emotions under control. Emily's expression never changed, but she was beginning to see just what part she had unwittingly played in his nightmare. Sensing he wasn't done, she waited. Looking into her eyes once more, he tried to make her understand,
"Emily, I don't mean to treat you like a child. I just want to keep you safe. I… I've fallen in love with you." This time she did gasp and he saw the tears well up in her eyes. "I don't know if I've got another fresh start in me. And it's not fair to you," he finished quietly. "You're used to being free to do what you want without worrying about looking over your shoulder. I can't ask you to change who you are for me." He looked away from her again, refusing to look into her tear filled eyes.
"Horatio." Nothing. "Horatio, look at me… please?" He did, and she almost cried out again at the pain she saw there. "Horatio, I love you. I want to be with you. Shouldn't I be the one to decide whether or not you are worth changing my life for?" She saw the stubborn set to his jaw and realized it would take more than love to change his mind.
"You know," she said softly, "Grandma Estin takes the happiness of her favorite granddaughter very seriously. And she wants great-grandchildren VERY badly. You may think you can scare me off , but Grandma doesn't scare easily, and for the record, neither do I." She had his attention now.
"All you had to do is explain it to me Horatio. I'm not unreasonable. I admit that I'm learning your way of life here in Miami is a far cry from my life along the North Shore. You have to trust me enough to tell me the reason instead of giving me orders." She saw some of the light coming back into his eyes and she went on, moving closer to him,
"Besides, I think Grandma likes you. And since I love you, I think she's already started crocheting baby blankets and baby booties. You wouldn't want to disappoint a sweet, grey-haired little old-lady up in the North Woods, would you?"
Emily saw the uncertainty in his eyes and whispered, "Please, say you'll think about it, Horatio? I … I don't know how else to convince you…" she left her sentence unfinished and looked at him for a long moment. She stood and held out her hand to him. Horatio wasn't sure what she was doing, but he sensed the time for talking was just about over. He stood and murmured as he stepped into her arms, "We're not done talking Emily."
"Oh, I think we are Lieutenant." He tried again.
"Emily, you've had an emotional day."
"Then maybe you should put me to bed, Lieutenant." Her hazel eyes were innocent as she looked up at him.
Still he hesitated, and Emily slid her arms around his neck, bringing his head down for her kiss. Horatio returned her kiss, sliding his hands into the long golden curtain of her hair, now smooth and tangle-free. She trembled as he began to leave a trail of kisses from her mouth along her jaw, to her ear and down her neck. While one of her hands tangled in the red hair at his nape, the other slid down to lie palm flat against his chest. He lifted his head and looked at her questioningly.
"I'm a little chilly." She shivered suddenly as if to prove her point. "Do you think we could snuggle under those blankets in front of the fire?" She heard him chuckle and say,
"Well, I can hardly argue with that now can I?" With those words, she found herself being whisked off her feet and soon she was nestled with Horatio before the fire.
"Are you warm now sweetheart?" he asked later, cradling her against his chest, moving the stray strands of her golden hair off her hot face.
"Mmmm…toasty," was her sleepy reply.
Much later Horatio awoke and carried her into his bedroom. Emily woke only long enough to give him a sleepy smile, whisper, "I love you," and snuggle up to him once more beneath the blankets in his bed until morning.