Sara Pezzini did not use sick days or take vacation days unless she was forced to, so she had a whole slew of days to cash in if she needed to. So far, three days had been necessary. Gabriel had gotten her the name of a doctor who would make a house call with no questions asked. A crossbow arrow to the chest was the type of thing that would have to be reported if she had him brought to the hospital. The doctor had come, dressed the chest wound, given Sara antibiotics, salve, and all the bandages necessary to change the wound's dressing regularly.
Ian's wrist was broken, but Ian did not strike Sara as the cast wearing type and had the doctor splint it instead. He was not pleased with her choice, only when she promised to let Ian make the decision when he came to did he agree to the splint. Sara doubted either of them was counting on him being out for this long.
The antibiotics due to his being unconscious had to be administered via needle. Sara was not squeamish, but she did not like injecting other people with drugs. The doctor had imparted on her the importance of Ian getting the antibiotics. So she did it, not dwelling on why she was bothering to care for this man who had hired mercenaries, three of them, to kill her. There was a bottle of oral antibiotics for Ian to take once he'd come to as well, so the injections would stop once that finally happened.
Sara hoped that was soon as she washed her plate and glass, setting them to dry in the other half of the sink and made her way up to Ian's room. She did not like being in this house, even with Irons gone. Few rooms in the house were lived in so Ian's bedroom suite had been easy to find. The living areas that Ian spent time in were easy to spot as well. Sara had spent some time over the past three days wandering the house. Ian was no slob, but these rooms were obviously lived in and used, his bedroom had clothes in the hamper, hanging in the closets, towels in the bath and toiletries.
She got the injection done and then set to the task of dressing the chest wound. The doctor had cleaned and dressed it well, Sara could see no sign of infection and it appeared to be healing. So why wasn't Ian waking up?
She decided to call the doctor after she sponged him off. The first night she had washed him off, she felt invasive. What made her do it was the realization that if she was the one lying in a bed she would want to be somewhat clean when she came to. Particularly if the person seeing her when she came to was the person she loved. Ian had never come out and said he loved her, but Sara was not blind to the looks he bestowed upon her. The look in his eye when she pulled the arrow from his chest said more than any words could have said. He might not appreciate that it was her caring for him, but she would deal with that later.
She got the washbasin and washcloth ready and returned to his bedside with them and a fresh pair of boxer shorts. Drawing the bed sheet down from around his body she began with his feet and worked her way up. Sara was not much of a nurse and she never gave much thought to what maternal instincts she might have, but she found she did not mind caring for someone too much. Of course, it helped that the man was sexy, even if he had hired someone to kill her.
She was careful while washing his chest to avoid getting the bandage wet when she felt a hand grip her right wrist. She was startled, but his hold was not threatening. She saw fear and confusion when she met his eyes. He generally looked afraid and confused around her, but the past week or so had given her some insight into that confusion. That knowledge did not make her any more comfortable in dealing with him. She was still uncertain just what Ian wanted from her.
Her dig about his having a crush on her the other day had been unfair, but she had been pissed off when she had said it. She would apologize for it later.
"I thought you were a dream."
"No, Nottingham, no dream."
"How long have you been caring for me?"
"Today will be number four, counting the day you got shot in the chest with a crossbow arrow."
"You saved my life."
"You saved mine."
"Because I tried to have it taken."
She shook her head slightly, tugging her wrist out of his hand to continue with sponging him off. "It does not matter why you did it, you did it. I could not leave you to die, but your friends would have." She ran the cloth over the tattoo on his right forearm as she spoke of his friends.
"Friend is a relative term, Sara. I have no friends, you are the closest thing I have to one."
"That sounds pretty lonely," she said, hoping her tone was gentle and not condescending.
"It can be, yes. I have this house, the books, you."
"You don't have me, Nottingham."
"I meant your presence in my life, Sara."
"Do you think you can stand up? The doctor said once you woke up I needed to get you moving."
"I can if you help me."
"Of course. I'm on sick leave, I plan on staying until you're fully recuperated."
"It shouldn't be too long, Ian."
"Broken heart and feelings of guilt and remorse for the pain and suffering I caused you aside, I suppose you are right."
"I told you I understood."
"But can you forgive me, Sara? Can you forgive my transgressions against you?"
"Yes, Ian, I can. Do you think I would be sitting here sponging you off, changing your bandage, and injecting you with antibiotics if I didn't forgive you? I don't know that I believe the possession part, but I have to admit you were acting like Irons there for a while."
"It was a little freaky."
"Okay, big man, let's get up and see if we can do some walking around."
They spent about fifteen minutes walking around and then Sara called the doctor to tell him Ian had finally come to. The doctor told her what to look for now and then Sara took a seat in an oversized armchair his room offered to wait for him to finish his shower. She had not offered to help him and he had not asked.
She looked up, sensing he was there and sure enough there he stood in the doorway, naked aside from a large, black bath towel covering his hips and thighs. His calves, arms, and chest were bare, even the bandage had been removed. Droplets of water fell from his long, wet hair onto his shoulders, collarbone, and chest and Sara licked her lips. She could picture licking his body dry of every bead of water.
She cleared her throat lightly. "Feeling better?"
"I felt a little queasy the first few minutes in the shower, but after that I was fine."
"You could have called for me."
"I know, Sara, and I think that is what got me through it, knowing you were here."
"All right. I'll let you get dressed then."
"Why don't you go and freshen up. You look as though you haven't slept in a week."
"Three days more or less. This chair is comfortable for sitting but not that great for sleeping."
"You stayed by my side this entire time?"
"Except to eat and stuff, yeah."
"Again," he said softly with his head bowed, his voice as smooth as silk. "Thank you."
"So you're saying I don't look good enough?"
"No, I'm not saying that at all, Sara. But I showered and will dress and figured you might like to do the same. Do you have clothes here?"
"Yes, I packed a bag before coming over here."
"I'll see you back here in a little while then."
"Yeah, sure. Are you sure there's nothing you need help with before I go?"
"No. Where did you put your bag?"
She pointed to the door that led to the room adjoining his. "The room next to this one. I had planned on sleeping in it and leaving the door open, but the first night all I did was toss and turn worrying I would not hear you and I gave up trying to sleep."
"It is the appropriate room for you to be in, Sara, do not feel you have to justify your decision to me. It is the room I would have chosen myself."
"It is your room, Sara. I designed it with you in mind, for you, never did I dream you would actually set foot in it."
"Okay, Nottingham, you're starting to scare me here. Why did you design a room for me?"
"Are you familiar with the way houses of this magnitude are laid out, Sara?"
"I'm not sure what you're asking me. I've walked through my share of mansions, sure."
"And adjoining suits generally serve what purpose, Sara?"
"So the husband and wife could visit one another discreetly."
"That is correct."
"Are you saying what I think you are saying?"
"Since you asked the question, I cannot lie to you and say I have not thought of that arrangement occurring between us, particularly now that Father is gone, but no. Designing the room was a whim, it was something that I could do for you and it pleased me. Our relationship is complicated enough not to add marital strife into the mix."
She was not sure what to say to that. Sara herself had thought very little on marriage, none of her relationships lasted long enough to think about marriage. Bringing him down a notch at the moment when he was not well did not seem the kindest thing she could do, at least not when it was her nursing him back to health. "I'll have to look at it again a little closer this time. I've never had a room designed specifically for me."
"Should you find I missed something or something is not as you like it, I hope you will tell me so I can correct it."
"You have to be kidding me?"
"I do not kid, Sara."
"No, I guess you don't. I'll be back in a few minutes."
Dressed in a pair of jeans and a plain white undershirt, Ian slid his socks onto his feet trying to decipher what having Sara here meant. He could not keep her here as much as he would like to. His Sara was not a creature to have her wings clipped or be caged. Mobius had been right about her being a tigress and she deserved to be free to prowl, hunt, and roar as tigers do.
Ian rarely had the opportunity to be selfish and wanted to be just this once. Perhaps he could make her see they were destined to be together as he knew they were. Her dalliances with other men while they hurt to watch were just that, dalliances. Did Sara not realize that her inability to love anyone and have it last was because that lasting love was already there for her taking?
He sat back in the chair, the same chair Sara had sat on and slept in while watching over him. She claimed he did not have her, but if that was true she would not have taken time off from her job for him. He thought on offering to pay her for her time, but the idea was pushed from his mind as being ridiculous and offensive right away. He might not be knowledgeable about women in general, but he knew enough about Sara to know she would be insulted if he were to make such an offer. This was not about money and to suggest it was would be wrong.
His boots were on the floor in front of him, but did he need to put them on? Propriety said he should be fully dressed when she returned to the room. She had obviously seen him with nothing on over the past three days. Ian felt warmth on his face and realized he must be blushing at the thought of Sara seeing him in a state of undress. Not the circumstances he would have liked for her to see him in such a state, unconscious and hurt.
To think that after all he had been through, all he had done, the idea of a woman - Sara - seeing him undressed could cause him embarrassment.
He stood from the chair when he saw her enter his room, wincing a bit at the tugging the sudden movement caused around the wound. He had looked at it closely while in the shower and Sara had done an outstanding job of dressing it. He was a lucky man.
"You're bleeding," she said as she walked toward him. She was dressed in a similar fashion, though her shirt was not an undershirt and was a deep blue that Ian liked.
"Bleeding," she said, pointing to his chest. "You didn't put a bandage on when you were done showering, did you?"
"No, I guess I didn't think it needed it. It looked pretty clean."
"Sure, because you've been lying in a bed unconscious for three days, moving only when I moved you. Come on," she said, taking his hand and leading him to the bathroom. "With you moving around now, it's going to pull at the wound. I didn't spend the past few days taking care of you just to have you ruin all of my hard work."
"Sara, really, it's not necessary."
She grabbed a hold of his shirt front with one fist and drew him toward her. "Listen, Nottingham, I did not sit here for the past three days, bathe you, inject you with antibiotics, and play nurse to you to watch you undo all that I did." He was staring at her, his eyes open as wide as hers were he imagined. He did not give and neither did she. They had played the stare down game several times already. "If it were me would you let me walk out of here without it bandaged?"
His eyes closed then, his heart pounded in his chest. For the moment with his eyes closed he could imagine she was touching him to touch him not to get him to follow her instructions. He felt the side of her clenched fist resting against his chest. Even angry with him she was mindful to ball his shirt on the right side rather than the left. "No, of course not," he said finally. The idea was obscene and horrific, that arrow piercing her flesh instead of his.
Her fist loosened and her palm was laid against his chest, he waited for her to pull it away. He opened his eyes to find her beautiful blue ones fixated on him. He silently hoped that her hand rested far enough to the side of his chest that the increase in the beat of his heart at her touch might go unnoticed by her. The look in her eyes, however, told him that it had not. She was confused perhaps, but he saw desire there. Desire for him, he had felt it the other day when she touched his arm to look at his tattoo but never believed they would be given the opportunity to act on it.
Before Ian could respond Sara was lifting his undershirt over his torso, he lifted his arms without saying a word as she pulled the shirt off. He swallowed hard, his eyes watching her uncertain what she was doing. He assumed this had nothing to do with tending to the wound, but despite wanting that to be the case he could not presume it.
She placed her hand against his bare chest and Ian felt a jolt of pleasure course through him. He gripped the door handle behind her with his hand as he leaned into her touch. He cringed at the pain having forgotten his hand was hurt as well. He was in stellar shape to have the woman he loved finally see him as a man and not some mystical creature or a pest.
"Sara," he whispered but was silenced by the look she gave him. He was not altogether sure of the meaning behind the look, but her blue eyes had an intensity to them that made his heart pound. All of his military training, all of the brainwashing Irons had engaged in seemed to come undone around this woman.
He was weak when it came to Sara, the chink in his armor was standing before him, fingertips running across his chest as if she found it interesting. The look in her eye told him she found it more than interesting and Ian could not help but feel proud and frightened as hell of that knowledge. All of his money, knowledge, and the information Mister Irons had pumped into him, romance, love and how to express that love were things he had knowledge of only by way of books.
Unfortunately, Sara was unlike any woman he had read about in books. She had some qualities of the prior wielders, of course, but she was her own person. Ian had seen the men Sara dated and made love to and Ian did not fall into the type she dated. She seemed to like men with that WASP look. Ian was and never would be an Aryan. He tried convincing himself that her continually seeking out a type so unlike Ian was just her fighting the inevitability of their ending up together. He had just not counted on it happening now, like this.
She circled a male nipple with her fingertips, her thumb teasing the peak creating sensations he had never experienced before. His breath caught and a soft groan escaped as he exhaled. His hair hung at the sides of his face as he bowed his head, but did not hide his eyes from depicting what she was doing to him.
He was afraid if he touched her she would evaporate or take offense and leave. She seemed to make his decision for him, as her left hand closed over his splinted right hand and moved it from the door handle behind her to her waist, sliding it under her shirt flush against her.
"Sara," he said not so much to protest but to bring her back to her senses if she had lost them. His thoughts, dreams, and fantasies had never actually prepared him for the reality of her standing before him. He had imagined he would have to be the one to initiate, which was why he had contented himself with what they had being all of Sara he would ever get.
Her hand slid along his right pectoral muscle, lower to his ribs, and he tilted his head back further against the wall. He opened his eyes when her hand slid into his hair, drawing him to her. Her mouth met his and she ran her fingertips through his hair, her hand moving around his neck when she had finished. His lips parted at the same time hers did and their tongues met.
Ian's hand slid further under her shirt and he learned that she wore nothing underneath. He was hesitant, wondering if something had possessed her in some way. Though he doubted if Father had possessed her he would be pushing them together, strengthening the bond they already had.
"I'm not going to break, Nottingham."
"I was more worried about me."
She laughed lightly and drew him against her, backing herself against the bathroom door. "I think you'll live," she whispered as her lips found his jaw and neck. "I missed a spot or two shaving you," she murmured against his ear as she drew her lips and tongue along a missed spot.
"You shaved me?"
"Well, I trimmed some here," she said, kissing a trail along his neck and throat. "Cleaned some up here," she said, finding the sides of his face and sideburns.
"I hadn't done that in a while."
"I noticed. You probably weren't anticipating being alone with me."
"No," he said adamantly and Sara laughed lightly against his ear.
"Relax, Nottingham," she said, lowering her hand from his chest along his torso to his jeans. She worked the buttons and parted the front of the jeans, her hand running along his lower abdomen.
His breath caught, but he took his cue from her and drew her own shirt over her head, tossing it to the floor beside them. He could not help but look at her. She, like he, was fit and in shape from her training and hard work. Her abdomen was flat and tight, her breasts high and firm, and he noticed as he cupped one were soft and smooth to the touch. Curious what she would taste like, he did not wait to find out, dipping his head and found her breast.
His anticipation of it did little to prepare him for the actuality of it. Despite her roughness, her hard exterior she tasted sweet, her peak soft under his tongue until he teased it to a hardened pebble. Her hands found his head, urging him closer to her. Her sounds helped coach him in what pleased her. She was more than willing to guide him on a course that would lead to her ultimate release.
Her back arched against the door, pushing the breast he was sucking further into his mouth until he drew his head away. He glanced at her, looking into her blue eyes for answers. Was she telling him to stop? Had she come to her senses and realized what she was doing and with whom? The look in her eyes did not seem to indicate that and he let out a small sigh of relief.
He went to her willingly when she drew him to her, his mouth met hers. One of her arms encircled his neck while the other dropped to the waist of his jeans, sliding inside to cup his erection. He let out a low groan, biting her lower lip as the sound escaped, causing him to break their kiss. "Sara," he whispered.
"Relax," she whispered not for the first time. And he felt himself do just that. They were both adults, consenting ones at that, he had no reason not to relax and let her take control as she seemed to want to do. Her hand cupping, grasping, and stroking him was intense. His head fell back, his eyes closed when her thumb found the tip and circled around it before moving to the sensitive underside.
He felt her breath warm and light against the side of his neck near his ear and he opened his eyes, smiling slightly. She had a curious look on her face and he could not help but give into his curiosity about that look. "What," he asked.
"Nothing, I'm just seeing you, I mean really seeing you for the first time I think."
"Gee, thanks, Sara."
She laughed lightly and he kissed her as thanks for smiling like that for him. Her hand at his neck slid away, down his arm and took hold of his hand. She placed his hand at the front of her own jeans. "Take them off, Nottingham."
"God yes," she whispered and he saw by the look on her face that it was exactly what she wanted. He undid the top button and zipper with some effort given his bad hand and then pushed them away from her waist and over her hips. She stepped out of them and ran a foot along one of his legs. "Yours too, Ian," she murmured as her mouth closed over his ear, her tongue grazing the lobe. Her hands moved to help him out of his jeans.
Ian glanced over to his bed, lying there unmade and empty but Sara did not seem to be in particular urgent need to get to the bed. Wordlessly, he gathered her legs up and without question she wrapped them around his waist. He was not sure exactly when it happened but before he knew it he was guiding his length into her. The bathroom door provided some support as he thrust deeply into her.
Despite his injury he held nothing back, she certainly didn't seem to be holding back and he felt the need to keep up. He had pictured a joining between them to be nothing short of spectacular, but hard and fast had not been a part of that picture. But for some reason here and now it fit and felt better than he imagined. It was raw and wild, two things Ian rarely got the chance to be or experience.
He finished, not completely sure if he had pleased her. She seemed to enjoy it, but whether or not she had achieved her release he was not sure. He rested his forehead against her chin, placing a kiss on it as his breathing began to slow, returning to its normal rate. "My hand," he said softly. "I'm not sure that I can hold you like this for much longer, Sara. I apologize."
"Oh, Ian, crap I forgot completely," she said, shifting herself from being wrapped around him so she stood in front of him now, her back flush against the door. She placed her hands on either side of his face and drew him close to kiss him, deeply and Ian got caught up once again in her kiss. "We could move to the bed."
"Sure," he said, placing his left hand against his right wrist and rubbing it gently.
"Ian, let me look at it," she said.
"No, Sara, it's all right. It's just stiff is all, I haven't used it in a number of days I guess, it will be fine. Was it all right? I mean," he averted his gaze and stepped away.
"All right? Nottingham," she said, kissing him once again. "It was better than all right." She smiled slightly and Ian found he believed her.
"Well, in that case, yes, the bed sounds good to me." He dropped his left hand in hers and led her the short distance to the bed. He let her get in first, choosing her side before he joined her. His arm slid around her and he gathered her against his chest. Her fingertips ran along the outline of his wound and he shivered under her touch.
"You don't have a lot of experience at this, do you?"
"What makes you say that?"
"Oh, I don't know. A hand of fate brought us together like this, otherwise we would never have been. But you wanted to. At least I think you did."
"I won't deny I'd thought about it. Mr. Irons would never have allowed it though."
"Did you always do what he said?"
"For the most part, yes, I did his bidding. It was as I was raised to do, Sara. Going against him," he shrugged. "There just wasn't any going against him."
"And he disliked me that much? I mean, I know I'm the wielder and he wants the bracelet, but isn't that taking things a little too personal."
"It wasn't just you, Sara. It was the distraction of love, of emotion, of feelings."
"So you've never felt before, Nottingham, is that what you're saying?"
"Yeah, I guess it is, which is why I have difficulty conveying my thoughts and feelings to you. I have never been in a romantic situation before."
"I'll give you a piece of advice, for future reference, don't hire mercenaries to kill a woman you care about."
"I've already done that, and it seems to have netted me fairly decent results so far."
She laughed lightly and kissed his chest. "Yeah, you won't be so lucky the next time."
"There won't be a next time, Sara."
"I should hope not."
"How much time do I have with you?"
"You know, before duty calls once again and you're off to fight the forces of bad and evil."
"Oh, I'm on leave. The captain seems to think I'm on the verge of a breakdown, so I could probably take as much time as I need."
"Good, because I think I'd like to take our time and get acquainted this way."
"I like the sound of that. You're not going to kill yourself now, are you?"
He laughed lightly, knowing where this question was coming from. "No."
"Good. So I can go to sleep now and not worry about waking up next to a corpse."
"I should think so, Sara. Yes. You have your room next door if you'd prefer it."
"No," she said quickly. "I'm fine just where I am. This bed is perfect. You're in it and it's warm."
"And it will be until morning. Pleasant dreams, Sara," he whispered, brushing his lips across her forehead.
"You too, Nottingham," she said softly. Ian knew she had to be exhausted after days of taking care of him. He made no effort to delay her falling asleep, and in fact looked forward to being able to watch her this close rather than at a distance through a window.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com