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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Part VI: The Road Ahead
"3100 square feet, hardwood floors, skylights "
I trail off and let Kerry take in my warehouse loft in SoMa.
"It's huge, Kim!"
"Yeah, well, I'm going to put in an office eventually. Right now I'm working half days at WomenCare and I'm thinking about publishing."
She grins at me.
"Someone at Zion obviously knows your work."
I smile at the pride and respect in her voice and let the compliment warm me. She resumes her inspection of my new digs and I chuckle as her hand reaches out and strokes the edge of the 48" DCS Residential parked in the kitchen.
"Kim, this is worth over five thousand dollars!"
"It was here when I moved in. I'm only subletting, Ker, I can't afford to buy a place like this."
The 'yet' remains unspoken but Kerry hears it loud and clear. She fiddles with the cuff of her crutch and does a slow turn, drinking everything in.
I stand by her suitcase, nervously trying to decide if I should offer her the bed or the couch. Or maybe she's expecting to sleep with me. Not that there's anything wrong with that but I'm not totally sure we're ready. Well, not emotionally anyway.
My hormones kicked into gear after our aborted fight at the hospital. The decision to kiss her in the middle of the ER was a good one and she responded enthusiastically. It wasn't until Haleh threatened to hose us down that we left for O'Hare but the rush of getting there followed by the long wait to board took its toll on her. She fell asleep as soon as her seatbelt was buckled and I spent the next few hours trying to focus on the most recent issue of AJP. Every time I became engrossed in an article, her head would lean a little more heavily on my shoulder. A flight attendant took my momentary look out the window as an opportunity to tuck a blanket around the two of us. Some woman across the aisle immediately let me know her affiliations when she asked if we were on our honeymoon. By the time Kerry woke up, I had the feeling the entire plane was colluding in my horniness. I made a beeline for the bathroom and splashed cold water on my face but not before I took a long look in the mirror. My cheeks were flushed and my eyes seemed to burn with an unnatural shine.
Maybe the bed.
I'm saved from my dilemma when Kerry walks back to me and reaches down for her suitcase.
"I suppose I should find a hotel."
"I can't stay here."
"Why the hell not?"
"If we didn't work at my place how are we supposed to work at your place?"
Why does she have to be so reasonable? I don't even bother pouting; she's right, dammit.
"How about some dinner first?"
Kerry pauses and I chip away.
"Ker, you did not fly halfway across the country so that you could stay in a hotel and play tourist. Don't you want to spend time with me?"
She can't resist my wheedling tone and she's relaxed enough to laugh. I grin and shove her bag next to the wall with my foot.
"We'll come back and get that later, okay?"
She shoots me a warning look but nods.
"Ready now or do you need to change, freshen up maybe?"
I grab my car keys and we head out. It's a short drive to Fringale and I have no trouble finding a parking spot. The place is relatively busy for a Tuesday night and I contemplate the wait but my luck is running good. The waitress points us to a small table in the cramped dining room and ten minutes later Kerry and I sit opposite each other, wineglasses in hand, perusing the menus. I am this close to deciding on seared sea scallops for an appetizer when I suddenly realize that I'm being watched. I look up and green eyes hold my gaze like a tender caress. The caress becomes sensual as it brushes over my shoulders and neckline and I swallow convulsively.
"Ker, if you plan to spend all your vacation days in a hotel you shouldn't look at me that way."
My voice comes out huskier than I expect and she lowers her lids contemplatively. A smile that can only be described as feral makes its way across her face. When she opens her mouth to lick her lips I put my glass of Merlot down and rest my hands on either side of my place setting.
"What's going on, Ker? Back at the loft you told me you wanted to stay in a hotel and now-"
I stop in mid-sentence as she reaches across the table and entwines her fingers with mine.
"Kim, we have lots to talk about and we will, trust me. But just because we both need some neutral territory doesn't mean that I don't want you."
My hand tightens its hold and I pull her toward me. I lean closer and when she shifts slightly to hear what I'm about to say, I gently nuzzle her ear. Her head drops and she takes a slow, steadying breath.
Her voice is guttural and strained.
She faces me and quietly chuckles.
"I haven't even asked you a question yet."
"My answer won't change. I'll always say yes."
Her eyes flutter shut and she grips my hand. It is long moments before she manages to compose herself enough to look at me again.
"Do you want to leave?"
She shakes her head no.
"You're right, we should eat. You just got out of the hospital a week ago and I have the metabolism of a hummingbird."
She visibly calms at my attempt to lighten the mood but that doesn't deter me from my objective.
"Stay with me tonight."
She watches me, not saying a word.
"We'll get you a hotel tomorrow."
"I need to be with you, Kerry. As much as you need me."
And I finally get my answer.
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