Excerpt from sequel (untitled)

Ben took the guest bedroom, and Will offered to sleep in the chair in my room so he’d be close by if I needed anything. I told him the chair wasn’t close enough, and what I needed was to have him next to me. After lying in a hospital bed for four days I was looking forward to my own sheets and blankets — with him between them. Not surprisingly, the incident in the parking garage had left me with a persistent feeling of unease, and Will’s presence was hugely comforting. Also, it created a sense of normalcy I desperately needed. Reluctantly, he crawled into bed next to me, being careful not to bump or jostle me in any way. He left at least a foot of space between us.

“Come closer.” I tugged on his T-shirt. “I need to feel you near me. It seems like it’s been months since I touched any part of you but your hand.”

“It has been,” he acknowledged, “And I’m as aware of that as you are, believe me. But I’m not going to get too close and risk hurting you.”

“I need you, Will.” My voice was almost pleading. The fact was, I had been broken in many ways, and I was desperate to feel whole again.

He exhaled heavily and slid toward me.

I reached out and placed my hand on Will’s thigh. The skin was warm, and the muscle taut. I caressed it lightly with my thumb, inching my way upward.

 “Ah, I don’t think so, Cal,” he said, deftly removing my hand. “You’re in no condition for that kind of activity.”

“I most certainly am,” I argued, returning my hand to its original position.

He rolled onto his side to face me. “And just when did you get a medical degree?” he asked with eyebrows raised. At the same time, he ran his finger along my cheek. Then, more seriously, he added, “Really, Cal, as much as I wish otherwise, you aren’t.”

I dropped my gaze to the blanket and picked up the light blue satin binding. I held it between my fingers, caressing the smooth, cool silkiness. “You know — in the hospital — ” I spoke hesitantly. “I didn’t wake up for so long because I think maybe I didn’t want to.”

He raised himself on his elbow and cocked his head. “What do you mean?”

“I don’t know exactly. I was in this really peaceful place. And I was by myself, but I didn’t feel alone or frightened. I felt like I was part of some bigger entity, and it was there with me, even though I couldn’t see it.” I glanced up at him and smiled weakly. “I sound crazy, don’t I?”

“Not at all.” He leaned toward me and touched his lips to my forehead.

“And I knew I had to wake up, but I was trying so hard not to. I heard voices, but I just kept ignoring them.” I turned my attention back to the blanket.

“It was like when Justine and Ben were little and one or the other of them would wake up in the middle of the night because they were hungry or thirsty or just didn’t want to sleep. And they’d whine and whimper for a little while and I’d lie in bed hoping they’d fall back asleep because I was so tired and didn’t want to get up. But then after a few minutes the crying would get more insistent and I’d have no choice but to go to them.”

Will smiled in return. “I remember nights like that, too.”

“But then I heard another voice,” I continued, serious once more. “And I couldn’t ignore it. And when I woke up, I realized it was yours.” I raised my eyes to his. “I couldn’t stay away.”

He stroked my hair, and I saw his eyes fill. They glimmered in the soft light. “Cal,” he murmured.

I raised my hand and touched his face. “I love you, Will.”

A tear spilled onto his cheek and I wiped it away. “And I love you,” he whispered in return. “You have no idea how much.”

We gazed at one another for a moment, and then I gave him a playful smile.

“Would you kiss me then,” I asked at last, “or do you think I’m too disgusting?”

He leaned forward and buried his face in my neck, dropping kisses from my earlobe to my shoulder. “You are not disgusting,” he said, and then added jokingly, “A little ghoulish maybe, but not disgusting.”

I chuckled for a moment, careful not to smile too widely. I looked up at him, suddenly overcome by a feeling of desperation, a need to exorcise myself of at least some of the demons Bettencourt and Conroy had left in their wake.

“Will, make love to me.”

 “Cal — no! What do you think I am, some kind of animal? I’m not going to take the chance of hurting you.”

“You won’t, I promise.” I stroked his arm. “Besides, I have some pretty powerful pain medication if I need it. What’s more, I even have a doctor on hand.”

He looked at me intently, studying my face. I held his gaze just as raptly. He was ready to argue with me, but I stopped him.

“Please, Will” I whispered, “I need to feel something other than bruised and battered and broken.”

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