Strangers & Sinners
He was numb. He could lose her. He had just found her and he could lose her before they had a chance at happiness. He could lose her.
They wouldn't let him ride in the ambulance. It was already crowded with the paramedics trying to stem the flow of blood, trying to save her life. She was in surgery before he arrived at the hospital's ER entrance. Not knowing the extent of her wounds, he feared for her life. He wanted a chance to say goodbye in case she died. He knew he wouldn't be able to bear it.
She can't die, he repeated the words over and over as he sat in the hospital's small chapel. He knew if he said it enough times, it would be true. God would hear him. God would listen. Wouldn't He? Please. Don't let her die.
He sat at the edge of the pew, his elbows resting on the top of the bench in front of him, his hands supporting his head. He couldn't remember the prayers his mother taught him. He couldn't think of the pious phrases necessary in times like these. So he said the words he thought would convince the Almighty to save her life. He spoke from his heavy heart - he bared his soul.
"Please God," he whispered. "Don't let her die."
Nicolas Sergei Verona made no promises to the God of his childhood. He didn't bargain - he had died and was resurrected in Nam. He knew better than to make an offer he probably couldn't deliver. He didn't ask for a favor. He demanded - he ordered - he commanded - he insisted - and he begged, the tears overflowing - he begged for her life.
"Please don't let her die," he chanted the mantra. "I need her. Please don't let her die."
Closing his eyes, his thoughts wandered back in time, the memories shrouding him. His wife, their years of marriage, the divorce, her death... he couldn't go through that again.
There have been other women, his conscience gently reminded him.
Not like Sophie, not like my kitten.
You haven't known her very long, it whispered.
I've known her an eternity, he argued. It just took most of my adult life to find her.
"Mr. Verona?" a man in scrubs approached.
"Yes?" Nick stood, surprised he could speak, fear making his heart pound.
"She's in recovery. We'll be moving her to a private room in a few minutes and you'll be able to see her."
Thank you, God.
"She's a lucky woman, sir. The bullets missed her vital organs, but there was a great deal of blood loss. The paramedics got her here just in time. A few more minutes and we would have lost her."
Thank you, God.
"She'll need a lot of care. One of the bullets nicked a major artery but we were able to repair it."
Thank you, God.
"That wound caused most of her blood loss. The bullet in her shoulder tore through muscle mass and it will be months before she'll have full use of that arm. The one that grazed her neck left a superficial wound. It'll heal in no time."
Thank you, God.
"We can't figure out how she broke her leg or her wrist - it's almost as if she kicked one of her assailants repeatedly, and pounded him with her fist, but we'll have to wait and ask her when she wakes."
I know her. She tried to beat the shit out of him. I hope she let him live. I hope they're both alive. I'll *kill* them with my bare hands!
"There were pieces of metal in between two fingers of her left hand. We identified them as fragments from house keys. I assume those were offensive wounds. She also has two broken toes."
She'll live. She'll heal. Thank you, God.
"Thank you, Doctor. I'd like to see her now."
Except for her face, the left side of her body was bandaged and wrapped and taped. Nick pulled a chair up to her bed, cupped her face and quietly wept while he watched her breathe.
Thank you, God.
The next evening
She was not the sweetest patient the hospital ever nursed. The bandages around her chest frustrated her as did the cast on her leg and the splints on her wrist and fingers. She couldn't do much of anything without assistance. When a young medic came into her room and checked on her during his regular rounds, he cupped her cheek because it was flushed. Sophie bit him.
"Who are you?" she hissed, "and who gave you permission to touch me?"
"I told you the kitten has claws," Nick remarked as he entered Sophie's room.
"Sharp teeth, too," the doctor grimaced, checking his hand to see if the skin was broken.
"Good evening, Anastasia," he smiled, kissing her brow and taking her uninjured hand in his. "How's my tiger feeling?"
"Tell me what happened. I don't remember much." She was very happy to see him and her eyes filled.
Nick gestured toward the door and the doctor left. He pulled up a chair, and leaning toward her, kissed her tears away. "Tell me what you remember, Tiger. I'll fill in the blanks." He spoke calmly, keeping his emotions in check, not letting her see the relief he felt at seeing her awake and talking. He also didn't let her see the rage that festered inside him because she had been injured.
She didn't remember much, only that two men had broken into her apartment and were in it when she arrived home. She had used her keys to defend herself and had done substantive damage to one of them before the other one shot her. "The next thing I knew, I woke up here." Her tears flowed again. "Shhh, Kitten. You're okay. That's all that matters." He slipped an arm under her uninjured shoulder and held her gently.
"Sergei, I want to go home."
"In a few days, Tiger." He cupped her chin and covered her mouth, kissing her gently. "As soon as you're released, I'll take you to my place and take care of you until you're back on your feet."
"I will," he promised, holding her gently, whispering words of comfort.
Ten days later
She balked at the wheelchair. He ignored her and settled her in it when he lifted her out of the car. She didn't say a word to him from the moment he wheeled her into the elevator until he unlocked his door. He kneeled in front of her.
"Liar," he grinned.
"How about a hot meal?"
"Pancakes and maple syrup..." he teased.
"Maple syrup?" She blushed, remembering the last time they had maple syrup.
"Hmmm, or I could order Chinese. What'll it be?"
"Chinese, it is."
He ordered from "Julie Wong's," the only Chinese restaurant close enough to deliver. He carried Sophie upstairs and helped her change her clothes while they waited for the food. When it came, he spread it out across the bed in the guestroom and watched Sophie eat single-handedly.
"Come here, Tiger," he said, gently pulling her onto his lap. "Let me feed you."
"I can feed myself," she said indignantly.
"I want to feed you," he murmured, his mouth nuzzling her throat.
"I've missed you, Sergei," she whispered, her eyes filling again.
"I've missed you, Sophie love, and as soon as we finish eating, I'm going to show you how much I've missed you."
"Show me now," she insisted.
"I thought you wanted to eat your meals hot," he teased.
"You can nuke it later. All of a sudden, I'm hungry for you."
He left the food on the guestroom bed and carried her to his room. As he undressed her, he checked every inch of her with his hands and his mouth. He rubbed his lips back and forth between her injured shoulder and the tiny scar near her breast where the nicked artery had been repaired. Sophie relaxed in his arms, grateful to feel them around her again and listened to the soothing sounds he made as he loved her.
Her wrist and fingers were still splinted and her leg remained in a cast but Nick kissed them anyway. "Are you in pain, Tiger?"
"No," she answered, still feeling the meds and cupping his cheek. "Are you?"
"Yes," he admitted. "I've been in pain from the moment I knew you were hurt."
"I want to kiss away all your pain," he murmured. "I want to kiss away all your bad memories."
"Love me, Sergei."
He laid her on her back and leaned over her. His mouth roamed over her body, dropping kisses on her breasts, her belly, her mons, as he removed his clothing. When he was nude, he gathered her into his arms and held her close to him, soaking in the feel of her naked body against his.
"I've missed you, Kitten," he said quietly. "I've missed you in my arms and in my bed."
Her right hand slipped between his thighs to fondle him. He was semi-erect but when her hand touched him, he was immediately rigid. "I've missed you, too, Sergei. I've missed your mouth on me. My body's been empty, missing the feel of you inside me. I want that again."
He rose, kneeling between her thighs, spreading her legs, careful of her cast. He slipped his hands under her ass and cupped it, lifting her to his mouth.
He loved her with his hands and mouth, his lips and tongue. He caressed her inner thighs, her soft folds, and the sensitive bundle of nerves that brought the ultimate pleasure. He kissed her flesh, licked it, and suckled it, his mouth filled with the fruit of her pleasure.
Sophie's uninjured hand moved over his scalp, her fingers gliding through the silky hair, down to his neck and across his shoulder. He was such a big man and up close, he was bigger. Naked, he was an enormously muscular man, handsome and virile, and he was loving her.
Her juices made her entry slick, easing his passage into her. His thick hard cock filled her and Sophie tightened her muscles around him, grasping him to her heat. Nick stilled his movements, the sensation of being inside her again better than he remembered. He wanted to stay forever.
When he began his gentle thrusts, she urged him to go faster. He increased his tempo but was afraid he'd hurt her so he slowed again.
"More, Sergei, harder, faster," she urged.
"I don't want to hurt you," he murmured.
"I'm going to bite your ba... I'm going to bite you if you don't make love to me like you mean it," she warned.
He burst into laughter and collapsed on top of her, rolling them onto their sides so he wouldn't crush her. "My balls? You're going to bite my balls, Tiger?"
Sophie blushed from the top of her head down to her toes and that made him laugh harder. "Kitten, I adore you," he grinned when he stopped laughing.
"Adore me with this," she said, stroking his cock. "I want to feel you inside me, hard... very hard. Please, Sergei."
He kissed her hard, his tongue pushing between her lips and dominating her mouth. When he broke the kiss, she was gasping. But before she could utter a word, he turned her and entered her from behind. His arms went around her, one hand pressing against her clit, the other teasing one nipple and then, the other. His hips thrust forward, filling her heat, pushing in and out at just the right angle.
Sophie panted from the sensation, trying to get a decent breath, torn between the sensational feeling within her and what his hands were doing to the rest of her.
"Now, Tiger," he breathed on her neck. "I want you to come now!"
His deep baritone pushed her over the edge. The pounding of her heart was nothing compared to the pounding of his. Even in the midst of orgasm, her mind registered his muscular chest pushing against her back as he inhaled large quantities of air. His hips gave one last thrust against her ass as he filled her with a surging jet of hot semen.
When she regained consciousness, he was still inside her, one hand cupping her mound, the other palming a breast. She was filled with him, wrapped in his embrace and content.
Without conscious thought, their relationship changed from strangers and sinners to friends and lovers. Sophie, unsure of his feelings toward her, tested his patience - constantly. Nick, used to command and obedience, occasionally reverted to the surly AD that he was - a man not known to accept argument or a questioning of his orders.
When she was downstairs and he was occupied in the kitchen, she roamed around his condo, hopping here and there, tired of constantly sitting or lying down.
He'd scowl when he caught her putting weight on the injured leg. She'd laugh at him and tell him how handsome he was even when he glared at her. He'd pick her up and hold her, kiss her or tickle her till she begged him to stop. Inevitably, he made love to her.
When he left her upstairs in bed to rest, she'd often sneak downstairs - sliding on her butt - maneuvering the stairs. The first time he caught her doing that, he yelled at her, telling her that she was going to cause further injury to her leg or wrist or shoulder. She pouted.
"Do I have to hire a nurse who thinks she's Genghis Khan or Attila the Hun? You'll stay in bed and rest or...!"
"Sergei! I can't sit all day and do nothing."
"You can check your companies on the Internet."
"You can read."
"Tired of reading."
"You can play computer games. I'll play with you and..."
"I always beat you," she reminded him. "You don't even know how to cheat. I need crutches so I can get around."
"No, Anastasia. If you have crutches, you'll be everywhere and never rest and your injuries will never heal."
"Don't want to rest - tired of resting. It's time I went home."
"Do I have to handcuff you to the bed?"
"Handcuff?" she mouthed, clearly upset at the thought.
"Yes," he murmured, hauling her up against his chest. "I'll handcuff you to the bed and make love to you over and over and you'll be too tired to do anything else but rest."
He took her upstairs and began to love her, showing her how much he cared, caressing her, teasing her, and making her hungry for more.
"You're a derelict," she murmured when his mouth teased her curls, one of his fingers pushing into her wet heat, his tongue quickly following, bringing her to orgasm.
He moved over her. Like a trained athlete, his muscles rippling, and his intent clear, his hands moved over her belly and upward. His palms paused to absorb the feel of her silky skin as his fingers scouted ahead, seeking her erogenous zones. His growing hard-on strained against the front of his sweats and she fondled him through the cloth, making him groan with need.
"You want to fuck me," she said out of the blue.
"No, I want to make love to you."
"You want to fuck me," she insisted, indignant for no reason. "That's why you want me to get well. It's just sex, we don't have anything else, just sex." She tried to turn away from him, but he held her.
He balanced his weight on his elbows and cupped her face. "It's more than sex, Sophie love. It's much more than sex," he assured her, his voice soft and deep.
"How can that be? We don't have anything else together, just sex," she insisted. "As soon as this cast comes off, I'm leaving. We have nothing... we..."
"I will lock you in this bedroom," he warned, his voice a low growl, his expression fierce and his patience completely evaporated. "I will tie you to the bed. I'll handcuff you. I'll..."
He turned them over so she was cradled in his arms. Sophie didn't resist. His body was an immovable object and she knew she couldn't move out of his embrace unless he allowed it.
"Why did you sleep with me if you thought I was a hooker?"
The question threw him and he didn't have an answer for her. "I don't know," he admitted honestly, his temper receding, his voice calm again. "I saw you. I was attracted to you. I... wanted to make love to you, regardless."
"You wanted to fuck me."
"No, I wanted to make love to you and when I did, I wanted more. That's all it should have been, but you... you were more than I anticipated and... and the rest you know."
He loosened his hold on her and cupping her cheek, he feather kissed her face, his lips anointing her forehead, her eyes, and the tip of her nose. His cheek rubbed against hers and finally, he kissed her mouth. "Please Sophie, stay. I want you to stay. I need you. I love... please stay."
Her eyes filled as she looked at him. She wanted him badly and not just for the lovemaking. She wanted the man he was - wanted to know the boy he had been - wanted to grow old with him - and afraid to say so.
Love is something that happens. It comes slowly to most people, arriving on its own, on silent wings. It asks no permission, it makes no excuses. It just happens. For some, it is a great struggle; for others, it is the source of enormous joy.
It was too easy for Sophie so she fought it - questioned it - before she accepted it. She was willing to take whatever he had to offer for as long as he wanted her. She didn't expect any promises.
For Nick, love was difficult so he ignored it, ridiculed it - before he finally succumbed to it. He knew he wanted her today and that he would want her tomorrow and the tomorrow after that and the next one and the one that followed - until there were no more.
He kissed her deeply, repeatedly. "I love you, Kitten. I want you to stay with me."
"For how long?" she asked, holding her breath.