More tired than she realized, exhaustion claimed Katrina and she fell asleep quickly. Her dreams, however, were troubled.
She kept reliving the nightmare with Robert and Charleston chasing her, tearing at her clothes and beating her. She was trying to get away, but they continued laughing the insidious, demonic laugh which haunted her.
She broke free and was running, but she was running in a forest with trees whipping past her. Bushes snagged her tattered nightgown, the thorns tearing both her nightgown and the skin that was exposed where the gown had fallen away. The two men chasing her were catching up to her. Then she tripped on a tree root and fell headlong into the weeds and leaves beneath the trees. Katrina screamed at the top of her lungs. She kept on screaming, the terror now ruling her.
She heard her name called. Was it Charleston or Robert? The voice didn’t fit either of them. Was someone trying to save her, or were they going to hurt her, too? She didn't know the answer and cowered on the ground, crying.
Someone caught at her wrist. Katrina struggled to free herself. She screamed again, and felt herself being yanked up.
"No, please! Don't hurt me! Please!" She was growing tired and could hardly fight anymore. But she must try! She must!
'Fight! Fight!' her mind urged her. Katrina redoubled her efforts to win her freedom. She kept hearing her name called. She tried without success to see who was calling her. Still, it wasn't Charleston's voice. Nor Robert's. It was…different. It was lower. It was…she could almost see him through the gloom.
There he was! It was…Gavin! Gavin? What was he doing here? He shouldn't be in this terror…or at least, he never had been before. Was he really here? She called his name.
He answered. Katrina reached out to him. She felt him touch her. She began to feel safer. She pulled him closer to her. He was speaking soft words she couldn't understand. He kissed her forehead, her temples, her eyelids, her cheeks, then her lips. A long, deep kiss, which Katrina returned unashamedly, it felt so good, so warm, so real. The kiss finally ended, and she opened her eyes.
Gavin was there, holding her. He was stroking her hair. She knew she would be all right.
Suddenly, she sat straight up. Gavin was here. Really here. She reached up and touched his face. She could feel the roughness of his unshaven cheek.
"What? How? Why? How did you? I locked...didn't I lock? Gavin?" She was confused, the tattered remains of the terror of the dream still wrapped around the edges of her consciousness. Katrina’s hands dropped to her blankets, pulling them up and clutching them tightly to her chest.
"You can’t make much sense, Little One, unless you finish each question, but let me try to do it for you." He smiled as the back of one knuckle brushed along the lower edge of her jaw, sending shivers washing through her body. "What am I doing here? I never left. I'd made you relive that nightmare, and I thought you might not sleep too well.
"How did I get in? I'd have broken the door down, if necessary, but it wasn't. You were so upset when I left, you didn't lock the door. Thank goodness! Let me see, I think 'why' was the next question. Why am I here? You needed me. I waited until you'd turned off the lights, gave you another thirty minutes, and came up onto the porch. Shortly after that, I heard you screaming. You fight very hard when you're asleep. Did you know that, Kitten?"
"No." Katrina hardly made a sound with her answer.
Gavin gently stroked the side of her face with a fingertip. "I'm sorry I made you go through all that, Little One. I had to know. And now that you have shared it with someone, it will begin to diminish." He gently kissed her forehead once more.
"Why are you here?"
"I just told you." He smiled as he looked into her eyes.
Katrina scowled, wrinkling her forehead.
"No. Not just now. Not just tonight. Why did you come looking for me? What…what kind of trouble is Charleston in this time? Why did a…lawyer have to come looking for me?" As she thought of the possibilities, Katrina was becoming more upset.
"Hush, my Little One. There's plenty of time for all your questions later. Right now, I want you to be quiet and rest. After what you've been through, it's the best thing for you. Where's an extra blanket? I'm going to be in on the couch in case you have another nightmare."
But, Gavin, I…"
"But nothing, Katrina, rest now. Doctor Gavin's orders. Now, where’s that blanket?"
Katrina searched his face, looking for what, she wasn't quite sure. She knew she would certainly feel much safer knowing he would be nearby. The thought warmed her cheeks and she dropped her eyes from the compelling gaze meeting hers.
"In…in that cupboard, there, by the bathroom." She pointed, still keeping her eyes on the coverlet spread over her.
"Thanks. Now. Do you need some warm milk in order to get back to sleep?" His tone was light, almost teasing.
Her eyes flew to his. He smiled at her, his brown eyes twinkling, the dimples very evident on his handsome face.
"Yuck, that sounds awful!" She pulled a face and Gavin looked injured.
"My Granny says it works! And my Granny knows everything; just ask her, she'll be more than happy to tell you."
Katrina smiled. "Well, not to offend your Granny, but it sounds disgusting!" She wrinkled her nose and shuddered with the thought of it.
"Well, if I can't interest you in Granny's famous remedy, then just lie back down and go to sleep." He stood, looking down at her as she snuggled back onto the pillows behind her. Then she sat back up. Taking one of her pillows, she held it out to Gavin.
"You'll be more comfortable if you have one of these, Kind Sir, warm milk for yourself or not." She knew she had to strive for the same light touch, or she would be asking things that were not right for her to ask…like would he please stay with her in her bed and not so far away as the couch. She smiled at him, hoping he couldn't hear her heart pounding in her chest.
After the briefest of hesitations, Gavin accepted the pillow with an exaggerated bow. "Thank you, Fair Maiden," he said. He turned to get the blanket and her breath caught in her throat. She wanted to be safe in his arms. She shook with her longing.
"Ga…Gavin?" Her smile was gone, and she shivered once more with desire.
"Yes, Kitten?" He turned back to her before reaching the cupboard and she saw a fire leap to his eyes. Then, almost as quickly as it had come, it was gone. The lightening mood shift caught at her, and she struggled against asking him to share her bed, no matter how bereft of his presence she felt. He was still looking at her, one eyebrow raised slightly.
"Th…thank you. For…helping and…being here." The words struggled to pass the sudden tightening of her throat.
She watched the muscle in his jaw line work back and forth a moment. His voice, when he finally spoke, was without any emotion. "No problem."
Their eyes continued to look deeply into the other's, then Gavin seemed to draw himself up and a grin came to his face.
"Now, to sleep with you, Scamp, before I have to go and warm that milk!" He turned to get the blanket, adding it to the pillow already in his arms.
"Yes, Kind Sir!" Katrina knew it was for the best to keep him from knowing how much she wanted him in her bed.
She snuggled down into her covers, feeling warm and calm with Gavin in the house. And safe. Very, very safe.
Katrina yawned, rolling to her side. She had certainly been through the gamut of emotions today and the effort had been exhausting.
Gavin, bedding in his arms, stood watching her from the doorway for a long moment. After a long pause, he sighed. "Who said chivalry was dead?" he muttered, before he turned his back on her. He quietly closed her bedroom door.
Katrina heard him shaking out the blanket with a crack as he made up his bed on the small couch. She felt a little guilty knowing the man was quite a bit longer than the couch and he wouldn’t be comfortable. Only a little guilty, though. Certainly she didn’t feel guilty enough to offer him her bed, and take the lumpy couch herself. A short lumpy couch was exactly what he deserved after what he’d put her through. She just hoped he’d gotten enough of his stupid answers, so he could go away and leave her alone in her misery.
Katrina rolled to her other side and punched her pillow into a more comfortable shape. She lay on her bed, trying not to wonder whether Gavin would be sleeping in his clothing…or what. Almost before she knew it, she was asleep once more.