Katrina slept untroubled by nightmares and awakened feeling better than she had been last night, but not as refreshed as she’d wanted to be. Instead of throbbing now, her head had only a dull ache to it. She stretched and sighed. She thought of poor Gavin, sleeping on her couch. Katrina wondered how he could even rest, it was so short for his lanky frame. But then, he would not countenance a switch in their sleeping arrangements, so it was his own fault. The thought didn't dispel the guilt she felt at him spending the night in such an uncomfortable a spot. Despite their short association, she’d already learned it was useless to argue against him once his mind was set on something. She sighed once more, reluctantly knowing she must now leave the warmth and comfort of her bed.
Sitting up, Katrina looked at the bandages on her arms. Funny, but they’d hardly been painful, these scrapes on her arms. Other than when the wounds were being cleaned out, they hadn’t hurt. The scrape on her cheek was the same. Really, apart from a few sore muscles, her headache was the only thing giving her any pain this morning.
Katrina stretched again. Pulling her covers back, she got out of bed, automatically making it up. Going into the bathroom, she splashed water on her face, then stared at her mirrored image.
She didn't look any different, but acknowledging her love had made her feel very different. She appeared to be the same person she’d been. She didn't see any wires or switches controlling what seemed to be high-density currents running through her body, but the feelings were there, and they were strong. She trembled with the intensity of them.
Katrina knew she had best control her desires around Gavin, lest he discover her love for him. How he would laugh at her. The big city sophisticated lawyer being loved by the insignificant dab of a client's client, who was extra free with her attentions, but too inexperienced at real love-making to give any pleasure.
Katrina looked at the shower longingly. Her hair was filthy and her body needed the hot, stinging massage the spray offered. But there were her bandages to think of. She looked at them. She’d received no stitches and she had first aid supplies. She could replace the bandages after a shower. Besides, they had given her a small tube of cream, and told her to put more on the wounds daily. In her mind, in order to put fresh cream on the scrapes, she must clean the residue off first anyway.
Katrina decided to do it. Carefully removing the gauze and tape from her arms and cheek, she turned on the water, adjusted it and stepped under the spray, twitching the curtains into place.
First she washed her hair, being careful of the bump on her temple. After soaping it twice, she felt much better. Taking her washcloth, she put lots of soap on it and began lathering her body until she was almost frothy from top to bottom.
Suddenly, the water was shut off.
"Hey!" she yelled. Turning around, she saw an angry Gavin standing there, holding the shower curtain aside. Almost in unison, they asked each other just what the other was doing.
"I thought it was perfectly obvious what I'm doing!" Katrina raged, her hand with the soapy cloth coming up to try ineffectually to cover her breasts, one leg lifting to shield her womanhood. "I'm taking a shower in my own bathroom! It isn't a crime, you know!" Her breath was coming in gasps partly due to her anger, but mostly because of his being so close to her when her desire for him was still rampaging through her veins. My word, he was handsome and so sexy, Katrina's knees became weak as the purely physical need for him burned through her. Her chest was rising and falling quickly with her gasping breaths.
She watched his eyes follow the motion, and felt heat rise through her whole, fully exposed body. She didn’t think the soap suds sliding down her hid her sufficiently.
Katrina saw his eyes narrow, then heard his snarling voice lash out at her.
“Don't you know that concussions can cause periods of dizziness? The doctor would not be happy at all if you fainted in the shower and bashed your head against the shower walls and I had to take you back in for another x-ray!"
Katrina shrank from his anger, almost cowering the corner. Her hands convulsively clutched the washcloth in front of her, reducing even more the scope of its protection.
"Oh, for Pete's sake! You are so helpless sometimes, Katrina Lee McSwayne!" Gavin turned on the water, quickly adjusting the spray.
Disregarding his clothes, he reached in and took hold of Katrina's upper arm, turning her so the spray hit her back. He took the wash cloth from her hand and began rinsing her back.
Almost savagely he turned her around to rinse the front of her. She was unprepared for the motion and slipped, falling against him. His arm came up to steady her, his hand dropping the wash cloth. He made a grab for the cloth, but his hand closed on her breast instead. Emotion and desire exploded in Katrina, and she shivered with the strength of it as his fingers gently cupped her soft womanly form.
Gavin looked her full in the face for a long moment. Katrina saw his eyes widen before she dropped her own gaze to his lips, her tongue slipping between her teeth to glide from one corner of her mouth to the other.
Without saying a word to her, he lowered his head, capturing her lips with his, the kiss hungry, demanding, almost punishing in its intensity. He pulled her closer with one arm holding her wet body to him, the other hand exploring her soapy curves.
Katrina kissed him back with all the desire flaming within her. Reaching up, she wound her arms around his neck, pulling him closer still. Unashamedly, she moved against him, the feeling of his wet clothing only enhancing the tingling racing through her whole body.
She wanted him…needed him. She’d never known a need such as this one. Their kiss ended, her arms still around his neck, her eyes still closed in acute ecstasy.
"Gavin, oh, Gavin!" Her whispered words hung in the air as she clung to him.
At his name on her lips, he seemed to rouse himself. A muttered oath escaped his own mouth and he stepped back, away from her, pulling her arms from his neck as he did so. He reached for the towel that hung next to the shower and opened it out before him.
Gavin wrapped her none-too-gently in it. Another oath left his lips as he all but yanked her from the confines of the tiny shower, leaving her in no doubt as to his total disgust of her.
He dragged her into the bedroom, then let go of her with such a fierce motion it was almost a shake hard enough to make her stumble, the towel begin to slip. She grasped the towel more closely to her, then looked up at him.
He stood before her. His wet clothing clung to him, outlining every inch of his body. Despite the pain of his abrupt rebuff, the view in front of her made her aware of him as a man as never before. The thin wet shirt was nearly transparent, and though the summer weight slacks remained opaque, they way they hugged his body left no doubt in Katrina’s mind that the person standing before her was very definitely a fully aroused male.
Looking at his face, however, she realized he was totally spurning her. She wondered why his brush-off was much more painful than anything Charleston had ever put her through. She reached one hand out to him in supplication, as if to stay his rejection and abandonment.
“Get some clothes on.” Gavin snapped, then spun on his heel and stalked out of her bedroom. Katrina dropped to her bed and sobbed. Why, when she had finally found love, did she have to care so deeply for a man who obviously didn’t want her?
Some time later, emotionally exhausted, Katrina rose from the bed and made her way into the bathroom. She washed and dried her teary face, and toweled her drippy hair gently. Her body had evaporated dry while she had been crying.
Katrina went to her dresser and picked out some panties and a bra which she proceeded to trade her towel for. Then, not continuing her own dressing but concentrating on what was in that drawer, she laid on the bed enough underclothing and socks for the few days she’d be spending in Lt. Carew’s safe house. She had no idea where she was even going, but she trusted that Gavin did and it would be safe for her.
After pulling on some jeans and a blouse, she slipped into socks and her tennis shoes. She went to the back porch laundry area and got a clothes basket. The dryer was running, apparently full of Gavin’s wet things.
As she returned through the house, she noted the closed door and running water in the public bathroom, and wondered how Gavin was managing in the small room; a half-bath with no shower. A picture of him, standing unclothed in front of the sink using a washcloth to clean up, rose unbidden before her mind’s eye.
She knew it was pure imagination, having never seen more of his body than his arms and face, but her imagination was well developed. Katrina blushed and banished the thought, but not before she recalled how his wet clothing had stuck to him and exposed his every contour to her hungry gaze.
Determinedly, she stalked into her bedroom, heat rising in her cheeks anew as she thought of what Gavin would say when he found she still didn't have a suitcase.
Setting her basket on the bed, she put in her underwear, then added two pairs of jeans, a dress, two skirts, several blouses and a pair of sandals to it. Two cotton nightgowns and her robe and slippers joined the growing pile. She thought she had everything now. She picked up the basket and carried it to the living room, then walked through and checked the dryer.
Gavin's clothes were dry. She took them out and folded them neatly, then set them on the hallway floor just outside the small bathroom where the water still ran.
Katrina went into the kitchen to make breakfast. She cooked some eggs, making egg sandwiches. She hoped he liked them.
Wistfully she thought how differently her life would have been if her parents had lived. Her mother would have shown her how to do things and how to cook simple foods and other skills that would come in handy when she got to be a woman. But Katrina was still so very young when her parents were taken from her by the tragic boating accident, and her grandparents had never really seemed to want her…had never taken the time to teach her anything.
Katrina shook her head ruefully, bringing her back to the present. She mixed a can of frozen juice with the proper amount of water while her thoughts continued to roam and swirl.
She was married—or was she?—to one man, and in love with another she knew next to nothing about; not his likes nor dislikes for any aspect of living. One who didn't even want her in the physical sense. How stupid could she get? First Charleston, and now…
The thought of Charleston had a sobering effect on her. Katrina involuntarily looked at the windows and shivered.
Charleston. Here. Six years was not long enough to dull the pain, decrease the shame or have the fear diminish . She shuddered as she remembered the last time she'd seen his face. So angry…so evil…so…menacing!
Katrina shook her head once again to clear her thoughts. There wasn’t any proof he was in town, after all; it was just that they couldn’t think of anyone else who’d want to hurt her.
It didn't hurt so much to move her head this morning. She stepped to the refrigerator to get milk to go with the sandwiches, then to the cupboard for the glasses and small bowls for the fruit. She went to the pantry and took out one of her bottles of peaches.
Katrina smiled with satisfaction at the golden fruit inside the glass jar. Her grandmother had preserved food each year, but had shooed her out of the kitchen as too much of a nuisance to teach her the necessary skills. She remembered grandmother’s long, neat rows of white pears, red tomatoes, dark green relishes and jars of applesauce cooling on the kitchen counters.
When peaches were at a good price last summer, Katrina had gone to the library and borrowed a book on home canning. Following the directions exactly, she had ended up with twelve quarts of peach halves and three jars of slices. She’d been thrilled.
She now opened a jar and spooned some into each bowl, setting them beside their sandwich plates. She added a spoon and folded paper napkins to each place setting. Surveying the table, she was pleased with the results.
"It looks good, Pumpkin!" Gavin spoke from the doorway, making her jump. She whirled to face him, uncertain of how to act, wondering if he were still angry with her.
"I…I was hoping you liked…egg sandwiches," she said lamely, watching for his reactions.
"I do, and I'm starved. Let's eat!"
They sat down and tucked into their meal, both saying very little as they ate the simple fare. Katrina was nervous about her peaches. Although she liked them, she hadn't the courage nor made the opportunity to share them with anyone else in case they were awful.
Gavin finished his sandwiches, juice and milk and then turned his attention to the peaches. Cutting a wedge with his spoon, he slid it into his mouth. He bit down and closed his eyes.
Katrina almost stopped breathing while she watched him slowly chew and swallow. He opened his eyes and looked at her.
"Where did you get these peaches?"
"I…put them up last summer," she stammered.
He grinned, his smile melting her bones. "I was hoping you'd say that!"
Surprised, Katrina asked, "Whyever for?"
"Now I know where to get more. They taste just like Granny's." He laughed out loud, and, in her relief, she joined in the laughter as the telephone rang. Katrina moved to get it, still smiling from his back-handed compliment.
Reaching the nook, she picked up the receiver.
"Hello, Katrina speaking." There was no sound. The smile dimmed a little as Katrina listened to the silence. She cleared her throat and spoke again. "Hello? Is anyone there?"
"Yes, there is,” a male voice answered. “Your ever-loving husband has finally found his errant wife!" The voice nearly shouted his gleeful triumph.
Katrina felt her face stiffen and her hands go cold. She nearly dropped the phone.
It was Charleston.