Dedicated to my favorite avid reader, Rachel.
He Loves Me
COREY FELT CUT OFF when she pulled her hand away. She just said that she didn't blame him for the accident, but could she be lying? He looked at her face, but that nasty bruise on her cheek was all he could see. He wanted to run his hand over it, somehow make the pain go away for her. He needed to clear the air between them before he could do anything else. She would never understand unless he explained his actions. After overhearing the conversation at the party, she probably thought he slept around.
"I need to explain a few things to you, Meg." Megan closed her eyes tight. "Meg, honey. Open your eyes," he whispered, leaning closer to her face.
Her dark lashes fluttered open, her eyes brimming with tears. His heart felt like a vice had squeezed it in half, making it next to impossible to breathe. The last thing he wanted to do was upset Megan, especially now when she was already in so much physical pain. Corey slid out of the chair and sat on the edge of the bed, the mattress groaning in protest to the added weight. He slipped one arm behind her back, pulled her into his chest, her head resting on his shoulder, and held her while she cried. Her shoulders shook, and she inhaled often as if it would somehow stop the strong emotions from coming. Corey tightened his grip, but not enough to cause her any more discomfort. Her hand clutched his shirt and tears began to soak through the thin fabric to his skin. He rocked her, loving the way she felt next to his body. He shouldn't be thinking this way, but he couldn't help it. He had no control where she was concerned.
Corey kissed the top of her head. "Everything will be all right," he whispered. He moved his hand into her thick, long hair, his fingers raking through the silky tresses. He wanted to pick her up and carry her out of the hospital and to his bed. He wanted to take care of her, make sure that she didn't overdo it when she was released, but he couldn't do any of that. Thoughts of marrying her, having children with her, and spending the rest of his life loving this one woman raced through his mind, filling him with such an overwhelming need. He had to make it happen but didn't even know how to go about it.
Megan sniffled, and Corey looked down at her, but Meg’s face remained buried in his shirt. He pulled back enough to see her, to force her to look up at him. Megan raised her head, her face wet, tears starting to dry up as her bottom lip quivered. He wanted to kiss her, taste her, know her in ways he hadn't before. He had to take it slow but needed to make sure she knew what his intentions were, no second guessing, no letting outside forces come in between them again. He lowered his head, slow, deliberate, giving her time to say no or pull away. When she didn’t, he pressed his lips to hers. Megan's lips were moist and soft, just as he remembered. He nibbled her bottom lip, coaxing her lips to open for him so he could explore her depths. Her mouth parted, and a low moan escaped her throat. Corey’s tongue captured hers, his insistent as it plunged inside tangling with hers.
Her fingers slid into the back of his hair, and she turned and pressed her breasts into his chest. The warmth of her body seeped through the thin fabric of the hospital gown. He slid his hand from her back, moving it between them, running the pad of his thumb over one erect nipple, wishing her could strip her out of the white gown and take her here and now. He couldn’t do that, not here, not like this, and tore his mouth from hers.
Her eyes darkened in a flash as she glared at him, anger taking over. "How many times are you going to do this to me?"
He arched an eyebrow as he looked at her. "Do what exactly?"
Megan pushed at his chest, her eyes moving from his face. “You know exactly which buttons to push. I'm tired. You need to leave."
Corey shook his head. "I'm not leaving. I need to talk, and you need to listen."
Megan sighed, ran a hand through her hair and pulled it back off her face, tucking a long strand behind her ear. "Can't it wait for another time?"
Corey got up from the bed. "No, it can't."
Megan stacked the two pillows behind her and laid her head back down. He watched as her face contorted in pain, wishing he could take it all away for her.
“I love you, Meg."
MEGAN SAT BOLD UPRIGHT in the bed, her jaw dropped, and she realized it was all a dream. She laughed, giggling at first, and then it turned into a hearty, tear-filled laugh that spiraled out of control, despite the pain in her head and chest. It was the most ridiculous thing she'd ever dreamt. Corey would never just come out and admit his feelings like that, and there was no way he would claim to love her. Corey stood waiting, watching, and her sudden outburst of laughter trailed off. She leaned back into the pillows, and he moved forward, his hand stroking her face.
"What did you say?"
Corey's thumb made slow circles on her cheek, his thumb rubbing her bottom lip as he sat on the edge of the bed again facing her. "I said that I love you."
Megan couldn't believe her ears. How long have I wanted him to say these words?
"You have every reason to doubt it, but it's true. I love you. I've tried so hard to deny it, to pretend that it wasn't there, thinking it was best for both of us." Corey stood and began pacing the small room. "For the last year, I've done nothing but dream about you, night after night. The dream has been so vivid, so hauntingly real that I thought it happened. That you and I almost made love in your car."
Megan swallowed hard. "We did."
Corey stopped mid-step, then spun around and looked at her, his eyes wide in stunned surprise. "What? We made love?"
Megan shook her head. "No, but we came close." She closed her eyes remembering that night. He'd felt so good and she was ready to give herself to him, but in his drunken state, he ruined everything between them.
"When? Why don't I remember it?"
"You were drunk. I came out of work and took you home." Megan swallowed the lump in her throat. "It turned ugly, and then the next day..."
Corey raked a hand through his hair and the silence stretched between them as he worked out the details. "I saw you at the drug store." His face turned hard and he sunk into the chair beside the bed. "I saw that hickey on your neck and thought it was from Joe or another man. I was so jealous that you'd let someone that close to you." Corey leaned forward and grabbed her hand. "I want you and only you in my life. I know what you heard Anna say, and what you must be thinking. Grace means nothing to me, it was one night a year ago, and I haven’t seen or spoken to her since."
"So, you slept with her. Do you sleep around often? Are more women from your past about to show up out of the blue?" Megan closed her eyes, guilt sinking in fast. She had no right to say anything to him, to give him a hard time, not when she had probably slept with Joe.
"No one else, Megan, I’m not a playboy like Kurt."
She stared at him for a long moment. She had the floor, had the chance to tell him that their pasts didn’t matter, that they could move past it together, only she wasn’t sure about it. Courage began to build as she looked at him, his sadness something she wanted to take away. Pushing the doubts and the uncertainty of a future to the back of her mind, she decided to do the only thing she could.
"I love you too, Corey. For as long as I can remember I have loved you."
He flew out of the chair and pulled her into his arms. "I swear I will never hurt you. I just want to take care of you, Megan." His voice was low as he whispered in her ear, his warm breath sending tingling sensations down her spine.
LIFE WAS GOOD. IT had been exactly one month since Megan's accident. That day should be a painful memory, but it wasn't. In fact, it was just the opposite. That was the day when everything in his life changed for the better. Megan reciprocated his feelings. He loved talking to her on the phone, listening to her soft voice. Because of her, he started carrying the cell phone that he despised instead of leaving it in the truck. They were together almost every night and would spend
Sunday afternoons on the ranch riding. Corey watched as Megan changed into an independent, confident and beautiful woman. He'd always thought she was pretty, but now the beauty that radiated from her was striking. She held her head high, didn't hide her face from anyone, and spoke with ease and authority. It was a drastic change from the shy little girl he knew so well.
Megan fit right in with his family as if she'd always spent time with them. Conversations were never boring around the dinner table when Megan came. She was fascinated with every aspect of her job and loved to share her excitement. More and more he wondered if it were too soon to pop the question. They'd known each other most of their lives, and since she got along well with his family, he didn't see that as a problem. No doubt whoever he married, they'd be living at the ranch with his parents. It didn't make sense to be elsewhere because anything could happen day or night.
With Megan talking about moving into an apartment, it seemed time was of the essence. A long engagement would be good for both. Megan even began to consider going to college too, and if she stayed with Dex, she could afford to do it. What he didn't need was for Megan to decide that she needed her independence more than she needed him. They were going out to dinner tonight at Nolan and Anna's. Corey needed to speak to Nolan and get his take on the situation. Nolan and Anna were barely dating when Nolan proposed. If anyone could give him solid advice, it would be his brother.
He pulled up in front of the Evan's house. Megan still didn't have a vehicle. She'd been saving her paychecks and trying to decide what kind of car she wanted. If Corey had his way, she would wait a year before buying one. He enjoyed spending time with her in the mornings when he took her to work and seeing her after work every day.
He got out of the truck and headed to the front door. Before he reached the porch, he was under attack.
"Stick ‘em up cowboy," a voice said giggling.
Corey smiled and held up his hands. "I swear I didn't do anything."
Another giggle escaped. "You kidnapped Aunt Megan!"
Corey spun around growling as two children screamed and raced toward the side of the house. "Come on now, I was just playing."
Erin, Dex and Karen's youngest ran toward him. Corey spread his arms and knelt ready to catch the flying monkey. If he weren't already dressed to go out, he would've made sure he fell backward for effect, but he couldn't.
Her skinny arms gripped him tightly around his neck and he held her close smiling. Erin's long black hair reminded him of Megan's, but this little girl had a spark to her. He'd noticed it right away when she was mad about having to go to bed early. Anger ignited a fire under her, and happiness made her eyes shine brightly.
"How are you, firecracker?"
Erin giggled again. "I'm good today. Can you be my uncle?"
"If you're gonna be her uncle, then you have to be mine too," Eric said behind him.
Corey turned and smiled at the boy. "That's true. So, if I were to become your uncle, what would I have to do exactly?" Corey set Erin down and she went and stood next to her brother.
"You'd have to come to my soccer games."
"Okay, is that it Eric?"
His thin lips drew together and quirked to the side as he thought about the question. "An uncle needs to be around in case there's trouble. You have to visit all the time and teach us to ride horses."
Corey fought hard to keep from smiling. "Right, because any nephew and niece of mine would have to know how to ride. I think I'm up for the job."
"Wait!" Erin shouted. "I need something."
Corey crouched down again. "What would that be?"
"You have to come to our birthday parties and bring lots of presents."
Corey threw his head back and laughed. Once he got control again, he stood up. "You drive a hard bargain, but I think I'm up for the challenge."
"We should seal the deal," Eric said.
Corey nodded, "How about we shake on it?"
Eric stepped forward extending his small hand. Corey shook it firmly, then placed a hand on the boy’s head and messed up his blonde hair. "It's a deal, Uncle Corey."
"No handshake," Erin said. "Hug instead."
Corey laughed and lifted the girl easily into his arms. "That will work for me." He squeezed her tight and set her back down.