I ordered a whiskey neat before I knew what I was saying. My father’s drink of choice. It never seemed to fail him when he wanted to disappear. The first sip warmed my cool skin under the later afternoon breeze. I sighed into the glass, recovering from the burn in my throat, then sloshing down the rest. I nodded at the server when she asked if I’d like another. Upon her exit, a hand landed on my shoulder; the hairs on my neck stood at attention.
“Well, at least you made it as far as the parking lot.”
I recognized that cool silky voice immediately, but I stayed with my back to him. My mind spun with the thought of him following me here. “You saw me?” I didn’t ask him to join me, but the chair to my right skidded out.
“Help me understand, Gray.”
The waitress brought my second glass and asked Daniel if he wanted to order. “Just coffee, please.”
“You don’t drink?” I asked when the server left.
“I do…but not with patients.”
The slap of reality was almost as painful as the one Harvey had delivered. When I didn’t answer, he said, “You’re still my patient, aren’t you?”
I turned to face him, knowing my left cheek would be exposed. “If you’ll have me,” I said, holding back tears of shame.
“My God, Gray. What happened to you?”
A tentative reach of his hand toward my face made my breath catch. He stalled before touching two gentle fingers to my chin. “Are you all right? Is there more?”
I shook my head. “I’m fine. It looks worse than it is.” My heart beat a little faster when I read the concern in his eyes.
“Our deal stands whether we’re in my office or not.” Daniel struggled to remain composed. “Who did this to you?” he commanded.
Our deal for honesty wouldn’t be a problem tonight. “I did.”
“Gray.” He looked away as if he was planning his escape.
“That’s the truth, Daniel. I’m responsible. I’m responsible for every bad thing that’s ever happened to me.”
His eyes returned to mine, determined. “No one has the right to lay a hand on you. Do you understand me?”
I nodded, wide-eyed like an obedient child.
“One day…you’re going to rise above your circumstances. You’re going to be a survivor instead of a victim. Your strengths will become assets instead of your downfall. Are you hearing me, Gray?”
His words riveted me like a savior at a sermon. He knew everything about me, though he knew nothing at all. A strong hand engulfed my forearm as if I was sinking in quicksand, and he was my lifeline, a way to claw and climb my way out. “Every word,” I whispered.
“No. I’m not leaving yet.” With the towel wrapped around her, she stepped onto the blanket and leaned into me. “Unless a tornado comes to whisk us off to Kansas, I’m not leaving. I feel too free here, Daniel.”
“Okay, then let me keep you warm.” I sat on the blanket with legs out in front of me; Gray sat between them, leaning up against my back. I began massaging her upper arms and shoulders. She turned her head to look at me questioningly. “Just keeping the blood flowing for you.”
She smiled and leaned back again, so I continued. I moved my hands up to her neck and kissed it gently while continuing to knead her sweet-smelling skin.
“That feels so nice, Daniel.” Her body sank into mine as I reduced the pressure, softening my hands on her body.
I went forward from her neck and caressed her chest under the towel. Gray pulled the towel open, baring her breasts to the cold air, inviting my touch. I drew in a hard, fast breath at the sight of her. My head grew dizzy at the wonderland in front of me, after being forbidden of its treasures for so long. My fingers reached out and played over her smooth skin, causing her to arch her back. Her head fell onto my shoulder.
“Daniel,” she whispered.
The desire in her voice sent a powerful pulse of heat racing through my veins; I almost lost it right then. It was as if in that moment my sole purpose was to pleasure Gray, to fulfill her every need. Her legs, bent at the knees, fell open and her hand landed on my wrist. I slid it down her stomach, settling between her thighs. Her lacy panties were still wet and cold from the ocean, but when I slipped my hand inside, it met with a warm piece of heaven.
Gray gasped at my touch, and her chest surged up and down as I caressed her. She turned her head to the side, offering her open mouth to me. I ravaged her eager lips and tongue as I increased the movement of my hand on her sensitive flesh. My body craved hers; I ached to be with her, but I continued, fueled by her moans. Her hips quivered against my fingers as she cried and panted into my mouth. The wind howled all around us. The sky rumbled above. The waves crept higher up the shore.
“Oh, God, Daniel.” Her hand came atop mine, stopping my movement but pressing me harder into her as her sighs floated out into the night.