Broken Pasts
Author:C.M. Stunich

chapter 20

Nathaniel and I stopped by my house, but I didn't go in. I couldn't. I needed a little more time to adjust to the idea that a psychopath had been standing over me while I slept for God only knows how many days, watching me while I was helpless to stop him, waiting there like a predator stalking prey. I had this horrible feeling in my gut that I had been days away from death. If I hadn't called PPSD, would I be lying in a puddle of blood on my bathroom floor like the late Mrs. Sutherland? It was a very real possibility.

When Nathaniel returned with the file, I took it in my hands, glad that I was in the front seat next to his warmth, his strength, his certainty because I just felt cold and numb and empty. Until this report was filed and the police were on Gary's tail, I wouldn't be able to relax.

“You … ” I didn't know how to put my thoughts into words. “You saved my life,” I said finally as I looked over at Nathaniel, at his chocolate hair and warm eyes, his perfect lips, the hard swell of muscle beneath his suit. “It was obviously a lot worse than I thought. He just, he didn't show it.” I put my hand over my belly and tried not to think about all of the alternative possibilities. I was living in a world where we had definitive proof against Gary, where Nathaniel had connections at the station. It was going to be okay, all of it. I was going to live and I was going to go to dinner with Nathaniel as planned. Rhea was safe with Glen, and Gary would soon be trapped behind bars.

Nathaniel didn't speak for awhile, but when he did, his voice gave me goose bumps.

“If you had died, I think my last chance at happiness might've died along with you.”

“Don't say that,” I told him, feeling overly emotional and desperate for something solid, warm, something with emerald green eyes and a wicked-dirty smile. It wasn't a man-woman thing. I didn't want Nathaniel to grab me by the hair and drag me back to his cave. It's just … I wanted a partner, someone that I could count on, someone to take half of life's worries on their shoulders so I could strand straight and tall. Nathaniel fit the bill perfectly. I wasn't about to pick out wedding dresses or anything, I was way past that fairy tale crap, but I did want to give this a shot, a real shot. I wanted to date Nathaniel Sutherland.

I looked over at him as we pulled into the police station, met his eyes and took a deep breathe.

“Date me?” I said even though the sound of it made me cringe. I wasn't sixteen, I was thirty-two. Still, the principal was the same. Try it out, see if it worked. That was the way the world worked. At least this time, I had a feeling in my chest that Nathaniel Sutherland was a sure thing. I may have picked Glen with logic and Gary with loneliness, but I was picking Nathaniel with my heart. Maybe I didn't love him yet, but I could and that was all that mattered.

“That's the plan,” he told me as he leaned over and kissed away my fears with the heat of his lips. “That's been the plan from the first moment I laid eyes on you.”

***

We filed the police report and I was happy to see my case change hands rather quickly. Instead of disappearing into a desk, it made its way all the way up the ranks and I left that old brick building with a promise that before the sun set, Gary Harper's apartment would be searched and he'd be apprehended.

“I don't know what I'd do without you,” I told Nathaniel as we got out at my house and paused on the driveway. “Now I know why you got into this business. You save peoples' lives. You're an underground saint, Mr. Sutherland.”

“You're going to give me a swollen head,” he said with a wink. “Don't get my ego all riled up like that.”

“Maybe I'd like to get your ego riled up?” I told him as I glanced over at my house and tried to pretend that I wasn't terrified to go in there. Nathaniel stopped our flirting with a gentle smile, reached out and took my hand.

“I'll keep you safe,” he whispered as he pulled me up the front walk and inside.

Nathaniel swept the house with me in tow, checking each door, window, cabinet, closet. Gary was nowhere to be seen, thankfully. Hopefully before the night was out, he'd be finding out what it was like to have someone watching you while you slept while he rotted away in a jail cell with another inmate, preferably a dangerous one.

“The house is clear,” Nathaniel told me seconds before I grabbed him by the shirt and pulled him against me, pressed my mouth to his and let my emotions sweep over us both. I was hot with anger, mad with lust, shivering with fear. It was a medley of feelings that I was not used to, and I knew a surefire way to get rid of them. In Nathaniel's hands, I would melt and reform into something else, someone else, someone stronger, smarter, better.

Nathaniel's hands grasped my hips as he pushed me into the wall, kissing my lips, my neck, my shoulders. The terror I had felt when I found the pictures was finally subsiding, fading into this heat and this energy that I had never experienced before with anyone. I reached down, unzipped his pants and cupped him with my hand while he moaned into my mouth and his fingers finally found their way under my shirt, burning a trail of fire up my side.

I grasped him behind the head with my other hand, tangling my fingers in his dark hair and pulling, moving his face just far enough back from mine that I could meet his eyes as I freed his cock and wrapped my right leg around his waist. I stared straight at him, trying to breathe through the electricity that was ripping through my body, pumping the blood to my head and squeezing the muscles in my thighs. He stared back at me, face flushed, mouth slightly parted and dropped his right hand to my ass. The other he used to position himself to push inside of me.

“Theresa,” he said, but I touched my lips to his and silenced him with my tongue. Nathaniel thrust hard and fast, entering me with every inch until we were pressed together against the wall, moving with one another in this blissful tangle of flesh. I wrapped my arms around his neck, let my head drop back and fell into him. I forgot about everything else in that moment: there was only Nathaniel and me. His lips against my skin were hot and torturous, burning a hole into my soul while his body found pleasure in mine, taking me places I'd never been.

When my orgasm started to build, I greeted it like an old friend, rode the waves of euphoria with Nathaniel and let him take me over the edge, plunge me into molten depths and break me into pieces. When I came up for air, he paused for a moment, slid out of me and stepped back. I stumbled slightly and he caught me, lifting me up until I found my feet.

“You have to put me back together,” I told him as he reached for the door to my bedroom, opened it and carried us both to the bed. We fell together in a sweaty heap across my comforter and soon his arms were around me, holding me like we'd known each other forever. My past had been like a noose around my throat, choking the life out of me, denying my future. Now it was scattered across my soul like a broken mirror.

“Only you can put you back together,” he told me as we lay there in silence for several moments. Our breathing was in tune with one another, whispering across the dark bedroom as I tried to make sense of what had just happened.

The obvious, of course, was that I had just slept with my bodyguard. But there was also something beyond that, something deeper that had taken place that I was having trouble making sense of. Who knew sex could be such a powerful tool? I thought but immediately corrected myself. It wasn't just sex. I had let my emotions play against his and now I was hearing a chorus of voices that I'd never heard before. I was waking up. It had taken me thirty-two years to get there, but here I was.

“You're right,” I said as Nathaniel adjusted himself. At first, I thought he was getting up to leave but instead he just sat up, kneeling between my legs as he stared down at me, eyes dark from the shadows of the moon that leaked through the window and cast their pale fingers across his jaw, his neck, his suit jacket.

“I'm broken, too,” he told me. “That's why I know that you can't escape your past by running from it, and you sure as hell can't expect anyone else to fix it for you.” I propped myself up on my elbows and stared at him as he loosened his tie and tossed it to the floor along with his coat. “But it doesn't hurt to ask for support.”

“When did you learn that?” I asked him, hoping things weren't going to take a horrible turn for the awkward. I needed Nathaniel here. What if the police didn't find Gary tonight? His obsession was escalating to the point where I was certain it was going to be me or him. And it had to be him. I wasn't going anywhere.

“Today,” Nathaniel said with a dirty smile. He leaned down and kissed me gently and even though we'd just finished, my body responded with an exhilarating burst of adrenaline. “I hope I'm not too out of practice,” he said as he removed the holster with the gun and laid it out beside us. “I haven't had the opportunity to refine my skills.” Nathaniel tried to smile, but it was tinged with sadness. “Since Gillian died, I haven't … I didn't want to make love to a memory,” he said as he put his hands on either side of my body. “Does that make any sense?” I swallowed hard and nodded. Words were not an option right now. I think if I'd tried to speak, moans would've come out instead. I bit my tongue and stayed silent. “And I thought that when I met you, that something like this might never happen. That all I'd be doing was comparing.” He paused and my heart thumped painfully. There was anguish in his face now, haunting those green eyes, tensing the muscles in his arms and chest. “But I'm not. You looked like her and your situation reminded me so much of her, but you're not her. And I accept that. It's you that I want to make love with.”

***

Nathaniel and I lay together in a sweaty tangle of sore flesh with my head on his chest and his arm around my waist. He had one hand on my belly and was looking at my scar, not judging, just looking.

“Tell me about it,” he said as his fingers traced the rough flesh. “Tell me about everything.” I sighed and tried to pull away, but he wouldn't let me. He held me there so tightly that it brought tears to my eyes. Not once had I ever had anyone hold me like that, like I was so precious that they were afraid they might lose me. It was a feeling that I could get used to.

“I was pregnant once,” I said, starting from the beginning. It was as good a place as any considering I'd had a normal childhood, an average family, a simple life. At least before I'd met him. “With Glen. We, um … ” I trailed off because it was hard to think of Glen with Nathaniel's sexy body wrapped around mine. I'd have much rather gone for seconds, thank you very much. But he needed to know this stuff, had to know it if he was going to get involved with me in any fashion. My past had scared off more than one man in my past. “We got married young and his life goal was to have kids, so … ” I trailed off because it sounded so stupid from this point in my life, like that girl was someone else. Someone who was so afraid of their own heart that they'd used logic when they should've trusted in the deepest part of themselves. I shivered, despite Nathaniel's heat. “We had trouble getting pregnant at fist, and Glen was always blaming me, yelling … I should've cut off his balls when I had the chance.” Nathaniel laughed and snuggled tightly against me, breathing against my hair and giving me the chills, the good kind.

“Want me to do it for you?” he asked, and I smiled.

“I'll get around to it,” I said. “At least metaphorically speaking.” I placed my hand over Nathaniel's and knew that if it had been his child in there, and I'd been his wife, bleeding all over the hospital floor, that things would've been different. He'd have fought for me. “Anyway, we filled out some adoption paperwork. I was a little young, but Glen's father was someone important.” I waved my hand dismissively. I couldn't be bothered with those details. They didn't matter, not anymore. “And we got approved three days before I found out that I was finally pregnant. I had to beg Glen not to back out of the application.” I shook my head and tried to forget the fights and the screaming and the crying. “Anyway, one day I woke up with blood just … just fucking everywhere.” I held out my hands to either side, but I didn't cry, not anymore. I'd cried a whole ocean of tears over this. The world had seen enough of my sorrow. “I had to have emergency surgery and when they were in there, they found something.” I clenched my teeth and tried not to scream. “Without my permission, they performed a double oophorectomy. So I lost my baby and my ovaries all in one shot.” I sighed heavily and tried to spare Nathaniel the gory details. “So I can't have biological children.” I swallowed hard and waited for him to change, to act differently towards me. It had happened to me before. More than once.

“You have Rhea,” he whispered softly. “So I think you made out like a bandit.” I tried to keep the grin off my face, but I couldn't. I turned to Nathaniel, tried to kiss him, but he pulled away and my heart ceased beating for a moment. Is this where he tells me that we made a mistake? I opened my mouth to say something when Nathaniel wrapped his hands around mine and looked at me with all of those secrets burning in his eyes.

I stared back at him and realized that I was mistaken. Not secrets, secret. A big one, a life changer, something that could ruin what we hadn't even had the chance to build.

“Theresa,” he told me, voice low, serious, and dark. He was going to a different place, Nathaniel Sutherland was, and I was almost afraid to follow him there. Almost. “I have to tell you this. What you do with the information is up to you, but you have to know.” I took a deep breath and nodded, prepared for the worst.

“Give me your best shot,” I said as he locked eyes with me and took me up on that offer.

“I'm a murderer.”