Awaken: A Spiral of Bliss Novel (Book Three)
Author:Lane, Nina

I walk back home to Avalon Street, making a mental list of career possibilities based on my skill set. When I get home, I settle into my routine of cleaning, job searching on the Internet, and working on the museum exhibition catalog.


As the clock nears ten, I go into the bedroom and change into one of Dean’s old San Francisco Giants T-shirts that I’ve been wearing to bed ever since he left. It’s comforting, all soft and worn, the faint scent of his shaving soap clinging to the cotton. I imagine I can still even feel the heat of his body. I brush my hair and return to the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea.


I go into Dean’s office, set the mug on the desk beside the computer, curl up in his big leather chair, and pull my ragged old quilt over my legs. This is a ritual I’ve come to love in the past ten days, as my whole body hums with anticipation.


It’s five in the morning in Tuscany, so Dean’s day is starting just as mine ends. The instant the clock strikes ten, the phone rings. I press the talk button.


“Hi, professor.”


“I’m Indiana Jones out here, baby.”


I smile. “You’re way sexier than Indiana Jones.”


“Glad you think so.”


“I know so.” I shift to tuck my legs underneath me. “What are you doing today?”


“Missing my girl.”


My chest tightens. “Your girl misses you too.”


“Yeah? You talked to her?”


I giggle as the ache eases a little. “Every day. And she says you’d better not be looking at any pretty Italian women.”


“You’re the only woman I want to look at, beauty.” His deep, affectionate voice warms me to my toes. “The only woman I can see.”


I let out a breath and rest my head against the back of the chair. Even though I know Dean needs to be away from Mirror Lake right now, even though I was the one who first told him to go, there’s no question that our separation still hurts. And it hurts because it shouldn’t have to be this way.


My husband should be stretched out on the sofa right now, winding a loop of string around his fingers. I should be tucking my body against his at night and sliding my hand over his chest. We should be having dinner, talking about our days, making summer plans. We should be together.


“So did you find anything interesting yesterday?” I ask.


“Few liturgical things.” Dean tells me about their findings, the scientific processes of the excavation, his work with another professor from Cambridge, the progress of the conference King’s University is hosting in July.


I press the phone close to my ear, feeling his voice wrap around me like one of his warm, protective embraces.


“What did you do today?” he asks me.


“Worked at the bookstore, then had dinner with Kelsey. She told me I was a mouse and scolded me for being wishy-washy.”


The instant the words are out of my mouth, I can almost feel Dean bristle with irritation.


“Why’d she do that?” he asks.


“For my own good. She’s right in some ways, I think.” I pause for a second. “Have you ever thought of me as a mouse?”


There’s a brief hesitation that speaks louder than words. My heart sinks a little.


“Really?” I ask. “You think I’m mousy?”


“I’ve never thought of you as weak or cowardly,” Dean says. “Just the opposite, in fact. But when we first met, I thought you were shy like a mouse, kind of skittish. Like you wanted to be brave, but were scared of what would happen if you let yourself. It was just one of the reasons I liked you so much.”


I consider that. Objectively, it makes sense. I’d been so drawn to Dean from the beginning because I knew I could take chances with him that I’d always been too scared to take before.


“Well, at least mice are cute,” I mutter.


“Maybe you could dress up as Minnie Mouse when I get back,” he suggests. “Short, ruffled skirt, bow in your hair, heels…”


I laugh, though the idea is rather appealing. “Your fantasies are getting creative, professor.”


“They’re all I’ve got without you here.”


Warmth tingles through me at the thought of him fantasizing about us. Though we did a lot of touching and holding in the days before his departure, this has been the longest Dean and I have ever gone without some form of sexual intimacy. Even during our nightly phone calls, neither of us has yet shifted the conversation to overtly sexy talk.


But I’m not foolish enough to think Dean hasn’t wanted it. Our sex life has always been so good because, frankly, we turn each other on. Whatever animal magnetism or chemistry is responsible for driving our attraction, we have it in truckloads.


Sex is an explosive, overwhelming pleasure for me and my husband. It’s an intense craving, an unabashed joy, the place where we can forget everything but each other, where everything is right and pure. It’s the one place where I can surrender without fear.