When I See Your Face, Part 23
He took a calming breath.
“And I understand your situation. There is much you don’t know about me, so you have every right to be wary. And I don’t want you to think that I’m using your emotional weakness and need for a supportive shoulder to get into your pants, though believe me, I’m interested in them too.”
For a moment, he was his flirtatious, joking self and she couldn’t help a giggle at his choice of words before it hit her: He had just told her that he loved her! Her eyes opening wide, she stared at him. Without realizing it, she blurted out, “You love me?”
He bent forward and pressed a hungry kiss to her lips that had opened in surprise. He let go of her arms and took some more steps away.
“I do,” he said. “But I will not pressure you with it.”
And before she had the chance to say something—though she was the last person in the world to know what she wanted to say—he turned and looked out of the living-room window. His whole body straightened, his hands flexing into fists and relaxing again. He was obviously trying to return back to normal. She stood rooted to the spot, her heart and head in turmoil. He loved her. Did she love him? He loved her!
Sounding so casual that it had a fake ring to it, he said, “The weather looks perfect for a stroll outside. Shall we walk through the hills and discuss your next steps? I’ve got so many ideas that won’t break free inside this place. I need nature around me now.”
She mentally and physically shook herself. Come on, girl, the world doesn’t stop turning because Michael has told you they love you. Snap out of it already! It registered with her that he had spoken of her next steps and with that, reality and its worries bullied their way back into her brain.
He was already at the door. For a moment, she looked at him, noticing with a tinge of embarrassment that the front of his T-shirt was stained a darker green where she had soaked it through with her tears.
Enough crying and longing, there was a life to be lived.
“Let’s go,” she said, surprising herself with the realization that she actually looked forward to going for a walk with him and being surrounded by nature.
As soon as they had left the last few houses of the village behind and were strolling through the green hills, Michael grabbed her hand. He continued walking, softly stroking his thumb over her hand. Each stroke sent a jolt of current through Cathy, making her aware again and again of how much she wanted this man, of how much she treasured his affection.
Despite her inner state of confusion, she made an effort to look at all the natural beauty surrounding her, indeed having the feeling that it calmed her down. Some of the trees were already preparing for autumn with their colorful leaves and off and on, a cool breeze ruffled the grass and swept her hair into her face.
They continued in silence. After some time, Michael took to pointing out trees, shrubs and flowers with his free hand, telling her their names and an interesting tit-bit of information about each. What this flower would smell like when she crushed it and rubbed it unto her skin. What time of the year this tree bore flowers and for how long. Where this long blade of grass got its name from. His voice had that casual, professional tone to it that she remembered from their work for Mr. Thackeray’s garden. As had happened then, she found herself listening to him with real interest, trying to save the information for future use, hearing the love he had for his job in every word he uttered.
He bent and plucked a dandelion, holding it in front of her face.
“Make a wish and blow on this. Folklore has it that such wishes come true when they are carried away on the wind and are heard by fairies.”
There was a faint grin on his lips, but his tone was more serious than the suggestion warranted it.
She had so many wishes crowding together in her head, jostling for a place at the front of the queue.
“Am I supposed to say it out loud or is it best kept secret?”
“Make your wish silently. I have always believed that thoughts are more potent in their magic than the spoken word.”
She blinked. What kind of man had beliefs like that? How much was there to him to discover and revel in? How much more to make him so appealing that she could never find it in herself to resist him?
Drawing close to his hand, she closed her eyes. Frowning with concentration, she tried and tried to decide which wish to make. Sucking in a long breath, she opened her eyes again and blew hard at the fluffy white dandelion. Its seeds flew apart and sailed away on the air, like so many tiny parachutes carrying her wish to God knew where.
Straightening up, she looked after them with an almost painful longing.
“Do you think I’ll be lucky? Will the fairies listen to me?” she asked, working hard at keeping her tone casual, and not succeeding.
He smiled his crooked, charming smile that got to her each and every time.
“I would if I were a fairy.”
She heard the flirting in it and it felt like a caress to her.
“Don’t you think it’s my part to be the fairy?” she joked.
His smile widened and his eyes darkened.
“You’d make a wonderful fairy. I can just about imagine you in gauzy, loose clothes and diaphanous wings with flowers in your hair and bare feet, dancing lithely through the fields and making lone wanderers fall head over heels in love with you.”
His voice was a sensual growl deep in his throat. His fingers brushed over the pulse hammering at her throat and strayed sideways, lifting a strand of her hair and twirling it round his index finger.
With her heart beating in her mouth, she made an effort at lightening the mood.
“If you had ever seen me dance, you wouldn’t describe me as a lithe and graceful fairy. I am a clumsy wooden donkey with two left feet.”
“Maybe you’ve had the wrong partner all along,” he said, his voice full of meaning.
“Maybe,” she conceded.
They looked into each other’s eyes for a long time, frozen in place, their minds full to the brim with possibilities and dreams and obstacles. It was Michael who snapped out of it first, though he let go of her hair with visible reluctance.
“Speaking about partnerships, I have some ideas how you could overcome your financial difficulties. I’m not sure at all that you’ll like them. Promise me you’ll hear me out and think before saying no.”
(To be continued tomorrow.)
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