Souvenirs (Chapter 4)
By David, United KingdomEditor's Note: Chapter 3 of this romantic novel appeared in last month's issue of Sweet Designs Magazine. The story continues next month.
People had told Lily that she could be scary when she was in a temper, and now she was angrier than she had ever been in her life. But Gunner didn't look scared. He looked determined and delighted.
She stopped just in front of him. "Get out of my way," she said, her voice quiet as an enraged person's often is.
He smiled. "Let's talk about this."
She tried to walk round him, and he moved to stop her. She was trying to half-dodge, half-wrestle her way past him. He wasn't deliberately taking liberties, but she was almost naked, he was bare from the waist up, and her body was impossibly sensitive to his hands. She was aware at once, for all his gentleness, that he possessed a strength far beyond anything she could muster. She might as well have tried to move the cliff at the end of the beach.
Streetwise, he stood side-on to her, forestalling the risk of a kick to his groin, but she realised that in any case she didn't actually want to hurt him. Once, at a nurses' party, a junior doctor had grabbed her from behind - and received an elbow in his guts for his trouble. Now, when her very liberty was at stake, why couldn't she fight like a wildcat? It wasn't because she feared retaliation - she knew intuitively that he would never hurt her -
And then suddenly as they struggled, his hands were on her waist and their faces were close, and Lily was aware of nothing but a chemistry that in all truth she had known from the instant she set eyes on him. Restraint turned to caress ... since Carl, no man had touched her, and she wanted so much.
At the last instant she yelled and stepped away from him, like someone awakening with a great effort from a hypnotic trance. They stared at each other, both amazed at how close she had come to kissing her freedom away.
He recovered first. "Nick, get their clothes and stuff. Put it all in the boat."
"Hey, what's going on?" Claire's words sounded ridiculous. Both she and Rachel were on their feet now.
Nick laughed, a little uneasily. "Hey, Gunner, you think you're back in the army with those three stripes on your sleeve, giving orders."
"Do it, Nick," Paul said.
"No, wait." Steve walked to the girls' clothing. Lily was trying to assess the situation as her nurse training had taught her. Was he coming to his senses, drawing back from this insanity?
Steve picked up a pair of jeans. "Rachel, are these yours?"
"Yes, thanks." She reached out for them, but he didn't hand them over. Instead he took a leg of the garment in each hand and tugged outwards, the muscles of his chest and arms bulging with the effort. Lily thought it was impossible for anyone to rip apart a pair of jeans with their bare hands, but there was a ripping sound and it was done. Steve threw the ruined halves down on the sand. Rachel protested, but he hadn't finished. He tore up her T-shirt as though it were made of tissue paper, then took her sandals - as well as Claire's, and Lily's shoes for good measure - and hurled them into the sea. He did it with all his force, and they seemed to fall an impossibly long way out. Lily saw the faint splashes.
"What are you doing?" Rachel said, and Lily thought how words were inadequate for what was happening. Steve walked up to Rachel, and with an extraordinary gentleness he took hold of her hand and slipped Peter's engagement ring from her finger. The gold band seemed to slip off easily. He turned to the sea and threw it in. It made no splash. Then he turned back to Rachel and lifted her across his shoulder in a fireman's lift, one of his hands resting on her bottom. He turned his head to kiss her on the hip. Lily would never forget her friend's face - the brown eyes open wide in an astonishment too great even for protest, the mouth forming a shocked O. Steve was six inches taller than Lily, and at least seventy pounds heavier, but she would have tried to help her colleague if Gunner had not been right there in her way again.
"We need to talk," Steve said. He began to carry Rachel up the beach, her body obviously having no more weight for him than the three girls' plans.
"And so do we," Paul said to Claire. Moments later, she too was being carried towards privacy, like a reluctant bride towards some threshold.
"Nick, how many more times do I have to say it?" Gunner's voice brooked no argument. "You and Andy, put the rest of their stuff in the boat."
This time they obeyed. And Lily's world was full of nothing except the man she held responsible for a triple abduction.
Her fury was a transforming thing. She was a naked goddess, her underwear irrelevant, flippant. She glared at him as if about to shoot bolts of blue lightning from her eyes, striking down the upstart mortal man who had dared to capture her. But there was no lightning, no divine retribution. Her eyes flashed an outraged demand to be left alone, to be fully clothed, to live her own life. But it was a demand that her own appearance made futile, and she knew it. Her clothes were gone, and with them her illusions. As she was, on that beach, no man who was not made of stone could live and breathe till he had carried her to his bed.
And she was all too aware that Gunner was flesh and blood and muscle, not stone ...