2nd Best Ch. 04

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Babes

She honestly could not breathe this time. Her hand flew to her throat as she felt herself strangling on more of those damned tears. Panic rose in her mind as she struggled to force oxygen past the lump in her throat. Was this how Geoffrey had felt in those final moments? Her vision blurred even more. Was it from tears or the lack of oxygen?

What did it matter? Since the night that doctor walked through those A&E doors, she had heard and said those exact words hundreds if not thousands of times. Why then did they sound so final when this woman, this kind stranger, said them? And why, oh, why did it have to be in front of him? Jan’s presence loomed over it all.

She struggled to stand, to flee the room. But the room swam around her. She felt his hand on her elbow again and battled down the conflicting desires to push his hand away and flee. Or to fling herself into his arms and once more beg and plead for the oblivion of pain and orgasm that he had always brought her so easily. Especially in the most trying of circumstances.

And nothing had ever been more trying than these past few months, not even that other when she would have sworn that all hope was crushed. But thanks to Jan and the release of subspace that he gave her, she had risen from those ashes like a Phoenix. She had put one foot in front of the other. She had survived one day at a time.

Until she found him. Met Geoffrey and her life became so much more than just settling for ‘friends with benefits,’ second best, and surviving. And for a time, it had all been so perfect.

But that was all gone. It had been for so long that she feared she was forgetting what his arms felt like when he cwtched her. What his lips tasted like. His smell. Hell, if not for the hundreds of photos she had, she feared that she would forget his face. Perhaps believe that it had been nothing but a dream ÔÇö a brief interlude between nightmares.

She was not sure if he guided her or if she merely dropped into the chair. She felt the glass once more pressed into her trembling hand, lifted to her lips. “Here, drink,” that voice of command had once brought her comfort like no other.

And some part of her begged for her to give in, just give in and allow this man to bring her respite again as he once had. But she could not. Geoffrey had spoiled her for all others. She knew, understood now the difference between what was real, deep, and abiding and what was only fleeting, temporal, and meaningless. And that could never fill the hole in her soul left by true love.

The water hit her parched throat. It soothed it, making it easier once more for her breathe. “Thank you.” She sighed canl─▒ bahis as she looked up at Maggie, “It was nice meeting you, but I really should go.”

“No,” his deep, slightly accented voice held that same command she had once found so easy to obey.

“What, Jan, is trying to say, dearie, is that hiding away in your cabin won’t make the hurt any less. I know,” Maggie smiled as she squeezed her hand.

It was not that either his command or Maggie’s plea swayed her but rather that Heather doubted if her legs could hold her up long enough to make that journey back to the cabin.

She was lucky as their food began to arrive then. The bisque soup starter was far posher than she was used to. Geoffrey might have been a multi-millionaire, but his taste ran to the plebian. Her tuna pasta had always appealed more to the man than any fancy restaurant. Then again, she knew that this menu was not what Jan was used to either. Or what he had once been accustomed to anyway.

She was relieved that Maggie, sensing her fragile state of mind, seemed to have distracted Jan into conversation. It appeared the woman had not been exaggerating; she was such a regular on these things that she seemed to know as many people as he did as the Captain. They chatted at length about the comings and goings of various people.

The woman, on the other side of Heather, had tried to engage her in conversation as well. But she was good enough at reading people to shut that down. It was too easy, really. When the woman complimented her dress, Heather told her that she had bought it in a charity shop. That neatly ended any further intrusions from that sector.

Had she seen a smile on Jan’s lips when he overheard that comment, or was it for whatever latest gossip that Maggie was sharing? Not that it mattered to her either way.

Choosing the entre was a bit of a challenge. One of those moments when her sub brain would have deferred Geoffrey. It was not that she was too stupid or weak to decide between salmon and steak. She was more than capable as the past few months managing Geoffrey’s estate had shown.

But sometimes, especially moments like this when she was hurt or confused or just plain tired, it had been so incredibly beautiful to say ‘You decide,’ and know that you could truly trust the person making that decision for you. It was just one of the million things she missed about Geoffrey.

She picked up her glass of water, taking another sip before her throat closed, once more, making breathing a chore. She noticed that the menu shook in her other hand and laid it back on the table before anyone else noticed. Maybe she should go bahis siteleri back to her cabin now?

***

Jan knew he was stumbling, failing to do his job. Entertaining the guests, making them feel special, was as crucial to his career as the oversight of the ship now. And he was not on his game. He could not remember half of what was said, who had said what, or even their names without looking at the place cards. It was not like him. Thankfully, Maggie was picking up the slack, keeping the conversation going with the other guests around the table.

No, she had his full attention. His mind was still spinning with the revelations of this night. Obviously, she had loved the man every bit as much as that email had said. The intensity of her grief was real and almost overwhelming.

He remembered another time when this incredibly strong woman had been shaken to the core like this. He remembered, too, that back then, she had come to him for help. She had sought him out to give her the release she needed. She had said that she trusted him, at least then. So, why had she not come to him this time?

The way that she could not hold the menu without it shaking, the tears that never completely went away, Helvetia, there were a couple of times that he had almost wanted to command her simply to breathe. No, this was worse, worse even than that other time. So, what had he done to lose that trust? And he must have. Otherwise, she would have come to him again, right?

He watched as she brought that glass to her lips. He remembered other things that those lips had caressed. He shifted on his chair, trying to find a more comfortable position. His cock had not gone down since he saw her across the room. It had been half-hard since the moment he saw her board earlier.

But, the question was, ‘What now?’ The husband that had stolen her from him before he could untangle his conflicted emotions last time was gone. There was not a single reason they could not resume their ‘friendship.’

If she could manage a ten-day cruise alone, perhaps her daughter was no longer the impediment that she had once been? Was there the possibility of another chance with her?

Not that he deserved one, he knew that. But he knew that if he were that blessed, he would take it. That was a long way, though, from this moment.

He could sense it. Her sub brain was spiraling down the drain as she had once described it to him before begging him to take charge, give her pain, and push the reset button as she called it. Would she allow that once more? If nothing else, it was the least he owed this woman whom he had never forgotten.

“The steak bahis ┼čirketleri is excellent, but I recommend the salmon. It is freshly caught in the Scottish streams, and our chef is a master with the herbs,” his words were common enough.

He had said them to hundreds of other passengers in the past couple of years. But his tone of voice was not. That was pure Dom. Her Dom – or he once had been, all too briefly.

She hesitated for a moment. What he would give to know her thoughts. Then she inhaled deeply. She laid the menu on the table and smiled at the waiter, “Salmon, please.”

It should not matter so much; something so simple should not matter. But her submission in such a little caused hope to flare to life in his mind and heart.

He wanted to stand up, excuse them both, and take her back to his cabin. Give her what she needed to reset that incredible brain of hers. This woman was after all the smartest and strongest he had ever been with. Perhaps that too was what made her so unforgettable.

But not only did he have a job to do, he knew that he could not push her too far too soon. So, he gave her some space, focusing his attention on the couple to her other side. They were too arrogant for his taste, but he did his job. He had learned to deal with people of all sorts over the past two years, especially.

Which was why he always valued his time alone on the island. It was finished now. Or at least, he had completed the work he had planned for it. As much as his introvert valued the refuge, it just did not feel like the home he had hoped to build. It was lonely and barren without someone to share it. There had been a few women over the years that would have been happy to take that job, but the only one he had ever felt fit the role he had let slip through his fingers, thrice.

Was he going to make that mistake again? He certainly hoped not. How many times over the past dozen years had he lain awake in his bunk on the ship or his bed on the island and thought of all the things he should have done or said to this woman? Now that he had one more chance, and he knew that this was his last, there would be no more. Now that Fate had given him what he had wanted most, he had to take that opportunity.

But he also had to tread very carefully. She was so incredibly fragile. He could feel that somewhere deep inside, and it called to the Dom in him to protect and cherish this sacred of trusts. If she would let him. That was the question.

“Bon appetit,” he nodded to the table with far more grace than he felt as the food arrived and was served. He picked up his fork and brought a bite to his lips. He knew that his chef was one of the best, but the flavors did not register this night. What he wanted to eat sat next to him. He could almost taste her. A delicacy that had been missing for much too long, one he craved to savor again.

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