Revealing Rain (682 Words)
“Well isn’t that something,” he said. “That’s something.”
The water was running on his cheek. His hair was plastered in heavy sodden locks over his brow despite his effort to smooth it, so black, so vivid against his feverish color, she couldn’t help it. She leaned to him and stumbled.
He started, held her. His eyes fell to hers. For a startling instant she thought he knew her in spite of her disguise, because sharpness and reserve seemed to ice his childlike wonder. But then wonder, reserve, gave to a keener awareness. She raised her hands and he bowed his head. Their lips touched. They flinched. Her fingers curled in his dripping hair and brought his wet white mouth more surely to hers.
His arms went round her, pulled her to his waist. He kissed her warmly until the color in his cheek rose to hers. He trembled; she understood his chill and caught it. She understood, too, the tense angle of his body, distancing himself or pleading for distance as his embrace loosened. She kissed him again and he thrilled in her arms. There was sudden doubt in his wide eyes, fear, and need.
It was his doubt, his fear that made her pause. She wanted him. But she knew him too well. She could not bear to hurt him.
Anne dropped her hands to his chest. She stared at her hands, curled tightly in his jacket. That helped. It helped her breathe to see and feel his own breathing. She strengthened herself for his sake, for hers, and tried to step back. But in that instant he kept her, his cheek briefly resting on hers. It was strange to feel him so tender.
“Ethan,” she whispered. Her fingers twined behind his neck. “Let me go.”
He lifted his head. His eyes were curiously washed, his lips pressed.
“Don’t,” he said. His voice broke.
The warm, exhausting rain falling fast and fierce. Anne was afraid, and her own throat was tight.
“Ethan,” she said—“Ethan, what is it? What’s the matter?”
He shook his head.
“Please don’t love me.”
She moistened her lips.
“Why? Why not?”
He turned to her violently. “Why should you love me?” he said. “Why would you love a whore?”
She went pale. “You’re not—.”
“I married. I married for money. Now she is dead and I am courting, for money. How am I not a whore?”
Anne put her fingers over his mouth. “God help you, Ethan,” she said. “You are beautiful. Why can you not see it? If you won’t see it, if you can’t, let me see it for you. You can’t stop me loving you. You don’t have the right. You don’t have to love me, but I—I…” She hesitated.
His eyes were full. Again he shook his head, and that slight, almost childish motion was enough.
“I like you,” she said. “I love you. I love you, Ethan Dyle. I love you. Why, why do you make me love you?”
His mouth quivered. “I don’t want you to love me.”
“How on earth are you going to stop me?”
He laughed, a frail, breathless laugh.
Her fingers tightened. “Are you brave enough to love me?”
He let her go. The rain fascinated him. “I wish I were brave.”
They stood together. Anne leaned a little against him, enough for a hint of warmth. She did not dare reach for him again, and he was composed, his heart beating at her back. When the rain slowed he followed her to the hospice and left her at the gate. She tried to touch his hand but he raised it to his forehead.
“Ms. Belle,” he said.
The formality surprised her. “Mr. Dyle.”
“Will I see you tomorrow?”
“If you want to.”
“I do want to.” He hesitated. He took her hand in his and pressed it convulsively. “I need to.”
She smiled. “Then you will.”