The flashing lights in front of him were all too familiar now. Tyler had seen this scene at least a few hundred times since the day his life had changed. All around him people were gathering to watch as the police and ambulance workers did their work.
"Sir, we're going to bring you to the hospital. We need to take some x-rays of your leg. Is that okay with you?" an ambulance worker asked, making Tyler aware of the fact that he was already up to the part in his dream where he had been placed on a stretcher.
"Jack?" he said, although his throat was very dry and it pained him to say even that one word.
The rescue worker turned around and then faced Tyler with a grim expression on his face. "We're going to get the two of you to the hospital right away."
The sudden jolt from the stretcher being rolled into the ambulance caused pain to shoot up Tyler's leg. The pain was so bad his head began to swim and his vision became blurry. Just before Tyler lost consciousness, he saw Jack's motionless body being wheeled into a separate ambulance.
"NO!!!" The word ripped out of Tyler's mouth, taking with it all the pain he felt. Breathing heavily, Tyler moved to roll over, but instead found himself falling through air.
A slew of curses came out of his mouth, especially since his right knee had banged into the coffee table. Gritting his teeth against the pain, Tyler tried to lift himself onto the couch again, but was unable to do so. Knowing that it would be a few minutes before his knee would be able to support his weight again, Tyler resigned himself to sitting on the floor for the next few minutes.
"Oh, thank God it's just you."
Tyler turned around to find a very barely clad Ms. Nalak standing behind him. The sight of her wearing only very short white shorts and a pink, silk spaghetti strap top made his blood boil. The fact that she also had just rolled out of bed and her hair was wildly falling down her back only added to the picture of her before him. The thought of how much he would love to peel her clothes from her body had just entered his mind when he noticed the wooden baseball bat she was clinging to her chest.
"Going to play a little baseball?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.
Ms. Nalak looked down at the baseball bat in her arms and then quickly moved to hide it behind her back. "I had forgotten you were here, and when I had heard a loud noise out here I had thought there was a robber in my house," she said sheepishly.
"And, what, you planned on playing a friendly game of baseball with the intruder?" Ms. Nalak gave him a dirty look, and Tyler was no longer able to hold in his laughter.
"You know very well what I planned on doing with this bat, so there is no reason for you to be laughing."
"I do know what you were planning on doing," Tyler laughed. "And the idea that you thought you would be able to beat up a burglar is just ridiculous." Tyler threw his head back and laughed even harder as he tried to imagine tiny Ms. Nalak attacking a large intruder. He laughed so hard and so loud that he did not hear Ms. Nalak moving, so he jumped when he heard her voice from right behind him.
"Would you like me to demonstrate on you what I had planned to do to the intruder??"
Tyler looked up into her narrowed blue eyes and saw a determination in them that had not been there when they were in high school. Looking into her eyes, he could see that she was a very strong woman and not someone to be messed with. He also noticed that with the strength came a brick wall that she had built around herself. No one would be able to know what she was thinking just by looking into her eyes. If eyes were windows to the soul, as everyone said, then these windows had been boarded up.
"I'm sorry," he said quickly, mainly because he did not know what else to say to her.
Ms. Nalak stared at him for a few moments before slowly lowering the bat. "What are you doing on the floor?" Ms. Nalak asked with a touch of ice in her voice.
Having previously forgotten what had caused him to fall off the couch, the contents of his dream came crashing back into his mind. Trying to block out the haunting images, Tyler said, "I fell off the couch when I tried to roll over." With a shrug, he added, "I guess I'm a little too used to the size of my bed."
Ms. Nalak rolled her eyes. "I figured you fell off the couch, but why are you still on the floor?"
"Oh," Tyler said, feeling slightly annoyed that she seemed to be talking to him as though she were better than him. "I have a bad knee and, of course, I hit it on the coffee table when I fell. It's going to take a few minutes until I can put enough weight on my knee to stand up."
Ms. Nalak shifted uncomfortably on her feet, which Tyler noticed were wonderfully bare. "Is there anything I can do to help you? You need ice or anything?"
Tyler smiled gratefully. "If you could maybe just help pull me up off the floor so that I can sit on the couch, that would be a big help." She moved forward and held out her hands for him to grab onto. "If I'm too heavy just let me know and I'll just stay on the floor until I'm able to get up on my own."
Rolling her eyes yet again, Ms. Nalak commented, "You make me sound as if I'm some weak little girl. Trust me, I'm not."
The way she said it made Tyler realize again that without a doubt she really was a strong woman. Nodding his head, he grabbed onto her hands and, with all the strength that she had claimed she had, she pulled him up and helped him onto the couch.
"I'll go make us some coffee," she said with a small smile. Turning around on the couch so that he could see into the kitchen, Tyler watched the woman working in the kitchen and wondered what was behind her stone wall exterior. She was strong, he didn't doubt that, but he also knew that she used that strength to keep people from really getting to know her. He wondered if anyone knew the real Kiara Nalak. Did anyone know Ky?
"I wasn't sure if you still had your coffee black, so I brought some milk and sugar just in case," she said, returning with a tray in her hands.
"I still have it black," Tyler replied, an odd feeling coming over him at the idea that she still remembered something as small as that about him. She reached out to hand him his mug and their fingers brushed slightly as he grabbed onto it. Ms. Nalak snatched her hand back so quickly that she accidentally knocked the mug out of his hand, spilling it all over Tyler.
Jumping off of the couch, she ran towards the kitchen while rushing a million and one apologies out of her mouth. She returned with a wet towel in her hand, still apologizing, and with a very becoming blush staining her cheeks. "I am so sorry," she said for the millionth time as she began to wipe down his shirt with the towel. "I don't know what made me jump like that." Her face became even redder when she said this, informing Tyler that she knew perfectly well what had made her jump back.
"It's no big deal," he assured her. "No serious damage was done. Nothing a washing machine can't fix."
"Let me wash your shirt for you so that the stain doesn't set," she offered. Tyler was about to turn the offer down until she added, "You would have to stay here a little longer, but at least you would have a clean shirt to go home in."
Finding the idea of staying with her for a little bit longer appealing, he said teasingly, "I think I can endure being in your presence for a little bit longer."
"What a warrior," she said sarcastically. Tyler laughed as he pulled his shirt over his head and held it out for Ms. Nalak to grab. When she didn't take it from his hand right away, he stopped laughing and looked at her. His blood began to boil as he realized that Ms. Nalak was staring very appreciatively at his well toned torso. He didn't dare move a single muscle as her eyes took in every inch of his body, even though a certain part of his body was screaming out to pick her up, lay her down on her bed, and give her pleasures she had never known existed. Her gaze traveled up his torso and finally onto his face. When their gazes locked, a shock of pleasure ran through his entire body as he realized that she wanted him just as much as he did at that moment.
"Kiara," he said, slightly surprised at how husky his voice was. When he said her name, her eyes dropped to his lips and she licked her lips. The sight of her tongue darting out so quickly undid him and before he knew what he was doing, he had grabbed onto her and pulled her into his lap. With a sound that could only be described as primitive, his lips claimed hers hungrily. His tongue quickly entered her mouth and explored the soft flesh inside. When he felt Kiara relax in his lap and press her body into his, he felt as if Christmas had come early for him. Breaking his lips away from hers, he began to trail kisses down her neck as he laid her down on the couch.
"Oh, Ty," she moaned, adding more fuel to the fire already burning inside of him. He returned his lips to hers while his hands began to work their way up under her shirt. It thrilled him to feel goose bumps form on any area of her skin his hands touched. His hands were just below her breasts when he heard an infant's cry from behind him. Both he and Kiara froze. Seconds later, shaking her head as if to clear it, Kiara pushed him away and ran to Ashley's crib.
Tyler leaned his head back on the couch and closed his eyes, trying to steady his breathing. He had no clue what had just happened. He had completely lost control over himself. It was as if part of him had needed to touch her. He had felt that not touching her was like not breathing. He had never felt that way before and he didn't like it one bit. He had always been in control, and he believed that was how it should be.
Hoping to see that he was not the only one unnerved by what had just occurred, Tyler looked over at Ashley's crib. Kiara's back was towards him, so he could not see her facial expression, but he did get a wonderful view of her delectable derrière that had fit perfectly in his lap. Feeling the desire build up in him once again, he tried to change the path of his thoughts by asking how the baby was.
"Fine," was the brisk response he received. "She probably wants a bottle, though. So, if you want to give me your shirt, Mr. Stearic, I will throw it in the wash before I give her a bottle."
All the desire in Tyler died out when he heard her once again refer to him as "Mr. Stearic." She still had not turned around to face him, but he knew that even if he was looking at her face, he would not be able to read her expression. She had retreated back into her safe haven as "Ms. Nalak."
"If you have other things to do, I'll just leave. My shirt isn't that bad," he offered, out of politeness.
"No, it's no problem," she responded, although he knew she had just said it to be polite also. "If you could just hold Ashley while I start the laundry."
Sighing, he took Ashley into his arms while she took the shirt from his hand. Without saying another word, she turned around and walked into a small room, which he assumed was the laundry room.
"Oh, Ms. Nalak, you can run, but you can't hide."
"What is wrong with me?" Kiara whispered to herself as she entered the laundry room. With shaking hands, she poured out the amount of laundry detergent she would need and tried, unsuccessfully, to forget what had just taken place on her couch.
She didn't even know how it had happened. One minute she had just been talking to him as she would talk to anyone else she knew and the next she was in his lap wishing she hadn't only spilled the coffee on his shirt. It all had happened so fast, but she had enjoyed every second of it. And what was more, she wanted to do it all over again, but only this time, they wouldn't stop.
Tyler—no, Mr. Stearic, she corrected herself—was a beautiful man. That was the only word she could think of to describe him. In high school, he had always been in good shape, but never that good. His chest and abdomen looked just like the sculptures of the ancient Greek gods. They were just perfect. When he had taken off his shirt, a fire had erupted in her that had been uncontrollable. She still now felt the desire burning in her. Kiara had never felt such strong desire for anyone in her life.
Yes, you did.
Kiara wished she could quiet that voice in her head, but it would be fruitless. She knew she was lying to herself when she said she had never desired anyone so much before. She just hated to admit to the fact that the last time she had wanted someone so much it had been about ten years earlier, but with the same man.
Sure, she had been with other men since high school. She had most definitely not lived the life of a nun these past ten years. Kiara had spent some very enjoyable nights with these men, and, when the morning came, she would sometimes look forward to spending a few more nights with the man she had just been with. Her nights were most certainly pleasurable, but none of those men had ever made her tremble by merely touching her as Ty—Mr. Stearic!—had. She had wanted him to take her on that couch just as much as, if not more than, she had in high school.
Some things just didn't change.
With that infuriating thought fresh in her mind, Kiara took a deep breath and prepared to make it clear to Mr. Stearic that what had just happened would not happen again. She was ready to tell him in no uncertain terms that if he tried to do anything like that to her again, contract or no contract, she would no longer be employing him.
The wind blew out of her sails the second she stepped back into the living room.
Mr. Stearic, a large and muscular man, was cradling Ashley in his arms and singing to her. Never in her wildest dreams had Kiara expected to see this when she returned to Mr. Stearic. How could she argue with a man when he was singing to a baby? It just seemed wrong.
Mr. Stearic had not noticed her yet, so Kiara took the opportunity to do some quiet observing. It still amazed her how well Mr. Stearic handled Ashley. He was such a large man that she would have expected him to feel awkward holding such a tiny baby. Most men whom were not fathers would most likely have not known what to do with a crying baby, but Mr. Stearic did not have that problem. Ashley looked so small compared to him, and yet, Kiara knew that there was no way Mr. Stearic would hurt her. Ashley apparently knew she was safe because she had stopped crying.
"You're going to be a good father one day," Kiara said to announce her reentry into the living room. "You really do have a talent when it comes to children."
Mr. Stearic shrugged off the compliment. "The only reason she stopped crying is because she's trying to figure out whose ugly mug she's looking at."
"Oh please. I'm sure even a girl that young knows when she's looking at a gorgeous man." Even as the words were coming out of her mouth, her mind had been screaming at her to be quiet. Steeling herself for a horribly sarcastic comment from Mr. Stearic, Kiara leaned down to take Ashley from his arms.
Not sure if he was being serious or just jesting, Kiara, still leaning down over him, raised her eyes to meet his. She was so shocked by what she saw that she nearly gasped. Mr. Stearic was looking at her so intensely that it shook her to the core. His gaze was swallowing him up, and she did not want it to stop. She wanted to be able to stare into his eyes for all eternity. She wanted to examine every single color in his eyes. Surely, she thought, it was impossible for a man's eyes to be so beautiful. She had always thought that his eyes were a warm brown, but apparently, she had been wrong. There were flecks of gold mixed in, and she had the strangest urge to count every single fleck of gold. It could take a lifetime, but the idea of spending a lifetime staring into those eyes made her feel simply elated.
Realizing how ridiculous she must look to be leaning over him for so long, Kiara adjusted Ashley in her arms and stood up straight. As she walked into the kitchen to prepare a bottle for Ashley, she heard Mr. Stearic clear his throat before saying, "I want you."
Kiara had to grab on to the counter top with one hand to keep herself from collapsing to the floor. Desire had flooded her entire body when she heard those words. Images of their bodies entwined with each other filled her mind. How she longed to feel his bare flesh press upon her own! She wanted to run her hands through his hair to see if it still felt as good to do so as it had in high school. She wanted him to touch her and pleasure her in every single way possible. She wanted… she wanted… him.
"Do you know what time would be good for you?"
Kiara's brow furrowed. He wanted to schedule a time to do that? She knew she had been very formal with him, but to actually schedule out a time for something like this just killed all of her desire. It seemed too mechanical.
Mr. Stearic looked at her with an expression on his face that made her feel very unintelligent. "I wanted to know what time would be good for you to stop by my office."
"Your office?" Kiara was beginning to feel very degraded. To just expect her to be the type of woman to engage in a quick romp at his office was demeaning. She had more respect for herself than that.
Mr. Stearic threw his hands up in the air. "Did you listen to anything I had said a few minutes ago?? I had said that I want you to stop by my office tomorrow so that we can go over some of the specifics for the advertising campaign."
Kiara wished the floor would just open up and suck her in. She obviously had not listened to what Mr. Stearic had said because then she would have known that he was talking about her company, and not what she had thought—and wanted. She thanked the Lord that Mr. Stearic could not read minds because the only thing keeping her from running out of the room in embarrassment was that she knew Mr. Stearic had no idea what she had been thinking.
"Oh, sorry. I was just thinking about something I have to do today," Kiara lied to explain her absentmindedness. "I guess I could stop by at 1:30 tomorrow, if that is good for you."
Mr. Stearic nodded his assent before looking down at his wristwatch. "I didn't realize we had slept so late," he said with a grimace. "Hell, I hadn't thought that I was going to be sleeping over when I came here yesterday."
"I probably should have woken you up when I came home last night, but you looked so peaceful that it seemed wrong to do so," Kiara explained as she sat down in a chair while feeding Ashley. "Did you have some place to be today?"
"Yeah, but I will just have to be a little late I guess," Mr. Stearic said with a shrug. "I can't exactly leave here without a shirt." Kiara was about to apologize again for spilling the coffee on him, when she was cut off by Mr. Stearic asking her how her date was.
The fact that Kiara had completely forgotten she had gone on a date last night with Brandon startled her. How could she just forget about it? Quite easily when there is perfection sitting on your couch, a little voice said in her mind. Shaking it off, Kiara said, "It was nice. Brandon is a really great guy."
"Are you going to go out with him again?" Mr. Stearic asked, keeping his eyes lowered.
"I think so. I would definitely like to get to know Brandon better. He and I have a lot in common. He's got a great personality and isn't bad on the eyes at all."
Standing up abruptly, Mr. Stearic declared, "You know what, I think I'm going to get going. I'll just keep my jacket closed when I'm outside and no one will even know that I don't have a shirt on. Besides, this is New York' nothing would shock these people." He said all of this so fast that the words were not registering with Kiara. She watched as he quickly grabbed his jacket and walked towards the door before she could get a single word out. "I'll see you tomorrow, Ms. Nalak." And without another word, he was gone.
Confused, but slightly glad that he was gone because she once again felt in control of herself, Kiara leaned her head back on the chair and wondered how on earth she was going to keep herself from throwing herself at him.
A/N – Ok, so it has been a really long time and I'm not even sure anyone is going to read this. For those who do, I hope you like it. Please review!