Callan grimaced. “Kane is different, Sherra. You can’t see him as you do me, or one of the others. In many ways, his life has been just as hard, the inner scars as deep as the outer. Perhaps you should ask him.”
“He wouldn’t tell her,” Merinus said at that point, leaning back in her chair and laying her hands on her distended abdomen.
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Sherra frowned over at her. “Why not?”
“Because you should know. You know him better than you think you do, Sherra. You’re just trying to deny that you don’t.” Merinus shrugged as her hands smoothed over the light blue cotton smock she wore. “Besides, if he thought you didn’t know what the problem was, then he wouldn’t have hesitated to tell you.”
“So I’m supposed to read his mind now?” Sherra growled. “The man is the most exasperating, confusing male I have ever met in my life, Merinus. How am I supposed to know what goes on in his brain?”
He was going to drive her insane.
“Kane’s brain isn’t what you should be worrying about,” Merinus assured her. “From the way you said he was acting, you’ve hurt him, Sherra. Somehow, you’ve hurt him deeply.”
Emotion glittered in the other woman’s eyes, a sheen of tears that caused Sherra’s heart to clench. In all their conversations about Kane, Merinus had never shed tears. Why would she now?
“How could I have hurt him?” She spread her hands wide in confusion. “I didn’t do anything, Merinus.”
Merinus’ look was hard, cold. “Evidently you did do something. You defeated Kane. And until now, I could have sworn no one could.” With the help of her mate she rose to her feet, her gaze never leaving Sherra’s. “If I lose my brother because you’re too damned stubborn to admit the truth to yourself, then I’ll never forgive you. Remember that one, sister-in-law.”
She leaned down and kissed Callan lingeringly. “Come to bed soon. I miss you when you’re not there.”
He touched her face. It was a curiously gentle gesture, his fingertips sliding over her cheek as though he enjoyed the touch of her skin.
“Love you, babe,” he whispered.
“Love you back.” Merinus’ fingers trailed over his shoulder as she waddled past him and headed for the elevator in the hall outside the kitchen.
“You seem confused, Sherra,” Callan grunted as he rose from the table, collecting Merinus’ saucer and glass and taking them to the sink.
Sherra shrugged. Kane was often reaching out to touch her as Merinus had Callan. Light, gentle caresses. An affirmation that he was truly with her.
His gaze filled with wonder as his fingertips reached for her cheek. She flinched at the memory just as she flinched when he tried to touch her like that. Not because she didn’t want him to, because each time he did, something softened inside her. Something that made her hungrier, made her need him more.
“How do you know it’s love and not just chemistry?” she whispered as she rubbed her arms, watching her brother as he rinsed his wife’s glass and saucer and put them in the dishwasher. “It could just be the heat, Callan,” she told him desperately. “What happens when it fades?”
“The heat goes away, Sherra, you know that,” he berated her. “Your body is trying to tell you what your heart and mind have already accepted. You’re just too stubborn to listen to it.”
She almost gaped at him. “How can you say that? Callan, this isn’t stubbornness.” She tried to hide the pain his words caused—even more, she tried to hide from the sense of truth that exploded in her chest. He leaned against the counter, crossing his arms over his chest. “He’s a hard man. A prick if one was ever born. But he’s a good man, Sherra. And despite his sarcasm and mockery, he shows the people he considers his how much he cares in the only way he knows how. Telling yourself you don’t love him won’t help. I know you do. I’ve known it since I first saw the two of you together. Maybe you should accept it now.”
It was disconcerting, realizing the battle she had been waging had been a lie. As Sherra stood on her balcony, staring into the darkness, she admitted the truth to herself. She had been concerned about the effects of the Mating Heat on Kane, that hadn’t been so much a lie as it had been a cover. If she focused on that, then she didn’t have to look at herself or her own fears. Loving him again wasn’t the problem. She had always loved him. From the moment she first saw him at the Labs, her heart had belonged to him. It was admitting that love and allowing the defenses which had protected her over the years, to disintegrate. Defenses that had kept her strong, that had kept her from losing her mind during those dark, pain-hazed days before Callan had effected their escape. She had convinced herself she didn’t love, that she hated. When she could no longer hate, she had held onto the belief that she didn’t love. But she did. Until she felt as though she would shatter from the inside out, she loved Kane Tyler. And that was a weakness. The worst weakness of all.
She had nearly died the first time she lost him. During those first days, when Dayan had convinced her that Kane had walked away, that he was never coming back, she had wanted to die. Until she realized she carried his child. The thought of that baby had strengthened her, had brought her back from a brink that terrified her now. It had allowed her time to convince herself she hated him, that she didn’t need him. When she lost the baby, that hatred had fortified her. Had helped her survive. She would live simply because he hadn’t given a damn one way or the other if she did. Now what? The lies she had used to protect herself were gone. There was only Kane now. And whatever love he had for her, she was destroying with her own stubbornness. A low, agonized growl left her throat as she turned from the balcony and paced the room. She ached for him. Ached until she thought her soul would shatter from the need, and yet, she couldn’t force herself to go to him, couldn’t give him whatever words he seemed to need. There was no relief. No Kane. She was confined to the house for whatever reasons, not that she believed the excuses he made for even a moment. There were plenty of guards within the house if another attack occurred. He wanted her close, wanted to protect her, shelter her. Smother her. She could feel her chest tightening with the knowledge. He wanted to touch her, not just for sex, but because he needed that touch. And she withheld every desire she had to do the same. Why? Why was she so stubborn, so damned dead set against the intimacies he wanted? That she knew she wanted herself.