"Yes." He cut off her protest with a kiss. "You did." And it was amazing how much lighter he felt, how simply giving voice to his nightmares could erase at least a little of the junk that had been eroding his soul for so long.
And then she leaned in and kissed him softly, with a slow sweep of her tongue against his. This kiss was different from her other kisses. Even sweeter...and steeped in pure emotion.
He slid her down to her feet, and she stepped back from him, holding his gaze all the while, her eyes full of heat--and something he desperately wanted to believe was love--as she slipped his robe off her shoulders.
He drank in her naked body in the stream of moonlight. Her beautiful face suddenly looked different too--softer, more vulnerable.
She took the hem of his long-sleeved T-shirt into her hands, pulled it up his torso, off his arms, over his head. He forgot how to breathe, could only focus on the light scratch of her fingertips against his skin as her hands found the button of his jeans, deftly undoing it and then the zipper.
She was stripping off his clothes, but it felt like so much more. As though she was stripping away the layers, the defenses he'd built up around him so many years ago.
And then before he realized it, she was on her knees.
"You don't have to do this," he managed in a voice so low he wasn't sure she would hear him.
But she was already wrapping her hands around his erection, already sweeping her tongue over him, already taking him into her mouth. And he couldn't do anything but thread his hands into her hair, couldn't hold back a groan of deep pleasure.
He knew what she was doing--that she was trying to replace his nightmares, trying to destroy his demons with the feel of her hands, her mouth. If he were a better man, he would make her stop, tell her that he could deal just fine on his own. If he were a stronger man, he'd pull himself away from her sweet lips and take care of her pleasure first.
But Sarah had always been his weakness.
And then he lost the thread of his thoughts, everything except the "I love you" that came a heartbeat before he could no longer form words. The muscles in his arms and legs were still shaking when he reached down and pulled Sarah up from her knees, dragging her tightly against him.
Her lips were tilted up into a wicked little smile. "That was fun."
He couldn't believe he was grinning, couldn't believe he was actually feeling playful on a night when the nightmares had come. He picked her up and plopped her back on the bed, her laughter choking off as she realized what he was planning. "You didn't think you could get away with that only going one way, did you?"
Her eyes were big. Aroused. He didn't wait for her answer before putting each of her legs over his shoulders and dipping his head down between her thighs. Her breath came out in gasps as he took her where she'd just taken him. As he used his tongue, his fingers, the sheer force of his desire, the depth of his craving for her, to bring her up and up and up, and then higher still, until she was rocking into his mouth and crying out his name.
But it wasn't enough. He needed all of her. Beneath him. Wrapped all around him.
He knew she needed it too by the way she reached for him, her arms coming around his neck, her legs around his waist, her mouth pressed against his. And as their kiss began at the same moment that he slid into her as every touch, every kiss, every slow slide of his body against hers felt like pure, sweet love--Calvin told himself he was doing the right thing by having faith in her.
Sarah would keep his heart safe this time. She had to.
Because even though he'd somehow managed to live without her for ten long years, Calvin could no longer remember how he'd done it. He simply couldn't imagine any other world--couldn't even think of his life, his sister's life, her mother's life, her grandmother's life--without Sarah in it.
Somehow, some way, he had to believe they'd find a way to make it work.
The following day, Sarah was sitting behind the register, diligently plugging away on the Fair Isle sweater, when Dorothy walked into the store.
"How's Olive doing?"
"Lots better. The doctor said he expects her to make a full recovery."
"I'm glad to hear it," Dorothy said. "I'll give her a call when I get back home to let her know how well you're doing on the sweater." Dorothy picked up the sleeve Sarah was obsessively working on, running her fingers over the surprisingly even stitches. "My mother made me try Fair Isle when I was a little girl. In retrospect, I can see that I was far too young for the challenge."
Sarah felt strangely possessive about the pain-in-the-rear sweater. She wanted to take it out of Dorothy's hands when she didn't let go of it.
"You know, now that I think about it," Dorothy mused, "there's something to be said for a challenge, isn't there? Perhaps I should try again--and refuse to give up before I get it right this time."
It was the same thing Sarah had said to Jordan, reinforced from one generation to the next and then the next again. "It isn't nearly as difficult as it looks. Believe me, I panicked big-time when I first read the pattern."
"It always surprises me how much life is like knitting," Dorothy said. "Things always seem so much more complicated than they really are once you finally sit down to work them out."
After Dorothy bought a bagful of yarn, leaving Sarah to sit behind the register in the strangely silent and empty store, she couldn't help but feel unsettled by the woman's words. Two weeks ago, she'd been in an office building, wearing a suit, crunching numbers. Not helping women select knitting projects. Not ordering new yarn off the Internet because she couldn't resist the colors and recommendations from other knitters. Not obsessively working on her grandmother's Fair Isle sweater whenever she had a free minute to herself.
And definitely not reliving every moment in Calvin's arms.
Sarah had always known what success meant to her--a big, important job with a big, important company. But being with Calvin again, feeling like her heart was beating only for him every time he said I love you, had her rethinking her definition of success. Not only with regard to her career, but also to her entire life.
She didn't like even considering the idea that the way she'd lived her life for so long could possibly have been wrong. Because then it wouldn't just mean she'd been failing during the last couple of weeks.
It would mean she had always been failing.
The threads of thoughts inside her head all tangled up, Sarah bent her head over her grandmother's sweater. A welcome feeling of relief came by the end of the row. And by the time she'd done half a dozen, everything fell away but a picture inside her head of Calvin wearing this sweater.
"Did you guys used to date when you were kids?"
Sitting in the passenger seat of Calvin's truck as they headed off to the hospital that evening, Sarah jumped at Jordan's question.
Calvin's hands tightened slightly on the steering wheel, but he was smiling as he looked back at his sister in the rearview mirror. "We sure did."
"So why did you break up for so long?"
Sarah's heart all but stopped at the implication that they were no longer broken up, even though she'd had breakfast with his sister at their house twice now. Jordan wasn't so young that she didn't know what that meant.
Sarah's gut clenched tight. She was afraid enough of breaking Calvin's heart again when she left. It horrified her to think she might break Jordan's too.
"Well," Calvin said slowly, "sometimes it takes two people a long time to see things clearly."
Sarah's breath caught in her throat. What did he mean by that? Did he think she was going to stay? Heck, at this point, given the way her conflicted thoughts had been spinning around and around inside her head while knitting earlier that day, did she think there was a chance that she would stay?
She was still reeling from these big questions when Jordan said, "Everyone is wondering why you want to get rid of the carousel, Sarah."
So this was
what being kicked in the stomach felt like. Sarah tried to give a calm response that belied the way she was currently freaking out over pretty much everything. "I don't want to get rid of it."
Calvin's sister frowned in confusion. "But aren't you trying to build something over it?"
Even when Calvin had been yelling at her in the boathouse, even when that guy had cornered her after her father's commemoration, Sarah hadn't felt this bad about the condos. As though she were dirt on the bottom of a boot for even suggesting bringing these buildings to Summer Lake.
Clearly, guilt was much more effective when it was created completely unintentionally.
"I thought it was just some old eyesore that no one cared about anymore," Sarah finally admitted.
"You're kidding, right?" Jordan couldn't seem to wrap her head around Sarah's statement.
"Unfortunately, I'm not. When I decided on the building site, I honestly didn't realize how important the carousel was to people."
"Me and my friends love it," Jordan told her. "That was always our special rainy day place when I was little."
Calvin had remained silent throughout their exchange. Now his lips moved up in a smile at the memory as he said, "Rainy days with a four-year-old." He mock-shuddered. "That carousel was a lifesaver."
"We always stayed dry on the merry-go-round because of the awning," Jordan explained to Sarah. "We would pretend we were in the circus, that we were stunt riders on the horses." Then she said, "Hey, Calvin, if Sarah gets rid of the merry-go-round, can we put it in our backyard?"