A hand slid across his bare chest, waking Nick and bringing a smile. He could smell the woman who had climbed into bed with him. He felt her slowly curve her body to fit next to his before she laid her head on his shoulder. He inhaled a deep breath of her scent. He had missed her while he was kidnapped, but it wasn’t until now that he realized how much. Nick pulled his arm around her naked body, holding her close to him.
“Hi,” Nick drowsily whispered to her.
He felt her run a hand down his arm to his wrist and she slid her wrist between his fingers. He’d never told her that he liked how the inside of a woman’s wrist felt, but somehow she’d figured that out. She seemed to know when he had spent too many hours with the dead, when he was beaten down by the wickedness of humanity, that feeling her strong, beating pulse under his fingers soothed him. The silky skin against his fingertips reminded him there was still good things to fight for, and to live for.
She quietly said, “You’re angry.”
He barely shook his head. “I’m not angry.”
He opened his eyes. The bedroom was darkened with aluminum foil on the windows, but slivers of light shone through the edges that needed to be taped down again. It dimly lit the bedroom in the late Nevada afternoon so he could look into Raylene’s eyes. She didn’t look away from him. Nick knew that he was one of two people who she would look directly at and that trust spoke volumes of how much she loved him. (Or was it three? He wondered if she also looked Gabrielle in the eye. A fleeting twinge of jealousy followed that thought.)
“I am not angry, baby.”
“You were safe?”
He nodded. “Gabrielle took care of me.”
Raylene pushed her face against his neck.
“I missed you,” he told her, “I was so worried about you.”
“Yes.” Her way of saying, ‘me too.’
Nick closed his eyes, letting sleep start to come back.
“If there’s ever a next time, could we talk about it first?” Nick asked her.
“Tried. You didn’t listen.”
He chuckled. “You tried?”
“You didn’t try.”
Nick reached across and found the spot that she was the most ticklish. “You call that trying? Weak. Weak sauce.”
She laughed, pushing his hand away.
“I love you,” he told her.
“Yes,” she repeated.
Nick wrapped both arms around her, holding her tightly.
“Be here when I wake up,” Nick begged, “please.”
“Yes,” she said.
He rested his cheek on her shoulder. She stroked her fingers through his hair. Nick smiled, realizing she must have told Gabrielle this put him to sleep every time. Raylene may not be able to show love like other girlfriends had, but that was what attracted him to her. With Raylene, his life was never boring and he met every challenge knowing that her devotion was unwavering.
“Thank you,” Nick drowsily told her, “for protecting me, baby.”
He was asleep when she whispered, “I will always protect you, husband.”
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