Numb Like Her

Chapter 32

Ira sighed, shivering slightly as the night air kissed her cheeks. The sky was dark and clear. If it hadn't been for the lights of New York, she might have seen the stars.

She knew Jack would be angry with her for walking alone, but she didn't mind the time alone. Her feet throbbed a little as she walked barefoot down the street; they had been too swollen for her boots. Her toes and the arch of her feet were welcoming the familiarity gradually.

Pieces of her hair fell from the loose bun at the nape of her neck, tickling her neck. It was still strange to feel the ghost of her long hair on her back and to feel its shortness. But she liked it, like heavy chains that had been cut off. Even her long hair had carried bad memories, horrible ripping and pulling. She was glad to be rid of it.

Medda was in her office when Ira entered the back stage, seeing the light creeping from under her closed door. She crept upstairs, relieved that her muscles-both inside and out-were capable to take her up the staircase.

The old wooden floor creaked and she dropped her boots by the front door. Her eyes glanced around the room, out of habit: she smiled at the well made bed in the dining room, Medda's bed. Sometimes they would both sit on Ira's bed and talk and laugh until three in the morning. She was wonderful company.

Ira turned to walk into her room when she saw him sleeping on the bed. She froze in the doorway, hiding part of her face behind the doorframe as she observed him. His shirt was on the floor and his arm was hanging off the bed. His face was empty, the most peaceful she'd ever seen him. His dark hair was pushed back, his strong face glowing softly from the lap on the bedside table.

She pressed her cheek against her hand, leaning into the doorframe as her eyes trailed over him. She'd always seen him as a boy, even after the first time they had been together. There was something boyish about him, maybe his cocky grin. But as she looked at his strong jaw, his full lips, the long plains of his cheeks, his bare chest, she saw a young man. A young man she craved for, in more ways than one.

It was difficult at first, to embrace the new feelings and fears that he stirred inside her. But now he was like fire in her veins, breathing life into her numb body. Even when they fought, like "cats and dogs" as Medda had said, she was addicted to him. He was fire, life, excitement.

She had been so busy retraining her body to withstand her own weight that she hadn't really looked at him in…a long time.

His arm shot up and he rolled over, waking slowly from his deep sleep. He rubbed his eyes, blinking a few times as he looked around. Her lips twitched a little at the corners as his eyes found her.

"Tired, Cowboy?" she asked softly.

He sat up, throwing his feet over the side of the bed. He braced his hands on the mattress, reading her face through squinted eyes.

"Aren't you?" he asked back, his voice husky.

She shifted from behind the doorway, moving into the room slowly, feeling the cold floor under her feet. Every inch of her skin was suddenly very sensitive.

"Not at all," she answered in a low voice.

She knelt in front of him, looking up into his eyes as he arched over her slightly, watching her with a careful gaze. Her face was level with his stomach. She reached up, placing her hands on his sides, feeling the thump of his heavy heart beat. She splayed her long fingers over his stomach, his waist, feeling his tight muscles through the light brush of her fingertip.

She looked up at him. His dark eyes were bright and hard on her face. Yes, he was awake now.

"So tell me, Cowboy," she mused, rubbing her thumbs over his abdomen. Her accent was warm and gentle, "You've been worrying very much lately…"

She leaned into him to press her lips to the center of his stomach. She trailed up to his chest, her tongue barely skimming his skin, and he leaned over her more as she kissed the hollow at his neck.

She pulled back, seeing his strong handsome face.

"You should let someone else worry tonight," she said gently, so close to him that she could feel her breath.

His jaw tightened, his eyes reading hers. So many times he was full of words, always had something to say, but when they were alone…he was as quiet as a statue. But she had a feeling he was listening to her, hearing her thoughts and her touches, trying to guess her next move.

She pushed her lips to his and he slowly put his hand on the back of her neck, lightly gripping her hair, holding her to him.

She felt her insides crumble but she still managed to push him back onto the bed, their lips breaking apart. Her hands traveled up his chest and she bathed him with her lips, tasting him.

Maybe her body wasn't ready, wasn't ready for another man to be inside. But he wasn't another man. He was Jack, her Jack, and she wanted nothing more than to have him take her in every sense, to erase the imprints the demons had left on her.

His strong fingers were not meant to bruise her; his strong arms were not meant to squeeze the air from her lungs; his strength was not to hurt her. They were meant to guard her, to comfort. Even though his eyes burned with such a strong desire that it surprised her, he treasured her, adored her, and she welcomed every brush of his fingers.

He held her to him as she straddled him, feeling his taught body under hers. She tugged at his shoulders and he rolled to the side, his arm under her to hold her against him. They were lying across the bed, their heads almost falling over the edge, as if their bodies were melting, threatening to spill onto the floor.

He dropped his head to her breast bone, kissing it before he tugged her shirt and chemise free of the skirt waistband. She unclasped the buttons of her skirt and pushed it down her legs until it fell to join his shirt on the floor.

His hand smoothed over her thigh and roamed over her stomach, his thumb grazing the bottom of her left breast.

His dark eyes flickered between hers, asking, wondering if she wanted what she was leading him to. She pulled him down to her lips and he all too willingly followed her lead.

She couldn't get close enough to the young man who had saved her, in more ways than one. Their hands knew no boundaries and though he was careful, she could see the wanting inside him, threatening to rip him apart. He kissed her jaw as he moved over her, hesitating. But she kissed his chest again and he slowly filled her.

She gasped, throwing her head back. There was pain. But the relief and overwhelming pleasure of him overshadowed it. Her need for him overshadowed it completely.

He sucked at the skin of her shoulder, his back arching as he encircled her with his body, covering her. His lips trailed down and she arched her back for him as his lips found her breasts. She gasped, her fingers knotting in his hair.

She closed her eyes, gripping his shoulders until she heard him growl in her ear. His back hardened and he transformed into the animal she had seen in his eyes the night at the Irish pub. She encouraged him, she wanted him raw.

His lips crushed into hers and he kissed her passionately as he moved inside her, sending her body into a wave of spasms. This was torture; nothing could feel this good.

She placed her hands on his back, feeling his muscles rippling under his skin. She looked up to see him, his broad neck straining. He exhaled sharply and his eyes dropped to hers.

And then he stopped.

His tense body froze over her, his dark eyes wild. He looked shocked by what he saw in her eyes; she didn't know what he saw there, but he touched her face and looked at her as if he had found her all over again.

His thumb grazed over her cheekbone, his gaze serious and his jaw tight.

And he just looked at her. His arm tightened under her, still holding her to him. For a moment, it seemed that he didn't want to be anywhere else. She was with him, and it was enough.

She reached up, pushing her fingers through his hair, and his eyes revealed the small fear he still had for her, his uncertainty.

Her voice was low when she spoke, "Are you…regretting?"

Because that's what it looked like. But his eyes flashed with anger and his hand tightened on the back of her neck, bringing her to him.

"Tha hell I am," he said before taking her lips with his.

And they consumed each other, like two flames trying to out-burn the other. They lost themselves completely and kept moving together until they physically couldn't. Their muscles shook gently and the sweat on their skin glistened in the lamp light. They breathed deeply, their chests touching and retreating in even rhythm.

She stared at him and he stared back, panting.

And to her surprise, his lips smirked at her, laughing breathlessly. He rolled onto his back, rubbing his eyes with one hand, still smirking to himself.

"Ah, damn it," he said, still trying to catch his breath.

She read his face and the memory of them walking down the street when he had waited for her, when she had stayed with him and they had laughed and talked at the docks until morning. She had told him to be careful about caring…That was so long ago, part of another life.

Her dark brows knitted, "Is it very bad? To care about someone?"

He glanced up at her.

"Nah," he said finally, his eyes searching hers. "Carin' ain't bad. But carin' about you? 's a pain."

She read him for a moment before smiling at him.

His eyes quickly grew serious and his voice was low, "'s bad for you? Carin' about me?"

Her smile dropped and she considered his words as she looked at him, his handsome face. Jack Kelly.

"Yeah," she said, nodding slowly. "It's bad, Cowboy."

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