Cabin by the Stream

Seven

I stay in bed for a few days. Mia and Max check up on me regularly and I’ve only seen Leo once. He came up when Mia was busy and Max was outside. He brought me my knitting. It’s dark brown with tidbits of grey here and there. My head is getting better, from a sharp pain that would last al day to a dull ache that greeted me in the morning and joined me as I fell asleep.

I’m plagued by him. I committed the memory of the morning I fell down the slope, how my face was pressed against his chest and for a moment I heard his heart beat and breathed in his scent. His eyes dart between the shadows of the pine trees and his voice fills the silence as I try to keep myself occupied.

I close my eyes and try to force the image of him standing in the hall way, bleary eyed yet guarded. I focus on the dull ache in my head and my slow yet shaky intake of breaths.

“Elsie? Are you okay?” Max asks in concern.

My eyes snap open to the man standing in the doorway. I nod and he walks over to my side of the bed. He picks me up bridal style and carries me downstairs. Setting me down at the kitchen table, he hands me a piece of paper.

I look at him in confusion briefly as I read the words.

‘Leo cares about you, I know he does. Whatever happened in town, it doesn’t mean anything. Every time Mia or I come down he always asks how you are.’

I fight the blush and grumble at his note. I even crumple it up for good measure and because I want to be dramatic, I throw it across the room. I stare at the lines on my hands until Max sets down a mug of tea just how I like it.

I hear the door open and close, a gust of wind making me shiver.

“What is she doing out of bed?” I hear Leo hiss quietly to Max.

Ouch.

“She can’t be cooped up like the ladies are.” He retorts.

I hear Leo drag his feet over to the kitchen table, sitting as far away as possible. I purse my lips and wrap my hands around my mug, feeling very on edge. I think about what Aunt Cara used to say, how this life was lonely and I couldn’t afford to have feelings for anyone. I understand that now more than ever.

Still, I ache for him. I clear my throat.

“Max, how are the ladies today?” I ask him, ignoring how Leo glares at me.

He smiles and rattles off a report on how the ladies have been and how many eggs he has collected today. Mia comes in as he describes each one.

“Elsie, how nice to see you down here.” Mia greets me warmly.

I drink my tea in response and Max sets a bowl of oatmeal in front of me. I stir the brown sugar in the hot food and scarf it down.

Leo sighs beside me. My eyes flick to his hunched figure in annoyance.

“What? No, ‘I’m so glad you are okay.’ No, ‘Without you we wouldn’t know how to keep this place running?’” I snap at him.

He bristles at my words, “While you’ve been lounging around for the past few days, we’ve been managing just fine.”

I think about what Max’s note said and bite my tongue. I drain the last of my tea and limp up the stairs despite Mia and Max’s protests.

The day drifts by and falls into night. I’m still up with my thoughts running rampant in my mind. My ears perk to the sound of sniffling. I slowly get out of bed and track the source. Leo’s door is cracked. My rejection melts away as the need to comfort him bursts into the clearing of my mind like a startled bird.

I push open the door. I’m not the girl back in the hotel room with weak nerves. I have found strength as I take in Leo’s curled form in the bed. He seems to have stopped crying now. With every step I take towards him I wonder if what I’m about to do is wrong.

I slide underneath the sheets behind him and wrap my arm around his waist. I hold my breath as I feel the tips of his fingers trace down my arm and he suddenly twists around to face me. I exhale shakily as our eyes lock. I can feel him holding the inside of my arm as if I wasn’t real to him and he needed validation.

He doesn’t protest as my fingers brush away a stray tear rolling down his cheek. My thumb traces his bottom lip and I’m surprised that I’m not shaking from being this close to him. His hand slips from my arm to the hand that is on his face. It takes me a few seconds to realize that the pressure on my lips are his against mine.

I don’t know if I make a noise, but I nudge my lips against his and I feel his arms wrap around my waist. The kiss ignites something in the two of us that has been under the surface for too long. His lips trail down my neck as he is half on top of me with his hands roaming over my skin. I hear the sound of my shirt falling to the floor and I pull at his shirt. He gently scrapes his teeth against my collarbone and my eye lids flutter shut at the sensation. I rake my nails down his back and roll my hips up to meet his and he groans above me. I’m in awe at the sight of him like this. His blue eyes are clouded with lust and something else as he leans down for another kiss.

I feel his hands pull my shirt over my head. My hands roam his broad shoulders and drift down his torso where his sweatpants are low on his hips. Slowly I inch them down until he gets the message and pulls away to take it all off. I arch my back as he trails kisses down my exposed skin, coaxing goosebumps in its wake. We pull noises from each other in the cold night that we had been eager to hear for a long time.

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