Putting Things To Right
LATER THAT NIGHT…
The first thing Rayna noticed when she opened her eyes was how dark the room was.
The second thing she noticed was that a fully-clothed Deacon was lying on his back next to her in the bed, his hands behind his head, staring up at the ceiling. For a moment, she just lay there watching him, breathing in the fact that he was there. Her eyes drifted over that sexy days’ worth of stubble that covered his cheek and jaw and up to that glorious hair of his that just begged for a woman to run her fingers through. In that hazy, just-woke-up kind of fog she was in right then, she wanted to do just that. Oh, how she wanted to. She moaned at the thought.
Deacon, who was still so incredibly attuned to her, heard the breathy little sound and turned towards her, smiling when he saw that she was awake. “Hey there,” he said in that sexy, Southern drawl of his that made her feel all warm inside, everywhere.
“Hey,” she replied with a small, sleepy smile of her own. “What time is it?” she asked, groggily, clearly still fighting off the effects of the pain pill he’d given her.
“Late,” he answered with a shrug. “About 10:30 or so, I think.”
She crinkled her brow as she went to sit up—noting that he did the same—and glanced around the room. “Crap. I wanted to ask Maddie how her first fishing experience went,” she said. “Is she still up?” she asked, a little too brightly.
Deacon chuckled as he shook his head. “No, she crashed about an hour ago. She was exhausted. But don’t worry; I’m sure she’ll tell you all about it in the morning.”
“So you guys had fun?” she asked.
He smiled, nodding. “Yeah, yeah we did. It was…interesting.” He shook his head. “I gotta say, Ray, I never imagined I’d be showing my daughter how to fish…or that I’d even have a daughter to show, for that matter…and it’s…it was incredible. One of the best moments of my life so far, for sure,” he said, beaming with fatherly pride.
Rayna smiled sadly. “That’s…I’m glad you guys had a good time. She should come up here with you more often. She really seems to love it here. And spending time with you. You really know how to bring the light out in people, Deacon Claybourne,” she said softly, her words genuine.
He nodded and cleared his throat, visibly a little uncomfortable with the praise. “So um, enough about me. How you feelin’, Ray? Still in a lot of a pain? I can get you another pill if you need it,” he offered, ready to do just that.
She shook her head. “No, actually it’s not too bad. The aloe really helped, I think. Thank you for thinking of it.”
He nodded. “It was my pleasure,” he said. “Really,” he added, dropping his gaze to her chest. “When you’re half naked like that and all—“
She looked down and swore as she realized she’d sat up, completely forgetting that Deacon had untied the top of her bikini when he’d applied the Aloe earlier. She’d literally been sitting there for the past five minutes having a conversation with Deacon naked, save for her bikini bottoms. And he hadn’t said a word. She quickly grabbed her bikini top that still lay on the bed and scrambled to put it back on, shooting Deacon a deadly glare as he started laughing. “Damn it, Deacon. You could have said something.”
“I just did,” he said, grinning like a fool.
She narrowed her gaze. “I meant earlier, you perv,” she said as she reached down and grabbed one of the blankets lying at the bottom of the bed and pulled it up to cover herself.
He laughed at her expense. “Oh come on, Ray…it’s not like I haven’t seen your um…goods, before. And besides, they’re very nice um—goods,” he said, stuttering. “Okay…shutting up now,” he said, realizing he was only digging himself deeper. “Sorry.”
She scoffed at him and rolled her eyes. “No you’re not,” she said.
He shrugged. “Okay, you’re right, I’m not sorry. Not for looking, anyhow. But I am sorry for getting you all worked up when you should be taking it easy. Are you sure you don’t want another pain pill, Ray?” he asked.
She shook her head. “No. I’m good, really. Just a little sore and stiff. What I really need right now is a shower to get all this sticky Aloe off. And I smell like a lake,” she said, scrunching up her nose in distaste.
He laughed. “I think you smell like sunshine…and the lake,” he said, chuckling and moving out of the way as she went to punch him in the arm. “I’m kidding. Come on, I’ll help you wash your back,” he offered as he moved off the bed and stood, holding out a hand to her.
She stared at him, eyes narrowed. “Okay, now I’m confused. What’s going on here, Deacon?” she asked.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“What do I mean?” she repeated. “Okay, well…for starters, you’ve barely said two sentences to me since I got here last night…except to make it clear that I was a “guest” and would basically be regarded as such. Or how about the fact that we made a love a week ago and then you just stormed out and haven’t talked to me since. And now you’re all “oh, let me help you wash your back” like nothing’s wrong?! Damn it, Deacon…what is going on?” she asked again.
“Ray…I’m trying to be nice here,” he said, sighing. “You’re hurt, I feel bad, and I want to help, that’s all. Can we just leave it at that?” he asked her.
Her temper flared and she groaned in frustration. And he called HER stubborn?! Annoyed, she moved off the bed, nodding. “Sure we can, Deacon. Thanks for the help, but I think I got it from here,” she said, hotly as she stalked towards the door, pulling it wide open. “Good night, Deacon.”
He swore under his breath as he slowly and methodically made his way across the room to her, shutting the door with forced calm as she dropped her hand away—mindful of the fact that Maddie lay sleeping in the bedroom down the hall. “Are you done, Ray?” he asked carefully as she stood facing him, hands on her hips and a look of utter defiance on her face.
She glared at him, then spun on her heel and stalked over to the middle of the room, turning to face him once again. “Oh, I haven’t even gotten started,” she said, throwing out the five fighting words he’d known were coming and at the same time, dreaded hearing. The last thing he wanted was to get into it with her right then and there. Hell, it wasn’t the time nor the place for the conversation they so desperately needed to have and that she was itching to start with him--if the temper flaring in her eyes and the look on her face were any indication—not with their teenage daughter sleeping just down the hall. He couldn’t bear it if Maddie woke up and heard them arguing, something that would be so reminiscent of his own adolescent years.
“Ray, calm down,” he started, before realizing his error in word choice.
Her eyes widened. “Calm down? Seriously, Deacon? You’re going to stand there and tell me to calm down after everything that’s happened in the past week? Damn it, Deacon. The whole world just found out that we have a daughter together! Her world was turned inside-out by those reporters and you—you just left,” she said as angry tears started falling down her face.
He moved so that he was standing only a few feet from her. “You know damn well why I left, Rayna,” he said, his voice deliberately low.
“No, actually, I don’t,” she admitted, wiping furiously at the tears in frustration. “All I know is that one minute we were lying in each other’s arms—happy— and the next, you’re accusing me of losing faith in you and you were storming out. Damn you, Deacon. You never even gave me a chance to explain. You just…you just left. You ran away up here and just left me there to pick up the pieces. Do you have any idea the hell this week has been for me? For all of us? I have to drive through a dozen reporters just to get the girls to and from school. Daphne sits there scared and she blames Maddie. They aren’t even speaking to one another. And Maddie feels like it’s all her fault. She cried herself to sleep nearly every night and she just stares out her balcony window at those reporters, wondering why they won’t go away and leave her family alone. I had to fight with her just to get her to eat supper most nights. And you—you just left me there to deal with all of it. Do you know how hard that was? She doesn’t talk to me like she talks to you. She shuts me out. I needed you. You promised you wouldn’t leave and then you did. You expect me to trust you—to trust in us, but how am I supposed to do that when you’re not there?” she cried, covering her hands with her face as a broken sob escaped her mouth.
Deacon stood there a moment, stunned and feeling like the lowest piece of scum that ever existed as Rayna’s words sunk in. She was right, he realized. She was absolutely right. He hadn’t given her a chance to explain herself that day at Belle Meade. He’d let his own fears play on his doubts and jumped to conclusions before he’d stormed out. He closed his eyes and dragged a hand over his face as the stricken look on her face before he walked out of the bedroom and her words played over and over in his mind.
You’re just going to leave? she’d cried that day, with tears in her eyes.
And he had. He’d left her there. And Maddie. Two of the most important people in his life…and he’d left them at a time when they’d needed him most. He swore as he slowly opened his eyes and looked at Rayna, his voice pained as he spoke, reaching for her.
“Ray…God, I’m sorry. C’mere Babe, hey…shh,” he pulled her hands away from her face and gently wrapped her in his arms, mindful of her burn. Hearing her quiet cries nearly killed him and he pulled back, cradling her face in his hands as he leaned forward, pressing sweet kisses to her face, kissing away the tears. He swallowed her sob as he covered her mouth with his, a kiss that was meant to soothe quickly turning into something much, much more.
If there was one thing that hadn’t changed, it was that as hard as they fought, they loved even harder. In fact, it was probably one of the reasons they’d stuck together as long as they did in the beginning years. They butted heads often, their stubborn personalities clashing in every which way, and they’d fought. But after it was all said and done, they’d make up hard and fast, finding a middle ground in their loving, and in the music they made together. All those years apart, and it seemed that old habits die hard.
Her hands lifted to clutch his shoulders as she pressed her body into his, moaning. Her body was on fire, and she knew it had nothing to do with the burn on her backside. It was all Deacon. That primal heat that only he could stoke to flames inside her. “Ray…Ray, baby…your back,” he said, breaking the kiss and pulling away. She noticed with satisfaction that he was breathing just as hard as she was…that he was just as turned on as she was.
She shook her head. “I don’t care,” she said breathily, reaching for him again, pulling his head down to hers.
He kissed her quickly, and then pulled back again, laughing softly. “Maddie...what if she hears us?” he asked.
She groaned and glanced towards the bathroom that adjoined the room. “Shower,” she said hastily, ducking away and heading towards the door.
He stood where he was a minute, watching her with a smirk. “Oh, now you want me to wash your back?” he teased.
She shot him a warning glare. “Are you coming--” she asked, her voice steeped with desire as she slowly reached up and untied the strings of her top, letting the garment fall to the floor. “Or not?” she finished as she turned on her heel and disappeared through the door.
Deacon was hot on her heels seconds later, shutting the bathroom door behind him and locking it. He was a man who didn’t need to be asked twice.
Rayna giggled as she watched Deacon hurriedly strip out of his clothes, nearly tripping as he hopped on one foot as he pulled off his jeans. When he was finally—gloriously—naked, he stalked towards her, a big grin on his face.
“Someone’s a little overdressed here, don’t you think, Ray?” he asked, his voice gritty with lust, the sound making her shiver with anticipation.
“I don’t know, am I?” she asked, tipping her head up to look at him as he smirked down at her. She closed her eyes and her lips parted when she felt him trail his fingertips down her side until they reached the side-string of her bikini bottoms, his fingers deftly undoing the simple knot.
“Yep,” he answered, leaning forward and pressing a kiss into the curve of her neck, while his nimble fingers worked the knot on the other side. Seconds later, he grasped the material in his hands and tossed it away. “Not anymore,” he whispered as he grasped her hips in his hands and pulled her towards him, chuckling at her quick gasp as her body rocked against him…right there.
He nipped at her neck, his tongue flicking out to soothe the small hurt. All too quickly, he pulled away and her eyes shot open, disappointment shining. He laughed as he reached around her to pull open the glass door of the shower. “Patience, Ray,” he said in response to her pout. Quickly, he turned on the faucets, adjusting and testing the water temperature before grabbing her wrist and pulling her in, laughing as she squealed with surprise. “Shh,” he said as he turned her away from the spray of the water. “Our daughter will hear you,” he said.
She smiled up at him as he stepped under the spray, watching him as she bit her lip. She couldn’t describe the warmth she felt when he said that. Our daughter. Every time he said it, she could feel some of those broken pieces inside her heart start to come together. It just felt so right. Being there with him…their little girl asleep and safe down the hall, in the home where she’d dreamed they’d raise her up in…it was bittersweet, but perfect. It’d taken them 14 years, but they were sharing that moment she’d pictured and dreamed a million times. She knew there was still so much they had to figure out, but right then and there…it didn’t matter. She had her little family. Finally. With Deacon. God, I love this man so much, she thought to herself, smiling at the realization.
Deacon wiped the water from his face and reached for her, giving her an odd look. “Penny for your thoughts?” he asked.
She smiled as she went into his arms. “Nope, they’re worth much, much more,” she answered happily as she reached up and pulled him down for a kiss.
He kissed her back as he turned her around, slowly letting the water rain down on her. “That okay? Not too hot on your back?” he asked, pulling away to wait for her response.
She nodded. “It’s perfect,” she answered, standing up on her tiptoes as he fingers weaved their way through his wet hair, pressing her mouth to his.
Needless to say, it was awhile before he got around to washing her back…