Sweet Surrender By J. Hallmark

¬†REPUBLISHER’S NOTE: This is a powerful fanfic from during the annulment separation. There is a pretty explicit sex scene.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Summary: Michelle returns to find Danny at rock bottom.

Rating: R-rated — edging toward NC-17.

Note: This basically ignores the summary of Danny rejecting Michelle (and put me in the camp who’s all for that! That girl needs to do some Danny-begging and soon!!).

Final Note: This is not the final title, just a working one.

Disclaimer: They belong to GL, damnit!!

Sweet Surrender By J.Hallmark

~ ~ ~Sweet Surrender

A song she vaguely remembered was playing. And Danny was speaking his wedding vows in the background of that music. That music. His vows sparked her memory … their dance at the reception, this was the music. She took a few steps into the room and found her gaze drawn to her wedding dress hanging up, the ivory folds laying in pristine perfection.

She reached out a tentative hand and brushed her hand over it. Glancing about the room, she noted the disarray. The bedsheets were half-falling off the bed. Clothes lay scattered on the floor, on the table, across the bed. She bent down and picked up a scarf, a rainbow-colored confection and recognized it as one of hers. She looked at the clothes again and realized that most of them were garments she had forgotten.

The scarf. A sweater. A peignoir. Her robe. She looked to her left. Her wedding dress. Then the music died and she heard her voice say, “Daniel, from now on, I put my life … my fate, into your hands.”

A shot suddenly rang out in the room and she jumped, startled, her eyes fastened on the smoking mess that was now the television set.

“Lying bitch!” came Danny’s voice from the other side of the bed. She stood still, her hand pressed against her heart, her eyes closed and seriously contemplated just turning around and walking out the door … out of his life for good.

“Sorry, I’m sorry,” he broke into her reverie and she opened her eyes to find him kneeling on the floor slightly past the bed, caressing a photo. He was shirtless, wearing jeans and holding alongside the picture, a gun. “You’re not a bitch. You’re perfect. You’re so perfect, so God,” he broke off, his voice rising in a hoarse sob, “damn perfect. Michelle.” He dropped the picture and bowed his head, “Michelle.”

“Danny,” her voice was soft and muted, but he heard her. Looking up, he rose to his feet, “Michelle, Michelle,” he said over and over again as if he were living in a dream. He walked to her, still holding the gun and pulled her into his arms. She stared up at him, and a part of her wanted to pull away, a part of her was still afraid … seeing him like this, seeing him in such a state — maybe, it was just more than she could handle.

And then his mouth was on hers and she heard the distant thud of the weapon on the carpet and all thoughts of fear, of fleeing left her mind. She could only focus on his lips on hers, his hands on her face, around her neck, in her hair and that intense wanting filled her so completely that she was lost in the sweet surrender of his kiss.

And then his lips were on her throat, his hands roaming over her body urgently. She found herself leaning into him, her hands about his naked shoulders, pulling him to her. She arched her head back as his lips trailed over her collarbone, dancing across the neckline of her pale cream dress. Her fingers dug through his curls as he feathered light kisses over the slopes of her breast, and a moan escaped from her as his mouth fastened over one taut, silk-covered nipple.

That moan brought him out of his dream state. He pulled back sharply, letting her go so quickly that she stumbled, almost falling. She looked up at him and found tears gathering in her eyes. He suddenly was so different — distant, cold, the stranger she had seen that night at Towers with Ray. His eyes were dead and closed to her, his mouth a grim line, his hands clenched to his side. And when he spoke, his voice held no expression.

“I’m sorry.” He turned away from her and steadily walked to the bed. Throwing off the clothing and mussed sheets, he laid down and gazed at the wall above her head. “What are you doing here? I thought you were in Europe? I thought you needed to clear your head?”

The questions were piled one on top of the other, no inflection in his voice, no desire to know the answers, but she steeled herself against his withdrawal, clinging to his kiss, clinging to the evidence all around her that he needed her, that he missed her, that he loved her.

“I missed you.”

If her gaze hadn’t been glued to him, she would have missed his reaction to her words, the tightening of his entire frame, the clenching of muscles in his jaw, the flicker of his eyelids. She felt heartened.

“I was with my father and I told him everything and I couldn’t stop talking about you and when I wasn’t talking about you, I was thinking about you, dreaming about you.” She took a step closer to the bed, “wanting you.”

He sat up and gazed at her, the expression of a wounded animal on his face now. “What about Jesse?”

“It’s over.”

“Just like that? It’s over? The love of your life,” he mimicked cruelly. “Your reason for being, for putting up with me, for living in this house, for enduring my kiss, my touch, as much as you endured it and it’s over!? The one you couldn’t wait to run back to the second I gave you your freedom and it’s OVER! Don’t do this to ME! God, Michelle, what game are you playing now?”

“Danny –”

“No, no, it doesn’t work that way. What? What are you doing, Michelle? What do you want? Why –”

“I want –” she began, tears in her voice, but he interrupted her again.

“– are you here? Have I been that terrible to you that you just have to try and emasculate me completely? Rip away everything? Bring me up just to tear me down again? I’m not interested. Michelle, I just don’t care!”

“Why are you lying to me? Yourself?” She demanded, frustrated anger joining her tears. “Look at this place,” she gestured around the room, “I know you’re interested. Well, I’m here. This is where you want me, right? So why can’t you believe that I want you, Danny!? Why would I be here? Why would I be standing here crying, listening to this parade of self-pity if I didn’t want to be here with you?”

He laughed bitterly, “Beats me.”

“Because I want you, Danny. You’re my husband!”

“Your husband! I’m your husband now am I? Weren’t thinking of that when you ratted on me to the FBI, now were you? Weren’t thinking of your husband when you were with Jesse, were you, Michelle?” He stood up suddenly and strode to her, standing inches away. “Tell me, Michelle, was he as good, as wonderful as you remembered? Did you think of me, your husband, at all when you were making love” and his voice was a sneer, “to him?”

Michelle looked away from his insulting expression, her lips pursed, “I didn’t, it wasn’t –”

“What, Michelle? Am I tainting the purity of your union with the saintly Jesse? Well, you know what? I thought of you, Michelle.”

She looked up at him, a confused look on her face.

“Yeah,” he grinned, a smile full of self-hatred, “I thought of you the whole time I was f—ing Drew. In fact, I think I even called your name out. Of course,” he mused to himself, looking away,” Drew was so into it, she probably didn’t catch it. Yeah, she may not give a damn about me either, but at least she let me show her what a great ride I can be in bed!”

Michelle felt her world fall into a tailspin. She put a hand out and encountered his bare chest. She looked at it, at him, at her hand on his flesh and saw another hand: brightly-painted, red nails, sharp belonging to another woman, but not just any woman, Drew … belonging to Drew. She dropped her hand and stepped back. And he laughed, a harsh, painful laugh, a rasping, guttural noise that scraped away at her heart.

“You — you and,” she paused and swallowed deeply, “Drew. You and Drew?”

“Yup, me and Drew,” he smiled broadly and clapped his hands together. “Oh, come on, Michelle, quit with the wounded act. It’s not as if you care.” And he laughed again, that terrible, terrible laugh.

“When — when did this happen?” she managed to ask, not really knowing why it mattered, but needing to know.

“Hmm,” he pursed his lips and made a big show about thinking of the exact date, “well, let’s see. You know,” and he laughed again, “I should have no problem pinning this down, being as it was the only time I’ve had sex in the last six months.”

Michelle bowed her head and closed her eyes.

“I know, I know, it was the night you told me about at the F.B.I. At Millennium. You told me, you left, I got drunk, I got it on with Drew. Yeah, that was pretty much the sequence of events.”

She wiped a tear away from her eye and looked up, taking a deep breath, thinking of that night … that terrible night that seemed ages ago but was in reality, barely over a week ago.

“Why?” She shook her head and dashed more tears away, her head shaking back and forth and it took everything in her to not break down. Drew and Danny. Drew and her Danny. Drew kissing him, touching him, feeling his lips, his tongue, his hands, his body …. She squeezed her eyes shut and pressed her clenched fists to her head, “No, no, no,” she muttered under her breath.

“Why? No? What? What do you wanna know, Michelle?”

“Why? Why did you do it? Why, Danny, why?” She couldn’t look at him, she wouldn’t look at him, she wouldn’t let him see what this was doing to her. She would not give him that power over her.

“Why?” and the bastard laughed again, “Well, I’m a man. She’s was wearing this slutty red dress, she was available and it’d been a while. I am a man.”

She bit her lip, vividly remembering his words of so, so long ago … “I am a man and when you climb into bed with me, beside me, never touching, never touching, I lie there awake, staring into the dark, aware of everything that you’re doing, of how you breathe, of the rustle of the sheets and it takes every ounce of my being to not want to reach out to you …” and she felt fresh tears.

“And you know, Michelle, it’s been hard for me. You with your little come-on acts, your ‘Oh, I want you, Danny,’ kissing me, touching me, and then ‘oops, I changed my mind.’ A guy can take only so much. And I certainly wasn’t gonna force myself on you. I have never had to force myself on any woman and I’ll be damned if I was gonna start with my wife. Drew was there. She was willing,” he walked behind her, his voice hovering over her shoulder.

She wanted me.”

She stepped away from him again and shook her head, whispering under her breath, “I wanted you.”

“What?” he asked.

She just shook her head again, thinking of that night, of their dance, of the way he could not look at her after she’d told him. The way he had so misunderstood what she was trying to say to him, why she had confessed to him. And so she had left. And he had slept with Drew and …. she turned to look at him, suddenly not caring if he saw her reddened eyes, too rocked by the betrayal that pride didn’t even matter anymore.

“This was before — your wedding ring …” she trailed off, and he shook his head, a confused look in his eyes.

“Michelle –”

“You came to me after her. After being with another woman? You came to me. You kissed me. You held me in your arms after being with another woman.”

“Stop acting like it matters, Michelle,” he muttered, “it didn’t matter.”

And then it was her turn to laugh, “Danny, you son-of-a-bitch, you are such a hypocrite.”

He stepped back, his eyes widening slightly and then he sneered, “I don’t think so. I’m the hypocrite? No. You, you who waited all of two seconds to go back to your beloved Jesse, you’re the hypocrite.”

She stepped towards him, anger blazing in her eyes, “This isn’t about Jesse. This is about us …”

“There is no us,” he mumbled under his breath, but she ignored him.

“This is about our marriage –”

“– There is no marriage,” he said louder, cutting her off, but again she went on, running roughshod over his words.

“Yes, our marriage, Danny. The word annulment hadn’t even come up yet. We were married. Married, Danny. You were my husband and I your wife. You promised to love, honor and cherish me … forsaking all others before God, Danny, before God, and at the first bump in the road, you jumped into the sack with another woman. And not just any woman. Nooo, you landed in bed with my so-called friend, Drew. Drew, the maid of honor at our wedding, Danny!”

She laughed without humor, “and you never betrayed me, hah! What do you call that, Danny?”

He shook his head, “No, you — we never had a marriage. You didn’t love me. You didn’t want me. I was just a joke to you. You led me on, you used my feelings for you and the whole time you were lying, you were laughing –”

“When did I laugh at you, Danny? When?” She stood right up to him, her face inches from him, “when you held a gun on me? When you threatened my life? When you made me destroy my relationship with Jesse? Was I laughing then? How ’bout when you brought me ‘home’ to mommie dearest? Or on our wedding day, when trembling and half sick to my stomach with fear and nerves and guilt, yes, damnit!, guilt, I tried to be with you? Was I laughing? I don’t remember laughing, Danny. I don’t remember laughing when you gave me flowers, when we talked about our pasts to each other.”

He turned his head away, but she reached out her hand and brought his face back to hers, her voice become a searing reminder of what had happened with them. “Did I laugh when I was desperate, desperate, Danny, to keep you from the docks? Do you think I was sitting in the emergency room, pretending to be blind and just laughing my ass off because I had fooled you? Is that when I laughed, Danny?”

“You laughed! You did! When you were talking to Mrs. Silva, when you called the F.B.I. In our bedroom, that day after you met with Mrs. Silva, all of your sweet words, your kisses, you were laughing at what a fool I was, how easily you could wrap me around your finger, just forget everything, because my wife, my wife, Goddamnit!, was offering me the blessed opportunity to make love to her! Don’t tell me you weren’t laughing!”

“I WASN’T!” she shouted back at him, her fists clenched at her side. “You know what I was feeling that day? Do you really wanna know, Danny?”

“No, not really, I’m not interested in hearing how my touch, my very touch sickens you.” He turned away and stalked across the room. She was silent for the moment watching him as he paced back and forth, turning every few seconds to glare at her.

“I kissed you and started to seduce you because I wanted you to drop the thing with Mrs. Silva, I won’t deny that, but I didn’t pull away because you sicken me. Danny, you have NEVER sickened me! God help me, the first time you kissed me, when I barely knew you and only then as Mick’s stalker-friendly brother, I wasn’t sickened. I wanted to be, but from the moment you touched me, I didn’t know what to think, I couldn’t think — because even when I knew nothing but the bad about you, I still wanted you.”

He stopped pacing and stared at her, “You wanted me?,” he laughed harshly, disbelievingly, “You wanted me?” He shook his head and turned away again.

“Yes, Danny, I wanted you. And that day in our bedroom I pulled away because I wasn’t pretending, because when you touched me, when you kissed me, when you held me and looked at me the way you do, I wasn’t pretending. I was losing myself in you, forgetting everything. When I’m with you like that I forget who I am, who I’ve always thought I was. I don’t understand what you do to me. I don’t understand this wanting, why it’s there … because it’s wrong. It HAS to be wrong.”

She turned away from him, unable to continue watching him pace a hole into the carpet. Tears clogged her voice, but still she spoke. “I’ve never felt like this for anyone. This … this need to have you, to have you touch me, kiss me, do,” she paused, and let out a sobbing sigh, “anything to me. And I don’t understand how I can want this, want you when there is so much I don’t know about you, when there are things about you that frighten me, when I hate your mother and your business, and it scares me. Danny, you can’t understand what I was feeling, what I have been feeling from you, because of you, for you. I’m confused and I’m scared and that’s why I pulled away. I didn’t laugh at you. I have never laughed at you.”

Danny was no longer pacing; he was staring at her, a dazed expression on his face, finally he spoke, “You did contact the F.B.I.”

“Yes, Danny, I did,” she retorted bitterly.

“So …” he began, but she cut him off, “and you slept with another woman. One betrayal deserves another, is that it, Danny?”

He threw his hands into the air, and began pacing again, his words coming quickly, the tone in his voice edged with the slightest hint of desperation, “No, you can’t compare the two. You — you set me up, you tried to send me, my family to jail, you –”

“– And you had sex with my maid of honor!”

“It’s not the same thing!” He cried out. “You never cared about me. You never loved me, never wanted me, you betrayed me. What could it possibly matter if I slept with another woman? Why would you possibly care? You may be my wife, Michelle, but it’s a mere technicality. You made that perfectly clear. As long as I believed that we had a chance, I wouldn’t have gone near another woman, but when you betrayed me, when you did,” he paused and bowed his head, “what you did …” he trailed off and looked back at her, his eyes searching, “I knew that we had nothing.” His voice dropped to a mere whisper, “nothing.”

“Do you really believe that, Danny?” she asked softly.

He was quiet for a long moment and then in a strained voice, he offered a single word, “Yes.”

She closed her eyes and let out a pained sigh. She shook her head from side to side and dashed a falling tear away. “Why do you think I faked my blindness?”

He looked away, “I don’t care, okay? I don’t care –”

“God DAMN, you! Danny, I am trying to be honest here, will you do us both a favor and cut the proud, macho crap! Why do you think I faked my blindness?” she repeated harshly, her eyes glued to his face.

“I –,” he looked away from her stare and stalked over to the bed, throwing himself upon it. He rested his elbows on his knees and buried his head in his hands. His voice came out muffled, “I don’t know, Michelle.”

“I did it to protect you. I was desperate to keep you from going to the docks because the idea of you in handcuffs being led away by the F.B.I. was killing me. I tried to call if off, I tried to keep them from knowing, but it was too late!”

She walked over to where he was sitting and knelt before him, “Danny!” He didn’t look up, “Danny, look at me.”

He didn’t raise his head.

“I tried, okay, but it was too late. There was nothing I could do to stop the raid, but I was damned if I was going to let you walk into that trap. I was trying to protect you. Danny!” She reached out and grabbed at his arms, he jerked away and looked down at her, pain in his eyes.

“You set me up! So, you tried to prevent it, so what? You still made the call in the first place. You hated me that much. You wanted to get away from me that badly that you called the feds on me!”

She sat back and rested her hands in her lap, “Danny, you don’t get it. God,” she rose to her feet and ran her fingers through her hair. “You don’t get it.”

“Then help me ‘get it.’ What am I not getting? That you betrayed me? That you set me up? What am I missing?”

She turned to look at him and her voice was heavy with fresh, unshed tears, “It was not you. It was not about you, Danny.” She shook her head and let out a harsh laugh, “It was never about you, it was about your mother, it was about saving myself, not about hurting you.”

“Michelle –”

“No, Danny, listen to me. It was about me, not you. I was dying here. Not because of you, not because I hated you, didn’t want you, wanted to get away from you … but because I wanted my life back! MY life.” She held her hands to her chest, her fists clenched, pressing against her heart.

“I wanted to be able to live the way I wanted to live … with or without you. I wanted to be able to choose — my life, my home, my husband. What I was gonna wear, where I was gonna go that day without worrying about men with guns following me. I wanted to be able to use the phone without weighing everything I said. I wanted to eat a meal and not worry that my mother-in-law had poisoned my food.”

“Danny, it was about me, not you. I wanted to live my life without fear. But don’t you get it. Don’t you see what I did?” she pleaded, tears running down her face.

“Yeah, I see –” he began bitterly, his face closed off.

“– No,” she cut him off. “I kept you from the docks, I told you the truth. I gave it up, I gave up the chance to possibly get away to save you, because God help me, saving you, keeping you safe meant more than my freedom. Danny, I called the F.B.I. for me, to save myself … but I tried to call if off, I kept you from the docks to save you. And I told you the truth, not because I had to, but because I wanted to. I needed you to know the truth, because I realized that I wanted you, I wanted this marriage and it would never work if there were lies. I told you the truth to save us.”

She walked back over to him and sat on the bed next to him. He stared straight ahead. Michelle reached out a hand and laid it on his; he held himself still and then slowly relaxed under her grip.

“Danny, does that sound like ‘nothing’ to you?” she asked softly, her gaze resting on his face. His eyes closed and he lowered his head slightly, “Michelle.”

“What we have isn’t nothing, it never was. There has always been something between us, Danny, you know that.” She squeezed his hand tighter and he turned to look at her, naked, open emotion on his face.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have, I didn’t even want to. It wasn’t about her, it wasn’t even about sex. I thought I was in control again, I wasn’t being run by you, by my feelings for you, I thought,” he paused and bit his lip, “I don’t know what I thought.”

Michelle nodded and then released his hand, standing up. She walked over to where her wedding dress was spread out. Reaching out, she played with the ivory folds, “it hasn’t even been a month since our wedding day and we’ve already tried to destroy each other. I betrayed you. You betrayed me. You were gonna kill me. I held a knife on you. And this whole time we’ve been lying to each other, lying to ourselves.”

She laughed without humor and turned to face him, “I don’t know even why I’m here. I don’t know why, I don’t know anything anymore and I’m not used to that. I’ve always known myself, known what I’ve wanted, what I needed in my life … but now, I only know that without you I’ve felt empty and lost and miserable, but hey,” she laughed again, her laughter ending on a sob, “what’s the difference, right? I was miserable with you, too.”

He met her gaze. “So, maybe we should just sign the annulment papers and get it over with.” His voice was dead.

“Is that what you want?” Her voice held all of the emotion he was refusing to admit to. He opened his mouth to speak, but she interrupted, “truth, Danny.”

He closed his eyes. “No.”

“Neither, do I. I guess, I’d rather be miserable with you than without you.”

A bitter smile twisted his face, “Well, that’s a ringing endorsement.”

Shaking her head, she wiped at the tears still falling. She cleared her throat and walked back to his side. “Danny?”

He looked up.

“Let’s try and do this right. Wipe the slate clean.”

“Just forget everything?” He asked.

She shook her head, “No, not forget. Put it in its place, in the past, and move on. Start fresh. We’ve both made mistakes. Let’s learn from them.”

He stood up, “Just like that?”

She nodded and looked up at him. He was silent, staring at her face and then he bent down and placed a soft kiss on her lips. She pulled away slightly and turned her head to the side.

Laughing harshly, he walked around her and threw his hands up. “Start fresh, huh? Want me, right?”

“I can’t — I see you with her and it hurts and –”

“– okay, I see. We put to rest your mistakes, your screw-ups, but air mine a bit longer.”

“I didn’t say that!” she shot back angrily. “How can I just forget?”

“Am I supposed to just forget you and Jesse?”

“Jesse? God, Danny, Jesse was my boyfriend, I barely knew you,” she cried.

“Barely knew me? And in the past few weeks, you’ve suddenly gotten to know me?”

She looked at him in confusion, “What? Danny, what are you talking about?”

“After I let you go, you were with Jesse! Michelle, you made that perfectly clear.”

Walking over to him, she jabbed a finger at him, “I was *never* with Jesse, not since I married you. I couldn’t. You wanna know the truth, I kissed him. Okay, I kissed him, maybe three times. And the last time I kissed him it was because I was desperately trying to recapture my need for him, my love for him, because I was thinking about you. And that was it, so while you were off screwing my friend, I was holding my ‘boyfriend,’ the one that YOU were shoving me at, at arms length because I couldn’t get you out of my head.”

Danny narrowed his eyes and looked away and then back at her, “You never –”

“– No,” she cut him off and then continued harshly, “and furthermore, even if I had, at least we had already discussed the annulment. I had your wedding ring, you took it off. If I had slept with Jesse I would have been a lot more in the right than you. You cheated on me. You cheated on our vows.”

He turned away and started to walk away, but Michelle grabbed his hand, “Dispute that one, Danny.”

“I said I was sorry,” he offered.

“But you didn’t say you were wrong, did you? And you don’t think that you were, do you? Because I lied, because I betrayed you. How does that make you look, Danny? The first problem we hit and you forsake your vows –”

“– No, there you go again, making it sound like there was a real marriage. We hadn’t even consummated the marriage. You wanted out. You lied, you betrayed me to get out of the marriage.”

“And is that what makes a marriage? Consummation? Sex? What about the fact that we spent practically every moment together? Shared confidences from our past? Kissed? Touched? Met our families? Went out together? Held hands? Had breakfast together? Called each other ‘husband’ and ‘wife?’ Adjusted to each other’s schedules. I take a shower first, then you. I put the cap on the toothpaste, you put the toilet seat down. You ignore the wet nylons hanging over the shower stall and I ignore your pathetic attempts to land every piece of garbage into the trash as if you were auditioning for the NBA? What did that make us, Danny? What did we share, then?”

He looked over her head, his eyes spinning around the room, searching for an answer that would cancel his blame. “We had a marriage, Danny. No we didn’t have *sex,* but we had *something,* and you, Danny, you betrayed that. Don’t you dare stand there and tell me that I am the only one who was wrong. Don’t you dare.”

He was silent and she backed away, letting him stew in his thoughts. She grabbed her purse and headed to the door. Opening the door, she paused and looked back at him, “I lowered my guard this time, Danny. I took the step. I admitted where I went wrong, what I messed up and I explained myself. It’s your turn. You know where to find me.”

She stepped out of the room and like a whirlwind, Danny was after her, grabbing her hand and pulling her back into the room, back into his arms. She dropped her purse and pressed her hand against his chest, while he held her arm bent back to the side, looking down at her, his face inches from hers.

“You don’t just walk out, it doesn’t work like that.” He pushed out between clenched teeth.

She tried to jerk away, but he held her fast. “Well, then how does it work, Danny?” she spit out.

He let go of her, but held tightly to her hand and shut the door behind her. Entering more into the bedroom, he turned around to face her, still clasping her hand in his. “You don’t just waltz in here and confess to your sins and give me a sweet account as to how you did it all for me, all for us and expect me to just forget it all. Forget that you lied to me for weeks. Every kiss, Michelle, every touch, every time I foolishly believed that you actually wanted things to work between us, you were playing me. So in the final countdown, you stepped up to bat, you put *us* before your freedom, and that’s supposed to wash everything else away?”

“Danny –” she began, but he cut her off.

“No, my turn. My turn, Michelle! I am supposed to just forgive you betraying my family. My family, Michelle. You may think we’re a bunch of lowlife criminals who deserve to spend our lives behind bars, but it’s not just that black and white. I love my family as much as you love yours and tell me, my dear wife how you would feel if I turned around and betrayed your family –”

“– you can’t compare –”

“No! NO! That’s not the point. The point is — the point is that you betrayed the people that I LOVE! You did that! And now you expect me to just forgive you because you’ve prettily offered an apology and yourself.” He let go of her hand and held her chin lightly between his fingers, “Is that right? Did I miss something?”

She jerked her face away and muttered under her breath, “You put it that way …”

“Michelle, yes or no. Forget the wording, yes or no?”

She glared at him, but responded softly, “Yes, but –”

“– Yes,” he cut her off. “So I forgive you, Michelle. I forgive you!” He spread his arms out wide, walking in a half-circle around her, “because, I love you. God help me, I love you so much it has been destroying me being apart from you.”

He stepped close behind her and wrapped an arm around her waist. Bending low, he whispered in her ear, his voice husky — full of anguish and desire and need. “I love you so much that every bone in my body aches with the need to be with you, my heart beats with the need to be near you, to hear your voice, see your face, my fingers ache to caress you, to explore every inch of you. My soul yearns the completion I know will exist in your love. I am so in love with you, I feel so much more for you than anything in my entire life that every step I take, every move I make is filled with confusion and fear and emotion. And I am not in control.”

He pulled away slightly and she let out a shaky breath, and then he rested his chin on her other shoulder, his breath whispering moist against the flesh of her throat. “You think you are the only one with fear, you think you are the only one of us who is lost and confused. I’m right there with you, Michelle. Right beside you.”

And then he pulled away and stepped back. Michelle stumbled slightly, wrapping her arms around her waist, holding onto herself to keep from throwing herself straight back into his arms.

“And so I forgive you,” he uttered harshly. “You betray me. You betray my family. But I forgive you. Because I love you. You told me the truth expecting, *expecting,* my forgiveness, Michelle. And I give it to you. And so now you know about my, let’s call in an indiscretion and you, you can not forgive ME! I think I’m sensing a slight imbalance in the equation, my dear.”

“What do you want me to say?” She burst out with a mixture of anger and pain in her voice. “What do I do? What do I say? I can’t pretend it doesn’t bother me. Making love is not something that is done lightly. It’s a big deal and you made lo–”

“–No!” He jumped in abruptly. “I did NOT make love to her. It was not making love, it was sex, pure and simple. No deeper motive than a need to forget and lose ourselves in the empty physical pleasure. Michelle, you know, not everybody sees sex the way you do.”

She looked at him, trying desperately to see past his actions with Drew. Shaking his head, he began pacing again and spared her a glance now and then to gauge her reaction.

“I’m not saying it’s wrong, it’s just a little unrealistic in this day and age to expect sex to be hearts and flowers and love and destiny with every partner. I’ve been having sex since I was fourteen years old and I never once made love, because I’ve never been in love. The strongest emotion I felt was a mild affection. I had sex because it felt good. Period. Not because I wanted to forge some deep connection of the soul. I wanted release and satisfaction. And that was it. And that night with Drew, I didn’t even care about that.”

“What did you care about then, Danny? Do tell,” she muttered witheringly.

“I wanted to be the man I was before you came into my life. I wanted to gain control. I wanted to make a decision that was not ruled by my heart. I was drinking, I was alone with her, she was upset, I was upset, we both decided to hell with everyone and everything that had ever caused us pain. And that was it. Nothing more.”

Michelle turned around and gazed before her seeing nothing. He came up behind her and once more wrapped his arms around her waist. She tightened slightly, but didn’t move away. And then he began speaking, and his tone was that silky, honey slide of sensuality caressing her eardrums, his breath falling upon her bare skin like the cooling buttress of a Spring rain.

“But with you, Michelle, when I’m with you, when I kiss you, touch you … when you kiss me, my God, when you touch me, it’s like nothing I’ve ever felt before. Not even close. And for the first time in my life, I want to be with you and only you. No other woman will do. Your eyes, your mouth, the scent, the feel of your skin … Michelle, I see you walk across a room and I want you, you speak, you say my name and I feel like my heart is being squeezed dry. I can barely think, let alone speak when I’m with you and I have never lost control so completely with a woman before. It frightens me. You frighten me.”

She laughed lightly, nervously, “I frighten you?”

“Because I want you so much. I want to be with you,” and he pressed a kiss upon the column of her throat. She arched her neck slightly and sighed, her eyes closing and his lips trailed upwards, resting upon the tender flesh of her earlobe and his tongue was tracing a delicate pattern and she leaned back more fully against him, one arm caressing his hand wrapped about her waist, the other rising, and clutching his bent head.

“Danny, I, God, I can’t –” she began on a breathy moan.

He whispered softly in her ear between kisses, “Yes, you can. Just let it go, let all of it go, you want me, you said you wanted me. Do you want me?”

“Yes,” she sighed and her knees were weak.

“Tell me you want me, say it. Say it, Michelle,” his words continued, a husky entreaty that she could not ignore.

“I want you, Danny, I want you so much,” and she was turning in his arms, her hands against his chest, sliding up onto his bare shoulders, cupping his face and he let her take the lead. He let her take control.

With his arms around her, his lips on hers, the heat coursing through her blood, she found herself once again lost in everything wonderful about him. His touch, his kisses, the masculine scent that was him only. She dropped her head and pressed her nose into the curve between his shoulder and throat and inhaled deeply.

“Danny,” she breathed his name as her lips moved over his heated flesh, her hands gripped at his hair, running down his back, sculpting the muscles there. His hands were around her face and he lifted her chin up so that she was looking at him and the need, the desperate, incredible longing that must have been in her own eyes was reflected in his — dark and smouldering, burning her straight through to her very soul.

She leaned up and pressed her lips against his before he could initiate the kiss. She clung to his bottom lip with hers, and her hands were back in his hair, her fingers clutching at those delicious curls and she was drowning, falling into the ocean of his kiss. His tongue was sliding, flowing with hers, touching off sparks of pleasure inside of her.

She moaned against him and pulled away, breathing heavily. Reaching out a hand, she ran it over his bare chest and her eyes followed the downward descent of her fingers. He smiled lazily and moved towards her. She smiled back and shook her head as her finger danced along the edge of his jeans and then she undid the top button and fell to her knees before him.

His hand was in her hair and she could hear his breathing, rough and unsteady above her. Leaning forward, she opened her mouth slightly and held his zipper between her teeth and pulled down. He let out a hoarse cry and backed away. “Michelle,” he muttered, “I’m only human, I can take only so much.”

She gazed up at him and smiled as she began undoing the front buttons of her dress. Slipping off his jeans, his eyes traveled over her face and down her body and then back again. She threw the cream-colored garment to the side and fell to all fours.

Danny looked at her coming towards him and his hand slipped beneath his boxer shorts. She shook her head, “noo,” as she reached him and jerked the shorts down. Her gaze rested on his erection and she licked her bottom lip, a light of desire in her eyes. She sat back up on her knees and rested a hand against him, stroking the entire length of him as he shuddered silently beneath her grasp.

Slowly, carefully she pulled herself up, still holding onto him, exploring the hardness of him. His breathing was off and unsteady, his eyes closed, his lips parted and she leaned up, her tongue tracing his bottom lip slowly, softly, a delicate touch of moistness. Her hand came up to the side of his face as she slipped her tongue inside his mouth, seducing him with her kiss, her touch, feeling a freedom she’d never experienced before.

“You like?” she asked softy and he nodded, “too much. Way too much,” he muttered before pulling her hand away from him and crushing her close to him, his mouth plundering into hers, taking over, taking control. In one swift motion he lifted her up into his arms and carried her to the bed. He released her and she bounced on the mattress; a smile, full of wanton desire, lit her face. He climbed into the bed beside her and knelt down, pressing a kiss upon her bare stomach. His hands rose up, cupping her breasts as his head descended, his nose pushing past the silky material of her pale underwear. She sighed deeply and clutched his hair, while one of his hands crept down her body and pushed the offending material out of the way. His lips pressed against her and she squirmed, her cries echoing in the spacious room as she pushed against him, desperately … wanting more.

He obliged.

Unhooking her bra, he slipped the garment over the side of the bed and once more cupped her breasts in his hands while he explored the taste and scent of her. Rolling the tight buds of her nipples between his fingers, she writhed and moaned beneath him, as passion built up inside of her and she was clutching and pulling at his hair, her cries coming faster with his every action and then she was flying, spiraling into an ecstatic wave of pleasure the likes of which she’d never known.

She lay back, breathing heavily, sighing his name between battered breaths, but before she could get a coherent word out, he rose above her, his lips dancing across the crowns of her breast, the upward slope, her collarbone, smoothing a wet, sticky line towards her mouth. Their lips met and in was a fusion of desire and love.

She wound her arms around his shoulders and her legs were wrapped about his hips. When he pulled away from their kiss, her eyes met his and a hungry note growled in her voice, “Danny, now, I need you inside me now,” and before the words were out of her mouth, his eyes locked on hers, his one hand feathering across her face, the other down below, he thrust into her, smoothly, fully and she held herself still for a moment, her muscles tightened about him as she adjusted to his presence. He pressed a light kiss on her lips and when she relaxed beneath him, he began to move, slowly at first and then faster, quicker, seeking the same heights she had just soared to. And she gazed at him, amazed and shocked and awed by the look of joy, ecstasy and wonder on his face.

He was touching her and she was close, so close, her eyes closed and everything went black around her, then white, then a rainbow of colors exploded inside her head and their cries filled the room in unison.

Michelle reached up and stretched her fingers across his back, savoring the sticky sweat there. He fell softly upon her and then rolled to the side. She winced slightly as he pulled away, but found her wince fading into a contented smile as he gathered her up in his arms.

Pressing a soft kiss upon her forehead, his breathing was heavy and there was a dazed note in his voice, “We — what we did, that was … I mean, wow, you know, it was like …”

“We made love.” Her voice was quiet and sure.

He pulled away and cupped her chin in his hand, raising her face. Looking searchingly into her eyes, he asked carefully, “If we made love, then that means that you — that you?”

She bit her lip gingerly, “I’ve never felt like that before,” and then she paused and met his gaze, “I love you, Danny.”

“Are you sure?” he questioned unsteadily.

Her eyes widened, “of course, I wouldn’t say …” she trailed off and Danny cut in.

“Michelle, I know that this is a big deal for you. You know, there is nothing wrong with having sex with someone because you only want them. It’s not a crime. And for us, it’s a start.”

“You think I did this because I want you?”

He let out a breath and looked away from her, contemplating the room in general, and then with a sigh he gazed down at her, “Yes.” And then he smiled, “but it’s okay, I know you don’t love me. I know you don’t and that’s okay, it’s gonna take time, but I have hope, now, that we’re together. And in the meantime, I guess I have enough love for both of us. Michelle, the thing is, I want you to love me, I won’t deny that, but I want you to be honest with me, first. Don’t tell me what you think I want to hear, and don’t say what you think you should say.”

Michelle laughed lightly, and leaned up, pressing a kiss to his lips, then his cheek, his eye, his forehead and then back to his mouth. “Danny, Danny, Danny. Oh, you can be so sweet and so clueless sometimes.”

“I’m just trying to be understanding.”

“Okay,” she nodded, “I did sleep with you, I did make love to you, because I want you.”

“Okay, that’s fine –”

“– Would you let me finish?” she interrupted tartly.

He nodded, “sorry. Continue.”

“I did make love to you because I want you, but I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t have come to see you, if I didn’t love you. I love you, Danny. I do.”

“You do?”

“Yes,” she answered succinctly. “And now, now we can make a fresh start.”

“You love me?” he asked again. “You love me. So we’re together, we’re you and me, we’re an us.”

“Yes,” she said again, a smile spreading across her face.

He rewarded her with a matching smile and sat up. “This is good,” and then he laughed suddenly.

“What?” she asked, as her hand trailed up and down his arm.

“Mama is going to be so not happy with this,” he replied.

And Michelle let out her own laugh, “So this is just wonderful news all around, then.”

He looked down at her, his expression softening, “You’re wonderful. So wonderful. And we will make this work. We will.”

She smiled, “Yes, we will,” and looking at him, she thought of her wedding vows, ‘I put my life … my fate, into your hands.’ and she spoke them again to him softly, surely, in the privacy of their bedroom, with one addition, “Danny, I put my life … my fate, my heart into your hands. I love you.”

The End

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