A distant clap of thunder drew her out of her light sleep.
The sound of the rain, tapping a staccato rhythm against the window, grew stronger in her ears. Alexis drowsily turned onto her side, and hugged the pillow close to her face. She smiled. The pillow smelled of cloves. So did her arm. And her awakening body remembered everything - every moment of loving and being loved by him. Her smile grew. Alexis slid her hand out toward the other side of the bed in search of Sonny's warmth. The sheets were cool beneath her fingers. Her smile waned.
She blinked her heavy lids open. Her eyes were met with the soft glow of the moon shining behind the dance of falling rain...and an empty space beside her. Alexis rubbed at her eyes and lifted her head from the pillow. She glanced toward the overstuffed chair in the corner. It was empty. Her head turned, and she cast a squinting gaze around the other side of the room. The bathroom door was open and the light was off. He wasn't there either. She was alone...except for the rain.
Alexis shook the hair from her face as she turned under the tangle of bedclothes, kicking gently to free her legs from their confines. The wrinkled cotton sheet fell away from her body as she sat upright, leaving her warm, damp, spice-scented skin naked to the cool night air's embrace. She wanted the heat of Sonny's arms embracing her instead. But he was gone. Was it just another dream? No. It happened. It was real - as real as the rain. She knew it was real.
Her eyes shifted to the window, where they'd stood watching the outside storm when the storm inside began. The memory of it was so vivid. The kisses they shared were strong and soft, fierce and gentle, and filled with infinite love. And the touches were filled with infinite want, hands moving over the boundaries of their clothes, pushing them away and casting them aside to move freely over needful skin. Alexis's brow suddenly creased in thought. She leaned upon the empty side of the bed and peered over the edge. Their scattered clothing was littering the floor. The corners of her mouth lifted in a soft smile. Sonny hadn't gone anywhere - unless he'd gone there naked.
"Did you think I fell out?"
Alexis snapped her head toward the sound of Sonny's voice. He stood in the threshold of the doorway, the contours of his body backlit by the faint glow cast by the table tamp in the hall. His trademark dimples were ablaze. And he was, indeed, in the buff.
"Uh, no, I...where were you?"
"Is something wrong?"
"No, nothing's wrong."
"Oh. Good. I though maybe you'd heard Johnny knocking at the door and..."
"Johnny's gone home. Francis is on shift now."
Sonny didn't move. He just stood, smiling and staring, with the beautiful silhouette of his body framed in the doorway like a work of art made for her eyes only. Her pulse began to quicken. She wanted him to come back to her - back to her bed and her body. Sonny suddenly tilted his head, as if he could read her thoughts. She didn't doubt that he could. Still, Alexis cleared her throat and ran a hand through the messy bangs that fell across her eyes.
"So, what were you doing downstairs? Were you hungry? Because cooking was supposed to be MY job tonight, so if you want..."
"You were most definitely the one doing the cooking tonight - in more ways than one."
Her jaw dropped, and a small, unintelligible sound escaped from her throat. Sonny laughed. She hurled a pillow at him, missing him by a mile.
"What? It's the truth. And no disrespect meant toward your lasagna, which was truly excellent, but the only thing I'm hungry for right now is you."
Alexis felt her face begin to flush even more. Her hunger for him was rising like a tide. She mirrored him, tilting her head and flashing some dimples of her own.
"It's going to be a little difficult for me to satisfy that hunger as long as you're standing way over there and I'm sitting way over here."
Sonny's eyes swept a deliberate path down her exposed body. The hunger of his eyes was being fed quite well. The hunger of his body would have to wait. Alexis shifted on the bed, tucking her legs underneath her body and filling his ears with the soft sound of crinkling cotton.
"Are you planning to come back to bed?" She murmured.
"Oh, I'm coming back to bed. I just want to enjoy looking at you for another minute. You look so beautiful, sitting in the middle of those rumpled sheets with your hair falling over your shoulders and your bare skin glowing - shimmering, really, with the shadows of the rain falling outside. You're a work of art."
She resisted the instinctively modest urge to grab the rumpled sheets and cover herself. Instead, Alexis allowed her own eyes to indulge in the same unabashed appreciation of Sonny's beauty.
"Funny. I was thinking the same thing about you."
"Yeah?" Sonny whispered.
"Mm hmm." Alexis nodded. "I was also thinking that you're too far away."
Sonny began moving toward her, and she gave him a small, deliberate pout.
"And I didn't like waking up alone."
Sonny quickly rounded the corner of the bed and crawled up onto the empty side.
"I'm sorry." He slipped his hand around to the back of her neck and kissed her. "I didn't want to wake you up just yet. You looked too adorable, all cuddled up under the covers with your face smushed into the pillow and your hair going every which way."
Alexis frowned. "Oh yes, that sounds like quite the fetching picture."
"You have no idea."
He kissed her again, more deeply. Alexis's hands began to roam through his hair, and Sonny softened his mouth upon hers.
"I love you." She whispered against his lips.
Sonny moved his kisses down to her throat. "I love you."
Alexis's hands suddenly stopped their travels through his hair.
"Hey - what did you mean, you didn't want to wake me up 'just yet'?"
He looked up at her and grinned.
"Why were you going to wake me up?" Alexis poked his left dimple her finger. "What are you up to, Mr. Dimples?"
"Where you're concerned, I could be 'up' to something all the time."
Her eyebrow arched. "Oh?"
Alexis slid her arms around him and pulled him with her as she fell back against the pillows.
Alexis laughed at Sonny's startled outburst as he shot a quick hand out to keep his full weight from landing on top of her.
"Is THAT why you were going to wake me up?"
Her hands smoothed over his shoulder blades and down the tightly muscled length of his back. She ran her tongue across her lips as her fingers lingered, dancing across the beginning swell of his behind. Sonny gently lowered himself down to her, his eyes locking onto hers.
He kissed her on the mouth, teeth catching and grazing her full lower lip as he pulled away.
"Are you suggesting I would rouse you from a peaceful sleep..."
Sonny's lips closed over the pulse in her throat while his hands began tracing the outline of her body.
"Just so I could act upon my impure thoughts about you and feed my own selfish desires?"
His fingertips swept up the inside of her thigh, and Alexis gasped in surprise.
"Y-yes." She stammered.
Her hands firmed on his hips and pulled them close. Sonny laughed lightly, and his mouth found hers once again.
"Despite all outward evidence to the contrary..." He rocked his hips against her thigh. "I'm still too much of a gentleman to do such a thing."
She took in a sharp breath.
"M-maybe so. I suppose if your thoughts were really THAT impure - ohhh..."
She moaned softly as Sonny's lips suddenly whispered their way over the slope of her cleavage.
"Y-you wouldn't...c-care if I were..."
His wet tongue found a particularly sensitive spot. Her back arched.
"Ahhh...awake or n-not."
Sonny chuckled and moved back up along her body to gently nip at her earlobe.
"I'd care." He cupped her face between his hands. "I'd care very much."
Sonny felt Alexis's fingers begin to glide up and down the length of his spine. His lids twitched. Alexis smiled. He smiled back and pressed his mouth against hers once more - briefly...gently. And then, he pulled back.
Alexis stared up at him with a creased brow, waiting for him to finish his thought.
"I don't think HE'D care at all."
"He who?" Her crease deepened. "What are you talking about?"
Sonny ran his tongue across his lips and sighed lightly.
"I didn't want to say anything before because I knew it would make you self-conscious, but..." His voice dropped to an airy whisper. "We aren't alone."
Alexis's hands froze against the small of his back as her eyes grew big. Sonny's voice lowered even more.
"We were being watched tonight. And we still are."
Alexis swallowed. As she stared intently into Sonny's dark eyes, they slowly shifted to the right. She took in a shallow, raspy breath and allowed her own eyes to follow in the direction of Sonny's gaze...until they landed upon the stuffed penguin perched on the nightstand who was gazing right back.
Alexis grabbed the soft, black and while creature by the yellow beak and took aim for Sonny's head. And Sonny laughed as Alexis continued to pummel him with the furry little peeping tom.
"His eyes look a LOT bigger now than they did last night. I think we learned him something."
The penguin bopped him on the butt. Sonny swung his arm back and made a grab for her arm before Alexis could hit him again. He missed. His left cheek took another direct hit.
"Hey - I'm gonna tickle." Sonny warned.
Her arm froze mid air, fist dangling the penguin by its beak. Sonny grinned, dimples flashing. Alexis chewed on her bottom lip as the wheels of her mind turned. And Sonny could indeed see them turning. Finally, she smiled sweetly, lowered the penguin back down, and tucked it into the crook of her arm.
"And I'm gonna go back to sleep. Good night."
She cuddled the soft creature close against her chest as she turned away from Sonny and closed her eyes with a showy sigh.
"Oh no you don't."
Sonny pushed his chest against her back and his mouth to her shoulder. Alexis pretended to ignore him. His arm curled around her body, hand slipping up between the penguin's soft fur and Alexis's soft skin. The corner of her mouth twitched as the dimple in her cheek unsuccessfully tried to stay hidden. Sonny kissed the peek-a-boo dimple and Alexis's smile broke through.
"I knew you didn't really want to go back to sleep." He whispered.
Alexis squirmed as his fingers grazed over her curves, taunting the sensitive flesh.
"Mr. Smarty Pants."
A clap of thunder echoed in the distance. A fresh fall of raindrops quickly followed, dancing their way against the windowpane. Sonny snuggled closer against her sweet warmth.
"That's Mr. BOSSY Smarty Pants to you...Spud."
He brushed his lips over the side of her throat and blew a light puff of air over her skin. Alexis scrunched her shoulder and laughed.
Sonny swept his palm down her body and kissed the apple of her cheek before pulling away from her, leaving her naked back exposed to a sudden, cool veil of air. She shivered as Sonny's weight shifted away from her. There came the rustling of sheets, and Alexis waited to feel him slipping between them to settle his warm body against her for the night...or feed his body's hunger, and hers, once more. She felt him moving on the bed behind her, but still, the cool air was at her back. She turned her head and propped herself up on her elbow to look at him as he tugged at the bedclothes, freeing them from under the corners of the mattress.
"What are you doing?"
Sonny grabbed the edge of the edge of the white, lacy sheet, pulled it up over Alexis's back, and tucked it around the sides of her body.
"You asked me why I went downstairs and I never told you. I want to show you instead."
Alexis turned further toward him, her movement wrapping the cotton more tightly around her.
Sonny suddenly scooped her up in his arms and lifted her off the bed - sheet and all.
"Hey!" She protested.
"Hold onto me, okay?"
"Sonny, put me down."
"I'm perfectly capable of walking, you know."
"I know. I'm just...trying to be romantic. So could you humor me, please?"
Alexis looked into his sweet, loving eyes as the rain pattered and sparkled against the window behind him. He smiled crookedly, with one dimple appearing just seconds before the other, and Alexis suddenly didn't want to be put down at all. And so she laid her cheek against his shoulder, inhaled the spicy scent of his skin, and answered his plea with the circling of her arms around his neck and a droll quip.
Sonny chuckled as he carefully moved off the bed, holding her tight. His feet hit the floor, and he carried Alexis out of the bedroom and into the hallway with the end of the sheet trailing behind them. Halfway down the stairs, the earthy fragrance of burning wood met her nose before the crackling sound met her ears. Alexis lifted her head and cast her eyes down, into the living room, where it was dark but for the glow of fiery shadows dancing across the walls. She smiled. He'd rekindled the fire, just for her.
But as Sonny reached the bottom of the stairs, Alexis saw that it wasn't the fire alone that warmed the room with flickering light. A corps of candles had been set about the room to form a casual circle, from one end of the fireplace, to the sofa table, to her desk, to the television cabinet, and ending at the other end of the fireplace. And inside the circle of soft warmth and hypnotic light, lay a sensually textured bed of cotton blankets, chenille throws, fluffy pillows, and a down comforter big enough for two. Alexis took in a slow, raspy breath.
Sonny smiled at the wide-eyed expression on her face - like a child who'd just seen her first snow.
"You aren't just TRYING to be romantic, you're BEING it."
"Do you like it?"
She smiled and turned her sparkling brown eyes back to his. "I love it."
He tilted his head as his gaze fell to her mouth. "You got so distracted by all the pretty lightening, you didn't get to enjoy the fire I built before."
"Oh sure - blame all my distraction on the lightening."
"I take full responsibility for my part in the aforementioned distraction. Which is why I wanted to make it up to you by rekindling the fire so you could enjoy it now."
"Ah." Alexis nodded. "I see. And...that?"
She nodded toward the makeshift bed on the floor before the fireplace.
"Oh, that? Well, that's so you can enjoy both the fire AND distractions. Including the bottle of champagne that's ready and waiting in the kitchen, should you feel so inclined."
"You thought of everything."
Alexis kissed him. "Mmm yourself."
She turned her eyes back to the fireplace as Sonny carefully carried her between the two sofas and around the coffee table, all of which had been pushed back from their usual places by at least a few feet.
"And now I know who to call the next time I want to rearrange my furniture."
Sonny winked as he set her down in the middle of the comforter.
"Johnny? You didn't really drag him in here to..."
"No, I didn't."
He sat down beside her, pulling the blanket up over his midsection in an unconscious gesture of vulnerable shyness.
"You and me...tonight - it's private. It's ours. And I don't want anything or anyone intruding." Sonny took the penguin out of her hand. "Not even him."
He set the creature down on the coffee table. A moment later, he reached up and turned it around, directing it's curious little eyes toward the front door. Alexis laughed. Sonny smiled and ran his fingers along the side of her face.
"I've waited for what feels like forever to be with you like this. And I don't mean 'being with you' in just the physical sense, even though I've wanted you that way like crazy. I mean that I've waited to take the last mask off my heart and tell you and show you in the best way I know how that..."
Alexis stared at him within the silence, waiting for him to continue his thoughts. But he suddenly seemed lost. She reached up and cupped her palm to his cheek. His eyes closed as he leaned into her touch.
"You love me." She murmured.
He smiled and opened his eyes to her. "Yeah."
"Back at ya."
He took her hand from his face and kissed her palm.
"Sonny? Can I ask you something?"
"When did you know?"
"What? That I loved you?"
"Yeah. I was just wondering because...well, even though we had grown to be pretty close friends before all this happened with Sorel, I never got the faintest impression that you felt anything BUT friendship for me."
"Back at ya."
Alexis smiled crookedly. "Touche."
She pulled her sheet-swaddled knees up to her chest, encircling them with her arms as she turned to gaze at the snapping, crackling and popping flames. Her shift in mood scared him. Sonny moved up closet to her and smoothed his hand across her shoulders.
"Honey, not getting an impression about it doesn't mean it wasn't there. It can mean that it was well hidden - or well denied. Or both. Sometimes people are the last ones to be aware of their true feelings while everyone else around them has already known for a long time. Looking back, I can see that all those accusations I kept hearing from Carly about you and me didn't come just from her own insecurities - they came from her own observations."
"I heard a few accusations myself." Alexis said quietly. "And where there's smoke, there's usually at least a modicum of fire."
"Or in my case, a LOT of fire."
Sonny nodded at the circle of flickering candles surrounding them. Alexis smiled softly. Sonny was still scared.
"Alexis? Do you have doubts that my love for you is real because it took me so long to admit it to myself - and to you?"
She leaned back against him with a frown and chewed thoughtfully on her lip. Sonny tapped the side of her head.
"Then what's going on in there?"
"And don't tell me that it's nothing. I know what that lip chewing thing means."
Alexis frowned and released her lip from between her teeth.
"Too late. I already saw it."
She took in a deep breath and slowly let it out as she turned to face him.
"I don't believe that what's developed between us is in any way disingenuous on your part, so please don't misunderstand what I'm about to say if it comes out really clumsily."
Sonny stared, afraid to breathe.
"Just talk to me, Alexis."
Alexis dropped her gaze down to his hand pressed flat against the bedding beneath them. She reached out, and her fingers began to lightly trace the lines of his hand.
"Are you sure that what you're feeling isn't just...an overreaction to the intensity of everything that's happened in the last few weeks? I mean, it would be perfectly logical if the heightened emotions of a situation as intense as what we went through made the pre-existing feelings of deep caring and friendship suddenly seem like something a lot...more. It would also be logical for any accompanying feelings of guilt or responsibility to...compound an already emotionally confusing situation."
She slipped her fingers between his and continued to stare down at his hand. She was too nervous to look up into his eyes just yet. His silence scared her.
"And no matter how much you deny it, or how many times I tell you it wasn't your fault, I know that in your heart you have and always will feel responsible for what Sorel did to me."
Sonny swallowed hard. "Yes. I will. But my heart..."
His voice cracked. He swallowed again, and Alexis felt the muscles in the back of his hand tense against her fingers. She shivered, in spite of the fire's heat spreading across her back and seeping into her skin. Alexis began to pull her hand away. But Sonny suddenly locked his fingers with hers, and she slowly lifted her eyes to his face.
"Your heart is beautiful." She murmured. "I've seen it, and I've felt it every day since the minute you found me."
"I didn't find you, Alexis. You found me. You found the me that I thought died at the age of eight. The me that was buried under so much anger and pain that I almost forgot he ever existed. The me that I never wanted to unearth, revive, or embrace. The me who wouldn't have been afraid to love a woman like you because he would have thought himself worthy. You found me."
Sonny pulled Alexis's hand up to his chest and pressed it firmly against his skin, where the scars of bullets past had left their mark.
"And my heart...my heart was in my throat every minute that Sorel had you and I didn't know where you were or what he was really doing to you. It was on my sleeve every minute that you were in the hospital, fighting your fears, fighting for your recovery...fighting just because you could. And when I brought you back home, like I promised I would, my heart was finally back home too. You've become my heart's home, Alexis. You fill it, you soften it, strengthen it. And you make it feel more than I ever wanted it to feel for anyone again. So in answer to your question - yes, I'm sure. Sure of myself, and sure of you...my heart."
Alexis stared into his smoky eyes for a long while as the patter of rain, crackle of wood, and flicker of tiny flames surrounded them. Her palm began to move, slowly, back and forth over the raised scar marking a ridge in the smooth plane of his firmly muscled chest. And then, she let her eyes drop as her body released forward, coming to rest against his. Sonny circled an arm around her while his hand cupped her head. Her soft hair tickled his throat and beckoned his wanton fingers to indulge in the feel of silkiness slipping between them. Indulge they did. Alexis sighed and pressed her face to his skin, kissing the center of his chest.
"I never doubted you. Not really." She murmured in a raspy voice as she moved her way across the ridged scar. "Please believe that. I didn't mean to..."
"Hey." He firmed his fingers against her head. "I know. And I know that you just need to rationalize it because that's what you do. It makes you feel safe, especially where emotions are concerned because you've been hurt all your life by loving and wanting to BE loved. And you've caused some hurt too, which I know you're afraid of doing again. You've told me so."
She nodded as she halted her kisses and rested her cheek back upon his chest.
"So...now it's my turn. Are you sure of me?"
Alexis tilted her chin and looked up at him. He continued - carefully.
"I was there when everything went wrong between you and Ashton. I know how much you loved him, and for how long. And I know how confused and angry you were with yourself about your panic reaction to the wedding. Are you sure that what you felt for Ned didn't get misdirected toward me because you were so scared and in so much pain with Sorel and at the hospital? And because it was me who was there with you, through all of it - not him?"
"I don't feel panic with you. Not ever. I don't feel confused. I feel at peace. I feel right. And I feel unwavering love. So yes, Sonny. I'm sure."
"I never doubted you either."
Sonny smiled down at her. "I've never talked with anyone as openly and honestly as I talk to you. I like it."
"Neither have I. And me too." She smiled back. "Although I think that on occasion, I've talked to you TOO openly and honestly. Not to mention too often. I shudder to think how many times you must have opened the door to find me standing there in yet another mini-meltdown mode and it took every ounce of your compassion and fortitude you had to not slam that door shut right back in my face."
"Well...I may have wished, on occasion, that you'd chosen a better time to show up at my door in meltdown mode..."
"Mini-meltdown." She corrected.
"If you say so."
Her eyes narrowed and shifted toward the penguin sitting on the coffee table. She made a quick grab for it. Sonny's grab was faster, his hand catching her by the wrist.
"But I NEVER wanted to shut the door in your face. On the contrary, the sight of your beautiful face always made my day."
"Wanna make something out of it?"
She tilted her head and gave him a sly smile. "Maybe."
"Well, I sure do."
Sonny quickly wrapped his arms around her and rolled her onto her back. Alexis laughed.
"Are you having impure thoughts again, Mr. Bossy Smarty Pants?"
Sonny tilted his head. "Maybe."
Her hands settled gently on his shoulders, and then moved slowly, sensually down the solid muscles of his chest.
"Well, I sure am." She murmured in a husky voice.
Sonny grinned. "What a nice coincidence."
He reached for the end of the sheet, fingers quickly working to free Alexis's body from the tangled sheet as the crackling wood popped, shooting fiery sparks of ash out from the wood like a brief, brilliant sunburst.
"I think so too." Her breathing quickened as the sheets loosened. "Sometimes, there's nothing quite like a meeting of the minds."
The sheet pulled away from her legs, exposing the long, slender calves to the warmth of the fireplace and the caress of Sonny's hands. Alexis took in a sharp breath and squirmed, impatient for him to unwrap the rest of her from the cotton covering.
"A meeting of the MINDS, huh? I beg to differ."
Sonny tugged firmly at the sheet, releasing it from her thighs. Alexis grinned and drew the edge of her foot along his leg.
"Why, whatever do you mean?"
Sonny grinned back.
"Lemme show you." His lips grazed the inside of her knee. "Again..."
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for the rest "e-mail only" scene.