Alexis yawned as her eyes slowly opened to the morning sun that cast its warmth upon her face through the sheer curtains. She squinted against the soft glow, and then closed her lids again. She was groggy, still half asleep, and the light was somewhat disorienting. One hand moved up to rub at her eyes as her limbs stretched out between the cool, tangled sheets...but her arm hit something on the way to her face.
"Owe." A low voice intoned.
Alexis smiled at the familiar resonant timbre coming from the other side of the bed. Cameron. It hadn't been just a beautiful dream - it really happened. Her smile grew. And her arm moved again, wrist turning until her hand found and lay flush against the smooth, warm skin of an unseen part of his body. She lifted her face from the pillow and turned her head toward him, hair succumbing to the force of gravity and falling across her face.
Cameron grinned at the sweetly rumpled vision. The pink flush of morning was blooming in her beautiful face, and deep dimples greeted him from within an impish, close-mouthed smile. He wanted to see her eyes too, and his fingertips began to gently sweep the bangs from her face. Soon, her lashes flutter at the feel of his touch grazing her temples.
"Bed hog." He grumbled teasingly.
Alexis's smile grew, teeth biting down on the inside of her lip as Cameron's fingers slid back through her hair. She sighed and lay her left cheek down on the pillow.
"Sorry." She murmured. "I'm not used to sharing any more."
Her sleepy, smoky brown eyes finally opened and lifted up to gaze at him. And as Cameron gazed back, he suddenly felt the hand she'd laid against his side move, slipping upward over the plane of his stomach. He reflexively firmed his abs - and immediately felt like a preening fool. Lying naked in the morning light, beside the equally naked and exquisitely formed body of Alexis made his normally dormant vanity rear its ugly head.
Cameron had seen the way other men looked at her. Men with chiseled features. Men with well-tailored clothes. Men who clearly worked out. Men who were younger than him. Men who were younger than her. Alexis was oblivious. She never seemed to notice the other men. But she noticed HIM. She was aroused by him. And she loved him. Alexis suddenly slid her nails up, through the hair on his chest, and Cameron's gaze began to wantonly wander over the smooth, feminine lines of her bare shoulders and back.
"Get used to it again soon. Okay?" He murmured, stroking the back of her hand with his fingertips.
"Well... I suppose I could try." Alexis gave Cameron a sly smile as he took her hand from his chest and kissed her palm. "If you really want me to."
"On second thought." He turned onto his side and propped himself up on one elbow to better look at her. "I suppose there are worse things than spending the night all tangled up with you."
He released her palm and ran his own over the curve of her right shoulder, down the length of her spine, and under the edge of the white sheet that barely covered her hips.
"Mmm..." Alexis purred contentedly. "Many worse things."
"Good morning, by the way."
He leaned down and kissed the top of her shoulder. She giggled at the bristly feel of his whiskers against her skin.
"Good morning to you too."
A yawn suddenly snuck up on her, and Alexis pulled her hand up to cover her mouth.
"I saw that." Cameron kissed her shoulder blade. "But I'll try not to take it personally."
She peered up at him through languid eyes. "You SHOULD take it personally."
"Oh?" His eyebrow lifted.
Alexis snuggled herself deeper into the pillow and squirmed, tying not to laugh again as Cameron's feathery touch danced over her hip.
"I'm only yawning because you wore me out last night."
He felt his face tingle with the beginning of a blush.
"In a good way, I hope."
"You were there. What do YOU think?"
Cameron's hand came back out from under the sheet and trailed up her side. Alexis pulled her arm in tight to her body and finally released the giggle she'd been holding back.
"Hey!" She cuddled up against him and slipped her arm around his waist. "That tickled and you know it!"
He sighed lightly as he wrapped his arms tight around her. God, she was adorable.
"Yeah, I know it." Cameron murmured. "And what I think is that I want to keep wearing you out for the rest of your life."
Alexis lay still in his arms for a long moment as his fingers sifted through her hair. And then, she tilted her chin up to look at him with solemn eyes. Cameron ran his tongue across his lips and cleared his throat. What the hell was wrong with him, uttering such a thing to a woman who'd literally fled in terror from the concept of 'till death us do part'? He hadn't meant to say it...but there it was, hovering over them like a silent dark cloud.
"Was that too presumptuous of me to say?"
She lightly shook her head. "No."
"Was it too frightening?"
Alexis took her eyes away from his and lay her head back down against his chest. "No."
"You're conspicuously silent. What I just said did make you feel something, didn't it?"
Cameron ran his palm up her arm and back down again. He was almost afraid to question her denial, but he'd come to know her well. He knew that what he'd said affected her, and the look in her eyes made him wish he could take it back - even though he'd meant it. And he couldn't let it slide.
"Alexis, if this is moving too fast, or if it's too much emotionality for you to handle at the same time you're assuming full parental duties, you need to tell me."
Alexis pulled her arm tighter around him and turned her face into his chest. And then, Cameron felt something wet hit his skin. Alexis was crying. His heart began to heave. It had been so long since he'd felt such physical desire for a woman. It had been a lifetime since he'd felt such emotional desire - for closeness, for connection...and for the rest of his own life. He didn't know what he would have done if the feelings he'd expressed for Alexis the night before hadn't been returned. He probably could have continued being her friend, but it would have hardened the protective shell around his heart a little more each time he saw her smile with that beautiful mouth that would never be his to kiss.
And surely one day, Cameron's hard heart would have shattered into dust all over again, the way it had when Peter died. He would have slowly withdrawn from Alexis, or made her withdraw from him with his sharp tongue the way he'd done with Zander. That had been his pattern. But he didn't want that any more. He didn't want a hard heart, and he didn't want a sharp tongue to protect him from the pain that was possible with loving. Alexis was worth the risk, and she was worth the pain. So was his son. And Cameron wanted them both in his life, no matter what their boundaries might be.
"It's all right. I understand." He whispered gently, eyes shifting up to the glow filtering in through the window as his hands continued their travels up and down the smooth skin of her arm. "Sometimes, in the light of a new day...I never intended to pressure you, Alexis. We can slow down...or I can pull back altogether. We can go back to being just friends. We can continue with the public fašade of being therapist and patient. We can do both...or neither. I'll do whatever you want. Just don't ask me to stop loving you, because that's not going to happen."
"What I w-want..." She paused to press a kiss to his chest. "Is for you to keep on loving me."
A wet trickle ran down his side. Cameron frowned in confusion. His hand found her damp cheek, slipped down to her chin, and lifted her face upward.
"And the tears are meant to throw me off track because you're afraid your status as the most confounding woman I've ever met is somehow in danger? Not to worry."
She laughed, sniffed, and rubbed at her wet face as she looked into his eyes.
"I know what you were about to say. You were about to say that in the light of day, things can look different than they do in the dark of night when emotions can be more...intense. And you would have been right. It doesn't mean that what was said or done wasn't real, but the light of a new day can sometimes bring a new perspective." She rolled her eyes and gave a short shake of her head. "Been there, done that."
"Alexis, please don't ..."
"Cameron, between bringing Kristina home and what happened between you and me...I think last night was just a little outside my neurotic self's comfort zone. I never had anything as perfect as this in my entire life. And even though I tried ignoring it, the little voice in the back of my head kept telling me that the other shoe could drop at any time and take it all away from me - like I could wake up this morning and find the nursery empty, along with the other side of my bed, because last night was all just a dream. Or you could wake up and find me lying next to you, and realize you feel different from how you felt last night."
"I do feel different. Waking up to see you lying next to me made my feelings for you deepen even more. And you aren't the only one with a little voice, Alexis. Do you honestly think that last night wasn't outside MY comfort zone too?"
Alexis didn't think that at all. She knew how wounded he'd been and what a chance he'd taken on her. She opened her mouth, but Cameron touched a finger to her lips to silence her.
"That was a rhetorical question." He took in a deep breath and sighed it out as his thumb ran back and forth across her rosy lip. "Alexis, last night was as terrifying for me as it was transporting. It WAS perfect. And I wouldn't want to be anywhere else, with anyone else but you."
"Neither would I."
"Good. Because I'm NOT anyone else." He furrowed his brow and cupped his hand to the side of her head. "You may have 'been there, done that', but it wasn't with me. I know you've had loss - probably more than your rightful share. And I know you've been hurt and betrayed. So has everyone else, to one degree or another. But I'm not Kristina's father, and I'm not Ned."
"No, you're not. And you're not like either of them at all."
"I mean it."
"So do I. So please don't expect me to be like them."
"I didn't expect..."
"You said you were afraid of waking up to my abandonment. But I'm the one who's still here."
She stared intently into Cameron's eyes with an intense, studious expression.
"That 'rest of your life' thing you mentioned before? It actually sounds quite nice."
"It does to me too." He whispered.
"Before you came into my life, caring about me and wanting to help me for no discernable reason, I was sure a part of me had finally died - the part that clung to the fragile belief that loving someone, even in secret, was at all a safe thing to do. I never thought I'd let myself love anyone again. And I certainly never thought I'd feel loved BY anyone. But both have happened with you, and it does feel safe."
Cameron smiled, and Alexis felt his arms tighten around her.
"The thing is, the only other men I've let myself love both hate me now. And even though I've given you more reason to hate me than anyone, you don't. You love me instead."
"I love you like crazy. Pun WELL intended."
She firmed her hand against his chest and her smile grew.
"I love you like crazy back." She whispered. "But the thought of you ever hating me too is simply unbearable."
"Stop it, Alexis!"
The room fell silent. Cameron took her face in both hands and she looked at him with large eyes.
"We've gone to hell and back together since the day Kristina was born. You may have royally duped me into riding shotgun with you at first, but we've been sharing the wheel for a long time now and I've held on no matter how bumpy it got. I have no intention of letting go now that we've finally turned onto a perfect road." He gave her a stern expression. "Got it?"
"Good." Cameron wiggled his eyebrow. "Now come here. I've missed that mouth."
He pulled her up and kissed her. Alexis made a small sound of distress and pulled away, her hand reflexively moving up to her chin.
"It's just a little whisker burn on my chin." She confessed sheepishly. "I've never been with...I mean, your beard is a new sensation for me."
Cameron's mind quickly went to all the other places on her body where his whiskers must have left their mark on her tender skin. He'd probably need to keep his mouth to himself for the rest of the day - and it wasn't a thought that made him happy. But he didn't ever want his kisses to hurt. He reached for her mouth and grazed her lower lip with the pad of his thumb.
"I promise to be more gentle from now on."
She smiled. "You are gentle - in a strong, insistent kind of way. I just need to get used to the facial hair."
Alexis bowed her head and began planting kisses below the line of his collarbone as her fingernails raked through the light forest on his chest.
"This doesn't burn at all. It's soft here."
"You're soft everywhere." He murmured appreciatively, hands beginning to roam over her skin. "Except for your head, of course."
"Wise ass." Alexis grumbled.
Cameron's hands slipped over her hips. "Mine may be wise, but yours is sexy as hell. YOU are sexy as hell. And sensual...and intoxicating."
His palm smoothed over her behind to caress the back of her thigh. Alexis felt her face warm with self-consciousness. She wasn't used to such flattery, nor did she ever really think of herself in the way Cameron described her. She was always the intellectual woman in the room, never the sexpot. It wasn't a role she'd ever sought. And the one time it sought her, it turned her life upside down. But to hear the man she loved say such things to her - sexy, sensual, intoxicating...it felt wonderful. And it made her want to be all those things even more. For him. Just for him.
"Cameron, I want you to know that I don't consider sex to be a recreational activity."
"Why on earth would you think you needed to qualify that?"
"Well, what happened between us last night was rather spontaneous. And you know that my pregnancy with Kristina was...unplanned. I just don't want you to think that I fall into bed with people casually, because I don't. I never have. I don't give my body unless I've already given my heart."
"I already knew that about you, Alexis. And it's what made last night so extraordinary for me - so magnificent. My days of casual interludes are far behind me. I don't want that any more. It's not enough. I want the whole heart/body package deal, so to speak, and I want it from you. Last night you gave it to me."
"And you gave it to me." She suddenly squinted up at him, a somewhat stricken look on her face. "Pun so NOT intended."
Cameron laughed, shaking his head. Alexis smiled softly. The sound of Cameron's laughter was something she wanted to hear more often.
"Well, you know what they say..." His hands pulled her hips down into his, and Alexis felt the stirring of his body's arousal. "It's better to give than to receive."
She sighed in mock disinterest.
"I WAS going to let you shower first so you'd have plenty of hot water, but I think you could probably do with a bit of cooling down instead."
"Why, Alexis." Cameron's face assumed an expression of pure innocence as his back arched, hips rocking up against the softness of her body. "Whatever do you mean?"
Alexis felt his fingers slip up the sides of her body.
The fingers began to caress the sides of the two round, womanly curves resting upon Cameron's chest. Alexis shuddered, and quickly gave herself over to his want. She wanted too. Her knee drew up along the top of his thigh as her hand slid down his belly.