Suzanne's relationship with Gary develops.
His breath was too slow, too rhythmic. He was counting in his head.
"Maybe it is unhealthy how we're always..."
"Shut up." he said it calmly. No emotion in his voice at all.
"Shut up bear."
Llano let it go. He obviously didn't want to talk about it, and to be honest with herself, she didn't want to push it. What if he said that yes, Julia was right? That they were too close, that their relationship - friendship - was unhealthy and sick?
She winced as she remembered the rage in the other woman's eyes as she screamed even more hurtful things their way.
She felt guilty, Llano admitted to herself. Because, even though Julia was wrong about most things, she was right about one: she was in love with Hunter. She had been for so many years that she couldn't even remember when he'd stopped being her trusted friend and became the man of her dreams.
"I'm sorry." She said.
She was surprised when he put his book down and dragged her up so she was sitting fully in his lap, their faces level. Her heart started to beat furiously, even though she knew he would never kiss her.
"Nothing here is your fault!" he growled at her. "I'm here because I want to be. You're here because I want you to be. No more apologies."
Okay, she thought as she wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him. No more apologies. Hunt was in control and she didn't need to worry about anything.
Behind his back, she stared at the way her dark brown arm looked against his pale olive skin. She lightly touched the grey hairs starting to creep up his head from behind his ear. Even though he was only thirty five, Hunter was really sensitive about his age. She knew him so well, and he knew her even more, she didn't know what she'd do without him.
Llano thought back to the first time they had met.
She'd been bound to the hospital bed, her body scarred and her legs useless. She was exhausted from screaming in pain, screaming at the thought that she would never walk again, never see her father again. Her brain was filled with the images of the car wreck they'd been in, the storm that had swirled around the twisted metal wrapped around her father's limp body. But the image Llano could never forget, even now, was her mother's accusing face, as if the whole thing was all her fault.
Hunter had walked into her hospital room, barely past his teenage years. He was there to change the dustbins in the room, but her mother's eyes had turned to him like a vulture spotting her prey.
"You, boy!" she'd spat in her haughty voice. "Make her quiet. Give her some medicine or something."
"I'll pay you!" Llano's mother had screamed. "It's obvious you need the money. I have a lot of money now, thanks to her."
Hunter had needed the money, but he was just a cleaner. He didn't know how to make the girl stop crying. She was obviously in pain. But he tried anyways. He sat with her and begged her to stop crying, told her that he had no home and he needed the money to buy some food, so she could please, please stop crying. To his surprise, she had. And twelve years later, he was still there.
"I think it's time for bed," Hunter said into her hair, bringing her to the present.
Bed, another secret thrill of hers.
A few months ago on her twenty-third birthday Llano had tried to get out of bed by herself, but her chair was too far away and she'd fallen.
Hunter had found her ten minutes later. He was so angry that he'd yelled at her for the first time ever. After that he took to sleeping on the floor in her room, but Llano insisted that he shared her bed. It was big enough, and it wasn't like anything would happen, since he'd never be attracted to her that way.
He wrapped her limp legs around his waist and stood up, making his way to the bedroom.
Hunter had grown a lot from the scrawny twenty-three year old he'd been twelve years ago. Now he was over six feet tall, with broad shoulders and hard muscles.
While he helped her take off her shoes and pants, Llano watched his eyes.