In His Keeping

Page 57

It likely made her a terrible person, but she was at least honest. Most important, she was honest with herself. She wasn't going to be a flaming hypocrite on top of her other multiple sins.
But making love with Beau had been like touching the sun after weeks of rainy, drab days. He'd been the only light in her world since it had been irrevocably altered by her parents' disappearance. He was her anchor. The only thing she had that was real and solid, and she was clinging desperately because she had nothing-no one else-to lean on in her time of very real need.
If that made her weak and dependent, who cared? It-he-was what she needed, both to find her parents and ensure their safe return-and she trusted him to keep his word-and to be her rock, to hold her when she could no longer keep it together and fell apart.
She wished she could be a stronger person. More independent. She'd certainly taken steps to be just that. But in the end, she'd failed in even that regard, because at the first sign of adversity, she'd turned to her father. And then she'd been forced to turn to Beau.
Superwoman she wasn't, but she could live with that. She just hoped that Beau didn't wake up one day and look at her in disgust, wondering why he ever got involved in someone who was not even close to being his equal.
He was strong. He was a doer. She couldn't imagine him ever needing anyone.

But he wanted her. He'd chosen her. And he'd gotten very angry when she hinted that he'd done so out of misplaced obligation. And pity.
She clung to his fierce denial that he hadn't chosen her and that she hadn't forced him into anything he hadn't desperately wanted. It bolstered her spirits and gave her a much-needed boost when her spirits were flagging and she was at her lowest point.
With a sigh, she quit delaying the inevitable, and she refused to remain here, hiding, despite the fact he'd said he'd come for her when breakfast was ready. The least she could do was face him. Look him in the eye and tell him without words that she didn't have one single regret for the night she'd spent in his arms.
She only prayed that she didn't see disappointment or regret in his eyes.
Quickly completing her cleanup, she hastily arranged her hair in a messy bun, rummaging in his drawer to find a rubber band. Not the best thing to use in her hair, but she could hardly expect him to have actual ponytail holders. His bathroom was not remotely girly and had no accoutrements that signaled a woman had ever been in here.
It was a leap in logic to make that kind of assumption, but it gave her absurd pleasure, so she clung to it nevertheless.
Too bad she didn't have makeup to disguise her paleness and the shadows under her eyes. With a shrug, she pulled clothing on, leaving her feet bare, and she took a deep breath before leaving the sanctuary of his bedroom to face reality.
To escape the bubble where all time had seemed to stop and suspend indefinitely. If only she could go back in time to before her parents had disappeared and beg them not to go.
She briefly closed her eyes to compose herself just before she turned out of the hallway, in the opposite direction of the living room, and stepped into the kitchen.
Her eyes widened and suddenly she felt self-conscious when she saw Ramie Devereaux spooning scrambled eggs from a skillet onto a serving platter. Ari paused in the doorway unsure of whether she should go in or not, and for that matter if she was welcome.
She hadn't gotten a good feel for Ramie-or Caleb-the day before and had no idea what their feelings were about the fact Beau had agreed to help her.
As if sensing her stare, Ramie looked up and smiled welcomingly.

"Good morning," Ramie said, setting the skillet into the sink. "You're just in time for breakfast. I just took up the bacon and all I have to do is pop the biscuits out of the oven. Unfortunately grits are a southern thing I've yet to master."
She wrinkled her nose as she mentioned grits and Ari couldn't help but smile at the other woman's easy charm and open manner.
"Don't feel bad. I've lived in Texas my entire life and I've never even tried grits. I've been told it's a hanging offense in some parts of the Deep South, but my parents were from the east coast and so they never caught on to the whole must-have southern staples."
Ramie wiped her hands on the dishtowel on the counter and then she walked purposely toward Ari, her hand extended in greeting.
"We weren't exactly properly introduced yesterday. I'm Ramie Devereaux."
Ari froze, dropping her hands and pressing her palms against her jeans, instinctively taking a step back.
"You shouldn't touch me," Ari said in a low, embarrassed tone.
Ramie's expression was puzzled.
"It would only hurt you," Ari explained. "I've read about you over the years. How you only feel negative emotion. I know it's silly of me, but I always imagined us kindred spirits of sorts. Sisters from a different mother and all that. You made me feel not quite so alone in the world."
"Why would you hurt me?" Ramie asked.
"Because I'm not having good thoughts right now," Ari said honestly.
Ramie smiled gently. "None of us are capable of never having a bad thought, Ari. My gift manifests itself rather uniquely. It's really more of a curse or a blessing but I guess that determination is better left to others, since they usually benefit from my gift while I . . . suffer."
"It's why I don't think you should touch me."