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nail. But in the end, there was no one else to blame."
She lowered her eyes to his chest. "We were both much younger."
"I never used you to get loans on your father's name," he said bluntly.
"That was the farthest thing from my mind."
She didn't answer him.
He moved closer, so that as she stared at the floor, his legs filled her line of
vision. They were long legs, muscular and powerful from hours working in the
He took her cold hands in his. "I was a loner and a misfit. I grew up in
poverty, with a father who'd gamble the food out of a baby's mouth and a
mother who was too afraid of him to leave. It was a rough childhood. The only
thing I ever wanted was to get out of the cycle of poverty, to never have to go
hungry again. I wanted to make people notice me."
"You did," she said. "You have everything you ever wanted money and
power and prestige."
"There was one other thing I wanted," he said, correcting her. "I wanted
She couldn't meet his eyes. "That didn't last."
"Yes, it did. I still want you more than any woman I've ever known."
"In bed," she scoffed.
"Don't knock it," he replied. "Surely by now you've learned how passion
can take you over."
She looked up. Her eyes were guileless, curious, totally innocent.
He caught his breath. "No?"
She lowered her gaze again. "I stopped taking risks after you. Nobody got
close enough to hurt me again. In anyway."
He caught her small hand in his and rubbed his thumb slowly over its
delicate back. He watched the veins in it, traced their blue paths to her
fingers. "I can't say the same," he replied quietly. "It would have been more
than I could bear to go without a woman for years."
"I suppose it's different for men."
"For some of us," he agreed. He clasped her fingers tight. "They were all
you," he added on a cold laugh. "Every one was you. They numbed the pain for
a few minutes, and then it came back full force and brought guilt with it."
She reached out hesitantly and touched his dark hair. It was cool under
her fingers, clean and smelling of some masculine shampoo.
"Hold me," he said quietly, sliding his arms around her waist. "I'm as
frightened as you are."
The words startled her. By the time she reacted to them, he had her close,
and his face was buried in her throat.
Her hands hovered above his head and then finally gave in and slid into his
hair, holding his cheek against hers.
"I can't let you die, Antonia," he said in a rough whisper.
Her fingers smoothed over his hair protectively. "The treatments are scary,"
she confessed.
He lifted his head and searched her eyes.' 'If I went with you, would it be so
bad?" he asked softly. "Because I will."
She was weakening. "No. It wouldn't be... so bad, then."
He smiled gently. "Leukemia isn't necessarily fatal," he continued.
"Remission can last for years." He traced her mouth. "Years and years."
Tears leaked out of her eyes and down into the corners of her mouth.
"You'll get better," he said, his voice a little rough with the control he was
exercising. "And we'll have a baby together."
Her lips compressed. "If I have to have radiation, I don't think I can ever
have children."
He hadn't wanted to think about that. He took her hand and brought it
hungrily to his mouth. "We'll talk to the doctor. We'll find out for certain."
It was like being caught in a dream. She stopped thinking and worrying
altogether. Her eyes searched his and she smiled for the first time.
"All right?" he prompted.
She nodded. "All right."
Dr. Claridge was less than optimistic about pregnancy, and he said so.
You can't carry a child while you're undergoing the treatment," he explained
patiently, and watched their faces fall. He hated telling them that.
"And afterward?" she asked, clinging to Powell's strong hand.
"I can't make any promises." He looked at her file, frowning. "You have a
rare blood type, which makes it even more dangerous "
"Rare blood type?" she echoed. "I thought Type O positive was garden
He stared at her. "Yours is not O positive it's much more rare."
"It is not!" she argued, surprised. "Dr. Claridge, I certainly do know my own
blood type. I had an accident when I was in my teens and they had to give me
blood. You remember," she told Powell. "I wrecked my bike and cut a gash in
my thigh on some tin beside the house."
"I remember," he said.
She looked back at Dr. Claridge. ' 'You can check with Dr. Harris. He'll tell
you I'm Type O."
He was frowning as he read the test results again. "But, this is your file," he
said to himself. "This is the report that came back from the lab. The names
match." He buzzed his nurse and had her come in and verify the file.
"Have we ever done a complete blood profile on Antonia in the past?" he
asked. "There's no record of one here,"
"No, we haven't," the nurse agreed.
"Well, do one now. Something is wrong here."
"Yes, sir."
The nurse went out and came back a minute later with the equipment to
draw blood. She drew two vials.
"Get a rush on that. Get a local lab to do it. I want to know something by
morning," he told her.
"Yes, sir."
The doctor turned back to Antonia. "Don't get your hopes up too high,"
he said. "It might be a misprint on the blood type and everything else could
still be correct. But we'll double-check it. Meanwhile," he added, "I think it
would be wise to wait until tomorrow to make any more decisions. You can
call me about ten. I should know something then."
"I'll do that. Thank you."
"Remember. Don't expect too much."
She smiled. "I won't."
"But, just on the off chance, has anyone you've been in contact with had
infectious mononucleosis lately?"
She blinked. "Why, yes. One of my female students had it a few weeks ago,"
she said. "I remember that her mother was very concerned because the girl
had played Spin the bottle at a party. Ten years old, can you imagine... ?" She
laughed nervously.
He went very still. "Did you come into contact with any of her saliva?"
She chuckled weakly. "I don't go around kissing my girls."
"We shared a soda," she recalled.
He began to smile. "Well, well. Of course, there's still the possibility that
we're no better off, but mono and leukemia are very similar in the way they
show up in blood work. A lab technician could have mixed them up."
"It might have been a mistake?" she asked hopefully.
"Maybe. But only maybe. We can't discount the other symptoms you've
"A maybe is pretty good," she said. "What are the symptoms of
"Same as leukemia," he confirmed. "Weakness, sore throat, fatigue,
fever..." He glanced at Powell and cleared his throat. "And highly
Powell smiled crookedly. "I wouldn't care."
The doctor chuckled. "I know how you feel. Well, go home, Antonia. We'll
know something in the morning. The labs are careful, but mistakes can hap-
"If only this is one," she said huskily. "Oh, if only!"
When they were outside, Powell held her hand tight in his, and paused to
bend and kiss her very gently on her mouth.
"I can't think of anything I'd rather have than mononucleosis," he
She smiled tearfully. "Neither can I!"
"You're sure about that blood type.
"Well, we'll cross our fingers and pray. Right now, let's get some lunch. Then
we might go for a drive."
He took her back to his hotel for lunch and then they drove out of town,
through the Saguaro National Monument and looked at the giant cacti. The
air was cold, but the sun was out and Antonia felt a little more hopeful than
she had before.
They didn't talk. Powell simply held her hand tight in his and the radio
played country and western music.
Barrie was home when they drove up to her apartment building. She was
surprised to see Powell, but the expression on his face and on Antonia's made
her smile.
"Good news, I hope?" she asked.
"I hope so," Antonia said.
Barrie frowned, and then Antonia realized that she didn't know what was
going on.
"We're getting married," Powell said, covering for her. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]