hurt. Her heart felt like it was stampeding through her chest. And all she
could see was darkness.
The mix of sounds -
a phone ringing a few rooms away, a woman laughing, a muted television – negated
the idea that she was dead. Unless of course her personal hell meant being
forced to listen to the sports channel for the rest of time.
She took stock.
She was horizontal with tiny lumps of knotted carpet digging into the skin at
the back of her bare arms and calves. Her eyes were closed, hence the general
darkness. Though it was daytime. She could tell by the blood red colour
filtering through the thin skin of her eyelids.
If she just opened
her eyes she would know where she was. But a little voice in the back of her
head warned her she wouldn’t like it if she did.
Maybe she ought to
just lie there for a little while. Blissfully ignorant. For wherever she was
it was cool. Nobody was hollering at her to take them to soccer practice, or to
buy them a new Wiggles toy, or hiding in the bushes to take her photo as she
left the gym with no make-up. And wherever she was it smelled wonderful.
Sharp. Like concentrated citrus. She took a deep breath through her nose.
In time the
instinct not to slowly expire lying on some random piece of carpet won out, and
Brooke opened her eyes.
A face filled her
vision completely. A male face with solemn brown eyes, hair the colour of
expensive dark chocolate, and a sensuously carved mouth she just knew
looked even more devastating on the rare times it smiled. But it wasn’t smiling
now. In fact it looked positively uneasy.
‘Danny?’ she said,
her voice hoarse.
‘Brooke,’ he said,
breathing out a wave of relief so strong it tickled her eyelashes. She blinked
away the sensation, and when she made eye contact again she saw that the unusual
abundance of concern in his eyes had faded, leaving her with...nothing. Yep, it
was Danny all right.
She cleared her
throat. ‘Why am I on the floor?’
He pressed his hand
to her forehead, first the back, and then the palm. So cool. So gentle. So
unexpectedly tender. Do that some more, she thought, giving in and
letting her eyes fall closed once more. It feels just
‘You fainted,’ he
said softly, as though she might disappear in a puff of smoke if he was his
usual intractable self.
Then his words
filtered through the haze. She had fainted? She sucked in a deep breath
through her nose and was once again caught in a wave of citrus. This time she
recognised the sharp, tangy, wonderful scent as Danny’s aftershave. Funny she’d
never noticed it before. It was truly drinkable.
ridiculous,’ she said. ‘Fainting’s for damsels in distress, Beatles fans, and
schoolgirls. I’m none of the above and therefore I did not faint.’
She sat up to prove
her theory, and her brain shifted backwards and thumped against a whole world of
hurt at the back of her skull. She let out a groan and held her open palm over
her eyes to find it was trembling.
Danny shifted to
sit on the floor beside her, his sizeable form displacing the air at her left.
The carpet fibres would make a mess of his beautiful suit pants. He always wore
such nice suits. Stylish, sophisticated, and always black. But she couldn’t
find the words to tell him as much, for when he draped a strong arm across her
shoulders, his warm fingers pressing into her bare upper arm, holding her
steady, holding her close, it seemed a wise decision to just shut-up and lean
into his embrace. His unanticipated warmth. His tangible strength. All the
better to keep herself from falling.
‘Well either you
fainted or you decided to take an ill-advised catnap on the floor of my office,’
Danny said, his dry, mocking voice rumbling close to her ear.
His office? Brooke
moved her hand away from her eyes. Signed photos of the world’s major sportsmen
littered the red feature wall behind his huge oak desk. Bookshelves
overspilling with priceless memorabilia, hard cover biographies and sports
periodicals stood tall and imposing to her right. Three separate televisions
embedded into one wall were permanently set to satellite sports channels. So
she was in Danny’s office at the Good Sports Agency. Odd.
sideways to find his face mere inches from hers. His eyes boring into hers.
Golden brown they were, the mercurial colour of autumn leaves. Infamously
intense, and infinitely unsettling. It was a gaze that terrified football club
presidents, bamboozled journalists and bewitched woman the country over. And as
usual she had no idea what was going on behind their depths.
She blinked, looked
away and lifted her heavy arm to motion towards the rough coffee-coloured
carpet. ‘Why did I...you know...lie down?’
remember?’ he asked.
Not about to strain
herself to try, she simply said, ‘Not a thing. Want to fill me in?’
‘You should... We
should... I can’t do this lolling on the floor like a pair of teenagers at a
make out party,’ Danny mumbled, his arm slowly slipping away from behind her
back as he drew himself to his feet.
He held out both
hands, and she took them despite his last comment which was currently resonating
in the corner of her brain that was in charge of pulse control. Though she knew
he hadn’t meant anything by it. He never did. That was just Danny. It was
habitual for him to keep people tap dancing and at a distance.
She was pulled to
her feet as though she weighed nothing at all, then he slid a warm arm around
her waist, the woollen sleeve of his black suit jacket catching against the
cotton of her tank top causing it to rub against the sensitive skin of her
stomach. She focussed on that and not on the immense relief she felt surrounded
by all that warmth, strength and the scent of lime.
He let go once he
had her seated in a comfortable red leather tub chair. Then rather than heading
around to the comfy looking swing chair on the other side of his desk Danny
grabbed another guest chair and dragged it over to face hers.
As he sat, she
noticed that one side of his dark suit pants was now covered in tiny carpet
filaments, hooked evilly into the wool of his trousers. She wondered
distractedly if his dry cleaners would have to pull each and every one out with
tweezers. If she was female and he smiled when he asked...
He shifted forward,
his trousers straining across his solid thighs. Then he again took both her
hands in his. Large hands. The hands of a guy who mowed his own lawn. Made
his own dinner. Washed his own underwear. They weren’t the soft hands of some
pampered desk jockey who had someone waiting at home to look after him.
His wide flat thumb
pads ran back and forth across the backs of her knuckles. And with each soft,
slow, soothing stroke she felt her headache ebb away. Even if the last thing
Danny could be accused of being was warm and fuzzy, right now, in that moment,
as he held her hands and held her gaze, she again could have sworn she saw
quicksilver clouds of concern shoot across his gaze. Something was very wrong