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Shadows of the Heart
Casey pulled herself to her feet. She splashed cold water on her face until her teeth were chattering. It was one way to stop the tears, at least temporarily. She took a deep breath, and walked back into the bar. She hesitated when she saw him reading her poem. Her cheeks blazed with embarrassment. Steeling herself against words, admissions from him that she wouldn't be able to deal with, not now, maybe not ever, she walked to the table. Without a word she took the notebook from his fingers, closed it, grabbed her purse, fishing for her wallet as she walked towards the bar. She put a ten-dollar bill on the counter, and walked out the door, into the twilight.
Daniel watched her as she took the notebook from nerveless fingers, too stunned to react immediately. When it finally impacted on his brain that the door was closing behind her, he jumped to his feet to follow. He caught up with her half way down the block. "Casey!"
Her heart lurched at the sound of her name on his lips. She didn't dare stop, didn't dare look at him. Her resolve to walk away, to give him the freedom he wanted…deserved…would fade away, and she would throw herself at his feet and beg for his love. She continued walking.
He caught up with her, grabbed her arm, turned her to face him. "I'm not letting you walk away. I love you, damn it!"
"Don't sound so freaking thrilled about it," she responded angrily. Her heart shuddered in her chest. Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! her mind begged her. The shadows twisted, turned, grew ever stronger as they whispered.
He ran a hand through his hair. "What do you want from me? An apology? Fine, I'm sorry I upset you!"
"I don't want anything from you," she said softly. Except your love. Given freely, exclusively, unconditionally. Forever. But that wasn't going to happen, was it? the shadows taunted. He doesn't love you…he doesn't want you. He wants her. Once again the anger flared, once again she grabbed it, held it, tried to hide behind it.
The look of cold anger in her eyes only added to the painful impact of her words. His heart stopped beating, he couldn't catch his breath. "Nothing? There isn't…anything…you want from me?"
Your love! For you to hold me in your arms and tell me that everything is okay! Her heart was breaking, yet she dared not think about it. The anger was the only thing that could protect her, now. "Nothing," she said, her voice as cold as the darkness that filled her, began to settle into her mind.
He let his hand drop. "I…Casey…Please, Angel, let's go home, we'll talk this out, I promise." She was slipping away, and he couldn't find the words to stop it. He could come up with the words, the phrases to bring about treaties, to stop wars between factions of people who had fought for centuries, but he couldn't think of one thing to say to his Wife, to keep from losing her. What a great fucking linguist I am, he thought bitterly, desperately.
"If you need someone to talk to…go to her. I'm sure she'd be more than happy to listen. Or fuck you. Or whatever else it is that you might want." Her voice was cold, hard…unrecognizable.
His own anger raised its head once again. "You can be such a bitch!" he hissed.
The words cut like a knife. And destroyed what little hope had been holding her broken heart together. "So you've told me before." She turned and walked away from him, her heart in pieces at his feet.
He watched her go, the anger fading once again, leaving only pain in its place. He closed his eyes. Six weeks. Six weeks of hell without her. A miracle had brought her back to him. Now she was walking away from him. Leaving him. Alone. Go after her! his heart begged, don't let her walk away! Whatever it takes, remember? his heart reminded him. His feet obeyed before his mind even realized what he was doing. His hands closed around her arms. "You are going to listen to me!" he said firmly.
"Let go of me!" she demanded hotly, trying to pull away from him.
"No." He tightened his grip on her. He already knew he couldn't live without her. Somehow, someway he had to get through to her, reach her, convince her that his love was true and deep and everlasting. He had to make her see that she was the only woman he would ever love, ever need…ever want.
"I'll scream!" she threatened.
"Go for it."
His response surprised her. She looked up at his face. The handsome features were set with determination. He was angry. No, he was furious.
He dragged her back to where the Blazer was parked, shoved her into the seat and buckled her in. "You stay there, or so help me I'll tie you down!" He hurried around the front of the vehicle, climbed behind the wheel and started the engine. He glanced at her, noted the pale cheeks and wide eyes, then backed onto the street.
She looked out the window as he drove, the tension hanging in the air between them too thick to move through, speak through. Her pulse began drumming in her veins when he took one of the back roads to the lake. He continued to drive, going faster once they reached the end of the asphalt, speeding through the open area north of the lake, until they were at least thirty miles from Hope. He braked to a stop, the wheels locking and sliding on the grass, shoved the gearshift into park, and killed then engine. When he looked over at her, she could see the flames dancing in his beautiful blue eyes.
"Now, we're going to have this out once and for all," he said quietly.
Any hopes she had harbored of hearing him declare his love for her died in that instant. "Whatever," she replied, trying desperately to keep the emotion from her voice.
He watched her eyes. He could see the flames of anger. The hurt. And dear god the hopelessness that flooded them nearly killed him, just before those amazing pools of emerald green focused on the hands in her lap. He reached out slowly, took her hand, laced his fingers with hers. "I screwed up, Case. I wanted…I wanted to surprise you…I wanted you to be excited about being able to spend your entire day with me. I wanted…I want…you at my side. Always," he said softly. "I never meant for you to be hurt. You have to believe me when I tell you that I didn't even notice what color her hair or eyes were. I went to the Center, looking for you, so that I could explain…but you weren't there. When I got back, she was working on a stack of folders, that was the first time it hit me, what she looked like, I mean. I didn't even notice, Casey, you have to believe me."
She remained still, holding herself stiffly, terrified that if she moved even the tiniest bit, she would find herself sitting in Rinaldi's in a drunken stupor. Salvation lay just within her grasp, if she had the courage to reach for it. "She's very beautiful," she said, her voice a mere whisper.
"Not as beautiful as you." His eyes searched her face, looking for any trace of forgiveness…of love.
She dared to glance over at him. Did he really mean that? The shadows shifted peevishly. Whispered in her ear. She refused to give voice to the darkness. Her heart trembled, waiting, hoping.
"Angel, I don't know what happened today. I certainly never meant for you to be hurt in any way. I screwed up by not telling you about all of this sooner. I'm so sorry, Case. Can you forgive me?"
The puppy dog eyes. She had never been able to resist that look. She pulled her lip between her teeth. "I'm not worthy," she whispered, unaware that it was the darkness speaking.
"What? Where did this come from?" he asked gently.
She shook her head. "It's not important. I saw-" she broke off, turned to look out the window.
"You saw what, Case?" His heart began to batter his ribs as it pounded. "Show me, Angel," he begged in a whisper.
"I saw…her…just before she led you away," she replied softly. "I…I…when I saw her in your office, I realized it was…over… for us."
She pulled her hand from his. The shadows, the darkness were now moving in to take control, even as her heart and mind pleaded with her, struggled against that blackness. "She's the one who will take you from me…has taken you from me." She shrugged slightly.
"Casey Renee Jackson, that is not going to happen! How many times have I got to tell you that I love you, and that I'm never going to walk away from you?" His voice betrayed his frustration.
She turned to face him. "You're right. You'll never walk away from me. Because you're a good man. So I have to walk away from you. So that you can have the woman you-"
"Don't you dare say it," he hissed through clenched teeth. "Do you love me?"
Her entire body shook with that love. She dropped her eyes. Wasn't strong enough to say what wasn't true, couldn't say the one word that would free him. So she would say nothing at all.
His heart broke into tiny pieces at her silence. He had wounded her so deeply this time, no matter how unintentional it had been, that he had managed to destroy that sweet, precious love. "Oh, god," he whispered. Unable to look at her, knowing that she no longer loved him, he yanked the seat belt loose and threw himself from the vehicle. He paced in the tall grass, his hands on his head, his eyes closed in pain.
She watched for a few moments. "Do you love me?" she whispered. Unaware that she had dropped the shield that had mentally held him at bay all afternoon, and that the question filled his mind, even if it never reached his ears.
'With everything that I am, Angel,' echoed in her head.
Casey jerked slightly. Felt his gentle presence flood her mind. The shadows writhed in anger. Her heart pleaded with her, her mind still trying to fight against the darkness that was beginning to overwhelm her. "Help me," she whispered. "Do you love me?"
Daniel looked toward the car when he had heard her soft-spoken plea, and question, in his mind. There was something…odd; something downright strange was happening. He could feel it. Something was really wrong! He hurried to her side of the vehicle, opened the door, took her chin in his hand, gently turned her face toward him. "Show me, Angel," he commanded softly.
She closed her eyes, felt him move toward her. Terrified that in the shadows that were now filling her, engulfing her, he would never find her.
The meadow lay in suffocating darkness. He stumbled as he walked, searching for her, trying desperately to find her. He tried calling to her, but it seemed that his voice only bounced back at him, couldn't penetrate the darkness anymore than his eyes could. There - a flash of white - that had to be her! He could barely see her in the black fog that swirled around everywhere, surrounded them. He ran toward that speck of light. It was her; she looked so frightened, so… alone. He reached for her. "I'm right here, Casey. I'm not letting you go," he said, pulling her close, holding her tightly, gratified when he felt her arms around him, clinging to him.
He opened his eyes, reached in and unfastened her seatbelt. He pulled her into his arms, crushed her against his chest. Waited to feel her arms around him. Counted the seconds…there! Finally! Her arms locked around his neck. "I have you, Angel. I'm not letting go."
She wasn't even aware that she was physically in his arms until she felt the strength, the warmth, of his body against hers. As long as she was in his arms, nothing could hurt her… nothing! "I'm so afraid," she whispered.
"It's okay, Angel. I’m here." There was malevolence in the darkness that churned around them. He searched frantically for clues, tried to find what it was that he needed to do to protect her. He felt the presence before he actually saw her.
She looked like Casey, but it was plain to see that she was not the woman he loved. The green eyes were filled with rage…hate…pain so deep that it seemed bottomless. Her lips were pulled up in a sneer, her beautiful face twisted with anger. "Well, well, well, here to save the helpless little twit again, I see," she spat.
This was the voice that he had heard in Rinaldi's, and on the sidewalk outside. "I'll save her as often as I have to. Because I love her," he replied.
"Oh, please! She's a fine piece of ass. But definitely not worth all the effort you've been putting into her. She's so fucked up there isn't any hope for her! She has no self-esteem, she's too damned gutless to even fight her own battles! Not once has she ever stood up for herself! She's pathetic…useless…not worthy of a man like you," the woman said.
"Then you don't know Casey. She's the bravest woman I've ever met. She has withstood more abuse, more torture, more heartbreak than any one person should ever have to bear. She's the most beautiful, charming, giving, talented, sensuous woman I have ever met. She's an incredible mother, a wife that any man would be thrilled, honored to have, and I'm just awed and grateful that she loves me!" Daniel replied calmly.
The woman adjusted the sleeves of her black coat. "Remarkable what a good piece of tail can make you believe, isn't it? Don't you ever wonder just how she became so damned good in bed? Ever wonder where she learned to give head as good as she does?"
He studied the woman standing in front of him. "You took control at some point in her life. She doesn't remember, doesn't know."
The woman laughed; unlike Casey's lyrical laugh, this was a hard, grating sound. "Very interesting theory, Doctor Jackson - but, unfortunately, not true."
"So how did she learn to give head?" He was curious to find out exactly what this…dark…persona had to say.
The woman laughed. "Would you believe that she and that skinny redhead she lived with used to practice on vegetables? What a sight, two virgins spending Saturday nights with a manual on sex and cucumbers and zucchini! Too damned scared to go out and find a man and get some real experience!"
He couldn't help it. The mental image made him laugh. He chose to ignore the last comment. "Okay, so how did she become so good in bed?"
The woman suddenly turned away from him, began to pace back and forth.
The light bulb above his head clicked on. "She's good in bed because she trusts me, loves me. Her faith in the fact that I would never hurt her, turn away from her, allows her to be totally relaxed and free with me. Add the love that we share, and she can't help but be amazing when she makes love to me. That's it, isn't it?"
"Maybe," the woman allowed sulkily. "You were supposed to get angry, imagining her doing all sorts of horrible, nasty things with men, lots of men," she grumbled to herself.
"You really don't know Casey!" he declared.
"Uh huh. You've been locked away. She's been able to keep you under control." If he wasn't mistaken, this…'woman'…had been locked away for years. All that they had endured over the past few years had been overwhelming, and 'she' had somehow been freed. Daniel shivered when he suddenly remembered what Sam had told him...
"She's strong; she can take more…abuse…than any person I've ever met. But she's not indestructible. The problem is, it will be something simple that will break her."
Something simple. Like her husband hiring a dark haired, dark-eyed secretary without telling her anything about it. Dear god, what had he done?
"Well, I see that you're figuring it out. She's been so close to the edge for so long now. She's about to fall apart, Doctor Jackson. Into a million little pieces. Little Casey sat on a wall, Little Casey had a great fall," the woman chanted. "All the kings horses and all the kings men, and dear Doctor Jackson, couldn't put Casey together again."
"Casey is a hell of a lot stronger than anyone gives her credit for," Daniel replied. He pulled the woman in his arms just a bit closer, held her a bit tighter. He pressed a kiss against the side of her face. "Casey, babe, I want you to turn around and look at her. I'm right here, I won't let you go, I won't let her hurt you, but I want you to look at her. Face her, Angel."
She'd been listening, so afraid that he would see the ugly scars, see the awful things that had been done to her, that she had done. Afraid that he would turn away, unable to bear looking at such ugliness. Shaking, terrified, she looked up into blue eyes shining with love for her. He would never hurt her, never allow her to be hurt. Clinging to his arms, she turned, pressing her back against his strong, warm chest. His arms remained locked firmly around her. She looked at the woman standing in front of her.
"Well, I'll be damned. The little twit has some spirit after all!" the woman exclaimed.
Casey took her time examining the woman. She was…very pretty. Angry, hurt…but very pretty. "Who are you? Why are you here?"
The woman gaped at her. "You have fire, but you're stupid, aren't you? Shall we go back over everything, cupcake, or can you figure it out for yourself?"
She pulled her lip between her teeth. "You…every hurt that I've ever suffered-"
"You shoved into me," the woman finished. "Not bad for a blonde bimbo."
She managed to smile. "I have Daniel. I have my poetry. I have ways to deal with anything that might hurt me. I don't need you."
The woman flinched visibly, then shook her head. "Yeah, so you think. I'm one of those ways of dealing with shit, whether you realize it, or want to admit it, or not."
"I don't need you," Casey insisted.
The woman snorted, rolled her eyes, shook her head.
Daniel smiled. "You can leave now, if that's what you want to do."
The woman shook her head. "Stud Muffin, you have no idea all the things she's been through. There are scars on the scars of scars. That fat bitch did a real number on this little cookie. You only know a fraction of what went on in that house. And that wasn't the only place where she was abused. You'll never be able to find all of those hurts, never be able to heal them all."
He assumed that she was speaking of Kenny when she spoke of other abuse. He knew more about what she had suffered than this…woman…realized. "I don't need to. I wouldn't want to. Those…scars, as bad as they are, as painful as they are, those scars are what make Casey the incredible woman she is. I love her just the way she is. I don't want her to change. I'd like for her to be free from the pain, and one day she will be. I'll help her, every day. One day at a time," Daniel said softly.
The woman crossed her arms over her chest. "I didn't expect…this," she admitted.
"You were going to take over. Leave her here screaming in pain, trapped in her mind, unable to even see the outside world," Daniel said, in the wake of another epiphany.
The woman jerked in surprise. "My, aren't we intuitive?"
His question left the woman momentarily speechless. She tossed long blonde hair over her shoulder. "Let's just say that I've spent enough time dealing with it all, every damned bit of it, alone. Things she's not even aware of surviving. Things she can't remember, things that I can't forget. Things that would make you scream in horror. Maybe I wanted some company."
Daniel shook his head. "You wanted her to suffer, just like you've suffered."
Again the woman was surprised. She narrowed her eyes. "So what's your next move, Doctor Jackson? Are you going to try and destroy me?"
"No need to," he replied calmly. "Casey has already told you that she doesn't need you any longer. She has me to talk to when she's hurt. She has her poetry. She writes wonderful poetry. She's not a little girl, or a frightened young woman with no where to go, no one to turn to."
The woman took a step back. "I won't just disappear!"
"No, you won't, I promise," Casey said softly. "I don't need for you to take on my hurts. But I do need for you to hold the ones you already have. I know it's hard…that they're painful. But you're strong. You've…protected…me all this time, and I…I need for you to keep doing that for me."
"Really?" the woman looked hopefully at the beautiful woman in his arms. "You don't want me to leave?"
Casey smiled, and shook her head. "I don't want you to leave. But I won't let you control me, or manipulate me. You can stay, but I expect you to…behave…to let me live my life in peace."
The woman paced for several long seconds. "I'll think about it," she said slowly.
"You take Casey's offer, or I'll make you leave," Daniel said, his voice, the look in his eyes, brooking no further arguments.
"I don't want to feel the darkness, I don't want to hear the shadows whispering," Casey warned.
"I promise," the woman whispered.
Casey stepped away from his arms, although she continued to hold tightly to his hand. She wrapped her free arm around the blonde woman. "It's okay. We're both going to be okay."
The woman tensed, started to move away, then relaxed into Casey's gentle embrace. "I promise, I won't let them hurt you anymore," she whispered.
"I don't want you trying to hurt me, either," Casey said.
"I won't." The woman put a hand on Casey's cheek, then turned and walked into the dark forest that surrounded that sunny meadow, taking the black fog with her.
Daniel nearly slumped with relief. How close had he just come to losing her forever, losing the vibrant woman who was the love of his life? Had he allowed his own anger to blind him, by morning she most certainly would have been capable of nothing more than rocking silently back and forth in a padded room. As dark as the shadows had been, he would have had little hope of finding her…ever. He wiped a hand over his face, tugged at the fingers that were still wrapped around his other hand, pulled her back into his embrace. He hugged her tightly, looked around to make sure that he could see no other threats, then slowly moved away from her.
He sagged slightly against the Blazer, his arms still wrapped around her firmly. "I am so sorry, Angel. I'm so sorry," he whispered, running one hand up and down her back, the arm around her waist holding her tightly.
There were tears in her eyes when she looked up at him. She wreathed his face with her hands, and pulled him close for a kiss. His tongue moved over her lips, she sighed into his mouth when she opened to him, moved forward boldly and began to stroke him, taste him, touch him. Her lips moved against his, she traced them with the tip of her tongue, suckled on that full lower lip. Gloried in the shiver that she felt in his body as she leaned against him. She poured all of the love that filled her heart into that movement of her mouth against his.
His heart was still pounding against his ribs. So damned close! He had nearly shoved her over that ledge himself, with his own thoughtless stupidity! He pulled her closer, the need to feel her, to know that she was safe and well a physical one. His body was reacting to the tender love she was sending him, the gentle caress of her tongue against his. He sent his love to her, enveloped her in it, wrapped the love she returned around himself, and held tightly to that sweet feeling. He pulled away slowly, kissed the sides of her mouth, her cheeks. "We still haven't broken in the Blazer," he whispered.
She looked up at him. "I'm sure Mom would like to go home some time tonight."
He grinned. "I talked to her. She has the kids at her house."
Now she pulled away, stepped out of his embrace. Wrapped her arms around her waist.
He swallowed, hard. Was she still upset? Hadn't they patched up whatever was wrong?
She cocked her head to one side. "Do you find her attractive?"
Daniel frowned. "Who?"
"Your new secretary?"
"Technically, she's our new secretary. I guess she's attractive. She's a friend of Carly's," he replied, watching her eyes carefully. Those beautiful pools of green would reveal more to him than anything she said.
Casey took the time to digest this information. She knew that Carly would never recommend someone to work closely with Daniel if there was a chance the woman would become infatuated with him. What was she thinking? It seemed that every woman on the base was infatuated with him! He was a gorgeous, brilliant man with a killer smile, incredible blue eyes and an ass to die for!
"Angel, you're the only woman my eyes see. I belong to you heart, mind, body and soul. I'm addicted to you, remember?" he said quietly, hoping to dispel her doubts.
She smiled. "I remember," she said softly.
"Do we need to talk about this?" He wanted to hold her, love her. Wanted to feel her soft body writhing with pleasure beneath his. But he would do whatever it took to make sure that everything was okay between them. She was his lover, his goddess, his Wife…she deserved to be treated like the amazing woman that she was…he could do no less. If she needed to talk, then talk they would!
"I didn't think talking was what you had on your mind," she replied.
It was his turn to smile. "I'll admit it's not my first choice, no. But if you want…need to talk-" He broke off as she began to slowly strip.
"If this is what you want, Daniel, then it's what you'll get," she said, pulling her tee shirt off over her head.
He closed the gap between them, caught her hands in his before she could remove her bra. "You need to talk."
"Don't, Case. Don't play games. No bullshit. You need to talk. So let's talk."
She looked up at him. How could he have done it? True, he probably thought that they…he …had already dealt with this particular demon, maybe he really hadn't noticed the dark hair and dark eyes. But still…to hire a secretary, without so much as a word to her about it! The least he could have done was told her, even if he had no intention of offering her a say in the matter! She examined this thought. Was that what caused the most pain, that he would do something that would affect both of them, without first talking to her about it? He'd already hired the woman, hadn't he? It was a bit late for this discussion! "What's there to talk about? You found a secretary…a very attractive, dark haired, dark eyed secretary. You hired her. End of story."
"I can un-hire her," he said calmly.
Casey shook her head. "No, I don't think so. You're too sweet, too kind to do something like that. Know this, I will not work around her. I'll work in the Center. I'll work in the gym. I will never again set foot in your office in the mountain."
He sucked in a breath of surprise. "She won't be in my office, Case. She'll have an office across the hall."
"I don't care. You wanted her. You deal with her. Now, are you going to fuck me or not?" Her eyes flashed with Fire; her anger over the situation, and the hurt, still boiling within her. While the darkness had been dealt with, what had set it free had not.
He felt as if she had just kicked him in the gut. He understood that she was angry. She had used that word only one other time, she had been angry then as well. But the way she said it…"Is that all we do? Fuck?"
She lowered her gaze. The hurt that filled his voice lingered in her ears. There had never been a time when that was what they had done. Every time their bodies came together it was in love, an expression of love. Deep, beautiful, unbelievable love. She shook her head.
"I hurt you." It wasn't a question. He already knew that he had. He'd read that pain in the poem she had written while sitting there in Rinaldi's, tossing back shots of Tequila trying desperately to numb it.
She nodded slowly, her eyes still on her feet.
"I never meant to, Casey. I only want you working with me, not stuck doing all of that damned infuriating paperwork. It seems like it just keeps piling up, and you spend more time on it than you do helping me. I want you in the Center, at my side."
"I thought doing that paperwork was helping you," she said softly.
"It only meant that I didn't have to do it. I want…" If they were going to talk, chances were it was going to take awhile. He wanted to be comfortable doing it. And he wanted to be able to make love to her, with her…if she would let him. He walked to the back of the Blazer, opened the hatch, and crawled inside. "C'mere, babe, let's talk."
She sat with her back against the side of the car, facing him. Just far enough away that he couldn't pull her into his arms. She needed to stay focused if she was going to get this out of her system. The minute he touched her, she would be on Fire, and making love to him…with him, would be all that mattered.
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