'I'm glad you did. Otherwise...'
She let the sentence trail off but he knew what she meant. Otherwise, the aneurysm could have ruptured—and the chances were she wouldn't have survived the rupture.
'Hey. It's not going to happen. We know about it and we can do something about it.'
'But you bought me flowers.'
'To cheer you up.'
'People give flowers at...' She closed her eyes, clearly unable to form the rest of the sentence, and a single tear leaked from her eyes.
He kissed it away, guessing what she'd thought. People gave flowers when you were really ill and they didn't know what else to do. And at funerals. 'People give flowers at happy times,' he said softly. 'For birthdays and red-letter days, and just to say I love you.' There were flowers everywhere at weddings, too—not that he was going to say that right now. She wouldn't be receptive to that idea. 'And to make you feel good when you're having a bad day—like today. It's kind of a visual hug.'
'A visual hug.'
'No orchids. I got you gerberas and freesias and all sorts of things. Things that look pretty, things that smell nice. Come and help me put them in water.' Vicky was a practical person. Doing something would help—he'd already left her on her own to brood for far too long. 'Plus, dinner's getting cold.'
'And your shirt's wet.'
He brushed a gentle kiss over her lips. 'You can get me out of my clothes any time you want, sweetheart.'
'How about now?' she asked shakily.
Affirming life. Yeah. He could understand that. 'I'm in your hands.'
With trembling hands, she undid his tie and dropped it in the middle of the floor. She undid the buttons of his shirt and slid her hands across his pectorals, before easing the fabric off his shoulders and dropping it to the floor.
'Jake. I need you,' she whispered.
She still wouldn't say the L word. OK. 'Need' would have to do for now. Jake stood up, took her hand and let her lead him to her bedroom. Slowly, tenderly he undressed her, kissed every piece of skin he uncovered and buried his face in her hair. Her beautiful, long hair that smelled of vanilla. A lump blocked his throat: in a few days' time, her hair would be gone. Shaved off.
If she agreed to the operation.
And even then there were no guarantees. The unthinkable could still happen. He'd jinxed her by falling in love with her—he'd loved his mother and his grandmother and he'd lost them. And now he could lose Vicky.
'Jake.' She kissed him as if it were the last time.
It couldn't be. He wouldn't let it be the last time. She was going to be fine.
But he was especially gentle when he touched her. Stroked her all over. Kissed his way down her spine. Rolled her over onto her back and knelt between her thighs. Protected her. And slid deep, deep inside her.
It was more intense than anything he'd ever known, as if his body had suddenly become super-sensitive. Her scent filled his head. He could hear every breath—he was sure he could even hear her heart beating. And touch...every brush of her skin against his set his nerve-endings aflame.
When her body rippled around his, he buried his face in her shoulder. 'I love you, Vicky,' he whispered.
She wouldn't say it back. He knew that. But it was all right: she didn't have to say it to feel it. And, right now, as his climax answered hers, he was sure that she felt it just as deeply as he did.
They'd find a way. Just holding her close in silence was enough for now.
Some time later, her stomach rumbled.
'Dinner's cold, but I could reheat it in the microwave,' he suggested.
'Don't you dare. Reheating take-away leftovers is the quickest way to get food poisoning. And I need you to be well.'
He frowned. 'How do you mean?'
'Because,' Vicky said, 'I decided this afternoon. I thought about the stats. I can't just watch and wait with this—this thing in my head. My neurological status is excellent. And if there is a tiny bleed, then my H and H scale has to be the lowest possible score.' The Hess and Hunt scale—usually shortened by surgeons to 'H and H'— graded the clinical condition of a patient with a bleed into the brain. The lower the score, the better the patient's condition and the better the chances were.
'And clipping's safer than coiling for someone of my age,' she added.
She was going to have the operation...so did this mean she'd actually let him look after her? Considering the conversation they'd had about his MS patient only a couple of months before, he was surprised. He'd thought she'd be more likely to push him away. Thank God she was seeing sense. 'I agree. And it's up to you whether you want to stay at my place or for me to stay here until you've recovered.'
'What?' He was having difficulty following this conversation. 'But...you're going to need someone to look after you when you're out of Intensive Care. Or were you planning to go back to your mother's?'