Thirty minutes later, Emma emerged from the bedroom feeling ten times better. The hot shower had certainly helped and the ibuprofen had finally kicked in, easing more of her aches. Her ankle was still sore, but she found that she was maneuvering around a little bit easier.
Dressed in one of Lucas’s T-shirts, which was more like a dress on her, and wrapped in his robe, Emma slowly made her way toward the kitchen and the delicious aroma that was coming from it. Lucas’s back was to her, but she saw him stiffen slightly before turning around.
“I hope you don’t mind that I borrowed your robe,” she said as she sat down on one of the stools at the breakfast nook.
Lucas was speechless. The Emma Taylor he saw once a month at his father’s office was always beautiful, but this woman sitting across from him simply took his breath away. Her auburn hair was damp and curling wildly around her face. She had on no makeup and her deep blue eyes were staring at him right now with curiosity.
Oh, right. She had asked him a question.
“No, it’s fine. Like I said, I don’t have much here that you would be able to wear. I’m glad you can use it.”
“Your shirt was plenty big but I was still a bit chilled.”
He nearly groaned. Turning his attention back to the meal preparation, all he could picture in his mind was Emma wearing his T-shirt, most likely with nothing underneath. That image stayed there and he cursed when he burned his hand taking the steaks out from under the broiler.
“You all right?” she asked.
“Fine,” he lied, hating how hoarse his own voice sounded. “I wasn’t sure how you liked your steak.”
“Rare, preferably, but however you made it will be fine. Is there anything I can do to help?”
You can take off that oversized robe and let me see if the reality is as good as my imagination. Lucas shook his head to clear his thoughts. Now was totally not the time to be thinking this way. They were more than likely stuck together for the weekend, and it was going to be long enough without him indulging in naughty thoughts of Emma in various states of undress.
Emma continued to look at him expectantly and finally Lucas cleared his mind enough to respond. “No, no…everything’s ready. We’ll just eat here at the island so that you don’t have to move.” He quickly plated their steaks and added the potatoes that he’d baked. “I’d offer you some wine but I don’t think it’s a good idea with your head injury.”
Emma rolled her eyes at him. She wasn’t much of a wine drinker anyway, but the fact that he was still being so dramatic over the bump on her head was getting on her nerves. “That’s fine. I’ll stick with water.”
After setting down the plates, Lucas poured her another glass and took a seat opposite her. Right now he thought it was in his best interest to have three feet of granite between the two of them. He wasn’t feeling too confident in his restraint at the moment. Utensils in hand, Lucas was about to cut into his steak but waited to see how Emma was enjoying hers.
Her smile said it all. “It’s rare,” she said and looked up at him.
“It’s how I make mine, and I just naturally assume everyone eats theirs that way. Plus, if you didn’t, I could always have put it back under the broiler. I can’t un-cook it if it’s too well done but I can certainly tighten one up if it’s too rare.”
“It’s perfect, Lucas. Thank you.” Her voice melted over him and Lucas felt his body tightening. His throat felt dry and if he didn’t know better, he’d swear he was starting to sweat. How could she have this much of an effect on him? He’d spent many hours in her company and never felt like this.
Forcing himself to take a bite of his dinner, he stopped cold as Emma purred with pleasure. Lucas had to wonder if she even realized she’d done it. He took a large forkful of steak and focused on saying the alphabet backward in his head, chewing until his jaw hurt, all the while looking only at his plate. When he finally allowed himself to look up, Emma was smiling at him. “What?” he asked.
“Nothing,” she replied with a chuckle. “It’s just that I think you need to work on your social skills a little. You’ve been on your own for too long.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means that it wouldn’t kill you to try a little small talk while we eat.”
“Small talk?” he repeated. “We were talking just fine a few minutes ago. I figured you’d prefer a little silence rather than me talking with my mouth full.”
Emma let out a hearty laugh and Lucas couldn’t help but join her. “You’re right. The silence is preferable to that. Sorry. Maybe it’s me who needs to work on my social skills.”
“Your social skills are perfect,” he said before he even realized the words had slipped out.
Emma took another delicate bite of her steak, clearly deciding to ignore his odd compliment. “Everything is delicious, Lucas. I appreciate you cooking for me.”
“I couldn’t let you starve, could I?” he said, his tone more harsh than he intended and once again, he regretted his words. The look of devastation on Emma’s face nearly brought him to his knees. Thinking quickly he simply added, “Then we’d really have a problem with my social skills.”
The words were said lightly and had the desired effect; soon Emma was smiling and they returned to the comfortable silence while finishing their meal. When they were done, Lucas cleaned up and noticed how sleepy Emma was looking. Looking at the clock, he saw that it was only nine o’clock, but for all he knew, she was someone who went to bed early.
“Listen, why don’t you head on in and take the bed. I’ll sleep on the couch.”
“Oh, I couldn’t do that, Lucas. You’ve done so much already and really, the couch is perfectly fine for me.”
Lucas sighed wearily and hung his head. “Emma, I would really appreciate it if you didn’t argue with me on everything. You are a guest in my home, an injured guest. Please take the bed. I normally fall asleep out here anyway.”
Looking over her shoulder toward the bedroom, she sighed. “I hate kicking you out of your own bed.” That had all kinds of images coming to mind and she kept her face diverted so that Lucas couldn’t see the blush creeping up her cheeks.
He was suddenly at her side, guiding her into the bedroom. They stopped next to the bed and Lucas went about folding the comforter and sheets back, arranging pillows, and generally fussing with just about everything in sight. Emma bit back a smile.
“I’ll keep the fire going through the night and close the blinds here if you’d like,” he said gruffly, not willing to meet her eyes either.
“Lucas,” Emma said softly, waiting for him to stop moving around and look at her. When he finally did, she spoke again. “You can stop fussing with everything. I’m not happy about making you sleep on the couch, but I appreciate your hospitality.”
“You’re not making me do anything, Emma. You’re injured and I want you to rest comfortably while you can.”
Something in that statement struck her as odd, and her face must have conveyed that point because Lucas stepped forward and explained. “A head injury is a funny thing; you can feel fine one minute and then the next everything could be wrong. I’ll be waking you up every couple of hours to make sure you’re okay.”
Emma gaped at him. “Make sure I’m okay?” she parroted. “How?”
“Simple stuff; I’ll just ask you a couple of questions to make sure your thinking is clear.”
“My thinking is never clear when I’m asleep, Lucas. Wouldn’t it just be better to let me get a full night’s sleep?”
He shook his head. “Afraid not. I’ve been through this enough times to know the drill.”
“So when will you get to sleep? And how will you know when to wake me up?”
“I’ll set the alarm on my phone for every couple of hours and I’ll probably get the same amount of sleep as you.”
Emma made a face. Hell, if she was going to be forced to be woken up all night by her ideal man, couldn’t it be for pleasure rather than for practicality? Her life really did suck. “I don’t suppose I have any say in the matter?”
Lucas shook his head. “You do not.”
Cursing under her breath, she glared at him and said, “Fine,” before she began to untie the robe sash from around her waist. Not caring that Lucas was standing there watching her every move, she let the garment drop from her shoulders and flung it on the foot of the bed before crawling awkwardly between the sheets. It wasn’t until she was sitting back against the pillows and ready to reach for the bedside lamp that she looked his way. “Anything else I need to know?” she asked defiantly.
Lucas looked like he wanted to say something, but then thought the better of it. “Get some sleep, Emma,” was all he said before storming out of the room.
Reaching for the lamp, Emma turned it off. If only it was as easy to turn off her feelings for a man who clearly couldn’t get away from her fast enough.
One hour and fifty-five minutes later Lucas was sitting on his couch staring at his cell phone like it was a time bomb. In five minutes he was going to have to go in and wake Emma up and check on her to make sure she was okay. The thought of seeing her in his bed, looking tousled and sleepy, was wreaking havoc on him. Clearly he must have done something wrong in this life, because he was surely being punished.
Most nights it didn’t bother him to fall asleep on the sofa, but tonight he couldn’t seem to make himself comfortable enough to sleep. Maybe it was the worry he felt over Emma, or maybe it was the knowledge that she was in the other room in his bed that was keeping him awake. Either way, he was going to have to get some sleep eventually.
The phone let off a little warning bell that told him to go and check on his guest. With a sigh of resignation, Lucas stood and walked like a condemned man going to the electric chair. He pushed the bedroom door open. The room was softly lit by firelight. His gaze immediately went to where Emma was curled up in the bed. Her hair fanned out on the pillow and her beautiful face was completely relaxed in sleep. Lucas could have watched her all night.
Unfortunately, he had a task to accomplish. He quietly walked over to the bed and whispered her name. When she didn’t move or respond, he said it again a little louder. Still nothing. With no other choice, Lucas reached out and gently shook her shoulder. “Emma,” he said with a little more force and watched as her eyes fluttered open.
It took a moment for Emma to remember where she was and when she was able to focus and saw Lucas staring down at her, her still-sleepy brain wanted to reach out and tug him down beside her. Bad sleepy brain!
“What time is it?” she whispered as she pulled herself up to a near sitting position.
“It’s a little after eleven. How’s your head?”
Emma had to think for a minute. “It actually hurts a little.”
“You’re due for more ibuprofen. I’ll get that for you.” Lucas went into the bathroom and rifled through the medicine cabinet before returning to the bedroom. Carefully he handed her the tablets and then the glass of water. Emma placed the glass on the bedside table and then looked at him expectantly.
“Did I pass?” she asked.
“The concussion test,” she said and then yawned widely. “Can I go back to sleep now?”
Lucas chuckled. “Not yet. Tell me your full name.” She did. “Tell me where you work.” She did. “Tell me what day it is.” And she did.
“Anything else I can tell you?” Emma asked again as she slowly slid back down under the blankets.
Yes, that you don’t want to go back to sleep. That you want me to crawl in the bed with you. “No,” he said softly, pulling the blankets back up over her shoulder. “Get some sleep.”
Emma hummed a response and Lucas walked over to the fire to add another log from the bedroom side, watching as the flames roared to life again. A quick glance at the lounge beside the fire had him rethinking his plan for the evening. His knee had a dull ache and really, he’d pushed himself too hard today. As much as Emma needed his attention, he needed to spend a little less time walking around as well.
She was already back to sleep and Lucas walked out to the living room, grabbed his phone, and shut out the lights. Back in the bedroom, he grabbed a T-shirt and a pair of flannel pajama pants and went into the bathroom to change. Once he was done, he got comfortable on the lounge, set the alarm again, and finally let himself sleep.