And then he was rigid in her arms, gasping for air as he murmured her name one last time.
He went still, crushing her into the sofa with his dead weight.
She reveled in it. In him. In the earthiness of this moment, with the sweat and the musk and the pleasure between them.
Now, she decided, was the time.
So she kissed the side of his neck and caressed his nape, easing him back to life.
“I went to the doctor today.”
His head shot up. He stared at her, the question in his dark eyes, but couldn’t seem to speak.
“The scans were all clear.”
He swallowed, nostrils flaring, and pressed his lips together.
She smiled, letting the joy fully come for the first time since she’d had her appointment earlier. “The cancer’s gone.”
“It’s…gone?” he echoed, voice cracking.
His expression slowly brightened, and a corner of his mouth edged up in a smile in the second before his face crumpled.
And then Tony, her fierce warrior, buried his head in the curve between her neck and shoulder, gathered her closer and sobbed with relief.
Talia snapped awake and blinked into her bedroom’s darkness, not certain what had woken her. The room was quiet and the clock’s digital display indicated dead of night. She rubbed her eyes, wondering if she’d had one of those falling dreams again, and—
Beside her, Tony moaned.
Wait, Tony? Here in her apartment?
She checked the other side of the bed.
It all came back to her in a rush, and instinct made her spring into action. He’d kicked off the linens and lay on his belly on the farthest edge of the king-size bed, perched at an angle that made her wonder why he wasn’t crashing to the floor. His arms and legs twitched. His face twisted. He moaned again, but this time the sound was more urgent, heading into wail territory.
She slid closer to him, flipping the covers back over him as she went. Crooning, she caressed his temple and kissed his cheek and neck, soothing him. His skin was icy, and there was only one solution for that. She stretched out alongside him, protecting him with her arms and legs and keeping him close.
He stilled, his forehead smoothing until he looked so boyish, innocent and vulnerable that it made her heart contract with emotions too overwhelming and frightening to identify.
And then, without warning, his lids flicked open.
He stared at her.
She waited, anxious to see which way this would go.
She gasped out a relieved breath. “You okay?”
“We’re going to work on those nightmares.”
A shadow crossed his eyes, but he nodded. Recaptured his smile.
“How does it feel to be back in a bed?” she wondered.
“Your bed? Pretty damn good.”
There was a jingle of tags near his side of the bed, and they glanced around to see Chesley. Apparently she’d been sitting patiently, but now, realizing that she had their attention, she whined, asking for permission.
Talia looked to Tony.
“Why not?” he said, scooting over to make room for the dog.
Talia patted the bed and Chesley leaped up, happy to be included. They rearranged themselves, with Tony in the middle, Talia in his arms and Chesley pressed against his back, so that he would be well protected from his demons in the night.
“Here you are,” Tony said, late one afternoon three weeks later, tugging his tie a little looser and rolling up the cuffs on his starched dress shirt. It was hotter than a campfire in the Sahara at the pool behind his house in the Hamptons, but well worth it for this particular view of Talia.
Her lips curled into the slow smile that always threatened to drop him to his knees, but she didn’t open her eyes. “Was I missing?” she murmured.
“Yeah. I’ve been in the city for two days. I expected you to be at the front door waiting for me. I’m starting to think you didn’t miss me.”
Her eyes flicked open, hitting him with the sparkling gray gaze that was so much more fascinating than the waves on the other side of the dunes. “Oh, I missed you.”
“I’m not convinced.”