His gaze flicked to mine and he smiled. I was too stunned even to return his smile, with my jaw hanging on the floor and all. His body was a freaking masterpiece that could easily turn any girl into a drooling sex addict. And glistening with water droplets, and with that tiny white towel slung low on his hips, I was no longer thinking of him as a test subject. I was picturing what it would be like to have Logan’s rough hands on my body, to feel the heat of his skin, to breathe in his musky scent and feel the stubble of his jaw against my cheek.
I realized that I’d just been standing here visually molesting him for God knows how long and I was about to stammer out an apology, when he turned to the side and I caught sight of another tattoo.
There was something familiar about the phrase scrawled along his ribcage. Without thinking, I marched forward and grabbed onto his hips, turning him to get a better look.
It couldn’t be.
He chuckled at me, low under his breath. “See something you like?”
“This tattoo. Do you know what it means?”
He looked down at the curvy text and shook his head. “Haven’t had access to look it up just yet. Besides I’m not even sure what language that is.”
“You know it?”
I unbuttoned my jeans and eased down the zipper.
“Whoa, Ashlyn.” He took my wrists, stopping me, but I could see the heat building behind his gaze, which did nothing to extinguish the jittery excitement I felt. He ignited something in me. I thrust my jeans down just enough so I could show him my tattoo. Aut viam inveniam aut faciam tibi written in Latin over my left hipbone. The font on mine was smaller, but our tattoos were the same, complete with the curvy script written gracefully in black ink.
He released my wrists, dropped to his knees, and delicately ran a fingertip along the lettering that matched his own. He dipped his fingertips just inside the waistband of my white cotton panties, moving them aside to read the phrase uninterrupted. My stomach jumped at his touch.
“What does it mean?” His voice was husky and thick.
I realized I’d been holding my breath and pulled in a lungful of air before answering. “I will either find a way or make one.”
The phrase had been etched into my mind long before it was permanently inked on my body. It reminded me to challenge myself, to never settle and to push through my shitty upbringing to become who I wanted to be. It was a saying that would speak to those who had struggled in life and wanted better, and were willing to fight for it. I wondered what would have possessed Logan to have this marked into his skin. By the look on his face, he was clearly wondering the same thing about me.
He rose to his feet, and after trailing his fingers one last time over the words, he zipped and buttoned my jeans. I stood there completely at his mercy and utterly fascinated by him. What were the chances that we’d have the exact same Latin phrase on our bodies? The similarity unnerving, but also interesting.
There were lots of things about him that were beginning to intrigue me. The way his green eyes followed mine, his musky, male scent, and it probably didn’t help my libido that both times I’d seen him, he’d been shirtless. There was no way not to notice how attractive he was. My two-year sexual dry spell might have also contributed, but my body’s response to him could only be described as primal…needy.
He appeared just as intrigued by me. He hadn’t yet taken a step back from me, and was still gripping my hips. I looked down at his hands, which he quickly dropped away. I took a step back trying to ease the sexual tension that crackled in the air between us.
He cleared his throat, mumbling something about getting dressed and disappeared into the bathroom again.
When he closed the bathroom door, I realized our encounter had left me light headed and dizzy. When he’d leaned in close, the warmth of his skin and the light scent of soap had invited me forward, and I couldn’t help but notice the way his sculpted abs and trim hips had barely held the towel in place. Now was not the time for fantasizing. I was not some hormonal teenager, I was a doctorate student, but I’d never been quite so taken with a man before. The experience was unnerving. I’d practically whimpered when his fingertips touched me. And I sure as shit shouldn’t have unbuttoned my pants. This was completely unlike me and totally unprofessional. I rushed from the room as a sudden wave of panic hit me.
I needed to get a hold of myself. I slipped into the ladies’ room before my nerves overtook me. I looked at my pale skin and wide set blue eyes in the mirror. I looked frightened. I splashed cold water onto my cheeks, hoping to add some color back to my skin.
I took a few deep breaths and the color in my cheeks slowly began to return.
I had a decision to make. I could move past my obvious lapse in judgment by allowing myself to become attracted to him, or I could back out of the assignment and let Clancy know that I wasn’t cut out for this. Then what would I do? Move home to Detroit? Find a job in the city? Work in an office from nine to five every day in a boring job I didn’t care about? No, I had worked too hard for that. I was passionate about this research. Quitting now would be silly. I wasn’t that impulsive. It would be fine.
I straightened my shoulders and took a deep breath. I would just have to do my best to keep things professional in his presence. At home later was a different story —I couldn’t be held responsible for the Logan-induced fantasies that were likely to haunt my dreams.
After giving myself a much needed pep talk, I went back to Logan’s room and slipped into the plastic chair near his bed. When I finally looked up at him, I knew my mistake instantly. I hadn’t allowed myself to become attracted to him. I had no say in the matter. It was simple chemistry. A primal attraction that couldn’t be controlled, or turned off simply because I willed it so.
I took a moment to clear my head and focused on our work for today. I needed to maintain utmost professionalism with him. I had to set the tone and parameters of our relationship. He was in a fragile emotional state, and the last thing I needed to be doing was fantasizing about having sex with him. But, God I knew it would be good. That he would be good. He was entirely fuckable, and brought out my inner vixen in a way no man had before. I remembered his fingers on my skin, and mentally chastised myself for not wearing sexier underwear. A trip to the lingerie store at the mall was long overdue. I pushed the last lingering thought of his fingertips brushing across my belly from my mind and put on the most professional face I could manage.
After the fascinating discovery of our matching tattoos, we spent the afternoon listening to the various genres of music I’d checked out from the library. We discovered that he preferred rock music and blues over classical or country. He’d cursed when I put on rap and crossed the room to turn it off, which was funny. He made me replay a particular blues song three or four times, saying he was sure there was something familiar about it, but ultimately he couldn’t recall anything specific.
Despite the lack of progress on producing any memories, the afternoon hadn’t felt like a failure. It had actually been sort of fun. Logan had lain across the bed, his eyes closed, deep in concentration as I played the music, skipping through songs, or turning it up based on his preferences.
He asked me to leave the books behind for him to read, that way I was guaranteed to return to see him, he said, at least to pick up the books. If only he knew I was already anticipating my next visit.
The smile on my face had not faded when I ran into Dr. Andrews in the hallway.
“Have you been here all afternoon?” He frowned, looking down at his watch.
It was amazing that several hours had passed without my noticing. “Um, yeah. We got a lot done.”
“Did he recall anything about the murder?”
Well burst my bubble. My stomach dropped. “No. I’m not working with him on remembering that.”
He scoffed at my direct admission.
“Dr. Andrews, you’re the one who diagnosed him with post-traumatic, or dissociative amnesia. You and I both know that he’s distanced himself from important personal information about himself and his life. His memory can likely be restored over time, but the events leading up to the trauma will likely be the last to be remembered. Or never remembered at all.”
Dr. Andrews shuffled his feet, still frowning.
“Besides, that’s what the police-assigned psychologist is for.”
“Listen, Ashlyn, I’m only trying to look out for you. He’s dangerous. You haven’t read the police file.”
My belly danced with nerves, both wanting and not wanting to know what the police records contained.
“They found him in an abandoned warehouse, covered in blood, a sledgehammer nearby and the dead body of another man lying beside him. He’d beaten the hell out of him. Gruesome stuff.”
My skin broke out in chill bumps. I just couldn’t imagine Logan being dangerous.
“He’s a young man who doesn’t even know his name, and though I appreciate your concern, I know what I’m doing.” I turned and strode towards the elevator, faking a confidence I so did not feel. I stabbed the down button several times for good measure, and when I turned around, Dr. Andrews was gone.
That night I lay in bed, looking over the curving script scrawled on my hip in the dim moonlight seeping in through the blinds. I ran my fingertips lightly along my skin, just the way Logan had. A low throbbing ache built between my legs, needing so much more. I let my fingers dance just below the waistband of my panties and imagined it was Logan’s palm that was laid flat on my stomach. I closed my eyes and let myself imagine what kind of lover he would be. Through our visits, I was able to read his emotions almost better than my own. He felt entirely alone and craved comfort and closeness. Feelings I couldn’t even let myself explore with him.
My fingers dipped lower, finding myself already wet. I stroked the swollen bud softly, as I imagined Logan would and moaned as pleasure rocketed through me. I never touched myself like this, preferring instead the efficiency of my vibrator, which quickly got the job done. But tonight as I daydreamed of Logan, I wanted to draw it out, to make the sensations last. To have his face in my mind and his name on my lips when I came.
“The amount of time you’re spending at the hospital isn’t healthy, Ash,” Liz said, stepping forward in the line. “It’s not normal.”
I opened my mouth to respond, and she held up one hand, stopping me. “And don’t say it’s for your thesis. I talked to Clancy and he said you have plenty of outside material, and that your thesis outline is nearly done.”
I closed my mouth, unable to use the defense I’d been about to employ. I had a draft of my thesis outline complete. Logan’s situation was only a small part of it, a real life reference point in all the other data. It hadn’t felt right to make his case front and center, dramatizing his pain that way.
I followed Liz towards the counter, needing much more caffeine to even consider discussing my relationship with Logan with her.
“Tell me what’s going on, Ash. This isn’t like you to get so obsessed about a test subject.”
I swallowed hard. I needed to come clean about Logan. He wasn’t just some test subject. He hadn’t been from the beginning, and now after spending several weeks with him, talking music and literature, tasting all kinds of foods, I knew we had grown close. Too close as far as doctor-patient relationships went, even if I wasn’t a doctor yet.
I suppressed a grin at the thought of Logan, struggling to keep my game face on in front of Liz. She’d jump on me at the first sign that something was off.
Even though my visits hadn’t helped Logan to remember anything, spending time together brought him a sort of peace, he’d said. I provided a brief escape from his pain, and a break from the investigators who still questioned him, but were running into roadblocks as they tried to build their case.
I stepped up to the counter to place my order. “Small skim latte.”
Liz barked her order to the cashier and handed him her card. “I know I’ve been encouraging you to get laid, but I didn’t mean with him. I don’t care how good looking he is. He’s a mental patient for fuck’s sake.”
The dreadlocked cashier raised his eyebrows, looking between Liz and me. Great. I dropped my loose change into the tip jar and marched to the end of the bar to wait for my drink, clenching my fists at my sides.
We sat down in the cushy chairs in the back, sipping our coffee. Liz’s knowing gaze never left mine. “Tell me what’s going on. Since you met him, you’ve become even more of a hermit than before.”
I ducked my head, sucking in a sip of my latte. Damn, too hot. I knew she was right, but I couldn’t explain the pull that Logan had over me. Maybe it wasn’t healthy spending so much time at the hospital. I almost laughed at the obviousness in that statement. But Logan wasn’t crazy. I knew that for sure. I also knew with absolute certainty that I’d be the one to go insane if our sexual chemistry got any hotter.
Each day I entered his room, he lifted me into his arms and held me tight before setting my feet on the floor. I couldn’t help but think that he was craving the physical affection after the weeks alone.
Dr. Andrews had seen us hug once and I’d instantly felt ashamed and embarrassed for letting myself grow so attached to a patient. Of course, it hadn’t stopped me from visiting Logan every day. I just tried harder to avoid Dr. Andrews.
Over coffee, Liz tried to convince me that I needed to take a break from my work with Logan, that I was becoming obsessed. When she dropped me off after coffee, and saw the embarrassing state of my apartment, I started to think maybe she was right. Stacks of textbooks, and a small mountain of notes had spilled from my overstuffed bookcase just inside the entryway, providing an obstacle to even getting through the front door. I had thought nothing of stepping over the heap the last several days, but watching Liz clumsily navigate it embarrassed me. I led her further into the apartment, where at least the sofa was free of clutter.