By Carol Sandford


Chapter 40


Firmly, without ceremony, and without knocking, Will turned the handle of Deanna?s bedroom door and opened it. He didn?t see the point of knocking; She knew he was coming, he was sure of that, and empathy had nothing to do with it. Pure common sense would have told her that he would come to her. Need would have told her that he would come to her, tonight. Destiny foretold that he would come to her. He had to. He couldn?t not.

As quietly as he entered, Will closed the door behind him, his eyes taking in every detail of the room, including the fact that she didn?t appear to be in it. Even though he couldn?t physically see her, Will sensed her presence, felt her presence, and smelt it in the faint flowery scent that lingered around him, along with the haphazard array of clothing strewn upon her bed.

Will slowly stepped towards her bathroom, drawn by the heat from her recent shower as it permeated through the slightly open door, and he didn?t even hesitate as he took in a deep breath and drank in the clean erotic aroma. His eyes drifted shut as the image of the woman he longed to see swam before him. Deanna slowly came towards him with a large fluffy towel draped demurely around her slender body. He lost himself in the welcoming smile upon her face, and then melted as he watched the smile turn wanton as her hands drifted up to the tight knot...

But it all vanished as quickly as it came like a bubble bursting as the breeze from the window whipped in and broke his dreaming, stopping the wayward thoughts in their tracks as he felt the cool touch of the evening?s chill brush his skin. Will very quickly realised that Deanna?s shower was even more recent than his original assumption, the draft from the window not yet reaching the bathroom?s steamy interior sufficiently enough to cool it down.

*So where the hell are you, you crazy female?* he mused, perplexed, the whoosh of air leaving his lungs as disappointment set in that the urge to see him wasn?t as strong as his urge to see Deanna. And he wanted to. Oh, God, he wanted to, so much. So much so that his heart ached as he stood in the middle of her dainty, feminine bedroom, suddenly and completely alone, confused and hurt.

And then he heard it. He heard her. Well, not exactly her, but as soon as it he heard it, he realised that he?d found what he was looking for. It wasn?t much, but as soon as he heard it, the penny dropped and he couldn?t stop the knowing grin from erupting upon his face, and with four silent steps, he moved furtively towards the window.

Looking down, his breath caught in his throat as he watched the top of Deanna?s head as she attempted to find her footing upon the lattice work that sporadically encased the outer walls. The same lattice that he had scaled himself not so long ago to get to her. The only difference was that he was a whole one foot taller than the petite woman that was struggling to place her foot somewhere safe, and she was failing, making Will?s heart stop with alarm.

Leaning through the window, Will stooped low and held out his hand, dangling it just in front of her face. At first, so intent with keeping herself from falling, Deanna didn?t notice the proffered hand, but when she did, she didn?t have to look up to know who it belonged to. Will Riker had distinctive hands. Huge hands. Hands that she had watched take her to heaven. Hands that were as familiar to her body as well as her own now. Hands that were offering her a life-line. Hands that would inevitably put her right back where she?d started; Back within the cradle of his arms.

The breath that Deanna had been holding in fear now left her lungs in defeat, and rising wary eyes, Deanna met his. She was convinced that she would see anger, or contempt. But all she saw was a compassion that she felt she didn?t deserve. Shame slipped into her conscience briefly too when it dawned on her that what she was doing to him was nothing short of torture, and he Will did not deserve that.

But she couldn?t seem to help it. The man frightened her to death. The one man that she should have been feeling totally at home with, comfortable enough to spend the rest of her life with, love, bombarded her very soul with terror, and every time that she knew she was going to come face to face with Will, she found herself frantic with the need to get away from him.

And she was more than aware that he recognized that, and that hurt her even more.

Time ticked by second by painful second, and for a long moment, Will didn?t think Deanna was going to take his hand so that he could haul her back into the bedroom, and more importantly, back to safety. And for an even longer moment they simply looked at each other. Will could only watch as the demons within her battled against her, and with what he was sure he was trying to silently tell her; that he cared. That he wasn?t going to go away, and that above all else, he loved her.

And then the world started revolving again as finally, Deanna?s hand reached out to his and he firmly folded his long fingers around her shorter ones. Will gently pulled her up towards him and when he was sure that her feet were firmly planted back upon the concrete ledge that surrounded the entire house, putting her head just about within reaching distance of his, Will halted his rescue, holding her close to the wall so that she didn?t fall back.

Startled when Will stopped, Deanna clung onto the window?s edge for dear life, even though the man that held on to her showed no sign of letting her go. Puzzled, she turned her face to his and met his eyes square on. Barely a heartbeat stood between them; so close, so, so close, and yet an abyss sat between them, for her part. For his it was merely a puddle, a puddle that was easily breached.

Mesmerized, Deanna could only watch as Will slowly moved his face closer to hers. He was going to kiss her, she was sure of that, and she felt her body, her mind and her will surrender to the inevitable, suddenly aching for the contact, desperate to rejoin their souls, even if it was only for a moment.

She felt his breath caress her skin, and memories whispered through her senses of another time, another moment when Will had come close to her, close enough to illicit the same feelings that she was feeling now, and her heart cried out for him to kiss her. Her eyes fluttered shut as she breathlessly waited, but as the seconds passed by, Deanna?s eyes slowly drifted open, puzzlement pouring from their inky depths as she once more met his.

Hunger rode through his senses and Will wanted nothing more than to give into what he wanted, as well as the woman before him. But he couldn?t, not yet. Not until he?d tried, yet again to settle Deanna?s very unsettled feelings. He knew he could wash each and every one of them away simply by sweeping her into his arms and making love to her. If it had been any other woman, that would have been how he would have dealt with the situation.

But this wasn?t just any other woman. This was Deanna. This was a his future and he wasn?t going to blow it, not again. Raising his palm, Will gently settled it against her jaw, looked deep into her eyes and whispered huskily, "Please stop running away from me, Deanna. I?m not going to hurt you, I promise."

Unable any longer to resist the pull of his lips, Deanna closed her eyes and slowly lay her mouth against his, feeling her entire being melt with the rightness of the motion, but barely a second later, Will pulled his mouth away, back to its original, and tormenting position, and Deanna felt the loss right down to the pit of her stomach.

Lifting her heavy eyes to meet his, Deanna drowned in what she saw. Raw need, but not an amorous need, although it was there, deep within his body. The need she saw went much further and deeper than that. It was their Imzadi bond, she was more than aware that, the one thing that she found herself constantly fighting against, even though it had been the most beautiful thing she had ever experienced in her entire life.

Even though the man before her was her destiny, in every sense of the word, but it was a destiny destined to encase the rest of her life with pain, and Deanna didn?t she could take that amount of agony. She?d witnessed enough of it with her parents. Her father had undoubtably promised the same things to her mother, but it hadn?t made the slightest bit of difference to their lives. He had still died, and she still nursed a broken heart - not so anyone would notice.

But Deanna knew. Time and time again, she?d heard her mother in the dead of night, crying as though her heart was breaking all over again. She?d heard her talking to him in her sleep. She?d heard her moans as she?d called upon precious Imzadi moments that allowed a man and woman to relive intimate unions, just as she had shown Will in the Arboretum. And each and every time, it had torn Deanna?s heart apart, reinforcing her decision to never put herself in the same position.

But she had. She?d already done it, with the man that watched her intently for her decision. A decision that destiny had already taken away from her, and she was still pissed off about it. Big time. She?d felt that her life had been snatched away from her.

But she was going to have one last go at getting it back. Decision made.

"Don?t make promises you can?t keep, Will." She muttered as she began to clamour through the window, with or without his help.

After the initial thoughts of strangling her evaporated, Will helped Deanna climb back in through the window, but as soon as she hit solid ground again, she wrenched herself out of his arms, bitterness raging through her at a hundred miles an hour.

Will went to reach for her again, but she evaded his hands. "Don?t, Will," she spat, anguish and tears filling her words. "Don?t touch me. I couldn?t stand it right now."

But she hadn?t figured on the tenacity of William Riker when he?d set his mind, and his heart on something, and before she realised his intent, Will had reached out for her arms and held her within a steely grip that dared her to turn and run.

He was angry now, angrier than he?d been for a long time. "Oh, no, you don?t, Princess, you?re not going to do this to me again, not after everything I?ve gone through because of you. Don?t you think you owe me something, Deanna?" he cried. "I almost died out there for you. Doesn?t that say enough for you? Isn?t that enough for you, Deanna!?"

The tears rose from where they were waiting and pooled in her eyes, her anger dissipating in a shower of self-loathing and fear, fear of losing the man before her forever because of her inability to hold back her soul. She?d tried, so hard to not become Imzadi, because of feeling the way she felt right then, and for instances like what had happened out in space earlier when she had almost lost him.

The ache of losing him almost killed her, and just didn?t think she was ready to take on that kind of responsible, that amount of loss because she knew that becoming Imzadi, becoming one meant that the pain of losing him became ten-fold. Unbearable. Undescribable.

Choking back on a sob, Deanna looked up into the face of the only man she knew she would ever love, and cried, "Yes! yes! But don?t you understand, Will? I don?t want you to die for me! I don?t want to have to sit here and wait for you, wondering if you?re all right. I don?t want to hurt like I hurt right now. Can?t you understand that!?"

Dropping his hands to his sides, failure surged through Will?s body like a draining plug-hole. As he stood staring at the woman who he, up to now had been sure he?d be spending the rest of his life with, pain ripping through his soul as he sadly looked down at her. He was hardly audible when he spoke, his eyes glistening with the force of his words. "But I didn?t die, Deanna. I didn?t die.I?m right here."

Torn from her soul, the tears that Deanna battled to hold back, sprang free as the truth of his heart-felt declaration fell from his mouth. Unable to hold herself away from him any longer, Deanna drifted into Will?s arms and snaked her own around his waist. The anguish that racked her body echoed in her thoughts that were now clearly defined upon her tear stained face as she rose it to his. "This time, Will," she said brokenly. "How many times will you put me through this torture just so that we can stay together?" she asked. Will couldn?t hold her gaze as the truth in her words penetrated the misery that cascaded through him. She was right, he knew. She was so very right. But this was life; the biggest gamble in the whole universe, and if he?d learned anything in his short life, it was that he was a pretty good game player, and he wasn?t throwing his hand in just yet. But that wasn?t what Deanna wanted to hear.

So he lowered his mouth to hers instead, pulling her tight against his body so that he could soak up her heat; feel that she was real, and alive, and that what he was holding in his arms was not the dream that had consumed him for the past two days.

What in God?s name would he do without her if he walked away from her now? He couldn?t do it. He simply could not do it.

But he was going to have to.

But not now. Not tonight.



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