When he hadn’t come home several hours later, Hannah became concerned. She’d unpacked and systematically arranged the kitchen to her liking. That took what remained of the morning. Once she was finished, she made herself lunch, then wandered into the living room, holding the sandwich in her hand. Pausing at the window, she looked out, hoping, praying she’d find some sign of Riley. Her pulse accelerated when she noted his car was parked at the curb, but then she remembered he’d returned the truck to the rental agency and was apparently with one of his friends.
Discouraged, she went back to the kitchen and finished her glass of milk. The sandwich had lost its appeal, and she dumped it in the garbage. Looking around her, she went into the bedrooms, making up the beds.
It was well past dark when Hannah finished straightening up their little house. She surveyed her efforts, standing in the middle of the living room, hands on her hips. The transformation was a little short of amazing. What had seemed like a barren shell of walls and empty space now resembled a home.
Her brother’s photograph rested on the fireplace mantel along with one she found of Riley. She guessed that it had been taken several years earlier, soon after he’d enlisted in the Navy. She’d stumbled upon it while unpacking a box of books and spent several moments studying the intense young face staring back at her. She hoped to gain an insight into her husband, but she’d found the photograph as difficult to read as the man.
It had taken a good deal of effort to arrange the furniture the way she wanted, and she was likely to incur her husband’s displeasure for having worked so hard, but that wasn’t anything new. What did he expect her to do while he was away hours on end? Twiddle her thumbs?
After stacking the empty boxes in the patio off the kitchen, Hannah fixed herself a bowl of clam chowder for dinner. She soaked in a hot bath once she finished the dishes.
Riley’s disappearance was beginning to irk her. The least he could do was phone – only they didn’t have one, not yet. She was concerned, but hadn’t wanted to admit as much. The urge to contact her father was compelling. Not because she was willing to admit she’d made a mistake – which she was strongly beginning to believe – but so that she could hear the sound of his voice. In his own quiet manner, George Raymond would lend her encouragement, which she needed so badly just then. But again they had no phone. Hannah had rarely felt more cut off from those she loved, or more alone.
By ten, she made her way into her bedroom, weary to the bone, both mentally and physically. The urge to weep was nearly overwhelming. Her marriage couldn’t be going any worse.
Hannah stirred at the sound of Riley crashing around the house. Checking her clock radio, she noted that it was nearly three in the morning. Tossing aside her blankets, she leaped out of bed and rushed down the hallway to discover Riley awkwardly straightening a kitchen chair he’d knocked to the floor. He seemed to be having trouble keeping his balance.
"Riley." She was so pleased to see him, so excited, she ran directly into his arms. "Thank God you’re home…" She hugged his middle, pressing her flushed face to his chest and squeezing tightly. The hours he’d been away had seemed like an eternity.
Although she’d labored most of the day, setting their house to order in an effort to put him out of her mind, it hadn’t worked. She’d been worried. All evening her mind had played tricks on her, listing the places he might have gone, the people he could be with, until everything had crashed together in regret and confusion.
Apparently she’d caught Riley by surprise, and he stumbled backward until he collided with the kitchen counter. His arms supported Hannah, and when she looked up at him, fearing he might be hurt, he caught her chin with his hand. His eyes clouded for an instant as if he were surprised to find her in his home, then without warning, without giving her any indication of what he intended, his mouth came crashing down on hers.
The kiss was hard, almost brutal as he lifted her from the floor. The hand at the back of her head held her prisoner, although she didn’t struggle. He’d taken her so completely by surprise that for a moment she was numb with shock. This was a Riley she didn’t know. One that frightened her with his fierce, hungry demand.
"Riley," she said, pulling her mouth free. "No…"
He answered her by kissing her again, dragging his mouth back to hers. Gone was the gentleness she’d always found in him, the tender concern. Instead she was met with desperate need. He tasted of restless passion. Against her will, against her pride, Hannah felt herself responding. Her hands clawed at his shirt as she clung tightly to him.
Riley moved his hands to her face, covering her ears as he worked his mouth from one side of her lips to the other. She wanted to protest, but the instant she opened her mouth, his tongue was there, boldly claiming the right to taste, to possess any part of her that he wished. The few times Riley had kissed her in this manner, he’d gently stroked the inside of her mouth. Now he used his tongue ruthlessly, sweeping it in and out from between her lips, plunging, probing, swirling it over her own, over and over until she was so weak she would have slumped to the floor without his support.
"No more," she said forcefully, pushing against him, needing to be free. Free of the warm, delicious sensations he was capable of making her feel. Free of the endless hours of worry and regret. Free of the past that clung like tentacles around her heart.
Riley’s breathing was labored as he buried his face in the curve of her neck, kissing her there while his hands roved at will down her back and over her buttocks.
Again, Hannah made the effort to free herself. "You’re drunk!"
She felt his smile against the hollow of her throat. "You mean it took you this long to figure it out?" he asked with a weary laugh. "You really are an innocent, aren’t you?"
"May I remind you I was an innocent until I met you!" she cried, backing away from him. In his present mood, he might drag her into his bed and have his way with her and not even realize what he was doing.
"Don’t look so worried," he said with a slurred laugh, reaching for her. "You’re safe. Even if I wanted to make love to you, I’m so drunk, I doubt I could do anything about it." He laughed once more, but there was no humor in the sound. No humor and no amusement.