|Covert Passion by Ann Ruby|
Devlin is tormented by the memory of a time when he descended into darkness, taking an innocent woman with him and barely making it out alive. His work as a sex therapist is the only thing that keeps him going. Where he cannot help the one from his past, he can at least help others like her. His best friend, Mac, thinks that someday one of his cases will be a breakthrough for him, allowing him to forgive himself and move on with his life. Devlin doesn’t agree.
Melissa is facing her own demons. As a teenager, she was kidnapped and held captive for months, losing her virginity and tangling her sexuality into her captor’s desires. She hasn’t had a romantic relationship since. She struggles with her feelings for her captor and her fear of intimacy of any sort.
When Devlin takes Melissa on as a client, everything they thought they knew about themselves and their past is challenged. Devlin may be able to help her – and himself – but only if she can overcome her fears and trust him with the truth. (M/F)
Devlin knew what he was doing. This woman was afraid of any kind of intimacy. Having to sit across from him, look at him whenever she looked up, and share a meal with him, was intimate. Some people might have thought that a quiet interview in an office with music playing would be the best atmosphere, but they would be wrong. They also would not be able to help her with her problem.
Over his Reuben sandwich and her clam chowder, he prompted, “Tell me about him.”
“Who?” she jerked, startled, eyes going wide in the oval of her face.
“The man who held you against your will.”
She grew still and placed her soup spoon carefully on the napkin beside her bowl, adjusting it until it was exactly aligned with the design of the paper fabric, then smoothing the folded corners of her placemat, one at a time, until they were just so. Her throat moved once, a single nervous swallow, then hesitantly her blue eyes lifted to meet his own.
“What do you want to know?”
“Everything,” he replied. “Was he old? Fat? Cruel? Dirty? Did he drug you?”
She played with the corners of the placemat again. He waited patiently for several moments, and just when he thought no response was forthcoming, he heard the faintest whisper pass her lips. “No.”
Devlin put down the remains of his sandwich. He reached across the table and placed his large hands over the slender, blue-veined fingers that continued to flirt with the table decoration, forcing them to be still. She didn’t like the contact at all, but it got her attention. “I need to see you when you answer, Melissa. I asked you several questions. Do you mean no to some of them, or no to all of them?”
“No to all of them,” she admitted, in a voice that was even quieter than before.
“You’re still not looking at me,” he said patiently. “Look at me.”
Slowly blue eyes met his own, shame evident in them, her face filled with consternation.
“Why does it bother you to tell me that?” he asked. “Just because he wasn’t any of those things doesn’t mean he wasn’t a kidnapper. A rapist. He held you against your will and used you without permission. That isn’t your fault. None of it was your fault.”
“I know,” she agreed readily. Too readily. “That’s what my other therapists told me.”
“But you don’t believe them. Is that why you came to me?”
“No, I believe them,” she rushed to say, again too quickly. Saying what she thought he wanted to hear. What she had been convinced was the right thing to say under the circumstances, but her flickering gaze revealed the lie for what it was.
“I don’t believe you,” he stated, releasing her hands and sitting back in the booth.
“What?” she asked, dismayed by his pronouncement and his withdrawal.
“You’re not being honest with me. I don’t know what you’re hiding, but you’re hiding something and until you can share what it is, I can’t help you.”
He stood and tossed some bills onto the table beside his plate.
“That’s it?” she questioned, shocked by his actions.
“Yes,” he agreed. “Until you are ready to level with me, I can’t help you.”
Placing his hands on either side of the table he leaned down so that he could make eye contact with her and not risk anyone overhearing their conversation. With so few people in the restaurant at this hour, even quiet sound could carry a long way.
Immediately she retreated as far back into the booth as she could go, almost as if they were nose to nose instead of separated by a few feet of polished wood. Devlin slowly removed his hands from that surface and held them out at his sides. The way a person does when they want to prove they are unarmed. Just as slowly he stood, not wanting to trigger a flight response in her. “I’d like to help you, Melissa,” he said gently. “Really, I would. But I like to cut right to the chase with my clients, so I’m not going to treat you any differently. Your other therapists haven’t worked, or you wouldn’t have ended up here, with me. So you are looking for help, but you still think that you can control the situation. That’s not how it works.” He paused and waited while she absorbed this. After a moment he continued, “If I am your therapist, you are putting yourself in my care and trusting that I know what is best for you. That’s a lot to ask, I know, but it’s the only way that this can work.”
Melissa said nothing though she relaxed into her seat, no longer looking at him like he was a threat. Devlin took a business card from his inside jacket pocket and placed it on the table next to her. It was simply inscribed, with only his last name and a phone number.
“Call me when you are ready to get to work.”