Slow Fever
fabric. Due to the odd tightening in his throat, his words had been uneven and hoarse. “Go on up to bed, Kylie.”
    He shook his head again. The image of Kylie, scrubbed and soft and ready for bed had circled him all night. He didn’t want to think of her in lace or nothing—creamy freckled silky skin, all those curves a man could lock onto and—
    “Michael!” The feminine object of his thoughts peered around the stack of boxes, her hair tied up in a ribbon as blue as her eyes. “I’ve got a free hour. You haven’t had that massage yet and you haven’t seen what I’ve done sinceyou did the wiring in the rough layout. How about stepping into my parlor?”
    Michael’s hands tightened on the wire he’d been splicing; his body tensed. He wasn’t certain he liked how his body jerked to attention when Kylie was near. He’d always been in control, even in lovemaking, and he sensed that if Kylie touched him— “Maybe some other time.”
    “Okay, I’ll call one of the guys. They’ve asked me to fit them in and now I’ve got a free hour. Michael, at this rate, I think I can manage to pay for a second massage bench.”
    “Fit one of the guys into your schedule?” Michael asked very carefully, thinking of where he’d like to fit into Kylie’s life. “I’ll be right there.”
    Kylie held the door open to the small room. Michael moved into it warily. He’d had sports massages for strained muscles, the worst in a bout with a five-hundred-pound wife abuser. The scents of oranges and roses curled around him, a burning candle lighting the shadows. A large, sheet covered bench dominated the cubicle. Little touches of Kylie and Anna—bundles of dried lavender, two of Gwyneth’s small pots were filled with dried rose petal and orange peel potpourri. The small space seemed femininely soft when compared to the gym’s men’s massage areas. Michael was too aware of the intimacy within the room, of how close he would be to Kylie—without his clothes. The thought took his body lurching painfully and he breathed slowly, regaining control. Light, gentle flute music wafted in the room as Kylie spoke in her cool, even-toned professional voice, “Remove your clothes, as many as you feel comfortable doing. Lie on your back and cover yourself with the sheets. Relax. Think pleasant thoughts. I’ll be back in a minute.”
    Michael undressed slowly. He wasn’t certain about himself—how he would react to Kylie’s hands upon his body, her nearness, that sweet feminine scent. The small bottle of oil sitting on a shelf jolted Michael. He suspected that she would be using that—she’d said on the mountain that she was without her oils and aromatherapy essentials. The oils were for— Michael swallowed tightly. Kylie would use the oil on his body—touching him. Nettled slightly because Kylie didn’t seem affected by the knowledge that she would be touching his body, Michael eased down onto the bench. He tensed when he noted that the soft sheets had been warmed. The gentle rap at the door signaled Kylie. “Ready? Michael, I’ll come back when you’re lying on your back, okay?”
    “This is fine.” Michael turned to look at Kylie over his shoulder. His body tightened sensually. She was dressed in a long-sleeved sweater, sweatpants, earth sandals, and wearing her curls in that silky froth on top of her head. She looked sweet and sexy and round and firm and very warm. “Be gentle.”
    “You have to cooperate and relax. But until you have confidence in me—” She began gently massaging his scalp, finding his energy, and Michael felt himself drifting, giving himself to her fingers.
    The sliding of the sheet down and upward until it only draped across his hips startled Michael. He held very still as the warm application of oil on Kylie’s hands zapped him. She gently stroked down one side of his body and began on the other.
    A half hour later, Kylie noted, “Hmm, how unusual. I can usually make most people melt in a half

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