Bennett had been a fighter pilot in the Royal Saudi Air Force before being injured in a land mine explosion. Angry and embittered, he is sent to his brother's home in California for a rehab that he has no interest in.
Hired by the wealthy and powerful Al Mansour family, Tanya Groves’ budding career as a physical therapist hinges on being able to get Bennett back on his feet and walking again. An orphan, she's learned to make her own way in the world and has dreams of travel and fame as a top-notch physical therapist... dreams that leave no room for a home and family, despite her growing love for the intense, brooding Bennett. When disaster threatens the Al Mansour family, however, she is forced to confront her own fears of loving and losing.
Castles in the Sand by Allie McCormack
©2019 by Allie McCormack
Tanya ran her fingers through her unruly curls with a sigh. A dozen children, she decided, were easier to work with than one stubborn Arab male. If he were uncooperative, she could deal with that. Even outright refusal could be managed better than this passivity. Bennett never argued with her, never balked at following her instructions. It wasn't even passive resistance, she thought in frustration. He did what she told him, when she told him. Nothing more, nothing less. He just wasn't making any kind of effort on his own.
And if she heard him say, “Yeah, okay,” one more time, she was going to scream!
Her earlier hopes from those first days had faded rapidly. Bennett had returned from his visit to the surgeon silent and pale. A quiet conversation with Khalid later that evening had elicited that the surgeon hadn't told them anything they didn't already know. In short, Bennett would, in time, be fit for almost anything that he wanted to do. Except fly. It was the shattered facial bones, Khalid told her, that wouldn't stand the forces of gravity that a fighter pilot experienced. The surgeon had indicated also that Bennett was woefully farther behind in his progress than he should have been at this point. That, too, was no surprise.
“I'm afraid you'll be earning every cent of your salary,” Khalid had said, his usually unruffled demeanor disturbed by deep concern for his brother. “Maybe he thought that here in the States, the prognosis would be better, or that there would be something they could do here that the doctors couldn't back in Taqara, although we have the best medicine available there. But he's hardly spoken a word since.”
“It's not unusual, going to another country, another hospital, even just another doctor, for patients to get their hopes up that somehow a miracle will happen, that someone will be able to do for them what no one else could,” Tanya had reassured him. “Give him time to get over this last disappointment.”
But it had been six weeks, and Bennett showed no sign of accepting the situation. The braces were off his legs now as well, but he was nowhere near ready to stand, much less walk.
Tanya knew her hold on her patience was growing thin, and it had been all she could do this morning to keep from snapping at him when he'd put forth a minimal effort at raising his legs against her pressure. Finally she'd called a break, more to get a grip on herself than from any need of his to rest. She'd make lunch, and then they'd begin again. Rummaging in the cupboard, she began to hum, already starting to feel more cheerful.
The door to the Bennett's room opened. She turned to ask him what he'd like for lunch, and felt her smile fade as he wheeled into the kitchen.
“Where's your quaff ball, Bennett?” she asked, making an effort to keep an even tone. “You really need to be working with it constantly.”
“Yeah, okay. I'll get it in a few.”
The bored tolerance in his tone as well as his easy shrug were little short of insulting. No, they were insulting, Tanya decided, smacking the pan she was holding down on the counter. She didn't know if he was intentionally pushing her or not, but she'd had about enough of it.
Rounding the counter, she faced him. She could feel a flush mounting to her cheeks, and she grappled for control of her temper.
“It isn't doing you any good sitting on your night stand.” She couldn't help the tart note creeping into her voice. “You're going to have to start taking some responsibility here. The effort has to be yours, Bennett. Nobody's going to do it for you.”
He flicked her a glance, the green eyes shuttered.
“What’s with you?”
“As if you didn’t know!” she flashed, her voice rising along with her temper. “I’m trying to help you, Bennett. We all are. But we can’t help you if you won’t even try to help yourself!”
There was a long moment’s silence. Bennett cocked his head, studying her as if she were an unusual creature he'd never seen before. She glared at him, hands on her hips.
“You know,” he said slowly, drawing his words out consideringly. “You're cute when you're mad.”
“Oh!” Infuriated, she stomped her foot, leaning down to all but shout in his face. “That has got to be the most asinine, the most ridiculously stereotypical, oldest chauvinistic remark in the history of mankind!”
He gave her a devastating grin, which only served to fan the flames. Prepared to blister him with fury, she gave a yelp as he reached for her with his right arm and pulled her towards him, tumbling her into his lap. She stared at him, eyes wide, as his head descended to capture her lips, cutting off her indignant remonstrance.
The warm pressure of his mouth drove out all thought of protest, and heat coiled deep within her. Trembling, she opened to him as his tongue demanded admission. She found her arms creeping about his neck almost of their own volition. She'd been kissed before, she thought hazily, but never, never like this. The thin cotton of his t-shirt bunched in her clenched fists as she pressed against him, meeting him fully. Vaguely she became aware of his fingers tangling in her hair, tilting her head back as his lips left hers to leave a burning trail along the softness of her neck.
Cold metal against her shin brought her back to reality with a crash. She was sitting in a client's lap, in a wheelchair no less, having the stuffing kissed out of her! She tore herself from his arms and slid off his knees. Her own knees felt a bit shaky as she stood before him, the heat of his kisses still running hot through her veins.
“That was a despicable thing to do!” she flashed.
Bennett just grinned at her, looking unbearably smug and self-satisfied.
“Just adorable,” he reiterated.
Anger was good. This sensual longing he'd awoken in her was most definitely not. She gave her temper full rein, narrowing her eyes at him.
“If you think,” she snapped, “that you're going to distract me from my job with such childish behavior, you're dead wrong. You're going to walk again, Bennett, if I have to drag you kicking and screaming out of that wheelchair, have you got that? You can fight me every inch of the way, but I will have you up and walking, make no mistake about it.”
The light disappeared from Bennett's eyes in a mercurial change. His shoulders slumped as turned from her, shrugging.
“What the hell does it matter, anyway?” he muttered.
Tanya wasn't about to let him get away with that. She grabbed at the arm of his chair, swinging him back towards her.
“Well, it does matter! Maybe not to you, but there are a lot of people who are worried about you, and who, believe it or not, actually care about whether you walk again. Your brother is concerned enough that he's given up a huge chunk of his time, of his life, so that you could have the therapy you need.”
She waved her hand towards the adjoining room with its weights and bars, the jacuzzi beyond.
“All this he did just for you, Bennett. Because he believes in you. And your mother is spending a damned fortune to pay me to be here, to help you to recover to the fullest extent possible. She's not doing it because it's her duty. She's doing it because she loves you. Because she knows it’s what's best for you. She's breaking her heart over your stubborn determination that your life is over. You've got your whole family pulling for you, caring about you. And all you want to do is sit there and feel sorry for yourself.”
Leaning forward, Tanya braced her hands on the arms of his chair. She glared into his face, barely inches away. He glared right back, eyes flashing in anger, his mouth set in stubborn lines.
“Well, I won't have it, do you understand? Your attitude is going to change, and it's going to change now!”
The resounding silence as they stared at each other was only broken by the sound of the front door opening. Straightening, Tanya stepped back as Khalid appeared in the doorway. His attentive gaze went from one to the other, no doubt, Tanya thought, taking in every detail of her flushed cheeks and mussed hair, and Bennett's mulish expression.
“Am I interrupting?”
“Your brother is a boorish ass,” Tanya snapped.
“And you're a pushy b...”
“Don't. Even. Say it.” Tanya turned on Bennett with a snarl.
“Children, children.” Khalid seemed to be suppressing amusement.
This page was created on 5/14/2019