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Authors: Stephanie Burkhart

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BOOK: Gifts
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Chapter Five

Chris
tossed and turned in his bed. He punched his pillow and faced his alarm clock.
Midnight.
He sighed. Chris needed a good night's sleep. Tomorrow would be a busy day. He and Famke would work on lifts in the pool in the morning, and in the afternoon, after their practice, they'd meet up with Stephen and head off to the care facility to give her father his clogs. Chris sat up, unable to tame his restlessness. It was time to warm some milk. That always knocked him out.

He got out of bed and made his way to the kitchen.
Chris measured his milk, turned on the stove, and heated his drink. While he waited, he drifted into his living room and looked out onto Stephen and Famke's apartment building.

Famke.
He placed his hand over his heart. She trusted him. Completely. Implicitly. Wholeheartedly. He was scared to death to lift her, but he'd try – he'd face his fear head on and stare it down.

She'd given her honest and sincere reassurance she wouldn't leave him, and he believed her right down to his bones.

Lord help him, she was under his skin. Their awkward kiss at lunch today only fueled his desire to give her a proper kiss. He wanted to run his fingers through her curly hair, draw her close, and savor the feel of her body next to his. And that would cross the professional line. Who was he kidding? The line was close to collapsing. Famke's honest heart drove away the sadness which had haunted him since his accident. He liked how she smiled at him. Every time they touched, he couldn't deny something intense flared between them. Could they be more than partners? Dare he? There had been no chemistry with Katrien. With Famke, her eyes sparkled every time she looked at him.

He returned to the kitchen, removed the warm milk from the stove, and poured it into a mug. The liquid relaxed him. He yawned, stretched, and wandered back to his room. Collapsing onto the bed, he still felt his quandary deep in his bones. His heart urged him to explore his attraction to Famke, but his mind cautioned him to keep his relationship strictly professional. Drifting off to sleep, he envisioned Famke on the ice, skating next to him, smiling and happy, and he liked that thought very much.

* * * * *

Chris
swam a lap in the heated pool as he waited for Famke to step out of the dressing room. A group of ladies were in the shallow end with an instructor working on a water aerobic routine.

He finished his lap and glided to where the water was just above his waist. Famke stepped out of the dressing room, walked over to the diving board and waved at him. He returned the gesture, smiling, keenly aware that his heartbeat throbbed in his ears. Her purple bikini showed off every sweet curve she possessed; her breasts were round and her hips were perfect.
Lord!
How could he lift her without kissing her?

Famke dove in, swam a lap, and then joined him.

"Hi." She smiled.

"Hi."

"I'm ready. Lift me."

He swallowed, a little nervous, and blew out a long breath. "Okay, well…" He paused and rubbed his hands together, trying to get his focus. "We're going to work on a carry lift. There's a technique and it's important you and I follow every step. Once I lift you, I need you to put your hands on my shoulders. That will steady both of us. From there, you can get into position."

She listened intently.

"When you approach, there can't be any hesitation on either of our parts. I'll grab and lift you."

She offered him a thumbs up.

"Did you read the material Maks gave you?"

"There's the carry lift, hand-to-hand lift, axel lasso lift – I got it."

"Let's try it. Remember, we're working on a carry lift."

She backed up. He braced himself. She approached and he grabbed her waist. Famke lunged for his shoulders with too much force and they tumbled backward into the water. His pulse accelerated. Where was she? He opened his eyes and found her right next to him. They stood and he pushed his hands over his cheeks, brushing the water away from his face.

Famke shook her hair as water sluiced over her body. "I see what you mean about being in synch. Let's try it again."

He managed a small, tentative smile, moved by her enthusiasm. "Slow down a bit."

"Got it." She backed up and they tried it again. Her hands grabbed his shoulders. He was a little wobbly, but he kept his balance and steadied her. She extended her arms out, forming neat lines. He slowly imitated a spread eagle position. She giggled and he lost his concentration. They splashed into the water.

Again, his pulse thrummed through his veins, but when he opened his eyes, Famke was right there, smiling.

"Why did you giggle?" he asked.

"The ladies at the end were pointing and giggling at us."

He didn't know whether to laugh or cry. "You can't allow yourself to be distracted."

She nodded, her expression growing somewhat serious. "Okay, let's try it again."

He sighed, but readied himself. She backed up.
Chris tried to keep his expression even.

She ran at him, he grabbed her and lifted her. She braced her hands on his shoulders. Once again, she extended her arms, forming graceful lines. He imitated a spread eagle as best he could in the water.

"How do I get down?" she asked.

"The same way you got up. Put your hands on my shoulders. I'll guide you down."

She did as he instructed. He slowly guided her downward and her body brushed against his. Heat and desire rocketed through him. Famke reached out and wrapped her hands around his neck. Their eyes locked. He saw desire in her gaze and he knew she saw the same in his. Neither one could deny the attraction growing between them.

"When we're on the ice, you can't come out of the lift so close," he said softly.

"I know." She leaned up, her lips skirting his.

"Famke…" His voice droned off.

Her mouth brushed against his and his resolve melted. The kiss was slow and thoughtful, warm and drugging. Raising his lips from hers, he stared into her eyes.

She nipped at her lower lip with her teeth. "Wow."

"Wow is right." He wanted – no, he
needed
more. But they couldn't take their attraction further, could they? Katrien had been so cold and aloof, but Famke was warm and giving, willing to give him a chance – willing to do these lifts.

She dropped her arms and took a step backward. "We shouldn't have kissed."

His heart lurched. She was right, but—

"We need to be professional." Her voice wobbled.

Who was she trying to convince?
Herself or him?
Famke was right, of course, but her body told him another thing.

"Right. Professional," he half-heartedly affirmed.

She held up her hand. "I just need a minute."

"So do I," he replied.

Famke stepped back and ran a hand over her wet hair.

Lord, she was beautiful, inside and out. A sudden revelation came to him –
she is a gift sent by the Lord.
He turned and cupped his cheeks, rocked by the sudden realization.

"All right, I'm ready for more."

He turned to face her and steeled his shoulders. "Remember, not so close on your dismount."

She nodded and rushed toward him. The rest of the session went well. Famke matched his rhythm and learned to anticipate him. Their movements became more fluid. By the end, he felt very confident that he could put Famke in a carry lift on the ice.

Chapter Six

Famke packed her father's clogs, his spoon, and a couple of chocolates in her backpack. She placed her hand on the bedroom door then paused before opening it.
Chris and Stephen's muted chuckles filled the air. She recalled her kiss with Chris earlier. His lips were velvet warm, full of intimacy. Desire had flooded her body like a torrent of rain. Attraction had demolished her professional armor, yet she didn't want to leave Chris. She wanted to continue to train with him. Wanted? No, she
needed
to be with him. He revitalized her passion for skating, and he made her feel alive down to her toes. She opened the door and walked into the kitchen.

"Are you ready?" asked
Stephen.

"You bet." She glanced at
Chris. His sweet hazel eyes softened at the sight of her.

He gestured toward the door and they departed. They took
Stephen's car to the care facility. The building was located on the outskirts of the city. The ride lasted about twenty minutes. Stephen parked and walked inside. A security guard greeted them in the entrance.

"
Stephen deVries for Henry deVries. This is my sister, Famke, and my friend, Chris Jansen."

The guard wrote on his list, then picked up a clipboard. "
Henry deVries is in the recreation room."

"Thank you, I know where it is," said
Stephen.

The guard nodded and Famke followed
Stephen down the main hall. Chris stayed at her side. She had no idea what to expect. The facility possessed a medicinal smell that irritated her nose. Stephen entered the recreation room and Famke spied her father watching a TV show. He wore a blue button down sweater and tan pants. He appeared very thin and his hair was completely gray. His face carried heavy age lines around his temples. She froze, not expecting him to look so haggard.

Chris
reached out and squeezed her hand, offering reassurance.

She glanced at him and stiffened her chin, firming up her own inner courage. She hadn't expected to feel so overwhelmed with sadness, but she was glad
Chris was here. Slowly, she approached with Stephen and Chris.

"Hello, Papa, remember me?
Stephen?" he began.

Their father turned his gaze on
Stephen, but his stare was empty. Stephen pointed. "This is Famke – your daughter."

A spark appeared in his eyes. "
Irene?"

"No, Famke," she said, putting on a brave face.
Irene had been her mother's name.

"Yes, yes – Famke." He raised his hand. "You went to America – to ice skate."

"I'm back now, Papa." She reached out and embraced him. He returned the gesture, but she noted his arms were weak.

"Do you still skate?"

"Yes. I'm a pairs skater with Chris."

Her father smiled. "
Stephen's friend. He's a good boy."

Famke sat down next to her father and removed the wooden clogs she'd bought for him from her backpack. "Guess what happens tonight?"

He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "I'm not sure."

"
Sinterklaas
is coming. I brought you a pair of clogs to put out."

He reached out and took them from her. "They're beautiful. Where do I put them?"

"By your door."

"Let's go." He held up the clogs and
Chris grabbed them.

Stephen
helped him to his feet and grasped his arm. Famke walked on the other side of the father.

"How's that coach of yours? What's her name?
Ingrid?"

Famke's eyes moistened. "
Yes, Ingrid. She passed away."

"Oh, I'm sorry. She was a good teacher. She believed in you."

Famke drew on her willpower not to cry. Her father's voice wasn't as strong as she recalled.

Stephen
paused next to a door with her father's name. "We're here."

Her father smiled. "I remember when I was young,
Sinterklaas
used to leave me these little chocolate balls called Mozart Kugel. I liked them a lot."

"I love those, too," said
Chris. He handed Famke's father his shoes back. The older man bent down and placed them next to his door.

Famke pursed her lips, trying to hold back her tears.

"Help me get into my pajamas, Stephen." He paused. "Good night, Famke."

She hugged him. "Good night, Papa. I love you."

He patted her back before he stepped away. Stephen and Chris escorted him into the room and closed the door. Famke opened her backpack and stuffed the clogs, adding a Mozart Kugel. She leaned against the wall. Unable to contain her tears, they flowed down her cheeks.

No, she needed to be strong for her father – just like he had been strong for her when she was a little girl. She pulled out a tissue from her pocket and dried her eyes.

Stephen and Chris stepped out and closed the door behind them.

"He's very excited about
Sinterklaas
' visit," said Stephen.

Famke wrapped her arms around her brother needing to feel his support.

"He's okay," Stephen offered reassuringly. "He remembered me after he saw you."

She pulled away. "He's not himself. I didn't expect it would affect me like this."

"I know," said Stephen.

Chris
placed his hand in the small of her back. "He was delighted to see you."

"Really?" she asked.

"Yes."

"Do you think he knows that we love him?"

"Most definitely," replied Chris.

Stephen
offered her a kind smile. "The first time is hard. It gets a little easier. He may not remember, but I think you were right in that he'll recall the feelings we invoked tonight."

"Thank you," she said.

Chris stayed close to Famke as they left the facility and his presence helped to steady her. For the first time since her arrival, her body felt weary down to her bones. Thank goodness, she had Stephen – and Chris.

BOOK: Gifts
2.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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