All I Need Is You | Chapter 27 of 35

Author: Julia London | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1597 Views | Add a Review

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Chapter Twenty-Two

PERSONALLY, Marnie had not known before today that Cristal champagne was so good. Her only regret was that she'd probably never be able to afford a bottle on her own, so she sipped carefully.

The five of them shared a bottle with their little meal, which was, amazingly, the most tender and delectable veal Marnie had ever eaten. The champagne had helped take the edge off their nerves, so when the rain started up again, they took the second bottle inside the cabin and sat around a roaring fire that Eli built… naturally.

Frankly, Marnie was beginning to wonder if Vince did anything but star in movies. He had yet to lift a finger that she could see—Eli was doing all the work. What amazed her was the amount of work Eli was able to do. The man knew how to do just about everything—repair plumbing, build fires, retrieve bottles of champagne hanging precariously from an exposed root in a steep ravine. It was really very sexy.

Eli was sexy. And tonight, while everyone was calm, laughing as they named the worst movies they had ever seen (or, in the case of some, had starred in), Marnie couldn't keep her eyes from him. She kept stealing glimpses of him, sitting a little apart from the rest of them, his head down, lost in thought… until he suddenly looked up and caught her looking at him.

As Olivia went on and on and on about some movie she had starred in where she didn't have a proper trailer, Eli lifted a dark brow in question to Marnie. She smiled softly and lifted her coffee cup of champagne in silent toast. He returned a smile so warm that the corners of his blue eyes crinkled, and he responded by lifting his coffee cup.

She smiled, sipped from her cup, and thought, with an inadvertent shiver, about last night, and how his warm blue eyes had looked then—dark, not light. Bold. Full of desire. Tonight his eyes were full of restlessness and, she thought, a tiny beam of hope. Maybe even affection.

When Rhys announced he would turn in, he startled Marnie by asking, "And what do you intend to do, Miss Wedding Coordinator?"

"Do? What do you mean what is she going to do?" Olivia asked.

"I lost my tent in the storm," Marnie said, trying not to look at Eli. "So, I ah, I need a place to sleep."

"Oh, you poor thing!" Olivia cried, her good humor returned with the champagne. "You must stay in here. On the couch. There are some extra quilts and you'll be very comfortable," she said, nodding adamantly.

"Oh. Well, I wouldn't want to impose—"

"Don't be ridiculous. These are desperate times."

"They're not desperate" Vince said, tossing back the last of his champagne. "But I don't care. Let her sleep here if she wants," he said with a shrug.

"It's settled then. You'll sleep here," Olivia said, and smiled sweetly at Marnie.

No, no, no, she didn't want to sleep here! She wanted to sleep in Eli's tent! She wanted to feel his arms and legs around her, to feel his warmth and strength seep into her! She glanced at Eli and willed him to say it, to say she would sleep with him.

But he only smiled and winked as he followed Rhys out. Damn.

Her good mood effectively ruined, Marnie fetched her backpack and excused herself. She went to the little outhouse and brushed her teeth, washed her face and her body as best she could in the freezing dribble of water that was left, and when she returned to the cabin, the lights were already out. Olivia and Vince were already in bed, and there was nothing but the glow of the fire.

Marnie crept to the small couch. Olivia had left a couple of quilts out for her, and she very quietly laid them out, slipped between them, and turned on her side away from the bed. She closed her eyes, and her mind's eye danced with images of Eli, of the things he had done to her last night, images so clear that her body began to heat… until a familiar noise pierced her consciousness.

Marnie's eyes flew open. She quietly sucked in her breath and held it. Unbelievable! It wasn't her conscious dream of Eli making that sound, it was Olivia and Vince! Those morons were actually making love with her in the room!

She curled into a ball and tried very hard not to listen, but really, how could she not? There was no mistaking their heavy breathing, the grunts and groans of lovemaking. And the sucking sounds! Those sounds were perfectly sexy and arousing when performed on her body, but when performed by another couple in the room, it grossed her out completely.

And when Olivia said, in a childlike voice, "Come on, baby, give me some of that sweet meat," Marnie practically fell off the couch in her haste to get out from beneath the quilts. She glanced at the bed only once, long enough to see Vince on his knees, straight up, Olivia on all fours, and Vince sliding in from behind.

She rushed out into the cold night air, a quilt around her shoulders, her feet freezing from having forgotten her shoes. She thought about sleeping on the wicker chairs, but it was still rainy and cold and wet, and okay whatever—she knew where she wanted to be. Let Eli think she was a nuisance, but she was not going back inside that cabin with those two.

Except that she did remember one thing: There was still a little champagne left in the second bottle. She'd noticed it when she'd put it aside when the party broke up. Marnie glanced at the door of the cabin, then at the tent, and in a moment of determination, she opened the door of the cabin. If the rest of the crew didn't like her taking the champagne, they could vote her off the damn mountain.

She darted inside to die sound of Olivia breathing hard and muttering, "Oh yeah, oh yeah baby, oh yeah," grabbed the champagne and flew out again, and ran in bare feet to die tents, her thumb firmly in die bottle to keep it from spilling.

At Eli's tent, she dispensed with any polite knocking and fumbled clumsily with die zipper long enough to wake him. The flap opened and she fell in, wet and with a bottle of champagne tipped to one side, saved only by her thumb. Eli had already lit his kerosene lamp and was sitting up, his arms braced on his raised knees, die shadow of his beard very sexy, his chest broad and outlined by a tight T-shirt, and watching her with a look of curiosity.

Marnie righted herself. "I have champagne," she said, thrusting the bottle toward him.

He didn't say anything, just smiled that sexy, lopsided grin that made her weak in die knees.

"I know I didn't knock, but it's raining," she said. He quirked a brow. "Okay, I'm definitely arriving uninvited. Again. But the tiling is, Olivia and Vince… well, let's just say they are not exactly a shy couple."

He squinted at die bottle. "How much is left?"

"I'd say sixty-five dollars worm."

"Then welcome to my humble abode," he said, and moved his feet so she could sit on the end of his sleeping bag.

Marnie smiled and half moved, half rolled to the end of his sleeping bag and handed him the bottle.

Hi took it, took a sip, and said, "So the happy couple is extra happy tonight?"

"You could say that," Marnie said, and easily fell into a comfortable conversation, telling Eli what had happened in the cabin, making him laugh at her mimicking Olivia in the throes of passion.

They sat across from each other, knee to knee, passing the bottle back and forth, talking like old friends about their dilemma, predicting which of the five would be the first to crumble under the pressure (Olivia getting a unanimous vote), and how long Vince could last without someone to do every little thing for him. They both professed astonishment at how well Rhys seemed to adapt to the situation, when they both would have guessed him to be the first to come unglued.

They speculated about Vince and Olivia, and how two people who were supposedly in love could fight as much as they did.

"It must be the grind of celebrity," Marnie said. "Because they always make up."

"It's the ego of celebrity," Eli countered. "If it were me, I'd skip the fighting altogether and head right for making up." And then he looked at her in a way that made her skin tingle. Jesus, but the man could make her hot just by looking at her.

She took another slug of champagne and asked boldly, "So what about you, Eli McCain, man of mystery. Did you ever think about getting married?"

Wow, was that an arctic blast that just rattled the tent, or did the mood suddenly change? Eli's jaw was suddenly clenched tightly shut, and he handed the champagne to her. "Yeah, I've thought about it."

"At least you've thought about it," she said with a self-conscious laugh. "I've never been in a relationship long enough to even contemplate it."

"Really?" he asked, glancing up, the scowl gone.

"Really. It seems that the couple of times I thought I had something really good, something or someone would come along to really screw it up."

"Like what?"

"Like? Well, in one case, an old girlfriend suddenly popped back into the picture. You know, 'the one who got away,'" she said, making quote marks with her fingers. "And then there was the guy who was so great and everything between us was great… until he lost his shirt in the stock market. He just announced he was moving to New York one day. And when I asked him about us, he pretty much said there was him and money, and that was his us, and other than that, he had no us. Money was his first love. I was an incidental second." A booty call, she thought bitterly. "Yep, that really sucked," she said with an honest laugh. "I could have seen all the signs if I'd only admitted it to myself. But I honestly thought he was the guy for me. It's funny how I can fool myself into thinking someone is right for me, but then he turns out to be the last person on earth I should be with." She laughed.

Eli didn't say anything to that, just looked at the bottle she held. Marnie closed one eye and peered into the bottle, then passed it to Eli. "At least that's what I discovered about me," she said, reverting to her bad habit of talking to fill awkward silence. "But that's been a few years, so I don't think about it much anymore. I just really thought we were going the full nine yards, and it took me a while to get over the realization that he was more interested in money than me. Ouch."

Eli took a swig of the champagne and handed the bottle back to her. "I'm sorry you had to go through that, Marnie. I know that must have hurt like hell."

She smiled sadly. "You cannot imagine."

"How long?" he asked. "How long did it take you to get over it?"

She shrugged and sipped from the bottle. "About six months, which, I recognize, is a pathetically long time to let one dickhead screw with your head."

"Not as pathetic as a year," he said, taking the bottle.

"Ooh, a full year," she said with a soft smile. "That's a long time, too."

With a soft sigh, Eli took the champagne bottle from her. "It's even worse. I was practically standing at the altar."

Marnie's smile faded. Eli downed what was left of the champagne, tossed the bottle aside, and propped his arms on his knees.

How was that possible? How could a woman do that to a man like Eli? If Marnie had a guy like Eli, he'd probably get sick of her always wanting to be with him. "Oh, Eli," she said. sympathetically. He was too handsome, too .strong, too… good. She drew her knees up to her chest, wrapped her arms around them. "Seriously, you were at the altar?"

"Not literally, but a week away," he said with a shrug. "Yep, something on the scale of this wedding—lots of people, lots of money sunk into stupid details like feathers and arches. But it was what she wanted, and at the time, I would have done anything she wanted."

This was not in keeping with the image she had of a man with such a tough exterior. This guy seemed very vulnerable at the moment. "So… what happened?"

"What happened was that she was sleeping with another man. An actor, of course. Someone who she thought would be her ticket to fame and fortune."

Marnie gasped. "Ohmigod, how awful for you. How did you know? I mean, you didn't just… you know, find them—"

"No," he said with a snort. "She just called the whole thing off one day after she informed me she was sleeping with someone else without even batting an eye."

"You had no clue? No inkling that things weren't right?"

His eyes went dark, and she could see the clench of his jaw as he thought about it. "None," he said tightly.

Marnie didn't say anything—what could she say? It was too horrible to even contemplate. How devastating it would be, to have your heart broken in such a public and humiliating way. It was little wonder that he abhorred this wedding as he did. At least in her case, she'd never gotten near marriage with Jeff. If Jeff had taken her that far and left her, she would have crumbled into dust.

"I'm sorry, Eli."

"Don't be. I'm like you, coppertop. I could have seen the signs if I'd only opened my eyes. But that's the nature of love, I guess—you're too blinded by it to really know the person you're with."

"At least the people you and I chose. But most of the time, I think love opens up a window in people. Don't you?"

He glanced up at her, his eyes gone cold. "No," he said calmly. "I don't. I don't really know if love even exists. And if it does, I don't know if I think it's possible to sustain it over time."

"Wow, that's a little cynical. We all make mistakes, but we learn from them, right? And the next time, love is even better, because we're not as vulnerable as we were the first time it happened."

That earned her a disdainful snort. "You sound like Dear Abby. If you ask me, a person can never really know what's in another person's heart, not without climbing into their skin and looking inside it. And the inability to do that makes every one of us a potential putz."

"That's not true," Marnie retorted. "I don't know everything about you, but I think I know what's in your heart."

"You don't know me," he snorted.

"I do!" she insisted. "I know you're a good man with a big heart and that you really do care about people and things, even if you aren't very verbal about it."

"Marnie. Stop the psychobabble crap. You don't know anything about me. You have no idea what's in here," he said, tapping his chest. "A couple of rolls in the hay does not mean you knowme."

That remark took the wind out of her sails. "And what is that supposed to mean?" she asked tightly.

"Just that."

"I know you're not that cold, Eli. I think you have been stung and now you are pushing—"

"Will you stop?" he suddenly snapped. "That's the problem with you, Marnie, you just keep talking without ever listening. You don't know me. You will never know me, any more than I will know you. We've had some good times, but don't make it into something it's not!"

He might as well have slapped her—his words hurt just as bad. She'd never said she expected anything… but she didn't have to say it, did she? Her deeds had said it for her, and he'd seen it. He'd damn sure seen into her heart, and had just punted it right out of the ballpark. She dropped her gaze to the bag. "Fine," she muttered.

"Oh for God's sake, please don't be hurt," Eli groaned.

That infuriated her and she jerked her gaze to him. "I'm not hurt, Eli. How could I be hurt if I don't give a damn? Newsflash! You don't know me, either! But I guess you think every woman you sleep with is looking for happily ever after with you, right? Yeah, you're such a stud."

"Marnie," he said, but she flopped down on her side and pulled the quilt up around her face where she couldn't see him.

"Is it okay if I sleep here? I really don't have anywhere else to go."

"Yes, of course you can!" he said irritably.

"Great. Good night." And she closed her eyes. Squeezed them shut.

Eli sighed. Twice. But he said nothing.

"You're not the only one who has ever been hurt in this life, Eli," she muttered angrily. "You don't get a Purple

Heart for having suffered a bad relationship. You pick up and move on."

Eli said nothing. Marnie was too angry to think and hoped tomorrow she could think of something clever and witty to say that would put him in his place. That's what he needed, he needed to be put firmly in his place, the sorry bastard. And just how she'd put him in his place was the subject of the many thoughts that banged around her brain as me rain lulled her to sleep.

Sleep did finally come, because at some point, something—a sound, a movement—woke her. She opened her eyes, wondering what time it was. The rain had stopped, and the moon had come out, judging by the thin ray of light seeping in from the flap of the tent. It was open, because Eli was sitting there, staring out into the meadow.

She came up on her elbows and stared at him. What the hell was he doing? It was then that she noticed she was covered with the sleeping bag, He had covered her in his sleeping bag so she wouldn't be cold.

Oh no, he didn't care one bit, did he?

Stupid man.

Marnie lay down and snuggled deeper into the bag, and drifted back to sleep, the image of a lonely, stupid, stubborn cowboy in her mind's eye.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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