Adam slipped his arm around her and pulled her close. "You've changed your tune," he said.
"It may have been changed for me." Her voice trembled. "I ... I ... oh, Adam, what if I can't ever ride again?" She turned in his embrace, leaning against his chest, shaking him with the force of her sobs.
"Hush," he soothed. "Hush. You'll be all right. Just be patient and keep working on your exercises. Don't give up trying, don't give up hope." What was he saying? If she had to give up cycling, she would have time for a life again. She would have time for love.
She would have time for him.
He was warm. He was comforting. He was gentle. Stell clung to him, feeling as if he was the only stable point in her confusing, callous universe. She welcomed the security of his embrace, wanting this one moment in time where she could feel protected, cherished. Where she could lean on someone else for a change.
Adam's breath warmed her ear. The vibration of his heart soothed, calmed, until her sobs ceased to choke her, her tears dried. His arms, holding her tightly, were a shield between her and a world she couldn't quite face.
"Hush," he said again. "It isn't the end of the world. You'll do whatever you make up your mind to do, Stell. You won't give up."
"What if I do? What if..."
He tilted her chin up so she looked into his eyes, pale in the moonlight. "Listen to me. If you want to ride again--really want to--you will. I can't believe you'd ever let anyone or anything stop you from doing what you decided to do."
"I'm glad someone believes in me." She buried her nose in the soft wool of his sports jacket, savoring the woodsy-spicy scent of him. "I was beginning to wonder if I shouldn't sell my bikes." That and other, more drastic, courses of action had occurred to her this week, between old movies and trips to the refrigerator.
"Maybe it is time for you to do some pretty hard thinking about your priorities," he told her. "I hate to see you clinging to a lost cause." His voice was sympathetic, full of unmistakable concern for her.
"That might be just what I am doing," she admitted. Just saying the words triggered a terrible sense of loss. "After all, there's no guarantee I'll be ever be able to ride competitively again."
"It won't be so bad." His breath disturbed the hair above her ear, sent tingles along her shoulder. "You're depressed now because your leg isn't healing the way you think it should." He turned her around as if she were nothing more than a toy in his hands. "Whatever happens, Stell, it's time for you to open your eyes and see that there's a great big world waiting for you. One that has nothing to do with cycling." He tightened his arms around her waist, pulling her back against his body. "Look out there! How can you worry about something you can't do anything about when you've got all that before you?"
She looked and had to agree. The Columbia Gorge stretched below her and to the east, breathtaking in its immensity. She had ridden up to Crown Point many times, both alone and in group rides. But she had never stopped to enjoy the view, never come out here onto the overlook path below Vista House, not since she was a child on a Sunday outing with her parents. "Oh my!" she breathed. "It is something, isn't it?" This was the first time she'd been here at night.
Again Adam chuckled. "You sound surprised. How can you live in Portland and not be aware of this view?"
"It's easy," she admitted, not particularly proudly. "All you have to do is live your life so that scenery is low on the list." Taking a deep breath, she leaned back into his embrace. "What do they say about taking time to smell the flowers? Maybe that's what I've been forgetting to do."
"That's what I've been trying to tell you," he said, dropping light, butterfly kisses across her nape. His hand crept under her light jacket, stroked across her midriff, skimming the bottoms of her breasts so lightly she almost wondered if she wasn't imagining his touch.
It would be easy, she thought, to relax. All she had to do was give up, to stop striving toward a goal that might have become unobtainable, no matter how hard she was willing to work.