Chapter 32

"Why is that quote 'fools rush in where angels fear to tread' always in my mind these days?" Ellen hesitated for a moment and then took in a deep breath and knocked on the office door. After hearing a murmur of voices, Kevin opened the door and welcomed her into the office. He was just finishing a session with a patient, who was on his way out of the office.

Motioning for her to sit on the office couch, Ellen accepted the seat and Kevin sat on the couch also. Today had been a difficult day for Kevin - starting with Lucy's unexpected visit and afterwards he had two very intense sessions with patients. His mood brightened considerably with Ellen's visit and he wanted to do his best to set her at ease. "I'm really glad to see you. How are you doing?" he asked.

"I've been better," Ellen replied with a wry smile that slowly faded. "Kevin, I just saw Lucy and she told me about her plans for Valentine's Day. Why in the world did you agree for Matt, Lucy, you, and me to spend that evening together at Luke's?"

Shaking his head, Kevin attempted to explain. "Ellen, it wasn't my idea; it was all Lucy's idea. I've been putting her off for weeks now and even though I initially resisted, yes, I did eventually agree to go if she could work it out with you and Matt."

"But why did you do that Kevin?" Ellen stared at Kevin in disbelief. Couldn't Kevin see that all four of them being together on Valentine's Day, of all evenings, was not a good idea?

"Why? I suppose I felt she was going to persist in us doing something together for Valentine's Day unless I had other plans, which I didn't. So when she suggested spending the evening with you and Matt I thought that it would be an acceptable plan if you agreed." Kevin was puzzled and wasn't sure why Ellen was upset. When he agreed to Lucy's proposal it was with the caveat that Ellen and Matt had to agree also. Surely Ellen could have told Lucy that she and Matt had other plans for the evening, he thought. Unfortunately he hadn't considered that Lucy would ask Matt first, before asking Ellen.

Ellen squeezed her eyes shut and used her fingertips to pinch the bridge of her nose in an attempt to reduce her frustration. Opening her eyes again she said with a tinge of anger in her voice, "Kevin, don't you think that it's somewhat foolhardy for you and me to have dinner with Lucy and Matt?"

Kevin looked at Ellen and hoped that she could see in his eyes the feelings he wouldn't express with words. "Ellen, I'm being honest. I want to spend as much time with you as possible. I would assume that you would prefer for us to meet when other people are with us and that was one of the main reasons I agreed to the dinner. Why do you consider getting together on Friday night foolhardy?"

Nervousness quickly replaced the anger Ellen had felt a moment earlier, and with hesitation she said, "Because Matt or Lucy might notice that ... they might see something..." Ellen could not say the words, so Kevin finished the sentence for her.

"They might pick up on the fact that there is something more than friendship between us?" It was obvious that Ellen was distressed and Kevin placed his hand on Ellen's cheek to comfort her. The touch of her soft skin against his palm ignited passionate feelings, which Kevin tried to suppress. "Is that what you want to say?"

Ellen closed her eyes again and slowly took a deep breath. How is it that she loved the feel of Kevin's hand softly caressing her face and was terrified her reaction to it at the same time she asked herself? Finally, she nodded as an answer to Kevin's question and began to pull her face from Kevin's hand when she felt Kevin's arm start to circle her waist. Keeping her eyes closed she placed both of her hands firmly on Kevin's chest to stop him from pulling her closer. Her mind told her that this situation was becoming far too dangerous. Opening her eyes, she whispered in a ragged voice. "Please don't, don't." Kevin released her and Ellen tried to compose her thoughts. "I haven't told Matt yet what has happened between us, but one day I probably will. And when I do I want to be able to say all that happened was a single kiss in an unguarded moment. If I can say that then I think that he will be able to forgive me and continue trusting me. But if we kiss again..." Ellen's voice broke as her lips quivered. She felt both excited and ashamed as she remember the kiss she and Kevin shared in her apartment. "If we kiss again and I have to tell him that, I'm not sure that he would ever forgive me. And I almost wouldn't expect him to."

Ellen rose quickly from the couch and Kevin mirrored her movements. They walked without speaking to the office door and just when he was ready to open it for her they looked at each other again. Ellen said solemnly, "If you remember that you don't want to hurt Lucy and I remember that I don't want to hurt Matt, we'll make it through Valentine's Day and all of the days to follow, O.K.?"

If only it was that simple, Kevin thought. But he wanted to ease Ellen's burden so he smiled and said, O.K." Kevin opened the door and Ellen flashed him a grateful smile. Her hand covered Kevin's, which was on the door handle and she gave his hand a gentle squeeze.

"Bye," she said. Ellen was momentarily startled seeing Mac Scorpio just outside Kevin's office in the hallway. Ellen told him hi and once again thanked him for the enjoyable evening they recently had at Dara's apartment. Sensing Mac had something important to discuss with Kevin she excused herself and headed back to work.

"Hi Mac, are you ready to head to the health club already?" Since Kevin had finished with his last patient for the day, he was more than ready to leave early and have a racquetball game with Mac.

"Not yet," Mac said sitting down in the office chair in front of Kevin's desk. "Can we talk for a few minutes first?" Thinking that Mac wanted to talk about Felicia or possibly Robin, Kevin sat on the edge of his desk facing Mac and waited for his friend to speak.

"Kevin, last Friday at Dara's apartment, I came back into the living room while Dara was making coffee. I saw you and Ellen." Mac didn't have to say anything more. Kevin's face blushed crimson red as he realized Mac knew of his feelings for Ellen.

Kevin swallowed hard and continued looking at Mac for a few seconds. Placing his hand in his pants pockets, he stood up and walked around the desk and sat in his chair. After a few more seconds of silence he looked at Mac again and said quietly, "We haven't done anything Mac."

Mac was not able to completely eliminate the sarcastic tone from his voice when he asked, "Is that because you haven't tried anything or because she has said no?"

"A little of both I guess," was Kevin's reply. "Are you going to ask me 'Do you know what you are doing?"

"You know very well what you're doing, Kevin. My question is do you care what havoc will occur if Matt Harmon and Ellen Burgess break their engagement if she succumbs to any of your advances? Do you really think that it is worth it?"

"You know me well enough to know I'm not looking to just sleep with Ellen. I love her because of the person she is, which includes her moral code and how she doesn't want to hurt anyone. When I told her that I cared for her beyond just being her friend, she rebuffed my advances, and I'm doing the best I can to abide by her wishes. But she cares for me also; I can feel it, Mac. And it is difficult sometimes when we're together to maintain," Kevin paused to choose the appropriate words, "our agreement. But I can't not see her at all; I'm not even going to try to do that," Kevin stated emphatically. Rr Mac listened to everything Kevin said but his mind focused on only a few of Kevin's words. "Kevin," a stunned Mac noted, "just now you said that you loved her."

Blinking his eyes, Kevin realized that he said the words that he had never consciously thought, but that he'd felt in his heart for some time now. During shared meals and over coffee breaks, Ellen would listen patiently to Kevin as he discussed his failed relationships with Eve and Lucy, and those talks and her compassion got him through some very difficult times. More than once he had asked himself half-jokingly why he couldn't find a woman like Ellen. Now, he realized that he did not want a woman like Ellen; he wanted Ellen herself. A somewhat sad smile slowly appeared on Kevin's face. "Yes. I guess I did say that, didn't I?"

Rising out of the chair, Mac suggested that they go should go now for their game. He made one final comment about Ellen to Kevin. "If you really feel that way, there is nothing I can really say to you. I hope that you two can work everything out, or else there will be hell to pay."

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