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EXCERPT after the cut...
Richard pulled a white satin scarf from his pants pocket, folded it, and carefully placed it over Jess' eyes, lifting her head slightly in order to tie it.
"Now, do you trust me? Trust us?"
"Yes," Jess responded haltingly, finding it interesting that a nod seemed insufficient when unable to see. Her voice, barely recognizable to her own ears, spoke from beyond the barriers in her mind.
"We're going to touch you now, Jess—to hold your hands, stroke your face, caress you. While we do, I want you to repeat two words—silently, if you wish—over and over. Those words are: Love me. Ready?"
Richard took Jess' left hand in his right, lacing their fingers together as he rested his other hand high on her chest, thumb and index finger along her collar bone. "Deep breaths," he said.
Sam lifted Jess' other hand to her cheek and kissed its palm before lowering it and holding it between both of her own.
A soft smile touched the corners of Jess' mouth. "Sam," her lips moved although no sound escaped, "love me."
"Always," Sam whispered, her voice catching in her throat, "and all ways."
Charlie sat cross legged at Jess' head. The frown lines between her eyes slowly relaxed as his fingertips lightly massaged her temples. Her lips continued their silent mantra. "Love me."
Three pair of eyes were riveted to Jess' mouth, totally entranced by the flicker of candlelight across her lips. Although the cadence varied—faster, then slower—her plea remained soundless. Sam turned Jess' hand palm up in her lap and repeatedly stroked from wrist to fingertips, barely touching. Richard mirrored Sam's movements. Gradually, they moved up her arms until reaching the inside of her elbows.
Charlie caressed her forehead and cheeks, occasionally tracing the outline of her lips which would pause momentarily to accept the touch. In time, Jess' mouth stopping moving altogether and she became completely still. Only then were the three of them released from the spell cast by her lips. They glanced at one another, as if waking from a dream. Leaning forward, Charlie gently, almost reverently, kissed her lips.
Jess' back arched suddenly as her mouth opened in an apneic gasp, startling them all. "Love me," she moaned aloud. "Please...love me...NOW."
Richard, apparently expecting this, nodded to himself and motioned for Charlie to trade places with him.
"Love me," Jess now whispered repeatedly from the depths of her soul. She grabbed their hands and pulled them urgently to her body. "Love me!"