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“I want that too,” she says as her hand slides to my thigh.

This is the first time that she’s made the first move, and I’m glad that she feels comfortable touching me. I want her to know she can touch me anytime she wants. “You want to watch television?”

“We can.” And then her face lights up with a smile. “After you take me to bed.”

I cover her hand with mine and lace our fingers together before pulling them up and kissing her palm. I pull her hand to my chest as if I’m trying to soothe the way my heart is racing.

“I know I hurt you, Carrie. It wasn’t my fault, but you were hurt, and it kills me to know that you have been sad.” I shake my head, trying to get the pain out. I can only imagine what she’s been going through. When I heard what Crawford had said about her, I wanted to kill him. He lost his job and took it out on my woman instead of being a man about it. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure he’s charged to the fullest extent for the crimes he’s committed. From this point forward, no one is going to mess with Carrie. Not as long as I’m around, and I’m seriously planning on that being forever.

“We are going to get to a point where no matter what anyone says, you are going to know the truth. You are going to know that I want to be with you and only you. I’m going to show you every day that you are the woman for me. There’s no one else for me. We are meant to be. I’m sure of it.”

A tear falls down her cheek, and I take in her red rimmed eyes. Wiping away the moisture, I tell her, “No more tears. Only happiness. That’s all I want for you. Smiles and happiness.”

She nods, and I can’t take it anymore. There’s a need building inside me to have her, to claim her as my own, and this time it’s going to be damn well impossible to let her go. I drive all the way across town to my house with her hand in mine. There are no words that need to be said. I plan on showing her exactly how I feel about her. When I’m done, there won’t be a doubt left in her mind about exactly how I feel about her.

I help her from the car and into the house, down the hallway and straight to the bedroom. She barely gets through the door and I’m pulling the clothes off her.

“What’s the hurry?”

But I don’t slow down. I’m not going to be able to stop until she’s lying in bed next to me, in my arms, where she belongs.

As soon as I finish undressing her, I tear my clothes off, shucking my uniform onto the floor. I wrap my arms and my legs around her and nuzzle her neck, breathing her in.

She laughs when the stubble on my jaw strokes across her skin. “How long has it been since you shaved?”

“I don’t even know,” I say, running my chin across her neck softly. “These last few days have been awful. I don’t even want to think about if I’d lost you.”

She kisses me lightly on the cheek, moving across my face until she’s covered me with the sweet caress of her lips. She pulls back only to say, “You’re not going to lose me, Scott. I was a fool and should have come to you. Never again. I’m always going to trust in you. In us.”

And then her lips finally touch mine. I savor it, reveling in our mingled breaths, the feel of her naked body pressed against mine, the way she whimpers softly at my kiss and the way she holds me like she never wants to let me go.

I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve her, but I know I’m never going to screw it up or take it for granted. I wasn’t lying to her. She’s all I could ever want in a woman, and I’m going to make sure that I never lose her.

“Are you going to make love to me, Scott?”

“I like the sound of that.”

I feel her lips raise in a smile, and I pull back to look at her. “Because you know that’s what this is, right? I love you, Carrie. I love everything about you. The woman you are, your beauty, your heart, I could go on and on. I love you.” I kiss her then and go on to show her all the ways I love her.EpilogueRoseBeing back in Forest Grove has been nice. I’ve holed up in my parents’ house for the most part, even though Chrissy, Lacy, and Carrie have been pushing for me to come and see them. I saw Chrissy last week at her gym, Get Fit, but I hadn’t seen Lacy and Carrie much in the last four years, except for the few visits I’ve made home. But even then, it was usually just to meet up for lunch or something. And it’s never been all four of us.