While her experience might be limited, she did know the difference between mindless sex and actually making love. It was silly of her to be having this argument, or rather, discussion with herself. The old Kylie wasn’t into self-reflection or analysis and she certainly had never entertained the idea of making love.

And yet that was absolutely the right description for the intimacy she and Jensen had created. Sex was . . . Well, it was sex. Nothing more, nothing less. Making love involved so much more. Trust. Mutual respect. And well, love.

“You’re quiet, baby.”

She glanced over to see Jensen give her a sideways glance as he turned into their neighborhood.

“Anything wrong?” he asked.

“Not at all,” she said with a wry smile. “I was pondering the differences between ha**g s*x and making love.”

One of his eyebrows went up. “Do tell. This sounds like an interesting conversation you were having with yourself.”

She laughed. “I’m being silly and philosophical all at the same time.”

“And? Are you going to enlighten me or leave me ignorant of this epiphany you had?”

She squeezed his hand, enjoying just . . . being with him. Happy. She’d never used the word happy so much in her entire life as she had these last weeks with Jensen.

“I was thinking that sex was not the right word for what we do,” she said, a little embarrassed to get all “girly” with him.

But he didn’t laugh, nor did he indicate she was in any way being silly. He squeezed her hand back and stroked his thumb over the back of her knuckles.

“For the first time in my life I truly recognize the difference between ha**g s*x and making love.”

Even as she said it, she wished she would have kept her mouth shut. She couldn’t imagine him agreeing with her when both times he’d been tied to the bed. Hardly the hallmark of traditional lovemaking. She was embarrassed and suddenly ashamed by the fact that she acknowledged her love for a man when she didn’t trust him to make love to her.

“Baby, what is that look for?” Jensen said quietly as he pulled into the drive and turned off the engine.

“I wish I hadn’t said anything,” she replied honestly.


There was obvious incredulity in his voice. He’d turned sideways in his seat so he could see her more fully.

She closed her eyes. “Because for all my declarations of love and trust, I haven’t shown you either. Actions speak far louder than words and I doubt most people would consider you being tied to a bed ‘making love.’”

“Now you’re just pissing me off,” he said in a near growl.

She blinked, returning her gaze to him. He’d never gotten angry with her. Oh, it was inevitable. What couple didn’t argue or get pissed off at each other occasionally? But indeed he did look . . . pissed.

“I’m not having this conversation in the f**king car,” he said, opening his door. “But we are having it. Inside.”

She hesitantly opened her door, instant agitation buzzing through her mind. Her heart fluttered and her pulse jumped up. As she got out, she swallowed back the fear that gripped her by the throat.

She was being an idiot. No matter how angry Jensen became with her, he’d never hurt her. She knew that. And yet at the first sign of his anger, her reaction had been one of wariness. Anger equaled violence in her world. The two had always gone hand in hand during her childhood. She hated arguing. Hated confrontations even though her prickly, bitchy persona would indicate differently.

Jensen waited for her in front of the car and she curled her fingers into her palms, wondering if she should reach for his hand. It’s what she would have done anytime they’d gone out and returned home. Only now she wasn’t so certain even as she admonished herself for being such nitwit.

Jensen put his hand on her shoulder, his gaze intent as he stared down at her. “Are you afraid of me?”

There was such shocked recognition in his eyes that she flinched. She was making matters worse with every passing second.

“No. Yes. No, damn it, I’m not!”

She shook her head for emphasis but he didn’t move. Didn’t look at all like he believed her. Who could blame him? She’d contradicted herself in just those few words she’d spoken.

She closed her eyes and exhaled in a long rush.

“I’m not afraid of you, Jensen. I’m afraid of anger. The repercussions of anger. It took me off guard. I haven’t pissed you off yet, certainly not for lack of trying on my part,” she said in disgust. “So I wasn’t expecting it. Had no time to steel myself or tell myself what an idiot I’m being. Fear was my natural, instinctive reaction. I hate arguing. I hate confrontations. I’d normally do anything at all to avoid them. And I know we’ll argue. I don’t expect us to be perfect. I don’t even know why fear struck me the way it did. Well, I do know,” she said, her voice trailing off.

“Come inside with me, Kylie,” he said, his voice quiet but also tender.

She glanced back up at him to see the warmth in his eyes. His sincerity. His love for her and his understanding.

He tugged her hand and guided her to the front door. Once inside, he directed her toward the bedroom.

“Get undressed for bed,” he said. “We’ll talk while I’m holding you.”

Relief fluttered through her throat and chest. They were okay. She was okay.

She changed into a pair of pajamas while he stripped down to his boxers. Then he climbed into bed, pulling back the covers and patting the spot beside him.

She went readily, snuggling up against his body. Her self-admonishment from earlier still rang in her mind. It was time to back her words with action. Prove to him that she did trust him. She could start by being more openly affectionate and willing to get close to him without coaxing.

“Now, I want you to listen to me,” he said in a firm voice.

He stroked one hand through her hair and then down her arm. His fingertips lightly grazed her skin, sending chill bumps dancing in their wake.

“Just because my hands were tied to the bed during the act of our lovemaking, and yes, it is lovemaking, doesn’t mean we had mindless sex. You gave me something very precious both times. Your trust.”

“How can you say that when I tied you up both times?” she asked fretfully.

He squeezed her to him with one strong arm. “Because you went through with it. We made beautiful love. I came inside you. That’s as beautiful as it gets, baby.”

She sighed and deeply inhaled his scent, letting it surround and comfort her agitation.

He kissed the top of her head. “I love you, Kylie. My love isn’t conditional on how we have sex or if we have it for that matter.”

“I’m glad,” she said, her voice muffled by his body. “I want to be normal, Jensen. I just don’t know how to be.”

He laughed softly, a slight ache in his voice. “Fuck normal. We’ve already had this conversation and you already know my feelings on the subject.”

She sighed and closed her eyes, enjoying him wrapped around her. Solid. So strong. Her rock.

For several long moments silence fell between them. A comfortable silence neither sought to end. And then she felt him tense slightly against her, as if he were preparing to say something.

She reared her head back, seeking out his gaze.

“Are you ready to talk to me, baby? About your past?”

His dark eyes swept her face intently, concern and love reflected in his expression.

Her breath hitched and her pulse sped up, as did her respirations. It was stupid, really. It was just words. Memories. They couldn’t hurt her unless she let them.

And this was the last barrier between them. The last piece of the trust puzzle.

“Yeah,” she quietly whispered. “I am.”

He squeezed her again and pressed an encouraging kiss on her forehead. “Take your time. I’m not going anywhere.”

She hugged his body to hers. It surprised her, that she wasn’t on the verge of a panic attack over the idea of relating something so deeply personal. Something she had never confided in anyone. Not even Carson. She realized she wanted—needed—to unburden herself. Finally.

“I don’t even know where to start,” she said. Tears burned the edges of her eyes and she swallowed back the knot already forming in her throat.

“At the beginning. Or wherever you like. I’m here to listen.”

“He was always abusive,” she said, her voice trembling. “I don’t ever remember him not being. I can barely remember my mother, so I don’t know if she was any better than he was. My feelings are influenced by the fact she left me and Carson with that asshole. How does a mother just leave like that?”

Jensen tensed and she bit into her lip, sorry that she’d made that remark so soon after Jensen had confided his own mother’s desertion. She’d never really considered just how much she and Jensen had in common. Two halves to a whole.

“I’m sorry,” she said in a distressed voice. The last thing she wanted was to pull Jensen back into his own past. Hers was bad enough.

“No, baby, no. Don’t apologize. You need to talk about this with someone who loves you. Someone who will listen. Tonight isn’t about me. It’s about you.”

She nodded and then squeezed her eyes tightly shut. The rest was . . . hard. Shame and a sense of degradation burned through her memories.

“He raped me for the first time when I was thirteen.”

Jensen went rigid next to her. She curled her fingers into his chest, needing something solid, tangible. He slid his hand between them, splaying over hers.

“And there was violence. So much violence,” she whispered. “Nothing Carson and I ever did was right. When he was drunk, he always targeted Carson. But it was when he was completely sober that he directed his ire toward me. I could almost understand, well not really, but it would make more sense if he was just a mean drunk and he only became abusive when he was drinking. It was the vengeful targeting of me when he was fully cognizant of what he was doing that frightened me the most. It seemed so personal.

“At least with Carson it always seemed to be a case of Carson being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s a sad testament that I felt safer as long as he was drinking.”

Jensen kissed the top of her head, leaving his lips there pressed against her hair.

“I’ve never told anyone this,” she began. She started shaking, no longer able to keep the memories at bay. Manageable. They poured through her mind leaving inky darkness and pain in their wake.

“What, Kylie?” he gently coaxed. “What haven’t you ever told anyone?”

“There was a time when I seriously considered suicide.”

Jensen sucked in his breath and then expelled it in long, shaky puffs. “Oh God, baby. I’m so sorry. That’s a heavy burden to carry by yourself. Why have you never told anyone?”

“Because it demonstrated just how weak I am,” she said wearily. “Just another shortcoming on my list. It was only the thought of leaving Carson behind by himself that kept me from doing it. Not that I didn’t want to die. I did. So many times it would have been so easy to make it all stop. I was angry at my mom for leaving us and yet there I was thinking of doing the exact same thing to Carson.”

“Kylie, you aren’t weak. It took a hell of a lot of courage and guts not to do it. To remain in that situation with no hope of getting out of it. You were just a child who thought you’d never get out of your hell. I can’t say I blame you for contemplating suicide.”

“It broke Carson to know what our father was doing to me. I suppose he felt like you in some ways. Helpless to make it stop.”

“I know that feeling only too well,” Jensen murmured.

She didn’t want to discuss every sordid detail. There was no need to do that to either herself or Jensen. It was enough that he knew. That she’d told him.

“When and how did it end?” Jensen asked, after her long silence.

“Carson worked odd jobs and he saved up enough money for us to run. We left in the middle of the night while our father was passed out. I was so worried about Carson because our father had beaten him worse than usual. He had bruises, broken ribs. God only knows what else. But he got us out of there.”

“Where did you go?” Jensen asked softly. “How did you make it? How did you end up going to college, even?”

“We were homeless for a while. While we had some money, we couldn’t afford to use it for rent and who would rent something to two kids? We would have been turned over to the police and then sent back to our father. We had to eat and we used the money sparingly. Carson worked his way through college and I worked odd jobs to help. When he started working, he in turn helped me through college.”

“And you call yourself weak,” Jensen said in bewilderment. “How could you ever think so? Do you even realize the kind of strength it took to survive, and then being homeless with no one to look out for you except each other? I don’t know of many people who would have had that kind of resolve.”

“I wish I could see it the way you do,” she said wistfully.

“You’re a brave, courageous woman, Kylie. Never doubt that.”

“I love you,” she said.

“I love you too, baby. Did you or Carson ever see him after that?”

Kylie shook her head. “No, but Carson looked for him years later. I think he wanted revenge.”

“Can’t say I blame him,” Jensen muttered. “Did he find him?”

“He never would say. I only found out because I saw the file he left open on his desk. When I asked him about it, well, you can imagine I freaked. That shouldn’t surprise you. It’s no wonder he wouldn’t tell me anything. He likely worried I’d go off my rocker and do something stupid. Who knows. Maybe I would have.