“I’ll be right back,” she murmured. “Don’t move.”

Ignoring his inquisitive look, she crawled out of bed, her heart beating violently. This was the moment of truth. If he refused her, she didn’t know what to do. This had to work. She had to convince him of her faith.

She pulled the rope out of his drawer and returned to the bed, ignoring his look of confusion. Before she could chicken out and before he realized what she was doing, she quickly looped the rope around his left hand and secured it to the bed.

Satisfied with the knot, she settled back onto the bed and curled back up against him, utterly sated and content. And she waited for the inevitable question to come.

“What’s going on, Kylie?” Jensen asked, a perplexed look knitting his forehead.

She breathed out a deep breath and looked him directly in the eyes.

“No one trusts you more than I do,” she said. “But you have to trust yourself with me. I don’t need you tied to the bed in order to make love to you. I just proved that to you and myself. However, I propose that at least until you are as certain as I am about you never hurting me, that we tie you to the bed while we sleep. That way even if you have a nightmare, you can’t possibly hurt me.”

Jensen looked utterly overcome. Tears glittered brightly in his eyes. Eyes full of love and . . . relief.

“Come here,” he said in a choked voice.

She snuggled into his arms and he threw his right arm around her, holding her as tightly as he could. He buried his face in her hair and his body shook. Tears burned her own eyes as she held on to him fiercely. Relief was so profound that she was weak with it. They were going to be okay.

“I love you,” he said rawly. “I love you so much, Kylie. I’ll never love anyone as much as I love you.”

“I love you too,” she whispered.

He finally let her go only enough so he could see her face. She reached up to wipe the tears from his face and he did the same to her.

“You really think this can work?” he asked hesitantly. “You have to understand, Kylie. That night . . . Oh God, that night was the best and worst night of my life. The best because you trusted me enough to open up about your past. And then the worst . . . You can’t imagine how I felt when I woke up to see my hand around your neck, to know I was hurting you, something I’d sworn never to do. It sickened me. All I could think about was getting you as far away from me as possible so I could never hurt you again. I’d die before ever doing that, baby.”

She stroked his face lovingly. “Oh yes, this will work. We’ll make it work. We’ll do what we have to do.” She sucked in her breath and gathered her courage. “You once told me I should get help, and you were right. But I think . . .” She let out another long breath. “I think we should both get help—counseling—together. We’ll work through it together. Take it one day at a time. And we’ll see how things play out. But what I won’t do is stay away from you over some ridiculous fear of you hurting me. I only feel safe when I’m with you. I know you’d never purposely hurt me, Jensen. Now you have to believe it too.”

He caught her hand, pulled it to his lips and pressed a kiss into her palm. His breath puffed out erratically over her hand as he tried to regain his composure to respond.

“No one has ever had as much faith in me as you,” he said, his voice breaking with emotion.

“And no one has ever believed in me as much as you do,” she returned. “It only stands to reason that since we’re both such fucked-up individuals that we stick together and be fucked-up together. We understand each other, Jensen. Who else would ever understand us and love us as much as we do?”

He laughed softly, relief rolling off him in waves.

“I like that. Fucked-up together.”

“Are we back together then?” she asked hesitantly.

He squeezed her tightly and then kissed her on the mouth. “Hell yes we’re back together. I guess I just needed you to kick my ass for me. And I agree. I think we would both benefit from counseling. I don’t want to ever be in a position to hurt you again, so I’m willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that.”

Relief surged through her heart and soul until she was weak with it.

“I’m only better when I’m with you,” she whispered. “You make me believe, Jensen. You make me believe I can have a normal life and a normal relationship. You make me have so much hope for the future. But only with you. I don’t want those things except with you.”

“I can’t believe I found you,” Jensen said in awe. “You’re so f**king perfect for me.”

“You sacrificed a lot for me, Jensen. The unselfishness of your actions still blows me away. You denied an essential part of yourself for me. How can I do anything but fight for you—for us—with my dying breath?”

He gently caressed her face, love glittering warmly in his eyes. “It was no sacrifice, Kylie. The reason I was never willing to give up control before was because I’d never met a woman who made me want to. I want to do this for you. It’s an honor and a gift and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I will always put you and your needs above my own. Always.”

“I love you,” she said, her heart swelling until she felt near to bursting.

“I love you too, baby. Thank God you had enough strength and resolve for both of us. Thank God you didn’t give up on us as I was willing to do. This last week has been the most miserable of my entire life. I never want to go through the pain of losing you again.”

She grimaced wryly. “I have a confession to make. There are as many empty wine bottles in my house as there are liquor bottles here. And well, Chessy, Joss and I put a serious dent in Dash’s liquor cabinet last night. I’m as hungover as you are, maybe even more.”

Pain filled his eyes. “I’m sorry, baby. In my effort not to hurt you, I only hurt you more. I’m sorry for that. If you give me the chance, I’ll prove to you that I’ll never willingly hurt you again.”

“It’s over,” she said softly. “For both of us. It’s in the past. Now all we can look forward to is a future brighter than the sun. Giving in to you was the best thing I ever did and I’ll never regret a single minute of it.”

“I’m glad you feel that way, baby.”

His expression grew more serious as he stared at her.

“Can you tolerate my dominant ways? Because they will assert themselves, Kylie. When it comes to you and your protection and care I simply don’t know any other way to be. But in bed? I will always give you control for as long as you need it. But when we’re out of bed, I’ll want to take over. Can you handle that?”

Her heart softened at the uncertainty in his eyes. “Oh yeah, I can handle that,” she breathed. “I like your bossy ways. You and they have grown on me. And one day . . .” She sucked in a breath before plunging ahead. “One day I hope to give you control when we’re in bed.”

Fire lit in his eyes. He caressed her cheek with his free hand. “If that ever happens, just know that I will cherish you and treat you with the utmost care and tenderness. I never want to make you regret giving me such a precious gift.”

Their mouths met, their tongues tangled and Jensen rolled to his back, taking Kylie with him.

“What are you doing?” she whispered.

His eyes gleamed and he kissed her again.

“I’m bound and helpless so I think it’s time you took full advantage of your man and made love to him.”

She laughed, the sound joyous and carefree. So much love filled her heart, banishing the darkness of the past week. Jensen was hers and she was his. They still had a lot to work through, but she knew in her heart that they’d get through it together.

With his love, she could be the person she’d always wanted to be and have the life she’d always wanted to live. What could be better than that?

And then she proceeded to do exactly as Jensen had asked. She made love to her man.

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