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Ra g i n g P a ssio n b y A m a nd a Ca r p en t er

She w a s p r i m ed t o b l ow sk y - h i gh

To t he ca su a l o n l ook er , Jessi ca Ki ng a p p ea r ed t o h a v e ev er y t h in g : sop h i st ica t i on, a h i gh - p a y i ng
m od el i n g ca r eer , a f a b u l ou s p en t ho u se a p a r t m en t in N ew Yor k - a nd Da m i en Kent . Bu t a p p ea r a n ces
w er e d ecei v i n g.

Jessi ca ha d a g r eed t o Da m i en' s no - st r in g s r el a t io n sh i p . A nd f or f ea r o f lo si n g h i m , she'd b or ne h i s
f r eq u ent a b sences a nd la ck o f co m m i t m ent w i t h t h e p a t i ence o f a sa i nt . Bu t w hen he a n nou nced h i s
p la n t o m a r r y f or con v en i ence a n d k eep Jessi ca a s h i s m i st r ess.... H er p ent - u p f r u st r a t i on a nd a n g er
b ega n seet h in g i nsid e o f her . A nd w h en Jessica f i na l ly exp l od ed , D a m i en d i d n't k no w w ha t h a d h it h i m !











Da m ien l ook ed f ed u p . I j u st d o n't u n d er st a nd y ou . Wh y d id y o u cha nge t ow a r d m e so su d d en l y ? "
Jessi ca shook her h ea d . "I w a nt ed ou t , so I got ou t . I d on't w a nt y ou r no st r i ng s r el a t i onsh i p a ny m or e,
Da m i en . A n d w het her y ou a ct u a l ly m a r r y so m eone el se or n ot d oesn't ev en m a t t er now . "
H e t u r n ed a n d p o i nt ed a f i n ger a t her a ccu si ng l y . "You st i l l w a nt m e! I cou l d t a k e y ou r i g ht now . "
So m et h i ng f l a r ed u p o m i nou sl y in her ey es. "Wh a t k i n d o f t r i u m p h w ou l d t h a t b e? "
Da m ien t u r n ed a s i f he w a s u na b le t o b ea r w ha t he ha d j u st hea r d . H e p a u sed b y t h e r u i ned d oor
b ef or e l ea v i ng a n d sa i d q u iet l y , "Th i s i s no w a y t o en d a r el a t io nshi p . "
H e w o u ld nev er k n o w ho w cl ose she ca m e t o g i v i n g i n t o h er u nco nt r ol la b le em ot io n s.

The scene shou l d ha v e b een i d y ll i c. The b ea u t if u l w o m a n sea t ed d ir ect l y a cr o ss f r o m t he d i st i n q u i sh ed -
l o o k i n g m a n a t t h e sm a l l t a b l e h a d h e r ch a i r p u l l ed a r ou n d f o r t h e b est v i ew f r o m t h e Fr en ch-
st y l e w i n d o w s t h a t l ed o n t o a t i n y b a l co n y . Fr o m t h e b a l co n y o n e co u l d l o o k o u t o v er N ew
Yo r k ' s m o st exp en si v e a n d excl u si v e n ei g h b ou r h ood a nd ov er t he f a r o f f a n d y et cl ea r l y v i si b l e
n u cl eu s o f sho p s o n Fi f t h A v enu e. The v i ew w a s d i zzy i n g , m o v i n g , ev er - ch a n g i n g . A t t h e m o m en t
r a i n w a s r em o r sel essl y d r u m m i n g a g a i n st t h e b a l co n y ' s co n cr et e f l o o r , a n d t h e a sp ect o u t si d e w a s
g r ey , d i sm a l .
In sid e, how ev er , w a s a t ot a l ly d i f f er ent st o r y , f or t he l iv i ng r oom w h i ch t he t w o w er e occu p y in g w a s
sp a ciou s, t he r o o f a r chi ng ov er hea d , t h e m u t ed col ou r s i n t he d ecor r i ch i n t heir su b t l e hu es. The
w om a n l i f t ed a n exq u i si t ely h a nd - cr a f t ed si lv er t ea p ot i n o ne el ega nt h a n d w it h a l o ok of en q u i r y t o
t he m a n op p osit e her . Ev er y t hi n g- t he w o m a n, t he p ent hou se a p a r t m ent , t h e exp en si v e a nd t a st ef u l
o r i gi na l oi l p a int i n gs st r a t eg ica l l y p osi t i oned - a l l su g gest ed a r est r a i ned op u len ce, a n u ner r i ng el eg a nce,
a nd a n o cca si ona l , su r p r i si ng sl a sh o f d r a m a t i sa t io n.
The w o m a n w a s a s f l a w l ess a nd a s p er f ect l y gr oom ed a s t h e b ea u t i f u l , sh a d o w ed r o om b eh in d h er . In
t he m u t ed el eg a nce o f t he r oom she st ood ou t i n - a v i v i d sp l a sh o f col ou r , a nd t he m a n 's ey es r et u r ned
t o her a g a in a nd a g a i n . She w a s i n d eed t h e f oca l p oi nt o f t he r oo m . H er w i ng ed d a r k b r ow s w er e
a r ch ed sl ig ht l y a t her com p a n i on. She w a s st r ik i n g l y l ov el y , b ot h a t a d i st a nce a n d cl o se u p .
Deep , d a r k r ed h a ir , w ho l l y n a t u r a l , w a s sw ep t b a ck f r o m her sl end er shou ld er s a n d f el l l ik e a p u r e
si lk en w a t er f a l l f r o m h er cla ssica l f a ce. H er com p l exi on w a s w h i t e, not a sick l y p a le sh a d e o f w h i t e, b u t
a p ea r l y , g low i n g i v or y . The ou t l i n e o f her f a ce w a s o v a l , excep t in g t he t w i n j u t t i ng a ng les o f h i gh
cheek b ones a n d t he st a r t l i ng su r p r i se i n a n a l r ea d y st a r t l i ng l y p u r e v isa ge w er e h er ey es, f or t hey w er e
a st r a nge, f a sci na t in g y el low i sh go l d , ca t - l i k e i n t h eir sh a p e.
The scen e sh ou l d h a v e b een i d y l l ic, a s t he m a n no d d ed i n r esp onse t o t h e w om a n 's u nsp o k en q u est i on
a nd she p ou r ed t ea i nt o h is cu p , b u t u nd er t he p h y si ca l p er f ect i o n o f t he a t t r a ct i v e a t m o sp her e t h e
m a n sen sed d a r k sh a d ow s t ha t w er e not ca u sed b y t he d a r k ened sk y ou t si d e, b u t b y t he em ot i on s o f
t he w o m a n a cr oss f r om h i m .
Jessi ca r ega r d ed Ju st i n w i t h a m u sem en t a nd a f f ect i o n. H e w a s som ew her e i n h i s ea r l y f or t i es, h i s cl osel y
cr op p ed b l on d h a i r f a d i ng t o g r ey a t t h e t em p les, a n d h i s b l u e ey es b eg i nn in g t o f a n i n l i nes a t t he
cor n er s. N ev er t hel ess, h e w a s ext r em el y go od l ook i ng , w it h a f i r m sq u a r e ja w a nd a cl ef t chi n, a n d a
t r i m b o d y t ha t t ow er ed ov er si x f eet . Ta l l a s Jessi ca w a s, she ca m e o n ly t o h i s ch i n, ev en i n h er h ig hest
h eel s. Ju st i n' s ey es w er e k een a n d b l a d e- b r i g ht . H e r a r el y m i ssed m u ch w i t h t h ose ey es. A s t h e t hou g ht
f l ick er ed a cr oss h er m i nd , her ey es clo u d ed ov er t o b ecom e ca r ef u l l y b l a n k , exp r essio n less. She w a sn't
su r e sh e w a nt ed h i m t o r ea d her t ha t w el l , t o d a y .
She sho u ld h a v e m a r r i ed h i m w hen she h a d t h e cha nce, f ou r y ea r s a go. Bu t t ha t t i m e w a s p a st a n d
t hey b o t h k new i t . She'd f el t so m et h i n g f or h i m r o m a nt i ca l l y q u it e a w h i l e a go, b u t i t ha d b een
i n f a t u a t i on a nd ha d n 't l a st ed . H e w a s a w o nd er f u l m a n a n d ha d b een her l oy a l f r i end f or com in g u p
t o t en y ea r s n ow . They k new ea ch ot her v er y w el l . She ha d t o sm i l e w hen she t ho u g ht b a ck a t how
t hey ha d m et . Ju st i n , now a n ew ly a p p oi nt ed j u d ge, ha d b een a y o u ng l a w y er a t t he t i m e a n d she ha d
b een j u st ei gh t een, f r esh t o N ew Yor k f r om h ig h sch oo l a n d Ver m ont . H e ha d b een a p u b l i c d ef en d er
a nd h a d b een a ssi g ned t o t he gr ou p o f a n t i nu cl ea r d em onst r a t or s w ho ha d got sl i g h t l y ou t o f ha n d ,
t ha t she ha d b een a p a r t o f . So m et h i ng a b ou t h er ha d a t t r a ct ed h im a nd t hey ' d b ecom e f a st f r i en d s in
a r el a t i o nsh i p t ha t w a s t o sp a n m a ny y ea r s.
She gl a nced ou t sid e a n d si ghed . The r a i n k ep t com i n g d o w n . It w ou l d r a i n f or d a y s, she w a s su r e o f i t .
A n d a s she l ook ed o u t si d e, she w a sn't su r e i f i t w a s t h e r a i n she sig h ed f or , or h er sel f . She w a s su ch a
d i f f er ent p er son t h a n t ha t g ir l o f t en y ea r s a go . She h a d t o sha k e her hea d w hen she l ook ed b a ck a t
h ow her li f e ha d b een. She'd cl i m b ed t he l a d d er o f su ccess i n t he m od el l in g p r of essi o n u nt i l n o w she
w a s w i d el y r ecogn i sed a nd a ck now l ed ged a s o ne o f t h e h ig hest - p a i d a n d w el l k now n m o d el s i n t h e
b u si ness. Su ccess i n ca p i t a l l et t er s, sh e t hou g ht . H er m o u t h t w i st ed .
` You 'v e t he od d est exp r essi on on y o u r f a ce, m y d ea r . W ha t ev er a r e y ou t h i n k i n g a b o u t ?' A s she l ook ed
a t Ju st i n, she not ed t h e g ent le, f r ien d l y con cer n on h i s f a ce.
H er l i p s t w ist ed i nt o a sm i l e a g a i n, b u t i t w a s m er el y a m ov em ent o f p h y si ca l m u scl es a nd not a r ea l
sm i l e a t a l l. ` N ot h i n g a t a l l,' she sa i d l ig h t l y , r a i si n g h er cu p t o si p f r om i t d el i ca t el y . Th e cu p w a s h a nd -
p a i n t ed b on e ch i na a nd she l ea ned f or w a r d t o p r op her el b ow s on t he t a b le. H er f i n ger n a il s w er e
p a i n t ed a d eep b r onze a n d a sa p p hi r e r in g w i nk ed on her r i ght h a nd .
` You , m y d ea r , a r e l y i n g t hr ou gh y ou r p er f ect w h it e t eet h a n d w e b ot h k now i t ,' he t ol d her b l u nt l y .
` I'v e k n ow n y ou t oo l ong a nd t oo w el l . Do n 't y ou t hi nk I cou l d sen se t ha t so m et h i n g w a s w r ong t he
m o m ent I w a lk ed in t ha t d oor ?'
'W ha t a t er r ib l e d a y i t is ou t si d e!' she sa i d w it h a su d d en v i ci ou sness. ` I h a t e r a i n ; I a l w a y s g loo m a b ou t
t he a p a r t m ent , m op i n g hor r i b l y , p u t t i n g l i n es on m y f a ce a n d b ei ng a b i t ch. It m u st b e m en op a u se.'
She sen sed h i m j er k i n g w i t h su r p r i se a n d t hen he w a s l a u gh i ng a t h er . ` The a w f u l t hi ngs y o u m a na g e
t o com e u p w it h ! A l l o f t w ent y - sev en, a r en't y ou ?'
She si p p ed t ea , ey es d o w n . ` Tw ent y - ei g ht , b u t d on't st a r t cou nt i n g, w i l l y ou ? So h a t ef u l t o b e
r em i n d ed . ...' Tw ent y - ei g ht . P er ha p s, i f she w a s l u ck y , sh e h a d sev en y ea r s l ef t o f her p r esent ca r eer .
Then t h e l i nes, t h ose i nev it a b l e si gn s o f a g ei n g, w o u l d co m e. Oh, she h a d m o ney eno u gh, b u t t h e
b or ed om ! A nd , she a d m i t t ed r el u ct a nt ly , t h e p ossi b le r eject ion t el l m e,' she a sk ed , i n a n ef f or t t o st op
h er f l o w o f t hou g h t , ` a r e y ou g o i n g t o t he Tr ev or s' eng a gem ent p a r t y t on i g ht ? I hea r it is t o b e q u i t e a
socia l ev en t .' H er v o ice a s sh e sa i d t h a t l a st p a r t w a s d r y .
H e sm i l ed . ` Tha t d ep end s. W i l l Da m i en b e t h er e?' Ra i n p a t t er ed d o w n en d lessly f r om a l o w er in g, su l l en
sk y .
She w a t ched t he ca sca d e w it h a m i ld l ook o f d i st a st e. ` If t ha t i n f er n a l r a i n d oesn't q u i t , I d o b el iev e I' m
g oin g t o b e f l ood ed , ev en t ho u gh I' m t w ent y - f iv e st or ey s u p ! Ju st lo ok a t t h a t b a l cony , w i l l y ou ?' She
ca u ght si ght o f h i s p a t i ent , k no w l ed g ea b l e ey es a n d si ghed . It w a s no u se p r ev a r i ca t i n g w i t h Ju st i n . Ten
y ea r s i s a lo ng t i m e t o k no w so m eone a nd he k new her t oo w el l . ` D a r l in g , D a m i en i s Da m i en, a n d b y
d ef i n i t i on i s co m p l et ely u n p r ed ict a b l e f r om o ne m o m ent t o t he next . I h a v e no id ea i f h e p la n s t o go or
n ot .' H er ga ze sh i f t ed a w a y f r o m h i s a n d b a ck a ga i n, p i er ci ng l y . ` H e's u np r ed i ct a b le, excep t p er ha p s
t ha t h e q u it e ha t es t h e si ght o f y ou a n d a ny m ent i on o f y ou . Pu zzl in g.'

` N ot so p u zzl i ng . H e d i sl i k es ou r f r i end sh ip a n d w ou l d lo v e t o m a k e su r e t h a t I nev er set ey es on y ou
a ga i n . Jea l ou sy , Jessi ca , t ha t gr een - ey ed m on st er . H e i s a v er y p ossessi v e m a n, a n d t h a t 's w hy I' m
w on d er ing j u st a l i t t l e a t y ou r u nexp ect ed i nv i t a t i on t o m e t od a y . You 'v e a l w a y s g on e ou t o f y ou r w a y
t o k eep p ea ce a n d d i st a nce b et w een Da m i en a nd m y sel f , a nd I b eli ev e t ha t t h i s is onl y t he secon d
t i m e I'v e b een i n t h i s a p a r t m ent . A r e y ou b ei ng ca r el ess, or r eck less, d a r li ng?'
H er ey es shot t o hi s a n d so m et h i n g f l a r ed i n t hem b ef o r e i t w a s ext in q u i shed , l ik e a ca nd l e b ei n g b low n
o u t . ` You see t oo m u ch ,' she m u r m u r ed a s she cl a sp ed h er ha n d s r i g i d l y t oget her , b el ow h i s l ine o f si ght .
` Ju st b e su r e t ha t Da m i en d oesn't com e b et w een u s, Ju st i n M a r sh . I v a l u e y ou t o o h ig h ly a s a f r i end ,
a nd i n f a ct a m q u it e con v i n ced t h a t ou r s i s t he m ost i d ea l r el a t i o nsh i p o f a l l . It ' s su p p or t i v e, t r u st i ng
a nd m u t u a l ly a f f ect io n a t e, u ncl ou d ed b y na st y sex.' H er d el i b er a t e a t t em p t a t a u d a cit y ea r n ed her
a not h er l a u gh .
` Bu t t her e i s a gr ea t d ea l t o b e sa i d f or sex....' Ju st i n's ey es t r a v el led d ow n h er f i gu r e a p p r eci a t iv ely .
Ver y t a l l a n d w i l l o w y g r a cef u l, Jessi ca nev er t hel ess ha d a sl i g ht , su ggest i v e cu r v e t o her b r ea st s a nd h i p s
t ha t h i nt ed a t t h e sen su a l i t y i n h er l ow er l i p . ` You k n ow t ha t D a m i en, f or a l l h i s p o w er a nd a m b it i on,
h a s no ea r t h l y cl a i m on m e. It m a k es h i m a ngr y . H e' d lo v e t o b e a b l e t o or d er m e t o st a y a w a y f r om
y ou a n d he ca n't . It ' s v er y f r u st r a t i ng f or a m a n u nu sed t o op p osi t i on . N o, m y d ea r , h e si m p l y h a s t o
com e t o t er m s w it h t he f a ct t h a t y o u a n d I a r e f a st f r ien d s a nd w i l l a lw a y s r em a i n so, f or y ou k no w I
a d or e y o u . H o w i s t h a t d ev i l,
a ny w a y ?'

` The sa m e a s a l w a y s, w h ich i s t o sa y , d i f f er ent f r om d a y t o d a y . Wh en h e i s a r ou nd , t h a t is. La st w eek
h e w a s o f f t o Fr a nce a n d ha s on l y j u st r et u r ned .' She h a d her sel f w el l i n con t r o l, p r ou d o f her u nr u f f l ed
v oice, h er ser en e exp r essi on .
Ju st i n w a s not f ool ed a n d hi s ha nd t i gh t en ed int o a f i st on t he t a b l e. ` H e' s a b a st a r d t o t r ea t y ou l i k e
h e d oes! I' l l b et he d i d n't ev en i n f o r m y ou of h i s d ep a r t u r e a s u su a l , ca r elessly l ea v i n g a scr a w l ed not e i f
y ou 'r e l u ck y , not t el l i ng y o u w hen o r i f he' d b e b a ck ! I ca n't st a n d t he w a y he t r ea t s y ou !'
N eit her ca n I, she t h ou ght , a n d clo sed her ey es, a g h a st a t how she ha d n ea r l y sa i d it a lo u d . Sh e m a d e
a n ef f or t , op ened her ey es, a n d t r i ed t o sp ea k ca l m ly . It ca m e ou t sli ght ly r a g ged . ` Yo u k now t ha t
Da m i en a nd I st a r t ed o u r r el a t io n sh i p st r i ct l y o n a no - st r i ng s b a si s. If I w er e t o t hr ow a ch il d i sh f it a n d
d em a n d t o k now h i s ev er y m ov e, he w o u l d su f f oca t e a nd I'd on ly b e d r iv i n g h i m a w a y f r o m m e. A s i t
i s, he l ea v es f or a t i m e, b u t a l w a y s ev ent u a l l y co m es b a ck . It 's so m et h i n g I ha v e t o a ccep t i f I w a nt t o
h a v e a r el a t io n sh i p w it h h i m .' Sh e sm il ed m ock i n g l y . ` A nd w ha t I f eel ca n not co m p a r e w it h t he p a i n
t ha t I m u st m a k e y ou f eel . If I h a d a ny u n sel f ishness a t a l l , I'd send y ou ou t t ha t d oor a nd t el l y ou t o
n ev er com e b a ck . I v a l u e y ou r f r ien d sh ip so h i gh l y t h a t I ca u se y o u p a i n .'
Thi s t i m e i t w a s h i s t u r n t o sm i l e a n d h i s f i n ger s r ea ched ou t t o p a t her o n t he cheek . ` You k now I
a p p r eci a t e ou r f r i en d sh i p a b ov e a l l t h i n gs. I w ou l d m a r r y y ou in a m inu t e i f y ou w ou l d h a v e m e a n d
y ou k now it . Bu t a s it h a p p ens, I w a n t y ou r f r i en d sh i p t oo m u ch t o sp oi l ev er y t hi n g b y m y m a scu l i ne
p r i d e a n d in j u r ed ego ! You d on't hu r t m e, y ou o n l y b r i ng m e ha p p in ess. I j u st w i sh t h a t Da m i en w ou l d
g iv e y ou t he ha p p in ess t h a t y ou d eser v e.' Und er h i s gent l e t o u ch, she j er k ed , her com p osu r e cr a ck i n g
sl ig h t l y . Ju st i n st a r ed a t h er , w o r r ied . ` Yo u k now t ha t y ou a r en 't h a p p y ,' he sa i d a b r u p t l y . ` A n d i t 's t ha t
sco u nd r el, I' l l b et . W h a t 's h e d one t h i s t i m e? Yo u ca n't h i d e f r om m e t h a t y ou 'r e u p set a b ou t
som et hi n g, f or a l l y ou t r y . W ha t ' s h a p p ened now ?'
She b r o od ed , st ir r i ng her t ea end l essl y , a r o u nd a nd a r ou nd . ' Da m ien's a t r ou b led m a n. A nd w ho k no w s
h i m v er y d eep l y . I d on 't , a n d w ou l d b e t he f i r st t o a d m i t i t . I d on't k no w hi s co m p u l si o ns. H e n ev er
t a l k s a b ou t h i m sel f or hi s p a st - oh, t he su p er f i ci a l t h in g s, I k now , b u t nev er a ny t h i ng r ev ea l i n g l y . Bl a ck
h a ir , b l a ck ey es, b l a ck m u r k y sha d ow ed p a st . H e's d r i v en. H e nev er sl ow s d o w n , nev er l et s u p on
h i m sel f , a n d nev er q u it s u nt i l he ha s w ha t h e w a n t s. A nd he' s goo d . H e b ea t s t h em i n b u si ness, v er y
f a i r l y . Ev en y ou a d m i t t h a t . H e' s a b r i l l i a n t m a n a nd I lo v e h i m , b u t a s f or k now i ng h i m ? Wel l , w ho
k now s D a m ien, a f t er a l l ?'

Ju st i n st a r ed a t h er . She l ook ed v er y co m p o sed , m a d onn a - l i k e, p u r e. Sh e r et u r ned h i s g a ze
u n f a l t er i ng l y , go l d en ey es g l ow in g a g a i n st w h i t e sk i n, h a i r a f la m e a ga in st t he m u t ed b a ck gr o u nd o f
t he r o om b eh i n d h er . 'I r egr et ,' he m u r m u r ed , ` ev er t ea ch in g y ou t he a r t o f ev a si o n, t hou gh y ou sho u ld
k now a s a f or m er la w y er , I cou ld not hel p b u t not ice i t . 'Fess u p , m y d ea r . W ha t h a s he d o ne?'
'Done?' she r ep l i ed , sp l a y i ng ou t her slend er ha n d s a n d l ook i ng ov er her n a il s ca r ef u l l y . ' Da m i en h a s
t a k en i nt o h i s h ea d t he no t i on t h a t he m u st m a r r y , t ha t 's a ll . H e h a s y et t o d o a n y t h i ng a b ou t i t ,
t hou g h.'
H er r u ef u l g a ze l i f t ed t o m eet Ju st i n's. H i s f a ce ha d d a r k ened a ng r i ly a t h er w or d s. ` M a r r y ! A n d w ho,
p r a y t el l , i s he cont em p l a t i n g m a r r i a ge w i t h? Su r el y y ou ?'
A l ig ht si l v er y t i nk l e o f l a u g ht er , u na m u sed , j a r r ed on b ot h o f t h eir n er v es. She q u i et ed q u i ck l y a nd
sa i d ,

` Rea l l y , m y d ea r , I exp ect ed m or e sop h i st i ca t io n f r o m y ou , o f a l l p eop l e. O ne d oesn't m a r r y one's
m i st r ess. On e f i nd s a d u l l , su it a b l e w i f e a n d t hen p l a y s a r ou nd . Q u i t e a l in g er i n g f a shi on , t ho u g h I m u st
sa y I a l w a y s f el t so sor r y f o r t he m ou se o f a w i f e t ha t h a d t o st a y a t ho m e, b r eed i ng li k e a cow , n ev er
h a v i ng a ny f u n .' She a b r u p t l y d r op p ed her p ose a n d l ea n ed a g a i nst one h a nd t ir ed l y , som et h i ng st a r k
i n her ey es. ` N o , d a r l i n g, Da m i en w ou l d n ev er m a r r y m e. Un su i t a b le f a m i l y b a ck gr ou nd , no t ies or
m on ey - h e' l l m a r r y i n t he b u si ness, i f I' m no t m i st a k en .'
The b lo n d m a n a cr oss f r o m h er w a s w a t ch i n g her w i t h a st r a n ge, sa d exp r essio n o n h i s r a t h er st er n
f a ce. ` Jessi ca , Jessica ,' he sa id w i t h a q u eer m oa n . ` I'v e k no w n y ou so lon g, a n d i n t he p a st t hr ee y ea r s
y ou 'v e cha nged a l m o st b ey on d r ecog n it io n. W her e is t h a t g i r l w ho t o l d m e so t em p est u ou sly t h a t sh e' d
n ev er m a r r y w i t hou t lo v e? W her e i s t he gi r l w ho h a d st a r s i n her ey es a n d a w ond er f u l, si m p l i st i c w a y
o f lo ok i n g a t l i f e a n d her i d ea l s? Wher e i s t he g i r l w hose f l a m in g ly exp lo si v e t em p er u sed t o ig nit e
a l m ost in st a nt a neou sly , a t a n y g iv en m o m en t ? Jessi ca , w h er e d i d t h a t sp l end i d cr ea t u r e go?'
She r eg a r d ed h i m w r y l y , w i t h a sm a l l sh a k e o f h er sh a p el y hea d . So m et hi n g i n h i s w o r d s t ou ched a
p a r t of her t h a t q u i v er ed i n r esp on se, b u t f or t he m ost p a r t she w a s i n d i sa gr eem ent w i t h hi m . Once
she ha d b een t ha t p er son he ha d d escr ib ed , b u t he d id n 't see t he ent ir et y o f t ha t p a st g ir l . H e p r ef er r ed
t o r em em b er t he goo d a nd f or get t he b a d , a nd t h a t w a s a l w a y s a d a nger ou s t h i n g t o d o w it h t he
p a st . She'd o n ce b een ev er y b i t a s t em p est u o u s a nd exp lo si v e a s Ju st in h a d d escr i b ed , b u t i t w a s a n
u np r i ncip l ed sor t o f hi gh- sp i r i t ed ness t ha t ha d ca u sed m a ny p r o b lem s. A l o ng w it h t h e i m p et u osi t y h a d
com e a b i t o f in d i scr et i on a nd a l ong w i t h t he g l or i ou s r ed h a ir a v il e t em p er . A nd t he si m p li st i c w a y o f
l ook i ng a t l i f e h a d nev er h a d a ch a nce.

One ca n't exi st i n t h is w o r l d , sh e t h ou ght , w i t h a si m p l i st i c v i ew o f l i f e. It ca n't b e d o n e, t he w or l d i s t oo
com p lex, t oo t a n g led a n d d em a nd i ng. Bl a ck a n d w hi t e a r e goo d f or i d ea l s a nd r el ig i on, b u t p eop l e
a r e v a r y i ng sh a d es o f g r ey a n d ev en t he m ost sa i nt ly h a v e t he d i r t o f si n on t h ei r h a nd s.
She w ou l d n ev er g o b a ck t o w h a t she ha d b een b ef o r e. Th a t ext r em e y ou t h f u l ness h a d b een t oo
u ncom f or t a b l e. Sh e w a s o ld er a nd m or e exp er ienced no w , a nd m or e i n cont r ol . She no lo nger f l ew o f f
t he h a n d le a t ev er y t hi n g t ha t w ent w r ong . She w a s a p u r e p r o f essi o na l a t her j ob , h a r d w or k i n g,
consci ent io u s a nd d ed i ca t ed , a nd it h a d g ot her a st er l i n g r ep u t a t i o n w h i ch w a s h i g hl y r esp ect ed . Sh e
w ou l d n 't d el i b er a t el y t hr ow t h a t a w a y , a nd it h a d a l l b een l ea r ned a nd ea r ned w it h t he cont r ol o f her
t em p er a n d t ha t g l oss a n d p u b l i c p o i se t h a t w a s b o t h legend a r y a nd env ied .
` I gr ew u p , Ju st in ,' she sa i d q u iet l y . ` I' m no t t ha t r a sh, b r a sh chi l d a ny m or e a n d I' m g l a d o f t ha t . So m e
t hi ngs i n m e w i l l nev er cha n ge. Yo u k now t ha t I w i l l a l w a y s a b h or t h e t hou g ht o f a n u clea r w a r - w ho in
t hei r r i gh t m i nd w ou l d n't ? Bu t I no l o nger m a r ch i n t he st r eet s, I t a l k t o d i p lo m a t s a n d Sena t o r s. The
m oo d i s co n st a nt b u t t he m et hod is p er h a p s m or e su b t l e. I l ov e Da m ien, a n d he's t h e on l y m a n I w ou l d
consid er m a r r ia g e w i t h . In t ha t w a y I w i l l nev er cha nge, a n d so I su p p ose I w il l n ev er m a r r y . I m u st b e
cont ent w i t h w ha t he w i l l g i v e m e, a nd I m u st not t a k e t he cha nce o f d est r oy i n g w ha t l it t l e I'v e go t o f
h i m b y so m e st u p i d , i l l- consi d er ed , t hou g h t l ess show o f t em p er . I a m i n co nt r ol o f m y sel f .'
Ju st i n loo k ed a t her ha nd s a s t hey m ou l d ed t he t ea cu p l ov i ng l y . Th ey w er e t r u l y b ea u t i f u l ha nd s,
sl end er , f r a g i l e- l oo k in g, f em i n i ne. They ha d o nce hel d a cr u d el y p a in t ed p r ot est si g n a n d h a d o nce
b ea t en a w a l l i n a n or gy o f p u r e f u r y . H e si g hed . ` Jessi ca , I k new y o u . Su r e, so m e t h i n gs m i g ht h a v e
cha ng ed i n y ou , b u t I k now t ha t w i t h t ha t gr ea t go r geo u s m a ss o f f l a m e t ha t cr o w ns y ou r hea d , a
si m i l a r f l a m e lu r k s i n y ou r h ea r t . Yo u h a v e t he d ev i l' s o w n t em p er , a nd y ou o nce g a v e b a ck t o
Da m i en ev er y b i t o f t em p er t ha t he d i sh ed ou t . Go d , t he v i b r a t io n s o f y ou r cl a shes w ou l d m a k e ev er y
b u i l d i ng w it hi n a b l ock t r em b l e! You r t em p er a nd p er so na l it y w a s p r o b a b l y w h a t a t t r a ct ed hi m t o
y ou i n t he f i r st p l a ce.'

She hea r d Ju st i n's w or d s b u t cou l d n't let her sel f r ea ct t o t hem . Too m u ch w a s a t st a k e- a l l o f her
h a p p i ness, t o b e exa ct . She w a s so i nsecu r e i n h er r el a t i o nsh ip w i t h Da m ien, ev er y t hi ng so t enu ou s a nd
t r a n si ent . Sh e cou l d n't l et her sel f d o so m et h i n g t ha t sh e m i g h t r eg r et . Tho u gh t heir r el a t i on sh i p w a s
b a sed o n no t ies, l i k e sh e'd t ol d Ju st i n, D a m i en w o u l d go a w a y f or a m o nt h or t w o a t a t i m e, b u t h e
w ou l d a l w a y s com e b a ck t o her , a p p ea r in g on t he d oor st ep l i k e m a g i c t o st a y f or a w h i l e. A n d
b eca u se sh e l ov ed hi m , she n ev er sa id no . She'd nev er h a d t h e cha nce t o sa y n o i n t h e f i r st p la ce, ha d
l ost t h e st r u gg l e b ef or e i t ha d b egu n a n d ha d l ost h er hea r t a s ea si l y . Th r ee y ea r s a g o, Da m i en h a d
l i t er a l ly cr a shed i nt o her li f e b y sl id i ng on a p a t ch o f i ce on t h e p a v em ent a n d k nock i ng her d o w n, a n d
a s m u ch a s she w a s t hen exp osed t o t he w or l d a nd f a st a cq u ir i ng t he g l oss o f w h a t w a s now h er
p r esent i m a g e o f sop h i st i ca t ion , sh e h a d st i l l b een st u nn ed w i t h t h e o v er w h el m i ng i m p a ct he'd ha d o n
h er . Wh a m ! a nd t her e he w a s, sl eek a n d b l a ck - ha i r ed , d r a w l i n g a n d u r b a ne. H e w a s so v er y
h a n d so m e, i t st il l m a d e her hea r t st r i n g s j er k j u st t o lo ok a t h i m , h is f a ce v er y st r ong a nd ev en l y
f ea t u r ed . H e, t oo, st ood t a l l , a n d she ca m e on l y t o h i s sh ou l d er , w h i ch m a d e her f eel f r a gi l e a n d
f em i ni n e. H i s w hol e b od y ha d a cer t a i n f l u i d , t i g ht l y k n i t , p r ow l i ng gr a ce t h a t m or e t ha n o nce
r em i n d ed her o f a st a lk i ng, sl i nk i n g p a nt h er . H e w a s t he m ost excit i ng m a n sh e'd ev er m et . A n d i f he
w a l k ed ou t o f her l i f e, sh e w o u l d cea se t o exi st i nsid e.

Bu t now Da m i en sa i d t ha t he t hou ght he m i ght m a k e a m a r r ia ge o f co nv eni ence, i n or d er t o sol i d i f y
som e b u siness m a t t er - w ha t , she cou l d n't r em em b er - a nd t h a t t he m a r r i a ge w ou l d n ot i m p a ir h i s
f r eed o m i n a ny w a y . H is f r eed o m w a s so i m p or t a nt t o h i m .
She w a s a b ou t t o b ecom e w ha t w a s so q u a i nt l y t er m ed ` t he o t her w o m a n '. It cou l d n't b e b or ne.
Jessi ca 's v er y d eep p r i d e, ev en a p a r t f r om h er m or a l i t y , w ou l d n ev er l et h er co nt i nu e her p r esent
r el a t i o nshi p w i t h Da m i en i f he w er e t o m a r r y . Ev er y t hin g w o u ld co m e t o a h a lt , a n d she w ou l d nev er
see hi m a g a in , a n d t h en sh e w ou l d d i e. Sh e w a s m or t a l l y a f r a i d .
A w a r e o f Ju st in 's scr u t iny , sh e let not h i ng show o n h er f a ce; no si g n o f em ot i on or d i st r ess m a r r ed t h e
sm oot h cla ssic p er f ect io n o f her exq u i si t e p r of i l e. Ju st i n ha d a st r a nge sense o f f or eb o d i ng a s he w a t ched
t ha t m ou l d ed p r o f i l e a nd sl end er , a r ch ed neck , t h e sha d o w s len gt h eni ng b ehi nd t h em . The w om a n
b ef o r e h i m w a s no t q u i t e r ea l. ` You h i d e t hi n gs v er y w el l,' he com p l i m ent ed her , r a i sin g hi s t ea cu p i n
sa l u t e.
"'A l l t he w or ld ' s a st a ge", m y d ea r ,' she r et u r n ed i m p er t u r b a b l y , d u st i n g a f l i ck o f l i nt f r om her b l a ck
sk i r t . ` A n d d o n't y ou l et a ny o ne t el l y ou d i f f er en t l y . W e a ct a n d a ct a nd a ct . M y i m a ge is o ne t ha t ' s
p la st er ed a l l ov er nu m er ou s m a ga zin es, g ossi p col u m n s, a n d b i l l b oa r d s, a nd not o n e o f t ho se m a ny ,
m a ny p eop l e w i l l ev er k now w ha t r ea l ly m a k es m e t ick . It 's not m e t h ey b u y , it 's t h e i m a ge. W ha t i s
q u in t essent i a l ly m e cou l d b e hou sed i n a n y t y p e o f f l esh, f a t , t h i n, o ld , y ou ng . The l ip s, t he ha i r , t he
ey es, t h e nose ... t h ey a r e r a t her n i ce, a r en 't t hey ? Bu t w ha t d o t hey r ea l l y m a t t er ?'

` Do y ou k no w w ha t I t h i nk , Jessi ca ?' he sa i d su d d en ly , a nd t h e t one i n h is v oi ce m a d e her t u r n her hea d
t o lo ok a t h i m w it h sl eep y ey es t ha t h i d a l oo k o f a ssessm ent .
'Fr eq u ent l y , m y l ov e, b u t not a t t he m o m ent .'
` I t h in k t ha t y ou st i l l ha v e t ha t d ea d l y d a nger ou s t em p er l ock ed a w a y so m ew her e i nsi d e y o u a n d y ou
a r e r ep r essi ng i t , cont r o l l i n g i t , not l et t i ng ou t t he p r essu r e o f t he v i o l ence o f t h e em ot i on. I t h i nk t ha t
t her e i s a l i t , b u r n i ng f u se so m ew her e i n y o u t h a t w i l l o n e d a y f i n d a nd com e i n cont a ct w i t h t he k eg o f
d y na m it e y ou 'v e t r i ed t o h i d e so w el l . W h er e d o y ou p u t y ou r r a ge? Wh er e ha s it g one, Jessi ca ? You 'r e
m or e d a ng er ou s no w t ha n y ou w er e ev er i n y ou r l i f e b eca u se b ef or e y ou v ent ed y ou r t em p er i n
h a r m l ess w a y s. You ha v e so m a ny go o d q u a l it ies, m y d ea r , so m a ny m a r v el l ou s, l ov i ng, g i v i ng
q u a l i t ies, b u t y ou r t em p er w hen b ot t led u p l ik e i t i s no w , is g o in g t o t u r n t o v en om . Som e d a y y ou a r e
g oin g t o lo se t h a t f a nt a st i c sel f - cont r ol a n d b lo w sk y - h ig h. A nd I t h i n k t h a t w i t h t he d et o n a t i o n o f t h a t
f or cef u l r a ge, com i n g f r o m t h e p a ssi on a t e p er sona l i t y y ou 'r e t r y i ng so ha r d t o r ep r ess, y ou 'r e go i n g t o
f l a t t en ev er y t hi ng a r ou n d y ou w i t h in a t h r ee m i l e r a d i u s. A n d i t m a k es m e so m ehow p it y D a m ien f or
a l l o f t h e m a n's st r en gt h o f m in d a n d f or cef u l ness. It m a k es m e p i t y y o u som et i m es t oo a nd I f ea r f or
y ou , y es, f ea r f or y ou b ot h.'
The r a i n k ep t com i ng d o w n , a nd i t k ep t com ing a n d com in g , seem i n g ly w i t h no end . It seem ed t h a t
h ea v en w a s cr y in g a l l t he t ea r s t ha t Jessi ca w ou l d n ev er a l l o w h er sel f t o cr y . Th e r a in w a s so d ep r essi ng
a nd , i n N ew Yo r k Cit y , h a d nev er seem ed v er y cl ea n t o her . She sa t t h er e, l i k e t he p er f ect i on o f a
M i chela n gel o st a t u e a s she l ook ed ou t t he w i nd o w a t t h e r a i n, a n d Ju st i n f el t a t hr i l l o f p u r e a est het ic
p lea su r e f r om j u st w a t ch i ng t he w on d er f u l sy m m et r y of h er sen su ou s b o d y . H er co m p osu r e w a s i nt a ct
t hr ou ghou t h i s p ier cing ob ser v a t io ns, her f a ce ca l m , u nt r o u b l ed . Th e p u r i t y of h er r ed h a i r f l ow ed
d ow n h er gr a cef u l n eck l ik e a n or i ent a l si l k a n d her b r ow s w i n ged a cr oss her f or ehea d u ncr ea sed . Bu t
h e l oo k ed i n t o her ey es a n d f el t t h e f i r st r ea l t r em or o f a d eep u nea se t ha t sp r ea d t o a r ea l f ea r .
In her g ol d en ey es, so m et h in g sm o u l d er ed .

CHAPTER TWO

W H EN t he f r on t d oor op ened m u ch l a t er a nd Da m i en w a l k ed i n, Jessi ca w a s r ea d y f o r hi m . She ca m e
f or w a r d sm oo t h l y , l i p s sm i l i ng a w el com e a nd ha nd s ou t st r et ched , a n d he st op p ed j u st i n si d e t h e d oor
t o w a t ch h er a p p r oa ch . Then a s she r ea ch ed h i m , he t ook ho l d o f h er ha nd s a nd p u l led h er a ga i nst
h i m f or a l o ng, l i n ger i ng k i ss. `
She em er g ed f r o m t h e em b r a ce f eeli ng sl i ght ly ov er w hel m ed , a nd it w a s a f a m i l i a r f eel i ng f or Da m i en
a l w a y s m a d e h er r ea ct t ha t w a y . H e j u st ha d t o w a l k ' i nt o a r oom f or her t o st a r t t i ng l i ng a l l ov er . Sh e
d i d n 't ev en ha v e t o loo k a r ou n d t o see i f h e r ea l ly w a s t her e; she a l w a y s k new w hen he w a s n ea r .
H e f i l l ed u p t he l iv in g r oom w i t h h i s v i t a l i t y a n d p ow er of p er son a l i t y , t he l on g- leg ged , m a scu l i ne b od y
d om i na t i ng t he sp a ce, com m a n d i ng a t t en t io n . Sh e l et h er ey es r o a m ov er t he sm oot h st r a i g ht l ine o f
h i s j a w , t he hea v y , sa t i r i ca l b l a ck b r ow s, t h e sp a r k l i ng d a r k ey es a n d t he sl i ght l y a r r oga nt hoo k t o h is
st r ong nose. H e m ea n t so m u ch t o her , m o r e t ha n h e r ea l l y k new , f or she w a s not on e t o t el l o f her l ov e
w i t h ou t b ei ng secu r e in t he r esp on se. For a l l o f h er v er b a l r et icence, how ev er , she t ho u g ht t ha t he m u st
su r ely k n ow h ow she f elt . Sh e t ol d h im in so m a ny w a y s, t he w a r m g l ow i n her go ld en ey es, t h e t en d er
n ot e i n her v o ice w h en sh e sp ok e t o h i m , t he u nd em a nd i ng a nd y et u nsw er v i ng a t t en t i o n sh e sho w ed
t o h i m . It w a s, she f el t , a p p a l l in gly ob v io u s.
'Um m n, y ou f eel a nd sm el l m a r v el l ou s,' he sa i d i n a h u sk y m u r m u r , t he lo w t o nes o f hi s ca r essi ng v oi ce
send i ng a t h r i l l d ow n her sp i n e. Sh e shi v er ed a t t he d el icio u s sen sa t i on . ` I need a d r in k .'
She sent a q u ick si l v er g la n ce ov er hi m . H i s b u si ness su i t w a s i m m a cu l a t e a n d h i s ha i r a s sl eek a s ev er ,
b u t t her e w a s t he u n m ist a k a b l e si g n o f t i r ed ness w r i t t en o n h i s f a ce. ` Go r est o n t h e cou ch, d a r l i n g .
Yo u 'l l f i nd so m et hi ng w a it i n g f or y ou o n t h e en d t a b l e.'
H e cock ed a n ey eb r ow a t h er . ` I'm con v in ced t h a t y ou a r e a w i t ch, w o m a n, a nd t ha t y ou r ea d m y
m i n d
.. a h, b r a nd y . Tha nk y o u .' H e coi led u p t h e lengt h o f h is b o d y a nd sa t a t one end o f t he cou ch ,
r ea chi ng f or h is b r a nd y g l a ss w it h one ha n d w h i l e l oo sen ing h i s t ie w i t h a not her . H i s ha n d s w er e l a r g e
a nd w el l m ou ld ed , t h e cont ou r s et chi ng a n i m p r essi on o f st r engt h i n one' s m i nd . Sh e f o l d ed her sel f a s
g r a cef u l l y a s he, a nd sa n k d ow n b esi d e h i m . H e r ea ched ou t a nd p u l l ed her t o hi m a ga in, t h i s t i m e not
f or a k i ss b u t j u st t o f i t her b od y 's cu r v es t o h i s. She w ent w i l l i ng l y .
` H a r d d a y ,' she com m en t ed , ey ei ng h i m a g a i n w i t h a gent l e, a l m ost concer ned g la n ce. She w a s
concer ned w h en Da m i en p u shed hi m sel f t oo ha r d , w h i ch w a s m ost o f t h e t i m e, b u t she r ef u sed t o l et i t
show t oo m u ch, b el i ev i ng t ha t he w ou l d n ot w a nt t o b e su f f oca t ed w i t h f em i n i ne sy m p a t hy .
` Yes. I go t a n ew secr et a r y a n d f i r ed her a l l i n t he sa m e d a y ,' h e r ep l i ed d eep l y , t he sa t i r i ca l i m p r essi o n
o f h i s b r o w s b eco m i ng m or e a p p a r en t si nce he w or e a p a r t icu l a r l y f or b i d d i ng lo ok . Jessi ca w a s u sed t o
t he exp r essi on, b u t she r em em b er ed f or so m e od d r ea son Ju st i n's r em a r k s o f t h a t a f t er n oon a nd
r ea l i sed t h a t Da m ien t o m o st p eop l e w o u l d seem q u it e d ev i l ish. They lo ok ed a t h i s d a r k lo ok s a n d h i s
h ost i l e m ood s a nd d id n 't b ot her t o l ook u n d er nea t h a t t he m a n w ho a t t i m es cou l d b e a st on i sh i ng ly
com p a ssi on a t e. ` Da m n ed incom p et ence.... She w a s so t er r i b l e, I ca l l ed t he em p l oy m ent a gency t h a t
h ir ed her f or m e a nd cu r sed a t t hem f or a f u l l f i f t een m i nu t es. I get a new one o n M o nd a y .'

` Ea t in g secr et a r i es a g a i n , d a r l i n g?' she m u r m u r ed , a t hr ea d o f l a u gh t er r u n n i n g t hr o u gh her p l ea sa nt
v oice. ` M y , m y . Yo u shou l d t r y y ou r t eet h on one o f o u r y ou n ger secr et a r i es. She l oo k s p a r t icu la r l y
su ccu l ent , I b el i ev e t h a t she m i ght b e t o y ou r t a st e.'
` Bi t ch a s w el l a s a w i t ch, eh?' It w a s sa i d w i t h n o m a l ice i n h i s v o ice, b u t r a t her a p ecu l i a r sa t i sf a ct i on .
` Wh a t a r e y ou cook i ng t on i ght , w o m a n ?'
'Dr ol l , v er y d r ol l .' She sm i led a t h i m a n d t h en d i senga g ed her sel f t o g o t o t he a n t i q u e d r i nk s ca b i net t o
p ou r her sel f a g l a ss o f w i ne. ` A ct u a l ly , i t ' s nea r l y t i m e f or m e t o st a r t t h i nk i n g o f get t in g r ea d y f or
Ka r en 's enga gem ent p a r t y . H a d y ou f or got t en i t ? Do y o u p l a n t o go ?' She ha d hop ed t h a t h e w ou l d
escor t h er , b u t he ha d n 't m en t i o ned a ny t h i n g a b ou t it a nd she w a s a l w a y s ca r ef u l n ot t o i m p o se.
'Da m m it !' he sw or e so f t l y , a nd she t u r n ed w i t h su r p r i se t o see h i s f a ce t igh t en w i t h a nno y a nce. ` I ha d
f or got t en a b o u t it a nd I' m ob l i g a t ed t o sh ow u p . I'm su p p o sed t o b e t a k i ng Ja k e Co ef ield 's d a u ght er ,
M a r y , a n d i t 's a lm o st si x now !'
She gr ew v er y p a l e a t Da m ien's w or d s, a n d her f a ce b eca m e ev er y b i t a s r i g id a s h i s, f or a m o m ent .
Then i t a l l ju st m el t ed a w a y a s i f t he exp r essi on ha d nev er b een a nd she l ook ed a t h i m m o ck i ng l y , h er
ey es sl a nt ed w i ck ed ly a n d h er m ou t h cu r v ed u p . It w a s not a n a m u sed sm i le. ' Coef i el d 's t h i nk i n g o f
sel l i ng t o y ou , i sn't he? Is l i t t l e M a r y M ou se t he one w i t h w ho m y ou a r e co nt em p l a t in g m a r r i a ge? N o w
t ha t , d a r l i ng,' a n d she r a i sed her g la ss u p t o h i m r a k i sh ly , ` i s d r ol l i n d eed ! H ow v er y a m u si ng ! Sha l l I
i nt r od u ce m y sel f t on i g ht ?'
H i s d a g ger - k een gl a nce sl i ced t h r ou g h h er . ` Don't b e a n y m or e o f a f o o l t ha n y ou ca n h elp , Jessica ,'
w a s h is b it in g r em a r k . ` Yo u shou l d k now b et t er t ha n t h a t b y no w . I d on't a n d nev er w i l l lo v e t h a t gir l ,
a nd I t hi nk i t ' s a su p r em e m i st a k e f or a m a n t o m a r r y f or l ov e i n t he f ir st p la ce. H ow ev er , m a r r ia g e t o
M a r y w ou l d b e conv en ient . H er f a t her l i k es m e.'
She t u r ned her b a ck w it h t he p r et ence o f w a n d er i n g t o t he sp a ci ou s w i nd o w s f or a b r ief lo ok ou t , b u t
t he r ea l r ea so n w a s so t h a t sh e cou l d h i d e h er f a ce a nd her h u r t f or a f ew m i nu t es a nd get h er sel f b a ck
i n com p l et e cont r ol . Da m i en ha d nev er p u l led a ny p u nch es w i t h her . H e h a d nev er l i ed t o h er a nd t h is
w a s w h y she k new t h a t w hen he t o l d her t ha t she w a s t he w o m a n h e w a nt ed m o st i n t he w or l d , h e
w a s sp ea k i n g t he t r u t h . Tha t w a s a l so w hy sh e k n ew w i t h ou t a sh a d o w o f a d ou b t t h a t w ha t h e sa i d
n ow w a s t r u e. H e w a s ser i ou sly t h i nk i ng of m a r r y i ng t ha t u nk now n gi r l .
H e w a s a d ev i l , she t h ou ght a g on i sed ly , gr i p p i ng her sl en d er w i ne g l a ss so ha r d t ha t i t n ea r l y b r ok e
a nd st a r i n g u nseei ng l y ou t o f t he w i n d ow . H e w a s a n u nca r i ng, i n sensi t i v e d ev i l . ` Thi ngs co u l d g et t o b e
a b i t co m p l i ca t ed , d on't y ou t h i nk ?' sh e sa i d l ig ht l y , w h i r l i n g gr a cef u l ly f r o m t he ou t si d e v i ew t o
encou nt er h is b r oo d i n g g a ze. ` You w ou l d ha v e t o d o q u it e a j u gg l i ng a ct b et w een a l l o f y ou r w o m en .'
She sou n d ed a s i f sh e w er e en joy in g t h e w hol e t h i n g, li k e a hu ge j ok e.
` N ot a t a l l ,' he r esp on d ed cr isp l y , t hou gh h i s ey es d a r k ened w i t h q u i ck a n g er . ` You k n ow t he scor e a n d
she w ou l d t oo. En d o f st or y .'
` Su ch a f la t en d i n g! W el l , d a r li ng, I w i l l b i d y ou a d i eu f or t h e m o m ent , sin ce I m u st sh ow er a n d cha n ge
f or t he p a r t y . M a k e su r e t he f r ont d oor i s l ock ed b eh i n d y ou , h m m m ?' She t hr ew a q u ick , a i r y w a v e
a nd st a r t ed t o st r o l l d ow n t he h a l l t o t he l u xu r io u s b a t hr o om , si p p i n g f r o m h er w in e g la ss d el i ca t el y . It
w a s a g ood a ct .

The p lu sh ca r p et i n g m u f f l ed t h e sou n d o f hi s f oo t st ep s so she w a s u np r ep a r ed f or h i s h a n d s d escend i n g
h ea v i l y o n h er sh ou l d er s t o t u r n her a r ou n d . The w i ne g l a ss w a s p lu ck ed f r o m h er f in g er s a nd d ep osi t ed
o n t he f l oo r a n d t hen she w a s shov ed u p a g a i nst t he w a ll a nd he w a s b r i ng i n g t hose f i r m sensu a l l i p s
d ow n h a r d on her s once m o r e, gr i nd i n g l y , d om i na nt . H i s h a n d s hel d her st i l l w it h a g r i p t ha t h u r t , a nd
h i s p ow er f u l b o d y t r a p p ed her f u l l y . The k i ss w ent on a n d on a n d t o w a r d s t he en d sh e ha d her a r m s
a r ou n d h i s n eck , k i ssi n g h i m b a ck , a n d i t ch a ng ed f or t h em b o t h u nt i l it w a s a r ea l ca r ess. H i s b la ck
h ea d li f t ed a n d he st a r ed d o w n a t her w i t h shu t t er ed ey es, h i s g a ze t o u ch i ng on her lu sh l i p s
l i n ger i n g l y .
` Well ,' she m u r m u r ed t hr o a t i l y , co v er ing t he h u r t of h i s b eh a v i ou r a g a i n w i t h a loo k o f a m u sem en t . ` If
y ou w a nt t o k i ss m e, d a r l i n g, next t i m e j u st let m e k no w . I' l l p u t d ow n m y w i ne g la ss f ir st .'
H i s m ou t h t i g ht ened o m i n ou sl y a nd h i s j a w f l exed . W h en he sp o k e, i t w a s w i t h a si l k y , t hr ea t en i ng
t one o f v o i ce t ha t m a d e h er f eel co l d . ` Do n't b e f l ip p a nt w i t h m e a g a i n, Jessi ca . I' l l see y ou la t er o n
t oni g ht .'
She m er el y l ook ed a t h im m ock i n g l y , on e d el i ca t e b r ow r a i sed i n d ef i a nce. H e f l i ck ed h er ch eek w it h a
ca r eless f in ger t ha t hu r t , a nd t hen h e l ef t .
A s soon a s t he f r on t d oor ha d clo sed b eh i n d h i m , her f a ce cha ng ed , b eca m e sh a r p er , hu r t , v u l ner a b l e.
She st a r ed f or a l o ng t i m e a t t he closed d o o r w i t h a m i ser a b l e a che d eep i n si d e a n d su d d en l y t he
w om a n l y sop h i st ica t i o n d r op p ed a w a y a n d a l onel y , f r i gh t ened g ir l st ood i n t he m i d d le o f t he
sha d o w ed h a l l .
` Da m n h im ! D a m n h i m ! D a m n h i m !' she b u r st ou t , cr y i ng, a n d a s q u ick l y a s it h a d com e ou t , i t
st o p p ed . She cou l d n 't a f f or d t o r u i n h er com p l exion w i t h t ea r s b ef o r e t h e p a r t y . To o m a ny sha r p ey es
w ou l d b e a b o u t .
A n i nt en se, f r u st r a t ed f u r y w el l ed u p i nsi d e her a n d she w h i r l ed t o st a l k ov er t o t he p ho ne, d i a l l in g
j er k i ly a n d t a p p i ng her f oot w h i l e she l ist ened t o i t r i ng . In co m p a ny sh e a l w a y s w a s so co nt r ol l ed a n d
cont a in ed , nev er m a k i ng a n u nconsci ou s m ov e or a n u n d i sci p l i n ed one, b u t w h en sh e w a s a lo ne she
n ev er cou l d r em a i n so hel d i n .
She t a l k ed t o Ju st i n, i nst a nt l y b eco m i ng ch eer f u l a n d sou n d i ng u n concer n ed . She w o nd er ed , ev en a s
she sp ok e, w h y she b ot her ed w it h t he a ct . She w a s su r e t h a t Ju st i n co u l d sen se a n d h ea r t he hu r t
b eh i n d t he b r ig ht cha t t er . A f t er t h ey a gr eed t o m eet i n a n hou r , Ju st i n m or e t h a n w i l l in g t o b e her
escor t f or t he ev en in g , Jessica r ep l a ced t he p ho ne r ecei v er sl ow ly . If a st r a ng er w er e t o l ook i n o n her a t
t ha t m o m ent , he w ou l d ha v e f ou n d her exp r essi o ns i nt r i gu i n g, a s in a b o u t t h i r t y second s her f a ci a l
f ea t u r es b eca m e ca t - l i k e, ey es na r r ow ed a nd ca lcu la t i ng, a n d t hen cy n i ca l ly a m u sed , en d i ng, f i n a l l y ,
w i t h a n a l m ost u nb ea r a b l e sa d n ess.
W hy , she a sk ed her sel f si l ent l y , d i d she ha v e t o b e su ch a f oo l ov er D a m ien? W hy w a s he t he on e w h o
m a d e her hea r t r a ce a n d her p u lses p o u n d ? W hy w a s he t h e o ne she w a nt ed t o ho l d her t hr ou gh t h e
n i gh t , ev er y n ig h t ? W hy , o h w h y cou l d n't sh e h a v e f a l l en i n l ov e w i t h Ju st i n i nst ea d ? She k new t ha t he
w ou l d m a k e her a go od hu sb a nd i f she ev er cou l d m a r r y hi m . H e w ou l d b e f a i t h f u l a nd ca r in g,
const a n t l y su p p o r t iv e, a nd he w ou l d nev er hol d her l o ss o f v i r g i ni t y a g a i n st her . H e'd k no w n a l m o st
f r o m t h e st a r t w hen she a nd D a m ien h a d b ecom e l ov er s a nd he h a d nev er sp ok en a w or d o f
r ecr i m i na t io n o r con d em na t i on t o h er . H e r ea l ly u n d er st ood her a n d t ha t w a s a co m f or t i ng t ho u ght .
Bu t she cou l d n't i m a g i ne Ju st i n i n t he sa m e b ed w it h h er . The o nl y p er son t ha t sh e w a nt ed t o ha v e b y
h er , na k ed a nd l ov i ng, w a s Da m i en . She w a nt ed Da m ien 's d ev ot i o n a n d hu sb a n d l y ca r e, hi s l ov e a nd
su p p o r t a nd f a i t h f u l ness. She w a nt ed t he one t h i n g t ha t he ha d o nce t o l d her he w a s in ca p a b l e o f
g iv i ng t o a ny w o m a n : h i s ev er l a st i ng f i d el i t y .
A n d o nce a ga i n, hop el essl y , she w o nd er ed j u st w h a t ha d ha p p en ed t o h i m t o r en d er hi m u n a b l e t o
g iv e a hu sb a n d ly d ev ot i on t o o ne w o m a n . The q u est io n w ou ld p r ob a b l y nev er b e a n sw er ed , sh e t ol d
h er sel f w it h a b r u t a l ho nest y .
She w h ir l ed a n d lef t t he li v i n g r o om a t a r u n. Eno u gh t i m e w a s w a st ed . She ha d t h i ngs t o d o. She ha d
t o m a k e h er sel f so b ea u t i f u l , so a l l u r i ng, so sensa t i on a l l y sexy t on i g ht t ha t Da m i en w ou l d n ot b e a b l e
t o t a k e h i s ey es o f f her . She w ou l d ca st t ha t ot her u nk now n w om a n in t he sha d e. Sh e w o u ld t a u nt h i m
w i t h w ha t h e w o u l d no t h a v e, b eca u se sh e w ou l d n ot b e her e t o n i gh t , w a i t i n g f or h i m a s she'd a l w a y s
d one i n t he p a st .
She w ou l d f i ght f or h i m a n d st r u gg l e t o t h e v er y l a st , b u t a s soo n a s t h ose w ed d i ng v o w s w er e sp ok en
i t d i d n't m a t t er i f he n ev er sl ep t w it h h i s w i f e a t a l l . H e w ou l d m o st a ssu r ed ly nev er sl eep w i t h her
a ga i n . She w ou ld not g iv e h er sel f t o h i m i f he w er e m a r r i ed t o so m eone else, f or she w ou l d n ot m a k e a
m ock er y o f t ha t w h ich sh e r esp ect ed m o st of a l l a nd w a nt ed m or e t ha n a ny t h i ng: m a r r i a g e. A f ed - u p
l ook cr ep t i nt o her ey es a s she t h ou ght o f t he p o ssi b il i t y o f h i m w a l k i ng a w a y f r om h er . She w ou l d n't
t a k e h i m b a ck . She w o u l d no t cou n t ena nce a d u l t er y . She h a d her p r i d e.
Bu t u nd er nea t h t ha t st i f f p r i d e som et h ing w h i sp er ed , p l ea se, Go d , d on 't l et h i m w a l k a w a y f r om m e
n ow .
A f t er p r ep a r i ng f or t h e p a r t y w i t h gr ea t t hou g ht a n d ca r e, Jessi ca st oo d b a ck f r om t he m i r r or , ga v e
h er sel f a good l ong l ook , a n d st a r t ed t o la u gh. A st r i k i ng l y l ov el y w o m a n p osed i n t h e m i r r or , b a r e l eg
a ng l in g ou t in a m od el 's p ose t ha t w a s a f t er y ea r s o f p r a ct i ce q u i t e na t u r a l l y a ssu m ed . She w a s
w ea r i ng a v er y l i t t le so m et hi ng i n w h it e, a f il m y t h i n d r ess t ha t l ook ed a n d f el t l i k e a si l k n ig ht go w n . It
w a s cu t sl a sh i ng l y d eep b et w een her b r ea st s, j u st b a r el y d ecen t . It w a s f it t ed v er y t ig ht l y a t t h e w a i st ,
i m m ed i a t el y r ev ea l i n g t o t he exp er ienced ey e t ha t i t h a d b een m a d e esp eci a l ly t o f i t it s o w ner . Th en
t he d r ess f l a r ed a t t he h i p s i n t w o g a t her ed p u ck er s, b ei n g p u l led t a u t a cr oss her f l a t st o m a ch a n d
r ou nd ed b u t t ock s, a n d t he sk ir t w a s a s w i ck ed a s t he r est o f t he d r ess. H er lo n g lea n l ef t l eg w a s a l m o st
ent i r ely b a r e a s t h e w r a p - a r ou nd st y l e sk i r t st op p ed a b it h i gh er t h a n m i d t h i gh, b u t t h e o t her leg w a s
n ea r l y co m p l et el y cov er ed si nce t he sk i r t a ng led d r a m a t i ca l l y d o w n t o st op a t a p o i n t w ho se lengt h
j u st t o u ched her r i ght a n k le. Ev er y el ega n t , sen su ou s li ne o f her b od y w a s eit her r ev ea led b y t he
cli ng i n g m a t er i a l so cl ev er ly d r a p ed , or w a s com p let el y b a r e. Sh e d i d n 't n eed t o w ea r d r esses d esig ned
t o h i d e a p h y si ca l f l a w ; Jessi ca d r essed i n st ea d t o a d or n t h e l i nes o f her b o d y . A t h er t i ny w a i st w a s
b u ck l ed a r i ch, t h i ck go l d b el t , w i t h h ea v y go l d b r a cel et s cl i p p ed t o her lef t a nk le a n d her r i ght a r m
a nd chu nk y g o ld ea r r ing s g l int ed t h r ou g h p r of u se r ed cu r ls. Sl i m st r a p s o f l ea t her , go l d - t on ed , o f
cou r se, com p l i m en t ed her g r a cef u l f eet . The ov er a l l ef f ect o f her a p p ea r a n ce w a s o f a f a scin a t i ng,
b a r b a r i c sexin ess so p ot ent t ha t l o ng a f t er she'd st op p ed l a u gh in g , a sa t i sf i ed sm i l e l u r k ed a r ou nd t h e
ed ges o f her p er f ect l i p s.
Go ld en ey es g l ow ed w i t h a v i v i d ner v o u s excit em ent a s Jessica 's sen se o f p l a y ing w i t h d a n g er i ncr ea sed ,
cha r gin g t hr ou gh her l i k e a n el ect r i ca l cu r r en t . D a m i en w ou l d b e enr a g ed , a b so l u t el y l i v i d . H e w a s so
u np r ed ict a b le, she d i d n't k n ow w ha t he w o u ld d o .
Bu t t ha t d id n 't m a t t er . A st r a n ger l ook i ng a t her f o r t he f ir st t i m e t ha t n i g ht w ou ld nev er b el i ev e t h a t
she w a s t he sa m e w o m a n t ha t h a d on l y t h a t a f t er no on w o r n a f r ig ht en ed , l i t t l e- gi r l - l ost exp r essi o n. N o
o ne b u t she w a s ev en a w a r e o f t h a t p a r t of her p er son a l i t y . She w a s a sop h i st i ca t ed , w or l d ly w om a n.
She w ou l d n ot b e hu r t t on ig h t , a n d she w ou l d not b e v u l ner a b l e. N o o n e w a s go i ng t o t r y t o get cl ose
t o t he cr ea t u r e u n d er t he w ond er f u l p a ck a gi ng . Th e w o n d er f u l p a ck a g in g, a ga i n, w o u ld b e t he
cr ea t u r e.

The d oor b el l r a n g a n d she w en t t o a n sw er i t w it hou t su r p r i se. Ju st in w a s w el l k n ow n b y t he n i g ht
w a t chm a n d o w n st a ir s a nd w ou l d b e let r i ght u p . She st ep p ed b a ck a n d w a t ched h i m com e i n,
a p p r eci a t i on l i gh t i ng her ey es. H e l oo k ed v er y d ist i n gu i sh ed i n h is b l a ck ev en i ng su it a n d w a s a p er f ect
f o i l f or her o w n col ou r i ng a nd ou t f i t . They w ou l d b e o ne o f t he b et t er lo ok i ng cou p les a t t h i s hu ge
ext r a v a g a nza . A t in y t hou g ht cr ep t i nt o h er m in d a n d she d i sm i ssed it a n gr i l y , b u t n ot b ef or e r u ef u l ly
a ck now l ed g i ng i t a s t r u e. If Da m i en ha d esco r t ed her t on i ght , t hey w o u l d ha v e b een w it hou t a d o u b t
t he h a n d so m est cou p le t her e. Sh e d i d n 't w a n t t o t h in k a b ou t h i m , t ho u gh, o r t he com in g ev en i ng . H er
b od y jer k ed a s sh e t u r ned t o ha nd Ju st in a g l a ss of sh er r y .
` I'v e seen y o u i n y ou r "w a r p a i nt " b ef or e, Jessi ca , a n d t hou g h I i n t el l ect u a l ly k no w ho w b ea u t i f u l y ou
a r e, it st r ik es m e a n ew ev er y t i m e I see y o u l i k e t h i s,' he t ol d her , sha k i ng h is hea d i n si m p l e
a d m i r a t i on . ` Dou b l e t o r p ed oes r i gh t a t t h e son o f a b i t ch, i f I r ea d m y si g na l s r i g h t . God , la d y , w ha t a r e
y ou t r y in g t o d o t o a l l t he ot her m en a t t h i s en ga g em en t p a r t y t on igh t , sen d t hei r b l ood p r essu r e
soa r in g sk y h i g h? Th a t d r ess o u g ht t o b e i l l ega l .'
` Li k e it ?' she a sk ed m isch i ev ou sl y , p iv ot i ng gr a cef u l ly f or h i s p er u sa l. ` H e' s nev er seen i t b ef or e. I t hi n k
i t 'l l d o n i cely en ou gh, d on't y ou ?'
'N i ce eno u gh? Ther e's n ot h i ng n i ce a t a l l a b ou t t ha t d r ess- w ha t t her e i s o f i t !' H e t o ssed b a ck h i s hea d
t o f i n i sh h i s d r in k . ` I k now w hy y ou ca l l ed m e! You d o n't need a n escor t , y o u n eed a b od y g u a r d .
H o w ' m I su p p osed t o k eep ev er y o ne f r om k i d na p p in g y ou , r i g ht i n p l a i n si ght ? The b r a cel et s a r e a n i ce
t ou ch. Ju st t he r i ght h i n t o f er ot i c sla v e g ir l st u f f . Sha l l I a u ct i on y o u o f f ?'
She sm i led a g a i n , b u t her hea r t w a s no l onger in i t . 'A s l on g a s I get t o k eep t h e p r of it s.... L i st en, Ju st i n, I
h a v e a not her f a v ou r t o a sk o f y ou a n d i t 's- w el l, it 's a n i m p osit i on, i f y ou d o n't m i nd .'
` Well , com e o n, ou t w i t h i t . W h a t d o y ou n eed ?' H e sm i l ed d ow n a t her a nd she f el t a r u sh o f a f f ect ion
f or h i m t ha t w a s q u it e p la t on i c. H e w a s a l w a y s so go od t o her !
` Wo u ld y ou b e m y b i g b r ot her ?' she a sk ed h i m , si g h i ng d eep ly . ` You a r e so l i k e t he o n e I nev er ha d ,
t he one I a lw a y s w a nt ed t o r u n t o w hen I got r ou ghed u p , t h e o ne I a l w a y s w a nt ed t o f i gh t m y b a t t l es
f or m e. Cou l d I sp en d t he n i ght t o ni ght a t y ou r hou se? Da m i en exp ect s t o co m e b a ck her e a nd I d on't
w a n t t o f a ce h i m . If h e m a r r i es h er , I' m b r ea k i ng t he r el a t ion sh i p . I w on't b e a p a r t o f t ha t k i n d o f set
u p . Th i s i s b a d eno u gh a s i t i s. nev er k n o w i ng i f he's j u st t o o t ir ed t o com e o v er or i f h e's w i t h so m eone
else, n ev er k no w i n g i f he'l l st i l l w a nt m e si x m ont h s f r om n o w , n ev er ha v i ng a ny k i nd o f secu r i t y a t a l l .
W ou l d y ou m i n d t er r i b ly i f I sl ep t on y ou r cou ch?'

` M y d ea r ,' he m u r m u r ed , r ea chi n g ou t t o cu p her ch eek b r ief l y . ` I' l l b e a ny t h i n g y ou w a nt m e t o b e.
A n d y es, y ou ca n sleep a t m y h ou se, t h ou g h t h er e's no need t o r esor t t o t he co u ch a s y o u k now ! I'l l ca l l
m y hou sek eep er r i ght no w t o set u p a r oo m f o r y ou . The p r o b lem i s, t hou g h, t ha t t h i s w i l l so lv e t h i ngs
o nly f or on e n igh t . Yo u 'r e w el co m e a t m y hou se f or a s lon g a s y ou ca r e t o st a y , b u t w e b ot h k now y ou
w on 't , w i l l y ou ?'
'N o,' she sa i d sl o w l y , sha k i ng her hea d . ` I w on 't . I'm go i n g t o ha v e n ew l ock s p u t i n t h e d o or t om or r o w .
I d a r en't d o ot her w i se, a f t er t on i ght . H e' s g oi ng t o b e l i v i d !' She sh u d d er ed d el ica t ely , gl a nci ng u p w i t h
cont r i t i on a t Ju st i n's h a n d so m e, d i gn i f ied f a ce. ` I' m a sk i n g a l ot , I k no w . I' m sor r y t o b e a b u r d en t o
y ou .'
` You a r en't a b u r d en. You a r e a j oy . A nd w ha t el se a r e f r ien d s a n d b i g b r o t her s f or , a ny w a y ?' h e t o ld
h er ca l m ly , sm i l ing . She go t t he st r a ngest f eel in g t ha t he w a s l oo k in g f or w a r d t o Da m i en' s w r a t h.
She a l so w on d er ed i f Ju st in w a s a s i n l ov e w it h her a s h e h a d once cl a i m ed . Da m i en, cl a i m i n g nev er t o
h a v e b een i n lo v e w i t h a w o m a n, w a s nev er t hel ess goi ng t o b e f u r i ou s a t t he si gh t o f h i s l ov er w i t h a
m a n he ha t ed h ea r t i l y . Th e one t h i n g t h a t ga v e h er a ny k i n d o f ho p e f or t he f u t u r e w a s t ha t she k n ew
t ha t Da m i en w a s not i n d i f f er ent t o her . Ot her w i se he w ou l d not ha v e k ep t com i n g b a ck t o her f or
t hr ee y ea r s. Thr ee y ea r s. Tha t w a s l on g er t h a n a ny one el se he'd seen, she k new . Ju st i n, on t he ot h er
h a n d , w a s p er f ect l y ha p p y t o b e her f r ien d in t he p u r est p l a t on i c w a y , a n d he n ev er d em a nd ed
a ny t h in g else. She r a t her w ond er ed i f he w a s m er el y ha p p y t o b e a p a r t o f her ci r cl e o f f r ien d s. She
k new t ha t h e t hou g ht sh e w a s a s exo t i c a s a m ov i e st a r , t hou g h h e w ou l d nev er a d m i t it . Sh e w a s a
sp l a sh o f ga i et y i n w h a t w a s a v er y d i g n i f i ed a nd so b er l i f e. A nd , a l t ho u gh she sa w h i m cl ea r l y f or ju st
w ha t he w a s, she st i ll lo v ed hi m a nd w a s d eep l y t ha nk f u l f or h i s u nsw er v i n g f r ien d sh i p a n d su p p or t .
A n d w a sn't t h a t a l so p a r t of t he d ef i n i t i on of a f r i en d ? H er ey es w ent u n f ocu sed a nd she st a r ed o f f i nt o
n ot hi ng f or a m o m ent a s she r ea l i sed h ow b a r r en o f su p p or t her l i f e w ou l d b e w i t h ou t Ju st i n . She d i d n't
f eel t ha t Da m i en o f f er ed her m u ch su p p or t , a nd h a d t o r ecogni se t ha t i t w a s p a r t l y her ow n f a u l t .
She'd b een t oo a f r a id t o a sk f or it .
The u n f ocu sed lo ok f a d ed a nd she sm i l ed b r i l l i a nt ly a t Ju st i n . ` Tha nk y o u . L et m e get a f ew t h i n gs
t oget her a n d t hen I' ll b e r ea d y . H a s i t st op p ed r a i n i n g?' She ha d p u l l ed t he cu r t a in s cl osed som e t i m e
a go.
` Yes. The sk y is st i l l p r et t y gr ey , b u t it ' s f i n i shed r a i ni ng, I t h i nk ,' he r ep l i ed , set t l i ng d o w n f or a w a it .
She w a s q u i ck , p u l l i n g o nl y a cha n g e o f cl ot h es ou t o f t h e clo set a n d p i l i ng a f ew cosm et i cs i nt o a b a g.
Then sh e d r a p ed a cr u shed v el v et , f u l l - l en gt h ev en i ng ca p e a cr oss her shou l d er s. It w a s a d eep , r oy a l
p u r p l e, f i n i shi ng o f f her w ho l e en sem b l e m a jest i ca l l y .
Ta k i n g a d eep b r ea t h, she st ea d ied h er m i nd , t h ou ght ca l m not h i n gs f or a m i nu t e, a n d w en t ou t t o
f a ce t he or d ea l .
The Tr ev or s' h ou se w a s m or e a m a nsi o n t h a n a hom e, she t hou gh t , shu d d er i ng a l i t t l e i n t h e d a r k ness
o f Ju st i n's BM W a s t hey p u l l ed i nt o t he lon g d r i v e. The w ho l e h u ge a r chi t ect u r a l m on st r osit y w a s l i t f or
Ka r en 's enga gem ent p a r t y . Ka r en w a s a n o nly chi ld , l i k e Jessi ca , a n d h er d ot i n g p a r en t s i nt en d ed t o
send her o f f w i t h a s m u ch o f a b a ng a s t hey co u ld a f f o r d . Bei ng q u it e w ea l t hy , t h ey cou l d a f f or d a lot .
The p a r t y t on ig h t w a s go i n g t o b e f or a s m a ny a s t hr ee hu nd r ed gu est s a nd a l l o f t hem w ou l d b e h i gh-
cla ss, h i gh- p ow er ed , a n d hi gh l y sop h i st ica t ed .
A n d t hen t h er e w ou l d b e, o f co u r se, Da m i en. H er j a w cl enched a s she f elt a q u eer j er k i n h er st om a ch ,
sheer n er v ou sness, t ha t she co u l d n't cont r ol . She w a it ed w h i l e Ju st i n l ef t t he k ey s t o t he ca r w i t h t he
p a r k i ng a t t end a nt h i r ed esp eci a l l y f o r t he occa sio n, a nd t hey w ent u p t he w id e, w i d e st ep s t o t he
i m p osin g d o u b l e- f r on t d oor s, p u sh i ng a b u t t on t o t hei r r igh t . The sol i d d a r k oa k sw u ng op en o n si l ent
h i ng es, a n d t hey ent er ed i nt o t he l i gh t , sp a ci ou s ha l l. Jessi ca 's w r a p w a s d ef er ent i a l l y t a k en , a n d sh e
ca u ght a q u ick g l i m p se o f t he m a i d 's w i d e, a w est r u ck g a ze a s t h e r i ch ca p e f el l f r om her nea r ly n a k ed
shou l d er s. A f or m a l l y u n i f or m ed w a it er j u st com in g f r o m t h e b a ck o f t he h a l l w i t h a l oa d ed t r a y st a r ed
a t her a n d nea r l y t r ip p ed . She h i d a sm i l e.
'Er , d i d I ha p p en t o t el l y ou t o "k nock 'em d ea d "?' Ju st i n m u r m u r ed i n her ea r , l a u gh i ng . H e t oo ha d
seen t he w a it er 's com ic r ea ct i on . ` Ba n g on, m y d ea r .'
` Beha v e, y o u w r et ch,' sh e w h isp er ed ou t o f t he co r ner of her m ou t h, ey es d a nci n g gl eef u l ly , ` o r I' l l st a y
a t a m ot el t on i g ht , f o r sp i t e.'
` N ev er t ha t . Co m e on, it 's t i m e t o f a ce t h e l io n's r oa r .' H e t u ck ed her sl en d er w h i t e h a nd in t o t h e cr oo k
o f h i s a r m a nd t hey b ot h w ent f or w a r d .
She w a s so t en se u n d er nea t h t he ca lm , p er f ect , p a ssi v e f a ce she p r esent ed t o ev er y one, t ha t w hen she
l ook ed ca su a l ly a r ou nd t he r oom t o f i nd Da m i en she sa g ged sl i g h t l y a g a i n st Ju st i n w hen she r ea l i sed
t ha t h e w a sn't t h er e y et . Ju st i n p a t t ed h er a r m i n u nd er st a nd i ng b u t d i d not h a v e a n y t i m e t o sa y
a ny t h in g t o her b ef or e t hey w er e sw ep t i n t o a la r ge, l a u gh i ng gr ou p o f m u t u a l a cq u a i nt a nces.
H e t ook a d r i nk f o r her f r o m o ne o f t he t r a y s ca r r ied b y p a ssi n g w a i t er s a nd sh e sip p ed a t t h a t f r om
t i m e t o t i m e. It seem ed t o h el p . She sp ent h er t i m e t a l k i n g a n i m a t ed l y or l i st en i ng, a p p a r ent l y
ent h r a l led , t o a ny t h in g a n y one h a d t o sa y t o h er . Sh e nod d ed t o f r iend s, a cq u a in t a n ces, a nd a ny o ne
w ho st a r ed a t her w it h a d m i r a t i on, i gn or i ng t h e m or e ob v i ou s o g ler s, a nd i nw a r d l y she w a s si ck a t
h ea r t , a m a ss o f m i ser a b le a p p r eh ension . A nd she k n ew . Sh e k new j u st a s soon a s he st ep p ed in t o t h e
r oom . She f el t h i m , f elt t he st a r es o f p eop l e t u r n i ng t ow a r d s t h e d oor w a y , hea d s l i f t i ng, a t t ent ion
sh i f t in g: D a m i en d id t ha t t o p eop l e. H e a t t r a ct ed a t t ent i on l ik e a m a g net a t t r a ct ed i r o n, m u ch a s she
d i d .

Slo w l y , in so l ent ly , i g nor in g t he p ou n d ing o f her h ea r t a n d t he d r y , d u l l t a st e i n her m o u t h, she t u r n ed
o n h er heel, t hr ew h er hea d b a ck w it h a conv i nci ng show of a r r oga nce, a nd w a t ched t he sm a l l gr ou p
o f p eop l e j u st ent er i n g t h e h u ge b a l lr oom . H er p o se w a s d eli b er a t e, m u ch l ik e t he p ose she ha d
o b ser v ed i n her b ed r oo m m ir r or , on e l eg t hr o w n ou t , b a r e a nd sed u ct i v e. The l i ght ca u ght o n t he go l d
a t her ea r s, a r m , w a i st a nd leg a s f o cu s p o i nt s a n d gl ea m ed o f f i v or y - sm o ot h, hea l t h il y g l ow in g sk i n.
Thou gh she st ood v er y nea r t o Ju st i n, i n h er w h it e d r ess sh e w a s so m ehow set a p a r t , a s i f u nd er a
sp ot l i ght a l l b y her sel f .
She st ood a n d st a r ed a t t h e g r ou p o f f ou r . The t w o o ld er p eop le w er e ob v i ou sly M r a nd M r s Coef iel d ,
so t ha t lef t t he y ou ng er gi r l a s M a r y , Da m i en's d a t e. She st a r ed a nd nea r l y l a u g h ed , a nd t hen nea r l y
w ep t , a s she l ook ed a t t he f a ce o f a v er y y o u ng, v er y p l a i n, v er y shy l i t t l e m ou se o f a g i r l . Sh e w a s
w ea r i ng a d r ess o f o b v i ou s cu t a nd exp ense b u t it d i d n 't seem t o hel p t h e sl op i n g sho u ld er s, t h e t h ick
w a i st a n d t he d u l l q u a l it y o f her sk i n . Da m i en w a s b end i ng h i s hea d t o her a nd b ei n g ch a r m i n g a s o n ly
h e k n ew how , she sa w , a nd t he m ou se w a s r esp on d i ng w i t h a f u m b l i ng ea g er ness. H e g a l l a nt l y g a v e
h er h i s a r m , a n d she b l u sh i ng l y p u t a sm a l l ha nd on h i s sleev e, a nd t he en t i r e sigh t m a d e Jessi ca w a nt
t o t hr ow her g l a ss a t h i m i n a n u ncon t r oll ed sp a sm o f f u r y . She gr it t ed h er t eet h a t t he p a i n a nd t he
a nger o f it a l l , a n d nea r l y ju m p ed o u t o f h er sk i n w hen a ha n d t o u ched h er b a r e b a ck .
` Ca l m d ow n, m y d ea r ,' Ju st i n' s v oi ce sp ok e r i g ht b y her ea r . ` You k now t ha t sh e ca n't ho l d a ca nd l e t o
y ou . If he ha d a n y sen se a t a l l he w ou l d b e p u nch in g m e i n t he j a w , f o r sa k i ng ev er y one o f t he
Co ef i el d s, a n d d r a gg i n g y ou ho m e t o m a k e v i o l ent a nd p a ssio na t e l ov e t o y ou , b u t t hen I a l w a y s d i d
sa y t h a t Da m ien h a d l i t t le sense. Int el l i gen ce, y es, b u t d a m ned l it t l e sense. H e sho u l d ha v e m a r r i ed y ou
y ea r s a go .'
` Yes,' she sp ok e t hr o u gh her t eet h, no t ca r i ng i f Ju st in sa w t hr ou gh her f a a d e t o t h e a nger p u l si n g
u nd er nea t h, a nd she m i ssed t he od d lo ok t ha t h e g a v e her . ` Tha t he shou l d h a v e, d a r li ng . Tha t he
shou l d ha v e.'
The h a n d a t her b a ck i ncr ea sed i n p r essu r e, gent l y . ` O f f ence i s t he b est d ef ence, m y d ea r . Let 's go a n d
b e i nt r od u ced .'
Ju st a t t h a t v er y m o m ent , she sa w D a m i en's hea d l i f t u p , t he b l a ck h a ir ca t chi ng a n d r ef l ect in g t he
o v er hea d l i gh t s m u ch a s her ow n g l ossy m a ne d i d , a n d hi s ey es ' m o v ed ov er t he w el l - d r essed cr ow d ,
a l i g ht i n g o n h er . By h is su d d en a b sol u t e st i l l ness, she f elt t he shock go t hr ou gh h i m a t t h e si ght o f her i n
t he sensu ou s, p r o v oca t i v e d r ess w i t h Ju st in p u t t i n g a p r o p r i et or i a l h a n d t o her n a k ed b a ck . Su d d enl y
t he or d ea l t ha t she w a s exp ect in g b ega n t o ca r r y a f l a v ou r o f d el icio u s m a l i ce, a nd she f ou nd h er sel f
a l m ost lo ok i ng f or w a r d t o w h a t w o u ld b e, i f not h in g else, a n exh i l a r a t i ng cla sh . A t t h a t t hou g ht a
shock o f sel f - a w a r eness r a n t hr ou gh her . Ju st i n h a d b een r i g h t : she ha d a t on e t i m e st oo d u p t o
Da m i en a nd w i l l in gl y t hr ew b a ck a t h i m ev er y b i t o f t em p er a n d f ir e t ha t he d i shed ou t . It ha d b een
som e t i m e a n d i t ha d b een t oo l ong .
` Yes, d a r l i ng,' she p u r r ed , sm i l i n g a v er y , v er y na u g ht y sm i l e. Ju st i n chu ck l ed a t t h e si g ht a nd Da m ien,
she sa w , ev en f r o m t h a t d i st a nce, ca u g ht i t . H i s r ea ct io n w a s n ot a m u sem ent , ho w ev er , a n d she k new
t ha t u n d er t he u r b a ne, cha r m i ng m a n t ha t st oo d conv er sin g ea si l y w i t h sev er a l d i f f er ent p eop l e t her e
w a s a g r ow i n g w a v e o f m en a ce a n d f u r y .
They m ov ed f or w a r d , w er e st op p ed sev er a l t im es b y d i f f er ent a cq u a i nt a nces, a n d f i na l ly m a na ged t o
a p p r oa ch t he sm a l l , t i g ht l y gr o u p ed k not of p eop le. Jessica sa w Mr s Coef i el d l ook u p , ca t ch a g l i m p se
o f her , a n d b et r a y a n i nst a n t o f st a r t l ed d i sm a y b ef or e q u i ck ly h i d i ng it . Th en she a n d Ju st i n w er e u p on
t hem , a n d i nt r od u ct i on s w er e m a d e a l l a r ou nd a s l i ght , u nd em a n d ing p l ea sa nt r i es w er e excha nged .
Ca t ch i n g a n ot h er l ook f r om t he ol d er w o m a n, she t h ou ght , t ha t l a d y w ou l d l i k e m e d ea d . Is i t b eca u se
h er p r eci ou s d a u g ht er i s ha ng i n g o n t o a v er y gor geou s a nd el ig ib l e m a n ? Is she a f r a i d t h a t I m i g ht l u r e
Da m i en a w a y f r o m M a r y Mo u se? If so, she d oesn't k no w t he ha l f o f i t . W ha t w o u ld ev er y b od y 's
r ea ct i on b e i f I si m p l y st ep p ed f o r w a r d , sm i l ed a nd sa i d , ` H el lo, so go od t o m eet y ou a l l . I'm Jessi ca
Ki ng , D a m ien 's m i st r ess, b u t d o n't let t ha t b ot h er a ny on e. H e st i l l w a nt s t o m a r r y y ou r m ou se.' Sh r iek s,
sw oon s a nd sl a p s. She p u t her em p t y g la ss on a t r a y a nd m a n a ged t o t a k e a n ot her o f f b ef or e t he
w a i t er d i sa p p ea r ed i nt o t h e cr ow d .
A n d o f cou r se she sa id not h i n g o f t h e sor t . She m er el y sm i l ed w i n ni ng l y , sho ok ha nd s w i t h ev er y one,
i nclu d i ng Da m i en, f el t h i s b on e- cr u shin g g r i p o n h er r i ng less ha n d a nd l a u g hed a t so m et h i ng M r
Co ef i el d sa i d . ` N o, i t w a s no t p ou r ed ov er m e ou t o f a b ot t l e, b u t i t w a s esp ecia l l y m a d e b y a f r i end o f
m i ne,' she r ep l i ed , g la nci ng w it h b r i m m i n g ey es d ow n a t her sel f . St a nd i ng next t o M a r y , a d el i b er a t e
m a no eu v r e, she w a sn 't su r e w ho w a s t he ob scen e o ne: M a r y Mo u se f or her a t r oci ou s choi ce o f d r ess-
n ice, b u t w h o ll y u n su i t ed f or her b od y 's sh or t co m i ngs- or her sel f f or su ch g l a r i ng l y o b v i ou s g low i n g goo d
l ook s. Sid e b y si d e, sh e m u sed , w e m u st b o t h seem ob scen e.

She gl a nced u p sid ew a y s a nd sa w t ha t D a m i en w a s ob ser v i n g t he d i f f er ences b et w een t h e t w o o f
t hem a lso . Then h i s ey es m et her s, a nd she sa w su ch a f i er ce m o l t en v o lca n i c er u p t i on l ea p i ng ou t of
t hose b l a ck ey es t ha t sh e w a s b r i ef l y t a k en a b a ck a t t he si g h t . It w a s f r i ght eni ng, t o see t h a t l ook ou t
o f a p er f ect l y sm oot h, sm i l in g u r b a ne m a sk . Sh e w a s su r e t ha t o nl y Ju st i n, her sel f , a n d Da m i en f u l l y
k new w h a t w a s go i ng on.
Ev er y one st ood a n d m a d e sm a l l t a l k , a n d Jessi ca k new t h a t sh e j oi ned i n, b u t she h a r d l y r em em b er ed
w ha t sh e sa i d , a n d she k new it d id n 't r ea l l y m a t t er a ny w a y . It w a s ju st su r f a ce no i se, cov er in g u p a
si lent b a t t l e t ha t she w a s w a g i n g w i t h Da m ien .
Som ew her e, ou t o f si g h t t o t h e l ef t , m u si c st a r t ed u p a n d she l ook ed a r ou n d a t Ju st i n' s t ou ch. ` Yes,' she
m u r m u r ed i n r esp on se t o h i s q u est i on a nd he l ea d her ou t t o t he d a nce f l oor . O nce o u t , she sh a m elessly
p u t her so f t a r m s a r ou nd h i s neck , l et t i n g her b o d y b e m o u l d ed cl ose t o h i s, a nd l a u gh i ng si l ent l y u p
i nt o h is ey es a s t h ey b a r ely m a d e t h e excu se o f a d a nce ci r cle, lo ok i ng t o a l l ob ser v er s l i k e eng r ossed
l ov er s. ` Is t h i s how it 's d one, d a r l i ng?' sh e. a sk ed i nnocent l y . ` Is he w a t chi ng, b y a n y ch a nce? I d a r en't
l ook .'
H i s hea d l i f t ed b r i ef ly . ` Oh , y es,' he st a t ed ca l m l y . ` I w ou l d n 't b e su r p r i sed i f he d i d com e a n d k nock m e
o n t he j a w i n f r ont of a l l t hese p eop le. I'd d o it . Jessi ca ,
y ou m i nx, st op t ha t .'
` Is he d a ncin g ?,
'H e's w i t h y ou r m o u se.' She t oo k a q u i ck d eep b r ea t h .
` She's su r e a s h el l no t m i ne!' Th a t st a r t l ed t hem b ot h, f or she h a d m ea nt t h a t b r ea t h a s a t em p er -
ca l m i ng a g ent , n ot a m ea ns o f v ent i ng p et t y sp i t e. A f t er t h e f i r st m o m ent o f su r p r i se, t ho u gh, Ju st i n
l ook ed t hou ght f u l .
A l l h e sa i d w a s, ` So sh e's not , m y d ea r . Pa r d o n m e.'
She w a nt ed t o a p o l og i se a t t ha t , b u t t he p r essu r es sh e w a s exp er i enci n g m a d e her f eel so t i gh t , a nd
exp l osiv e w i t h a n g er t h a t sh e d i d n't d a r e op en her m ou t h . For t he r est o f t he d a nce she concent r a t ed
o n g et t i n g h er t o ng u e a n d her sel f b a ck i n co nt r ol , u na w a r e t ha t b ot h t he m a n she w a s d a n ci ng w i t h
a nd t he d a r k m a n a cr oss t h e d a nce f lo or w er e w a t chi ng her v er y clo sel y .
The d a nce end ed a l l t o o soon , a nd sh e loo k ed u p a t Ju st i n a s h e w h i sp er ed , ` H er e he co m es.' Feel i ng
a ga i n t ha t cow a r d l y p a n i c, she st a r t ed t o w h isp er b a ck , b u t t her e he w a s, t a p p i n g Ju st i n o n t he
shou l d er p o l it el y w h i l e lo ok i ng m u r d er i nt o h is ey es, a nd t hen Da m ien w a s a sk i n g h er t o d a nce.
She sa i d w it h a d el i b er a t e, i nso lent f l i p p a n cy t ha t w a s a go a d i ng r em i nd er o f t ha t a f t er n oon, ` I d o n't
k now , d o y o u , Ju st in ? I b el iev e I' l l ha v e t o check m y d a nce ca r d , i f y o u ' l l excu se m e. . . .'
W i t h a f u r i ou s, a b r u p t m ov em ent , Da m ien gr a b b ed her a r m b r u i si ng l y a nd y a nk ed h er t o w a r d s h i m
a s t he f ir st st r a i n s o f a not h er t u ne b ega n . She cou l d j u st i m a g i ne t he r a i sed ey eb r ow s a t t ha t a nd a sk ed
h i m t a u n t i ng l y , ` H a v e y ou t o ld t he Coef iel d s y et t he exa ct na t u r e o f o u r r el a t i onsh ip , d a r l i ng?'
` I w i l l w a r n y ou on l y once, Jessi ca ,' h is q u iet v oi ce sp ok e v ol u m es, a n d sh e sob er ed a s she w a s scor ched
b y t he hea t f r om t hose i ncen sed ey es. ` I w a nt y o u t o go ho m e a lo ne, r i g ht now , a lon e. I w i l l not h a v e
M a r sh p a w i n g y ou a b o u t in f r o nt o f m e, b y Go d !' She nea r l y w i nced a s t h e w o r d s, t h r ow n l ik e m i ssil es,
f l a y ed a t her a l r ea d y r a w ner v es. ` A nd y o u a n d I w i l l d i scu ss t h i s l a t er on t on igh t .'
` Wi l l w e?' sh e sa i d st r a ng ely , b u t h e d i d n 't n ot i ce f or he w a s t oo w r a p p ed u p i n h i s o w n r a ge a n d
r ea ct i on. H i s h a n d s, t o t h e ca su a l ob ser v er , w er e r est i ng l i g ht l y o n h er hi p s, b u t she f el t t he p a i n t ha t h e
exer t ed a s h e gr i p p ed her so t i g h t l y . In a l l f a i r n ess, she k new t h a t he w a s p r ob a b l y no t ev en a w a r e o f
w ha t he d i d . ` M i ght I r em i n d y ou , d a r l i n g, t ha t I go w hen a n d w h er e I d a m n w el l p l ea se a n d w it h
w ho m , ju st a s y ou d o, a n d I w i l l not b e o r d er ed f r om t he r o om l i k e a f i v e- y ea r - ol d b r a t ? Ther e i s, a s
y ou m a y r eca l l , no r i n g o n m y l ef t h a nd t o r est r a i n m y a ct i on s.'
'Fi v e- y ea r - o ld b r a t s,' he sa i d so f t ly , ey es gl i t t er i ng, ` i n
m y b oo k a r e sp a nk ed , not sent f r o m t he r oom , a n d I
m i ght a d d a w a r n i n g t o t h a t , sin ce y ou a r e n ot a ct i ng
l i k e a n a d u l t t o n ig ht a n d a r e r em in d in g m e m or e a n d
m or e o f a b a d l y d i sci p l i n ed b r a t !'
` Oh, d a r l in g !' she p o u t ed p r et t i ly , m ov i ng her h i p s
a ga i n st h i m sexil y , t hou g h d i scr eet ly , ` i s t h i s r ea l l y t he
b od y o f a f i v e- y ea r - o ld b r a t ? If so, y o u sho u l d b e
a r r est ed f o r chi l d m o l est a t io n.'
` You b i t ch, y ou sa y t he f ou l est t h i n gs so m et i m es,' he
h i ssed f u r i ou sl y a n d she shr u g ged .
` Onl y w h en p u sh ed t o it , D a m i en. A n d I w a r n y ou ,
d on't p u sh m e t o o f a r .'
Thei r ey es cl a sh ed hea d o n, a nd she f el t d i zzy f r om t he
i m p a ct o f h i s f o r cef u l p er so na l i t y , b u t she ha d gon e t oo f a r t o b a ck d o w n n ow . H er p r id e h a d t a k en a l l
t he b ea t i ng t ha t i t w a s g oi n g t o, a n d she w a s b egi n n i n g t o f i g ht b a ck . H e w hi sp er ed com m a nd i n g ly ,
` Go hom e.'
W i t h a n i n d i f f er ence t h a t st em m ed f r om h op el essness, she sa i d , ` N o.'
A n d a t t ha t , she h a d a st r a ng e i m p r essio n, a s her ey es no lo n ger f ocu sed on Da m i en b u t i n st ea d t u r ned
i n w a r d . Th e t u r b u lent em ot ion s chu r n i n g i n si d e her w er e con v ol u t i n g, com i n g t og et h er , f u si ng i nt o
som et hi n g so p ow er f u l a nd f r i g ht en i n g t o her t ha t she w a s t a k en a b a ck a t t he f o r ce o f t he r a ge i nsi d e
h er . A nd she no l on ger w o nd er ed how she w a s g o in g t o ha nd l e D a m i en' s a nger . Sh e b eca m e w or r i ed
enou gh a t h ow she w ou l d h a nd l e her o w n .
Ti m r est o f t he ev en i n g en d ed u p b ei n g v er y m u ch t h e or d ea l t ha t Jessi ca ha d a n t i ci p a t ed . M a r y
Co ef i el d a n no u nced l a t er on t h a t she w a s g oi n g t o t he l a d i es r oom , a n d Jessi ca h a d i m m ed i a t el y st o od
CHAPTER THREE

t o go w it h h er , ig nor i n g t he w a r n i n g st a r e f r o m Da m ien . A ccom p a ny i n g t h e y ou n g er g i r l she soo n
f ou nd t o her d i sm a y t ha t M a r y w a s a ct u a l l y l i k ea b le, a n d she h a d n't w a nt ed t o k no w t h a t . The
y ou nger g i r l w a s shy a nd p a t het ica l ly p l ea sed w it h t he a t t en t i o n t h a t Da m i en ha d b een sho w er i n g
u p on her . ` Fo r y ou k no w ,' she co n f essed a w k w a r d l y , ` he's t he t y p e o f m a n t ha t I w o u l d h a v e t ho u g ht
som eo ne l i k e y ou w ou l d go ou t w it h . I nev er d r ea m ed t ha t he w ou l d b e i nt er est ed i n m e.'
Oh, m y d ea r Lor d , Jessi ca t h ou ght , cl osin g h er ey es f o r a m o m en t in d eep p a i n a t t h e a r t l ess, i nnocent
w or d s.
She ha d w a nt ed t o ha t e M a r y a nd a f t er t a l k in g w i t h her b r i ef ly , sh e f ou n d t ha t she j u st cou l d n't . A n d
t ha t m a d e her a nger t ow a r d s D a m i en b u r n ev en b r i ght er . For t he r est o f t he ev en in g she sa t si l ent l y ,
sm i l i n g w h en sp o k en t o b u t o t her w i se p r eoccu p i ed w it h h er t h ou ght s. D a m i en a sk ed her t o d a nce o n e
m or e t i m e a n d a s t hey ci r cl ed t h e f l oor , d r a w in g m a ny a d m i r i n g g l a nces f o r t he st r ik i n g co u p l e t hey
m a d e, sh e sa i d t o hi m l ow ly , ` Do n't y ou h u r t t ha t ch i ld , Da m ien. I'm w a r n i ng y ou . D on't y ou d a r e h u r t
h er . She's t oo y ou n g a n d u n sop h ist i ca t ed t o u n d er st a n d t he r u les o f t he ga m e y ou l i k e t o p la y .'

` Wh a t 's t h i s?' he a sk ed m o ck i ng l y , h i s l ow , d eep v oi ce r ea ch i n g i nt o her chest a s h e h el d h er t i ght ly
a ga i n st h i m . ` The m ist r ess sy m p a t h i si ng w i t h t he w i f e? It m u st b e a n ov el si t u a t i o n, f i r st one i n
m a nk i nd 's m em or y . W ha t d i d h a p p en, w h en y ou so o b v i ou sl y f o l l ow ed her t o t he l a d i es r o om ?'
Bu t she ha d h ea r d on ly on e t h i ng, a n d h er w or l d w h i r l ed cr a zi ly f or a m o m ent a s sho ck cou r sed
t hr ou gh her . ` You 'v e a l r ea d y a sk ed her , t h en ?' she w h i sp er ed t h r ou g h d r y l ip s.
` N o,' he r ep l ied a f t er a n a p p a r ent hesi t a t i o n, a n d she sh u d d er ed b r i ef ly f r o m r el i ef , onl y t o ha v e her
h ea r t si nk a ga i n a s he sa id , ` N ot y et .'
She sp ent a t ho r ou g h ly m i ser a b l e n i ght a t Ju st i n' s, l i st en i ng t o t h e b ed si d e clo ck a n d t he t r a f f i c no i ses
a nd f i n a l ly sleep i n g, t hou g h b a d ly .
She d ecl i n ed Ju st in 's o f f er t o see her hom e a nd ca l led a t a xi f i r st t h i n g i n t he m or n i ng . She need ed t o
g et sev er a l t hi n g s d one, m ost i m p or t a nt l y t o see t o n ew lock s b ei n g p u t i n her f r ont d oor . She h a t ed t o
i m a g i ne Da m ien 's r ea ct i on t o t h i s. She h a t ed t o i m a g i ne h i s r ea ct i on t o her d i sa p p ea r a nce l a st n i ght .
She ha t ed her sel f so m et i m es, b eca u se she w a s a l w a y s r u nn i ng a w a y f r om a n u np lea sa n t si t u a t i o n,
a l w a y s b ei ng su ch a cow a r d .
St i l l she r ea l l y h a d n o i nk l i ng a s t o w ha t t o exp ect a s she q u i et ly u n lo ck ed her a p a r t m ent d oo r ea r ly
t ha t m or n i ng . Fl i ck i ng a n i m p a t i ent ha n d t hr o u gh her h a ir w h i ch sent i t f low i n g a b o u t her shou l d er s i n
a g l i st en i n g, ey e- ca t chi ng sw oo sh, she t ir ed l y d r a g ged h er o v er n ig ht ca se in t o t h e l i v i ng r oom a nd t hen
st o p p ed a b r u p t l y . H er ey es w i d ened i n su r p r i se a s D a m i en's l on g f or m u ncu r led f r o m a r ecl i ni ng
p osi t i on on t he cou ch. Th ey su r v ey ed ea ch ot her w a r i l y , si l ent l y , a p p r a isin g l y , a n d sh e t oo k i n t he
d eep er l i nes a r ou n d hi s l ea n d a r k f a ce, t he b l u e- b l a ck sha d o w o f u nsh a v en b ea r d on h i s ja w , a n d t he
r u m p l ed g lo ssy ha i r w h ich w a s u su a l l y so n ea t a nd sl eek .
` Good m or n in g ,' she m u r m u r ed co m p osed l y , t hou g h i nsi d e her hea r t w a s b eg i n ni ng t o r a ce i n u n ev en,
sl u gg i n g p ou nd s.
` Is t h a t a l l y ou ha v e t o sa y f or y ou r sel f ?' he ca m e b a ck q u i et l y . For h a v i n g b een t a k en b y su r p r ise, h e
l ook ed r em a r k a b l y i n co nt r ol o f t he sit u a t i on , w it h one ey eb r o w a l r ea d y u p in t h a t sa r ca st ic sneer she
h a t ed so m u ch a nd lo ng, st r ong a r m s cr ossed o v er h i s chest .
` Wh a t el se w ou l d y ou ha v e m e sa y ?' she a sk ed si m p l y , p u t t i ng d ow n her p u r se a n d sw i ng i ng a r ou nd t o
h ea d f or t he k i t chen. ` I'm d y i ng f o r a cu p of co f f ee. Do y ou w a n t so m e?'
H u r t i ng ha n d s cl a m p ed d ow n on her sl end er shou ld er s a n d w h i r l ed her a r ou n d t o f a ce h i m a ga i n. N o w
t her e w a s no m ist a k i ng t he loo k o f r a g e o n h i s t i r ed , d r a w n f a ce, a nd sh e st a r ed u p a t h i m , f r i ght ened .
Ther e w a s so m et h i n g el se sh ow i ng i n h i s exp r essi on, b u t sh e d i d n 't d a r e t r y t o d ef i ne i t .
` Wh er e w er e y ou ?' he sn a r l ed , sh a k i n g h er ha r d . ` Wher e w er e y ou , d a m m i t ?' H e w a s b r u i sin g h er
shou l d er s a n d she st r u g g l ed t o get ou t o f h i s gr ip .
` I d o n 't r ea l l y t h i nk y ou w a nt t o k now t ha t ,' sh e ca m e b a ck sw i f t l y , t r y i ng f u t i l ely t o sho v e a w a y his
h a n d s. She cou l d n't , a n d she k new t ha t sh e w o u ld n't b e a b l e t o w hen sh e h a d st a r t ed . H e w a s t oo
st r ong f or her t o b est h i m p hy si ca l l y .
` Ju st i n!' The w or d ca m e ou t o f h i m a s i f he ha d a b a d t a st e i n h i s m ou t h . H e t hr ew h er f r om h i m a n d
b ega n t o p a ce t he l a r ge r oom l i k e a ca g ed a n i m a l . Th en he w h ir l ed sw i f t ly a n d b eg a n t o t hr ow w or d s
a t her a s i f he w er e st r i k i ng b l ow s, a nd she t u r ned h er hea d a s i f t o d ef l ect t h e p a in . ` Do y ou k n ow
w ha t I t h ou ght l a st n i g ht ? Do y ou w a n t t o k no w w ha t m y r ea son i n g w a s? I t hou ght t ha t y ou a n d
M a r sh p er ha p s w ent t o a n ot her p a r t y a nd y ou w er e d el a y i n g ou r d i scu ssi o n t ha t w a s t o h a v e o ccu r r ed
l a st ni ght . I t hou ght y ou w er e b ei ng sp i t ef u l , t r y i ng t o t est m y p a t ience, a n d t h en y ou d id n't com e.
Then I t hou g ht t ha t t her e m u st h a v e b een a n a ccid ent a n d y o u m i ght b e hu r t , so I ca l led ev er y
d a m n ed hosp it a l i n t h e t el ep ho ne b o ok b eca u se I w a s t ha t w or r i ed a b o u t y ou ! Wor r i ed , m y God !' H e
st a r ed a t h er f r om a cr oss t he r oo m , h is ey es b u r ni ng l ik e l i v e coa l s a n d h i s h a n d s clen chi ng a nd
u ncl enchi n g . ` Then,' h e w h i sp er ed , a n d i t w a s l i k e a scr ea m o f r a g e a n d p a i n , ` I ca l l ed t he p o l i ce.'

'Da m i en,' she m o a ned , ` p l ea se st op . I d i d n' t r ea l ise, I d i d n't ' So m et h i ng seem ed t o st op her t hr o a t t h en,
a nd she st a r ed a t h i m w i t h hu ge, w ou n d ed ey es. Ev er y t hi n g i n t h e w or l d seem ed t o b e f a l l i ng a p a r t a l l
a r ou n d h er a nd t h e cr a ziest p a r t a b o u t i t , she t ho u ght d a zed l y , w a s t ha t she h a d n't ev en ha d w a r n i n g
w hen she go t ou t o f b ed t ha t m or ni ng . Sh e w a nt ed t o t el l h i m t ha t she h a d not sl ep t w i t h Ju st i n b u t
m er el y sp ent t h e n i gh t in a sp a r e b ed r oom i n or d er t o get a w a y f r om h i m , b u t su d d en l y t he y ea r s o f
j ea l ou sy t h a t she h a d su f f er ed a nd t h e u ncer t a int i es a nd l onel i ness a l l w el led u p . She l ook ed a t h im
a nd sa i d not h in g .
` Fool t ha t I w a s,' h e h issed t hr o u gh h i s t eet h. ` I d i d n 't a ct u a l l y r ea l i se w ha t m u st ha v e h a p p en ed u nt i l
i t w a s a r ou nd t hr ee o r f o u r in t he m o r ni ng , a nd t hen I r ea l i sed t ha t y o u w o u ld n 't b e com i n g b a ck . A n d
t he r est o f t h a t sl eep l ess n i ght I t hou g ht o f y ou i n hi s a r m s. Jessi ca ,' he sa i d , a l m o st gent l y , a nd t he
sou nd m a d e her shu d d er v i o l ent ly , ` i t 's a g o od t h i n g I d i d n't k now w h er e Ma r sh l i v es. Ot her w i se, I d on 't
b el i ev e eit her o f y ou w ou l d b e a l i v e t o see t h is d a y .'
Som et h i ng a k i n t o ho p e w a s k i nd l ed i nsi d e her h ea r t a t t ha t , a n d she lo ok ed a t h i m , nea r l y b et r a y i ng
h er ea g er ness. H e w a s j ea l ou s! H e w a s a ct u a l ly j ea l ou s o f Ju st i n! H e r ea l ly ca r ed ! She t ook a ha st y st ep
f or w a r d , ha n d ou t st r et ched , on l y t o j er k t o a h a lt a t h i s next w o r d s.
H e ha d t u r n ed ca su a l l y t o t he d r i nk s ca b i net a nd p ou r ed h i m sel f a b r a n d y f r o m w h a t l ook ed l i k e a
n ea r l y em p t y ca r a f e. When h e t u r ned b a ck h i s sa t u r ni ne f a ce w or e a m ock i ng m a sk , a n d sh e k new
t ha t h e h a d r et r ea t ed i nt o t ha t p a r t o f h i m sel f w h i ch h e w ou l d l et no one el se ent er . ` Tel l m e, d a r l in g,'
h e d r a w l ed , d r i nk i ng i n so l ent ly , ` w a s he g ood ?'
She st a r ed a t hi m , t he ea g er ness d y in g o u t o f h er hea r t a n d h er h a nd f a l l in g l i f el essl y t o her si d e. She
st o od a s o ne st r ick en m or t a l l y , h i s cr u el t a u nt cou r si ng t hr ou gh her l i k e a b ol t o f el ect r icit y . Th en her
g old en ey es d a r k ened a s so m et h i ng seem ed t o go p i n g! in her h ea d , l i k e a r u b b er b a nd sn a p p i ng or a n
i r on b a r b r ea k i n g. W i t ho u t con sci ou s v ol it i o n h er l ef t h a n d sw ep t ou t , gr a sp ed a d el i ca t e p or cel a i n
a nt i q u e v a se a nd sh e f l exed her a r m sp a sm od i ca l l y . One p a r t o f her st ood b a ck a n d a d m i r ed w i t h a
cool o b ject iv i t y h er a ccu r a cy i n a i m a n d a l so h i s a m a zi n g a g i l i t y f or st ep p in g sw i f t l y o u t o f t he w a y .
The v a se sm a sh ed ha r m l essl y a ga i nst t he w a l l b eh i n d w her e he ha d st ood .
` Jessica !' he r a p p ed ou t , a n d she d id n't k n ow w h o w a s m or e su r p r ised a t w h a t she h a d d one, Da m ien
o r her sel f , b u t she w a s t o o i ncen sed t o r ea l l y ca r e.
Su d d en ly sick t o d ea t h o f t h e ca r ef u l p er f ect i on o f t he a p a r t m ent t ha t sh e h a d st r i v ed f or so l ong t o
m a k e b ea u t i f u l, she w h i r l ed i n a f r enzy t o gr a b a t or na m ent s, f l in gi n g t hem not on l y a t a st u n ned -
l ook i ng D a m i en b u t a t st er i le, m et i cu l ou sl y hu n g o i l p a i nt in g s a n d b l a nk w a ll sp a ce. H er lo n g l oo se r ed
h a ir f l o a t ed a r ou n d h er hea d l i k e a d em o nic a u r eo le, a f l ick er o f v ol ca n i c f ir e, a n d h er b od y sw u ng
f r o m si d e t o si d e, a s t en se a s a t i ght l y st r u n g l ong b o w .
H e w a s v er y q u i ck t o m ov e t o her , j er k i ng her a r m s d ow n t o h er si d es a n d sh a k i n g h er r o u ghl y , h a r d ,
a nd she scr ea m ed a t h i m f u r i ou sly , ` Get ou t ! Get ou t ! Get ou t !'
H i s ha n d cr a ck ed a ga i nst t he si d e o f her cheek i m p er i ou sl y . ` Sn a p ou t o f it , Jessi ca !' he or d er ed t er sely ,
` y ou 'r e b ei ng st u p i d ly hy st er i ca l .
H er h a nd f l a shed ou t , a s sw i f t a s h i s h a d b een a n d cr a ck ed a cr o ss hi s t a u t ch eek b o n e w it h enou gh
f or ce t o sna p h i s hea d b a ck , a n d h i s w or d s w er e b it t en o f f a b r u p t ly . H is ha r d t eet h ca m e t oget h er i n
a n a u d i b le sna p a nd he st a r ed d o w n a t h er w i t h ey es t h a t seem ed t o b e lea p i ng r i g ht ou t a t her w i t h
t he f o r ce o f h i s f u r y , h is h a n d s b a ck t o her shou ld er s, t i g ht en i n g u nt i l she f el t su r e t h a t her col la r b one
w ou l d b r ea k .
` Wh o,' sh e sp a t a t h i m , t he d el i ca t e cu r v e o f her m ou t h d i sa p p ea r i ng i nt o a sn a r l a n d ey es m o l t en h ot ,
` gi v es y ou t he r igh t t o st r i k e a t m e, Mr Kent ? Bef or e Go d , y ou h a v e go n e t oo f a r ! N ow , I sa i d get o u t ! If
I ha v e t o, I w i l l scr ea m a t t h e t op o f m y l u ngs, d a m n y ou !'
H i s l ef t ha n d m ov ed slow l y t o her neck a n d he r est ed i t t her e t hou g ht f u l l y f o r a m o m ent . ` I'v e n ev er
com e t h i s cl o se t o d o i ng y ou v i ol ence,' he w h i sp er ed a l m ost ca l m l y , ` b u t I r ea l l y t h i n k I co u l d no w .'

She d i d no t f eel a m o m ent ' s f ea r f or she w a s t oo f a r go n e i n her o w n r a ge f or t h a t . She d i d n't ev en
h a v e t i m e t o f eel t he hu r t t ha t she k new w ou l d co m e i n t h e si l ence o f her i so la t i on . A l l sh e cou l d f eel
w a s a w el l in g t i d e o f hu r t a nd f u r y a nd ev er y t hi ng t ha t h a d b een r ep r essed f o r m u ch t oo l on g, a n d t he
t i d e t hr ea t ened t o sw eep her a w a y w i t h i t s st r en g t h .
` Wh a t d o y ou w a nt f r o m m e?' she scr ea m ed a t h i m , b r ea k i n g a w a y f r om h i s gr ip a n d h u r t l i ng t o t h e
o t her si d e o f t h e r oo m . ` In t hr ee y ea r s, in t hr ee h el l i sh y ea r s, I st i l l d o n't k n ow w h a t i n God ' s na m e y ou
w a n t f r om m e? W hy d o y ou k eep com i n g b a ck , d a m n y o u ? W h y d o y ou t ea r m e a p a r t l ik e t h i s?' '
H e st oo d t a u t , w it h a r m s d o w n b y h i s sid es a n d b od y en t i r ely st i ll , a n d o nly h i s g l o w i n g b l a ck , em ot i o n-
f i l l ed ey es a nd j er k i n g j a w m u scl e p or t r a y ed t h a t he w a s st i l l a l i v e. ` You k no w w ha t I w a nt f r om y ou ,'
h e sa i d , a n d t he w a y h e sa i d it w a s a n i nsu l t . ` I'v e n ev er l i ed t o y o u , y ou k n ew t he scor e f r om t he
b eg i n ni ng . I nev er p r om i sed t o g iv e y ou m o r e t h a n I cou l d gi v e t o y o u !'
'Bu t y ou k eep d em a nd in g m or e f r o m m e! Do y ou t h in k I d o n't f eel i t ? W hy t he hel l shou l d y ou exp ect
f i d el it y f r om m e w hen y ou d on 't g iv e m e y ou r s? Why a r e y ou er ect in g a d ou b le st a n d a r d f or b ot h o f
o u r a ct io ns? W hy shou l d n't I sp en d t h e n ig ht a t Ju st in 's? I ha v e ev er y ea r t hl y r i ght ! N o st r i ngs, t ha t 's
h ow i t 's su p p osed t o b e. You w a nt m e w h en y ou w a nt m e a nd y ou w a l k a w a y a f t er w a r d s, w i t h nev er
a t hou g h t a s t o w ha t I f eel or w ha t I need !' She w a s sob b i ng f r om t he f o r ce o f t he t i d a l w a v e t h a t w a s
sw eep i n g her a w a y , a n d h er w or d s w er e b a r el y com i ng ou t l ou d enou gh f or h i m t o h ea r . H e st ood a s
t hou g h shock ed t o t he cor e, a n d t hen he w a sn't t her e a ny m or e a s her ey es f i l l ed w it h b l in d in g t ea r s.
N o t w a nt i ng h i m t o see her cr y in g , sh e t u r ned her b a ck a n d st a r ed si g ht l essl y ou t o f t he p a t i o g la ss
d oor s. ` I'v e need ed y ou t o b e h er e so m et i m es, ov er t he y ea r s w h en I'v e ha d no o ne t o hol d o n t o i n t he
m i d d l e o f t h e n ig h t , a nd y ou h a v en 't b een her e! W el l t h a t 's a l l f i ne a n d good , a nd I w a s m a na g i ng t o
h a n d l e m y o w n l i f e a l l r i ght , t ha nk y ou , a nd now y ou ha v e t h e a l m i g ht y n er v e t o com e her e, t a k e
a d v a nt a ge o f m y hosp i t a l it y - ha h! Ther e's a eu p h em i sm f or y ou !- a nd t el l m e b ed t i m e st o r i es a b o u t t h e
o t her w o m a n y ou i nt en d t o m a r r y ! Wha t t he hel l d o y ou w a nt t o d o , see
m e b l eed ?'
A n d t he w or l d sh a t t er ed i nt o a t hou sa n d t iny , gl it t er i ng, t i nk l i ng p i eces a s she st a r ed , hor r i f i ed , a t a
g r ow i n g st a i n o f r ed t h a t cr ep t d ow n h er cl enched ha n d . She ha d p u shed h er ha nd t hr ou gh t he g l a ss
d oor s.
` Oh, m y God !' W it h ju st a f ew st ep s, Da m i en w a s r i ght t her e, h is h a nd s r ea ch in g u r g ent l y f or h er s a n d
h e w a s p u l li ng a lon g w i ck ed - l ook i n g p i ece o f gl a ss f r o m her h a nd v er y ca r ef u l l y . Sh e ha d t i m e t o
n ot i ce t h a t h i s l o ng l ea n f i n ger s w er e sha k i n g a s m u ch a s her s seem ed t o b e, a nd t hen h e w a s p u t t in g a
g ent l e a r m a r ou nd her a n d u r g i n g her d o w n t he ha l l t o t he b a t hr o om . She w ent , a s t he t i d e o f r a ge
w a shed ov er her a n d w a s gone, lea v i n g h er i n a w ea k , sha k i n g a f t er m a t h. W hen D a m i en p u shed her
d ow n o n t he b a t hr o om st ool sh e com p l i ed d a zed l y , a n d w hen h e ca r ef u l l y w a shed o u t t he cu t i n h er
h a n d , sh e m a d e no p r o t est . H e a sk ed her a b r u p t l y , ` Wh er e's t h e f ir st a i d k i t ?'
'In t he h a l l clo set , she w h isp er ed nu m b l y . H e w ent o u t o f t h e r oom a n d w a s r i gh t b a ck w i t h t h e k it i n
h i s h a n d s. H e p u t a nt isep t ic o n t he cu t a n d si lent , d ia m o n d - b r i g ht t ea r s sl ip p ed ou t of her ey es t o sli d e
d ow n t he i v or y o f her cheek s. Th e t ea r s l o ok ed so st a r t li ng a g a i n st t h e d o l l - l i k e p er f ect i on o f h er sk i n
t ha t h e st o p p ed f o r a m o m ent a nd w a s v er y st i l l . She f el t h i s st i l l ness a nd lo ok ed u p i nv ol u nt a r i l y a nd
h e l oo k ed l i k e he w a s in su ch t or m ent , i n su ch r a ck i ng p a i n t h a t she st a r ed b a ck , go l d en ey es w i d e. H er
u n in ju r ed ha nd cr ep t o u t t o h i m a n d t hen f a lt er ed b a ck , a s she r em em b er ed t he t i m e b ef or e w h en she
h a d w a n t ed t o r ea ch o u t t o h i m , b u t t h i s t i m e h is b a ck w a sn 't t o her a n d h e sa w t he u nr est r a i n ed ,
u ncon t r o ll ed m ov em ent a nd ca u gh t h i s b r ea t h. Then hi s o w n h a n d w a s o u t , a ga i n st h er ch eek ,
r u b b i ng v er y t en d er ly t he p l a ce w her e h e h a d st r u ck her ea r l i er , w i p i n g a w a y t h e g l ea m i n g d r op s o f
w et ness. ` N o t ea r s,' h e m u r m u r ed lo w l y . ` Oh, p l ea se, Jessi e, no t ea r s! I ca n 't st a nd t o see y ou cr y , I ca n't
st a n d t h e si gh t o f t ho se t ea r s ... b u t t hen, t ha t 's j u st a not her sel f i sh p a r t of m e, isn't it , d a r l ing ?'

H e ga t her ed her u p i nt o h is st r ong , com f or t in g a r m s a nd r o ck ed her ca r ef u l l y b a ck a n d f or t h w hi l e she
l et f or t h t h e d elu ge o f t ea r s she h a d r ef u sed t o shed f or so l on g , a n d f o r t he f ir st t i m e i n t heir
r el a t i o nshi p , she cou l d n 't b e st r ong . She cu r l ed her u n i n j u r ed ha nd w ea k l y i nt o t h e f r ont o f h is sh ir t ,
b u r i ed her b r i g ht h ea d a ga i n st h i m a nd ju st cr i ed her hea r t ou t . She ha d cr u m p l ed a nd w a s show i ng
Da m i en a t ot a l ly n ew a n d u n su sp ect ed p a r t of her sel f , a co m p l et el y v u l n er a b le, hel p l ess si d e o f her
t ha t h e h a d n ev er b een p r i v i l eg ed t o see. She d i d n't ev en ca r e t ha t i t w a s he she w a s cr y i ng w i t h, f or
a l l she w a s a w a r e o f a nd need ed w a s so m eone st r ong a nd w a r m t o ho l d h er close. H e r a n a soot h i ng
h a n d ov er h er shu d d er i n g h ea d a n d p r essed so f t l ip s a g a i nst her cheek .
` Jessie,' he w h isp er ed a f t er a w h i le, ` p lea se, d a r l i n g, l et m e see y ou r h a n d a nd f i ni sh w r a p p in g i t u p . It
w i l l on l y t a k e a m i nu t e. Ju st sit b a ck . Ther e, y o u 'l l b e a l l r i g ht . I' l l j u st t a k e t he ga u ze a n d w r a p t h e
cot t on p a d i nt o p l a ce ... t her e. I' m a l l d one a n d now , y ou com e b a ck h er e, no, d on't p u l l a w a y ! You
com e r i g ht b a ck her e a n d l et m e hol d y ou cl ose a g a i n . Th a t 's i t . Tha t ' s i t , lo v e. H ey , n ow y ou d on 't
n eed t o cr y a ny m or e! Jessi ca , no w , st op t h a t ... oh , Jessie.' H e t i lt ed her hea d u p , t ook one l ook a t her
d r ow n i ng ey es, a n d w i t h a d eep g r oa n h i s hea d ca m e d ow n t o b l ock ou t t he b r i g ht l y g l a r i ng ov er hea d
b a t hr oom l i g ht a n d h i s l i p s w er e o n h er s. Sh e m oa ned , clo sed her ey es, a n d w i t h a su d d en f i er ce
shu d d er , she r ea ch ed u p t o w i nd her a r m s u r gent l y a r ou n d h i s n eck .

The k iss w a s i n it s ow n w a y a s v i o l ent a s t h eir ea r l i er cl a sh ha d b een . For Jessica t her e w a s a q u a l it y o f
d esp a ir a n d h op el essness i n her u r gen t , seek i n g h a n d s, a n d she sensed t h a t he w a s exp er i enci n g so m e
k in d o f em o t i o n t ha t w a s a k i n t o t h e f u r y h e h a d f el t f or her b ef o r e, b u t t h is em o t i on w a sn't a s
d est r u ct i v e a s t he ot h er ha d b een . H e w a sn 't t r y i n g t o hu r t h er now . H e w a s com m u nica t i n g hi s need
f or her w it h ev er y ea ger , p r essi ng ca r ess f r om hi s l a r ge w a r m h a nd s. She w a s o u t o f co nt r ol f r o m t h e
v er y b egin n i n g.
H e p i ck ed h er u p a nd ca r r i ed h er t o t h e b ed r o om t o d ep osit h er on t h e b ed , no t b ot her i n g t o b e g ent le
n ow a n d t hr u st i ng a si d e her clot hes w i t h a d i sr ega r d f or a ny t h in g b u t h i s o w n d esi r es, st r i p p i ng her
u nt i l she w a s na k ed . Then h e t ook h er a n d she n ea r l y cr ied o u t ho w v er y m u ch she l o v ed h i m , b u t
som et hi n g h el d h er b a ck a n d t r ou b l ed h er m i nd , ev en a s her b o d y shoo k w i t h t he p l ea su r e h e w a s
a b l e t o g iv e h er .
A f t er w a r d s, he a sk ed h er , st i l l b r ea t h i n g h a r d f r om t he u r gency a nd p a ssi on o f t h ei r lo v em a k i ng, ` D id
h e g iv e y ou a s m u ch p l ea su r e a s I d o, Jess? D i d y ou en j oy h i m l ik e y ou en j oy m e? A n sw er m e!'
She cl osed her ey es, f el t su ch d eep p a in a n d d esp a i r a t h i s w or d s, a nd l et none o f it sh ow on her f a ce.
N o t h i n g ha d cha n ged , not essent i a l ly . H e st i l l v i ew ed t h ei r ent i r e r el a t i o nsh ip f r om t h e sexu a l a sp ect ,
w her ea s she v i ew ed t hei r sexu a l i t y a s a m ea ns o f exp r essi ng her l ov e f or h i m . H e w a s j ea l ou s, su r e, b u t
t he j ea l ou sy w a s t ha t o f a ca ni ne hoa r d i n g a p r i zed b on e, no t o f w ou nd ed a f f ect i o n .
She f o r ced h er sel f t o w h i sp er q u i et ly , ` N o, Da m i en . Shh . Go t o sl eep .' A n d she f elt h i m f r ow n i n g a t her ,
b u t r ef u sed t o l ook a t h i m a n d p r esent ly h e d i d f a l l a sl eep , hea v y a r m t hr ow n ov er her w i t h a
p ossessi v en ess t h a t m a d e her w a nt t o cr y . H i s hea d w a s t hr ow n b a ck a nd t he m u scl es o f h i s neck w er e
i n st r o ng r el i ef . She r o l l ed her hea d ov er a nd lo ok ed a t t he p u l se b ea t i ng in t ha t st r o ng co l u m n a nd
w on d er ed a t t he l i f e t h a t sh e l ov ed so m u ch a n d t h a t cou ld g i v e her so m u ch p a i n .

Thou gh she w a s v er y t i r ed , she d id n 't f a l l a sleep . She la y i n b ed a n d w a t ched Da m ien b r ea t he, t he
h a ir r o u ghen ed chest r i si ng a n d f a l li ng r eg u l a r l y , ev en l y . She r a n h er ey es ov er t he l o ng l engt h o f h i m
t i m e a n d t i m e a g a i n, l ov i ng ly , sa d ly , a n d w ond er ed w her e she w ou l d f i n d t h e st r eng t h t o d o w ha t sh e
h a d t o d o .
She sl i p p ed ou t o f b ed la t er a n d m a d e som e cof f ee, ca r r y in g t he si l v er t r a y i nt o t he l iv i ng r oom a n d
set t l i n g o n t o t he cou ch . The excess o f em o t i on f r om b ot h l a st n i g ht a nd t h i s m or n ing ha d b een t oo
m u ch t o m a int a i n . A f eel i ng o f p a ssiv it y a nd ca l m w a shed ov er her , st em m i n g f r o m exha u st io n, a nd
t he v er y l a ck of f eel i n g w a s a com f or t t o h er .
A f t er a w h i l e a sou n d f r o m t he h a l l w a y m a d e her t u r n her hea d ca l m l y . N ot h in g cou l d b e g a i ned f r om
a ny m o r e t ea r s, a n d she ha d set her f a ce w i t h a r eso l v e t h a t ca m e f r o m t ha t em ot i o na l exha u st i on, so
h er f a ce w a s ca l m . Sh e w a s a b l e t o sm i le a t D a m i en gent l y . Sh e d id n 't w a n t t o hu r t h i m . Sh e h a d nev er
w a n t ed t o h u r t a n y one. Bu t sh e cou l d not a l l ow h er sel f t o b e hu r t a ny m o r e, eit her . ` Good m o r n i ng,'
she m u r m er ed , ` or shou l d I sa y , go od a f t er n oon? D i d y ou sl eep w el l ?'
'Yes.' H e w a s sh ir t l ess a n d h i s b l a ck h a i r w a s st i l l r u f f l ed f r om sl eep , b u t h i s d a r k ey es w er e a l er t a n d
b r i ght . H e loo k ed f r o m h er t o t he cha o s sca t t er ed a l l ov er t he l i v i n g- r oo m f l oo r a n d ha d t o l a u gh . H is
t eet h w er e v er y w h i t e. ` N ot h i n g seem s t o b ot h er y ou so m et i m es! I'v e nev er seen a ny t hi ng q u i t e l i k e it ,
y ou 'r e a s ca l m a n d a s ser ene a s a M ot her Su p er i or a n d t hen, w i t h ou t w a r n i n g o r p r em on it io n, y o u
b lo w u p li k e a n a t om ic b o m b a n d m a k e a sha m b l es o f t he w or l d a r ou nd y o u . Then y ou 'r e on ce a ga i n
t ha t m a d on na - l i k e p er f ect i on, a s u nem ot i o na l a s a sm o ot h m a r b le st a t u e.'
` Wh a t w ou l d y ou ha v e m e d o?' she a sk ed ca l m l y , sip p i n g h er cof f ee. ` Go i nt o hy st er i cs ev er y f i f t een
m i nu t es? N o, I on l y get u p set a t t he t hi ng s I consid er i m p or t a nt , n ot m u ch i n t h i s w or l d i s im p or t a n t , I
f ea r .'
` Su ch cy ni ci sm .' H e sa t b esid e h er a n d p ou r ed h i m sel f a cu p t o o. ` I w ish I'd t ho u g ht t o t el l y o u t o w a k e
m e u p . I ha d n't i nt en d ed t o f a l l a sl eep in t h e f i r st p l a ce- t oo m a ny t h in gs t o d o t od a y .' H e shot her a
q u ick , a ssessi n g l ook . ` Do y ou w a nt t o t a l k ?'
` N o.' She shook her hea d . It w o u ld n 't d o a ny good . She w a s co nv i nced o f t h a t , f or t h ey ha d h a shed
t hi ngs ou t lo ng a go, a n d she k new t h a t w hen D a m ien ha d a n i d ea i n h i s hea d , no a m ou nt o f
a r gu m en t w o u ld sh i f t h i m f r o m h i s d ecid ed cou r se. If h e w a s d et er m i ned t o m a r r y t he m ou se, t hen he
w ou l d d o i t , com e hel l or h i gh w a t er . N o , t h e b est t h i ng t o d o w ou l d b e t o m a k e u p her m i n d w ha t she
w a s go i n g t o d o a n d st i ck t o t h a t cou r se, n o m a t t er w h a t ha p p en ed or how d eep t h e p a i n w a s.
` A l l r i ght . W e w o n't f or n ow , b u t I r ea l l y t h i nk t h a t w e h a v e so m e t h i n gs w e n eed t o g et cl ea r b et w een
u s soo ner or l a t er . Per ha p s i f I h a v e t i m e w e ca n t a l k t om or r ow .' H e st u d i ed her f r o w n i n g l y f or a
m o m ent a s i f so m et h i ng a b ou t h er w a s p u zzl in g hi m .
She m er el y sm i l ed a n a ck now l ed g m en t t o h i s su ggest i o n w i t hou t m a k i ng a n a ct u a l p osit iv e r esp on se. If
she l et h i m t h in k t ha t , i t m i ght m a k e ev er y t hi n g ea si er l a t er o n.
She ca m e a n d p er ched o n t he b ed t o w a t ch h i m f i ni sh d r essi ng, a n d t h ey sp ok e o f l i ght m a t t er s
t oget her , m u nd a n e, com m o n p l a ce, ev er yd a y t h i ng s. H e a sk ed her i f she w a nt ed hel p cl ea n i ng u p t he
m ess i n t he l iv i ng r oom a n d she p ol i t el y r ep l i ed i n t he nega t i v e, sa y in g m t ha t she w ou l d h a v e so m eon e
com e in t o cl ea n u p . Sh e a sk ed h i m i f he w ou l d b e w or k in g l a t e o n b u si ness t h a t ev en i n g a n d h e
a nsw er ed w it h a y es a n d a si gh . Th e w ea t her w a s m en t i oned , he t oo k h is t i m e co m p l et i n g h i s t o i l et ,
a nd o nce ca m e ov er t o sit b esi d e her o n t h e b ed a n d p l a y w i t h her l on g f i n ger s.
She soo n f el t l ik e scr ea m in g, b u t D a m i en w a s f in a ll y w a l k i ng t o t he d oo r a nd p a u si n g t o lo ok d ow n a t
h er , a g ent l e, q u i zzi ca l l i ght i n h i s ey es a n d a sl i ght q u i r k o n hi s l ip s. One h a n d ca m e t o cu p her cheek
a nd t hen hi s l i p s w er e com i n g d ow n f or a t en d er , li ng er i ng k i ss. Then h e sa i d hu sk i l y , ` I l i k e i t w hen y ou
g et a ngr y . W e a l w a y s m a k e u p so sa t i sf a ct or il y . Do n't cha n ge, Jessi e. You 'r e so sp ecia l j u st t he w a y y ou
a r e.'
H e p u l l ed t he d o or cl osed b eh i n d , a n d she st a r ed u nseei ng l y a t t h e exp a n se o f w h i t e. W ha t w a s so
sp ecia l a b ou t t he w a y sh e w a s? She d i d n't t hi nk she w a s so v er y sp eci a l . She w a s a l l t i ed u p i n k not s
i n sid e, co n f u sed , hu r t i ng, a n d she d i d n't k n ow w ha t t o d o . W ha t w a s so t er r i f ic a b o u t t h a t ? Sh e w a s
conv i nced t h a t Da m i en w a s seei ng t he p l a st i c, p u b l ic i m a ge t h a t she p r oj ect ed a nd n ot h er r ea l sel f .
The p a ck a g in g l oo k ed n i ce, b u t it w a sn't r ea l . A n d t ha t w a s w hy she cou l d n't st a nd t o cont i n u e seei n g
h i m . It d i d n't seem t o m ea n a ny t h in g w hen h e d i d n 't r ea l l y a nd t r u ly ca r e. She f elt so b a r r en .
Ro u si n g her sel f , she w ent ov er t o t he p hon e a n d w a s soon sp ea k i ng t o t he k i nd l y l a d y w ho d i d t he
h ou sew or k a nd f ixed m ea ls f or h er . ` H el l o, M r s M a r r a zot t o, cou l d y ou p er h a p s co m e ov er som et i m e
t hi s a f t er noon a n d d o a b i t of p i ck i n g u p ? I'v e h a d a
sl ig h t p r o b lem i n t h e l iv i ng r oom a n d a f ew t h i ngs
w er e b r o k en ... no, ev er y t hi ng i s f i ne, t her e w a s j u st a n
a cci d en t . I' l l ha v e t h e w o r st o f i t p i ck ed u p , b u t t h e
v a cu u m cl ea ner need s t o b e r u n o v er t he ca r p et a nd I
n eed t o go ou t la t er . Th a n k s v er y m u ch, see y ou l a t er .'

She hesit a t ed a n d f el t gu i l t y f or t h e w a y she w a s
h a n d l i n g t h i n gs, a nd t h en, w i t h a n i m p a t i ent shr u g, she
ca l l ed t he m a n a gem ent o f t h e a p a r t m ent b u i l d i n g. A
p lea sa nt - sou nd i ng f em a le v o ice a nsw er ed , a n d Jessica
sa i d , ` I'v e ha d a b i t o f a n a cci d ent a n d h a v e b r o k en
t he g l a ss d oor s u p her e. ...' a n d she ga v e h er
a p a r t m ent n u m b er a nd n a m e. ` I' m m or e t ha n w i l l i ng
t o p a y f o r t he d a m a g es a n d l a b ou r n eed ed t o h a v e new g l a ss i n st a l l ed , i f y o u cou l d r ou n d u p so m eone
f r o m m a in t en a nce f or m e? Oh, w on d er f u l . A nd t h er e's o ne m o r e t h i ng .' She hesi t a t ed a nd t hen t ook
t he p l u n ge. ` I w a n t m y l ock s cha n ged r i g h t a w a y - I d on't ca r e how m u ch it cost s, a s l ong a s y o u h a v e
som eo ne u p b y t h i s ev en in g t o t a k e ca r e o f i t . A l l r i ght . Tha n k y ou v er y m u ch.'
A s she r ep l a ced t he r ecei v er , sh e su d d enl y f el t v er y t i r ed . W h a t w a s she goi ng t o d o w i t hou t Da m i en ?
H e so m et i m es f el t a s i f he w er e her second ha l f , her a lt er ego , her com p l et i on. She f el t a s i f a v i t a l
o r ga n w a s b ei n g r i p p ed ou t o f her a nd t h e p a i n o f a m p u t a t i on w a s so sev er e, i t w a s nea r l y cr ip p l i ng .
M a y b e she cou l d t a k e a na p la t er o n i n t h e d a y . Sh e w a n t ed q u i t e b a d ly t o go t o sl eep .
JESSICA p a u sed a t t he f r ont d o or o f t he Coef ield r esi d en ce, h er ha n d s sh a k i n g a n d h er m ou t h d r y . A
m y r i a d o f con f l ict i ng t h ou ght s a ssa i l ed her , b u t i n sp i t e o f t hem a l l, she r a i sed her h a nd - a lb eit
r el u ct a nt ly a n d r a n g t he d oor b el l, t ho u gh she k n ew t ha t sh e sh ou l d t u r n a n d r u n in t he ot h er d i r ect i o n
CHAPTER FOUR

a s f a st a s she cou ld .
The w a it w a s shor t . She ha d j u st enou g h t i m e t o t u r n a n d a d m i r e t he su n ny Su nd a y m or n i ng, q u it e
u n li k e t h a t r a iny d r ea r i n ess o f t w o d a y s a go. The f r ont d o or sw u n g op en q u i ck l y , a n d she t u r ned t o b e
conf r on t ed w i t h t h e si g ht o f M a r y , d r essed i n d r a b , f a d ed j ea n s a n d a b a d l y f i t t i ng b l o u se, her m ou sy
b r ow n h a i r i n w i sp s a r o u nd her f a ce. Bu t i n sp i t e o f her a w f u l a p p ea r a n ce, h er f a ce l it u p w i t h a n
i n no cent p lea su r e a t seei ng Jessica 's sl i m , i m m a cu l a t e f or m .
` M iss Ki ng !' she excl a i m ed sh y ly , b a ck in g u p i m m ed ia t el y a nd b eck on i n g f o r Jessi ca t o ent er . ` Thi s i s
q u it e a su r p r i se! Ca n I- er , hel p y ou w i t h a ny t hi ng? D i d y ou w a nt t o see m y m ot her ? I' m sor r y t o sa y
t ha t she's no t her e a t t h e m o m ent .'
` Oh, I d id n 't n ecessa r i ly com e t o see j u st y o u r m ot her ,' Jessica r ep l i ed , f eel i ng od d l y r el i ev ed t ha t M r s
Co ef i el d w a s not a t ho m e. She w o u ld r a t h er f a ce M a r y 's u n com p l ica t ed f r i end l i ness t h a n Mr s Coef i el d 's
v ei led ho st i l i t y a ny t i m e. ` I j u st t hou g ht t h a t I'd co m e ov er f o r a q u ick v isi t . If i t 's a b a d t i m e, t hen I ca n
l ea v e. I' m a f r a i d t ha t I t en d t o d o t h i n gs l i k e t h i s on i m p u l se.' A st u p i d o ne, she a d d ed si lent l y .
` Oh! O h, no, d o n't l ea v e!' M a r y a ssu r ed her ea ger l y , a l m ost f a l l i n g ov er her f eet in her ha st e t o b a ck u p
t o a d oor on her r i g ht . ` Pl ea se com e a n d h a v e a sea t . Wo u l d y o u , u m , l i k e so m e co f f ee, or som et h i ng
else? Tea ?'

'Co f f ee w ou l d b e w o n d er f u l , t h a nk y ou ,' Jessi ca p o l i t el y r ep l i ed , a n d sh e w a t ched w i t h so m e
a m u sem ent a s M a r y hu r r i ed ou t o f t he r oom t o in f or m t he cook of h er v i si t or . The y ou n ger g i r l w a s
b a ck so m e m i n u t es la t er , a n d she seem ed t o b e a ll t hu m b s a n d f eet a s sh e p er ched h er sel f a w k w a r d l y
i n a cha i r nea r Jessica 's. They t a l k ed l i g ht l y t o get her w h i le w a i t i n g f or t h e co f f ee, ea ch b u si l y su m m i ng
u p t he ot h er . Jessica sa w t he co v er t gl a nces a t her p er f ect l y t a i lo r ed t r ou ser su i t a nd m a t ch i n g su ed e
shoes. She ha d t o sm i l e a t t he w i d e- ey ed l ook M a r y shot a t h er g l ea m i n g ch i g non, w hich ga v e t h e
o b ser v er a n excel l ent v iew o f her h i gh cheek b on es a nd m a r v el lou s, st r a ngely t i nt ed ey es.
She f o u nd t ha t h er f ir st r el u ct a nt i m p r essi o n o f t he y ou n ger gi r l st il l h el d : M a r y w a s a n u n sop h i st i ca t ed ,
v u ln er a b le, l i k ea b l e p er son . A f t er a t i m e, w hen t h ey ha d b ecom e m or e a t ea se w i t h ea ch ot h er , M a r y
sa i d w i st f u ll y , ` You l ook l ov el y t od a y , M i ss Ki ng . Bu t t h en I'v e a l w a y s t hou g ht y ou w er e t he m ost
b ea u t i f u l w o m a n I'v e ev er seen . I w ish I w er e a s p r et t y a s y ou .'
` Wh y , t ha nk y ou ,' Jessi ca r ep l ied , i nd i f f er ent l y eno u gh. ` Bu t p l ea se ca l l m e Jessica . M iss Ki n g m a k es m e
f eel li k e a schoo l t ea cher ! Yo u k now , M a r y , b ea u t y i s on l y sk i n d eep . It 's w ha t i s i nsi d e t h a t m a t t er s.'
M a r y f u m b l ed w it h t he cor ner of her col l a r w it h a n u nh a p p y exp r essio n a nd Jessi ca w ond er ed w hy t hey
h a d su d d en l y g ot so d eep . Th i s w a s on l y su p p o sed t o b e a l i g ht soci a l ca l l . The ot her g i r l sa i d su d d en ly ,
` Oh, I k now t ha t 's t r u e, b u t som et i m es i t d o esn 't h elp ! It ' s v er y ea sy f or y ou t o sa y , t o o, si n ce y ou 'r e so
b ea u t i f u l a l r ea d y . I' m j u st a n u g l y d u ck l i n g.
H er hea d d a r t ed a r ou n d a nd she t oo k i n t h e st r a ngely l ost exp r essi o n o n M a r y 's l i t t le f a ce. It w a s l i k e
t he exp r essi on o n a st r a y p u p p y or k i t t en, a p p ea l i ng b eca u se o f i t s v er y v u l n er a b i l i t y , a nd so m et h i ng
p r om p t ed her t o sa y coo l l y , ` I d o n't b el iev e in u g l i ness, M a r y . I j u st d on 't b el i ev e t h a t u g l i ness i s
n ecessa r y or ev en r ea l, excep t m a y b e w her e ev i l i s co ncer ned . Bea u t y i s a n i l lu si o n, a n d so i s u g l i ness.
N o b od y i s u g l y , I d on't ca r e how o l d or w r i n k led o r ov er w ei ght t hey m a y b e. It ' s j u st t ha t som e p eop le
m a y ha v e t o w or k h a r d er a t con f or m i ng t o w h a t societ y t el l s u s i s "b ea u t y ". You , y es, ev en y ou , so
d on't lo ok a t m e t ha t w a y - y ou co u ld b e q u i t e- l ov el y i f y ou on l y set y ou r m i n d t o i t a nd d eci d ed t o b e
b ea u t i f u l ! A nd it 's so m et h i ng t ha t no a m o u nt o f cosm et i cs or b ea u t i f u l clot hes w i l l g i v e t o y o u . You 'v e
g ot t o b el i ev e t ha t y o u a r e b ea u t i f u l .'
M a r y l i st ened i nt ent ly , her f a ce i nd i ca t i n g t ha t she f ou n d Jessica 's w or d s v i t a l ly i m p or t a nt . ` Bu t how ?'
she a sk ed f o r l or n ly . ` I d on't k no w how t o g o a b o u t b ei n g b ea u t i f u l .'
Jessi ca r ega r d ed her f or a m o m ent a nd a sk ed her sel f si lent l y a g a i n, w ha t a m I d o i ng her e? W hy a m I
si t t in g her e? Th e a nsw er el u d ed her sel f f or t he t i m e b ein g, a n d she si g hed . ` W hy i s i t so i m p or t a nt ?'
M a r y 's ey es f el l . She f l u sh ed , a n u n ev en co l o u r a nd u na t t r a ct iv e, w i t h her sp ot t ed com p lexi on . ` I- it 's
j u st - d o y ou r em em b er Da m i en Ken t f r om t he p a r t y Fr i d a y n i gh t ?' It w a s a n ou t b u r st , t oo l ou d l y
sp ok en, a nd i t m a d e Jessica j u m p .
The p a i n t h a t hi t her w a s i nt en se a nd b r ief , l i k e a k n i f e st a b in t he st o m a ch t h a t w a s t h en m i r a cu l ou sly
h ea l ed . ` Yes,' she m a na g ed t o get o u t ca l m ly , ` I d o.'
` I- he's so h a n d so m e a n d sm a r t , a n d he a sk ed m e ou t , m e, o f a l l p eop l e!' H er v o ice w a s sm a l l,
m i ser a b l e, a s i f she w a nt ed t o cr a w l u n d er a r o ck a n d h i d e, a n d Jessi ca l ist ened t o t h a t b ew i l d er ed
o u t cr y, sy m p a t h i si ng m or e t ha n M a r y co u l d k no w . ` A n d I k now w hy , t o o. It ' s not b eca u se o f m e, b u t
b eca u se o f Da d d y 's b u si ness. H e w ou l d h a v e nev er lo ok ed a t m e ot h er w i se. N ob od y ev er d oes.'
Jessi ca k new t hi s t o b e t r u e, b u t t h e q u a li t y o f sel f t r u t h i n one so u t t er l y cr u shed b y i t , m a d e her w i nce
a s i f she ha d seen a n op en w ou n d . ` Di d he t el l y ou t h a t ?' sh e a sk ed , m ea n i ng t o sp ea k gen t l y b u t
secr et ly shock ed a t t h e h a r sh ness i n her ow n v oi ce.
M a r y sho ok her hea d sa d l y , ey es a v er t ed . The cof f ee ha d b een b r ou ght i n so m e t i m e a go , a nd t h ey
b ot h sip p ed a b sent l y f r om t hei r cu p s. Pa st r i es ha d b een ser v ed a l so a n d M a r y w a s st ea d i l y n i b b l i ng
t hr ou gh sev er a l, b u t Jessi ca p ol it el y r ef u sed . ` Bu t w hy el se w ou l d he a sk m e ou t ?' sh e a sk ed i n a sm a l l
v oice. ` I k no w t ha t he' s i nt er est ed in D a d d y 's b u si ness, a nd I k no w t ha t he w ou l d ha v e nev er t a k en m e
o u t ot her w i se. H e cou l d see a ny on e h e w a n t s- ev en y ou .' Th e p a i n a t t h i s a r t l ess st a t em ent w a s m u ch
w or se t ha n t h e f i r st a nd Jessica k new t h a t som et hi n g o d d h a d sho w ed o n h er f a ce. She w a s r el i ev ed t o
see t h a t M a r y w a s t oo w r a p p ed u p i n her o w n m i ser i es t o no t i ce. ` I w i sh I w er e b ea u t i f u l . I w i sh
som eb od y w o u ld a sk m e ou t f or m y sel f , n ot f or Da d d y 's m oney .'
` H ow o ld a r e y ou , M a r y ?' She f el t a r u sh o f m a t er na l f eel i n g f or t h i s y ou n g g ir l , a nd sh e shou ld n 't b e
f eel i ng it . Th e si t u a t io n w a s p ot ent i a l ly t oo d a nger ou s.
` Ei ght een.' Th e r ep l y w a s d u l l . ` A n d I'v e nev er ev en b een on a d a t e b ef or e Fr i d a y , i f y ou ca n ca l l t h a t a
d a t e.' Eig h t een . A nd D a m ien w a s t hi r t y - ei g ht , ol d en ou g h i n y ea r s a nd exp er i ence t o b e t h i s chi l d 's
f a t her . Jessica f el t v er y ol d b esi d e M a r y 's ext r em e y ou t h a nd n a i v et . A n d y et t h i s ch i l d ha d eno u g h
sense t o see t he w or l d w i t h a cr u el p er cep t i on . She w on d er ed w h a t Da m i en w ou l d sa y i f he w er e t o
f i n d ou t t h a t M a r y w a s u n d er no i l l u sio ns a b ou t h i m . Jessi ca r a t her su sp ect ed t ha t h e w ou l d b e
r el iev ed . Then he w ou l d n't ha v e t o exp l a i n h i s p osit io n t o her w hen h e p r op osed . Sh e k new t ha t he
w ou l d b e a s t r u t h f u l t o M a r y a s h e w a s w i t h her sel f , or f or t h a t m a t t er a n y w o m a n. Ly i n g w a s not a
p a r t of h is p h i losop hy .
She cou l d n't u n d er st a nd her i m p u lse, w h en she l a t er t ho u g ht ev er y t hi ng t h r ou g h, a nd she d i d n't sea r ch
h er sel f t o o h a r d . Per h a p s i t w a s t h a t sa d , sa d l ook i n t h e ot her g i r l's ey es t ha t p r om p t ed her . W h a t ev er
t he r ea so n, sh e w a s su d d en l y sp ea k i n g, a n d she cou ld n 't t a k e b a ck t he w or d s once t hey w er e u t t er ed ,
a nd she d i d n't r ea l ly t h i n k she w a nt ed t o.
` M a r y ,' she sa i d . The g i r l lo ok ed u p in q u i r i ng l y , a n d t he d r o op t o her sm a ll m o u t h i m p el l ed Jessi ca t o
sa y , ` W ou l d y ou r ea ly l ik e t o b e b ea u t i f u l ? Do y ou w a nt i t - enou g h t o w or k a t i t ho n est l y , w i t ho u t ju st
g iv i ng u p a n d q u i t t i n g w h enev er y ou f el t l i k e i t ?'
Som et h i ng sp a r k ed in t h ose b r ow n ey es a nd M a r y r ep l ied sw i f t l y , ` Oh, y es! Mo t her 's b een t r y i ng t o g et
m e t o go t o exer ci se cla sses, b u t I'v e b een t oo em b a r r a ssed t o go a l l b y m y sel f . Bu t I'd g i v e ju st a b ou t
a ny t h in g t o b e a t t r a ct i v e.'
` Well , d a r l i n g,' Jessica d r a w l ed , si t t i ng b a ck a n d lei su r ely cr ossi n g o ne el eg a nt l eg ov er t he ot her . ` Th en
w e'l l j u st h a v e t o t a k e t h e l i t t le d u ck a n d m a k e her i nt o a sw a n , w o n't w e?'
M a r y 's hea d j er k ed , h er ey es w i d ened , a nd t he ea ger ho p e on her f a ce m a d e Jessica a t once a m u sed
a nd y et sa d d en ed . Th e g ir l w a s so p a t het i c. Rea l ly , so m eo ne sho u ld ha v e t a k en h er i n h a n d lon g a go.
'A r e- a r e y ou sa y i n g w h a t I t h i n k y ou 'r e sa y i ng ?' she a sk ed , u ncer t a in ly .
` Tha t r a t her d ep end s o n w ha t y ou t h i nk I'm sa y in g,'

Jessi ca r et u r ned ser enel y , ca l m no w t ha t sh e ha d co m m i t t ed her sel f .
M a r y f l u shed a ga i n. 'I- I g u ess I t h ou g ht y o u sa i d t ha t y ou w ou l d h elp m e b eco m e m or e- m or e a t t r a ct -
i v e.'
` Don't l ook so em b a r r a ssed , y ou si ll y goose. Th a t 's exa ct l y w h a t I sa id . You 'v e got t o p r o m i se m e
som et hi n g,' Jessica w a r ned , sh a k i n g a st er n f i ng er a t M a r y , m a k i n g h er l a u gh. ` You p r om ise m e r ig ht
h er e a n d no w t ha t y ou w i l l d o ju st a s I sa y , a n d y ou w o n't chea t on y o u r d i et , or g i v e u p . Ot her w ise, i t
w on 't w o r k a n d I w o n't w a st e m y t i m e.'
` I'm go i n g on a d i et ?'
'You 'd b et t er b el iev e it , ho ney . A n d y ou 'r e st a r t i ng i t r i ght no w , so p u t d o w n t ha t h o r r ib l e D a n i sh
p a st r y . N ow I w a nt t o hea r a p r om i se ... g ood . Tel l m e w h a t y ou u su a l ly ea t i n a d a y .' Sh e l i st en ed t o
M a r y 's r a m b l i ng a nd ca r ef r ee r eci t a l w it h hor r or . N o w o n d er t he g i r l h a d a p r ob l em w i t h her
com p lexi o n! ` Wel l ! I ca n see t ha t w e ha v e o u r w or k cu t ou t f or u s!' she excl a i m ed . ` Ca n w e t a lk w i t h
y ou r co ok ? I t h i nk w e ha d b et t er p l a n ou t y o u r m ea l s b ef or e I g o .'
M a r y d u t i f u l l y ca l l ed i n t he coo k , a p l u m p , p l ea sa nt w om a n w h o l i st ened r esp ect f u l l y t o Jessica 's or d er s.
` Fi r st o f a l l ,' she sa i d b r i sk l y , ` I w a nt y ou t o go o n a t w ent y- f ou r hou r f a st . A r e y ou d o i n g a ny t h i n g
st r enu o u s t o m o r r o w ? Th a t 's a l l r i ght , t h en . Ta k e t h i n gs ea sy a nd d r in k o n ly w a t er , a s m u ch a s y ou l ik e.
W e'r e g oi n g t o cl ea n ou t y ou r sy st em . A f t er t he f a st , y ou a r e go i n g on su ch a st r ict d i et , y ou w on't b e
a b l e t o sn eeze w it hou t p er m i ssio n . W or r i ed ?'
Becom i n g w i l d l y exci t ed no w , i n sp i t e o f Jessi ca 's d et er m i n ed l y m a t t er - o f - f a ct v oi ce, Ma r y shook her
h ea d ent hu sia st i ca l l y .
` Good , t hou gh y ou r ea l l y sh ou l d b e. D i et s a r e ha r d w o r k u nt i l y ou r ef u se t he f a t t en i ng t h ing s i n
r est a u r a nt s b y f o r ce o f ha b i t . A n d o nce y o u st a r t a d i et , y ou u su a l l y a r e o n i t f or l i f e. N ow , I w a nt y o u
t o u nd er st a n d t h a t t h i s i s o n ly t he f i r st st ep . You ca n d i et a l l y o u w a nt a n d y ou w i l l st i l l ga i n b a ck a l l o f
t he w ei ght y o u l ose i f y ou b r ea k t he d i et w i t hou t exer ci sing . You r b od y ha s w h a t is ca ll ed a "set p o int "
a nd t he on l y w a y t ha t y ou ca n l ow er y ou r i nd i v id u a l set p o i nt i s b y exer cise. A n d w h en y ou lo w er y ou r
set p o int , y o u r b o d y t hen sa y s t h a t i t 's ok a y t o k eep t h a t ext r a w ei ght o f f , b eca u se y ou a r e u si n g y ou r
i nt a k e o f f ood m or e ef f icien t l y b y r a i si ng y o u r m et a b ol i sm r a t e. Bu t w e w o n't st a r t t he exer ci se u nt i l
w e get y ou u sed t o ea t in g h ea l t h i l y ... .' Jessi ca t h en t u r ned t o t h e coo k a n d t a lk ed w i t h her f or som e
t i m e, w or k i ng ou t a d i et f or M a r y t ha t con t a i n ed on l y cer t a i n f oo d s. She sm i l ed a t t h e y o u nger g ir l
a f t er a w h i l e a n d sa i d , ` W el l, t h a t 's t ha t . Yo u r coo k ca n f i gu r e ou t a t ho r ou g hl y n u t r i t io u s m ea l p l a n
f r o m t h e f ou r f ood gr ou p s, a nd I'l l l ea v e y ou m y n u m b er so t ha t y o u ca n ca l l m e in t w o w eek s.'
M a r y b l i nk ed . ` Is t ha t i t ?' she a sk ed i n co n f u si o n. ` You a r en't go i n g t o sho w m e a ny m a k e- u p
t ech ni q u es, or t a k e m e shop p i ng ?' She sou n d ed so d i sa p p oi nt ed t h a t Jessi ca ha d t o l a u gh .
` Da r l i ng, I ha v e t o h a v e so m et h i ng t o w or k f r o m b ef or e w e st a r t a l l t ha t . Fir st w e m u st cl ea r u p y ou r
com p lexi o n a nd sl i m d ow n y ou r f i g u r e. Th i s i s t he gr o u n d w or k ; y ou w on't ev en g et a ny w h er e nea r t h e
o t her t hi ng s i f y ou d o n't st a r t lea r n i ng hea l t hy ha b i t s. In t w o w eek s w e'r e go i ng t o st a r t t ha t exer ci se
p r ogr a m m e- y es, I' l l go w it h y ou a t f i r st - a n d t hen w e' l l p er h a p s t hi n k o f t he r est . A nd now ,' she sm i l ed
a nd st ood gr a cef u ll y , ` I'v e ov er st a y ed m y w elco m e. Ca l l m e w hen y ou b eg in t o lose w ei ght , lo v e, a n d
d on't st a r v e y ou r sel f , or b ecom e a f a n a t i c a b ou t a l l t h i s. A f t er a l l , h ea l t h i ness i s w ha t i t 's a l l a b ou t , a nd
f a na t i ci sm i s no t hea l t h y . Bu t d o n't sn a ck ! See y ou l a t er .'

On t he w a y b a ck t o her a p a r t m ent Jessi ca ha d t i m e t o sit b a ck a n d w ond er a t her i m p u l si v e o f f er . Sh e
w a s get t i ng her sel f i nt o so m et h i ng d eep er t ha n sh e h a d f i r st exp ect ed . She ha d seen t he b eg in ni n g s of
h er o w or sh i p in M a r y 's st a r - b r i g h t ey es, a n d she d i d n't w a nt t o h a v e a d o l escent a d or a t i on on her
h a n d s, on t o p o f ev er y t hin g el se. M a r y a p p ea r ed t o t h i n k t ha t Jessi ca w a s go in g t o w a v e a m a gi c
w a n d o v er her a nd t r a n sf or m her int o t ha t gr a cef u l sw a n, b u t i t d i d n't w or k t h a t w a y . She ha d t o d o
t he w or k her sel f . Jessi ca w a s j u st goi ng t o n u d g e her i n t he r i gh t d ir ect i on now a nd t h en . A nd , she
t hou g ht w h i m sica l ly , t a k e h er t o som eone w ho w ou l d sel l h er t h e r i g ht t y p e o f cl ot h es f or her f i gu r e.
H o w M a r y ha nd l ed her ot her p r ob l em w a s st r i ct ly b et w een her sel f a n d Da m i en . She w a s o n ly go i n g t o
h el p a l it t l e in t he sel f - est eem d ep a r t m ent . She a d m i t t ed t o her sel f q u it e ca nd i d l y , i n t h e p r i v a cy of her
ca r , t ha t she ho p ed i f M a r y b ega n t o f eel a nd l ook m o r e a t t r a ct iv e, sh e m i ght b eg i n t o d a t e b o y s m or e
h er ow n a ge a nd ev ent u a ll y f o r get a b ou t Da m i en . H o p ef u l l y sh e w o u l d l ea n i n t ha t d i r ect ion , si nce she
w a s u nd er n o i l lu si on s a b o u t h i m , b u t t her e w a s t he d a ng er t h a t w it h a m or e a t t r a ct i v e a p p ea r a n ce
she m i g ht b e a b l e t o i nt er est h i m i n h er sel f a n d not j u st her f a t h er 's b u si ness. W ho k n ow s? Jessi ca
shr u gged p h i l osop h i ca l l y a nd t hen w i nced . D a m ien j u st m a y f a l l i n lov e w i t h her . It w ou l d b e, she
t hou g ht cy n ica l ly , v er y conv eni ent .
It d i d n't r ea l ly m a t t er t o her a ny m or e, on e w a y or a not her . A n d t h a t w a s t h e b i ggest l i e i n hi st or y , she
a ck now l ed g ed r u ef u l ly , b eca u se i t w ou l d a l w a y s m a t t er t o h er . Ba ck a t her a p a r t m ent she col l a p sed
a s i f she ha d j u st r u n a m a r a t hon r a ce.
She su sp ect ed , t ho u gh, t ha t t he m a r a t hon w a s j u st b eg i nn i n g. L i f e w ou l d cer t a i nl y b e a st r u gg l e f or a
w h i l e. She hop ed t h a t Da m ien w o u ld n't f i nd ou t w ha t sh e w a s u p t o .
A q u i ck , cool sh o w er hel p ed t o r ef r esh her , a n d she w a s si t t i n g in f r ont o f t h e t el ev i si on w i t h a lem on
a nd so d a , t h i nk i ng a b o u t her n ext m od el l i n g a ssi gn m ent , w h en t he p ho ne r a n g. She j u m p ed a m i l e
h i gh a t t he sou n d , m or e f r om a p p r eh ensio n t h a n f r om b ein g st a r t l ed . Sh e k new j u st w h o i t w ou l d b e,
a nd w h en she p i ck ed u p t h e r ecei v er a n d sp ok e i nt o it , sh e f ou n d she w a sn 't w r ong.
` H el lo , Da m ien .' H er v oi ce w a s ca l m , ev en f la t , a nd cer t a i n ly no t i n d ica t i v e o f t he k i nd of t ension t ha t
w a s gr i p p i ng her i n t he st o m a ch a n d chu r ni ng u p t he l i q u id she ha d a lr ea d y d r u nk .
` H el lo , d a r l i n g,' he r ep l ied h u sk i l y . ` I t r i ed t o ca l l ea r l i er b u t y ou w er e ou t . D i d y ou h a v e a ni ce d a y ?'
'Fa i r . I j u st - shop p ed . A n d y o u ?'
'A b ou t t he sa m e. I'v e b een go i n g ov er r ep or t s. Sh a l l I b e o v er i n a b ou t a n ho u r , or w ou l d y ou li k e a
l i t t l e m or e t i m e?'
'Da m i en, I d o n't t h i nk y o u 'd b et t er com e o v er ,' she sa i d hesi t a nt ly , t h e w o r d s h a v i ng a t en d ency t o st i ck
i n her t hr oa t . Thi s w a s goi ng t o b e h a r d er t ha n sh e h a d f i r st su p p osed .
` Wo u ld l a t er b e b et t er t hen ?'
Fr om h is u ncon cer ned a t t i t u d e she r ea l i sed t h a t h e h a d n't f u l l y u n d er st ood w ha t sh e w a s t r y i ng t o sa y ,
a nd she sw a l l o w ed . It w a sn't su r p r i si ng, i n v i ew o f ho w she ha d a l w a y s w el co m ed h i m b ef o r e. It w ou l d
b e a shock , ev en t hou g h she k new t ha t he d i d n't l ov e her , f or h e h a d t o ca r e t o so m e ext ent t o st a y
w i t h her f or t hr ee y ea r s. Oh Go d , how cou l d she g iv e it u p ?
` N o, Da m i en,' sh e h ea r d her sel f sa y gent ly , a n d sh e w a nt ed t o t a k e i t b a ck so b a d l y t ha t t ea r s st a r t ed
u p i n her ey es, b u t a l l she d i d w a s t o l i st en t o t he u t t er si lence a t t h e ot h er end .
` Wh a t d o y ou m ea n?' he a sk ed q u i et ly , a t l a st , a nd she nea r ly g r oa n ed a lo u d . H e w ou l d m a k e her sa y
i t , p l a in ly a n d su ccint l y . Th a t w a s D a m ien .

` I d o n 't t h i nk w e shou ld see ea ch ot her a n y m or e.' I l ov e y ou . ` Thi s i s no lo n ger t he t y p e o f r el a t i onsh ip I
w a n t t o ha v e.' I w a nt y ou . ` I d on't w a nt t o see y ou a ga i n, D a m i en, I' m sor r y .' A n d a s t he w or d s
d r op p ed o u t o f her m ou t h , sh e sa i d t o her sel f si l en t l y , l i a r .
Qu i et . A n d t h en, ` Wh a t h a s b r ou gh t t h i s o n ?' H i s v oi ce sou n d ed q u eer , a s i f he ha d b een hi t in t he
a b d o m en, a n d she k new t ha t he w a s f eel i ng so m et h i n g a k i n t o t he p a i n t h a t she h a d b een f eel in g f or
t he p a st f ew d a y s. She w a s nea r l y ov er w h el m ed w i t h her sy m p a t hy f o r h i m a n d a lo v e so st r o ng t h a t it
b ega n t o u n d er m i n e h er d et er m i na t i on .
` I d o n 't w a n t t o t a lk a b o u t it r i ght no w , i f y ou d on't m i n d ,' she sa i d p o l i t ely . ` Sev er a l t hi ngs h a v e b een
b ot her i n g m e l a t el y , a nd l et 's j u st lea v e i t a t t h a t .' L i k e, I' m t ea r in g u p i nsi d e w i t h j ea l ou sy a nd p a in ,
a nd i t m a k es m e so f u l l of u nha p p i ness a n d a n ger t ha t I ca n't st a nd it . L i k e, I' m g o i n g t o f a l l a p a r t i f
w e k eep go i n g t h e w a y w e w er e go i ng .
` Li k e hel l , w e' l l lea v e it a t t ha t !' he r a sp ed ou t , f u r i ou sl y . ` You ca n't d o t h is, j u st l i k e t h a t , on t he
t el ep ho ne, y ou col d - b l ood ed ' H e b i t o f f w ha t he w a s a b ou t t o sa y . When h e sp ok e n ext , he w a s so
ca l m a nd u nem ot i o na l , i t ha d her p u zzl ed a n d w or r i ed . ` Ju st i n. You a r e go i ng t o m a r r y hi m .'
W ha t w a s he t h i nk i ng no w ? she a sk ed si lent l y . W ha t w a s he f eel i ng ? ` N o, I' m not m a r r y i ng Ju st i n a n d ,
cont r a r y t o p op u l a r b el i ef , I a m not sl eep i ng w it h h i m . It h a s not h i n g t o d o w i t h h i m , i t ' s st r ict l y
b et w een y ou a n d m e.' A n d a t h i r d , i nn ocen t , u n su sp ect i ng p a r t y . ` Th i n gs j u st ha v en't b een r i g ht .'

` You seem ed t o d er iv e a gr ea t d ea l o f sa t i sf a ct i on ou t of "t h i n gs" t he o t h er d a y ,' he d r a w led sa r ca s-
t i ca l ly , a nd she w i nced f r om t he b i t e o f i t . ` W hy t he su d d en cha n ge o f hea r t , d a r l in g ? D i d y o u f i n d
som eo ne r icher ?'
She su ck ed i n h er b r ea t h , a u d i b l y , h a r sh ly , a n d f o u n d h er sel f sha k i n g so v io len t l y f r om t he hu r t a nd t he
a nger a t su ch a n o b v io u sl y f a lse i m p l ica t i o n t h a t sh e ha d b een a f t er h is m on ey , t ha t she cou ld ha r d l y
p u t t he p h one r ecei v er b a ck on t h e h ook . A n d a s she set t l ed it gent l y b a ck i nt o p la ce, she cou ld st i l l
h ea r h i s v oi ce ca l l i ng u r g ent ly t o h er . A f ew t ea r s f el l t o sp la sh on her t ig ht l y cl enched h a n d s, a n d she
w i p ed t hem a w a y a n gr i l y , p r essi ng her l i p s t og et h er a s ha r d a s she cou l d . She w ou l d n ot cr y , she w ou l d
n ot cr y , she w ou l d n ot . She co u l d not . Co n t r ol i t , cont r ol it , Jessi ca , she t ol d h er sel f , a n d a not h er t ea r f ell .
W hy d i d he h a v e t o t ea r h er u p so?
The p hon e shr i l led , t he sou n d a n gr y a n d l o u d t o h er . H er hea d j er k ed t o i t i n v ol u nt a r i ly a n d she d i d n't
w a n t t o a nsw er , d i d n't w a nt t o t a lk t o h i m , d i d n't w a nt t o t h i nk or h u r t ... a n d sh e f ou n d h er sel f
h old i ng t he p hon e r eceiv er i n o ne w h it e- k nu ck l ed h a n d . Sh e sl o w ly r a i sed i t t o her ea r a n d l ist ened .
` - d o n't ha n g u p , Jessi ca ! A r e y o u t her e?' he a sk ed a b r u p t l y , a n d she hesi t a t ed b ef or e a nsw er i ng .
` Yes.' A b a r e t h r ea d o f a sou nd .
` I'm sor r y . It w a s a f ou l a n d i na ccu r a t e t hi ng t o sa y t o y ou ,' h e cont in u ed , h i s l i q u i d v oice not a s sm oot h
a s u su a l .
` Yes.'
` Look , Jessica , su r ely y o u ca n see t h a t t hi s i s not t h e w a y t o set t l e t h i ng s! I' m co m i ng ov er r i ght n ow a n d
w e'l l t a lk t h i s ou t p r op er ly ,' he st a t ed a r r oga nt ly . H i s v o i ce w a s co ol a nd d eci si v e, b u t sh e cou l d st i l l f eel
t he t h r ea d o f a n ger r u n ni ng t hr ou gh it a n d she f elt su d d en l y col d .
` You w on't b e a b l e t o g et in . I'v e cha ng ed m y lo ck s,' she sa i d clea r l y , a nd b eg a n t o q u a k e.

Si l ence, a n d t hen a n exp lo si on f r om t he ot her en d . ` I' m co m i ng u p ,' he sa i d g r i m l y , ` a nd y o u 'r e go i n g t o
o p en t ha t d oor a n d t a l k t o m e, d a m n it ! Thi s i s no w a y t o en d a r el a t i o nshi p ! Be y ou r a ge, f or God 's
sa k e! Or h a d y ou a ct u a l l y cont em p la t ed a "d ea r Jo hn " l et t er a s a n a lt er na t i v e?'
The h a t ef u l sneer m a d e her b r ea k d o w n a nd b ef or e she cou l d ca t ch her sel f , a t i ny so b shu d d er ed
t hr ou gh her chest , a nd she cl a p p ed a h a n d t o her m ou t h, h or r i f i ed . Ev er y t hi n g i nsi d e her seem ed t o b e
cr u m b l i n g, l i k e a h ou se m a d e ou t o f p l a y i ng ca r d s t h a t b eg i n s t o f a l l . ` N o, Da m ien ,' she w h i sp er ed . ` I
w a n t ed t o t el l y ou i n p er son, b u t w a s a f r a i d t h a t y ou w ou l d t r y t o m a k e m e cha nge m y m i nd a n d
t ea r m e a p a r t i nsi d e, li k e y ou a r e no w a n d t h a t 's w hy I ca n 't see y ou a n y m or e, d a r l i ng, I- i t 's j u st t o o- '
` Ju st w ha t d o y ou t h i nk y ou 'r e d o i ng t o m e?' he a sk ed
r a gged ly . ` I'v e nev er k now n y o u t o b e t h i s w a y . W ha t 's
g ot i nt o y ou , f o r God 's sa k e? W hy w on't y o u
t a l k t o m e?'
'N o st r i n gs, Da m i en!' she m o a ned , f eel i ng t r a p p ed b y
t he u r gency i n hi s v o i ce. W h y w a s he p u t t i ng her
t hr ou gh a l l t h is? Wa s hi s p r i d e t h a t in ju r ed b y her
r ej ect i on? Sh e cou l d see t ha t : Da m i en w a s gr ea t a t
l ov i ng a n d t hen l ea v i ng . The w om a n p r ob a b ly nev er
g ot t h e cha nce. ` Tha t 's w h a t y ou m a d e m e p r om i se t o
y ou a l on g t i m e a go ! N o st r i ngs. Well , I n eed t o w a l k
a w a y r i ght no w , b eca u se I'm f i n d i ng t h er e i sn't
a ny t h in g t o r ea l l y m a k e m e w a nt t o st a y . I- d o n't
com e. It w o n't d o a ny go o d . I d a r en 't l et y ou i n.
Go od b y e, D a m ien . I ho p e y ou 'r e ha p p y .'
She hu n g u p on h i m f or t h e second t i m e a nd w ent i nt o her b ed r oom . Ther e, u na b l e t o hol d i n her
d eso la t io n a n d d ev a st a t i o n, she cr ied h er ey es ou t . The p ho ne r a n g a t d i f f er en t i nt er v a l s, l on g a n d
i n sist ent , u nt i l she f i n a l l y u np l u gged i t . It w a s a l on g a n d l onely n i g ht .
Fin d in g h er sel f f eel i ng a so r t o f d esp er a t i o n now t ha t she h a d com m i t t ed h er sel f f ina l l y , she t o ld t he
secr et a r y a t t he m o d el l i ng a g ency t ha t sh e w a s no l o nger a ccep t i ng ca l l s f r om M r Kent . A n d she l iv ed
l i k e a zom b i e f or t he next sev er a l d a y s, st a gg er i ng t o w or k a nd f a l l in g i n a h ea p a t h om e i n t he
ev eni ngs. Sh e l ost w ei ght she cou l d n't a f f o r d t o l ose, ci r cl es a p p ea r ed u n d er h er ey es, a n d t he sp a r k l e i n
t hem d ied a w a y . They loo k ed a st r a ng e, d u l l y el l ow , a s i f t he u n i q u e go l d en col ou r h a d co m e f r o m t h e
f i r e i n h er sp ir it r a t h er t ha n t h e a ct u a l sha d e in t he ir i s, a n d t hey co nt a i ned a st r a n g el y b r i t t l e g l a ssi ness,

l i k e m a r b l es.
Fin a ll y her p h ot og r a p h er , Jef f , t o l d her i n d i sgu st t h a t she ha d b et t er h a v e a v a ca t i o n b ef o r e she lost a l l
o f her l ook s. Sh e chu ck l ed d r y l y a t f ir st a n d t hen l ook ed a t h i m o d d l y . The id ea w a s a g ood one.
Per ha p s sh e n eed ed t o g et ou t o f t ow n f or a w h i l e, p u t a li t t l e d i st a n ce b et w een her sel f a n d t he
m em or y o f Da m ien, a n d ga in a l i t t l e p er sp ect i v e.

Tha t w a s j u st a b ou t t h e t i m e t ha t M a r y ca l led h er .

She l i st en ed p a t i ent ly t o Ma r y 's en t hu si a st i c sp eech, r ef lect i ng m i l d l y a t how t he d i et i n g a n d w eigh t lo ss
seem ed t o h a v e g i v en her a new v i v a cit y . She ha d t ot a l ly f or g ot t en a b ou t her p r om i se t o t h e ot h er g ir l
a nd f el t a si nk i n g hea r t a t t he t ho u g ht o f seei n g h er a ga i n . N o ne o f t h is show ed i n her v o ice, t hou gh , a s
she ca l m l y congr a t u la t ed M a r y on her h a r d w or k a n d su gg est ed v a r io u s t i m es w hen she w ou l d b e f r ee
t o go exer ci sing . They w or k ed ou t a f ew m u t u a l ly sa t i sf y i ng t im es a n d t hen Jessi ca p r o m i sed t h a t she
w ou l d ch eck ou t t he r a t es o f her f a v ou r i t e hea lt h sp a .

She d i d so f a i t h f u l l y , ca l l i ng Ma r y b a ck , a n d a r r a ng ed t o m eet her a t t h e sp a t h e v er y next d a y . She
a r r i v ed a t t he d esi gna t ed t i m e, r elu ct a nt l y , a nd w a s genu i nel y a m a zed a t t he g i r l t ha t b ou nced d ow n
t he f r ont si d ew a l k t o gr eet h er . ` Ma r y ! Go od hea v ens, lo si ng j u st a f ew p o u n d s d i d w o nd er s f o r y ou ! I
a m v er y , v er y i m p r essed !' sh e excl a i m ed w i t h a f r a nk a st on i sh m ent . The w ei g ht l oss w a s v er y a p p a r ent
a nd h er co m p l exio n h a d clea r ed d r a m a t i ca l l y w it h h er hea lt h i er d i et .
M a r y 's l it t l e f a ce b ea m ed . ` I w a s so hop i n g y ou 'd not i ce! Do esn't i t l ook f a b u lo u s? On l y , none o f m y
clo t hes f i t a ny m or e.' Sh e t u r ned o n her h eel f or Jessi ca a nd t h r ew her a r m s a r o u n d h er sel f exci t ed ly .
Jessi ca ha d t o sm i l e a t t ha t , a g enu i ne sm i l e, a nd h er f i r st in d a y s. ` A n d y ou r cl ot h es a r e g oi n g t o lo ok
ev en m or e st r a n ge i n a f ew w eek s w hen y ou r m u scles st a r t t o t on e u p a n d g iv e y ou a n ev en d i f f er ent
sha p e. You 'r e g o in g t o lea r n ev er y t hi ng f r om p ost u r e t o p u sh u p s, m y gi r l ! Co m e on, o r w e' l l b e l a t e.'
A n d so t hey exer ci sed r egu l a r ly , f o u r t i m es a w eek t o get her f or a f ew w eek s. D a m i en h a d not t r i ed t o
cont a ct Jessi ca i n t ha t t im e, a n d she d i d n't k n ow w het her t o b e h a p p y a b ou t t h a t or sa d . Sh e on l y
k new t ha t sh e w a s l onel i er now t h a n she h a d ev er b een b ef o r e. She on l y k new t h a t she y ea r n ed f or
Da m i en' s ha r d a r m s a r ou nd her a nd h i s sw eet , g ent l e sm i l e m or e t ha n she h a d ev er b ef or e, a n d
n ot hi ng seem ed t o b e b r i g ht or cheer f u l .
She t oo k o ne lo ok a t Ma r y 's hea lt hy , g lo w i ng f a ce a f t er one exer cise sessi on a nd d eci d ed t ha t it w a s
t i m e f or t h e y ou nger g i r l t o get a t r ea t f or her ha r d w or k . Tr u e t o her w or d , Ma r y ha d not let o ne
p a st r y , chocol a t e, or sip o f l i q u or p a st her l i p s, a n d i t sho w ed . Sh e w a s d ef in i t el y l ook i ng b et t er ,
sl i m m er , m o r e v i t a l , a n d she co n f essed t o a n i n cr ea se i n ener gy .

` H ow w o u l d y o u l i k e a ' r ew a r d ?' Jessi ca a sk ed her , a sl i g ht sm i l e t u g g i ng a t her p a l e, b ea u t i f u l l y
f or m ed l i p s. She w a s w ea r in g a m i n i m u m of m a k e- u p si nce t hey ha d j u st f i n ished sh ow er in g , a n d she
h a d t o a d m it t h a t t h e exer cisin g h a d b een goo d f or her t oo .
` Li k e w ha t ?' M a r y a sk ed i nt er est ed l y , sk ip p in g a l it t l e f r om sheer exu b er a n ce. Jessi ca ha d t o sm i l e a t
t he p sy cho lo g y t h a t she p r iv a t el y t er m ed t he "b ea u t i f y i ng p r ocess". So m et h i ng m a g i ca l ha p p en ed t o a
w om a n w hen sh e w ent t hr o u gh t h i s. Jessica t hou g ht t h a t i t m u st b e b eca u se o f t h e w or k a nd t he t i m e
i nv o lv ed , t oget her w i t h t he f i gu r e cha ng in g v i sib l y f or t h e b et t er . O ne a ct u a l ly b eg a n t o t h i nk a n d f eel
t ha t she r ea l l y w a s a t t r a ct iv e, a nd t h a t w a s o n e o f t he secr et s t o b ea u t y , a ct u a l ly b el i ev i ng t h a t you
ca n b e b ea u t i f u l . Bo n e st r u ct u r e, ey e m a k e- u p a n d p r et t y cl ot h es w er e m er el y p r op s.
` Li k e a n ice b i g , lu sciou s p i ece o f choco la t e ca k e w i t h i ce cr ea m ?' she su ggest ed . M a r y l oo k ed st a r t led .
` A r e y o u a ct u a l l y goi ng t o ha v e som et hi n g f a t t en in g ?' t he y ou nger g i r l a sk ed in cr ed u l ou sl y . ` I d o n't
t hi nk I'v e ev er seen y ou ea t a ny t h in g r ich .' Jessi ca sho ok her hea d w i t h a sleep y lo ok t ha t h i d w a t ch i n g
ey es.
` Bu t y o u cou l d h a v e so m et h i ng i f y ou w a nt ed ,' sh e r ep l i ed . ` A f t er a l l , y ou 'v e w or k ed h a r d . Yo u d eser v e
a t r ea t .'
` Oh, no y o u d on't ! You a r en 't g et t i n g m e of f m y d iet Ju st w h en I'v e st a r t ed t o d o so w el l !' M a r y sa i d
f l a t l y . H er ey es p op p ed ou t w h en Jessica b u r st i n t o a p lea sed l a u gh t er .
'M y d ea r ,' sh e d r a w l ed , ` I' m q u it e p r o u d o f y ou , r ea l l y . Yo u 'v e now gr a d u a t ed t o t h e t h ir d st ep . Feel
l i k e goi ng sh op p i n g a n d g et t i ng a f ew m a k e- u p l esson s a n d a h a i r cu t ?'
'Rea l l y ?' M a r y sou n d ed so w o nd er f u l l y p l ea sed , a s i f Jessi ca w a s a su r r o ga t e Sa nt a Cl a u s com e t o t h is
ea r t h sp eci f i ca l l y f or h er v er y ow n Chr i st m a s. ` Is it a lr ea d y t i m e f o r t ha t ? I'd l ov e i t ! W hen d o w e d o i t ?'
'I h a v e a n a p p oi nt m ent f o r y ou w it h a n o l d f r i end o f m i ne i n a b ou t a ha l f a n hou r . I check ed w it h y ou r
m ot her t o m a k e su r e y ou w er e f r ee. Is t ha t a l l r i ght ?'
'Oh, b oy , i t cer t a i n ly i s!' A n d so t he a f t er noo n w a s sp en t , w i t h Jessi ca w hi r l i n g M a r y in t o d i f f er ent sh op s
f or a w h i l e t o em er ge l a t er w it h b ot h o f t h eir a r m s l a d en w it h p a ck a g es. Jessica w a t ched w h i l e her
f r i en d Cl a r isse w or k ed exp er t ly o n M a r y 's l i t t l e f a ce, a n d a f t er t w o hou r s t hey l ef t w i t h M a r y
t r a n sf or m ed i nt o a v i v a ciou s, a t t r a ct i v e g i r l clu t ch i n g a sm a l l b a g w hi ch held a f or t u ne i n co sm et ics.
Then Jessica t ook her t o her o w n h a ir d r esser a nd a f t er a n exp er t cu t a n d a h en na t r ea t m ent t o b r i ng
o u t t h e r ed h i gh l ig ht s i n h er m ou sy b r o w n h a ir , M a r y l ook ed li k e a t ot a l ly d i f f er ent p er son.
Jessi ca ha d o b t a i ned M r s Co ef i el d 's u nr eser v ed a p p r o v a l f or t h e sho p p i n g sp r ee. M r s Coef i el d ha d
b a r el y r ecogn ised her o w n d a u ght er a f t er g oin g t o a f ew exer ci se sessi ons, a n d her in i t ia l host i l i t y h a d
l ong si n ce ev a p or a t ed t o a gr a t i f i ed a n d p l ea sed w a r m t h t ow a r d s Jessica . W it h a n u nl i m i t ed b u d g et
Jessi ca no w t o ok M a r y a r o u nd t o t he b ou t i q u es a nd v a r io u s sh op s t ha t she f r eq u en t ed her sel f , p i ck i ng
o u t a l a v ish w a r d r ob e f o r her , w a t ch i ng t h e y o u nger g ir l's ey es gr ow r ou n d w i t h ho r r o r a nd d el i g ht a t
t he a m ou nt o f m o ney sp ent . She i nci d en t a l ly sp ent q u it e a lot o n h er sel f , t oo , a s cer t a i n ou t f it s ca u g ht
h er ey e. She p i ck ed ou t cl ot hes t h a t cor r ect ed M a r y 's shor t er legs a nd w a i st , w it h sl i g ht l y p a d d ed ,
sev er el y t a i l or ed shou ld er s, t o h i d e her sl op i n g sh ou l d er s. N o a m ou nt o f p o st u r e p r a ct i ce h a d en a b led
M a r y t o ov er co m e t ha t p hy si ca l d ef ect . Sh e st u ck t o p l a i n er st y l es f or M a r y , not w a nt i n g t o ov er w helm
h er w it h t oo m a ny f r i l l s a n d f l ou nces, a n d st i l l b ein g r a t h er con v ent io n a l , sensi n g t h a t t h e y ou nger gi r l
d i d not h a v e t h e f l a ir o r t he d esi r e t o ca r r y o f f t he m or e d r a m a t ic ou t f it s a s she d i d .

M a r y ga v e her a n i m p u l si v e h u g w hen she p a r k ed her ca r i n f r o nt o f t he Coef i eld r esi d en ce, t he b a ck
sea t l a d en d ow n w i t h a l l sor t s o f b oxes a n d b a gs b ea r i ng exp en siv e d esi gn er na m es. A f t er t h e f i r st
su r p r i sed m om ent , Jessi ca hu gg ed h er b a ck . Sh e h a d b eco m e v er y f o n d o f M a r y a n d r ea l ly d i d w i sh her
t he b est . A nd a lt hou g h i t hu r t her v er y m u ch t o a d m it i t , she h op ed t h a t i f Da m i en a nd M a r y w er e t o
b e m a r r i ed t h en she w a nt ed ev er y t hi ng t o w or k ou t b et w een t he t w o .
She w ent i n f or a b r ief d r i nk a nd t o l i st en w it h a t o l er a nt a m u sem ent a s M a r y b u b b l ed ov er w i t h
exci t em ent , t el l in g her m ot her a l l a b ou t t h e v a r i ou s shop s a n d w ha t t hey h a d b ou gh t , w ha t t hey ha d
n ea r l y b ou g ht , a n d w h a t t h ey w ou l d n ev er h a v e b ou gh t . The ot h er t w o w o m en cou l d h a r d l y g et a
w or d in ed gew i se i n t he u nb r ok en st r ea m o f p a t t er . H er sp eech w a s l i t t er ed w it h, ` Jessi ca sa y s t h i s', or
` Jessica t h i nk s t ha t ', a n d Mr s Coef i el d sha r ed a lon g u nd er st a nd i ng lo ok w i t h Jessi ca , sen d i n g h er a
w a r m , gr a t ef u l sm i l e. She op t ed , i n st ea d o f t he co ck t a il p r o f f er ed , f or her u su a l lem o n a n d so d a , a nd
M a r y f o l l ow ed her l ea d , con f essi ng t ha t sh e w a s f i na l l y b eg i n n i n g t o l ik e t he t a st e o f lem on i n her d r in k
a nd she w ou l d p r ob a b l y n ev er d r i nk a ny t hi ng else. Jessi ca f in a ll y esca p ed a f t er m a n y i n v it a t ion s t o
su p p er a n d a d m on i t i on s t o ca l l a n d v i sit . Sh e d r ov e a w a y t hou gh t f u l l y , h er go ld en ey es r egr et f u l . Sh e
d i d n 't r ea l l y exp ect t o see M a r y or t he r est of t he Coef i el d s a ga i n, a nd it w a s a p i t y si nce she h a d b egu n
t o l i k e t h em a l l v er y m u ch .

She p u l led i nt o h er p a r k i ng sp a ce, i n a n u nd er gr o u nd ga r a g e esp eci a l ly f or t he t en a nt s i n her
a p a r t m ent b u i l d i n g, a n d she got ou t o f her ca r a u t om a t i ca l l y , h er m in d b u sy a n d her a ir d i st r a ct ed .
She r ea ched i nt o t he b a ck o f t he ca r t o get her v a r i ou s p u r cha ses a nd , l o a d ed d o w n, t u r ned t o m a k e
h er w a y t o t he el ev a t or .
` Ca n I help y ou w i t h a ny t h i n g?' The d eep , sm oot h , a t t r a ct i v e m a scu l in e v oice w a s so f a m i l i a r , a nd h a d
b een f a m i l ia r f or t hr ee y ea r s. She r ecogni sed t h a t v oi ce i m m ed i a t ely a n d h er hea r t st a r t ed t o t h u m p
a f t er one shock ed m o m en t , h er ey es gl a zi ng a n d ea r s r o a r i n g. Sh e d i d n ot ev en h a v e t o t u r n a r ou nd t o
k now w h o st o od b eh i nd her , a n d so w hen she d i d m ov e i t w a s t o t u r n lei su r el y , i n a n ef f o r t t o h id e h er
shock .
'Da m i en . W ha t a r e y ou d o i ng her e?' sh e a sk ed q u iet l y . H er ey es w er e exp r essi v el y l ea p i n g in t o l i f e
a ga i n w i t h t he f i er ce p l ea su r e a n d i nt en se p a i n o f seei ng h i m , a ct u a l ly , p hy si ca l l y seei ng h i m a f t er cl ose
t o f i v e w eek s. A l i f et i m e in j u st f i v e w eek s.
H e l ook ed g ood , t oo good . H is b la ck h a i r sho ne i n a w a y sh e seem ed t o h a v e nea r l y f or got t en a n d h i s
ey es w er e so a l i v e, so d a r k a n d exp r essiv el y v iv i d . H i s l ea n ch eek s w er e sl i ght ly m or e h ol l ow u n d er t he
cheek b ones, m a k i ng h i s j a w m or e p r om i n ent . On e o f h i s ey eb r ow s w a s cock ed a t her a nd t h a t , t oo,
w a s so f a m i l ia r t h a t , w i t h hea r t a ch i n g a n d ey es st i ng i n g, she t u r n ed a w a y f r om h i m t o w a l k
d et er m in ed l y t ow a r d s t h e elev a t o r d oor s.
` Don't I ev en g et a n , "It 's g ood t o see y ou a ga i n, h ow 'r e y ou d o i n g" gr eet i ng ?' h e a sk ed h er q u izzi ca l ly ,
f a l l i n g i nt o st ep b esi d e her .
` Go a w a y .' Sh e i ncr ea sed her p a ce, hop el essl y , a n d su r e enou gh, he sm o ot h ly i ncr ea sed h i s p a ce r ig h t
a lon g w i t h her .

` Fu nn y . I cou l d h a v e sw or n t ha t j u st now y ou w er e ha p p y t o see m e. H ow ev er , lo ok s ca n b e d ecei v i ng,
I k now . Co m e no w , Jessica , d on 't y ou k no w m e w el l enou gh t o r ea l i se t h a t w h en I h a v e m y hea r t set on
som et hi n g, I u su a l l y a t t a i n i t ? Yo u k n ew t ha t I w a s d et er m i ned t o t a lk t o y ou - su r ely y ou d i d n 't d elu d e
y ou r sel f i nt o t h i nk i ng t ha t y ou r p u n y ef f or t s t o k eep m e a w a y w ou l d r ea l l y w or k , d i d y ou ?' H e m i ght
h a v e b een t a l k i n g a b ou t t h e new p a in t job on t he b a sem ent co ncr et e w a l l s, so l i t t l e exp r essi on w a s i n
h i s v oi ce, a nd y et he ha d her t r em b l i n g i n r ea ct i on, a v i ol ent , t el lt a le r esp onse.
H a d t h a t r ea l ly b een w h a t sh e h a d exp ect ed ? H a d she r ea l ly exp ect ed h i m t o com e a f t er her a nd
d em a n d a con f r on t a t ion ? She w a s p r of o u nd l y sho ck ed , not on ly a t Da m i en' s su d d en a p p ea r a nce b u t
a t t he w a y she ha d su ccessf u l ly d elu d ed h er sel f . She ha d n't r ea l l y w a nt ed t o b r ea k t hi ngs o f f w i t h h i m .
She ha d exp ect ed h i m t o b e m or e p er si st ent , t o cha se a f t er h er , t o f o l l ow her a nd f or ce a con f r on t a t io n .
Tha t w a s w hy she ha d f elt so let d ow n in t he la st f ew w eek s, so d ep r essed a n d u n sa t i sf i ed . She ha d
d eci d ed t h a t he r ea l l y d i d n't ca r e, o ne w a y or t he o t her , b eca u se he ha d n't p r essed t he issu e.
N o w he w a s her e, loo k i n g su d d en l y g r i m a nd f a l l i ng si l ent , h i s ey es t r a i n ed on her , h a w k l ik e,
p er cep t i v e. She t u r ned h er f a ce a w a y , t o gi v e her sel f t i m e t o cont r ol her exp r essio n , a nd sh e p u sh ed t he
elev a t o r b u t t on w it h on e a w k w a r d f i nger , j u gg l i n g h er p a ck a ges. Sh e d i d n 't k now h ow t o t r ea t t h is
p ot en t i a l ly exp lo si v e m a n a nd t ou chy si t u a t i on . She f elt so i n a d eq u a t e f or t h i s con f r ont a t i o n . She k ep t
h er f a ce t u r ned a w a y , a n d w a s si l ent a l so.
The d oor s op en ed a nd she st ep p ed q u i ck l y i n , not l ook i ng a t Da m i en, a nd sh e sa i d , ` It 's n o u se. I'm no t
i nv i t i ng y ou i n, so y ou m i ght a s w el l g o n o w .'

H e d i d n't b ot her t o r ep ly a n d j u st ca l m l y st ep p ed i nt o t he el ev a t or , t he im p l a ca b l e st er n loo k o n h is
st r ongl y f ea t u r ed f a ce co u p led w i t h t he d a r k b eg i n n i n gs of a sm o u l d er i n g f l a m e i n hi s ey es m a k i ng her
k nees sh a k e.
` I w ou l d h a v e b een her e sooner , excep t t h a t I'v e b een t o Eu r op e o n b u sin ess,' he sa i d f ina ll y ,
conv er sa t i ona l l y , t he so u n d o f h i s v oi ce i n t he sm a ll con f i nes o f t he cu b icle m a k i ng her j u m p .
` Ev er yt hi ng go a l l r i ght ?' she a sk ed l i g ht l y . Sh e h a d t o m o i st en h er l ip s a nd w i t h a q u i ck sid ew a y s
g la n ce f o u nd h i m w a t ch i n g t he m ov em en t of her t ong u e int ent ly , w it h a st r a n ge h u nger , a n d t hi s
f r i ght ened h er so t h a t she cr ied ou t su d d enl y , ` Wh y d on't y ou go a w a y a nd l ea v e m e a l one?'
A m u scle l ea p t i n h i s j a w a n d h i s ey es sh u t t er ed ov er , m a sk in g t ha t u n gu a r d ed loo k , a n d he sn a p p ed
g r i m l y , ` Beca u se I' m no t sa t i sf i ed w i t h t h e i n a d eq u a t e conv er sa t i on w e ha d a f ew w eek s a go, a n d I
w a n t so m e exp la n a t i on s, Jessi ca . I'v e b eg u n t o t h i nk t h a t y ou h a v en't b een n ea r l y a s op en w i t h m e a s
I'd or i g i na l ly t hou gh t , a n d i t 's n ot a p lea sa n t f eel i ng .'
` Ther e's no t h i n g t o sa y ,' she sa i d col d l y , m a r chi ng ou t o f t he el ev a t or a s t he d o or s o p ened a nd t r y i ng t o
i g no r e D a m ien a s he r elen t l essl y f o l l o w ed . ` I d o n 't w a n t t o see y ou a ny m or e. Per io d . En d o f
exp l a na t io n, en d o f st or y , ha v e a n i ce l i f e a nd get o u t o f m y w a y , w i l l y ou ?'
'W hy ha v e y o u b een seei ng Ma r y Coef i eld ?' Tha t q u i et v o ice w a s w or se t ha n a n y t h i ng Ju st i n , i n a l l o f
h i s y ea r s a s a la w y er , ha d p r o d u ced . She h a t ed i t ; she h a t ed h i m ; she b ega n t o f eel a n gr y a t t h i s p ost
m or t em on t heir r el a t i o n sh i p a nd , secr et ly , ha d t o a d m i t t h a t p a r t o f t h e a n ger sh e w a s f eel i n g w a s
st em m i ng f r om f eel i ng f r i gh t en ed a n d t hr ea t ened . H e w a s int ent o n u nd er m i ni n g a l l o f her good
i nt ent ion s a nd d i g g i ng in t o f eel in g s t ha t sh e w a s t r y ing her b est t o su p p r ess. Ju st seei n g h i m a g a i n w a s
m a k i n g her sha k e f r o m a t er r i b l e w ea k ness. W h a t w ou l d she d o i f he t r i ed t o m a k e l o v e t o her , w r a p
t hose w a r m a r m s a r ou nd her , p r ess h is l i p s on her s a n d ca r ess her b od y w i t h t h ose w ond er f u l ha n d s?
She f elt a w a v e o f l o n g in g a n d l ov e so st r on g t ha t i t m a d e her d i zzy , a nd w i t h t he d i zzi ness ca m e a
w a v e o f p u r e r a ge. She f el t so ou t o f con t r o l w i t h h i m , so hel p l ess a nd v u l ner a b l e. Sh e ha d t o p r ev ent
t ha t , t o k eep f r om su ccu m b i ng t o her f eel i n gs a nd y ea r n i ng s a t a l l cost .

She su d d en l y sa g ged ju st ou t si d e her a p a r t m ent , a s i f f r o m r esig na t i on , a n d t hen ha nd ed a l l o f her
p a ck a g es t o D a m i en . ` Wo u l d y o u , p l ea se?' she a sk ed a b sent l y . H i s ha nd s ca m e ou t a u t om a t i ca l l y f or
t hem a nd , b r a i n w o r k i n g f u r i ou sly , sh e f u m b l ed i n h er p u r se f or h er d oo r k ey a nd f i t t ed i t i nt o t he lock
ca su a ll y a nd slow l y , l i m b s sha k in g. Sh e' d o n ly ha v e a sp l it second , t he el em ent o f su r p r i se, a nd sh e'd
h a v e t o gr a sp a t t he cha nce b o l d l y , o t her w i se a l l w ou l d b e lo st . ` I g u ess I j u st t hou g h t sh e w ou l d b e
h a p p i er w i t h a b et t er sel f - i m a g e, p oor t hi ng. ...' A s t h e l ock ca m e f r ee a nd sh e t u r n ed t he h a n d l e, sh e
p u shed t he d oor op en a s i f t o ent er it no r m a l ly a n d t h en l ea p ed i n si d e t o sl a m t he d oor shu t a g a i n
h a r d , ha nd s sna k i ng t o t he b o l t a n d ch a i n on t he in si d e o f t h e d oor , hea r i n g Da m i en d r op t he
p a ck a g es i m m ed i a t el y t o lea p a t t he d o or a l so a n d l ea n a g a i n st i t f u r io u sl y . H i s ha r d b od y sla m m ed
a ga i n st t he f i r m oa k a nd she hea r d sw ea r i n g. H e ha d b een j u st t ha t one sp l i t second t oo la t e. She' d got
t he b o l t ho m e i n t i m e.
` Da m n y ou , d a m n y o u , d a m n y ou !' h e sho u t ed , a nd b r ou ght h i s hea v y f i st d ow n on t he d oo r , a n d
st u r d y t hou g h i t w a s, it shu d d er ed w i t h t h e im p a ct . ` Jessica , so h el p m e, i f y ou d on't op en t h i s d oor ,
w hen I f i na l l y g et a ho l d o f y ou , I sw ea r I'm goi ng t o w r i ng y ou r ob st i na t e neck !' It w a s a f u l l- t hr o a t ed
r oa r o f r a g e a n d sh e a u t om a t i ca l l y st ep p ed b a ck a s i f t ha t w o u ld g i v e her m or e p r o t ect i on.
` N o, I ca n't !' she sh ou t ed b a ck . ` I j u st ca n't see y ou , Da m i en ! Do n't y ou k n ow ho w y o u t ea r m e u p
i n sid e? W i l l y ou j u st go a w a y ? I d o n't w a nt t h is j u st lea v e m y p a ck a g es b y t h e d oor a nd get ou t o f
h er e, w i l l y ou ?'
'By Go d , I w on't !' h e sw or e, p ou n d i n g t he d oor in f r u st r a t i on. She t h ou ght t ha t she cou ld a ct u a l l y see i t
v ib r a t e, a n d b ega n t o w o nd er i f i t w ou l d hol d . Th e d oor ha d seem ed so so l id i n t he p a st , b u t i t d i d n't
seem h a l f a s d ep end a b le now . ` If I ha v e t o , I' l l b r ea k t h i s d oo r d ow n ! Do y ou hea r m e? N ow o p en u p ,
Jessi ca , b ef or e I g et so f u r iou s I d o so m et h i ng I m ig ht r egr et !'
` N o! Go a w a y !' She b a ck ed a w a y ev en f u r t her , her sop h i st i ca t io n f a l l i ng a w a y l ik e a d i sca r d ed cl oa k
a nd i n i t s p l a ce l ea v i ng a f r i g ht ened , u ncer t a in g i r l .
She hea r d h i m sw ea r i n g st ea d i ly , v i ci ou sly , on t h e ot her si d e o f t he d oor a n d t hen t her e w a s a su d d en
b r i ef si l ence t ha t h a d her w on d er i ng . H er p u zzlem ent d i d n't la st f or l on g, t hou g h, f o r secon d s l a t er
t her e w a s a n a l m i ght y cr a sh a s so m et h in g sol id a nd p ow er f u l hi t her o a k en f r ont d oo r . She a ct u a l l y d i d
see i t sh u d d er t h i s t i m e. Si l ence a g a i n , a n d t h en a not her , l ou d er , ha r d er cr a sh, a n d t he w a l ls shoo k . She
h a d t i m e t o t h i nk t ha t p er h a p s she r ea l l y sho u l d go a n d op en u p t he d oo r b ef or e he t or e u p t he
a p a r t m ent b u i l d i n g, a n d t h en a t h i r d cr a sh sp l in t er ed t he d o or 's l ock a n d Da m i en su r ged i nt o t he
l i v i ng r oom l i k e a p ow er f u l t i d a l w a v e o r a m a r a u d i ng a ni m a l. H e cer t a i nl y l oo k ed a n i m a l i st i c, b est ia l ,
w i t h ha ir f a l l i n g on h i s b r ow a n d w i d e chest hea v i ng, a n d h is l i p s d r a w n b a ck t o show w h it e, gr i t t ed
t eet h. H e p u l l ed t o a st op , f a ce gr i m , a n d j u st l ook ed a t h er .
Jessi ca sw a l l ow ed once, a n d t hen q u i et ly b a ck ed a w a y f r o m hi m u nt i l she w a s a cr oss t he r oo m , f eel i ng
a f ea r t ha t she h a d nev er exp ect ed t o a sso cia t e w it h t he o ne she l ov ed .

SOMETH IN G f l i t t ed a cr o ss D a m i en's f a ce a t her r et r ea t ,
som e q u i ck , f l eet in g exp r essio n . It ha d l oo k ed l ik e p a i n ,
b u t sh e cou l d n't b e su r e. She w a s t oo b u sy t r y i ng t o
d eci d e w ha t he w ou l d d o next t o r ea l l y p a y a t t en t i on
t o h i s cha n g i n g exp r essi o ns. She w a s t oo b u sy t r y in g t o
o v er com e her ow n f ea r s. Deci d i n g t ha t , i n Ju st i n' s w or d s,
o f f ence w a s a go od d ef ence, sh e p u t her h a nd s t o h er
h ip s a nd d em a n d ed , ` N ow y ou 'v e d o ne it , a n d a l l I'v e
g ot t o sa y is t h a t y ou 'd b et t er b u y m e a not her d oor ,
Da m i en Kent !'
` Don't y ou ev er , ev er lock t ha t d oor a ga i n st m e a g a i n,'
h e com m a nd ed f u r i ou sly , a n d sh e n od d ed , a l l o f her
b r a v a d o sl ip p i ng a w a y l i k e t r i ck l i n g w a t er . H e w ou l d
o nly b r ea k i t d ow n a ga i n, l i k e h e h a d t h is o ne, - a n d she d i d n't r ea l l y w a nt t o h a v e b r o k en d oor s a l l
o v er t he p la ce. She cou ld not f or ce Da m ien o u t o f h er a p a r t m ent a n d o u t o f her l i f e a nd she w a s
b eg i n ni ng t o r ea l i se t ha t . Sh e cou l d on l y p er su a d e h i m t ha t i t w a s b est f or h i m t o l ea v e. H e l ook ed a t
h er f r ow n i n gl y , a s i f a t a loss, a n d t hen he a sk ed h er , ` W hy d i d y ou d o i t ? You k now how t ha t i n f u r i a t es
m e.'
She ju st l ook ed a t h i m . ` I d on 't k no w . I g u ess I d i d n't p a r t i cu l a r l y ca r e w het her y o u g ot a ngr y or not . I
j u st d i d n't w a nt y ou t o co m e i n si d e.'
H er ca n d i d r ep ly h a d m a d e h i m a n gr y a g a i n , sh e cou l d t el l . H is l i p s t i gh t en ed a n d h i s ey es d a r k ened .
H e l ook ed f ed u p a nd t h en h e exp el l ed a sho r t , gu st y b r ea t h a n d r el a xed . ` Fa ir enou gh . I a sk f or t he
t r u t h so I ca n't co m p l a i n w h en I get i t . I j u st d on't u n d er st a nd y ou a n y m or e, Jess. W h a t ha p p en ed ?
W hy d i d y ou cha nge t ow a r d s m e so su d d en ly , f r o m on e d a y t o t h e n ext ? You m u st r ea l i se t ha t y ou
CHAPTER FIVE
ca n't cu t o f f a r el a t i on sh i p t ha t ha s la st ed f or t hr ee y ea r s w it hou t som e k i n d o f exp la n a t i on. Da m m i t ,
w i l l y ou t a lk t o m e?'

She sm i led , a n a n gr y , h el p less, m ir t hl ess sm i l e a n d shoo k h er hea d . ` I d on't k no w w ha t t o sa y t o y ou .
W ha t d o y ou w a nt t o hea r f r o m m e? Th a t I'v e f ou n d a new lo v er , or t ha t I j u st got t i r ed o f y o u ? Do
y ou w a nt m e t o w r a p ev er y t hi n g u p in a ni ce, nea t l i t t l e p a ck a ge so t ha t y o u ca n f i l e ev er y t h in g a w a y
i n o l d r ecor d s? W ha t d i f f er ence d o es i t m a k e w h a t m y m ot iv es a r e f or b r ea k i ng u p ou r r el a t i o n shi p ?
A n d w hy shou l d I f eel ob l i ga t ed t o exp la i n a ny t h i ng i n a no- st r i n gs a gr eem ent ? I w a nt ed o u t , so I got
o u t . A n d b y t he w a y , a r e y ou go i ng t o b u y m e a new d oor ?'
H i s hea d j er k ed a nd h i s ey es n a r r ow ed w a r ni n gl y on her . ` Fo r get t he d oo r f or a m i n u t e, w i ll y ou ? Look ,
t he r ea so n w hy I w a nt t o k no w w ha t t he hel l i s goi ng on i s b eca u se I w a nt t o k no w i f i t 's m e, so m et h i ng
I sho u ld cha nge a b o u t m y sel f . D i d I d o so m et h i ng? W ha t d i d y ou exp ect f r om m e?'
Un a cco u nt a b ly , su r p r ised b y t h e st r a nge n o t e of p l ea d i n g i n h i s v oi ce, Jessica sa t d o w n su d d en ly a n d
st a r ed u p a t h i m w i t h hu g e q u est i o ni ng ey es. H e st ood w i t h b ot h ha n d s r est i ng on h i s sl i m hi p s, h i s
shou l d er s t hr ow n b a ck i n a na t u r a l l y st r a i ght p o st u r e, leg s p l a nt ed w el l a p a r t . H e w ou l d h a v e l ook ed
a s i f he w er e a n a ncient l a nd o w ner su r v ey i n g a l l he ow ned , excep t f or t ha t exp r essio n o n h i s f a ce. H e
w or e a p u zzled f r ow n a n d no t on l y loo k ed u ncer t a i n b u t v er y f r u st r a t ed a lso .
H o w co u ld she exp l a i n t o h i m w i t hou t g i v i n g a w a y h er t r u e f eel ing s? H o w cou l d sh e com m u n ica t e t o
h i m ju st w ha t she w a s st r u gg l i n g t o d ea l w i t h ? ` I t h i nk I need a d r i nk ,' she m u t t er ed , no t lo ok i ng a t hi m
a s she q u ick ly r ose t o go a n d p ou r h er sel f a st i f f w h i sk y . The l iq u i d b u r ned her t hr oa t b u t w a r m t h
i m m ed i a t el y b eg a n t o seep t hr ou gho u t h er m i d r i f f i n a so ot hi ng w a y . ` I go t t h i s l i q u or ca b in et i n
Vi r g in ia , d id I t el l y o u ? It 's a n a nt i q u e f r o m ei ght eent h- cent u r y En g la n d . Lov ely w oo d .... So y o u 'v e seen
M a r y r ecent ly , ha v e y ou ? H ow d o y ou t h i n k sh e' s lo ok i ng ?'
H e f r ow ned a ga i n, i m p a t i ent ly , a n d t h en hi s b r ow cl ea r ed a nd he ca m e ov er t o l ea n a ga i n st t h e
cou ch , one f oot k i ck ed ov er t he ot her a s h e consid er ed her q u est i o n. ` I sa w her y est er d a y , a nd y es, t he
cha ng e i n her i s a st ou nd i ng . She's l ik e a n ot her g i r l a l t oget her . W hy d id y o u d o i t , Jess? Tha t 's su r el y
g oin g a b i t t oo f a r i nt o t he r ea l m o f t he f a n t a st i c, i sn't it , t he m i st r ess h el p in g t h e w i f e t o b e?'
H er ey es d u l l ed ; w ha t ev er she ha d f elt w h en he ha d cr a shed i nt o her a p a r t m en t , i t h a d cer t a i n ly
sp a r k ed u p t he exp r essio n i n h er ey es u n t i l t h a t l a st st a t em ent o f h i s. ` I' m not y ou r m i st r ess,' sh e sa i d
q u iet l y . ` A nd I d i d i t b eca u se she need ed a f r iend , som eo ne w ho l ik ed her f or w ha t sh e w a s a n d w a s
w i l l i n g t o help her t o b ecom e w h a t she w a s ca p a b l e o f b eing . O f a l l t h e p eop l e t ha t chi ld i s su r r ou nd ed
w i t h , no one seem ed t o b e a b l e t o see how she w a s n eed i n g j u st a l it t l e su p p or t a n d a g ood p u sh i n t h e
r i ght d i r ect i on. I d i d i t b eca u se she w a s f eel i n g m i ser a b le t h a t y o u w er e seein g h er a n d y ou w er en't
d oi n g i t f or her sa k e b u t f or h er f a t her 's a sset s, a nd she need ed so m e r ea ssu r a nce t ha t she w a s a n
a t t r a ct i v e p er son i n her o w n r i g ht . I d id i t b eca u se I h a d n o i nt ent io n o f seei n g y ou w h en y ou got
m a r r i ed , a n d I w a nt ed y ou b ot h t o b e a s ha p p y a s p ossi b le t og et her , i f t h a t d oesn't so u nd t er r i b l y
conceit ed o f m e.'
` I t h in k I k now w h a t y ou m ea n,' h e sa i d sl ow ly , h i s shou l d er s st oop i ng ev er so sl i ght ly . ` I h a v en 't y et
a sk ed her t o m a r r y m e, Jess. Th er e's n o g u a r a n t ee t ha t she w ou l d h a v e m e, Th a t 's n ot t he r ea l r ea so n
w hy y ou - d on 't w a n t t o see m e a ny m o r e.'
` Yes i t i s, d a r l i ng,' she r ep l i ed sa d ly , sw i r l i n g t he a m b er l i q u i d i n her g l a ss a n d l ook i n g a t t he li ght
r ef lect ed i n i t t hou ght f u l l y . She a b sen t l y h el d i t ou t t o hi m . She a l w a y s ga v e hi m t he r est o f w h a t ev er
d r i nk sh e h a p p ened t o ha v e, w h en she ha d d r u nk en ou gh, a n d he a l w a y s h a d f i n i sh ed o f f her m ea l s i n
a r est a u r a nt w hen she cou l d ea t n o m or e. H e t o ok t he g l a ss a s a u t o m a t i ca ll y a s she ha d o f f er ed it a nd
t ossed o f f t he r est i n o ne sw a l lo w . She su d d en ly r ea l ised t he' i nt i m a cy of t he sm a l l excha nge a n d sm i l ed
r u ef u l ly . In so m e w a y s t h ey w er e st i l l so clo se. ` You see, i t ' s no t w het h er y ou a ct u a l l y m a r r y h er or no t
t ha t ev en m a t t er s t o m e a n y m or e, t ho u gh o f cou r se it d oes. I'm not m a k i ng m u ch sen se, I k no w . It 's ju st
t ha t i t i s a b it o f a b lo w t o m y f em i ni ne p r i d e t o see y o u o f f er f or her i nst ea d o f f or m e, a nd t h a t 's w hy
i t m a t t er s. Bu t it r ea l l y d oesn't m a t t er i f y ou a ct u a l ly a sk her or n ot , it 's t he f a ct t ha t y o u w ou ld ev en
consid er i t w h il e i n v ol v ed i n a r el a t i onsh i p w i t h m e t ha t m a t t er s. I d on 't w a n t t ha t k i n d o f r el a t io nshi p
a ny m or e, Da m ien . Tha t 's no goo d . It ' s- i m m or a l, I gu ess.'

` You see it t ha t w a y a nd y et y ou 'v e slep t w it h a m a n y ou ha v en't b een m a r r i ed t o f or t h r ee y ea r s. I
b el i ev e t ha t i t ' s ca l l ed f or n ica t i on, m y d ea r ,' he sa i d d r y l y , st a n d i n g t o go a n d p ou r h i m sel f a not h er
w h i sk y . ` You a p p ea r t o h a v e st r a n ge i d ea s a b ou t m or a li t y . A b so l v ed o f si n on t he o ne ha n d a n d y et
si n b y i nt ent ion on t he ot h er . You n eed t o g et y ou r ou t l oo k o n l i f e a l i t t l e cl ea r er , d on't y ou t h i n k ?'
` N o,' she sa i d a b r u p t l y , h er v o i ce clea r a n d d eci siv e, her ey es t a k i n g o n a d et er m i ned exp r essi on .
` For ni ca t ion ha s not h in g t o d o w i t h i t . I' d f eel a s i m m or a l a n d a s ch ea p en ed i f y ou w er e m a r r i ed t o m e
a nd h a d so m eon e else a s y o u r m i st r ess. Th e m a r r i a ge v ow s d o n't m ea n a t h i ng u n l ess t hey a r e h el d
sa cr ed , a n d t h a t 's w hy I t h i n k t ha t m a ny m a r r ia ges a r en't r ea l b u t a r e a m er e l ega l i t y on a sl i p of
u sel ess p a p er . Tha t ' s w hy t he si n b y i n t ent i on st i l l ho l d s. Ou r r el a t i o nsh i p h a sn't b een sa t i sf a ct or y - a nd
d on't lo ok a t m e t ha t w a y , it w a sn't j u st y ou b u t m e t oo- a n d a m a r r i a ge cer t i f i ca t e w o u l d no t ha v e
m a d e t hi ng s r igh t b et w een u s. Beca u se y o u ca n a ct u a ll y co nt em p l a t e a sk i n g so m eo ne el se t o m a r r y
y ou i s a sy m p t o m t ha t so m et h i n g i s w r ong , not n ecessa r i ly t he w r ong a ct i o n it sel f , a l t h ou gh p er so na l ly I
w ou l d hol d i t a s su ch. It ' s a sy m p t o m of t h e gr ea t er i l l n ess, w h i ch w ou l d b e ou r r el a t i onsh i p . I ha v e t o
b el i ev e t ha t , Da m ien, b eca u se i f I t ho u ght f or one m i nu t e t ha t y o u a n d I ha d on l y a p u r el y p hy si ca l
r el a t i o nshi p , t hen t h a t w ou l d m a k e m e a w h or e i n m y ow n ey es a n d I w ou ld r a t her not v i ew m y sel f a s
su ch .

Ther ef o r e, I h a v e t o b el iev e t ha t so m et h in g w a s la ck i ng i n ou r r el a t i on sh i p a n d w r ong a t i t s v er y
f ou nd a t i on s f or y ou t o seek a n a l l i a nce el sew her e. H a v en't y ou r ea l i sed y et t ha t a "n ost r i ng s"
r el a t i o nshi p ju st d oesn't exist ? It 's a co nt r a d i ct ion i n t er m s, b eca u se i f y ou ha v e a r el a t i on sh ip , t hen y ou
a r e goi ng t o f eel t i es o f a f f ect io n a nd l oy a l t y . I ha d t o end ev er y t hi n g b ef or e I lo st a l l of m y sel f - r esp ect .
I ju st d i d n't ha v e enou gh m oney o r m a t er i a l a sset s t o sa t i sf y y ou , d i d I?'
She ha d n't w a t ched h i s exp r essio n a s she sp ok e; i n d eed , she cou l d n't b r i ng her sel f t o l ook a t h i m a t a l l ,
a nd so sh e w a s q u i t e u np r ep a r ed f o r h i s su d d en v io lent m ov em ent a s he su r ged t o h i s f eet . H er ey es
f l ew t o h i m i n a l a r m . Su r e enou gh , he w h i r l ed o n her , gr a b b ed h er b y t h e shou l d er s so ha r d she
t hou g ht so m et h i n g w ou l d b r ea k , a nd hel d her a s t ho u gh he w ou l d d ea r l y l ov e t o sha k e her . Sh e st a r ed
u p i nt o h is ey es a n d f ou nd su ch a lo ok o f a go ny , of p a i n a n d f r u st r a t io n a n d h elp l essness,
t ha t she w a s p r o f o u n d l y sho ck ed . ` God !' h e g r ou n d o u t , a nd t hr ew h er a w a y f r om h i m t o t u r n a n d
p a ce t h e r oom . ` Is t ha t a l l y ou t h i nk w e h a d ? Is t h a t how y ou r a t e ou r r el a t i on sh i p , b y m a t er i a l
p ossessi o ns?'

'Isn 't t ha t ho w y o u 'v e r a t ed it ?' she r et u r ned q u i et ly . H e d i d n't a n sw er , a n d she k new he w ou l d n't . H e
cou l d n't . If h e sa i d no, t hen t h e o nly t h i n g t o d o w ou l d b e t o a sk h er t o m a r r y h i m , a nd she k n ew he
w a sn't p r ep a r ed t o d o t ha t . If he sa i d y es, t hen b y a d m i ssi o n, h e w a s conced i ng t ha t she w a s r ig ht t o
end ev er y t h in g .
H e t u r ned t o her a n d p o in t ed a f i nger a s i f i n a ccu sa t i o n. ` You w a nt m e!' It w a s a st a t em ent , not a
q u est i on . She d i d n't b ot h er t o r ef u t e i t . H e t ol d t h e t r u t h.
` Bu t I d on't w a nt w ha t w e h a d a ny m or e,' sh e r ep l i ed so f t l y , ` a nd t ha t 's t he k ey t o ev er y r ea son w hy I
b el i ev e w e shou l d b r ea k u p . It 's t o o l a t e, d a r l i ng , b eca u se i t 's j u st no good a n y l ong er .'
H e r ea ch ed a s i f go a d ed , st r i d i ng u p t o her t o f o l d h i s a r m s a r ou n d h er m a st er f u l l y , h i s hea d sw oop in g
d ow n t o f or ce a k i ss o n h er st r a ig h t , st i f f l i p s. H e gr o u n d hi s m o u t h i nt o her s, p u l l i n g h er cl ose t o t he
w ho le l engt h o f h i s b od y , a n i nsi st en t ha nd a g a i nst t he sm a l l o f her b a ck t o ho ld her i n p l a ce. H e w ent
o n a nd o n, cha ng i n g t h e m oo d o f t he em b r a ce f r om one o f v i ol ence t o o ne o f t en d er ness, b r u sh i ng h i s
m ou t h t a n t a l i si n gl y ov er her s, t o u chi ng h i s t ongu e d el i ca t el y t o t h e b r u i sed a r ea s, m ou l d i ng t he sid es o f
h er hea d a n d n eck w it h h i s sen si t i v e f i ng er s.
She f o u nd it nea r l y i m p o ssib l e t o r em a in u n r esp onsi v e, b u t so m eh o w she m a n a ged i t . She l et her b od y
g o l i m p , k ep t h er l ip s cl osed a g a i n st h i s, a n d l et her a r m s ha n g l oosel y . H e w ou l d nev er k now how cl ose
she ca m e t o g iv i n g i n a nd w i nd i ng her a r m s ea g er l y a r ou nd h i s neck , f or sh e w a s let go a s sw i f t l y a s sh e
h a d b een seized , a n d h e w a s st a nd i ng b a ck t o st a r e a t her in a st on ish m ent a n d b a f f l em ent .
` You see?' sh e w h i sp er ed , sha k i ng i n si d e, f a l l i n g a p a r t a t t he sea m s. ` I w a s r i gh t , i t j u st i sn't good
a ny m or e.'
` I co u l d t a k e y ou r igh t no w a nd y ou w ou l d n't b e a b l e t o d o a ny t h i ng a b ou t i t ,' he h i ssed , f u r i ou sl y , a n d
y et t h e b a f f l em ent a n d t he h u r t r em a i ned u n d er nea t h i t a ll so t ha t she sa w f r o m h i s t hr ea t a k i n d o f
v u ln er a b i l i t y t h a t sh e h a d n ev er seen b ef o r e. It m a d e her gent le.
` Tha t 's t r u e,' sh e a gr eed so f t l y . ` A nd ev er y i nch o f t he w a y , y ou w ou l d k now j u st ho w u n w i l l i ng I w ou l d
r ea l l y b e. A n d w h a t k i n d o f v ict or y w ou l d t ha t b e, m y l ov e? Ju st w ha t k i nd o f t r i u m p h?'
H e t u r ned h is h ea d a w a y a s i f he w er e u n a b l e t o b ea r w ha t he h a d ju st hea r d a nd he st oo d t her e f or a
l ong t i m e, ju st st a r in g b l a nk ly a t n ot h i n g, hea d b ow ed sl i ght l y , shou l d er s sl u m p ed . A nd t hen he j u st
w a l k ed a w a y . H e p a u sed b y t he r u i n ed d oor a n d sa i d q u iet l y , 'I'l l ca l l so m eo ne a b ou t com in g ov er
r i ght a w a y t o r ep a i r y o u r d oor , Jess. Don 't f or get y o u r p a ck a ges o u t her e.' Then h e w a s gone, ou t t he
d oor , ou t of her l i f e, a nd ev er y t h i ng w a s f i ni shed f or goo d t h i s t i m e.
The u t t er d eso l a t i on she f elt w a s t he w or st em ot io n i t ha d ev er b een h er m isf o r t u ne t o exp er i en ce.
M ov ing l i k e t he o l d w o m a n she f elt she w a s, Jessi ca w ent ou t i nt o t he ha l l t o ga t h er u p her p u r ch a ses
u nca r in gly , st u f f i n g sh op p i ng b a gs w i t h exp ensiv e si lk b l ou ses u nd er her a r m r a n d o m l y a nd k i ck i n g t he
l a st b o x i n w i t h o ne ca r el ess f oot . Sh e a u t om a t ica l ly t u r ned t o shu t t he d oo r a nd ha d t o sm i l e t h i n ly a t
t he ch a os Da m ien h a d m a n a ged t o l ea v e b eh i n d h i m .
Tha t h a d a l w a y s b een t h e ca se. H e h a d cr ea t ed ch a os i n her l i f e f r o m t h e v er y b eg i n n i ng , com i ng li k e
a w h i r l w i nd a nd l ea v i n g w h en it su i t ed h i m t o, d est r oy i ng her p ea ce o f m i n d a n d w r eck i ng h er ca l m
a nd g ener a t i ng i n her su ch a f eel i ng of d est r u ct i v e r a ge f or h is u n f eel i ng , t ho u ght less a ssu m p t i on t ha t
she w ou l d a l w a y s b e t her e f or h i s excl u si v e p l ea su r e. H e ha d t a k en h er b od y w i t h a f i ne a nd ca r el ess
a r r o ga nt ea se a nd h a d p l u n d er ed t h e r ecesses o f her m i n d w henev er he f el t t h e u r g e f o r st i m u l a t i n g
conv er sa t i on, a nd t he w or st a sp ect o f t he w ho l e a f f a i r w a s t ha t she ha d l et h i m com e a nd go a n d h a d
g iv en h i m t he r ig ht t o t r ea t her a s i f she w er e j u st a b i t o f cha t t el f or h is conv en i ent u se. A n d so p a r t o f
t he r a ge t ha t she ha d so o f t en f elt ha d b een d i r ect ed a t h er sel f .
She w a s not t he k i n d o f w o m a n t ha t cou l d p u t u p w it h t ha t sor t o f ca v a l ier a t t it u d e. She w a s som eone
w ho need ed a n eq u a l co m p a n io nsh i p , need ed so m eone w i t h w ho m she f el t a t ea se enou gh t o b e a s
w ea k a s she f el t or a s st r ong a s she co u ld b e, w it h eit her t he t ea r s o r t he t r i u m p hs, t h e d ep t h s or t h e
h ei ght s. Sh e d id n 't r ea l l y f eel t h a t she cou l d show a l l a sp ect s o f her p er so n a l i t y t o a n y on e, a n d t h a t she
d i d n 't h a v e t he t y p e o f f r i en d t ha t w ou l d a p p r eci a t e t he com p l exi t y o f her p er son a l i t y . She w a nt ed a
l ov er w ho w ou l d k n o w w hen t o b e t en d er a n d g i v i n g a n d k no w w hen t o t a k e w ha t she ha d t o o f f er .
H er r el a t io n sh i p w it h Da m i en h a d b een so one- si d ed f or so l on g, w i t h her g iv i n g a l l o f t he t i m e a nd
h i m d o i n g a l l o f t h e t a k i ng, a nd she f el t a s t hou g h she ha d b een w r u n g d r y .
A n d y et sh e m i ssed h i m , a s she cha t t ed l i g ht l y w it h t he r ep a i r m a n w ho ca m e a n d w or k ed on h er d o or ,
a nd t he m issi ng w a s l i k e a w i d e ga p i ng ho l e t o r n on t he i nsi d e o f her chest , b l eed i n g i nt er n a ll y ,
u nnot iced b y ou t si d er s. She w a nt ed w h a t she k n ew i nst i nct iv el y D a m i en ha d i nsi d e h i m t o g iv e,
w a n t ed i t in t en sel y , d esp a ir i ng l y , b eca u se she k new t h a t she w a s not t he w o m a n t o i n sp i r e h i m t o f eel
t ha t w a y . She w a s t he lo nel iest p er son i n t he w or l d , b eca u se sh e f el t t h a t she w a s t r u ly a l o ne,
a b a n d on ed , a d r i f t . A nd it d id n 't h el p f or h er t o i nt el l ect u a l l y r ea l i se t h a t sh e h a d b een t h e one t o
b r ea k t h i n gs o f f w it h h i m , not t h e ot her w a y a r ou nd .

She d i d n't k no w i f she co u ld ha nd l e t he si g ht o f Da m ien w i t h a n ot h er w o m a n, a nd she r ea l i sed t h a t
w i t h t h ei r si m i l a r cir cl e o f f r i end s a n d a cq u a i nt a nces, soon er or l a t er sh e w o u ld see hi m i n p u b l i c a n d ,
Da m i en b ei ng t h e v ir i l e m a n h e w a s, she k new t ha t she w o u ld no t see h i m a lon e. H o w w ou l d she
cop e? H ow cou ld she? A nd w h a t w ou l d ha p p en i f , i n t he m id st o f a cr ow d o f cha t t er i ng p eop l e, he
w ou l d l i f t h i s b l a ck hea d t o sea r ch t he r oo m , a nd cock h i s ey eb r ow a t her i n t h a t gent le, q u i zzi ca l w a y
h e r eser v ed ju st f or h er ? A nd w ha t w ou l d ha p p en i f she sa w h i m l ook a t a no t her w o m a n l i k e t ha t ?
The t ho u ght w a s i nt oler a b l e. She w ou l d p r ob a b ly g o b er ser k w i t h t h e p a i n .
She d ef in it el y l ov ed h i m t oo m u ch .
A n d o v er t he cou r se o f t he d a y s, a s her sit u a t io n r em a i ned i n t ol er a b l e a nd she w a s f or ced t o see t ha t
she need ed t o g i v e her sel f t i m e t o g a i n a m ea su r e o f ser en i t y , sh e d eci d ed t o l ea v e t ow n. She d eci d ed
t o go ho m e. It w a s t i m e t o t a k e a n ext en d ed v a ca t io n, t o r eev a lu a t e her l i f est y le, goa l s a n d a m b i t i o n s.
It w a s t i m e t o com e t o t er m s w it h t he f a ct t ha t she w ou l d n ev er ha v e a l i f e w i t h D a m ien, a hop e t h a t
she ha d m a na ged t o k eep a l i v e f or t oo l o ng. Sh e ha d t o l et go o f i l l u si on s, f a l se hop es, a n d t r y t o b u i l d
u p so m et h i ng new a g a in .
She ca l l ed her f a t her a nd f o u nd t ha t he w o u ld b e on ly t oo d el ig ht ed t o h a v e her st a y w i t h h i m . W il l
Ki ng w a s r et i r ed no w , a nd ha d b een a w i d ow er f or sev er a l y ea r s. H e ha d f ou nd t ha t , w it h t i m e
w ei gh in g hea v i ly on h i s ha nd s, he n eed ed som et hi ng t o k eep h i m sel f o ccu p ied , a nd so h e r a n a sm a l l
b ook shop , m or e f or som et h i ng t o d o t h a n f or a n y r ea l need f or t he i nco m e. The b u si ness w a s t o l er a b l e,
b u t h i s r ea l l ov e w a s t o f ish, w h ich h e i nd u l ged ev er y cha nce he got , h i r i ng a shop a ssi st a nt i n t h e
su m m er t i m e t o ha v e p lent y o f t i m e t o sp en d o u t d oo r s. N o w w a s t he t i m e o f y ea r w hen he w a s i n
b et w een t h e Chr i st m a s r u sh a t t he st or e a nd t he su m m er 's a ct i v it i es, a nd he sou nd ed q u i t e p l ea sed
t ha t Jessi ca w ou l d b e sp en d i n g so m e t i m e w i t h hi m .

She f elt a t w i nge o f r eg r et a n d g u i l t w h en she ha d f i ni sh ed t a l k i ng w it h her f a t her . H e w a s g et t in g
o ld er now , a n d w a s sl ow i n g d ow n, t hou gh f or a m a n i n h i s sev ent ies he w a s st i l l r em a r k a b l y f i t . She
l ov ed h i m v er y m u ch a nd su d d en l y r ea l i sed t h a t h e w ou l d not b e a r ou nd f or v er y m u ch lo nger . H e
r ef u sed t o sp end m u ch t i m e i n a b ig ci t y , a nd w i t h her a ct i v e l i f est y l e, she ha d r a r ely ha d t he t i m e t o
m a k e a n y t r i p s t o Ver m ont t o see h i m . Sh e w ou l d h a v e t o ch a nge t h a t , w o u ld h a v e t o sp end m or e
t i m e w i t h h i m w h i le she st i l l h a d t he ch a nce. Th i s w ou l d b e a g ood t i m e t o get t o k no w h i m a l l ov er
a ga i n, a n d hop ef u ll y get t o k no w her sel f i n t he p r ocess.
A f t er l et t i ng Ju st i n k now w h er e she w ou l d b e st a y in g a n d a lso a f t er g et t i ng ev er y t hi n g w r a p p ed u p a t
w or k , Jessi ca p r ep a r ed f or t he t r i p b y p a ck i n g ca su a l clo t hes a nd t i d y i ng u p her a p a r t m ent . It t ook
som e t i m e a n d ef f or t t o a r r a nge ev er y t hi n g, f o r t he m o d el l i n g a gency w a s not t o o h a p p y a t her
u nexp ect ed l ea v e, b u t a s sh e ha d b een l ook i n g p a r t i cu l a r ly h a g g a r d l a t ely a n d w a s l on g o v er d u e f or a
g ood v a ca t i o n a ny w a y , t h ey cou l d d o not hi n g b u t gr u m b l e.
She lo ok ed a r ou nd a t t he a p a r t m ent on e l a st t i m e a s sh e w a s a b ou t t o lock t h e d oo r f i n a l l y a nd ca r r y
d ow n h er l a st su i t ca se, a nd sh e cou l d n't f eel a n y r egr et a t l ea v i ng . The a p a r t m ent w a s st er i l e a n d
l i f eless w i t ho u t Da m i en . She r ea l ised , a s sh e l oo k ed a r ou nd w i t h n ew ly a ssessin g ey es, t h a t sh e h a d
d ecor a t ed t he p l a ce t o l ook l i k e a h ot el , i m p er son a l, a cco m m od a t i ng m o st t a st es,a n d i t su d d en l y
o ccu r r ed t o her t ha t sh e ha d not r ea l l y l i v ed her e a t a l l b u t m er el y st a y ed a w hi le i n o ne p l a ce. It w a s
a s i f she ha d su b co nscio u sl y k no w n t h a t sh e w ou ld b e st a y i ng on l y a sho r t t i m e i n t h i s p l a ce, f or sh e h a d
m ov ed i nt o t h i s a p a r t m en t w hen she h a d st a r t ed h er r ela t i on sh ip w i t h D a m i en . It w ou l d b e
a p p r op r i a t e i f she lef t t he a p a r t m ent no w t ha t t h ey ha d b r o k en u p .
The la st su it ca se w a s st or ed in t he b a ck sea t o f h er ca r a n d t he sea t b u ck l e f a st en ed a r ou n d h er t h in
w a i st . She b r i ef ly con si d er ed t he sho u l d er b el t b u t r ej ect ed t he i d ea o f p u t t i n g i t o n. She ha t ed t o b e so
conf in ed o n lon g t r i p s, no m a t t er ho w co m f or t a b l e t he st r a p w a s, a n d she w a s a goo d d r i v er . Di sm issi ng
i t f r o m her m i nd a l m ost i m m ed i a t ely , sh e st a r t ed t h e ca r , r ev er sed , a n d w a s soon com in g ou t o f t h e
p a r k i ng ga r a ge.
A gr ea t d ea l o f t i m e w a s sp ent j u st get t i ng ou t o f N ew Yor k Cit y , a nd sh e b r ea t hed a si g h o f r el i ef a s
she p u l l ed o n t o a r a m p t ha t p u t her o n a n i nt er st a t e hi gh w a y . O nce on t h e h ig h w a y she m a d e m u ch
b et t er t i m e, soon r o l l i ng d ow n her w i nd o w a n d l et t i n g t he co ol cr i sp . a ir sw eep t h r ou g h t he i nt er i or o f
t he ca r , f or i t w a s u n sea so na b l y w a r m a n d b a l m y . The su n sho ne v er y b r i ght ly a nd a l l o f t he t r ees ha d
b egu n t o t a k e o n t h e a p p ea r a nce o f new ness a s t i n y l ea v es sp r ou t ed i nt o a f r esh b r i ght gr een . She f el t
t he m u scles in her b a ck a nd shou l d er s b eg i n t o l oosen a n d a sm i le t i l t ed t he cor ner s of h er l ip s.
She k new t ha t a f t er noo n t h a t ev er y t hi ng w o u l d b e a l l r i g ht . She d i d n't t r y t o f i gu r e ou t ho w or w hy
she k new a nd she d i d n't w or r y a b ou t her f u t u r e w i t h ou t D a m i en. Th e essence o f ha p p i ness w a s, a f t er
a l l , l iv i n g f or t he m o m ent a nd t a k i n g j oy f r om l i f e no m a t t er w h a t t he ci r cu m st a nces.
A s she t hou g h t o f t h is, i n a f l a sh o f i nt u it i on Jessi ca r ea l i sed t h a t Da m ien w a s n ot a h a p p y m a n .
She ha d t o l d Ju st i n once t h a t h e w a s a t r o u b l ed m a n , a n d she ha d n't k no w n t hen h ow com p r ehen si v e
t hose w or d s r ea l l y w er e. D a m i en , f o r a l l o f h i s en v ied p osi t i on i n t he b u si n ess w o r l d a nd f or a ll o f h i s
m a t er i a l w ea lt h, w a s t r u ly u nh a p p y . She hop ed t h a t he w ou ld co m e t o g r i p s w i t h w ha t ev er i t w a s t ha t
h a u nt ed h im . She w i shed h i m t he v er y b est , no m a t t er w ha t h a p p en ed .

Jessi ca ha d t o b e t r u t h f u l a n d a d m i t t h a t sh e h a d b een a f r a i d t o l et go, t o g i v e u p w ha t sm a l l cl a i m
she ha d h a d on D a m i en . She ha d b a sed h er w ho l e l i f e' s ha p p i ness on h i m a n d t h a t w a s p a r t o f t he
r ea son w hy t heir r el a t i on sh i p ha d f a i l ed . A l ot o f t he f a u lt ha d b een her s. You ha d t o g i v e a nd t a k e
h a p p i ness i n a r ela t i onsh ip , j u st l i k e y ou h a d t o g i v e a nd t a k e lo v e a n d su p p or t a n d ca r i ng . It w a s t oo
m u ch p r essu r e on one i n d i v i d u a l , t o b e t h e f ocu s o f so m u ch n eed . The t i m e a n d t h e sol a ce t h a t she
h a d g iv en t o h i m t hr ou ghou t t hose lo n g l on ely n i g h t s ha d no t b een en t i r el y r ea l, a nd sh e f el t v er y sa d
a b ou t t h a t . It w a s l i k e sa y in g, ` I lo v e y ou ' j u st t o h ea r a r esp on se. It w a sn't a t r u e g i f t , b eca u se she ha d
b een exp ect i ng , hop i ng , d em a n d i ng so m et hi ng b a ck . Ther e h a d b een a l ot m or e w r ong i n t hei r
r el a t i o nshi p t ha n she h a d f i r st su p p osed .
St i l l t her e ha d b een a gr ea t d ea l o f good . Da m i en h a d t r i ed t o t el l her m or e w i t h h i s b o d y , l i p s, h a n d s,
t ha n he co u ld b r in g h i m sel f t o sa y i n w or d s. She k new t ha t he ha d ca r ed t o so m e ext ent ; he ha d
d em o nst r a t ed t h a t w it h t he p a i n he ha d exhi b it ed w hen sh e t o l d h i m t ha t she w ou l d no lo nger see
h i m .
She w ished w i st f u l l y t ha t t hey co u ld st i l l b e f r iend s, f o r she v a lu ed h i m h ig h ly a s a p er son. Sh e w a nt ed
t o see h i m a ga i n. Sh e w a n t ed t o w a t ch a sm i le b r ea k ov er h i s d a r k f a ce, l i k e su nshi n e sp i l l i ng ov er a
h i l l . She w a nt ed t o t el l hi m t h a t sh e l ov ed h i m a nd it w a s t oo
H er f i r st f eel i ng o f l i g ht hea r t ed n ess, w hi ch w a s a
u su a l exp er i ence f or her w h en she st a r t ed o f f on
a t r i p , d i ssip a t ed t o a t ir ed d ep r essi on. L ig h t w a s
f a d i n g f a st a n d she r ea l i sed w i t h som e
a n noy a nce t ha t she ha d u n d er est i m a t ed t he
a m ou n t o f t i m e t h e ca r d r i v e w ou l d t a k e. She
shou l d ei t her get a m ot el r oo m f o r t he n i g h t a nd
ca ll her f a t h er , or k eep o n . Im p a t i ent b y n a t u r e,
she sh r u gg ed i r r i t a b l y a nd d eci d ed t o k eep o n
d r iv i n g.
St op p i ng a t a m ot el w ou l d o n l y b e l onely a n d
u n sa t i sf y i n g a n y w a y , she t o l d her sel f . Soon sh e
ha d t o sw i t ch on her hea d l i ght s a nd con cent r a t e
m or e o n h er d r iv i ng i n t he d a r k ness. A t lea st she
ha d cr ossed t he V er m o nt St a t e b or d er so m e t i m e
b a ck .
She w a s j u st p u l l i n g ou t o f a sm a l l t ow n's ci t y l i m i t , a ccel er a t i ng w i t h t he h i g her sp eed l i m i t s p o st ed a n d
h er m i nd a h ea d t o t h e w a r m b ed a n d w el com e she w ou l d b e r ecei v i n g f r o m her f a t her w hen t he sm a l l
d og r a n ou t i n f r ont o f her ca r . Sheer exha u st io n m u st ha v e b een w h a t ha d d u l l ed h er sen ses so,
b eca u se sh e n or m a l ly h a d a v er y f a st r ea ct i on t i m e. Tho u g h t i r ed a n d a b i t slow er t h a n she nor m a l l y
w ou l d ha v e b een, she r ea ct ed a l m o st i n st a nt ly , r i p p i ng her st eer in g w heel sh a r p l y a r ou nd t o slew t he
ca r t o t he r i ght , hea d i n g o f f t h e r o a d . Sh e h a d ju st t h a t sp l i t second t o congr a t u la t e her sel f f or t u r n i n g
r i ght i nst ea d o f l ef t i nt o t h e p a t h o f t he on com i ng ca r w hen she sa w i n her g l a r i n g h ea d li ght s t h a t t h e
conf u sed a n d f r i g h t ened d og, w h i ch she n ow sa w t o b e no m or e t ha n a p u p p y , i n a n ef f o r t t o j u m p ou t
o f t he w a y ha d j u m p ed r i ght i nt o t he p a t h o f her ca r a g a i n . In t h a t m o m ent , sh e sa w w h a t she h a d
l a t e.
n ot not iced b ef or e. She sa w t he sh a r p d ecl i ne, t he b a nk t h a t she w ou l d h it a nd u n d o u b t ed l y r o l l d ow n
i f she w er e t o sw er v e a ny m or e t o t he r i gh t . A nd she sa w t h a t w it h t ha t sp l it second 's hesi t a t io n she ha d
l ost her cha nce t o j er k t h e ca r 's w heel l ef t enou gh t o a v oi d h i t t ing t he sm a l l d og a nd a v oi d f l i p p i ng
o v er . A nd b eca u se o f t he sp eed she w a s t r a v el l i ng a t , she cou l d not b r a k e. It w a s ei t her t he
em b a nk m ent or t he sm a l l , sh iv er i n g p u p p y t ha t w a s n ow f r ozen w it h t er r o r .
She d i d n't ev en consi d er t ha t a cho i ce.
Oh, b oy , she t hou gh t gr i m ly , h i t t in g t h e ed ge o f t he b a n k w i t h a b u m p t h a t sou n d ed l i k e i t ha d
b r ok en so m et h i n g u n d er nea t h, t h is i s i t . Th i s i s r ea l l y i t . God , hel p m e get t hr ou gh t h is, help m e l i v e
t hr ou gh t h is, oh, m y d ea r Go d ! 'D a m i en, I l ov e y ou !'
The ca r p l u m m et ed , a nd w ent i nt o a r ol l, a nd t hen a not h er . Sh e w a s t hr ow n v i o l ent l y f r o m o ne sid e t o
t he n ext , a s i f she w er e in a cr a zy ca r ni v a l r i d e f r o m her chi l d hood d a y s, a n d h er p u r se, su i t ca ses, a n d
m a p w ent f l y in g a ll ov er i n a w eir d , ha p h a za r d w a y . Th e m ost t er r i f y i ng so u nd in t h e w o r l d ca m e t o
h er t h en, a s a n a l m i g ht y cr u n chi ng m et a l l i c scr ea m r ent h er ea r d r u m s, a n d t hen sh e r ea l i sed t h a t she
w a s scr ea m i ng t oo . Som et h i ng f l ew u p a n d h it h er f a ce a s t he w i nd sh i el d sha t t er ed , a nd t he ca r t i l t ed
o ne m o r e t i m e t o com e t o a gen t l e r est on t h e d r i v er 's si d e, h ea d l i g ht s st i l l sh in i n g a n d eng i ne
st u b b or n ly cou gh i ng. W i t h a n i g ht m a r e v i si on o f t he ca r exp l od i ng in t o f l a m es, sh e r ea ched ou t a
v iol en t l y sha k ing h a n d t o t u r n t he i g n i t i o n k ey o f f , a nd t h e cou gh in g en g i n e su b si d ed .
She w a s l y in g o n h er sid e a n d st a r i ng ou t i nt o a b l a ck a nd gr een ni ght w i t h d eep b la ck sha d o w s
t hr ow n u p b y h er g l a r i ng hea d l i g ht s. She l ook ed d o w n a t t he gr ou nd , t w i st ing her h ea d a l i t t l e, a n d
sa w t or n gr a ss sp r i nk l ed ov er w i t h sp a r k l i n g sha r d s o f g l a ss. Sh e w a s w r a p p ed in a t a n g led , r u in ed
p iece o f m et a l m a ch i ner y , w i t h gl a ss, p enci l s, a nd cl ot h es f l u n g a l l o v er t he p la ce. P a r t of h er r oa d m a p
r est ed cr a zi l y on her h ea d l i k e a h a t , w hich w a s n i ce b eca u se l i q u i d w a s t r i ck l i ng d o w n t he si d e o f her
cheek a n d she w a nt ed t o cov er u p so t ha t t he r a i n
w ou l d n 't soa k her t hr ou gh, a nd t ha t w a s v er y st r a ng e b eca u se i t m u st h a v e ju st st a r t ed r a in i n g . Sh e
d i d n 't r em em b er it r a in i n g b ef or e. Sh e r ea ched u p one t ent a t i v e ha n d , t ou ched her f a ce, a n d i t f elt
st i ck y . Th a t w a sn't r a i n. It w a s b l ood . Wi t h a su d d en, h or r i f i ed , d ela y ed r ea ct i on , sh e j er k ed her b od y
h a r d i n a n ef f or t t o get l oose a n d esca p e t he ni g ht m a r e, t o g et ou t o f t h e cr u m p l ed , f r i ght eni ng m et a l
t ha t h a d o nce b een su ch a n i ce sa f e ca r , a nd she cou l d n't m o v e ou t . She w a s t r a p p ed , i n t he m i d d le o f
t he n i ght , a nd w ou l d p r ob a b ly d i e b ef or e m or n i ng f r om so m e k i n d o f i nt er na l i n j u r y .
Jessi ca ha d nev er r ea l ly consid er ed her ow n d ea t h b ef or e, a nd r i g ht now sh e w a s r ea l i si n g how v er y
p ossi b le i t w ou l d b e f or h er t o j u st go t o sl eep r ig ht her e a n d nev er see a ny one a g a i n . She sob b ed ou t a
scr ea m o f p u r e t er r or a nd p a in , j u st o ne, a n d t hen hea r d t h e f a r o f f shou t s. Som eone w a s y el l i n g lo u d
enou gh t o w a k e t he d ea d , a nd t h a t w a sn 't v er y f u nny , Jessica , she t ol d her sel f st er n l y , b u t r ea l l y , t ha t
f el l ow h a d a n i ce p a i r o f l u ng s o n hi m .
The ot h er ca r ! Sh e h a d f or got t en a b o u t t h e o t her ca r ! So m eo n e w a s t her e a n d ha d seen t h e w ho le
t hi ng, a n d she w ou l d b e hel p ed i n j u st a m i n u t e, j u st a f ew m i nu t es, a nd a l l sh e h a d t o d o w a s t o ho l d
o n t o her sa n i t y a nd no t g iv e w a y t o a b o u t o f scr ea m i n g hy st er ia , a n d ev er y t hi ng w o u l d b e a l l r i g ht ,
b u t f i r st she r a t her t hou gh t t ha t a n ice n a p w o u ld b e j u st t he t h in g t o m a k e h er f eel b et t er .... She'd j u st
clo se her ey es f or a f ew m i nu t es a n d t h en Da m i en w ou l d co m e a nd sa v e her . She'd j u st cl o se her ey es
f or on e second . Ju st one.
She w a s ou t col d w hen g ent l e ha n d s ext r i ca t ed her f r om t he t w o t on s o f t w i st ed m et a l . She d i d n't f eel
a t h i n g w h en she w a s set ca r ef u l ly o n a n a m b u l a nce st r et cher a nd ca r r i ed v er y gent l y u p t he h i l l she
h a d so p r eci p i t ou sl y d escend ed . She d i d n't hea r t h e w a i l i n g, u r gent si r en s t ha t clea r ed t he p a t h f or her
t r i p t o t he em er gency r oom a t t he l oca l h osp it a l . She d i d n't f eel t he a d m i n i st er i ng, p r of essi o na l ha n d s
t ha t t end ed h er . She sl ep t a l on g t i m e.
Vo ices p en et r a t ed t he f og t ha t su r r ou n d ed Jessica ' s t i r ed b r a i n, a nd she ev ent u a l l y r ecogni sed one of
t hem a s b el o ng in g t o h er f a t her . Bu t t hey w er e so l ou d , a nd in t er r u p t i n g her sleep , a n d d i d n't t hey
h a v e a ny i d ea o f ho w l ou sy sh e f el t ? She n eed ed her r est . W i t h ou t op en i n g h er ey es, she sa id clea r l y,
` Shu t u p , w i l l y ou ? Let a g ir l get her sleep , a l r ea d y .' Th e v oi ces st o p p ed a s i f sh e h a d st a r t led t hem a n d
t hen so m eone l a u g hed . A gent le t ou ch w a s t hen l a i d o n her cheek f or a m o m ent , a n d she r ea l i sed t ha t
som eo ne h a d j u st k i ssed her . ` H i , D a d ,' she w h i sp er ed , st a r t i n g t o go u nd er t he sed a t i o n a g a in .
` H el lo , sw eet hea r t . Get som e r est a n d w e' l l t a l k la t er , ok a y ?' She w a nt ed t o op en her ey es a n d lo ok a t
h i m , b u t cou l d n't seem t o m o v e her m u scl es r i gh t .
` Ok a y . I m essed t h e ca r u p , d i d n 't I?'
'You cer t a i n ly d i d . It 's a m i r a cle t ha t y ou w er en't hu r t m or e t ha n y ou w er e. N ow b e q u i et a nd sleep , a l l
r i ght ?'
Bu t she ha d t o a sk one m or e q u est i on, a n d i t w a s t oo i m p o r t a nt t o w a i t , so w it h a n ef f or t sh e f or ced
h er ey es op en t o st a r e a t her f a t h er 's l i ned , l ov i ng f a ce. ` D id I hu r t t he d og, D a d d y ?'
H i s f a ce so f t ened w i t h u n d er st a n d in g . ` N o , p r eci ou s, y ou m issed h i m com p l et ely . N o w shu t u p a n d
sl eep , w i l l y ou ?'
She m o u t h ed , ` Ty r a nt ,' a n d w a t ched h i m sm i l e b ef or e d r i f t in g o f f . She f el t her f i n ger s t a k en a n d hel d ,
a nd t ha t w a s t he l a st t h i n g she k n ew f or a l o ng t i m e.
H er st a y a t t h e h osp i t a l en d ed u p b ein g r ela t i v ely shor t . W hen she f i n a l l y w ok e u p , i t w a s w el l i nt o t he
n ext d a y , a nd her f a t her h a d l ef t t o ea t su p p er . She f elt st r a ng ely w ea k a n d w a s q u i t e con t ent t o close
h er ey es a n d d r i f t . H er ent ir e b od y hu r t , a s i f som eo ne ha d t a k en a t o n o f b r ick s a n d d u m p ed t he
w ho le l ot r igh t on t op o f her a nd t hen ju m p ed u p a n d d ow n o n t he p i le f or goo d m ea su r e. H er f a ce
w a s b a nd a g ed o n h er r i gh t si d e, a b ov e her ey e a n d ga u ze w a s w r a p p ed a r ou nd h er hea d . Sh e
w on d er ed w h a t t he b a nd a g i ng cov er ed .
She f o u nd ou t t h e next d a y , w hen t he d oct or p a i d her a q u i ck v i sit t o check her ov er . H e w a s a sli ght ,
g r ey ha i r ed , b r i st l y f el l o w w i t h f i er ce, m er r y ey es. H e sa t d o w n b esi d e h er on t h e b ed a nd f r ow ned
d eep l y in t o her ey es. ` I h ea r d t ha t y ou got u p t h i s m or n i n g, d i sob ey i ng m y st r i ct or d er s t o st a y i n b ed ,'
h e a ccu sed , sw i t ch in g o n a l i ght a nd p eer i ng i n t o h er l ef t p u p i l .
She gr i n ned . ` I ha d t o go t o t he b a t hr o om a n d d i d n't f a ncy u si ng a b ed p a n, t h a nk y ou v er y m u ch.
Ther e w a s no ha r m d o ne.'
H e snor t ed . ` W el l, si nce y ou w ent a hea d a n d d i d i t , ho w d i d y ou f eel ? Wea k , or d i zzy ? W er e y ou si ck t o
y ou r st om a ch?' H e t u r ned t he l ig h t t o her r i ght p u p i l .
'N op e. I w a s a l it t l e sh a k y , a n d m y r i gh t leg i s v er y b r u ised , b u t ot her t h a n a sl ig h t h ea d a che, I f eel
f i n e.'
H e sa t b a ck a n d l ook ed a t her ca r ef u l l y . ` D id y ou r f a t her t el l y ou t ha t w e w er e k eep i n g y ou f o r
o b ser v a t i on si nce y o u h a d r eceiv ed a n a st y b u m p o n t h e h ea d ?'
'Yes.' Sh e r a i sed her ow n u nb a nd a ged b r o w a t h i m exp ect a n t l y .
` You 'r e d oin g j u st f i ne. Ther e's no co ncu ssi o n, a n d t he o n ly r ea l d a m a g e a p p ea r s t o b e t o y ou r f a ce.
Yo u d o r ea l i se t h a t y ou 'r e goi ng t o b e sca r r ed ?'
Jessi ca f r ow ned , f eel in g a l a r m ed . ` I- exp ect ed a s m u ch. I r em em b er t he g l a ss f l y i ng ou t a n d h i t t i ng m e.
H o w - how b a d l y w i l l i t b e?' The l a st w a s a sk ed w i t h a d eg r ee o f a p p r ehen si on t ha t h e h a st ened t o
r ea ssu r e.

` It isn't t er r i b l e, so d o n't st a r t t o w or r y t h a t y ou a r e goi ng t o l ook l i k e a f r ea k , or a ny t hi ng f o ol i sh l i k e
t ha t . Bu t i t w i l l d ef i n i t ely b e not i cea b le, I' m a f r a id , a nd w i l l need cor r ect i v e su r ger y i f y ou a r e t o go
b a ck t o m od el l in g? Tha t 's r i g ht , i sn't i t - y ou a r e a m od el ?'
'Yes, I a m ,' sh e m u r m u r ed , sha k en . ` W ha t i s i t goi ng t o l ook l ik e?'
'You w er e cu t f r om a b ov e y ou r ey eb r o w r i gh t a b ou t t her e t o d ow n y ou r t em p l e a nd h i t t i ng t he
cheek b one. It w a s n a st y , a nd i t d i sa p p ea r s i nt o y o u r h a i r l i ne, b u t f or t u n a t ely not f a r , so w e d i d n't ha v e
t o sha v e a ny ha i r a w a y . It n eed ed q u i t e a f ew st i t ches. L i k e I sa i d , a f t er a f ew m on t h s, a f t er it 's h a d a
cha nce t o hea l u p so m e, y ou ca n r ecei v e co r r ect iv e su r ger y a n d w i t h cosm et i cs, I' m su r e t ha t i t w o n't b e
v isib le t o t he n a k ed ey e. You w er e f or t u n a t e t h a t y ou r b on e st r u ct u r e w a s not d a m a ged . You w on't
h a v e a s m u ch m u scl e cont r ol a s y ou ha d p r ev i ou sly , b eca u se o f ner v e d a m a ge a n d sca r t issu e, a nd y ou
w i l l p r o b a b l y f eel a b it nu m b a r ou nd y o u r r i g ht b r ow b one. So m e o f t ha t w o n't ev er go a w a y . Bu t i t
w i l l b e negl i gi b le. It 'l l m a k e y ou r f r ow n s a l i t t l e l op sid ed a n d y ou r o n e ey eb r ow sho ot u p hi gher t h a n
t he ot her on e, not h i ng m u ch. A n d o f cou r se, y ou d o n't f r ow n f or p i ct u r es, d o y ou ?'
She ha d t o l a u g h a t t ha t , p a r t l y f r om r el ief a nd
p a r t l y f r o m t r y i ng t o i m a g in e h er sel f f r ow ni ng
lo p si d ed l y a t t he ca m er a i n a m od el l i ng p ose.
` Ca n I h a v e a m i r r or ?'
'It w ou l d n't b e w i se,' h e r ep l i ed i m m ed i a t ely .
` You 'v e a v er y b r u ised f a ce a nd i t loo k s a w f u l.
Giv e i t t im e f o r t he f u nny co lo u r s t o su b si d e b ef or e
y ou t a k e a p eek . Ot her t ha n t ha t , I ca n't see a ny
r ea son f or u s t o k eep y ou a ny l ong er , u nl ess y ou
l i k e t h e f ood her e.'
She l a u ghed a g a i n a n d shook her hea d , a nd it f el t
st r a ng el y h ea v y on t he one si d e w i t h a l l o f t he
b a n d a g es. ` I ca n't sa y a s I d o, d oct or . Wh a t sho u l d
I d o a b ou t t he st i t ches?'
'N ot h i n g f or a b ou t t w o w eek s. You ca n g i v e m e a ca l l t hen a n d m a k e a n a p p oi n t m ent t o get t hem
r em ov ed , or y o u ca n get y ou r o w n p hy si ci a n t o t a k e t hem ou t , i f y ou l i k e. A n d l i k e I sa i d , g i v e y ou r sel f
t i m e t o h ea l u p , ok a y ?'
'A l l r ig h t . Tha nk y ou .'

JESSICA w a s shock ed , a s she st a r ed ou t a t t he m a ng l ed m ess o f m et a l t ha t sa t i n a l o t b esi d e t h e l oca l
t ow t r u ck a n d g a r a ge. She t u r ned l a r g e ey es t ow a r d s her f a t h er a n d excl a i m ed , ` A n d I l i v ed t h r ou g h
t ha t ?'
W i l l Kin g su r v ey ed h i s d a u ght er 's b r u i sed f a ce ser i ou sly , gen t l y . ` A n d y ou li v ed t hr ou gh t ha t . M a k es y ou
f eel gr a t ef u l , d oesn 't i t ?'
She nod d ed sl ow ly , t u r n i n g her g a ze b a ck a s i f com p el led , t o t he w r eck a ge. ` I' m j u st gl a d t o b e a l i v e
CHAPTER SIX

a nd w a l k i ng a r ou nd a f t er t ha t . It 's a m i r a cl e t h a t I d id n't ev en h a v e a ny t h in g b r ok en!' A f t er a f ew
m o m ent s, she m a d e a r ea l ef f o r t t o o v er t hr ow h er m ood a n d sa id l igh t l y , ` A n d let 's h op e t ha t l i t t l e
m u t t a p p r eci a t es i t , t oo! I su r e hop e hi s o w ner t ea ches h i m not t o r u n ou t i n t he r oa d . Wel l , I gu ess i t 's a
g ood t h i ng I h a v e t he i nsu r a n ce t o co v er i t , hu h?'
'W ha t , t h e m u t t ?'
'Si l ly . The ca r , o f cou r se.' She t u r ned h er f a ce d et er m i n ed l y a w a y f r om t he r u in ed ca r . ` W e m i g ht a s
w el l g o . Th er e's n ot h i ng f or u s h er e.'
The r est o f t he d r i v e t o Ru t l a nd w a s co m p l et ed i n a l m ost t ot a l si l ence f or she d ozed m ost o f t h e w a y
a nd h er f a t her let her sleep . By t he t i m e sh e ha d her t h i n gs t u ck ed a w a y in her b ed r oom i n h er f a t h er 's
sm a ll , p a in f u l ly t i d y h ou se, she w a s f eel i ng a s i f she ha d r u n a m a r a t hon . Sw ea t m a d e her b l ou se st i ck
t o her b a ck a n d she g i n g er l y lo w er ed her sel f in t o a n ea sy cha i r i n t he l iv in g r oom , j u st i n f r ont o f a n
em p t y f i r ep l a ce, gr oa n in g i n a gon y .- 'My r i g ht l eg is so b r u i sed a nd st i f f , I ca n h a r d l y b ea r t o m o v e it !'
W i l l loo k ed u p w it h a f r ow n . H e ha d b een st u d y i ng a w i ld l i f e a n d f i el d gu i d e, a n d h e la id t h e b ook
a si d e. ` I not i ced t h a t y ou w er e l i m p i n g . N ot hin g ser io u s, I hop e? I ca n't r em em b er t h e d oct or
m en t i o ni ng it .'
She sho ok h er hea d a n d t h e f ier y g l i n t s i n her ha i r ca u g ht h er f a t her 's a t t ent i o n b r i ef ly . ` N o, it 's ju st
b a ng ed u p p r et t y b a d l y ! I w ha ck ed i t on t h e g ea r shi f t . It o u g ht t o loo sen u p a s I u se i t m or e.'
W i l l loo k ed d ow n a t h i s ha n d s a nd sa id ca r ef u l ly , 'I' m sor r y a b ou t y ou r f a ce, Jess, ho n ey . W i l l i t m a k e a
d i f f er ence t o y ou r ca r eer ?'
She r ea ched u p a ha nd a nd t ou ch ed t he b a nd a ge t ha t cov er ed on e si d e of h er f a ce. ` Yes, it ' l l ju st
a b ou t r u in i t , I i m a g i ne,' she sa i d cheer f u ll y , a nd ca u gh t her f a t her 's w i nce. ` Oh, Da d d y , d o n't w or r y
a b ou t i t ! Rea l ly ! If I w a nt ed t o, I cou l d ha v e p l a st i c su r ger y a nd b e ju st a b o u t t h e sa m e, b u t I d on't
k now i f I w a n t t o go t o t he t r ou b l e a nd exp ense f or j u st a not her sev en y ea r s or so l ef t t o m y m od el l i n g
ca r eer .'
` You r m od el l i ng cou l d p a y t h e h osp i t a l b i ll s w i t hi n a y ea r a n d y ou k no w it ;' he r et u r n ed , loo k in g
p u zzl ed . 'L et a l one w ha t i nsu r a n ce w ou l d p a y . Yo u r ea r n in g p ow er a s a m o d el i s f a n t a st i c, Jess.
Exp en se ca n 't b e t h e r ea so n , su r el y ?'
'W el l, no, i t i sn't ,' she a d m i t t ed , a f t er a sho r t si l ence. ' I j u st d o n't k no w i f I w a nt t o go b a ck t o m od el l i n g
o r not , Da d . I w a nt ed t o com e u p her e t o t hi nk t h i ng s t hr ou gh , I gu ess. A n d i f I d on 't g o b a ck , t hen
t her e's no r ea so n t o w or r y a b ou t a st u p i d sca r , i s t h er e?' Sh e sh ook her sel f o u t o f her r ev er i e a nd
l a u g hed a t h i m . 'Besi d es, i t m i gh t a d d a n a i r o f m y st er y a n d a d v en t u r e t o m e! M en a r e go i ng t o f l ock
t o m y sid e, f a l l i n l ov e w i t h m y w o n d er f u l a ir a nd sp en d t hei r t i m e gu essi n g a t m y so r d i d p a st !'
H er f a t her h a d t o chu ck l e a t t ha t . ` You n u t , t ha t 's w ha t w o m en a r e su p p o sed t o d o t o m en w ho ha v e
b een sca r r ed i n a d u el .'
` Sexist ,' she r ep l i ed , w it hou t a ny hea t . ` Su r ely i t sh ou l d w or k t he ot her w a y a r ou n d ? H ey , I'm st a r v ed ,
a r en't y ou ? N o? W el l , I' m goi ng t o f i x m y sel f a n o m l et t e a nd i f y ou w a nt so m e y ou 'r e w el com e t o i t .'
H e l ook ed a m u sed a t t ha t , h is l i ned f a ce cr i nk l i ng i n a w a y t ha t w a s a s f a m i l i a r t o h er a s b r ea t h i n g. ` I
t hou g ht y ou d i d n't co ok a ny m or e, M i ss H i gh Societ y .'
She lo ok ed l ik e a gu i l t y cr i m i n a l ca u g h t i n t he m i d d l e o f a cr i m e a s she st ood u p , sl i m a n d t a l l , her r i g ht
l eg st i f f . Sh e m a ssa g ed it a s she w hi sp er ed d r a m a t i ca l l y , 'Sh, d on 't t el l a ny one! I occa si ona l l y st r et ch m y
t a l ent s t o i ncl u d e a n o d d om el et t e or t w o, b u t i f w or d l ea k s ou t , t h en m y r ep u t a t i on i s r u i ned !'
` A s I r em em b er ,' W i l l sa i d r em i n i scent l y , ` y o u r om el et t es w er e p r et t y o d d . N o, t ha nk y o u , I m a y h a v e
som e sou p l a t er .'
She sm i led d o w n a t h i m a nd i m p u l siv ely b ent t o k i ss h is cheek . ` I' m sor r y t ha t I w or r i ed y ou , Da d .'
H e r ea ch ed u p a nd p a t t ed her d i scol ou r ed cheek . ` Why , hon ey , y ou cou l d n't hel p i t . A nd y o u 'r e a l l
r i ght , so ev er y t hi n g w or k ed ou t i n t he end .'
She w ent a nd l i m p ed o n i nt o t he k i t chen. Mov in g sl ow ly a n d a w k w a r d l y b eca u se o f h er b a d l eg, she
h a d t i m e t o r ef lect on her conv er sa t i on w i t h her f a t her . She h a d b een d oi ng a l ot o f t hi nk i ng a nd sh e
r ea l l y d i d n 't t h i nk sh e w a nt ed t h e su r ger y . Sh e h a d b een g et t i ng t i r ed o f t h e o u t w a r d p er f ect i on o f her
f a ce a n d b od y t ha t seem ed t o a t t r a ct p eop l e t o h er f o r t h e w r ong r ea son s. She ha d m u l l ed ov er t he
conv er sa t i on t h a t sh e h a d so m e w eek s a g o w i t h Ju st i n . Sh e ha d sa i d t ha t p eop l e w a nt ed h er f or her
p r et t y p a ck a gi n g, a n d t hey d i d n't k n o w t he r ea l her , t he p er son t h a t co u l d b e hou sed i n a ny k i n d o f
f l esh . She t hou gh t t ha t she w ou l d r a t her
l i k e t o p u t t h a t t o t he t est .
She w a s t i r ed o f b ei ng a p er f ect , p l a st i c d o l l , a nd t h e sca r seem ed t o sy m b o l i se t ha t . Wh o k now s? W hen
she got t he b a n d a ge o f f a nd lo ok ed a t her sel f i n t he m i r r or she m ig h t b e genu i nely hor r i f ied a n d w a n t
t he p l a st i c su r ger y a ny w a y . Bu t so m ehow she d ou b t ed i t .
Som et h i ng w a s ch a ng i ng i nsi d e her , so m et h i ng t ha t ha d b een t hr u st i nt o m o t i on b y t he ca t a l y st o f h er
b r ea k - u p w it h Da m i en , a nd sh e w a s cont ent t o f l o w w i t h w h a t ev er t i d e w a s sw eep i ng her i nt o a
d i f f er ent l i f e.
The d a y s f el l i nt o a gen t l e, u n d em a nd i n g p a t t er n f or h er a nd her f a t her . She r est ed a t f ir st , co nt ent t o
r ea d a nd r el a x w h i l e her f a ce a n d l eg f i n i shed t he h ea l in g p r ocess. Then she st a r t ed t o sp en d t i m e in
h er f a t her 's b ook sho p , hel p i ng ou t i n a clu m sy w a y a nd la u g h i ng a t her o w n m i st a k es, a n d gen er a l ly
j u st h a v i ng a good t i m e w it h her d a d . St i l l , f o r a l l o f her a p p a r ent l ig ht hea r t ed ness, W i l l ca u g ht t he
cr ea ses o f p a i n a r ou nd her ey es a nd m ou t h a t od d t i m es, w h en she t hou g h t she w a sn't b ei ng ob ser v ed
a nd t hou g h h e d id n 't sa y a ny t h i n g t o her , h e w on d er ed .
She d i d n't w ea r a ny m a k e- u p d u r i ng t he t w o w eek s a n d a v oi d ed l ook i ng in t he m i r r or , a nd gr a d u a l l y
she b eca m e m or e ea sy i n her m ov em ent s, b o t h i n com f or t a nd i n n a t u r a l p o si n g. The m o d el li ng p ose
t ha t she ha d o nce a d op t ed const a nt l y f el l a w a y , a nd she ev en slo u ched i n a n ea sy cha i r w hen she f el t
l i k e it . H er h a ir w ent l oose a n d f r ee, no l o n ger p u t u p i n t he sm oo t h, eleg a nt chi g non a l l o f t he t i m e,
a nd she l ost t ha t st a r k t h i n n ess, a cq u i r i ng a f a i nt cu r v e t o h er b r ea st s a nd h i p s a g a in .
She d i d n't t a l k a b ou t p er sona l m a t t er s, a n d W i l l a l so no t i ced t h is a nd w o nd er ed .
W hen t hey m a d e t h e t r i p t o t h e loca l d o ct o r t o ha v e h er st i t ch es r em o v ed , she r ef u sed t o l ook i nt o a
m i r r or u nt i l t hey h a d r et u r n ed b a ck ho m e a n d she w a s u p i n t he p r i v a cy o f her o w n r oom . Th en, h ea r t
p ou nd i n g w it h a f ea r t ha t she b ot h a ck no w l ed g ed a n d cu r sed i m p a t i ent l y , she lo ok ed sl o w l y in t o her
d r essi n g- t a b l e m ir r o r f u l l y f or t he f i r st t i m e i n sev er a l w eek s.
A t f i r st t he a n gr y r ed , hea l in g sca r w a s a d ef i ni t e shock , b u t t hen a s she b eca m e u sed t o i t a n d t h e f a ct
t ha t t he r ed ness w ou l d soon f a d e, a st r a n g e sm i l e cu r v ed h er p er f ect l i p s. The v i si on r ef l ect ed i n t he
m i r r or w a s a t o nce i ncon gr u o u s a n d y et so m eh o w sy m b ol ic. The p er f ect io n o f t he f a ce a nd t ha t on e,
si ng l e st r ok e t ha t m a r r ed t h e m a r b l e sm o ot h q u a l i t y t o h er sk i n w a s a l l i nd i ca t i v e o f w h a t she w a s
i n sid e. Sh e w a sn't p er f ect , ca l m , or ev en t o t a l ly r ea sona b l e in si d e, a n d she ha d p l a y ed t h a t r ol e t oo
l ong t o w a nt t o go b a ck t o it now . Ther e w a s a n ot her b ea u t y t h a t she w a s b eg i nn i n g t o l ea r n : t h e
b ea u t y o f n a t u r a l i sm .
A n d so f or t he m ost p a r t she w a s m a k i n g w ha t sh e d eem ed p r ogr ess i n t h e r enov a t i on o f her sel f , b ot h
p hy sica l l y a nd m ent a ll y . Bu t , o h, ho w she m i ssed D a m ien .
She l i k ed t o h ol d i m a g i na r y conv er sa t i o ns w i t h hi m , a s i f he w er e r ea l l y t her e, w i t h h er , h ol d in g h er
h a n d . It w a s a p a i n f u l exer cise a n d y et r a t h er f u n, t o d a y d r ea m t h a t t h ey w er e m a r r i ed a nd he w ou l d
n ev er l ea v e her a ga in, t ha t he w a s so m eh ow ca lm er i nsi d e hi m sel f a n d r ea d y t o set t le i n o ne p l a ce. It
w a s a n i ce d r ea m . A n d i t w a s t oo b a d t ha t it w a s o n l y a d r ea m .
She su p p osed r esig ned l y t ha t she w ou l d lo v e hi m f o r t he r est o f her l i f e. For a l l o f her cha n ges i n her
b od y a nd m ind , t ha t one f a ct o r r em a i n ed a s st ea d y a s t he cor e o f h er sel f . Cou l d she ev er gi v e u p h is
m em or y i n or d er t o m a r r y som eo ne el se? Tha t w a s t he q u est ion t h a t she p ond er ed ea r l y one ev en i ng
a s she slo u ched a lon e i n her f a v o u r i t e ea sy cha ir , t he l i ght s i n t h e l iv i ng r oom o f f a nd m u sic f r o m t he
st er eo f i l l in g t he hou se w it h t he essence o f i t s so u nd . Th e ou t sid e l i ght f r om t he p o r ch shone i n t he f r on t
p ict u r e w i n d o w a n d i l l u m i n a t ed t h i n gs w el l enou g h. A f i r e hel p ed a l so a n d t hr ew hea t on her
o u t st r et ched t o es. She cr a d l ed a d r i nk i n h er ha n d s, sa nk her ch i n i nt o her ch est a nd t hou ght .

H e w ou l d b e r i g ht b eh i n d her . H e w o u l d b e a l m ost w i t h i n t ou ch i ng d i st a nce a n d h e w o u l d a sk her ho w
she w a s a n d she w ou l d r ep l y m i l d l y , o h , f i n e a nd t hen t h ey w ou l d t a l k ov er t h e good t i m es a n d t he
b a d t i m es a n d she w ou l d n 't f eel a ny t h i ng f or h i m excep t f o r a sa d v a gu e, w el l- i t - w a s- g ood so r t o f
f eel i ng. N o , t ha t ' s not t r u e. If he w er e st a n d i n g r i g ht b eh in d her , she w ou l d b e sw a m p ed w i t h su ch a
f eel i ng o f l ov e a nd l ong i ng she w o u l d p r ob a b l y t h r ow her sel f r ig ht a t h i m a n d f l i ng h er a r m s a r ou nd h i s
w a i st .

She w a s so w r a p p ed u p i n her d a y d r ea m s, so i nt ent on her sel f , t h a t she nev er hea r d t he so f t ev en
f oot st ep s o u t on t he f r o nt p or ch. H er f a t h er w a s not co m i n g b a ck u n t i l f a ir l y l a t e, f or he w a s p l a y ing
ca r d s w it h o l d f r i end s, a n d she w a sn 't exp ect i ng a ny o ne t o ca l l . She n ev er n ot i ced w h en t h e d oor
o p ened u p a nd t he f oo t st ep s ca m e u p t o st op r i ght b eh i nd her .
W hen D a m i en sp o k e, i t w a s su ch a n a t u r a l ext en sion o f h er d a y d r ea m t h a t sh e n ev er ev en j u m p ed .
` Jess?'
She t oo k a sip o f h er d r ink . Fu nn y , she seem ed t o ha v e k no w n f r o m t he b egi nn i ng t ha t h e w o u ld b e
h er e t on i ght . ` H el l o, Da m i en.'
Ther e w a s a p a u se. She d i d n't j u m p u p t o t hr ow her a r m s a r ou nd h i m , nor d id sh e f eel a s p a ssi v ely a s
she m i g ht ha v e w i shed . In st ea d , a w a r m st ea d y gl o w f i l l ed h er u p i nsid e, a s i f a f i r e h a d b een st a r t ed in
a hea r t h t h a t h a d f or t oo lo ng b een em p t y .
Then t h a t lo w gent l e v oi ce sa id , ` M a y I sit d ow n?'

She st ir r ed t hen, t u r ned her ey es u p a n d sm i l ed a t h i s b i g b l a ck si l hou et t e. ` O f cou r se. D id I l ea v e t he
f r o nt d oor u n l ock ed a g a i n ?'
'Yes. Don 't b ot her get t i ng u p - I lo ck ed i t b ehi nd m e.' H e w a lk ed ov er t o t he ot her ea sy ch a ir t o her l ef t ,
a nd sa t d o w n . W it h t h e d a r k ness p er v a d i n g t h e cor ner s o f t h e r oom a n d t he f l ick er i n g r ed a n d y el lo w
h u es f r om t he f ir ep l a ce, he seem ed t o b e a cr ea t u r e of t he n i g ht a nd o f f i r e, r i p p l i n g w a r m col ou r
d a nci ng on h i s d a r k sk i n, m a k i ng h i s ey es b r i l l i a nt , p u t t i n g gl ea m s o f r ed in h i s d a r k ha i r a n d sen d i ng
h a l f o f h i s f a ce i n t o b l a ck n ess.
She ha d t o sm i l e a ga i n . ` Tel l m e, Da m i en, a r e y ou r ea l ly M ep h i st op h eles? H er e I sit , a l l a l o ne, st a r i n g a t
a f ir e in t he n i ght , t h i nk i ng o f y ou , a n d y o u m a g i ca l l y a p p ea r .'
H e st i r r ed , t u r ni n g h is g a ze t o t he f l a m es, si g hi ng . ` N o, Jess. I' m o n ly a m a n. W hy d i d y ou r u n a w a y
f r o m N ew Yor k ?'
She b r o od ed a t t h a t , t u ck in g i n her chi n a ga i n a n d l oo k in g d o w n a t her gl a ss, h er h a i r f a l l i ng ov er h er
f a ce i n a concea l in g clo u d . ` Tel l m e, w hy d i d y ou f o l l ow m e her e?'
Si l ence. Th e sou n d o f f l a m in g t on g u es l ick i ng hu n gr i l y a t d r y w o od , cr a ck li ng , sn a p p i ng. Sh e ha d n't
exp ect ed a n a n sw er t o h er q u est ion a n d so w hen he d i d sp ea k , sh e j u m p ed , a s v i o l ent ly a s she shou l d
h a v e w hen he h a d co m e u p b eh in d her . ` To see y ou , t o t a l k t o y ou . I'v e m i ssed y ou , Jessie.'
She w h isp er ed a n i n st a nt r esp o nse, ` I'v e m i ssed y o u , t oo.' Fi r el i ght f l i ck er i ng, it w a s so w a r m a nd
com f or t i ng a nd r ea l . She d i d n't ha v e a f i r ep l a ce i n h er a p a r t m ent . She r ea l l y need ed t o m ov e, t o f in d
som e p la ce t h a t su i t ed her b et t er . A j oy f u l, p a i n f u l f eel i n g w el l ed u p i n her , w el l ed u p a n d sp i l l ed ou t ,
a l l o v er t he ca r p et a n d t he r ef l ect i o ns o f t he d a ncin g f l a m es l i ck ed a t
i t , a b sor b i ng . ` H ey , l ook , I ca n't t a k e a ny m or e con f r ont a t i on s. I r ea l l y w ou l d l i k e it i f y o u j u st w ent
a w a y , Da m i en,' she sa i d so f t l y , cl osi ng her ey es. ` Go a w a y . P l ea se! Go b a ck . I'm t r y i n g t o b e good her e
a nd t r y in g t o b u i ld a not her l i f e, a nd y ou 'r e go i n g t o w r eck it a l l a n d m a k e m e u n h a p p y w it h w h a t I'v e
g ot . Da m i en, d on't hu r t m e- j u st go ho m e, o k a y ?'

Tha t b l a ck a n d r ed , st r ong, st i l l f i g u r e g a l v a n ised i n t o a ct i o n. H e ca t a p u l t ed f or w a r d , t hr u st ou t of h is
sea t b y h i s t w o q u i ck ha nd s, a nd t hen h e w a s k neel i ng i n f r ont o f her ch a ir , ho l d i ng her ha nd s t ig ht l y ,
r est i n g h i s hea d on her k nees. She w a s so i ncr ed i b l y sha k en, so com p l et ely t a k en a b a ck , t ha t a l l she
cou l d d o w a s in st i nct i v el y t o b en d o v er h i s d a r k hea d , her ha ir f a l l i n g l ik e r a i n o v er b ot h o f t h ei r f a ces,
f l a m el i k e, a nd she p r essed her f o r ehea d t o h i s ha i r .
` The l a st t h i ng I'd ev er w a nt t o d o t o y ou i s h u r t y ou ,' he w h i sp er ed . ` Tha t 's t he l a st t hi n g I ev er
i nt end ed ! O h, w hy d i d ev er y t hi ng ha v e t o go w r ong ? Jessi e, w hy cou l d n't y ou st a y ?'
She ju st r est ed , a nd t he w a r m , t i ght ho ld h e ha d o n her ha nd s f el t so exq u i si t ely w on d er f u l t ha t t he
p a i n i n h er hea r t t hr ea t ened t o b r ea k d o w n her r eso lv e. ` D a r l i n g, I j u st w a sn 't h a nd l in g m y l i f e. I-
n ot hi ng w a s r ig ht , a n d I j u st d i d n't w a nt t o l i v e a st er i l e l i f e a ny m or e!'
H e sp ok e, a nd sh e f el t t h e m ov em ent o f h i s l i p s t h r ou g h h er sl a ck s. ` W i l l y ou m a r r y m e? P l ea se, Jess,
w i l l y ou m a r r y m e?'
H er hea d j er k ed u p a nd she st a r ed d ow n a t h i s b ent hea d , shock ed . A t o ne t i m e sh e ha d t hou gh t he
w ou l d nev er sa y t hose w or d s t o a ny w o m a n. A n d , a t o n e t i m e sh e h a d t h ou g ht h e w a s go i n g t o sa y
t hose w or d s t o so m eo ne el se. Then a sa d sm i l e t u g ged a t her l i p s. ` Di d Ma r y sa y n o?'

H e held v er y st i l l . ` I nev er a sk ed her . It w a s w r ong f r om t he v er y b eg i nn in g a n d y ou k new it . You a r e a
v er y w i se l a d y . Ev en a s y ou h el p ed t ha t l i t t l e sw eet t h i ng t o b eco m e t he p r et t i est a n d t he m ost
a t t r a ct i v e she cou l d b e, y o u m u st h a v e k n o w n a l l a lon g. W a s i t y ou r w a y o f sho w i ng m e ju st how
y ou ng she r ea l l y w a s, b y g iv i ng her a l l of t ha t g l a m ou r a n d g l i t t er ?'
She ha d t o l a u gh . ` I d on't k now . I t h i nk I h o p ed so, i n a w a y , a lt hou gh M a r y cer t a i n l y f i gu r ed i n i t
l a r gel y . She w a nt ed i t so b a d ly , y ou k n ow . I w o nd er i f she w i ll f i n d i t a l l t ha t she h a d d r ea m t i t t o b e.
Bu t y es, I t h i nk I d i d h op e t o sh ow y ou t h a t t he p a ck a ge i s not w ha t m a t t er ed , a nd i f y ou h a p p ened t o
f a l l i n l ov e w i t h t he new M a r y M ou se, w hen y o u d id n 't so m u ch a s l ook a t t he ol d o n e, w hy t h en I gu ess
I w ished y ou t w o a l l o f t he h a p p i n ess i n t h e w o r l d . Sh e n ev er r ea l l y cha ng ed o n t h e i nsid e, t h ou gh,
excep t m a y b e t o t h i nk b et t er o f h er sel f .'

` A nd y ou w ou l d nev er ha v e r esp ect ed m e a g a i n i n y ou r l i f e.' Th er e w a s a sm i l e i n h i s v oi ce, t h a t r u ef u l ,
q u izzi ca l t one she k new so w el l a n d w el co m ed , a n d she la u ghed a ga i n, sq u eezi ng t h e h a nd s ho l d i ng
h er s. Ice ch ink ed a n d she a u t o m a t i ca ll y p r essed h er h a l f - f in ished d r ink i nt o h i s h a nd . A s a u t o m a t ica l l y ,
h e set t l ed a t her f eet a n d d r a nk . Ice ch ink ed a ga i n, a l ig h t , si lv er y sou n d , a nd t hen h e h a nd ed t h e g la ss
b a ck t o her . ` You nev er a n sw er ed m y q u est i o n, d a r l i ng .'
` A nd y ou a l w a y s d i d p r ess f or a n i m m ed i a t e a n sw er ,' she r et u r n ed q u i et l y , t r y in g t o a v oi d t he i ssu e. H e
d i d n 't p r essu r e her . ` H o w i n t he w or l d d i d y ou k now w her e t o f i nd m e, a ny w a y ? The on l y p er so n I t o l d
w a s ... oh , no. You d id n 't g o a nd see Ju st i n, d i d y ou ?'
'Yes, I d id , a nd h a d a d ev i l o f a t i m e t r a ck i ng t he f el l o w d ow n, t oo. H e' s n ot l i st ed i n t he p ho ne b ook ,
a nd I ha d no id ea w h er e h e l i v ed .'
` Wh a t d i d y ou d o?' She t ook a si p o f her d r i nk a n d cl o sed h er ey es. St r a ng e, how r el a xi ng i t w a s j u st t o
b e w i t h hi m , t o j u st lo v e h i m , ev en t h ou g h not h i ng ha d b een r eso lv ed , ev en t ho u gh she k n ew h e d id
n ot l ov e her .
` I w ent t o cou r t .'
` Oh, no !' H er ey es f l ew op en a n d she st a r ed a t h i m i n con st er na t i on . ` Yo u a ct u a l l y b ot h er ed h i m i n
cou r t ? W ha t - w ha t ha p p en ed ?'
'I t o l d h i m I w a nt ed t o t a l k t o h i m , he g a v e m e hi s p hon e nu m b er , w e g ot t o get h er a nd t a lk ed . Yes,
cont r a r y t o p op u l a r b el i ef , I d id not sm a sh h i s b l on d , ha nd so m e f a ce in, a n d h e d i d n ot r et a l ia t e i n
k in d . We w er e v er y ci v i l . H e's a go od f r i en d f or y o u . H e r ea l l y ca r es.'
She st a r ed d ow n a t hi m in a m a zem ent , f eel i n g hi s f i ng er s p l a y i d l y w i t h h er s. ` I k no w t ha t . I' m j u st a b i t
su r p r i sed t o h ea r y ou a d m i t i t , t h a t 's a l l. Da m i en, d o y ou f eel a l l r ig ht ?'
'N o.' H e t u r ned h i s hea d , a nea t , sw i f t m o v em ent , a n d t r i ed t o see her exp r essi on in t h e sem i- d a r k ness.
` I'm lon el y , a nd a t n i gh t m y b ed i s co ld a n d em p t y .' She j er k ed a t t ha t a d m i ssio n; he w a s no t seein g
a ny one el se. H i s f i n ger s t i g ht ened o n h er s. ` Jessi ca , p l ea se a nsw er m e. W i l l y ou m a r r y m e?'
H er hea r t t hu d d ed , r a ced , r oa r ed , a nd her l i p s shook . H er e w a s her ch a nce, r i ght h er e w a s h er b i g
cha nce, d o n't b lo w i t , b a b y , d on't b l ow i t now , h e' l l nev er o f f er a g a in . ` N o,' sh e w h i sp er ed , a nd f elt si ck .
H i s f in g er s st i l l ed , sla ck en ed . ` Why no t ?' It w a s a w h i sp er ed q u est i on, l i k e her a n sw er h a d b een, low ,
i nt ense, a l m ost a n gr y .
` Oh, d ea r Da m ien,' she h a l f m oa n ed , r ea chi n g o u t t o st r ok e h i s hea d w i t h a gent l e, sl i ght ly sh a k i ng
h a n d . ` I d on 't k now i f I ca n m a k e y ou u nd er st a nd . I- I' m n ot v er y good a t exp l a i n ing m y em ot i on s.'

H i s t one, a f t er t h a t f i r st shock ed r esp on se, w a s u nd er cont r ol , d r y . ` I k no w . I' m o n l y n ow b eg in ni ng t o
see how m u ch y ou 'v e k ep t i nsi d e y ou . I'l l l i st en, i f y ou ca r e t o t r y , d a r l i ng .'
H er h a nd st i l l ed on h i s h ea d . ` W her e d o I st a r t ? I d o n't k no w w h en it a l l st a r t ed t o go so u r , ev en now I
d on't k now . A n d I' m not n ecessa r i l y t a l k i n g a b ou t y o u , I'm t a l k i ng a b ou t m y w hol e l i f e, w h i ch y o u
i ncid ent a l l y h a p p en ed t o b e a p a r t o f .' Sh e f el t hi m r el a x. H e w a s v u ln er a b l e, y es, a f t er a l l , h er D a m ien
w a s v u l ner a b le. It w a s a r ev el a t i o n a l l ov er a ga i n . Sh e h a d t he p o w er t o hu r t h i m , h ow d eep l y , she
d i d n 't k n ow , b u t h e d id ca r e enou gh so t h a t sh e cou l d hu r t h i m . She w a s t ou ched .
` Wh a t w ent sou r on y ou ?'
'Ev er y t hi ng . Oh , t h i s l a st d eca d e ha s b een q u it e a t i m e, I ca n t el l y o u . I st a r t ed o u t , so f u l l o f goa l s a nd
h op es a n d d r ea m s! A nd t he cl i m b i n t h e b u si ness w a s f u n, w a sn't i t ? I w or k ed , a nd I sw ea t ed , a n d I
d r a gg ed m y sel f t o t he t o p . I w a s g ood . I w a s good ! You k now t h a t , y ou h a d a s m u ch f u n w a t chi ng m e
cli m b a s I d i d w o r k i ng t o get t h er e. It w a s t he i nt a ng i b l e, t h e u n a t t a i na b l e t ha t so m eho w I w a s g o in g
t o a t t a i n . N ob o d y t el l s y ou ho w f l a t t he m o u nt a i nt op ca n b e a f t er get t i n g t her e. Ev er y t h ing j u st w ent
st a le. Ther e's on l y so m a ny sm i l es a n d so m a n y p oses t ha t ca n b e p r a ct i sed in f r ont o f a ca m er a , a n d I
d i d t h em a l l , d i d n't I? A t l ea st I h a d t he d ecency t o k eep m y cl ot h es on; I d i d n't go t h a t f a r , a n d nev er
w i l l ! Bu t I w a s b o r ed w i t h ev er y t hi ng . A nd t hen o f cou r se, I d id n't - f eel l i k e I w a s g et t i n g w h a t I need ed
o u t of ou r r el a t ion shi p .'
H e st i r r ed . ` W ha t d o y ou f eel y ou need ed o u t of ou r r el a t io nshi p ?'
L ov e. Su p p or t . Com f or t . Fid el i t y . Lo v e. Sh e si g hed . ` It d oesn't m a t t er w ha t I t ho u ght I n eed ed . It 's j u st
t ha t I w a sn't get t i n g i t . W ha t d oes m a t t er i s t ha t I'm not go i ng b a ck t o t h a t l i f e, or t o ou r r el a t i on sh i p
a ga i n .'
` Rel a t i on sh i p s cha n ge. You a r e gi v i n g u p f o r p oi nt s t ha t cou l d v er y w el l b e i r r el ev a n t ,' he sa i d , a
t hr ea d o f i m p a t i ence b eg i n n i ng t o shoot t hr o u gh h i s v oi ce.
` Do y ou w a nt m e t o sp el l ev er y l it t l e t h i n g ou t f or y o u ?' sh e a sk ed , st a r t i n g t o get a n g r y a t ho w he w a s
p u sh i n g h er i nt o a cor ner . ` Yes, I ca n see t h a t y ou d o, t he sa m e o l d D a m i en. I d on 't w a n t t o get b a ck
t oget her w i t h y ou b eca u se- b eca u se, d a m m it , y ou ca n m a k e m e f eel su ch r a ge a t t i m es, a n d i t ' s a
d est r u ct i v e, cor r osi v e em ot i o n t h a t not o nl y t ea r s a w a y a t m y in si d es b u t t ea r s a t y o u w hen I ca n't
l ea sh it ! I- I w a s a st er i le d o l l b a ck i n N ew Yor k f or t oo l on g, i n a n ef f or t t o cont r ol t h a t r a ge, a nd I o n l y
m a na g ed t o b ot t l e ev er y t hi ng u p u nt i l i t b l ew ou t a l l ov er t he p l a ce! A nd i t w a sn't y o u , b u t i t w a s
ev er y t hi ng i n m y l i f e t h a t I w a s a n gr y a t , a nd d i ssa t i sf i ed w it h, a n d I t r ied t o m a k e m y sel f b el i ev e t h a t I
w a s h a p p y b eca u se I f el t t h a t I shou l d b e ha p p y w i t h w ha t I h a d !' A n d I f el t r a g e a t y ou , b eca u se y ou
d i d n 't l ov e m e t h e w a y I l ov ed y ou , she a d d ed si lent l y , f u r iou sl y , a n d k n ew t h e w or d s w ou l d n ev er b e
sp ok en. D a m i en w ou l d n't , cou l d n't lo v e a w o m a n . H ow m a ny t i m es ha d he a ssu r ed h er of t h a t ? H e
d i d not l ov e h er t h e w a y she l ov ed hi m . H e cou l d not . Da m n h im t o hel l , he cou ld no t . Sh e cr u m p l ed i n
h er ch a ir su d d en ly . ` A n d I' m sor r y , d a r l in g. It ju st w ou l d n't w or k . I'd b e t oo a f r a i d o f hu r t i n g b ot h
m y sel f a nd y ou , a n d o f a l l t he p eo p le i n t h e w or l d , w e a r e t h e t w o I' d h a t e t o hu r t t h e m ost !' H e ha l f -
l a u g hed a t t h a t , sh a k i ng h i s hea d .
` You 'r e w r ong.'
She st ir r ed . ` W ha t d 'y ou m ea n?'
` Ju st w ha t I sa i d : y ou a r e w r ong. A b ou t a l o t of t h in g s, b u t w e w o n't go in t o t ha t no w , i t ' s p r et t y l a t e,
a nd I exp ect y o u 'r e t i r ed . I w i l l t el l y ou t h i s, t ho u g h: I f u l l y i nt en d m a r r y i ng y ou , soo ner or l a t er . We'd
su i t in so m a n y w a y s, a nd I f i nd I r ea l ly d o w a n t t h i s t o w or k .

Resi g n y ou r sel f , d a r l i n g .' She shook her h ea d , a m a zed a t h i s a r r og a nce. H e st o od a n d st r et ched a l i t t l e.
` H ow a b ou t o n e m or e d r i nk ? I t hi nk I co u l d u se som et h i n g a l i t t l e m or e su b st a n t i a l t ha n w ha t y ou ha d
i n y ou r g la ss ... ov er her e? I' l l j u st f l ip o n t h e li ght f or a m o m ent , so gu a r d y ou r ey es.' The l ig ht ca m e o n
a nd f l ood ed t he r oo m w it h a b r i ght ness t h a t a f t er t he w a r m , co sy g l ow o f t h e f i r e m a d e her b l i nk .
She y a w ned , t i r ed l y t h i nk i ng t ha t a f t er t hi s d r i nk sh e w ou l d ha v e t o f i n d so m e w a y t o conv i nce h i m t o
g o b a ck t o t he w or l d he ca m e f r om . H ow cou l d she conv i nce h i m t h a t she no l o nger w a n t ed w h a t h er
o ld w or l d ha d t o o f f er ? H o w co u ld sh e t el l hi m t ha t she cou ld not b e ha p p y l iv i ng t h a t k i n d o f l i f est y l e
a ny m or e? H o w d i d she k n o w , her sel f ? She l et her hea d f a l l b a ck a ga in st t h e b a ck o f t he cha ir , her d a r k
r ed ha i r f a l l i ng a w a y f r om a nea r l y p u r e p r of i l e, a p r of i l e t ha t w o u l d nev er a g a i n b e a s p u r e a s i t o nce
h a d b een.
H e ha d w a l k ed ov er t o t he ca b i net a n d h a d p ou r ed h i m sel f a b r a n d y . Sh e cou l d h a v e p l a ced a b et o n
t he d r ink ; t h a t 's ho w w el l sh e k new h i s l i k es a nd d i sl i k es. H e t u r ned , l ook ed ov er one w i d e sh ou l d er a n d
a sk ed her , ` Wo u l d y ou l i k e f o r m e t o f r esh en y ou - My Go d !'
Tha t sha r p , sh ock ed v o ice jer k ed her hea d u p a nd sh e st a r ed a t h i m w i t h w i d e ey es, o ne b r ow d r a w i ng
t o her p er f ect n ose, t he o t h er st a t i on a r y . She cou l d f eel i t , cou l d f eel t h e t u g o f t he con t r a ct a b le m u scl es
o n t he l ef t i n co m p a r i so n t o t he i m m ov a b l e nu m b n ess o n h er r i gh t , a n d r ea l i sa t io n a n d m em or y
f l ood ed t hr o u g h h er a t t he hor r i f i ed l ook o n h i s f a ce. She gr oa ned once, a d eep sou n d o f p a i n, a nd p u t
u p her h a n d s t o cov er her f a ce. ` Oh no , I f or g ot , I com p l et el y f or got a l l a b o u t i t !'

H er v i si o n w ent d a r k , b eca u se o f t he f i nger s co v er ing her ey es, a n d she ha d j u st enou gh t i m e t o no t ice
t he r ed o u t l i ne o f her f i nger s' b lo od v essel s a s t he l ig ht
p enet r a t ed b et w een t hem , so m et h i ng she ha d a l w a y s not i ced a s a ch i ld , a n d t h en her ha n d s w er e
j er k ed a w a y a nd D a m ien, ey es ca r r y in g t h a t a w f u l shock ed lo ok , ca m e clo se t o r u n h i s g a ze ov er her
sca r r ed f a ce. She f el t a cu t el y sel f - consci ou s, so m u ch so t h a t she t w i st ed a n d t u r ned i n a n ef f or t t o get
a w a y f r o m h i s ey es, b u t h e gr a b b ed her h ea d a n d hel d her st i l l a s he l ook ed h is f i l l o n h er f a ce.
Fu t i l e, st u p i d , i r r a t ion a l t ea r s f i l l ed her ey es a nd she f i n a l l y st op p ed t r y i ng t o m ov e a w a y f r o m h i s ga ze
b u t m et h i s ey es hea d on, her ey es g l i t t er i n g b r il l ia n t l y , hu gel y .
` You r f a ce,' he sa i d i n a k i n d o f m oa n, ` W ha t h a p p ened t o y ou r b ea u t i f u l f a ce? H o w d i d t h i s ha p p en
t o y ou ? W hen - how , a nsw er m e!' In h i s a g i t a t i on, he t ook her b y t he shou l d er s a n d g a v e her a q u ick
h a r d sha k e.
The t ea r s sp i l l ed ov er a nd she sa i d , so b b i n g, ` A n a cci d en t , I h a d a n a cci d ent . I- I w ent o f f t h e r oa d
t r y ing t o m i ss a p u p p y a nd m y ca r r o l l ed d ow n a n em b a nk m en t . The w i nd sh i el d sh a t t er ed .' She w ent
m u t e, j u st st a r i ng a t h i m . D i d i t r ea l ly m a t t er so m u ch t o h i m , t ha t sca r ? D i d h e r ea l l y ca r e a b ou t su ch
t hi ngs a f t er a l l ? Sh e st a r t ed t o go nu m b , b eca u se sh e d i d n't w a nt t o t h i nk a b o u t it .
` Oh, m y God !' h e b r ea t hed , h a u l in g h er cl ose t o w r a p h i s a r m s h a r d a r ou n d her . ` Yo u cou l d h a v e b een
k i l l ed , y o u cou l d ha v e d i ed w eek s a go, I w o u ld nev er h a v e k no w n !' H e b a ck ed u p , l ook ed d o w n a t her
a ga i n, a n d som et h i ng l ik e p it y f l it t ed a cr oss h i s f a ce. She sa w i t a nd w a s ho r r i f ied . Th en he w a s sa y i n g
g ent l y , ` It d oesn't l ook ir r ep a r a b le, d a r l i ng . We ca n g et i t f i xed u p , a n d I' m su r e y ou cou l d m od el
a ga i n . You need n't l et t h is st a n d i n y ou r w a y a f t er a l l, d on't y ou see?'
She su r ged t o h er f eet , k nock i n g h is h a nd s a w a y f r om her , a p p a l l ed . ` N o, b y Go d ! I w i l l n ot ! Oh ,
Da m i en, y ou 'r e j u st a s b a d a s a l l t he r est a r e, y ou onl y ca r e f or t he ou t si d e, b u t y ou d on't ca r e f or m e,
f or m e! Th a t 's a l l ev er y one's b een t el l in g m e, get i t f i xed , get it t a k en ca r e o f - i s i t so h el l i sh t o l ook a t ? Is
i t so d a m n ed u g l y t o y ou ? W el l , t h a t 's j u st t ou gh , t h a t ' s r ea l ly t ou g h, b eca u se i f y ou d on 't l i k e it , t hen
y ou ca n t a k e a l ea p i n g , j u m p o f f so m ew h er e! Do y ou k now w h a t ? I l i k e it ! I'm not a p l a st i c d ol l
a ny m or e, I'm a h u m a n b ei n g a g a in ! I'm n ot a b u si ness i nv est m ent , I' m a p er so n w i t h f eel i ng s t ha t
y ou 'v e ju st j u m p ed a l l ov er a nd t r a m p led o n, d a m m it !' She w a s i n a r a ge no w a nd t ot a l l y ou t o f
cont r ol , a n d sh e w h i r l ed t o r u sh a w a y f r om h i m a s i f t h e p r oxi m i t y o f h i s b o d y w a s t oo m u ch f or her .

Then sh e t u r ned a t t h e o t her end o f t h e r oo m , d a r k , r ed ha ir f l y in g o u t , ey es g lo w i ng m ol t en f ir e, a n d
t he l ook o f r a ge o n h er f a ce t oget her w i t h t he sca r a b ov e h er b r ow , m a d e her l ook m or e a n gu i shed
t ha n sh e cou l d k now .

` N o, Jessi ca !' Da m i en w a s w h i t e, h i s ey es b u r ni n g , a nd he ca m e a f t er h er q u i ck l y . ` Th a t 's not w h a t I
m ea n t ! I ju st t hou ght t ha t y ou w er e t r y i n g t o r eco nci le y ou r sel f t o t he lo ss o f y ou r ca r eer b y a l l of y ou r
t a l k b ef o r e, a n d y ou d o n't h a v e t o l ea v e i t a l l i f y ou d on't w a nt t o- t ha t 's a l l I w a s t r y i ng t o sa y !'
She ga v e v ent t o her f r u st r a t i on b y p u t t i n g h er t w o cl en ched h a n d s a g a i nst her h ea d a nd sn a r l i n g
t hr ou gh gr it t ed t eet h. ` Then w i l l y ou ju st l i st en t o m e f or a m i nu t e? W i l l y ou p a y a t t ent io n t o w h a t I'm
sa y i ng? Rea d m y l ip s, i f y o u h a v e t o ! I l ef t . To w n . Beca u se I d i d n 't . W a nt t o l i v e. Tha t l i f e, a ny m or e! The
a cci d en t d id n't m a t t er t o m e! Bu t I ca n see it o b v i ou sl y m a t t er s t o y ou !'
'Yes, i t m a t t er s t o m e!' he b el l ow ed ou t , h i s p ow er f u l v oi ce sh a k i ng t hr ou gh t he hou se. ` By t he sou n d o f
i t , y ou d a m n nea r d ied ou t t her e, a nd t ha t m a t t er s t o m e!'
Feel i n g h u r t a n d w a n t i n g t o l a sh ou t b eca u se o f t ha t hu r t , she j eer ed m ock i n g l y , ` A n d t h e sca r m a t t er s
t o y ou , d oesn't it ? H u h, d o esn 't i t ?'
'Yes!' he shou t ed , go a d ed b y her a t t it u d e. ` Tha t d a m ned sca r m a t t er s t o m e! W h enev er y ou 'r e hu r t it
m a t t er s t o m e! Wo m a n, w i l l y o u j u st ca l m d o w n a m in u t e a nd l i st en t o r ea son ?'
'W ha t i s i t ?' sh e cr i ed ou t , k no ck i ng a g a i n st a n ea r b y t a b le a n d sen d i n g a n a sh t r a y cr a sh i ng t o t he
f l oor . ` A m I t oo u g ly f or y ou no w ? W el l t h a t 's j u st t oo b a d , m i st er ! If I'm not go o d en ou g h f or y o u , t a k e
i t so m ew h er e else!' Sh e t u r ned a nd ey ed h i m w i t h her t o o- b r i l l i a n t ey es, f eel i ng a s i f t he t op o f her
h ea d w er e a b o u t t o sp l i t a p a r t . ` Is t ha t r ea l l y w hy y ou d i d n't a sk p oor M a r y M ou se t o m a r r y y ou ?
Ev en a l l d o l l ed u p she w a sn't goo d eno u g h, w a s she?'
'Sh u t u p , Jessi ca !' h e sna r l ed , l ook i ng i ncr ed i b l y d a nger ou s. ` You a r e go i ng t o p u sh m e t oo f a r , so j u st
shu t u p !'
'Tel l m e,' she sa id su d d en ly , st a r i ng a t h i m so f i er cel y a nd so hu r t . ` If I h a d l ook ed l i k e M a r y , w ou l d y ou
h a v e lo ok ed t w i ce a t m e? W ou l d y ou ? W o u l d y ou ?'
` N o!' H e w a s ov er t o her i n t w o st r i d es a n d ha d a ho l d o n h er j a w , m a k i ng her st a r e r i g ht b a ck a t h i m .
H e w a s so a ngr y ! H e w a s so d eep in t o h i s a nger he d i d n't r ea l i se h ow b a d ly he w a s h u r t in g h er . ` I
w ou l d not h a v e g i v en y ou a secon d l ook , not so m u ch a s a si ng l e t ho u ght i f y ou ha d n't b een a s
b ea u t i f u l a s y ou w er e! W h a t t he h el l i s t he m a t t er w i t h t h a t ? You k n ew I f ou n d y ou a t t r a ct i v e f r o m
t he b eg i n n i ng ! You f o u nd m e a t t r a ct iv e, a d m i t i t ! Co m e on no w , I w a nt y o u t o a d m i t i t l ik e y ou m a d e
m e- y ou l ik ed h ow I loo k ed !'
She st a r ed a t hi m b i t t er l y , h a t ef u l ly . ` Yes!' she sp a t , f u r iou s a t ha v i ng t o a d m i t i t . ` Yes, I d i d ! Bu t i f I
h a d i t t o d o a ga i n, I'd ha v e r u n a s f a st a s I co u ld i n t he ot her d ir ect io n !'
H i s ey es na r r ow ed a n d h e l et g o o f her j a w so f a st she nea r l y u nb a l a nced a nd f el l . ` W el l ,' he sa i d ,
b a ck i n g u p a f ew p a ces, ` no w w e k now , d o n't w e?'

'Yes,' she b u r st ou t , a nxio u s t o t r y a n d sen d h i m a s f a r a w a y a s p o ssi b l e f r om h er , so t ha t sh e cou l d go
a nd l i ck her w o u nd s i n p r i v a t e. ` A nd y ou m i gh t a s w el l gi v e u p a ny not io n o f get t i n g m e t o h a v e
p la st i c su r ger y , b eca u se I j u st w o n't d o it ! A nd i f y ou d o n 't l i k e t he l ook s o f i t , t h en y ou j u st go b a ck t o
N ew Yor k a nd f i n d so m eo ne el se t h a t su it s y ou r i d ea o f b ea u t y ! I w o n't p l a y t h a t ga m e a n y m o r e, not
f or y ou o r f o r a ny on e else, so ju st g et ou t of her e, w i l l y ou ?'
She t u r ned her b a ck t o h i m , cr ossed her a r m s a r ou n d her sel f a nd w a it ed t o h ea r h i s f oo t st ep s t a k i n g
h i m ou t t h a t d oor a n d ou t o f h er l i f e, a g a i n . On e p a r t o f her sel f w a s a p p a l led a t ho w she ha d r ip p ed
u p a t h i m a nd t he ot her p a r t w a s a p p a l led t h a t h e shou l d t h i nk so m u ch o f her l ook s. She ju st co u l d n't
l i v e w it h h i m a ny w a y , so i t w a s a good t h i ng he w a s goi ng t o l ea v e. Wh en t hey g ot i nt o a f i ght , t hey
h a d o ne m o t her a nd f a t her o f a f i g ht , a n d not o n ly d i d t h ey m a n a ge t o hu r t ea ch ot her p r et t y w ell ,
b u t t hey m a n a ged t o w r eck t h eir su r r ou n d i ng s l ik e t w in t or na d oes cu t t i n g a p a t h o f d est r u ct i on. She
d i d n 't w a n t t ha t k i nd o f d est r u ct i v eness in her l i f e.
Ther e w a s co m p l et e si l ence f r om b eh i n d h er , not ev en f oo t st ep s sou n d in g t o t he d o or . She w a s go i ng
cr a zy a t t h e si len ce, w h en she hea r d a ca r d oor sl a m ou t si d e a n d she g r oa n ed d eep i n h er t h r oa t . Th a t
w a s Da d b a ck f r om p l a y in g ca r d s a nd no w she w ou l d h a v e t o i nt r od u ce Da m ien t o h i m , a nd t o t r y t o
p r et end t o a p o l i t en ess t ha t n eit her sh e nor Da m i en w ou l d b e f eeli ng, a n d how w a s she go i n g t o a ct
n or m a l a f t er su ch a ca t a cl y sm i c a r g u m ent ?

She t u r ned a n d hi ssed a t Da m i en's b a ck , si nce he' d t u r ned a t t he ca r d o or sl a m m i ng . Ev en w hi l e she
sp ok e t o h i m a ngr i l y , she r a n h er ey es d ow n t he eleg a nt , m a scu l i ne l i nes o f h i s b od y a p p r eci a t iv ely .
` N ow see w h a t y ou 'v e d o ne? You sho u l d h a v e g ot ou t o f her e b ef o r e. Tha t 's m y f a t h er !'
H e t u r ned sl ow ly , b r a nd y gl a ss i n h a n d a n d l ea n f a ce, i n cr ed ib ly , ca l m a n d ev en a m u sed . Sh e n ot ed i t ;
he h a d t i m e t o get h i m sel f ca l m w hi le she ha d
b een f ig ht i ng w it h her ow n em ot ion s. She ha d t o
st a r e. She w a s a s t a u t a s a b o w st r i ng a f t er t hei r
y el li ng m a t ch, a n d h e l ook ed a l m o st r el a xed , a n d
t ha t , on t op o f ev er y t hi ng, m a d e her a ngr y t oo.
` W el l, I ca n see y ou 'r e a d ep t a t m a sk i ng y ou r
em ot i ons!' sh e sna p p ed a nd n ea r ly t hr ew
som et hi ng a t h i m w hen he l a u gh ed .
H e r ep l i ed ca l m l y , ` Get y ou r sel f t oget her , d a r l i n g.
We'v e g ot t o a ct nor m a l f or y ou r f a t h er , a nd w e
ca n a r gu e t h i s a l l o u t la t er .'
She st a m p ed her f oot , a ch i l d i sh, u seless b u r st of
b a d t em p er . ` We w i l l not !'
H e j u st l ook ed a t her , a s t he f r on t d oor o p ened t o
a d m i t W i l l . ` Yes, Jessi ca , w e w i l l .'

W ILL ent er ed t he l i v i n g r o om a n d l ook ed w i t h i nt er est a t t he t a l l , d a r k l y , go od - l ook i ng m a n w ho
st o od f a cin g hi s d a u ght er , a d r i nk o f b r a n d y hel d in on e n eg l ig ent , lo ng- f i ng er ed h a nd . ` H el lo , t h er e,'
h e sa i d , st r id i ng f or w a r d t o hol d ou t a h a n d . It w a s cl a sp ed , b r ief l y a n d w it h a g r i p so ha r d h e w a n t ed
t o w ince. A n i ce gr ip , he d ecid ed . ` I' m Jessi e's f a t her , W i l l .'
'Da m i en Kent . H ow d o y ou d o?' The t w o m en si zed ea ch ot her u p a nd ea ch l i k ed w ha t h e sa w . ` I
t hou g ht I w a s t he on l y on e w ho ca l l ed her Jessi e.'
She w a t ched t he t w o m en she ha d w a nt ed t o k eep a p a r t , a nd her f oot b eg a n t o u n consci ou sly t a p ou t
a r a p i d st a cca t o on t he r u g . D a m i en t u r ned on t h e cha r m a nd her f a t her , she cou l d see, w a s f a l l i ng f o r
i t . H e l i k ed t he y ou n g er m a n . W el l, it w a s j u st t o o b a d si nce ev er y t hi n g w a s f a l l i ng i nt o a sha m b l es
CHAPTER SEVEN

a r ou n d h er a nd now Da m ien a n d she w ou l d nev er b e t oget her a g a i n . H er o ne ey eb r ow l i f t ed ,
sa r d on i ca l l y , a nd her m o u t h p u r sed .
W i l l t u r ned b a ck t o hi s d a u ght er a n d w a s i n w a r d l y v er y i nt er est ed in d eed . H e h a d n o t seen her so clo se
t o t he ed ge o f her cont r ol si nce she ha d b een a y o u n g, u n d i sci p l i ned , sp i r i t ed g ir l . In f a ct , he ha d b eg u n
t o w on d er a t her p h eno m en a l ca l m a s t he d a y s h a d gon e b y a nd sh e d i d n ot - so m u ch a s t hr o w a
cook i ng p a n. Th a t , f or Jessica , w a s v er y u n u su a l . A n d her e she w a s, n ea r ly d a n ci ng w i t h t em p er , a nd he
w ou l d l a y od d s w i t h a ny one t h a t i t w a s a l l b eca u se o f t he l a r g e f el l ow i n f r ont o f h i m now . H i s gr izzl ed
g r ey b r ow s r ose i n su r p r i se a nd t he b eg i nn i ng s o f a sm i le f l i t t ed a cr oss hi s cr ea sed f a ce. So t ha t w a s t he
l a y of t he l a nd ! ` We d eci d ed t o q u i t ea r l y t oni g ht , d ea r . Ga r et h ha s a n a st y co u gh .'
` Tha t 's t oo b a d ,' she m u r m u r ed , gr i t t in g h er t eet h a t t he st u p i d , u n necessa r y sm a l l t a l k . ` Ma y b e I ca n
ca l l on h i m t o m o r r ow . In t he m ea nt i m e, i t 's g et t i n g p r et t y l a t e a n d Da m i en w a s j u st g oin g, w er en't
y ou , d a r l in g?'
W i l l a sk ed h i m , ` D id y o u d r i v e a l l t he w a y f r om N ew Yo r k t od a y ?' A nd D a m i en, d a m n h i m , w a s
a nsw er i ng i n t h e a f f ir m a t i v e, h i s d a r k ey es d a nci n g t o her s w ick ed l y . ` Wel l y ou cer t a i nl y ca n 't b e
p la n n in g t o m a k e t he r et u r n t r ip t o ni g ht , a r e y o u ?'
'N o,' t ha t d ev i l r ep l i ed , l ea n in g a t h i s ea se a g a in st t he si d e o f t h e com f or t a b l e so f a , w hi r l i ng t h e d r i nk i n
h i s g l a ss g ent l y . ` I w a s t hi nk i n g o f check i n g i nt o a m o t el r oo m , i f t her e's st i l l o ne op en.'
Jessi ca 's b r ow lo w er ed om i nou sly a n d she st a r t ed t o see r ed . If t h er e w a s st i l l one op en! W ha t w a s he
p la y in g a t , f or hea v en' s sa k e? O f cou r se t h er e w er e m ot el s op en a t t hi s t i m e o f n i ght ! Then h er f a t her
w a s sp ea k i n g a nd she co u l d b a r el y b el iev e w h a t she w a s hea r in g .
` Well , t her e's cer t a i n l y no r ea so n f or y o u t o st a y a t a m o t el w h en w e h a v e sev er a l r o om s u noccu p i ed
r i ght her e, i s t her e?' H e l ook ed ov er a t hi s d a u g ht er a n d nea r l y l a u ghed a l ou d . ` Isn 't t ha t r i g ht , Jessi e?'
'W hy , Fa t her , i f h e w a n t s t o st a y a t a m ot el , I d o n't see w hy w e sh ou l d t r y t o p er su a d e h i m ot her w ise,'
she r ep l i ed , ou t w a r d l y sw eet b u t i n w a r d ly sm o u l d er i ng. The t w o m en excha nged g la n ces a s i f t hey
u nd er st ood ea ch o t her p er f ect l y , a n d t hi s m a d e her b l ood p r essu r e r i se p er i lou sl y t o t h e p o in t of
exp l osio n .
` To t ell t he t r u t h, I w a s n ot r ea ll y l ook i ng f o r w a r d t o st a y i ng i n a st r a n ge m o t el ,' D a m ien sa i d
h esi t a nt l y , h i s l i p s q u i v er i ng ev er so sl i ght l y a s he l ook ed a cr oss t he r o om a t h er . Th i s, f r o m a m a n w ho
sp en t m o r e t i m e i n ot her cit ies t h a n i n h i s ow n hom e, w a s j u st t oo m u ch f or h er .
` Tha t 's t he b i g gest p i l e o f ' sh e b ega n hot ly , b u t w a s i nt er r u p t ed b y her f a t h er .
` Jessica !' sh e w a s w a r ned st er n l y , a nd she su b si d ed t o a m u t e gl a r e a t b ot h o f t h em . Wi l l t u r ned a n d
sa i d cor d ia l l y , ` We'd b e ho nou r ed t o ha v e y o u st a y w i t h u s, a t l ea st f or o ne n i ght . You 'r e w elcom e t o
st a y a s lo ng a s y ou l ik e. Jessi e, w hy d on 't y ou get t he f r ont gu est r oom r ea d y a n d I ca n hel p M r Kent
w i t h hi s t h i ng s.'
They b ot h t u r ned t o t h e d oor a n d she hea r d - Da m i en sa y sm o ot h l y , ` P l ea se, ca l l m e Da m i en . A l l m y
f r i en d s d o.'
` A nd o f cou r se m y na m e i s W i l l , a nd i t 's no t shor t f o r W i l li a m b u t f o r W i l f r ed , a n d I n ev er cou l d st a n d t o
b e ca l l ed t ha t ....'
The f r ont d o or sl a m m ed on t he t w o t a lk in g m en a nd she ju st st ood f or a m o m ent , st u nned a t t h e
u nexp ect ed t u r n o f ev en t s t he n i ght ha d t a k en. Da m i en w a s a ct u a l l y st a y i ng f o r t he n i g ht ! H e w a s
g oin g t o b e u n d er t he sa m e r oo f a s her , sl eep in g i n a b ed so cl ose t o her o w n, hi s na k ed r el a xed b o d y
so nea r . ...` Da m n i t !' she cr ied o u t a ngr i l y , k ick i n g ou t a ng r i ly a n d k n ock i n g ov er t he sm a l l t a b l e sh e
st o od b y .
The t w o m en ou t si d e t he d oo r hea r d t he t hu d a n d t hey l oo k ed a t ea ch o t her , W i ll 's l i ned f a ce cr ea si ng
i nt o a sm i l e a n d Da m ien 's ey es u n f a t ho m a b l e in t he d a r k sha d ow s t hr ow n b y t he ov er hea d l i g ht . Then
t hey b o t h t u r ned a nd cont i nu ed t hei r w a y t o Da m i en' s sl eek ca r .
Jessi ca st o m p ed u p t h e st a ir s a n d y a n k ed op en t he d oor t o t he gu est r oom f u r io u sl y . She st ood f o r a
m o m ent , su r v ey i ng t he ho m ely f u r ni sh i n gs a n d t he co m f o r t a b l e b ed , t h i nk i ng o f Da m ien's o w n h o m e
w h i ch w a s t he u l t i m a t e i n el ega nt r ich f u r ni sh i n gs. H e d i d n't b el ong her e, d i d n 't b el o ng a t a l l, a n d she
su d d en ly g ot a v icio u s sa t i sf a ct io n o u t o f t hi nk i ng o f h i s f a ce w hen he sa w t he ho m em a d e r u g , t h e
scr a t ched w ood on t h e b ed f r a m e, a nd t h e p l a in- col ou r ed , f r i l l ed cu r t a i ns.
She w ent ov er t o t he d r esser a n d p u l l ed o p en t h e b ot t o m d r a w er t o t a k e ou t t he l in en st or ed t her e.
Then, w i t h ener g et i c, sw i f t m ov em ent s t ha t h elp ed her l et o f f st ea m , she w ent t o t he b ed , st r i p p ed o f f
t he co v er i ng b l a nk et s i n o ne sw eep , a n d b ega n t o t u ck i n t h e b ot t o m sheet r o u gh l y .
` H er e, l et m e hel p y ou w i t h t ha t ,' a v oi ce sou nd ed b eh i n d her , a n d Da m i en w a l k ed i n ca l m l y ,
d ep osit ed h i s exp ensi v e l ea t her b a g s, a n d b r ou g ht h i s h a n d s ov er her s. ` You ca n't b e so r ou g h w i t h i t
a nd exp ect t o ha v e nea t cor ner s! I'l l d o t h i s.'
A n d she w a t ched w it h a m a zem ent a s he ca l m ly t u ck ed i n t h e cor n er sh eet a s i f h e h a d b een d o i ng i t
a l l h is l i f e. Then he st o od a n d loo k ed ov er t he r oom w i t h ev er y si g n o f sa t isf a ct ion . H er ey es nea r l y
p op p ed ou t o f her h ea d . ` H ow d o y ou l i k e y ou r r oom ?' sh e h ea r d her sel f a sk i ng .
` Oh, i t 's v er y n i ce. The b ed l ook s com f o r t a b le,' he r ep l i ed , loo k i n g w i ck ed l y a t h er ou t of t h e cor n er of
h i s ey e. ` I shou l d get a good n i ght ' s sl eep , d on't y o u t h i nk ? Bu t I' d m u ch r a t her ha v e y ou w it h m e, ev en
i f i t m ea nt g et t i n g n o sl eep a t a l l. Tha t k i n d o f exh a u st i on ca n b e v er y ..

'Sh u t u p !' she h i ssed , t hr u st in g h er sel f a w a y f r o m hi m a nd h is i n si nu a t i o n s. She sho t f or t he d oo r a nd
p a u sed f or a m om ent t o l ook b a ck , her ey es t hr ow i n g d a g ger s a t hi m . H e l ook ed p l a ci d , a nd t he
a r r o w s b ou nced o f f h i s st eel y h i d e. Sh e f el t goa d ed i n t o sa y in g t o h i m em p h a t ica l ly , ` Don 't y ou t h i nk
t hi s cha nges a n y t h in g , m ist er , d o n't y ou get a n y b r i ght i d ea s, d o y o u h ea r ? M y
d oor i s l ock ed , ev er y ni ght , f or a s l o ng a s y o u st a y , a nd I w i l l not , r ep ea t n ot , i n a m i l l i on y ea r s m a r r y
y ou , so y ou m igh t a s w el l get b a ck t o N ew Yor k a s f a st a s y o u ca n !'

` I d o n 't k no w ,' he sa id m i l d l y , a n d Da m i en b ei n g m i l d w hen she h a d j u st r i p p ed u p a t h i m w a s a not her
f i r st i n her exp er i ence, so she a ga in st op p ed a nd st a r ed . ` I'v e b een w a nt in g t o t a k e a v a ca t i on f or q u i t e
som e t i m e n ow . Rem em b er y ou a nd I t a lk ed a b ou t t a k i n g o u r v a ca t i on s t og et her ? Wel l , i t 's b een a
f ew y ea r s a nd m u ch t oo lo n g, so I t hi nk I j u st m i g ht t a k e y ou r f a t h er u p on h i s k i nd i nv i t a t io n . You
su r ely w ou ld n 't m i n d , w ou l d y ou , d a r l i ng?'

Incen sed , she sw or e a nd ca t a p u l t ed o u t o f t he r oo m , a nd t he sou nd o f h i s t r u l y a m u sed l a u g ht er
f o l lo w ed h er d ow n t he ha l l, m a k i n g her w a nt t o f a l l d ow n a n d k i ck her h eel s a g a i nst t h e f l oor i n a
scr ea m i ng t a nt r u m .
Sm a sh i ng i nt o h er r oom w it h enou g h i m p et u s t o m a k e her shoo t on t o her b ed a ccom p a ni ed b y a
g r ea t cr ea k i n g o f b ed sp r i n gs, Jessi ca p l u ck ed u p her p i l l ow a n d t hu m p ed i t on t o p o f her hea d w h i l e
she b u r ied h er f a ce i n t he b ed sp r ea d . Thu s h i d d en i n a chi l d i sh, ha l f f or got t en w a y sh e ha d o nce
i n d u lged i n w hen t h e w o r l d b eca m e t o o m u ch t o ha nd l e, she g a v e v ent t o her p en t u p f eel ing s, so b b i n g
q u iet l y u nt i l t he b ed sp r ea d w a s so d d en a n d w a r m . Then sh e j u st la y t her e, w i sh in g D a m i en t o a l l k i n d s
o f hel l a n d w i sh i ng her sel f d ea d .
Tha t ca u g ht her u p shor t . She'd h a d a nea r b r u sh w i t h d ea t h, enou gh t o k no w t h a t her w i sh w a s
n ot hi ng b u t a chi l d i sh r ea ct i on a nd not a t r u e d ea t h w i sh, a n d i t ha d b een t er r i b l e t o ev en t hi nk su ch a
t hi ng. She f elt a sha m ed o f h er sel f , a n d a sh a m ed t ha t she h a d cu r sed a t Da m i en . H e h a d got t h e not i o n
t ha t h e w ou l d d o q u i t e w el l b y m a r r y i n g her a n d she k new b y h i s na t u r e h ow h a r d i t w a s t o ch a ng e h i s
m i n d o nce h e h a d i t set . A n d she ha d no d o u b t t h a t he w ou l d w a nt her t o h a v e p l a st i c su r ger y a nd she
w a sn't goi ng t o h a v e it ! Sh e w a sn't goi ng t o ha v e t he su r g er y a n d she w ou l d n't m a r r y Da m i en i f he
w er e t h e l a st m a n o n ea r t h . - She once t o l d Ju st i n t h a t she w ou ld n ev er m a r r y w i t ho u t l ov e, a nd t h a t
st i l l hel d t r u e. N o t on l y d id she h a v e t o l ov e t he m a n she m a r r i ed b u t he w ou l d h a v e t o l ov e her t oo ,
l ov e h er eno u g h t o g i v e h i s l i f e t o her , t o w a n t her en ou gh t o excl u d e a l l ot her s. Oh b r ot h er , she
t hou g ht , a s t he t ea r s w el led u p a ga in . Th i s cr y i ng i s f or t he b i r d s.

W hen t he gent l e h a n d d escen d ed on t o her shou l d er , sh e ju m p ed a m i le w i t h t h e sho ck o f it , a n d t h en
st a r t ed t o cu r se f lu ent l y . She ha d t ot a l l y f o r got t en t ha t her b ed r oom d o or w a s op en, a nd i n t he p a st i t
w ou l d n 't h a v e m a t t er ed , f or her f a t her r esp ect ed her p r iv a cy gr ea t l y a nd w ou l d not i nt r u d e, so t ha t
m ea n t it ha d t o b e D a m ien .
` Get ou t o f her e!' she cr ied , cho k il y , jer k i ng her shou l d er a w a y f r om h i s w a r m ha nd . ` Yo u w er en't
i nv i t ed in, so b ea t it , w i l l y ou ?'
The w ei g ht t h a t ha d d escen d ed on t o t h e b ed d id no t sh i f t , a n d ' she r ol l ed ov er su d d enl y , her ga ze
b lu r r ed , her loo k a n g u i shed . Sh e b l i nk ed a nd t he t ea r s f el l d o w n her cheek s, a n d t hen she cou ld see
clea r l y , see t he w h it eness o f Da m i en's f a ce, t h e b u r n i n g em ot io n i n h i s ey es, t he cl enchi ng m u scl e in h i s
j a w . H er f a ce cr u m p l ed a nd she su d d enl y f l a i led ou t w i t h h er ha n d s t o st r i k e h i m o n t he sh ou l d er s, i n
a n ef f or t t o hu r t h im a s m u ch a s she w a s h u r t i ng i n si d e. H e d id n 't r et a l i a t e a nd d id n't ev en r esi st , b u t
i n st ea d h el d her b y her shou l d er s a s i f su p p or t i ng her , b ea r i ng her on sl a u gh t p a t i ent l y , a nd t h is w a s so
u n li k e h i m t ha t sh e ju st co l l a p sed in t o h i s a r m s, cr y i n g. She w a s en f o l d ed t en d er ly , h el d ca r ef u l l y , a nd
h er ow n a r m s w en t a r ou nd h is neck conv u l si v ely a s she b u r i ed h er hea d i n t he ho l l ow o f h i s w a r m
n eck .

She w a s r o ck ed a nd held a nd soot hed u nt i l she f elt f i na l ly i n cont r o l o f h er sel f enou gh t o lo osen h er
h old on h i s neck a n d l ea n b a ck . Sh e sm i l ed t en t a t iv ely a t h i m . H e d i d n't sm i l e b a ck . ` I'm so so r r y I h i t
y ou ,' she o f f er ed q u i et l y . ` Ther e w a s no excu se f or i t , I k no w .'
H i s l ook d i d n't cha nge. ` I'm sor r y I h u r t y ou . A n d I k n ow t h a t i t w a s i nexcu sa b l e, a l l t ha t t i m e, n ev er
g iv i ng a t h ou g ht t o y ou r o w n em ot io na l n eed s. I'm sor r y , Jess. I'm sor r y t hi ngs w er en't r i g ht .'
She sea r ched her sel f f or so m e f eel i ng o f su r p r ise a t t h i s u nexp ect ed a d m i ssi on, a n d t h e o n ly t h i ng sh e
f el t su r p r ise a t w a s her sel f f or t a k i ng h i s a p ol ogy so ca l m ly . Th e Da m ien she ha d k no w n w ou ld h a v e
n ev er a d m i t t ed t o d o i ng w r ong, b u t t hen t he one ob ser v a t io n t ha t k ep t com i ng u p a nd h i t t i n g h er i n
t he f a ce w a s t h a t t h is D a m i en ha d cha nged i n so m e u n d ef i na b l e w a y . A n d f r o m t hi s new a nd
u nk now n p er so n, she cou l d a ccep t t hem .
She p u t u p a sl i m h a n d a nd l a i d i t a ga i nst t he si d e o f h i s f a ce a s g ent l y a s she k new how , a nd she sa w
h i m cl ose h i s ey es a nd sw a l l ow . ` I'm sor r y t oo, d a r l in g . Beca u se y ou k now , i t t a k es t w o t o r u i n a
r el a t i o nshi p , j u st a s i t t a k es t w o t o m a k e o n e. Do n't ca st i g a t e y ou r sel f . It w a s b o t h o f u s, no t j u st y ou .'
H e ga v e a g r ea t si g h, o p ened h i s ey es, a n d w a s a b l e t o sm i l e a t her sl i ght ly . She sa w t he l ook i n h is ey es
g r a d u a l l y r et u r n t o nor m a l , t he sel f - a ccu sa t i on f a d i n g a w a y , t h a t st r ong v i sa g e co m in g i nt o cont r ol . H e
sea r ched h er ey es i n t en t l y a n d seem ed t o b e sa t isf i ed w i t h w ha t he sa w , f or he nod d ed b r i ef ly . ` Goo d
enou gh , f o r o ne ev eni ng, I su p p o se.'
` Wh a t d o y ou m ea n?' she w a nt ed t o k no w , b u t he w ou l d n't a n sw er t ha t , m er el y sh a k i ng h i s hea d a t
h er w it h a g r i n. She f el t su ch a t i d e o f l ov e w el l u p i nsi d e her a t t h a t gent l e l ook t h a t she nea r ly st a r t ed
t o cr y a ga i n. Bu t , w it h a n a b r u p t cha n ge of m oo d , sh e sw u ng her l eg s o f f t he b ed a nd st oo d
ener get i ca l l y . ` W el l , I f or o ne a m st a r v ed ! H ow a b ou t y ou ?'

H i s ey es r a n a p p r eci a t i v el y ov er her f ig u r e. ` I t h i nk I cou ld ea t a ch ick en or t w o, or m a y b e t hr ee. It
l ook s a s t hou g h y o u 'v e p u t on w ei g ht , d a r l i n g.'
A t t h a t , she w ent ov er t o t h e f u l l - l en gt h m i r r or t o st a r e a t her sel f w o r r ied ly . ` Does i t l oo k b a d ?' H er
ey es t o l d h er t h a t it loo k ed v er y good , t he w a i st st i l l l ong a nd sl i m , t he b r ea st s a n d h i p s sl ig ht l y m or e
r ou nd ed t hen t hey u sed t o b e, b u t she w a nt ed t o hea r h i m sa y i t .
` It loo k s f a nt a st i c,' h e m u r m u r ed , com i n g u p b eh i nd her t o p u t h i s ha n d s hea v i l y o n her h i p s a n d d r a w
h er b a ck a g a in st hi m . Th eir ey es m et i n t h e m i r r or . ` You l ook b et t er now t ha n I t h i n k I'v e ev er seen
y ou lo ok . I k now t ha t t he ca m er a a d d s w ei g ht t o t he f i gu r e a nd t h a t ' s w hy y o u a l w a y s k ep t su ch a
st r i ct d i et , b u t p er son a l ly I p r ef er y ou l i k e t hi s.'
She sa i d su d d en l y , b it t er l y , ` Sca r a n d a l l ?' a nd h i s l i ght l oo k m el t ed a w a y t o a l ook o f a nger .
` Tha t 's enou gh a b ou t t h i s p a r t i cu l a r su b ject ,' he sa i d ev en ly , a f t er a n ob v io u s ef f or t . ` W e'll t a l k l a t er ,
w hen w e'r e b ot h m or e ca l m .'
` I d o n 't see w hy w e sh ou l d t a l k a t a l l ,' sh e sna p p ed , j er k i n g a w a y f r o m h i m t o st a lk t o t he d oor . ` A s f a r
a s I' m concer ned , ca se cl osed .'
H e f o l low ed her cl o sel y a nd w h i sp er ed i nt o her ea r , ` Bu t y o u a r en't t he on l y o ne con cer ned , a r e y o u ?'
H er hea d sn a p p ed a r ou nd a nd she st a r ed a t h i m b ef or e co nt i nu i ng d ow n t h e st a ir s w it hou t a nsw er i ng .
She w a s a f r a i d t h a t she ha d co m e ou t o f t ha t excha n g e r a t her b a d l y , a nd she h a t ed no t ha v i ng t he
l a st w or d .
Do w n i n t he k i t chen, she t ook st ock o f t he r ef r i ger a t or a nd st a r t ed t o p u l l ou t sa n d w i ch m a t er i a l s
si lent l y . If she ha d hop ed t o f r eeze h i m b y her f r ost y a t t i t u d e, she w a s sa d ly d i sa p p o i nt ed , f or he
b r i ght ened u p once t hey w er e d ow nst a i r s a nd b ega n t o t a l k l i ght ly a b o u t v a r io u s t h i n g s. She f el t
i ncen sed a t t he w a y he cou l d a p p a r ent l y t hr ow o f f h is a n ger a nd f eel so ca r ef r ee, b u t gr a d u a l l y sh e
b ega n t o l i st en t o h i s w or d s a n d not j u st h i s v oi ce. H er ow n a nger m elt ed a w a y a s sh e b eca m e
engr ossed i n w ha t he w a s sa y i n g.
It w a s i ncr ed i b l e. She ha d nev er hea r d h i m t a l k a b ou t h i s p a st b ef or e, excep t i n t he m ost g ener a l o f
t er m s, a nd her e he w a s, ca l m ly t el l i ng her a b ou t h i s ch i l d ho od ! Sh e m ov ed ca r ef u l l y t o a cha i r a n d sa t
d ow n, f or g et t in g a l l a b ou t f ood a s he t a lk ed .
` Thi s i s a n ice hou se,' he sa i d si m p l y , l ook i n g a r ou n d hi m u n cr i t ica ll y . ` It 's a lo t n i cer t ha n w her e I gr ew
u p . D i d y ou r f a m i l y l i v e her e, o r d id y o u r f a t her m o v e i n a f t er y ou r m ot her d i ed ?'
Jessi ca l ook ed a r ou nd a n d t hen r et u r ned h er ey es t o h i s f a ce, b l a nk ly . W i t h t he ey es o f l ov e, t hi s p l a ce
w a s ho m el y , co m f or t a b l e, b u t cer t a i nl y no t p r et t y . The k i t chen co u nt er w a s sca r r ed w it h cou n t l ess
k ni f e m a r k s, her f a t her p r ef er r i n g t o cl ea n h i s f ish in si d e, a n d t h e t i l ed f l oor w a s a nci ent a nd f a d ed . The
cu r t a i ns i n t he w i n d ow s w er e n ew a n d b r i ght , b u t t hey cl a shed sa d ly w i t h t he co l ou r o f t he o l d
w a l l p a p er . Th e r ef r i ger a t o r w a s a s f a m i l i a r t o her a s h er ow n f a t her , f or h er p a r ent s ha d b ou g h t it
w hen she ha d b een ju st a b a b y , a n d t he a n ci ent t h i n g st i l l ob st i na t el y w or k ed .
She sho ok h er sel f f r ee o f her o b ser v a t ion s a nd f o r ced ou t a n a nsw er . 'Uh , y es, I'v e l i v ed h er e a l l of m y
chi l d h ood . Tha t 's m y o l d r oom u p st a i r s t ha t I' m i n r i g ht now , a nd m y o l d b ed .'
` Tha t 's r ea ll y n i ce. I'l l b et y ou ha v e goo d m em or ies o f t h is p la ce,' he r ep l ied , t i l t i n g h i s hea d t o l oo k u p
a t t he cei l i n g, g iv i ng her a n excel l en t v iew of h is f i nel y ca r v ed nost r i l s a n d f i r m j a w l i n e.

` We l i v ed i n a t w o - r o om a p a r t m en t . I ha d a b r ot her
a nd a sist er , a nd m y m o m . M y o ld m a n r a n o f f w hen I
w a s a r ou n d t w o or so .' H e st i l l i n sp ect ed t h e cei l i n g a nd
so m i ssed her lo ok o f sh ock .
A f t er a b it she sa i d ca r ef u l ly , ` I su p p o se i t ' s r a t her ha r d
t o t a l k a b ou t i t .' A nd she hel d her b r ea t h.
H i s hea d ca m e d o w n a n d he lo ok ed a t her w i t h
b r i l l i a nt b l a ck ey es, t he em ot i on i n t h em h a r d ,
som ehow f u r i ou s, co nv i nci ng . ` W hen I got o u t of t her e, I
t ol d m y sel f t ha t I w ou l d nev er t a l k , t h i nk , o r ev en t r y
t o r em em b er b a ck t o t ho se d a y s. W h en I l ef t , I w a n t ed
t o p u t t he w h ol e n i gh t m a r e b eh in d m e, t o st a r t
com p let el y a new a n d r eb u i ld m y l i f e t he w a y I w a nt ed
i t t o b e. Bu t i t d oesn't w or k t h a t w a y , d oes it ? We ca r r y
a l it t l e p i ece o f ou r p a st w it h u s t h r ou g hou t ou r ent ir e l i v es.'
` I t h in k t ha t 's t r u e t o a cer t a i n ext ent ,' she r ep l ied , slow l y . ` Bu t i t cer t a i n ly shou l d n't h a u n t u s a l l o f t he
t i m e. We shou l d lea r n f r om t he p a st , v a l u e t he l esso n s f a t e choo ses t o g i v e t o u s, a n d t hen go on . Th e
d a n ger i s w h en w e t r y t o t ot a l l y er a se t h e p a st a n d p r et end i t d id n 't exi st . I gu ess t ha t 's w hy h i st o r y
t end s t o r ep ea t i t sel f a n d w a r s cont i nu a l ly ha p p en . It 'd b e n i ce, w ou l d n't it , i f ev er y o ne w ou l d j u st
w a k e u p a n d r ea l i se w h a t w a s h a p p en i ng i n t he w or ld a nd t h a t k i ll i ng a not her p er son is a b ou t a s
h ei nou s a cr im e t h a t cou l d b e co m m i t t ed ? H el l i s f o r si n ner s, b u t w a r i s a hel l f or t h e i nn ocen t , a nd i t
seem s w e nev er l ea r n .'
H i s ga ze so f t en ed on her f a ce, t h e h a r d n ess in h i s ey es f a d in g t o a not her w a r m er em ot i on. ` Do y ou
k now som et h in g?' he sa i d so f t l y , a nd her ey es sw iv el l ed t o h i s. ` Yo u a r e r ea l l y a w on d er f u l a nd ca r ing
` I g u ess I d o .'
p er son. Tha t sp len d i d "p a ck a g i ng " a s y ou so d er i si v el y p u t i t , enca ses a sp len d i d w o m a n .'

` Do y ou w a nt t o m a k e m e b l u sh?' she r et u r ned ca l m ly , sm i l i ng a t h i m a s she exp er ienced a f eel i ng o f
d ej v u . Th i s w a s exa ct ly l ik e t he m a ny t i m es she a n d Da m i en ha d t a l k ed ov er v a r i o u s su b j ect s, a nd sh e
w a s sl ip p in g i nt o t he ol d f a m i l i a r p a t t er n w it h a n om i no u s ea se. A nd y et , w a sn't t h er e a su b t l e
d i f f er ence?
She w a s d i f f er ent a n d so w a s he. She w a s no lo nger cr i p p l ed b y t he f ea r o f d o i n g or sa y i n g so m et h i n g
t o sen d h im a w a y f r om her , a n d so she w a s m or e a t ea se w it h her sel f b eca u se o f i t . H e w a s m or e
w i l l i n g t o d i scu ss f eeli ng s a n d em ot i on s a n d m or a l i ssu es t h a t r ea l l y m a t t er ed t o t hem i nst ea d o f t r y i ng
t o p la y so m e k i nd o f i nt el l ect u a l g a m e, m a k i ng w i t t y r em a r k s a n d b ei n g t er r i b ly clev er a n d nev er
r ea l l y t ou chi ng t he sou l . Th e q u a l i t y t o t hei r d i scu ssi on w a s d eep er , a nd sh e r ea l ised b y t h e sp ecia l lo ok
i n h i s ey es t h a t he k new it a s w el l a s she d i d .
She r el a xed , sa t b a ck , a n d r em em b er ed t he sa n d w iches. ` Go od hea v ens, w e'v e f or g ot t en t o ea t ! Wel l , I
d on't k now a b ou t y ou , b u t I'm g o i n g t o m a k e m y sel f a w hop p er o f a sa n d w ich ... p a ss t he m u st a r d ,
w i l l y ou ? Th a nk s.'
Da m i en su d d en l y excla i m ed , ` Good Lo r d !' A nd h i s h a n d shot o u t t o gr a sp her w r i st . She j u m p ed ,
r em em b er i n g h ow he h a d excl a i m ed w i t h shock w hen h e b ehel d her sca r r ed f a ce, a n d t h e sa m e
f eel i ng o f d r ea d t h u d d ed i n h er ch est . W h a t w a s t he m a t t er ? Th en she sa w t ha t he w a s b egi nn i ng t o
l a u g h a n d she r el a xed sl i g ht ly , st i l l st a r i n g i n p u zzl em ent . ` Oh, Jess, I d i d n't m ea n t o st a r t l e y ou . I' m
sor r y ! It 's ju st t h a t I o n ly no w not iced t ha t y ou ha v en't a ny f i n ger na i l s! I ca n 't r em em b er ev er seei ng
y ou r na i l s u np a i nt ed , l et a lon e shor t l ik e t ha t !'
She st a r t ed t o l a u g h t oo, her ey es b r i g ht a n d g o ld en, h er on e b r ow sl a nt i ng i n a w i ck ed - l ook i ng w a y ,
a nd h er l ip s w i d e op en i n a g ener ou s sm i l e t h a t r ev ea l ed d a zzl i ng w h i t e t eet h. ` I b r o k e sev er a l w hen
t he ca r r ol l ed - I d on't r em em b er , b u t I m u st h a v e t r ied t o gr a b a t t he d oo r or so m et h i n g. A nd t hen a
f ew d a y s a g o I ch i p p ed so m e m or e w h en I d i d t he d i shes a nd i t d i d n't seem v er y sm a r t t o k eep h a l f
l ong a n d t he ot her h a l f shor t , so I cu t t hem .'

H i s ey es w i d ened exa g ger a t ed l y a nd he lo o k ed ev en m or e st u nned a s h e w h i sp er ed d r a m a t ica l l y , ` You
a ct u a l l y w a sh ed d i shes?'
H er d i sm a y ed l ook , com b i ned w it h t he ha n d t ha t f lew t o h er m ou t h, h a d h i m l a u gh i ng d eep l y a l l ov er
a ga i n . ` O n ly once!' she cr i ed , ` On l y once! Don't b r ea t he a w o r d o f i t t o a n y on e!' Then sh e w a s l a u gh i ng
t oo, a nd t hey b ot h t ook t heir t i m e i n sob er i ng u p , r el u ct a nt t o en d t he en j oy m ent o f l a u g h i ng
t oget her .
` N ext y ou ' l l b e t el l in g m e t h a t y ou co nd escend ed t o coo k f or y ou r f a t her !' he t ea sed a nd t hen st a r ed i n
h onest a st o n i sh m ent a s sh e l ook ed em b a r r a ssed . ` N o ! D i d y ou , r ea l ly ? You r f a t h er m u st r a t e p r et t y
h i gh ly i n d eed . I d o n't t hi nk I ev er m a n a ged t o get y o u t o f i x m e a hom e- coo k ed m ea l .'
` It w a s on l y once,' she p r ot est ed , b eg i nn i n g t o ch u ck l e a l l ov er a ga i n . ` A nd I ha t ed it - i nci d en t a l ly , so
d i d m y d a d ! N ow he w o n't l et m e n ea r t h e st ov e b eca u se h e's a f r a i d I' l l ser v e h i m so m et h i ng r ot t en or
p oisoned , I t hi nk . So d o n't go t h i nk i n g I'v e r ea l l y cha n ged t h a t d r a st i ca l l y . I cou l d n't coo k som et h in g
r i ght i f m y l i f e d ep end ed o n i t !'
` Som e t h i ng s n ev er cha n ge,' he a gr eed , a n d t h en j u st l ook ed a t h er , t he l i ght o f a m u sem ent d y in g o u t
o f h i s ey es. She b eg a n t o f eel a l a r m ed a nd hu r r i ed l y st ood u p .
` I t h in k I' ll ju st p u t ev er y t h ing a w a y a n d g o t o b ed now ,' sh e sa i d q u i ck l y , a n d a s she t u r ned h er b a ck
t o h i m sh e w o n d er ed a t t h e l ook o f d a r k f i r e t ha t h a d b een b or n in h i s ey es. She k n ew t h a t l ook a nd
h a d o nce w el com ed i t , b u t no w it m a d e h er a f r a i d , u n ea sy , a nd she w a nt ed t o esca p e.
She b ent a nd p u t t he sa n d w i ch m a t er i a l s i n t he r ef r i ger a t or a nd a s she st ood u p , she co ll i d ed w it h h is
h a r d b o d y r i g ht b eh i nd her . Shy i n g a w a y l i k e a sk i t t i sh co lt , sh e t r ied t o b a ck u p a nd t o m a k e a n
esca p e, b u t he f o l l ow ed a n d b l ock ed her w a y .
Tha t d i d it . ` Ta k e o f f , w i l l y ou ?' she b i t ou t , b et w een her t eet h, i ncensed a t h i s sexu a l a d v a nce. H i s f a ce
d a r k ened a nd he sh ook h i s hea d slow l y , m a n oeu v er i n g hi s b od y so t h a t she w a s p i nn ed a g a in st t he
k it chen cou nt er , hi s b od y l ea n i n g i nt o her s.
` N ot t h is t i m e, d a r li ng,' h e sa i d sof t l y . ` N ot t h is t i m e. I l ef t y ou once b eca u se y ou sa id y o u w a n t ed m e
t o, b u t d o y ou k no w w h a t ? I' m b eg i n n i n g t o b el i ev e y ou w er e l y i ng a b o u t t ha t . A n d I' m b eg i n n i n g t o
w on d er j u st w h y y ou d i d . Und er nea t h a l l of t ha t sp it a n d f i r e, y ou 'r e j u st a sca r ed l it t l e ca t , a r en't y o u ,
Jess? A n d w hy i s t h a t ? W hy sh ou l d j u st one l it t l e k i ss f r i ght en t h e d a y l i gh t s ou t o f y ou ?'
She sa w w ha t he w a s g et t in g t o a n d she cou l d n't l et h i m m a k e t h e su r m i ses t ha t w o u l d su r ely f o l lo w
t he q u est i on s. H e w a s so d a n ger ou sl y clo se t o t he t r u t h , a nd sh e cou l d n't b ea r it i f he k n ew t ha t sh e
l ov ed h i m , o n t op o f ev er y t hi ng el se. It w o u ld g i v e h i m a l ev er t o w or k w i t h, g iv e h i m t he p o w er t o
m a n i p u l a t e h er .
She let her ey es go cold , m ock i ng, a n d d r i f t ed her g a ze slow l y u p t o hi s f a ce. Tha t sla n t i ng, m ock i ng
g la n ce m a d e her seem l i k e so m e exot i c w i t ch , her r ed ha i r sw eep i ng a w a y o f f o f her f or ehea d a n d
f l ow i n g d o w n h er neck . ` You , o f a l l p eop l e, sho u ld k no w t h a t on e l i t t l e k i ss cou l d n't f r i ght en m e a w a y ;'
she p u r r ed , f l i ck i ng h i s chi n w it h one f ing er . 'Th a t i s, w h en I choo se t o g iv e i t . I' m n ot t ha t b i g o n f or ce,
d a r l in g. It m a k es m e f u r i ou s a n d t hen I st a r t t o t hr ow t h in g s, a s y ou w el l r em em b er .'
` So gi v e i t ,' he sa id t h ick l y , w a t chi ng her l i p s m ov e w i t h her sp eech, a n d h er ey es w id ened a t t he
b la t ent i nv i t a t i o n i n h i s b o d y a nd v oi ce. She r ef l ect ed f u zzi l y , Da m i en h a s t he sexi est v oice I'v e ev er
h ea r d , a nd t h en she f o u n d t h a t sh e w a nt ed t o k i ss h i m a s b a d l y a s h e a p p ea r ed t o w a nt h er t o .
W hy not ? W ha t t h e h el l? W h a t d i f f er ence w o u l d o n e k i ss m a k e a f t er a l l ? Thr ow ing ca u t i o n a nd go od
sense t o t he w i n d , she f ou nd her sel f sm i l i n g p r o v oca t i v el y , a n d she w ent f or w a r d on h er t oes t o p l a ce
h er l ip s a ga i n st h i s, l ig ht l y , sensu ou sl y m ov i n g o v er t hem , not a t t em p t i n g t o d eep en t he k i ss b u t j u st
t ea sin g h i s l i p s w i t h t h e sensa t i on o f her s f l i t t i n g b a ck a nd f or t h ov er t hem . H e d i d n 't b end h i s h ea d t o
a ccom m od a t e h er , d i d n't t r y t o t o u ch h er w i t h hi s ha nd s, a n d sh e f ou n d t ha t she w a s i n t en sel y
d i sa p p oi nt ed , a s she l et her ha n d s f a l l a w a y f r o m hi s neck a n d she st a r t ed t o f a l l b a ck .
` N ow I' l l sho w y o u h ow t o r ea l l y g iv e i t ,' h e m u t t er ed , a nd h i s h a nd s ha u l ed her h a r d u p a g a i nst h i m a s
h i s d a r k hea d sw oop ed . H er hea d f el l b a ck a n d her ha n d s i nst in ct i v ely cl u t ched a t h is shou l d er s f or
su p p o r t a nd b a l a nce, b u t he w a s t a k in g n o cha nces a n d she cou l d n't ha v e f a l l en or m ov ed a w a y i f sh e
h a d t r i ed . H i s m ou t h p u n i sh ed her a s she k ep t her l ip s t i ght ly sea l ed , a n d she f el t a t h r il l of l a u ght er a t
h i s i ncr ea si ng l y ob v i ou s f r u st r a t io n a t h i s i n a b i l i t y t o get her t o su r r en d er h er m ou t h. H i s hea d jer k ed
u p a n d h e st a r ed d o w n a t her w it h eb ony ey es, b r ea t h i n g ha r sh a n d exp r essi on f or b i d d in g.
` Tha t w a sn't how I g i v e i t ; t ha t w a s how y ou t a k e i t ,' she m u r m u r ed . ` I w a s j u st t r y i n g t o sho w y o u ,
d a r l in g, t ha t i t ju st i sn 't a ny good w it hou t t w o a ct iv e p a r t icip a nt s.' Thei r ey es m et . Som et h in g q u iv er ed
b et w een t h em , a n d b ot h m ov ed si m u l t a n eou sly t o w eld t hei r li p s t og et her .
Thi s t i m e t her e w a s no ho l d i ng b a ck f r om eit her o f t hem , t he k i ss d eep eni n g i nt i m a t el y , a n d sh e t o ok
f r o m h i m a s m u ch a s he t oo k f r o m her . Sh e w a s v a gu ely a w a r e o f h a n d s m o u l d ing h er hi p s a nd p u l l i ng
h er ha r d a g a i nst h i m , a n d a f loo d o f p u r ee sexu a l l o ng in g shu d d er ed t hr ou gh her .
Then so m et h i n g hi t her a n d she j er k ed h er m ou t h a w a y t o sa y sha k i l y , ` The la d y is n o l o ng er w i l l in g,
Da m i en . You 'v e h a d y ou r k i ss, now let m e go, d a m n it .'
H i s f a ce f lu shed a cr oss t h e h a r d ch eek b o n es, a n d h i s ey es g l it t er ed a t her a b r u p t w it hd r a w a l . ` N o,' h e
sa i d d el ib er a t el y , f or cin g h er b od y t o st a y i n i nt i m a t e p r oxi m it y w i t h h is o w n .
W i t h a su p r em e ef f or t , she t i l t ed h er one m ob i l e b r ow a t h i m a n d r em in d ed a ci d l y , ` I d o n't t h i n k y ou 'd
l i k e a r ep ea t o f w ha t h a p p ened i n m y a p a r t m ent t he la st t i m e w e sa w ea ch ot her . Su r e, w e cl i ck
t oget her p hy sica l l y , b u t w ha t t he hel l ? Yo u ca n go t o b ed w i t h a ny w o m a n a nd st i l l get i t o n, ca n't
y ou ? W ha t d o y ou d o , p u t a b a g ov er t he p o or gi r l 's hea d , a n d t h en it d o esn 't r ea l l y m a t t er w h o she i s
a ny m or e? She' s j u st a not her w o m a n . Get i t t hr ou gh y o u r t h i ck hea d , i f y ou ca n. Ju st a p h y si ca l
r el a t i o nshi p no lon ger i nt er est s m e. I w a s a f ool t o set t l e f or so l it t l e t o b eg in w i t h. It 's j u st t o o b o r i n g.'
She w a t ched h i s m o u t h t h in i nt o a ha r d , a n gr y l i n e, sa w h i m st r u gg l e i nsi d e h i m sel f f or a b r i ef m o m en t ,
a nd t hen su d d en ly he r el a xed t o t a l l y , i n a w a y t h a t m a d e her st a r e i n b em u sem en t . Th a t w a sn 't a t a l l
l i k e t he m a n sh e h a d k now n f o r t hr ee y ea r s. The Da m ien she k new w ou l d b e ju st a b o u t r ea d y t o
exp l od e, a n d w ou l d r oa r a r ou nd t he hou se li k e a f u r i ou s, ca ged l i on . Thi s Da m i en m er ely sm i l ed a t her
o p enl y , g enu i nel y , a n d b ent t o p la ce a g ent l e k i ss j u st b y her r i ght ea r , sa y i ng, ` Wel l , t hen, I gu ess I
m i ght a s w el l sa y goo d n i g ht , si nce i t 's l a t e. You r f a t her h a d t he r i g h t id ea i n goi ng t o b ed so ea r ly . See
y ou i n t he m o r n i n g, Jessi e.'
She st a r ed a t t he d oo r lo ng a f t er Da m i en ha d sa u n t er ed t h r ou g h i t . H er ey es na r r ow ed . H e w a s
p la y in g som e k in d o f ga m e w i t h h er , som e k i nd o f d ev iou s p lo y , a n d w a s i nt ent on a goa l o f h i s ow n .
N o w , t ha t sou n d ed m o r e l ik e t he Da m ien she k new ( a n d l ov ed ) . Wha t w a s he d r iv i n g a t ? Wh a t
r esp onse w a s h e t r y i ng t o get f r o m her ?
L ow er l ip t hr u st ou t i n t h ou ght , she w ent sl ow l y i n t o t h e l i v i ng r oom a nd st a r ed a t t h e f ew g lo w i ng
em b er s st i l l l ef t i n t h e f i r ep la ce. Ben d i ng, she p i ck ed u p t h e p ok er a n d shov ed a t t he cha r r ed l o gs. Th e
f i r e f l a r ed u p b r i ef ly , l on g enou g h f or h er t o l a y a f ew m or e st i ck s o n i t a n d ha v e t hem ca t ch on f ir e,
a nd t hen she b a ck ed u p , w a t chi ng t he f l a m es a b sent m i nd ed ly . The l iv i ng r oom l i ght w a s st i l l on a nd
she sw i t ched i t o f f a ga i n, t hr o w i ng t he r oo m once m or e in t o t h a t w or l d o f r ed a n d sh a d ow s. It w a s cosy ,
p r i v a t e a n d soot h i ng . She w a s st i l l so k ey ed u p f r o m t he ev en i ng' s t u r n o f ev ent s t h a t sh e h a d n o d esi r e
t o go t o b ed j u st t o t o ss a n d t u r n sleep l essl y . Sh e f el t l ik e a d r in k , t h a t 's w ha t she f elt l i k e. A nd so she
w ent ov er t o t h e d r i nk s' ca b i net , f ou nd her gl a ss st i l l si t t i ng t her e, a nd t ha t r em i nd ed her o f t h e b r ok en
a sh t r a y . She sea r ched t he f l oor a nd d i d n't f in d a n y g l a ss, so p r esu m ed eit her Da m i en or her f a t her ha d
p ick ed it u p . She shr u gged , p ou r ed h er sel f a st i f f d r i nk , a n d st a r t ed b a ck t o h er fa v o u r i t e cha i r a nd
t hen r ea ch ed b a ck t o gr a b t he ca r a f e o f b r a nd y . Tha t w a s set t l ed on t h e f l oor b y her cha i r a s she
set t l ed her sel f i n it , a n d she st r et ch ed ou t h er t oes t o t h e f l a m es w it h a t i r ed si gh .
W hy w a s l i f e su ch a com p l ica t ed m ess? she a sk ed her sel f d i sg u st ed l y , si p p i n g f r o m her g la ss f r om t i m e
t o t i m e. God o n l y k new . So m et i m es she t h o u ght t h a t l i f e w ou l d b e m u ch ea si er i f she w er e st u p id a n d
d i d n 't h a v e t he sense t o f i nd a ny p r ob l em s w it h her sel f or her su r r ou nd i ng s. Bu t t h a t m oo d d i d n't o f t en
l a st l on g, f or sh e w a s g l a d t o b e t h e p er son t h a t sh e w a s f or t he m ost p a r t , f a u lt s i ncl u d ed . In f a ct , she
k in d o f l i k ed her sel f . Boy , sh e m u sed , f i n i sh i n g her g la ss, i t 'd su r e b e n ice t o ha v e m e f o r a f r i end . A n d
she p ou r ed her sel f a d r i n k , t o t oa st her sel f .
If she w er e t o h a v e t h e l a st t h r ee y ea r s b a ck - b u t no, she k n ew t ha t , g i v en t h e choi ce, she w ou ld
p r ob a b ly ha v e d one t h e sa m e t h i ngs w i t h h er l i f e. H i nd si g ht m a y m a k e o ne see t h i n gs b et t er , b u t it
d i d n 't n ecessa r i ly cha ng e t h e si t u a t i on. She ha d t o ld Da m ien t he t r u t h w hen she ha d sa id t ha t sh e w a s
n ot j u st d i ssa t i sf i ed w i t h h i m , b u t w i t h her w h o le l i f e, b u t t h a t w a sn 't t he ca se t hr ee y ea r s a g o. A n d she
k new t ha t i f she ha d b een secu r e i n t h e k n ow l ed g e o f hi s lo v e, n ot h i ng el se w ou l d h a v e m a t t er ed .
She'd t oo cl osel y in t er t w i ned her sel f w i t h hi s. P er ha p s sh e w a s not a v er y b a l a nced p er son. Per ha p s
o t her p eop l e d i d n't f eel q u i t e t he w a y she d i d , a nd t ha t w a s w hy t hey w er e a b l e t o g o t h r ou g h t hei r
l i v es a s p l a ci d ly a s t hey d i d . Per ha p s sh e w a s t he o n ly one i n t he w or l d t o p u t su ch a d esp er a t el y
i m p or t a nt d ef i n i t i on on t h a t st r a n ge em ot i ona l i m p u l se t he w or l d ca l l ed lo v e.
Tha t w a s a v er y lo n el y t hou g ht . She f in i sh ed h er g la ss a n d p ou r ed a no t her . It w a s so m et h i ng she cou l d
d ef i n i t ely d r in k t o.
The t er r i b l e p a r t o f ev er y t hi ng r i g ht no w w a s t he t em p t a t i on . Th er e w a s a d ev i l i nsi d e h er , w h i sp er i ng
t o her t o b r ea k d o w n a n d m a r r y Da m ien w h i l e she h a d t he ch a nce. Wh a t d i f f er ence d i d it m a k e,
a ny w a y ? H e co u ld g i v e t o h er j u st a s m u ch a s he w ou l d b e a b le t o g iv e t o a ny o ne el se. Why shou l d n't
she b e t h e o ne t o t a k e w h a t he o f f er ed a n d ho p e t ha t h e m a y l ea r n t o lo v e her b a ck , j u st a l i t t le?
Bu t t ha t w a s t he k i n d o f r a t i ona l i sa t i o n t h a t she ha d go ne t hr ou gh t hr ee y ea r s a go, a nd she w a s n o
l ong er t h e sa m e p er son . She w a s o l d er , no l ong er f u l l o f t ha t ea ger op t i m ism , a n d she w a s t i r ed . She
env i si o ned h el l a s b ei n g t h e k i n d o f exi st en ce t ha t m a r r i a ge w i t h D a m i en w ou ld b r in g her . L iv i ng w i t h
som eo ne y ou lov e a n d r ea l i si ng t h a t he d i d n't lo v e y ou b a ck , no w t h a t w a s h el l . She t oa st ed h el l a nd
t hen t o a st ed t em p t a t ion .
She r a t her t hou g ht sh e w a s g et t i ng good a nd d r u nk a f t er a w h i le, b eca u se t he ca r a f e w a s b eg i nn i ng t o
em p t y . Tha t w a s st r a n ge, b eca u se she ha d b een t ip sy once or t w i ce b ef or e b u t nev er d r u nk , a n d she
h a d t hou g ht t h a t w hen o ne w a s d r u nk , one t end ed t o d o cr a zy t h i ng s. She t oa st ed cr a zi ness, a nd t h en
she t o a st ed d r u nk en n ess, a n d t hen sh e t oa st ed h er t o es, b eca u se t her e w er e f o u r f eet a t t he end o f her
l eg s a n d t h a t cer t a i n l y d eser v ed a g ood d r i nk .
One p a ir o f t oes gr a d u a l ly w ent a w a y , a n d she d r a nk t o t h a t , h iccu p i ng sl i g ht ly a nd sni ck er i ng t o
h er sel f . L i f e w a sn 't so b a d . A l l y ou need ed w a s t he r ig h t p er sp ect i v e on t h in g s. Sh e l i f t ed h er g l a ss t o
si lent l y t oa st p er sp ect iv it y a n d t hen f r o w n ed ow l i sh ly a t t he f ir e. W a s p er sp ect iv it y a w or d ?
She t r i ed i t ou t lou d a n d f ou nd t ha t her t o ng u e w a s not d o i ng q u i t e w h a t it w a s t o l d t o d o . 'Per seck i t y .
Per st i ck i b y . Per sn i ck i t y .' Th a t l a st o ne m a d e h er g igg le i n sa nel y . If i t ha d n't a l r ea d y b een a w or d , she
w ou l d ha v e i nv ent ed a new o ne. Sh e t r i ed a g a i n, 'Sp er p eck i t y ,' a nd sno r t ed h i l a r io u sl y a t t h a t on e
b eca u se t h a t ha d b een t he w ei r d est o f a l l . Sh e so l em n l y t oa st ed sp er p eck it y- a n d w a s a t t he en d o f her
g la ss.

A q u i et , r esi g ned v o ice sa i d b esi d e her , ` Don't y ou t h i nk y ou 'v e ha d eno u gh, d a r l i n g ?'
She t u r ned her hea d so f a st she ha d t o t a k e a m i nu t e t o f ocu s her ey es on Da m ien . H e ha d o n a p a i r of
t i ght j ea ns a nd t ha t w a s a l l , w i t h b a r e chest show i n g a l i g ht sp r i nk l e o f h a i r s, a n d b a r e f eet . H is b la ck
h a ir w a s t ou sl ed a nd h i s f a ce seem ed t o b e t i r ed , b u t h i s ey es w er e a ler t a n d p a t i ent ly hu m or ou s.
` I d o n 't k no w ,' sh e sa i d cl ea r l y , a nd t hen sp oi l ed it a l l b y sn i ck er i ng b eh i n d on e ha n d . H er ey es r ef l ect ed
t he go l d f r om t he f i r e, a n d t hey t w i nk l ed m er r i l y u p a t h i m , a n d i f t hey w er e st i ll sl ig ht l y u n f ocu sed , he
h a d t he t a ct not t o m ent i o n i t .
H e sq u a t t ed d o w n a nd f ish ed a r ou nd f o r t he ca r a f e, a nd f ou n d i t a l m ost em p t y . ` Go od Lor d ! Yo u 'v e
m a na g ed t o p a ck a w a y a hel l i sh a m ou nt o f b r a n d y . I ha t e t o t el l y o u t h i s, d a r l i ng, b u t y ou a r e g oi n g
t o ha v e on e t er r i b le h a ngov er in t he m o r n i n g. You sho u l d k n ow b et t er t h a n t ha t a t y ou r a g e.'
` Wh a t d oes a ge ha v e t o'd o w i t h a ny t h ing ?' she a sk ed , i nd i gna nt l y , b r i st l i ng a t h i s r ef er ence t o her a ge.
` I k new w h a t I w a s d r i nk i ng , d i n't I? S' a l l r el a t i v e, t i m e a n d a ge, a n y how s. Ev er y b o d y 's r ela t i v e: I t h i nk
I' l l ca l l y o u Un cl e Da m i e.'
H e l a u gh ed a t t ha t , sha k i n g hi s hea d a t h er , w hit e sm i le sla sh i n g a cr oss h i s f a ce. ` I w a s o n m y w a y t o
t he b a t hr o om a n d r ea l ised t h a t y ou r d oor w a s op en, so I t h ou ght I' d st i ck m y hea d i n t he d oo r a nd
check o n y ou si nce y o u h a d sw or n t o m e y o u w er e goi ng t o l ock y o u r d oor a n d su r e enou g h ! You 'r e
n ev er w her e y o u a r e su p p osed t o b e, m y g i r l . So I com e d ow n her e a n d w h a t d o I f i n d ? You m u m b l i ng
u nd er y o u r b r ea t h a n d g i g g l i ng li k e a l u n a t i c! D i d y o u h a v e t o go a n d get st i nk in g d r u nk ?'
` Sk u n k a s a d r u nk , t ha 's w h a t I t h u nk ,' sh e sa i d w isel y , a n d p ea l ed o f f a g a i n i nt o a f it o f l a u ght er . She
r ega r d ed h i m ow l i shl y , cont em p l a t i v el y . H e ha d o n e a r m p r op p ed o n t he a r m r est o f her cha i r , so he
w a s v er y n ea r , a nd f i r el i ght r i p p l ed on h is b a r e sk in , t u r ni ng h i s chest a w a r m , go l d en b r o w n . She l ov ed
t o lo ok a t h i s b od y . H e h a d a w a r m t h a nd a n essen ce o f st r engt h t ha t she cr a v ed . Sh e l ook ed d ow n a t
h i s t h i ck f o r ea r m a n d p u t her f in ger s o n it t o r u n t hem a cr o ss f ou r ev en l y sp a ced b u r n sca r s, ob v i ou sly
o ld a nd i nt er r u p t i ng t h e p a t t er n o f ha i r . H e w ou l d nev er t a l k a b ou t t hem , j u st a n sw er i ng i n d i f f er ent l y
t ha t h e h a d a n a cci d ent a s a ch i l d , a nd sh e ha d nev er f el t com f or t a b l e eno u gh t o p r ess t he i ssu e. They
w er e a s f a m i l i a r t o her a s t h e r est o f h i s b o d y w a s, a n d h er f i nger s t r a ced t hem ea ch . ` Did I ev er t el l
y ou , Uncl e Da m i e, t ha ' y ou ha f a n i ce b o d y ? A 'w a y s t ho u g ht so. A 'w a y s t hou g ht y ou d i d . N i ce gu y , y ou
k now i t ? Yer a ni ce b od y , b u t t h a 's i nsect , Uncl e Da m i e.' A t t h a t she b u r ied her hea d help l essl y i n h er
h a n d s a n d shook w i t h l a u g ht er .
Sof t chu ck les a nsw er ed her a nd D a m i en sl i d h i s a r m s g ent l y a r ou n d her t o t r y a nd l i f t her u p . ` I t h i nk
i t 's w el l p a st t h is l i t t le g i r l' s b ed t i m e. Com e on, I' l l g et y ou u p t he st a i r s.'
` St op it , st op i t !' she a r gu ed lou d ly , sl a p p i n g a t h i m a n d t r y i n g t o p u sh h i s a r m s a w a y . ` I k i n d ew it . I'l l
w a l k i t m y sef f .' A n d w i t h t ha t she t r ied t o st a n d a nd t he w or ld sw a y ed so t ha t sh e h a d t o gr a b ho l d o f
h i s a r m . H e t r ied t o p u t i t a r o u n d her b u t she p u shed her sel f a w a y f r om h i m a n d t r i ed a f ew
exp er i m en t a l st ep s. ` W hoop s! Co u ld y o u p i ck u p t he b ot t l e f or m e, Un cl e Da m i e? I d on' t h i nk I'd b et t er
b end d o w n . H ey , l ook , I a i n't w a lk i n' so b a d , a m I?'
She t u r ned ca r ef u l ly a nd p r om p t l y r a n i nt o a w a l l, a nd ju st l ea ned h er h ea d a g a in st i t , g ig g l i n g
u p r oa r i ou sl y . 'S'a l l a m a t t er o f- o f sp ect a - p er siv y . Per sa t i v it y . A h , hel l . Da m ien, t h e w a l l m ov ed .'

` Wi l l y o u j u st let m e p i ck y o u u p ?' h e a sk ed her r esi gned l y , st il l l a u gh in g a t t he co m i ca l si g ht she
p r od u ced . Sh e nod d ed a n d m o a ned a s t h e w or l d d id a st r a n g e d a nce a l l a r ou n d h er , a nd her b o d y
st a r t ed t o sl i d e si d ew a y s a s sh e l ea ned a ga i n st t he w a l l. H e ca u gh t her a nd slo w l y l i f t ed h er u p so t h a t
she w ou l d n't b e t o o d isor ien t ed b y t he m o t i on .
Jessi ca l et her hea d f a l l on t o h i s b a r e shou l d er w it h a sig h o f r el i ef . ` Co u l d n't m i ss t he si d e o f a b a r n,'
she co n f essed cheer f u l ly , a nd h i s sh ou l d er m u scle f l exed b en ea t h her cheek .
` I k no w i t . You ' d p r ob a b ly w a l k sm a ck i nt o i t a t t he r a t e y ou 'r e g o in g,' he w hi sp er ed . ` N o w , b e q u i et .
W e d on't w a nt t o w a k e y ou r f a t her .'
She nod d ed so l em n l y , a nd p r essed h er cheek cl oser t o h i s sh ou l d er . H e w a s ho l d i n g h er so ca r ef u l l y , a s i f
h e r ea l l y ca r ed a b ou t her , a n d h e f el t so g ood . She t ho u ght t ha t h i s h ea d ca m e d ow n on t op o f her s f or
a m o m ent b u t f el t so f u zzy she cou l d n't b e su r e. She g a v e i n t o t em p t a t ion a n d t u r n ed h er m ou t h t o
p r ess i t a ga i nst h is sk i n, l et t i ng her t on gu e t ou ch h i m , t a st i n g h im . 'M m n, d el i ci ou s,' sh e m u r m u r ed . ` You
t a st e b et t er t ha n a ny o l' b r a n d y , D a m i en .'
She f elt h i s w ho le b od y st i f f en a n d hea r d t he h a r sh i n t a k e o f h i s b r ea t h. Then l a u ght er shook h i s ch est
a nd v oi ce a s he d ep osi t ed h er on her ow n b ed a f t er p u l l in g b a ck t he cov er s. ` Lor d , l a d y , y ou su r e p i ck
y ou r t im es. N o, d o n't u nb u t t o n m y jea n s! You ca n t a st e m e so m e ot her t i m e i f y o u st i l l f eel l i k e it , I
p r om i se! N o w , hel p m e get y ou ou t o f y ou r clo t hes.'
` Wh y ?' she a sk ed su sp i ci ou sl y , t r y i n g t o p eer a t h i m t hr ou gh t h e d a r k n ess. Sh e f el t so t ir ed .
` Beca u se y o u ' l l f eel m or e co m f or t a b l e w it hou t t hem , t ha t 's w h y .'
` Oh,' sh e sa i d , d i gest i ng t h i s. She shr u gged . ` Ok a y .'
W i t h so m e d i f f i cu l t y , he m a na ged t o g et h er u nd er t he co v er s i n sp it e o f her hel p , a n d h e t u ck ed t he
sheet u p u nd er h er ch i n w it h a gent le k i ss t o her u p - t u r ned n ose. She sig hed a t t h a t a nd sn u g gl ed r i g ht
d ow n l i k e a sm a l l ch i l d , excep t f or t he sm el l o f li q u or .
` Oh, d a r l in g ,' he si ghed , ` y ou r ea l l y r eek .'
` Oh?' she sa i d cu r i ou sl y , op en i n g o ne ey e a ga i n: t o t r y a n d f i nd h i m , b u t a l l she sa w w a s d a r k ness a n d
h er ey e f l u t t er ed sh u t . ` W r ea k w h a t , ha v o c? S'a l l p er sp eck i b i l i t y , Uncl e D a m ie. G' ni g ht .'

W H EN Jessi ca f i n a l l y op ened her ey es t he next m or n i n g, she cl osed t hem a ga i n q u i ck l y , gr oa n in g i n
p a i n. The g r oa n ha d b een a m i st a k e a l so, she
f ou nd , f or i t seem ed t o r ev er b er a t e t hr ou gh t he
cor r i d or s o f her m i nd , t w a ng in g a t sor e n er v e
end i n gs a nd m a k i ng her hea d p ou n d a ch i ng l y .
A h a n gov er ! She ha d a st u p id ha ngov er , f or
hea v en's sa k e, a nd she h a d nev er h a d one
b ef or e i n her l i f e. H er ey el i d s f el t sw o l l en a nd her
t on gu e st u ck t o t he r oo f o f her d r y m ou t h . Sh e
ha d t o get a d r i nk o f w a t er b ef or e she d i ed o f
t hi r st .
Si t t in g a s g in g er l y a s p o ssib l e, she m oa n ed a ga i n
a s t h e r oom d a nced cr a zil y a r ou nd a nd a r ou nd .
The m ot i o n w a s get t i ng t o b e t oo m u ch . A w a v e
o f na u sea so a cu t e a n d ov er w hel m i ng h a d her shoot i ng ou t o f b ed a n d r u n n i n g f or t h e b a t hr oom a t
f u l l sp eed .
Som e t i m e l a t er , shu d d er i n g i n t he a f t er m a t h o f t he b ou t o f st o m a ch si ck ness, Jessi ca sea r ched t hr ou gh
t he m ed i ci ne ca b i net f or so m e b i ca r b ona t e o f so d a f or h er st i l l q u ea sy st o m a ch, a nd a sp i r i n f o r her
p oor , p ou nd i n g h ea d . Sh e m i xed u p t h e so d a a n d sip p ed a t i t ca r ef u l l y , b u t her st om a ch w a s m u ch t oo
sensi t i v e a n d i t a ll ca m e r i ght b a ck u p a g a i n.
Ev ent u a l ly she m a na ged t o g et d r essed a n d t h en she cr ep t d ow n t h e st a i r s, ha n g i n g g r i m ly on t o t he
b a n i st er , si nce t he st ep s seem ed t o b e m ov i n g a r ou nd of t hei r o w n v ol it i o n. It w a s v er y l a t e, sh e sa w , a s
she i nched ca r ef u l l y p a st t he cl ock i n t he l i v in g r oom , a n d sh e b eg a n t o w on d er w h er e her f a t her a nd
Da m i en w er e. In t he k i t chen sh e w ent sl ow l y a b ou t t he m ot i o ns
o f m a k in g cof f ee, a nd t h a t t oo w a s a m i st a k e, f or a s soon a s t h e p u ng ent a r om a w a f t ed t o her
CHAPTER EIGHT

q u iv er i ng no st r i l s, her st o m a ch a g a i n r ev ol t ed , a n d t h i s t i m e t he si ck ness w a s m u ch m or e p a in f u l si nce
she no l o nger h a d a ny t h i ng in her st om a ch t o co m e u p .
Un cer t a i n a s t o w ha t she shou l d cl u t ch a t , eit her her a b d o m en or h er hea d , she in st ea d r el u ct a nt ly
m a d e her w a y b a ck t o t he k i t chen so she cou l d t u r n o f f t he b r ew er i n t he cof f eem a k er b ef or e t he
m a ch in e w a s r u i ned , a n d sh e f ou n d t ha t she cou l d st a nd t h e sm el l o f t he cof f ee n ow , t hou g h j u st
b a r el y . Tha t su r ely m u st b e a g ood si gn, sh e t hou g h t , a n d she p ou r ed her sel f a cu p w i t h a n u nst ea d y
h a n d . Then sh e w en t b a ck u p st a ir s a nd go t t he b i ca r b ona t e o f so d a so t ha t sh e cou l d m i x her sel f
a not h er d o se. Sh e cou l d n't b o lst er u p enou gh cou r a ge t o t r y ei t her d r i nk , h a v i ng no d esir e t o p r o m p t
a not h er b ou t o f na u sea , a n d so w hen W i l l a n d Da m i en ent er ed t he k i t chen so m e m i nu t es la t er , t h ey
f ou nd her w it h her hea d l y i n g o n her f o l d ed a r m s, sit t i ng a t t he k it ch en t a b l e w it h b ot h u n t ou ched
d r i nk s i n f r ont o f h er .
W i l l shu t t he b a ck d oor b eh in d hi m a nd sh e j er k ed in h er cha i r . ` Oh, m y God !' she m oa ned a ch i n gl y ,
cov er i ng her ea r s. ` Yo u 'r e go i ng t o k i l l m e w i t h a l l o f t ha t r a ck et ! Cou l d n't y ou a t l ea st t r y t o b e a l i t t l e
m or e q u i et ?'
The t w o m en loo k ed a t ea ch ot her ov er Jessi ca 's b r i g ht , b ent hea d , Wi l l ' s ey eb r o w s sh o ot i ng u p a n d
Da m i en' s w el l - f or m ed l ip s b eg i n n i n g t o t r em b l e a t t he cor n er s.
` You r f a t her m er ely p u shed t h e d oor clo sed ,' D a m i en sa i d m i l d l y , h i s f a ce t hr ea t en i n g t o sp l i t in t o
l a u g ht er . 'H e d i d n't ev en sla m it . W ha t 's t he m a t t er , Jess? Is y ou r hea d h u r t i n g a l it t l e t h is m or ni ng?'
She t u r ned her f a ce t o w a r d s t h em a nd op ened one b a l ef u l ey e. H er f a ce w a s v er y p a le a n d t her e w er e
cir cl es u n d er her ey es, d a r k b r u ised sha d o w s t h a t m a d e her f a ce l ook v er y f r a gi le. ` If y o u d on't st op
scr ea m i ng a t m e a t t h e t op o f y ou r l u n g s, I m a y g et v i o l ent .'
A ch u ck l e b u r st f or t h f r om Da m i en a nd sh e scow l ed a t h i s cr a ss i n sen si t i v i t y , w h i le her f a t her r em a r k ed ,
` I t h in k I' m b eg in n in g t o u nd er st a n d w hy y ou t h ou ght w e shou l d ju st l et h er sl eep i n t hi s m or n ing
i n st ea d o f in v it i ng her t o g o w i t h u s. W h a t ev er h a p p ened , or n eed I a sk ?'
` Do y ou k no w w ha t y o u r d a u gh t er g ot i nt o?' D a m i en sa i d , h is v oice q u i v er in g sl i ght l y . ` She j u st a b ou t
f i n i shed o f f t ha t ca r a f e o f v er y excel len t b r a n d y y ou h a d i n t he l i q u or ca b i net , W i l l .'
` Oh m y ! Tha t ent i r e ca r a f e?' H i s ey eb r ow s shot u p ev en m o r e t h a n b ef o r e, a nd he st a r t ed t o sm i l e. ` N o
w on d er y o u 'r e f eel i ng ... a h, a b i t u nd er t h e w ea t her . W el l, t ha t t oo w i l l p a ss, m y d ea r , no m a t t er ho w
y ou f eel d i f f er ent l y a t t he m o m ent . I m u st sa y , I sha l l m i ss t ha t b r a n d y .'
` I'l l get y ou m or e,' Da m i en p r om ised . ` Bu t I t h i nk y ou m a y h a v e t o hi d e i t f r om Jessi ca i f sh e' s goi ng t o
t u r n i nt o a r egu l a r l it t l e l u sh .'
` H a ,' sh e m u t t er ed , w it hou t a n y p a r t icu l a r em p ha si s. Sh e r ea l l y w i shed t ha t t hey w o u ld st op t a lk i ng
a nd g o a w a y , so t ha t she co u l d r ecov er i n r el a t i v e p ea ce a nd q u i et . She f el t so f r a g i l e, she w a s a f r a i d
t ha t she w a s goi ng t o b r ea k i nt o a t h ou sa nd l i t t l e p i eces a t a ny u nd u e sou nd .
She ha d cl osed her ey es a ga i n, a n d so w hen she hea r d so m e m ov em ent a b ou t t h e k i t chen, she d i d n't
k now w h a t t o exp ect u nt i l a d i st in ct f i shy od ou r a ssa i l ed her t oo sen sit i v e nose, a n d her f a t her w a s
sa y i ng, ` W el l, I g u ess I'd b et t er st a r t t o cl ea n u p t h e f i sh i f w e'r e goi ng t o h a v e t hem f o r lu nch .'
` Oh, no ,' she m oa ned si ck l y , t u r n in g a p ecu l ia r sha d e o f gr een a nd cl u t ch i n g a t h er st om a ch. A st r a n ge
chu r nin g f eel i ng ca m e ov er her a nd sh e b o l t ed f r o m her sea t l i k e a b a t ou t o f hel l . D a m i en w a s
a lr ea d y a h ea d o f her , ho l d i n g t h e sw i n g i n g d oor op en a s sh e shot o u t i nt o t h e h a l l a nd r a n u p t he
st a ir s. She m a d e it t o t he b a t hr oom a n d sh ov ed t he d oo r shu t b eh i nd her a n d t hen sh e w a s
w r enchi n g ly , v i o l ent ly sick . Sh u d d er a f t er sh u d d er w r a ck ed h er b od y p a i n f u l ly , a nd sh e w a s t oo
w r a p p ed u p i n h er na u sea t o ev en ca r e w hen t w o co ol su p p or t i ng ha nd s ca m e a r ou nd h er n eck a n d
chi n t o hel p her t hr ou g h t h e p a i n f u l conv u l si on s. She w a s gr a t ef u l f or t he su p p or t f or she w a s b eg i n n in g
t o f eel w ea k a f t er so m u ch si ck ness. A f t er w a r d s, h ow ev er , a s she sa t o n t h e t i l ed f lo or i n t he b a t hr oo m
a nd l ea ned a g a i nst t he si d e o f t he b a t hr u b , she b eca m e a cu t ely sel f consci ou s a nd sa id sna p p i l y , ` Wi ll
y ou ju st get ou t o f h er e a nd l et a p er so n d i e i n p ea ce?'
Da m i en h a d st ood a n d w a s r u n n i n g som e col d w a t er ov er a f l a n nel, a nd he t hen b ent t o p r ess t h e cool
clo t h t o her hot f or ehea d w i t h gent l e f i nger s. H e sa i d sy m p a t het i ca l l y , ` H a ngo v er s a r e hel l i sh, a r en't
t hey ? Bu t I p r om ise y ou , d a r l i ng, t ha t y o u a r en't go in g t o d ie. You m a y w i sh y ou r sel f d ea d b ef o r e y ou
f eel b et t er , b u t y ou w on't exp i r e f r o m t o o m u ch b r a nd y o ne n i g ht . I k now , I'v e b een t her e.'
` If I w a s j u st l ef t a l one, I m ig ht , j u st m ig h t , r ecov er ,' she m u t t er ed p et t i shl y , a nd t hen si ghed a s t he cl ot h
ea sed a w a y so m e o f t h e d i scom f or t . Sh e t u r ned her f a ce t o i t a n d t o h i s gent le ha n d s, a n d he
cont in u ed t o w ip e r hy t hm ica l ly a cr oss her f or ehea d a n d cheek s a nd neck . ` Tha t f eel s m a r v el l ou s.'
'M m n,' he r esp on d ed a u t o m a t i ca l l y , a nd t hen he sa i d , st r a n g el y , ` Do y ou k now , t h i s i s t he f ir st t i m e I
t hi nk I'v e ev er seen y ou sick ? H ow v er y od d . I n ev er not i ced i t b ef or e. You m u st b e v er y hea lt hy .'

` I m u st loo k l i k e a m on st er ,' she gr oa ned , r em em b er i n g a nd t u r n i n g her f a ce a w a y f r om hi m in a n
ef f or t t o h i d e. ` I'm u su a l l y not sick , b u t w h en I w a s y ou w er e a lw a y s a w a y on b u si ness t r i p s.'
H e held st i l l a t t h a t a nd t he si l en ce st r et ch ed ou t b ef or e h e sl i d cl oser so t ha t h e cou l d cont i nu e t o
a d m i n i st er t o her f a ce a nd neck . ` I a m v er y sor r y a b ou t t h a t , a n d I k no w i t sou n d s t er r i b l y i na d eq u a t e,
b u t it 's t he o n ly t hi ng I ha v e t o sa y ,' h e sa i d q u iet l y . ` You d on't l ook l ik e a m on st er , so st op sq u i r m i ng
a r ou n d a n d l et m e get a t y ou ! You 'r e j u st a b i t p i nk a r o u nd t he ey es, m a y b e, a n d v er y p a le, b u t ot her
t ha n t h a t y ou a r e j u st a s b ea u t i f u l a s ev er . H o w y ou ca n m a n a ge t o l ook so good a f t er a ni ght o f t h e
k in d o f d r i nk i n g y ou i nd u l ged i n l a st n i g ht i s b ey on d m y p o w er s o f com p r ehensi on . D o y o u f eel i l l
a ny m or e?'
She con si d er ed t ha t w i t h her h ea d l ea n i ng a g a i nst h i s sh ou l d er . It w a s so n i ce, ju st t o l et g o a n d l ea n o n
som eo ne el se, so n i ce not t o f eel t h a t she h a d t o b e st r on g n o m a t t er w h a t , so n i ce t o ha v e Da m i en's
a r m s a r o u nd her . ` N o , I d on 't t h i nk so . I w a s r ea l ly f eel i n g a l i t t l e b et t er u nt i l I ca u gh t a w h i f f o f t ha t
f i sh!' Sh e sh i v er ed a t t he m em o r y . ` Ugh ! I' l l nev er b e a b l e t o l ook a m a i n d i sh o f f i sh i n t he f a ce a g a i n!'
` N ow , i t 's no t a s b a d a s a l l t ha t ,' he soo t hed , sl i d in g h is o t her a r m b enea t h her a n d f l exi ng h i s shou l d er
m u scl es a s h e st ood , p i ck in g h er u p . ` I t h in k y ou 'd f eel b et t er i n b ed f or a w h i l e lo ng er . I ca n b r i ng y ou r
d r i nk s u p f or y ou a nd y o u ca n go t o sl eep a f t er f i n i sh i n g t hem . H ow d oes t ha t sou n d ?'
Jessi ca ha d a b r ief st r u gg le b et w een h er p r i d e a nd her i ncl i n a t i o ns, a nd her i ncl i n a t io ns w on ou t . ` Th a t
sou nd s good ,' she sigh ed . ` M a y b e I ca n get r i d o f t h i s hea d a che t h en .' Sh e g a v e her sel f u p t ot a l l y t o t h e
sensa t ion o f r el a xi n g a n d l et t i n g som eo n e else t a k e ca r e o f her f or a cha n ge, a s Da m i en st r od e ou t i nt o
t he l a nd i n g a n d i n t o her b ed r o om . H e hesi t a t ed f or a m in u t e a s he l ook ed f r o m t h e u n m a d e b ed t o
h er f a ce, a n d she sa i d q u ick ly , ' It 'd b e t oo m u ch t r ou b l e t o u nd r ess a ga i n . Ju st let m e p u l l u p t he cov er s
a nd t hen I' l l l i e d o w n on t op o f t hem .' H er hea d w a s p ou nd i ng v i l el y a nd a l l sh e w a n t ed t o d o w a s t o
col la p se i n a h ea p so m ew h er e, w i t h a s li t t l e f u ss a s p ossi b l e.

H e r ea d t he exp r essio n o n h er f a ce, nod d ed , a n d set her o n h er f eet f or a m o m en t t o y a n k t he cov er s
u p a g a i n . H e w a s b a r ely d o ne b ef or e sh e w a s sl i d i ng on t o t h e b ed l i k e a w et nood l e sl i p p i ng on t o a n
em p t y p l a t e, a n d sh e set t l ed r i ght w her e she la n d ed , clo si ng her ey es w i t h som et h i ng l ik e d esp er a t io n.
She m i ssed h i s r ega r d a nd sl ig ht sm i le a n d sha k e o f hi s hea d , b u t sh e d i d f eel som et h i ng p a ss ov er her
h a ir , l ik e a q u i ck ca r ess. Then h is f oot st ep s sou nd ed o u t t h e d oor .
H e w a s b a ck q u i ck l y enou g h, w i t h b ot h t h e g l a ss o f sod a a nd t he cu p o f co f f ee, a nd h e sa t ca r ef u l ly
d ow n o n t he ed g e o f her b ed w i t h b o t h . ` W hich w o u ld y o u l i k e f i r st ?'
She op en ed one r ed - r i m m ed ey e. ` You ca n h a v e t h e cof f ee, t ha nk s. I' m n ot goi ng t o p r ess m y l u ck .'
She t oo k t he p r o f f er ed gl a ss a n d b ega n t o sip a t i t ca r ef u l ly , m a k in g a n i nv o lu n t a r y g r i m a ce o f d i st a st e
a s t he l i q u id w en t d ow n. ` If I su r v i v e t h i s, i t 'l l b e a m i r a cl e, not h i ng less.' She p eer ed a t h i m w it h h er on e
ey e. H e w a s si t t i ng , si p p i ng a t t he hot b r ew i n t h e cu p , h is d a r k hea d b ent ov er it a n d h is ey es
t hou g ht f u l ly f i xed on so m et h i n g o n t he op p osi t e w a l l . She l ov ed t o lo ok a t h i m , l ov ed t o r u n h er ey es
d ow n t he l i nes o f h i s b o d y , t he a ng l e o f h i s st r ong neck , t he i m p l ica t i o n o f p o w er i n t he w i d t h a n d
b u l g e o f h i s sho u ld er m u scles, t he sl eek h ip s. Ev en si ck a s she w a s, she cou l d a p p r ecia t e t h e i nh er ent
sensu a l i t y i n h i m .

H e t u r ned h is h ea d q u i ck l y a nd sm i led a t t he one ey e p eep i ng a t h i m . Sh e h a d f i n i sh ed h er d r i nk a n d
w a s snu g gl i ng d ow n i nt o her p i l l ow . ` Tel l m e so m et h i ng?' he a sk ed so f t l y , a n d t he ot her ey e em er g ed
t o r eg a r d h i m w a r i l y .
` I w i sh t h is r oom w ou l d q u it sp i n n i n g,' sh e com p l a i n ed m i l d ly . ` M a y b e I w i l l a n d m a y b e I w on't . It
d ep end s o n w h a t y ou w a nt t o k now .' Sh e d i d n 't t r u st t hose b l a ck , m er r y ey es. They so b er ed q u ick l y ,
t hou g h, a s h e a sk ed h i s q u est io n.
` Wh y d i d y o u g et d r u nk la st n i g ht , Jess? W h a t w er e y ou t r y i n g t o cop e w i t h ?'
'So r r y,' sh e m u t t er ed , f l u sh i n g sl igh t l y , ` p r i v i leged i n f o r m a t i on .' She r em em b er ed how sh e h a d st r u gg l ed
w i t h her f eel i n gs a n d lo ng i n gs l a st n ig ht , a nd she cou l d nev er t el l h i m o f t h a t , not i n a m i l l i o n y ea r s. H er
ey es f el l a w a y f r om h i s g a ze a nd she sh r u g g ed , a n i n f i n i t esi m a l, u ncer t a i n m ov em en t . ` I gu ess t h i ngs
j u st got t o m e, t h a t 's a l l.'
She t en sed a s h is h a nd ca m e t o st r ok e her cheek d ow n t o h er sl i m neck , a n d she t u r n ed h er f a ce a w a y ,
i n a d v er t ent l y g iv i ng h i m a n excel l ent v i ew o f t he sl end er b ones i n her ja w a nd neck , a n d t he a b r u p t
shock o f t h e r ed sca r a l on g w ha t w a s o t her w i se a p er f ect p r o f i l e. ` W ha t t h i ng s?' h e w hi sp er ed
p er su a siv ely , b u t she sh ook her h ea d . H e f i na l l y sa i d , ` Ok a y , not no w , t hen . You get som e sl eep .'
H er v oi ce ca m e b a ck sof t l y . ` N ot ev er , Da m i en . Som e t h i ng s shou ld b e l ef t p r i v a t e.'
A w ea r y si g h a n sw er ed her a nd sh e t u r ned her hea d b a ck a s h e sa i d st r a n gely , t i r ed l y , ` I, t oo, u sed t o
t hi nk t h a t .' Tha t m a d e h er go v er y st i l l u n t i l he b r ok e t h e sp el l w i t h a sl i ght ly u nst ea d y l a u gh . ` You
l ook v er y co sy a l l cu r l ed u p l i k e t h a t . I ju st m a y j o i n y o u .'
She gr o a ned ou t a n i nv o lu n t a r y chu ck le. ` N ot now , Da m ien, p l ea se! I ha v e a hea d a che.' A n d she
w a t ched h is ey es l i ght u p w i t h a m u sem ent b ef or e she r o ll ed ov er t o f a l l a sl eep .

W hen she w ok e u p t he d a y h a d sl ip p ed a w a y i nt o t he l a t e a f t er n oon . Thi s w a s a sl i g h t ja r t o her senses,
f or she w a s t h e t y p e of p er son t o b e u p ea r l y i n t h e m or n i ng, ea ger t o g et t h i n gs d o n e. A s sh e got ou t
o f b ed , f eel i ng a l m o st no r m a l a g a i n , sh e w on d er ed b r i ef ly i f Da m ien h a d d eci d ed t o go b a ck t o N ew
Yo r k or no t . W i t h t h is i n m in d , sh e t ook t h e st a ir s t w o a t a t i m e, p u l l i n g u p shor t a t t he b ot t o m a s sh e
t ook i n t he si gh t o f Da m ien sl ou ch ed in her f a v ou r i t e ea sy cha i r , f eet st r et ched t ow a r d s a cheer y f ir e,
r ea d i ng a b ook .
` Well ,' she d r a w l ed , ey ei n g hi m a sk a nce a s sh e st r ol led o v er t o st a n d nea r t he f i r e. ` Thi s is cer t a i nl y
som et hi n g n ew . You nev er h a d t he t i m e t o r ea d a t h o m e.'
H e w a s sm i l i ng ev en b ef or e he loo k ed u p , a n d h e w a s q u i ck t o l a y t h e b oo k a si d e. ` Welcom e b a ck t o
t he l a nd o f t h e l i v i ng, d a r l in g. I g u ess I' d f o r got t en h ow r el a xi n g a nd enj oy a b le a goo d b o ok ca n b e.
Thi s cou l d b e cu l t i v a t ed i nt o a h a b i t , I t h i n k .'
She r ea ched d o w n a n d p i ck ed u p t he b ook , l ook i ng a t t h e t i t l e w it h a st on i sh m en t . ` H e's ev en r ea d i n g
f i ct i o n , a n d a ch i l l i ng m y st er y a t t ha t ! W o nd er s nev er cea se, a f t er a l l . You m u st ha v e got t en t h i s ou t o f
m y f a t her 's l i b r a r y . H e ea t s t hese k i n d o f b o ok s f or b r ea k f a st .'
` Yes, i t 's a lo a n f or t he d u r a t i on o f m y st a y .'
A t t h a t h er hea d sn a p p ed a r ou nd a n d her ey es na r r ow ed w a r i l y . ` St a y i n g, t hen?' she q u est i oned
ca u t iou sl y . ` Ju st exa ct ly ho w l o ng d o y ou i nt end t o st a y ?'
'D i d n 't I t el l y ou ?' he r ep l i ed i nno cent l y , h i s hea d t i l t ed b a ck t o su r v ey her exp r essio n b et t er . ` I'v e
d eci d ed t o t a k e y ou r f a t her u p on h i s o f f er a n d a m st a y in g a t l ea st f or a no t her t hr ee d a y s, p ossib l y a
w eek .'
H er p u p i ls w i d en ed , a n d she h a d t o sw a l l o w once b ef o r e sh e cou l d get a ny t hi ng ou t o f her t hr o a t . It
w a sn't t h a t sh e w a s su r p r i sed ; she'd exp ect ed som et h in g l i k e t h i s. Sh e w a s, how ev er , ext r em el y
d i scom f it ed a t t h e t hou g ht o f h i m b ein g i n su ch cl ose p r oxi m i t y t o her f or a ny len gt h of t i m e. ` M a y b e
I'd b et t er sit d o w n f or a m in u t e,' she sa i d co nv er sa t i on a l l y , gr op i ng f or a cha i r b eh i nd her . Sh e sa nk i nt o
i t a n d r ega r d ed Da m ien's ou t w a r d l y p l a ci d ext er i or t hou ght f u ll y . H e seem ed f u ll y r ela xed , w i t h l o ng
l eg s k ick ed ou t i n f r ont o f h i m a n d a r m s d r a p ed on t he a r m r est s, l ea n f in g er s l i nk ed l oosel y t oget her .
To a l m o st a ny o ne he w ou l d a p p ea r t o b e t ot a l l y a t h i s ea se, in d o lent ev en, b u t Jessi ca w a s n a r r ow ing
k now led g ea b le ey es on h i m a n d r ea l ised t h a t h e w a s a b o u t a s r ela xed a s a w il d ca t a b ou t t o sp r i ng. ` I
d on't b el i ev e t ha t I'v e ev er k now n y o u t o t a k e ev en a n ent ir e w eek en d o f f , l et a l on e a f u l l sev en d a y s.
A r e y ou su r e t h a t y ou r b u si ness w i ll su r v i v e w it hou t y ou f or t h a t l on g?' Th a t l a st w a s sa i d w i t h a t o u ch
o f m a li ce.

H i s ch i n sa nk t o h i s ch est a n d h e loo k ed a t her f r om u nd er l ow er ed , co nsi d er i n g b r ow s f or a m o m ent ,
a s i f d eci d i ng w h a t t o sa y . ` I'd t a k en t h e t i m e t o a r r a nge t h i ng s b ef or e I ca m e u p h er e,' he r ep l i ed , w i t h
ev er y a p p ea r a nce of t r a n q u i l l i t y , excep t t ha t h i s ey es g l it t er ed w a t ch f u l ly . A n d she sa w i t . ` Ot her w i se I
m i ght h a v e b een her e so o ner .'
She w a s nod d i ng ev en b ef or e he h a d f i n ished sp ea k i n g. Da m i en ha d no t ju st i nt en d ed a f l y i ng v i si t ,
j u st t o a sk her t o m a r r y hi m a n d t hen gr a ci ou sly a ccep t a r ef u sa l . H e h a d com e w i t h ev er y i nt ent i on o f
d oi n g ev er y t hi ng i n h is p ow er t o g et her a ccep t a n ce. H e r ea l ly ha d h i s m i nd set t h i s t i m e.
` I t h in k I b eg i n t o get t h e p i ct u r e,' she sa i d ca l m l y . ` It d oes t a k e m e a w hi le so m et i m es, b u t I' m not
t ot a l l y m or on ic o r sen i l e. Excu se m e.' She r ose a n d hea d ed f or t h e k i t chen a n d h ea r d b eh i n d her t h e
i m m ed i a t e cr ea k i ng o f t he cha ir a n d f oot st ep s f o l lo w i n g her s.

` N ow , j u st a m i nu t e, Jessi ca ,' he sa i d i m p a t i ent ly , a nd she t u r ned sl ow l y t o f a ce hi m , her l ef t ey eb r ow
cock ed w a r ni ng l y a n d m ou t h p u r sed .
` M a k e it q u ick , w i l l y ou ?' she sa i d sna p p i l y . ` I'm so hu n gr y I t h i nk m y st o m a ch i s ea t i ng t hr ou gh m y
b a ck b o ne.'
H e st op p ed a n d st a r ed a t her w i t h t h e b egi nn i ngs o f p u zzl em en t i n h i s ey es. ` You w er e goi ng t o t h e
k it chen?'
` Of cou r se.' Sh e sw u ng a r o u nd a nd cont i n u ed o n d ow n t h e h a ll , t hr ow i ng ov er her shou l d er , ` Wh er e
d i d y ou t h in k I w a s go i n g?'
` I t hou g h t y ou w er e go i n g t o go u p st a i r s t o p a ck y ou r t hi ng s,' he a d m i t t ed q u iet l y , com ing i nt o t he
k it chen w i t h her . H e w a t ched her p er u se t h e cont ent s o f t he r ef r i ger a t or . She co u ld f eel h is g a ze l ik e a
p hy sica l t o u ch, a n d she concent r a t ed o n k eep i n g her f a ce co m p let el y b l a nk . ` I' l l m a k e u s cof f ee i f
y ou 'd l i k e so m e.'
` Ok a y .' Und er n ea t h her u nca r i n g ext er i or , Jessi ca w a s d oi ng so m e r a p i d t h i nk i ng o f h er ow n. The on ly
r ea son t h a t she ha d co m e t o t he k i t chen i n t he f ir st p la ce i nst ea d o f goi ng t o p a ck w a s b eca u se she w a s
st a r v i ng, a n d b ef or e D a m i en ha d co m e r i g ht o u t a n d sa id i t , sh e'd ha d ev er y i nt ent i o n o f go ing
u p st a ir s a nd get t i ng her cl ot h es t og et her a nd t o r u n a w a y i f sh e a b so l u t el y h a d t o. N o w she sa w t h a t it
w ou l d n 't w o r k , a n d she w a sn't goi ng t o g i v e Da m ien t h e sa t i sf a ct io n o r t he k n ow led ge t h a t h e h a d
u p set h er so m u ch t ha t she ha d f elt sh e h a d t o r et r ea t a ga i n. Sh e w a s go i n g t o sho w h i m t ha t i t d i d n't
m a t t er t o her o ne w a y o r t he o t her i f h e st a y ed , b eca u se a s f a r a s she w a s co ncer ned t h ei r r el a t io n sh i p
h a d b een f i n i shed i n N ew Yor k . She w a s g oi ng t o p u t on a f i r st - cl a ss a ct .

She k new t ha t he w a s l ook i ng a t her f r om t i m e t o t i m e, st u d y i n g her f a ce r ef lect i v el y , a ssessin g l y . A n d
she su d d enl y ha d a q u i v er o f u ncer t a int y a s t o w het her she cou l d p u l l o f f t he a ct or not , b eca u se h e d i d
f r i ght en her a n d t hr ea t en her , a nd h i s v er y p r esen ce p u t a l l o f her new f ou nd ser en i t y a n d r eso l v e i n
sev er e j eop a r d y . She w a s a ct u a l l y g oi n g t o t r y t o d ecei v e one o f t he k een est i nt el lect u a l m in d s i n t he
cou nt r y ? Pa r t of h i s t r em en d ou s su ccess i n h i s b u si n ess w a s h i s a b i l it y t o j u d ge p eo p le a n d a ssess t hei r
si ncer i t y a nd hon est y . H e p r ob a b l y d ea l t w i t h p eop le l ik e h er a l l o f t he t i m e. W el l, she t hou gh t ,
m en t a l ly sq u a r in g h er sh ou l d er s, i t w a s a l l a m a t t er o f r el a t iv i t y , a ny w a y , b eca u se sh e ha d y ea r s o f
exp er i ence o f b ei ng in f r ont o f a n i m p a r t i a l , i n hu m a n ca m er a ey e t h a t p i ck ed u p ev er y l in e o f st r ess
a nd n u a nce o f exp r essi on t h a t w a s l et p a st her cont r ol . A nd one h a d t o exer ci se a n i r o n cont r ol f or t h a t
k in d o f exp osu r e. Sh e f o u n d h er sel f sm oot hl y cl ick in g i nt o t he r ole o f a socia l host ess, a s i f so m e m a st er
m echa ni sm ha d p u l led a l ev er i n her m i n d . She su d d en l y f o u n d t ha t she co u l d t r u st h er o w n a b i l i t y t o
a ct a f t er a l l ; i t w ou l d b e her exp er t i se i n h i d i ng her t r u e f eeli ng s p it t ed a g a in st hi s a b i l it y t o see p a st
t hem .
` Did y o u w a n t a sna ck a l so? I d o n't k no w w h a t t o h a v e,' sh e cha t t ed conv er sa t i o na l l y , t ick in g o f f t he
i t em s in t he r ef r i ger a t or w it h one f o r ef i nger . ` I' m so h u ngr y a nd y et I' m a f r a i d t ha t i f I ea t a ny t h i ng t oo
sp i cy , it m i ght a l l co m e r i ght b a ck u p a g a i n . H o w l on g w i ll it t a k e b ef or e m y st o m a ch i s b a ck t o
n or m a l , d o y ou t h i nk ?'
` I t h in k t h i s i s go i n g t o b e ha r d er t h a n I ha d f ir st a nt i ci p a t ed ,' h e t o ld t he cof f eem a k er , a nd t h en
p eer ed ov er hi s shou l d er a t her . ` Yo u shou l d b e f eel i ng q u i t e w el l b y t o m or r ow , n o d ou b t . If y ou 'd li k e,
I' l l f i x u s a n om el et t e, or t h er e's sou p . Fi sh d oesn't sou nd v er y good t o y ou ?'
She shu d d er ed d el ica t el y a nd m ov ed a w a y , sh u t t in g t he r ef r ig er a t or d oo r w it h a q u i ck ca su a l sh ov e.
` N o, t ha nk y ou ! I gu ess I' l l ju st ha v e cof f ee, p l ea se.'
A t t h a t , he f r ow ned h ea v i ly . ` You h a v en't ha d a ny t h i ng t o ea t f or a l m o st t w ent y - f o u r hou r s. You ' l l
r ea l l y m a k e y ou r sel f sick , i f y ou d on 't ea t . Com e o n,' he coa xed . ` H ow a b ou t i f I f i x y ou a n ice l i ght
sa l a d ?'
She shr u gged i nd i f f er ent l y a n d h e chose t o t a k e t ha t a s a n a f f i r m a t i v e. Pu sh i ng her i n t o a cha i r a nd
p ou r i ng her a cu p o f cof f ee, h e t o l d h er k i nd l y t o shu t u p a n d b e good w h i l e h e w en t a b ou t t he p r ocess
o f f i xi n g h er so m et h in g t o ea t . A t f i r st she r ea l l y w a s i nd i f f er ent t o hi s p r ep a r a t i on s, b u t a s she si p p ed
t he co f f ee a n d it h it h er em p t y st o m a ch, she b ega n t o f eel hu n g r i er a nd hu ngr i er . W hen he f ina l l y set
t he- l i ght sna ck i n f r ont o f her , she w a s m o r e t h a n r ea d y t o f a l l o n i t w i t h a d el ica t e p o u nce, w h ich
ca u sed h i m t o sm i l e. H e sa t a n d w a t ched her ea t .
` Feel b et t er ?'
She gl a nced u p a n d f ou nd h i m l ook i n g a t her t ol er a nt ly . ` Oh, y es!' she r ep l ied , m ou t h f u l l. ` Th is i s r ea l ly
h it t i n g t h e sp ot , t h a nk y ou .'
` You 'r e q u it e w elcom e.' H e lea ned b a ck , si p p ed a t h i s cof f ee, a nd cont i nu ed ea si l y , ` I ca n r em em b er
w hen f r esh p r od u ce l i k e let t u ce w a s a r a r e l u xu r y f or u s. W e w er e l u ck y i f w e got eno u gh t o f i ll ou r
st o m a ch s, let a l o ne a ny o f w ha t w e ca l l ed t he "ext r a s".'
H er ey es sw u n g u p t o h i s sw i f t l y . H e w a s a ct u a l l y m a k in g t he ef f o r t t o t a l k a b ou t h i s p a st a g a i n . She
b l i nk ed , f eel i ng l ess a st on i shm ent t h a n she m i g ht ha v e i n t he p a st . A ny t h i n g seem ed p o ssi b l e w i t h t h i s
n ew D a m i en, a ny t h in g a t a l l . A n d t h i s, she p r iv a t el y a d m it t ed , w a s p a r t l y w h a t f r i gh t ened her a b ou t
h i m . H e no l o nger f i t t ed in t o t h e n iche t ha t she h a d er ect ed f or h i m . H e h a d b u r st ou t of t he m ou l d her
concep t i on o f h i m h a d cr ea t ed , a n d he w a s a n u n k no w n f o r ce t o b e r eck oned w i t h.
` I'l l b et t ha t y ou r m ot her ha d t o w o r k ha r d j u st t o m a k e end s m eet ,' she m u r m u r ed sy m p a t het ica l l y ,
a nd h a d t o gu l p w h en h i s exp r essi o n u nexp ect ed l y d a r k ened i nt o so m et h in g l i k e f u r y .
` Wo r k !' he excl a i m ed shor t l y , sou r l y , a nd t he b it t er ness so a p p a r ent i n h is v oi ce m a d e her w i nce. ` I
g u ess t h a t 's one eu p hem ism f or w ha t she d i d . N o, Jessi ca , I d on 't t h i nk m y m ot her w or k ed a n honest
d a y in her l i f e. I ca n't ev en b eg i n t o cou nt t he "u ncl es" w e a l l ha d . Som e o f t hem st a y ed a f ew d a y s,
som e a f ew w eek s. A f ew ca m e a f t er w e w er e su p p osed t o b e a sl eep a n d w er e gon e b y m or n in g. Do
y ou k now w ha t her f a v o u r i t e p a st i m e w a s? Sh e u sed t o sp en d h er a f t er noon s in t he l oca l b a r , t r y i ng t o
g et a ny one sh e cou l d t o b u y her d r i nk s. Th a t 's w her e she m et m o st o f her m en f r i en d s. She li v ed p r et t y
d ecen t l y on w h a t her b oy f r i end s g a v e her , a n d w e got t he l ef t ov er s. God , I a l m ost f eel sor r y f or t he
m a n w ho ha d m a r r ied h er a nd t ook o f f o ne d a y , t he p o or b a st a r d . It ' s no w on d er , i s i t ?'
H er f a ce ha d w h it ened a t Da m i en's su cci n ct w or d in g , sh ock ed m or e t ha n she w a nt ed t o a d m it a t t hi s
g l i m p se o f h is p a st . ` Oh , Da m ien,' she w h i sp er ed , i m p u lsi v el y r ea chi ng ou t t o g r a sp a t h is k nu ck l ed f ist
t ha t r est ed on t he t a b l e. ` I ha d no i d ea '
H i s ha n d m ov ed , t u r ned u nd er h er s a n d g r i p p ed her h a nd t i ght ly . ` H ow cou l d y o u ?' h e a sk ed , t h e
st r a nge b i t t er l ook f a d i ng f r om h i s ey es a n d b ei ng r ep l a ced b y so m et h in g m or e m ock i n g. Th is shock ed
h er a l so, u nt i l she r ea l ised t ha t he w a s m ock i n g h i m sel f , not her .

` Wh en I nev er t r i ed t o t el l y ou a ny o f i t ? I sp ent a l l m y l i f e i n f ea r t ha t m y p a st w a s g oi ng t o cr op u p
a nd con f r on t m e a n d t ha t I w a sn't goi ng t o b e a b le t o h a n d l e it , a nd a l l o f t he t i m e i t w a s m e w ho
k ep t i t a l iv e a n d l et i t cr i p p l e m e. You k no w , f or so m eone w ho's su p p osed t o b e i nt el l i gent , I ha v e
cer t a i nl y b een a f oo l. Wh a t d id y o u ev er see in m e?'
She ha d t o l a u gh a nd t hen so b er ed su d d enly w hen sh e co nsi d er ed t h e q u est i o n ser io u sl y . ` I d o n't k now
a ny m or e. I ca n't seem t o l ook b a ck a nd g et a cl ea r p ict u r e o f how I v i ew ed y ou . I g u ess i t 's b eca u se m y
com p r ehensio n o f y ou ha s b een so d r a st i ca l ly cha nged a nd b r oa d ened l a t ely . We seem t o b e
u nd er go i ng so m e k i n d o f m et a m o r p hosi s, som e k i n d o f p er son a l i t y
cha ng e, I- -
'N o,' he i nt er r u p t ed gent ly , sq u eezi n g h er ha n d so t ig ht l y t ha t sh e w i nced f r o m t h e p r essu r e. ` It ' s no
p er sona l i t y ch a nge, Jess. We'r e j u st gr ow i n g int o t he p eop l e t ha t f or a l ong t i m e w e w ou l d n't l et
o u r sel v es b e. In a w a y w e w er e q u i t e a b i t l ik e y ou r M a r y M ou se, r ef u si ng t o cha ng e i nt o w h a t w e
cou l d b e f or f ea r o f lo si ng w ha t w e ha d .'
` I d i d n't t r ea t y ou r i ght , a l l t h ose y ea r s!' sh e b u r st ou t , f eel in g g u i l t - r i d d en a t ho w she ha d su b t l y
d ecei v ed h i m . Th e b u r d en, t h e cu r se, a n d p ossi b ly t he sa lv a t i on o f m a nk i nd m u st b e gu i l t a n d on e's
consci ence, sh e t ho u ght , a gon ised . Go d hel p u s a l l . ` I' m so v er y sor r y , Da m i en !'
` Oh, Lo r d ,' he g r oa n ed , ' Jess, y o u d o n't ha v e a ny t hi ng t o b e sor r y f o r ! I' m t h e o ne w ho sho u l d b e d ow n
o n m y k nees, b egg i ng y o u r f or gi v eness.'
` Pl ea se,' sh e w h i sp er ed , t ou ch i n g hi s l ip s w i t h one f ea t her - l i ght f in g er . ` L et m e b e t r u t hf u l w i t h y ou , f o r
o nce. For p r ob a b l y t h e f i r st t i m e si nce I'v e k now n y ou . So m et i m es I f eel so a sha m ed b eca u se y ou 'v e
n ev er t r i ed b t o b e a ny t h i ng b u t t r u t h f u l w i t h m e a n d i t ' s t he one g i f t y ou f r eel y ga v e. It w a s a h a r d g i f t
a t t i m es, b u t i t w a s r ea l . Don't lo ok so a go n ized ! I j u st w a nt t o t el l y o u h ow sor r y I a m , f or not t r ea t i ng
y ou a s i f y ou w er e a r ea l hu m a n b ein g . I p u t y ou on a p ed est a l , r a i sed y o u a n d m y ow n exp ect a t i ons
t oo hi gh ! Yo u w er e t h e t a l l, d a r k a n d h a n d so m e st r a nger i n m y l i f e, t h e k n ig ht w ho w ou l d i f g i v en
enou gh t i m e r i ght a l l o f t h e w r ong s a r ou n d m e a n d t a k e a w a y a l l o f t he lon el iness a n d t he p a i n, a n d
a ny t h in g t h a t ha p p ened t o b e u n sa t i sf a ct or y i n m y l i f e. N o o n e sho u ld b e exp ect ed t o ha n d le t ha t
k in d o f b u r d en, a nd ev en t ho u gh y ou m a y not ha v e consci ou sly r ea l ised w ha t I w a s d oi ng, y ou m u st
h a v e k no w n . You w ent a w a y w hen t h e p r essu r e b eca m e t oo m u ch , w hen i t b eca m e t oo ob v i ou s t ha t I
w a s exp ect i ng y ou t o m a k e so m e k i n d o f com m it m ent y o u w er en't p r ep a r ed t o m a k e, a nd I ca n 't t el l
y ou how sor r y I a m .'
'Jessi e, d o n't ,' he sa i d , h i s exp r essi o n t i g ht en i n g, b eco m i ng p a i ned . ` Don 't d o t h i s t o y o u r sel f . You d o n't
d eser v e i t . I w a s t h e o ne a t f a u lt f or n ot r ecogni si n g y ou r need s.'

W ea k t ea r s f i l l ed her ey es a nd she p a ssed a h a nd ov er h er f a ce q u i ck l y , b l i nk i ng t h e m o i st u r e a w a y
a nd a v oi d in g Da m i en' s st ea d y , p a in- f i l led g a ze. ` Is t h i s r ea l ly necessa r y ?' she a sk ed chok i l y , st r u gg l i n g
t o get her sel f i n ha n d . ` Do w e r ea l ly need t o go t h r ou g h a l l o f t h i s?'
'I t h i nk so,' w a s h is q u iet r ep ly , f o r ci ng her t o g l a nce b a ck a t h i m b y t h e sheer co m p u l sio n o f h i s in t ense
g a ze. ` Yes, I t h i nk so, i f w e a r e t o l ea r n f r o m t h e p a st , h ea l ou r sel v es a nd go o n. Isn't t ha t w h a t y ou
t r i ed t o t el l m e y est er d a y ? I t h i nk y ou w er e r i g ht .'
She lo ok ed a t her h a n d s i n her l a p a n d t r i ed t o sm i le. It w a s a d i sm a l a t t em p t . ` To p u t it b eh i n d u s.'
` N o. To t a k e a p a r t o f it w i t h u s.' H e r ea ched ou t a su d d en, gen t l e f i nger a nd t r a ced t he ou t l i ne o f her
sm oot h j a w . It w a s su ch a cl ea n, p u r e l i n e, b ea u t i f u l l y i n p r op or t i on w i t h t h e r est o f h er p r of i le, a n d h e
st r ok ed i t a s i f he r ea l ly l ov ed t he lo ok a n d f eel o f h er . Thi s i sn't f a ir , she t ho u ght , cl o si ng her ey es a nd
st a r t i n g t o t r em b l e. H e' s ca u g ht m e w hen m y r esi st a nce i s l ow . I ca n't k eep r esi st i ng h i m .
M ov ing v i o l ent l y , Jessi ca b r o u ght b o t h o f h er ha n d s d ow n f l a t o n t h e t a b l e, shov ed h a r d , a n d a s her
cha i r scoot ed on t he t i l ed k i t chen f l oor , she ca m e u p a n d w a s ou t o f t he r oom b ef o r e her cha i r ha d
st o p p ed m ov i ng . She st r od e f or t he f r ont d oo r w it h lon g p u r p o sef u l st r id es, b eca u se she k n ew t ha t i f
she d i d n't get o u t o f t h e hou se a n d a w a y f r om D a m i en no w , sh e w ou l d soon l o se a ll of her st r en g t h o f
m i n d .
Jessi ca k new w h a t h el l w a s. She'd t ho u g ht l a st ni ght t h a t hel l w ou l d b e t o m a r r y D a m ien w h i l e
k now in g t h a t h e d i d n 't l ov e her . Tha t w a sn't hel l . H el l w a s j u st b eing n ea r h i m a n d k n ow in g h e d i d n't
l ov e h er . She i m p a t i ent ly shook her h ea d a t t h e p a in . She w a s t i r ed o f f eel i ng p a i n a nd en d u r i n g a
si t u a t i o n t ha t w a s u nend u r a b l e. She cou ld n 't b el i ev e t ha t she' d a ct u a l ly p u t u p w i t h t ha t k i n d o f hel l
f or t hr ee y ea r s. She w a s not v er y p r ou d of her sel f .
` Jessica !' D a m i en r a p p ed ou t , a n d she hea r d r a p id f oot st ep s b eh i n d h er . ` Wh er e a r e y ou goi ng? W h a t 's
t he m a t t er w i t h y ou ? Is so m et h i ng w r ong?'
She st op p ed j u st i nsi d e t he f r on t d oor a n d t u r n ed t o f a ce h i m a ng r i ly . Sh e f el t p u sh ed t o t h e l i m i t , f elt
t ha t b a n d o f con t r ol on h er em ot i on s b ein g p u l l ed t a u t t o t he b r ea k in g p o in t . The f r u st r a t i on show ed
i n her ey es a n d com p r essed m ou t h a n d t h e cl ench i ng a n d u n cl ench ing o f her h a n d s.
` I a m go i ng ou t ,' she sa i d , b et w een her t eet h a nd st a r i ng a t h i m - a s i f she h a t ed h i m . The u p p er ha l f o f
h i s b od y w a s i n sha d o w a n d she cou l d n't see h i s f a ce, b u t h i s b od y w a s h el d a b so l u t ely st i l l, q u iet . ` A n d
y ou a r e no t i nv it ed . N o , I d on 't k now w ha t t i m e I' ll b e b a ck , a nd w ou l d n't t el l y ou i f I d i d . I d o n't ca r e
w ha t y ou t h i nk or w a n t , a n d I f r a nk l y d o n 't ca r e i f y ou get a ngr y a t m e a n d l ea v e, b u t t h i s is m y
v a ca t io n a n d y ou a r e t r esp a ssi n g on m y t i m e. N ow f or t he f i r st t i m e i n sev er a l d a y s, I' m g oi n g t o g et
o u t a n d en j oy m y sel f .'

A n d h e d i d n 't sa y a ny t h i ng a s she t u r ned a nd st or m ed o u t t he d o or . A nd w h a t cou l d he sa y ? sh e a sk ed
si lent l y . N ot h i ng . Ev er y t hi ng w a s sa i d a n d t he p ost m or t em w a s com p let e. She w ou l d a v o i d h i m u nt i l
h e chose t o l ea v e, a nd t hen she w ou l d sa y a p ol i t e goo d b y e a nd hea v e a si g h o f r el i ef a s he w a lk ed
o u t t h e d oor . Wou ld she? W ou l d she? She m o a ned , d esp er a t el y , a nd st a r t ed t o w a lk b r i sk l y d ow n t he
st r eet , a nxio u s t o get a s m u ch sp a ce b et w een her a nd D a m i en a s she co u ld .
Bu t she cou l d n't r u n a w a y f r om her o w n cha ot ic, t o r t u r ed t hou g ht s.
The sha d o w s w er e l eng t hen i n g i nt o b l a ck m u r k y p ool s o f ink w hen she f i n a l l y t u r ned i nt o t h e si d ew a l k
t ha t l ed u p t o t he hou se. Sh e w a s t i r ed a n d h u ngr y a nd em o t i ona l l y d r a i ned ,- a n d t he l a st t h i ng sh e
w a n t ed t o d o n ow w a s t o f a ce Da m i en a g a i n. She h a d p u t o f f com in g b a ck , w a l k i n g b l ock a f t er b l ock
u nt i l her f eet a ched a n d her sid e w a s shot t hr ou gh w it h a w h it e hot p a i n. It co u l d n't b e d o ne, she
cou l d n't r u n a w a y . Sh e'd t r i ed i t once a n d i t d i d n't w or k . It w a sn't w or t h t r y i ng a ga i n , b u t oh, h ow sh e
w a n t ed t o .
Gr a sp i ng t he d oor k nob w i t h a sl i ght l y sh a k i n g h a n d , she st ep p ed int o t he ho u se a nd st a r ed a t t he t w o
m en w ho ha d slew ed a r ou n d i n t heir sea t s a t her ent r a nce. W i l l 's g a ze w a s concer n ed , q u est io n in g, a nd
Da m i en' s d a r k ey es hel d so m e k i n d o f lea p i n g em ot i on t h a t sh e d id n 't ev en a t t em p t t o u n d er st a nd .
She lo ok ed a t t hem f or a m o m ent , her j a w set , a nd t hen hea d ed f or t he k i t chen w it hou t a w or d .

A s she f i l l ed u p a k et t le f or so m e ho t t ea , Da m ien sa i d f r o m t h e d oor w a y , ` Ther e's som e su p p er i n t he
o v en, i f y ou 'r e hu n gr y .'
St i l l si l ent , sh e set t he k et t l e d o w n a nd t u r ned on t h e h ea t , a n d t h en t ook t he ov en gl ov es a n d
r em ov ed t he lef t ov er ca sser ol e f r om t he ov en a nd st a r t ed t o d i sh it o n t o a p l a t e. Th er e w a s n o sou nd
f r o m t h e d oor w a y , a nd she w a nt ed b a d ly t o k now i f Da m i en w a s st i l l t her e or no t , b u t w ou l d n't t u r n
a r ou n d t o loo k . Sh e cou l d n't r el a x, a nd her sho u ld er m u scles b u nched p a i n f u l l y in t o k not s o f t en sio n.
Thi s w a s go i n g t o m a k e her si ck i f so m et h i ng d id n't cha ng e p r et t y soon . She cou ld n 't t a k e i t f o r m u ch
l ong er .
` Jessica .' H i s v oi ce w a s v er y q u i et . ` A r e y ou a l l r i ght ?'
Si l ence. She b a nged h er p l a t e d ow n on t o t he cou nt er a nd hea r d t he p r ot est i ng cla n k ! Then she
r ea ched u p a n d gr a b b ed a t a cof f ee cu p . She d i d n't w a nt t o t r u st her sel f t o sp ea k a t t h e m o m ent . Sh e
w a sn't su r e i f sh e cou l d cont r ol her sel f .
` Jess?' A t hr ea d o f i m p a t ience, t h i s t i m e. ` A r e y ou ev en go i n g t o a n sw er m e?'
She t u r ned a b r u p t ly , st a r ed a t hi m w it h h a r d b r i g ht ey es. ` Get ou t . I d o n't w a nt t o t a l k t o y ou , get
o u t .' So m et h i ng m u st h a v e con v in ced h i m t o l ea v e, so m et h in g a b ou t her r i g i d st a n ce, t he l ines o f
t i r ed n ess on her f a ce, t he v i ol ent q u a l i t y t o her w or d s. H e loo k ed a t her f or a m o m en t u n d er f r ow n i n g
b r ow s a n d t hen q u i et ly l ef t t he r oom .
She sl u m p ed , a nd f ou nd t ha t she ha d n 't w a n t ed h i m t o l ea v e a f t er a l l . A nd t h a t sel f - k no w l ed g e m a d e
h er w a nt t o cr y .
It w a s a sol i t a r y , si l ent m ea l . A f t er w a r d s, she w ent i nt o t he l i v i ng r o om , w it hou t a l o ok ei t h er r i g ht or
l ef t , a nd p ick ed u p her b ook t ha t she'd l ef t b y her ch a ir . Th en she m a r ched u p t o her r oo m , sl a m m ed
a nd l ock ed t h e d oor . A n d she st u d i ou sl y a v oi d ed a ny co nt a ct w it h Da m i en .

The n ext m or n i n g she a t e her b r ea k f a st a l one, p u shed b y h i m si lent l y i n t he ha l l , a nd b u sied h er sel f
w i t h m u nd a ne, ho u seho l d chor es. She sa w t he w a r n i ng si gn a l s w el l enou g h . She sa w h i s cou nt ena n ce
d a r k en a f t er a w h i l e, a n d hi s j a w t i ght en d a n g er ou sl y . She k new t h a t he w ou l d no t p u t u p w i t h su ch
r u d en ess f or l on g , a nd t h e k now l ed ge ga v e h er a n a n gr y sa t i sf a ct ion . She w a nt ed t o go a d h i m int o
l osin g h is t em p er . She w a n t ed t o see hi m f l a r e u p , l i k e he cou l d m a k e her f l a r e u p . She w a nt ed a go od
k nock - d ow n, d r a g- ou t f i g ht , f or t her e w a s a n a nsw er i ng a n ger a nd t en si o n i n h er j u st a chi ng t o b e
r el ea sed .
The con f r o nt a t i on ca m e, b u t i n a w a y t ha t she h a d l ea st exp ect ed .
H er f a t her h a d g one t o t he sho p so m e t i m e a g o, a n d she ha d a ssu m ed t h a t D a m ien w a s o u t , f or t he
si lence i n t he hou se f elt em p t y a nd com p l et e, a nd h a d b een si l ent f or a t l ea st ha l f a n hou r . Sh e si ghed
h ea v i l y , shou l d er s d r o op i ng a s sh e a b sent l y d u st ed t h e sm a l l t a b le t ha t sa t nea r o ne of t h e ea sy cha i r s.
She ha d b een d u st i ng t he sa m e t a b le f or som e t i m e no w a n d h a d nev er r ea l ised it , a s t hou g ht s cha sed
ea ch ot her a r ou n d a nd a r ou n d . Wh y w a s Da m i en st a y i ng? H o w m u ch m or e o f t h i s si l ent b a t t le cou l d
eit her o f t hem t a k e? W hen w ou l d i t en d ? She w a s t ir ed o f t he q u est i on s, f or t h e sa m e ones k ep t
echoi ng i n her hea d , u n a n sw er ed .
A noi se b eh i n d her m a d e her w h ir l a r ou nd a p p r ehen si v el y , a nd he w a s t her e, j u st st a nd in g i n t he
m i d d l e o f t h e r oom , su n l ig ht r ef l ect i ng o f f h i s b l a ck ha i r a nd b ou nci n g o f f h a r d a ng l es i n h i s set f a ce. H e
d i d n 't sa y a ny t h i ng b u t j u st st ood t her e, st a r i ng a t her , a n d f i na l ly she cou l d n't t a k e t ha t b r o od i n g
scr u t i ny a ny l on g er . She st ood u p j er k i l y , t hr ew d o w n her d u st er , a nd hea d ed ou t t h e r oo m , r i g ht p a st
h i m , f a ce a v er t ed a nd h ea r t t h u m p in g m a d l y . H e w a sn't goi ng t o p u t u p w i t h i t , sh e t h ou g ht , he
w a sn't goi ng t o sit b a ck a n d t a k e t h i s. A n d she w a s p r o f ou n d l y su r p r ised a s she w a s a b l e t o w a l k r i ght
b y h i m a n d cl i m b u p t he st a i r s, u n int er r u p t ed .
H er r el i ef ca m e t oo soo n . A s she r ea ched t he t op o f t he st a i r s a nd hea d ed d o w n t he ha l l t o her
b ed r o om , a sl ig ht noi se sent h er hea r t r a ci ng m a d ly a g a i n. She r i sk ed a g l a nce b eh i n d her a n d t h en
t u r n ed a r o u n d f u l l y a s she sa w Da m i en f o l l ow i ng her closel y w it h t h a t sa m e, set exp r essio n o n h is f a ce.
It w a s b eg i n n i ng t o f r i ght en h er . She st op p ed . ` N o w , lo ok ' sh e st a r t ed f i r m ly , a n d t hen su d d en l y
st o p p ed a nd g a sp ed a s he gr a sp ed ho l d o f her u p p er a r m a n d shov ed her f o r ci b l y in t o her o w n r oom .
Pu shed i nt o t h e m id d le o f t he f loo r , she t u r ned a n d w a s a b ou t t o sna p i r r it a b l y a t h i m , a nd her ey es
w i d en ed a s he st op p ed a nd ca r ef u l ly l ock ed t he
d o or . Then he l ea ned a g a in st i t , a r m s cr ossed
p u r p osef u l l y , a n d h is st ea d y a n d d et er m i n ed
ga ze u nner v ed her m o r e t h a n a ny t h in g el se.
` N ow , t h en,' he sa i d ca l m l y . ` Thi s is it . You a r en't
go in g t o r u n a ny m or e, Jessi ca . I'v e ha d i t .'

SH E h i ssed f u r i ou sly , ` Get ou t o f m y r o om ,
d a m m i t !' H e ca m e a w a y f r om t he d oor a nd
st a r t ed t o lei su r ely w a l k a cr o ss t h e r o om , h i s d a r k
ga ze n ev er lea v i n g h er f a ce. She sw a l l ow ed , a n d
t hen q u i et ly b eg a n t o b a ck u p , her sel f .
` Per h a p s y ou d i d n't hea r w ha t I j u st sa i d ,' he
cont in u ed p lea sa n t l y , a n d she d i d n't l ik e t ha t p l ea sa nt v o ice, no t one b i t . Da m i en b ei n g p l ea sa nt w i t h
t ha t sm ou l d er i ng f ir e i n h i s ey es w a s not t h e k i nd o f con f r ont a t i on she ha d ha d in m i nd . ` I' l l r ep ea t
m y sel f , t hen . I'v e h a d it . I'v e h a d a l l I' m go i ng t o t a k e o f y ou r r u d eness a n d y ou r sid est ep p i n g t he i ssu e.
I' m t ir ed o f t h i s. Si t d o w n .'
A n d Jessi ca f ou n d her sel f si t t i ng , a s he r ea ch ed ou t a su d d en, sw i f t ha n d a n d p u shed h er i nt o t he sea t
b y t he w in d ow . H e ca m e cl o se, a n d t hen k nelt b esi d e her , p u t t i ng b ot h a r m s on t he t w o a r m r est s a nd
t hen l ea n i ng f a r t oo clo se t o her f or com f o r t .
H er r ea ct i on t o t h i s w a s m a d d en i n g t o h er , f or h er hea r t w a s r a ci ng m u ch t o o f a st a n d her l i p s w er e
su d d en ly a n d i n exp l ica b l y d r y , a n d she f ou nd her h a n d s sh a k i ng so v io l en t l y t ha t she cl a sp ed t h em
t oget her i n her la p a n d t w i st ed her f i ng er s t oget her . Th i s a p p r ehen si on w a s no t w ha t sh e h a d
env i si o ned w hen sh e h a d r ea l i sed t h a t she w a s g oa d i ng Da m i en b ey on d w h a t w a s r ea l l y sa f e. A n d she
CHAPTER NINE

st a r t ed t o get a n gr y a t h i m . Sh e d id n 't l i k e b ei n g p u shed i n t o ch a ir s a n d l ock ed i nt o r oom s, a nd she
esp eci a l l y d i d n't l i k e f eel i n g a s t hr ea t ened a s she d i d .
Bu t w ha t he sa id next d ef l a t ed her so m u ch t h a t a l l she cou l d d o w a s sa g i n her sea t a n d l ook a t h i m
b la n k ly .
` I'm on m y k nees,' he sa i d q u i et l y , f l a t l y , j u st l ook i ng a t her w i t h t ho se d a r k , v i ol ent , l ea p i n g ey es. She
st a r ed . ` I' l l b eg, i f t ha t ' s w ha t - y ou w a nt , i f t h a t w i l l conv i nce y ou t ha t I' m t ot a l l y ser i o u s. I n eed y ou . I
n eed y ou r w a r m t h a n d b ea u t y , y ou r l a u g ht er a n d y ou r t ea r s. Tha t 's w hy I k ep t com i n g b a ck t o see
y ou - I cou l d n't st a y a w a y . Do n't w a l k a w a y f r om m e, Jess. Do n't w a lk a w a y no w . Th e o t her - I ca n 't sa y
t he ot her j u st y et , b u t f or now , I' m a d m i t t i n g so m et h in g I'v e nev er sa id t o a n ot her h u m a n b ei n g.
Jessi ca , I need y ou .'

Feel i n g i ncr ed i b l y m ov ed a nd cl ose t o t ea r s, she let her ga ze f a ll t o t h e o p en col l a r o f h i s sh i r t . The
col u m n o f h i s t hr oa t r ose w i t h su ch a cor d ed st r en gt h f r om m a scu li nel y gr a cef u l col la r b ones. She so
l ov ed t he b ea u t y o f h i m . A n d she ha d t o cl ose her ey es a s a w a v e o f lov e a nd lon g i n g sw ep t o v er her
a nd r ock ed t he f o u n d a t i on o f h er r esol v e a nd a l l her i nt ent io ns. It w a s a l l t h er e, w r a p p ed i n a s n i ce a
p a ck a g e a s she w ou l d ev er get . Da m ien w a s m a k i ng hu g e st r i d es i n a d m it t i ng t h a t h e need ed her -
su r ely t ha t w ou l d b e eno u gh f or a ny o ne. N eed w a s a k i n t o l ov e, a nd t h a t w ou l d h o p ef u l ly co m e i n
t i m e. H e ha d b egu n t o p u t t he p a st b eh in d h i m , a nd t h a t t oo w a s a h u ge st r i d e i n t he r i gh t d ir ect i on.
She r a t her su sp ect ed t ha t h i s d eep m i st r u st of r el a t i onship s a n d w om en ca m e f r om h i s m ot her 's
cond u ct i n h i s ea r l y y ea r s. H o w cou l d h e h el p b u t f eel su ch a d eep w a r i ness a n d r el u ct a nce t o com m i t
h i m sel f t o m or e p o ssi b l e p a i n? She f ou nd i t i n cr ed i b le t h a t h e h a d m a na g ed t o a ch i ev e so m u ch w hen
l esser p er son a l i t i es w er e so o f t en cr i p p l ed f or l i f e f r o m t h ei r p a st . A n d she sensed w i t h a d eep i nner
cer t a i nt y t ha t t h i s w a s it , her v er y l a st ch a nce, t he f i n a l o f f er . H e w ou l d n't a sk a g a i n. H e h a d j u st g ot
o n h i s k n ees f or her ; i f she r eject ed h i m n o w , she k n ew t ha t Da m i en w ou l d nev er a sk a ga i n.

She sa i d sh a k i l y , ` I'm so a f r a i d . I d o n't w a n t t o a sk a ny m or e t h a n y o u ca n g iv e, I d on 't w a nt t o m a k e
t oo m a ny d em a nd s o n y ou . Yo u n eed so m eone w ho i s g ood a r o u nd t he ho u se, so m eone w i l l in g t o st a y
h om e a n d t a k e ca r e o f y ou , a nd I' m not cu t ou t f or t h a t k i nd of l i f e. I cou ld n 't j u st b e a w i f e, I'd ha v e
t o ha v e som et h i ng t o o ccu p y m y sel f w i t h, som et hi n g t o cha l l enge m e- '
H i s ey eb r o w s ha d sh ot u p a t her w or d s, a n d he i nt er r u p t ed gent l y , ` I d o n't w a nt y ou t o cha ng e f or m e.
I' m a sk i n g y ou t o co m e t o m e j u st t he w a y y ou a r e. I h a v e a hou sek eep er , w hy w ou l d I w a nt t o m a r r y
o ne? You shou l d b e w h a t y ou 'r e m ea nt t o b e, a n d t h a t 's t he p a r t I v a l u e m o st a b o u t y ou . I t h in k
y ou 'r e m a k i n g ob st a cl es t ha t d on't r ea ll y exi st .'
` Bu t m y t er r i b l e t em p er ,' she p r ot est ed . It w a s a w ea k sou n d , a n d t h ey b ot h k n ew i t .
` Ca n y ou t h in k o f a ny o ne b et t er t ha n I w h o co u ld ha n d le t ha t ? We'r e a li k e, y ou a nd I, b eca u se w e f eel
t hi ngs d eep l y , p er son a l ly , a n d ou r a nger g oes d eep . A nd , I ca n a f f or d j u st a b ou t a ny t hi ng y ou sm a sh
u p ,' he sa i d hu m or ou sl y , w i t h a gent l e m a l i ce t h a t r em i nd ed h er o f h er ou t b u r st in h er a p a r t m en t .
She w a s g i v i ng in, she cou l d f eel her sel f g i v i n g i n i nsid e, a n d k n ew t ha t her st r u gg le w a s l ost t h e
m o m ent she l ook ed i nt o h is st ea d y , com p el l i ng g a ze. She w a s f l ou n d er i n g a nd she d i d n't w a nt t o sa v e
h er sel f - u nt i l so m et h i n g o ccu r r ed t o her . H er ga ze f o cu sed sha r p l y , a n d she sa i d su d d enl y , ` Pr om i se m e
som et hi n g . The r est - i t d oesn't m a t t er i f y o u d o n't w a nt t o g iv e i t , b u t i f y ou d on 't p r om i se m e o ne t hi ng
i t w on't w or k , a n d I w o n't ev en t r y .'
` A ny t hi ng .' It w a s sa id w it hou t h esit a t i on .
Sha k en , sh e w h i sp er ed , ` You 'r e t ha t su r e?' a n d he n o d d ed , u n sm i l i ng . She t ook a d eep b r ea t h , nost r i l s
f l a r i ng t ensely , w o nd er i ng ho w t o sa y w h a t she w a nt ed t o sa y . Th en she exp el l ed her b r ea t h g u st i l y ,
k now in g t her e w a s no p o i nt i n b ei n g a ny t hi ng b u t su cci nct . ` I w a nt y o u r f i d el i t y . I' m j u st not b y n a t u r e
a b l e t o h a nd l e a ny ot her k i n d o f m a r r i a g e, a nd I -
'You w o nd er f u l l i t t le si m p l et o n, I h a v en't b een w i t h a not h er w o m a n f or o v er t w o y ea r s,' he sa id si m p l y .
` Do y ou m ea n t o t el l m e t ha t y o u r ea l l y cou l d n't t el l ?'
She f elt st u n n ed a t t h i s m or e t ha n a n y t h in g el se. ` A l l o f t h o se m o nt hs o f m ea n i n g less j ea l ou sy ,' she
w h i sp er ed . ` A nd I n ev er r ea l i sed - m y God , I nev er r ea l i sed !' She co u ld see ho w ob v i ou s i t r ea l ly w a s,
n ow t ha t she w a s not o b sessed w i t h h er i n secu r i t ies a nd jea lo u sy . W henev er he h a d co m e b a ck t o her
a f t er w eek s or m ont h s a w a y , t hei r l ov em a k i n g h a d ha d a k i nd o f st a r v i ng f er oci t y , a q u a l i t y o f
i nt ensit y t ha t sho u l d h a v e t o l d her m or e t ha n a ny t hi ng el se. She d i d n't ha v e t o sea r ch a n y f u r t her t h a n
h er m em or y ; sh e b el i ev ed h i m .
'Does t h i s m ea n,' D a m i en w a s a sk i ng ca r ef u l l y , h i s ey es a v er t ed , ` t h a t y ou a r e g o i ng t o con si d er
m a r r i a ge, w it hou t t hr o w in g ou t t he i d ea r i g ht a w a y ?'
'I'm a f oo l, b u t I' m g oi ng t o sa y y es, a ny w a y ,' she r ep l i ed q u iet l y , a nd she sa w hi m clo se h i s ey es a n d
sw a l low h a r d , a s i f he w er e i m m en sel y r el i ev ed , a n d t h en he w a s w r a p p i ng h i s a r m s a r ou nd h er a nd
d r a gg in g h er cl ose t o k iss her in t ha t f ier ce, st a r v i n g w a y sh e r em em b er ed so w el l . It sp a r k ed o f f a
si m i l a r k i n d o f r esp o n se i n her a s a l l o f t h e col d a n d l onely n i ght s su d d en l y a ccu m u l a t ed i nt o a need
t ha t she cou ld no l onger su p p r ess. She w ou nd her a r m s t r em b l i n g ly a r ou n d h i s w a i st , t i l t ed b a ck her
h ea d , a n d o p en ed her m o u t h t o k iss hi m b a ck w i t h su ch a n ea g er n ess t h a t h e g r oa n ed d eep i n h i s
t hr oa t . So m eho w t h ey end ed u p on t he b ed , a n d he en d ed u p o n t op o f her , a nd t h ei r cl ot h es en d ed
u p on t he f l oor . H i s w ei ght w a s so d el icio u s a n d er ot i c, a nd her need so i nt ense, t ha t t her e w a s no t i m e
f or gent l eness o r t he l u xu r y o f l ei su r el y lo v em a k i ng.
Som e t i m e l a t er Jessica w a s sea r ch in g a r ou nd f or her cl ot hes, w h i ch w er e st r ew n a l l o v er t h e f l oor , a nd
Da m i en w a s b el t in g hi s j ea n s w h en t hey b ot h d i st i nct ly hea r d t h e f r o nt d oor sl a m .

H er h a nd f l ew u p t o her m ou t h i n ho r r or , a nd her ey es f lew t o h is i n con st er na t i on . ` Da d ? H er e- - so
ea r l y ?' A n d su d d en l y she w a s scr a b b l i n g i n t o her clot hes a s f a st a s she co u l d , i n r eco r d t i m e, a n d
b r u sh i ng her ha i r f u r i ou sl y a w a y f r o m her f a ce. Da m i en 's m ou t h t w i t ched a t t he cor ner s a s he w a t ched
h er f l y , a n d h e t h en w ent t o t he d oor t o u nl ock i t a n d w a lk ou t on t o t h e l a nd i ng . She j o i ned hi m ,
cheek s v er y f l u sh ed , a s f oo t st ep s sou n d ed ou t t o t he k i t chen. Then she m oa n ed , ` Lu nch! I t ot a ll y f or go t
t ha t Da d w a s com in g ho m e f or l u nch !'
` A ny b o d y t her e?' W il l 's v oi ce ech oed t hr ou gh t he hou se. ` I'm ho m e. Is l u nch go i n g t o b e l a t e?'
Jessi ca m a d e a n od d sor t o f sq u ea k i n g no i se a s Da m i en st r o l l ed u nconcer ned ly t o t he t o p o f t he st a i r s
a nd d escend ed . A t a lo ss a s t o w h a t t o d o n ext , sh e f o l l ow ed r el u ct a nt l y , a nd W i l l 's b u sh y w h i t e b r ow s
shot u p v er y hi gh a s he sa w t hem b ot h com in g f r om t he f ir st f l oor , h i s d a u g ht er 's col ou r v er y hi gh
i n d eed a nd Da m i en 's h a ir m or e r u f f l ed t h a n he ha d ev er seen it .
` Da d !' she excla i m ed i n t el l i gent l y ; ju m p i n g v i o l ent l y w hen Da m i en p u t a d el ib er a t e a r m a r ou nd her a t
t he b ot t o m o f t he st a ir s. She p u shed v a i nl y w it h one a r m a ga i n st hi s si d e, b u t he r ef u sed t o l et go , a nd
t hi s m a d e her f a ce f la m e ev en m or e w it h em b a r r a ssm ent . She ha d nev er go t a r o u n d t o t el l i n g her
f a t her t he exa ct na t u r e o f h er r ela t i on sh ip w it h Da m ien b eca u se sh e h a d n ev er r ea l l y b een su r e ho w
h e w o u l d t a k e it , a nd t he f a ct t ha t b ot h m en w er e w a t ch i ng her f l u sh so cl osely m a d e h er f l u sh ev en
m or e. ` We w er e, h e w a s, I ..I

'W ha t y o u r d a u g h t er i s so el o q u ent l y t r y in g t o t el l y o u i s t ha t she ha s a g r eed t o m a r r y m e,' D a m i en
i nt er r u p t ed sm oot hl y , ` a nd p r ef er a b l y a s so on a s p ossi b l e. Da r l in g , I d i d n't k no w t ha t y ou cou l d b l u sh
l i k e t ha t ! I'v e n ev er seen y ou r colo u r so h i g h!'
H er p oi se co m p l et el y gon e w i t h t ha t , she r esor t ed t o a f u r iou s, ` Shu t u p !' a s she t r ied t o h id e h er cheek s
w i t h her ha nd s. H e gr a b b ed t hem a n d f or ced her f i n ger s a w a y f r om h er ch eek s a s h e la u g hed d o w n a t
h er f a ce.
W i l l sa i d m i l d ly , ` I gu ess i t d oes m ea n t ha t l u nch w i l l b e l a t e, a f t er a l l .'
The n ext m or n i n g, Jessi ca sw o r e d i sg u st ed l y a s sh e t or e o f f t he second p a i r o f t i ght s t ha t h a d r u n w hen
she'd t r ied t o p u t t h em o n . She f el t su r e t h a t t he w or l d w a s a ga i n st h er a nd ha d b een a ga i n st h er f r om
t he v er y m o m ent sh e h a d op ened her ey es. She ha d got ou t o f b ed a n d ha d p r om p t l y t r i p p ed o n t h e
u p t u r ned co r ner of t h e r u g, f a l l i ng a n d b r u i si ng her k nee p a i n f u l l y . Then, f i n d i ng her sel f l a t e, she h a d
b u r ned h er sel f w it h her cu r l i n g ir on, k n ock ed h er f a v ou r it e b ot t l e o f p er f u m e on t h e f l oor , m a k i n g t he
r oom r eek h or r ib l y , so she ha d t o op en u p t he w i nd o w f or f r esh a i r w h i l e sh e f i n i shed d r essi n g. The
w ea t her w a s v er y col d ou t si d e a nd t he r oom f el t l ik e a f r eezer .
She t hr ew h er r u i n ed t i ght s a cr oss t he r oom a n d sw or e r ou n d ly f or a f ew m or e m i nu t es. Then, i n a
m u ch cheer i er f r a m e o f m in d , sh e d r ew o f f her sk i r t a n d p u l l ed on a p a i r o f sla ck s i nst ea d . Soon
com p let el y d r essed , she hu r r i ed t o l i m p d o w n st a ir s t o b e gr eet ed b y t h e si ght o f Da m i en, a lr ea d y
d r essed a n d w a i t i ng f or her , h i s f oot t a p p i ng i m p a t i ent l y . H e h a t ed i t w hen p eo p le w er e la t e. ` You 'v e
f i n a l ly m a d e i t , I see,' he sa i d sh or t ly . ` Sit d o w n a n d I' l l p ou r y ou a cu p o f co f f ee. W e need t o l ea v e i n a
f ew m i nu t es i f w e'r e go i ng t o m a k e i t t o N ew Yor k b y t he a f t er noo n .' They ha d d eci d ed t o hu r r y b a ck
t o st a r t t he w ed d i ng p r ep a r a t i on s a s soo n a s p ossi b le, b ot h op t i ng f or a v er y q u iet cer em ony , w it h on l y
w i t n esses a n d Jessi ca 's f a t h er i n a t t en d a nce.
` I k no w j u st exa ct l y w h a t t i m e it i s,' she sn a p p ed i r r it a b l y b a ck , a s she p u l led o u t a cha i r a n d sa nk int o
i t , her h a n d goi ng t o r u b t he so r e k n ee. ` A n d I d o n't need y ou hov er i ng a b ou t t o r em i n d m e.'
H i s ey eb r o w s sho t u p a t t ha t a s he w a l k ed ov er a nd p ou r ed her t he hot l i q u id p r om i sed , b r i n gi ng t he
m u g t o si t it i n f r ont o f her . ` Ch ip p er m oo d w e'r e i n t od a y , I ca n see,' h e r ep l i ed sa r ca st i ca l l y , a n d sh e
sco w l ed a t h i m f r o m ov er t he r i m o f t he m u g .
` You m a y b e chi p p er ,' sh e m u t t er ed so u r l y , ` b u t I' m not , so d o n't m a k e a ny m or e t ho u ght l ess
g ener a l i sa t i on s t ha n y o u ca n hel p , h m m ? Thi s co f f ee's t o o st r ong .' She p u shed a w a y t h e m u g i n d i sgu st .
` The co f f ee' s exa ct ly ho w i t 's b een m a d e sev er a l t i m es b ef or e,' D a m i en r et u r ned ev en l y , h i s b r ow
b eg i n ni ng t o l ow er f or b i d d i n gl y , ` a n d y o u 'v e d r u nk i t w it hou t com p l a in i ng . N ow I su g gest t ha t y ou
eit her f i n ish t h a t cu p or get b a ck u p st a i r s a nd f i n i sh p a ck i n g so t h a t w e ca n get o u t of her e, i n st ea d o f
si t t in g t her e a nd l oo k in g f ou l .'
` M y t hi n gs a r e a l r ea d y p a ck ed ,' she sa i d sw eet ly , a n d she sa t b a ck t o cr oss her l egs d el ib er a t el y .
H e ga v e her a w a r n i ng l ook t h a t sa i d cl ea r l y , ` W a t ch i t !' Ther e w a s so m e b a f f lem ent t o o a t her ho st i l e
b eha v i ou r , b u t a l l he sa i d w a s, ` Then I ha d b et t er g o a nd g et y ou r su i t ca ses w h i le y o u d r i nk y ou r
cof f ee.' ` I d o n't w a nt m y cof f ee.'
A d eep b r ea t h f r om h i m , p en t u p . ` Then w hy d on 't y ou com e u p w i t h m e a nd ca r r y d o w n o ne o f t h e
l i ght er ca ses?'
'I b a nged m y k nee.'
` Then si t r i g ht w her e y ou a r e, f or God 's sa k e!'
` I w a nt t o go a n d sa y go od b y e t o Da d .'
` Jessica A l a i na Ki ng !' It w a s not j u st a shou t ; i t w a s a r o a r t h a t sh ook t he w i nd ow s. ` Yo u g et y ou r r ea r
end ou t t h a t d oor a n d t o t h e ca r t h i s i nst a n t a nd si t t her e, d on 't d o o r sa y a ny t hi ng b u t j u st si t t her e
u nt i l I g et ou t w i t h y o u r t h i n g s so w e ca n g o!' H er ey eb r ow w ent u p , her m ou t h p u r sed d a n ger ou sl y ,
a nd h e sa w t he w a r ni ng si g ns o f a f u l l- f l ed g ed ou t b u r st o f t em p er b r ew in g i n her . Sh e k n ew t ha t he
sa w it , f or sh e n ot i ced h i s ey es f l i ck er a n d ch a ng e, b u t he st i l l sho ok a st i f f f i nger a t her , t o o a ngr y
h i m sel f now a t her p r ov ok ing b eh a v i ou r t o r ea l l y cha ng e h i s a t t it u d e. ` Go on, m ov e i t !'
She st ood , b ow ed sl i ght l y i n a m ock i ng w a y , one h a n d sk et ch i ng a n ob ei sa nce, a nd t h en exi t ed w i t h a
d i gn i f ied l i m p . Once ou t o f t h e h ou se, t ho u gh, she st o od t a p p i ng one a n gr y , f r u st r a t ed f oot w h i le sh e
l ook ed d a gger s a t t he m a i l b ox b y t he en d o f t he d r iv ew a y . Sh e ha d w a nt ed t o goa d D a m ien i nt o
l osin g h is t em p er a n d h a d b een sp o il i ng f o r a f i g ht ev er si nce sh e h a d co m e d o w n t h e st a i r s, b u t
i r r a t io na l l y , no w t ha t she h a d got hi m goo d a nd a ng r y , she f el t m or e f r u st r a t ed t h a n ev er i n st ea d o f
sa t isf i ed . She f elt l i k e la sh i ng ou t a t a ny on e o r a ny t h i ng t ha t ha p p en ed t o com e i nt o her or b i t ; sh e f el t
l i k e cr y i n g ou t t h e t ea r s t h a t ha d not com e w i t h t he st r a n ge f l a t d ep r essi on l a st n i g h t ; she f el t l ik e
sm a sh i ng her f i st on so m et hi ng n icel y so l i d . She w a nt ed t o p l a nt a r ig ht hook o n Da m i en' s j a w , t ha t 's
w ha t sh e w a nt ed t o d o .
W hy ha d she ev er a gr eed t o m a r r y h i m i n t he f i r st p l a ce? She h a d t o b e t he b i g gest f o ol i n t he w or ld t o
t i e h er sel f t o h i m l i k e t ha t . She d esp i sed her sel f f or her w ea k ness, f o r gi v in g i n a nd p u t t i n g u p w it h
w ha t ev er he w ou l d giv e h er , a n d y et she cou ld n 't b a ck ou t . Sh e f el t ca u g ht , t r a p p ed b y her o w n
f eel i ngs f or h i m , a nd t ha t m a d e her f u r i ou s. She k new t ha t it w a s a f a l se hop e t o exp ect hi m t o o n e
d a y r et u r n a n y l ov e she no w f elt f or h i m . If it h a d n't h a p p ened i n t h e l a st t hr ee y ea r s, t hen i t w ou l d n't
h a p p en a t a l l . Ev er y t hi n g w a s t oo l a t e. D a m i en w a s ha ng i ng on t o a p a st em ot io n a l need a nd r u i ned
r el a t i o nshi p , a n d she w a s d o i ng t he sa m e t hi ng , t r y i ng t o go b a ck . It w a s a l l so f u t i l e.
She'd ha d su ch h ig h i d ea l s a n d p u r p o ses w h en she h a d f ir st com e b a ck hom e! A nd a l l he ha d t o d o w a s
t o w a lt z r i ght i nt o her l i f e, a nd ev er y t h ing set t l ed a n d f i xed i n her m i n d w ent t o p sy- t u r v y, ju m b l i ng u p
a nd t hen f a l l i ng in t o a n a l t og et h er l y new p ict u r e. H er ey es w ent b a ck t o t he ho u se b eh in d h er ,
n a r r ow in g a n d a m a zi n g l y ca t - l i k e i n t hei r sl a nt . Th en w it h her m i nd m a d e u p , sh e sw u n g a r ou n d
b r i sk l y t o t a k e o f f d o w n t he st r eet .
H er f a t her 's b ook st o r e w a s j u st a f ew b lock s a w a y , a nd t h ou g h sh e h a d sa i d good n i gh t a nd good b y e
t o h i m t h e n i gh t b ef or e, sh e t hou g ht t h a t she w ou l d p op i n f or a m i n u t e t o g iv e h i m o ne m o r e hu g. It
w ou l d m a k e Da m ien a b so l u t el y l i v i d .
The b el l j a n g l ed cheer f u l ly a s Jessi ca p u shed op en t he f r on t d oor . Sh e cont r ol led t he i m p u lse t o t u r n
a r ou n d a n d y a nk t h e l i t t l e sl ei gh b el l s r i g h t ou t o f t he w a l l, a nd she sm i l ed b r i ght ly a t her f a t her 's l ook
o f su r p r ise. Th er e w er e a f ew cu st o m er s m i l l in g a r ou n d a l r ea d y , ev en t hou gh i t w a s st i ll f a i r l y ea r ly i n
t he m or n i ng .
W i l l sa i d m i l d ly , ` W hy , t hi s i s a su r p r ise! I t h ou ght t h a t y ou a n d Da m i en w ou l d b e ha l f w a y t o N ew Yor k
b y n o w !'
She la u ghed a t t h a t a n d i nw a r d ly w i nced a t t he f a l se so u n d . H er f a t her d i d n't seem t o not ice a ny t h i ng
a m i ss.

` We'r e onl y h a l f a n hou r l a t e, Da d ! Ther e's no need t o exa g ger a t e! I j u st t hou gh t I'd com e ov er a nd
g iv e y ou a not her hu g b ef or e w e t ook o f f .' She sl i p p ed a r o u nd t o t h e b a ck o f t he cou n t er a n d ju st t h en
o ne o f t h e cu st om er s ca m e u p w it h a f ew ca r d s a n d a p a p er b a ck no v el .
H er f a t her r a ng u p t he p u r ch a ses a n d t oo k t he p r o f f er ed ca sh, ch a t t in g w i t h t he l a d y w h o w a s a
r egu l a r i n t h e st o r e. Jessi ca k n ew her b y si g ht a nd p a ssed a f ew com m ent s b a ck a n d f or t h w it h her ,
w a t chi ng t he f r ont d oo r w it h o ne ey e. Su r e enou g h, i n j u st a b ou t t h e t i m e sh e h a d exp ect ed , a sl eek
b la ck ca r sl i d t o a st op ju st ou t si d e t he sho p . It w a s Da m ien 's ca r , sh e sa w w i t h a gr im a m u sem en t . She
b ent su d d enl y on t h e p r et ence o f t y in g her sh oel a ce, sl i g ht l y a p p a l l ed a t t h e i m p o f m isch i ef t ha t w a s
p r om p t i n g h er t o go on w hen co m m on sense shou l d ha v e t o l d h er t o st op .
The l i t t l e b el l s j a ng l ed a nd f oot st ep s a p p r oa ched t h e cou nt er . ` H el l o, W i l l ,' ca m e D a m ien's v o i ce,
p lea sa nt a nd u nr u f f led . Sh e st i f l ed a sn or t . H e w ou l d b e j u st a b ou t r ed hot n o w , a nd r ea d y t o exp l od e.
` H a v e y ou seen Jessi ca a ny w her e? I seem t o ha v e m i sp l a ced h er .'
She r ose sl ow l y t o her f u l l hei g h t , m eet i n g hi s d a r k sna p p i n g ey es a nd h a r d sm i l e a s her f a t her sa i d ,
` She's j u st t y ing her sh oe her e, a nd r ea d y t o go . She w a nt ed t o ho p o v er a nd g i v e m e a q u ick h u g
b ef o r e y ou t w o l ef t .' H e sent a q u i ck , sl ig ht l y p u zzled g l a nce ov er t o Jessica , sensin g som et h i ng b et w een
t he t w o b u t n ot su r e w h a t .
Jessi ca l et her ey es sl id e a w a y f r o m Da m ien, st u b b or nl y i gnor i ng t he st er n u n sp o k en m essa ge he w a s
com m u n ica t i ng t o her . Sh e t u r ned t o h er f a t her a nd st a r t ed t o sp ea k . ` W e'l l g et i n t ou ch w i t h y ou ,
p r ob a b ly w i t h i n t he n ext f ew d a y s, D a d , t o let y ou k now w hen y ou shou l d get so m eone t o l ook a f t er
t he sh op , ok a y ? Is t her e a ny t h i ng el se w e n eed t o d iscu ss?'

W i l l sm i l ed a t h er f o nd l y . ` If so, w e ca n d iscu ss i t on t he p h one la t er , d ea r . It w a s n i ce of y ou t o d r op b y .'
` Well ,' she sa i d b r i g ht l y , ` I g u ess w e'd b et t er get go i n g ' So m eon e else w a lk ed u p w i t h a f ew
p u r ch a ses, a n d she st ep p ed n i m b l y b a ck , j u st o u t o f Da m i en's r ea ch. ` - Oh, p l ea se d o go on a h ea d ,' she
i nv i t ed t he cu st om er p ol i t el y , r et u r ni ng D a m i en' s g l a r e w i t h a b l a nk one o f h er ow n .
W i l l r a n g u p t he p u r cha ses q u i ck l y eno u g h , a nd Jessi ca 's ey es w a n d er ed a r ou n d t he sh op i d l y w h i le he
d i d so . H er ga ze ca m e t o t he cor ner i n t he st or e t ha t w a s exclu si v el y f or b r i d a l p a r a p h er na li a , a
p op u l a r cor ner si nce Ju n e, t he t r a d i t i o na l m ont h f or w ed d i ng s, w a s n ea r in g . Tr a d it i o na l . H er m i nd
sa v ou r ed t he w or d w it h a d el ica t e sa r ca sm , her ey es goi ng st r a n g el y sa d .

Once she ha d cher i shed su ch w ond er f u l d r ea m s o f her o w n w ed d i ng. N ow t h a t , t oo, w a s gon e. She
w ou l d n 't h a v e m i nd ed a sm a l l leg a l cer em on y ev en t h en, i f t her e ha d b een ju st on e w o r d o f l ov e f r om
Da m i en . She d ou b t ed i f sh e w ou ld ev er hea r i t f r om h i m . She k n ew t h a t sh e shou l d st op t h e cr a zy ,
i r r a t io na l , ir r ep r essi b l e hop e t ha t so m e d a y he m i g ht j u st t el l h er h e l ov ed her , b u t sh e cou l d n't seem t o
m a k e t he lo ng i ng a n d hop e o f h ea r in g i t d i e. A n d o f cou r se t he w a it i n g a nd t he need t o hea r h i m
a d m i t t o l ov e w a s b eg i n n i ng t o b r in g b a ck a l l o f t he ol d f r u st r a t ion s a nd t ensi on s t h a t h a d n ev er r ea l l y
l ef t her . So m e d a y t he f a lse exp ect a t i ons w i l l d ie, sh e k new t i r ed ly . Bu t w hy d i d i t h a v e t o t a k e so l o ng
f or her ? You t h, she t hou g h t , i s a sa d t h i ng t o gr o w ou t of , w h en y ou ca n f eel t he d r ea m s f a d e a w a y .

` .. . H oney ?' her f a t her w a s sa y i ng gent ly , a nd her ey es ca m e b a ck i n t o f ocu s. H er ey es w i nged t o
Da m i en' s i nv ol u nt a r i l y a n d f o u nd h i m st a r i n g a t h er w it h t he od d est exp r essi on on h i s f a ce,
cont em p l a t i v e, g ent l e. Da m i en b ei ng gent l e t h i s m or ni n g, a f t er how she ha d go a d ed h i m ? She sho ok
h er hea d q u ick ly a n d d eci d ed sh e w a s b ei ng f a n ci f u l , a s she t u r ned t o giv e her f a t her a w a r m a n d
a f f ect io n a t e hu g . Th en she a nd Da m i en w er e sa y i ng good b y e once a g a i n a n d hea d i ng ou t t he d oor .
Da m i en w a s i n a si l en t m o od , a s t hey p u l l ed a w a y f r om t he k er b , sca nt m o m ent s l a t er . H e m u st st i l l b e
a ngr y , sh e su r m i sed , a n d she r ea l l y co u l d n 't b la m e h i m , not a f t er t h e u n p a r d on a b l e w a y she ha d
b eha v ed . H i s m o od su i t ed h er s, f or sh e ha d nev er r ea l l y sha k en t he d ep r ession f r om t he n i ght b ef or e,
a nd she p u t h er hea d b a ck on t he hea d r est a nd cl osed her ey es. Da m ien l ef t her a l on e a nd t hey
t r a v el led f or q u i t e so m e t i m e i n si l ence.
She d ozed l i g ht ly , ha v i ng sp ent a r est less n i g ht , a n d t hen r o u sed a s t h e ca r sl ow ed a n d t he sou n d o f t he
, eng i n e ch a nged . Op en i ng her ey es a n d l o ok ing a r ou n d , sh e sa i d su d d en ly , ` Oh , D a m ien, sl ow d ow n a
m i nu t e, w i l l y ou ? W ou l d y ou p u l l ov er , q u i ck ly ?'
Rea ct i n g w i t h a sm oo t h sw i f t ness t h a t sh e b r i ef ly a d m i r ed , he ha d t h e ca r o f f t h e r oa d a nd slo w i ng t o a
st o p . H e lo ok ed a t her w it h a f r ow n , sa y i n g, ` Wha t 's t he m a t t er , a r e y ou f eel i ng i l l ?'
'Oh, n o .' She op ened her d oor a n d scr a m b l ed ou t a n d he q u i ck l y f o l l o w ed , h is f r ow n o f con cer n
cha ng i n g t o o ne of p u zzl em ent a nd i nco m p r ehensi on.
` Then w hy d i d y ou w a nt t o st op , f or hea v en's sa k e?' She w a s w a t ch i n g b ot h si d es o f t he r oa d ,
p r eoccu p i ed , a nd a s a n op eni ng a p p ea r ed i n t he t r a f f i c, she r a n a cr oss a n d he a g a i n f o l low ed . ` Jessi ca ,
w ha t ' s t h e m a t t er ?'
'N ot h i n g, I t o l d y ou . I ju st w a nt ed t o l ook d ow n t h i s em b a nk m ent , t ha t ' s a l l .' It w a s, i f she w a s n ot
m i st a k en , t he scen e o f her a cci d en t . She h a d n't not i ced b ef or e, b ei n g t oo t i r ed t o l oo k a r ou nd w hen
h er f a t her ha d d r i v en her ho m e f r om t he hosp i t a l . Sh e w a s r i g ht ; ov er t o t h e l ef t w a s a p a i r o f d eep
i n d ent a t i o ns a b o u t t he w i d t h of a ca r 's t y r es, a n d d ow n o n t he gr ou nd a t t he b ot t om of t h e h i l l w a s
t he sca r st i l l l ef t f r o m h er r ol l i ng ca r . Sh e p oin t ed d ow n t o i t a nd he t u r n ed h is hea d t o l ook . ` See t ha t ?
Tha t 's w h er e m y ca r r ol l ed . I ha d n 't r ea l i sed t h a t t he em b a nk m ent w a s so st eep - no w ond er m y ca r
w a s a t ot a l w r i t e o f f
'M y God !' Da m i en p a led a s he su r v ey ed t h e d i st a nce d ow n t o t h e b ot t om . ` The ca r m u st h a v e r ol l ed
a b ou t t hr ee o r f ou r t i m es, a t lea st !'
` The p ol i ce sa i d a b o u t f o u r a nd a ha l f ,' sh e sa i d ca su a l ly , l o si ng i nt er est a nd w a l k i n g a w a y n ow t ha t
she ha d seen i n d a y l ig h t w ha t h a d b een a t n i g ht - t i m e a su r r ea l i st ic, t er r if y i ng exp er i ence. ` It l a nd ed o n
t he d r iv er 's sid e, a n d I h a d l u gg a ge, p enci l s, a n d t he m a p t hr ow n a l l ov er m e. W ha t a n i gh t !'
The r oa d w a s a ga i n clea r a nd sh e r a n l igh t l y a cr oss, l ook i ng cu r i ou sly b a ck w h en she sensed t h a t
Da m i en w a s no l onger w i t h h er . H e st i l l st o od m ot i o n less, st a r i ng d o w n a t t he r a v in e f or som e t i m e. She
h a d b eg u n t o f eel i m p a t ient w hen he f in a l l y t u r ned a n d w a l k ed sl o w l y b a ck .
A f t er cl i m b i n g b a ck i nt o t he ca r , he a sk ed her a b r u p t l y , ` Wh er e w a s y ou r ca r t ow ed ?'
'It w a s a t a l it t l e g a r a ge o n t he o t h er si d e of t ow n . You ca n a l m ost see t h e p l a ce f r o m her e, a n d t ha t 's
a sm a l l t ow n! It 's p r ob a b ly a t t he j u nk y a r d b y no w .'
` Do y ou k no w w her e t h e j u nk y a r d is?' H e r ea ched ou t a h a n d a n d t h e ca r p u r r ed t o l i f e.
` I t h in k i t 's n ot f a r f r om t he ga r a ge,' she sa i d , f r o w n in g ly . ` A t l ea st t ha t ' s w ha t I hea r d f r om on e o f t he
a t t end a nt s a t t he ga r a ge. W hy d o y o u a sk ?'
` We'r e goi ng t h er e.' H e r ev v ed t he eng in e a n d p u l l ed ou t o n t o t he st r eet . Jessica not onl y f elt p u zzl ed
a t t ha t , b u t she f el t ir r i t a t ed t o o . H e w a s t he one w ho ha d w a nt ed t o get go ing t h i s m o r n i ng, a n d now
h e w a n t ed t o w a st e t i m e!

` I d o n 't see t he p o i nt ,' she a r g u ed . ` W e'r e j u st w a st i ng t i m e, a n d y ou w er e t he o ne t h a t w a nt ed t o get
t o N ew Yo r k i n su ch a h u r r y t his m or ni ng .'
` So? I'v e cha n ged m y m i nd ,' he r ep l ied sho r t l y , sl ew in g t o a st o p a t t he sm a l l g a r a g e t ha t she p oi nt ed
o u t . She si ghed w i t h i m p a t i ence a s he got o u t of t he ca r a n d a p p r oa ched o n e o f t he u n i f or m ed
a t t end a nt s. A f t er a f ew m o m ent s o f co nv er sa t i on, he w a s b a ck in t he ca r , r ev er si ng, a nd t a k i n g a
n ea r b y si d e r oa d .
A t t he sm a l l a n d u nt i d y ju nk y a r d Jessi ca ea si l y sp ot t ed a nd p o i nt ed ou t f or Da m i en w h a t w a s l ef t o f
h er ca r . H e d i d n't sa y a ny t h in g b u t ju st st a r ed ou t t he w i nd o w o f t he ca r , h i s h ea d a v er t ed t o t he
m a ng led w r eck a ge st or ed t her e. A l l she cou l d see o f h i m w a s t he sh i n e o f h is b la ck si l k y h a ir a nd t he
ed ge o f on e cl o sel y sha v en j a w . A s her ey es t ou ched t ha t ed ge, she sa w a m u scl e b u n ch. So m et h i ng
k ep t her q u iet f o r a f ew m o m ent s, a s he cont i nu ed t o st a r e a cr oss t he st r eet , h is l ong b o d y t en se. Then,
w i t h a q u eer lo ok on h i s f a ce a nd w i d ened , d i l a t ed ey es, he st a r t ed t he ca r a g a i n t o hea d b a ck t o t he
h i gh w a y .
She m a na ged t o k eep q u i et f or t h e n ext m i le or so a nd t hen, w i t ho u t lo ok i ng a t h i m , she a sk ed , ` W ha t
w a s t ha t a l l a b ou t ?'
H e d i d n't r ep l y a t once. ` It 's a m i r a cl e t h a t y ou l iv ed t hr ou gh t h a t a t a l l , l et a l one co m i n g ou t w it h a
m er e cu t o n t h e f a ce.'
She shr u gged l i g ht ly . ` I g u ess t h a t 's t r u e. I cer t a in l y f elt l u ck y a t t h e t i m e. Bu t i t 's ov er now , a n d t her e's
n o u se ha r p i ng b a ck t o i t . Thou sa nd s o f p eop le l iv e t hr ou gh ca r sm a sh - u p s.'
H e m u t t er ed som et hi ng a t t h a t , so m et h in g b r i ef a n d a b r u p t t ha t she d i d n't ca t ch.

St a r t l ed , she a sk ed , ` W ha t w a s t ha t ?'
H e shook hi s hea d , cl ea r i n g hi s exp r essi on of t ha t st r a n ge l ook . ` N ot h in g . It 's not h i ng. Ju st f or get i t .'
Ba f f led a n d i m p a t i en t , she exp el led a sh or t g u st y b r ea t h . ` Tha t ' s w ha t I'v e b een t r y i n g t o sa y f o r t he
l a st h a l f hou r .' A l l he d i d w a s lo ok a t her o n ce, hi s d a r k ey es u n f a t h o m a b le.
Tha t w a s t he end t o t hei r con v er sa t io n u n t i l t h ey st op p ed f or l u nch , a f ew hou r s l a t er . Jessi ca f el t so
st r a nge, t a lk i ng t o D a m i en w it h ev er y a p p ea r a nce o f nor m a l i t y a nd seei ng ot her w om en ey e h i m
cov et ou sly . H i s lo ok s a t t r a ct ed a g r ea t a m o u nt o f a t t ent i on f r om t he op p o si t e sex, f o r h e seem ed t o
d om i na t e t he r est a u r a nt w h en he st o od t o w a lk w i t h a p r o w l i ng gr a ce, m a k i ng t he op en a r ea s f or
t r a f f ic seem su d d en l y v er y sm a l l t o ev er y o ne t h er e. Th i s m a n w a s h er f ia n c. Th is m a n w a s shor t l y
g oin g t o t a k e v ow s w it h her t h a t he w ou l d p r ob a b l y n ev er ev en m ea n, d oi n g l i p ser v i ce t o a cer em ony
t ha t p r om ot ed a l i f e co m m i t m ent a n d a sol i d r ela t i on sh ip .

W ha t w o u ld ha p p en, sh e w ond er ed , a s sh e st a r ed cold ly a t a m a n w ho w a s ey ei ng her t oo v i v i d l y ,
w hen I b eg i n t o f a d e, l o sin g w h a t lo ok s I h a v e? W ha t w i l l ha p p en i f he ev er get s t i r ed o f m e? Da m ien
n ot i ced t he m a n st a r i n g a t h er a n d ga v e h i m a w id e- ey ed , i cy l ook t ha t sent h i m b a ck t o hi s
n ew sp a p er w i t h gr ea t r a p i d i t y .
Som et h i ng i nsi d e seem ed t o p a n ic b r i ef l y a nd sh e cr i ed i n w a r d ly , t h i s i s not w h a t I w a nt ! I w a nt l ov e
a nd a f f ect io n a nd secu r i t y ! Pa ssi on a nd so m e k i nd o f u n d ef ined , v a g u e need j u st i sn' t enou g h! Sh e
su d d en ly , f er v ent l y hop ed t ha t h e w ou l d b eg in t o see t h i ng s t h e sa m e w a y a lso, b ef or e t hey a ct u a l l y
w er e m a r r ied .
She cou l d n't l ose hea r t . Ther e w a s so m u ch t o ho p e f or , ev er y sig n o f a p o ssib le su ccessf u l m a r r ia g e a n d
l i f e w i t h D a m i en . Sh e h a d t o ha v e f a i t h i n her ow n st r on g, p r iv a t e co nv i ct i o ns a n d i n hi s i nna t e
p er sona l i t y , t h a t g iv ing , ca r i ng m a n t ha t co u ld su r f a ce so b r i ef ly a n d t h en d i sa p p ea r . Ev er y t hi n g cou l d
b e so m u ch ea sier i f sh e w er e loo k i n g o n ly f or t he su r f a ce, p hy sica l p a ssi o ns, i f she cou l d h a v e b een
cont ent w i t h t h ei r p a st r el a t i on sh i p . She f el t su r e t h a t he w ou l d nev er ha v e o f f er ed h er m a r r i a ge t hen,
a nd she w on d er ed i f he w ou l d som ed a y r esent her f o r p u sh in g h i m t o t he com m i t m ent . She si ncer el y
h op ed h e w ou l d n 't see it t ha t w a y , f o r she ha d b een v er y ser io u s w hen she' d t r i ed t o b r ea k o f f w i t h h i m
com p let el y .
It 's j u st t ha t she cou l d n't seem t o g iv e h i m u p .
She w a it ed p a t ien t l y w hi l e he p a i d f or t hei r l u nch, her
f a ce t u r n ed t o t h e l a r ge p i ct u r e w i n d o w a n d t he
scener y o u t sid e. Sh e w a s so d eep i nt o h er ow n
cont em p l a t i ons a n d u n cer t a i nt ies t ha t she d i d n't not i ce
w hen he h a d f i n i shed h i s b r i ef t r a nsa ct i on w i t h t h e
ca sh ier . H e slow ed t h e h a n d t ha t he ha d a u t om a t i ca ll y
o u t st r et ched t o get her a t t ent i on a nd j u st st a r ed a t h er .
H er sl i m b od y w a s o u t l in ed b y t h e a f t er noo n y el lo w
r a y s shoo t i n g in t o t he f oy er , g lea m i ng on el eg a n t b la ck
sl a ck s a nd b u r n i shed cr i m son h a i r t ha t f l o w ed
a b u n d a nt l y d ow n t o her gr a cef u l sho u l d er s. Sh e h a d o n
a sh i m m er y p ea sa nt b l ou se t ha t o p ened w i d e a t t h e
t hr oa t t o r ev ea l t h e d el i ca t e b o ne st r u ct u r e t her e. Go l d
g lea m ed a t her t hr oa t a n d w r i st a s she f ol d ed her a r m s ca su a l ly a cr oss her chest . H er f a ce w a s ca m eo
p u r e, ca r v ed i n i v or y a n d p a i nt ed w i t h d el i ca t e p or cel a i n col ou r s. The sca r cu t a r a k i sh sl a nt a cr o ss t he
o ne b r ow , no lo n ger a n gr y a n d r ed , a n d t he con t r a st b et w een i t a nd t he p er f ect i on of her f a ce w a s
st a r t l i n g, ey e- r i v et in g, b u t cer t a i n l y n ot r ep u l si v e. Sh e m er el y l ook ed hu m a n , no l on ger t he
u na t t a i na b l e sex g o d d ess b u i l t u p b y t he m ed i a , t hou g h she w a s st i ll q u it e lo v el y .
Then t h e sp el l w a s b r ok en a s she t u r n ed h er hea d , sen sin g h i s r eg a r d , a n d she sm i led a s he ca m e
f or w a r d i m m ed i a t ely . It cu t a cr oss her f a ce, a s k een a s a r a y o f su nsh i ne. ` A r e w e r ea d y t o go?'
H e r ea ch ed ou t a n a r m , p u t i t a cr oss her shou l d er s a nd d r ew her nea r , sm i l in g b a ck . ` Yes, w e a r e. Let 's
l ea v e.'

CHAPTER TEN
N EW Yor k w a s a b i t o f a cu lt u r e shock t o her a n d she la u g hed a li t t l e a s sh e r u m m a ged t hr ou gh her
p u r se f or so m e a sp i r i n t o a l l ev i a t e a hea d a ch e t ha t w a s b eg i nn i ng t o p ou n d a t her t em p les. ` It 's f u n ny
h ow ea si l y o n e ca n l ose t he t ol er a nce f or b i g ci t y no i ses,' she com m en t ed , i n r esp on se t o Da m i en's
si d el ong g l a nce. ` This is st r a n gely l ik e a f or eig n cou nt r y t o m e! I d o n't k no w , I t h in k I p r ef er t he q u i et er
a t m osp her e o f a sm a l l t o w n a n d a co sy nei g hb ou r h ood l i k e w her e D a d l i v es.'
` You 'd l i k e i t o nl y f o r a l i t t le w hi l e,' sh e w a s t o l d a m u sed l y , ` a nd t hen y ou 'd b e cl i m b i ng t he w a l ls f or
som et hi n g exci t i ng t o d o ! You k no w t ha t y ou 'd nev er b e a b l e t o st a nd t h a t p a ce f or l ong .'
She ha d t o ch u ck l e a t h i s a st u t e a ssessm en t o f her . ` You 'r e p r ob a b l y r i ght . Bu t I st i l l h a v e a hea d a ch e
f r o m a l l t h a t no i se!'
H e sm i l ed i n sy m p a t h y a n d r ea ched ou t t o b r i ef ly sq u eeze h er ha nd , a n d she k new i n t h a t m o m ent
w hy she l ov ed h i m so m u ch. Sh e k new it a s she t ook i n h i s sensit i v it y a n d so m et i m es q u i t e u nexp ect ed
u nd er st a nd i ng, h i s end ea r in g ly d i sa r m i ng sm i le a n d h i s sp a r k l i n g d a r k ey es. She k n ew a n d n ev er
q u est i on ed a g a i n t h a t she w ou l d l ov e hi m a l l her l i f e.
A n d so m ehow t h a t q u i et l y cha ng ed her , r i g ht t h er e i n t he ca r , st u ck sm a ck i n t he m i d d le o f N ew Yor k
t r a f f ic. Thou gh she w a s t a l k i n g l i g ht ly t o D a m i en a n d m a k i ng sm a r t r em a r k s t h a t m a d e h i m la u gh,
h er m i nd w a s w or k i ng o n a not her l ev el, a ssi m i la t i n g t ha t i nn er k no w l ed g e a n d d er i v i n g a cer t a i n
m ea su r e o f p ea ce a nd ser en i t y f r o m i t . Sh e d id n't ha v e t o b e a n gr y w i t h h i m , a nd sh e d id n 't h a v e t o
st r u ggl e t o r est r a in a con st a nt el em ent o f r a g e a ga i n st eit her h i m , or h er sel f . She cou l d l et i t a l l go. H e
w a s h i m sel f , a n d t ha t essence o f h i m t ha t m a d e h im w ha t he w a s, w a s w ha t sh e l ov ed so .
It w a s p l a i n a nd si m p le, t r u e l ov e. N o m a t t er ho w he hu r t her , n o m a t t er w ho h e sl ep t w i t h, n o m a t t er
i f he l ef t her - she lo v ed h i m a nd w ou l d con t i nu e t o l ov e h i m . Tha t 's w h a t sh e h a d st r u gg led a g a i n st
f r o m t h e v er y b eg i n n i n g, t ha t l ov e t h a t m a d e her so v u l ner a b le a n d o p en t o p ossi b l e hu r t . She w a s no
f oo l ov er h i m . Th a t h a d b een er r oneou s t h i nk i ng o n her p a r t . Lov e g a v e one a k i nd of d i g ni t y a nd
p u r p ose, w h et h er i t w a s a n a lt r u i st i c l ov e of m a nk i nd or a p er so n a l r om a nt i c l ov e, a nd a l l t y p es o f
ca r i ng ha d a com m on b o nd o f b ot h sel f l essness a n d sel f i sh ness, a nd a cer t a i n a m ou n t of j oy a nd p a i n.
She sho u ld n't st r u gg le a ga i nst t ha t . It w a s a si m p l e, u ncha n gea b l e f a ct , a nd she'd a ccep t ed i t a t l a st .
She b ega n t o si t u p a nd t a k e n ot i ce w hen Da m i en b ega n t o t u r n d ow n st r eet s t h a t w ou l d t a k e t h em
t o h i s nei g hb o u r ho od i nst ea d o f t o her a p a r t m ent , w h i ch ha d b een t he or i g i n a l d est i na t i on. ` Da m i en?'
she st a r t ed hesi t a n t l y . H e d i d n't seem t o h ea r . ` A r en't w e go i ng t he w r ong w a y ? D i d y ou f or get t ha t
y ou w er e t a k i n g m e ho m e f ir st so t h a t I cou l d get so m e t h i n gs d o ne?'
Slo w i ng t he ca r a n d t u r n i ng on t o h is st r eet , he r ep l ied , ` N o , I d i d n't f or g et t ha t I w a s t a k i ng y ou hom e.'
St r a nge w or d i n g, t h a t , she t hou gh t . H e m u st h a v e m ea nt t ha t he w a s su p p osed t o t a k e her h om e.
` Bu t I w a n t ed t o t a l k t o y ou , a n d t hou ght t ha t y ou cou l d p er ha p s p ost p o n e w h a t ev er y ou w er e goi ng
t o d o t on i gh t . W i l l y ou st a y f or su p p er ?'
'Su r e. Bu t y ou k no w ,' she sa id w r y ly , a s he cu t t h e eng i ne a f t er p u l l i n g u p t he l on g p r i v a t e d r i v e t h a t
l ed t o h i s el ega nt ho m e, a l l y ou ha d t o d o w a s a sk . You d id n't ha v e t o k i d na p m e.'

` N o, I g u ess I d i d n't .' H e sm i l ed a st r a n ge, p r eoccu p i ed sm i l e, a n d she l ea n ed ov er t o gent ly k i ss hi s
cheek , f eel i ng h i s st a r t . H e l ea n ed b a ck t o l ook d o w n i nt o her ey es. ` Wh a t w a s t h a t f o r ?'
She t ou ched h i m on t he sh ou l d er a nd t hen u n b u ck l ed h er sea t b elt . ` Ju st b eca u se I f el t l ik e g i v i ng you
a p r esent ,' she t ea sed , ` a nd I d i d n't ha p p en t o b e nea r a f iv e- a n d - d i m e st o r e!'
'So com e h er e a nd k i ss m e p r op er l y ,' he m u r m u r ed , r ea ch i n g o u t a com p el l i n g ha n d . Sh e chu ck led a n d
t hen p r essed her l i p s b r i ef l y t o hi s, b u t op ened her d o or a nd got ou t a f t er w a r d s.
` N ow i s n eit her t he t i m e nor t h e p l a ce f or t he k i n d o f em b r a ce t h a t y ou ha v e i n m in d , l echer .'
H e go t ou t o f t h e ca r a lso a nd lea n ed a g a i nst t h e r oo f w i t h h i s a r m s f o l d ed , gr in n in g l a zi l y int o her
ey es. ` A n d w ha t d o y ou t h i nk I ha v e in m i n d ?'
'Th er e's a st i ck sh i f t ,' she p o i nt ed ou t p r osa i ca ll y . ` H o w cl ose ca n y ou get w i t h a st ick shi f t , f or hea v en' s
sa k e?'
'You ha v e a p o i n t t h er e.' H e d u ck ed h i s hea d t o su r v ey t h e i nt er i or o f t he ca r t h ou gh t f u l l y . ` Wel l , t h a t
d oes i t .'
` Wh a t d oes w h a t ?' she a sk ed i n a m u sem ent , a s sh e b ent her hea d a l so a nd p eer ed a t h i m t hr ou g h t he
t w o w i nd o w s a n d t he i nt er i or . H is d a r k ey es d a nced .
` We'l l j u st ha v e t o get a f a m i ly ca r ,' h e sa i d w i ck ed l y , a sel d o m seen d i m p l e a p p ea r i ng i n h i s l ea n
cheek a s h is gr i n w id ened .
She la u ghed a l ou d a n d t u r ned her hea d t o h id e a b l u sh . H e b ou n d ed a r ou n d a nd p eer ed int o her f a ce
w i t h a gr ea t d el i g ht . ` H ot d a m n ! Tw o b l u sh es i n a s m a n y d a y s, I d on 't b el i ev e i t !'

` Qu i t , w i l l y ou ?' she p r ot est ed , l a u g hi ng a l l t h e h a r d er a s she t r ied t o esca p e f r o m h i m b y r u n n i ng u p
t he st ep s t o t he f r on t d oor . Sh e w a s d oo m ed t o f a i l u r e a s he f o l l ow ed cl osel y , t ick l i ng her a t t h e w a i st i n
a w a y t h a t m a d e her w r igg le a n d shr i ek . A t t h a t m o m ent sh e f el t h a p p ier t ha n she cou l d r em em b er
f eel i ng i n y ea r s, a n d b y h i s u n sp ok en b u t o b v iou s cont ent m ent a s h e p u t h i s a r m a r ou nd her w a i st , she
k new t ha t h e h a d t o f eel so m et h i n g l ik e w ha t she w a s f eel i ng a l so.
Bu t she m u st ha v e b een w r ong , f o r h i s f a ce w a s cha n g i n g, t he sm i l e i n h is ey es f a d i n g a w a y t o l ea v e
som et hi n g d a r k a n d t r ou b l ed b eh in d . Fr om t he o ne l a u gh i ng m om ent t o t he next sob er i n st a nt he ha d
cha ng ed so m u ch t h a t she f el t ch i l led a nd a p p r ehensiv e. ` Com e o n i n si d e,' h e sa id q u i et ly .
She f o l l ow ed h i m d o w n t he m a i n h a l l a f t er he h a d gr eet ed Est her , h i s hou sek eep er , a nd sh e a sk ed h i m
shor t l y , ` W ha t i s it , Da m i en ? W h a t 's w r ong ?'
H e d i d n't a nsw er b u t cont in u ed u nt i l h e r ea ched t h e com f o r t a b le, r o om y d en, a n d h e h eld t he d oor
o p en f o r her t o p a ss t hr ou gh f i r st . She m u r m u r ed a p ol it e t ha n k s a u t o m a t i ca l l y , a nd she w a lk ed on
i nt o t he r oom t o t u r n q u ick l y t o f a ce hi m , w a i t i ng f or h i m t o sp ea k . A nd he d i d n't ev en t h en, b u t
w a l k ed t o t he r i gh t o f t h e r oom w h ich hel d sev er a l shelv es a n d ca b i net s, a n d he p ou r ed t h em b o t h st if f
d r i nk s, ha nd i ng her one g l a ss. She sa t , j er k i l y , a nd si p p ed f r om t he g l a ss w i t h a k i nd o f d esp er a t e
ea ger ness t h a t w ou l d h a v e t ol d hi m j u st h ow m u ch he w a s u p set t i ng her , b u t he d i d n't see i t . H e w a s
st a r i n g d ow n i n t o h i s g l a ss, w h i r l i ng it g ent l y , not d r i n k in g . H e seem ed so f a r a w a y r i g ht t hen t h a t sh e
d ou b t ed i f h e w ou ld ha v e n ot i ced i f she'd got u p a n d l ef t .
W ha t d i d he w a nt t o t a l k a b ou t ? sh e w on d er ed . W ha t d i d h e w a nt t o sa y ? Th is w a s i t . H e's cha n ged
h i s m i n d .
H e d i d n't w a nt t o get m a r r i ed a f t er a l l . Sh e shook her hea d w it h i m p a t ience a n d p u zzl em ent , a n d
b ou nd ed ou t o f her cha i r t o p a ce a r o u nd t he r oom l i k e a ca ged a n i m a l . Tha t d i d n 't m a k e sense, no t
a f t er t h e a f f ect io na t e, l ig h t - h ea r t ed q u i p he'd m a d e a b ou t a f a m i l y ca r . Or w a s it t hen t ha t he ha d
r ea l i sed h e d i d n't w a nt a co m m i t m ent t ha t w a s a s b i n d i ng a s m a r r ia g e, a f t er a l l ? Sh e ca m e t o a st o p
a t a l a r ge w in d ow a n d st a r ed ou t , f eel in g a d r i f t i n a sea o f u ncer t a i nt y . W a s she t o l i v e l i k e t h is f or t he
r est of her l i f e, a l w a y s u n cer t a i n, a lw a y s w o nd er i n g a b ou t h i m , a l w a y s a f r a i d ? Lo v e d i d n't ca ncel ou t
f ea r , she f ou n d , gr i p p in g h er g l a ss in t w o sw ea t - d a m p ened p a l m s.
A n d t hen he w a s sp ea k i n g q u i et ly . ` A n d n o w I t hi nk it ' s a b ou t t i m e w e h a d t h a t t a l k , d on't y ou ?' H er
h a n d w ent ou t t o t he hea v y , f l oor - l engt h cu r t a i n, g r a sp ed i t , t ig ht ened . ` Jessica .' It w a s sa i d gent l y .
` Com e a w a y f r om t he w i nd ow a n d si t d o w n .'
She t u r ned , jer k i l y , a nd f a ced h i m f r o m a cr oss t he r oom b u t cou l d n 't seem t o get t he i m p et u s t o ca r r y
h er sel f t o t he cha i r nea r h i m t h a t he w a s i nd i ca t i n g . A host o f em ot ion s w a s p a r a ly si ng her ; d r ea d , t he
f or em o st em o t i on, l ock ed her j oi nt s int o i m m ob i l i t y . A l l she cou l d d o w a s t o f a ce h i m , her co m p l exi on
v er y p a l e a ga i n st t h e b a ck gr ou nd o f f l a m e r ed ha i r a nd d a r k gr een cu r t a i ns, a n d her o w n
v u ln er a b i l i t y a t t he m o m ent w a s ext r em el y a p p a r en t .
H i s exp r ession cha nged a s he lo ok ed a t her . 'Jess, w ha t a r e y ou a f r a i d o f ?' h e a sk ed g ent l y . ` I'm not
g oin g t o b ea t y ou . P l ea se, com e a nd si t d o w n .'
A n d so she d i d , st a r i ng a t hi m a l l t he w h i l e, w a it in g f or h i m w i t h a r i si ng i m p a t i ence a nd a h ei g ht ened
em o t i on t o sp ea k , t o sa y a n y t h in g ! A nd a s she w a t ch ed h i m , h er ey es w id ened a s she r ea l i sed t ha t h e
t oo w a s ner v ou s a b ou t so m et h i n g, h i s sho u l d er s h u nched a nd h i s ey es w i d e a n d v u l n er a b le. She sa t
st r a i g ht , not d a r i ng t o t h i nk .

` Oh, m y d ea r ,' he ha l f si gh ed , ha l f m oa n ed . ` I d on't k n ow w her e t o b eg in . I- so m et h i ng ha p p en ed t o
m e t o d a y t ha t I' d l i k e t o exp l a i n t o y ou .' Th i s w a s it . Sh e k n ew i t .
She cou l d n't st a n d i t a ny l ong er a s he p a u sed y et a ga i n a s i f he w er e sea r chi ng f o r t h e r ig ht w or d s.
` You d on't w a nt t o get m a r r i ed a f t er a l l , d o y ou ?' she a sk ed jer k i l y , w r enchi ng her ey es a w a y t o st a r e
b l i nd l y in t he ot h er d i r ect i o n. ` Tha t 's i t , i sn't it ? A l l y ou h a v e t o d o i s sa y so, Da m ien . I w on't b i nd y ou t o
m e i f y ou w a nt t o cha n g e y ou r m i n d .'
` N o!' he excl a i m ed i ncr ed u l ou sl y , a nd she hea r d a ch i nk o f gl a ss. A sp l it second l a t er , h e w a s p u l l i ng her
o u t of t he cha i r a n d i nt o h is a r m s a n d hol d i ng her so t i ght ly she t ho u ght her r i b s w o u l d b r ea k . ` Tha t 's
n ot a t A w ha t I w a s g o in g t o sa y ! Wh a t ev er ga v e y ou t ha t i d ea , d a r l i ng ? Do n't y ou ev en y et t r u st m e?
Ca n't y ou ha v e j u st a l i t t l e f a i t h i n m e, f or on ce?'
H er f a ce su d d enl y cr u m p l ed a n d t h e t ea r s ca m e so q u ick l y a nd u ncon t r oll a b l y t h a t t hey sp l a shed
d ow n h er ch eek s a l m o st b ef or e she k n ew i t . ` I' m so a f r a i d t o,' she m o a ned . ` I'm sor r y . I'm sor r y ....' She
g a v e a sob , ca u g ht her b r ea t h, a n d su b sid ed int o si l ence, her g r ea t sw i m m i n g ey es r ega r d i ng h i m
m u t el y .
H i s ha n d s ca m e t o her f a ce, t end er l y , ca r essi n g ly . ` Yo u d o n't k now ev en y et , d o y ou , d a r l in g?' he
w h i sp er ed . ` You d on't d a r e let y ou r sel f k n ow i t , d o y ou ? H u sh, n o w , i t 's a l l r i ght . L i st en t o m e a m i nu t e
n ow , w it hou t ju m p i n g t o su ch ha st y concl u sio n s. W hen I loo k ed d o w n t ha t r a v ine t h a t y o u so ea si l y
cou l d ha v e d i ed i n , I su d d en l y w o nd er ed j u st w h y w a s I ho l d i n g ev er y t hi n g i n? W ha t w a s t he p o i nt ? I
g u ess w ha t I w a s d o i n g, w a s w a nt i n g t o d o a t l ea st , w a s w a i t i ng u n t i l t h e conv enien t t i m e a nd p l a ce
b ef o r e t el l i ng y ou ju st ho w v er y m u ch I l ov e y o u . I d i d n't w a nt t o f eel u nco m f or t a b le! I d i d n't w a nt t o
b a r e m y sel f t ha t w a y ! I ha d a host o f r ea sons f or no t t el l in g y ou , a n d I loo k ed d ow n t ha t r a v i ne a n d
r ea l i sed ho w st u p i d t hey a ll r ea l l y w er e. I
d a r l in g, a r e y ou hea r i ng a l l t h i s?' Th a t la st w a s sa i d w i t h a sl i ght ly sh a k y l a u g h.

Jessi ca 's ey es ha d g la zed ov er w i t h a st u nn ed d i sb el i ef a s she hea r d t he w or d s t h a t sh e'd l on g ed t o h ea r
f or su ch a n et er n it y . H er l i p s w er e p a r t ed a nd her exp r essi on w a s b l a nk , a n d ev er y t hi ng el se t ha t h e
h a d sa i d ha d f a d ed i nt o insi gn i f i ca n ce a f t er t hose t hr ee m a g ica l w or d s. ` W ha t ? Wha t d id y o u sa y ?' she
m u r m u r ed d i st r a ct ed ly , com i ng b a ck t o t h e p r esent a t h i s i nsi st en t q u est i on .
` I w a s j u st t r y i ng t o t el l y ou , m y l ov e, t ha t w hen I r ea l l y r ea l i sed how y ou h a d nea r ly d i ed , I su d d en l y
k new t ha t I h a d t o t el l y ou how m u ch I l o v e y ou , r i ght n ow , w h i le I st i l l ha d t h e cha nce, a n d st i l l ha d
y ou w i t h m e,' h e sa i d q u iet l y . ` You 'r e sh a k i n g l ik e a l ea f ! St op it , Jessi ca , sw eet hea r t . You 'r e m a k i ng m e
f eel b a d l y f or sp r in g i n g i t on y o u l i k e t h i s, a nd it 's not so m et h in g I p a r t icu l a r l y w a nt t o go o n a gu i l t t r ip
a b ou t !'
H i s a r m s t i g ht ened ev en m or e a r o u n d her a s she st a r t ed t o l a u g h sha k i l y , b u r y i n g her h ea d in h i s shi r t ,
h er ow n a r m s cr eep in g a r ou n d h i s l ea n w a i st . H a p p i ness w a s cou r si ng t hr ou gh her g i d d i l y , a n d a sor t of
i nt ense, ov er w hel m i n g, l ong - sou ght - f or r el i ef . A n d w i t h t he r el ief ca m e a m a r v el l ou s l ooseni ng o f t he
t ensi on t ha t h a d g r i p p ed her f or t hr ee lo n g y ea r s. She r ela xed f u l l y a g a i n st Da m i en' s w a r m , st r on g
chest , a n d it w a s t he m o st w o nd er f u l f eel i n g i n t he w or l d .
` H ow l on g h a v e y ou l ov ed m e?' she w h i sp er ed , m u f f l ed i n h i s sh ir t . She f elt h is cheek com e d o w n o n h er
h ea d , a n d h e r u b b ed i t gent l y b a ck a n d f or t h in t he so f t n ess o f her h a ir .

` I d o n 't k no w . Fo r ev er , i t seem s l ik e. A t l ea st no w w hen I l ook b a ck , I ca n see t ha t I l ov ed y ou . You sa i d
t o m e on ce t h a t y ou a p p r eci a t ed m y ef f or t s a t b ei ng t r u t h f u l w hen ev er p o ssib l e, a nd I f elt t er r i b l e
w hen I hea r d y ou . N o t on l y w a s I not b ein g ent i r ely t r u t h f u l w i t h y ou , b u t I w a s n ot b ei ng t r u t h f u l w i t h
m y sel f . I t r ied ev er y t h i ng I k new t o b l in d m y sel f t o m y o w n em o t i o ns a n d m y n eed , a nd I d eli b er a t ely
w ent a w a y f o r m o nt hs a t a t i m e t o see i f I cou l d st a y a w a y , a n d nev er co m e b a ck t o y ou . So y ou see,
y ou d id n't d r i v e m e a w a y . I d r ov e m y sel f a w a y , a nd I cou ld n 't a d m i t t h a t t o y o u w i t h ou t a d m i t t i ng
t ha t I lov ed y ou . I w a s a f r a i d , a f r a id o f l ov i n g t oo m u ch, I g u ess, o f sho w in g y o u h ow I need ed y ou , a n d
k now in g m y sel f how m u ch I need y ou .' H i s v oi ce t r a i l ed a w a y t o a w h isp er a n d t hen st op p ed , a n d t hey
w er e b ot h si lent f o r a l on g t i m e, ju st ho l d i ng ea ch o t her , j u st b ei ng t og et h er .
` I'm su r e t ha t y ou k no w I l ov e y ou t oo!' Jessi ca sa i d , a q u i v er o f l a u g ht er , sel f - m ock er y , a nd so m et h i ng
else r u n n in g t hr ou gh her v oice. ` Wh en d i d I g iv e i t a w a y ?'
'I t h i nk I b ega n t o su sp ect t ha t n ig ht y ou b eca m e so d el i ght f u l l y d r u nk ,' h e m u r m u r ed , p a ssi ng h i s h a n d
t hr ou gh her h a ir a nd cu p p i n g t h e b a ck o f her sl en d er neck t end er l y . ` Or p er ha p s w h en y ou sp ent so
m u ch t i m e a nd ef f or t on l i t t le M a r y Co ef i el d , a l l t he w h i l e k n ow in g t h a t I cou l d h a v e a sk ed her t o
m a r r y m e. It m u st h a v e t a k en a g r ea t d ea l o f cou r a ge, d a r l i n g.'
She m er el y sh r u gg ed sl i ght l y , r u b b i n g h er f a ce a ga i nst t he w a r m t h o f hi s t h i n cot t o n shi r t , f eel in g t he
h a r d l iv i ng m u scl e b enea t h. H e f el t so goo d , so v i t a l a n d a l i v e, a n d she l ov ed h i m so. Bu t t hen he w a s
l ooseni ng h i s a r m s a n d d r a w i ng b a ck , a n d her ey es f l ew t o h i s f a ce q u est i o n ing l y .
` We h a v e a l ot t o t a l k ov er ,' he t o ld her g ent ly , a n d h e d r ew h er d ow n o n t o t he cou ch. She w ent
o b ed i ent ly a n d sa t l ook i ng a t h i m w i t h her la r ge, g lo w i ng , l ov i ng ey es t r a i ned o n h i m . H e gr oa ned ,
r ea ched ou t f or her , a n d k issed her lo n g a nd l i nger i ng l y .

A n d t h i s t i m e i t w a s sh e w ho lea ned b a ck , p l a ci ng b ot h ha nd s o n h i s shou ld er s a n d sm i l i ng w r y l y int o
h i s f a ce. ` Ca n I con f ess so m et h i n g I p r ob a b l y sh ou l d h a v e nev er h i d d en f r om y ou i n t he f i r st p l a ce?' she
b ega n, d r op p i n g h er ey es a nd b eg i nn i ng t o f eel a nd lo ok em b a r r a ssed . ` I'm so r r y t h a t I d id n 't t el l y o u
a t t he b egi n n i n g, b u t I w a s a - v ir gi n t ha t f i r st n ig ht w it h y ou . N o w I f eel t h a t I'v e ch ea t ed b ot h m y sel f
a nd y ou b eca u se I d i d n 't t el l y ou . Th a t w a s a sp ecia l g i f t , a nd I shou l d n't h a v e b een a f r a i d t o a d m it it .
It 's- i t 's j u st t ha t I w a nt ed y ou so m u ch, a n d I w a s a f r a i d t ha t i f y ou k new , y ou ' d b a ck a w a y . It w a s
st u p i d o f m e, w a sn't i t ?'
H i s f in g er s ca m e u p a nd p r ob ed her l ip s, t he t i p s o f t hem sl i d in g a cr o ss h er l ow er l ip , ca r essi n g her
l i ght ly . She p u r sed h er l ip s a n d k issed h i m . ` A nd I ha v e t o con f ess t ha t I k new ,' h e t o l d h er gen t l y ,
m a k i n g her ey es f l y t o h i s, w i d en ed . .
` You k new a l l a l ong?,
'N o, I k new a f t er w a r d s. Th er e w er e l i t t le t hi ngs, y ou r r ea ct i on w a s u nt u t or ed , su r p r ised , ev en t h ou gh
y ou t r ied t o h i d e i t . It f r i g h t ened m e so m u ch t ha t I n ea r ly r a n a w a y r i g ht t h en, b u t I t hen con v in ced
m y sel f t h a t y ou w er e a d u l t enou g h t o k no w w ha t y ou w er e d o i n g a n d t o t a k e t he conseq u ences. It
w a s r a t io na l i sa t i o n on m y p a r t ; on t he one ha nd I w a s t er r i f i ed o f co m m i t m en t , a n d o n t he ot her h a n d
I w a s so t ied t o y ou a l r ea d y I cou l d n't ha v e lef t y o u a l on e, no m a t t er ho w I t r i ed .'
` Poor b a b y ,' she m o ck ed gent l y , a n d w a s r ew a r d ed w it h a not h er d ev a st a t i ng k i ss. She r esp on d ed
g la d ly , t hr ea d i ng her f i n ger s t h r ou gh hi s h a i r a nd t ou ch i ng h i s st r on g j a w l i ne l ig ht l y . H e p u l l ed her t o
h i m , o n e h a n d

p r essed t o t he sm a l l o f her b a ck , b r i ng i n g her w ho le b od y a g a i nst h i s, a n d he b r ok e of f t he k i ss t o b u r y
h i s m ou t h a ga i n st her neck , b it in g g ent l y , m a k in g her sh u d d er .
` Do y ou r ea l i se,' he w h i sp er ed , a nd h i s m o v in g l i p s o n her neck w er e a ca r ess, ` h ow t er r i b ly l on g i t ' s
b een si nce w e'v e m a d e l ov e?'
'M m n,' w a s her b em u sed r esp on se, a s h er t h ou ght s w i n ged b a ck t o t h e d a y b ef or e. She sm i led . ` L et m e
see. It seem s l i k e f or ev er , d o esn 't i t ?'
'Yes, i t d oes. You h a v e t o m ov e i n r i ght a w a y , so t h a t w e d on't ha v e t o w or r y a b ou t w h ich p l a ce w e'r e
g oin g t o sl eep a t .' H is h a nd s w er e p a ssi n g ov er h er r i b ca g e, a n d she f elt h i s o w n a n sw er in g sm il e on her
n eck .
` Tel l m e,' she sa i d su d d en l y , d r a w i ng her h ea d b a ck t o l ook a t h i m sea r chi n gl y , a t r a ce of u ncer t a i nt y
st i l l l i n ger i ng i n her ey es a nd m in d . ` Do y o u t h i nk t ha t y ou r ea l l y cou l d ha v e g one t h r ou gh w i t h
m a r r y i n g M a r y ?'
H e ha l f si g hed , ha l f l a u gh ed . ` N o . It w a s a l a st d it ch ef f o r t o f m i ne t o t r y a nd sha k e of f y ou r sp el l , y ou
w i t ch . I w a s i n t he la st co nv u l si v e t hr oes w hi le y o u r el ent lessly r eel ed i n t he l i ne. I w a s a f i sh, hoo k ed b y
t he b a i t , a n d y ou w er e m y ca p t or .'
` Disgu st i ng a n a l o g y ,' sh e sa i d com p l a cent l y , ` a nd I t h ou ght a s m u ch, y ou d ev i l . W el l , y o u 'v e l ed m e a
m er r y d a n ce, b u t a s l o ng a s y ou now k no w w h o's t he b oss, I' l l not b e t oo h a r sh o n y o u .' H is ha nd s
b ega n t o t i g ht en w a r n i n gl y , a s h is ey es sp a r k led a l a u gh i ng ch a l l en ge.
` We'l l ... er , w r est le t ha t one ou t la t er ,' he p r o m i sed , a nd she m u f f l ed a l a u g h. They cer t a i n ly w ou l d . H i s
ey es g r ew m o r e ser i ou s a n d h e sa i d sof t l y , ` I j u st w a nt t o sa y a f ew m o r e t h i n g s, Jessi e. The f i r st i s t h a t i t
g a v e m e su ch a q u eer , f r i gh t eni ng shock t o l oo k a t t h e t a ng l ed w r eck a ge o f y ou r ca r ea r l i er t od a y,
a nd ev er y t h in g el se d i m m ed i n com p a r i so n. The p a st w a s r ea l l y p a st a t t ha t m o m en t f or m e, a n d it
d i d n 't m a t t er a ny m o r e f o r t he f ir st t i m e i n y ea r s. It r ea l l y d id n 't m a t t er , a nd I r ea l i sed t h a t i t ha d n't f or
som e y ea r s now . A l l t h a t m a t t er s t o m e no w is y ou a n d ou r f u t u r e t og et h er . Ev er y t h i ng el se i s
second a r y . A n d I w a s a f oo l , f or st u b b o r n l y b el i ev i ng t ha t w o m en a r e not t o b e t r u st ed , a n d a r e not
d ep end a b le. It w a s ir r a t i on a l a nd b enea t h m e t o cl a ssi f y y ou i n t he sa m e ca t egor y w i t h w o m en l ik e
m y m ot h er . A n y one ca n see t ha t y ou 'r e p ol es a p a r t ! I w a s j u st t r y i n g t o a v oi d get t i n g hu r t .' Sh e w en t
f or w a r d , t h e h a p p i ness i n her m a k i n g her ey es g lo w m or e t h a n ev er , a n d sh e k i ssed hi m so f t ly ,
t ha nk f u l l y , on t he m o u t h.
Im p u l si v el y , she a sk ed . 'Da m i en, w h a t i f y ou r m ot her w er e t o w a l k t hr o u gh y ou r f r o nt d oo r on e d a y ?
W ha t w o u ld y o u d o ?' A s h e hesi t a t ed , her ey es sea r ched hi s f or a ny r em n a nt o f p a i n. Th er e w a s no ne.
` Wh o k now s?' h e shr u gged f r a nk l y . ` I m i g ht k i ck her ou t r igh t a w a y . If she w er e p i t i f u l eno u gh, I m ig ht
w r it e her a ch eq u e a nd t hen k i ck h er ou t . I ca n't r ea l ly see her com in g a l l t he w a y f r om Ch ica go, i f
t ha t 's w h er e she st i l l l i v es, j u st t o f i n d ou t i f I'm a l i v e a n d a r ou n d , so I g u ess t he q u est i o n i s no t r ea l l y
a p p l i ca b le.' Jessica f el t sa d a t t h a t , sa d t ha t su ch a w o m a n ev en exi st ed , l et a l one t he f a ct t h a t no one
cou l d r ea l l y lov e her . A nd she f el t sa d t ha t D a m i en ha d b een st a r v ed ea r ly i n l i f e o f t he k i n d o f
a f f ect io n a nd secu r i t y t ha t ev er y one need s. She cou l d u n d er st a n d h i m so m u ch b et t er n ow , a nd sh e
cou l d n't b el i ev e t h a t sh e h a d n't seen b ef or e t he v u l ner a b i li t y u n d er n ea t h h i s st r engt h . She w ou l d
p r ob a b ly nev er b e a b l e t o l ook a t h i m a g a i n w i t h ou t t h i nk in g o f h is sp l end id st r u g gl e t o ov er com e t he
env i r on m ent t ha t he h a d b een b o r n i n, a n d h i s si ng lem i nd ed d et er m i n a t i o n t o r i se a b ov e t h e ob st a cl es
t ha t f a t e ha d t hr ow n i n h i s w a y . She h a d f elt p r ou d o f h er sel f a n d t h e a ch i ev em en t s she'd
a ccom p l i shed i n her o w n p r of essi o n b y sheer a b i l i t y a n d ha r d w or k , b u t i n com p a r i so n t o Da m i en's
st r u ggl e, her s now seem ed p i t i f u l ly w ea k .
Bu t t he gh ost o f t he p a st f a d ed a w a y a s D a m i en p u l led h er a r o u nd a nd on t o p o f h is l a p a nd sa i d w i t h
sa t isf a ct i on, ` Jessi ca Kent h a s a n ice r i ng t o i t , d oesn't it ?'
'Oh, I d on't k no w ,' she r ep l ied o f f h a n d ed ly , a n d w a s t r ea t ed w it h a w a r y , st er n l ook . She chu ck l ed . ` I
r a t h er l ik e t he so u n d o f Da m ien Ki ng , m y sel f .'
` Oh, y o u d o, d o y ou ?' h e g r ow l ed , p u l l i ng a t her shou l d er s so t ha t she co l l a p sed on h i s chest a nd ha d t o
st a r e a t h i m f r o m a d i st a n ce o f a b ou t a n i nch a w a y . 'Jessi e, t her e's t h e second t h i n g I a l m ost f or got .'
She m i sch i ev i ou sl y sent a n exp l or i ng, t i ck l i ng f i nger i nt o t he sp a ce b et w een h i s sh i r t b u t t o ns, lo w d o w n
o n h i s st o m a ch, a n d she l a u g hed a t h is j u m p . ` Oh, a n d w ha t 's t h a t ?'
'St op t ha t !' h e or d er ed , l a u gh t er b r ea k in g u p t he st er n com m a nd i n h i s v oi ce. ` Th i s i s ser i ou s, no w !'
` I t hou g h t w e h a d m a na g ed t o co v er j u st a b ou t ev er y t hi ng,' she co m p l a i ned , a s h e gr a b b ed a t h er
f i n ger s. ` Isn't i t t i m e f or a l it t l e p l a y now ?'
'In a m i nu t e.' H e g r a b b ed her ot her m a r a u d i ng h a nd a nd f r ow ned i nt o h er ey es a n d t h en sm i l ed , a nd
t he op en, t end er l ook o f lov e w a s so w el com e, so ea g er l y a w a i t ed b y her t ha t she su b si d ed , not t o hea r
w ha t he ha d t o sa y b u t j u st t o d r i nk i n t ha t l ook . ` I j u st w a nt ed t o t el l y ou , d a r l in g,' h e w hi sp er ed ,
b r i ng i ng h i s h a nd s u p t o cu p her f a ce, ` t ha t y ou a r e t he m o st b ea u t i f u l w o m a n in t h e w o r l d t o m e, a nd
a l w a y s w i l l b e. I nev er w a nt y ou t o cha n g e b eca u se I l ov e y ou ju st t h e w a y y ou a r e.'
H er h a nd a u t om a t i ca l l y w ent u p t o t he sca r on her b r ow , her ey es q u est i o n i ng, a n d he nod d ed . ` You
m i su n d er st ood m e t ha t n i g ht , d a r l i ng . I w a s u p set b eca u se y ou ha d b een h u r t a nd cou l d h a v e b een
k i l l ed , no t b eca u se y o u w er e sca r r ed .' Sh e sm i l ed b r i l l i a n t l y a t h i m , f eel i ng so m u ch j o y t ha t she t hou g ht
she m i g ht b u r st f r o m it , a nd he cock ed h is h ea d t o t h e si d e a s he co nsi d er ed her a p p r a i si ng ly . ` Besi d es, I
r a t h er l ik e i t . It g iv es y ou a n a i r o f m y st er y a n d r o m a nt i c i n t r igu e.' A n d he w a t ched h er , a m u sed a nd
p u zzl ed , a s she t hr ew b a ck her h ea d t o l a u gh hea r t i l y .

'JUSTIN , m y lov e, t he m a n i s a n i ncor r i gi b l e f l ir t ,' Jessi ca sa i d ca l m l y , sip p in g t ea . They b ot h loo k ed ov er
t o Da m i en, w ho st ood w it h h i s b la ck hea d b ent
t ow a r d s a n incr ed i b l y t i ny , w izened ol d l a d y w i t h a
gr ea t m a ss o f w h i t e, w hi t e h a i r , a nd he w a s
t u r ni n g o n t h e cha r m a s o n l y h e k n ew ho w t o d o.
Th ey b ot h r egi st er ed t he o l d la d y 's si m p er a n d
gi r l i sh p a t t o D a m i en's a r m .
` Qu it e hop el ess,' Ju st i n a gr eed p l a ci d ly , set t l i ng h i s
t ea cu p b a ck in i t s sa u cer . The t w o sa t in cha i r s
p u l l ed a r o u n d t o f a ce a l i t t l e si d e t a b l e w h i ch hel d
t hei r cu p s a nd sa u cer s, a nd t w o em p t y d esser t
p l a t es. They su r v ey ed a nd com m en t ed on t h e
cr ow d of p eop l e t h a t m i l l ed a b o u t t he hu ge, o p en
r oom , a t ea se w i t h ea ch o t her a s on l y ol d f r i en d s
ca n b e. M r s Coef i el d ha d r ea l ly o u t d o n e h er sel f w i t h a l l t h e d ecor a t i on s a nd t he r ef r esh m ent s, o n t op o f
t he hu ge a n d elega nt d i nner t hey h a d j u st en j oy ed . Sh e h a d ov er d one i t , Jessi ca t hou gh t p r i v a t el y , b u t
t he w o m a n a f t er a l l on ly ha d on e d a u g ht er t o m a r r y of f , a nd hop ef u l ly t h i s w ou l d b e t he on l y
enga gem ent p a r t y t h a t M a r y ev er t h r ew .
` Oh, l ook , d a r l i ng, o v er t her e a t t h e t w o y ou ng l ov eb i r d s op en in g t hei r eng a gem ent p r esent s,' Jessi ca
sa i d , b o r ed o m d r i p p i n g f r o m her v o ice a s she no d d ed t o her r i ght . Ju st i n t u r n ed h i s h ea d b r i ef l y a n d
t hen l ook ed b a ck a t her .
L a u ght er shook hi s v o i ce a s he sa i d , ` M y d ea r , hea v en hel p y ou i f y ou sho u ld ev er r u n o u t o f soci a l a ct s
t o p la y o u t ! A ny one w ou l d t h i nk y o u w er e a w o r l d w ea r y , d i si l lu si o ned w i f e w ho ha d seen a l l o f t he jo y s
a nd sor r ow s t ha t m a r r i a ge a n d l i f e cou l d b r i ng y o u , w hen i n st ea d y o u 'v e o n l y b een m a r r ied t w o
m on t hs, y ou r sel f ! Co m e on no w , con f ess! You f eel v er y sent i m ent a l a b ou t t hose t w o ov er t her e si nce
CHAPTER ELEVEN

y ou w er e t he one w ho i n t r od u ced t hem , d o n't y ou ?'
'W el l,' she sa id t h ou ght f u l l y , h er hea d cock ed t o o ne si d e a nd her ey es t w i nk l ing m er r i ly , ` j u st a t w i nge
p er ha p s! Bu t d o n't y o u t el l a sou l, Ju st i n M a r sh! I'v e m y r ep u t a t i on t o 't h ink o f . N ow , j u st lo ok a t t h a t
sco u nd r el o f a hu sb a n d , w i l l y ou ? H e's f l i r t i n g w i t h t hr ee o ld l a d i es! Wher e d oes he f i n d t h em ?'
'God o nl y k now s.' Ju st in shook h i s b l o nd hea d . ` I nev er t hou g ht I'd see t he d a y w h en I w ou l d sa y t h i s,
b u t Jessica , I m u st a d m it t ha t I t hi nk I l ik e t ha t g u y !'
She gu r gled a l a u gh i ng r esp onse a n d Ju st i n t ook h i s t i m e p er u si ng her sm il i ng p r o f i le. Sl eek ,
sop hi st i ca t ed l y a t t ir ed a s a l w a y s, a nd r a d i a nt l y b ea u t i f u l , she ha d a n a i r o f cont ent m ent t h a t h e h a d
n ev er seen b ef or e. Sl i m l egs cr o ssed a t t h e k nee, a nd t i ny st r a p s o f l ea t her a d o r ned h er gr a cef u l f eet .
She w or e b a si c b la ck , a f i l m y t r a nsp a r en t w i sp o f a d r ess ov er a st r a p l ess b l a ck sl i p . A gr ea t em er a l d
w i nk ed on her lef t h a nd , r ig ht n ext t o t h e p la i n b a n d o f g o l d , a nd em er a ld s p eep ed f r om b ot h ea r s
f r o m t i m e t o t i m e w h en her ha ir w a s sw ep t b a ck enou gh t o a l lo w a g l i m p se. In t he b l a ck , she g lo w ed
a nd sp a r k l ed w i t h v iv i d col ou r , her f l a m in g h a ir g li nt in g i n t he l i ght a nd her ey es go l d en b r i ght . Th e
o ne t h i ng m a r r in g t he a b so l u t e p er f ect io n of her p u r e f a ce w a s t he w i ck ed sl a sh i ng sca r ov er her r i ght
b r ow .
She t u r ned her hea d a n d ca u ght h i s ga ze. ` My sl ip sh ow i n g?' she a sk ed sw eet l y , a nd he h a d t o l a u gh .
` You k now d a m n w el l it i s, a nd a sexi er sl i p I'v e y et t o see,' w a s h i s r et u r n. She w r i nk l ed h er no se a t
h i m . ` N o, I w a s j u st t h ink in g t ha t m a r r ia g e r ea l l y su i t s y ou . You 'v e m el l ow ed ou t , m y d ea r . I ca n't sense
a ny r ep r essi on i n y ou , a n d y ou ha v en 't o n ce l ost y ou r t em p er t ha t I k n o w o f . You r ea l ly a r e ha p p y ,
a r en't y ou ?'
'W ond er f u ll y so ,' she sa i d q u iet l y , her ey es w i ng i ng b a ck t o her h u sb a nd , w ho w a s j u st com in g t hei r
w a y . She r a i sed h er v oi ce i nt en t i ona l l y . ` A nd no, Ju st i n, I n ev er l ose m y t em p er a ny m o r e- t he on ly o ne
a r ou n d o u r hou se w it h a v i l e d isp o sit i on is Da m i en- oh ! H el l o, d a r l ing .'
Da m i en st ood j u st b y Ju st i n' s ch a ir , h i s d a r k ey es sp a r k l i ng w i t h l a u g ht er . ` W ho w a s t h e one t h a t b r o k e
a v a se a nd a f i gu r i n e a cou p l e o f w eek s a go w hen sh e f ou nd ou t she w a sn't in v it ed t o go w i t h m e t o
Fr a nce?' he a sk ed w i ck ed l y . ` Wh o w a s t he one t ha t r ip p ed u p a t a f el lo w , ju st b eca u se h e p a i nt ed her
ca r a d i f f er ent col ou r t h a n w a s sp eci f ied ? Wh o w a s t he on e t ha t -
'Th a t "d i f f er ent col ou r " w a s a p u t r id , st o m a ch t u r n i ng gr een,' she r esp on d ed a ci d l y , ` i n st ea d o f t he
m a r oon cl ea r l y i nd i ca t ed on t h e r ecei p t s h e'd m i xed u p , a n d t he v a se a n d f i g u r in e w a s a n a cci d ent . I
w a s st a nd i ng cl oser t o t hem t ha n I ha d r ea l ised w h en m y a r m f l ew o u t , I t ol d y ou . Besi d es, I st i l l t hi nk I
cou l d ha v e go n e w i t h y o u t o Fr a n ce.'
Da m i en t o ld Ju st in r esi gned l y , ` A n ov er n ig h t st a y a t a g l oom y ol d m a n sio n w i t h b a l d i n g m en t a l k i ng of
n ot hi ng b u t b u si ness, a nd sh e w a n t ed t o g o !'
` I sa i d "cou l d ha v e" go ne w i t h y ou , not t h a t I w o u l d ha v e!' sh e st a r t ed hea t ed l y . ` You k now p er f ect l y
w el l t ha t ' A sw eet ly su ga r ed f em i n i ne v oi ce ca m e f r om b eh i n d Jessica a nd she b r ok e o f f , schoo l in g
h er exp r essi on t o o ne o f p er f ect p o l i t en ess a f t er t he f i r st gr i m a ce o f d ist a st e. Ju st i n so b er ed h i s sm i le
q u ick l y w h i l e Da m i en st a r t ed t o f r ow n f or b i d d in g ly .
` Well , w el l ,' t he f em in i ne v oice cooed , a n d a sl i m y o u ng w o m a n ca m e a r ou n d t o Jessi ca 's li ne o f v i sio n .

` Is t h er e t r ou b l e i n t h i s y ou n g cou p l e' s m a r r ied p a r a d i se a lr ea d y ? H el l o, Jessi ca .'
She nod d ed shor t l y . ` H el lo , Ca r ol i ne.' Ca r ol i ne w a s a m o d el a l so a n d h a d in t h e p a st b een jea l ou s o f
Jessi ca 's su ccess a nd h i gh st a nd i n g i n t he p r o f essi on . Jessica d i d n 't l i k e her m u ch , a n d n ei t her d i d t he
o t her t w o m en.
` Bu t y o u k no w , Da m ien,' Ca r ol i ne sa i d sw eet ly , ` t ha t Jessi ca m u st b e f eel i ng a b it - t i ed d o w n , now t ha t
she's no l ong er w or k in g b eca u se o f her d isf i gu r em ent .'
Ju st i n, D a m i en a n d Jessica a l l r ega r d ed ea ch ot h er b l a nk l y . Jessi ca cou l d n't b el iev e t h a t t he ot her g ir l
cou l d a ct u a l l y ha v e t he ef f r ont er y t o sa y su ch a t h i ng i n p u b l i c, a n d it hel d h er i m m ob i l e f or a
m o m ent . Th en she hea r d Ju st i n a sk in a con f u sed v o i ce, ` Di sf i gu r em ent ? W ha t d i sf i gu r em ent ?'
It w a s Ca r ol i n e's t u r n t o l ook b l a nk a s she gla nced f r om o ne t o t he ot h er o f t he t r io . ` Yo u k now , t he
sca r ,' sh e exp l a i ned ca l l ou sly .
Jessi ca ha d st a r t ed t o sm i l e a t Ju st i n's q u i ck r esp onse, i n sp it e o f her sm ou l d er i ng a n g er a t t he ot her
g ir l' s r u d e i nsensi t i v i t y , a nd w h en sh e h ea r d t h i s, her on e m ob i l e b r ow sh ot u p h i g h, a n d sp a r k s b eg a n
t o f l i ck er i n her d i a m ond b r i g ht ey es. She op en ed her m ou t h t o m a k e a cu t t i n g r em a r k w hen Da m i en's
v oice r ea ched her ea r s, a s b l a nk a s Ju st in 's ha d b een. ` Sca r ?' he a sk ed . ` Wh a t sca r ?'
Ju st i n, w ho ha d b een t a k i ng a d r i nk o f t ea , chok ed a b i t , a nd Jessica st a r t ed t o sh a k e w it h a help l ess
l a u g ht er a s Ca r ol i ne, w it h a sw ish o f her b l o nd e ha i r , t u r ned a n d w a l k ed a w a y . Ju st i n w a s la u gh i n g
t hen t oo, a s he w i p ed h i s m ou t h w i t h a n a p k in b u t Da m i en l ook ed p o si t i v el y t h u nd er ou s a s h e st a r ed
a t t he b a ck o f t h e d ep a r t i n g gi r l .
` I co u l d k i ck her r i ght i n t he- ' he b eg a n .

` H u sh , h u sh, hu sh,' Jessi ca sa i d , st i l l l a u gh i n g . ` Do y o u r ea l l y t h i nk it m a t t er s? L et i t g o!'
H e l ook ed a t her . ` It m a y not m a t t er t o y ou , a nd I' m gl a d o f t ha t , b u t i t m a t t er s t o m e w h en so m eon e
i s so ha t ef u l l y r u d e t o y ou .' H e t h en m a d e a n o b v io u s ef f or t t o r el a x, she co u l d see, b u t h i s ey es st i l l
sna p p ed .
` A cha m p i on t o m y ca u se,' sh e sa i d t o Ju st i n, lo ok i n g lov i n g ly a t Da m i en . H e sm i l ed b a ck , so concer ned
a nd ca r i n g a n d w ond er f u l ly t end er t ha t i t m a d e her hea r t sw el l f u l l o f em ot i on. Sh e exp l od ed i t a l l i nt o
a q u i ck l a u g h a s Da m i en t u r ned t o Ju st i n' s sea t ed f i gu r e a n d cl a p p ed a h a nd t o h i s shou l d er . H e
j u m p ed , sen d in g h er a w a r y , st a r t l ed l oo k , f or he ha d not y et got u sed t o Da m i en's r ecent r ela xed
a ccep t a nce of h i m , ev en t hou g h h e h a d d i n ed a t t heir h ou se a n d w a s a f r eq u ent a n d w elco m e v isit or .
` So t el l m e, M a r sh,' sa id D a m ien ea si l y . ` D o y ou li k e go l f ?' "