“Why did you leave me to wake up alone?”
He knew he owed her some form of explanation. Fear in him told him that the only one he had to give her would make her run a mile. Gathering his courage, he let out a heavy sigh.
“Leaving you that morning was the hardest thing I have ever had to do,” he rasped out. “I wanted nothing more than to stay with you. To talk with you. Anything.”
“So what changed your mind?” she demanded.
“Damn it, Bella! Have you any idea how hard this is for me?” He took a deep breath, knowing he had to control his emotions. “I have a reputation in this town for being a cold-hearted bastard. I never get emotionally involved. I certainly never allow myself to be distracted by a woman. Then you ran into me that day down at the docks, and you’ve haunted my every moment since. I have been barely able to concentrate, let alone run my father’s business.”
“I’m not that naïve,” she rebutted. “I know you have laid with other women before. I gave you my purity and you couldn’t cover me up quick enough.”
“You know that’s not true. I know that’s what it must have seemed like, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. I wanted to stay with you that afternoon at the waterhole, but I knew your friend would come looking for you soon. I couldn’t take the risk of her finding you in a compromising position with a man with my reputation. You would have been ruined.”
She just stared at him, and he knew she thought he was making up excuses.
“I’m not accustomed to being haunted by the memory—smell—of a woman. But you did something to me that very first day we met, and I haven’t been able to think of any other but you. When Samuel offered you to me I jumped at the chance to be with you again. I thought if you came to my bed again, allowed me inside you again, I would finally be able to be free of you.”
She fidgeted nervously with her fingers. “And did you get your much sought after freedom? Is that why I woke up alone in your bed?” Her words pained him. “You have to ask me?” he challenged her. When she remained silent he knew she would accept nothing but his full confession. “No, Bella. I didn’t get my freedom—not from you.”
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