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"I don't know," he hesitated, trying not to laugh at the expression on Abby's face.

"Jake Murphy!" she exclaimed. "If you think I'm going to let my family see us like this, you're crazy! Why they..."

"Abby," he interrupted.


"I love you," said Jake.

"I did it again," she groaned, in self reproach. "If you need this duct tape on today, then I'm willing to go along with it."

"Abby," he repeated once more, "I love you."

The young wife looked into his brown eyes and realized that he was waiting for her to respond in like fashion.

"I love you, too," she smiled, awkwardly.

"That's better," grinned Jake, undoing the duct tape. "I was only teasing, Abby. Of course, I'll let you go. There," he said, releasing her hand, "I hope I didn't hurt you. We don't have to tell your parents about this, do we?" he asked, a little timidly.

"You really were teasing, then," she replied.

"This is just between you and me," said Jake, looking at her intently. "This isn't their marriage-- it's ours. Isn't that right, Abby?"

"You can feel safe with me," she assured him. "Whatever happens, I won't tell."

With a sudden, loud groan, Jake ran his hands through his hair.

"Listen to me," he cried, "I sound like one of my abusers, trying to keep someone silent! 'This is private,'" he repeated, "'just between us,' 'they wouldn't understand'! Every time I heard those words, it made me sick to my stomach!"

"Jake, look down at your left hand," requested Abby. She understood that he needed to reason through these confusing feelings, and did her best to remain calm for his sake. "Please, just do it." Jake looked down and noticed the gold wedding band wrapped around his finger. "See that ring?" she asked. "I belong to you. You have every right to ask me not to talk about private things to anyone else, without your permission. See?" she asked, holding up her left hand so he could see. "I have a ring, too."

"Oh, Abby," he sighed longingly, "I wish I could hold you."

"It's all right," she smiled tenderly. "As long as I know you're still trying, it makes it easier to wait."

"Thank you for that," he replied, gratefully.

"Uncle Terry and I are going shopping this morning," said Abby, now trying to change the subject. "I know you probably want to come, but I was hoping you could visit with Mom, instead. I know she would really appreciate the company."
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