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"No," he answered, swiftly pulling his hand away. "I'm going to hold you to your promise, Abby."

At this, Abby burst into tears once more. Realizing that she needed to get it out of her system, Jake got up and washed their bowls. By the time he finished, Abby had finally quieted down. She wiped her tear streaked face and accepted the handkerchief that Jake handed her. Even then, his hand was trembling. Abby wondered how they were ever going to make it through the night.

"I can feel the Xantol," said Jake. "It's time, Abby."

"Dear God," she prayed out loud, "please, help us. Help me to have faith."

"Wait for me on the couch," he directed her. "I'm going to lock up the house."

Abby weakly did as she was told. She sat down on the sofa and watched as Jake locked the front door and then went to each window to draw the curtains. He stood back and then tried to peer through the cracks, as if testing whether someone could see through them or not. Abby smiled in spite of herself, and brushed away a few more stray tears.

"I hope you're not going to start crying again," he observed, walking to the next window, and repeating the same test. "You only promised me one night, you know. I can't afford to waste any more time."

Abby knew better. The painkiller in his system was taking hold, and he had to act while the medication was working. It would be another four hours before he could safely take more.

After Jake had satisfied himself that they were truly alone, he sat down beside her on the couch.

"Do you mind if we just stay here for awhile?" he asked timidly.

"That's fine," she answered, feeling her eyes moisten once more.

"I'm going to turn on the fireplace," he announced, getting up and returning with the remote. Red and yellow flames danced in the fireplace as the room slowly began to warm.

Jake looked at Abby, and she could see the fear in his eyes. Abby suddenly became ashamed of herself. She was the one crying and weeping, while he was trying so hard to be brave.

The young man tried to take her hand, but couldn't. One simple act, and he couldn't do it.

"When my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the Rock that is higher than I," Jake repeated over and over under his breath. "Abby," he said, turning to her in anguish, "please, help me do this."

In a prayer of her own, Abby gave her fear to God. Jake had enough to struggle with, without having to deal with hers as well.

With gentleness that she had never shown anyone before but him, Abby carefully drew his arms around her waist and snuggled against his chest. Jake shook violently, and it was all Abby could do to hold on to him without shrinking back and asking if she were hurting his ribs.

"I'm all right," he whispered, sensing her apprehension.

Realizing that he was waiting for her to continue, Abby reached up and touched his face, drawing his mouth to hers. As she kissed him, Abby could feel his arms closing in tightly around her. She desperately fought the impulse to pull away and check to see if he were hurting himself. Then, Jake kissed her, as he had always wanted to kiss her-- completely and entirely. When he came up for breath, she could hear him repeat, "when my heart is overwhelmed," over and over again. He caressed her arm, and Abby could feel his heart race alarmingly fast.

Jake got up, and stared down the hallway at her bedroom. Abby wanted to ask if he were absolutely sure he wanted to do this-- that she could wait-- that he wasn't ready. If Jake would only give her a chance to resist him, she was sure she could find a reason that would stop him.

"You promised," he reminded her, a firmness in his voice that spoke of resolve. "Don't go back on me now, Abby. I need you." Jake held out his hand to her, his eyes pleading with her to trust him. Abby placed her small hand in his, and he led her to the bedroom.

Sacred intimacy between a husband and wife, is their business, and their business alone. I ask the reader to let your imagination go no further than the bedroom door, and not intrude on their God-given privacy. Not even I am allowed to follow them there. Come, we'll wait in the living room.
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