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"Thank you for keeping your promise," he said, gratefully. "I think you're learning to trust me a little more."

"I could say the same about you," she smiled, picking up his right hand and looking it over with curiosity. She put her small hand against his large one and measured the difference. Jake watched curiously, as Abby traced the outline of his fingers, and followed the small lines in his palms, as if discovering a new part of him that she had never known before.

"What are you doing?" he laughed softly.

"I've never noticed until now how much bigger your hands are from mine," she mused. Then Abby traced her finger down to his wrist and stopped. Quickly, Jake withdrew his hand from hers, and hid it beneath the covers. "Why won't you let me see those scars?" she wondered.

"Because it's something I don't want to remember," replied Jake, his muscles growing tense beneath her head.

"Please," she begged, "just let me look."

Reluctantly, Jake returned his hand to her, so she could finish her inspection. Straight across his wrist, was a large, jagged scar where he had tried to end his life. As Abby traced the scar with her finger, she could feel him begin to tremble. Tenderly, Abby pressed her lips to his wrist, and kissed the scar.

"Oh, Abby," he sighed, lovingly, "I'm so glad I lived!"

Jake eagerly kissed her, desire welling up within him. Sensing this, Abby tried to free herself from his arms.

"I can't let you do that to yourself, again," she said, trying to put a little distance between herself and Jake. "You really scared me last night."

"Didn't I do it right?" he asked, hesitantly.

"That's not what I'm talking about," replied Abby, sitting up in bed. "You could have hurt yourself, Jake! What if the flashbacks had been too much for you? And your two broken ribs... they're not simply fractured, you know! They're completely broken! It's going to take a long time to heal as it is, and then you had to go and set back progress by making love to me! And then your vomiting..." Abby shivered in horror. "I don't even want to know what that did to your ribs." Abby folded her arms, and shook her head. "It didn't have to be last night, Jake. We could have waited for you to get well."

"Enough," said Jake, reaching out and placing her back beside him where she belonged. The firmness Abby had heard in his voice the night before, had returned. Abby didn't know how to explain it, but Jake had somehow changed. There was a new confidence in his voice that surprised her. "I choose you, Abby," he said in a hushed whisper. "I promise to choose you every single day of my life, even if I may not be able to prove it to you all the time. I need you to know how very much I love you."

Abby looked up at Jake in shock.

"Is THAT why you put yourself through last night?!" she cried in horror. "To prove to me that you loved me?"

Jake was silent, but the steadfast gaze in his eyes told her that it was true.

"You knew I loved you," he explained, "but I needed to remind you of it. This was my way of getting your attention."

"Well," she gasped, "congratulations! You succeeded."

Abby got out of bed, and absently searched for her robe, before realizing that she was still wearing it.

"Abby," he pleaded, "come back."

"I have to use the bathroom," she retorted, marching out the bedroom door and disappearing into the bathroom across the hall. Abby turned on the shower as high as it would go, and collapsed onto the floor in a pool of tears. Jake had done all that for her. The fear and the pain that he had to conquer just to put his arms around her, made Abby weep uncontrollably.

A minute later, the door opened, and Abby saw Jake standing over her, his towel securely wrapped around his waist. Carefully bending down, Jake whispered her name, and brushed a wisp of hair away from her face with his fingertips. He was so gentle.
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