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Jake had dressed into a warm flannel shirt and jeans, and had paused in the hallway to tie the laces on his sneakers, when he overheard Abby talking to Terry in the kitchen.

"Thanks," she was saying. "I've been working too hard lately, and Jake and I need a little time to ourselves."

"Good for you!" cried Terry. "You've been at that computer way too much. You need to do what John and I do. Whenever work gets a little heavy, we go out and shoot a few hoops. You've got to let all that tension out." Terry glanced at the time and set down his mug of cocoa. "John should be out of the shower by now. I'll call and get him to unlock the front door. I tell ya, it's no fun standing ankle deep in the snow, in you PJ's!"

After Terry left, Jake ventured into the kitchen.

"Want some hot chocolate?" she asked, handing him a mug.

"I just heard what you said to Terry," he grinned hopefully. "Does this mean I can have today, too?"

"Dennis owes me for getting his project on its feet," said Abby, "so I can afford to walk away from work for awhile."

Not even bothering to taste the sweet beverage, Jake set aside his mug and slowly approached Abby, a loving look kindling in his brown eyes.

"I asked Uncle Terry to cover for you at home," she continued, her voice hushing when Jake put his arms around her waist. As their eyes locked, Abby could hear her heart loudly pounding. She wondered if Jake could hear it.

"Same promise as last night?" he asked in half a whisper.

"You can't take Xantol all day," murmured Abby, as he lowered his head to kiss her lips. "You couldn't eat anyth-- " The young woman lost herself in Jake's embrace, and the couple retreated back to her bedroom once more.

This time, there was no mad dash for the bathroom, but their intimacy triggered another flashback. Jake curled up in bed, refusing to touch even Abby. He only asked for Daisy, her large, oversized black teddy bear. When Abby placed Daisy into his arms, Jake latched onto the stuffed animal and rode out the nightmare as best he could.

Abby stood by the bed in her robe, silently asking God to make the pain in Jake's chest go away. But Jake's ribs were only a part of his problem. The many years of abuse and torture had left its mark on the young man, so that he could not touch his wife without recalling some vivid memory from his past.

Even as Jake felt the flashback subside, anger welled up within him, tying his stomach into knots. He was too mad to speak, and for several minutes, Abby could only watch as Jake pounded Daisy with his fists, crying, "Why? Why?" The bear was hurled across the room, and hit the wall before sliding down into a heap on the floor. "I don't understand, Abby!" he wept. "Why did Dad have to hurt me? Why did I have to be so messed up for you?"

"Give it time," she tried to encourage him. "Remember what Dr. Jacoby said? You need to learn to associate intimacy with me, instead of with the others. That only comes with time and patience."

Jake wearily dried his eyes with the palms of his hands. He stared at Abby and shook his head, apologetically.

"I'm sorry to put you through this," he said, struggling to get a hold of his grief.

"This makes three times," Abby hopefully reminded him. "When we first got married, you couldn't even kiss the bride."

Jake opened his covers, and invited Abby back to the bed.

"Three is all for now," he breathed wearily. "My chest is on fire." As Abby snuggled against Jake, he gripped her hand tightly. "I remember the day I found out I was different," he recalled, his voice just breaking above a whisper. "It was during school recess, and some kid made a remark about my father. I remember looking at the boy, and suddenly realizing that all fathers didn't do to their sons, what mine was doing to me. It was so unfair. Why me? Why me, Dad?" Jake groaned. He put his arm around Abby, so she could rest her head against his shoulder. "I learned to loathe the touch of others," he continued with a sigh, "and I never wanted to get over it... until now. It was a way to defend myself. Their desire was worsened by physical contact, so I tried to avoid it whenever I could."
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