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"I-- I'm sorry," she stammered. "I didn't mean to scare you."

"I don't like people coming up from behind me," explained Jake, his voice softening at the sight of her startled face. After kissing Abby on the forehead, Jake smiled at her tenderly. "I'm all right, Abby. You just took me by surprise, that's all. Before you do that again, give me a little time to prepare myself, okay?"

With an understanding nod, Abby reached out to embrace him, but Jake quickly stepped back. As a hurt look flashed across Abby's face, Jake winced inwardly. Why had he reacted to her that way? He wasn't quite sure.

"What's wrong?" she asked, wondering if he was still recovering from being surprised, or if this was something more.

"Nothing's wrong," he mumbled, turning his back to Abby and giving the scrambled eggs on the stove another stir with his spatula.

Just then, John appeared in the doorway.

"Did you hear someone cry out?" he asked, a little puzzled. "It wasn't exactly a shout..." Then the father noticed Jake's downcast eyes, and suddenly stopped his question. "Just give a holler when breakfast is ready," said John, quickly excusing himself.

Abby turned back to Jake.

"Nothing's wrong, Abby," insisted Jake, once more resisting the touch of her hand on his chest.

"Did I say or do something to hurt you?" she wondered out loud.

"I told you," he sighed, "you only startled me. I'm fine," he added in a firm, but annoyed voice.

Abby sighed and took another step back, seeing that her proximity was making Jake uneasy.

"I thought you were getting used to me," she remarked.

"Not so loud," Jake pleaded in a whisper. "They might hear you!"

"What's wrong?" she pressed, in a hushed voice.

"What makes you think anything is wrong?" he argued, trying to keep his patience. "Abby, you're making a big deal over nothing!" Even as he said these words, Jake sensed in his heart that something was happening to him, but he couldn't explain why.

"You left me last night," she whispered. "You took Daisy with you, but not me. After this past week..." Abby paused, "I thought things were different between us. I thought you were happy."

"I am happy," he insisted.

"Then why, Jake?"

Jake took a big gulp and looked into her expectant blue eyes.

"I don't know," he replied, trying his best to be honest, even if it made him vulnerable being so open before her. "Abby, I love being with you, but the flashbacks after we're together, are taking a lot out of me. Sometimes, just holding you can be difficult." As those smarting words escaped his mouth, Jake could see tears welling in Abby's eyes. "I love you," he whispered in a firm voice. "Please, never doubt that."

"Oh, Jake," whimpered Abby, wiping a hot tear from her cheek, "if anyone knows how much you love me, it's me. I don't doubt it for a second." The young woman gulped back a sob.

"I need to back off for awhile," he explained, only beginning to understand it himself. "I'm tired, Abby. I'm tired of fighting those memories. Just once, I want to fall asleep without feeling their touch still on me. Please, please," he begged her, "tell me you understand."
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