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"I'm all right!" he insisted, gripping the edge of the easel.

"Then breathe more slowly," instructed Abby. "You've got to relax, Jake."

Dr. Jacoby began to look apprehensive. He could see the impending signs of a flashback coming on.

"Jake," said Abby, smiling at him, "look at me."

Jake raised his head and looked into Abby's deep blue eyes, while beads of sweat ran down his face.

"You're all right," she said, gently. "'When my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.'"

It was Terry's verse, and the memory of it, was enough to calm Jake down.

"Thanks," he whispered, wiping the sweat from his brow.

"Okay," said Abby, seeing that everyone had been watching, "we're ready to continue-- right, Jake?"

Jake nodded in agreement, and gathered his courage for the next round.

The room was silent, but finally, John found his voice.

"Dr. Jacoby, I suppose you're next," said John.

Abby held her breath. Dr. Jacoby's recommendation would heavily influence Sheriff Peterson's decision. And they wouldn't be able to marry, without the sheriff's permission.

"I must first say," began Dr. Jacoby, "that I am bound by psychiatrist�patient privileges, not to reveal any information about my patients to any third parties, without their prior consent. In this case, both Jake and Abby are my patients. I must, therefore, walk a careful line. You ask me what my opinion is. From the first, Abby has impressed me with her attachment to Jake. Not as a lover, but as a friend.

"I've been aware of the fact that Abby has successfully intercepted Jake's flashbacks, but this is the first time I've actually seen it for myself. Abby, I know from experience that it's not an easy thing to do, and I'm impressed! I wish I could do for my other patients, what you just did for Jake. Even so, my main concern is this: you and Jake say you don't love each other. Whether or not I believe this, isn't the point. You turned Tyler down because you didn't love him. This is common knowledge. What happens if you fall in love with your married-in-name-only-husband? How is Jake supposed to handle that?

"And Jake, what happens if you fall in love with your married-in-name-only-wife, and she doesn't love you? How is Abby supposed to deal with that?

"And," continued Dr. Jacoby, "I'll even go one further. What happens if you both fall in love with each other, and the torture and sexual abuse that Jake has endured in the past, gets in the way? What will you two be prepared to do about it, then?"

Abby was thoughtfully silent. She looked at Jake's pale face, and then back to Dr. Jacoby.

"I can only answer for myself," replied Abby, "but I'm prepared to do whatever it takes to make this relationship work. I don't know the answer to your questions, but I'm willing to give it everything I've got. I know this can work. It's not going to be easy-- no one has said it would be. But, as long as Jake and I are willing to work together to face whatever issues come up, then, with God's help, I'll think we'll be all right."

The room was still, until Jake spoke up.

"I don't know why she's willing to try," said Jake, in a brave voice. "God knows, if she only knew half the things I've done to stay alive, she wouldn't say that. Abby, I know you've said that my past doesn't matter, but it does. I'm sorry I've put you through all this, but my vote is 'no.'"
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