I opened my eyes, sitting upright in the bed. A slither of light from the bathroom shone a path across the wooden floor of the bedroom.
"Shit, shit, shit!"
It was definitely James, and adrenaline coursed through my body.
I'd thought about leaving, but then Georgia and Richard would want to know what had happened.
My heart sped up when he appeared, and I wondered if he'd be mad I'd taken his shirt to sleep in.
He winced as he limped out of the bathroom, trying to avoid putting any weight on his right foot.
"What's wrong, have you hurt yourself?" I asked, switching on the lamp.
He froze, his shoulders tensing.
"I think I have a piece of glass in my foot."
I flicked on the lamp beside the bed.
"Let me have a look."
He didn't meet my gaze, but he did hobble towards the bed. I watched as he lifted his foot onto the nightstand, still as enthralled by his body as I was the first time I saw it.
The cut was deep, and I gently touched the skin beside it, he let out a low hiss.
"I'll clean it for you and make sure there isn't anything in there." I offered.
He stared down at my fingers still touching him, and I yanked them away, feeling flustered.
"Why would you want to help me?"
I swallowed back the lump in my throat, feeling annoyed.
"Regardless of what you might think, I'm not a bitch."
His eyes flew to mine, a look of outrage clouding his features.
"I couldn't ever think that about you."
I got out of the bed, and he exhaled sharply when he saw me in his shirt.
"I don't have any of my things with me. If it bothers you, I can take it off?" I said, noticing how he was eyeballing my body.
"It's fine." He muttered, putting his injured foot back on the floor.
I could see the frustration in his eyes, and I wondered if I was brave enough to ask him what he was thinking.
I couldn't face him kicking off again, or implying that I still wanted a marriage to the man who abused me…
He grabbed my arm as I turned and heat flooded my insides.
"I shouldn't have…"
His voice trailed off, and I glanced up at his tense face. I could tell he was struggling to get his words out.
"I don't control my emotions very well. I never have, but it's been worse since everything that happened with Bella."
He closed his eyes for a few seconds, his jaw tightening.
"I lash out when I feel threatened. It's like a defence mechanism - I'll hurt you before you hurt me."
I swallowed, remembering he'd responded in a similar way when he thought I'd kissed Johnny.
"I wasn't trying to hurt you, James. I was letting you in, telling you the most painful parts of my life."
He groaned, closing his eyes.
"I know. I'm such a hot-headed prick. I really let you down, and I'm sorry."
I watched him for a moment, my eyes stinging with tears. The angry and hurtful man I'd seen tonight was a complete contrast to the patient and kind one I'd fallen in love with.
"I agree that I should have told you sooner, but I wasn't expecting this to happen." I said, "And your reaction tonight has made me doubt everything."
His bare chest heaved as he inhaled deeply.
"I don't want to be like that, especially with you."
His fingers stroked my skin, igniting the usual heat of desire I felt at his touch.
"I believe you, but that doesn't change what I told you. If you can't handle it-"
"I can." He interrupted, shaking his head. "It doesn't change how I feel about you."
My heart hammered against my rib cage. I'd assumed things were over, but it didn't sound like James felt that way.
"Are you sure that's true?"
He frowned, a shadow crossing his features.
"I wish you'd told me everything sooner, but I can understand your reasons for not."
He tugged me closer, his thumb circling over my wrist.
"I wish you'd let me go after Tommy, because he doesn't deserve to walk this fucking earth after the way he treated you."
His hand brushed over my face, his fingers gliding over my cheek.
"And I wish I hadn't reacted the way I did. I've let you down, and that kills me."
I closed my eyes. His touch made my stomach go wild with butterflies. He was saying all the right things, but that didn't stop it hurting.
I wrapped my hand around his fingers and moved them away.
"I know I should have told you sooner, but there was no malice or calculation behind my decision not to."
"I know." He breathed, his eyes pleading with mine.
"But you… You wanted to punish me. You wanted to hurt me…"
My voice cracked, and he stared down at the floor.
"You succeeded, James. I hope it made you feel better."
"I can't lose you. I'll do anything to put this right." He choked, shaking his head.
I brushed my fingers over my throat, waves of regret washing over me.
"I wasn't honest, and you have a right to be angry. It's probably easier if we end this now."
I flinched when he dropped to his knees, wrapping his arms around my waist.
"I love you more than anyone else in this world. Please, let me fix this."
My eyes filled with tears as he buried his face against my stomach.
"If you really love me, then why did you react like that?"
He gazed up at me, his eyes watering.
"The only other woman I loved preyed on me. She'd lie and twist things, I didn't know what was real in the end."
My hand moved to his shoulder instinctively. It was impossible to not comfort him when he was hurting.
"She walked all over me and played games. Hearing you admit such big secrets took me back to that time. I couldn't go through a relationship like that again, I barely survived the first time."
He placed his hand on top of mine, wrapping our fingers together.
"You aren't a thing like Bella. I know you wouldn't ever do anything to hurt me. I'm sorry. I'll do whatever it takes for your forgiveness."
I took a deep breath, my mind racing. I felt some responsibility for his pain, but only he could be in control of his actions.
"You scared me. I can't be around someone who has such explosive emotions."
"I'll get help, go to therapy or something. It won't happen again, I swear."
My stomach fluttered at his suggestion.
"You'd see a therapist?"
"Yeah, if it might help me deal with my issues. I tried before, but now I've got a reason to stick with it."
A shiver ran down my spine as his hand moved up the back of my thigh.
"You are my priority. I'll do anything to protect our relationship."
His large frame towered over me as he stood. Then he pressed his lips to mine, and like a moth to a flame, I succumbed.
I couldn't stop myself from kissing James. My whole body melted into him, his hands gripping the back of my head.
"Your foot." I breathed when we finally paused.
He shook his head. His control has slipped as much as mine had.
"This is more important. I want you to know how much I love you."
Then he was kissing me again, walking me back to the bed. He took me down gently, slowing the tempo of our actions. His arms come to a rest above my head, allowing my hands to roam all over his body.
"James." I pleaded, impatiently tugging the waistband of his shorts.
He smiled, resting his forehead against mine.
"Let me look at you. You're my favourite view in the entire world."
I glided my hand through his dirty blonde hair, giggling softly at his soppiness.
"Don't laugh at me." He muttered, flexing his hips down so I feel his erection.
Before I could respond, he'd ripped the shirt I was wearing open, the buttons flying everywhere.
I inhaled sharply, yanking at his shorts to remove them. James raised his hips so we could both ease them off. Then it was only the friction of our flesh as we moved together. Our tongues and lips clashed as our desperate moans saturated the room.
"Now, can't wait. Got to be inside you." He rasped, angling his hips so he could enter me.
I expected him to thrust in hard, but he stilled so he was resting at my throbbing entrance.
"Look at me. I want to see you the whole time."
I nodded, sucking in air as he nudged a fraction forward at a time.
"Oh, God." I moaned, hardly able to speak through my want and need.
I rolled my hips up, and that was enough to have him push in fully.
"Fuck, yes." He growled, his forehead moving back to mine.
"You fit me so right." I said softly.
"I know, baby. You're mine. There's no doubt about it."
I tugged my fingers through the messy hair at the nape or his neck, catching his mouth gently as he rocked his hips. He used small and deliberate drives that made me forget anything bad had ever happened.
His hands captured mine, thrusting them above my head and keeping me still.
"I'm going to make the softest love to you, worship every inch of your body."
I tilted my head to the side, sighing and surrendering to the pleasure. It felt like I was floating away, losing myself in the moment.
"I can see why I fell in love with you." He whispered, our hips moving in perfect sync. "Everything about you consumes me, I'm addicted."
"Me too. I'm hooked on you." I replied, freeing my hands to touch his face.
Then I pulled him down so his face pressed into my throat. We both moved as one, our breathing in time as we climaxed simultaneously.
There were no hard thrusts or loud moans, just both of us enjoying the warm rolls of bliss together.
"As long as we're both alive, everything else can be fixed." I breathed, once James had collapsed his full weight on top of me.
He hummed sleepily, bringing his mouth to mine.
I smiled, remembering our first ever encounter.
"What?" He muttered, his eyes half closed.
"You just thanked me after sex. That means you can't tease me for saying it that one time..."
He rolled to the side, slipping out from inside me. Within seconds I was back in his arms, crushed against his body.
"I was thanking you for what you said, and that wasn't having sex. That was making love, the joining of two souls..."
I groaned mockingly, secretly pleased by where his head was at. I felt the exact same way. I was almost drifting off when I heard him mutter something.
"You'll be my wife one day, then none of it will matter."
I smiled, the sound of his shallow breathing letting me know he was asleep.
"I want that as well."
He couldn't hear my reply, but somehow that made it easier to say.